monday pep talk

Monday Pep Talk No. 41

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

Need a little Monday morning pick-me-up to get the week going?

3 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK

Sunday marks the 53rd anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and there’s no better way to appreciate one of the world’s best known speeches than by listening to the original recording.

Mark Pluto Demotion Day (August 24, 2006 was the date Pluto officially got knocked down from “planet” to “dwarf planet”) by watching NOVA’s “Chasing Pluto,” which includes information from the New Horizons flyover.

As pool season winds down, transform those pool noodles into backyard games fun.

 

3 IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK’S DINNERS

It’s still gazpacho season!

Mix up your August grilling routine with coffee-crusted grilled pork chops.

Possibly your new favorite sandwich: Grilled cheese with zucchini, bacon, basil, and Gruyere

 

ONE GREAT READALOUD

I discovered The Midnight Folk in childhood because it’s one of the books mentioned in Edward Eager’s Magic or Not? (I love Eager’s habit of paying in-the-text tribute to the authors he loves), and I’m so glad I did! This is a playful, charming fantasy story that deserves a spot on your shelf next to the Chronicles of Narnia or Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.
— Andy Rooney

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

best-ever pina colada


Monday Pep Talk No. 38

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week. photo by death to stock photos

Just FYI: We’re going to be moving the Monday Pep Talk over to a newsletter soon, so if you’re a Monday Pep Talk fan, keep an eye out for details. 

 

3 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK

The summer Olympics start on Friday! Here are some fun ideas for Olympics projects you can work on together while watching the events.

Use your science skills to make your own ice cream for Ice Cream Sandwich Day (Tuesday).

Make a a batch of fizzing sidewalk chalk and decorate your driveway.

 

3 IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK’S DINNERS

Ready in the time it takes to cook spaghetti: spaghetti with tomatoes, bacon, and eggs

This vegetarian take on the classic gyro is a great base for whatever summer veggies you have lying around.

Miso corn soup may just be my new favorite summer soup.

 

ONE GREAT READALOUD

The Secret Garden
By Frances Hodgson Burnett
 

Celebrate Yorkshire Day (Monday) by reading the book that puts your Yorkshire accent skills to the test: Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic The Secret Garden.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
— Wendell Berry

 

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

blackberry-green tea cocktail


July Pep Talk

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

We’re taking a break from our weekly pep talks this summer, so for June and July, we’re hooking you up with an over-stuffed monthly pep talk instead. We’ll be back in August with our regular weekly pep talks.

 

10 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS MONTH

July 4 is Independence Day, sure, but it’s also Sidewalk Egg Frying Day.

Celebrate Yellow Pig Day on July 17. I don’t totally understand this mathematician’s holiday (devised by two students studying the number 17), but any day that celebrates math, has its own songbook of Yellow Pig carols, and ends with a Yellow Pig cake is okay in my book.

What better way to celebrate Ice Cream Month than by making your own ice cream? Bonus: It’s a legitimate science experiment.

Video Games Day is July 8, and Suzanne’s got us all excited about checking out the Uncharted series, starring rakish adventurer Nathan Drake. (Add him to the list of people Nathan Fillion should be playing in a film adaptation.)

The easiest summer art project: Make sun prints.

Make a set of rock dominoes to play all summer. (River rocks are ideal for this, so collecting them is a great excuse to take a little river field trip.)

July is Picnic Month! I love the idea of painting a chess/checkers board on your picnic blanket for picnic gaming.

Make your own wooden stilts to get into the spirit of Walk on Stilts Day (July 27).

Celebrate Uncommon Instrument Awareness Day by making your own vuvuzela (a South African horn) out of recycled materials.

Get crafty on Thread the Needle Day (July 25) by making some easy-to-sew and completely adorable bean bags.

 

10 IDEAS FOR THIS MONTH’S DINNERS

I love how versatile these (gluten-free!) farinata are. Think of them as chickpea pancakes, and top them generously with whatever looks good at the farmers market.

You don’t really need a recipe to make a rainbow cauliflower rice bowl, so experiment with whatever veg you have on hand.

