Back To School and Bannock Recipe

Last year, when my son was two (almost three) years old, I decided to start our adventure into homeschooling. Beginning at this young of an age has given me the practice of routine, scheduling, and also getting to know my son’s learning style all before we enter into the school aged years that will eventually require more depth, focus, and discipline.  We learned how to read an write our alphabet, counting and writing numbers, basic shape and color recognition, and we explored more abstract concepts through various books we read. It was an incredibly enjoyable experience to see my son absorb knowledge, and I was excited when he started to express interest in reading and math toward the end of the year.

After a summer break (which included an amazing vacation), I have been so excited to get into our homeschooling routine again. This year, however, I decided to include a lot more material to meet his interests and abilities. I receive a ton of questions regarding how I’m homeschooling him. Do I use a curriculum? What is my routine? How do I plan? It’s always a little awkward trying to answer those, because truth be told I’m just trying to go with the flow. I’m still sorting through what works best for my son and me, and it takes a lot of trial and error before getting it right.  So far I think we are starting this year off with a good rhythm, and as we get better at the routine of having a designated “school time”, I’m feeling significantly more confident in my abilities for the future.

With regards to curriculum, there are a variety of resources we are using this year:

Five In A Row – Five In A Row is a literature based curriculum that covers a little bit of everything. Each week we have a book that we read together, and various themes and lessons are pulled from the story. The curriculum provides weekly ideas on math, science, literature, geography, and art to create a well rounded curriculum that is very much appropriate for young children. The expectation of Five In A Row is simply to read and converse with your children. It’s nothing fancy and tedious, and it’s effective (at least it has been with my son). There are ideas for extra activities to go along with each book, however, most of the learning is intended to take place via reading and discussion. We use Five In A Row for geography (each book takes place in a different place), science, art, and any other abstract subject presented in the curriculum. For other subjects, particularly reading and math, my son needed/wanted something a little more concrete.

Math U See – As someone who had significant struggles in math, I have come to adore Math U See. It’s manipulative based in that the curriculum uses block pieces (think legos) to physically demonstrate the concepts being taught. I also love how the lessons build on one another. The sequence of learning follows a logical path – introduce, review, practice, master – and the order in which students progress helps solidify their understanding of concepts. At the moment we are using the primer, which has been amazing. We’ve gotten through basic number identification and counting, identifying shapes, and at the moment we are introducing place value. We picked up Math U See toward the end of last year, and this year we are continuing his lessons at the pace he naturally sets for himself. The good thing about the primer is that, unlike the rest of Math U See, it is not meant to provide mastery. It’s simply an easy way to introduce math in preparation for future lessons, so it’s great for younger ages. It’s a significant relief for me to see that my son is forming a love for math, because that was a major stumbling block all through my personal school experience.

Spelling-You-See – Since Math U See has worked so well, I decided to pick up Spelling-You-See to help with reading and writing. It’s a very simple workbook that teaches basic phonics. So far the progress I’ve seen has been absolutely wonderful, and my son learned very quickly how to sound out small words.

Time To Read Hebrew: A very simple workbook series that teaches Hebrew. You are given a few letters at a time, and immediately you begin seeing them used in words (for example, the first letters you learn are shin, bet, and tav…which spell “Shabbat”).  We use the workbook as a guide for progress, but mostly we are working with various games we play with flashcards.

The Bible Story Series by Arthur S. Maxwell – Chances are you’ve seen these books while sitting in a doctor’s office. They are everywhere, and yet most people don’t pay too much attention to them. Yes, they are a little outdated in artistry (think 1950’s or 60’s), however, I am finding these books to be fantastic reads for my son. The main focus I have at the moment with regards to teaching my son the Bible is simply familiarizing the stories. What has worked the absolute best for us has been to follow the model Five In A Row intends – we simply read through the story and discuss. These books are associated with Seventh Day Adventists, though there are very few grand theological pushes within the stories. The thing I absolutely love about this series is the fact that it covers Biblical stories your typical storybook Bibles leave out (for example – we just the other day read a chapter specifically about Enoch, and later on they cover various prophets that are seldom mentioned in storybook bibles).  While I do have to switch up some of the language while I’m reading (again, a few decades outdated), I do find these books to be a great way to introduce my son to the Bible (on top of the children’s Bibles we’ve already been reading).

