Crew Blog Hop: Tips for Staying on Top of Things

Wow, it’s already Day 4 of our 5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents Blog Hop! Today I’m going to share some tips for how I stay on top of things at my house. Now, one thing you need to know is that I am by far, NOT a very organized person by nature. I want to be organized, I long to be organized, but it’s really not in my nature. However, I am a planner, and I think this is what helps me keep from getting completely lost and overwhelmed with all the stuff that has to be done on a regular basis!

1. Get a Planner:  Seriously, I have a planner for me and my kids. I love the Ultimate Homeschool Planner from Apologia and the Hey Mama! Planner from The Old Schoolhouse for moms. There is plenty of space for you to record your schedule, notes, Bible verses, and everything else you need. Plus they offer all kinds of helpful charts and references. If you prefer to print and create your own planner, you can also find plenty of places to do that online as well, I just love having a physical planner (but I also prefer to read physical books!). For me, having a written plan is essential to staying on track. I also have planners for each of my boys where I actually write out their lesson plans for the week. Now, I write these in pencil, because as you know, stuff doesn’t always go according to plan, and if something doesn’t get done, that’s fine, we just move it to the next week, but I like the fact that on Monday, they can grab their planners and get stared while I’m making breakfast.

2. Prioritize your Commitments:  One of the big mistakes I made as new homeschooler was to overcommit to everything. I wanted to make sure my kids didn’t miss out on anything, but in the process, I stressed us way out by overbooking our schedule. Well, I have pared things way down at this point. We belong to one co-op, which is really flexible. From there, my kids pick and choose what they want to be involved in. Since they are both about high school level, I feel they can make those choices. My oldest works, and my youngest is really involved in serving at our church. If they want to take on something else they can, and if they want to just hang out after school and go fishing, that’s fine too. Each week, I make a list of the stuff we HAVE to do, and I make sure that stuff gets done, but I do not overbook anymore.

3. Menu Plan:  This is a huge part of making things easier for me, period. I plan our menu in two week stretches before I go grocery shopping. Basically, I start with Facebook. Our local grocery stores post their sales adds on certain days, and I make sure to check those adds, then I plan the menu based on what’s on sale. It saves us money, and it helps me, because I don’t have to stress about what I’m going to make for dinner every day. On days when we have co-op or something else going on and I know we’re going to be busy, I plan a crock pot meal, so it’s ready when we get home, which saves me a lot of time too.

4. Assign age-appropriate chores to your kids. Part of homeschooling is preparing your kids for real life. Part of real life is knowing how to take care of themselves. My husband and I firmly believe that as our boys grow older they need to learn how to cook, clean, and do laundry, because they are not going to live with us forever. As the homeschool mom, you are not supposed to do everything by yourself, and you are not hurting your kids by asking them to do some work. You are actually preparing them for life outside of your home. And that’s really important.

5. Take Advantage of Apps:  My hubby and kids are all pretty busy. I kind of act as a secretary for everybody, which I don’t mind. However, coordinating schedules can be difficult, especially when people do not let me know what their schedules are. Fortunately, I found the Google Calendar app, which has made all of our lives much easier. What I love about this is, everyone can access this app on their phone, and they set it up through their Gmail. Basically, I had to request access to their calendar, and once they granted me access, I was able to see EVERYTHING they added on the calendar on my phone. So now, when my hubby schedules an overtime or meeting, or my oldest adds his work schedule or class schedule from college, it automatically updates on my phone! This makes it so much easier for me to coordinate everything for our family, and they don’t even have to think about it, they just update their calendars on their phone like they normally would!!

6. Make Time for Downtime:  Everyone needs downtime. You, your kids, your hubby. Whether it’s watching a favorite show, reading a book, hanging with friends or by the pool or whatever, you need to give yourself, and your family members, some time to just relax. Don’t feel guilty for spending an hour watching Netflix, or indulging in a bath at the end of the day. If each of you doesn’t get a little time to chill out, chances are you are going to get stressed, and that stress will manifest itself in some ugly way down the road. Let your kids have some time to just be alone and entertain themselves, and make sure you take some time to do something you enjoy too!

Thanks for visiting me today! Be sure to check out my friends posts too! And stop by tomorrow for the last day of the Blog Hop!

Dawn @ Double O Farms
Dawn @ Guiding Light Homeschool
Debbie @ Debbie’s Homeschool Corner
Desiree @ Our Homeschool Notebook
Diana @ Busy Homeschool Days
Diana @ Homeschool Review
Elyse @ Oiralinde: Eternal Song
Emilee @ Pea of Sweetness
Erin @ For Him and My Family
Jen @ Chestnut Grove Academy

5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents

TOS Review: Memoria Press

Memoria Press Literature Guides ReviewI believe literature study is a very important part of any homeschool. Through reading really good books our kids learn so much about vocabulary, spelling, writing, and more. I love reading the classics with my children, but I’ll admit, while I enjoy them, they can be difficult for my boys to digest. So, I am always on the lookout for study guides and other aides that make them a little easier for them to understand. For this review, we got to check out the Ninth Grade Literature Guide Set from Memoria Press. It contains four student and teacher guides for the books The Canterbury Tales, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Beowulf, and Henry V.

