What Our Super Simple (And Cheap) Homeschool Looks Like

Be a fly on the wall of our homeschool today!
Be a fly on the wall of our homeschool today!

A blogger friend of mine, thinking of homeschooling, recently asked our blogger group what we used for our homeschools. This post is for her and anyone else that would like to learn from what we are successfully using in our homeschool this year.

Our homeschool family: 3 girls – one in Kindergarten, one in 2nd grade and one in 3rd grade.

Our challenges this year: I, the homeschool mom, am having a “difficult pregnancy” and am due the end of June. I am on rest and light activity only. I have very little energy or strength.

Our philosophy: to teach our kids about God and what He created each of them to be and do with their lives, to teach them to be productive, useful, serving, and free from things like debt and entitlement. We also find it important to teach them practical skills as much as academics, including how to maintain a household and to start and run their own businesses. We teach them that they, at least to a degree, have a choice between reward and chastening, between blessing and cursing, between life and death.

Disclosure: some links in this post are affiliate links.

Math: We are currently using A Beka for 2nd grade and 3rd grade math. To save money, I skipped purchasing the Teacher’s Guides. Other than a couple of exercise here and there, I have not found that I need them. Cost of each book was $16.95.

Language Arts: We find the simplicity of Queen Publishing’s Language Lessons for the Elementary Child and Language Lessons for the Very Young a fun way to learn the basics of grammar w/o painful stuff like diagramming sentences. Cost of each book was $22.95.

Reading: The library. We make a monthly trip to the library to get fiction and non-fiction books that the children enjoy and fits our set of criteria for acceptable reading. I review / scan everything before they read it. We also peruse thrift stores and used book stores to add some classics and such to our small home collection of books.

When we teach reading, we use phonic flash cards and Bob books to start. I used Rod and Staff 1st grade phonics curriculum last year when I had a 1st grader. I am still debating if this is what I will use next year for my kindergartener. The first year we used the Rod and Staff phonics curriculum, it was given to us as a gift. The readers and teachers guides are reusable.

Writing: Pentime Penmanship – I have the girls back one year as their writing /  printing is their weak point. So the 2nd grader is on grade 1 printing and the 3rd grader is on grade 2 transition from printing to cursive. The girls like the dot-to-dots and little saying that are on the pages with the writing practice, makes it more interesting. These only cost $5.50 each.

Spelling: Sequential Spelling Level 1 – The volumes do not correspond to years and contain more than one years worth of work. We will get halfway through the book this year for my 3rd grader and the second half next year. Its cost was about $20.00

Bible Curriculum: We use The Action Bible for morning devotionals and Christian Light Publishing’s workbook based Bible curriculum for each grade. The Action Bible was $14.95 and worth every penny. The one year, CLP Bible Curriculum was $17.00.

Art: We are using A Beka Art Project workbooks this year for the 3rd grader and the 2nd grader. Lots of fun and very colorful projects. There is some supplies to purchase, which has been a challenge for us and we don’t celebrate all the holidays they cover, so we have skipped quite a few projects, but there are so many, we couldn’t do them all anyway. They were $12.95 each.

History / Social Studies: We do a group / unit study type history called Story Of the World – Vol 1 – The Ancient World. The girls love how the book reads like a story, we use questions and narration to reinforce, there are coloring pages and map work, and finally, a choice of hands on projects to make the history come alive. We got the book and activity book used as a gift.

Science: Same as the history, we are doing group / unit study type science. We are using New Leaf Publishing’s The New Astronomy Book for the 1st 3/4 of the year and their Bug Book for the last 1/4. I did reviews of The New Astronomy Book here, along with a sample unit study and the same for the Bug Book here. These books were free to me for doing reviews.

Music: We were using Music for Little Mozarts Volume 2, but the children were fighting it and I did not have the energy to continue. So now we use YouTube for vocal warm-ups, sing alongs, and occasionally a beginning ballet or tap lesson.

Kindergarten: All three of my girls have loved their Rod and Staff A – J Kindergarten Workbook series, and the latest one is no exception. She also participates in the Science and History unit study curriculum to her ability. We get picture books from the library and I read to her. I am teaching her numbers, letters and basic phonic combos with flash cards. The Kindergarten workbooks were less than $40.00 for the 10 workbook set.

We occasionally do some special, short term unit studies, but that is for another post:-)
Language Lessons - Charlotte Mason Style Language Arts

Baby On A Budget: How To Spend Less Than $100 On Your Basic Baby Needs

Baby On A Budget: How To Spend Less Than $100 On Your Basic Baby Needs
Baby On A Budget: How To Spend Less Than $100 On Your Basic Baby Needs

I know that many people save for their first baby. Unfortunately, many other folks do not. Maybe the baby is a surprise, earlier than planned, or they simply don’t have the income coming in to save.

