Guest Post

Hey!  You!  Do you like food?  Fashion?  Cute kids?  Laughing?

You need to head over to Fairy Wings & Dinosaurs.  My friend Ruthie is adorable, her five kids are adorable, their clothes are adorable… And beyond that she is nice.  Did you know those people still existed?  Like really, really nice people?   And clever, funny, witty… and did I mention adorable?  I think I did…

Anyway, she asked if I would do a post on one of our meals from our month of no-eating out so if you’d like to see how we make our chimichangas you can head over to her rockin’ blog and cruise around for fun craft ideas, recipes and to drool over kids fashion you wish you had come up with.  🙂

finished product


While you’re over there, like her facebook page!  She has some great giveaways!


Polar Bears

The third week in January we continued our Antarctic/Artic animal studies  with Polar Bears.  We followed a very similar plan to Penguins.

First Molly read books and worked with a CAN/HAVE/ARE graphic organizer.  I had a really hard time finding books about Polar Bears on the iPad, and actually didn’t end up buying any at all.  We used NatGeoKids and this website.  If I had had time to go to the library I would have looked for:

Polar Bears, by Gail Gibbons

MTH Polar Bear Fact Tracker

Big Fuzzy, by Caroline Castle

Tundra Animals, by Dayton

polar bears

We chose our facts and wrote them on post-its.  (I have been using JotNotPro to make copies of these for their portfolios, since we are doing them on a jumbo notepad.)  Lucy (K4) really gets into this part.  She loves contributing facts and really retains a lot of what she hears while we do this.

Then Molly picked 4 facts and wrote her report.  This week we talked a lot about the importance of a clever title to draw your reader in. 😉

pb report

For art we did this project from that artist woman.  Hers are definitely better than ours. 😉  We also don’t have the same tempra paints that she does, so I just watered our tempra down a bit.

pb art-1452

Last but not least, we did the blubber glove experiment.

You need:

2 gallon baggies

shortening (I used a block)

a bowl of ice water

Put the shortening in the first bag and squish it around.  Then put the second bag inside that and try to get some of the shortening on all sides.  Let the kids put one hand in the “blubber glove” and one hand in the ice water by itself.  They will quickly discover the bennefits of blubber!  Polar bears can have up to 10 centemeters of blubber.  of course we got out the ruler and measured on our arms how far out that would go. 😉

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Here is another experiement about how Polar Bears stay warm that we didn’t do this week (I couldn’t find it!) but we will, probably this weekend.

Meal Planning

Ahhh… food.  Love it or hate it, we gotta have it, and we definitely need to make sure we have healthy stuff on hand for the munchkins.  Because the second half of 2013 was hectic, our family had gotten into a no-so-great habit of eating out.  A lot.  And when we didn’t eat out our diet consisted of soley spaghetti, tortellini, quesadillas and grilled cheese.  Not exactly a diverse menu.

So, as 2014 is the year of the PLAN, we decided to see if we (I mean really, *I*)  could plan and make dinner for the whole entire month of January.  I know this sounds silly.  I bet there are people out there (and not just in other countries…) who never eat out.  Or only eat out for special occassions.  That is how I was raised, actually.  Birthdays, anniversaries and vacations were the only real reasons to eat out.  Otherwise we had a homecooked meal on the table every night.  Clearly my mother was the original super mom.

So, because I do not enjoy meal planning at all and really do enjoy finding lists that help me check things off my own lists, here is what we’ve eaten in January for dinner.  Every night.

January 1:  Lucky Bean Soup

January 2: Roasted Broccoli Pasta

January 3: Tomato Soup and Grilled Provelone Sandwiches

January 4: I am not sure… but we didn’t eat out!

January 5: we went to my parents’ 🙂

January 6: I am not sure… but we didn’t eat out!

January 7:  Black Bean Burgers (I only put the cayenne in with the adults, and I grilled the onions.)

January 8: Pot Pie Soup (Not sure where I got this recipe…)

January 9: Vegetarian Stew

January 10: Oven Baked Bean Chimichangas (definitely a favorite, use ANCHO chili powder.  Trust me.)

January 11: Don’t remember. Some days we just do easy stuff like sandwhiches.

January 12: My parents had us over.  We had an amazing cod with saffron rice and brussel sprouts. 🙂

January 13: Wild Rice Mushroom Soup (hubby said this “tasted like Thanksgiving”).

January 14: Egg Salad Sandwhiches (run of the mill egg salad on sourdough toast)

January 15: Lemon Dill Salmon with Red Potatoes

January 16: Salad bar (girls request)

January 17: Homemade Mac and Cheese with spinach (I use an old Cooking Light recipe I’ve changed over the years)

January 18: Chimichangas again… took dinner to friends with an adorable new baby.

