Beach Towel with Pocket

Pocketed Beach Towel @ponderthepath

Summer has arrived in full force here in South Texas and going to the pool is #1 on the kids’ summer bucket list. In order to keep all their swimming necessities in one place, I created a beach towel with a pocket. Each child can store their goggles, sunshades, snacks, or money in the handy pocket sewn to the back side of the towel.

Check out my Beach Towel Pocket tutorial at The Happy Housewife to learn how to make your own!

Homeschool Encouragement Basket Giveaway

35 homeschool bloggers have joined forces in a
HUGE homeschool basket giveaway! Each blogger below is conducting her own giveaway, so make sure to visit each one for a chance to win!!!

Win This from Ponder the Path

Homeschool Encouragement Gift Basket

Included in my Basket of Encouragement:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

ihn-currclick-promo

CurrClick is a sponsor of my gift basket. Be sure to visit CurrClick to learn more about their upcoming Open House, where you can receive discounts and win free classes!

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iHN-Back-to-School

(1) Back to School Toolkit from Milk and Cookies
(2)†Back to School Toolkit from These Temporary Tents
(3)†Back to School Toolkit from Spell Outloud
(4)†Back to School Toolkit from Great Peace Academy
(5)†Back to School Toolkit from Gricefully Homeschooling

……

(6) Back to School Toolkit from Raising Lifelong Learners
(7) Back to School Toolkit from WriteShop
(8) Back to School Toolkit from Preschoolers and Peace
(9) Back to School Toolkit from Starts at Eight
(10) Back to School Toolkit from Joyful Mothering

……

(11) Back to School Toolkit from Harrington Harmonies
(12) Back to School Toolkit from Ponder the Path
(13) Back to School Toolkit from Forever, For Always, No Matter What
(14) Back to School Toolkit from Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus
(15) Back to School Toolkit from Habits for a Happy Home

……

(16) Back to School Toolkit from Curriculum Choice
(17) Back to School Toolkit from See Jamie Blog
(18) Back to School Toolkit from Beautiful Motherhood
(19) Back to School Toolkit from Sam’s Noggin
(20) Back to School Toolkit from This Reading Mama

……

(21) Back to School Toolkit from Teaching Mama
(22) Back to School Toolkit from Adorable Chaos
(23) Back to School Toolkit from The Pelsers
(24) Back to School Toolkit from Hodge Podge
(25) Back to School Toolkit from Sallie Borrink

……

(26) Back to School Toolkit from The Kennedy Adventures
(27) Back to School Toolkit from Flourish
(28) Back to School Toolkit from Our Journey Westward
(29) Back to School Toolkit from Meet Penny
(30) Back to School Toolkit from On Faith and Coffee

……

(31) Back to School Toolkit from Our Abundant Blessings
(32) Back to School Toolkit from Holistic Homeschooler
(33) Back to School Toolkit from The Encouraging Home
(34) Back to School Toolkit from Motherhood on a Dime
(35) Back to School Toolkit from The Homeschool Scientist

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Preschool Fun: Stellaluna

Stellaluna @ponderthepath

{image credit: My daughter, Maddie, has been learning photography and helping take pictures for the blog. I think she did a great job with this one!}

Sometimes in the busyness of homeschooling older children, the younger ones miss out on fun projects and learning of their own. In our family, I have to be intentional about making sure I spend time doing hands on learning with the preschoolers. It doesn’t have to fancy or take up a lot of time. Something simple is usually best.

One of the best ways to incorporate learning and fun is to choose a simple children’s book. After reading the book with the children, choose an activity that relates to the story.

We recently checked out a long-time favorite…Stellaluna. Stellaluna is a young bat that is separated from her mother and ends up in a next of birds. She just doesn’t fit in and feels down about her failures, until she discovers she is really a bat. A wonderful book that teaches us to be the person God created us to be!

Stellaluna pages @ponderthepath

For our related craft, I did a quick search on YouTube and found some how-to videos teaching basic origami.

“Ori” is the Japanese word for folding and “Kami” is the word for paper.

We made origami bats and an origami wing flapping bird. Even the older kids joined in on the fun. The two year old was a bit young to make his own, but he did get some practice using the scissors to cut paper. I love it when everyone is learning, even if it wasn’t planned or structured.

Origami bat @ponderthepath

Origami bird @ponderthepath

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If you would like more great storybook and craft ideas, check out the other bloggers from iHomeschool Network!

We also read The Big Hungry Bear and made strawberry shortcakes and would love to share that with you as well.

