Fish Tacos

My oldest boy has decided he loves fish tacos! He had some at our friend’s house and begged me to make them for his birthday. So, I called my best friend and got the recipe and made them. They were very easy to make and actually really good.

Ingredients:
6 Tilapia filets
seasoned salt
creole seasoning (I use Tony’s)
garlic powder
3 tablespoons butter
3 Roma tomatoes
1/2 red onion
shredded lettuce
1/2 bunch cilantro
1/2 cup sour cream
1 can chiles in adobo sauce
flour tortillas

Directions:
1. Melt the butter in the microwave.
2. Mix together the seasoned salt, garlic powder, and creole seasoning to taste in a shallow bowl.
3. Brush the filets with the melted butter and dredge in the seasoning mixture.
4. Add some olive oil to a skillet and cook the filets two at a time until the fish is cooked through.
5. Remove the fish to a baking dish and cover to keep warm.
6. Chop the tomatoes, onions, and cilantro and place in bowls along with the shredded lettuce.
7. To make the sauce, drain the sauce from the canned chiles into a bowl and mix it with sour cream.
8. Warm the tortillas.
9. Chop the fish into small pieces, and serve with the tortillas, sauce, and veggies.

Yum! I had never made fish tacos before and I was surprised at how well they turned out. It was an easy dinner because I just put everything on the table and let my hubby and the kids make up their own tacos. I served these with black beans and rice. If you are looking for a different take on taco night, give this recipe a try! To see some other recipes, check out the recipe share here:

Where does the time go?

This is my oldest son when he was about two years old. He turned 15 this past week and I can’t believe it. The time has passed so quickly. I remember when he was born, and people would tell me to enjoy him because the time would by so fast. In the moment, busy changing diapers and feeding and potty training, I just didn’t get it. It seemed like endless childhood stretched before me. But now, here I am with a boy who just got his learner’s permit and is now learning how to drive.

Wow…instead of looking at endless childhood, I am quickly approaching the time where he will be graduating and leaving our home. That thought brings me to tears..and also emphasizes to me how important it is to enjoy every minute. This boy is so creative and thoughtful. He plays guitar in the youth band at church, and is an excellent photographer. He is great with little kids, often volunteering to help in the kids camps at church, and is known for his responsible and trustworthy nature. These things did not happen by accident. I truly believe that homeschooling my sons has allowed us to invest a lot of time in character training, which is oh so important in today’s world.

Getting older does have a bright side. My husband and I no longer need to find a babysitter for his younger brother when we want a date night! πŸ™‚ And I enjoy hanging out with this teenage boy. We talk. A LOT. We watch movies and shows together, and I still read out loud to him at night. He still enjoys hugs and cuddles, which I love, but he is also growing into his own person. It is exciting to see him mature, and I look forward to seeing what God has planned for him in the future.

He has great friends, and a lot of interests. He has a plan for where he wants to go in life. He is truly dedicated to the Lord. I am proud of the man he is growing up to be, and thankful for every day I get to spend with him. Homeschooling has let me get to know my son on such a deep level, as I have taught him and worked beside him over the years, and I am thankful that, although he is growing up, I still get to look forward to spending every day of the next three years with him.

TOS Review: Simplified Pantry

I love to cook, but I am forever looking for a way to make it easier. That’s why I was so excited when I got a chance to review these products from Simplified Pantry. The whole point of their products is to make life easier for busy moms! (and that definitely sounds like most of the moms I know :)) . These eBooks are written by Mystie Winckler, a mom who started searching for a simpler way to cook after her oldest developed food allergies. That led to the first product I am going to tell you about today, Simplified Dinners.

This eBook contains so many amazing recipes, just cooked off of basic pantry staples. It is seriously one of the easiest ways to cook I have ever seen. The book begins with a simplified shopping list full of things that are just standard in your pantry. It makes shopping so easy! Instead of looking for “rice pilaf” or “wild rice”, I just bought the rice and the spices and made it myself. In fact, one of the first things I made was the lime-cilantro rice,Β  and it has quickly become a family favorite. I have to admit, I’m one of those cooks who never thought I could just make anything from scratch. Simplified dinners showed me how!

