Tasty Tuesday: A Cajun Treat

Since moving to an area that is infused with Cajun food, I've discovered all kinds of cuisine that wasn't very common where I grew up.

One side dish that is eaten often here is called dirty rice. As a child dirty rice was what your mom had to throw out because it wasn't fit to eat, but now I know that dirty rice is a delicious combination of spices, sausage, and rice.

To make your rice a little dirtier, here is what you will need.

2 pounds of ground sausage (mild or hot depending on how much Cajun is in you)
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 can chicken broth

And 1 3/4 cup of long-grain white rice.

Disclaimer: The rice picture is seperate from the other ingredients because I had two blog photographers (Magpie and Chipette) who were fighting over the camera when I was trying to arrange the ingredients, thus the rice got left out. I didn't realize it until we were already on step two, so the picture of rice alone was necessary. Yeah, things don't always run so smoothly here :) Too many photographers spoil the blog!

Next you combine the sausage, onion, and celery in a large skillet and cook over medium-high heat.

After the sausage is browned and crumbly, then remove from heat and drain well.

I seriously wish that pictures were scratch and sniff because this smells sooooo good when it's cooking!

After you drain the meat (I rinse it as well), stir in the soup, broth, and rice.

Spoon into a 13x9 inch baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray and cover with foil.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes. And you will have the perfect side dish for fish, chicken, or steak. Around our house we usually eat it as a meal all by itself!

So good and spicy. Cajun comfort food at its best!

Talking with a bit of a Creole twang in the treehouse,



Mama Monday: Chores Part 2

Last week on Mama Monday, I started discussing that dreaded six-letter word: CHORES.

Here is the original article if you need to catch up: Chores Part 1
This week is the rubber-meets-the-road part of the discussion.

Just how do we get our kids to pitch in around the house? I've seen (and invented) more chore systems then any family would ever need. I've heard the arguments about paying for chores (they are working and we get paid when we work) versus not paying for chores (they need to realize that they are part of the family and should pitch in for that reason not because they are going to get something).

So here is how I combined all of that information into a system that works for our family. Maybe it will help you figure out something that will work for yours as well.

1. To Pay or Not to Pay? That is the Question.  Should you pay for your children to do chores? Yes, we get paid for our labors, so children should learn the value of a dollar. They need to learn how to save, how to give, and how to spend wisely. This is best learned while under your roof instead of as a freshman in college when all of those credit card applications show up in their incoming freshman packet. I don't believe that children should get an allowance, though, just for existing (aka doing nothing to earn it).  Should you expect your children to do chores just because they are a member of the family and need to pull their own weight? Yes, we all have to learn how to keep house. Children need to learn that keeping house does not come with a paycheck (I'm still waiting on my first one and I've been a SAHM for almost 8 years now!). So how do you combine these two seemingly opposite on.

2. A Workman is Only as Good as His Tools. Don't set your children up to fail. Don't set yourself up to lose your temper. When I first started this chore quest, I handed Chipette (age 4 at the time) a cleaning rag, a bottle of Windex, and asked her to clean off the front of the oven. About five minutes later Chipette walks up to me with a cleaning rag dripping Windex because she had used so much and tells me that she is done with her job. And then I lose it, "Why did you use so much Windex? You don't need that much just to clean the front of the stove! Just spray a little bit and wipe it off!" After this happened with dusting (Pledge soaked rag this time) and cleaning the bathroom sink (Scrubbing Bubbles rag for try number three), I realized that when you hand a 4 year old anything that sprays, they are going to spray and spray and spray and spray...and then spray one more time just to be sure it's clean. Now my kids have their own cleaning caddys which contain Pledge wipes, Swiffer dusters, Windex wipes, and Clorox wipes. No more nightly meetings to Sprayers Anonymous for my children, no more blow ups by mom, and the wipes are given out one at a time by me. Set your children up to succeed.

