Thursday, December 10, 2015

Homeschool Encouragement

This post dedicated to my sweet friend who sent me a message a few days ago that read:

Veteran Homeschooler, are my kids ever going to stop fighting me everyday every subject, over doing any schooling.. If not, can you please lie to me so I dont' quit, at the thought of the next 15 years...

My Dear Friend, The answer is --Yes and No;

There are days and seasons and whole years that suck, the kids fight you or sickness or life in general happens and you feel like you are failing. It is an uphill battle most days but remember, the feeling of failing part is mostly in your own mind; there is always going to be a constant battle going on between seeing only your supposed failure of what you think should be being accomplished (how your homeschool doesn't measure up) verses what actually is being accomplished (I think its more than we realize).

The biggest thing I've learned about homeschooling is that it's schooling for mom too. There are lessons to be learned everyday. For me it has been a marathon of learning, as a mom, how to be consistent but creative, fun but firm, mom and teacher all wrapped into one.

Learning how to be the motivator of 4 kids when I don't even have any motivation for myself... It is a very daily commitment and when your not that type of person (me) it can be agonizing at times. Its important to stick with what you know, I have to keep reminding myself why I am doing it, I have had to learn to make goals for my kids, and teach them how to follow through. You know what it is for me; its being put into school by God as my teacher so I can demonstrate and live out life for my kids; me as their example of what to do and sometimes what not to do.

God is the perfect teacher, when we ask him to be a part of our lives he does not waste anything, when I asked him to lead me in this homeschooling journey, I did not expect that he would not only using this thing called homeschooling to grow and teach my kids, He is using it to teach me things I didn't think I had to know; yes there is the obvious, grammar rules, my multiplication tables, etc. etc. But more importantly the hidden things of the heart -- of his heart, and how to rely on him to guide me in this daily thing. I am learning patience too. 

smile emoticon I have found that the years that were hardest, at the end of those years, looking back through their work, I've realized it wasn't as bad as I thought while we were going through it and they really did learn more than I thought. Its been so good to keep things the kids do throughout the year in a box or binder, even if it looks insignificant at the time. Take some time to compile a little memory book of their year. My kids love going through them from years past. A few months back, they spent a whole day just looking through their binders together and laughing. It was very encouraging. It was supposed to be a day of school But I just let them do it, they read stories and reports from years back, they looked at pictures they had drawn, 'I'm Sorry' cards that I  had made them write to each other, little treasures- like ticket stubs from concerts and different outings we went to. It was such treasure for me to watch.

Don't be afraid to take a day off, or do something different. Yes, we have to know and follow through with state regulations, but that can be done very creatively. I remember one mom, saying that they took a whole year and just read books together. There is so much that can be done hands on and in such a better way that typical classroom experience. The choice to stay at home and teach our kids is definitely not the easy choice, the more I do this homeschooling thing the more I realize that, but its so good at the same time. 

And that's the beauty of homeschooling we have such freedom to let them grow and become the people God wants them to be. However that may look, it doesn't have to LOOK like 'school' to be educational. Always remember, what works for one family isn't necessarily going to work for yours, Its okay to do things differently.  That what makes you -YOU. God has given you gifts. He wants to use those gifts in you in your kids. You as their mom knows what is working and not working and you have been given the insight to raise them and teach them in the way they should go, to help them develop the gifts that God has put into their little lives; like a seed just waiting to be watered and tending so it can grow and produce fruit. If you don't think you have that insight all you have to do is ask. What does His Word say? Seek and you will find, ask and it will be given, knock and the door will be opened. 

Love you, May God give you the wisdom you need for today and bless your homeschooling journey. <3smile emoticon God Bless your homeschooling journey. <3 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Thanksgiving Turkey-Squash Centerpiece

 We had a Thanksgiving dinner with several homeschooling families in the area this week. Part of the activities was for each family to bring a homemade centerpiece to share on one of the tables. There were no parameters on wha tit had to be, so this is what we came up with -- a Thanksgiving turkey-squash.  I have been pretty hard up for creative ideas lately. I put it off until last minute, so I didn't have much planning or going-to-the-store prepping time.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

I look at my squash and thought, 'maybe we can do something with this', soon became 'this could look like a turkey with the right amount of creativity'.

So I looked my idea up online. Yes, it had been done before-- differently than my idea but, it helped confirm this fly by the seat of my pants plan.

