2017 Advent plans

Here are our 2017 plans for Advent ~ my goal is to have one (sometimes more) seasonal activity to do each day, starting right after Thanksgiving. My aim with all of this is not to check boxes, but to make sure we are noticing and enjoying the season each day. Naturally, we will have days where the chosen activity just doesn’t happen, or has to be rescheduled, and that is okay! Even though it rarely happens just as laid out, I still love going into the season with a plan and any necessary supplies at the ready.

  • November 24th ~ Put together our gratitude chain and hang it up; start making a centerpiece for our dining table to include our Advent candle ~ I’ll share a photo once we have it together!
  • November 25th ~ Get out the Christmas CD’s and start playing them around the house and car
  • November 26th ~ Go see a local production of A Christmas Carol
  • November 27th ~ Set up the Christmas book basket
  • November 28th ~ Plant amaryllis bulbs to bloom around, or shortly after, Christmas time
  • November 29th ~ Watch the Rockefeller tree lighting on NBC tonight
  • November 30th ~ Take down any remaining Thanksgiving decorations
  • December 1st ~ Start chocolate and Lego Advent calendars; start reading Christmas picture books with Rose each day; make jam thumbprint cookies
  • December 2nd & 3rd ~ This is a busy dance weekend, but I hope to get a Christmas tree, put it up, and start decorating the house. We’ll also plan to have cranberry-orange pancakes one morning for breakfast and light our first Advent candle on the 3rd!
  • December 4th ~ Decorate a tree for the sunporch
  • December 5th ~ Set out shoes for St. Nicholas morning; make cherry cookies
  • December 6th ~ Happy St. Nicholas Day! We started celebrating this day years ago when doing a “Christmas Around the World” unit study and it stuck with us. The kids will find a few treats and surprises tucked inside their sneakers this morning.
  • December 10th ~ Light the second Advent candle; have eggnog pancakes for dinner (because it’s a horse show day and there won’t be time at breakfast!); hopefully make gingerbread houses
  • December 11thOrder calendars for the new year; the kids each pick one, but when they come I put them away until New Year’s Day)
  • December 12thDo the Christmas cards & mail them out
  • December 13th ~ A day off from Christmas preparations to celebrate Grace’s 17th birthday!
  • December 14thPeppermint Day! We plan to make peppermint cookies, peppermint bark, homemade marshmallows, and hot chocolate. Then, we’ll spend the afternoon watching a Christmas movie if we can and go see a local lights display
  • December 15thMake eggcup topiaries – a little piece of floral foam in the bottom of an eggcup can hold little holly and pine springs, or any other found greenery
  • December 16thBake fruitcake (I love the fruitcake kit from King Arthur Flour)
  • December 17th ~ Light the third Advent candle; have gingerbread pancakes for dinner (another horse show morning!)
  • December 18th ~ Go gift shopping for the pets
  • December 19thField Trip Zoom’s Christmas Traditions program; leave a gift out for our mail carrier
  • December 21st ~ Happy winter solstice! Make birdseed ornaments and drive around to look at Christmas lights
  • December 22ndMake pomanders with whole cloves and oranges
  • December 23rd ~ Set aside the day to watch Christmas movies and wrap gifts; catch up on any activities we didn’t get to
  • December 24thChristmas Eve ~ Prep a nice breakfast for tomorrow; bake & decorate sugar cookies; order Chinese food for dinner; kids get new pjs before bed:); light the 4th Advent candle
  • December 25th ~ Merry Christmas!
  • December 26th ~ Boxing Day ~ We hide a small gift box in the house for each kiddo to find. Inside: a big chocolate marshmallow, a package of special hot chocolate mix, and a small surprise
  • December 27th-30th ~ Spend time planning some fun food and activities for New Year’s Eve, and generally just try to relax as much as possible 
  • December 31st ~ New Year’s Eve ~ We’ll do a big appetizer spread and watch a movie or two, decorate “champagne” glasses, make a banner to welcome the new year, and countdown to midnight by popping one balloon each hour. This year, Rose is dancing in a local New Year’s event, so we’ll squeeze in our usual traditions around that
  • January 1st ~ Happy New Year! Everyone gets their new calendar today to hang in their bedroom (I like to wrap them up & put them at their place at breakfast) and we always eat red beans and rice, collard greens, and black-eyed peas (all supposed to bring good luck for the new year).
We’ll be trying to keep to a regular homeschool schedule until the week of December 18th ~ with our Christmas activity always taking priority each day. Then, from the 18th through New Year’s we’ll be on break. I hope to pop in often during Advent to share photos and thoughts about all of our doings. 

