Scouting: a Fun Addition to Homeschooling Life

September 13, 2012

Built his own birdhouse – part of learning about tools, carpentry, and birds.

My boys have been enjoying scouting throughout their childhoods and if you can find a nice troop to join, it can be a great addition to your homeschool life.

Reasons to join Cub and Boy scouts:

  1. Make friends in a new social group that meets on a regular basis.
  2. Quality adult mentors for your boys.
  3. Learning and developing skills on a variety of topics.
  4. Recognition of achievement with fun award system of patches, belt loops, etc.
  5. Network with other parents helping out their kids.
  6. Fun, fun, fun!!

    Homemade puddle jumpers – remember these?

Where to find a troop:

  1. Check with your local school district
  2. Check with local your churches – our local LDS (Mormon) church has great families involved in their troops and though not advertised, they welcome everyone regardless of religion.
  3. Type your zipcode on the Scouting Website and see who has a troop near you.
  4. Ask friends!!  The best recommendation for a good troop is from someone who loves theirs.

Caught his first fish 🙂

We’ve been exploring what the community has to offer and have really enjoyed our experiences with both 4H and Boy Scouts.  Do you community groups you participate in that you enjoy?

Posted under Homeschool Activities

Pounding Fun on the Front Sidewalk

September 6, 2012

So a friend of mine mentioned how he was kept busy as a kid before computer games and much TV.  His dad would give him a chunk of wood, a handful of nails & screws, a hammer and a screwdriver and send him outside with instructions to hammer and screw everything into the wood before coming back in.

What an awesome idea for young boys!

The next nice day, I scrounged up a chunk of wood and the appropriate supplies from the garage and sent my youngest two buddies on a tool adventure.

I love how the tongue helps with all complex tasks, like hammering, writing, coloring, etc.

They found using the screwdriver to be much more difficult that they thought and with a little teamwork and turn-taking, they could get the job done.

I love the intense focus it takes for a 4-year-old to hit the nail on the head without making it bend off to the side.

So, next time you need an inexpensive idea to keep a few active kids busy and teach them some teamwork and a few handyman skills, dig through the scraps in your garage and let them have at it.

If you have any other ideas for ways to get the kids outside, engaged in learning new skills, I’d love suggestions.  With four growing boys, there is lots of energy around our house and I’m always looking for things that can interest them as much as the current computer games do.  Thanks!

Posted under Homeschool Activities

Amazing Homeschool Adventures with 4H

August 23, 2012

If you haven’t checked out your local 4H groups, you’re missing a great homeschooling resource.  We love it and there are so many more activities available than many people expect.  There is only a $10/year charge per child to participate and many of the activities are run by volunteers.

Here’s my 9-year-old with his amazing mentor, a teenager who volunteered her time and horse to coach him in horseback riding all spring and summer.  This great 4H Protégé program culminated in him riding in the 4H Fair in July.  Isn’t he a cute cowboy?

Check out how excited he is about the ribbons he won:

We also spent a while wandering around all the art, cooking, animal, etc. exhibits at the 4H Youth Fair.

During the spring and summer, the kids join the 4H Archery Club every week where they get to shoot for 2 hours, paying only $1 per week to help maintain the equipment, because of generous volunteers who love teaching the kids:

So, if you’re looking for fun, education, and new friends, check out your local 4H office and find out what great programs they have in your area.

Do any of you participate in 4H?  I’d love to get ideas and hear what groups and activities you’ve enjoyed, if you would post in the comment section.

Posted under Homeschool Activities

Spring is here – get out your Nature Journals

April 3, 2012

We’ve been having so much fun with the amazing weather lately.  Here’s a fun idea:

Nature Journal Recipe


  • 1 fine spring day
  • 1 notebook (from the box of 40 you bought for $0.10 each last fall)
  • 1 or 2 pale, pasty-skinned kids who’ve been cooped up all winter
  • 2 flowers (preferably NOT from the neighbors tulip bed)
  • 1 dead worm
  • 2 rocks (see below)
  • 1 piece of lavender branch that can be rubbed and smelled
  • 1 3-leafed clover (see weeds do have a place in the front lawn)
  • tape
  • a marker
  • crayons and colored pencils
  • a camera


  1. Turn off the TV and all video games.
  2. Point out the beautiful sunshine outside and open the front door.
  3. Drag reluctant kids outside and shut the door behind them.
  4. Point out trees, flowers, weeds, bugs, and anything else you can spot.
  5. Pretty soon the kids will get excited and start collecting all kinds of things.
  6. Attempt to tape items into their journal.
  7. When the 3-year-old has a fit that he wants to tape his rocks onto the page, take a picture, print it, and let him tape that into his journal.
  8. Help kids draw and illustrate their findings.
  9. Smile!  It’s spring!

Posted under Homeschool Activities, Homeschool Life

Games Kids Play and Don’t Realize They’re Learning

August 31, 2010

I’m always on the look-out for fun educational games, since I hate buying toys that will just increase our clutter and never get picked up.

