Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Herbed Pork Loin and Potatoes

I love using my crockpot. It's so nice to throw ingredients together and have a wonderful meal by the end of the day with minimal effort. And this recipe requires minimal effort. It just doesn't get any easier.

Here's what you need:

1lb. pork loin, cut in half
1 1/2 lbs small red potatoes, halved
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teas dried rosemary, crushed
1 teas dried thyme
1 teas coarse salt
1/2 teas ground mustard
1/4 teas black pepper

Combine the olive oil and seasonings. Brush about half of the mixture over the pork loin. Place in a greased slow cooker. Arrange the potatoes around the pork. Drizzle the remaining olive oil mixture over all. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours until the pork is done and the potatoes are tender.

For more yummy recipes, head over to Blessed with Grace's Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Menu Plan Monday August 29- Sept. 4

September starts this week, so the official beginning of fall is right around the corner! Yay! I'm so looking forward to the cooler weather. Chili weather. Sweater weather. Whatever you want to call it, I'm glad it's on the way! We did get a much needed reprieve from the 90-plus temperatures this weekend, but I'm eagerly anticipating more!

Last week I tried a couple of new recipes. The Cheesy Chicken Lasagna was GOOD! I will definitely be making that one again soon. The Herbed Pork and Potatoes was a very simple crockpot meal that I'll be adding to our meal plans, too. I'll post a recipe for that later this week.

Now on to this week's menu:

Grilled burgers, fries

Beef burritos, Mexican rice

Homemade pizza

Sloppy Joes

Crockpot Chicken Cordon Bleu

Cheeseburger soup, homemade bread

Leftover buffet

For more inspiring meal planning ideas, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Hands on History - Cuneiform Tablets

Okay, I'm a history geek. So of course, that's my favorite subject to teach the kids. I love the curriculum we're using, The Mystery of History, written by homeschool mom Linda Hobar. It's thorough without getting bogged down in minute details that bore students. And it's written from a Christian viewpoint, so it's easy to relate what we already know from the Bible to history.

This week we've been studying events after the Noahic flood. The first civilization to have a written language was the Sumerian empire. Their form of writing is known as cuneiform, or "wedge writing" because of the wedge-shaped instruments they used to carve symbols in clay tablets. Sumerian students had to learn over 600 symbols in order to read! My kids are VERY thankful that our alphabet contains only 26 letters!

We decided to make our own cuneiform tablets. I had some Sculpey modeling clay in my art supplies, so that's what we used. We simply flattened a lump of clay using the bottom of a jar to make a tablet. Using the ends of pencils and paint brushes, we carved our own designs in the clay.

I baked the tablets at 250 degrees for about 30 minutes so they would harden. After they cooled completely, we painted them with watered down brown paint to give them an aged look.

We left the tablets to dry overnight. Turned out nicely, I think.

While the kids had fun, they both agreed that school would take WAY too long if they had to carve every assignment into clay and bake it! They'll stick with paper and pencil.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cheesy Chicken Lasagna

I found this recipe about a year ago on a blog and filed it away to try someday. Well, someday has come, but now I can't remember whose blog this recipe was posted on! I should have known better than to think I could remember. I can't even remember what I wore yesterday! Ugh!! So ten lashes with a wet lasagna noodle for me for not giving credit where it is due.

Now on to the recipe.

This was such a wonderful change from traditional lasagna. But like regular lasagna, it's even better the next day! Even my picky eater loved it and had seconds.

Here's what you need:

8-10 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained
2 cans evaporated milk
1 pkg ranch dressing mix (I make my own, see below)
3 cups cooked shredded chicken
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

In a saucepan, combine the canned milk and dressing mix. Stir over low heat until the dressing mix is dissolved. Add the chicken and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring often. The mixture should thicken up a bit. You can do this step early in the day if you want to.

To assemble, grease a 9x13 pan. Cover the bottom of the pan with noodles. Layer half the chicken mixture and half the cheeses over the noodles. Repeat layers. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. If you like your cheese a little browned and crispy, like I do, go for the longer time. Let sit for 10 minutes before cutting.

