Friday, July 27, 2018

Geography Unit: Afghanistan

This year (and for the next few years), we'll be studying World Geography. Choosing to study them alphabetically rather than by continent, we're beginning with Afghanistan!

Afghanistan flag, colored by the 4-year-old

We began our week by adding the very first "stamp" (flag sticker) to our passports!

Then we located Afghanistan on the map and marked the capital city of Kabul with a star sticker.

Afghanistan map worksheet by the 6-year-old

Throughout the week, we listened to traditional Afghan music (I found a YouTube video here), read about the land, their history, the language, people, education, agriculture, and faith. I was also able to find a few books at the library that gave us more insight into the country and its people. 

Books We Read...

Bridget's (8) favorite was Nasreen's Secret School, while the boys liked The Wooden Sword best. There are many more children's books available on Amazon about Afghanistan, but this is what our local library had to offer:

Nasreen's Secret School by Jeanette Winter
The Wooden Sword by Ann Redisch Stampler
Listen to the Wind: The Story of Dr. Greg & Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

Food We Ate...

I have scheduled Thursdays (the last day of our school week) for us to prepare a dinner and/or dessert from the country we've learned about. My oldest and I had previously studied Afghanistan, and so we still had the recipes and prepared all of the same dishes, as they were all so yummy. The first thing we prepared were the cookies. First the children tried pistachios (a rare treat, as they are so expensive here!), and then we got busy baking.

When it was time to prepare dinner, I assigned each child to help with one dish, rather than having all three of them crowding the kitchen. Liam (4) helped make Kabuli Pulao, George (6) helped make the Tomato Chickpea Stew, and Bridget (8) helped make the spinach (this was her favorite dish when we made it before). This is what our final meal looked like:

My plate of food from Afghanistan!

I started the children off with much smaller servings, but a little bit of everything. Bridget enjoyed everything, just as she had before. George liked the flavored rice and chickpeas, but hated the spinach and plain basmati rice, even though he did finish eating his servings. Liam surprised me by his favorite dish being the spinach, and he also loved everything else. Everyone cleaned their plates, with the exception of Bridget whose eyes were bigger than her stomach when it came to the spinach. She tried so hard to finish it all!

Here are the recipes for each dish we prepared! Not every dish was originally vegan (our choice of diet in our household), so I made the necessary modifications which are reflected in the recipes below.

Kabuli Pulao 

Kabuli Pulao is Afghanistan's national dish. It is a rice dish, with spices, carrots, raisins, almonds or pistachios (optional) and meat. The meat is most often either chicken, lamb, or beef. We opted to skip the meat and just prepare the rice. This cut off about 30 minutes of prep time and the rice was still delicious. 


2 c. cooked basmati rice
1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
1/4 c. dark raisins
2 Tbsp. vegan butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1/2 Tbsp. ground cardamom
1/2 Tbsp. ground cumin
black pepper, to taste
Healthy pinch of saffron, soaked in 2 Tbsp. vegetable broth
1/2 c. vegetable broth
slivered almonds (optional)
chopped pistachios (optional)


1. Prepare basmati rice as package indicates.
2. Fry matchstick carrots in 1 Tbsp. butter. Once softened, add raisins, and cook for another minute. Drain and set aside.
3. Brown onions in remaining butter, then remove from heat.
4. Add cardamom, cumin, black pepper, and saffron liquid to the onions and mash until it forms a paste.
5. Return pan with onion and spice paste to the stove. Add vegetable broth to the paste and simmer for 5 minutes.
6. Add basmati rice and stir until rice is coated.
7. Put the rice into a casserole dish, then top with carrots and raisins. Cover with tin foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
8. Remove foil, add almonds or pistachios if desired. Serve hot.

Sabzi (Afghan Spinach)


3 cloves garlic
1/2 c. olive oil
2 lbs. frozen chopped spinach
2 Tbsp. dried dill
3 Tbsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3/4 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
sea salt, to taste


1. In a large pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until golden brown.
2. Add spinach and cook until the spinach defrosts and water begins to boil.
3. Add dried dill, coriander, black pepper, cilantro, lemon juice, and salt.
4. Simmer for 20 minutes.
5. Serve hot with basmati rice or flatbread.

