Tuesday, December 20, 2016

East African Bean Soup (grain-free : gluten-free : nutrient-dense)

Beans have never been one of my favorite foods. They've always been okay to me, but never anything to get excited about.  This recipe for East African Bean Soup has changed that: I love this soup, and so does the rest of my family.  This recipe has combines beans and vegetables with a flavor boost from coconut milk and curry powder. The result is amazingly delicious and, thanks to the coconut milk, this recipe is quite hearty and filling.

This recipe was inspired a recipe in Best of Regional African Cooking.

East African Bean Soup
Serves 8
  1. In a large bowl, cover the beans with plenty of filtered water and the baking soda. The beans will soak up quite a bit of water, so be sure to add plenty. Cover and allow to soak overnight. This important step reduces the phytic acid antinutrient in the beans.
  2. About 3-4 hours before mealtime, chop the onions. 
  3. Heat the coconut oil in a 4- or 6-quart pot with a lid over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a small sprinkle of salt. Sauté for 10-15 minutes, until the onions are translucent and have taken on a bit of brown, caramelized color.
  4. In the meantime, drain and rinse the beans in a colander.
  5. Add the beans to the pot with the onions. Pour in just enough filtered water to cover the beans; since the beans have already absorbed so much water during the long soaking process they won't absorb much more while cooking. In my pot, it takes about 4 cups of water to cover the beans.
  6. Bring the beans to a boil and skim off any foam that rises to the top. Salt the cooking liquid; I find that 4 tsp salt is a good amount for my family's taste preferences. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot.
  7. Allow the beans to simmer 2-3 hours, until they are fully cooked and soft.
  8. Remove and discard one cup of liquid from the pot of beans. Shake the can of coconut milk well before opening it. Add the tomatoes, coconut milk, curry powder, and green peppers to the beans. Stir the pot to mix all the ingredients together well.
  9. Bring to a boil, skim off any foam, and then simmer the soup for 20-30 minutes, until the peppers are cooked to your preference. Taste the broth and adjust the salt as needed.
  10. Ladle into bowls, serve, and enjoy!
*Madras curry powder really is the best curry powder. It has such a fantastic flavor and aroma compared to other curry powders.

What is your favorite bean recipe?

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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Chocolate Orange Shortbread Cookies

My family enjoys delivering cookies to our neighbors in the days leading up to Christmas.  Since we live on an acreage, we don't often see our neighbors unless we intentionally visit them. The holidays are a good time to make those visits a priority, and we like to bring cookies along.

Looking for a change from my usual Christmas cookies, I created this recipe for Chocolate Orange Shortbread Cookies. These cookies are mildly sweet, beautiful, and tasty. The subtle orange flavor plays nicely off the chocolate flavor. These cookies are made with Einkorn flour, which is an ancient variety of wheat that is naturally higher in protein and lower in gluten than modern wheat. The nutrient-content of these shortbread cookies is increased through the use of nutrient-dense butter and sucanat.

Chocolate Orange Shortbread Cookies
Makes about 20 cookies
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cream together the butter, sucanat, and sugar using a mixer or stand-mixer, until a bit fluffy and slightly lighter in color. (I love to use my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer anytime I am making cookies.) 
  3. Mix in the vanilla extract. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice to get everything incorporated well.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
  5. Zest the tangerines (or orange). A microplane zester works fantastically to zest any citrus.
  6. Whisk the zest into the flour mixture, making sure to break up any clumps.
  7. Mix the flour mixture into the butter mixture until well-mixed. Since this recipe contains gluten, make sure not to overmix the cookie batter.
  8. Scoop the cookies onto greased cookie sheets (or line the cookie sheets with silpats, which are wonderful since the cookies never stick and are less likely to burn).  I like to use a 1-Tb scoop for consistently pretty cookies, but you could just use a spoon.
  9. Flatten the cookies a bit with your fingers.
  10. Bake for ~15-20 minutes, until the edges are a nice golden-brown color. If you are baking more than one cookie sheet at a time, you may need to swap the position of the cookie sheets for the last ~5 minutes to achieve even cooking of both sheets. 
  11. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
  12. Melt the chocolate chips in a small pot over low heat, stirring occasionally.  Don't rush this process, as you don't want to burn the chocolate. 
  13. Once the chocolate is melted, use a fork to drizzle the chocolate over the cookies. I found that a relatively rapid back-and-forth motion of my hand worked well to make the chocolate drizzles look pretty.
  14. Allow the chocolate to fully cool to room temperature and harden. 
  15. Serve and enjoy!

