Friday, March 31, 2006

Free Field Trips

As a little girl, my dad once took me on an impromptu field trip to the fire station. We were waiting for the car to be fixed, the fire house was right next door, and we had some time to kill. The firemen were more than happy to show us around and in addition to the educational benefits, it provided me with some fond memories of time spent with my dad.

There are lots of free field trips that you can take with your children, or organize with your homeschooling support group. Bakeries, police and fire stations, factories, gardens, museums, grain mills. farms, etc. all make great field trips. Our local grocery store (Meijer), bookstore (Barnes and Noble), and pizzeria (Hungry Howies), all offer free field trips. Of course, my favorite field trip of all time is Krispy Kreme!

For a religious field trip, check out shrines, churches, cemeteries, convents, seminaries, etc. I personally love visiting old churches and several offer free tours. We once went on a "stain glass tour" of a local cathedral. It was quite educational.

Or bring the field trip to your house by inviting speakers such as a minister, scientist, politician, etc. One of our best homeschooling experiences was when an entomologist (an insect specialist) gave a presentation about bugs to our homeschool group. The kids loved it!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Lean Times Good for You

I read an article in the Washington Times, eons ago, titled: Tough Times Said Beneficial to Health. It asserted that during economic downturns people eat better and exercise more.

Healthy food such as beans, grains, vegies, and fruits are inexpensive compared to loads of meat and prepackaged foods. Making your own meals instead of eating out, is not only thrifty but healthy! And how much does it cost to take a walk around the block a couple of times each day?

So rejoice in knowing that even though we are all cutting corners in our household budgets, we do not have to make cuts in our overall health. In fact, we are bigger and stronger than our materially rich brethren!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Milk and Honey

In the Foreword of The Catholic Homeschool Companion, Bishop Carl Mengeling writes on what our goals should be as homeschoolers. He speaks of Maria Montessori whose fundamental principle in her education program laid in two words: milk and honey. He also spoke of St. Augustine, who said that the milk is the fundamental needs we have in this life -- the need for food, shelter, and clothing. Augustine said that is important, but the milk is not enough by itself.

Today, most Americans are drowning in milk. We have so much milk that we are drowning in it. Public education these days, for the most part, is merely to prepare people to get more milk.

What is often missing in the lives of so many people is the honey. The honey is what gives meaning and purpose and destiny to our lives and gives meaning to all this milk stuff. The honey is our Christian faith.

Think about milk and how it sours over time. Material stuff, the milk of our existence, does not last forever. It is fleeting. Honey, on the other hand, does not spoil. Our faith, our love of God, can bring us eternal life.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Math Manipulatives: Fractions

My friend Becky is the queen of homemade games and manipulatives. Here is a practical idea for teaching fractions, from her house to yours.

Take your compass and make six circles, all of the same size, lets say about 4 inches in diameter. Better yet, have the children do it. If you use white paper, have the children color each circle a different color. If you have colored or construction paper available, you can skip this step.

Then using your ruler, draw a line down the center of one circle dividing it in half. Write in each section: 1/2. Cut along the lines to make 2 halves.

Take the next circle and divide it into thirds and write in each section:
1/3. Cut along the lines to make 3 thirds.

Take the next circle and divide it into fourths and write in each section:
1/4. Cut along the lines to make 4 fourths.

Take the next circle and divide it into fifths and write in each section:
1/5. Cut along the lines to make 5 fifths.

Take the next circle and divide it into sixths and write in each section:
1/6. Cut along the lines to make 6 sixths.

And leave one whole.

You want your new manipulatives to withstand the test of time and perhaps more than one child, so glue to cardboard (free) or to magnetic sheets (about $3 at the craft store). Store in a baggie or plastic container.

Now you have a fun and thrifty way to teach about fractions. Show your littles how 2 of the 1/6s is equal to 1 of the 1/3s. Or how it takes 5 of the 1/5 pies to equal a whole pie. And so on.

