Monday, February 27, 2017

Keepers at Home & Menu Monday: Well Planned Day How-To

Over the years I have used various resources for planning.  From plain and simple notebooks to full-on pre-arranged planners.  From small purse-size types to larger regular sized ones.  Each method seems to work for the season I am in and I tend to know it is time to switch things up when the method begins to collect more blank pages then used ones! (I tend to like efficiency from my planners!  I know, I ask a lot)

This is what led to my current method of planning... one I have used for a few years now and I discussed in some detail last week.  I had been using The Well Planned Day pretty consistently.  It was one of my most looked forward to purchases at the start of each school year. One year, however, I had to weigh out the price against the need.  Our budget was limited and, as I assessed the "need" I realized more empty spaces were piling up in my planner then used ones.  With skill an knowledge in Microsoft Word and Publisher I knew I could easily design a planner page more functional for my personal needs in this apparent evolving new season of my life.  The result has had various adjustments over the last few years, this is the latest model:
(Click on Image for FREE download)

Last week I shared WHY having a well planned day/week is so important. I included pictures of  my weekly overview list and bulleted out the "pros" of having life in order.  I also promised I would share more how-to this week... so here we go!  Oh, and since it is also "Menu Monday", consider this a recipe for planning!!

#1 - Binder (or whatever you use for scheduling)
I mentioned last week how I was trying my schedule on a clipboard for the week because I also use a binder for our homeschool records and having TWO binders on the table amidst our school books and supplies was becoming cumbersome....
Left is Homeschool, Right is Homemaking

The clipboard worked great.  I am still using my binder though.  It holds subsequent week's sheets, miscellaneous info and so on.  (I'll detail this in a minute)
left is front, right is back
Normally I use binder clips to clip my list to the front (on top) of the binder.... I will go back to that method when the school year is over.  This is actually a plain white 1" binder and I used scrapbooking paper slipped inside the clear sleeve to decorate.  The back is a montage of some great mom and home sayings from my page-a-day Mary Englebright calendar I had last year. (Please forgive my funky pictures, I'm still learning how to work my new camera!)

As you can see, this binder is the kind where you can fold back the cover, a real convenience at times.  It even has easy open latches so I can easily open the 3-Rings with the flip of one thumb while holding a stack of papers in the other!

I also like the double pockets in the front of the binder, they help me store items without them flopping everywhere.  Tall things in back, shorties in front!

#2 - Set-up
You may already have a pre-printed planner - that's great.  Use this set-up for ideas on how you can make your current planner work most efficiently for you.  I have taped in pockets to back covers and re-labeled tabs on some of my old pre-printed planners.

As for arranging a Planning binder, it really depends on your family's needs.  As you can see above, I like pocket dividers for holding important info pertaining to sections... in the case of my front pocket, I have items pertaining to overall homemaking (return address labels, letters I need to reply to, etc.)

Under the initial pocket is some loose-leaf paper.  Then the red tab marks the calendar section.  You can see I have white dividers for the months of the year with the last few dividers being used to house blank to-do pages like the one pictured on the clipboard at the beginning of this article.

Subsequent tabs are labeled for extra chore lists, blog tidbits, and household misc.  The final tab marks a birthday and gift list area.  When my youngest played basketball last year I used one of the tabs to keep track of volunteer hours and team schedules.

#3 Scheduling
I usually sit down by Sunday afternoon and plan out our week.  Sometimes I set up my plans on Saturday if I have time.  I jot the kiddos' work schedules down, make note of necessary to-dos either on their dates or in the general section to be filtered in as time allows during the week.  I also look over the previous week's list and transfer anything which was not completed.  I file the old list with it's respective month in the binder and viola.

In total I may spend 5-10 minutes planning and it brings sooooo much peace and organization for the rest of the week!

#4 Leaving Margins
This is probably the MOST IMPORTANT step of all.  Once upon a time I might have been one of those women who planned EVERY MINUTE of the day... even my resting time was situated to be productive!  And in that once upon a time I may have gotten a bit overwhelmed!  I may have had a husband who said something like "Sometimes you need to be OK with NOT having a plan" and I might have gotten upset with him for just not getting it.  Once upon a time, I might have realized he was right!

Margins are vital because without them, you have no room to really live.  Schedules are important, plans have a purpose (as discussed last week) but these can become an idol if we are not careful.  All of life isn't meant to be fit into neat little boxes.

