Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Love to Learn Blog Hop- Last Week of April

How is this already the last week in April?  I can not believe how fast these weeks are flying by.  We have been trying to get outside and enjoy spring as much as possible.

Love to Learn blog hop | link up | linky | blogging | homeschooling | education | kids activities | kids craft ideas

Welcome to the Love to Learn Blog Hop

A collection of educational activities to instill a life long love of learning in our children.

Enjoy learning through play, nature, crafts, and many other educational activities.

This is a PIN-IT PARTY

Your hosts will pin our favorite posts to our Pinterest boards! I encourage you to do the same!


Add all or some of your favorite social media links below the main hop.


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We work hard to share all your fantastic content! Click on our badges, or scroll down to the social media link up and follow on your favorite channels.

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The link up is open all month long, with a new one

beginning the 1st Tuesday of every month.

Join at any time and even come back to add new posts.
    Grow blog followers, gain views and comments, and find other great blogs here.

Featured Favorite

Strewing with picture books is an engaging way to increase learning for all ages. Click here for resources!

Practicing the Art of Strewing by The Sparrow's Home

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Linking Up With:

JENerally Informed

Brag About It Link Party #17-17

Monday, April 24, 2017

Smart Financial Planning for College

Today we are joined by guest blogger Drew Cloud and talking about smart financial planning and college.  I hope you enjoy! 

Why Families Should Use SDRSI Before Decision Day

As the constantly increasing cost of earning a college degree outpaces the rise of early career wages, many families should dedicate extra time to choose the most affordable school for their high school graduate to make sure they can afford the student loan payments. One of the tools they can use before decision day is the Student Debt Repayment Success Indicator (SDRSI) as they select the best college.

What is SDRSI?

The Student Debt Repayment Success Indicator (SDRSI) uses the median salary of new graduates, the average debt per graduate, and a college’s default rate within the first three years of graduation to compute the likelihood that future college graduates will be able to successfully repay their student loans after graduation. A higher SDRSI score means a higher probability that if your child attends that college, they are more likely to afford the monthly student loan payment than going to a school with a lower SDRSI score.

Here is how to calculate the SDRSI score for a particular school.

  1. Divide the Early Career Pay (Median salary of alumni 0-5 years from graduation) by the average Debt per Borrower of each college graduate.
  2. Multiply that number by one minus the school’s default rate.

This number is the SDRSI score.

Comparing the SDRSI of Two Colleges

As an example let’s assume your child wants to attend school in Virginia by comparing the two colleges in Virginia with the highest and lowest SDRSI scores for that state.

The University of Mary Washington has the highest SDRSI score for Virginia colleges and universities with a score of 2.51 and is ranked 44th in the nation.

Bridgewater College has an SDRSI of 1.00 and is ranked 710th in the nation.

The primary reason the University of Mary Washington has a much higher score is because it has a higher early career salary, a notably lower average debt balance, and a lower default rate.

While attending a school with a higher SDRSI doesn’t guarantee a high starting salary or on-time student loan payments, it can help you and other families get a better idea if a college degree can be more lucrative than a degree from another college.

Colleges Might Not Disclose Default Statistics

It’s easy for most families to primarily focus on the degree options, proximity, or special programs that a particular college offers. That means it is easy to overlook the default statistics as a college might not be so quick to publicize a high default rate or student loan balance in promotional material that high school student looks at unless they have really good alumni placement or debt repayment statistics.

Another reason families should use the SDRSI is because it can be hard to estimate the total cost of college while their student is still in high school.

They might not be sure the exact amount of financial aid from grants and scholarships they will receive each year, if the student will need 5 years to graduate instead of 4 years, or the rate of future tuition increases.

Why the SDRSI is Good

The SDRSI helps assign a grade for each school when it comes to student loan repayment of its recent graduates to help high school families make an informed decision to help prepare their child to receive a degree at the lowest possible price and earn the highest starting salary possible. Success alone isn’t determined by a single score, but, it makes planning for the future easier.

Drew Cloud started The Student Loan Report after he graduated from college. While he pays off his student loans, working his life away, Drew took a liking to journalistic writing which led him to funneling all his energy into the website, turning it into a news outlet for the student loan industry.

Linking Up With:  The Homeschool Nook

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Baby Boy Scrapbooking Page Layouts

This is the first time I ever had someone else ask me to make a baby scrapbook for them to give as a gift!

I often make scrapbooks to give as baby gifts at baby showers and was so flattered when I was asked by a family member if they could pay me to make one for them to give to a friend and the baby boy they would be having.

I enjoy scrapbooking and there is something about making up blank pages that I find so freeing.