Memoria Press Literature Guides ReviewWe decided to dive into the story of Sir Gawain, because my son loves the stories of King Arthur. Now, the study guide goes with a classic translation of the book, which, for my son, is a little difficult to understand. So, I decided to check out two books from the library. One was a classic translation of the original, and another was a more modern translation. We read the classic translation together, because some of the questions in the study guide referred to specific lines and verses in the poem. However, I allowed him to read the more modern translation on his own because I felt it would help him to understand the story better.

 

The study guides are built around the classical idea of the Trivium, with questions aimed at the grammar, logic, and rhetoric stages. There is a basic introduction as well as information about how to mark a book as you are reading. Since we got our books at the library I had my son take notes as he read. There is also an intro to each book where you get info about each book, how it is set up, and the major characters. The teachers guide includes a full replication of all student pages with complete answers which is really, really helpful.

For Sir Gawain, the study guide started with some basic vocabulary, which was really helpful since the story is written in old English. I had to help my son with some of these words because they were so unfamiliar. From there, we read the first section (Fit) of the book and answered some basic comprehension questions. After reading the classic version with me, and the modern version on his own, my son was able to answer most of these without help.

From there, the study guide moved into Logic (dialectic) and Expression (rhetoric) questions. These challenged students to think a little deeper about the story, and encouraged conversation, because many of the questions were open-ended. As a parent, you could decide whether you wanted your child to answer all of these questions, or just do one section. We mainly focused on the Dialectic questions as far as written work, but I chose some of the Rhetoric questions to discuss orally. I also think if you wanted to do some essay type assignments, you could use the Rhetoric part for that.

I believe the next study we will move onto is Beowulf, as it seems to fall in kind of the same line as Sir Gawain. On the whole, all of the study guides in the Ninth Grade set cover classic English literature with a sense of adventure. They follow the game general pattern with an introduction and different levels of activities for the various levels. After completing all four study guides students will have a very thorough understanding of British Literature. I think this set is really good for boys in particular, because if you can get past the language, the stories themselves are really exciting. Also, a few of the stories have modern movie adaptations you can watch when you finish the books!

I like the fact that these study guides are challenging, because I think high school students should be challenged. The key here is to find a balance. I would encourage you to find both a classic and modern adaptation for each book so your child can get a whole picture of the story. The study guides themselves cost less than $100 and you can find the books at the library, so I feel like this is a really good deal! To find our more, connect with Memoria Press on social media here:

Memoria Press on Facebook

Memoria Press on Twitter

Memoria Press on Instagram

Memoria Press on LinkedIn

Memoria Press on Pinterest

Memoria Press on Google+

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

Memoria Press Literature Guides Review

Crew Disclaimer

Crew Blog Hop: Tips for What to Do When Things Go Wrong

So, as we all know, homeschooling involves everyday real life, and real life is messy. In a previous blog hop, I gave a real honest look at what a not-so-good day in our homeschool looks like, but today, as part of our Crew Blog Hop with the theme 5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents, I want to give some general tips for how to handle those days or seasons in life when things just don’t go the way you plan. Here’s how I handle it.

1. Take a Breath: The first thing you need to do is step back and take a deep breath. Remind yourself that this too will pass. Then assess how emergent your situation is, with as clear a head as possible. When I first started homeschooling it used to drive me absolutely CRAZY to deviate from my set plan, which led to a lot of internal stress and conflict. As the years went by, I learned to let go, and things got easier. I realized that life happens and I needed to learn to roll with it. Ask yourself if you are in the middle of something that has to be dealt with right now, or if your crisis is something you can handle later. If it must be dealt with immediately, then move on to the next steps.

2. Begin with Prayer:  I have learned that is much better for me if I bring these things to God in prayer right away. I start by asking Him to give me strength and patience to deal with my current situation, then I ask Him to show me what is important in His eyes for me to accomplish that day, or that season, for homeschool and for life in general. Then I try hard to commit to following His lead and let go of my own controlling nature (which is much easier said than done!)

3. Take a Break if Necessary:  In the midst of a major family crisis, remember that it is perfectly okay to take a complete break if you need to. Your kids will not be harmed by it. In fact, they will probably learn some valuable life skills from watching you deal with your situation and pitching in to help. For example, a few years ago, my husband went through a major medical crisis with his heart. For a short term, we had to take a break from school while we went out of area to get second opinions, procedures etc. I was racked with anxiety over my hubby’s condition and guilt over my kid’s lack of schooling, but you know what? My son, who is a graduating senior this year, has his eyes set on becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon, and a big part of the reason is the experience we went through when his dad was sick! So even though we weren’t “schooling” what we were going through was still having a huge impact!

4. Cut Back to the Basics:  If your situation allows you to school somewhat, consider cutting back to just the basics. Focus on reading, math, spelling, and writing for a while. Let your kids read books for history and science. It won’t hurt them long term if you take a break from those subjects if you really need too. If it makes you feel really bad and you have older children, assign them a research project and let them do the work on their own.

