Why We Switched to a 4-Day School Week

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A couple weeks ago, I went to a homeschool mom’s meeting, and boy did I need it! I went in worn out, worried that I wasn’t doing enough with my kids, and stressed because I knew I had things waiting at home that had to be accomplished. Thank goodness I went, because as crazed as I felt going in, I was refreshed and re-energized by the time I left! And, I left determined to make some changes.

It wasn’t just the devotion that helped – although that definitely switched my focus from “me me me” to why I homeschool and what God wanted in that. It wasn’t just the friends I saw there – although hearing their challenges reminded me that I’m not alone in this journey. And, it wasn’t because I was reintroduced to the concept of a 4-day school week. Truthfully, it was a combination of all of these, plus the fact that I knew I really needed to be more “present” when we school.

Where I was

Let me preface this by saying that I have 3 kids left at home, but only two are homeschooled. (The older one lives at home and attends community college.) Of the two still homeschooling, one is a high school senior and very self-directed. I have her planner filled out for the rest of the year, and she’ll be finished in April. Aghh!!

OK, not thinking about that right now… Anyhow, this year has been a scaling-back type of year for me. At least that was my original intention. Our first grand baby was born last spring, and I wanted to be available to help. So, I planned around that in the classes and curriculum I picked for our youngest.

But as the school days have gone on, I’ve found myself getting back into that busy routine that’s so easy to fall into. I was in and out of the house a lot, and when I was home my mind was a million miles away. I really needed to refocus. In this mom’s meeting I came to see that a revamp of our school week could help me and hopefully my youngest too.

How I planned it

I plan her schooling about a month in advance – that gives both of us wiggle room in case someone’s sick or we fall behind. It just so happened that I needed to sit down and write out the next month’s planning so I went into it trying to figure out how everything would fit into four days. Generally she has a lighter day on Wednesdays since she has guitar lessons, church youth choir, and youth group in the afternoon. I knew she needed to do math every day – so technically it’s a 4.25-day school week!

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For each kid, I have a weekly planner that I buy from the local teacher’s store. I went through and wrote in all her math assignments Monday-Friday. She’s doing a special unit study on DaVinci right now and that takes two days a week; they’re scheduled on Tuesday and Thursday. Once that finishes, her science will pick back up. Her English and history are a joint curriculum so those are scheduled for Monday-Thursday. Often on Wednesdays she does either English or history to leave that day a little more manageable. She’s also doing French 1 through SchoolhouseTeachers.com, and that runs Monday-Thursday.

Right now she’s going into the last weekend of the play Tom Sawyer  at our local little theater. I have rearranged around that too, since that requires some late nights. One of the many things I love about homeschooling is the flexibility!!

Here’s a peek into one week of her planner:

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One of the biggest benefits I see so far is we both know Fridays are relatively open. I can go help out with the grand baby, we can schedule hair cuts, or just plan on a lazy start to the weekend. I think that’ll come in real handy once spring comes! I don’t know where you’re at in your homeschool year, but maybe it’s time to do a little re-vamping yourself. You might find, like I have, that a 4-day school week is the way to go!

Happy schooling!

This post was linked up to Titus 2 Tuesdays and Homeschool Nook Link-up Party!

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Monthly Menu Planning 101

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Planning out a menu for a month isn’t as hard as it seems! It takes a little time and creativity at first, but once you get into the swing of it, you’ll find it saves time and money in the long run. If you’ve never planned ahead like this, here are a few tips:

  1. Jot down your family favorites. Ask the kids and your spouse what they like. Think about what you’d buy if you went out to eat; do you have a recipe for that? Use Pinterest for some new ideas.
  2. You only need 15-20 dinner ideas really. You can repeat favorites – or even have Taco Thursday or Spaghetti Saturday every week. This also helps if you plan to cook ahead.
  3. When you write the menu, include what each recipe needs. For example, here’s the “beef” category of my monthly menu – 

Beef:

Tacos – ground beef, taco seasoning, shredded cheese, tortillas, diced toms & shredded lettuce, taco sauce, sour cream, refried beans

Spaghetti – ground beef, Kroger spag sauce, noodles, parm cheese

Meatloaf – ground beef, 1 cup oatmeal, catsup, milk, vinegar, brown sugar, Worcestershire

Stroganoff – stew meat, crm mushroom soup, sour cream, egg noodles, mushrooms.

Lasagna – ground beef, 4 cups whole toms, 6 oz tomato paste, 24 oz cottage cheese, parm cheese, lasagna noodles, 1 lb thin sliced mozzarella

So, how to put this into practice? I like to write things down so I use a legal sized pad. I write down 30ish meals that I know we like. If we want tacos every week, I’ll put (4) tacos. That way I know to buy enough ground beef, shredded cheese, tortillas, tomatoes, etc for four meals of tacos.

