Sunday, September 14, 2014

Celebrate the 1-Year Anniversary 4 Amazing Blogs: Win $150 in Cash or 5 Other Great Prizes!

Today, I am joining up to celebrate the 1-year blogging anniversary of 4 amazing blogs with a super-fun giveaway! Learn more about the giveaway below:
BIRTHDAY (4)

Hosted by:

Intelligent Domestications, My Pinterventures, 2 Crochet Hooks, and Meatloaf and Melodrama

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Co-hosts:

Becky and Glenna @My Paper Craze
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Laura @Michigan Saving and More

Trish @The Decoratoraholic

6 PRIZES:

**winners will be randomly chosen through eligible Rafflecopter entries**

One lucky winner will win $150 CASHhappycash400

Special thanks to our sponsors for providing these wonderful gifts.

Sponsor Gifts:

One lucky winner will win these great prizes - Chloe + Isabel earrings (Value $22) from Andrea's Chloe +Isabel Shop, Monogrammed Burlap Chevron Garden Flag (Value $29.99) from Brand it Boutique, $25 Gift Card from Julie's La Bella Baskets, and a Halloween Door Hanger (Value $30) from Becky at My Paper Craze (contact her through her blog for orders).

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**Click on the images to go to the sponsor shops & websites**
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Blogiversary Celebration Giveaway Details:

  • Giveaway begins September 15th 12:00 AM EST and ends September 30th 11:59 PM EST
  • Cash prize of $150 is open worldwide and payment will be made via Paypal. All other prizes are open to residents in the United States only
  • Must be 18 yrs. and older to enter
  • Void where prohibited
  • One entry per household, per address
  • Winners of all prizes will have 24 hours to respond to winner notification email, or prize will be forfeited and another winner will be chosen
  • Winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter drawing
  • Winning entries will be verified
  • Sponsors will be individually responsible for prize fulfillment
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Are you ready to win some fabulous prizes? Enter below...

a Rafflecopter giveaway 
Disclaimer: The participating bloggers were not compensated for this post. Void where prohibited by law. One entrant per household, per address. Winner(s) will be contacted by email and have 24 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. The sponsor(s) will be responsible for product shipment to winner(s) of this sweepstakes. This event is in no way administered, sponsored, or endorsed by, or associated with, Facebook and/or Twitter, Google, Pinterest. Contact shirley.wood97@gmail.com or tiredincali@gmail.com if you have any additional comments or questions.
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Healthy Snack Ideas: Easy, Healthy Strawberry Milk


One of our favorite after-school snacks is strawberry milk.

I used to be a milk-hater until I discovered raw milk. In Texas, it is illegal to sell raw milk from a grocery store, but you can purchase it from farms directly.

Most of these farms are at least an hour away from us, so we rarely get raw milk. However, I usually try to buy the least-processed milk that we can get at the grocery store, which is non-homogenized pasteurized milk. This milk (and raw milk) makes amazing strawberry milk. I like to make this right when our strawberries are starting to go mushy. 

Something about this form of whole milk with little pieces of cream floating on top makes strawberry milk feel like a luxury and extremely delicious!

But even if you are using regular milk it makes a delicious and refreshing after-school snack.

I like to whip up a large-ish batch of strawberry syrup in advance to add to milk at any time when the girls or I feel snackish.


Real Strawberry Milk Recipe 

Ingredients:
  • Strawberries (frozen or fresh)
  • Sugar or other sweetener (I like to use raw sugar or occasionally honey)
  • Whole milk (I prefer the taste and lower sugar content of whole milk)
  • Colander

Strawberry Milk Recipe:

1. Put strawberries, water and sugar in a saucepan. For a pint of strawberries, I usually put in about 4 cups of water and ¾ a cup of sugar (sometimes as little as ½ a cup- depends on how healthy I feel like being).

2. Bring the water to a boil and allow the mixture to simmer until the strawberries are turned into pulp and the sugar is dissolved (it takes about 20 minutes at most).

