The Dutch oven makes Sunday lunches after church easy.

Easy Sunday Lunches with the Dutch Oven

Sunday lunches are tricky! When we get home from church, everyone is hungry and ready to eat. So I try to have lunch cooking while we’re at church.

In the past I’ve used crockpots to have lunch hot and ready when we get home. And crockpots work great for some dishes. But others just taste better when cooked in the oven.

Dutch oven to the rescue! It’s the perfect pan to fill with food and let cook slowly while we’re at church.

Quick Cautionary Note: My cooking methods may not be approved by the FDA. They may not be recommended. But, they are working for me, and allowing us to have delicious hot food when we get home!

How I Prep Sunday Lunch Meat in the Dutch Oven

On Saturday night, I grab a hunk of meat from the deep freezer. I’ve used whole chickens, pork and beef roasts, and hams.

I unwrap the meat and put it in the Dutch oven. This gets refrigerated until morning.

As I’m preparing for church in the morning, I pull out the Dutch oven and add enough water to cover about 1/4 of the meat. Then I add salt/pepper/whatever seasoning to the meat. I throw in some onions, carrots, or celery if I’m feeling like it.

The lid goes back on, and I pop the cold Dutch oven into the cold oven. I then set the heat to 350 degrees. While we finish getting ready, it cooks at this temperature for about an hour.

Right before we leave, I turn the heat down to 275. Then the meal continues baking while we’re gone. We come home and the house smells delicious. The meat tastes great, and it’s always up to temp by the time we make it home.

the Dutch oven makes Sunday lunch easy!

Sunday Lunch Mashed Potatoes

Cold sides are easy to have alongside the meat. We’ve had green salads, Jell-o, prebaked rolls, and more.

But, mashed potatoes go really well with meat. I knew I could make those in the crockpot, but was having trouble making sure they actually got done in the four hours. So I tried preparing them in the oven.

It works great!

I wash and peel potatoes and throw them into my second Dutch oven on Saturday night. Then I cover these with water and put the lid on.

In the morning, I pull the pan out at the same time I do the meat. This allows the cold pan to come back up to room temperature.

When I drop the temperature on the oven down, I put the potato pan in the oven. The water comes to a boil, and the potatoes cook all morning.

Once we make it home, they’re simple to drain and mash. I can make a little pan gravy with the meat drippings, while I heat up a frozen vegetable.

Quick lunch, and one that leaves some leftovers for eating later in the week!

How do you handle Sunday lunch?

Streamlining meals, especially on Sundays when life can be a little busy, is important for me. I’d love to hear what works for you. Do you utilize a crockpot or leave food cooking in your oven? Please chime in in the comments.


Super Simple Pigs in a Blanket Casserole

I’ve heard that necessity is the mother of invention. This recipe is proof of that truth. You see, my life is crazy right now. I’m totally overwhelmed, and looking to streamline as much as possible. Especially mealtime. That’s where pigs in a blanket casserole comes in.

On Wednesdays, we have hot dogs for lunch this year. I do a random assortment of pigs in a blanket, pigs in a tortilla, and regular ol’ hot dogs with homemade rolls. But this week, I didn’t have energy to do any of the above. I didn’t want to sit and roll out dough. I didn’t want to deal with frying the tortillas. And I certainly didn’t want to mix up rolls.

Owen hasn’t been sleeping again. Normally I can deal with several days in a row without sleep fairly well. But, when I’m pregnant, I can’t. I walk around in a fog and get grumpy. And I just didn’t have energy to cook our typical lunch.

So I turned to Google to see if I could make a casserole. I found plenty of options, but they all included chili. My kids don’t really like chili. Neither do I. So I knew if I wanted lunch to actually get eaten, I had to create something on my own.

And I did. It was super simple.

Pigs in a Blanket Casserole Directions

I took our pack of 12 hotdogs from Costco and had one kiddo cut them up. I asked another to mix up a batch of biscuit dough. And because life is overwhelming right now, we used Bisquick. Measure, add milk, and stir. Can’t beat that!

I greased a 9X13 inch dish. I had the hot dog cutter add the hot dogs to the bottom of the pan. Then I sprinkled shredded cheese on top of the dogs.

