Wednesday, October 12, 2016

New Blog

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 While I'm leaving this site up for the time being, you can now find me at Brandi Raae: living between whimsy & reality. 

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August ~ Back to Homeschool, Baking Bliss, Garden Gadgets, & Dog Grudges

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While so many other places around the country are just around the corner from all things crisp and cozy, we desert dwellers are bracing ourselves for our second summer. I must say, though, that I've been thoroughly enjoying our cool spell - 90s and low 100s sure do make a huge difference!


We kicked off the first day of August with a new homeschool year. I have 3 kids, but none of them wanted to have their pictures taken. Trying to get my boys in front of the camera is like trying to get me to like camping. Anyway, I bribed the girl by letting her take her back-to-school pic with her puppy. Goodness, my baby is in middle school now. No more elementary kids! My boys are both in high school now - senior and freshman. Yikes!


Kylo turned 7 months old this month. Even though he graduated from his beginner's training class, he still gives me much grief. Maybe overall he's a good dog, but he still finds ways to drive me crazy. I slipped over the edge when he ruined my fairy garden. 

I was MAD. 

Not just about that but about how my life has had to change so much all because of a dog. (Because it's not just a fairy garden he's ruined - hmmm, how about 4 rugs, some towels, some clothes, our grass, and more.) I held a grudge for several days, but I'm finally starting to pet him again. ;)


More Kylo. He tasted his first carrot this month and played with destroyed his first jump rope. We were going to try and use the jump rope to teach him the art of jumping over something. But he's not quite ready for that yet. Chase and tug-of-war are way more fun!




We celebrated our oldest's 17th birthday. Birthdays are becoming so much simpler these days. Our son worked all day, so he just wanted to come home to pizza and cinnamon rolls. And after that, a night of gaming with his brother. Can't believe this is his last year in high school!

Time flies faster than a sneeze!


Daughter baked her first batch of cookies from start to finish. Without me even being downstairs. These cookies were amazing. Way better than my first batch of cookies!!


More baking. Because when your history book tells you to make something chocolate in honor of learning about St. Valentine, you must obey. Again, she did everything. Cookies = fabulous! She's going to run me out of a cooking job, and I don't mind at all. :)


I have no idea why August turned out to be a baking-new-treats month, but the dessert above - it was OH-MY-STARS good! Blueberry Peach Crumble is a new favorite for sure. I will definitely be whipping this up again next spring/summer when peaches are at peak. :) Click the link for recipe at Living on Cloud Nine.


I think our record summer temps killed one of our new apple trees. I'm sad. But my basil is flourishing quite well. Always does. Even after cutting basil for pesto-making, it doesn't look like I made a dent in it. Basil anyone? Chives and oregano are doing OK, too.


Attempting to move my fairy treasures from my backyard garden box to my big front porch pot that grows a beautiful and aromatic jasmine plant. Not everything fits, and I'm still contemplating how I want it. At least now my dog can't mess it up. :)


And mushrooms just because.

I love mushrooms!

Not the eating kind. The cute, little growing-in-the-yard kind. Every time my daughter and I go to the dog park, I can't help myself: I pick every single mushroom. Or take pictures of them.

I don't know - mushroom are just so magical and fairy like.

My daughter calls me the Crazy Mushroom Lady. There are worse things to be called, I guess. ;)


Ok, one last August pic - I decided to do some quick DIY garden art yesterday. I think my little garden gadget turned out pretty cute. (I already had the butterfly. I just painted the stick and glued the butterfly onto it.)


What's in your end-of-summer garden?

Is it starting to get any cooler where you live?

And please tell me I'm not the only mom who has trouble getting teens (especially boys) in front of the camera. ;)

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Monday, August 29, 2016

How to Make a Homeschool Schedule Overview Instead of a Daily Lesson Plan

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Years ago when my homeschooled children were younger, I'd slave over daily lesson plans. I spent hours on the weekend mapping out our homeschool week (or even month) in a handy dandy lesson planner.

It felt good to make lists and cross off each completed task, but even my type-A self realized at some point that I was WASTING too much time planning out daily assignments. I mean, we were going to get the entire book/workbook (or whatever it was for each subject) done anyway - why write it out?

