A Menu of Quick-to-the-Table Themed Lunches and Easy Side Dishes

From Our House to Yours

A menu of quick-to-the table themed lunches and easy side dishes helps simplify our homeschooling life! In this Heart of Dakota series, we continue describing a ‘day in the life’ of using Resurrection to Reformation (RTR) and World History (WH). First, I shared our take on homework. Second, I shared our waking up to homeschool routine. Third, I shared our morning chores and breakfast routine.  Fourth, I shared how we rotate teacher-directed and independent blocks of time between breakfast and lunch. Today, I will share about how a planned menu of quick-to-the-table themed lunches and easy side dishes makes lunch a piece of cake!

Quick-to-the-Table Lunches That Follow a Theme

Through the past 17 years of homeschooling, I have found it is a huge help to have a set quick-to-the-table lunch menu. Some years I have had just 5 quick meal options planned, one for each day Monday through Friday. However, other years I have had a variety of quick-to-the-table meals. This year I planned a theme for each day with several quick-to-the-table meal options. As a result, I have some choice in what I make, but I also have a planned menu. For example, Mondays are chicken, Tuesdays are sandwiches, Thursdays are beef, and Fridays are (mainly) soups. On the other hand, Wednesdays are for whatever didn’t fit neatly into a theme. No matter what, each item on the lunch menu must be easy to make and quick-to-the-table.

Easy Side Dishes That Are the Same Each Day

I like variety for the main quick-to-the-table meals for lunch, but I feel just the opposite about side dishes. I find it simpler to keep the side dishes the same, offering just a few choices. Likewise, I make sure to choose quick and easy side dishes. So no matter what I make for the main meal for lunch, the daily side dishes stay pretty much the same. I put an “*” beside each easy side dish to show it is meant to be a part of the menu daily. If I do note a choice of easy side dishes, I put “or” between the two choices. In general, I try to choose quick-t0-the-table and easy side dishes that include fruits and vegetables. I also include healthy easy side dishes like yogurt and string cheese.

Benefits of Having a Set Lunch Menu

There are many benefits to having a set quick-to-the-table lunch menu. First, I know there will be a variety of balanced meals with different meats, fruits, and vegetables. Second, I know what to keep constant on my grocery list, so I can make the list quickly. Third, I can point to the menu when my children ask what is for lunch, but I can also give some main meal options. Fourth, my children can step in and make lunch themselves if need be. Fifth, I always have what I need on hand because some options are frozen or canned. Sixth, I cross off each main quick-to-the-table meal as I make it, so I know what we’re eating. Seventh, I can more easily plan my meals for dinner because I know what we’re having for lunch. Try planning your own quick-to-the-table lunch menu! See if you like it!

MON. TUES. WED. THURS. FRI.
Chicken Fries

Rotisserie Chicken

Salsa Chicken

*green beans

*yogurt parfait & granola or grapes

Tuna Sandwich

French Dips

Ham/Cheese Poppy Buns

Cold Ham Sandwiches

*Cheese stick or dill pickles

*carrot sticks, hummus

*cut apples

Mac & Cheese

Tuna Patties

All Beef Hot Dogs on Buns

*corn

*cheese stick

*applesauce cups or banana halves

Tacos

Nachos

Burgers

*carrot sticks, guac

*black beans or refried beans

*chips/salsa

Tomato Basil Soup

Chili Soup

Ravioli

*Mozzarella sticks

*green beans

* pears or mandarin oranges

In Christ,

Julie

Know What Drains You and Know What Fills You Up

A Heart of Dakota Life

Know What Drains You and Know What Fills You Up

There are only 24 hours in a day, and there are only 7 days in a week. How do you spend your time? Each day has tasks we must do, but each day also has open time to do with it as we choose. We might not think of our days this way, but much time truly is at our discretion. Blessedly, we don’t all have to spend our time the same way. God did not design us all to be exactly alike. He made us each unique, with different interests, gifts, talents, and purposes. One key to unlocking the joy and peace that can simplify your life is to know what drains you and what fills you up.

What drains you?

I am not a night owl. As the day turns to night, I grow more and more weary. I used to try to work, homeschool, or exercise at night. But it simply drains me! I go to bed most nights by 10 PM, and I avoid one of my ‘drains.’ I dislike overflowing trash cans, dirty dishes, and unmade beds. The sight of them drains me. So, we clean up the best we can after supper, but first thing in the morning, we take out the trash, unload the dishwasher/wash any big pans in the sink, and make our beds. Another drain avoided. Too many errands, appointments, or activities in the day drain me. So, I do errands on Saturdays. I schedule only one appointment a week if possible. I also limit our activities during the morning and early afternoon, so we are home to homeschool. In doing so, I avoid one of my ‘drains.’ What drains you? How can you avoid your ‘drains?’

