Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A week's worth of homeschool lunches

I recently had someone ask me to write a short series on how to make home education affordable. As I work on composing that, it has been a while since I've shared our weekly glance at some simple, at-home lunch combinations. One aspect of our homeschool journey that is a huge benefit is food. Since we're at home, our lunch menus are much more affordable and nutritious than if we had to brown-paper bag it every day--not to mention, some schools trying to ban homemade lunches in lieu of non-whole-food government lunch programs. We feel blessed to enjoy simple meals at home during the day. Yes, some weeks we fall back on left-over mac and cheese, or pb&j, but those days thankfully aren't the norm. For more of our weekly lunch recaps and ideas, click the lunch link at the bottom of this post.

Apples, carrots, cucumbers, with Brown Rice and Quinoa.

Whole-grain Oatmeal with apples, bananas and cinnamon.

Spinach, strawberries, and fresh free-range fried eggs from our backyard chickens. <3
Salad with chopped zucchini, carrots, raw pecans.

Dino Nuggets, Alexia all natural tater tots, Kale greens with sliced almonds, pineapple, grapes and snap peas.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Seven Simple Ways to Mix-up your Math Routine

Every subject deserves some creativity from time to time, and that includes math! We use Christian Light Education for math, but we like to mix-it-up to keep things interesting. Here are 7 simple ways to change up your math routine at any level.

1. Play-Doh isn't just for preschoolers. Whether your kiddos are just learning numbers or memorizing multiplication, you can use modeling dough to your advantage. Have the kids form their equations out of Play-doh. From 1-2-3's, to long division, you'd be surprised how changing up the practice from paper to dough can bring a smile to their face.

2. Grocery Cart Math. This slim volume from Jayne Hansen at Christianbook.com is affordable and a fantastic resource to supplement your child's math curriculum. Your child will learn how to compare brand prices, weight measurements and more. A cereal box is a rectangular prism, an orange is a sphere, a can of corn is a cylinder and more. Find it here: Grocery Cart Math

3. Change up your math manipulatives. The same old math facts, while important, can get monotonous. Change up what you're using for hands-on manipulatives. Old keys, beans, toothpicks, colored paperclips, poker chips, pennies, buttons, beads.... we have small boxes stacked up with all of these things on a shelf for days when we just need to change up the same old problems to perk interest. Unlocking Math Moments.

4. Math Games. Monopoly, Pizza Fractions, Dominoes, Multiplication Bingo, etc. etc. There are endless board games and online math games you can choose from. Find a favorite, and use it as a reward to motivate their lessons or as an icebreaker for the morning math lessons.

5. Don't be afraid to make visuals. Do whatever it takes to bring the concept off the page! Here are two popular posts of mine, with the Crocodile Rule, and Popsicle Place Values.

6. Borrow ideas! Check Pinterest and homeschool blogs every so often for more creative ways to bring math to life. The ideas that are out there are amazing! Here is the flower clock we built in my daughter's room to help her learn time, thanks to the sharing of great minds on Pinterest.

7. Math in everyday life. Since we have backyard chickens, we use eggs in our math often. The kids love collecting, counting and adding up our eggs. They work with how many makes 1 dozen, 2 dozen, 3 dozen, etc. They get great practice in how many left are needed, as well as counting in sets of 3's, 6's and so forth. Chickens sure do come in handy with homeschooling!

What are your favorite ways to mix-up the math routine? Add them up in the comments!

"Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." -Psalm 90:12

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

20 Simple Things you can do to Enjoy Another Snow Day with your Kids

Here in Michigan, we’re experiencing our third day in a row of closed schools and events due to extreme winter weather. Along with cabin fever, some parents, especially those who aren’t accustomed to having their kids at home with them during typical public school weeks, are struggling with staying sane and finding ways to occupy kids who aren’t used to being home all day. But the truth is, you don’t need to have shelves full of classroom supplies and curriculum on hand in order to have fun and enjoy these extra days with your kids at home. Here are 20 simple things you can do to enjoy yet another snow day with your children.

