Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Double Digit Number Recognition Practice

Mercedes has been counting to 100 with her 100 chart for about a year now. But she still struggled with being able to give the correct name for 2 digit numbers. So I created this little game to help her practice. 

I used a table on Microsoft Word to make squares with the numbers 1-100.

Laminated them with clear contact paper.

Cut them out and mixed them up.

Made a little bingo-like card with squares Mercedes can fill with random numbers.

She then says what each number is and removes the little number cards one at a time until the red card is empty. Once the red card is empty I reward her with  piece of candy. :)

We do this a couple times a week and she can now easily recognize her numbers 1-100!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Thanksgiving (2015)

This is the first year I have attempted a real, traditional Thanksgiving dinner for my family. It was such a fun day, and I would never have been able to pull it off without my husband's help, both in the kitchen and keeping the girl entertained for me. 

For breakfast we had pumpkin pie french toast.

We made loaded caramel apples for brunch. 

For lunch, we ate ham and cheese salad with pineapples on the side. It was a nice, healthy, light meal to prep us for dinner!

Ben was incredibly proud of his turkey. It was super flavorful and delicious! 

The girls thought the turkey was AMAZING! Extra awesome since Mercedes is super picky and is practically a vegetarian. 

Our gluten free Thanksgiving dinner turned out so good! We had turkey, mashed potatoes, gluten free McCormick gravy, gluten free stuffing from Aldi and gluten free green bean casserole made with fried onions from Aldi. It was so delicious, and for someone who has had Celiac Disease for 11 years it made me feel so normal to eat the gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, all the things I normally miss out on every year!

My family was very happy with all of this delicious goodness!

Ben and I decided the girls had enough sugar snacking on loaded caramel apples all day, but we definitely feasted on some Pumpkin Lust Cake and wine after they went to sleep!

The girls also made Thank You Trees.

This was Emerald's list of things she is thankful for.

And this is Mercedes' list. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Rainbow Pizza

Mercedes and Emerald got this idea from a Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood episode. They asked me for weeks to let them make a rainbow pizza so we finally did, and it was so fun and really tasty! After putting together a gluten free pizza crust from Aldi, we topped the raw dough with pizza sauce, chicken and cheese. Then we decorated our rainbow! We used tomatoes for red, carrots for orange, yellow peppers for yellow free, spinach for green, purple sweet potatoes and black olives for blue, and purple onions for purple. We also sprinkled spinach at the bottom of our rainbow to look like grass. 

We baked this at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. It was incredibly popular with my 3 year old and picky, picky 5 year old. Win!

For further instructions, check out our rainbow pizza baking tutorial video

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Mercedes' First Grade Curriculum

I cannot keep up with how fast the girls devour their school books. Mercedes started her second year of kindergarten in August, and was done by the end of October. Needing more challenging books for her, I ordered first grade level books from A Beka. Phonics, grammar, math, science, history and health. She is also doing Awana for Bible each day. So far (most days) she is loving these books. The pages are colorful and fun and they keep her interested. She really is learning so much and even brings up things she's learned in health or science in every day situations like she's really applying what she's learning to her real life. I am so blessed to be a part of learning with her every day! These girls make my job so fun.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Pumpkin Painting (Fall 2015)

After visiting the pumpkin patch, the girls and I painted a few of the pumpkins.

As much as I love the baby and toddler phases, I have to admit it's nice to have both hands free and two school age girls with long attention spans so I can get involved in their projects too. The girls got a kick out of my tiny scared pumpkin, pumpkin villain and Super Pumpkin!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread (Gluten Free)

Recently I made the most amazing pumpkin bread I have ever tasted. And then I made another batch a few days later because I kept craving it! The girls love this recipe too, and it's fairly healthy. The recipe I used is called "Skinny Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread", but I tweaked a few things to make it a little less healthy but a lot more delicious...and gluten free! 


1 1/2 cups pureed pumpkin
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce or vanilla yogurt
1 whole egg
3 egg whites
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour (I use an all purpose gluten free flour)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Cream filling:
8 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon all purpose (gluten free) flour
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Beat pumpkin, applesauce, egg and egg whites on medium speed until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Slowly mix the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture.

Cream cheese filling:
Beat the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, egg whites and flour until creamy and smooth.

Grease 2 8x4x2" loaf pans. Divide half of the batter between the two pans. Pour half of the filling in one pan and the other half in the second pan into a smooth, even layer. Top with the remaining batter. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool and remove from pans.