I thought I’d share a fun one our family has been enjoying: 

This game, Banangrams, comes with a slick little banana-shaped zipping bag to hold all the pieces.  Score one for easy clean-up!

It’s also fun for all ages that can spell – kid up to adult.  And it’s easy to give adults a handicap by giving them more letters to start with, or having them take two tiles each time, instead of one.

So, the game is played with everyone starting with a pile of letter tiles and and trying to form them into a Scrabble/Crossword Puzzle type grid.  As soon as one player has used up all his tiles, he yells “Peel” and everyone has to grab another tile.  This continues until the tiles are gone and whoever finishes first wins! (with correct words – or you’re out)

So, if you’re looking for a gift idea (about $12) or a way to spice up your spelling practice, you’ll love this game.

Do you have other suggestions for good educational games that your kids love?  I’m always on the look out!


Posted under Homeschool Activities

Is School Testing More Important than Taking Kids to Work for a Day?

April 26, 2010

Once a year, there is a “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day“, but the public schools are speaking out against it, saying that missing even a single day of school will hurt the children, especially in light of “high-stakes” testing.

I was wondering what you thought about the article

I have to say this seems silly and even moronic to me.  Here are a few of the benefits that came to mind of having kids spend a day at work with their parents:

  • Ahhh.  So, that’s why I need to learn math.
  • Hmm.  Dad (or Mom) really works hard.  Maybe I should value and appreciate the things I’m given a little more.
  • I do (or don’t) want to do this kind of work when I grow up.  What do I need to do now to reach the future I want?
  • Hmm, maybe I should start thinking about my future.
  • I met a lot of interesting adults today who were really helpful.  Maybe I could find mentors in fields I’m interested in to help me out.
  • Maybe I should study more so I can have a more successful future . . . that might help me on those “high-stakes” test 🙂
  • Dad (or Mom) and I had some great conversations about careers, money, finances, interests, school work, etc. . . . and guess what is the biggest predictor of school success (and yes, high test scores) . . . parental involvement!

Seems silly to think that unplanned snow days, field trips, teacher study days, etc. are all fine reason to have a school free day, yet spending a valuable day with a parent exploring careers and the workplace is dismissed as having no value and even being detrimental to scholastic success.  So sad.

What do you think?

And check out the “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day” website for some great ideas.  You may have missed the official day, but there’s no reason you can’t do it another day. 

And another idea for homeschool teens is to help them shadow a whole bunch of the adults in their lives.  Why not shadow someone every month or every week?  What a great way to help chart your future.  How would your college choices or career have changed if you’d been able to shadow a hundred different profressionals during your teen years?  Just a thought.

Posted under Homeschool Activities

Homeschool Gym Class – Bowling for Brothers

April 8, 2010

With the beautiful weather outside, it’s time for some ‘gym classes’ outside.  Our youngest has 3 older brothers and seems to be picking up very quickly on physical skills.  All it took was watching a few times before he was ready to join the big kids and go flying and spinning down the hill.  I’m amazed by how much he can do already.

Of course the older boys had to improve the experience, and soon were trying to bowl each other down.  One boy would roll really fast down the hill while the others would try to dodge and leap over the incoming ‘bowling ball’.

Brooke stuck to sidewalk chalk.  My princess is quite different than my gang of hooligans.  🙂

Have you been doing anything fun outdoors?  We love new ideas.


Posted under Homeschool Activities

Need Some Fun Indoor Game Ideas for the Kids?

January 13, 2010


Are your kids going a bit stir-crazy being stuck indoors during the winter?  Disney’s Family Fun website has this cool list of table top games the kids can design, make, and play indoors.  It’s a great homeschool day bribe to break up math and Latin.

Here are a few easy favorites:


P.S.  Do you have any good indoor boy-energy using ideas?  I’ve got 4 stir-crazy boys and both I and my daughter would love some ideas!

Posted under Homeschool Activities, Homeschool Crafts

Gingerbread House Christmas Tradition: Recipes, Pictures, How-to Tutorial

December 16, 2009

gingerbread house

One of the kids favorite Christmas traditions is the gingerbread house.  Yes, it’s the candy, candy, candy.  🙂  Plus, the anticipation of eating it after we admire it for a week or so.  There’s laughter, chocolate faces, sticky fingers, and a big mess that everyone helps clean up at the end.  The house smells and feels wonderful all day!

And we always invite a family over to participate.  So, the recipe and instructions here are for 2 houses:

First the dough – I’m not much of a plan ahead gal, so I don’t do the whole “refrigerate for 24 hours” that many gingerbread recipes say.  I just add a bit more flour so I can handle the dough.  🙂

Dough for two houses (also a great recipe for gingerbread men!)


  • 1 1/2 c. butter or margerine
  • 1 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 c. molasses

Add dry ingredients and mix well.

