Friday, June 20, 2008

Doing the Green Thing....

A couple of weeks ago, we made these reuseable bags for carrying things like groceries and library books. We made three or four of them, and they made their debut at Sam's Club, where one must have her own plan for carrying the groceries, because they only provide you with the shopping cart to get them to your vehicle.
and this is a larger one, which, we have found, can hold many library books!

Find an old t-shirt that you don't want to wear anymore.
Cut off the sleeves.
Cut out the neck so that it is big enough to put things in.
Turn it inside out and sew up the bottom either by hand or with a sewing machine. This makes an easy sewing project for beginners.
You may decorate as desired, or leave them plain like we did.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Homeschool Challenge #4

Start your own family traditions to keep your home school unified and lively.

Here are a few of our traditions:

1. I have been a Girl Scout since I was a little girl, and make it a point to enroll my own children in Girl Scouts at the earliest possible age.

2. We are a baton twirling family, and participate in as many community events and talent shows as possible.

3. I make pancakes for breakfast on either Saturday or Sunday of every week, and my husband gets to have his breakfast in bed.

4. I keep journals of my own life, and the lives of the children so that they can have a family history of sorts when they get older.

5. I still read aloud to my children, even though one of them is a teenager. There is no rule that says that children can only be exposed to great literature when they are able to read it for themselves.

6. My mother taught me how to crochet when I was in the fourth grade, and now I am blessed to be able to pass that skill on to my own daughters.

What can you do to create some traditions for your own family?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Cost of Homeschooling Part 2

The second greatest expense that most families encounter when home schooling is that of extra curriculur activities. In public school, many activities are provided by the school at no charge. When home schooling, however, it is up to the family to provide meaningful activities and social opportunities for the children. This can results in thousands of dollars spent on lessons and activities. A diligent parent can find more than enough for the children to do for a fee, but there is equally as much, if not more free activities to do as well.

First of all, look within yourself and find out what it is that you enjoy doing, that you might provide as a service for others. For example, I have taught baton twirling for years, but stopped having regular classes as my life got busier with work and babies of my own. When my children got older, I realized that I could start my classes again, and they would be baton twirlers without the hassle of having to try out for the school's team. I started hosting free classes for other girls in the community, now my own girls are part of a wonderful, performing group, and all that it costs me is my sweat. I also volunteer as a Girl Scout leader. All that it costs for me to be a Girl Scout leader and to include my own daughters in this wonderful movement, is the $30.00 membership dues per year for all of us. In scouting, the sky is the limit as far as activities and experiences, especially if you are a leader and get to participate in the planning for your troops. Again, I have to put forth some effort on my part, but if I can create daily home school activities, I can certaintly keep a Girl Scout troop busy for at least an hour per week. Do any of the churches in your community offer classes for the children during the week? Usually churches offer lots of low or no cost opportunities for children of all ages to play and learn. One of my favorites is the AWANA club that is hosted by the First Baptist Church. The cost for a t-shirt and workbook is usually less than $20.00 for the year, and the children get maximum Bible training along with games and socializing. For your older children, find out if there are any organizations that need volunteers. Volunteering is an activity that helps both the organization and your child in many, many ways. My 13 year old daughter has volunteered at the local nursing home, in the activities department, since she was 10 years old. This costs nothing for her to do, and works out somewhat like an apprenticeship. If you were to talk to her about what she does every day, you would soon find that she is learning far more than how to call bingo or play dominos. Also, don't forget that organized activities should only be a small portion of what you do. Overscheduling is a problem for most American children. There is no rule that says that to have a well rounded education, a child must be kept busy from sun up to sun down. Don't feel that children must have a scheduled activity for every day of the week. Leave time open for them to play outside, visit with friends, read books of choice, play games, etc. They need this time of free play, and you will find that you need some time for yourself as well. By allowing the children to entertain themselves, you are not only saving money that would have been spent on yet another organized activity, but you are giving them a chance to use their creativity, and giving yourself a chance for some well deserved "mommy time". Therefore, if you are worried about home schooling because it would be too expensive to provide extra curricular activities for the children, or because you are worried that your tight budgest will hinder them socially, look around and make a list of all of the free or almost free opportunities that exist in your area. Chances are, you will find things to do that your children would have missed out on if they were enrolled in public school, and many of those experiences are far more beneficial than anything that money could buy.

Have a Great Day!
Laurel Santiago

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Cost of Home Schooling Part 1

With the nationwide concern over the cost of gasoline and food, it stands to reason that many of us don't have as much buying power as we might have had just a few months ago. This is especially true for home schoolers. Home schoolers often live on one income, which can result in a tighter budget, with or without the growing concerns around the world. Because we live on less money, we have to be even more willing to get up, get moving, and figure out how to make our lives abundant with what we have.

First of all, don't try to hide your budget issues from your children. How do you think that so many children grow up thinking that money grows on trees? The majority of children are not privy to grown up budgeting concerns. Therefore, money just seems to appear when they need it, or not, and that's the way it is until they grow up, get married, and find themselves in a financial mess. Since we are home schoolers, and like to be different, why not make our children a little more aware of what goes on behind the bank account? When you don't have the money for something, be honest and say, "I'm sorry, but I just don't have enough money right now." It's that simple. If your children are old enough to understand, you might swallow your pride and continue by saying, "I don't have the money for that right now, because we had an enormous electric bill this month." Of course, your explanation has to suit each individual situation, but being honest helps your children to understand that there is not an endless supply of funds, that you will take care of their needs to the best of your ability, and that being broke can be a time of creativity, rather than a time of tragedy. In a sense, hard times is when we are most fortunate to be home schoolers, because we can turn our budget deficits into scores of free lessons in home economics, health, science, social studies and much more.