January 19:  Green Chili and Corn Enchiladas (very, very good)

January 20: Tomato soup and sammies again

January 21: Couscous, garbanzo beans, feta, tomatoes and cucumbers tossed together

January 22: Egg, cheese and biscuit sandwhiches

January 23: Tuna salad lettuce wraps

January 24:  Nachos w/black beans

January 25:  Pizza w/ homemade dough (I like to sub in some white whole wheat flour)

January 26: Best Ever Black Bean Soup  – seriously.  best ever.

January 27:  Tortellini w/ homemade crock pot marinara.  This is delish and super versatile.  We’ll use left overs for pizza again in the near future, I’m sure.

January 28: Veggie Wraps (Spinach tortilla, cream cheese seasoned w/ Italian dressing mix, chopped veggies, shredded cheese.  So simple, so good.)

January 29:  Chimicangas (yes, again!)

January 30: Vegetarian Chili

January 31: Pizza for the kiddos.  Getting together w/ friends for the hubby and I.  🙂

And that’s it!  We made it!


Just one week into our second semester we had one of those weeks.  You know the ones.  The ones where you think you have everything under control and then somehow… you don’t.  Luckily we caught up, but our Penguin unit lacked art of any kind, which always makes me sad.  It also lacked pictures.  But not ideas!

We used Nat Geo Kids, this book and this book (but paid way way way less on iBooks) as our resources.  There are of course 100 other great penguin books out there.  These are the ones I could find on my iPad, but if I’d had time we’d have gone to the library.

We’ve started using Can/Have/Are graphic organizers (there is one here, though we just made our own), which Molly really likes a lot.  She had to work on it on the fly (hence the convenience of iBooks books…) but it really helped her pull facts from the text. (if you click to zoom in you might be able to see what she is working on…)


We then made a big chart of all the facts we knew about penguins to use to write a penguin report.  Basically we wrote a post-it note for each fact we learned.  They then chose 4 of the post-its for their report and wrote a closing sentence.  I encouraged them to make the report their own.  My hope is this is the beginning of writing to inform… not just what she learned but also what she thinks.  This process went ultra smoothly, and we are using it again for both Polar Bears and Whales later this month. (BTW- you might notice enrollment is up at Tiny Spark Academy!  With all the “snow” (really just colder-than-bleep) days we’ve been having we’ve been lucky enough to have some of our public school friends come hang with us for school.  We all love it.  Shakes things up a bit!

photo 1 photo 2


We also kept on keeping on with our regular curriculum, of course.


Are everyone else’s children as obsessed (and I mean that in every sense of the word) with the movie Frozen?  I wouldn’t even say we are a family who gets super into Disney movies, but man… this one caputured our hearts.  I think its the sisters.  🙂  Using that obsession, we kicked off our second semester with a month of all things FROZEN.

Anyway, as a New Years resolution (of which I have one… PLAN.) I sat down and planned all of January.  And seriously?  Life is so much better when I plan.  I’ll do a little post on planning soon.  For real.  Stop laughing.  I’ll do it.  You can plan on it.  (Get it?  Plan on it…. nevermind.)

So here is the January line up:



Polar Bears


Be Awesome.

Just kidding on that last one.  But that is pretty much how it felt to have an entire month planned, with shopping list, ready to go.  BAM!

I didn’t take many snow pictures, but we did lots of fun stuff. 🙂

We read Over and Under the Snow and talked about hibernating animals and the subnivean zone.

We made these adorable snowmen.


And this fun snow art.  (I got this idea from someone else, but I can’t remember who…)


We tried the Borax snow crystals but it didn’t work.  We need to try again!

We talked about symmetry and drew the owl from Draw Write Now.

We also did paper snowflakes, again talking about symmetry.


We read Snowflake Bently and talked about the uniqueness of snowflakes, why they would be hard to photograph and their structures (all snowflakes have 6 “legs”).  We also looked at this website and watched the short movie.

We drew a big snowman on the chalkboard and filled it in with adjectives for snow.

We did the life cycle of a snow man.  I don’t think they’ll ever forget the states of matter.  (solid, liquid, gas)  They had a blast singing about Olaf from Frozen while we did this.  😉


2013 Wrap Up

When I started this blog I knew I would need to be gentle with myself.  I know that if I don’t have to be at a computer I will avoid it at all costs.  I know that I don’t have the time to mess around with the layout to get it to look exactly as I want and that that alone will suck motivation out of me to get on here.  But, I also know that each time I write an activity in my planner or read a homeschool blog that speaks to my heart (because goodness knows I don’t mind being on my iPhone…) I am grateful that someone sat down and put the time into recording their journey so that it makes my own just a little bit easier.  Because I can’t go back and fill in all of our first semester of this year, and because I have an unhealthy love of bullet points, I’ll attempt to recap September-December of 2013.