3. So What's the System Already?!? Well, I couldn't tell you how it worked right off the bat!
  • First, Chipette and Magpie have morning chores, afternoon chores, and evening chores. They DO NOT get paid for these chores. These chores are part of their responsibility to contribute to our family. The non-paying chores are things that Chipette and Magpie have been trained to do and are able to do them by themselves. Examples of these types of chores are making their beds, emptying the dishwasher, and taking out the trash.
  • Second, Chipette and Magpie also have chores that they can CHOOSE to do each day if they want to and they WILL get paid for these. These chores are chores off of my chore list that they are able to do with supervision. For example, when we are working on cleaning the living room, they can get paid for dusting the lower half of the room, vaccuming the edges of the carpet with our handvac, and cleaning the inside of the living room window. They are paid ten cents a chore. Usually I offer them about three paid chores, each day, five days a week. It's possible they can earn $1.50 a week. If they do all of their extra chores for an entire month, then they will get a $2 bonus at the end of the month. However, if they do all of their paid chores in the day, but "forget" to pick up their toys, then they will not get paid. All family chores must be completed that day to get the money for your paid chores. This keeps them from just doing the paid chores, but refusing to do the others. Paying for chores gives you a new discipline strategy (You will replace all of the Expo markers that brother bit the ends off of because you didn't put them up!), and if they want something at the store, they have thier own money to buy it.
  • Third, I use picture cards and a chore chart to show what chores they have to do that day. This way even your toddlers and preschoolers who can't read yet can understand what chores they need to do. Chipette, age 7, still likes the picture cards eventhough she can read. When she does outgrow the pictures, though, I can easily start writing on her chart with a dry erase marker each day.
Now to help out my fellow visual learners:

This is a picture of Chipette's chore chart.

You can easily see her chore categories of morning, afternoon, evening, and to earn. I put velcro dots on the chart and on the back of the chore picture cards so that when they are done with that chore, they take it off the chart, bring it to me, and I go inspect their work. If it is a complete job, then the card is put away until tomorrow. If not, then they try again.

Here is what the chart looks like with the chore picture cards on it.

We hang our chore charts on the side of the refrigerator by putting magnet strips on the back. They are up high enough so little Monkey hands can't reach them! I keep the chore picture cards on top of the fridge in a plastic storage container.

Here are Chipette and Magpie's chore charts on the refrigerator filled in for a typical Monday.

I keep one of those magnetic note pads on the fridge where I write what each child has earned that day for their chores. They get paid every Saturday morning and keep some out to give to others (church contribution, missionary support, Angel Tree at Christmas, etc.), some to save, and the rest to spend.

I do laminate everything for durability. If you are looking for where to get the chore charts and the chore cards, then I would be remiss if I didn't direct you to Homeschool Creations who was the inspiration for my system and where I found my chore cards. My chore chart is a little different than hers (mine has an evening chore category), but it is easy to make the picture cards and the chore chart using the "Make Table" feature in Microsoft Word if you wanted to customize yours as well.

That is our system in a nutshell. Feel free to post any questions in the comments section because I'm sure I didn't explain something well enough!

Working in the treehouse where payment comes in the form of hugs and kisses,


Summary Saturday: Friendship Week

 So sorry.

This past weekend we got about an inch of rain for the first time in a looonnnng time, so the fire ants came out to say hello to Monkey.

Poor little guy, but he was tough, and the fire ant bites are almost gone.

Chipette finally finished Lesson One in her Apologia Zoology 1 book and her first lapbook was completed as well.

Outside of lapbook

Inside of lapbook.

I must say that this has been our first time using lapbooks in our homeschool, and it has been a lot of fun. Chipette has learned so much just by making her lapbook. We are starting our Lesson 2 lapbook this next week, so stay tuned.

On Wednesday our local public library has a special story hour for homeschool kids, and this week they learned all about farms. For the craft, the kids colored a barn, chicken, pig, horse, and cow. Well, I couldn't leave it at that, so when we got home, Magpie and I made a diorama of her farm in a plastic shoebox I had leftover from a failed workbox system experiment.

Magpie has also started taking dance lessons this year from the same dance studio that Chipette does. Magpie is in the 3-4 year old class. Here is a picture of Magpie practicing walking on her tip toes holding her magic fairy wand in class.

She's just a little bit excited to finally be able to do all the things she's been watching big sister do for years.

On Friday our homeschool co-op didn't have classes so we went to visit some great friends of ours who live about an hour and a half away. We went to a local park and hung out all afternoon.

Monkey found great delight in the rocks.

So far none have been found in his diaper, but we will see.

Chipette and her friend, Princess, had great fun getting to see each other again.

Such beautiful girls, inside and out. And that was after playing in the heat for almost three hours! I wish I looked that good after 30 minutes in the heat :)

This was the scene in the car on the way home from our Friday, long-distance play date.

