My 10-year-old and I recently finished a trial membership of the website Time4Learning. The following is my review after the 30-day trial, in which we were able to access the entire site for free in return for an honest review. Therefore, these opinions are my own.

If you are unfamiliar with this program let me explain a bit. Time4Learning is a web-based homeschool curriculum for all grades; as they recently added high school. The program offers language arts, math, science, and social studies for a reasonable (and comparable) price. Demos are available here.


Our take:

I stumbled across Time4Learning in my research for all-encompassing curriculum for my 10-year-old. She is currently completing fifth grade work and in looking ahead to next school year, I wanted to make sure we were covering all our bases and filling in the holes. Currently, we use Brain Pop (subscription), Discovery Education (subscription), and Khan Academy (free). I was wondering if we could narrow down the field.

We are eclectic homeschoolers; we use a wide range of physical classes, online viewing, book learning, and hands-on experience to complete our studies. I found Time4Learning to be a tad bit more formal than I wanted. I like the pricing, I like the breakdown of lesson plans, and I like the full scope of subjects. My daughter was interested and explored the site but it didn’t really hold her interest, nor was it very easy to navigate if she was looking for a particular topic. She also mentioned that the graphics were simple.

I would recommend this program if you are looking for a way to simplify record keeping and want to take a step back from lesson planning. This program provides both and would definitely take the burden away from the parents. I find I am still interested in getting my hands “dirty” with planning and I discovered I am not a structured individual  (which is not a surprise, really).

I do appreciate the opportunity to review this program and it might be a more proper fit for us in the future (say, high school) but for now I think we will stick with our piecemeal tactics.



Looking for a way to get some science and reading done? Jos and I discovered this science detectives series at our local library


Doyle and Fossey Science Detectives by Michele Torrey

Doyle and Fossey Science Detectives by Michele Torrey

We currently use it as a read aloud story. The stories are short (about 70 pages long) with a bit of mystery combined with science. The end of each book includes activities and experiments for budding scientists; most activities are easy enough for kids ages 8+ to complete on their own.

A simple, fun one we as a family completed the other night is from book 2 – The Case of the Mossy Lake Monster

“A Dark and Stormy…Mouth” experiment deals with stored energy and fluorescence. You need a tin of wintergreen mints (not sugar-free); a dark room; and your mouth

Stand in front of a mirror in a dark room (or you could use a partner facing you) take one of the mints and chomp down with your teeth; try to keep your lips apart so you can see the results. It is a quick flash but enough of one to get the kids excited.

I like the series for the easy experiments; Jos likes the series for the story. I say either way it is a win-win since we get reading and science knocked out in one go.


Have you ever visited a certain wholesale warehouse on baking day? The smell fills the parking lot. Before you even enter the building you know, just know, you are going to have to deny some requests for fresh baked muffins – the giant kind. I’m horrible at denying my husband and children certain food requests, but in a case like commercial made baked goods it is fairly easy knowing full well one of our family won’t be able to enjoy said goodness. So, to appease my guilt I needed to come up with a new and delicious recipe. Starting with a basic muffin recipe you can make egg-free, dairy-free magic. Enjoy!

Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins
Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins



½ cup fat/butter (softened)

¾ cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp salt

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

¼ cup almond butter

2 cups flour

¾ cup almond milk

1 cup chocolate chips

½ cup melted chocolate (optional)


Preheat oven to 375.

Whip together butter, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon until smooth and fluffy. Add salt, baking powder, almond butter, and apple cider vinegar. Stir in flour until incorporated. Stir in almond milk. Fold in chocolate chips.

Spoon batter into greased or lined muffin pan. Bake for 20-25 mins (until tops bounce back to the touch)

Let cool for 5 minutes on rack. Drizzle with melted chocolate. Makes 12 regular-sized muffins.

Goal #1 for 2014 – Create Everyday

A pretty awesome person I know had a fantastic idea about documenting the things we create everyday – not just the big things but the little things as well. It is easily one of the most motivating goals for the new year.

