Booklovers Anonymous: The Night at the Museum

The Night at the Museum

If you are looking for a fun book to begin a unit study I would definitely suggest The Night at the Museum by Milan Trenc. Written in 1993, the book is set in the Museum of Natural History and follows the adventures of Larry, the museum’s latest night guard. He begins his night sitting in his chair thinking he will be able to take a nap, but is incredibly surprised when things turn out differently!

Of course, many people are familiar with this story from the 2006 Night at the Museum movie starring Ben Stiller, which would make a great resource for the study. However, there is so much more you can do with this book. For starters, visit the American Museum of Natural History website to explore current exhibitions, take a peak behind the scenes, and learn about various science topics.

From there, customize your unit study by choosing specific animals to learn about. Or choose some of the historical figures in the book to research. A wide range of topics are available from monkeys, tigers, and dinosaurs to Lewis and Clark and John Audubon. You could even wrap up your unit study by having your kids create their own museum diorama or display to share with the family, or having a day where they dress up as their favorite character and give a speech.

This book is so much fun, it is still one of my kids favorites for a bed time read aloud!

Thanks for joining me for Booklovers Anonymous! Be sure to come back next week. Feel free to share or pin this post!

Pork Tacos (Crock Pot Recipe)

Pork Tacos

This week, I am sharing a recipe for pork tacos. I make the pork in my crock pot, then shred it and serve it over tortillas.

Ingredients:
2 lbs. boneless pork loin
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1 can diced tomatoes with lime and cilantro
1 tsp. cumin

Directions:
1. Place pork in crock pot.
2. In a bowl, mix together the orange juice, lime juice, tomatoes, and cumin.
3. Pour mixture over pork and cook on low for 8 hours.
4. Remove pork from crock pot and shred.
5. Serve on tortillas.

I like to serve these with shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, avocado, and scallions.

Check out other recipes from Try a New Recipe Tuesday here:

5 Days of Homeschool Essentials: Flexibility

It is the final day of our 5 Days of Homeschool Essentials blog hop! I hope you have enjoyed this series as much as I have. Today, I am sharing about an attitude that is absolutely essential for our homeschool success: flexibility.

As I mentioned on Day three of this blog hop, I am a planner by nature! In the beginning of our homeschool, I was NOT very flexible at all, and that led to a lot of stress for me and my kids. Thankfully, I have relaxed over the years. I have learned that there are days (or sometimes, complete seasons) where unexpected things come up, and your plans get put aside. I have learned that accomplishing everything on my checklist is not the key to a happy homeschool, and I have learned that sometimes you just have to put things aside to enjoy special moments together.

Do you have days where you feel pulled in 100 different directions and know you just aren’t going to be able to do it all? I do. At first, this really bothered me, and I made myself miserable (and crazy) trying to do it all. It was in these moments that I would become most stressed out. Fortunately, God stepped in and taught me a few lessons. First, He showed me how to focus on what was most important, which really is time with my kids. Next, He showed me that our homeschool day really belongs to Him, and His plans may not be the same as mine, but they are so much more important.

These weren’t easy lessons to learn. In my pride I stubbornly hung on to “my plans” and tried to force things to come out “my way” but all that accomplished was more and more frustration. When I finally learned to let go, and allow God to lead the way, I became a lot more relaxed and homeschooling became a lot more fun. Now, I start my day with a prayer to the Lord to open my heart to His leading, and I make all plans in pencil. If God opens up another opportunity (whether it be through an unplanned interruption or an unexpected side trip) I remind myself to be open, and that God may have a lesson planned that I hadn’t thought of.

Ultimately, I want to teach my children to turn their hearts to God, and how can I do that if I won’t do the same? So, being flexible is essential if I am going to successfully homeschool my children for God.

What attitudes do you feel are most important for homeschooling? Let me know in the comments. And thank you for joining me for the 5 Days of Homeschool Essentials blog hop! Be sure to visit me for my regular weekly posts about books, cooking, reviews, and homeschool life! Check out what the rest of the crew had to say today here:

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

Visit these blogs for more Homeschool Essentials posts:
1. Day by Day in Our World
2. Nurturing Learning
3. Farm Fresh Adventures
4. For the Display of His Splendor
5. At Home: where life happens
6. Journey to Excellence
7. Homeschool Ways
8. Adventures with Jude
9. Delivering Grace

5 Days of Homeschool Essentials: Groups and Co-ops

Trip to the fire station.

