Board Games We Love | Family Gift Guide

Time for some online Christmas shopping, don’t you think?

We are board game geeks around here. We have a closet-full, quite literally, and you won’t find Monopoly or Sorry or Uno in there.

I’ve grouped these games by the youngest ages that can play them capably, but all of these are engaging and enjoyable for adults as well – no Candyland boredom here!

Board Games for Kids Ages 12+

Bohnanza is a card game built on collecting different sets of bean types. Younger ages can play it, but the strategy is a little too subtle for those under 12. This is a great game for a big group and is easy to learn.

Small World is a board game with mix-and-match creatures that become quite entertaining. It involves light-hearted conflict and lends itself to laughable situations.

Agricola is a Euro-game classic. Build the prettiest farm and feed (and grow!) the fam to win!

Board Games for Kids Ages 10+

Viktory II is a hex-based game with a new board to discover and create every time. The detailed plastic pieces and WWII theme is a boy-pleaser for sure, but even my 8-year-old daughter enjoys playing.

Drakon is a build-the-board-as-you-go dungeon crawl game that is fun and full of mess-up-your-friends’-plans conflict. He with the most gold – kept safe from the dragon – wins.

Nexus Ops is a board game with neon plastic alien creatures who have to collect resources and battle the other teams to win.

Board Games for Kids Ages 8+

The next level up from matching games, Carcassonne is a tile-laying game. Build towns, roads, and farms by matching tiles and claiming them with your “meeples” to win.

Ticket to Ride is a fun railroad board game where you lay down track to connect your secretly held destinations. Collect cards, pay them to lay the track, and try not to get cut off along the way!

Settlers of Catan is a solid pick for entry-level board gamers. Settle a new board every game and trade resources with your neighbors.

Stratego is an old two-player board game similar to Capture the Flag, but with secret army guys.

Board Games for Kids Ages 5+

Spot It is a fun card-based matching game that comes with multiple ways to play it. This game is always a go-to for us as a birthday party gift, also.

Viva Topo is a board game all about getting the most cheese without getting caught by the cat. Simple, cute, and fun.

Chateau Roquefort is a memory-testing board game – he who collects the most cheese, wins.

Previous gift guides

How to Manage the Muddle of Daily Life

Homeschool life is a muddle, there’s no denying it.

Homeschool life is a muddle, there's no denying it. We’re always wondering if what we’re doing is right or the best way or if there’s some magic sauce we’re missing that will smooth the path for our daily business and daily interactions.

I think we are all familiar with the feeling of being overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done and frustrated by how quickly everything needs to be done yet again.

We’re always wondering if what we’re doing is right or the best way or if there’s some magic sauce we’re missing that will smooth the path for our daily business and daily interactions.

I’m sorry. I have searched and searched, but I have no magic sauce.

However, I do have some hard-won principles.

I’ve slipped and slid and still stumble. Every pregnancy and newborn phase, every sleep-deprived season has felt like a “Return to Start, Do Not Pass Go” phase.

I have learned how to get up and keep going. More importantly, I’ve learned how critical the determination to get back up is.

Homeschool life is a muddle, there's no denying it. We’re always wondering if what we’re doing is right or the best way or if there’s some magic sauce we’re missing that will smooth the path for our daily business and daily interactions.

In my twenties, I was all about efficiency. I wanted to get the things done fast – not well – just done and checked off. It wasn’t long before I figured out that the fastest way to get to done is never to put it on the to do list at all. I started questioning if I had to do any of it. What was it all worth, anyhow? Why?

I slipped into becoming a petulant two-year-old housekeeper. Thankfully, that was a hard fall that I got pulled up out of quickly and I began fighting for a reason to do any of it. I honestly didn’t care if the house was clean or not, so could I therefore forget about it, please? I cultivated my disinterest so I could get out of the work. Guess what? That didn’t end well.

Instead, I had to cultivate my interest.

I took the reigns and decided being a homemaker was my job and I would do my job well. I read Flylady and Sandra Felton’s How Not to Be a Messie and jumpstarted my change of attitude about housekeeping.

