Showing posts with label Homeschool Arizona. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Homeschool Arizona. Show all posts

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hands on Spelling Practice

Hands on Spelling
Easy Spelling Practice with Montessori Letters
We just finished our second spelling test of the year. Do your kids hate spelling? I did. In fact, my daughter used to really stress out over spelling until I kind of found a rhythm to teaching it. For starters we follow a pattern with our spelling lists. I download grade appropriate word lists from Super Teacher.  On Monday we discuss the patterns of the words on the list. This week there was a pattern of ou, nd and augh. Once the patterns are heard and memorized then on Tuesday and Wednesday we rewrite the words twice and we also use these Montessori letters to practice our spelling. The great thing about the letters is that they usually practice other words in addition to the ones on the spelling list. Finally, Thursday is spelling quiz day. I let my 1st/2nd grader use his Montessori Letters during the spelling quiz. When you have a perfectionist you may need to give a little in this way. I know once he sees the correct spelling he will write down the correct answer on the page.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

This Weeks Projects/Soap, Jam, Donuts,Gummies and a Muller Monster!

muller monster
Muller Monster
We did some fun projects around the house this week. We are studying recycling and care taking with I Heart God's Green Earth (Available in my Amazon Store at the bottom of my homepage). My son made this awesome monster puppet with a Muller Yogurt container!
fabric softener
Homemade Softener
We are also working our way through Apologia Botany and we came up with this fantastic homemade lavender fabric softener recipe. You can check it out over at Considering frugal. We are so excited to find a homemade liquid softener that smells good. Apologia curriculum has a great soap making project listed at the end of chapter one, but we have already done it so we moved on to liquid soaps! Apologia Botany is also available in my Amazon Store!
Donuts from a Can
 We made homemade Donuts! Cheap canned biscuits fried in oil.
 Raspberry Hibiscus Tea Jam
A Plastic Egg Carton Makes a Great Mold!
And finally, and I do mean finally, my son earned his Jello badge! This is actually a picture of homemade gummy candy. This is how he earned his badge. I use Jello to teach the principle of dissolving a solid into a liquid to make a solution. He has been trying to pass this test for a while now. By making gummy candy he was able to sample the un dissolved solid... and bingo when we were finished he proved that he got it by finally making a successful batch of Jello. I actually gave him a sticker as a badge.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Helping Tween Girls Cope

If you have a tween girl, there is a lot of coping to do. We have found a series of books that help a young girl grow in her relationship in the Lord while understanding the changes that might be going on with her whole life. I wanted to share this series with you in case you and your daughters are looking for God's plan and purpose and struggling with finding and forming good relationships. I love the "Lily Series" from Nancy Rue. Part of the reason I love this series is that it protects the girl’s childhood as much as possible. Our kids are growing up so fast these days and one of the premises of Waldorf education is to try and preserve the childhood experience for as long as possible. For example, some aspects of war are not taught until well after concrete reasoning. Although these books are not written from that Waldorf perspective it does seem to fall in line with our values in this way. We love "The Body Book" and “The Beauty Book.” They talk about inner beauty and they both have a chapter about nutrition and exercise. And “The Virtues Book” and “The Buddy Book” both talk about relationships and attitude.

The books featured at the beginning of this post are available in my Amazon store at the bottom of this page or my homepage.

You may also want to read Cooking with Foods that Heal and Improving Self-Esteem with Adventure Play.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Why You Must Have Sprinkles to Homeschool

Sprinkles and Homeschooling
Why You Must Have Sprinkles to Homeschool
Using creative presentation ads to the sensory experience. And if you are going to use breakfast and lunch as a sensory experience, it helps to have a supply of sprinkles on hand. If you are homeschooling without sprinkles you may be having a harder day than necessary. Sprinkles are important for so many reasons. When your child won’t eat breakfast, sprinkles make it more fun. Sprinkles cheer everyone up when they are sad. Sprinkles can turn any unit study into a fun study. ABC Cake Supply has edible sprinkles and they are like edible glitter for cakes! I have also bought fun things like little edible lady bugs at ABC. Any sprinkles will do however, make sure they are always on your grocery list!!!

Learning with Lunch
Our "birdfood" Tea Party Food
We use lunch as a sensory experience quite often not to mention the importance of using breakable dishes and having tea parties. I won't get on that soap box right now, you can reread those posts later, I'll include links at the bottom of this one. I have to admit, I am not always that creative so I have some places I go to. First stop, Pinterest. If I am making a unit study on say birds for example, then I might want to include a fun lunch, so I start on Pinterest and then I work with what I have in my refrigerator.

If you are using food for sensory purposes then make sure you use all the senses. For starters, use peeling. Did you know that peeling apples, potatoes carrots and more builds fine motor skills used in writing? It sure does. So if you are doing a study on apples or American History then making an apply pie becomes a sensory experience. Peeling the apples, smelling the apples, kneading the pie crust and measuring the ingredients. So now you are realizing that you already use food in your lessons and provide some sensory experience so it might not seem like such a big deal.

I would like to encourage you to take it to the next level however. Making fun tea parties or lunches like the one pictured above deposits memories into your children's emotional bank that creates unique learning experiences both at lunch and down the road when they remember that lunch. Creating those memories builds bonds with your child more so than any other teacher ever could and that it why we home school in the first place.

Teaching Children About Failure
Teaching Table Setting

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Teaching Children to Care for Others

caring for others
Our Family of Five
Friday is the day we care for Grandma. She was in the hospital about a year ago for more than a month, then assisted living and now we care for her on Fridays. We take her groceries and manage her medications. We often take her for doctors appointments and routine outings and if it is a holiday someone in the family pics her up for dinner. It isn't always easy, it doesn't always fit into our schedule just right. Sometimes we are grumpy and we don't want to go, but we go every Friday and I can tell that my kids are better for it and so is my Mother in Law. We are teaching them through consistency to care for others.

