Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Homeschool Bling!

OK, maybe bling is too strong of a word, but here's a short list of places that offer discounts or other rewards to homeschoolers. Most require proof of homeschooling. This will vary by state, but in Georgia most places simply ask to see a copy of your declaration of intent to homeschool that must be submitted to the state board of education each year. If you're wondering if a retailer near you offers such a discount, I find the best way to find out is simply ask if there is an "educator's discount" rather than a discount for homeschoolers. They tend to take you more seriously that way. : )

JoAnn Fabrics & Crafts - Sign up for the educator's discount and receive 15% off all purchases. Upon registering, you also receive a 20% off coupon for one time use. The best part about the JoAnn's discount is it can be combined with their 40% off coupon that comes in the Sunday paper and it can be used on every purchase. I've used the discount for everything from art supplies and home decor items to fabric and patterns to make Spice clothes. Hobby Lobby may have a similar program, but I have not been in there recently to find out. I've also heard Michael's offers a discount, but the last time I was there and asked the cashier looked at me like I had turnips growing out of my head so who knows. I'll have to try again next time.

Borders/Waldenbooks/Barnes & Noble/Books-A-Million
- Each of these stores offers a 20% discount to educators. The discount is supposed to apply to "classroom materials" only, but I find that is left up to the discretion of the cashier. I hand over my card with every purchase and see what happens.

Hancock Fabrics - The Red Apple Card gives you 15% off.

Staples - Sign up for the Teacher Rewards card and earn points for each purchase you make. I don't spend enough there to get much out of this, but I do love their ink recycling program. If you have the Teacher Rewards card you earn $3 for every ink cartridge returned to the store - regardless of the brand or type of printer. You earn credit for up to 10 cartridges per month. I had fun spending my $30 recycling rewards check last month on magazine holders and dry erase markers. Office Depot has a similar program.

Scholastic - When I was a kid I loved bringing home the little flier each month full of books. Once my mom narrowed my original 20 or so selections down to a more reasonable number, it was so exciting to bring home a new stack of books to delve into each month. When I started homeschooling Sport I knew one of the things I would miss was those darn catalogs. Now we get it all shipped straight to our house and while we do not get a discount, we do get to earn free books and bonus points to be redeemed for other cool items just like a classroom teacher does. To sign up as a homeschooler, you have to send in your first order pre-paid. Go to their website, check out the fliers, then call 1-800-scholastic to place your order and mail the check. Once your first order arrives, you will have a customer # that can be used to access the book clubs online. While you're at the site, check out the book fair section and see if there are customer appreciation warehouse sales in your area. If so, get on the mailing list! We love the warehouse sales and have found huge deals there.

I've also heard Blockbuster offers free rentals on educational materials, but I haven't tried it yet. Let me know if you've tried this one or know of a place offering a discount that's not on this list.

This post is part of We Are That Family's WFMW carnival. Check it out for lots of great tips and ideas!

Workbox Wednesday

We've been studying space in science, focusing on the moon lately. Here's a sampling of our workboxes last week:

We started out with this book. It is the spine for Sport's current Noeo science unit. We read about the moon in here...

then read this book I picked up at the library to explain things a bit more on Spice's level.

The highlight of our day was recreating the phases of the moon using Oreo cookies. I based the project off of the info found here. We only focused on the 4 main moon phases though to keep things simple and lessen the sugar intake. The kids had a blast, especially after the sugar started to take effect.

Sport's complete project.

Spice works on her phases.

God created the moon and it was good!

Looks like Sport had a good time.

We wrapped things up with an activity from Pop Bottle Science.

My sister-in-law gave this to Sport for his birthday a few years ago. Bet she didn't think we still had it! This activity focused on the craters on the moon. For some reason Spice has been fascinated by the idea of craters on the moon. We filled the bottom part of the bottle (it comes apart) with flour then dropped small objects (raisin, chocolate chip, marble, candy corn...) into the flour to show how craters were formed. Some objects were dropped gently just an inch or so away and others were dropped from way up high (do this outside if you don't want flour everywhere) to show how different sizes of craters were made. We all agreed these activities made for a fun day of workboxes.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

This time of year, my thoughts turn to one of my favorite things to bake...chocolate chip pumpkin bread. This is based off of a recipe I found in Quick Cooking magazine several years ago.

