Wrapping Up Weeks 24-25 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
In the last two weeks, we’ve had three awesome field trips (to the Aquarium of the Pacific, and La Brea Tar Pits, and the Discovery Cube), so we got a little behind on our regular schoolwork and are still playing catch-up going into next week.  I normally wouldn’t pack so much into such a short time frame, but we wanted to join our homeschool group at the aquarium.  Then we had free admission to the tar pits because of our membership to the natural history museum over the last year, and we wanted to be sure to visit before it expired at the end of the month.  And finally Ian was having a fun day at Disney’s California Adventure performing with his handchime choir (and of course, just enjoying the park), so I took the other kids to the Discovery Cube that day, where we became members so our whole family can go back anytime we want over the next two years.

I have to admit, I had to battle the side of me that just wants to get through all our work and force myself to be okay with getting behind.  Since we aren’t doing a formal science curriculum this year, however, I was glad for chance to let the kids explore and learn on their own during those three days, and they all really were wonderful experiences. Luckily I scheduled a catch-up week in February when I wrote out my lesson plans for the year, so we should be back on track soon.

Here’s what we’ve been doing over the last two weeks in between all the fun:

History

In From Sea to Shining Sea for Young Readers we read about the Supreme Court and Chief Justice John Marshall.  It was a great week for talking about the different branches of the government, and the boys watched two Learn Our History videos, one about the the Supreme Court, and one about the President.  Ian also watched President Trump’s Inauguration with me and we had some good discussion about the practical side of changing Presidents.

      
Then we started reading about the War of 1812.  I want to be able to spend some time focusing on the Star-Spangled Banner, so I didn’t rush through these chapters.  We’ll probably spend at least another week on this war, as I have some picture books I want to read to help it come more alive.

Biography

The boys read two books on one of my favorite Christian workers: George Müller: Does Money Grow on Trees? and George Müller: Faith to Feed Ten Thousand.

   
The rest of our time was spent trying to squeeze in our usual work and enjoying our latest read-aloud, The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks.  We got a little behind in our writing assignments from All Things Fun and Fascinating, but hopefully we’ll catch up in the next few weeks!

Wrapping Up Week 23 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
I didn’t write a post about a “Word for 2017,” but if I had, my word this year would SAVOR.  It’s so easy to get caught up in trying to get everything done and the busy pace of life around us in Southern California, but this year more than ever before I have felt the Lord prompting me to savor the precious moments I have with my children.  Savor the last few months of Nathaniel being the youngest and soak up all the affection he lavishes upon us.  Savor those sweet hours by the fire reading to my older boys.  Savor the cuddles with Arianna as she reads her first words, and the constant serenading of Nico singing his ABCs and number songs.  Savor those little flutters getting stronger every day as my final pregnancy ticks away and we get closer to the arrival of our youngest child.

School happened this week.  Of course it did.  But since it was mostly just continuing on with everything I wrote about last week, I see no reason to cover the majority of what we did.  I’d rather spend the time doing some of that “savoring” and just jot down some notes for future reference about our time studying the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark expedition. (Hear the Classical Conversations families breaking into song?)

Books

           

Videos
Geography Activities
  • We continued learning the states by adding those in the South and Northeast on this online geography activity
  • The boys colored in the states in area of the Louisiana Purchase on our maps (following current state lines, so it’s not entirely accurate, but I just wanted them to get the general idea of how the nation was expanding over time).

Wrapping Up Week 22 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
It’s been a long time since I’ve done a weekly wrap-up (I think my last one was Week 12 of this school year), but I’m already regretting taking such a long break.  I often refer back to these posts to see what resources I used when covering a particular subject, and I’ve left a gaping hole in that record.  I’m hoping to at least pull together a list of everything we used to cover the American Revolution, as that’s the thing I’m most likely to want to come back to.

As is often the case when returning after the holidays, we’re making a few changes for the rest of the school year, the biggest being that we’ve decided not to return to the Classical Conversations community we were a part of in the fall.  Due to some minor concerns with my pregnancy, I am taking my doctors’ advice to cut back on activities and will be trying to spend more days at home.