We topped the cheese off with big clumps of biscuit dough.

Then I tossed the pan in the oven and hoped for the best.

I let it bake for 20 minutes. When I pulled it out of the oven, the biscuits were golden and the cheese was bubbly.

Hot & Bubbly pigs in a blanket casserole

I cut it into chunks and dished it up. Some kids squeezed ketchup across the top. One added some sweet relish.

We added some fruit cocktail and some baby carrots to bring a little balance to our plates.

Everyone ate.

The kids enjoyed the variation. I was thankful for the ease.

So if you’re looking for a chili-free pigs in a blanket casserole, give this a try. I’d love to hear what you think if you cook it!

Why I Decided to Renew My Teaching Certificate

Why I Decided to Keep My Teaching Certificate Current

My teaching certificate expires in June of 2017. While I’m no longer teaching in a classroom, my husband and I made the decision that I should jump through the hoops to keep this certificate current.

Renewing my certificate meant taking 15 quarter college credits. I’m currently enrolled in three courses through Spokane Falls Community College.

Yes, adding college coursework to my already crazy schedule is a bit hectic. But, we felt it’d be worth it.


Student Loan Debt

The biggest reason I want to keep my certificate current is because we owe money on my education still.

Our journey to become debt free has been long, but we’ve paid off an incredible amount. All that’s left now is my student loan payment. The money we borrowed so I could take courses to get my master’s degree.

Since we still owe money, it makes sense to keep it active. That way if I have to go back to work, I can. If I let my certificate lapse and then we realize we need me to go to work, the process would be much harder.

So as long as we carry debt related to my education, I’ll keep it current.

I’m Homeschooling

Debt isn’t the only reason I’m working on renewing my teaching certificate. Another reason is that I’m a homeschooling mom.

While I know you don’t have to be a certified teacher to homeschool (there are plenty of parents doing a great job without!), I never know how the laws are going to change regarding homeschooling.

There have been other states that tried to implement “have to be certified” to homeschool legislation, and while those rulings might not have held up, it’s still on the back of my mind.

Since I’m already certified, it seems wise to take a few classes every five years to keep it current.

My Teaching Certificate Is Helpful in My Writing Career

When I launched my freelance business in 2015, I didn’t realize how often I’d pull the “certified teacher” card. It’s been extremely useful in landing gigs in the parenting and educational spaces.

While not all of my clients care, I have a few who do. And, I imagine this could be even more useful as I grow my business next year.

What Classes Am I Taking?
Since I needed classes to keep my teaching certificate current, here are the ones I’m taking. I decided to do them all at once because I hate paying fees. This way I only have to pay a pool fee and all those other fees one time.

So this quarter I’m taking Social Media Marketing, Business Communication, and American Sign Language. It’s an interesting mix of classes, but ones that’ll be helpful. They’re also all online.

How I’m Fitting Class Work Into My Schedule

I’m thankful that one of my courses is work at your own pace. I’ve been knocking out about a week’s worth of material every night, and I’ll be done with this class by the time I’m a couple weeks into the quarter.

That’ll give me more time to tackle the other two courses. Since I picked courses that I either had interest or some experience in, they aren’t as complicated. I just tackle each course one assignment at a time.

I keep reminding myself it’s only for 10 weeks. So I’m working on coursework in the evenings, and during the kids’ free time.

I made the decision to not work on growing my business much during this time. I still have some regular clients, but I’m not as actively pursuing new work. That frees me up a bit.

How My Courses Will Affect My Blogging

I’m hoping to continue posting here on Maggie’s Milk once a week while I’m in school. But if I miss a week, I’ll be back!

Do you have any grand plans this fall? I’d love for you to share them in the comments.

It's time to put up the fall harvest! Here's how I streamlined the process.

Putting up the Harvest: Fall 2016

It must be fall. The smell of ripe plums permeates the air when you open the door and walk outside. The apples are ripe. The garden experienced its first freeze. Harvest season is here!

Around the farm, September and October are my busiest months dealing with putting up food. The plums and apples are ripe, and we have plenty of trees to pick.

