Pallet Queens

About 10 minutes from our home is a hardware store that Gives Away wood pallets!  New, perfectly good pallets.  I call regularly to see if they have any because, well, the twins and I are mad about building things out of pallets.  First we built a kidding shed and partial stanchion, that didn’t make the cut when we moved. IMG_1601 Then we built a goat stanchion that the girls use twice a day when milking.  Taylor and I built a hay feeder in about 20 minutes one evening, for the goats.  IMG_1605Contrary to popular belief, goats don’t eat everything.  They are actually kinda picky.  For the most part they won’t eat stuff off the ground. Unless its extra delicious!  When my dad came to visit they made an A-frame for baby chicks that would survive a hurricane! IMG_1608 We use the A-frame for baby chicks and anyone that is being picked on.  Its great for keeping little ones warm and safe from big mean hens.  And today we started our project to enlarge the chicken house.  Because we have an addiction……… to cute baby chicks. IMG_1610Our oldest hen is 8 years old, which is quite old for a hen and she is sitting on eggs.  She started with 8 and one hatched a cute yellow chick.  Unfortunately that chick fell from the nesting area and was attacked by the other hens. Those scoundrels also pecked open two eggs, so two more babies died and one was premature and didn’t make it.  However in the last couple of days two black chicks emerged from their shells and we have taken every precaution to protect them.  We’ve named them Eclipse and Nightfall- their adoptive mother is Nightsky, so we are going with the night theme.IMG_1596  As soon as Nightsky either abandons the last two eggs or they hatch, all will be moving into the pallet A-frame house.  Meanwhile we bought 6 chicks and 2 ducks.  One duck is youngest granddaughters, but lives at our house.  Sooooooooooooo, with this addition I’m thinking we can add a few more.  The girls were trying to figure out how many we could house and we came up with 20.  Let’s see, right now with the new babies we have 13, not counting the rooster or the ducks.  7 or 8 more should be just right.  Shhhhhhhh, don’t tell my hubby. 😉

Curiosity Killed the Toilet?

imageThe plan was to blog about homeschooling next, but we have an ongoing interruption.  After all, life is the best teacher!  So on Friday one daughter was dying to know what exactly happens when you flush the toilet.  She had the idea that the water went from the bowl up into the tank and then down the sewer.

She gingerly lifted the lid, with one hand, ready to replace said lid if a geyser erupted got ready to flush………. and the lid slipped out of her hand went down into the tank and promptly broke a hole the size of a softball right through the bottom.  broken toiletShe ran out saying “mom, mom, I’m sorry, I’m sorry” (repeat multiple times).  We went down the hall and could hear water running…… yep, all over the bathroom floor and soaking up the bedroom carpet.  Being a plumbers daughter I grabbed the float and lifted. However my knowledge failed me at this point, so I called Mr. Fix-it-all (hubby).  He told me where the shut off was and we started mopping and vacuuming up the water.

One Thing Leads to Another

imageMr. Fix-it-all pulled the toilet, after we called several plumbers and found out the existing unit is so old we can’t just replace the tank.  You guessed it, the sub-flooring was a crumbling spongy mess.  This means the vinyl flooring also has to go.  By Friday night we were down to bare floor boards and NO Toilet in the master bath.

Putting It All Together

Saturday the new sub-flooring was in and all screw holes filled.  We found a remnant for $30 and made the template. IMG_6353 The lady at the flooring store said we were saving $300 by doing the floor ourselves.   Several trips were made to Home Depot and a new toilet purchased.  Mr. Fix-it-all was pooped (pun not intended) so we went a 2nd night flooringwithout a convenient toilet.  This matters to um, older folks who get up several times a night. 😉

The Finished Product

floor and trimSunday afternoon after a quick nap he was back at it.  This was after his day job of preaching.  Trim was purchased and installed. Mr. Fix-it-all is worth his weight in gold.  He has saved us thousands over the years.    New toilet was set and we are back in business! (pun intended) 😉bathroom

Goat People

imageMonths ago the twins decided they would like to raise, breed and milk goats.  Knowing their dad would be a hard sell they asked me to map out a “plan”.  And you know I love a good plan! (click here)

