The Life of Jennifer Dawn

Saturday, July 7, 2018

5 Simple Steps to Organizing Your Homeschool for the Next School Year

This post is sponsored by Glad® but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Forget spring cleaning! As a busy homeschool mom, I find that summer is the perfect time to tackle deep cleaning tasks and to get the house back in tip-top shape. The area that always seems to need the most attention is our homeschool room which I've already been busily working on preparing for our next year of homeschooling! Here are five simple steps that I'm using to get our homeschool room ready for the next school year. Hopefully, these are steps that can help you as you plan and prepare for your next school year. Not a homeschool parent? These tips can be adapted to get almost any room in your home decluttered and organized to the max!
By the end of the school year, it feels like the homeschool stuff has ended up everywhere. Nothing is in its place. There's finished work on the kitchen table, books on the couch, and materials scattered across the house like a breadcrumb trail. I get it! Between co-op classes, dance lessons, soccer practices, school lessons, nature walks, outings, motherhood, and day-to-day responsibilities, there just never seems to be enough time. And the homeschool materials can get a little out of hand. Oh, and let's not forget the sheer amount of papers and books that can accumulate during this homeschool journey.

Shew! Is your head spinning yet? Because mine sure was! By the end of this last year, I felt like the school stuff was taking over. It was time to purge and get organized! With a more minimalistic approach in mind, I began the process of cleaning out the homeschool room. And I have to admit that I went from feeling burned out to inspired and ready to tackle another year in the fall.
We homeschool during the traditional school year with a few modifications here and there. I know a lot of families prefer to school year-round. Even if your family doesn't take a long break during the summer, there is probably a transition period from one year to the next that would be a great time to prep and prepare for the next round of school.

These steps truly can work for any homeschool! Are you schooling on a traditional schedule?  Does your family prefer a year-round approach? Do you have an entire room in your home dedicated to schooling? Is your dining room pulling double duty? No matter what your situation is, these simple steps will help make the seemingly overwhelming task of organizing the school stuff as easy as A B C! Ready to get started? Here are five simple steps to getting everything organized!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Homemade Antipasto Pasta Salad with a Fresh Herb Vinaigrette (And our favorite pizza to pair with it!)

This post is sponsored by Red Baron but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Family pizza night gets an upgrade with a classic crust pizza paired with this recipe for homemade Antipasto Pasta Salad. It's a delicious combo that will have everyone asking for seconds! If you're looking for an effortless summer meal, this one is sure to be a crowd pleaser!
Friday nights have become pizza and movie night for our family. It's a time for us to all come together at the end of a busy week to relax, share a meal, laugh, and just enjoy being with each other.

It's also one night that I don't have to answer the question, "What am I going to make for dinner?" Our favorite pizza from Red Baron helps calm the mealtime chaos. Their pizza crust is perfection--not too thick and not too thin. It's a crispy, airy, flaky layered crust that is simply classic. My mom, two of the kids, and I can all enjoy cheese while my husband can savor a meatier option. (I do have to still come up with a non-dairy option for my youngest who has a severe allergy, but we have that one covered.) Yes, the mealtime battle is no longer a battle on Fridays.
Some weeks I like to add extras to our Friday meal such as breadsticks, sides, salads, or even pasta salads like the homemade Antipasto Pasta salad I'm sharing with you today. Made with fresh herbs and vegetables from our garden, it's a pasta salad that's perfect for summer. Paired with pizza or as a standalone meal, this is a dish your family will want to enjoy again and again.

During the summer months, I try to come up with as many recipes as I can that incorporate the ingredients we pick from our garden. We've been harvesting lettuce and kale from the garden since spring, but the tomatoes finally came in and ripened enough to pick. Although this recipe for Antipasto Pasta Salad does call for two canned ingredients, the onions and herbs are also fresh.
Don't have a garden? No worries! Your local farmer's market or grocery store is sure to have you covered.

Ready to try this tasty, homemade pasta salad for yourself? Grab those ingredients and let's start cooking. The fresh ingredients and tangy zest from the vinaigrette make it a perfect appetizer or standalone meal for summer! Oh, and don't forget to throw one of those tasty Red Baron pizzas in the oven while you're prepping your pasta salad.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Easy Cheesy Vegetable Rotini Recipe

This post is sponsored by Black Creek, but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

What would you like for dinner? It's the dinner dilemma question that moms everywhere find themselves asking towards the end of each day. And after a long, hot summer day that's a question that's best answered with a quick and easy one-dish meal that's a tried and true family favorite like this Cheesy Vegetable Rotini. Packed with garden-fresh vegetables and smothered in a delicious cheddar cheese sauce, it's sure to become a favorite for your family too!
What's on the menu tonight?
So what is for dinner tonight? When you ask your kids that question, what answers do you typically hear?

