Tasty Tuesday: Christmas Memories

While we were home for Christmas, Preacher Man found a container of leftover chili in my Mom’s refrigerator. He proceeded to talk off and on about how good that chili was for the rest of the trip. During our super cold (for Texas anyway) snap in January, I made chili a couple of times and each time he’d ask, “You need to get that chili recipe from your mom. That was the best chili!”

Finally he wore me down, and I called my mom to get the recipe. Once I wrote down the recipe, I looked at the list of ingredients and thought, “This chili recipe has some of the craziest ingredients in it!” I made it and had to agree with Preacher Man….it is the best chili.



2 pounds hamburger meat

1 small onion

1 bell pepper

1 tsp. cilantro

1/2 tsp. cumin

2 packages of chili seasoning mix (or enough to use with two pounds of meat)

16 oz. can tomato sauce

16 oz. can petite diced tomatoes

1 can beef broth

1 can Coke

16 oz. can Bush chili beans (I bought mild)

10 oz. can of refried beans (I could only find 14 oz. cans, so I just used 2/3 of the can.)


Cook the hamburger, onion, and bell pepper until the meat is browned and the vegetables are soft in a large pot or Dutch oven. Drain the meat mixture. Add the seasonings, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, beef broth, and Coke. Bring to a boil. Stir in the chili beans and refried beans.  Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes to an hour.

I have to eat a little crow about this chili. I really, really liked it, but I’ve always stated firmly and with authority that I DO NOT LIKE BEANS IN MY CHILI. Well, I actually don’t mind the beans in this chili, probably for two reasons. First, there are not that many beans in this chili compared to the amount of other stuff. Second, the beans in this chili are not those huge, nasty kidney beans (my apologies to all kidney bean lovers out there!). So don’t be afraid to give it a try, even if you are not a beans in the chili lover.

Making Christmas memories that last a life time through delicious food in the tree house,



World History From Axis Powers to Ziggurats: The 4.0 Version

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Since we start our new school year with the calendar year and since I’ve already blown my original plans for Chipette out of the water because I broke the #1 rule of homeschooling: if it works, don’t change, I thought now would be a good time to share Chipette’s updated and corrected homeschool curriculum plans for 2014.

World History from Axis to Ziggurat 4.0

{Skill Subjects}


Math in Focus: This program works well for Chipette so we are going to keep on keeping on! This year I am planning on covering books 3B and 4A.

Life of Fred Elementary Math: This is new to the lineup this year. I’m not sure why I never thought to try this math program with my story-loving girl, but we’re diving in for fourth grade. I decided to start with Goldfish for her (I know you’re supposed to start every kid with Apples, but I’m a rebel). I’m hoping we can make it through Goldfish, Honey, Ice Cream, and Jelly Beans.

Reflex Math: I discovered this gem last year and it’s helped Chipette with her math facts tremendously! I thought she’d never learn them, but this program has made it virtually painless.

Language Arts

Introductory Lessons in English Grammar: This is a vintage grammar book by William Henry Maxwell that is free on Google Books. I needed something to fill in a gap year before we continued with Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts (which we love!). This book fit the bill since it was 1) free and 2) would cover things nicely. I’m going to turn some of the exercises in this book into worksheets which I will link for free on the blog.

Writing and Rhetoric by Classical Academic Press: We started this program right after it was released (in fact I pre-ordered it!), and I still love it just as much as when we started the program. It has been an amazing addition to our homeschool. I can’t say enough good things about it.

Apples and Pears Spelling Book C: Since finding this spelling program, Chipette has been making great progress with her spelling. I worried that she’d never be a good speller, but with Apples and Pears, she’s getting there. We’re definitely continuing with this program until the end.

K12 Fourth Grade Literature: I chose to use this program in third grade mainly because I could find all the pieces so cheaply used. The surprise was that it is a really great, engaging literature program for elementary. Chipette loves this program and all of the fun activities that you use to extend the stories.

Independent Reading List: I created this list for Chipette for her fourth grade year. These are books that I would like her to read, but we aren’t going to do any kind of in-depth study. She will read through this list as part of her independent work every day, and I’ll just ask general questions about the books to make sure she read it.

Mythology and Tales: To go along with our world history program this year I made a schedule to read through mythology and tales from different civilizations throughout time. We will spend eight weeks reading through each of the following books Tales of Ancient Egypt, D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, Stories from the History of Rome, and D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths. For the final three weeks of our school year, we’re going to do a study of three of Washington Irving’s short stories: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Rip Van Winkle, and The Devil and Tom Walker.

