Summer Conspiracy

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Haven’t been here much. Summer (and a broken camera) have conspired against me. Well, mostly summer. I just can’t seem to talk myself into sitting at this computer. I figure that’s bound to get worse when the beans are ready to can.  And I think I’m okay with that, I really am. As my husband would say, there’s so much going on in real life (irl).

Good stuff. And I find myself committing over and over–day by day–to be present in it. To slow down and take it in fully, not half halfheartedly from the corner of my eye while I type or check Facebook.

Cause summer is full…

  • lazy afternoons playing lifeguard while my kids swim
  • tending the garden and herb beds
  • picking flowers for inside
  • watching the family of ducks that have taken residence here
  • home improvement projects indoors and out
  • lots of meals outside
  • long evening walks
  • kids’ sleepovers and playdates

Of course there’s lots more. (Plus all the laundry and dirt that all that fun makes.)

So I guess this is my “excuse” post. But really, I don’t need an excuse. None of us do. Because it’s good to remember to keep the right balance. To not exchange “good” for what’s really best for our time. I don’t want this expensive box of plastic and circuits to be my master.

Cause I’m gonna enjoy my summer!

What summer fun is going on in your life?


Our Summer Schooling Plans

School is outta here! Last week my girls had their portfolio evaluations required by our state. I sent my oldest to testing (you can do either in WV) earlier in the spring and we are eagerly awaiting his results. So for all practical purposes, our more formal/structured learning time is finished until fall!

But a homeschooling mama’s work is never done, right?

Even though everyone is eager for a well deserved break (including the teacher), I’m well aware that if we put our brains in neutral for nearly 3 months, then come fall, I’ll end up re-teaching a load of skills. So we try to keep the learning going–summer style.

My criteria for summer learning– uncomplicated, quick, and confidence building. We don’t want or need to spend all morning on things. Just a few minutes, then it’s outside to play!

For the youngest

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Really, I’ve found that for the early elementary crowd, a few math problems a day and lots of trips to the library are all you need to keep their skills sharp. Ella is taking her sweet time memorizing her math facts this year, so we’ll plug along in her Alpha book from Math-U-See. It doesn’t really bother me that she’s not finished with it yet. (Which would have totally freaked me out with the first one.) We’ve got all summer. And pushing her through it will only serve to frustrate her and me. I know from experience that her retention of math facts will be better and future concepts much easier if I make sure she’s really ready to move on.

As far as reading goes, I have no worries. We frequently find her in a corner somewhere reading a preschool Bible or one of her other favorite books. She likes to read a little board book to her cousin before nap time nearly every day. But to keep the phonics skills moving along, I’m planning on having her work through Explode the Code, book 7. I’ve used the Explode the Code series for phonics with my middle child and it’s usually pretty easy for them to work independently.

For my middle child

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Abby did a really great job this year and got every single thing done early. So for her summer work, we’ll do a few review math problems (I love that the Math-U-See website lets you print review worksheets for extra practice!) and work on some word skills, mostly spelling and vocabulary development. She reads like crazy, but sometimes words frustrate her, and she’s expressed a desire to work on that this summer.

For simple, quick work in this area, she and I will be going through Sequential Spelling (which really works with word families and spelling patterns–very helpful for her) and I plan to pick up a book of Wordly Wise so she can work through some vocab on her own a few days a week. All this shouldn’t take more than 30-45 minutes. We’ll tackle it right after breakfast, so they still have plenty of their summer days to enjoy.

 

The oldest

(Who retreats to his room to do school…so no pics.)

My firstborn will be entering the high school level next year. Yikes! He still has a few lessons left in his Algebra 1 book, so we’ll plug along through those. When that’s finished, I’ll probably have him work on some computation stuff that we all tend to forget, like fractions, long division and decimals. Yeah, I know, not really fun for anyone out there. But if I only give him 4 or 5 problems a day, I think we’ll both survive it just fine.

He does like to read, and is a great reader, but sometimes he just doesn’t seems to make that happen often enough. So right now, I’m working on some incentives to get him to carve out more time for reading. During the school year, I assign different books for him to read, but for the summer, I’m hoping he’ll get back to enjoying it on his own a bit more. A girl can dream, right?

