Menu Plan Moday 5/23/16


So yesterday was my oldest boy’s 18th birthday. It was a crazy, emotional day for me. I am so proud of the man he is growing up to be, but it’s hard to let go of my baby. He has his graduation this weekend. I just know I’m going to be a mess the whole time. Anyway, we have a birthday tradition in our house that the birthday person gets to choose their dinner, so Monday’s dinner was all about him. This is our menu for this week.

Monday: Chicken Tamales

Tuesday: Taco Stuffed Shells

Wednesday: Stuffed Peppers

Thursday: Tuscan Steak

Friday: Garlic Chicken

Thanks for stopping by for Menu Plan Monday, and I hope you all have a great holiday weekend!


TOS Review: Memoria Press Astronomy

Logic, Greek Myths and Astronomy Memoria Press ReviewI’ve always loved looking at the stars, and my youngest son does too. When he was about 10 he saved up money to purchase his own (beginner) telescope, and he loves field trips to the planetarium. He even has an app on his phone that helps him identify the stars in the sky. So, I figured he would really enjoy the Book of Astronomy Set from Memoria Press, and I thought it would make for a fun science study for us.

While this program is aimed at grades 3-5, my son is actually in middle school, and I feel it suited him just fine. The information is pretty in-depth, and the memorization component definitely requires some skill. Plus, you can flesh it out even more if you can get your hands on a copy of D’Aulaires Greek Myths and you could certainly add in a research component for older students if you wanted to.

The book opens with a copy of the poem The Pleiades by Amy Lowell, which students work on memorizing throughout the program. It also offers some basic guidelines for how to teach the program, but doesn’t go so far as to give you a daily schedule. For me, this is nice, because I kind of like to set things up on my own, and I tend to tweak schedules anyway. The schedules suggests daily recitation and review that asks for an overhead projector. Of course, I don’t use an overhead projector, so we skipped that part, but it really wasn’t a big deal since it was just my son and I working through this together.

Throughout the course of Astronomy, students will memorize the 15 brightest stars, the planets, and the 12 Zodiac constellations, which is a lot of information. The student book is divided into four units and also includes an appendix with definitions, facts about the planets, a pronunciation guide and more. The Teacher’s Guide includes all the pages in the student guide, but with the answers.

The first thing you study is an explanation of some basic astronomy, touching on what the constellations are, how the Earth moves, how stars got their names, and a discussion about star magnitudes. Then you get an intro to the 15 brightest stars before moving on to study individual constellations. Kids start practicing their memorization right away, recording the names of the stars in a chart that will repeat throughout the book.

I really like the way the lessons are set up. First of all, they are relatively short, so it’s easy to complete a couple at a time in about 20 minutes. There is not too much reading in the workbook, so it was pretty easy for my reluctant reader son to complete on his own. I also thought it was really cool how they have students trace the stars and label the brightest stars in each constellation. Even for me, I could see how this would be helpful in actually identifying the same constellations in the sky (something I can honestly admit, I have a hard time doing with my naked eye). As students complete the lesson, they learn both the Roman and English names for the constellation and they continually fill in their star chart.

After a few lessons, students review what they have learned and the end of each unit also has a larger review. These were good practice and allowed my son to cement what he had learned before moving on. We are getting into unit two right now, and I look forward to continuing this over the summer. It’s easy to do, but a lot of fun, and spending summer nights checking out the stars is a great way to hang out! To learn more about this program, 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 program, and the other products we got to check out, click here:

Logic, Greek Myths and Astronomy Memoria Press Review

Crew Disclaimer

TOS Review: Poetry Memorization

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization IEW Review

As a kid, I remember memorizing poems and famous speeches regularly when I was in school. To this day I can still recite the Gettysburg Address. I believe there are many benefits to memorization, including building vocabulary and language skills and strengthening brain processes. While it is easy to hunt down different resources to memorize, it would be much easier to have them at my fingertips already, so I was really excited to check out Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization from Institute for Excellence in Writing.

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization IEW Review

This program includes a Teacher’s Manual and five audio CDs with recordings of the poems you can use to help your kids learn how to recite them with the appropriate pacing and inflection. It also includes a bonus DVD featuring Andrew Pudewa giving a presentation on communication at a conference. You can also purchase an optional student book that contains printed copies of all of the poems, or you can print them from the e-book download that comes with the program. Additional MP3 downloads include several other lectures from Pudewa.

The book is divided into five different levels, and no matter what age your child is, everyone starts at level one. The poems in the first level vary from short, four-line poems, to longer four-stanza poems. Some of them are by familiar authors, like Robert Louis Stevenson, but there were some that I had never seen before. Older students, like my son, will probably progress more quickly through this level, memorizing two or more poems per week, while younger students may work on one poem per week.

The Teacher’s Manual does a really good job of explaining the theory behind the program and explaining the mastery learning approach. Basically, the child memorizes each poem until they can recite it correctly without any hesitation. Since my son is an upper middle school/beginning high schooler, I also like to focus on pace and inflection too. This is where the CDs come in really handy, because the poems are recited expressively in a way kids can mimic in their own recitations. My son also found having a printed student book really handy, because it allowed him to practice the poems with the words right in front in him at first, and personally, ink is expensive, I would rather have a pre-printed product if it is reasonably priced.