What fills you up?

I love coffee, first thing in the morning and lots of it. I’ve given up pop, sugary snacks, and too many carbs, but plain black coffee I will not give up. It simply fills me up too much! I love doing my devotion first thing in the morning all by myself. Right after my devotions, I love spending 1:1 time with each of my children. In our pajamas, with my steaming coffee, I meet first with Wyatt, then Emmett, then Riley. We discuss their Heart of Dakota Bible, any work they’ve done, and the day ahead. Hot bubble baths, Christian praise music, a new recipe to try, a date with my husband, a long run in the country, a pretty sunrise, family meals, hugs, a roaring fireplace, and my list of what fills me up goes on. What fills you up? How can you make time for these?

What drains one person may fill another person up!

Many people have lovely gardens. They enjoy spending hours tending to it. I love to cook, so I thought I’d love to garden. One day as I was enjoying my morning coffee, my morning devotion reiterated we are all unique with different God-given purposes. The words ‘stop doing what you are not good at’ jumped out on the page at me. I began to laugh out loud, and I have a feeling God was laughing with me. I knew exactly what I needed to stop doing: gardening. Truly, I am not gifted at it. Anything that grew in that garden was a gift from God. In fact, all we kept were the raspberries. They grow completely on their own. Are you finding yourself drained by doing something that fills someone else up? Maybe it’s time to stop.

What does this have to do with simplifying and loving your homeschooling?

If you fill your time with things that drain you, you will not have much peace, joy, and contentment to bring to your home and your homeschooling. Taking time to do what fills you up helps you in turn be a happier, more joyful, less stressed, more patient homeschool teacher and mom. Our children should not only be aware of what drains us as moms. They should also be aware of what fills us up. My children often bring me a cup of coffee, give me hug, turn on the fireplace for our Storytime reading, start my favorite Christian praise song, show me a pretty sunrise, or ask me all about a new recipe I made. They know what fills me up, and they like me better ‘filled up’ than ‘drained.’ I like that me better too.

Simplify and love your homeschool life by eliminating ‘drains’ and adding things that ‘fill you up!’

Short-tempered, cranky, rude mothers don’t produce happy, peaceful homes or children. Do yourself, your children, and your husband a favor, and eliminate the ‘drains’ you can. Then, plan some things each day that fill you up. There’s only one you, so don’t try to be someone else. Just because someone else enjoys tending a lovely garden, that doesn’t mean you too were born to be a gardener. We don’t have to be good at everything.  But we do have to be responsible for how we behave. Take real time to stop your ‘drains’ and plan for simple daily ways to ‘fill you up.’  I bet you will love the new you, and your children and husband will too!

In Christ,

Julie

Be in constant prayer and keep a prayer journal to simplify and love homeschooling!

A Heart of Dakota Life

#5 – Be in constant prayer and keep a prayer journal to simplify and love your homeschool life!

We use  Heart of Dakota to homeschool, and we find that already goes a long way to help our family simplify and love our homeschool life! However, big and little things can still undermine our homeschooling success. So, in this “A Heart of Dakota Life” series, we’re exploring ways to simplify and love our homeschool life. First, we learned the importance of not ‘going it alone.’ Next, we recognized how important it is to enlist help. Then, we planned how we could  homeschool so we fully enjoy the comforts of our home. Finally, we talked about mindfully setting aside a balanced amount of time to teach. This brings us to our fifth way to simplify and love our homeschool life, and that is to be in constant prayer and to keep a prayer journal.

Homeschooling is a blessing, but there still will be times your emotions threaten to get the best of you.

Homeschooling is a blessing! But, there still will be times when your emotions threaten to get the best of you. This may or may not have anything to do with homeschooling. Just this past week when my nephew went to Mayo Clinic, I felt anguish. As my husband drove in blizzard conditions, I felt fear. When my son could not locate his Storytime cards again, I felt frustration. As my son took his college final worth 85% of his grade, I felt anxious. When I learned a homeschool mom’s baby would likely pass away soon, I felt deep sorrow. As I watched my Mom drive away alone on icy roads without my Dad (who passed away), I felt bitter. When my cell phone rang with another fake message, I was angry. Take inventory of your emotions this past week. I bet you’ve had your share too!