Khorisht Nukhut (Tomato Chickpea Stew)


2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2-15 oz. cans of chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. chili powder
1/2 c. water


1. Add all ingredients to a pot.
2. Cook at medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Serve hot.

Awb e Dundawn (Afghan Cookies or Biscuits)


3 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. vegan butter, melted
3/4 c. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. ground pistachios


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Set out two large baking sheets.
2. In a stand-up mixer, combine flour, powdered sugar, baking powder, cardamom, and salt.
3. With the mixer on low, add melted butter and oil to the flour mixture. Add water.
4. Mix the dough on medium speed for about 10 minutes.
5. Form the dough into smooth, round balls, about the size of a whole walnut, and place on baking sheet. (If the dough is too dry and not able to maintain form, return to the mixer and add a tsp. of water until dough can be easily handled. If the dough is too wet, add more flour.)
6. Using your thumb, press down on the center of each cookie, making a distinct imprint.
7.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the bottoms of the cookies are lightly browned.
8. As the cookies are baking, ground pistachios using a mortar and pestle (or grind in a mini food processor, or chop them finely with a knife).
9. Remove cookies from oven and sprinkle the ground pistachios into the imprint in each cookie.
10. Let cookies cool on pan before serving. Store in airtight container.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Our First Week: Thursday -- Cain & Abel, Savannas, and Rainforests | 2018-2019

We made it through our entire first week! We end our school week on Thursdays, leaving Friday open for field trips, long weekends, or makeup days. This Friday and Saturday, I'm cleaning house because we did almost nothing as far as that goes this week. We'll try better next week! 

This morning we read about Cain and Abel as found in Genesis 4. This story of course fascinated the boys the most, and they wanted to know all the details of how Cain killed Abel. The Belle instead wanted to know the reasons as to why Abel's lamb was accepted, but not Cain's harvest. There was a lot of back and forth discussion with this story. 

We finished up our science lessons for the week. We read about another type of grassland, the savanna, and about rainforests. I thought I'd share what the narration pages look like. I had the boys tell me what they learned from each habitat and I wrote it down.

Here are a few things the boys had me write:
The Rascal (4) (about deserts): "Cactus grow in the desert. The desert is very hot in the day and very cold at night."
The Gent (6) (about prairies/grasslands): "There are lots of fires in grasslands. They burn the trees and grass, but the grass is still alive because the fire does not burn the roots."

The Belle (8) didn't want me to share hers, but she said it was okay if I shared her rainforest coloring page.

We were never able to go on our nature walk for pre-k science due to a rainy week, so we may try to do that next week if we can fit it into our schedule.

We also finished our geography unit, and between that and science, we were not able to fit in our afternoon tea.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Our First Week: Wednesday -- The Garden of Eden, Dry Deserts, & Windy Prairies | 2018-2019

We're still off to a good start this week. Today we finished reading Genesis 2, and continued through Genesis 3, which is the story of Adam and Eve, The Garden of Eden, and when God sent them away, out of the Garden. The children had two coloring pages to keep them busy. 

The older two are not as eager to have me take their picture while they do their school work, so forgive me for always posting pictures of the 4-year-old. I promise he's not the only student. He sure is cute, though.

We all did our usual math and language arts lessons, and began learning about animal habitats in science. We read about deserts and prairies, the first type of grassland we're studying.

We had short narrations to complete with each habitat and they also had these coloring pages to work on as I read. The older two just kinda scribble them as fast as they can to get it done, but my youngest takes great care in his artwork, so his is the one I'm posting. Not bad for his age, if you ask me!

We continued with our third day of Afternoon Tea, by having Tangerine Orange Zinger flavored herbal tea with leftover blueberry scones and another batch of cucumber sandwiches. I'm thinking next week I'll mix things up with a new sandwich, though I am not sure what.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Our First Week: Tuesday -- The Story of Creation & Blueberry Scones | 2018-2019

The children were eager to get started with school on their second day. We began by reading the story of creation found in Genesis 1-2:7. 

As I read, the children colored the pages to their little Book of Creation that I found here. I thought the books turned out well, and I found my stapler just in time to staple them together when they were done!

The creation story was not only our scripture reading, but also our history lesson for the day. After this the older two did their math and language arts again, while my youngest continued to color. When he got done, he wanted to go ahead and do his math lesson too. We ended up doing seven of them, and I think I may need to consider getting him started on the kindergarten Math-U-See curriculum very soon.

Once all that was done, it was time for lunch. One of the most often asked questions I get from people who find out we're vegan is about what we eat, which results in a lot of food pictures being posted on social media. For today's lunch, we all had Gardein Mandarin Orange Crispy Chik'n, brown rice, green beans, and mandarin oranges.