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Friday, December 16, 2016

Beef Stroganoff Meatballs (gluten-free : nutrient-dense)

My family was surprised by how much we all enjoyed the food from Russia during our homeschool world trip. One of our favorite Russian-inspired dishes was Beef Stroganoff Meatballs. I was pleased to learn that Beef Stroganoff is often served over mashed potatoes in Russia, and my family really enjoyed eating this dish over buttery Yukon Gold mashed potatoes. My husband also gives this meal a thumbs-up as a frozen meal that he can re-heat for lunch at work.

This recipe was inspired by a recipe from Olga's Flavor Factory but I've made quite a few changes to make this recipe work better for my own family.

Beef Stroganoff Meatballs
Serves 6-8

  • Meatballs:
    • 1 large white or yellow onion, minced
    • 2 Tb butter, preferably from grassfed cows
    • 1&1/2 pounds ground beef, preferably from grassfed cows
    • 1 egg, preferably from pastured hens
    • 1&1/2 Tb white rice flour
    • 1&1/2 Tb sour cream
    • 1&1/2 tsp celtic sea salt
    • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
    • 2 Tb refined coconut oil plus 1 Tb butter
  • Stroganoff Gravy:
    • 2 Tb butter, preferably from grassfed cows
    • 1 pound brown mushrooms, sliced
    • 1 scallion, minced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 4 Tb white rice flour
    • 3 Tb dry vermouth* or dry white wine
    • 4 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade 
    • 1 tsp celtic sea salt 
    • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
    • 1/3 cup heavy cream
    • 3 Tb sour cream
    • 1/2 tsp dried dill
  1. In a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, sauté the onion in 2 Tb butter for about 15 minutes.  Adding a small sprinkle of salt will help the onion cook faster, since it causes the onion to release its moisture. Let the onion develop a bit of brown, caramelized color.  Turn off heat and allow to cool off a bit.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, egg, sour cream, salt, and pepper.  Stir to combine. Then add the caramelized onion and sprinkle with 1&1/2 Tb white rice flour. Stir until everything is well mixed.
  3. Form the meatball mixture into small meatballs. I like to use a 1 Tb scoop to easily make the meatballs uniformly-sized. 
  4. Heat a very large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2Tb refined coconut oil and 1 Tb butter, and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the meatballs and cook undisturbed for 3-4 minutes.  (If you don't have a very large skillet, the meatballs will need to be cooked in two batches.) Turn the meatballs and cook another 3-4 minutes. It is okay if the meatballs are not fully cooked during this step, as they will continue cooking in the gravy. Remove the meatballs from the pan and set aside. 
  5. Melt 2 Tb butter in the very large, heavy-bottomed skillet.  Add the sliced mushrooms and scallion. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and sauté for about 8 minutes, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and cooked down.  
  6. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute, just until fragrant.
  7. Stir in 4 Tb rice flour to coat the mushroom and scallions.
  8. Whisk in the broth and vermouth. The vermouth can be omitted if desired, but it really does add good flavor to the recipe. The alcohol evaporates out of the recipe very quickly while it cooks.
  9. Bring the sauce to a simmer and allow to cook for about 5 minutes, until it has thickened nicely. Taste the sauce and add salt to taste.
  10. Whisk in the heavy cream, sour cream, and dill. Add the meatballs to the gravy and simmer for 5 more minutes.Turn off heat and serve. This recipe makes plenty of gravy so it is excellent when served over mashed potatoes.

*I love to use vermouth instead of wine, as it doesn't go bad like unused wine. Vermouth is shelf stable, can be used in place of dry white wine in cooking, and can be stored at room temperature indefinitely.

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Marinated Cabbage Salad

Once a month, I attend a book club with a few friends where we share a meal together and discuss the month's book. Recently, my friend Nora hosted bookclub and she made a recipe I just had to re-create in my own kitchen: Claremont Salad, which I am calling Marinated Cabbage Salad. Nora modified the recipe from the original, and her salad was so perfect that I haven't made any changes to her recipe. (That is saying quite a lot, as I almost never follow recipes without fiddling with the ingredients somewhat.)

This Marinated Cabbage Salad is crispy, sour, and a tad bit sweet. It makes a perfect accompaniment to breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and it is a tasty addition to sandwiches. Marinated Cabbage Salad gets better over time, so although I eat it on the same day it is made, it is even better by day 3, and even better than that on day 5! This recipe will be a staple in our kitchen from now on.

