October 26, 2012

Children Learn What They Live: Cooking & Cleaning

Children need the skills to be able to succeed on their own before they leave the nest.  This means that they must be able to run your household without you.  Think for a moment about what your child(ren) know and don't know about successfully running a household.  Can each child cook and clean?  Maintain and repair the house?  What about plan a budget or even a grocery list?  Many parents put so much thought and planning into their children's education, yet the little every day details of life are often overlooked as important skills.  Of course, certain lessons would be lost on a younger child, but even very young children can be involved in managing their home.  And yes, when children get involved, they take the perspective of "their home".  You'll be amazed by how much pride they'll take in your home when it becomes theirs.

To keep the post from becoming overwhelming, I've decided to break it into segments and focus on one area of the household at a time.  Let's start with the basics; cooking and cleaning.  All children can learn to cook and clean.  Just remember that they are learning.  Accidents will happen, and you may have to go back and do it "the right way" yourself, but that is part of the learning process.  Remember, patience is a virtue.

From a young age, my children have been involved in cooking, whether it's a simple task like stirring batter, or a more complicated one like baking a cake from scratch.  (Yes, my teenage sons can bake a cake from scratch.)  The key is to get them involved and let them actually do something.  Ask them to measure, pour, or stir.  Have them gather all the ingredients for a recipe.  Just get them involved.  Let them choose a favorite meal or snack and prepare it on their own.  The sense of pride and accomplishment will be easy to see on their faces.  Search the internet, or get kid-friendly cookbooks and find recipes they are excited about.  Talk about nutrition and balanced meals, then let them plan an entire meal for the family, even if they can't make it by themselves.

Cleaning their room is a good way to help teach responsibility.  However, when they move out on their own they will need to do more than just pick up after themselves.  Keeping a house truly clean requires a lot more effort.  Give children the opportunity to be involved in cleaning.  Have them sweep and mop the floors, scrub the top of the stove after a messy meal,  clean the windows, or scour the bathroom.  Tell them how often each job should be done.  It will take some repeated instruction, and a lot of practice, but they will be pros by the time they move out.  Teach them how to sort laundry and which settings to use on the washer and dryer.  When my children were preschoolers, I had three laundry baskets; a pink one, a white one, and a blue one.  (I happened to have a pink one, it would have been better if it had been red.)  As soon as the boys were old enough to know their colors, they were responsible for sorting their own laundry.  They simply had to put each piece of clothing in the hamper that best matched the color. 

Teaching your children how to manage their home isn't a 30 minute conversation you sit down with them and have before they move out, it is a life-long lesson learned by example and experience.  Give your children all the tools they need to be successful in all areas of their lives.  What tips do you have for preparing children for success?


October 23, 2012

Mid-week Morsel: Flash Review Games

This week's Mid-week Morsel brings you two fun options for reviewing for quizzes and tests.  SuperTeacherTools.com offers a host of tech tools for teachers and educators.  As a parent, I'm especially excited about their Jeopardy review game and Who Wants to be a Millionaire? review game.  They can both be fully customized to fit your material, and best of all, are free!  


October 20, 2012

Learning At Home Should Be Fun

    I hear so many fellow school-at-home parents talk about the difficulties they have getting their children to actually do the school work.  Often times, these conversations include suggestions of taking away privileges or other punishment.  While I agree that consequences for bad behavior are important, I think in some cases it is important to look at the root of the problem.

     Most children, even well into middle school, simply get bored with school work.  Let's face it, even most of us adults get bored sitting at a desk all day...no matter how much work there is to do.  So we check our email, Twitter, or Facebook, or we talk to a nearby co-worker for a minute.  Children also need a way to liven up their day.  However, most parents don't allow their children to "play around" during class time (and rightly so).  

     Take a cue from the old adage, "If you love what you do, then it's not work."  Children love to play.    Here are some simple ideas to help make their work feel like play.

