Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Story of the World – Our History Curriculum for 4th Grade

Last year, based on feedback from other homeschoolers, we used Sonlight curriculum for Social Studies, Geography, Language Arts and Science.  Regardless of how good or bad a curriculum sounds, it’s always good to get the feedback of someone you know who has used it, as well as what learning and personality style worked best with it.  We loved the literature-based approach of Sonlight, but with me working full-time outside of the home this past year, it was way too much to keep up with and I felt it lacked review to ensure retention of information.  This year, we are using The Story of the World, Volume II for History.  We received a number of thumbs-up from homeschoolers we know regarding these curricula.  And by “this year” let me explain our “school” year.  We take the month of June and around the 2nd week of December through the Epiphany off.  The rest of the time, we are learning in some form or another.

This is our 3rd year homeschooling.  B went to public school for kindergarten and 1st grade, but we made the decision to homeschool him for 2nd grade, and have reevaluated that decision in the 2 years since then.  At this time, the hubs and I have decided to homeschool B through elementary school and see if he wants to go back to public school when he reaches middle school age.  In my estimation, that gives me 4 years in which to teach him all he needs to know according to the state standards.  Although we are using a different timeline, we hope to arrive at the same destination within the same ETA.  ;o)

I was excited about the Activity book that SOTW offered but didn’t have an opportunity to see what those activities were until it arrived.  So far, there are great craft ideas but they involve supplies we don’t have on hand and buying them can really add up.  There are also role playing activities which can be challenging with an only child.  But we are creative and we really enjoy this curriculum.

The hubs and B have visited my SIL at the beach a couple of weekends this Summer and I’ve stayed home to have a nice break.  So last month, B and I went to my parents for the weekend to give the hubs a nice break at home by himself.  My brother came over and I enlisted his help in a Celtic reenactment.  My brother and B made Celtic double-headed war axes and then proceeded to have a battle.  I thought for sure my mom would have some blue eyeshadow left over from the 60s for me to paint their faces like warriors, but I was disappointed.  My brother has no hair so we could not use gel or crisco to spike his hair out and B’s hair is wild most of the time anyway, so we just let them at each other, as is.

Today we are reading our first chapter on Islam.  While B was doing his map work and some other activity pages related to this chapter, the two of us were singing Carpenters songs complete with harmony.  We are quite a pair when left alone together all day!  ;o)  We have so much fun.  In a couple of hours we’ll be heading to the sprayground with some other homeschool families.  I love our life!


Cooking Class instead of Leftover Wednesday

I don’t have a Leftover Wednesday post this week.  Yesterday I gave my first private cooking lesson.  It  was 5 hours long, we made some great food together and had so much fun!  B and my student’s children played well the whole time.  We chopped, talked, mixed, laughed, basted, cried, roasted, laughed some more and cleaned up.  My student bought all the food, enough for both of us to split; I couldn’t have been “paid” any better than that!  ;o)  And she ordered pizza for lunch.

First we put a Beer in the Rear Chicken in the oven.  Here’s all that’s left of my half:
Next we made pico de gallo.  We put some of it in a bowl with mashed avocados for guacamole and some in another bowl with corn and black beans for salsa. There was leftover pico de gallo for my student to put over chicken, in tacos or to just eat with chips.
Then we made a huge batch of The Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Spaghetti; enough to fill a casserole dish for me, one for my student and one for her neighbor!
I came home with so much food, dinner tonight will be all these wonderful leftovers.  I truly enjoyed cooking with a friend.  I’d love to do that on a regular basis – get together with friends, make big batches of dishes and we all go home with meals for our families.

A Kindred Spirit

I’m giving my 1st private cooking lesson in less than half an hour, and we ran to the store to get some ingredients for the “class”.  Remember in my post Good Things Come In Threes, when I talked about receiving a compliment from a friend for always looking on the bright side?  Well, I met a kindred spirit in the cashier we went to, Karen.  Karen asked the gentleman who was 2 customers in front of me how he was.  He grumbled some complaint.  Karen responded with, “Well, if you’re not behind bars or 6 feet under, you’re doing pretty well in my book!”  LOL!  I could have hugged her for that!  The gentleman had no response.

Then when it was our turn, B got the dreaded question from Karen, “You’re not in school today?”  B responded, “I’m homeschooled.”  Karen said, “That’s great!  So you’re in school right now!  You’re learning economics and food safety and how to cook right here in the store.  What did you learn this trip?”  Another reason to hug Karen.  We all need a little Karen in our lives for some perspective!

What a small world!

This morning, B and I joined some other members of our homeschool group riding on the Leesburg, Virginia Trolley.  I’ve wanted to ride on it for a long time but never did.  We had a great time.  We got on in front of the courthouse and rode the loop for about 45 minutes.

