Mama Panya’s Pancakes

Mama Panya's Pancakes
One of the kid’s favorite books this last month was Mama Panya’s Pancakes.  This delightful book followed a boy and his mother as they left for market to buy ingredients for pancakes.  The peek into Kenyan village life was so engaging.  At the end of the book, it gave more information on what life is like in rural Kenyan villages.  We ended up going out and having races as the children love to do!
And of course, we had to try the recipe in the back of the book and make some of our own “Mama Panya” pancakes. 
I pride myself on being a fairly good cook.  Apparently when it comes to making crepe-style pancakes that does not hold true…
Here was my first attempt. (Talk about humbling…  It’s not good when your four year old is looking quizzically at the blob and trying to imagine a pancake.)
The third and fourth attempt only marginally improved…
By this point the boys were getting anxious and excited when I finally figured out how to make them.  They eagerly prepared the mix-ins -frozen peas (a favorite of theirs and one of the few veggies I happened to have on hand that day), diced up meatballs, tuna and sliced bananas.  (Our favorite combination was the banana’s + pancakes.)
Ever have that day where nothing really turns out as planned?  As if my failed attempts at pancake making weren’t enough, when it was served, anticipation soon turned to this:

As you can see, we still need some work on doing all things without grumbling/whining and complaining… 🙂

Mama Panya’s Pancakes weren’t our only favorite.  Here are a few more from our explorations of the African Savannah!
We All Went On Safari
We All Went On Safari ~ All three of the boys enjoyed this journey!  We discovered a bit about different animals in the Savannah.  This book was perfect because it had something for everyone.  Xander (6.5yo) loved trying to learn how to count to 10 in Swahili.  Keegan (4.5yo) enjoyed learning about the animals and trying to figure out which child pictured was counting.  Treyton (2.5) enjoyed working on some of his counting skills and trying to hide his favorite animal with his grubby little fingers!  In addition to the rhyming/counting section of the book, there was background information given on the Masai people and the animals.
Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain [BRINGING THE RAIN TO KAPITI PL]
Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain ~ The boys adore this book.  We found it a garage sale and they were thrilled to discover that they didn’t need to part with this book when everything else went back to the library.  This is another book that explores the animals of the Savannah.  The boys all loved practicing standing like the Masai herdsman.  It was fun to reinforce the same topic from different angles!
This Is the Tree
This Is the Tree ~ This is a book that delightfully illustrates the importance and majesty of the baobab tree.  As I mentioned previously, Keegan (4.5) was quite taken with this wonderful tree and its role in this region of the world.
My Rows and Piles of Coins (Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Books)

My Rows and Piles of Coins ~ This was a tear-jerker (for mom).  The boys were immediately drawn into the story of a boy who saved the coins he received from helping his mother in hopes of buying a bicycle.  It was a great way to segue into a discussion on poverty and how differently most of the world lives.  With renewed gratefulness they went out and rode their bikes afterwards.

Beatrice's Goat

Beatrice’s Goat ~ This was another wonderful book that beautifully communicated the high value of much less.  It is about the transformation of one family’s fortune after receiving the gift of a goat.  For those that like to donate money towards buying livestock for those in third-world countries, this will help your kids understand what an impact that can have on a family and a village.

Honey... Honey... Lion!

Honey… Honey… Lion! ~ This tale is just a whole lot of fun.  My children love everything they’ve read by Jan Brett and this book was no exception.  They’ve already asked if we could check this book out again!


Jubela ~ Another tear-jerker (for mom) with a happy ending about the rare occurrence of a baby rhino who was adopted by an older female.

Learning Rewards…

Learning enriches our lives. By that I mean that it makes everyday interactions more enjoyable!  

I experienced that this last fall when my Bible study group was going over Daniel.  That one highschool year of delving deep into ancient world history paid off in huge dividends as we explored the book of Daniel in depth.  I was just amazed as I unpacked all of the biblical prophecies about the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman empires.  Because I already had a rich understanding of these cultures, it made the comprehension and appreciation for what God spoke to Daniel so much easier to understand.  ‘A-ha’ moments galore!

