Archive | May, 2014

Classical Notebook: Cycle 3 Copywork Pages AVAILABLE!

29 May


 Example of Cycle 2 English Grammar copywork page from last year.

I have had several readers email to inquire about the copywork pages that I made for Cycle 2. I was excited to hear that many of you enjoyed those! I promised to “shout from the mountaintop” when Cycle 3 pages are available, so here I am keeping my promise. ūüôā

Cycle 3 English Grammar and Latin Copywork pages have JUST been uploaded to CC Connected!  (username: suzannemosley) Last year we used a Classical Notebook for the first time, and it was phenomenal! We are using a Classical Notebook in the same manner this upcoming year.  (Read more about our Classical Notebook from last year here.)

English Grammar (available on CC Connected NOW)
Latin (available on CC Connected NOW) or download HERE: Latin.Cycle 3
Math¬†I use the skip counting chart from Half A Hundred Acre Wood. I’m thinking to make copywork pages for the remaining weeks. I’ll update here if those become available.
TimelineMy sons pick a timeline card from the week’s cards. They copy the title of the card and illustrate it. Download this blank document here:¬†Timeline Copywork & Illustration Page
Geography¬†I’m going to copy the black line map of the United States from the back of the Foundations Guide (4th edition) and let the boys use it to trace.¬†Please, please, please¬†read chapter 7 in The Core by Leigh Bortins to inspire you to ratchet up your Geography practice at home. It has inspired me and hoping to be more disciplined to have my boys trace the states and places of interest this year.
History (available now on CC Connected)
Science (in process. Will be available on CC Connected no later than mid-June)
Bible Memory Work Model¬†Do you know about this FREE resource on CC’s website?!?! It has Bible memory work for all 3 cycles. My Tutor Trainer pointed it out to us last year. I was hoping to incorporate it last year but didn’t get that accomplished. I’m going to make copywork pages for Cycle 3 this year. (in process. Will be available here no later than mid-June)

Several have asked what ages are appropriate for a Classical Notebook. You can creatively gear these towards the level of your children. You can also include other items in your Classical Notebook besides the New Grammar. Half A Hundred Acre Wood’s Classical Notebook post has helpful information about additional items/subjects that she includes. For the copywork pages I created, my intention was for my sons to trace the statements and then write the statement again on the lines below. However, that proved to be a little too much for my newly turned 6 and 8 year olds last year. I’ll see what is realistic this year as we begin the year. Also, I would¬†love¬†to have these in cursive as well. My oldest is learning cursive through PreScripts. I was able to find a “cursive” font to use with the graphic design program that I use to create these. However, it is a very CLUNKY font and takes lots of maneuvering and work to get the statements on the page correctly; it’s crazy weird! So, I’ll see how that goes and will update you if I am able to make those. ūüôā

Classical Conversations Tutor: Year 1 vs. Year 2 Reflections

20 May

Classical Conversations Tutor

This is the second post in a 2 part series. Read the first post, Classical Conversations PARENT: Year 1 vs. Year 2 here.

This was my second year in Classical Conversations and my second year as a Foundations tutor. I wanted to pen my experience with Year 1 vs. Year 2 because they were night-and-day different. (Hallelujiah, says my husband!) My first year as a tutor was also the first year of our community. In May before our community launched in August, there were 3 families including mine signed up for CC. I was the only one qualified to tutor since I had homeschooled at least a year, and when weighing the options of 1) Tutor and have a CC Community or 2) Not tutor and maybe, possibly, hopefully¬†have a CC Community, I decided to tutor. ūüôā Two weeks later I found myself in Tutor Training, which was outstanding. Yet I had never seen a CC “school day” or was yet to be fluent in the grammar of CC. Most of my 3 days of Tutor Training involved a “deer-in-the-headlights” look on my face with a general state of “mental fog.” There was too much information for my brain to process, and because I didn’t¬†exactly¬†know what I had signed up for, I was unable to take advantage of asking questions of the seasoned tutors around me.

Alas, I jumped into tutoring with all my might and, in general, our family had a positive experience despite, personally,¬†doing many things wrongly.¬†¬†Serving as a Foundations Tutor was a positive experience, but I was, also, my own worst enemy. Now that I have 2 years under my belt as a tutor, it is blatantly obvious to me what worked well¬†and what did not. As a means of comparison between year 1 and year 2, here’s how I would summarize my physical, mental and emotional state after year 1: burned out, needed about 1 week of uninterrupted sleep, exhausted brain, and relieved it was OVER. We just finished our 2nd CC year about 3 weeks ago. In contrast, at Year 2’s conclusion, I felt joy and gratitude as I thought about my kiddos, their moms, and their accomplishments. Admittedly, I was ready for a summer break but eager to tutor again next year. I was energized and ready to start prepping and planning tutoring ideas for Cycle 3. To state the obvious, I was a different person year 1 vs. year 2, and I praise God for that!

I have reflected on the causes behind the “pile of mush” tutor of year 1 and the invigorated, joyous tutor of year 2. In an attempt to avert you from making my same mistakes, I thought I would put my conclusions down on paper on my blog praying all the while that they will be encouraging and helpful for someone embarking on serving as a Foundations tutor. Enjoy!