To make your own ranch dressing mix, here's what you need:

1 TBSP dried chives
1 TBSP dried parsley, crushed up
1 TBSP dried dill weed
2 teas onion powder
1 1/2 teas garlic powder
1 teas sea salt
1/2 teas ground black pepper

One tablespoon of this mix equals one envelope of the store bought stuff.

To make ranch dressing, combine 1 TBSP mix with 1/2 cup mayo and 1/2 cup sour cream. Add milk until the dressing is the consistency you want. Store in the fridge.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

We have a winner!

The winner of the CSN Stores $50 giveaway is CarolSue! Here's what she plans to do with the $50 - "I just love the Whitehall Products Garden 30" Cat Weathervane."

Congratulations to CarolSue and thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Kids love cupcakes. It's just a fact of life. There's just something about a little one-serving cake that appeals to children.

And let's not forget the appeal for adults, either. Who doesn't love cupcakes?

So I came up with a simple recipe that combined chocolate and peanut butter and satisfied everyone's sweet tooth. The hidden peanut butter surprise in each cupcake was a wonderful addition. And the frosting was so simple and tasty!

Here's what you need:

1 chocolate cake mix (and the ingredients to make it!)
24 mini Reese cups, unwrapped
1 can vanilla frosting (or you can make your own)
1/3 cup peanut butter
chocolate sprinkles, optional

Mix up the cake mix according to the directions on the package. Divide the batter between 24 cupcake liners (or grease 24 muffin cups). Place a Reese cup in each and cover with batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 16-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

While the cupcakes are cooling, make the peanut butter frosting. Place the vanilla frosting in a bowl. Beat in the peanut butter until well blended and smooth.

Frost each cupcake and top with sprinkles, if desired. The easiest way to put sprinkles on cupcakes is by dipping, not sprinkling. Maybe they should be called dippers instead of sprinkles?

Believe me, there is much less mess this way! And the sprinkles stick instead of tumbling off. Just pour some sprinkles into a shallow bowl and dip the cupcake into it. Easy and mess-free! The sprinkles are, of course, totally optional. But kids love 'em!

Now peel off the cupcake liner and enjoy!

For more yummy recipes, visit Blessed with Grace's Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.

Menu Plan August 22-28

Can y'all believe it's the last full week of August? This year is flying by so quickly! I, for one, am looking forward to the cooler weather of fall. I love the colors and smells of autumn in addition to the more moderate temps.

Tomorrow I have a ladies' night out with ladies from my church. We meet at a restaurant and share some encouragement and fellowship. Charles usually invites some of the husbands and kids over while we ladies go out. They generally settle for pizza, but I think I'll make some bread and put out some cold cuts and cheese for sandwiches. I always try to have a dessert or munchies on hand, too. So even though it's ladies' night out, I try to keep the men and kids happy.

Now on to the menu plan for the week. I'm going to try some new recipes.

Sausage veggie calzones

Ladies' Night Out - sandwiches for the men

Cheesy Chicken Lasagna (new)

Herbed pork loin and potatoes in the crockpot (new)

Meatloaf, mashed potatoes

Chicken fajitas

Grilled portobellos and veggies

For more yummy menu ideas, head over to Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. You'll find tons of inspiration there to jumpstart your own meal planning.

Also, don't forget to check out my CSN giveaway. It ends tomorrow!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Not Back to School Blog Hop Week 4

Not Back to School Blog Hop

This week's theme is a Day in the Life. We're supposed to share what our average homeschool day looks like. Since we started school last week, we're still working out the kinks, but here's our general schedule.

We always start off the day with prayer and Bible study. This year we're studying the book of Proverbs. The children are keeping a notebook of our study, writing down and explaining each verse as we go. We began with Proverbs 1:8 - "My son, hear the instruction of thy father and forsake not the law of thy mother." Could there be a better verse for homeschooling?

Next comes language arts. We're using First Language Lessons, which I love! This curriculum uses a gentle, repetitive approach to teaching grammar and punctuation. It's perfect for my kids, especially the Princess. She is retaining the lessons very well, so I'm pleased.

After grammar, we do a spelling lesson or handwriting, sometimes both. Then comes math. So far we've done some review and I've been surprised by how much both children have remembered. Yay!

