Instilling Independence in Homeschooled (or Any) Children

As homeschool parents, we carry our children’s education primarily, or in many cases entirely, in our own hands. That’s a school bus full of responsibility that most of us take very seriously. (Let’s not talk about the days when we toss it all and make chocolate chip cookies and call it dinner, math, and home ec.)

Despite the numerous blessings of homeschooling, there is a potential downside—we well-meaning parents can be over-involved in our children’s education and handicap our future young adults.

What?! What could possibly be wrong with being involved in every aspect of our child’s education?

At the risk of getting kicked out of the cookie line at the next homeschool convention, I want to point out two big problems with parental over-involvement.

1.) The child loses respect for the parent as a person as parental needs are repeatedly placed second to the demands of the child’s needs and education, to an extreme; this pattern is then repeated toward others throughout the child’s life. (The me-first mentality.)

2.) The child’s potential to be resourceful, to persevere, and to become a responsible, self-motivated, independent adult is, at best, hindered, if not handicapped.

Read the rest over at The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Crew Blog. (That’s a mouthful.)

Ten Simple Manners to Teach Your Children

10 Manners to Teach Your Kids

There were eight pieces of fudge on the little plate at the end of the refreshment buffet on Sunday after the morning service at the church we visited. There were 110 people in attendance.

If I had made that fudge, I would have eaten all eight pieces myself rather than subject 102 people to fudgeless disappointment. I’m considerate that way. But that’s not the point. The point is that a girl of around 10 came up to the table and took four pieces. Four! Do the math.

Another time we were invited to a scanty church potluck where fried chicken was the main course, with a few meager sides to beef it up a tad. Having let an unrelated teen go ahead of him, my husband (the guest of honor) stood at the end of the line. When he and the teen arrived at the buffet table, there were two large pieces of chicken left in the bucket, and two people left in line. The teen took both pieces.

At that same church potluck, a late arrival showed up with a couple pizzas. No sooner had the pizzas been set down, then one of the leaders of the church said to his own kids (who had been near the front of the line and still had chicken on their plates), “Hurry and get some pizza before everyone else takes it!” What does that say to our kids? I’ll tell you what it says–me first

And try talking to most people with kids for more than 30 seconds without interruption after interruption. It’s exasperating! (Especially when it’s my kids!)

These are just a few of the many instances that set my children off on a tirade about manners, and how rare common courtesy is in their generation. It was the fudge incident that made one of my daughters demand that children everywhere learn manners…and she wasn’t planning to have any fudge.

Manners matter.

I don’t expect that my children place their knives at the proper angle to indicate they are finished eating and I don’t harp too terribly much about elbows on the table, even though they cause spills and bumps and limited room. (Okay, maybe I do harp about the elbows on the table.) I do, however, expect my family to master common courtesy, because that’s what manners are, respect and courtesy for the comfort of those around you.

Ten basic manners to instill in your children:

  1. Let others go first.
  2. Give up your seat.
  3. Chew with your mouth shut…and eat quietly.
  4. Don’t talk with food in your mouth.
  5. Say please, thank you, and excuse me.
  6. Take one…or none.
  7. Share.
  8. Make eye contact.
  9. Shake hands.
  10. Don’t interrupt.

These can all be summed up in the Biblical concept of putting others ahead of yourself. All of them!

Please don’t think my family has these manners mastered–everybody in life needs training or tweaking, because that’s part of the journey. But we’re always working on them. Train, tweak, train, tweak…see? Let’s work on them together! I’ll be addressing some of these manners this week right here and then once a month, and also focusing on them monthly with my own family in our real world.

Please subscribe to my weekly newsletter and follow on Facebook and Instagram to join in the fun.

Please take the time to make the world a better place beginning with your child…please!

Thank you!

What manners do you like to see in children?

This post is part of a week of blog hopping hosted by The Schoolhouse Review Crew: 5 Days of Homeschool Blog Hop.

Apologia Anatomy–Brains, Hearts, and the God Who Made Them {Review}

There are a few things we’ve used in our homeschooling from the dawn of time (our homeschooling time, that is). Apologia is one of our mainstays. To be a mainstay for my family, you have to be fantastic, because I am a member of SGA–Second Guessers Anonymous. And Apologia, in our book, is fantastic–no second guessing there!

They sent us Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology for the purpose of this review, and to totally educate our elementary and middle school kiddos on the fine workings of the human body.

They sent us the following:

  • Textbook
  • Notebooking Journal
  • Junior Notebooking Journal
  • MP3 Audio CD

The components of the course.