I had considered taking one more week of holiday, especially since we just returned from a family missions trip to Mexico, but I’m a little concerned about completing our school year before the baby comes (hoping she’ll hang on until May), so we plunged back in completely this week.

Preschool

Arianna (age 5) has been showing so many signs of being ready to move ahead with reading.  Although she’s been doing well on Reading Eggs, she lacks confidence, so I decided to start being more intentional with her each day.  When we’re cuddling up to read together, I’ll occasionally ask her to find a certain word on a page (she loves things like I Spy and Where’s Waldo books, so to her this is a similar kind of game).

We also started going through a very old Harper & Row reader, Janet and Mark.  I learned to read with this series, and my mom used it in her Kindergarten class for decades.  She even had the book broken up and stapled into individual story books, which we inherited when she retired, so Arianna is proud to see her progress as she masters each “book” and moves on to the next.  They use a whole word approach, rather than phonics, which she already gets plenty of in her Reading Eggs lessons.  She is SO excited to finally be reading actual books, and I’m glad these books are helping her be successful.

Just as a final note on this, it took her a while to get used to the style of this reader.  I know many people are turned off by the unnatural way of speaking, and Arianna definitely thought it was strange.  However, she was aching to find some reading success, and it didn’t take her long to get over the odd syntax because she was so thrilled with her achievement.  (My oldest, Ian, had the opposite experience.  He was bored by these books and gained confidence so quickly he didn’t really need the them the way Arianna does.)

Elementary

With the two older boys, we had reached a couple natural “breaks” in our curriculum before the holidays, so things felt fresh and we enjoyed getting to move ahead this week.

History

Before the break, we had finished up The Light and the Glory for Young Readers and moved on to the next book in the Discovering God’s Plan for America series, From Sea to Shining Sea for Young Readers.  (We’re using the older editions of all the books, which are titled “For Children” instead but are essentially the same, just without the questions at the end of each chapter).  That put us just after the American Revolution and the creation of the U.S. Constitution.

This week we read chapters 2 and 3, which covered the migration of people westward toward the Mississippi River and the circuit riders who preached during the great period of revival in that area during the decades after the Revolution.

I want to be sure the boys are getting a good foundation in geography, so we started working on memorizing the states, beginning this week with the original 13 colonies.  They used an online geography activity to get started (computer games make everything more fun, right?) and then labeled a map of the colonies from Map Trek: The Complete Collection.  This book is an incredible resource for history lessons, with maps that can help build understanding from the span of history.  The included CD-ROM includes reproducible student maps, so it’s easy to just print out what you need.

In addition to the map of the 13 colonies, I printed up one of the entire country and had the boys color in the states those colonies became (noting the name changes of West Virginia, Vermont, and Maine).  As we continue learning about the expanding nation, we’ll color in additional areas.

The boys also got in some extra geography practice as they put together a couple different puzzles of the continental U.S.

Biography

To coordinate with our history lessons, our biography this week was Daniel Boone: Bravery on the Frontier from YWAM Publishing’s “Heroes for Young Readers” series.   I was hoping to also read a couple chapters about Boone from Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans but it just never happened.

[Note: During the weeks I didn’t write about, we covered John CalvinJohn Knox, Hudson Taylor, William Carey, and Amy Carmichael (also another book on her and the DVD from Torchlighters including the documentary).]

Literature

I don’t want to always have our read-aloud books line up with what we’re studying in history, but it seems like that’s what I do more often than not.  This week we read the first half of Streams to the River, River to the Sea by Scott O’Dell, an award-winning novel about Sacagawea.  I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, never having read it myself.  We enjoyed O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins a few months ago, so I figured we’d give it a try, even though I wasn’t sure if the boys would get into it.

All of us have ended up really enjoying the book, however.  They beg me to read more each day, and it’s making me want to read more about Sacagawea on my own.  We’re getting into the chapters on her journey with Lewis and Clark now, and I’m looking forward to tying it in with our history lessons (and biography) next week.

