Finished cell

Edible cell project

We are loving our Apologia science course this year!  Jonathan chose to study human anatomy, and it is truly my favorite subject to teach.

Chapter one is all about cells and yesterday he did his first project – an edible cell project.  Now, I’ve assigned all sorts of cell model projects in my 8 years of teaching high schoolers about cells. Most of the time, I left the choice of materials up to the individual students.  My only hard-and-fast rule? NO FOOD.  I often needed several days to grade all of the projects, and food in my lab/classroom attracted all sorts of unwanted buggy guests.  Plus, edible cells just look…. gross.

BUT.  As I mentioned before, I took the financial plunge and bought the lab kit that goes with this course. Definitely the best money we’ve spent, as it has ALL of the bits and pieces to do every single little labby-type thing with this curriculum.  So, it had the lemon jello and little candy pieces, etc, etc.  And I knew Jonathan would love doing it.  So, cringing, I put it on his assignment sheet.

Getting started:

Starting edible cell project

He mixed up the jell-o and carefully poured it into the bowl.  After a few hours in the fridge, it was time to push all the candy organelles into place.

Placing candy organelles

For each one, he explained the name, function, and placement.  I was impressed!   (P.S. Inside my head, I’m screaming, “Those goggles do you NO GOOD on top of your head!!”  I used to walk around my lab and rap kids on the goggles with my pen when they did this.  Most got the message pretty quickly.)

After all the organelles were in place, we turned it out onto a plate, channeling our inner Julia Child the whole time.

Finished cell

That’s a happy kid.

How can he be any happier?

Like this:

Big yummy smile

Yes, I let him eat it.

No, I didn’t watch.

Didn’t taste it, either.

All in all, a happy science day!!

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Unexpected lessons for ME as we homeschool

Guess who has two thumbs and is learning Java by watching videos about programming a mod in Minecraft even though she has no desire to learn Java OR play Minecraft?


The good news is that we bought an online course at Youth Digital specifically for this purpose (if you actually click over and explore that link, know that I had a fabulous discount coupon and absolutely DID NOT pay full price for that course – yikes!).  So it’s not like I have to learn it and then teach it to Jonathan.

The bad news is that it’s marketed to tweens & teens, so I can juuuuuuuust barely stand to watch the videos and listen to this guy talk.  Jonathan loves it, and so I sit next to him and cringe and sort of mentally stumble along, in and out of paying attention, trying to keep up, and PRAYING that he doesn’t need my help for anything because I. DO. NOT. KNOW.

On the other hand, this is the face of a certain young man who has just programmed and used his very own Nerf sword in Minecraft:

Program Java

So I suppose it’s worth it.

Jonathan’s language arts lesson today centered around Psalm 1:1-2, which is about making right choices, choosing Godly friends and walking a path of obedience.

Oh, the joys of those who do not
    follow the advice of the wicked,
    or stand around with sinners,
    or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord,
    meditating on it day and night.

One of the questions asked him to tell me what the verses mean to him.  Without hesitation, he told me that this chapter makes him think of John 3:16.  He said, “They both talk about being obedient and making right choices.  Psalm 1 is about choosing friends, and John 3:16 is about choosing to believe in Jesus.  Both scriptures promise a reward from God for obedience.”

I don’t have the words to describe how blessed I am to homeschool Jonathan.  Sometimes I forget that it’s not about me teaching him.  God uses Jonathan to teach me, too.

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Anna’s Homework

Anna wasn’t particularly thrilled with having homework for kindergarten.  It’s never much, and generally takes about five minutes.  Yesterday’s assignment was to write her name five times, specifically with lower case letters for everything but the first one.

Anna homework funny face


Initially, you’d have thought I asked her to pluck her eyelashes with hot tweezers.  There was plenty of angst, gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, especially once I made it known that there would be no TV, playing outside, or other desirables until after homework was done.

But she eventually settled into it.  I love her sweet hands, working hard.

Anna writing name homework


Chocolate milk in a yellow “coffee cup” helps, too.

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Homeschool one child and not the other?

Homeschool one child not other

I get the hairy eyeball (a perfect phrase introduced to me by my friend Lindsay) from a lot of people when they find out we homeschool one child and send another to the DoDDS school on base.  I’m pretty much past caring what most people think about our decisions, but wanted to share this weirdness.

Here’s the deal.  They are two very different children with two very different sets of needs.  Jonathan truly enjoys homeschooling, and Anna, so far, thrives in Kindergarten at the base school.

I get the side-eye from people at Anna’s school when they find out that we homeschool Jonathan.  Some of them get all huffy (okay, maybe not an outright huffiness, but their body language definitely changes).  The elephant in the room is a conversation that goes something like this:

SP (School Person):  “Why is our school good enough for her but not for him?  What makes you think you can do a better job with him than we would?  You’re probably screwing him up royally.  What about (*gasp*) socialization??”

My easy answer is that I’m a certified high school science teacher.  Do I really believe that home educators need to have a teaching certification to effectively homeschool?  No.  But it usually shuts up the school-side nay-sayers in a hurry, and that’s all I really need.  A School Person who wants to actually have a conversation about it is a rare find.  Most just want to tell me all the reasons why I should put him in the school.

The really strange part about this, to me, is how much push-back I’ve gotten from some people in the homeschooling community.  For a lot of homeschooling families, it’s a lifestyle choice that embraces the whole family.  They homeschool.  Period.  It’s a key component of their identity as a family.  And I don’t see anything wrong with that.  For them.

In fact, I thought it was going to be that way for us.  I was all set for us to be entrenched as a Homeschooling Family.  I was ready to stop walking the tightrope between the two worlds. Thankfully, though, God is patient and good, and continued to gently lead and prod my heart through my stubbornness.

