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Helpful Hints
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Here's a few helpful hints from some homeschooling veterans!

Do you have a helpful hint?  Email Kate!

May 2007
"Visual Spatial Learners"
From the pages of "Visual-spatial learners think in pictures rather than in words. They learn better visually than auditorally. They learn all-at-once, and when the light bulb goes on, the learning is permanent. They do not learn from repetition and drill. They are whole-part learners who need to see the big picture first before they learn the details. They are non-sequential, which means that they do not learn in the step-by-step manner in which most teachers teach. They arrive at correct solutions without taking steps, so “show your work” may be impossible for them."
"Do you have a visual-spatial child? Let's find out!
Does your child remember what is seen but forget what is heard?
Does your child have a vivid imagination?
Can your child visualize objects from multiple perspectives?
Does your child enjoy solving puzzles and mazes?
These are children who would reather spend the day with a new box of LEGOs than do nearly anything else in the world. Kids who can get so absorbed in creative play, they lose all sense of time. Often labeled unorganized, unfocused, poor spellers
or worse, visual-spatial learners can be equal parts pleasure and frustration
to parent. We're here to help!"
April 2007
I have a helpful hint that has to do with college.  One of the things Mike has struggled with in college is meeting deadlines.  I've always said that homeschooling is so great because kids can take their time or speed up, depending on their interest/ability.  But, looking back, I wish I'd given him more papers to write that had absolute deadlines.  We bought a small calendar for his backpack and he writes down his assignment dates and then backtracks to fill in when he needs to have certain aspects completed. Just something for the pre-college group to consider.
March 2007
"This Day"
Check out this new site:
THIS DAY:  You can find the word of the day, article of the day, this day in
history, in the news, quote of the day, spelling bee, word match up,
and dictionary look box all.
February 2007
I just found this very interesting website.  You can put in jobs you're interested in and it will show the salary, benefits, etc.  It shows either local or national average and if there are jobs available. Kids could see what chosen professions might pay...
January 2007
"Tiny Url"
Next time you've got a mother of an URL, just to go and enter it. You'll get a short URL back, which will take you to the same site.
December 2006
Cathy D.
My daughter used the Princeton computer software to prepare for the SAT 
for a talent search.  She found it quite useful, it give help about how 
the test works, you can practice different sections.  This was before the 
writing part was added though, a class might be more helpful for that.
September 2006
Just to add to what Marilyn explained wonderfully.  When it was time for our daughter to get her permit we procrastinated with getting the form from the ESD until the day before we were to head to Astoria(highly recommended over St.Helens-NO LINES!!whoohoo and very laid back atmosphere) Anyway, they were so kind to fax the form directly to the Astoria DMV.  Just call ahead to the DMV so that they know it is coming and when you will be arriving.  Cam also took the drivers Ed class over in Longview with Mr. Kaber-she said it was a real hoot!He is great with the kids and will help any reluctanct driver with confidence and skills  Also gave mom and dad piece of mind. The class met all of the required Oregon driving hours, also giving us a great discount on Insurance.
July 2006
"Ice Cream"
One great adventure in snacks (science experiment)at the park is the following recipe:

2 plastic baggies, sandwich size: One 7 in. x 8 in.and
a smaller one, 6 5/8 in X 5 7/8 in.
handful of ice cubes
6 tablespoons salt
1/2 c milk
1 T sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
Place a fistful of ice cubes into the larger baggie. Add 6 tablespoons salt to the ice. Insert the smaller baggie right side up into the larger baggie. Add milk,sugar and flavoring like vanilla. Sometimes I add peppermint flavor and stuff like that.
Close smaller baggie and begin massaging the larger baggie at the bottom. As time passes, you will see the milk begin to solidify into ice cream.

What is happening here?
The salt on the ice drops the temperature of the ice. This creates a dramatic difference in temperature between the milk and the ice. Since heat energy flows
from hot to cool, the flow of energy is from the warmer milk into the ice cubes, making the milk cooler and cooler until it begins to freeze. 

