Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Five Tips for Meal Planning (And Check Out the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle of Resources)

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.

In honor of the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle on sale from April 23- April 28, I'm taking some days this week to post for you some of my favorite homemaking tips. I'm also going to let you know about some of the great books, ecourses, and audios that you can find in the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle. And I'll give you a chance to win your own Ultimate Homemaking Bundle!

In today's post, I'm looking at meal planning. Meal planning has never been particularly easy for me. But I have learned much and improved much in almost twenty years of marriage. So I'll gladly share some of the things that have made meal planning easier for me.

1. Meal planning saves money. This one sounds obvious, but so many times we choose not to plan meals even though we know this is true. When we have a plan, we aren't as likely to stop for fast food. We aren't as likely to go to the store with no list and buy everything we see. When we have a plan, we don't spend as much at the store.
In our early married years eating out was the common practice. Most of the time it's because I didn't have a plan. And when there isn't a plan and everyone's hungry, you are going to get something to eat somewhere. And it's going to cost you money.

2. Meal planning helps you to feed your family healthy food. This is another one that should be obvious but is often overlooked. When I have planned my meals for the week, I will buy things at the store that fit those meals. I'm much less likely to buy junk foods and convenience foods because they aren't in my plan. When I've planned out my meals, I can make sure that the meals I'm planning are healthy and nutritious.

3. There are different ways to meal plan, and you can choose what fits your family. I have a friend who plans the whole month worth of meals at a time. She has the meals written in on a white board calendar, and they are pretty much written in stone. This doesn't work for me. If I have a meal planned, and we can't do it that night for some reason, I have some OCD children who will not be comfortable with the change. 
We have a flexible schedule, and we need a flexible plan. Instead of a calendar, I have my weekly meals in a list. That way when it turns out that we are going to be gone all day Friday, I can choose a crockpot meal and pop it in that morning, so it will be ready by evening. I choose a variety for the week- crockpot, ground beef, chicken, pasta- and then pick the easiest one to make that day.

4.It is okay to have a "meal rotation." I have about fifteen to twenty meals I feel like I can cook well. I reuse those meals. I rotate through them each month. Some of them are particularly popular, and I might use those every week. Some of them are less liked, and I might only use them once a month.
The book Simplified Dinners that is in the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle is one that really helped me with this idea. The author shows how you can have one "base meal" that you change up in many different ways. This makes meal planning simple because you are using the same meal in different ways. I reviewed the book last year and learned quite a bit!

5. Have one location to store your recipes. I learned this one the hard way. Over the years I picked up recipes I could make well. But they were all spread out- some in one cookbook, some in another. Now I've consolidated things. 
I mark recipes wherever I find them- pinning them on Pinterest or saving the page as a bookmark. But once I have a recipe that I love and we eat, I print it out and put it in a binder. I also have my Simplified Dinners pages there. I keep the pages in page protectors so that I can spread my binder out and not worry about spills while I'm cooking. 

The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle has some great books to help in meal planning.

Simplified Dinners is a great one that helps you simplify your meal planning, spending less time planning but still serving healthy, nutritious meals.

The Happy Mom, Healthy Family Meal Planning Workshop and Cookbook is one that I am loving. It's an eCourse with a large cookbook of recipes that are simple and healthy.

Another one I'm finding a great resource is The Healthy Lunch Box: Sandwich Free Secrets to Packing a Real Food Lunch. This eBook is packed with information and includes tips for an allergen lunch box- which is nice for me because some of us eat gluten free!

These and the other great resources you can see below are in the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle. 

Tomorrow I'll share some tips for frugal living. Stop by to read and leave some of your favorite homemaking tips in the comments!

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A Super Bundle of Homemaking Resources- Almost $900 Worth of Resources for Less Than $30

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.

Get The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle--Hurry: Sale 6 Days Only!