Exactly.

Why write it out when inevitably something would come up every so often to mess up our schedule? It was especially frustrating when my kids would get sick and completely throw off our daily lesson plans. I always felt like I had to hurry and catch up so days, dates, and assignments would finally match up again! 

Ugh.

Needless to say, I no longer make daily lesson plans. I make a homeschool schedule overview instead. 

Now that my kids are older, this gives them a little more room for flexibility. Plus, it's great for learning responsibility. :) (I personally wouldn't give this much freedom to younger children, but I still wouldn't make such detailed lesson plans.)

How to Make a Homeschool Schedule Overview

For each child, I type a list of his/her subjects, the curriculum/books for that subject, a brief description, and suggested pace for the year.

At the beginning of the year, I sit down with each child to go over his/her schedule and maybe offer more details, especially for any curricula that is new. For most of our basic subjects, we use the same curricula each year, so my kids are already familiar with what is expected and the pace they need to set. 

This year I only had to type up schedules for 2 of my kids since my oldest is doing school online. Below, I am sharing my daughter's 6th grade and my son's 9th grade overview schedules for the current school year.


English:  Bob Jones 6—about one chapter every 2 weeks (Complete 8 chapters by Christmas break.)


Foreign Language:  Latina Christiana—one lesson per week; Famous Men of Rome—instructions are in your Latin binder (Before each test, you will have a one week break from lessons to study.)

History:  Mystery of History Vol. 2—three lessons with notecards per week plus one assignment, one map, timeline, and quizzes. (Other books, activities, etc. will be assigned last 2 weeks of each quarter.)

Math:   Zeta—one lesson per week (Complete 15 lessons by Christmas break.)

Reading/Literature:  McCall-Crabs Book C—three lessons per week; various books and assignments—daily

Science:  Exploring Creation with Flying Creatures—one lesson about every 2 ½ weeks (Complete 7 lessons by Christmas break)

Spelling:  Wise Guide—one lesson about every 2 weeks




Bible/Apologetics:  {I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist Curriculum/Because You Are Strong: A Study of Godly Strength for Young Men}—You have 25 weeks to complete I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist and 11 weeks to complete Because You Are Strong.

English/Literature:  {Bob Jones Writing & Grammar 9/various books and assignments}—about one lesson every 10 days including tests. (Complete at least through chapter 7 by Christmas.)

Geometry:  {Math U See}—10 lessons per semester (roughly 2 lessons per month – keep in mind that some months will have breaks.)

History:  {Mystery of History Vol. 2 The Early Church and the Middle Ages/The 100 Most Important Events in Christian History}—Mon-Wed: read one lesson per day, write a summary for each lesson, and choose one assignment per lesson in the book, read an event from Christian History book, or watch a YouTube video, etc. Thur: mapping and timeline Fri: quizzes/exercises/tests

Science:  {Exploring Creation with Biology}—one lesson every 14-15 days with the exception of Module #6 which will take 3 weeks. (Complete 8 modules by Christmas break.) In addition to reading, completing study guides, and taking tests, please use the website for extra study. I will also assign various videos, etc.

Spanish:  {allinonehighschool.com/Spanish-1/}—follow daily lesson plans and keep up with work by recording on grade sheet provided.

Philosophy(Logic/Critical Thinking):  {Philosophy Adventure/Philippians in 28 Weeks}—one lesson every 3 weeks in Philosophy Adventure. Follow schedule in Philippians in 28 Weeks




I've always done literature a little differently. I don't follow a curriculum, and I usually don't know all of the books I'm going to use throughout the year. It's an ongoing project for me throughout the year. I LOVE literature, so it's not that big of a deal. :)

Also, my son's math isn't typical this year - starting as a freshman, he's already halfway through geometry. Since geometry doesn't come as easy as algebra, I'm letting him go at a much slower pace than usual. It's totally ok, though, since he's ahead anyway. 

Do my kids ever procrastinate? Yes. 

Does it frustrate me? Yes. 

It would frustrate me more, though, if I would have slaved over daily lesson plans. ;)

I still have to monitor my kids' progress. And since I'm the one grading their papers, it's not that difficult to notice when stuff's not being turned in. 

