Top 5 Kid Friendly Thanksgiving Recipes

Kid Friendly Thanksgiving Recipes
Move over Mom, the kids are cooking!

I love this time of year, finally a holiday that really gets to the heart of things. Get your kiddos thinking in the right direction for Thanksgiving and keep them focused that way right on through the holidays. Some of the best Thanksgiving ideas are simple and family oriented.  But, isn’t that the best part of the holiday season? Spending time with family is truly a gift that keeps on giving. Our recipes aren’t just for the kids to eat… they are “kid-friendly” for the kids to help you cook. And, they help reinforce what the kids are learning in school. Cooking is an awesome way to make practical use of math skills and learning sequencing, and is one of my favorite excuses for moving school to the kitchen!

So, let’s get cooking with the kids!

  1. Ranch Mashed Potatoes – yep this is the perfect twist to the typical creamed potato.
    • RANCH MASHED POTATOES
    • Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to boil, then lower heat to simmer, uncovered for 10-12 minutes or until potatoes fall apart when pierced with fork.
    • Drain potatoes in a colander and return potatoes to the pot. Mash potatoes until smooth.
    • Stir in Ranch seasoning, one stick of butter, salt/pepper, and sour cream.
  2. Green Bean Casserole –
    • GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE
    • Place four cans of DRAINED cut green beans into a 9×13 glass bakeware. Add 1 can of cream of chicken soup and a pint of sour cream. Stir till smooth.
    • Add 1 can of french fried onions on top (I know it sounds NOT kid friendly, but I have six who lick the pan)
    • Bake at 350* for 45 minutes.
  3. Ham and cheese rolls
    • HAM AND CHEESE ROLLS
    • Two cans of refrigerated crescent rolls, 16 slices of ham, and 8 slices of your favorite cheese. (Ours is swiss)
    • Roll out dough and lay out 1 slice of ham and half a slice of cheese each. Roll up each individual roll.
    • Place on foil lined baking pan.
    • Bake at  350* for 15-18 minutes.
  4. Cranberry Apple Cider Punch
    • CRANBERRY APPLE CIDER PUNCH
      • 1 cup fresh cranberries
      • 1/3 cup water
      • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
      • 4 cups apple cider (see note above), chilled
      • 2 cups ginger ale, chilled
      • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
      • 2 cups cranberry juice, chilled
      • Crushed ice
  5. Snickerdoodle Cookies
    • If you haven’t tasted these babies, you’ll be sure to swoon!
    • SNICKERDOODLES
      • 1/2 c butter
      • 1 egg
      • 1/2 c white sugar
      • 1/3 c brown sugar
      • 1/2 tsp vanilla
      • 1 1/2 c flour
      • 1/4 t salt
      • 1/2 t baking soda
      • 1/3 t cream of tartar (the magic ingredient)
      • ROLL COOKIES IN: 2 T sugar/1 t cinnamon
      • Combine wet ingredients and mix well, slowly add dry ingredients.
      • Chill dough for 1 hr.
      • Preheat oven to 300*
      • Scoop out dough and roll into balls and then roll in the sugar cinnamon.
      • Bake 10-12 minutes. (Don’t overbake)

Writing – Our Biggest Challenge – What’s Yours?

OEFK writingIt’s back to school time again! Have you gotten all of your ducks in a row? I think we are about there… but I’m still working through a few details. One of which includes correlating a creative writing study with our other curriculum. Creative writing, essays, and research paper writing are sadly the bane of our home school existence. Though I would love for my children to be great writer’s, giving them the individual attention that they need to accomplish this is another story. It’s always so difficult when we have multiple children that we are homeschooling, isn’t it?

My typical go to is technology… thus the theme of this blog. Online education helps a homeschooling parent of multiple children and when writing is concerned things are no different. Making great writers requires time, instruction, practice, and feedback…labor intensive for the parent for sure. However, using online resources is a super way to activate this learning without stressing out the parent. Some of my favorite resources include:
1) using online grammar games, parts of speech games, and even analogy games. This helps the creative thought process and ultimately the ability to write creatively.
2) Online writing courses (with individual attention and feedback at an affordable price)
3) Online FREE vocabulary instruction. This is a whole separate post in itself, but vocabulary instruction is fundamental to reading comprehension and ultimately successful writing.

10 College Apps that will change Your Life

OE4K college apps

Every new college student wants to be on top of things – especially the when you’re a “newbie.” Technology, smartphones, tablets, and laptops can make that happen easily, but apps are an integral part of making the most of those tools. We’ve compiled a list of 10 of the BEST apps for making your first year of college…smooth sailing!

