Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Under Construction

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Image courtesy of Craftyjoe/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Most bloggers are excited to reveal a new name or blog design, but not me. I am miserably lacking in the web-design-talent area. (My money tree isn't bearing fruit right now either, so . . . yeah.) Maybe one day html and all things techy will click, but it is NOT this day.

Anyway, as some of you have probably noticed, my blog does have a new name, Brandi Raae (that's me). It was formerly known as Autumnfawn Lane, but I decided to change it, and because my blog doesn't really have an overall theme like cooking, furniture makeovers, parenting, etc., a "catch all" title just wasn't happening.

So, let me reintroduce myself, "Hi, I'm Brandi Raae, and I blog about anything and everything."

My very nice hubby also bought me my own domain, so my new address is BrandiRaae.com. :)

Now, when you change your name and blog address, you need a new header, right? Sounds easy, and I know for some it is easy. Oh snap, not for me. I've played around with a few different header designs trying so hard to get the size, color, and whatever else right, and after a while, I got tired of doing it over and over again. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

I also tried fixing up my template, and that didn't end so well. I lost all my little tab things that go under the header. After that, I called it quits before I ended up losing my entire blog. As a reviewer for TOS, that just CANNOT happen. If it did, I would most definitely have to move to Australia!

Last night as I was reading in bed, hubby (that nice guy who bought me a domain), came in to show me that he'd been working on adding tabs back to my blog. He also sat with me for a while to help me start "cleaning" things up a bit. Truly a sacrifice since he really needed to be working on some of his other very important jobs.

Thanks for taking time out to help me, Babe!

Now what? Well, my blog is still under construction because it will take me a while to work on it. It will be a one brick here, one brick there sort of thing. Ya know, when I have a few seconds between homeschooling, chores, cooking, reviewing awesome products, writing blog posts, and all that mom stuff!  (One day, I will get my header right!)

I will still be regularly posting, so dear readers, please bear with me!

Thanks, you guys are awesome.

P.S. Feel free to give any tips, suggestions, constructive criticism, or words of encouragement. ;)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Super Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas

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This recipe is NOT for those who are afraid of cheese! I was introduced to this recipe over 15 years ago when I was a nanny for 3 adorable kids, and I have been making it at least once or twice a year ever since. It sure satisfies that cheesy Mexican craving, and my family really likes that the recipe calls for flour tortillas instead of corn tortillas. Try it. It's YUMMY!

Super Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas

Here's what you'll need:

  • About 3 cups cooked, shredded chicken (measurement doesn't have to be exact)
  • 4 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese
  • 4 cups shredded mild cheddar cheese
  • 2 pints sour cream
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 small cans diced jalapeño peppers (use more if you like it hotter)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups salsa
  • 10-12 flour tortillas, soft taco size

Here's what you'll do:

  • Mix together chicken, Monterey jack cheese, sour cream, onion, and jalapeños.
  • Fill and roll up 10-12 tortillas by dividing mixture evenly between each tortilla. (Last time I made these, I got 11 tortillas out of it)
  • Place rolled-up tortillas in two 9x13 pans
  • Mix together heavy cream and salsa and pour over tortillas. About 2 cups mixture for each pan.
  • Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top - 2 cups per pan.
  • Cover and bake at 350° for about 45 minutes
Enjoy!

Linked to Try a New Recipe Tuesday and Works for Me Wednesday

Monday, January 27, 2014

Only One Tween Year Left

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12 years ago on January 12th, this wonderful boy changed my world! How awesome it is that we get to start off each year by celebrating this kid's life. You are such a blessing to me, Lincoln.


Oh, this crazy kid! He's only got one year left of being a tween! Wondering if he'll be as tall as me by next birthday; he's only got about 4 inches to go. :)

Birthday dinner he picked: Brats and beans. For dessert: Root beer floats, of course! What else would the Rootbeer Fanatic have?

Instead of a gift, he chose to spend 4 hours getting hit by airsoft bullets with a friend. Fun times. ;)

2014, please take your time. My kids are growing up way too fast!

Friday, January 24, 2014

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials ~ Consistency + Creativity

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Homeschooling Essentials Day 5: Consistency + Creativity
 
I just couldn't seem to narrow down my last homeschool essential to one "C." My hubby and kids thought it should be CHOCOLATE. :) And, you know, a bag of Valentine Hershey's Kisses is sounding pretty yummy right now. Thank goodness it is almost grocery shopping day!