Put a summertime twist on Taco Tuesday with chipotle quinoa sweet potato tacos.

Make a batch of freezer-ready mini pizzas on a quiet day, and you’ll have an emergency dinner/lunch/snack whenever you need it.

I want to make a batch of this pickle-brined fried chicken for our next family picnic.

Break out of your grilling rut with grilled sweet potatoes.

This Big Green Cobbler with leeks, gruyere, and split peas is like a vegetarian take on the best chicken pot pie you ever had.

Summer is all about salad for dinner—and this Thai grilled corn and peach quinoa salad looks like a great addition to your summer salad lineup.

Another dose of inspiration for your grilling menu: Soy-based chicken kebabs with sesame-citrus sprinkle.

Summer squash pizza with goat cheese and walnuts puts a seasonal spin on pizza night.

 

 

FOUR GREAT READALOUDS

Seven Daughters and Seven Sons is a retelling of an Iranian folk tale, in which the fourth of seven daughters sets off to make her family’s fortune, disguised as a boy. I’m a sucker for a girl-powered fairy tale, so it’s no surprise I love this one.

Speaking of spunky girls, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is as fun to read aloud as the Lemony Snicket books: plenty of nefarious villains, dramatic plot twists, and, yes, two plucky heroines who must save themselves from an evil governess’s plot.

 

If you’re looking for laughs, get yourself a copy of Daniel Pinkwater’s Yobgorgle, Mystery Monster of Lake Ontario. I like to think of Pinkwater as the elementary school set’s Douglas Adams, and this zany tale of a boy who takes up monster hunting is a delightful example of why.

New York City’s pushcarts declare war on the trucks in The Pushcart War, creating hilarious city-wide chaos.

 

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

Education is a choice. We don’t become educated by watching television, and we don’t learn a whole lot having similar conversations with the same, safe people day after day. Our education comes from pushing up against boundaries, from taking risks that may seem at first to be overwhelming, and by persevering past the first disappointments or shortfalls until we reach a point at which actual learning takes place. Determination and perseverance are absolutely vital to developing a true education—rarely, if ever, do we learn the most valuable lessons in the first few steps of the journey.
— Tom Walsh

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

strawberry negroni popsicles


Monday Pep Talk No. 37

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

3 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK

Get outside and make a mess with paint Alka Seltzer rockets. It’s the perfect art project to kick off summer.

Don’t forget your towel and your copy of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy—Wednesday is Towel Day.

Celebrate Learn about Composting Day (on Sunday) by starting your own compost heap. Start it now, and it should start giving back by fall.

 

3 IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK’S DINNERS

This grilled chicken with grapefruit glaze comes together in a snap and tastes terrific—the perfect combo for a weeknight cookout.

Update your regular pasta dinner with 20-minute chicken parmesan bolognese.

Why did I never think of this before? Spring roll salad takes all the yumminess inside a spring roll and turns it into an irresistible salad.

 

ONE GREAT READALOUD

Space pioneer Sally Ride was born on May 26, 1951. Celebrate her birth with a readaloud of Sally Ride: A Photobiography of America's Pioneering Woman in Space, a book that tries to capture some of Ride’s exuberance and brilliance written by her partner Tam O’Shaughnessy.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

I give you this to take with you:
Nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can
begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting.
— Judith Minty

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

no-bake nutella cheesecake


Monday Pep Talk No. 36

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

3 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK

Celebrate National Transportation Week by exploring some of the ways people got around before the Industrial Revolution.

Hit your library for Biographers Day (Monday). We published some of our favorite women’s history biographies in March and will pretty much never stop raving about Lerner’s STEM Trailblazer biographies, but you can find a biography on almost anyone.

May 18 is International Museum Day. Take a field trip to a museum in your neighborhood that you’ve never visited.

 

3 IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK’S DINNERS

Upgrade taco night with double pork carnitas.

Easy, endlessly adaptable simple California style omelets are a perfect vehicle for a great farmers market haul or for cleaning out the veggie bin.

