Friday, February 24, 2012

Homeschool Curriculum, Part 2

You might see more from this list of our second-part-of-the-day curriculum that I’m loosely following a Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling: short lessons, good literature, narration, nature study…  Most of these things we do together versus the earlier-in-the-day items are one-on-one with each daughter.

For what we do first in the day, check my first post on our homeschool curriculum.

Literature: Ambleside Online

We’ve been following the reading schedule for Year 1 on Ambleside Online’s curriculum guide. We’re reading books like Our Island Story—learning the history of England in a story format from 1905. I would have never imagined we’d be reading literature that I now find so rich in comparison to other less classic books. I really wondered how the girls would do when we began! It’s been wonderful to see them really pick up what they’re hearing. We also practice oral narration after a story or poem is read. They never know who I’m going to call on, and I always let the other girl fill in anything the other may have forgotten.

There are some stories in our books that I do not feel are appropriate for the girls now {ie: gruesome death details}, but overall I’ve found we have all enjoyed the literature recommended. Many times they ask me to read ahead! One plus is that many of these classics are available for free online.

Portuguese: I make it up

It hurts a tad when I see all the great teaching helps out there for kids to learn Spanish. Then I have to remember my children are already speaking a second language, and I just need to reinforce what they’ve learned. I have found Portuguese/English sticker books to use and many dictionary-type kids books that we can review words with. Once a week the girls listen to a story on CD that goes with some books they have or watch a kids’ show in Portuguese. Of course our best learning goes on when our neighbors’ kids come play!  I don’t plan on teaching Portuguese grammar until 4th grade or so.

Bible: Positive Action Bible Curriculum

Because I have one daughter in kindergarten and one in 1st grade, I felt I should wait on starting SCM’s Bible Modules. Now I think I could have just followed a Bible reading schedule/highlighted stories as per Penny Gardner. However, I had already bought two levels of curriculum from Positive Action Bible Curriculum. When I got them I realized I’d be doing a lot of separate teaching for each level. My husband encourage me to go with the kindergarten level so both girls could do the workbook activities. That has worked out fine.

The lesson plans appeared like way too much to me at first, but I’ve found a groove that is simple to follow. Usually there are two days worth of Bible readings of a story with a introduction and discussion questions at the end. The 3rd day I follow the teaching strategy with the workbook pages. The 4th day we read the Bible verses and fictional story in the guide. Lastly we focus on that week’s character trait, fitting it in on Friday or whenever it seemed fitting.

The girls have enjoyed the workbooks and stories. I am thankful for the questions and comments that get at the heart. I haven’t decided if we’ll continue with this next year, but it has been a good experience for this first full year of homeschooling.

Science: Simply Charlotte Mason and others

We recently finished the Outdoor Secrets book and Outdoor Secrets Companion, a recommended “living book” and it’s teacher guide published by Simply Charlotte Mason. We would do a lesson two times per week. Many lessons gave direction in our nature study time and nicely followed up one of the readings.

My mom brought us sturdy sketch books from America that the girls take outside to draw in for our nature study time. I need to do a better job planning time for them to be outdoors for this in different settings besides our backyard {which is not that big} and street.

Now that we’ve finished Outdoor Secrets, we started reading Among The Forest People—a book from 1898 that personifies the animals and helps us learn about them through the story. The girls are enjoying it as well as science-oriented selections in our Ambleside readings.

A huge help has been owning a bird field guide for our region of the world. We like our RSBP Birds of Britain and Europe. It is a bummer when many of the birds in the stories we read are not the same as those found here {they were written in America}, but we find the closest species that we may have here.

Geography: Expedition Earth

I purchased Expedition Earth: A Journey Through God’s World last summer after seeing my girls’ interest to learn about a certain country. I thought we could continue to use it this year, and it has been a great base to learn about many nations. Beware that there are many books that you need to borrow/purchase since I did not understand that when I first bought it. One our our favorites we did buy has been Children Just Like Me: A Unique Celebration of Children Around the World.

I do not do all the recommended ideas in the guide provided, or I feel like we’d be doing a geography project all the time. I’ve found the few things that we really learn well from without having to do all the extras. I’ve not made it something I test the girls over—I am more pleased with their increased awareness of other nations and cultures. It’s peaked their interests in all kinds of other things we go searching to learn more about.