The Plan

Their part of the plan was to come up with the money end of things.  My contribution was along the lines of proving they were responsible enough to add more animals to the menagerie.  This may or may not have also benefited me. 😉 We talked about things like, keeping picked up after themselves, and looking for ways to be helpful and keeping our home a calm quiet place . A big point, from my perspective, was whether they even liked goats milk.  So, we bought some from a friend and guess what?  They loved it. 😉 There may or may not have been questions about whether they REALLY liked it….. but they drank a quart in less than 24 hours, so I was convinced. Next up was a visit to the feed stores in the area to comparison price supplies and feed.  The two of them did a ton of research and checked out library books and poored over them.  They also spent every spare minute talking about “goats”.  However we needed a code word so the dad wouldn’t know.  They came up with several,  snickers, operation butter, precious cutey chickens…….. anything to make it sound like something else.  Money was saved and then we came upon a good deal on 3 month old baby does.

The Big Question

It was time to present their case to dad.  They asked me to warm him up. 😉  So I talked about how responsibimagele they had been lately and how they had saved all the money and were going to totally bear any costs involved.  How could he refuse??? He says his middle name is cave. 🙂

The Purchase

So two babies were purchased and we scrambled to get everything ready.  They are jumpers, so we had to heighten the fence.  Since they are Nigerian dwarfs, they won’t get more than 19-21″ tall, so we repurposed a dog house we had.
We were told that goats are noisy, but evidently those who think so have never raised guinea fowl.  Now guineas are loud!  The goats have a cute little bleat and whenever they see us outside they call to us.  They are so funny to watch.  The lady we bought them from said goats are like candy, you can’t have just one.  I had planned on buying one also, but just before we were to pick her up she died!  It was a sad day.

The Frugal Part

Goats don’t really like to eat off the ground and they were continually knocking over the hay pail the girls bought.  So we took a pallet we got for free and made a feeder one Saturday.  pallet feederNext project will be a stanchion.  So far we  trim their hooves by holding them, but it’s a 2 or 3 person job.  Here’s the clippers we use.Zenport Z116 Hoof and Floral Trimming Shear with Twin-Blade, 7.5-Inch
Plus we will need one once they kid and are producing milk.  The stanchion will help with  trimming hooves, milking and any health or grooming needs they will have.  We plan on giving our own injections and such.hoof trimmer

The Schooly Part

We are learning a ton, like, goats don’t really eat everything, they are kind of picky actually, and they don’t eat tin cans. 😉  And they are very good at escaping! They will watch and learn how to work gates, so be careful.  They LOVE chicken feed.  However it’s not the best for them and they can get sick from it.  Ours make a mad dash for it when the opportunity presents itself.  They are herd animals, so don’t get just one.  They have flat pupils, which some people think are creepy, but it just gives them really good night vision.  Girl goats have beards and  horns!  Most people have them disbudded and actually shave girls for the fair.  We have joined 4H and our girls will be showing their goats this year at the fair.image

We are all, even the dad, in love with them already and are looking forward to learning more when they are bred, kid and we can milk them. Oh and their names?  Ella and Blossom.  They are twins of course. 😉

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South to San Diego

“No man needs a vacation so much as the man who just had one.”- Elbert Hubbard.

girl in hammockThe beginning of August we headed south to visit our daughter and son in law for a few days.  They live about and hour from San Diego, where there is no shortage of things to do.  It was a fairly economical trip since we had a place to stay and were able to eat most meals at their house.  There were so many things to choose from, the Zoo, the Safari Park, Disneyland, Legoland, the beach, Sea World, plus all the historic sites.  It was hard paring the list down to a managable level for 3 days of fun.  Here is what we did-

The ZooZoo sign

Wow!  San Diego has an outstanding zoo.  We’ve been wanting to take the girls for about a year.  You see,  we studied land animals when they were 7th graders and the San Diego zoo was “supposed” to be the grand finale to that year.  Well, here we are in the summer between their 8th and 9th grade years, but we finally made it. It is a LOT of walking, but there are a few options if you have mobility issues.  They have a basket type lift that goes from one end of the zoo to the other that is included in every ticket.  There is also a bus tour that takes you around the zoo for 35-40 minutes of a guided tour.  After you ride the bus you are eligible for the kangaroo bus, which stops at 4 designated stops throughout the zoo.  You can hop on or off at  any stop.  All of these are included in your zoo ticket.  We didn’t see the every inch of the zoo, but a good portion.  We got there at 11 a.m. and left about 5 p.m..  The girls especially wanted to see the baby hippo and the baby giraffe, and the snake house!  I passed on the snake house………  Another fun thing there is the 4D theater.  You could choose from Rio or Ice Age shorts.  We chose to watch Ice Age.  The girls liked everything except whatever was hitting our legs under the seats. 😉  We saw lots of animals and did a lot of walking but the girls loved it!

