Monthly Archives: September 2013

Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Week 5

G Presentation

Are you familiar with the 10-24-7 rule? It isn’t exactly the method that we employ with Classical Conversations, but it’s similar. It basically says that to move something new from your short-term to your long-term memory you need to review the information 10 minutes after you’ve first learned it, then 24 hours later, and then 7 days later.

If things were to go according to plan in a CC classroom, we’d introduce the new grammar information to the children earlier in class, then review it at the end of class (not exactly 10 minutes later, but within an hour or two). Then, outside of the classroom, the information is theoretically being reviewed again the next day (so approximately 24 hours later), possibly throughout the following week, and then again in the CC classroom during review time a week (or 7 days) later.  I think it’s interesting that CC fairly closely follows this model, and anecdotally, I’ll say that around my house, our memory review work seems to go much more smoothly and be more effective if we focus on reviewing the new grammar the day after our CC Community day.  So, this school year our schedule goes something like this:

Wednesday: CC Community Day
Thursday: Review and master this week’s memory work and pick a topic for next week’s presentation
Friday:   Review ALL of the memory work (we usually play a game or have a competition over lunch) and do a rough outline of next week’s presentation
Monday: Review ALL of the memory work and finish putting together this week’s presentation
Tuesday: Review ALL of the memory work and practice tomorrow’s presentation

 If we don’t get a day of review in there, I don’t sweat it too much, and then sometimes we review on Saturday, too.

Learning Pronouns


Last week we began a 5 week-long run of pronouns and adjectives. I decided to create a little file folder game help review these. You can download it to use at home by clicking on the image to the right.


This week’s grammar items were Adaptation, Migration, and Hibernation.  Below are a few ways to expand on these topics.


Here is a link to a fascinating video about how cephalopods (like the octopus) adapt via camouflage.


Interesting video about the adaptations of camels, giraffes, and penguins:


A quick little game about a few animal adaptations:


A video about monarch butterfly migration:

A video about the migration of Christmas Island crabs:


10 Coolest Hibernating Animals:


There are several videos put out by “Horrible Histories” on the BBC on Joan of Arc and the Bubonic Plague. They’re videos that you’ll probably want to preview before you show any of them to children, particularly younger children (they’re meant to be funny, in a dark humor sort of way, not particularly scary). Since some of the content probably isn’t appropriate for all viewers, I won’t post any links here; I’ll just leave that up to you. Anyone who has a dark sense of humor or a love of Monty Python will probably really love the Horrible Histories take on history!

A little background: This is our family’s fourth year to participate in a Classical Conversations (CC) community. We participate in the Foundations portion of the program, which is designed for children ages 4 to about 11. The Foundations program lasts for 24 weeks each year. Each week the children cover 7 different grammar subjects (Timeline, History, Math, Science, English, Latin, and Geography), do a short (2-3 minutes) presentation, participate in one or more Science experiments and cover some area of Fine Arts.  It’s a VERY busy morning!

Granola Bars . . . or Super Swim Bars!

Granola Bar

I love a good granola bar. The kind that is a little chewy and still a little crunchy. I like them to be sweet, but not so sweet that they have that “burn” that sometimes comes from too much sugar, or especially too much honey.

This summer, we needed some snacks to take to swim meets (hence the alternate name, SUPER Swim Bars!, by which they will forever be known around our house), and I found a recipe for granola bars that I liked, but didn’t quite love.  Now, with a few tweaks, I’m really happy with it and it’s been a hit with the whole family.

Granola Bar Recipe


1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter, or other seed/nut butter
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 Tbsp sucanat, rapadura, or light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup ground flax
Optional, make it even healthier, ingredients:
2 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 Tbsp chia seeds
2 Tbsp popped amaranth
Optional, make it even yummier, ingredients:
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, chopped nuts, dried apricots, figs, or some combination of these

  1. If you’re concerned about it sticking, you can spray a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside. I’ve actually never had a problem with mine sticking to a pyrex baking dish, even when I don’t spray it.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine honey, peanut butter, coconut oil, rapadura or sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Stir and cook until mixture just begins to bubble, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.
  3. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients (except for chocolate chips, if you plan to add those).
  4. Pour liquid mixture over oatmeal mixture and stir gently until well combined.
  5. If you’re adding chocolate chips, stir mixture and allow to cool somewhat before adding the chocolate so it doesn’t melt instantly.
  6. Transfer to baking dish, cover with waxed or parchment paper and press firmly into dish.
  7. Allow to cool completely (will cool faster in the refrigerator). Cut into squares or bars.