Additionally, a kind widow from church let us come and pick her pear, apple, crabapple, and plum trees. We’ve picked twice, and our kitchen has been overflowing with fall fruit for over a week now!

Here’s what I’ve been doing, and what I plan to do to finish putting up the harvest and preserve it for later. We’ll all be thankful for the delicious options come winter!

My Amazing Steam Juicer

A few years ago, Bryan’s Grandma gave me a wonderful gift–her steam juicer. I’ve used it over the years, but never to the extent that I have this year.

It makes processing fruit a breeze. I wash the fruit and throw it into the top section of the juicer. I do make sure there aren’t any leaves, but I don’t have to worry about peeling or seeding anything.

The bottom portion of the steamer is filled with water. Once the parts are all together, I put the lid on and turn the burner onto medium-high. Once steam starts coming out, I set the timer for an hour.

After the steaming is done, I’m left with two great products. The first is juice.


The second is this squishy leftover stuff. It’s not pretty to look at:

Juiced apples from the harvest

But, once I run it through a food mill it turns into our beautiful applesauce (or pearsauce or plumsauce…)


The Dehydrator

Another present from Grandma, our dehydrator has been running almost nonstop for a week. In addition to just slicing and dehydrating fruit, I’m slathering our sauce from the juicer leftovers onto my lined trays.

After dehydrating for twelve hours or so, it turns into tasty sugar free fruit leather. The kids love it!

Here are some of the apple rings we’ve also made in the dehydrator:



I’ve made a lot of jam with my mom over the years, but prior to this year I’d never attempted jelly. It just seemed like too much work, having to push cooked fruit through a cheesecloth.

Then I realized that you did that to make juice. With my juicer, I’d already tackled the hardest part of jelly making! Since this realization, I’ve made several batches of jelly. We’ve had crabapple, plum, and pear. This week I’ll be tackling apple.

I do want to try to make a lower sugar jelly, so I need to pick up a different sort of pectin the next time I’m at the grocery store.

Not all of my jelly turned out. The plums were too soft to make gel with a single pack of pectin, so my first batch didn’t set up. Jayme had the brilliant idea to just save it as it was and use it as ice cream sauce or pancake syrup. I like the way her brain works!

We’ll be doing the same thing with my pear jelly, since it didn’t set up either.

Otherwise, all of the jelly set up, and I’m excited to have it in the pantry! I envision making several more batches before we make it through all of the produce.

We still need to pick our apples–I’m waiting until my kitchen gets a bit more space back before I bring in more baskets of fruit!

How’s Your Harvest Going This Year?

Are you making lots of jams or jellies, or something different with your produce? I’d love to have you share what you’ve been up to in the comments!

Enjoying the free ferry services in Eastern Washington.

Our Ferry Adventure: Free Fun in Eastern WA

We love going on drives! The bus ensures there’s room for everyone and everything without fighting. Bryan brings his camera, the kids each pack a bag with a couple of books and toys, and we bring along a bag of snacks. Our latest drive took us on a ferry adventure.

Eastern Washington Ferry Services

The ferries in eastern Washington aren’t as grand as the ones over on the coast. In fact, there’s really not much to them. But, they’re still a large boat that gets you from point a to point b.

There’s something thrilling about sitting in your vehicle while going across the might Columbia River. Everyone loved it!

We were planning on just hitting the closest ferry and then driving north to a bridge and coming home. Except, we missed the turnoff for the ferry.

Where Our Drive Took Us

So we kept driving. We ended up near Wilbur, Washington. And guess what? There’s another free ferry there! So we waited in the short line and boarded.

Of course our school bus got several looks, but we’re sort of used to that now. I must applaud the ferry workers. They were quick to move a car over to the side lane so we could drive straight on into the middle one. That made it much easier!

The ride didn’t take long at all–just a few minutes. But, it was so much fun. The kids could stand at the emergency door in the back and they had a great time watching the water. They waved to the ferry employees. They waved to other passengers.

Once we got off the ferry, we took off driving again. We made our way back to the first ferry we were planning on taking and recrossed the river. The kids weren’t expecting two ferry trips on the same day, so they were thrilled!

