With Valentine’s Day looming, I thought I’d better round up some ideas for ya’ll.

My kids, like most, really enjoy Valentine’s Day~making special cards for their friends and family, and call us old fashioned, but we still enjoy decorating Valentine’s Day boxes to house all those special love notes.

But this year, I gotta admit, I’m behind.  I don’t have as much time to do what we’ve done in previous years, and those ready-to-go Valentine’s from the grocery store, with the little red  heart stickers are sounding mighty tempting right about now, but I think in the end, my older ones especially, will still want to make their own Valentine’s cards.

So here is a round-up for you of cards we’ve actually made and loved.  Some are very simple, while others are more elaborate, and/or more sugar filled.

Hopefully there is something here for everyone! Enjoy!

My daughter had an owl theme going last year, and together, we made about 20 of these ridiculously cute owl treat boxes.  Each one held 3 or 4 chocolate candies. Find my full tutorial here. 

Candy Airplanes

We found these featured at this blog, and my oldest son kinda went crazy when he saw them.  All that candy in airplane form!  What is not to love?  They were fun to make, but to keep cost down, we only did a few.  I’m not actually sure he even gave Valentine’s Day cards with them, ha! I do remember they were well-received. 🙂

Candy Robots
My (then) 3 year old loved making these robots so much last year, he’s already asked to do them again. The heads are made of starburst or tootsie rolls (how cute are the “pigtails”?) and the bodies of the robots are mini hershey candy bars, wrapped in various colored papers.  We accordion folded arms and lets and added googly eyes, hearts, and smiles, and they were done!  So cute!

Owl Love You Forever Pencil holder Cards.
Looking for a  non-candy card option?  These were a hit last year.  Totally great as a last minute option–we printed from here and it couldn’t have been easier. My daughter gave them to the members of her Keeper’s Group.  Another great printable that’s totally free! We printed on white card stock and used dollar-store heart pencils on each. 
Here is yet another printable owl card that is adorbs. 

My boys are really into Star Wars toys and so I’ve already printed a pile of these cards for our card-giving this year.  
At the site, you’ll find directions for how to make your own, but unfortunately, no downloadable printable option.  I made it work by copying the photo above, cropping it a bit, and printing the image right onto card stock.   Now they’re waiting for my son to fill with glow sticks or pixie sticks for the light sabers.

Another easy printable card we’ve done in the past

I printed, my son filled a baggie with a car and the candy, then we stapled the bag topper on and they were done.  Easy Peasy. 
Heart People
I’ve saved my favorite for last, because, honesty, it doesn’t get much easier or more homemade than this.  Cut a whole bunch of hearts out, provide markers and glitter, and googly eyes and buttons and yarn…then let your kids have a great time decorating them and giving them personalities to suit the friends who will be recieiving them.  I’ve almost convinced my daughter to go this route this year. 
If she does, I’ll be sure to post photos of what she comes up with for her designs.

That’s it, see you soon for another Valentine’s Day Roundup.

I managed to sneak out of the house this morning for a half and hour walk in the winter-wonderland that was my neighborhood.  It was good and cold and beautiful, and as snow whipped up and into my cowled face, I bowed my face, and shared some time with my Lord.  I admit it was an odd morning to go walking, but why not? On my way back home, I ran into a neighbor several streets down, who was out shoveling his drive.  “Another terrible day!” he called out as I walked by.  “Hang in there!” I responded through the whipping wind. But as I rounded the corner and headed to home, I marveled that some will write the day off as terrible before 7am just because of a few inches of snow.
Call me an optimist–but who can live life like that, I wonder?  With the wind practically pushing me all the way back down our street, I felt fully alive, thankful for God’s mercies which are undeservedly new every morning, and I wholeheartedly rejected his prediction. Nope, I said to myself — it’s gonna be a great day. 

It was, too.
Every step, it seemed, was marked with prayer and scripture.  I’ve been working through Romans 8 for 2 weeks, and the words are now reciting themselves in my mind.  Today, I chew especially long on these: “to set the mind on the spirit is life and peace…”

Did you experience his life and peace today, friends?
I can say that we did.

Do you feel the presence of God with you, even in the mundane?  Or do you find your spirit discouraged over the temporal things of life, things even so small as a few inches of snow?
When we abide in Him, and He in us, we will have the eyes to see Him in all things.  So often, I feel His presence most fully right here in the simple things, as I serve my children and husband in our home.
When our eyes are open, we will see every moment as grace.

I sense His grace as I sit together with my kids and read through our history and science lessons–as we learn together about the Turks and the Ottoman Empire, and the fall of Constantinople, I’m reminded that it’s God who establishes and deposes kingdoms as He wills.  I sense Him in our art…sensing that He rejoices over us as we paint sea turtles and make beautiful things, for He is Creator, and we are made in His image...
And in Science as I read aloud to my wide eyed children about Primeval Reptiles, the Leviathan and the ancient sea monsters of the deep, I am reminded by scripture that they were made by our great God to bring Him glory.


I sense His presence as we gather around the table to eat our simple lunch, and feed our spirits from His life-giving Word.

I sense His beauty and goodness and JOY as we bundle up and head outdoors to enjoy the sunshine and the snow.  The whole of creation is declaring His glorious majesty, and we join in the song.



I feel Him go before us as we walk through the doors of our local nursing home, another chance to love and serve Christ among the least of these.

The smiles on the faces of the seniors remind me that life is indeed worth living, when it’s lived, not for self, but for Christ Jesus.  He is Emmanuel–God with us.  