Spelling/Writing

For spelling, I’ve made a minor change.  Ian has been going through Sequential Spelling 1 for several months now, and it has been incredibly helpful for him, both in terms of his actual spelling ability and as far as his confidence is concerned.  However, there are a full 180 days worth of lessons to each level and I wanted to find a way to accelerate him through Level 1 a bit so he isn’t stuck at at this level through next year.

However, I wanted to avoid skipping lessons or making him do multiple ones each day, and this week we tried out what I think will be a good solution.  I’ve had Elijah join him in the program, and rather than using the DVD-ROM or having me administer the “test” each day, they take turns with the Student Workbook and Teacher Guide.  That way each of them goes through two days’ worth of lists each day and has to concentrate on the spelling of the words, but they each take a turn writing the words down and being the “teacher.”  I also selected several of the week’s words and created a list at SpellingCity.com so the boys can play games while getting in a little extra practice.

In writing, we completed Lesson 10 in All Things Fun and Fascinating from IEW.  I still have to work with boys pretty closely each step of the way, although they are starting to be able to write their rough drafts mostly independently.  Sometimes they get caught up in their writing and skip over things from their outline, but I usually just let that go until we start editing because I love that they’re so focused on getting their ideas written.  Then later we go back over the outline to make sure they included everything important and they work through their checklists to make sure they’ve used all the writing elements they’re supposed to have in each paragraph.  They’ve both come such a long way since we started using IEW materials last year.

Math

Once we reached the last lesson focusing on teaching multiplication in Teaching Textbooks 4 (lesson 66) back in early December, I had them hold off on moving ahead.  Instead, we spent a few weeks just focusing on multiplication facts.  We played “Memory” games, where the boys had to make matches of the problems and answers.  They played games on multiplication.com and used Learning Wrap-Ups.

And of course, they kept up daily practice on XtraMath.org (both boys had either mastered or come close to mastering addition and subtraction, so I just changed the program over to multiplication).  We also listened to the skipping counting songs from our Classical Conversations audio CDs several times a week in the car.

This week it was time to start moving ahead, and it was obvious that the time we spent working on memorizing facts was well worth it.  They were able to move through the more advance multiplication problems fairly quickly because they didn’t need to stop and look up each fact on a times table.

Independent Computer Work

After lunch, I usually try to lie down and rest with the little ones for a while, so the boys work independently on math and a few other extras on the computer.  I’ve tried to give them some variety each day so they don’t get bored, yet I’m trying to be intentional as well.  Here are some of the things that found their way on to their lists this week or will in the near future:

Most of these aren’t free, unfortunately.  Some we still have subscriptions to after I wrote reviews, and others we’ve chosen to purchase after getting a chance to try them out because we found them to be so worthwhile.

So that was our first week of school for 2017!  I’m looking forward to a few solid months before we switch into baby mode.

A Royal Christmas to Remember by Jeanna Young (Book Review)

I have seen “The Princess Parables” series by Jeanna Young and Jacqueline Johnson at various conferences and such, but I’ve only ever glanced at them without reading through a book.  When I was given a chance to review A Royal Christmas to Remember, I was more than happy to take a closer look.  My 5-year old daughter loves all things princess-related, so I knew she would enjoy it.

The story starts with the five sisters anticipating a beautiful Christmas with their father, the King.  Their main focus is decorating the castle, and their only concern is that they might need more space to store all the decorations in the future.  They go to bed on Christmas Eve thinking mostly about what they’re hoping to find under the tree in the morning, despite their father’s attempt to remind them of their many blessings and the gift of Jesus.

Everything changes when the princesses are awakened in the middle of the night as their father heads out to fight a group of evil invaders.  When dangerous men break into the castle, “their trivial thoughts of presents and Christmas decorations ceased to matter.” The princesses are not harmed, but when they learn that many in the village have been affected, they decide to share out of their abundance and learn the joy of giving to others.

The story was a sweet way to remind my daughter to turn her thoughts outward, especially at Christmas time.  She was drawn to the colorful illustrations by Omar Aranda, and I appreciated a book that acknowledges the true meaning of Christmas: celebrating God’s generous gift of His Son.

