Friday, November 23, 2012

A Few Thanksgiving Projects

This year we tried a few new things to make Thanksgiving a bit more festive. It's fun as the children get older and are able to take on more complicated projects. They can see an idea and run with it, and it doesn't require as much preparation and work on my part. It does make for interesting projects sometimes.... but it is also nice to show them a picture of an idea and see them take off with it.
For the table, we made place cards for everyone, using white cardstock, colored ink stamp pads, and fingertips! A sharpie marker and white out added on some details, and the names of those dining at the table.

Someone got creative and tried a different perspective.

Then the girls got the awesome idea to add some games and things to do on the inside of the cards, to give some entertainment at the dinner table. They found some fun Thanksgiving Mad Libs and printed them out and glued them on the inside.

I am always looking for some type of project to remind us of the many blessings we have and things we have to be thankful for. This is what makes Thanksgiving one of my favorite holidays. I love the fact that we have a whole day set aside to help us adjust our focus and ponder on how good God has been to us, and how blessed we truly are.
On Pinterest, I saw an idea for a "Thankful Tree".  We set up one on our coffee table, and the girls cut out some colored leaves.

We put fresh cranberries in the vase that we used as a base for the branches, which added a pretty touch.

Everyone in the family was able to write something that they are thankful for on a leaf, and then those leaves were taped onto the tree branches.

Even the grandparents got into it!

I really enjoyed looking at all the different things that the girls thought of to put onto the tree. They definitely have some really neat ideas, and it made my heart glad to see what they think of when pondering on the blessings in their life.  They keep asking to leave the tree up for awhile and not take it down! I suppose we'll leave it there till the Christmas decorations come out!
Happy Thanksgiving and I hope it was a blessed one for you!

Pinned Image

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hands on History

My girls absolutely love the American Girls series of books. They get them from the library and read the same ones over and over again. The books have a doll and a story line from each era of American history, and we all have enjoyed studying and learning about these major historical events through the eyes of a fictional girl. The books are chock full of facts and true names, dates, and places that really bring the stories to life, and helps the reader learn and remember key points of the history lessons.

This past few months, we have been studying North American history, and of course, the Native Americans who lived here. The corresponding American Girl we studied was Josefina. We got all the Josefina stories out from the library, and decided to build some adobe houses from real clay. It was a lot of fun, and the girls learned a few Spanish words (from the Navajo tribes of the Southwest).

Set up paint in sections of an old egg carton. Leave a few sections empty for mixing colors!

Painting the inside of a 3 sided box (shoebox would work too!) to make it look like the Southwest. Lots of shades of brown!

Terra Cotta Clay - (Buy it at AC Moore with the 40% off coupon!)

A few strategically painted cactuses on the sides of the box, and a wall made of terra cotta clay bricks. Simple to do, yet very authentic looking!

Terra Cotta stained the hands, which just added to the authentic feel of the project. One of the girls commented that the Navajo Indians must have had permanently stained hands after building so much for their homes with clay!

An almost finished setup, complete with a fire ring out front of the adobe house!

The building of an inside model of an adobe house, complete with the picture of a floor plan from the Josefina book. Still working on this one, and hopefully will add a picture of the finished product soon!

Rainbow Resource carries an American Girl Curriculum called "Portraits of American Girlhood" that has an entire year of North American history laid out in 6 units, utilizing the American Girl doll stories and materials. Our local library carried most of the items, and we were able to order in the ones that they didn't have. This curriculum plan is full of great ideas and creative, fun ways to learn American history the hands on way! I have gotten a lot of great ideas from it for my little "American Girls".

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Homeschool Honor Society

This is a special program that I learned about for high school homeschoolers. It is called Eta Sigma Alpha  and is the homeschool equivalent of the National Honor Society. 

There are many local chapters, and the website has all the information about them, with the contact information for you to check into to see if there is a local chapter near you that your high schoolers can join.

We did not have a chapter that was local for us, so my two high schoolers were allowed to join the "Omega" or national chapter. They had to submit standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, and a personal application letter. Annual dues cost $40. They are required to submit documentation of volunteer or community service hours each year, although the amount is ridiculously low - 10 hours total.  Most high achieving students can maintain that many service hours in a month, and would have no need for worry in that area.