You will notice, other then the schoolwork plans, my list above is pretty bare.  Some weeks I have more written in.  Right now, however, with everyone getting over being sick I am nervous to plan too much just yet.  But even on busier weeks, I try to leave blanks in spaces and be completely willing to move things around so I don't freak out over an impromptu stroll through the park or a last minute call from a friend on her way to visit.  LIFE happens in those margins and I don't want to be so busy freaking out about misuse of time or things not getting done or going the way I planned, that I miss it.

We should never be too busy to fellowship or too busy to minister.  The fellowship of the body of Christ and reaching out to neighbors and lost ones should take high priority whenever possible (I know, it isn't always possible). 

How do you schedule margins?  Be brutally honest with yourself on what is truly vital within each day and within each week.  This honesty will reveal your anchor point. 
  • Laundry - yeah, we all need clean clothes
  • Dishes washed each day - naturally
  • Working with your kiddos - if you homeschool or public school, your kiddos need you
You get the idea.  Those are non-negotiables, though some also have flexibility in WHEN they get done. 

Then there are...
  • Scrubbing the Floor....
  • Washing the Curtains....
  • Cleaning the oven...
 ... all good plans, however, unless you are sticking to the floor, your curtains are odorous or your stove is about to catch fire... these can go on the schedule with the ability to be moved around should something more urgent arise (and I don't mean urgent as in the next episode of your favorite show).  More like; friend calls you haven't seen in a while or needing immediate help, a neighbor is sick and you want to take them soup... fellowship and ministry urgencies is what this flexible schedule is for.

Yes, some plans have to be duck-taped on our daily schedules and CAN NOT move.  We should be able to say "NO" to people wanting us to sign up for, or go DO, more than we feel we can... but we should also say "NO" to ourselves sometimes and instead opt for margins; for slow walks in the bright sunshine, for butterfly kisses and long deep gazes, for cocoa and a bonfire on a chilly night, for movies and cuddles at the end of a long day.  Leave Margins and remember to take time each day to live there for a little while!

Food from last week...

Pasta with cheesy bread-sticks.  I use a simple pizza dough recipe, roll it out on a greased baking sheet, spread with Parmesan and Mozzarella and bake.  Finally, I slice the 'bread' into strips.

 Leftover Chicken, Cheese, Broccoli and Cauliflower for lunch on the deck (we had a warm wave last week)

Grocery shopping was done this weekend.  Once a month I usually buy a big chub of Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage at Costco.  Typically I just crumble fry it, cool and split into packages and freeze.  We will have eggs and sausage (usually in omelet form) for Sunday breakfast before church each week.  This week, though, I decided to make biscuits, fry patties and then some eggs for Sausage and Egg Biscuits.  I still cooled, packaged and froze the rest of the crumbled (multi-tasking!)

Menu for this week...

- cereal and blueberries
- eggs
- fresh bread with butter and jam
- left over biscuits

hubby: sausage and rice
me and kids: leftovers, grilled sandwiches, grilled tuna sandwiches, mac-n-cheese


Hot Dogs (kids), Salad (hubby and me)


Chicken Stir Fry

Beef Roast and Veggies
I have a crazy easy, melt-in-your-,mouth, beef roast recipe:
Peal and halve carrots, clean and quarter potatoes, throw in the bottom of slow cooker
Peel and slice half an onion, throw that in too
Sear Beef roast on all sides, lay that on top of veggies
Pour one whole packet of Onion soup mix over the top of the roast, gently patting into top
Fill crock with water until about halfway up the side of the roast (top of roast should NOT be submerged)
Shake into water about 1-2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
Cover and cook all day

You can use the broth to make gravy just before serving.
Chicken with Parmesan Sauce over Roasted Squash with a Green Salad
Sort of like Fettuccine with a twist

Open-top Burgers with Veggie Straws

Possibly Chili... definitely something with beans
What are you doing and cooking this week?


**Next week I will be sharing about cloth napkins as per a promise I made in comments over at Making A House A Home.  Be sure to check back!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Homeschool Journal: Being Content in Your Curriculum

As the winter doldrums drift on in some areas... and spring fever breezes into others... it can be tempting to lay aside the books or even question if they are still a good fit.  If you are anything like me, I usually hit this mode in both late fall and early spring.  Fact is, it usually isn't faulty curriculum at work... it is weariness of teaching the same thing day-in-and-day-out and the changing seasons outside the window beckoning us to join in their adventures.  So what do you do when you suddenly become discontent with your curriculum?

#1 - Remember what you liked about it in the beginning.  You had a reason for choosing the curriculum you have.  I was gifted with a lot of our ABeka though I have chosen to purchase a few items I enjoyed as well.  Other curriculum has come through homeschool book sales/sellers or the rare garage sale finds.  There are certain types of curriculum out there I would love to purchase instead of what I have but it doesn't fit our modest budget.  But that doesn't matter.  Each year I choose what and how we will learn and each year I have a good reason for it.  I have learned to hold onto that reason and trust what I liked about it in the beginning.