Teaching Through Foster Care

This experience caring for grandma preceded another opportunity we had to teach our kids to care for others through serving as a foster care family. We only served for 6 months but it was an experience that changed their lives and I wouldn't trade it for the world even the hard parts. It didn't turn out the way we expected, we were part of a fost adopt program and although we successfully transitioned our little girl back to her birth family, we fully expected that she would become an adopted part of ours. That did not happen and instead our children learned that sometimes you give love that you do not get in return, sometimes you show love in hard circumstances, sometimes you have to love and let go. They also learned a little more about what love looks like. Love doesn't always look pretty, love has boundaries, loves often says "no." They learned what it is like to share the love of a parent or extended family member and they learned that love often has to make sacrifices and hard choices. These are all the hard lessons that our society is lacking these days. The very reasons that we have so many kids in the foster care system.

You don't have to have a sick relative or participate in foster care to find opportunities to teach loving. There are ministries all over your town that would love to give you the opportunity to volunteer; there are homeless in need of lunch on just about every corner these days. Clean out your closets, visit a shelter or nursing home. Actively teaching your children to care for others will equip them to serve throughout their life.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Teaching Children to Care for Animals

Family Pets
Caring for a Family Pet

We have some new friends at our house, their names are Bluey, Turbo and White Flower. Bluey is a Betta, and Turbo and White Flower are snails. My son has been asking for a fish tank forever and so I finally gave in and told him that he could have something that would live in a honey jar which left us with a Betta and two snails. He also had to work off the bill since he only had $.15 to contribute to the food and price of fish and gravel. Anyway, as it turns out, fish are an excellent way to teach caring skills. As it turns out, a Betta has to be fed at the same time with the same amount of food everyday. A fish is not like a dog which we also have two of. A dog will tell you if he is hungry. Our little Maltipoo likes to protest by dancing on his empty food bowl if he goes empty. He also barks at my hubby every night at five o'clock sharp for his special treats. A fish just swims around without a voice. I am quite impressed that the fish is still alive. So, it helps in teaching animal care if you have an animal and apparently a fish will do.

Caring for Pets

We also have two small dogs and we ask the kids to take responsibility for these pets too. Does it mean they always feed and care for them without being told? Of course not, but they are learning. My daughter is responsible for bathing the dogs each week as well as brushing them on a daily basis and cleaning their teeth and eyes when she is asked. My son is still young, I'm impressed that the fish has made it this far, however he is also responsible to help feed and water the dogs and take them outside.

Veterinary Care

We also take the puppies to the vet and the groomer as a family. It is important that the kids learn proper care and lets face it, they often respect a professional opinion. When you take the kids to the vet with their pet they hear word for word care instructions from a professional. It also solidifies the reality of the situation and they will remember the details better. It is also important to pick up a book or two about animal care. We have read about animal care and even made homemade treats and a birthday cake or two!

doggy birthday cake
Doesn't it Look Good Enough to Eat?

Bird Sanctuary

Another way that we have taught our kids to care for animals is by building a bird sanctuary in our backyard. This has come with a price. Not so much the price of bird food, we sometimes make that homemade, but we have also had to care for two fallen baby birds and a rescued turtle took up my sink one Thanksgiving Day. However, I wouldn't trade the learning experience of watching and rescuing wild life.

Finally, make sure that if you can't get to Fish and Game Day, you take advantage of some of the other learning opportunities through Arizona Fish and Game. They offer tons of workshops and animal encounter experiences that are very important for every Arizona kid.

You may also want to read Studying Birds and Arizona Fish and Game.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

We Voted Today/ Mini Unit Study

We voted today! Iced cream or cookies? Pizza or Grilled Cheese?

Campaigns were managed and posters were strategically hung. (Dads closet, he had the deciding vote)
No area was off limit...
Yep, that's the bathroom...
The ballots were cast, campaign promises were made and the winner was grilled cheese and chocolate chip cookies.

Organizing a School Year

Organizing a School Year
How I Organize My School Year
I organize our school year in a sort of Waldorf format using the four seasons to provide our basic structure for the school year. This of course begins with the planning of our Spring and Fall gardens and the keeping of them, not that we are that great at gardening, but we plan a seasonal garden for the purpose of learning and then we plan our canning and preserving around the harvest as well, again often purchasing our produce. While we aren't that great at gardening, our school structure is very Waldorf in that it is planned around the rhythm of our home and what our goals might be at the time. This year we are try to insure that our home is sustainable so much of our seasonal projects revolve around this concept.

I divide our formal school year into two semesters with the Fall and Spring seasons and holidays in mind and then a few projects and field trips end up on the summer session list either because they apply to the season or for practicality reasons such as vacation or time constraints.

Development and Needs

Having this structure in place, the first thing I consider when planning a school year is child development, interests and what we have already studied. For example, we have studied Apologia Astronomy and Ocean Life and now the kids are showing a huge interest in plant life. This fits nicely with our new love of hiking and our plans for hiking the local trails this fall. Teaching an area where your student is showing an interest is important because they are going to connect with the material. It also gives you a clue into their development. It is important to consider development as well; you want to nourish these normal areas of growth.

Oak Meadow has some great cheat sheets on their website that will give you some idea as to what types of activities you should be offering. For example, if you have a pre-school to first grader they are naturally going to crave sand and water play. You need to provide this opportunity so that they can grow and develop in all areas of their motor skills and understanding of science. I like to think of knowledge like food; you want to put a balanced plate in front of your child, designed to meet his or her needs and then let them do the rest. While some memory work is important, you cannot force feed your child knowledge, he or she must learn to put the pieces together on their own.

