Monday, November 29th, 2010
Monday, November 29th, 2010
Over the holiday weekend I read Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case For A More Joyful Christmas. With less than 100 pages it is a pretty fast read and I loved the fact that the cover was made from brown packing paper… it just screams minimalism and voluntary simplicity.
The core idea is to pick a modest amount of money like $100 and spend no more than that on the holiday. This allows us to slow down the pace of Christmas, make it more about time with loved ones, and less about rampant consumerism. Of course the book has a very slight religious bent (it is about Christmas after all) but this secular mom found it very good as well. I was actually raised in a home that celebrated no holidays and for several years after I started my own family I kept it that way. If I could avoid the money sucking holidays that have no religious significance to me, then why not right? Well, as my children got older it became apparent that you do it for the kids. Still, no reason to go all crazy and put ourselves in debt… or even in financial discomfort every year. The holidays became for us a tradition of time spent with family and modest gift giving.
This book came a little late to try the $100 thing because alas I have already spent that on just one of my kids. BUT I am not sure I would change that because we already travel a path of voluntary simplicity throughout the year and the kids don’t get a whole lot of gifts outside of Christmas and birthdays. I don’t have any guilt about what I spend this time of year. We have always kept it within reason and we pay cash for everything we buy. Some of our splurges for this holiday season are really gifts that will last all year long. I bought season passes to the zoo, the science museum, and the conservatory. I also bought tickets to a Ballet for my two oldest. The gift of time together can’t be undervalued.
That said though, I think this book has some WONDERFUL ideas for gift giving while keeping it under $100 and I am making a mental checklist for this year and next. The author, Bill McKibben, talks about using your skills or learning new ones to make gifts by hand, things like learning to make soap. My husband and I discussed this and we have some skill building plans in place so that we can make more stuff for ourselves, not for holidays but in general. The idea of making our own gifts is a bonus.
Another thing I valued in the book was the history lesson about Christmas and how it has come to be the holiday of excess that it is today. It was very interesting. If you happen to buy this book at some point, you could even re-gift it during the holidays and perhaps get another in your family on board with creating a new Christmas tradition that is more about celebrating life and your time with loved ones and less about consumerism and excess.
Monday, November 29th, 2010
This will likely be a new monthly feature here as I chronicle our homeschool adventures. I have found so many wonderful new resources or fallen in love once again with ones I used previously. Even if you don’t homeschool these could provide you with some great weekend activities too.
One thing I have noticed about the Oak Meadow curriculum I am using is that it, at this point anyway, is more like an outline rather than a full curriculum. Instead of giving you concrete lesson plans it gives you ideas or general instructions on what to do and what to teach. Thus I spend 30 minutes reading through the weekly lesson and then finding other resources to make it all happen. I am essentially using Oak Meadow as a guide while I create my own curriculum or utilize parts of other curricula. In this way it is very similar to K12 but K12 went a step beyond and gave you EVERYTHING you need, word for word, activity by activity. I would rather the loose structure of Oak Meadow but it also has me thinking I could just create my own piecemeal curriculum next year since I am kind of doing that anyway. We shall see. I do admit that I might be slightly lost since I started mid year and many of the current lessons are referring back to concepts and material we haven’t covered. Thus I skip those and do my own thing.
Anyway, here is my “cool resources” list for the month of November:
Pandia Press – LOVE, love love, their R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey curricula. They have 3 basics areas of study.. Earth and Space, Life, and Chemistry. We are working our way through the Earth & Space book right now and it has 12 unit studies and corresponding lab projects for each unit. Weather and Seasons for instance (Unit One) has six labs. It is VERY much a learn science by doing it method of study. PERFECT for my son.
I just ordered the History Odyssey (Ancients) as well so it looks as though we may be using Pandia for Science and History. The only issue I see with the History curricula is that it requires several other books, some of which are kind of pricey and not available at the library. I will have to use it for awhile and see if we can work around that. But again, since we are jumping into this mid year I think this will help with our history lessons.
BrainPop – Educational videos on tons of different topics. My son really enjoys them.
Handwriting Practice Worksheets – My son really likes to write and he enjoys copy work. I was psyched to find these handwriting booklets in various topics that interest him… ala Titanic. This is a GREAT resource. FREE too!
Netflix – Their streaming video service is wonderful for homeschoolers! There are an absolute ton of educational videos from documentaries about dinosaurs and WWII bombers to the Holocaust. Oh and plenty of documentaries and videos about the Ancients like Greece and Egypt.
Drawspace – Great tutorials and activities for art and drawing instruction.
Home Spelling Words – Lists of spelling words by grade and by week. This is very handy since Oak Meadow doesn’t provide spelling words for you.
