Menu Plan Monday 8/22/16

We are slowly getting it together over at my house. And this week I am actually posting my Menu Plan Monday on the right day of the week this week. I love summer, but I am kind of glad to be getting back to a regular routine again! Here’s our menu for this week:

Monday: Spaghetti

Tuesday: Baked chicken tacos

Wednesday: Red Wine Seared Pork Chops

Thursday: Spanish Rice

Friday: burgers on the grill

Thanks for stopping by! See you next week.

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TOS Review: FlipStir Puzzles (Enlivenze LLC)

FlipStir Puzzles Reviews

Who doesn’t love a good puzzle? As a kid I could spend hours putting puzzles together. Horse puzzles were my favorite. My boys enjoy a good puzzle every now and then, but like a lot of things from my childhood, they tend to get bored after a while. However, the FlipStir puzzles from Enlivenze LLC put a new twist (literally) on puzzle-solving. For this review, we got to check out the Statue of Liberty puzzle.

FlipStir Puzzles Reviews

First of all, FlipStir puzzles are fully 3D and you don’t use your hands to put the pieces together like you do in a traditional puzzle. Instead, each puzzle comes in its own self-contained plastic tube. The challenge is to put the pieces together using a stick inserted in the tube, and shaking, turning, and flipping the tube itself. Sound a little crazy? It was, and quite fun and challenging.

The picture of the completed puzzle is included on a sticker at the bottom of the tube, so you can use it as a reference. The statue of liberty puzzle that we did is considered a Level 2 puzzle, so it’s a little harder than the Level 1 puzzles. Well, for me at least, it was really hard! It reminded me of the games you play on your phone where you have to tilt the screen just right to get the ball to roll into the hole. You have to get things lined up just right to make it work.

Each member of my family had a different approach to solving the puzzle. I am a shaker. Basically that means I just shake the tube back and forth, trying to get the pieces to line up (at least most of them) and then I try using the stick to finish the rest. My youngest has a style similar to mine, but he’s a lot more patient than I am. My oldest son and hubby take a more careful, analytical approach, carefully trying to move each piece into place.

So far, my hubby and my youngest have gotten the farthest with the puzzle, but none of us have solved it yet! I think the challenge is what makes it so much fun. I think this is a great party game. My cousin and her family were visiting us recently and my youngest got it out and everyone wanted a chance to try it. It was hilarious watching people as they worked hard to solve the puzzle. I could also see this being a great way to keep kids occupied on road trips, or on busy days when you have to run a lot of errands. The puzzle itself is small enough to fit in a backpack or tote bag, and since it is self-contained, you don’t have to worry about the pieces spilling everywhere.

There are several FlipStir puzzles to choose from, so the entertainment possibilities are endless. To learn more, connect with Enlivenze and FlipStir on social media:

FlipStir on Facebook

FlipStir on Twitter

Enlivenze on Facebook

Enlivenze on Twitter

To see what other members of the crew thought of the puzzles, click here:
FlipStir Puzzles Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

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Menu Plan Monday 8/16/16

 

Ugh. Have you ever had a week that you just couldn’t get it together? August has been kind of a rough month at my house and my motivation to do anything is pretty much zero. However, I am trying to get myself back into my regular routine, so here we go with Menu Plan Monday, on a Tuesday!

Our dinners this week include:

Monday: Stuffed Pork Loin

Tuesday: Baked Grilled Cheese sandwiches

Wednesday: Taco night

Thursday: Chicken Caprese

Friday: French Dip sandwiches

Thanks for stopping by for Menu Plan Monday! I hope to be back on track next week.

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Homeschool 101 Blog Hop: Planning

5 Days of Homeschool 101Welcome to Day 2 of the Homeschool 101 Blog Hop! Today we are talking about planning. Are you a planner? I am, by nature. I make lists for everything, groceries, holidays, vacations etc. Homeschooling is no different. For me, having a written plan is a key to success. I admire those who don’t feel the need to plan and just keep everything in their heads, but I can’t do it. And I know a lot of people use online planning too, which is great, but for me, there is just something about pencil and paper planning that works. So, this is how I plan for our homeschool.

The first key is finding a planner that works for you. Apologia and The Old Schoolhouse magazine both have awesome planners that I love. First you need to ask yourself, what are you looking for in a planner? I need one that has monthly calendars where I can keep track of doctor’s appointments, homeschool groups, church activities etc. I also like one that has some kind of pages where I can sketch out our year. In addition, I like to have pages where I can set goals for the year, write down which curriculum we’re going to use, and keep track of a weekly schedule and additional space for menu planning is a bonus. You might not need all of that, you might just want somewhere to keep track of appointments and assignments, and that’s fine. The point is, ask yourself what is most important to you as far as planning for your schooling, and find a planner that meets those needs.