Emmanuel was with us today, as we visited room-to-room, and as we held the hand of a senior, who only last week had his leg amputated below the knee.  He was listening as this soul confessed that he “hasn’t always been the best Christian” and Christ Jesus, the Healer, was with us as we joined him in prayer, asking for new beginnings–and for hope in the midst of a deep trial.  

No, a few inches of snow on the ground do not make a day terrible.

Lack of hope and joy and love make a day terrible.  But we are a people who can boldly rejoice over “Christ in us, the hope of glory!”  And His abiding presence means that even in the deepest of trials, He remains faithful.
I hear Romans 8 again–
“Those who are in the flesh are hostile to God, for they do not submit to God–indeed, they cannot.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, IF in fact, the spirit of Christ Jesus lives in you.

Believer, I want to encourage you to life each moment fully abiding in Christ.  Stand before Him, whose spirit dwells in you, and ask for a greater manifest presence of His Spirit in your life.  Ask to have your eyes opened to see past the temporal and right into the grace and glory of God that surrounds you in all things.
For the believer, all is grace!
Count the ways He loves you!

Count even the “small” things–
Spotting a woodpecker at the feeder, and having the camera near enough to take a quick photo.
Grace!

Finding the perfect hill for sledding near our house–the kind that’s so steep that the kids can penguin slide as fast as if they were on a sled.  
Grace!


Cold cheeks and hands, warmed by hot tea and snuggles on the couch for read-aloud.
Grace!


Husband home from work early–warm soup–family gathered around the table together for fellowship and dinner.
Grace!



Yes, He is here, with us–every moment of every day.  
His Spirit offers us life and peace.
Will we see it?
Open our eyes, Jesus.


I was recently encouraged by a fellow blogger and homeschooling mama when I read about a spending freeze she and her husband tried.

I felt immediately convicted because I am an impulsive spender, craft hoarder, and grocery-budget buster.  
And I really want to do better.
Doing better would bless my husband and show him, in a very measurable way, that I appreciate and respect the hard work and sacrifices he makes for our family, so that I can stay home, keep my babies close, and do what I love as their mom and teacher.

So I went to him and suggested doing a spending freeze for one month.  He and I talked about and agreed upon what spending we would seek to eliminate, and what spending was allowable for the month.

These are my biggies: no craft supplies, no extra homeschooling supplies, and rein in the grocery bill to $150/week.  Those of you who keep a budget are probably aghast at how high that is (plus we’re still allowing ourselves to eat out once a week), but even maintaining those wide boundaries would be a HUGE improvement from what I currently spend on groceries.

In order to do this successfully, I knew I needed to plan out my menu for February, otherwise, I know I’d totally end up winging it and blowing the plan.
CLICK Image to view larger

I started by using Google Calendar to create my menu, but thought I’d share it here with links to recipes.  Who knows, maybe this will help someone else too.  

And for the record–
Once upon a time, I spent a whole lot of time planning and prepping and searching for and coming up with delicious recipes.  My kitchen has put out some tasty foods over the years.  But I’m not going to lie–this menu is full of shortcuts, because, well…life is super busy right now with 4 extra little mouths to feed 3x a day, and add homeschooling to that…oh man.  I just don’t have time to make everything from scratch anymore. So– if you’re looking for a totally gourmet meal plan where every night delicious, different and ultra-healthy fare is being served, this may not be a meal-plan for you. But if you’re a fairly health-conscious but super busy mom who doesn’t mind cutting a FEW corners, you might want to check out what I’ll be serving up this month.  If my planning makes your life a little easier too, I think that’s wonderful!  

So–Here is my February Meal Plan.  

WEEK 1

Sat. Feb. 1st ~ Arugula Salad with Warm Goat Cheese Medallions
This salad is to-die for.  

Sun. Feb. 2nd ~ Superbowl Party with lots of bad/good food! My girlfriend is bringing the munchies, dips and desserts, while I’ll be cooking up Backyard Babyback Ribs, Homemade Chips, and a Classic Caesar Salad.


WEEK 2

Mon. Feb 3rd ~ Tomato Bisque with Cheesy Garlic Toast
Another classic here in our house.  Probably our longest standing favorite soup.  Tastes gourmet, but could not be any easier!

Tues. Feb. 4th ~ Black Bean Soup in the Crock Pot, 
served with Soft Taco shells and all the trimmin’s, especially fresh Pico de Gallo .  I’m linking in my go-to bean soup recipe, which my family LOVES, but lately, I’ve been doing my bean soup a new way–Here’s the gist of it: To the crock pot, add:
8 cups hot water, 1 onion, chopped, 1 bag dried pintos, 1 bag dried black beans, 1/2 lb bacon, 2 tsp cumin, 2 tsp creole seasoning, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 2 chopped jalapeños.  Let simmer 5 or so hours until beans are soft. Remove cooked bacon.  Salt to taste.  Add cilantro and 2 fresh squeezed limes. Oh my. SO.GOOD. It has a creamier (from the pintos) and heartier (from the bacon) taste than the full-vegetarian recipe.  We put it in tacos, make burrito bowls,  or serve over a salad or rice.  My kids go nuts for beans.  

Wed. Feb. 5th ~ London Broil on the grill, and Crock Pot Veggies.  
We serve our London Broil with au jus and a homemade Horseradish Sauce. London Broil sounds fancy but is seriously SO easy to make.  All my boys love it.

