Monday, November 7, 2016

An Easy DIY Winter Wreath

Want to make a fun winter wreath to adorn your door? 

This one was made the exact same way as My Easy Burlap Wreath Tutorial, but using a couple fancy ribbons instead of burlap. My mom and I stocked up on silver sparkly ribbons after Christmas at Hobby Lobby last year, and found the fancy blue flowers then too. Afterwards I added the sparkly R. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

New DIY Bible Covers!

Check out these super cute bible covers, made my my readers!

Here's one from Linda who made a bible cover for her daughter...

Paint Bucket Storage Idea

We've painted almost every wall and ceiling throughout our house, which means we have a LOT of paint cans. They're best stored at room temperature, but I don't like looking at them, so this is what I came up with...

I store them on top of a high cabinet in the laundry room. At first they were kind of obvious up there so to make them less noticeable (ugly), I pulled the paint can labels off. Now they're just a bunch of matching black cans. When I stand on the washer/dryer to get them, then I can see the labels...

Monday, August 22, 2016

Mommy Memory Book

I found a way to organize my sweet notes, drawings and cards from the kids. I bound them into a Mommy Memory Book....

If you're wondering where I got that fabulous cover art, a friend of mine drew it for me!! :D

Inside the book I made card stock dividers for each year and taped on a pocket to each one to hold loose little notes and cards... 

Behind the year dividers I have the drawings or notes that were more bindable (most of which I laminated)...

I also have some yearly kid surveys and all the funny "kids quotes" I wrote down. Since the pro-click binder spines zip and unzip, it's no big deal to add to the book each year. 

I love it! What do you do with your keepsake notes and pictures? 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Here's Help Finding Some Good Books!!

Living books are the way to go, whether you're reading for pleasure, for school, or both.  

Here's my list of favorite book lists... :)
  • CM Book finder- I love this one! It's an easy way to search for living books on a certain topic within a defined age/grade level. Or, I search by book title to see if a book I found elsewhere happens to be recommended. If it is, I know it's considered a living book, and not inappropriate, which saves me the time of proofing it. 
  • Beautiful Feet Books History Through Literature, books by reading level 
  • Sonlight Readaloud booklist- This is one of quite a few book lists on this site. Realize that it's a curriculum company, so they'd like to sell you an entire year's curriculum at once. But many people simply use them for their book lists, checking the books out from the library. To do this... 
    • Find books by grade level - search by grade, click complete package, then click learn more, and you'll see them all listed. 
    • Find books by subject - go to one of the various book packages they offer and click to see what's included, and it lists all the books. We check these out from the library. 
    • They also have summer reading lists for boys and girls each year too!
  • Jim Trelease's Brochure Booklists- Download the brochure for each age to see his top picks. These are also found in his book, The Read Aloud Handbook, which I highly recommend owning! 
  • See my family's personal favorite books by age (at the bottom of the page)
  • The Ultimate Booklist- This is a list of living historical books arranged chronologically, by grade.  

For more great reading resources, check out this page! You'll find resources for raising your children to be great readers, teaching your children how to read, and assessing their reading comprehension and level.

Happy Reading! :) 

Monday, July 25, 2016

New Project Pictures from Featured Readers

I love getting pictures back from my readers showing me the projects they've created using my tutorials. Here are a couple I'd like to share...

Kristen from Illinois made a fitted sheet for her toddler bed using this tutorial...

And Krysten from New York made this cute Yoda Ear Flap Hat using this tutorial...

Thanks for sharing gals! :D

Monday, July 18, 2016

Is Your Child Ready to Learn How to Read?

It's never too soon to start reading to your children. It might, however, be too soon to teach your children HOW to read. There are several reading-readiness signs to watch for, and I'll share them below. But first I'd like to share the thought that learning to read sooner is not always better

Finland's children begin formal reading instruction at age seven, and even then are only in school for half days. (2:6) Although they have this "late" start, a whopping two years behind American children, they have the highest reading scores in the world! (2:170) As American schools cut out recess & play times to allow for more test prep (even in Kindergarten!), Finland children are given 15 minutes of recess for every 45 minutes of class. They have no national curriculum, but instead choose to heavily emphasize reading to children.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Our Experience with Allergies, Eczema, Red Skin Syndrome & Topical Steroid Withdrawal

I wanted to have a single page linking to all of my posts on these topics, so here we go...

This is how we got started on this bumpy ride. 

We used Hydrocortisone cream for my son's eczema, as directed by our doctor, and it gave him a red, itchy, burning, horrible skin condition called Red Skin Syndrome.  

Our turning point!!! I haven't written an update since then but my son is finally free from the grip of topical steroids. We now manage his eczema without them entirely and his skin is so much healthier because of it!

