Monday, September 29, 2008

Teaching Africa.

I am in charge of teaching Africa for our geography class at co-op this upcoming month. I think Africa is an awesome place to study!! I am using CHC's Continents plan as a guide. These are from the CHC Grade 2 Lesson Plans. Since we only meet once a week and my class is about 45 minutes long, I don't have the luxury to include lots of fun crafts and activities. I get to stick to the basics! Even then, I still get to cover some fun things!!

Week 1
Continent Outline: Students will identify, label, and draw. I'll be using Uncle Josh's Outline Maps to print out a map of Africa. Deserts, forests, oceans, mountain ranges, and lakes will be taught and located on the map.
Activity: We will be learning an African song, "Siyahama," that the students will perform at the end of the unit.

Week 2
Animals, Attractions, and Landmarks: Students will learn about animals that are native to Africa. Basic facts about the Pyramids, the Great Sphinx, and Victoria Falls will also be presented.
Activity: Each student will create a mural in which they will be able to glue pictures of animals and landmarks. We'll continue to practice our song at the end of the class.

Week 3
Saints: We'll be learning about African, Catholic saints, including St. Charles Lwanga, St. Monica, and St. Augustine. We'll be able to place where they were from on our mural of Africa. Kids will be able to take home some coloring pages to be completed at home for a coloring contest.
Activity: Continue practicing song for performance.

Week 4:
Unit Wrap-Up: We'll be reviewing the unit on our last day and collecting all saint coloring pages to be entered into a contest. The prize will be a goody bag filled with a surprise! Since there are about 18 students in the class, I'm thinking of dividing up the contestants into age groups. But no one will be empty handed as I'll also be presenting the class with their finished murals and some yummy African treats. Then we'll give all the parents a treat with our presentation!

African Recipes
This is a rice fritter recipe from western Africa. This will yield approximately 2.5 dozen fritters.


  • 1 1/2 cups cooked long-grain rice
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated whole nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Place the rice in a medium bowl. Drizzle warm water over rice; mash rice with a fork until almost smooth. Stir in baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Gradually add flour and eggs to rice mixture, stirring with a whisk until well-blended.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Drop rice mixture by level tablespoonfuls into pan. Cook 4 minutes on each side or until golden. Remove fritters from pan with a slotted spoon. Pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

So Busy.

Yes, it's true. I have too much to do and lately it has kept me from updating you on the daily grind of my life. Recently there have been soccer practices & games, church meetings, Faith Formation lesson planning, and co-op Spanish class preparing. Not to mention all this on top of the daily homeschool lessons my kids enjoy! lately "enjoy" might not be the right word.

Yup, I'm one busy mom!! I wondered today as I was planning my week, "How in the world am I going to be able to keep this up?" I'm not exactly sure, but prayer (lots of it!!) is what's keeping me going. There are so many projects on the horizon right now; but I'm thankful for them and they keep me focused on the light at the end of the tunnel.

In the mean time, let me tell you that last week one of my babies turned 3!! Anthony was extremely excited to be able to share his day with Ita (my mom...short for Abuelita). And if you think you can't purchase a yummy cake from a grocery store, then you haven't tried Whole Foods' Black & White cake!! Delicious!!

Make a wish!!!

Happy Birthday Anthony!!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Why I Homeschool.

I don't know where I first heard of homeschooling. I had never met anyone who was homeschooled or who had homeschooled their kids. All I know was that when Marco was born, I got this glorious idea that I could teach him at home. I never really revisited the thought until our move to North Carolina.

Marco was two going on three when I decided to do a little research. I checked out every book available in the library that had to do with homeschooling. I was amazed, in awe, and inspired! "I can do this," I thought. Since then I have never looked back.

Of course, there are so many different ways that one can approach homeschooling. You can do traditional, unschooling, unit studies, etc. I chose classical education. Not only did it make perfect sense to me, but it was exactly what DH and I agreed on. I won't go into details about what classical education is; there are so many websites and books dedicated to classical education, that I would do a great injustice in describing it.

Being Catholic was a little obstacle. I think Catholic schools are great and I fully support anyone who decides to send their kids to a Catholic school. In fact, our second line of defense is a Catholic school. But for the time being, I think the kids are getting their Catholic faith everyday at home and we try hard to exude it in everything we do. Our faith is just not taught during religion; it is a constant throughout the day. We try to make our Domestic Church one where it is easy to point out reminders of what we believe. This is so true of Catholic families everywhere!

So teaching our children with a Catholic, classical education is our goal. It is rigorous and even stressful at times...but always fun. We are truly blessed that we have this opportunity to educate our children at home. It has been one of the best decisions I have made for my children and our family!! Because to this day I have yet to know how we even came across the thought of homeschooling, I truly believe that it is all in God's will...and who am I, but his servant?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Taking a Break.

