Easiest Pot Roast Ever

Ahhh…a pot roast cooking in the crock pot has to be one of my favorite meals ever. I have tried many recipes, some simple, some more elaborate. This, however, has to be one of the easiest and tastiest recipes I have stumbled across yet. The roast cooked perfectly and had delicious flavor!!

Ingredients:
4 lb. beef chuck roast
1 package onion soup mix
1 can stewed tomatoes (I used the ones with rosemary and garlic)

Directions:
Place roast in crock pot and top with soup mix and tomatoes. Cook on low for 8 hours.

Seriously, that’s it!! We had this with some baked potatoes and lemon garlic broccoli for dinner, then I used the leftover meat to make wraps for lunch the next day. Two meals from one dinner, that’s a win in my book! To see some other recipes, click on over to Lisa’s blog here:

Starting the Year Off Right

It’s that time again…we are getting back to school! I have to say, I am partially relieved that we will be returning to a normal schedule. Summer is fun, but after a while the disorder kind of gets to me. However, I am also a little worried because I am not quite ready to start yet. It’s okay though, I plan to get that all worked out soon.

Our topic for this week’s blog cruise is “Back to Homeschool Traditions”. We do have some special things we do each year to get out school year started. We live on the East coast of Florida close to the beach. Each year, our homeschool group has a “Beach Breakfast Kickoff” to celebrate the start of the new year. Basically all the members of the group get together at the beach in the morning and brings a dish to share. After we eat all the families hang out and have a good time catching up with each other. The celebration is held on the first day of the official school year for public school students in our county. Even though we have some year-round homeschoolers in our group, they still come to the breakfast just for fun. My kids look forward to this every year as a chance to see their friends after our summer break and have fun on the beach.

Now, we don’t always start our personal school year on this day. Usually we start about two weeks after that. So, on the first day of our school year at home me, my kids, and my husband (if he is off work) go to a favorite local restaurant for breakfast. Our first day is usually an introduction to all of the things my kids will be doing during the year, so it’s pretty relaxed. My kids also look forward to going to breakfast every year, and we have a tradition of going out to the same place on the last day of every school year as well.

I love creating our own special traditions for our family. It’s just another part of why we homeschool. Do you have any traditions to start your school year? Let me know in the comments and check out what my other Crew members had to say here:

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Winging It

So here we are, a week away from starting school, and I am still piecing it together. This has never happened before. I always have all of our curriculum picked out and ready to go! Unfortunately, we have had a crazy year, and the money I had saved up for curriculum had to go to other things. So, I have been waiting and praying for God to provide some stuff for us to work with, and of course, He has.

I have a friend with two high schoolers who is going to lend me some of her stuff. She has a math and science I can borrow for my oldest son. While the programs may not have been what I picked, I am just thankful that we have something we can use. And who knows? Maybe we will end up loving both programs! I still have to work on history/English with him. We used MFW Ancients last year, and we both LOVED it. I really want to continue his high school with them, but the program is expensive. For now, I am going to have him finish up last year’s program (he still has six weeks left) and hope that I will be able to get the money together to purchase their World History in the next month or so.

For my youngest, we are also going to start the year finishing up what we did not get to for last year’s curriculum and use stuff I have received from the TOS Crew (which has been such a huge blessing for us 🙂 ). We did finish up our science, and we only have a couple of books left in CLE Math, but that isn’t too expensive, so I hope to be able to buy that soon. I also want to get the fourth book in the Apologia Worldview series, as we have already done the first three and loved them.

My friend invited me to join her homeschool co-op this year, and they too have a library where you can check out curriculum for the year, so I am hoping to find some things I can use there.

I have to say, “winging it” is not really my style. I am WAY outside of my comfort zone here. But I think that maybe God is trying to teach me something here. I get very “focused” on our curriculum and everything for school, and I think maybe He wants me to lean more on Him than on my books. He is showing me that He will provide what my kids need to learn, and I just have to let Him lead the way.