Gee, you could even color your circles to look like different flavors of pie and make it really interesting. Or better yet, make an apple pie for dinner tonight and throw in a lesson on fractions at the same time.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Grocery Tip #6 - Use Your Crockpot

Do you have one day in your week where it seems you are on the go the entire day? You get home wiped out and the last thing that you want to do is make dinner. So you throw a few frozen pizzas into the oven or have your spouse pick up Chinese on the way home. Maybe you have several days like this each week!

I solve this problem with a little preplanning and putting something in the crockpot before I leave the house. It is so nice to come home to a prepared dinner after a long day running all over town making sure that my children are well-socialized. Utilizing my crockpot saves on frustration and it saves on the wallet.

Another nice thing about crockpots -- you can make even the toughest, cheapest cut of meat tender and delicious!

I have uploaded some crockpot recipes to the files at our homepage (Yahoo! Groups: ThriftyHomeschooler).

If you really love recipes, here are a couple of links for you:
Crockpot Recipes - More than 1300 Recipes for the Crock Pot or Slow Cooker
RecipeSource: Crockpot Recipes

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Math Manipulatives: Fingers

Fingers are manipulatives too! I have been teaching my 4-year-old son to add and our fingers have been most helpful ;-). Holding up two fingers on one hand and three on the other then having him count the total, gives him a visual representation of 2 plus 3 equals 5.

Of course I don't want him counting on his fingers when he is twelve, but it is perfectly okay for a preschooler. Besides, he is too young to grasp the concept by looking at numbers written out on a worksheet.

And fingers are free!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Preschool Math

Looking for a way to show your preschoolers how to have fun with math? Give them a tape measure and let them measure everything in the house.

My littles love to do this and its free!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Matthew 6:25-34

I would like to share the following Scripture with you, from the book of Matthew. I encourage you to spend today reflecting on Christ's words:

6:25 "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
6:26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
6:27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life?
6:28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin;
6:29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
6:30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith?
6:31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'
6:32 For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.
6:34 "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day.

Christ is telling us that we need not be anxious about the pursuit of material things. Instead, let us focus on our spiritual lives. Let us focus on our families and our homeschools. Let us focus on the formation of the souls that God has entrusted to us.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Grocery Tip #5 – Stock Up On Loss Leaders

If you are going through your grocery sales ads every week as you make your menu and your grocery list, you are getting a pretty decent idea of the good sale prices. Beginning this week, keep a sharp eye out for loss-leaders.

Loss-leaders are sales items that are marked down way below the store's profit margin. They do this to entice you into their store and then get you to buy those high-end items, thus making a huge profit in the end. But you won't fall for that con game because you're making a list and sticking to it!

Take advantage of those loss-leaders by stocking up on them. If your family loves pasta, and macaroni is on sale for an unbelievable 25 cents, buy enough to last several months. Take advantage of any extra freezer space for meats and vegies. My husband built extra shelves for me in the garage for my stockpile of loss-leaders.

I've actually had people make funny remarks to me when they see me and the children pushing our grocery carts through the store with cases of loss-leaders, but I'm laughing all the way to the bank ;-).

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

More on Making a Menu

Creating a menu plan for each week helps a great deal in reigning in grocery costs. Additionally, it makes life a little easier for you in the long run.

If you're having trouble implementing this tip, here is a website to help you: Menus4Moms.

This website is offered by a homeschooling mom (who is also a member of The Thrify Homeschooler). She gives you a menu plan plus shopping list. She also has lots of other useful pages on homeschooling and organizing, so be prepared to explore her site once you get there.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Grocery Tip #4: Make a Menu

Last week we made a list, this week we are going to expand on that concept and make a menu.

Every Monday I sit down at my dining room table with that week's grocery sales fliers, my grocery list, and my favorite cookbooks. I then make up a menu for the week based on what is on sale and what is currently in my cupboard.

Remember what I said last week about knowing what is in your cupboard? If you have dozens of hard boiled eggs in the fridge left over from Easter, then you may want to have deviled eggs for dinner one night and perhaps egg salad sandwiches for lunch. Don't buy new stuff when you have perfectly good stuff already on hand.

In fact, make sure that you set aside a day on your menu for leftover night! Never let anything go to waste. Every once in a while I go completely through my cupboards and fridge and make sure that there aren't any forgotten items in the back that I can put on that week's menu.

