always cooking dinner

Stuff We Like :: 6.23.17

home|school|life’s Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources. 

It has been raining here ALL WEEK. I'm hoping to get a little sunshine this weekend.

around the web

This cracked me up: Texts from Wonder Woman

My friend Stephanie shared this piece earlier this week, and it has some great tips for not-black parents to talk to their kids about police shootings of black people. She said something that really hit home with me—that it’s so tempting to protect our kids from things like this but that that very temptation is kind of the epitome of white privilege.

Internships and summer programs can be great experiences, but maybe there’s nothing like the classic camp counselor gig.

Relevant to my interests: Songs about libraries and librarians

 

at home/school/life

on the blog: Nanette is pretty much filling up my podcast app right now, most recently with The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel

one year ago: 31 Great Books to Inspire Young Writers

two years ago: Myers Briggs book recommendations, the tragic truth about hoverboards, the Wolf Hall audiobook, and more in this 2015 Stuff We Like roundup.

 

reading list

Suzanne inspired me to pick up some Wodehouse to get me through this week’s special election, so Jeeves features largely on my Library Chicken list: Carry On, Jeeves (+0, on my Kindle), Right Ho, Jeeves (+0, on my Kindle), Iron-Hearted Violet (+0, because it was discounted for the Kindle so I had to buy an e-back-up copy, but then I also had to read it because I love Kelly Barnhill), Lower Ed (+1, a really interesting—and kind of disturbing—look at the world of for-profit colleges), The World of Odysseus (+1, work-related), The Greeks: A Portrait of Self and Others (+1, work-related), and Courtesans and Fishcakes (+1, work-related)

In the hammock with the kids: Revenge of the Evil Librarian, A House Without Mirrors (I’m totally stealing this one when she’s done), Hamster Princess: Giant Trouble

Homeschool: How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World (This has been fascinating!)

 

at home

We’ve been watching a Supergirl/Arrow/The Flash in tandem so that we get to the big crossover episodes in all of them at the same time.

I usually try to knit everyone a new sweater for Hanukkah, which means I have to get started in the summer to get them all done! This year, we have a new family member to knit for, and I am thinking of making him this cute little doggie sweater for our winter walks. Have you knit a dog sweater? Is there a pattern you really like? (I’m thinking about Abate for my son, too, but I haven’t settled on any official people sweaters yet)

My kids asked for a food delivery subscription this summer (maybe inspired by YouTube commercials? I am not sure -- it's one of those things where they send you all the ingredients for a specific recipe), and they’ve been really adorable making dinner together twice a week. I’ve always been non-plussed by subscription meal services, but I love that it’s given them the confidence to tackle dinner regularly. (I’m still not sure why a tiny bottle of soy sauce is more user-friendly than measuring out a portion from a bigger bottle, but I think I have to accept that it just is. I don't recommend Blue Apron, though!)


Stuff We Like :: 3.10.17

home|school|life’s Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

Happy Friday! We're looking forward to getting all dressed up for Purim this weekend—what's on your to-do list?

around the web

Great tips for talking to your librarian about getting more diverse books on the shelves at your local library.

How to write great protest signs

No, but seriously, I think the best compliment I ever got was when someone told me I reminded him of Daria.

Relevant to my interests: Neil Gaiman talks about Norse mythology

 

at home/school/life

on the blog: Voting for Round Two of HOMESCHOOL MADNESS opens this afternoon!

on Facebook: My annual dithering about starting an HSL forum—what’s your opinion?

one year ago: Rebecca reviews the Art of Problem Solving’s Beast Academy. (She was so convincing, we ended up using it in our homeschool!)

two years ago: Shelli rounded up some practical, real-life tips for making a little room for me-time in your homeschool life

 

reading list

I’m finally getting around to reading Susan Wise Bauer’s The History of the Ancient World, and I am happy to report that it has a much more reasonable number of exclamation points than Story of the World. (I know it's not for everyone, but I love Story of the World, used it with both my kids, and recommend it all the time, but it definitely does that thing where when you want to sound casual and chatty, you add more exclamation points. I do this in email all the time, so no judgment!) I think it’s a solid history, anchored around pivotal people and moments, which to me are the most interesting parts of history.

