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Reason Five: Different Levels and Styles

There are so many reasons we choose to homeschool. Here we are on the fifth one. I was thinking about this today as I hunted around on the internet for a worksheet for Brother-Bug. I was thinking about this yesterday as I worked with Sister-Bug as she read a BOB Book.


Reason Five: Different Levels and Styles

Brother-Bug was a precocious reader. He came to me at 3 1/2 and said “Mama, I’m not really reading my books.” I asked him what he meant. “Well, I am only looking at the pictures. Not reading the words.” I asked him if he wanted to read the words. He said no. Two months later he was back. “Mama, I am ready to read the words now.” And he did. We got some easy readers, we played on Starfall. I expected him to lose interest in a couple of days. But everyday the first thing out of his mouth was “When is my reading time today?” He drove the project and read Hop On Pop independently before he turned four. By his fifth birthday he was reading things like Magic Treehouse to himself. Sister-Bug is almost five. She wants to be a reader, but it’s not her main priority. So we play sight word games and read some BOB books and use our felt alphabet to spell easy words. She has some reading games on the iPad and also enjoys Starfall. But it’s not easy for her like it was for Brother-Bug. She needs me to keep it fresh and engaging and fun. Brother-Bug needed me to reach the easy readers off the shelf.

As I write this, Toddler-Bug is sitting on my lap. He’s singing Mamma-Mia (ABBA…yes, I know…). He’s very musical and has crazy fine-motor skills. Eventually he is also going to learn to read and he will also learn in a different way. And that’s part of why we are here, homeschooling. Sister-Bug loves working systematically thorough a math workbook. Brother-Bug needs more challenge – he get’s math concepts very quickly and needs those concepts to change and grow and diversify. He gets so bored with a linear book.

Because these are my kids, because I have watched them grow and learn and change from babies, I can make that distinction. Because they are the only 3 kids in my “class”, I can teach each one a different way and follow their lead on what they need and how they learn. And because of this, I believe they are learning deeply and well. They are not struggling to learn in a format that is unnatural for them, which would make that subject doubly challenging.

Additionally, we are not locked into a single grade level. Brother-Bug does 2-3rd grade math, but reads like a 4-5th grader. His writing is around 1st grade (that’s his hardest thing). Sister-Bug is just about on track for K-1st, but she’s still mostly playing in her school work and we don’t pay too much attention to her grade levels. No one is bored in an too easy class or frustrated in a too hard subject because I can adjust our lessons and experiences to fit in that niche of just challenging enough. I can pull us down a level if we are getting so frustrated we can’t learn or add complexity if we are feeling bored. I can add tactile elements for my SPD kid, or do all StarWars writing all the time to engage my StarWars obsessed child. It’s my choice, and their education, and I am so glad that we have the time and flexibility to reach each child in their time, and on their level.


Want to see our other reasons to homeschool?

Reason One: A Hot Cup of Tea

Reason Two: School Scheduled Around Life

Reason Three: Play Happens

Reason Four: Getting Out or Staying In


Recipe: Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes

It’s so busy. And, honestly, my desire to write has been faltering recently. Posts and articles aren’t popping into my head like they usually do. So it’s been quiet around here. But I’m pulling it back together and digging through the drafts and making a brainstorm list of new content and who knows what else.

This recipe is almost a year old now. I made these Gluten Free Cupcakes for Sister-Bug’s “Pinkaliscious” birthday party last March.

I’ve been playing around with different flour mixes when I bake gluten-free. I hit on a mix that I used in cupcakes that was just perfect. Papa-Bug, who is notoriously picky about gluten-free baking, couldn’t tell that these cupcakes were anything other than normal. Everyone munched them up.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes

I used the Chocolate Layer Cake recipe on page 724 of Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” as a guide.

Flour Mix:

3/4 cup rice flour
1/2 cup millet flour
1/4 cup each tapioca and cornstarch

8 tbl. soft, unsalted butter

3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, roughtly chopped

1 cup sugar

3 eggs separated

1 tsp. vanilla

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 tsp xanthan gum

1 1/4 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350* and prepare your cupcake liners/pans.

Melt the chocolate over low heat in a double boiler. Remove from the heat when it is almost melted and stir until it’s all smooth.

Cream the butter until fluffy, add the sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla and keep whipping it while slowly adding the chocolate.

Mix together the flour mix, baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum in a separate bowl. Add to the butter/sugar a little at a time, alternating with the milk. Stir until just mixed and smooth.

Whip egg whites to soft peaks and fold in carefully – taking your time!) after mixing everything else.

Baked 25-30 min. until the toothpick came out clean. Let stand for 5 minutes and cool on a wire rack.

No one will know these are gluten-free.


I’ll probably use a similar recipe for Sister-Bug’s upcoming 5th birthday party. She’s going to see Cinderella with her besties, so I get to do the requisite bowl cake with a doll for a Cinderella themed cake. Just like my mom did for me once upon a time.


