Thursday, January 26, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up - The Great Space Race!

These past two weeks we've done a mini-unit on The Great Space Race: its' beginnings, its' present and its' future.

It was the perfect time to break out those pictures of our trip to Kennedy Space Center!

Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center

Some of our readings:

Selected readings on Space.  (Citizens of the Galaxy was also a Literature selection)
Selected readings on Space.  (Citizens of the Galaxy was also a Literature selection)

And what study of space wouldn't be complete without a homemade solar system hanging in your living room?  What a fun way to revisit Astronomy!
Homemade Solar System!
Homemade Solar System!

Join us next time for the Vietnam War!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Once-a-Month Cooking Tips

There's been quite a favorable response to Once-A-Month Cooking!  I'd like to answer some of the questions I've gotten and offer some helpful tips in getting the most out of your assembly day without dropping from exhaustion!

*If you are cooking with a friend or two - divvy up the prepping responsibilities.  I can't stand deboning chicken.  My two partners don't mind.  So, in exchange for doing the chicken, I handle the cheese, onions and ground beef.

*Brown all necessary ground meat and cook and debone all chicken you will need prior to assembly day.  This is just too much work to do the day of!!!

*Chop all onions and peppers prior to assembly day.  To really make life easier, if you have a food processor, process all onions and freeze them in 1 cup clumps.  Nothing makes things easier on assembly day than reaching into the cooler and grabbing premeasured clumps to pop into your recipe!

*Grate cheese prior to assembly day as well.  If you have a food processor, it'll definitely make things go faster.   But, you can still grate large amounts with old fashioned graters and extra helping hands.  My daughter and I grated 20 cups of cheese in about an hour.

*If you are cooking on your own and it seems that assembling it all on one day is too much, do it over a series of days.  Chop all veggies and grate all cheese first.  Then, handle the meats.  Assemble all Chicken dishes on one day and then do the ground meat/other meat recipes on another day.  

*Make your own cream soup.  It's easy, cheap and healthier too!  To make 1 cup (= 1 can) Cream soup:

*Melt 3 Tbsp butter over medium heat.
*Add 1/4 tsp salt and stir
*Stir in 3 Tbsp flour of your choice and blend well.
*Add 1 cup of water or milk of your choice or chicken broth
*Increase heat and stir until thickened.

After it's thickened, (depending on the recipe), I like to add garlic powder, mushrooms (if it's for Cream of Mushroom soup) or grated cheese.

This recipe can easily be made for those gluten free needs!  (Do this prior to assembly day)

*1 lb of raw ground meat = 2 1/2 cups of browned ground meat.

*The night before the big session, make sure you have non-perishables laid out.  If you will be cooking at someone else's home, make sure you also have coolers handy to pack up the perishables.

*The morning of, eat a good breakfast!!!!  Pack power snacks and take mini-breaks when necessary.  But, don't sit too long or else you won't want to get up!!!

*Leave major clean up for the morning after!

*A few things to consider as you are planning your own assembly session:

  - Shop the sales and plan your meals around things that are on sale.  If it's around Thanksgiving, plan more turkey based meals, etc, etc.

  - Don't be afraid to try new recipes and tweak them as necessary.

  - Be flexible with your list of recipes.  No matter how well you plan, there's always too much of one ingredient and not enough of another.  Have fun creating something new!

After your hard days work, enjoy the fruit of your labor!

Also:  Why Once-a-Month Cooking and Today's Once-a-Month Cooking Session

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Today's Once-a-Month Cooking Session!

Today I was up bright and early.  It was assembly day at my cooking partner Jen's house.  With kids, prepped items and a good attitude in tow, we arrived at 9 am.

After setting up and getting a plan of attack in place, assembling commenced at 9:30 am!

Our Cycle 2 menu consisted of:

White Chili
Chicken and Spinach Bake
Ham dinner slices
**Herbed Chicken
Pizza roll-ups
BBQ Pork and Beans
Crockpot Chix and veggies
Sweet and sour chicken
Salsa beef casserole
Crockpot Chicken creole
Enchilada casserole
Upside-down Fettuccini Bake
Italian Sausage and Spinach Pie
Santa Fe Chicken
Chicken Potato Casserole
Smothered Burritos
German dinner
Chicken Pesto Casserole
Pork Chops on Rice
Sesame Glazed Chicken
Vegetable Soup with Meatballs
Chicken Supreme
Freezer Coleslaw with Ham
Apricot-Glazed Pork Roast
French Stew
Ranch Chicken Loaf
*Tator Tot Casserole

*Due to a ground turkey mix-up (needing 2 lbs of raw ground turkey that mistakenly got cooked), we had extra ground turkey left.  Which resulted in a spur of the moment Tator Tot Casserole

** Due to a miscalculation in chicken breasts, this dinner didn't get made.

Sometimes things work out and sometimes there are mistakes.  When you do OAMC, you need to be flexible and be willing to change things up when needed.  Expect the unexpected!!

