23Sep

Learning Languages in Your Homeschool (Middlebury Interactive Review)

Disclosure: I received complimentary access to the course in order to facilitate this review. I was compensated for my time. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Middlebury

When I was in high school, I needed a foreign language. Our choices were French or Spanish. Being a teenage girl infatuated with all things romance, I chose French. At the time that seemed to be the less practical choice, but I wasn’t overly concerned with the practical at that time.

So, I took several years of french in high school and my freshman year of college.

Then, in my sophomore year of college, I went on a mission trip–to French and Creole speaking Haiti. (Isn’t it cool how God prepares the way long before we know what’s coming???)

Haiti Pictures 461

Haiti Pictures 497

 

Though my French skills were rudimentary at best, they came in handy! Our organization had a local translator that they worked with, so our group was traveling with a translator. However, there were many times when the group was split up, and my smaller group did not have a translator. During those times, it was very nice to be able to communicate, even if it was only the basics.

I found out later that I was one of very few people from many, many mission treams who had even tried to communicate with the locals in their own language, and that it really meant something to them.

It wasn’t the fact that I had great command of the language (I didn’t!), it was the fact that I cared enough to try.

This was the first experience that opened my eyes to the fact that learning another language could be a vital tool in ministry. Because of this, I want our children to learn at least one other language.

For them, we are going with that more practical choice of Spanish. We are also working to learn ASL.

Online Foreign Language Study

When I decided to incorporate language into our homeschool, I wanted to find a program that would be fun and effective, so I was excited to get the opportunity to try out Middlebury Interactive Language. We have been using their Spanish program for K-2.

photo (2)

(Little brother just had to get a peek at what’s going on!)

The program is very interactive, and is able to hold students’ attention and make learning fun, which is always a big plus for me! Middlebury uses an immersion approach and includes videos, stories, games, coloring activities, etc. included in the lesson modules.

Classes include a daily calendar that is already set for you. However, if you’d prefer to work at your own pace, you can access any of the lessons through the table of contents and go from there, which is what we have chosen to do. You can see from my screenshot below that the lessons are organized very well in folders for each unit, lesson, and activity. It is very user friendly, even for children.

You can also see a sample of one of the activities.

Middlebury screen shot

Connect with Middlebury

Connect with Middlebury Interactive on social media!

You can also join iHN for a Twitter party featuring Middlebury  on Oct. 9, 2014! Get the details here.

You can also join Middlebury in an  iHomeschool Hangout on Oct. 16 where they will discuss teaching foreign languages in homeschool.

Discount & Giveaway

Middlebury wants to welcome you right. Use the Code HomeSchoolFirst10 to save 10% on your initial order.
You can also enter to win one of 10 one-semester courses of foreign language instruction!  The winner chooses language and level. (This excludes AP courses and is applicable to courses as independent study without the support of a teacher.) The value is $119 per semester. All courses are digital and the giveaway is open worldwide.
Please note your email will be given to Middlebury and added to their mailing list.

21Sep

Saving for a Home, Part 2 {Debt Free Living}

Debt Free Home

Last week, I shared that the next step in our debt-free plan is to save money and {hopefully} buy a house with cash. Yes, it is a big huge, scary, gigantic, enormous goal. (But, not too big for the One who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.)

One of the most common questions I received was about specifics. I have always been open and honest here about our budget, because I know that real numbers can help sometimes, more than generalities. So, I want to continue being forthright and share some of the specific ways we are working toward this huge goal.

Practical Steps

Continue with our GOOD (get out of debt) lifestyle. Because we were making those double housing payments for so long, we have gotten used to our super tight budget. We have relaxed it a bit, working in some long over due “fun” money for our family, and easing up the grocery budget a bit. But for the most part, we are maintaining that very frugal lifestyle so that we can put about 75% of our former debt payments into savings toward our house.

Downsize and sell things. This is better on paper than in practice, but it is a goal of mine! I want to continue purging our things. A lot of things will be donated, but any money that is made from selling things will go straight into the house fund.

Odd Jobs. I do occasional odd jobs like working as a virtual assistant, light graphic design work, freelance writing, etc. My husband does occasional jobs as well–tree cutting, mowing & yard work, etc. For the most part, we believe very strongly that being present with our family is more important than bringing in more income.  However, when occasional odd jobs come up, we will take them if it works out for our schedule. And this money is added to our house fund.

