February and March Update

I’m excited to tell you what I’ve been doing/enjoying/reading/eating in February and March and also to let you in on some deals!

My BIGGEST news is that I’ve opened an Etsy shop!  I sell printable planners for teens, tweens, and their moms.  My shop is called Nourishing Tweens, just like my website!  I’d love for you to check it out.  And if you’re on my list, you can have 10% every time you shop!

Some of my links included are affiliate links, which means that if you click through and buy something I get a small portion of it.  It doesn’t cost you anything extra – it’s just a little thank you to me for directing you to something you’d enjoy!  And it keeps the lights on around here and allows me to keep doing what I’m doing.  Thank you.

Blossoms are blooming! Photo by Arno Smit on Unsplash

What we’re learning in our homeschool

If you’ve been following me for a while, you probably remember that I’m homeschooling my high school son.

We’ve been following the war in Ukraine quite closely.  What a terrible and fascinating subject!  We have a subscription to World Watch News so we watch that a few times a week. I also like to watch Smarther News – they have a correspondent in Ukraine that we have watched a few times.  

I made us borscht to eat when the war first started.  When we studied Ukraine in our geography course earlier in the school year, we learned that borscht was invented in Ukraine, and I learned to cook it for the first time.  So when the war began, my son requested that I make borscht again.  The recipe I used is in our geography curriculum, Gather Round.  I must admit that they present it as a Russian recipe (for Ukraine they have potato pancakes, which I also made).  Because of that, my son made a makeshift Ukrainian flag to put on top of the soup pot.

As for our regular studies, our main focus is history since it’s my son’s favorite subject.  I’ve created a curriculum for him based on what I did in college. I’m combining world history – with a western civilization focus – with literature, philosophy, art history, and geography. We are doing it all concurrently so that all of our studies blend together.

My son and I spent February and March learning about the Renaissance, the Reformation, and explorers. Since that’s an awful lot to tell you about, I’ll save the explorers for next month’s update.

Renaissance

We continued our main two texts: Exploring World History by Notgrass and The History and Philosophy of the Western World by 7Sisters. This month we also read The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli .

We continued watching our history lectures in The Great Courses: Foundations of Western Civilization 1. To supplement, we watched the series Empires: Medici Godfathers of the Renaissance.

Our English curriculum in February started with The Inferno by Dante Alighieri.  We watched several lectures of Hillsdale College Online’s free course about Dante.  This was a fantastic way for my son and I to learn about a challenging topic together.  If you enjoy learning with your teen (or even by yourself) I recommend looking into their free courses.

While learning about the history and literature of the Renaissance, we also learned about Renaissance art and music!  We used several lessons and videos from Khan Academy’s Art History class. 

This is one of the Khan Academy videos we enjoyed. It’s about how Brunelleschi used linear perspective in 15th century Florence:

All of Khan Academy’s lessons and videos are free. It’s a wonderful resource.

And we also enjoy Music in Our Homeschool.  We are currently working our way through the course entitled Music Appreciation: Middle Ages Through Classical Era for High School.  This course is included in the membership that we have. It’s so great having music and art lessons ready to go and already figured out for me.  If you are interested in teaching your kids (of any age) some music, take a look at Music in Our Homeschool.

For geography, we learned about Italy.  We continue to use Gather Round Homeschool for our geography lessons, which I supplement with Geography Now videos on YouTube and History of the World Map by Map.  I also have my son make a map of each country as we study it.

Reformation and England during the Reformation

For history, I added the Tudor Tutor by Barb Alexander to our curriculum.  We watched several documentaries from the YouTube channel Real Royalty such as this one:

And we also watched the series Secrets of the Six Wives and the Academy award-winning movie A Man for All Seasons, both of which are about King Henry VIII.

For English, we read Queen’s Own Fool by Jane Yolen, which is historical fiction about Mary, Queen of Scots.   I used Build Your Library to help me think of discussion questions. Build Your Library is a curriculum that does a similar thing to what I have in mind: combining multiple subjects into a unified whole.  I bought both the Level 10 and Level 11 units, which cover both early and later world history.  Queen’s Own Fool is in level 11.  We followed that up with Macbeth.

Macbeth was fun to teach!  We read the No Fear Shakespeare version that has both the original text and a more current translation face to face, page by page.  Again, I used Build Your Library to help with discussion questions.

I also followed Build Your Library’s suggestion to buy the book Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson.  I decided we didn’t have time to read the whole thing, but we did read and discuss the first chapter.  After that, I read the Build Your Library summaries of each chapter aloud to my son, so we learned a lot!

My son is a literal thinker, so poetry is not his natural interest.  I enjoyed the challenge of helping him learn to appreciate Shakespeare!  I was glad that The Good and the Beautiful High School Language Arts year 3 includes a unit on Shakespeare (in unit 7).  We watched their introductory video together and my son read the sonnets and quotes that they included.

After reading Macbeth, I had him write a literary essay using some fantastic curriculum I purchased on Teachers Pay Teachers by Love and Let Lit (last year I used her Animal Farm unit and thought it was excellent).  He did a great job on the paper and I feel like he’s really growing in that type of writing.