November Memory Making

In keeping with my resolution to be more thoughtful and organized when it comes to celebrating the seasons… here are some plans and random thoughts for November (updated from last year).

Special Dates to Celebrate
*November 1st ~ Begin gratitude project*
Each November, our family makes a gratitude chain.  You can read more about that here.  I absolutely love this little tradition and how it forces us all to slow down, at least for a minute, to record something we felt grateful for that day. Even if it’s just bedtime! And there are many, many days I am grateful for bedtime.
*November 5th ~ Daylight Savings Time Ends*
Perhaps not something to exactly celebrate, but something to notice anyway. It will be lighter in the morning than it has been, so hopefully I will be able to coax myself out of bed! On the flipside, it will get dark earlier, which means lots of driving home in the dark.
*November 4th ~ The Full Beaver Moon*
It’s always nice to notice when the moon is full!
*November 23th ~ Thanksgiving*

Thanksgiving! The plan is to cook, watch the Macy’s parade, eat, play games, and maybe sneak in a Christmas movie. I also have a few crafts and other fun things lined up to hopefully complete in the weeks before ~ links below. And Rose and I try to read a Thanksgiving book or two each day in the weeks prior. A few of our favorite books are listed here. I also ordered a new book for this year ~ Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving. Not mentioned in the older post is a favorite from last year: Balloons Over Broadway.
*November 29th ~ Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting*

We have never watched this on television before, but I plan to this year because Rose has been interested in it ever since we read The Carpenter’s Gift last Christmas.

Things to Notice & To-Do this Month
  • Ease into the shorter, darker days ~ it’s definitely time for candles at dinner!
  • Take a photo for the Christmas cards and order them. Get Christmas stamps too.
  • Stock up on cranberries. Use them to make cranberry sauce and cranberry bread (my all-time favorite recipe is the one in the back of Cranberry Thanksgiving)
  • Start having “oatmeal mornings”. Typically, one morning a week we cook a big batch of plain oatmeal, then set out toppings (chocolate chips, raisins, coconut, cinnamon, maple syrup) for the kids to decorate their own
  • Put the bird feeders up
  • Drink hot cider
  • Make pies ~ especially chocolate cream, my favorite for Thanksgiving
  • Watch for ice on ponds (or puddles)
  • Stock up on tea
  • Decorate for Thanksgiving (after taking down the Halloween decorations)
  • Stock up on handcream
  • Plan the Thanksgiving menu, and try to prep as much as possible ahead
  • Make Advent plans
  • Get as much Christmas shopping done as possible!
  • Purchase new throw blankets – we never seem to have enough of these
  • Enjoy the last foliage – brassy oaks and bright scarlet Japanese maples
  • Purchase Advent calendars for the kids
  • Check on everyone’s winter gear (coats, shoes, hats, snowpants, boots)
  • Make placecards for Thanksgiving day
Crafts and Treats to Make
A few fun turkey-themed things I’d love to do with the kids this month

As usual, I seriously doubt we will get to all of this, we’ll just do what we can as time and interest allows…

Happy November!

Book Pile ~ Spooky Reading

Lately we have had trouble getting to the library on a regular basis. I miss the days when a weekly library trip was part of the regular routine! We still go when we can, but we’re lucky to make it once every month or two. I am hoping we will be able to make library trips a priority in the near future, but for now I am planning to pick up a few new books each month to have on hand. I don’t normally buy many books outside of “school” books, but I had so much fun picking these out that I am determined to make it a tradition, every few weeks or so. It’s amazing how much fun a stack of shiny new books is!
Here are my picks for October….all spooky books!
  • Demon Dentist – This one has been on my list ever since I heard the author compared to Roald Dahl. James has volunteered to preview it and let me know if it’s too scary for his younger sister.
  • The Witch Family – This one is for Rose (9) – she has already read it and told me it was “awesome”.
  • Through the Woods – A very spooky graphic novel… James (12) read it in one day and said it’s pretty scary. I would definitely not recommend this title to anyone under 12, having read one of the stories myself!
  • It – This one is for me.  I remember reading it as a young teen (my parents weren’t too big on policing our reading!) and I have always wanted to re-read it. Usually around this time of year I read The Haunting of Hill House, which is my all-time favorite ghost story, but this year I decided to switch things up.

So that’s our “fun” book pile for October!

October Memory Making

Some fun things to notice and do this month…I’m a bit late with this, so we’ve already done some of the things, but we have a lot more to look forward to. October and November are my favorite months of the year!