These also freeze well. I individually wrap mine and usually keep them refrigerated or frozen until we take them out to take with us somewhere for a snack. I think they hold together just as well as the store bought granola bars I’ve been purchasing lately, and my family enjoys the flavor just as much or more so. And, hey, these can make you SUPER!

Shopping for Groceries Online


I am CONSTANTLY having conversations with friends (or acquaintances) where I mention a grocery item that I purchase online, or I mention how infrequently I go to the grocery store (and mostly for things like bananas and spinach) and my friends are really SHOCKED that I purchase a LOT of groceries from Amazon.

Apparently, many people are still not aware of Amazon’s great “Subscribe and Save” program.  Using this program, you can subscribe to certain items (not all items are available for subscription) and get an additional 5% discount on the item, plus free shipping.  If, in any given month, you have 5 or more “Subscribe and Save” items shipping to you, you’ll save 20% instead of the usual 5%! It can be a GREAT deal, and depending on the item, WELL below the cost of a comparable item at the grocery store.

Pros of “Subscribe and Save” – 

  • You can cancel your subscription any time.  This means that you can order something ONCE, get the great deal on it, and then cancel your subscription if you don’t like it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done this! You do need to make sure that it’s before the window closes for shipping in the following month (usually about 10 days before your order will ship), but that time frame is clearly posted on Amazon’s site under “Manage my Subscribe and Save Orders” and Amazon sends an email to you during the month to remind you that your order is approaching and letting you know your last day to make changes to it.
  • You can skip a delivery at any time. Again, you must make that change prior to the shipping window closing, just like with the cancellations discussed above.
  • You can choose from a range of delivery options (from once a month to once every six months) and receive the exact same discount.

Cons of “Subscribe and Save” – 

  • Your entire order ships at once. If you decide to subscribe to something in the middle of the month you must wait to receive it with the remainder of your “Subscribe and Save” order if you want the discount. Otherwise, you will pay Amazon’s regular price.

So, what kind of things can you order with “Subscribe and Save?”  Below are the items that I currently have subscriptions to.  There are many more that I’ve had subscriptions to over the past few years (I went back and looked just to see how long I’ve participated in this program, and it looks like at least 4 years!), but have cancelled for one reason or another.

41KMeoNEmmL._SL500_SL85_ Enjoy Life not nuts! Mountain Mambo Nut Free Trail Mix, Gluten, Dairy & Nut Free, 6-Ounce Pouch (Pack of 6)
Current price: $15.46 ($0.43 / oz) after 20% discount.
51x3m7hEDJL._SL500_SL85_ KIND Healthy Grains Granola Bars, Variety Pack, 5 Count (Pack of 3) 
Flavor Name: Variety Pack 
Current price: $11.92 ($0.64 / oz) after 20% discount.
51JqnPrZW7L._SL500_SL85_ Plum Kids Organic Fruit and Veggie Mashups, Beetbox Berry, 4-Count (Pack of 6)
Flavor Name: Fruit and Veggie: Beetbox Berry
Current price: $19.15 ($0.80 / count) after 20% discount.
31yr-nDT7ML._SL500_SL85_ Plum Kids Organic Fruit Mashups, Mixed Berry, 4-Count (Pack of 6)
Flavor Name: Fruit: Mixed Berry
Current price: $19.15 ($0.80 / count) after 20% discount.
51yfzVJcIfL._SL500_SL85_ Plum Kids Organic Fruit Mashups, Tropical, 4-Count (Pack of 6)
Flavor Name: Fruit: Tropical 
Current price: $19.15 ($0.80 / count) after 20% discount.
51EcYkS8oFL._SL500_SL85_ Brothers-ALL-Natural Variety Pack Crisps (Fuji Apple, Asian Pear, Strawberry/Banana), Single Serve Bags, (pack of 24)
Flavor Name: Variety Pack, Size Name: 24-Count Bags 
Current price: $20.41 ($0.85 / count) after 20% discount.
 Vitamins, Essential Oils, Etc.
41sHWRnvycL._SL500_SL85_ NOW Foods Lavender Oil, 2 ounceCurrent price: $11.22 ($5.61 / oz) after 20% discount.
51Iaoy-K-yL._SL500_SL85_ Garden of Life Vitamin Code Perfect Family Multi 120 CNT CAPCurrent price: $20.04 ($0.17 / capsule) after 20% discount.
41k-eJX6R5L._SL500_SL85_ Thera Tears Nutrition, 1200mg Omega-3 Supplement Capsules, 90-CountCurrent price: $8.79 ($0.10 / count) after 20% discount.
417i+KT+BwL._SL500_SL85_ Amazing Grass Kidz SuperFood Powder, Outrageous Chocolate Flavor, 60 Servings, 360-Gram Current price: $22.59 ($1.78 / oz) after 20% discount.
31W8yPBH-ML._SL500_SL85_ Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer, Peony, 0.09 Ounce Tube 

