Thursday, February 26, 2015

slow-cooker italian sausage and potato soup

I have discovered over the years that my slow-cooker is one of the best tools in my kitchen. Almost like a sous-chef doing the work and I just have to start the ball rolling. On days when I know we will be pressed for time in the afternoons this proves to be especially true. 

Wednesdays have come to be one of those kinds of days in our family. With homeschooling and ball practices leading right up until church, being intentional about gathering around the table for family dinner can be hard. 

My not-so-secret trick is to load the slow-cooker and have dinner waiting on us. Perhaps you already utilize this trick. It's really not anything new. Or perhaps, like me, it's a secret you haven't taken as much advantage of as you could.

Here is one of our favorite slow-cooker soups to gobble up on cold, wintery evenings. It's super simple. Just chop, toss and cover. Add a crisp salad or maybe a side of bread and dinner is on!

{slow-cooker Italian Sausage and Potato Soup}

  • 1 pound smoked Italian sausage cut into half moons {We love using Aidell's Italian Style Smoked Chicken Sausage in this recipe but any Italian seasoned smoked sausage would work!}
  • 3 medium russet potatoes, cut into bit sized cubes {I leave the skin on}
  • 1 medium onion, cut into bite size wedges
  • 2-14.5 ounce cans diced tomatos, undrained
  • 28-ounces chicken broth 
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder

Place all of the ingredients in your slow-cooker, give a quick stir and cover. Cook on medium low for 5 hours or until the veggies are tender. 

Serve along with a crisp salad for a yummy meal. My kiddos love to top the soup with pepper jack cheese and croutons for added flavor. 

Try this simple soup the next time you want your slow-cooker to make dinner for you. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

CC cycle 3 week 19 ::the plan

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We are recovering from a beautiful snow fall in our area and several days of being "off" the routine. In some ways, it was just what we needed. For my littlest ones, the break in routine and added excitement is harder to handle. We really do seem to thrive when we dwell in the known. The known of our routines and the known of what is expected of us. Do you know what I mean by that? Anyway, I hope that you do because this is what is fueling what we are looking to do for week 19 in our homeschool.

I have been on a quest of sorts in these last few weeks. One to restore some things to our day that had gotten pushed to the side with the excitement of holidays and the busyness of the new year. We have stopped taking the time to fully and purposefully pursue truth, beauty, goodness and wisdom. And by "we" I, of course, mean myself. As mamas, we set the tone of our home and this is particularly true of our homeschool.  As I nurture and train my children through ALL of our daily activities, my goal should be one of seeking the things of truth, beauty, goodness and wisdom.

I'm making some changes and I'm excited to share some of them with you later in the week. I pray they will bless you and challenge you in the way they have for me. It's about schedules and routines. Changing mindsets and priorities.  And it is a good thing. Trust me.

So, our plan for week 19 looks a bit different.

I'm still going to list some fun things and extensions that I have on the docket to explore together but I am also going to list more of the simple correlations that we are doing as a family to cultivate our pursuits. The stick in the sand of our studies.

On we go with week 19!

In our Morning Meeting time we are feasting on our book basket. Library books that cover the past few weeks of memory work, science books on the elements and a few poetry books as well. We pulled out a few space books from last cycle as we begin to contemplate in science this week how the heavens declare the glory of God.

We are reading By the Shores of Silver Lake for one of our read-alouds because we just love the Little House books. We are reading the correlations in Story the World: History for the Classical Child, Volume 4 to go along with this week and pulling out our Timeline cards focusing on #148 as we learn about NATO. We will read the History Highlights and Science Snippets from CC Connected {also found on the CC app!}.

My boys are still pulling out and looking at the DK Eyewitness World War I and World War II books. It's freeing to know that we can look at and read about content surrounding our current week memory work. Let your kiddos be lead by their interests in this area.

We will be drilling the memory work and my oldest will be working on his pursuit of being a memory master in this cycle. For us, that means beginning to memorize ahead to the last few weeks of material at this point and going back to the first quarter to make sure everything is staying put in his brain.

As time and freedom of our schedule allows....

Here are a few videos dealing with NATO.

The Big Picture: Why the North Atlantic Treaty Organization {via YouTube}
{view on webpage}

Crash Course: The Cold War {via YouTube}
This is a longer video that briefly highlights NATO but gives a bigger picture to the events leading up to it's creation as well as content of the Cold War. My oldest {Masters student} will be viewing this during his independent studies or along side myself so that we can have a discussion if need be.
{view on webpage}
Since my kids loved the World War II Spies book, we will read more about spying during the Cold War this week.

In science this week we will focus on Psalm 19 and this posting on Answers in Genesis is a great resource to look through as we contemplate, and hopefully lead our children to do the same, the glory that the heavens declare. {Follow link above.}

So that's about all for week 19. Check out the Pinterest board for week 19 for a few more ideas.