I took Suzanne’s advice and started The Colors of Madeleine series, and I just finished the first book A Corner of White. On to The Cracks in the Kingdom!

I’ve heard so many good things about Exit West that I picked up a copy even though I cannot justify adding another book to my To Read pile if I ever want to use my nightstand for anything else.

I’m helping one of my old students catch up on American literature this spring, so that means I get to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn again. My daughter is reading a collection of Mark Twain essays, so this is one of those lovely (and rare) moments when I get to feel like I’ve totally got my homeschooling act together.

 

in the kitchen

Dinner: Changing the Game is my new cookbook obsession. (I could eat the escarole salad with runny egg and crispy, spicy chickpeas for every meal right now.)

These black bean and brown rice cakes are the latest in our hunt for the perfect veggie burger. (I really liked them, but the rest of the family was kind of meh.)

Cookie of the Week: compost cookies

 

at home

I’m sort of obsessed with the Walden computer game. (You can still get in on the Early Access Alpha phase!)

Obviously I am celebrating Buffy’s 20th anniversary today by binge watching my favorite season, wearing my favorite fangirl t-shirt, and following the AV Club’s celebratory Buffy coverage.

I get to buy books for Jason’s new school’s library, and it is the BEST JOB EVER.


The Gadgets I Can’t Live Without

The gadgets that make Shelli's homeschool life a little happier Photo: Death to Stock Photos

Sometimes I long for what seems like “simpler days.” I get this way whenever I visit an old homestead and wander through its log house and gardens, thinking about how people used to live off the land, and it was so much quieter. At least, I think it must have been quieter without televisions or cars or leaf blowers.

In reality, the past wasn’t simple at all, and it was much worse for many people. While we’re still working out some major “kinks” in the name of progress, and sometimes it feels like we’re taking a step backwards, the present does offer many gadgets that make our lives a little easier. Perhaps I could live without them, but frankly, I don’t want to.

Here’s a list of my favorite gadgets besides my computer. (A computer is just a given, right?) These have become indispensable while staying home full-time to homeschool my boys.

Roku Box :: Every day my family watches documentaries on Netflix, PBS, Amazon Prime or YouTube. The Roku Box gives us easy access to them on our television, and I think we have all become so much smarter by watching TV! We also have fun watching shows like Star Trek or Chopped. Despite the claims that television makes you disconnect, I would argue that we interact and converse over our family TV time just as much as any other part of the day.

 

Google Home :: This is a new gadget that I got for Christmas. To tell the truth, I wasn’t sure I’d use it very much, but every morning, it tells me the weather, my appointments for the day and the news. Right now as I’m writing this, I asked it to play me some Miles Davis, and wow, the speakers are great. Earlier today, my seven-year-old asked it what the circumference of the Earth is and then asked what the population of the Earth is as well as several countries. Now when my boys ask me questions, if my arms are elbow deep in dishwater, I can say, “Go ask Google” instead of “Just a minute!” and risk losing their enthusiasm for the question. Indeed, this Google Home has increased our enthusiasm for asking questions. There are many other things it can do too, but if all it does is answer little boys’ questions and bring more jazz into my life, I’d say that it was a well spent hundred bucks.

 

Crock Pot :: I still have a lot to learn about slow cooking (I’d sure appreciate some more good recipes), but this gadget makes life so much easier. Fill it up with food in the morning, and then bam! Dinner is ready at five. Here’s a couple of good dishes we’ve found so far: a Mississippi Roast and Mexican Lasagna.

 

Mr. Robot :: We call it “Mr. Robot,” but it’s actually an Anker RoboVac 10. It’s a robotic vacuum cleaner, and yes, it works! In fact, this is my #1 can’t-live-without-gadget. It works great, and when I first began using it, I suddenly knew how housewives must have felt when they received the first washing machine or dishwasher. I tell everyone I know that they won’t regret buying a robotic vacuum, and I especially think that homeschooling moms should have one. You can turn it on while you’re homeschooling. As someone who has pets, two little boys, a (ahem) not-so-neat husband, and we’re all home 24/7, my house needs a lot of sweeping, so I’m extremely grateful for the robotic vacuum. (A bonus feature of the robotic vacuum is that it motivates little boys to pick up their toys!)