I recommend looking at your upcoming month. Are there days you know you won’t be home in time to fix supper? Plan a crockpot meal for those days or even have a frozen meal/pizza on hand. If you eat at church every Wednesday night, you can subtract those from how many meals you need to plan. Be realistic and you’ll get the most benefits.

Some people like to specify which day they eat what – 

  • Meatless Monday – cheese quesadillas
  • Tuesday – tacos/refried beans
  • Wednesday – chicken noodle soup
  • Thursday – ham steak
  • Friday – BBQ chicken

I prefer having a list of enough meals for the month and then picking as I go. That way I don’t feel tied down (which I hate), but I am prepared (which I love!).

Here is my 1 month menu. I split our options into categories – beef, chicken, pork – and then I have my grocery list. I do change things up some as new recipes are added and also depending on the time of year (more grilling in the summer and less hot soups).

For more menu planning tips and worksheets see my Meal Planning Pinterest board. For some great recipes check out my Chicken Taco Soup, Chicken and Dumplings, and Cheesy Chicken Dinner recipes. Wow, we eat a lot of chicken!

Happy menu planning!

This post has been shared on Faith Filled Parenting Linkup Party #9!Oh My Heartsie Girls Wonderful WednesdayTitus 2 Tuesdays, This is How We Roll, and Bloggers Spotlight Link & Pin-It Party!

 

 

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5 Tips for a Great College Tour

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Our high school senior has been deep into the college search for the last year and a half. She started out with specific things she was looking for, but after touring several colleges some of her “have tos” have changed. This is child #4, and while I saw some colleges with the other kids, with this one we’ve visited 6 colleges! We’ve learned a ton along the way – when to go, who to go with, what questions to ask and more! With that in mind, here are my 5 tips for a great college tour:

  1. Where to go – talk with your child about how far away from home is feasible. That may depend on several things – the child’s maturity, transportation issues, family needs, and of course, money. For us, staying in our state is financially better, but we did look at a few out-of-state colleges.
  2. When to go – check the weather and if school is in session when you go. Most tours will happen rain or shine. If you don’t mind walking an entire campus – which you will – in the rain or snow, do it! Also, consider whether college is in session. Tours often take place during fall or spring break, but it’s fun to see colleges when class is in session too.
  3. Who to go with – if at all possible just take you (or both parents) and your student, no siblings. Other children can be a major distraction. This is an awesome time for bonding with your high schooler! Another idea is to take one of their friends. Even if he or she isn’t considering going to that college, you’ll be amazed at what insights the two kids will share.
  4. What questions to ask – the more tours you take, the more your questions will change. Listen to what your child is saying after the tours and you’ll get an idea what is important to them. These are some of the things we asked about:  meal plan options, dorm set ups, policy for cars, “freebies” (laundry, transportation), fraternities/sororities – when can the kids rush, extracurricular/volunteer opportunities, etc. Don’t forget to get detailed financial information too!
  5. Take pictures – it’s like when you’re looking at houses to buy – after awhile they all run together. Take pictures of what you like and don’t like. Take a picture of the front of the college and its sign so you’ll remember which is which. This also a great idea for your child’s scrapbook!

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Berry College outside of Atlanta – the most beautiful campus I’ve ever seen!

My last “tip” is wear good shoes! You’ll be doing a LOT of walking. Happy touring!

 

This post was shared on Oh My Heartsie Girls Wonderful Wednesdays and This is How We Roll Thursdays and Bloggers Spotlight Link and Pin It Party!

 

 

 

Posted in College life, Homeschooling, Mom life, Parenting, Personal, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

Healthy Snack Hacks! (Plus no-bake power balls recipe)

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Winter is challenging as far as eating habits go. Even with resolutions to eat better, when the weather gets cold, I want to eat warm comfort foods like mac ‘n cheese, cocoa, and hot popcorn with butter! But, as a mom one of the most important things I need to do is make sure my kids have healthy snacks available.

     I recently found a website with great snack options and information. Check out their Healthy Snack Hacks chart:

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The focus here is on nutrients – what you crave and what would be a healthy solution to that craving – as well as portion control. Portion control is a huge problem for me! Take a look at this portion control infographic I found on Prevention. It has great visuals on how much a cup or an ounce of something equals.

I also wanted to share my recipe for No-Bake Power Balls – one of our favorite snacks!

No-Bake Power Balls

Ingredients:

1 cup oats

2/3 cup toasted coconut flakes

1/2 cup PB

1/2 cup chocolate chips (dark chocolate chips are the best!)

1/3 cup honey

1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

Stir ingredients together, refrigerate 1/2 hour. Form into balls. Keep refrigerated in airtight container.

** My daughter makes a similar recipe that helps increase milk production for breastfeeding mamas. She adds 1/2 cup ground flax seed and 2-3 Tbsp brewers yeast.

