make your own

Going Green Smoothie

It’s hard to go for long without hearing someone talk about the state of the world.  There are those who predict doom because of the spiritual state of our world.  Others anticipate a government takeover which will include the abolition of personal rights regarding free speech, gun ownership, owning personal property, and more.  The disaster-fearing weigh in with predictions of natural disasters causing global disruption or electro-magnetic pulses (EMP) that would render all of our technical devices unusable and worthless, leaving us vulnerable in numerous ways since we have become dependent to some degree of technology.  Still others believe that our economy will collapse and the currency we use will have little or no value once the collapse occurs. Prepping in some form bears consideration.

Whether the extreme predictions come true, or just a facsimile of them, there seems to be a consensus that some degree of change will take place imminently.  There are differing opinions on how much “prepping” a family should do, but even if you are just planning on making small changes, homeschooling provides wonderful opportunities to incorporate planning and undertake projects in order to be better prepared for the future.

Personally, my faith remains rock-solid that God is in control of all things and I can trust him to lead and use my family as He sees fit.  We are told in Matthew 10:16 to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.  Given that many people much smarter and wiser than I am are exhorting people to prepare for some of the uncertainties of the future, I want to make the most of my time and resources.  I don’t want to become obsessed or anxious about possible future difficulties.  At the same time, I really don’t want to die stupidly.  So my husband and I have been reading up on ways to survive various doomsday predictions, without becoming overwhelmed by all the possible scenarios.  We just want to be responsible to take care of our family and we would like to be in a position to help care for others in need. One of the first things we considered was food supplies.

If the grocery stores ran out of food, we would be in trouble because we know very little about raising plants and gardening. I used to joke that I had a brown thumb since everything I planted died.  Those of you who raise crops on farms or who are avid gardeners have an advantage and hold much-needed knowledge about growing food. My family was eager to learn and we had to start somewhere, so we planted a vegetable garden with a variety of vegetables. Most of them grew well but a few did not.  We don’t know why some of what we planted thrived in the garden while others never produced anything.

How much space do you want to devote to growing your own food?  This would be a great homeschool project, to figure out what kind of soil to use, when to plant different vegetables, how deep to plant the seeds, and how far apart to space the plants.  Some plants need thinning, so it would be good to read up on which plants and when the thinning should take place.  Your homeschool students could research which plants bear fruit throughout a season, and which ones will only produce a harvest at one time.  What is the best time to plant?  Should everything you intend to grow be planted at once, or on a staggered schedule?

There are so many things to consider once you delve into gardening.  We have learned that some plants do better when placed next to specific other plants.  We didn’t worry about watering until days went by with no rain and we realized we needed to figure out when and how much water our plants needed.  I made the mistake of watering a plant in the middle of a sunny, scorching hot day and the poor plant just fried up.  It was sad but educational, and some of the learning process includes figuring out what not to do.

Being the big city dwellers we are, our mental image of broccoli is a nice clean bunch held together by a strong rubber band and freshly misted in the produce department of the grocery store.  With great anticipation, we planted broccoli and waited for the harvest.  We waited and waited, but it never really looked like the broccoli in the store and one day we realized it was past the point of harvesting and had gone to seed.  Clearly, we have much to learn.

As I was studying up on what plants would be best for the plot of land we could devote to a garden, I came across an article that suggested there are many edible foods growing wild.  I took a look at the pictures in the article and realized that I had an abundance of one of the edible plants in my own yard.  Think of the money I could save!  I read some of the ways people eat the weed, which was something in the nettle family, and decided to try and use some in a green smoothie.  I harvested, then used my smoothie maker and added vanilla yogurt and some fruit.  In my enthusiasm, I went way overboard with the amount of weeds added, and the result was not impressive.  My son said it tasted like grass clippings and my husband gamely stated that if we had to, we could drink it.  Another lesson learned.

Even a relatively small project like ours involved learning opportunities with math, science, history, and exploration.  Some of our garden was best used as compost, but we learned about the importance of compost and how to best procure it.  We measured and observed plant growth, sunlight and water, and even which insects were pests and which could be helpful in a garden.  We talked about planning for the future, and how we had the opportunity to hone our skills while still having local markets available if our garden didn’t succeed.

No matter how developed your family’s skill set is, it is a good idea to try gardening even if you only plant a few vegetables in pots.  Your students will learn new skills while enjoying the healthy foods they tended throughout the growing season.  If your garden really takes off, you might even have enough to share with neighbors.  There’s something about homegrown food that just tastes better than store bought.  Harvesting from your own garden is a satisfying accomplishment that just may be the beginning of a love of gardening for you and your children.