One of the best ways to combat runaway emotions is to pray.

We live in a world that says it’s okay to let our emotions run wild. But, that is not really what God says. When we feel runaway emotions, we should recognize we’ve stepped onto a potential battlefield, and our best defense is to talk to God. We don’t have to wait until ‘prayer time.’ Rather, we can immediately pray for help! I have found that simply stopping, praying to ask for help, and then choosing to mindfully leave it in God’s hands helps me go on. God does not desire for us to be out of control or to be burdened and unable to go on. However, He does want us to talk to Him, to have a relationship with Him, and to trust Him. Praying, preferably sooner rather than later, is one of the best ways to combat potential runaway emotions.

One of the best ways to combat recurring emotional hardships is to keep a prayer journal. 

We all have hardships in life, and some of them are recurring or ongoing. I have found one of the best ways to combat these hardships is to keep a prayer journal. Now, my prayer journal is very pretty on the outside, but I don’t have rules of perfection for the inside. Sometimes I write in long-flowing lovely cursive, and other times I write in largely illegible writing. It doesn’t matter. God knows what it says. My prayer journal is eclectic. I write Scripture, quiet time notes, and prayers. Many times, my prayers are just a list of people and phrases of concerns. However you choose to keep a prayer journal, it is one of the best ways to combat recurring hardships. You will see God’s hand over time and grow to trust and love Him more and more.

George Muller’s Constant Prayers and Prayer Journal

George Muller was a Christian who devoted himself to prayer. He had a constant conversation with God through prayer. His life’s work with children in orphanages is a reflection of how prayer helped him through hardships. George kept a prayer journal as well, and he found it to be an incredible blessing to him throughout his life…

I have found it a great blessing to treasure up in the memory, the answers God graciously gives me in answer to prayer. I’ve always kept a record to strengthen the memory. I advise the keeping of a little memorandum book. On one side – say the left-hand side – put down the petition, and the date when you began to offer it. Let the opposite page be left blank to put down the answer in each case, and you will soon find how many answers you get, and thus you will be encouraged more and more, your faith will be strengthened; and especially you will see what a lovely, bountiful and gracious Being God is; your heart will go out more and more in love to God, and you will say – it is my Heavenly Father Who has been so kind, I will trust in Him, I will confide in Him through His Son.

I draw inspiration from reading George Muller’s quotes about prayer. I will share some of my favorites of his below…

The first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day is to have my soul happy in the Lord. 

All believers are called upon, in the simple confidence of faith, to cast all their burdens upon him, to trust in him for everything, and not only to make everything a subject of prayer, but to expect answers to their petitions which they have asked according to his will, and in the name of the Lord Jesus.

I believe God has heard my prayers. He will make it manifest in His own good time that He has heard me. I have recorded my petitions that when God has answered them, His name will be glorified.

On the ground of our own goodness we cannot expect to have our prayers answered. But Jesus is worthy, and for His sake, we may have our prayers answered. There is nothing too choice, too costly, or too great for God to give Him. He is worthy. He is the spotless , holy Child, who under all circumstances acted according to the mind of God. And if we trust in Him, if we hide in Him, if we put Him forward and ourselves in the background, depend on Him and plead His name, we may expect to have our prayers answered.

The greater the difficulty to be overcome, the more will it be seen to the glory of God how much can be done by prayer and faith.

I live in the spirit of prayer. I pray as I walk about, when I lie down and when I rise up. And the answers are always coming. 

Never give up praying until the answer comes.

When negative thoughts or emotions threaten to get the best of you, recognize homeschooling is probably not at the root of them, and have a plan of attack at the ready!

Whether you see yourself as an emotional person or not, difficulties within a plan to include Christ in your life will arise. In fact, it will be more likely to arise when you teach your children to love the Lord. God desires our lives to be full of joy, and He does not want our focus to be emotional or constantly negative.  In contrast, we can have a plan in place before hardships arise. We can plan to pray, and we can have a prayer journal to remind us of God’s faithfulness. When negative thoughts or emotions threaten to get the best of you during homeschooling, have a plan of attack ready!  The best battle plan includes constant daily prayer or conversation with God. The best long term plan includes recognizing God’s faithful answering of your prayers, and a prayer journal is one way to record that.

In Christ,
Julie

Philippians 4:6: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Colossians 4:2: Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Set aside a balanced amount of time to teach to simplify your homeschooling!