Once I have chosen my books and materials for the year, I write in the important dates and holidays and then fill in my field trips. It is important to me to fill in my field trips before I plan my activities so that I can coordinate the themes and plan a reasonable framework of time.

Planning a Weekly Rhythm

Once I have filled in our field trips and holidays, I plan my weekly rhythm, keeping in mind that this isn't something you can actually plan. A rhythm is something you fall into but if you don't have some sort of plan then you might fall into an unproductive rhythm, so plan it anyway. I know that we stay home on most Mondays and that the kids are naturally slower on these days so Monday is usually cleaning and station day. I like to give them fun work at their own pace stations on Monday. Tuesday is usually a heavy work day. I plan science experiments, reading assignments and new math material on Tuesdays. Tuesday is the day my kids are most alert and focused. Wednesday is usually another station day with written assignments. Thursday is often a craft station day. I might rotate them through three or four craft activities ranging from math to science to social studies on a Thursday and Friday is field trip day. We are ready to get out of the house on Friday.

I try to set up my week so that they are ready to apply what they have learned in conjunction with whatever field trip we might have planned. Sometimes this plan might play out in a different order, for example one week last fall we were studying food chain economics so we went on a trip to the wholesaler on Tuesday and canned and preserved fruit throughout the week. Finally, I add crafts, kitchen projects and science experiments to my calendar two weeks at a time as I know what pantry supplies will be available to us and how our time is going to actually play out. I use a secret Pinterest board to collect the craft and activities ideas that I want to use each semester so I can refer back to this board on a two week basis. I just started doing this and I love it.

You may also enjoy reading Choosing an Exciting Math Curriculum
and 10 Must Have Homeschool Supplies.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Raising Duck Dynasty Kids in the City

Duck Dynasty Kids
Raising Duck Dynasty Kids in the City
If you watch Duck Dynasty, once the laughter and antics die down, you might notice how much tougher the Duck Dynasty kids seem to be than many of the kids coming out of our society today. Aside from the fact that they have a family that prays together and gives them constant focused attention and accountability, they also live a more rugged life then we find available to us in the over populated cities of America. In fact, recent research conducted across the 50 United States reveals that people in states like Louisiana and Alaska are indeed more rugged mentally with more even personality temperaments and better overall mental health.

So how do you give your city kids the rugged outdoor experience when you live in the heart of a big city? Believe it or not there are hunting, fishing and homesteading experiences all around you. Most big cities, especially in the Southwest offer a full parks and recreation experience. Phoenix City Parks offers everything from urban fishing to rock climbing walls. So then, the place to begin teaching your kids the Duck Dynasty way of life is with a Walmart urban fishing license. While children under 12 fish for free, you will need an affordable urban fishing license.

If you want to try the fishing experience before you go purchasing a license and equipment I recommend you visit your local Bass Pro Shop where you can get a hands on lesson for free. This is also an excellent place to check out local hunting gear and of course the latest Duck Commander Duck Calls.

If you haven't been to the Arizona Fish and Game website you really must check it out. There are links to free learning materials and lists of educational events and the greatest field trip of the year, Arizona Fish and Game weekend! Arizona Fish and Game is packed with events for everyone including kids to try fishing, shooting and even shooting a bow! The event is set up to teach about safety, wilderness survival and give everyone a chance to come in contact with local wildlife.

In addition to practicing urban fishing and visiting Arizona Fish and Game we have amazing family hikes available year round where kids can come in contact with local plant species and take in the mountain views. For a list of family friendly hikes you can go to Phoenix Parks and Recreation.

Finally, if you aren't into gardening and raising your own produce, check into some of the local farms and produce markets like Joe's Farm Grill. It is so important that our kids learn where their food comes from so that they can make educated decisions.

You may also want to read Duck Dynasty and Raising Children.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Space Station Unit Study

We did a space station build last spring that was so much fun and integrated several areas of study and review. I want to say upfront that some of the pictures are not the greatest but I wanted to capture exactly what the kids came up with. It is so important with this type of activity to let them lead because they are learning as they apply the information. I want to encourage moms in general and especially homeschool moms to be more hands off with sensory activities and crafts. If you allow your children to apply what is in their imagination rather than what is in your own, in the long run you will get better learning results.

Oreo Moon Study
Phases of the Moon
We started with a study of the moon using Oreo cookies, this is an idea I picked up on Pinterest. Whenever we do a space study we use Apologia curriculum, Exploring Creation Through Astronomy. I love Apologia! It is perfect for multi-grade level teaching!

Planet Poster as Window Panel

At the beginning of the week my daughter made a poster of the planets that we incorporated out the west window of the space station.

Green Puppy Alien
My son used a Pringles can to make a telescope and attached a green puppy alien to the end.

ISS Space Station
Cardboard Boxes and Solar Panels
Solar panels were fashioned on several points from extra cardboard box pieces and dowel rods. The solar panels were attached around the space station to keep it running and we went to the ISS website where we found plans for a space station, life on a space station and links to follow the space station in your area. A trap door was cut for supplies (lunch) and the kids spent all day Friday using the Apologia book as their ISS manual having fun playing in their creation.

We also visited the Challenger Space Center as our field trip for this Unit Study.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Child Proofing Your Home

Child proofing your home
How to Keep Your Baby Safe
 As my oldest child was just starting to crawl, I quickly realized that I didn’t childproof my home so much for my daughter’s safety as for my own sanity. If you are trying to homeschool an older child and watch a toddler, then baby proofing will save you a lot of worry and time. In addition to the fact that you don't want anything to happen to your precious bundle of joy, you need to be able to relax and enjoy their company and spend time with your older children. Proper childproofing will also provide your child with the freedom to roam that they will need to grow and learn properly.