The eBook is organized into sections by type of food you are cooking. So, from the roast section, there are several methods for how to cook a roast. Then lists of ingredients for different types of roast. You choose which recipe you want to use, and then apply it to the method you have chosen. So, I chose to make a pot roast using the crock pot directions. This is what I made, and it was delicious.

The cooking methods are the heart of the eBook. They are standard methods for cooking depending on what type of dish you want to make, and you just rotate out the ingredients. Honestly, after making the stir fry a few times (both with pork and beef) I can now make it without looking at the recipe. The first time I went shopping, I went through my pantry and checked off what I had that was on the master list. From there, I highlighted the items I wanted to buy. I need to tell your this was one of the least expensive shopping trips I have had in a while! Not buying pre-packaged foods isn’t only healthier, it’s less expensive.

This is the stir fry I made, and it has become one of my go to recipes. It is quick, easy, and tasty.

The stir fry comes with a number of different sauces, our favorite is the balsamic! The Simplified Pantry eBook is $12.99 and worth eveyr penny.

The author has also written a second version of the book Simplified Pantry Gluten and Dairy Free. This eBook follows a similar format to the Simplified Pantry but with meals for those who need to eat a gluten and dairy free diet. In our family, that is not an issue, but if it were, this eBook would provide the same options that the other one does. It is also available for $12.99.

The third product we got to sample was the Paperless Home Organization eBook. This book is designed to make it easier for you to keep track of all that stuff that piles up on the desk and around the house. The book shows you tools to set up a digital binder where you can track all of your paperwork using tools you already have at home or that are available for free online. If you feel like you’re buried under a ton of papers with nowhere to put any of them, check this eBook out. It only costs $3.99, so you really can’t beat the price!

I loved using these products from Simplified Pantry and I would highly recommend them to anyone. To see what other members of the crew had to say about these products, click here:
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Shrimp Scampi

I have only recently begun to cook seafood at home. This recipe for shrimp scampi was easy and tasty!

Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds of shrimp peeled and deveined (I used frozen shrimp)
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup lemon juice
8 minced garlic cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup minced parsley

Directions:
1. Heat 4 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet and saute the shrimp for 3-4 minutes.
2. Add the garlic and stir for another minute.
3. Transfer the shrimp to a casserole dish and cover to keep warm.
4. Add the broth, wine, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and parsley to the skillet and bring to a boil. Cook for about 10 minutes or until half of the sauce has boiled off.
5. Pour sauce over shrimp and serve with lemon wedges.

There, a great recipe for a newbie seafood cook. Check out other recipes for this week here:

Our Year in Review

This is our last week of school for this year. The past two weeks have been pretty crazy around here and I have to say, I am exhausted and looking forward to summer. These are some of my observations when reflecting on this year.

First, we made it through my oldest son’s first year of high school! πŸ™‚ I was really nervous about starting high school with him, but for the most part, it went really well. He finished most of his curriculum, and enjoyed most of his courses. Some things I know for next year are, he doesn’t like computer based math. Unfortunately, upper level math isn’t really my thing, so I tried a computer based program this year. The program itself was really good, but it’s just NOT his style of learning. So, for next year, I am going to look for a textbook based program that offers video support. The downside to this is the fact that these programs are rather pricy, so I am going to have to get creative with my budget!

MFW High School rocks! We did Ancients this year, and I am amazed at what my son learned. Yes, this program is pricy as well, but totally worth it. Plus, almost everything in the program can be reused by my younger son when he gets to high school, so in the end, the cost will even out. The workload is pretty intense, and my son did struggle with that a bit. I have realized that I need to stay more on top of him in this area.