3. Allow the strawberries to sit in the liquid until it cools to room temperature.

4. Strain the syrup using a colander. Press the strawberries with the back of a spoon to remove as much of the juice as possible. Let the colander sit on top of a bowl until it stops dripping.

5. Pour the syrup into a container (we usually use mason jars) and refrigerate.

6. Once the syrup is cold, add about 1-2 tablespoons per 8 ounces of milk and stir. The amount of syrup needed will vary depending on the ripeness/tartness of the strawberries.



This recipe is easy, and so much healthier than strawberry syrup purchased from a store (or even worse, the strawberry milk powder)!

If you try this recipe, share your experience below!



 More Snack Ideas

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

10 Great Resources for FREE Printable Worksheets

One of my favorite things about modern homeschooling is how easy it is to find free supplements online.



We've used a variety of worksheets to fill in all of the gaps in our school. Since we follow a more relaxed approach to peripheral subjects, we usually don't have a formal textbook for subjects like social studies, history, or geography yet.

For these subjects, we like to use free worksheets that we find and print from online. If Monkey wants to know about any particular subject, we study the topic online then find a few worksheets to reinforce her knowledge. So far, it has worked great!

Since there are millions of sites out there that offer free worksheets (we have a few science-themed printables right here at Schooling a Monkey), I've made a list of my favorite 10 in my guest post at The Frugal Homeschooling Mom.

Want to know what we use? Visit my post over there and find out! 

More Printable Fun



Monday, September 8, 2014

Cute Easy Healthy Snack Ideas: Bell Pepper Boats

Hello everyone! I hope your back to school routine is going as well as mine is. We have completed one week of school, and things are going great!

Right now, I am on a quest to find healthy snack ideas that are easy to prepare. If the snacks are cute, that is a bonus!

I created a fun healthy, cute snack for my monthly contribution to Homeschool with Purpose. Check it out below! My kids absolutely loved how cute and tasty these were!



Go find out how to make them in the original post!

More Snack Options You Might Like




Wednesday, August 27, 2014

DIY Modifiable Canvas: When You Don't Want to Commit to Just One Design

Today, I'm over at Busy Being Jennifer talking about how to refresh a boring art piece without completely covering the original design.

I take a piece of art from this:


to this!


Find out how I did it at Jennifer's site! 

I'm going to start contributing there once a month, so look out for more crafty posts soon!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Healthy Snack Ideas: Super Simple Apple Chips Recipe


September, for me, is apple time. In Texas, there isn’t much to distinguish September from August, except perhaps a bit more rain and a temperature drop of about 5 degrees. But dropping from 103 to 98 degrees hardly feels like fall weather, which is why I feel a bit silly doing fall leaf crafts and decorating my house with pumpkins in September.

Thankfully, there are apples. Apples are the perfect transition from summer to fall. My girls love apples, and usually, when I buy five pounds of apples, they are gone in about two days. Josh sometimes purchases apple chips from the store for a healthier snack, but at around $3 for a mini-bag, that isn’t really something I want to buy on a regular basis.

So, why not try to make our own? The process of making apple chips is rather simple, and they make an easy, delicious, and healthy snack! Basically, making apple chips involves dehydrating the apples and allowing them to cook at a low temperature until they crisp up. Here is how we made our apple chips:

Homemade Apple Chips Recipe 

 Ingredients: 

 Apples (1 apple makes about one cookie sheet full)
Cinnamon
Aluminum foil
Baking sheet
Apple corer (optional, find one here)
Mandoline cutter (optional, find one here)
Sugar (optional)

Steps:

Line your baking sheet with foil to keep the apples from sticking to the sheet. If you don’t want any core pieces in your apple chips, use an apple corer to remove the center. Thicker apple slices have trouble getting crispy in the oven.

Line the apples in a single layer on the baking sheet. Sprinkle them with cinnamon, or cinnamon and sugar.
Here Monkey is sprinkling on the cinnamon. 
Put the apples in the oven at 200 degrees. The cooking time will vary based on how thick your apples are. In general, the apples will need to cook for at least 3 hours. You may need to leave them in there for up to 5 hours. Flip the apples over about half-way through the cooking time. We left our knife-sliced, slightly thick apples cook for 4 hours and they came out great.

