Monday, July 21, 2014

Bountiful Homeschooling On A Budget

I published a book. It has been a long held dream of mine to write a book, but taking care of my children, homeschooling and writing articles has taken most of my time so that book writing and marketing was just an idea in the back of my head.

The thing that finally made my dream a reality was seeing the persistence that my 12 year old son had to publish his book, Finding Joy In a World of Sorrow. He found a self publishing website, wrote the book, and I finally came in at the end to briefly edit it.

Fun at a local park

I have had many ideas for book, I am passionate about so many things, so choosing a topic to narrow in on was one of the hardest parts initially. However, my workshop on Homeschooling on a Budget provided a good framework for my first book.

My book, Bountiful Homeschooling On A Budget is not an exhaustive reference, but it is an entertaining, short book that is full of ideas for saving money as well as inspiration to know why you might want to save money.
Homemade Fun

One chapter is about saving money on household goods and I talk about how often our children have so many toys and playthings that their imagination and resourcefulness is hindered. This morning I was given hope, that despite my children's many toys, they still have an imagination.

My youngest daughter, seven years old, looked through a craft book and found the idea of painting rocks. She spent time painting with her younger brother, painting the rocks into an entire family complete with grandparents. She then painted bricks to be beds and a kitchen and then drew a chalk house on the patio to play in. Although she has a small doll house, what excited her more today was to build her own with rocks and chalk.

Your family can have the blessing of living on less so that you have more to give also, and this book may help you get started.


I will be speaking on Bountiful Homeschooling On A Budget this Saturday at the Valley Home Educators Conference   and giving away a free copy of my book to one of my workshop attendees. It just might be you!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Swimming Creatures Lapbook

We loved our year studying the book, Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day by Jeannie Fulbright of Apologia. The only thing I did not love was the notebook. Some of the pages were wonderful but there were just so many of them! It frustrated me to have blank pages but my children had other work and projects that were higher priorities than filling out multiple workbook pages.


The way we solved this issue when we hit the end of our school year and reviewed all the blank pages was by taking apart the notebook and making a lapbook. The children did this project in a morning, with a little help from me in the cutting department. We simply cut the lovely mini books from the back of the notebook, assembled them, and then wrote definitions for the terms.


Once the writing was finished the children glued them into their tri-folded file folders. The children were eager and happy to get this project done and it was a nice way to review all they had learned through out  the year. 

Even my reluctant hand writer enjoyed putting effort into making a lapbook, and I was so proud of his efforts and accomplishment.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fun With Apologia's Swimming Creatures

Our little friend's amazing ocean box
We recently finished up our year long science study using Swimming Creatures by Apologia. This was my favorite year so far! Although I loved the Botany studies we did last year, and my sons really enjoyed Astronomy, it was amazing to learn about all these crazy creatures that inhabit our oceans. 
The shark, it had been out of the water for a while.

As a finale for our year, we did a few crafts with the younger kids, displayed the ocean boxes that we had worked on, shared reports and even dissected a shark. 

The other two families that we have been studying science with over the last several years, contributed so much to our fun last day, and although the shark brought some unexpected surprises to me, shark brain in the freezer, anyone?,  it really capped off an incredible year.


Aside from working on our Sculpey clay sea creatures throughout the year, we didn't do a lot of crafts, so my littlest student really enjoyed decorating a paper bowl which became his own pet jellyfish, complete with a cutout of a fish pasted into it's "tummy".


We are so happy that we have friends to learn with! Our many years of doing homeschool co-ops have brought so much fun and creativity to our lives.

Click here for a slightly more sophisticated jellyfish craft

Monday, June 2, 2014

Family Mission Trips

We have been doing mission work in Mexico for over 15 years and just got back from another wonderful weekend in this precious country.  Another brave family came with eight of their children and one adorable grandchild.


This was one of our quickest trips ever, we rolled into Mexico on Saturday evening and were in the border line at 5pm on Monday, quick but full of excitement.

Sunday morning after a brief and cozy sleep at the mission house we headed to Calvary Chapel Rosarito for Sunday morning service. When we first moved to Mexico we attended this church which at the time met in a small retail building. The children were all packed into a downstairs room while the adults, around 40 people worshipped upstairs. Fast forward 10 years and this church now has over 1,000 people who meet in a huge warehouse and have new believers and new church plants growing as an outflow of their ministry. It was inspiring to be back in such an exciting place. 

Sunday afternoon we drove an hour east to visit one of these church plants which is pastored by a couple we had known since living in Mexico. This brand new church meets under a couple of Costco car covers in one of the poorest squatter communities in Tijuana. 
Scott and I were honored to testify of God's goodness in our lives to these spiritually hungry people and to share some tools which we had learned at the Love After Marriage conference we attended in February. While the service was going on our children had the fun of directing the children's class which met in a little dirt floor classroom. To get to the classroom you ascended a staircase made of old tires. An incredible place to sow into.


Monday, after a fabulous breakfast of chorizo and eggs with fresh tortillas and pan dulce we headed over to the orphanage. We have been supporting this orphanage for the last 8 years and love how they really parent the children. It was wonderful to listen to the children recite much of Ephesians 6, although with my faulty Spanish I kept another child close at hand to help me.