The Beach

feet in sandOur second day we went to the beach.  We really wanted to go where there were tidepools.  Son in law recommended La Jolla tide pools.  The girls had an absolute blast.  They found crabs and even caught one.  We all picked up shells that had washed ashore.  The memorable moment was when one of them lost her glasses. ocean channel They washed off the bank and after some searching (and praying) we found them behind a rock in a deep channel.  🙂  We were there for 3 hours, just long enough to get sunburned.  Back to daughter’s house where she fixed us dinner.

X2

tiny crabOne more day before we headed home, so it was back to the beach.  More water play, more crabs and more burying each other in the sand.  This time we brought a beach umbrella.  Target had them on sale for $20, but I would have paid a whole lot more.  We went to the same beach as before.  The parking was free and it was a short walk to the beach.  We packed a lunch both days since we spent Way Too Much money on food at the zoo.girls buried in sand

After worship Sunday morning we headed for home.  It was so good to be home in our own beds.

Perfection is Not the Target

perfect signHere is a typical day in our house.  We rise at 6:30 and everyone makes their bed, tidies their room and has some quiet time for personal devotions.  I am up and have breakfast made by 6:45.  We usually eat whole grain cereal or pancakes with fresh fruit and milk from our goats.  Then it’s time for chores and school work.  We can typically finish all our schoolwork by noon.  One of the girls then cooks a nutritious lunch and we have our afternoons for hobbies or field trips.

Ok, maybe this is more like it.  I wake up the girls repeatedly starting at 7:00 a.m.  They stagger out of bed around 7:20.  alarm clockThree days a week they swim with me or they work out while I swim.  Then I push and push and push them to get out of the shower so we can get home and “start our day”.  They are on their own for breakfast, so sometimes it’s chips and salsa, sometimes fruit, sometimes dill pickles or leftovers if we have  eaten out the night before.  Breakfast is accompanied by a book and I begin to push again for them to “finish”.  Animals need fed and or let out and this presents another opportunity to draggggggggg things out.  You guessed it, more pushing.  Are you seeing a pattern?

Finally around 9:30 or 10:00 we have bible study together.  We are working our way through the book of Joshua right now and all three of us are copying the new testament.  bible studyThis is an ongoing project and will take them several years to finish.   After bible study/copying we start in with our subjects.  Twin number one dragggggggggggs everything out and must be pushed to complete her independent work, while twin number two rushes through all her work and is done in no time.  This presents a problem when we have subjects that we do together, as you can imagine.

After all schoolwork is done, most days by 12 or 1ish, we have lunch.  They are mostly on their own again and are happy snacking. Hubby and I have the same thing every day- chicken.  Some days I fix some for the twins, but most days they don’t want chicken.  For years I felt like “I” had to fix all the meals, and many homeschool moms (friends) told me I was crazy!  It’s so freeing, and yes, they still have to be fairly sensible in what they eat.

Quiet please signAfter lunch we sometimes have a quiet time (for mom) and sometimes we have errands to run or school to finish.  Sometimes they have had it with me and just want to spend time reading in their rooms.  That’s ok, sometimes I’ve had it with them too!  Sometimes I send them outside because I know I will have some quiet time.

Eventually we hope to really have goat milk for breakfast, but our goats are only 4 months old right now.  And sometimes we do have pancakes, but that’s only when I am really hungry for them.baby goats

We are probably not what you think of when you think of homeschoolers.  Most of our schoolwork is done in the living room lounging, or at the coffee table.  Rarely do they sit at their desks.  We do a ton of reading and most of it together.  And yes there are many days when the girls are still in pj’s!

If we are presented with an opportunity to really dive into anything that catches our attention, we’ll stop and do just that.  It may be wild turkeys in the front yard, or birds at the feeder or a family favorite, hummingbirds.  Everything comes to a halt if anyone yells “hummingbird!“.  This includes my married children and grandchildren. 😉hummingbird at feeder

We are not into textbooks either and use them very sparingly.  Give us a living book over a textbook any day.  We lean more toward a classical approach, and have studied things like Shakespeare, Latin and  artists and composers of old.  Don’t think this makes us snooty, because we are anything but.