July 2006
"Cookie Paleontology"
A few chocolate chip cookies
Plastic knife, toothpicks
Shellfish or nut pick
Small, clean paintbrush

1. This is a great project to show kids how much patience it takes to
be a paleontologist or archeologist. Take a chocolate chip cookie and
scrape out as many whole chips as possible.
2. Concentration is required to extract the chips, which are then
eaten as a reward.

A. Record the number of chips in each cookie and compare results.
B. Determine which tools work best to complete the task.
February 2006
"SAT Prep"
My daughter used the Princeton computer software to prepare for the SAT 
for a talent search. 
March 2005
"Growing Tomatoes Upside Down"
We've been growing our tomatoes upside-down for the past three years and really have fun growing them this way!  You can grow tomatoes in any large container that has a sturdy hanging system, but we've found the safest is to use five-gallon paint buckets that have a handle. Planting them in the buckets is much easier and safer for the plants when you have one or two other people helping you.
Start out by drilling a hole in the bottom of the bucket. Usually, there is already a circular indentation, which is approx. 2 " in diameter. If there isn't, drill the hole between 2 and 3 inches in diameter. Set the bucket, right side up, on a structure such as two wooden horses, so that the bottom hole is exposed. Put whatever material you choose to use to secure the seedling, in the bottom, then take the seedling and gently thread the leaves and stems down through the hole so that it hangs out of the bottom of the bucket. Hold the plant up till no more than 2 inches of the stem is protruding out from the bottom. While holding the plant in one hand, pack the material around the stem so that the plant is anchored and will not slip through the hole. There are several things that can be used to keep the seedling from "slipping out" of the hole until the root system has developed and it can hold it's own. You can use sphagnum moss, newspaper, coffee filters, etc. Keep holding the plant in place, and add the soil into the bucket, making sure it's distributed evenly up to the root ball. Gently let go of the plant, letting it rest on the dirt, and add soil till the root ball is about 2 inches below the soil line. Add about 2 cups of compost, then fill the bucket with soil up to about an inch from the top. Carry the bucket to the structure you are going to hang it from, being very careful to keep the tomato plant from hitting the ground as you walk. Hang the bucket by the handle, then water thoroughly. Water should start running out of the bottom hole within a few minutes.

Check the soil level of each bucket to be sure the soil didn't settle to more than 2 inches from the top, adding more if it has. Water and add fertilizer, when needed, directly in the top of the bucket.  We've always set the lids on top of the structure, above the buckets (approx. a foot above the rim), and watered the buckets with a hose. The lids don't help much with the moisture retention, but it does help deflect rain in the extremely rainy season. How much to water the buckets will depend on your climate.  One interesting thing that will happen when you grow your tomato plants this way is that they will grow upwards towards the sun until the plants get bigger and bushier and start producing fruit. You have to check them daily to be sure that the stem is growing out from under the bottom, not into it. Every few weeks, check the soil level to be sure there has not been too much loss. Add soil or compost each time the level lowers.
November 2004 
"Satellite School"
The satellite school I'm using is from Bob Jones University.  They have their own satellite settup, with 4 channels of only BJU programming.  On those programs, you get every grade, every subject, all day and nite.  You get two chances to tape the classes each week, each taping is for 1 week's worth of lessons.  You just figure out what you need, get your schedule worked out, and tape the lessons as they come to you.  The classes are really good, not in a classroom setting where the teacher is teaching a group of kids, he/she is teaching just your child.  They have such excellent teachers, too.  Plus, since they are taping in a studio, they can use computer graphics for things, like instead of using flashcards in math, they use computer graphics with the fun sounds, etc, that make the child want to beat the answer.  I don't know if I'm explaining this very well, but if you are interested, they have classes for K-4 (kindergarten, 4yo) to 12th grade, plus I think a couple colle
 ge prep classes.  If you go to, then to their Homesat page, they have more info.  They will even send a free video explaining the program, but I don't think the video does the program justice myself.  The satellite is $32. a month, and last year, if you signed up between January and May, you got the satellite system free if you joined for a year.  In the high school years, they have what they call LINK classes, where it is interactive learning through computers or some type of technology, I don't know for sure how they do it, but they interact with the teacher. 

