Month: July 2011

What makes a homeschool room work?

Homeschool Ideas

This is not an easy question. Homeschool rooms are as varied as the families they are for. The number and ages of children in the room at one time, the number of rooms in the house, how much money a family earns: these are all factors to be considered in designing your schoolroom.

For us, it has come down to three necessary components:

A small space for prayer

1. A Place for Prayer:

Every morning we gather around our homeschool room shrine to make the day’s offerings and petitions. The children are aloud to handle the saints’ statues, rosaries, and our second class relic from St. Leopoldo Mandic while I read the Bible passage for the day. We close with a hymn before starting school. (For more ideas about incorporating young children in religious activities, see The Child in the Church by Maria Montessori and Others.)

2. A Place for Group Study: After prayers, we adjourn to the group study area to sing the alphabet, go over the day on the calendar, and review what everyone has learned together so far. This usually sets up the pre-schoolers nicely to work on their own a little while, so I can help our older child.

Plenty of elbow room to avoid quarrels.

3.Enough space for individual study and teaching: After Group Study, I slowly make my way around to each child individually to help him or her with a task. I start with the oldest, help her with reading. Then, I help #2 with colors or shapes, while #1 is working on math. Finally, I check their work, and we return to a group activity…coloring. This is how we end the formal school hour (at present).

Make a space for mom and some fun, too!

Optional perks! I encourage mothers to think about what kinds of spaces they would particularly like in a homeschool room to encourage them and their children to do more than just school in the schoolroom. For example, I have my sewing desk in one corner of our room, and some days we retreat to the schoolroom, I work on a sewing project, and the kids do activities. We also have musical instruments in the schoolroom. The children can experiment with shakers, xylophones, and more, or Papa brings out the guitar for singing and dancing!

German-English Curriculum for the Bilingual Homeschool

Homeschool Ideas

Alecia Rolling has been speaking German with our children for five years now, and we have started homeschooling in this bilingual setting. Above, you can now find a page that lists our core curriculum for our German-English bilingual homeschool. Links are provided to the books, and you may wish to peruse the blog posts for practical suggestions and ideas for making the curriculum work for your home.

This page has been added in response to inquiries from other families, who wish to homeschool in two languages and especially in German and English.

Wild Raspberries in July: A tasty summer treat

The Rolling Acres Farm
Wine Berries of Virginia

by Alecia Rolling

As we approach the end of July, we are approaching the final days of wild-raspberry-picking in our woods. The berries were gloriously ripe and juicy this year, and there seemed to be no end in picking for weeks. Even the deer and and bears had their fair share.

One of the most vivid of memories that our kids share is picking berries in the woods of Virginia. Our kindergartener and preschooler have conversations about how to best avoid the brambles so as to reach the plumpest berries. They are quite proud of themselves now that they are old enough to go with Mama or Papa. They pick about 2 pints in their tiny buckets, but they eat those two pints during picking or on the way home. I smile and remember that the Lord did say to eat what is in season…

As a tribute to the raspberries, I would like to share a favorite July recipe from our kitchen.

Raspberry Crisp

  • 1 c. flour
  • 1/8-1/4 c. brown sugar OR 1-3 T honey
  • 1/4 c. oats
  • cinnamon to taste
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 T freshly ground flaxseed
  • 1/2-1 stick butter
  • 3-4 c. raspberries
  • 1 c. chopped strawberries
  • 2 T butter

Place fruit with 2 T butter in a fire-safe bread pan. Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl. Mix thoroughly. Cut in butter and honey or use your fingers to mix until nice clumps form and all ingredients are “wet”.  Spoon this mixture over the fruit and drizzle honey over this. Place in propane grill set on low and close the lid. Cook until crumble is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling.

Homeschooling is More Than Textbooks

Homeschool Ideas
Waiting for School Time

by Alecia Rolling

We have just finished our second week of “formal” homeschool, and it finally feels like routine. The children are happier and more relaxed, and I am enjoying my time in the school room more and more. Their lessons go with them throughout the day as we read books, play in the garden, or just sit outside and talk. It is such a relief to hear a little voice say,

Mama! There’s a tree! God made that tree. (pause) He made all trees.

Worksheet from German Reading Program "Tobi"


Mama, I found an ‘e’! We are learning about ‘e’ right now. Can you tell me what this word says?

It came to mind that I could share what we do each morning from 8:30-9:30 (sometimes 10am!). I have also linked the books we use below for those interested.

  1. Prayer, Bible Reading, Hymn.
  2. Review Calendar, What we’ll do today, sing the alphabet.
  3. Preschooler works independently on Montessori activities, while Mama helps Kindergartener with Reading and Math.
  4. Kindergartener works independently on Reading and Math, while Mama works with Preschooler on Montessori activities.
  5. Mama Checks Kindergartener’s work and praises Preschooler for what he did well.
  6. From A Coloring Book of the Old Testament - with Illustrations from artists of the middle ages

    We all sit and color together a coloring page that corresponds with our morning Bible reading.