By popular demand, 100+ homemaking bloggers are bringing back The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle, and it's better than ever!
The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle is a complete library of great eBooks on homemaking—a truly valuable knowledge base you’ll use for many years to come.
Unlike a library, though, you don’t have to spend years building it up. The Ultimate Bundles team has done the hard work for you, searching the web to find the very best eBooks from top homemaking authors and combining them into one essential collection that you can buy in one simple purchase.
Act now to get the ultimate eBook collection on homemaking at a once-in-a-lifetime price.

Buy the PDF Bundle
Buy the Kindle Bundle

I'm confident you won’t find a more comprehensive set of homemaking resources anywhere -- and certainly not at this price. Bought separately, they’d cost a total of $698 (not including $200+ in bonuses!). But you can have all of them for just $29.97!
Or, for just an extra $10, you not only get the full set of PDF files, but also a bonus set of Kindle editions, perfectly formatted for easy Kindle reading. This has been a popular request over the years and I'm excited to say it's now available!
I believe it’s the best deal on homemaking eBooks anywhere on the web. But it will only be available for six days. So grab yours before it's gone!
You get ALL THIS in The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle!
This huge wealth of information and guidance will be right there on your laptop, tablet, smartphone, or Kindle, whenever you need it.
Here's what you need to know about the sale:

When? 8 a.m. EST Wednesday, April 23 until 11:59 p.m. EST Monday, April 28
What? 78 eBooks, 2 eCourses, 2 audio files, and 2 printable packs PLUS over $200 worth of bonus products you'll really use!
Where? Purchase the bundle here.
How much? Well now, that's the best part. The entire package is worth nearly $900, and it's selling for less than $30. Sweet deal, right?
Get ALL of these eBooks for 1 LOW Price! One Week Only!
What's in the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle? ($698 value!)
Faith {For Kids}
Financial Stewardship
Health & Wellness
Holidays & Special Events
Pregnancy & Babies
Working from Home & Blogging
What are the Ultimate Homemaking Bonus Offers? ($200+ value)
In addition to all the amazing eResources, this bundle includes the best bonus offers it's ever had. These deals are worth over six times the price of the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle. So you’re up on the deal right away!
  1. DaySpring—A FREE 10-pack of Premium Greeting Cards. ($20.00 Value. Standard shipping applies.)
  2. HopeInk—$15 HopeInk store credit to be used towards anything + a FREE 8×10 Art Print with order. ($39.00 Value. Standard shipping applies.)
  3. Redeeming Beauty Mineral Makeup—3 FREE eyeshadows of your choice from Redeeming Beauty. ($16.47 Value. Standard shipping applies - only ships to US and Canada.)
  4. Marie-Madeline Studio—A $15 store credit for anything in Marie-Madeline Studio's online store. ($15.00 value. Standard shipping applies.)
  5. Once a Month Meals—A FREE One Month Pro Membership from Once a Month Meals. ($16.00 Value. No shipping required.)
  6. DizolveFREE 64-load pack of Dizolve Laundry Strips for you PLUS a Free 64-load pack of Dizolve Laundry Strips for food banks. ($25.98 value. Standard shipping [$3] applies. Only ships in the US.)
  7. TrilLight Health—Get a FREE 2 oz. bottle of a liquid health formula OR $15 store credit from Trilight Health. ($15.00 Value. Standard shipping rates apply.)
  8. ListPlanIt—Free 3-month membership OR 3 free ePlanners from ListPlanIt. ($15.00 value. No shipping required.)
  9. Bulk Herb Store—Instant download of the instructional video Making Herbs Simple Volume 2 for FREE from Bulk Herb Store. (up to a $15.00 Value. No shipping required.)
  10. Fit2B™ Studio—FREE 2-Month Online Fitness Membership at Fit2B™ Studio. (up to a $20.00 Value. No shipping required.)
Buy the PDF Bundle
Buy the Kindle Bundle