Our first couple of weeks started out smoothly! Week number one was a lot of short, sweet, and simple activities that got us back in the swing of having a “school” time in the morning. I introduced the theme of Geography, and we spent a lot of time studying the map we now have hanging on our wall. Together we read Flat Stanley, and he even created his own Flat Stanley for The Flat Stanley Project! (Now, I just have to send those out…)

Week number two was a little closer to what I’m aiming for a far as goals and routine. We started Five In A Row with the book The Very Last First Time by Jan Andrews, which introduced us to Canada! More specifically we focused on Inuit culture. We placed our story disk on Ungava Bay, learned about how the Inuit fish beneath large blocks of ice , we studied igloos, and we also listened to Inuit throat singing (it was hilarious watching my son give that a try). We also learned about aurora borealis (northern lights). This provided an awesome opportunity to introduce my son to water colors while we painted pictures of the northern lights!

I also have a goal of bringing the various cultures we learn about into our home through food. I’m hoping that with each location we “visit” in his schoolwork, we try at least one culinary dish from that culture.

Since we were learning about Inuit culture, our food this week was bannock!

Bannock is a type of bread that can be found in a variety of cultures, but is pretty popular among the Inuit. Essentially it is flour that’s been fried in lard or shortening, and can be eaten in a variety of ways. We made ours for breakfast, and included some jam to go along with it. To make it extra delicious, you can sprinkle some powdered sugar on top for a tasty treat (it’s similar to an elephant ear you would find at a fair).

My son loved the stuff, and gobbled down the entire batch before noon. It’s super easy to make, and I will definitely be making it again as a special treat!



2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 cups shortening


In a frying pan on medium heat, heat the shortening.

While you are waiting for the shortening to completely melt, mix together in a separate bowl the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Gradually add water, mixing it well, until you have the consistency of batter.

Drop spoonfuls of the batter into the hot shortening. Once the bottom is golden brown, flip it over once to brown the other side.

There are a variety of ways to serve bannock. As I said, eating it with jam is a tasty breakfast and sprinkling them with powdered sugar makes them a delicious treat. However, you can also eat them with soups and stews!

The Color Box Game

Most parents will tell you that one of the most favored toys in the history of childhood is a cardboard box. You can purchase the most flashy expensive toy on the market, and the box will hands down be the highlight of a child’s experience.

Lucky for us we purchase many of our groceries from Amazon’s subscribe and save store, which is really great in that it makes life significantly easier (and cheaper). I say we’re lucky because we have a toddler in the house, and it leaves us with an…Amazon…of cardboard boxes in the garage. In the back of my mind I’m always considering how I could use our ever growing collection of cardboard, and I’m well aware there are plenty of activities that can utilize those boxes. Everything from forts to pretend vehicles of various sorts, they are certainly the easiest way of keeping my son entertained.

With our latest delivery of Amazon groceries coming in yesterday, I’ve revisited the possibility of using the boxes for a new activity. I’ve also been thinking of new ways to encourage color recognition, as he’s starting to show some understanding in that subject.

And that’s why we now have the color box game in our house.

Cardboard boxes. Practice with color recognition. Gross motor activity. Spacial awareness. It’s a really great game that we spent a full hour playing today (and then another fifteen minutes after nap time).

The set up is pretty simple. To make the die, take a small box and wrap it in white paper (I used the reverse side of wrapping paper). On each side of the die use a marker to make a large colorful dot, with the name of that color written above it.

Find 1 large box for each color. Offering a variety of different shapes and sizes creates a more interesting challenge. Cut off the top flaps of each boxes, and tape down construction paper to the floor of the boxes. Arrange the boxes so that they are all standing beside one another.

The game is simple. Have the child roll the die, and climb into the box matching whatever color it lands on!


Why Homeschool?

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

I went to public school, and for the most part I had a pretty decent time. When my husband and I first started dating soon after I graduated, he offhandedly mentioned the idea of homeschooling future kids. At first I wasn’t particularly thrilled about the idea, having just come out of high school and having a tiny bit of withdrawal. As time passed the idea grew significantly more appealing, and I quickly found myself more attracted to homeschooling.