This is what I used on my son's red skin during topical steroid withdrawal.

Monday, July 4, 2016

RSS Healing Butter & RSS Zinc Butter Recipes

In honor of Independence Day, today I'll share a recipe with you that we used along the road to gaining independence from topical steroids for my son's eczema! 

As you know, he went through the brutal process of topical steroid withdrawal. After using topical steroids (over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream) on his eczema as directed by his doctor, he developed a worse condition known as Red Skin Syndrome. You can see my posts about it here, but today what I want to share is the natural body butter recipe I formulated to help him through TSW. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

DIY: Turn Any Blanket into a Carseat Canopy

Today's post is a quick fix to turn any baby blanket into a carseat canopy by sewing on two little loops. 

What you'll need:
  • One baby blanket that's a good size to drape over your infant carrier
  • two scraps of fabric, 6" x 10" each
  • two big buttons
  • velcro

Monday, June 6, 2016

Tracy's Treasury of Picture Books for Toddlers & Young School-Aged Children

I hope you're ready for more of our tried-and-true, family-favorite books! Today's books are our favorite stories for little ones. They fit the following criteria: 
  • They're picture books with real pages. (This is a step up from our Sturdy Books for Babies & Toddlers.)
  • They're quality children's books (twaddle-free, well-written & well-illustrated). I'll try not to go off on a tangent about all the sub-par kids books available today which I'd liken to a junk food diet in book form. If  it's annoying or lacks redeeming qualities, it gets the boot.
  • My boys love them. These have been tested, tried and true by my boys, who have read them to pieces. They're keepers. 
Ready for some great picture books? Here we go.. 

Picture Book Read Alouds... 

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter - This is a classic picture book that both of my "big boys" love and have listened to over and over and over again. It provides good opportunities to talk about various lessons learned too, which is always a bonus. The story is also available in large collections with other Beatrix Potter stories, but the small, hardcover book is the way to go. It's how it was originally published, and is an ideal size for little hands and includes all the original illustrations. I think picking a couple of the little individual books (like The Tale of Jemima PuddleduckThe Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies, or The Tale of Samuel Whiskersis preferable to a large volume of all of them that won't get read as much. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Draw With Your Kids!

If you have kids in your life, you need to bookmark this fabulous resource! My sister-in-law shared it with me and I just love it. There's an artist who makes you tube videos with his kids as he gives them a step-by-step drawing lesson. There are some simple ones, good for younger kids (his youngest is age two), and others for more advanced drawers. Here's the stegosauruses we made on our first lesson (mine, my 3 yo and 6 yo)...

And here's a more recent pictur we made for groundhog day (mine, my 4 yo and 7 yo)...

He has instructional videos for drawing, painting, sculpting, and even origami with kids. The subjects range from animals to star wars to plants to zombies to Frozen characters. I just love it! Thank you Mandy for sharing it with me!! :)

Here is a link to his website, Art for Kids Hub. And here's a link to his you tube channel. Enjoy!!

Monday, April 25, 2016

My Favorite Charlotte Mason Resources

Here's A Peek at Charlotte Mason Education, for those who aren't familiar with it already! There's an abundance of great Charlotte Mason resources available to homeschoolers. Here are my favorites...

Living Books...
  • Living book search  - This is a great resource! Use it to find living books by subject and reading level. 
  • The Ultimate Living Book List for History Studies! I arranged living books (recommended by Sonlight and Simply Charlotte Mason) chronologically, by level, to supplement our history studies. These could be used with any history study.  

Monday, April 11, 2016

How We Use Victory Drill to Build Reading Speed

Have you ever heard of the Victory Drill Book? I heard about it from another home school mom while we were both stuck waiting in a doctor's office waiting room. It's a basic, no-fluff book you can use in a variety of ways, over and over again for multiple children to strengthen their reading skills. The bulk of the book amounts to a series of word lists, generally grouped by a common phonics or spelling rules, and the lists progress from simple (including at, sat, mat & rat) to advanced (awkwardly, Americanism, extraordinary & Mississippi). Victory Drill may be used to build reading speed and fluency for students in any grade. It can also be used when teaching reading, spelling, or phonics rules. 

Since I taught my son to read without using a traditional phonics program (here's how), we used Victory Drill to reinforce spelling and phonics rules while building his reading speed. After using it for over a year, we've settled into a routine with it. 

Here's how we use it...

Monday, March 28, 2016

Easy DIY Infinity Scarf / Nursing Cover

Today I'll show you how you can turn one yard of fabric into an infinity scarf. If you happen to have a baby, it can double as a nursing cover. 