We are using Apologia's Exploring Creation with Astronomy and so far the children are enjoying it. We use a notebook for this, too. I highlight definitions and people that the kids need to know, then they copy these into their notebook.

This year we started The Mystery of History Vol. I. The daily readings are concise but informative. Each child is keeping a timeline in their notebooks using figures I purchased from Homeschool in the Woods. They color in the figures, then we cut them out and glue them in the appropriate spot on the timeline. They are really liking this activity. So far most of our events are things they're already familiar with - Creation, the Fall of man, the Flood, the Tower of Babel. I can't wait until we get further in and they see how all of history works together to accomplish God's purposes. Can you tell I love history?

Of course, scattered throughout these subjects are break time, sometimes a snack time, and hands-on activities or art projects relating to their studies. Sometimes we even have a guest student show up - our dog Alexandra (Xandra for short).

When our lessons are done, I read aloud to them. We started the Little House on the Prairie series last year and are finishing that up. I haven't decided what read-alouds we'll do after that.

Usually we have everything done by lunchtime. The children don't like to go back to school after lunch, so they will work diligently to get everything done before. It really helps to have our afternoons free. We can go to the library, the store, or even complete projects around the house.

Some days everything goes smoothly. Some days we take more breaks than usual! It's not flawless and we're learning as we go, like everyone else. But I love the flexibility of homeschooling and the one-on-one time I get to spend with my children every day.

If you're a homeschooler, head over The Heart of the Matter Online and share a day in your life with us! Have a great week!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Buffalo Blue Cheese Burgers

Charles loves anything with blue cheese. I'm not really a fan. So when he's on the road, he eats out (at the company's expense) and frequently orders blue cheese burgers or salads.

He found a great recipe in a grilling book to try when we had friends over. Some of them love blue cheese too, so it was the perfect time to try it. All who ate the burgers raved about them.

Here's what you'll need:

2 lbs ground beef
1/2 teas. celery seed
2 TBSP minced onion
1 TBSP minced garlic
1/2 cup to 1 cup blue cheese
1/4 cup mild hot sauce

Using your hands, mix all the ingredients but the hot sauce. Shape into 8 patties.

Grill for about 5 to 7 minutes on each side, basting with the hot sauce. When you take the burgers off the grill, give them one more brushing with the sauce. Garnish with your favorite burger toppings.

I'm sorry I don't have a picture of the finished burgers, but they were scarfed up quickly.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Beef and Broccoli Stir-fry

I came across this recipe years ago in a cooking magazine. It's a wonderful version of the Beef and Broccoli from your local Chinese take-out place. Even better, in my opinion.

Make the stir-fry sauce first. It will thicken up nicely as it sits.

You'll need:

1/2 cup water
1/3 cup soy sauce (I used low sodium)
2 TBSP brown sugar
1 TBSP corn starch
1 teas ground ginger

Whisk the ingredients together in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, cook and stir for one minute. Remove from heat.

Now here's what you'll need for the rest of the stir fry:

2 TBSP cornstarch
2 TBSP water
1/2 teas garlic powder
1 lb round steak, cut into thin strips
4 cups broccoli florets
1 small onion, sliced
oil for frying

In a bowl, combine the cornstarch, water, and garlic powder until smooth. Add the steak strips and toss to coat.

In a large skillet, heat about 1 TBSP oil. Fry the steak strips until done. Remove from the skillet and keep warm.

Add a little more oil to the pan if necessary, then toss in the broccoli and onions. Stir-fry until tender.

Return the beef to the pan and pour the stir-fry sauce over all. Heat through. Serve over rice.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Homemade Soft Pretzels = Yum!

This is our fourth year of homeschooling, and I realized that we didn't have any first day of school traditions other than taking pictures. So this year we started what I hope will become a tradition - making homemade soft pretzels! The kids chose a variety of letters and shapes to pattern their pretzels after and we all had a marvelous time!

Plus this recipe is so simple, you must try it. The pretzels are soft and buttery with a hint of crunch on the outside. Once you eat one, you won't want to stop!