#2 - Deny the "Oooo Shiny" complex!  Admit it, many of us get totally ADHD with curriculum.  We hear about another kind of curriculum, this one has full-color pictures or that one has GREAT science projects you can do in your kitchen.  Oh, and this one will make your kid smarter then her peers in 5 easy lessons, and this one over here will enliven his writing with ease.  Printables and lap books and sitting at a desk and sitting in nature and you know... you are certain that if you don't switch NOW, your kid is doomed to miss the BEST learning experience ever, or, worse... to be messed up for life because you used the wrong curriculum for an entire year and if you had just switched sooner..... 

Don't buy into that lie.  Remember #1 above.  There are a plethora of GREAT ideas and curriculum you could use out there, but this curriculum or idea you have right-now... this is the one YOU chose at the beginning of the year and it will work GREAT.  I am a curriculum junky so trust me when I tell you: there is NO such thing as the full-proof perfect curriclum out there.  Nothing in life is "perfect" why would our educational materials be?!  If you really, really, really like Curriculum B better then Curriculum A which you chose to use this year, guess what?  This isn't the last year you teach!  Try B next year and see how it goes!  I have.  Sometimes I go back to A the year after that... sometimes I stick with B from the next year on... sometimes I try C... or D... or.... you get the idea!

#3 - Sometimes curriculum really isn't working for your kiddos.  Be honest with yourself before you ditch it though:
  • Do you feel it isn't working because your kids are complaining about it?  Kids are expert complainers when it comes to things they don't want to do... even homeschool (don't feel bad, they would do the same thing with public school as well!)  Often their complaining isn't a curriculum flaw or incompatibility issue...sometimes it is because they just don't like being challenged and pulled outside their comfort zone, sometimes they just want to get back to Minecraft or Legos or Pretend.  Watch them for effort.  If you see true 110% effort consistently yet still no productive results then, yes, it may be curriculum incompatibility.  But if you are honest and your child is not trying the hardest, find ways to encourage them out of their slump.  Sometimes they just need to find success in their workDon't focus so much on what they can't do or are doing wrong, rather, encourage them by pointing out everywhere they are getting right and every area they begin to show improvement in.
  • Is it not working because you don't feel like teaching it? Maybe because you just have the blahs or maybe your child (as in bullet-point above) is fighting you on it.  Take the advice above along with remembering: success in homeschooling and curriculum isn't measured in snapshots... it is a slow and steady pace from the day you begin teaching until the day you hand them their diploma... with a lot of bumps and slumps in between.  Be encouraged to know persistence does pay off and remember Hebrews 11... many of God's faithful followers were counted as "righteous" not because they ever saw God's blessings... but because they believed God for the results.... whenever He saw fit for those results to appear.
  • Are you having trouble understanding how to use the curriculum or make it work for you? Talk to other parents you know who are using the same curriculum; search social media for groups or check with your local homeschooling support group.  Sometimes these other parents may be able to give you pointers or explain tricky aspects of the curriculum.  Remember, they were once new at it and probably struggled then too... reaching out gives them the opportunity to share that hard-earned knowledge!
#4 - Don't complain about your curriculum.  If you once loved it, I promise, with the right attitude, you can and will love it again.  Complaining causes your current dissatisfaction to fester and boil.  Complaining in front of your kids gives credence to bad work attitudes and your kids will begin to grumble as well... then you will all be miserable and your dissatisfaction will barrel down a very reckless path.

#5 - Retool it!  Ever get tiered of your living room furniture arrangement?  What do you do?  You rearrange, maybe switch out some trinkets on end tables while your at it, find a great throw blanket at the thrift store and drape it over the arm of your couch... you get the idea.  Did you know you can do the same with your curriculum?  Maybe you do math in the afternoon instead of the morning.  Maybe you add some historical art projects in with history.  Maybe you take it slower through science and find ways to incorporate the outdoors into your studies (if you aren't already).  Maybe, instead of doing Language Arts from the book FIVE days a week, you do it 3-4 and for the other days you play an L.A. game or write letters to loved ones or make your own books.  Maybe you buy a microscope or a telescope or an Easy Bake Oven or puzzles to supplement activities with... The ideas are endless and they all start with thinking outside the box and shuffling it around a bit so it fits better into the season of change or un-settling you feel right now.

