What started as an extremely last-minute beach invitation in 2013 has transformed into one of our family’s most favorite traditions. Four years ago, Kelly knew that a weekend away with the kids was exactly what I needed to pass the time when hubby was on a mission trip. What she didn’t know was that her invitation would begin a tradition of summers spent together at the beach. And neither one of us could have predicted that our children would become such good friends. My crew so looks forward to our shared beach times together every year. And getting to vacation with my hǎo péng yǒu is pretty great for me too.

2017

We almost missed the picture this year because we completely forgot to snap it earlier this summer. But Kelly’s clan made a surprise visit to the beach this past weekend, so we got a second chance to freeze yet another summer in time. I’m so glad too, because my kiddos have had the best time looking at the progression of pictures through the years. I am so excited to replace the old shot with the newest one in our frame at home.  The summer season is now officially complete, bring on the school year!

2016

2015

2014 – proof that our children were together since I slacked and missed a picture that year.  Dolp!

2013

This post may be better titled: The schedule with which we’ll start or The schedule to which we’ll aspireHopeful also works because I believe in at least having a starting point.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself though, I’m terribly fickle with an at-home schedule.  I think that’s mostly because I like to work on my personal stuff in the morning, which often pushes school work to the afternoon.

Also, life just happens.  There are doctor’s appointments and chicken emergencies and field trips and last-minutes plans and front porch sittin’.  But I know logically that the children are better able to focus and work in the mornings.  And we’ve actually worked from a similar schedule in the past, though not as formal.  So with school days almost upon us, I thought that publishing a hopeful schedule for the new year might hold me a little more accountable to stick to it.  Maybe.  Or maybe not.

We have community days all day on Monday and half-day on Thursdays.  So this schedule will apply specifically for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday.  We’ll use a modified version on Thursdays that includes an abbreviated version of Morning Time and Academic Work.

8:30am Morning Time – Bible study, read aloud, memory work review, and Chinese review together at the dining room table.  I keep fidgets, legos, playdoh, coloring books, and even slime, etc., readily available to help everyone stay focused.  I also allow Dumpling to play freely on the first floor when he becomes too distracting.

10:00am Academic Work – Math, language arts, history and science reinforcement, typing, presentation preparation.  This is a time when I bounce back and forth between my students as they work on assignments.  While three work independently, I work one-on-one with the fourth.  Then I switch as needed.  Sometimes I simply manage and answer questions as everyone works independently on different subjects.  We work in the school room or I bring work upstairs and we sit at the dining room table together.  I envision that Angel will work more in her bedroom this year, as she grows more independent.

12:30pm Lunch and Read Aloud – This seems pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll add that I do like to read more from our memory work reading list when I can.  It’s a great time to read aloud because everyone is occupied with eating.  Of course that means I either need to eat before or after the kids, but it’s a perfect time to get a few more pages in!

1:00pm Leftover Academic Work, Free Time, Extracurricular Activities – Any leftover work is completed after lunch, and then the children have free time.  If they have academic work they need help to complete and I’m unavailable, they have free time until I’m able to help.  They may ask for screen time if they’ve already read from their assigned reading list for at least 20 minutes, completed their Xtramath and typing assignment, and practiced their musical instrument for 20 minutes.

Afternoons are also when extracurriculars are scheduled, like Chinese, Tae Kwon Do, music lessons, and gymnastics.  It’s also the time for me to run errands, prepare dinner, do household chores, or catch up on emails and blogging.  Or maybe for me to relax.  Just kidding, what’s that anyway?!

Anyway, that’s the plan.  The hopeful homeschool schedule.  It’s pretty simple and much less complicated than what I tried to implement when we first started homeschooling six years ago.  Funny how that works.

I’ve been successfully baking sourdough bread for my family since January of this year after I got my starter going.  There are still a few bread products we buy in the store, like hot dog buns and tortilla shells, but I bake almost everything else from scratch now.  And I still have plans to give at least tortilla shells a try, once I purchase a cast iron tortilla press.  We eat tacos quite often, so tortillas seem like a worthwhile investment.