Remember, this bundle is available for 6 days only, from 8 a.m. (EST) on Wednesday, April 23 to 11:59 p.m. (EST) on Monday, April 28th.
Disclosure: I have included affiliate links in this post. Read the fine print about this bundle and read the answers to frequently asked questions about the bundle.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Review of CTC Math: An Online Math Program

I've posted several times this year about our math woes. We ended up this year with a new curriculum that really didn't work for us. And then I was faced with what to do for the rest of the school year. It's difficult to find money to spend for something new. And then I saw CTC Math. I was given the opportunity to review a 12 month Family Plan. This is an online math program for K-12. Because it is online and there is streaming video, it helps to have a computer with high speed internet for streaming. This program includes all of the children in the family. It is set up for five, but CTC will add members if needed. The 12 month plan is $118 for the family. There are other membership plans for single students and for monthly payments instead of yearly. (These prices reflect a sale price listed currently on the CTC Math website.) The program has math instruction for grades K-12. Up through grade 6, this could really be a full curriculum. I think that the higher level maths may better use CTC as a supplement instead of a full curriculum.

CTC Math features Pat Murray, a world-renown Australian math instructor, teaching all kinds of math topics. (He speaks with an Australian accent which we Americans totally loved!)

There are three main parts of the program- the parent area, the lessons, and the speed skills area. The parent area has access to summary reports and detailed reports for each child. There is also a listing of any rewards that the students have earned throughout the selected time. Along the right, there is a side bar with a summary of any activity that has taken place on the account from any student. This is a good place to get a glance at what each child has been accomplishing. Because of the detail of the reports I could view, I didn't have to sit with each child as they worked. I could check up on them on the parent area page. I also selected to have a weekly email sent that gave me a summary report of each child's activity and scores.

The next part of the CTC Math program is the student section with lessons. Kathryne, my 9th grader, is working on Algebra for a high school credit. She really didn't want to change over to CTC entirely for the review period because she was concerned about getting behind in her regular math. She did try out the Algebra section for me though. My other three children all worked entirely in CTC Math and will continue to do so because it has been a good fit for us. I have a 3rd grader, 4th grader, and 8th grader working in the program now.

For each of them, I've been very concerned about falling behind because of our math curriculum problems this year. So I had each of them start at the beginning of their grade level and work through at their own pace. On the opening page after login, the student sees these level choices: Kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, 6th grade, Basic math and pre-algebra, Elementary measurement, Elementary geometry, Algebra 1, Pre-calculus, Calculus, Algebra 2, Geometry, Trigonometry. Rachel and Ashlyne both started in their grade -3rd and 4th- and Charles began in Algebra 1.

Once they choose their level, several "streams" appear beside the level. After they choose a stream a list of "topics" appears beside the streams. After they select a topic, they have the option to take a Standard test or a Comprehensive test or begin a lesson. The tests can be taken at any time. So they can be used as a placement- if the student is ready for the topic- or as an end of topic assessment. The comprehensive test- which is longer- is also a good unit review with problems from every topic in the stream.

When the student selects a lesson, a streaming video opens. Pat Murray's (Australian) voice teaches the topic to the child. The videos are not very long - even the upper levels are around five minutes. After the video the student will click on the option to answer questions. In the lower levels, the answers are just entered into the program for many problems because many don't need extra room to work out a problem. In the upper levels, there is often a worksheet that the student prints out and then works on. Then the answers are entered into the program. In the lower levels that my younger girls are doing, there are usually around ten questions. Charles's Algebra usually has fifteen. The student gets immediate feedback on whether or not the answer is correct, and if an answer is incorrect, they can view the correct answer and- especially in the upper levels- the solutions worked out. All of the lessons- that I've seen- also have a choice to see the lesson summary by clicking a button on the right.