Here’s the irony:  we all homeschool because we think we can figure out the best way to educate our children.  So…. why can’t we decide that the best education for our daughter is to be in the base school?

Because we can.

And we do.

And, so far, it’s awesome.



6 Things that are different about where I live

While it’s a no-brainer that of course Italians are different from Americans, it’s an altogether different experience to live somewhere instead of just visit for awhile.  These are just a few of the things that stand out for me!

Six things that are different about Sicily!

1.  All the shops out in town, except for malls and restaurants, close everyday from about 1pm-4pm for riposo and generally on Sunday.  Personally, I think that a nap in the middle of the day is a brilliant plan, except that it’s usually about 1pm by the time Jonathan and I are done with school and can get out and about.  I’m definitely still a spoiled American and looking forward to being back in the US where shops have day-long hours.

2.  The driving.  There’s always room for one more vehicleor person…  On the whole, though, I’ve found Sicilians to be more forgiving drivers.  If someone begins to pass and you see TWO cars coming at you in a place where there should truly only ever be ONE, it’s because they expect everyone to make room, just like they would around their dining table if you were to ever show up unexpectedly.  There’s space for everyone!  Truthfully, I think I was always an Italian driver.  I just had to come to Italy to realize it.

3.  No bubble.  Men touch each other.  A lot.  Poor David has really had to get used to this.  Sicilian men will wrap an arm around his shoulders and pull him in so that their faces are only inches apart.  It’s especially off-putting when it’s someone who’s selling something.  For Americans, it definitely has that sleazy-car-salesman feel, even though they aren’t.  Combine the lack of personal space with some intense B.O. in the summer heat, and it’s pretty much a recipe for nausea.

4.  The cheek-kissing.  I’m pretty much used to this one, but there are definitely levels of familiarity, from least familiar to family-grade intimacy: handshake, handshake + one air-kiss to one cheek, gentle hug + air-kissing to two cheeks, and then there’s the full-on embrace with a smack or two for each side of your face.  I’ve experienced all of it.

5. This one is hard to summarize, so I’ll just tell you the story.  First, you have to know that there’s a Sicilian guy who comes to our housing area and sells wine out of the back of his hatchback beater car.  And it’s good.  That’s the first weird part – buying wine in 2-liter plastic bottles from a guy’s trunk.  The second weird part is that, a few weeks ago, I asked Jonathan to ride his bike up there and buy two bottles.  It wasn’t until much later (perhaps even days later) that I realized how impossibly inappropriate that would be in the States.  It might even get me arrested.  Is it even okay to do that in military housing?  I don’t know, but at the time, it seemed totally normal.

6.  Looooooooooooong, slow meals with more food than should be allowed, and not even starting dinner until 10pm.  Take a bite, talk for 10 minutes.  Take another bite, drink some wine, make a toast.  Take two more bites, laugh and joke for awhile!  Course after course of impossibly rich, new taste sensations made using seasonal ingredients, and delicious red table wine.  We’ve never adjusted to this, and don’t eat out often for the simple fact that 98.9% of the restaurants don’t open for dinner until 8pm… plus, it’s expensive… and definitely not good for maintaining my girlish figure.  😉

These are just a few of the things that I’ll carry with me as fond memories of our time here in Sicily.  If you’ve never visited, I encourage you to experience bella Sicilia!

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My favorite thing about Sicilians

They ADORE children.  Strangers will often interact with our children before they speak to us.  Coming from a culture of “stranger danger”, it was disarming at first, but I’ve grown to love it.

When we first arrived on the island, we took our kids to the Catania market, which is HUGE.  Anna was only two and a half at the time, and still in a stroller.  As David and I examined the fish, a stooped Sicilian nonna (grandmother) began chatting with Anna, in Italian of course.  Anna has always been friendly and outgoing, so she chattered right back to her.  They had a whole conversation in two different languages, and it was precious!

Last weekend when I went to refill our high-class wine bottles, Anna had asked for a snack on the way.  Unfortunately, I was an unprepared mommy and had exactly zero things for her to eat.  I promised to buy her an apple at the fruit & veggie store.

Anna perused the apple selection as the store owners filled my bottles, and settled on a pretty red one.  When he came over to fill the bag with apples, I told him that we only needed one for her to eat now.  We headed over to the counter so I could pay.  In true Sicilian fashion, he insisted on giving the apple to Anna, and refused to take the extra change I tried to push across the counter.

“Give! Give!” he said, repeatedly.


Anna enjoying her Sicilian apple


Oh, that we could all be so generous to the youngest among us.


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Recap of Anna’s first day of Kindergarten

I spent all day periodically jerking my head up in moments of near-panic, worried about the quiet and what havoc Anna could be wreaking somewhere in our house.  And then I would relax a little, but still wish desperately to be a fly on the wall in her kindergarten classroom!

My little monkey jumped off the bus with a HUGE smile and shouted, “I LOVE SCHOOL!!!!”

We walked home, where she crawled in my lap to cuddle.  I soaked them up as she chattered for nearly 30 minutes about her day.  Highlights included eating in the cafeteria, playing outside, meeting new friends, and getting her mat for rest time (“Yes, I slept.  A little!”).  She made new friends, too.

Her kindergarten teacher sent a mass email to check her distribution list, and I wrote back with a big THANK YOU for such an awesome first day.  We’ve definitely started off on the right foot!

Here’s a pic … three years ago on the left vs this morning!  They’ve both grown so much.  In the one on the left, I can’t even see the peephole for our front door; in the one from this year, Jonathan’s taller than it!

Kids 2011 vs 2014


Counting our blessings!!