Cozy Jar Wraparound (A Knitting Pattern)

I re-discovered knitting this year AND I finally learned how to crochet. I made more than a dozen hats for various people to give as Holiday presents. I frogged a sweater I made ages ago that I never really liked and I am going to cast a new sweater on soon…To celebrate the New Year I think. First I’ll knit one more hat for a friend who just started chemo and wants a Wolf hat.

It’s just the right thing for me right now. Meditative, productive, calming, and portable. I’ve made up 2 patterns in the last month. I’d never made up a knitting pattern before! Nothing tricky, but we have to start somewhere, right?

So I offer to you, as a late Holiday gift, one of the patterns I made up. It’s just a simple cozy for a drinking jar. These took me less than an hour to knit (both together!) and I love the way they look. photo 1 photo 2 photo 3

Cozy Jar Wraparound

Very basic cozy for a wide-mouth pint canning jar. Knitted with Lion Homespun yarn in the pictures, but anything that will get about 3 stitches to an inch on size 10 needles will work.

The holder has 2 rows of K1/P1 ribbing on top and bottom and 3 columns of seed stitch up each side. The main part is knitted in Stockinette and there are 2 buttonholes on one side.

Cast on 36.

Row 1: K1 P1 all the way across.

Row 2: P1 K1 P1 (P1 K1* to last 3 st.) K1 P1 K1

Row 3: K1 P1 K1 (Knit (30) to last 3 st. P1 K1 P1

Row 4: P1 K1 P1 (Purl (30) to last 3 st.) K1 P1 K1

Row 5: K1 P1 K1, Bind off 3 st., purl to last 3 st. (27), P1 K1 P1

Row 6: P1 K1 P1, Cast on 3 st., knit to last 3 st. (27), K1 P1 K1

Row 7-10: Repeat rows 3 & 4 twice.

Rows 11-12: Repeat rows 5 & 6.

Row 13: Repeat row 1.

Row 14: Repeat row 2

Bind off. Sew 2 1” buttons on the button side and weave in your ends.

photo 4

I graphed it out so that I could make sure I typed out each row correctly. Xs are knits around the edge.

photo 5

That’s it. Simple, but I am pleased with building my skills and expanding my hobby. What new skills have you learned in the last year? What are some of your favorite hobbies?

DIY Flag Ornaments

I love the way our ornament collection grows, full of memory. The wobbly salt dough ornaments from various childhoods, the bugs we painted with glitter one year (Brother-Bug has a millipede ornament), first ornaments of the kids, the angel ornament that adorned the top my our first mutual tree some 11 years ago – so small a tree (table top rosemary) that this angel ornament was almost too big. My childhood ornaments, Papa-Bug's childhood ornaments. It's precious.

This year I ended up with extra glass globes – empty and waiting. They came in a six pack and I only needed two. So I started looking around online. I found this lovely silhouette idea…

Nativity Silhouette Ornaments

But I wanted something to save This Year.

As you know, we are studying global cultures (and really enjoying it). So flags, I thought. Something fun and special just for us. Something to remind us of this year of travel from home and study of things abroad.

I found flag pictures online, tweaked them in Photoshop a bit, and printed them on vellum. Then following the tutorial I stuck them to acetate and put them in the globes. Of course we added glitter. We almost always add glitter, especially at Christmastime. Glitter and/or sprinkles.

These look really good from all angles, and especially lovely in front of the tree lights. Because of the fragile ornaments, I did most of the actual work. But the kids picked their own flags and were right there in the way while we made these. All four ornaments took only about 20 minutes total.


Sister-Bug chose Brazil. We studied Brazil in September and October and she loves all things Brazillian right now.

Brother-Bug chose Thailand. He wanted Japan, but the Japanese flag would have looked kind of like just a red dot…so he went for Thailand. We haven't had a Thai unit yet, but my mom and her sweetie have travelled in Thailand a lot, so we love it for that.

I picked Hungary for Toddler-Bug. He was asleep (because I wouldn't do a glass ornament project with an active and wakeful toddler). Papa-Bug has roots in Hungary and it seemed like fun. It was really hard to choose – so many good flags out there.

Finally, for Papa-Bug and me, I went with South Africa. Because Nelson Mandela. And wanting the best global representation I could get in four flags.

So that's our ornament of the year. They are glowing and beautiful on the tree. Another memory preserved to cherish.

And now I must be off. Brother-Bug is performing in our local Nutcracker tonight. I have to get my Little Angel (for that is what he is onstage) fed and rested and ready to go. It's going to be a big night.

Happy Tree Trimming.









FLASH Give Away! Baby Blocks

I am a huge fan of my new nieces. Here is a picture of one being held and loved by Papa-Bug and Toddler-Bug. This toddler loves his wee cousin so much.


Clearly this is something to celebrate. (And you wonder where my other niece is? She’s littler and I don’t have any good pictures of her yet…)

Good Natured block set 2

So I am celebrating by Giving Away some wonderful, handmade fabric blocks. Iris Says makes beautiful baby things and I love supporting a Mom using her creativity to help support her family. Mary Beth, the block creator, is offering up a set of soft blocks and three different taggie blocks for my readers to win!

