Tea with Kids is my way of sharing our homeschooling/learning adventure with other homeschooling families or families considering homeschooling. This adventure has been fun and exciting with few bumps along the way. As the journey continues I’ll share what has and has not worked for us, what fun places and things we’re doing and give encouragement for the days that are bumpy.
I frequently get asked how we feed our family on our tight budget. I always explain that I plan and really pay attention to meat sales. Also we don’t buy many packaged food stuffs or pre-made meals. So here is an actual menu from a recent week. I spent about $40 for our family of four, including paper products and household supplies. A few things to consider …
1.Chicken leg quarters were on sale for $0.39/pound for a 10 pound pack at a local shop – $3.90!! An amazing deal.
2. We have leftovers (about two meals worth) from a huge pork loin in the freezer that I bought when it was on sale for $2.99 / pound a couple of weeks ago.
3.We get lots of fresh veggies and fruit – usually whatever is in season plus a few “standards” like carrots, celery, brocolli, onions, etc.
4. We drink mostly water, tea or iced tea.
5. Breakfasts are usually oatmeal, toast or cold cereal with fresh fruit. Sometimes eggs when they are on sale.
6. Lunches are usually sandwiches with soup (homemade chicken noodle or tomato) plus veggie sticks and ranch dressing.
7. We have fresh fruit, veggie sticks, popcorn (air popped) and bake for snacks.
8. It can seem a bit boring and repetitive but it helps us through when we are tight.
Here are the dinners with recipes:
Crockpot Chicken with Rice & Veggies
2 to 3 pounds of chicken (breast, thigh or tenderloin – whatever is on sale)
1 medium onion, sliced
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
Salt & Pepper to taste
Place chicken on bottom of crockpot, season with Italian Seasoning, salt & pepper. Place sliced onions over chicken. Cook on low for four to six hours or high for 2 to 3 hours, until cooked through. Save half pound to whole pound for leftovers.
Make Rice and steam veggies (frozen, fresh, whatever kind on hand) and serve with chicken.
Crockpot Chicken Soup
After making above Crockpot Chicken recipe keep broth, onions and 1 /2 pound leftover chicken (or more) in crockpot. Shred or chop chicken and return to crockpot. Add 1 /2 cup to 1 cup chopped carrots, 1 /2 cup to 1 cup chopped celery, and 2 to 3 cups water (or chicken broth if on hand). Cook on low 3 to 4 hours or high for 1 hour. Let cool and put into container(s). Make favorite noodles, reheat soup and serve over noodles.
Spaghetti with Homemade Sauce & Salad
1 can tomato sauce (plain)
1 cup frozen spinach, thawed
1 /2 cup shredded carrots
1 /2 cup chopped onions
2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
Salt & Pepper to taste
leftover meat if have on hand – chicken, pork or hamburger
Mix tomato sauce, spinach, carrots, onions, seasoning, salt & pepper (and leftover meat) in a sauce pan. Add 1 /2 cup of water or chicken broth (if on hand) to pan, mix and simmer until veggies are tender. Serve over spaghetti noodles and a side salad.
Tacos with whatever meat (chicken, pork, hamburger, beef)
1 packet of Taco Seasoning
1 pound hamburger OR leftover meat if on hand
1 /2 head lettuce, shredded
1 /2 cup onions, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1 small can black olives, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
(Any other taco topping your family likes)
Enough favorite taco shells for each person (we like flour tortillas for soft tacos)
Cook meat and add taco seasoning to taste. We serve this meal as a taco bar, each topping in a small container or bowl. Each person can make their tacos how they like.
Pancakes for Dinner
Whichever pancake recipe you like, fresh fruit to top or have on the side. We might have eggs also if they are on sale.
Ginger Garlic Stir-Fry with Rice
1 to 2 pounds meat (chicken, pork or beef – whichever is on sale or if have leftover)
1 to 2 tablespoons oil
1 /2 cup onion, chopped
1 cup brocolli, chopped
1 /2 cup carrots, chopped
1 /2 cup bell pepper, chopped (can be green, red, orange, yellow or combination)
1 /2 teaspoon ground ginger OR 1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 – 2 teaspoons minced garlic OR 1 /2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 / 4 cup soy sauce
1 /2 cup to 1 cup water or chicken broth (depends if like watery or thick sauce)
Heat oil in frying pan to brown meat. Add onions, brocolli, carrots and peppers. Mix ginger, garlic, soy sauce and water/broth in a small bowl. Pour over meat and veggies in pan. Simmer for 10 minutes or until veggies are tender. Serve over rice.
