January 20, 2014

The 2013/2014 school year

Or at least the last part of it!

We had a lovely fall semester of 2013 then took a month off in December in which I planned and organized and scheduled and charted, and now we're off and running in January.

Because I've had a few people asking, this is The Plan.

Family Work from 9 to 11.   We try to cover the following:
Artist - finishing Van Gogh, then Monet
Composer - currently Rossini
Poetry - we're reading from Favorite Poems Old and New
Logic - currently using The Thinking Toolbox, then Fallacy Detective
Fairy Tales - reading our way through Andrew Lang's collection
Computer Coding - right now they play games on the iPad (Hopscotch, Daisy the Dino, and Kodables).  Then we'll move on to some of these.
Geography - Visits to Europe and Around the World in 100 Years by Jean Fritz
Nature Study - working our way through the Pierson Among the _______ books and The Nature Connection

Then we head to co-op for the rest of the day.

Tuesday - Friday:
Family Work from 9 to 10:30
Scriptures/Devotional - this includes:
     Reading the scriptures
     Scripture memory work
     The Friend and New Era magazines
     a blurb from a manners book
     vocab cartoons
     an idiom from the Scholastic Dictionary of Idioms
History -
Middle Ages from Simply Charlotte Mason with additional reading for the older boys from Beautiful Feet Books
Latin and Greek roots (via flashcards)
alternating days of dictation and Shakespeare (we're right in the middle of A Midsummer Night's Dream)

Then the older boys (age 13) go off to do their independent work:
scriptures - a topic or section of their choice
Teaching Textbooks (LOVE!!!)
copywork - in both print and cursive
history reading (from SCM and BF guides)
science - currently Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics.  One is using the notebook and loving it, the other hates it.
Lighting Lit
written narration - 1 per day
science biography or specific topic

While the older boys are off being older, independent boys I work with the two younger boys (ages 10 and 7).  We do the following together:
Science - Exploring Creation, Land Animals of the Sixth Day.  We've taken a few detours when they've requested (cells, decomposition, etc).
a story book - we're reading our way through all sorts of books.  Some from this list and some from this.  Or whatever I see on my shelves!
a history book (taken from the SCM suggestions for 1-3 grades)
then we alternate Life of Fred, Nature Study, Lightning Lit, and Winston Grammar

Then they both head off to do independent work.  For now they both do Explode the Code (at their own level) and copy work.

Ten-year-old also does Teaching Textbooks and a history book from the 4-6 grade suggestions.

Seven-year-old meets with me after lunch to do:
Math - RightStart Level B
Reading - a mixture of several reading programs
Spelling - All About Spelling Level 1

We meet back together in the afternoon, around 3, to listen to a family read-aloud.  Right now we're reading The Hobbit (for the 3rd or 4th time) and Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

And that, my friends, is The Plan!!!  For now.  Until I change it.  Again.

January 8, 2014

Feeding your family when you're stressed

We've seen a deployment or several in our years in the military.  Another one is looming on the horizon.  We've also been through 10+ moves, bed rest due to surgery and pregnancy, and a myriad of other things. There are times when I'm not physically capable of cooking and times when I can, but emotionally or mentally I'm all over the place.  Sometimes food gets pushed to the side and I start relying on pizza and drive-thrus and frozen things.  In an effort to get better prepared for the next 'crisis', I put together a list of meal ideas that MY family likes.  I hope that some of them work for your family too!

It sounds weird, but in the most trying times it's hard to even know where to start on getting food on the table.  I'll find myself standing in the kitchen at 5:00pm or so and just look around and cannot figure out what to do.  This list is my 'brain' in those times.  Make your own.  Look at the foods that your family loves to eat, that you can make quickly and with minimal effort (or that your children/spouses can make).  Then collect all the recipes together on Pinterest, your blog, a Word document....somewhere.  Somewhere you'll be able to access when stress shuts your brain right down.

I looked for recipes that were:
a.  Quick - 15 to 30 minutes of my time.  
b.  Easy - I could hand them over to my teens or husband.  
c.  Tasty - The last thing I need when I'm already struggling to hold things together are whiny kids who think dinner was 'gross and disgusting' or that it 'looks like someone threw up in the bowl'.

These are not the healthiest (although some of them are).  They are not meant to be the foundation of your diet, just the means to see you through a hard time with your sanity intact and your bellies full!

What are some of your 'quick and easy', no-stress favorites?

Quick and Easy Recipes
For Deployment, Stress, Bedrest, Whatever!

