Simple, Frugal, and Fun Homeschooling

One of my most favorite things to do is to share with other mom’s who are considering homeschooling! I have had maybe close to 10 moms in my home to just show them what all I do and why. I have loved those times of sharing! But in case you haven’t made it over yet…

I’m not a veteran homeschooler and I have much yet to learn. BUT… I love that homeschooling can be (gasp) enjoyable and absolutely delightful!

My Motto: Behind everything I do is my homeschool motto, found in Deuteronomy 11. Love God with your whole heart. Teach your children as you sit, as you walk, when you lie down, and when you stand up. All of life is learning. If you teach your child to love learning, you’ve taught him everything he ever needs to know. Learning happens over a lifetime. It takes place all of the time… in the van, at the store, in your backyard, at the park, while making dinner, etc.

The greatest commandment is to love God with your whole heart. The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. Teach these two things to your children and you’ve nearly fulfilled God’s call for you as a mother!

So practically speaking, what is our main focus then?

#1- Bible. This includes memory verses, LOTS of memory verses! Before children can even read, they can be memorizing passages of Scripture!

This also includes you reading Bible stories to your children. The actual Bible event, not fairy tales or fables or bathtub boat pictures of Noah! Also, acting out the Bible stories after you read them! Talk about these precious events at all hours of the day, looking for opportunities to live out what you have read.

#2- Character- We go through these character cards and try to do one character quality each week. Each card includes the definition and an animal that displays that quality in nature. I teach my children the names of the character qualities (even if it’s a long word like perseverance)! Throughout the following weeks and months, I’m continually using those terms to remind them of that character quality and why it’s so important (honesty, humbleness, attentiveness, self-control, etc). We act out these qualities too! And we actually practice these qualities in real-life ways.

Speaking of acting out and practicing great things… we regularly have “Manners Practice” where we practice things like greeting a guest, picking up an item for someone who dropped it, saying “coming” when Mama calls for us, taking a seat on the floor when adults need the chairs to sit on, etc. My children beg me to do “Manners Practice” time!

The third most important thing we do in homeschool is to read! It’s such an amazing thing to read out loud to your child most every day! Read about everything! If all you ever do is read to your child, he’ll surpass a level you didn’t even think he could achieve! Our read-a-loud times have brought about the most precious discussions in our home. We try and squeeze in reading time wherever we can but my children especially like me to read to them at mealtimes. You don’t have to stop filling your brain just because you’re filling your belly! Mealtimes are a great time to learn!

What do I read to them?

A)- The actual Bible, of course!

B)- Bible Stories, of course!

C)- Quality children’s books that focus on character. Not fluffy books without a point. And not about magical kingdoms and fairy tales and fables. But stories about feeding the poor, about learning humbleness, about giving yourself away. I have posted some of my favorite children’s books here and here.

D)- We also use our read-a-loud time to read history and science (you’ll see why below). Recently my boys have been crazy excited about George Washington. They’ve dressed up like him and drafted a Declaration of Independence and the whole nine yards. All from me reading to them!  We have enjoyed this book, this one, this one, and this one, to name a few.

Now on to “Academics”:

I think the greatest thing you can do for you and your child is to keep things simple and fun. Your materials and your schedule should be a blessing, NOT a burden!! I hodge podge my materials to tailor to each individual child. What fits their personality best? What sounds fun? What is simple? What is not overwhelming? What doesn’t require 30 minutes of Teacher Manual prep time the night before?! What is frugal? What did I find at a garage sale or receive as a hand-me-down? Could I use that instead of spending big bucks on something that will make me feel STRAPPED for time and energy!

I like briefly checking out used homeschool sites for easy, cheap ideas. My favorite store is Mardel’s, but I always have a coupon in hand! Or best yet… what could you use that you already own?!

One of my favorite things about homeschool is all of our homemade things! We have made homemade “Exercise Dice,” homemade money/ coin board games, homemade flashcards galore, and more!

Flashcards, flashcards, flashcards. What an incredible way to learn! Your children can do them with you while their jumping on a trampoline, doing a chore, or standing on their head (just hold them upside down so they can read them!) 🙂

Flashcards have taught my children their ABC’s, all of their phonics sounds, all of their Bible verses, synonyms/ antonyms, homophones, contractions, multiplication and lots of other math facts, music notes, and much more!