Before You Buy

First things first, before you go to the store and buy every childproofing supply they sell, you need to get down on your hands and knees and crawl around your space. This will give you a look at what your child is looking at. You will see cords and bright colored sharp dangerous objects that you had no clue you needed to secure.   

Once you have accomplished this task you will need to survey your space for escape routes your little one may surprise you with. Where are the bathrooms, kitchen, outside doors and any water sources like a pool or hot tub?  You will need to build layers of protection around these areas as well as securing your electrical outlets and any large pieces of furniture.  Now you are ready to make your list and go shopping for the items below. 

Also, if you are using secondhand products or you have an older child you need to periodically check for product recalls.  You can do this quickly and easily at

Electrical Outlet Covers

Count every outlet in your house and buy a cover for each. My daughter never messed with the outlet covers but my son did, so I recommend the locking covers at least in the nursery or playroom. Babies have little fingers that are usually wet and they are very attracted to outlets. They just love to stick their tinny fingers in those things and it could be deadly. 

The Baby Gate

Perhaps you will need one, or perhaps you will need four, it all depends on the size and set up of your house. You will want a baby gate to secure any stairs where the little one could fall, hallways and bathrooms. I have also found that when possible it is much easier to secure the kitchen with a baby gate then to secure each and every cabinet and appliance. There are some great creative homemade baby gate ideas on Pinterest, so before you spend the money check them out. 

Door Handle Locks

I have also found that it is much easier to secure the bathrooms with a special childproof door handle than any of the other contraptions they make for the bathroom.  I also put these on any doors that lead to the outside of the house.  I don't want my three year old on the news because she was found outside in the middle of the night. If you can find the crocheted door handle covers or make them on your own, I recommend these. The store bought models can be busted by any determined 18 month old.

Window Blinds

There have been numerous children, some of them as old as six, who accidentally hung themselves on window blinds. I actually found my older son trying to use one as a catapult one day, you never know what they might come up with. If you can, try to avoid window blinds with any strings or chains.  If you cannot avoid these types of blinds, there are security kits that you can purchase for them and in the worst case scenario you can cut the strings or hang them up high out of reach. 

Ah, the Armoire

Finally, if you have a lot of electronics, I have found that armoires are terrific. As all large furniture does, they need to be secured to the wall with eyehooks. Eyehooks are also great for interior doors.  We have found that securing these doors with eyehooks avoids unnecessary finger pinching.  Remember that if it can kill or break, secure it somehow and your home will be safe and secure.

You may also want to read Teaching Children About Safety.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Teaching Children About Safety

Stranger Danger
Would Your Child Know a Stranger?
My husband and a friend recently took six children to a crowded Nascar race. If you are unfamiliar with Nascar, when I say crowded, Nascar spends a week proceeding every race constructing a small city in preparation. As the group filed to their seats my then 9 year old daughter inadvertently took a wrong turn. Once she realized her mistake my husband and everyone else were long gone and there she was alone among millions of strangers. Although this is a terrifying thought, I was surprisingly calm when I heard the story, because I know my daughter and I know how well she has been trained. In fact, she stayed calm and kept walking until she came to the next sheriff's kiosk. She gave the sheriff her information and it wasn't until she actually saw her dad that she began to tear up and show any emotion at all. Of course, God protected her, but He also gave me a mandate along time ago on how to train my children for an emergency. It was no accident that she knew what to do.

The Safe Side for Kids

God spoke to me before my first child was born on the topic of stranger danger. When my babies were young I made it my priority to find ways to teach them about stranger danger. We started showing our kids the Safe Side video when they were very young. It is a catchy video that explains stranger danger in a very non-threatening way. There is also a Safe Side Internet video that I highly recommend. The best part about the Safe Side is that it teaches them who a stranger is and how to talk to a stranger. Kids need to know where to go, what to say and they need to be coached to stay calm. A child standing alone in a mall crying is easy prey for a bad stranger, it is important to role play so that they will know how to stay calm.

Role Play

We have never stopped with just showing our kids this video. We talk about the video and watch it over and over again, especially when we are getting ready to go to an event like Nascar or an amusement park. We also role play what we learn in the video. I remember one year my daughter was going out to a festival with some friends. We did some role playing just before she left. I asked her where she would go if she got separated and had her tell me what she would say. She didn't need this role play that evening however the next evening we went to a block party as a family and low and behold she got separated from us.

She knew exactly what to do; this is probably why the Nascar story didn't freak me out. She has been tested. We also had an occasion in a neighborhood where a man was going door to door asking kids if they had seen his lost dog. My children did not even get close to him, they immediately ran to my husband and told him about the man. Although we do try to avoid situations where our kids safety could be compromised the reality is that we live in a big city in a fallen world. It might be safer to stay home all the time, but Jesus calls us to be a light unto the world. So we have chosen to train our children to be safe and go be a light unto the world.