We were supposed to meet the other members of our group in front of the government center and I had no idea that was different from the courthouse.  There was another homeschooling mom who was waiting with her children at the same stop as us and we introduced ourselves.  As we chit-chatted to get to know each other, we talked about where we live now and where we used to live.  We started realizing we had some freaky coincidences in where we both previously lived – same city, same community, same street….same house!  She and her husband bought our house from us in 2003!  And that house is in another state!  We were both shocked!  What a pleasant surprise!

B was 7 months old when we sold the house and she and I laughed today about how I tremulously asked them at closing if they were going to leave B’s nursery as it was or were they planning to redecorate the room.  She looked like a deer in headlights when she answered back then.  I put her in a terrible position to either lie to sooth me or tell the truth and probably make me cry.  She hesitantly replied, “Weeeeellllll…we don’t have plans to have kids anytime soon….sooooo…”  The hubs removed me from the attorney’s office toot-sweet after that before I started bawling.  LOL!  It was cute to see B’s reaction and her oldest’s reaction when we told them that their very first bedrooms were actually the same bedroom in the same house.  What a small world!

Me and B

The trolley arrived at our stop and we were the only ones who got on.  However, all the other homeschoolers in our field trip group were waiting at the government center, which was the next stop.  It was a nice ride and I got to see parts of Leesburg I’d never seen before.  When we got off, the woman who bought our house and I exchanged emails so we could keep in touch.  I am so glad we went!

After the trolley ride, we had some errands to run, the temperature kept going up and we getting hot. We stopped at our community’s clubhouse to find out when the pool opened up since schools are back in session and were surprised to hear 2pm.  We were there when it opened and had the whole place to ourselves (well, and the lifeguards) until we left at 3:45pm.  It was an all around fantabulous day!

Good Things Come In Threes

Forgive me if I have said this before; I have the worst short-term memory!  But a friend of mine recently told me no one she knows is able to look on the bright side as much as me and I had shown her the bright side of a bad situation she and her kids got into in public one day.  Have you heard that saying that people may not remember what you did, but they’ll remember how you made them feel?  If I’m not known for much, I’m very proud to be known for looking on the bright side and helping others to see and feel the bright side, too.
I was thinking about what she said and wondering why I am like that and why more people are not.  I found an answer for me: I look for and find silver linings because, sometimes, silver linings are all I have!  I am so grateful that in this economy, God has seen fit to provide us with what we need.  We have a roof over our heads, two cars with gas in them, working A/C, food in the fridge and pantry, clothes on our backs, shoes on our feet, the hubs has a job to go to, all utilities are on, none of us are sick, we have family and friends who accept and love us, we spend everyday together, we laugh everyday together and we know how much we mean to each other.  And you know what?  If one or half of the things on this list changed tomorrow, my disposition would not.  I reap what I sew, people.  I say the occasional cuss word and call people on their shit but I also put out love and goodness and friendliness and do unto others as I’d have them do to me with no expectations.  And just when I thought my cup could not runneth over any more, I received 3 more blessings.
  1. A week and a half ago, I received a call from a friend’s husband.  His wife is celebrating a birthday soon and he wants to send her away for a weekend.  And as much fun as she’ll have with a whole weekend of no cooking, cleaning or kids asking for this or that, she’ll have even more fun with a friend.  So, he wanted to know if I would go with her.  I told him I would talk it over with the hubs and see if we could swing that weekend and he said something that almost made me cry on the phone.  He said, “The only thing I’m asking of your family is your time.  This is my birthday present to my wife and I am treating both you and her to this weekend.”  I was so shocked.  I was so grateful.  It is something I could not have done myself.
  2. A couple of days later, I was washing the dinner dishes when a friend called.  She decided to go to a movie at the last minute, was driving to the theater and asked if I wanted to come along, her treat.  The movie started in less than 20 minutes.  The hubs told me to RUN!  LOL  It was such a sweet thing for her to do and I really needed to get out for a laugh.  I’d had my cranky pants on all weekend!  We saw The Campaign and it was HILARIOUS!!!
  3. My brother was on vacation for 11 days and returned to the area this past week.  He called Saturday evening and said he wanted to take us and my parents out to dinner last night since he hadn’t seen us in a couple of weeks.  He’s so sweet!  Neither the hubs nor I had to cook or wash dishes, we got to spend time with family over a delicious meal and we swapped dinner out last night for “Papa John’s $5 Pizza Night” on our menu plan!  Win-win-win all around!
After we came home from dinner last night, the boys played catch in the alley while I walked laps.  It was so quiet!  Usually the hood is bustling with kids and animals.  But last night was the last night before the public schools started back today.  Everyone else was inside, laying out clothes, ensuring the bookbags had everything they needed in them, getting into bed, etc.  But we were outside, with full bellies, getting some exercise, enjoying the sweet, clean smell after the rain and the display of clouds moving away as the last of the sunset tried to poke through.
It just doesn’t get any better than that and I am truly a blessed person with so many wonderfully, generous people in my life!

