Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 21

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This chapter dealt with four wars – three completely useless plus the Seven Years’ War. George Washington gets introduced to students for the first time and our kids perked up when they heard his name. They knew about Washington from other books.

Camo shirt and blanket

Camo shirt and blanket

The chapter has two stories, both complex and rather boring at times. The children let me know that several times. As they colored the governor’s mansion coloring pages, I read to them.  Continue reading »

We answered the questions and I helped them with the narration. I like how even SWB makes provision for narration in complex story lines by allowing us to direct the student to specific details in the story.

Williamsburg Palace

Coring page for the chapter

The map work was interesting, as we had to put pluses and minuses on different countries, with different colors, to represent the four wars which took place both in Europe and in North America.

Hammering Ferns

My son hammering fern pigment into his shirt.

The craft was elaborate, too. We had to hunt for a light green shirt, ferns, a hammer, and salt. It has been cold lately, so it was chilly in the garage, where my son had to beat down the ferns to get their green juice to ooze onto the shirt. My son got warm as he pounded the ferns, but I just stood there taking pictures, not very good ones at that, shivering away.

Our son pours salt over the t-shirt to set the pigment.

Our son pours salt over the t-shirt to set the pigment.

We decided it was enough after a couple of minutes. Then, we soaked it in salt water. I decided one hour would be a good soaking period, as we were not given specific instructions. We put the T-shirt in the dryer afterwards.

The redcoats learn to camouflage in North America.

The redcoats learn to camouflage in North America.

I think it turned out OK, but I wish we could have put other leaves besides ferns – maybe rhododendron. There are not that many other leaves around, now that it is December. Also, there was just so much salt, you can see some white streaks here and there on the t-shirt. Oh well.

The kids loved the story of the redcoats learning to camouflage themselves in the forests of the American colonies. We pulled out our play camouflage blanket and took some silly pictures.

Story of the World, Vol. 3, Chapter 20

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Chapter 20 dealt with Ch’ien Lung (Qianlong) in two different stories. The first focused on his interest in books. Ch’ien Long was a patron of the arts in general, but he really, really liked books. He knew there were lots of books all over China and he wanted them in one place, for posterity. Yes, it sounds like he wanted a library.

Chi'en Lung (public domain picture)

Chi’en Lung (public domain picture)

He sent men all over China to gather up these volumes and split them into four categories. Then, he ordered them copied so that he may have nine copies of each. Of course, they copied them by hand. Continue reading »

Why of course? He lived between 1711-1799 and Gutenberg invented his printing press in 1440. The Chinese actually invented a printing process with wooden blocks back in 868. Well, I guess Ch’ien Long wanted things done the hard way, the beautiful way, the long way.

It took years and years. The bad part? He had certain books burned – the ones that spoke against the Manchu. Freedom of the press did not quite enter the picture for this Chinese emperor.

Dragon paw prints over the eight provinces of China

Dragon paw prints over the eight provinces of China

The second story was about the accumulation of land. Susan Wise Bauer places the reader on a dragon who flies all over the different parts of China at the time. It was neat to direct the kids over their maps. Then, we made eight pages with the names of each province and applied a dragon paw print over each.

We did not stick these on different doors in the house. I was afraid the paint might come off. But I was glad my son took the time to improve his dragon paw print and made me six different designs. I printed two others from the internet. We made sure our dragons had five claws, as the activity books points out.

One new thing we are doing is a timeline. Until now, I felt my children were too young to bother with dates. Well, they have grown some. It’s time for a timeline. I will tell you about that project in a separate blog post.

The Nutcracker Ballet

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For the past five years, we have been attending The Nutcracker Ballet by the Appalachian Ballet Company. The shows always take place at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium.

Mom and children at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium

With my children at The Nutcracker in 2017

It is fun to establish Christmas traditions and then, as the years go by, compare pictures, especially when children are involved. Seeing their growth, one gets a sense of the passing of time. It’s shocking sometimes to compare “then” and “now” pictures and see just how much they have grown. Continue reading »

The Nutcracker is special for me because my mom took me to see it when I was a small child in Romania. We saw it once and it was enough to leave a lasting impression on me. When I had the opportunity to take my children there, I did not hesitate.