Here's what you need:

1 1/2 cups warm water
1 TBSP sugar
2 1/4 teas yeast
1 tsp salt
4 cups flour (you can use half wheat if you wish)
2 TBSP melted butter
coarse salt

In a large bowl, mix the water, sugar and yeast. Let proof for a few minutes until puffed up. Then add the flour and salt. Knead together with a mixer or your hands. Cover and let rise until doubled, about an hour.

Divide the dough into 16 balls. I do this by dividing the dough in half first. Then I divide each of those portions into half. I keep dividing the portions of dough into halves until I have 16 chunks of dough that are roughly the same size. Does that make sense?

Roll each ball into a thin, long rope. Twist into pretzel shapes or whatever shapes you want. Get creative! Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse salt. Let these rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

Bake at 425 degrees for about 10-12 minutes. Brush with butter again while warm.

If you'd like a sweet pretzel instead of salty, use cinnamon sugar instead of salt. But be warned, you'll really have a hard time not eating the whole batch.

CSN Stores Giveaway!

I was recently contacted by CSN Stores to host a giveaway on my blog. If you haven't heard of CSN Stores, now is your chance to check them out! They have amazing online stores where you can find everything from cookware to lights to furniture!

The lucky winner of this giveaway will receive a $50 gift certificate to use at the CSN Store of his/her choice! Wow! I had the opportunity earlier this year to review a product from their Cookware.com store and was very pleased with the quality and shipping.

With Christmas just around the corner (only 130 days, folks!), $50 could come in handy for a gift for that special person or even for treating yourself!

To enter the giveaway, head over to CSN Stores and take a look around. Come back here and leave a comment, telling me which store or product you like the most. It will be hard, I know!

That's it! You don't have to follow my blog to enter or blog or tweet about the giveaway. Just leave a comment.

The giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Tuesday, August 24. I will randomly pick a winner on Wednesday. Please make sure I have a way to get in touch with you so if you win, I can contact you. The winner has 48 hours after notification to get back to me. If I don't hear from the winner by that time, I'll pick a new winner.

Good luck, y'all!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Menu Plan Monday August 15-21

Baby, it's hot outside! We just had our 39th straight day of 90-degree plus temperatures here in the Deep South! Is it hot where you live, too?

Here's the menu plan for the week:

Grilled chicken, potatoes

Lentil and rice burritos, corn

Beef and broccoli stir-fry, rice

Baked egg rolls

Pancakes and bacon

Chicken and rice soup

Spinach and cheese stuffed shells (I'm going to halve this recipe for us)

I'm also planning to make homemade pretzels for our first day back to school, some no-bake granola bars and Chocolate Banana Pops so we have plenty of snacks on hand. I have to have plenty of snacks on hand this week since we'll be working so hard in school!

For more yummy menu ideas, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. You'll find tons of inspiration and recipes to jumpstart your own menu planning.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Not Back to School Blog Hop Week 3

Not Back to School Blog Hop

This week's Not Back to School Blog Hop features our students. Because after all, none of us would be doing this homeschooling thing if it weren't for them.

I have two students. A boy and girl. As different as night and day!

Mr. Lego is nine years old and is in the fourth grade. He was my precious preemie. You can read more about his story here.

He has always loved to read and learn. Most of the subjects we study come easy to him. I know if I give him an assignment, it will get done and get done well. Right now his favorite subjects are math and science.

His other interests include Legos, Super Mario Wii games, writing and drawing cartoon books, and playing with his friends. He is currently sporting a red cast on his arm due to an elbow fracture.

The Princess came along 17 months later. She's eight and in the third grade. From the beginning of her education, she has wanted to know why she has to learn something. Then she can determine if it's worth the effort. Getting her to read was difficult, to say the least. After all, couldn't I just read everything to her?

The topic that really sparked her interest in reading was dinosaurs. Oh, she's very girly and loves to dress up in princess clothes. But dinosaurs just really grabbed her attention. Suddenly she wanted to read everything she could about dinosaurs. Whoo hoo! Her favorite subject is science and her least favorite is math.

Tomorrow we start our fourth year of homeschooling. What a blessing it's been to our family.

If you'd like to introduce your own students, head over to Heart of the Matter Online and link up with the blog hop!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Movie Review Website

One of the hardest jobs we parents have is deciding what movies we allow our children to watch. We have tried to preview movies for the kids so we can determine if they're appropriate. Just because a movie is rated G doesn't mean my kids need to watch it, you know?