Recipe from: The Recipe Critic

Monday, September 21, 2015

Health Projects and Activities (Alpha and Omega Kindergarten)

It took Mercedes exactly 6 weeks to complete an entire kindergarten health curriculum. Yikes! I am having trouble keeping up with how fast the girls devour knowledge! This was one of her favorite subjects, and part of the reason was that there were so many hands on activities to go along with the lessons. Emerald (age 3) did many of these activities with us and joined us in the daily health discussions.

The girls learned that God designed their bodies beautifully and uniquely. Both girls drew pictures of themselves with their hand prints, and we made these salt dough hand prints and painted them using this recipe.

They learned about families and the girls each drew pictures of our family. Mercedes included our home address and my phone number on hers which is why part of her picture is covered with index cards. :) 

They learned about how their bodies grow starting from when they were tiny babies, and the different ways we can help our bodies grow (nutritious food, exercise, plenty of rest, etc.) I showed the girls the outfit they wore on the way home from the hospital on the day they were born so they could see how much they've grown since then.

They also measured each other.

They learned about dental hygiene and how and why baby teeth fall out.

Throughout the book we put together a health train. Once complete it showed all the ways to stay healthy, including: Exercise, eat right, dress right, get plenty of rest, keep clean, go to the doctor and the dentist for check ups, and stay away from fire, strangers, cars in the road, cigarettes, medicine (unless given by a parent or doctor), and toxins like cleaning supplies. This curriculum also talked about fire safety, who to call during an emergency, stranger danger, and car safety (seat belts, look both ways before crossing the street, etc.) 

The girls flew through this book and Mercedes will be starting 1st grade health in January (curriculum to be determined).

Kindergarten Science Crafts (Christian Liberty Press)

Well, it took Mercedes exactly 6 weeks to complete an entire kindergarten science book. This is her second kindergarten science curriculum she has completed and she just turned five 2 months ago. I am in trouble with these girls. I can hardly keep up with how quickly they devour knowledge! In addition to reading the textbook, discussing the question and and answer section at the end of each unit and doing the little activities in the book (coloring, connect the dots, color by number, etc.) we also did a couple of extra activities to go along with the 7 days of creation units.

We went on a leaf hunt and did some crayon rubbings.

We also tried flowers instead of leaves and those turned out really cool!

We made leaf and flower collages with clear contact paper.

And we checked out a couple books from the library about constellations and studies them.

After a year of My Father's World Kindergarten science and finishing Christian Liberty Press Kindergarten science so quickly, Mercedes will be starting 1st grade science in January! Curriculum yet to be decided.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Chore Charts (2015)

At the beginning of the school year we implemented a new discipline system. This is partly because Ben and I thought the girls are old enough to have designated jobs and tasks each day, and also because Ben has been spoiling them rotten buying them toys all summer and we thought an allowance would be a good way to teach the girls about saving for the things they want and about working hard and earning money on their own instead of begging Daddy for toys every time we go to Target.

I made a list of 10 tasks the girls are responsible for each day. When each one is completed, I put an X next to it (I laminated these with clear contact paper and use a dry erase marker). Each X is worth 1 marble. Each marble is worth $0.10. So they have the opportunity to earn $1 a day. The tricky part is that they also have a chance to earn demerits. Demerits are earned by hurting hearts (hurting someone's feelings with unkind words or actions), hurting bodies, disobeying mom or dad, whining excessively, throwing tantrums or lying. Basically all of the things the girls struggle with on a daily basis. I put a tally mark next to whatever action they did to earn their demerit, and for each tally mark they lose one marble. At the end of every day, Ben counts their X's and puts them in a jar. Then he counts their demerits and takes those marbles out. This way the girls can visualize how much they have earned. Every weekend they exchange their marbles for actual money and have the choice to either save it or buy a toy. They usually earn $4-$6 a week. 

The girls take this system very seriously. They never EVER complain when I remind them to do a task and they HATE getting demerits. Sometimes I have to give Emerald a demerit for throwing a tantrum because I gave her a demerit. And sometimes I have to give her a demerit for trying to be sneaky and erasing her demerits. For every phase we're in, I have to come up with a new discipline technique that encourages good behavior and cooperation and discourages unacceptable behavior. For right now this is working amazing. I am pleasantly surprised with how effective it is and how much the girls LOVE it. They are so proud of themselves on the days they get no demerits and they love showing Daddy their charts when he gets home. This is also a good way to keep Ben involved in discipline because when they have a lot of demerits we have to tell Daddy why and he has a little talk with them and they never want to disappoint Daddy so this alone is a very good motivation for them to avoid demerits. 

