Thursday, March 31, 2016

Time Out For Mommas (5 Days of Tips for Homeschooling Parents)

It's the last day in our 5 Days of Tips for Homeschooling Parents. Hopefully, I've given you a few tricks and tips you can stick in your pocket.

Or at least in the band of your stretchy pants.

Today I am not going to bore you with a long rambling post about the topic at hand. I'm going to bore you with a long rambling video!

I want to talk to you about taking time for yourself.

Some of you are already groaning. I can hear you from here.

I'm telling ya, momma (or daddy).

You have to take time to re-energize and fill back up again. I realize I'm at a special place in my life. I have one teenage son. He can make pancakes. And with prompting he can shower and make his bed.

It wasn't always that way.

I don't know about you, but unless I have some time to get my feet underneath me every now and again I eventually...

a) lose steam
b) blow up
c) don't ask

Even Jesus took time to pray. And God took the day off after He created the ENTIRE stinkin' universe. I am pretty sure He didn't need the rest...I just think He was providing an example.


I think we can manage a little bit of time during the day to reflect.

I'm not going to begin to tell you how to do it. You might enjoy a spa day ever once in a while or a girls night out. I like going to a friend's house (always with the child) to eat her food and drink her tea. I like to take baths and paint my toe nails. I like to read books like some people eat candy.

I also try and start almost every morning with a little "Time Out" for myself.

You might call it Quiet Time. Whatever it is it makes me just a bit happier to conquer my day.

Whatever it is I spend my time reading, writing, praying, doodling....daydreaming. And always with a cup of tea.

It helps me get my head together. I'm in a better spot when I've had a chance to ponder a bit. Especially when that pondering has been spent in the presence of the Lord.

I have made this wonky little video for you. It describes all the stuff I currently have in my "Quiet Time" basket.

I sound like a Preschooler.

Anyhoo. It might (just maybe) give you an idea or two. Please excuse the quality of the movie. I use a lot more "kindas" and "umms" than I thought I did. There is also talk of an alien invasion. And then I throw my parents under the bus. They are responsible for my fascination with all things alien (sci-fi geeks ;<) I couldn't help myself! It is also just a bit blurry.

Hopefully, you can carve out a Time Out just for yourself!

I have joined my fellow bloggers from The Schoolhouse Review Crew for this 5 Day Blog Hop. Please take some time to check out the following blogs. They are all lovely!

Melissa @ Grace Christian School
Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays
Missica @ Through the Open Window
Monique @ Mountain of Grace Homeschooling
Renita @ Krazy Kuehner Days
Sarah @ Renaissance Mama
Sasha @ Such a Time as This
Tawnee @ Adventures in Homeschooling T
iffany @ The Crafty Home
Tina @ Desperate Homeschoolers
5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents

A TOS Review: Memoria Press 8th Grade Literature

I know I am not alone in my absolute love for good literature. And it doesn’t get any better than some those great old books.  I’ve always tried to incorporate literature into our homeschool. It fact, it often takes center stage.  We recently got the chance to review the Eighth Grade Literature Guide Set  from Memoria Press.

I have to tell you about the wonderful box of goodies I received. Memoria Press was beyond generous! I received the ENTIRE 8th grade set, which included 4 Teacher’s Guide and 4 Student Study Guides.

The literature covered in this set is a delightful assortment.

Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Treasure Island by Robert Louise Stevenson
As You Like It by William Shakespeare.

These literature guides concentrations on vocabulary, spelling, comprehension, and composition skills.  

Let me show you how it works.

We chose to read Tom Sawyer for this review. Each Chapter has its own lesson to work through. After reading, Josiah and I would sit down and discuss each section of the Study Guide.

First there is a section of Reading Notes. Now this is used prior to reading the chapters. This section really helped while reading Tom Sawyer. Mark Twain is known for his very folksy writing style. Not to mention it was written well over 100 years ago. For example, we learned what “pantalettes” are and that Huckleberry Finn is the son of the town drunk. All items in the Reading Notes are places, events, people and vocabulary words that might be unfamiliar to the reader.

The next portion of the Study Guide are the Vocabulary words. The number of words varied (generally around 6 or more). Because Josiah and I took turns to reading the book we watched out for the words listed so that we could talk about the meaning on the stop.

