Monday, May 30, 2011

Garden Challenge: May Update

We are really "digging" this gardening thing!  We can't wait to start harvesting some of our produce and enjoy all the hard work we've been putting in.  In the last month we have done a lot of work in the design of the garden.  You can see our first Garden Challenge post HERE and our April Update HEREUnfortunately we had a really rainy spring so we didn't get to plant as many of the cool weather crops as we would have liked.  We still have many different kinds of plants started though.  The kids decided that they would like to add some herbs and flowers to the garden so we've included some zinnias and marigolds as well as basil, chives, rosemary, and thyme in addition to our veggies.  Also a good friend gave us two dozen strawberry plants after I mentioned that ours did not make it through the winter.  She informed me that the type of strawberry plant we put in last year does not usually do well through the winter here, that it's more of a fair weather plant.  The type she gave us is more hardy and we are looking forward to this year's crop and next year's as well. 

We have spent a lot of time in the garden over the last month.  Little M's interest and attention varies but Ms. Q is really taking responsibility for her box.  Here are our most recent pictures of the garden:

Our garden

Ms. Q's box

Little M's box

One thing I learned so far is how little I actually know about how plants grow.  I know the basics of the life cycle of plants and even about photosynthesis.  But what I find challenging is that each plant is so different.  Each plant in our garden requires different conditions for ultimate growth.  From the soil makeup to the fertilizer to the amount of sunlight and water, each plant is an individual.  I have spent more time googling plant care and gardening tips in the last month than in my entire life!  We definitely won't learn all there is to know about our plants this year (or in the next ten years I'm sure).  But Ms. Q and I are learning how to find the information we need.  I feel like I'm able to show her that it's ok to not know the answers and to ask someone who does know.  We are also learning from our mistakes (like the strawberries).  These lessons go beyond gardening and I hope Ms. Q is able to learn these lessons as well as how to grow a great veggie garden.

There is still one more update in The Homeschool Village Garden Challenge.  By next month we should be enjoying the fruits (and veggies, herbs, and flowers) of our labors.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Weekly Wrap-up: Birthdays and Camping

Phew...and we're back!!  This is my first blog post in almost two weeks!  I was having a bit of withdrawl.  I have a (sorta) good reason.  It was birthday weekend!!!  All three boys had their birthdays this past weekend so we decided to spend the weekend camping.  Baby C turned one on Friday, Little M turned three on Sunday and hubby turned thirty-something on Monday.

Here's alot of pictures to catch up:

Lets start with Saturday the 14th.  Ms. Q had a karate tournament.

Ms. Q doing her open hand form

Ms. Q in white sparring

She won first place in sparring (fighting), second place in forms, and second place in weapons.

Then Sunday Ms. Q and I went with the Girl Scouts to tour the Absecon Lighthouse.

Ms. Q at the top of the lighthouse

The view of Altantic City NJ

Monday we met with our homeschool group to pack supply kits for those in the south effected by tornados.  Then Ms. Q had karate.

Tuesday we ran errands to prepare for our camping trip. 

Wednesday Ms. Q had guitar lessons and Girl Scouts plus I ran even more errands to prepare for camping.  There was really a lot of planning and shopping that went into just a weekend.  I tried to explain to my husband that if we go for two days or two weeks I still have to pack the same things (just more of each item).  He didn't really understand.  But then again all he really did to prepare was to ask me if I remembered to pack his socks.

Thursday I had to take the boys for lead screenings and then it was off to our weekly playgroup.

Finally Friday arrived and Baby C's birthday!  We started the day at Barnes and Noble.  I joined the BN kids club so for each child's birthday they receive a coupon for a free cupcake or big cookie.  Our new tradition is to enjoy this snack and then the birthday child gets to pick out a new book!

Baby C with his Big Cookie

Little M and Ms. Q enjoying their snacks
Then we celebrated Baby C's big ONE!

Baby C's polka dot cupcakes

We left for the campground early Saturday morning.

Little M in the obstacle course

Baby C relaxing in the grass

A quick water balloon fight
We celebrated Fred's birthday on Sunday although his birthday was not until Monday.