Sigh…Spanish did not go so well for us, so I will be searching for some type of computer program for that next year. The photography class my son took at homeschool group was awesome, and they may offer chemistry next year, which is exciting! (I am not a huge science person either πŸ˜‰ ) I still have to take some time to do his transcript for this year, and enter his final grades, but I will get to that this summer. Overall, homeschooling high school is easier than I thought it would be.

For my younger son, things went really well this year. I loved using Mystery of History with Illuminations this year. We didn’t get through the whole book, but we will just finish up the fourth quarter at the beginning of next year. The Apologia worldview book we used was incredible. I am looking forward to finishing with the fourth book in the series next year. CLE Math is always a hit at our house, and Mosdos reading worked well again this year too. The only holes I really need to fill for him next year are writing and grammar. I have yet to find something that really works for my struggling writer. So, I will be perusing those programs over the summer. I also need to find something for spelling and vocabulary, something else he definitely needs work on. I think we are going to do some writing over the summer. I also need to figure out our science for next year.

We took some great field trips this year, and read a lot of good books. We took vacations for family visits, and also a few health issues that came up, and our year was a little disjointed. However, I think we all learned a lot, and I am most proud of how my kids have grown closer to God through all of our experiences. Our summer break will last until August, and we have quite a few things planned for the summer. I hope those of you who are wrapping up the year have an excellent vacation. If you have any curriculum suggestions for me, leave me a comment!

TOS Review: Joyce Herzog

Searching for curriculum is a fun, but also overwhelming, part of homeschooling. There are just so many choices out there to keep track of! For this review, I got to check out a book designed to make the curriculum search easier. Joyce Herzog has many educational resources available on her website. For this review, I got to sample the Choosing & Using Curriculum set.

First, the Choosing & Using Curriculum book is 28 chapters full of information about all kinds of homeschool curriculum. The book begins with a discussion of different types of curriculum and educational styles. It then moves into subject area chapters where different approaches for teaching each subject are described, and curriculums are described and compared. Each chapter of the book lists websites for the curriculums, as well as other useful websites to support that curriculum.

I appreciated how detailed the descriptions of each curriculum was in Choosing & Using Curriculum. The author does a very good job of providing a complete picture of the curriculum so you can envision what it would be like to use it in your home There were several curriculums in the book I had not heard of and am definitely going to check out. Herzog also provides extensive lists of resources for students with disabilities.

Choosing & Using Curriculum also includes chapters that give descriptions of general skills that are expected at each grade level, as well as chapters that focus on teaching reading comprehension and literature. I particularly liked her suggestions in the Tips for Teaching History section of the book.

The Choosing & Using Curriculum set also comes with the resource e-book. This book includes extensive listings of websites that are of interest to homeschoolers. In addition to links for curriculum, there are links for online practice in different subjects, links to sites dedicated to homeschooling, links to sites that support different learning styles, and much, much more. I have only managed to get about halfway through the e-book and I have bookmarked so many interesting things!!

Choosing & Using Curriculum is a valuable resource for any home educator. The book will help guide you as you sort through the many curriculums available, and the e-book will connect you with a lot of websites that could be useful in your teaching. I have a feeling this book is going to be a valuable reference for me for a long time. The Choosing & Using Curriculum set costs only $15.00. I would highly recommend this set to anyone!

To see what other members of the crew thought about this set, and the other products we got to try from Joyce Herzog, click here:

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TOS Review: High School Prep Genius

With my oldest son being a 9th grader I know college is right around the corner. To be honest, I entered this school year with a lot of anxiety. High school is important. How could I be sure that I was giving this boy everything he needs to go on to college? I am fortunate to have some homeschoolers close to me who already have high school graduates, so I was able to turn to them for advice. But of course, I still have a million questions. So, I was very excited when I found out that for this review I was going to get to try a product from College Prep Genius.