I needed an attitude change for progress to happen, but I also needed straight, raw practice. You can’t go from zero to sixty overnight in housekeeping skills. And every pregnancy and newborn seemed to roll me back down the hill I’d been trudging up.

I had another low point during sleep deprivation time with our fourth baby, and as I crawled out of that state, slowly but steadily, I wrote down an action plan that would get me from where I was to where I wanted to be. I planned 2-3 months to work through it, but it took me over a year. It was good. Things were starting to hum.

Then I was pregnant again.

I thought I’d keep up the systems just the same, because I was a whole new person now. Ha. Nope, back down the hill I slid, and while I was recovering from my c-section, I outlined a plan that I acknowledged would take a year. I worked through it and I realized I had honed in on what was essential to get from recovering-from-sleep-deprivation to humming-home-systems. Our house is never ALL CLEAN, but we’re never very far from company-ready and we never fall to pieces so much that it takes more than a morning or a day to get us back on track.

There is always more that could be done, always something that needs to be cleaned or washed, but nothing is embarrassing and our family life functions fairly smoothly most of the time. We weather the bumps and my wallowing moments come less frequently and last for shorter periods.

Becoming a competent homemaker has not been something that comes easily to me, but has rather been a hard-fought battle to achieve – a challenge I still have to take on every day.

How to Manage the Muddle

I recommend focusing on three stages to move from chaos to progress. Not three steps to an end point, but onto the road toward healthy, humming routines that work for your family.

  1. Clarify organization
  2. Clear the decks
  3. Cope with muddle

In this MP3, I fully develop each of these three steps and give you the motivational jumpstart you need to pull things together. Also included is a single-page worksheet so you can see the outline of your progress at a glance.

Managing the Muddle
MP3 download. 37 minutes. Straight talk from Mystie that will focus you on the right priorities, practices, and perspectives to manage the craziness that is homeschool family life. In addition to the MP3, you also receive a worksheet to walk through the process of gaining traction at home.

This MP3 is also included in the bonus material for Work the Plan and Simplified Organization: Learning to Love What Must Be Done.

Breaks, books, baking, books, boards for the bored, & books


~ 1 ~

I am so ready for our break week! This was the last week of a longer-than-usual term and I am feeling it.

I may be hosting Thanksgiving, so it’s not like it’s a week of doing nothing at all, but it is still going to be a relief to not have to direct five children into productive behaviors first thing every morning.

Shouldn’t this whole Start a School Day thing run on autopilot by now? Sheesh. We did for a few weeks, and then something shifted and the middle kids started getting ideas of their own instead of going with the flow. “Hey, hey, hey!” I’d find myself shouting, “After chores, math page, not pulling out toys!”

But, overall, it has been a productive term with progress made on all fronts, so I feel we’ve earned our rest. And I’m extra thankful for the extra-long rest, too – we’ll take all of December mostly off. We’ll do a simple Christmas-themed Morning Time and a little math and that’s it.

It’ll be lovely!

Weekly Wrap-Up

~ 2 ~

pretty * happy * funny * real

~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~

round button chicken

Here’s an idea for a stocking stuffer or Christmas gift if you need one: small, real rolling pins. They are inexpensive, perfect for little bakers, and they work on cookie dough, bread dough, or play dough equally well. Having as many pins as children would be a sanity-saver. I have 2, and I think I might add another to our collection just to cut down on turn-taking squabbles. :)

~ 3 ~

So, the last several years, November has been Listening Rewards month. Not so this year, apparently. I tried asking a customer service representative by chat on about the matter, but I am not sure he spoke English. The cut and paste answers didn’t quite match my question, and so I’m merely left to assume that they aren’t doing that this month. :( There are still lots of ways to get a good deal on Audible, though, including making your own listening rewards happen. If you have driving to do over Thanksgiving or Christmas, Audible is a great way to accumulate some listening material.

I’ve taken my Audible tips, currently spread throughout several posts, and created an email series so you get 1 tip a day for 7 days. Even without Listening Rewards, you can still get some great deals.