My lack of a well networked support system in homeschooling early on coupled with my low self-confidence at that time and our tight budget led me through quite a treacherous adventure in and out of contentedness with curriculum.  Finally, the good Lord grabbed a hold of me and got me FOCUSED on being content with what He provided and what I had each year and what-do-you-know... each year has grown in contentedness and boy do I wish I had known this sooner!!

Our Homeschool This Week...


Brooke's Journal
 While Brooke's was beautiful and colorful and she did great... my dyslexic color blind son took his typical visual-learner creative approach on the assignment of diagramming storm surges in the 5 different Categories of a Hurricane (notice Snoopy and his accompanying tree):

Never a dull moment with him!  I'm going to miss this when he graduates next year.

Tuesday we had some very warm weather and decided to have lunch on the deck... 2 out of 3 were still in their pajamas!  Ashley may be graduated now but she still hangs out with us from time to time providing faceless pictures!
One of our cats is an outdoor bum.  He was soaking up the warm sun... literally!

Brenden and Brooke joined forces in Algebra this week.  Brooke started the year in Algebra 1 and Brenden had Algebra Freshman year but we never finished the book.  He is considering studying some CAD or engineering post graduation so I decided to draw him back into advanced math for a refresher and then pull him through Algebra 2 with Brooke next year before he graduates.

 Shhhh, don't tell Brooke I shared this shot!  It is a rare glimpse into her silliness amidst homework!

Now this one she is fully aware of !  Ever-creative, she wanted to do some face paint this weekend so she painted around her right eye to match her shirt on Saturday!

We hung out here Wednesday afternoon.  I picked up materials for a project I'm working on and the kids hunted around for some new books.  It was nice to get out, even if it was snowing huge fluffy flakes in contrast to our picnic the day before!

What have you been up to this week?


Thursday, February 23, 2017

What if?

What if.

What if, for just a moment, we believed.

What if, for just a moment, we were children again, spinning in circles, watching the sky dance above, giggling and carefree.

What if, for just a moment, we remembered when life was simple, right was right, wrong was wrong, gold stars were special, and hope could really, really win.

What if.

Life seems so heavy anymore. 

It isn't just a "grown-up" thing... a life-is-here now face it kind of thing.  It is a fact.

A mere twenty years ago, a blink, a forever, a lifetime, a moment... twenty years, I was a young mama with little darlings gathering around.  I walked with confidence and joy and excitement at allll the future held for them and me and us and we. 

We didn't look over our shoulder then.  We didn't worry about wrong teaching or who was safe to play with who.  Everyone was friends.  Life was simple.

What if.

What if it was simple again?  I know it can't be.  I know time has changed and people have changed, policies have changed, schools have changed, government has changed. 

I know this well.

I know because almost 10 years ago these changing times halted my degree, halted my hope, halted my ambition when I learned, as a mama of 4, returning to higher education so I could teacher lower education, I learned the hard truth:  if you won't play the game, you have to sit down... you get put back into the box... you get thrown out.

But what if.

What if I quit sitting?  What if I started to stand and blaze a trail?  What if I remembered when life was simple and glue and paper and love and fun was all a child needed and all that was needed to give?

What if.

What if I burst out of that box and grabbed a hold of Titus 2 and really really lived it, teaching what is good, and training the young women to love their husbands and children.  

What if I revived the old ways, the simple ways, the ways which grew tender hearts, simple hopes and technicolor dreams?

If I don't, will anyone?  Does anyone else remember those days?  Those once upon a time, hi-didly-o, climbing over the mountains to see what we could see and off we would go?

I do.

What if.

What if I dared to dream again and share that dream again.... to hope again, and share that hope again.

What if.

What if dreaming and hoping and believing sparked others to dream and hope and believe again?

What if?


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Imitations and Implications, Join Me?

Posed in my high back chair at the head of our dining room table in the early, quiet, dark hours of the morning, a dim bulb illuminating from above, I poured over the passage sprawling across the warn pages of my ESV...

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk 
according the example you have in us.
Philippians 3:17

How many times had I pressed into this passage over the years?  How many times had I grabbed a hold of the robes of my Lord to be kept from dark places because my heart had cried, sisters, join in imitating me.  My children watch.  My friends watch.  My family watch.  Those God gives me to disciple watch. What will they see.

On this chilly February morning, I saw. 

...keep your eyes on those who walk according the example you have in us.  What was this example?  In Paul's letter to the Philippians he shares some but digging deeper, a vast world of understanding opened before my eyes...

For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to menWe are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ.  We are weak, but you are strong.  You are held in honor, but we in disrepute.  To the present hour, we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own handsWhen reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreatWe have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.  