5. Look into Online Learning : If your situation involves you being tied up working or caring for a sick loved one, consider looking into an online learning program for your kids. Websites like Time4Learning, IXL, and other programs offer instruction, grading, and more, allowing your kids to log-on, do their lessons, and all you have to do is check up on them later! We also like other options such as Teaching Textbooks which offer computer-based learning with similar options. Basically, look for anything that will simplify things for you at this time.

6. Cut Yourself Some Slack:  Like I said, I was great at giving myself a guilt trip whenever moments of crisis would arise. I felt like I was somehow failing my kids by not being able to give them “school” every single day. However, I have now learned that my kids have learned as much about real life as they have about math, science, reading etc. and I think those lessons are just as important. Kids need to know what to do when they face a crisis, because things like this will come up in their own lives. By going through these experiences, they are learning life skills they could never pick up from a book, and I think there is a benefit to that!

Thanks for joining me today. Be sure to check out what my other crew members had to share here:

Jeniffer @ Thou Shall Not Whine
Jennifer @ A Peace of Mind
Jennifer @ Faithful Homestead
Joelle @ homeschooling for His Glory
Joesette @ Learning Curve
Kari @ Random Acts of Boyhood
Katie @ Katie’s Daily Life
Kemi @ Homemaking Organized
Kim @ Homestead Acres
Kylie @ Our Worldwide Classroom

See you guys tomorrow when I share tips for making life easier!

5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents

TOS Review: Logic Of English

Logic of English ReviewLanguage Arts. Spelling, vocab, grammar etc. For my youngest and I, it is our biggest challenge. Needless to say, I am always on the lookout for something that will “click” for him. He was a late reader, and while he’s caught up in that department, his spelling and writing still cause us both a headache. That’s why I thought it would be a great idea to try Essentials 2nd Edition from Logic of English for this review. While the phonics-based program is aimed at grades 2-6, it’s a great choice for struggling learners ages 8 and up and it teaches spelling, grammar, and vocabulary.

Logic of English ReviewFirst, you need to know that this program includes a LOT of components. There are multiple sets of flashcards, a teacher’s book , workbook, and spelling journal. It also took me a little bit to get the routine down and work it out to find a system that worked for us. However, if you take it one step at a time, and refuse to be overwhelmed when you open the box, I think you will find it’s totally worth it. The hardback teacher’s book literally has a script that walks you through each lesson, so you don’t even have to worry about what to say. There are cues about when to use the flashcards too, so once you figure out what everything is, the program itself actually runs very smoothly.

The schedule is set up so that each lesson takes only four days per week. In the beginning, it did take us about 30-40 minutes to work through a lesson, but by about the third week I would say lessons averaged around 20 minutes. Spelling lists are set up at three levels and assignments in the teachers book and workbook correspond to these levels. There is a pre-test that helps you determine where to place your child.

Now, as the parent of an older child using this program, we did tweak a little bit. Essentials starts with teaching individual phonemes, expecting that students have very little experience in that area. Being that my son is older (8th/9th grade) he is familiar with phonics, so we kind of breezed through these very quickly. HOWEVER, I did notice that when we got to the more complex phonemes there were still some sound patterns he was not familiar with (like I said, reading was a struggle for a long time), In that case, we went ahead and did the entire phoneme lesson, because you will find that that these do tie into the spelling.

I really liked how Essentials broke the different sound patterns into visual cues, so that letters that had multiple sounds had a cue you could use to signal the student when they were trying to figure out how to spell them. I think this is something that will help my son for years to come. I also liked the differentiated levels of lessons in the workbooks. There are pages for use with all three levels of students, so I think this is a program you could realistically use with kids at different levels and maybe just get more than one workbook or something to make it work. My son liked the fact that there wasn’t a tremendous amount of writing for each day!

I also liked the fact that dictation was a regular part of the study, because I think that really helps with so many different part of kid’s writing and spelling training, but honestly, it’s not something I just do by myself. It was nice to have it included as part of the regular program.

I also liked the games you got to play with the flash cards and the vocabulary instruction, in particular, really stood out. It reminded me of the way I used to teach vocab in my classroom. Instead of just learning a list of random vocabulary words, kids learn the definitions of actual word parts, which I think is so much more useful! If they know that the prefix “con-” means “with, together, completely”, then they can use that knowledge to help them define a word every time they see that prefix! It’s a much more long-lasting and beneficial way to learn word meanings!

On the whole, I thought Essentials was a really solid language arts program! A complete set costs $198 dollars, but you can also add/purchase pieces and parts based on what you need. To learn more, connect with Logic of English on social media here:

Logic of English on Facebook

Logic of English on YouTube

Logic of English on Pinterest

To see what other crew members thought of this and the other programs we got to check out, click here:

Logic of English Review

Crew Disclaimer

Crew Blog Hop: Tips for How to Homeschool on the Cheap

Welcome to Day 2 of the Crew Blog Hop, 5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents! Today I am going to share some of the tips I’ve learned for saving money in your homeschool budget! If you’re anything like me, you probably plan an awesome homeschool year based on what you think you can have, but then stuff comes up, and suddenly, your budget gets slashed! Not to worry, there are tons of ways to homeschool without spending a lot. These are some of the tricks I’ve learned!