Marinated Cabbage Salad
Makes 9-11 cups of salad

  • 1 medium-large head of green cabbage
  • 1 large yellow or white onion
  • 3 medium-large carrots
  • Marinade:
  1. Chop the cabbage into quarters. Remove the and discard core. Chop the cabbage and place in a very large bowl.
  2. Cut the onion in half and remove the papery onion skin. Thinly slice the onion and sprinkle into the bowl with the cabbage.
  3. Peel the carrots and slice them thinly. Add them to the bowl with the other veggies.
  4. Combine the marinade ingredients. I like to measure and mix up the marinade in a glass Pyrex measuring cup, which allows for easy measuring and cleanup. Whisk the marinade well to combine.
  5. Pour the marinade over the veggies and fold/stir to combine.
  6. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for several hours before serving.  I like to transfer this salad into a large glass bowl with a lid.  This salad will be even better as it continues to marinate over the next few days. Consume within about a week. This salad makes a tasty addition to sandwiches!

Do you have a favorite salad during the winter months?

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Friday, December 2, 2016

Russian Korean Carrot Salad

This recipe for Russian Korean Carrot Salad is the first of many internationally-inspired recipes that I will be sharing in the coming months. During our recent homeschool world trip, we discovered many new foods that my family enjoyed, and I'll be sharing the best of them with you.

Given that I've never been to most of the countries we "visited" on our homeschool world trip, I would not claim that these recipes are truly authentic to the recipes of those countries. Rather, I would say that these recipes are inspired by the recipes from the different countries we visited.  I find it almost impossible to follow recipes without adding my own tweaks and refinements, so I modified almost all of the recipes I used for our world trip, often combining several different recipes or making adjustments to make the recipes better suit the tastes of my family.

Russian Korean Carrot Salad has a strange name, and there is no real agreement as to where its name originated. Nonetheless, apparently this type of salad is enjoyed in Russia and was often listed as a typical side dish for Russia. Russian Korean Carrot Salad is super tasty, and is especially enjoyed by myself and my daughter. It can be eaten within an hour after it is made, but it is even better the 2nd or 3rd day.  Enjoy this as a yummy side dish any time of day, or it also makes a great addition to sandwiches and liver paté on toast.  

Russian Korean Carrot Salad
Serves 5-7
  1. Chop the onion finely. Heat the sunflower oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the chopped onion and a sprinkle of salt. Sauté the onion for 10-15 minutes, until well done and caramelized to release its natural sweetness. I like to use my bamboo spatula to sauté the onion.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the vinegar, spices, and sugar in a small bowl. Whisk to combine.
  3. Peel the carrots. Grate the carrots using a box grater and place them in a large bowl. I like to use a glass bowl with a lid for easy storage.
  4. Once the onion is done, turn off heat and quickly stir in the vinegar/spice mixture. 
  5. Stir the warm onion mixture into the grated carrots.
  6. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. Serve and enjoy! This salad is even better on the 2nd or 3rd day after being made, and makes a great addition to sandwiches. 

More Russian-inspired recipes will be coming soon! Do you have any favorite Russian-inspired recipes?


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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Chicken in Lemon Thyme Gravy (grain-free : gluten-free : nutrient-dense)

Chicken in Lemon Thyme Gravy is a perfect weeknight main dish. It cooks up quick and yummy in less than 30 minutes, and the bone-broth-based gravy is loaded with nutrition.  Everyone in my family loves this recipe, with its succulent meat and flavorful gravy.

Chicken in Lemon Thyme Gravy
Serves 3-4

  1. Debone the chicken thighs. There is a simple tutorial here that shows how to remove the bones. (I save and freeze the chicken thigh bones until I have accumulated enough of them to make a pot of homemade chicken bone broth.)
  2. Cut the chicken into ~1-inch wide strips. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Combine the sauce ingredients in a bowl. Whisk to combine and break up any lumps from the arrowroot.
  4. Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Once the skillet is hot, add the coconut oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the skillet.
  5. Add the chicken strips to the hot oil, skin-side facing down. Cover with a splatter screen since the chicken skin will pop and sizzle quite a bit while it cooks. Allow the chicken to cook, undisturbed, for about 3 minutes.
  6. Scrape the skillet with a spatula to loosen up the chicken, and then use tongs to turn the chicken. If the skillet is getting very hot, reduce the heat a bit. Cook for about 2 more minutes. 
  7. Remove the chicken from the skillet and set aside.
  8. Add the butter and garlic to the skillet and saute just until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.
  9. Whisk the sauce into the skillet, being sure to scrape the bottom of the skillet to loosen up any tasty tidbits left from the chicken. 
  10. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook for a couple minutes.
  11. Add the chicken back to the pan and stir to coat. Allow the chicken to re-warm for a minute or two. Turn off heat.
  12. Serve! Excellent accompaniments for this chicken would be mashed potatoes (recipe coming soon!), a side salad, nutrient-dense white rice, or simple buttered veggies.