College Prep Genius was created by homeschool parents when they started thinking about how they were going to pay for college for their children. Their website includes all sorts of information that can help parents come up with a plan. For this review, I got to check out their book High School Prep Genius designed to help parents and their highschoolers come up with a plan to prepare for college each year of high school. This book is designed for parents with high school students and also for parents of middle school students who want to get a head start.

This book is full of great suggestions and ideas you can use each year your child is in high school, so that when they graduate, you will be fully prepared. The book is designed to be read by both students and parents, as well high school students who wantΒ  to take an active role in preparing for college. The introduction of the book contains a lot of helpful general information, like suggestions for the numbers of credits to be earned each year and practical record-keeping information.

One suggestion I really like, and had already begun to implement, was the creation of a college notebook, a central place where you keep all of your important high school information. I had already created one of these binders at the beginning of the year.

High school Prep Genius gives suggestions about what to keep in the binder, starting with a lists of the credits your child will need for their diploma. I looked up the requirements for a Florida diploma on the Department of Education website and printed them out and added them to the front of my binder. This way, I know exactly which credits I need to make sure he earns each year. I also have papers for us to record the number of hours he spends in each subject, and the resources we use. The book also suggests keeping track of volunteer hours and summer experiences as well.

It seems so simple, but you would be amazed how much better I felt after organizing my notebook. It was as though I suddenly had an organized plan for high school, and a way to keep track of everything!

The book also has a timeline for each year of steps students and parents should take to prepare for college. The timeline has a month by month sketch of what should be done. In the freshman year, the focus is on making goals, deciding what classes to take registering for the PSAT etc. The timeline for each following year gets more specific, moving toward looking at specific colleges and preparing for the SAT.

The first section of High School Prep Genius focuses on personal preparation for high school and college. The chapters are about fostering independence, developing personal interests and hobbies, developing your faith, and taking care of your health and finances. The chapters are interactive, including sections with questions to help get students thinking about how to apply what they are reading about to themselves. There are also sections for parents with suggestions on how to help their teens grow in these areas.

The other sections of the book include a section on academic success in high school and applying for college. There are sections on organizing time, studying, and choosing classes and activities with an eye on college. Practical chapters on what to look for when choosing a college, how to fill out applications, and financing your education are very useful for parents and teens.

My son is eager to take an active role in his education, as he does have some specific goals, so we both read the book and then discussed it. Typically, we would each read a chapter a week, then we would sit down and talk about his answers to the questions posed, and how we could use this information to help us develop his high school program. I really enjoy working with my son this way. This is how I always wanted high school to be with him, but I just wasn’t sure how to articulate it. With High School Prep Genius, it has all been put on paper for me and all I have to do is read the book along with him!

I find that my son is starting to give serious consideration to scholarships he might be able to learn, and what classes and volunteer opportunities may help him earn those scholarships. He has also been focused on looking into opportunities for dual enrollment, which would help him earn some of his credits while in high school. At the very least, this book has given him the desire to start really thinking about college and take on more responsibility for getting there.

I think this book is a fantastic resource for homeschool parents with a student just about to start high school, or current high schoolers. High School Prep Genius is available for $29.95, and I think it is definitely worth it, as you can easily use the book with more than one child. To find out more information about High School Prep Genius, and the other services offered by College Prep Genius, check out their website here:

http://www.collegeprepgenius.com/about-the-author/

To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say about this product, click here:

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Easy Pot Roast

There is nothing quite as good as pot roast cooked in the crock pot. I love the smell of it cooking all day, and I definitely love the taste. I know there are a lot of recipes for pot roast out there, this is my particular favorite.

Ingredients:
2-3 lb. chuck roast
1 bag baby carrots
1 onion, sliced
2 lbs. red potatoes, quartered
1 package Lipton’s French Onion Dip
1 can beef broth

Directions:
1. Season chuck roast with salt and pepper and place in crock pot.
2. Add carrots, onion, and potatoes.
3. Mix beef broth with french onion dip and pour over meat and vegetables.
4. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

That’s it. Easy right? A few ingredients, and you have a whole meal!! I’m sure you have your own pot roast recipes, so feel free to share them in the comments. To check out other recipes from this week, click here:

Paperwork!