  1. Use technology.  The internet is chock full of games and videos that make learning exciting and fun.  Check out some of the sites available in my list of educational websites.
  2. Play games.  Whether you buy educational board games, or make up your own educational games, children are sure to have some fun playing games for school.
  3. Watch tv.  Yes, I said it...watch tv.  As much as every parent hates to admit it, at some point most all of us have used the tv to entertain our kids and keep them busy.  Don't feel guilty about it, just make the tv work for you.  There are actually some very educational shows that are enjoyable, too.  So, set your DVR and plop those youngsters in front of the boob tube for some learning! 
  4. Create special spaces.  Every house is different.  You don't have to have that beautifully organized, large space created with all new top-of-the-line products that you've pinned on Pinterest.  Kids love spaces because they are private, comfortable, and their own.  Give each child his or her own space and it will be special.
  5. Get hands-on.  There are so many ways to really get into a lesson.  Have your children create a project that suites their interests and ability level that demonstrates what they are learning.  Don't tell your kids, but this is also a great way to make what they are learning really stick with them, too!
  6. Get out of your seat. I've noticed that when my children sit in one spot for too long they loose focus and become unproductive. They get wiggly and tend to start wandering around the house. They get even less done then. Designate different places around the room or house for a couple of subjects. (See #4.)  You can even get creative with the seating at your work space. Use an exercise ball or bean bag at the desk instead of a chair. Lie on the floor for a workbook page. Try standing at the desk instead of sitting. This allows your child the opportunity to wiggle a little while working.  Check out some of the ideas from the resourceful teachers at Izzyshare.com.
  7. Get out of the house. Go outside or take a field trip.  This doesn't have to be expensive; any park, or library will do just fine.  It doesn't even have to be for the whole day.  The point is to change the scenery.  Search for landmarks and points of interest in your area to find places you can explore together. 

     I hope some of these ideas help you break out of that old routine and get creative with your school day.  Keeping each day fresh will do wonders to stave off boredom and melt-downs.  What do you do to make learning fun in your house?


October 16, 2012

Mid-Week Morsel: Who Doesn't Love a Blog Full of Free Resources?!

This week's slice of the good life is all about freebies.  I mean, really, who doesn't love freebies?  One of the blogs I follow really is all about freebies.  It's actually their middle name.  I'm talking about Homeschool Freebie of the Day.  (They say homeschool, but there are plenty of resources for everyone.)  When you sign up for their mailing list they send you a "heads up" every Sunday stating which resources will be available the next week.  I was very excited when I saw this Friday's resource, Homestead Simplicity: FRUGAL CLEAN.  Here's what they had to say about it...

           Friday, Oct 19th:
           Homestead Simplicity: FRUGAL CLEAN

           $3 value, but free today!

           Learn how to clean your homestead frugally with simple,
           inexpensive ingredients: Vinegar & Baking Soda. Slash your
           grocery bill and keep the environment in your homestead so
           much healthier, by making your own simple products that will
           clean your home on the cheap!

           In this ebook, you'll learn easy to make recipes, frugal
           tips, & ideas for you to create and simply implement at your
           own home. You'll learn how to make your own cleaning sprays,
           Vinegar Hair Rinses, Dish soaps, Lavender Baby Powder,
           even the coveted "Homemade Laundry Soap" recipe and MANY more.

While I can't preview this ebook for you, I can tell you that the Erskine family who runs Homeschool Freebie of the Day is very good at choosing worthwhile resources.  I highly recommend stopping by their blog this Friday to get your free ebook, and don't forget to sign up for their "heads up" while you're there.


October 13, 2012

Election Resources for Kids

     The Presidential election is less than a month away, and boy does it show!  Campaign ads are flooding the airways, newscasts are abuzz about who is winning the latest poll, and debates are all the talk on social media.  Naturally, children are aware that all of this is going on, and they are sure to have questions.  What is the difference between a Democrat and a Republican?  What is the Electoral College?  How is it affected by the popular vote?  What does the President do?  Understanding political positions and the election process can be hard even for adults. It can be even more difficult to try to explain so that children can understand.  I've scoured the web and found some resources to try to help you explain it all to the children in your life, and maybe even have a little fun along the way.