~ 4 ~

Ok, so a few months ago I pulled out all my clothes and folded them the KonMari way. That’s great and all, but my drawers are too shallow to hold my jeans that way and it take too much time in the upkeep.

I found myself procrastinating even more than usual on taking care of laundry, because now I had to fold everything the Right Way.

So I went back to just getting all the kids’ clothes sorted to be shoved into drawers by their very own selves and hanging my own clothes. Now, my closet space is pretty limited, and I’ve been devouring all of Anne Bogel’s minimal/uniform wardrobe posts for months.

I finally took the plunge and removed over half my clothes from my already pared-down closet, but tied it to my interval system for less commitment. For this interval, I will wear jeans + shirt. I have 3 pairs of jeans, 1 pair of bright pink jeans, and 1 pair of black jeans. I have 3 black t-shirts, 3 black 3/4-sleeve tees, 2 white t-shirts, and 3 tees in either purple or pure blue. Plus, I narrowed my selection down to 6 cardigans (3 black, 1 purple, 1 pink, 1 pure blue). With blue jeans & pink pants, I wear black. With black jeans, I wear a colored shirt. Add a cardigan and maybe a scarf (I haven’t pared those down, I think I have a selection of 10ish), and I’m dressed.

Some other interval I might go all-maxi-dress or all knee-length-skirt, but so far I like the fewer items and easier time grabbing clothes in the morning.

~ 5 ~

A question from my email inbox:

I was just reading one of your posts on planning and noticed that you mentioned your 5th grader chooses a history, science and story book for the week? What curriculum are you doing and if no curriculum, are these chapter books? Does he read on them each day? It seems very Ambleside (which I love but my son did not because of not getting to finish a book and only reading a chapter a week). This looks like something I might like to do, so I’d love to know how/ what you’re doing!

The post was probably this one: 5th Grade Homeschool Plans. Caveat: My fifth grader was an early fluent reader and remains an avid reader. Your mileage may vary, but for us, this works really well.

Yes, he chooses 3 books each week: 1 history, 1 science/natural world, and 1 story. My rule-of-thumb is that if I don’t need to assign reading to keep them reading, then I shouldn’t – free reading is better than assigned reading. This little plan is my compromise – he is choosing what he’s reading, but I am providing some structure to keep him from only binging on novels or easy books and to help him get in the habit of making a reading plan. He’s not naturally a planner, so this structure helps him make a plan and work it.

At the next Monday Meeting, I ask him if he finished his books from last week, and if he didn’t, then that one carries over in that category. If he did, I ask him a question or two about it and ask what he wants to read next.

And that’s it! Our shelves are stocked – crammed full, really – of books in all those categories, so he simply browses our shelves and makes a selection. Sometimes he makes a request that we look at the library for something in particular, but usually he picks one from our own shelves.

Here’s his list from this week:


~ 6 ~

The benefits of finishing school early on a Friday – a board game together before lunch.

I shared this on Instagram last Friday and the feedback I received made me think a post about favorite family board games was in order. We are a board game geek family and we have quite a selection – no Monopoly or Sorry to be found.

In this photo, they are playing Nexus Ops.

Watch for that post on Black Friday – just in time for Christmas shopping. :)

~ 7 ~

Books read in our home this week:

The Secret of Year-Round Homeschooling

We’ve all felt it.

The freshness of the new school year has faded.

We go to bed bone-weary, frustrated, wondering if we’re doing everything all wrong. We wake up tired, put one foot in front of the other, and dread the task of getting everyone moving in the morning.

This, my friends, is the beginning of burnout.

We can’t ignore the warning signs. We can’t push through it. We can’t homeschool well in burnout mode.

Homeschooling from Rest

At a homeschool retreat I went to this summer, the speaker, Catherine Levison, who has graduated all five of her children from her homeschool, told us that homeschool burnout is real and it is a problem we must fight. It is so much better, she admonished us, to avoid burnout than to recover from it.

In Teaching from Rest, Sarah Mackenzie mentions several strategies for building peace and joy into a homeschool. One of the strategies she mentions is the sabbath model school calendar: Six weeks of school is followed by one week of break.