One of my top academic goals is to instill in our children a love of learning.  If they have the inner drive to want to learn, to thirst for knowledge, it is going to be so much easier to equip them with the skills to feed this drive.  And once that is accomplished, they will be set for a life-long exciting journey of discovery and application!

The wonderful thing is that we get to taste some of those sweet rewards of our learning adventures even now at these young ages…

I’ve had books relating to Africa lying around the house for the last two months. With all of our travel, theater performances and then sickness we sort of meandered through them. But the week after Christmas brought the payoff!

After a morning of reading through some of our favorite books on the African Savannah (countries of Kenya and Tanzania) I rewarded them with a movie night! I could not believe how much more they enjoyed The Lion King after we had read books on the region.

Keegan squealed with delight when he saw Rafiki (which we discovered means ‘friend’ in Swahili) climbing around in the Baobab tree. He was delighted because he KNEW what kind of tree that was and why it was so important to animals in the Savannah.   The excitement was almost tangible as each of the boys spotted things in the movie and made connections because of their newly acquired knowledge of the African Savannah!  It really enhanced their experience.

Being a mom is a lot of work.  And being their primary teacher to boot makes the job even more intense.  But the rewards are so sweet.  Getting to sit back and watch my kids make those connections and enjoy life more because of what they’ve learned was the adrenaline rush I needed to plan out and keep going strong on this wonderful adventure of learning together!

Pinning Down Africa!

As is beautifully demonstrated in the book, Africa Is Not A Country, Africa is pretty much impossible to pin down in a neat little one-dimensional box.
But that didn’t keep us from pinning it down in the most literal of ways!  We found these fun little cork tiles at the craft store and had fun making a perforated outline of Africa.  This Montessori-inspired activity was a great way to work on coordination, concentration, fine-motor skills and strengthening the muscles used with handwriting.  My boys were focused.  I think we’ll definitely be delving into this a bit more…  (More info and ideas on how to incorporate pin-punching can be found here.)   
While we were at it, I was able to talk with them about the various geographical features of Africa – the Horn of Africa, the Cape of Good Hope, fingering where the Nile flows, etc.  We also talked about the areas that we were touching on during this exploration of Africa – the Sahara, Egypt and the Savannah.  It is amazing how much they can absorb while their hands are kept busy!

The boys were so inspired by their punched out Africa pictures, that we used one to cut out a patch for one of the many holes that are accruing on little boy jeans.  We’ll see how that works out

I will tell you about our adventures in the African Savannah tomorrow, but for now here are some of our favorite books dealing with the Sahara and Egypt.

This Is The Oasis

This Is The Oasis ~ This was a beautiful picture that depicted life in the Sahara and emphasized the importance of the oasis.  It brought back wonderful memories of my explorations of Africa as a girl when we dressed up as nomadic Tuareg and slept in a different spot every night for a week!

 Ali, Child of the Desert

Ali, Child of the Desert ~ This book tells the story of a boys journey from his oasis to Morocco to trade.  I love narratives like this that teach so much just through the course of the story.  Again, we consulted our globe and found the region that the Sahara covers as well as Morocco!  Having ridden camels over Christmas with their Oma, they really got into the story and placed themselves in it!

We're Sailing Down the Nile

We’re Sailing Down the Nile ~ Everyone enjoyed this.  In fact, I went up to watch my sisters children one morning and while my boys were too enthralled with new toys to want me to read to them, my niece (almost 3) and nephew (18m) sat with rapt attention while I read this book.

 The Prince of Egypt

The Prince of Egypt ~ We learned about Moses by reading various books we had around the house and then topped it off with this movie.  While it is not 100% biblically accurate, it was a visual feast for the eyes of life in Pharaoh’s court.

We certainly didn’t do an in-depth study, but this skimming was a perfect introduction to this beautiful continent.

