What I’ve Read Lately: March 21, 2022

Remember a million years ago when I blogged regularly and you guys could expect to see what I was up to on a regular basis? I freely admit, this blog has been seeing less and less action for awhile now, especially since I started teaching my seventh grader full time – but I still love you guys and our little bloggy-verse. I thought I’d kick it old school with Anne’s Quick Lit link up thing – a day late and a dollar short per usual. Anyway, here’s what I’ve been reading over the last month or so.

Thanks to this homeschooling thing, my reading life has been very eclectic. Most of the books I’m reading are out loud for literature class, reading ahead for my 7th grader’s independent reading and Magic Tree House books that we read in the morning to start the day light and breezy while I drink my coffee.

I read Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops on my Kindle mostly in spurts while the kiddo did independent work or took long bathroom breaks. It was a nice diversion but honestly a little off putting as the author doesn’t seem to particularly like any of these people and I spend a fair amount of time in bookshops – at least I did pre-Covid anyway.

Adam of the Road was one of those independent readers that takes place during the middle ages and tells the story of a minstrel’s son who goes on quite the adventure. It was a great fit for our history and literature curriculum – plenty of adventures and it really put you in the middle ages.

The next independent reader she’ll be starting is Catherine, Called Birdy which was honestly awesome. Catherine is the very rebellious and independent spirt daughter of a local knight and now that she’s like fifteen or so her dad is working on getting her married off. She is not pleased.

Since her older brother has encouraged her to start keeping a diary to work on her writing skills and maybe keep out of trouble, this book chronicles her adventures in trying not to tie the knot and a year in her life, also in the middle ages.

We read The Great and Terrible Quest together which centers a lot around looking for the Holy Grail but it’s also mostly a story about life in a local abbey during the reign of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

I read Head Over Heels as my bedtime read – a recent pick from Book of the Month and honestly it deserved more like 3 1/2 stars. I actually really enjoyed deep diving into the world of gymnastics the Olympics, a topic which honestly I have no experience in. But it also got super preachy and tied up way too neatly. The main love interest felt really one dimensional and I think Simon Cowell would agree if I said it all felt a little self indulgent. Or I’m an ass.

The last read aloud we finished, apart from the Magic Tree House books, was The Second Mrs. Gioconda. It’s all about how Leonardo DaVinci ended up painting the Mona Lisa but it’s also about the life of his apprentice, Salai – who is frankly awesome. This book was great. I love E.L. Konigsburg and everything by her that I’ve ever read basically.

And the last book I read for my own damned self was Well Matched, the third in a series by Jen DeLuca that has become one of my favorites. They all center around a little local Renaissance Faire and the people of the town it’s held in. This one was just as awesome as the two before it – it made me swoon and cry and cryswoon and all that. I highly recommend the series.

It sure sounds like the end of my reading month was easily the most enjoyable. I don’t entirely disagree. Right now we are kind of just settling into some new books and I don’t have much to say about any of them yet – so I’ll save those thoughts for another day. Feel free to follow me on Goodreads if you want to keep up with my reading life in between scattered blog posts!

Top 5 of 2021

An ornament from my advent calendar, painted by yours truly

Continuing my tradition of sporadically remembering that I have a blog and showing up four times a year with random bits of updates…

The year is almost over! I’m pretty sure the past year has been roughly 678 days at least and that the coming year is both welcomed and terrifying. Before we ring our hands over what 2022 has to offer, let’s try to look back on this past year fondly (or at least fondly-adjacent).

Top 5 Memories of 2021

  1. Finally getting to visit family back home obviously gets top marks. We hugged grandparents, put our feet in the ocean, went swimming almost daily, hung out with cousins and drank a lot of Dunkin Donuts iced coffee.
  2. I got really into candles this year. I’ve literally never understood the appeal, but my tween and I started lighting one each morning at the start of our school day and we’re obsessed. I even bought a wick trimmer because I’ve used up a few candles enough to need a wick trimmer!
  3. The tween learned to ride a bike (our neighborhood is very hilly and up to this year nobody was motivated enough to keep trying) and spent most of the warm weather going for bike rides with dad.
  4. I found awesome watercolor painting tutorials on YouTube from Let’s Make Art and I’ve been painting up a storm. They sell subscription boxes too which hubby surprised me with this month!
  5. I basically forgot to plan anything for 4th of July at all but we grilled in the backyard and set off sparklers that we’re actually way more intense than planned and one of the kids commented that it was the best night ever, so…

Top 5 Books for 2021

  1. My Calamity Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodie Ashton, and Jodi Meadows – the last of the Lady Jane’s, this one takes us to the Wild West and honestly by the end I was obsessed all things Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane.
  2. The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood is the nerdy open door romance you didn’t know you needed. I think I babbled to everyone I knew about this one and basically devoured it.
  3. Pride and Premeditation by Tirzah Price is the first in a series of Jane Austen inspired murder mystery retellings for YA which might sound cheesy but it was SO Good!!!
  4. Murder, Plainly Read by Isabella Alan – I love this series, set in an Amish town but starring a non-Amish heroine. I love the contrast between the two lifestyles and all the books I’ve read by Alan have been great ( she also writes under the name Amanda Flower).
  5. Well Played by Jen DeLuca – book two of this rom com series set at the Ren faire. I loved diving back into this world and the love story was everything. 😍

That’ll do for now. What have been some of your favorite things this year?