This is what their charts look like on a typical day. All their X's filled or missing just one or two. And anywhere between 0-6 demerits. Their goal is no demerits because completing all chores + no demerits = an extra X! They get 0 demerits and 10 X's usually 2 or 3 times a week. On a normal day they get 1-3 demerits. They are good kids but not perfect by any means! We all love this system. And now when the girls buy toys they feel amazing knowing they worked so hard for them!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Emerald's Preschool Activity Book

Emerald is loving this Preschool Activity Book by Christian Liberty Press. It covers letter recognition and their sounds, numbers 1-10 recognition and counting, shapes and colors. There is also a lot of handwriting practice. She easily does 4 pages every day in one sitting and sometimes she does 5 or 6 just because she feels like it. She is very motivated and excited to do school every day. It's so fun to watch her love to learn! 

I also love how she can spell and write her name on her own. Preschool handwriting is so adorable, and I think she does a pretty good job for just turning 3 a couple months ago!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Science, Health and Social Studies (Mercedes' Kindergarten)

We are a couple weeks into the school year and so far we are loving it! Mercedes, who just turned 5, is starting her second year of kindergarten. Last fall when she turned 4, we did My Father's World Kindergarten. I highly recommend it for all of it's Bible, science and hands on learning. It's a great way to introduce homeschool to your children because it really makes them excited to learn. Every day and every activity is so much fun! It also introduces letters and their sounds and very basic reading skills and has a math lesson about once a week. I didn't feel confident that Mercedes had gotten enough reading and math to start first grade so this summer we have been going through kindergarten level phonic and math books by Christian Liberty Press, which are much more advanced than anything she did in My Father's World. She is about halfway done with both and will finish probably sometime in November or December. 

She also reads three kindergarten level readers every day. She is starting Awana in September and we will be going through the workbook and doing lots of memorizing for Bible, as well as reading stories from the girls' preschool Bible every day. I also ordered her a science, social studies and health book, all of which she will be done with by November or December. We are all set to start first grade this January! I am much less concerned with their ages and what grade they are suppose to be in than I am about keeping them challenged and excited to learn. Both girls have a passion for learning and beg for more constantly it's hard to keep up with them! 

The Science book is by Christian Liberty Press. It has a unit for each of the 7 Days of Creation and discusses the different things God made on each day. There are little activities, projects and experiments throughout the book as well as coloring pages and little quizzes and discussion questions at the end of each unit. Mercedes is having a lot of fun with it! The only complaint I have is that it's only 92 pages and she is flying through it (already on page 32 after 2 weeks of school) so it is definitely not something you could use for an entire year of school. For us it works great because even if she finishes it by October we will be starting a new one in January.

Social studies by A Beka is Mercedes' favorite subject this year. The lessons are about our community (our family, our town, how to be a responsible citizen and different "helpers" in our community like firemen, police officers, doctors, postal employees, teachers, etc). It teaches about safety rules (fire safety, how to dial 911, stranger danger, learning address and phone number, wearing a seat belt, how to keep our bodies and teeth healthy, etc) Our country (it's leaders, our flag, and geography) and other countries and cultures all around the world! There are lots of coloring pages and topics for discussion. 

Both girls really enjoy Health by Alpha Omega (Horizons Publishing). Mostly I teach out of the teachers' book, which has a topic for discussion each day. There are lots of ideas for games, activities, puppet shows, discussion questions, crafts, etc. to go with each lesson so I have been using some of those and coming up with some of my own. This book covers lessons on emotions, family, getting along with friends and how to be a good friend, the 5 senses, things we can do to keep our body healthy, safety rules and preventing health problems. It also comes with a workbook and there are assignments in it that go along with some of the lessons. 

Both girls also watch a Signing Time video each day to learn American Sign Language! 

With 7 subjects we stay pretty busy these days! I let Mercedes decide how much she wants to do in each subject each day and more often than not she wants to keep going long after I've planned for her to stop. I am hopeful that this school year is going to be a great one. We are off to a perfect start! 