Repetition, repetition. Get out those flashcards every day! And they’re portable enough to take to the park or waiting room!

I also like to hang stuff on my walls. Well, I don’t like the cluttered wall part but I am actually totally fine with it. You know why? Because my children walk past it many times a day and they LEARN! I’ll take that over plain walls any day! Your child can make character posters or manners posters and hang them on the wall. You can write out important principles and hang them up. You can hang up your phonics words or shapes or letters, they sky is the limit! Hang up your Bible verse flashcards at the least!

Besides the walls in your home, placemats are also a great learning tool! Your child is sitting there eating and can have something of knowledge filling his spongy, absorbent brain! You can make your own and then laminate it. I’ve done this countless times for help with coins, words, letters, math facts, etc. Or buy a laminated map of the world or the USA and point out things each day! This helps your child understand there is more to the world than his little city!

I didn’t know this until my first son turned two, but children have an INCREDIBLE ability to memorize stuff! We are constantly working on memory work. The neat thing about this is that your child doesn’t even have to know how to read before memorizing all kinds of great stuff. For us, that means our favorite Bible verses, of course! But it could also mean poems, quotes from history, etc. One of the neat things about memorizing things is that you can practice reciting them when you’re in the van or out and about. It doesn’t have to take place during structured homeschool time! Make up songs, rhymes, motions, sign language, or just a particular rhythm; and repeat, repeat, repeat!

Okay, so in case you didn’t notice… I haven’t actually told you any specific homeschool “subjects” that we do. So here they are…

Reading.

And math.

End of post. 🙂

I’m partially kidding. We do other subjects like history and science and art (lots of art!), but we do those in a more passive way. Honestly, the thought of a big huge history or science book for my 7-and-under children makes my head spin. So for history we just read! We read all about history! I don’t know of a better way to learn! And for science we kind of just do it as we come across it. My husband and I have gobs of Creation resources from our college-searching days and that’s a BIG deal to us. So we read science from the Bible and study all that God made in nature, our solar system, our bodies, etc. When do we do this? As we sit, as we walk, as we lie down, and as we stand up, of course!  🙂   And on the weekends when Dada has more time for crazy science experiments!

I’m big on reading. If you teach your child to read well, they can learn endlessly! Once they learn how to read, they can practically homeschool themselves! Have you heard the quote? “In five years you’ll be the same person you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” Reading changes lives! Reading gives knowledge, tons and tons of knowledge!

Here is how I teach my children to read.

The Harding family wrote an e-book called “College by Age 12” and I was really curious what that looked like for them. I don’t think parents need to push for college by age 12, but after reading their book, I see that it is completely possible to have a child finish high school material FAR ahead of their non-homeschooled peers! One of the keys they mentioned was math. If your child can speed ahead in math, they could potentially be at a college freshman level by the time they’re 12. Or 14, or whatever. Now some children won’t be able to go as fast as others, but I do think children are way smarter than we give them credit for! As soon as my boys have mastered one concept, I introduce the next. I don’t care that a Kindergarten math book doesn’t introduce multiplication. If my son sees how 5 circles in 2 rows equals 10, we run with it!

Again, even with math, stick with what is fun and simple. Don’t choose a curriculum that is so extensive that it wears YOU out! Play gobs and gobs of math games! I think money spent on games is way better than money spent on elaborate curricula! Design your own flashcards, make your own worksheets! Print free worksheets online. And if your child just isn’t ready for a certain concept, back pedal and let him rest at the basics until he’s ready to move forward. But keep chugging along with math and your child might have their PhD by 21, like some of the Harding children! 🙂

Lastly. Many parents wonder, “Where should my child be?” Yes, you can check online lists of what certain grade levels learn, but as long as you’re always filling your child’s mind with knowledgeable things, you’re doing more than enough!

It’s not like you’ll hit your forehead one day and say “Oh yeah, math, I forgot about math.” You know best what your child should learn! The internet can help as long as it doesn’t burden you to do more than you both are capable of! You do have laundry and dishes and meals to tend to also! Which, having your children do chores is part of homeschool too! See, you were homeschooling and didn’t even know it! Chores are GOOD for your child, let him/her work you out of a job!