We thought of real feathers but didn't have enough from our chickens, so we went for paper, I found this free printable sheet;

We printed them out on colorful card stock that I've had kicking around and proceeded to cut them out.

After that we got the concordance out and looked up verses from the Bible with the word Thanksgiving, Thanks, Thankful... We each took verses to write down on every of the feather.

The highlight of our writing was when I gave my oldest a verse from Jeremiah to look up and write down. As she was reading it she laughed and said, "Great one for thanksgiving".
I asked her to read it.

She read, Therefore all they that devour thee shall be devoured. ~ Jeremiah 30:16

I realized quickly I had given her the wrong verse number. We laughed that such a verse would accidentally pop on this project.  Needless to say it went on our turkey.

We taped all of the feathers on wooden skewers, three to four to a stick.

My youngest daughter made a turkey face by painting eyes, and making a paper beak with waddle. We just taped it on. 

We created a base for our turkey to sit on and not roll by cutting the bottom off of an empty jug of vinegar.

When sticking our feathers in the back we realized we needed to borrow Daddy's drill and it came together very quickly after that.

I like the turkey's rear end best.

Happy Thanksgiving! We all have so much to be thankful for.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Oven Baked French Toast what's for breakfast

I love sleepy mornings and big breakfasts. 

This recipe is based off of The Pioneer Woman's Baked French Toast. I found her recipe while hunting for a way to use up my few days old bread that I had made too much of before we
could eat it all.

I spiced it more and lightened it up a bit; more for the sake of saving ingredients than for making it low fat, but that is an added bonus so I don't have to feel too bad about feeding it to my family more often (sometimes once a week). It has quickly become one of our favorites. Now I find myself making extra bread so it has to be used up this way.
If you want to make something special for company I suggest using the original recipe, my version is not as decadently creamy, sweet, or buttery but good all the same.

The original recipe is a make the night ahead recipe that you can pop right in the oven. Most of the time I don't think ahead that far, but I have found that this cooks up perfectly even if I am procrastinator. So if your like me, just follow my directions at the bottom and make sure the bread and egg are mixed up gently and thoroughly and you will be fine.

If making this right away preheat oven to 350

For the french toast:

1 loaf french bread
8 eggs
2 1/2 cups whole milk (2% to make it even lighter)
1/2 C sugar
2 Tbs Vanilla Extract

~Butter a 12 in cast iron skillet or 9 x 13 pan
~Slice and rip french bread and place evenly in the pan
~Beat the eggs into a bowl and mix in, the sugar, milk and vanilla thoroughly.
~Pour this over your bread coating everything as best you can.

**If you are baking the french toast right away; Take a few minutes and gently flip the bread over bringing pieces that are on the bottom of the pan to the top so all of the pieces are evenly covered with the egg mixture. After they are coated well just level the bread with your spoon so the top is flat (without squishing) in the pan again.

** if baking in the morning, cover the pan and refrigerate it overnight.

~Set this aside and get ready to make the best part, the topping.

For the Crumb Topping: 
1/2 all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger (optional for extra spice)
1/2 stick of butter cut into pieces
~In a new bowl mix all of the dry ingredients together.
~Add the cut up butter pieces. 
~Cut these into the mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.

*This can be stored in a resealable bag in the fridge until baking time, or if your baking right away sprinkle it evenly right over the eggy bread. ~I like to lift a few pieces of the bread so some of the topping falls down under the top layer a little. 

My kids love this part; they wash their hands and get right into it, and then I let them lick their fingers while our french toast is baking.

The last and final step is baking. It needs to go in at 350, for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on if you like a softer set or a firmer crispier bake.
I serve it with our homemade maple syrup (if we have it), butter, and frozen berries (if we have them) ~the cold of the berries on the hot french toast makes a delicious combination.


Oh and if you are making this for a crowd double this recipe, it goes fast!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Second Timothy for Moms (part 1)

I love it when I do my daily Bible reading and through it the Lord speaks directly to my heart,  perfectly applying to the situation I am seeking wisdom in.

Several months ago, I began going through the book of 2 Timothy. It was amazing, almost every verse I read was relatable to my journey with homeschooling and aspects of motherhood that I had never picked up on before, issues I was feeling I needed guidance with. This post is living proof of when we seek we shall find, when we ask it shall be given. I was asking for wisdom, and overall help in the area of homeschooling and motherhood. As usual the Lord was faithful to give me that peace and wisdom I was seeking through his Word. So as I stumbled upon my notes from a few months back, meditating on them, I felt it was time to share what I learned through the first few chapters in the light of being a mom.