Current price: $2.79 after 20% discount.

41eFTDpvcxL._SL500_SL85_ Blue Lizard Australian Suncreen, Face SPF 30+, 5-Ounce 

Current price: $11.70 after 20% discount.

 Gluten Free
51S5CUr59AL._SL500_SL85_ Van’s Gluten Free Cereal, Cinnamon Heaven, 11 Ounce 

Current price: $4.87 ($0.44 / oz) after 20% discount.

51ne15ctQhL._SL500_SL85_ Glutino Gluten Free Pretzel Twists, 14.1-Ounce Bags (Pack of 12) 

Current price: $61.49 ($0.36 / oz) after 20% discount.

5136cgFQ7KL._SL500_SL85_ KinniToos Chocolate Sandwich Creme, Gluten Free, 8-Ounce Packages (Pack of 6) 

Current price: $20.06 ($0.42 / oz) after 20% discount.

51At5dOMeuL._SL500_SL85_ Let’s Do…Organic Organic Cornstarch, 6-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 6) 

Current price: $13.97 ($0.39 / oz) after 20% discount.

Laundry and Cleaning
41OV-fT5LiL._SL500_SL85_ Purex Crystals Laundry Enhancer, Fresh Spring Waters, 55 Ounce 

Current price: $7.17 ($0.13 / oz) after 20% discount.

41qBUYlCUCL._SL500_SL85_ Seventh Generation Disinfecting Multi-Surface Wipes, 70-count Tubs (Pack of 6) Packaging May Vary 

Current price: $24.58 ($0.06 / Count) after 20% discount.

 Paper and Plastic
516625VPmlL._SL500_SL85_ Ziploc Storage Bag, Gallon Value Pack, 40-Count(Pack of 3)Current price: $10.51 ($0.09 / Count) after 20% discount.
51bd7zLz4kL._SL500_SL85_ This one is not currently in stock. 

Last time I ordered:Charmin Sensitive Toilet Paper 6 Giant Rolls (Pack of 8)Price was $43.98 after 20% discount

 Pet Products

41JaFDQopPL._SL500_SL85_ Tidy Cats 4 Count Breeze Litter Pad Refill (Pack of 10) 

Current price: $35.99 after 20% discount.

51ndiOmQ5pL._SL500_SL85_ Tidy Cats Breeze Litter Pellet Refill, 3.5-Pound Packages (Pack of 6) 

Current price: $43.15 after 20% discount.

41C51ws-iRL._SL500_SL85_ Wellness Complete Health Chicken Recipe, 30-Pound 

Current price: $40.79 after 20% discount.

41gpYdDf8pL._SL500_SL85_ Merrick Before Grain #1 Chicken Dry Cat Food, 11.1 Pound Bag 

Current price: $19.19 after 20% discount.

51YxPjvecwL._SL500_SL85_ Aqueon 06417 Filter Cartridge, Small, 6-Pack 

Current price: $8.87 after 20% discount.

Again, these are just a sampling of the things that I’ve ordered from Amazon’s Subscribe and Save program. If these aren’t the types of items that interest you, just do a search on Amazon for your item and include terms “Subscribe and Save” in the search box, or shop all of Amazon’s Subscribe and Save items by clicking here.


Menu Plan 9/23/2013


Well, it’s officially FALL! Tomorrow, I’ve got to get going and actually switch out some of the summer decor around here for fall things! I love fall, but the last two years, I’ve been so busy during September and October that it’s usually November before I’ve really thought about getting some fall decor going, and by then . . . it’s pretty much time for Christmas! I’m bound and determined to get it out and enjoy it this year!

