New school year already?!

2015-2016 school year is starting early this year.  Two years ago we started mid-July so we could take off for the return of SoldierBoy from deployment as well as our next move.  This year, no deployment, but we are again moving in the fall.  I didn’t want to spend our last summer here doing full days of school, however.  So I decided to start us back even earlier…but at a relaxed pace.  I want to make sure we have plenty of time for bike rides, trips to the park, lazy afternoons & family time.
I hope to do one full day of school each week as well as a couple half-days.  I am also planning some fun things, like a big unit study revolving around Walt Disney World.  When we move to Georgia this fall, we are going to take a trip to WDW before SoldierBoy starts school.  I am pretty excited about this unit (and the trip!!). I’ll share about the unit as we do it.

Starting at a relaxed pace will also help me to gain my footing as I am adding a Kindergartner to the mix this year!  When we began homeschooling, I was newly pregnant with this little one.  Its hard to believe we’ve been HSing this long…and that he is this old.

We have been off school for a month but it feels much less.  Its been a good break but, as I’m sure many can relate, I feel like I got much less done than I wanted.   I think I’m ready to get us started, though.  I better be…we’ll be starting in less than 11 hours!

Pizza Sloppy Joe’s & Menu Plan

There are very few recipes I make that are not enjoyed by everyone.  There are a few, though, that my kids enjoy more than my husband.  Since he travels frequently for work, I save them for his travel weeks.  These pizza joes are one of those recipes.  The kids are already licking their lips in anticipation!

Teriyaki chicken, rice & pineapple
Pizza chicken on hoagie buns, garlic pasta, salad
CPK’s Kung Pao chicken pasta
Grilled ham slices, sweet potato hashbrowns, pineapple
Pizza Joes
Weeknight pancakes, bacon, smoothies

Pizza Sloppy Joes
Serves 4-6

1 pound ground beef, chicken or turkey
1/2 medium onion, diced finely
14-16 ounces pizza sauce
3 ounces pepperoni, diced
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Other pizza toppings of your choice
4-6 buns
Mozzarella cheese, optional

Cook ground beef & onion in a skillet until the meat is cooked.  Drain.  Add pizza sauce, seasonings & pizza toppings.  Bring to a boil, reduce and heat until thick.
If desired, place bottoms of buns on cookie sheet, add meat mixture & cheese and broil for 1-2 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Optional: Brush buns with garlic butter and cook until lightly crisp before adding meat.

Food for my freezer: Freeze cooled meat in zipper-top bag. Or freeze in individual portions.


Lime Chicken Tacos

If your husband travels for work, you have likely experienced this phenomenon.  He’ll be home for some long period of time and nothing in your house breaks, no one gets sick.  And then he leaves.

Tonight I went to turn the grill on and the handle on the gas tank would not turn.  I couldn’t turn it open and I couldn’t turn closed.  I took two mallets and still no go.  Never mind that we’ve used it at least once a week for the last three months.  Tonight, the handle was voted to take its turn to break & make me crazy.  I’m pretty sure the household items hold a meeting while we’re asleep to vote.

They forgot that this wasn’t my first rodeo, though.  Dinner was only delayed by the time it took me to pull out the griddle.

The versatility of this chicken is one of my favorite things about it.  Winter & you need a taste of something fresh & bright?  Crock-pot it.  Summer and you want something you can cook while sitting on your patio enjoying the sun?  Grill it.  Appliances hold a meeting and vote the grill to break?  Griddle it.  Or stovetop it.  I’ve never baked it but that would work, too.  My favorite way to cook it is on the charcoal grill but rarely do I heat it up just for chicken breasts.  Still, the flavor is the best that way!

Lime Chicken Tacos

1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken (we use breasts)
1/8 cup red wine vinegar (I’ve also used white vinegar)
1/2 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Handful of fresh cilantro, optional

Crockpot: Combine all the ingredients.  Cook on low for 4-6.  Shred chicken (or cube it if it doesn’t want to shred) and return to liquids for another hour.

Grill, griddle, oven or stovetop:  Combine all ingredients and pour over the chicken (left whole or cubed).  Marinate at least 2-4 hours.  Remove from marinade, pat it dry and cook as usual.  Serve whole or, after resting, slice & dice for tacos.