The other part of CTC Math is the Speed Skills practice. We didn't do as much with this because I have mixed feelings about speed drills. But I do plan on having my younger girls especially practice in this area this summer to build up their basic math facts skills. The Speed Skills area has practice on four levels: addition and subtraction; addition, subtraction, and multiplication; addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division; and addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division with remainders. The students are given sixty seconds to see how many correct answers they get. They compete against themselves to better their record.

There are many, many things we are loving about CTC Math. There are only a few things I would change. And it truly has been perfect for us right now as we have needed to right some of our math issues. Here are some of the things that we have liked.

*Short lessons. The lessons don't drag on forever as some of the online programs we've used do. They are short enough to hold the kids' interest.
*Progress indicated while answering problems. Another problem I've noticed in some online programs is that the questions seem to go on and on, and the kids- especially the younger ones- get antsy because it's taking long, and they don't know how much longer it will be. With CTC Math, they can see a progress bar and know exactly how much longer the questions will go on.
*Progress is rewarded with certificates. Based on their score, students receive awards: silver, gold, platinum. They can keep working on a topic until they better their score and receive the certificate they are working toward. These certificates are a big appeal for my younger kids. I've had one who really wanted to keep on with a topic until she could get that Platinum!

*The parent notification. I love that I can see how each child is progressing any time I like. I don't have to sit with each child to know exactly how they are doing. With multiple children it's difficult to watch everyone, so I love that I can check up on them.
*Ability to move to any level any time. There are times that an older child needs to work on a younger topic. With CTC, I don't have to put them in a grade and keep them there. I've found that for us, grade levels don't mean much in our homeschooling. And it's frustrating when I program makes me place a child in a "grade level." With CTC I can move a child around in the program however I would like.
*One price for the family. With only four children, my family is still considered large to some. And when I see an online program that charges for each student individually, I usually can't afford it. But with CTC I can add all of children for one price. I think the price- $118 for the year- is terrific for a math program than can be for all the kids all year. Even as a supplement, I think it's a great price.

So there hasn't been much I haven't loved about CTC Math. But there are a few things I would have liked to see that I haven't.

*Scheduling assignments. I would like a way to give each child an assignment schedule. Because we have the ability skip around as needed, I would like to have a way to assign specific streams and topics.
*Review. CTC Math is based on a mastery method of math teaching, not a spiral method of teaching. One of the things I don't like it that previous topics aren't reviewed every lesson. My personal philosophy of math- and plenty of others disagree- is that this constant review is necessary. CTC Math doesn't have it. The fact that students can go back to any level and can take those Comprehensive tests does make me feel a little better about the lack of daily review. But I'd like to see review built into the lesson problems each day.

I am very thankful that CTC Math came when it did. I know that God cares about "little things" like math curricula, and I know we needed this. There are many things we've loved about it and only a few I didn't.

Connect with CTC Math here:

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You can see what other reviewers thought about CTC Math by clicking below.

Click to read Crew Reviews

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Coming Soon: Five Days of Homemaking Tips and a Great Ultimate Homemaking Bundle!

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.

Coming in just two days, the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle will be available for purchase. This is an incredible bundle of ebooks, audio files, and printables to help you be the wife, mother and homemaker that God has called you to be. I've purchased my bundle already, and I am overwhelmed with how many great resources there are. These are new resources- not something already free that's just been repackaged. They are top quality, valuable resources. I'm pleased to be an affiliate for the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle this season. I can't reveal all of the resources available until the sale kicks off on April 23. But I can tell you that there are 78 items including ebooks, audios and printables. And there are 10 bonus products with free samples of homemaking products. The totoal value of the bundle is almost $900. Beginning the 23rd, Wednesday, the bundle will be on sale until April 28th.

In honor of the sale, I'm going to be posting Five Days of Homemaking Tips during the five days of the sale. Each day I'll post five tips in five different areas. I'll feature some of the books in the bundle each day. And I'll have all the links you need to purchase your bundle. The bundles will be $29.95 or $39.95 for Kindle editions of all of the books. (I purchased the Kindle option and also received all of the files in PDF format.)