Here it is, my first Create Everyday post:

Homemade Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread #createeveryday

Homemade Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread #createeveryday

Sourdough Bread

from How to Cook Everything

Sourdough Starter*

3.5 cups flour

¼ tsp yeast

1 1/3 cups water

2 tsp salt


Bring half your sourdough starter to room temp; add the flour, yeast, and salt; mix. (You can use a food processor fitted with steel blade or do what I do, use two knives to break everything up into clumps.)

Pour water into the mixture (if you are using the food processor you can keep it running for this – pour the water in all at once). Stir until it is a shaggy, sticky ball of dough. Dump it into a large bowl and cover loosely. Let it sit overnight in the fridge (bring back to room temp before the next step) or in a cool temp environment.

Flour work surface and shape dough into ball. For the next rise, I use a colander lined with a kitchen towel. Lightly flour the towel and place ball of dough in the colander, sprinkle a bit more flour on the top of the ball and fold over the towel. Let rise for 2-6 hours (until it has increased in size).

Preheat oven to 450. Place a Pyrex dish with about an inch or so of water on the bottom rack when you turn on the oven – this will create a moist environment. Gently turn dough onto a baking sheet; make three little slashes on the top using kitchen shears. You can coat the dough with a bit of olive oil before baking if you want it a bit crusty. Place on center rack; spray a bit of water in the oven to create steam and bake for 10 min. Spray again and bake for another 10 min. Remove the water-filled baking dish from the oven and lower the heat to 350. Bake for another 20-25 min. Remove loaf and spray with a bit of water if you want it shiny. Move loaf to wire rack to cool or don’t. I prefer to tear into that loaf as soon as possible :D


*Starter: 1.5 cups flour, 1/8 tsp yeast, 1 cup warm water. Stir and cover loosely. Stir every 8-12 hours. It will become bubbly and have a sour smell – that’s when you know it is ready. I kept mine on top of the fridge so it wouldn’t get knocked over. It needs to stay a room temp during this process, it took mine about 2 days to get that sour smell. Once you have it completed you can keep it in the fridge. To keep starter going – add ¾ cup flour and ½ cup water to the remainder of the starter and stir well. Cover and refrigerate.

13 things I am grateful for as we exit this year:

  1. Celebrating ten years of marriage with this guy

    This guy makes me happy

    This guy makes me happy

  2. Paying off both our vehicles  – it is an immense relief to not have that hanging over our heads and if we are lucky we can make both vehicles last for another 5 years or so. <knock on wood>
  3. My mom – after my pop died two years ago I was so afraid we would lose my mom soon after but she is a strong old lady and I’m happy she has decided to stick around

    Bean with Mom 2013

    Bean with Mom 2013

  4. Our homeschooling friends; sanity-savers they be
  5. Oddly, I’m including FB and IG in here – without them I would feel so disconnected from family members living so far away
  6. Our health and decent health insurance – this is in no way an attempt to start a political discussion
  7. Only one trip to the ER this year; it was for a broken wrist
  8. The drive-in theater; as movies are expensive and we are movie lovers I’m grateful there are still places we can go as a family of five to enjoy a flick without breaking the bank. Plus, it’s the perfect summertime outing
  9. Allergy-friendly products; we have been so lucky that Bean has not had a major flare up all year
  10. Field trip coordinators – I’m horrible at planning field trips so I am ever so grateful to those wonderful people

    Wildflower hunting 2013

    Wildflower hunting 2013

  11. Vegan websites – so many yummy recipes, so little time
  12. Music –  and children who enjoy it as much as I do
  13. All the little things, the things I know I’m forgetting but make my life so enjoyable. I hope to stumble across them next year too


life is full of beautiful mysteries

life is full of delightful mysteries



My house smells so good right now! I have some homemade lasagna bubbling in the slow cooker. I’m fantasizing about scooping up a big cheesy bite of it…mmm, mmm, mmm. Unfortunately, I can’t until my husband returns home with our eldest daughter from karate class. It’s taking all my willpower to keep myself from skimming from the edges of this yummy goodness