It’s also probably time to switch to more fall-like food, but I’m just not quite there emotionally, yet.  SOON, though, especially if the weather continues to feel fall-ish.

In the meantime, here’s the general menu plan for the week!


Yogurt and granola
Sandwiches, baby carrots, apples and melon
Pot roast, roasted okra, mashed potatoes


Gluten Free Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
Hummus and Chips, baby carrots, apples and grapes
Shepherd’s Pie


Leftover muffins (always double the recipe!)
Roast Beef Wraps and fruit
Dinner at church


Oatmeal or cereal
Hummus and chips, baby carrots, apples and grapes
Lamb kabobs with peppers and mushrooms


Sandwiches, apples and bananas


Snacks for the week

Homemade: Super swim bars, Smoothies, Yogurt and Granola, Popcorn
Storebought: Fruit PouchesFreeze-dried FruitGranola BarsGluten Free Pretzels
If you’re looking for a menu plan template, you are welcome to download this one by clicking on the image below. It’s in Word, so you can edit to your heart’s content.

This Week's Menu

Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Week 4

Keep Calm Featured

The Schoolhouse Rocks video about Pronouns (which we’ll continue to cover in grammar thru week 6) is very entertaining . . . and possibly educational.  You can find it via a search of YouTube.


Just to keep in simple, I made a little cycle hand out that can be used while we’re going over the cycles. If you’d like to use it, you may download it by clicking on the image below.

Natural Cycles Image

The Magic Schoolbus Episode and Book “Wet All Over” covers the water cycle really well.  Both the DVD and the book are available at Amazon, and the video is also available on you tube:The-Magic-School-Bus-Wet-All-Over-Scholastic-Books-9780590508339

There are also about a billion videos on You Tube about the Water Cycle, most of which I found INCREDIBLY annoying or downright weird.  These are the ones I found the least-weird and annoying

This one is a rap (and may be better for older elementary/middle school)

Abstract Art

IshAs a follow up to today’s art lesson, there’s a great easy reader/picture book called Ish, by Peter Reynolds (also good is Dot by this same author).

DotThese are available both in traditional hard copy form as well as through Tumblebooks. On Tumblebooks, you can create a playlist of several books for your child to watch/listen to or just watch an individual one online. You can get a 30 day free trial directly from Tumblebooks –


Our (ridiculous, I know) story to help us with the rivers this week:

Freddy the Fish wanted to swim the EUROPEAN WATERS. He swam in the rain on the SEINE RIVER in France, and then decided to dine on the RHINE RIVER, before hopping on an inner tube on the DANUBE RIVER. After that, he was so tired that he needed to go slow on the PO RIVER. After he was rested up, he decided to try to scuba on the ELBE RIVER before wrapping up the day by doing some yoga on the VOLGA RIVER.


This Latin File Folder review game is similar to something posted on CC Connected, but it available for download here free, if you don’t have access to CC Connected.


A little background: This is our family’s fourth year to participate in a Classical Conversations (CC) community. We participate in the Foundations portion of the program, which is designed for children ages 4 to about 11. The Foundations program lasts for 24 weeks each year. Each week the children cover 7 different grammar subjects (Timeline, History, Math, Science, English, Latin, and Geography), do a short (2-3 minutes) presentation, participate in one or more Science experiments and cover some area of Fine Arts.  It’s a VERY busy morning!

Making Yogurt at Home

yogurt granola

If, you’re not making your own yogurt at home . . . well, that’s okay.  I make lots of stuff from scratch, but I’m not of the mindset that you’re really falling down on the job if you choose convenience over the extra time it takes to make stuff from scratch.  We’re all trying to find a balance that works for ourselves and for our families.  I think that balance is probably different places for different people.

I like to make stuff from scratch. Partly, because I just like to know that I can, and partly because I really do like knowing more about what’s in my food. It makes me better appreciate food in general, really. Anyway . . . if you’re at all interested, making yogurt from scratch is pretty easy.  Seriously.