I am a firm believer in striving for excellence when it comes to our home schooling. I want my children to have all the advantages available to help them achieve their dreams, and follow God's leading in their life. I don't want there to be anything that hinders them that could have been avoided.  My high schoolers work hard, and I thought this membership would recognize the efforts that they have dedicated to their education.

Once their application, transcripts, test scores, and letters of recommendation were approved, they received in the mail a beautiful certificate acknowledging their membership. They are both proud of this certificate! I also listed their membership onto their high school transcripts. Membership also makes them eligible to wear an "honors" shawl for graduation!

When students work hard and ethically on their studies, this dedication should be openly recognized and rewarded. The National Homeschool Honor Society provides a great way to do this and I am glad we are a part of it!

To keep in touch, please "join this site" at the top right of the page, and become a follower!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

If You Give to the Least of These....

Preparing for the Holidays
For today's post on gift-giving, I could write about things that my family has made to share with our friends and loved ones.  We have a lot of fun making little gifts to share, putting gift tags on them, and watching the eyes of the receiver light up when it is given. A few of our favorites to make are:
Mixes in a Jar
Homemade Sugar Hand Scrub in a Jar
Decorated Trays of Cookies
We usually will take a whole day away from school work sometime in mid-December, and spend the day baking cookies and making little gifts. We'll make a big batch of the sugar hand scrub and "jar" it. This year the girls have a few new projects they have seen on Pinterest that we want to add to our activities. 
Our family's favorite Christmas gift-giving project is choosing a family to give Christmas gifts to.  We have tried to make it a tradition since the girls were very little. Every year, after deciding on a family, we will buy a few small items, and then deliver on Christmas Eve. We always try to choose someone that could use some encouragement, or has had some trying circumstances that year, or even someone that is all alone. The point is not really to provide gifts to someone in need, as much as it is to provide friendship and encouragement, and share Christ's love.
The lesson taught to the children through this endeavour is to honor our Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches us:

 Matthew 25:40: "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

We decided a long time ago to honor the day that remembers Christ's birth in this way. How can we give a gift to Jesus? Since we can't deliver something face to face, the Bible shows us how to give Him a gift - by finding someone to help that He would help if He were present.  This includes people that others often overlook at Christmas time. There's a great blessing in giving to someone who you know is unable to give you anything back. It is pure love that motivates that type of gift giving. It is not an obligatory gift. It is truly a gift given to Jesus.
Last year, we were delighted to see that our children, now a little older and wiser, wanted to take on much more of the process of our gift giving.  They picked the families, and decided to take care of two after not being able to settle on one. They used their own money to shop and make purchases.  They wrapped, and we set out one night to deliver. It was a lot of fun. We were driving around together, singing together, and had a great time visiting with the families and delivering the goodies.
My prayer is that as the children grow, they will continue this tradition, and also expand on it. I hope that they will always enjoy giving, and the joy it brings, and that it will help them to combat the feelings of greed that are so often seen especially at Christmas.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Today is the Day!

 “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Edmund Burke

I am going to share my family's favorite holiday recipe. One of my children starts talking about this dish in early fall, anticipating the holidays when I will make it. It is always looked for and always one of the first things to be finished off. I typically will make it for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, since we all love it so much! I have thought about making it more often, since it is so well loved, but the kids convinced me to leave it as a special holiday treat so they have something to look forward to.
Sweet Potato Casserole
3 c. mashed sweet potatoes
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. butter, softened
1/3 c. flour
1/2 - 1 c. chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Boil potatoes whole until tender. Remove and let cool, then mash. Add the rest of the ingredients (except for the topping ingredients) and mix well. Pour into a buttered baking dish. Mix the topping ingredients in a separate bowl, and cover the potatoes with it. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.
One thing I love about this recipe is that it can be made up to several days in advance and refrigerated until the day you need it. Just assemble all the ingredients but do not bake. Take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature before baking and it will be perfect!