1) Glitter and Glam vs. Stick in the Sand

I have taught, and probably always will teach, the sweet little Abecedarians! Both years as a tutor, I have had the youngest 8 children in our community. I am in my element with 4 and 5 year olds, and it is¬†crazy¬†fun! When I started tutoring my first year, I¬†wanted my CC class to be fun and memorable for the kids. For most of the children, this was their first year of school, and I wanted it to be forever etched in their brains…as an¬†amazing¬†experience! Isn’t that what kindergarten is for?!?!? Amazing memories?? During that year, I made cute, crafty things for almost every subject during New Grammar. It was “Glitter and Glam” each week. This reality makes me LAUGH OUT LOUD now!!! Can you say, “Totally missing the point?!?!?¬†My expectations of myself and what should happen during New Grammar were unreasonable and missed the mark! The papers, crafty things were “glitter and glam” and precious,¬†but they were not necessary and extremely time consuming for me to prep weekly.

If you’ve been around CC for longer than 5 minutes, you’ve probably heard the phrase “stick in the sand.” This is the idea and philosophy in direct opposition to my “glitter and glam” philosophy from year 1. The “stick in the sand” method incorporates basic, simplistic, “no frills” resources, tools, and activities during New Grammar to aid the children in memorization. After reaching the point of burnout at year 1’s conclusion, I made a vow that I would scale it WAY BACK during New Grammar and incorporate more “stick in the sand” techniques for year 2. Instead of creating cutesy self-made clip art creations that suited my fancy, I used simple pencil and paper stick figure drawings for a History Statement or the “erase a word at a time” method for memorizing Latin. And, of course, we sang lots & lots of songs! The result in the classroom, you ask? My year 2 Abecedarians had¬†just¬†as much fun with the “stick in the sand” activities, and they memorized the New Grammar effortlessly. The result for me as a tutor? Tutoring was much more enjoyable and planning weekly felt less like an albatross thanks to the simplicity of “stick in the sand.” Please hear me that fun, creative, cutesy activities for New Grammar aren’t innately evil, but if they are becoming the proverbial tail that wags the dog, ditch them! Remember–less really is more!

2) Intimidating Parents vs. Training Parents

I¬†think shifting from “glitter to glam” to “stick in the sand” also positively impacted the parents in my class for year 2. The first year I was concerned more with the children having fun and being an “expert” tutor. I rarely gave thought to whether or not ¬†my classroom activities were transferable to their homes. I knew that one of Classical Conversations’ goals is for the tutor to train the parents in ways to implement the classical model at home. In fact, this was one of the reasons that drew me to CC. Honestly, though, year 1 as a tutor, I am quite confident that I was undercutting the parents’ motivation to try things at home. The activities and resources that I incorporated into class were too labor-intensive, and I’m sure that was intimidating to the parents. Very little of what I used in class during year 1 was replicable at home.

Year 2, on the contrary, I have seen the proof in the pudding that less is more. I had many of the moms tell me how their time at home was spent practicing songs, drawing their own stick figure cards for history statement and reviewing the hand motions from class. Honestly, before they told me, I knew that my Moms were reviewing with their children at home! It was blatantly obvious each week during Review Game time. My little 4, 5, and 6 year olds remembered the New Grammar from week to week! Without even realizing it, my “scaling back” to “stick in the sand” was training the parents in my class. The simplistic methods and activities in class empowered them to try those same things at home. I was elated and felt so humbled to see my classroom spilling over into the homes of my sweet Abecedarians! As Foundations tutors, we have a wonderful opportunity to further train and encourage the parents in the ways of the classical model. What a joy and privilege! As I gear up over the summer for Year 3 of tutoring, I will continue in the ways of Year 2–intentionally seeking ways to encourage my parents in class.

Explaining vs. Drilling
One of the greatest lessons that I had to learn as a Foundations was this-¬†every piece of New Grammar introduced weekly in class does not require an explanation. I know this will be my propensity each week in class; I always desire to explain to my Abecedarians why, why, why. However, in those moments of temptation to teach, I remind myself that the explanations and discussions I desire to have with them in Foundations will come during the later years of the Challenge program. In the words of my past 2 Tutor Trainers, who were both amazing, “As a Foundations tutor, you are the Drill Sergeant. Drill, drill, drill!” and “As a Foundations tutor, your goal is not to explain. Your job is to train the brain to retrain.” Here’s a great article¬†that expounds on this idea in greater detail written by my Tutor Trainer from last year. (Yup, the lady behind Half A Hundred Acre Wood was my Tutor Trainer last year. Yes, she is as amazing, humble, and fabulous as you gather when reading her blog!) When you find yourself wanting to explain in detail the week’s New Grammar, go back and read this article! Drill, drill, drill, Miss Drill Sergeant! ūüôā

Planning the Night Before vs. Planning Days Ahead

One shift for me in Year 2 was an intentional effort to do the majority of my planning earlier in the week. Our CC Community day is Monday. During Year 1, there were many Sunday nights when I kept the midnight oil (or later!) burning while I put the finishing touches on the week’s New Grammar, Fine Arts, Science Experiment, and Review Game. My goal this past year was to not make that same mistake twice!¬†ūüôā Year 2’s plan was to write¬†the New Grammar for the upcoming week on my Tri-Fold Dry Erase Board¬†by Thursday. By doing this work on Thursdays, it gave me a couple of days to mull over, think through the New Grammar and how I would teach it to my Abecedarians. This worked much better than Year 1!