We decided our first few months were going to be literature heavy.  So we took our time studying Charlotte’s Web.

After that, we did a unit on Africa.

Then, frankly, our lives started to get rocky.  Our oldest was scheduled for open heart surgery, and I’m not going to lie… some weeks we did the (very bare) minimum.  My head wasn’t in the game.  It was elsewhere.  There were lots, and lots and lots of doctors appointments.   My heart ached and I was so distracted that most days I just let them play.  Because, every time I thought about interupting them, I thought “I just want them to enjoy each other”.  And so that is what we did.



Molly’s surgery was scheduled for October 8th.  Until in the last week of September she came down with a cold and it was rescheduled.  So, for a couple weeks in October I was able to pull myself together and decided we were not going to take the entire month off, and we dove into a study of insects and James and The Giant Peach.  While I wanted to get things done, I was still really looking for “crutches” and used a lot of TPT materials those weeks.  Here is what we used:

James and the Giant Peach Study – great vocab cards in this

Insect Unit – this was awesome.  I would totally, 100% buy more stuff from her.

Molly had her surgery on October 24th.  She rocked it.  We were home on October 29th.  This crazy trio was back in action within an hour of walking in the door.



We took a week or two off in November.  I honestly don’t remember exactly.  But I felt like we all deserved a little time to relax.  breathe.  sleep.  smile.  laugh.  live.  Well, as much living as you can do when you aren’t allowed to leave the house.

We started back to school slowly.  We listened to/read The Secret Garden and did some math, grammar, spelling.  Nothing too crazy, but a good lovely way to ease back into life.

We got a puppy.  Because why wouldn’t you?


We had a PARTY.  Because we could.  Because she could.  Because we needed to celebrate the people in our lives who held our hands through the last 6 months.  Because.  (It was obviously a Woodland Theme).

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After that, we studied Thanksgiving, reviewed math concepts, worked on handwriting, finished up the Grammar Bundle books.  A good short week that was closer to our normal schedule.


In November a town very near to us was quite literally demolished by a tornado.  Lives were altered forever.  Molly heard us talking about it a lot, and wanted to know more.  So our first week of December was dedicated to weather.  We did a lot of reading, but a few projects most from this unit as well.

We did rainbow mosiacs and tied in figurative language because that was our Grammar Bundle for the week.  We reviewed the water cycle, made shaving cream clouds, did the ivory in the microwave experiement, and cloud in a jar.

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(Guess what?  I’m running out of steam to want to explain these things.  Let me know if anyone needs clarification.  I think all of 0 people look at this blog anyway… unless its for the pumpkin muffin recipe.  People are loco for pumpkin!)

Lucy got to pick the next unit and she picked baby animals.  We got some books on life cycles, and one cool book of 101 baby animal facts.  Molly was required to pick one animal a day and write a few facts about it.  Lucy spent some time learning the names of baby animals.  It was a fun unit, but admitedly I was a bit lost for ideas.  Life cycles really saved me this week!  We also broke out the Hot Dots for some math review.


We did a few Christmas activities, but now I can’t even remember what.  That’s terrible.  It was last year, people.  😉

Our Curriculum Advisors


That would be these two. Our first unit was picked by the big one:

And you all know she choose Charlotte’s Web.

Now it is the little one’s turn.


SHE chose Africa. We’ve been using our Expedition Earth materials, and learning about ancient Africa in our history curriculum. A few TPT units have rounded out our days with Safari Math Journals and Literacy activities. Molly is also working on her first research project! (More to come later!).

The both loved Triangle Tigers, which I found on Pinterest.


Lucy is getting a huge kick out of these sentence building worksheets:



The other little craft I found was at Michael’s for$2.50! The loved it.

We are very much enjoying this unit! We’ll be taking a break while Molly has a major open heart surgery, but I am hoping to finish Africa and do one more unit first!


Charlotte’s Web Activities

Here is some of our Charlotte’s Web fun from the last 2 weeks!


Molly’s sixth birthday was the day before school started and she requested a “Charlotte’s Web cake!”. Her number one request was that it wasn’t orange and black, lest it look like Halloween. 😉


As a review of nouns, pronouns, verbs and adjectives I copied a few paragraphs into a word document and she highlighted a different part of speech each day.


Goose chose a couple nouns to draw :). She always wants to do what M is doing, which is tough sometimes!


Lucy working on a barnyard animal literacy activity. She matched the words to the animals and then copied them onto the page.


