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

5 Days of Homeschool Essentials: The Library

A ticket to anywhere! A library card.

For the second day of the 5 Days of Homeschool Essentials blog hop, I am going to talk about one of my most absolutely necessary curriculum essentials: my local library! For starters, I used to be a middle school English teacher, and I LOVE books! I love them so much, I write about them on my blog every Thursday for my Booklovers Anonymous series! When we started homeschooling I was so excited about the books I was going to get to read with my kids!

I could spend hours in the library.

Then, as I started doing research about homeschooling, I discovered the idea of using living books for history studies and tying them into reading and language arts, ala Sonlight, Heart of Dakota, Winter Promise, and other companies. The idea of this got me really excited!

That was, until I started looking at their prices! Wow…so far out of my budget it wasn’t even funny. That’s how the library comes in! I got a chance to check out Illuminations by Bright Ideas Press through the crew, and I checked out almost every book from the library. When I wanted to try the program, I went through the book list, looked up every book, and figured out which books were and were not available. In all, I had to order about 7 books, and I think I spent around $40 on all of them!

As I’ve gotten more confident in my abilities, I have created my own short unit studies using books from the library. You can truly study just about any history, science, art, or literature topic you want if you have access to a good library or one with inter-library loan (which mine has).

For our Wolf unit.

The one thing about the library for me is that is does take planning! For example, my youngest son is on year two of Mystery of History right now. I have to take the time to plan a couple of units out, deciding which books I need and requesting them when appropriate. It is also important to keep tracks of those due dates so you don’t rack up pesky fines!! The Old Schoolhouse Planner has plenty of forms to help with this! I usually print out a new form for each month and keep it in my personal planner, using colored highlighters to keep track of books and due dates.

The library is definitely one homeschool essential I could NOT live without! What is your most important curriculum essential? Let me know in the comments. Join me tomorrow when I talk about one of my big essentials for helping our homeschool run smoothly! Check out what the rest of the crew 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

Crock Pot Chicken

Crock Pot Chicken

This recipe has become one of my go-to comfort food recipes on a busy day. It’s easy to make and tastes delicious, just like the rotisserie chicken we get at the store. I usually serve it with potatoes and vegetables, but for a quick dinner, it works with a salad as well.

Ingredients:
1 whole chicken
2 tbsps. paprika
1 tbsp. basil
2 tbsps. seasoned salt
1 tbsp. onion powder
2 tbsps. garlic powder
1 tbsp. Badia complete seasoning

Mixed seasonings

Directions:
1. Mix the spices together in a small bowl.
2. Add 1 tbsp. of water to the bowl at a time and mix until a paste forms.
3. Brush the paste of spices over the chicken and place the chicken in the crock pot.
4. Cook on low 6-7 hours.

If you want to make the skin crispy, remove the chicken from the crock pot and broil for a few minutes. This chicken is really juicy and full of flavor. I hope you enjoy it. To see other recipes from Try a New Recipe Tuesday click here:

5 Days of Homeschool Essentials: Heart Attitudes

Proverbs 3:5-6

It is time for the first Crew Blog Hop of the year. Our theme for this week is “5 Days of Homeschool Essentials”. So, for the next five days I will be sharing with you the things I feel are most essential for our homeschool. I have been giving this series a lot of thought, and I am excited to share my feelings with you, as well as read what my fellow crew members have to say.

So, my first essential for successful homeschooling? Having the right heart attitude. This applies to both me and my kids. In my experience, if our heart attitudes are wrong, there isn’t a whole lot else that goes right. So, how do I cultivate a right heart attitude in the midst of all of the stuff that goes on around here? Well, first, I start with myself.

Proverbs 3:5-6 is pretty much a life verse for me. Over this very bumpy road I have traveled, I have learned that I must absolutely and without fail “Trust in the Lord with all my heart”. Now, this is not always easy. I am only human, and I struggle with doubt and discouragement. And when I get discouraged I often get frustrated,and when I get frustrated, I take my eyes off the Lord. This often spells disaster for our homeschool. In order for me to be in the right frame of mind to patiently and effectively school my children, I must keep my eyes firmly fixed on God.