Have a Plan

Not every situation is going to call for the same level of safety and not every situation is going to be set up the same. While we have routine safety in plan at home and places we visit regularly like the public library, there are other places that might be new or unfamiliar. When we go somewhere like this we have a safety talk. Our children know that if we are going to the public library they are to stay within my view and they are not permitted to just run off to the restroom or another area. If we go somewhere new, we may need to talk about the layout of an amusement park, what the workers are wearing and where to find the security officers. We have this talk first thing, before we get distracted having fun. This is exactly what happened at Nascar that day; the minute my hubby and his friend stepped through the gate they had a talk with the kids about safety and the layout of the stadium. That is in fact how my daughter knew how to find the sheriff. You can order the Safe Side video online or find it at your local library. Make a plan with your children today to ensure their safety tomorrow.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Portfolio Assessment Grades

portfolio assessment
Sample Portfolio Assessment
Becky over at Organizing Made Fun recently asked her readers if they use binders to organize. I use binders at the end of every school year to organize our Portfolio Assessments. While I don't use standardized testing to assess my students progress, I do give them tests, report cards and a type of assessment. I do this both to track their progress for future college documentation purposes and so that they can have a sense of accomplishment at the end of each year.

report card
Sample Report Card
I start by tracking their grades on work completed through out the school year and random tests and quizzes that give. I also give them an end of year test in each subject and this grade is figured into their end of year grade as well. So in the left hand column I have a end of year grade for each subject based on progress and in the right hand column I have a grade based on actual work and test scores. I average these two grades together to get an end of year total.

Best Work
Include Their Best Work

I like to fill the book with their best work and I also have a sheet to track things like, My Favorite Field Trip, Favorite Bible Verse, What I Want to Be When I Grow Up and My Favorite Book This Year.

Portfolio Assessment
Add and About Me Page
You may also enjoy reading Should You Test Your Homeschooler.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Left or Right

left or right
Is Your Child a Lefty?
"But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing." Matthew 6:3
My husband, a baby boomer, is of the last generation to suffer discrimination for his hand of preference. He still writes with his left hand and has beautiful penmanship. We now know that whether you are left handed or right handed you are still just as intelligent, although you may be gifted in different areas. Left handed people work from different parts of the brain often being  exceptionally talented at mathematics, problem solving and strategist.    

When my first child began to grow and develop her fine motor skills we watched with great anticipation to see if she would use her left hand or her right hand. As 90 percent of society is right handed it is most likely that your child will be right handed. In fact if your child is right handed it will probably be very obvious and pronounced.  Left-handed children are usually a little more confused about the situation. 

I noticed that when my daughter was at home she used her left hand to cut and draw. Her fine motor skills were coming along great for her age, but when she went to art class or Sunday school she would bring home work that was not her best. When visiting Sunday school one day I noticed that she was cutting with her right hand.  I asked her why she was not using her favorite hand and she told me that she wanted to be like her friends.
If your child is switching back and forth between both hands then he or she could be trying to fit in socially or they could be ambidextrous.  This is a condition where the child’s motor skills are so well developed that he or she can use both hands.  To be truly ambidextrous a person must be able to carry out fine motor skill tasks, like writing and sewing, with both hands.  There are very few people who are truly ambidextrous.  This condition is far less common than once thought.  If you think that your child is ambidextrous then observe the child’s sports play.  Many famous athletes are ambidextrous. Children and adults who are ambidextrous are usually highly athletically gifted. In fact there are special college scholarships for left handed people!
The most important thing to focus on is fine motor skills. If you give your child the tools to grow fine motor skills, then whether they turn out to be a lefty or a righty, they will be well equipped.

Teaching Children Through Grief

Helping Children with Grief
Teaching Children Through Grief
Grief is a reality, a part of life. We are coming out of grief mode right now in fact. I am not quite ready to write about it in detail, but for the past six months we served as a foster family to which we recently transitioned our little girl back to her birth family. There are lots of mixed emotions but for a while we were five and now we are four again and with that comes grief. It cannot be reasoned with nor can it be controlled it just is...grief. It must be faced, it cannot be avoided, it must be tolerated because we cannot let it take over, and the children grieve too, but they must learn how and be taught how to grieve.

There are stages to grief and you cannot rush them. Sometimes these stages will cycle back around and surprise you too. They can pack quite a punch and you need to be aware and be emotionally flexible to them. Stages one through five: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. You cannot rush these stages and everyone reacts differently in every stage. One child might be angry during depression while another might be angry during the angry stage. Age and development play into these stages as well.

So, there are no perfect ways to grieve. Grief is often ugly and it appears when you least expect it. We have different personalities and different time tables to our grief. Grieving with children takes patience and prayer. This isn't the first time we have grieved, we have lost loved ones and pets, we have grieved homes and places and even sometimes things. So we kind of have some grieving activities and that is what I am going to share today. They are simple but I hope they help.

Familiar Things

While sometimes a child may want to put a few things away when the grief is really fresh, we found when grandpa and great grandma passed away, familiar things were quite a comfort and still are. When we went through this time of grief, we put some of our relatives clothes in the dress up box for playtime. This not only served as a source of comfort but it also gave her a creative outlet for her grief. Now that she is older she likes to wear grandpas t-shirts sometimes as well as my grandma's jewelry.

Pictures and Scrapbooks

We have also found that looking at pictures and making scrapbooks was helpful but not usually right away. This is something that may need to be reserved for a few months or even a year down the road when the grief is not so fresh.

Balloon Therapy

Balloon therapy is something my son initiated on his own, he is 6 and just beginning to understand the permanency of life. While balloon therapy is something that many child psychologists practice it isn't something that I even thought of on my own. One day, in the midst of his grief, when he was really still in shock and denial he asked for a pack of balloons. Balloons are not something that we normally allow in our house because they can be quite dangerous however he was so broken that I just decided to comply and I am so glad I did. What transpired was amazing! I took him to Party City where you can buy your balloons individually for $.15 each. He chose a variety of 15 balloons that we took home and blew up. He then proceeded to draw faces of varying emotions on the balloons and give them names. I suggested none of this by the way. As the week progressed he cared for his balloons until each of them "passed away." It was his way of dealing with the grief and putting it somewhere.