Our Master Shopping List for Cycle 2 (to make x2 each meal):

Ground turkey-cooked 12lbs 
Ground turkey-raw 2lb
Ham-slices 17 slices
Ham-cubed 8c
Chicken-cooked/chopped 34c
Chicken parts 12lbs
Chicken breasts 9lbs + 12 breasts
Pork Chops 12 chops
Pork roast 7 lbs
Pork meat 2 lb
Beef Stew Meat 6 lbs
Bratwurst 3 lb
Italian sausage 4 lbs
bacon 1 pkg
Eggs 20
Cheddar Cheese 15 cups
Mozzarella Cheese 13c
Ricotta 12 oz
Cottage Cheese 72 oz
Monteray Jack Cheese 7c
Swiss 2c
Parmesean cheese 2c
"Milk" 2 1/2 c
1/2 and 1/2 2c
sour cream 5c
Green Pepper 4 whole + 3.5c chopped
Red Pepper 4 whole + 1.5c chopped
Onion 25 c chopped
Potatoes 8 potatoes
Red skins 2 lb +8 potatoes chopped
garlic 20 cloves
baby carrots 4c
grated carrots 5c
apples 2lb chopped
zucchini 2c chopped
celery 4c chopped
large tomato 2 large chopped
green onions 8 grn onions chopped
shredded cabbage 4lbs
lemon juice 3 tbsp
Turkey meatballs 24oz
pie shells 4 shells
hash browns 11 c
peas 2c
spinach 40 oz
mixed veggies 1BIG BAG
rice 1c
bread dough 2 loaf (Lisa will make)
flour tortilla12
corn tortilla 16 +
Lasagna 16oz
Fettucini 16oz
kidney 30oz
black beans 60oz
pinto 30oz
great northern 2c
refried beans 2c
Cream Mushroom soup 6 (Lisa will make)
Cream Chicken soup4 (Lisa will make)
Beef Broth 4 cans
Chicken Broth 4 cups
Tomato sauce 124 oz
Salsa 60oz +2 jars
Diced tomatoes 192oz
tomato paste 36oz
Enchilada sauce 54 oz
Taco sauce 2c
ketchup 2c
mushrooms 32oz
black olives 8 oz
pesto 6 oz
Alfredo sauce 32oz
apricot preserves 16oz
tapioca 1/2 c
coke/pepsi 2c
orange juice 2c
white wine 2c
tortilla chips 4c
ranch flavored tort. Chips 1.5c
oil 10 tbsp
mayo 1.5c
ranch dressing 4 tbsp
butter 14 tbsp
sesame seeds 4 tsp
brown sugar  2 cup
italian seasoning
chili powder
sugar 2c
dijon mustard
creole or Cajun season.
bay leaf
mustard seed
bread crumbs 1c
celery seed
soy sauce
garlic powder
Apple Cider Vinegar 4tbsp
white vinegar


Total cost:  about $165!

We finished at 6:00 pm and spent the next 1/2 hour cleaning up, and packing up.  

Now to put my feet up and have a nice cup of tea!

To read more about how to do Once-a-Month Cooking and download a free week's menu cycle, please go read Why Once-A-Month Cooking.

Next time:  Hints to help you prep for a smooth 'Assembly Day'!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What an Honor to be a Part of the Top 100 Homeschool Blogs!

Today I received word that Homeschool Circus was chosen to be a part of the Top 100 Homeschool Blogs on The Teacher Certification Degrees Website!

Homeschool Circus is in the Top 100 Homeschool Blogs!
Homeschool Circus is in the Top 100 Homeschool Blogs!

"While their motivations and methods may vary, those who travel parallel homeschool paths are united by a passion to be active participants in and witnesses to the education of their children. The homeschool blog community plays a big part in making the journey a little less lonely as its members offer support along each step of the way."

I am thrilled to be listed with many other great homeschool blogs worldwide.  Each blog has it's own flavor, so, click on over and take a look!!!

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Goal Planning Monday-January 16

Goal Planning Monday

It's time again to set some goals for this coming week with Katrina of Mama Manuscripts!