The textbook is broken up into 14 lessons covering each of the main body systems, as well as an introduction to anatomy and physiology, a chapter on the senses, a chapter on growth and development, and a chapter on health and nutrition.

As is the case with all the Apologia Young Explorers books, they approach science in a Charlotte Mason style, which is ideal for us. Each chapter is broken up into short sections. There are pauses encouraging students to retell what they’ve learned (narrations) or to answer a few questions.

Each chapter also includes lab activities. The supplies can mostly be found at home, but you can also order a supplement including all the objects you will need for the activities organized according to chapter and activity.

A personal person project runs throughout the course. Your student builds a body adding each system as the student learns about it.

Because Apologia is an apologetics course, there are also Creator-focused sections such as Why Did God Create Me in Growth and Development, Creation Confirmation in the Digestive and Renal System, and Our Faithful Father in Immune and Lymphatic Systems.

The textbook is officially the only item you need to complete this course, making it budget friendly.

There is also an mp3 audio disc available. The recording is professional and easy to listen to. It includes the textbook read by Jeannie Fulbright, the author herself. (She’s an interesting person, so look her up on social media!)

Two notebooking journals are sold separately also. They are not necessary, but they are extremely helpful. There is a junior notebook which is recommended for kindergarten through second or third grade, and then another for third or fourth on up. Both are consumable and meant for one student. They contain copywork, coloring pages, puzzles, notebook pages, and lab record forms, among other things. Your child will use it for his personal person, his experiments, note-taking, making little bookslets, and refreshing his memory on all the wonderful things he’s learned.

A note about the immersion method.

The Apologia approach to science at the elementary and middle school levels is immersion. If you want to understand more about that, watch this video. They explain it better than I do. What I can tell you is how well the immersion method has worked for my family.

We have gone through most of the Apologia Young Explorer science courses, and my children come out of them with a thorough understanding of, interest in, and appreciation of the subject they studied for the year. I find it far superior to the little-bit-of-everything approach to science I grew up with, which doesn’t give you the opportunity to completely fall in love with a subject. I guess it doesn’t give you the chance to totally hate it either. Ha.

What did we do?

As with all the Apologia Young Explorer texts we use, I read aloud from the textbook to my current students, and usually someone younger who hangs around for the fun and the intriguing photos throughout the book. I may read an entire section (maybe 15 minutes max), but usually I read for no more than 5-7 minutes so that everything can sink in and I can hold the kids’ attention. (I have a kindergartener in the mix.)

I ask the questions when they pop up and will often ask for narrations on shorter sections. I almost always ask for a narration the next day as a review. We do this four or five days a week.

I do not use the audio disc because, first of all, it doesn’t play in our van, which is where we do our science readings–on our drives. Secondly, while the reading only takes 5-7 minutes, we discuss quite a bit as we go, often smack dab in the middle of a paragraph. That would be a little less natural with an audio recording, although the discussion could take place at the breaks. I also improvise as I read a bit, because it’s what I do–it certainly isn’t necessary, because the text is highly readable. Honestly, if the disc played in our van, I would probably use it.

As far as the experiments are concerned, we did not buy the supplement package due to budgeting and storage. (Remember, we live in a travel trailer–all ten of us.) We do some of the labs and experiments, but not all of them. We pick those which would help us understand the project best and use supplies we have on hand, like this mummifying experiment that the girls did on their own from chapter 1.

Well, maybe not quite as on their own as they would have liked.

Two-year-old assistants are exciting.

If we can’t do an experiment due to time, driving, or supplies, we have no problem going back and performing an experiment from a previous lesson when the supplies are available. It’s a great review.

We’ve also been known to get creative about supplies. For example, Elijah made this heart from chapter 8, and the only appropriate ingredient he had were the graham crackers.

That’s totally a heart!

The experiments definitely add to the program and aren’t burdensome, so I recommend doing at least one or two per chapter if not all of them.

My readers (third and sixth grade) are able to perform the majority of the experiments without help. My kindergartener is capable of being actively involved, but needs help with the reading and reaching things. She’s still tiny.

My third and sixth graders are using the regular journals. The third grader was originally going to use the junior journal, but decided it was a little too simple. She’s right on the border, so we purchased a regular journal. My kindergartener is using the junior journal, but it’s really too advanced for her. Basically, she dictates to me some of what she has learned and illustrates it. She also does the copywork and coloring. If you do get them, each child needs her own.