Reflecting on a year of pandemic homeschooling

We’re a month into summer vacation and I’m starting to getting nostalgic for the year behind us and excited for the year ahead. What better time to share some of our highlights from the past year.

What started out as a last minute fix to the problem of “I don’t want my sixth grade to go to school in person in the middle of a pandemic or attend virtually and also the world is hard and there’s no right answer and help!”. But by the end of the year we were telling people that homeschooling was the best thing that ever happened to us. My tween loves the freedom to live by her own schedule and we’re breathing life into subjects like history and science that used to bore her. It didn’t take long to realize that we wanted to keep going, at least for a few more years.

I won’t lie – it’s been a lot of work for me as homeschool teacher/ principal and parent. I have gradually figured out how to plan ahead to make the future easier but not so much that I’m buried under a pile of schedules every day. And more importantly, finding the confidence in myself to tweak lessons and make executive decisions and say YES she is learning and we’re doing great. That’s a day by day situation TBH.

CURRICULUM WINS

The chunk of our curriculum came from a company called Book Shark. We got their history and literature curriculum as well as science and loved both. This company delivered history class the way I’ve always felt it should be – with a focus on the stories that bring history to life. We were sent a mountain of terrific middle school historical fiction as well as half of the Story of the World series (we’ll read the other half next year). The curriculum also comes with detailed week by week lesson plans with everything planned out for you from what pages to read each day, what things to talk about, vocabulary, important dates, and places to locate on the map. I also found activity books on Amazon to accompany the Story of the World books because I have an extra crafty daughter.

Seriously I can’t say enough good things about this history and literature curriculum. We read so many amazing books, many of which neither of us would have ever picked up on our own like The Ghost at the Tokaido Inn, Betsy and the Emperor, The Good Master, The Sherwood Ring, and literally I could do this all day. So many amazing reads. For a couple of book worms, it was a dream come true.

The science curriculum is similarly book-forward with some beautiful science books by companies like Usborne and a science experiment kit. We loved the beautiful books but to be honest, the experiments left something to be desired. As a not terribly science minded person, I found the instructions daunting and unintuitive. My husband had less trouble with them but also less time to help out. This fall we are going to try video lessons from the amazing Science Mom. My friend used her lessons this past year and swore by them all dang year – and the few lessons we’ve watched on YouTube had us convinced we should give her curriculum a try. So while I liked the BookShark curriculum for science, I’m excited to try something new next year.

MORE CHANGES FOR NEXT YEAR

We’re also planning to try a new math curriculum next year. We used Saxon this year because it’s what she had used in school up to now and while she did well overall, it was our hardest subject motivation-wise. She’d make dramatic declarations that her soul was dying because it was so boring. Based on a few reviews and a trial lesson, I decided to give Teaching Textbooks a try this year. It’s actually an app that you can download on your phone or tablet or access on a computer. The lessons are interactive and the system will do the grading for you! (Halleluiah)

The other big change for next year will be our Language Arts curriculum. We began this past year using the BookShark curriculum, including Wordly Wise. We quickly decided it wasn’t quite what we wanted and I bought a writing and language arts workbook by Spectrum. These worked much better but over the course of the year I heard about a few more options that sounded intriguing so even though Spectrum was totally fine, this fall we’re going to try Fix It Grammar, Spelling Power and a writing program called Cover Story that I’m perhaps way too excited about. It has video lessons and a couple of notebooks that walk the student through creating their own magazine by the end of the year. The demo lesson we watched was entirely too fun.

I’ve also picked up a handful of self help type books and an art book called Artistic Pursuits that we’ll attempt to work our way through. I also have big plans for a regular Poetry Tea Time and some dabbling in Latin roots if we have time.

READ: Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

Published Oct 2020

416 pages

Read this if you love: fanfic, steamy open door romances, cosplay, chick lit with heavier undertones

I have mixed opinions on this book so bear with me while I try to explain myself. I found the overall plot of the story super intriguing. It’s got that kind of You’ve Got Mail trope where the two leads don’t know that they already know each other, and communicate with each other electronically and in person, not knowing that they are the same people. I love this trope and I’m definitely a sucker for it.

I also loved the fanfiction element and the whole notion of a super fan falling for a huge celeb and vice versa. There’s also a lot of character development as both parts of the ship are dealing with some stuff and finding their confidence while falling for each other. That’s all great. Cheers for the hot hunk genuinely falling for the larger, curvy girl that society doesn’t value like it should.

