January 2017 Living and Learning Monthly Wrap-Up

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by ChristinaPilkington on February 23, 2017 · 2 comments

Well, according to my last blog post, I haven’t posted a living and learning wrap since August 2014- for almost two and a half years! Before that I had posted what we did each month since November 2011. Part of me feels guilty; part of me feels regret. But another part of me pats myself on the head and says, “You’ve been living and learning so deeply and richly with your family, filling your days with traveling, and time with family and learning new things, and having new experiences, that this website wasn’t as much of a priority as other things were at the time.”

So I’m going to approach blog posts and writing without regrets. To approach it as another part of what will make my life rich, and to make it a priority but not as high a priority as family or travel or planning new adventures and experiences.

My kids are almost 11 now. 11 years old!!! I remember when they were 1 and 2. I had so many ideas of what we would do together, the trips we would take, the activities we would do. I still have at least 7 more years before they could potentially move away (hopefully not that soon!), so I want to make the most of my time with them.

But I’ve also become more realistic in knowing that no matter how much time you have, you’ll never be able to do everything you want to do….especially if you live and dream large.

So, I aim to chronicle the living and learning we do this year…one month at a time. But if I skip a month here and there…no guilt, no regrets…especially if it was because time with my family consumed most of my writing time that month.

So……here we go!

Highlights from the month: Alexa’s trip to Wisconsin, dissecting a squid, drawing Manga, going to the Greek and American Indian museums, nerf gun fights, gymnastics meets, and Greek mythology Bingo.


Books – Together


Finished reading D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. I’d highly recommend this book of Greek Myths. The artwork is fabulous! I could have checked this out from the library, but it was too gorgeous not to own 🙂

Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.?– A short book, but filled with pictures and interesting information about Dr. King Jr’s life.

Alexa’s Reading List

For the past six months, Alexa has become a reading fiend! She has always read well and enjoyed reading, but she would often go for months at a time without picking up a book. Then she got hooked on the Survivor and Warrior Cats series of books, and she’s reading all the time! If you have an animal lover, these books would be a perfect read for them.

Survivors 5: The Endless Lake

Survivors 6: Storm of Dogs

Survivors: Tales from the Packs

Warriors 1: Into the Wild (Warriors: The Prophecies Begin)

Warriors 3: Forest of Secrets (Warriors: The Prophecies Begin)

Warriors 4: Rising Storm (Warriors: The Prophecies Begin)

Warriors 2: Fire and Ice (Warriors: The Prophecies Begin)

Warriors 5: A Dangerous Path (Warriors: The Prophecies Begin)

Warriors 6: The Darkest Hour (Warriors: The Prophecies Begin)

The Complete Peanuts 1993-1994 (The Complete Peanuts)

The Complete Peanuts 1987-1988 (The Complete Peanuts)

Jared’s Reading List

Jared is a bit obsessed with Spiderman now. He’s started to read the first printed Spiderman series. He’s not a bit reader of regular books, but he will spend hours at a time reading his graphic novels!  It makes my heart warm 🙂

Essential Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 1 (Marvel Essentials) (v. 1)

Clone Wars Adventures, Vol. 1 (Star Wars)

Clone Wars Adventures, Vol. 2 (Star Wars)

Meet the Marvel Super Heroes , 2nd Edition



Finished Crash Course Biology We started watching the Crash Course Biology videos on YouTube around October of last year to go along with our Life of Fred: Prealgebra 1 with Biology. The videos complemented what we were doing perfectly. As a warning: the videos are not aimed at kids and frankly and explicitly discusses sexual reproduction. It’s something I’ve always been very open and honest with the kids from a young age. They are very aware and know quite a bit about that topic in detail! It was something I never wanted to keep secret from my kids, and always answered all of their questions honestly and in a much detail as they wanted. As a consequence, they are very nonchalant and not embarrassed  or scared of talking about sex with me. It’s just not a big deal.

Started Great Courses Plus– The Other Side of History- I decided to purchase a membership to the Great Courses Plus- a website where you can stream lectures on a variety of topics. The kids and I both thought this course would be the best to start with. We’ve been learning about ancient history for almost a year now. This course is really good because it focuses on the lives of the everyday, ordinary people living in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece and Rome.