10 Ideas for Teaching with Gift Wrap

Need some fresh ideas to use with your students? Don’t throw those wrapping paper scraps away, and hold on to that used gift wrap for a little while longer. Here are some ideas for using wrapping paper as a teaching tool, and it won’t hurt your budget a bit.
1. Use leftover pieces of gift wrap to practice scissor skills. Include some narrow strips of paper so that beginners can feel the success of cutting through the strip. Snip, snip!
2. Cut out images from the wrapping paper to play a matching game. Want something that will last? Glue one set of pictures on the inside of a file folder, and glue the matching pictures onto index cards or card stock paper. A little packing tape will work about as well as lamination to keep the pictures preserved for multiple uses.
3. Work on handwriting skills by having your child circle images on the gift wrap. If that’s a bit too challenging for your student, help them just draw lines connecting the pictures on the wrapping paper. Washable markers may show up better than pencil, especially if the paper has an intricate design.
4. Use both hands together as you tear wrapping paper into pieces. Glue the pieces onto the back (blank) side of another piece of gift wrap. For a greater challenge, try shaping the pieces into seasonal shapes such as a snowman or Christmas tree.
5. Develop hand strength by balling up the paper and squeezing it.
6. Practice following directions and visual discrimination by pointing to named pictures on the wrapping paper.
7. Work on listening skills by covering your eyes and trying to identify the location of a crinkling paper.
8. Teach about recycling by crumpling up old wrapping paper to use for packing material when preparing packages to be mailed. For added fun try throwing the wadded up paper into the box from various locations near the “target”.
9. Work on expressive language skills by naming or describing pictures on the paper.
10. Provide sensory input by putting scotch tape on paper. Try to offer a variety of thin, heavy, slippery and shiny paper to experience the different qualities of each.
Don’t you just love inexpensive materials that you can make yourself? I sure do, and I feel so frugal and creative when the activities are also fun for my kids.

Inexpensive Game You Can Make

Today I want to share an idea with you for an inexpensive game that you can make using simple household items. The inspiration for this game was a young boy I am working with to develop simple turn-taking skills. I wanted to begin by teaching him a short, simple game like Tic-Tac-Toe, but his fine motor skills aren’t yet developed enough for him to make the marks on a page without great effort. I wanted the game to be fun and easy for him to play so he would stay engaged in the learning activity. My young friend does better with 3-D manipulatives at this stage of development, so I took an empty cardboard egg carton and cut it to the size I wanted. That left me with a perfect grid for Tic-Tac-Toe as you can see in the picture above. Next, I gathered up blocks in two different colors so we could use those instead of writing X’s and O’s. I removed the label from an empty frosting can and washed it clean so I could store the blocks in it. The child and I took turns placing a block in one of the egg cup spots, working to get three in a row. The game is more visually appealing to the young child, and it’s easy to show when there are three blocks of the same color in a row. It also offers some tactile input for the hands-on learner, and removes the demand of writing for the child with fine motor difficulties. If you don’t have blocks, you could substitute two different colors of another object such as milk caps or pom-poms. Just find something that will fit within the egg carton space and that is available in two colors, and you are set to go.

For some children, this game can be used to focus on taking turns without the added task of learning the rules for Tic-Tac-Toe. In that case, you don’t even need to sort manipulatives by color since you just need objects that are small enough to fit in the egg carton compartments. The simple back and forth of placing items might be a starting point for some children who have difficulty sustaining attention and interacting with others. For children on the autism spectrum, this is one more way to work on extending interactions and giving a sense of task completion.

In addition to using this game to teach Tic-Tac-Toe and turn-taking, you could use it as a reinforcer. Each time the child completes a task, they could put a block in the egg carton. Another idea is to put a number of blocks in the egg carton to represent tasks the child is asked to do, and remove one block each time another task is completed. When the carton is empty, it’s break time. Put some non-skid shelf liner under the carton to stabilize it so it doesn’t slip around too much. For children with fine motor challenges, I’ve used Velcro on the bottom of each egg cup and stuck the egg carton onto strips of Velcro on a plastic cafeteria tray so the egg carton stays put while the child works with it.

There you go! An easy and inexpensive game that can be used multiple ways and made with items you probably already have on hand! Have fun!

Easy to Make Matching Game

IMG_3488[1]Here is an idea for an easy matching game for colors and sizes using recycled materials you probably have in abundance. Start saving the plastic lids from jars – peanut butter, mayonnaise, milk and juice jugs, pop-up wipes, etc. When you have a collection of lids, take a plain file folder and arrange the lids however you like on top of the file. Trace around the lids, then remove them and color in the circles to match the lid colors. I didn’t color in the circles for the small milk jug size since most of my small lids are the same color, but you could match colors on that size as well if you have a variety in your own collection. I outlined my circles in black to provide a greater contrast to make the target stand out. Store the lids in a gallon-sized zipper bag and you have a quick and easy matching game. The larger lids are great for little hands or for those who find fine motor tasks difficult. IMG_3489[1]To make the game more durable, laminate the file folder. You’ll be able to re-use this game with your own children, plus it’s a great portable game to take with you since it’s lightweight and doesn’t take up much room. It’s an inexpensive, fun way to help kids learn and a great way to recycle those lids.