A-Book-and-a-Big-Idea

Preschool Fun: The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear

The Big Hungry Bear @ponderthepath

The Big Hungry Bear has been a loooong time favorite at our house. Little Mouse picks a red ripe strawberry. The narrator talks Little Mouse into sharing the strawberry in order to keep it safe from Big Hungry Bear.

The Big Hungry Bear @ponderthepath

My favorite aspect of the book is the beautifully drawn illustrations. When Little Mouse pulls the strawberry from the vine, you can feel the vine shaking. And when he cuts the strawberry in half, the sweet juiciness entices even the reader to want to share the strawberry.

Strawberry Shortcake @ponderthepath

A classic story such as The Big Hungry Bear deserves a classic recipe to highlight the strawberry goodness. I pulled out my 40 year old Betty Crocker cookbook and found a sweet recipe for Strawberry Shortcakes.

Shortcake Recipe @ponderthepath

It is simple enough even the boys could help me out.

Making Shortcake Dough @ponderthepath

After making the dough, roll it out and cut out personal size shortcakes using a cup.

Shortcake Dough @ponderthepath

Whipping up the cream is the best part, especially for little mechanically minded boys!

Making Whipped Cream @ponderthepath

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If you would like more great storybook and craft ideas, check out the other bloggers from the iHomeschool Network!

We also read Stellaluna and made origami bats and birds…would love to share that with you as well.

A-Book-and-a-Big-Idea

Curriculum Choices 2013-2014

curriculum choices @ponderthepath

This year is going to be a bit different for me. The last couple of years I have had to focus on high school kiddos, getting them graduated and where they need to be. But this year my 16 year old will be taking dual credit classes at the community college, which will free me up to do some fun things with the younger kids.

Our younger children will be in grades 6th, 3rd, and Pre K (along with a 2 1/2 year old…oh boy!), so it should be a good year for some hands on learning! I am actually very excited to get started with school this year, as the last couple of years we have been in survival mode. I am praying that this year will be a year of refreshment.

Homeschooling Methods

Generally, we are relaxed homeschoolers who somewhat follow a Charlotte Mason homeschooling method. In theory, I would like to incorporate the Charlotte Mason method more thoroughly. In practice, I just haven’t been able to do all that I would like to and our method has really been more about doing what we can when we can.

Some of my favorite resources for Charlotte Mason learning are:

Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola

Ambleside Online

Simply Charlotte Mason

Bible

For years I searched for a Bible curriculum and never found one that worked for us. At the time, I started just teaching each day from the Bible. This has worked out so well for us, doesn’t require any planning, and allows me to let the Lord guide our learning each day.

What we do is start our Bible time with the singing of hymns (I usually let the kids pick them out, or I will choose something if there is a hymn on my heart.) My oldest daughter plays the piano while we sing. Then we have a time of prayer. After that, we recite our memory verses, then read from our Bibles.

Depending on how everyone is doing (remember, we have little ones in the bunch), we will read 1-2 chapters. I have the kids take turns reading, even the ones that are just learning to read. We use the KJV and I have found that having them read each day helps tremendously with their reading skills. As we read, we will pause and discuss what we are reading.

To keep track of our reading (where we are and what we have read), I use a Bible checklist that I found online. I love visuals to help me know where I am at and help keep me on track.

History/Language Arts

Early American INTSG

History has always been the core of our learning each year. I try to tie in our language arts and history so that we are getting more bang for our buck. (I don’t like doing more than I have to!)

For history this year, we will be learning about early American history. Beautiful Feet Books is one of my favorite sources for living history books. In fact, I started out using them 12 years ago and here I am reading the great again with my second round of kids! It is always neet to pull out old books and remember when the older kids were little. And then to experience the stories all over from the perspective of different children. What a blessing it is to teach our children at home!

What I usually do is start with a core read aloud and generally build around it. I will choose readers for the kids that complement the read aloud and are age appropriate. I have tried and tried to use different curriculums, but I always modify them so much they never really resemble the original curriculum.

This year I have a membership with Notebooking Pages, so I am excited to see how it fits in with our studies. I like the fact that I can custom create pages that work with whatever I decide to do *and* I have lifetime access to the pages, so I don’t feel like I have to cram them all in at once! I plan on using the Notebooking Pages to reinforce what we are reading, as well as teach handwriting and dictation skills.

I am still a little unsure about grammar/writing/spelling this year. Still pondering this one.

Science

earth and space

After living in Kansas for 1 1/2 years, I have a little boy who is fascinated by weather, especially tornados! We have checked out books at the library and read every book we have at home, but his fascination continues.

With that in mind, I am really thrilled to try something new for science this year. We will be using Christian Kids Explore Earth and Space, which covers such things as geology, atmosphere, and WEATHER! Science is one of the areas that sometimes gets pushed to the back burner when life gets busy. I wanted something that was super easy to implement and didn’t take much prep work from me.