Scene from The Nutcracker Ballet

Scene from The Nutcracker Ballet

The music, the costumes, the beautiful smiles on the the faces of the ballerinas, the Christmas decor, all of it spells “Christmas is here” for me. One can tell the artists work hard every year and it’s good for my children to see children involved in an art that we do not necessarily want to pursue. It opens them up to different avenues of expression – at least as spectators.

Year after year, we go to see The Nutcracker and it does not get old. My son does not enjoy ballet per se. He enjoys LEGO bricks and computers. He does not necessarily care for people prancing around on stage. But, year after year, he likes the music and he enjoys the whole experience a little more. He makes me laugh with some of his commentaries after the show.

Grandma and granddaughter at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium

My mom and my daughter at The Nutcracker in 2012

“Mommy, the prince’s costume was really tight. I did not like it. You could see, like, everything. It wasn’t modest.” Me: “You mean, the Nutcracker himself? I know, son, I understand how you feel. They are called ballet tights. They help him be safe as he jumps and twirls in the air or as he lifts his partner. There’s nothing fluttering about his legs to trip him over.”

And then I had this idea… “You know, your sister really wants to study ballet. But the studio is about one hour away from our house. If I will start taking her there for lessons twice a week, we might as well sign you up for ballet lessons, too.”

You should have seen his face. “I am NOT signing up for ballet, mom!” I laughed. He realized I was kidding. Anyway, I had fun with it.

Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece touches me to tears every year. My daughter asks why I tear up and I reply, “Because it is beautiful.” Artistic beauty creates an artistic emotion in me and all I can do is cry for the sheer joy of it all. Everybody should see The Nutcracker at least once in a lifetime.

Thanksgiving 2017

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Did you have a good Thanksgiving celebration? We did. We stayed home and I prepared Quorn turkey (vegetarian, gluten free, soy free), gluten free dressing, cashew gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, sauteed broccoli, cranberry salad, bread sticks, and pumpkin pie (gluten free, dairy free).

Thanksgiving dinner with friends

Thanksgiving dinner with friends

I thought of making a salad, but I got too lazy. So I just cut up some Campari tomatoes and they got consumed. I know. I should make more of an effort with salad, but we just had so much going on, it was hard to get motivated. Continue reading »

We also had a few other dishes, but there was no room on the table, so we left them for another meal. I had made zucchini bread, corn bread, and this Romanian cabbage dish that is one of my fondest childhood memories. Anyway.

Flock of wild turkeys

On the way to piano lessons, a flock of wild turkeys crossed the street in front of us.

We ate. We had fun with friends. The four of us and three friends, a homeschooling mama and her two children. Her husband had to work that day, so we were happy to have them over and share Thanksgiving with them. Our kids play together well despite the age difference and it is always nice to have them over.

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the kids and I worked on felt turkey crafts. A few years ago, I saw it on this blog, but it never worked out for us to put it together. Somehow this was the year when it finally happened for us.

It was very time-consuming, but worth it. The kids wanted to learn how to sew a basic stitch and how to sew buttons. They did some of the sewing and most of the cutting.

Felt turkey

Our son’s turkey

Even though our felt turkeys are not perfect, we like them a lot. It was a whole day of arts and crafts. It stressed me out. In a way, it was good for me, because it forced me to stay away from regular textbooks and our normal routine.

It’s good to shake things up a bit and teach the kids some handcrafts and sewing skills. That’s just as much learning as anything.

Felt turkey

Our daughter’s turkey

We also read some books this week – three from the library and two from our own shelves. They were all fun, but I always cry when we read Squanto. The kids already know and they ask me, “Will you cry again?” before we start.

Thanksgiving books

We own Squanto and Turkey Trouble. The other three titles are from the library.

On the way to our piano lessons, a flock of turkeys crossed the street in front of us. We thought they were really cute and took pictures of them. It was a fitting scene for our Thanksgiving celebration this week.

How to Cook Acorn Squash

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In case you did not know this, I did not grow up in the United States. Where I grew up, we did not have acorn squash. We had pumpkins and gourds, to be sure, but nothing like the varieties I see around me here in Tennessee.