I found a movie review website that has helped make our job a little easier. It's called Kids in Mind and it has become my go-to resource when deciding if we'll take the kids to the movies. Or even if we'll rent a certain movie from Netflix.

Kids in Mind rates movies in three categories, sex & nudity, violence & gore, and profanity. Each category is given a score from 1 to 10. Then the site breaks down each category with specific examples (without giving away the storyline) so parents can determine if a movie is right for their children. It's very thorough and much more helpful than the MPAA's rating system which is very generic.

So the next time you're trying to decide what move to watch, check out Kids in Mind. It will take a lot of the guesswork out of your choice.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cheesy Biscuit Bites

If you are looking for something other than crackers or bread to accompany your favorite soup, I've got the perfect recipe for you. These cheesy little biscuits are slightly crispy on the outside and flaky on the inside. My kids said they tasted like fluffy Cheez-its!

Here's what you need:

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
1 cup flour
1/4 teas salt
Dash of cayenne pepper

In a large bowl, combine the butter, cheese and Worcestershire sauce until well blended.

Stir in the flour, salt and cayenne pepper. Lightly grease your hands, then use them to form the dough into a ball. Okay, so that's not a ball. It's more like a mound. Place the dough mound onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.

Roll the dough out until it's about a quarter of an inch thick. Use a small cookie cutter to cut into cool shapes. Take the scraps of dough and re-roll. Cut out more shapes. Repeat until all the dough has been used. I got 24 small biscuits out of the dough.

Place the cut-outs onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

The cheese on the outside of the biscuits crisped up so nicely. The inside was buttery and flaky. It was hard to stop eating them....even after the soup was gone! These biscuits would make a great addition to a brunch table, too.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Our Journey into Homeschooling, Part Two

If you missed Part One, you can read it here.

Once we made the decision to homeschool, I felt free. Free to enjoy my kids. Free to spend time with my husband without worrying if I'd get all my papers graded for school. I finished the school year at our Christian school with a sense of hope instead of dread.

When I told my principal that I wouldn't be returning in the fall, he was completely supportive. He knew how much I had physically struggled that year, and he told me that he and his wife had spent a lot of time in prayer for me. I guess I looked pretty rundown (read "haggard" here)!

Not all of my colleagues were as supportive, though. I was warned not to let my children turn weird because they wouldn't be around other children all day long. As if there was ever the possibility that my kids wouldn't be weird! Have you met me and my husband? The children are doomed to weirdness no matter where they go to school! LOL! And I embrace their quirkiness. It's who they are.

There were some attempts at guilt trips by others because I was "quitting" the ministry, too. I had people tell me that I needed to rely more on God's strength instead of my own, that I shouldn't walk away from the school. My stock reply was that God had called me to teach my children, so those questioning my decision needed to talk to Him about it.

Our families backed us up 100%. My mom had taught kindergarten for over twenty years, so she was a valuable resource to me that first year. My brother and his wife decided to homeschool their 3 oldest children, too, so we were each other's cheerleaders.

I dove into preparations that summer. Charles trusted me to choose our curriculum and methods, and I was and still am deeply honored by his trust. I was determined to be the best homeschooling mom EVER! Ha ha! What lofty goals I had. I followed the lesson plans set forth by our curriculum rigidly. Each worksheet was filled out, every t was crossed.

That approach worked great for Mr. Lego. He loved everything about it. Of course, he's the child who sits down to read an encyclopedia for fun and can tell you exactly what he read. But I learned very, very quickly that the Princess wasn't a worksheet gal. She was (and still is) a visual and hands-on learner. She wanted to know why she had to learn something so she could decide if it was worth the effort.

I was forced to re-evaluate everything that first year, courtesy of the Princess. I took a more relaxed approach the following year, combining subjects and spending more time with hands-on learning like lapbooks and unit studies. I really loved seeing the light bulb come on in my darling daughter's head. Mr. Lego blossomed, too. He still liked his structure, but his creativity expanded. He asked me if school should be this fun! Ha ha!