Related Africa posts: Mama Panya’s Pancakes

Mapping the Mayflower

Since we have been exploring world geography for the last several months, we decided to pull out our Global Twister map and chart the path the Mayflower took.  There is something magical about getting to ‘experience’ that trip for themselves.  As they grabbed their walnut Mayflower ships, we talked about how the pilgrims left England for Holland (to escape religious persecution), but then left Holland (because they were losing their kids to the secular culture) and departed for the new world, etc…

It is amazing how raptly they listen so they can re-enact the journey!
Of course, this turned into an impromptu review of all we’ve learned as they wanted to sail all over the world.  They were turned loose for some exploratory free play!  It is amazing to watch children’s minds busy at work while they play.  What a wonderful, painless way to review and solidify what they’ve learned!
And of course, we couldn’t put the map away…

…without playing some Global Twister!

Related Posts:
(including how we play our Global Twister game)

Keeping it Simple

As many of you know, we’ve been traveling all over the world learning about countries, cultures and geography.  It’s been fun.  I feel that it is important to make learning hands-on.   We crawl all over our maps, dress-up, incorporate imaginative play, try to walk in their shoes and create with our hands.  Getting to experience what they are learning about with their whole bodies is so important.  Not only is it fun, it really helps solidify what they are learning about.  But there are seasons where that just doesn’t happen…

I had the grandest plans when we were going into our study of India last month.  But life is never predictable and our explorations of India were a lot less hands-on than I had planned.   My idea to make montessori smelling bottles using Indian spices(and Asian spices in general) never worked out and I quit after the 3rd attempt…  We discovered that our family only likes curry in moderation and my attempt at making Naan just wasn’t as tasty as what we could buy frozen at Lee Lee’s. (Although I’m tempted to try it again after finding this recipe.)

But oh, the books.  We loved the books on this region of the world and enjoyed our internet tour of India via Sonlight’s My Passport to India.

So much learning happens just by reading great books on the couch.  But more than that, relationships are deepened.  I have the fondest memories of curling up with my mom on the couch and diving into book after book.  And I feel warm all over as I cherish every moment I get to curl up with my boys doing the very same thing!  Reading and then discussing what we’ve read is something that can be done at any season…  We read countless books when I was on bedrest with my third.  And lately, it’s been our go-to during our latest trial.  It is amazing how something so simple can reap so many benefits! 

In liu of any fun activities to inspire you, I decided to simply share some of our couch-time favorites with you all.

The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story

The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story ~ I love to read chapter books to the boys.  Surprisingly, despite the ‘old English’ language, the bigger boys loved this book.  The “thee’s and thou’s” didn’t seem to phase them and they were quickly caught up into the life of little Mowgli!   We loved the illustrations in this one too! 

The Story of Little Babaji

The Story of Little Babaji ~ Everyone loved this adorable book, even my two year old.  (He pretty well has the story memorized.)  They really could identify with the protaganist in this story.  It is the story of a young Indian boy who wears his new clothes that his mother and father put together and how he cleverly uses them to escape hungry tigers… 

Heart of a Tiger

Heart of a Tiger ~ My 4 year old is my animal lover.  This was his favorite book of the bunch.  This delightful tale brings some of the animals of India to life and explored life in rural India.


Monsoon ~ Since we just finished our monsoon season here, the boys found they could really relate to the anticipation of the summer rains as the girl in this book did.  It gave a glimpse of middle-class city life in India.

The Road to Mumbai

The Road to Mumbai ~ This fanciful story follows a girl on her make-believe journey with her stuffed animal monkey to the city of Mumbai.  The boys loved hearing about their escapades and the people and animals they met on the way.

Mama's Saris

Mama’s Saris ~ This one was my favorite.  The boys humored me by letting me read it to them.  For those of you with daughters, I highly recommend this book of a girl who longs to be just like her mama.  It explores the meaning of sari’s and when and why they chose different one’s.

One Grain Of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale

One Grain Of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale ~ This was another favorite of mine.  Unfortuntately it got stuck under a pile of books and we didn’t really get to explore it very much.  It incorporates rich vocabulary and cultural aspects with a simple exploration of the consequences of not understanding the concept of doubling. A resourceful village girl outsmarts a greedy raja, turning a reward of one grain of rice into a feast for a hungry nation.   

