Keeping our Sanity in the Cold – A Weekly Wrap-up

How does a homeschool family keep their sanity during the harsh snow filled days of winter?  Read on to find out what we’ve been doing to stave off the winter blues!

It’s been COLD.  Bitterly cold.  Freeze the snot in your nose while you take out the trash cold.  Locally we’ve set records for the coldest temperature on a particular date.  Today the high was 19 F and it felt like a break.

So what’s a homeschooling family to do with all this cold weather?  Lots of school work apparently.  This is our highest monthly total school hours for this year.  The boys have been book worms this month really upping their hours.  That doesn’t mean we’ve just stayed home and done school work though.

Winter hike - Creek and Snow

We still went for a hike this week.  We followed coyote tracks through the woods which was pretty cool. We also found an intersection with deer tracks.  E is participating in the “What Went By Event” in the Upper Elementary Science Olympiad, so we’ve been taking every opportunity to find animal tracks in the snow.  The squirrels have been kind enough to leave tracks on the back porch, while a bunny regularly leaves prints as he hops down our sidewalk.


It’s important to get exercise too.  As a treat we took the boys to a mountain bike park.  It was fun to be back on our bikes even though it was -2 F outside.  It’s nice to go late in the evening, because there aren’t many other customers making it possible to really ride your own pace without worry.

E handfeeding birds

One of the local nature centers encourages hand feeding birds.  E was amazingly patient and stood still for about half an hour in the cold.  He was rewarded with birds coming to his hands 30 times.  It was such a delight to watch his expressions.

C wind testing house constructions

Our local science center is hosting Mythbusters: The Explosive Exhibition.  It’s a fun traveling exhibit.  There was a house of brick, wood, straw test station that the boys enjoyed.  The exhibit also had tons of other fun stuff.  The final section included building sleds, boats, and parachutes using duct tape.  Of course after our visit the boys used up all the duct tape in the house and we had to buy more.  E made a rather impressive boat out of popsicle sticks and duct tape.

Over the last two weeks we’ve also gone to a community theatre production, visited the Jewish Heritage Museum, gone to a professional theatre production, attended zoo class, and met with our Science Olympiad partners.  Soccer and scouts were on the list too.

I don’t like our schedule to get too crowded and despite the long list of activities it has all felt very manageable.  This year I think we are finally managing to get the right amount of physical activity including outside time.  It also helps that the kids are getting older and have stronger immune systems (or maybe we’ve just been lucky this winter).

I almost forgot.  E’s FLL team did a segment on the local news along with three other teams from the area.  E’s team in purple is in two of the segments.  A special thanks to the building custodian who came in on a snow day to make sure the building was open for the kids.

On the bookshelf:  Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan

In the kitchen: Pulled pork sliders (although we do a lot of vegetarian dishes, during the winter we all crave meat), Spinach enchiladas, Seared Chicken Breast with Balsamic Grapes, Sautéed Spinach, and Nutty Bulgur (this is a “food bag” from my husband’s work, they do all the prep work and I just cook and assemble. Yeah!)

Hope you are having a great week!  What are you doing to stave off the winter blues?

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Happy Mardi Gras!

Mardi Gras always makes me a little homesick for Louisiana.  We lived in Baton Rouge for a few years.  It was a really wonderful time in our life.  Hard work, good friends, and just an amazingly special place.

IMG_1682When we moved away I had to learn to bake my own king cakes. (You can order them, but they aren’t as fresh as picking them up at the bakery.)  I still miss the warm weather and crawfish boils of Louisiana.  I miss Spring coming in February.  But today, even as the wind batters the house with numbingly cold winds, each bite of King Cake brings warm happy memories.

So today I’m sharing my favorite King Cake recipe, in case you too find yourself far away from the bakeries of Louisiana!

Zulu King Cake


  • 2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 cup lukewarm milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3+ cups flour
  • Filling
  • 8 oz cream cheese (softened)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teas cinnamon
  • 1 teas vanilla
  • White Icing
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp milk
  • Chocolate Icing
  • 1 cup chocolate chips, melted


  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in milk, sugar, oil, baking powder, salt, egg and 2 cups of flour. Beat until smooth. Mix in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.
  2. Turn dough onto well floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.
  3. Place in greased bowl. Cover and let rise in warm place until double, about 1 1/2 hours. Dough is ready if an indentation remains when touched.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  5. While dough is rising, make cream cheese filling by mixing softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla on high speed until fluffy.
  6. Roll dough on a floured surface into a rectangle about 16" x 8"
  7. Place cream cheese filling down the middle and fold dough in thirds to make a roll.
  8. Place on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper with the seam side down and shape into a circle.
  9. Bake covered for 20-25 minutes and then finish with about 5-10 minutes uncovered.
  10. Once the king cake has cooled top with a simple white frosting, melted chocolate, and toasted coconut flakes(optional).