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

26 World Folk and Fairy Tale Picture Books

My children and I have recently finished our 5-month-long Homeschool World Trip. This started as a small idea that soon grew into a semester-long adventure into books, music, and food from around the world.  My children absolutely loved our World Trip, so much, in fact, that next semester we will be doing a similar adventure in exploring the different regions and states of the United States. In the coming months, I will be sharing our favorite books, music, and recipes from our Homeschool World Trip.

Why Folk and Fairy Tales? 

In reading our way around the world, I decided to place a special focus on reading folk and fairy tales from the different cultures we visited on our World Trip. Folk and fairy tales are valuable because:
  • they offer a unique insight into the culture of any specific place,
  • they often include moral lessons which are so important for children to integrate into their consciousness, and
  • children find them to be very engaging. 
The following are our favorite folk and fairy tales from the 20 countries we "visited" on our World Trip. These books were a pleasure for me to read aloud to my children, and were especially enjoyed by both of my children (who are currently 6 and 9 years old).


The Paper Crane tells a story of wonder when an origami crane comes to life. This story illustrates kindness being repaid.


Baboushka and the Three Kings is a Russian Christmas folktale about a peasant woman who is visited by the three kings and then sets off on a search for the Christ child which ends in her giving gifts to children along the way.


The Emperor and the Kite tells the story of a small, nearly-forgotten princess who saves her father and the kingdom. This story is inspirational in its demonstration that even the smallest can do great deeds.

Fa Mulan: The Story of a Woman Warrior is a compelling tale about a young girl who saves her family by secretly taking her father's place as a warrior. Mulan becomes a great general of much acclaim, before returning to her home and family. My 9-year-old daughter was especially enamored with this book.

Indian Tales is a collection of Indian folktales which highlights the regions of India.  It includes information about each of the Indian states, followed by folktales from each region that my children found to be very engaging.

Monkey: A Trickster Tale From India is a classic tale of a monkey outwitting a crocodile. My 6-year-old son especially enjoyed this book and wanted me to read it again and again.



Middle East

Lugalbanda: The Boy Who Got Caught Up in a War is a beautifully-illustrated picture book that tells the oldest written story in the world (which was discovered on ancient Sumerian clay tablets only 150 years ago). My children were enthralled to hear this story of Lugalbanda's epic adventures.

Gilgamesh the King tells the beginning of the world-famous story of Gilgamesh. This book, and the two others in the series, have some of the most beautiful illustrations I've ever seen in a picture book, and my children were engrossed in the story of Gilgamesh as he changed from a lonely, mean tyrant, into a kind and beloved man.

Joseph and the Sabbath Fish is a Jewish parable that illustrates the principles of charity and giving versus greed and selfishness. This is a sweet little book that makes these lessons very accessible to kids. 


Why the Sun and the Moon Live in the Sky is an African folktale that was fascinating to my children. This story sparked some imaginative discussions in understanding how ancient peoples crafted their myths to explain the world around them.

West Africa
Anansi and the Moss-Covered Rock is a book that had both of my kids laughing hysterically. They loved hearing about Anansi the trickster spider and how he was repaid for his tricks.




The Bear and the Kingbird is a humorous tale by the Brothers Grimm. The bear insults the kingbirds, and a battle amongst all the creatures of the land and air ensues. The detailed illustrations in this book were a studied minutely by my children, giggling all the while.

Mr. Semolina Semolinus tells of princess Areti, who creates a perfect man from sugar, almonds, and semolina. When her perfect man is kidnapped by an evil queen, Areti journeys far to rescue him. This is one my children's all-time favorite stories.

Unwitting Wisdom: An Anthology of Aesop's Fables is a lavishly-illustrated collection of some of the most famous fables of all time.  These engaging tales illustrate life lessons so well, and had both of my children begging for more and more.

Atlantis: The Legend of a Lost City weaves the story of an island blessed by the sea god Poseidon. When the people of Atlantis lose their way and decay into bickering, treacherous people, Poseidon's wrath sinks the island to the bottom of the sea forever.  



Rapunzel is a well-known classic fairytale, yet this book by Zelinski gives it a whole new depth. The paintings in this book are gorgeous, and both of children listened with rapt attention to see what would happen with the evil sorceress and the entrapped girl.

Puss in Boots, by Perrault and Marcellino, tells of a crafty feline who rescues his owner from poverty. My kids loved this feline hero, and the book led us to interesting discussions about the propriety of the cat's actions.

South America

The Dancing Turtle tells of a flute-playing turtle who loves to dance. When turtle is captured, her only chance of escape is to convince the hunter's children to open her cage. My children were rooting for turtle, and this book led to some valuable discussion about children and their parents.