I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children.  For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers.  For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.  I urge you, then, be imitators of me....
1 Corinthians 4:9-16

Paul is not complimenting the Corinthians.  On the contrary, he is admonishing them.  He is pointing out how they stand... and the contrast it is to how he and other disciples of Christ stand in the Lord.  And while the epistles are replete with evidence of how the faithful of faithful followed Christ, something in this passage of Corinthians stirred inside of me.

Not-one-positive-thing-is-said of Paul and his companions and their condition and consideration... at least by worldly standards.  They are spectacles, fools for Christ's sake.  They seem down-and-out.  YET, and here is the one positive, in harsh situations, instead of retaliation, they bless, endure, and entreat.  While the Corinthian believers  appear wise, strong, and held in honor... Paul doesn't commend them for this.  Instead, he stops just shy of condemning them.

But, Paul, I thought wisdom, strength and honor were desirable attributes.  Yet, I don't think he is saying they are not.  Rather, I believe he is pointing to WHO counts believers as wise, strong and honorable... because, by the world's standards... few (if any) believers would attain such praises. 

As Christians, we can see the work, devotion to scripture, sacrifice and endurance of fellow believers and whole-heartedly and rightfully so consider them wise, strong and honorable.  Yet, these same people, according to Paul, would seem fools to the world.  Their work and devotion: a spectacle.  As a result the world will revile, persecute, slander... even consider such faith-filled believers scum.

My mind was drawn back to the now.  To the implication of Philippians in the face of Corinthians.  To thinking on church and Christianity and this rat race to be the example, to follow me as I follow.  Leaders, followers, all looking.  But looking where?

In the now, people want fads.  People want to be told they can look like the world, be excepted by worldly friends, do worldly things, be honored, wise and seen as strong... commended.

Yet, we are not called to be of the world.  We are required to be in it.  Sojourners through it.  We are called to look like fools to the world.  We are called... to be spectacles.  We aren't meant to be of the culture, rather, counterculture.

Now.  People gather around the latest fads and trends in ministering.  They clamor to praise, and be praised.  They search for the wide, easy, road where all self-propelled pursuits, desires and passions are justified.  Fads and trends which allow them to keep status-quo.

A comfortable faith.
A praiseworthy faith with applause from the world.
A rusting honor.
Crumbling strength next to faulty wisdom.


Imitate me

Not just any me. 
Not just an idea ... follow my ideas
Not just interpretation... follow my interpretation.
Not just a message... my message.


Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:1

Funny.  The scripture address just happens to have a lot of 1's! Aptly so because there is only....
One idea.
One interpretation.
One message.
And all from One person in Jesus Christ.

As we lead others to imitate us... let us not forget to lead by Jesus' example... not our own or someone else's idea, interpretation, message or self-desire.  Simply Jesus.  What did HE do?  What were HIS ideas?  How did HE interpret? What was HIS MESSAGE. 

As we follow in imitating others... let us be real in asking if that person is really imitating Christ... or are they simply an imitation.  Do they speak their own ideas, words, opinions and interpretations... are they speaking others' ideas, words, opinions and interpretations... OR are they sharing God's amazing Word as-it-is... raw, hard, and, at times, uncomfortable and convicting.  Are they making themselves look like fools... a spectacle to the world - or are they honored by the world because they are so good at looking like it?

I heard Francis Chan recently speaking at a conference for leaders (I shared the video on my Facebook page.)  I loved how he explained he didn't know everything there was to know about God's Word, BUT, if he came across anything that differed from what he thought.... he didn't try to make God's Word fit His ideas or the latest fads.... no... he would recognize he needed to change his pattern of thought to fit the pattern of Scripture.

Paul did.  He only imitated Christ.  Not Peter, not John.... just.Christ.  And I believe the only reason he called others to imitate him, wasn't because he was special, but because he was humble and because he sought, with his whole heart, to look like his savior.

Shouldn't we?

I pray, whether you are a leader or a follower... or both.... that you see and imitate only that which is wholly and completely Christ.




Monday, February 20, 2017

Keepers at Home & Menu Monday: Well Planned Day and Alot of Soup!

This past week was a tough one in the world of Domestic Engineering in my household.  Sickness hanging around kept me without energy until Friday... it slowed the rest of the household down as well.

Being down and under sparked a renewed appreciation for keeping a schedule.  Kids not feeling good as well, school days ending earlier than expected, gaps of un-planned time and a million things to do and not knowing where to start (or what I felt up to)... it actually left me irritable by week's end.