In the end, it all works out. (Even if a subject has to be finished over summer break.) 

*It's been interesting this year to watch one of my kids try out different times and routines to see what works best. I can't deny that it hasn't been frustrating because I can stand back and be all like, If you just did this or that then everything would be just peachy! But, the reward of letting my child figure it out by taking the initiative to set an alarm or uninstall a video game or whatever it may be is better than spoonfeeding. At least for older kids. 

Not ready to condense your homeschool year into an overview? Feel free to peruse Amazon's Homeschool Lesson Planners. The type-A list maker in me is like, Ooooh. But I'm resisting!


How do you schedule your homeschool year? Do daily lesson plans work better for you?


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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Brandi Raae's Pumpkin Recipe Roundup: 10 Yummy Pumpkin Foods to Try

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Our family anticipates the first day of fall every year. Why? Because it kicks off our pumpkin food craziness!!

We always start with pumpkin smoothies. Perfect since it's still warm where we live.

My top 3 pumpkin foods are the smoothie, the bread, and the pancakes. :)

Below, I've included 10 of our pumpkin recipes that I've blogged about in the past - back when I was known as autumnfawngirl. Click on each photo for the recipe. I didn't include traditional pumpkin pie, which I do make several times, because I just follow the recipe on the can of pumpkin.



I love this bread plain - no glaze, butter or anything. It's so soft and delicious and goes perfectly with some harvest apple cider.



These cookies look so festive and taste so yummy!



I'm a huge french toast fan, so adding pumpkin and autumn spice = double delicious!



Mmmm. Love eating this fall oatmeal when it's chilly in the mornings.



This is a pie that my husband's family always requested for Thanksgiving. It is quite delicious and a little bit of a change from traditional pumpkin pie. It doesn't take up any oven room either, which is a big plus if you're cooking a bunch of food.



Terrible picture, I know, but these pancakes are a major favorite fall treat in our home. Pretty healthy, too, minus the syrup. ;)



My kids love making edible acorns in the fall, and I finally got around to making cupcakes so I could use the acorns as toppers. So fun!



Our first day of fall treat for probably 15 years. Love this smoothie!!!



Definitely a bit healthier than cakes and pies and other pumpkin desserts, but still sweet enough to taste yummy. Makes for a great snack for kids.



I only made this once, but it was really fun making such a festive meal. Kind of expensive to use a pumpkin for a pot, though.

I hope to bake up some new pumpkin treats that I've saved to my pumpkin Pinterest board. So many to choose from!


Want pans or molds for festive pumpkin baking at its finest? Check out the following on Amazon:



What are your favorite Pumpkin foods?


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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Affordable Novel Studies by Joel Michel Reed

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When you can't find free study questions online, and you don't have time to read your child's book and make up your own study questions, you might want to consider downloading one of Joel Michel  Reed's novel studies. That's what I did for my daughter's book, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.


Novel Studies Overview

There are almost 200 titles to choose from, and each novel study is only $7.50 to download. All novel studies are in alphabetical order making them a snap to find. For each novel, you can see the author of the book, study guide page count, and appropriate grade level. You also have access to a preview of each study guide before you decide to purchase.

These novel studies are SO MUCH MORE than simple comprehension questions. They are presented chapter by chapter or section by section and include the following components:

  • Synopsis of novel
  • List of skills in the novel study
  • Author biography
  • Before you read
  • Vocabulary
  • Discussion Questions (including higher-level thinking)
  • Writing assignments
  • Literary devices
  • Setting 
  • Plot
  • Conflict
  • Character Analysis
  • Parts of Speech
  • Analogies
  • Synonyms/Antonyms
  • Homonyms
  • Alliteration
  • Crossword puzzles and word searches
  • Research assignments
  • Constructing a storyboard
  • Answer key
  • AND MORE!

Thoughts

I was very happy with our novel study purchase. I thought it was a fair price for all that is included.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler novel study was 48 pages, and not only did my daughter complete various activities like the ones mentioned above, she had to identify different styles of paintings, identify famous statues, research where certain famous works of art are on display, describe how a Vladimir Makovsky painting made her feel, and create a comic strip. Just to name a few!