Roadtrip 1

Full disclosure – I am receiving some blocks from Iris Says for doing this giveaway. I love the Iris Says products and I’d certainly buy them for my babies or nieces or whoever. I’m running the give away through Rafflecopter to keep things fair and balanced (and to give you lots of chances to win!). No one in my immediate family is allowed to enter. I am not receiving anything except the blocks I already mentioned.

Wee Wander 1

Using the Rafflecopter Widget at the bottom of this post you can enter to win any one of four prizes. A set of three soft blocks, or one of three different taggie blocks.

This is a FAST Give Away – it closes day after tomorrow! So don’t hesitate. Click on the Rafflecopter link at the bottom and enter, enter, enter.

Iris Says will get them in the mail to you ASAP, hoping the Holiday Magic works to get your blocks to you in time for Christmas.

Owls 1

So which one is your favorite? The soft blocks? (I LOVE the print on these…but foxes are my favorite.)

Good Natured block set 1The Owls?

Owls 2

The Wee Wanderer?

Wee Wander 2

Or the Road Trip?

Roadtrip 2

You can see more of what Iris Says creates at the Website, Etsy Store, or Facebook Page.

Now to enter! Good luck to everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Recipe: The Christmas Miracle


An accidental drink creation on Christmas Day last year that I saved to share with you this holiday season (and also because I wasn't going to write a recipe post on Christmas!).

I got some really good chai mix in my stocking, because Papa-Bug loves me. Really good. You can order some of the Blue Lotus Chai here. Before you order, let me warn you that it will ruin you for most other chai. It's so darn good. (They don't even know I'm writing this post, so neither of us gets anything out of my spiel for them. I just love that chai…)


This was my drink of choice last Christmas, and I will be indulging again on Christmas morning.

I call it The Christmas Miracle.

Gently warm a mug of eggnog. Mix in some Blue Lotus chai mix to taste. I like mine one the spicy side and always add more than they call for. No need to add any sweetener – the eggnog took care of that. Gently stir in a shot of rum or whiskey (your choice – I prefer rum but I also don't like whiskey at all).

Sip slowly in your pajamas while you watch your kids break their new toys.


And have a Happy Holiday.


Good Deeds Again

Last year we tried out our Good Deeds Calendar for Advent. It was a mixed bag for the kids, but I really liked it. At the very least it helped me keep a focus on extending our bounty and love out into the world.

Good Deeds

Here is the original post, and here are my reflections on our experience.

And here is a list of what Good Deeds we might do:

(Note that there are more than 24 here so that I have some wiggle room if the plans don’t always work out…)

  • Send a loving letter to someone.
  • Draw a picture for a child in the hospital.
  • Buy some pet treats and take them to the animal shelter.
  • Donate canned goods to the postal food drive.
  • Today is The Great Toy Giveaway!!
  • Write a list of 5 things you love about someone you haven’t talked to recently, and mail it to them.
  • Take a hike somewhere beautiful. Bring a bag with you and pick up litter.
  • Bring Papa coffee in bed.
  • Make a batch of fudge or cookies and take it to Pasta Plus (where my mom works).
  • Tell Mama something you like about a local business and have her post it to their FB wall.
  • Give compliments to 3 people today. How many people total is that?
  • Play a game with your sibling that THEY want to play. Let them make the rules.
  • Send a Christmas card to someone in the military.
  • Take flowers to a nursing home.
  • Buy some art supplies at the Dollar Store. Donate the supplies to the children’s ward at the hospital.
  • Go out for steamers. Have Mama pay for the person in line behind us.
  • Visit an elderly person and ask to hear what Christmas was like when they were young. Really listen to their story.
  • Plan a Christmas Movie Party. Pick a movie, plan on pop-corn and cocoa! Invite friends and ask them to bring $3-5 each. We will donate the money to a good cause.
  • Have the Movie Party!! Draw a card for your guests to sign. Send/take the money to the organization you are donating to.
  • Donate some picture books to children who need books. Mama will help you find a good place.
  • Write a Christmas card for your ballet Teacher and your scout Leaders about why they are good teachers. Deliver them at class time with a jar of jam.
  • Take these candy canes with you when you run errands to day. Give one to someone you see who looks like they “need a smile”. (I borrowed this idea from Colleen Kessler – Thanks Colleen!!)
  • Out on errands? Hold the door for people coming behind you.
  • Take a donation of food to the Food For Lane County office.
  • Bake a batch of cookies and take them to the Fire Station near our house. Thank the Firefighters for their service.
  • Leave early for Church. Stop at the Dollar Store and buy some personal care product (toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap…). Leave it in the Occupy Medical donation bin at Church.

I am thinking of getting a Good Deed canister to go next to the calendar and putting money in it. That way they can take the dollars out for a trip to the dollar store and buy their own supplies. They don’t have to rely (as directly) on me to do pay for them. It is their Good Deed Money that does the Good.

What does your family do that is similar?