Things We Love: Animal Tracks

Bunny tracks

Bunny tracks

I really love bunnies.  Second only to my love of kitties.

But I cannot believe how they brave the elements!

One of my favorites in the snow is seeing animal tracks.

You can see that bunnies were here!

Enjoy!  –Wren

Family, Fun & Homeschooling! Featuring Tess from Circling Through This Life

Welcome to this week’s edition of Family, Fun & Homeschooling!

F,F & H

I’m thrilled to introduce you to my friend Tess from Circling Through This Life.  She reviews with me on the Schoolhouse Review Crew, and I think you’ll love meeting her!  I’ve always been a little in awe of Tess, since I’ve “met” her and “seen” her on the Crew forums.  She is one of those women who always seems to have everything together and be so organized.  Yet, as you’ll see, along with those gifts she’s both lovely and personable!

Tell us about your blog.  What was the spark of the idea that brought forth your blog?

I started my blog because I wanted an outlet to express things that were on my heart.  Thoughts and ideas that I hoped would encourage other stay-at-home home schooling moms.  The blog title Circling Through This Life comes from a line in a poem I wrote in high school about how some people do not live in the moment and life passes them by.  I wanted my blog to be something that helped me to live in the moment.

Do you have a favorite blogging topic that you return to again and again?

I do keep coming back to topics relating to faith or my faith journey.  Lately, because of health concerns with my family I’ve been starting to blog more about health and nutrition.  I plan to blog more recipes and tips.

Tess' lovely familyTell us about your family.  How did you and your husband meet?  And what would you like to share about your children?

My husband and I have been married just over 20 years.  He is my best friend.  We have four beautiful daughters who have always been home schooled.  Our oldest has graduated and is in her second year of college.  My husband and I met in college at a combined birthday and Christmas party.  We talked for hours and hours and hours and people were asking us how long we had been dating and did not believe us when we said we had just met.

What made you decide to homeschool?

When my oldest was 14 months old we began to investigate home schooling because we were active duty military and not happy with DoD schools.  Knowing that we would be moving frequently we wanted a consistent education for our daughter.  The deal was sealed though when our twins were born and one of them was immuno-compromised.  We primarily home school for educational reasons but I do like that it gives us the freedom to explore our faith more deeply.

What does a day in your homeschool look like?

With one in college and two in high school, things look very different now than they did 10 years ago.  A typical day lately starts with my getting up after my husband and college girl have left.  I try to do some work such as working on menu planning, school  planning, or stuff for the Review Crew.  Supergirl and I get started in the morning on her school work.  Sometime in the late morning the high schoolers roll out of bed, get some breakfast and start working independently on their assignments.  Some afternoons I alternate meeting with them to discuss their work or help them with math or science.  I miss the days when we all did school together and I was more involved in the day-to-day teaching.

Do you have a favorite “date night” you love to do?

When the girls were little and we really couldn’t afford a babysitter we would get special snacks for us, set up the girls in another room with a movie or a game and then we’d be alone in the family room with our snacks watching a movie or a “grown up” TV show.  Now that we can leave the girls alone we often run errands together and stop and have lunch, just the two of us.

What are some of your favorite mama-child activities?

When my daughters were little, I think my favorite activities were snuggling while reading aloud and baking cookies.  I am not a crafty mom and doing messy crafts was stressful but reading aloud?  Baking cookies and sharing them?  Yes.  That I could do.  We would have “tea time” and I would read aloud and they would drink juice in a tea cup.  Now they are older and I enjoy having tea and talks with them.  We’ll just sit and have tea and discuss everything and anything from books and movies to religion and politics.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Just a thank you for including me!

Circling Through This Life

I hope it has been as fun for you to read all about Tess, as it has for me to host her today!  Be sure to visit Circling Through This Life for more fun Tess info.  :)

And join us again next week for another episode of Family, Fun & Homeschooling!

Enjoy!  –Wren

In honor of my sister’s cinnamon rolls…..

