Sunday, October 31, 2010

Great Giveaway at The Enchanted Tree

My friend Tree is hosting a great giveaway for Ecomom. If you haven't checked out Ecomom you need to go right now. They have a great line of eco friendly toys, household items, and baby products. You can buy anything from Smarty Pants vitamins to wooden Plan Toys to composting buckets. Check them out and then leave me a comment back to let me know what you think of them.

While you're surfing around check out Tree's husband's shop. Beuatiful glass products.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween

Earlier this week I realized how fast Halloween has snuck up on me. I was thinking I had lots of time to hit a pumpkin patch and things like that. Suddenly I was in a panic when I realized that Halloween is on Sunday. So Dakota and I stopped by a pumpkin patch on our way home the other day. The pumpkin patch had a tiny little haunted house. It wasn't even as big as my living room. There was a heavy black blanket hanging over both entrances. Dakota decided he wanted to go inside. He slowly walked up to the door. Just then something inside make a noise. Dakota ran in the opposite direction screaming. I told him there was nothing inside that could hurt him. But he was not going back inside. There was a witch by the door of the haunted house. I told him to go stand by the witch so I could take his picture. He didn't want to get close to her, but he finally walked a little closer. He didn't realize how close he was to the door of the haunted house. Just then a big wind blew through. The blanket on the door blew open and brushed his leg. Well, yap, he ran screaming again. He kept saying "You go Mommy." Now I have never liked haunted houses, but I wanted to show him that it was not scarey so I walked inside. There was a stuffed figure on one side and a couple of other characters on the other side. Nothing big, just a few flashing lights and a little noise. When I came out I tried to talk Dakota into going in. But he wasn't having any part of it. He did finally pull the curtain back a bit and peek in. But he would not set foot in the place.

They were having a contest to see who could guess the weight of a big pumpkin. Dakota said 10 pounds. The guy went and got a pumpkin that he knew weighed 50 pounds and sat it next to the pumpkin Dakota was guessing. When he saw the two together, he decided that big one was 120 pounds. The winner gets the pumpkin. Personally I hope we do not win. I have no idea what I would do with a pumpkin that big. Dakota finally picked out a 13 pound pumpkin and two small ones. Last night Dakota and Daddy carved the pumpkin. I noticed today that a squirrel had pumpkin for lunch. I chased him away a couple of times. But a large chunk of the face is missing.

Our homeschool group's Trunk or Treating was yesterday. All of the kids came in costume. They wrapped each other up in toilet paper to create mummies. Then they had a relay race carrying marshmellows in big spoons. They played a few more games, then ran off to play. The moms got to sit and talk for a long time. It was so cold, I just wanted to go home. I think a great time was had by all.

Happy Homeschooling

School has been in session for a couple of months now. I was wondering how folks are doing. I was at several homeschool events this week. And over and over again I kept hearing, "How do I get started?" It seems that there are a lot of people who have not quite got started on this school year. They're still questioning what curriculum to use, do they even need a curriculum, what should they do first. One of the things I like to point people toward is an online resource for getting started. I think you can find the answers to so many of the questions we all had in the beginning by checking out resources like this. Sometimes you just don't want to ask the questions of another homeschooler. Sometimes you think you SHOULD already know the answer. But how could you? If this is your first time homeschooling or even if it's your first time homeschooling a fourth grader, it's normal to have questions.

I think one of the first things you need to do is to get really familiar with your state laws. Find other homeschoolers in your state. Find online and in real life support groups. All of this information can be found on the New Jersey Homeschooling Information Page.

The next thing you need to do is take a few deep breaths. If your children have been in school, take some time for deschooling for both your sake and your children's. You have to break away from the mindset that school happens Monday through Friday form 9 to 3. There is no reason why school can't happen on Saturday evening or Sunday morning. Learning happens when you or your children make it happen.

Finally, get out and enjoy this new process. Enjoy doing things on your schedule and not on the schedule of the school system. Go to the park, the museum, the historical landmarks. Relax and Enjoy. And Happy Homeschooling.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I have been asked to write a review of the tiffin I bought from the wonderful folks over at Hip Mountain Mama. Hip Mountain Mama is a great family owned and operated business with an eye on offering the best Hip and Natural Products for Babies, Kids, and Mamas. They have a strong passion for preserving the Earth, raising their children in a conscious and natural way, and promoting other small family businesses. I hope you will take the time to head on over there and check them out. Anyway, here is what I wrote.