We were both taken a bit by surprise by our first pregnancy and we still weren’t very good budgeters, so even when we found out we were pregnant and I was still working part time, we were living at our means and didn’t make the sacrifices we could have to save, other than the $100 a month payment to the mid-wife.

With all the money going out in bills, food, etc… how did we provide a crib, infant seat, baby bathtub, clothing, and more that a new baby needs? The following is how we still managed to have it all w/o spending more than $100 out of our own pocket:

  1. We let our family, friends and church community know our needs. We were humble enough to be grateful for all the hand-me down stuff that we were given. Lots of clothing, blankets, burp-rags, a baby bath, a high chair, a diaper bag, and more came in from other families and friends. We also ended up with a dresser and a stroller this way.
  2. A friend of mine hosted a baby shower for me. We were given beautiful, handmade blankets, cute as can be dresses (we were having a girl), and lots of practical stuff like diaper rash cream, diapers and pacifiers.
  3. Each of our parents contributed one major purchase with my mom-in-law getting us a crib (which ended up lasting through 3 babies) and mattress and my parents got us the infant seat.
  4. We picked up a few additional clothes from thrift / resale stores.

Although we had all we needed for baby one through these means, since then we have received / purchased a few additional items through the following means:

  1. Craigslist / want ads – always a great source of toys, clothing and more. Many people practically give stuff away. Others are trying to make some of their money back, but most people will deal, so try talking them down a little.
  2. Giveaways – lots of blogs out there are hosting giveaways of baby stuff. Try a few, you never know what you might end up with. There are also blogs that give away samples and such or find deals. If you have a little time, it is worth a search.

If you have saved a little money and want to get some items new, make the most of your funds by searching Ebates for coupons and cash back deals for 100’s of stores selling baby and children’s goods.

Simple, Healthy, Cheap Recipes: Caribbean Fish Curry

When you think of the Caribbean and food, what items come to mind? Coconuts, mangoes, fish? I am sure there will be many other things that come to mind, but for this Simple, Healthy, Cheap! Caribbean inspired recipe, these 3 ingredients play center stage.

Ingredients: 

Oil

1 to 3 Tbs curry powder or paste – curry pastes are generally spicier than powder

2 tsp salt

1 to 3 tsp ginger – more means more spice / heat

3 cloves garlic

2 cups coconut milk

2 cups water (optional – fish broth)

4 Tbs fish sauce (optional)

2 Tbs sugar

1 mango, diced

1 cup mixed veggies like peas and carrots

1 to 1 1/2 lbs white fish, cut into chunks

2 cups rice (6 cups when cooked)

Instructions: 

1) Cook rice according to rice instructions.

2) Heat oil in a large pot or wok.

3) Add all spices and salt (garlic, ginger, curry powder or paste) and sauté for 30 seconds.

4) Add coconut milk and water – bring to a low boil.

5) Add diced mangoes, veggies and then the fish. Return to a simmer

6) Cook about 10 minutes, making sure the fish is cooked through.

7) Serve curry over the rice in bowls, more rice than curry.

Should make 10 to 12 servings.

I hope you enjoy this frugal recipe.

See this recipe on “Try A New Recipe Tuesday” from Home to 4 Kiddos.

If you want to save money on books with Caribbean or Frugal Recipes, search Ebates for coupons from your favorite book retailers for $$$ off of products and get up to 10% cash back on your purchases.

Disclosure: Some links in this post may be affiliate links.

Simple, Healthy, Cheap Recipes: Jamaican Meat And Veggie Pie

 

Welcome to Caribbean Week here on A Simple Life Too! This recipe is inspired by a vacation we had many years ago to Jamaica, while I was still working outside the home and before we had our children. One of my favorite foods while I was there was these Jamaican seasoned veggie (and sometimes meat) patties / pies. They had so much flavor, they filled us up, and purchasing them local, they were only about $1.00 or $2.00 each. My recipe is an easier variation, turning the recipe into a pot pie, vs. making the individual pockets.

Ingredients for the Meat Pie:

1 full (top and bottom) savory whole wheat pie crust – here is a link to a good recipe

2 – 3 Tbs oil

Curry powder or curry paste – 2 to 3 Tbs – depending on spiciness / heat desired and taste. Note that curry pastes are usually spicier / hotter than the powders.