The Comprehension Questions are just that. The student is sometimes required to summarize an event or dig a bit deeper into the author’s intentions.

There is a Quotations section that ask the student “name the speaker and anyone to or spoken about.”

Many times Josiah had to decide if it was a character speaking or the narrator.

There are also a few Discussion Questions that we talked about orally (no writing!)

The last section, a Focus Passage, digs deep.

Here is an example.

In one of the lessons the student is asked to focus on the following paragraph that begins with…

“He left the presence too miserable to even feel vengeful towards Sid.”

The assignment asks “What does this paragraph describe?” There is a question about cause and effect. The student then is asked to paraphrase the last seven sentences.  

What great practice!

I need to tell you a little bit about the other guides in this Literature Guide set.

The Wind in the Willows - This guide is set up very similarly to the Tom Sawyer Guide. The best difference I can see is that the student is required to record the Reading Notes as opposed to have the words already defined for them. I imagine this would be done while the student is reading the book.

Treasure Island - This guide has the core components as the other two. The Reading Notes are already written in. The biggest difference with this guide is that there are Enrichment ideas. For example, a student my illustrate a scene or research an aspect of the book. I believe I saw an assignment to create a treasure map!

As You Like It - This is the most unique of the Literature Guides. This guide is begins with a character log. I needed one of these in High School! The lessons are divided up into Acts. There is a vocabulary section and then a series of Journal Prompts. A Quotes section is next. The student is required to identify the speaker, whom is being spoken to, the situation and what it all means. The Th longest section are the Comprehension Questions. Fear not! The Teacher's Guide gives us big kids all the answers.

Each guide has Tests, Quizzes or Review Questions ready for you to use as you wish. 

My Thoughts

Memoria Press is a Classical Education company. Classical Education is stringent and these guides are certainly challenging. I am not opposed to that at all. My only concern is that I don’t want this Great Books to become a burden by all this analysis.

Nevertheless, the guides are extremely well put together and thorough. Josiah liked that all the lessons followed the same structure. They also provided great conversations.

I love, love, love the quality of literature involved in these books. I’m telling you. Shakespeare looks a lot less daunting. The Teacher’s Guides also don’t leave anything to chance. I didn’t have to guess where to lead a conversation. I am thinking that we will study As You Like It next. The Teacher's Guide will make it all less intimidating. 

With some modifications, we thoroughly enjoyed our experience with Memoria Press.  If you are looking for a quality literature guide for any grade they can help!

You can connect with Memoria Press via the following social media outlets. Click on the banner below to read more reviews.

Memoria Press Literature Guides Review

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Gracious Living for the Homeschool Family (5 Days of Tips for Homeschooling Parents)

This week I'm bringing to you a whole lot of tips and tricks. Homeschooling is a special life and we need all the encouragement we can get. I love when I get practical advice and so I am passing some on to you. Take what you can use and tuck the rest of it in a nice little file called "maybe doesn't apply to me." 

So what does it mean to "live graciously"? To me it encompasses a lifestyle in which you show kindness and compassion. It also means that you surround yourself with things that bring you peace, comfort and blissful satisfaction. Which might mean a stash of chocolate to inhale after math (or is this just me?)

As homeschoolers we are especially fortunate to spend a good portion of our time at home. Our environments can really set the stage for beautiful living. 

This really has nothing with your decor or the way you keep house. In fact, call me before you come over...K? Just sayin' 

I'm going to share a few ways I like to practice "Gracious Living." 

If you follow my blog at all you might recognize some of the pictures below.  I believe in photo recycling. 

Most homeschoolers I know are on tight budgets. There are weeks I've had to account for every bean. Just because we having the adventure of being frugal doesn't mean we can't make a meal a bit  special. Below is a picture of my simple tomato soup. I topped it with some homemade croutons, a few shreds of cheese and parsley. Parsley goes along way if you need to make something pretty. I think serving it in a china bowl makes all the difference. 

This is my favorite way to serve hot chocolate. Especially when company comes over. I don't have to worry about the cost snacks or special treats. A cup of hot chocolate brimming with marshmallows is a favorite with anyone. This is also a good way to celebrate a new book or the completion of a math unit. Personally, I think it's fun just to bring out on a random Tuesday. 