Also, to help with planning in advance, I highly recommend CC Connected for any tutor (and non-tutoring parents, too, honestly!) CC Connected is an online file sharing program. CC participants from the world over upload their resources for the varioius cycles and New Grammar subjects here; it, truly, is amazing! It is, hands down, worth the monthly fee ($3 for tutors, $6 non-tutoring parents). My CC Connected subscription has also helped me tackle planning multiple weeks in one sitting, which helped me in Year 2 curb my procrastinating habits of Year 1.

Another way to get ahead of the game as a Foundations Tutor is to use your summer to prepare! ūüôā As I mentioned previously, I was a hot mess at the conclusion of Year 1; I was burned totally out! It took me the entire summer between Year 1 and Year 2 to recover. However, since I scaled down my “glimmer and glam” approach to tutoring in Year 2, I am entering the summer looking towards Year 3 rejuvenated! Therefore, I am hoping to get a massive chunk of my Cycle 3 plans done this summer!

Tri-Fold Dry Erase Board Is My BFF

As a tutor, I would be remiss to mention my BFF–my Tri-Fold Dry Erase Board. One of the other tutors in my community mentioned this to me during the summer prior to Year 1 of tutoring. Wow! I can’t imagine tutoring without my board! Read this previous post on how I use it in class and how to make your own at home with¬†little¬†effort! You won’t regret it!

Being a CC tutor has been a great joy for me, personally. It has stretched me, given me the opportunity to be engaged with what my sons are learning in their CC classes, and allowed me the opportunity to learn¬†a lot (that’s an understatement!). I pray that God will use the role of CC tutor in your life to give you a greater understanding of who He is and all that He has created for His glory! This is was of the greatest gifts I’ve received as a tutor; I pray it will be for you as well!

What is the greatest lesson that you’ve learned–good or bad–as a tutor that you can share with readers? Comment below! I look forward to learning from you and gleaning from your wisdom!

Classical Conversations Parent: Year 1 vs. Year 2

19 May

Classical Conversations Parent

This is the first post in a 2 part series. Read the second post, “Classical Conversations TUTOR Reflections: Year 1 vs. Year 2” here.

Our Classical Conversations Community had a Mom’s Night Out this past week, and many of the women present have just joined CC. Their families will be starting in a Foundations class this fall. Many of the “newbies” asked questions that I asked 365 days prior. Our first year of Foundations was the first year of our community; 99% of the moms in our community were also “newbies.” I didn’t have many “seasoned” CC Moms that I could talk with and ask my litany of questions. So, I did as any homeschooling mom would do! I jumped in and navigated our first year of Foundations to the best of my ability.

For my family there were a few successes our first year; this led us to sign up for a second year of CC. However, there were many, many choices that I made, which I¬†never wanted to replicate. The consequences of those decisions my first year left me in a state of complete and utter burnout. I took the summer “off” in between year 1 and year 2 recognizing that I was burned out. I was in such a state of physical and mental exhaustion that, honestly, I was not completely “back to normal” when we started our 2nd year of CC four months later. However, God was so gracious! He sustained me, restored me physically and mentally, and led us down a drastically different path for¬†year 2 of CC.¬†Our second year finished about three weeks ago, and I can summarize it with these words: joyous, exhilarating, and FUN!

Because year 1 and year 2 ended in such different ways, I have spent the past several weeks reflecting on why.¬†I decided to put my reflections down on paper so that I can re-read them later in the summer and throughout the months of our family’s third year of Classical Conversations. I hope and pray they will be encouraging to those of you preparing to start CC for the first time.

1) “Let Your First Year of Classical Conversations Wash Over¬†You.”

“Let your first year of Classical Conversations wash over you.” One of the CC moms shared this at the Mom’s Night Out this week. She was given this nugget of wisdom by a close friend who is a CC Challenge tutor. As soon as she said it, I looked at her and said, “Wow, that is so true! I wish someone had told me this our first year of CC!”

I was not classically educated as a child, and I knew little about how to practically educate my sons according to the classical model. My classical model “learning curve” our first year was the size of Mount Everest. Instead of taking our first year to soak up CC and to learn more about the classical model, I was intent on implementing it! Can you say, “cart before the horse?!?!”

I think it’s safe to say that you can not implement what you do not know. So, if this is your first year of Classical Conversations, drink deeply from all 24 weeks. Yes, you may feel like you are drinking from a fire hydrant, but take lots of deep breaths along the way as you immerse yourself in CC. The other beautiful component of Classical Conversations is repetition.¬†Even though our first year was treacherous and exhausting, I knew that we would do CC again the following school year and most likely three years later when Cycle 1 rolled around¬†again! If you have “gaps” in your Classical Conversations learning your first year and plan to do CC in the future, know that those gaps aren’t permanent. They can be filled in during your subsequent years. Your depth of wisdom, insight, and understanding will increase with each year (and with each week of CC your¬†first¬†year, for that matter!). So, take a deep breath and repeat after me, “I will let my first year of Classical Conversations wash over me.” There! You feel better already, right?!!?

2) Seek To Understand the Classical Model.

I have a confession to make. We just finished our second year of Classical Conversations, and this is the first¬†year that I’ve made it my aim to do an¬†in-depth study¬†of the classical model. I am just finishing¬†Echo in Celebration (FREE download) and The Core both written by Classical Conversations founder Leigh Bortins. My first piece of advice for a new CC mom is “Let your first year of Classical Conversations wash over you.” My second piece of advice is to read Echo in Celebration and The Core. These books will give you a breadth of understanding regarding the classical model and why CC is created and mapped out in its particular way. On a personal note, I felt “freed up” after reading both of these books. Many of the expectations that I was placing on myself as a home school mom and my children, my students, were obliterated after reading these books.