I like yogurt. I don’t eat it every day, generally, but I like a little yogurt and granola for breakfast every now and then. And I really like adding yogurt to smoothies, since it’s full of good probiotics. So, I consume a reasonable amount of yogurt on my own. One of my children . . . the one who would mostly prefer to eat bread and sugar . . . the one who really likes about 3 fruits and only a handful of vegetables . . . LOVES yogurt.  LOVES it. Happily eats it most days for breakfast. Sometimes with granola; sometimes without.  He’ll also eat several fruits and vegetables that he doesn’t really care for (Strawberries, Oranges, Bananas, Peaches, Spinach, Kale, etc.) if it’s in the form of a smoothie, so I make a lot of smoothies around here and I add yogurt (or the whey from making yogurt, see below) to many of them! I love knowing that by eating yogurt he’s getting some good protein and some great probiotics.

What I didn’t love about the yogurt from the store was:

1) So many of them had more than just milk and live cultures in them, and

2) The cost!

Yogurt Maker

So, about 3 years ago, I started making my own.  I really didn’t want to invest in a separate yogurt maker, although I know some folks who own them and love them. I’m sure the advantage of a yogurt maker is that you know exactly how it’s going to work, every time.  If you’re not patient or willing to spend a few extra minutes monitoring the temperature of your milk, an automatic yogurt maker might be the way to go.

On the other hand, I think making homemade yogurt is REALLY easy! For the first year or so, I tried the “crock pot” method. That method works really well, but my crock pot tends to get too hot and scalds the top of the milk so that I end up with a film on my yogurt that I don’t care for (and makes cleaning my crock pot more difficult).  Also, I didn’t love all the time that went into that process, even though it mostly didn’t involve a lot of work: heat milk in the crockpot for a couple of hours, come back and turn the crockpot off and let it cool for a few hours, come back and add your culture, wrap the whole crock pot in towels and let it sit for 8-12 hours. I wasn’t very good at “coming back” at the right times (I have other things to do!) and I didn’t love dragging out my big towels every time I wanted to make yogurt.

So, I’ve adapted my methodology to what works best for me.  Maybe it will be helpful to you, too!

Homemade Yogurt

  1. Heat milk to 185 degrees*. You’ll need a thermometer to monitor this (mine looks like this one. Very inexpensive.). This kills the bad bacteria so it won’t compete with the good ones you’ll be adding. Essentially, this is pasteurization. This is where I use a double boiler, although you don’t have to have one (or like me, before I owned one, you can rig one up with a metal bowl or smaller pan and a larger pot.  Use what you’ve got, right?). It’s a good idea to take your “starter”** out of the fridge while you’re doing this, so that it will warm up to room temperature and not cool the mixture down so much when you’re adding it.
  2. Cool the milk to 110 degrees (just let it cool at your leisure, put it in a cold water bath, or just whisk it to release the heat . . . whatever you’ve got the time and inclination to do).
  3. Whisk in the starter**.
  4. Put the mixture in oven-safe containers (I just use my crock pot insert since it’s large the crock insulates really well, but you could use any glass jar or dish that you can cover).
  5. Allow the mixture to incubate.  My preferred method of doing this is to put it in the oven with the oven barely on.  To make sure that my oven was maintaining a temperature of about 100 degrees when I just barely clicked it on, I put my candy thermometer in a bowl of water on the rack beside my container or yogurt and just checked in periodically the first couple of times. Now that I’m confident, I just skip that step.
  6. Let it culture for 8-12 hours.

After that, you can eat it straight from the container, if you like.  I prefer to strain mine so that it’s thicker and more solid. I save the whey that I strain off and substitute it for buttermilk, milk, yogurt, or water in all sorts of other recipes and even in smoothies (waste not, want not!).  After I’ve strained it, I usually don’t love the texture of the yogurt as much (it’s beautifully smooth before I strain, but tossing it around straining it gives it a lumpy texture), so I usually stick mine in a blender and blend it up to make is smooth again.  If it’s too thick to blend, I just add back as much whey as is necessary to get the texture I prefer. We like ours sweetened with honey (and sometimes stevia) and vanilla, so sometimes I go ahead and add those at this point. Otherwise, I just sweeten or doctor it on an as needed basis (don’t forget to set some unsweetened aside to use as a starter for future batches!). I also use the unsweetened yogurt as a substitute for sour cream, so sometimes I set aside some for that, if I know I’m going to want some.

*We use raw milk, since that’s generally what we have around. There are many discussions out there about heating the milk to a lower temperature in order to keep the enzymes and naturally occurring good bacteria intact. At some point, I may reduce the temperature that I heat mine to. For now, though, I know that I tend to use milk that’s a week old and I feel better about heating it to a higher temperature to make sure that the bad stuff has been killed before I begin the process of making yogurt.

