What I Learned On My Kids’ Field Trip

I learned so much on this field trip.   So much that I decided to make a list, so you could learn too.

1) Check museum hours before planning a field trip.  They may be closed on the day you planned to drive 3 hours to get there.  Have a back up, just in case.

2) If driving 3 hours to get to said destination, feed the children in the car.  Otherwise they will want to eat as soon as you get there, wasting an hour of your visit time.

3) Have migraine medication with you at all times.  (My poor friend got one right before our OmniMax movie… torture…)

4) Check museum hours of back up.  They may close a mere 4 hours after your arrival.  If you spend 1 hour eating lunch, 1 hour watching an OmniMax movie and 20 more minutes eating snack… It doesn’t leave much time for, you know, field tripping.  😉

Ha.  We did learn really cool actual information too.  We learned all about monarch butterflies and their annual 3-generation cycle and migration.  We got to see a real life palentologist working on a real life dinosaur fossil.  He gave Molly a good piece of advice:  get a trust fund.  😉   We learned that they use a solution comparable to super glue mixed with water to stabalize weakened fossils.  They had fun exploring and learning, but I really, really wish we had more time!  I was also bummed that our first choice museum was closed.  I’m hoping that we’ll be able to make the trip again, very soon, so we can see that one, too.

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This trip also inspired me to order some new “fun” for our classroom, especially more logic/puzzle based activities for my Lucy girl.  That girl could play Tangrams all day!  I’m also on the look out for Tetrominos.  Its like real-life tetris.  Hit me up if you’ve seen them anywhere… The ones the museum had were little foam magnetic pieces.

All in all a fun day, and lots of lessons learned!


Zucchini, Carrot and Cranberry Cupcake Muffins

Mmmmmmm.  Mmmmmmm.   Mmmmmmmm.

These are super.  duper.  super.  yummy.  Pretty much if you do nothing else this week in the kitchen, make these.

I came across this recipe on by beloved, Pinterest, and thought they sounded divine.  Our girls love zucchini bread, so I knew it would be a home run with them.  I couldn’t just leave well enough alone, of course, and had to play with it a little bit.  I did use some raw sugar in these… why?  Because I felt like it.  Because I really wanted these to be shove-them-in-your-mouth-delish, and, well, sometimes I need sugar for that to happen.  So sue me.  The berry muffins from last week, were yummy, but Molly requested some time off from “oatmeal” muffins, despite dutifully eating hers last week.  So, this is what she’s getting and I’m almost giddy for morning because I know these will be a five star breakfast to her.  I don’t think these have enough sugar and fat in them to be truly Cupcake Muffins (like a bakery “muffin” studded with chocolate, loaded with sugar and then glazed), but I am going to let the girls use whipped cream cheese to “frost” them, so they will look like little breakfast cupcakes.  Who can say no to that?!

2 cups white whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup raw or granulated sugar

1/2 cup organic honey

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 eggs

3/4 cup finely grated carrot

3/4 cup finely grated zucchini

2 tsp pure vanilla

handful of Craisins (we used regular, but pomegranate would be good too!)

You know the drill:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tray with paper cups or silicone liners.

In a small bowl mix dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda.

In a larger bowl, or bowl of electric mixer, mix together sugar, oil, eggs, grated carrot & zucchini, and vanilla.

Fold dry ingredients into wet, and mix gently until flour is absorbed, careful not to over mix.  Then gently fold in the Craisins (don’t overmix).

Use an ice cream scoop to divide the batter into 12 muffin cups. (I got two muffin tops, too!)

Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes – until an inserted cake tester comes out clean.

Cool in the muffin tins on a wire rack.

“Frost” with whipped cream cheese if desired.

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Zucchini, Carrot and Cranberry Cupcake Muffins

We are off to St. Louis tomorrow morning to visit the Magic House!  Am I the only one suffering greatly from daylight savings?  It has been a constant battle to stay in motion all day!  I need to finish rounding things up so I can get a good night’s sleep for our adventure tomorrow.  Molly has been watching the Louis and Clark episode on Brain Pop Jr. in preperation for her trip.  I’m off to finish my own preperation!  I am really hoping we get around to making a model of the Nile River this week, as well as do some kind of art project (that is yet to be planned).  Ta-tah for now!