Linking Up With:


Across The Blvd

My Pinterventures

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Best Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cupcakes.... EVER!

Alec made the most amazing chocolate peanut butter cupcakes this past weekend.

We started with this basic chocolate cupcake recipe found on Annie's Eats.  Using her ingredients and directions he mixed up a nice thick batch of batter.  However since Alec decided to omit the peanut butter filling our batch made 18 cupcakes.

Chocolate cupcake:
1 2/3 cup flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
8 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs

In a medium bowl he combined flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.  In a small bowl he combined sour cream, milk and extract.  In the bowl of our stand mixer he combined the sugar and butter over medium speed until well mixed and then added in the two eggs.  He slowly added some of the flour mixture then the sour cream mixture and ended with the flour mixture.

Using his large scoop he filled the cupcake liners 3/4 of the way full and baked the cupcakes at 350 for 18 minutes.  At this point he gave away 1/2 the cupcakes he had baked.

The next morning Alec mixed up his own filling.  He wanted a nice fluffy peanut butter buttercream frosting but since we mixed it a bit thick we decided to use it inside the cupcake as a filling and it worked out perfectly!


1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp peanut butter
2 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbsp milk
3 tsp. vanilla extract

We put the filling in a Ziploc bag and snipped the corner off.  Using our cupcake corer we cut the center out of the cupcake and filled them with our peanut filling.  We then cut the tops off of the pieces we had cored out of the cupcake and placed them back on top of our filling sealing it inside the chocolate cupcake.

Since he only had 9 cupcakes to fill we had plenty of filling left and knowing that we wanted fluffier buttercream frosting we put all the filling back into the bowl and added another cap full of vanilla extract and milk (about 1 tsp. and 1 Tbsp. respectively).  If we were making enough filling and frosting for the full 18 cupcakes we would have doubled our filling recipe and still just added more liquid slowly until we had the desired consistency.

Filling recipe above
1 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

He piped the frosting on and then topped the cupcakes with chopped Reece's peanut butter cups.

They were just perfect! The cake was fluffy and the filling was light airy with just the right hint of peanut butter. They ended up being the hit of the party!

Linking Up With: Simple Saturdays


Amanda’s Books and More


Across The Blvd

My Pinterventures

Friday, April 21, 2017

Weekly Wrap- Up: The Week We Painted Ian's Room

We had a busy and productive week!  We painted and organized a bedroom, had a fun day with our friends and visited with family.  We managed to get lots of schoolwork done and the boys are really looking forward to finishing up all of their books within the next month.

We had such a busy day on Friday.  While the younger boys started their day playing some video games, Ian and I started dismantling his room.  He wanted to paint his room and add a few organizational touches to it in place of a birthday gift or party this year.  We began pulling his furniture away from the room and piled most everything into the middle of the room.  We spackled holes, taped off the trim and outlets and got everything ready.  We all sat down to breakfast and I read a few chapters in The Dead of Night.  We also learned a bit of Swahili reading Jambo Means Hello.  After I finished reading, Evan worked on two pages each in his math book and his word family book.  He also completed a page in his cursive book learning the letter "g".  Alec worked in his math workbook and his grammar book.  Ian worked on two pages in his math book and then a page in his cursive book.  Evan and I read another half- chapter in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone while Alec sat down and proceeded to read Hotel Valhalla.  We headed out to pick up the paint and a few supplies... everything seemed to be running against me though and all our errands took longer than planned.  By the time we arrived home at 12:45 (with Subway sandwiches) I was pretty panicked that there was no way we were getting two coats on all of Ian's walls.  I did sit to each lunch though and offered to read one chapter in The Candymakers while I did.  As soon as lunch was over Ian and I headed up to paint... the ceiling needed touching up and I started with that.  Then noticed that flat white paint is not always the same shade of white!  With not enough paint for two coats or any way to fix it we decided to just leave it for now and move on.  We started in with the yellow and discovered that two coats later... we really needed at least three coats.  But we were out of paint and time so I packed it in and tried to ignore that my day felt like one long failure with nothing going quite as I had planned.  After dinner we headed back to the paint store and picked up more wall and ceiling paint. We also had to head to the store to pick up the pegboard and hooks for Ian's Nerf gun wall.  Since Ian room was still a mess he slept at his grandfather's house.

The color we started with 

After the second coat 

Putting on the second coat 

Saturday, Ian headed off to work with his grandfather and I finished painting his whole room.  The younger were introduced to some new video games and downloaded them at the end of the week so they spent some time playing Doodle God, Hearthstone, Smite Battleground of the Gods.  Then I kicked them outside for some fresh air. After lunch Alec started making chocolate cupcakes for his grandfather's birthday party/ gift.  My husband and I made the peg boards for Ian's Nerf gun wall and Ian helped install it then arranged his room just the way he likes it.