Sarah writes:

One way to rearrange the schedule is to take advantage of the creative freedom you have regarding your calendar. For example, a year-round school schedule with frequent breaks may be a wonderful fit for your family dynamic. I know many homeschoolers who teach for six weeks, followed by a full week off. This breaks the school year into manageable terms, and lets both teachers and students commit to their work for a time without ever going so long that they get completely burned out.

We have followed this year round homeschooling pattern for our entire homeschooling career (8 years and counting) and I hope we can continue it for as long as we do homeschool. It is a life line for me and I also believe it helps the children as well.

I have called it Year Round Homeschooling in the past, but found that name confused people. We don’t do school every month, all year, without respite, which “year-round” seems to imply. We do take a long Christmas break and we do take at least a whole month off in the summer. However, we begin our school year in July so that we might have a week off in October and February, plus more. Those strategic breaks are a life saver for the mom – and even for the kids! – who feel like the hamster wheel never stops.

Whether you call it sabbath model, sabbath homeschooling, year round homeschooling, interval training, or just life, I highly recommend considering this method for arranging your year.

We can homeschool from rest when we build rest into the rhythm of our homeschool calendar.

What is Year Round Homeschooling?

I don’t care much for the name “sabbath schooling.” It sounds like Sunday School, which totally unrelated. We aren’t homeschooling on the sabbath. However, we do take the pattern of 6-then-1 that God modeled in creation and apply it to our school year calendar. It is a proportion of labor and rest with precedent.

I’ve also called it Year Round Homeschooling. When we begin our year in July, not long after most schools have just let out, everyone seems to assume we are simply always doing school, like real hard-core troopers. However, we take Thanksgiving through New Year mostly off and we finish up in May. So while others are still climbing onto the school bus, we have the parks and the stores to ourselves.

We are definitely not doing school work every week of the year!

No way. Rather, we school according to a different pattern: 6ish weeks of work, followed by a week off. To make it work between holidays or planned vacations, we’ve done anywhere from 5 week to 8 week terms, but 6 weeks does seem to be the optimal length of time – long enough to make definite progress and yet short enough to not feel like we’re in a never-ending hamster wheel.

One reason why February is so brutal for homeschool moms, I believe, is that we begin back up with school in January right after Christmas. Supposedly this was a vacation, but in reality it was a hurly-burly of work, busyness, and expectations. December is a time of activity and variety, fraught with stress and extra work for mothers, the ones doing the baking, planning, gift-buying, and general holiday-making.

After the whirl and blur, we crash into gray hum-drum school days.

Then comes 6-8 weeks straight of mundane routine, with many more weeks to go until Spring Break. We want to throw in the towel on all our responsibilities. We are just plain tired.


At that point, a week off school is exactly what is needed. The 6-week-term school calendar acknowledges that, plans for it, and orders it. This school plan is arranged to provide for mental health days weeks – and they are good not only for the teacher, but for the students, also.

More than once in our house a child has struggled with a concept, full of tears and frustration, but after a break week they return to that concept and it’s clicked. They’ve let go of the anger and stress, and when they return, they are fresh enough to realize it wasn’t as hard as they’d been making it.

The same thing happens for mom. When the homeschool days get to be overwhelming and overpowering, a week off – a week in which to catch up on the housework, to get those errands done, to go for walks and to the park, to have fun family days, to do things because we want to and not because we have to – does much to reset attitudes.

That’s how we prevent burnout.


My own mom followed this pattern for a number of years back when I was elementary age, and I loved it then as I do now. Other older homeschool moms also recommend this method. One of the first placed I ever saw this schedule written about was in Christine Miller’s article, “Beating Homeschool Burnout,” where she writes:

f you are burnt out because you are tired, then take a week or two off of schooling! Sleep, rest, and do some fun stuff with your kids. Get the laundry and the cleaning caught up. It’s amazing how strongly clutter, and those nagging unfinished jobs in back of our minds, can sap our energy. Make a dent in the stack of papers needing grading and filing. Taking some time off will not hurt the kids. The only consequence is that you will finish school a week or two later than you planned in the summer.