Now we're getting ready to begin our fourth year. I can't believe how the time has flown! I'm so very, very thankful that I've been able to spend that time with my family. My husband eats lunch with us every day if he's not traveling for work. How many dads get that opportunity? Or moms, for that matter?

One of the greatest blessings of this journey has been getting to know my children. I am with them all the time, so I know what they know. We don't take a lot of tests, because I can evaluate their progress in other ways. More important than the academics, though, I know their hearts. They talk to me about anything and everything. I love our closeness! They are learning the value of working together as a family, and while they still engage in brotherly/sisterly disagreements, they have developed real love and friendship for each other. They might not admit it, though!

I'm by no means an expert on homeschooling but I have learned some valuable lessons along the way. Number one, I don't compare my children with others. They will learn and grow at their own pace. I will guide them and help them, but they're unique individuals created by God and I don't want them to be exactly like everyone else. Number two, I've learned that most parents - homeschoolers, Christian schoolers, public schoolers - want what is best for their kids. I'm not better than anyone because I homeschool. Homeschool parents who think and act that way annoy the fire out of me. Each family's choice is between them and God, not them and me.

We're just doing what we know is right and best for our family. And I'm so, so glad that God chose homeschooling for this family. I never pictured myself as a homeschool mom, but praise God, He did!

I should add that since we started homeschooling, three other families in our church have joined us. We now have our own little support group! Isn't God so good?

Our Journey into Homeschooling, Part One

I always wanted to be a teacher. And I always loved history. So becoming a history teacher was just a natural decision. I majored in social studies education and minored in English, so I was qualified to teach both.

I taught in a Christian school in West Virginia for 4 years, then moved to South Carolina and taught there for a year. When Charles and I married, we moved to Alabama and I took a break from teaching until the children were preschool age. Our church's Christian school was looking for a history teacher and I was ready to re-enter the teaching world. It seemed like perfect timing.

The first year back was exciting. I loved being in the classroom. And my children were attending preschool on the same campus, so we carpooled. Hee hee! But I found out very quickly that teaching as a single woman and teaching as a married woman with two young children were entirely different. The extracurricular activities that I gladly volunteered for as a single teacher now ate away at my time with my family. The paper grading that didn't seem tedious when I was unmarried now consumed my spare time and left me with precious little for my own children. But I couldn't NOT give 100% as a teacher. I didn't do things halfway. And in the process my own children got very little of me.

Our days started out early. I had to be at school by 7:00 am for teacher's meeting (and I was there on time with few exceptions), so that meant we had to leave our house by 6:30 to give me time to drop off the kids before I headed to my building. I had to get them up before 6:00 every day (not an easy feat!) so they would have time to dress and eat. Most days they ate string cheese or poptarts in the van on the way to school. It was stressful, to say the least.

We got home from school around 3:30 each day. I was exhausted. The kids wanted me to pay attention to them, but I was too tired or I had papers to grade. And then they had homework. Yes, K-4 and K-5 students brought home homework nearly every night. It was a battle to get the Princess to read to me or do her worksheets. She simply didn't want anything to do with school when the school day was over. To top it off, my husband was working out of town quite a bit, so during the week I was a single mom trying to balance teaching and parenting. And failing miserably at it!

The kids argued ALL. THE. TIME. I was short-tempered with them and Charles. But I got all my school work done. My family suffered, but I was determined to be the best teacher ever.

The start of the second year was even worse. Mr. Lego got in trouble every day at school for talking or goofing off. He would finish his seatwork quickly, then try to entertain his 19 classmates to stave off his boredom. We were constantly trying to think of ways to motivate him to be good in school. Taking away privileges didn't work. Spanking him didn't work. Nothing. I mean, if he's bored, he's bored. I don't fault his teacher in any way. She had 20 students to deal with, many of whom needed her attention more than he did. It was so frustrating for me as a parent. I knew my child wasn't a troublemaker at heart. He just needed an outlet for his energy and creativity that he wasn't getting in a crowded classroom.

As each week went by, I was getting more cranky and tired. More arguing between the children. More stress and exhaustion. But I was going to see this through. Because I was a teacher. That's what I was called by God to do. If I quit, I would be a failure. That wasn't an option.

