Monday Night Football Geography and Cuisine

One of the benefits that comes with having taken the time to archive lessons in years past is that I don't have to start from scratch when I want to begin with a child's interest and take it somewhere constructive. Below is a post from 2007 together with an update. 




Next week begins Monday Night Football, noted on my calendar for the entire season as "MNF."  Why does a middle-aged mama note Monday Night Football on her calendar? I like to keep track of my husband. He won't be on the couch with a beer and a bowl of chips. He'll be at every Monday Night Football site all season long (with the exception of the double-booked nights--he can't bi-locate so when MNF is at two locations, he's only at one of them;-). As much as we love sports around here and as grateful as we are for this job, this is a very long haul through the fall.

Last year, as my younger children began to figure out the rhythm to Mike's travels, we started moving a Post-it note arrow around on a big wall map so that they could see where he was. But a flat map on the wall doesn't really do much for a child's imagination. They couldn't really picture him where he was working.  Kim introduced me to the idea of geography textboxes  and I found these wonderful picture books, and an idea was born.

Every week, on Monday, we spend the afternoon reading and writing about the state where Monday Night Football is being played. The books are packed with information and illustrations and pictures. There is a short rhyming verse on each page, perfect for the little ones. The older children spend more time with the book, reading the more involved columns on the page for detail.

The year the baby arrived four weeks into football season. I relied heavily on the idea in these free unit studies which are keyed to the books. This year, I think we are going to focus only on the information in the book during our study time. Each child is creating his or her own book. The books vary according to age and interest and I'm giving the children free reign to pull out of the alphabet books what matters most to them and then to express that in their notebooks.

On Monday evenings, we watch ESPN beginning well before the game. In all honesty, this has nothing to do with geography and everything to do with our Daddy's shows. But, the bonus to our devotion is that we see great scenic shots of the places we've just read in the books. All the way up through the pre-game show and the introduction, there are sights and sounds of the state we've studied.

Finally, as he dashes through the airport on his way home, Mike collects a few postcards from each state to add to the book. All the books we will use for Monday Night Football geography (and plenty more) are linked on the sidebar. Maybe you'd like to travel with us this fall!

LOTS more resources here.



Mike is no longer traveling with Monday Night Football. The child whose narration is pictured above is now a a couple months away from graduating college. What follows is from two years ago. I thought the tradition would do a slow fade this year. It hasn't. Nick isn't letting this one go--maybe ever. So, tonight, we are having bratwursts with cheese. Stephen really lobbied for Kansas BBQ, but Nick, faithful keeper of the tradition, won out.

Thoughts from 2013:

 I am ever so grateful that I recorded this study when I did, because I was reminded this morning.

Longtime readers will recognize Paddy as the boy who always had a ball at his feet. In the absence of a ball, he had wadded up newspaper, socks, pillows, whatever he could get those feet on. Paddy is playing soccer at UVa now, but the incessant sound of dribbling is still making me nuts on Monday mornings.

"Nicholas, quit kicking."

"Nicholas, keep your feet still."

Nicholas, please try to finish up that lesson."

"Good golly, child, will you PLEASE stop with the dang ball!"

All before 10:00. 

Mary Beth looked at me and said "Does this feel like Paddy all over again?" 


The big difference is that Paddy was never a huge football fan. He was a huge Daddy fan, but football wasn't a passion. The Monday Night Football hook for him was tracking Dad. Nicholas, on the other hand, is obsessed with all things ESPN, especially football.

"Hey Nick, who plays tonight?"

"Cincinnati and Pittsburgh."

"How about if we study them today? You read these two books and then make two main lesson pages (see Paddy's examples) and we can make football food from Cincinnati and Pittsburgh."

"Wait, you mean we can have Philly Cheesesteaks?!?!"

"NOoooo, research Pittsburgh and Cincinnati food and get back to me."

And so, tonight, we will have cabbage rolls and pierogies for dinner.

Then we'll have Buckeyes for dessert. 

He's already planning menus for the rest of the season.

And later today, he's going to treat himself to T is for Touchdown.

Katie and Karoline are joining in because that's how we roll...
















Brought to You by the Letter B

[Note: Serendipity has been updated but the "B" link is the old link, so as not to render all other links useless. new content, old link. I'm working on fixing the "A" link; so sorry for the inconvenience


For the "B" Alphabet Path story, see the updated post on Serendipity. Below are more ideas for B, enough to keep our family busy for at least two weeks. All these ideas are also on the "B" post at Serendipity.

Lesson Plans:

Presentation:   You can use the drawing of St. Bernadette in An Alphabet of Catholic Saints  as a visual when telling this story.  You may want to copy it to card stock and add it to your child's main lesson or sketch book.   