North America

The Honey Jar is a short chapter book that tells Mayan myths about the earth, sky, nature, and animals. My kids loved hearing these different perspectives on how the world came to be as it is.

The Bossy Gallito, which is written in both English and Spanish, is a fun tale about a rooster trying to make it to his uncle's wedding. Since we have hens and a rooster, any books featuring chickens are especially adored by my children. The illustrations in this book are entertaining, and my kids loved pointing out the error of the Bossy Gallito's ways. 

The Twenty-Five Mixtec Cats is a folktale that combines superstition and mysticism when a healer brings home twenty-five kittens. My kids thought this tale was quite funny and engaging.


United States
The Children's Book of America  is a great treasury of American Tall Tales, poems, and historical passages. My children especially loved the stories of Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, and the Legend of the Grand Canyon.

The Story of Jumping Mouse is a Native American folktale about a mouse on a journey to a far-off land. On the way, the mouse faces many obstacles and sacrifices his own natural gifts to help others in need. My children loved hearing about the mouse's journey and his wonderful transformation at the end of the story.

The Magic Hummingbird is a Hopi folktale from our area of the United States. My daughter, especially, loves this story of the hummingbird who saves the children from starvation during the long drought.

Canada/United States
Thirteen Moons on Turtle's Back is a collection of Native American tales about the thirteen moons of the year. This book took us on a beautiful journey through the seasons of the year. 


The Biggest Frog in Australia
is a folktale about a frog who drinks all the water from the land. The rest of the animals conspire to find some way to make the frog laugh and spill the water back out onto the land. My children thought this story was very funny. 

These are all of our favorite folk and fairy tales from our Homeschool World Trip. I will be sharing another list with the rest of our favorite picture books from our World Trip soon. Another excellent resource for world book recommendations is Jamie Martin's Give Your Child the World.

What are your favorite folk or fairy tale picture books?

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Thanksgiving Recipe Round-Up

Here is a round-up of recipes for Thanksgiving.  Some are from my site, and others are from around the 'net. Happy Thanksgiving!

Main Course

 Mmmm, roasted turkey is one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving.
image from finecooking.com

  • Slow roasted turkey - This recipe from Nourished Kitchen looks fabulous.
  • Brined turkey - My mom has based her own turkey recipe on this one from Alton Brown. She leaves out the allspice and ginger in the brine. Her turkey is moist and delicious!
  • Herb gravy - Elana uses cooked onions to thicken the gravy instead of flour, for a grain-free gravy. 

Side Dishes

 Part of what makes the Thanksgiving meal so special to me is the abundance of side dishes. 
  • Caramelized beets and carrots - This recipe is loved by both of my kids and would make a great Thanksgiving side dish. 
  • Simple buttered veggies - Broccoli, peas, or cauliflower are great this way.
  • Roasted cauliflower with garlic and lemon juice - I adore this recipe from Emeril. I cook it at a lower temperature for longer, and substitute a combination of butter and refined coconut oil for the olive oil (since I prefer not to cook with olive oil because most of its benefits are lost with heat).
  • Caramelized green beans - Caramelized green beans are a staple item at every Thanksgiving feast for my family.  For our holiday, I'll use chicken stock in this recipe.
  • Mashed butternut squash - Mashed butternut squash is a great alternative to potatoes or even sweet potatoes.  My favorite ways to season mashed butternut squash are savory (with butter, garlic, and thyme) or sweet (with ginger, garlic, nutmeg, cinnamon, and a touch of honey). 
  • Mashed potatoes - My family likes this recipe, which adds whole garlic and bay leaves to the cooking water and results in great flavor for the mashed potatoes. I double the amount of butter called for in the recipe.
  • Ginger-dill sauerkraut - Sauerkraut is a delicious, digestion-promoting ferment that pairs well with lots of foods.
  • Cranberry sauce with apples and ginger - My family has enjoyed this cranberry sauce for over 4 years now. This cranberry sauce is wonderfully tart, and spiced with ginger and orange. 
  • Cranberry cherry sauce - For something new, I will be trying this recipe from Elana this year. I'm not a fan of the flavor of stevia, so I will substitute honey as the sweetener.


Thanksgiving desserts for our family always revolve around pumpkin.  A family tradition from my own childhood is to have pumpkin pie for breakfast on Thanksgiving, and I have continued that tradition with my own children. I make homemade pumpkin puree to use in any of these recipes.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Our Daily Homeschool and Housework Routine

Having routines for homeschooling and housework helps our lives run more smoothly.  Sure, there are weeks when the routine gets thrown completely out the window, but most of our weekdays follow a routine which is fairly predictable.  Using a routine helps ensure that my kids have minimal resistance to doing housework, because they know what to expect and what is expected of them daily.  Our routine also makes our exploration of academics more effective: because my children know that I am only available for academic pursuits for a set time each day, they are motivated for us to do as much as we can while I am available before I start my work hours.