Fun new shirts for his gift

We celebrated Little M's big number THREE on Sunday night.

Little M's lemon-lime cupcakes

Opening his gifts

We had a really great time.  We are supposed to have a full week of school this week but Monday morning we met our homeschool group for "sports day" and spent most of the day at the park playing kick ball and the rest of the day working in the garden.

We are having a difficult time getting back into the swing of things but we're working on it!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up: Robin Hood and Dogs

Well I can honestly say that we had a fabulous week!  As always it was busy but time didn't seem to fly by as quickly this week and I was able to get caught up on some housework.  I'm not that great a housekeeper and with three children home ALL THE TIME, our house gets quite the beating.  Since the weather has been so nice Ms. Q and Little M have been spending alot of time playing outside and even took Baby C outside to play (in his play yard) a few times.  This has left our house so much less messy than in the winter.

So here's what we've been up to this week:

Ms. Q learned about Richard the Lionhearted and King John Lackland.  She really enjoyed hearing the legend of Robin Hood.  Here she is shooting her Nerf bow and arrow after being inspired by the story.

Little M learned about the letter "D" and dogs.  He really liked the Poky Little Puppy story and learning how to take care of dogs.  He created a lapbook I found at Homeschool Share.  You can read more about his week under the Letter of the Week tab.

Monday we joined our homeschool group for a FABULOUS nature walk.  One of the moms is a biologist and provided the kids with information about the plants and animals we encountered.  You can see more pictures HERE.

Tuesday and Wednesday we took it easy with only Ms. Q's guitar lesson Wednesday afternoon.  Little M and I are anxiously awaiting the opening of an Amish Market across the street from the music store where Ms. Q takes her lessons.  It was scheduled to open in the beginning of May but has yet to open.  We are really excited to spend our time waiting for Ms. Q wandering through it.

Thursday morning Ms. Q and I went to an educational performance of The Bay Atlantic Symphony Orchestra.  The performance was wonderful and the conductor did a splendid job of explaining the music to the children.  I have never been to a live performance of a professional orchestra before and we had a great time.

Thursday afternoon we were all eating lunch outside when we spied a robin flying in and out of a large bush nearby.  When we looked closer we saw a robin's nest with three babies inside!  It was so exciting to see them stretching out their necks and opening their large beaks.  We then found another nest in a nearby tree and saw a pair of cardinals flying in and out of it!  We couldn't get any good pictures of the nests but Ms. Q spent some time watching the robins and we read about both kinds of birds for her nature study.

Friday we did a little shopping, finished up our lessons, and Ms. Q had karate.  Tomorrow she will be competing in a karate tournament and she is very excited (and a little nervous).  We are all keeping our fingers crossed but I know she'll do well.  She's been practicing really hard and we will all be proud of her no matter what the outcome.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Nature Walking

The weather has been beautiful lately and we have taken full advantage of it.  Here are some pictures of our latest nature walk.

Little M writing in his Nature Journal
Ms. Q and friend writing in their Nature Journals

Friday, May 6, 2011

Weekly Wrap-up: Crusaders and umm...

We had a bit of an off week this week, so this wrap-up is going to be pretty brief.  Not so many pictures as usual either because I temporarily lost the camera.  But it's back now and we are looking forward to a better week next week.

Ms. Q studied about the Crusades this week and really enjoyed tracing the route the knights took from Europe through Constantinople to Jerusalem.  She made this cool Jerusalem Cross.

She learned all about Thomas Alva Edison and the telephone in Science.  She was really funny because she kept saying "cell phone" instead of "telephone" and when I tried to explain the difference between the two she looked at me like I had two heads.  Then I realized that she's never actually used a phone that was connected with a cord or really even a "land line" telephone.  Our house phone is cordless and uses a wireless router to connect to the internet.  I felt really old when this conversation was finished.