Berrylicious Breakfast Muffins

These are my favorite “not-cupcake-muffins” muffins, yet.  My favorite recipe for berry muffins is from Ina Garten and is definitely a cupcake-muffin.  These don’t resemeble them at all, but they also don’t induce a sugar coma or a guilt ridden start to the day.  🙂

Berrylicious Breakfast Muffins


1 1/4 c old fashioned oats

1/2 c vanilla greek yogurt

1/2 c milk

1/2 lb frozen mixed berries, thawed and chopped

1 t balsamic vinegar

2 t granulated sugar


1 egg

1/2 c applesauce

1/2 c organic honey

1 t vanilla


1 c white whole wheat flour (or regular whole wheat)

1T baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1/4 t salt

Mix the berries, sugar and balsamic vinegar and set aside to macerate.

Mix the oats, yogurt and milk and set aside for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400*F.  Prepare your muffin tin with muffin cups.

Whisk dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

Add wet ingredients to oat/yogurt/milk mixture.

Mix together wet and dry, being careful not to over mix.

Stir macerated berries in.

Use ice cream scoop to fill muffin cups.  Bake 15-20 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.

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Berrilicious Breakfast Muffins

It’s Bloody Good Fun

Our science lab this week was all about blood (this lab can be found in our science curriculum, R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey).  Molly has been eagerly anticipating this one for 2 weeks, while I kept forgetting to pick up lentils so we could complete it.  Finally, this week, we had all the supplies… it. was. on.

First, we discussed the 4 main blood parts:  Red Blood Cells, White Blood Cells, Plasma and Platelets, and their jobs:  carry oxygen to the body, eat bacteria/fight infection, carries food and keeps things moving, and clots blood to stop bleeding.  There are lab pages with the curriculum that include a drop of blood drawing, with clues for the student to use to identify each part in the drawing.  She then colored it and labeled it.

Now it is time to mix up the blood!  Supplies needed:

1/2 karo syrup

1/2 c red hot candies

5 lima beans

1 tablespoon lentils

wide mouth jar, spoon

First measure and pour the karo syrup into a wide mouth jar and idetify it as the plasma part of the blood.  This is what keeps blood viscous.  Next add the red hots, which are representing the red blood cells (RBC).  Then the lima beans, which represent white blood cells (WBC), and the lentils, which are acting as our platelets.  Stir!

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Molly really enjoyed this and learned the 4 parts, no questions asked (I know because I told her I was writing this and forgot them… thank goodness for her help.  😉 )  While the model doesn’t do anything exciting, I think the hands on experience and reviewing what each thing was as we dumped it in really provided a fun way to learn.  Afterwards there was a lab sheet to fill in and also a space for her to draw the lab.  She has since made me promise we could keep the model until my birthday.  I’m calling this one a success!


We’re Breeding Executives

Duh.  Our children are beyond brilliant and will run companies.  That’s what we mean when we say we are working on “executive skills”, right?  Not so much.  Though I do think they are brilliant.  😉  I’d like to share what I’ve learned about executive skills.  I am in no way an expert (or even close to it), but I think the information is incredibly important for all parents (not just homeschoolers).

After coming across the book Smart But Scattered  (which appealed to me for obvious reasons), I realized that not just for kids with attention issues, but for ALL kids, executive skills are something that are easily ignored, but perhaps at a major disservice.  We all know the joke about the helicopter mom:  the one who does everything for their kid and can’t just sit back and let them try things and make mistakes.  It is so easy to do, and frankly, I am definitely a helicopter mom in some ways.  I will always hover, to be sure my children are being polite, kind and respectful individuals.  I will always scoop them up to give them hugs when the get hurt, physically or otherwise.  And I will always be willing to help and to scaffold whatever it is they are doing.  I won’t always be willing to make their beds, do their laundry, and make sure they work up to their potential.  There are things I need and want them to know, in the core of themselves, and knowing they can take care of themselves and do their best work possible are some of them.

At this point you may be asking yourself “That’s all great, but what in the world are executive skills?”.  Since I am so nice I will save you a Google search.

