Friday, January 29, 2016

Pizza Pockets

With six young children I am always on the lookout for simple, quick, and filling meals. These pizza pockets definitely fit the bill. Using store bought pie crust cuts the prep time for these pizza pockets down considerably.

Pizza Pockets

2 boxes of refrigerated pie crusts, cut into fourths
1 lb mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup pizza sauce
Toppings of your choice (I went with olives, bell peppers, and pepperoni)

On each section of pie crust add 1Tbsp pizza sauce, 1-2 Tbsp mozzarella, and any toppings of your choice. Fold into triangles and seal the edges with the tines of a fork. Cut a steam hole in the top of each "pocket" and brush with an egg wash. Bake 375 for 15-20min till golden brown.

These pockets are extremely easy to make and very easy for the children to eat. It does take me a few minutes longer to make the "pockets" rather than regular pizzas. They however are a fun twist to our regular pizza night and can be frozen ahead of time for easy lunches and snacks. I can not wait to try a chicken pot pie version next week!

As I have said before I am not a chef or a photographer. Just a busy mom with hungry children and a budget to maintain. I would love to hear your quick and easy lunch options!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Homemade Hot Chocolate


We have a snow day tradition in our family. Hot chocolate is an absolute must!

With 6 children you can imagine the volume of prepackaged hot chocolate mix we would need each winter. I have looked through countless recipes for a homemade hot chocolate recipe and always came up short. That is until I asked my mother for her recipe. I should have known she would have the perfect, simple, and yummy recipe.
Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp Cocoa Powder

Mix the sugar and cocoa powder together and store in an air tight container.

When you are ready to make hot chocolate add 1 Tbsp of mix per 1 cup of milk. Heat through on the stove top and serve warm.

So very simple and delicious. Almost makes me want more snow days. Almost.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Spelling Centers

Our family has chosen to use Horizon's Spelling Curriculum this year. We have been working our way through the workbooks for the last five months and have nothing but positive things to say about them.  We however quickly realized that our 9 year old daughter needed some extra hands on activities to help her memorize the correct spellings. I knew that more workbooks or worksheets was not going to work. I did some quick searching online and realized that spelling centers would be the best fit for our family.

I was able to put together 4 spelling centers while browsing through a local educational supply store. I assign spelling centers each day after she finishes her spelling worksheets. We have found that being able to "play" with the words and have to actively search for the correct letter to complete the activity really helps to cement the words into her memory.

First we have play dough spelling! I don't know about your family but in our house play dough is a seriously hot commodity. I purchased a small package of 4 different colors of play dough as well as a set of alphabetical and numerical play dough stamps. We use this spelling center at the beginning of each week when she gets her new word list as well as at the end of the week after her spelling test to review the words she has missed. She loves this center!


Our second spelling center is puzzle words! The letters are stickers that fit together to form words. The kids love these things. I am not all that thrilled with the little pieces of paper from the backing all over the floor or that they are a consumable resource. I will have to buy more as time goes on, especially for the vowels. I am thinking this spelling center will be phased out and a new one added in soon. Possibly a salt tray activity.

Next up is spelling center three. This time we have magnetic words. This "iPad" comes with all of the letters and a magnetic board. She works through the words and adds them to the "screen". She and I both really like this center as well. It is quick for her to find the letters, not messy or consumable,  and she likes playing with the set.

Lastly we have a beading activity. These alphabetic beads thread perfectly onto a pipe cleaner to form the words. This activity is more time consuming and has the propensity to be a bit messy. Especially if the younger kiddos decide they need to work on their fine motor skills as well. I use this spelling center on the day before her spelling test. I have her work on just the words she has been having trouble with through the week. That is usually anywhere from 2 to 6 words. Much more manageable than the 15 words she works on each week.

I love that these centers can be used by all of our children regardless of their grade level. Our preschooler can work on his ABC's, our first graders can work on their CVC words, and the older girls can work on their separate spelling lists. When you have five children all working on separate grade levels it is important to have items with the versatility to transition between each of them.

Do you use spelling centers? I would love to hear about them! We are working on setting up math centers in the near future. I can't wait to share those with you as well!

Monday, January 11, 2016

I have to teach math?!