Looking back on last week's goals:

1.  Devotions first thing in the morning with kids. DONE!

2.  Walk at least 1 hour per day. Due to illness - only 3 days

3.  Eat at least 75% raw foods per day.  Due to illness - only 3 days

4.  Write up review for "Learn Our History" and finish Swan Lake Lapbook  DONE!

5.  Visit and comment on the other GPM participants. Almost done!

This week as we get back on track:

1. At least walk every day

2.  Up my raw foods intake

3.  Write up 2 posts I have in mind

4.  Visit and comment on the other GPM participants.

5.  Implement yet another change to our schedule.

6. Shop for a Once a Month Cooking-a-Thon

How about you?  What are your goals this week?  Link up for accountability!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

We Have a Winner!

Thank you to all who entered to win The Swan Lake CD from Maestro Classics and corresponding lapbook from A Journey Through Learning!
Swan Lake Maestro Classics
Swan Lake Lapbook

Using, our winner is: 17!  Congrats Hosanna!  I'll be contacting you shortly!!

Swan Lake Lapbook from A Journey Through Learning Review!

Swan Lake Lapbook
Swan Lake Lapbook

We've used lapbooks off and on during our 9 years of homeschooling.  My oldest who's very analytical doesn't really care to do them.  However, my social 5th grader and my artistic 3rd grader really enjoy this hands-on-learning method.  Throughout the years, we've done just about every subject  - literature, geography, science, math and fine arts.  It's amazing what you can do with paper, scissors, glue, files, staples, brads and a good guide!

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing Maestro Classics The Story of Swan Lake CD with my children.  It was an enjoyable way to learn more about the music, the composer and the story behind it all.

Following on these heels, I discovered that A Journey Through Learning has also created a lapbook which specifically ties into Maestro Classics' Swan Lake CD.

How wonderful!  I knew my 3rd grade daughter would LOVE this.

"Product Description

This 3 folder lapbook is especially made to go along with the Maestro Classics's The Story of Swan Lake. This purchase is for the lapbook only. Visit Maestro Classics to purchase "The Story of Swan Lake" Stories in Music CD.

In the tradition of Peter and the Wolf, Maestro Classics presents the beautiful music of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, conducted by Stephen Simon, with a narration written by Maestro Simon telling the story of this famous ballet. Even if you have not seen the ballet, the music and story will delight you.

The Story of Swan Lake is the tale of a prince who falls in love with a beautiful princess. The princess, however, has been turned into a swan by an evil magician, and only the prince's love can break the spell. Additional tracks about "Tchaikovsky Wrote a Great Ballet" sing-along, transform this into a modern classic."

As I said earlier, we are no strangers to the lapbooking world.  One of the things we have enjoyed about lapbooking is the flexibility to go at your own pace, to choose which elements to use (or not) and the endless color combinations.

Usually we copy our pages onto colored paper.  For a change of pace, my daughter requested we use plain white paper and color the elements together.

It sounded like a great plan to me!!

Upon first inspection of the Swan Lake Lapbook, I immediately notice the very well laid out diagrams throughout the guide showing the parent/student exactly where to place each element in the assembled lapbook.

I also notice that the study guide information for each subject covered is right with its' corresponding element.  There's no need to go rooting through the guide matching information with its' activity.  In a busy household, this is really appreciated!

Topics in this lapbook include:
History of the Waltz, Swans, Crossbow, Music Theory, Tchaikovsky, Ballet and more.

In the first activity,  the student learns the history of the Waltz and via direct links gets to view an actual Waltz and Polonaise.

Waltz booklet for Swan Lake Lapboo
Waltz booklet for Swan Lake Lapbook
After reading the study guide and watching the dance, the student then cuts out the corresponding booklet, fills in the information they have learned and then looking at the diagram on the same page, pastes it to the lapbook.

This continues for 21 activities and varies from element to element.

As with most lapbooks, Swan Lake is also flexible and adaptable.  For the activity on Magic Spells (which is a part of the ballet itself), we opted to write a scripture on what the Bible says about witchcraft instead of answering the question, "What do you think was the spell Von Rothbart placed on his daughter."

You also have the choice on whether to assemble the file folders into a lapbook and paste the booklets (elements) in as you go, or, wait to do it at the end.  We choose to do the pasting at the end.  If you go this route, make sure you hang on to the little guide pictures on each page that tell you where the booklet is placed.

If you've never made a lapbook before, no need to fret.  A Journey Through Learning gives you step by step pictures with instructions!
How to make a lapbook.  Step 1: Tri-fold file folder
 How to make a lapbook.  Step 1: Tri-fold file folder
How to make a lapbook.  Step  2
Repeat 2 more times

How to make a lapbook.  Step 3
Spread glue on the flaps of the middle folder.
Line folders up and press one side of file folder #1 and #3 to the glued sides of file folder #2.  Allow time for glue to dry
Line folders up and press one side of file folder #1 and #3 to the glued sides of file folder #2.  Allow time for glue to dry

My daughter and I enjoyed our special time together -- and don't tell her, but, she learned a lot in the process!
Finished Swan Lake lapbook!
Finished Swan Lake lapbook!