Another convincing perspective is from Angelina Stanford who writes in “And on the Seventh Day God Rested: Using the Principle of the Sabbath to Organize Your School Year“:

So, if I don’t follow the public school year, what do I do? And what does this have to do with the Sabbath? I believe that the Sabbath teaches three important principles for the homeschool. 1) We are free; therefore we can rest. 2) We need regular, scheduled periods of rest. 3) My soul responds to the pattern of laboring for 6 and resting for 1.

Why Schedule Break Weeks

Not infrequently, I hear from someone who has decided against the typical school calendar, who knows having breaks is a sanity-saver. “However,” they will say, “We’re just going to take a break when we need it. I don’t plan my break weeks.”

Here’s why I don’t think that’s a good idea.

If I allowed myself to take a break whenever I thought I needed it, I’d homeschool about every other week. Maybe that’s not you, though. Other personality types will be more likely to keep pushing, long past the time they should have been resting. Why take a break week when you can make more progress in the books instead?

I’ll tell you why: that break week is time for the information to percolate, time to just be a family and spend low-key time together, time for growth to happen. You know muscles need a break to recover and grow after exercise, right? School is exercise and a break week is time to recover and grow.

We need to put those breaks on the calendar to give our kids hope. We also need to put it on the calendar so it is not a matter of negotiation. What we don’t want is the children to discover they can get out of school by wearing mom down with whining and resistance.

With a break on the calendar, we can all push through when we’d rather not. We can take a break before we break down. We can take a break without guilt or shame or doubt.

We can be confident about what we’re doing, whether it’s school or other projects, because it’s all been determined beforehand.

What Happens Each Term

With a six-week term we have a sprint. It is long enough to make progress, and short enough that the end is in sight even from the beginning. There is no long tunnel with a tiny speck of light at the end. Instead, there’s a finite track, and we know we can make it to the end.

I have my projects I want to do. I have my other responsibilities that need a little extra attention.

The children have their own projects they want to do. They want to exercise their independence and freedom and have more say over their day.

We both know there is a time for that, but school weeks are not those times. We can look forward to having a week with longer stretches of prime time to do what we want to do, while zeroing in on what’s currently in front of us right now.

“This isn’t forever,” a 6-week term promises. And we all appreciate that promise, that ray of hope.

I believe that sometimes the discouragement and resistance our kids sink into comes from the feeling that they have no power over their day and that this daily monotony will be unending. They see no end to it, so they zone out and shut down. With a year round schedule we can show them a calendar and say, “These are school weeks. We will do our work and do it well. This is a break week. What would you like to do on our next break week?” They will respond to that encouragement, and so will we.

What Happens on Break Weeks


Break weeks are not all binge-reading & cocktails. Sorry. Break weeks are a break in the routine, they are a school break, but they are not pure vacation and time off.

After all, a mother’s work is never done.

However, a change is as good as a rest. It’s a proverbial English saying for a reason.

Changing things up for a week, spending longer chunks of time working on needed projects, getting the house back under control, running those errands that were nagging you, and, yes, reading a really good book, are all things for break weeks. When I really want to take the day off to catch up on laundry (a sure sign something is wrong), or when a book really calls my name and I know I’ll ignore life for 34 hours if I pick it up, I can stop and say, “Can I wait for break week?” — Delayed gratification is good for us, you know. And you can model it for your kids while you’re also asking it of them.

Here are activities that have populated my break week list over the years:

  • clean the kitchen
  • sort out my kitchen command center
  • prepare some freezer meals
  • run errands
  • change out our circle time binder pages
  • clear out and reorder all the school bins, shelves, and books
  • plan for the next term, if necessary
  • spend the morning at a park
  • go to the library and hang out
  • arrange a play day
  • go on a field trip
  • clear out under the kids’ beds

Yeah, makes you look forward to life, doesn’t it? The great thing about a break week, though, is you can require some extra work in the morning – like clearing out from under beds – in exchange for an afternoon of something fun they can’t usually do – watch a movie, play computer, have friends over, pull out paint, turn on the hose in the dirt pile. Always negotiate. My kids now know and expect that at least one day in the week I will be asking extra work out of them, but it still balances out to a more relaxed and laid back week.

