Home School Fun!


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Thursday, January 27, 2011


We have a new area to add to our blog and facebook group!!


Homeschoolers Book Club (hosted by Weebly) houses our new forum. We can utilize the forum area to chat about our favorite books and to encourage our homeschoolers to engage in weekly book club challenges.

It's a great way to get our kids excited about reading and sharing what they love--and loathe--about some really great literature. Books selected for discussion will be age appropriate for that forum.

But why let the kids have all the fun?? There is also an adult area for parents or older siblings 18+ that would love the opportunity to join in!

Moderating opportunities ARE available. I am looking for adults who are invested in reading, organizing, and participating in group book discussions. If you would be interested in applying, let me know a.s.a.p. by posting in the NEWS SECTION of the forum!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tips for Success in your Home School Art Program

Successful experiences in art require organization and thoughtful planning. With a few simple tricks, you can banish stress and ensure your child will have a great experience.

Dry erase boards are a wonderful addition to a home school classroom and are useful art tools. Ours are well used and can become stained after repeated use. In order to restore the boards back to white, I clean them once a month with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. These workhorses can even remove stubborn permanent marker stains.

One of the biggest challenges I have with art supplies is trying to keep the scissors together. A cheap and easy solution to this is to make a scissor holder. Using a gallon milk container, punch holes in the sides and place scissors in the holes with the points to the inside. Styrofoam egg cartons flipped upside-down also make great scissor holders. Carefully cut slits into each mound and place scissors with points to the inside.

When we buy certain types of art supplies, we buy in bulk—and that can spell disaster when trying to organize later. I have found that, when using pipe cleaners, things can go from organized to chaos in a snap. A simple solution is to reuse old metal popcorn tins (popular around the holidays.) Fill the inside with paper towel tubes stacked vertically inside. Sort your pipe cleaners by color in the tubes. You will save time finding the right colors and be able to see when you are running low. You can also use the tubes to store slips of colored paper, posters, and older artwork.

Markers are expensive so when they dry out, I try my best to save them. Try this tip before heading to the garbage pail the next time you find a marker that seems like it is at the end of its life,. Pour ½ inch of nail polish remover into a paper cup and let the tip soak for 30 seconds. Let dry for at least 30 minutes before using. The acetone in the remover restores moisture without diluting the color and draws the ink down to the tip.

My kids are always on the hunt for paper. In order to keep their creativity from being put on hold while we hunt for it, (and to ease the cost of buying new packs of paper), we have created a two-box system and load them with scrap paper. One is for recycled white paper and the other is for recycled construction paper. Whenever we do a school project and produce scraps, they are placed into one of the boxes for use later.

We make a lot of homemade clay and if it is not properly stored, it will dry out and be useless. Airtight coffee containers and plastic food containers keep the clay moist and always ready for use.

I have made countless paint containers from things like muffin tins and Styrofoam egg containers, but my favorite containers come from yogurt cups. These work well both inside and out because they are sturdy and not easily tipped over. The yogurt cups with lids are ideal because when the artwork is finished, you can snap on the lid and store for later.

Cotton-ball painting is more fun (and neater) when you clip spring-type clothespins to the cotton balls. Children can use the clothespins like handles. Clothespin painting can also be done with a wadded up paper towels, small sponge pieces, and even fabric. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

10 Homemade Paint Recipes

Making homemade paints can be fun and easy and doesn't have to cost a fortune. Here are my top 10 favorite FRUGAL paint recipes!

  • Puffy Paint: I have two recipes for this one. 
Recipe One: 
food coloring

Mix equal amounts of flour, salt, and water in a bowl. Add a small amount of food color to the mixture and pour into small plastic squeeze bottles. Squeeze onto heavy cardboard or paper to make designs. Mixture will harden into puffy shapes.

Recipe Two: Submitted by Cindy Tait
shaving cream
food coloring

Mix equal amounts of shaving cream and glue. Add a small amount of food color and continue as above.

  • Cornstarch Paint
Submitted by Tamara Hatton
1 tbs. cold water
2 tbs. cornstarch
1 cup boiling water
food coloring

Combine cold water and cornstarch. Stir until smooth. Add boiling water and stir again until smooth. Add food coloring until paint is desired color. Let cool. Store in a covered container. If it dries, add water to thin it.