When we landed back on our side of the river, we headed home. The whole trip took about five hours, including all of the picture stops we made along the way. One of the roads we ended up on was like a roller coaster, and had beautiful views.

If you’re ever over in Eastern Washington and are looking for a free adventure, I highly recommend taking the ferries. You can find the boarding points near Wilbur and Inchelium.

Wherever you’re heading in the car, playing games makes it more fun! Here are some of our favorites:

Math Car Games
ELA Car Games
Musical Car Games

Here's a look at how I save money on groceries when the shopping options are limited.

7 Ways to Save Money on Groceries in the Boonies

It’s no secret that I live in the middle of nowhere! The nearest grocery store is 15 miles away. Since it’s the only grocery store within a fairly large radius, their prices are pretty high. So what’s a rural gal to do? How do you save money on groceries in the boonies?

Here’s seven of my best tips for cutting the grocery budget.

1. Once a Month, Head to the City

The big city for me is Spokane. As one of the largest cities in the state, you can imagine the grocery shopping options are plentiful. Much more abundant than in the nearby local town.

But, because of the gas and effort involved in getting there, I don’t like to shop frequently. So I do one major shopping trip each month.

To save even more, I try to time my trip to coincide with a dentist or doctor appointment. That way I don’t have to make a special trip.

I want to make this trip count, so the kids and I hit several stores. We always go to:

Cash & Carry

and we hit any other stores that we may need.

Yes, it’s a long day! We’re usually tired by the time we get home. But, every month our house is full of food that I know we’ll eat and I get to stay out of the grocery store!

2. Buy Local Produce

Whenever possible, I try to buy local produce. It’s a lot cheaper and I can get it in bulk easily. If you live in the middle of nowhere, chances are someone around you grows a lot of food.

Your mission? Find out who that person (or people) are, and buy from them. Are there any orchards, pick your own patches, or farmers?

How about a farmer’s market? Is there one nearby?

3. Grow & Raise Your Own Food

Do you know how expensive meat is? Ouch! Cut costs by raising your own.

It doesn’t take much space to raise rabbits for meat. Or to have a few chickens for eggs.

If you’re in the boonies and have more space, consider getting a milk cow. (Here’s my Busy Mom’s Guide to Owning a Milk Cow.)

Grow a few tomatoes or plant some fruit trees. Turn your raw milk into buttermilk.

Do a little bit more each year, and before you know it, you’ll be cutting your grocery costs simply by raising your own food. And this food tastes so much better than anything you can buy!

4. Order Specialty Items Online

A small town isn’t the best place to purchase specialty items. Even if they carry them, you might discover the price is astronomical.

So do what I do and order those items online. If you set up with Subscribe and Save on Amazon, you can even have them conveniently delivered every month or two. Sort of like shopping on auto-pilot! Just be sure to check prices occasionally, because Amazon isn’t always the cheapest.

5. Be Creative

When a trip to the store takes at least 30 minutes of driving round trip, you really start to evaluate what you really “need.”

You can substitute a lot in a recipe and still make good food. Think of it as being creative!

Out of hamburger? Use ground pork or ground rabbit.

No green peppers? Substitute some celery for crunch.

Once you get used to making substitutions based on what you have on hand, you’ll be able to avoid last minute grocery runs.

6. Know Which Produce Lasts

One of the downsides of grocery shopping once a month is that the fresh fruits and veggies don’t always make it. But, by buying plenty of long lasting produce, and then filling in with frozen goods, I can usually make it through the month with only one additional run for produce.

Here’s what I’ve found lasts the longest:

1. Carrots
2. Celery
3. Onions
4. Iceberg Lettuce
5. Apples
6. Oranges
7. Winter squash
8. Potatoes
9. Cabbage

By buying these in bulk and storing them properly, I can include something fresh with almost every meal all month long.

I also buy berries and bananas and other “fun” produce, but we always plan on using those items within a few days. That means I don’t buy as many of them.

7. Have a Meal Plan

Without a plan, I’d stock up on groceries I never intend to use. I’d randomly buy ingredients and they might spoil and get thrown out.

I wouldn’t plan on batch cooking or anything else. And my grocery budget would skyrocket.

