Kitchen Kids: Chili and Brown Rice by Buggle

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Buggle has been a kitchen helper since he was big enough to sit in his highchair and peel garlic for me. Since he’s also a good reader and methodical by nature I decided to write instructions for his first solo meal on the kitchen white board.


This was a fairly simple meal for him to make as I already had cooked onions and peppers in the fridge leftover from another meal. The beans were canned and I had him use a small jar of salsa for the majority of the flavoring and sauce. He was able to do it completely unassisted which was lovely as we had been extremely busy that day and I needed to catch up on some other housework!



Kitchen Kids: Chili and Brown Rice by Buggle


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • One large onion sliced and sauteed until soft (this can be done ahead of time by a parent)
  • 2 bell peppers with seeds removed, diced and sauteed (can be done ahead)
  • 2 14 oz cans of red kidney beans
  • 1 15.5 oz jar of medium heat salsa
  • Crushed tomatoes (optional)
  • Salt to taste


  1. Brown meat
  2. Add peppers and onions
  3. Drain kidney beans and add to meat mixture
  4. Add jar of salsa- depending on how much fat is in the meat and how well the beans are drained you may need to add a cup of water or crushed tomatoes to make the dish moist enough
  5. Let simmer for 20-30 minutes or until rice is done.
  6. Serve with rice and another vegetable or applesauce
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Ordinary Clothing: Seasonal Skirt Blog Hop Summer Edition

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Mud Puddle Play



Yup! That’s me, in a dress, taking an unplanned wade in a large mud puddle (or small pond) at my sister-in-law’s place!



And that’s Mouse in a dress, wading in a creek we came across while we were out at a park with some other homeschoolers!

We wear dresses every day, she and I, and to us they are just clothes like any other.  We divide them into “good clothes” and “play/work clothes”  and we try to keep the good clothes good, but I try not to let our choice of what to wear keep us from enjoying the adventures that come our way.

It’s a delicate balance, like so much else in life. I want all the children to learn the important points of presentation- to look tidy, to think about what their clothes are communicating, but at the same time I don’t want them to be so worried about their clothes that they don’t seize opportunities to learn and explore.

It’s all in the examples I think. How do I interact with my clothing?  That blue dress that I wore into the “pond” was one that I liked, but also one that was getting worn out. And really I didn’t stop to think about it. The big children were having fun and Jack wanted to join in!

“Boy go in pond. Mama take boy in pond!” he said and what else could I do?

There was some consternation from the bigger children “But Mama your dress?!” and then much joy as I entered into their adventure!  That was three months ago and they’re still talking about the fun they had in “Aunt La’s pond”. I’d rather have the memories than the clothes any day!


Joining up with the Seasonal Skirts Blog Hop!

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Invitation to Sensory Play: Playdough With Spices and Sprinkles

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Playdough is a favorite around here! I generally keep a batch where Jack and Bull can get it at any time as well as a bowl of playdough toys to experiment with.

Sometimes it seems as though playdough will keep them occupied for hours and sometimes they need some parental input to really get going. As I’ve been reading more about Montessori  and Emilia Reggio  approaches to education I’m starting to add some spark to the children’s play by putting together invitations or opportunities to explore a certain set of items or concepts.

The other day we needed a new batch of playdough and since I was out of food coloring the playdough was going to have to be white. While I was double checking my baking cupboard for coloring I found the sprinkles left over from Christmas cookies and decided to offer the little boys the invitation above:

Playdough in a doll’s blow (brand-new, soft and warm)

Four plates of things to add to the playdough or just taste

Hundreds and Thousands


Ground Black Pepper

Whole Anise Seed

The sprinkles don’t have much scent but the pepper and anise are both distinctive in their smell as well as taste.

Out to the porch, where they sat at their playdough table!


Mixing visuals and tastes/smells is a serious business when you are four and two! They tasted the components and Jack tried a bite of playdough but spit it out again!

Sensory play quickly led to imaginative play as they decorated “birthday cupcakes” for their stuffed animals.



wpid-20140717_101920.jpgLater they rolled out “cookies” and decorated them.  Altogether they spent about an hour on this exploration mixed with imaginative play.  Since playdough is so easy to make we will definitely do more of these explorations. These kinds of things are so good for improving fine motor skills, hand eye coordination and reasoning skills as they figure out the order they need to do things in to accomplish what they imagine!