All you need is a yard of fabric (plus yarn and preferably a sewing machine). I chose a t-shirt type knit material which doesn't fray. This is fabulous since I don't have to hem the edges, and it's light and breathable. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

DIY Laundry Sorter Baskets

We recently changed up our laundry sorting system, and this is what we ended up with... 

The baskets were each $1 from Dollar General, and we mounted them with these double hooks from Home Depot which were $3 each...

Monday, February 29, 2016

What is My Child's Reading Level?

Since my oldest son requires a steady stream of books from the library for independent reading, I wondered what his reading level was and how I could use that information to see if the books I'm picking out for him are challenging enough. That seemed like a simple enough task, but it turned out to be a little more complicated than I expected. 

First of all, reading assessment test results can vary... by quite a bit. School's tests are no exception. Your child may test as reading at a 4th grade level locally, a 5th grade level in the next county, and a 3rd grade level in the next state. Test results can also vary from year to year, as standards fluctuate. So I've decided there is no such thing as a "fourth grade reading level." I still wanted to get a ballpark idea, and then ask my librarian what to do with it, so we took some free online reading tests. I'll share the links here in case you're interested...

Free Online Reading Tests

Monday, February 15, 2016

Our New Workboxes Made With 12x12 Sterilite Drawers

After having an adorable workbox system for Kindergarten and First Grade, this year I changed it up a bit. The drawers weren't quite big enough to hold all of our stuff, and I've tweaked how we use them as well. Now we use Sterilite drawers, which I can stack for multiple kids. Here they are:

Monday, February 1, 2016

Never Ever Ever Bind Anything at Staples!!!!!

I managed to complete the most wonderful, annoying project this month! It's wonderful because I love it, it was annoying because "professionals" were involved who botched it up so it was a headache to get it finished properly.

I sorted and organized all of our keepsake school papers so I could bind them into books, one book per school year per kid. Nice idea right? Well, it would have been if Staples wasn't involved. I prefer to do my own binding with the Pro-Click, but unfortunately spines are only available up to 5/8" (110 page capacity). I needed about a 2" spine, so I had to have Staples do it for me. Sadly for me they did exactly what I feared, which was to botch my order! They mis-cut pages, had a few of them hanging outside the spine and even left a page out of the middle of my book! Check out their "professional" binding job...

(the pages aren't even IN the binding!)

They also used spines that were entirely too small...

Monday, January 18, 2016

Our Plan for Third Grade + Kindergarten

We've been working to finish this school year in March, so we can have a nice break when baby #4 comes the beginning of April. So far we're on track. I've also been working on getting my plan and supplies ready for next school year  so I can just pick it up and go with it next summer/fall. So, even though it's 7-9 months early, here's my plan for next school year! 

Family Study...

Bible Reading:

We'll stay on pace with their bible class lessons, which is usually reading about a chapter a day. My third grader is also stick figuring through the bible to make his first bible timeline as we go. My kindergartener will begin his timeline when we cycle back to Genesis again.

For My Third Grader...

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Pre-School and Kindergarten: Too Much Too Soon

School has changed a lot since we were kids. The early years have been transformed from a time of hands-on discovery to overly academic pursuits, and  children have paid the price for it. 

According to the study "Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?" kindergarteners spend considerably more time with formal instruction, academics and testing than they used to. This has taken the place of art, music, science, and child-directed activities. Even though you can read an abundance of studies referencing the vital role of "play" in early childhood development and education, modern classrooms no longer give it the time of day. Children are too busy with workbooks and test prep to mess with such things. 

The problem doesn't start in kindergarten. I recently read the article  "The New Preschool is Crushing Kids." For all the academics and pre-academics we're forcing on children at younger and younger ages, many teachers agree that children are "less inquisitive and less engaged than children of earlier generations." And for all this extra school work they're doing, "young children are gaining fewer skills, not more." In fact, by second grade, children who attended preschool perform "worse on tests measuring literacy, language, and math skills" than children who didn't attend preschool

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Tracy's Treasury of Sturdy Books for Babies & Toddlers

Today I'm sharing a book list that I've thought about posting for the last few years. It's been tested in our home and only the best-of-the best remain! Whether you're building your own family library or gift giving, these are our tried-and-true, absolute favorite book choices for the littlest readers. (Remember to grab a couple for baby shower gifts!) They all fit the following criteria:
  • They're sturdy (no paper pages) to better stand up to the rough handling from the littlest hands.
  • They're enjoyable. (That's important!) Some children's books are awkward to read or are... well... annoying. Those books don't stay on our shelf! If I'm going to read it 100 times, it's got to be enjoyable. Also, I'm pretty picky about quality children's books, and these make the cut. 
  • They've been absolutely loved by our four babies.