  1. Desmos – a super graphing calculator. Who wants to buy and carry around a separate piece of equipment?
  2. Go Financial Aid – a great tool for help with the FAFSA and other financial aid options
  3. Any.Do – a tool that helps students create daily to do lists in a checklist format.
  4. Ginger – an awesome app that not only spell/grammar checks, but also suggests corrections for writing errors! Your own personal pocket proofer!
  5. Koofers – a great educational aid that helps you study and practice for tests and quizzes.
  6. Easy Bib – awesome tool for creating those tedious bibliographies! Just scan the book’s barcode and it creates them for you!
  7. White Noise – perfect for creating white noise for studying when the world is crashing down around you! Also great for getting to sleep when your dorm mate is snoring!
  8. Google Drive – gone are the days of thumb drives and “saving documents.” Google drive is a free all in one resource that automatically saves your work and allows you to access it through your google account ANYWHERE! (includes documents, presentations, and spreadsheets)
  9. CamScanner – a great little app that allows you to take a picture of any document and turn it into a scanned image. You can export as jpg. Or pdf.
  10. EatStreet – A great way to stick to a budget and not be a starving college student, use this delivery type app to find the best deals on local food!

10 Delicious Recipes for Ice Cream Sandwich Day!

OE4K Ice Cream Sandwich dayOh yeah… ice cream sandwiches… aren’t they amazing? I think they rank up there with apple pie as America’s summer time dessert. Perfect for an afternoon on the porch with friends. Not only do we love them as they are, but we love them created into even better desserts. Layers of ice cream sandwiches and cool whip or pudding. We love them store bought, and we love them home made… Oh my, so YES – I’m all for celebrating this holiday, you know – – just for the kids!

  1. The classic ice cream sandwich  – of course!
  2. The cookie ice cream sandwich
  3. Salted Brownie Sunday Bites
  4. Chocolate mint stacks
  5. Caramel Chocolate Chip
  6. Banana Ice Cream Sandwiches
  7. French Toast Ice Cream Sandwiches – more for the adults :)
  8. Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sandwiches
  9. Ice Cream Tacos (cuz really tacos are just sandwiches shaped differently!)
  10. Cookie Dough Ice Cream Sandwiches

So, today we are totally off topic. Although I could say these recipes are “online” and they sure are giving me an “education”… LOL! Which recipe will you pick?

Get Techy with these 10 tools!

techtoolsDo you ever feel like a disk with out a drive when it comes to technology in your homeschool? Well, you shouldn’t worry about it. There are loads, and I mean. LOADS. of easy to use techy based apps and programs that will help your teaching and learn grow exponentially.

  1. Heads up– yeah the game. It’s super fun and easy to play… but did you know that it increases vocabulary? Sure – the idea is to use descriptive words to lead someone to say the “answer word.”
  2. Schoology – this is a free program that you can access on your PC. It is super helpful with putting together a course from a text, a pdf, an e-book, youtube videos, or even Khan academy. Great if you’ve got free resources you want to organize into something more cohesive. You can even add your tests and it will score them online! YAY!
  3. Kahoot – this allows you to create and share learning games for any subject!
  4. Padlet – great app that allows you to create a “scrapbook” of things that you need to remember or organize. Super tool for the homeschooling mom!
  5. Edpuzzle – you can use videos to teach your kids, but add a quiz or even your audio throughout the video. This means that as they are learning with the video you can track their progress with a quick check up quiz.
  6. Flippity.net – this is too cool for the homeschooler – you can easily take a google spreadsheet and turn it into flashcards, mad libs, spelling tracker – – lots of options!!
  7. Glogster – this lets you create multimedia posters. I can think of a lot of uses where the kids could use this as a reporting/project based learning.
  8. Mentor Mob this is somewhat like skillshare – where everyone shares “how to’s” with each other. You can learn alot of stuff on this site!!
  9. Explain Everything – interactive whiteboard
  10. Screen castify – this is perfect for using your own computer to teach something. Screencastify basically records what is happening on your own screen. Great for teaching a techy subject or a how to on a specific program.

…and just for a bonus you’ve got to try popplet! A super fun way to take notes, brainstorm, or study!

The Best in Summer Learning

The BestinSummer LearningUnfortunately our brains don’t stop once summer hits. Yet, who wants to work hard at learning – especially when there are so many fun things to do? Well, to be honest… I don’t. I’d rather sit by the pool and enjoy my summer… but I know… I know… we can’t let our brains (or our kid’s brains) atrophy. BUT – we gotta do it without stress.

Here are our favorite no -stress summer learning ideas!

  1. Need inspiration for learning – go to the king of inspiration – Pinterest!
  2. Find some great summer reading for middle schoolers and elementary age kiddos here!
  3. Choose an online summer school alternative!
  4. Bring a writing teacher along on your summer vacation!
  5. Get your kids hooked on a summer science program!
  6. Find great summer ideas for your homeschool highschooler.
  7. Have a garden? Use it as a learning tool – summer learning in the garden.
  8. How about a whole pinterest board on great books for summer reading?
  9. If “free” is your thing – check out free summer ideas for kids.
  10. Or – just break down and allow them to play computer games – but don’t tell them they’re learning games!

4 Truths about Homeschooling

You know years ago – homeschoolers were the weirdos. The fringe crazy religious that wanted to brainwash their kids – Well, at least that’s what those who hated the idea thought. Fast forward about 20 years, and we see that the homeschooling is more main stream normal… and might I add  – a little trendy? Of course, there are still the haters… but we all know about them… haters just gonna hate.  But – back to homeschooling – there are some little known, maybe even shocking “behind the scenes” facts about homeschooling you need to know.

  1. Homeschoolers are not geniuses (well there are probably some – but not around here!) Homeschoolers are just normal, average kids that study and learn at home. I think they are pretty awesome… because even though they aren’t geniuses, it takes a special kind of kid to learn independently.
  2. Homeschooling is hard. Yes, I know we are supposed to be encouraging one another here… but the post title does say “truths” about homeschooling. It is true that homeschooling can be tough, and some days I stay in the bathroom brushing my teeth, fixing my hair, cleaning the toilet, etc… just so I don’t have to face the five kids in the schoolroom. With that said, there is a DEEP conviction in me that DETERMINED to homeschool our children when I saw the wonderful effects it had on them. So, the bad days can be… well just stinking bad. But there’s a diligence that allows the homeschool mom to wake up the next day and realize… “it’s a new day… it can be great! Let’s give it another go!”
  3. Homeschooling can bring huge rewards. As mentioned previously… uh hum… it isn’t easy. However, homeschool parents see the progress and achievement that their children make on a daily basis. They see the light bulb turn on when they finally get division or can read a whole sentence. Those moments are priceless and are what give homeschool parents the motivation to teach on – day after day.
  4. Homeschoolers are flexible, fun loving, and fearless! Yep, what a combination! But each is true. Homeschoolers are flexible and learn at all differen times, in different ways, sitting up, laying down, online, from a text, at home, or even at the park. Homeschooling is totally out of the box!

If you are interested in homeschooling and don’t know how to GET STARTED… try this free guide – it’s quite helpful!

Getting Ready for College?

I’m sure one of you is in the same situation I am…about to graduate one of my children while trying to help guide her in making decisions about college and her future. Shew. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart.

One of our major concerns – right behind the graduation and party – is to find a way for her to attend college without costing a fortune or piling up huge student loan debt. When our oldest graduated, she determined that she was going to work and attend college. She also wanted to make sure that she didn’t acquire a bunch of student loans. The same goals apply for our second daughter. We’ve found a few a simple practices help to enable new students to keep these goals.

  1. Do test prep. You don’t have to pay someone to help you with this. A little effort and you’ll be able to find a lot of free online resources that can give you the test prep you need.
  2. Take your ACT/SAT as many times as needed until you score the same score twice. You’ll know you’ve reached a plateau then. However, the more you take the test, the more relaxed you get. This enables you to test more accurately. Make sure that you’ve researched and found out the minimum score needed to qualify for the state scholarship. This is one of the easiest scholarships to get  – so take advantage of it.
  3. Depending on the level of scholarship you were able to reach with your ACT/SAT testing, you  might have to find a few scholarships to top it all off. Let’s Homeschool High School has a great quarterly post that reveals TONS of great scholarships perfect for the homeschooler.
  4. Work. I know it’s popular belief that college students need loads of time to study. Rubbish. I worked a full time job (para pro teacher) and went to school 16+ hours each semester. My daughter worked a full time job and went to school 15 hours a semester. Not only can it be done, but it also requires you to budget not just your money, but your time! I’ve also noticed that it causes the student to be much more appreciative about their courses, their grades, and even the free time that they do get. Try to pay for your classes as you go. For example, make sure that semester 1 is paid for before you move on to semester 2. I know just this year, my daughter’s college opened up a payment plan so that students didn’t have to apply for a loan.
  5. Bottom line – work hard. If you make a little extra effort and try – with your college classes, assignments, tests, and with a job – you’ll be on your way to getting a great education without a lifetime of debt.

Getting “Out of the Box”

Education in America is compartmentalized, regulated, standardized, and even (I feel) dehumanized. When I hear the words public education, I almost cringe. In the context of public or government education it conjures up images in my mind of our teachers putting children into labeled boxes. Predetermining for them what they are and how they will succeed. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are some great teachers in the public school system… my own sister is one of them… but just because the teacher is good – doesn’t mean that the system is.

If American public education is packaging our children into tidy little boxes…then what is homeschooling doing? My thoughts are this… homeschooling is the banner cry for freedom within education circles. Children over the past few decades that have been homeschooled have gone on to prove this point. Homeschool statistics demonstrate that it works! Childhood learning – with all of its amazing intricacies – can be experienced to its fullest within the freedom of homeschooling. The opportunity to educate your child the way that you deem appropriate and according to your own personal beliefs and preferences is the epitome of freedom… this isn’t home school fiction… this is the real thing!

If your child just hasn’t fit into the box of government education… it just may be time to give homeschooling a try – and get “out of the box!!”

5 Tips on Getting Kids to Help One Another

Do you have a striped shirt? I know I do… if not literally then figuratively. You know, the striped shirts worn by those men with the whistles… the ones that make the funny hand signals at the football game? Yeah… referees! I know after all of the arguments, disagreements, and even the “not so football” tackles that I’ve interrupted I’ve earned my stripes. Kids – especially siblings – are prone to… well, let’s just call it like it is… FIGHT. I don’t know about you, but it makes me a bit sad. I try to teach my kids how to peacefully negotiate, to talk through their anger, and to simply count to ten or say nothing at all. Yet, still… the ref shirt comes on…daily!

Well, on a homeschooling level I wish there were less arguments so that each of them could help each other more. I know there are times that I’ve taught a concept, but it hasn’t really gotten across. At those times, I think that the other children could probably “speak kid” better than I and help to get the concept across. How can we stop the fighting and get them helping one another?

I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve pulled together a few ways to help teach the foundational aspects needed to dwell peaceably and actually move to the positive aspect of helping one another.

  1. Respect – No I’m not reciting a line from an old song… it’s important to teach siblings to respect one another. If there are times that a disagreement has caused them to flat out disrespect one another, incorporate some measure of discipline. One method I like is to make them spend and entire day apart. No speaking, eating together, playing together, or even doing school together. Often, by the next day they really miss one another and will be ready to be respectful. Respect is a foundational idea behind helping one another.
  2. Don’t ignore bad behavior. Sure, I know the common opinion of our day. Ignore it – it’ll go away. I’ve been a teacher for many years, and I must admit that the concept of ignoring the behavior so that it will go away  – just doesn’t work.  Children learn in every instance. If they commit bad behavior and don’t receive their just rewards, that teaches them that the behavior really isn’t so bad. Instead of eliminating it, we inadvertently encourage more of it.
  3. Teach children how to work through anger and disagreement. This isn’t just something they face as children. This is a life skill and something that must be taught and encouraged for successful living. Help them identify the emotions that they are feeling, and encourage them to talk through it with one another. Helping them to understand the root cause of their emotion (anger, jealousy, irritation) will help them to understand how to work through it.
  4. Teach them to appreciate one another. This is definitely difficult. However, regularly pointing out things that each of your children do for you or each other and praising that good behavior is a step in the right direction. Ask them questions about their siblings such as, “Has your sister been helpful today?” or “Didn’t you enjoy it when sister helped you find your spelling book?”
  5. Help your children develop friendships with one another. Again, another foundation principle for teaching children how to be helpful. No one wants to help someone that they are enemies with. Developing friendships among your children isn’t impossible, but it requires us to be intentional. Often we’ll go around the dinner table and take turns saying something kind or positive about one another. Sometimes, I’ll give them a special responsibility they have to share. In this, encourage planning, preparing, and carrying out the task together. Extra credit if it’s something fun. I also like to encourage my kiddos to think about the future. Friends come and go, but family lasts a lifetime.