Thurs. Feb. 6th ~Salad and Homemade Pizzas.
My kids love a loaded “house” salad w/ all the veggies, boiled eggs, cheese, nuts, & croutons, so we do it once a week at least.  Thursdays are super busy for my typically since that’s when our co-op meets and we’re out of the house for several hours.  So my goal is to serve a house salad w/ homemade pizzas every Thursday indefinitely.
We do our pizzas with Sam’s Club frozen dough (buy it up front where they sell pizza) and add our own canned marinara sauce, cheese and whatever else we feel like putting on it each week. Everyone is happy on pizza and salad night.

Fri. Feb. 7th ~ Baked Ziti and my favorite Greek Salad

Sat. Feb. 8th and
Sun. Feb. 9th ~ Kitchen’s closed
We’ll be in Ohio for my husband’s induction to our alma mater’s Hall of Fame for his outstanding accomplishments in football, woot, woot!  It’s going to be like going back in time, only we get to bring out kids along with us, which will be tons of fun.  They’ll be serving us a fancy shmancy dinner and then on Sunday, we’ll eat out w/ family before heading home.


WEEK 3

Mon. Feb. 10th ~ Breakfast for dinner! 
Always a favorite in our house, and even if I didn’t plan it out on the menu, it would still happen, so why not include it from the get-go.  We’ll be serving eggs and French Toast WITH Berry Butter.  Since breakfast is on the menu weekly, I think it’ll be fun to whip up a batch of Pioneer Woman’s Berry Butter.  I love that it’s simple, and I can freeze it and have it ready when I need it.  It’ll make things extra special.

Tues. Feb. 11th ~ Bean Soup in the crock pot
Yup, it’s a weekly thing around here- and this time, we’ll make up some “naked” burrito bowls, Chipotle style.  This means I’ll be making this Homemade Spanish Rice, plus adding in some guac, sour cream, lettuce, cheese, fresh salsa.  My mouth is watering as I type this, I’m not even kidding.  We love southwestern food so much it’s ridiculous.  Plus it’s healthy and vegetarian.  Love.

Wed. Feb. 12th ~ Lemon and Garlic Roasted Chicken with Mashed Potatoes.
I made this last month and it was a hit.  The gravy you make at the end? It uses all the lemony, garlicy, herby goodness from the cooked chicken, and has you add white wine and reduce… oh my word, heavenly.  We drizzled it all over the chicken and the mashed potatoes, and I even added sauteed mushrooms and let me tell you–the husband was very, very happy with this meal.  Such hearty winter fare. *A note about the recipe: Ina has you use a whole roasted chicken, but I just use whatever bone-in chicken I happen to have.  Last time it was thighs. This month I’ll be using split breasts, plus drumsticks for the kiddos.  It really doesn’t matter as long as it’s chicken on the bone.

Thurs. Feb. 13th ~ Salad and Homemade Pizza 

Fri. Feb. 14th ~ Spicy Stuffed Peppers 
I have my own recipe, which is a modified, spiced-up version of my mom’s.  I’ll have to write out the whole thing start to finish one of these days.  Instead of bells, we stuff hot banana peppers and oh man, are they good.  

Sat. Feb. 15th ~ Chicken Tikka Masala with Rice and Garlic Naan
I love me some Indian.  Shortcut: Trader Joe’s sells some pretty great frozen naan and that’s what we use. 

Sun. Feb. 16th ~ Eat out as a family
{again, our goal is to keep it under $40}


WEEK 4


Mon. Feb. 17th ~ Breakfast for Dinner!

This time, along with our eggs and veggies, I’ll be serving Berry and cheese blintzes / crepes.  I only make these every once in a while, because it takes a bit of time to get the filling and sauce ready and my people are always so hungry when they come down for breakfast.  But you can actually prep everything for crepes ahead of time, which is what I plan on doing when I make it for dinner.

Tues. Feb. 18th ~ Tacos and Crock Pot Bean Soup.
Taco Tuesday!  Always a favorite.  Fill crunchy shells with beans or ground turkey, plus trimmings.

Wed. Feb. 19th ~Herb and Parm. Crusted Tilapia with Homemade Chips
Recipe coming for the Tilapa!

Thurs. Feb. 20th ~ Salad and Homemade Pizzas again.

Fri. Feb. 21st ~ Meatball Subs
I use frozen meatballs from Trader Joe’s, my own marinara sauce, shredded Italian Cheese, and Hoagie buns from Sam’s Club for this major shortcut-meal.

Sat. Feb. 22nd ~ Mandarin Orange Chicken with Rice
Feeling guilty.  Another ready-to-go meal from Trader Joe’s.  It’s their all time, best-selling item, and my people love it.  Portion control is a must, because it is not low fat.

Sun. Feb. 23rd ~ Eat out as a family
{Keep the bill less than $40}


WEEK 5


Mon. Feb. 24th ~ Breakfast for Dinner!
Repeat the Eggs + French Toast w/ Berry Butter plan from 2 weeks ago

Tues. Feb. 25th ~ Chicken Tortilla Soup
The one that is linked in is my creamy, Max & Erma’s style Tortilla soup, but typically, I make it as a traditional broth soup (lower fat and easier).  I will post that recipe for you guys soon I promise.  Tortilla soup is def. a menu staple in our house and a family favorite.

Wed. Feb. 26th ~ Channa Masala with Rice and Garlic Naan
YUM. Indian again, this time vegetarian.  

Thurs. Feb. 27th ~ Salad and Homemade Pizza
I’m sorta tired of typing it–hope we won’t be tired of eating it!

Fri. Feb. 28th ~ Spaghetti and Italian Style Homemade Meatballs
My family loves this meatball recipe. I make tons of mini meatballs from one batch, and I only use about 1/2 for one meal, and freeze the rest.  It’s so nice having a whole other meal ready to go in the freezer.  I use my own canned marinara sauce, and for the meatball mix, I don’t fuss with the veal– I usually use ground turkey and sausage, or beef and sausage.