The book of  II Timothy is considered a pastoral epistle which is basically an instructional letter to Timothy, Paul's son in the faith. It also happens to be the last writing we have recorded that the apostle Paul wrote before his death. As it is considered Paul's last words and a teaching letter, it just makes sense that we should look into it for sound advice on how we operate our own little schools and households, learning how to teach our own children.

Chapter one beginning in verse 2 starts out right where we need to start out with, and go back to whenever we get off track, That is; Grace, mercy and peace.

Where can we find that? It tells us right after, From God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

We can only be graceful with our children after we have received the grace of God ourselves. That is our starting point. After that comes mercy; He has been so merciful in our own lives, we need to remember that for our children and be that example. And peace? The whole world is looking for peace.  I can sometimes forget where true peace comes from. I can look for it in conversation with friends, I can look for it in blogs, homeschool conferences, family, maybe even hoping peace will come with the next paycheck. Those, all being good temporary sources, will not give my heart lasting peace. The lasting peace that cannot be explained when everything looks and feels as if its falling apart, and very well may be in chaos, but I am held together because it doesn't come from variable sources--He is the source; The Lord Jesus. And that cannot be taken away from us.

Verse 3&4 I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with a pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day. Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy.
I want to be more like Paul, even with my own kids, let's ask God to put someone on our hearts that we can pray for night and day. He was thanking God for and praying for Timothy night and day...I am so thankful that God puts people in our lives like Paul whom we can depend upon their faithfulness in prayer for us.
But more importantly; we have the promise that Jesus ever lives to make intercession for us, meaning he is constantly talking to God about us, praying for us. He is for us, we have an advocate and we are never alone!

Verse 5 When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois and thy other Eunice; and I am persuaded is in thee also.
This is a special verse showing the lasting fruit of faithful lives lived  as an example in Timothy's life. A good promise and reminder in itself.

Verse 6 tells us: Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.
Paul is reminding Timothy here to not forget. We as moms, can loose sight of our gifts as we wash dishes day in and day out, with never ending piles of laundry, we can get caught up in the everyday chaos and rituals. This verse tells us to remember something... We can forget the equipping and gifting God has put in us. We can also neglect spiritual gifts that have been given to us for our edification or the edification of others. No! The gifts and our calling have been given for a reason, we can not neglect that part of our lives ....even if the house is filled with laundry.

Verse 7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
This is a huge verse for me because naturally I am a pretty fearful person. Fear of failing, fear of succeeding, fear of the unknown, fear of the future, fear of the present... Having the huge responsibility of raising four kids and educating them doesn't help..... But that fear, when it raises its ugly head, doesn't come from God. It is my own contriving mostly my putting unnecessary expectations on what I think I should be accomplishing. He, on the contrary, has given me power to face my fears, love like I ever knew possible and the sound mind to recognize those fears from reality. Living by faith instead of feelings.

Verse 8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God. Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.
I put the second part of this verse in Italics because that is what I want to focus on here. I believe that the calling God has given me is in fact from God. He has loved me and saved me and had a plan for me my whole life, before the beginning, when Jamie and I and these kids were just a thought in his mind, He gave this duty of 'Wife and Mother' to me. Not because of anything I could do or be for them but because of his own faithfulness and purposes. I couldn't even guess to know or understand them all. Its mind blowing! I can feel so inadequate at times yet, again he is always faithful to help me forget what I feel and do what he has called me to do by his grace. Its such a wonderful privilege to do what we do as moms. We need that reminder sometimes so we can treat it as such. Let's not grow tired in doing well.

