Thursday, December 22, 2016

DIY Lego Minifigure Christmas Ornaments

I am super excited over my kids Christmas ornaments this year.  So excited that even though I had planned to take a break since my last post till after the New Year, I am doing one more just to share this.  It is super simple and super cute!  

Each year since my first was born, we have gotten them a Christmas ornament of their own, whether handmade or store bought.  Some years I pick the theme, some years they pick whatever they want.  I want them to have a collection of Christmas ornaments when they leave home.  This year I chose the theme, Lego!  All of my kids (and their parents) are Lego fanatics!  So, it seemed completely appropriate to do.  I thought about buying each of them one of those clear balls filled with Lego, but instead, I decided to do this. It made it fun and personal for each one.  

Supplies you will need:

Lego Keychains (these can be bought at the Lego Store or online), one for each child
Needle Nose Pliers
1/8" inch Christmas colored ribbons
Hot Glue Gun and Glue Sticks
A ruler (not pictured)

I love my children's selection of minifigures.  It so reflects who each kid is!  :)

First, you need to remove the keychain part.  Take your needle nose pliers and open the link right above the small ring near the head of the minifigure.  See picture arrow.  Set aside.  

This is what it will look like once the chain and keyring is removed.

Now they are ready to go!

In order to hang on the tree properly, you will need to turn the ring so that it is sideways.  If you don't do this step, the minifig will twist sideways.  It moves easily so just give it a wee spin.

Next part is up to you or your child.  You can either cut one 6" piece of ribbon or two 6" pieces of ribbon, depending on if you want to add a bow or not.  Half of mine wanted a bow and half didn't.  If you don't want a bow, take your one 6" piece of ribbon, put it through the ring at the top, tie a knot, and you are done.

If you want to add a bow, take a second 6" piece of ribbon and tie into a bow.  Trim the ends to make them even, if necessary. 

Put a small dot of hot glue at the top of your minifigure's head right under the ring.  See picture below for where.  If you place it higher, its ok, the ring just won't be as free to move.  Be sure to keep your ribbon out of the way.

Attach the bow to the hot glue.  And, now this minifigure is ready to hang on the tree!

I just loved how they all turned out!  What a fun addition to anyone's Christmas tree, especially if you have lego lovers like us!

Have a very Merry Christmas!
And, I will see you again after the New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

How I Homeschool - Teaching Math

Math.  Ah.  This is seriously my weakest teaching area in our homeschool.  I think every homeschool mom has a weak area.  And, this is mine.  So, this is truthfully, not going to be a long post like some of my others.  I have 2 stages in our math education - K - 2 where I teach them myself and 3 on up where someone else teaches them.  This was not always the case, however, but I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to do it this way now.  I am thankful that my oldest 2 didn't suffer too badly before we were able to switch to this method for our family and that their CD school was able to fill in the gaps so nicely and they caught up.  More on this in a moment.

Stage 1 - K-2

We have tried a variety of math textbooks for these years - from simple dollar store ones to Abeka.  I have found that we love the Spectrum series the best.  As I said in the kindergarten post, I use a lot of hands on and because these books aren't super thick like some of the other maths we tried, it leaves plenty of room for hands on time.  My only beef with them is they are Common Core aligned.  However, from the first child who used these (my 3rd) to my current child using them (my 6th), I have not seen any changes to show that they are common core aligned.  And, I am thankful.  You can get Spectrum online or at any Barnes and Noble bookstore.  In my kindergarten post, I listed off the math manipulatives I like to keep on hand.  The other they got, I did add a couple more like flash cards and dice (these are awesome for fun addition or subtraction review).  But, for the most part, I am able to use the same stuff over and over again.

I really feel math is a personal thing after talking to so many other homeschool moms on the subject.  Children learn in a variety of ways and this is what has worked best for us.  I tried Abeka, Math U See, and Saxon (especially with my 2nd who math is very hard for) and nothing really clicked till who I use for my 2nd stage of math came out.  Please keep trying. If one curriculum isn't working, try another till you find your best fit.