When we were done reading, we watched the Crash Course Literature videos about Macbeth (there are two), as well as Thug Notes Macbeth (our guilty pleasure!). Thug Notes is a literary analysis series of videos on YouTube that markets itself as “classic literature, original gangster.” Warning: some of his videos have some salty language.  We also watched the Thug Notes Dante video…definitely not as highbrow as the Hillsdale College Online videos I mentioned above.

We also watched part of one of the movie versions of Macbeth.  I chose the newest one because I thought it would be interesting. And it WAS interesting…it was super weird.  If you are a Shakespeare buff, I recommend it.  It has a very strange take and I will bet it’s like nothing you’ve seen before.  Warning: it is pretty sexualized and there is some nudity.  If I’d known that, I would have skipped those parts!  Luckily, my son is 17 so we lived through it.

In Geography we covered Scotland (we’d already done the United Kingdom, but we dove a bit deeper into Scotland).  We made shortbread cookies and watched a few travel videos.

Books I’ve Been Reading

So in February my book club read Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez.  I tried reading it – I got 110 pages into the 350 page book, but…meh.  It’s about a Puerto Rican-American woman who is a wedding planner for rich people in New York City.  I found it preachy.  It makes the same points about gentrification that I heard 30 years ago.  Frankly, our current culture and media are so preachy that there is no way I want to spend my free time listening to more complaining.  So, no.

I haven’t even bought our new book club book for March as I have so much reading to do for school!  Here’s some more info on what I did read:

Machiavelli’s The Prince is historically very important.  It is a treatise on how to be a tyrant, basically.  Machiavelli wrote it for one of the Medicis who were one of the most important families in Italy. In it, he explains how leaders can be successful, and his main thought is that the ends justify the means.  

“It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot have both.”

-Machiavelli

Dante’s Inferno was one of my favorite books in college!  I was so excited to reread it with my son.  It’s about Dante the narrator being led through the stages of Hell by his guide, Virgil.  Since we read some of Virgil’s Aenied earlier in the year, we were better able to grasp the story.  Like I said above, Hillsdale College Online’s lectures were very helpful for understanding Dante’s Inferno.  This is a challenging book.  I would think an advanced 10th grader would be the youngest reader I’d recommend for it, and they would definitely need support.  This is not just a book to grab and read without explanation.  

The Tudor Tutor: Your Cheeky Guide to the Dynasty by Barb Alexander is a quick read.  I have loved learning about the Tudors for years, and this book is an easy to understand introduction to the topic.  I would recommend it for grades 9-12 as well as adults.

Queen’s Own Fool is historical fiction about Mary, Queen of Scots.  It’s told from the perspective of her fool, a young girl who comes to live with Mary while she is the queen of France.  After her husband the king dies, Mary and her fool move to Scotland.  My son and I enjoyed this book – it was a good story and an interesting way to learn about that period of history.  I would recommend this book for 6th-12th grade.  I have to say, that after reading this book I would love to travel to Scotland!

I knew that I wanted to include Shakespeare in my son’s 11th grade curriculum this year. I did some research and found that Macbeth is one of the most fun choices for a teenage boy. And that was absolutely correct! There is war, blood, ghosts, witches…everything needed to spice things up for a typical boy. And my son did enjoy it. Earlier in the year when we were studying Roman times we read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. That one was also a winner – it also was filled with war, murder, fighting…all that good stuff.

What I’ve Been Cooking and Eating

I am so happy to report that I FINALLY have posted my recipe for you for Spaghetti Squash Pizza Bake!  It is sooooo yummy and so good for you, too!   It’s a low-carb comfort food that will become a new favorite for you and your family.  It tastes like delicious pizza, but it’s loaded with vegetables and protein.  It’s also very versatile and can be switched around to meet your family’s preferences.  Click here to check out the recipe!

Tonight I’m making my Cheeseburger Casserole.  It’s cozy and healthy comfort food.  It’s very high-protein, and I bet your kids will eat it!

Another low carb family-friendly favorite on my website is Jalapeno Popper Chicken Skillet.  Give that one a try, too!

My newest articles

Do you worry about your teen or tween’s mental health? One of my latest articles is about how to tell if your teen or tween has anxiety.

In it, I go over the causes and symptoms of anxiety.  I even made you a free printable so that you can track and evaluate your child’s symptoms.  Click on over to the article so that you can download the free checklist.

I also give some suggestions for actions you can take to help your struggling tween or teen. I hope you find it helpful!

Another new article I have is about academic planners for teens and how they can help your kids improve their study habits and get better grades.  I included a free weekly planner you can download – head over to my article so you can download it.  If you’re on my email list, you’ve already been sent the academic weekly planner and the anxiety checklist!

I’ve got new spring-themed daily planners too!  Click here to read all about them and see what they look like.  And as always, I’m giving some away for free!

Sign up for my newsletter so you don’t miss any future freebies:

Don’t forget to visit my Etsy shop!  Remember, my Nourishing Tweens friends on my email list always get 10% off, so don’t miss out!

Deals I’ve found

Do you have kids going to prom this spring? Charming Charlie’s has a well-priced collection of super cute prom accessories for girls. My favorite is the dangling butterfly earrings! Their jewelry is mostly under twenty dollars and they have purses on sale, too.

If you’ve got younger tweens, don’t miss Justice‘s big sale! The whole store is 30% off April 1-3!

Click here to read my last monthly update

Subscribe for updates! More cute free planners to come…my list is always first to hear about them. Don’t miss out!

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