  • Shiny Paint
white glue
food coloring
dish detergent

Pour glue into small cups. Mix your choice of food coloring into each. Use to paint on wood, paper, or  cardboard as you would with any other paint. Paint will dry shiny as if glazed. 

paint pine cones, driftwood, rocks, or glass!
Try painting with sponge brushes for a smooth finish. To help paint adhere to shiny, smooth surfaces, add a few drops of dish detergent. 

  • Watercolors
1 tbs. white vinegar
1 1/2 tbs. baking soda
1 tbs cornstarch
1/2 tsp glycerin
food coloring

Mix vinegar and baking soda in small bowl and allow foaming. After foaming stops, add cornstarch and glycerin. Stir well (up to a couple of minutes). Portion the mixture into a paint palette, muffin tin, or similar container and add food coloring. Make the colors dark--as drying will lighten them. Allow watercolors to dry in a warm place for several hours or overnight. Makes one set of watercolors.

  • Scratch and Sniff Paint
several packs (assorted flavors) of Kool Aid brand instant drink mix

Open each package and empty into a bowl. Add in enough water to dilute (the more water you add, the lighter the color will be) and paint as usual. Allow the paint to dry and scratch to smell.

  • Face Paint
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp water
1/2 tsp cold cream
2 drops food coloring

Mix ingredients well. Then use different food coloring to make different colors.

  • Salt Paint
1/8 cup liquid starch
1/8 cup water
food coloring

Mix together and apply to paper with a brush. Keep stirring mixture. Paint will crystallize as it dries.

  • Water Paint

This is a fun one to use outside on a hot day. All you need are an assortment of brushes and cement. Paint with the water on the ground and, depending on how hot it is outside, have fun watching it dry! 

Freeze water into ice cubes and use on dark colored paper. 
Tint the water using food coloring and dip bits of string in each color to paint.

  • Powdered Milk Paint
1/2 cup powdered milk
1/2 cup water
food coloring

Mix ingredients together and apply to paper with a brush. Store in a tightly sealed container.

  • Marker Paint
Submitted by Jill Bridges
heavy paper
assorted markers
cotton swabs

Rub a dime sized circle of color from the marker on a sheet of heavy paper. Cover with a circle of glue and rub with a cotton swab to pick up the color from the marker. Paint as usual, using the cotton swab. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Good Toys for Young Children