And I”m also considering having him work through a Wordly Wise book for his grade level as well, and continuing with it through high school so we can be better prepared for all those lovely college entrance tests that are looming in the distance.

 

The bottom line is, giving a little time to summer schooling (and I really do mean little) gives us the luxury of not having to cram as much in during the school year. We can take a more comfortable pace, which I’ve found helps the kids tremendously on retention and plain old enjoyment in their studies.

So what kind of learning do YOU do in the summer?

 

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Our Favorite Afternoon Treat–Almond Banana Chocolate Pops

 

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This post is part of Gluten Free & DIY Tuesday at Allergy Free Alaska and The Baking Beauties. And also at Pennywise Platter Thursdays at The Nourishing Gourmet.

It’s getting hot out there folks! We’ve been practically living outside the last couple weeks. And with all this heat and activity, my people need a cool, refreshing, and filling snack. I’d like it if it were on the frugal side and super low in added sugar.

This little treat fits the bill. You can make it allergy friendly. Whips up incredibly fast. Creamy and it’s surprisingly sweet even though we don’t add any sugar to it!

It’s more of a method than an exact recipe, so play with it until you find the perfect version for your family!

Almond Banana Chocolate Pops

  • 1-2 frozen bananas, broken into smaller pieces (I probably end up with a total of 1 1/2 bananas, but I just pull chunks out of the freezer that I’ve put in there previously. Great use for over ripe bananas!)
  • 2 rounded tablespoons of almond butter (or nut butter of choice)
  • 2 rounded tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • milk (dairy, coconut or almond)

Break out your blender and add all ingredients except the milk. Pour in the milk until it’s nearly 1/2 to 3/4 the amount of other ingredients (The amount of milk you’ll need depends on how powerful your blender is. You’ll want something in the end that’s really thick–like a stiff milkshake–but still pour-able. If you’re blender is on the wimpy side and you have to add more milk to get it moving, don’t worry, it will still be great!)

Blend on high until it’s moving around in there pretty good and all the ingredients are well combined. Give it a taste. We find that it gets plenty of sweetness from the banana and vanilla. But if it’s not quite enough for you, feel free to add a drizzle of maple syrup or stevia powder and blend some more.

Adjust the flavors to your hearts content!

Pour the mixture into popsicle molds (Don’t have any? These are a good buy.) Freeze for a few hours and then enjoy!

And totally off topic…I thought I’d be totally real and show off the piles of yard sale stuff in the background of my daughter’s picture. Your welcome.

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Easy Summer Entertaining–A Sandwich Bar

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To me, summer is one of the easiest times to have a friend or two over for a meal. Especially if there are kids involved. There’s the great outdoors for them to run wild in, and no “inside voice” required.

A few weeks ago, I had my dear friend (like the little sis I never had) and her little sister over for lunch. So I sat down to think of a menu. I’ll be honest, most of the time I have lunch with a friend, an enormous salad is involved. It’s cheap (especially with our seemingly never ending lettuce crop), and you can easily feed a crowd. Just throw in some bread or crackers and you’re done. But this particular friend of mine is not a fan of salads. (know, a woman who doesn’t like salads! Crazy.) 

I seriously had to rack my brain trying to think of a casual (but tasty) lunch alternative to the giant salad bowl. And then it hit me. The sandwich bar. So I set about amassing several some nice bakery sourdough bread, different lunch meats (I chose a couple packs of all natural, nitrate free deli meats), cheeses, condiments, veg (cause I still needed something crisp, for heaven’s sake) and a veggie tray, chips, ranch, and hummus. Then I added a simple dessert of berries and homemade whipped cream. Easy peasy.

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Our simple dessert, complete with mint from the garden.

Lunch was a hit! Everyone was well fed and most of all, I got to have some fun “wedding talk” with my friend–all without stressing out the hostess. So if you’re looking for an easy summer menu for entertaining, don’t be afraid to give the humble sandwich bar a try.

What are your favorite foods for summer entertaining?


Summer Learning (Homeschool Light)

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School may be out, but the learning never stops!