Allergy Friendly Changes
To accomodate the food allergies in our family, I will be making two sweet potato casseroles - one laden with butter, wheat, and nuts, and the other safe and free from those evils! 
For the allergy safe version, substitute Earth Balance Spread for the butter in both the filling and the topping. It melts easily, has a great taste, and works well in this recipe. There is also a soy free version if needed. For vanilla, be sure to use a gluten-free product. Substitute the milk of your choice for the dairy milk in the filling. The dairy free milk of choice in our house is Silk Vanilla Soy Milk, but any of the safe milks would work. Also, don't shy away from using a vanilla flavored milk, as it will enhance the flavor.  For the topping, use a safe gluten-free flour. We most often use rice flour, but in a recipe like this, it would give a nice texture to use a gluten free baking mix or gluten-free Bisquick. Of course, if you have a nut allergy you can just omit the nuts from the topping. I imagine this would taste good if oats were subbed in for the nuts, but we haven't tried that as oats are not safe for those in our household who will be eating this.
I hope you enjoy my recipe, but even more importantly, I hope you build happy memories with your family this holiday! Don't focus so much on the food and cooking that you stress yourself out and can't enjoy the special times and memories made!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Decorating for the holidays: "The Journey to Bethlehem"

Preparing for the HolidaysSchoolhouse Review Crew - 5 Days of Preparing for the Holidays

It's snowing here at home today! And the kids are all wrapped in big blankets while doing their schoolwork. Of course, that makes me think ahead to the upcoming holiday season, and what kinds of things I will be preparing for it.

The fondest tradition that we have is making our nativity set the central focus of our Christmas decorations and festivities. We do all we can to keep Jesus at the center of it all. Without even delving into the topic of whether He really came on December 25th or not (which makes a very interesting study!) the truth of the matter is that if you don't plan what you want the top priority to be for your family, then your kids will set their own agenda, which usually includes thinking first and foremost of themselves and what presents they would like to have!

Since this post is on decorating only though, let me get back to the Nativity set... At the beginning of December (or sometime after Thanksgiving) we set up an empty stable. I will put a few animals in it, and maybe a shepherd or two to take care of those animals.  We started out with a lovely ceramic Nativity set, but over the years, have replaced the pieces as we come across resin ones, since little hands and ceramic pieces don't seem to mix well! (Yes, we do have an ear-less donkey that still resides in our little stable, though!)

In the beginning of the month of December, we introduce Mary, Joseph, and one old donkey to the mix, only we do not set them up in the stable. Every night we hide them somewhere in the house, and the kids have to find them. You see - they are on a journey to Bethlehem, so they cannot just sit idly in the stable for weeks! As the days to Christmas draw closer, Mary and Joseph get closer and closer to the stable. They have been found in some interesting places: the fridge, the laundry chute, shopping bags, nestled into a wreath hanging on the wall....

On Christmas Eve, Mary and Joseph finally arrive at the stable, set up centrally in the middle of the living room. Dad reads the Christmas story, and the kids go to bed. While they are sleeping, baby Jesus arrives and takes up residence in the stable, joining Mary, Joseph, an angel, and the animals.

Later on, usually in the evening of Christmas Day, we will bring out the shepherds and add them to the stable setting.  We do bring in the Wise Men later on in the week to complete the story, and then leave the Nativity Set out for the kids to play with and reenact the Christmas story.  Even though they are growing older, they still do enjoy this activity which has become a unique tradition for our family.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pray - Plan - Persevere

The title of today's post was the theme of my Sunday School lesson for the Senior High teen girls this past Sunday. The lesson itself was on Nehemiah. His desire was to see his homeland rebuilt. He prayed, devised a plan, and then persevered through all kinds of hardship to see it through. I absolutely love the book of Nehemiah - it is very inspirational. The people are so real. I love when they are working with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other, having to defend themselves while working. They persevered through fear, fatigue, and criticism, and in the end, stuck it out and built themselves a WALL!


In Sunday School, I applied those principles to some of the 'giant tasks' that the girls might be facing - especially those who are in their senior year and looking to graduate. In this next year, they will be making some huge, life changing decisions, and my prayer was to inspire them to first pray and commit their lives and future to God, then plan for success, and persevere through till the end, finally being able to graduate and move on to whatever God has for them.

So what does all that have to do with this blog post?  Glad you asked!!!  I would like to write a little about some things that I have learned along the way while homeschooling through high school.  These same three principles certainly can apply to the high school homeschooling journey. To me, that's when it really counts. You start to see all those years of child training begin to pay off some big dividends, as your children grow into young people and discover their own faith and walk with God. By their early teen years, they should be well on the way, with your guidance, to establishing their faith, determining their standards and convictions, understanding why they believe what they do, and living it out in their daily life!

I love teenagers. I enjoy watching them work through their questions and doubts, and I enjoy seeing them "turn into" a person with interests and passions for various causes.

There is a whole lot on my heart to write about concerning the high school homeschooling experience, but for this post, I would like to focus specifically on one area: preparing for the future.                                                                                                                                                                    
I truly believe that if you begin developing a relationship early on, that the teen years will be much smoother. This plot thickens, of course, when you are homeschooling, and must be everything to those young people: parent, teacher, principal, coach, referee, nurse, cafeteria help, guidance counselor....etc.  The list goes on. It takes a great deal of surrender to the Lord, prayer, and dedication, to be good at any of these things on the list, let alone being prosperous across the board!

In random order, here are a few thoughts to make the whole "high school/future prep" journey a little bit less complicated.  There are many different avenues a young person can take as they prepare for life beyond high school. Not every young person will (or should) go to college. Some might go directly into learning a trade. Others might work in a family business, or even start their own business!  The biggest thing is to use your high school homeschooling years to equip them for the future, and not let their high school years be a hindrance to whatever the Lord may lead them into doing.  Many people will fail to prepare, which truthfully just sets them up for preparing to fail.

Decide early on (8th grade at the latest) on a "tentative" path of studies for high school. You can easily set up a plan on an Excel spreadsheet, with what subjects your high schooler will be studying in which years. Find out what the requirements are for your state, and pencil them in to your plan.  The student should be a part of this planning, as their interests will help guide the choices.  Are they interested in a certain career path? Will that career path require more years of science and math? Should those courses be more intense? Do they enjoy writing or hate it? What foreign language interests them?


Once you have a tentative plan in place, with a healthy dose of electives that really pique the student's interests and excite them, then you can start your research to see what the best method would be of fulfilling that "learning wish list". Look for local opportunities to take classes. Talk to people in those fields to see what they recommend, and what they would have done differently to get to the place they are at now. The more experiences you can give your student in a controlled setting as a teenager, the better and easier it will be for them to make a decision as to what interests them.

Perhaps they thought they would always love to work on an ambulance, but when they are able to take a first aid course, they find their stomach turns at the video demonstrations. Better to find out ahead of time that blood is just "not their thing" then for them to waste time getting into formal training, and then find out!

Also, take as much "formal testing" as possible. Borrow books from the library that coach for the SAT, ACT, or SAT subject tests. Have the student take these tests. All of them can be taken more than once. Sign up for coaching. It is an investment that is well worth it, especially when colleges base much of their scholarship funding on the results of those tests! When your student does well on these tests, it validates the grades you have given them.

Keep organized and detailed records! You should constantly be adding to and updating your student's high school transcript. If you keep it on your computer as an Excel file, you can make it look very professional and access it at any time.


Be on the lookout for programs and opportunities that fit your student's range of interests. If those are college programs, be on top of what the requirements are for home schoolers so you can easily meet them. I have found that most colleges and programs are willing to work with a home schooler who is organized. It's the unorganized ones with the missing paperwork that turn them off. So be the homeschool family that really jumps out and shines, and this will distinguish your student to the faculty making decisions about college entry.


If you are submitting applications to college, trade school, or a certificate program, have all your paperwork in order before submitting. Make sure your student has worked under the authority of other people, so that they will have sources to write reference letters or letters of recommendation for them.

Last, but probably most important, build memories and have fun with your high school students at home. In only a few short years, all the stress and hard work of high school will be just a memory, and they will have moved on to greater exploits. Take the time to develop a relationship that will allow your influence and guidance as they navigate the waters off life after high school. Afford them the opportunity to look back on their high school years with no regrets and fond memories.  You can do this - remember, you set the tone for future success.


Copyright 2012-2015 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Some of My Favorite "Bonuses"

I have not worked in fifteen years!