My hardest thing was trying to figure out how to program a VCR.  I never had done that before.  We are on our second year, and we are really enjoying it.  So you see, there are really a lot of choices out there in how you want to homeschool.  One of the hardest things is just to decide how you want to do it.  In the spring they have the big curriculum fair in Portland and when you go to that and see how many choices there are, it is awesome.  Don't get discouraged, and don't feel intimidated.  You just take a day at a time.  one thing I have learned is don't get stressed.  Enjoy your kids, do your best.  You'll do fine.

November 2004 
"Homeschooling with toddlers"
I am past that phase, but it was VERY IMPORTANT during those years to get together with other mothers of toddlers, babies, preschoolers... We started a Bible study twice a month and another group of us started a craft/play day once a week and then twice a month. Its good for the younger children and fantastic for the mother's sanity!
Also , don't be in a rush to start 'schooling your preschooler'! Enjoy play doh and finger painting and reading out loud to them!. They are learning finger dexterity, how to clean up their own mess and listening skills! This is great for 4- 6 year olds. Put glue on a page in the shape of a tree or a letter and let your child stick beans or macaroni on it and talk about the sound and shape of that letter. A few minutes of low stress and they are proud of their 'school' accomplishment!
One last comment, I have a friend that is not on the internet, she has 5 children and the newest one is 2 months old.They homeschool, I tell her 'call me', when everything is going crazy- you need someone to help recenter yourself and listen to you. Pray for someone like that in your life and she'll come along, maybe she is on this list!
November 2004 
"Homeschool Tracker"
I have been using a program some of you may use or have heard of.  Homeschool Tracker.  I am just loving it.  I wanted to be able to have all our lesson plans, all the directions, materials needed, etc, in one place.  This thing is great.  You can keep transcripts if you want with it, set times for classes (if you're that organized); it has places where you can keep a record of books read, things borrowed, just tons of stuff.  It works for unit studies or lessons.  There is a free version that is really amazing that it is free. You can find it at  I finally bought the bigger program mostly because I just think it is worth it and I wanted to give something to them for all their hard work.  The family has a yahoo group that helps with any problems you have and every time I ask a question, I get help right away. 
November, 15 2004 
"Great Cooking Tips"
This isn't my favorite family recipe, but thought I'd throw this out.  What do you guys use for breading when frying chicken, etc??  One thing my family loves is Pride of the West batter, I use it just like flour, fry chicken strips in it in some olive oil, then put some fresh parmesan on top.  It's great.  Last week, though, I tried frying some chicken with that Lousianna chicken fry stuff at Safeway.  I didn't stop to think of it as spicy, it did lay Lousianna LOL, but it was spicy.  I thought it was sooo good, but a little spicy for the kids.  I have taken the Pride of the West, made hamburger patties, dipped them in egg and water, floured them in Pride of West, and fried them like chicken fried steak.  After they're done, I've taken a pkg of brown gravy mix (I know, it's cheating) and mixed it up and poured it over the hamburger "steaks".  It's really good.  The first time I did that, you would have thought I had slaved away cooking all day the way everyone liked it.
October, 25 2004 
"Playdo Pumpkins"
We had playdough out and we were playing happily (for hours!) with our 2 1/2
year old when DH started decorating our 5" table pumpkin - he turned it into
"mr pumpkin head" - we had the BEST TIME making googly eyes and faces galore...
the playdough sticks to the pumpkin head and easily pulls off for face making
- lots of fun - and I highly recommend it!
September 8, 2004 
"Teaching Company"
The Teaching Company interviewed college and some high school teachers from all over America and chose the very best for their video programs.  We love them!  It's a lot less expensive than a college course.  I looked on ebay and you can find them for a very reasonable price.  But I get them for free.  Yes... FREE! The library in Portland OR carries the entire series.  I was very excited to find them! I have to pay $90/year for an out of county membership (which I was already doing because they have such a great selection of books).  It's well worth it.
August 9, 2004 
"Email Pen Pals"
I've found a good site for getting "Pen Pals" for our children.  Their pen pals can be around the world!  It's a teacher's site.  Just set your family up.  I set up my name.  Then go into MY ACCOUNT.  In your account you can set your family up.