King Cake season runs from January 6th through Mardi Gras.

Have fun with it and make it your own.  Try pecan fillings or fruit fillings or go a more traditional route by making a cinnamon roll ring.

Happy Mardi Gras! 


I want an Orrery


This week at the Natural History Museum I noticed a display case for the first time.  POCKET SUNDIALS!  What a cool invention!  All the one pictured here include a compass for proper alignment. We’ve heard a lot about pocket watches, but I’d never given any thought to their predecessor.  One of the pocket sundials was calibrated to three different latitudes, so it could be used throughout Europe.

It’s always amazing to think about the intersection of science and technology with history.  Whether it’s the telegraph and railroad creating a war time advantage,  vaccines shifting population demographics, or computers making space travel possible, technology and history are fantastically intertwined.


Isn’t the orrery cool?  The time and workmanship that goes into making those is just amazing.  I would like to own something like this, but they are so expensive and typically rather large.  Other women want designer handbags, I want an orrery.


Science Olympiad Update:

What Went By? – E and his partner for the event attended a clinic put on by the local park system.  We also met at the Natural History Museum and spent some time looking at the display of local animals and talking about habitats and habits.  We borrowed a kit that had life size stamps of front and hind prints from the museum.  I think the scat identification might be difficult, but I think at least some of the questions will be about making observations about the scat without actually narrowing it to one species.  The scat of a grazing herbivore will be different from the scat of an omnivore.  Predator scat may contain bone fragments.  Some of the tracks can be narrowed done to 3 or 4 local animals and then other clues will provide more information.  Muskrats and otter slides might look similar but we might expect chewed up twigs and cattails with a muskrat.  E also worked on spelling animal names this week.

Not much happened with the Mousetrap car this week.  We need to take it up to the school to test it out.  I just haven’t been in the mood to get out in the cold.

Aerodynamics – Observations this week – (1)  It is hard for 10 and 11 year old boys to throw gently.  When throwing gliders asking them to throw in slow motion seemed to help. (2)  Those old Pamper Chef scrapers work great for smoothing airplane folds.  (3) Testing gliders is hard – big spaces and high ceilings are necessary.  (4) Making designs of their own and testing them is really part of the fun of this.

Simple Machines – The mom of C’s partner is doing the coaching for this event.  I’m impressed with what they’ve learned over the last few weeks.  They know their simple machines and are really learning a lot about calculating forces and mechanical advantage.


We went to see a local production of Shrek the Musical on Sunday.  A friend of ours has a lead role in the play and lots of kids we know are in the production.  The cast did a spectacular job.

I attended a meeting this week with a group that has formed to promote FIRST LEGO League in our area.  It is a really great bunch of people and I’m excited to see what we can do to get more kids involved in robotics.  When I asked my own kids about career paths this week, they both expressed interest in programming.  E  lists his top pick as mechanical engineering and C is considering wildlife biology or bio-medical animal science with programming as a hobby.   I don’t know if bio-medical animal science is really a thing, but I figure as much as people love their pets, it will be by the time he is in college.  He also thinks he might want to do some combination of food and science like that guy that cooks steaks in a water bath (sous-vide)  and has the huge cookbook (Nathan Myhrvold).   It’s always interesting to check in on the career aspirations of kids.

I’ve mentioned I developed a simple spreadsheet to track our school time.  In Ohio part of our homeschool notification involves signing a paper stating we will spend 900 hours covering a list of subjects.  That is approximately the amount of time children in elementary school spend in class each year.  I’m so glad I started tracking our time.  This week we reached 800 hours for the school year.  I can’t tell you how excited I am about that.  It’s not like anything will change when we hit 900 hours.  I’m just happy to know we are spending so many hours on learning activities even though our school time is relaxed.