Well, that is a fairly typical day in our homeschool. We aim for a harmonious, productive, filled with learning day, and most days we are at least on the target.  Once in while we even hit a bullseye!bullseye

How about  you?  What does your typical day look like?

Stereo Summer

Today my twin daughters (14) have taken over the camera and the blog to give you a glimpse into what they think homeschooling looks like during our summer.  Enjoy!swimmingThree days a week we swim at the pool (or sometimes work out while mom swims).  Then mom heads for the hot tub.  We are not allowed in the hot tub till we are 16. Drat! Drat! Drat!mom in hot tubOnce we’re home it’s time for breakfast.  Today it was dill pickles and caramel popcorn (healthy) we made ourselves.  We love dill pickles. girl eating dill pickle

girl reading while eating

And whenever mom lets us, we read while we eat.

We have a ton of animals that need fed every morning.  We have 10 chickens, 1 duck, 3 guinea fowl, 2 cats and 1 dog.  We just got 2 goats that are four months old! baby goats and goat houseToday we had to clean out the goat house and put clean straw down for them.  This morning we had to wait for one of our hens to vacate the goat house.  I guess it’s nice and cozy in there.  After breakfast and animals we do bible study together and chores. (Drat on the chores as well)

girl putting clothes in dresser

Tomorrow is Teen Tuesday at the library and they are having a Mario Kart challenge with prizes!  So we need to get in some practice today. mario kartWe can use all the practice we can get, as you can tell by our place badges. girl watching TVOur niece came over so we watched Wild Kratts while we ate lunch.  Then we took her to see the goaties and chickens.  One of her favorite hens pooped on her shirt so mom had to wash it. After our niece left we played on the tire swing, with the goats and more Mario Kart.  Since we are going fishing bright and early, we decided to do some of our tomorrow chores today!

vacuum cleanersweeping

After dinner on Monday’s we have game night with everyone taking a turn to pick what we play.  Tonight was Dad’s turn and he picked chess.playing chess

chess game

We are so excited to go fishing that we’re making breakfast tonight!

baking

That was our day.  Goats are in their house for the night, chickens are put away and we are going to bed early!  Us in bed early? Never happens.

What Does Homeschooling Look Like?

When I was new to homeschooling I was almost obsessive about what other families were doing. Now I hesitate to post ours because I would never want you to feel that this is the way to homeschool. Each family is unique and so should your schedule be.  With that said here’s my schedule for twin daughters that will be Freshman this year…………..

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Bible & copying Bible & Copying Bible & Copying Bible & Copying Bible & Copying
Chores Chores Chores Chores Chores
History History History History Composer
Literature Literature Literature Literature Science Ex.
Science Math Science Math Nature/Art
Shakespeare Nature Poetry Character Timeline

The Three R’s

Readingman-211505__180

This is the subject most new homeschooling moms are nervous about.  Look at it this way.  Up to this point you’ve taught them  everything they know!  And that is no small accomplishment.  They know how to eat, use the bathroom, act in a mannerly way (mostly), dress themselves and how to speak our language.  Pat yourself on the back and take a deep breath.  Reading is like riding a bike.  Your child will catch on when he/she is ready.  I’ve been exposed to a lot of reading curriculum over the years, but my personal favorite is Alpha-Phonics.  It’s simple to use and doesn’t require anything other than time.  All my kids used this program after I found it.  Some went through the entire book and some took off after a few lessons.  Read, read, read to your children and let the process unfold when they are ready. I talked to a Dad today who taught his daughter to read with the comics from the newspaper.  After reading proficiency we have the kids read good literature throughout the school year.  There are many lists online for suggestions according to age.

wRiting

Our family has wandered around the writing aspect of homeschooling.  We have used Easy Grammar,  Easy Grammar Plus, and like them both for teaching basics.  For several years we used a program called Understanding Writing.  It is an awesome curriculum for actual writing projects that are not contrived.  My kids wrote lots of letters and such when we used this program.  It works well for multiple ages too.  If you have kids who love to write I highly recommend Simple Grammar.  It covers the basics and they can write to their little hearts content.  These students don’t need “assignments” to write, because they are writing in their spare time.