It's been several years since I blogged about our homeschool routine, so I thought I'd post an update about what our days are looking like now. My kids are now 6 and 9, and what currently works as a good balance is to incorporate learning and housework both throughout the day.

Morning Routine

I let the kids sleep as late as they want to in the morning.  They are usually up and out of bed by 7:30 or 8am, and then we start our morning routine. Our morning routine is an essential part of getting our day going in the right direction. On days when we have skipped our morning routine, we seem somewhat directionless and disoriented, with more-frequent sibling squabbles and making it less likely that we will have a beautiful homeschool day.  

From start-to-finish, our morning routine takes about 60-90 minutes. I have a few different methods for ensuring that everyone stays on-task during our morning routine, but the method I use most often is putting on a music or Spanish CD after breakfast for us to listen to as we go about our routines.

  • Read-Aloud and Breakfast - We start with a read-aloud first thing in the morning, either while snuggling on the couch or while the kids are eating breakfast. (Lately, our morning read-aloud has typically been a picture book or Life of Fred). One of my children eats at a rather slow-and-steady pace, so there is usually plenty of time for me to read aloud after I have finished my own breakfast.
  • Kitchen Family Work - The kids and I work together to empty the dishwasher each morning.  One child is assigned to empty the silverware basket, and the other puts away all of the children's dishes, which are stored in a low cabinet.  I put away the remainder and empty the dish drainer. 
  • Morning Chores - We each have our own chores to do every morning.  The children alternate days on washing and loading the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher. On the alternate days when they are not washing breakfast dishes, the children each do another chore, such as vacuuming the living room, scrubbing a bathroom toilet or sink, or straightening up the craft/project table. The children also feed and water the dog daily. My own morning chores include starting a load of laundry, cleaning up dog poo outside, and filling the birdfeeder.
  • Bedroom and Self Care - We each make our beds, brush our teeth, and get dressed for the day.

School Time

2-3 days per week, after our morning routine we have school time. Our school time lasts for 1-2 hours, which may not sound like much time, but we usually accomplish quite a bit in that short time.  Because we use the Leadership Education philosophy, I am focusing on nurturing my children's love of learning and I do not force the kids to participate in school activities.  However, they enjoy this part of our days, and happily choose to participate.
  • Alternate Weeks - The children have alternating weeks where they get to choose what we will do during school time.  They love this!
  • Physical Activity - Our school time often includes a short walk or bike ride, as we all feel better when we are getting plenty of physical activity.  Sometimes the physical activity will segue into an extended nature study time. 
  • Academic Resources - The children can choose from our many curriculum options. The academic resources that my children choose to use most often are:


Lunch and Free Play/Work Time

After our morning school time 2-3 days per week, we have lunch and then free play/work time.
  • Lunch - I usually make a quick lunch for the three of us around 11:30AM.  We eat together and then I clean up the dishes.  
  • Free Play for Kids - The kids have 2-3 hours of free play time. They often have long imaginative play sessions during this time. My 9-year-old also often uses some of this time to work on crafts/projects. Knowing that they have this time scheduled for free play each day makes my kids more motivated to dig into school/academic topics in the morning before I go to work in the computer room.
  • Work Time for Mom - I work for 2-3 hours on homeopathic appointments/casework, blogging, writing for Real Food and Health Magazine, or homeschool planning.When the weather and my work allow it, we will all go to the park for this time so the kids can play there while I work on my portable computer.

Away-From-Home Days

2 to 3 days per week, we have outside-the-home activities such as homeschoolers park day and book discussion group, field trips, errands, or hiking with grandma. On those days, once our morning routine is finished we head out into the world.  We usually return home in the early afternoon by around 1:30-2:30pm, just in time for our afternoon routine.

Afternoon Routine

Our afternoon routine is an essential part of our days. Without our afternoon routine, I am more likely to be grumpy and burned out in the evening, and the kids are more likely to be bickering and discontented. Because my kids and I each have some amount of introversion in our personalities, the afternoons give us time to recharge on our own. Our afternoon routine usually lasts from about 2:30-4:30pm.
  • Clean Up - Because the house is often quite messy by the time the kids are done playing for 2-3 hours, we work together to quickly get things back in order.  
  • Team Laundry - The kids and I work together to fold and put away a load of laundry. 
  • Quiet Time - We each go to a separate room for 1-2 hours.  During this time, the children play quietly, listen to audio books, read, color, or work on projects. They often meet up partway through quiet time, and are free to play together so long as they don't get too rambunctious.  My own Quiet Time includes my daily nap for 10-15 minutes and some combination of yoga, reading, studying, and internet/email usage.