Of course, this is merely our formal school time. School is an all day affair! This week my children became newly interested in castles and dragons, thanks in part to a small puppet set we received from a relative. When I reminded them of our book, Saint George and the Dragon, they squealed with excitement. We read the book many times over. They built castles with their Papa, they made forts out of sheets on rainy days, and they told one another elaborate tales of princes and knights.

Our daughter closes the gate to the castle.

Their playtime allowed them many opportunities to learn. For example, Papa talked about the way castles should be built to be strong and withstand attacks. They named the parts of the castle and developed strategies to evade the dragon, if he should appear. When they read Saint George and the Dragon with Mama, they talked about bravery and courage despite fear. When they built forts and they told their own stories, they were practicing strategic thinking and narration.

This was a good week!

Brined Dill Pickles for Grandpa Rolling

The Rolling Acres Farm
Chopped and sliced cucumbers ready for the "brew"

by Alecia Rolling

This time of year we are picking cucumbers. There are always more than we can eat in a day, so we preserve the extra. It took me a while to find a pickling recipe that would work for us: (1) I did not want to can pickles more than one day, so (2) I needed a method that allowed me to pick cucumbers each day and save them until time for canning. Here is what I finally found and we now love: Brined Dill Pickles!

When I bring in the morning harvest, I chop, slice, or leave whole the pickles I wish to preserve. I then empty these pickles into a “brew”. We actually ferment the pickles in a vinegar-salt solution until we have enough pickles to can, usually 3 gallons of cucumbers. Fermenting takes 2-3 weeks which is plenty of time to collect 3 gallons of cucumbers.

We are quite generous in the amount of dill we use for this recipe.

Here is the recipe:

  • Fresh dill from the garden (how much depends on your taste)
  • 1/4 t. red pepper flakes (preferably dried from last year’s peppers)
  • 1/3 c. canning salt
  • 1/4 c. vinegar
  • 1/2 gallon water
  • 3-6 cloves fresh garlic from the garden

Mix all ingredients in a gallon container. You will need a lid that helps to keep the cucumbers completely submerged. Store the container in a cool, dark place in the house. We use the basement pantry. You want to keep a constant temperature around 70 degrees Fahrenheit for good fermentation. As you harvest cucumbers, wash, dry, and slice. Add them directly to the brine, making sure they are completely submerged.

Fermenting takes approximately 2-3 weeks. You will know that the fermentation process is complete when there are no more bubbles. Check for scum every day, and if present, simply wipe off the top and throw away.

Fresh garlic from the garden 2011


  • Remove pickles from brine.
  • Strain the brine and bring to a boil.
  • Pack pickles into hot jars, leaving some headspace.
  • Pour hot, strained brine over pickles, leaving at least 1/4 in. headspace.
  • Cap!
  • For quart-sized jars, boil in water boiling canner for 15 minutes.

NOTE: After you add your pickles to a jar, you can still add spices, such as garlic cloves, red peppers, mustard, or bay leaves  before pouring the brine in.

Homeschooling Unique Persons

Homeschool Ideas

by Alecia Rolling

Planes of Color at the Ready

This year I have a Kindergartener, Preschooler, Toddler, and (soon) a newborn in the homeschool room. After teaching my Kindergartener last year, I of course felt quite confident about teaching my new preschooler. After all, it couldn’t be that different! Oh, but yes it can. I was reminded this week of how unique each of my children are.

When #1 was two and a half years old, we worked on colors with Montessori color tablets. The teaching moment was quiet and peaceful. I pointed to a color, and she found the other matching tablet. We then named the color. It was very methodical and again…quiet.

Now, I am teaching #2 with the same color tablets. Yes, he is a boy, but also a completely different temperament. I began the same way I had begun with #1, but #2 kept insisting that he wanted to build a tower out of the color tablets. I was beginning to get angry, when I paused….

“Okay, we will build a tower and make airplanes out of the tablets to fly onto the tower, but first you have to find the matching color, so we can make our planes. Then you can fly the planes over here and build a tower!”

He looked at me a moment as if considering whether or not I was trying to trick him. He then grinned, and I held up a color tablet. “What color is this?” I don’t know. “Green!” I bellowed like a drill sergeant. Still bellowing, “Can you say green?!” GREEN! he yelled with a smile.

We spent the next ten minutes sounding like a platoon of soldiers learning their colors, making planes, and building towers. A memorable day!

The Flexibility of Homeschooling Allows Time for Life

Homeschool Ideas
Watching Fireworks and Neighbors at Dusk

by Alecia Rolling

A Reflection on Life’s Lessons amidst Homeschooling

In the summer on the homestead, we tend to focus on gardening, canning, preserving, feeding the animals, and natural history. This has proven to be the the best time of year for subjects like botany, biology, and chemistry, since there are so many natural instances illustrating lessons from each subject! This year, however, we are embarking into new territory and studying the three R’s as well… in the summer.