This was the chalkboard sign my mom wrote out when she made me my French inspired Birthday dinner a few weeks ago. How fun is this! I think I'm going to try writing out our Saturday Pancake Breakfast menu in different languages every week. What is pancake in Mandarin? 

Another beautiful way to add grace to your home is to bring the outside in. Sometimes, when I have extra money in my grocery budget, I like to get a simple bouquet of grocery store flowers. This lovely arrangement sat in the middle of my Birthday dinner table. It all came from my parents' farm. Another fun way to welcome company is to have the kids gather greenery and wildflowers to arrange in a vase.  

We have a white board in our dining room that is really not convenient to use. I generally use a small one when we are doing our lessons so it's not like I'm missing the writing space. However, The Muffin took so much time to put it up for me I have decided not to move it. It has become sort of a bulletin board of sorts. This is a picture of the board around Valentine's Day. 

I put up the Scripture we were learning for the month, a poem and a hymn. We were participating in Valentine's exchange so we started taking all the valentine's on the board. It has become a perfect place to display special correspondence, love notes and encouraging words. It has also made us more aware of sending notes to family or thank you notes when appropriate. 

Aren't these Valentine's the cutest? I am busy making paper flowers for the spring bulletin board. Such fun (and a bit crazy...who has the time for this?)!

On a dresser in the dining room, we have a small coffee and tea station. This bunny (still hanging around from our Easter decor) is holding all kinds of tea and hot chocolate mix. We have instituted Tea Time during the day and make quite a production of enjoying our beverages and a book together. I also like having a hot drink available for company to enjoy. Just a little aside. Josiah brought home a 2 liter of Diet Dew this weekend from his grandparents' farm. This was not an approved Tea Time beverage. Just sayin'. 

I have a fairly eclectic style. In our home I have combination of vintage items and things that fit my rather quirky fruity personality. One of my favorite things is this typewriter. The Muffin got it last year for me at the Flea Market. I like having things around me that can promote conversation. Even if it is..."why in the world did you bring that home?"

This is not a great picture. It was dark in my living room (it was raining) and I couldn't get good light. I love having beautiful artwork around me. I think it is inspiring. Best of all, most of the artwork in my home is done by my favorite artist. Who also happens to be my Mom. This gallery wall is made up of a variety of things. You can't see it but I even have an old pin that belonged to my great-grandmother in frame. If you don't have access to quality art consider buying prints or using your children's art to create a special place. 

I believe everybody needs a hobby. I happen to have a few (or 4). Josiah and The Muffin happen to love to Cycle. Which is why I have two road bikes in my living room (notice I didn't share a picture). Every homeschooling family needs a variety of activities that allow  minds and bodies to breath. I love to loom knit on lazy evenings when my boys are watching TV. Josiah is in the process of making a stopmotion movie. Hand Crafts are a marvelous way to create a gift, pass the time or just create!

You must have books. Books. Books. Books. The books in our home reflect our lifestyle. We have "how to's," rich classical books, informational books,books that inspire and encourage us. I used to feel guilty for having so many books. But then I found my people. Homeschool Moms. You get me. No longer will I carry the guilt of being a bibliophile. 

Music is a very important part of our lives. We let Josiah play the Christian radio station in his room almost 24/7. I will often play soft Classical music at certain parts of the day. I have found it provides a restful atmosphere. Sometimes we put on fun, "dancy" kind of music. Nothing like B-Bopping around to the oldies! 

Several years ago, I supplied a list of Classical Music for Adventurous Boys. You can check it out if you need some inspiration. 

I do need to say that sometimes I can be overstimulated. Are you with me? Do we have to have something going all the time? A little quiet is good for the soul (and momma's sanity!)

My last little thought is about hospitality and being considerate. Occasionally, I like to make up an apple cake to share with a friend. Or if we visit a family for the first time I like to take a basket of muffins. Our world is so busy nowadays. I don't want to lose that sense of family, community and friendship. You don't have to do anything big...just a little thought. 

I am joining a wonderful group of blogging friends for the 5 Days of Tips for Homeschooling Parents. Take a little time to visit the blogs below. I know you will be blessed. 

Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
Latonya @ Joy in the Ordinary
Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
Leah @ As We Walk Along the Road
Lisa @ Farm Fresh Adventures
Lori @ At Home: where life happens
Meg @ Adventures with Jude
Megan @ My Full Heart
Melanie (Wren) @ finchnwren
Melissa @ Mom's Plans

5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents

A TOS Review: Foundations D (Logic of English)

I am a big fan of the Logic of English. We have used their Essentials program with good results. As Josiah is a bit older, I hadn’t looked at the Foundations (which is intended for early elementary) curriculum in any way. Basically, Logic of English Foundations D covers everything: vocabulary, phonics, spelling grammar and reading comprehension.  I was beyond thrilled when I had the chance to review Foundations D from Logic of English recently.

Logic of English programs are some of the best when using multi-sensory activities in teaching language arts. As you might know, Josiah is dyslexic. Using multi-sensory methods when teaching these kiddos to read has been proven to be effective. In fact, I think every early reader would benefit from these methods.

Foundations D is the 4th book in the Foundations series. It is intended for ages 4-7. Foundations D still contains all the fun bits. There are plenty of hands-on activities and fun games, but it also includes the addition of readers. We are introduced to classic children’s stories (Are You My Mother? Frog and Toad, etc.) plus a whole series of non-fiction readers.

The student is introduced to more spelling words, additional vocabulary and grammar skills.  I mentioned before that this is a COMPLETE language arts program. The student is given plenty of opportunity to work through writing instruction. I love that both copywork and dictation are used.

One of the big drawing points for me was the reading comprehension and fluency aspects of the lessons. Josiah has difficulty reading with any kind of feeling. It’s more like “I’m just tryin’ get through this the best I can.” Anybody with me?

So I know what you are asking. Why ask to a review a program that might be too juvenile for your teenage son? I have my motives.

For one, Josiah has been through much of the Essentials program. I think it is a great program and would recommend it to anyone. However, I also feel like it is a good thing for us to do major review every now and again. I like Josiah to have something in his life that he feels like he has mastered.

I also had a bigger reason. I teach a reading co-op and am looking for a consistent program to use with that group. My challenge is that I have young readers that don’t quite need Foundation A and aren’t near ready for Essentials.

I received a whole lot of goodies for my review. I got spelling rule cards, grammar rules, advanced phonics and more! 

The main components of the program is the Foundations D Teacher's Manual, Student Workbook and Readers. 

A typical lesson with Foundations D will take around an hour. It took a little less with Josiah.

We first started with phonogram practice. If your child has never been exposed to phonograms before I suggested you start with a lower level of Foundations. Foundations D really builds upon prior knowledge. It is less about grade level.
Grammar and spelling are next. I can’t tell you how much Josiah’s spelling has improved! I really do love the way Foundations D does spelling. My son gets really overwhelmed with long spelling lists. Each list is only 7-8 words long. I think this will be a good amount for my reading class kiddos, as well. Josiah does find it difficult to mark each word as instructed. We do our best.

I LOVE that the readers are all books that Josiah can easily handle on his own. I realize that this won’t be the same for my co-op book, but here are a couple of things to note. Our reading lesson just isn’t reading and answering a few comprehension questions. The student is taught how to read with expression, how to describe a plot, how to find key words…etc.

The non-fiction readers that come with the program are adorable. Look at that cutie below! 

The writing activity will vary from lesson to lesson.  They always tie in with the reading lesson. For example, students might do a bit of copywork or make a venn diagram. Such a wonderful thing! I have found we do better when we learn to use graphic organizers.

Here are a few things to remember.

If your child hasn’t been through a Foundations level I suggested you dig a little deeper before purchasing Foundations D. They are not based on grade level.  Logic of English works with phonograms, spelling rules, etc. Once a child has reached Foundations D there is a certain amount of material that it is assumed has been mastered. You might be better served by checking out a lower level.  

If your child is dyslexic and older (like

Josiah), I suggest you use Essentials. It has been very effective with Josiah.

Keep in mind that the program also uses children's classics for reading material, in addition to the non-fiction readers. They did not come in my box of goodies (as did the non-fiction readers), but are available for purchase on the site. I found we had several of the books already and had no trouble at all checking out the ones we didn't have at the library. 