That’s it.  Hope you find the menu and links to be helpful!  I am doing this just as much for me as I am for you.  I reeeeeallly want to stay on track this month and keep on the dinner round-up and budget!
I know it will bless my husband and children to sit at the table every night and enjoy homemade food that was prepared with love.

Happy cooking, everyone.



Saw this on Pinterest a couple years ago, and on a whim, the kids and I gave it a try yesterday.

You know, since the forecast called for something like -29* and what else can you do when it’s that cold outside? 

We used balloons and watercolor paint that we had on hand.  We filled those babies up before bed, and I’m sure we all dreamed of how amazing they would look.  I know I did.
First thing in the morning, we bundled up and went out for the big reveal.  
We peeled the balloons off….and wow.  
There they were in all their frozen, colorful glory.


It was great fun I tell you.  We oohed and ahhhed and lined them up in rainbow order.  The kids “claimed” their favorite colors as their own.  Once all that was settled, and we were pert-near-freezing, we quickly ran back indoors to stare at them some more.

The best part about it is that we get to gaze out and lovingly admire our giant rainbow balls of ice for weeks and weeks to come.  
*sigh*
It just doesn’t get much better than this, people.

Now go on, and make your own set.  You know you want to.


Earlier this week, I shared about History as Storytelling…I hope you didn’t miss the great video interview with Jim Weiss.
Today we’re going to go even deeper by looking at teaching History through Role-Playing.

Of course, this is not a new idea.  
Williamsburg and Plymouth Plantation and Hale Farm and Gettysburg and countless sights and historical destinations across our great land bring History to LIFE for their visitors through the use of costume and role-play. Why are these so popular? Because reenactments put the student right at the helm of the learning.  They are viewing, and in some cases, themselves acting out the stories being told.  Or as Ben Franklin so famously quoted, 
“Tell me and I forget.  Teach me and I remember.  Involve me and I learn.”  

Studies have actually shown that we remember about 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, 50% of what we see and hear, 70% of what we say, and 90% of what we do and say.


When it comes to the great and vast stories that make up our human history, we can further help our students understand them acting them out using simple costumes and role play~things which come very natural to growing developing children anyway.  
We do this as often as we are able, and sometimes, we have big Living History events dedicated to what we are studying.  
So far, it’s been an effective and memorable way to drive home our learning.  
Today’s post is really a peek at some of our history highlights for the past 2 years as we’ve walked through the Ancient Period and on into the Middle Ages.
Kids have HUGE imaginations, and usually don’t need a whole lot of detail filled in for them…often if I can share one or two living books with them, all I have to provide are a few simple costume pieces and props, and they are off to the races on their own.

I enjoy making simple costumes for my kids, sometimes with little more than scissors, fabric and my glue gun, but as I’ve learned to sew on a machine in the past 2 years, I’ve made a couple from patterns that were more elaborate.  
I’ve included a photo album for you to enjoy, and I hope you are inspired to do more role-playing as you teach History in your home school.


What we were studying: Early Nomadic Peoples
What She Wore: -homemade costume using fleece, with fringe cut and beads added-

What we were studying:  Ancient Egyptians
What She Wore: -very basic white dress with fancy homemade belt.  A pinned-on collar, gold headband and sheer fabric cover up were added to complete the look.
What we were studying: Ancient Greece ~ My dramatic little Greek princess
What She Wore: -this was a NO-SEW dress made from a pillow case, a bit of gold fabric, and hot glue. Headband, sparkly belt and bracelets added to complete the simple costume.
Those fancy wrist bracelets are made from a pringles can that we spray-painted!
Now for the boys….


What They Wore: The boys are all wearing pieces of one of my husband’s xlg t shirts.  I literally cut that thing up and made sashes and capes for all 3 from one shirt.  Boys are pretty easy to please like that!
My Spartan warriors with their foam weapons, ready to fight the men of Athens, below


Greek Olympics with racing and wrestling and frisbee toss…


Winners are crowned with a homemade jute and paper laurel wreath.
What we were studying:  Ancient Rome!
Here is my little soldier  Joshua.
What He Wore: I used a pattern for the armor of this homemade costume, then used a pillow case to make the under-skirt thing, and sewed a clasp on a piece of red fabric to make his cloak.  He’s wearing a Thor helmet and carrying a dollar-store shield.
Here’s my oldest boy again, showing off his OWN gladiator costume made from some of my scrap fabric and leather. 🙂
Now Joshua just added a homemade foam trident and a net to his soldier costume to become a Retaurius gladiator.
My 3 year old as a gladiator…in simple (no-sew) costume made from vinylish material.
For my boys, it’s more about the props and weapons as you can see from all these pictures.  When we need something special (as in, we don’t own it already, and can’t find it at the dollar store) I make most of their weapons from big sheets of insulation foam you can get at a home improvement store pretty cheap, and we decorate/finish with duck tape (black, silver, red…)
Gladiators fighting a wild beast in the arena.  You can see all the kids’ costumes in this pic.  A lot of large t shirts and pillow cases are used for our events.
And never underestimate the use of cardboard, foam and duck tape when it comes to making any kind of armor or weaponry.  Everyone used books and photos for reference when they came up with their designs.
What She Wore: My daughter in her Roman style homemade dress–just 2 pc. material sewn together, hemmed, and silver ribbon added with fabric glue.
 What we were studying: Barbarians preparing to overthrow Rome!
 This was the beginning of our current school year in the Middle Ages
What They Wore: -these costumes are just what they appear to be–potato sacks with rope belts.  Perfectly Barbarian.-
What we were studying:  Early Celtic People
What They Wore: More potato sacs for the boys, blue celtic looking fabric pinned across the boys or draped around girls’ shoulders, & blue face paint for the warriors.  
A fierce, blue-faced Celtic warrior, preparing for battle!
What They Wore: Our Celtic girls’ costumes were equally as simple…Emma’s wearing a large t-shirt on the left, Abby’s wearing a pillow case, no-sew dress in the middle, and Eden on the right is wearing a simply-sewn dress made from an old curtain.  Each of the girls have a piece of fabric going around their dresses, and are wearing homemade Celtic pins, necklaces and head bands to complete the look.


