Good Sunday friends and followers,

I’m loving taking a stab at this new venture with renewed passion. I hope to make this a place to read, discuss and maybe learn a thing or two.

Today, Sunday, is the day I do the majority of the planning for the week. The day usually goes:

  1. Church
  2. Lunch
  3. Relax
  4. Plan

I’m used to planning for the lessons of the week and what workouts I want to do. But now I’m finally including some meal planning in the process. My guys (DangerBoy and Sheepro) are 12 and they are boys. That means they eat whatever comes to hand, whether it’s healthy or not. I thought I had been doing a decent job of suggesting food choices until the day I saw Sheepro pop his THIRD bag of popcorn in one afternoon.

Sooo …

Here we have breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinners planned for the week:

Breakfasts –
M .. muffins/yogurt
T .. egg sandwiches
W .. cereal/Yogurt
R .. waffles/bacon
F .. grilled cheeses
Me … 4 egg whites with oatmeal

M … Grilled sandwiches
T .. chef salads
W .. leftovers
R .. hot dogs
F .. leftovers or salad
Me .. salad with 4-6 oz of tofu/tuna

Dinners –
M .. leftovers (Boy Scout Night)
T .. pork chops with noodles, green beans and salad
W .. spaghetti with corn and salad
R .. cod with corn and fries
F .. deer chili with corn muffins

Snacks –
Apple with protein shake or PB
Protein shake alone
Trail bars .. one/child/day
Popcorn .. one bag/child/day
Ramen … Same
Cookies … 2/child/day

Do I have lessons planned out? Not yet. A migraine can do things to a woman, after all. But they will get done – eventually. Likely the day of. But they don’t have to know that.

I do have a couple of things in mind for the blog. DangerBoy wants to be a chef for a career. So we’ll be doing cookbook reviews monthly. That and this TPfTW (The Plan for the Week) will be regular features, with more to come.


Thanks for hanging out in my loft.


Settling In and Getting Out

Note: Affiliate links enclosed …

Hi again. We’ve been busy with our homeschool which we’ve named Brilliance in Action. The Certificate of Enrollment I fill out each year asks for a name of our school. Last year, it was Haynes Homeschool Academy because I couldn’t be any more creative than that. This year, I’ve had time to think about who we are and what we do. My kids are brilliant, yes I am tooting my own horn here, and we like to stay moving – hence the name.

It’s been a fun time adjusting to our second year of homeschool. I’ve tinkered with the schedule more times than I dare admit. And, I think I finally have a good flow; which means I’m probably going to have to change it again in the very near future.. Since we started in late July in earnest (we do lessons all year, more on that later) we have worked through several chapters of Story of Our World Volume 2, Ninja Cat has blown through two Life of Fred books. They have read bits and pieces of several books (keeping them on track with reading is my next project) including The Magician’s Nephew, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and various non fiction. They also made it to Tenderfoot rank in Boy Scouts and are almost to Second Class.

One thing we did recently was get tickets to listen to Presidential candidate Ted Cruz speak in our city. I hoped this would be a great kick-off to learning about the Presidential election process up close and personal. I say we got tickets because we were unable to get into the venue despite our tickets. Our merry band was about 30 people from the front before we hear the venue was full.

Waiting for the Senator to get off the bus.
Waiting for the Senator to get off the bus.

 It disheartened me because I thought since we had tickets, we would be able to hear Senator Cruz. That was not the case. We were not alone. About 200 people behind me also weren’t able to access the appearance either.IMG_20150811_121131405 So my poor Ninja Cat didn’t understand why we stood out on the hot sun for an hour only to see a man get off a bus. But we’ve since watched the debates and have done an overview of the election process. I’m hoping Dr. Ben Carson comes and we are able to see him speak.

For our Field Trip Friday, we had the opportunity to take a tour of the newest Whole Foods Market that opened in Germantown, TN. I have to tell you it was an experience I would do again; and, I have actually.

The coffee/crepe/smoothie area in Whole Foods Market.
The coffee/crepe/smoothie area in Whole Foods Market.

The store was putting the finishing touches on for their Tuesday opening, allowing us to see the store’s layout, have samples and even a goody bag in a reusable tote. I think Danger Boy had more fun because it was a food-centric trip and Ninja Cat could not care less about such ‘trivial’ matters. Dede from the Franklin, TN marketing team was so great listening to Danger Boy and answering his questions.