Also, if you have already purchased your Foundations Guide¬†know that it is a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips! Make it your task this summer to read pages 8-40 in the Foundations Guide. The logic and reasoning behind the structure of Classical Conversations is presented, which may prevent many “Why does CC do it this way?” questions your first year. Another question that I am always asked regarding CC is, “What curriculum do I need to buy?” If this is your question, read, “The Classical Model at Home” article on pages 31- 37 of the Foundations Guide. Leigh Bortins. Her encouragement is: “1) a rigorous language arts program that progresses with your child’s ability, 2) a complete math program, 3) memorization to train the mind, and 4) lots of reading, writing, discussing and relating centered around the best God has to offer” (page 32-33). ¬†I also loved the simplicity of her encouragement to “remember to focus on language arts and math until your child is an excellent reader” (page 33), which is the place where I am currently with my sons. Isn’t that wonderfully liberating?!?!?

Leigh Bortins also shares how her family breaks down their school day into 4, one hour segments. The discussion begins on page 33. This 4, one hour segment approach was eye opening and invaluable to my family this past year. I plotted our 4, one hour segments over the summer in preparation for the 2013-14 school year. We followed the 4 segment approach this school year, and it was glorious! I especially loved how the 4, one hour segment approach served as a “budget” for me regarding what curriculum we did or did not use this year. If a curriculum did not fit into one of the 4 segments, I omitted it. I am notorious for having¬†too much¬†to accomplish in a day or a school year. The 4 segments aided me in trimming the “fat” from my curriculum list and focusing on the essentials that my sons needed. The curriculum that I had already purchased to use for the 2013-14 school year prior to reading the article (like Apologia Astronomy!) I was forced to shelve. I decided that we’d go through the additional pieces during our non-CC weeks or during the summer.

3) No, You DO NOT Have To Read A Book About Every New Grammar Fact Your Child Memorizes.

Just thinking back to our first year¬†wears me out. I think I’m still recovering from it! HA! The root cause of this was my effort to find a book to read about every factoid that my sons were memorizing each week in New Grammar. For the sake of all that’s good in the world, please¬†don’t make this same mistake as I did! I made this error in judgement because of my lack of understanding about the classical model. The Foundations level of Classical Conversations is based on the Grammar stage of the classical model. This is the stage where a student memorizes the “grammar” of a variety of subjects (in the case of CC, the 7 subjects of History, Timeline, English, Latin, Math, Science, and Geography). I assumed that my boys needed to completely¬†understand every factoid that they learned during the 24 weeks of Foundations. ¬†However, this level of understanding is associated with the second stage of the classical model, the Dialectic stage (see Foundations Guide page 27). My boys are ages 8, 6, and 4 and no where close to the Dialectic stage; they are purely Grammar-ites these days. Their desire and ability to understand the “why” and “how” behind the grammar that they are memorizing will come with age. (For more information on the freedom of the Grammar Stage, read this article¬†by Brandy from Half A Hundred Acre Wood. I promise you will be freed up even more¬†after reading it!)

At our Mom’s Night Out this past week, one of the mom’s asked me, “Do you just go to the library and pick out books related to what your kids learn in CC that week?” My first answer was an emphatic, “NO.”¬†Follow the lead of your child. If he/she wants more information about a piece of New Grammar, he/she will ask you. When they want to know more about a History Statement or an event on the Timeline Card, look on the back of the respective Timeline Card and read it to them. If he/she is curious about this week’s Science question, read the “Science Snippet” for that week that is accessible on CC Connected or the CC App. Or, sometimes a one word answer will do.

Son: Mommy, who was Franklin D. Roosevelt?
Me: He was one of the Presidents of the United States.
Son: Oh, okay! (He scurries off to build again with Legos.)
Me: I release a huge sigh of relief, realizing that he wasn’t asking for specifics of the New Deal. ha! ūüôā

It is okay to check out books at the library about the week’s New Grammar. Don’t get me wrong! Just know that a successful Foundations year is not based on your child’s ability to explain each piece of New Grammar ¬†in dissertation-like form.

4) A Classical Notebook is my BFF

One tool that we used in year 2 that we did not use in year 1 is a Classical Notebook. I learned about a Classical Notebook from Half A Hundred Acre Wood’s article last summer. The Classical Notebook serves as a means of built-in review for the week’s New Grammar as well as handwriting practice, and it is an independent activity that my sons can accomplish. All of these reasons had me “sold” on the idea of a Classical Notebook before ever using it! I made documents for our Classical Notebook over the summer, and off we set on this new adventure. Our CC school year is over now, and I am happy to announce that the Classical Notebooks were fabulous! After only a couple of weeks, my sons were in the routine of doing their Classical Notebook each day. Their favorite days were Wednesdays and Thursdays because they got to illustrate a Timeline card and the History statement. I enjoyed watching them flourish with independent work. Also, I loved knowing that they were reviewing New Grammar while also cultivating discipline and self-control; the Classical Notebook required them to sit for an extended period of time at our school table. (Now, my boys can always use extra practice with that!)¬†We will¬†definitely¬†use a Classical Notebook again for year 3 of our CC adventure!