Baked acorn squash halves

Acorn squash baked by my own two hands

For the longest time, I thought one could not eat acorn squash. Somebody even told me they were only for decoration and I took their word for it. Boy, was I mistaken. Continue reading »

After spending a weekend with a friend who had all kinds of winter squash around her house for cooking purposes, I decided to investigate the matter. Was acorn squash really edible? Most answers these days are only a Google search away, of course. Not only is it edible, it contains a powerhouse of nutrients like vitamin C, which, this time of the year, is very much needed to keep infections at bay.

Acorn Squash With Seeds Acorn Squash Cleaned Out

Armed with my newfound knowledge, I bought my first couple of acorn squash and baked them. Cutting them was a bit tough, but in the end it was so worth it.

Trying on new foods, textures, and tastes takes courage, folks. If you already consume acorn squash, I challenge you to pick a new vegetable today. Buy it, wash it, research it, and prepare it. Consume it with pride. You are pushing the boundaries of your taste buds. Plus, you are setting a good example for your children.



2 medium acorn squash or 3 small ones

1 tsp butter per half

1/2 Tbsp honey per half



Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminium foil.

Wash acorn squash to remove dirt. Cut in two. Careful with that knife! That’s the toughest part of the process, I promise.

Take seeds and stringy parts out, using a grapefruit spoon. Discard. I have roasted seeds before, but acorn squash seeds are not as good as the ones from sugar pumpkins. Besides, you don’t get as many from acorn squash.

Place squash halves face down on your baking sheet.

Baking Acorn Squash

If the squash is small, it does not matter which way you cut it.

Bake for 45 minutes or until a fork easily penetrates the squash’s outer skin.

Baked acorn squash

Once they are baked, I turn them over to marvel at their beauty. Behold, baked acorn squash!

Enjoy with butter and honey. Sorry, I cannot get myself to see pumpkins and squashes as something savory. I grew up eating pumpkin with sugar and butter. The thought of putting salt and pepper on an acorn squash or stuffing it with savory rice or making pumpkin soup gives me shivers.

Maybe that should be my challenge to myself for the fall of 2018. Until then, enjoy your acorn squash sweet!

How to Prepare for a Spelling Bee

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Last year, our son attended his first Spelling Bee. He was in third grade, which is the first year a child can attend a Spelling Bee. On a national level, I see some first graders who make it to Washington, D. C. (usually homeschoolers) and I wonder how they got there. Their parents and teachers must have realized they are so good, they enrolled them and the youngsters blew their older peers out of the water.

BHEA Spelling Bee - January 2017

BHEA Spelling Bee – January 2017

Precocious kiddoes aside, third grade is where Spelling Bee starts. So how does one prepare for a Spelling Bee? Here are a few ideas: Continue reading »

First, I would invest in a good spelling curriculum. I use Logic of English Foundations for my second grader and Essentials for my fourth grader. I hear good things about All About Spelling and, also, about Spelling Zoo (IEW spelling program).

Secondly, I would let them read as many books as possible. Aim for at least one picture book a day for K-2 and at least one small chapter book (150 pages or so) per week for grades 3-5. In grades 6-8, children should read at least 100 pages per day.

Spelling Bee Logo

This may seem like a lot, but think about it. If your child is reading 20 pages in a longer biography, that covers history for the day. Twenty pages in a cool science book would cover science. Twenty pages in a mystery would cover fun reading. The rest, 40 pages, can be spent on a classic, which takes care of Language Arts and Reading.

Now, if your child can finish over 150 pages in one day in a single book only because they love that book, more power to them. Tomorrow is another day for another book. My son loves to read and he can finish a 250-page book in one day simply because he likes it. Don’t lose heart. We did not get here overnight.

If your child does not enjoy reading, you read to him. Take 20 minutes every day with books you know might interest him and I promise you that in a few months your child will be a more independent reader.

Last but not least, sign up for the National Spelling Bee newsletter. They have all sorts of ideas on how to study, Word Wall printouts, and book lists to read. Your homeschool co-op will have to pay a fee to enroll with the National Spelling Bee. Then, you will have access to their proprietary materials, which are VERY important. Hope this helps!

Gluten Free Apple Crisp

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September and October are apple months where we live. That’s when we can applesauce and make apple crisp almost every day. November can be apple crisp month too. Why not?

Gluten free apple crisp to warm you on a cool fall morning

If you ask me, any month is apple crisp month. I love, love, love apple crisp and any kind of fruit crisp, really. And since becoming gluten free, I have changed my baking recipes and the result is just as tasty if not even better.