Danger Boy and Dede. I'm so glad he had a good time!
Danger Boy and Dede. I’m so glad he had a good time!

My two were obviously the youngest there but she made sure to treat them just like any other customer. We’ve since been back multiple times and most recently took the Savvy Shopper tour. I guess that should be kept for another post.

IMG_20150814_111547864Thanks for taking time to read about our adventures. I’m interested in what other homeschool families do to keep active (read not staying stuck in the house all day). Comment below and maybe I’ll feature one or two.

The autism stories no one hears

This article that I was introduced to this week really moved me. It almost brought me to tears. It was written by Amy Mackin and published 7/23/13. As I was reading the article, I kept thinking, “These words are my words.” I hope you enjoy the article as much as I did.

Several inspiring people with autism and their families were profiled on Katie Couric‘s show this summer. It was wonderful to see part of a talk show dedicated to educating people on what it is like to live with autism.

But part of the autism spectrum wasn’t shown — the part almost never seen in mainstream media. Where are these people? I am a parent of a child with autism, and I am lucky. My son received the support he needed when he needed it and falls into the part of the spectrum known as “high-functioning.” He has developed coping mechanisms to deal with his anxiety and sensory challenges. He has learned to tolerate some flexibility when his routine is disrupted. Most important, he is now able to share his extraordinary intelligence, his endearing personality and his unique social conscience.

My son’s story is one of hope, not unlike the stories regularly broadcast on television, printed in magazines or making the rounds on YouTube.

Yet the autism spectrum is wide and diverse, and many who suffer from severe autism will never reach the level of functioning that my child has achieved. Although these people are also part of the story, we rarely hear their stories.

These people react so severely to sensory stimulation that they will seriously injure themselves as a way of relieving the stress. They are often nonverbal. Some require headphones streaming soothing music or familiar voices in their ears just to leave their regular environment for a short time.

Children and adults with autism this severe exhibit behaviors in public that mainstream society views as completely inappropriate. They mumble or yell involuntarily. They may reach out and grab a stranger’s hand or stroke someone’s hair.

I am not referring to people with nonverbal autism who have average or above-average IQs — those who possess the cognitive ability to communicate but whose bodies betray them. Computer applications and other technology can help these people communicate and do many of the things anybody else does, if a little differently.

Instead, those whose stories I’m missing do not have the intellectual ability for communication, whose IQs fall into the severely or profoundly impaired range. These are people who will never read or write or type. They will never graduate from high school; they will likely never marry or hold a job.

When I advocate autism awareness, it’s this hidden spot on the spectrum that I champion.

No one disputes the incredible importance of early intervention — the program of beneficial therapies started well before age 5 — and continued social-skills training and support within the educational system. Certainly much more work can be done for all people who struggle with autism. But when I fantasize about finding a cause and a cure, when I dream about a wonder drug that could reverse the effects of autistic disorders, I don’t think about my son or others like him. I think about those at the bottom of the spectrum — their daily struggle and that of their families.

The world is slowly becoming more aware and more tolerant of those who live with autism, but to understand the breadth and diversity of the spectrum, and the impact of living with these disorders, we must see the entire range, not just the hopeful, inspirational stories.

We must see the pain of a parent who watches her child smash his head against a concrete wall, who throws himself on the floor of a store because he simply cannot stand the fluorescent lights another second; the person who starts violently screaming because the crowd getting off the subway terrifies him. We must feel the anguish of compassionate caregivers when everyone around is staring at their loved one with horror and judgment.

We must comprehend the grief of parents who are forced to acknowledge that their children may never be able to care for themselves, and we should consider all the future decisions and worry that realization encompasses.

Many personal stories about autism make us smile and renew our faith in humanity. But some stories will make us cry. They should, because autism can also be terrifying and hopeless. This side of the spectrum still lurks mostly in the shadows. But to fully understand why we search so exhaustively for answers and doggedly seek a cure, these stories must be seen and heard, too.

Amy Mackin is a writer in the Boston area. From the Washington Post.

Thirteen County Life Lesson

Sorry to be late with this post, hopefully faithful readers. I have been in a rush since mid March and am just now coming up for some air.  I’ve been working with our school’s spring fundraiser,  two field trips in two days, my birthday and Easter weekend with Friday and Monday out of school – not to mention the usual craziness that comes with school winding down. I guess I’m through whining so I’ll get to the post.