You have to have a plan! I always do an annual meal plan at this stage in life. It allows me to really stock up on what I’ll need–I’ve been known to buy a year’s worth of spaghetti before when it’s on sale.

Do you live in the boonies? How do you save money on groceries?

I’d love for you to share your tips in the comments section. Let’s save some money!

I've struggled to integrate read alouds for many years. Here's why, and how I finally made it work.

How I Finally Integrated Read Alouds

Read alouds. I used to be totally on top of these. Jayme and I snuggled and read book after book.

But then, Owen started ripping books. If I was reading a book, he’d snuggle for a second and then use his ninja skills to rip a page completely out in one swift movement. Then he started eating books.

So our books got moved upstairs, out of reach. For a while we left board books downstairs, until Owen started destroying those too.

I’d read a book to the younger kids at nighttime, but that was the extent of our read aloud. I wanted more.

Over the years, I’ve tried different times of day for our reading. We tried:

Reading during a meal

I love the idea of reading aloud during breakfast or lunch. I can see how that’d totally work for most families. But, I still need to be one on one with Owen during meal time, especially now that he’s outgrown his booster seat.

If I don’t hold onto him, he flops to the ground or walks around the table bugging everyone. I’d put him in his wheelchair for meals, but he’s such a messy eater that I hate to do that.

So scratch meal time reading off the table.

Reading aloud before quiet time

We try to get some active play in before quiet time. You know, so the kids are actually cheerful to sit down and play quietly for a bit.

I also tend to get focused on what I’m going to get done during quiet time, and was always forgetting to actually read.

Integrating read alouds into homeschool time

It makes sense to add read alouds into our school activities. After all, we’re all gathered around and working. But, it just didn’t work for us. Especially as the kids are getting older and school is taking more time.

Asking them to sit still and listen for even longer just didn’t work too well for us.

So what did I do?

My goal for this school year was to read aloud all of the Little House books. There’s so much knowledge and history packed into the books, and it was past time to share this.

I’ve learned that for my family, the best time to do read alouds is after dinner table chores are done, before we do our evening Bible time as a family.

Why does this time work?

How I make read aloud time fun

Most kids, including mine, don’t do so well just sitting and listening quietly. Their brains listen better when they’re engaged in an activity with their hands.

So now we bring out the paper and crayons. The kids have to draw a picture inspired by the book, and then they’re free to draw whatever they’d like.

Simon and Brynna usually join us at the table, and they draw too.

We end up with some great pictures, and I get insight into what they’re picking up on in the story. A little glimpse into their brains.

The picture below shows the pictures that the kids colored one day last week.

Pictures the kids drew from our read aloud.

Do you do read alouds?

How do you work them into your day? Did you run into any problems trying to integrate it into your day? Please share in the comments section below!

homeschool curric

Our 2016-2017 Homeschool Curriculum

Do you know what? In all the years that I’ve been blogging, I’ve never really written a post on our homeschool curriculum before. Want to know why?

In the past, I’ve created my own curriculum, piecing together games, videos, readings, and play. Of course I used some workbooks and premade materials to round out our learning, but those weren’t the focus.

But this year I find myself a bit overwhelmed. Between pregnancy exhaustion, Owen’s severe sleep disorder, and my growing freelance business, I just can’t make my own materials this year.

I know that if the kids were waiting on me to develop their materials, they’d spend a whole lot more time playing instead of actually learning. So this year, I’m turning to some trusted publishers to tackle the production. Then I just have to teach.

We started a few subjects a couple weeks ago, and it’s been going so smoothly! I love it.

So what did I buy? Here are our 2016-2017 Curriculum Picks!

Sydney (Kindergarten Curriculum)

Sydney turns five at the end of November. If she were going to public schools, she’d still have another year to go before starting Kindergarten. But, she’s more than ready and I don’t want to make her wait.

I figure we’ll take it slowly, and if we need a little extra time to finish, we have a whole year of wiggle room.

I keep Kindergarten simple on purpose. We play a lot of literacy and math games, and explore the world around us. That means I don’t want a ton of time devoted to book work.

