Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Homeschooling When You Teach Different Grades

People have so many different reactions when they find out we home school.  I get asked about why we home school when we live in a great public school district.  I get asked what made us start to home school.  I get asked if I will teach them all the way through high school.  I have people that are truly excited for us and I've had experiences with all the negative questions people ask.  One of the biggest responses I get when people find out that we home school is: "I could never do teach my own kids, I am not patient enough to do it."  Honestly, me neither.  I am really not a patient person at all.  Wait and see, as an answer, drives me nuts.  It has truly taken A LOT of prayer and learning on my end for me to become a more patient person, but learning patience has been extremely necessary on my part for life and especially for our home school.

What does my being patient have to do with our home school?  EVERYTHING!  It really does.  You see I home school both of our kids and while that in itself isn't such a big deal, the fact that they are in two (2) completely different grades is huge.  Teaching two different grades every day isn't the hardest task in the world, but it does require patience, planning, and preparation.  I set the tone for our school day since I am the teacher and I find that our days go much better when I am patient, we have a plan, and I am prepared.  I guarantee you that if I didn't have my 3 P's (patience, planning, and preparation) our day would not go well at all.

So how do I do it?  How do I home school when I teach different grades?  How do you teach 7th grade and 2nd grade in the same day?  I began my planning before school ever began this past fall.  I looked through our curriculum and planned out roughly how long our school day should take for each child.  Obviously school for my 7th grader takes longer than school for my 2nd grader.  We do pretty much the same subjects for each grade (my 7th grader has a few more electives) each day, but they take different amounts of time because of the difficulty level of the work.  Once I knew approximately how long each school day would take for each student, I planned a start time for our school.  It works out great in our home because my early riser is my 7th grader.  My 7th grader has always been a morning person and would be up before the sun if he was allowed to be.  So his school day starts first.  This does two things in our school.  One - it allows me time to work one on one with him and get the subjects we work through together done right away (we use Sonlight and they have readers that the teacher reads to the student and readers the student reads to the teacher).  Two - it gives my second grader time to get up, wake up, and take a slower approach to her morning which she really needs.  She is my night owl and just doesn't wake up well if she is rushed (she has earned her nickname Beast when she is forced awake).

The next thing I do as part of my planning and preparation is to list the books each child will need for the following day on our patio door which doubles as our "marker board" when we work around our dining room table which is 90% of the time.  When each child knows what books to grab, they can have them right where they are working and there is no wasting time looking for books in the middle of lessons.  We also make sure that at the end of each day each child puts their books back on their shelves and puts away their supplies (they each have a caddy for their pencils, pens, erasers, etc).  Then it just comes down to the work.  We rotate what we do.  I work with the 7th grader first on anything we have to read aloud - readers, history, Bible, etc.  While he is reading my 2nd grader is doing her book work - math, spelling, handwriting, etc.  She will ask questions and get help while I am working with my 7th grader, but she is really good about trying her best to figure it out before asking.  When I am done reading with the 7th grader, we flip flop.  He does his math, science, Spanish, grammar, language arts, etc.  I should also tell you that when I initially work with him on the reading we will go over what he does in these subjects so that he can work quietly while I read with the 2nd grader.  He already knows what to do so he is set to work independently.  He does have questions, but he does a good job of setting work aside when he gets stuck and starting on the next subject until I am at a point he can ask questions (this is totally a learned thing that took many years of practicing to get down). While he does his quiet work, I do the reading with the 2nd grader.  She reads to me and I read to her.  Any work not done by 1:00 pm is homework.  This was a tough place for me to draw the line, but I had to do it otherwise the kids would take a very long lunch break and we wouldn't finish school until almost 5:00pm.  That made supper late and my housework would not get done.  So we set the rule of anything not done by 1:00 becomes homework and the kids know that and respect it so they work hard not to have homework.