Ok, now that I have your attention, let me clarify that! I have not held a "job" where I receive a "paycheck" in the last (approximately) fifteen years.  Sure, I have cycled through the regular list of things that stay-at-home moms do to make extra money. I have sold Avon, baked goods, and old clothes at garage sales. I even dragged my family into a recent adventure of delivering phone books! All have served their purpose, but none has panned out as a steady source of money to fulfill my desires.

Since I am a busy homeschool mom without a lot of extra time, and with no outside income source, I have found a few ways to make some cash, and would like to share my top three.

Perhaps the easiest is a web site called ebates I do a lot of shopping online. I have found that if I stick with reputable websites and use Paypal when available, that I can do so safely, saving a great deal of time, effort, and gas money.  I can take my time to browse and comparison shop at night when the kids are sleeping. I also like to use free shipping and coupon deals to my advantage. Several years ago, I set up an account on ebates, and always enter whatever website I am shopping through that site first. Ebates tracks your purchase, and awards a percentage of the total to your account. When your account reaches a certain dollar amount, or at the end of a set time frame, whichever comes first, you receive a "big, fat check" in the mail! It is SO easy! The only extra work involved is entering your shopping site THROUGH the ebates website first. And this REALLY does work! It is not a scam! Over the years, I have found that the little pennies add up and I have received over $150 from ebates since joining, for virtually NO extra work at all!

My "old reliable" source of making extra money is to sell items on ebay. Every year, I sell all the school materials that my children are done using and that I won't need to save for another student. I have found that if you offer the materials at a fair price, describe them accurately, and ship them quickly (without charging extra for shipping!) that people will gladly purchase through ebay.  I have also found that the best time of the year to sell secondhand school materials on ebay is in August/September. It appeals to those who are looking for last minute deals, or an addition to what they have already started with. While most materials sell for 'pennies on the dollar' of their original price, it is a good feeling to clear out clutter and know that you are also helping another homeschooling family while making some extra money. Most of the "extras" that I want to enhance our homeschool, but that are not in our homeschool budget, are purchased through my ebay ventures.

Ebay is also a great place to sell gently used clothing, toys, and household goods. My suggestion would be to research your item a bit before listing it. Know about it. Know it's value. Most importantly, know exactly how much it will cost to ship the item before you list it. This generally involves packaging and weighing it even before you write your listing. If you estimate a shipping price and it's too low, you will lose money and be frustrated. If you list a shipping price that is too high, it could be considered unethical and you will aggravate your customers! Or you may even prevent them from bidding. Look on ebay's search engines to see if your item has a demand. If there are 50 listings of that same item, and no one is bidding, then it is a waste of your time to go through all the work of listing it. Lastly, take LOTS of pictures! The auctions that receive the most bids are those that show off the item.

My newest interest is Amazon's Trade-In Center - a great place to clear out clutter and get paid for it! Amazon offers credit for a long list of items, including video games, books, movies, and electronics. You can search your item, and see what the going rate is. Should you choose to submit a trade, you select your item and its condition, and then submit it to the trade center. Amazon takes you to a page where you can print off a free UPS shipping label. All you have to do is gather your items, package them, tape the label on, and get them to a UPS shipping center - no cost to you! Once Amazon receives and verifies the items, you receive your credit, which can be used on anything that Amazon sells! While this could be used for special items, or birthday/Christmas shopping, it could also be used for groceries! Sitting by my door, I have two packages ready to be shipped out tomorrow that are heading to Amazon's trade in center. For just a few minutes of cleaning out, and clicking, I have $27 in Amazon credit coming my way! While it is true that the trade in values of many items are not as high as you could get if you sold them privately, there also is very little work involved in selling them back to Amazon this way, so you will have to determine if the trade off is worth it.

I hope these ideas help someone who is looking to make some extra money while staying busy being a homeschooling mom!  While most of our 'pay' is intangible, everyone loves a 'bonus' occasionally!

I have a favor to ask my readers.... Recently, I "went public" with this blog. At the top right side of the page, there is a space where you can "follow" the blog. (Not the follow by email choice, but the choice to become a "member" and follow the site publicly). Would you please sign on as a member of the blog? I am trying to reach a public following of 22 members in order to qualify for a special homeschool/blogging project.  Thanks!