 

I have a friend who makes her own planner using free printable pages she found online. This allows you to really customize your planner to meet your needs. She is a scrapbooker too (I tried, and failed, at scrapbooking) so it’s really pretty too. If you can’t find a planner that meets your needs, consider setting up one of your own. There are tons of free printables online. Donna Young.org is a great place to start.

The most important factor in planning for me, is making time for it. Let’s face it, life is so busy. But I find that when I don’t take time to plan for our school, things often dissolve into chaos, and it drives me crazy. Generally, I take a few days before the start of school to sit down and make a general sketch for our year. I try to do this when no one else is home so I won’t be interrupted, but if that doesn’t work, I will head to the library for a couple of hours with my planner and a pencil. Now, keep in mind, I am just talking about a sketch. Obviously, I have no way of knowing what’s going to come up during the year (and we all know things come up!) but I at least like to set a calendar with our holidays and school vacations. I also use this time to come up with some general goals for the year, both academic and personal, as well as record my plans for curriculum.

 

 

From there, I generally make it a point to plan each week either on a Friday after school, or a Sunday afternoon. My kids have their own planners where I write down their assignments for the week. Again, I know a lot of people who use online planners or just sticky notes with a daily schedule, but this is the system that works for me. On Fridays, we review the work for the week, I grade (yes, my boy’s planners have room for grades) and then I plan for the next week. Now, if it was one of those weeks where things got kind of crazy and we didn’t finish everything we had planned, it’s no big deal, we simply move the stuff we didn’t finish to the next week. That’s one of the reasons I always write my plans in pencil! While I know there is no way to plan for everything, and homeschooling is by nature, flexible, it makes me feel better to have some kind of written plan for our school year. How do you plan? Let me know in the comments. Find out what other crew members had to say about how they plan by clicking here, and make sure to come back tomorrow for posts about Home Management!


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Homeschool 101 Blog Hop: Curriculum

5 Days of Homeschool 101Welcome to the first day of the Schoolhouse Review Crew Back to School Blog hop! I hope you will join all of us this week as we share tips, ideas, and things we’ve learned about homeschooling. Today we are discussing one of my favorite topics, curriculum.

Ah curriculum, it can be a source of great joy or a lot of stress for your homeschool. Over the years, I have had a ton of curriculum ups and downs, but I think I’ve finally gotten a handle on how to find the right stuff. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned about curriculum on my journey:

  1. You probably need less curriculum than you think you do: My first few year of homeschooling I made the mistake of spending hours searching for the best deals on so many things I really didn’t need. Seriously, if there were a curriculum-holics anonymous out there, I could be the president! There was just so much fun stuff out there and I wanted to do it ALL. My mistake was thinking I could. My kids and I both just ended up overwhelmed and frustrated. Now I have learned to keep things simple. Instead of spending hours online looking at curriculum (which makes it easy to get carried away), I start by setting my goals for the year, then I search for specific curriculum that will help me meet those goals. This prevents me from getting off track and getting a ton of unnecessary stuff. It also makes our homeschool days run much better.

 

2. You Don’t Need to Keep Everything You Buy: For a long time I lived under the delusion that I simply could not part with any curriculum I ever got. A lot of stuff was useful for multiple ages, and I told myself I would reuse it with my younger kid, or maybe get to it the next year. But here’s the thing, what I ended up with was piles of curriculum everywhere (much to my husband’s chagrin..he said it was like living in a bookstore), and most of the time, by the time my youngest was old enough to use it, it either didn’t work for him or I decided to go in a different direction. Now I am very selective about what I keep from year to year. I try to resell a lot of my stuff, and then donate what I can’t to our homeschool group library. I put the money I earn towards the next year’s stuff. While I still find it difficult to let go of some things, I tell myself that if necessary, I can always find it again, perhaps used, if I need it.

 

3. Every Curriculum Will Not Work for Every Child: It is not uncommon for homeschool families to pass curriculum down from one child to the next, which is a great option. It saves you money and makes planning easy. However, one thing I have learned about my children is that they do not learn in the same way. Just because one curriculum was wonderful for my older son does not mean it will work the same way with my youngest. And you can’t force it, at least not without a lot of frustration. Again, I have my curriculum favorites, and I hate not being able to use them, but I have come to realize that it’s more important to find something that works for my child, even if that means passing up an old favorite to try something completely new.

4. Curriculum is a guide, not the heart and soul of your homeschool: At first, I have to admit, I was a slave to the curriculum. Checking off boxes, sticking to the schedule, making sure to get everything done, no matter how worn out we were or how glazed over my kids eyes were. Thankfully, I’ve learned to relax over the years. I understand that curriculum is a tool and I should use it as such. Now I base our days on what we need to accomplish to meet our weekly goals. I also know that its okay to take a break if we’re having a rough day. We can always catch up the next week.