{Content Subjects}


Heart of Dakota Preparing Hearts for His Glory: Chipette thrives with Heart of Dakota and, even though I wanted to fit her into a different box early on this year, it was a colossal mistake. So we are back with Heart of Dakota and Chipette is greatly enjoying her studies. I have made some modifications to Heart of Dakota to make it more Charlotte Mason, such as including the mythology and tales readings mentioned above plus some other tweaking that I’ll mention in a later post. We will be using Heart of Dakota for history, science, poetry, and personal Bible study.

Time Travelers Activity-Based U. S. History Studies: One thing I’m adding to Heart of Dakota is a simple, project-based American history study using Time Travelers from Home School in the Woods. First, we’ll complete a unit study on Native Americans using History Pockets: Native Americans and an American Girl Unit Study about Kaya which should take us 11 weeks. Then we’ll do Time Travelers: New World Explorers for 12 weeks and Time Travelers: Colonial Life for the last 12 weeks of the year.

Beautiful Feet Geography Through Literature: Last year we completed Seabird and this year we are going to work through Paddle to the Sea. Chipette really loves this geography program so much, and it takes such little time.

Sheppard Software: Chipette does this on her own as part of her independent work. I’m having her work on locating the state of the U.S., and once she has those down, we’ll work on capitals.  I love using Sheppard Software because it teaches and quizzes, plus you can set the program to cover only certain regions at a time so that the states are introduced by the handful instead of all at once.


Sassafras Science Adventures: Zoology: We didn’t quite finish this book last year and I had planned on just dropping it and heading into the next book, Human Anatomy, but Chipette was adamant that she wanted to finish it. We will spend the first 10 weeks finishing Zoology. I’m going to have Chipette reading My Life with Chimpanzees by Jane Goodall, A Life in the Wild: George Schaller’s Struggle to Save the Last Great Beasts by Pamela Turner, and Tooth and Claw: Animals Adventures in the Wild by Ted Lewin to go along with Zoology.

Baltimore Curriculum Project: This is a really awesome website that uses the Core Knowledge books as the basis to build an entire curriculum for K-6th grades. The best part is that it’s FREE! I love the science plans most of all, so we’re spending 7 weeks studying matter, energy and force, and chemistry using the plans found under the fourth and fifth grade science. I haven’t decided what biographies I’ll have Chipette read along with this study yet.

Otter’s Botany from Guest Hollow: A wonderful homeschool mother offers a lot of curriculum on her website for free and we’re going to be using her botany curriculum for the last half of the year via the one semester option. It will take us 18 weeks to complete it and looks like so much fun. For biographies, Chipette will be reading Luther Burbank: Nature’s Helper, The Story of George Washington Carver, and Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine 1845-1850.

The Nature Connection: The only way that nature study gets done around here is by using this book. It makes nature study super simple and enjoyable! Back on the line up this year.



Getting Started with Spanish: This workbook gets rave reviews from a lot of homeschoolers so we’re trying it this year. I plan on using half of it this year and half next year.

R.E.A.L Homeschool Spanish: I purchased this years ago and we’re really diving into it this year. There is a lot of stuff in this program! Games, vocabulary, cultural studies so you can go as deeply as you wish.


Mindbenders A2: Chipette loves logic problems and she’ll easily do these three workbooks on her own this year.

Logic Safari 2

Logic Countdown

Shakespeare Studies

We will be covering the following plays this year: Twelfth Night, A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream, Timon of Athens, Measure for Measure, Two Gentleman of Verona using the following resources:

Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare: One of my favorite Shakespeare resources for elementary grades. This book contains a retelling of many Shakespeare plays in prose.

Twelfth Night: If you haven’t discovered Bruce Coville’s picture book adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays, then now is the time! We are slowly collecting all of these books because Chipette loves to read and reread them.

A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream: Another Coville picture book and Chipette’s favorite Shakespeare play.

How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare: This is more of a reference book for me, but I’m looking forward to utilizing this book to it’s fullest for helping Chipette understand Shakespeare and memorizing some passages.


Bible Study Guide for All Ages: Our tried and true favorite and the one thing I haven’t changed since we started homeschooling. This program is responsible for the amazing Bible knowledge that my kids have. Love it!

Growing Up in God’s Word: The Book of Exodus: This is a new product that I’m so excited about using this year with the girls. Look for a review about it coming the next few months!

What to Do When Your Temper Flares and Choosing Kindness: Both of these books are part of Chipette’s character training studies this year. She goes through the books one-on-one with me and I try to choose things to study that I’ve noticed her struggling with.


Check out Magpie’s First Grade Curriculum as well.