Food for my freezer (raw):  Put chicken into freezer bag.  Combine remaining ingredients and pour into bag.  Squish it around and then freeze.  When ready to cook, thaw overnight.  Add everything to the slow-cooker or, after marinating through the day, cook on the grill/griddle/stovetop.

Food for my freezer (cooked):  After cooling, shred or dice the chicken, add to freezer bag & freeze.  Once thawed, we either heat it in the oven or on the griddle/stovetop.



Weekend Reading for the Homeschooler

I often come across weekend reading links on blogs but rarely do I come across them geared towards the homeschooler.  So here are a few for your reading pleasure.

Meet the Bacteria That Make a Stink In Your Pits–We just finished a unit on the human body and then this came on NPR.  I love it when we hear news stories that line up with our studies!

Top 10 Tricky Science Questions: Answered–How much does the earth weigh?  Why is water wet?

Sports Nutrition–Whether your kids are active in sports or you are just on the go, this article has some good snack ideas to pack and snack ideas to choose while you’re on the road.

The Brontosaurs is Back!–A new classification project has given the Brontosaurus its own genus again.

U.S.S. Independence is located–And its condition is amazingly intact!  And here’s another good article about the discovery.

Have you recently read any good news stories that relate to your schooling?

Weekend Reading for the Homeschool

Its no secret that I’m totally in love with Facebook.  One of my favorite things about it is seeing all the links my friends share.  And I love blogs that do weekly link round-ups.  But one type I don’t ever recall seeing is links devoted to homeschoolers–great posts, scientific or historical finds, planning resources, etc.

So why not?

How Stephen King Teaches Writing–“That fearlessness always comes when a kid is writing for himself, and almost never when doing directed writing for the grade (unless you get one of those rare fearless kids who’s totally confident). The best thing—maybe the only thing—is to tell the student that telling the truth is the most important thing, much more important than the grammar. I would say, “The truth is always eloquent.””

Supplemental Movie List for World History–This list is organized by time period and, from what I was told, screened for family-appropriate content.  I was also told that it is no longer updated.  Still, a great list for building that Netflix queue!

551 Feet Below the Sea: What It’s Like to Ride in a Deep-Sea Sub–My kids enjoyed the pictures and video.

32 Science Books Free for Kindle–Be sure to verify they are still free!

Most of Writing is About Relationship – What I Learned at a Brave Writer Seminar @ Our Busy Homeschool–We are starting Brave Writer soon, so this was an excellent and timely read.

Muffin Monday–Banana Muffins (Grain Free)

Mondays.  Dread ’em or love ’em?  I’ve found our Sundays determine my love (or lack thereof) for Mondays.  If I take the time to straighten up downstairs, ensure the school room is neat (it also serves as our play room, so….), vacuum and have put away, Monday will be a welcome sight.  If I also take the time to make breakfast on Sunday night, Monday goes even better.

The kids love muffins but I generally avoid them for breakfast.  They don’t seem to fill them up and I end up feeling a teensy bit guilty with all that white flour & white sugar. I try to choose muffins that are on the healthier side, substitute some whole wheat flour, etc.  And, yet, all those horrors of grains I see floating around the internet stick in my mind.

But Mondays are the exception.  Most Mondays are Muffin Mondays—the sight of muffins in the morning makes Monday a welcome sight for THEM and ME!  

When I came across this recipe, I was thrilled to see that it contained no flours.  Since we don’t eat grain-free as a rule, I hesitate to buy the alternate flours I see in most grain-free muffin recipes.   I was skeptical of the resulting texture since they had no flour but they hold together very nicely!  As a bonus, these are made with just one bowl, in your blender or your food processor.  I love a recipe that requires very little clean up!

If you don’t own a muffin tin, I have made this in a 9×13 pan or two square pans.  I didn’t note the timing, however.

After a few adjustments, we found the variation my kids really enjoy.  They freeze really well, so I always double my recipe.

Grain-Free Banana Muffins
Add to Plan to Eat

1 cup nut butter, any type (my kids like half almond and half peanut)
2 very ripe bananas
2 eggs
2-3 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Mix-ins of your choice–we do a combination of chocolate chips & peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 400.  Place all ingredients except mix-ins in a blender, food processor or bowl, if you have a stick blender.  Blend until well mixed.  Stir in your mix-ins.

Pour into a greased muffin tin.  Cook 15-18 minutes for full-size muffins and 10-13 minutes for mini-muffins. Cool in pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.