What we were studying:  Early Monasticism in Europe
What He Wore: Here Joshua is wearing a Monk’s costume I found online for less than $10 and I actually  used it as a pattern to make 2 more for the boys in his co-op class.  I used old brown curtain fabric to make them and they ended up looking better than the one I bought online.  I believe all our boys’ monk’s costumes do double duty as Jedi costumes these days.

What we were studying: Golden Age of China
What They Wore: a real mix here–Asian looking fabric with an asian umbrella, one (old) store bought Japanese dress, and a couple of original Thai outfits.  My boy on the right has a “straw” hat on, made from poster board and string.
What we were studying: Europe in the Middle Ages…my daughter and I pose as ladies of the Renaissance (at the PA Ren. Fair).
What We Wore: Her dress was borrowed from a close friend & mine was $3 from a garage sale! ha!
And here’s my gal again as a Noble Lady in the fanciest dress I’ve sewn to date (using a pattern).
(remember the other one was borrowed, so we made our own).
With friends at a Living History event…Ben in the middle put together his costume from what he had at home.  The feather in his hat really completed his nobleman/merchant look.

Finally…

Coming up, we’ll soon be studying Early Native Americans (Incas, Mayans and Aztecs) where we’ll be using costumes we already have, like this store-bought Native American dress my gal wore at her Cowboys and Indians  party last year.

A couple more pics of the kiddos at some of our homeschool events, where costumes came into play…

Notice my boy is now wearing my daughter’s Native American costume for HIS Thanksgiving costume.

And here, my daughter re-used her Nomad costume when we had our 1st Thanksgiving feast last year…her friend Ben re-used his Thai costume with new props to become an Indian.

…and one of my all-time favorite pics.  Gotta love preschoolers.  😉
This is me and my son in our homemade pilgrim costumes using clothing we already had.  I made my collar, apron and hat from white felt and hot glue, and used a fabric belt to tie the hat.  No-sew anything.

And my daughter just re-used it all this year when she dressed as a pilgrim for our feast!
The point is that lots of our DIY costumes do double-duty, which is great.

If you can’t tell already, dressing up and role-play is a regular part of our history learning!

How about you?  Do you enjoy teaching history using role-play and costumes?
Do you buy costumes, sew them, or are you more comfortable using fabric glue/hot glue to jimmy rig things together?
Don’t forget to keep an eye out at garage sales, re-sale shops, and show those post-Halloween sales for potential costumes.  Sometimes the neatest homemade costumes can come from items found cheap at Goodwill that need little or no modifications.

See you soon for one more post on how we teach History here in our homeschool.
Happy Learning!

Hi Ya’ll.
At the end of this week, we’ll reach our 100th day of school and will be having a little get-together to celebrate with the kiddos of our co-op.
Do you count up to 100 days in your classroom?  
The 100th day of school can be a pretty big deal for those Kinders and 1st graders, and it’s fun to find creative ways to help them understand the concept of 100.

First, you can read all about hosting a 100th day of school party HERE.

This post has ideas for projects (where each child has to bring a collection of 100 to show and tell), and plenty of ideas for food and games that can be enjoyed on the 100th day of school.

Last year, my daughter and I created a special shirt which she wore on the 100th day of school.  We used felt and fabric glue and it turned out great.  Actually, it’s held UP great too, and not a single heart has come loose after many wears and washes.
You can get the details HERE.



I have to say, my favorite 100th day of school project is making the self-portraits of what the kids think they’ll look like at 100.
These always turn out great and are a total hoot.

Here are my school-age kiddos self-portraits from this year–
 (themselves today, and at age 100).
I’m pretty sure these will be precious keepsakes about 10 years from now. 
Also, I’m loving my son’s 100 year old bearded face.  So cute.

Another favorite at our 100th day party each year is popping 100 balloons in 100 seconds.  
Always the kids’ favorite activity.

Other things we did at this year’s 100th Day Celebration:

*Show and Tell our Collections of 100*
*Put 100 sea creature stickers on an ocean poster
(we’re studying Swimming creatures in science)


*Put 100 toppings on a large paper pizza*
(20 of each: peppers, anchovies, pepperoni, mushrooms & basil, plus 100 pieces of shredded cheese!)*

*Measure out 100 feet in the gym where our co-op meets and take turns kicking balls 100 feet, racing 100 feet, etc*
During Class–*We also had every child complete a 100th day of school packet*

The activities for the packet included:

–Filling out a blank 100’s chart
–Writing their name as many times as possible in 100 seconds.
–Estimating which 2 jars of candy (of out of 5) had exactly 100 items in them.
–Creating two self-portraits-one current, and one as a 100 year old person.
–Counting to 100 by 1s, 5s, 10s, 20s and 25s (numerous times).
Aaaaand 
–Answering Our 100th Day of School Questionnaire.