Left-Over Salad Bowl
1 to 2 Heads Lettuce, shredded – depends on family size
Left over chopped veggies from previous meals
Left over chopped meat from previous meals
Left over rice from previous meals or make rice
If on hand – shredded cheese, salsa, cottage cheese
Chop any other veggies like to have on salads. Put lettuce in individual bowls, add rice (cold or warmed, whichever prefer), add meat (cold or warmed, whichever prefer), add veggies, add cheese. Serve with favorite salsa, salad dressing, vinegarette, or Mustard Dressing (equal parts mustard, olive oil, and vinegar – add Italian Seasoning, salt & pepper to taste – put in container and mix/shake/blend well).
I hope this helps if you need help planning meals when things are tight.
Life has been busier than usual around here. Due to a few family health issues we got side tracked and started current levels late this year, as I mentioned in my previous post. But now we are back on track. My boy is now in fourth grade, can’t believe how quickly the time is going. Each year we learn more about ourselves, our family and how each of the kids actually learn best. It took some time to finalize our curriculum for fourth grade but we did it. This year in Grade 4 we will be covering grammar, spelling, reading, writing, math, physics, history, art and music appreciation, Bible study, wood carving and art journaling.
We started this school year off with a free grammar and spelling workbook, a free writing workbook, and a recommended reading list – all fourth grade level. It was boring and didn’t cover any new material for my son. So we decided to try Learning Language Arts Through Literature – The Orange Book. This incorporates grammar, spelling, reading and writing into one lesson each day. We also purchased the books that go along with the set. We have been enjoying it so far. The actual reading materials are below his reading level but he is enjoying the subjects. I like how everything is incorporated and centers on literature. My son says he likes it because he can see how the grammar is being used “for real” rather than just a bunch of sentences.
We love Saxon Math. My daughter used it for some of her time in public school and understood the concepts easily. Our public school system changed the math curriculum by the time my son started school and we noticed it was more difficult for him to understand. It was also harder for my daughter with the new math curriculum too. So we have used Saxon Math since we started homeschooling. This year we are using Saxon Math Intermediate 5: Homeschool Package for fourth grade after completing Intermediate 3 and Intermediate 4 last year. Our math time continues to be fun and easy for all of us.
We (mostly) follow a classical strategy for learning, so this year for science we are studying physics. We will be using Christian Kids Explore Physics this year. The “Christian Kids Explore” science curriculum can be used for fourth grade through eighth grade, which works perfectly since we have a fourth grader and an eighth grader. Both kids like the physics lessons and are having fun while learning.
The classical strategy has a four year cycle for teaching history so my kids are learning the same time frame together each year. We are using “The Story of the World” series through middle school along with The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia. We are currently finishing up Story of the World – Volume 3: Early Modern Times. We will be starting Story of the World – Volume 4: The Modern Age in January. The kids like doing the activities and making notebooking pages to go in their history binders.
Art & Music Appreciation
The kids love art so we have decided to add art and music appreciation this year. My son is using Harmony Fine Arts: Grade 4, which incorporates six artists and six composers to be studied through the year. This program goes along with our history too, so we will be studying artists and composers from the modern age. My son has enjoyed studying about Monet and DeBussy so far.
I love being creative and it is even more fun when I get to share that joy with my kids. Both kids have decided that they wanted to try art journaling after watching me do it and teach it to others. We are using The Art Journal Workshop: Break Through, Explore, and Make it Your Own by Traci Bunkers as a guide this year. This has helped me to give the kids a good base of skills to work with and also prompts that have depth but are not beyond their understanding. Playing with paint, glue, photos, decorative papers, stamps and ink has been fun for all of us. The mess we make is well worth the pages and the memories.
The Rest of Our Studies
We are using a variety of publications for our Bible study. We consider our spiritual education an integral part of our day and usually start the day with our Bible. We start by reading a daily scripture and thinking about what it means to us and how we can apply it to our lives. We also study different books of the Bible and other publications based on our schedule for our weekly meetings. My son really wanted to learn how to carve wood like his dad and grandfather. I found the book “Carving For Kids – An Introduction to Woodcarving” and we will be starting this in May.
Thoughts So Far
It took some time to get into the groove this year but we are finally there. We did have to make some curriculum changes as we went to get the right fit. Now both my son and I are happy and satisfied with the progress we are making. Fourth grade is well under way and we are looking forward to keeping on track.
Our homeschool learning got off to a delayed start this year. Since we homeschool year round, as mentioned in the post here, it was not a big deal. But now we are on track and enjoying our 2016/2017 homeschool journey. The delay was due to dealing with multiple health issues of various family members and also lack of funds caused by the health issues.