2.  Pancakes or Waffles – I have a bazillion recipes I alternate between.
3.  Breakfast Burritos – recipe below
4.  Bean Tostadas or Burritos or Nachos– recipe below
7.  Eggs and Toast (or English Muffins or bagels)
8.  Smoothies – Also see my Pinterest board here: http://www.pinterest.com/4mycrazyboys/smoothies-juices/
9.  Bean and Cheese Crispy Burritos – recipe below
10.  Yogurt Parfaits – recipe below
11.  Sort of Seven Layer Dip– recipe below
12.  Rice Bowls 
13.  Succotash
14.  Tacos – especially if you cook up a big batch of seasoned meat and freeze it in meal-sized portions.  Then just heat and serve.
15.  White Chili 
16.  Hummus Wraps 
21.  Pasta Bake
22.  Rotisserie chicken from the store with salad, carrot sticks, and fruit
25.  BLTs
27.  Cabbage Soup – 
28.  Make Your Own Sub Sandwiches – put out lots of meats, cheese, toppings, and let them go crazy
29.  Thai Ginger Soup – recipe below
30.  Toad in the Hole, Frog in the Pond, One-Eyed Susans
31.  Chicken Strip or Popcorn Shrimp Salad – recipe below
33.  Baked Potatoes
36.  Kielbasa and Cabbage – recipe below
37.  Steamed Sausage, Cabbage & Potatoes – recipe below
38.  Spaghetti and Meatballs – frozen meatballs, jar of spaghetti, heat and serve over pasta.  Or make all of those homemade!
41.  Bombay Stew 
43.  Snack Dinner – recipe below
44.  Roast – roast beef or roast chicken.  Use it as a meal, then use the leftovers in soups, burritos, salads, etc.  Ham is also another option.
45.  Frozen stuff!  I hear Trader Joe’s has some nice quality, somewhat healthy stuff in their freezer section.  And sometimes it’s just frozen pizza or corn dogs.
46.   World Class Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.  Actually, mine are 2nd, and my husband's are World Class.  Sometimes we add ham or other deli meats.

Breakfast Burritos
We like sausage (pre-cooked) or bacon, scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, tator tots, and salsa/ketchup all rolled into burritos.  I stick the stuff on the table and they assemble their own.  I love the Tortilla Land tortillas.  You can buy them at Sam’s Club, Walmart, or Costco.

Bean Tostadas or Burritos or Nachos
I use the pre-cooked tostada shells (like Guerrero brand).  Warm a can of refried beans, smear it on the tostada and let them add toppings – lettuce, tomatoes, olives, shredded cheese, salsa, sour cream, etc.  Mostly they just like beans and cheese.   You can use tortillas to make burritos or put it all over chips for nachos.  I sometimes add cooked meat.  For the nachos I like to use whole beans instead of refried beans.

Bean and Cheese Crispy Burritos
I like Tortillaland raw tortillas (Sam’s, Walmart, Costco).  Otherwise spread some refried beans and cheese on one side, roll up tight, cook on skillet on all sides until browned and crispy.  Dip in salsa, sour cream, guacamole or eat plain.

Yogurt Parfaits
Sliced fresh fruit
Let each person build their own.  My kids especially love this with chocolate granola.

Sort of Seven Layer Dip
I heat refried beans and plop that on the table.  Each person fills their bowl with what they want....cheese, sour cream, salsa, guacamole, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives.  Then we eat them with 'scoop' or tortilla chips.

Thai Ginger Soup
Okay, it’s not really a recipe.  Grab some Swanson Thai Ginger broth (look in the broth section).  Add in whatever meat you want – chicken, beef, shrimp.  If using raw, let it cook through before adding veggies.  Otherwise, through the cooked meat in with the veggies.  I like to add a can of coconut milk as well.

Carrots – matchstick or chopped
Sweet peppers
Broccoli slaw
Cabbage or cole slaw
Onions – regular or green
Cook until veggies are desired consistency.  Serve.

You could also add in pasta or rice, either add cooked pasta to the soup as you serve it.  Or cook the pasta in the broth. 

Chicken Strip Salad
Okay, this is another non-recipe.  Grab some chicken strips from the deli or cook up some frozen ones.  Cut them into bite-sized pieces.  Heap up the plate with salad, and add the chicken.  Top with the salad toppings and dressings you love. 

We also like to do this with popcorn shrimp.

Kielbasa and Cabbage
1 lb. kielbasa, sliced (can use other kinds of pre-cooked sausage like chicken-apple, basically any kind!)
1 medium head cabbage, chopped or sliced
salt to taste
pepper to taste

Add the cabbage to a pan and cook & stir until tender, about 15 minutes.  You may want to add water or chicken broth if it gets too dry and starts to stick.  Add salt and pepper about halfway through.  Add sausages in about halfway through as well.  You can add all sorts of veggies to this or keep it simple.

Steamed Sausage, Cabbage, and Potatoes
Cut up potatoes and place them in the bottom of a large pot.  Layer with sliced pre-cooked sausage (smoked sausage, kielbasa, etc).  I prefer to leave mine in larger chunks, about half the size of a hot dog.  Top with cabbage wedges.  Add about 1 ½ cups water or chicken broth.  Bring to boil then cover with lid and cook on medium low until potatoes are tender, between 1 to 2 hours.

You can also bake this in the stove – use a covered roaster or cover pan with aluminum foil.  Or in a crockpot on low for 8 to 10 hours or high for 4 to 6 hours.

I like to make a honey mayo mustard sauce.  Blob some mayo in a bowl, add a few squirts of honey, and a few drizzles of honey.  Stir it up and taste.  Adjust to make it yummy.

Snack Dinner
We load our plates with odds & ends, mostly finger foods.  Ideas to get you started:
Fruit slices (apples, pears, bananas)
Veggies – baby carrots, celery, sweet peppers, etc.
Yogurt – cups or tubes
Cheese – sliced, deli, string
Deli meat or peanut butter
Lara bars – purchased or homemade
Clif Z Bars
Dried fruit
Chips or pretzels
Hard boiled eggs
Chips & salsa
Popcorn chicken or chicken strips
Hot dogs or sausages – cut into bite-sized pieces
Dried cereal