We opted out of a couple activities for time's sake - preparing a talk show and pretending to be a casting director for a movie.

I will definitely consider purchasing another Reed Novel Study. I noticed they also have novel study packs and even offer some free power point presentations, etc.

If you need to order books, please consider using my Amazon affiliate link: Literature Classics.

Thanks so much!

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Writing Supplement For Third Grade & Up: Imitation in Writing Fairy Tales

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Reading and writing are my favorite subjects to learn and teach! While we've always used Bob Jones English for our core grammar and writing curriculum, I've tried to add in supplements for creative writing as well. Since I love fairy tales, I chose Imitation in Writing Fairy Tales by Matt Whitling as one of our writing supplements.

We've all heard that famous Charles Caleb Colton quote, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," right? It makes sense because we're all probably guilty of imitating someone or something at some point in our lives. Hello, Pinterest. Well, imitation is also a method of learning used in many subjects like art, music, and so on but is often neglected when it comes to teaching writing. While it's great to be a pioneer and pave the way for something new, the tool of imitation can provide a solid educational foundation on which to build. Imitation in Writing Fairy Tales is a fun way to give kids that foundation and to help them improve their writing skills.

Imitation in Writing is actually a series originally developed for Logos School in Moscow, Idaho. Fairy Tales is the second book in the series. Twenty fairy tales are included in the book, and each fairy tale is accompanied by a worksheet in which the child defines vocabulary words from the fairy tale, outlines the basic plot, and briefly describes characters. Each fairy tale is divided into 3 sections making it easier to outline the plot. An answer key is provided for all 20 fairy tale plot outlines.

The following photos are examples of a fairy tale, a worksheet, and and answer key:




Once the worksheet is finished and your child is familiar with the original fairy tale, he/she can begin rewriting the fairy tale using the completed worksheet as a guide. The child can change the characters and minor details pertaining to the original fairy tale, but the overall plot should be imitated. Also, he/she needs to incorporate all of the vocabulary words from the original tale into their own tale. It was always so fun to see how my kids would retell the tales in their own words and how they'd change characters and little details to make the stories their own.

The 20 fairy tales included in this writing supplement are:

  • Why the Bear has a Stumpy Tail
  • The Princess and the Pea
  • The Fox and the Horse
  • Ali and the Sultan's Saddle
  • The Straw, the Coal, and the Bean
  • The Three Billy Goats Gruff
  • The Pied Piper of Hamelin
  • The Queen Bee
  • The Golden Goose
  • The Man in the Bag
  • The Emperor's New Clothes
  • King Grizzle Beard
  • The Fisherman and his Wife
  • Rapunzel
  • Old Sultan
  • The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage
  • The Elves and the Cobbler
  • The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids
  • The Three Children of Fortune
  • The Frog Prince

I personally introduce this particular writing supplement around third grade and use it until about fifth grade. I waited a little longer for my third child, though. I only assign one fairy tale every month or two since we already have a core writing curriculum, and I give my children a break from literature while they are working on a fairy tale, so they don't get too overwhelmed with multiple subjects.


If fairy tales aren't your thing, Imitation in Writing offers a few other titles to choose from: Aesop's Fables, Greek Myths, Greek Heroes, and Medieval Legends. Click the links below to check them out!

 

Please feel free to ask any questions you may have about this writing supplement that our family has enjoyed. :)

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Freestanding Dog Gate

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Anyone who knows me well knows that the past 5 months have been extremely challenging for me. All because of one simple, 3-letter word: DOG. I figure I must need some serious sanctifying work in my life right now because I was perfectly content being pet-free. ;)

Anyway, one of my new challenges as a pet owner has been keeping said pet out of my kitchen which happens to have not one but two entryways. The kitchen is a pretty active place since I'm a stay-at-home, homeschool mom of 3. Plus, my husband works from home, too. Five people + one dog = a kitchen that is too crowded!

I finally got tired of having a puppy under my feet while working in the kitchen, especially since he's a big puppy. Cooking was quickly becoming a dangerous activity! For both of us.