July 23, 2004 
"How Does God Do That?"
If you want a great Christian worldview science book for children ages 8-12, I recommend How Does God Do That?  Complete Earth Science with an Introduction to Life Science by Paul and Danielle Harris.  It is written to the child and is very interesting and engaging.  It also includes easy hands on science projects for your children to do.  It is written by a husband and wife who are elementary school teachers and who wanted to write a science book that was simple, straightforward and easy to follow as well as God-centered.  It is $24 new but I got mine for $6 used. 

July 17, 2004
Bob Jones Helpful Hints
I thought I'd send this in case anyone might be interested.  On the Bob Jones website,, there are some helpful tips, etc. and since this is the beginning of another year, it might be good to start getting focused.  Hope you can enjoy this!  I was going to cut and paste the article, but it's not coming through in the same format, so here's the url:

July 1, 2004
Freecycle on Yahoogroups
I recently stumbled across several yahoogroups called "Freecycle". There's one for Columbia County, Longview, Portland, Astoria, etc...  These email loops are all about free stuff.  If you have some, want some or need some... this is the place to post a message!  I've even seen items on there in the Clatskanie area.  It's great!


July 5, 2004
I love Robert Krampf!  He has such great experiments and this one is so timely!  The fireworks had such brilliant colors last night and my kids know a bit about this, but these experiments should really drive the information into them :-) and so much fun too!

#20 This Week's Experiment - How They Get the Sparks in Sparklers!
Most people have seen the type of fireworks known as sparklers.   In fact, in many places they are about the only kind of fireworks that are legal.   They consist of a thin wire about 10 inches long, with about half of the wire covered with a gray mixture.   When you hold the base and light the other end, it burns and throws off bright sparks.   Here we will find out where those sparks come from.
Warning!   This experiment involves the use of open flame.   Adult supervision is required.

You will need:A steel file, A large nail or a piece of iron pipe, A piece of white paper, A flame (This can be a propane torch, the burner on your stove, or even a candle)

Hold the nail over a piece of white paper and begin to rub the file firmly against it.   Soon you should notice a fine, gray powder on the paper.   This is iron that is being ground up by the file.   Keep filing until you have a small pile of this powdered iron.

Light your flame.   Now, carefully pick up some of the powered iron and sprinkle it carefully into the flame.   Sparks!   But wait a minute!   Metal does not burn, does it?  

Under normal circumstance, iron does not burn.   If you hold a nail into a flame, it will not burn.   It may get hot, and if it gets hot enough, it may even melt, but it does not catch fire.   In order for iron to burn, it must be VERY hot and it must have quite a lot of oxygen.   Both of these problems can be solved by making the pieces of iron very small.  

Imagine trying to heat a large iron bar.   It would take quite a while for the entire bar to get hot.   Now, imagine using the same amount of heat on the nail.   Since there is a lot less metal, it takes a lot less time for it to heat up.   The smaller the piece, the faster it heats up.   By powdering the iron, we allow it to heat up very quickly.  

Powdering the iron also allows much more oxygen to reach the iron.   Imagine heating the nail.   Only its surface is exposed to oxygen, while most of the iron is on the inside, away from the oxygen.   Now, if we powder the nail, much more of the iron is exposed to oxygen.   This combination of quick heating and extra oxygen allows the iron to burn, producing bright yellow sparks. Powdered iron is one of the ingredients in the gray mixture on your sparkler and many other fireworks.

If you plan to use fireworks for the 4th of July or any event, be sure to follow all safety precautions.   Remember, safety should always come first.

This Week's Experiment - #175 Fireworks Colors
Have you ever wondered how they get the different colors into the fireworks?   If you want yellow fire, do you add yellow paint to the mixture?   No, that would not work.   To see how the colors get into fireworks, you will need: metal paperclips, pliers
boric acid (from the pharmacy), creme of tartar (from the grocery), salt, water,
a clear, blue flame.   If you have a gas stove, the burner will work very well.   If not, you can use a candle, but the colors will be more difficult to see.

