Monday, May 22, 2017

Free Piano Lessons, Review of Hoffman Academy

Music can be neglected very quickly in homeschooling. Our curriclum has some great learning materials for Music history, but the practical playing is not covered. Unfortunately I am not a musically talented person, so I am not capable of teaching themselves, and for awhile lessons were just not an option financially. Thankfully, we found a solutions two years ago with free music lessons through using Hoffman Academy

Hoffman Academy is the solid musical foundation along with piano basic;  learning scales, note reading, and even musical composition.  We started when the boys were in second grade and could read fluently. 

Mr. Hoffman is also a fun teacher, and understands how kids learn.  My kids look forward to the videos, he is educational and entertaining with fun puppet shows and jokes.

 In the beginning units, the parent might want to  to sit with them during each video lesson and practice, but they are only ten to twelve minutes. I am amazed at how much the boys have learned through these lessons in just a short time. We are currently in Unit 3, and they are able to practice pretty independently. I have printed all the songs and a practice schedule, and put in a binder for easy access during practice. 

The free lessons from Hoffman Academy have been a huge blessing to our family. There are now two levels of membership, Basic for free and Premium for $15 a month.  We use the basic free membership, and then spend the very small amount they ask for PDF of the printable materials &  practice MP3s ($20 for 20 lessons), and it is so worth it! So far, we have not felt the need to buy membership, and are still just enjoying the free videos and buys the printed materials each unit.  IN the future, I may upgrade because $15 a month for two kids is still a great price.
We use our tablet and a keyboard for lessons.

I hope this help someone looking for a music education option for your homeschool. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

My Emotional Journey of Decluttering

Marie Kondo, a guru of decluttering, believes everything in your house should give you joy. I had actually never heard of Marie Kondo until she was mentioned in a Gilmore Girls Revival episode, and  I was already knee deep and several years into in this journey of decluttering, which began in 2015 for me.

A little back story,  my husband I  married at 19 years old. We worked full-time and put ourselves through college. I was a preschool teacher for a few years, then the year after my husband finished college a lot happened:

1.) My husband began an entry level job as a social worker
2.) We bought a starter home of a 900 sq ft bungalow (which we are still in 10 years later)
3.)  I had twin boys and  became a stay at home mom

Now fast forward several years. We were struggling to make ends meet  for so long at the beginning, I never said no to anything given to us; including hand-me-downs, giant pieces of furniture (headboards, entertainment centers, etc), and old school tube TVs. We were drowning in stuff because I felt like I couldn't give away a gift.  While I was not qualified to be an the show "Hoarders", I had been unconsciously hoarding things, with the idea that they gave me security. In reality, they added to my anxiety and discontentment in our small house.

The real push to change came with a Willow Tree Nativity Set.  It was a very expensive full set that my estranged mother had given me years before. It was worth hundreds of dollars, and my husband and kids loved it, but it made me remember negative feeling every time I saw it.  It truly was beautiful, so I brought it out the first few years of my kids' lives, then slowly stopped bringing all the pieces out each year , claiming there wasn't enough room to set it up....then it stayed in storage three Christmas seasons because I couldn't bare to have it in my house.  

Once I finally decided that my feelings were more important than the supposed  value of this set, I finally had the courage to give it away.  The problem was I didn't want to just give it to Goodwill, and I felt guilty about selling it.  I wanted to turn this symbol of God's hope, a depiction of Jesus' birth, into something positive, instead of a negative reminder of a broken relationship. 

I prayed about how to give it away for almost 6 months. In the end, God gave me a very clear direction for a specific person who needed the encouragement of the set. The weight I felt lift when it left my house was AMAZING. The joy of seeing the other person enjoying the set replaced all those years of negative association.  Now when I see a Willow Tree Nativity, it reminds me of when God transformed my hurt into joy.

The process of getting rid of the Nativity made me examine WHY I owned each item in my house. This meant purging things I was storing out of guilt or obligation. Slowly, but surely, I began to get rid of anything that didn't bring me joy. 