I couldn't fit Monkey in the picture, but he was out too. That's what having a great time with great friends will do to a family!

Hope you all had a great week too!

Blessed in the treehouse with friends, rain, and fire ants,



Thoughtful Thursday: Overwhelmed by Myself

My first two years of college were not great for me emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. I began to question my faith in God and got involved in some sinful situations that really put me in a pit. By my junior year of college, I was ready to start over, ready to change, ready to become the Christian woman that I knew I should be.

It just so happened that my junior year I had an 8:00 class and then an hour break until my 10:00 class, so I decided that I would go over to the library, find myself a quiet study room, and spend that hour reading my Bible and praying. I cannot even tell you the spiritual growth that I experienced that year when I refocused myself on the Lord!

Everything was rolling along really well until spring semester. I purposefully designed my schedule to keep that hour break in there so that I could continue my hour of devotional time. Around February, it finally hit me. The enormity of my sin, how far from where I wanted to be I was, and how far from where God wanted me to be in my life I still had to go. All of that Bible study had produced this assessment: I was in trouble. I was so full of impatience, self-centeredness, pride, hate, laziness, and any other sin you can list.

I lay in my bed that night thinking about how my diligence in studying the Word of God had made my self-esteem plummet. I was overwhelmed by myself, my sinful nature that stood out in such stark contrast to what a disciple of Jesus should be. I cried myself to sleep that night because I was so overcome with despair. I just couldn't do it. There was no way that I could make myself become what I needed to become. The mountain was too high; my sinful nature too deeply ingrained. I was so discouraged. What is the point in even trying to be a Christian, God, when what I need to be is beyond my ability to achieve? This was my last thought before finally falling into an exhausted sleep.

The next morning I woke up with this thought going through my head: "Chelli, I'm not pointing out these things to discourage you. I NEVER expected you to fix them. I will do the work to change these things in you. I just need you to let me."

I've never had a better day spiritually in my life than that one! I was ready to submit. I was ready to change. I was ready to be reborn into the image of Jesus. And a rebirth it was!

One thing you'll realize pretty quickly as you study the Bible is that God uses certain words on purpose. When Jesus tells Nicodemus in John 3 that he has to be born again, I believe that Jesus used that analogy on purpose. Birth is a painful process for everyone involved: the mother, the baby (I'm sure it hurts. I don't see how it couldn't.), and the father watching his wife in pain but unable to help (my hubby said it was the worst he's ever felt!)

Being reborn into Jesus' image is a painful process as well, but just like real childbirth the results are SO worth it! The memory of that pain fades and what you are left with is a new life that is so much better in every way than the one that you left. Sometimes I wonder what I was so worried about that night laying in my bed.

And I try to remember that feeling, that conversation with God, when I get overwhelmed with myself today.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6 ESV)

Born again in the treehouse,



Tasty Tuesday: Chicken on the Barbie

I think that one day most of the United States will turn in to one big, boneless, skinless chicken breast! With everyone trying to lose weight, eat healthy, or lower cholesterol just about everyone uses BSCB's in at least a few recipies.

Our family is no exception, but one thing I've discovered is that it's very easy to dry out those healthy chicken breasts. The lack of fat and skin leads to choking down some dry bird! I set out to discover a way to make a grilled chicken breast that would not be dry, but juicy and flavorful.

Mission accomplished!

First, I need to introduce you to my kitchen assistant for this meal. Her name is Black Betty.

Black Betty is a cast iron grill/griddle that covers two burners on your stovetop. When the weather is not good for grilling outside, we can grill inside! When it comes to grilling chicken on the barbie (for you Aussies), I only do it inside so that I can make sure the chicken is just the way we like it.

Also, Black Betty can double as a home defense weapon; one good smack upside the head and that robber won't come to until the handcuffs are being placed on his wrists. She's one stout lady! I always try to buy items for the house that can do double duty.

Here are the ingredients you will need for some amazing grilled chicken:

  • a grill
  • package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • seasoning of your choice (I use Mrs. Dash Lemon Pepper seasoning. Out of all the Lemon Pepper seasonings I've tried, it actually tastes the best.): lemon pepper, blackened, just salt and pepper, etc.
  • salt to taste
  • large, glass or metal raised lid (cannot be a flat lid)
 Sprinkle your chicken with the salt and your choice of seasoning to taste. I don't like a whole lot of lemon pepper, so I didn't put a lot.