If a homeschool conference comes to your area, GO! I’m not recommending you go from booth to booth to be sold on all the best curricula (THAT is exhausting!), but go to hear the speakers and get inspired and fueled up!

You’re raising a World Changer! You can do this Mama! There is no better teacher for your child on the planet!!!

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Our Favorite Children’s Books

I’ve posted our favorite children’s books before, so some of these are a repeat, but this is our most recent “Favorites” list in case you’re looking for some new books to add to your collection!  We own lots of books and these (as well as ones on my last post!) are the best of the best!

This is the only one I’ll give with a warning.  It teaches what sex is.  I think the illustrations are so sweet and so well-done.  I think it’s worded so perfectly so that parents can start at a young age being open with their child about sex.  I really like this book but I understand that some parents want to wait until their children are older to talk about this subject.  However, I think the earlier the better and that it should be a normal, open conversation as the child grows and matures.
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The True Story of Noah’s Ark (You will be in awe of the center fold out illustration!!!) and The True Story of Adam and Eve are amazing books to teach your child the REAL accounts of Noah and Adam and Eve.  The illustrations are BEAUTIFUL!!
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Ronnie Wilson’s Gift is a sweet story about how a child can give a gift to Jesus.  Giving a gift to someone in need is the same as giving to Jesus!

Sanji’s Seed is about a boy who chose honesty over greed.  When his plant didn’t grow like the other boy’s big beautiful plants, he still just took his empty cup to the king.  The king was pleased because Sanji came and honestly presented his empty cup.  Sanji was pronounced the next king because of his honesty.

The Jingle in My Pocket is a bit long, so maybe for age 5 and up.  It’s a book in rhyme to teach about giving, saving, and spending money.  The illustrations in this book are precious (as are the illustrations of the other books in this series).

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Trusty.  Good ole’ Trusty.  He’s a train who learns to listen to his Papa’s warnings in Trusty Gets Off Track.  And he stands up for honesty and what is right in Trusty and Ingrid Fibster.  We’re also big fans of Trusty Tried and True.  These books are pricey though, but we really like them.
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God’s Wisdom for Little Boys is a great book to teach your son great character.  It walks through different character qualities with a rhyming poem for each one and has beautiful illustrations.  God’s Wisdom For Little Girls is also great!

The Story of the Empty Tomb is a great book to read about Jesus’ Resurrection!  These little “Arch Books” are good little paperback books, we own several!
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The next three books are all “Little Jewel Books” and there are dozens to choose from on their website.

This is Mohan is about a little boy that meets a missionary family and learns about Jesus.

A Truck and a Tricycle is about a little boy who learns to always pick up his things after he’s done playing so that others don’t get hurt on them.  Cleaning up your things is a way to show kindness to others.

Anthony Gets Ready for Church is just a simple book about how a little boy has to wash his hands, put on his socks and shoes, comb his hair, buckle his shirt, and grab his Bible to get ready for church.  
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Bible Memory Verses- Level Two

After our most simple verses were memorized, I started adding these one at a time.  Both my 5 and my 7-year-old now have 196 verses memorized!  Not because I’m so great or because they’re such geniuses but because we practice, we sing, we repeat over and over again, and we keep them out and handy or on our walls.  You child can do it too, one verse at a time!

Click here for 11 Tips on How to Teach Your Child to Memorize Bible Verses

Click here to see my list of Beginner Bible Verses for Age Two and Up.
Little children, keep yourself from idols. 1 John 5:21

Let us not love in word… but in deed 1 John 3:18

Give me now wisdom and knowledge… 2 Chronicles 1:10a

All unrighteousness is sin. 1John 5:17

…ye are the temple of the living God… 2 Corinthians 6:16

And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 1 Timothy 6:8

Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Romans 12:9b

Be ye thankful . Colossians 3:15b

God is light and in him is no darkness at all 1John 1:5

The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. Psalm 33:5

We love him, because he first loved us. 1John 4:19

Wisdom is better than strength Ecclesiastes 9:16a

It is his (the wise man’s) glory to pass over a transgression. (to overlook someone’s wrongdoing to you) Proverbs 19:11

There is none righteous, no not one. Romans 3:10

Great is our Lord, and of great power. Psalm 147:5

Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath James 1:29b

Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27b

Charity shall cover the multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8b