Our "Marker Board"

As you can see patience is a large part of our school.  I have to be patient when explaining concepts to the kids, they have to be patient with me because there are two of them in two different grades and only one of me, and they have to be patient with each other so they realize the other student needs my time too.  It is a fine balance of patience and I am sure it looks a little different each day, but we make it through.  We make it through one day at a time by God's grace and the patience He has taught me to give.  It isn't always easy teaching two different grades and it doesn't always work perfectly, but I do love teaching my kids and I will tell you that it is possible.  You just have to find what works best for you and your school and it is a process of trial and error, praying, and patience.

This week I am linking this post up with my other Review Crew buddies.  We are all writing about our different home school situations.  I hope you click the banner and read what they have to say too.  (The link will be live on Friday, 2/5).

How Do I Homeschool When ... ?

Monday, February 1, 2016

February Menu Plan

Welcome to February!  Let's celebrate making it through January.  I don't know about you guys but our January was pretty rocky.   Nothing major happened, it was just a little stressful.  My hubby had a bunch of rush work come in at his job so he worked longer hours, school didn't go as I planned every day (but we did make it through), we caught a cold - actually my daughter caught the cold and then proceeded to share with the rest of us, and lastly January just seemed to fly by.  January was just rocky, crazy enough for us that my hubby is calling today his New Years Day and starting the year over.  No really, he is.  He texted me Happy New Years just a little while ago.  He says he just needed to hit the reset button and start again.  Rest assured that even though he is calling today New Years Day, we know that all the crazy and rocky parts of January were part of God's plan.  Alas it is February and I have a new menu plan to share with you.  You will see that some of the recipes are the same ones we had last month and maybe the month before that but we have found a few recipes that we are really hooked on right now such as Lemon Butter Chicken trust me you want to make this one.  I have made this one SEVERAL times and we all fight over the leftovers.  I usually make it with chicken breasts instead of thighs (I have weird issues with bone-in chicken), but it is DELICIOUS.  I am telling you if you don't make any other dishes from this menu plan, make the Lemon Butter Chicken, you won't be disappointed.  You can find many of these recipes on my February Menu Plan Board on Pinterest.  If the recipe is not on that board, it is one I don't have on Pinterest.

  1. One Pan Mexican Quinoa
  2. Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin
  3. Burrito Bowls
  4. Slow Cooker Black Bean and Rice Soup
  5. Fooled ya Pizza
  6. Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas
  7. Chili
  8. K-Mart Subs
  9. Nancy Soup - This is a recipe created by my friend Nancy and my kids call it Nancy soup  :)
  10. Fireman Bob's Crock pot Spicy Sloppy Joes
  11. Meatball Parmesan
  12. Pizza - Stromboli
  13. Taco Salad
  14. Love Feast at Church (this is a carry in at our church)
  15. Lemon Butter Chicken
  16. Stuffed Burgers
  17. Beef and Sweet Potato Chowder
  18. Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers
  19. Pizza
  20. Walking Taco Casserole
  21. Vegetable Beef Stew
  22. Bacon Cheeseburger Cauliflower Casserole
  23. Spaghetti
  24. Slower Cooker Chicken and Quinoa Chili
  25. Fajitas
  26. Pizza Casserole
  27. Enchirritos
  28. Smoked Sausage Dogs
  29. Easy Chicken Enchiladas
Here is my February Menu Plan Board on Pinterest again.  Please let me know what recipes you try and what recipes you like.

P.S. - I have to share what menu planning has earned me.  We do a budget plan for our family.  One of the things we plan for is going out to eat.  We don't have a large budget for it, but we do like to treat our family.  In January I stuck to my menu plan and we didn't use the going out to eat money.  This was tough as we had to turn down lunches with friends and the nights I didn't want to cook, I had to suck it up and deal.  We saved the money we normally used for going out to eat for January and that is huge for us.  So half of that budgeted amount will go back to savings and half of it I get for mad money to spend however I want.  Woo hoo!!!  Menu planning is definitely worth it for me.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Why I Participate in Scripture Writing

One of the first things I try and do every day is spend time in my Bible.  That is the best time of day for me to read and study God's word.  I can't really claim that I am a morning person and I really never have been, but that is when it is quiet in my house and mornings are when it works best for me to study.  I have tried several times to do my studying in the evening before bed, but I must admit, sadly, there are many nights when this tired mama would fall asleep reading the Bible.  So mornings it is.  One thing I have always done with my Bible reading is to write down verses that really "speak" to me or ones that pertain to my current situation, etc.  It is not a new concept for me to write down scripture.  You can open several of my notebooks around the house and find verses written in them.  In the last few months I have gotten very purposeful about my scripture writing.  

I was very intrigued last November by friends on Facebook who were participating in Scripture Writing.  They had a plan that someone had created that listed verses about thankfulness that you wrote down each day.  The intent of them was for you to look up the verses and meditate on them while you are writing them.  Each day this activity would take you 5-15 minutes depending on the passage being written.  To be honest I was also a little bummed about the scripture writing because I had missed starting it at the beginning of the month and at the point where I saw it, the month was about half over, so that got me to thinking.  I really wanted to get into my Bible more, learn more scripture, and spend time reading it daily.  That was a commitment I had made and I wanted to keep it.  So just before December started, I saw friends posting the December Scripture writing list and I knew for sure that I wanted to participate.  I wasn't jumping on a bandwagon or being trendy, I started following these lists for Scripture Writing because I wanted to focus specifically on spending purposeful time in my Bible each day.  Not only do I write down the verses for each day's writing, I spend time checking out the chapter the verses are in and reading the verses around the ones I am writing.  I loved December's plan because it focused on Jesus.  There were passages that talked about his birth, passages from the Old Testament that predicted his birth, and more.  Then came time for January's Scripture Writing and I was completely on board.  This month's passages have been about being made new in Christ, the promises He has for us, and instructions for living among other things.  I enjoy doing the Scripture Writing and I plan to continue.  

February is quickly approaching and I already have my February Scripture Writing plan pinned on Pinterest (you guys should know by now I pin everything, just click the link to see the pin).  I am definitely going to continue writing out Scripture verses.  I like being able to meditate on them in this way and it is comforting to me that in the short time that I have been following the plans that were put together by Shannon over at Sweet Blessings (I don't know her personally, but she is a fellow blogger and I am LOVING her blog so go and check it out, add it to your reading lists), God has had me writing verses that have given me peace in all the craziness I have been dealing with.  I feel like there have been days that God knows exactly what I would need to see and write to remind me that He is in control and He knows all.  That is why I participate in the Scripture Writing - to hear God, be purposeful in my Bible, and study God's word.  

Monday, January 25, 2016

Cutting the Mommy Madness

It is Monday again already and the weekend just flew by.  It seems the clock moves even faster over the weekend and the alarm is going off on Monday morning before I even got anything done from my list, but that is okay, it is life and that is how it goes.  It seems I always have a to do list a bazillion miles long and never enough time to get it all done.  I guess that is all just part of being a mom, a wife, a teacher, a friend, a cook, a seamstress, a housekeeper, and all the other roles around my house I fulfill.  Honestly, I used to get very frustrated that I never got my to do list finished and I let it get under my skin.  I was grouchy, moody, angry, and just FRUSTRATED when I couldn't get everything done on my list.  This lead to me being grouchy, moody, angry, and just FRUSTRATED with my family and I wasn't giving them the best of me, but only showing them the worst of me which in turn made me feel like a terrible mom, wife, friend....  God helped me see that this doesn't have to be my every day.  There are things I can do to make my day go better, get things marked off the to do list, and be a better, happier person.

How do I cut out the Mommy Madness?

  1. I PRAY.  I go directly to my Heavenly Father and pour my heart out.  I need His help and I can't do life without Him.  I need God to show me what things I can change, what things I need to give up, and what things He can change or help me change.  

  2. I READ MY BIBLE.  I do my best to spend at least 10-15 minutes a day reading my Bible.  I can't let God work through me efficiently if I don't know His Word.  "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee."  Psalm 119: 11  I can't follow this verse if I am not studying the word on a daily basis.

  3. I GET UP EARLY.  This step isn't for everyone, but it works for me.  I like to have a little quiet time in the morning before everyone is up.  This is my time I spend praying, reading my Bible, and enjoying a cup of coffee.  My kids are a little older now so I am not up and down through out the night with them so I can set my alarm for early in the morning.  I have to confess - I am NOT a morning person, but when I don't get up and have quiet time before my kids are up, I feel off balance.  

  4. I GO TO BED AT A REASONABLE TIME.  Again, I know this doesn't work for everyone, but I can tell you I don't function well when I am sleep deprived.  No sleep = grouchy Cassandra and grouchy Cassandra = grouchy kids + grouchy hubby and grouchy family = bad day.  So the solution to this is to get enough sleep and the only way to do that is turn off the Netflix and get myself in bed even when I really, really want to know what happens on the next episode.

  5. I MAKE LISTS.  I use to make lists that were unattainable.  They carried over day after day and every time I got one thing done, I was adding something else that needed to get done.  Lists were super frustrating to me.  I was complaining about this years ago to a friend and she gave me a tip that I use every day now and it makes my lists attainable.  The tip was pick the top 5 things you need to get done for that day and write down only those things.  If you cross them off, you can add more items, but no more than 5 things should be on your list at a time.  I stick to this and my lists are much more attainable which just makes me happy.
    My to do list for is blurry, but you get the idea.
  6. I TAKE A LITTLE ME TIME EVERY DAY.  Between homeschooling, managing the house, running errands, keeping appointments, and everything else I do, I could easily get overwhelmed it I don't give myself a little time to recharge every day.  Sometimes I get this time in the early morning, sometimes it is after my hubby gets home after work, but whenever it is, it is my time to let my brain relax and just unwind.  Sometimes I catch a show on Netflix, sometimes I read, and sometimes I craft it just depends on my mood.  I make a point to take a few minutes each day and do this without feeling guilty so that I don't get overburdened with the day to day tasks.  
    My current craft project, cross stitch wolves for my son.

    A recent crochet project, my first full size afghan for my bedroom.
This is what I do to help cut the mommy madness in my life.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE being a mom, it is amazing.  It isn't always easy, but I have figured out what I need to do for me to be a happy mom and serve my family better.  What do you do to cut the mommy madness?  What tips do you have for me?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

5 Apps We Use for Homeschooling

Let's face it technology is all around us and it isn't going away.  We can abuse the technology around us by being completely glued to it and not living in real life or we can use it for good things.  So you have to decide how you use it and how you let your kids use it.

We use technology in our house for learning and for fun, but I will admit it is a little overwhelming.  Why?  There are so many things out there - websites, apps, programs, and the list goes on.  Today we are going to focus on Apps, because they are everywhere.  It seems like there is an app for everything and it can be hard to decide which ones to buy or download for free.  How do you know if an App is really worth it?  How do you know if it is all it claims to be?  For our family, we do the research on them and look at the reviews.  When we got our iPad several years ago, we knew we would not only use it for fun games to entertain, but we also wanted to use it as part of our schooling.  We knew there were great educational apps out there, but we had to figure out what worked best for us.  After researching apps, reading about them, and checking out the reviews, we found some really great apps that we do use as a part of our schooling.  These apps are not the only things we use for school, I am sure you could probably do that, but we have not chose that route.  Some of them we use on a daily basis and others we only use occasionally, not because we don't love them, but because they are subjects we don't need every day.

Here are 5 apps we really use for homeschooling.  They are Apple Apps because we have an iPad and I am providing the link to them so you can find them easily.  These are NOT affiliate links and I am not being paid in any way for my opinion on these app nor am I getting paid if you click the link.  They are truly just the apps we use and we like for our school.

Stack the States™
We love this paid app because it is fun.  My kids don't know that I love for them to play on this app because they are learning.  They learn the state shapes, capitals, and the location of the state within the United States.  My kids have fun playing this "game" because they earn states and they can unlock bonus games while they are playing.