In fact, because we don’t have school, it’s as if that invisible time pressure eases and even extra work doesn’t have that crunch or stress backdrop. We aren’t stealing time in order to address another area. We can spend a longer chunk of time on something without cracking the whip and making the most of every moment.

Even if it’s cleaning out from under the bed, that’s freeing. That’s a break.

The story we tell ourselves matters.

How To Plan a Year Round School Calendar

So, how do we break up the year into six week terms with a break week between? It sounds like it might be tricky, and sometimes we have to fudge on our term lengths to fit them around life, but it’s really not complicated.

We homeschool for 36 weeks, broken into 6 6-week terms. Three of those terms come before Christmas and three come after. It also works perfectly well to count the school year from January to November. I would still plan it out this way:


  1. I begin by marking Thanksgiving Week as a break week. Then I count back six weeks for a term before the holidays.
  2. Then I mark a break week the week before the start of that autumn term. Counting back another six weeks, we have our “harvest term.”
  3. Mark a break week before the beginning of harvest term, then count back six weeks from there. Typically this has us beginning our school year in early to mid July. With our school calendar, these terms are the first half of our year. If you are homeschooling January-November, these are the last terms of your year.
  4. Next, start on the first Monday of January. Count six weeks out. That is your first term of the year. Mark a break week to follow it.
  5. The next one is where it gets tricky, because I like to arrange my spring break to coincide with Easter. So I mark where Easter is, count the weeks prior, and adjust in the way that makes the most sense so that a break week does not come mid-term. Sometimes this means taking a 2-week break in February – I like it when that works out!
  6. Finally, mark your last six-week sprint. You will likely have all of June off and then some. And did you notice no weeks of December were marked?

Sometimes we do only math for December, sometimes we just do other things and don’t sweat it. Our 36 weeks are scheduled and we can have a restful, celebratory December without guilt.

This video by Pam Barnhill demonstrates how to determine your terms:

But We Do Need Sabbath Rest

Our break weeks are not pure vacation, because we do literally take a day for rest one day out of seven. A break week in a school schedule does not take the place of an actual day off, once a week, to worship and to rest. We can’t save up our rest in that way. This schedule models itself after a 1-in-six pattern, but to do that without honoring the actual 1-in-six pattern God Himself created and commanded will not provide the rest we need.

Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh is a Sabbath to the Lord your God, on it you shall not do any work.

God has already set aside one day a week for us to put aside our striving to get ahead, to plan, to clean, to work. Ignoring that while take one week off every six will still leave you tired and frazzled, because it is God’s rest we need first.

However, with that weekly rest in place, we can still “labor and do all our work” for six days, even during a break week (with more pauses for pure enjoyment and recreation, also). We can use those six days to catch up, get ahead, and move forward without guilt. Then we can take a day of rest and worship and be ready to plunge into the next term, prepared, rested, and ready.

Year Round Homeschool Testimonials

I get a lot of questions about homeschooling for six-week-on, one-week-off, but I also receive emails rejoicing in the new pattern. I want to end by sharing with you some of those comments I’ve received.

From Amber:

Last year was our first year with the six week interval cycle, and it was a real blessing for us. I have a bigger age range (13 yrs to 20 mo), but they used that week to spend large blocks of time outside or inside building elaborately with Legos. There were also some substantial kid planned and executed art/craft projects too. They were all really excited that we’d be continuing the interval cycle again this year. I didn’t find that we lost momentum at all, instead we were more able to push forward after the break. If anything, I think we were stronger after the break than before it.

From Heather:

We’ve been slowly ramping up our school year, and are now in our sixth week. I did intervals for school last year, and found that by week 6 we all really needed a break. Forgetting this when I planned for this year, I thought that our first term would be 8 weeks with the first two being a “soft” opening with minimal subjects. Now I’m reorganizing our interval spacing because I have realized that 6 weeks is really where we need to cut it off.