I had gone through the steps mentioned in the Homeschool Planning post, finalized our choices for each subject and was on the brink of making purchases. That was when everything turned to chaos. So instead of waiting until we were on a normal footing and able to cope with all that was going on, I started hurrying to make changes to the original plans. It was, as is usual when doing things in a hurry, not a good choice. I decided to use only what we had on hand. This included texts intended to be used as supplements, college level textbooks and free workbooks that I had downloaded before.
It was a struggle once we got into the materials for each child. We were still working on the previous history (Early Modern Times) and science (Chemistry) so only math, grammar, spelling, reading and writing were new to them. My daughter struggled with her math and was bored with her grammar and spelling. My son was totally bored with his grammar and spelling too. He found his writing exercises silly and too young for him. I agreed. We recycled my daughter’s fifth grade Saxon Math for him, which was working well. But the struggles we did have with the materials made getting the lessons done a daily issue between me and the kids. It got to a point that my husband said we needed to reevaluate what we were doing. So we did.
We put what we were doing on hold and let the kids read, explore nature and research topics that they were interested in without “formal” lessons. I thought that we might try “unschooling” if they enjoyed this way of learning. They liked it but missed actual lessons so we started from scratch using the planning steps. We paid close attention to defining our priorities and how each child learns best. Our new priorities, and the materials that we needed were close to what we originally came up with before the craziness of health issues took over. So we saved the money, purchased the needed materials and finally started our new homeschool year. I’ll be going over what we are using now in the next couple of blog post so stay tuned.
The preparation for the next year of homeschooling is well under way for many homeschoolers, including us. Most of our subjects are not completed yet since we homeschool year round. But I am currently working on the upcoming school year right now. I came up with a system last year to help me prepare and plan for the upcoming year. It is an eight step process, which may seem like a few too many, but it helps me break down what I need to do to make the best decisions for the kids, the family and myself. The entire process can take some time and each step is done with prayer.
These are the eight steps I take to work out what we will be doing in the upcoming year.
- Determine priorities.
- Consider what is working.
- Think about what needs to change.
- Look into available options.
- Discuss as family.
- Determine what will be using.
- Purchase anything needed.
- Plan the yearly schedule.
I think it is important for our family to determine what our priorities are for the upcoming year before we start the actual planning. This keeps us on track when making curriculum choices, choosing extra-curricular activities, scheduling and when making decisions over all. A previous blog post, “Know Your Why,” shares how we determine our priorities.
What is Working
Even though we are not finished with our current subjects, I have a good idea of what is and is not working for us right now. I have discussed with the kids what they enjoy and dislike about the materials we are using for each subject. We’ve also discussed what subjects they would like to add or remove for the upcoming year. It is also important for me to consider HOW each child learns best, since they are very different.
What Needs to Change
Next I look at each subject for things that might not be working well. This includes all the materials that we use for each, like workbooks, textbooks, maps, CD ROMS, DVDs, etc. The following list is some questions I might ask myself, and the kids, about each subject and materials.
- Were the materials easy or difficult for me to use?
- Did the materials cover what we thought it would for the subject?
- Were we happy with what was covered for the subject?
- Was the time it took to cover the subject reasonable?
Once we determine what changes are needed, I start looking into the available options. I have a good general idea of what I am looking for since the family has already discussed our priorities, what is working and what is not working. This is a list of a few of the places I check out for options that might work for us.
- Materials already in our homeschool library
- Materials already downloaded on my computer
- Blogs of other homeschoolers
- Blogs of homeschool product reviews
- Google search for subject with grade and “homeschool”
- Homeschool curriculum supply companies
- Homeschooling books that I have on hand
- Ask local homeschoolers
After picking the options that might work for us, I will do more research into the materials to see if they will be a good match. I usually pick between two and four options so we have a good selection.
Discuss as a Family
Next we sit down as a family to look over what selections we have for the upcoming year. I will printout a list of subjects and materials we are currently using. Another list I make is the subjects that we are and might be covering next with the different options of curriculum and materials. We all look over these lists and I share any information I’ve collected about the curriculum and materials, including printouts or catalogs. We share what we like or do not like and I make notes. We also go over our priorities again to be sure we are keeping them in mind while considering the materials.
Will Be Using
Once we’ve gone over all of the information as a family, I sit down to pray and make some decisions. I will review notes, look over samples online or in catalogs, pray again. I will look in our homeschool library and on my computer another time. Then I will finally make my curriculum list.
The list of curriculum is not the end of my process. Now I need to check prices, availability and shipping time before making my purchases. Next I finalize my list with purchasing price, where purchasing from, when it was purchased and the estimated delivery date. Once the ordered materials arrive I write that date on my list too. If the materials need to be downloaded I write the site’s full web address, the name of the website, the name of the materials, the date I downloaded it, the purchasing price and the storage folder on my computer.