After this experience we began to allow water balloon play as well. This also turned out to be quite therapeutic. He was able to release some anger in a fun and constructive way and again he cared for his favorite balloons. We have found that we need to be sensitive to these 'special friends'. It is important to him that we 'respect a perimeter' around the balloons. This is normal too, this is his way of protecting his emotional triggers. While there is some controversy over emotional triggers, in general you will want to identify what really upsets your child and tread lightly in that area while the grief is fresh. For some kids it may be driving by a certain landmark and for others it might be seeing others laugh. If happiness is a trigger, by the way, it could be that they are in the depression stage of grief.

Walking and Talking

In my opinion, you cannot avoid triggers forever, you must face them slowly and gently but you must eventually face these triggers for complete healing to take place. Sometimes the triggers must be given directly to God for Divine healing. Whatever the case may be, you must keep breathing and moving, walking and talking. You cannot bottle it all up inside. Continue to talk about your loss and share your feelings and your child will eventually feel safe to do the same.

Something Old and Something New

Finally, while we are continuing to go about some normal daily activities and face our grief we also add some new things as well. We make new memories and happy places. We see a new movie, we go to a restaurant we have never been to before and maybe try a new food. We choose to embrace life. Choose life!

"Behold I am doing a new thing, can you perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the dessert." Isaiah 43:19

You may also want to read:
Building a Home Team or
Teaching Children About Failure

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Study Skills that Improve Memory

Study Skills and Memory
Study Skills that Improve Memory
Sometimes improving memory isn't so much about memorizing as it is about putting strategic study skills in practice. When and where a student studies has more to do with memory than how much time that student invests. Here are some psychologically proven study skills that will improve your student's memory and set them up with good study skills for a later college degree. 

Read In Short Sessions

Your brain retains the information that you read at the beginning and the end of your study session.  Most adults only have a twenty-minute attention span, that is why we typically see commercial breaks with every twenty minutes of TV viewing.  So if you read for two hours strait then you are going to retain the information you studied during the first twenty minutes and the last twenty minutes.  That means that you have wasted the 80 minutes in between.  Try having your student study in twenty-minute intervals.
Review Your Notes Before Bed
Your brain is most likely to retain the information that you review just before you go to sleep. If your student is taking a test or final, then they should review their study notes just before they go to bed the night before
Write It All Down
When you write information on paper it is more likely to find it’s way to your long-term memory.  This is especially helpful if a student is trying to learn a long list of vocabulary terms.  Make it a practice to have your student make handwritten flash cards for every term and they will have no problem remembering. Don't take just any notepad; try to use colored legal paper.  Research studies show that your brain remembers what you write better, especially if it is written on colored paper, with yellow being the most memorable. 
Apply What You Know
One of the best ways to learn and retain a new concept is to apply the information to your daily life.  If you are studying Science, do some experiments in your kitchen.  If you identify with the information your brain will not discard it. Find creative ways to help your student apply information whether it is with project learning, creating, helping or story telling. It really doesn't matter how the information is applied, so let your student use their own creativity.
You may also want to read Teaching Children About Failure.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Duck Dynasty and Raising Children

Duck Dynasty Kids
Raising Duck Dynasty Kids
If you have followed my blogs for very long at all, you may have picked up on the fact that we are Duck Dynasty fans. For those of you who haven't watched it yet, Duck Dynasty is a reality show on A&E that follows the Robertson Family, a hilarious cast and crew that made their money in the Duck call business. When all the laughter dies down at Duck Commander, the Robertson's are revealed as a strong, Christian family that holds fast to Biblical values and a clean lifestyle, although they might not look so clean to the naked eye. Whether you have never watched the show or you are a big fan, there are some deep truths that the Robertson Family has been privileged to share on national television and I hope you will enjoy my quick run down.

Inner Beauty

Although the Robertson women are quite beautiful on the outside, they are also kind and seemingly beautiful on the inside too. Throughout the program episodes you can hear Phil Robertson repeating to his sons and grandsons how important it is to find a girl that has inner beauty. He says funny things like, "if she wears a lot of makeup she's likely hiding an ugly side." While this might make us giggle, it is really kind of true...What are we encouraging our daughters to do these days? look pretty or be pretty?

Purity Through Accountability

Another side splitter is the episode when John Luke brings home a date, thinking he is going to take her out in granddad's fishing boat...Much to his surprise Wise Man Phil tags along to drive the boat giving the two an embarrassing lecture on purity. Phil steps up to the plate and goes the extra mile, no matter how embarrassing it may seem to hold John Luke accountable and protect him from himself.

Work Ethic and Respecting Authority

Although most of the Duck Dynasty antics are centered around no work and all play, in reality they are hard workers and they teach their kids to be hard workers as well as respecting authority. It seems like there isn't an episode where one of the teenage grand kids aren't dropped off on Phil and Kay's doorstep to work. They cook, they clean, they hunt and then they do it again. I even remember a scene with one of the boys football buddy's working and what always strikes us about this is that they don't question what their grandpa Phil tells them to do. They just do it, if it is scary, dirty or painful, they do what they are told without question, even if it is for crazy Uncle Si.

Around the Dinner Table

Duck Dynasty ends each episode around a family dinner table, saying grace and thanking God for the blessings He has given them. The Robertson’s eat together, work together, pray together and play together. No matter how crazy they appear to be on TV, the reality is, they have built a successful family business and they still love each other enough to want to be in business together and still spend the rest of the day together.

You may also enjoy reading What the Robertson's Know About Green Living.