Special Dates to Celebrate

*October 5th ~ The Full Harvest Moon*
There is just something so special about that October full moon, and I always make a point of noticing it and trying to point it out to the kids. 
*October 31st ~ Halloween*

Our Halloween traditions are changing a bit as the kids get older, but we still have one trick-or-treater this year, which I am grateful for! The older three enjoy handing out candy and I gift them with a little treat basket of their own when we are done making the rounds. I like to plan a fun activity or two for this day and keep it light school-wise. This year, we plan to make monster slime and spooky lava lamps. I like to have something Halloween-themed for dinner on the big night ~ this year I am thinking about spider pizza. On the Sunday after Halloween, we make monster pancakes (pancakes decorated with candy faces) to use up some of that candy.

Things to Notice & Do This Month
  • Dry cornstalks in fields along the roads ~ with so many crows 
  • Pumpkins everywhere 
  • Chrysanthemums for the front porch, to go with the pumpkins
  • Stock up on cranberries when they appear at the grocery store
  • Watch for the first birds to return ~ although we can’t hang the feeders till well into next month due to bears!
  • Watch for woolly bear caterpillars
  • Enjoy the foliage
  • Watch for that first frost 
  • Pumpkin everything ~ especially quick bread and muffins
  • Go apple picking and make an apple crisp
  • Make Halloween treats all month long ~ my picks for this month are linked below!
  • Make caramel apples 
  • Switch to flannel sheets on the beds
  • Get the fall clothes out; pack summer outfits away
  • Put up storm windows and doors
  • Rake
  • Get out the Halloween books
  • Start Christmas shopping
  • Purchase & stack firewood
  • Watch Halloween-ish movies, like The Addams Family, It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, and Hotel Transylvania
  • Carve pumpkins
  • Go trick or treating
  • Make pumpkin croissants ~ we made this recipe last week and they were fabulous! 
Crafts and Treats to Make
A few things I’d love to do with the kids this month
I probably won’t get around to doing all of these things, but we’ll have fun trying… Happy October!

Homeschool Summer Reading List

Row of Books in Shelf

It’s summer! I am excited to actually have time built into our schedule to make it to the library. During this past school year, library trips just didn’t happen often enough. But this summer we have some convenient gaps in our schedule between picking up one kiddo and dropping off another….so I am planning a weekly library day! That means a library list is in order.

My own summer reading list includes some just for fun books. I read Wolf Hall during our recent vacation and was pretty excited to learn there was a sequel. And I loved the first Grantchester book so I definitely want to read the next two of those.  Middlemarch is one I have had sitting on my nightstand for months.

I also have some books I am reading in order to be able to discuss them with Grace next fall. She will be continuing to read through Sonlight’s Core 300 (secular-friendly books only). She will be starting off on week 12 with that Core next fall. I have found that reading the same books makes all the difference in being able to discuss. I can’t read all of the kids books, obviously, so I am focusing on high school literature. Christopher is officially a high schooler next fall too, but thankfully I have already read most of what he will read.

I also want to read some books about homeschooling or learning ~ for inspiration….

Next up I have a list of books to search out for the kids or suggest to them if they are stuck ~ some elementary/early middle grade for my youngers…

Some later middle grade/young-adult titles for my olders….

Rose just started reading the Story Thieves series and she absolutely adores it. She literally sighs as she reads and tells me it is “the best book ever!”. I know the kids won’t necessarily like all (or even most) of my suggestions, but I think we’re off to a good start. I’d love additional summer reading suggestions if you have any!

Thanks for stopping by!

Homeschool Summer Fun Kit

I still haven’t finished my homeschool planning for next year, but I have switched gears for a bit.   The weather has been hot and summery and we are wrapping up our school year. So it’s time to make some fun summer plans!

I love making a giant list of things I want to do with the kids over the summer. However… I have to reign myself in a bit, because our summer is super busy with sports. We don’t have a lot of lazy summer days around here anymore. And we don’t have much time to do awesome summer field trips, as much as I’d like to. So, my kit is focused on things we can do at home.  I had so much fun putting this together!

Here’s what I am going to include:

 Big bubbles ~ Because these just look really, really cool….

Prodigy Math ~ I signed Rose up for a free account and she adores it! I wanted an easy, painless way for her to review math over the summer and this math-masquerading-as-video-game is right up her alley. James will get an account just as soon as he finishes his math. My older two will continue to work on their Teaching Textbooks levels throughout the summer.

Match a Pair of Birds ~ My kids still love memory games, but our original memory game is getting too well-loved. All the various dings and stains make it a bit easy to “remember” where the cards are. A new challenge is in order.