Kick off official grilling season with honey grilled chicken with citrus salad.

 

ONE GREAT READALOUD

I Lived on Butterfly Hill
By Marjorie Agosin
 

I Lived on Butterfly Hill, a story about a girl who’s sent to live with her aunt in Maine when a coup destabilizes her family’s life in an imagined version of Chile, makes a great conversation starter for Latino Books Month. Older kids may enjoy comparing the events in the story to the history of Chile.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

Have faith that your child’s brain is an evolving planet that rotates at its own speed. It will naturally be attracted to or repel certain subjects. Be patient. Just as there are ugly ducklings that turn into beautiful swans, there are rebellious kids and slow learners that turn into serious innovators and hardcore intellectuals.
— Suzy Kassem

 

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

peanut butter choco tacos


Monday Pep Talk No. 35

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

3 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK

Make a sock puppet to mark the solemn occasion that is Lost Sock Memorial Day (on Monday). I love this fun rock and roll puppet and these googly-eye puppets.

Mother Ocean Day (Tuesday) was created to encourage ocean appreciation—and there’s no way not to marvel at the wonders of the deep when you’re watching the gorgeously filmed documentary Oceans.

Celebrate Limerick Day (Thursday) by—what else?—writing limericks. This tutorial from Kenn Nesbitt’s Poetry4Kids website has all the info your family needs to create limerick masterworks.

 

3 IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK’S DINNERS

I’m not saying that I guarantee this crunchy tofu chopped salad will convert the tofu-reluctant, but if it won’t, you may have to accept the possibility that nothing will.

When you have leftover salmon and leftover rice, you want salmon fried rice. (Honestly, I would cook the salmon and rice just to make this.)

Portobello burgers, or the only veggie burger me entire family will actually eat. (We like them with sweet potato fries on the side.)

 

ONE GREAT READALOUD

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, which seems like the perfect excuse to read Lawrence Yep’s Dragon's Gate—a funny, tender book about a reluctant 14-year-old boy from China who finds himself in 1860s California. 

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

Education doesn’t make you happy. Nor does freedom. We don’t become happy just because we’re free – if we are. Or because we’ve been educated – if we have. But because education may be the means by which we realize we are happy. It opens our eyes, our ears, tells us where delights are lurking, convinces us that there is only one freedom of any importance whatsoever, that of the mind, and gives us the assurance – the confidence – to walk the path our mind, our educated mind, offers.
— Iris Murdoch

 

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

sarasota lemonade


Monday Pep Talk No. 34

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

3 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK

May the Fourth be with you! Shelli has a great roundup of fun ways to celebrate Star Wars Day on Wednesday with your family.

Saturday is Free Comic Book Day. Find a participating shop near you, and score a shiny new comic book for free.

Get hands-on with a simple art project, and paint your own version of budding spring trees with this cake tempera paint tutorial.

 

3 IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK’S DINNERS

I have been craving these smushed lamb meatball burgers since I discovered them.

Shakshuka is one of my favorite quick dinners, and this smoky white bean version looks terrific. Think of it as an outside-of-the-box take on breakfast for dinner.

Shrimp curry with chickpeas and cauliflower tastes like you spent all day cooking it but comes together fast enough for an it’s-so-nice-we-stayed-too-long-at-park-day dinner.

 

ONE GREAT READALOUD

Celebrate Leo Lionni’s birthday on on May 5 by reading Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse, a whimsical story about a real mouse who years for the affection given to a mechanical mouse toy.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.
— A.A. Milne

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

salted chocolate matzo toffee


Monday Pep Talk No. 32

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

3 fun things to do this week

Make your mark on Chinese Language Day (Wednesday) by learning how to write a few simple Chinese characters. I’m not always a fan of worksheets, but these step-by-step practice sheets are a good starting point.

Looking for an Earth Day science experiment? (Earth Day is Friday!) This vanishing styrofoam experiment from Steve Spangler Science is a great, hands-on look at why conservation and recycling are so important.

