Thursday, August 28, 2014

Homeschooling: Preschool Fun on a Budget!

My daughter Hannah has started homeschooling my oldest granddaughter, Elizabeth. She is in kindergarten and having a super fun time with her. She called me the other day and was wondering what she could be doing with her 3 year old daughter, Rylee. Rylee is a very busy little girl, very hands on and badly wants to “do school”. She does not like coloring or writing. I suggested a homeschool box of hands on fun things for her to do while she is schooling Elizabeth; a box that only gets brought out at school time in order to keep everything interesting to her.

One of the fun things about being a grandma is finding ways to help my children out, and anything homeschooling gets me excited. So I set out on a quest to see what I could find for little Miss Rylee that would be different and hands on.

I went to the local dollar store and my two daughters, Leanne and Sierra, went along with me. We pooled our creative juices together to see what kind of things we could find at the dollar store and create them into educational fun.

Here is what we found….

The items came from everywhere.. party favors, kitchen items (sponges, cupcake pan, colorful plastic ice cubes), big dice, pipe cleaners, pom-poms, band aids, plastic shot glasses, and I picked up an assortment of plastic containers (that were bright and colorful) to store the items in.

Here is what I did with them..

The pom-poms and plastic shot glasses.. used for sorting (by color or number)…

Kitchen sponges… I purchased 3 packages of kitchen sponges and cut them in half for squares, and cut some in half again for triangles and cut some circles from them for foam building blocks to learn colors and shapes. And found some big dice to add with the “blocks”.

Also found some small plastic shapes that could be connected together and purchased a package of baby teething rings for her to put them on as well. And band aids (in the “Educational Aid” box).. what 3 year old does not love band aids? They were big colorful ones and can be used as a reward for anything my daughter desires; a great school day, naming the color of the band aid, etc.. )..

And the muffin tray to sort the colorful ice cubes and party favors by shape or color…

When I was done assembling it all.. it was a neat organized educational package.. LOL.. and it cost me about $30. I think that is an awesome deal! 

I had so much fun putting it all together and was so happy to be able to help my daughter out!


Monday, August 25, 2014

Menu Monday!!


Another week has flown by!! I had a few meals from last week that did not get made.. kids ate elsewhere and I had leftovers.. Ok by me. Some will reappear on this week’s menu. I’ve been so blessed by my neighbors! They have kept my family in a steady supply of corn on the cob, summer squash and cucumbers.. those yummy veggies will also be on the menu. ~smile~

Spaghetti & meatballs, corn on the cob, watermelon, salad

Bbq steak, roasted summer squash (on the bbq), French bread, cucumber salad

Beef & bean burritos, chips & salsa, salad


Pork chops, pasta salad, corn on the cob, salad

Italian chicken casserole, French bread, salad

Cowboy crockpot casserole, dinner rolls, coleslaw


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Homeschooling: Earning a College Degree Non-Traditionally


With costs of a college education going through the roof and parents wondering how on earth they can provide this for their children, it may seem like an impossible task, but, there is hope. First off, I’ve heard from parents that did not want to have more children simply because they feared how they could put them through college. I find that odd, from my own perspective. If a child wants college, he/she can find a way to make it happen. When I had my children somehow I missed the memo that said it was MY responsibility to put them through college. Every child has to make their own choices in life. Some of my children have not gone to college (gasp!), and some have. And for the ones that have, they have done it on their own.

It is possible for a child to earn a degree, work a full time job and pay for their degree on their own. I know because I have children that have done this. You just have to think outside the box. College just does not always happen inside an institution and dorm room. Those are certainly options, but not the only options.

Here is how two of my children have earned their degrees and another child who is more than half way through earning his degree:

They found a college that would accept credits from many varied sources. Not just classroom time. Both of my girls have graduated from Thomas Edison State College. It is an accredited college that thinks outside the box. They accept CLEPS, Dantes, real life experience, credits from other colleges, etc.. 


First my kids found the degree they wanted, then looked at Thomas Edison’s requirements and began to fulfill them by taking CLEPS (College Level Examination Program). They were able to earn the first 2 years of their degree requirements through CLEPS. They would study on their own for a test, go to a local community college, pay the fee, and take the test. The CLEP board kept track of their tests and scores. After that they took Dantes. These are mostly 3rd year courses. They had to go to the local state university to take these tests. The scores were kept by the Dantes board. They also took online classes from colleges such as Louisiana State University. Finally they were down to the select classes needed specifically for their degree. At this point they enrolled in Thomas Edison State College. Then requested all their transcripts from the CLEP and Dantes boards and the extra colleges they had taken classes be sent to Thomas Edison. Then they met with an advisor (over the phone) who told them what classes they would need to be able to finish their degrees. They took the classes, and earned their degrees.

Their experience is that their degrees have been accepted everywhere they’ve applied for jobs without issue (one daughter is currently a senior account at an accounting firm in the city and the other spent one year in S. Korea teaching English and has since worked as and ESL teacher since coming home). Thomas Edison was originally started for military personnel because it can difficult for people in the military to commit to full time college. Since the advent of the internet, the college is used by many, many varied people. Especially homeschoolers.

Not only is this a faster way to earn a degree (one daughter earned hers in 2 ½ years and the other in 2 ¾ years all while working full time), but it is much less expensive. We calculated that both girls’ degrees cost them less than one year (with dorm “experience”) would have cost at a traditional college. Do either of my girls feel like they missed the college “experience”.. nope.. they were thrilled to earn their degrees and get busy with real life. And most importantly.. to not leave school carrying a HUGE load of debt. Neither daughter owes anything. 


My son is currently working his way through the same path, and working full time, paying for everything himself. He looks forward to earning his degree; paying for it himself (anything worth having is worth working hard for and that in and of itself is a truly valuable lesson for children to learn. If they are given everything on a platter, will they really appreciate what has been handed to them? ).

Simply making the choice to homeschool your children is thinking outside the box. Are there really a whole lot of reasons to jump back inside the box when it comes to a college education? Granted there are a few degrees that cannot be earned this way.. but there are many, many that can.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Menu Monday!


I did not plant a garden this and I am so thankful to my sweet generous neighbors. They have blessed my family with all kinds of goodies from their garden. We’ve been enjoying an abundance of cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, and zucchini. I’ve done my best to incorporate them into our meals and this week’s menu reflects that.

Tuna patties, corn on the cob, sautéed zucchini & onions, pasta w/butter & salt

Beef & bean burritos, chips & salsa, cucumber salad

Chicken salad sandwiches, potato chips, peaches

Crockpot chicken chili, chips & salsa, salad


Baked pork chops, zucchini patties, rice pilaf, green beans

Crockpot kielbasa, rice pilaf, watermelon, cucumber slices

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Zucchini Dilemma


This is the time of year that either the garden is overflowing with zucchini or the neighbors are bringing it to your door (as it is for me :) no garden this year but my sweet neighbors are making sure I’m not lacking) .. ~smile~ . I’ve always done the best I could with it and tried to make use of it during this season. Here are some of the ways I’ve used it..

Cut it up and stir fry it with onions and mushrooms in a little olive oil – yum! 

Zucchini Pesto Pasta (love this stuff!!)

Zucchini Pickles (canning recipe)

Zucchini Pineapple (canning recipe)

Zucchini Sausage Soup (canning recipe)


Enjoy the zucchini season!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Preparing for winter…

The sun is shining, the days are long, the heat is wonderful (at least in my view ~smile~) and winter seems to be a far off distant thought. But one thing I know, as surely as the sun rises and sets, winter will be here. The endless days of rain, cold, snow will come. And we will need to keep warm.

We heat with wood. We have a wood furnace that is our only source of heat. It does an amazing job heating our home. It is in the basement with a vent up to the main floor. We keep it going all through the later fall, winter and spring.

In the summer my hubby and sons have the task of bringing in the wood for the year. Our property is covered in trees and every year we’ve lived here we’ve been able to glean the wood needed to keep us warm (we burn about 6 or so cords of wood each year). Normally we find fallen trees (from winter storms), large limbs that need to be cut from other trees, or select trees to take down to make room for other trees that are still growing.

This year we were able to get our wood in from just two trees. Two very big trees! Last winter we realized we had a large dead fir tree that stood right next to our carport and house. If the tree were to fall it would most likely have fallen right on our house. We called in a tree professional as this was too big and dangerous of a job for my hubby to want to take on. He came and pointed out another tree that was ailing and more importantly that tree was also aimed for our house and the larger fir tree would have landed right on it. So it had to come down as well.

This was how my hubby & Jacob (by the time the wood was ready to process my son Isaac was dealing with his ruptured appendix) spent a good part of July; cutting, splitting and processing all the wood from those two trees.

The first tree that had to come down..

The mess afterwards

My hubby and sons were very grateful to our neighbor for letting us borrow his wood splitter. Normally my hubby and boys do all the splitting by hand. This was a lot of wood to process all at once but the splitter made the job much easier!

Then it was time for the second tree…

This is my son Isaac standing at the base of the tree…

After the tree fell.. you can see how close it was to the side of our house. Good thing the guy that did this knew what he was doing!!

After the tree was cut and then split (that pile was not all of the wood there was more stacked already)..
Hubby after cutting down the stump and feeling victorious!  :D

And finally we could all rest easy .. the winter wood was in…

I’d say something cute at this point like.. “bring on winter!!!” .. but.. I can’t.. the summer loving part of me would rather skip it.. Ha, ha.. but that is not my reality.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Menu Monday!

Crockpot chicken chili, chips & salsa, watermelon

Bbq burgers, potato salad, coleslaw

Crockpot tater tot casserole, watermelon


Baked pork chops, summer pasta, salad

Sour cream chicken enchiladas, chips & salsa, salad

Tuna patties, mac & cheese, veggie platter


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Crockpot Recipes & I’m Up and Running Again!!

My new computer arrived and I’ve got it all set up and running, thanks to my IT tech son! And thankfully I was able to avoid Windows 8 and still running Windows 7. So hopefully I’ll be back to blogging regularly again!

With summer here I’ve not wanted to heat up my kitchen any more than necessary so I’ve been using my crockpot a lot. Also I’ve been in a “the simpler, the better” mood when it comes to cooking. The outdoors calls my name and the kitchen does not this time of year! ~smile~

Here are a couple recipes I’ve made recently that were very good and simple to throw together.

Crockpot BBQ Kielbasa (you can adjust the size of this recipe easily to work for your family)

3lbs kielbasa (I actually used chicken sausage from Costco. The brand was Aidells)
1 onion, sliced
5 or 6 large mushrooms, sliced
1 bottle (more or less) bbq sauce (the size is not that important as the main goal is just to cover the sausages & veggies with it. I used about 2 or 3 cups)

Put kielbasa, onions, and mushrooms in crockpot. Cover with sauce and stir. Put lid on. Cook on low for about 3 to 4 hours. I served this with rice and coleslaw.


Easy Crockpot Chicken Chili

2 ½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 29oz can pinto beans, do not drain
2 14oz cans chili beans, do not drain
1 14oz can red beans, drained
1 can rotel tomatoes
8 oz. cream cheese

Put all ingredients into crockpot. Turn on low and let cook for about 6 to 8 hours. When it's time to serve, shred chicken meat.   I served this with tortilla chips & salsa and a salad.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Menu Monday!

I'm still dealing with computer stuff.. My new computer is on its way. Thanks to my IT son in law my new computer has been ordered and we are still waiting for its arrival.. I guess I'm taking a little summer blogging break until I'm back up and running as usual.. I'll post as I can..

Leftovers from the weekend

Grilled salmon, crockpot garlic potatoes, coleslaw, watermelon

Meatball sub sandwiches, coleslaw, watermelon

Summer pasta (made w/chicken), veggie platter

Baked chicken, potato salad, green salad


Beef & bean burritos, tortilla chips, fresh fruit