1. Make Sock Puppets. http://toeverypurpose.blogspot.com/2011/01/simple-sock-puppets-for-less.html

2. The library is open! And free! Get out of the house for a bit, find new books to explore, and some craft & project books.

3. Bake a cake (WITH the kids).

4. Feed the birds. Make peanut butter feeders, or homemade suet cakes. February is National Bird Feeding month, gear up for the Great Backyard Bird Count by getting seed out there and practice identifying backyard birds.

5. ABC Hopscotch. http://www.toeverypurpose.blogspot.com/2011/01/alphatrain-floor-puzzle-homemade-abc.html For older kids, make it fun facts in science or geography that they have to answer to make it to the next square.

6. PLAY IN THE SNOW! Sledding, snowmen, forts, snowshoeing, coloring the snow… Some moms even bring the snow inside to the bathroom in tubs if it’s too cold outside for their littles.

7. Paint. For all skill-levels and abilities, using paper or other surfaces. http://www.toeverypurpose.blogspot.com/2011/04/painting-projects.html

8. Make a homemade movie. Let the kids create their own script or show. If you have a video camera they can play with, use it. If not, they can create a set to perform a play, ballet, or, hey, even a puppet show (see number 1).

9. Hot Glue Art. http://www.toeverypurpose.blogspot.com/2011/01/hot-glue-art.html

10. Color your clothes! http://www.toeverypurpose.blogspot.com/2011/02/color-your-clothes-tie-dye-and-other.html

11. How Things Work? Declare an At-home Discovery Day. http://www.toeverypurpose.blogspot.com/2011/02/how-things-work-learn-and-discover-day.html

12. Field trip to museum or area nature center. http://www.toeverypurpose.blogspot.com/2011/07/museums-and-nature-centers-importance.html

13. Make Stone Soup! http://www.toeverypurpose.blogspot.com/2011/10/stone-soup-making-memories-along-way.html

14. Try a new Board Game. Or invent something new with what you have on hand, like this fun memory tray game. Or this consonant acorn game.

15. Have your kids learn a new hobby, and learn along with them if needed. Sewing, jewelry making, woodworking, scrapbooking…

16. Read or listen to the audiobook of Narnia, then go outside and pretend your backyard is a fantasy winter world.

17. Grab a globe, spin it. Pick a spot, wherever it lands, learn all about that country and culture for the day. Plan dinner around a new recipe of that cuisine. http://www.toeverypurpose.blogspot.com/2011/10/egypt-excitation-our-educational.html

18. Turn your living room into a giant blanket fort, and camp out. Blanket forts never get old.

19. Make a care-giving kit for a family in need. An elderly relative, a shut-in neighbor, or small toys and activities to send to third-world country orphans. You’d be surprised how occupying your day helping others transforms everyone’s attitudes in your house!

20. Create an indoor scavenger or treasure hunt. Hide clues around the house, or pick up a store-bought kit for the kids to unearth together. You can use it as a gateway to exploring adventures in archaeology. http://www.toeverypurpose.blogspot.com/2011/09/archaeology-adventures.html

Above all, enjoy the time you get to spend together! What are your favorite family activities or ideas to enjoy days at home with kids? Share adventures from your journey below! God Bless!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Homemade Elderberry Syrup, A Recipe for Wellness

It is super easy to make Elderberry Syrup. It is a wonder of wellness against cold and flu symptoms!

All you need:
Filtered water

Boil down the elderberries (rapid boil) with a ratio of approximately 1 cup of berries to 4 cups water. Mash them up, strain them, and FINELY strain it, either through a jelly bag or very fine mesh. (I use a tightly knit spice ball and funnel), because the stems are actually poisonous. Once you have all the stems and pulp removed, add in about 1 cup (or more) of honey and bring it back to a gentle boil. Pour it into canning jars and can it. Keep refrigerated. One batch is good for 3 months.

If they are sick, give 2-3 teaspoons twice a day, at the FIRST onset of symptoms for best results. If just for daily immunity building, then 1-2 teaspoons once daily is fine.