Unfortunately a scary factor with taking on such a huge responsibility has nothing to do with how I’m going to provide a wholesome education. The challenge I find myself facing has more to do with how society reacts to my child’s education. I don’t know how often I’ve heard debates regarding the legality of homeschooling, or the accusations correlating homeschooling with child abuse. It’s so funny to me, because when I think about what a parent is risking by sending their child to a standard school (private or public), I cannot honestly see how such a choice is a better option. I’m not saying homeschooling isn’t without it’s struggles and concerns, and I’m not saying all parents should home school, but I do feel that if a person is ready to criticize a family for their decision regarding homeschooling, they should think about the package that comes with the other options available as well.

So, here are my responses for common criticisms I’ve personally received regarding homeschooling, and a few reasons why I feel it is the best option for my family:

1) What about socialization?
This is the number one complaint people have against homeschooling. I understand the concern, and it is a concern. I know of a couple home schooled kids who demonstrate the stereotype of a socially awkward person who never really learned how to communicate and interact with others . You know what though? I knew kids in public school who had those same habits and behaviors. I also knew kids in public school who had plenty of friends, but gained those friends through sketchy and shallow methods.

There are also the kids who come out of homeschooling as confident and pleasant people. They are the type of people who will light up any room they walk into, or make friends with complete strangers in a moment’s time simply by being engaging and friendly. Not every parent who chooses to home school does so for the purpose of sheltering their children from society. These days, there are communities for home school families. There are also a variety of extra curricular activities that get children out and among other kids.

When a parent chooses to home school, they usually know socialization will need to be a priority, and it will be something a parent will need to concentrate on. It should not, however, be a concern that is restricted to parents of home schooled children. Parents who send their children to public school need to be concerned with the socialization their child receives as well. Homeschooling may result in a lack of socialization, but to criticize homeschooling because of that issue means putting too much faith in the socialization a child receives in standard school. Public school produces the type of socialization that results in vanity, a lack of self confidence, bullying, and stupid decisions for the sake of impressing others. To pretend a public schooled child will be better off than a home schooled child is a serious assumption. With a strong family supporting a child, it is possible to get through public school without much damage, but it’s just as possible to successfully home school as well.

2) Will it be a decent education?
While talking to a friend of mine who was home schooled, I asked her what her perspective was regarding her experience (she is a very bright and successful person, and I really valued her opinion). She replied with words I could never forget:

“When you’re home schooled, the world is your classroom”.

One of the reasons behind our decision to home school is the fact that we want our children to have a different educational experience than what a standard school can offer.

The word “exploration” often comes to mind when considering the method of learning that children should be given, but that is the last word that comes to mind when thinking of the method traditional school uses. In a standard school setting, think of how much time a child spends in a chair learning from a lecture, book, or power point. Not to mention, schools are being thrown into testing hysteria. Teachers are so harshly pushed to teach by the test that schools end up concerning themselves with whether or not children will be able to fill in a scantron the correct way, rather than trying to instill valuable knowledge.

In my high school there was a unique program called “studies” that a handful of students had the opportunity to take. It was a two hour period where History and English were combined into one class. The entire structure was different from other classes I had taken. More often than not we were up and out of our seats experiencing our lessons through alternative methods. We participated in simulations. We did experiments. We acted out scenes from history and literate, and we debated complicated issues. It was ground breaking, and I had never learned from one class the amount of things I learned from the studies program. Unfortunately, there was always the threat that the studies program would be eliminated. The school, for whatever reason, was never too sure about the existence of the program, and a couple years after I graduated I had heard that it was cut. It had been a unique experiment in a dull and failing system. A diamond in the rough so to speak, but there is just no room for that sort of thing in many public schools.

That opportunity opened my eyes to the fact that education could be so much more than retaining knowledge from a book or lecture. It could be an experience. When I say I want to home school, I don’t mean to have my children sit in their pajamas at the kitchen table doing whatever work sheet happens to be in a book. I mean to do all that I can to involve them in what they are learning. With home schooling, I have the ability to turn education into something so much more than sitting in a classroom taking notes. Are we learning about American History? We can hop in the car and drive over to DC and see the Declaration of Independence. Are we learning about geology? There are some awesome places around here where you can find very rocks to hold in your hands and observe up close. Are we learning about the solar system? Get up and go to the planetarium.