BookLook disclaimer

Sentence Diagramming from The Critical Thinking Co. (Crew Review)

This is the first year we have done any sort of formal grammar instruction, and I’m curious about different resources that are available.  I was thankful for the recent opportunity we were given to try Sentence Diagramming: Beginning from The Critical Thinking Co.™.

About Sentence Diagramming: Beginning

Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}Sentence Diagramming: Beginning is a 72-page softcover workbook consisting of 12 lessons.  Designed for use with Grades 3-12+, the lessons are simple but not childish, so they can provide instruction and/or practice at any of these levels.

Lesson 1 begins with as simple a sentence as you can get, with just two words forming the subject and predicate (e.g. “Cats purr” or “Artists draw.”)  Subsequent lessons add in new concepts one at a time, building upon what the students have previous learned, until their diagrams become quite complex:

  • Lesson 1: Simple Subject and Main Verb
  • Lesson 2: Direct Object
  • Lesson 3: Adjectives
  • Lesson 4: Adverbs Modifying Verbs
  • Lesson 5: Predicate Adjectives
  • Lesson 6: Predicate Nouns
  • Lesson 7: Prepositional Phrases (Adjectival)
  • Lesson 8: Prepositional Phrases (Adverbial)
  • Lesson 9: Compound Subjects
  • Lesson 10: Compound Predicates
  • Lesson 11: Compound Direct Objects
  • Lesson 12: Compound Predicate Adjectives and Nouns

Within each lesson, the student gets to work through 4 different types of exercises (after brief instructional section with examples at the beginning of the lesson):

  1. Correcting errors in given diagrams
  2. Diagramming given sentences on given diagrams
  3. Writing original sentences on a given diagram
  4. Diagramming given sentences independently

Answers for all exercises are given at the back of the book.

Our Experience

I was surprised at how much my boys enjoyed the process of diagramming sentences.  It really appealed to their mechanically inclined brains, and I think it helped certain grammar concepts “click” in a way that has eluded them up to this point.

I really liked the way each lesson approached the diagrams from several different angles, and certain ones worked better for each boy depending on their strengths and how they think.  I would usually go through the examples at the beginning of each lesson, explaining which new concept was being presented.  They we would go through a few of the exercises in each section together, and I would have them try others on their own.

sentence-diagramming

I especially appreciate the copyright, which allows me to make copies to use within my family.  As a mom of many, I try to look for resources that I’ll be able turn to again and again, rather than having to repurchase multiple copies for each of my children.  Some of these lessons I just did at home with the boys on whiteboards, but others I copied for them to take with them when we were doing school away from home.  It was great to have this flexibility.

The minimal instruction made it easy to get into the first few lessons, but as they get more advanced, I think it would be hard for these lessons to stand alone.  The book shows how to draw the diagrams, but it doesn’t provide much explanation for why words are placed in certain spots, why some lines are slanted, and things like that.

Because of this, I think I would hesitate to go much further in the book on its own.  We are using it in conjunction with our current grammar program, which is teaching the boys about parts of speech more thoroughly, and as they get more comfortable with those labels, I think we’ll come back to Sentence Diagramming: Beginning to help broaden their understanding.  It’s also a great resource for families already doing sentence diagramming with their grammar program but looking for clear examples for extra practice.

Right now, this “Beginning” book is the only one available on The Critical Thinking Co.™ website, but I would be interested in seeing what the Level 1 and Level 2 books (mentioned on the title page) look like when they come out.

One Last Thing

The Critical Thinking Co.™ believes in the Importance of Preschool Academics, and has some great resources for parents who want to give their children some academic experience before they reach official school age, such as their “Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic Before Kindergarten!™” bundle, which includes five apps designed to teach basic skills.  You can see what other Crew members thought of these programs and other products from The Critical Thinking Co.™ by clicking on the banner below.

Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}
Crew Disclaimer

Elementary Spanish Online (Crew Review)

middlebury-interactive-review
Foreign Language can be a hard subject for home educators to teach if they don’t know the language themselves.  I really want my children to develop a proficiency in Spanish that exceeds my own limited abilities, so I have been incredibly thankful for the online courses available from Middlebury Interactive Languages.  Both of my older boys have benefited from their Spanish 1 course for Grades K-2 (see reviews of Semester 1 and Semester 2), and recently Elijah got a chance to start working through Elementary Spanish 2 (Grades 3-5).