God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. James 4:6b

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself Mark 12:31a

And the Lord gave Solomon wisdom 1 Kings 5:12

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made Psalm 139:14a

If ye love me, keep my commandments John 14:15

Abstain from all appearance of evil 1 Thessalonians 5:22

If any would not work, neither should he eat. 2 Thessalonians 3:10b

…let us love one another: for love is of God 1John 4:7

In God have I put my trust Psalm 56:11a

O Praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise him all ye people. Psalm 117:1

He that hath an ear, let him hear Revelation 2:7

Be content with such things as ye have. Hebrews 13:5

Follow me, and I will make you fisthers of men Matthew 4:19

Keep they heart with all diligence Proverbs 4:23

As for God, his way is perfect 2 Samuel 22:31a

As for me, I will call upon God; and the Lord shall save me. Psalm 55:16

He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:30

We ought to obey God rather than men Acts 5:29b

But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6

Be ye holy; for I am holy. 1 Peter 1:16

A wise man is strong Proverbs 24:5

God is my strength and power; and he maketh my way perfect. 2 Samuel 22:33

Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near Isaiah 55:6

A Week of Eating At Our House

I’ve been asked several times what we typically eat at our house.  Funny how all of us moms want to know how other mom’s feed their families so we can gather ideas and get inspiration.  Because I’d love to know what YOU ate at YOUR house this past week!  🙂

So I will tell you everything (I think) I ate at my house a few weeks ago.  I wrote it all down on scrap paper that week and it’s just now making it to the blog.  🙂
I only recorded what I ate that week, my hubby and children may have ate slightly different, but probably mostly the same.

Sunday-
Pancakes with fondue sauce (chocolate pancakes!)
Grilled Asparagus (a ton of it)
Fajitas- Wheat tortilla, vegan sour cream substitute, salsa, onion, bell peppers, tons of guacamole, cilantro lime rice
Fajitas again for dinner

Monday-
Apple cider vinegar drink, banana, almonds
3 salads this day with beans on them, tomato, and cashew dressing.  It was so good, I kept wanting more of this salad!  It was really filling with the beans on it!
Cucumbers with vegan ranch dip

Tuesday-
Apple cider vinegar drink
Chocolate fondue pancakes again because they were so good on Sunday so we made some more!
Pancakes again for lunch (Why not?!)
Carrots with vegan ranch dip
Refried bean burritos- Wheat tortilla, vegan nacho cheese dip, cashew sour cream, homemade salsa

Wednesday-
Apple cider vinegar drink, banana, almonds
Refried bean burritos again
Green Beans
Salad
Refried bean burritos… again.  🙂

Thursday-
Apple cider vinegar drink, banana, almonds
Green beans
Refried Bean dip with tortilla chips (I made way too much refried beans!)
Bell Pepper strips and vegan ranch dip
Peas
Sautee’d Mushrooms with salt
Cherry Tomatoes
Peanut Butter, Frozen Blueberries, and Honey Quesadilla (like a PB & J!)

Friday-
Apple cider vinegar drink
Biscuits and gravy
Biscuits and gravy again (they make great leftovers!)
Homemade Lara Bar (lots of it)
I stopped recording here for some reason, sorry!

But you can see… I didn’t cook elaborately too much this week.  We’ve been trying to keep meals simpler because at this life stage (5 children age 7 and under!), we can’t spend as much time in the kitchen.

Burritos are an easy go-to meal, salads are great, we eat a lot of peas, green beans, bell peppers, cucumbers, and carrots.  We make our vegan cashew dip/ dressing by the blender-full as well as good size amounts of our vegan nacho cheese.  We probably had some grass-fed beef on the weekend.  We eat about a pound a week as a treat.  We usually have some homemade bread or biscuits or pizza dough each week.  We usually soak some kind of bean and cook with it every week.  See?, we’re pretty boring!  🙂

Biscuits and Gravy

Whole-grain biscuits with a non-dairy, peppery gravy!  My picture isn’t very good but this is definitely a fave around here!

Biscuits:
2 1/2 cups Warm Water
3 1/2 tsp Yeast (proof it if not instant yeast)
1 Tbsp Sea Salt
2 Tbsp Coconut Sugar or other Sweetener
5 1/2 cup whole-grain flour (I use spelt immediately after grinding it in the Vita-Mix!)