 

These are my must have gadgets. What are yours? And, as an added tip – keep an eye out for sales around the holidays or Mother’s Day. You may find good discounts on these products. Never pay full price!

Note: Unfortunately, Shelli was not paid any money for her glowing reviews of these products.


Stuff We Like :: 2.17.17

home|school|life’s Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

Are you going to the SEA homeschool conference this spring? Suzanne and I will be there from June 1-4 giving away copies of HSL and feeling socially awkward, so please stop by and say hi if you’re there!

around the web

Just when the weight of the world feels like too much to bear, someone makes a list of book-ice cream pairings, and you know you’ll make it through.

I really love these alternative approaches to high school math.

I have so many feelings about the new James Baldwin documentary, but the main one is that everyone should go and see it.

Ursula Le Guin on "alternative facts" versus science fiction

 

at home/school/life

on the blog: A big woo-hoo to Shelli who wrapped up her year-long citizen science project with this week’s post. And Oak Meadow's winter sale is going on through the 28th!

one year ago: Rebecca reviews a curriculum for young philosophers

two years ago: Why boredom is an important part of learning

three years ago: Simple strategies to turn around a bad homeschool day

 

reading list

I’m rereading Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency so that I can watch the new television series, and I’d forgotten what a pleasure it is to make fun of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

I love when you think you’ve read everything by an author and then discover that nope, in fact, you are wrong, and there is another book. So I was delighted to discover Mischievous Meg by Astrid Lindgren, and we’ve been enjoying it as a readaloud.

My 9-year-old is reading The Wonderful Adventures of Nils. My daughter is being horrified by The Jungle for U.S. History and reading Fangirl for fun.

 

in the kitchen

Now that we’ve actually gotten back to some semblance of routine after the Tragic Ankle Breaks of 2015, I’m finding my way back to the kitchen on a regular basis. My kids mock me relentlessly, though, because I always fail Taco Tuesday—I plan tacos for Tuesday every week but something always goes sideways and we end up having them a different night. We did not have them on Tuesday, but these beef picadillo puffy tacos were much enjoyed anyway.

It’s definitely still comfort food season, and this wild rice-mushroom soup hits the spot.

Cookie of the week: Salty oatmeal chocolate chunk cookies

 

at home

I’m having trouble finding balance between staying informed and active politically (which feels important to do right now) and staying sane and available to my everyday cooking-dinner, reading-books-together, doing-the-laundry (who am I kidding? I would take any excuse to skip the laundry) life. Political happenings are like chicken pox—I’m just constantly aware of them in an uncomfortable kind of way, so much so that the rest of my life suffers, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. And yet, how can I not pay attention every minute? How are you guys handling this? Is this just the new normal?

I’ve been watching Ken Burns’ The West while I knit at my Heaven and Space. (I love patterns like this that are almost-but-not-quite brainless, and really, who can ever have enough scarves?)


Stuff We Like :: 2.10.17

home|school|life’s Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

Look at that—we made it through another week. And Suzanne and I are finally getingt it together to get back on the podcast train.

around the web

Oooh, oooh, oooh! There’s a linguistics museum coming to Washington D.C.

Flannery O’Connor’s take on racism and refugees feels really relevant right now.

I’m not saying we should hide from the news all the time. I’m just saying that this Chrome extension will turn pictures of Donald Trump into pictures of kittens. (Alternatively: How to stay outraged without losing your mind)

 

at home/school/life

on the blog: Nelson Mandela reminds us that leaders can be intelligent, compassionate, and fair-minded.

one year ago: We were getting all excited about the Great Backyard Bird Count. (It’s Feb. 17-20 this year.)

two years ago: Homeschooling isn’t always easier in hindsight.

three years ago: Aw, look, it’s Suzanne’s very first post for the website.

