Friday, September 26, 2014

Caramel Macchiato candy corn - yes please!

Fall is here. Sweaters, football, hayrides, apple cider and such. Granted all those things are awesome, but THIS is my new favorite thing. 

I mean favorite fall thing EVER! It actually tastes like a caramel macchiato AND it's a whole lot cheaper than Starbucks when you want a quick fix! 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Homeschool curriculum - what if it's not working?

There are certain curricula that seems to be the "holy grail" or gold standard among homeschoolers. You know, the ones that get mentioned every time someone asks, "So, what do you use for science (or math, or latin...)?" While I'm incredibly thankful for the plethora of things we have to choose from these days, what if the gold standard just isn't working for your family? What if (gasp!) you really just don't like it? Do you keep plodding along, or put on the brakes and reevaluate?

We've used a popular science curriculum for several years now and it worked fine for our oldest. He's more of a "by the book" sort of learner. While I can't say he loved it, he did learn a lot. Enter son #2. Different kid, different learning style. Whole different ball of wax. Trying to make the popular science curriculum work for him has been a painful disaster for us both. He's an incredibly bright kid. He just doesn't learn best through the standard textbook approach. Time for mom to stop trying to put that square peg in the round hole.

As homeschool moms we take the task of choosing curriculum very seriously. After all, it's not a cheap investment. We want something that's going to get the job done, stay within our budget AND instill a life long love of learning...that's a very tall order.

So what do you do if the curriculum you purchased just isn't working? 

1. Stop! You've heard the definition of insanity - doing something over and over and expecting different results. There's no reason to continue on with something that you've already recognized isn't working. Pitch it and start over. Breathe here ladies! It will be OK...I promise.

2. Research. Post your questions to on-line forums or blogs. Chat with other moms whose kids have similar learning styles. If your child is old enough, ask them why they think it's not working. Get their input on what they might like to use instead. Pray...and keep breathing.

3. Regroup and charge ahead again! Once you've found something new to use, don't focus on how much of the school year's already gone or stress over switching things up midstream. Instead, focus on the fact that the new curriculum will give your student the tools and opportunities they need to succeed. 

So we're setting aside the "holy grail" of science curriculum for something I think will work great for him. And therein lies the beauty of homeschooling. We do what works best for the STUDENT. A novel concept don't you think? 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Salted caramel chocolate chip cookies

Happy fall y'all! In honor of the first day of fall I treated myself to a pumpkin spice latte and a couple of these amazing salted caramel chocolate chip cookies. They're like an explosion of chocolaty, caramelly, salty fall goodness!

The original recipe I found on Pinterest had too many steps and involved chilling the dough. Ain't nobody got time for that! I wanted cookies ASAP! No time for chilling! So I used my tried and true world's best chocolate chip cookie recipe with a couple of tweaks. 

I added caramel pieces along with the chocolate chips. I would suggest buying the nicely chopped little caramel pieces you find on the baking aisle at your local grocery store. Again, I wanted cookies ASAP with no time for a trip to the store, so I took some caramels I had and chopped them up. Yes, I was desperate, but it worked.

As soon as I pulled them out of the oven I dusted them with a smidge of crushed sea salt. It tasted like a salted caramel mocha people! Oh my goodness. 

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 stick of butter
3/4 cup of butter flavored Crisco
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 t vanilla
2 eggs
3 1/2 cups flour
1 t salt, baking soda and baking powder
1 bag chocolate chips (1 1/2 cups)
1 cup caramel pieces
Sea salt

Mix ingredients (I just throw the wet ingredients in my KitchenAid, then add the dry and blend. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit more should be able to pick it up without it sticking to everything)

Bake at 325 for 10-12 minutes

Remove from oven and dust with sea salt.

Cool one minute and remove to rack (unless your family is eating them right off the cookie sheet!)

Excuse me while I wipe the crumbs off my keyboard.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Stinky feet - a sweet reminder

I was enjoying a lovely Saturday afternoon nap today when my two oldest came blowing in from their Saturday job refereeing flag football. After a brief hello, I drifted off to sleep again. Waking up a bit later I was overcome by the smell of a what I was sure was a long dead animal. What the heck?

Using my amazing motherly powers of investigation and deduction, I began hunting for the source of the horrific scent. It didn't take long to realize it was coming from two pair of teen shoes recently disgarded across the room. Oh, my heavenly heck! Seriously! Grabbing my Costco sized bottle of Febreeze I was able to disarm the smelly bombs before more nostrils were offended. Besides the Bible, large quantities of Febreeze is one of the most essential things a mom of teen boys needs in her arsenal. That's truth ladies.

While the smell may have burned my nose hairs and caused blurry vision, it was also a beautiful reminder of my reality.

My sons are hard workers, getting up early to be at the fields by 8:00 a.m.