From Anne:

I used your year round term planning method for the first time this year in our homeschool. We are just about to begin our second term, and I love the balanced feeling that term planning has given me.

From Emily:

I am just finishing up my first “rest week.” To be honest, it didn’t feel much different from previous weeks, but I still feel like I’m trying to implement a good system/process. I spent the week planning out this next interval, as well as revising my intervals for the next year….My kids are all little (oldest is five), so there hasn’t been much change to our daily routine, just a change to my focus during the day.

Year-round homeschooling is a rhythm for life that will help us all keep our sanity.




Do you still have questions? Let’s talk in the comments!

Podcasts, preparations, practices, principles and parental perturbations

FYI: The Scholé Sisters newsletter goes out at noon today! So if you aren’t on that list and want to receive it, now is the time to hop over and sign up!


~ 1 ~

It’s been a decent week of school, but I think we are all ready for the upcoming break! We’ll be taking all of Thanksgiving week off, and then do only light schooling in December. It’s hard to believe half our school year (we began in July) is nearly over!

Weekly Wrap-Up

~ 2 ~

pretty * happy * funny * real

~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~

round button chicken

I have tried muffin recipe after muffin recipe over the years and never found one that was a flexible enough base to handle whatever variations I wanted to try. Until, that is, Tracy sent me her first draft of Simplified Breakfasts. The very first thing I tried was her muffin recipe and I adore it! The proportions are easy to memorize so I don’t even have to look at it any more, and it’s flexible enough that I can create my own variations based on what I have on hand. My kids’ favorite variation, though, is Tracy’s: oatmeal raisin. Basic, easy, delicious. It makes a perfect breakfast because it’s a bread-muffin, not a cake-muffin, and it’s delicious even with whole-wheat flour.

~Also check out my other post this week: Contentment in the Kitchen at Simple Pantry Cooking~

~ 3 ~

Jennifer Dow has released her course on how to teach classically. She’s been working on this for so long and I’m so excited that it’s finally released. I’ve just started the first lesson, and there’s a lot to chew on.

If you like Andrew Kern, and you want to dig deep into the tradition of education and learn how to put it into practice, this course is for you.

If, however, you feel like you need more of an introductory pick-me-up, start with Brandy’s just-released audio: Start Here. Whereas her book is a discussion of each of Charlotte Mason’s 20 principles, this audio is an overview of the big picture and how they all work as a synergistic whole.

~ 4 ~

Ok, this is getting a little out of hand. We did the seasonal clothing switcheroo and my second son is happy because he has a pile of new pants. At the end of the season last winter, I had to move my oldest up into 12s. He hardly wore them before shorts season arrived. Time to pull the jeans out again, and I did have one pair of 14s.

And they are too short!

People. I am going to have to buy my 12-year-old son jeans in the men’s department next time we go shopping.

I mean, this summer I already bought him new t-shirts in size men’s XS. But jeans in the men’s department – ack!

He is 5’4 1/2 – and I am 5’5″.

This summer I had a dream where Hans was still 12 and something like 6’5″ and I looked up at him and said, “Ok, time for your math.” I told him that dream because I knew he’d get a kick out of it.

Now he tells me my dreams are coming true.

~ 5 ~

MacKenzie’s podcast is now live! She released the episode I recorded with her as part of her launch and I laughed out loud when I heard her introduction where she says I “dropped serious truth bombs.”

I’m not exactly sure what I said that qualified as explosive, but maybe you can listen and let me know.

In other podcast-related news, Pam and I are trying something new Saturday (tomorrow!): live-recording a podcast on Blab! It’s a Q&A episode for Your Morning Basket, and if you want to watch us record and ask your questions live, please join us!

~ 6 ~

On Periscope this week:

Mentioned in the ‘scope:

Do check out the bread instructions if you’d ever had difficulty with bread. Give it one more shot. Allison Burr wrote me this after trying it out herself:

Please tell Tracy that I made her basic bread ‘guide’ this afternoon (actually I made them into rolls) and they were FABULOUS! Seriously, the biggest hit we’ve had in terms of homemade bread in quite some time. Thank you!!