If you are already a Foundations user (and lover) this is the program for you! 

You can connect with Logic of English via the following social media outlets. Don't forget to click on the banner below to read more reviews. 

Logic of English Review

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

My Favorite Homeschool Advice (5 Days of Tips for Homeschooling Advice)

If I had a nickel every time questioned our decision to homeschool I would be able have a fabulous shoe collection.

We’re talking some swanky looking shoes here.

Let’s be honest about this. For a lot of people the idea of taking your child’s education out of the hands of the professionals is just CRAZY!
You know the really sad part? I spent 5 years in college, 10 years teaching ages Birth-2nd grade and I still get the “stank eye.” Do I not qualify as a professional?

They would be really surprised to know that I don’t think you have to be a professional teacher to homeschool your kiddos!!

And to be perfectly frank, my years of college didn't prepare me a whole lot for this kind of life.

If you are teachable and ready to jump in with little to no expectations (we are talking about major flexibility) you are a candidate to homeschool. 

What you don’t need is intrinsic patience.

Come on. These are kids. None of us are that patient.
We just try and roll with the punches. Believe me. You will have plenty of opportunity to practice patience. 

Homeschooling is a lot like life. Some days you feel like you should have just stayed in bed. It would have been healthier (and safer) for everyone involved. Some days you are the Queen of your Castle! You feel like you could capture the wind.

After 8 years of Homeschooling I can at least tell you what works for us. Remember. Take what you can use. Everyone’s experience is going to be different. But we all have one thing in common.

We love our kids and want what’s best for them and our family.

1.    We homeschool all year long. This might send some of you into a panic attack. I apologize. It just works better for us. Josiah keeps his skills fresh and we are able to take off longer chunks of time for holidays or days when “Momma needs every day to be a park day.” I had almost decided to abandon the practice when I saw friends wind up their school year and start making plans that involved sunscreen and pool passes. I changed my mind when I thought of trying to do school the whole month of December. When we would we have our Christmas movie marathons complete with hot chocolate?

2.    I try and make sure we have plenty of hands-on activities as possible. This is where my early childhood teaching days have come in handy. I don’t care that my son is now in Middle School (soon to be heading into High School). Bring out those Board Games! Take those field trips! Make slimy messes in the kitchen! The brain is the brain is the brain. How can it be stimulated with dry worksheets and even drier lectures?

3.    Read. Read. Read. I can’t emphasize this enough. There is always a book/audio book we are working through. I can’t take my son to Timbuktu, but I can take him to Narnia.

Unless there is a book set in Timbuktu. Then we’re talking.

4.    Being the mom of an only child I have found that I need to make opportunities for Josiah to “socialize.” I can’t even believe I’m saying that. Most homeschool moms have a good eye roll down when they hear the supposed lack of socialization we homeschoolers experience. But hear me out. He doesn’t just socialize with kids on the swim team or PE class. He socializes with Seniors Citizens at the Nursing Home when we volunteer. He has painted finger nails, helped call Bingo, taken a Tai Chi class, and visited with war veterans. We live in a closed Apartment building. Josiah has helped ladies carry in their groceries, delivered car packages and visited with neighbors over the balcony porch. His social world is much wider than a lot of kids his age. Nuff said.

5.    I have to be prepared. This is me. I am more of a “let’s move where the wind takes us kind of gal” personally. However, this doesn’t work for my “desperately needs structure boy.” I don’t get too crazy. I have found a simple planner and a list for Josiah to work through works just fine. I do make sure I have any art supplies, pens, pencils and other materials on hands. There is nothing more frustrating than not having what you need when you need it.

6.    We focus on relationships. One of the BEST outcomes that we have had during our homeschool experience has been the bond between Josiah and his Dad. When we first started homeschooling, Troy (aka The Studly Muffin) was working a 10 hour evening/night shift. When Josiah started kindergarten in the Public School they never got to see each other through the week. Troy started getting up every morning to have breakfast with him and see him off. When we started homeschooling in the 1st grade, Troy had all this time with Josiah. He was able to pour into his little life. And all these years later, Josiah and his Dad have a “Dad’s Day Out.” They might go cycling, or to the mall to stare at sports stuff. They go to rare coin shops and always have lunch or at least ice cream out. Not every family can go this far. But it made us realize how important designating special times to spend together matter.