I took a little break this past week since my mother was visiting from Dallas. I had a great time while she was here and wish she could visit more often. Unfortunately for me, she had to leave today. It was sad and the kids cried most of the way back home.

The good thing is that she and my dad will be back to visit for Christmas. It gives us all something to look forward to. In the mean time, we have plenty of catching up on work to do. We worked at minimal levels this past week since my mom wanted to hang out with the kids. Fortunately for us, we were still able to accomplish the basics.

I guess now it's time to get back to the daily grind!!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Chores for Kids.

I've been looking for a chore system that will work for my young kids and I have had very little luck. I usually keep 2 chore charts in the house; one in the kitchen and one in the kids' bedroom. The kitchen chart has all the downstairs chores: pick up toys, clean schoolroom, set table, etc. The bedroom chart has all upstairs chores: make bed, clean bedroom, brush teeth, etc.

The problem with my system is that I don't like have 2 separate charts. I'm also starting to flip and add chores and it makes it difficult to keep printing out new charts. I finally decided that I need a new system that's going to work. This is where my search for something began. And now, here are my reviews.

This system just didn't work. The made-out chore cards were great, but the mom & dad store was not. I'm not into rewarding kids for things they should do regardless of whether they get paid or not. That part of the system makes up for half of the program! It comes with mom and dad money and a store "front"that you can put on a box filled with stuff. I also wasn't too excited about the chart itself. It's too easy for Anthony to mess up, and once you lose the can't replace them.
Overall, I think Choreganizers earns a B average from me. Great idea, great picture cards, but the implementation was what didn't work for us. If you want a more in-depth review with awesome pictures of this system from a family that actually loves it, check out the Pioneer Woman.

This is the system we are using now. It is a great improvement from Choreganizers because I actually can implement it without worrying about losing cards, kids destroying the chart, or needing to have more than one chart. This system basically works by printing out chore cards from their website and placing them in a "ChorePack." The ChorePack is a simple, clip-on name badge holder. You put the chores in the order that they are supposed to be completed and then clip it onto the child's clothing. As the child completes the chore, he moves the card to the back of the stack. The book does come with lists that you can photocopy for personal use and it goes into depth about implementing chores and their importance.
Overall, this is a really useful system for us so far. It is as simple as you want it to be and it gives instructions on how to make it more detailed for your family if need be. I love that the kids pretty much carry their chore charts around with them!! Pre-reader cards are also available. If you aren't into searching the web for chore pictures, it is a valuable time saver. I give this system a solid A.

If you aren't into purchasing a chore system at all, there are alternatives that can help get your kids involved. Here are a couple of ideas that I have come up with, but never put to use.

1. Print out cards with pictures of chores your child needs to accomplish. Laminate the cards for durability and put them together using a clasp ring. As the child completes a task, the can remove the card and place it into an "I Did It!" box or baggie.

2. Use a simple chart, much in the style of a "To Do" list. Check off each chore as it is completed.

If you don't have time to search through countless pages of free online clip-art, here are a few great spots to check out!! (Scroll to the bottom for clip art) (You can do a search on this site for particular chores) (Scroll down for an alphabetical list of clip art. You can also perform a search for a particular chore.)

I hope this is useful to someone! I wish I would have read this before I went out getting pre-made chore systems!!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

New Books.

I was shopping for a birthday gift recently on Amazon and started browing some of the items on my wish list. I finally decided to order Children Discover the Mass by Mary Doerfler Dall. I also took the advice from another blogger and ordered Saints, A year in Faith and Art by Rosa Giorgi.

They are both wonderful in such different ways! Children Discover the Mass basically has lessons and crafts that help explain the Mass step by step. I love that every part of the Mass is covered; from responses to Liturgy of the Word sequence, and from explanations of the Introductory Rites to prayers. It has a craft or activity to go with every single part of the Mass! My kids are young and therefore very hands on, so this is perfect! Each part of Mass is covered over the course of 28 lessons, so this book can easily be used to accompany any religious education for the year.

Saints, A Year in Faith and Art is a beautiful book to accomplish a Saint A Day reading. The book is organized so that it begins with January 1st and continues until the end of the year. It features a Saint for every day over 2 pages. One side covers all the information and the other pictures beautiful art. This is a small, but hefty book. Beautiful enough to adorn a home altar all year round!!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Meal Planning.

You all know that I am a fan of Menus 4 Moms. It helps me keep a menu for the week when I don't have time to make my own. But now that I am getting into the swing of things, I have started moving into making my own menus using my own recipes.

I recently made a neat little menu planner using Excel. It includes a space for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. I've been using this to plan our week and I post it on our fridge. Now that we are having more outside activities (co-op, sports, faith formation, church meetings), it is a bigger help than ever!

To fill my menu with recipes, I use the following resources. The websites include rated recipes and offer comments from users. They also have the feature of being able to save it to a "recipe box" so that you can easily pull up a recipe you made two months ago, but forgot the name of.
Epicurious (my favorite since 2001!!)
The New Best Recipe
Southern Living Cookbooks (they all have great recipes)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dad!!