~ 7 ~

…And, chalk up another reason why I love Evernote. I keep my lesson plans in Evernote, and so when it’s time for Plutarch on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, I tap the search icon and before I’ve done anything else, Evernote suggests that perhaps the Plutarch lesson is what I was going to be searching for? It is that time of the week, after all. And I say, “Why, yes, Evernote, thank you very much.” <3

Simplify breakfast & feed the troops without going crazy

By Tracy Grossmann

If I am being honest, breakfast is often my hardest meal of the day to cook. Cooking breakfast, at some level, is admitting that the day has actually begun, and I am responsible to be an Adult to participate. I know I need breakfast. I know that my family needs breakfast. My children need a good breakfast to think well during their studies, to nourish them after a long overnight fast.

My husband needs food with enough umph to get him through his morning, something that will stick with him and give him the energy he needs to push through until lunch. And yet, it is so hard some days to begin. Coffee, a notepad and pen, and quiet would constitute a lovely morning. And yet, as the mother of five bouncing children, the reality is that I am unlikely to have any of those things without making some breakfast plans so that the rest of my family can have their quiet wake-up time as well.


Depending on their ages, children can be a big help with breakfast. In fact, often all I need is a plan of attack and my kids can get a good head start on the process without me. But the idea is needed, whoever does the execution.

For this reason, I almost always try to figure out what I am planning on for breakfast before I go to bed at night. That way, when my seven-year-old greets me before my first sip of coffee with “Mom, what’s for breakfast?” I can answer with “We are having toast, would you like to start slicing up the bread?” rather than muffled, incoherent speech and weeping.

Here are a few ways that I simplify breakfast.

Simplify the Recipe

When it comes to cooking in the morning, a simple recipe is a must. It is hard for me to talk myself into looking up and executing a long, complicated recipe when I have just woken up. I worked on finding simpler versions of my go-to recipes, and played with the ones I had. The result is a group of recipes that are both easier to remember as well as delicious. You may need to add or subtract seasonings to fit your family’s tastes, but over time that becomes second nature. Taste and add as you go, and don’t be afraid to modify the recipes to fit.

Simplify the Schedule

There is no rule saying you have to actually make breakfast in the morning. You mix up muffins while you are finishing up dinner. You can make granola on Saturday morning and use it for the upcoming week. Make casseroles the night before to bake in the morning. Bake bread ahead of time and use it throughout the week in various ways. If there is ever a time to simplify the amount of effort given to a meal, I believe breakfast is it. Simplifying it down means that it might actually happen, and this is a great thing.

Simplify the Menu

There are a million recipes on Pinterest, and there are days to dive into those depths and make a goat-cheese-and-spinach-crepe, but that is not “most days” at my house. Most days, I need to feed many kids simple, easy to prepare food. Especially for breakfast, when we all would like to have mild, familiar food, there is no reason to go crazy here. A rotation is a wonderful way to stay out of ruts and keep your family from tiring over one thing over and over.

Enlist the Troops

I highly recommend teaching a child or two how to make a go-to breakfast meal. My kids are great at oatmeal and they are very quickly learning how to make muffins, too. What a life saver! They love it, and so do I. Many of the recipes in this book are easy enough to be beginner-cook friendly.
Traditionally, breakfast contains a protein, starch, and a fruit or berries. Of course this is just convention and not set in stone, and we should feel free to adjust our menus based on what we have available to us and what makes sense for our family. The protein helps to stabilize blood sugar levels, so we should try to add that in, if we can.

Unless it is a special occasion, there is no need to have an elaborate breakfast. Of course, all of these ideas all take a bit more effort than cold cereal, but they can be more economic, and have greater nutritional value, all while remaining reasonably easy to prepare.

Simplified Breakfasts, Simplified Lunches,, and Simplified Snacks – by Tracy Grossmann, published by Simplified Pantry – are now available!

Here’s to happy breakfasts and do-able mornings!


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