In light of recent safety recalls by toy manufacturers, parents and early childhood program staff have voiced concerns about the safety of the toys enjoyed by young children. NAEYC offers the following information on selecting the safest and most appropriate toys for young children.
Safe toys for young children are:
  • well-made (with no sharp parts or splinters and do not pinch)
  • painted with nontoxic, lead-free paint
  • shatter-proof
  • easily cleaned
Electric toys should be "UL Approved." Be sure to check the label, which should indicate that the toy has been approved by the Underwriters Laboratories. In addition, when choosing toys for children under age 3, make sure there are no small parts or pieces that could become lodged in a child’s throat and cause suffocation.
It is important to remember that typical wear and tear can result in a once safe toy becoming hazardous. Adults should check toys frequently to make sure they are in good repair. For a list of toys that have been recalled by manufacturers, visit the Toy Hazard Recalls page of the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.
For information on lead poisoning, you can obtain a free brochure from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Good Toys & Activities for Young Children
In addition to being safe, toys for young children need to match their stages of development and emerging abilities. Many safe and appropriate play materials are free items typically found at home. Cardboard boxes, plastic bowls and lids, collections of plastic bottle caps, and other “treasures” can be used in more than one way by children of different ages. As you read the following lists of suggested toys for children of different ages, keep in mind that each child develops at an individual pace. Items on one list—as long as they are safe—can be good choices for children who are younger and older than the suggested age range.
Toys for Young Infants—Birth through 6 Months
Babies like to look at people—following them with their eyes. Typically, they prefer faces and bright colors. Babies can reach, be fascinated with what their hands and feet can do, lift their heads, turn their heads toward sounds, put things in their mouths, and much more!
Good toys for young infants:
  • Things they can reach for, hold, suck on, shake, make noise with—rattles, large rings, squeeze toys, teething toys, soft dolls, textured balls, and vinyl and board books
  • Things to listen to—books with nursery rhymes and poems, and recordings of lullabies and simple songs
  • Things to look at—pictures of faces hung so baby can see them and unbreakable mirrors
Toys for Older Infants—7 to 12 Months
Older babies are movers—typically they go from rolling over and sitting, to scooting, bouncing, creeping, pulling themselves up, and standing. They understand their own names and other common words, can identify body parts, find hidden objects, and put things in and out of containers.
Good toys for older infants:
  • Things to play pretend with—baby dolls, puppets, plastic and wood vehicles with wheels, and water toys
  • Things to drop and take out—plastic bowls, large beads, balls, and nesting toys
  • Things to build with—large soft blocks and wooden cubes
  • Things to use their large muscles with—large balls, push and pull toys, and low, soft things to crawl over
Toys for 1-year-olds
One-year-olds are on the go! Typically they can walk steadily and even climb stairs. They enjoy stories, say their first words, and can play next to other children (but not yet with!). They like to experiment—but need adults to keep them safe.
Good toys for 1-year-olds:
  • Board books with simple illustrations or photographs of real objects
  • Recordings with songs, rhymes, simple stories, and pictures
  • Things to create with—wide non-toxic, washable markers, crayons, and large paper
  • Things to pretend with—toy phones, dolls and doll beds, baby carriages and strollers, dress-up accessories (scarves, purses), puppets, stuffed toys, plastic animals, and plastic and wood “realistic” vehicles
  • Things to build with—cardboard and wood blocks (can be smaller than those used by infants—2 to 4 inches)
  • Things for using their large and small muscles—puzzles, large pegboards, toys with parts that do things (dials, switches, knobs, lids), and large and small balls
Toys for 2-year-olds (Toddlers)
Toddlers are rapidly learning language and have some sense of danger. Nevertheless they do a lot of physical “testing”: jumping from heights, climbing, hanging by their arms, rolling, and rough-and-tumble play. They have good control of their hands and fingers and like to do things with small objects.
Good toys for 2-year-olds:
  • Things for solving problems—wood puzzles (with 4 to 12 pieces), blocks that snap together, objects to sort (by size, shape, color, smell), and things with hooks,
    buttons, buckles, and snaps
  • Things for pretending and building—blocks, smaller (and sturdy) transportation toys, construction sets, child-sized furniture (kitchen sets, chairs, play food), dress-up clothes, dolls with accessories, puppets, and sand and water play toys
  • Things to create with—large non-toxic, washable crayons and markers, large paintbrushes and fingerpaint, large paper for drawing and painting, colored construction paper, toddler-sized scissors with blunt tips, chalkboard and large chalk, and rhythm instruments
  • Picture books with more details than books for younger children
  • CD and DVD players with a variety of music (of course, phonograph players and cassette recorders work too!)
  • Things for using their large and small muscles—large and small balls for kicking and throwing, ride-on equipment (but probably not tricycles until children are 3), tunnels, low climbers with soft material underneath, and pounding and hammering toys
Toys for 3- to 6-year-olds (Preschool and Kindergarteners)
Preschoolers and kindergartners have longer attention spans than toddlers. Typically they talk a lot and ask a lot of questions. They like to experiment with things and with  their still-emerging physical skills. They like to play with friends—and don’t like to lose! They can take turns—and sharing one toy by two or more children is often possible  for older preschoolers and kindergarteners.
Good toys for 3- to 6-year-olds:
  • Things for solving problems—puzzles (with 12 to 20+ pieces), blocks that snap together, collections and other smaller objects to sort by length, width, height,  shape, color, smell, quantity, and other features—collections of plastic bottle caps, plastic bowls and lids, keys, shells, counting bears, small colored blocks
  • Things for pretending and building—many blocks for building complex structures, transportation toys, construction sets, child-sized furniture (“apartment” sets, play food), dress-up clothes, dolls with accessories, puppets and simple puppet theaters, and sand and water play toys
  • Things to create with—large and small crayons and markers, large and small paintbrushes and fingerpaint, large and small paper for drawing and painting, colored construction paper, preschooler-sized scissors, chalkboard and large and small chalk, modeling clay and playdough, modeling tools, paste, paper and cloth  scraps for collage, and instruments—rhythm instruments and keyboards, xylophones, maracas, and tambourines
  • Picture books with even more words and more detailed pictures than toddler books
  • CD and DVD players with a variety of music (of course, phonograph players and cassette recorders work too!)
  • Things for using their large and small muscles—large and small balls for kicking and throwing/catching, ride-on equipment including tricycles, tunnels, taller  climbers with soft material underneath, wagons and wheelbarrows, plastic bats and balls, plastic bowling pins, targets and things to throw at them, and a  workbench with a vise, hammer, nails, and saw
  • If a child has access to a computer: programs that are interactive (the child can do something) and that children can understand (the software uses graphics and  spoken instruction, not just print), children can control the software’s pace and path, and children have opportunities to explore a variety of concepts on several  levels