Mix Well.
Drop onto greased pan in biscuit size pieces.  Let rise 15 minutes.  Bake at 350 degrees.  (For some reason I don’t have a time written on my recipe card, I’m going to guess for 12 minutes or so).

Gravy:
4 Tbsp Coconut Oil
1/3 cup Flour
3 cups Milk (coconut, rice, almond, etc)
1 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp Pepper (or more!)
Whisk on heat until thick.
You can also add some chopped hard boiled eggs to this if you’re not wanting this to be a vegan meal.  🙂

biscuits and gravy

Homemade Lara Bars

Using just dates and 1-5 other ingredients, you can make your very own Lara Bars!  You can do this for much cheaper than store bought ones and you can tweak them to how you like them.  Which, for me, means chocolate!

You’ll be shocked at how SWEET these are using only dates as your sweetener!  They are delicious!

Homemade Chocolate Larabars! Mmmm…

I’ve used the website below as a guide but kind of do my own thing most times. The cashew cookie with added cocoa is a great chocolate one!  (It’s just cashews, dates, cocoa, salt, and vanilla!  Mmmm, so good!)

Today’s version is almonds, sea salt, vanilla, and dates, SO good! The kids gobble it up, as do I!

But I will say… you can’t really make these without a strong food processor, dates can be very hard to blend! So I wouldn’t even try it if you don’t have a large food processor.

If you don’t take the time to form bars, you can call them Lara Balls, Lara Bites, or Lara Bowls- that’s our joke around here. 🙂

http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/chocolate-covered-recipes/fudge-baby-mania

Some friends and I even got together and had a Lara Bar Party!  Yeah, it was awesome!  We all made different kinds of Lara Bars and then exchanged at the end!  You should so steal this idea and have a Lara Bar party yourself!  Please invite me if you’re in my area.  🙂

For these below:
1-Blend 1/2 cup almonds to small pieces/ powder.

2- Add 1/2 cup chopped dates (if you chop them first, they’ll blend easier).

3- Add 1/4- 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1/4 tsp vanilla, and 1/4 cup shredded coconut.

4- Blend in food processor. Add a little water while blending to get ball-form consistency.

You can do endless varieties of these so feel free to omit any of the above ingredients and do your own thing… other nuts, dried fruit, etc.

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A Typical Breakfast For Me

For breakfast most mornings I have my warm apple cider vinegar drink (super healthy way to jumpstart your day!), banana, and some almonds.

But not all at once, I use good food combining rules. I finish my drink, wait a bit, eat my banana, then finish off with almonds.breakfast
Remember:  “An apple (cider vinegar drink) a day keeps the doctor away!”  🙂

Ultra Healthy Apple Cider Vinegar Drink: 
15 oz Warm Pure Water
1 Tbsp Bragg’s Raw, Unfiltered, Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice
Honey to taste

Please remember not to drink ACV straight up, it will BURN!  🙂

Chocolate Fondue Sauce

Oh yes I did! I can’t have chocolate chips because I’m on a no-sugar diet, but I can use my homemade chocolate fondue sauce and put it on my pancakes with real maple syrup. Healthy! The most delightful breakfast!

Chocolate Fondue Sauce: Mix 1/2 cup cocoa and 1/4 cup coconut oil in pan on low until smooth. Turn off heat. Add 1 tsp vanilla, 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup maple syrup, and raw agave nectar to taste (probably also about a 1/4 cup but more if you want it sweeter). The sauce is liquid when warm, more solid when cooled. Use to dip almonds or smother your pancakes or whatever else is good with chocolate!
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Jumbo Veggie Fajita

My problem is that I need a bigger tortilla!  Two different days, two different meals, but I obviously make this a lot!  fajita fajitas different day
How I roll (pun intended!)…
1- Grill some onion and bell peppers.  Salt to taste.
2- Remove from heat and add some chopped cilantro leaves, if desired.
3-Warm a whole-grain tortilla
4- Spread Cashew Sour Cream Substitute on shell.  Pile on grilled veggies.
5- Add a bountiful helping of guacamole!  Add some salsa too!  And freshly chopped tomatoes if desired.

-I’ve also made cilantro lime rice and will add this to my fajitas.  Yum!