El Gato Malo Coffee Press Review

My husband and I are true coffee lovers.  When we have friends over for a party, they expect a great cup of coffee.  We love to provide a wonderful brew and sit around talking with our cup filled over and over.  There’s nothing better than catching up with good friends over delicious coffee.

In the past, we’ve used most every type of coffee maker.  The drip machine is our most often used, but we’ve also used a percolator.  The first time we’ve tried a French Press Coffee maker was when we went to a trendy restaurant with some friends.  The waitress brought us a glass French Press, so it was fun to use and we enjoyed the coffee a lot.  But, we didn’t buy one for our home.

Then, I was thrilled to be offered a review opportunity from El Gato Malo!  They sent me their beautiful, shiny stainless steel French Press Coffee maker to try.  I was so excited and my husband was, too.  This heavy and great quality item had the look of a kitchen appliance that would last forever!  

How about a coffee maker with no plug-in?  Isn’t that a great thing?  I know I loved it.  Reading the directions, I found it to be very simple to use.  We made our first pot and it was truly delicious.  The coffee tasted more rich than the drip coffee.  We were very eager to try it out on our guests for a little Christmas get-together that we had planned.  The Christmas holidays are a perfect time to get together with friends and loved ones.

I prepared a few Christmas goodies to share.  The Old-Time Sugar Cookies are a Christmas favorite for young and old.  This buttery cookie is made from scratch.  I love making these labor-intensive cookies with old-fashioned ingredients and rolling them out.  It’s fun to cut them out into Christmas trees or angels and baking them.  The delicious icing and sprinkles gives such a festive presentation to our holiday party.  Now, if I can just keep the family from eating them before the guests arrive, we’ll be set.

I also made a drop cookie that everyone loves with chocolate, peanut-butter and oatmeal.  This is my guys favorite treat, so I made a huge batch!  They’re easy to make, and never any left on the plate.  We also have nuts and mints.  So, plenty of treats are available for snacking.  But, the hit of the party was most definitely the coffee from our El Gato Malo Coffee Press!

We loved every drop and made two pots with our new El Gato Coffee Press.  The guests asked about the beautiful press, because they had never seen a stainless steel coffee press before.  We talked about the advantages of stainless steel over glass.  It is so much better than glass, because glass ones can easily break.  El Gato’s is made for the dishwasher, and that’s including all the parts!

You’re going to want an El Gato Coffee Press for your home, too.  And, because it’s Stainless Steel, you can easily pack it in your suitcase and take it with you when you travel.  There are no worries about it breaking in your suitcase.

I hope you enjoyed this review and will try out the El Gato Coffee Press for yourself.  I know you’ll love it!  We certainly love it here at our home.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.  I was given an El Gato Coffee Press in exchange for an honest review of the product.  The review is my 100% honest opinion of the product.

@2016, copyright Lisa Ehrman

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Homeschool Burn-Out

Have you ever felt burned-out from homeschooling?  Numerous things can cause a feeling of burn-out when a mom has been homeschooling for years.  

Physical exhaustion can lead to burn-out, because homeschool moms don’t usually get enough sleep or exercise (self-care).  Can I hear an amen?  Homeschool moms can also get emotionally drained from stress.  Educating children is stressful, even if the children are well-behaved and obedient.  We want to do an outstanding job as teachers and as trainers of our children’s character.  On top of that, we want to have a nice home that is clean and organized.

Many homeschool moms must live on a tight budget, which also causes stress.  The list could go on and on: sickness in the family, special-needs child, care-taker to a parent, job-loss, etc.  I’m sure if you have homeschooled long enough, you’ve experienced some very stressful situations.  These situations can be used for good to allow you to teach your children how to deal with stress or crisis.

For me, burn-out came when I was homeschooling and trying to work part-time.  At this time, my health was getting worse and worse.  I kept pushing myself and didn’t listen to the warning signs that my body sent me.  This was not smart.  One day my body just said….that’s enough!  I had to slow down.

Hubby and I decided that when the fall came around we would put our kids in a Christian school.  The oldest really was excited and the younger one didn’t really care.  We had always taken things one-year-at-a-time, so we didn’t feel guilty.  I did have some people who treated me like I was a bad mom.  I knew I was doing what was needed at the time.

For two years, my kids were in school, and they did great!  The oldest graduated with honors and enjoyed the sports and social life.  The younger was also an honor student.  I rested and rested.  I learned a lot and spent much time with God.

After those two years, our youngest was homeschooled again.  He was excited to come back home.  He stayed home until he graduated.  My health did continue to get worse and worse, but we worked through videos and tutors.

If you can, try to prevent burn-out.  Give yourself a break.  You can’t do everything.  If burn-out happens, it happens.  Work with it and don’t fight it.  See what needs to change and let God change your family for the better.  God will bless….period.
@2016, copyright Lisa Ehrman

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What’s Your Learning Style?