1. Utilize Your Library:   Do you have your eye on one of those literature-based curriculums that is just chock-full of books? Don’t lose hope if the price tag is outside your budget. Download the book list and find out how many of those books you can check out at your library. In most cases, you only need each book (other than the spines) for just a few weeks. Consider simply purchasing the guide and the spines and check the rest of the books out. Even if your library doesn’t have every single book, chances are you can find a good substitute. Remember, the key to homeschooling is flexibility, so adjust and make it work for you so you can have that dream curriculum!

2. Make Big Purchases for those Items that will Last:  In general, I don’t mind spending a little more on a textbook or other item if I know I can use it for both of my kids. In fact, my oldest has a running joke that he has never been allowed to write in anything ever!! While that isn’t exactly true, I have kept our more costly items clean, so I can pass them onto his brother. If you are pretty sure you can reuse an item for more than one child, then it’s an investment, and that makes it worth it!

3. Connect with Other Homeschoolers:  Do you know other homeschool moms with kids just a grade ahead of or behind your kids? Maybe they have some curriculum you could use and vice versa! For the last couple of years a friend and I have swapped curriculum for a couple of our kids and it has worked out great! She has one son just ahead of my oldest, so she loaned us high school math and science, and her youngest is behind both of mine so I loaned her some stuff for him. Naturally, you only want to do this with someone you trust, so you know they’ll take care of your stuff, and you have to return theirs in pristine condition, but if you are both responsible, it can be a mutually beneficial relationship.

4. Shop Used Whenever Possible: Even if you don’t belong to any local homeschool groups, look around to see if any in your area have yearly book sales. I have at least two that I hit up every year. Also, search online if you have a particular curriculum you want. Homeschool Classifieds is a good place to start. Also, a lot of online homeschool forums and curriculum forums offer a resale board, so check those out too. Another place to look, which a lot of people don’t think of, is eBay! Search for the curriculum you’re looking for by name and see what comes up! Of course, you always want to be cautious. I look for sellers with a high rating and positive feedback. Use PayPal for any transactions as they have built-in protections, and feel free to ask as many questions as you want!

5. Take Advantage of Online Learning:  A simple search of the Web can find a number of websites devoted to any kind of subject you can imagine. Some are free, some cost a little, some cost more. Don’t be afraid to step outside the box. If you find an online learning site that fits your budget, go for it! You can always supplement with library books and hands-on activities. If you sign up for the newsletter at Clickschooling you will get a daily email with a FREE web-based curriculum idea! I can’t tell you how many of their links I have used over the years!

6. Start with the Main Subjects: In those years when we’ve been extremely tight, we simply started our school with the basics, reading, math, writing, spelling. Then we took a unit-study approach to science/history/etc. with me kind of making up activities based on my kids interests and library books. We did a lot of nature journaling and experiments based on stuff I found online and in books I checked out, and you know what? It worked just fine and we had a lot of fun! If you are on a tight budget, focus on getting your main subjects covered. CLE is a fantastic no-fuss, no-frills  curriculum that is also low-cost that I have used many times for my boys. It gave me peace of mind knowing their needs were being met, and didn’t break our budget. And we had plenty of free time for whatever free field trips/outside time/exploring I could find.

7. Get Creative: My final point is simply, get outside the box. Homeschoolers by nature tend to be free-thinkers. Look for a local homeschool group where you might be able to join up and get some classes for your kids that can save you money. Hit up Groupon for some low-cost field trips, then head to the library to do some research beforehand. Check out Unit Studies for science or history, Hands of a Child and Homeschool Legacy both offer great low-cost studies on a variety of topics!

The main point is, don’t let a lack of funds get you down! Homeschooling really can be done very well on a shoestring budget. Remember, it’s more about the time you are putting into your kids than anything else.

Thanks for visiting, and make sure to join me tomorrow when I share some tips for what to do when things don’t go as planned. For now, check out what my other crew members had to share on the Hop today here:

Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
Latonya @ Joy in the Ordinary
Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
Leah @ As We Walk Along the Road
Lisa @ Farm Fresh Adventures
Lori @ At Home: where life happens
Meg @ Adventures with Jude
Megan @ My Full Heart
Melanie (Wren) @ finchnwren
Melissa @ Mom’s Plans

5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents

Crew Blog Hop: Tips for Choosing Curriculum

 

It’s our first Crew Blog Hop of the year and our topic is “5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents”. For my first day, I decided to tackle a subject that was of the utmost importance to me when I started homeschooling: choosing curriculum. Even before I officially started homeschooling, I spent countless hours (I’m afraid to even say how many) researching curriculum. It became one of my biggest obsessions. There are SO many options out there that it can be almost overwhelming and making decisions about what to use can seem almost paralyzing. Now that I’ve been doing this for a while, I’ve learned a few things. I am by NO means an expert, but this is some of the advice I would give to myself as a new homeschool mom back then!