5) Give yourself grace, your child is learning a vast quantity of information (probably more than you learned at this age)

When I first started homeschooling, I had idealized views of what a typical school day looked like. In those visions of grandeur, my sons were joyous about each moment of each subject, they never complained about learning, and the 3 boys and I got along splendidly during each school day. Then, my visions of grandeur melded with reality, and school days transpired very differently. ūüôā The majority of our school days involve accomplishment of what needs to be done for “school,” but it’s not always with a “happy heart” (theirs or mine ūüôā ). Most school days are pleasant, even fun, but there are those days when our sinful flesh results in broken relationships where confession and repentance are required. Then, there are some days when, honestly, life happens and little appears to be “accomplished.” In those days, the guilt and self-doubt creeps into my brain. “Am I doing enough? Are my sons learning anything?”

The beautiful addition of CC to our home school has allowed me to give myself grace in the midst of self-doubt. I can look self-doubt and guilt in the face and scream, “YES, they are learning; they are learning a lot!” After 2 years of CC, I am flabbergasted at the quantity of information that my sons have learned! (This includes my 4 year old, who has yet to be in a formal CC class but has learned as much as his brothers through our review time at home!) If I accomplish nothing in a school day except reviewing the CC New Grammar, I have done a lot! This is helping hammer the memory pegs of the New Grammar even further into their little brains. If your child only remembers the New Grammar from any given cycle, he/she will still be ahead of the curve! So, if you are having a challenging home school day, give yourself grace! Take a few moments to review the New Grammar and then, go spend the rest of the day at the park! Rest in knowing that your kiddos are learning more than you realize!

Enjoy your first year (or 2nd, 3rd, or 4th) of Classical Conversations! Enjoy learning with your children and finding God in all things!¬†Here’s another post from the archives that offers encouragement to those of you beginning Classical Conversations!

Are you a seasoned Classical Conversations parent? What advice and wisdom would you offer to a new Classical Conversations family? Please post your sage words in a comment below. We will¬†all¬†benefit greatly from what you share! Looking forward to reading it! ūüôā

Classical Conversations Reflections: Year 1 vs. Year 2

18 May

Classical Conversations.Year 1 vs. Year 2 series

I’ve spent the last several weeks evaluating my experiences as a Classical Conversations Parent and Tutor. Our family just finished year 2 of Classical Conversations, which means my second year as a Foundations is in the books, too. Our first year of Classical Conversations was positive; we signed up for another one! However, I flubbed up in its implementation as a parent and tutor in year 1, which resulted in burn out,¬†major burnout.¬†With year 2, I had significant changes planned for implementing CC at home and in my Abecedarians class. Would they be beneficial? Would they prevent a second year of burn out? By God’s grace, they did! Over the next 2 days, I will have series of posts dedicated to my Year 1 vs. Year 2 reflections as a Classical Conversations Parent and Foundations Tutor. Join me back here tomorrow and Tuesday to read more.–FREE Cycle 3 Geography Resources

16 May

Tennessee coloring page

From my Pre-K and Kindergarten homeschooling days, Crayola’s website and I became bffs. Anytime we learned about a new country or new state, I would head straight to Crayola to find a FREE coloring sheet about a particular state or the flag of the country we were studying. For those of you who are involved with Classical Conversations, these coloring sheets would be a fun, FREE resource for your students as we work through the United States geography!

All 50 states are included on Crayola’s site. Each state’s sheet includes pertinent information about the state: its capital and some of the official state items (tree, insect, bird, flag, etc.). These would be a great resource to add to your Classical Notebook each week.

Traveling to different states for summer vacation? I also recommend using the Crayola website to print copies of the states that you’ll visit and compiling them into a Travel Notebook for your children. The Travel Notebook can include coloring sheets of the states you will visit and a printed map showing the route of your trip. Fill your Travel Notebook with other coloring sheets/games to entertain them while you travel. We made a Travel Notebook on our big trek north last year to Wisconsin and Illinois. The Travel Notebook kept our sons entertained for¬†hours.¬†

US State Flash Cards - Tennessee coloring page

Another great resource on Crayola’s website are the State Flashcards. You could print Crayola’s State Flashcards for each of the 50 states and have your child decorate the flashcards of the states studied each week during New Grammar Geography. I would recommend printing on cardstock and laminating them (You know how I love my laminator!!!) after your child beautifies the cards with crayons, markers, or color pencils. You could hole punch the cards, add a metal ring and have your child’s very own homemade set of 50 States Flashcards!

U.S. President George Washington coloring page

Crayola’s website also has free printable coloring sheets for each of the 44 presidents. This would be a fun resource to use throughout the year, particularly in Classical Conversations Week 24 when the children learn all of the U.S. Presidents!

I am so excited about Cycle 3 and American geography and history! What other free resources for Cycle 3 have you found to share?

Friday Favorites: Energy Bites (aka “Chocolate Chip Balls”)

16 May

FRIDAY Favorites

I have three sons. Their current ages are 8, 6, and 4. My sons eat massive quantities of food. I spend hours each day preparing food for them (of course!), but I spend equal amounts of my day brainstorming ways that I can earn a 6-figure income in the next year or two. Why, you ask? It’s not because I’m desirous of a larger home or a sweeter¬†swagger wagon mini van. No, my reasons for seeking a 6-figure income is because our sons are eating us out of house and home! It’s time to increase the grocery budget! ha! ūüôā I can’t fathom how much food they’ll consume (or how much the food will cost!) when they are all teenagers. Wow. Mind blowing.