About Elementary Spanish 2 (Grade 3-5)

Like all the Middlebury Interactive Languages Courses, Elementary Spanish 2 uses stories, songs, videos, and interactive games to help students learn basic vocabulary.  Depending on the activity, they must listen, read, write, and speak the key words for each lesson.

Elementary Spanish 2 (Grades 3-5) covers 16 units over two semesters, each unit consisting of six lessons.

units

Within each lesson, there is a variety of activities.

middlebury-collage

Students can go back and repeat lessons as many times as they want.

Our Experience

This course was definitely more advanced than the Grades K-2 course, mostly because of the addition of the reading and writing activities.  Elijah reads at at least a strong 3rd grade level, but I think this made the course more challenging than he expected.  While I do think it is important to be able to read and write when learning a new language, I am cautious about adding in too much of this.  In my own foreign language experiences, focusing on the written aspect of the language has hindered my ability to speak and understand it when spoken.  middlebury-interactive-languagesThis is mostly due to the fact that I am a VERY visual learner and NOT strong at auditory learning.  I think there was still enough variety in this course to make it worthwhile for students like myself, who really need to focus on listening and speaking to become proficient, but because of this aspect, I didn’t like the Grade 3-5 course as much as I did the one for Grades K-2.

The only other issue we had was that because this course was building upon what Elijah has learned in the Spanish 1 course, it was beyond my own knowledge of the language.  He struggled a little more in this course, but now I’m not able to help him nearly as much.  Most of the time just going back and repeating some of the introductory lessons in the unit was enough to answer his questions and get him back on track, but I could see where it might be helpful to have the teacher support, which is available for an additional cost.

Overall, I still think Middlebury is a great option for families whose students need to work independently on learning a foreign language.  I love the way the stories immerse the student in the language by using only Spanish, highlighting the vocabulary words to help them understand while getting them accustomed to hearing the language spoken fluently.  My children may never speak Spanish completely fluently themselves, but Middlebury has at least given them a good foundation upon which to build.

Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}
Crew Disclaimer

Just Checking In

Changes are upon us.  Our family is growing, and I’ve decided to take a break from the Homeschool Review Crew after finishing up my last few reviews in the next few weeks.  This school year has just felt too busy, and something needed to go.  I’m trying to figure out how much I want to be blogging in this season.  I love having a record of what we’ve done (and I go back to look things up more often than you’d imagine), but I’m also ready to back off a little bit.  I haven’t posted a wrap-up in a few weeks (we took last week off of school), so I thought I’d try to catch up this weekend, but then that didn’t happen either.  I probably won’t be writing weekly, but I don’t want to give it up entirely.  It may take a while to find a new rhythm.

The Familyman’s Christmas Treasury (Crew Review)

familyman-review
Can you believe it’s almost time to start thinking about Christmas?  Our family has been getting in the mood lately as we listened to the Christmas stories that make up The Familyman’s Christmas Treasury – Audio Collection.  We received the Digital Downloads of these eight original stories written by Todd Wilson (a.k.a. The Familyman) and read by Jim Hodges.

About The Familyman’s Christmas Treasury

the-familymans-christmas-treasuryI’m pretty particular about what we focus on during the Christmas season, and I really wasn’t sure what to expect when we first started listening to these stories.  I was pleased to find that not only were they all Christ-centered, they were thought-provoking as well.  Here are some brief summaries of the eight stories we received.

Cootie McKay’s Nativity

When a small town’s cherished nativity scene is ruined, they commission a local man to create a new one for next year.  The only trouble is, Cootie McKay is not only a little odd, he doesn’t even know the Christmas story.  Over the course of the year, Cootie learns about Jesus, and his creation helps the whole town see the familiar figures in a new way.

Captain Chaos and the Manger Blaster

When Jason gets irritated with his sister’s fascination with their “boring” manger scene, he pretends to blast it to bits, never expecting his wish to come true.  “Captain Chaos” erases the birth of Jesus from history, and Jason sees how different life would be if he had not been born, gaining a new appreciation of the true meaning of Christmas.

