Wednesday, May 14, 2014

10 Cheap Ideas for Summer Fun

Looking for some simple and cheap ways to entertain the kids this summer? Here are 10 inexpensive ways to up the ante, and get the most out of those hot summer days!

1. Start a club! We love hosting book clubs and craft clubs, but anything that strikes your fancy can become a summer club. Find a few willing participants, set up dates and times, and throw in a few healthy snacks (consider taking turns with the other moms). Boom! You've got a fun way for the kids to get together, with friends who enjoy the same things they do.

2. Check out local day camps! Lots of churches host a week long Vacation Bible School. Not your thing? Try your local 4-H. They often have day camps, that only cost a few dollars. My kids have attended archery, reptile, doll making, gymnastics, swim, and basketball camps, all through 4-H, and we live in the tiniest town you can imagine. Many gyms offer summer clubs or camps, for children as well.

3. Create a backyard obstacle course! My kids love this! Use hula hoops, pool noodles, balloons, cones, or anything of the sort, to create a fun obstacle course. Maybe invite the neighborhood kids over, and make a day out of it!

4. Build something together! Take the time you'd normally be schooling, to create something useful with your kids. Think step-stools, birdhouses, etc. My oldest son LOVES to work with wood and tools, and this provides a chance for us to spend time together (not an easy task, once they reach teen-hood).

5. Take a daycation! Take off for the day! Pack a lunch and drive to the closest beach(or other body of water), and spend the day swimming, enjoying the breeze, soaking up the sun--you get the point! Even a simple picnic lunch, at a local park, can be just the change of pace you need.

6. Take advantage of local summer programs/specials! Bowling alleys, movie theaters, and libraries usually run summer specials or programs for kids. Again, we live in a very small town, but the bowling alley 30 minutes away offers 8 weeks of bowling for 8 dollars. Can't beat that. Many movie theaters have certain summer days, when they play a free movie (usually early, like 10am), for kids. Libraries often have weekly story times. Look into what your community offers.

7. Game Days! We have a rule in this house. Rainy summer days, are board game days. We break out whichever games we feel like playing, and spend the day battling each other. Give it a try. Your kids won't be as disappointed, that they can't swim or hit the playground.

8. Organize a parade or put on a play! Gather some of the neighborhood kids, and have a bike parade! Or get together with some of your local homeschool pals, and put together a play, to perform for the dads or other family members.

9Go old school, and play some classic outdoor games! We love family freeze tag, hide and seek, and kick the can. Add some extra cooling off fun, by incorporating the sprinkler!

10. Create a summer playlist! Who doesn't want to spend the summer jamming out to their favorite tunes?! Throw in everyone's favorites, set it to random, and crank it up. Watch your days rock!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Our Colonial America Unit Study

I'm no good at writing "how to's" because I do not feel I have any expertise or authority. I'm just a regular mom, who fell into this homeschooling thing. So, this is just a look at the Colonial America Unit Study, that I pieced together, to suit our needs. Feel free to use any bit you like.

Books: Aside from their textbooks, each reading aged child read a book, which I selected. My 4th grader read "You Wouldn't Want to Be an American Colonist," by Jacqueline Morley. My 9th grader read "Colonial America: A History To 1763," by Richard Middleton and Anne Lombard.

Documentaries: We watched two very good documentaries, both of which I highly recommend!
National Geographic's "Nightmare in Jamestown"
The History Channel's "Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower"

Timeline: I couldn't find a timeline that suited our needs, so I drew one on the white board, and had them copy it. We spent an afternoon discussing each event, in detail. I wouldn't allow them to copy ahead. I wanted them to know what they were writing, before they wrote it. 

Map: I printed basic, blank maps of the 13 colonies, and had each of them label one.