After your grill is really hot (a good test is you should be able to hold your hand about an inch above the grill for only 2 seconds before you need to move your hand), place the chicken on the grill and cover with the large lid.

Cook the chicken for 7-8 minutes, then turn over and cook for 7-8 minutes on the other side.

The final result is some delicious, healthy, juicy chicken!

I'm not sure if my method depends upon the cooking time (not too long) or the lid (to hold in the moisture), but this combo has served our family up some great chicken!

G-day from the treehouse,



Mama Monday: Chores Part 1

I hate doing housework. I hate trying to make my children do housework. But I know first-hand the damage that is done if we don't teach our children to have a good work ethic when it comes to chores.

My mom grew up having to work hard. She had three sisters and one brother, and they all had to work to keep the family farm afloat. So when my mom had my sister and I, she didn't want us to have to work as hard as she did growing up. She wanted us to enjoy being children. She saw our homework as our "chore." Long story short, my dad changed the sheets on my bed every Sunday until I left home for college. I never washed my clothes until I went to college (Mom had to give me a cheat sheet of how to wash everything). I was never made to do anything other than help my mom dust every Saturday.

Fast forward to today, I am a 33 year-old woman with three children, and I am finally having to learn how to keep a home. Pathetic...totally. Catastrophic...some days. Impossible...Not according to Philippians 4:13.  Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, I know that I do not want my children, boy or girl, to not know how to keep a home. To learn from me that you need to do the necessary things to be able to enjoy the fun things. To know that even if you don't like to do something, it doesn't mean you get a pass. To understand that with everyone pitching in, an insurmountable job becomes managable.

Just to be honest, I am still not a great housekeeper or even a very good one, but I'm trying to get better. Most of all I'm trying to teach my kids about chores and working with a good attitude. Here are some things that I've found work in our home:
  1. Do the thing that you hate doing first! For me, that would be folding and putting away the laundry or doing the dishes, but I've noticed if I get those done first then they are not hanging over my head all day (which usually means they don't get done at all!).
  2. Use a timer. This is especially useful for cleaning with your kids. I did this all day long with my girls Saturday (Monkey is not much of a cleaner yet). We set the timer for 45 minutes and worked like crazy on one room at a time. When the timer went off, we took a 15 minute break to do whatever we liked. After the 15 minutes, we did another 45 minute work session. Just a tip to make sure that they come back after the 15 minute break, I tell them that whoever is last back to the work area has to stay an extra 10 minutes the next time to keep working. I always make sure that I am the last one back, but they race like crazy to make sure it's not them. Easy way to get willing workers!
  3. Punish whining and complaining with extra work. Ask Chipette why we don't whine, and this is what you will hear, "Do all thing without grumbling or complaining, Philippians 2:14." She's my whiner, every family's got one, so she's heard this verse A LOT growing up. But Chipette knows if she whines when I ask her to help with something around the house, mom can always find another little something that needs to be done :) Magpie's problem is persistance once she's started the job, very willing, but horrible follow through.
  4. Explain to your children why we do what we do. It's really easy just to tell your kids, "Go clean your room. Take out the trash. Pick up your toys." But sometimes it's good to explain why we do those things. We clean our rooms so that we can be good stewards of these wonderful blessings God has given us. We take out the trash so that our home will be a healthy place to live without bacteria or pests. We pick up our toys so that we can find the things we need when we want to have fun (and so that mom doesn't puncture her foot by stepping on a Barbie hand...those things are brutal!)
  5. Show your children how to clean. If you want your children to grow up to be a good housekeeper, you will have to take the time to train them. Is it easier to clean their room yourself when you can have it done in 15 minutes? YES! Is that helping your child any to learn how to clean their room? NO! Take the time to work on one chore at a time until they have it mastered. For example, Magpie (who's 4) can make her bed, put her toys away, fold clothes, set the table for dinner, and feed the goldfish because I took the time to teach her those things.
  6. Model an industrious spirit. This is hands-down the hardest for me. My children are watching me and your children are watching you. If they see me leave my belongings out instead of putting them in their proper place, guess what my kids will do? If they see me reading, watching TV, or on the computer when there are chores that need doing, what are my kids going to do when it's time to do their chores? If your kids see that you are working hard to keep the home running efficiently, then they will be much more likely to pitch in and help. Children, and adults for that matter, will not tolerate hypocrisy.
Hopefully I've mentioned something to help you out or just to encourage you as you train your children. Most of you are probably thinking, "That's pretty sad she didn't already know this stuff." :) My motives are pretty selfish actually. One day my kid might marry your kid and wouldn't we like to go visit them in a nice, clean house!