7.    I try to stop and smell the roses. I don’t want this time to pass me by. I will always have a few regrets.  One regret I don’t have is taking time to build that salt dough map or to go see a movie in the middle of the day (we did that today!). I don’t regret the hours spent at the library or those lazy pancake breakfasts. Sure. I have a plan. I need to educate my son. But I also need to be a parent, as well.

8.    I have been BLESSED to be a part of a review team for homeschool curriculum. I have been able to review some of the best of the best in curriculum. However, I am not naïve enough to think even the best curriculum is going to fit into our homeschool life. I also realize my need to make things my own. You don’t have to get what everyone else is doing. You don’t have to do every. single. problem in the book. Don’t be a slave to any particular homeschool method.

9.    I am continually educating myself. Whether it be through good books, excellent podcasts or audio lectures or our local homeschool convention…I have to constantly refresh myself and learn to dip a bit deeper if I am hitting a brick wall with something. Hopefully, my example is also teaching my son to do the same.

10. I try and give myself a measure of Grace. Contrary to popular belief I am not Wonder Woman. My friends. This can be a challenging life. I give myself time every morning to get my feet underneath me. I am going to share a little more bit more about my morning routine at the end of the week…but for now, just know that it’s okay to cry, take solitary walks, call a movie day, spend the day in your pajamas and get up the next day and try again.

Come back tomorrow!  I’ll be sharing some more.

In the meantime, check out my blogger friends below. We are all participating in the 5 Day of Tips For Homeschooling Families. 

Jeniffer @ Thou Shall Not Whine
Jennifer @ A Peace of Mind
Jennifer @ Faithful Homestead
Joelle @ homeschooling for His Glory
Joesette @ Learning Curve
Kari @ Random Acts of Boyhood
Katie @ Katie's Daily Life
Kemi @ Homemaking Organized
Kim @ Homestead Acres
Kylie @ Our Worldwide Classroom
5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents

Monday, March 28, 2016

Healthy Living (5 Days of Tips For Homeschooling Parents)

This week I'm bringing to you a whole lot of tips and tricks. Homeschooling is a special life and we need all the encouragement we can get. I love when I get practical advice and so I am passing some on to you. Take what you can use and tuck the rest of it in a nice little file called "maybe doesn't apply to me." 

Is this you? 

I understand completely! 

Here is a truth bomb.

We all need to be just a little interested in living a healthier life. You might be someone who natural exudes health and wellness. Or you might be someone who needs to work a little harder at the whole “healthy vibe”.

If so…I feel your pain.

My journey to health has been a bit rocky. I can’t tell you how many bumps, valleys, roadblocks (you pick your metaphor) I have encountered.

However. I have had success. I have been able to change my life. Change my body.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s still a journey. Just this past year I gained weight back that I had previously lost. Something to do with a wonky hormone system and sluggish thyroid.

Anybody else deal with those kinds of issues?

Here is another truth bomb.

To be all we can be for our families we need to get a handle on things. I understand that it takes more effort when one is a homeschooling mama.

Life seems to rip and roar around us. It’s easy to just do the “easy” thing (which in my house could easily turn into Krispy Kreme).

My philosophy is just this.

Make small changes. It will change your life.

Don’t try and overhaul your lifestyle all at once. You will get overwhelmed and frustrated. It will just add to the crazy. And I should know.  

I am not going to share “everything I know” (which make take a post or two), but I do want to give you a few ways you can incorporate a healthy life with your homeschool family lifestyle.

1.       Start the day with water. Hydrate yourself. I also try and enjoy a warm cup of lemon tea. Your body needs all that lovely water.

2.       Plan your menu. Be prepared. Know what you are going to eat and when. You might need to take some extra time at the beginning of the week to prepare, but it will be worth it. You can even make it a family event. Put the littles to work washing veggies and filling storage baggies with snacks.  I think that sounds like a perfectly good Home Economics class to me.

3.       And speaking of your menu. It’s very tempting to get caught up in foods trends and fads. Do your research.  You can’t go wrong with eating real food. If there is something I want to make that requires a special ingredient I often check to see if there is something handier (and cheaper) I can substitute it with.