What a riot to hear what the kids came up with.
A couple examples for you:
I wish I had 100..._________
(“candy rooms” “cars”  “juice pops”) =]

I would NOT want 100…_______
(#1 best answer: “Moose heads staring at me when I wake up in the morning” #2 “Old men in my house”)  HA! Kids are too funny.

We also had them answer the question, “I know I’m 100 days smarter than I was at the beginning of the year because now I….” __________________________
Favorite answers: “can read” “can write in cursive” “can do math better” “can build legos better” 
Pretty cool if you ask me.  Our kids have come a long way, and it’s great to be able to celebrate these huge milestones.


We had a 100th day themed lunch, and those 100s were turning up everywhere on the kids’ plates. 



The mamas all had a great time too, and shhhh, don’t tell, but one of my personal favorite reasons for celebrating the 100th day of school as a homeschool teacher is knowing that we are past our half-way point in the school year, and only have about 80 school days left before summer break! =]


Happy 100th Day, everyone!



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Linking up today with Trivium Tuesdays



Hi friends. Something neat I wanted to share with you this morning, that any of you who are using the Classical model of education will especially appreciate…it’s an absolutely  inspiring interview with Jim Weiss on the difference between teaching HISTORY in order to memorize important facts, names and dates, versus History as storytelling
I just loved this interview–especially Jim Weiss’s stories of Sir Francis Drake (2:55) and Harry Truman (6:02). I could listen all day to history being taught like this!


I have a feeling that those of us who claim to “dislike” history had it taught to us in the driest of manners.  We can do better for our children if we embrace it as an opportunity to share with them the fascinating stories of this world, from Creation until present day–stories filled with characters and situations that deserve to be retold.  And who among us doesn’t love a good story? Weiss says history is not just the “kings, queens, presidents and explorers” only, but “history is everybody,” and there are countless characters and stories simply waiting to be brought to life–stories of ordinary people like us, who have experiences and emotions and struggles that are human, and not altogether unfamiliar to our own. 

For us, history is less of a subject, and more like the core of our homeschool learning experiences.  It provides us with more rich reading material than we could possibly go through in a single school year. It is the favorite subject of both of my school-age children, and mine as well.  Each week, as we travel around the world to learn of new peoples, empires, and places, we all end up fascinated and wanting to dig deeper, and to know more.  Most weeks, I am learning these stories right alongside my children, for the first time (at least the first time I can remember!). 

Do you want your children to “love history?”

If so, I suggest that you rely only minimally on textbooks.

While we use Story of the World curriculum as our barebones guide, history absolutely comes alive in our home-school because of  the use of Living Books. 

What are living books? 

Living books are usually written by one person who has a passion for the subject and writes in conversational or narrative style. The books pull you into the subject and involve your emotions, so it’s easy to remember the events and facts. 
Living books make the subject “come alive.” They can be contrasted to dry writing, like what is found in most encyclopedias or textbooks, which basically lists informational facts in summary form. You might be surprised to find that living books are available for most school subjects — even math, geography, and science!


Are you studying Ancient Rome? Don’t just tell your kids that Christians were killed in the arenas.  Share stories of individuals…how about Perpetua, who was separated from her infant as well as her whole family, imprisoned, and eventually martyred in the arena, alongside members of her church, because she would not renounce her faith…tell them how her courage and trust in the Lord moved the hearts of the guards to faith in Christ.

Get to the Library to grab some good books that and tell your kids the living stories of the past.  


This past week, the kids AND I were fascinated by the stories of the great Mongol ruler, Kublai Khan, and of that most famous traveller and adventurer, Marco Polo, because of an incredible picture book we checked out from the Library.  Together, bit by bit each day, we were drawn into Polo’s dangerous and marvelous adventures into the deep, mysterious east, until we felt we were there ourselves. Contrast that to the slim paragraph we find in an encyclopedia describing Polo’s life, or even the 3 pages in our textbook that offer little more.

Yes, for us, the teaching of history and literature go together, hand in hand, as we open these Living Books, filled with stories of real-life people who have gone before us, encountering various struggles during significant periods, times, and situations.  


History can be taught anytime, and all the time.  

Is the school morning too busy to fit in our history lesson? No worries, we simply “teach” history during tea-time, or as we snuggle on the couch, or before bed, by reading aloud from one of of these living books.  Of course we don’t call it school, we call it story time.  But this much is true: it’s reading and learning at its finest, and the children, even our 4 year old, sit mesmerized as we tell them the great stories of the past.  

This is why my children love history, and why the words, “history is boring” won’t soon be heard from their lips.  So get to the library, bring home a few of those living stories, and watch as history comes alive in your house too.  


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Linking up This Week with Trivium Tuesdays








Some years, the number feels weightier than others. 
This year. I feel 35.
No longer young. Not yet old.
70 years, more or less, are appointed to man, so what is 35 if not an in-between number?

I feel that this year—that “between-two-ends” feeling.  I’m right here, in the midst of the whole grand picture, and I see my life as the pages of a book, being written and slowly filled.


Coming today to this unfamiliar half-way point, I can’t help but wonder—how does my story read so far?
For there’s a bit of substance here now… there is a beginning to be sure, but more still.  There are quite a few stories compiled already, and more than a few lessons learned.
Some chapters have been pure joy, while other pages were written in tears. 
But day by day, hour by hour, the pages continue to turn and fill slowly up.