I hope you find joy in journey this week and take the time to contemplate the truth and beauty as you school with your children.

linking up with the Cycle 3 weekly link-up hosted by Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood

Monday, February 16, 2015

edible elements :: atomic cookies

So, I thought a snowy day off from our regular routine would be the perfect opportunity to sneak in a little review and teaching time without the kiddos really realizing it. 
And while I was at it, may as well employ cookies and chocolate to carry out my plan.
Yep, I'm sneaky like that.

When I first saw this post for atomic cookies from Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood, I knew it was one of those fun things that I wanted to incorporate into our science studies. I am so thankful for bloggers like Brandy for putting such great ideas and resources out there for us to use and enjoy. Little things like this don't have to take much time but greatly enrich this journey. Please click over on the link to see her original post but I'll quickly give you a little rundown here of what we did to make our atomic element cookies.

First, we printed out the little element flashcards {again, from the post on Half-a-Hundred Acre} and reviewed the first 12 elements of the periodic table. My Masters level son filled in the info for each element and we looked up as a group the proper number of protons, neutrons, etc. We may have broken into CC memory work song a few times;) It was a great opportunity to review the grammar we are learning and let their questions stir up a little dialectic discussion. This is still a bit of an uneasy balance for me as I have a son moving into this stage but I am learning to go with it. And sometimes I am completely shocked by the beauty of it all. {I'll save the rest of those thoughts for another post!}
 Next, we made some sugar cookies {read that: pulled some frozen dough leftover from Christmas baking that I never finished and popped them in the oven really quick} and grabbed a few other ingredients to serve as our nucleus, protons, neutrons and electrons. We went with frosting, pb chips, chocolate chips and some blue M&Ms. We then went element by element and added the corresponding number of each part of the atom to our cookies.
Here is our finished oxygen, which we all agreed was our favorite.
 After finishing our treats-that-teach {and sampling a few as well;)} we got on the Nuclear app which the boys had a blast with. I love that they can manipulate the number of protons, neutrons and elections in the atoms and "discover" new elements as they do. They like creating unstable isotopes that explode. Hey, they are boys. At least they are having great discussion about how many protons they can fit in. All in all, it's a good free app and let's you build the first 54 elements for the free price.
So, there is a peek into how we gathered a few ingredients and enjoyed some fun review time together in a way that helped us learn more about the first 12 elements.

"What are the first 12 elements of the periodic table......." ;)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

CC cycle 3 week 18 :: the plan

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Week 18 means a break week is coming! We are looking forward to our break from CC and the chance to take things a little slower in some respects but we will continue to school through. Do you other CC families take the week of CC break off entirely? Do you take advantage of doing more "fun" things or take the chance to play catch up in some areas? Curious to hear how others approach the breaks. Either way, I hope you enjoy this little break in the schedule before we dig in for the final quarter of cycle 3!

**Remember, it is NOT necessary to supplement your CC memory work. The Foundations guide is all you need! Stick in the sand. Drill, drill, drill! These ideas are just some of the many that you could use if you wanted to dig deeper but it is not needed. 

This week we will talk primarily about Pearl Harbor and the U.S. joining the Allies in World War II. We will watch the documentary, Pearl Harbor in Color, and we will also try to read as much as we can about the whole of the war as time allows.
{view on webpage}

This coloring page {found here} will be a great add-in for the younger foundations kiddos.


These are the readers we have pulled for this week. My Apprentice has already grabbed the World War II book and is going bonkers with all of the details and images. I definitely recommend this book!


In light of the elements we are memorizing, I love this fun image to show our kiddos how some of these elements are present in our bodies.
 We got this Smithsonian Magic Rocks crystal grow kit as one of our family Christmas gifts {AKA educational fun something that mom snuck in as a gift;)} so we will pull that out this week and see what we can grow to supplement our hands-on science. 
We will also try growing our own crystals using the method described here at How fun does that look?!?

And that is about all I have planned at this point for week 18. I do have some other ideas pinned on my Pinterest board cc c3wk18 so feel free to check it out if you'd like!

Thank you so much for stopping by! I'd love to hear from you in the comments:-)

linking up with the weekly cycle 3 link-up hosted by Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood

Thursday, February 5, 2015

make valentine's day special

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We love to make Valentine's Day special in our home. It's the perfect time to lavish a little extra love and attention on the littles in your life. Today I'm sharing some of the things we enjoy doing to make the holiday extra special. The best part, none of it requires too much planning or prepping. And all of the ideas are budget friendly.

So here are a few ways to make Valentine's Day special!

Sweet Treats:
One thing that my kids look forward to each year is having special love or heart themed foods for our meals and snacks. It is so easy to whip up a batch of pancakes and simply making them in the shape of a heart as you cook them. Add some chocolate chips to the batter and you can't help but please.

Here is a link to a yummy paleo pancake recipe we enjoy but any mix would work perfectly.
I love to use this pancake batter dispenser to create all kinds of shapes with our pancakes including hearts at Valentine's.

Here are some other ideas for fun heart inspired foods and treats to make for and with your kiddos.