That's the funny thing about refinements and awakenings though... we can either give-in to the difficultness and go crazy, OR, we can allow God to show us something... and then walk in it. Sickness is an inevitable part of a fallen world.  Two weeks of it is an eye-opening, appreciative opportunity in my book!  This one reminded me how keeping a concise planner is vitally important for making good use of time... even fragmented time... when running a household.

Planning days may seem like a self-centered mama thing.  However, it is very much a God thing.  Proverbs is replete with examples of hard work, planning, and its rewards.  Among my favorites:

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. 
-Proverbs 21:5

Any good manager knows a good plan is a fundamental part of success.  All of this prompted a revision of my current day-planner pages (I create my own with a binder... details in next week's Menu Monday):
This is the blogging version
This is the NON-blogging version
 Then I went to task this weekend filling the new page out for the week ahead...
This week I am going to be trying a switch to a clipboard since it will be more portable with the piles of school books we tend to accumulate throughout the day as we learn (and I grade)!
I keep my weekly chore checklist clipped under this page so everything is in one spot.  (I talk about the weekly chores and offer a printable worksheet in last week's Menu Monday post.)

Why is keeping a to-do list/planner so important?
  • People with a plan accomplish more.
  • Without a plan or a reminder of the things needing to be done, you are more likely to forget or put those things off
  • Without a plan a person is more likely to feel un-accomplished (like nothing is getting done... even if a ton is getting done)
  • People with a plan often actually have more free time and are able to relax in it (because they know things have been taken care of!)
  • Planning saves money.  Whether it is that bill you forget to write down on your planer to pay and now you have a late fee or being prepared for meals and events without last minute high-cost substitutes... there are many hidden costs in being unplanned and therefore unprepared.
  • A well-planned day = a happier marriage. Hubby (whether he openly admits it or not) will feel blessed to come home to a house that is taken care of and a wife who is not totally frazzled because of all the last minute things she forgot about and is working late on for lack of planning
  • A well-planned day = a happier family.  A mama well-planned at the helm = a family that knows what is expected of them.  I'm not saying they will always do it with the best attitude but I have generally observed better attitudes when they know what is coming down the pipe.
Doesn't that make you want to start planning now?  Whether you use my planner sheets or go out and buy a nifty planner that fits you... just start planning!  You will be grateful you did!  Just remember:

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. 
- Proverbs 16:3

Life this week...

We enjoyed warm, spring-like weather melting off almost all our snow this past week.  However, the mercury is suppose to drop back down mid-week and there is talk of more snow.  (After all, it is, technically, still winter!)  Hence, a stew on the menu!  Pay-day and grocery shopping this week as well which means grocery list and menu prep along with budget planning.  A task my oldest daughter has expressed interest in learning and shadowing me on.

I'm most excited this week to start a new work-out routine with my youngest.  She is wanting to get more in shape and (best part) she was hoping for a her and mom activity!  I desperately need the heart rate boost and shape up thingy too.  I'm excited.

Hopefully I can get some more garden planning done as well.  It will be time to start seedlings before you know it!

Food from last week...

Hubby had a potluck at work on Monday to celebrate a Vegan Co-worker's birthday.  I found this awesome recipe for Chocolate Wacky Cake on Pinterest and garnished with strawberries.
It was a BIG hit!

It also inspired the dessert for Valentine's Day using the left-over frosting and a different recipe for single-layer chocolate cake I also found on Pinterest (and then lost track of the pin, sorry).

It was a big hit too!  I have a heart-shaped baking pan and Ashley frosted it for me.  I need to teach her how to use a scraper to avoid frosting on your serving plate!  For the center heart I gently set a heart cookie cutter on the cake and sprinkled in red sugar sprinkles then carefully lifted the cookie cutter. 

When Brenden came down with the family bug on Thursday, soup was the order for the day... again! I felt blessed the little grocery store in our neighborhood put chicken breast on sale for 99 cents a pound!!  I didn't have any rice ready-made (it takes an hour to cook and my sickies were hungry immediately!) so I improvised with Ramen noodles broke up into approximately 1" pieces.  They loved it!

Anther sort of 'get well soup' I tried this week for dinner was my own take on taco soup with extra garlic and onion to kick the sick out!
Everyone went back for seconds!

Waking up Friday finally having my energy back I decided something delicious and loaded with vitamin C might help Brenden kick his bug quicker.  It felt good to have the energy to be in the kitchen! I tried these lemon muffins, loaded with lemon juice!  I made a double batch, the batter was beautiful! 