After lunch, we all worked on geography, which I've decided to include all in one post at the end of the week. Then it was time for Afternoon Tea! We were all really excited to do this again. I made scones while the children relaxed after lunch. I had never made them before but they turned out amazing! 

We had wild blueberry herbal tea to complement the scones. Along with the scones and tea, I also made more cucumber sandwiches. To make these, I used vegan cream cheese, mixed in some fresh chives and dried dill, and spread it on seeded rye bread, then added thinly sliced cucumbers.

I purposely did not make the youngest a peanut butter and banana sandwich in the hope that he'd give the cucumber sandwiches a try, which he did! He loved them and now all three children go crazy over them. They each also tried the scones which we poured a coconut flavored icing over. So delicious!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Our First Week: Monday -- Back to School! | 2018-2019

Happy "First Day Back at School"!!! With our 6 weeks on, 1 week off (with extra weeks off at Christmas) schedule, starting in July works best for our family. It's too hot to play outside, so why not do something productive? 

Everything is so different this year. The Rascal (4) is now old enough to join us and not be a distraction. He does well listening to stories, coloring, and participating in discussions. For our first day of school, we began with "Morning Time", then moved on to Scriptures/History. While I read all five chapters of 1 John, the children colored, briefly stopping to tell me their thoughts. 

When John tells us that we should not love the things of the world (1 John 2:15-17), we stopped to discussed what that meant, and the Belle (8) commented that sometimes she gets distracted and forgets God, but doesn't really forget him, but just isn't thinking about him at that time. 

After our scripture reading, she and the Gent (6) wanted to sing the hymn "Love One Another", then because the 4-year-old heard the word "eternal" at the end of chapter 5, he remembered yesterday's church lesson and wanted to sing "Families Can Be Together Forever", so we did. I'm glad that while listening to the scriptures, it can help trigger a thought or song in their minds. 

After our scripture reading, I moved on to history. I read "What is History?" out of our Story of the World book, then we read this sweet book titled Homeplace by Anne Shelby, in which a grandmother tells her grandchild her family history and of the house they live in that has been passed down for generations. 

After history, the older two jumped right into math. They picked up where they left off with no problems. The Gent (6) watched another math video to begin a new lesson and the Belle (8) completed worksheets that she hadn't finished from before.

I also worked on writing and grammar with them. The Rascal was given free time in which he asked to watch Little Einsteins. After this, we all had lunch, which was cheeseburger wraps, fries, and apples. 

After lunch, we got started on Geography. This year, and for the next few years, we are studying World Geography. I've chosen to do this alphabetically rather than by continent. It will take awhile, but the children are very excited about it. For our first day of school, we made "passports" to include "stamps" (flag stickers) for all of the countries we learn about. Before we began, I had them take awkward passport photos.

Then we glued our photos into the passports, and filled them out. 

After making our passports, it was time to think about what we may need to take with us as we travel the globe. The children came up with a variety of things to pack in their suitcases. The boys chose their Teddy Bears to bring along and the Belle wisely thought to pack a comfy pillow.

They're excited to be heading off on their first adventure!

After geography, we sat down to our very first "Afternoon Tea". I was not sure how this would go, but the children amazed me. We first learned tea etiquette (which they did their very best with), such as how to stir their tea in a back and forth motion rather than round and round and how to hold the tea cup (a difficult task for little hands and delicate teacups). As our family abstains from drinking traditional black tea, we instead enjoyed "wild berry zinger" herbal tea, along with cucumber sandwiches (which my 8 and 6-year-olds loved), peanut butter and banana sandwiches (made special for the 4-year-old), and sliced oranges.

All three children did so well minding their manners, nothing broke, and we sat at the table and enjoyed one another's company for about an hour. I did manage to read four poems that they listened quietly to.

We then moved on to science. This is our trickiest subject this year, as we are doing two different sciences. We are doing Elemental Science's "Exploring Science", a curriculum for pre-k, and we're also doing Biology for the Grammar Stage. I felt it important to give the Rascal (4) a foundation of science with the basics, and the older two didn't want to be left out of his fun experiments, and I knew the 4-year-old wasn't going to sit out of learning about animals and the human body. So we'll do two days of one science, and two days of the other. The older two have agreed to remain quiet and let him answer all the questions for his science lesson as long as they get to be involved in the activities and experiments. We started with the pre-k science and learned about observation. With it being rainy outside, we were not able to go on our backyard observation trek, so we simply stayed inside and colored our worksheet.

The children enjoyed their first day of school so much. Their favorite part was afternoon tea.