Use the Letter B of  St. Bernadette as an introduction to letter formation.  Have the child trace the B with his or her finger.  Practice the Letter B by copying the model drawing.  Older children can draw the picture of Bernadette as well. Use the short poem in An Alphabet of Catholic Saints as copywork and place it with the picture in your child's saints notebook.

Use the Song as copywork for the week. And learn the song from the CD.


Read the story "A Brave Sentinel" to your child and use it for reading practice.  (Download a_brave_sentinel.pdf ) of the story and add it to your personal Alphabet Path Storybook

Nature Study:

(Don't try to do it all--these are options for science and nature study)

  • After the story has been told, you can research the botanical information and plant idenification and record them in a sketchbook or main lesson book.  Or perhaps you would prefer flower storybook paper for letter writing practice and copywork.  (An older child can do this independently, but a younger child can give an oral narration which you write or keyboard for him or her.)
  • With your older child, you might choose to work through Apologia's Discovering Creation with Botany. Read a section and then ask your child to narrate the information in his main lesson book.  Always encourage your child to illustrate his narrations.  Work on the experiments that you feel would be most beneficial for your child.  Take a picture of the finished project and add it to his main lesson book. The pace at which you move through this book is not as important as the child having an opportunity to really understand the material.  Go at your child's pace. I highly recommend the notebooks to go with the botany book, for both older and younger children.
  • We've had great success encouraging older children to take their flower narrations well beyond what is provided at the Flower Fairy site. These children are able to truly appreciate the vast varieties of flowers and to see God's creativity when they consider the lilies of the field.
  • For some children, a living books/picture book approach seems to resonate and be more meaningful than any other approach. Consider choosing meaty picture books to teach the same concepts. If you choose to pursue this course of study, here is a science-themed picture book study for this letter:


Storybook Science: B is for Birds


Using the illustration in The Flower Fairy Alphabet Book, ask the child to sketch the The Bugle Fairy in the main lesson book.  A younger child can color the The Bugle Fairy in the Flower Fairy Alphabet Coloring Book . Perhaps on another day the child could model the fairy or flower with modeling beeswax.  (Sources of excellent quality modeling beeswax can be found on the right sidebar.)


For this week's picture study, Museum ABC focuses on BOAT on the B page. 
It's interesting to look carefully at just one segment of the painting in the book. The children can discuss what they think the rest of the painting might look like before you show them the print. The full image of Thomas Eakins' The Champion Single Sculls is here .

Really look at the picture.  Soak in the details.  Ask your child to narrate with a prompt such as, "Pretend that I am going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the first time and want to find this painting.  What details could you give me so that I could more easily find it?"  Keyboard the narration and ask your child to sketch the work of art.  A younger child can copy the painting while an older child can narrate from memory and discover how much detail he remembers by attempting to sketch it from memory. Over the course of this unit, consider collecting the narrations and sketches in a single album and create your own family art history book. 

(The goal of Picture Study is to train the eye toward the beautiful. Biographical information about the artist is secondary. Set the work of art as your family computer's wallpaper or screen saver or print the painting on card stock and display it on the refrigerator.  After spending time with a picture and really taking the time to look at it, your child will make a connection.  There is no need to explain a great deal, especially to a young child.  Allow the child to make his own connection with the art. )

St brendan


An Alphabet of Catholic Saints: St. Bernadette. Learn the rhyme this week. 

An Alphabet of Mary: This lovely book is a new addition this year. We're so excited to create a Mary notebook, with the children making a page for every letter, learning titles of Our Lady and how to love her more as we go. 

Read about St. Brendan in Letters from Heaven Letters from Heaven offers a scripture verse at the bottom of the page.  Look it up with the children and commit it to memory. (Letters from Heaven introduces saints from the Eastern Orthodox tradition. St. Brendan is a saint in common.)You can download the watercolor of St. Brendan the Navigator here (Download b_is_for_brendan.pdf ) and use it as a visual when telling this story.  You may want to print it on cardstock and add it to the child's main lesson or sketch book. Read the story of St. Brendan in Letters from Heaven.  Older children can research St. Brendan and narrate his life by making a page on the saint in their main lesson book. Jean Fritz has authored a children's book on this saint as well. 

Each week we will be making a Wee Felt Saint or two.  Or perhaps you'd prefer to paint saints as Jessica did.

E is for Eucharist: This book is very meaty. Each page is detailed and worth considerable discussion time. B is for baptism. 

There is much opportunity for narration and notebooking for all ages in reading lists of the Faith section. Read the selections aloud to all ages of children. Assign chapter book biographies to older children. Draw pictures and record narrations of the lives of each saint. Then, when the feast of that saint is celebrated in the life of the Church, revisit an old friend and have a a little party at tea time. These are stories to read and read again.