Also, I snapped this picture this week:

My throat was still really sore at the beginning of the week and I wanted warm mushy stuff inside of me so I made oatmeal.  No one ever eats the banana packets in the Fruit Assortment boxes of instant oatmeal I buy.  I hate seeing them go to waste so a while back I figured out a Banana Bread Oatmeal knock-off by mixing:

1 packet banana oatmeal
1 packet maple brown sugar oatmeal
1-2 Tbsp nuts sprinkled on top  (walnuts are best but I only had almonds)

Prepare oatmeal according to package directions and enjoy!

Menu for this week...

- cereal/oatmeal
- eggs
- fresh bread with butter and jam

hubby: sausage and rice
me and kids: leftovers, grilled sandwiches, grilled tuna sandwiches, mac-n-cheese


Creamy Meatballs, Mash Potato, Green Beans


Roast Chicken Breast, Cauliflower and Cheese, Corn

Spaghetti and Cheesy Bread Sticks
(You aren't seeing double, I had this on the list last week but it didn't get made so I am shooting for it again this week!)

Chicken Stew

(This isn't a double either, we didn't get to have it last week but Friday is pay-day and hubby has been begging for it so we will take the pizza plunge!)

Chicken and Cheese Chimichangas and Salad

What are you doing and cooking this week?


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Homeschool Journal: the Doldrums

It was a bitter February morning.  The piled up snow outside our sliding door a fresh reminder of the latest pummeling.  We were studying hard and journaling diagrams of air currents when our book began to share about doldrums.  Centuries ago, before modern boat engines, sailors dreaded these deadened air currents because they could find themselves stuck, going nowhere, for up to weeks on end when caught in one.  I chuckled because, just the day before, I had talked with a homeschooling friend of small children and she lamented the latest snowstorm slamming her remote area of our state and leaving her stranded, unable to go anywhere.

I remember those days all so well.  We once lived remotely on a mountain side.  More than not being able to get out of our driveway was then trying to traverse down the steep road which wound from our street to the base of the mountain-side and highways to 'civilization'.  Only our 4x4 Truck could trustingly make the trip... and I avoided driving the truck.

With small children at the time, it was easy to be threatened by the doldrums... to go crazy with cabin fever.  And while this week, in contrast to last's, has brought a break in our weather here in south-central Montana, I know many others around the country are still feeling the full blow of Punxsutawney's predictions.

What to do with the doldrums?

Simple: adventure!

Did you know your own house and yard (if it isn't sub-zero weather) hold adventure if you look with a trained eye?  Nobody said this mom job (or this homeschool thing) was going to be easy.  YOU are your kids' trail guide to adventure, not just learning and life know-hows.  While your kiddos can help you with your household chores and duties, you can join them in finding adventure in the every-day-mundane too.  Just a few ideas for beating the doldrums with youngsters around:
  • Make paper mache`... whether it is a model of something you are studying in history or science or something just for fun.  You could even make a paper mache` mask and encourage the kids to play dress-up!  The recipes are a sinch, though they are messy, it's the doldrums, what else are you going to do?!
  • Board game marathon complete with popcorn or other favorite snack.  Everyone picks their favorite.
  • Bakery... bake some treats to share with dad when he gets home (it will warm his heart and your home!) or even go all out with a double-batch and bundle up to trek out to your neighbors and share.
  • Play store... break out the play money and some old toys and 'price tags'.  Let the kids "price" their old toys and "sell" them to each other.  Make sure they know all sales are void after 5pm (it is just a game kiddos).  Use this opportunity to talk with them about fare pricing and good business manners.
  • Learn a hand craft
  • Fashion show, if you have girls (some boys actually like this too!) use rarely warn outfits, try new combos, and even let the kids invade your closet!
  • Tea party, even with boys, it is a chance for them to learn good manners at stately events.  You can have them help with the preparations and if you don't have fancy tea cups, no worries, use what you have on hand. I also use to break out fancy hats, long gloves and even allow their best-outfits at these 'parties'... teddy bears are welcome too!
  • Play restaurant... plan lunch or dinner together, have them make menus, set up the table and help you cook  
  • Have a scavenger hunt!
  • Read a chapter book together, allowing them to draw the scenes the story elicits in their minds.
  • Help them make their own book
  • Put on a play or puppet show based on a self-written story or favorite book. 
  • Be a world traveler... pick a country (each the same or different) and look in books, encyclopedias, the internet, and travel videos to learn more.  Then, make a travel brochure highlighting main attractions... you can even try recipes and crafts from the countries you learn about.
  • Letters to loved ones and friends... write letters and draw pictures for family and friends far away. When my mom and grandfather passed away (separately) and I had the huge task of going through their belongings, I found these letters and pictures from over the years stashed in special places.  It may look like a blob with 10 eyes when your youngest scribbles a picture in marker or barely legible when he "writes" a seemingly none-sensed letter with backwards letter in that big fat pencil on extra-wide lines; but to someone far away, it is a masterpiece of love and affection telling a story of grand adventure and expression deep affection.