As a homeschooling family we are on the go a lot. We spend a lot of time eating in the car or at the park. So as part of my effort to “Go Green” I have started making reuseable sandwich wraps and snack bags. These bags work great for things like sandwiches or chips. They even work for some kinds of cut up fruits and vegetables. But what about a pasta salad or soup. I tried using glass bowls. I found some really nice pyrex bowls with plastic lids. These worked great for a while. But I have to tell you, they just don’t bounce off the side of a picnic table on to the concrete very well. Now that I am down to only one bowl left, I am looking for a better solution. I recently purchased a Tiffin from Hip Mountain Mama. This thing is the best for taking our lunch out with us. I can put soup in the top container, (It has the tightest fitting lid.) Then put a sandwich in another container. And some fruit in the third. Stack them up and flip the locks and lunch is ready to go. There is a little side car container that you can use for dips or salad dressing. If you look on Hip Mountain Mama’s web site you can find a set of bamboo To Go Ware to take along with your Tiffin. Then throw in a glass straw and a stainless steel water bottle and you have a wonderful lunch that absolutely will not end up in the trash somewhere.

The top layer of the tiffin has it’s own locking lid so you can use it by itself. It’s small enough to fit in your purse when you go out to eat. No more asking for a take out plastic or Styrofoam box to take your leftovers home in. You can even heat your leftovers in the toaster oven or on the stove top right in your tiffin.

I am so excited to have my new tiffin. I am also excited that Hip Mountain Mama asked me to write a review about the tiffin to let you all know what I think of it. It’s a great product from a wonderful environmentally conscience family owned business.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Where Are the Books About Homeschoolers?

I'm excited to have my friend, Kerry, guest post on my blog today. Kerry is also a homeschooling mom. Here's what she has to say.

Where Are the Books About Homeschoolers?
by Kerry Jones
When I was growing up I knew maybe two people who were homeschoolers. When we first started homeschooling ten years ago, there was already a homeschool support group in our local area with 200 families in it. Today? There are at least five local homeschool support groups, and if I throw a rock in any direction from my house, I can probably hit the house of someone who homeschools. It is estimated that homeschooling is growing anywhere from 5-12% annually, and is now bordering on being considered a “mainstream” style of education.

When my sons and I head to our local library during the school day, it isn’t unusual to see at least four or five other homeschooled kids reading and doing school work or research there. As I watch them poring over the books, I begin to feel a question forming in the back of my mind: Where are the books about homeschoolers? Upon researching the answer to this question, I’m sad to report that the world of books has not nearly caught up with the reality of the growing world of homeschooling.

If you peruse just one shelf of your local library or bookstore’s children’s fiction section, you will find multiple books about school hi-jinks, school frustrations, school humor, and even school science fiction. But almost nothing about the adventures of your friendly, neighborhood homeschooler!

Why is that??

I don’t know how often you attend your local homeschool support group activities, but if you frequent them even a little you can probably agree with me that homeschoolers are interesting folks. In one single field trip, I can be picking pumpkins between a Rastafarian who raises Shetland ponies and a former missionary from Kenya. No, the lack of homeschool protagonists can’t possibly be from a lack of fascinating characters.

So what then? No talented writers among the homeschooled? Pshaw, I say! I don’t have to read very far into any newspaper to find some mention of an academic contest with a homeschooler as the victor. My guess is that some of our most talented writers of the next generation will have gotten most of their writing education at home.

That leaves me with a couple possible scenarios, then, for why more books aren’t written about homeschoolers and homeschooling. Either book publishers are rejecting homeschool-friendly submissions or homeschoolers aren’t making enough noise about wanting them. My guess is that it is a little of both. If homeschoolers don’t let publishers know that they are interested in more books that represent them, then publishers will just assume there is no real market for homeschool-centric reading material.

If that is the case, then there ought to be an easy fix for it, right?? We just need to make ourselves heard! And thankfully, there is even a remarkably easy way to do just that., a website featuring books about homeschoolers and homeschooled authors, has a whole page of contact links for the most popular publishers of children’s books. They even have a sample letter that you can use as a guideline when contacting each publisher.

My children and yours deserve to have more books with characters they can relate to on a real basis. Let’s make our voice heard so that no more people have to walk through the aisles of their local library and ask the question, “Where are the books about homeschoolers?”

Kerry Jones is a freelance writer and online marketing consultant in North Carolina. She has two sons, and has been homeschooling since 1999. She writes extensively about homeschooling and technology, especially the integration of assisted technology for homeschoolers with special needs.