We turned all our work in and submitted our evaluations earlier in June. And while our more structured school days are on hold until fall, I still like to keep my kids’ skills sharp and their minds engaged. So I thought I’d share a little of what we’re doing to keep learning this summer.

Math

The math never really ends at our house. I’ve found that if I give my kids more than a couple weeks off, they tend to slide backwards in this skill. We still had a few pages left in our math books from the school year. So most mornings, they’re doing one or two pages until they finish up. I’ll probably go ahead and buy next year’s books and just slide into those when they finish what they’re working on.

Reading

I had intentions of getting the kids to the library more often this summer. So far, it hasn’t happened. But that doesn’t mean we’ve abandoned our reading. I try to get Abby and Wyatt to spend about 20 minutes or so reading independently on a daily basis. Of course, some days we’re out, or we just can’t seem to make ourselves come in from playing outside. I’m okay with that. Winter was long and time outside is important.

Wyatt is still working on the Lord of the Rings series and Abby is finishing up The Secret Garden.

Ella and I sit down after she works on a little math and read one of her little reader books together. And I decided to go ahead and start on the copywork that I’ll have her do this school year. After reading the book, she picks one sentence to copy in her handwriting book. We talk about who the sentence is about (subject), what they did (verb), why the first word is capitalized and what comes at the end (punctuation). It only takes a couple minutes, but she’s getting a very gentle introduction to sentence structure, mechanics and grammar.

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Other Learning Opportunities

Summer is easily filled with lots of fun learning–no workbook required!

  • Camps. My girls spent last week at a day camp that was a combo of music education and VBS. Abby will be attending another mission focused day camp in a couple weeks, while her best friend spends that time at 4-H camp.
  • Gardening. If you spend any time on this blog at all, you know how I love my garden. But it’s also a great chance to teach kids about botany, food preservation, and a host of other important skills as they learn to provide for themselves.
  • Library Programs. Yes, I haven’t made it there yet. But we will. Maybe today, actually, since it’s rainy here and the library is a great place to be on rainy days. But if you’re not like me, and you actually get to the library more often in the summer, check out the children’s summer programs. I know ours is having a garden oriented theme this summer. Totally free!
  • Stargazing. This school year, my older two got to go on a field trip to the National Radio Observatory here in West Virginia. Ever since then, they’ve been in love with the night sky. Abby has a star chart and my husband is great at helping them find the Big Dipper and North Star and all that. We hope to take the telescope outside once the moon isn’t so bright.

 

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Plus there’s rock collecting/identifying, bug catching, museums, hiking, bird watching, leaf identification and SO MUCH MORE that summer offers! So grab a brochure of local attractions, find the parks, pick up a few field guides and have some fun (and sneak in a little learning at the same time.)

 

What are you doing to keep the learning going all summer long?


How We Spent The Summer Solstice

Summer is officially here! I know we’ve all been doing the summer thing for a few weeks already, but yesterday was the Summer Solstice–the longest day of the year. This year, we decided to start a little tradition. 

I told the girls if they took a little nap in the afternoon, they could stay up late and catch lightning bugs. They had been going to music camp every morning (like a combo of VBS and music education) and they were pretty worn out anyway. So after their little program that night, we headed outside.

 

Catching lightning bugs!

Catching lightning bugs!

 

I SO very much wanted to get a picture of the lightning bugs all lit up in their little bug catcher house. But the little boogers wouldn’t light up for me in that thing.

 

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And there was a campfire. My husband is a bit of a campfire nut. He had about 5 different fire starter implements out with us and he was giving the kids a lesson in fire starting, primitive and otherwise. So he broke out the flint and steel kit we got him for Christmas, a magnesium bar, a metal match, and his homemade fire starters he makes with paper egg cartons, dryer lint and candle wax.

The older two took turns trying to get a spark with the flint and steel.

 

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And where there is fire…there are marshmallows!

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And where there are marshmallows…there MUST be s’mores!

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Mmm. S’mores. I have a little addiction to s’mores. Perfect way to cap off a great evening!

 

How did you spend the longest day? Have any summer traditions with your family?