Here is the schedule for the Five Days of Homemaking Tips:
Wednesday(23rd)- Five Tips for Meal Planning
Thursday(24th)- Five Tips for Living Frugally
Friday(25th)- Five Tips for Holiday Planning
Saturday(26th)- Five Tips for Cleaning and Organizing
Monday(28th)- Five Tips for New Homeschoolers

Please join me as I begin on Wednesday, and stay tuned for more information about the great things you can find in the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle.

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Review of a Journal to Study C.S Lewis's Mere Christianity from Homeschool Adventure Company

I've been a fan of C.S. Lewis's writing for a very long time. As a child I read his Narnia fiction. As a Christian school teacher I read the Narnia books aloud to my class. And I also began to discover some of Lewis's nonfiction writing. So when I had my own children, there was no question that I would share the Narnia books with them. But until now, I hadn't brought any of Lewis's nonfiction out. I was very excited to receive the Mere Christianity Journal from Home School Adventure Co.

We received the Mere Christianity Journal in PDF form. This sells for $18.95 on the Home School Adventure Co. site. There is also a print version of this journal for $28.95. The journal is for ages 12 and up, but we used it together with our whole family as our devotions time in the mornings. The journal page on the site suggests use as an independent study for teens or adults or a group study for families or homeschool co-ops. The PDF version of the journal can be typed into and saved. I printed it off for our use and we used it for oral discussion. In order to use the PDF version, you need a computer and probably a printer. You will also need to purchase the Mere Christianity book. If you order the print version, you'll only need to purchase the Mere Christianity book.

When we received the journal I purchased the book Mere Christianity as an ebook for my Kindle. In hindsight, I wish I had purchased a hard copy of the book. I have sent the PDF journal to my Kindle also, but I can't keep both books open at the same time to go back and forth between them.

We do a devotions time every morning with all of the kids and I- 3rd grade, 4th grade, 8th grade, and 9th grade. During this time I began using Mere Christianity and the journal. I read aloud from the book each day. We read and then stop every so often to discuss the journal questions that cover the reading we had done. Sometimes I ask some of the journal questions before reading as a pre-reading activity to help the kids focus in on what to listen for. And sometimes I just read them after I read the book to see if we can remember and discuss. The amount that we read every day varies depending on how deep our discussion goes and how much we can understand or need to reread.

The journal has approximately 10-12 questions for each chapter. Some of the questions focus more on comprehension, but most of them require thinking and analyzing. And some of them require longer, essay type answers. There is plenty of room for writing- either on the writable PDF or the printed off page.

I use different methods of questioning. Sometimes I only read a very short passage and then the one question that fits that passage. Sometimes I read a whole section or chapter before I stop, and we answer all of the questions for that passage. Although I expected my teens to be the ones answering most of the questions, I try to let the questions be a discussion between all of us, including my younger girls.

I really like the questions that the journal uses. Mere Christianity- in fact most of C.S. Lewis's nonfiction- can be very deep reading. It is sometimes hard to grasp exactly what he is saying. And sometimes his examples are great, but at other times, they are somewhat circular. The journal questions are very well-worded and thought out to draw the kids to an understanding of what we are reading.

For example, Lewis begins Mere Christianity by discussing whether or not there is a common law of nature- a base standard of right and wrong. And he is looking at how we can know for sure that there is this law of nature, superseding all of our opinions or personal actions. This can be a difficult concept to grasp, but the questions in the journal make one think of what's being said and help it to become more clear. One of the questions from the first chapter is: How does Lewis say our reaction to the atrocities committed by the Nazis supports his argument for a common sense among men of what is right and what is wrong? The question led to a discussion of whether or not the Nazis knew that what they did was wrong- an absolute wrong- and that the people around them obviously believed that they were wrong- an absolute wrong.