Other Good Reads:
Building a Home Team
Teaching Kids About Failure
Teaching Kids to Be frugal

Friday, July 12, 2013

Building a Team at Home

team building
Team Building Builds Bonds
It started when my son was an infant, why would he crawl for a toy, when he could delegate the responsibility to his older sister. It continues to this day, “How do I do this?” he says, and then quietly slips away while she does it for him. The strengths and weaknesses of each child’s personality are exactly why you should be offering team building activities.Whether you are a traditional homeschooler, project based, Waldorf, Montessori or even unschooled, your children need the benefits of learning through team building for life skills, a college degree and future workforce development. Top universities like ASU, Grand Canyon and U of A require team building projects in every course to earn a degree and top companies like Microsoft and Intel work from a team based perspective. If your child aspires to be a barista at Starbucks or flip burgers at Burger King, they are going to have to learn team building skills.

Team Building Skills and Personality
Waldorf education in particular is highly focused on considering your child’s personality type in your daily routine and teaching strategy. While I am in favor of this, there is much to be said for team building projects that encourage your child to discover his or her strengths and improve in areas of weakness. Some children need to learn to work with others, some need to learn follow through, others might need to learn to delegate or take delegation. If a child who has trouble with follow through is overwhelmed then a team project might just give him the support he needs to finish, or the feeling of accomplishment needed for the next task.
Team Building Skills and Bonding
Why do you homeschool? My number one reason for homeschooling is to build a strong family and that is exactly what team building projects do. They teach your children to bond. Team building projects require students to work together, in this case brothers and sisters. By learning to work together in these low stakes team building situations, they will be better prepared to work together in more critical situations that we encounter throughout life.
Team Building Skills Build Creativity and Problem Solving Skills
Problem solving, creativity and team building go hand in hand. Problem solving through creative play and team work contributes to future creative activity and the development of problem solving skills. Creativity involves transformational ability as well as the ability to generate new and original ideas. So as the components of creativity are specifically practiced experiential learning takes place with the activity of problem solving it contributes to brain growth so that further problem solving skills can be developed. In plane English…use it or loose it! If your children do not practice creativity and problem solving they will not develop creativity and problem solving skills.
Encouraging Team Building Activities
Sometimes teambuilding activities are as simple as putting a fun project on the table and telling them to work on it as a team, other times it takes persistence. We have a castle building station that I have put out three times and no one touched it until today. I tried taking supplies away, I tried adding supplies to it and then today, when they finally decided to work on it…they broke the cardinal rule of no fighting and I had to put the project away. So first you have to be willing to put a team building project in front of them and next you have to set some ground rules.
Ground Rules for Team Building Projects
  • There are no bad ideas.
  • There is no fighting.
  • It is not always necessary but it sometimes helps to set a deadline.
If you have trouble getting your children motivated to work on a project together just for fun, then you may try putting it out as a service project for someone else. Cook food and take it to a family in need, go clean up an elderly neighbors yard for the day. Service projects are great and they teach more than team building skills, they teach empathy and caring, and in the end you will have a strong family bond.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Should You Test Your Homeschooler

Assessment Testing and Homeschool
Assessment Testing and the Homeschooler
To test or not to test is becoming the burning question. Let me first start by saying that this is a heated topic and no matter what the facts you have to make a decision based on your lifestyle and your personally convictions from God. Only God knows the future for your particular child. Testing produces and meets a very different academic and creative objective than making the decision not to test at all. Lets start with how it all started...

The Origins of Intelligence Testing and IQ
So where did IQ testing start? The idea of measuring intelligence is rooted in the view of nature suggesting that all humans can be measured by the same standards. However cognition is a spontaneous process with humans learning through repeated patterns of stimulus and response while building cognitive maps all along the way. Consequently there is substantial debate over the practice of intelligence testing and the routine of scoring students against one another arguing that a successful score is often rooted in conformity, culture and social status motivating some to create alternatives to the traditional intelligence tests such as Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Survey. Although the idea of measuring intelligence in some way existed from the foundations of the study of psychology the United States military was the first to begin using intelligence testing around WWI, demonstrating the practicality of doing so and moving it into common practice. The Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale is the most commonly used instrument for the determination of an Intelligence Quotient, referred to as an IQ score, however the practice of IQ testing may not be the best instrument available to psychologists today should he or she want to determine how to best meet the needs of an individual student. A traditional intelligence test such as the Stanford-Binet measures intelligence based on factors such as memory, abstract reasoning and psychosocial development whereas a test of multiple intelligence measures areas of personal strength such as special ability or logic by way of total score rather than norming.
Challenges to the Definition of Intelligence
The Stanford-Binet is a normed referenced test that compares the test population against others of the same age group assuming that all test takers are equally knowledgeable and of equal social status and culture. So then, when this test is given to any population someone must score in the bottom of the curve as well as the top. Are you starting to get the picture??? In addition to the problem of normed reference and scoring, another problem with IQ testing is that an individual may not demonstrate his or her abilities until a task requires it making proper measurement virtually impossible.  Consequently, it is essential that environment such as school or home life require an individual to form cognitive maps before such time as that individual could be expected to demonstrate knowledge for the purpose of testing so then if said individual is in an environment consistent with low socioeconomic status then it is quite possible that the person will lack the opportunity to form cognitive maps producing a low IQ score.
Measuring Multiple Intelligence as an Alternative
In the case of determining individual intelligence and predicting the best learning environment for each child, Garner’s Multiple Intelligence Survey may be the best tool. Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Survey measures intelligence using a total score in eight specific areas: Linquistic, Logical-Mathmatical, Musical, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Spacial-Visual, Interpersonal, and Intrapersonal. So whereas one may not test strong on a test in both verbal and mathematical abilities by way of standard achievement methods, by Gardner’s theory this individual is not considered weak in a specific area but rather strong in his or her area of intelligence. Furthermore, by using a total score method rather than normed reference one is merely competing against one’s own abilities.
Whatever your decision, to test or not to test, I hope that you will feel much more informed about the process. I also hope you will consider learning more about your child's areas of strength as well as his or her personal learning style. I personally have chosen minimal testing. Yes, we do test some so that our children will learn how to test, however each child is a unique creation with God given abilities and strengths. We want them to grow and flourish in that creativity. After all, isn't that what you homeschool for?
You may also want to read Teaching to Your Child's Learning Style.