aRithmeticdespair-513530__180

My most frustrating subject, bar none!   We have had more struggles with Math than everything else combined.  My oldest was a whiz at math, but it went downhill after that.  We tried Saxon, which I hated (and several of my kids) and for quite a few years used Making Math Meaningful.  I do believe my kids have another name for it.  Are you sensing a pattern?  With one daughter we used the Key To program.  Highly recommend this one, because it covers the basics nicely.  We also used Miquon Math for several years.  It’s a great program to get the concepts down. Fast forward to my youngest two and we found RightStart Math.  Love, love, love this curriculum for younger students.  Once they were in Jr. High not so much.  It was confusing and difficult even for the parents.  This coming year we will be using Life of Fred for the second time.  I personally LOVE this series, but the twins need more reinforcement and seem to get bored with the story and want to just “get to the problems”. We will also be reading Whatever Happened to Penny Candy.

All the Rest

Bibleto-write-774648__180

We have bible study every day and are copying the New Testament.  This is not original with me, but I liked the idea.  Three of my older four completed this before they graduated.  Last year I began copying alongside the twins. They should easily finish before the end of their senior year.

Science

We have used the Apologia Series for years and totally loved them till we got to Physical Science.  It was extremely boring for my two, but we were in a co-op situation and the teacher chose to skip most of the experiments.  They enjoyed it and understood it more when I took the time at home to do the experiments with them.  We will be using the Apologia Biology as a textbook this year, but filling in with Biology coloring books by Dover, and autobiographies from the library.  We have also used a science program called “Developing Critical Thinking through Science”.  We loved this one also!  Actually we’ve loved everything we’ve tried through Critical Thinking Press.

Historycolosseum-792202__180

Finally!  My favorite!  I love history and yes I’m the one who has to read all the blurbs at museums, zoos and any rest stop.  Historical markers? Yes! It made the most sense to me to start at the beginning of all history.  So we started in Genesis 1:1 and read till Egypt was mentioned and took a year to study ancient Egypt.  For many years we used Greenleaf Press, in fact we still use them!  They can get a little dry, but overall I highly recommend their curriculum.  This year we will be studying the Renaissance and Reformation. I try hard to connect the dots by including good literature from the time period we are studying.

The Arts

For years we have used Cornerstone Curriculum’s Art and Music program and I plan to continue that this year also.  They do a great job of exposing students to different worldviews.  These are curriculum I have used for more that 10 years.  The titles are “Adventures in Art” and “Music and Moments with the Masters”.  We did invest in the pictures to go with the Art program, but I’ve gotten my moneys worth over so many years. 🙂 We’ve also used and loved two books called Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers and The Gift of Music.  william-shakespeare-62936__180My two youngest love Shakespeare and I will continue to feed that this coming year.  We started with Tales from Shakespeare and The Children’s Shakespeare and this year we will be listening to several plays in audio format.

Being partial to a semi classical approach has colored my choices as have the works of Charlotte Mason.  My most used resource when planning each school year is Amblesideonline.org .  There is a wealth of information here and my starting point for creating a schedule.  I don’t follow it exactly, but do use it as a springboard for direction.  You’ll notice I left out a couple of things, like Poetry and Nature.  For those I will use notebooks and sketchbooks.  We will be creating our own books. We will probably use Ambleside for poet suggestions, and poetry books I have on hand.  Don’t be intimidated by mine or anyone else’s schedule.  Remember this is a result of homeschooling for over 25 years.  And it may change next year! Relax, enjoy your children and this journey called homeschooling.

Planning Addict

dates-595062__180How I love to plan!  I could spend daaaaaaayyyyyyyssss planning, anything.  I plan menus, and cleaning schedules and consequences and “things to accomplish before screens” and trips and, well, you get the idea. But today I’m going to focus on school planning.  Our family has homeschooled since 1989 so there have been many, many school plans.