 

reading list

I’m always looking for feminist fantasy because I suspect that the reason I don’t read more fantasy books is because the role of women in them is often problematic, at least to me. (I know this probably shouldn’t get under my skin so much, but it totally does.) So I was pleased to pick up Maresi, about a girl who lives in at an abbey of tough, smart women dedicated to the goddess. Maresi—a girl after my own heart, who’s always looking for an excuse to sneak into the library—befriends a new refugee whose outside life follows her to the abbey and puts all its inhabitants in danger. This is the kind of fantasy I can get behind—which is nice, since this is apparently the first in a series.

Because apparently the real world has not shaken my faith in humanity enough (what is wrong with me?), I’ve also recently finished The Witches, a book about the history of the infamous Salem witch trials. I typically enjoy Stacy Schiff’s books—if you haven’t read her Ben Franklin book, you should put it on your library list—and this one was smart, thorough, and really well researched. I just think I wasn’t in the right headspace to appreciate it.

It’s getting harder and harder to find books that my 9-year-old and my 14-year-old are both interested in listening to as readalouds, so I’m thankful this week for The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, which has had both of them giggling and snuggling on the couch with me this week.

 

at home

I can’t wait for the new season of Masterchef Junior! I even have a new knitting project all picked out for it.

This chicken recipe from the recent Bon Appetit was a hit with everyone. I was skeptical about the oranges, but they really made it sing. I did serve the olives on the side though because olives are controversial in our dining room.


Monday Pep Talk No. 41

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

Need a little Monday morning pick-me-up to get the week going?

3 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK

Sunday marks the 53rd anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and there’s no better way to appreciate one of the world’s best known speeches than by listening to the original recording.

Mark Pluto Demotion Day (August 24, 2006 was the date Pluto officially got knocked down from “planet” to “dwarf planet”) by watching NOVA’s “Chasing Pluto,” which includes information from the New Horizons flyover.

As pool season winds down, transform those pool noodles into backyard games fun.

 

3 IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK’S DINNERS

It’s still gazpacho season!

Mix up your August grilling routine with coffee-crusted grilled pork chops.

Possibly your new favorite sandwich: Grilled cheese with zucchini, bacon, basil, and Gruyere

 

ONE GREAT READALOUD

I discovered The Midnight Folk in childhood because it’s one of the books mentioned in Edward Eager’s Magic or Not? (I love Eager’s habit of paying in-the-text tribute to the authors he loves), and I’m so glad I did! This is a playful, charming fantasy story that deserves a spot on your shelf next to the Chronicles of Narnia or Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.
— Andy Rooney

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

best-ever pina colada


Monday Pep Talk No. 40

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

Let the week begin!

3 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK

It’s Davy Crockett’s birthday on Wednesday. Celebrate the man, the myth, the legend by reading Davy Crockett: His Own Story: A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett, and follow up by watching the Disney classic Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier so that you can identify all the film’s historical liberties.

Brush up your amusement park physics so that you can count a trip to the park for Rollercoaster Day on Tuesday.

Photography Day (on Friday) is a great excuse to set up an outdoor photography nature scavenger hunt.

 

3 IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK’S DINNERS

For me, a lobster roll tastes just like the end of summer, even if I’m not lucky enough to be spending August on the beach.

This roasted tomatillo tortilla soup is quick and so good.

The surprise green beans are the stars of this summery BLT salad, but you can throw in any veggies you happen to have hanging around.

 

ONE GREAT READALOUD

Castle Hangnail
By Ursula Vernon
 

Castle Hangnail is an utterly delightful readaloud—and you need to get it on your library list before the Ellen DeGeneres-produced movie version comes out and the wait list gets ridiculous.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

What was difficult
was the travel, which,
on arrival, is forgotten.
— Louise Glück

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

the tempest


Monday Pep Talk No. 39

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

Hello, Monday! Let’s get this week started, shall we?

3 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK

Celebrate Bowling Day (on Monday) with a trip to the bowling alley. (If you sign up for Kids Bowl Free, your kids can bowl two games at participating bowling centers for free.)

Find out what it actually takes to build a skyscraper in PBS’s four-part documentary Skyscraper: The Making of a Building. (It’s free to watch online.) What better way to mark Skyscraper Appreciation Day on Wednesday?