Art: Artistic Pursuits

Once a week we do a lesson from Artistic Pursuits Grades K-3 Book 1 An Introduction to Visual Arts. It has been a jump for us to move from crayons and markers to learning how to use watercolor pencils and oil pastels! But a fun jump I must say! The program does complement the study of fine art by usually highlighting some fine art for each topic we will learn. It also shows other children’s work as examples for each lesson so that encourages the girls that they can do it as well.

Picture Study: Simply Charlotte Mason

Both Ambleside Online {AO} and Simply Charlotte Mason {SCM} have a recommended order of artists to be studied. We have studied the SCM Module 3’s Rembrandt, Velasquez, Van Eyck, and now Cezanne so far—one time a week for six weeks. SCM has created some picture study portfolios that come with nice copies of the art and a teacher guide. I’ve done my best to make sure we’ve got some other books to supplement our learning of the artist and their art. SCM has a link to available books on each artist.

Composer Study: Simply Charlotte Mason

We are following the SCM composer study modules so we’ve just begun Tchaikovsky—also one time per week for six weeks each. Funny enough, the girls are excited about him since they’ve learned a song of his on the CD: Beethoven's Wig: Sing Along Symphonies. They would highly recommend this CD because they really enjoy it!  I also found a list of all the composers highlighted in Little Einstein’s episodes. Doesn’t sound like a very classical approach, but the girls get excited when they recognize the music in one of their favorite shows! We also utilize the online show called Classics for Kids that talk about each composer and multiple You Tube videos of these famous pieces being played or danced to.

Hymn Study

Both AO and SCM have lists of hymns to be studied, but I decided that we’d learn hymns the girls are already singing in worship songs we have. For example, we love Laura Hackett’s version of Joyful, Joyful, so I thought this would be a great place to start learning verses from hymns! I’ve heard hymns sung by Chris Tomlin and other worship leaders these days that we will also learn. This brings some practicality to learning hymns for us, when we don’t attend a church that uses a hymnal per se—at least it’s a place to start.

Handicrafts and Life Skills

Once a week we do some sort of handicraft or life skill that could be baking muffins or learning to use the knitting fork the girls got for Christmas. SCM has a list of what this time could include. Often I see that we’ve already done some kind of life skill learning that day so we don’t need to do something extra. I want to be more intentional about the girls learning craft skills so they can become proficient. For example, my oldest enjoys a latch-hook rug set she was given, but does it so infrequently that she has to be retaught each time it’s pulled out. I know this is par the course for this age, but I know their abilities are increasing as well.

So, lots of info. I hope it is helpful to someone out there like many of the blogs I’ve visited in trying to figure out what we were going to be doing! Please contact me with any questions—I’d love to be more help!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Soda Jet Pack


My desired motto to live by this year is TAKE INITIATIVE. So when I saw this amazing idea on Pinterest, I knew the perfect birthday boy I should make these for! {Our friends’ oldest son! He was a good sport to pose in the middle of watching a movie for me. Bad timing to not get a photo in the excitement of the gift reveal!}

So easy

I searched Blossom Bunkhouse for directions since the Pinterest link did not go directly to the post, and I could only find a jet pack for an Elf on the Shelf! Anyway, the whole family got involved in making this project happen.


I spray painted 2 soda bottles by sticking some dowels in the grass {and then covering the grass} to hold the bottles while I painted them.

I bought the black seat belt like strapping for the harness and a plastic latch to keep it tight in front. It was simple to sew onto the strapping. I used my younger daughter as a model to figure how much strapping to use.


My husband cut some slits in the bottles to run the strapping loop through. One error we made was not thinking about which end of the bottles the slits would be best. So the jet pack ended up being a little high on his back.

Another mess we made: We thought that putting expandable foam in the bottles would keep them hard and difficult to crush—also that it would hold the strapping in place. Great idea, but who knew we’d create a volcano of foamy mess that got the bottles all nasty. I ended up using turpentine to wipe as much off as I could! Maybe using a whole lot less would be ok?

To cover some of the mess, I hot glued a grey piece of felt to the back side of the pack. It helped stabilize the bottles too. Lastly, I hot glued pieces of orange and red fabric strips into the bottle opening for the fire.