Years ago when we were considering homeschooling one thing made me pause. Teaching math. I have a hate/hate relationship with math. I can remember sobbing my way through my math homework as a child. I some how managed to get through several upper level math classes in high school with straight A's....which is hilarious when I then tell you I had to take remedial math in college before I could move on to college level math classes. Seems if you took away my calculator I was useless.

When we decided to homeschool I knew math was going to be one of the hardest areas for me to teach. I just do not like it. My kids do not like it. My husband does not like it. No one I know likes it. Yet we still have to learn it.

I set out to find a way to teach math that didn't end up with us all sobbing our hearts out over a workbook. This was easy enough for the little ones. Our preschoolers through first graders count things around the house, do addition and subtraction with beans, start to tell time, play with pretend money, etc. Simple. Done.

Not nearly that simple with our 9 yr old. She is learning her multiplication tables, division, fractions, and currency. Getting harder but still doable with simple hands on activities completed with a pack of princess playing cards and some dice.  I have a post in the works concerning how we teach 4th grade math without a curriculum. I hope to be able to share it with you very soon!

Then we get to the more advanced elementary level of seventh grade math. I was asked recently "What happens when she gets to the hard stuff? The stuff you do not know?". This may shock some people but she got to "the hard stuff" in 5th grade. I have passed multiple college level math classes and still struggle with 7th grade math. I didn't remember how to change an improper fraction into a mixed number or how to solve a ratio problem. These are all things I had to relearn (or learn for the first time!) with her as she went along.  I quickly decided we needed someone to teach us how to do these things. We decided to go with Teaching Textbooks. There is a lecture, self grading work, and then help with problems that we just can not get right.

We sit down with her Teaching Textbook CD's and "take the class" together. We listen to the lecture together and then work the practice problems. We have even started racing to see who can get the correct answer first. After seeing the lecture once I am usually able to get the correct answer to the problems. There are times however when we are both stumped. We just have no idea how to complete the problem. Luckily the CD's have an option to not only see the answer but to have the problem explained and then worked out on screen for us. That has been a major help for both of us.

I am not going to say I like teaching math. I still hate it. I schedule it for first thing in the morning or we just will not do it. I have however realized that I can teach math. I do not have to know every aspect of math equations and procedures. Just like every other subject there will always be things that I do not know.

That is okay.

I am not supposed to know everything about everything. I am simply supposed to be a conduit for knowledge. I may not know the answers but I do know how to find them. There will always be amazing people out there who love things like calculus and trigonometry. It is my job to find them and to learn from them right along side our children.

I hope that through the years our children will learn that the pursuit of knowledge is just as important as the memorization of facts.  They will never be finished learning and someone will always know more than they do. They only fail if they stop pursing the knowledge they are missing. No one is a better example to them on this topic than me trying to learn math. I am willing to show my vulnerability to my children on a daily basis if it means they will learn that the pursuit of knowledge is never finished.

Yes, I have to teach math and we will all survive!

Do you have to teach a subject you dislike or do not understand? I would love to hear how you go about it! Please share with us!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Our Unit on France!

We have officially completed our study of France! I have to say this was one of my favorite units. I have always been drawn to France and the romanticized culture. We may have went a bit overboard with this two week unit!

We began by collecting our read alouds. We chose a historical fiction, 2 biographies, and a classic children's book. 

The Lacemaker and the Princess is a historical fiction set during the French Revolution.
Who was Marie Antoinette? Was a wonderful biography to read along with the Lacemaker. It covers the Queens life from birth through her death during the French Revolution.
Who was Claude Monet? Again I love this series! This was a well done biography of his life.
Madeline. Come on! A study of France with such young children would not be complete without this classic children's story!

I encourage our children to draw or color while listening to the read alouds. I have found it helps to keep them focused on what we are reading.  I have to say I love this portrait of Marie Antoinette.

While reading the the biography of Monet the girls attempted to recreate some of his master pieces. I cut apart a small calendar filled with prints made from his artwork.  The girls chose which paintings they wanted to recreate and went to work. I wasn't brave enough to bring out the paints so we worked with chalk pastels.

After we finished trying to recreate his work we put together an art wall in the school room. I have to say I could get used to having this type of artwork around each day!

What is a unit on France without the Eiffel tower?  We attempted to make the Eiffel tower out of pretzel sticks and marshmallows. I say "attempted" because we were VERY bad at this. None of us actually managed to get even the base up. I am not sure how people do this on pinterest. It takes some serious patience!