Our focus today is on food. Home schooling increases your grocery needs, because the children are home to eat all day, rather than after school hours. For beginning home schoolers, the growing grocery bill and the need to prepare so many meals can get overwhelming. The good news is, there is free curriculum in your kitchen. What skills does one need to be able to follow a recipe? One must read, measure, understand basic fractions, temperature, time, and following directions. Recipes can be copied by children for copywork, which is reading, writing and spelling practice. If you need a new recipe, look it up online or at the library, and have the children copy it very neatly, emphasizing that if you can't read the recipe, the food will not turn out correctly. So, if you can afford to cook, you can afford to homeschool.

Look around your kitchen, or make a list of some of the items that you would miss if you did not have the money to buy them. Then, go to your favorite search engine, such as, or, and enter search words such as: "how to make your own baking mix". A wealth of websites will pop up with free recipes that you can use to save money, have better quality products for your family, and give you something fun and useful to do with the children. My favorite website for just this purpose is I keep a three ringed binder with loose leaf paper for copying and taking notes that I find online or in books that are borrowed so that I can use the recipes and ideas later. *Hint.....this also saves on printer ink, and gives your children some valuable writing practice as mentioned before.

The reality is that this lifestyle will help you save money, but will not make your life more convenient. Instead of popping a meal in the microwave that you can serve within five minutes, you are going to spend far more hours in the kitchen. I, personally, do not mind this, as I look at cooking and baking the same as I look at a craft project. I love to work with my hands and I love to make my own products. The secret is organization. If you know that you are going to be tied up with music lessons and soccer games in the evening, then get the components for a good supper either ready, or partially ready as soon as you finish serving and cleaning up after breakfast. Even if your husband is not the kind of man that cares about having dinner as soon as he gets home, you can use his usual arrival hour as sort of a curfew for yourself. This is when you can have all of your cooking and baking finished and ready for the table. It's all right if you have to reheat the meal later. The goal is to have it ready, so that you can enjoy the rest of your evening, and not feel pressed to order pizza or hit the drive through. As soon as you get up in the morning, decide what you are going to serve for supper. Do you need to thaw out meat, do you need to put beans or soup in the slow cooker? Forgetting to thaw out our main dish has been the cause of most of the pizza deliveries at my house.

Many of my favorite home school blogs and websites feature frugal recipes, so I'm not going to do that here, but keep in mind that if you have a kitchen that is well stocked with basic baking supplies such as flour, oil, baking powder, etc. you will be able to make more meals than you ever thought possible, and will find yourself needing fewer and fewer items at each grocery store trip. Your children will reap many educational benefits, besides learning the art of frugality and creativity when money is tight.

Have a Great Day!
Laurel Santiago

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Homeschool Challenge #3

Do you get lots of junk mail? Turn junk mail into free educational materials and boredom busters for your younger writers. Gather up the little business reply cards that you have to fill out with your name, address, etc. if you are going to order something. Save them so that if your child gets fidgety during a trip, or in waiting rooms, etc. you can hand one to him or her to fill out. The child will practice filling in her own name, address, telephone number, and other pertinent information. This helps with writing practice, and memorization of important safety information such as your address and telephone number. Just make sure that the cards don't make it to the mailbox without your consent!

Give your slightly older child a catalog that has a pull-out order form. Tell her how much "money" she has to spend, and that she must order as much as she can from the catalog without going over. Point out that some of her budget has to go to shipping and taxes. You can decide if you want her to be able to use a calculator for this lesson, or not.

Also try using catalogs for Challenge #2!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Magazine Page Envelopes

You need: magazines or catalogs that you might otherwise throw away. We have found that children's magazines make the neatest envelopes, but if you just want to recycle, then use whatever you have.
tape, glue, or glue stick
blank address labels that you can write on
1 store bought envelope

Carefully open up the store bought envelope on all of the sides that are glued down so that it lays open and flat. Use this for your template. Take your template and place it on a magazine page. Trace all the way around the template. Cut out your new envelope. Fold all of the flaps in so that they resemble a more colorful version of your template. Use glue, tape, or glue stick to seal the edges. Stick address labels on the back in the appropriate places. When you want to use your envelope, put the letter inside, seal envelope with tape, glue, or even a cute sticker. Don't forget the stamp! In case you are wondering, the post office will accept these. We even use them to pay our bills. This a great "rainy day" activity. It kept my youngest child entertained for hours when I was too sick to do more strenuous activities.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Welcome to The Home School Challenge. Here, you will be treated to some very special and unique projects that we have tried and liked in our home school. Some of our ideas are fairly simple and logical. Others might seem outrageous and absurd, but we have fun, and learning is maximized. Be prepared to make education your lifestyle, rather than just something that the state requires.


The Paper Clip Project:
*You need 1 paperclip, preferably a nice, colored one for each participant.

Give each participant one of the paperclips, and instruct them to trade their paperclips for something else. The idea is to trade up for something a little better than the paperclip. Then, they should take the item that they received for their paperclip, and trade that item for something else, each time, trying to get something a little better than what they start with. To learn more about how this can work, find out how a man bought a house with one, red paperclip at This project can last for a set period of time, or go on indefinitely. Obviously, if you are trying for a new house, you will have to exercise some patience and take your time with this project. Be prepared to laugh until your sides hurt, as you see the faces of people as your children sweetly ask them what they will give them for their paper clip. The lessons learned during this project are vast, but as unique to each child as the project itself. I would love to hear from you after you launch this project. What else can you use besides a paperclip? Try it and see.

Have a Great Day!
Laurel Santiago