Besides the obvious desserts of brownies or cupcakes with red and pink sprinkles, this recipe is an easy favorite in our house for Valentine's. They are a take off of the Rolo Pretzel Delight. Here is a quick run down of how to easily make a batch of your own.

Valentine Heart Pretzel Delights
chocolate hearts (either plain milk or dark or caramel filled)
pink, white and red chocolate candies
pretzel snaps (little squares)

Line up the pretzels on a cookie sheet and top each with a chocolate heart. Pop in the oven at 350 for 3-5 minutes. The chocolate should be slightly soft and melted but not running everywhere. Remove from oven and gently press a candy into the center. Cool completely before removing from the pan. I usually pop them in the fridge to help harden them up. Easy and yummy!

Shower your kids with love:
Another way we try to make Valentine's day special is to focus intentional attention on each of our children. As a homeschooling family, we are all together so much of the time but yet it is very easy to get caught up in the tidal waves of the days and miss opportunities to spend focused time together. Valentine's Day is a great opportunity to shower our kiddos with love and affection. 

I love this idea for a "how do I love thee?" banner from Jones Design Company to create for each of your children. We did this last year and my kids just beamed to read the various ways we love them individually for who God has created them to be. It is so sweet to watch the banner grow each day and purpose to celebrate each of your kiddos for the gift that they are. 

Create your own cards:
Another idea for making this holiday sweet is to create special cards for each member of your family as well as for others in your life. Pull out the craft box and let your children simply create. It is amazing what beautiful creations they come up with using just a few supplies that you most likely already have on hand. This stained glass Valentine card is really cute and simple for kids to make. Here are some cute Valentine Heart Fingerprint ideas to dress up your cards. A quick search online will bring up all kinds of free printables as well. The options are only limited by your imagination. 

On Valentine's Day, sit down and share your cards and special treats with one another. This has become such a favorite holiday in our home over the years and I hope that a few of these ideas may help you create a festive spirit in your home in the coming weeks.

How do you make Valentine's Day special in your home? I'd love to hear your ideas. Please feel free to share in the comments!


Monday, February 2, 2015

how we use flashcards to drill history memory work

I thought I would take a few moments to share how our family drills the History memory work for CC using homemade flashcards.
There are several great ideas floating around out there and this is the way that we are making it work for our family. Just thought I'd share in the hopes that it may help some of you as well.

Have you noticed that cycle 3 History sentences have quiet a variety of dates to be memorized?  I was noticing for myself, as well as my kiddos, that keeping the correct date in mind was a little challenging as we drilled and reviewed our memory work at home. I have seen ideas for flashcards with picture prompts and date prompts all over the social media sites. When it came down to it, I thought that prompting our sentences by the dates would be most helpful in our case.

So, I grabbed a handful of index cards and got busy writing. There is a card for each week of the memory work with the date featured in the sentence written in Sharpie on the back of the card. On the lined side is written out the actual History sentence. I have highlighted the Memory Master prompt for each sentence so that we don't get confused or simply forget what each sentence is meant to focus on.

To drill, my older Masters student goes through the cards in random order and reviews the sentences by the dates. He is finding that he can remember the dates easier now since he is seeing the dates in a very visual way as he goes through the sentences. It is also helping me tremendously to keep the dates straight in my head. Even my younger two foundations students are able to jump in and recite the sentences just from hearing the dates called out.
Today we played a little game by having one person show the date side of the card and see who could recite the sentence that went with it. If they could, they kept the card. If not, someone else got a shot. We went through all of the cards and declared the player with the most cards the History Champ!

It's a fun and inexpensive way to drill your History memory work in a slightly different way. Hope it may help some of you all in the way it has helped us!


Sunday, February 1, 2015

CC cycle 3 week 17:: the plan

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Week 17 is upon us and this quarter is quickly coming to an end. Whew! What a fast few weeks!
Here are just a few plans I have in mind for this week in our home studies.
**Remember, it is NOT necessary to supplement your CC memory work. The Foundations guide is all you need! Stick in the sand. Drill, drill, drill! These ideas are just some of the many that you could use if you wanted to dig deeper but it is not needed. 

This week we will try our best to fit in as much about President Wilson and WWI as we can.
There is a Crash Course Video on World War I which we will likely watch. 

This short video gives good background on Wilson and his decision to go to war and references the sinking of the Lusitania. (warning: there is a bit of language)
{view on webpage}

I will add this coloring page of Wilson found here to our binders.
We will also use this visual to show the division of Europe during the war and highlight several of the important events of the war. 

We will use these 2 readers to highlight 2 aspects of  WWI. 


We will keep on drilling the Periodic Table and using our flashcards and other ideas listed in the Week 16 post which you can find here.

We are loving this jazzy tune put together by a CC mom on YouTube to help us memorize. It is helping me tremendously! Check out the link!

For more ideas, check out my Pinterest board for cc3wk17!

linking up with the weekly cycle 3 link-up at Half-a-Hundred Acre Wood