So what types of plans are there?

weekly, monthly, yearly-

Although I love to plan, once it’s done, I don’t want to think about it again.  A basic framework that can be tweaked if necessary works for me.  Some moms sit with a planner once a month or once a week to plan out schoolwork.

group or individual-

Will you be doing unit studies and as many things together as possible?  Then your plan will reflect that.  If on the other hand you have babies or toddlers, it sometimes works better to stagger your subjects so older children can play/read/nap with the littles.  Or maybe your children are too far apart in grade levels to work together.  Your plan will most likely be more individualized for each student.

rigid or flexible-

We’ve had both extremes.  One year we tried a system that scheduled every 30 minutes!  planning-620299__180My youngest son loved it, the rest of us not so much. This type of schedule teaches you whether you are the slave or the schedule is the slave.  I failed.   One year we tried mostly unschooling with a bare bones schedule.  I guess I’m too neurotic, because it drove me crazy with the lack of structure.  We settled near the middle, where there is a framework, but it’s tied to completion and not the clock.

mom or child led-

As my children got older, I tried to incorporate things they enjoyed into our school year.  Sometimes this is more difficult if you have several children.  For their senior year most of mine had a year long project from an interest I’d seen over the years.  One did a scrapbook on Korea, one built a guitar from scratch (disclaimer- it’s not finished) and one was given the choice to do anything with an instrument of her choice- make a CD, scrapbook or anything she chose.

younger or older student-

Obviously your plan will look different depending on the age/ages of your child/children.  Hubby and my prediction was that our children would become self taught over time.  And you know what?  That’s what happened. By the time our children were in high school I began moving them towards a schedule that I could hand over to them.  In other words, when they finished the work they were done for the year.  I remember two years in particular, one when schoolwork was still being done in June, and one when that student was done in April.  You could not do this with most younger students, so remember plans will look different as your children grow.

Starting points

start where you are-hand-710665__180

Is this your first year to homeschool?  Have you been homeschooling many years, but haven’t found your grove yet?  Know that most families try many options before they settle on what works for their family.  And over time even that changes, as family dynamics change.  For instance, at one point I had a senior, a 7th grader and a 6th grader and a 4th grader.  Now I have 2 Freshman.  Trust me our schedule was/is different in those two scenarios.  Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.  A plan will evolve for your particular family.  Some families have Dads that work nights, some that travel or two parents at home.  Please don’t look to duplicate someone else’s plan.  Make your plan work with your family.

state requirements-hammer-719065__180

If you are new to homeschooling, be sure and check out the requirements of your state.  But, don’t be intimidated.  We lived in a state for 14 years that “required” things of homeschoolers on the yearly paperwork, that weren’t required by law.  I’d highly encourage you the look into HSLDA.  They are on the cutting edge of homeschool legal issues.  Once you understand the requirements of your state, again, give yourself some latitude.  Lot’s of things your do in your day could count for any number of school “subjects”.

consult the calendar-calendar-660670__180

Do you have a big trip planned this year?  A new baby joining your family?  A move across country?  An elderly family member that needs help?  Be sure and plan this in as your create your homeschool schedule.  Really, you can learn from almost any situation.  Work these situations into your curriculum.  This is hands on learning at it’s finest.  You don’t have to create field trips, you just incorporate what you are already doing into your plan!

The Nitty Gritty

have your books handy-colorful-791927__180

When its time to get down to the nuts and bolts, seclude yourself away with the books you will be using in the coming year.  Not really…… You can plan in the noisiest place in the house!  I just enjoy seclusion when I plan.  However you plan best, it’s very helpful to have the books on hand to be able to look through how they are laid out and how long they will take to complete.  This helps you to be able to plan ahead for purchases that don’t have to be made at the beginning of the year.  Funds are always tight here, so I buy as we go along.

the key is prayer-

hands-799772__180The number one key to planning is prayer.  Spend some time praying before you begin your planning.  God knows your family inside and out AND what is best for you and your family.

seatwork vs character-

So many times I’ve seen, and been tempted myself to duplicate public education at home.  This is one of the greatest freedoms of homeschooling.  You do not have to follow a state mandated scope and sequence.  There have been times in our homeschool journey where character issues pop up and schooling takes a backseat.  Hear me now, I’m not saying seatwork is not necessary.  affirmations-441457__180I’m saying all of life is learning and I’d rather have a child with exceptional character than have a scholar.  Learning is lifelong, so don’t sweat the possibility of gaps.  Plan with your children in mind and the character issues they (and you!) need to work on.

organize, organize, organize-

This might sound funny, but organization is crucial to planning.  Look at all areas of your family’s daily and weekly life.  When meals are planned your schooling flows better.  When chores are planned, same thing.  When curriculum and related supplies are organized, stress is lowered.  Ask me how many times I’ve hunted for scissors in my house.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.  Make a plan for your homeschooling year, but don’t stress so much that you forget “why” you choose to homeschool in the first place! How do you plan your homeschool year?