**For my starter, I use a single container of store bought plain greek yogurt. You don’t have to use greek yogurt, it’s just my preference. I do try to look at labels and get one with more than one active culture and as few other ingredients as possible.  Afterwards, I just set aside about a cup of my batch of yogurt to use as a starter again. Eventually, your starter will weaken since this is a less controlled environment that a big industrial process, but in the meantime, you’ll have turned a lot of milk into yogurt!  :-) And, when that happens, you can just grab a single container at the store and get started again.  Usually, we’re desperate enough to eat the starter before it ever gets weak enough to be a problem.  :-)

I’m no food pathogen expert, but our homemade yogurt has lasted in the fridge for 2+ weeks easily.  I do like to label it with the date just so that I know how long it’s been in there, but I’ve never had a batch that’s been in there long enough that I’ve though it was “off” and needed to be tossed out.


Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Week 3

A little background: This is our family’s fourth year to participate in a Classical Conversations (CC) community. We participate in the Foundations portion of the program, which is designed for children ages 4 to about 11. The Foundations program lasts for 24 weeks each year. Each week the children cover 7 different grammar subjects (Timeline, History, Math, Science, English, Latin, and Geography), do a short (2-3 minutes) presentation, participate in one or more Science experiments and cover some area of Fine Arts.  It’s a VERY busy morning!

This week, we focused on reviewing geography. Here are some resources:

  1. If you have access to CC Connected, there’s nice little packet put together by another parent for the first six weeks of Geography.  It’s similar to the simple computer game below, but more portable and doesn’t involve screen time (if you’re interested in limiting that). It’s called “Geography Game weeks 1-6.pdf” and it was posted by ReneeH under Cycle 2, Week 1.
  2. This is a link to a simple quiz game for this week’s geography, Western European Countries:
  3. And here is a link to another simple quiz game with  both weeks of European geography on it:
  4. I believe I’ve mentioned this app for reviewing the continents and oceans before, but just in case: (Keep in mind that the app includes the “Southern Ocean” while CC’s information does not.)
  5. And, in case you aren’t an Apple iOS person, here’s a Continents and Oceans quiz that you can run on your computer:
  6. I decided to continue asking my kiddos to practice the Blob map once a week at home. We trace it once, then flip it over and draw it from memory once.  It doesn’t take long and I think/hope they’ll continue to get better and more accurate over time. :-)
  7. I bought CC’s Trivium Tables for Geography this year for the first time for us to have to use at home. I’ve been very happy with them. They’re easy to pull out and use (but easier to store than the bigger maps we use in class), and they’ve both got one, so they can work simultaneously.  They were $10/each. They’re one thing that I’ll definitely plan on purchasing again for the next Cycle.

In addition to geography review, I always enjoy seeing how other people are handling their review of CC material, in general.  So, if you’re just curious, or if you’re struggling to find a way to systematically review your CC material, these are just a couple of suggestions, both based on Charlotte Mason’s memory system.

Menu Plan 9/9/2013

It’s going to be another busy week around here and I know that I do better when I actually have a plan (of some sort) for what we’ll be eating for the week!  All things are subject to change, of course . . . but if you live in the real world, you already knew that.

If you’re looking for a menu plan document that works for you, below is the template that I use. You can see it filled out for this upcoming week (the colors are just to remind me of things I need to do, like make something that takes a little preparation or post the recipe here on the blog). If you click on the image below it should allow you to download the blank template for your use. It’s in Word format so that you can alter it to your heart’s content. :-)

This Week's Menu


Gluten Free Pancakes, Cantaloupe
Hummus and Chips, Baby carrots, Apples and Melon
Roast chicken, Zucchini chips, Roast Carrots


Oatmeal or Cereal
Sandwiches or Wraps, Baby carrots
Baked potatoes in the crock pot


Gluten Free Pancakes
Roast Beef Wraps and fruit
Dinner at church


Oatmeal or cereal
Hummus and chips
Chicken and Rice casserole, green beans, melon


Gluten Free Muffins
Sandwiches or wraps
Salmon and rice


Gluten Free Muffins
Lunch Out
Burgers, Baked Beans, Oven fries


Snacks for the week

Homemade: Super swim bars, Smoothies, Yogurt and Granola, Popcorn
Storebought: Fruit Pouches, Freeze-dried Fruit, Granola Bars, Gluten Free Pretzels

Classical Conversations Cycle 2 Week 2

A little background: This is our family’s fourth year to participate in a Classical Conversations (CC) community. We participate in the Foundations portion of the program, which is designed for children ages 4 to about 11. The Foundations program lasts for 24 weeks each year. Each week the children cover 7 different grammar subjects (Timeline, History, Math, Science, English, Latin, and Geography), do a short (2-3 minutes) presentation, participate in one or more Science experiments and cover some area of Fine Arts.  It’s a VERY busy morning!