I also got the student activity book to go along with the text. I plan on just printing out copies of the worksheets for all the kids to work on. I love this because I can make copies for the little guys too (makes them feel big) and not feel bad if all they do is scribble on them.

Math

Math is a pretty easy one this year. We will be using Math-U-See once again. It is a solid program, although I haven’t taken full advantage of the videos that accompany the curriculum. I usually just explain how to do things then let them take off.

I haven’t quite decided what to do for the 4 year old. Normally, I don’t start any formal schooling until around 1st grade. But he is a sharp cookie and really wants to “do some school”. So I may buy the Alpha book for him and just let him play with it and move at his own pace. If he is ready for it, fine. If not, we’ll put it up til next year. {edited: I just went to the Math-U-See website and lo-and-behold they have a “primer” math for the little guys!}

Math-U-See

Another thing I love about Math-U-See are the manipulative blocks. Like I said, I don’t always teach according to the videos. And some concepts I teach using a different approach all together. But I am always able to use the math blocks to help them visualize the concept they are learning. This is so important for the younger years when math concepts are so foreign to them. Whether you use blocks, or silverware, or buttons–having something tangible makes a huge difference! The blocks are also great for keeping toddlers busy building while the older ones do their lessons!

Music

composers

All of my older children play instruments and sing, so I always feel that we have music covered. We sing hymns in church or the girls learn new ones to play for different audiences. They learn blue grass tunes and old folk type songs, so I really think Charlotte would be proud.

One area that I do want to focus on this year, though, is learning about the classical composers. My oldest daughter learned more classical pieces on the piano, and the younger girls haven’t really done that. We will be using Bright Idea Press’ Young Scholar’s Guide to Composers. It consists of 32 weeks worth of lessons covering 26 composers. They will listen to the music (I think I have most of the composers in my VOX collection), learn about the lives of the composers, and about the different periods of music. Worksheets are included to help facilitate learning.

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This post and many more are part of the Teach Them Diligently Summer of Encouragement Link Up series! You can read More about How to Stay Encouraged While Homeschooling HERE

This post is also part of iHomeschool Network’s Not Back-to-School Blog Hop.

nbtsbloghopcalendar2013

Disclosure Policy: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Learn to Make Hand-Dipped Beeswax Candles

Learn to Make Hand-Dipped Beeswax Candles @ponderthepath

We have had so much fun making our own beeswax candles. Even though they are somewhat short and squatty, it makes our home feel so warm and welcoming every time I light one. And the smell. I just adore the smell.

Want to make your own? Join me at The Happy Housewife and I will show you how!

Be Encouraged Homeschool Mom

How to Stay Encouraged While Homeschooling

Homeschooling is tough.

It is an absolute battle.

Homeschool Beginnings

For many of us, we entered into this homeschool thing with visions of children sitting quietly at their desk working on their schoolwork. We just knew they would sit and play lovingly and kindly with their siblings all day. And because we are at home all day, we can keep the house clean and wonderful meals ready at 12:00 and 5:00 everyday.

And then reality sets in. Kids rebel, siblings fight, the house looks like a tornado came through, and we struggle just to get the kids a sandwich at 1:30. It doesn’t take long for the honeymoon to end and we realize just how hard it is to be a homeschooling mother.

Our Homeschool Journey

I remember when I first started homeschooling 12 years ago. My oldest daughter had gone to public school for kindergarten and 1st grade. We began homeschooling her for 2nd grade and her brother was preschool age. I spent hours, days, weeks setting up our schedule and planning how things were going to be. I planned that we would say a prayer, then the pledge of allegiance in the morning. Then we would sing songs and sit at the table while each child worked on their projects and schoolwork.

Then we started school.

No one was ready on time. Everyone was grouchy (especially me). Attention spans were short. 2nd graders did not like preschoolers to mess with their things and preschoolers screamed because they couldn’t mess with 2nd graders things. By lunch time, Mama was exhausted and hadn’t even thought about what to eat for lunch.

Read-alouds were scheduled for after lunch and most days Mama fell asleep reading and missed doing all the afternoon lessons she had scheduled.

In short, I felt like a failure.

For many years.

Being Discouraged

I had the fierce desire to homeschool. I knew that it was exactly what the Lord wanted us to do. I just didn’t realize how hard is was really going to be. I didn’t understand that it encompassed your whole being. Physically, emotionally, spiritually–they are all impacted by homeschooling.