Jackson and I made some on Sunday!

He and I have become more interested in cooking together lately; perhaps it’s the influence of Master Chef Junior, which we just love!  (It’s one of the two shows we watch on tv.  The other one is America’s Funniest Home Videos.  Yes, I do have a son.)

I didn’t have all the ingredients for the sweet rolls recipe we normally make.  However, as so often happens, the Internet came to our rescue!  Specifically, from  (They are SO helpful!)  I did an online search for “cinnamon rolls” and found  Amy’s Buttermilk Cinnamon Rolls recipe.

They are very easy to make.  Normally, I use my Bosch mixer for all my breads and cookies; it kneads everything really quickly.  But I thought we’d just follow the recipe directions, which called for mixing everything by hand.  Even kneading!  And I have to say that doing it by hand was cool.  Jackson did every step himself except for the kneading, which he let me do.  (Only 20 times.)

Here are our gorgeous rolls!  (Naturally, they’re half gone by now.)

Amy's Buttermilk Cinnamon Rolls.....made by Jackson and Wren

Amy’s Buttermilk Cinnamon Rolls…..made by Jackson and Wren

Oh, and I did mix up a powdered sugar/milk/vanilla extract glaze to go over them.

We were inspired by Finch’s cinnamon rolls mention over the weekend!

Enjoy!  –Wren

Poppins Book Nook: Poetry!

Poppins Book Nook main image 2014 - 2015I have to admit, poetry is one of the last things I think of when I’m drawn to reading literature.

There are poets I love to read, though; Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, Christina Rossetti.  (Although, like Susan Howatch once mentioned, I feel like I’m just catching the edges of what Eliot might have meant in his writings.  But it’s truly wonderful, even if I don’t understand it all!)  I just don’t dip into them as much as I could.

But I do believe that teaching poetry is important in homeschool, whether it’s historical tales told in verse, or teaching children how to write it.  Or even dipping into Shakespeare!  So this month’s Poppins Book Nook category provided a wonderful opportunity for me to go where I don’t often go:  into verse.

And because I’ve always just adored Tasha Tudor’s illustrations (I fell in love with them as a child when I read The Secret Garden and A Little Princess; both of my copies were illustrated by Tudor), I snatched up a copy of of Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, beautifully illustrated by my favorite children’s illustrator.a Fall 2014 509Stevenson’s poetry book is a wonderful introduction for children to the world of poetry.  His poems in this volume chiefly center around childhood; its joys, imaginings and experiences.  And when you combine his verses with Tasha Tudor’s scrumptious paintings….what a beautiful world!

Poems about make-believe

Poems about make-believe

There are poems about bedtime; poems about playtime; about trips and vacations; about toys and seasons.  Stevenson really includes many topics that touch a child’s life, both now and in the years before.

Tudor's drawing beautifully paired with Stevenson's verse

Tudor’s drawing beautifully paired with Stevenson’s verse

Children can definitely read A Child’s Garden of Verses on their own.  But for this particular volume, I’d much prefer (AND much recommend) that moms and children snuggle together on the couch, read the poems aloud, and enjoy and examine the beautiful artwork.  Tudor sneaks so many wonderful things into each of her paintings, but one must take the time to really look at them to see everything.  So with this book, you get the beauty of verse combined with the beauty of art….all about children.  It’s a wonderful thing, especially in this day and age!

I’ve also included some wonderful activities to do with your children as part of this poetry study!

  • Have a tea party!  Make some fruit tea (we especially love blueberry or berry fruit teas), scones and tea sandwiches.  Be sure to invite favorite stuffed animals and provide seats at the tea table for them.  Have each child read a poem aloud as you enjoy your tea!
  • Practice writing poems together!  Write haikus (5 syllables in the first line, 7 in the second, 5 in the third), limericks, free verse, or rhyming poetry.  Do an online search; there are so many types of poems out there.  Step out in creativity and see what you and your kiddos can come up with!
  • Act out a poem.  Find a poem with an interesting story, and act it out together.  Poetry lends itself beautifully to drama; just ask Shakespeare!