We are on day four of our 5 Days of Homeschool Essentials blog hop and today I am going to talk about one of our essentials for fun: homeschool groups! We belong to one local group and one co-op. When I first started homeschooling, I felt rather isolated, so I looked for groups we could join up with. There are actually quite a few in my area, ranging from academic groups to groups just for fun. I was searching for a less-structured group to join and I was happy to find two just like that.

Barrier Island Field Trip

Our first group meets at a local church on Monday afternoons for eight weeks in the fall and eight weeks in the spring. They offer a variety of classes taught by local experts as well as parents from the group. My kids have taken classes in science, photography, world cultures and other topics with this group. It is not exactly a traditional co-op as parents don’t have to teach classes, but you do have to volunteer in your kids class as a helper at least once a semester. We also take a lot of field trips together. Last year we went to Legoland, which was probably my youngest son’s favorite field trip ever!

Legoland!

We’ve also gone ice skating, visited a chocolate factory, had beach days and done a lot of other things. Once a year, we do SAT 10 testing with this group as well.

Our second group is a co-op that meets every Thursday. In this case, the moms meet at the beginning of the year and plan out each week with parents volunteering to teach. This is our first year with this group and it is so much fun! We have learned CPR, visited the shooting range, gone to local parks, and had water play days together. This group also has a lending library where people donate old curriculum for others to check out! This was a huge blessing to our family this year.

My oldest.

My kids have made some really good friends in our groups and so have I.

My youngest.

Why are these groups so essential to our homeschool? Number one, its nice to get together with other homeschoolers on a regular basis. Because we are a large group, we get access to numerous activities at a discounted price that would cost a lot more if we went by ourselves. Also, I have found many parents in these groups with talents in areas I don’t have, and I am thankful that they are willing to use these talents to enrich my kids education.

Joining these groups has also given me a lot of connections. It is nice to have other homeschool moms I can talk to in real life about the challenges we face every day. On a practical note, I had a few friends loan me curriculum for this year that allowed me to teach my boys in ways that would not have been possible otherwise.

I do enjoy the fact that these groups are not terribly rigid. The classes my boys take are extras, not core academics. And the field trips are pick and choose as you go. If we need a week off or something comes up, we just stay home (unless I have to actually lead or help that week). I didn’t want to join a group that we were tied to week after week, because to me, that limits the freedom of homeschooling. While I do have other more academically-oriented groups in my area, I chose these specific groups because they met our needs and fit with out lifestyle. I think that is probably the most important thing when deciding whether or not to join a group and choosing which one to join. You have to find the one that is the right fit for you!

So, do you belong to any groups? What are some of the activities your group participates in? Let me know in the comments. Join me tomorrow for the last day of our blog hop when I discuss an important essential attitude! Check out what the rest of the crew shared today here:

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

Visit these blogs for more Homeschool Essentials posts:
1. Day by Day in Our World
2. Nurturing Learning
3. Farm Fresh Adventures
4. For the Display of His Splendor
5. At Home: where life happens
6. Journey to Excellence
7. Homeschool Ways
8. Adventures with Jude
9. Delivering Grace

Booklovers Anonymous: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

For Booklovers Anonymous today I am sharing another favorite picture book, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, by Mo Willems. This is a book I discovered when my youngest was in early elementary school and the whole series quickly became a family favorite.

Mo Willems has a fantastic ability to write characters kids connect with, and the funny, imaginative pigeon in this books is no exception. He longs to drive the bus while the bus driver is away, and he works hard to convince you he should! The illustrations make the bird come to life, and kids totally relate as he pleads for his way.

This book is a great read aloud, and there are some really fun internet extras to go along with it. On the official website, Pigeon Presents, there are teachers guides, games, and printable coloring pages. In addition, the Pigeon has his own twitter account full of interesting info and kid-friendly humor.

I would highly recommend any of the pigeon books for a fun read! Do you have any ideas for fun pigeon-related activities? Let me know in the comments. Feel free to share this post with others who love to read books! Make sure to stop by next week for another Booklovers Anonymous post!