This year, Sydney will be working on:

The early Explode the Code series (Get Ready for the Code, Get Set for the Code, Go for the Code)

I love how these books break down early reading skills to bite sized chunks. Sydney loves going through a couple of pages each day, and is really strengthening her letter sound knowledge.

Abeka Math (Kindergarten level)

These books are inexpensive, have just enough color to keep it interesting, and have a scope and sequence I appreciate. My kids will be doing Abeka Math through second grade, at which point we’ll switch to Teaching Textbooks.

Abeka Science

We were gifted with an older version of this book, and it provides a great introduction to God’s world. Since I am a product of public schools and the science they teach, I’m finding I really enjoy science from a Christian perspective. I’m learning right alongside my kids!

Ellie (1st Grade Curriculum)

Ellie is in first grade this year, and loving her books. She’s currently working on:

English/Language Arts

Ellie is finishing up Explode the Code 1 from last year. She’s also working on reading with the Abeka Grade 1 readers, phonetic readers that we have around the house, and some targeted games and activities.
She’s also tackling Abeka Language 1 and using a spiral notebook to practice handwriting, spelling, and writing skills.

We may order the next Explode the Code later in the year if she needs some additional practice with phonics.


Ellie’s working on Abeka Arithmetic 1. She likes that she has tests. 😀


Ellie and Jeffrey are working on Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Astronomy this year. Ellie got to pick their shared science, and Jeffrey picked their shared history/social studies.

We plan on going through the elementary Apologia over the next several years.

History/Social Studies

Abeka’s grade 1 history is being used by both Ellie and Jeff. They’re learning about a lot about America, and the world around us.

We will be purchasing the Daily Geography practice to begin after baby arrives, just to get some additional map and geography skills.


Sydney, Jeff, and Ellie are all learning Health together. We’re using the Abeka Grade 1 health book that came with my eBay find for the spine of this curriculum. Then we’re doing lots of active play, targeted stretches, and cooking work.

Home Ec

Ellie loves organizing and helping in the kitchen so it seemed natural to bring Home Ec into her school year. She’s working through the Lessons in Responsibilities for Girls book 1 and enjoying it.

She really wants to sew, and is looking forward to those lessons. I don’t sew, and am not looking forward to them so much!

Jeffrey (2nd Grade)

I can’t believe my little guy will soon be 8. He’s in second grade already, and loving math.

English/Language Arts

Jeff is working on decoding long vowel words with blends, and really working hard on his reading skills. He really wants to be able to read all of the directions in Paper Mario himself.

He’s working through grade 2 Abeka Readers, and reviewing with some easier phonetic books as well. Like Ellie, he’s finishing up an Explode the Code book from last year (book 2).

His handwriting needs some practice, so he uses a spiral notebook to write daily. He may need a handwriting book–we’ll see what the first part of this year brings.

He’s working through Abeka Language 2, and loves being able to read most of the sentences on his own.


Like his little sisters, Jeff is working on Abeka Arithmetic. He’s on the grade 2 materials. I anticipate him finishing before the year is over, and getting started on Teaching Textbooks. He is really motivated to do math, “like Jayme” so we’ll see if he keeps up this pace.


Jeff is working through Lessons in Responsibilities for Boys, book 1. He’s also helping cook on his day, and taking charge in plenty of areas. He’s certainly growing up!


Jeffrey asked to work on drawing this year, so he’s currently using YouTube videos for instruction. I plan on picking up a new unit from See the Light and he’ll work through that with anyone who wants to join him.


Owen’s disability prevents him from schooling in any traditional way. He eats any papers or books put in front of him. He destroys crayons.

But, I want him to learn alongside of us. That means Owen is typically either in his wheelchair, special stroller, or sitting on our bench next to me. He listens as I read aloud and instruct Jeff.

Owen loves watching videos and using his iPad as well. He’s got several apps that he enjoys. We also integrate video as often as possible–I typically just do a YouTube search for the topic we’re learning about in science or history and see what comes up. We’ve seen some terrible videos, but most have been pretty good.

Many of the goals I have for Owen right now aren’t academic. They’re very much motor skill, life skill, and independence related. So we integrate sensory play into our days, utilize Owen’s therapy sack, tunnel, and swing, and work on walking.