The core of what I make, though, is bread and pizza dough.  I have also made waffles, crackers, cornbread, biscuits, and muffins, with many more interesting options queued up on my Pinterest board.  Many creations have been successful, a few (one in particular) have been abysmal failures.

I’ve also jumped into the world of einkorn flour, and am having fun working with an einkorn starter too.  Sourdough is so versatile, which is why I have had so much fun experimenting with it.  Yes, the starter does require daily maintenance, but it takes less time than brushing your teeth everyday.  And it’s pretty hard to mess it up.

Today, I’m going to share some of the things I’ve picked up while working with sourdough starter.  I’m hoping to convince readers who may be on the fence about sourdough to just do it!

  • I purchased a dehydrated sourdough starter from Cultures for Health, but the easiest way to get started would be to obtain some active starter from a friend.
  • I keep my starter in a 1-gallon Anchor Hocking glass jar that is not airtight to allow airflow.  This is important for the starter to be successful.  I like having the larger space to give the starter room to grow, but a smaller 1/2-gallon jar would also work (which is what I use for my einkorn starter because it doesn’t grow like white flour.)  The picture above shows the level to where the starter had grown at over half of the jar, though it is currently only about 1/4 full.
  • For a long time, I had my starter sitting on the counter, but I got tired of looking at it there.  I like a clean, uncluttered counter, so I found space in the cabinet where I keep all of my flours and baking supplies.  The starter is also less likely to attract fruit flies if it’s put away.  (By the way, if your starter does attract fruit flies, just pull them out.  It’s happened a handful of times and the starter has always been fine.)
  • My main starter is a plain old white flour base.  I realize it’s not the healthiest or nutrient-dense choice, but I do use unbleached organic flour.  Safeway’s ‘O’ brand is awesome.  Yes, it’s more expensive than regular flour, but it’s even more expensive to buy store-bought bread anyway, so I still consider it a win. Plus, I know that the wheat hasn’t been doused in Roundup.  And unless you’re buying organic bread from the store, all bread has Roundup in it.  Awful to think of what we’ve done to our “food,” but that’s a post for a different day.  If organic flour isn’t an option, buy unbleached flour.
  • I feed my starter twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.  I tried feeding it just once a day in the beginning, but it had other plans for me.  I forgot often enough though that I finally set timers on my phone to go off at 7:30am and 7:30pm.  Too much going on to try to remember on my own!  Feeding time means adding equal parts flour and water to an equal part of starter, and then mixing together until combined.  When I am just maintaining the starter and not building it up to be used, I use a 1/2 cup of starter for feeding.  So that means a 1/2 cup starter, a 1/2 cup flour, and a 1/2 cup water.  The consistency should be thick and lumpy, similar to pancake batter.  More flour can be added to create a thicker consistency, which is what I prefer.
  • I use our yummy well water, which works perfectly.  If you don’t have high quality well water, use filtered or spring water.  You’ll want your water to be as clean as possible so as to not introduce anything extra into the starter that shouldn’t be there.
  • You’ll know your starter is happy when it is bubbly and smells like scrumptious homemade bread.  The picture below shows a content starter.