For other ideas for healthy snacks check out my Pinterest board Snack Attack! and visit the healthy snacks page at Nuts.com. They have several different snack recipes for you including vegan and heart healthy snacks! I even found a healthy vegan chocolate truffle recipe at The Nutty Scoop!

This post was shared on:

This Is How We Roll Thursday Party

and on:

Pretty Pintastic Party
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Chicken Taco Soup

Looking for a yummy, spicy soup to warm you on these cold winter nights? Look no further! This chicken taco soup recipe is sort of a conglomeration of a few recipes I found, and it turned out great!

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To make your own taco seasoning for this recipe, see my post Tacos!

**This post has been linked to Oh My Heartsie Girls Wordless Wednesday and This is How We Roll Thursday!

Chicken Taco Soup
Print Recipe
Chicken Taco Soup - spicy, cheesy, chicken soup guaranteed to warm you on those cold winter nights!
Servings Prep Time
6 people 25 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6 people 25 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Chicken Taco Soup
Print Recipe
Chicken Taco Soup - spicy, cheesy, chicken soup guaranteed to warm you on those cold winter nights!
Servings Prep Time
6 people 25 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6 people 25 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Instructions
  1. Cook chicken - Cut into bite-size pieces and cooked in small amount of oil in a skillet.
  2. In large pot - put 1 can Rotel (original is pretty spicy, you could use milder or spicier), 4-6 oz Velveeta cut in chunks, 1 can cream of mushroom soup. Stir.
  3. Heat 5-7 cups water in microwave and dissolve 1 chicken bullion cube in water. Add to pot and stir.
  4. Add 3 Tbsp taco seasoning or to taste (recipe for taco seasoning link shown above).
  5. Once chicken is fully cooked, add to pot and let simmer for 30 minutes. This could also be thrown into a crockpot and put on low for 3-4 hours.
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Setting Priorities Instead of Goals

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Are you a goal-setter or resolution-maker? I’ve decided this year to set priorities instead of goals!

I’ve been thinking a lot about this New Year’s resolution/goal thing. I see the validity in starting fresh and moving forward, I really do! But, for me, I’ve decided that setting priorities is the way to go.

It’s so easy to get distracted and do the things that either a) give immediate satisfaction or feedback or b) yell louder than all the other things (like dirty dishes). I am the “sticky note” mom. I write everything on sticky notes, and I love completing my to-do list and throwing that note away! I try to write things in order of importance, but I don’t always do them that way. Usually the easiest thing to mark off goes first.

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My priorities work out like this:

  1. God – praying, reading my Bible (I have YouVersion Bible app on my phone and tablet)
  2. Family – so many things fall under this! My husband & my relationship, our kids & grandbaby, house, pets, homeschooling, etc. Everything that revolves around my family and makes our life better!
  3. History course – I’m committed to writing an early elementary history course for SchoolhouseTeachers.com. I’m about 3/4 through!
  4. Blogging/writing – I’d love to spend more time blogging and writing, but I do have to put this at the bottom of my list simply because of prior obligations. But, it is a priority for me!

What are your priorities? Or did you set goals or resolutions? I’d love to hear them!

This post has been linked to Faith Filled Parenting Linkup Party and Oh My Heartsie Girls Wordless Wednesday!

Posted in Faith, Parenting, Personal, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Favorite Homeschool Resources!

Homeschooling has been a part of our life for 8 years now! Its exciting, fun, intense, challenging, and always changing! I reevaluate our schooling, curriculum, and schedule at the start of each school year, and also now, at the beginning of a new year. It’s the perfect time to stop and look around to see where we came from, where we are, and where we’re going.

Our 8th grader doesn’t “love” school. I plan to incorporate more reading in our day, take some photography courses with her, and she’s also going to start French! Trying to spark see new interests there. My 12th grader is on that downward slope toward graduation so I see lots of changes in our future! But, it’s not a time to stop learning. She loves to read and challenge herself. Very fun to watch!

What are your goals for your homeschool this year? Below are some favorite resources from Educents, plus I will be blogging more about homeschooling, curriculum, and what I’ve learned in our homeschool journey this year. I’m excited about 2016!

top picks homeschoolers

No matter what may be on your lesson plan for 2016, consider the resources below. Members within the Educents community put a list together of their favorite homeschool resources. If you’d like to learn more about the resource, just click the link! If you want to get more involved in the Educents community to learn more about homeschooling and the curriculum offered on Educents, join the Educents Facebook group!


 

Emily of Smith Squad recommends the Life of Fred books.

“As a child, I always hated math, even though I was good at it because it was soon boring. When I heard about Fred, I knew he had to be a part of our homeschool. My kids absolutely LOVE when it’s math time, and they are learning a ton about how to apply math to every day practical situations.”