Frugal Summer Fun

flip-flops-298725__180Ahhh summer!  When families look forward to things slowing down after the hectic school year.  Unfortunately this summer is anything but slow.  Between an annual youth event at church, babysitting a granddaughter for 10 days and an adoption picnic we had a very busy June.  I’m hoping July will be slower because in August we visit number 2 daughter and her husband in SoCal.

So let’s talk about some frugal ways to have fun this summer, when you have time.  Our all time favorite thing to do is head to the library.  We are in the middle of the summer reading program.kids at the library Our library has so many activities for free, that we cannot take them all in.  The twins are reading up a storm to try and win the top prize of a Kindle Fire.  And let’s face it, the library is air conditioned.  It’s the last day of June and over 100 degrees outside.

Second on our list is the Summer Movie Express.  For $1 per person we can go to the movie Tuesday or Wednesday morning and watch fairly recent kid flicks.  Once again…… air conditioned. Check your local theater to see if they participate.  In the small town in movie ticketNebraska we lived in they used to sell summer movie passes for a fairly small amount.  And there have been some years where I rented a movie once a week and mom and the kids watched a movie at home.  That was the cheapest of all.  If your local library loans movies for free you have it made.  Or set up a movie trade with your friends.  We have discussed this several times, among the moms here. A lending library of movies that everyone already owns.

Thirdly check you local museums and zoo.  ZebraWhen we lived in Denver the zoo had a free day once a month for locals.  That way we were able to go numerous times and not feel like we had to “get it all done”.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find how many little museums cost little or nothing to visit.  Don’t overlook these free/cheap local resources.  It’s a great frugal way to learn the history of your part of the country.

swingCheck out all parks in the surrounding area.   Even if you have to drive a ways, it’s still cheap entertainment.  We have a water feature park, that’s free, about 15 minutes from our house.  Totally worth it to drive there and if you want to be really frugal, plan it on a day you need to run errands in that area.   We have lots of parks and they all have different focuses.  One is a baseball diamond, one a place to feed geese and ducks, one a wooden play structure and several that are your basic jungle gym playplaces.water park

Make your own fun. Build your own kites and then fly them.  Create a slip and slide, make homemade bubbles, set up an obstacle course in your backyard, make box houses, put up a tire swing. bubbles One year we put together an entire miniature castle made out of appliance boxes, free at our local appliance store.  The only thing it cost me was paint.  I painted it to look like bricks on the outside.  If your hubby is a DIY guy, let the kids play with wood scraps.  This keeps my kids busy for hours.  They have made swords, bootjacks, shields, boats, little tables, a chicken jail that looked more like a chair and a mineral feeder for goats.  All 6 have learned how to use a drill and hammer and saw.Tire swing

Pool your efforts and  work for something that benefits everyone.  One summer 4 of my kids decided they wanted a trampoline.  They worked odd jobs to earn 1/2 the money.  Their grandpa told them he’d match funds.  That was at least 10 years ago and we still have that trampoline!  We’ve had to replace the bed, but the frame is still going strong. trampoline You get the idea, think of something everyone would enjoy and work together towards it.

Sometimes all you need is a little primer.  And I’ve found with my kids the best fun is fun we have together.  It doesn’t have to be grand and glorious and expensive, just a simple recipe of your time and energy and willingness to connect and have fun with them.  I’m guessing your kids are not much different.  So what is your frugal summer fun idea?  Ready, set, go.

Beginning Gardening

Plants or Seeds?

vegetable garden

What could be more fun than starting your vegetable garden indoors while the snow is still on the ground outside?  One of my daughters used christmas money this year to buy heirloom seeds and started planting in February.  This was a fantastic learning experience for her and fits in with our homeschooling philosophy.  She says “I should have started them in March!”  Lesson learned.

Some plants are great choices for planting seeds directly into your garden.  For example, beans, peas, corn, cucumber, squash, radish, lettuce and  melons.  Be sure and check with your local extension office for planting times.  Others seem to be much less work if you start with plants.  In this category are tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, strawberries, broccoli and other members of the cabbage family.  Obviously if you buy plants your growing time is shortened and you can plant later.  But it is very exciting to plant from seed and watch everything popping up too!