The 500+ entries
The 500+ entries

Danger Boy, Ninja Cat and I took a trip to Oxford for the Region VII Science and Engineering Fair recently. They took their projects that I wrote about in Of Bridges and Craters. Both had won first place in their respective categories at school and they were excited to represent their school against the 500+ entries that also decided to show up at Tad Smith Coliseum that day.

We really had a good time. We talked off and on about what was expected of them, what the judges were likely going to ask and how to act/react when the decisions came down. So when we got there, found their gifted Gifted class teacher and their spots, they were as well prepared as they could be for whatever happened. Last year, I was allowed to sit with Ninja Cat as his ‘aide’ of sorts because of his high functioning Autism. But this year, we decided that we should let him sit there on his own. After all, he’s grown by a whole year and he, along with the 500+, had an electronic device to keep him occupied until the judge came to see his project. But we were close to the floor just in case anything did go wrong and he needed someone.

Danger Boy at the Science Fair
Danger Boy at the Science Fair

Next was just to sit and wait for two and a half hours while all the projects were judged by not one but two judges. Ninja Cat said three came by to see him. After that was a long lunch break. So, we decide to go to the main cafeteria on campus. We talked about what college is and an overview of how it works. Danger Boy was wondering how he would get from our house to Ole Miss and back every day. (It’s just over an hour drive.) Then I told him that you live on campus in that situation. That took him by surprise.Then he decided he wants to go to Ole Miss for college, so I can come visit him on weekends as he put it.

We get back to see if any of our students were in the running for the overall medals. Unfortunately they are not; but, that gives us time to enjoy the student/adult version of Family Feud. They did a survey of 100 children that were participating in the fair for the questions and did multiple rounds for lots of people to have a chance to play and for the judges to get a chance to judge the projects up for the overall awards. Danger Boy really wanted us to do it; and, gratefully we were picked. We decided to sit in the same chair on or respective sides so we could go against each other. Our question was “Name an animal that flies.” He beat me on the buzz in; but, I beat him on the answer. Long story short (I know, too late.), we both were surprised that dragon was the number one answer.

After the Family Feud, they were ready to announce the winners. Again long story short, Ninja Cat won 4th place for his project on bridge design and Danger Boy missed the ribbons. Neither child was happy with his result. That’s when the consoling started by not just me but his amazingly gifted Gifted class teacher. However, neither child was consolable right then. So we left right after their lower grade division was complete citing over-stimulation for Ninja Cat.

Ninja Cat at the Science Fair
Ninja Cat at the Science Fair

It took until the next day for them to be able to come to terms with their results. Ninja Cat did say the next morning he had fun doing the science fair and already has ideas in his head on how to improve for next year. Danger Boy is still in the planning stages. But that’s 10 months away, which doesn’t even place it on my radar. I let them plan anyway. It’ll be good for them to learn forethought.

What are some science fair projects you have done/seen in the past that blew you away? I’ll pas them along to Danger Boy and Ninja Cat.

Of Bridges and Craters

Danger Boy's crater

Okay, so, recently Ninja Cat and Danger Boy had their Science Fair at school.  Fortunately for me this project is science rather than language arts, meaning they were ready to hit the ground running and get their projects accomplished. It’s a pretty big deal to both of them, too. Last year, Ninja Cat won in his category at school, got to go to Oxford  for regional fair, won in his category there and even earned himself an article in the local paper r his accomplishments – magnified by his high functioning autism. Danger Boy, I thought, did an awesome job on his project; but, he wasn’t as lucky. It’s safe to say each of them felt they had something to prove at this year’s fair, be it wanting to go back and repeating a win or getting vindication that he was equally capable as his brother.


We spent a few hours going through a couple of websites that I love to use and  Science Buddies is strictly a website for science projects. I love this site because it not only lets you browse projects by subject or grade, it also has a personality type quiz and the answers are a list of projects based on the likes and dislikes of the student. And is a whole playground of information/worksheets/activities for toddlers all the way through high school. I’ve used their reading comprehension sheets as well as multiplication sheets to supplement Ninja Cat and Danger Boy when they have had trouble with certain topics and math facts. So, going through both websites, we finally came to decisions on what their respective topics would be. Ninja Cat decided to test the strength of three bridge designs. We even came up with a pun of a name for it, ‘“Truss” me I know bridges, “Arch” you glad?’ Danger Boy decided to see if the weight of a falling object would change the size of the crater it made. His title we couldn’t seem to make a ‘punny’ but it ended up being ‘Greater Craters: Does weight change the size of its crater?’