Owen’s OT comes out to the house once a week, and we’ll practice the skills she works on each day.

I’m hoping to trial a communication app this year now that Owen’s behavior is a little better to see if we can get him to use it. I know he has a lot to say, and just can’t get it out!

Jayme (Freshman)

Where oh where did the time go? Jayme is a freshman this year. I can’t believe it.

Her current plan is to do Running Start her junior and senior years, and earn her AA in graphic design at the community college. While I know it could change, we’re sort of planning courses around that goal.

She tackled WA State History for credit last year, so we’ve already crossed something off the list of requirements. Now to tackle the rest.

Here’s what Jayme is taking, and how her credits will pan out:

English/Language Arts

I have several books that will be required reading for Jayme throughout high school. She just finished the first one, Alas, Babylon.

After she reads each book, I have her complete a couple weeks worth of activities. She looks up vocabulary words, writes a paper or two, and completes a project.

She’ll continue working through other novels for her freshman year, including:

Peter Pan
The War of the Worlds
Romeo and Juliet
The Screwtape Letters
A Tale of Two Cities
Fahrenheit 451

In all she’ll be required to study 9 works of literature, though I’m still trying to finalize her final two selections.

Asides from literature, she’ll be working her way through:

Easy Grammar 9
Word Roots Level 3
Writing with Skill Book 2
Editor in Chief Level 3

All of these will be worth 1 English credit.


To earn her math credit, Jayme will be working through Teaching Textbooks Algebra 1 this year. I’m going to have to check the state requirements, but I believe she’ll also have to take a state test at the end of the course.

Since she wants to enroll in Running Start, we are making sure she’s meeting the appropriate requirements for graduation, including state testing.


Jayme is using Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Biology this year. Since she prefers working on her computer, we purchased the complete course on CD-Rom. We’ll also be picking up the lab kit (including the dissection kit) to make this her lab science credit.


Jayme will study world history the next two years. She’s going to be using The Mystery of History Vol. 3 this year, and the accompanying companion guide.

She’ll earn a credit of social studies/history for this course.

Spanish 1

We’ve tried many Spanish curricula over the past couple years. I’ve finally found one that Jayme is enjoying (and learning from!)

We’re using Lifepac Spanish 1, with the accompanying audio CDs for pronunciation. We like that it integrates culture study into the language (unlike Rosetta Stone and some of the other popular choices.)

This will give Jayme a foreign language credit.

Computer Skills

Learning to be proficient with Microsoft Office is essential in today’s world, so Jayme will be learning all about Office and more with the Premium Professor Teaches Office Super Set.

This will be a 1/2 credit in the Career/Tech field.

For fun, Jayme will also be continuing her coding studies.


Jayme will continue to use Crafty courses to improve her drawing and graphic design skills. She’ll be working on putting together a portfolio to showcase her work from this year.

This will be her fine art credit.
What are we using for homeschool curriculum this year? Click through to see my selections for Kindergarten, 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, and 9th Grade.

That Wraps Up Our 2016-2017 Homeschool Curriculum Choices

If you’re homeschooling this year, I’d love to have you share what you’ll be using.

Here’s to a great year!

Teaching your kids to swallow pills can be a challenge. Here's how I did it.

Teaching Your Kids to Swallow Pills

Owen has a g-tube. For the first several years of his life, all of his medications were liquid and we simply put them through the tube. Then he switched to the Ketogenic diet. Since liquid medicine has more carbs, they were no longer an option. For the first time, I had to figure out how to get him to swallow pills.

The doctor recommended simply crushing the pills and mixing them with water to run through the tube. That didn’t work. I kept clogging the tube and that was a mess.

So I started experimenting with ways to get Owen to swallow his medication.

The easiest way I found was to simply put the medication on a spoonful of something that Owen was eating. When he was on his special diet, it was usually Jello mixed with heavy cream.

Now that he’s off the diet, it’s most often applesauce or yogurt.

Since then, I’ve also taught Jayme and Jeffrey to swallow pills using this method. It works! Here’s some important tips I discovered along the way.