Thyme – 2tsp

Garlic – 3 – 4 crushed cloves

Ginger – 1 – 3 tsp – depending on spiciness / heat tolerance

Salt – 2 tsp

1 cup diced onion

1 lb ground meat – using ground turkey sausage adds flavor

4 cups cabbage

2 cups mixed veggies like diced carrots and peas

2 eggs

Instructions:

1) Make up your pie crust and set aside

2) In a large pan, pot, or wok, heat up your oil.

3) Add all the seasonings / spices and stir for 30 seconds.

4) Add the diced onion and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes until onion is translucent.

5) Add the ground meat and cook until browned.

6) Add the cabbage and veggies and cook just until the cabbage starts cooking down.

7) Pull of the heat and let cool for 15 – 20 minutes. If there is more than 1/2 cup liquid (from the cabbage cooking down) you may want to pour the excess off.

8) Roll out pie crust in to a deep dish pie pan or 9X9 or similar casserole dish.

9) Stir the eggs into the mixture, then pour the mixture into the casserole dish.

10) Cook at 400 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes (check it about 35 minutes and test the pie crust for complete cook).

11) Let cool 15 minutes, then serve. Should make 10 to 12 servings.

For the Veggie Only Variation:

Substitute 1 cup of veggies and 1 cup of cabbage for the 1lb of meat.

I hope you enjoy this frugal recipe.

If you want to save on books with Jamaican or Frugal Recipes, search Ebates for coupons from your favorite book retailers for $$$ off of products and get up to 10% cash back on your purchases.

Disclosure: Some links in this post may be affiliate links.

Helping Others: Gifts With A Cause

Many years ago, when I first became a Christian and started learning about the realities of the rest of the world, especially the realities of extreme poverty throughout the world, an idea came to my mind. What if we went into some villages in a country, say Kenya, and, along with telling them about the Lord, we gave them opportunity and invested in their community and businesses. We could do this by finding out what crafts and products they make and what kind of resources they have. We could then help them develop products to bring back and sell to us first worlders… and we would make sure they were paid fairly. The money they made and some of our residual income would then be invested back into their community.

Although I never did start the ministry, I am so happy today to find Gifts With A Cause and have a chance to share them. My goal is to bring Gifts With A Cause to all the mom blog readers, homeschoolers, and Christian groups I can find!

Here is a great infographic about what they do.

JourneyOfHope
World Vision’s Gifts With A Cause

Check out their products today or sign up to become an affiliate and share this business/ministry with your friends.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Gifts With A Cause. If you sign up to be an affiliate, please contact me.

Saving 101: How I Just Got A 2-1 Laptop For $279

HP 11.6inch 2-1 Tablet / Laptop with 500 gig storage.

With HP and other brand 2-1 Laptops starting at $350 and the Surface starting at $500, how did I manage to get an HP 2-1 Laptop for only $279?

Well, I took my time and did some research, using Google shopping, Amazon and Best Buy as my starting places. In looking at Best Buy, I noticed that they sold some refurbished machines. Some were sold through partners of Best Buy and some were sold and warrantied for 1 year by Best Buy’s Geek Squad. It was in looking over these refurbished machines directly from Best Buy that I saw they had a couple of refurbished 11.6 inch, 2-1 laptops for $279 = I was sold. I had seen those Surface ads for awhile and I really wanted one, and this was a close second and nearly $250 less! With the warranty, I felt this was a sold purchase and I saved over $100 on the price of a new version of this machine.

Since I am writing this post on this new machine, all is well so far and I can’t wait to flip it over and use it read some Kindle books I haven’t been able to read very well on my old machine.

Search Ebates for coupons from your favorite retailers like Best Buy for $20 – $1000 off of products and 12% cash back on all purchases.

Disclosure: Some links in this post may be affiliate links.

Celebrating Biblical Holidays: Purim

Purim starts Saturday, March 11, 2017.

UPDATE for 2017. Purim starts sundown Saturday, March 11th this year.

There is a growing movement among Christians: many are casting off traditional American holidays for the Biblical Feasts, Fasts and Festivals. One of the festivals is the holiday of Purim.

If you are not too familiar with Purim, if you have considered celebrating it, or are simply curious, I am going to give a quick historical overview of the holiday and then share how our church community is celebrating it this year.

Purim and The Story Of Esther

The Book of Esther is (usually) the last book of the Old Testament. It is the final story of God’s people before we jump to the New Testament and the stories of Jesus and the Apostles. In this book, we find the Jews have been taken captive and are now fairly integrated within Persia. Some  Jews have been given permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild, but many stay, having lived there for so long. Esther, under the care of her cousin Mordecai, are some of the people that stayed.