The Stranger

As a stranger comes knocking at the homes of members of a small church, fear and distrust threaten to taint their Christmas experience.  On a snowy Christmas Eve, Sam’s family receives the dreaded knock, but his father only hesitates a moment before inviting the stranger in.  The family is soon able to look past Jesse’s outward appearance and their Christmas is truly blessed as they open their home and hearts to him.

The Bishop’s Dream

Not just another re-telling of the story of Saint Nicholas, “The Bishop’s Dream” looks at the true historical man and places him a modern setting, imagining what he would think of the shift toward a holiday focused on Santa and presents rather than Christ.

Harold Grubbs and the Christmas Vest

Isaac is embarrassed by the plaid Christmas vest his father insists on wearing to church every year as soon as Thanksgiving has past until he learns about the story of Harold Grubbs and how God changed him.

Gladys Remembers Christmas

Gladys hasn’t had a joyful Christmas since she was six years old, just before her mother died.  Years later, while packing up her father’s house, she finds their old manger scene, and discovers love for the the first time since childhood.

The Secret of Snow Village*

Catherine loves to look at her grandmother’s ceramic village.  Somehow Christmas seems better for the small figures, though she can’t figure out what she’s missing until she visits the village herself and finds out what Christmas is really about.

It’s Called Christmas*

300 years in the future, Nook is puzzled when his “Happy Holiday” greeting is returned with the puzzling reply, “It’s called Christmas?”  All traces of this word seem to have been erased, and it is no easy task for Nook to find out what Christmas is, but when he does, he sends a warning back to the past in hopes that Christmas can be saved for future generations.

*These final two of the stories are not included in the collection in the CD collection, though all eight are available in book format.

8_christmas_book_combo

Our Experience

Todd Wilson says, “As the father of eight children, I wanted Christmas stories that took longer than 5 minutes to read, didn’t confuse the truth with a tale, and above all, pointed my children to the Savior. I couldn’t find any, so I wrote my own. My hope is that Cootie McKay”s Nativity will give you gobs of snuggling time, Christmas enchantment, and will point your children to the manger year after year. ”

He has certainly succeeded, and the stories will definitely become part of our family’s Christmas tradition. Ian really liked “Captain Chaos and the Manger Blaster.”  I have a hard time picking a favorite, but I think either “Cootie McKay’s Nativity” or “The Secret of the Snow Village” would be at the top of my list.  I loved the creativity and variety in all these Christmas stories, and Jim Hodges is a wonderful storyteller whose warm voice draws you in as you listen.  We enjoyed all of these stories so much, I’m looking forward to getting the two Easter stories for our family as well.

The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection {The Familyman} Reviews
Crew Disclaimer

MyFreezEasy (Crew Review)

myfreezeasy-review
Freezer cooking has always sounded like a good idea, but I’ve never gotten more into it than making twice as much as I need when fixing dinner so I can freeze half for another time.  However, we’re in a season where it’s essential that I have meals prepped and easy to cook, so I was really excited to get a chance to review the MyFreezEasy.com Freezer Meal Plan Membership.  I’m in my first trimester of pregnancy, so I don’t always feel up to making (or eating) dinner, but MyFreezEasy helped me make sure my freezer was full of healthy meals that I can get ready for my family quickly and easily.

About MyFreezEasy

Each month, members have access to 8 pre-set meal plans:

MyFreezEasy.com Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}
Each plan has recipes for 5 meals, with the intent on preparing two of each one so you can get 10 meals into your freezer with about an hour of work.  There’s a place to set how many servings you want, and you can also swap meals to customize your plan to fit your family’s preferences.  Once you have your meal plan set, you can print it out, complete with shopping lists broken down in various ways, such as by meal or by section in the store, and instructions both for cooking the meal that night or preparing it for the freezer.  You can also print out labels with instructions for how to finish the meal when you take it out of the freezer.