 (Image courtesy of satit_srihin/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Anyway, back to Consistency + Creativity - they're essential to my homeschool, and I really can't have one without the other. Though not alike, they compliment each other. When I think about this topic, nature and God's amazing handiwork come to mind. Nature provides a lot of consistency like seasons, sunrises and sunsets, night and day, and weather patterns, etc..

There's comfort in consistency. I think people, overall, like predictability, at least in some things, right? I think it's safe to say that most people have a daily routine of some sort. We like to have a plan. We like to know what to expect. No surprises. That sort of thing. Especially people with my personality! I'm a park-in-the-same-place-at-the-store and sit-in-the-same-chair-at-church kind of person. ;) Are you?

Nature also displays much creativity. I like to think of it as "creativity within the boundaries of consistency." Unexpected joys or changes but not outside the confines of our comfortable world of consistency. What I mean is this: every once in a while a rainbow might appear in the sky, and if you're like me, you are willing to drop everything to run outside with camera in hand, snap a few pictures, and then bask in its beauty until it completely fades away. That gorgeous rainbow breaks up the monotony of the same old sky you're used to seeing everyday. And believe me, in the Arizona desert, a change in the sky is quite a welcome sight!!

Sunrises and sunsets demonstrate the consistency/creativity concept as well. They happen everyday around the same time (consistency), yet they are all unique (creativity). Each one is like a glorious new painting crafted by our Creator.

There's revivification in creativity. Creativity awakens and stimulates the senses breathing fresh new life into the spirit. It puts a smile on your face and puts a spring in your step. A burst of creativity is sometimes the perfect thing to help you keep on keepin' on! Ya know?

Okay, enough of the nature metaphor, although this literature loving girl could stretch it out even further . . . but, don't worry, I won't. ;) So how does consistency + creativity work in a homeschool environment and why is it essential?

Consistency provides a calm learning environment which is essential for this homeschool mama! Also, my children know what to expect on a daily basis. Basically, school gets done. With consistency, there are few distractions, and my kids can focus on learning. Here are some things we do to keep consistency a top priority:
  • Get up at the same time every morning
  • Eat our meals at the same time every day
  • Start school at the same time every day
  • Do subjects in pretty much the same order every day even though my kids do have freedom in this area
  • Complete a set list of daily chores
  • Limit outside/extra curricular activities (I don't do hustle and bustle very well!) 
While consistency is wonderful, it can eventually lead to monotony, boredom, and going-through-the-motions syndrome. This is when consistency needs a little kick in the pants, and an extra spark of creativity is just the solution!

Creativity in homeschooling means doing something a little out of the ordinary to jazz things up a bit. Jazzing things up a bit is essential in order to avoid BURNOUT! It's a bit more difficult to come up with a nice, neat list for this because creativity is, well, creative. The possibilities are endless, but I will list some things I've done, do, and maybe want to do when consistency becomes a crisis.

Possibilities for adding spice to your homeschool routine:
The ideas could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. For me, just doing an art project with my daughter is creative because we don't include this in our daily routine. Trust me, I am NOT creative every day. I don't have the time, resources, or energy to continuously be creative. A spark of creativity every now and then makes homeschooling life fun and exciting. What do you do to add creativity to your homeschool?

So, as you can see CONSISTENCY + CREATIVITY are absolutely ESSENTIAL!


I sincerely hope you've enjoyed this series! Below are the links for all of my Homeschooling Essentials posts:

Calling
Couch Time
Character
Curriculum
Consistency + Creativity

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

 
Find out what's essential for other homeschool moms by visiting the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Here are just a few of the participating blogs . . .

Lisa @ A Rup Life
Jordyn @ Almost Supermom
Jenn @ Teaching Two Stinkers
Crystal @ Crystal Starr Blog
Jennifer @ Chestnut Grove Academy {Giveaways this week}
Wendy @ Simplicity Breeds Happiness
Jodi @ Insane in the Mombrain
Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
Lynn @ Ladybug Chronicles

{affiliate links may be included}

Thursday, January 23, 2014

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials ~ Curriculum

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5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials Day 4: Curriculum
 

If you're a homeschooler you need books, right? Choosing the perfect curriculum can be quite a daunting task. With so many choices these days, how can one possibly know which to choose? Well, today I am sharing a few things I have learned over the past decade about curriculum and how my views have changed somewhat over the course of our adventure.