Bullfighting Revisited


During the final summer in the ’90’s, this idealistic romantic learned a difficult lesson.  It was my summer in Spain and since I was living in Seville, it seemed only fitting to attend a bullfight at one of the oldest and most important arena’s in the world, El Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza.  Raging bulls, matador’s, red silk and a cheering crowd…  What could be more romantic than this?

Well, this girl had NO IDEA what bull-fighting was all about.  It was not merely a fun, daring attempt on the part of the matador to defy death in a ring with a bull.  No, it was a long drawn out process of enraging a bull by gradually goring it to death.

I was pretty traumatized, can you tell?

But here I find myself introducing my children to Europe and Spain specifically on our trip around the world

It was with great trepidation and that almost forgotten pit in my stomach that I tentatively introduced my boys to the classic picture book, The Story of Ferdinand.

The book is delightful.  And while it certainly didn’t hide the truth, I don’t think my boys have any idea yet that the bulls all DIE a horrible bloody death.  All of them, except flower-sniffing Ferdinand of course.  For now, I’m quite content with them being blissfully ignorant as I was.  We’ll discuss the real story later…

These boys of mine are pretty entranced and have been hosting bull fights for the last week!

Can you sense the adrenaline starting to pump?
 The bull charges…
The matador deftly saves himself.
But it isn’t over yet.  That bull is preparing for another charge.
Oh ya, now this is what bull fighting should be about!!! 
I could watch this every day.  And I do…  They give me front row seats every time!
I think that calls for some comfort food. 
Hot chocolate -made with real rich chocolate and whole milk, and churros, just like I had in Spain!

Food and Water

The boys are trying to wrap their minds around the concept of how essential food and water are and how difficult it can be for many people in the world to get these two basic necessities.  The first part was easy for them.  But the second part?

As we talked about how many people don’t have access to running water, we went outside and decided to pretend that we needed to go to a local pond:

…and gather water.
 But how to transport it???  hmmmmmmmm. 
 After one attempt at carrying it atop their head like we had seen in a book, we decided to try a new method. 
 They definitely preferred this method.
 If I was a brave momma, I would make them haul their own bathwater upstairs… 
But I am not that woman today.

We’ve also been discussing the idea that most people in the world don’t eat like we do.  Few have choices and certainly don’t have the luxury of being picky.  Keegan (4) is still pretty clueless, but Xander (6) was incredulous that there might be people who only get a bowl of rice a day…  Since rice is the mainstay for many in south Asia, we enjoyed learning about how it is grown in the book, Rice Is Life.  This rhyming tale of how rice is grown, while centered in the island of Bali is similar to how rice is grown in other parts of Asia as well.

If the boys were a little bit older, I think I would probably try a day or more of a simple rice diet.  But…  I’d rather not actually create any food battles, especially with the four year old and two year old.  We manage enough of that on our own!

We are in India now and have been really enjoying the video tour provided currently by Sonlight/Mission India.  Today we had a tour of a slum in Mumbai.  This has been helpful as I have been working on explaining the concept of poverty to them.

I’m realizing that this is a lesson we will need to revisit over and over again.  In our comfortable middle-class life even I find it hard to relate sometimes…  And I’ve been to third world countries and witnessed poverty with my own eyes.  But for now this was a start.

What have you all done to explain this to your children?

Sailing through Review!

This continents map of ours is proving quite handy.  In addition to the fun we’ve had playing Global Twister (tutorial for our map found here), we recently pulled it out for a little review. 

The boys grabbed their bath boats and embarked from Peru (our last stop) to set sail around the world, reviewing what we had learned so far.

We ended ended up docking at our next destination: Australia!

Compassion Peru

The boys have a soft spot for South America.  In our journey around the world, they have really been looking forward to this stop.  Why?  Ittiel, their friend and sponsored child through Compassion International lives in Peru.