So, I am trying not to panic right now. I am working on (finally!) filing all of my leftover papers from last year, and once I collect all my borrowed stuff I will spend this weekend getting ready for Monday. I keep telling myself I am NOT going to worry or stress over this. My children WILL learn and I don’t have to have a “set” curriculum for them to do so. (even though I just love having books to work with! LOL) And as time goes on and we get back on our feet, the Lord will provide a way for me to purchase those things that I absolutely need. Dependence on Him is what is important, and if I can just teach my kids that lesson I will be satisfied.

Caesar Pockets

This is one of my kids favorite lunches! And it’s healthy and easy to make which makes it a hit with me.

Ingredients:
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
4 cups chopped Romaine lettuce
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup olives
1/2 cup sliced roasted red peppers
1/2 cup Caesar dressing
1/3 cup shredded Italian cheese
4 whole wheat pitas, halved

Directions:
1. Place the chicken, lettuce, olives, cheese, garlic, and red peppers in a large bowl.
2. Add the dressing and toss to coat.
3. Spoon the Caesar mixture into the pitas and serve!

See? Simple and tasty. Of course, if you like more dressing you can always add it in. Check out more recipes on today’s link up here:

Cabbage Casserole

I love cabbage rolls, but they take a little bit of work. This is a new recipe I tried that we liked a lot.

Ingredients:
1 head of cabbage, chopped
2 lbs. ground beef
1/2 cup uncooked instant rice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 cup sour cream
1 chopped onion
2 cans tomato soup
1/2 cup ketchup
1 cup shredded cheese

Directions:
1. Place 1/2 of the chopped cabbage in a greased 13X9 pan.
2. In a large bowl combine the ground beef, onion, salt, garlic powder, sour cream and rice.
3. Spread the meat mixture on top of the cabbage.
4. Place the remaining cabbage on top of the meat.
5. Top with the tomato soup and ketchup and sprinkle with the cheese.
6. Cover and bake at 350 for two hours.

That’s it! To check out other recipes from this week, click here:

Refusing to Compete

A recent discussion I had with some other homeschool moms irked me just a little bit. We were talking about high school plans for our kids, and one of the mom’s said to me “Your son is doing dual enrollment now isn’t he? Because I started my son last year and when he graduates he will have his AA degree.” The other moms all voiced their agreement that yes, their children too were taking dual enrollment classes, or had already started when they entered high school. My response was “My son is only a 10th grader right now, and honestly, I don’t think he’s quite ready for that yet. He’s still working on completing the assignments I give him and he isn’t disciplined enough for the workload. I figured I would wait until next year and then have him do some dual enrollment classes for his junior year.”

My response was met by silence and confused looks. Then “Well, don’t you want him to get as much free college as he can?” and “When he goes to college he will be behind the other kids who already have two years worth of credits”. “My son (or daughter) will be able to graduate with their degree at 19” etc. etc. etc. SIGH…..look, I am all for taking advantage of free educational opportunities. I am also all for people supporting their kids and pushing them to excel. However, I am NOT for the competition that seems to arise with some people when they start comparing their homeschool to yours and implying in some way that yours is somehow inferior or that you are robbing your child of some major opportunity.

I know my son. He is incredibly intelligent, but like many gifted students, he is also disorganized and not exactly a linear thinker. Right now he is still learning to manage high school and plan out assignments and figure out how to set a timeline so everything gets done. I think a big part of high school is preparing your child for life, so I want him to learn these skills because he will need them in his future. Therefore, I do not organize everything for him. He has a planner with his weekly lesson plans in it. We use MFW For high school (which I love) and I tell him it is up to him to refer to his planner and decide how to complete his work. We meet each week to go over what he has done, and if he missed something, he makes it up on the weekend. I do not spend every day breathing down his neck because I feel like, when he is an adult, I am not going to be there to “manage his day” and he needs to learn how to do that on his own.

He made great strides this year in maturity and has gotten a lot more responsible with his schoolwork. I think he will grow even more this year, and by 11th grade he will be ready to take on some dual enrollment classes. The thing that bugs me is, why is it so terrible if my son does NOT complete his AA in high school? What’s wrong with him getting a few college courses out of the way and then finishing up the rest of them when he is in COLLEGE? I understand wanting to give your kids a head start, but just because we aren’t doing things that way doesn’t mean people have to look at me like I have three heads!

