Destination: Costa Rica

Today started the first day of summer school! We were so excited to get things moving and enjoy the fun planned.

Workbook FunOur first activity of the day was “Workbook Fun“! We grabbed some newly sharpened pencils, pink erasers (Don’t you just like looking at those?… Well, I do anyway!), and got to work.

As usual, our workbook time was loads of fun. We spent a few hours running around the house counting objects, solving logic problems, and answering riddles. There is never a dull moment when we’re learning.

After workbooks, things got really animated, as we unburied our traveling suitcases and headed “out” for our virtual field trip. Today’s destination: Costa Rica!Costa Rica

After marking our world maps, we trekked over to mommy’s computer to discover some fun facts and details on Costa Rica. There we learned all about Costa Rica’s national exports, their tourist attractions, some of their history and topography, native animals and plants, and explored more of their fascinating culture.

Seeing images and watching a quick video was fun, but there is nothing quite like hands-on learning. So, off to the kitchen we ran, ready to get our hands dirty.

Making ButterfliesWe hand crafted butterflies out of coffee filters and talked about a few of Costa Rica’s main exports; coffee and bananas! To help remind us of how grateful we are for these tasty products, we decided to spend some time in the kitchen. We made ourselves some iced coffee (mostly cream with a dollop of syrup to sweeten) and this wonderful cake:

Costa Rican Banana Cake [Queque de banano]

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground gloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 8 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted & cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (The cake was pretty sweet so next time I would reduce the sugar to 1 cup or 3/4 cup!)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and spices.
  2. In another bowl mash the bananas.
  3. Add the butter, sugar, eggs milk, and vanilla.
  4. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
  5. Bake in a greased 9×13 pan for about 40-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

After enjoying a lovely snack, we made sure to have our passport books stamped and collected a photograph to remember our trip. Swim Time

Our learning day was fun, delicious, and informative! After all that hard work, we decided to reward ourselves with some time in the water.

Ah… nothing like a hard day’s fun (Oops, I mean work)!

Is there a particular country you are focusing on this week? We’d really enjoy hearing about your adventure!


Our homeschool closet is cleaned out, our portfolios are ready to go, and we are ready to tackle today’s project… putting in the new school books!

It seems all this week I have been reading posts by other homeschooling families who are getting their curriculum in place and are eagerly ready to start their school year. We, too, are getting things finalized, but with a slightly different twist. Unlike other families, I am not anxiously awaiting the arrival of our books; ours have been here since May!

I have found waiting until the middle or end of summer to order our books, to be stressful. There are several reasons why this doesn’t work for our family.

  1. I don’t enjoy summer knowing that I still have work that will need to be done.
  2. If I wait, I might not get the order in time or it might be backordered.
  3. If I wait, I will need to rush through the curriculum to set up our routine and determine how much work should be done daily.
  4. If I wait, I can’t take advantage of all the great promotions available for those who order early.

Usually, aBeka starts having demos of their curriculum around April. Once I receive their flyer in the mail, I highlight the closest location with a date that suits our schedule. I make sure to add the date to my iCal program and then I start researching. I don’t want to peruse at the demo; I might be led by impulse instead of through prayer. To ensure I am only buying what I need, I will look through aBeka’s website first. From there, I will write down any items that I know are necessary and compile a list with the item numbers and prices. If there are items that I have never seen or items of question, I will write those at the bottom of my list and highlight them. Those are the items that I will review with my husband and pray over. The day of the demo, I check out the items that I might have highlighted, sit down to fill out my form, and then check out. Because I have ordered at a demo, I will save 10% up front and avoid shipping costs. Usually, I save myself about $60 this way!

One of the main reasons I order our books so early, is because I don’t order teacher guides. (I have not found them to be necessary for the younger grades and don’t care to spend money that could be better spent elsewhere.) Due to the fact that I don’t order teacher guides, I must spend a little time planning out our year. I open each text and lay out our lessons, ensuring that everything gets covered. This is very simple but it still needs to be done. For very little work, I am saving myself a great deal of money. On average, textbooks for all four of my children run me $250 per year. Not bad, all things considered!

We usually end our school year just around the beginning of May. By the time we have finished school, our books for the next year are just coming in. I make sure they are all here, I take the time to go through each one (mapping out how many lessons get done a day), and then they get tucked away until the end of July. I am now free to enjoy my summer, knowing everything is here and we are ready to start come fall.