For the first few years of homeschooling, curriculum choice weighed heavily upon my heart. I felt that one wrong choice could ruin my kids for life! Totally not true, huh? Fortunately, most of my fears about carrying the weight of my kids' education on my shoulders has subsided. I feel quite free now when it comes to choosing curriculum, but I still have a few basic curriculum essentials.
 
1. Curriculum by Subject: It has always been important to me to pick and choose curriculum based on each individual subject rather than to choose one major curriculum that covers all subjects, like a curriculum-in-a-box type of thing. Extra work? Maybe. But it helps me stay in budget and cater to the specific needs of my children.
 
Here's how I do it: During each summer, I make a list of subjects for each of my kids that they will need for the next school year. Mostly, the subjects stay the same like Math, English, History, Science, etc. I do make room for changes and extra curricular subjects, too, as this changes based on grade my child is in (and I use the word grade lightly here) and new interests and such.
 
2. Strong Curriculum Core: For our main subjects like Math, English, Science, History, and Spelling, I do like to have a backbone of quality products that I can continue to use with each of my children. Here's what's stood the test of time in our home for our core subjects:

Math - Math U See


History - Mystery of History



Science - Apologia



English - First Language Lessons (1st - 2nd grade)








Bob Jones (middle school)



Spelling - Wise Guide for Spelling/Spell to Write and Read
I've already written a post about this, so if you are interested click the link. :)
 
The above materials are just the basics. We have quite a hodge podge of other books and supplemental materials ~ I feel more homeschool posts coming on!
 
3. Curriculum Flexibility: While having a strong core is essential for me, flexibility is equally as important. With my personality type, I can tend to become a slave to whatever curriculum we are using meaning if we don't check off every single assignment and project, I feel like a big, fat failure. When I give in to that temptation, I know homeschooling has become all about me and meeting my presumed needs and wants instead of focusing on what's important. I am pretty much over all that after all these years, but I do keep my guard up to keep it from consuming me once again. :)

Being a part of the Schoolhouse Review has really helped me in the flexibility area. I have to constantly add to or readjust our current homeschool routine in order to incorporate new things. Challenging sometimes? Yes. But, my kids and I have had the opportunity to be exposed to SO MANY great books, programs, curriculum, and what not. It's also opened my eyes to lots of different learning styles. I started out gung ho on a Classical education. I am still very partial to it, but that style didn't leave a whole lot of room for flexibility and creativity. Interrupting our curriculum schedule to do a unit study or focusing on something that my child is really interested in at the moment gives us a break and breaks up the monotony a bit.
 
 
4. Use-What-You-Have-Curriculum: Totally essential in our homeschool. I've never had the liberty to buy whatever my homeschooling heart desires. We have to use what we have on hand, and I have to pass down previously used books to younger children. Usually, if my kids don't like a certain a certain subject's curriculum, well, it's just too bad. We muddle through until the next year. What I have learned to do is be flexible within the curriculum. For instance, if my child is struggling with writing a personal narrative for English, but he has an awesome idea for a fiction piece, I may let him change the assignment. The Internet and the library have really been a huge help for filling in gaps and for letting my children explore personal interests.
 
 What are your curriculum essentials?
 
5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew to read about more homeschool essentials! Continue reading by checking out some of the lovely blogs below . . .
 
Lisa @ A Rup Life
Jordyn @ Almost Supermom
Jenn @ Teaching Two Stinkers
Crystal @ Crystal Starr Blog
Jennifer @ Chestnut Grove Academy {Giveaways this week}
Wendy @ Simplicity Breeds Happiness
Jodi @ Insane in the Mombrain
Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
Lynn @ Ladybug Chronicles

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials ~ Character

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Homeschooling Essentials Day 3: Character
 
Of course I knew that when I began this homeschooling venture many moons ago that education would be extremely important, but I also knew that there was something far more significant than reading, writing, and arithmetic . . .

 
I want my children to grow up to be more than just smart. More than just "good" people or decent citizens. I want them to be known by their godly character. And godly character can only be built upon the solid foundation of Christ the Rock.
 
