Abraham’s Journey

Inspiring the American Dream is a website created by Robert and Kathleen Basmadjian who hope to inspire today’s youth by “instilling in them the values, principles and virtues necessary to achieve the American Dream.” Robert has many years of experience in the publishing industry, and their first book, Abraham’s Journey, is a story of a boy who learns that hard work can take him further than he realized!

This book is written for children ages 7-12, and begins in current times. Abraham’s parents have lost their jobs and there is no money to buy presents for Christmas. Abraham wants to help his family, so he decides to “text” his friends to see if they can think of any ways he can make some money. While he is doing this he meets another famous Abraham from the past, who takes him on a magical journey to help him discover his talents and how he can use them to help his family. Along the way, young Abraham meets many people who show him that hard work and dedication can pay off.

Abraham’s journey would easily work as a short read aloud for younger students, or a read-alone book for older kids. The pictures are well illustrated and colorful, but some of the text is rather long, so if you have a child who doesn’t enjoy reading, you may want to read it with them. My son read it on his own, and he said it was “ok”. I think, for him, there wasn’t a whole lot of action, and with Abraham meeting a new “famous character” on every page, he got a little confused (“Mom, how could Amelia Earhart give Mark Zuckerberg flying lessons? That doesn’t make sense!”). I think it would have been better for him if the story had kept all the characters from the same time period, and maybe written another book where he met people from a different time period.

At any rate, I can think of a lot you can do with this book for a homeschool. You could easily spend time researching the lives of the different characters and learn about how their dedication allowed them to live the American dream (even when others said it couldn’t be done). I think that alone could inspire your kids to think about their goals and how to achieve them. I liked that the message of the book was that you shouldn’t expect things to be handed to you, you have to WORK for what you want. I think that’s an important message for children to hear.

All in all, I thought this was a cute little story, though it wasn’t one of our favorites. You can buy Abrahams’ Journey for $14.99 and check out the Inspiring the American Dream website here:


To see what other Crew members thought of this book, click here:

**Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for this honest review. I was not required to write a positive or negative review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.


Spinach Artichoke Chicken

It’s Try and New Recipe Tuesday again! I have to say, I really look forward to this meme every week. I love to try out new things in my kitchen. This week I am sharing a recipe I got from a friend that includes two of my favorite things, spinach and artichokes!! Seriously, I am that girl at the party that can’t walk away from the Spinach Artichoke dip! 😉 So, this recipe (which is a very easy one-dish meal!) is right up my alley!!

olive oil spray
4-6 chicken breasts
1 13 oz can artichoke hearts packed in water, drained
10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed
2 shallots, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
sprinkle of salt/pepper

1. Preheat over to 375 and spray baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Place chiken in dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then bake 15 minutes.
3. In medium bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients and then pour on top of chicken.
4. Bake 20-25 minutes.

That’s it! Simple and easy! If you give it a try let me know. To check out some other great recipes, click here:

Pudding Graham Cracker Sandwiches

This week’s blog cruise is a recipe share!! (one of my favorite things 🙂 ) Down here in Florida the weather is already getting warmer, and I decided to share a recipe for one of my family’s favorite summer day snacks.

1 package cream cheese (softened)
2 cups cold milk
1 package Jello instant pudding (you can use any flavor, we like vanilla!)
1 cup whipped topping, thawed
20 graham crackers, broken into squares

1. Beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium in a large bowl until creamy.
2. Gradually add milk, beating until blended.
3. Add pudding mix, beat 2 minutes.
4. Stir in whipped topping.
5. Spoon some of the mixture onto the graham cracker squares and top with the other squares and freeze for 4 hours. You can put them on a cookie sheet and pop them in the freezer, or put them in a large tupperware and freeze them that way. I’ve done both and they always come out fine.

There you go. Most of the time when I make these I will actually make a double batch because my kids and their friends love to grab them out of the freezer in the garage. They taste really good and creamy, and not to sweet, which is why my hubby likes them too!! And they are simple to make, which is why I like them! 😉

If you have any other quick and easy snack ideas, let me know in the comments. To check out other recipes from the Crew members, click here:


Mexican Stuffed Peppers

A new week, and new recipe! This time it is for Mexican Stuffed Peppers. This is a really yummy one-pan dish I make for my family and serve with some bread!