Stage 2 - 3rd till graduation from high school

After many trials, experiments, and failures, we are a 100% Teaching Textbooks family once a child hits third grade.  Wow, did we battle with that decision.  With each course costing about $150, we weren't sure we wanted to drop that amount on one subject.  But, with ebay and all the other good used sales facebook pages, I have been able to keep the cost of the program under control.  And, once you fork over the money, it can be used for all that follow, unlike consumable ones.  It is 2 brothers who teach the course on computer CD.  They are thorough and very good in their explanations.  There are about 5 nongraded review questions and about 22 graded exercises with each lesson, some of which is review.  There are also quizzes sprinkled throughout.  In the younger years, there are fun speed tests to get those math facts drilled into their minds (my kids love these because they get bonus points).  And, with each exercise, if you get it wrong, you can click to see how to do it which has been very beneficial for my kids, especially the harder the math gets.   We have always stressed to our kids that even though they have these guys as their teachers, never hesitate to ask us any questions that they need to.  We want them to be sure they don't feel they have to struggle with a concept alone.

My second daughter who was really my guinea pig the most through the various trying days can tell you it was the best thing that happened to her.  We spent many days before these were available crying through lessons and it is amazing that is doing as well as she is now in high school.  But, she was able to catch up and catch on thanks to this math program.  I am ever so thankful for it.  

A lesson I learned through our trial and error years of math was don't be afraid to get outside help.  I think sometimes us homeschool moms feel bad when we can't do a certain thing.  After all, that is what we set out to do.  But, never be afraid to admit you are not good at this or that and seek outside help.  There are so many good things out there now for us that we have no excuse but to look and seek advice from those around us or have gone on before.  

A couple of additional resources I like to have on hand are good math fact flashcards, math facts set to music on CD, a load of Lego, and an abacus.  These simple things can go a long way to making some math concepts easier to grasp or even just plain "get."

Goodness from around the 'net:

I don't have alot today.  We rely mostly on Teaching Textbooks for it all.  But, I have found a couple of apps and a website that I rely on for good followup or reinforcement in certain area. - this has stuff for all the way up to 5th grade - all concepts, all subjects.  It has been a big help to us

As far as apps, abcya also has an app, though it isn't free.  We stick to the computer to avoid the monthly fees.  However, if you have a kid who loves Fruit Ninja, they also have a math operations app that reinforces addition, subtraction, and multiplication facts!  Totally awesome and very fun.  My kids love it.

Another app we have loved is the starfall app.  They also have a website (  We have paid the yearly fee for it (it is really really cheap unlike abcya) so we can use it on our tablet as well.  Their concepts only go up through 2nd grade but that is perfect for us since that is as far as I teach on my own anyway.

Well, that about wraps up how we do math in our home.  I have unashamedly turned it over to someone else once they get old enough.  And, praise God, they are doing well despite my early fumblings.  

What do you do for math?  What is working best for your family?  Tell us in the comments below.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

How I homeschool - Teaching Bible

I am probably going to shock you right from the start of this post.  So, since it might be shocking, I might as well spill it all out right now.  Are you ready?  I have never bought a formal Bible curriculum for my kids.  There, I said it.  I know many homeschool moms think that it should be a subject all to itself, and I agree, but I don't feel a curriculum is the path for us.  So, that being out on the table, how do I teach God's Word to my children?

This may come as a shock, but I rely on the Bible itself to be my solely.  I add to it, yes, but the Word is my sole "curriculum."  When the children are young, we found Bible story books, flannelgraph, and hands on things were so helpful to conveying the truths found in the Word.  We also memorized Scripture a family.  We like making hand motions to help them remember the various parts of the text.  My husband would work with us, teaching them over supper.  (The dinner table is a great place for much learning and debate).  We also read devotions or sections of Scripture together as a family whether at breakfast or dinner.  The children ask any questions they like or need to know, and we go from there.  We, also, rely on the teachings from our pastor.  That might seem a given if you attend church, but we have had many wonderful discussions at home based on what they learned during the sermon.  We allow our kids to doodle during the sermon with what he is talking about.  It is amazing the things they pick up.  Recently, we went through the entire book of Acts as a congregation.  My 14 year old drew the book of Acts graphic novel style.  He can now look back and see all we learned just by looking at his pictures.  