A Heart of Dakota Life

#4 – Set Aside A Balanced Amount of Time to Teach

Using Heart of Dakota is already a wonderful way you can simplify and love your homeschool life! However, it is often the everyday things that can make or break our homeschooling success, especially long-term. In this “A Heart of Dakota Life” series, we’re exploring ways to simplify and love our homeschool life. We’ve learned the importance of not ‘going it alone,’ of enlisting help, and of enjoying the comfort of our home.  This brings us to our fourth way to simplify and love our homeschool life, and that is to make sure to set aside a balanced amount of time to teach.

Homeschooling won’t just happen – we have to make time for it!

Setting aside time to teach may seem like such an obvious thing to do to successfully homeschool. However, since we can homeschool anytime, it is tempting to think we don’t really need to set aside time to make it happen.  We have all day, all week, all year to homeschool, so what’s the big deal about mindfully setting aside time to teach? Well, the big deal is homeschooling won’t just happen. In fact, days go by faster than you think, weeks quicker than you can blink, and – before you know it – yet another year has passed.

Be informed about how much time you need to be able to teach!

Before you can set aside time to teach, it helps to know how much time you need to set aside. Heart of Dakota makes that easy, as Carrie writes plans in a very consistent way. Each guide has daily plans that take relatively the same amount of time each day. Likewise, each type of assignment takes about the same amount of time to do. Furthermore, Carrie has even given suggested time allotments for each box of plans on this blog and on our message board. Finally, starting with Preparing Hearts, Carrie notes whether assignments are “T” teacher-directed, “S” semi-independent, or “I” independent. Heart of Dakota is complete, so you don’t really need to add anything to it. However, if you are adding things to HOD that require teaching, of course you’ll want to plan for more time to teach. The same holds true if you are substituting things that require more teaching.

Avoid multi-tasking, media monitoring, and mega expectations!

To truly enjoy your teaching in homeschooling, it is important to be as focused as possible when you are teaching. Women are wonderful at multi-tasking! I often dry my hair with one hand while putting on my makeup with the other hand while marching in place to try to hit my steps’ goal on my Fitbit. I used to employ this strategy while teaching. I’d fold laundry while I listened to an oral narration, make lunch while touting a book in another hand and reading aloud, even brush my teeth while listening to my children say their Bible verses. I don’t recommend this. Multi-tasking is no friend to teaching well. Likewise, monitoring my media (like email, FB, voicemail) during teaching isn’t helpful. Finally, having mega expectations for my children to turn out 100% perfect work steals my joy and just adds time to my teaching.

The Flip Side – Planning too much time to teach!

I’ve met homeschool moms who are teaching all day, all week, and sometimes even all year! They often are weary, stressed, and ready to put their children in public school. Their husbands feel the same. Their children feel the same. Homeschooling is meant to be a part of our lives, not all of it.  I love coffee, and lots of it, but at 1 PM, no matter what, I’m all done drinking coffee. If all I drank was coffee, I’d actually begin to dislike it. Likewise, planning too much time to teach can make both parents and children begin to dislike homeschooling. Maintaining a balance in life is important.  There is a point in which we call it ‘good enough’ and move on to other interests in life.

Take Action

How do you feel about the amount of time you are teaching each of your children right now? Are you frazzled because you don’t have enough time to teach? If so, what can you take off your plate to make more time? Are you attending too many activities? Consider dropping some and enjoying fewer activities more fully. Are you checking your FB every minute or two? Consider docking your phone and setting a few times to check it more mindfully. Are you getting to bed too late binge watching Netflix? Consider enjoying one episode and getting to bed earlier so you can get up to teach on time. Are you volunteering for too many things? Consider volunteering for one thing and doing it more wholeheartedly. Are you serving perfectly healthy meals all made from scratch? Consider adding in a few ready-made quick-to-the-table meals.

Or, on the flip side, are you weary because all you do is teach? If so, what can you take off your plate to make more time for things other than teaching? For example, are you doing 2 spelling programs because your child is a poor speller? Consider choosing one and doing it well. Are you having your children write their narrations twice, so they are perfect on their notebooking pages? Consider having them write them once in pencil; then hop in and help them quickly fix any errors. Are you teaching multiple classes at a co-op and finding you have no time to teach at home? Consider teaching one class only, or take a break from co-op for awhile. Are you hovering over your older children as they do their independent work? Consider walking away and checking back with them at a set time. Are you reading aloud books your children are assigned to read independently? Consider only reading aloud the books assigned to be, and take your time to truly enjoy the reading!

Mindfully planning when you will teach can keep homeschooling in balance with the rest of your life! 