All of the poems are listed at the beginning of each section, and you are given the option of choosing your own poem to memorize at the end of each level, with suggestions listed for you. The Teacher’s Edition also gives you a method for how to teach the poems, including a schedule for practicing old poems throughout the program. In the student edition, there is a handy checklist that allows you to track progress for each section too.

As students progress through the levels, they move on to memorizing more difficult work including historical speeches in level 5. We aren’t there yet, but I am really excited about this part because of all the history tie-ins. I also like to study the authors as we come across unfamiliar names (the appendix in the student pages includes short biographies of all the authors) and work through unfamiliar words and vocabulary as my son memorizes his poems.

Basically, we start with our poem first thing in the morning, because it only takes a few minutes. If we are learning a new poem, my son gets the book and puts on the CD. First, he listens to the CD and follows along with the words silently a few times, just to hear all the words and get the pacing down. Then, he reads the poem out loud with the CD. After that we put it away and go on with other work. Periodically throughout the day, he will grab the poetry book and practice the poem. We go on like this for a few days until he feels comfortable trying the poem without the book. Also, each time we practice we also review the previous poems scheduled for that day. All in all, we spend about 10 minutes working on this throughout the day, maybe three or four times total. But I will tell you, I often overhear my son repeating his poem to himself in his room, or in the kitchen, or in the bathroom!

I can honestly say, he is having a lot of fun with this, and I can already see the value in it. As he memorizes longer and longer works, his confidence in himself grows. I think this will make him more comfortable with public speaking in the future and I definitely think he is learning some vocabulary and grammar skills! To learn more about this program, connect with IEW on social media here:

IEW on Facebook

IEW on Twitter

IEW on Pinterest

IEW on YouTube

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this program, click here:

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization  IEW Review

Crew Disclaimer

Pepper, Mozzarella, and Basil Stuffed Chicken

So, my family loves cheese, and I love basil. My local produce market had chicken breasts on sale last week, and I decided to get a little creative with some of our favorite flavors. This is what I came up with.


4 chicken breast halves

1 package fresh Mozzarella, cut into 8 slices

1 package fresh Basil

1 jar roasted red peppers

2 tsp. Italian seasoning

2 tsp. salt-free garlic and herb seasoning

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper


  1. Drain the red peppers and slice into strips, wash the basil and tear into individual leaves and slice the mozzarella.

2. Cut a pocket into the chicken breast and season with the salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and garlic and herb seasoning.

3. Stuff each breast with one slice of mozzarella, some of the peppers, and some of the basil leaves.

4. Place chicken in baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.

5. Top each beast with one slice of mozzarella and sprinkle with some Parmesan. Top with some extra Italian seasoning.

6. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

7. Serve with a side salad and some crusty bread. Enjoy!

This was really yummy, and a pretty healthy dish too! Thanks for stopping by! See you next week.

Menu Plan Monday 5/16/16

In exactly one week, my oldest son will be 18 years old! I really can’t believe it, and I have to say, thinking about it has brought me to tears more than once over the weekend. This week is going to be busy, as we are preparing for a party for him this weekend. My hubby will be smoking some pork shoulder that I got on sale for .88/lb!! I’m just hoping the weather holds out! In the meantime, this is what I have planned for the rest of the week:

Monday: Fish Tacos

Tuesday: Greek Chicken Salad

Wednesday: Chili Soup

Thursday: Pot Roast

Friday: Leftovers or pizza, because we have to get ready for the party tomorrow!

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

TOS Review: Zeezok Publising LLC (Music Appreciation)


I love to enhance our regular curriculum with something fun and creative. From art to music, my kids have a natural artistic bent, so I thought the Music Appreciation Book 1: For the Elementary Grades from Zeezok Publishing LLC would be a good fit for us, even though my 8th grade son is a little bit older than the target age.


First, let me say, this set is huge! It is definitely enough for a year’s worth of music instruction, and what an elective course this is! It comes with multiple CDs that feature tons of classical music by famous composers, as well as seven different chapter books that tell the story of those composer’s lives. The included workbook has multiple activities based on the reading and other fun activities that help your child learn about music, and there is even a lapbook component. Artists featured in the set include: Handel, Hayden, Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, Schubert, and Paganini.

The first composer we decided to study was Handel, as we love listening to “The Messiah” at Christmastime.  My son and I did this study together, since I enjoy classical music and I wanted to see what it had to offer, but with an older elementary or middle school student, I think it is certainly something you could give them to do on their own, with you just being there to supervise and answer questions as needed.

We found the chapter books to be interesting and well written. The Handel chapter book was a bit longer than the next book we read, so we broke the reading into two or three days. The books include illustrations and we both liked the fact that they told the story of the composers while they were growing up. Hearing about the composers as children helped my son relate to them more, rather than picturing them as old men sitting behind a piano or playing another instrument.