6 med. green stuffed peppers
1 lb. lean ground beef
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped celery
3 cups cooked rice (I use Minute Jasmine Rice)
1 cup salsa
1 tablespoon chopped green chiles
2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese

1. Cut tops off peppers and discard and remove seeds. In large pot, cook peppers in boiling water for 5 minutes.
2. Drain and rinse in cold water, set aside.
3. In skillet, cook the beef, onion and celery over medium heat until the meat is no longer pink, drain.
4. Stir in the rice, salsa, chiles, chili powder and salt and then spoon into the peppers.
5. Spray 13x9x2 inch pan with cooking spray (or use the Reyolds Wrap Pan lining paper like I did) and place the peppers inside. Add 1/4 cup of water to the pan.
6. Cover pan with foil and bake at 350 for 45 minutes.
7. Uncover, sprinkle with cheese and bake 2 min. until cheese is melted.
8. Garnish with a little salsa on top.

This is a top request for dinner at my house. Give it a try! To see other recipes, click here:

1000 Words

My oldest son has a very artistic bent. He plays guitar really, really well. He’s the kind of person who can listen to a song on the radio and teach himself to play it! He also has had an interest in photography for quite a while. Last year, at our homeschool group, he took a photography class and really enjoyed it. He is currently saving money to buy himself a better camera, but for now he is taking pictures with one of our older ones. He plans to enter some upcoming local contests. These are some of his more recent photos.

The big tree in our front yard:

A flower, close up:

Another flower:

The water near a friends house:

And this is one of my personal favorites:

I am proud of the passion with which my son pursues his interests. I don’t know what plan the Lord has for his life, but God has certainly blessed him with many talents, and it is my hope my son will be able to use them to bring glory to His name!

Autumn Harvest Pork

Time for another recipe share!! I really love this blog hop! Today, I am sharing on of my family’s favorite crock pot recipes. (I do love using my crock pot, it makes a busy day much easier 🙂 )

1 cup apple cider
2 lb. pork loin
2 large green apples (I use Granny Smith), peeled and sliced
1 1/2 whole butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 teaspon thyme
1/4 teaspon sage

1. Heat cider in skillet over medium-high heat. Sear pork loin on all sides in cider.
2. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper and place in crock pot along with pan juices.
3. Combine apples and squash in large bowl, sprinkle with sugar and spices, spoon over pork in slow cooker.
4. Cover and cook on low 5-6 hours.
5. Let pork stand about 10 minutes before slicing and serve topped with apples and squash.

There you go, very simple and oh so good! The flavors of the apples and the squash mix with the pork wonderfully! Give it a try!

To check out other recipes for this week, click here:

What happens when your mom is a bookworm?

The topic for this weeks blog cruise is “Your favorite subject to teach”. Well, that’s an easy one for me!! I LOVE reading! As an only child growing up on a farm, books were my escape, my adventure, my best friend….and I think it all started in first grade when I fell in love with Nancy Drew! (remember her? 🙂 ). I started collecting books to read to my kids before I had even graduated high school. I have several worn copies of well-loved books I have read multiple times that I just love to share with them.

I’ve been reading out loud to them since they were born, and even though my oldest is in 9th grade we still read chapter books together at night before bed!! My hubby says we have too many books, I say that’s not possible!! Reading was my favorite subject to teach in my classroom, and it is still my favorite subject at home. My kids read (and get read to) a lot.

I use a mixture of chapter books and texts for reading. My youngest son (6th grade) uses Mosdos Press Literature. We have used several texts over the course of our homeschool, and this is by far my favorite. The stories are wonderful and beautifully illustrated. They have a good mix of all the different genres, and very solid instruction. I get the textbook and student workbook, and the textbook is well-made and easily resold at the end of the year.

Why use a textbook at all? Well, I guess it’s the English teacher in me, but I want to make sure that we cover all areas of literary instruction, not just my favorites. Each lesson has some type of literary focus (i.e. imagery, irony, flashback, point of view etc. etc.). Usually we spend 3 days of our week working in the text, then 2 other days reading our chapter books. I like to apply the literary device from the lesson in the text to our chapter books, so my son can practice using that skill in his regular reading. It’s really fairly easy to do, and a good way for him to learn to recognize those devices in day to day reading.

We use both oral and written narration for our chapter books, as well as discussions, hands-on projects and questions and answers that I make up. I like to use a variety of methods to explore the books we read. The hands-on projects can range from writing a diary for one of the characters, to creating a campaign for that character for president, to drawing scenes from the story or making a map of locations in the story, to even dressing up and acting like the character or writing a new ending for the book. I usually give my kids a couple of choices for their final project, so they can choose the one they are most excited about, then they have some time to complete it and present it to the family. I keep all of our written work in a literature binder so we can look back at all of the things we have read.