It is super simple to make and so much better than store-bought. Here is how I make it:


1 box lasagna noodles (the no boil – oven ready kind)

1 jar (about 26 oz) of favorite marinara (I use the TJ’s Tomato Basil Marinara) or use your own

1 (16 oz) tub of cottage cheese

1 (8 oz) bag of shredded mozzarella

1/2 cup grated Parmesan/Romano cheese

1 lb lean ground beef/turkey/chicken



Brown the ground meat in a pan with a tsp of minced garlic, tsp of onion powder (I use onion powder because I have a few finicky eaters at home who can taste onions), salt and pepper to taste. Drain. Add 2 tsp of Italian Seasoning to the tub of cottage cheese.

In the slow cooker: add a bit of sauce to the bottom of the bowl – enough to cover the base; add the meat; top with a layer of noodles – break the noodles in pieces so they fit and cover the meat layer; add sauce – enough to cover the noodles; now comes the layer of cottage cheese, sprinkle about half of the mozzarella over the cottage cheese; add another layer of noodles; cover with the remaining sauce, add the remaining mozzarella and the Parmesan/Romano cheese to the top. Cook on LOW for 4-5 hours.
We like the side of our lasagna to be burned – like you would get from baking it in the oven, if you cook it for a bit longer it will get the crunchy sides.


According to our charter school’s calendar we are nearing the end of our second week of the new school year. I’d like to report everything is going well. I’d like to say I’m so organized you could release a ferret in my house and it wouldn’t find a stack of books to knock over or a pile of papers to hide under. I’d LIKE to say those things but I can’t. <Hanging head in shame>

A month ago I started out with the best of intentions. I was going to be organized this year! I was going to have a plan! I was going to have all the materials I needed beforehand! I would know where the box of pencils was hiding! I was going to have a schedule! Yeah, right. I must have been drinking some GoGo Juice because my big plans lasted approximately 4 school days. That’s right, four.

I tried! I really did. Two weeks before the charter school said we had to start I had mapped out the first two weeks of learning in a lesson plan I designed for my needs. I put books on hold at the library; I researched experiments to do; created my list of materials we would need; checked out websites for games and activities for the girls to play. I was so ready!

Yes, I was ready. I should have known it wouldn’t last. These kids have minds of their own. Of course I’m not complaining about that – it’s why we homeschool in the first place, so our kids aren’t drones. Plus, I forgot to throw the toddler in the mix. How could I forget what it was like to have a toddler in the house? Oh yeah, the last time I had a toddler I had a preschooler too. They spent their days playing together. They didn’t need me to entertain them. <Palm to forehead>

First day of school, we followed the plan. The only hitch was not planning for Bean’s afternoon nap. That, and Viv wanted to continue reading a book she picked up at the library. How could I say no to that request? In her shoes, I would have wanted to do the same. Second and third day passed with ease. The fourth day, well, that was science. We love science in this house. I had four great experiments ready to try out, some books to read, and a podcast to watch.

Best laid plans, right? The sound on the podcast wouldn’t work. The books were good but the girls were itching to get to the experiments. We gathered our materials, read the instructions. The girls loved them, so much so we did the next four I had intended for the following week. It was a perfect plan, the weather was hot and almost all the experiments I had planned involved water. Perfect, I say. Perfect! Except they got soaked, then decided they wanted to play with the water pistols, then my husband filled water balloons and started throwing them at the girls. Oh, it was a blast! And exactly what I always envisioned our home learning would be like. It was perfect, truly perfect.

After that the lesson plans have become more of an idea plan than anything else. I’ll still try to plan things out, be slightly prepared, but for the most part I’m going back to letting these kidlets lead the way and I’m going back to leaving more unscheduled time. It works best for us.

So the lesson learned here – find what works for best for your family. We homeschool for a reason – to ensure our children keep their love of learning, their naturally curious minds, to allow for specialized lessons, and hope they grow to be amazing adults.

Each year I ask myself, “Why do we homeschool?” and this is my answer.


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