2013-01-24_12-45-43_624Then it became a matter of getting their materials together, actually doing the projects and writing it all down. Because you know to quote Adam Savage, “The only difference between science and screwing around is writing it down.” That was so very true in our house the three days we spent working on these projects. Ninja Cat had a ball building his control bridge and two test bridges out of popsicle sticks and hot glue, at least until he burned himself a time or two. Then, he had to take a break before he was ready to tackle it again. Danger Boy’s project consisted of a lot of plaster of paris and disposable cake tins. We mixed the plaster of paris in the tins, then the smaller batch and raced out to the garage before either batch got too hard to use. We then dropped the small batch into the tin and, after it dried, measured the crater.  By then Ninja Cat was ready to finish his bridges and test them with the weights.


Then it came to writing it all down and making up the boards. they did a great job of  working on the report and getting the boards built. Fortunately, all this work paid off as they each won in their category (Ninja Cat for Engineering, Math and Science and Danger Boy for Earth, Space and Environmental Sciences). So now we get to go to Oxford for the region VII fair March 21 and spend the day. I’m so proud of the work they did on this project. I hope Oxford is a great experience for them.

Hopefully faithful readers, what do you do to help keep your kids engaged in educational activities? I’d love to know.

Of Mice and Ninjas

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord … ” This verse from Colossians is one that we should all bear in mind no matter our circumstance – whether it’s an outside the home job, working inside the home, being at school, whatever. And this is a verse that came to me too late recently while Danger Boy and Ninja Cat and I were working on their Reading Fair boards.

What is Reading Fair, you may ask. Go ahead you may ask? I’m glad you asked. Reading Fair is a cross between a book report and a science fair project. Each child took a book that they like (supposedly one they have read, more on that later), and build a poster style presentation on it using certain criteria. It has to have things like the title (obviously), publisher and published date, plot summary, setting, mood and things like that.

So when my boys decided they wanted to do one, I figured it would be a good chance to let them take on a project mostly on their own.  It wasn’t required for a grade, it was strictly extra credit. And they are pretty creative, so I thought this would a simple, easy project they could accomplish with little intervention from me.

I was wrong.

Cover of "Night of the Ninjas"
Cover of Night of the Ninjas

First of all, they procrastinated. That doesn’t surprise me. They are kids, boys and do take after their mother. Second, apparently after being out of school for a week or so they forgot how to use a computer to type a simple word document. This surprises me a little more, I told them I would do the font changes for them if they needed the help, but they didn’t even want to type. Third, Ninja Cat didn’t even read the book. It was a Magic Tree House book. I was surprised that he picked it because his current hyperfocus in books is Vordak the Incomprehensible: How to Grow Up and Rule the World. But, his brother gave him Night of the Ninjas for Christmas. So he wanted to do that instead after I bought a black board. I’m just glad Vordak’s favorite color and a ninja’s favorite color is black. He did get the book read in 30 minutes (no kidding). So we were able to proceed with his eventual dictation.

Cover of "A Christmas Tale (Geronimo Stil...
Cover of A Christmas Tale (Geronimo Stilton)

Danger Boy had his book read – Geronimo Stilton: A Christmas Tale. But he didn’t seem to be interested in decorating his board beyond the necessary elements. I should say the one thing he did do beyond is that at the end of the book there is a list of ways to say Merry Christmas in different languages. So again, I took dictation and manipulated the font to the desired format and let him go.

Then it was off to the actual design. Then things got interesting. Danger Boy threw his pieces on the board, some with glue some with tape, drew a small Geronimo Stilton on there and was done. Image

Ninja Cat took a little more time because he ended up doing his version of the cover in chalk on his board. We had been on a Spotlight (the name of the gifted program at school) field trip recently to an art center where they worked with chalk and he really enjoyed it So he got some for Christmas and decided this was a great place to use them. Image

I guess all of this is to say that the biggest thing gained out of this for them is hopefully some time management and project skills. They are in third grade after all. And I left the design and construction of the boards totally up to them.  The biggest thing I gained is that we need to talk about that Colossians verse before we get in too deep on our science fair projects – which they’re doing research on as we speak, by they way. More to come on that.

What are some ways you help/did help your younger children learn time management/project skills? I’d love to hear fresh ideas.