My husband and I began sponsoring our first child when we were engaged.   He was from Guatemala – a country near and dear to my heart since I had spent part of two summers there.  But when he graduated last year, I really wanted to bring the boys into this process.  So I called Compassion and asked if we could sponsor a boy around their age!  And that is how we ‘met’ Ittiel!  He is a month older than Xander!  The boys have enjoyed writing and drawing pictures for each other.  In his last letter, Ittiel drew a picture of the two of them playing together! 

I’ve been inspired by Michelle at Blogging from the Boonies as she writes about ways we can make an impact with the children sponsored thru Compassion.  She has all kinds of ideas on things we can send to them, and tips on how to organize our letters from our sponsored children as well as devise a plan on how to pray for them and strategically write to them.  I must confess that we only wrote our last sponsored child maybe 2 or 3 times a year.  Now our goal is to send Ittiel something once a month.  We are putting our notebook together so we can display his letters as well as keep track of what we are writing him about in order to keep from repeating the same things (another problem I’ve had in the past).

Keegan is drawing a map for Ittiel!

As we wrapped our time exploring South America and Peru specifically, we sat down and drew some more pictures for him and sent him some fun stickers!

These were our two favorite books:

A Playmate for Puna ~ I picked this up at a used curriculum fair this summer.  I love the artwork in vintage children’s books!!!  The boys were enamoured with this story of a Peruvian boy and his llama playmate.  It was a cute ‘coming of age’ story!  It is amazing how much you can pick up and learn from a story.  Narratives can be a powerful learning tool which is why we spend so much of our day reading and re-reading good books!
Patterns in Peru: An Adventure in Patterning ~ We got in a little bit of math with this one.  The boys loved the story line which included looking for a hidden Incan city using pattern clues.  It was interesting to watch them look for patterns around them and pick up on repeating sequences after reading this book a few times!
And since I can’t just leave you all with only two book recommendations, here were some others that were good too!

Carolina’s Gift: A Story of Peru ~ beautiful picture book!
The Littlest Llama ~ A delightful read about life in Peru from a llama’s perspective!
Love and Roast Chicken: A Trickster Tale from the Andes Mountains ~ Cute tail of a trickster Guinea pig.  I guess it’s a good thing the boys didn’t realize how easy it would be to get one of these creatures for a pet. 
Discovering El Nino : How Fable and Fact Together Help Explain the Weather ~ I had no idea that the whole El Nino weather patterns had their roots in Peru.  I chose this book because we just had an unusually wet “El Nino” winter last year.  Xander found it interesting, but the two younger boys were bored with the detail.

Sponsor a child in Jesus' name.

Rainforest Play

A Lesson in Comparison
As we set sail from Antarctica back up to South America, we went straight for the Amazon rainforest.  Talk about a lesson in comparisons…
After reading about all of the beautiful plants and exciting animals, I decided to try and help the boys get some perspective on how different it is there compared to our desert home.
So we set out to make a wall chart.
The boys liked cutting out one inch sections of blue paper to represent inches of rainfall for our average yearly rainfall chart.
It’s always interesting to observe how the kids progress and grow.  This is the first time Keegan has been interested in cutting in straight lines!
Then we set out to place 8 inches of water that our desert home gets on average in a year.  Eight tiny little inches…
Next we glued on some 10 blocks and then individual blue squares to represent the 70-100 inches of rain that the Amazon rainforest averages in a given year.  Talk about stark contrast.
To bring a more balanced perspective in, I think we’ll go ahead and add St. Louis average rainfall at approx 38 inches a year which still pales in comparison…
The boys are convinced that a trip to the Amazon is in our future!  The Emerald Green Boas and Sloths are on the top of their ‘wish to see’ list!
After reading several books about sloths, the boys enjoyed lazily hanging upside down!  While they enjoyed this briefly, they were unable to keep that S.L.O.W. pace for very long. 

Here are links to some of our favorite Rainforest books:

We especially enjoyed the pop-up Jungle book that Mima brought for the boys this summer.  Not only did the pop-ups and jungle sounds ignite thier imaginations, it was also cool to compar rainforests in different parts of the world.  We’ll definitely be pulling this out again when we get to Asia and Africa!