Now, my oldest son, being like me, will read anything. I rarely have a hard time getting him to read a book! My youngest, well, he prefers comics. He can read, but it’s just not something he enjoys as much as I do, and that can be hard for me because I just don’t understand it!! So, I try to choose books I think will interest him as much as possible (and usually I do a pretty good job), and I let him read his comics in his free time. I try to be sensitive to his likes and dislikes, because he is very different from his brother, and they don’t like the same kinds of books. Fortunately, I still read a lot (and usually I’m buying books from the kids/teenager section so I can find stuff for them to read), so I have a pretty good list of books in my head to choose from.

What chapter books are on his reading list for this year? Farmer Boy, The Wringer (one of my fave books for boys…its well written, and ripe for discussions about right vs. wrong, compassion, being yourself vs. following the crowd, does the end justify the means etc…my students loved it when I read this book aloud too!), Scat (we love Carl Hiaasen!), and The Mysterious Benedict Society (a great little mystery!).

My older son is working his way through MFW Ancients this year, so most of his reading is guided by that program, and it’s pretty heavy! Fortunately, I have read most of those books already so we can still discuss them. However, this summer I did create a list of “must read” books I want him to finish before he graduates high school. He reads these during his daily reading time, and he is a pretty fast reader, so I think over the next four years we will have gotten to most of them. What’s on the list? Well, so far he has read Watership Down (an old fave of mine), Alas Babylon and A Tale of Two Cities (I am NOT a huge fan of Dickens…I know his work is classic, but I read a lot of his stuff in high school and I was bored! However, I want my son to at least be familiar with him). Coming on the list will be a mix of older classics (Count of Monte Cristo, Frankenstien, Robinson Crusoe) and some newer books I have read and enjoyed (Red Kayak, Tangerine).

I just believe that reading is so completely central to life in general. If you can read and comprehend (even if you don’t enjoy it), you have the ability to teach yourself things, to continue to learn, to explore new things….and I want my kids to have that ability. Teaching reading is easy for me, because I love it so much!! (Now if I could only get that excited about science!!).

What is your favorite subject to teach? To see what other members of the crew had to say about this topic, click here:


Apologia: Exploring Creation With Zoology 2

Woohoo! It is time for my first review of this crew year and I am very excited to tell you about our experience with one of the books from the Apologia science curriculum! We have used many of their products in our homeschool over the years, and this time we got to check out their Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day text and workbook.

First impressions? As usual, the book itself is a visual masterpiece. The pictures are gorgeous, the text is well organized and easy to read, and the book itself is very well put together (i.e.: it will last for many, many years!). One thing I love about Apologia is how detailed their books are. Zoology 2 contained a wealth of information on all of the creatures that live in the water! Since we live near both the river and the beach, we find we spend a lot of time in the water, and we are fortunate to have seen dolphins, manatees, sharks and all kinds of fish up close! My 6th grade son was particularly excited to spend some time studying these creatures in depth! Zoology 2 is intended for grades K-6, and they have additional resources to use with students in the early ranges (K-2) and older (3rd-6th). As always, I think it’s nice to have a curriculum you can use with multiple ages!

Now, Zoology 2 is the second Zoology book in the Young Explorers series, and it is recommended that you study Zoology 1 first. However, we have kind of bounced around with our science (having used both the Apologia Astronomy and Human Body and Anatomy in the past), so we just started here, but we did not find it to be a problem. However, after having so much fun with this book, I am seriously considering using Zoology 1 next year.

There are 13 lessons total in this book, with topics ranging from whales to crustaceans. At the beginning, there is an introduction that takes you through each part of the lesson and explains what it is, and there is a link and password for you to access additional content specific to this course on the Apologia website! (They do this with all their science books, and it is awesome!!). The lessons are well laid out, with natural breaks for narration as well as experiments. The majority of the experiments are easy to do, using materials you probably already have, but I am amazed at how well they explain the concepts in the lesson.

For example, one of the first experiments was about the pressure the ocean’s waters exert as it gets deeper. From this experiment, using only a 2-liter bottle and a ballon, I was able to “show” my son what happens to a persons lungs as they dive deep into the ocean, and explain why divers use oxygen tanks!! And it was fun (see pictures below, and yes, my boy is still wearing his pajamas 🙂 )

A closer look:

Of course, you could easily just read and narrate the text and do the experiments (especially if you have younger children), but if you are looking for more, you could also add in one of the Notebook Journals to go with the course. Jeannie Fulbright and Apologia have created AMAZING journals that have tons of activities and questions and mini-books for you to use as you complete Zoology 2. The notebook also has a weekly schedule in the front!! This makes science so easy 🙂 I just check off each box as we go! The schedule allots for two science lessons per week, that (depending on your kids) can take from 20-40 minutes (that’s my own personal estimate from working with my 6th grade boy, when I used Apologia in the past with both of my kids, it took a little longer). With this text, we used the regular Zoology 2 Notebooking Journal, which is for older kids who don’t mind writing a little!