Gluten free apple crisp with vegan cream

Option: serve it with vegan cream

This recipe I will share with you is inspired by the Minimalist Baker apple crisp, but I had to modify it because I like a different apple-to-topping ratio than what their recipe was. Also, I like a healthier take on it, so I put less sugar in mine. Continue reading »


Apple Layer

4 apples, cored and diced into bite sizes

1/4 c sugar in the raw or any other unrefined sugar

1 Tbsp cornstarch

1/2 tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

small dash of lemon juice (optional)

IKEA apple corer/slicer

I love my IKEA apple corer/slicer



1/4 cup sugar in the raw or any other unrefined sugar like Muscovado

1 cup gluten free flour (I like King Arthur or Bob’s Mill)

2 cups rolled oats*

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup avocado oil

1/4 cup water

pinch salt



Preheat oven to 375 F and spray a 9×13 casserole dish with oil. Mix apples well with the rest of the ingredients in that list. Place in a uniform layer at the bottom of the casserole dish.

Mix dry Topping ingredients in a clean, dry bowl. Add wet ingredients and mix well until you do not see any more flour and the oats look wet. Layer over the apples in the dish. Bake for 1 hour. My oven is slow, especially if I bake using the convection feature. Sometimes I have to bake it for an extra 10 minutes, so use your judgment.

*Gluten sensitivity comes in many levels. Regular oats do not bother me, for instance, so I do not have to buy gluten free oats. If you know you must have gluten free oats, by all means use them instead of regular oats.

Gluten Free, Vegan Enchiladas

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Over the summer months, I found out what has been causing my abdominal pain for the past 24 years: gluten. As a result, I am now adapting all my recipes to be gluten free. Most of them are easy to switch. There are so many gluten free substitutes out there.

However, there is a learning curve. I have never been afraid of a little learning, so it’s all good. So far, I have been pleasantly surprised to hear from my husband and children that they like gluten free pancakes better than regular ones. The same goes for store-bought gluten free cookies and a gluten free zucchini cake I made a couple of weeks ago.

Here’s how I have adapted my enchilada recipe to be gluten free and vegan. By the way, if you do not like vegan cheese, you can always use the genuine article.

Gluten free, vegan enchiladas

Gluten free, vegan enchiladas



One pack of Bfree tortilla wraps (or use whatever brand you like)

1 1/2 c Bob’s Mill TVP

1 jar of your favorite Marinara sauce Continue reading »

1/2 c – 3/4 c Daiya cheddar style shreds or block cheese, which you will have to shred yourself

3 Tbsp McKay’s chicken style seasoning

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp chili powder

1 Tbsp. onion powder

1/2 Tbsp. garlic powder

salt to taste



In a bowl, pour 3 cups of hot water over TVP and add 2 Tbsp of the chicken style seasoning. Let rehydrate for at least 10 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 F. Spray a 9 x 11 casserole dish with oil spray. Pour a thin layer of Marinara sauce at the bottom of the dish.

When the TVP has softened, strain it in a colander over the sink and transfer to a large pan. Add the oil, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, the last Tbsp of McKay’s chicken style seasoning, about 2 Tbsp of Marinara sauce, and salt to taste. Stir fry until the contents are well mixed and the TVP has darkened in color, about 7 minutes.

While the TVP is cooking, shred your cheese if you are not using shreds.

Turn off the heat under the TVP and start assembling the enchiladas. I use about 1/4 c of TVP per tortilla. If your wrap pack has more than six tortillas, you may want to put less TVP per enchilada, or simply double the TVP recipe for two packs of wraps.

Pour the rest of the Marinara sauce over the enchiladas. Cover with cheese.

Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes or until the cheese has melted. Let sit for 5 minutes before enjoying. The enchiladas are hotter on the inside.

Enriching Children’s Minds

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There are so many ways to enrich a child’s mind that do not involve being sat in front of a teacher for hours at a time. This is where homeschooling comes into its own. In a natural, comfortable environment, it’s so much easier for your child to concentrate and learn.

Helping your own child through their life as a parent and a teacher is very rewarding. Yet the majority of parents send their children to a mainstream school for two main reasons. It’s easy and it is sociable. But homeschooling can be just as sociable! 