I love homeschooling my children. Spending every day with them and watching them learn is a gratifying experience. We have so much fun doing experiments, reading books, and making things. That is the part of homeschooling that is fun for me. The part that is less fun??? Paperwork! Ugh! My state requires us to keep a portfolio of our children’s work each year. We are required to keep the portfolio for at least three years. Now, every year I get the materials needed to make their portfolios, and every year I promise myself that I will stay on top of the paperwork each week so it does not get out of hand. And….every single year…I find myself scrambling to sort through and file mounds of papers that have been sitting around for weeks!!

It’s my own fault. Organizing is NOT my thing. If you were to see what my half of the closet looked like compared to my husbands, you would laugh. I am great at planning things in my head, making grocery lists, planning our homeschool day, but putting things away in their proper place…yeah, that’s not me. My spice drawer is a mess, as are most of my drawers. Don’t get me wrong, when I need something, I can find it, but my organizational system usually makes sense only to me. πŸ˜‰

However, maintaining a portfolio is important for our homeschool, so this is what I do to get it done. Once a month I designate a weekend for filing. I spend about an hour on each child. As we finish school each day, I paperclip their work together and put it in a folder. On my filing weekend, I take all this stuff and organize into piles for each child. I choose one of my piles and then sort papers by subject. Form there, I place the majority of the work into binders for science, history, and writing. I have these notebooks organized by topics. The science binder is set up in units. The history binder has sections for maps, people, places, events, literature, and essays. Their English binders are organized by book (for my oldest) and by style of writing (for my youngest).

I file all of their papers in the correct spot, and that pile is finished! Next, I take the papers for subjects like spelling, reading and Bible and place them in an expandable folder. These take up less room than binders, and I find that I don’t necessarily need a binder for each subject. I try to organize these folders by date as much as possible.

This whole process usually takes me a couple of hours. I know that if I simply did it on a weekly basis it would probably take me a matter of minutes, but I just can’t seem to do it. Some weeks are so hectic I’m pretty happy if we just get our school done and the house is somewhat clean. Plus, filing really bores me so I tend to put it off. I am toying with the idea of having my kids do some of the filing in their portfolios next year, after I have finished grading their work.

Of course, purchasing these materials can be expensive, but I get most of them at the dollar store, so I can get my binders and folders for $1.00 each. Another problem is then storing the portfolio. This usually falls under my husband’s domain. We put the portfolios from each year into one of those large plastic tubs, and write the school year on top. It then gets put into a closet or somewhere in the attic (basically anywhere we have room). After the three years are over, my kids and I go though the boxes. If there is something special in the portfolio that they want to keep, like a lapbook or project that meant a lot to them, they are allowed to file it in their “special” school folder. Of course, we limit how much they choose because we just don’t have the room to keep everything! Occasionally I will choose a few things to keep as well.

Next, we ask ourselves if there is anything special in the portfolio someone else might like to have. One of the grandmas in our family is an artist, so my kids will sometimes pull out artwork they have made to give to her. Poems go to another grandma. The rest of the work usually gets tossed. I feel bad sometimes just throwing their work away like that, but if I kept every single piece of paper from their homeschool lives my house would look like one of those hoarding TV shows.

Anyway, that is my far from perfect record keeping method. How do you keep records in your homeschool? If you have any tips or ideas I can use, leave them in my comments.

TOS Review: Spanish For You!

I love the idea of teaching my kids a second language in elementary school. However, a lot of the curriculum I have tried has been, well, complicated. At this age, I am more interested in giving my kids a functional use of the language than an in-depth one. Also, it’s really important that the learning be fun, otherwise “learning Spanish” becomes just another chore. Well, for this review, we got to sample a curriculum from Spanish For You! and I think this one has met all of my desires.