  • 12 cups flour (I use fresh ground whole white wheat flour)
  • 1 T ground ginger
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 T baking soda

Divide into 3 portions on three greased cookie sheets:


Spread with spatula and/or rolling pin


until about 1/4 in thick


Bake at 350 for 20 – 25 mins until not glossy and toothpick comes out clean.  (bake 10 – 12 mins for gingerbread men)

Some people cut out the dough in the house shapes before baking, but that’s too much work for me, plus you don’t get as nice of edges to build with as you do when you cut it after baking.

Cut the following out of each cookie sheet:

  1. 4 side walls – 7 in x 5 in rectangles
  2. 4 roof pieces – 8 in x 5 in rectangles
  3. 4 end pieces (the fronts and backs of the houses) – a 6 in wide x 5 in tall rectangle topped by a triangle whose tip is 3 inches tall from the center top of the 6 in side of the square.  I hope that makes sense:  Draw a 6 x 5 rectangle.  Find the center of one of the 6 inch sides.  Measure up 3 inches.  Draw a triangle coming to a point at that 3 inch mark = a triangle on top of a rectangle.


Whip up the frosting (a double batch):

  • 5 c powdered sugar
  • 1/2 t cream of tartar
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/2 t. vanilla

Beat until it stiffens and will stand up a bit when you pull the beaters out of it.  It dries fast, so keep it covered if you’re not using it right away.

Glue the walls together and let them dry a bit (5-15 mins) before attaching the roof if you’re having trouble keeping things together.  The longer you can let the house dry, the better.  Make sure you use the smaller rectangles for the walls and save the longer ones for the roof.  You could even break up the activity by gluing the house first, and then working on getting the candy out in bowls, play a game together, etc., while the houses dry.  (If you’re desperate, a hair dryer can help a bit, just don’t let it get hot.  Use the low setting.)

glue walls

The fun part:  Decorate with candy and try not to eat too much!

Here are some fun ideas to try and build:

  • Snowmen out of marshmallows held together with toothpicks, candy corn noses, mini-chocolate chip eyes, and Skittle buttons.
  • A pile of logs or fences out of Tootsie Rolls.
  • Windows and benches with Keebler chocolate graham or grasshopper cookies.
  • Build cars out of cookies with round candies for wheels.
  • Line edges and paths with pull apart licorice.
  • Make a pond by spreading some frosting with a bit of blue food coloring, line with licorice and add some Swedish Fish.
  • Put gummi worms in a garden with broken oreos stuck to frosting for dirt.
  • Starbursts make great bricks.


Try not to eat it for at least a day 🙂


What a fun evening!


Posted under Homeschool Activities, Homeschool Crafts

Homeschool Vacation Adventures!

October 15, 2009

Being homeschoolers, we can pick up and leave for a vacation late in September, and enjoy cheaper flights and emptier museums.  Even luckier, some of our public-schooled cousins are on year-round school and had a couple weeks off to play with us.

Here are a few highlights from where we’ve been for the last few weeks:


A backyard trampoline was the main attraction of the trip and outshined the museums, fun centers, and aquariums. 


Lots of wonderful girly girl cousin time for our princess who loved getting away from her brothers.


Gardening and quiet chats with Grandma – we miss her!


Silly time with Grandpa – even balloons can be made into swords. (Thanks Aunt Heather!)


Best friend cousins 🙂


Dad joined us with a week to go, and here he is helping with the ‘fun’ task of maneuvering a family of 7 and all their stuff through the airport on the way home.  You should have seen the looks I got doing it on my own on the way there.

And here are a few ideas to while away the boredom while waiting for your meal at a restaurant. (It’s not like your mom taught you anything about manners – at least that you can remember.)

We loved seeing all our family and I so enjoy seeing my kids play with their cousins and get to know all their aunts and uncles!  What a fun vacation!

The mishaps – there are always a handful.


 The first mishap on the third day of our trip – I broke my pinky toe on the leg of a couch!  My husband laughed over the phone and said, “You mean to tell me you spent 20 years doing karate without ever breaking your toe, and now you broke it on a couch?!” 


Good thing my sister-in-law had some comfrey growing in the backyard.  I simmered some and then draped the hot leaves over my toe.  It healed in a couple days instead of a week.


That same day, the baby got a fever that spiked over 104 and stayed high for 3 days prompting a visit to the Urgent Care, a blood draw that missed the first time (so sad!), and nothing found after all.  Just a virus as I thought.  My 6-year-old followed with his own fever the very next day.  With 10 kids in the house, we felt lucky the fever only spread to 2! 


Oh, and on our first morning back, I and Alex were knocked flat by a vicious stomach flu, fever, muscle aches, and other yuckies!  I’m just glad it didn’t happen on the flight home.  One of these days, we’ll have an illness-free vacation (fingers crossed).

I have a question for you larger homeschool families:  Do you have any tips or tricks to make traveling with a big family easier?  How do you keep the whole age range interested and having fun?  I’d appreciate any good ideas!!

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Posted under Homeschool Activities