Life of Fred Buyer's Guide


 

Lisa Marie of The Canadian Homeschooler uses the Writecraft and Mathcraft Units.

“The writing portion of this resource was the first time EVER that my oldest son ever willing wrote anything! He was excited to write instead of hating it.”


 

Allison of Just Add Coffee loves the Magic School Bus Science Experiments.

“I absolutely love Magic School bus and all it has to offer. Each month you get a different science kit to take a Magic School Bus adventure. If you search really hard, online you can even find curriculum to go with each science kit and the episode from the television series.”

Magic School Bus on Educents


 

Lisa of Chickens and Bunnies Homeschool loves the Life of Fred Elementary Books.

“My favorite resource at Educents at the moment is Life of Fred. There are so many to choose from I picked the Elementary Series. My kids love these books; we have them up to high school now. My most recent order was Life of Fred Chemistry. My kids will do these without arguing and love Fred and Kingie!”


 

Celena of The Traveling Sisterhood recommends the Times Tales Multiplication videos.

“I love Times Tales because it’s made this year’s math lessons so much easier! My kiddos quickly mastered their multiplication tables in one sitting with the movie. It’s been such a blessing–instead of drills everyday, we can take more time to learn the actual concepts behind the facts!”

Times Tales Review

 


 

Kelly of Raising Samuels loves the Magic School Bus Science Club.

“The Magic School Bus Science Club is something your child gets in the mail each month, for a year! It includes numerous experiments per month, along with most of the materials required. (except household items such as scissors and tape). It is an incredible hands-on learning experience that helps children love science and have fun! My sons who are 4 and 6 absolutely love it!”


Amy of Busy Boys Brigade recommends the Life of Fred Beginning Readers.

“Life of Fred Early Readers series has been a game changer in our homeschool! Both my 6 & 4-year-old boys beg me to do their reading lessons now that we have added Life of Fred. I have noticed an increase in their fluency and comprehension.”

Fred Readers tips


 

Jenn of Chaotic Bliss Homeschooling also loves Times Tales.

“All three of my girls, ages 8 down to 4 loved watching this DVD and learning the stories. In 1 hour, both of my older girls had memorized their upper times tables! And the real kicker is I was only trying to teach one!”


 

Amy of Teaching in Blue Jeans uses Learn to Mod Minecraft with her son.

“Learn to Mod Minecraft is an amazing program that teaches my son, a Minecraft lover, important computer programming skills through a game he loves to play. The lessons are easy to use, fun and engaging. I love that he is a learning a skill that I am not able to teach him.”

Kids Learn to Code - Educents Graphic


 

Tabitha of Life Learning Homeschool uses the King Tut Mini Unit.

“My son loves history (he gets it from me), and I love to throw in “extras” to feed the need for more than what our curriculum calls for. Mini-units are great for that, and this was one of our favorites because we both love Ancient Egypt!”


 

Amy from Not Your Average Homeschool Mom loves Minecraft Mod Design.

“I love that you can be totally creative, and these are all hands-on. Helps to build critical thinking skills too.”

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Kayla of The Arrowood Zoo loves using Magformers for lessons at home.

“I love that you can be totally creative and these are all hands-on. Helps to build critical thinking skills too.”

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Shelly of Free Homeschooling 101 recommends the Violin Starter Set.

“The violin starter set includes everything a budding violinist needs to begin their studies. The instrument is well made and economical. The lessons that are included are a huge money saver!”


Rebecca of Hip Homeschooling likes Magformers.

“We LOVE Magformers in our homeschool! They are a high-quality toy that provide hours of creative play. They are a great way to bring the fun back into your homeschool; your kids won’t even realize they are learning all about structures and geometric shapes and architecture (bonus!).”


Teri of Mommy Wife Life recommends the Spectacular Space Unit Study.

“A great resource for young astronomers is the Spectacular Space Unit Study. From writing, reading, math, and crafts, this complete unit, with its simple terms, will spark the interest of even your preschoolers!”Screen Shot 2015-12-26 at 2.09.22 PM

 


Jamie of Simple Homeschool loves Life of Fred too!

“I love the way the math is naturally integrated into Fred’s life, showing the importance of it in day-to-day life. The chapters are laugh-out-loud funny, and I often get asked to read “just one more.” I’ve never been a huge fan of math workbooks and worksheets, so the combination of math and story is a major win in my books!”


Gabriella, Homeschooling Consultant, recommends the Number Formation Poems.

“We have these cards laminated because we know they’ll be used for years to come. My son, who learns best through rhyme and tactile input, is learning to write digits using these easy-to-remember number formation poems! I have reduced the size of the cards, added a ring binder, and now have a portable number set. We also use the cards for matching games and learning about quantity. Such a great price for all of the value provided by this set.”

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What homeschool resource did you use this year that you would recommend? Leave your recommendation in the comments!!

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