“For you yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone…written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the Living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of the human heart…” 
2 Cor. 3:2-3
Standing back today, I take a look, and ponder my story.
Does it read well?  Is it full of grace and beauty? Are others who read the words of this book inspired to turn another page, drawn by something or Someone greater than the vessel itself…or do they move quickly on, turned off by the vain and uncomely prose they find within?

Each January, rain, sun or snow, I mark my birth-day, and another year of life with a long, quiet walk alone with my Creator. Today’s birthday walk took me deep into our snow-covered woods, an hour before the sun slipped from the sky.  

I go, as I do each year, to pray and to listen.
Down the path, around each bend, over familiar streams—now icy but still moving—I force myself to slow down as I ask Him to quiet my spirit.   

I don’t stop walking until I reach the high woods that look over the whole white valley.  And here in the quiet, I raise my face towards the glow of the setting sun—and I whisper to Him—to my Maker.

I ask Him to assess these pages—to read each one of this past year, to scrutinize not just the days, but the hours and the moments too…however painful this dealing may be, I ask You Lord to search my heart…and those pages which did not speak of your worth… those which may have instead brought you shame, those which stole glory due your name, those I squandered or greedily took as my own as if I deserved anything, Lord, I confess them now, and I ask that you would cover them with your grace.  

Acutely aware of my own sin and frailty, I wonder through streaming tears…

35 years, but how many were lived for Him?

In this quiet, my heart cries out—

Forgive me, my Jesus–
Use the failures of the past and the brokenness of the present to shine forth your holy light, that you might be lifted up.
Take these unwritten pages, I give them now to you.  I ask that you would unite my heart to fear your name alone (Ps. 86:11).
Oh Lord, teach me to number my days aright, that I might present to you a heart of wisdom (Ps. 90:12).  Renew me Jesus.  Refresh me by your Spirit.  Write your words upon my heart and mind (Ps. 119:11) that I might know your truth and walk in it each day.  Direct my coming and my going, my resting and my serving.
May the words of my mouth, and the mediations of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer (Ps. 19:14).

Mark my days with an urgency for your kingdom work.  Fill my spirit with a supernatural joy and work in me a heart of tenderness.  Give this body the strength and energy needed to do that which you would have me do.  Remind me always that any sufferings I will be required to endure are designed to draw me closer unto you, my Savior.

Thank you for my life Lord!and for the privilege of serving your church.  For the joy of laying my life down for my husband and children and my neighbors. Fill me and equip me for this task as only you can.

Then homeward bound, He speaks to my spirit from His Word: My daughter, I have made your life to be an open book, but know that I am the Author and the Finisher.  (Heb. 12:2) 
What you offer unto Me, I will fill, and fill to overflowing.  What you believe Me to do, I will not only begin, but I will finish. (Phil. 1:6)


Thank you, my Jesus.
What else is there, but to say, I am yours Lord. 
Take my life and let it be
Consecrated Lord to Thee
…Ever only all for Thee.

***


And for you, dear friends…

May the God of your hope so fill YOU with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound AND be overflowing [bubbling over] with hope.
Romans 15:13

This Week…

What We’re In Awe of:
These gentle giants, and our amazing Creator God.


What We’re Creating Together:
Science and Art collide once again as we all work together to create original watercolor and oil pastel sea creatures for our Ocean-themed classroom area.  These have been an absolute blast to make this week, and about every 2 days, I let the kids each do another one.  The rainbow-y fish were cut out from scraps of painted watercolor paper!  






Here’s our Ocean Board in our Homeschool Area~the kids sit or stand here daily and play with their creatures.   And…not gonna lie, the baby tries every.single.day. to run off with as many creatures as he can get his little hands on (They’re adhered with sticky tack so the kids can move and play with them).


What We’re Listening to:


Hymns for a Kid’s Heart book/cd sets are a great way to teach hymns to your children and the books are beautiful devotional tools. Volume 2 is probably our favorite because it has the stories of the hymn writers, which are wonderful and often moving.  
We also love this set:
We usually start out day by playing one of these cds.  

What We Enjoyed Reading this Week:
One of our all time favorite silly picture books, but revisited this week with all the painting we’ve been doing…
Hilarious and fun.


And another favorite:

We’ve read it many, many times, but this week we used it in Math to reinforce telling time.
The grouchy lady bug tries to fight a different insect or animal every hour of the day, and when he at last reaches the large blue whale, the author illustrates and teaches young readers about the 15 minute time increments in the most creative way.  
Also, I never noticed until this week, but the sun is shown in its proper place in the sky for each hour..going up first, then slowly down until it sets. 
Don’t you just love Eric Carle’s books?  

Plus…

I finished Hobbit with my oldest last week, and we’re a couple chapters into Lord of the Rings now. Oh man, my little book worm is thoroughly enjoying it.  We read together for 20-30 minutes each night after the little boys fall asleep, and I’m sure it will take us forever and a day to finish the story, but we are loving it.

While we continue reading about all things Ocean-y in science, in history this week, we spent all 5 days pouring over this fantastic picture book in history as we covered the Mongol Empire, Kublai Khan’s lavish kingdom, and the life and travels of Marco Polo.
We got our copy from the library, but this book is def. on my homeschool-library wishlist.

It’s truly an outstanding elementary biography that uses copies of original period art work, maps, and excerpts from Marco Polo’s own journal to retell his adventure. Included are the fascinating stories that should be shared when studying history.  I read aloud one or two chapters a day, and my 4, 5, and 7 year old kids ALL loved it.


Favorite Lunch or Dinner Shortcut:
Ready-to-go Pizza Dough

Ok, it started with these little .69 cent bags of dough mix  from Giant Eagle. Surprisingly good pizza for only .69 cents.  But then I learned a tip from my friend Becca. 