Girl homeschooling

Image Source


Field Trips

In school, your child will have two or three field trips or educational visits a year. With homeschooling, you can base as much of the learning as you want around field trips. For example, if you’re studying a part of history that your local museum is showcasing, it is so much more effective for it to be seen and understood by looking at artifacts face to face. Continue reading »

Museums are full of knowledge that a classroom can’t teach as easily. It is more likely to stick in your child’s mind compared to reading out of a textbook. Learning in the great outdoors is also much more effective.

Homeschool learning is just so much more hands on, it really can’t be beat. You’ll be able to pick how many of these visits you do a year, and where you’d like them to be. Nothing is more exciting than a day at school where you’d leave to go on a trip. You can bring this excitement and enrichment as many times as you’d like.


Online Help

Many online resources can help keep your child interested. Educational games help enrich a child’s mind through the power of fun. Whether it be math or English, the internet will have it.

There are even typing games available to help build up the first basic computer skill needed. Sometimes it can be difficult to teach something. Let the online teacher do the work for you. For example, if you struggle with fractions, there may be a game out there that can help you both learn at the same time.


Different Teaching Methods

In school, different teachers have different teaching methods that some children just cannot learn from. The beauty of homeschooling is that you can constantly evolve your teaching method to suit your child. They won’t go through their whole schooling time with just one method of learning. As they age through teenage years, it’s likely to change.

This is where schools falls short, they don’t adapt. The adaptation you give is what will be able to enrich your child’s mind constantly. You know them better than anyone else. You’ll be able to see if what you’re saying is sinking in, or whether they’re paying any attention at all. Talk to them often to find out what you can do to improve.


Choose curriculum

Having to study a subject you don’t even like can be less than enriching. The lack of interest will lead to lack of attention straight away. The beauty of homeschooling is that you can choose the curriculum depending on what your child wishes to study.

You’ll obviously have to study the basics such as math and English, but the rest can be up to you and your child. As they get older, you’ll be able to tailor the curriculum more to the career they wish to head to, rather than what a school would want to study.

Homeschooling is ultimately one of the best ways to enrich a child’s mind. The freedom, the comfort, and the tailored curriculum are exactly what children need to learn.

Copenhangen, Denmark

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A few days ago, I was talking to an American public school teacher and he asked me where we went on our trip to Europe. I replied, “Sweden and Denmark.” He asked me, “And is Denmark in Germany?”

Father and children in restaurant

Waiting for our dinner in a Nyhavn restaurant

Stunned but trying hard not to show it, I said, “Denmark is a country north of Germany. It has a peninsula and about 400 islands of its own, one of them being Greenland.” He smiled and we moved on with our conversation. Continue reading »

I don’t want to be too hard on anybody when it comes to geography. I am still learning where Burma is, for instance. Oh, I know Burma is in Asia, but where exactly I could not tell you. However. When it comes to the Western hemisphere, I would expect that Westerners know their countries. That is not the case, apparently. Moving right along…

Nyhavn or restaurant row, Copenhagen

Nyhavn or restaurant row, Copenhagen

When we went to Legoland, Billund in September, we had to go through Copenhagen, the capital city of Denmark. We found an amazing AirBnB location, about two minutes (I am not exaggerating) from the royal residences at Amalienborg.


Walking through Amalienborg was shockingly easy, as security was minimal.

We had about 36 hours to spend in Copenhagen, so no time for museums. We just walked around some of the most famous landmarks, took pictures, and called it a visit.

The kids learned a lot because we interacted with the host in the beginning. Then, with the waiters in different restaurants. We went grocery shopping and the carts were super cute and small – another experience which shows them there are many ways to skin a cat, if you will.

The Little Mermaid

My husband taking pictures of The Little Mermaid, Copenhagen’s most famous landmark.

Everybody speaks impeccable English and everybody is impeccably dressed. Compared to Sweden, Denmark is more chic, more elegant, and more expensive. They also manage to be patriotic while not dogging on America or any other country for that matter. The Danes are an interesting people, let’s leave it at that.

The weather was bad. It rained on and off for the two days we were there. Sometimes it rained so hard, we had to change clothes when we got home. We were drenched despite our rain boots and jackets. It was about 55F but it felt much colder due to the wind and the rain. But, we endured it all in the name of geography and tourism. And we survived to tell the story.