When they are young, I like to read Bible stories to them using our cherished Betty Lukens flannelgraph.  We love that stuff and it is so durable and great for hands on. There are a variety of Bible story books for various ages out there.  Here are the ones we found that we like alot.

For some hands on fun, I purchased long ago a treasury of Old Testament and New Testament craft books for the kids.  They are no longer in print, but there are some great websites out there that have stuff.  And, pinterest can garnish you more ideas than you'll ever do.  Just take a look around, if you like the idea of crafts with your little ones.

As they get older and can read, we turn the personal devotion part of the day over to them.  We have enjoyed getting Keys for Kids for years now and it is a great starter to get your kids in the Word.  There are other kids devotion subscriptions you can get.  I like having a handy starter tool like that to keep them going.  After that, if they are still needing more help, a trip to the Christian bookstore will show you tons of stuff.  Or, they can just keep going on their own.  I have found having a guide for a while helps immensely.  They don't seem to know how to keep going for a long time.  It hasn't been until well into our teen years that my oldest two figured out how to keep going on their personal devotions on their own.  As an adult, I still like devotionals and guides to keep me in it, so I find this perfectly understandable and fine.  

We have also enjoyed videos and CD's to teach things to our children.  The makers of Veggie Tales have a great Bible video series covering all 66 books of the Bible in an entertaining way.  Its called What's in the Bible?  We have the series and enjoy it very much.  Veggie Tales itself has been great to teach various character traits or Bible truths to the kids.  We are currently enjoying the Owlegories series which teach about faith using nature.  (Since we love nature, it has been a great fit).  And, there are others out there.  Nest Learning and Friends and Heroes also have some great stuff (the latter I find a bit expensive which is why we've never done any but the free stuff on youtube).  As far as CD's are concerned, we've enjoyed the teachings from Jonathan Park.  It is a series of adventure stories crammed with creation vs. evolution teaching and other worldviews.  It is a family favorite here.  We also love music CD's like Patch the Pirate, Hide them in your Heart, Scripture Lullabies, Songs for Saplings (teaches the catechism), and my newest find Slugs and Bugs.  Music is such a core of our family.  I love I can find music to help them along in their spiritual growth, too.

We are members of a reformed church, so we follow the liturgical calendar.  I try to incorporate that as much as possible into our lives.  And, our service follows a liturgy.  So, part of our children's memorization includes The Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed as well as the Lord's Prayer.  Hymn playing and singing is also a large part of our lives as well.  Whether a list on Pandora, learning at home the new one we are learning at church, or the kids playing them on their instruments, hymns are always around.

So, you can see we have a rich and full life without a set curriculum for Bible.  But, what about apologetics and character training?  You know, I have found some resources and a couple of curriculum that we do rely on for those.  I don't mind having help where I know I clearly need it.  We do a bit of apologetics in elementary school using What does the Bible Say About That?  It has been a great discussion opener and good for them. In high school, we go more earnestly with them using I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Athiest.  My husband has also sat down and watched with them Collision and How to Answer the Fool.  

For character training, I have loved the resources from Doorposts.  They have something for about every area of life.  I have also used the Laying Down the Rails series from Simply Charlotte Mason.  I prefer the first one more myself.  There are a couple of other resources I have seen on the internet that I will list below.  I plan to use the Focus on the Family one myself come January with a couple of my young ones.

I pray this will help you in your teaching your children the Bible.  It is so foundational to their soul.  If you know of any other great resources, let me know in the comments.  I am always on the lookout for more Bible goodness.

Goodness from around the 'net:

Free character training resources - Kids of Integrity (from focus on the family)
                                                     - Character First 
                                                     - Free character calendar with verses 

Fun free Bible village paper crafts (I love this) - there are other great little villages here as well

I am not catholic, but both of these mom's are.  I find some of their resources very helpful when looking at our liturgical calendar

Activity Village is another great resource for Bible crafts

A great preschool resource for Bible stuff is Bible Story Printables  

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Preparing my winter medicine cabinet, all naturally