Straighten several of the paperclips into long, straight wires.   Dip the end of one of the wires into the water and then into the salt.   Some of the salt should stick to the wire.   Hold the other end of the wire with the pliers, so you don't burn your fingers and place the salted end of the wire into the flame.   The flame should change to a bright yellow.   Dip the hot wire into the water, so you don't accidentally burn yourself.   Select a new wire and repeat the experiment with the boric acid powder.   The flame should turn green.   Try the creme of tartar and the flame will be lavender.

What is happening?   Most of the light that comes from a flame is caused by solid particles burning inside the flame.   As we have seen in past experiments, the yellow color of a candle flame is caused by the burning of tiny bits of the element carbon.   The blue flame that we started with does not contain solid particles, so it gives off very little light.   By adding chemicals to the flame, we can give it different colors.

The yellow color caused by the salt is due to a chemical called sodium.   The boric acid contains boron, which produces green and the creme of tartar contains potassium, which burns with a lavender light.  

This idea also applies to fireworks.   When you see yellow fireworks, they contain the element sodium.   Calcium salts are added to produce orange.   Salts of strontium or lithium are used for red, and you get green by adding barium, boron or copper.   Bright whites are produced by burning aluminum or magnesium metal.   The next time you are "ooohing" and "aaaaahhing" over a fireworks display, keep in the back of your mind that you are also seeing a marvelous chemistry show at the same time.

This Week's Experiment -   #123 Why fireworks go bang!
I thought it would be fun to investigate why fireworks make so much noise.   To investigate this, you will need: a balloon, something with a sharp point, one of the plastic canisters that film comes in (You can also use a plastic, pill vial, with a snap on cap.   Don't use one of the child-resistant caps, as it won't work.), vinegar, baking soda, tissue paper

First, blow up the balloon.   What is in the balloon?   Air, right?   The air in the balloon is being squeezed, making it smaller than it usually is.   If we let the air out of the balloon, it will get bigger, expanding to its original size.   If we let the air out slowly, it expands slowly and does not make a lot of noise.   On the other hand, if we took something sharp, like a pin, and made a hole in the balloon, it would rip, letting the air get bigger very quickly.   As the air expands, it pushes the air around the balloon out of the way.   That air pushes on the air beside it, which pushes on the air beside it, causing a wave of pushed air to move out in all directions.   When this wave of pushed air reaches your eardrum, it pushes on it, causing you to hear a loud sound.   The more the air expands, the bigger the push and the louder the
sound.   Ok, you can pop the balloon now and hear it for yourself.  

Another way to see that the bang is caused by expanding air is to make a pop with a plastic film canister.   Take a small piece of tissue paper and put about half a teaspoon of baking soda into the center.   Fold the sides in, to make a small package that will contain the baking soda and is small enough to fit easily into the film canister.   Put about a teaspoon of vinegar into the canister.   Have the lid ready.   Drop the packet of baking soda into the vinegar and quickly put on the lid.   Stand back and watch.   After a second or two, the cap will fly off the canister, with a loud pop.   Try it again, without the lid.   Does it make a pop?

When you mix vinegar and baking soda, they give off a gas called carbon dioxide.   That is what makes all the bubbles.   With the cap on, this gas is trapped inside the canister.   As the chemical reaction makes more and more gas, the pressure builds up.   Soon, the pressure is enough to pop off the cap, letting the gas expand.  This produces the push to make the wave that your ears hear.

The same idea applies to firecrackers and other fireworks that go boom.   The gunpowder in the center of a firecracker burns, producing lots of hot gases.  This hot gas is trapped inside the paper wrapper.   The pressure builds until the paper bursts, letting the gas expand.   This pushes the air very hard and you hear a loud bang.   Sometimes firecrackers fizzle instead of popping.   This tells you that the paper was not wrapped tight enough and the gas escaped before the pressure could build up.

To join the experiment email list, send a blank e-mail to:

February 20, 2004
Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing 15 (the newest version).

The first screen in the 'practice' department (under Media Center) has a very visible button that says "import," and a dialog box pops up to let me choose any text file on my whole computer!

I went to Bible Gateway looked up a chapter of John, copied it into Word, stripped the verse numbers off (with the "find & replace* feature -- replace "any digit" with nothing), changed the line breaks the browser had given me, saved AS A TEXT FILE with a .txt extension. It gives warning that you'll lose formatting -- yes, that's fine.