This week I’m including my “What’s for Dinner?” list.  I’m always looking for ideas myself and I was reading an article this week about parents feeling guilty because even though they are cooking it doesn’t fit their ideal.  I want you to know that it’s okay to keep dinner simple.  Some of the dinners I listed took less than 15 minutes of prep and cook time.  The pulled pork dinner was probably the easiest, since it took about 3 minutes to put in the crockpot.  Raw carrots, broccoli, apple slices, and strawberries are about as fancy as we get for sides.

 What’s for Dinner?

Blackeyed Pea Dip

Salmon Mac (super quick and easy)

Corn Dog Muffins ( I know, I know, it embarrasses me that I allow any hot dogs in the house, but C loves these.  Corn Muffin mix with a 1/4 of a hot dog stuck in the middle.  I buy the preservative free ones but still.)

Pulled Pork Sliders w/ Sweet Potato Fries and Baked Beans

Butternut Ravioli

Butternut and Black Bean Enchiladas

Hope you have a great week!

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Let it Snow – A Weekly Wrapup

Frozen Brandywine Top of Falls overlooking creek

View above Brandywine Falls


It snowed a lot this week.  According to the weather service we have 18″ of snow on the ground.  There would be more snow on the ground if we hadn’t had a few patches of rain mixed in with the snow.

One of the big differences between living in the north vs. the south is that a forecast of 8-12″ of snow doesn’t send everyone into a panic.  I went to the grocery store a few hours before the storm hit and was able to purchase everything I needed.  When we lived in the south, even a few inches of snow in the forecast would leave the store shelves void of milk, bread, tuna, and bottled water.

IMG_1649Tuesday was cold but sunny, so we got out of the house and went skiing and sledding and took a hike.  We still had plenty of time for school work in the late afternoon.

Wednesday we had a few lessons then zoo class.  On our way home it started snowing so we decided to skip the boys’ parkour class and do some baking.  In just a few hours we got about 4″ of snow so I was glad we weren’t out in it.

Frozen Brandywine Falls

Thursday we went to geography club for the first time.  It was a really nice event.  Each family gave a short presentation on a river.  The kids ranged from 4 year old assistants to about 14.  It was great to see the variety of presentations and the creativity the kids demonstrate.  After seeing the presentations, my boys agreed to do a presentation next month.


Most of our days this week included some prep work for Science Olympiad.  We are  learning about simple machines, aerodynamics, mousetrap cars and animal tracking.  The mousetrap car is working well, but we still have some tweaking to do.  The objective for the competition is for the mousetrap car to travel exactly 10 meters.

Hope you are having a great week!



A Homeschool Day in the Life


9:00 AM  The boys play and watch some videos.  I enjoy some quiet time to myself.

9:45 AM I decide the weather is too gorgeous to risk waiting until the afternoon to go skiing so we pack up and head for the hill.  My plan is to ski until 12:30 and then head home for lunch.

12:00 PM – C is really making progress on the easy hill.  E and I do a few runs on the intermediate hill.  We are all cold, but no one is ready to go home.  We decide to have lunch at the ski hill then do a few more runs.

12:45 PM – Just a couple more runs and we will be ready to go.

1:15 PM – Just a couple more runs.

2:15 PM – We finally leave the ski hill.  It really was a beautiful day to be outside.  I feel so invigorated.  This is our first year skiing so the thrill of learning a new skill is great.


2:50 PM – We finally start our school work for the day.  First up is math because that is always a good way to get started.

3:35 PM – Grammar – What is there to say about grammar?  Not fun but necessary.

4:30 PM – 5:00 PM Reading – C reads about Stingrays and E reads a book about animal tracks.

5:00 – 5:45 PM Tracking game – The boys are competing in a Science Olympiad event with a homeschool group and E is on the “What Went By” team.  Today we played a memory game to hone our skills matching animals to their tracks.

6:00 PM Out to dinner to celebrate an accomplishment for one of the kids.

7:45 PM E is folding airplanes to test for Science Olympiad while C plays LEGOs.

This was an atypical day.  We don’t normally blow off school on a Monday morning to go skiing.  Sunshine is a pretty rare event this time of year, so I’m so glad we can take advantage of our flexibility to enjoy it.  We still achieved 3 hours of core subjects.

One of the common questions our public school friends have is, “Do you get snow days?”  Our answer is always yes and no.  If the weather is truly bad we stay home and do our workbook type stuff and read.  If we have a beautiful day we take a few hours and enjoy the snow.