Still tidying up the treehouse,


P.S. Next week on Mama Monday, I'll share my kid's chore system. Here is the link to part two: Chores Part 2


Summary Saturday: Mamma Mia!

Fun Friday is a little late this week because Friday was super busy. I passed out around 9:30 last night. I couldn't even finish reading books to the girls because I was falling asleep while reading.

We did have a super fun week, though, so take a look.

First up this week we did another science experiment out of our science book Apologia's Zoology I: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day. We had to design two gliders using cardboard, straws, and playdoh. One glider had long, narrow wings and the other glider had short, wide wings. Chipette then had to hypothesize which glider would fly better. She made her hypothesis: The long, narrow glider would fly better, and we headed outside to test it out.

We threw each glider ten times to account for the variables of wind, a bad throw, etc.

After each throw we measured the distance that the glider flew.

Chipette soon realized that she chose the wrong glider, so she tried to skew the results so that her glider would "win." This led to a quick talk about scientific method, and how it's a good thing when scientists are wrong about their hypothesis so that they can find the correct answer to their question.

Sure enough, when the final distances were averaged, the short, wide glider had averaged about a foot longer in distance on each flight despite Chipette's best efforts.

We also started diving into the Renaissance this week in history, and Chipette quickly became enamored with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. In fact, I had opened one of our history books and there on the page was a close up picture of the Michelangelo's Pieta.
Here was our conversation:

Chipette: (kind of breathlessly) What's that?

Me: What's what?

Chipette: That statue. It looks so real. Look at the wrinkles in her dress and his foot looks just like a real human foot.

And so away we went into the Renaissance, especially the artwork, which is Chipette's favorite thing anyway. She even got a promise out of me to take her to Florence when she is older (like that was a hard promise to make!).

Chipette also started sewing lessons this week with a wonderful lady from our church. Chipette had asked me to teach her, and I had to quickly explain that you can't teach something that you do not know how to do. Anyway, she will be learning how to sew, knit, and crochet from Ms. B.  Here were the results of her first lesson:

While Chipette was in her homeschool group on Friday, Magpie, Monkey, and I made our way to a local park for some playtime. While at the park, Monkey found a feather.

So we had a quick lesson about hard and soft, which was basically me hitting the tree and saying, "hard", then gently touching the feather and saying, "soft."  Monkey basically laughed the whole time, especially on the "hard" lesson, so I'm thinking he learned a lot. We will be moving on to calculus next week.

As I mentioned Chipette is in a homeschool group and for the next 6 weeks they are studying geneaology. She made a family tree this week.

This class has really sparked an interest in Chipette about where mine and hubby's families came from so long ago. I explained to her that she is English, Irish, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Scottish, and German so we're related to everyone in the British Islands.

We had a great week! Hope all of you did too!

Planning a trip to Florence for 2021 in the treehouse,



Thoughtful Thursday: Forgetful

It's only been four days. Don't you remember?

You forgot didn't you.

Well, ten years ago you hadn't forgotten. Ten years ago people were praying like they had never prayed before. Church buildings were overflowing with people. Everyone was nicer to their families, even to perfect strangers.

But we've forgotten.

Everyone remembered on Sunday. We remembered that awful day. We remembered what those awful terrorists did to our country. But then on Monday, we woke up. We probably mentioned it in passing to some people who we hadn't seen that weekend.

Then it was Tuesday, and it faded from our consciousness. The news outlets quit talking about it after weeks of build up and so did most people. But it will be brought to rememberance next year on 9/11.

And I can't help but wonder, did we also forget the One who sustained us during those awful days after 9/11 a decade ago. Have we remembered Him for the past decade?

Are we as diligent in praying to Him as we were then? Did we keep all of those promises we made after that awful day? Our promises to attend worship services more, to treat others better, to love more. Or did we forget Him and those words we spoke to Him.

It's human nature to forget. God knows that. He asked the Israelites to remember what He had done for them every year on Passover. He asks Christians to remember what He has done for us every Sunday during the Lord's Supper.

We are so very forgetful. But on Sunday, September 11, 2012, this was the status update I saw so often: We will never forget.