A Journey Through Learning  offers other lapbooks in a variety of genres, unit studies, copywork and more.

Disclaimer:  I received a lapbook free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up (Civil Rights Movement & The Kennedy Years)

Coinciding with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we spent this past week learning more about the Civil Right Movement, and JFK.

Selected reading - Books on John F. Kennedy (JFK)
Selected reading - Books on John F. Kennedy (JFK)
Selected reading - Books on the US Civil Right Movement, and Martin Luther King Jr
Selected reading - Books on the US Civil Right Movement, and Martin Luther King Jr

Because of when I was born, I still remember some of the left over "social issues" still prevalent in my elders' way of thinking.  My kids cannot relate to this at all.  All they have ever known is that 'all men are created equal'.  The story of Ruby Bridges (for example) is unfathomable to them.  They had a hard time believing that that was the way people behaved!!

My boys added to their Modern American History lapbook as well:

Civil Rights elements for the Modern American History Lapbook. with "a letter to my congressman regarding Civil Rights" AND "What my Civil Rights Book would be titled and three key points it would cover."
Civil Rights elements for the Modern American History Lapbook. with "a letter to my congressman regarding Civil Rights" AND "What my Civil Rights Book would be titled and three key points it would cover."

A letter to my congressman addressing Civil Rights and Racial Equality
A letter to my congressman addressing Civil Rights and Racial Equality

In between beginning the new year (we are over 100 days into our school year!) and starting our extra curricular activities this week flew by!

Join us next time for the Space Race! 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Learn Our History - Birth of a Revolution DVD Review

Learn Our History
Learn Our History

Ages 6+
Join the time traveling teens as they venture all the way back to Boston, Massachusetts in the 1700's to find out the causes of the American Revolution.

In this fascinating Learn Our History film, you'll discover how the American colonists joined forces to revolt against British taxation and oppression, ultimately leading to the Revolutionary War.

Learn Our History is currently offering "Columbus and The Great Discovery" DVD as a special introduction to the Learn Our History series.  The title can be purchased for $9.95 (plus shipping).  Plus receive "Birth of a Revolution " FREE.  Purchasing a DVD also provides the ability to stream the title directly from within the customer's account on the Learn Our History website to view on a computer, iPad, iPod, etc. 

Learn Our History

Our experience:

I reviewed Birth of a Revolution and a bonus episode about 9/11 with my 13, 10 and 8 year olds.

While Learn our History does a nice job of presenting the facts in an easy to follow storyline, the teen characters leave much to be desired!

Done in simplistic animation, the characters treat each other much like you would expect out in the 'real' world.  There's plenty of rude interactions such as calling one another "whimp", "geek", "stupid", etc.  At one point the bully of the story (who incidentally wears a "I rule, you drool" t-shirt) speaks in a sarcastic and threatening tone to his sister and classmates.  Equally disturbing is the mother of the bully who allows this  behavior to continue as she sweet talks her son who's upset to be stuck with the "nerd herd", "bunch of losers" and "crew of thumb suckers".

The characters' poor behavior detracts from the actual story.  My kids were so turned off that they didn't want to continue watching the video inspite of the relevant historical facts it contained.  

You can read more about Learn Our History at their website

Disclaimer:  I received this DVD free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

4 Days to a Forever Marriage Book Review

4 Days to a Forever Marriage
4 Days to a Forever Marriage

"Is it really that simple --- love or anger?

Sure.  The secret is in navigating the choices in a way that fosters read and meaningful communication.  No time limit or special resources required - this is a solution for everyday marriage, dealing with the messy to the mundane, all with the goal of making sure you get the marriage you want and need.

What Makes this Book Different

*Offers a non-situational approach that can work for any marriage.  Seriously - any marriage!  Master these two responses and it will help you survive life's crises with your relationship even stronger than before.
*Expertise form years of experience mentoring and counseling thousands of couples with all ranges of challenges - the Smalley's have seen and heard it all.

*Tips from an experienced couple who have survived multiple marriage seasons of their own:  courtship, early challenges, raising children, health, ministry and even financial pressures.

*An honest, open presentation from a ministry focused for decades on achieving marital success.