To satiate their little¬†¬†ever expanding tummies, I have started¬†force feeding ¬†serving them these yummy Energy Bites! We’ve actually dubbed them “Chocolate Chip Balls” around our house. They never turn away a recipe with “chocolate chip” in the title. Between the protein from the peanut butter and the fiber from the oats and milled flax seed, my boys can go longer than ten minutes without a snack! ha! Honestly, 4 or 5 of these, and the boys are good to go for an hour of two. (And Moms everywhere are cheering with joy!)

Another plus–these are very easy to make! I must warn you, though. These are very addictive!!! I have no self-control when I eat these bad boys. I promise myself that I’ll only eat one….and half the mixture later, I realize I’ve broken my self-promise. hahahaha! AND…a special shout out to my dear friend Melanie who gave me this recipe. Best recipe ever!

This recipe is so delightful the energy bites magically arranged themselves on my plate in this design. Isn’t that amazing?image

Energy Bites

1 cup peanut butter (or any nut butter)
1 cup honey
3 cups oats
1/2 cup milled flaxseed
1/2 cup chocolate chips (or in this case butterscotch, which is all I had!)
other optional “add ins”–sliced almonds, rice krispy cereal, cheerios, raisins, craisins. It’s very versatile!

1) Mix all the ingredients together.

2) Form into balls and serve. (I use this to scoop them out.)

3) The recipe instructions are over, but I wanted to include another “tip” about this recipe. ūüôā You can line them on a cookie sheet and through them in your freezer to flash freeze them. Once frozen, throw them into a ziploc bag. Now, you can pop them out of the freezer anytime! Going on a road trip? Throw several frozen energy bites in a ziploc bag. They will thaw as you’re traveling, and viola! Snacks in the car! We use these a lot in the summer before heading out to swim. Swimming=even MORE ravenous sons. ūüôā Energy bites=ravenous boys satiated=happy Mom. ūüôā

I’m not even going to lie. This picture makes me so happy. I feel like I was channeling my inner Pioneer Woman when I took this photo. Doesn’t she always have the most magical food photos? I try not to covet her mad Kodak skills. Thanks to Apple and the iPad Mini for helping me reach my goal of channeling my inner Pioneer Woman. I’m sure it will take me at least 2 to 3 more years to take another cool “foodie” photo again. So, until then, I’ll just keep staring at this one. And…I digress.

imageThe finished product! I may or may not have eaten all of these as soon as I finished snapping their photo. Oops!


Seeds Family Worship–15% OFF COUPON (ends 5/16)

15 May

Seeds of Character
We LOVE Seeds Family Worship cds! (You can read here to find out more about what Seeds Family Worship cds are and¬†HOW MUCH we love them!) If you’ve been wanting to order some of these fabulous cds, you can save 15% when you use the coupon code: SPRING.

Also, Seeds CDs come with 2 cds when you buy 1 cd. They want you to keep one copy for yourself and give one away! Don’t you just love that?!?!? So, keep that in mind when you order. These cds, therefore, make GREAT gifts! Just a note that the code doesn‚Äôt work on the ‚ÄúGive ‚ÄėEm Seven‚ÄĚ bundle. ¬†The Seeds of Character cd shown above has a GREAT song that teaches all of the New Testament books of the Bible. I‚Äôm hoping, hoping, hoping, they‚Äôll come out with one for the Old Testament books.

This post contains affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure policy here.

What We’re Reading Wednesday: Installment #5

14 May

What We're Reading WEDNESDAYS

Happy Wednesday! Here are some of the books that we’ve been perusing through the past 2 weeks. We were on vacation last week, so the majority of our reading came through audio books while driving. I love that my boys are audio book fans. I’m sure yours can be too! To read previous “What We’re Reading Wednesday posts,” click here.

What We're Reading #5

Hunches in Bunches¬†and Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!¬†(by Dr. Seuss)-If you didn’t notice between “What We’re Reading Wednesday” Installment #4 and today’s installment, we are currently on a Dr. Seuss kick with my youngest son! He can’t get enough of Dr. Seuss, so we’re emptying the library’s shelves of any and all of his books. We enjoyed both books, but I was especially encouraged by the story of ¬†Oh, The Thinks You Can Think! The encouragement of children to imagine and dream was the core theme. I feel like children these days are losing their imaginations, so read this and inspire your kiddos! AND…after you read it, let them have some paper, tape and crayons and create and imagine something new today!

The Child’s Story Bible¬†(by Catherine Vos)-This is on our list of FAVORITE children’s Bibles! Now that Easter is over, and we finished The Word Became Flesh Easter Advent devotion, we’ve returned to The Child’s Story Bible during¬†our “Bible Time” (as our boys call it) reading at breakfast. This was originally published in 1935 (I LOVE OLD BOOKS!!!) is a¬†story book¬†version for children containing both Old Testament and New Testament stories. I can’t recommend this highly enough! The quantity of Biblical stories that my sons (and ME, let’s be honest!) have gleaned from this story book Bible is astounding. It is written in a captivating, narrative format. The readings only take 5-10 minutes, but the dialog and Q&A time that you can have with your children is endless! The Child’s Story Bible is geared for children ages 4-12, and I would say that’s been an accurate fit in our home. Vos includes great detail in each story, so younger children’s attention span might be lost with its reading. (See our list of Children’s Bibles That We Love to get a detailed list of age-appropriate children’s Bibles that we adore!)