I got tired of having to push away a furry face and a slobbery pink tongue every time I opened the fridge. Oh goodness, and the slimy slobber marks all over the fridge doors just about killed me.

I got tired of worrying that this bundle of activity was going to bump into my beautiful hutch filled with meaningful treasures.

I got tired of pushing big, stinky paws off of the counter tops. On a few occasions his slimy tongue sneaked licks of food on the counter. Ugh.

You get the idea.

At first my frustrations compelled me to block off both entryways with kitchen chairs. It worked, but it was neither convenient nor attractive.

HUBBY TO THE RESCUE WITH DOG GATES! 


Even though it was a sacrifice, I am so thankful that my husband chose these Dynamic Accents freestanding wooden pet gates (handcrafted by the Amish) that keep our walls from getting scuffed up and that match our kitchen perfectly. For dog gates, they're not eye sores.

*My sweet husband knew that a dog-free kitchen would restore some of my sanity.*

If you've been considering a dog gate, I thought I'd tell you about the ones we bought - 20" Kensington Freestanding Gate - in order to help you with your decision making. 






What's Included
  • 2 pre-assembled gate panels
  • 2 wood gate feet
  • 2 feet attachment bolts
  • 2 3/4" rubber support bumpers 
Assembly
  • You will have to apply the support bumpers.
  • You will have to attach the gate feet to the gate panels with a Phillips Head Screwdriver.
Features
  • Hardwood
  • Expands by sliding without the use of tools - super easy to do!
  • Rotatable legs for easy storage
  • No installation required
  • Variety of colors available: warm white, mahogany, black, artisan bronze
  • Height: 20"
  • Adjustable length: fully expands to 49" (measuring from the bottom including feet) - shortens to 29" (measuring from the bottom including feet)
Thoughts

Positive 

Although the description says that the 20" gate is designed to be used with small animals that can not jump over or push gate out of position, our 60 lb. lab mix puppy who is almost 7 months old respects the barrier. He has bumped into it and has accidentally moved it a little bit, but he doesn't try to jump over or push it out of the way on purpose to get into the kitchen. It's like he KNOWS that I don't want him in there! I can't predict, though, if this will change when he's older and probably 30-40 lbs. heavier. I have a feeling that he will still respect the barrier since we are actively training him during the puppy stage. 

I am pleased with the way the gates look and how they blend right in with our kitchen cabinets. Like I said earlier, they're not eye sores or anything. I also like that they are made of wood and not plastic.

I personally wouldn't have minded gates that attach to the walls and swing open, but because the ones we bought are only 20" high, they are easy for everyone in the family to safely step over without falling. Our youngest is 11. 

Negative

One of our gates came with a plastic glide that is slightly cracked. (Noted in the picture below) Unfortunate, but we didn't send it back because we wanted to start using the gates right away. We applied a piece of clear tape that seems to be doing the trick for now. The edges of the plastic glides are somewhat sharp. In fact, I cut my knee on one of them when trying to step over the gate one time.

*Update: we received a brand new plastic glide to replace the cracked one, free of charge. Great customer service.

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Other than that one cracked plastic glide and my knee mishap, the gates are great and have been doing the job we want them to do! Below are a few more pictures: the first shows the gate shortened, the second shows the cracked glide, and the third shows another angle with our puppy. :)



Other Sizes and Colors

This style gate also comes in a larger size standing at 30" instead of 20". This size may be better for larger dogs, but because this style is not attached to the wall, there is still the possibility of a large dog being able to push the gate out of the way.

Larger size: Dynamic Accents Free Standing Wooden Pet Gate, Size - Large / Warm White

Other colors (small size): black, artisan bronze, and mahogany


If the 20" or 30" Kensington Freestanding dog gate isn't exactly what you're looking for, Dynamic Accents offers a variety of other pet gates that you might want to check out.


*Please note that the only gate I am familiar with is the 20" gate.


While this handsome puppy in the photos may have captured my heart, I still don't want him in my kitchen. I love having my kitchen back, and I love being able to enjoy my little sitting room right off the kitchen without a dog underfoot. :) Freestanding dog gates work for me! Hopefully they will work for you, too.

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