What We’re Reading–Westward Expansion and Pioneers

We may have just finished the 2016-17 school year this week, but I’m already thinking about summer school! This year’s theme is westward expansion (focusing especially on the journey of Lewis and Clark), and pioneers. Now, we’ve learned about these topics before, but I wanted to go in-depth, especially since we live in the “Gateway to the West!” I have some fun (and new!) field trips planned for later in our vacation, but for now, here’s the reading list I have prepared…I may add on to it as we begin our studies, but this is a good start!

Olympics School–Day Six

Our 2016 summer school wrapped up today. We finished our overview of geography with longitude and latitude, and how to find a place based on its geographical coordinates. We learned more about some famous past Olympians. We also had an interesting current events discussion about the actions of some of the US swimmers, and I had an ethical/bioethical conversation with my oldest students about the issues surrounding runner Caster Semenya. The children had one last fun creative assignment…they each designed an Olympic medal for a future Olympiad.

We also tried one last Brazilian meal. We enjoyed the children’s two favorite recipes that I’ve made recently again: Pao de Queijo and the Brazilian lemonade. I also made Brazilian rice again, to go with a delicious Brazilian fish stew. Since I was feeling adventurous, I even made Brazilian collard greens, which sadly only Ladybug and I enjoyed, but at least everyone tried them! For dessert, we had a double coconut cake, which was delicious!



Our adventures in Brazilian cooking have been interesting. I’ve used a lot of black beans and peppers in the last two weeks, as well as coconut and coconut milk. I’ve really enjoyed learning how to cook new things, and teaching my children some cooking skills and wisdom (I don’t think they’ll ever forget that “ganache covers a multitude of sins!). I’m especially glad that everyone was adventurous enough to try (and mostly enjoy) everything I made!

Olympics School–Day Five

Our study of geography while we learn about (and watch!) the Olympics has continued. We’ve moved on to the geography of South America, as well as looking at Brazil in greater detail. I’ve had the children look through a travel book, and choose what their must-see sights in Brazil are. I was happy to see that they chose places that are a little off the beaten path. We also talked about each of the host cities of the previous Summer Games, and talked a bit about some of the issues unique to each Olympics.

We haven’t just been learning though…we’ve also been having fun and being silly! Four years ago, we “Bolted” and did the “Mobot.” Since we have seen both Usain Bolt and Mo Farah compete in Brazil, win their races, and do their signature moves, we decided to give it a try again:



During the London 2012 Olympics, one of our crafts was making rhythmic gymnastics style ribbons, which was fun, even if they didn’t work quite as well as I wanted them to. I decided to do better this time around, so I purchased a ribbon like you might see the gymnasts use. We’ve really had fun playing with it, and Chickadee discovered that if she’s really nice, she might even get her big brother to play with her!

We have a little more geography left to cover, another Brazilian meal to try, and one last craft to do before the Olympics are over…stay tuned!

Olympics School–Day Four

The most highly anticipated event in any Olympics-year summer school is our quadrennial Markel Family Olympic Games. This year’s event was especially fun because Chickadee was able to participate…although her short little legs prevented her from coming in first!

Of course there were races:


And other familiar events like broad jump, soccer kicks, goal defense, our versions of shot put and discus, and a basketball competition (which I won, by the way).



While Turkey technically had the most points at the end of the competition, we were competing as Team Markel, so we all won gold at the medal ceremony!


And just like the athletes we’ve been watching in Rio, the competitors’ inner ham came out!

I suppose this might have been the last time we all compete together like this…by the time we have a 17-year-old and a 16-year-old in the house, they may be too busy or too cool to participate. Hopefully this was a family Olympics that we will all remember!

Olympics School–Day Three

I can’t believe we’re already almost to the halfway point of the Olympics!

We’ve continued our survey of geography, moving on to locating European countries and cities. Turkey, Bunny, and Ladybug have been working their way through a few more of the books I put in our book basket, reading a biography of Pelé, which they really enjoyed, and a novel set in the Amazon. We also made our one big Olympics craft: salt dough medals, to be awarded following our quadrennial family Olympics. As we did in 2012, we made only gold medals, because every member of Team Markel is a winner!


I made another Brazilian dinner for our enjoyment…spicy pork and black bean stew. I made the Brazilian lemonade from our Opening Ceremony celebration again, too, and I even added paper umbrellas, something the children have been begging me to add to a beverage for years! For dessert, we had a lovely passion fruit mousse:

Next up is our Markel Family Olympic Games!

Olympics School–Day Two

We had a very busy second day of summer school!

After updating our medal chart, and being very happy that Team USA remains on top, we reviewed the geography of the United States, including state capitals and abbreviations. I read all of our Olympics-themed story books out loud, and we discussed some of the athletes that appeared in them. We also talked about some of the political issues surrounding the Olympics. The children (especially Ladybug!) were very excited to start on the workbooks I made for them, and they’ve already compared and contrasted the ancient and modern Olympic Games, done a word search, and colored a few pictures, including one of the Brazilian flag. I was very impressed with how hard Chickadee worked on her flag!


We also tried out another Brazilian meal for dinner. I made Brazilian chicken with coconut milk (pretty spicy, and yet all of the children enjoyed it!), and another batch of the Pao de Queijo we enjoyed on Friday, but with butter instead of olive oil this time. For dessert, the children helped me make Brigadeiro, which are kind of like truffles, and fun to roll in different toppings.


It hit me yesterday that this is my best opportunity to make the Olympics special for all of the children. Chickadee was only a few months old during our amazing London 2012 celebration, and by the time 2020 rolls around, Turkey will be 17 (YIKES!), and probably much too busy to do this kind of thing. I hope I’m doing a good job of making this an especially memorable and fun chapter of summer school!

Olympics School–Day One

We kicked off our 2016 summer school today (ish)! Actually, we started a little bit yesterday, with the making of an Olympic banner for our school room (how have we made it through two Summer Games, as well as two Winter Olympics without doing that before now?!?), as well as flags and mascots to go with it. We went over the list of countries on our medal chart, and discussed why each had been chosen. The children also took a look through the workbooks I made for them, too, although they’ll have to wait until next week to get started on them.

Today we learned a bit about the geography of Brazil, and took a look at the Olympic torch (it has a very cool design!) and the path it has traveled on around Brazil since the journey began in May. We made edible Olympic torches, and had a Brazilian feast for dinner. And, of course, we watched the Opening Ceremony. We have lots of fun activities to do and things to learn over the next two weeks…plus a lot of events to watch! I’m so excited about our third Summer Olympics summer school!