I just feel like there is this big push for kids in public schools, homeschools, and private schools to do more and more and more than we ever had to do. Kids are still kids, just like when we were young. They have not suddenly become superhuman in the last two decades or so. If your child is motivated to complete part of college in high school (and I know some that are, and have done so successfully) than that is awesome!! But if my child is not motivated in that way, why should I push him to do something he isn’t ready for??

Homeschools are supposed to be unique to the families that create them. That means that my schooling will be tailored to fit my kids, and it won’t look the same as yours. That does not mean that one is better than the other, it just means that I know what my kids need while you know what your kids need. I hate the feeling that we are somehow in a competition with each other to see which child “achieves” the most. Achievement is a relative thing anyway. For some kids it might mean meeting certain goals when it comes to book learning, but for other kids, it might mean learning practical skills. If your child wants to start his own business after high school, you may be teaching him the skills he needs for that business. If your child wants to join the military, he may be working on specific things that will get him there. So, a crowning “achievement” for one kid could be completely different than it is for someone else.

Personally, I do not want to participate in the game of “whose child achieved more”. I am going to focus on giving my kids what they need from me. And I will congratulate you and your child when they achieve that AA degree their senior year, but I won’t feel bad if my child did not. My purpose is to raise my kids up for the Lord, to help develop their unique skills that He has given them, and to get them ready for life after they leave my home. If my son spends four years in college instead of two, that’s okay with me!

TOS Review: Notgrass Company: Draw To Learn

I have used several curriculum products from the Notgrass Company in the past and I have always been pleased with their stuff. Therefore, I was very excited to find out we were going to get to try a book from their Draw to Learn series. Aimed at kids in grades Kindergarten through 8th, these books take kids through books of the Bible and lets them illustrate the passages as they go!

Each one of the Draw To Learn books has over 150 lessons. They can be used with any Bible translation you choose. On each page, the child reads the assigned passage, and then illustrates the lesson following the directions on the page. Kids may be asked to draw a specific part of the passage, or to draw something that represents the message of the passage as a whole. With kids on the younger end of the spectrum, you could read the passage out loud and then have them complete the drawing, but for older kids, this is definitely something they can do on their own.

The book I used with my 7th grade son is Draw To Learn Proverbs. I was really excited to get this one because it’s the one I really wanted. I just feel like there is so much for boys at this age to learn from Proverbs, you know? Anyway, I sat down with my son, showed him the book, and explained what he would be doing. And that was pretty much it!! He took off with this Bible study and really did it on his own. He enjoys drawing, and he just started youth group and has been getting into reading God’s Word, so I did not have to prompt him to do this at all, even in the summer!

Since it is summer, we only did one lesson each day. I think that is a fine pace, and you can easily complete this book in one school year. However, with older kids, you could probably do two lessons a day if you wanted to. Basically, after my son would get done with his illustration, he would bring the book to me and we would talk about the passage, his picture, and how the two were related. I think that having him draw his own picture for each passage he read really helped him think about and internalize what the message of the passage was. This is his picture from Proverbs 9:1 about the house of wisdom being built with seven pillars.

After reading this we talked about examples of good pillars to build your house (and life) on versus bad pillars to build on. This is a really important discussion for where he is in life right now…getting ready to start middle school. He will face so many big choices in the coming year, and I want him to be wise when making decisions.

These Draw To Learn books are wonderful. If you are looking for a simple, but effective and fun, Bible curriculum to use with your kids, this is it! The books themselves only cost $14.95, which is so reasonable. I think you could easily use this with multiple kids at different ages by just buying each of them their own book. Read the passage together as a family, then have your kids each create their own illustration. If you want to know more about Draw To Learn, check out the Notgrass website where you can look at samples.

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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TOS Review: Bible Study Guide For All Ages

I love finding new ways to engage my kids in learning about the bible. For this review, I got try some products from Bible Study Guide For All Ages. I have looked at this curriculum several times over the course of our homeschooling, and I am really glad to have finally gotten to check it out.