And to make matters worse, I had to keep all my frustrations, my fears, my failures locked up inside. I couldn’t let my husband know how hard it really was because then he wouldn’t believe in me. He had only reluctantly agreed to homeschool after my begging and pleading. It wouldn’t have taken much for him to change his mind and send them back to public school.

So I plodded on, day by day, hoping to make some progress. And the Lord filled in all the gaps I had missed. He gently taught me and I in turn taught them. My husband came around and realized the benefits of homeschooling. And we graduated our first student last May.

I wish I could say “and I never have hard times anymore”. As we enter our 13th year of homeschooling, the battle has become even more fierce. There are now more children of all different ages. The “newness” of homeschooling has worn off and the reality of a life of teaching your children has set in. There are new challenges and obstacles to be faced each and every day.

Encouragement from the Lord

I am in continual need of encouragement.

Definition of Encourage @ponderthepath

The first definition Webster’s 1828 dictionary gives for encourage is “to give courage to”. It takes courage to keep your children home and attempt to teach them. It takes courage to step out against the grain and say “we are going to dare to be different”. It takes courage to put aside your own desires and dreams and embrace the dream the Lord has for you.

Many times when I think of the word “encourage”, I envision a pat on the back and some nice words letting the person know that it will be alright. And yes, this can be encouraging. But I really think encouragement is so much bolder. When we give encouragement to someone, we should be giving them the COURAGE to get the job done!

Definition of Courage @ponderthepath

I love 3rd definition of courage here, where the Webster’s 1828 dictionary says that courage is “that quality of mind which enables men {and women} to encounter danger and difficulties with firmness, or without fear or depression of spirits! WOW! That is what I need. The ability to face the difficulties of homeschooling with firmness, without fear, and without depression of spirits!

How many times have I let fear overtake me and become depressed because homeschooling was so overwhelming? Too many! As a homeschooling mom, I need to be encouraged {given courage} to get the job done.

Did you know that in the book of Joshua, the Lord tells Joshua at least 9 times to “be strong and of a good courage”? Joshua was headed into battle. God didn’t tell him that there wouldn’t be difficulties. He didn’t downplay what Joshua was going through. He didn’t give him an easier route to take. Instead, he imparted courage to Joshua.

Joshua 1:9
Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

This same commandment is given to us, homeschooling moms!

Be encouraged!

Don’t be afraid or disheartened!

The Lord is with you wherever you are!

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This post and many more are part of the Teach Them Diligently Summer of Encouragement Link Up series! You can read More about How to Stay Encouraged While Homeschooling HERE

Disclosure Policy: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Cloth Diapers

Fuzzi Bunz @ponderthepath

Our little guy turned 2 in April and has been showing signs of being ready to potty train for some time.  With a recent move and the busyness of settling into our new home, I have had to put potty training on the back burner.  In the mean time, I thought I would share our diapering experience.

We have used cloth diapers (Fuzzi Bunz) off and on for the last 8 years.  I started using them with my 4th child.  At the time, we lived in base housing and didn’t pay for utilities.  We used cloth diapers exclusively with her and had a very easy time potty training her at 2 years old.

With our 5th child, we started with cloth diaper intending to use them exclusively, but moved to Spain when he was 5 months old.  The washers/dryers in Europe a made to wash clothes for a family of 2…teeny tiny.  And one load of laundry takes about 3 hours to wash and dry.  I was always backed up on laundry and the cost of running the washer and dryer so much was outrageous.

Something had to give and I ended up using disposables most of the time.  Right after he turned 2 we move to Texas and I started using cloth diapers with him for a couple of months before potty training him.

With our 6th child, I again started using cloth diapers intending to do so long term.  Another move and a difficult “washing dilemma” caused me to use disposables throughout most of his diaper wearing years.  Now that we have moved back to Texas, I am in the same situation with him as I had been with child #5.  I put him in cloth diapers with the intentions of potty training soon.

Why Cloth Diapers

  • Cheaper – Generally cloth diapers have a great cost savings over using disposables.  The cloth diapers I purchased were not the cheapest ones, but they are very well made.  This has allowed me to use them with 3 children now, and they are still in great shape (in case I need to use them with more).  

    There is an additional expense in water/electricity, but depending on your situation you might even save money washing and drying.  For instance, our water supply is well water, so we don’t have a water bill.  There have been times we have used a clothes line to dry our diapers (it is actually better for them) to save on the cost of electricity.

  • Healthier – Cloth diapers do not contain chemicals that can both irritate baby’s skin or get into their urinary/reproductive tracts.  I always cringe when I have to wipe off gel pieces from my baby’s bottom knowing that they just can’t be good for them.