Yes, this first week of July we began homeschooling for the 2011-2012 academic year. “What? But, it’s the summer?!” one might exclaim.

Indeed, it is summer, and the days are longer! Besides, this year we have a baby due in the middle of August, and we know now that the family needs a good month to re-adjust to the new family dynamics. Thankfully, homeschooling offers us the flexibility we need to be able to appreciate those four weeks after the new baby is born. We were able to say, “Let’s just start early and then take a month off.”

Learning will not cease that month for the older children. They will enjoy valuable lessons in life. Our kindergartener will finally be allowed to change diapers — something she has been begging to do all year! Our toddler will be able to master “silence” when the baby is sleeping, and our 1-year-old will practice being gentle — no hitting the baby.

What will be the three most important life-lessons that month? Empathy. Self-sufficiency. Sacrifice.

Empathy. Our older children will see how helpless a newborn is and be told how helpless they were as infants. They will hear stories about how Mama and Papa had to help them when they were little, and how nice it is that the new baby has so many to help him: Mama, Papa, Sister 1, Brother 1, and Brother 2! They will each have their tasks in helping the baby and be praised for jobs well-done, especially when they respond to a need without Mama’s prompting.

Self-sufficiency. The older children will especially be praised for independent achievements — successes such as dressing or eating without Mama’s help. These achievements will be lauded because they show how much each child is growing up and becoming more independent.  These also demonstrate their readiness for more responsibilities (and more privileges) and make them proud of themselves as they become more adept human persons.

Sacrifice. Everyone, even the 1-year-old, will sacrifice some time with Mama for the new baby. It is the learning of this sacrifice that requires a month-long adjustment period. Admittedly, this is a tough lesson for adults and still tough for children. “Why can’t Mama read a story now?” She is napping from being awake all night with the baby. Do you know that Mama used to stay up at night when you were a baby?

“Why is Papa cooking?” Mama is feeding the baby, and she did that for you, too.

With hope I reflect on these moments that are to come. For my children to see what all I did for them — what all Papa did for them — by watching us care for their baby sibling will in the end teach them how much we loved them as babies and still do as they grow up — being able to take the time in August as a family to welcome our newest little one is certainly one of the perks to homeschooling!

Want to raise chickens in your backyard?

The Rolling Acres Farm
12'X5'X5' chicken coop comfortably houses 14 chickens

by Alecia Rolling.

When we first moved to Blue Mountain, we built a chicken coop for the backyard. The picture to your left is that very coop! We found free wooden pallets in town, free chicken wire at the local recycling center, a piece of siding for $1, and then we splurged a bit for a steel roof and some hardwood screws.

chicken coop ramp
This hole can be closed at night after the chickens come in to roost.

We built the coop on the slope, so we could customize the frame to fit our grade. It has taken two years to find wheels that work for the maneuvering of such a hardwood coop on a mountain side, but that problem has finally been solved.

We have also had trouble with a mountain lion, raccoons, and foxes, but so far the coop has kept the chickens safe. We do have the additional feature of a raised sleeping quarters with ramp-access. If we think there is a threat of some animal making its way into the run area, we shut the ramp-access at night with a wooden lid made to fit.

Some advantages to keeping chickens in a tractor-coop:

Move the coop every day to avoid dirt patches.

1. Easy and Neighbor-friendly. We built our coop to be pulled with man power, but a tractor or lawn mower could be used as well. Plus, having the chickens in a coop has kept them from roaming into neighbors’ yards.

2. FREE lawn fertilizer. An additional perk to having chickens migrate through the yard in a controlled fashion is that their manure fertilizes. Our lawn has never looked so healthy!

Chickens can also be let out of the coop everyday if you do not wish to move the coop.

3. Flexibility. And do not think that we are tied down to moving a chicken coop around the yard every day! There is always the option of “parking” the coop in a convenient spot in the backyard and then letting the chickens out each day to roam…free range!

4. Healthy. Are you a fan of Omega 3? Do you already buy expensive organic eggs at the grocery store? Here is your opportunity to have homegrown Omega 3 and ORGANIC eggs!

5. Cheap. For 14 chickens we spend approximately $14/month on feed. We gather about 9 eggs/day! That means you pay less than $1 per dozen of organic eggs!

wooden pallets and chicken wire

Buying Our Coops – a fair deal. After two years on the mountain, we have come to own many wooden pallets and several rolls of chicken wire. We do not want to see them go to waste, so we are building coops for our neighbors and locals of the Northern Virginia/District of Columbia areas. We build the coops based on a similar model as above, but with hardware latches and handles.

Price Estimates for Coops: (you may always ask about adding special features, such as a walk-in door, etc.)

10’x4’x4′  = $800;   8’x4’x4′  = $750; 6’x4’x4′  = $700

Contact us to discuss specific plans and prices: OR 571-315-1702