When the apples are dried and wavy, turn off the oven and allow the apples to cool in the oven for 1 to 2 hours. This will give them a crispier texture.

The process of making apple chips is an all-day process, but it is well worth the effort when you have a delicious, healthy snack!

Variations: 
Try using different spices on the apples, like clove, nutmeg, or chili powder for an interesting kick. Drizzling the apples with chocolate, caramel, or honey before baking will also give them a slightly different flavor. Experiment and find your favorite combo!

 Bringing It to School 

I like to make each experience cooking with Monkey as educational as possible. When we were making these apples, I had her guess at what we needed to do to get them to turn out right. At first, she said cook them at a high temperature for a short time (I guess she thought it would work like toast), so then we talked about how dehydration works. I also had her guess whether the apples should be cut thin or thick. It wasn’t an incredibly involved lesson, but any excuse to put critical thinking skills to work is an opportunity I’m going to take!

What is your favorite way to prepare apples?

More Cooking fun on Schooling a Monkey

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

12 School Room Organization Ideas


Our house is small, so we don’t have a dedicated school room. Usually, Monkey drifts between sofa, coffee table, and kitchen table to do her various subjects.

We have some dedicated storage to school books (like our school cubby), and we keep all school/craft supplies in a closet in my home office.

This year, we have to get extra creative because a friend of the family is coming to stay with us a while, so his stuff will have to be stored in our normal school storage areas.

I started the school room organization project today, and right now, this is what it looks like. 
Don't be fooled, it looks much worse in the closet. And this is after I organized it in the spring. 

In case you are in the midst of a re-organizing project as well, here are some helpful tips I’ve found along the way:

Making Use of What You Have

I don’t like to spend a lot on projects, and right now, we have an even smaller decorating budget than normal. That is why I’m getting creative and using as much stuff from around the house as I can for school room decorating.

Declutter (And repeat. And repeat again)

The first step is to eliminate all but the essentials. We have quite a bit of stuff that doesn’t have to be stored in that room, so I’m going to move it elsewhere. I’m also going to ditch anything that I know we won’t be using.

Know What to Store

It doesn’t really help to simply go out and buy a bunch of organizing items that you won’t know how to use. Think about what you need to store and how you want to store it before visiting any organization shops. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with storage options, but if you know what you need to store, then it becomes much easier to find the right storage items.

Shop the House for Storage

I know we’ll likely have to purchase a few storage items, but I want to use as much as I can from what we already have. Containers are easy to craft from small cardboard boxes, plastic containers, and baskets. Shelves are a little harder, but if you have a shelf that isn’t getting much use in another room, move it to where it can be used best! With a little ingenuity, you can significantly reduce how much you need to purchase.

Put it All Together

After you have your storage items, put everything away where you want it to go. One thing I’ve found that deep shelves are usually a bad idea when it comes to school supplies. It is easy to push stuff back and forget about it. Narrow shelves are ideal for showcasing what you have at a glance.

Don’t stack things on top of each other or put things in front of other supplies. This quickly leads to disorganization. Everything should be easy to get and, more importantly, easy to put back in its proper place. You don’t want to have to take out paper, pencils, sewing supplies, and play dough to get to your school books. That’s just a recipe for disaster! Trust me, I’ve done it.

DIY Decorating

Although decorating is the most fun step, don’t try to do it until you have everything organized. A lot of people choose to decorate their school room like a classroom, or with other educational resources, but I like to keep it a little less functional. :-)

Our theme will be travel, because I love how old maps and luggage looks.

You can find inspiration everywhere. One of my favorite places to look, however, is Etsy. One of the reasons I like Etsy is because most of those projects are handmade, which means they will be easier to reproduce than something you find at Crate and Barrel, for instance. Etsy shops often have creative projects that you might never have thought of, but that are quite easy to reproduce.

Of course, if you see something you absolutely love, you should buy it!

That is another one of my rules for decorating. Try to make what you can to keep things low-budget, but splurge on a few of your favorite items.