Jill from EnchantedHomeschoolingMom has put together another wonderful giveaway this month.  Keep reading to see what it is!

Kids Poetry Bundle GiveawayKid’s Poetry Bundle Giveaway! Every month the Poppins Book Nook group will be offering readers a chance to win a brand new storybook or product that ties in with our theme for the month. This month one lucky entrant will win the Kid’s Poetry Bundle. The winner will enjoy two books full of poetry for children. The two books that they will win is the Bill Martin Jr Big Book of Poetry and Poetry Speaks to Children (*kindly note that these are affiliate links and your purchase helps to run this book club). These two magical books will help your children learn about and have fun with poetry.Poppins Book Nook Image

Entrants must be 18 years or older and reside in a country that receives U.S. Postal mail. This giveaway is brought to you by the company Enchanted Homeschooling Mom who is owner and founder of the Poppins Book Nook. By entering this giveaway you are also acknowledging that you have read and agree to all of the Rafflecopter terms & conditions as well as Enchanted Homeschooling Mom’s disclosures found here}.  Just enter the Rafflecopter below to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to visit the other Poppins Book Nook hosts this month, to see what they have to share about poetry!

Enchanted Homeschooling Mom ~ 3 Dinosaurs ~ To the Moon and Back ~ Planet Smarty Pants ~ Farm Fresh Adventures ~ Growing in God’s Grace ~ Chestnut Grove Academy ~ Learning and Growing the Piwi Way ~ The Usual Mayhem~ Preschool Powol Packets ~ Monsters Ed Homeschool Academy ~ Adventures in Mommydom ~ Teach Beside Me ~ Life with Moore Babies ~ Kathy’s Cluttered Mind ~ Are We There Yet? ~ Our Crafts N Things ~ Hopkins Homeschool ~ ABC Creative Learning ~ Joy Focused Learning ~ P is for Preschooler ~ Laugh and Learn ~ A Mommy’s Adventures ~ Inspiring 2 New Hampshire Children ~ World for Learning ~ The Kennedy Adventures ~ Ever After in the Woods ~ Golden Grasses ~ Our Simple Kinda Life ~ A glimpse of our life ~ Journey to Excellence ~ Happy Little Homemaker ~ Little Homeschool Blessings ~ Simplicity Breeds Happiness ~ Raventhreads ~ Water on the Floor ~ Learning Fundamentals ~ Tots and Me ~ As We Walk Along The Road ~ Stir the Wonder ~ For This Season ~ Where Imagination Grows ~ Lextin Academy ~ The Canadian Homeschooler ~ School Time Snippets ~ Peakle Pie ~ Mom’s Heart ~ A Moment in our World ~ Every Bed of Roses ~ Finchnwren ~ At Home Where Life Happens ~ Suncoast Momma ~ The Library Adventure ~ Embracing Destiny ~ Day by Day in our World ~ Our Homeschool Studio ~ A “Peace” of Mind ~ Thou Shall Not Whine ~ SAHM I am ~ eLeMeNo-P Kids ~ Simple Living Mama
Poppins Book Nook Themes 2014 - 2015Today’s Poppins Book Nook closes out our 2014-2015 year.  This is also my last month as a Poppins Book Nook co-host; I have adored co-hosting this amazing project with Jill and so many neat bloggers.  But, I’m feeling that the Lord has asked me to step aside for awhile.  However, Jill from EnchantedHomeschoolingMom is continuing this amazing online book club this year, so please be sure to visit her blog each month for more amazing books!
Enjoy!  –Wren

Things I Love…..National Sticky Bun Day!


Dear Readers,

How appropriate for a Saturday…the weekend seems to be the only time we allow ourselves to indulge in guilty little pleasures such as these; although I don’t really know if I’ve actually had a sticky bun as defined here…more like the Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls my sister and I would make as kids, so fun popping that tube open! Only one kind back then…now there are tons! And, of course, who can forget that phenomenon known as Cinnabon, which seems to have taken over the country…even in Airports! The smell is quite heavenly as you stroll by (I’ve been threatening to try one for years, but alas, sweets aren’t my thing). But if you’re so inclined,bake or buy a batch today!