3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 can pumpkin
1-1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips*

Combine flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. In another bowl, beat eggs, sugar, pumpkin, and applesauce. Add pumpkin mix to dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. Fold in chocolate chips.
Pour into 2 greased loaf pans and bake at 350 for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in pan then remove and place on wire rack. Slice one loaf and serve immediately. Wrap the other loaf up and stuff it in the freezer real quick so you won't eat it too. It's that good!

*The original recipe calls for 1-1/2 cups of chocolate chips, but I actually thought that was a bit too much and if I'm telling you there's too much chocolate you'd better believe it!

This recipe is being linked to Balancing Beauty and Bedlam's Tasty Tuesday. Head over their for more recipes.

Monday, October 26, 2009

What's In the Bag?

Several of the moms in my homeschool group got together a few weeks ago to exchange preschool activity bags. These are Zip-Loc bags that contain all the pieces a preschooler would need to entertain herself independently for a while. We had 12 moms participating. Two of us decided to make two activity bags so in all, each participant went home with 14 kits to keep their little ones occupied while Mom works with older siblings.
Here's what's in our bags:

ABC Caterpillar - This is one of the bags I made. I saw this on someone's blog not long ago, but could not for the life of me find it again. I wanted to go back and look at the caterpillar face she had drawn because it was much cuter than mine, but never could find it. If this was your blog, please let me know. There were a lot of cute ideas on the blog and I like to give credit where credit is due. Anyway, the main purpose of this activity is to help with letter recognition. Spice's job here was to lay out the plates in ABC order. It takes up a lot of space. Once she has them laid out, I call out letters for her to hop to or simple three letter CVC words for her to spell.

Sort and Pour - Obviously the point here is to sort the beads into cups by color. Spice spent a lot of time on this one the other day. Picking up all those little tiny beads is hard work! She also practiced pouring beads from cup to cup.

The rest of the bags were...
Push Pin Punch Art Activity - A washcloth to use as a mat, a push pin, construction paper, templates of simple shapes (heart, star, leaf...), and a clothespin to clip it all together. The purpose is to punch holes around the chosen shape with the push pin.
I Spy Bottle - This one is of course a big hit. My kids love the I Spy books. I have been planning to make one of these for ohhh about 8 months now so I was thrilled to get it and clean out the cabinet full of bottles I had saved. It came with a laminated print-out with pictures of all the objects in the bottle and a dry-erase marker so the child can mark off each item as it is found.
Writing - A mini chalkboard, sponge eraser, chalk, and a sheet of pre-writing songs.
Fishing Game - Much like the one I described here but with numbers instead of words.
Color Matching - This bag has strips with various shades of the same color along with matching clothespins. The object is to clip the clothespin to the correct color card.
Pizza Math - Three pizza puzzles divided into different fraction amounts. The child has to match the correct pieces together to make a whole pizza.
Fine Motor Skills Bag - This bag has several activities: Attaching clothespins to a cup, carrying pompoms on a spoon and dropping into the cup, lacing noodles on a string, and arranging wiki sticks on drawings.
ABC Sound Cards - One set of letter cards and three picture cards per letter to be matched up.
Number Matching - One set of index cards numbered 1-10 to be paired with a second set of cards with 1-10 stickers. (Not pictured.)
File Folder Game - This kit contains a folder with multiple pockets on it and blank laminated strips of paper. The strips and pockets can be programmed for a variety of activities like matching upper/lowercase letters, placing the appropriate number of strips in a pocket pre-programmed with a number... I wrote simple addition problems on each pocket for Spice the other day and included the necessary number of craft sticks. She had to solve each problem and place the correct # of sticks in the pocket. If she ended up with too many or not enough craft sticks, she knew one of her answers was incorrect.
What Comes Next? - Cards and counters for practicing patterns and sequencing. (Not pictured.)
Beads and Pipe Cleaners - Six colored pipe cleaners with matching beads that are to be placed on the correct pipe cleaner. There are also four pre-patterned pipe cleaners for practicing sequencing or color mixing.