How do you know what to splurge on? I follow the rule of the 20-minute sweater.

In Gilmore Girls, the girls could not buy a piece of clothing unless they were still thinking about it 20 minutes later. I extend this rule to a 2-week period (longer for really big items). If it makes you just as happy and in-love 2 weeks later and it fits in your budget, then you can buy it.

School Room Organization Ideas

 Here are some ideas that have sparked my creativity. 

Travel Themed Office/School Room

I love the feeling of Restoration Hardware, and if we had an endless budget, all of the rooms in our house would be furnished from there. I really want to create a travel theme in our office/school room, because I think it looks awesome!

This is the kind of feeling I hope to re-create (which won't happen, but maybe I can create a semblance of it). 
Photo credit

School Room Organization 

Organization is essential in a shared space, and organizing is not my strongest suit. That is why I’m looking to organization experts for some school room ideas on how to organize.


Check out how organized and refreshing School Time Snippets school room looks!
Photo credit: School Time Snippets
My Joy Filled Life is killing it with those shelves!
Photo Via My Joy Filled Life
Check out these colorful shelves in the The Chaos and The Clutter school room!
Photo Via The Chaos and The Clutter

I love how school rooms can change over time. At first, the school room from This Reading Mama was perfect for tiny learners, but as her kids aged, she updated the room to fit current needs. I love how she uses a screen door to keep the kids from spilling the containers!
Serious Genius. Photo via This Reading Mama
Although Monkey and Bo share the same school space, if you have younger kids only, I absolutely love this preschool-themed school room from Alternative Learning.
Photo Credit: Alternative Learning
Just because your kids go to school at home doesn't mean they can't have lockers! I don't know where she found them, but Just a Night Owl uses real, legitimate lockers in her homeschool classroom
Just let that sink in. Real lockers. Can you handle the awesome? Photo via Just a Night Owl.

The Unlikely Homeschool may have my favorite storage solution yet! She hides most of her kid's school supplies in a china hutch! How amazing is that? 
Photo via The Unlikely Homeschool
So, what do you think of these organization ideas? Do you think I can transform our room? 

More Homeschooling Tips


*All photos used with permission. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

How to Make Back to School fun for Homeschooling Families

I love the All Things with Purpose blog, so I was so excited when Sarah and Julia asked me to be a contributor for their new homeschooling site, Homeschool with Purpose!

I will be writing for them the second Monday every month, and my first post is live today!

The topic I chose was how to make make to school fun for homeschooling families.

Original photo credit.
Sometimes, back to school isn't quite as fun for our kids because they are home all day anyway. This makes it harder to figure out how to distinguish between the summer and school season- much less get kids excited about the return to hard work!

But, I've come up with 13 ideas that can make the start of school more fun for homeschool children (thanks to some awesome blogs around the web). With these ideas, it is easy to make school fun!

I'll tell you, before I wrote this post, I was feeling a little ho-hum about starting school again, but now, I am excited and ready to go!

Go check out how you can make homeschool back to school fun!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

12 Tips to Organize Homeschool Supplies in a Small Space

Original photo source.
We don’t have a lot of storage space for our homeschooling supplies. We have a simple bookshelf with a small cabinet which contains everything that Monkey uses on a regular basis and a small closet in our home office that contains everything else we use, like art supplies, pencils, extra paper, etc.

 Because we have such limited storage space, it is essential that we organize our homeschooling supplies!

I think a lot of homeschooling parents struggle with what to keep and what to get rid of year to year. If you invest a lot of time and money in something, it can be a challenge to admit it is time to let it go!

The first rule I use for deciding what to keep and what to give away uses the same process that I use for choosing new homeschooling curriculum.

Once I use that criteria, I also go through the following selection process to organize homeschool supplies in a small space:

Tips for Organizing Last Year’s Homeschool Curriculum and Books

Our whole floor  looked like this before the organizing began.
Use these tips to organize homeschool books and curriculum.

Get everything out: Lay everything you have out on a table and go through it piece by piece. This will make it easier to identify everything you have and see what is worth putting back.