SAM’S CLUB PIZZA DOUGH.
Ready to go dough balls. Delicious.
And you get
20 xlarge frozen dough balls for $16. 

You guys.  
We had a pizza party the other night and my girlfriend used the Sam’s Club dough to make indiv. pizzas in cast iron skillets and it was LEGIT. 
Here’s what you need to know–to buy it, you have to go to the front of the store where they make and sell their pizzas and buy it there. 
Super simple, quick and cheap lunch or dinner option. Buy a case, freeze it, and thaw as needed.

Picture of the Week:
Getting caught with the kids (just outside the craft store) in the crazy whiteout snowstorm we got yesterday. Such huge, wet snowflakes were falling at dusk and our walk to the van was truly magical. 


Have a great weekend, friends!

Hey fellow mamas.
I have been writing down my schedule for you all this week, but realized as the week went on, how very different each day can look from the day before or the day after.  Some days we are totally on it, and it’s mostly smooth-sailing and well-planned and I feel the reward of our hard work because we get to enjoy more leisurely afternoons where we are free to devote time to other things.
But other days…just don’t go as smoothly.  There are days, like today, when we still manage to get school in, but things are all pretty out of whack.
I’m going to start by sharing that kind of day with you, because, well… it’s more interesting and perhaps more realistic for many of us who have little ones underfoot, or who are just starting out on our homeschool journeys and a strong routine has not yet been established.  
I promise I will also be sharing what a better day really looks like, hour by hour, and I think you will see why [in general] it is so much more preferable to maintain some type of structure and routine when you decide to embark on this homeschool journey.


I’ve titled this sample schedule “The Long, Drawn-Out School Schedule.”  Alternatively, we could call it the “what happens when mom stays up til 2am to do homeschool planning with girlfriends instead of getting to bed at a decent hour” schedule.

Ready?  
Welcome to our day–today.

8:30am Woke up SO LATE this morning and am totally EXHAUSTED.  As in, kids are jumping on my body and I’m trying to slug myself up to find coffee and wondering why I did not have the sense to go home at a decent hour the night before.  I stay in bed for another 15 min, read the Word for a bit, then head downstairs.

8:45 Breafast w/ boys, Coffee, Hubs out the door.
This (or much earlier) is when I normally work with my 4 and 5 year old boys on Kindergarten stuff, letters and numbers, etc. and usually only every other day.  But today, we didn’t do anything.

9:00am 2nd grader wakes up.
9-10am 2nd grader eats her breakfast while I teach history lesson {just meaning I read aloud the next 2 -3 chapters of The Adventures of Marco Polo (a lengthy picture book we have been enjoying from the library) while she listens and eats}.  Pretty low-key, relaxed start for us, and not really our norm.

10:15 Busy baby goes down for morning nap.  {cue hallelujah chorus} 😉
10:15-11ish My 2nd grader finishes up an old history lap book she never totally finished before Christmas break…coloring, cutting, gluing some things into her folder.  I sit nearby, foggy-brained, and drink more coffee.

11:00-Noon 
I get my 2nd grader moving into some hands-on science, sculpting some clay ocean creatures to go in her ocean diorama box. I totally cut out half way through, head upstairs and do some emailing, fbooking, then work on 2 blog posts while she sculpts and little boys build forts and play in living room.  Boys eventually join in around the table to work with clay.

Noon
I make homemade soup and sandwiches & feed the people lunch. As we eat, I realize it’s 12:30ish and we’ve haven’t done anything except some read-aloud history and a bit of art/science  😐  Time to get moving.

12:30-2:00pm   Try to finish all remaining school w/ 2nd grader 
…So for us, this is just NOT ideal to be working on school into the afternoon, but thankfully baby naps long today, maybe til 1ish? and we plug away.
We do:
Math lesson, practice sheet, timed test, plus oral review of calendar, time, facts…
Eden reads aloud 2 grade-level books to me and boys.
Phonics practice page, Grammar page.

2:00 Short break…kids play. I do laundry.

2:30 Realize we forgot science [Mama is struggling today] and we will never be able to finish this week’s lesson all tomorrow…so, I call 2nd grader back in from play so I can read Science lesson while she works on her ocean box and does her science journaling (drawing pictures, narrating what she learned from what I read..).

3pm We finally call it a day.

3-4pm
5 year old plays w/ baby in back yard for 1/2 hour.  7 and 4 year old color ocean pictures and play together at the table.  House and especially kitchen/dining area just gets messier and messier.
I get everything ready for kids to go ice skating.

4pm Big kids leave for weekly Ice Skating Lesson w/ Daddy.  –in other words, Phys. Ed. class.  =]
4-5:30 Baby takes afternoon nap.
Mom takes a deep breath, and thinks long and hard about cleaning up the house, doing laundry, or at least cleaning up lunch dishes in the kitchen.  Opts for laziness instead.  It’s Thursday after all, and I’m tired.  

6pm Meet up w/ family for dinner out after skating lesson.

Home 8pm, kids play for 1/2 hour, wrestle with daddy, the wind down, get ready for bed…
8:50 Kids laying in bed, listening to mom read aloud their devotions and other books.

9-10:30 Hang with husband, Clean house and…

…get ready to do it all again tomorrow.  Except the good news is that tomorrow is Friday.  And Friday is make-up day which means a lighter workload, plus it’s the start of the weekend, hip, hip, hooray!

Still, you can be sure this mama will tuck herself into bed at a nice, early hour this evening to avoid a repeat of this schedule tomorrow. 😉  

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