Our day began very early Sunday morning when Evan woke with minor stomach pains.  Luckily they went away within 15 minutes and then he was raring to go and woke up his brothers for an indoor egg hunt and a mad dash to the Easter baskets.  They ate plenty of candy and then my husband and Ian headed off to the movies to see the latest Fast and Furious movie while Alec made some peanut butter frosting for his chocolate cupcakes (recipe is on it's way tomorrow!).   It was 85! ... In New England in April that is practically unheard of so we enjoyed an afternoon outside.  We re-potted some household plants and started planting our seeds.  Ian helped his father repair our broken canoe using a rivet gun and some calk while the younger boys played outside in the water and on the climber. We headed out to see family and celebrate a birthday. The boys spent some time at the park playing and we had a very nice visit.  Once back home Ian headed out on his four wheeler and rode around for a bit.  It was a perfectly relaxing day.

Monday we hit the books hard not knowing what our week would end up being like.  The boys all settled down to school pretty early.  They each worked in their spelling books, completed two pages in their math workbooks, and did some reading.  Evan and I finished another chapter in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  Alec read the lore on the various gods in the game Smite on our x-box-- it took some convincing on his part for me to see and recognize it as schoolwork but I finally did.  Evan worked on another page in his word family book while the two older boys worked on another page in their grammar books.  We looked up Burundi on the Africa map and the boys colored in the country while I read Tracking Wild Chimpanzees In Kibira National Park .  We went outside for art drawing "en plein air" using colored pencils and watercolors to capture what we found (you can read all about it here).  Ian worked on putting a puzzle together that he got for Easter.  We read two more chapters in The Dead of Night and The Candymakers and the Great Chocolate Chase.  After dinner Ian and I played a few card games and ended our night with a Rummikub battle; he won.   Evan has downloaded Trivia Crack onto his Kindle and we've been playing back and forth with one another.  He is gaining so much confidence with each right answer and he's totally kicking my butt in a few games we have going.

By the time I got downstairs on Tuesday (6:15 or so), Alec was all dressed for karate and had more than half his schoolwork done!  All three boys did great getting ready nice and early and starting right in on their schooling. They all worked on one page in their spelling and two pages in their math books.  Evan worked in his word family book  while Ian chose a page in his cursive book and Alec worked in his grammar book.  Evan and I read another chapter in Harry Potter while Alec read a good half of his Crystal Keepers book.  The younger boys went to karate and I did grocery shopping.  Once we arrived home we made lunches and read together.  We read two chapters in The Dead of Night, a chapter in The Candymakers and the Great Chocolate Chase and then Alec read The Mangrove Tree.  We learned a bit bout the country of Eritrea and the boys found it on the map and colored it in on  their Africa map.  We headed outside and the boys played Uno and then had a sandcastle building contest.  We went for a walk and enjoyed the beautiful weather and all the pretty blooms showing up.

Wednesday we had friends coming over so we kept our schoolwork to the bare minimum of just math, spelling and reading.  Ian started his unit test in math while the younger boys just picked two pages to work on.  Evan read some more Harry Potter to me while Alec read almost half of his Crystal Keepers book.  Ian started reading The Talking T-Rex.  They each finished a page in their spelling books and then Evan pulled out his word family book while the older two boys worked on another page in their grammar books.  Once we were done our schoolwork we did a bit of cleaning and packed up Ian's puzzle that he finished.  Ian headed outside to work on his sandcastle.   The boys had fun playing with video games, Nerf guns and toy weapons for the rest of the day once our company arrived.

I tried to rush the boys through school on Thursday since I had to rearrange a few rooms upstairs and I really wanted to get going on moving furniture.  Ian finished up his unit test and will take a break from math until Monday.  The younger two boys worked on two more pages in their books and we realized Alec only had two pages left for Friday!  All three boys finished one more page in their spelling books and prepared for tomorrow's test.  Evan worked on two pages in this word family book while the older two boys worked on an assignment for persuasive writing; Ian tried to convince us to buy the family a new Polaris Ranger while Alec tried to convince us we should go on vacation to Myrtle Beach again this year.  Both did a great job with supporting arguments and I hardly got any complaints about the writing assignment!  They all did some reading on their own.  Together we read two chapters in The Dead of Night and The Candymakers.  We also learned about the country of Ethiopia reading E is for Ethiopia and The Perfect Orange.  Ian spent his afternoon watching two educational movies: Sarafina and Dances with Wolves.


Dances With Wolves

Linking Up With:

Babi a Fi

The Homeschool Post