The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education¬†(by Leigh Bortins)-We just finished our second year of Classical Conversations, and we could not have found a better fit for our family! I write about Classical Conversations on this blog a lot. If you are curious about what Classical Conversations is or how you can classically educate your child at home, this is a “must read.” I’m embarrassed that it’s taken me 2 years to read The Core. I think it would have helped me tremendously to have read it our first year. However, ¬†I was also a Classical Conversations tutor our first year, which had a huge learning curve. I didn’t do much reading last year. ha! I love the explanation of the 3 stages of the Classical Model: Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric and how this book “freed” me up as I continue to learn day by day how to classically educate my sons at home. This book is geared towards understanding the Grammar stage and explains how to approach subjects like Math, History, Geography, Reading during the Grammar stage. If you are new to Classical Conversations or thinking about classical education for your kiddos, I highly commend The Core to you. I am also reading and enjoying Echo in Celebration by Leigh Bortins. It is a FREE .pdf download, so I couldn’t include it in the above picture. ¬†ūüôā It includes more information on the classical model of education and implementing it at home. It’s another great read for those new or involved with Classical Conversations or wanting to know more about the classical model.

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic¬†(by Betty Macdonald)-I loved Mrs. Piggle Wiggle as a child! One of my elementary school teachers read it aloud to us during rest time. I was excited to introduce my boys to Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, and they have loved her as much as I have! After reading the initial book in the series, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic, my sons have insisted that we read all of the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books. I happily obliged! Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is a quirky old lady, who eagerly helps parents experiencing crazy behaviors from their children. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle’s cures usually comes in the form of a magic concoction to help with such behaviors as being a tattle tale, constantly interrupting, or bad table manners. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle’s magic always helps rid the child of the unsightly behavior. Our favorite cure from this book was the “Thought You Said” cure. The 3 children in this family continually fail to do what their parents instruct them because they¬†thought they said¬†something else. My boys laughed outloud nonstop during that entire chapter. The children’s renditions of their parents instructions was hysterical. Thankfully, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle helped the parents rescue their children using her “Thought You Said” cure.¬†My only regret is that I can’t call Mrs. Piggle Wiggle to get this cure for my sons! ha! “Clean your room?” my boys inquire. “We thought you said, ‘swing on a broom.'” Where’s Mrs. Piggle Wiggle when you need her?!?!?

Third-Grade Detectives #4: The Cobweb Confession (by George E. Stanley and Salvatore Murdocca)-My third grader was ecstatic about finding these books! Being in 3rd grade himself, he can empathize and identify with the characters in the book. ūüôā If you have a third grader or a second grader eager to be “older” (HA!), the Third Grade Detective series might hit the spot! My oldest son is currently reading this book aloud to me. The chapters are short and the story engaging, which is a win-win for him. I love to see him excited about reading; that has not always been the case! ūüôā

Cora Frear¬†(by Susan E. Goodman)-Cora Frear is a book in the Brave Kids series, which is a new-to-us series that we’ve been introduced to. Cora Frear was a¬†real¬†girl who lived on the prairie during late 19th century America. The book contains an Afterword and gives detail about the real Cora Frear; my boys loved the Afterword almost as much as the actual book! They were flabbergasted to learn that she was real!

¬†Cora’s father was a doctor, and she often accompanied him on house calls, which often involved miles and miles of travel through the prairie. The story revolves around Cora and her father making a trek across the prairie for a house call, and in the midst of their journey, they find themselves trapped in a prairie fire. I was even on pins and needles as my son read this aloud. I was the one chanting, “one more chapter, one more chapter” to him; it’s usually vice versa! If you have a child insterested in American History or if you are in Classical Conversations and looking for Cycle 3 books, Cora Frear is a gem of a book!

Audio Books that we’re “reading”:

I‚Äôve been writing a lot recently about how much we LOVE audio books. ( If you missed the previous 3 posts that were a part of my Friday Favorites series, you can read them¬†here,¬†here, and¬†here.) I‚Äôve decided to include audio books that we‚Äôre ‚Äúreading‚ÄĚ in my What We‚Äôre Reading Wednesday posts.

Since we traveled last week, I always stack up on audio books for our journey. As I mentioned, my youngest son is currently stuck on Dr. Seuss, so we enjoyed Green Eggs and Ham and Other Servings of Dr. Seuss and The Cat in the Hat and Other Dr. Seuss Favorites both collections of multiple Dr. Seuss books. We have previously started reading Little House In The Big Woods , but had not finished it. In my quick library run to stock up on audio books for the trip, I found the audio book version. It was a huge hit during our travels!

It’s Wednesday, so comment below and let Suzanne Shares readers know what¬†you’re¬†reading! Hip, Hip, Hooray for books and quality literature! Happy Wednesday!