As an educator, the thing I love most about homeschooling, is our ability to provide individualized education plans for each of our children.  I don’t know about you, but each of my children were very different.  In order for me to teach them well, and prepare them for life ahead, I needed to make sure I used the best teaching methods suited to their learning style.  

My homeschooling goal for my children was to prepare them with a strenuous education, so that no matter what calling they had, they would have a great educational foundation.  I wasn’t perfect, by any means, but did my best.

Homeschooling Learning Style

I believe that teaching children to learn in the way that they learn best, will help them to love learning.  This will help them to be life-long learners.  This helps to develop character.  As I taught homeschool, I spent much of my summers learning about learning.  I already had a degree in (Music Education) so I had taken many education courses in college.  These courses helped me to understand a lot about lesson planning and the importance of scope and sequence.  I knew that just jumping around with a lot of unit studies wasn’t going to cover everything that I wanted to cover.  Gaps will happen, of course.  But, I didn’t want to add to them by my own lack of planning and organization.

When I began to learn about “learning styles”, I pictured myself and each of my children.  Each of us stood out in one style or another.  Some of us over-lapped in more than one style.  This is why most curriculum plans are written so that we teach, using all of the learning styles.  (That way it works for a classroom full of kids)  It also works for children who have a balance of many styles.  

Homeschool Learning Style

You may find that one of your children is struggling with school or just one subject in school.  This is a good time to make sure you are teaching to their dominant learning style.  It helps to capture their attention and makes it easier for them to focus, naturally.  I had a child who was very visual.  When I began to use visual learning projects with her, with the Konos curriculum, she loved it.  Konos is also a great curriculum to use with more than one child, because there is much hands-on learning.  The curriculum provides many learning projects to choose from in each section, from all the different learning styles.

If you’re not sure what learning style your child is, you can read more about it.  You can also have them tested.  Check with a local college that has a teacher’s education department.  Many times they offer tutoring and testing.  Oftentimes, it’s free, because the student teachers are being trained in giving these tests.  So, it’s a win-win for everyone.  

Homeschool Learning Styles hands-on learning

Focusing on learning styles is not the only way to plan education, of course.  But, it’s an interesting way to look at how each of your children is learning.  It certainly is a good option to check into if your children have had any struggles with their curriculum.  When I earned my master’s in education, we studied differentiated instruction.  This term is used in the classroom, when the teacher needs to use all methods available to make sure that every child is able to learn.  Homeschoolers need to, and usually, do this naturally.  If you must use the same curriculum with every child (aka ABeka) you can add things to this program to meet specific learning needs.  (I’m just using ABeka as an example- I like their books and used them quite a lot).

If you have any questions about this, please feel free to contact me on the contact form.  I would also love to hear comments about how you’ve used learning styles in your homeschool!  Thanks.
@2016, copyright Lisa Ehrman

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Don’t Forget The Arts

The curriculum is ready.  The lesson plans are in order.  All core subjects are covered.  It’s going to be a great homeschool year.  Please, don’t forget the arts!  As a homeschool mom who also holds a degree in music, I’m here to stress the importance of music education.

Music and art can be very easy to add to your homeschool, but don’t let them just be an add-on.  Learning and training in the arts is very beneficial to your children.  Numerous studies show that learning music is wonderful for the developing child.  Music Education leads to greater academic success, this includes the verbal and auditory development.  Learning to play an instrument helps to develop fine motor-skills.  There are many other benefits.

Adding music to your child’s education can be easy.  In the early years, parents naturally sing little rhyming songs to their children.  As they’re growing, you can add rhythm to the songs.  Teach them to clap along to the beat, or get a little drum.  If you can’t sing well, you can use sing-a-long tapes with your children.  These are free to check out at your local library.  You can make some homemade instruments or purchase them.

Until the age of seven or eight, teaching children songs is a great way to learn music.  They may also participate in a children’s choir or class.  They don’t need private lessons yet.  Children’s choirs use a lot of rhythm with hand-motions, etc.  When your child reaches the age of eight, they may be ready for private lessons on the piano.  If they learn to play the piano, they will also learn many technical things that will carry over into all of their musical life.  They will learn to read notes and understand how music is composed.  They may want to make up their own songs.

As they grow older, children can train to play other instruments or consider vocal training.  Choirs are still a wonderful way to learn and provide fun, too.  Many cities have homeschool choirs, city choirs, and your church choir.  Instruments can be purchased “used” for a more frugal beginning. 

Let your child explore their musical side, even if they don’t appear terribly musical.  They will probably improve a great deal.  Unless your child is a rare prodigy, they will need to be taught.  Learning to play an instrument takes work and dedication.  This discipline that they learn in music education will carry over into their academics.