This notebooking journal contained space to take notes while we were reading, review questions, copywork, space to record results from experiments, vocabulary crosswords, and fabulous mini books!!  We use all of the Notebooking Journals to go along with our Apologia texts, and we have never been dissatisfied with any of them!! If you have younger kids, you might want to check out the Junior Notebooking Journals. We have used these in the past when my son was younger, and he was doing science with his brother. They contain a lot of the cool stuff found in the regular journals, but with less writing. Like, you still have space to take notes, but the lines are bigger, maybe instead of a crossword there is a word search, and you still get to do the mini-books together!! These additional products lend themselves easily to using this course with children of multiple ages!

Basically, we loved everything about Exploring Creation with Zoology 2!! If you love science, you can get the notebooks, check out additional books, do all of the experiments, and have a great time! Or, if science isn’t exactly your favorite subject (like me!), Apologia makes teaching it engaging, easy and so much more fun!! The Zoology 2 text costs $39.00, and the Journals are $24.00 each. I think they are very reasonably priced for what you get. Even now, my sons will pull out the Astronomy book from our first year homeschooling and look through it. To find out more about this book and the other books available from Apologia (including samples) make sure to check out their website, here:


To see what other members of the Crew had to say about this, and the other Apologia books we got to review, click here:


**Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive or negative review of the product, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Parmesan Crusted Tilapia

My hubby has slightly high cholesterol, and his doctor suggested that he eat more chicken and fish. The problem is, he prefers read meat. So, I spent a lot of time on Pinterest looking for some new recipes, and this is a Rachel Ray Recipe I found that is easy to make, and that he enjoyed!

3/4 cup Parmesan Cheese
2 tsp. paprika
1 tablespoon parsley
4 tilapia filets
1 lemon cut into wedges

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
In shallow dish combine cheese, paprika and parsley and season with salt and pepper
Drizzle fish with olive oil and dredge in cheese mixture
Place on foil-lined baking sheet and bake until fish is opaque (about 10-12 min.)
Serve with lemon wedges

And that’s it! Simple, easy and good! My family loved it! To see more recipes from other homeschool moms, click here:

Organizing my homeschool!

Okay, so we have been homeschooling for almost four years now, and one of my goals has always been to get more organized!! I am NOT an organized person by nature! I am a planner, but I tend to leave “piles” of things here and there…granted, I know what all of my piles contain, but usually no one else does, and that’s the problem!! So, this year, with some help from the TOS Homeschool Planners, I am getting there!!

One of the things I determined to do last year was menu plan!! I felt like I was always scrambling at dinner time, trying to figure out what we were going to eat! So, this year, I sit down every two weeks with my recipe books and figure out what is for dinner each night. I use this nifty “Week at a glance” page, to plan my menus, as well as list other homeschool and household activities for each day. This goes at the front of my homeschool binder, so I can easily see what is going on each day!

Another challenge for me was keeping track of all of the various activities we have going on every week!! My kids have stuff, I have stuff, my hubby has stuff!! It is very easy to get overscheduled fast!! Using my printable planner pages, I print out a monthly calendar. I write down all of the stuff we have going on each month, and I color-code each item with a highlighter! I have a color for reviews, a color for kids events, a color for my own events, and a color for things related to me and my hubby! This makes it very easy for me to look at my monthly calendar and know instantly what is going on each day. This has been a HUGE help in keeping me on task (have I mentioned that I am easily distracted! 🙂 )

I have also realized that my kids work better with their own schedule too! In the past, I have had a somewhat written schedule for each week of our school. However, I just told my kids what they were supposed to do each day. This year, with one child entering high school and my other one in 6th grade, I wanted them to take on some more responsiblity. So, using the scheduling pages from the TOS planners, I started creating weekly schedules for my kids. This was hard for me at first, as I tend to get behind on the weekends, and then fly by the seat of my pants during the week. But, once I started working on it regularly, it wasn’t that hard. Basically, I take an hour during the weekend to review what we did the previous week and make a “plan” for each subject for the next week. Then, I type this into my kids pages for the week and print it out and put it in their binders. Keep in mind, this is just a “sketch” for the week. Things come up, and we don’t always get to everything. That’s no big deal, I just make a note in pencil in their planners, and we pick up the following week whenever we need to. The thing is, with these plans, my kids can grab their stuff and get right to work. If I have to do something during the week, they already know what they need to accomplish!! This has made it very easy for my hubby to fill in for me on a day when something comes up!

Organizing things hasn’t been easy for me, because I am not an organized person by nature. However, it has made our days run much more smoothly, and for that I am thankful!! How do you organize things in your homeschool? Leave me a comment and let me know!