 

1. Start Small: Look, one of the biggest mistakes I made as a new homeschool mom was that I wanted to do EVERY single cool thing I saw. And one lesson I learned was that you can take on too much. If I could go back, I would probably start with one main big curriculum (say a literature based history or something) and then go basic for everything else, until I got into some kind of routine.

2. Combine as much as possible: When my boys were younger (before high school) I combined them for science and history, using products from Apologia, Sonlight, Tapestry of Grace and Winter Promise. I cannot tell you how much easier that made my life. I could work individually with them for specific subjects like math, reading and spelling since they were three grades apart, but we could study some things together, which resulted in less planning and more family learning!

3. Spend Time Researching: Read reviews. For Real. The TOS Homeschool Crew offers a ton of reviews on countless numbers of curriculum, but you can pretty much search for any curriculum by name and turn up reviews on it! Pay attention to how the writer says they used the curriculum. What worked and what didn’t? Try to find users who have kids in the general same age as your kids, because that can give you a better idea of how it might work for you.

4. Don’t Be Afraid of Workbooks/Textbooks: Look, I feel like a lot of homeschoolers feel some need to use whole books or lapbooks or something like that for everything. If it makes you feel comfortable, there is nothing wrong with using workbooks or textbooks. In fact, for subjects like spelling, math and reading, I kind of like the traditional approach. And, they can be very cost effective.

5. Check Out Online/Computer-Based Learning: Maybe you have a child that is naturally a techie. In that case, computer based learning may work best for them. Be sure to research these options. Companies like Alpha Omega offer programs like Monarch that are all computer based, and other companies, like Stinky Kid Math offer specific subjects you can supplement.

6. Don’t Make Comparisons : The biggest challenge with homeschooling is our natural tendency to compare ourselves with others. Keep in mind that your homeschool is specific to you and your kids. Try hard to resist the need to compare yourself and your kids to that mom in your homeschool group. This was really hard for me at first, but I began to realize that I didn’t do anything good for my kids by trying to make our school look like somebody else’s model. I had to let us be us. Choose your curriculum based on what you think will work best for you and your family. Period.

7. Allow your kids interests to dictate some things. There was a year we studied forensics for science because my kids were totally into it. We had so much fun. I also tied that study into a study of the human body using the Apologia Elementary Human Body curriculum. We did experiments on cells, fingerprints, blood typing, fibers, etc. To this day, my kids still talk about it. When your kids are in elementary and middle school, allow some of their interests to dictate your paths. Explore the things they want to explore. Trust me, it will make learning easier for all of you.

8. Don’t Be Afraid To Step Out of the Box. Sometimes you see a curriculum you think your kids would love but you’re just afraid to try it because it’s just so…different from what you’ve done. I can tell you, some of the things we loved best were the risks we took. And, worst case scenario, even if you hate it, there’s a good chance you can resell it or pass it on to someone else!

 

So, those are my tips for what to consider when choosing curriculum. If you have any to add, let me know in the comments! See what other crew members had to share by checking out these links and join me again tomorrow when I share some tips for how to save money on curriculum!

Melissa @ Grace Christian School
Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays
Missica @ Through the Open Window
Monique @ Mountain of Grace Homeschooling
Rebekah @ There Will Be A $5 Charge For Whining
Renita @ Krazy Kuehner Days
Sarah @ Renaissance Mama
Sasha @ Such a Time as This
Tawnee @ Adventures in Homeschooling
Tiffany @ The Crafty Home
Tina @ Desperate Homeschoolers

5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents

Tuscan Steak with Beans and Tomatoes

 

We don’t eat a ton of red meat, but when steak is on sale,  I buy it. This past week, the sirloins were on sale so I picked one up and threw this together for dinner the other night. It was a really quick recipe and it tasted delicious!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lb. sirloin steak (or other steak, just make sure it’s about 3/4 inch thick)

1 can white beans, drained and rinsed

1 can red beans, rained and rinsed

1 medium onion, sliced

4 sprigs rosemary, chopped

1 pint cherry tomatoes

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. water

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. Adobo seasoning (or you can use seasoned salt, Cajun seasoning, Mrs. Dash etc.)

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in the skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Season the steak on both sides with the salt, pepper, and Adobo.

3.  Add the steak to the skillet and cook for about 5-6 minutes on both sides, until desired temperature (we like ours medium rare, so I cook it to about 145 degrees).

4. Remove the steak to a plate and cover to keep warm.

5. Slice the onion and add it to the skillet. Cook it in the drippings for about 5 minutes until soft and browned.

6. Next, add the vinegar, chopped rosemary, and water, and stir to get all the browned bits loose. Cook for two minutes.

7. Finally, stir in the whole tomatoes and beans, heat through until warm.

8. Slice the steak into thin strips and serve topped with the tomato and bean mixture.

There you go, simple, quick, and tasty! Thanks for stopping by.