National Sticky Bun Day is celebrated annually on February 21.

Originally known as “Schnecken” and still is considered to be a Philadelphia specialty, it is believed that the sticky buns origin in the United States began in the 18th century when the German settlers brought them along when they began settling near Pennsylvania.

Most often served for breakfast or as a dessert, sticky buns generally consist of rolled pieces of leavened dough that most often contain brown sugar and/or cinnamon.  Prior to the dough being placed in the pan, the pan is lined with it’s “sticky” ingredients such as: maple syrup, honey, nuts, sugar and butter.  When the buns are finished baking, they are then flipped upside down so that the “sticky” bottom then becomes the topping.

This excerpt was brought to you by http://www.nationaldayscalendar



Family, Fun & Homeschooling! Featuring Brenda from Counting Pinecones

Welcome back to Family, Fun & Homeschooling!  I am having so much fun with this series—I hope you are as well!  It has been such a joy to meet other homeschoolers who blog and share them with you.

F,F & H finchnwren.comThis week, my friend Brenda (another displaced Texan) from Schoolhouse Review Crew is sharing her family’s story with us.  Brenda blogs at Counting Pinecones, where she tells the story of her family and homeschool.  Like us, her family is wild about space.  You’re going to love getting to know this beautiful family.  Meet Brenda!

Brenda P real headshotTell us about your blog.   How did you come up with this very creatively-named blog?

My blog is Counting Pinecones which originally started as just a way for me to keep track of what type of activities we were working on in our homeschool as well as a way for our families to see their schoolwork.  Since we were a military family, we live a long ways from our families.  My family is in Texas and New York, my husband’s is in North Carolina and Indiana and right now we’re stationed in California.  Needless to say, we haven’t seen our families since we moved here 4 years ago, but we wanted a way for them to keep up iwth what the kids were doing each day and feel as if they were part of their lives.
Counting PineconesThe idea for the name came from my son who is special needs (Einstein’s syndrome).  He had this huge fascination with collecting all the pine cones he could find and would play with them for hours on end.  At one point, we had so many pine cones in our house so when we started homeschooling, we used them as counters….  And so Counting Pinecones was born.

Do you have a favorite blogging topic that you return to again and again?

Not typically.  My brain is wired so crazy that I can’t remember what I blogged about two days ago.  At first, my blog read more like a diary.  Now it’s all over the place with anything from a recipe I feel like sharing that day, pictures of the desert sunsets and homeschooling stuff.  I’ve only been blogging for about 8 months (and only actively so in the last 3), so I’m still trying to find the direction I want to go with it and figure out what works.  I’m willing to be in another 8 months, it will be totally unrecognizable from what it is at this point as I figure out the style that works best for me.  Also, the kids are young and are learning reading and writing—you can only blog, “Hey, the kids wrote a sentence today!” so many times.  As they get past the basics and we start working on the really exciting school stuff, then I will probably have topics and themes that I will visit multiple times.

brenda prince son and daughter

Tell us about your family.  How did you and your husband meet?  And what would you like to share about your children?

Our family is a blended family consisting of my husband (Charles), myself, my 15-year-old daughter from my previous marriage, our 8-year-old son and our 6-year-old daughter.  Charles and I actually met online and have been together for 10 years and married for 8.  We were married on the 4th of July so I always joke that if he forgets our anniversary, he’ll really see fireworks. ;)  Charles is 10 years younger than I am and is currently serving in the U.S. Air Force as an avionics specialist on the F-22.  He’s been in for 5 years now.  Prior to that, we lived in Michigan where he was the stay-at-home dad and I was the working breadwinner, so the roles have been reversed.  alyssa head shotAlyssa, our 15-year-old, is currently a sophomore in the public school here on base and is involved in JROTC and the Robotics club.  She is also the founder and president of the school’s Creative Writing Club.  She’ll be turning 16 in a few months and I’m dreading the whole driving and dating stage.  Ash and Garrett are practically inseparable and are the best of friends.  We are all certified “Disney Addicts” and have been planning our big cross-country trip for this summer for the last two years.  (Which is how the Destination Education series on my blog was developed.)