5 Days of Homeschool Essentials: Planners

For today’s 5 Days of Homeschool Essentials posts I am talking about one thing I feel is absolutely necessary to make my homeschool run smoothly: planners! I am a planner at heart. I love making to-do lists and keeping a calendar. As a teacher, one of my favorite things was planning out my lessons for the week. For me, planners serve multiple purposes. For starters, I juggle a lot of stuff. Homeschooling, blogging, appointments, church activities, homeschool groups, dinners, shopping, house stuff etc. If I didn’t have a way to keep track of it all, I would go crazy!

In the past, I have used many planners for my kids, most of them printable. While I love the flexibility of these types of planners, printer ink is expensive. Since I print out a lot of our school work, I decided to look for a hard copy planner this year instead. I knew what I wanted in a planner, space to write down weekly lesson plans, grades, and other information. After spending a lot of time online I settled on the Homeschooler’s High School Journal for both of my kids (even though my youngest is only in 7th grade).

The Homeschooler’s High School Journal

What do I love about this planner? For starters, the price! (Less than $10 is always good for me). And I love the way they are set up. There are pages to record grades and attendance:

Attendance/Grades

As well as ample space for recording lesson plans and notes:

A whole week on two pages!

In addition, it has pages to keep track of resources used, field trips, and credits. This makes it really easy for me to sit down on a Sunday evening and write out our plans for the next week. Why do I need a planner? Well, for me, I think it’s just how my brain works. I need to SEE our plan for the week to get a feel for where we are headed. I like the fact that my kids can grab their planners and get started on their work while I clean up breakfast. My husband likes the fact that if he has to fill in for me, he can look at the planners to know what the boys are supposed to be doing. I know a lot of people do not use written lesson plans in their homeschool, and that’s great if they can work that way. But I just can’t. Having these plans laid out gives me confidence that everyone knows what they need to do. I tried doing workboxes, but that just didn’t work for me! At any rate, I always plan in pencil so I can easily change things when needed. Each week, I sit down and make notes about things that didn’t get done, because of other things that came up, and I move them to the next week. Easy-peasy!

Now, for my own day to day planning and record keeping, I use the printable planner from The Old Schoolhouse magazine. This thing is loaded with more pages than you could possible imagine! I love that I can print out exactly what I need and customize my own planner in a binder. I use the calendar pages to keep track of appointments and schedules each month, and the week-at-a-glance pages for menu planning and staying on top of important weekly tasks.

Week-at-a-glance

When I need to add something to my planner, I just pencil it in.

My color-coded calendar

Because I am (otherwise) disorganized and all-over-the place when it comes to tasks, having a planner keeps me on point and makes sure I don’t forget anything important.

Finally, this year, I decided to start using a blog planner. Between crew reviews, blog hops, link-ups, and carnivals, I can get distracted. I tried writing all of these things on my regular calendar, but it got to cluttered and things were still getting lost in the mix. So, in my binder, I created a separate tab for my blog. Here, I keep track of posts that need to be written, as well as a running list of posts that are scheduled.

My blog planner.

Using pages from a planner from My Joy Filled Life I print out what I need and keep track of everything I need to do. I try to write down my regular monthly link-ups and posts first, then fill in reviews, guest posts, and other posts as they come up. That way, when life gets crazy, I can refer to my plans to make sure I am not missing anything.

So, I know this may seem a little crazy to some people (LOL) but honestly, planning doesn’t take me that long. Planning our school week takes me about an hour on the weekends, and doing my personal calendar and blog calendars takes about 20 minutes at the start of the month, and then 5-10 minutes a week as I add in new activities, posts, and events.

I couldn’t survive without my planners and that is why they are one of my homeschool essentials. Do you plan out your weeks/months? What planner do you like to use? Let me know in the comments. Join me tomorrow for day four of our blog hop when I talk about one of our essentials for homeschool fun! Check out what other crew members had to share today here:

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

Visit these blogs for more Homeschool Essentials posts:
1. Day by Day in Our World
2. Nurturing Learning
3. Farm Fresh Adventures
4. For the Display of His Splendor
5. At Home: where life happens
6. Journey to Excellence
7. Homeschool Ways
8. Adventures with Jude
9. Delivering Grace