This is also not a series aimed at children. It’s definitely an adult oriented lecture series, so it also doesn’t shy away from adult topics. I’m fine with that for my kids, but I wanted you to be aware so you could make that choice for your family if you chose to watch any of these videos.


Hell’s Kitchen– Alexa and I enjoy watching this together when Jared is at gymnastics practice at night.

Toy Story 1-3 and That Time Forgot

Netflix A Series of Unfortunate Events- This TV series is SOOOOO good! Alexa and I read the entire Series of Unfortunate Events books together about two years ago. I had always been a bit disappointed with the movie based on the first three books, so I was REALLY excited when I found out there would be a TV series. The cinematography is spectacular, the acting and directing so good, and it sticks to the atmosphere and main story of the book which I appreciate.

Ninjago Season Four

Young Justin Seasons 1-2

The Justice League Season 1



Games/Puzzles/Kits/Activity Books


Exploding Kittens: A Card Game About Kittens and Explosions and Sometimes Goats




Reading Detective® A1

Sequential Spelling Level 2 Teacher Guide & Student Workbook, Revised Edition



Life of Fred: Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology


At Home Fun

Alexa has been very into drawing: Mastering Manga with Mark Crilley: 30 drawing lessons from the creator of AkikoEver since Alexa saw a how to draw Manga video on YouTube last November, she’s become a bit obsessed with drawing, especially all things Manga. All she wanted for Christmas was drawing books, markers and pens.

We even paid for her to take an online course about how to draw Manga taught by a woman who used to draw professionally for Disney. It was through the website Crafty. The course was $30, but we bought it for $15 on a Black Friday deal. She was able to upload her drawings, write back and forth with the teachers, and look at the drawings of other people in the class.

Lots of nerf gun games- While Alexa wanted nothing but drawing things for Christmas, Jared wanted almost nothing, besides Legos, for Christmas other than nerf guns. He even talked me into an hour long nerf gun battle the week after Christmas! He regularly has battles with Steve and can’t wait to have more with friends when they come over.


Out of the House Activities

 A lot has happened with the kids sports-wise since I last posted a living and learning update. Jared has continued with gymnastics and is now on his second year on team. He is doing exceptionally well. Last year he won first place all around at state for his age and level. This is a more challenging year for him. He’s had to push himself even harder, which is good. He has an incredible work ethic in everything he does. Gymnastics takes up a large chunk of his time and will continue to do so more and more each year. For now he practices 10.5 hours each week at the gym.

Alexa has decided to quit gymnastics after taking lessons for 5 years. Her heart is just not into it anymore. She has decided to take up swimming instead. So starting this month, she is in advanced swimming lessons. Her goal is to move to non competitive swim club in a few months and then to try out for competitive team in the fall.


Weekly: 10.5 hours per week of gymnastics for Jared

Alexa started new swimming class for 45 minutes per week


Our year started out on the 1st with our annual tradition of taking down the tree, decorations and Christmas plates. It’s always a little sad 🙁 

This year at our homeschool co-op on Mondays we started something new. We used to do a family science hour every single week, but it started to get a little old, so now we do one week of Geography Club where we study and learn about a different country or continent each month, one week of History Club where we study and learn about a different history topic for the month- sometimes related to our geography topic- and we still do family science once per month, too.

At the co-op we also have a monthly book club and a monthly art time. For the book club, I tried to work it where the book we read went along with something else we were discussing that month. For example: this month we learned about Greece, read a book about Greek myths for book club and then visited a Greek museum later in the month, too.

Geography Club at co-op topic: Greece

  • Colored Flags of Greece</li>
  • Found Greece on the Globe and talked about the other surrounding countries and oceans/seas
  • Greek Mythology Bingo GameI found this fantastic BINGO game that a homeschool mom created on her website and gives away a copy for free!

Book Club: We discussed the book D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths

History Club topic: American Indians

  • Each family researched a different tribe and then shared what they had learned. We talked about the similarities and differences within with various tribes
  • We also played several American Indian games I had found online.