What made you decide to homeschool?

garrett Brenda Prince

It had a lot to do with the fact that my son is special needs and verbally delayed.  When it was time to start talking about starting kindergarten, we had a meeting with the school in regards to what type of educational setting he might need.  His pediatrician had written that he needed to be in a special education class due to his delay (at that time, he was 6 years old and had the speech ability of a 9-month-old and was considered completely non-verbal.).  The school’s speech pathologist sat with him for about 15 minutes and basically told us that they couldn’t accommodate him but that they would pay to send him off base to a nearby school—nearby being 30 miles away.  I couldn’t see putting him on a bus every day for 60 miles’ worth of travel and I was already a SAHM, so I thought long and hard about if I would be able to teach him.  After a long discussion with my husband, we decided it would be best to try to homeschool him.

Brenda Prince ash picA year later, when it came time for my daughter to start kindergarten, we again debated if we would send her to public school or not.  Originally, our thought was that we would send her to the school on base so that I could have more 1-on-1 time with Garrett for school.  The decision was made because we found out they were combining classes together.  Kindergarten and first graders would all be in the same classroom with 1 teacher who would teach one grade half the day and then switch.  We had a few friends who had kids in a similar class set-up the year before and it was not a good experience for the kids.  Needless to say, both kids are currently homeschooled and I have no plans to put them into public schools.

What does a day in your homeschool look like?

We’re pretty laid back in our homeschooling situation and would probably be an interest-led situation.  I allow the kids to pick and choose topics they would like to explore when it comes to science, history and literature.  (They have no say in regards to math and reading or they would never do it!)  A typical day for us is waking up whenever, and they play Minecraft or read books quietly while Mom has coffee (loud voices before Mom has her coffee can be considered hazardous to their health).  Usually an hour later, we sit down on the floor in the living room with their binders and work on our lessons.  M-W-F we work on math, literature (where I read to them and we discuss what we are reading) and independent reading (where they have to read to me).  Tuesdays and Thursdays are spelling, history and science which also includes a lot of writing for them.  Teaching a special needs kid is tough at times, so our schooling has to accommodate for him.  I actually held him back a year, I guess you could say, because last year he absolutely refused to do anything—wouldn’t write, wouldn’t read, wouldn’t sit still and do schoolwork.  He just wasn’t ready and there was no way I was going to consider him a 2nd grader.  It was the best decision we made as now he’s able to pay attention and concentrate better than last year.  However, there are still days that we might have to regroup or take a day off because of a meltdown or because he’s too agitated or excited about something.  Hence, why the laid-back approach–a strict schedule just won’t work for us and things get shifted around a lot.

Do you have a favorite “date night” you love to do?

We have a few things we enjoy doing together.  My husband is huge into astronomy and astrophotography, so when we know a meteor shower is going on, we drag out a huge inflatable mattress to the back yard, throw a few blankets over it (if it is really cold we throw an electric blanket on it) and we lie out there together alone (kids are usually asleep by that time) and we snuggle and watch shooting stars.

Occasionally we head to town (town for us is a 45-minute drive) and we might catch a movie and have dinner together; but those types of nights are pretty rare.  Usually a “date” for us is grabbing a quick lunch at the Taco Bell on base while we’re out grocery shopping LOL.  Yeah, 2 soft tacos is a pretty cheap date but honestly, it’s not about going out and spending lots of money, but more about just reconnecting with each other without the distraction of the kids.  We’re able to sit at a small 2-person table in the food court, share a drink and enjoy a quick lunch while we’re able to have a discussion about whatever crosses our mind without hearing “MOM!!!” every 20 seconds.  LOL

What are some of your favorite mama-child activities?