How does making a menu save you money?
- you buy only what you need.
- you use up what is already in your cupboards.
- you have no need to make unscheduled trips to the convenience store since you preplanned.

The first time that you make a menu, it will take some time. But trust me, once you make it a habit and do it every week, it will take no time at all. I promise.

With a little preplanning, you can save $$$.

Now lets review:
Never go to the store hungry.
No Gimmees.
Make a list.
Make a menu.

Homeschool Book Swap

Got this from one of the Thrifty Homeschooler members. Very cool:

Homeschool Book Swap

It's a place to find or give away books for free or for postage. I thought it would be nice to have a place where people could list books they needed or books that needed a new home! It's still a small group, so the more people who join the better!

Check it out!

Another site to donate to is:

Learning through History

My friend Linda sent this link to me: Learning through History. They have some neat free resources at the website including an email newsletter.

Friday, March 10, 2006

What is it?

Can you figure out what this is a picture of? Go to: Can You Guess What This Is? to register your vote.

It's from Mike Brown's very cool blog, Through the Lens. Visits to this blog with the kids can double as free art lessons!

Re-Use Tip: Old Pantyhose and Knee Hi's

Should you throw out your old knee-hi's and pantyhose with runs? Gosh, no!

First of all, if your pantyhose has a run in only one leg you can salvage it for a while yet. Here is what you do: Cut off the offending leg and put the pantyhose back in your drawer. The next time you get a run in just one leg, do the same to that pair of hose. Now take the first one-legged pantyhose and put the leg of the second pair of pantyhose through the hole of the first pair. Now you have two good legs and saved yourself a trip to the store.

And DON'T throw away that leg that you cut off. You can still use the leg, or a knee-hi, with a run for your washing machine. Yes, I said your washing machine.

Once, just after buying a brand-new Maytag washing machine, I found that my clothes were still sopping wet after the spin cycle. I called for a repair man, who very kindly pointed out that the problem was that the sink, where the water drained, was clogged with lint (totally my fault and he didn't charge me for the visit - I love Maytag!). He suggested that I either buy "lint traps" (a little mesh bag that fits over the washing machine's hose) or use old hose.

I have found that a "ruined" knee-hi or pantyhose leg attached with a rubberband works just as well as the store-bought lint traps. And they are free!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Dewey Decimal Classification System

I stumbled upon this website today and plan to use it for teaching the Dewey Decimal System: Do We Really Know Dewey. It was put together by 6th grade students. There is a funny story about Melvil Dewey meeting aliens that actually helps children remember the classifications of the Dewey Decimal System, as well as puzzles, tests, and so on. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Kid Wisdom

Buster, my 10-year-old son, says yesterday while viewing a commercial about a Big Sale, "Yeah, I know how to save money, don't buy it in the first place!" Yep, that's good advice!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Grocery Tip #3: Make a List

Did you know that 53% of grocery purchases are made on the spur of the moment?

Are more than half of your groceries bought without forethought? Are you making extra trips to the convenience store each week to pick up items needed at the last moment? If so, now is the time to stop!

Get up from your computer right now and put a piece of paper on your fridge or other prominent place and write at the top: “Grocery List” and then come back to your computer.

Okay are you back? Now here is what you do - when you start getting low on a staple item, Write It Down! Know what is, and is not, in your cupboards before you go to the store!

Never, ever, go to the store without a list!

Mark off items as you put them into your basket and do not deviate from the list. Yes, that snack pack of premade pudding in little plastic cups may be on sale, and it does looks so attractive displayed on the endcap of the aisle (the pudding manufacturer paid thousands for that placement, so let that be a clue!), and it would be so easy to just plop those pudding cups in front of the kiddies for lunch tomorrow, but hey it is NOT on your list. If it was important and really needed, you would have put it on your list. Besides you can make pudding for about one-zillionth of the price even though the premade stuff is on sale, but let's save that topic for a future post.

More next week. Remember babysteps.

This week you should be implementing Tips 1, 2, and 3:
Don't go to the store hungry.
No Gimmees.
Make a list.