Then I got a medical diagnosis that changed everything. I was diagnosed with pernicious anemia and told that stress would make my symptoms worse. Really? Worse than the complete exhaustion I felt? Worse than the constant irritability I unleashed on my family? My doctor advised me to stop teaching. I balked. Teaching was my calling! How could I abandon it?

That's when the idea of homeschooling crept in. I say crept because it was a gradual process. Never once in all my years of training and teaching had I ever considered it. I was trained to be a classroom teacher. My goal was to reach students with the love of Jesus and help mold them into honorable, godly young people. I couldn't turn my back on those kids who needed me.

But the more I considered it, the more appealing homeschooling became. We wouldn't have to leave home at the crack of dawn. We could work at our own pace. We could spend time together as a family, learning instead of arguing. Still, there were doubts. I taught junior high and high school. My kids were going into K-5 and first grade, way below what I was used to. What if I messed them up academically? And don't forget, those students at the Christian school who needed me. (Sounds a lot like pride, doesn't it?)

Almost as if He had written in the sky, God showed me that I wasn't abandoning teaching if I homeschooled my children. I was simply shifting my focus from everyone else's kids to my own. They needed me, more so than the students about whom I was so concerned.

The moment I broached the subject of homeschooling with my husband, he was on board. When he wasn't on the road, he worked from home and he needed some quality time with the kids, too. More importantly, he needed his wife back. I had poured so much of myself into my students that there was virtually nothing left for him. It was unfair and wrong of me to put teaching before my husband and children. And there was no getting around it. I had done that very thing. I had let teaching replace my family as my top priority.

And so our decision to homeschool was made. But that's not the end of the story. I still had to tell my employer I wouldn't be returning next year. I'll post Part Two later.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Back to School Breakfast Cookies

Back when I as teaching and the kids were in preschool, there were mornings that nothing went right. We had to be out the door by 6:30 am and getting those young'uns to eat was like pulling teeth sometimes. Often they ate string cheese or a poptart in the van on the way to school.

Now that we school at home, I still sometimes find that getting them to eat breakfast is a chore. So these breakfast cookies are perfect. They can be frozen and reheated as needed without a lot of fuss. They taste great and really fill a kid up. And a mom. Who wouldn't want to eat cookies for breakfast?

Here's what you need:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 teas vanilla
2 eggs
1/3 milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups quick oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 teas salt
1 teas cinnamon
2 teas baking soda
1 cup raisins or chocolate chips (guess which one I use)

In a large bowl, beat the butter, peanut butter, sugar, honey and vanilla together until creamy. Beat in the eggs and milk.

In a small bowl, mix together the flours, oats, wheat germ, salt, cinnamon and baking soda. Add to the peanut butter mixture and mix well.

The dough will be stiff, so carefully stir in the chocolate chips or raisins. Use an ice cream scoop to form 12 mounds of dough on greased cookie sheets.

Use your hands to press them together, then flatten each one slightly with your palm.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Do not overbake or these will become crumbly. Cool on the baking sheets for 2 minutes, then remove to cooling racks.

These are really, really BIG cookies. One is all it takes to fill you up. You're going to want a glass of milk handy, too.

You can make smaller cookies if you have younger kids. Just be sure to adjust the baking time.

To freeze, wrap each cookie individually in plastic wrap once they're completely cooled. Place in freezer bags. To reheat, wrap a cookie in a damp paper towel and microwave for 20-30 seconds or until warmed through.

For more delicious recipes, visit Blessed with Grace's Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Menu Plan August 8-14

It's going to be another hot, busy week here in the Deep South. August is usually the hottest month here, but we've had 3 weeks of excessive heat warnings. I'm done with hot! Bring on fall weather!

Here's the plan for this week:

Spaghetti and meatballs, homemade bread

Corn chowder, cheese biscuits

Chinese chicken, rice

Black bean quesadillas, corn


Philly cheesesteaks on flatbread

Cooking out with friends

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Not Back to School Blog Hop Week 2

Not Back to School Blog Hop

This week's Not Back to School Blog Hop is featuring school rooms. I love looking at other people's spaces and seeing if I can use any of their great ideas myself. So, if you're a homeschooler, join in! Let's share and learn from each other. Here are a few pics of our school room.