4.       Move. Park farther from the grocery store entrance. Take the stairs. You probably have heard this before, but mixing up your exercise works. If you HATE to exercise, experiment with different kinds of activity. Make exercise a family adventure. We do have a family membership to our local YMCA. Josiah and I also enjoy taking nature walks, playing Just Dance and I do some strength training using odds and ends of weights and rubber bands we’ve picked up at the Thrift Store.

I'm thinking we all need one of these! Looks like a good science project to me! Not sure what it does, but there has to be an adventure involved there somewhere! 

5.       Eat a healthy protein with every meal. I said “healthy”….somebody’s leftover corndog doesn’t count.

6.       Ever heard this one? Each breakfast like a King. Eat supper like a pauper. I’m not suggest you start serving porridge and a stale crust of bread for supper. Just don’t neglect that morning meal. You’ll pay for it later on.  Sometimes it’s tempting to rush through breakfast to get on with the day.  On days when we are home I like to make breakfast a special event. A fresh pot of tea, a batch of healthy muffins served on my pretty dishes.

7.       Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Let’s face it. There are some of you who are just not in that season of life. I’m here to reassure you. Sleep will eventually come. Some of us (I’m not looking in anyone’s direction) just need to go to bed earlier.  

8.       Don’t keep junk food in the house if you struggle with stress eating (speaking from experience). The family won’t suffer. Nobody is going to turn you in to DFS for neglecting to by Cheetos.

9.       If you diet needs a major overhaul….try making over one meal a week.  For example, focus on breakfast the first week. Try steel cut oats and blueberries. Or make a healthy omelet with sautéed veggies. The next week add a healthy snack. After a few weeks, you will be cruising!  

10.   Knock out the excuses. We all have them. I have major orthopedic issues. My hips alone could light up a Lite Bright.  I have had to find activity I can still do. Next time you catch yourself making an excuse say to yourself…”but I can do…” and fill in the blank with something you can do!

11.   If you need to eat out go somewhere you know you can get a healthy option. For example, I know that I can get a small chili at Wendy’s that won’t compromise my healthy eating goals. When going with the family I like to look on the menu ahead of time so I can see what choices I have. That way I have a plan and won’t be lured into ordering the fried chicken and mashed potatoes once I get there.  

12.   Start right now. Don’t wait for a perfect opportunity to be healthier. It will never come. Be purposeful!

You will be amazed how small changes in your life will make a difference. This needs to be a family affair. You will undoubtedly run into some resistance with the family. I suggest you start with yourself and gradually start making over favorite family dishes and desserts if need be. I do fix a decadent dessert or a loaf of homemade bread on occasion. It’s not like I am completely disregarding some of those comfort foods. They are just not part of our everyday diet.

Another little note. I could do a whole series of posts on frugal dieting. It can be challenging. But, it’s not impossible. Become a smart shopper and savvy food connoisseur. 

We can do this! 

I am joining up with my blogging friends to bring you tips and advice all week long. Check out the blogs of these lovely ladies today!

Dawn @ Double O Farms
Dawn @ Guiding Light Homeschool
Debbie @ Debbie's Homeschool Corner
Desiree @ Our Homeschool Notebook
Diana @ Busy Homeschool Days
Diana @ Homeschool Review
Elyse @ Oiralinde: Eternal Song
Emilee @ Pea of Sweetness
Erin @ For Him and My Family
Jen @ Chestnut Grove Academy
5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Classy Recipes for Your Crockpot (5 Days of Tips For Homeschool Parents)

This week I'm bringing to you a whole lot of tips and tricks. Homeschooling is a special life and we need all the encouragement we can get. I love when I get practical advice and so I am passing some on to you. Take what you can use and tuck the rest of it in a nice little file called "maybe doesn't apply to me." 

So it's Monday. On Monday I generally do my grocery shopping. I've got my meal plan for the week together and I'm setting myself up for "Homeschool Mom Success." This happens when you do what is on at least 75% of your lesson plan. There aren't any major disasters (especially involving plumbing) and everyone has been fed relatively healthy meals. Personal grooming and laundry are optional. 