I have been doling the activities out one or two at a time for Spice. I don't want her to use them all up in a day or two and have the novelty wear off. I keep them all together in a bin. Eventually I will let her pick and choose which bags to work with when she needs something to do. She has been having a great time with them and of course Sport always has to get in on the action even though he's waaaayyy past the preschool years.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Up To Her Old Antics Again

Spice is an accident waiting to happen. It sounds terrible for a mother to say that, but sadly, it's true. For those two or three readers of this blog who are not relatives and don't know her history, let's just say there was a point in time where she had more broken bones than years in her life...and yes, each broken bone was from a separate incident.
She's been riding her bike without training wheels for about a month now and has done a great job of staying up. This afternoon while showing Sport how fast she could ride, she crashed into the basketball goal and took quite a tumble. Fortunately, she escaped with no broken bones and mostly just cuts and scratches. Unfortunately, one of those cuts was to her frenulum, you know that piece of skin that connects your top lip to your gum line? She tore that baby clean off the gum line. After a couple of conversations with the on-call nurse at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, I was relieved to learn a torn frenulum isn't as serious as it sounds and should heal on its own. For the next few days though, Spice will have to be on a soft foods diet and parade around with a swollen upper lip any Hollywood starlet would pay an arm and a leg for. She's definitely got the Angelina Jolie look going on. In a show of solidarity, Sport and I have committed to live off of milkshakes and smoothies for the next few days as well.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Treat Me Right

In a little over a week ghosts, goblins, princesses, and clone troopers will take to the streets with their little sacks ready to be filled. Are you ready for them to coming knocking on your door?
I admit, before I became a mom, and even in the early days, the thought of handing out gobs of sugar so kids could rot their teeth out appalled me. We were one of those houses that gave out "healthy" treats (relatively speaking) like pretzels and Play-Doh. One night several years ago after the kids were in bed and I went to raid their candy buckets...ahhh, I mean check through all of their loot to make sure it was safe, I was highly disappointed by the selection of treats. How many boxes of Dots does one family need and really, does anyone actually eat those black and orange wrapped Mary Janes? Where was the CHOCOLATE? And I don't mean the cheap little chocolate crispy things wrapped in Halloween themed foil. I'm talking about the Snickers, the Butterfingers, and especially the Reese's!
So what does this have to do with Works For Me Wednesday? Well, it was at that point I realized something. If I wanted to change the loot given out in our neighborhood, it would have to start with me. Out went the pretzels, Play-Doh, and Halloween pencils and in came the Butterfingers, KitKat, and Twix. (I still don't buy the Reese's. I know my limits.) Buying the GOOD stuff works for me because I know who the real recipients will be.

To find more tips to help you get through the day, head over to We Are That Family for WFMW .

All I Want For Christmas...

Like most retailers, Spice has already turned her thoughts toward Christmas. Today she informed me there's only two things she wants for Christmas! I'm so lucky. Now if anyone can just tell me where to find a set of real wings that can make her fly and a real wand that you can "make sparkly Cs and stuff in the air with" we'll be all set.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

During a quick run through the thrift store recently, I came across this beauty all framed and double matted:
This is one of a series of prints that I've looked at online and dreamed about buying, but never got around to it. As soon as I saw it sitting there on the shelf amongst bad 1970's oil paintings and brown and gold macrame, I knew it needed me to take it home and love it. I snatched it up and headed home pleased as punch all the while making plans for my new love.