Read Faith Stories

Brigid's Cloak

St. Brendan and the Voyage Before Columbus

Bernadette: Our Lady's Little Servant

Saint Bosco and Dominic Savio

I highly recommend this DVD: St. John Bosco: Mission to love.

Read about these saints in the Loyola Kids Book of Saints:
St. Boniface
St. Bernadette
St. Bernard
St. John Bosco (I know his first name is a "J"--Get to know him now or study him later--but be sure to get to know him him:-)

Read about these heroes in the Loyola Kids Book of Heroes:
Sr. Blandina
St Barnabas



Ideas for "B Week:"

Meet the Author: B is for Jan Brett

Suggested Books for Read-Alouds and Narrations (These are to be narrated both verbally and artistically.  For the younger children it is often fun to keyboard an oral narration for them and then ask the child to illustrate the printed page.)

Childhood Favorites

The Tale of Benjamin Bunny
Peter in Blueberry Land
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
Bedtime for Frances
The Runaway Bunny
Billy and Blaze
Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?
Bear Snores On
Blueberries for Sal
B is for Bookworm
The Legend of the Teddy Bear
The Legend of the Sleeping Bear

Fairy Tales, Tall Tales and Hero Tales:

In The Children’s Book of America, read:
Paul Bunyan

The Children's Book of Virtues, read: Boy Wanted and Little Boy Blue

Poetry Memorization: Read "How Doth the Little Busy Bee" by Isaac Watts in Favorite Poems Old and New. Recite daily and make notebook page.

Writing Instruction:

Young children are encouraged always to narrate aloud the stories which have been read to them. Occasionally, keyboard those narrations as the child tells it and allow him or her to illustrate the printed narration.

For more structured writing lessons for children who are in the 3rd-5th grades,  IEW Fables, Myths, and Fairytales Writing Lessons dovetail nicely with the Alphabet Path theme.

 Serendipi-Tea Time Recipes
Blueberry-Blackberry pie with Bumblebees (recipe forthcoming) and  Blueberry Smoothies

Fun for the Little Ones

Jessica in 2009

Kim's Friday Funschool B

Dawn's Kinderweek: Bugs and the Letter "B"

~A~ is for Apple (picking and pies)

First, there is apple picking.
















And then,


~Apple Crisp~





Grain-free, recipe:

In a greased 8X8 pan, toss:

  • 6 - 8 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1/2 c sugar (substitute  2 TBS maple syrup if you want sugar-free)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 T arrowroot powder
  • 2 T almond flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp grated lemon rind

Toss all ingredients together well and put in greased 8" X 8" pan. 

Mix together in a medium bowl:
  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil or unsalted butter
  • 1/3  cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Crumble over the top of the apple mixture. Bake at 350* for about 45 minutes.


~Apple Pie~





  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 pounds firm, tart apples  peeled, cored, and sliced 
  • 1/2 cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in an iron skillet saute pan over medium heat. Add the apple wedges and saute until slightly softened, but holding their shape, just 3 to 4 minutes. Don't overcook. They're going to be baked. Add the 1/2 cup of sugar and stir to combine. Add the sugar and spices and stir.

In a bowl, combine the lemon juice and cornstarch. Stir  into the apple mixture and remove the pan from the heat. Let cool completely.

Use refrigerated pie crusts. They usually come two per pack. For the bottom crust, follow the package directions to put it in the pie pan. Fill with the cooled filling. Dot the top with the other 3 tablespoons of butter, cut into little pieces.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll out the other refrigerated crust and help your little learners cut the letter "A" with cookie cutters. Arrange on top and lightly brush with egg wash and sprinkle with about a teaspoon of sugar.  

Put the pie on a cookie sheet to catch any dripping and bubbling. Place on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 20 minutes.  Rotate the pie 180 degrees to move the front edge of the pie to the back of the oven. Bake until the top is golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes more. Watch carefuly throughout to ensure that the crust doesn't burn. Cover loosely with foil if it seems to be browning too quickly.

Remove the pie from the oven and let cool for 20 minutes before slicing and serving. If you slice and serve to soon, it will be runny.


~Happy Appling!~


Balancing Academics with the Rest of Life


This is a question from 2007. It came from Kendra the Amazing of Preschoolers and Peace. She wanted me to do an online interview. I agreed and never got back to her. I'm really bad like that. I do apologize, Kendra, but I'd like to answer this particular question now, if I may.

How do you think moms can better maintain a balance between academic excellence and the nurturing of relationships with their children?  Are they mutually exclusive?

This has been very much on my mind in the past few weeks. When Patrick left suddenly for Florida, we had four days to prepare. Usually, I use high school to get my kids ready for school away from home in college. Academically, we do things like learning to write research papers, taking notes from a lecture, managing time, integrating book work with lecture work. They take classes at the community college and I'm right there at their elbows to ease them into it and teach as we go. And, usually, they have completed what I consider to be an academically rich curriculum before they leave. Also, I have learned that 13 to 14-year-old boys are very very hard to motivate. That school year is not so productive. After Michael, I learned not to freak out about it. They catch up when they figure out that they need it. No big deal.