Our DIY Chalkboard Table

Last weekend, we turned the top of our kitchen table into a chalkboard to use with our homeschool lessons.  We received the round table, plus three leaves, from friends a few years ago.  Our own oblong dining room table was too big for our kitchen and this table was perfect.  It wasn’t in the best condition, but we loved it.  And we loved that table into an even worse condition.  ;o)  I’ve wanted to make the top a chalkboard for several months.  We even bought the supplies at the end of Spring, but it’s been too hot outside to do this and I did not want to do it in the house.   Last Saturday was beautiful, not too hot, so we decided it was time.  We only did the table top but we plan to do the leaves in the future as well.
This is the “before” picture.
Close up of the stains, I mean, love we have given this table.
It took the hubs 45 minutes with an electric hand sander to remove the shine from the table.


I painted 2 coast of primer and used sponges for this project. It will go faster with a roller.


This is after the 1st coat of chalkboard paint.


This is after the 3rd coat was applied Sunday morning.  We brought the table inside because rain was in the forecast. The table had to sit and “cure” for 3 days before we could use it.



 After 3 days, we had to cover it with chalk. The hubs and B did this by rubbing the sides of long chalk pieces all over the top and sides of the table. Then once this chalk was wiped off, it was set to go!  We find the chalk comes off better with a rag (one of the hubs’ old undershirts) than with the eraser.  And the table top can be washed with soap and water!


After I took the picture at the beginning of this post, B erased it, I popped up the other side and he promptly created a video game with 4 levels.  I’m so glad we finally did this!


Menu Planning & Grocery Spending

Our food costs are way out of control!  It is obscene how much money I spend to feed a family of 3 each month  and I’ve been perplexed on how to bring it down.  Couponing doesn’t help.  I shop at Wegmans and I can get their store brand items cheaper than any name brand + a coupon.  And their store brand products are just as good, if not better, than most name brands.  In addition to spending a ton at the grocery store, I eat out too much.  “Hi, I’m Jess, and I’m a fast food addict.”  How many of you said in your head, “Hi, Jess” after you read that last sentence?  hehehe  We’ve been eating out at a nice sit down restaurant once a pay period and if you add drinks to dinner, that’s a hefty bill.  And getting pizza or Chinese takeout once a pay period adds up, too…I’m trying to be real here and lay all my cards on the table.  As a side, I was talking with my friend, CC, earlier this Summer about writing a book.  I’m worried that strangers won’t “get” me or find me entertaining because they don’t know me; they’ve never heard me speak.  My friends hear my voice in their head when they read my blog.  She said I will connect with strangers because I talk about things that other people think or have experienced but don’t talk about it.  So they will relate to me.  That was great encouragement to me and I love CC even more for that.  Anywho, so I’m bearing my food soul here for you peeps and we can’t be spending our too few dollars on all this food!

All the bloggers who save a ton of money credit extreme couponing, menu planning and shopping only once a month with keeping food budgets low.  They also live in areas that have cheaper costs of living than I do and have a variety of lower cost grocery stores around, i.e. Aldi, Kroger, Publix, etc.  I thought shopping once a month was ridiculous; what about produce?!  It’s not going to last that long!  Then Holy Spirit-led Homeschooling guest posted on Money Saving Mom and she listed specifically which produce items they eat the 1st, 2nd and 3rd weeks and then canned produce the 4th week.  Pretty impressive!  I rarely by canned produce, unless it’s specifically required for a recipe and there really is no substitute, i.e. a jar of marinated artichoke hearts for spinach and artichoke dip.  But I do buy frozen produce and have even frozen fresh produce I’ve grown, picked or bought.  So, I can make produce stretch a month.
I’ve done my fair share of menu planning.  Y’all have seen me fall of and climb back on that bandwagon over and over and over…  But I only planned dinner menus.  I realized earlier this week that that has been my problem!  By not planning or buying for all lunches and breakfasts, there’s not enough in the house for those meals.  Hence I go out more and B eats cereal every morning.  And that shit has got to change! So, I made a menu plan for 3 meals a day Wednesday, being conscious of what is already in the house.  I saved over a third at Wegmans yesterday over my last shopping trip.  Now granted, two weeks ago, we were out of all meat, so I had to restock our meats.  When I do that every 2 months, the bill is higher.  But during my last shopping trip, I bought half the meats at Costco, so I still saved some good money at Wegmans yesterday.  :o)  I planned 14 Breakfasts and 14 Lunches but only 12 Dinners because there will be 2 “Leftover Wednesdays” in there.
So, fingers crossed that I am turing over a new leaf and am on the track to food savings!  Now I’m off to type up the menu plan from my notes and hang it in the kitchen for all to see and stick to.  Pray for me!


I showed B the printed out menu plan.  He started hyperventilating over the fact that cereal for breakfast is listed only 3 times in 14 days.  LOL  But he got excited when I let him pick out what we’ll have for dinner tonight – Saffron Rice with Shrimp – and I intend to have him help me.  He taped the menu plan on the front of the top oven, “Where all the magic happens,” he said and had to add some drawings.  It’s very simple, and I hope to improve on the variety, but it’s a start:

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