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.



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.



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.




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.




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



strawberry negroni popsicles

Stuff We Like :: 6.3.16

home|school|life's Friday roundup of the best homeschool links, reads, tools, and other fun stuff has lots of ideas and resources.

Suzanne's back with lots of geeky goodness in this week's edition of Stuff We Like. 

Around the Web

JANE MY LITTLE SUNBEAM WHERE ARE YOU I NEED YOU BY MY SIDE: I know Amy already talked about how we’re going into mourning as The Toast closes its doors (fortunately, the archives will remain, so that we can catch up on Ayn Rand’s Harry Potter among other things), but I thought I’d take this opportunity to make sure that we’ve all got our copies of Texts From Jane Eyre by Toast co-founder Mallory Ortberg—we do, right? Yes? Excellent.

And while it doesn’t make up for the loss of The Toast, Mallory’s fellow co-founder, Nicole Cliffe, can now be found at The Guardian, writing about the Romanovs and Erma Bombeck (not together, but that would be an awesome fanfic).

In happier news, FILM CRIT HULK, my very favorite all-caps superhero/film critic has made a triumphant return to essay writing after a too-long absence (though I respectfully disagree with his take on Captain America: Civil War).

READER, I &*^%$ING MARRIED HIM: When Storytime Blows Kids’ Minds: The Power of the Plot Twist


at home | school | life

on the website: Amy and I recorded the first episode of The Podcast with Suzanne and Amy this week. Look for it next week!

on the blog: Apparently Amy’s obsessing over planning high school pretty much everywhere. (It’s going to be fine!)

on instagram: A little first-day-of-homeschooling nostalgia

in the classroom: There’s still time to sign up for my Hamilton class (and other great summer classes, too)!


Reading List

Obnoxious and Disliked: Although I adore Hamilton and have new love and appreciation for the man himself, my very favorite founding father is still John Adams, so I’m thoroughly enjoying David McCullough’s John Adams (yeah, I’m just now getting around to reading it — I’ve been busy!)

Just got The Mind Readers, the last Campion mystery written by his creator, Margery Allingham (though the series continues with books written by her husband); Allingham created Campion as a spoof of his contemporary, Lord Peter Wimsey, and he indeed comes off as Wimsey crossed with Bertie Wooster at the beginning, though by now I’ve followed him through several decades and he’s his own man, surrounded by an entertaining group of family members, old friends, and various detective inspectors, some of whom at least I’m hoping will show up in this final book

My current fantasy pick is A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab, sequel to the original and entertaining A Darker Shade of Magic, about a magician who can travel across worlds from Red London (his home) to Grey London (our London, during the Regency period) and White London (where evil magic runs rampant)

I’m reading Jane Eyre with the 13-year-old, which gives me another excuse to link to The Toast, with The Best Part of Jane Eyre Is Guessing What the French Is (for the record, as an non-speaker of that language, my read-aloud approach has been “...and then Adele speaks in French for a bit.”)


At Home

Lots of video games in my house for summer break: Right now the 18-year-old and the 11-year-old (not to mention the 47-year-old) are obsessively playing Uncharted 4, which is convenient for me, the non-gamer, as Uncharted is my favorite video game to watch and I can’t wait to see what happens to explorer/thief/treasure-hunter Nathan Drake (who should totally be played by Nathan Fillion in the live action adaptation) in this, the final chapter of the series

Haven’t had a chance to play it yet, but the family is also looking forward to some tabletop gaming with Ghostbusters: The Board Game, a cooperative game (my favorite kind!) with some of the cutest pieces I’ve ever seen, including a very large (comparatively) Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man

And I know it’s a week away, but don’t forget to set your DVRs for the 2016 Tony Awards on June 12th, where we’re sure to get at least one freestyle-rap acceptance speech from Hamilton-creator Lin-Manuel Miranda!