  • A warmer ambient temperature will make the starter work faster and need to be fed more often.  I’ve kept it going strong through the winter, spring, and now summer without doing anything special to the temperature in the house.  But it does tend to be more needy in the warmer, humid weather.
  • The starter is very forgiving.  It tells me if I’m behind on feeding when a yellowish liquid layer (called hooch) collects on the top and the starter takes on a very vinegary smell.  It also thins out and loses the pancake batter consistency.  When that happens, it’s not ideal but there’s no need to panic.  It just needs to be fed again and given some TLC.  I stir the hooch back into the starter, and then add a slightly higher ratio of flour to return the consistency to what I want.  Depending on how neglected the starter is, it may require several days of consistent feedings to return to normal.  I have been convinced twice now that I killed my starter after missing a couple feedings, but it has always come back with consistent feedings day and night, over several days.
  • I clean the starter jar every once in awhile, but I don’t have a strict schedule.  After missed feedings, the jar definitely needs to be cleaned because it just doesn’t smell all that great.  It also helps to wipe the condensation off the jar lid during each feeding.
  • When I go away for an extended time and don’t want to ask someone else to take over the feedings, I refrigerate the starter to store it.  I prepare the starter for storage by feeding it first, adding slightly more flour to make a thicker consistency.  Then I let it sit out for a few hours to start working.  After that, I transfer it to an airtight glass mason jar with a little room available for growth, and store it in the refrigerator.  I’ve stored it for several weeks and always been able to revive it with several days of feedings.  This is also a great way to maintain a starter that isn’t used regularly, instead of constantly discarding starter.  I use this method for my einkorn starter to keep from wasting the flour that has a significantly higher price tag.
  • Discarding is something that just happens.  It would be impossible for me to use all of the sourdough starter, though I do try to think ahead and only feed for what I need.  For maintenance purposes, I feed only about a 1/2 cup of starter when I’m not actively baking (1/4 cup for the einkorn starter).  That requires dumping some starter at each feeding.  Otherwise, the starter would grow very large within just a few days, and I’d end up having to dump even more to keep it under control.  By keeping the starter low when not using it for baking, I discard less.  Of course if I’m not going to be baking for a week or more, I could store it in the refrigerator instead.  I rarely do that with my white flour starter though, and even take it with me back and forth to the beach.
  • A starter can easily be converted to any flour by simply separating some out into a new glass container, and feeding it with a different flour.  I used this method to create an einkorn starter and it worked perfectly!  I’ve heard that even gluten-free starters can be created this way!

Ok, I think that’s all of my worldly knowledge about sourdough!  I am not an expert, but I’ve gotten into a good routine and feel comfortable sharing what I’ve learned so far.  If you have questions, please ask away and I will do my best to answer.

She asked if she could join me in painting as I worked on a chalk paint project on the front porch.  I embarrassingly admit that my first instinct was to say no.  Mostly because I selfishly didn’t want to be disrupted, and I wasn’t thinking about her sweet desire to work beside her mama.  Mom fail #99,999.

I am so glad I chose the easy yes instead.

She quietly and methodically set up her temporary studio, arranging everything just so.  And then we created together, side-by-side.  Sometimes we were silent.  Other times we both put down our work and just chatted.  It was an ordinary afternoon that was transformed into a beautifully precious time of connection and togetherness.  I am so thankful I didn’t miss it.

We are only a few weeks away from beginning our sixth year of homeschooling! I had no idea what was in store when we took on the great task of homeschooling our children, but I am so glad we did! I know with certainty that we are exactly where we are supposed to be, and I’m so thankful for the ability to continue schooling my children in the way that works best for them and our family.

I’ve made a few changes this year, including switching Angel’s math curriculum. I’ve loved Math Mammoth, but it took a lot of my time to teach her this past year. And she’s getting into territory that’s requiring me to re-learn math, which simply isn’t efficient. So in an effort to streamline, I’ve switched her to Teaching Textbooks this year. Reviews say that it’s less rigorous than other curriculum choices, so my plan will be for her to complete 1 1/2 years of curriculum this year, with the goal of completing 3 years worth of curriculum in two years’ time.

We’re also officially welcoming sweet Dumpling as a Kindergarten student this year! I cannot believe it’s that time already! I am planning for a hybrid of kindergarten and preschool skills for him, as he’s not quite ready for a full-on kindergarten curriculum. I am more thankful than ever for the ability to homeschool him, because I just don’t think a typical kindergarten classroom would be the best fit for him. I’ll let him lead as we move forward this year, and I can’t wait to see how much he learns!

Lovebug is keeping most of the same curriculum choices as he moves up, with the exception of graduating into the advanced grammar class at our community. It’ll really grow him this year, and I am so excited to see his writing skills explode!

Lastly, Sunshine is also continuing with her curriculum choices, but she has decided to give gymnastics a try. I’m not sure if she’ll stop Tae Kwon Do permanently, or if she’ll end up just taking a break as she decides if gymnastics is the right fit for her. Whatever her decision, I will support her wholeheartedly!

Angel (7th grade)

  1. Language Arts: assignments from our local classical community day
  2. Reading: Various assigned great books
  3. Math: Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra and Algebra I
  4. History/Social Studies: Current events discussion, Claritas Classical Academy, lots of reading
  5. Geography: Map drawing
  6. Science: Science World Magazine, Science Wise 2, various reading with the family
  7. Logic: Fallacy Detective and Uncle Eric Talks About Personal, Career, and Financial Security
  8. Health: Cooking skills, nutrition, Choices magazine
  9. Art: Mapping the World with Art
  10. Music: Private piano lessons
  11. Foreign Language: Mandarin Chinese tutor and Henle Latin
  12. Bible: Family Bible studies and Operation World Prayer
  13. Physical Education: Tae Kwon Do
  14. Typing: Typing Pal

Lovebug (4th grade)

  1. Memory Work: Claritas Classical Academy and fun review games
  2. Timeline: Classical Conversations
  3. Handwriting: Zaner-Bloser Handwriting 4
  4. Grammar: Grammar lessons from our local classical community day
  5. Writing: IEW Rockets, Radar, and Robotics
  6. Spelling: Spelling Plus
  7. Reading: Various assigned great books
  8. Math: Math Mammoth 4 and Xtramath website
  9. History: Claritas Classical Academy, lots of reading
  10. Geography: Claritas Classical Academy and map drawing
  11. Science: Claritas Classical Academy, related studies and experiments, lots of reading
  12. Health: Cooking skills, nutrition, MindUp Curriculum
  13. Art: Community day lessons covering elements of art and artist studies
  14. Music: Community day lessons covering music theory and composer studies, private guitar lessons
  15. Foreign Language: Mandarin Chinese tutor
  16. Bible: Family Bible studies and Claritas Classical Academy
  17. Physical Education: Tae Kwon Do
  18. Typing: Typing Pal

Sunshine (2nd grade)

  1. Memory Work: Claritas Classical Academy and fun review games
  2. Timeline: Classical Conversations
  3. Handwriting: Zaner-Bloser Handwriting 2C
  4. Grammar: Grammar lessons from our local community day
  5. Writing: Copy work exercises
  6. Spelling: Spelling Plus
  7. Reading: All About Reading Level 3 (and finishing up Level 2)
  8. Math: Math Mammoth 2 and Xtramath website
  9. History: Claritas Classical Academy, lots of reading
  10. Geography: Claritas Classical Academy and map drawing
  11. Science: Claritas Classical Academy, related studies and experiments, lots of reading
  12. Health: Cooking skills, nutrition, MindUp Curriculum
  13. Art: Community day lessons covering elements of art and artist studies
  14. Music: Community day lessons covering music theory and composer studies, private piano lessons
  15. Foreign Language: Mandarin Chinese tutor
  16. Bible: Family Bible studies and Claritas Classical Academy
  17. Physical Education: Gymnastics

Dumpling (Kindergarten)

  1. Memory Work: Claritas Classical Academy and fun review games
  2. Timeline: Classical Conversations
  3. Handwriting: Zaner-Bloser Handwriting K
  4. Reading: All About Reading Pre-Reading Level
  5. Pre-K Skills: Horizons Preschool Curriculum
  6. Math: Math U See Primer
  7. History: Claritas Classical Academy, lots of reading
  8. Geography: Claritas Classical Academy and map drawing
  9. Science: Claritas Classical Academy, related studies and experiments, lots of reading
  10. Health: Cooking skills, nutrition, MindUp Curriculum
  11. Art: Community day lessons covering elements of art and artist studies
  12. Music: Community day lessons covering music theory and composer studies, private piano lessons
  13. Foreign Language: Mandarin Chinese tutor
  14. Bible: Family Bible studies and Claritas Classical Academy
  15. Physical Education: Bike riding, running, jump roping