My kids know because I have told them more than once that I personally CANNOT produce godly character traits in them. They can certainly mimic my behavior, but I am powerless to modify their hearts in any way. What I can do as a faithful servant of Jesus is provide a fertile environment in which character seeds will be free to sprout and fully mature into beautiful, sturdy oaks of righteousness anchored to the ground by deep, thick roots. 
 
Homeschooling provides a wonderful environment for true character to develop. Why? It certainly isn't because it's perfect and problem free. Quite the contrary. There are 4 sinful people (my kids and me) who are related and forced to be around each other for 4 days straight from sun up to sun down without a break from each other. Yeah. As you can imagine (and relate to if you're a homeschooler), there are tons of opportunities for character to develop! It's so nice that Daddy is off on Fridays which definitely breaks up the Monday-Thursday monotony. :)
 
Character training can be extremely taxing and time consuming. As a homeschool mom, I am here 24/7 to deal with every. single. problem. that arises. Oh, it would be so much easier to just throw my hands up in the air and pretend to ignore the issue, chalk it up to some sort of "phase" and hope it works itself out, or freak out, yell, huff and puff, and be all dramatic. Sadly, I am guilty of all three, but I am so thankful that God gives me strength when I am weak to get back in the game of parenting. There's no sitting on the sidelines when it comes to training up my children in the way they should go so that when they are old, they will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
 
I am a far cry from perfect, in fact, God is using homeschooling to develop godly character in me. I love that with homeschooling, both my children and I can grow stronger together.
 
 6 Ways to Provide an Environment in Which Character Can Thrive
 
1. Make Christ the center of your home. Read the Bible together, pray together, and memorize Scripture. Sword Fighting is a wonderful tool for memorizing Bible verses with young children. Day by Day Kid's Bible: The Bible for Young Readers (Tyndale Kids) is the Bible that is recommended to accompany Sword Fighting. I LOVED using this combo with my kids when they were younger! (Clicking "this combo" will take you to a post I wrote in 2007 and shows my kids with their Scripture Memory Swords. I tried to make them look like Sting.)

2. Take time to read God's Word by yourself. This can be challenging with small children who seem to need constant attention, but it is vital for your spiritual health. I took advantage of naptime when my kids were little and tried to spend time in the Word every day. When my kids outgrew naptime, I made them have one hour of rest time each day. They had to play quietly in their rooms. Having this time of peace and quiet was absolutely essential!! Now, I am at a stage in my life where I can actually have my devotions in the morning before the flurry of activity begins. Yea! Currently, I am enjoying my new NIV Homeschool Mom's Bible: Daily Personal Encouragement complete with 365 daily devotions written by veteran homeschool mom, Janet Tatman.

3. Model godly character traits. As James 1:22 says, "Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." Put into practice what you read. We can't expect our children to exhibit godly character traits if we aren't willing to set the example. If you want your children to be patient with each other, they need to see you being patient. If you want your children to be self-controlled, they need to see you show self-control. Obviously, you get the idea. As you know, when you and your kids are around each other all day long, they see the good, the bad, and the very ugly. My kids know my worst weaknesses. They see me fail on a regular basis. It's not about being perfect but REAL. When you sin and fall short, well, that's the perfect opportunity to confess your sins and model the godly character traits of humility and repentance. I know I should be doing this a whole lot more, too.

4. Discipline your children.  "Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart." (Proverbs 29:17) Provide boundaries and when those boundaries are crossed, don't be afraid to give consequences. A helpful tool to assist with consistency in discipline is The "If-Then" Chart. I used this chart with my own kids when they were younger. I liked that both my kids and I knew exactly what to expect when a child disobeyed. The goal wasn't to become a slave to the chart since a chart can't possibly cover every single sinful act or the motivation behind the act, but the goal was to be able to calmly and effectively discipline with consistency.

I am not going to get into the methods of discipline here, but Proverbs is pretty clear about folly being bound up in the heart of a child. Children desperately need discipline in order to have folly driven far from them. (Proverbs 22:15) Disciplining your children consistently can be frightfully exhausting, but I do know from experience the sweet reward of diligence in this area. Hebrews 12:11 gives much needed encouragement for us as parents to not grow weary in providing discipline: "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."

