Thursday, January 21, 2016

Homeschooling- A Veteran Homeschooler

I am just giddy for you guys to meet my mom :)  She is the one who has mentored me through the process of homeschooling.  She is an incredible example to me and I couldn't be more thankful that she is mine! She will be back with more posts on the topic of homeschooling. But for today I have asked her to share her story with you all!


Our home school journey began in the late 1980’s…this was how I was intending to start my essay.  But, as I’ve thought about it, I realize that our home school journey started several generations before my own children were even born. Before I was born.  Our (both my husband and myself) grandparents were committed to a God centered world view.  They believed that Christ was in all, the very focus of our lives.  That included education.  My grandparents and parents committed and worked hard to provide a Christian education for their children. Schooling that had a love for God and his Word at its very core, not something just added as an afterthought. So, our desire to raise our children with this foundation was instilled in us both from birth through college. 

Because of this heritage  the late 1980’s found my husband and I with 2 young children.  We believed that it was important for me to stay home and care for them and we were willing to make the choices and sacrifices necessary.  Those days were so sweet.  We played at home, we walked to the park, we walked to the library, we got groceries. We just lived life together. 

One day I heard Raymond Moore talk about home school on the radio.  I had never heard of home schooling and was intrigued.  I bought his books and started learning all I could.  My heart was drawn to this new idea.  I instinctively knew that no one else would understand and love my children the way that I did.  I wanted my husband and I to be the major influence in their lives. We wanted to shape their character and lead them in the God centered foundations that we had been blessed to have.  I wanted to be the one to see their faces light up withn the had an “ah-ha!” moment.  Also, I simply enjoyed their company and did not want them away from me and each other for large portions of the day.  

When we began home schooling there were 2 other home school families in our town. As for curriculum, there were 2 major publishers that would sell to home school families.  These books and teachers manuals were written for a classroom teacher so adjustments had to be made for a  mom teaching at home.  with the help of the other 2 families we started.  As I looked at these huge manuals I questioned my ability to tackle this.  My friend opened the book to lesson One. “Can you do this? Just lesson 1?“ Well, yes I believe I can. “Ok. Then start there. Lesson 1 Tomorrow do lesson 2.“  It is so overwhelming to look at the whole. But, when the goal is broken down into bite size pieces it is achievable. Another piece of advice we received was to take time to write out our reasons for home schooling.  It was helpful to think it through and by writing it down we had a commitment we could refer back to on the hard days (or years).

We began with a full 1st grade curriculum and 2 kindergarteners.  We were all learning together.  Every night after the kids were in bed I would prepare the lesson for the next day. I made sure I had read every scripted interaction between teacher and students and had every flashcard cut out. The kids truly were my guinea pigs.  Because I had gone to school I expected our days to look like “school”. Our days would be structured from 8 to 3.  It didn’t take long for me to learn that with just two students the work for the day could be completed much more quickly.   It they understood a concept we moved ahead.  If something was hard to grasp, we slowed down and worked at it until they understood.  There was so much freedom for us once I learned that mastery was our goal, not just moving through the books at the pace the curriculum set.  When we finally settled in to this new way of learning we were able to finish our bookwork in a couple hours in the morning.  I remember a grocery checker asking the kids what they did at school, “Oh, we just play and read books.”  That made me laugh then and it makes me laugh now. It just doesn’t get any better for 2 sweet kindergarten guinea pigs. 

Several years past and we added more children to the mix. Five in all with a 12 year gap between the oldest and the youngest.  Every year was different. I learned to relax with our curriculum but yet felt we  needed some structure to keep everyone moving ahead. All of life is learning, not just the time we sat at the table working on our bookwork.  It was amazing to me how much the “Littles” (yes, we had the “Bigs” and the “Littles”) learned simply by living life in a home with teenagers.  When the big kids were doing science experiments, like separating out a strand of DNA from an onion, the Littles were sitting on the counter watching every move.  When we talked about history or social events they were listening and learning.  Always learning. I had also learned to let go of the formal curriculum for the elementary grades and just focus on reading and math. Lots and lots of reading!  The library has always been our best friend.

The summer before the Bigs were to start high school we moved to a different state.  We left all that was comfortable and stable and started on a new journey.  I now had to make new connections, learn the home school laws in this new state and move into teaching high school. I was anxious to say the least. Could I even do this? High school is important! College and careers depend on a job well done.  It was all very overwhelming.  As I was talking to my dear friend , the one who encouraged me to start with lesson 1, she gave me some more wise words. She reminded me that up until now we had taken each year as it came. We had moved twice and added 3 kiddos to the mix. We had completed 8 years of school so far.  This was JUST THE NEXT YEAR. No need to be overwhelmed. Just do the next thing. 

Now, 25 plus years later, we have 5 children that have moved into adulthood and are Godly, loving, smart, compassionate and successful in their chosen careers. We have 3 children in law and 7 wonderful grandbabies. We are blessed beyond what we ever would have dreamed. Through it all I have learned several lessons I want to share with younger moms. 

    ~ Relax and enjoy the journey.  There are 2 sides to this. On one hand, I know the days seem long and the messes, meals and laundry are never ending, but, trust me, these days are so sweet. They fly past and before you know it your kiddos are launching out on their own.  Enjoy them! On the other hand, 18 years is a long time! You don’t need to learn everything at once.  You have a long time to learn how to read well, how to multiply and divide, how to figure algebraic equations. A long time! Relax. Slow and steady movement ahead is the goal. Remember the tortoise and the hare!

~  Building character and family relationships are top priority. Respect for authority, diligence, patience, and looking out for the other guy are things that won’t be taught in most curriculums.  This is the learning that comes from just living everyday together. 

And, I know you’ve heard it before, but it’s true. I wouldn’t trade a minute of our years home together! My best friends were grown there

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Homeschooling: An Intro

I have been meaning to sit down for quite awhile to write about homeschooling and our own personal journey.  One of the things I get asked most is where do you even begin?  How do you do it?  What does it look like?  What curriculum do you use?

One of the things that you will discover is that each family and their homeschool journey is completely different. THAT is the beauty of homeschooling.  I wanted to start a series that focuses on homeschooling and the different ways it can be done.  I'll be sharing some of our story and what our days look like. But I also will be sharing other stories. I was homeschooled K-12 and my mom taught all five of us kids.  She is kind of my homeschool hero ;)  I have asked her to share some of her story and advice. I've also asked my youngest sister who is a senior in college to share a bit of her story as well.  And I've got a few other women who will be sharing their story as well!

Because every story is so different I want to make sure I am completely transparent with what works for us and how our schedule looks.  Again, not everyone is the same.  What works great for us might not work the best for your family.  So, keep that in mind if you are jumping into the exciting journey of homeschooling!

Today I wanted to share my own personal story of homeschooling. 

I grew up the second oldest of five kids.  My older brother and I are exactly a year apart to the day (surprise!) so we were in the same school grade growing up.  My younger three siblings are 5, 9 and 10 years younger than I am.  Homeschooling was all I ever knew growing up.  The majority of my childhood memories are centered around our family and being educated at home.  I love the bond that it created between the five of us.  

After graduating I headed off to college, received a degree and found a husband :)  Travis and I married the fall after we graduated and started our family shortly thereafter.  At the time when we started having kids he was coaching and teaching in the public school system.  Homeschooling wasn't really something that either one of us saw our family doing.  Yes, I had been homeschooled. But I wasn't super passionate about teaching my own kids.  Before kids and even when they were babies sending them to public school just seemed like what we would do. As the time approached for our oldest daughter Emma to start Kindergarten, it made my heart hurt at the thought of her being away for so long every day.  We made the decision to homeschool that year and jumped right in.  Because it was Kindergarten I didn't feel a ton of pressure.  My main goal was to teach her to read and she caught on quickly.  The end of that year we prayed about what direction we were supposed to go.  We felt a clear calling to try public school.  So off she went to public school for her first grade year. We had such a wonderful year and experience.  Her teacher was incredible and the school was amazing.  We didn't have a single complaint about any of it.  

One night in February I remember vividly waking up in the middle of the night feeling a STRONG need to pray for Emma and knowing without a doubt that we were meant to homeschool the next year. I kept that night to myself for a full month and never said anything to Travis. I was SURE he would think I was crazy for wanting to homeschool again.  I continued to pray that the Lord would make it such a clear thing for our family.  One night in March I was sitting at the kitchen table with Emma working on her homework.  It had already been a long day and our sweet girl who requires a lot of sleep was looking fatigued.  We finally finished her work and she headed off to bed. Without me saying anything Travis said, "I think we need to homeschool next year."  How is that for an answered prayer? :)  

We finished out the school year at the public school and jumped back into homeschooling this fall.  This time around I have a second grader, kindergartner and a preschooler.  It has been such an adventure and a journey.  One that requires more prayer and patience than I've ever needed.  But one that has rewarded me more than any other job or adventure I have done.  

My hope with this homeschooling series is that you will be inspired and encouraged.  Whether you're in the thick of it or whether you're trying to decide if homeschooling is for you.  Over the next few weeks I'll be talking more about what our schedule looks like, what curriculum we are using, the social aspect, what the little ones do while we are schooling and more!

And just for fun… a few pictures of our day today :)

Monday, January 18, 2016

Meal Plan: Jan/Week 3

Back into our normal meal plan routine for this week!  Last weekend Travis was gone to the coast on a hunting trip which meant the kids and I strayed from my weekend meal plan.  When he is away I don't cook big dinners, instead we are all perfectly happy eating pancakes, cereal or scrambled eggs :)  Because of that I was able to move those planned meals into the next week.  It threw me off just a bit with my planning and grocery shopping!

I do want to preface this week's meal plan by reiterating the fact that we are trying to clean up our eating in order to lose a few pounds (the adults…obviously not the kids ;)  ).  So each night there is a main dish and then I'll pair it with a salad or steamed/roasted veggie.  It definitely makes grocery shopping and meal planning so much easier if you think of it like that!

+ Pioneer Woman's BBQ Chicken - this is AMAZING!!!! My kids inhaled it!  I plan on serving it with roasted broccoli and sweet potatoes.

+ Crockpot Pork Tenderloin- you can not mess this up.  I just put a pork tenderloin in my crockpot with enough water to cover it. Then I season it with salt, pepper, cumin and chopped garlic.  Cook it on high 4-5 hours.  Shred and it's ready to eat!  We actually had this tonight and I served it with roasted cauliflower and a tomato/avacado salad.

+ Chicken Chili Lime Burgers- I get these from Trader Joes and we love them!  I'll serve them with TJ's sweet potato fries and a side salad.  We usually eat them without a bun, they're THAT good!

+ Balsamic Pot Roast- I'm excited to try this recipe.  I plan on serving it with a side salad as well as the Pioneer Woman's Crash Hot Potatoes.

+ Teriyaki Turkey Lettuce Wraps- I've never made these before. So I'm not sure the kids will like them.  I plan on having tortillas as a back up for them to put their meat in :)  And I'll be making a simple stir fry rice from Trader Joes to go with it.

+ Baked Salmon (I posted how I prepare it in my last Meal Plan post)- this time around I'll serve it with roasted broccoli and a salad.

One of the questions I have received since my last meal plan is what do we eat for breakfast and lunch. I won't be posting this on a weekly basis since we pretty much eat the same thing each week :)

Breakfast Ideas:

Since I am working on losing baby weight most mornings my breakfast is a chocolate protein shake (I love the Shakeology brand) with banana and peanut butter in it.  If I'm not in a rush (which is NEVER haha), then I'll make myself an egg scramble with veggies in it.

For the kids…
+Oatmeal with brown sugar
+Scrambled Eggs with toast
+Pancakes with bacon. We typically have this on Friday since we do a 4 day school week.

Lunch Ideas:

Most days for lunch I will have a salad with cottage cheese or left over meat from the night before (pot roast, pork tenderloin, salmon, etc).

For the kids…
+PBandJ with veggie straws and fruit
+Crackers/cheese and veggies/hummus
+Macaroni and Cheese with apple slices
+Mini Homemade Pizzas on english muffins
+Chicken Nuggets with fruit/veggies
+Pasta with tomato sauce and carrot sticks

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A little this… a little that

Everyone is tucked into bed for the night which means it's my time to unwind and catch up a bit.  I love these few hours of quiet before I go to bed each night.  Sweet Trav isn't much of a night owl so he usually is sleeping on the couch until I head to bed.  We make a good pair :)

First… if you are wondering where my meal plan is… it's coming!  Travis was out of town over the weekend which meant I wasn't cooking full blown meals each night. While he's away we're just as happy having a bowl of cereal or pancakes for dinner!  All that to say, we've finally used up the last of our groceries for last week's meals.  If you're in a terrible pinch for an idea, I made the Pioneer Woman's Oven BBQ Chicken last night and my crew INHALED it.  I just used chicken breasts and it turned out incredible!  

It's hard to believe we're half way through our school year. For our history this month we're focusing on learning about Texas and it's Independence.  Since I didn't grow up in Texas most of this is brand new to me as well.  Travis is a fourth generation Texan which means our kids are fifth generation.  I thought it was only fitting that we spent a full month learning and digging into their rich history!  We have had the most fun over the past week learning about the Alamo and singing "Deep in the Heart of Texas".  

The stars at night - are big and bright

Deep in the heart of texas.
The prairie sky - is wide and high
Deep in the heart of texas.
The sage in bloom - is like perfume
Deep in the heart of texas.
Reminds me of - the one I love
Deep in the heart of texas.
The coyotes wail - along the trail

Deep in the heart of texas.
The rabbits rush - around the brush
Deep in the heart of texas.
The cowboys cry - ki-yip-pie-yi
Deep in the heart of texas.

The doggies bawl - and bawl and bawl
Deep in the heart of texas.

I dare you not to have "Deep in the Heart of Texas" seared into your memory for the rest of the day now ;)

Before I head to bed, I'd love to talk a bit about organizing your photos.  I have been SO. BEHIND with printing my photos.  As in, I haven't printed off actual photos since Emma was a baby.  For my Instagram photos I have everything printed off with Chatbooks.  I bit the bullet last year and printed off my whole feed (4 years of pictures) and now it automatically takes my photos off of Instagram, creates the book and then ships it to me when it's full.  I have the app on my phone and I'm able to go in and edit before it prints.  Life. Saver.  If you haven't tried it I HIGHLY recommend.  Go to and use the code TU9W62N6 for your first book free!

But back to the organizing of real photographs.  I am stumped on how to best do it.  I'm torn between just printing them off and putting them in a photo album OR printing them off in a photo book.  I am all ears for any tips you might have!

Hope your weekend was a great one!  I'll be back tomorrow with a new meal plan!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Living Small: Budgeting

So let's talk budgeting.  I have a love/hate relationship with it.  I think we probably all do.  I absolutely LOVE making a budget.  Doesn't it always look better on paper?!  But the part that I have a hard time with is… sticking to it.  Can I get an amen?!

In December Travis and I sat down and talked through some dreams and goals we have for our family this upcoming year.  Things that will take careful budgeting and discipline to make those dreams and goals a reality.  We talked through what worked this past year as far as our budget and what didn't work.  We by NO means of the imagination are masters at it.  I think like anything you figure out what works best for your family.

One of the biggest requests I have gotten is for me to start back up our Living Small Series. I think the topic of budgeting and Living Small go hand in hand together.  Which is why we're starting here!

So here are a few of the ways our family is going to cut back and save this upcoming year:

+Adjust your budget monthly: we have found that our budget changes every month.  Not drastically. But new needs come up and older ones are eliminated.  Kids need new clothes for changing seasons/growth, cars need maintenance, birthdays/holidays.  At the beginning of the month we pencil out the needs for that month and adjust our budget accordingly.

+Need or Want:  Oh man. This gets me good. We are really doing our best to put on our "Need or Want" mentality any time we are making a purchase. Obviously we're only a few days into January but  I am amazed at how much money we have saved in this short amount of time asking ourselves this simple question. We are working on saying "no" right now so that later on we can say "yes" to some of those dreams!

+Meal Planning/Grocery Shopping Once a Week: Since having a baby in July I had not been meal planning as regularly as I should have.  Which meant we ate out a LOT more than we should have.  This year my goal is to do a weekly meal plan and get all of our groceries ONCE a week instead of going to the store several times or eating out because we don't have what we need at the house.  Also-- I am trying to use up all of our leftovers which is a big deal for me. I hate leftovers haha!

+Amazon Prime: I've been utilizing this for the past few months and LOVE it!  Thanks to my mom for encouraging me to take advantage of it. :)  I am now purchasing our diapers, cleaning supplies, toiletries and all paper products from here. I use the Shop and Save feature which helps to cut down on these costs! Plus I love that I'm not having to get all of these bulky supplies on my grocery runs. Free Shipping for the win!

+Eating Out ONLY Once a Week: We know that realistically we still will want to eat out.  Our favorite ways to save eating out are going to restaurants where kids eat free (hellooooo savings for our family haha!).  This past week we went out for Mexican and were able to eat for $20 total (4 free kids meals, 2 taco salads and 6 waters!).

These are the biggest things that our family is focusing on this next year as far as budgeting goes.  It's funny how simple it really is if you think about it.  The easiest way to save money is to just not spend it!  I would love to hear what some of your budgeting tips are that work well for YOUR family!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Meal Plan: Jan/Week 1

Meal planning isn't something new to our family.  I've been doing it since we were first married.  My mom always did such a wonderful job of doing it for my family growing up that it feels like second nature for my own little family.

With the start of the new year we have set ourselves a few personal goals as a couple/family.  To lose weight and to eat out less.  With a new baby and jumping back into homeschooling we found ourselves eating out/ordering in more often than not simply because of the convenience of it.  Obviously Cash isn't a newborn any more and we have a pretty good routine with our schooling.  So back to the meal planning and weight loss drawing board!

I thought it would be fun to share our weekly Dinner Meal Plan with y'all.  Plus it'll be nice for me to look back on it as I plan new weeks. I'll be linking any recipes that I use as well as sharing some of our favorites along the way!


Friday- Pork Carnitas and Black Beans.  This recipe was SUPER delicious!  It made enough meat that we were able to use the leftovers for our salads the next day.  For the Black Beans I just put them into a pot and then add some cumin, salt, pepper and chopped cilantro.  Let them warm up on medium for a bit and they're delicious!

Saturday- Salmon, Wild Rice+Quinoa Mix and Salad.  I made the salmon by pan frying it for a few minutes in olive oil.  Then put it in a pan and added salt, pepper, lemon juice, fresh chopped herbs and a little olive oil.  I baked about 20 minutes on 350.  This is always a hit at our home!  The Wild Rice+Quinoa blend was precooked (you can find it by the rice section of your store).  I first sautéed some onion and mushrooms in olive oil.  Then once they were fairly cooked I added in the pre-cooked Wild Rice+Quinoa mix.  Cover and let it heat up for about 10 minutes.  I made enough at this meal for Travis and I to have as leftovers for lunch the next day.

Sunday- Out for Mexican.  We have decided that we'll eat out once a week :)

Monday- Chicken Sausage Skillet.  Cut up Chicken Sausage and brown it in a little olive oil.  Then add  in chopped onion, green peppers and diced up sweet potatoes.  Cover and let cook until soft.  I love this because everything is in big enough chunks that if the kids don't like parts of it they can easily eat around it.

Tuesday- Taco Salad.  Another crowd favorite over here because each person can make theirs how they want it.  The kids will top theirs with Catalina dressing and Travis+I will top ours with fresh salsa and avocados.

Wednesday- Chicken Chili Lime Burgers ( I get these at Trader Joes.  You could also do a Turkey Burger if you're not near a TJs) broiled in the oven, Baked Sweet Potato Fries and Salad.  For the sweet potato fries I just cut up my sweet potatoes into thin pieces.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Bake on 350 around 20-25 minutes.

Thursday- Chili we're going to try this recipe.  And then Cornbread for the kids to pair with it!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Blogging+Yearly Goals

I am one of those people who spends the last two weeks of December writing out and thinking through my new years goals. I love them. Always have.  Writing out ideas, making lists, pushing myself to accomplish them… one of my favorite things to do :)

One of my New Years Goals is to get back into my normal blogging routine.  I had written on Instagram a few days ago that I had taken a step back from blogging this past year and that I was excited to jump back in.  It never was an intentional step back, just one of those things that happened as we leapt back into homeschooling.  Over the past year I have missed this place.  Having somewhere to type out my thoughts, let my creative juices flow and just the community that blogging brings.  

I have some new series that I'm excited to share with you over this next month.  Things that I hope you'll be encouraged by.  And also things that I want y'all to help me with!  A few of the topics…

+fitness:  after having five babies in seven years my body isn't quite what it once was.  I am so thankful that I was able to carry five healthy babies and have wonderful deliveries.  SO thankful.  But I am excited to finally get myself back into shape. Annnnd that means losing about 20 pounds.  I thought it would be fun to do a little weekly series on healthy eating and fitness!  I would love for you to join me!

+living small:  I had asked on Instagram last week what some of your favorite blogging topics were that I have written about in the past.  My Living Small series was by far the most popular topic.  I haven't written about that in awhile simply because we moved to a little bit larger home than our previous 2 bedroom blue cottage.  But, the fact remains…we still are living in a relatively small home (1500 sq ft) with a lot of people and making it work.  I will be picking this series back up and am excited to share what has been working for our family.  

+budgeting:  I don't know about you, but my ears always perk up when I hear people talking about budgeting, grocery shopping or cutting costs.  I will be doing a small series on how we cut costs as well as a little budgeting challenge we have given ourselves with the New Year.

+meal planning: This will tie hand in hand with the fitness and budgeting.  I know most of us are so busy that meal planning is one of the last things we want to do.  I'll be sharing our weekly meal plan as well as a few new recipes that we have been loving!

+homeschooling: I have had quite a few people ask about what our homeschooling routine looks like, what curriculum we use, how I manage it all with the smaller kids under foot, etc.  All of this will be written up in a series as well as a class that my Mom and I will be putting together!  I was homeschooled K-12, so my mother is a WEALTH of knowledge! I'm excited to share it all with you!

So there you have it… just a bit of what's to come this month!  I would love to hear what some of your New Years Goals are!  Cheers to 2016!