Went back to Mavis Beacon, to Media Center, to Practice, hit Import, and opened John 1 and began practicing!  I've added a specific folder for my text files under Mavis Beacon's directory (using Windows Explorer) so that they're only a couple of clicks away.

I did discover that one paragraph at a time is about all I had stamina to practice typing before wanting a break, so I broke up John 1 into paragraphs, labeled John 1a, John 1b, John 1c, etc. Then the children can *finish* a practice session, not just 'pause' it.

One reason using my own content is important to me is that I noticed how much I was internalizing the Gettysburg Address when I practiced it with Typing Instructor Deluxe. If my children are internalizing stuff they practice typing, I want it to be 1) content of which I approve and 2) good quality!  I have not figured out how to directly access (through the files), much less delete, objectionable material in Mavis Beacon. There is some I'd prefer to delete. If anyone can tell me, I'd *really* appreciate it. :)

The possibilities for importing my own content into typing practice are endless!! Poetry they're memorizing, good literature, scripture,  . . . I'm so thrilled! 

May 27, 2003
Ann Lahrson-Fisher
Nettlepatch Press
A couple of my favorite math resources -1)"Calculus By/For Young People," by Don Cohen  http://www.shout/net/~mathman This is a hands-on and activity oriented program for getting - or keeping - a student excited about math. Books, videos, workbooks.  Designed for all ages - 7 and up, including the math-gifted and the math-phobic.  2)The Algebra Survival Guide by Josh Rappaport  3)Gnarly Math, by Monty Phister. CD-ROM math - fun. Monty also has an occasional math e-newsletter that is free.

May 6, 2003
Longview Library
Longview library only costs $100 for an out of area membership.  While it sounds like alot, you really get tons!!!  Free video and DVD rental, music, books on tape and CD, and a nicely stocked library Full of books.  On the down side, we are limited to 60 books and with the way my youngest daughter goes through books, we go there several times a week!... which is good and bad.


March 19, 2003
I don't like matching socks!  It seems like too often there is one missing and  doesn't show up for a few more loads.  I've been putting all the extras in a plastic bag, then every once in awhile, I have my daughter line them up in a row, and I tell the boys (now 4) to make matches!!  Great homeschool project, huh?  If they don't get one and start to lost interest, I'll pick up one and say, "where's the match to this one" then they're on a roll again! 

January 23, 2002
Saxon Math & Calculators
Mike has never used a calculator to do his math.  I know there are some families who do and some who don't use them.  Now that he's started Algebra 2, I was wondering when Saxon recommends using calculators in their books, so I wrote to them.  Here's the response I received...  "He really does not need a calculator until lesson 43 of the algebra 2 textbook.  Most of the work in algebra 2 cannot be done with a calculator anyway.  Do not waste $100.00 buying a graphing calculator.  An inexpensive $15.00 scientific calculator will do all the way through calculus."  I know the school recommends calculators early on, but the kids aren't supposed to use them on tests.  It seems to me that eliminating the calculator crutch would help them to be more successful and confident on testing day.
December 16, 2002
Accepting Gifts with Glee
Whenever anyone gives me a gift, as I'm opening it I'm reminded of how they probably wrote my name on a list and searched for something just right and then wrapped it with care... all the while thinking happy thoughts of me... and then anticipated my opening it and hoped that I would love it.  How could I not?  Even if it's something I've already gotten or really can't use?  Does that really matter?  Not to me.  It's the process of the gift giving that's the most important part.

Discussing this with our children is extremely important, so that they can learn how to graciously receive a gift.  And we should also prepare them for people who may not react in a way they would like when the gifts they give are opened.  I have a friend who recently wrapped a dog bone and gave it to her son and they practiced being gracious.  Then, he wrapped the dog bone and gave it to her.  It was such a terrific lesson in being thankful.

August 21, 2002
Homeschool Helpful Hint
*Writing Strands... Mikey loves it.  It does a great job of teaching writing skills.  And best of all, the lessons are short, easy and fun.  I've noticed a very big improvement in his writing style and he's only been doing this for a couple of months.