Does going to the bathroom count?  Because it seems to be their favorite activity to do with me?  J/K.

The kids love going to the park that’s directly behind the house.  During the summer months, we have to wait til the sun goes down as it’s way too hot, so they watch for the sun to go down.  We also like watching the wildlife together.  We have hummingbird and seed feeders outside our windows so we can watch the birds.  We also get coyotes, bobcats, rabbits, squirrels, and ravens who visit our yard a lot.

Garrett enjoys playing Minecraft which means that every two minutes he enjoys showing me his creation.  Ash is probably happiest just cuddling on the couch or in bed with me and letting me read to her.  On the weekends we have family game night and we play games like Scene It Disney, Pictionary and stuff the kids can play.  We’re pretty boring as far as activities go.  LOL.  Also, every so often, usually on a random Saturday night, we have music night where I pretend to be the DJ and I just play random songs most of the night, whatever pops into my head.  The kids enjoy this a lot.  We do silly dance (“Kid in Play,” anyone?) and all three kids get introduced to various musical artists or styles that kids these days just don’t know about.  How many 15-year-olds know who Red Sovine is?  If you can’t tell already, we’re more of a stay-at-home family and be-a-family together type of family, than we are a constantly-on-the-go and do-as-much-as-possible family.

Brenda Prince hubby pic

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Hmmm, like I said before we’re kinda boring….LOL.  Oooh, I mentioned that we’re big into astronomy here.  My living room has 3 telescopes sitting in it right now.  That’s how serious it is.  My husband started Chuckwalla Observatory here on base which grew into an astronomy outreach program for kids on base to learn about astronomy and telescopes.  Originally, we started with just a 3.5-inch reflector telescope, the type that many people buy for a few hundred dollars.  Slowly, the habit progressed and that 3.5-inch scope turned into an 8-inch scope, and that turned into a 12-inch scope, which is way bigger than anything the casual stargazer would have.  It’s really great for the kids though, especially as we do the astronomy course from Apologia; because as we read about each planet, the kids are able to actually see them.  My husband is able to hook the scope up to a computer, making it easier for the kids to see (as the eyepiece for the telescope is close to 5 feet off the ground…lol).  Eventually, I’ll be getting him to write the occasional article for Counting Pinecones on things like “Selecting Your First Telescope” or to highlight upcoming events that are observable without special equipment; and I’m hoping to be able to start sharing some of his photography on the blog as well for everyone to see.

Charles is also starting an astronomy Q&A.  Does your child have questions about stars, planets, comets, or any other space-worthy category?  Email him at with your questions by the 13th of each month.  Be sure to include your student’s age and grade so that he can tailor his answers to the child’s understanding.  The answers will be published on the 15th of each month at  Counting Pinecones!

I’ve loved getting to know Brenda and her family a bit more.  Thank you, Brenda, for sharing your story with us!  And be sure to visit her at Counting Pinecones and leave her a comment!

We’ll be back next week with another episode of Family, Fun & Homeschooling.  Thank you for stopping by!

Enjoy!  –Wren




Presidents’ Day Fun!

Happy Presidents’ Day to you!

Are you needing a little extra Presidents’ Day fun for your homeschool?

Presidents Day Resources

Then you can visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for today’s Presidents’ Day Roundup! You’ll find recipes, games, activities and crafts, all designed by tons of bloggers to enhance your learning and fun on Presidents’ Day.

(You’ll find my finchnwren printables there too!)

Enjoy! –Wren

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Valentine's Day Resources
Happy Valentine’s Day, from finchnwren!

If you’re looking for some wonderful Valentine’s Day activities to do with your kiddos, then look no further.

The Crew has everything fun for you today, from crafts, to recipes, to printables….lots of fun celebratory Valentines! Just visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog and browse to your heart’s content!

Enjoy!  –Wren

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