They're willing to give up their Saturdays when they'd rather sleep in after a busy week.
They're healthy and able to work.

They're growing up and I am blessed to witness it.
The may be big and stinky, but that's nothing a hot shower can't fix. More importantly they're really, really amazing young men and that makes the smell totally worth long as I don't run out of Febreeze.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Homeschooling when you don't feel like it...aka Perseverance

The word for this school year is PERSEVERANCE. The first week of September we chose a word or two to represent something we want to work on over the next few months and decorated rocks as a reminder. PERSEVERANCE and JOY topped my list.

This past week tested my perseverance to the limit. Just two weeks into school and I came down with a raging head cold. The "I can't breath and it feels like my head is in a vice" kind. Oh, it was bad. Bleh! I wanted nothing more than to curl up on the couch in my jammies and watch unending hours of decorating shows and reruns of The Middle. 

Problem is there's these kids who need schooling. Oh sure, they'd be thrilled to have the day off. That's the thing about homeschooling...there are no substitute teachers and if we took time off we'd lose the momentum we worked so hard for the previous week. So armed with Advil, peppermint oil and my box of tissues we forged through and got every single stinkin' thing on the list DONE! That doesn't even happen when I'm NOT sick! I didn't give in. I didn't curl up on the couch...although I did stay in my jammies most of the week. I persevered when I wanted to give up and tonight I'm celebrating a job well done...happy Friday to me!

Now about the JOY thing...pretty sure that one gets tested on a daily basis, but that's a story for another post.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Homeschooling on the hard days

We started school on Tuesday. It is now Thursday and I'm writing a post entitled "Homeschooling on the hard days"...does that tell you something about our first week?

Some days things just seem to go your way. Everyone gets up on time with happy hearts and good attitudes (including mom!), the coffee is perfect, breakfast and chores are done quickly and efficiently...I mean really done, not "shove it all under the bed so it looks clean" done. Once school starts things hum along smoothly with laughter, smiles and loads of learning taking place. Everyone can find their books and school supplies are exactly where they're suppose to be. It's not uncommon to hear, "Hey Mom, look at this! Did you know that...?" We're loving homeschooling.

But today was not that day. No, today I found myself wishing I could put them in school, give myself a coffee IV and take a long, hot shower.

So how do you homeschool on the hard days? Those days you won't to throw in the towel? If you've already put the local public school on speed dial, take heart my friend...there is hope!

1. REFLECT - Think back on why you started homeschooling in the first place. Chances are you're not doing it just for fun and certainly not because it pays well (at least not this side of eternity). No, you're doing it because it's your family's conviction or calling. Because the school system is failing. Because your child has special needs that only you can accommodate. You fill in the blank. We all homeschool for our own set of reasons, but keeping those reasons in the forefront of your mind on the hard days will help keep your resolve strong.

2. REFOCUS - Set aside the bad day and refocus on what your children need to learn. Maybe the "terrible, no-good, very bad" day shone a light on a character issue that needs addressing or a heart issue that's reared its head. Maybe you need to tweak your morning routine a bit to help it flow more smoothly. Ask the Lord to show you any areas that need attention and commit to making the necessary changes. 

3. RECHARGE - After wading through our less than stellar morning, I headed out for a walk along the canal near our house. It was a beautiful September morning. I chatted with the Lord, sketched out the next article for my column in our state homeschool magazine and came home feeling much better. A bad day might be a signal to do something different, something to fill you up. You cannot effectively homeschool your kids if you're running on empty. Did you hear what I said moms? There is a bit of a mindset in some homeschool circles that taking time for yourself is considered selfish. No, it's a necessity! You wouldn't try to run your car on empty, or continue to pour water from an empty pitcher. Both need filling and so do YOU busy mom! Neglecting yourself robs your family of the best you can be.

4. RELAX - A bad day is just that, a day. It doesn't mean the rest of your week or year will be that way. Rest in the Lord and trust that his mercies are new every morning. 

Or in the words of my favorite Southern belle, "After all, tomorrow is another day".

Monday, September 1, 2014

Back to School Mantel - it's so adorable!

So the other day I was suppose to be planning our school year. Somewhere between researching history activities and ordering math curriculum I got sucked into the vortex that is Pinterest. I found this adorable printable from Sweet Coconut Lime and before I knew it was redecorating my mantel for back to school. Anything to put off that planning stuff just one more day.

Isn't it just the cutest??? I printed it on cardstock and used an extra frame I had hanging around to make this the focal point of the space. Then I got busy scavenging the house and my kids' school supplies for the rest. The burlap bunting was purchased a few months ago for $1 each at Craft Warehouse and covered with chalkboard contact paper. I've used them for loads of different things. Crayons, pencils and a few old books (one of them is from the late 1800's) round out the extreme cuteness. Total cost: $0! 

Oooh, I just love free decorating! Now if only I loved school planning half as much.

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