There's more to take from this great book but I will stop for now and save the rest for another day. God bless you fellow moms today.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

A New Favorite Vegtable --Japanese Knotweed ...A.K.A.: Bamboo

Polygonum cuspidatum or Japanese Knotweed, I have always heard it called Bamboo. We see it everywhere  and most people hate it because of its invasive ways, but I am so excited to learn it has a purpose and even health benefits. I didn't know much about this naughty plant until the last few years where we've been learning about harvesting wild edible plants. A few months ago my daughters and I went to a talk given by Naturalist Tom Seymour at the University of Maine on harvesting wild plants. It was very helpful. My daughter has some of his books already so it was nice to meet him and listen to his spring presentation. It encouraged us greatly to keep learning about all the bounty that is available for us to simply go out and pick. After his talk, I especially wanted to make a point to try knotweed this year. We haven't been able in the years before due to forgetting about it until it was too late to harvest it.  Now that we've tried it, I'm quite impressed with its versatility. When eaten raw it has its own taste but reminds me of a cross between fiddleheads and rhubarb. We steamed up the smallest shoots like asparagus adding a little butter to them, they tasted good, but not like asparagus. I might have over cooked it a little too much because it was more mushy than I would've liked.

We have only a small window to harvest it, as you have to get is when its just coming up up to about 2 feet tall. I've looked into it and it is possible to harvest a little later but you would have to only harvest the tender tops and peel it as it gets woody. So we will be doing as much as we can with the plant in the next few weeks, including freezing it for later use so we don't get too sick of Knotweed all at once.

We found a large patch, which was easy to do, if you keep your eyes out for it you will find it. Its important to find a patch that hasn't been sprayed. Its really fun to pick. You know the knotweed is perfect when you get a nice satisfying popping sound as the tops break off easily. It was really musical as the three of us popped them to put them into our bundles yesterday.

The first recipe we tried was from a blog post, I just started following The 3 Foragers.
They have a recipe for Knotweed muffins. Which you can find here:

It was my daughter's idea to triple the recipe. The only other thing we did differently with the recipe was reduce the amount of sugar added both times to 1/3 of a cup. As you see the color of the batter in the photos below, its a little frightening-- resembling day old guacamole. But take heart its very tasty--just don't show your picky eaters the batter. Once the muffins are baked they have small greenish flecks, but are mostly nice golden color.

We are so glad we triples the recipe, they were gone the next day.

I also made a big batch of the stewed knotweed from the muffin recipe and have divided the amount I need in the recipe it into freezer bags. My daughter can take it out when she wants to make these muffins again and it will be all ready for her.  She was all excited about the idea, it did seem to take a long time to do the first part of the recipe and wait for it to cool, it will be so much better to have it ready ahead of time. 

So we tried it cooked sweet, the next thing I wanted to try was savory. The next day I made up a knotweed and venison sausage crustless quiche. I don't have any photos to show for it because the family dug into too quickly for me to get a pretty picture.

What I love about crustless quiches are the ease and quickness I can throw them together and anything goes once you get the idea.

-I just butter my cast iron frying pan.
-Chopped approx. 4 cups of knotweed into the pan (basically fill the pan half way with whatever veggie you want).
-I had venison sausage cooked and in a freezer bag so I just broke it up a bit and added about 1/2 of a cup over the knotweed.
-sprinkled about 1 cup of cheddar cheese.
-one garlic clove grated
-beat 10 eggs and 1/2 cup milk
-pour into pan
-add salt and pepper

--bake in 350 degree oven about 45 min until the eggs are firmly set.

A quick and healthy meal

To learn more about knotweed, I found this video very helpful in explaining more about the plant and the benefits:

Tomorrow I am making Strawberry Knotweed pie. Since Japanese Knotweed is such a close relative to rhubarb they say any recipe with rhubarb can be substituted with the knotweed, and they say it's actually better than rhubarb. We'll see.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Finally Springtime in Maine

Easter Sunday marked the first real day of spring for us up here; as it was the last day of sap season and the first day with the temperature above 50. I can't remember ever being so grateful for spring as I have these last few weeks it has been so long of a winter.
Here are some photos of our family enjoying the start of spring.

The traditional dyeing of Easter eggs.

Always such a looked forward tradition in our home.

Schoolwork by the fire as the last of the sap boils down. 

This was such a special moment last week when Little G sat down with Little S to give him a piano lesson.

He helped me make baked French toast this week, our new favorite breakfast food. He was so excited to handle the eggs himself... and get his hands messy in the photos below. 

We still have quite a lot of snow, but the kids were so excited this day to see the driveway clear so they could get out all of their transportation out and put them to use after the long winter.

We just love this kid.


One tough girlie.

Big box clubhouse.

Finishing a birthday cake for Daddy.

Happy birthday Daddy! We love him!
What a great birthday week and such a joy to have spring again!

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