For More Information
The following resources with information about safe, appropriate toys for young children are available through NAEYC:
The brochure Think Toy Safety is available on the Consumer Product Safety Commission website.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

January Events

January is here and it's big month. This month is National Book Month. (My favorite month of the year!!) Will you make a reading goal for the year? We're using http://www.bookadventure.com/ to keep us honest with our goals! My older kids have set their goals at 50 books for the year. I've gone a bit higher with 100. 

This week we are starting off with James and the Giant Peach, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Runaway Ralph.   

While we are on the subject of books, sometimes it's difficult to find just the right titles at just the right reading levels. Never fear!! Scholastic has launched a new widget to fix that! The Book Wizard will take the guess work out of finding great reading material for your kids. Just put in your favorite authors or titles and let it do the rest! 

Jan. 15th is Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. Scholastic offers a great reference for everything Martin Luther King Jr.! They have free printables, lesson plans, and worksheets for your homeschoolers. Younger kids might enjoy the video gallery of Martin Luther King Jr.'s life at National Geographic. They also offer videos to watch of his life.

January is also brimming with loads of great children's authors celebrating their birthdays too! You can scroll through a list of author birthdays (and get great ideas for literature extensions too) here: AUTHOR BIRTHDAYS.

Make it a great month!!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Art Time!

Today we learned how to weave. The kids had a blast setting up and getting started--but they lost some steam with the repetition of the weaving... I call it a success though because they keep going back to it!!

If you want to try your own weaving projects, it's really simple to do.

Step One: Start with a sturdy piece of cardboard or thick plastic. (We recycled a sheet of plastic off of an old planner I had and taped some colored construction paper behind it.)

Step Two: Use a ruler to give you even spaces at the top and bottom (we spaced ours at 1cm intervals),  making sure you have an even number of marks. Once you get that measured, cut V notches at each mark so you end up with a saw tooth pattern at both the top and bottom of the cardboard or plastic sheet. 

Step Three: Use a sturdy string (we used embroidery floss) and wrap it around the cardboard or plastic loom you've made, using alternating colors to make the weaving easier.

Step Four: Create a "needle" by taping one end of your yarn to a craft stick and use it to weave! Be sure to secure your first row by tying the yarn to the first row of embroidery floss, otherwise it will unravel. Continue adding new sections of yarn as you run low by either tying the ends of the yarn together tightly or tying the new section of yarn to the embroidery floss where you have left off.


...and the smiles!!!

Step Six: When your work is complete, push the weaving tightly together and cut the embroidery floss off of the loom. Make sure you tie together the sections of floss as you go, so your work won't unravel! 

Have fun with this and let your kids go at their own pace. Keep in mind that the bigger your project, the longer it will take to complete. My boys decided to tackle potholders and my girls wanted to do bracelets. Notice who got more done!!  

If you are more ambitious, you could also do this pattern as a circle! I think I'll challenge them to make us a set of nice round coasters next!! 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Deciding on Curriculum and Resources

Below are four common curriculum approaches. The four corresponding letters will be used as a descriptive tool in the Commonly Used Curricula section that follows.
  • A Traditional and Conventional Text Books: Uses graded textbooks for each subject; most commonly used approach in institutional schools.
  • B Early Academics: Stresses reading, writing, and arithmetic skills at an early age; uses workbooks, visual aids, and manipulatives.
  • C Workbooks or Programmed Learning: Workbooks are consumable books with questions or projects included and condensed instructions. Programmed is step-by-step sequence of small units of facts which provide immediate feedback.
  • D Unit Study: All subjects center around a common theme and different ages can be involved with the same theme. Units do not include a math or language program, therefore, these need to be added.