Quick and Easy Playdough


  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon oil
  • 2 Teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • Coloring of some kind; my favorites are ground up dye pellets left over from Easter and Gel type food coloring


  1. Put all ingredients in a pot and cook and stir over medium heat until it forms a soft ball
  2. Turn out on a table or board and add coloring of your choice, kneading until smooth.
  3. Be CAREFUL the dough is HOT when it first comes out of the pot!
  4. Store in an airtight container.
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Teaching Mama
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Kitchen Kids: Glop by Mouse

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Kitchen Kids: Glop by Mouse


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large can baked beans
  • 1/4 cup of sweet relish or chopped sweet pickles
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 T mustard
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • Salt to taste


  1. Brown ground beef over medium heat, stirring frequently to break into small pieces
  2. Open baked beans and add to beef
  3. Mix Relish, Ketchup, Mustard and Brown sugar together and add to beans and beef
  4. Heat through, stirring occasionally
  5. Serve with a vegetable such as green beans and applesauce
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Kitchen Kids,



One of the things I really want to make a regular part of our lifestyle/homeschooling is teaching the children skills they will use all their lives.  I want them to be capable but I also want them to have exposure and practice with a wide variety of skills so that they can learn what they enjoy and what they find relaxing or satisfying.

Cooking is a big deal to S and I (we cooked for our own wedding!) so the children have always been in the kitchen with us. In recent months though I’ve realized that while the little boys were still enjoying “helping” in the kitchen the big children needed more of a challenge!

Time to teach them to cook a full meal!

I started with Mouse and a meal that is a favorite of my childhood.  The name of the dish is “Glop” and Mouse was able to make it by herself while I did other things in the kitchen and gave her instructions.

It’s a meal that we all enjoy and is both simple and inexpensive.  No leftovers is always a good sign!

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Evaluating The Past Year

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Now that I’m home from convention and we have finished up our last few subjects my mind is turning to planning the new year and using all of the materials I purchased in June!

This is our fifth year of homeschooling and while on one hand I’m starting to feel like I finally have some sense of what I’m doing on the other hand I will be teaching three grades this year, plus some kind of “tot school” for Jack! The third and fourth graders have enough of a foundation now that we can start to add in some additional subjects (Latin, Art, Bible) and I feel like I can also step the requirements in areas such as neatness and diligence up a notch!

Time to make sure I have the year well planned out before I forget all my neat ideas and the January doldrums hit! Blogging over at the Home Educators Association of Virginia today! Join me?

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Pleasant Places

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The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me. Psalm 16:6 (NASB)

This first summer in New England continues to amaze and delight me. Warm, but not hot and humid days, cool nights, gardens that grow and blossom lushly. The doors and windows stand open and the children spend every possible moment in the backyard.



When we leave the house there are creeks to splash in and explore. We come home tired and wet and full of what has been seen and experienced.


We’re down to just a couple of subjects for each child and should be wrapping up school in the next week. Of course I’m already planning out next year, trying to do all of my printing and copying before we begin again in August. Too often I have great ideas for the year and then lose them when the time comes in the curriculum. I want to avoid that this year and also have plans for what the little boys will do when their lessons are done and the others are still working.

It’s a time to refresh, to rest, to slow our days and rejoice in new places….

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Where We’ve Been: 2014 HEAV Convention!

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Legos gave the little boys a welcome break from sitting in the stroller while I looked at curriculum or talked to special needs parents

Legos gave the little boys a welcome break from sitting in the stroller while I looked at curriculum or talked to special needs parents

Bull loved the Instrument Petting Zoo and tried a couple of instruments

Bull loved the Instrument Petting Zoo and tried a couple of instruments


Mouse was fascinated by the medical displays- she touched a lung and listened to a baby with different kinds of breathing and heart issues!

Mouse was fascinated by the medical displays- she touched a lung and listened to a baby with different kinds of breathing and heart issues!


On Friday and Saturday I spent a good portion of the day doing Special Needs Counseling, Friday the little boys stayed with their old babysitter and Saturday they hung out with me at the convention. They did beautifully- playing with some of the learning toys I had bought the day before and Jack even took a nap!


After eight days away from home (we came down earlier in the week in order to visit friends and family), we were all happy to return and get back into our regular routines!


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Continuing Education

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I had a moment of panic yesterday when I realized that I was leaving for Virginia and the HEAV Convention next Saturday and I haven’t finished my list of curricula, picked the workshops I want to attend, made the things I want to sew to help keep the little boys occupied or figured out how to avoid the worst of the traffic around New York City and Washington DC!!!

Well, today it is raining and the distractions are (theoretically) fewer (although the exterminator is coming this afternoon to check for termites) so I should be able to finish most of those tasks after all!

I’m actually pretty clear at this point what books the children will be using. What I haven’t decided is what books I’m buying for myself.

I try every year to add a few books to my “homeschooling library” either because they are books I want to read, books I want to be able to lend out, or books I want to be able to reference.

My "library"! Teacher's manuals, reference and encouragement all together in one place.

My “library”! Teacher’s manuals, reference and encouragement all together in one place.