One of the best ways to simplify and love our homeschooling is to mindfully plan when we will teach. This can keep homeschooling in balance with the rest of our life. If you find you are off balance, why not take some real time to fix it? Don’t be too hard on yourself. None of us are perfect. And try not to over-correct! You’ll just throw your teaching off-balance in the other direction. Rather shoot for the middle and make what progress toward balance you can each day. Go forward in confidence, rather than wistfully looking back. Life will never be perfect, and we will never be perfect at keeping everything in balance. But, when it comes to homeschooling, taking time to truly plan for teaching – in as balanced of a way as possible – is one of the best ways to simplify and love our homeschooling life!

In Christ,
Julie

 

 

Simplify Your Homeschool Life by Enjoying the Comfort of Home

A Heart of Dakota Life

Simplify (and Love) Your Homeschool Life by Enjoying the Comfort of Home!

Using Heart of Dakota is already a wonderful way you can simplify and love your homeschool life!  However, homeschooling is different than other schooling options because it primarily takes place in the home. That can be such a blessing if you let it be. As homeschool moms, we sometimes try to recreate a public school setting in our own homes. This is really not necessary nor advisable! While children in public, private, charter, and magnet schools alike are often confined to individual desks in one fairly cold and aesthetic classroom for most of their school day, homeschool children need not be. We, as homeschool moms, need not be either. Instead we can fully take advantage of the comfort of home by enjoying each part of it.

#3: Enjoy the Comfort of Your Home

There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.  (Jane Austen)

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. (Proverbs 24:3-4)

How do you feel about your home? Do you enjoy being there? Is it a place you find real comfort? Do you laugh in your home? When you look around, do you see things that bring you joy?  Have you made special memories in your home that you treasure? I remember reading Charlotte Mason’s quote that “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”  I took that to heart. My husband and I decided that if we were going to homeschool, we were going to make our home a place we really wanted to be. In turn, we hoped this would make our home a place our children really wanted to be. Well, after 17 years of homeschooling, I daresay mission accomplished. Each one of our children truly loves not only being homeschooled in our home, but really, just being home. My husband and I love it too!

Rare and Beautiful Treasures

Our homes can be filled with rare and beautiful treasures, and these treasures need not cost a lot of money. First, I simply just love to see my children becoming wise, understanding more and more, and building their knowledge through homeschooling with Heart of Dakota. I love this not only because of the strong academics but also because of the Christ-centered focus of the guides. I see the first part of creating an atmosphere for education in our home as just making sure we invite the Lord to be a real part of it, every day.

Read in the Comfort of Your Home

Where do you like to read a book? I love to read a book cuddled up with a fuzzy blanket on the couch in my living room, preferably with the fireplace on and a steaming cup of coffee on the end table next to me. Why can’t our children enjoy reading books like this? Mine do. Each has his own place he likes to read, with his favorite blanket, and with his favorite snack or beverage. Heart of Dakota adds living books that often become favorites to this ‘comfort at home’ picture, and voila! You have yourself an atmosphere for education in the comfort of your home that makes you and your children really enjoy being there!

Write in the Comfort of Your Home

Where do you like to write a letter, a card, or take notes on something? I love to write in a well-lighted area, on a sturdy surface at my kitchen table, with a pencil or a gel pen of a color of my choice, with the perfect paper for the task. Why can’t our children enjoy writing like this? Mine do. Each has his own place he likes to write, with his favorite pencil or coloring utensil, and Heart of Dakota takes care of the proper paper for the task.

Meet with the Lord in the Comfort of Your Home

Where do you like to do your Bible quiet time? I love to do my Bible quiet time in my cozy bed, under my warm covers, first thing in the morning, in my pj’s, with my glasses on, with just my lamp on, with my door shut, with my favorite devotional and pretty journal and a steaming cup of hazelnut coffee on my bedstand that I stumbled downstairs to hastily make.  Why can’t our children enjoy doing their Bible quiet time like this? Mine do. Each does his own Heart of Dakota Bible time in his room in his cozy bed, under his warm covers, first thing in the morning, in his pj’s, with his lamp on, with his door shut, with his HOD Bible time and special Common Place Book, and tea or granola or a twilight turtle on his bedstand.

Take Action

I want to encourage you to simplify and love your homeschool life by taking advantage of the comfort of home!  What can you do today to fully enjoy teaching your children in your home?  Likewise, what can you do today to fully help your children enjoy being homeschooled in the comfort of your home? There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort, so why not start creating this atmosphere of education today?

In Christ,
Julie