Again, the journals are not essential for the course, so if finances are an issue, don’t let the journal costs keep you from using the course. They do, however, add significantly to the course in my opinion. I like that the reading age kids can follow the guidelines within the journal and I don’t have to guide them through anything. Technically, they could read the textbook and do the labs and the notebooks entirely on their own, but I feel the benefit immensely from the discussion we have.

Just some thoughts on age.

We move more slowly than recommended through the course because we have a kindergartener in the mix. Otherwise, the recommended pace of two weeks per lesson is quite reasonable.

While I include all ages of my elementary school kids in my Apologia science studies, I would not begin with Anatomy and Physiology if my oldest was under, say, third grade. This is one of the more difficult topics, despite how well it is all explained. It seems easier for my littlest kids to grasp the concepts in astronomy and even botany. Still, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to include the younger set when I’m teaching this to older students. Just don’t expect them to grasp it all, and be ready to repeat it when they’re older. and can easily be completed in one full school year of solid learning.

 In summary

This is our second time working through Apologia Anatomy and Physiology. It is a program that strongly prepared our previous set of children for their high school level biology and other science studies, also through Apologia. Highly recommended–all 20 thumbs (and four paws) way way up.

You probably want to know what other people think about. You can read other Crew reviews right here or click on the banner below:

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Christy’s Simple Tip: Use a Whisk to Pick Up Eggs

Use a Whisk To Remove Eggs from Boiling Water or Dye Pinnable

Use a whisk to remove Easter eggs from a cup of dye without coloring your fingers, or to lift boiled eggs out of hot water without burning your hands and without dropping the slippery little buggers from a spoon. This also works to remove them from ice water if you cool your eggs after boiling.

Simple press the whisk onto the egg, and the little stinker should pop right through the loops on the whisk.

To remove the egg, separate the wires a tad and the egg should pop right out. If it doesn’t come out, it doesn’t deserve to be free.

Of course, if you like your kids to show up at church on Easter Sunday with dyed hands and wrists, you won’t want to use this technique. For our family the dyed hands on Easter are a tradition, and I’m not one to break with tradition.

I think I’m going to bring a whisk to the next egg-and-spoon race we’re invited to. That’s not cheating, is it?

To see your favorite simple tips featured on The Simple Homemaker (including a link to the page of your choice), please submit it through my contact page or send an email (pictures are optional) to TheSimpleHomemaker at gmail dot com with SIMPLE TIP in the subject.

Got kids? Got pets? Got DNA? Got Carpet Stains!

If you have kids, pets, or a pulse, you probably have carpet stains. If you are so perfect that you don’t have carpet stains, I don’t understand why you are here. I must really annoy you.

I have eight kids and I’ve also had two dogs and a cat over the past several years. One of those dogs was inherited from an ailing relative. The dog was older than peanut butter, and therefore messier than peanut butter. The kids are all younger than peanut butter, and therefore also messier.

But get this–our carpet always looked nice! (I say looked because now we don’t have carpet. We live in a travel trailer, remember?) We had two secrets to clean carpet success:

  1. We bought carpet the color of spilled coffee, because one of us spilled quite a bit of coffee. Buying the right carpet was easier than learning to be grown-ups about our beverages. Truth.
  2. We used Folex Instant Carpet Stain Remover.

Here is what I love about Folex:

  1. It works!
  2. It doesn’t have a ton of junk. (I’m sure it has some junk.)
  3. It’s simple. I love simple. You may have noticed that by now.

Let’s expand.

First, It works. I am blown away every time we use Folex and stains magically disappear. It’s like someone took a Mr. Clean magic eraser for carpets and magically erased those stains. Poof. Gone like chocolate. Honestly, pour red wine on your carpets, sell tickets, clean it up with Folex, and people will go home happy.

Second, the junklessness of Folex is fantastic. Here’s what it doesn’t have:

  • toxicity (I’m sure there’s something toxic in it–I mean, don’t drink it. Duh.)
  • irritants, like Dora the Explorer. There is no Dora the Explorer in a Folex bottle. Also, there are no skin irritants in it either, but I wouldn’t spray it all over my body after my two-year-old markered my arms either. If you have super sensitive skin, it might irritate you, but not as much as Dora.
  • the tendency to burst into flame. While the non-flammable nature of Folex does make it a bit less exciting to clean with, we’ve heard that 10 out of 10 insurance companies prefer your house not burn down. Who knew?
  • solvents. No solvents. What does that mean? It means that, you know, solvents…there aren’t any in there. If you have a math problem that you need solvented, don’t spray it with Folex.
  • odor. So no headaches for me! Other stuff–bam–headache! Not Folex.
  • CFC. Whew. That’s a relief. Okay, I don’t even know what CFC is–I’m not even going to pretend to know. Here’s a little truth for you. If something says it doesn’t contain a thing, then I automatically assume that thing is bad. Like if it said “avocado-free,” I’d be all, “I am never touching an avocado again. Kids, back away from the avocados now. Now now!” I’m a marketer’s dream.
  • petroleum.
  • magnetism. It’s not magnetic. The stains don’t come back after they’re gone. I don’t really get this either, because it’s weird, but I know that we’ve had our carpets professionally cleaned and they look worse within a week than they did before the dudes came and “cleaned” them. I now thoroughly believe we must have paid them to place magnets in our carpet, so the metallic dirt on my kids’ feet stuck to the carpet, whereas before it just fell to the ground and I vacuumed it up. Folex has no magnets. I know because I read it online.

Third, it’s simple. Find the spot–easy. Spray Folex on it–still easy. Rub it with your fingers–still pretty smokin’ easy. If you want to you can rub it with someone else’s fingers, a rubber glove (with your own fingers in it), or a towel. Then you simply dab up the cleaner with a towel–I use flour sack towels, because they’re white. Somewhere during the rubbing, and sometimes before, the magic happens. Wow.

Technically, you should test the cleaner on that secret place everyone is supposed to have in their homes where they don’t care if the carpet bleaches. I don’t know where that is, but if you have that secret place, go there and spray Folex. Then make magic happen.

Where do you get your hands on this stuff?

Walmart used to carry Folex and I was happy. Now I have trouble finding it without stepping outside of my shopping comfort zone, which is ridiculously small considering I am at a different store in a different town a couple times a week. I know. I have issues. Stores strike fear in me. I get lost and can never find the raisins…ever!

It (Folex, not raisins) is available at Home Depot, Lowes, and many grocery stores as well as some department stores. It’s also available online at Amazon (affiliate link), but I’m pretty sure it’s cheaper in the brick and mortar hardware stores. Don’t quote me on that, because prices change almost as fast as Folex gets the spots out.

I was not paid to write this post. I mean, if Folex sent me a lifetime supply of Folex for writing this post, I would certainly accept after an appropriate amount of fake modesty. In truth, I like sharing things I like…I don’t mean chocolate or cookies. I mean ideas and products. ‘Kay? Kay.

Here’s to clean carpets!



8 Tips for Taking Down Christmas Decorations

Our decorations stay up until after Three King’s Day, a.k.a. Epiphany, a.k.a. There Isn’t a Single Needle Left on This Tree. Why? Because I love Christmas, and I especially love the laid back days after Christmas, so why not celebrate all twelve of them!

I know many people like to get the decor put away tout d’suite, because it feels clean. To each their own.

Here are some tips to make the whole process smoother on the take-down side of things this year, and on the put-back-up side of things next year, because you know you’re going to blink three times and it will be Christmas again.

8 Tips for Taking Down Christmas Deocrations

8 Tips for Taking Down Christmas Decorations

1. Put your decorations in containers that are labeled by location. Pull out the family room decoration box when you want to decorate the family room, the music room when you want to decorate the music room, the pantry when you want to decorate the pantry–doesn’t everyone decorate the pantry? It’s called cookie ingredients and lots and lots of sprinkles! In my opinion, it’s worth buying decent containers to store Christmas decorations, because honestly people, despite what Clement Clark Moore says, there usually is a mouse stirring.

2. Wrap the lights and garland around a piece of cardboard or an extension cord winder-upper (official name) to prevent the strands from getting tangled.

3. Write new ornaments down in a notebook to remember where they came from and what they represent. It’s a fun lifelong Christmas journal. Store it in the ornament box.

4. Purge any decorations you didn’t use or that don’t bring you joy…like the nativity with the green faces where everyone looks like they’re bursting with food poisoning instead of bursting with joy.

5. Wrap decorations in newspaper, tissue paper, shopping bags, paper towels–whatever it takes to keep them safe. Do this as you take them down and place them immediately in the container for that room. We keep the hooks on, because it makes the next year easier.

6. Write a list of anything you need for next year. Place it inside the first box you open.

7. If you really dislike the unfestive nature of undecorating the house, make it a party! The Young family sets out all the leftover Christmas cookies and makes a party of it. (You have to try their Grandma’s fruitcake–oh my! So good!) Play music, put something yummy in the crockpot, chase your littles with the vacuum cleaner, and celebrate the end of the season with some hot cocoa and those jumbo-sized marshmallows. Fun fun fun!