 

TOS Review: Demme Learning (Math-U-See Digital Packs)

Demme Learning Math U See ReviewI love the idea of having a virtual, online teacher for upper level math, and I have always been intrigued by the products from Math-U-See. With my oldest in his senior year of high school, I was very excited to get to check out the Pre-Calculus level Digital Pack from Demme Learning.

Demme Learning Math U See ReviewThe Pre-Calculus Digital Pack gives you access to streaming instructional videos, Instruction manual PDFs, lessons, and tests for 12 months. It does not include the the physical workbooks or textbooks, but you can order those if you want, or, if you have used Math-U-See in the past, you can add the Digital Pack for the extra resources. As a new users, I was very fortunate to receive the physical Pre-Calculus pack which included the Instruction manual, a DVD copy of the lessons, the Student Workbook, and Test book. These hardback text is very detailed and I can tell it will last for years, so it’s perfect to pass onto my younger son. The workbooks and test book are also well done, and inexpensive enough that I won’t mind replacing them for him in the future, so I think they would be well worth the investment as having them to go along with the digital lessons is a huge bonus.

Demme Learning Math U See ReviewThe Pre-Calculus course consists of 30 units with some Trigonometry included. Some examples of the types of lessons include: Trigonometric Ratios, Law of Sines, Vectors, and Logarithims. Each lesson begins with an instructional video that can last anywhere from 10 minutes to about a half hour. Mr. Demme does a very good job of explaining these rather complicated (in my opinion anyway) concepts. I watched the videos either with my son or before he did, and believe me, math is not my thing, but after watching them, I felt I had a strong enough understanding to help if he needed it, and that’s saying something!

Now, additional resources you get access to include answer keys for the test and Honors questions,  and the lesson summary which includes all the key points from the lesson and sample problems, which was helpful to print out. However, you would need to really order the workbook and test book to go along with the program to give your child something to work on, as they do not offer printable worksheets. The workbook includes four daily worksheets with 15-20 daily practice problems, plus one optional honors lesson, and a weekly test on each unit.

Basically, I had my son watch the video for the lesson on day 1 and complete at least half of the first worksheet. If he got all the answers correct, then he moved onto doing half of the next worksheet the next day (he did note that the problems seemed to get progressively more challenging each day). We ended the week with the Honors lesson and quiz. If, for some reason, he missed more than 2-3 questions on the first half of the daily worksheets, we would go over them, make corrections, then he would finish the rest of the problems to make sure he understood the problems. This way, I wasn’t overwhelming him with busy work for stuff he understood, but at the same time, I made sure he got plenty of practice for things that were difficult for him.

Regular unit tests are built into the program about every seven lessons so students get a chance to review what they have learned. The online solutions are very convenient because they make it easy to score the tests and lessons quickly so you can address any mistakes before they become bad habits (because I don’t like math, I have a tendency to put it off, but with Math-U-See Digital Packs, I didn’t, everything was right there and it only took a few minutes!). Quick and painless is how I like my high school math, and that’s what the Math-U-See Digital Packs have been for us so far. Even my math-hating son hasn’t found much to complain about! I feel like these digital packs can add a lot to any homeschool, and they are a great value at $61. Demme Learning also offers a variety of other levels to accommodate your needs. To learn more, connect with them on social media here:

Math-U-See on Facebook

Math-U-See on Instagram

Math-U-See on Twitter

Math-U-See on YouTube

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

Demme Learning's Math-U-See Review

Crew Disclaimer

Baked Italian Chicken

Some days you just have to throw dinner together with whatever you have in the kitchen. This meal came from one of those days, but I’m happy to say, it turned out pretty well. It’s a nice combination of some of my favorite flavors, and ended up being a nice, light meal for a busy weeknight.

 

Ingredients:

4 chicken breast halves

1 jar basil pesto

12 basil leaves

2-3 tomatoes

shredded Italian cheese

Directions:

  1. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray and place the chicken breasts inside.
  2. Spread the pesto on top the chicken and then lay the fresh basil on top. (about 3-4 pieces of basil per breast)

3. Slice the tomatoes and place them on top of the basil.

4. Top everything with shredded cheese and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

This is easy to serve with a side of pasta, garlic bread, or salad. Enjoy! Check out more new recipes here:

Menu Plan Monday 3/14/16

 

Happy Pi Day! With St. Patrick’s Day and Easter coming up, this is going to be a busy few weeks as far as menus go. This year, I am going to go with an oven-roasted corned beef and cabbage instead of my traditional crock pot version. And my son found a recipe for Irish Cream chocolate mousse he wants me to try out. I’ll let you know how it goes! Here’s the rest of our menu for the week:

 

Monday: Italian sausage casserole

Tuesday: Mojo Pork

Wednesday : Cuban Sandwiches (made with last night’s leftovers)

Thursday: Corned beef and cabbage!

Friday: Chicken Tamales

Thanks for joining me for Menu Plan Monday! Have a great week.