Late Afternoon and Evening

Our evening routine includes dinner, free time and our bedtime routine, which ensures that we have fairly consistent bedtimes.

  • Clean Up and Chicken Chores -  The kids clean up their Quiet Time messes (minus anything they are still using). My daughter generally does her daily chicken care chores after Quiet Time, too.
  • Dinner Prep - I get to work on preparing dinner, and meanwhile the kids either play or join me in the kitchen.  I usually spend 45-90 minutes making dinner.  The kids set the table with napkins, silverware, and drinks for dinner.
  • Family Dinner - My husband returns home from work at 5:45pm and we have a family dinner together at 6pm. Afterwards, my husband usually washes the dinner dishes. 
  • Evening Free Time - Then there is free time for all, including playing, discussing, reading, creating, going for walks, etc.
  • Bedtime Routine - Around 7:45pm, we start our bedtime routine. We do a quick full-house tidying up, which ensures that the following day we will start with a fresh, reasonably tidy house. The children can have a small snack, and then brush their teeth and get their jammies on. I often practice piano or read on my own while the kids are doing their bedtime routines. If the kids finish their bedtime routines before 8:15pm, they may have a few minutes of "quiet energy burst", during which they run and jump around for the last time of the day.
  • Nightly Read-Aloud -The kids and I meet up on the couch around 8:30pm.  I give my 6-year-old son the opportunity to do some reading practice, which he chooses to do about twice a week. My 9-year-old daughter often enjoys reading aloud to us from a nature book during this time, too. Then the kids settle in to trace their penpal letters, color, sew, or draw while I read aloud. I often start with a chapter from a history or geography book, and then move onto our current chapter book.
  • Bedtime Reading - The kids and I move into their shared bedroom around 9pm. They settle under the covers and I finish reading from our current chapter book. Lights are out around 9:15pm.

Do you like having routines, or are you more of a spontaneous person?What routines that help your days run more smoothly?

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Love of Learning Phase: Age 8-12

This post is the third in my Back-to-Homeschool series for 2016.

In my recent back-to-homeschool posts, I've been discussing the phases of learning and how applying them can improve children's education. In the Leadership Education philosophy (also known as TJEd), the three phases of learning in childhood and the early teen years are:
In this post, I will discuss the Love of Learning Phase in more detail.


Transitioning into Love of Learning Phase

According to Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning, when the foundation of Core Phase has been achieved, students will naturally progress into the Love of Learning Phase at around age 8 (or a little later for boys) [1]. Because Core Phase is the foundation for all subsequent phases, the Core Phase should still be nurtured even while the student is in Love of Learning Phase. As described in For the Love of Learning (by Amy Edwards), "it will not harm your children to spend a little extra time in Core Phase rather than rush into Love of Learning too early" [2]. The transition into Love of Learning phase will happen on its own when the child has a solid Core Phase foundation and has reached their own developmental age for Love of Learning. 

Signs that a child is transitioning into Love of Learning Phase may include:
  • the child choosing to spend less of their free time in imaginative play, and more of their time reading and working on projects,
  • the child having "many interests, all of which seem to run very hot but often burn out quickly" [2], and
  • the child having learned well the lessons of Core Phase (including good character, readily achieving household responsibilities, and strong family relationships) so that Core Phase issues occur infrequently.


Love of Learning Phase "Curriculum"

The "names of the phases [of learning] do not describe what is happening during the phase, especially not in the beginning of each phase. The name describes what the end result will be. Children in Core Phase will have a solid foundation in core values by the end of Core Phase. Children in Love of Learning Phase will love to learn by the end of the phase" [2].

In the Love of Learning Phase, the "curriculum" is essentially giving the student the opportunity to "freely fall in love with the joys of learning and to experience first-hand how wonderful learning can be." [1] This can be accomplished through:
  • giving students the freedom and support necessary to explore and pursue their interests in as much depth as desired,
  • helping the students develop the habit of studying on a regular basis, wherein the focus and schedule of the study time is determined by the students themselves, 
  • leaving enough unstructured time for the student to be in the "space of discomfort/boredom that impels a young person to exert himself to accomplish something worthwhile" [1], and
  • parents conscientiously working to create an environment that inspires learning.