Tracing Letters

Emerald has become very interested in writing letters over the summer. She didn't like tracing letters in workbooks with dotted or gray lines because she is a perfectionist and she couldn't make the lines perfectly straight. So I printed her out these sheets of letter outlines for her to practice. This way she had more room for error and still be able to stay inside the lines and not get frustrated, all while learning the correct way to write each letter. She begged for these every day and they kept her occupied while I did reading and math with Mercedes.

Emerald practiced so much this summer she can now easily trace letters in her preschool workbook and write her own name without help!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Lily Pads (Spinach Pancakes)

For those of you who have children (or husbands) who are anti-veggies, this is a delicious way to hide spinach! Mercedes (my picky eater) adores them. When I tell her I'm going to make them she actually starts jumping up and down yelling "YAY!" She eats them with ketchup. My husband eats them with ranch dressing. I think they taste wonderful just as they are. Last night I made them for dinner with a side of bacon. 

2 cups of packed fresh spinach
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour (we use gluten free flour)
1/2 cup milk
slices of cheese (I cut the cheese with a circle cookie cutter so they look more fun for the girls)

Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender until it is completely liquefied and the consistency of pancake batter (it is sometimes necessary to add a bit of extra milk). Heat a frying pan over medium low heat and brush lightly with butter. Drizzle batter onto the pan in circles about 2 inches in diameter. Cook 1 minute or until the edges turn dull. Flip each lily pad and top with cheese. Cook an additional 30 seconds or until cheese melts.

Basically cook them as you would pancakes.

This amount serves the 4 of us (2 adults, 2 kids). I like to double the recipe and store half the batter in the fridge for lunch the next day. 

This recipe is from the Sesame Street Silly Snacks cookbook. This book has lots of delicious and healthy kid friendly recipes. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Homeschool Routine and Lesson Plans (Fall 2015)

 Last week we started a new semester of homeschooling. Mercedes started her second year of kindergarten. Emerald started her second year of preschool. It's really important for us to have a structured schedule and routine to follow. The girls behave much better when they know what's expected of them and what's coming next. They like the consistency and having things to look forward to every day. 5 days a week, this is what our day looks like.

I made sure to only schedule 30 minutes of sit down school time at a time for each girl to give their brains a break. With the exception of Mercedes' reading time because sometimes she gets overwhelmed and needs a few 5 minute breaks during her reading time to help her concentrate. That's why I scheduled an hour of phonics and reading for her. I also basically switched 30 minutes on 30 minutes off for each girl so they would both be getting my one on one attention throughout the day and nobody would get too bored or lonely. Emerald has actually been sitting in on most of Mercedes' reading, health and social studies lessons and participating in the science projects and activities so they really both have fun, get plenty of attention from me and learn a ton every single day! They have been extra happy and cooperative since starting school.  They are loving all the structured learning and scheduled mommy time!

In between scheduled school time and activities, the girls play on their phones (we've got lots of educational apps for them on their phones!) or they play toys (their favorites right now are Barbies and Disney Princess Magiclip dolls!) Since they are getting so much one on one attention from me during school, they have been much better about playing independently and even sleeping independently! As of two weeks ago this is the first phase in 5 years that neither of the girls has needed cosleeping. 

I also made a plan for our evenings and weekends. It includes a family game night, a family date night (toy store, movie theaters, frozen yogurt or ice cream, etc), and a mommy daddy date night while the girls are at Awana. I do this to make sure we don't get into a TV watching rut in the evenings and we are getting plenty of family time once Daddy comes home every night. The girls also joined Dazzlers Christian Dance team so they will be attending classes two nights a week as well as attending Awana at church once a week (I chose not to post a photo of this schedule as it includes exactly what day, time and location we will be at each activity throughout the week). 

Lastly, I wrote out a daily lesson plan for the girls to follow so they know how much work they are expected to do in each subject each day. In each subject, I divided how many pages are in each book by the number of days in the school year to figure out how many pages a day the girls would need to do in order to finish each book by the end of the year. 

The girls and I are all very excited about this school year and are having so much fun! Our days go by fast with so many things scheduled for us to do and so far both girls have been cooperative and enthusiastic about their school work. I try to make learning fun for them and incorporate plenty of games, projects, crafts, experiments and hands on learning opportunities to supplement their book work. We are still fairly new at homeschooling but we are loving every minute of it so far!