Crafts: After studying the day-to-day life of colonial people, I had each of the older two construct a colonial toy, on their own. My 14 year old built a "ring the hobs" (ring toss) game, in his wood shop. He used some pool toys as the rings. My 9 year old created a "cup and ball" or, in this case, a cup and cork, lol. Both toys work very well. My preschooler colored some colonial printouts, that I printed from USA Printables

Field Trips: We ended our unit study, with field trips to Colonial Williamsburg, Historic Jamestowne, and Yorktown Battlefield. If you're ever able to go, I recommend allotting 2 full days for Colonial Williamsburg, because there is so much to see and do, all of it worth the trip. Historic Jamestowne can be covered in about 3-5 hours, and do not skip Yorktown Battlefield. Many amazing things to see there as well, including a military encampment, that gives a cannon demonstration. I'd say plan a good 2-3 hours for Yorktown. 

A few fun extras (not pictured): We made our own butter, which is easy enough. Just put heavy cream in a mason jar, and shake shake shake! We also made a great colonial style shepherd's pie, from a recipe I got from the Colonial Williamsburg website. Here's the link to that recipe: Colonial Williamsburg's Shepherd's Pie
Additionally, we had a "colonial day", during which we didn't use electricity. That was a challenge! 

Green Bean Salad

I love this recipe for its simplicity. It's great for summer barbecues, and can be easily doubled.

12oz-1lb fresh or frozen whole green beans
3 stalks of celery, chopped
1/2 of a small red onion, or 1/4 of a large one, thinly sliced
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp water
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Boil the green beans until crisp tender, about 6-7 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Place in a large bowl.

Add onion and celery.

Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, water, and salt & pepper.

Pour over the vegetables, and toss to coat.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Toss lightly, before serving. Yummy!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Crazy Good Lemon Bars

These are easy and awesome! Kid and party friendly, these lemon bars really are crazy good!

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
4 eggs
2 very large lemons (or 3-4 small ones), freshly juiced
powdered sugar for dusting

Mix together the butter, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and 2 cups of the flour. Press firmly into an ungreased 9x13 pan.

Bake at 350, for 20 minutes.

Whisk together the rest of the sugar, the rest of the flour, the eggs, and the lemon juice. Be sure to use freshly squeezed lemon juice!!

Pour over the baked crust, and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Allow to cool, on a wire rack, for 20 minutes. Then, refrigerate for 1 hour. Dust with powdered sugar, and cut into small bars. Yummy!!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Day in the Life: Our Typical Homeschool Friday

Last installment in this series. Please be sure to check out our Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday Day-in-the-Life posts as well, for a comprehensive example of what an entire homeschool week is like, for us.

Fridays are our fun days. We work hard all week long, so on Fridays I try to make things a little less ordinary. We typically spend a lot more time outside, on Fridays, but today was yet another rainy spring day. 

This was our day, on May 2, 2014. It was a very typical Friday, with the exception of being stuck inside, because of the rain.

My day began with some sweet snuggles from my four year old, who climbed into my bed. Then, I sat on the back porch with my coffee and a great book, that my sister-in-law recommended, while my youngest followed his dad around, during his morning routine. 

Once the hubs was off to work, and the older kids were up, I made them breakfast taquitos.

After everyone ate, washed up, and finished their chores, we got down to business. My daughter started with language arts, while my oldest read his literature assignment (The Odyssey Part 2), and my youngest played quietly in his room.

Next, my 14 year old did a typing lesson, that related to his literature study. My 9 year old did a bevy of review math problems on the white board, as I watched for any mistakes. During this time, my preschooler painted.


Then, we played a few rounds of Scrabble.

Still raining, so we watched a Bill Nye.

My daughter practiced her drums (she takes lessons online), while we all enjoyed the dope beats.

Lastly, a typical Friday "fun snack" and a little free reading. 

That concludes school, for this Friday. We typically finish an hour or two earlier on Fridays, than we do the rest of the week. It was a quiet day, excluding the drum session, of course. We'd much prefer to be out doors, but rainy days are nice enough. Friday is homemade pizza night, and family movie night. So we're getting geared up for that. It's been a good Friday.