William Shakespeare’s birthday is this Saturday. Celebrate the birth of the Bard with an epic Shakespeare movie marathon. (We list our favorite adaptations in the spring issue.)

 

3 ideas for this week’s dinners

Sandwiches totally count as dinner when they are open-face steak sandwiches with parmesan dressing.

This golden leek and potato soup is warming enough for still-chilly nights, light enough for sun-warmed days.

A fresh take on a dinnertime classic: stuffed shells. (My children would probably eat these for dinner every other night.)

 

one great readaloud

Wonders and Miracles: A Passover Companion is a little like the Seder experience in a book: Lots of really interesting stuff (stories, poems, history) punctuated by occasional boring-ish bits. If you are interested in the history and context of Passover, this book makes a great readaloud.

 

one thought to ponder

Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.
— Erica Jong

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

A charoset-inspired cocktail


Monday Pep Talk No. 31

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

3 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK

Go fly a kite! This Rough Science guide walks you through the science of kite flying and then through the steps to build your own kite.

Wednesday is Scrabble Day. Isn’t that the perfect excuse for an all-day marathon Scrabble tournament?

Beverly Cleary turns 100 on April 12. Take a trip to Klickitat Street and read Ramona the Pest (or pretty much anything she ever wrote) to celebrate.

 

3 IDEAS FOR THIS WEEK’S DINNERS

I love the jumbled-up, multilayered flavors of this Thai steak and noodle salad.

Salads just feel like the perfect springtime dinner. Case in point: springtime Cobb salad. (Yum!)

I am always on the hunt for new taco recipes, and this roasted cauliflower version with chipotle cream is definitely going to making an appearance in our test kitchen.

 

ONE GREAT READALOUD

Pax
By Sara Pennypacker
 

Pax lacks the laugh-out-loud exuberance of Sara Pennypacker’s Clementine books, but this novel—part boy-and-fox friendship tale, part survival story, part animal adventure narrative—is incredibly rich and rewarding. You’ll be talking about in the car for weeks.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.
— Confucius

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

homemade chocolate pop tarts


Monday Pep Talk No. 30

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

Thanks for bearing with us as we made some website tweaks over the last couple of weeks. We now return you to your regularly scheduled Monday kickstart.

3 fun things to do this week

Watch Leave It to Beavers (it’s free if you have Amazon Prime), a fascinating PBS documentary about everybody’s favorite dam builders, to mark Beaver Day on Thursday.

Celebrate Draw a Picture of a Bird Day (on Friday) by—wait for it—drawing a picture of a bird. The John Muir Laws website has some great tips for budding bird artists.

Get ready for warmer-nights stargazing by making constellation jars.
 

3 ideas for this week’s dinners

Whatever looks good at the farmers market will probably taste good in this spring panzanella—just don’t forget the asparagus!

Cheap, fast, and yummy: chickpea salad onigirazu

If you, too, overload your basket with asparagus this time of year (because: asparagus!), you need this asparagus stir-fry with sesame-miso sauce in your repertoire.
 

one great readaloud

Anatole
By Eve Titus
 

How many readalouds are also a perfect excuse to break out a cheese plate? Anatole by Eve Titus is the story of a mouse with a refined palate that he puts to work helping local cheesemakers improve their product, and it’s one of my favorite readalouds.
 

one thought to ponder

“Live not for Battles Won.
Live not for The-End-of-the-Song.
Live in the along.
— Gwendolyn Brooks

 

in case of emergency (because sometimes you need something stronger than inspiration)

jelly bean mimosas


Monday Pep Talk No. 29

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

3 fun things to do this week

Test your pi intelligence with the Pi Day challenge, a series of puzzles created by a group of logicians for March 14.

A fitting way to mark Moth-er Day (on Monday): Get to know some folks who’ve made learning more about moths their passion in this BBC Radio Four program. (Pick up a Pocket Naturalist Guide series edition for your area to start identifying local moths.)

Go inside a submarine with NOVA’s Submarines, Secrets and Spies to celebrate Submarine Day (on Thursday).