The first product we tried were the Advanced Level Student Pages. Both my son and I liked these a lot. The target age for this part of the curriculum is 5th and 6th grade students. My son is going into the 7th grade, but they were still appropriate for him. Our student pages were for the first 26 lessons of the curriculum and included lessons on the book of Genesis as well as the book of Daniel.

Each page is tied to a specific passage of the Bible and is divided into sections. The first section, “Remember it?” consists of a few questions that recall parts of the story. Some of the questions are fill in the blank, some are true and false or multiple choice. The Memory Workout portion ties into the Bible Book Summary Cards, which I will talk about in a minute. This portion also encourages kids to learn songs, retell Bible stories using pictures, and memorize books of the Bible. In the “Guess What” section you learn an interesting historical fact related to the Bible story. The Map section was one of my favorite portions of the lesson. The map is printed right on the page, and clear directions are given for labeling. We used our Bible Map and History book to fill it, and it was neat for my son to get an idea of the physical places these events occurred.

Some lessons include time line sections. Again, the time line is printed right on the student page, making it really convenient. Students fill in the events right on the page. Get Active allows you and your kids to do an activity that reinforces the lesson. For example, in one activity students are blindfolded and told to find their way around the room without touching anything. Then they are allowed to find their way around the room following cues given by the parent. The point is to illustrate that faith should be placed in those that are trustworthy.

The Discover section was probably my son’s favorite part of the lesson. It includes an illustrated representation of the lesson and has students do activities like labeling, answering questions, and solving word puzzles. This was a lot of fun for him, but he was still actively working with the Bible story and I think it really helped him remember the story.

Advanced Level Student Pages are sold in packs of about 26 lessons each and cost $5.95 each. I think this is very reasonable, and the nice thing is, you can coordinate these with the other student pages, and use this curriculum with all of your elementary age kids!

The second product we got to try were the Bible Books Summary Cards. These are great just on their own, but they are also used for the Memory portion of the student pages. The 8X10 full color cards are visually appealing. On the front, they feature illustrations that depict key stories from that book. On the back of the card there is a summary of the book as well as questions about the book.

These cards are a great way to teach your kids about the Bible. You could hang them in the room for a visual display, or use them as flashcards. You can also purchase these as 11X14 posters that come in black and white and can be colored by your kids. The full set of 66 cards costs $24.95, and these can definitely be used for years to come. I am considering laminating them so they will last even longer.

We really enjoyed these products from Bible Study Guide For All Ages. I would strongly encourage you to visit their website and look at what they have to offer. To see what other members of the crew had to say about these and the other products we got to check out, click here:

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What I Wish I Had Known

This is me as a little girl in the 1970s. I believe I was playing in my nanas living room in Fort Lauderdale at the time. It has been many moons since this photo was taken (LOL) and tomorrow is my birthday. As I approach (gasp!) 40, I have been doing some thinking about where I am now, and the things I wish I had known when I was younger.

The Cinderella dress my Nana made me. I wore it everywhere.

My childhood was…nontraditional, I guess you could say. I was mostly raised by my grandparents, who are the two most incredible people I have ever known. Growing up, there was a lot of instability in my life…and it made it hard for me to trust people as I got older. I wish I could tell my younger self that not all people are the same..and that letting go of past hurts is really the only way to give yourself a better life in the future.

On vacation in NC. Still my happy place..but what is up with the sweats and black boots?

I spent a lot of time worrying when I was little..about all kinds of stuff. Unfortunately, that is a hard habit to break and I still struggle with it as an adult. The thing is though, worrying really doesn’t get you anywhere. When you are in a situation that is outside of your control, excessive amounts of time spent worrying and obsessing over it will not change the outcome. So I would tell myself to worry less and try to enjoy the moment more.