Dear Me

Dear Me
February 17, 2014

Dear Me,

Yes, the date on this letter is correct, and, yes, it’s me. Or I should say, it’s you writing to you from five years in the future. I know right now you and Chipette are just dabbling in this homeschool thing, basically doing it as a trial run with preschool to see how it goes. I know you’re worried about being solely responsible for her education, you’re concerned that she’ll never learn to read (she will and that pretty nine month old baby you have will too!), and you’re frightened of going against the status quo.

As of this writing, you’ve been homeschooling for five years. Crazy, huh? What started as a trial run has now morphed into a lifestyle that the whole family enjoys (most of the time!). However, there are a few things I want to share with you that you’ve had to learn the hard way over these five years. If you listen, then the future of your homeschool will be spectacular. I know you like lists, so here goes:

1) It All Begins With Me
As much as you don’t want to hear this a lot of the joy and efficiency of your homeschool is going to hinge on you. What that translates into, Ms. Night Owl, is that you need to get in bed at a reasonable hour every night so that you can be awake before the kids and prepped mentally, spiritually, and physically for the day. When you are tired, you get stressed and, let’s face it, a little grumpy. Not a good environment for our little darlings to try to learn in and much more likely that you will take the day off and get behind. So make yourself go to bed, and make yourself get up early. Homeschooling, as flexible and unconstrained as it can be, is still your job, so act like it.

2) Habit Training is #1
I know that you can do cleaning and other chores faster than the kids, but it’s imperative that you train them to help you around the house and make them do it. Get some routines in place NOW for clean up times and don’t slack off. It will save you a lot of heartache five years down the road when you have that ugly “Come to Jesus” meeting where you break down in tears begging for help from these people you’ve allowed to coast because you tried to be Super Mom. Guess what, honey? You are going to fail, so fix it now and be the enforcer.

3) Teaching Individuals
In some sick twist of fate, God saw fit to give you an oldest child who loves experiments, crafts, art, and projects. That’s right, Miss Why-Can’t-We-Just-Read-A-Book-About-It, you are going to have a girl who loves hands on, paint, paper mache, and glitter. Just this year in 2014, you tried to force her into your box. Well, guess what? Now you’re having to go back and purchase the curriculum you should have stayed with from the get go. It’s not certain yet what way of learning Magpie and Monkey (that’s your son) will enjoy, but I can guarantee you one thing, they will probably all be different. That’s not a bad thing, but you need to realize that they need you to teach them as individuals and not force them into a preconceived box that you have for them. However, we are holding out hope that one of the younger ones will devour books like a shark in a vat of chum.

4) A Perfect Curriculum is a Myth
We’ve been on the quest for this holy grail of homeschooling for many years now, but I want to end it before it begins. There is NO such thing as a perfect homeschool curriculum, so stop looking. Stop spending money trying to find it. Stop thinking that every new thing that you hear about will be it. In fact, I’ll tell you what the “perfect” homeschool curriculum is….it’s the one that gets done with the least amount of tears, crying, and drama possible. When you find something that fits that criteria, do NOT change it no matter what other shiny, brand new thing you see. Just say no isn’t only about drugs; it works for curriculum addiction too.

5) Be True to YOUR School
Ahh, the internet. How did anyone ever homeschool without it? I’ll tell you how. They were a lot more content and happy with their homeschools. You love to read blogs. In fact, you’ll have a blog one day, but one thing you need to realize very quickly is that just because Tot Trays or Preschool Busy Bags keep little ones entertained for hours at a time online, it will not work for your kids unless the goal is to have a hot mess in about 10 minutes as they rip everything apart. And those families whose kids are up at the crack of dawn working on Advanced Algebra in fourth grade before helping Mom grind wheat berries to make bread later in the day…that will never be your family. And there’s nothing wrong with that. This is your homeschool, and no one else’s. What works for you, may not work for others, but it doesn’t mean you are doing anything wrong or not accomplishing enough. It just means that God is doing a different work in your family than He is in another. So let it go and accept what your homeschool is.

Notice how pretty much all of these have NOTHING to do with the academic side of things! In fact, most of them are about attitude, our attitude. That’s because you are so worried about getting the academic part right that you do a bang up job on it (if we do say so ourselves!), but you’ve really dropped the ball on these other ones that are probably more important than the academics because they directly impact the learning in your home. I’m trying to sort these things out now, but I would greatly appreciate it if you could work on them from the beginning. It will make life and homeschooling a lot easier five years in the future.

Thanks so much,


P.S. One day in the future you’re going to think that everything is picked up in the living room floor, but it’s not so don’t leave your son on the floor alone. He almost chokes to death on a fairy charm from Chipette’s necklace. Paramedics are called. He’s fine, but it will haunt you for a long time, so let’s try to avoid that one the second time around.

Check out what the other ladies of iHN would say to their younger selves about homeschooling and life: