Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Good Intentions

Remember the time back in January where I said I was going to get back into the swing of blogging regularly throughout the week?!  Yeah… such good intentions :)  Somewhere along the way a whole month and a half have flown by since my last post. I'm not really sure how this happened?!  I think like anything in life priorities fell into place and this little area the past month and a half was moved to the bottom of the list.

I remember there was a time back in the beginning of blogging where I felt like I HAD to blog regularly.  I am so thankful that I don't feel that pressure any more.  It's freeing!  This place will always remain a creative outlet and a place of what I hope is an encouragement to other moms. And of course it's always fun to look back years down the road to see what we were up to at the time!

So as of late… a bit of what we have been up to…

Would you believe we haven't even had a single flake of snow this winter?!  And now here it is March.   Because of that we have been soaking up as much time outside as we can.  Most days we do a bit of school in the morning so we can be outside. And then the afternoon is spent with the little ones napping and the big ones finishing up their school work.  I love the flexibility that homeschooling has brought to our family this year.  Both academically and as a family.  We are able to get outside more as well as study subjects that the kids are interested in.  So many of you have asked for more homeschooling posts… they're coming!  Next week I'll be sharing a dear friend's story as well as a rough outline of what curriculum we're loving.

Hope all is well with you… thank you to everyone who has checked in asking what we were up to and where the blog posts have gone :) All is well!  And I'll end with a few snapshots from our week… 

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!