Executive skills cover two major areas:  response inhibition and working memory.  Essentially kids (and adults) need to be able to think before they act, make a plan and then hold the plan in their mind long enough to execute it.  That is the most basic of basic ways I can think to explain it.  Essentially if you say “Excuse me, dearest of dear children of mine, please go put that sock in the drawer” (that’s how we all talk, right?) and your adorable lovey walks up the stairs without the sock and begins playing legos… That sweet little pumpkin head is lacking executive skills.  And you may get the most teensy-bit-angry and wonder “Will this child ever listen?!” and the answer is that they can learn to listen.  Just as they can learn to walk and talk, they can learn  to listen to directions and think them through.  But when your child was 9 months old, did you just start demanding he/she started walking?  No!  You put them in a device to help them strengthen their legs.  You bounced them on your lap and giggled as they “jumped”.  You held on to their chubby little fingers while they toddled between your spread out legs.  You helped and encouraged their learning!  And that’s what we are trying to do with executive skills.

A list of Executive Skills:

Response inhibition

Working memory

Emotional control

Sustained attention

Task initiation

Planning and prioritizing


Time management

Flexibility (the ability to revise plans)

Goal directed persistence

Metacognition (the ability to self evaluate)

(I pulled this list from here.)

So, if you are like me, you want to run and pin your kids down and start building these skills rightthisveryminute.  But if you follow the teachings of Charlotte Mason at all, you know the best way to attack a list like this is to pick one (or a skill set) and focus on it for 6 weeks.  At the end of that 6 weeks, the hope is that they have developed a habit.   So look at the list and pick one, and then you are ready to begin.  Good luck!

Just kidding.  (See!  No one likes a lack of direction and information!)

Again, I am no expert, and I can only share our journey as we try to teach our children these important skills.

Here’s one of my dirtiest secrets:  I lack some of these skills myself.  Before I had kids, I was a super organized person.  I knew what I was eating for the day before I woke up.  I have planners in my basement filled with deadlines, details, reminders, etc.  I had a file folder for everything.  After having kids I spend more time feeling like I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  Please, please tell me you feel the same.  And if you have more kids than I do and manage to keep it all in check, spill it!  I applaud you and want to know your tricks!  Anyway, I do still keep a planner (paper, please!) and Molly noticed and asked for one of her own.  This sparked the idea of supplementing our normal “calendar” time (which is really more for her little sister, anyway) with a more “grown up” version of calendar time, which would really provide some good practice for planning and prioritizing.  So each Monday, Molly takes our her planner and writes all of her activities for the week.  She has already filled in her friends’ birthdays, so she can be sure to be considerate and call them that day.  The rest of the week, our first task of the day is to take our her planner and review what is coming up.  Sometimes she may have conflicts and we’ll talk about how we should settle them.  Skip an activity?  Let them know she’ll be late?  Whatever the case, she is in on it.  In the next few weeks, I’d like to back off a bit on helping her fill it in, and let her see what she can do from memory (piano on Mondays, ballet on Wednesdays…) so the task is almost complete in her circle of responsibility.  She really enjoys using her planner, and lo and behold, her 3 year old sister wants to start using one, too.  I do remind her to use neat handwriting, but the fact of the matter is that this is HER planner.  I wouldn’t appreciate someone telling me how to use mine!  If she writes sloppily and runs out of room or can’t read it later, that is a good lesson for her, too.  I’m all about natural consequences. 😉




About 6 weeks ago, we started the rule that before they come down stairs they need to get dressed and make their beds.  That was modified a bit to “after breakfast, get dressed and make beds” because it drove me crazy to have food on their clothes before we even started their day.  😉  However, Molly struggles with making her bed.  She has a really hard time remembering to pull up her sheet, and so it is usually hanging, sloppily out at the bottom of her bed.  What to do?!  I don’t want to hover and critique her every move,  but I *do* want her to learn to do it properly.  Peg Dawson (author of Smart but Scattered) suggests making lists and having them available for kids to see (with words or picture cues), as well as staying in the room to provide support for staying on task and providing encouragement along the way at first, and helping to solve any problems that arise.  We made a picture card map for cleaning her bedroom awhile ago, and it does seem to help, so I made one for making her bed, too.  I simply whipped one up in Photoshop (a word processing doc will do just fine),  laminated it and stuck it to the wall rightnexttoherbed, so when she tells me “I don’t know hooooooowwwww”, I can tell her, “oh yes, you do.”  😉  Because this is in very clear, direct and numbered steps, she also has a very clear guideline of when her task has been completed.  Peg Dawson is a huge advocate for forms of any kind (check lists, tables, charts, etc) to give kiddos visual cues and provide clear plan making guidelines.  There are lots of reproducibles in the book, however I think you could easily make them custom for your specific circumstances.  We have several lists around the house, including our school day in the order it will be done, so that she knows exactly what comes next.