The King of the time, one of the line of Xerxes, has been offended by his wife and exiles her. He then sends out servants to gather up the most beautiful women in the kingdom to search for a new wife and Queen. Esther ends up being one of these women.

Skipping forward a bit, we two crucial things have happened: Esther has been chosen to be Queen and her cousin Mordecai has fallen afoul of the King’s right hand man, Hayman. Hayman has manipulated the King into using the “purim,” (a casting of lots) to set a date to have the Jews in the kingdom killed! What God knows, and Hayman doesn’t, is that Esther is actually a Jewess named Hadassah, and she will risk her life (after some prayer and fasting) to ask the King to save her people.

As Esther approaches the King uninvited (an act punishable by death), we reach the moment of tension: has God interceded enough to make everything work for the good? Through a stirring at night, the King had a servant read some records of previous actions and was reminded that Mordecai had saved his life! So, he give Mordecai a procession the next day and Mordecai is now on his heart. His heart, for whatever reason, is also open to Esther approaching him and he pardons her when she does. She invites him and Hayman to dinner and then tells them what has transpired, asking, begging for the life of her and her people.

After the King grants her request and the Jews are able to preserve their lives, Mordecai, at the prompting of the Lord, declares the day a holiday for all Jews to celebrate and they call it Purim.

Why Do Christians Celebrate Purim

  1. Some Christians see that Romans Chapter 11 speaks of Gentiles being grafted into Israel, and therefore Christians are also partakers in all Israel’s blessings, commandments, etc… Which means we, Gentiles, become part of Israel, and whatever was commanded to the Nation by God / Jesus, we should also do.
  2. Some Christians simply see the richness of their faith and knowledge of God increase when they learn about and participate in these feasts and other Biblical practices. The story of Esther is all about God knowing what will happen, allowing certain events to play out, and directing the hearts of that will allow Him to, to bring about a good ending. It is a great, faith increasing story.
  3. At the minimum, learning about Purim makes a great homeschool project / event to learn Biblical History.

How Does Our Community Celebrate Purim

Update 2017: This year our community will be having a Purim hoedown. Think Esther done Western Stlye, cowboy and cowgirl outifts, chilie and pie baking contests, and square dancing at the end of the night. I can’t wait to see what they do with the play!

My church community is a Messianic / Hebrew roots community, so we tend to lean towards view number 1. This year, our Purim celebration will include:

  1. Mediterranean & Middle Eastern food
  2. Persian costumes
  3. A venue decorated (by the community) as an Ancient Persian Marketplace, including a live camel! There will be products sold in the marketplace as a fundraiser to support an Israel based charity.
  4. 6 plays of the story Esther, done with different themes (i.e. Star Wars, Cinderella, a rap song, etc….). The plays can not be longer than 5 minutes and will be done by small groups on a “theater in the round.”
  5. Great fellowship and outreach to the community.

Previous years have included a masquerade ball and the story of Esther done as improve theater. Purim is one of the more fun, celebratory holidays.

For Further Study

Want to learn more about Purim? This year, I have created a free App for Android and other devices (Kindle, Fire).

There is a very limited selection of books on the market for learning about the various Biblical Holidays. The one I am the most familiar with is: A Family Guide To the Biblical Holidays.

Amazon: A Family Guide to the Biblical Holidays

There is also: A Complete Guide to Celebrating Our Messiah In The Festivals.

Amazon: A Complete Guide to Celebrating Our messiah in the Festivals

Food

I recently found a Healthy Purim Cookbook on Amazon!

How I Get My Children To Start Cooking With Me: Train Them While They Are Young

Your children want to cook with you!

Yes, that is one of my own children, by age 4, in the kitchen with me helping me cook. Before you think it is a crime that I have a four year old near a burner, let me assure you that mom is, except for this quick photo snap, right there next to her, literally holding her hand as we stir and boil.

So, how do I get them so comfortable in the kitchen, so young? Well, by the time they are two, they are usually curious about what mom is doing in the kitchen, so I let them start watching on a stool or chair, and teach them some basic kitchen rules:

1) They must not touch anything!

2) Mom points to hazards and says: sharp! or hot!

3) If they don’t obey, they have to leave. If they obey, they might get a taste test, especially if we are making baked goods:-)

Once the children have demonstrated obedience, I usually give them the chance to help stir foods not on a stove / not hot. I hold their hand at first, until I see their confidence, then give them a chance to try it own their own. I always remind them to hold the bowl / container they are stirring with one hand while stirring with the other.

By the time they are 3 or so, I find they are ready and wanting to put in ingredients and may also be curious about watching mom at the stove. As for the ingredients, I usually help them pour / scoop until I see their confidence, then let them try on their own. One of my weaknesses is tolerating spills. I am still working on that so I don’t discourage them.