It wasn't overnight, but this first step gave me permission to make a big change in my life.   If you don't know me, I am a recovering people-pleaser. My people-pleasing tendencies mean that guilt was a big motivator in my life, and this guilt was tangible by piling up stuff in my house! 

Some may call me unsentimental, but conquering my people-pleasing meant even some gifts given by beautiful loving people had to go- things that weren't my style or just didn't fit our lifestyle. I had 4 Pie fancy dish/displays and had never baked a pie in my life.  I had 14 sheet sets, because I kept receiving them as Christmas gifts from my in-laws.  I sold the furniture I had been given that I was storing  for my "dream home",  that was keeping me from enjoying my present home.  

Once I got rolling, I finally had the courage to I donate clothes I had been given, or ill-fitting clothes I bought at garage sales, but felt ugly in. I gave myself to permission to buy clothes I actually feel good wearing.  Now I have less clothes, but I like how I feel good in all of them.

This journey has taught me that  stuff wasn't just stuff, every item in my life had power to affect my mood and life. Decluttering wasn't just tidying up, it is a practice in courage and being true to myself. 

This is where I must  urge you to pray, or bring a friend alongside you when you begin decluttering.  It will bring up emotions you may not expect, but need to be dealt with.  The feelings may not be guilt like me, but fear for the future, or a myriad of other things we attach to our stuff. The other side is beautiful, keep going, but don't go alone. 

Give yourself permission to put yourself before your stuff.  

So that is the story of how I started my decluttering journey. It took me almost a year and half to get rid of the equivalent of seven full van loads (all seats down and stacked to the top) of stuff.  I now love my little house again, and everything it in is useful or brings me joy.

Good Luck if you are beginning this journey. Take your time, start small, and don't go alone.

You might be interested in my other Decluttering Posts:

Friday, April 21, 2017

LEGO Landmarks- Exploring Countries and Cultures

This past year we turned my boys' Lego obsession into another avenue of learning.  Our third grade study was a tour around the world, using My Father's World Exploring Countries and Cultures.  For each country, we studied their culture, flags, ecosystem, and landmarks.

You can add the Lego Landmark anytime during your trip around the world; we would usually make the flag the same day we colored our flag notebook page, then make a landmark at the end of studying each country.  If there wasn't a specific landmark that jumped out at us, we made a few animals that we studied in that country's ecosystem.

Below is a list of some our Lego creations during the year.  Some were my idea, and some were the boys' ideas. Use your imagination, and your kids will probably come up with their own fun creations!

  •  Map of your room, house, and  neighborhood

North America

United States
  • Buildings- Statue of Liberty, Washington Monument, or White House
  • Flag

  •   Buildings- Mayan Ruin Pyramid Chichen Itza and an Adobe House
  • Flag

  •  Maple leaf
  • Ecosystem- Northern forest and tundra animals

South America

  •  Statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janerio
  •  Ecosystem- Rain forest Animals

  • Reindeer shepherds and their homes (after watching a video on nomad reindeer shepherds)

  •  Building- Eiffel tower
  • flag
  • flag

  • Crocodile int he Nile River
  • Watering  hole with animals, on Savannah 
  • flag

Saudi Arabia
  • camel 
  • flag (use green lego board for back, and white blocks for design and sword)
  •  Building- Taj Mahal (after reading 'T is for Taj Mahal')
  • elephant
  • flag

  • Building- Great Wall of China

  • Japanese Building with traditional rooftop
  • Ninjas and Samurai Warriors

  •  flag
  • Saint Basil's Cathedral

  • Penguins 
  •  Building-Sydney Opera House
  • different types Coral Reef

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Crockpot Teriyaki Chicken Freezer Meal

Crockpot Teriyaki Chicken Freezer Meal 
Makes 1 gallon-sized bags

  •  2 chicken breasts                                       
  •  1 tbsp dried mince onion                       
  •  2 minced garlic cloves                             
  •  1/2 cup pineapple juice   
  • 1 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce   

Day of cooking

  • steamable stir fry veggies                             

1. Label your bags with cooking the directions.
2. Trim chicken breasts and cut in half to have a total of four pieces of chicken per bag. Add meats to bag
4. Add of each of other ingredients to each bag.
5. Let out air, seal bag, and lay flat in freezer.

To serve

  1. Cook on  6- 8 hours on low.
  2. Shred chicken with fork, add steamed stir fry veggies. 
  3. Serve over hot rice.

Crockpot Sweet and Sour Meatballs Freezer Meal

Crockpot Sweet and Sour Meatballs Freezer Meal
·         28 oz package frozen meatballs
·         15 oz can pineapple tidbits
·         1 green pepper, diced
·         1/2 cup shredded carrot 
·         8 oz can water chopped chestnuts (drained)
·         3/4 to 1 cup white vinegar
·         3 tbsp cornstarch
·         2 tbsp soy sauce
·         ½  cup brown sugar

To freeze

1.      Label Gallon sized Freezer Bag.

2.      Drain Pineapples, set juice aside.

3.      Place  pineapples, carrots, pepper, and water chestnuts in bag.

4.      Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl and pour over meatballs.

5.       Remove as much air as possible, freeze flat for up to 3 months.


To serve:  
1.      Thaw in fridge overnight.  
2.      Pour bag of meatballs  into crockpot, and Place contents of bag in crockpot.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3 to 4 hours.
3.      Serve over rice.

Variation- used chicken breasts instead of meatballs

Crockpot Cilantro Lime Chicken with Corn and Black Beans Freezer Meal

Crockpot Cilantro Lime Chicken with Corn and Black Beans
·         2 chicken breasts                          
·         6 TBSP of lime juice                    
·         1 cups fresh cilantro, chopped      
·         1 bags (16 oz) bag frozen corn     
·         2 minced garlic cloves                  
·          1 TBSP dried minced onion        
·         1 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
·         3 tsp cumin                                   
·         salt and pepper to taste
·         2 tbsp olive  oil     

1.      Label your bags with cooking the directions
2.      Trim chicken breasts and cut in half to have a total of four pieces of chicken per bag
3.      Place ingredients in a resalable gallon-sized freezer bag. Mix together and zip bag closed. Lay flat to freeze

To Serve
1.      When ready to eat, remove from freezer and thaw in fridge for 24 hours.
2.      Put contents of bag in Crockpot
3.      Cook on LOW for 8 hours (or HIGH for 4 hours).  Shred Chicken with Fork.
4.      Serve with tortillas and toppings such as with sour cream, guacamole, salsa, and cheese.

Adapted from Over the Moon

Freezer Baked Ziti

Freezer Baked Ziti
Materials Needed:
  • 9 x13  Disposable casserole dish and lid
  • Sharpie

Ingredients (one Pan)
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 tbsp dried minced onion
  • 1/2 pound Italian Sausage
  • 2 Jars Spaghetti Sauce
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 16 oz Ziti, Cooked Until Not Quite Al Dente
  • 1 tub (15 Oz.) Skim Milk Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 pound Mozzarella Cheese, Grated
  • 1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Egg

1.      Cook garlic, and onions in pan with olive oil.  Add Italian sausage and cook until browned. Drain off fat if any, leaving a bit behind for flavor and moisture.
2.      Add Spaghetti Sauce, stewed tomatoes, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Stir and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. After that time, remove about 2 cups of the sauce to a different bowl to cool down.
3.      In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, 1 1/2 cups of the mozzarella, parmesan, egg, and salt and pepper. Stir together just a couple of times (do not mix completely).
4.      While doing that cook pasta according to directions on pot. Drain & rinse under cool water.
5.      Pour pasta into the bowl with the cheese mixture and toss to slightly combine (there should still be large lumps.)
6.      Add the cooled meat sauce to pasta/cheese mixture and toss to combine.
7.      Add half the pasta mixture to a 9x13 dish. Spoon half set aside of the remaining tomato/meat sauce over the top, and then top with half the remaining mozzarella cheese. Repeat with another layer of the coated pasta, sauce, and the mozzarella cheese.

Cover with two layers of foil (to avoid freezer burn), label, and freeze.  Used within 3 months.

Bake for 20 minutes, 375 degree, or until bubbling. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.