Decorating our new notebooks is a tradition in our homeschool. Get inspired with this Pinterest collection of cool notebook upgrades.

 

3 IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK’S DINNERS

Something different to do with that zucchini: Zucchini basil soup with creme fruit and picked corn. (I think I’d serve this with tomato toast, but that’s what I want to serve with pretty much everything in August.)

Can you believe you only need five ingredients to make this summer squash pizza?

You could serve this warm faro salad with chickpeas, feta, and spicy dressing all by itself — but it’s also yummy with grilled portobello mushrooms, grilled chicken, or grilled pretty much anything.

 

ONE GREAT READALOUD

The Adventures of Miss Petifour: The whimsical, episodic adventures of Miss Petifour and her sixteen cats make a perfect easing-back-into-your-routine readaloud. This book has a Pippi Longstocking-Roald Dahl-ish vibe that we really loved.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

A self is not something static, tied up in a pretty parcel and handed to the child, finished and complete. A self is always becoming.
— Madeleine L'Engle

 

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

tequila-colada cremoladas


Monday Pep Talk No. 38

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week. photo by death to stock photos

Just FYI: We’re going to be moving the Monday Pep Talk over to a newsletter soon, so if you’re a Monday Pep Talk fan, keep an eye out for details. 

 

3 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK

The summer Olympics start on Friday! Here are some fun ideas for Olympics projects you can work on together while watching the events.

Use your science skills to make your own ice cream for Ice Cream Sandwich Day (Tuesday).

Make a a batch of fizzing sidewalk chalk and decorate your driveway.

 

3 IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK’S DINNERS

Ready in the time it takes to cook spaghetti: spaghetti with tomatoes, bacon, and eggs

This vegetarian take on the classic gyro is a great base for whatever summer veggies you have lying around.

Miso corn soup may just be my new favorite summer soup.

 

ONE GREAT READALOUD

The Secret Garden
By Frances Hodgson Burnett
 

Celebrate Yorkshire Day (Monday) by reading the book that puts your Yorkshire accent skills to the test: Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic The Secret Garden.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
— Wendell Berry

 

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

blackberry-green tea cocktail


July Pep Talk

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

We’re taking a break from our weekly pep talks this summer, so for June and July, we’re hooking you up with an over-stuffed monthly pep talk instead. We’ll be back in August with our regular weekly pep talks.

 

10 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS MONTH

July 4 is Independence Day, sure, but it’s also Sidewalk Egg Frying Day.

Celebrate Yellow Pig Day on July 17. I don’t totally understand this mathematician’s holiday (devised by two students studying the number 17), but any day that celebrates math, has its own songbook of Yellow Pig carols, and ends with a Yellow Pig cake is okay in my book.

What better way to celebrate Ice Cream Month than by making your own ice cream? Bonus: It’s a legitimate science experiment.

Video Games Day is July 8, and Suzanne’s got us all excited about checking out the Uncharted series, starring rakish adventurer Nathan Drake. (Add him to the list of people Nathan Fillion should be playing in a film adaptation.)

The easiest summer art project: Make sun prints.

Make a set of rock dominoes to play all summer. (River rocks are ideal for this, so collecting them is a great excuse to take a little river field trip.)

July is Picnic Month! I love the idea of painting a chess/checkers board on your picnic blanket for picnic gaming.

Make your own wooden stilts to get into the spirit of Walk on Stilts Day (July 27).

Celebrate Uncommon Instrument Awareness Day by making your own vuvuzela (a South African horn) out of recycled materials.

Get crafty on Thread the Needle Day (July 25) by making some easy-to-sew and completely adorable bean bags.

 

10 IDEAS FOR THIS MONTH’S DINNERS

I love how versatile these (gluten-free!) farinata are. Think of them as chickpea pancakes, and top them generously with whatever looks good at the farmers market.

You don’t really need a recipe to make a rainbow cauliflower rice bowl, so experiment with whatever veg you have on hand.

Put a summertime twist on Taco Tuesday with chipotle quinoa sweet potato tacos.