The kids' desks and bookshelf. Their desks are adjustable so we can use them as they grow.

My desk

The whiteboard! What would I do without it?

What the kids see from their vantage point.

The door leads out into our playroom, so recess is just a few steps away. There are also built-in bookshelves out there loaded down with books and games. Also, we have a bathroom right next to the school room, so bathroom breaks are quick, too.

For a more detailed post about our school room, click here.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Running on Tile with Socks - A Cautionary Tale

Experience is a hard teacher. And so it is for Mr. Lego.

He was running in his sock feet on the linoleum tile floor in the playroom when his feet slipped out from under him. He came down squarely on his elbow and now it's fractured. The urgent care doctor put him in a temporary cast and sling to keep it immobilized. We go to the ortho on Monday to see if any other treatment is required. The fracture did not appear to be bad, but we'd rather be safe than sorry.

The kids have repeatedly been warned about the dangers of running on the tile with socks on. Now they know why.

He's not in as much pain as he was yesterday, and he's able to play the Wii one-handed. His sister has been quite helpful, offering to get him drinks and toys. It's been kind of cute to watch that part of it.

When asked if he understood now why he shouldn't run in socks on slippery floors, he replied, "I think so." Hmmm. I guess that's better than a "no."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup

I love being able to throw ingredients in the crockpot and walk away while they cook. And it doesn't get any easier than this recipe.

Here's what you need:

2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cubed
2 cups chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen corn
1 pkg taco seasoning

Place all ingredients in the crockpot and stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours. Garnish with sour cream and cheese if desired. Delicious!

Note: if your children don't like the texture of tomatoes in their soup, switch out the diced tomatoes with another can of tomato sauce.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Pizza Sloppy Joes

I've already told you that sloppy joes aren't my favorite sandwiches because of the soggy buns. This is a variation of sloppy joes that uses pizza as its inspiration. And they're really quite tasty. Especially if you toast your buns!

This is a fabulous recipe to serve to hungry teenagers, too. We've hosted our youth group from church and served these "burgers" to the delight of all. Of course, we quadrupled the recipe a couple of times. Is that octupled?

Anyway, here's what you need:

1 lb ground beef or turkey
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1/2 cup chopped pepperoni
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
2 teas Italian seasoning
1/2 teas garlic powder
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

In a large skillet, brown the meat with the veggies. Drain. Stir in the pepperoni, sauce and seasonings. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add all but 1/4 cup of the cheese.

Serve on toasted buns. Top each sandwich with reserved cheese.

Charles says this is like eating a supreme pizza on a bun. Feel free to add mushrooms or olives if you like.

For more yummy recipes, visit Blessed with Grace's Tempt My Tummy Tuesday.

Freezer instructions : Double the recipe so you can eat one batch now and one later. Or put both in the freezer. Allow the mixture to cool completely. Transfer to freezer bags or containers and store in the freezer for up to 6 months. To serve, thaw in the fridge, then place in a saucepan and heat on the stove.

Not Back to School Blog Hop

Not Back to School Blog Hop

Heart of the Matter Online is hosting a blog hop this month, Not Back to School. This week is dedicated to curriculum. I think it's fun to poke around and see what other homeschoolers are using for their kiddos. Plus, it's always great to meet other moms like me and share some encouragement along the way.

My kids are only a grade apart, so we're doing several subjects together. Both of them will be using:

Bible: Word of Life Children's Club curriculum, Proverbs study
History: Mystery of History, Volume 1
Science: Exploring Creation with Astronomy and Christian Kids Explore Earth and Space
Language Arts: First Language Lessons, Level 3
Art: Art & the Bible for Children
Spelling: Sequential Spelling, Level 1
Reading: various read-alouds to go along with other subjects

Mr. Lego will be using BJUP's 4th grade math and the Princess with be using 3rd grade.

I also put together unit studies and lapbooks throughout the year. They will both keep a science notebook, which they love to do. And we will start a timeline to go along with our MOH studies.

I'm hoping to start next week, depending on hubby's travel schedule and other events. I'm really excited about this year, more so than the previous 3 years. Both children know how to read well and I'm looking forward to them becoming more independent.