This blog. I have worked a lot over the past year toward growing this blog and creating products so that it has finally started to bring in some income. Since it costs money to run this blog, and takes a lot of time, this is a good thing! Most of my earnings from this blog go straight into the house fund.

Where We Are Now

Considering the very small house budget I mentioned last week our house fund is currently 10% funded. Because we put most of our savings all together in that one pot, we fully expect that this number could fluctuate if big emergency expenses arise. If this happens, we will trust in God’s sovereignty, be thankful for the money to pay those expenses, and keep on keeping on.

Our lives are safely in His hands, regardless of our finances.

Keeping up Morale

What we are doing seems daunting. We certainly aren’t the first family to set such a goal, but we have a small income, and people all around us telling us that it can’t be done. That can be discouraging!

Furthermore, even though our goal is very small in terms of house prices, it is still very large for us in terms of dollars! So, I am looking for ideas for ways we can stay encouraged in this process. I am planning to create one of those fundraising thermometers that I can use to visually track our progress, because I think that will be fun to see.

But I would love to hear your ideas as well! Or your testimonies if you have saved cash to buy a home.

What are your ideas for staying encouraged (and patient!) while striving for a large goal? 

18Sep

Saving for a Home Part 1 {Debt-Free Living}

Debt Free Home

When we started our debt-free journey nearly 2.5 years ago, our plan was to pay off our mortgage on the home we were living in at the time, and we included that in our debt-free process.

However, we then moved across the state, and had trouble selling our previous home. And, for 2 years we paid double house payments as we paid rent in our new town and the mortgage on our old house. Talk about stressing an over tight budget!

However, the Lord was faithful in His provisions, and we made it through that time just fine because of the things He had already begun to teach us.

And, as of June 2014 we are debt free (after paying off nearly 20,000 in student loans, and being forced to accept a short sale on our home).

Bump in the Road

I’ll be honest and say that if it were completely up to us, we’d probably be house hunting right now and diving right back into a mortgage, albeit a small one.

However, because we were forced to accept a short sale offer on our house, we are ineligible for a home loan for 3 years. This was a disappointment and frustration to us, because we worked very hard to pay that payment every single month. We never missed it, despite the super tight budget.

But then because of a misunderstanding, we are ineligible for a home loan despite a near perfect credit score. (We thought we could accept the lesser offer and make payments on the balance, but later found out that was not a possibility. The only way the bank would approve the sale and release the lien was if it was marked paid-in-full, via a short sale. However, even in that, the Lord moved.)

The positive side of all of this is that we have 3 years of forced waiting time to try and do the impossible–save cash for our home. (or at least get a good start on it!)

Hmmm, maybe the Lord is trying to tell us to be patient?

Journey to Buying Our Home

So, yes we are out of debt, but since we are currently renting, the journey is not over yet! After meeting the first goal to get out of debt, our new goal is to save cash for a home. 

Wow. Just typing that is tough. This is by far the biggest goal we have ever set for ourselves, and will surely test our commitment many times over!

We are longing for a simpler life out in the country. We aren’t picky about the house, but want it to be on a few acres so that we can raise our boys in the country with the freedoms and responsibilities of farm life. And we believe this is a dream and longing that the Lord has placed on our hearts and will see to fruition.

Realistic Goals

We are still just a very average family, with a very small income, so to set a goal of saving cash for our own home is a big deal. Some would say (and have said to us) that it is impossible.

But, we remind ourselves that all things are possible with God.

And, we believe we have a realistic dream. We are simple people, with a simple, frugal  lifestyle. We are not looking for a nice, big, expensive home with bells and whistles. We are praying for a small, simple, fixer-upper farm house, though we are hoping for some land to go with it. We just want to raise our boys in the country.  In light of these simple desires, we can afford to have a small budget for our house savings.

Staying Encouraged

With all that said, I know that a big part of the difficulty of a goal like this will be remaining encouraged down this long, long path! This is not a quick thing. It will take us years.

I’m going to share next week some of the specific things we are doing to make this dream a reality, but for now I’d love to hear your tips for staying encouraged. Have you saved cash for your own home? I’d love to hear your success stories or encouragement.