One thing was for certain, the black frame would have to go as it was fairly beat up. I got home and held it up in the spot I already had picked out and really wanted to hang it, but decided the nicks and scratches in the frame were too much. Then inspiration hit. I dug out a black Sharpie and colored in the bad spots. Voila...good as new!

Eventually, I will get a new frame, but I know myself well enough to know if I tuck that picture away until then it won't come out of hiding for a good year or two. At least now I will be looking at it daily and may actually remember to pick up a new frame next time I see something I like. The picture will be hanging in a corner of a dark room so the marker doesn't even show up that well. Who's gonna notice?

I've also used the Sharpie to fill in a couple of scratches that appeared on Hubby's dresser after we moved and touch up Sport's church shoes. No one's the wiser...until now.

Keeping a black Sharpie ready for little repairs works for me. Head over to We Are That Family for more WFMW ideas.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY October 12, 2009...
Outside my window...another rainy, rainy day.
I am thinking...about which of the gourmet meals I have planned for this week I'll actually cook tonight.
I am thankful for...a productive school day where everyone cooperated!
From the learning rooms...The kids are finishing up for the day and all I can hear is the sound of markers squeaking away. Spice is making a card for a friend who moved away. Sport is coloring a wooden scarecrow I picked up at JoAnn's awhile back. We also read some of Pinocchio today, and about Lewis & Clark, learned about telescopes, and started cursive handwriting among other things. The most exciting part of the school day though was when Sport got a lesson in doing laundry. He actually begged for this!
From the kitchen...I'm thinking we'll go with the baked fish and summer squash tonight.
I am creating...preschool activity bags for a swap with our homeschool group later this week.
I am try to clean up a bit before cooking supper and heading to church for Sport's religion class and Cub Scouts.
I am reading...nothing seriously at the moment. Trying to catch up on all my magazines that always seem to come in on the same day.
I am hoping...Spice isn't too sick. She had a low grade fever for a day or two last week, was fine all weekend, and now has a fever again. I read that's how swine flu operates except with a high fever and lots of other symptoms.
I am hearing...well, the markers are done squeaking and now the kids are marching around with a homemade flag.
Around the house...books, books, books everywhere!
One of my favorite things...a relaxed school day where we're not rushing to get somewhere.
A few plans for the rest of the week: activity bag swap and Spice's playgroup on Wednesday, Sport's first book club meeting on Thursday, pumpkin patch on Saturday and basketball try-outs for Sport on Sunday.
I am wearing...gray velour pants, a light blue t-shirt, and Christmas socks. I'll be making some changes before going out tonight!

To read more daybook thoughts head over to Peggy's blog.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Helping Kids Clean

I'm beginning to think this blog exists only for the purpose of linking up with WFMW. I'll try to post something riveting before next Wednesday!

Wouldn't it be great if you could tell your kids to go clean their rooms and they would actually do it? It took me a while to figure it out, but a kid's idea of clean is very different from a parent's idea. Sport will wade through Legos to get to his bed that's buried under a library shelf full of books and still insist that his room is clean. For awhile I would sit in his room and direct him step by step on what to pick up next. Let's just say this was not fun (especially when you consider half the reason I send him to his room to clean up is in the hopes he will actually decide to play with some of his toys while he's up there and give me a few minutes of solitude.

Enter the cleaning chart from When I first came across this post it gave me just the excuse I needed to go by the laminator I had always dreamed of. I made charts the next day for Sport and Spice. Since pictures are used, the charts work really well for kids who can't read yet. Spice still uses her chart, but Sport and I have gotten a bit lazy - mostly because it's hard to find all of the pictures when they're buried under books and Legos. Now I just make a list for him on his dry erase board. Here's a look at today's list:

1) Make bed.
2) Put away clothes.
3) All shoes in closet.
4) Clean up books.
5) Legos
6) Legos
7) Legos...

Twenty minutes later his room was much more in line with what I call clean! This idea works for me. To read more cleaning tips, head over to We Are That Family for the WFMW cleaning edition.