It was a hit even with all the mistakes! All the kids wanted one!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Decorating in Narrow Spaces


When we built our guest bath upstairs, we had minimal options as to where the toilet and other plumbed fixtures would be located. The rough in was done when we bought the house and could not be undone. Little did I know how close the toilet would sit next to the wall or how the shower door would swing out and make it nearly impossible to hang anything on the wall behind it. {In the photo below, it’s hard to distinguish, but the front glass panel is the door hinged on the wall.}


Thankfully I discovered the simplistic beauty of frameless photo frames, especially used in multiples. This was so much better {and way cheaper} than multi-opening frames I’d looked at especially in regards to how far they sat off the wall.


These are maps of London that I printed from Graphics Fairy. They don’t stick out much more than the light switch in these frames.


On the wall by the toilet, I chose 6 of my favorite “travel” photos {2 of Portugal, 1 of our village in Germany, and 3 of Paris}. Again, these thin frames do not feel overpowering as you head to/fro the toilet as some other frames I tried out. Getting photos to fit European frame size didn’t work 100% as you can see a little of the back sticking out, but cutting down the back of the frames was not as fun as getting them up on the wall right away!


Some perspective…  We have a tall bathroom shelf next to the sink. {That’s the church in Wiesbaden on the back wall—amazing I got that shot with my old camera and all the others!}


And our sink hangs on the wall—no legs—so that allows the feeling of more space too.


More travel art on the other wall, but this time in wooden frames I got from the dollar store that I stained to match the shelving unit. Don’t look too close or you can see which one I cheated and used a paper background instead of a matte!


So thankful this bathroom has come together. It needed some life! I hope you’re encouraged to consider some out of the box framing options…pun intended!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Etched Hurricane Candle Holder


As I mentioned in my Valentine’s décor post, I am thrilled with how my hurricane candle holder etching project turned out! This was my 2nd attempt to etch glass with a vinyl stencil I’d made with my Silhouette machine. The non-Pyrex baking dish I had tried to etch as a gift barely took the etching after 8 hours of wait time, so I was hoping for better success.


I used the “abstract swirl heart border” from the Silhouette online store. I needed to remove the inner part first to use the negative space for the etching. I actually just laid it sticky side up on the counter until I had adhered transfer paper to the negative space. Then I reattached to the backing to save for another project!


The transfer paper holds everything in place until you can are sure you have the right spot on your desired surface. Getting the stencil straight to go around the vase was tricky! I used some clear tape to guide where I needed to lay the stencil around it.


Once the stencil was in place, I used the back of my scissors to “burnish” the stencil on.

IMG_0956Next, I carefully removed the transfer paper from the vinyl stencil. There were a few times I had to reapply pieces that didn’t want to stick. Then I got to pour on the etching cream!


Thankfully the cream is thick and doesn’t slide off or past the stencils! I was concerned that this might be a disaster with etching all the way around! I left it for about 30 minutes. If you’ve never used the cream before, you can use a rubber spatula and swipe it back into the jar to use again. The residue washes off easily.

IMG_0967 Remove the vinyl stencil parts and enjoy!  I’d love to answer questions about the process if you need.




sharing at


Friday, February 10, 2012

Hearts Are Out

This year I found myself a little more motivated to get out the Valentine’s décor. Sometimes it’s felt challenging when it’s not really celebrated here {or only minimally especially in comparison to the US}.


The old egg incubator in the entry gets a new do. It’s snug next to the coat rack overflowing this time of year! {And I’ve not learned the art of keeping me out of the photo when there’s a mirror!}


I love reminiscing when I pull these things out: the vintage embroidered centerpiece—a sweet gift, the amazing wreath—from a missionary who was selling everything before going overseas, vintage cards I’ve collected or ones my mom used at a church event.


I updated my little tree this year with a coat of brown paint. It had been white since the days of my oldest’s baby shower. More vintage-esque Valentines I used to decorate my room with in high school—ha! Cake plate and bottle from the flea market here; doily—flea market…Paris!


We had some dinner guests last week that brought this lovely house plant. I thought it’s leaves and color were appropriate for the month. I haven’t taken the time to repot it yet.


I did add this most truth-filled Valentine!


My latest creation {or use of my Silhouette machine} is an etched glass hurricane candle holder. Had the candle holder for years but was never really inspired to use it. Loving it now! I took photos of the process so hopefully a step-by-step blog post is to come.


Our mighty mantle got some minor updates. {I love this how I caught the fire in this photo but night time shots can be the pits—unnatural light, flash…}


This little candle used to be a part of the ribbon foursome I made {the ones on the cake plate, but they wouldn’t all fit there}. It has a new spot in my vintage Portuguese measuring boxes. I didn’t need to add holes for the tiny heart “pennant” banner to hang from, there are so many! Fun to put some bakers’ twine to good use too holding some hearts from an old necklace.