That’s all I’ve got for this huge undertaking so far.  I’d love to hear how other parents are attacking teaching these skills.  We’ve dabbled a bit with making plans (“can you please draw a picture of what you are going to do with your free-time today?”), but I think that is our next step.  We definitely need to practice our forward thinking around here!

Super Banana Muffins

Its Sunday so you know what that means at our house!  Muffin baking day!  My hubby scored some super ripe bananas that someone was about to pitch at work this week… ummmm, excuse me?  We can totally use those!  (Don’t have ripe bananas?  No problem.)  This recipe is *almost* original.  I took a couple that are faves or looked good and meshed them together, specifically one I’ve been making forever from a Cooking Light cookbook (that uses cream of tartar (I used all mine up in snickerdoodles over the holidays…), and this one from Ina, and made them a teensy bit healthier.  This recipe does have sugar in it.  I ran out of honey while making the granola… So if you have the honey to substitute, that is definitely the healthier choice.  Both of these recipes are stellar as is, but we’re always trying to make things a little healthier, right?  That is where the idea of granola on top seemed appealing.  Last week someone commented on the healthy nature of the pumpkin muffins, and we agreed that a muffin just doesn’t seem much like a muffin without crumble.  You know the kind.  The butter/sugar/four mix that makes the muffin purely the vehichle for its crunchy sweet goodness?  Since I truly can’t give those to the girls on a regular basis without massive amounts of mommy guilt, when I saw the Ina recipe with granola on top my first thought was “problem solved”!  I liked her additon of chopped bananas, too.

Super Banana Muffins

2 ripe bananas

1/3 c sugar

1/3 c brown sugar

(sub 2/3 cup honey for all the sugar if you have it!)

1/4 c unsweetened applesauce

1 large egg

1 large egg white

1/2 c white whole wheat flour

1/3 c oat flour (you can make it yourself)

2 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

1 banana, chopped

1/4 -1/2 c granola (store bought, or make your own – double the recipe for snacks for the week!)

We all know how to make muffins from here, right?

Preheat your oven to 350*

Combine the wet ingredients and sugar and mix with a mixer (stand or hand) until smooth.

If you are making your own oat flour, simply add some oats (a little more than 1/2 c) to a mini food processor (I have this one) and pulse until ground.  Should look like this:


Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl.

Mix together dry and wet ingredients.  Do not over mix.

Gently stir in chopped banana.

Scoop muffin batter into 12 regular sized muffin tins, lined with paper liners or silicone muffin cups.  Top  each muffin with a bit of granola.

Bake for 15-17 minutes until toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean or with moist crumbs.


The girls and I already gobbled a couple of these up as taste testers, and I know Adam promised the banana donor a couple as a thank you.  So its a good thing I made extra granola!

As always, I’ll freeze whatever is left in ziplocks and we’ll just pull a couple out for breakfast each morning and nuke them for about 30 seconds.

**as a disclaimer, these muffins are fairly healthy, and therefore do not taste like cupcakes.  They are moist and fluffy, but the sweetness is subtle!**

Now its time to get ready for our week at school!  What are you and your kiddos up to this week?  I think we’ll be making a model of blood and starting our Van Gogh lessons!