      Food Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of Our Edible World ~ My kids loved talking food and cooking food, so I think this will be a popular read.

      I chose a few mind-challenging games too, namely….Set, Spot It, and Mastermind.

      State birds & flowers puzzle ~ I try to get a new 1000 piece puzzle each summer. We keep one set up on the sunporch for anyone to work on when the urge strikes. I often choose one that sneaks some learning in, because I’m like that. I especially love the puzzles made by White Mountain because they have gorgeous detail.

      Meatless Cookbook ~ My girls want to eat mostly vegetarian – for the summer at least.  A new cookbook to inspire us all is in order, but I have found that my kids really only enjoy reading cookbooks with tons of pictures. Hopefully this one will fit the bill. 

      Klutz Lego Chain Reactions Kit ~ We have so many Legos in our house! But my kids seem to be losing interest in them lately. I am hoping this book/kit combo will reignite that building spark. 

      Liberty Kids ~ I have heard so much about this series over the years, but for some reason we’ve never watched it. Next year, Rose and I are going to be reading though BookShark’s American History, so I thought this would be a fun little intro for us.

       Naturally, we have other resources and things lying around for the kids to do this summer. But sometimes it is just nice to bring in a new batch of things to inspire everyone. I definitely could have added more to this list, but I wanted to keep it (fairly) inexpensive. In addition to all of the above, there will be lots of books. We have had a hard time making it to the library this school year, but summer will be easier in that regard. I am planning to put together a list of books I want to have on hand for the kids to read over the summer, and that list will hopefully be the topic of an upcoming post.

        Thanks for stopping by!

      April Memory Making

      In keeping with my resolution to be more thoughtful and organized when it comes to celebrating the seasons… here are some plans and random thoughts for April…the first month that really feels like spring around these parts! This is an update of last year’s post.

      Special Dates to Celebrate

      *April 1st ~ April Fool’s Day*

      The kids like to come up with a trick or two to play on their Dad, and he and I come up with a trick or two to play on them. We always have meatloaf “sundaes” for dinner (meatloaf “brownies” baked in a muffin tin topped with mashed potato “ice cream” and cherry tomato “cherries”. Dessert is usually “fried eggs” – a mound of whipped cream topped with a peach half. 
      *The Full Pink Moon ~ April 11th*

      It’s always nice to notice when the moon is full!
      *Easter ~ April 16th*

      I really love when Easter is in April! We have a few fun traditions. I like to come up with a craft or two to do the week before. This year, I want to make little nests and sock rabbits with the kids. We start our “living Easter baskets” two weeks before by planting grass seed in colorful tubs ~ these later serve as Easter baskets. We color eggs, make hot cross buns, and watch Hop on Easter Eve. We do an egg hunt indoors and out on Easter morning, eat hot cross buns and boiled eggs for breakfast, and the kids each get a basket with candy and a few fun surprises. Then we usually spend the rest of the day visiting with family, and being outdoors if possible. 
      * The Boston Marathon ~ April 17th*

      We always have a light day of school to watch the Marathon. We keep the television on for the whole thing, and the kids filter in and out to check on the progress of the race. They also do some of their work in front of the television – a special treat. And I am hoping to make a Boston cream pie poke cake to celebrate the occasion. 

      *Arbor Day ~ April 28th*
       I plan to celebrate Arbor Day Mrs. Sharp-style – one weekend day before or after will be designated for yard clean-up. Everyone that needs them will get a new pair of gardening gloves and help tidy the yard. And because I don’t expect this to be terribly exciting to the kids, I am planning to bribe them with the first ice cream outing of the season! Mrs. Sharp also suggests planting something together – we may do that if time allows. 

      Things to Notice and Do This Month
      • The days are getting warmer! I love doing schoolwork outside when possible
      • Stock up on Easter basket supplies
      • Buy an Easter lily for the dining table
      • Enjoy the rain
      • Listen for spring peepers in the evening
      • Continue planning for next year’s homeschooling
      • Start wrapping up some of this year’s subjects
      • Watch for the first butterflies on warm days
      • Clean out the garden
      • The first dandelions appear
      • The grass starts greening up
      • Time to start tick & flea treatments for our furry friends
      • Chives are up in the garden
      • We might have some rhubarb by month’s end
      • Put out outdoor furniture
      • Tune up bikes/put air in tires
      • Go on a spring hike
      • Clean and hang hummingbird feeders
      • Do the taxes!
      • Plant radishes
      • Clean up houseplants – rinse dusty foliage, trim as  necessary
      Happy April!