This will be a really quick post about just a couple of things that I found to help with review for this week’s grammar.

GeographyEuropean Waters

Someone in a CC group somewhere (bless their hearts!) has made up a little quiz game for the European Waters. It’s nothing fancy, but both of my kids enjoyed playing some similar ones last year. It can be nice to have something different to offer, especially in Geography, and especially if you have a child who would KILL to be playing a computer game of any sort, even if it’s kind of dull. I know whereof I speak.

Science Experiments

It sometimes bothers me when I feel like the Science Experiments and the Science Grammar are disconnected, so (in case it’s something that’s occurred to you) I just thought I’d point out that virtually all of our science experiments this cycle are related to either Physics or Astronomy, but we spend the first 6 weeks of the year memorizing Science Grammar that’s related to Ecology.  Perhaps there just aren’t great science experiments that would work well for Ecology. So, for a few more weeks, we’ll be doing Science Experiments whose grammar we won’t really be covering until a little later (for example, Refraction is part of the Science Grammar in week 22). I don’t think it bothers the kids (at all!) like it bothers me, and actually, it creates a very good opportunity as a tutor and a parent to remind them (or “hang things on those memory pegs”) that they’ve heard the terms before, or seen them demonstrated in an experiment, which just helps it all get reinforced a little better.

Update to Science Experiments:

Mirages were one of the topics in our science experiments this week. A parent in our community let me know that there is a apparently a relatively new theory being explored that a mirage may have been the reason that the crew of the Titanic was unable to see the iceberg in time to avoid it. There is an interesting documentary on this subject that’s being shown on the Smithsonian and the Weather Channels. Here is a clip from the series:

Lesson Planning Software

This is officially our fourth year of home schooling, and I have tried a little bit of everything when it comes to planning our lessons.

When we first started, I purchased a boxed set of curriculum and tried to use the lesson plans that accompanied it. I soon discovered, that while the curriculum was good and the lesson plans might have been good ones, too, they just weren’t good for us. I spent hours that year creating new and complicated lesson plans in Excel, since it’s a program that I’m familiar with, and then discovered something that I probably should have realized: Life rarely goes according to plan. Kids get sick. Parents get sick. Some days, we’re less productive than others. Some days, we just want to take advantage of being homeschoolers and do something different. Or, we (desperately) need a mental health day. Excel is not terribly flexible when it comes to changing a schedule. Moving things around became a nightmare. Eventually, I stopped using my plans and flew by the seat of my pants. We got things done, but we were probably not as focused or as productive as we could have been.  This was not a crisis because my oldest child was 4 at the time and our first “official” year was really just a practice run before we really registered her. So we granted ourselves grace (which I believe ALL homeschoolers should grant themselves plenty of during the first year!) and moved on.

The following year, I tried a physical paper planner. I have a little obsession with office supplies. I like to make lists. I like to write things down. I’m okay with planning only a week or two in advance (I thought). It seemed like a good fit.  It actually wasn’t a complete disaster, but since a paper planner is even less flexible than an electronic one, and it’s not as easy to find time to really plan a week or two at a time, it turned into an exercise in my writing down what we’d DONE that week rather that what we planned to DO. I’m actually not required to keep detailed records in our state, so while it gave me peace of mind to see that we’d actually accomplished some things, I still didn’t think we were as productive as we could have been.

Last year, I investigated a few different possibilities and settled on trying an app – Homeschool Helper (I tried the iOS version. This link is to the Android version).