It works wonders! My kids absolutely LOVE it. They ask for it continuously. I love that we can make our own medicine and remedy their colds from the comfort of home. I have my friend Melissa to thank for knowing and trying Elderberry Syrup---she makes it and gifted us some when we were sick a couple of years ago, and I couldn't believe what a difference it made in their symptoms after 24 hours. Now I pick them fresh and freeze them, for when I need to make another batch. You can also order dried elderberries in bulk. With their natural antioxidants, they truly are a wonder of wellness. May you be blessed by this simple recipe, and may God bring you healing and peace.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Week in the Life of our Homeschool

Highlights from our Homeschool week:

We hosted an impromptu "God Created Earth Day" with some of our homeschool friends. It was such a beautiful day for it!! We did activities around the 3-R's, read from our Apologia's Exploring Creation with Botany Science book, and the kids planted trees, sunflower seeds and took home strawberry plants. It was wonderful.

After some morning school, we baked cookies (math measurements!) to take to our friends' house to play.

Cookies baked and ready, off and out the door to our friends' we go!

Hmmm, we may not always stop to smell the roses, but we DO stop to watch the magnificent hawk stop to grab his road kill lunch. God's amazing circle of turning tragedy into useful, not-wasted blessings.

Fun with friends

Wednesday was an awesome day. We had quality learning and chores, then the kids and I enjoyed some fun board game time. They get great math practice with counting the money in various combinations in Junior Monopoly, and good strategy-logic-sequence use with checkers.

Wednesday night, we noticed how awesome the moon was, and did some activities based on that, including the new Moon Journal we just started in our Nature book. Our Apologia Astronomy science also has some great lessons on the moon that we'll be touching back/following up on this week.

The kids read and did some math in the morning, then we headed over to our friend's house for coffee and a playdate. They each spent the night at different friends' houses Thursday night, and both had a fantastic time sleeping over with their friends! What a blessing we have with friends we hold so dear!

We had a blessed day at our homeschool co-op on Friday. One of the families brought their pony and horse for show and tell- the kids loved it!!!

I'm teaching a class on the book, The Secret Garden. This week we did some fun Robin crafts and activities while listening to the story and robin songs on my friend's phone. Additionally, we were to the part of the story where Mary found the key to the garden, so I brought in a dozen old, random keys for the kids to pick out their own from, and we made necklaces with yarn. We used some simple brown felt to make "earth" pockets for them to keep the keys in when they weren't wearing them. What a fun day!

Saturday was the perfect family day at home. We spent the entire day outside. My husband thawed and boiled down sap for maple syrup, and the kids initiated a Rock Hunt. They brought out all the materials we have on rocks and geology to the picnic table. We explored in the woods and they each picked two rocks from their day's collection to paint (their idea).

Can you find the chickens in this picture?? (Hint: at least 8, no more than 13) :)

In the afternoon, we planted more trees and all had a picnic in the yard on a blanket, reading books. My daughter had a tiny, tiny baby ladybug crawl on her hand and rest there for 10 minutes before flying off. It was so cute. Afterward, she ran inside to get her life-cycle of a lady bug model-set, and the kids played the different stages of a lady bug's life in the dirt into the evening. What a blessing this journey is! Hope you have a blessed week, too!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Less is More: Why We Choose Quality Over Quantity, for our Lessons and Life

My friend, who public schools her kids, said to me, reflecting: "It's weird that, all the people I know who homeschool-- their kids are way above where they need to be... for instance, your [6-year-old] daughter is, what did you say? Third grade reading level or above? Yeah, it's weird that the kids are all way above, and yet, all of them that I know, spend way, way less time each day on school work or formal lessons than kids in public school."


Me, smiling, with patient love: "Well, it is not a puzzle. And it's no coincidence, or a happy accident. It's the simple truth that QUALITY is far superior to QUANTITY. When kids have the free time to truly and authentically absorb what it is that they are learning, they retain more of it."

It can't be that simple, can it? But it is. Less is more. Truth, at it's core, really is always that simple.

It's not her fault. We've been programmed in all areas of life to assume the rubbish that more is more. More hours each day, more homework, more drilling, more programs, and of course- more money, more money, more money.