 

3 ideas for this week’s dinners

Satisfying that late-winter craving for crunchy, crispy food: roasted carrot summer rolls with cabbage

Ready to go beyond corned beef and cabbage for your St. Patrick’s Day dinner? This lamb and sweet potato shepherd’s pie is Irish-inspired goodness.

Break out of the chicken rut with orange and balsamic chicken.

 

one great readaloud

The Ides of March: A Novel
By Thornton Wilder
 

Beware The Ides of March—Thornton Wilder’s novel-in-letters about the life of Julius Caesar and his friends—and enemies—in Rome.

 

one thought to ponder

“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.” 
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 

in case of emergency {because sometimes you need something stronger than inspiration}

buena vista fizz


Monday Pep Talk No. 28

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

3 fun things to do this week

 

3 ideas for this week’s dinners

 

one great readaloud

  • I had not heard of The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay until I read an interview with Philip Pullman, who described it as his favorite children’s book. You might feel the same way when you finish—it’s delightful.

 

one thought to ponder

  • “Don't be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.”  ― Rumi

 

in case of emergency {because sometimes you need something stronger than inspiration}

Monday Pep Talk No. 27

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

Happy Monday! We’ve got a few fun ideas to add to your to-do list for the week.

3 fun things to do this week

Monday is Leap Day! Learn more about the science and history behind our extra calendar day this year

Mark National Anthem Day (on Thursday) by traveling back in time to 1814 with the Smithsonian Channel’s documentary “A Star-Spangled Story: Battle for America.” Plus: 9 things you may not know about “The Star-Spangled Banner” via the History Channel

What better way to celebrate World Book Day (on Thursday) than by exploring the history of books? The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin has a terrific online exhibition of books through time, starting with clay tablets and continuing all the way through to modern-day editions.

 

3 ideas for this week’s dinners

Dress up your standard grilled-cheese-and-tomato-soup dinner with this labneh grilled cheese sandwich. (Have you made your own labneh? It’s really easy and also tastes delicious on your morning toast with honey and hazelnuts—just saying!)

Nigella’s French lasagne is really a savory bread pudding made with leftover croissants, and it’s the perfect dinner for a chilly winter evening. I’d serve it with an easy kale salad.

If you are looking for a side idea for your regular grilled or rotisserie chicken, these barbecue carrots with yogurt and pecans will steal the show.

 

one great readaloud

Wrap up Black History Month by reading The Book Itch, a lovely history of Lewis Michaux’s National Memorial African Bookstore, which opened in the 1930s and became a rallying point for the civil rights movement.

 

one thought to ponder

“Men become builders by building houses, harpers by playing the harp. Similarly, we become just by doing just acts, brave by doing brave acts.”
—Aristotle

 

in case of emergency {because sometimes you need something stronger than inspiration}

vodka, blood orange, and fennel cocktail


Monday Pep Talk No. 26

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

3 fun things to do this week

There is absolutely no better way to celebrate Curling Is Cool Day (on Tuesday) than by listening to the great David Attenborough narrate a curling match, documentary-style. (Seriously, though, why do we not have David Attenborough narrating all sporting events?)

There are lots of activities and reading ideas to choose from in Scholastic’s Myths, Folktales, and Fairy Tales workshop, which means there are lots of fun options for celebrating Tell a Fairy Tale Day on Friday.

Put your kitchen science skills to work making a batch of homemade yogurt together.

 

3 ideas for this week’s dinners

Put a twist on the breakfast-for-dinner standby by serving huevos rancheros. 

Nothing’s better than slow-cooker versions of family favorites, like this butter chicken. Serve with a big bowl of basmati rice.

Comfort food at its best: sweet potatoes with porcini gravy. (Bonus: Monday is Cook a Sweet Potato Day, so you’ve got that covered.)

 

one great readaloud

Sometimes in the middle of winter, you just want a readaloud that will make everyone laugh out loud. Put The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher on your library list, and you won’t be disappointed.

 

one thought to ponder

“The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.”
—Jessica Hische

 

in case of emergency {because sometimes you need something stronger than inspiration}

spiked coffee milkshakes