5. Use outside resources to emphasize the importance of building character. While this isn't a necessity, it can be nice to have extra resources to reinforce what you are teaching. I have always had a very strict homeschool budget, so I never went crazy with buying extra materials, but 2 books that I used to help my children focus on developing godly character traits when they were little were The Original 21 Rules of This House and Uncommon Courtesy for Kids - A Training Manual for Everyone. I also take the opportunity to discuss characters in all the books that I read aloud to my kids. This is a great way to get your kids talking about right vs. wrong choices etc. And it's absolutely free if you use the library!

6. Give your children responsibilities. I don't know why, but giving my kids responsibilities seems to play a role in character development. Whether they realize it or not, responsibility can make them feel valuable and useful; like they're not just here to take up space and play video games all day. They really are a big help to me, especially now that they are older. Working together to effectively and efficiently run a home can be very rewarding for the whole family! Plus, it is important to me that my children learn to take care of what God has entrusted to us here on this earth. If they show respect for our home, it's likely that they will show respect at your home. :)

From the time my kids were old enough to choose toys to play with, I taught them to clean up after themselves. At age 5, all of my children had to make their beds before they ate breakfast. As they got older, I began giving each of them daily chores appropriate for their age. At age 10, my kids have to begin doing their own laundry. On weekends, they can earn a certain amount of money for extra chores. Here's an example of what my kids' chore schedule looked like 2 years ago. Trust me, I have normal kids. If you asked them if they like doing chores, they would probably answer with a heartfelt, "No!" But, I think I know what is best for them, and being responsible surely can't hurt!

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Whew! This post was rather long, but I am extremely passionate about this subject! Developing godly character flies in the face of the world and its philosophies, so being diligent in character training is a homeschool essential for me!

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

Find out what's essential for other homeschool moms by visiting the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Here are just a few of the participating blogs . . .

Lisa @ A Rup Life
Jordyn @ Almost Supermom
Jenn @ Teaching Two Stinkers
Crystal @ Crystal Starr Blog
Jennifer @ Chestnut Grove Academy {Giveaways this week}
Wendy @ Simplicity Breeds Happiness
Jodi @ Insane in the Mombrain
Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
Lynn @ Ladybug Chronicles

{affiliate links included in this post}

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials ~ Couch Time

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5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials Day 2: Couch Time


Couch Time. It's what I affectionately call the time that my kids and I spend together every morning from 8:30 - 9:30. And, well, we're all on the couch.


This time is absolutely essential in our homeschool. During this time we:
  • Read the Bible together
  • Pray
  • Read aloud another book of some sort - mostly novels
  • Discuss homeschool or other family related stuff

Couch time is very important especially now that 2 of my kids are older and do most of their homeschooling on their own. With three kids all three grades apart, it's really quite difficult to do school together. One is in high school, one is in middle school, and one is in elementary school. In fact, this is the first year all three of them are studying different things in science and history. My two who are in middle and elementary school do Spanish together, and that's it. My how the time has flown. *Sigh*

You'd think with homeschooling kids would always be together, however that is just not the case in our family. Once couch time is over, they pretty much go their separate ways until we meet again at lunchtime. That's why I think it's crucial to have a certain time every day that we spend together doing the same thing. I am glad that it works out for us to have that together time in the morning, but anytime would work as long as togetherness was a priority every day.

Some of my fondest homeschool memories revolve around reading fiction books to my kids! Because I've spent countless hours reading aloud to my kids on the couch, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite read-alouds:

Coraline


The Dragon of Lonely Island


The Hobbit


Tuck Everlasting


Puddlejumpers


The Magician's Nephew


Ella Enchanted (This one I read aloud to my daughter only ~ definitely a favorite!)


The Invention of Hugo Cabret


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone


Frindle


Is spending homeschool time together essential for you, too? How do you incorporate together time in your day?

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

Be sure and visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew! 89 bloggers are participating in the Homeschooling Essentials Blog Hop. Below is just a sampling of some great insights you will find . . .


Lisa @ A Rup Life
Jordyn @ Almost Supermom
Jenn @ Teaching Two Stinkers
Crystal @ Crystal Starr Blog
Jennifer @ Chestnut Grove Academy {Giveaways here this week}
Wendy @ Simplicity Breeds Happiness
Jodi @ Insane in the Mombrain
Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
Lynn @ Ladybug Chronicles


{affiliate links included in this post}

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