Make a batch of freezer-ready mini pizzas on a quiet day, and you’ll have an emergency dinner/lunch/snack whenever you need it.

I want to make a batch of this pickle-brined fried chicken for our next family picnic.

Break out of your grilling rut with grilled sweet potatoes.

This Big Green Cobbler with leeks, gruyere, and split peas is like a vegetarian take on the best chicken pot pie you ever had.

Summer is all about salad for dinner—and this Thai grilled corn and peach quinoa salad looks like a great addition to your summer salad lineup.

Another dose of inspiration for your grilling menu: Soy-based chicken kebabs with sesame-citrus sprinkle.

Summer squash pizza with goat cheese and walnuts puts a seasonal spin on pizza night.

 

 

FOUR GREAT READALOUDS

Seven Daughters and Seven Sons is a retelling of an Iranian folk tale, in which the fourth of seven daughters sets off to make her family’s fortune, disguised as a boy. I’m a sucker for a girl-powered fairy tale, so it’s no surprise I love this one.

Speaking of spunky girls, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is as fun to read aloud as the Lemony Snicket books: plenty of nefarious villains, dramatic plot twists, and, yes, two plucky heroines who must save themselves from an evil governess’s plot.

 

If you’re looking for laughs, get yourself a copy of Daniel Pinkwater’s Yobgorgle, Mystery Monster of Lake Ontario. I like to think of Pinkwater as the elementary school set’s Douglas Adams, and this zany tale of a boy who takes up monster hunting is a delightful example of why.

New York City’s pushcarts declare war on the trucks in The Pushcart War, creating hilarious city-wide chaos.

 

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

Education is a choice. We don’t become educated by watching television, and we don’t learn a whole lot having similar conversations with the same, safe people day after day. Our education comes from pushing up against boundaries, from taking risks that may seem at first to be overwhelming, and by persevering past the first disappointments or shortfalls until we reach a point at which actual learning takes place. Determination and perseverance are absolutely vital to developing a true education—rarely, if ever, do we learn the most valuable lessons in the first few steps of the journey.
— Tom Walsh

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

strawberry negroni popsicles


June Pep Talk

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

We’re taking a break from our weekly pep talks this summer, so for June and July, we’re hooking you up with an over-stuffed monthly pep talk instead.

 

10 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS MONTH

Set up your telescope on June 3 to see Saturn at its brightest—with a decent telescope, you should be able to see some of the planet’s rings and moons.

June is Camping Month, so pitch a tent in your backyard for an outdoor sleepover. Make s’mores on the grill, put on a flashlight shadow puppet play, and do a little star-gazing. 

Take advantage of the sunshine and turn your nature walk into art by making sun prints.

Make sponge balls and have a backyard water battle.

Celebrate Maurice Sendak’s birthday on June 10 by watching Where the Wild Things Are and reading your favorite Sendak books. (I vote for the creepy, Labyrinth-ish Outside Over There.

Turn making lemonade into a fun science project.

Celebrate Drive-In Movie Day (June 6) by seeing a movie at a drive-in theater near you.

The Magna Carta was signed on June 15, 1215. Learn more about why this 13th century document still matters today by watching this video lecture from the James Otis Video Lecture collection.

I think we all know the best way to celebrate World Juggling Day (June 18). This video is a great tutorial for newbie jugglers.

To mark Log Cabin Day (on June 26), watch the documentary Alone in the Wilderness, a really fascinating account of a man who left the plugged-in world for the wilderness, building a log cabin and living off the land.

 

10 IDEAS FOR THIS Month’S DINNERS

When you want to grill but are feeling a little burned out by the same-old dishes, try this linguine with grilled clams and bacon. It’s unexpected and delicious.

If you bought more eggplant than you know what to do with, serve these falafel-stuffed eggplants with tahini sauce and tomato relish.

When the thought of cooking is just too much but everybody is insisting on eating dinner anyway, this chicken and peaches platter requires assembly only.

Mix and match whatever’s in your fridge to make this leftover salads Nicoise.

Anything you serve for dinner will taste better with this arugula, potato, and green bean salad.