Hebrews 12: 1-3

The best way for me to keep my eyes and heart turned to God is to stay in His Word DAILY! Even on those rare cold Florida mornings, and those (more likely) rainy mornings, when I would much rather stay snuggled under my covers, I get up an hour before my kids get moving. I usually chose a bible reading plan online each year (currently I am working my way through a chronological reading). I also get daily devotions in my email from Proverbs 31 Ministries and Alpha Omega. Spending time with God like this gives me a sense of peace and purpose before the craziness of my day starts. This year I have decided to take it a step further by reading a book of spiritual encouragement each month. I am starting with Believing God by Beth Moore.

As the mom, I have found that the condition of my heart attitude greatly influences the heart attitude of my children. If my core attitude is negative, theirs usually is too. If I am agitated, so are they. If I am impatient, they also reflect that. If I take the time to cultivate my own positive heart attitude first, I find I am better able to direct their heart attitudes later.

Which brings me to my children. Their heart attitudes play a huge part in the success of our homeschool day as well. And of course, just like me, they have bad days and they get frustrated. So, what do I do? In our homeschool we have spent the better part of the last few years focusing on the fruits of the spirit.

The Fruit of the Spirit

When my children are having an off day, I try to redirect them by leading them through a discussion of these fruits and asking them if their heart attitude reflects them. We have spent a lot of time talking about what the fruits of the spirit look like. And I emphasize to my kids that in order to have them in their lives they need to stay close to God as well. My children have developed the habit of daily Bible reading, and lately I have encouraged them to read devotionals as well. My oldest son has even begun writing his own book of 30-day devotionals for teens!

Does this mean that my days are always joyful, peaceful, and full of kindness and gentleness? No, of course not. But by spending time reflecting on the goodness of God in my own life, I find that I am better able to show my children grace, mercy, and patience each day. When I remember the incredible love, grace, mercy, and patience God shows me daily in my imperfections, I can do a better job of overlooking my kids imperfections and not snap at them. Does this always happen? Sigh…no. There are days when snappy, angry mom makes an appearance. Usually, if I catch myself early enough, I can apologize and redirect. Sometimes, I don’t, and when my boys get “that” look on their face I know it’s time to take a break from school, and just hang out and cuddle my boys.

So, heart attitudes are one of my most important homeschool essentials. What would you say is your number one ingredient for a successful homeschool day? Let me know in the comments. And please join me tomorrow when I talk about one of my number one curriculum essentials. To see what other members of the Crew had to share today, click 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

Menu Plan Monday 1/20/14

It’s Menu Plan Monday again. My recipes this week are a hodgepodge of meals, as usual.

Monday: Chicken Soup

Tuesday: Chili

Wednesday: Spinach Bacon Mac and Cheese

Thursday: Beef and Broccoli Pasta

Friday: Pizza

Thanks for stopping by! I can’t wait to check out everyone else’s menus for this week. Be sure to come back next Monday.

Booklovers Anonymous: Inkheart

 

Growing up on a farm as an only child, books and animals were my friends and playmates. How I longed to enter the world of my books! I wanted to solve mysteries with Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. I dreamed about going with Alice down the rabbit hole and visiting the Shire. That’s why the book I am talking about this week is so close to my heart. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke is about a girl named Meggie, whose father, Mo (a bookbinder) has the ability to make the world of books real!

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

On the inside page of the book is printed one of my favorite Shel Silverstein Poems, “Invitation”, which to me, speaks to the heart of what all books are about. Inviting you to another world where you can experience all sorts of great things.