The last step to my process is to plan and schedule the upcoming year. This includes marking my calendar for days off and vacations. Next I review each subject’s materials to figure out the best way to break it down for our schedule. This is usually done in six week chunks to fit our Year Round Homeschool schedule. Next I’ll write the basic break down that I’ve chosen in my planner for each subject.
- 125 lessons
- Test after 5 lessons
- Two review lessons
- Final test
Lessons 1 – 25 with 5 tests (six weeks + one off) 9/5-10/21
Week off for vacation 10/24-10/28
Lessons 26 – 50 with 5 tests (six weeks + one off) 10/31-12/9
Lessons 51 – 55 with 1 test (one week) 12/12-12/23
Week Off 12/26-12/30 (work holiday)
Lessons 56 – 75 with 4 tests (five weeks + one off) 01/2-2/10
Lessons 76 – 100 with 5 tests (six weeks + one off) 2/13-3/31
Lessons 101 – 125 with 5 test (six weeks + one off) 4/3-5/19
Two weeks off for vacation 5/22-6/2
Reviews with final test (one week)6/5-6/9
Once I’ve done this for each subject I plan the first six weeks in my weekly planner sheets. I also list any extras we might need like books, videos, or other supplies. I also check into field trips that might correspond to the upcoming lessons. I will review what the next six weeks might include after we’ve completed at least four of the current weeks. After each six week segment is done we take a week break, which gives me time to plan the next six weeks. We continue this until the next school year.
While finishing up the current year we have begun our steps to plan the next. It may seem like over-kill but my retired-engineer, detail-oriented loving self needs to keep on track by breaking it all down. I hope some of the ideas can help others to be prepared for the upcoming school year.
This summer we have often been asked why we are still working on “school stuff”. It is a question that I usually smile or chuckle at and reply that we are always learning. Then I get the odd looks and the “don’t you need a break” question. I explain that we do have breaks and that we enjoy homeschooling year round. We had done the traditional schedule that went along with public school when we started homeschooling. By the end of the school year we were burnt out, we had a few issues when real life crept in to our learning schedule and did not have time to do the things we had looked forward to as part of homeschooling. We took a good look at the pros and cons of year round homeschooling. The benefits were exactly what we were looking for after the previous year.
Six Benefits of Year Round Homeschooling
The benefits to year round homeschooling are different for each family. They can depend on if the family travels, if there are odd work schedules, if someone in the family has health issues, and so many other individual situations. These are the reasons we enjoy homeschooling year round.
- More Time
- Vacations & Breaks
- Real Life
- Less Burn Out
Our schedule is mostly six weeks on and one week off with a few other breaks here and there. We have more time to do the fun things we want to do. Instead of the typical 36 weeks (or 180 days) to complete our lessons we have as many as needed. We can spend time on subjects the kids are really interested in or need help with mastering.
A year round schedule gives us the flexibility that we want. My dad has some serious health issues and no longer drives. I am his primary support and primary form of transportation. This means there are days of homeschooling on the go while taking my dad here or there. This isn’t always possible so we may take the entire day off and make it up on our week off. This also gives us the chance to take vacations during the “off-season” or for a specific event we want to attend.
During the long summer break in a traditional school schedule many parents, and teachers, worry about the kids forgetting much of what they had learned. That is why the start of the school year is filled with review. Since we only take a week or two off at a time, the forgetting factor isn’t really an issue. We also skip much of the review that tends to be at the beginning of most curriculums. The material is still fresh in the kids’ minds and they are ready to start where they left off.
Vacations & Breaks
When we tell people that we homeschool year round, they often ask if we ever get a vacation. Yes, we do take vacations and breaks. Our breaks follow every six weeks of lessons, six weeks on and one week off. We usually add an extra week as our vacation time in the fall. I also leave two other weeks to “have off” just in case. These we might use for trips or events that pop up throughout the year. We have also used them in times of health crisis.
Things do not always go as planned. That is real life and it can make us adjust our schedules frequently. A car that breaks down, a sick child, a last-minute out-of-town trip, or even a medical emergency can suddenly thrust every good plan right out the window. I am one of the “sandwich generation,” which means that I help look after parents and have children that are school aged. There have been a few weeks where everything seems to happen all at once.
Less Burn Out
The first year we homeschooled we took the same breaks as traditional public school. There were a few times that we were ready to be done with learning anything, burnt out and needing a break. Since we now take a break after every six weeks of learning we have time to relax and re-energize. The kids are still interested in learning even though we’ve reached the summer and the other kids are off. We usually finish up by noon so the kids can be outside and playing by the time the neighbor kids are ready to play.
Choosing Year Round
Year round homeschooling is not for everyone. It is a choice that has to be carefully thought through for each family and their situation. We enjoy it and love the benefits choosing it has given us.