TOS Review: Grapevine Studies New Testament Overview

Birth of John to Jesus' Ministry {Grapevine Studies Review}

I am always looking for ways to actively engage my boys in Bible Study. We read the word together, but finding creative ways to get them to dig deeper is challenging. For this review, we got to check out the New Testament Overview Part I Level 4 from Grapevine Studies. Aimed at teens, it is a chronological study that focuses on the time period from the birth of John through Jesus’ baptism and His temptation.

Birth of John to Jesus' Ministry {Grapevine Studies Review}

Grapevine’s studies incorporate fun stick figure drawings that any student can do. They take about 12 weeks to complete, if you do them every day. The teacher’s book includes a convenient 4-day schedule, which gives you one flex day, but you can certainly tweak it if you want to. Resources you need (which we already had on hand) include a dry erase board and markers, colored pencils, and a Bible dictionary and Atlas. The cool thing about the teacher’s guide is that it includes a full script that you can use for teaching if you wish. I think this is especially helpful for new homeschoolers who might need the extra support until they feel comfortable creating their own lessons. You can also use the script as a guide and teach the lesson in more of a discussion format.

Birth of John to Jesus' Ministry {Grapevine Studies Review}

After reading the scripture, students  draw a stick figure their version of it onto the lesson pages. This is helpful because it allows them to interpret the lesson on their own. You can also draw your own interpretation on the whiteboard, but I just allowed my son to do it himself, but with younger children, or if you are working with multiple levels, I think it would be helpful if you drew some stick figures yourself to get them started.

Lessons also include review questions that I mainly used for discussion. You don’t have to follow these exactly, but I like to use them as starting points. For example, if a certain question leads to other questions, or encourages your kids to think about a certain point of the Bible passage, then go ahead and follow that tangent. Perhaps the Lord is leading you on that path for a reason, so follow it.

The final question in each lesson involves some type of application, and this was the part I felt was the most important. This is where the rubber meets the road in Bible study. We can read and discuss all we want to with our children, but if we don’t get them to understand how to actually apply it to their lives then we aren’t really getting that far. Some application questions ask students to take passages and apply them to life today, while others ask them to connect one passage of the Bible to another. I feel like, at this level, the Grapevine study can lead to some very deep discussions.

Birth of John to Jesus' Ministry {Grapevine Studies Review}

The study also includes timeline activities, regular reviews, and final reviews. On the whole, I feel like the studies from Grapevine encourage students to look at the Bible in a different way. For my son in particular, the stick figure drawing technique was engaging and an effective way to get him really involved in thinking deeply about God’s Word. The Level 4 New Testament Overview is available in a variety of forms from eBook to PDF. Grapevine also offers multi-level studies for families who want to teach students of different levels at the same time.

To learn more, connect with Grapevine on social media here:
Grapevine Studies on Facebook

Grapevine Studies on Twitter

Grapevine Studies on Pinterest

To see what other members of the crew thought of this and the other products we got to check out from Grapevine, click here:
Birth of John to Jesus' Ministry {Grapevine Studies Review}

Crew Disclaimer

Italian Sausage and Vegetable Casserole

 

There’s nothing like a good casserole for dinner on a busy weeknight. Recently, I threw this one together. It was a combination of some of my favorite veggies and my hubby and boy’s favorite meats. Oh, and lots and lots of cheese (we all love that!)

Ingredients:

2 lbs Italian sausage (I used three links of spicy Italian and 3 links of sweet Italian)

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

1 tbsp. garlic powder

2 tbps. Italian seasoning

1 zucchini

1 yellow squash

1 red bell pepper

1 yellow bell pepper

1 green bell pepper

4 cloves garlic

1 onion

1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes

3 cups shredded Italian cheese

grated Parmesan

Italian breadcrumbs

Directions:

  1. Wash and chop the vegetables. Drizzle with some olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and 1 tbsp. garlic powder and Italian seasoning.
  2. Roast at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

3. Heat about 1 tbsp. olive oil in a skillet. Remove the sausage from the casing and chop into small pieces.

4. Chop the onion and garlic and add it to the skillet.

5. Cook until the sausage is done, then drain and return to the skillet.

6. Add the whole peeled tomatoes, use a wooden spoon to break the tomatoes into smaller pieces, then simmer for 5 minutes.

7. Pour the meat mixture on top of the vegetables.

8. Sprinkle with some breadcrumbs (I used about a handful) to absorb some of the juice.

9. Cover the meat with the cheese. Then sprinkle the remaining garlic powder and Italian seasoning on top.

10. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees until cheese melts and is bubbly. Remove from oven and sprinkle with Parmesan. Serve with garlic toast.