Winter is quickly approaching and the sick season will be arriving soon.  In all truthfulness for my home, it has already arrived.  In the past couple of weeks, we've had both colds and a stomach bug.  So, I should have already had this posted.  :)  But, for the most part, it is upon us.  When I turned to more natural ways to keep my family healthy, my thoughts turned to winter.  When my children were young, it seemed I lived at the pediatrician's office all winter.  Between ear infections, colds I had no idea they could do nothing for, and other ailments, I was a pretty naive mom.  But, that season of constant checkups taught me alot as I listened to the kids' pediatrician and my children's bodies.  I also started reading.  Now, when my oldest were little, the internet was very new.  So, I relied on my library getting out as much information as I could read about natural health.  (It turns out to be good that I didn't have the internet then seeing anything you research about diseases on google usually leaves you feeling like you are dying - lol).  

So, after much reading and learning, I gave our medicine cabinet an overhaul.  But, I not only did that, I gave our pantry an overhaul.  I am a firm believer, you are what you eat. What goes in to our bodies is so very important.  I tossed processed foods (as much as possible), things with red dye (my one daughter is very affected by them), watched for things with high fructose corn syrup and MSG to keep them to a minimum.  In my medicine cabinet, I had an array of cold medicines and stomach stuff.  All of it went in the trash.  I started filling my pantry with good foods and my medicine cabinet naturally.

Each fall, I re-evaluate my medicine cabinet to see what needs to be replaced or restocked.  I did our home evaluation about a month ago.  Here are some things I like to keep on hand...... (side note - I am not a doctor, nor are these methods FDA approved.  I just have found these things to work effectively with my children.)

Essential oil blends

I love these essential oil blends - Digizen (from Plant Therapy) does wonders for the tummy when it is troubling them. I place about 30 drops of the oil into a roller ball topping it off with coconut oil.  I rub it on their tummies and down the spine.  Thieves (I make my own, recipe later) is the BEST for killing germs.  Rub on the feet, diffuse in the air, make a spray bottle out of it, it is my GO TO as soon as I realize we've been exposed or a cold has begun to raise its little head in our home. Lavendar (from Beeyoutiful) and Liquid Sleep (recipe later) are my favorites for calming and good sleep, which are essential to recovery from illness.  I keep both in rollerball form for easy application.  Sinus immune (recipe later) is awesome for colds.  I have a couple of people who suffer terribly with sinus issues and this has helped immensely.  I need to get it in a rollerball to make it easier to apply to the chest.

Essential oils

I love essential oils (if you didn't gather that from my last post).  And, if you are a newbie to them and wonder what would be the best ones to start with, these 4 with the addition of Theives are the best way to get you going.  I am not devoted to one essential oil company.  But, after much research, these are my favorite to purchase my oils from -- DoTerra (sign up for their program for discounts), Plant Therapy, Rocky Mountain Oils (they have a rewards program), Now, and Beeyoutiful (they also have a rewards program).  Mountain Rose Herbs and Young Living are also good companies, but the first 5 is where I get all mine.  (By the way, Beeyoutiful, Plant Therapy, and Rocky Mountain Oils all have kids lines of blends that are really good, check them out).

Fresh Garlic

There is substantial evidence supporting the health benefits to garlic.  When I first met my husband, he was eating it all the time when he got sick.  And, not being raised that way, I thought he was off his marbles.  HA!  But, my research and personal experience has led me to be a firm believer in this gift from God.  This is one of the many good articles you can find on garlic.  Whenever I feel the slightest bit that I might be coming down with something, I rub Thieves on my feet and crush two large cloves of garlice and take with milk.  It works every time.  There are so many good things that garlic can do.  I add it to every soup I make and many other recipes to help the kids get good doses in as well.  

Homemade Elderberry Syrup

My kids are not total fans of this, but I make them take it anyway.  It is a powerhouse of Vitamin C and cuts colds back by half if not more.  I just remind them that they could be taking nasty antibiotics or even throat burning Robitussin instead.  I will post a link to the recipe I use at the bottom.  For kids, I give about 2 teaspoons to and for teens and adults 4.  It can be given a couple times a day with no problem.  I purchase all my herbs from Bulk Herb Store and Beeyoutiful.