17Sep

Thriving Thursday 9/18

Don’t miss my great list of nearly 40 free books for kindle that you can get right now…all from the best publishers and authors in Christian fiction, so definitely check that out.

This week at Serving Joyfully

Last Friday, I shared about a book I have been reading and how that inspired me with a picture of what it really means to serve joyfully. I hope you will read it and be encouraged just as I was.

What does it look like to serve our families with a joyful spirit?

 

I also shared a brand new freebie this week, an ABC bean bag toss game that my boys love! PS–if your readers would enjoy this freebie, I’d love for you to share it with them :)

ABC Bean Bag Toss

 

And then I shared our family’s new favorite chili recipe that I made this year with a little help from my Mrs. Wages chili base that I canned earlier this summer. Can I just say…YAY for fall weather?!? Chili never tasted so good as it does the first cool spell of the fall season :)

 

 

Delicious Chili Recipe

PS–I also shared on my facebook page that next month is a 31 day writing challenge for bloggers. Last year I did the 31 days of loving your husband intentionally. And this year, I’m considering a few different topics. I’d love for you to go weigh in on your favorite.

What have you been up to this week?

There were so many FANTASTIC posts linked up last week and I can’t wait to see what you ladies have to share this week :)

Thriving Thursdays Link Up!!!

Thriving Thursdays is a link up for family-friendly bloggers, who are choosing to THRIVE in their lives. It’s a place for us to encourage and inspire one another to live life to the fullest–in Jesus Christ. Link up your posts about thriving–in marriage, faith, parenting, homemaking, relationships, in the kitchen, in frugality.

Everything we do can be a ministry and worship to our Lord. Link up as many posts as you want, and I hope that you’ll take the time to visit some other participants as well.

I am so blessed by the posts you all share! I really look forward to seeing all of the encouragement shared here each week. Keep it coming! Sometimes I highlight posts here, and I also pin my favorites to the Thriving Thursdays Pinterest Board.

15Sep

Quick & Easy Delicious Chili

Delicious Chili Recipe

Confession–I’m not so great at chili making.

I tend to avoid recipes for it because I’m so picky. So, I end up just throwing things together. It always turns out just fine, but it’s a “stressful” thing for me to make because I never write it down or use a recipe, so every time is like a surprise. I like surprises just fine sometimes, but not when it comes to my food. For my food, I prefer steady and dependable.

And when you just throw things together, that’s not always what you get. Every batch of chili I make tastes just a bit different than the one before, and some are better than others. The problem is that I can’t recreate even the good ones because I don’t really measure or write things down.

So, when I had some extra tomatoes earlier this year, and saw a bag of Mrs. Wages Chili Base sitting on the shelf at the local Amish store, I decided to take a chance.

I canned several jars of chili base, and we just recently had a chance to try it out. September is still pretty hot in Kentucky, but we have just had a small taste of fall and I am loving it!

This mix made it easy to create a good, consistent chili and the whole family loved it.

I am in KY. Where all sorts of different things just kind of converge. I’m right in the middle of the people who have spaghetti in their chili, and the people who don’t. I personally don’t like spaghetti in my chili, because I always grew up with macaroni noodles in it and that’s what I prefer. Yes, I know that noodles are noodles, but it’s different!

Prep Work

This chili does take some prep work. The good thing is, you can take a couple hours one day and can several jars of the base and they are ready and waiting to go, making a super quick and easy, hassle-free chili for when you decide to fix it.

Since I buy bulk packages of ground beef that I brown and freeze in 1 lb packages, I can save even more time (and dirty dishes) since all I have to do is grab a pack from the freezer.

Chili Recipe

Quick & Easy Delicious Chili

Ingredients

  • 1 pint prepared Mrs. Wages Chili Base
  • 1 pint of water (just use fresh water in the same pint jar and pour it in)
  • 1 lb ground beef, browned
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 cans chili beans
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1.5 cups dry macaroni
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Serve with crackers and shredded cheese if desired

Instructions

  1. Brown 1 lb ground beef in skillet.
  2. Combine all ingredients except macaroni in crockpot. Cook on low 4-6 hours. Cook and add macaroni just before serving.
  3. For a heartier chili, add less water. If you’d like a thinner chili, add a bit more water.

Note: A crockpot is not necessary for this meal. On stove top, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for approximately 20-30 minutes or until macaroni noodles are tender.

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