Passport Template – I am going to teach social studies and geography by living it instead of by the book. We will taking an “imaginary” trip once or twice a month and I wanted a passport to stamp during our travels and found this one. During our travels we will be cooking food from that region of the world and observing their customs.
So what wonderful homeschool resources have you found lately? Please share!
Sunday, November 28th, 2010
I will likely be heading out of town for Thanksgiving this afternoon but of course all week long I have been reflecting on what I am thankful for. It is amazing how often we can let life’s little problems blind us to all the wonderful things we have.
I am THANKFUL to be 5 years cancer free.
I am THANKFUL for an amazing family…. husband, kids, mom, dad, brothers…
I am THANKFUL for a lovely home that is warm, cozy, and ridiculously low priced. How did we luck into that?
I am THANKFUL that I am self employed and that I only have to work 10-20 hours a week AND that I truly love what I do.
I am THANKFUL that both my husband and I have have good jobs, when so many others in this country do not.
I am THANKFUL that we never have to worry about money or paying our bills.
I am THANKFUL that we have so much freedom to pursue our dreams and do the things we love.
I am THANKFUL for the readers of this blog. You rock!
I am THANKFUL for my husband, who I have loved since I was 16 and who puts up with all my drama with a loving smile. Who right at this moment is patiently waiting for me to finish blogging so we can go out to breakfast…
Oh and I am THANKFUL I do NOT have to get up at dawn and go shopping.
I am THANKFUL that my life is so good.
What are YOU thankful for?
Wednesday, November 24th, 2010
Bringing nature indoors for the holiday season is actually a rather old tradition. It’s the motivation behind garlands, live Christmas trees, evergreen wreaths, and other nature-based traditional holiday decorations. In fact, nature celebrations are the basis for some of our major holidays. Halloween originated with Samhain which marked the end of the harvest and Christmas originated from the pagan winter solstice celebration… celebrations of nature and the natural world. You can decorate your home with natural materials this year and be both modern and traditional. Here are some ideas.
1. Natural Wreaths
You can buy wreaths made from cut greens, but you can also make your own. In fact, you can make a live wreath by planting a trailing plant, such as English ivy, in a pot. Then wrap the trailing plant around a frame that you have inserted into the pot. Add lights if you like, or berries, nuts, and other natural decorations.
You can also weave your own wreath from cut greens. Wearing sturdy gloves, gather the greens into bunches and wire the bunches at their base. Wire the bunches onto a wire frame, tucking the wired ends in amongst the green branches. If you don’t have a frame, use wire to attach the bunches into a circle.
Weave twigs into small wreaths. Hang these on your Christmas tree or attach them to gifts in lieu of a bow.
Use dried or fresh bay leaves stuck into a craft foam circle to make a scented wreath. Add a few holly leaf bunches, berries, and pine cones to fill in any white areas left showing. The foam circle isn’t green but it can be reused every year for many years.
Pine cones can be hot-glued to a circular craft foam frame as well.
Cut greens make lovely natural garlands. Wire greens directly to your stair handrail or lay them on your mantle. You can hang cut greens over doorways in a swag type of design.
Bay leaves make lovely, scented garlands. If you have a bay laurel shrub, cut some of it to make a garland or wreath. You can also purchase bay leaves in bulk at some markets, but fresh-cut works better for a garland. Using wire, secure bunches of bay leaves to a piece of twine until you have reached the length you like. You can intersperse the bay leaf bunches with dried fruit, pine cones, or other natural objects.
Wool is a natural fiber that can be made into garlands. You can use felt squares, stars, or circles threaded onto string for dental floss. You can also use wool roving to make felted wool beads that can be strung onto a garland like this one from etsy seller Murdock Design.
3. Clove Oranges or Apples
This time-honored decoration was sometimes given as a gift. In fact, clove-studded oranges nearly a century old still survive in some museums! Fruits stuck with cloves are called pomanders – oranges, apples, and lemons are typically used. Pomanders are easy to make, and they smell wonderful.
* Using a small knitting needle, skewer, or fork, pierce the fruit all over. Make each hole about 1/4 inch apart. Insert whole, dried cloves into the holes.
* In a paper bag, mix 2 teaspoons each of ground cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. If you can find it, add about 1/2 teaspoon of ground orris root to aid drying and preserve the fruit.
* Place the clove-studded fruit into the spice-filled paper bag, shake to coat, and leave in a cool, dry place for a couple of weeks. Shake the pomander daily. If you make more than one, they can be displayed in a bowl or along a mantle.
What is your favorite way to incorporate nature into your decor?
Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010