Family Science at co-op topic: Wind machines

-The kids created pinwheels with card stock and attached a pencil onto which they tied a string and created a pulley system. They tried out their wind pulled by blowing on the pinwheel with a hair dryer while trying to pull up a small cup full of marbles.

Meet the Masters art at co-op: March Chagall – Our co-op has a homeschool version of this art curriculum which we use once a month. We listen to a power point presentation on the artist’s life and then do an art project inspired by the artist.

Squid Dissection Lab at the Shedd Aquarium- Probably one of the most interesting and fun things we did this month was to dissect a squid at the Shedd. One of my friends set up this fantastic experience. Both Jared and Alexa were a little skeptical of how much they would like the dissection part, but both were so excited by the end. The Shedd did a great job in engaging the kids, and they learned a lot. We also were able to watch the aquatic show and go through the Wild Reef exhibit and see the sharks.

Gymnastics “Windy City” meet for Jared held at the UIC Pavillion- Jared took 6th place all around at this meet. He was disappointed in how he did, especially since it was the first time he fell off the high bar during a meet. But I think there were close to 50 boys in his age and level, so I tried to tell him 6th places wasn’t bad.

Artists’ trading card club: Winter Edition- Once per quarter we get together with friends and the kids trade artist trading cards. These are cards made out of heavy paper or card stock and are 2.5” x 3.5 “. You can make your own cards, but I usually just by these Bristol cards off Amazon. For this quarter, the kids created winter themed pictures by drawing, painting, using cut felt, coloring, …using pretty much any material and medium they wanted. Afterwards the kids built towers and played with each other til we had to go home.

Twins birthday party- We celebrated my twin nephew’s turning 3 years old. Lots of fun! My sister and I especially had fun watching old home videos for hours, as well as laughing and talking with my mom.

Sleepover for Jared at my Mom’s house while Alexa was in Wisconsin– Jared wanted a special sleepover time, too, so he slept over at my parent’s house. They had a great time together and did things like: walking  up and down the stairs that are specially built into the side of a small hill near my mom’s house, swimming at the indoor college pool, having dinner at Culver’s, and watching a movie together at night.

Vertical Endeavors climbing wall with Steve While Alexa was in Wisconsin, we took Jared to the indoor climbing wall where he climbed with Steve. It had been quite a while since we had been here!

National Hellenic Museum in Chicago My favorite exhibit at the Greek museum was- Sweet Home Chicago: A History of America’s Candy Capital which looked at the famous candy stores that got their start in Chicago, both Greek and non Greek. The kids loved dressing up in the kids’ section and running on top of the roof, where we had a fantastic view of downtown Chicago. We went to lunch with everyone afterwards to Greek Islands for some gyros and spanakopita .

Mitchell Museum of the American Indian This is a small museum in Evanston that you can easily go through in a few hours. I really like it because there are lots of great hands-on things to see and do. Jared especially enjoyed playing the hand games there. They also have a wigwam teepee set up with a pretend fire that all the kids loved playing inside.

Playdate with a friend for Jared

Playdate with a friend for Alexa



Alexa went with a friend’s family to Wisconsin for three nights this month – It was not easy at all, but we said goodbye for three nights to Alexa when she went with a friend’s family to Wisconsin. This was the first time she slept overnight for more than a night without us or Jared. Despite a rough first night of homesickness, Alexa had a great time and was so glad she went. Some of the highlights of the trip included: swimming, celebrating Christmas with her friend’s extended family, hanging out at the cabin resort’s activity center (air hockey, coloring, Clubhouse cafe), going tubing, watching the movie Sing, drinking at the hot chocolate bar, sharing her own bedroom suite in cabin with her friend.


On the Computer, Kindle, DS, or Wii

Roblox – lots, and lots of RoBlox!!!!

Story of Seasons – Nintendo 3DS– DS game

Youtube Lego review videos

Youtube Seri! Pixie Biologist – anything about animals and nature


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Photo Credit: gordsam

What were some of your favorite activities from January?

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