MyFreezEasy.com Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}

My Experience With MyFreezEasy

There are several videos on the website to help you get started, so I watched those and read through all the information I could find before even glancing at the meal plans themselves.  They really helped me understand how to use the program, and plan how I wanted to do my shopping and prep work.  I chose to swap several meals and create a customized meal plan with a variety of different foods.  I followed the suggested to do my shopping and prepping and different days, which was a good idea since my prep work took me almost two hours.  (Maybe it will go faster next time, now that I have a little better idea of what I’m doing.)

dscn2318xI really liked the ease of printing the labels (there’s a link to Amazon to buy the right ones), though I wish they were smaller so they could all fit on one page (or if you could put 6 meals in your plan to fill up two pages rather than wasting two empty labels every time).  Not only do they make it easy to know what’s in the bag, they include instructions for cooking and suggested sides for completing the meal.

We’ve had each meal at least once, and while some were more popular than others, for the most part they were well received.  Here’s what I chose to make last month:

Apricot Chicken

I’ve never made anything similar to this before, but for some reason it kept catching my eye as I went through the meal plans, so I decided to give it a try.  It was good, very sweet (popular with the kids), but ours turned out a little dry.  I think when I defrost my second bag of this, I’m going to throw it in the slow cooker to see how that turns out.

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Chicken Fajita Bake

The instructions for this meal called for a disposable baking dish, but the next time I make it I think I’ll just put it in a freezer baggie (like all the other meals) and then dump the contents into a regular baking dish.  I didn’t even attempt to serve this one to my picky kids, but my husband and I really enjoyed making burritos with it.

dscn2320x

Chicken Taco Bake

This recipe combined several ingredients and spices to freeze.  When it was time to cook, we just threw everything in a skillet to warm it up, then poured it over tortilla chips, sprinkled cheese on top, and popped it in the oven for ten minutes.  So simple, yet it was really good, and I loved having the majority of the ingredients all thrown together when it was time to make dinner.

chicken-taco-bake

Cilantro Lime Chicken

This was my least favorite meal of the five we cooked, but it might have been because I had substituted coconut oil for the olive oil called for in the recipe and lime juice from a bottle instead of fresh squeezed limes.  It just wasn’t quite as flavorful as I’d been hoping for, even with fresh cilantro, and I think I would have preferred using chicken breasts rather than thighs.  Still, everyone ate it without complaint (and my kids are extremely picky eaters, so that’s saying something).

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Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff

I was highly skeptical of this recipe because it called for ground beef instead of stew meat like my mom always used for stroganoff and it just seemed too simple (Mom always used a seasoning packet, which for some reason led me to believe it was complicated to make).  However, this turned out to be our favorite meal out of all the ones we tried.  I actually made another two bags of sauce for the freezer because it was such a hit.  I want to be sure we always have it on hand!  Since the meat was cooked before freezing, I’m not sure why it’s labeled as a slow cooker meal.  I did it stove top one time and it was still delicious.  (I wish I’d gotten a picture of the final product, but we were all too eager to dive in!)

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Final Thoughts

I loved how easy the whole process was, from selecting recipes, to shopping and preparation, and finally getting the meals on the table.  When I’ve been pregnant in the past, my family has definitely had to scrape by when it comes to dinner, both in the early months when I struggled with nausea and then toward the end when I was exhausted and struggling to get everything done each day.  I’m so excited to have MyFreezEasy this time.

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I had ten meals in the freezer before I reached the nausea stage, and soon I’ll have another prep day and get it restocked.  We found some new family favorites, and I’m looking forward to trying some new recipes this month!

MyFreezEasy.com Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}
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If you were me and lived in… (Crew Book Review)

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We were recently blessed with the chance to review four titles from a series of children’s history books brought to you by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com.  History is one of my favorite subjects to teach, so I was excited to discover a new set of resources!

(This post includes affiliate links.)

About this history series

carole-p-roman-headshotCarole P. Roman has written dozens of books, including a series about cultures around the world that first used the title phrase “If You Were Me and Lived in…”  Now she has a new series out with a similar idea, but this time looking at civilizations throughout history.

There are currently eight softcover books in this series for elementary aged children), each exploring a different historical setting: If You Were Me and Lived in…

Each book introduces important events and people from that era, as well as information about homes, clothes, meals, education, games children played, and common names.  Pronunciation guides help children learn new vocabulary words, and colorful illustrations on every page help them visualize the text.