Soil type, fertilizer & pests

When we moved from Nebraska to California I had a humbling gardening experience.  I’d been gardening for many years and thought I knew it all!  A local advised me to amend my soil, but I didn’t.  All my plants that year were in miniature and didn’t produce much.  I’ve since become a frequent visitor to our local fruit grower association.  Learn what soil type you have or talk to locals and do your research!

We’ve used commercial fertilizer and made our own organic mix with soil specific nutrients and steer manure.  We now have a compost pile and are working at beefing up the quality of our clay soil.  Where we live the soil needs potassium to “unlock” the nutrients.  One year of a scrawny crop convinced me to not be so hard headed.  This year we bought organic compost from Home Depot and our plants are thriving.Marigold

Pests can discourage the most avid gardener.  Long gone are the days of using a commercial pest control (Seven) on my garden.  We now use diatomaceous earth and peppermint essential oil spray.  This year we are planting marigolds among our plants and they are working!  It’s not that we don’t have bugs, but they are eating the flowers instead of the vegetables. One year we were infested with earwigs and the local nursery said to use soy sauce.  We set out jar lids at ground level filled the soy sauce at night and every morning were shocked to see tons of dead ear wigs.

Raised beds, Containers & Square foot gardens

Here is where you can really personalize your garden area.  I love my raised beds, even though they aren’t that far above ground level.  Until I stumble across a frugal source of dirt they will remain low.  It’s important not to walk in your garden area any more than you absolutely have to.  Keep your beds small so you can reach to the middle from all sides.Raised bed

Another area we utilize is containers.  This is where I like to keep my basil and flowers.  In winter we use containers for winter crops, since they are right outside my front door.  We’ve grown, broccoli, cauliflower, celery and brussel sprouts in our containers.basil in container

Square foot gardening is another option.  My daughter in law planted her first square foot garden this spring.  It is growing like crazy!  Who says you “have” to plant things in rows that are x amount of inches apart?  Think outside the box. (pun intended)

Tools of the trade

Depending on your gardening budget you can get by with very little or as much as you want!  A spade and hoe are really all you need, but I love my garden gloves.  This year for one of our daughters birthday, we got her a trowel and small rake, gloves, kneeling pad and a carrying caddy.  It would be nice to have a little wagon or wheel barrel, but those are extras in my book.gardening tools

Garden all year long

Depending on your climate you may have the option to garden year around.  Once again, contact your local extension office for a growing chart for your area.  Even in harsher climates you can get a jump on the season by planting  fast growing hearty vegetables, like lettuce, radishes and onions.  It hardly ever gets below about 20 degrees here so we have a really long growing season- 180 days.  Cold frames or a greenhouse can also extend your growing season.  When we lived in Nebraska I used old windows as cold frames.

Weeding, watering & waiting

Any long time gardener can tell you how much more efficient it is to stay on top of your weeding.  When my four oldest were home, we were a force to be reckoned with when weeding.  I can remember times of assigning a row per child for chores.  When we all worked together it didn’t seem so hard.  Now that it is just my last two at home, we head out for 15 minutes every weekday morning and weed together.  It’s fairly easy to keep on top of it.  It’s not so easy to play catch up if you’ve let it go for a week or longer.  We keep a bucket to put the weeds in and our chickens will line up at the fence to watch us, because they know we dump the weeds over the fence to them when we’re done.chickens at fence

You can use mulch or landscape fabric, but I’m too cheap…… ummm frugal, for that.  Our local tree service will deliver chipped trees for free to your driveway so I have my name on the list.  We will use the chips on walkways and in the chicken pen.sprinkler line

One of the best things we have invested in is a sprinkler system.  This is an easy do it yourself project.  My youngest son set mine up years ago and it needs little maintenance.  Our local Home Depot has all the supplies and it’s not too expensive.  You can set up either drip heads or spray heads.  Set it up on a timer and you never have to think about watering.

Gardening is one of the most rewarding things our family does and it helps the grocery budget.  It’s like a lot of things, it’s the starting that is the hardest.  If you’re willing to put in some work on a consistent basis the rewards are oh so sweet!