My 6th grade son and I got to try the Estaciones (seasons) curriculum. The curriculum is written by Debbie Annett, who has 14 years experience teaching Spanish to students in grades Kindergarten to High School. This curriculum can be used for students in grades 3-8, which makes it effective for teaching children at multiple grade levels. Each book is centered around a theme (such as seasons), and has plenty of lessons to keep you busy.

We received a physical lesson book and multiple downloads to go along with it. The downloads included audio recordings of the lesson vocabulary, audio recordings of native Spanish speakers, lesson plans for each set of grade levels, worksheets, and flashcards. Sorting through some of the materials was difficult at first, but all of the downloads have now been reorganized by grade level, making it easier to find what you need.

Lesson plans are set up for a four day week, with a small amount of work each day. I would say our lessons took about 20-30 minutes depending on what we had to do. The lessons begin with an introduction of new vocabulary, and usually the creation of flashcards. I printed these on cardstock so they would last for a while. I have to say, I am really impressed with how well my son learned the vocabulary from this program. We started the book learning about the weather and months of the year, and my son really learned the words.

The short lessons with incremental practice help the vocabulary stick. The extra activities are fun too, and my son didn’t even complain about the worksheets! πŸ™‚ For additional practice, there are descriptions of games you can play using the new vocabulary. Some of the lessons direct you to a page on the website with even more games. I will say some of these games are more fun if you have more than two people playing them (Simon Says for example). I did rope my older son into playing some of these games with us. If you are teaching multiple children from the same Spanish For You curriculum, the games will work perfectly.

We used the lesson plans for grades 5-6. We would begin by listening to the audio recordings of the vocabulary and then move into written practice. This was not too difficult for my son, and he doesn’t like to write! The written lessons are typically short and involve practice with the vocabulary. The audio recordings are very clear and well done. I was surprised that my son was able to follow short commands given to him in Spanish after only the first unit of Spanish For You.

Our book contained five units, but the lessons are broken into multiple parts. I think, depending on your pace, with an older child you could probably do two of these books per year (that’s going at the suggested pace in the guide, if you want to do more work each day, you could probably get done faster). If you are working with younger children, you may want to take your time and only do one book per year.

Either way, I think this is an EXCELLENT curriculum to give your child an introduction to Spanish. It is something I will definitely use again, probably next school year. My son wants me to get the Fiestas book! :). Now if only Debbie would write a high school curriculum that was this simple and clear!! The cost of the Spanish For You books varies depending on which package you buy. Purchasing the entire curriculum for grades K-8 will cost you $64.95 (seriously, you get the book and all the downloads for that price!!). If you wish to purchase a package for only two grade levels at a time (say grades 5-6), then the cost is $39.95. Additional books are available, and you can even purchase a 6-week trial of one of the books for only $12.99!

The Spanish For You website has samples of the books, so you can check them out before you purchase. Those are available here:
http://www.spanish-for-you.net/purchase-curriculum.html

I would highly recommend you consider this curriculum if you are looking for an easy and fun Spanish curriculum for your family! You can also find a Spanish For You page on Facebook.

To see what other members of the crew had to say about Spanish For You, click here:

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Cajun Pork Chops

My family likes their food a little bit spicy. This Cajun Pork Chop recipe is healthy (299 calories, 12 grams fat) and has a little kick! It’s also pretty easy to make, which makes it a favorite for me.