Ask the following questions about each book:

Is it in good shape? I don’t want to keep beat-up supplies from year to year. Last year, Monkey or Bo spilled something on Monkey’s grammar book, so even though we didn’t finish it, it’s out!

Did we use it? I know the tendency of a homeschooling parent is to hoard supplies from year to year, but eventually, that leads to the accumulation of so much stuff that you could never use it all in three lifetimes. If you haven’t used it in two years, it is probably time to let it go.

Did student(s) like it? There are some things that I love as a parent and teacher, but for whatever reason, Monkey (and eventually Bo) doesn’t like it. It is not a good idea to continue to force a certain book on a child if they hate it. There are plenty of other ways to try to teach the same subject.

Does it meet our current educational goals? From year to year, your goals might change, which means that all of the Civil War history books you used last year will no longer be relevant. If you have a drastic topic change like this, keep only your very favorite books on the subject (one in each reading level works well) and get rid of the rest.

How long will I have to store it? This is a big one for me. Monkey was in 1st grade when Bo was born. There is a space of 6 grade levels between them. I don’t really have the space to store 6 years worth of stuff to wait for Bo to grow into it. Additionally, Bo may have a completely different learning style from Monkey. If you have to store curriculum for more than 2 years, it might be best to sell and re-buy later.

What is the item’s value? We have a few valuable books given to us by my Mother-in-law. These books we will not get rid of. Books with sentimental value you may also want to hang onto. The best solution for this kind of book is to store it in a safe location away from everyday books when not in use. 

Assign everyone a space: Each child should have their own shelf or location for all their school books. When I was a child, we varied between plastic tubs, school caddies, or our own personal shelf. Monkey has two cloth cubbies (some people call them cloth cubes) to store her books. This prevents books from getting lost and mixed up.

Tips for Organizing Last Year’s Homeschooling Projects

Use these tips for organizing homeschool projects.
When organized, Monkey's cubby looks like this. 

Full disclosure, I don’t have a lot of sentimental value that I attach to school projects. We also live in Texas, where you don’t have to keep record of progress from year to year. If you live in a state that requires proof of education, always follow the legal guidelines for your state!

Pick one project from each subject: I like to choose a highlight project from each subject. I pick the best science project, the best art drawing, the best math test, etc and put that in a folder to save.

Pick representations of progress:  You may choose to highlight projects that show the progress of each student. For example, I tend to save the art projects of Monkey at Bo when they start doing something new. I saved Monkey’s first drawing, one where she drew people, one where she filled in the entire page, etc. I also save things like books that they put together and anything else that shows a big change in skill level.

Photograph projects: Another way to save projects from year to year without having to actually fill up the attic with boxes is to take pictures of the best and place them in an album. I love how you can make a photo book from anything. Most sites offer coupons every few months so keep an eye out for those.

Tips for Organizing Last Year’s Homeschooling Supplies

Use these tips to organize homeschool supplies:

Ditch broken supplies: I hate keeping around broken pencils, markers that are out of ink, dried out play dough, and other damaged supplies. If it is damaged in any way, throw it out!

Ditch duplicates: Keep enough supplies so that every child has one of everything. You don’t need 300 of those paintbrushes that come with watercolor paints. Get rid of all the extras. You may be surprised at how much space you can create just by doing this. 

Clean up: At the end of every year, it seems like we are all out of pencils and other supplies, but usually, a good portion of them are simply lurking in other areas of the house. A general de-cluttering will reveal all kinds of supplies lying around. Before purchasing new supplies, “shop the house” first.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Overwhelmed by Curriculum Choices? 10 Things to Look for While Choosing Homeschooling Curriculum

Original photo source.
Since we've been talking a lot lately about picking homeschool curriculum for the upcoming year, today, I will share with you my method for choosing curriculum.

I like to know as much as possible about a curriculum beforehand because I have a highly specific idea of what I want.

Here are the steps I use to choose homeschooling curriculum and what to look for in a homeschool curriculum:

Step 1: Is It the Right Subject?