As for having them at the stove, the rules are clear:

1) No touch anything! Unless I let them stir with me (both of us holding the spoon / spatula).

2) If I have to walk away from the stove for any reason, the little one has to leave the stove with me. I never leave them there w/o me until I feel they are an age that is safe (about 7 or 8).

I have had a few phases where I haven’t felt “up to” having them in the kitchen with me. They will stop trying to help after a while and lose interest in the process, so I have to remember to come and ask for their help again and get them interested again (cookies almost always work).

If you have been wanting to get your children in your kitchen with you, but still feel a little daunted or unsure after reading these tips, contact me or order my eBook – Teach Your Children To Cook – The Simple, Healthy, Cheap Way!  The book starts off with some rules and tips, then has a lesson on pouring, measuring and stirring. Finally, it contains 14 recipes, starting very simple and gradually growing in complexity to do in the kitchen with your children.

eBook_Teach_Children_To_Cook

 

Sign up for Ebates and search for coupons from your favorite retailers for $20 – $1000 off of products and 12% cash back on all purchases.

Disclosure: Some links in this post may be affiliate links.

Super Simple Homeschooling: Why We Use Story Of The World For History

I confess that I have enough complexities in my life, homeschooling doesn’t need to be one of them. I have worked and learned over the past few years to make homeschooling as simple, and as few hours as possible. Therefore, I have coined the phrase: Super Simple Homeschooling. I am sure someone else came up with this too, maybe quite a few others. But since I haven’t seen it in the mainstream yet, I can state that I wasn’t influenced by anyone else:-)

Disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links.

Why Story Of The World

The reason our family choose SOTW is because:

1) I can use it with the whole family.

2) The reading and writing is supportive of a younger group – my children are K, 2nd, and 3rd grades.

3) The stories are engaging, the projects are interesting and fun.

How We Do Our Homeschool History

With the exception of Math and Language Arts which we do twice a week, we do the rest of our subjects only once per week. We then divide up a chapter of Story of the World over two weeks.

1) Week 1 – Reading the story, asking the discussion and narration questions, deciding which project we want to do and making a list of supplies needed, and deciding which additional reading we want to get from the library. Sometime during the week we will get the library books, so in some ways, history is done a second day, but not formally.

2) Week 2 – We do the coloring pages, map work, and at least 1 project. The girls always have fun and talk for days about what they did and learned. Sometimes we have show and tell with family members (dad, grandparents, etc..).

The Photo Above

The photo is of two of the girls making an Assyrian Siege Tower with legos. This is from chapter 16 of SOTW V. 1 – The Ancient Times. The girls still remember that Assyria was able to conquer their enemies because Assyria was great at making these towers.

If you aren’t loving your history or if your history is too complicated, I recommend trying SOTW!

I have homeschool coupons, deals and discount codes available for you at: I’ve Got A Deal For That.

 

Moms of Master Books: Bugs! A Book Review and Unit Study


As soon as our “Bugs – Big and Small, God Made Them All” book arrived, it was in the hands of my children. They looked and read through it, then did it again the next day. They loved sharing bug facts with each other. They kept calling each other over to “see” the latest bug they had discovered. In fact, this went on for quite a few days. Finally, I got my hands on the book in time to write a review and come up with a Unit Study for the first chapter.

So Many Photos, So Little Time

I simply can not convey here the amazing amount and quality of illustrations, but I thought I would try to take a few photos of the inside so you can get a better idea of what you are in for if you get this book!

Speaking of getting the book, if you would like to purchase Bugs! it is currently available on the NLPG site for $14.99.

Who knew there were so many bugs as big or BIGGER than your hand?
Fist full of beetles, anyone?
The title of the chapter says it all!
Praying Mantises are one of my favorite bugs. I never knew there were so many varieties.

 

Unit Study For Chapter 1 – Amazing Creepy Crawlers

We decided that our Master Books’ Astronomy book will not take a full year to work through, so Bugs will be a good end-cap for our homeschool science curriculum this year.

Projects based on chapter 1:

  • Draw where bugs fit into the life-cycle of a healthy garden.
  • Research the issue of declining bee populations.
  • Find a video about bees and pollination.
  • Find a chart of the kinds of mosquitoes and which ones actually are a threat to humans.
  • Copy and memorize the Bible verses mentioned in the chapter.

Fact Cards

At the end of the book is a set of 12 insect fact cards on some of the more unique bugs in the insect kingdom.

I sincerely hope you will pick-up a copy of Bugs from Master Books this year and be amazed at God’s limitless creativity!