Monday, July 8, 2013

10 Must Have Homeschool School Supplies

Can you guess what #1 is?
Okay, I’ve been making some heavy posts lately, helpful I hope but nevertheless heavy reading. If you want a heavier read you may want to check out Choosing an Exciting Math Curriculum or Teaching Your Child About Failure. But for now in an effort to lighten things up a bit and have a little fun today I’m going to write about those top 10 school supply’s that our homeschool could not survive without. After you read my list I am hoping you will add your own can’t live without item to the comments section below. I’m really curious what you all have in your homeschool rooms and cabinets. So comment away!

Now for the fun...     

My number one can’t live without it item…you guessed it GLITTER! I cannot homeschool without glitter; it keeps my life exciting and makes every project more fun and well, glittery. Sometimes our homeschool comes to a complete panic as we realize we have spilt the glitter and if we don’t get it cleaned up…Daddy might “ground” Mamma from using glitter and well we can’t let that happen so we clean it up fast, but not usually quite good enough to cover the crime scene.

Quality Art Supplies
On a more serious note, we can’t live without real art supplies. Every project is not only more fun but also more educational with good water colors, natural wax crayons, oil based paints, charcoals, water color papers and an artist’s canvas. Using quality art supplies enriches the experience for your student and helps them learn the basics of physical science. Quality art supplies are the basis for quality project based learning.
Food Color

We can’t make it through a week without using food coloring in something. We use it to make homemade play doe and slime. We use it for science experiments. We dye fabric with it. We add it to food like cookies and cakes because we can. Food color is not only fun to play with, but allowing your student to play with color and mix them around solidifies the basics of color and chemistry. I prefer liquid food color for science but the gel food colors come in fun neon colors too.
Vinegar and Baking Soda

Speaking of chemistry…vinegar and baking soda are the basics of many science experiments at least the fun ones…Vinegar is also a staple for food preservation and baking soda a staple for baking. If you are going to teach chemistry of any kind, and you should, you need to keep them on hand.

How do you spell fun? J-E-L-L-O, again, we cannot go a week or two without using Jell-O in something. Making Jell-O and Jell-O ice pops is the basic foundation for learning about solids and liquids. Do they get to make Jell-O at public school…no, they just get to eat it. Between the ages of two and 8, making Jell-O never gets old and every time you do it you need to be talking about the boiling points and freezing points of water as well as dissolving a solid into a liquid to make a solution.
Marshmallows and Toothpicks

Marshmallows and toothpicks are natural building blocks of math and science. Marshmallows can be used as manipulatives for math and you can pair them with toothpicks to build cells. I recommend having colored marshmallows on hand for cell building. Marshmallows can also stand in as building blocks and other things for art projects and crafts.
A Pet

A fish or a frog will do, but caring for a pet and observing its eco system is an experience that your child must have to develop a deeper understanding of biology.
Age Appropriate Building Blocks
Building blocks not only teach your child about architecture and physics, age appropriate building blocks help your student to develop problems solving skills and balance.
Grey Matter
This goes back to the concept of quality art supplies. Although your younger child can build motor skills with play doe and homemade play does are great for sensory work, there comes a time when the scientific process begins to require grey matter. Grey matter is something that has been around for centuries and working with it helps your child understand the processes of physical science. You can buy low fire clays at Michaelsor make your own from a recipe on the web.
A Garden
You may not have a green thumb yourself, but every homeschool child should have some sort of garden even if it’s an herb garden on a shelf. Experiencing the life of a plant from start to finish, watering, nurturing and smelling the soil, provides experiential learning that cannot be replaced by a field trip to the farm.
When your stocking your schoolroom this year, remember that your school supplies are an investment. You are making an investment in your child and yourself. How much money would you spend on private school? How about if you had to go buy new school clothes and supplies for a classroom? Your children are worth the investment.

How I became Considering frugal

Fueled by the growing list of pollution related allergies my family suffered from each day, and inspired by my 97 year old grandmother who could recycle ANYTHING before recycling was cool, back in 2011, I decided (in the spirit of the Julie/Julia Project...) to embark on a journey to see just how much one family could do to change our planet. I didn't consult any other parties before I launched this idea. Thankfully my husband, daughter and son are usually my biggest supporters. Here is the catch; as I'm normally very thrifty (you can note from early blog posts), I was looking for ways that I could reduce our carbon footprint and make socially responsible purchases without increasing our spending. Mmmmmm. We succeed in changing some of our habits a bit and finding ways to reduce our footprint. There were lots of fun epic fails alone the way too! But the biggest change we have made over the course of the last six years, was to move from the mega city of Phoenix to Wyoming. You can read my full bio on my About Me page.

Legal Disclaimer

While it is true that I am working on a PHD in Psychology and very smart and frugal, I am not a medical doctor, criminal, personal or accident lawyer. I do not sell insurance nor am I an accountant or mortgage advisor. While some of my posts may offer good ideas on home, health and business solutions, I am not personally responsible nor is Considering frugal for any advice, ideas, recipes or menu plans that you decide to use. This blog is intended to be helpful and fun. Any products you purchase from my Amazon store or any other retailer advertised on my blog must be returned to them. I may sometimes endorse a product that I love. This is simply my opinion, you must try all products at your own risk. While I personally do not use tracking cookies or share information, my affiliates are third parties and they may do so. Please click, travel and purchase at your own risk.

frugal advice

"...for your Father knows what you need before you ask." Matthew 6:8