In the back of nana’s car on a road trip back from California. We took lots of road trips. (and no, back then I never wore a seatbelt)

One thing I loved about living with my grandparents is that we took a road trip to somewhere every summer. My grandparents did not like to fly, so we loaded up the car and drove (literally) all over the country. I’ve driven from Florida to California and back, through the northern states, and into the midwest. Those are some of the most treasured memories I have of my childhood. As an adult, I find I often let “busyness” get in the way of doing some of the same things with my kids. It’s always “we’ll do that next year”. Well, you know what? None of us is guaranteed next year, and that fact becomes more painstakingly obvious the older I get. I would tell my younger self to stop putting off those things you want to do with your family because you are waiting for the right time. Do them now!!

College graduation

When I graduated college, I wish I could say I was strong and confident, but that just isn’t true. I was an insecure mess of a girl who was so worried about being what everyone thought I should be that I drove myself crazy. I would do what other people expected of me, and I almost always ended up unhappy. The thing is, most of the people I was trying to please, were not nearly as concerned about my feelings as they were their own. Being older now I have come to realize that what others think is not as important as you being true to yourself, bringing honor to the Lord, and taking care of your family. I would tell my younger self to be less worried about what others think, and to choose more carefully who it is you are trying to please. Also, there is nothing wrong with withdrawing from a relationship that does not influence you for good. Sometimes you can love people dearly, but the relationship with them can be toxic, and that’s not a good situation for anyone.

Me as a young mom with my oldest boy.

One of the biggest things I would tell myself as a twenty something year old mom is that yes, children are the greatest gift ever. When you have kids, there is nothing on earth that you will do that is more important than raising them. At first, I worked when my kids were born, because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. But in my heart, all I wanted was to be with them. When I finally gave in to what God had placed on my heart, and left my classroom for home, it was almost like a euphoric feeling. No, it isn’t easy being with my kids 24/7..yes, sometimes I want to pull my hair out. But at the end of the day, nothing is more satisfying than spending time with them. And, as I get older, so do they. I realize now how quickly childhood passes. I know it doesn’t seem like it when you are stuck in what feels like never-ending toddlerhood, but there will be days when you miss it. I would tell my younger self to stress out less, and enjoy just being there with them more. Kids don’t need a perfect mom with a spotless house and gourmet meals on the table…they just need a mom who loves them and is there with them.

Me and my best friend at girls bowling night.

As a younger mom, I was also pretty isolated. My husband is gone for 24 to 48 hours at a time for work, and I am often alone. Now, I am the kind of person who is okay with being by herself. I can read a book, play on the computer, do stuff around the house etc. etc. Really, I could pretty much be a hermit if I let myself. The thing is, we were created to interact with other people, and I remember being lonely a lot. The problem is, I still have a hard time getting close to others..you could say I’m one of those “slow to warm up” types I guess. The good thing is, as my kids have grown up, they have started friendships with other kids that has led me to have friendships with their moms. I have a core group of about five ladies that I am very close too. We are all busy moms, so we don’t “hang out” all the time. But we do talk and text, and occasionally schedule a moms night. My best friend and I talk every day. We both have boys that are the same age, and they have known each other forever and they are best friends too, as are our husbands, so it makes it really easy to hang out for dinner and stuff. My friends are important to me for so many reasons. As a mom, sometimes you just need to talk to another mom about stuff. Me and my friends come alongside each other for laughter and tears. We encourage each other, we pray for each other, and we are there for each other. I think my life 10 to 20 years ago would have been less difficult if I had allowed myself to make a few friends, so I would go back and tell myself to do so.

Thinking about it now, there is no way I would want to go back to my twenties. I am so much happier with my life and who I am now. But as we get older, obviously, we learn some things about what is truly important and what is not. My life has not always been easy, but God has blessed me in so many ways. And you know what? It is often my trials that have taught me the most. So I guess the final thing I would tell my younger self is to just hold on. Even when you are in the middle of a storm, God is there and He is working. Even though you cannot imagine how the situation you are in could ever possibly be used for good, it CAN. I have seen it so many times in my own life, and I know that I would not be where I am today if it were not for some of the stuff I have been through. So today, I am thankful for this life I have, and very very glad for all the lessons I have learned.