It was VERY reasonably priced! It was BEAUTIFUL! It had so many features that I really appreciated (being able to set up repeating lessons, for example). But, for whatever reason, it just did not work well for me. I just couldn’t look at our schedule the way that I wanted to, and I couldn’t make changes as easily as I wanted or needed to. This may be entirely operator error. Maybe I just did not spend enough time really getting to know the ins-and-outs of the app, but as much as I loved that it was a really attractive interface and that it worked on my iPad, I just didn’t love it and never really managed to set it up to work for us. By last year, I was pretty good at flying by the seat of my pants with this homeschooling thing and I just didn’t sweat it. We accomplished plenty. The kids are doing great. I’m not worried about where we are. BUT, I also KNOW that we’d be more productive if we had a plan that we were shooting for.

So, this year I decided to go back to Excel. I wasn’t thrilled about it, but it did give me the chance to see our full year laid out in front of us. After spending several hours here and there getting it set up, I started to worry that all that time I was investing was going to be for naught on the first occasion where things didn’t happen according to my plan. I started thinking that I needed to investigate planning software again, but I didn’t have very much time on my hands to do that. On several homeschool email discussion groups I’m on, other people were raising the planner question (it was that time of year) and several responses recommended Scholaric.  I’d had a free trial of Scholaric earlier, but it was so bare bones basic looking that I never really put much time into even trying it out. I decided just to cross my fingers and give it a try. I signed us up.  For my two children, I pay $4/month.  The most anyone would pay would be $7/month. I realize that isn’t super cheap. It’s more than paper planner. It’s more than the Homeschool Helper App. But for me, it’s absolutely been worth it.  We’re entering our second month of using it, and I am just as enamored as I was when I first got it set up. It’s not 100% perfect, but it is the BEST planner that I’ve managed to find.dialog

Here are the things I really love about it:

  1. In one swift move, you can set up fairly complicated lesson sequences, so you can schedule out a series of lessons with just a little (and I mean a LITTLE . . .like a bracket or two) coding.  For example, we’re doing a Bible Study this year. The way the book lays it out, there are 6 weeks of lessons and 5 days each week.  I love the study (I mean, we have REALLY loved the study!), but it’s a little intense to ask my 7 and 5 year-old (especially my wiggly 5 year-old) to sit through quite that much every day. So, I told Scholaric, which I was setting up that my lesson plan for the study that I wanted to do those 6 chapters with 5 lessons in each chapter, except that I wanted to take 2 days to do each lesson.  Some very simple coding based on the guidance on the Scholaric Blog and BAM! my lessons for the entire book were planned out and dropped onto appropriate days.
  2. I can easily share lessons between my children. We all do Bible Study together, along with a few other topics. I can very easily tell Scholaric to put the lesson I’m planning on both children’s lesson plans.
  3. Moving things around is pretty much a breeze.  I have just drag and drop lessons that didn’t get completed today to another day, or I can tell Scholaric to “Bump” the lesson forward (you can bump backward, too). If the subjects are presenting in the order I’d like to see them, I can just drag them around and put them in the order I want them to be in.
  4. I can print off a daily checklist for each child. This has been HUGE in helping my children see what needs to be done each day!

Here are a few of the things that I’m not so crazy about:

  1. It’s not beautiful.  Did I mention that the Homeschool Helper App is beautiful?  It is.  I do take pleasure in spending time in attractive software.  BUT, this basic web based app is SO functional and well thought out that I really don’t mind too much.  Maybe one day, if enough people realize that it’s out there and what a pleasure it is to use, the developer will have some time to invest in making it pretty.  In the meantime, I’m just thrilled that it works so well!
  2. The drag and drop feature for moving lessons around doesn’t work between weeks.  The “bump” feature does, but there are times when I’d like to be able to just drag one single lesson to a day during the next week.  There are ways to make it work, but it’s a feature that I would enjoy.
  3. It’s a web-based program.  I actually like this part. I can access is from any computer. I can even pull it up on my phone and my iPad. No syncing is required, since you’re always working within the same web-based program. But some things just don’t work quite as well in my iPad as they do on my computer. It’s not major, but if you plan to ONLY use a mobile device, this might not be the program for you.

On the whole, I think Scholaric is fantastic, and while I’m sure you’re convinced at this point that I was paid to write this review or compensated with some sort of use of the program, that is not the case. This is really and truly just a review of an online planning program that was designed with Homeschoolers in mind that I really love. We have accomplished SO much more this past month using Scholaric than we ever would have without it.  I just hope that it will be as helpful for someone else as it has been for me!


Note: There are affiliate links in this post.  None of those links are to Scholaric. I received no commensuration for this entirely unsolicited review.

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