For my kids, it's usually one of two responses depending on who is doing the asking. With Mimi (my mom) the kids give a loud, unanimous shout of, "Pancakes!" Let's face it. Few people make better pancakes than Southern grandmothers. When I ask the question, the answer is an excited, bubbly chant of, "Pasta, pasta, pasta!" Pancakes and pasta--the two meals my kids love most.

As you might imagine, our family frequently eats pasta (and pancakes--not together. Although...that might make for an interesting meal. LOL!) And since pasta is a weekly staple on our dinner menu, I'm always looking for new ways to prepare delicious, nutrition-packed pasta dishes for my family like the Cheesy Vegetable Pasta I'm sharing with you today.

Tastes of Summer
Our family garden and our many visits to local farmers' markets keep our kitchen stocked with fresh produce and products all summer long. Most of the meals I prepare during summer are loaded with farm-fresh products. For this particular recipe, we're cooking up broccoli and carrots that were purchased from a local market.

One thing I haven't been able to purchase locally is cheese made from farm-fresh milk. That's why I love finding cheeses like this Black Creek® Cheddar that isn't loaded with tons of ingredients that I can't even pronounce. They pride themselves on making great cheeses that starts with great milk from the cows of Wisconsin. And I've just got to say that this is one of the tastiest cheddars I've eaten.

The pasta recipe I'm sharing today requires one 7 oz block of cheese, but I suggest you stock up with a few blocks for all your summer cooking and grilling.
It's dinnertime!
Move over mac and cheese! You've just been dethroned by a cheesy, vegetable-packed pasta. Ready to whip up this quick and easy dinner option that will have your kids shouting for seconds. Grab the cheddar and a few other ingredients, and let's start cooking!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Old Fashioned Homemade Chocolate Pudding



Calling all chocolate lovers! If you're craving a rich, chocolatey dessert that's easy to whip up, this recipe for homemade chocolate pudding is perfect for you. If you've never tried made from scratch pudding, let me assure you that it is amazing. So skip the boxed pudding mixes and try making your own with this simple recipe for decadent chocolate pudding.
"I'm going to have to try some more to decide which I like best," my Dad would grin and announce as he'd help himself to another serving of my mom's homemade chocolate pudding and her vanilla pudding.

When I was a little girl, my mom would frequently spend an afternoon making two batches of homemade pudding to serve for dessert--chocolate and vanilla. My dad's dilemma on which flavor he liked best was his sly way of making sure he always got seconds. He'd feign indecision, scrape his bowl clean, and finally concede that both flavors were equally delicious.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

DIY Marbled Paper with Shaving Cream



Art with the kids this week for homeschool was DIY marbled paper! And, oh my, was it fun! This craft offers up vivid colors, awesome designs, and the perfect excuse to play with shaving cream! Who wouldn't love that?! Seriously! Kids and adults alike will love this marbling technique that creates ripples of bright, beautiful colors with a little shaving cream and a whole lot of fun!
Before letting the kids dive into this paper marbling project, I tested it out with various supplies and techniques to come up with what I consider to be the easiest and cheapest method. You'll find all my best tips below. As far as supplies, let's take an in-depth look at the ones that were tested. I tried the shaving cream with food coloring, kids' washable paint, and suncatcher paint to see which would work best for marbling paper with shaving cream. Indulge me for just a moment. My inner teacher just had to create a chart for this...
As you can tell, the food coloring scored the highest marks in every area but washability. The suncatcher paint washed off a little better, but the squeezable bottles for the food coloring made it super easy to use. Oh, and the food coloring by far produced the most vivid colors! And, of course, we all know how inexpensive food coloring is. There you have it! Food coloring and shaving cream are my picks for paper marbling with kids.

Yes, I know! Letting kids loose with shaving cream and food coloring is making some of you a little nervous just thinking about it. BUT I have a solution for that too!

Ready for a super simple mom hack that makes crafts like this sooooooo much easier with kids? Keep a few packs of Kleenex Wet Wipes with your art and craft supplies for easy clean-up of messy hands. Each pack is less than $1.50 at Target stores and Target.com. They provide a gentle clean whenever you need it--even right in the middle of art time!
Alright, let's start crafting. Grab your supplies. Call the kids. And let's have some colorful fun with this easy paper marbling method. It's a sensory activity with an artistic twist. If your kids are anything like mine, they'll beg to try this again and again.

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