Garlic Mullien Oil

With a couple of my kids and myself prone to ear infections, I like to have this on hand each winter.  It is a great oil and with the powerhouse garlic in it, it will drive away the infection.  I have had to do some research on what an ear looks like infected and with the help of my kids' doctor, I am ready.  I even purchased an otoscope on Amazon to be able to watch for them myself.  This is a tincture so you need to make this well ahead of time, but it it good to have on hand.

Raw Honey

Another powerhouse of goodness is raw honey.  It needs to be the raw stuff, not the stuff you can buy in your grocery store (although raw can be found there sometimes, too).  I love to keep this around for the coughs.  It soothes sore throats and eases coughs like nothing else.  I just pour some onto a soup spoon and let the eat it.  I have also made lollipops out of it in the past.  Raw honey has many other benefits as well.  Here is one of the many articles you can find on the topic.  And, it is the last thing I need to catch up on for my natural cabinet this winter....better get cracking.  :)  PLEASE NOTE:  HONEY OF ANY KIND SHOULD NOT BE GIVEN TO A CHILD UNDER THE AGE OF ONE!!!!

Another thing that helps wonderfully for the coughs is a vapor rub.  Rub on the feet and put on socks.  It is great for helping a child get a good nights sleep while sick without being racked by coughs all night long.  Link for an all natural recipe at the bottom.

One other good thing to have around for colds is a way to keep moisture in the air, whether it be by a pot of water on your stove top or a nice humidifier.  

Chicken Noodle Soup

Grandma wasn't the only one who thinks chicken noodle soup is great for sickness.  I do, too.  Kick the Campbells to the curb.  I have a tried and true recipe for Chicken Noodle Soup that I make every time a cold hits the house.  My family requests it when under the weather.  It makes a large pot as well and can sit in the fridge nicely for making whenever they need a burst of good health.  

Gwen's Chicken Noodle Soup

10 cups of chicken broth (if you can make your own all the better, if not find one that is MSG free)
3 chicken breasts, chopped
2 large carrotts, chopped
2 sticks of celery, chopped
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp each of marjoram, thyme, rosemary, dried onion
1/4 tsp. cayenne
2 cloves of garlic minced, or 1 tsp. garlic powder
1 cup egg noodles 
You can add more of the veggies, chicken, or pasta to your level of heartiness

Put all ingredients in a pot and simmer till done.  

I am still reading and still learning about what I can do for my family to keep them as healthy as possible.  Of course, if nothing I do at home works, I am happy to take them to a doctor.  I believe doctors were given to us for a reason.  But, I see no harm, if all the normal symptoms are present to not try what I can at home first.  I do know this.  Changing the way we eat and keeping natural supplies on hand has almost eliminated our need for me to run them to the doctor all winter long.  I end up seeing him maybe 2 or 3 times all year long.  But, do what you think is best for you and your family.

Goodness from around the 'net

DIY Theives blend can be found here.  If you want to make a rollerball, put 30 drops in a rollerball bottles and top off with coconut or jojaba oil.  I get my rollerballs from amazon. You can also make a spray bottle of it for cleaning and disenfecting.  10 to 15 drops in a spray bottle with 1 tsp witch hazel and fill the rest with water.

DIY Liquid Sleep blend can be found here.  I rub it on their necks and chest.

DIY Sinus and Immune blend can be found here.  A rollerball of it can be made the same way as Theives rollerball.

DIY natural vapor rub recipe can be found here.  It shows various recipes for different ages as well.  Great resource.

The elderberry syrup recipe can be found here.  

The garlic mullein oil recipe can be found here.  This make a nice size batch.  

I purchase all my essential oil bottles, rollerballs, dropper bottles and spray bottles from Amazon.  The links are affiliate links which provide a small portion to our family's income.  Thank you!

Here's to a healthy and happy winter for you and your family!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Diffusing essential oils on the cheap

If you know me at all, I am a deep lover and user of essential oils.  And, as you can tell by the picture above, I am not devoted to just one company.  I use about 5 different companies that I have researched thoroughly and enjoy their products. So, this post is not going to push a certain E.O. company.  I want to talk to you about diffusers.  I love using oils as much as possible.  I am so thankful to my friend who showed me them all those years ago.  I have come to enjoy and respect their medical use in my family.  We rely on them for so much.  However, I am not opposed to using our God given doctors if what I do at home is not working.