We used spelling words from Charlotte’s Web instead of All About Spelling. Here she is playing spelling games on Spelling City.


We listened to most of the book on audio, though a few days she chose to read it instead. This has been awesome! We are getting our audiobooks through Audible.


One of our art projects. This was fun because it was multi-step. We painted the Popsicle sticks in the morning and assembled the barn in the afternoon.


A friend sent her Charlotte’s Web in French!


Part of our study has been learning to write summaries. She writes one for each chapter. She loves reading all the summaries in book report fashion. 😍

We have a few more activities for the week and then on to something else! It has been a really fun unit! Lucy will get to pick next week and then Molly has chosen James and the Giant Peach for her next unit!

Tiny Spark Academy 2013-14 Has Begun

Hello, friends!

We started school the day after M turned 6. Second grade for her, Kindergarten for L. Craziness. Molly got to pick our first unit, and she picked to study Charlotte’s Web, by one of her favorite authors, E.B. White. Because I’ve been working a lot the last few months (hello, late nights) I’ve turned to to help me out with my planning of these “fun” units. I’m not going to post a curriculum list for this year, because it is vastly similar to last year, with a few additions/changes that I’ll get into in a few weeks, after I’ve felt things out a bit. is a great site. When I first found it last year the lessons were a little easier on the wallet than they are now (I think they gained some national media coverage) but it is still so helpful and if you look at reviews and get to know some of the sellers you can really get high quality, fun curriculum. Here is what we used for Charlotte’s Web:

Charlotte’s Web Literature Unit for Mimi

Farm Time Fun Unit for Goose

Farm Animals in French for both

Other things we’ve been using (and loving) so far this year are:

Dolch Pre-Primer Sight Word Printables for Goose. So far she really loves these. I write the past words along the top of each one so we can review.

Grammar Galore: Bundle Pack for Molly has been really a wonderful tool to review our grammar from last year.

Number of the Day I printed and laminated one of these for each girl and they enjoy the number play, and its a great way to sneak in some math!

Another way we are sneaking in math is Math Journals. Each morning they have a fun with the problems and drawing them out. We’re using these for Goose (K) and these for Mimi (2nd).

We use these types of units and activities to keep the girls’ interest. The end of last year became a hamster wheel of “getting through” curriculum, and I vowed to them and myself to get back to having fun. They were so excited to start school, and I really, really, really want to keep that going!







Radio Silence


I hesitated starting a blog for months, because, well, blogs take time.  I don’t feel like I have a whole lot of time.  Do you?  If so, will you share?  My mom says its nice to share.

I struggle to keep up with household tasks, and its been even more of a struggle since we started homeschooling.  Each afternoon used to be filled with chores, naps, quiet time etc.  Now our afternoons are filled with science and history.  Equally important, but for this momma… the accumulation of stuff is enough to drive me crazy.  Like cah-ray-z.  My mom had 4 kids and our house was perpetually tidy.  And I mean show-ready at all times.  I cannot fathom how she kept up.  I cannot fathom how the sheer monotony of the task of cleaning up after all of us didn’t send her to the looney bin.

Where was I?  Oh yes.  My lack of ability to keep up with anything (including my own thoughts…).  So, homeschooling, health (because the boo-tay has grown since starting this endeavor) housework and my job.  Yes, my job.  For a few years I’ve been doing graphic design and some marketing for my dad’s company, and recently that responsibility has increased.  Its still not anywhere near a full time job, but it is a substantial part time one.

How does everyone do it?  Am I the only one who feels a little bit like they are drowning?  And I don’t have babies!  So many homeschoolers have babies!

So, I’m on a mission this summer to find ways to simplify and streamline.  I’ve got a couple things we are working on like chore charts (for everyone, not just kids!), homeschool organization and we are making some changes in our school room that will hopefully ease the visual chaos in there, too.

The summer task list:

Chore schedule… yawn.  But, most important.

Update school room, a place for everything!

Re-organize our pantry/hall closet

Girls’ closets

Our closets


That should be enough to keep us busy this summer, I think.  😉

My favorite time saver so far has been  In January we (ok, maybe I and Adam just didn’t argue) decided we were going to eliminate all meat (besides fish) from our diets and that made meal planning an even bigger challenge than normal.  Enter  I’ve done online meal planning programs before and been… less than impressed.  Not so with this.  We’ve enjoyed almost ever meal we’ve made from them.  Their meals are quick, easy and cost effective.  Tonight we are having Balsamic Mushroom Hoagies with Goat cheese.  Is it dinner time yet?!  Nope.  First Molly has day camp, then French, and I have a (photography) session to do.  😉

For a giggle about this exact topic, click here.