The books direct you to listen to certain short tracks on the accompanying CDs to introduce you to the composer’s music. Sheet music is included in the book, so if your child plays an instrument, they can play along. I appreciated the fact that you got to hear a variety of the artist’s work in this study, rather than the typical music you hear that is so well-known. We found some very lively pieces we enjoyed and it encouraged my son to look up more music by the composers he enjoyed most.

All of the work for the study is included in one large workbook, which to me is much better than having to keep track of multiple smaller books! The studies are basically broken into 4-week time periods, but there is no daily schedule, so you can decide how to set it up. Basically, we read the first two days of the week, then my son completed the the other activities on the last three days of the week. Each week includes comprehension questions related to the reading, then some historical and background information, often tied to the lapbook activity. There are also activities related to music, instruments, history, and more.

I have to say I was very impressed by how in-depth the activities in the workbook went. For an elementary study, it delves into so many areas. Kids learn not only about music, but the historical tie-ins and the biographical information is really, really rich.

I especially liked the activities that asked kids to think about how music made them feel, and tied in sounds and instruments to specific feelings. I LOVE music, of all kinds. I would rather listen to music than watch TV any day of the week, and the reason I am so passionate about music is because I know that at any given time, I can find some sort of music to suit my mood. I want my kids to have that same connection, and I think this study helps them focus on that. At the end of each study there is a quiz that gives kids a chance to show off what they have learned, and an answer key for al questions is included.

We are currently in the midst of our study on Hadyn, and thoroughly enjoying it! I expect we will continue with this study in the fall after our summer break, as I want to make sure we study all of the composers. I would highly recommend this study for anyone who wants their kids to learn more about classical music. To learn more about this product, connect with Zeezok on social media here:

Zeezok on Facebook

Zeezok on Pinterest

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this product, click here:
Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades {Zeezok Publishing LLC Review}

Crew Disclaimer

Menu Plan Monday 5/9/16

May is getting into full swing and I am almost overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I have to do. It’s a good thing I menu plan or we probably wouldn’t eat! Here’s what’s on our menu for this week:

Monday: Parmesan Tilapia

Tuesday: Garlic Chicken

Wednesday: Crunchy Onion Steak with Lemon Garlic Broccoli

Thursday: Mexican Salad

Friday: Burgers and Brats on the grill

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

TOS Review: The Pencil Grip, Inc.

Painting is fun, and my kids enjoy it. However, it is also messy, which makes it kind of stressful for me. For this review, we got to check out the Kwik Stix 12 pk from The Pencil Grip, Inc. a unique set of paints that reduce the mess without reducing the fun!

Kwik Stix come in a variety of vibrant colors, and they are the perfect size to fit in your hand. The non-toxic Tempera paint glides easily across the paper and dries very fast, with an almost watercolor-like finish. The coolest thing about them is that you don’t need to use any water or paintbrushes, you just unscrew the cap, twist, and get started!

They feel dry to the touch, and aren’t messy if you get them on your hands or clothes, which is a huge plus in my opinion. My boys liked them because they said using them felt almost like “drawing with paint”. Instead of worrying about the water making the colors run together, they could just hold them and draw what they wanted on the paper.

I could see these being great for entertaining kids on the go, like for road trips or busy days when you have lots of appointments, because you won’t have to worry about them messing up the car or the waiting room that you’re sitting in. Also, they’re convenient size and safe design makes them ideal for toddlers! The paints work well on regular paper, canvas, and posterboard, so they are great for school projects too.

So far, they seem to hold up well to multiple uses, and I think one pack could last for quite a bit of time. I think they are a great way to introduce your child to their inner Picasso, and would be great for use in an art study as well! In addition to the traditional colors in the twelve pack, Kwik Stix also come in bright neon colors and metallic colors, as well as larger packs which would be great if you have a big family or want to use them in a group setting.

Kwik Stix The Pencil Grip, Inc. Review

In addition to the paints, The Pencil Grip, Inc. also offers pencil grips with ergonomic designs that can help make it easier for your child to hold their pencil. I went through a lot of different pencil grips with my youngest when he was in early elementary school and just beginning to write, and I wish I had had something like these to use with him. We got a sample of the Pinch Grip and even when I held it, it felt very comfortable and natural in my hand. The company offers a progressive 3-step grip system that I could see would help a child struggling with coordination to move into holding a pencil on their own.

I think the Kwik Stix are awesome, and a great resource for any family, and at under $12 they are a steal! To learn more, connect with The Pencil Grip on social media here:
The Pencil Grip Website

The Pencil Grip on Facebook

The Pencil Grip on Pinterest

The Pencil Grip on Twitter

See what other members of the crew thought of this product by clicking here:
Kwik Stix The Pencil Grip, Inc. Review

Crew Disclaimer

Menu Plan Monday 5/2/16

May is a big month for me! My oldest turns 18 and graduates at the end of the month! I can’t believe it. When they say time flies, they really mean it. I swear this boy was just a baby a day or so ago. It is going to be a busy month here, but at least we are starting off kind of slow. Here’s what’s on our menu this week:

Monday: Chicken Tacos

Tuesday: Mojo Pork

Wednesday: Cuban Sandwiches (made with leftovers)

Thursday: Spanish Shepherd’s Pie

Friday: Mexican Pizza

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