After feeding the children pizza and fixing up a sunshade over their outdoor dining room we headed back to the U.S. We were across the border in 30 minutes, one of the shortest crossings we had ever experienced. It was an inspiring weekend because there is nothing quite as special as ministering cross culturally with your children.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Making Julia Child's French Bread (With My Child)


After stumbling upon "My Life in France" by Julia Child recently at a used book sale, I became very interested in French cooking, or rather, baking. In the book, Ms. Child describes in vivid detail the process by which she wrote her famous cookbook, "Mastering The Art of French Cooking" which is available in two volumes. Although cooking to me is often more of a chore, taking up a huge chunk of my time and producing loads of dirty dishes three times a day, baking is another story. I love making a yummy batch of chocolate chip cookies or pulling fresh loaves of yeasty bread from the oven just in time for dinner. However, we have been trying to be supportive of the paleo eaters in our family and so I haven't been indulging in as much baking as I would like. 


Having become intrigued by French cooking from reading Julia Child's autobiography, I did make an effort to find her cookbooks on one of my routine trips to the local library. Although Volume One was not available, they did have Volume Two, which had the chapter which she describes so vividly in "My Life In France" on how to make real French bread. 

I decided to forget about paleo and Nourishing Traditions for a few days and give it a shot. It was also a fun little opportunity to teach my young daughter about measuring and scooping, and the amazing properties of yeast.  

The ingredients list was very simple, although she includes pages of detailed instructions. I added a tablespoon of vital wheat gluten to my recipe and it rose beautifully, sadly, I cannot say the same about the brioche which I made the same day. A few keys to doing French bread right, according to Julia Child, are sufficient rising time, and a hot steamy oven with a stone. Getting the bread from the rising surface to the stone was the one problem I encountered. She recommends flipping the bread out of the rising surface, after rising the shaped loaf, so that the bread is baked bottom side up. This was easier said than done with my amateur bread baking supplies.

The recipe is simple, and here it includes my variation of vital wheat gluten, for detailed directions see this post at Epicurious or buy the book.

French Bread

3 t. active dry yeast (approximately one package)
1/3 c. warm water

Allow yeast to dissolve in water in mixer bowl. I use a Bosch with dough hook.

3 1/2 c. flour (the recipe calls for all purpose, I usually bake with unbleached)
1 T vital wheat gluten
2 1/4 t. salt
1 1/4 c. tepid water

I mixed this for a couple minutes and let it rest for two minutes. Then I processed it in my Bosch for about 6 minutes. After it was feeling smooth and springy I placed it in a bowl prepared with a little olive oil and let it rise for about 3 or 4 hours. It is supposed to triple in size. After the first rising,  it is deflated, kneaded slightly and then allowed to rise a second time, another 3 hours or so. Finally it is shaped into loaves and given a third rising. I did baguettes which I slashed the tops of and then baked at 450 for 25 minutes. I baked them on a hot stone, with a pan of water in the oven for steam.

The bread was really wonderful.  Light and airy with perfect flavor, especially when slathered with butter. It was a special treat to make, especially with such a lovely little helper.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Stealthy Toy Storage Solutions

We live in a home which is not tiny, but with our big family, it is a bit light on storage space. I do love keeping an assortment of toys on hand though, both for my own children and for visiting children. I fondly remember visiting a wonderful ministry family, who although their own children were grown, when we visited with our bunch of young children they would always pull out an exciting bin of Playmobiles to entertain my youngsters.

The hidden toy cupboard
Some of our toys are not played with daily and so they need to be stored in their particular category but they don't need to be in plain sight. We were able to find some extra space for these toys by converting an unused wood storage cupboard.

 My husband built a platform so we could easily slide toy baskets in but the toys were in such a random assortment of bins and baskets which did not fit well, and because the bins were open, my children had started tossing random toys in, creating a frustrating mess.

Inside the cupboard before the new bins

To solve this problem I purchased under bed storage bins which were the perfect size for stacking and holding the toys, and not too heavy for a young child to slide in and out.

After the new bins
These bins contain our beloved Playmobile, Loving Family and Wooden Trains, toys that are still favorites with my younger kids but which don't need to be cluttering up our living space on a daily basis. I love the uniform size, and having these fun toys accessible and yet orderly is perfect for our family.
How do you keep toys accessible without letting them overrun your home?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Edible Bird Nest Treats

As part of our spring celebration we made these edible bird nests. They are very simple to make, really just an adaptation of rice cereal squares with a few healthy, and not so healthy additions.

Edible Bird Nest Treats

1/4 c. butter (1/2 stick)
4 c. miniature marshmallows (I used one package)
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. chocolate chips
5 c. crispy rice cereal
1 c. dry chow mein noodles
1/2 c. sesame seeds
1 package Cadbury Mini Eggs, or other egg shaped candy

Melt the butter, marshmallows, peanut butter and chocolate chips on low heat in a large saucepan, stirring occasionally.
While melting, measure cereal, dry noodles and seeds into a bowl. When first four ingredients are melted and combined, add cereal mix and mix well. Drop tennis or ping pong ball size mounds onto waxed paper. Allow your helpers to press down the middle to form a nest shape. When cool, fill with candy eggs.