While we are on the subject of food lets talk about our themed meal for this unit. I was not quite up to a giant French feast. After spending some time researching French recipes I decided I needed an easy out on this one. I thought a European cheese tasting would be a great idea. It turns out I was right! The kids (and adults) really liked this project. We chose cheeses from throughout Europe while making sure to chose items from our family heritage as well. The girls drew and colored the flags for each country.

One of the benefits of studying European countries during the Christmas season would have to be all of the shipping boxes that find their way into our home. Our children received gifts from several family members which meant LOTS of boxes. We cut apart the boxes and turned them into a pint sized castle!

Lastly, my husband collects currency from each of the countries he visits. We were able to find quite the stash of Euro's to investigate and go pretend shopping with.

Overall I would have to say we had a great two weeks studying France! I am looking forward to moving on to Germany however. I have big plans for our new unit of study!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Motivating a Reluctant Writer

When it comes to writing any type of assignment I am usually met with extreme resistance. Especially by our 9 year old daughter. She is dealing with dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalcula. Add on top of that ADHD and being far sighted....yeah....sitting down to write a long assignment is going to go over like a lead balloon. 

I have found that the best way to motivate her to write isn't to assign copy work or research papers. It is to instead assign creative writing work. She is such an imaginative little girl who loves making "books" for her sisters. Why not harness that interest and use it for her school work?

You can find a million free writing prompts on pinterest for creative writing work. This is normally my go to point for creative writing prompts. We however were blessed to receive a free digital copy of Welcome to Mooville: Adventures in Writing  a few months ago. It has been sitting on my hard drive waiting for an "empty" month.

 I decided to try it out last month and was very pleased! The author breaks the work down into bite sized portions per lesson. Each lesson then feeds into the next until in the end you have the complete story written. Perfect for the reluctant and distracted writer!

We alternate our creative writing with our grammar worksheets. This means we complete 2 creative writing days per week. With this time frame they spent just over a month working on their stories. After you spend 5 weeks working on a story you want some recognition! We decided to "publish" their stories in grand fashion. The squealing from our 9yr old was quite dramatic! To say she was thrilled would be an understatement!

This was extremely simple to "publish". I found some old folders in my stash, dug out the page protectors and the tape and we got to work. The girls completed the cover sheet for their "books" and taped it to the front of their folders.

Then they slid their completed pages into their page protectors and put them into their folders. We used the folders with the little metal tabs meant for 3 hole punched papers (what are those folders called anyways?). Our 9 yr old felt everyone needed to know some information about her main character before they started reading her story.

The girls had a wonderful time working on the illustrations for their books.


Lastly she added her farm map. I mean you have to know where you are going right?


She is so thrilled with her "published" story that we will definitely have to  stock up on folders and page protectors in the future! Just don't tell her how much writing, grammar, spelling, and fine motor work she accomplished. She may never forgive me!


Friday, January 1, 2016

Blogging into the New Year!

The New Year always triggers some introspection in our home. This year is no different. I have given a lot of thought to the subject matter and direction our blog has taken over the years.

When we started the blog in 2008 we were a young married couple with 2 small children trying desperately to get out of debt and find a secure financial footing.

We then transitioned to a large family learning how to juggle life and finances.

Then we changed it up again to a large homeschooling family on a budget.

We have covered everything from recipes, budgets, frugal ideas, homeschooling topics, decorating, and more. I have been trying to decide if I want to "streamline" our blog to just one topic in the future. I do not want our blog to be a mishmash of topics and confusing to new readers. With this in mind I have considered moving to a new blogging platform and streamlining our topic focus.

After a lot of thought I have decided I like to organic nature of our blog. I like seeing how our family has changed and grown over time. Our blog's title "One Mama's Journey" seems fitting even more today than it did in 2008. This blog has been an online chronicle of our changes, challenges, and setbacks through the years. I see no reason to change that now. I will continue to use this blog as a place to share our adventures and struggles throughout the years. This blog will never be a "how to" or an amazing collection of gourmet recipes with amazing professional pictures. Rather it will be a unique view point into the ever changing lives of a family.

I will however begin to work on blog organization more at this point. I do realize that finding old posts on certain topics can be difficult on our current platform. Stay tuned for some blog upgrades and changes!

If you have any specific suggestions I would love to hear them! Sometimes we are so close to a topic that we can no longer see the forest for the trees.

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