Friday Favorites: Southwest Cheesecake

2 May

FRIDAY Favorites

As I promised in¬†last week’s Friday Favorites, here’s my other favorite cheesecake recipe. It’s called Southwest Cheesecake, and it is of the¬†salty¬†cheesecake variety. As with most recipes that I try, I am not certain what possessed me to try it! I am not a cheesecake fan, and I had no clue that¬†salty¬†cheesecakes existed. What possessed me to give this recipe a whirl? I’m thinking the biggest contributing factor was my husband’s love for cheesecake! Regardless of the reason for¬†trying¬†the recipe, I am so, so, so, so glad that I did! It’s¬†fabulous!¬†

Southwest Cheesecake
Here are several reasons why I adore this recipe:
*It’s always a crowd pleaser.¬†This recipe is delicious,¬†in case you were curious!¬†Every time I take this cheesecake to a gathering someone asks for the recipe! That always makes me a happy chef. ūüôā
*It feeds an army.¬†This is a great appetizer to take to or to serve at a party, event, or gathering. It’s almost as if the cheesecake multiplies as it is served. The cheesecake goes a¬†long¬†way. It is a crowd pleaser and¬†feeds¬†that crowd handily.
*It’s best to make it ahead.¬†I get¬†stressed out¬†when I’m taking “party food” to a gathering. I usually make a dish the day of the event, but I’m always fearful that a recipe might flop. Then, if the recipe does flop, what would I take to the party?!?! The Southwest Cheesecake has made my “party food” anxiety fade away. The Southwest Cheesecake needs to be refrigerated for several hours, so it’s actually¬†best¬†if I make it the day¬†before¬†the gathering I’m attending. This recipe makes me¬†stress free¬†the day of the event because I already have the Southwest Cheesecake made! Plus, if the recipe flops, though it never has for me, I have ample time to remake the recipe before the event. Don’t you love being stress free?!?!? I do! ūüôā
*It’s easy to make.¬†I wrote in last week’s Banana Pudding Cheesecake post that making a cheesecake is actually super simple! The Southwest Cheesecake falls into that same category: cheesecakes=easy to make.

Southwest Cheesecake

adapted from Southern Living’s version

1 1/2 cups crushed tortilla chips
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 packages of cream cheese (8 oz. package. I use Nefuchatel cream cheese.)
2 cups Monterrey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese (depending on your “spice” level), shredded
2 cups sour cream (or one 16 oz. container of sour cream), divided
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups salsa
Guacamole or salsa, to garnish
2 bags of tortilla chips


1) Crush tortilla chips until you have 1 1/2 cups. (Kitchen Tip: I put whole tortilla chips into a ziploc bag and crush them with a kitchen hammer until I have the correct amount.)

This is what the tortilla chips look like before I use the kitchen hammer…

This is what the tortilla chips look like after I release a little aggression via my kitchen hammer. ha! ūüôā


2) Combine melted butter and crushed tortilla chips. Press into bottom of greased, 9 inch springform pan.

3) Bake the crust at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.

4) Remove crust from oven and cool on wire rack.

5) Combine cream cheese and shredded Monterrey jack cheese and beat with mixer until well combined.

6) Add 1 cup of sour cream and mix until combined.

7) Add eggs one at a time into existing mixture until well combined. Stir in salsa and pour into prepared crust. It should look something like this…


8) Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes until the center is almost set. I shake the cheesecake, if it still “jiggles” in the center I cook additionally for 2 minutes (and repeat) until the center only slightly moves. It should look something like this. If there are craters or cracks on the top, no worries! They will be covered up. ūüôā


9) Let cheesecake stand for 10 minutes on wire rack. After 10 minutes, run a knife around the edge of the cheesecake to loosen the edge of the cheesecake from the springform pan. Cool completely.

10) Spread remaining 1 cup sour cream onto top of Southwest Cheesecake. Cool, minimally, 3 hours or up to 1 day.


11) Additional toppings of guacamole or salsa can be added onto the sour cream as a garnish before serving. Serve with tortilla chips. Here’s a tip with this salty cheesecake–do not cut the cheesecake into wedges and serve as you would a¬†sweet¬†cheesecake. Use a spoon to scoop out desired amount to serve.

I made this recipe last week for our Classical Conversations End of Year Celebration. I was hoping to include with this blog post a picture of my finished Southwest Cheesecake with the additional toppings I included before serving. However, sadly, the Southwest Cheesecake fell on the floor of our van en route to our house after our End of Year Celebration. Yes, it made a magnificent mess in our van, and no, I did not get a “finished product” picture for you. ūüė¶ I did manage to capture a picture of the Southwest Cheesecake in the trash bag shortly after the beautiful, amazing, tasteful cheesecake crashed onto our van floor. There it is in the lower right hand corner of the picture. Wishing the picture of the Southwest Cheesecake could be better, but for now, this one will have to do. ūüôā ha!


Enjoy this yummy recipe!

Book It Program: Homeschool Registration for 2014-15 is OPEN

1 May

I wrote about this last year, and I’m excited to share it again this year! Drum Roll, please! It’s time to register your kiddos for Book It!!

What is Book It, you ask?!?! The Book It Program is reading incentive program where children can earn a free Pizza Hut personal pan pizza by reading! The Book It Program is available through public and private school children, but did you know it’s also open to homeschooling families? Registration for the 2014-15 school year is OPEN as of today for homeschooling families. To register your Kindergarten through 6th grade kiddos, visit this link. This will be our 5th year to participate in Book It, and my boys love, love, love it! They love it probably¬†just as much¬†as their Mom did when she was a girl! Enrollment is free! You will receive your Enrollment Packet in the fall with your free Pizza Hut personal pan pizza coupons per eligible child. It always seems like the Enrollment Packet will¬†never¬†arrive as the fall approaches, but it always does. (Don’t panic like I usually do! ha!)

So, stop what you’re doing and register your children! As a Mom, I feel like Book It is a special treat for me, too. I always save the boys’ pizzas for lunch on a school day. It’s so nice to have one day a month “off” from being the “school lunch lady.” ūüôā