Ms. Q finished two literature selections this week.  We finished reading The Cricket in Times Square together and she finished A Llama in the Family by herself.  We really enjoyed The Cricket in Times Square.  We had really great discussions about family, friends, and decision making.  Especially as to why Chester (the cricket) was unhappy in NYC.  I was happily surprised that she liked A Llama in the Family because she judged the book by it's cover before reading it and thought that it was not a book that she would enjoy.  Just goes to show I guess.

Usually in the title of the post I highlight the topics that Ms. Q and Little M studied this week.  Well the "umm..." is eluding to the fact that Little M did not have any Tot School this week.  It wasn't a planned week off it's just that with Baby C being sick last week I didn't get around to creating any lessons for him.  He learned the good old fashioned kid way this week.  He played outside, dug for worms, played with toys, built with blocks, colored with crayons, and watched a little educational preschool TV. 

Thanks to Little M's Sesame Street watching this week I've had a really fun song stuck in my head and I thought I would share it with all of you.  (Sorry if it sticks in your head too, but I just had to post it.)

Gotta love Sesame Street!!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Favorite Recipe: Easy Bread Pudding

I think bread pudding is one of the easiest desserts you can make.  It was one of the first recipes I ever tried when I got my first apartment.  It's also a great way to use up any leftover bread from the bakery.  Traditionally it's thought of as a winter dessert - that warm goodness hot from the oven.  However,  I've been known to mix up a little fresh fruit compote to top off cooled bread pudding in the warmer months.  You can of course have it plain (with or without raisins) or serve with caramel, lemon, or chocolate sauce, whipped cream, fruit sauce, the list goes on and on. Experiment and enjoy the yummy combination of flavors!

So here is a quick and easy bread pudding recipe for you to try:


1 loaf bread, torn into small pieces
4 c. hot milk
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 c. raisins (if desired)
3 tablespoons butter


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a large mixing bowl, pour hot milk over bread. Blend eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Stir egg mixture into the bread mixture. Add raisins (if using). Mix well.

3. Melt the butter and pour into a 9x13-inch pan. Pour bread mixture over melted butter.

4. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until firm and golden brown. Serve hot or cold, with toppings or without.

It's a Keeper.Search for recipes

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - What I'll Miss Most

Baby C's first birthday is coming up this month.  Time is really flying by.   So I decided to put together some pictures for this (not quite) Wordless Wednesday that show the things I'll miss most when my kiddos are grown.


Baby feet

Being silly

Just hanging out

Monday, May 2, 2011

That Time of Year

Ahh...Spring. Do you hear that? No it's not the sounds of birds chirping or children once again free to run in the yard. It's homeschooling mothers around the world worrying and fretting over next year's curriculum choice.

Was it the right fit last year?
Would something else work better?
Boxed? Unit study?
Reading, and writing, and math, oh my!

What do I do???

Just when the weather becomes bearable to be outside I end up spending my free time searching the internet reading reviews and comparing prices.

This past year was a wonderful year. Last year Ms. Q asked for a more structured school day instead of the student interest led unit studies and lapbooks we were doing. I readily agreed and after some research decided we would try Sonlight.

It was the most enjoyable year so far for both of us.  I didn't need to spend hours researching and preparing lessons and Ms. Q really enjoyed all the books scheduled.  So you're probably wondering why I would be stressed this year over curriculum?  Well because although we loved our year with Sonlight there were some thing that just didn't work for us.  Now, no curriculum is perfect.  I know that.  But I really think there might be something that could be an even better fit.  I may end up going with Sonlight again next year (or even go back after trying something else) but here is what I'm considering for next year:


Pandia Press History Odyssey - Early Modern, Level 1


Noeo Science Biology II

Spelling and Grammar:

 JacKris Publishing 

Soaring with Spelling and Vocabulary - level 4
Growing with Grammar - level 4


Math U See - Gamma


ARTistic Pursuits - Grade 4-6 Book 1

I'm not sure what I want to use for Reading (literature) or writing.  I'm thinking of using Lesson Pathways Language Arts pathways to mix and match the reading books to create a curriculum to fit Ms. Q's needs.  Each of the literature selections they have has language arts and writing assignments you can choose.

Well, what do you think?  Any other suggestions I should consider?