Duolingo is a FREE app and we are using it to learn Spanish.  We decided as a family that we would learn a language and we chose Spanish.  This app is easy to use and you work one level at a time.  We learn words, phrases, spelling, and pronunciation in this app.  You can also use it to learn other languages.  My kids love the little owl coach that tells your progress and they love the visuals throughout the app.  

This is a paid app designed to help with reading.  I think I may have downloaded this one when it was either on sale or the free app of the week.  Anyway, my daughter and the little girl I babysit for love this app.  They have a lot of fun with it.  It teaches letter sounds, combination sounds, rhyming. letter matching, and more.  They love it because they can record what the words they are sounding out and hear it played back to them.  Even though both of them can read now (they were both just beginning to read when we downloaded it), they still love to play this app and earn stickers to decorate the raven's tree house.  There are multiple levels to play and they still have fun with it even knowing how to to read independently.  It was a great tool when they were just learning to read too.

This is one of my very favorite apps for my kids, honestly I like to work in it too.  This app is connected with their website which we use too.  I really, really love this one and do highly recommend both the app and the website.  We downloaded it to work on math, but they also offer science and humanities which I am sure we will use in the future as the kids get older.  You can do level specific math work, watch videos with explanations for how/why a problem is worked the way it is, and earn badges for the work you do.  One of my other favorite parts is that you can set up student accounts for your kids and then set up a teacher account for you and then link the two.  This allows you to quickly go in and check your dashboard to see what your student has been working on and how they are doing on the work.  LOVE it!!!!  I must admit as a self proclaimed "math nerds," I find my hubby and I working on upper levels of math in this app too.  :)

This free app isn't necessarily just for homeschooling, but it is great for that.  I download a wide variety of books from Amazon that I do get for free to this app.  When my kids need some quiet time they can grab our iPad, turn on the Kindle app and look for the books I download for them.  They also use this app when researching topics for papers.  Several times I have downloaded free reference books or books on topics that I know they are interested in so that they do have them when they need to write papers or give speeches.  This app is great for when we can't get to the public library right away and I know the books I have downloaded are books that we approve of and are safe for them to read.

There you have it.  5 apps we use in our homeschooling.  Do you use apps in your homeschooling?  If so, which ones do you use?  Also feel free to check out which apps my other friends on the Schoolhouse Review Crew are using in their home schools by clicking on the picture below.  

Our favourite Apps for Homeschooling iOS and Android

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Be Still

Have you ever really struggled with a situation and just not known what to do about it?  A situation that you prayed and prayed over and still feel like you were not getting any answers.  You think you have made a decision and are ready and then something else happens and you know now is not the time.  So you pray again and again, you think you have made a decision and then again something happens and you try to make your decision happen and you just can't.  Has this happened to you over and over?  It has for me.  There is a specific situation in our life that we keep praying over and we think we have it figured out and we have a true answer and then something will happen and the decision gets blurry again.  Then something else happens and the answer becomes clear.  It feels like God is telling us something, but then we start asking more questions and it seems like it is just us trying to make the decision and not God.  It has been exhausting, frustrating, and it leaves us feeling torn every time we think over our situation that we have been praying so hard about.  Without saying too much about our situation since it is a private matter, I can tell you that it concerns a path for our family to take together.

But as always God is faithful and He uses the Holy Spirit to prod me and grab my attention.  He did this just this past weekend when I was really struggling with our situation.  I was listening to someone speak and they said something about they sometimes get ahead of themselves and think God is leading, but they realize they have taken the matter into their own hands.  Insert poking and prodding from the Holy Spirit here because all of a sudden everything in me knew this was exactly what I was doing.  I was trying to get ahead of God and figure out the answers to my prayers and situation before He was providing them.  I've been praying for answers and a clear sign about our situation and telling God I was waiting, but then on my own I was looking very hard to find my own answers.  God really used the Holy Spirit in that moment to grab hold of me and get my attention.  I was so convicted that I started praying right there.  I asked for forgiveness for saying I was giving the situation to God, but then trying to find answers on my own.  I asked for forgiveness for the ways I have judged the situation and tried to force my opinion on it.  I prayed that God would help me get out of my own way so that He could work and He could truly lead because that is what I and we truly want for the outcome of this situation.  We want God to lead us, to show us His direction for us, and to make it clear.  I had been so eager for an answer I was trying to force it.  God met me in that moment and gave me this verse to cling to.  He has it on auto repeat in my mind and there is no doubt from me that God placed it there. 

The whole verse is “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10 (ESV)

I know it is from God because it has brought me such peace about the situation.  It has opened my eyes and I can see that I truly need to follow this verse and let God work.  So now I sit and wait knowing that God is in control and I feel His peace about our situation.  I know He is at work and I know in His timing and according to His plans He will let us know what to do.  I truly know that now, without a doubt and I am happy to BE STILL.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Friday Faves: Soup

Hello Friday!  I can't believe you are here already, but I am happy for the weekend.  It has been pretty cold in our area lately and the weatherman says it is supposed to be very cold at the beginning of next week too.  So I thought the timing was just right to talk about soup.   Here at our house, we love soup.  It is a year round food for us and something that is usually quick and easy to prepare. It is one of our "go to" meals on a busy night when we need to get out the door and it is one of our favorite comfort foods.  I even use soup when we have game nights with friends.  I will provide the soup and salads and they bring finger foods and desserts, it is a great arrangement.

Today I am going to share our ten of our favorite soups with you, rest assured we have way more than ten favorite soups, but I don't want to overwhelm you with all of them.  All of the links will go to the recipes I have pinned for them on Pinterest so that you can quickly pin them too if you want.  So without further ado here they are:

Ten of Our Favorite Soups
(in no particular order)
  1. Stuffed Pepper Soup - I can't get my family to eat stuffed peppers for the life of me, but turn it into soup and they gobble it up.  For our personal preferences I omit the brown sugar in this recipe and I cook my rice on the side so it doesn't get too mushy by soaking up the soup broth.  Hubby and I also like to add hot sauce for a nice kick of flavor
  2. Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana Soup - This one is on our menu at least once a month if not more often.  I have made it just as it is written and love it.  I also have now adjusted it to my THM eating plan by omitting the potatoes and subbing in cut up cauliflower for them.  My family loves it both ways.
  3. Chicken Bacon Crock Pot Chowder - I cook my bacon on the stove and crumble into each individual bowl so it stays crisp.  The family loves this one enough that they don't even complain about the mushrooms in it (you can omit them and it is still really good).
  4. Slow Cooker Chicken and Quinoa Chili - We just tried this recipe for the first time this month and my family LOVES it, so much so that I made it again last night and my son ate the leftovers warmed up for breakfast today.  They are already asking for it to be on the menu for next month.  This makes it a WINNER in my book.
  5. Original Taco Soup Crock Pot Recipe - We LOVE this taco soup recipe from the blog A Year of Slow Cooking (I love her blog too).  It truly is a family favorite that I make about once a month.  We top it with sour cream, cheese, and broken up tortilla chips....YUM!
  6. Italian Meatball Soup - This recipe is from the Pioneer Woman and we love it.  I have made it just as written.  Sometimes I serve it with rice in it and sometimes I add noodles to it (both cooked separately from the soup so they don't get mushy) just depends on what we have and how we are feeling.  I have also played with taking out the potato and subbing in cauliflower and it is pretty good like that too.
  7. Lentil Soup - We love this soup that I created and put on my blog a couple of years ago.  
  8. Pizza Soup - My creative son cooked up this soup for us and I shared it with you a couple of weeks ago.  We love it and hope you will too.
  9. Cheesy Vegetable Chowder - This one is easy and super tasty.  It is a great way to use up veggies and my kids love it.
  10. Crock Pot Pasta Fagioli - This is my favorite soup at Olive Garden so I was delighted to find a recipe for it that tastes just like the soup at the restaurant.  It is another one from A Year of Slow Cooking, I told you I love her blog.  We love it just the way it is written.
There you have it, ten of our favorite soup recipes.  Let me know if you try them and which ones you like.  Also let me know what your favorite soup is, you never know it might end up on our menu.