Who is running for President this year?
     Let me start by suggesting you simply visit Barack Obama's and Mitt Romney's personal websites.  However, I understand that sometimes it's not easy to take the carefully worded propaganda on a candidate's website and explain it so that a younger child can understand it.  In that case, let me also suggest that you visit TIME for Kids' pages about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.  They do a nice job of watering down the information so that just the facts about the candidates' lives come through for the readers.  For a very basic introduction for the youngest readers, PBS Kids' The Democracy Project has a page with a few basic facts about both candidates.

What is the difference between a Democrat and a Republican?
     This is a much tougher question to answer.  No matter what search parameters I entered, I only seemed to find very biased answers, many of which were full of attitudes I do not wish to pass on to my children.  I believe the best way to help you answer this question is simply to lead you to the Democratic platform site, and the Republican platform site where you can see what each party says about their beliefs.  TIME for Kids has a special section on their website which covers some of the current issues and where the candidates stand on those issues.  Finally, if you have access to a Brain Pop membership, they have a video which effectively summarizes the two political parties.

How does the election process work?
     The Central Rappahannock Regional Library in VirginiaBen's Guide to U.S. Government for Kids, and PBS's Zoom tv show all have pages that explain the process. Brain Pop has a free Win the Whitehouse game that allows children to play along as a candidate, making decisions about how to run their campaign.

What is the Electoral College?
     Congress for KidsScholastic, and Social Studies for Kids all have very cut and dry articles explaining what the Electoral College is and how it works.  For a more animated explanation, check out Schoolhouse Rock's I'm Gonna Send Your Vote to College video.  Also, Scholastic Magazine has a video about the Electoral College and an Electoral College Challenge game on it's election page.

What does the President do?
     Ben's Guide to U.S. Government for Kids has a section in each grade level covering the branches of government and their roles.  Congress for Kids and Scholastic both have articles explaining the role of the President.  However, PBS Kids' Democracy Project's President for a Day game and Scholastic's Seven Hats Challenge game let children experience the job of being President (and as everyone knows it's more fun to be President than it is to read about being President.)

Need more help?  
Here is a list of books to buy or check out from your local library with more information.  What resources do you have in your favorites list and bookmarks about the election?


October 9, 2012

Mid-week Morsel: Halloween Activity Treats

     A couple of weeks ago I started posting mini-messages half-way through the week on my Facebook and Google+ pages.  This week I decided to start making them a regular part of the blog so that no one gets left out.  Here it is: the "Mid-week Morsel"; a bite-sized portion of the good life.

     Halloween is just around the corner, and along with it comes cooler weather.  That makes this the perfect time to check out some FREE Halloween themed activities to keep your youngsters occupied when it is too cold and rainy to go outside.  I love searching through all the curriculum and resources available on CurrClick.com.  One of the first places I always look is the "Free Stuff" section.  You know you're living the good life when you get resources for free, right?  Here is some of what I found...

Halloween Coloring Book  Halloween Coloring Book

Vintage Halloween Playing Cards  Vintage Halloween Playing Cards (These would be great for some educational card games.)

Halloween Tic-Tac-Toe Board Game  Halloween Tic Tac Toe Board Game

A Spooky Halloween Memory Card Game  A Spooky Halloween Memory Card Game


October 6, 2012

Coconut Banango Smoothies

Break out your blender; it's time for a smoothie.  I found this recipe while helping my daughter work on a social studies project.  Her instructions were to make a recipe or product using resources found in her state.  She quickly decided to make a tropical fruit smoothie.  After narrowing down her list of potential ingredients, we started searching.  A few clicks later, we found this delicious recipe on Kitchen Meets Girl.  After a couple of very minor tweaks, we had smoothies for dessert.  Here's how we made them...

1 mango, chopped
1 1/2 banana, sliced and frozen
1/2 C coconut milk
1/2 C cold water
ice cubes
1 tsp. coconut extract
1/2 tsp. lime zest
1 Tbs. sugar (or honey!)

1. Place all ingredients in a blender.
2. Puree until smooth.
3. Pour and enjoy!

We made two batches of this for our family of five.  You may need more or less for your purposes.  Just for fun, here is a link to my daughter's "commercial" she made for her product.  What is your favorite smoothie recipe?