Academics in Love of Learning Phase

There is more focus on academics in Love of Learning Phase than in Core Phase, but the Love of Learning Phase still does not include forcing the child to accomplish academic tasks. The academic pursuits in Love of Learning Phase are based largely on the child's own interests, and the parents' task is to inspire the child to want to learn rather than trying to force learning upon the child.  This is an important distinction, because forcing a child to do academics is more likely to cultivate a hate of learning instead of a love of learning.

Parents can purposefully inspire the child to love learning by making their own educations a priority (and thereby setting a good example that the kids will naturally follow), by making sure there are plenty of interesting academic resources available, and by creating an environment where there is plenty of time for exploration and learning to happen (through limiting such things as media, electronics, and structured classes/activities for the children).


Examples of Love of Learning Phase Activities

To help readers get a better idea of what the Love of Learning Phase looks like in practice, below are some examples of Love of Learning Phase activities.
  • Continuing to nurture the Core Phase:
    • Focusing on character development as a fundamental aspect of education
    • Nurturing family relationships such that the child has strong, positive relationships with their parents, siblings, grandparents, etc.
    • Working together as a family to maintain the home and yard
    • Doing service for others as a family
  • Unpressured exploration of academic pursuits:
  • Helping children learn to set goals and reasonable expectations:
    • Helping children create a homeschool compass every 3-6 months wherein the children set their sights on their overall areas of interest over the coming months
    • Meeting with children regularly to help them in setting their own goals for the coming weeks, and to help them learn accountability in meeting their goals
    • Being supportive and positive in teaching these skills to children so that they feel confident in their abilities
  • Enabling the children to reach mastery in household responsibilities:
    • Teaching basic life skills to children, such as the following:
      • cleaning
      • laundry
      • gardening
      • budgeting
      • grocery shopping
      • cooking
      • yard and home maintenance
  • Creating a home environment that inspires learning:
    • Parents leading out by focusing on their own educations; when the children often see the parents reading, writing, and discussing their own passionate interests, the children will naturally imitate that example
    • Limiting electronic distractions in the home (such as computers, TV, movies, and video games) so that there is plenty of time for the children to pursue their own projects and interests
    • Parents purposefully limiting the number of outside-the-home activities and classes so that there is plenty of time available for interest-led learning
    • Having tools available that aid in the exploration of math, science, history, geography, handicrafts, and workshop skills; examples of such tools include wall maps, microscopes, measuring tools, woodworking tools, etc. (I can post more information about tools that aid the childhood learning phases if that is desired)

My Experience with Love of Learning Phase in Our Homeschool

When my daughter was transitioning into Love of Learning Phase, I observed that in her free time she was playing less and instead focused more on self-directed craft projects, drawing, and poring over books about her favorite subjects (horses, folktales, and Native Americans). Over the last year or so that she has been in Love of Learning phase, the time she chooses to spend playing has continued to diminish, much to her little brother's chagrin, and meanwhile her interests have continued to expand into many different areas. She is often seen toting around large science encyclopedias or our (totally amazing) Ultimate Visual Dictionary.

Because I have a history of pushing too hard, too fast with her education, even though I could tell that my daughter was moving into Love of Learning Phase, I spent months just continuing to focus on nurturing her Core Phase. Over the last few months, I have been purposefully digging deeper into Love of Learning activities with her.

For example, she has a long-term goal of having a blog some day. We've talked about how she will need to learn spelling and typing in order to achieve that goal. For quite a long while, she has been choosing to practice handwriting regularly by tracing over letters that I either handwrite or print off the computer, but she has rarely wanted to write without having something to trace (probably because that was one of the subjects that I pushed too hard on early in our homeschooling). Because she wants to start working towards her goal of blogging, she has decided to work on spelling and writing-without-tracing on a regular basis.

(Initially, she was setting goals to practice spelling and writing-without-tracing, but she kept bumping into a lack of motivation to actually put in the time.  By knowing her energy type and listening to Carol Tuttle's series on motivating each type of child, my daughter and I have been able to brainstorm ways to help her keep up her motivation to achieve her own goals, and that has been working very well.)

Besides helping my daughter with working on her long-term goals, her journey into Love of Learning Phase has necessitated that I carve out more time when her brother can be otherwise-occupied so that she has some time to pursue her own interests independently as well as with my assistance. Additionally, because I can tell that her maturity has increased, I have been giving my daughter more responsibility in having authority over when she does her chicken chores, taking over more aspects of managing her chicken egg business, and trusting her to self-govern other aspects of her day-to-day life. Her Love of Learning Phase is progressing beautifully.

References and Resources for Learning More About Love of Learning Phase

Want to learn more about Love of Learning Phase? Check out these resources:


    Have you heard of Love of Learning Phase previously? What are your favorite methods for inspiring your children to love learning?

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