    On the other hand, with cloth diapers you really have to makes sure that they get thoroughly washed out so that there are no harmful bacteria left in the diapers. With my 5th son, he had thrush and a yeast rash as a baby. I washed his diapers thoroughly and added apple cider vinegar to the wash to make sure all the organisms were killed.

  • Simpler – Some may snicker at the thought of cloth diapers being simpler, but really they are. Yes, they can be extra work, but honestly, I find it to be rewarding work. There is just something so inherently simple about diapering your child in the same way they have been diapered for thousands of years. Everyone may not appreciate the nostalgia but I happen to like it.

    Yes, I do have to work harder. Yes, there are times that cloth diapers can be messier. And yes, sometimes they are downright inconvenient. But there is something so sweet about seeing your little one toddle around in their big bulky cloth diaper, knowing that it was the work of your hand that keeps that diaper on their bum.

Baby with Fuzzi Bunz @ponderthepath

Cloth Diapers and Potty Training

I have found that using cloth diapers before potty training has been such a tremendous help in facilitating the training. Although cloth diapers absorb the wetness, they don’t completely wick away the moisture like disposables do. Consequently, the youngsters “feel” the wetness against them.

In my experience, this has helped become more aware of the entire act of going potty. By the time my kids are nearing 2 years of age, being wet or dirty really starts to bother them. They will often take off their diaper after they have gone (not always the best thing, but at least they are learning).

Another benefit with the pocket diapers is that you can remove one or both of the inserts (I use 2 inserts for diapers) to use them as training pants. I have also been able to slip the diapers on and off like underwear leaving them buttoned up. Or if they have gone in the diaper, you can always lay them down and unbutton them to avoid the mess of pulling them down.

How-to’s of Cloth Diapering

I try to keep things as simple as possible so that cloth diapering is doable for us. When my babies are little, I try to have about 24 small diapers. As they get older, I move them to size large and just put them on the tightest snap. With the first child I cloth diapered, I used medium when they were young and moved to large. (However, I gave the mediums to a friend, so when I went to buy diapers again I just bought small.)

All that to say that you can get by with just 2 sizes. For the larger size, I keep about 18 on hand but generally just use 10 or so by the time they are 1 1/2 to 2.

What I do is keep a bucket/tub/trash can (I have used all 3) on the dryer. When they wet their diaper, I toss it into the bucket. If they dirty their diaper, I take it to the toilet and get as much off as I can using toilet paper. I then put the diaper in the bucket.

I like to wash diapers every day because they start to smell (worse than normal) if I take longer than a day to wash. To wash, I hold the diaper by the front corners and shake out the inserts into the washer. Then I toss the diaper in as well. I wash the diapers once with cold water/no detergent just to rinse them out and get all the yuckies off. I then wash a second time with hot water/detergent. I use Charlie’s Soap to wash my diapers (I use Amazon’s Subscribe and Save to get my Charlie’s soap cheaper). Once the diapers are washed, I rinse them a second time just to make sure the soap has all been rinsed out. Then I toss them in the dryer to dry or hang them out.

It does seem like somewhat of a process, but really when you get a system down it is not bad at all. I usually wash the load on the small load size setting, so it doesn’t take as long to fill up with water.

Disclosure Policy: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Turtles in the Snow Cheesecake Bars

{In our house, my 16 year old son is our dessert connoisseur. That is why I collaborated with him on a new recipe to enter in an online contest. Our favorite recipe was eliminated because it took longer than 30 minutes to prepare. I decided to share it with you all because I am sure you won’t mind waiting for this one to chill. It is definitely worth the wait!}

Turtles in the Snow Cheesecake Bars

Crust:
1 stick butter, melted
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar

Filling:
2 8 ounce packages cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream

Topping:
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup coconut flakes
3/4 cup caramel sauce (you can make your own by melting caramels with a dash of milk and a sliver of butter)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix ingredients for crust and press into a 9 x 13 inch pan.
Bake for 6-8 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Beat in flour, eggs, vanilla, and sour cream. Pour over crust. Top with chocolate chips, pecans, and coconut, pressing down slightly. Bake 25 minutes. Turn off oven and allow cheesecake to cool in oven with door slightly ajar for 45 minutes. Refrigerate 2 hours. Drizzle caramel sauce over cheesecake bars before serving.

Homeschool Mother’s Journal: Our Week

HMJ-Logo-Landscape-500x337

This week has been a particularly busy week for the Lucero family. Our homeschooling was put on hold several weeks ago with our move to Texas, but our learning never gets put on hold. One of the greatest blessings of homeschooling is that we get to experience learning in everything we do.

Join me at So You Call Yourself a Homeschooler where I am sharing our fun filled week in the Homeschool Mother’s Journal!