Commonly Used Curricula

A Beka             (800) 874-BEKA      

  • Curriculum approaches: A, B, C
  • Christian, patriotic, and conservative.
  • Developed for classroom use.
  • Must be adapted to home situation; if done as recommended it would be a whole day's school work; books may be good reference material.

Accelerated Christian Educators             (800) 925-7777      

  • Curriculum approaches: B, C
  • Materials designed for students to work independently.
  • Students are placed at the appropriate starting point in each subject.
  • Biblical perspectives are incorporated throughout the material.

Advanced Training Institute             (630) 323-2842      

  • Curriculum approach: D
  • Unique Bible-centered family program emphasizing life training and character development.
  • Requires attendance at three week-long seminars and adoption of certain spiritual convictions.
  • Requires commitment to regular reporting to the Institute.
  • Multi-age level use.

Alpha Omega             (800) 622-3070      

  • Curriculum approaches: B, C
  • Bible-centered.
  • CD-ROM and correspondence versions available.
  • An interactive, teacher-presented math is an option in K-6.
  • Diagnostic tests for appropriate placement in each subject.

Bob Jones             (800) 845-5731      

  • Curriculum approaches: A, B, C
  • Christian, patriotic, and conservative.
  • Developed for classroom use.
  • Must be adapted to home situation; if done as recommended it would be a whole day's school work; books may be good reference material.

Calvert             (410) 785-3400      

  • Curriculum approaches: A, B, C
  • Early academics offered but more relaxed than Bob Jones and A Beka.
  • Uses a tutorial method and therefore takes less time than other traditional approaches, especially in the early years.
  • Mixing of grade levels not allowed; pre-packaged for each grade level; fully prepared daily lessons.
  • Secular, but has traditional moral values.
  • K through eighth grade.

Christian Liberty Academy             (847) 259-4444      

  • Curriculum approaches: A, B, C
  • Christian, patriotic and conservative.
  • Texts chosen according to student's achievement level.

Clonlara (734) 769-451

  • Curriculum approach up to the parent.
  • Provides record keeping and counseling.
  • Supportive of less structured homeschooling.
  • Provides recommendations of educational resources.
  • Offers some computerized high school courses.

Konos             (336) 887-2045      

  • Curriculum approach: D
  • Based on character traits such as obedience.
  • Comes from a Christian perspective.
  • Provides activity suggestions, book lists, vocabulary words, pertinent historical character examples, and optional character timeline.
  • Multi-age level use.
  • Offers a new high school program covering world history, English and art, written to the student.
  • Emphasis is discovery learning.

Sonlight Curriculum             (303) 730-6292      

  • Literature based, emphasis on world history and cultures and international Christian missions.
  • Provides materials in all subjects and coordinates them for a school year.
  • Early academics offered but more relaxed than Bob Jones, A Beka, Alpha Omega, etc.
  • Provided in grade levels but can be adapted for multiple children close in age.

Other Sources for Math

Other Sources for Phonics and Reading

    • Alpha-Phonics
    • Explode the Code
    • Learning Language Arts Through Literature
    • 100 Easy Lessons
    • Phonics Museum
    • Reading Made Easy
    • Sing, Spell, Read, and Write

    Other Sources for Language Arts

    • Daily Grams
    • Design-a-Study's Comprehensive Composition
    • Easy Grammar
    • Grammar Songs, Audio Memory             (800) 365-SING      
    • Learning Language Arts Through Literature
    • Understanding Writing
    • Wordsmith, Wordsmith Apprentice
    • Writing Strands

    Other Sources for Science

    • Apologia Science Series by Jay Wile: Exploring Creation with General Science, Exploring Creation with Physical Science
    • Beautiful Feet's Literature Approach to the History of Science, by Rea Berg
    • Considering God's Creation by Mortimer and Smith
    • Creation Series by Felice Gerwitz and Jill Whitlock: Creation Anatomy, Creation Astronomy, Creation Science, Creation Geology
    • Lyrical Life Science Series by Eldon


    • Design-a-Study
    • How to Create Your Own Unit Study and the Unit Study Idea Book, Valerie Bendt


    Most homeschoolers acquire their resources by attending a book fair or by ordering from a catalog. Annual Conferences and Book Fairs offer the opportunity to view and purchase many of the homeschooling resources that are available.