5. It’s perfectly okay to not finish an entire curriculum in one year: To be honest, this is something I should have already known. As a middle-school teacher, I can tell you for a fact that public school students do not finish their entire curriculum in any class every year. Teachers plan based on standards/goals/etc. and focus on the most important things to teach. But for some reason, I felt like as a homeschool mom I needed to do better. I would push and push, and make myself completely anxious over not getting to the end of the book. You know what? I just graduated my oldest, and he was enrolled in classes at our local community college the last two years of high school, and he was just fine. Don’t make yourself crazy trying to get everything done. Relax, focus on the parts you feel are most important, and don’t worry too much about the rest. By the time you’re graduating their kids, they will have what they need.

6. Different seasons require different approaches: Normally I love to use literature-based, hands-on curriculum. It’s a lot of fun and gets my kids interested in what we’re doing. However, there have been years when life has just been, messy. In those instances, I’ve had to turn to online or textbook-based stuff, just because I didn’t have as much time as I would’ve liked to devote to projects and stuff. At first, this really bothered me. I felt like I wasn’t giving my kids enough, and that they would miss out on things. This usually just added to the stress I was already feeling due to our situation. But here’s the thing I learned about that, homeschool is about real life. And real life is messy. If you are in a busy, or particularly stressful, season, don’t feel bad about turning the teaching over to someone else. Find an online or computer curriculum that works, and go with it. You can get back to the other stuff when life calms down.

There are so many things I’ve learned on this journey as a homeschool mom and I’m looking forward to sharing more of them during this week’s blog hop. Tomorrow we will be talking about planning. Make sure you stop by, and see what my fellow crew members had to share about curriculum here:


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TOS Review: CTCMath

CTCMath Review

As our children get older, the thought of doing more advanced subjects (such as my nemesis, math) can be intimidating. However, you should never let something like that discourage you. Programs like the Homeschooling Membership from CTCMath are designed to help support us in those areas we find most challenging.

CTC offers thousands of online lessons in a variety of topics ranging from Algebra to Trigonometry. The self-paced lessons include videos and interactive practice activities. Students can watch the lesson, follow along with the teacher, then pause or rewind whenever they need to! This also makes it convenient to parents who are schooling other children because your child can go through the lesson on their own, then call you to come watch the video with them if they get stuck.

Another great feature of CTC is that it includes printable step-by-step solutions for the problems in the practice set, making it easy to go over them with your child and help them correct mistakes (this is a big one for me, I need to SEE how to work the problems in order to figure out how to explain it to my son if he needs help.) You can also print summaries of the lessons, with formulas and other notes your child can refer to if they need too. My youngest is an audio learner, and he struggles with taking notes himself, so this is a nice feature.

For parents, CTC offers a separate log in where you can track your child’s progress. The reports give you loads of information too, like how many lessons they completed on each topic, how many lessons they passed and more. This makes it easy for you to identify the topics your child struggles with the most. Since lessons are broken up into topics, you can easily choose to start your child on a particular one (say, adding fractions with unlike denominators for example), rather than having them spend time on something they already know how to do.

The instructor in the lessons has been teaching since 1989, so he is very experienced, and presents the information clearly. Lessons also include graphics and animation to engage different learning modalities. The video lessons themselves run about 10 minutes, which is great if your child has a short attention span, and the practice that follows gives students a chance to practice what they learned immediately. If you feel your child hasn’t quite mastered a topic, simply have them repeat the lesson. In addition to the video tutorials, CTC also offers diagnostic tests and fun math games to help students improve their skills.

A one-year homeschool membership costs less than $100 and you can use it for multiple children. To learn more, connect with CTC on social media here:

CTCMath on Facebook

CTCMath on Twitter

CTCMath on Periscope

CTCMath on Pinterest

CTCMath on YouTube

To see what other members of the crew thought of this program, click here:
CTCMath Review

Crew Disclaimer

French Dip Sandwiches (Crock Pot Recipe)

 

I love a good French Dip sandwich, and sometimes sandwiches are the easiest dinner ever. For this recipe, I used my crock pot to throw together a version of the French Dip at home.

 

Ingredients:

3-4 pound beef roast (whatever is on sale)

1 packet Au Jus

1 packet Italian seasoning

1 tsp salt

2 cans beef broth

hoagie rolls

Provolone cheese

 

Directions:

  1. Add the broth, Italian seasoning, and Au Jus packet to the crock pot. Stir to mix.
  2. Add the beef roast to the crock pot. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
  3. Remove the roast from the crock pot and use forks to shred the meat.
  4. Mix 1 tbsp corn starch with 2 tablespoons water and stir into crock pot. Cook on high for a few minutes to allow sauce to thicken.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Place open hoagie rolls on a baking sheet and fill each one with shredded beef.
  7. Place 1-2 slices of provolone on top of each sandwich.
  8. Bake for about 5 minutes, until cheese is melted. Spoon the sauce from the crock pot into bowls for dipping.  Serve with salad, fries, chips etc.

Like I said, super easy and really good! Enjoy!

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