Friday, October 22, 2010

I Can't Read

We are still struggling with reading at our house. Dakota just does not want to read. We sit down to do our language arts program and all I hear is "Read to me." "I can't read it." "What does this say?" He just doesn't want to do it. The other day I got really REALLY frustrated with him. He was pulling his usual, "I can't. Read to me." I was in tears when I threw up my hands and said, "Okay, if you don't want to learn from me, you are going to school. I just can't do this any more." Well, at this point Dakota knew he had pushed me as far as he could. He sat down at the computer and read the whole story. He didn't miss a word. He didn't slow down to sound things out. He read the story smoothly and fluently. I had been had. This little monkey had me convinced that he really could not read when in reality, he just didn't WANT to read. As long as I was willing to read to him, why should he do any work. He still struggles with things like compound words. But I have learned that if I cover up half the word, he can sound it out and then usually he can figure out the second half pretty easily. We are playing some online games to help him figure out these longer words. I wish I could say that all of our problems with reading have vanished. Unfortunately he is still all too ready to claim "I can't do it." But now I am not so gullible to think that he really can't. I am learning the difference between I can't and I don't want to. Hopefully the I don't want to will come less and less often.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cooper Grist Mill Celebrate Apples

We were back at Cooper Grist Mill again today. This time it was for a celebration of apples. The kids each got a turn at peeling the apples with this really great apple peeler. I want one of these in my kitchen. (Especially with the 20 pounds of apples I have to turn into something in the next few days.)

Then they took the apple they had peeled and decorated it with a raisen face and apple peel hair.

Then they each took a turn at throwing quartered apples into a wooden trough.

Then they turned the crank that dropped the apples down through a chopper and into the pressing bucket.

When the bucket was full, Ms. Betty moved it over under the press. They put a wooden lid inside the bucket and then lowered the big screw like device down until it was pressing the apples. Soon we saw apple cider dripping out of the tray that lead to a gathering bucket. After a while the wheel became too hard for the kids to turn by hand. Ms. Betty gave them a lever to put in the spokes of the press. This allowed them to press the apples down even more and the juice came pouring down into the bucket.

Everyone was able to sample a bit of apple cider before we left.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Homeschooling In New Jersey

I have to say that I love homeschooling. I especially love homeschooling in New Jersey. My daughter is a homeschooling mom in Iowa. When she tells me about all the hoops she has to jump through to meet the requirements of her state, it makes me happy all over again that I live in New Jersey. Each state has different laws that you have to follow to legally homeschool your child. Some are very strict. Others, like New Jersey have no laws at all. If you are new to homeschooling you might want to read a quick overview of homeschooling in New Jersey.

There are so many resources out there for homeschoolers. Whether you want to play video games or do a lap book or unit studies, you can find resources online for it. Lately I have been wanting to do more work learning about the individual states. I was reading a blog the other day where they are putting together a notebook for the states. They had a picture of the state bird, a map of the state, the state flower, and lots of other great information about each state. I thought this sounded like a great project that we might work on in the future. For now, I thought it would be great to play games about New Jersey to get to know more about the state we live in. One site I found had a puzzle to put together online. They also have a memory game, a word search, a game about state symbols, and a lot more. I think we will spend some time working on these games over the next few days. Then if he likes it we will work on putting that notebook together. I think that sounds like a plan.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Homeschool and Like To Write ABout It?

Homeschooling is so much fun. There are so many great places to visit.So many things to do. So much money to spend. Oh yeah, that's not always all that much fun. Sometimes it can be overwhelming figuring out which curriculum to use for your child. Maybe XYZ works for for child #1, but child #2 is totally bored with it. ABC works for child #3. And LMN is best for child #4. And you have to spend mega bucks on each of these curriculums only to find that they don't meet your needs. Would you like to try out a curriculum for free. Man do I have a deal for you. wants you to write a curriculum review for their program. They will give you a 30 day free trial if you will try it out and then write a review of what you thought of the program. What could be better than that??? You get a chance to use the curriculum for free. Your kids get to try out all the fun learning games and activities. And you can let all your friends know what you thought of it.

You can also check out the great online parent support community. Are you brand new to homeschooling? There's a group for that. Are you looking for other homeschoolers in your area? There's a group for that. Maybe you're a military family. There's a group for that as well. There are so many topics on the forums. I'm sure you'll find something to meet your needs. While you're there, check out the new cyber book club. It's only the second week so still plenty of time to join.

Have fun learning and exploring.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Handwriting of a Doctor

My son says he wants to be an astronaut when he grows up. Personally I think he's more likely to be a doctor. You know what they say about doctor's and their horrible handwriting. Well, Dakota certainly has the handwriting for it. I think his is the worst handwriting I have ever seen for an 8 year old. I know he does most of his work online so he doesn't get a lot of practice with his actual writing skills. I have started trying to find resources to help him improve his handwriting skills. The other day I found some printable handwriting worksheets. I can even type in his spelling words and have them printed out as a worksheet. Whether you are working on compound words or contractions, geography words or even abbreviations, there is a worksheet for you on this site. Check it out and let me know what you think.

While checking for handwriting practice I also came across ways to improve keyboarding skills. Try as hard as I can I just can't beat NumPad Kennys. Oh wait, I forgot, these are supposed to be for kids not for grown ups. Gee I want to be a kid again so I can play all these cool games.

So we are working hard to improve writing skills this week, whether they be handwriting or keyboarding. Maybe by the time he's 18 his writing will be more like an astronaut than like a doctor.