Art education isn’t my specialty, but teaching art in your homeschool can still be easy.  The beginning years, of course, can consist of paper and crayons.   Don’t worry about the talent, just let them draw.  Get them paints and brushes and brag on their art.  They can sculpt things with some play-dough, and when their hands are stronger; beautiful clays.  The sky is the limit with children and art!  Keep an art center (or at least a box) filled with creative stuff.  You could have colored paper, white paper, crayons, paints, clay, feathers, little odds and ends, toilet-paper ends, etc.  Add scissors that are appropriate.  Children will get very creative.

In upper grades, I found that the Charlotte Mason style of art education was very good.  Simply Charlotte Mason explains the method very well.  We tried to do this often.  If your child seems to have great artistic talent, it’s important to help them pursue that.  They may want art lessons.  At the least, provide them with good quality brushes and paints.

I hope you’ll explore the arts in your homeschool.  The benefits are worthy and the best part is the fun!
@ 2016,copyright Lisa Ehrman

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Margin: Book Review

I was once a homeschooling mom who wanted to do it all.  I taught my children with a full load of curriculum and then taught dozens of music students in the afternoon.  It looked great on the calendar.  All the little boxes were filled in with different colored ink.  There was just enough time to fit it all in, and take the kids to their baseball games and ballet lessons, too.

Margin: Book Review

But, in reality, too many days we threw a frozen pizza into the oven at 7pm or went out to eat.  The extra money from the music lessons was going for the extra food.  I was getting more and more exhausted and the kids were grumpy.  After a while, we realized this wasn’t a great plan for our family.

We hadn’t left any margin on the edges of the paper.

Someone introduced me to this wonderful book, Margin,  by Dr. Richard Swenson, a Christian author.  When I read the book, it made so much sense.  You can’t just push and push your mind and body the way I was doing.  Let me show you what the back of the book-jacket says:

Overload is not having time to finish the book you are reading on stress. Margin is having time to read it twice. Overload is fatigue. Margin is energy. Overload is red ink. Margin is black ink. Overload is hurry. Margin is calm. Overload is anxiety. Margin is security. Overload is the disease of our time. Margin is the cure. Margin is the space that once existed between ourselves and our limits. It is something held in reserve for contingencies or unanticipated situations. In Margin, Dr. Richard Swenson provides a prescription against the danger of overloaded lives. Focusing on margin in four key areas-emotional energy, physical energy, time, and finances-he offers an overall picture of health that employs contentment, simplicity, balance, and rest. If you yearn for relief from the pain and pressure of overload, take a lifelong dose of Margin. The benefits of good health, financial stability, fulfilling relationships, and availability for Gods purposes will follow you all your days.” from the desk of Dr. Richard Swenson

Margin: Book Review clocks

After this turning point, we made changes.  I stopped teaching the music lessons and spent all the time with my husband and children.  I scheduled margin in my life, and it made a huge difference!  As I got older and my health got worse, the times of margin grew longer.  

I recommend this book to all homeschoolers, young and old.  I think it’s important that we teach our children to also have margin in their lives.

@2016, copyright Lisa Ehrman

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Homeschooling Without The Rose-Colored Glasses

Because I’ve completed my years of homeschooling, I have the benefit of hindsight.  I also like to be completely honest, and not just write to get lots of readers on my blog.  So, today I would like to talk about some of the negative things that can happen as a result of homeschooling.  They may or may not happen in your home.

Some children can grow up to be unhappy with your choice to homeschool them.  They may seem happy when they’re young and at home.  When they’re older and look back on things, their opinion may change.  Maybe they might feel that their education wasn’t adequate to prepare them for the job market or college.  They might feel that they missed out on other things in life.  I’ve personally seen these things happen.  Some children aren’t provided a top-quality education and therefore miss out on job opportunities.  I’ve seen this happen far too often, and it’s very sad.

One other thing that is a negative is that mom is also a teacher.  It’s hard to wear two distinct hats with your children.  For me, I was a certified teacher.  This made it even harder.  I felt the teacher within me very strong.  I come from a long line of teachers, and always wanted to be a teacher.  So, was I supposed to “Be” a teacher until 3, and then “Be” Mom after 3?

This was a little weird.  Over time, it got easier.  Homeschool moms have to find that middle ground.  We need to be mom, but also a firm teacher.  There should be a plan in which your “students” succeed in learning everything that is expected of them.  The student must be accountable for what needs to be learned.  And, we do it with the love and understanding of a mom who really “knows” how they learn.  This enables us to teach them better than anyone else.  What a job!

No rose-colored glasses here.  It was tough job, but I loved homeschooling my children.  God bless you as you do the same.

@2016, copyright Lisa Ehrman

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