I think it is so important to keep educating myself on methods of teaching, on how children learn, and also to have a group of books that have more to do with life than with education as well as some books I can pick up for inspiration and encouragement.

Sometimes I buy books by a speaker who’s workshop I’ve attended as I find having the book to be a good way of reminding myself what I learned or was encouraged by six months after the fact.

Last year those books were Heidi St. John’s Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Daylight Managing Your Days Through the Homeschool Years
and The Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Romance: Nurturing Your Marriage Through the Homeschool Years” as well as

Sally and Clay Clarkson’s Educating the WholeHearted Child — Third Edition

Rachael Carman’s How to Have a HEART for Your Kids

I was blessed and challenged by all of them.

This year the following books are on my list:

Susan Wise Bauer- The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Third Edition)
: This will go into the reference section of my library

Clay Clarkson
- Heartfelt Discipline
: I already have this on Kindle but I want to be able to loan it out.

Mary Jo Tate: Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms
: I’ve read reviews of this and it seems good, so I’ll be taking a look at it to see if I want to add it or not.

Judi Munday’s book on writing IEP’s for homeschool students with special needs. This will be a loaner.

Things I’d like to add but don’t have specific titles for yet

A guide to Montessori style learning at home.

A guide or idea book for Charlotte Mason Style learning

A guide for putting together unit studies that includes notebooking and lapbooking ideas as I think we will be doing more of this in the future

What kinds of books do you consider essential to your homeschool library? Are there titles I should consider?

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How To Get To Know Your Neighbors

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1. Have several young children

2. Make sure that they are curious about everything and not shy about asking questions

3. Allow them to play in the front of the house and ride their bikes up and down the sidewalk with minimal supervision

4. Let them yell and be loud as long as they are outside

5. Encourage them to be helpful and friendly

Result: You will know all the neighbors on your block and most of the neighbors on the next several blocks as the children will have said “hi”, asked them what they were doing, offered to help with yardwork etc. You will also be on a first name basis with: the mailman, the guys reroofing the house across the street, the man flushing the sewer system for the city and others whom you are not quite sure how you met!

Also- your life will never be boring- but you already knew that because you have several small children!

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Encouraging An Interest You Don’t Share (and that makes a mess!)

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Mouse is creative in the artistic sense. She loves to make things to pretty up the house. She cares about clothes and what looks “cute”. She wants lotions and soaps that smell nice. She also loves bones,the workings of the human body and wants to be ” a doctor who works on arms and legs” when she grows up!

We are so different. She sees things and gets ideas that would never enter my mind and so many of her ideas are so messy! She moves from one idea to the next and leaves a trail of paper bits, glue sticks, hair ribbons and decorations in her wake. Her desire and need for tactile sensory input means that she not only stamps paper with her rubber stamps, but she also stamps her hands, arms and legs, and picks apart the stamp pads to experiment with using them to dye pieces of cloth, or color on papers! We went through a long time period where scissors were as likely to be used on her hair or clothes as on more appropriate materials.

So how do I encourage her to pursue these interests, while also teaching her to think before she cuts up her blanket to make a scarf? How do I enter into her joys and challenges to help her grow?

First of all I need to remember that many of the messes she makes are the result of a lack of discernment and controlling her artistic impulses. She wasn’t being naughty when she cut the hem off of a school uniform to complete her doll’s winter ensemble with a plaid scarf. She just wasn’t thinking beyond “this would look nice” to “what will happen to my dress?”

I need to teach her discernment and that won’t happen by my making rules that she won’t remember in the heat of her enthusiasm! I need to give her materials to create with, keep the rules in that area few and simple (basically create as you please with these materials and clean up after yourself) and then be prepared to appreciate her effort and her vision as she creates. I do need to enforce the “clean up” rule and sometimes there will need to be consequences for not having cleaned up, but primarily I need to be an enthusiastic supporter of her ideas and desire to create and bring beauty into her surroundings.

I also need to include her in my own efforts to bring beauty into our home. Both from an instructive perspective- teaching her what beauty looks likes and from an inclusive one- giving her the opportunity to contribute to the family by bringing beauty to us. Sometimes that is going to mean including something on the table that isn’t necessarily beautiful to the rest of us but that she has brought in an attempt to bless us. Sometimes that will mean gently instructing her in how colors work together, how to set a pretty table, or how to tidy a room (something I’m still learning). And sometimes it will mean bringing her into my own learning of how and why to do these things, my own struggles to be disciplined to clean up after myself, and being honest with her about the struggle that we can have between our desires and vision and our abilities.

It’s a tall order and there still only twenty-four hours in a day. This is my calling though: to help these children grow into who they were created to be that they might in turn fulfill their own callings.

Only grace will accomplish this.

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