Special Book Features:
 *  Practical steps for him and for her - with a great mix of helpful biblical wisdom.
 *  A two-person perspective from Gary and Norma - giving both sides of the issues from their          own challenges and the insight that helped them resolve it.
  *  Directed introspection for you at the end of each chapter - and specialized guidance for every season of marriage.
 *  Tweet-style insights sprinkled throughout - quick and easy tidbits for your daily inspiration!
  *  Advice for:  finding time to speak with your spouse, romantic ideas for $20 of less, Smalley fighting rules, the power of dreams, and much more!"

4 Days to a Forever Marriage is composed of 4 primary chapters that are each broken down into a section for the husband and for the wife.  Also included are reflections and separate questions for each to work through on their own and then to discuss.

Chapter topics include:

*Loving Words and Actions

*Communication and Resolving Anger

"If a husband and wife are going to keep happily together for a lifetime, they simply must learn to give, ask for and receive forgiveness."

"Anger creates distance and distance destroys relationships."

*Affection and Intimacy

"When you and your spouse agree to live in oneness, you're consequently willing to spend more time listening and discussing in order to resolve important issues and so build intimacy."

*Trials and Treasures

Learn and reflect on three principles through tough times.

The Smalley's share candidly about the ups and downs in their 40+ year marriage.  I really like the "Smalley Fighting Rules" which could also be called, "How to work out a situation guided by the Holy Spirit with the end result of unity in mind".

My only "issue" with this book is that the pages are too nice to actually be written on.  We chose to use a notebook instead to answer our questions.

I admit that I read through this book first before doing it as a study with my husband.  So far, we are both enjoying it and will continue on with it.

You can connect with 4 Days to a Forever Marriage by:

Following on Twitter

Finding "Forever Marriage" Tweets throughout the book.  Share them online and inspire others to create a "forever marriage" for themselves.

Become part of the Forever Marriage community by adding this hashtag to your tweets from and about the book:  #4days2forever.

Visit and enter #4days2forever to meet others reading the book.

Facebook fans of the 4 Days to a Forever Marriage will have access to special features of the book online, get the latest news on the Smalley's 4 Days to a Forever Marriage book specials and events.  "Like" 4 Days to a Forever Marriage .

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A is For Adam Book Review

A is for Adam

"A is for Adam;  God made him from dust.  He wasn't a monkey, he looked just like us.  Although some scientists don't think it was so, it was God who was there, and He ought to know."

A is for Adam is in a new format - a flip book with a stand!

While your child is looking at one side of the book, you can be reading:  The Letter of the Alphabet, Corresponding Rhyme, Bible Bits, Let's Talk, Always Remember, Visual Vocabulary, Stuff to Do and Quick Review on the opposite side.

We own the original version of A is for Adam.  I LOVE this new format.  Everything you need to present each letter (and plan corresponding discussion with activities) is right at your finger tips.  For a busy mom, this is WONDERFUL!

The picture page is large, colorful and eye catching.  The explanations and details are age appropriate and easy to understand.

After the initial alphabet pages are more detailed suggestions for each letter of the alphabet.  The Core Takeaway sections seem to be geared toward older children and parents to help cement the truth of a literal Biblical Creation.

Also included is the biblical model for marriage, holiness, armor of God, sin, Noah's Flood, and Jesus (Salvation).

Great for Sunday School or devotionals, this book will not only teach youngsters, but help parents and educators understand biblical truths as well.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Goal Planning Monday - January 9

Goal Planning Monday

It's time again to set some goals for this coming week with Katrina of Mama Manuscripts!  This is the 50th week!

It's been awhile since I linked up (again) AND it's not technically Monday.  But, who's counting! 

My goals for this week:

1.  Devotions first thing in the morning with kids.

2.  Walk at least 1 hour per day.

3.  Eat at least 75% raw foods per day.

4.  Write up review for "Learn Our History" and finish Swan Lake Lapbook

5.  Visit and comment on the other GPM participants.

How about you?  Come link up!!!

Weekly Wrap Up (Eisenhower & the 1950's Oasis)

This past week we took a tour through the 1950's studying Eisenhower and American Culture ....

Selected readings of 1950's American Culture
Selected readings of 1950's American Culture

Queen Elizabeth and more literature
Queen Elizabeth and more literature....

In addition, we watched a documentary on Eisenhower and some 'I Love Lucy' as well!

For a change of pace, we ventured to Legoland.

This is what is left of the old Cypress Gardens
This is what is left of the old Cypress Gardens

The Nip Napper and Daddy enjoying the day
The Nip Napper and Daddy enjoying the day

A Lego Christmas tree!
A Lego Christmas tree!

And a Lego Elf
And a Lego Elf

Join us next time for The Civil Rights Movement!