1. Don’t Mix the Meds Into the Dish of Food

I made this mistake with Owen a couple of times before I finally figured it out! You don’t want to mix the medication into the food.

Doing this means your child has to eat the entire dish. It also means it’s way harder to track which pills actually make it down the hatch.

2. Place Each Pill Directly on the Spoon

Instead of dumping the medication into the food, place each pill carefully on a spoonful of food. That way you can feed it directly and ensure it makes it where it’s supposed to go.

I’ve found it best to do one spoonful for each individual pill, but you can definitely experiment with doing two or more at the same time.

Teaching kids to swallow pills can be a challenge. Here's how I did it.
Here’s one of Owen’s meds on a spoonful of a highly desirable food. In this case, birthday cake ice cream.

3. Pick a Food Your Child Likes

You don’t want your child to fight this process. Pick a food that’s highly enjoyed. Since my kids all like applesauce, that’s our go-to for any pills that need to be taken.

4. Pick Foods That Don’t Need Chewed

This is key! Most medication that needs swallowed tastes disgusting! You don’t want your child to chew it.

Give your child a food that is just swallowed instead of one that needs chewed first. Doing so saves many taste buds!

5. Transition to Taking a Pill with Water

I’ve only done this step with my oldest. Owen still won’t swallow pills with only water. But that’s alright. Baby steps!

Once they’ve learned to swallow a pill with food, have your child try placing the pill in their mouth and washing it down with a big drink of water.

If it doesn’t go down the first time, have them try again. If they keep struggling, bring the applesauce back out and do it that way. Then you can try again with water the next time.

Practice When Appropriate

Other than Owen, who requires multiple pills on a twice daily basis, my other kids don’t take much medication. So we don’t have tons of opportunity to practice.

That means when they’re sick or on antibiotics to keep a wound from getting infected, we make the most of the opportunity. Practice when you can.

Have You Taught Your Children to Swallow Pills?

Did you use the food on a spoon method that I did, or something different? I’d love to hear what technique worked best for you in the comments section.

Farm fresh eggs are delicious! But if your chickens free-range and don't always lay in the coop, you need to know if those eggs are still good. Here are some quick tests to tell.

Are My Farm Fresh Eggs Good?

I love having chickens! I love watching them free-range around the farm–helping breakdown cow patties in the pasture, eating bugs out of the dirt, and taking dust baths in the heat of the day. I love the farm fresh eggs!

But, one downside of having free ranging birds is that they don’t always lay in the coop. My birds seem to go through cycles of laying in the coop or not. I’ve tentatively linked it to the weather, though it’s not always the case.

No matter what causes them to lay outside, it does leave me with a problem. Not always having eggs, even though I have plenty of chickens.

The kids now go on egg hunts daily, and I even pay them–10 cents per egg they find. They’ve been out searching, and bring me in eggs.

I’m left with the task of deciding whether the eggs are still good or not. In the past, I’ve solely relied on the float test. If the egg floats in water, it’s bad.

However, this failed me recently. I had a large batch of eggs to process, and they all sunk. I thought that meant they were all good. But, they weren’t.

Here are three new ways I’ve since used to tell if my farm fresh eggs are good or bad.

1. Give Them a Shake

When you shake a fresh egg, you shouldn’t feel much movement. But, when you shake an older egg, you’ll notice some definite sloshing.

I’ve learned that the sloshing when you shake an egg is an indication that it’s bad.

2. Look at the Yolk

When you crack a farm fresh egg into a separate bowl, you can easily exam it before dumping a bad egg into the dish you’re preparing. I highly recommend this!

After you’ve cracked the egg, look at the yolk. A good egg’s yolk will be mostly intact.

Conversely, a bad egg’s yolk will be completely runny.

You don’t want a runny yolk upon cracking.

3. Use Your Nose

The nose knows which eggs are past their prime. Before I add any egg to a dish, I give it a quick sniff.

You’ll recognize a bad egg instantly. It stinks!

On a side note, I also do this with my farm fresh milk. If it smells bad, I don’t use it.

You can use your nose to sniff out many kinds of bad food!

Do You Use Farm Fresh Eggs?

How do you determine if they’re good or bad? Did I miss any reliable tests?