* is one of the best places for buying and selling books online.

*I recently changed Mike's daily worksheet with all of his assignments on it... so that it now shows how long he has to do each item.  I used to put a specific time on there (i.e. reading 10-11 am), but then life kept messing around with our day.  This seems to work out much better.  Mike sets the timer on the stove and it has given him a new perspective on how quickly time passes.

August 13, 2002
Foreign Exchange Students
We had the pleasurable experience of hosting a Mexican Exchange student last year.  Due to over extended schedules, we are going to skip this year but want to do it again another year.

Cultural Homestay International has contacted me and I thought I might pass on the opportunity to anyone else who might be interested.  There are still about 90 boys that need homes for the school year and 6 girls.  If you might be interested or want to find out if there is a kid from a specific country (they are very good about accomodating your needs/desires as they want it to be the best for everyone) --- you can call Joan Sells at 1888-744-4678.

June 16, 2002
Fly Lady Go to this site to check out how to learn to keep your house clean.  I am going to give it a try!  I'll keep you all posted on my progress.  And feel free to check up on me to make sure I'm doing it!

June 16, 2002
Laundry hint
My kids used to wear 6 outfits in a day if I let them.   A friend told me her solution with her kids and now I am hooked!  I spent 12$ each (Wal-Mart) on 3 new rubbermaid wheeled laundry hampers ( one for each of my kids) and placed them in their rooms.  They are each in charge of their own laundry and making sure that they keep have clean clothes.  They wheel their dirty stuff in and then when done they wheel it back to their rooms to put away.  I also bought a hamper for towels (I do those).  I do help my 6 yr old son with starting the machine and with measuring soap, but that is it!  My 7 and almost 9 yr old do it all themselves - wash fold and put away.  This simple concept gives me a cleaner laundry room  and that helps keep me sane :-)
June 15, 2002
Easy Ice Cream
  a.. 1 cup whole milk 
  b.. 1 cup half and half 
  c.. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  d.. 1/2 cup sugar 
  e.. about 2 pounds of ice 
  f.. 1 cup coarse salt 
  g.. water 
  h.. 1 quart-sized baggie that seals 
  i.. 1 gallon-sized baggie that seals 
  j.. mixing bowl 
  k.. mixing spoon 
  l.. duct tape 
  m.. towel 
  n.. bowls and spoons for serving ice cream

Here's what you have to do:

1. Check with a grown-up before you start this.
2. In a bowl, mix 1 cup whole milk, 1 cup half and half, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/2 cup sugar.
3. Pour the mixture into a quart-sized baggie.
4. Squeeze out the excess air and seal the baggie with duct tape so it doesn't leak.
5. Put the quart-sized baggie into the gallon-sized baggie and fill it in with ice, water, and about 1 cup coarse salt. Adding salt to the ice helps make the ice cream get colder, faster.
6. Squeeze the air out of the big baggie and seal it closed with duct tape so that the baggie won't leak.
7. Now, gently toss the baggie up and down for about 10 minutes. You can take turns with a friend. You should use a towel so that your hands don't freeze.
8. Cut a corner off of the quart-sized baggie and squeeze the ice cream out into a bowl.
9. Bon Appetit! 

April 21, 2002
"Lasagna Gardening"
For years I killed everything green around my house... inside and out.  It was humiliating to live in a place where things grow at an alarming rate and I couldn't even get weeds to thrive. Then I discovered lasagna gardening.  Here's the basic recipe:

Build a four sided, bottomless box & plop it in your yard someplace
Layer 1" of newspaper over the grass inside the box.
Wet the newspaper.
1" of grass clippings
1" of sawdust
1" of compost
1" of peat moss
2" of leaves
2" of shredded paper
1" of peat moss
1" of manure
sprinkle on a little wood ash
1" of peat moss
Plant seeds
Watch things grow