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Our Experience

Since we’re sort of covering two periods of history right now (one with our family history cycle and one with our homeschool community that meets once a week), I chose to review If You Were Me and Lived in…Colonial America (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 4) and If You Were Me and Lived in…the Middle Ages (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 6).  Although varying lengths, both books were packed full of interesting information and were a great contribution to our studies.

If You Were Me and Lived in…Colonial America

if-you-were-me-and-lived-inhellipcolonial-america-by-carole-p-roman-300x300_zpsjsbne7rbWhen I chose If You Were Me and Lived in…Colonial America, I was expecting to read about life in the colonies before the American Revolution, but actually this book is limited to the experience of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Plantation about a hundred years earlier.  It begins with a discussion of the religious situation in England from the early 1500’s on, explaining why the the Separatists chose to leave the country and eventually headed for the New World.  While mentioning the hardships that took the lives of many, the book doesn’t focus on how many people died, but rather talks about the accomplishments of the settlers who did make it through the first winter before moving on to details about the types of food you would have eaten, clothes you would have worn, and how you would have spent your time as a child living at Plymouth Plantation.

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The only mention of other colonies comes at the end, in a two-page spread of influential people in various colonies along the eastern seaboard.

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The 53 pages of If You Were Me and Lived in…Colonial America (plus 8 additional pages about influential people and a glossary) each contain one or two paragraphs in a fairly large font, which made it easy for my 3rd grader to read (although we chose to do most of it as a read-aloud because I found that lent itself to better discussions).  There is a lot of information presented in this book, so I found it best to break it up over several days.

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Although I find the title a bit misleading as far as the breadth of what is covered, I appreciated the information presented about these early settlers.  Even if you’re not studying this period of history, this book would be a great addition to a Thanksgiving unit studying the Pilgrims.

If You Were Me and Lived in…the Middle Ages

51m2fy3czrl-_sx260__zpseylxzdzfThe other book that fit in with our studies right now was If You Were Me and Lived in…the Middle Ages.  Not only is the book almost twice as long as the one on “Colonial America” (97 pages), each page contains much more text and is more appropriate for upper elementary readers.

This is a fascinating look at life in the middle ages, covering a wide range of topics, from the fall of the Roman Empire, the rise of feudalism, and William the Conqueror to the process of becoming a knight, religious life (including the building of cathedrals), and various vocations.

There’s so much here, we haven’t even gotten all the way through the book yet.

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And more!

The publisher also generously sent us two additional titles to review.

If You Were Me and Lived in…Ancient China: The Han Dynasty

51k93rav67l-_sx491_bo1204203200__zpswm27yfuqAlthough I haven’t read any of this book with the kids yet, If You Were Me and Lived in…Ancient China: The Han Dynasty will be a great resource to pull out the next time we cover ancient history.  The Hans ruled from 206 BC until 220 AD, one of the longest dynasties in Chinese history.  This period is often called the Golden Age of Ancient China, so the book provides an intriguing look at a unique civilization that in many ways was so different than that of the Ancient Romans living at the same time.

It is similar to the book on the Middle Ages as far as the reading level, with multiple paragraphs on each pages, though this one is only 76 pages long (including the pages on Important People in Ancient China and the glossary).  I’m looking forward to going through it with the kids in the future.

If You Were Me and Lived in…Renaissance Italy (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 2)

61jnw81ahdl-_sx491_bo1204203200__zpsdbg7rgy2Our homeschool group will be moving onto the Renaissance this week, so we’re almost ready to pull out If You Were Me and Lived in…Renaissance Italy.  With a special focus on Florence, this book looks at many of the exciting subjects that were being explored during the Renaissance, such as architecture, art, and music.  It covers what life would be like as a child in the family of a wealthy merchant.

At 53 pages, this book is similar to the one we read on Colonial America as far as length, font size, and the amount of text on each page.

Final Thoughts

Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew received different titles in this series, so if you want to find out more about those, click on the banner below to get to their reviews!

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com}
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