Will children receive a decent education through homeschooling? It depends on the parents and tutors, just like it depends on the teachers a child happens to be placed under. As for me, I want the type of education for my children that is not restricted by a desk, liability, bureaucracy. I want to give them the type of education that the world has to offer.

3) You’re trying to push your religion on your children
I often internally laugh when people say they want to raise children to make their own decisions and form independent beliefs from what they (the parents) believe, because let’s be honest, no one truly lives by that, nor should they. Parents are a child’s number one teacher, whether they want that responsibility or not. They should be the ones who take charge in setting morals and foundational world views for their children.

With that said, I know of the parents who would intentionally hide a variety of subjects from their children in order to “protect” them from questioning their faith. However, that parenting flaw is no more dangerous than the idea that parents shouldn’t push their beliefs on their children. If parents don’t stand for something, their children will fall for anything.

There is a middle ground. It is possible to instill beliefs in children, while at the same time being honest with their education. Personally I think it is a disaster waiting to happen when children are hidden from certain subjects that might test their faith. They will not be in the nest forever, and eventually they will have to face those issues. A lot of homes schooling parents realize this. I am not keeping my child from public school in order to hide potentially faith breaking subjects. I want my child to know about Evolution. I want them to know the teachings of Bart Ehrman and Friedrich Nietzche. The difference, however, is that I want to present what I believe to be true as well.

In the end, I want my child’s faith to be their own. I don’t want them to believe in something simply because mommy and daddy told them to. I want them to take hold of it for themselves, test it, and persevere with it. I want them to have the type of faith where they are not ignorant of what else is out there, and yet they still stand strong in what they believe. That does not mean I leave them to draw their own conclusions. If children are supposed to be completely independent when it comes to their decisions on what to believe, there would be no point in school at all.

As parents, people are supposed to do the best they can to instill what is right and true into their children. That is exactly what I will do. That does not mean I hide from the criticisms, or the information that might stir a number of questions. It just means I present what I believe to be true, and why I believe it to be true. I offer the chance that maybe, just maybe, we are right and the standard is wrong. If my children come out with the faith of their parents, it is not because they were deceived. It will be because they have the evidence, both for and against, and made their own decisions based on that.
4) Family
Think about the amount of time a child actually spends with family when they are placed in public school. They might have a rushed breakfast with the parents (even that is often not the case). They get to school around 9:00 AM. Finish school around 3:00 PM. If the child is “well socialized”, they will probably have an extra curricular activity that might end by 5:00 PM. Kids get home, possibly have a meal with the parents. They then get up from the table and go straight to homework. By the time they complete their homework, it might be about 8:30 PM (and let’s not fool ourselves, this is pretty early for a high school student. Realistically we may be talking until 10 or 11, possibly midnight). Maybe two or three waking hours on a week day where a child might have time with their family. Sure you have weekends, but children have friends they might want to spend time with (it’s the whole socialization thing).

Some families are not okay with this. They may see a value in being able to have time for a relaxed meal vs.a rushed one. They may want to have flexibility in random family fun nights. With the schedule set by a standard school day you really have to twist an arm in order to find the time for families to enjoy one another, which is sad considering you only have 18 fast paced years before a child is packing their belongings and making a home someplace else.

Homeschooling in and of itself is family bonding. Families not only learn together, but they don’t have to conform to a schedule set by some system that accommodates millions of other families. They can take vacations when it is most convenient for them rather than when it’s most convenient for an administration. They can rearrange their schedule so that they can enjoy a night of board games or bowling, and not worry about a bed time. I want to enjoy the time I have with my children, and I especially want my children to enjoy their time with me. Families shouldn’t have to sacrifice their time together for the sake of their child’s education.

The decision to home school is often misrepresented, and misunderstood. It is often written off based on stereotypes and preconceived ideas. However, for those parents who choose to learn a little bit more about the home schooling option, and to explore what it can be, they often find something they believe to be better for their children. These parents often understand the concerns that accompany home schooling, and choose to work through those struggles rather than give in to the alternative.

It is not an option for everyone. Some families would benefit more from a standard form of education rather than home school, and that is okay. A child’s education must be a family by family decision. What works for one family may not work for another. In either case, however, there are struggles. It is important to recognize the fact that there are challenges in whatever decision a parent makes regarding their child’s education, and to assume that those challenges are without benefit could mean missing out on a truly valuable educational opportunity.