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super banana muffins

History Museum Field Trip

Today we went with out co-op on an incredibly fun field trip to our local history museum. We’ve been to the Field Museum in Chicago (and are due back for a visit), but today we learned all about the pioneers who settled here in our town 200 years ago. They heard stories about the pioneers and there was even a play area so they could try out many of the chores pioneer children would have been responsible for. Molly has been into chores the last few days, so this was pretty exciting for her to pretend to be a pioneer girl and comare and contrast what her chores would have been like. We were able to eat lunch there and then continue exploring the museum on our own. They loved the courtroom- and especially were intrigued by the locked doors that we think would have lead to the judges chambers. They declared it a mystery and went around the museum noticing that a lot of the doors had the same knob, with their friend C (a clue!). It was all great fun.

We know that the more humans are exposed to as children the higher their capacity for learning in the future. Getting those neurons firing and forming those pathways is so important and why field trips are a top priority for our family. Will they remember everything they did and saw and learned today? Maybe. Probably not. But I do know it was a very healthy day for their brains and that they were exposed to new (to them) ideas, patterns, architecture, thought processes, textures and more. So even our 3 year old who can’t quite grasp the idea of the pioneers in a concrete way still benefited greatly from the experience.

I honestly have walked by this museum dozens of times and never knew how kid friendly it was. It makes me wonder what else we are missing out on in our little town!











Nomads and the First Farmers

We needed a day to catch up on some of our “fun” subjects (history, music and science!).  For history we are using a combination of both Ancients from History Odyssey  and Story of the World.

We have been studying the first people, or nomads, and also the first farmers who settled in the Fertile Crescent.  After doing our readings from Story of the World and A Child’s History of the World we colored the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the Fertile Crescent and some of the first cities (Jericho and Catal Huyuk).  There are maps provided with both curriculums, though you could find one on your own with a quick google search.

We learned in our readings about the first farm machine, the shaduf.  A shaduf is a lever with a bucket attached to one end.  The farmers would dig canals from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers that extended onto their farm land.  The would then use the shaduf to scoop water out of the canal and onto their farm land.  After coloring a picture of a farmer using one, we decided to build our own.


This coloring page was from the Story of The World program.  I would think it would be easy enough to replicate if you can draw a bit.

This one was my idea, so these are the only directions I have for you.  We honestly made it up as we went along.  We gathered supplies, which we brain stormed while looking at the coloring page.  We decided to make the posts out of legos, use pencils for the lever parts, yarn for the string, a children’s Advil cup for the bucket, and some rocks from the yard for the weight.


I was too busy building to take step by step photos, but first each girl built a post and measured them to be sure they were of equal size so our shaduf would be level.  Then we used the yarn to tie the pencils together.  We then wrapped the yarn around our rocks so we could tie them to one end of the lever pencil and tied up the Advil cup with yarn on the other side.  This was the trickiest part because our materials were so slippery.  We ended up cheating and using some stickers to keep the yarn from sliding off.   Because this could have proved to be an incredibly frustrating project for them to try to build themselves (with the tying and wrapping of the yarn to the objects) I mostly did the work while they gave directions.  When they got confused they’d use their picture as a guide.

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In the end we added some farm land and a farmer and used little legos as water to demonstrate how it all worked.  Molly really, really enjoyed this project and it definitely was a great demonstration of how farmers were able to get water from the rivers for their crops.


A better picture of it all put together.

**Because this got pretty heavy it fell over a few times.  I used some sticky tack (what we use to hang things on the wall) on the bottom of the legos and that did the trick to keep it all upright.**

We went a bit out of order and address cave painting next.  We talked about how we know what life was like for nomads because of the paintings they left on the walls of the caves they stayed in.  We used the iPad to look at lots of pictures of cave paintings.  Then we made our own!  (This idea was in The Story of The World curriculum.  It is definitely the more hands on of the two.)

We crumpled up brown paper bags to make our “cave walls” and picked out oil pastels of the colors we saw in the cave paintings.  They each picked an animal (a zebra and a cow) and went to work.  I thought these turned out pretty darn cute, and they loved pretending to be cave dwellers.  (Please forgive the awful pictures.  I may be forced to get out my real camera.  But then these posts wouldn’t come to fruition…)

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I hope if you have a kiddo interested in cave dwellers or ancient history these projects will be fun for you!  We definitely had a blast doing them, and I know the shaduf is going to be a favorite thing to play with in the coming days.