Ingredients:
4 bone-in pork chops
3/4 cup bread crumbs
3 tbsp chili powder (or cumin)
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup milk
1 egg

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. In shallow bowl, combine bread crumbs and spices.
3. In another bowl, combine the egg and milk.
4. Dip the pork chops in the milk and egg mixture, then coat with the bread crumb mixture.
5. Place on cookie sheet covered with cooking spray.
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

That’s it! Told you it was easy. πŸ™‚ To check out other recipes for this week, click here:

TOS Review: Papa’s Pearls

I was raised by my grandparents. Born in 1920, they lived through the Great Depression, and World War II. They were genuine, hardworking, “salt of the earth” type of people. There is a reason that generation is often called “the greatest”. For this review, I got to read a book by Diane Flynn Keith about her own father, who came from the same era. This book, Papa’s Pearls, made me laugh and brought me to tears.

Papa’s Pearls is a collection of stories that are a reflection on the author’s life with her father. Each chapter focuses on one or more life lessons she learned from her father, linked to one of his popular sayings. Throughout the book, you get a very clear picture of what her father was like, and how much he loved his family. From lessons about money, to dealing with disappointment, Papa made sure to pass on his pearls of wisdom to his family.

I think Papa’s greatest legacy is his love for his family. Every chapter in this book draws a beautiful picture of how he lived that love out in his everyday life. He made sure everyone in his family knew how much he loved and treasured them. Reading this book made me wish I could meet Papa myself. I would love to have a conversation with him. I think he would have been a great friend, to anyone.

I read this book in about a week. Seriously, I just couldn’t stop! After reading it, I chose a few chapters to read out loud with my own kids. I was lucky enough that my sons got to know my nana when they were little, as she lived in our home. They have heard stories of their own “pop-pop”, my grandfather. They immediately associated what I was reading to them with him. We talked about how life is so different for us than it was for my grandparents (and about how, in some ways, we wish we could have lived in that era). The beauty of this story is how it touched my children’s hearts. They want to hear stories from me about my grandparents, and they want to hear stories from their own grandparents too. That connection, with those family members, is really what this book is all about.

This is a picture of me and my own dear pop-pop when I was little. There are no words to express how much I loved this man and how much I miss him. I am fortunate to have spent my life with him, and to have heard his own stories. I often wished I had been able to put them down on paper. With Papa’s Pearls, it’s almost like hearing him speak.

Papa’s Pearls is available for $14.97. It is well worth that price. I would recommend it as an addition to anyone’s library!

For more information about purchasing this book, check out the website here:
http://papaspearls.com/get-your-copy/

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this book, click here:
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Tips for Frugal Homeschooling

Let’s face it, homeschooling is expensive. Even if you don’t purchase a lot of materials, there is still the fact that your family has to survive on one income because one parent stays home with the children all day. In today’s economic times, money is tight for almost everyone. Homeschooling moms and dads need to be creative in finding ways to save pennies while still offering their children a quality education. Fortunately, with a little bit of creativity, this is entirely possible. The topic of this weeks blog cruise is “frugal homeschooling”. These are some things I have learned about saving money while homeschooling.

1. Utilize your library

I love literature based programs and unit studies. The problem is, with all the books included, these curriculums can become quite expensive. I learned a long time ago that there was no way I could purchase everything. Does this mean that you have to forgo these curriculums altogether? Absolutely not! I have learned to look carefully at the program I am considering. Most of the websites for these companies (Sonlight, My Father’s World, Bright Ideas Press, Winter Promise etc.) list the books that are needed for each of these programs. I print the list for the program I want to use, and look up all of the books in my library database. I have been fortunate enough to find about 90% of the books for each program I have used. For the books that I cannot get at the library, I look them up on amazon. If they are not too expensive (typically $10 or less) I may order them. However, if I can’t afford to, I just skip them. When I get to that particular book in the program, I try to find another book on the same topic at my library and substitute it instead.

This allows me to only purchase the program guides and specific items the company provides that are necessary for the program. Believe me, this alone can reduce the bill significantly.

2. Think Ahead

When deciding to purchase a curriculum for my older son (now in 9th grade) I always ask myself if it is something I can reuse for his younger brother when he gets to that grade level. If it is, I may be willing to spend a little more now because I know that I will not have to repurchase that material as his brother grows up. This can be especially important for large families. While buying a hardbound textbook may originally cost more, that cost is worth it if you can pass it on to the next five children.