8. Think about recycling your Christmas tree.

Good Housekeeping says this about how to take down a Christmas tree. You know, though, if you plan ahead for next year, try this:

Place a huge black contractor’s bag under the tree–set the tree stand in the middle of the bag. The tree skirt will cover the bag, unless your theme is black–like silent night, you know–in which case you’re all set. After you’ve taken off all the ornaments, lift the tree a bit, remove the tree stand, and pull the bag up around the tree. The needles should stay in there, unless you have a 14-foot tree like my brother. In that case, just get out the vacuum.

Print out this post and place it in your decoration box. Why? Because you’ll forget. You know you will.

When do you take down your Christmas decorations? Have any tips?

Photo credit: Flickr (Words mine)

5 Make-Ahead Christmas Morning Breakfast Recipes

When I was a wee lass, we woke from our dreams of dancing sugarplums to a Christmas morning breakfast of 27 varieties of Christmas cookies: fudge, snickerdoodles, chocolate-covered pretzels, chocolate crackles, spritz, and 22 others, including my personal favorite, pecan fingers. Drooool! It was this ol’ gal’s a child’s dream breakfast! Yeah, my mom rocked the motherhood thing! Because she had done all the baking ahead of time, there was no cooking for Mom on Christmas morning. Smart mom!

It turns out I’m not quite as much fun as my mom on Christmas morning. Translation: no cookies for breakfast. Bummer. I know, I know…but it’s a blood sugar thing. Christmas breakfast at The Simple Home must meet these basic requirements:

1) Minimal sweeteners

2) Protein for blood sugar or I will turn Grinch-green!

3) Carbs to stick to the ribs all morning

4) Little to no work in the morning, because I’m a Christmas morning lazy butt nobody wants to wait around for me to cook when there are stockings to pillage.

5) Delicious!

Here are some of my top ideas for a breakfast that fits all (or at least most) of the TSHM criteria for a Christmas morning breakfast.

5 Make-Ahead Christmas Morning Breakfasts -- Make it a tradition!

5 Christmas Morning Breakfast Ideas

1) Gingerbread waffles–personally, I don’t have time for waffles on Christmas morning, because we have chocolate-filled stockings waiting. Still, doesn’t this recipe from At The Picket Fence look divine. I would make them ahead of time and pop them in the toaster on Christmas morning–brilliant! (Yup, I just patted my own back. Pathetic.) Just so you know, if you use margarine instead of butter I will disown you, and if you’re not family, I will make you family and then disown you, and you know I’m insanely serious about that.

2) Overnight crockpot oatmeal–this is healthy and kinda boring, but you can make it more exciting with these 40 topping ideas from This Chick Cooks. How about a big fat chocolate santa right in the middle of each bowl. Wheeeee! (Might as well just go with the cookies.) Here’s a recipe for crockpot oatmeal from Mommy’s Kitchen. Some of my kids would disown me if we had oatmeal at Christmas, and I know they’re insanely serious about that!

3) Overnight French toastthis recipe from Pioneer Woman has masses of sugar in it, which is in obvious violation of TSHM Christmas breakfast requirement number one, but who cares? (I know–eat the cookies!) I would use my super simple homemade bread recipe…or I would buy a 99-cent loaf of bakery bread any ol’ place and be happy. (Hey, did you notice that “toast” is not capitalized? Only “French” is proper and therefore capitalized. Take note. It matters…to nobody except me.)

4) Freezer smoothies–assemble the smoothie ingredients in advance as suggested in this post at Keeper of the Home. Skip the sweetener and have an extra cookie. Yum. If you have a wimpy blender, set the bags of fruit out to thaw for a while before blending. If you have a power monster, like a Vita-Mix or Blendtec, just grind those babies up.

5) Egg bake–this right here is our go-to Christmas morning breakfast…followed rapidly by a Christmas cookie tray. See, I’m fun. Wheeee! Our two favorite breakfast casserole recipes are from my grandma and from Father Tim in Jan Karon’s Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader. Father Tim’s is appropriately titled Father Tim’s Christmas Morning Breakfast Casserole. We just call it delicious. Check it out here. If you want to go all out and make your own breakfast sausage, here’s the basic recipe we use; actually, we’ve changed it so much, there’s no resemblance. Sorry.

Have a wonderfully delicious Christmas morning!

What do you serve for Christmas breakfast?

Image from Flickr; alterations mine.