However. A lot of the book was really consumed by the issues each character is dealing with and they each have to tip toe around each other’s personal triggers and how their parents and society have failed them. Which means the book was heavier than I was necessarily expecting and in my humble opinion it verged on preachy. I don’t know how much to complain about this without sounding like a jerk.

As a human being, I think it’s great that we’re talking about this stuff and learning how to interact with each other better. As a curvy girl myself, it’s awesome to see hunks falling for girls my shape. It doesn’t happen a lot in fiction. But the main character is so messed up by her past, that she self sabotages situations and honestly I think she expects more out of her love interest than is maybe realistic. It’s kind of amazing that they get together because she really doesn’t make it easy for him. Which in real life, is totally understandable and happens and we’re all going through our own thing. But as a girl reading some fluffy romance, it kind of took away from the fluff and lessened my enjoyment because it was stressful AF. Other readers might love all these same things about it though that I didn’t. Awesome, different strokes for different folks, right?

Overall, I still enjoyed it and plan to read Dade’s other books, especially the sequel coming out soonish. But I’m also kind of going in with my guard up that maybe her books won’t be my thing in the long run. Because as a reader, at the end of the day we get to be selfish and stick with the books that are checking our boxes.

Have you read Spoiler Alert or other books by Dade? What did you think? What are your favorite literary tropes? Tell me all your thoughts in the comments section – bonus points if you include a book rec for me to try next!

Day book | July 7, 2021

That’s right, I just disappear for months at a time, galavanting around who knows where, and then show up and write a copy and paste tag style entry without so much as a how do you do. #sorrynotsorry

Outside my window it’s cooler than yesterday and threatening to rain. We’ve been doing that rotation of hot and humid meets thunderstorms and doom. So fun.

In my kitchen y’all we broke down and bought an instant pot. After swearing up and down that we didn’t need another gadget and that I had no good reason to buy one, my husband started getting ambitions about speeding up the homemade dog food process (yes that is my life) and then it went on sale for prime day and now I’m googling things like instant pot beef teriyaki.

I’m currently reading several things! I’m prereading Mara, Daughter of the Nile for homeschool next year, the tween and I are reading Black Beauty together, I’m slowly reading Brave Learner on my Kindle (highly recommend, don’t take my slow ass pace as a criticism), listening to The Duke and I on audible, and I just started Pride and Premeditation for my bedtime read and I can already tell I’m going to love it.

I’m currently watching a lot of old sitcoms for the most part. Brooklyn 99 and Big Bang Theory with the kids. Frasier and Top Gear with the hubs. We also just started Loki, The Mysterious Benedict Society, and the new season of Making It.

I’m currently listening to the clattering of breakfast dishes as the kids make themselves bagels. Momma’s drinking coffee and waking up.

I’m currently thinking about whether or not I want to go to the library today and how much I’d love a donut. Like every other morning.

I’m currently planning for our upcoming family vacation, the upcoming school year, and my tween’s birthday this month.

I don’t want to forget to tell you about our fourth of July! I literally forgot to make plans because quarantine has ruined me. So like two days before, I picked up rudimentary cookout foods and a festive looking grocery store cake, a random box of fireworks from Target and a couple pool noodle looking squirt gun things. The squirt guns were a big hit, the fireworks were way more impressive (read: dangerous) than I expected and both my kids said at one point that night that it was the best fourth of July ever. Like sometimes just showing up is all they need? It warmed my mommy heart basically.

I blinked.

I blinked and a month went by. I can’t believe it’s already a week and a half into March. Like everyone else living this quarantine life, time has seemed largely irrelevant for the last year – it’s either crawling by minute by minute or flying by months at a time. Usually both at the same time. It’s a lot like the infant years of parenting tbh.

We are starting to see signs of Spring where I live and also signs of change. People are starting to get vaccinated and while my family is likely a long way off from getting on that waiting list, it’s hard not to think about the future like it might contain more options than the past year has allowed us. Easter is less than a month away, as well as my baby’s fifteenth birthday.

This picture is from like 2 months ago because he’s a teenager now so he’s always off playing video games with friends instead of posing for pictures for his poor mother

That is the most absurd sentence I’ve ever written, but according to him and math it’s true! Spring break is imminent and we’ve got bold plans to try and get outdoors during our week off and find a few more new to us state parks.

behold, a chocolate dog fossil

In the meantime we are trying to keep up the good work. We’re knee deep in World War I history in homeschool and making chocolate fossils and stuff for science, learning coding and painting and stuff in the high schooler’s world, and typing furiously about computer stuff in my husband’s corner.

Hurray for the return of outdoor reading weather!

With the weather being perky and cooperative, I’m reading outside and leaving the house without sweaters like a psycho. We’re continuing to reorganize little corners of the house and we finally figured out that our dog is in fact allergic to almost all food so we’ve started cooking him homemade dog food because he’s the neediest creature that’s ever existed.

On his way to his weekly spa appointment

Basically everything here is the same as usual but slightly different and we’re all very much looking forward to the official return of Spring and all the possibilities it might come with.

What have you been up to?