One of the neatest things that I've seen as we've been using this journal to guide in understanding Mere Christianity is that the questions and the discussion they spark have made the book understandable even to my younger girls. When we started reading, I purposefully only asked the questions to my older kids. I didn't want the younger girls to feel frustrated, and I thought most of it would be over their heads, but I'd be grateful for anything they could grasp. What I've noticed, however, as we are going along is that my younger girls volunteer to answer the questions also now. They are able to understand them, and they are able to use those questions to grasp the meaning of the book. I love that, as a result of using this journal as a guide, we are able to have these kinds of discussions that include all of us.

I can see many ways that this journal could be used. We are enjoying using it for our family devotions because it leads to these good discussions. I think it would be a great tool to give to a high schooler for independent Bible study. I could see it being used as a youth or adult small group at church or at a homeschool co-op group. I intend to continue on through the book now, and then possibly pull the journal and book out again in a few years when my younger girls are older and let them look at it from the perspective of older students.

You can connect with Home School Adventure Co. here:


And right now, there is a great special from Home School Adventure Co. for my readers. Use the code below for 10% off!

Home School Adventure Co.

Crew Disclaimer

You can read what other crew members thought about the Mere Christianity Journal and other Bible study products from Home School Adventure Co. here.

Click to read Crew Reviews

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This Week's Favorite Read: The Widow of Gettysburg by Jocelyn Green

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.

I'm actually in the middle of reading two review books right now that won't be ready to post until mid week. So I'm bringing out a favorite from this past year.

I am a lover of historical fiction, as I've mentioned before (maybe many times). The Civil War time period is of my favorites.

Widow of Gettysburg was an excellent historical fiction based on real letters and accounts of women who lived in Gettysburg, PA during the infamous battle.

Read the rest at my Leah's Good Reads blog here.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Great Spring Resources for Your Homeschool

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.

Although spring weather doesn't seem to be here to stay- at least in my neck of the woods- the calendar says it's spring. I'm joining the TOS Review Crew in sharing some spring resources for your homeschool.

The Legend of the Easter EggThe Legend of the Easter Egg - This is a sweet story that ties in the message of Easter with the symbol of the Easter egg. Homeschool Share has a free lapbook to go along with this story here.

Rechenka's EggsRechenka's Eggs - This is another beautiful story centering around Easter eggs. There is much here to use for further study, and Homeschool Share has a free lapbook/unit study to go along with this one. It includes activities for math, geography, and art as well as vocabulary and a book list of additional reading.

If you and your children enjoy lapbooking a Journey Through Learning has several $8.00 lapbooks for spring, including Spring, Easter, and The Death and Resurrection of a King.

Easter Lapbook with Study Guide-8.00The Death and Resurrection of a King Lapbook with Study Guide-8.00Spring Lapbook with Study Guide --8.00

Amanda Bennett also has some great spring unit studies including

Easter Promise which is a 5 day unit study for grades K-4 ($8.95):
Click here to view more details
 Easter Promise

Gardens which is a full 4 week study for grades K-12 (and is on sale for $5 right now!)
Click here to view more details

And Spring Surprises which is a 5 day study for grades K-4 ($8.95)
Click here to view more details
Spring Surprises

If you're looking for some spring crafts for your homeschool, here are some great ones I found:

Flower printing- involves flowers dipped in paint (and my kids love anything that uses paint!)

A Tissue paper tulip- This would be especially cute for young kids.

Rainbow luminaries- The blog post says for preschoolers, but I know my older kids would like this one also.

Butterfly finger puppets using pressed flowers- These are really pretty.

Felt eggs- These are sown, so they would be great for older kids. And there is a link to instructions for a cute woven basket at the end.

With all of these great ideas, we can still enjoy spring in our homeschool- even if the weather isn't cooperating.

Check out what the other Crew members are posting about spring studies. (This will be live on Wednesday, April 23)

That's Pinteresting

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