Now that summer is just about over, it is time to put those books on the shelf and do any last-minute reorganizing. I have double checked the books (refreshing my memory about lesson schedules), organized how I want them to be placed in our cupboard, and added any reference materials I thought would be necessary. Ah, what a beautiful sight!

Just two more projects and we will be ready to start on Monday.

When do you order your books? Do you order early? Do you wait? I would enjoy hearing when you choose to get your books and why!

¿Usted Habla Español?

I am part Puerto Rican, but my father (the Spanish blood in my genes) left when I was a child and never looked back; thus, I don’t speak Spanish. My mother-in-law is Mexican by birth and my father-in-law Spaniard by birth. Coming to America they wanted to become fluent and so they only spoke English in their home, therefore my husband doesn’t speak Spanish well.

Despite the fact that neither of their parents speak Spanish, our children grew up becoming more and more interested in their hispanic heritage. They love listening to their yaya and yayo (grandma and grandpa) speak fluently and try to figure out what they are saying. They love listening to Spanish music and learning to dance. They even have dresses, brought over from Spain, which they wear as often as possible when they are having play dates at my in-laws. They love Spanish and Mexican cuisine, paella and tacos being the top picks, which makes my in-laws very proud.

It seemed natural when at some point my kids asked if we could start learning Spanish. Always willing to give a learning area a shot, I quickly looked up some good Spanish curriculum for young kid.

The curriculum that best met our families needs was Teach Them Spanish! This curriculum starts as early as PreK and covers a lot of ground. I like the fact that it starts off with everyday items that the children will use; colors, numbers, family members, and parts of their body, are just a few topics covered in PreK. Each new grade level stars off with reviewing what has already been taught and then builds upon it. If you learned 10 colors in PreK, you will review those 10 and add 5 more in K.

The best part of the curriculum, in my opinion, is the fun activity list that accompanies each lesson. Not only does the curriculum offer workbook pages to help you with learning, but it has Bingo games and other ideas to help make learning fun!

For those absolutely new to Spanish, like myself, there are also very helpful teacher pages. These pages follow each lesson, offering suggested questions to ask your student. For example: When studying colors, the teacher pages will teach you how to ask your student what color their shirt is, in Spanish with the English translation next to it. It will then teach you how your students should respond, in Spanish with the English translation beside.

This curriculum has been a lot of fun and we are learning a lot. Come high school, we are going to have to go with a more formal program, but for now this is working for us. The kids are having a blast and my in-laws are having fun supplementing what we are learning.

Do you have a Spanish lesson that you enjoy? I would love to hear suggestions.

Summer School: Workbook Fun

Normally we would not associate workbooks with fun. There is probably an image forming in your head right now; I am dragging my kids to the table, threatening them with various punishments, or cajoling them with promises of something nice. I am very thankful to say that I have not had to resort to any such things. When mommy announces it is time to do workbooks, my kiddos jump up and run to the table. What is the secret? Picking a workbook that makes learning fun!

There is a vast supply of learning materials on the market; some of which happen to offer summer vacation workbooks. Deciding which ones to use can be a bit tricky and mind boggling. You never know which ones will work for your kids. While I highly recommend looking through the books yourself and deciding which works best for your child’s learning style; here are a couple that we have found to be particularly fun and educational.

When my children were in preschool I used The Complete Book of Numbers and Counting by Carson-Dellosa Publishing. I found them to be very thorough and fun. The Complete Book of the Alphabet corresponds and is equally as good.

One of my children is currently prepping for kindergarten this fall. We have found that Big Kindergarten Workbook keeps his attention and is preparing him very well.

For my children in grades 1st-6th, I highly recommend Summer Vacation by Entertainment Publications, Inc. Their curriculum is thorough and interactive. Be prepared though! This curriculum is preparing children for the next grade level. They will be slightly challenged and made to think. Most of the learning is done through story reading or fun puzzles that they have to work out. The curriculum will also include science projects, craft projects, and drawing exercises. Like I said; very thorough! The best I have seen so far.

For my oldest girl, we are trying Summer Bridge Middle School and finding it to be very similar to Summer Vacation, with perhaps a little less activity.

With these helpful books to keep us up to par, we are breezing through summer and getting a quick look at what to expect in the fall. Now that workbooks are in place, let’s see how much fun we can plan with Geography! Stay tuned until tomorrow!