These are just a few ideas and things we have done over the years on those doldrum days/weeks.  For recipes and inspiration, Pinterest (and the internet in general) carry a plethora of ideas.

Our Homeschool This Week...

... was far from the doldrums.  After taking last week off for illness and then I was still sick this week, it was our directive to push through in our big lets-not-fall-behind-after-missing-a-month-and-a-half-this-fall mode!  Sadly, the illness we have all had finally caught up with Brenden on Thursday.  He was well enough to push through Science and History but I let him off the hook on his other regulars.

We started this school year with my kids doing 2 different programs (Biology and Earth Science since they are 11th and 9th) and it was exhausting.  We all agreed to combine on Earth Science to fill some gaps for my 11th grader and come together next year on biology for both.  It is working great.

I use Abeka because it was gifted to me many years ago when I first started homeschooling.  I love the creationist world view and the colorful and well labeled diagrams in their books.  The kids (naturally) are board with reading a text so I do the reading/skimming in a VERY animated way (so it stays interesting!!) and usually draw the diagrams on our dry-erase board, explaining as I go, and they copy.  More complex diagrams I give them the book to copy.

Don't be afraid to teach secondary science... just follow the book with your kiddos and all that you learned when you were in high school will come back to you.  Experiments aren't all that complicated either when you look at the variety of supplies you can replicate most experiments with in your own kitchen.  The internet and many books are loaded with ideas to this end as well.

Brooke pushed through on her regs.  She is my math nut and I love teaching it to her because she is so determined to figure things out.

If you are afraid to homeschool high schoolers because of Algebra, don't fear.  I was nervous at first but here is my tip:  you took algebra in high school too and the information is tucked way back in the recesses of your brain.  If you walk-through-the-book with your 'student' you will get it.  Start with lesson 1 and do EVERY lesson with them (if you miss any you may loose a building block you need to piece subsequent lessons together).  To put your mind at ease, I'm not mathematically inclined and sometimes I am stumped.  That's when I hit YouTube for a how-to video and I usually get my bearings.  Also, don't feel like you have to put on a facade for you kids and act like you know it all!  You CAN tell them you are rusty or simply not the greatest at this subject, they will understand and, if anything, be inspired by your effort.  Sometimes, when I get stuck, they help me out!!

If this method doesn't work for you (and DO sincerely try it), there are numerous online classes for secondary math, complete with tutorials.  CTCMath is one of my favorites and the owners of the site are friendly and helpful.  I used them for a year for one of my harder to teach 'students' and it helped tremendously.  Kahn Academy is another helpful one.  We used their videos for Geometry one year.  If you know of any others that are free or inexpensive, please feel free to chime in below in the comments.

Other news in our homeschool this week...

My youngest son bought these lovelies for me for Valentine's Day ❤

He bought these for his sister!  He's a sweety!

My daughter's rabbit, Sam Wise, enjoyed the break in the weather because the tarp could now be lifted off the cage for fresh air, sunshine, and a great view of the world beyond chicken-wire!

My camera... and this stylish pair of rubber boots arrived this week.  Just in time for Valentine's Day... can you tell I am in love?! ❤❤❤  My hubby chuckled as I acted like a kid with my new 'toys'!

I'm most excited for feeling better (which seemed to finally start happening FRIDAY) so we can go have some adventures!  We ordered new batteries for our old camera and got it working again, which I gave to my youngest daughter.  We will be able to log "Photography" class for her this year as her and I set out on some photo adventures.  Even while we are stuck around the house feeling less-than-stellar, we have found ways to put our cameras to work.  We took on a photography challenge we found on Pinterest.  With stylishly dry feet, I look forward to learning the ins-and-outs of my new camera while sharing those tips for varied application with my daughter and her new (our old) one.

BTW, finding this tip on DIY Flash Reflectors from Kris Bales at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers is phenomenal. I tried it out Friday morning with a short stack of index cards and it worked marvelously, though I want to get some sturdier tack board for a permanent do-hicky!
You can see where I need to follow her directions more fully, top right corner is where the flash made it through.  Otherwise, I loved the results.  I'll have to try some before-and-afters sometime.

That about sums up our week.  How has yours been?  I pray this next one is full of blessings and marvelous adventures for you!


Linking up today with some of these...

P.S..... There IS hope, my tree told me so....