I have essential oil nebulizers set up both upstairs and downstairs that I adore.  They can run for several hours and provide the aromatherapy we need for that day.  I purchased mine through Moutain Rose Herbs.  However, you can find a large array of essential oil diffusers on Amazon if you know what you are looking for.  

About 2 years ago, I started hunting for quiet oil diffusers that I could set up in our bedrooms.  There was just one problem, I couldn't find any at the time that would last all night nor were they quiet enough.  My nebulizers are not very quiet so they are not good for a sleeping area.  So, I started doing some research on different diffusers on the internet.  And since I am a girl that likes to DIY, I started looking that way as well.  I am sharing with you my research finds and after 2 years of doing things with these, I am pleased with them.  I know there are some mixed reports on heating essential oils and how well they work,  But, these do what I was looking for and for not too much of a cost.  I still love my nebulizers and, if one should die or break, I will replace with the same.  But, these others have served my purposes and haven't broken the bank.  

Candle electric hot pad with ceramic coffee cup

You can find these at Walmart or a craft store with a coffee cup from whereever.  I have set these up in each of my children's rooms.  They are very quiet and last all night.  I simply place 1/2 cup water and warm in the microwave for one minute.  Then, I place 8 drops of the oil of my choice.  I have mostly used lavendar, my liquid sleep blend, or thieves in there.  The kids rest so much better with oils diffusing.  And, thieves has been such a blessing during sick times.  We have literally cut sick times in half for our large family, or nipped them in the bud, just by diffusing thieves.  

Candle Wax warmer

Again, you can find these at Walmart and craft stores.  The downfall to them is they are candle run.  So, I have one in my room and my sewing area where I can supervise the flame.  I would not recommend them in a kids room at all.  I usually fill about 1/3 of the warmer dish with water and add about 4 drops of oil.  Light your candle and enjoy the aroma.  You can burn this till the candle runs out if you choose.

Electric Wax Warmer

I found these at our A.C. Moore, but you can also find them at Michaels.  These are too breakable for my kids rooms, but has been great in my kitchen.  Again, I put water in about 1/3 of the dish and add about 4 drops of oil.  This has been a great little addition to my kitchen.  The lightbulb which heats the water shines through and makes a pretty little glow in the kitchen.  

Reed Diffuser

These are a bit more work and need to be placed where they won't get bumped but they last a very long time.  The scent is released very slowly through the reeds.  I purchased both reeds and diffuser at Michaels.  Simply place 1/4 cup coconut oil in the diffuser and add 20 drops of your essential oils.  You have to keep turning them a couple times a day to keep them working but the scent is light and continuous.

Terra Cotta Air Freshners

I purchased mine through Mountain Rose Herbs, but they can be easily made.  Here are some instructions for DIY.  We have ceiling fans around our whole house so in the summer, I hang them from the fan after dropping a couple of drops of oils on them.  You can also put them close to a light bulb or over your vents in the winter for diffusing.  

Terra Cotta Necklace

There are place all over the internet where you can purchase essential oil necklaces, bracelets, etc.  I decided to make my own following the instructions from Mommypotomus, which you can find here.  I also made a bracelet as well.  Love wearing the scents around my neck.  I have made them for my girls as well so far.  Planning to make some orange terra cotta ones for my boys.

Felt Car Diffusers

I could never stand the scent of those little trees people put in their cars, but I do love the thought of taking your aromatherapy with you.  I made these little rascals out of felt.  I love them because they can easily be washed and used over and over again.  I attach them to our vent with a bobby pin and and one drop of oil.  One funny note, do not diffuse lavendar while driving or the driver becomes sleepy.  Don't ask how I know this.  Use a peace and calming blend instead.  :)  It is also great for diffusing peppermint to keep car sickness at bay.  A little research and you will find oodles of ideas for DIY car diffusers.  There are some super cute ones out there.  

So, this is what my research and the last 2 years of testing has shown me.  All of these work so well, and all of them cost us less than 10 dollars to do.  I have enjoyed the scents all of over our home and it has been a blessing to us all.  Do you diffuse and, if so, how do you diffuse?  I welcome your ideas and comments.

Happy Diffusing!