But we have, already. We will remember those who died on 9/11 every year.
But very few of us will remember the God who sustains us every day of our lives.

Remembering in the treehouse,



Tasty Tuesday: When Monkeys and Aztecs Meet in the Kitchen...

We recently studied in history about the Aztecs, and an interesting tidbit we learned was that the Aztecs discovered how to make chocolate. Well, instantly the Aztecs became the coolest civilization of all time to Chipette (she does love her chocolate), and let's face it, mom loves her chocolate too.  Of course we all know what a monkey's favorite food is (including my Monkey's)...bananas.

So what would happen if monkeys and the Aztec civilization had to come up with a recipie? You would get Chocolate Banana Bread! When I first saw this recipe, I was a little skeptical.  I LOVE banana bread and I LOVE chocolate, but together...not so sure about that.

Here's what you need:

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups flour (I use 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup all-purpose flour)
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 tsp. soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 cup pecans (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (never optional when offered as a choice in any dish!)
Put all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix together.

Once everything is mixed, stir in the chocolate chips and pecans. I didn't add pecans in mine because hubby doesn't like nuts in his food. If I had known how fast the tree dwellers would eat it up, I would have put nuts in it because hubby wound up not even getting any!

Pour batter into a loaf pan sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake in a 325 degree oven for 1 hour.

Then enjoy!!!

You can turn any banana bread recipe into chocolate banana bread by just adding in that 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.  So if Great Aunt Gertrude has the most amazing banana bread recipe, then use it!!! Just add in the chocolate chips for a special treat and I'm sure Great Aunt Gertrude wouldn't mind :)

So how did my Monkey like pairing his favorite fruit with Aztec cuisine....

He loved it!!!
Can you tell he just woke up from his nap?

Enjoyed cooking with you all today! And if Great Aunt Gertrude wouldn't mind, feel free to share your favorite banana bread recipe in the comments.

Clothes feeling a little tighter in the treehouse today,



Mama Monday: Taming the Toddler

Mama Monday will be the day when I discuss the challenges and joys of being a mom and wife.  I definitely DO NOT have these two roles mastered, but I have learned some tricks of the trade from older moms, younger moms, and other blog moms that have really made a difference in me as a mom and a wife, so I’ll try to share some of those here.

Scheduling…the thorn in the side of most moms.  How do I get all of this done with 1, 2, 3, 4, or more kids underfoot?  It’s especially difficult to juggle when your child’s education depends on having time to actually teach them. I’m talking about trying to schedule time to homeschool with toddlers in the mix. 
This is exactly where I’m at right now in my life.  Chipette is 7, Magpie is 4, and Monkey, dear sweet Monkey, is 17 months.  Remember back to when your darling was around 17 months.  Remember the inquisitiveness: fingers in electrical sockets, throwing anything and everything with great gusto, fascinated with toilet paper and the toilet water, etc.  Now imagine trying to teach your 7 year old and your 4 year old with all that chaos!!!
Mom: “Where’s your brother?” (As you are all gathered around the dining room table to begin lessons.)
Chipette and Magpie: “I don’t know.”
About that time Monkey walks down the hallway soaked to the bone carrying a dripping blanket.
Mom: “You guys didn’t shut the bathroom door again!!!”
Now you must take a 15 minute break to change Monkey’s clothes and put the blanket in the wash.
At this point not only have 15 minutes of school time escaped you, but the older two are off playing something and getting them back to focus on lessons is like trying to herd cats.  Obviously if this happens a few more times that day, you’re lucky if you’ve made it through half of your schoolwork.
And if you’ve had a toddler you also know that you’re lucky if it only happens a few more times a day, more like a few times every hour.
So what do you do? If you make a barricade to keep the toddler in the room, then they are going to be a distraction for the children working and you.  Unless you have a room in your house that has nothing in it for them to get into, and I mean NOTHING…no shelves, no books, no electrical sockets, no chairs, no tables…NOTHING.
Do you wait and try to cram everything into their naptime? I’ve done that and it works.  Until your oldest has more schoolwork than they can finish in an hour and a half or your oldest can’t focus for an hour and a half of straight schoolwork (I’ll raise my hand for that second one!).
I found a solution that is working for us this year and should be adaptable until Monkey is not so “monkeyish” during schooltime.  I read this idea on another homeschooling mom’s blog (if I could remember who she was, I would give her credit).  I schedule our days in teaching blocks with the kids rotating through their teaching time with me and their break times. 
Here is our daily schedule:
        8:00: Everybody eats breakfast and does their morning chores
9:00: Circle Time for everybody (pledge, calendar, read from devotional book, sing a hymn, prayer)
        9:20: Teaching Block with Chipette while Magpie plays with Monkey
        10:30: Teaching Block with Magpie while Chipette plays with Monkey
        11:00: Snack Time for everybody
11:15: Independent Work for Chipette while I work on housework and/or finish any school work with Magpie
12:15: Neighborhood Walk for everybody
1:00: Lunch
1:30: Teaching Block with Chipette while Magpie has screen time
2:30: Quiet Time for everybody
3:30: Chipette has screen time