Except when they figure out they need it four days before shipping off to what's supposed to be the "best school in Florida."

I can't tell you the sleep I missed worrying that our program was not going to fly under these conditions.

Our academic program has always been literature intensive. It's also delight-driven within limits. That is, my kids get choices about what to study within a certain parameter. Every once in awhile, I look at something known for its rigor (like The Well Trained Mind in its entirety or Tapestry of Grace or Robinson) and I think about how much I want that kind of excellence. I love school. I'm a total library person. I would have taken any one of those curricula as a child and absolutely loved it. But it doesn't suit my household.

Remember the priority thing? I'm one parent. There is another. He is brilliant. But he's not the bookish sort. He brings the rest of the world into our home. He orchestrates opportunities to pursue athletic excellence. He drives the late shift home from dance. He works late at night and so he likes to hang out and have a big pajama party on our bed in the morning, keeping everyone from the designated chores and school for the hour. He doesn't hesitate to whisk someone away on an airplane for some adventure, regardless of the lessons planned. And sometimes I {silently} question his wisdom.

I definitely worried about it when Patrick left. Hold that thought.

The other area of balance in our house is that of home management and child care. While, I definitely don't delegate it all out while I sit idly by, I definitely do enlist their help while I work alongside them. I don't think it can all get done any other way. While Patrick may have slacked about school when he was 14, he wasn't given the opportunity to give up kitchen duties and he wasn't allowed to be anything but kind to his younger siblings. His cooperation was to cruical to the family mission. He cooked. He cleaned. He gardened. He loved on babies and he might have even braided blond curls on occasion. Hold that thought.

I ordered Tapestry of Grace just before I left for Florida. Someone had been throwing up all week. Laundry and disinfecting were in high gear but academics were taking a backseat. In hindsight, I think the anxiety of going to Paddy's "perfect school" and meeting all his teachers and hearing how hard he was having to work to keep up made me grasp for the most intense, well laid out, well credentialed curriculum I could find. I wasn't going to get into the position ever again. When I got home, I was going to make sure we were all about reaching the maximum intellectual heights.

I found Patrick happy and well. Every coach, dorm supervisor, and trainer we talked to commented on how extraordinarily well he could handle the stuff of life. They told us how he is a leader among peers, a natural big brother type. When given three hour's notice before flying internationally, he can get his ducks in a row. His shirts are clean and his belts match his shoes. He knows where his equipment is and he knows how to get it all from Point A to Point B. He manages his money just fine; he gives himself and everyone else haircuts; he organized the bus to Church (and routinely brings a bunch of non-Catholics with him). He's homesick and it's obvious, but he has set about making the most of the real life opportunities in front of him.

Then we went to the school. Every single teacher sought us out to comment on how beautifully he's doing. I looked at the curriculum and saw holes all over the place (much to my chagrin). It's a beautiful building and they are good, well meaning people doing the best they can with a really odd situation. If he were home, frankly, it would be a better designed, better tailored program. But he's not home.

And he left home well prepared in the important places.

He knows where home is and he knows he's supported.

So, all the rowdy mornings, all those "daddy trips," all the baby love, the cooking and laundry--all of it has mattered just as much as academics. We had those things covered so well that it didn't matter that he had four days to prepare to leave.

And the academics? Apparently they were good enough to succeed. His geometry teacher wishes he were better at timed tests. I guess they can work on that.

I came home to that rigorous curriculum. I tried my level best to make it work. It doesn't in my house. The housekeeping suffered as I spent hours with my head in the Teacher's Manual and my kids spent too much time at the table. I used way too much ink printing worksheets. I was a crazed taskmaster, trying desperately to keep even one child from falling behind, since we're all supposed to be in the same place. It wasn't pretty. My first hint that it wasn't going to work was when I couldn't fit it into the CM Organizer. The one created by Simply Charlotte Mason? This new plan was anything but simple. Sure, it came with instructions to winnow to fit, but by the time I read it all to know where I wanted to winnow and then winnowed some more to make it appropriate for Catholic children, then added the stories of the heroes of the Church, it was all too complicated for me.

Serendipity works in my house. It's books that inspire us; it's relationships between the people reading the books and the people in the books. There is an emphasis on writing--my children seem to write before they walk. Baskets of books, art supplies in abundance, time to think and to write.  It's who we are. Yes, if there is a lack of balance, it's because we lean towards relationships. The academics happen and they flourish in an atsmosphere of relationships. Maybe that atmosphere makes up for what might be lacking in intellectual rigor. I'm good with that. I really am.