Pure rubbish. Plain and simple.

Kids need less.

Less over-stimulation, less cramming, less artificial and unimaginative entertainment with toys or screens, less hours away from their homes and families.


Do you know what they need more of? Time.

More time outside than inside, no matter the season. More time with their families. More time to explore, imagine and create. Time to build quality, authentic friendships... with no restrictions of the school yard bell. Time to get good and dirty and feel the wind. More unrushed time to rest. More time to read, and be read to. Time where they can think and question for themselves. Where they can learn HOW TO WONDER. So many kids these days are just told what to know. Constantly. They are not taught how to think, they are taught what to think.

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” ―Margaret Mead

But, how, you may ask, do you teach them how to think?

By giving them space to wonder. And absorb.

When kids have constant stimulation, constant activity, constant shuffling from one place to the next, constant something-happening... how much of that is absorbed? What a waste. It's all surface, nothing sinks in deeper. Nothing has time to take root.

“Thought breeds thought; children familiar with great thoughts take as naturally to thinking for themselves as the well-nourished body takes to growing; and we must bear in mind that growth, physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, is the sole end of education.” ―Charlotte Mason

“One of the main things we’ve learned is that interests develop with time and freedom to explore. Kids need big chunks of time to play, create, read, and question. They need the freedom to discover their interests. We have to make room in our days for exploration in order to pave the way for more meaningful projects.” -Michelle Hulse

So yes, it is true. Less is More.

Allow me to repeat: less, is more.

Do people even question or recognize what quality time is, anymore? I know they've lost sight of what authentic play is. But the truth is, you get more out of 2-3 hours of quality lesson time than 10 hours of overdrawn, exhausted, pushed-on, forced drudgery- any.day.of.the.week. My kids aren't the only proof. There are millions of homeschoolers across the country proving it, too.

Enough with pushing full-time, stressful, coordinated schedules onto these kids!

"I don't want them to miss out on anything," one public school mom fretfully explained to me, as to why she was cramming, overbooking and frantically double-booking her kids with trips and birthday parties, scouts and soccer and....

Enough! On top of a public school calendar? That is madness.

In the attempt to "not miss out" you are, in turn, missing everything. You are missing the point of it all. You are missing PURPOSE.

“Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I've ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing.... Through all that haste I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away.”
―Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

Where did this notion come from, anyway? That our kids shouldn't miss out on anything? Really? Constantly distracted, not centered on anything. How sad. And does that teach them how to make purpose-filled, intentional, mindful choices throughout their life? Should we, as adults, scatter ourselves thin over every available opportunity that presents itself to us?
Furthermore, if we are demonstrating to our kids, through our actions, that constantly being occupied and accumulating stuff is the path to happiness, well, then, we are setting them up to have a pretty unhappy life.

"People ask me how I will teach the kids math. How will I socialize them? How will I continue working? But what people should really be asking is how parents manage to teach their kids how to make important, value-laden, emotional decisions when there is so little time together as a family." ~ Penelope Trunk

Don't misunderstand. I completely acknowledge there are families utilizing government schools who value this time for their kids and carve out time for family. I'm not saying this is exclusive to non-homeschool families, there are- indeed! - families within the homeschool community who burden their kids with over-programing and lack of time, as well. I'm guilty of it at times myself. However, have we asked ourselves, what do we gain?

It's not an accident that we spend less time on formal school lessons each day than a public school does, yet our kids flourish. It is not lazy luck. It is our intention. We want our kids to love learning. Our school knows no limits, we live and learn all the time. We learn because we like to, therefore, we spend our free time learning.

And do you want to know the best part? You can, too.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday

palm sunday from littlealtarseverywhere56 on GodTube.

"Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"

Donkey and Palm crafts from dltk: http://www.dltk-bible.com/crafts/

Here are some great ideas for lesson plan ideas for kids on Palm Sunday: http://ministry-to-children.com/palm-sunday-lesson/

And a funny, informative skit on Palm Sunday to give you a chuckle:

Skit Guys - Palm Sunday from skitguys on GodTube.