Some things I want to point out:
1.   The times are not set in stone. The times are more of a guide, first teaching block lasts an hour, try to be done with lunch in thirty minutes, etc.  Invest in a timer and set it when you start the teaching blocks, set it when they go off to do their independent work (If Chipette finishes her work before the timer goes off, then she can join the rest of us.), or any other time you want to keep a strict time frame.
2.   Teach the olders that when it is their time to play with the younger, then they must keep out of the room where the teaching is happening. We school at our dining room table and the room is not one that can be closed off, so I had to train Chipette and Magpie to play with Monkey in one area (usually the play room or the backyard) and to not interrupt the teaching session unless death is about to occur or someone is bleeding.
3.   The teaching block after lunch is reserved for history projects, science, art, or any other messy, hands-on subjects. This is so that Monkey is taking his nap when these things happen to insure that no toddler hands get in the way. Also, Magpie can join in during these times, but the choice is hers (since she’s only 4).  If she chooses not to participate, then she gets her daily dose of screen time (TV, computer, Wii).
4.   If you do not already have a quiet time, then start one!  This is a blessing for everyone involved. Mom gets to have some down time and the children get some time to do something quietly by themselves. Chipette and Magpie alternate who gets quiet time in the play room or who has it in the living room, but the key is that they cannot be together and whatever they do must be a quiet activity (coloring, Play-Doh, puzzles, reading, etc.).  Quiet time ends when Monkey wakes up!
We’ve only been using this schedule for about a month, but I cannot begin to tell you how much it has eased our day.  I post a copy of this schedule on the wall so that everyone knows who’s supposed to be where, who they are supposed to be with, and what they are supposed to be doing.  It is glorious!!!
Hope everyone dealing with those toddlers finds a way to make it happen for you as well.  Feel free to leave your ideas and suggestions in the comments.

Typing during Quiet Time (shhhhh!) in the treehouse,


Summary Saturday: Happy Birthday to Me!

This is the weekly wrap-up where I post some fun things that we did this week.

First, my birthday was this week and my kids put on a birthday Nutcracker ballet for me.

Chipette played Clara (and organized the whole thing), Magpie was The Mouse King and Herr Drosselmeyer, and Monkey (poor guy) was a dancing light. It was a fabulous birthday production!

Well, our dancing of the Nutcracker led to paintings of ballerinas which led to learning about the artist Edgar Degas who is famous for his paintings and sculptures of ballerinas (this process is typical of homeschool families...we are good rabbit chasers).  Can you tell that Chipette has been taking ballet for 4 years?  Here is Chipette's version of her own Degas ballerina picture.

As you can see the work is titled, "The Ballerina Under the Stars" and it is for sale for $1 (as priced on the picture). Serious buyers ONLY!

Up next we started a new science curriculum this week.  It is Apologia's Zoology I Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day.  We had our first experiment this week to show how air pressure lifts a bird's wing enabling it to fly.

It's hard to see in the picture, but Chipette is shooting water out of the straw that is in the glass by blowing air out of the straw in her mouth causing the air pressure blowing over the straw in the glass to be less than the air pressure in the straw causing the water to shoot up the straw and out of the cup.

Um. Yeah.  I don't really get it either, but God did (duh, He made birds) and the Wright Brothers did (invented the airplane), so that's good enough for me. 

Next, we had lots of fun this week finally being able to play in the backyard again after some record setting weeks of over 100 degree temperatures.  Here's Monkey very successful in helping the dog add even MORE holes to our backyard.

Hope everyone else had a fun-filled week as well.

Having a blast in the treehouse,