I've discussed how I don't always have my kids complete a full set of curriculum each year in the past, so if I know we're not going to be studying history that year, then I won't even look at history books. This saves a lot of time.

Step 2: Does It Cover What I Need?

I base what I want my children to study for the upcoming year based on last year's progress. For example, last year, Monkey struggled with money, so I know that this year, I want her to focus a lot on learning about money in math. This means that whatever curriculum I buy needs to focus on money- or if it doesn't then I will need a supplemental money book to use with her.

Step 3: Does It Fit Our Learning Style?

There are 101 ways to homeschool and many different program styles. Monkey gets overwhelmed with huge blocks of text or a page full of small math problems, so I know to avoid anything like that for her. Some kids prefer hands-on stuff, while others would prefer to fill out worksheets. Choose something based on the learning style of your children. Build your own bundle packages are great for creating a customized curriculum that matches a specific learning style.

Step 4: Will We Use It?

There are so many amazing books and programs out there for homeschooling, but it does nothing for us if we buy it and never use it. I know that I need a curriculum that doesn't require a lot of outside planning (we loved the Five In a Row series, but the planning was too time consuming, so we were forced to abandon it) and also is highly adaptable. This is one reason why we tend to avoid boxed curriculum like Sonlight.

As much as I love unit studies, they just don't work with our family structure right now, so we rarely purchase unit study sets.
Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale - Up to 92% Off!

Step 5: Does It Provide Value?

I always look for curriculum that will expand and educate before all else. I will avoid anything written in an extremely simple style or that doesn't push the children to go beyond their current way of thinking to consider new thoughts and ideas. I avoid curriculum that over-simplifies concepts. I find a lot of science and history books fall into the too-simple category, so we avoid those.

Step 6: Does It Fit Our Religious/Moral Ideals?

A lot of homeschooling curriculum is written with a religious prospective, which is great if you believe exactly what the writers do, but with so many different varying theologies, it can become a little annoying to purchase a book that tells your child something you don't believe, or believe in a different way. Bible, character studies, and science are usually the big ones for providing alternative religious views, so I always check these carefully before purchase so I don't end up having to skip large chunks. If you are not religious at all, then you would want to avoid curriculum with a heavy religious focus.

Step 7: Is It Well-Written/ Professional?

There is a lot of curriculum out there that is amazing. There is also a lot out there that is terrible. I avoid curriculum that is poorly written, looks like it was thrown together, or has extremely ugly drawings. I also tend to avoid the plastic tab binding or anything in three-ring binders, but that is just a personal preference.

Step 8: Is It Boring?

Nothing is worse than trying to learn something through a boring textbook. When I was in high school, I had the most boring science textbooks, which is why I always thought I hated science. But when I grew up and started to study it on my own, I realized that I actually love science. If I had a less boring science book as a young person, I might have chosen a different degree in college or entered a different career field.

I believe every subject can be made to feel interesting for children. I believe it is especially important for science, computer, and writing subjects to feel fun, as those are essential subjects for all children.

Step 9: What is the Cost?

I tend to be a low-budget homeschooler right now, partially because we don't have tons of money to spend on school, but also partially because I don't believe each subject needs to cost $300. I have yet to see a curriculum that I believed was worth more than $80 or so per subject. Is some expensive curriculum worth it? I'm sure for some people and some subjects, yes (particularly as the children age), but for the lower grades, I don't see a need to spend so much. But again, this is a personal preference. I would advise anyone to set a budget and stick to it.

If you are looking for ways to save even more, check out my post on 11 resources for inexpensive homeschooling curriculum.

Step 10: Can It Be Used Again?

Homeschooling families usually have at least 2 children learning some of the same material together or in the future. I like the bundles built for family use and multiple children. Many curriculum brands make it easy to use with multiple children, either by offering additional child packs or providing tools to use the same core material for a variety of grades. I tend to choose this style of curriculum above the others.

What criteria do you use for choosing homeschooling curriculum? 

More Curriculum Resources


Build Your Bundle - Homeschool Edition Sale - Up to 92% Off!