One of my favorite tools in my home is my crockpot. Why a crockpot? A crockpot can help me morph into Superwoman. I can teach AND cook at the same time. My own personally food philosophy demands that I make HEALTHY and DELICIOUS meals. I also like to make something every now and again that makes my boys stand up and cheer. 

I realize that the term “Classy” is not what comes to mind when one thinks about crockpot cooking. Crockpots are at their best when they are filled with hearty soups or chilies. They like tougher cuts of meats and generally won’t be found on the counter any highfalutin restaurant.

However. I am here to tell you that we can kick it up a notch. That we can replace our beefy stew with something with a little more posh?

Why, you say?

Cause it’s a whole lot of fun to serve interesting and flavorful foods to our families. Cause we don’t have time to spend hours putting together a meal worthy of Gordon Ramsey. And we must embrace the tools of the trade…and make it fabulous.

1.       Begin your day with a pot of Morning Glory Steel Cut Oats. This particular recipe suggests to cook it during the day (not overnight) and then store it to eat through the week. But who are we kidding? The idea of breakfast cooking while I am sleeping is like music to my ears. I also like to fix it when I have company. I just set out a bunch of fun toppings and let my guests top their bowls. What I love about this recipe is the added veggie. We gotta get them in there the best we can, my friends.

2.       This Slow Cooker Butter Chicken is an Indian Classic….at least in our neck of the woods. I like to serve this with brown rice. I also will sauté green beans in a little coconut oil and garlic. Yum! Our son’s biological father is from India. We consider this a homage to his culture. I think it’s fun to explore our respective ancestral heritages through food.  

3.       Nothing says posh like “quinoa”. Try this Quinoa and Vegetables.  The Muffin is not as fond as Quinoa as I am. I try and remind him that truly evolved people eat Quinoa. I don’t think he’s impressed.

4.       I didn’t say I wouldn’t include soup. Soup can be elegant.  If you must have soup, serve this Black Bean Soup with Toasted Cumin Seed Crema. Special things happen when you serve Black Bean Soup. World Peace. Mastery of Long Division. It all can happen.

5.       So I realize that when you hear the word “classy” tacos don’t really come to mind. These Slow Cooker Spicy Chicken  Lettuce Wraps are truly delightful. And they sure look pretty.

6.       When I have company and don’t have much time to piddle in the kitchen I like to fix this Balsamic Pork Recipe. I love serving it with roasted green beans and baked sweet potatoes. And it makes GREAT leftovers.

7.       A family favorite is are these Crockpot Italian Turkey Meatballs. I serve them over pasta and fix a huge green salad! This is also a good company meal. FYI. This is a perfect meal to get the family involved. We might struggle with fractions but we can roll a meatball!

8.       So basically this is just a big pot of spaghetti and meat sauce. But it is a delicious Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce.  Doesn’t Bolognese sound just a bit fancier (unless we associate it with bologna. Then I can’t do anything for you). The beauty of the Bolognese Sauce is all the extra veggies that are involved. I like to make a double recipe and stick the rest in the freezer.

9.       Have you been introduced to the wonderful world of polenta? I present to you a delectable dish of Crockpot Braised Beef Ragu with Polenta.  I use just a basic cornmeal for my polenta. And the Braised Beef Ragu? Sigh. It will make you want to smack somebody. Preferably, not the children.

10.   A French classic done the easy way. Slow Cooker Beef Bourguignon. Now I adore Julia Child. She was perhaps my first exposure to a “celebrity” chef. But her recipe for Beef Bourguignon takes more time than I have. If it can be thrown into my crockpot in twenty minutes…anybody with me? This recipe makes me smile. It makes my family smile.

And just in case your wondering... 

A smiling family is a good thing. 

I am joining dozens of my friends for 5 Days of Tips For Homeschooling Families. 

You can check out this group of lovely bloggers below. I know they will have wonderful tips for all of us. I'll have more tomorrow. 

Annette @ A Net In Time
Brandy @ Kingdom Academy Homeschool
Brenda @ Counting Pinecones
Carol @ Home Sweet Life
Cassandra @ A Glimpse of Normal
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses
Cristi @ Through the Calm and Through the Storm
Crystal @ Crystal Starr
DaLynn @ Biblical Womanhood
Danielle @ Sensible Whimsy
5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents
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