3. Sign up for free info and newsletters.

Many homeschooling companies provide free print and email newsletters that you can sign up for. While you may not like receiving extra messages in your inbox, or mailers, this service often alerts you to upcoming sales and specials for that company. For example, Alpha Omega regularly runs sales that it advertises to its email subscribers. If I am looking to purchase something from them, and I know a sale is coming, I will wait until then to buy it. Why pay full price when, in a month, you can get 10% off and free shipping?

4. Attend used book sales

Most local homeschooling groups and stores offer used book sales at least once a year. Usually this sales are open to any homeschoolers, not just members of that group. I attend about 3-4 used book sales in my area each year. I have found some real gems in the process. Also, if you have things to sell, you can also earn some money at these sales.

5. Connect with other homeschoolers

Even if you don’t belong to a group, if you know homeschoolers through your church of neighborhood, discuss the possibility of loaning material between you. If you have a 7th grade student and a 4th grade student, but you have 3rd grade materials at your house that are not being used, perhaps your friend could borrow them for the year. In the same way, if you know a homeschool mom that may have materials she is not currently using at a level you need, she may be willing to lend them to you. Of course, this would require trust that you will care for those materials and return them in good condition a the end of the year.

6. Become friends with the internet

The internet has a surprisingly large amount of resources available for free. Homeschool freebie of the day offers free downloads on a daily basis. I have gotten some wonderful stuff there! Clickschooling emails you one free resource for different subjects daily. Through them I have found multiple websites for history, math, reading, and science. In addition, if you have a facebook account, you can “like” the pages of many homeschool companies and publications. They will often post additional freebies for their facebook fans.

We all know that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to give your kids a quality education. Many homeschoolers started with just some curiosity and a library card. Just like with anything else, frugal homeschooling takes some research and planning, but it is something that is definitely worth the work!

Living Frugally

To see what other members of the Crew had to say about frugal homeschooling, click here:

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Homeschool Budgeting 101

TOS Review: Homeschool in the Woods Composers Activity Pak

Homeschool in the Woods was created by Amy Pak and offers many different learning materials for homeschoolers. Having used some of her materials in the past, I was very excited to get a chance to check out the Hands-on History Activity Pak:Composers for this review!

The composers study includes games, reading, music, and loads of activities to introduce kids to 42 composers. They can also learn about different periods of music, and create a fun lapbook to show off what they have learned. The introduction is very clear, and gives instructions for how to use the program. Of course, parents can always adjust things to make them fit their needs!

What I love about all of the Homeschool In the Woods programs is how well put together and complete they are. Like the history studies we have done before, the composers study is no different. I decided to begin by having my 6th grade son listen to some of the music. Then we studied that particular composer. We also played the games, and he really enjoyed making the composer cards.

The materials for this study need to be printed, and I have found from experience that it is best to print the lapbook materials on card stock. I do not find that this uses up too much ink. Remember, you don’t have to do every activity included in they study, you can always pick and choose which activities you want to use. I typically do not print off the pages that I read to my son, I just read them off the computer.

If you are new to lapbooking, don’t worry! Another great feature of the Homeschool in the Woods Activity Paks are that they include step by step guides for assembling the lapbook, complete with pictures. This makes the whole process so much easier. I was a little confused by this at first, but the pictures made it easy for us to put things together.

We really enjoyed this study. I think this is a great introduction to classical music and composers for elementary aged students. If you wanted to go more in depth with this study, you could easily expand on it with books from the library, and additional music samples. The Composers study costs $18.95 for the download version, and $19.95 for the CD version. This price is well worth it for everything you get. If you are looking for a great unit study on music, check this one out! For more information, visit the Homeschool in the Woods website here:

http://www.homeschoolinthewoods.com/

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this, and the other products we got to check out, click here:
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