The wet newspaper attracts worms and the ingredients compost together over time.  By the end of the first year, you'll have fabulous looking, loose soil. Over the year I add layers of whatever I have to my garden to use as mulch and compost. No weeding.  No tilling the soil.  Just keep adding layers and seeds.  Did I mention there's no weeding?  This is truly my kind of gardening!  And the best part is that the dried up old dirt underneath my hydrangeas is now squishy, moist and filled with good things.
April 21, 2002
"Just Say NO"
I have a helpful hint regarding teenagers... find an opposing issue and then stick with it. My teenagers have ranged from best to worst and I firmly believe that the best was brought about... at least in part... by my experience with the worst! 
Teenagers are going to push until you push back.  It's their job to push. They want/need you to push back and say "I'm the parent, and I'm not going to let you go any further than this."  Then you absolutely must stick to it.  Because if you ever back down, you've lost your credibility and the pushing will start all over again and this time with a vengeance because they know they can get you to back down.  A few years ago, my son wanted to wear baggy pants.  I refused.  Finally... after lots of pestering I thought "It's only pants.  What's the big deal?".  Then he wanted to have a punk haircut.  "It's only hair.  He needs to show his independence.  What's the big deal?"  So after saying no for a while... it turned into yes.  He looked scary and acted scary.  But this was my baby boy.  I knew he wasn't really like that.  He was just pretending.  Well, one morning I woke up and realized he wasn't pretending.  He had become the person he looked like.  I had made a huge mistake.

Some will debate that pants don't make someone take drugs.  But I firmly believe that not sticking to my principles helped to bring it about.  When my daughters became teenagers they tried to push the envelope.  But this time I chose the issue.  They wanted to pierce their ears.  Not once (they already had one)... but 5-6 times. I said "absolutely not".  They wanted a tattoo.  I said "no way". Do I care if they pierce their ears and have a tattoo?  Well, maybe a little... but not as much as they thought I did.  They begged.  They tried to bargain.  They did everything they could to get their way.   But on this issue I was firm.  For 6 years we've debated it.
For 6 years they've demanded it.  And you know what?  That's about the only thing we argued about.  They couldn't go any further than that, because I stood my ground.  They knew I meant it.

I don't know if you've noticed... but Becky has an extra piercing in her ear now.  It was the very first thing she did when she moved out.  Not 5 or 6. Just one extra.  It brought her pleasure to do it.  And, quite frankly, it brings me pleasure to see it.  Because if that's the most rebellious thing she ever does... it's not bad!

When it came to important things though... I let my teens test their limits. Jenny wanted to take flying lessons at 13.  I said okay, if she could earn the money to pay for it.  She did.  She passed the written portion and took lessons for almost a year before the money and her enthusiasm ran out.

Teens are so good at arguing.  It's part of their learning process.  But we've just got to hang tough.  Just remember, don't say no unless you mean it.  Families don't run well as democracies, otherwise parents would be voted out the first time we say no.  One of my favorite sayings to my teens is... "This is not a debate, so drop it."  It doesn't mean that I don't listen.  I certainly do.  But when I get to "no" I mean it.

Looking back, I'd much rather fight about baggy pants... than have to live with the person who wears them.

March 17, 2002
"Giving Thanks"
My children came up with this one... I was disappointed one day when I had taxied everyone around and nobody said thank you... including three of their friends!  I had a long talk with my kids about how important it is to show their appreciation for the things people do for them.  They came up with a game to see who could say thank you first.  In the beginning I was thanked for everything from cooking dinner to giving birth to them!  Eventually though, things settled down and it goes something like this... Jenny: "Thanks mom for picking me up from work." Becky thinks for a few minutes and says, "And thanks for buying my favorite cereal." They both look expectantly at Mikey and he says, "Hey mom, thanks for helping me with my math today."
March 15, 2002
Natural Egg Dying
This came from a friend for dying eggs naturally. I have blueberry bushes and when I pick them, I put any imperfect ones in a special freezer bag.  I just mash them and boil them with 1/8 cup of vinegar for 3 hours.  Strain and the let the eggs sit for 20 minutes.  The eggs will be a deep blue.  :-) A couple of pounds of shredded carrots will give you a pretty orange. 3 bunches of Parsley will give you a bright green. One cup Tumeric powder will give a pretty yellow but the eggs cannot be eaten!!!!The eggs will take on a very strong turmeric taste. Reduced grape juice will give a pretty purple.


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Children need models rather than critics ~Joseph Joubert