No photos of my coffee table, but there’s a tray with a candle and some great Valentine’s reading for the kiddos. Have you ever read the history of St. Valentine? We have this kid friendly version in the stack:

Well, enjoy all the chocolates, candy and cards America! We’ll be one of few here making something of this day, and that’s ok.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tins Stacked

I got the best deal on a box of old tins at the flea market, especially after seeing what other sellers were asking for individual old tins. I guess they’re not as easy to come by as in America.


I got a few diamonds in the rough too! See that turquoise and beige striped one with the handle on the lid? It cleaned up nicely with a baking soda and lemon juice paste. It’s now sitting on my mantle! The Ocean Queen tin is vying for a few different spots in the house. We’ll see.


Yet I bought this box of tins because I wanted to copy this, a lovely tiered organizer from Scene of Sublime.


My chosen tins, candlestick like parts and a neutral spray paint… I didn’t know where I’d set it in our house, and I wanted to be able to use it for any holiday or birthday party.


My husband drilled pilot holes through the tins and then used screws into each stick. It made it a little wobbly so he added a few more for balance. If you make one, remember to line up the tin seams on one side—we forgot.


Yet, the finished product turned out really fun! I love how you can still see the embossed areas of the Mozart chocolate tin—chocolate balls we always saw for sale in Germany.


It’s citrus harvest time around here, so we’ve been give a plethora of every kind of citrus {quite a blessing!}. This had been a nice spot to keep the lemons. We’ll see what to put in it next!


Monday, February 6, 2012


I’m not talking about the dip, although they have it there. I’m talking about the restaurant! It’s a new establishment in Portugal, thankfully not too far from where we live {and that means about an hour—Lisbon}. Look at this pico!


We’ve tried several Tex-Mex restaurants in Europe which have left us thankful for a decent meal, but wishing for what we’re used to in Texas! It’s really made me try to hone in on my salsa and Tex-Mex dish making skills.


But Guacamole is a welcome similarity to Chipotle—one of my favorites when we go home!


To top it off, the cook lived in America for many years, so she knows how to cook great Tex-Mex and give over-the-top service. Did you notice the big ice in the cup {for those of you living outside the U.S.}?


I think there’s a Guacamole restaurant in England too, so you guys get to share in the wealth. It’s worth the trip if you’re on this side of the ocean.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Healing Post-op Takes Time

Cut to the details: Last summer I had a hysterectomy leaving my ovaries in. I’ve had a history of gynecological problems, and an MRI last spring showed adenomyopathy. This was a welcome diagnosis since it meant that having my uterus taken out might stop the pain. Having such a surgery in a foreign country was quite an experience, but I’m really thankful it all went well. I can’t forget to mention there were many people praying for me, and God took care of so many of my concerns!

I expected my initial post-op days back at home to be pretty difficult hearing about my friends’ experiences with the same procedure or those who’ve had C-sections. Low expectations helped things seem like they were going really well! One thing I learned was how reaching up for something or pushing down on something like a hole puncher really hurt—I wasn’t told to avoid those movements.

My doctor had me wear a HUGE elastic band from the start for a month! I had a love/HATE relationship with that thing! Two weeks into it, I cut the width in half! After taking it off for good a month later, I saw how it had protected my wound, kept me walking slowly, and supported those muscles—probably one of the reasons I could do so much right after my surgery! Of course it meant those supporting muscles now needed to regain strength a month later, so that part of it wasn’t fun to face.

Another late revelation came in the fall when I started wearing jeans again. Who knew that low-rise jeans would jab into the wound?! It seemed I needed a new wardrobe! Thankfully I pulled out dress pants from my working days or any pants with lighter weight fabric that didn’t fold into the incision spot when I sat down—perfect timing for being a full-time homeschool teacher.

The new year has rolled around. It’s been over 6 months. I am thankful to say my jeans aren’t bothering me when I wear them now! It just took some time! {A dear friend of mine had encouraged me with similar words this past fall when I was bewildered by the “new” jeans pain. You were right Rachel!}

I am starting to pick up my kids more and not be so concerned about how much something weighs that I move or pick up. I usually feel it a day or so later but the after-pains are happening less and less. I look forward to reporting even more noticeable healing later.

I hope someone else is encouraged that healing will come for them too, in time.


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