This tomato chèvre tart is delicious just out of the oven, but I’ve also been known to eat a cold slice right out of the fridge for breakfast.

If it’s sunny, cook these Thai peanut chicken thighs on the grill; if it’s not, pop them in the oven instead.

Feeling adventurous?  This chilled crab and shrimp ramen salad is a staple on restaurant menus all summer long in Japan.

This summer minestrone is easy to adapt—and a delicious way to stretch those first tiny garden harvests.

Also a great way to use that late spring produce: spring vegetable bibimbap.

 

FOUR GREAT READALOUDS

I feel like book series and summer just go together, so for this list, I’m highlighting the first books in series I think make great readalouds—whether you stop after book one or keep going until the end.

Redwall (Redwall, Book 1)
By Brian Jacques
The Borrowers
By Mary Norton

Brian Jacques’ birthday is June 15, and Redwall makes the perfect summer series readaloud: epic adventure, talking animals, and plenty of irresistible characters.

Arietty, Pod, and Homily are just trying to live their lives in a way-too-big-for-them world in The Borrowers. I love the way this book blends matter-of-fact details (like peeling potatoes!) into a fantastic world.

You’ll be captivated by the adventures of Assistant Pig-Keeper Taran and his friends (an enchantress, a bard, a dwarf, and a, um, Gurgi) in The Book of Three, the first book in Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain.

Cara discovers a magical world full of dragons, dwarves, nightmares, and more when she heads Into the Land of the Unicorns.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the blue sky, is by no means waste of time.
— John Lubbock

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

bluenerry lavender vodka spritzer


Monday Pep Talk No. 37

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

3 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK

Get outside and make a mess with paint Alka Seltzer rockets. It’s the perfect art project to kick off summer.

Don’t forget your towel and your copy of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy—Wednesday is Towel Day.

Celebrate Learn about Composting Day (on Sunday) by starting your own compost heap. Start it now, and it should start giving back by fall.

 

3 IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK’S DINNERS

This grilled chicken with grapefruit glaze comes together in a snap and tastes terrific—the perfect combo for a weeknight cookout.

Update your regular pasta dinner with 20-minute chicken parmesan bolognese.

Why did I never think of this before? Spring roll salad takes all the yumminess inside a spring roll and turns it into an irresistible salad.

 

ONE GREAT READALOUD

Space pioneer Sally Ride was born on May 26, 1951. Celebrate her birth with a readaloud of Sally Ride: A Photobiography of America's Pioneering Woman in Space, a book that tries to capture some of Ride’s exuberance and brilliance written by her partner Tam O’Shaughnessy.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

I give you this to take with you:
Nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can
begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting.
— Judith Minty

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

no-bake nutella cheesecake


Monday Pep Talk No. 36

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

3 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK

Celebrate National Transportation Week by exploring some of the ways people got around before the Industrial Revolution.

Hit your library for Biographers Day (Monday). We published some of our favorite women’s history biographies in March and will pretty much never stop raving about Lerner’s STEM Trailblazer biographies, but you can find a biography on almost anyone.

May 18 is International Museum Day. Take a field trip to a museum in your neighborhood that you’ve never visited.

 

3 IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK’S DINNERS

Upgrade taco night with double pork carnitas.

Easy, endlessly adaptable simple California style omelets are a perfect vehicle for a great farmers market haul or for cleaning out the veggie bin.

Kick off official grilling season with honey grilled chicken with citrus salad.

 

ONE GREAT READALOUD

I Lived on Butterfly Hill
By Marjorie Agosin
 

I Lived on Butterfly Hill, a story about a girl who’s sent to live with her aunt in Maine when a coup destabilizes her family’s life in an imagined version of Chile, makes a great conversation starter for Latino Books Month. Older kids may enjoy comparing the events in the story to the history of Chile.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

Have faith that your child’s brain is an evolving planet that rotates at its own speed. It will naturally be attracted to or repel certain subjects. Be patient. Just as there are ugly ducklings that turn into beautiful swans, there are rebellious kids and slow learners that turn into serious innovators and hardcore intellectuals.
— Suzy Kassem

 

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

peanut butter choco tacos