In the course of Inkheart, Meggie and her father have to fight Capricorn and his gang, whom Meggie’s father accidentally read out of a book a long time ago. Another character who helps them is Dustfinger, a man who longs to return to his family in the book world. Meggie also discovers that her mother was accidentally trapped in the world of books when Dustfinger and the others were brought out. It is an exciting read, suitable for 4th grade and up, and great as a read aloud for anyone. There was also an Inkheart movie starring Brendan Fraser.

Online, Scholastic has a few resources for Inkheart, including a guide with suggested questions, an activity page with quizzes, and suggested writing lessons

Web English teacher also has a page with links to other resources for the book.

If you or your child enjoy fantasy books with rich characters, I would encourage you to check Inkheart out! Thanks for joining me this week. Next week, I will be sharing another of my favorite picture books. Be sure to come back and check it out!

The Olympics are Here!

I am so excited about the Winter Olympics! My whole family enjoyed watching the summer games two years ago, and we have been looking forward to the winter games since then. I think our favorite parts of the summer games were swimming and gymnastics. This year I can’t wait to watch the ice skating and my boys are looking forward to the skiing and snowboarding. (Since we live in Florida, TV is the only place they get to see snow).

Of course, the Olympics are also a wonderful time to study lots of different things related to the games. You could study the history of the Olympics, the history of a certain sport, many of the countries that are participating and tons of other stuff. For this week’s Crew Round-Up we are sharing some resources you can include in a study of the Olympic games.

For starters, check with your library. I searched “Olympics” on my library catalog and came up with a ton of books. Here are some I plan to check out:

1. DK Eyewitness Olympics
2. The Olympics: Unforgettable Moments of the Games
3. A Passion for Victory: A study of the Olympics in Ancient and Early Modern Times
4. Olympics!

Of course, the internet is full of resources for the Olympics. Just search the term on Pinterest and you come up with a lot of stuff to look at. These are some of the most interesting sites I’ve found so far:

Make and Takes has a page devoted to Winter Olympic crafts and games. Here you will find great instructions for making your own ice-skating rink, playing snowball ring toss and having your own bobsled race!

This Activity Village page has links for printables, coloring pages, and videos.

And then of course, the website for the Official Winter Olympics 2014 has links to info about the history of the games, the events themselves, links to previous years games, and more.

Finally, and this is more for fun than anything else, I will watch the movie Cool Runnings with my boys before the games start. This is a favorite of mine from childhood, and I remember after watching it wanting to cheer for the Jamaican bobsled team!

If you know of any other great Winter Olympics resources, please let me know in the comments. Make sure to check out the resources other Crew members shared in the Round Up here:

Winter Olympics Resources Round-Up

Empanadas

Empanadas

This week I am sharing my recipe for Empanadas. I won’t lie to you, these take a bit of work to make, and so I usually only make them for special occasions (think New Year’s and birthdays). However, they are delicious and when my family requested them for New Years Eve I agreed to make them.

Ingredients:
2 lbs. hamburger
1 jar tomato Sofrito (I use Goya)
2 packs Goya Sazon
1/2 jar Spanish Olives
4 hard boiled eggs
3 packages Goya discos

Directions:
1. Brown the meat and drain.
2. Return the meat to the pan and add the sofrito and sazon. Stir to mix.
3. Chop the olives and eggs and stir them into the pan.
4. Cover the bottom half of each Goya discos with about 2 tsp. of filling.
5. Fold the discos over and crimp the edges to seal. (I like to use these handy pastry crimpers I got a few Christmases ago, they come in three sizes and work beautifully!)

6. Heat oil in fryer to 375 degrees. Heat oven to 200 degrees and line a baking pan with parchment paper.
7. Place 2-3 empanadas in the fryer and cook for about 5 minutes each, until they begin to float and they turn brown.
8. Transfer finished empanadas to the baking pan and cover with foil. Place pan in the oven to keep warm.

This recipe makes about 30 empanadas. Plenty for a party or to keep as leftovers!! Enjoy! Feel free to share this recipe and come back next week. To see other Try a New Recipe Tuesday recipes from today, click here: