Archive for Good Food

A Few Practical Homeschooling Tips

Happy weekend before Christmas!  Are you ready?  Since my family is moving back across the country in a couple days, we elected to skip decorating or getting a tree (instead, we helped my parents get theirs) and have been relying on our awesome friends here in Iowa for the other traditions like gingerbread houses, caroling, and Christmas cookies.  So I have nothing to say about Christmas traditions today, but I am taking this packing break to reflect back on what I’ve learned about making our homeschool work this year.

First of all, I have come to accept that homeschooling is a full-time job, and the more kids you add into the mix, the less time you will have for other things like cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping!  It is totally feasible to homeschool one child for kindergarten and first grade for an hour in the afternoons while the younger kids are napping, and you can continue on with morning play groups, Bible studies, and the like, without totally changing your lifestyle yet.  With more and older kids, though, you have to spend your whole day schooling, and you’re probably not going to be able to do loads of laundry or clean the house.  When our house started getting out of hand, my husband and I sat down and instituted Saturday morning cleaning chores.  Each of my kids has three tasks, ranging from cleaning bathrooms (the big two) to washing windows and vacuuming (the little ones).  My husband and I oversee things, and by noon on Saturday, the house is as clean as it ever gets.  We didn’t need to do this when the kids were younger and I had daily cleaning tasks that I had the time to do myself, but now that my weekdays are as full as my husband’s, the weekend is for cleaning.

Along the same lines, my cooking has become streamlined in this season of life.  We love to try new recipes and learn new techniques, but now I mostly save that sort of thing for the weekend and stick with tried-and-true dishes during the week.  I use my crockpot multiple times a week, especially for the evenings when we have dance lessons or art class right up until dinner time.  Pretty much every single week, we do a whole chicken with carrots and potatoes in the crockpot, then I make broth overnight and do a soup (bacon and bean, chicken noodle, potato, etc) with it the next day.  I’ve also finally taught my kids to eat beans, so we also have a weekly crockpot beans-and-rice night, either with pinto beans (which I blend with my stick blender to make refried beans) or black beans (which we eat whole over rice and then use the leftovers in chicken tortilla soup or Mexican chicken).  Throw in a pasta night (my big kids can cook tortellini and slice up chicken sausage and put together a green salad, so that’s a night I don’t have to do a thing) and our traditional Friday night pizza-and-movie night (by now I can make pizza dough in my sleep, and the kids make up the pizzas), and that’s pretty much our weeknight meals.  Predictable, but with some variety in the general categories.

This fall, Anna rocked my world by telling me she has a set menu for breakfasts and lunches.  I’d never done that–I mean, I have a variety of options, from oatmeal to cereal to eggs, and I let the kids choose.  Choice is good, right?  Except it’s not when it literally cripples them, as it does my middle girls, who I was spending an hour or more each morning cajoling to eat.  After Anna’s pep talk, I announced that we’d be instituting a weekly breakfast menu. (We still do sandwiches or leftovers for lunch, but that’s usually not a source of conflict, so I haven’t set up anything official.) The kids whined at first, but after a week or so, my kids all admitted that they liked not having the pressure of deciding what to eat every single morning!  Here’s our rough breakfast plan:

Monday–muffins (Mondays are hard, so if I get up early and bake muffins, it sets a positive, fun tone for the week!)

Tuesday–oatmeal (overnight baked if I have time, stovetop if I don’t–two of the kids complain about it, but I still allow fun toppings–mini chocolate chips, coconut flakes, or fruit–so they’re doing better about eating it than I expected)

Wednesday–egg something–scrambled, omelets, over easy with toast, French toast

Thursday–oatmeal again (It’s cheap!)

Friday–bacon or sausage or something a little more fun, like crumpets or sausage gravy and biscuits

Saturday and Sunday–since Daddy’s home and the kids have more time, it depends.  The big kids might make pancakes and waffles, or we might do cold cereal, or if we have company, we might do something fancier.

In the school realm, I’ve long bemoaned the fact the public schools are cutting down recess time, but I’ve only this year truly committed to giving my kids a solid half-hour recess every morning at 10:30, rain or shine.  In good weather, they have to be outside, running around, riding bikes, roller skating, or jumping rope.  In bad weather, I turn on the La La Land soundtrack and we dance!  I used to try to just push through with schoolwork until lunch, but frustration levels decrease and concentration increases when we take a good brain break.  (Also, this is usually when I tackle the breakfast dishes, take a shower if I didn’t get one in before breakfast and school started, and do any set-up or photo copying for school stuff.)  Sometimes they’re playing so well that it’s hard to pull them back in.  Sometimes I just pull one kid in for a quick one-on-one phonics or Latin lesson.  Sometimes I let the little girls stay outside and keep playing (because they’re often basically done with school by that point) while I drag the big kids in for more schoolwork.  Sometimes the kids are begging to come inside after two minutes, and I tell them they can’t come in until the timer goes off!  Regardless, it’s a really important part of our day.

I’ve alluded to our four-day-a-week schedule before, but this semester, while we’ve been temporarily living in a new place, it’s been a key part of our homeschool life to spend four days on all our formal seatwork then take a field trip on the fifth day.  I picked up these amazing field trip journals this summer (designed by a homeschool mom for homeschoolers!), and according to them, we’ve been on 18 unique field trips this fall, not counting the repeat visits to the local children’s museum.  I’m a huge believer that exposure to museums, monuments, and presidential libraries is an essential part of a well-rounded education.  (Sometimes the field trip is just to the local library, which is more low key for me, but still fun for the kids, too.)  In addition, each child has a nature journal for our nature hikes, park trips, and botany studies, which we actually have time to do when we have that free fifth day.  We don’t use textbooks for science, because I literally remember nothing I read in a textbook before high school, but our journals allow the kids to record the things they want to remember and refer back to them.

And lastly, this is a silly thing, but our other favorite new discovery for the 2017 school year has been Frixion erasable pens.  They really work, they’re amazing, and I will never back to regular pens again!  I’ve long been a pencil (Ticonderoga only!) and colored pencil (Prismacolor!) snob, but the kids think it’s such a treat to write in pen, and when it can be erased just as easily as a pencil, I can be the cool mom and let them.  Somehow a math practice page is just less daunting with a pink pen in hand.

What practical homeschool (or homemaking) survival tips have you figured out this year?  Will you be switching anything up after the holidays?

 

This post includes Amazon affiliate links.

Posted in Good Food, Homeschooling, Practical Housekeeping | 1 Comment

Hidden Art Friday 

You guys, I just had the best banana bread of my life. If you don’t have ripe bananas, go buy some now. You need to make this browned butter buttermilk banana bread recipe, stat. I am in love with browned butter, and it makes your kitchen smell divine.

Do you do a special breakfast for the first day of school?  Our first day will be Tuesday, which is rather late compared to most of our friends, but we just moved across the country after my 6 year old had major surgery this summer, so we’ve taken all of August off.  Most of the year, we just have oatmeal or granola for breakfast, but I do like celebrating the start of a new school year with a special meal.  In the past, I’ve done muffins, cinnamon rolls, or French toast.  I’m thinking banana bread (because we’re in love with this recipe) and bacon this year.  Any other ideas I just have to try?

Happy September!

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Posted in Good Food, Hidden Art Fridays | 2 Comments

Hidden Art Friday

Happy Friday! Today our library had a fun event where kids got to make homemade veggie pizzas for a snack. Whole wheat tortillas spread with cream cheese or hummus and spread with a bunch of yummy fixings. My kids were huge fans, and we have a new lunch option!

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What to Do with Summer Vacation, Part 4: Food

Okay, friends, after three days of talking, I want to spend a few days sharing some ideas and resources.  With the easy, breezy summer schedule, my kids’ tummies are suddenly on need-to-eat-nonstop mode.  We’ve talked about snacks on the blog before, so I just want to re-share a few of those posts, since it was four years ago:

Bethany’s Favorite Healthy Snacks

Emily’s Favorite Healthy Snacks (check out the comments section, too)

Anna’s Favorite Healthy Snacks

A Hidden Art Friday Round-up of fun snack ideas

And we do have a pinterest board dedicated to snacks.

 

And as a preview to what I’ll be talking about tomorrow, this year, I’ve gotten some new inspiration for cooking with my kids from a couple cooking-themed kids’ subscription boxes.  Raddish Kids has more dinner-themed recipes, while Kidstirs has a variety of meals and snacks.  Both are pricey, but if you have grandparents asking for gift ideas (or if you’re in a public school charter like ours that lets you spend your funds on educational subscriptions), I’d recommend checking them out.  Yes, my kids can cook in the kitchen with me any time, but the kit does the organizing work for you and feels more special.  Both kits are geared towards kids and have cute designs and fun little extras along with the recipes.  You have a shopping list, but the groceries themselves are not provided.  My kindergartner was the official recipient of both subscriptions, but her 8 year old sister often helps, her four year old sister watches, and her ten year old brother will sometimes lend a hand.  Here’s the lowdown on both (and I’m not sponsored by either, so I’m giving you my honest opinion):

Raddish Kids features three laminated, fold out recipes around a central theme each month.  Kits are $24 apiece with free shipping (with a slight discount if you get a 6- or 12- month subscription).  In the first kit, your child gets an apron, and each month, there’s a patch to sew on to show they’ve mastered those recipes.  Ingredients are fairly common, and directions are very clear.  I like that the pages fold out so that you can see the ingredient list and the directions all on one page without having to flip back and forth.  The back often features a special skill that your child can develop or gives you information about a particular ingredient.  There’s often a little activity to go with the theme (for Chinese month, we made little paper lanterns), and they always include one kitchen tool (which have all held up so far) to help with the recipes.  I have a fairly well-stocked kitchen, accessory-wise, but we do now have some new tools (like a dumpling press) that we didn’t have before and now use often.  Taste-wise, these recipes have almost universally been a hit with my kids, and only one was too bland for me.  They are truly from-scratch recipes, with no dumping cream-of-something soup over a chicken and calling it cooking.  Recently my daughter and I went through all 18 of the recipes we’d tried, and there were only two that we didn’t want to keep (one, a spaghetti sauce, was tossed only because we all prefer my husband’s family recipe, and the other, chicken tenders breaded with cornflakes, was fine but just not particularly better than my other baked chicken tender recipe).  A couple of them, including pork dumplings and beef stir-fry, were such big hits that they’re now in our regular meal rotation.  My girls made the blueberry muffins for breakfast this morning.  Also, the website has a wealth of resources of which we have only scratched the surface.  They are very homeschool-friendly, with lesson plans for many ages, they have a special American Heritage Girls badge kit, and they have adapted recipes for special diets available.  We only have a peanut allergy in our family, so we haven’t needed to adapt any of them, but it’s nice to know that we could if we had to.  The only con for me was that the recipe cards are hard to store, but I see that they now have a binder with pockets that we could get to slide the cards into if we wanted.

Kidstir also provides three recipes around a theme each month.  A single kit is $20 plus shipping, with a discount if you buy a multiple month subscription. There are only 12 kits available, so after a year, you’d just be getting repeat boxes, unlike Raddish kids, which creates new kits each month.  In the Kidstir box, you get two kid-sized cooking tools, and often they’ll include little decorative things (flag toothpicks for finger food, etc).  The recipe pages are not laminated, so you can’t just wipe spills clean, and the ingredients and recipes are scattered across a couple separate pieces of paper, forcing you to flip a page back and forth while cooking, which I dislike, but they’re already hole-punched to put into your binder, which has all the categories of a common cookbook.  I like that my daughter is literally building her cookbook each month, and it’ll be easy to add in additional recipes as she continues to spend time in the kitchen.  They also have educational pages and several online resources on the website.  My kids loved the “eat a rainbow” charts so much that I keep printing off more from the website so they can continue to keep track of their fruit and vegetable intake. Nutritionally, the recipes are healthy but not too healthy, if you know what I mean, and they’re pretty kid-friendly, not pushing them too far out of their comfort zone.  Last night we munched on kale chips that we made from one of their recipes, and that is a big deal, because five out of the six of us loathe kale in other forms.  Because a lot of them are snacks and not dinner recipes, we haven’t gotten around to making all of them yet, but my girls are definitely enthusiastic to try more.  I think these kits are really fine, but because I like the layout of Raddish better, I’d give a slight edge to Raddish.  I’m mean, if you’re up for spending $24 a month on cute cooking inspiration in the first place.

And of course, I’m a big fan of letting the kids browse my cookbooks for a fun-looking recipe and then trying it together!

What do you do about food with your family over the summer?

Posted in Good Food, Home Life | Leave a comment
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