 

I love the veggies I was able to sneak in this dish, and my husband and sons loved the combo of the spicy and sweet sausages, but you could definitely use whatever kind of sausage you wanted and customize the vegetables to your taste too. Enjoy! Check out some other great recipes here:

Menu Plan Monday 3/7/16

It’s March and I think that spring has finally sprung!! I am looking forward to planting season! My youngest son and I are going to sit down this week and start planning our garden and I can’t wait to get started. I love having fresh vegetables to cook with. Squash, black eyed peas, bell peppers, and fresh lettuce are just some of my favorites. Plus, there’s just something about cooking with ingredients you grew yourself! For now, this is what’s on our menu for this week:

Monday: Dutch Oven Balsamic Pork with Mediterranean Roasted Vegetables

Tuesday: Greek Chicken Salad

Wednesday: Spaghetti

Thursday: Mexican Stuffed Shells

Friday: Baked Pesto Chicken

Thanks for stopping by for Menu Plan Monday! See you next week.

TOS Review: Heirloom Audio Productions (The Dragon and the Raven)

The Dragon and the Raven {Heirloom Audio Productions Review}As the mom of two boys, I am always looking for ways to get them excited about history. For the most part, traditional history textbooks bore them, and while they do find some novels and movies exciting, those are kind of hit or miss. However, I have found audio books to be a hit, if I can find the right ones. Luckily, through the crew we get to check out some pretty cool products, and for this review, we got to check out The Dragon and the Raven an exciting audio drama from Heirloom Audio Productions.

The Dragon and the Raven {Heirloom Audio Productions Review}We’ve had the pleasure of sampling products from Heirloom before, and we’ve never been disappointed! Based on another book by G.A. Henty, this story focuses on the story of Alfred, a Saxon King who fights the Danes to preserve his kingdom. Told through the eyes of Edmond, a thane who pledges himself to serve and fight for Alfred, it is a tale of honor, devotion, and faith in God.

 

The two disc set comes in chapters, as all of the products from Heirloom have thus far. This makes it really easy to keep track of where you are at while you’re listening to the CD. You can easily pick up wherever you left off whether you are in the car or at home. I also love the artwork on the cover and the CDs and the quotes inside.

The voice talent Heirloom lines up to play their characters is seriously unmatched. You’re talking about actors who’ve appeared in major movies like Star Wars and The Hobbit and it shows. This is one thing that sets them apart from your typical “books on tape” that you would normally get. You aren’t just listening to a book read on tape by one narrator. You are listening to a full-on acted out play! If you close your eyes, you can pretty much picture every scene. Even the sound effects are amazing. The swords clink in battle, you can hear the horses hooves on the ground. The attention to detail is so incredible, it’s like nothing I have heard anywhere else!

Heirloom’s retellings of G.A. Henty’s stories always make sure to point back to the Lord, and this is no different. If you are looking for something that will give you active opportunities to discuss your faith in God in general, and how to have faith in Him during difficult times, The Dragon and the Raven is a perfect opportunity for that. It weaves together the story of Alfred and Edmond, and their relationships with God, in a completely effortless manner.

Heirloom also offers plenty of extras when you purchase one of their audio dramas, including a full study guide that includes discussion questions and vocabulary  for each chapter. The questions range from basic recall to other questions that encourage students to take what they have read and really think about it and apply it to their world. The end of the study guide also includes a Bible study that focuses on topics like literacy and loving your enemy.

Other extras include a downloadable copy of the text of the book, which is absolutely beautiful and includes illustrations, and an MP3 so you can listen to the book. You can also download posters and quotes. As always, when I received this package in the mail, my youngest son and I were the most excited, however, my entire family got sucked in as usual. We all love every single thing about the audio dramas from Heirloom, and The Dragon and The Raven was no different. The company offers several options for purchasing this drama, from individual downloads to family packs, and if you want to add to your history studies or are simply looking for some good family entertainment, I would highly recommend checking them out!

To learn more, connect with Heirloom here:

Heirloom Audio on Facebook

Heirloom Audio on Twitter

Heirloom Audio on Google+

Heirloom Audio on Instagram

The Dragon and the Raven on Facebook

To see what other crew members thought about this product, click here:

The Dragon and the Raven {Heirloom Audio Productions Review}

Crew Disclaimer

Dutch Oven Balsamic Pork

 

My hubby got a new Dutch oven for Christmas and I have been just dying to check it out, so I decided to give it a shot with this recipe for Balsamic pork. I am not used to cooking in Dutch ovens a whole lot, as we usually take them on our camping trips and my hubby does the cooking then, but I’ve heard they are great for slow-cooking meats. Thankfully, it turned out to be really easy and the meat came out juicy and flavorful!

 

 

Ingredients:

4 lb. boneless pork roast (shoulder or butt, whatever is on sale I used two separate 2 lb. pork shoulders)

4 tbsp Olive Oil

2 tsp. Italian seasoning

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. onion powder

2 tsp. pepper

1 can cold beer

4 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup brown sugar

 

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in the Dutch oven over medium – high heat until it begins to ripple.

2. Add the pork and brown on all sides.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the beer, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, brown sugar, and balsamic vinegar then pour over the pork.

4. Cover the Dutch oven and bake at 300 degrees for about 3 hours, until pork is cooked through and shreds easily.

That’s it. This made my house smell so delicous when it was cooking. The first night we ate it with green beans and mashed potatoes, and the second night we had enough leftovers for pork sandwiches. Thanks for stopping by. Check out more recipes here: