Switching Spanish Curriculum

I planned on continuing with Rosetta Stone for Spanish, but I found a more complete curriculum that will work better for Otter’s learning style. Rosetta Stone just doesn’t cut it for us when it comes to helping us understand Spanish in more depth. We both could understand enough to click on the correct boxes (most of the time), but weren’t really understanding the grammar or even what specific words mean, even though we could kind of figure them out in context.

We are going to be using Avancemos, which is by Holt McDougal and available via a special price if you order the homeschool package (more details on how to get that at the end of the post).

Here’s what we are ordering:

9780547858654 Level 1 Avancemos Homeschool Kit $96.75 – 20% (homeschool discount) = $77.40

For that price I’m getting the print student edition as well as the student and teacher digital access codes.

The access codes give you access to the digital textbooks (both student and teacher editions), all the teacher resources and answers, student worksheets, tests, videos, audio…There is a TON of stuff that is available for this program. I’ve included some screenshots below to give you an idea of what you get.

The online student text has all the video and audio integrated right into the text itself (just a click away) as well as self-checking chapter activities sprinkled throughout the online pages. I love that you can click on the audio icons as well as all the words highlighted in blue to hear them (no guessing when it comes to pronunciation)!

spanish curriculum


The online student text has a tab where all the unit resources are available at a click. There are animated grammar lessons, flashcards, self-check quizzes, interactive games and TONS of worksheets (all the answers are included in the teacher resources).


Here’s an example of one of the interactive games – a crossword puzzle you can fill out online.


Another online game:


Worksheets have numerous pages of varying activities to practice what’s being learned in the text:spanish3

There are also interactive online “worksheets” for additional practice:


There is even a “at home-tutor” option that walks you through practice materials step-by-step.

The teacher’s resources contain even more printables and activities to help your students learn Spanish like conversation cards:


Clipart & flashcard printables:



There is so much more. I couldn’t fit all of the teacher resources in one screenshot, but you can get an idea of what is available by taking a look at this:




Each arrow and plus sign leads to a drop down menu of more choices. There are more things than you will ever need to use. I love having so many options. If we understand a chapter, we’ll be able to move on more quickly. If there is something we don’t get, we’ll be able to dig in and stay awhile. šŸ˜‰

Emily used Holt’s German program with great success. Avencemos has even more features than her program did so I think it will work out great for us. The homeschool pricing makes it even more attractive and the multiple resources & modes of learning make it more valuable to us as a Spanish program. It’s structured in such a way that I believe we will be successful with it, even though neither of us speaks hardly any Spanish.

In order to get the special package price you must be either a homeschooler, independent study or charter school family. If you meet those requirements you can contact Shannon Cullip (shannoncullip [at sign] gmail.com) or call toll free: 855-386-9297 option 1.

Happy homeschooling!

Frito Pie Recipe

For the first ten years (or so…) of my adult life, I could not cook. I’ll spare you the gory details, but let’s just say I just did. not. get. it. I could just about ruin a salad. My husband came up with a wonderfully descriptive name for one meal I put quite a bit of effort into: “glop”.
Thankfully, I finally figured things out for the most part. I mean, there is always something more to learn (as I’m sure my husband would agree wink), but hey, I don’t burn toast anymore.
I think because of my experience, I’ve always thought it important to have my kids be able to throw together some meals with some level of decency. In fact, Bear has become quite the chef. He started out on easy things like grilled cheese sandwiches when he was about 2 feet shorter and now I’m confident he would do a pretty good job with just about anything. He LIKES fussing around in the kitchen. All of my kids do, to some extent.
I think it’s important for kids to get some real life experience in running a home BEFORE they try to establish their own. They should be doing laundry and cleaning up and making dinner.
This not only saves a busy, homeschooling mom time, but it also helps kids to learn some really important skills.
With that thought in mind I would like to share some recipes I’ll call:

“Things that are easy enough for my kids to make”.

Before I go on, let me get the disclaimers out of the way. These things are easy enough for MY kids to make. Use your own discretion about your kids and of course observe kitchen safety rules and all that. I’m not recommending you turn your kids loose in your kitchen with this recipe. šŸ˜‰ I’m just saying I did that with mine.

The first recipe is FRITO PIE. I love Frito Pie. I used to eat it as a kid and was delighted to rediscover it as an adult. It’s easy. It’s quick. It’s simple enough for my kids to make. What more needs to be said?
And no, Frito Pie is not…um…health food. We’re not a granola cruncher family (no offense to those who are). Hubby is a meat and potatoes kind of guy and while I like my family to eat healthy, we do allow ourselves to indulge in stuff like this every once and awhile. Don’t call the cholesterol police on me or anything. Look! There are tomatoes in the picture and sour cream is in the dairy group….

Frito Pie

Here are the ingredients:

1 bag of Fritos
2 cans of your favorite chili (or the equivalent amount of homemade chili)
A bunch of grated cheddar cheese (don’t you like my precise amount?)
1 or 2 cut up tomatoes or a container of cherry tomatoes cut into halves
Sour cream

First you put a layer of Fritos on the bottom of an oven proof dish. Then you put a layer of chili on top and then a layer of cheese. Repeat the layers. Put the dish into the oven and bake at 350 degrees or until everything is hot and the cheese is bubbly (10-20 minutes). Once you’ve dished out your plate, “sprinkle” a bit of tomato over the top and add a dollop of sour cream.

Emily made the batch below. If I had made it I think I would have spread the chili a bit more evenly and grated even more cheese, but that’s me. šŸ˜‰

Frito Pie

You can also add all sorts of optional items when you are layering the dish: ground beef, corn, olives, etc. Some people also like to use some melted Velveeta or nacho sauce in addition to the grated cheese.

Here’s a close up of all the cheesy-Frito goodness:

Frito Pie up close


Another thing I should also mention is that Frito Pie makes a great camping food. You can make up individual servings by using lunch size Frito bags, cutting them open down the side and pouring the chili right on top to eat it straight from the bag.

So, that’ the first in a possible series of recipes I’d like to share. I hope you enjoyed it!

Adventures in the Sea & Sky

Today we are starting our new school year (yes, we school year-round). Both boys are using WinterPromise’s Adventures in the Sea & Sky program. Like anything else I use, I couldn’t help but tweak it some and put together some extras. I’ll be chronicling our journey with Sea & Sky this year and taking pictures of our projects. If you are curious about this curriculum (at least our experience with it), hopefully you’ll get an idea of what it’s like through my blog.

Today to celebrate our starting this theme I made the kids a lunch of octopus, ocean water, sea foam, sea stars and fish. Or something like that…

Octopus hot dog

The octopus is made out of a hot dog with a mustard face. The ocean waves/water beneath him are Top Ramen noodles with blue food coloring. The fish are Goldfish crackers and the star fish is a slice of star fruit. To wash it all down I created some “sea foam”: sparkling apple cider colored with blue food coloring.

Hot dog octopus

The kids LOVED it. It was a great way to start off our studies.

Another extra I added was the book 1-2-3 Draw Ocean Life. In the schedule of extras I created I assigned Otter drawings that match up (for the most part) what we are studying each week. I’ve added a study of mollusks for science so today he learned how to draw an octopus. I opened up Corel Painter and with my trusty tablet drew each step for him as he followed along. Then we both colored our creations. Here is my drawing (digital pen & ink, and watercolors):


Here is Otter’s drawing:


Otter’s going to keep his drawings in the notebook we’re working on. Other extras for this week are a free lapbook on mollusks, a mollusks movie on BrainPop, and some notebooking pages I found online: Mollusks paragraph & questions and Mollusks worksheet. He’s also reading Eyewitness Classics: 20,000 Leagues under the Sea and doing a few other goodies like watching a Treasure Island movie online to give him some visual context for this week’s WP read-aloud and more.

The Eyewitness book is really nice. The original 20,000 Leagues under the Sea is still WAY over Otter’s head right now. The Eyewitness version is 63 pages long with a much abridged story, lots of wonderful illustrations and photographs as well as side box style information to make certain things in the story more clear or to explain facts related to the story. If you click the title linked above you can see a free preview of it on Amazon. I also like the fact that the book contains 2 page spreads on history and science like a section on submarines, the ocean depths, sea exploration and more. There are also maps showing the fictional voyage. It’s a wonderful version of the story for younger readers.

Our recent projects and a trip to Monterey

The kids have been enjoying our geography studies. I think one of their favorite activities (besides watching movies at Discovery Streaming) are the cooking “assignments”. Here are a few pictures of our creations.

SpƤtzle, rotkraut and roast with gravy for our Germany study:


Growing up, this was one of my very favorite meals as a child that my Oma and sometimes my mom would make. When it was time to study Germany, I just couldn’t pass this meal up, even though it wasn’t listed in our instructor’s guide. It was fairly easy to make and the kids loved it so much that they made a 2nd batch for our lunch.

SpƤtzle recipe :

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk (or water)
  • 3 tbsp butter

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl except for the butter. The “dough” should be fairly smooth and not too thick. Push the dough through the holes of a colander or put it through a spƤtzle press into approx. 3 quarts of salted boiling water. You will want to make a few batches so that you don’t overcrowd the pot. Cook for 4 minutes or until the spƤtzle rises to the surface. You can gently stir it so that they don’t stick. Once they are done boiling, rinse them in cold water.

Melt the butter in a pan on medium heat and then add the rinsed spƤtzle. Fry them up until they get a little bit of color. We like ours to have a hint of brown crispiness on some of them.

We ate our spƤtzle with a roast I made in the crockpot. I just threw the meat in with a little bit of water and a package of dry onion soup mix. We topped both the meat and the spƤtzle with a package of gravy that I added some of the meat “drippings” to.

Here is the recipe for rotkraut (red cabbage):

  • 1-2 green apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1/2 to 1 head of red cabbage (shredded)
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1 cup water

Simmer all ingredients in a covered pot for approx. 1 hour or until the cabbage and apples are tender.
Here is another recipe that is a little bit different. There are lots of other variations of the recipe online as well.

The kids also made some other yummy treats when were studying France:

Here’s a blurry picture of our French cheese canapes from WinterPromise’s Fun & Traditions in Many Lands book which made a very delicious lunch!

Here is a piece of the French apple tart that Otter made all by himself!

French apple tart

The kids also made some “quick” Spanish flan, Spanish banana chips (with plantains), a Black Forest cake (for Germany), beef stroganoff (Russia), Italian salad & pasta and more.

We aren’t just doing cooking projects – the kids have also made some crafts. Here are their paper cutting projects for the week we studied Poland:

Otter’s cut paper flower (click the link for the PDF instructions):

paper cutting craft

Emily’s paper cutting project:

paper cutting

Bear’s paper cutting:

paper cutting

The kids have also been having a great time with science! Otter’s Science has been working out great. There are just enough activities and a good balance of reading, movies and projects. I do need to tweak the schedule some and add some comments about some of the books – but that will come later when I get the new website up and running.

Otter’s brain hat:

Brain hat

Otter’s model vertebrae and nerves from The Body Book:

model vertebrae

Dissecting a brain:

Dissecting a brain

Both boys do most of the projects together with the exception of the Body Book models (which are too easy for Bear). They had a ton of fun doing the dissections and learned quite a bit. What a difference it was compared to the days when Emily had to do dissections! Let’s just say she wasn’t very fond of the whole process…

We also took the kids to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for one of the free homeschool days. It’s an amazing place! I guess we were pretty lucky to get tickets because of the overwhelming response by the local homeschoolers. The free days are really a blessing because otherwise the admission prices for all of us would be prohibitive. I’m really thankful to whomever dreamed that up. Here are a few pics of our visit:

Feeding time at the kelp tank:

diver and fish

Studying some fish:


The aviary at the aquarium was awesome! The birds are literally within arms reach in some places. They are all rescues (I believe) and very “tame” / tolerant of people. We were all amazed at how close we were to all of them. It was a photographer’s paradise! By the way, my husband took all of the aquarium pictures. šŸ™‚

Another one of our favorite sections of the aquarium is the jelly fish area. I could stay there for hours, if we had the time. The jellyfish are just mesmerizing and beautiful.

A seal napping outside in the bay:

The otters were fun to watch:


Mission to the Deep interactive area
Emily said it looks like they are sitting in a Star Trek set!

And finally to wrap up today’s entry, here is a picture of one of our local wildlife refuges. The sandhill cranes are here this time of year and lots of ducks have come down from colder regions for the winter. We try to take the kids to the refuges frequently and are always amazed at how there is something different each time we visit. We are really fortunate to live in an area where there is a lot of nature that is easily accessible. I think it’s good for all of us and really helps us to better connect to the seasons and rhythms of natural life.

Not only are the kids studying different countries around the world this year, they are also getting to get in touch with what is local and learning about the area where they live. I hope that someday they will all look back on these things I’ve been sharing with you as precious childhood memories and that they will have learned a lot about our wonderful world, both far and near.