Today is my dad's birthday. I miss him. I love him!!! Dad, I hope you have a great birthday! Wish we were there to celebrate it with you.

One of my favorite pictures of Dad and Marco, when Marco was barely 2!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Butterfly Farm.

We took a field trip with our co-op friends today and it was lots of fun! They learned about the life cycle of a butterfly, differences between moths & butterflies, and they got to visit the butterfly flight house.

I wish I would have taken more pictures! I had a great time and we even came home with a couple of caterpillars to grow at home. We'll have to note their progress as they grow!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Faith Formation.

Last night was the beginning of the year for Faith Formation at our church. It was the first day for both me and Marco and we were excited! I am teaching 2nd grade this year for the first time and I had been so nervous! Marco, being the sweet little guy he is, assured me that I would do fine. "Mami, you are a great teacher! I think everyone is going to like you." Isn't he the sweetest?

Well, things did go well for both me and Marco! Before leaving the car, we said a little prayer together and then we headed in. Everything worked out well. My biggest fear was actually knowing what to do, what to say, and how to act in front of the kids in this setting. If anything, I felt completely unprepared. Scaring me more than anything was the fact that my aide didn't show up. But in the end, I think God heard my prayer and sent the Holy Spirit to guide me. My class went well and my fear dissipated within the first few minutes.

What I do regret not having, is a welcome letter for the parents. I came home that night and immediately wrote one up. I'm using last night as a jumping point for the beginning of the year. I know what to expect now and I'm feeling a lot better about knowing exactly what to prepare for! I did try to look for some examples of letters online, but had very little luck. Because of that, I'm posting my own up. Just in case there is someone out there feeling just how I felt. I'd love comments! These letters aren't going out until next Wednesday.

I hope the letter covers the basics! I also translated the letter for Spanish speaking parents.


Dear Parent of 2nd Grade Student:

It was a pleasure to meet you and your child last week at our first day of Faith Formation. I am excited to work alongside your family in teaching your child our Catholic faith. I will be using the issued Catholic guide each week for our lessons, as well as additional resources including videos, crafts, and fun activities. My goal this year is for your child to solidify a love for Jesus Christ as they get ready to encounter the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation. As a parent, you are the primary educator of your child, and the best teacher. It is my pleasure to be able to participate in the education of your child.

As many parents have asked, there will be a snack sign-up sheet available. Please feel free to sign up for a date in which you will be able to provide a store-bought snack for the class (approximately 13 students). I appreciate your participation and the kids will be looking forward to enjoying a treat!

Once again, thank you for participating in the Faith Formation program this year. Please feel free to stop by and ask any questions you might have or call me. I also ask that if your child is unable to attend a class to please contact me or the Faith Formation office in advance whenever possible so that your child’s absence may be excused. Since this is a sacramental year, 90% attendance is required.

Thank you.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Chicago Crew.

My cousin from Chicago posted this picture from when we were visiting back in May. We spent the afternoon at her house one day and there was fun and food. I got to visit with 2 of my cousins along with their kids and hubbies. I also got to hang out with my aunt and uncle and meet some new friends. It was a great time and looking back at this picture gets me all happy and excited to visit again.

I only hope they reciprocate and visit us sometime soon!!! It's amazing how big a family can get when you are all together. I LOVE IT!!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Laptop Lunches

We finally received our Laptop Lunches order! They are great and the kids are really excited to start using them. Laptop Lunches are basically bento style lunch boxes. We purchased the system which comes with the bag, water bottle, utensils and user's guide (recipes, ideas, etc.). They seem like a wonderful way to make lunch fun for the kids. I'm excited to start using one myself! I usually just throw things into plastic baggies and stuff them into a little cooler or insulated bag. This will be easier on me since I won't have to separate all the kids' lunches right when we are about to eat.

Considering that my kids don't go to school, these will be used for our co-op days, field trips, and our ever popular picnics. I'm thinking of even getting one for DH. He certainly needs to eat a healthy lunch while at work, and it just doesn't always turn out that way.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Yup. These Pictures Take Forever!

I'm on a mission. My mission is to convert all my digital pictures into hard copies that I can put in an album and share with my family. The digital camera revolution is awesome, but I really miss having ACTUAL PICTURES to look at. I have about 4 CD's worth of pictures to print out. Luckily they aren't all full, but we're still talking about 1,000 pictures...and who knows, maybe more.

The problem now? Waiting for all those darn pictures to upload! I feel like just throwing in the towel and condemning myself to a life of digital pictures. But I have my children to think about. The thought of having to look through an entire CD to show them a picture is just plain sad.

We'll see how far along I get with this project.

New School Room Tour.

It's back to school time and it seems like everywhere in the homeschool blogosphere, people are giving tours of their learning spaces.  ...