Friday, November 30, 2012

Little Paper Christmas Trees

Rabbit Christmas Carolers 

I've had this set of rabbit carolers for almost 20 years. They've been through a lot. Some of them used to hold little scrolls of sheet music and I think one of them must have fallen out of the sleigh. Still, I love them. Some years I put them out, some I don't. This year, I put them in my dining room. But they looked sort of pitiful. They needed...I don't know, something.

I decided to make some little paper Christmas trees.

I used:

Scrapbook Paper
A Paper Bag
Various dishes as patterns
Some glitter

I cut out various sized circles

I put them in the order I wanted to stack the paper, largest to smallest

After cutting the circles out, I cut fringe all along the outside edges of each circle.
Then, curled the fringed slightly around a pencil.

After I curled the edges, I wrapped each circle into a cone and used to glue to hold them into place. I used Beacon's 3-In-1 Glue.

I stacked them onto on another and put just a little glitter on the fringe

"We Wish You a Merry Christmas!"
They look so much better now!

Because I used an old window behind them, I was able to put Scrabble tiles above the carolers. Then, I added a simple pine cone garland along the top. Every time I pass by them, I can hear the song in my head!

"We Wish You a Merry Christmas!" 

I've linked this post to
 Whipperberry's Link Party Friday Flair
Serendipity and Spice Nov Pin-fest Linky Party
Artsy-Fartsy Mama Link Party #10
Make It Monday #18

Be sure to visit them for other great posts!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hanging a Wreath on Brick

My sister made a beautiful wreath for me a few years ago. It hung over the fireplace in our last house. It matched perfectly. Since we've moved, I haven't found the right place to hang it. It is very large and doesn't match my living room anymore. I really wanted to hang it on our front door, but it is too big.

My next option was to hang the wreath on the brick wall next to the door. Without damaging the brick we found the perfect solution. Brick Clips!

We found them at Ace Hardware.  On the way home, we noticed that on the package of the clips, the photo shows deep grooves in the mortar between the bricks. Our brick wall has shallow grooves. We wondered if it would work. The wreath is pretty heavy. To our surprise, it attached well.

The clip works even if there is a shallow groove.

The color blends in well with the brick also.

It has been hanging for 2 weeks now, and hasn't fallen. Another great product I'd recommend!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tuesday 411 on Cleaning: Toasters, Irons, and Pinterest

A few weeks ago, I created a board on Pinterest: "To Clean or Not Too Clean". I used to keep all cleaning pins under my For the Home board, but I decided I wanted to concentrate on which pins really worked for cleaning and which didn't. It seemed easier to manage if they were all in one place.

Now.... I have an IDEA!  What if I made it a group board? Would you like to know if a particular cleaning method works, or doesn't work? Have you found something that DOES work? If you have a Pinterest account, I invite you to join me in sharing cleaning pins with reviews. In as much as possible, I will try the methods, products  or suggestions on the group board and follow up with a blog post. Or, YOU can write a review and I'll be happy to post it as a guest post. can tell me about it and I'll write it up. Of course, comments on Pinterest are great also. If you'd like to be a contributor, leave me a comment or message me at fourelevenrox at gmail (dot) com. It may take me some time to get to all of the pins, so this will be a long term project. Some pins I won't be able to try. For example, cleaning a gas stove?  I don't HAVE a gas stove. See what I mean?

Here's a link to my cleaning board if you want to check it out:  To Clean or Not Too Clean

Today, I am going to review 2 methods of cleaning. These are from more than one pin.

Toasters and Irons 

I've used a (#1) in the description of two pins. (pinterest) Cleaning a toaster and/or a toaster oven with Cream of Tarter. Sorry...this did NOT work. The stuff is too expensive to waste on cleaning anyway. It did nothing for my baking pans either, I tried it.

(#2) on the list I've tried before. It worked partially. Actually, there are several #2's on the board. I tried them all.  What worked best was the baking soda/vinegar solution.  I cleaned my toaster oven a few weeks ago, so it doesn't look bad. I started using aluminum foil on the bottom so that helped a lot. It is just time to give it a quick treatment before it gets out of hand.  The glass was a MESS a few weeks ago. I want to clean it before it gets that way again.

I say the solution only worked partially because the real mess is the TRAY. I could not get it clean. 

Stains won't come out.

I tried the pin suggesting HOT water, dish soap, and vinegar. I figured the hot water was the trick, because it didn't work when I tried it before. I heated some of the water in the microwave and I heated the vinegar also. I let it set until it cooled. NOTHING. I didn't want to waste the solution  and I was determined, so I got smart. I filled the tray up and PUT IT IN THE TOASTER OVEN! I blasted that baby on 400 degrees until steam started coming out of the door. I turned it off and waited just a little while. Using a pot holder and rubber gloves, I transferred the tray back to the sink and got out a steel wool pad. I scrubbed and scrubbed but nothing was really happening. After awhile, I got aggravated and started arguing with the thing. Come ON! This is riduculous! And then....some of the gunk started coming off!. I scrubbed, and scrubbed, and scrubbed. Eh...not perfect, but it did get most of it.

Not too bad

What it did leave is a yucky mess all over my sink and gloves. Dishwasher detergent wouldn't get it off. I had to pour vinegar all over my hands and scrub down the sink with vinegar, too. My conclusion: Next time I'm skipping the tray and recovering with foil. If your is dirty, try this. Don't shoot for perfection, just get the gunk off and COVER it.

Next, I needed to clean my iron. Hem tape had gotten all over it. I was afraid to iron anything white. I found one pin with 2 suggestions and a 3rd pin from another blog. Here's what happened:

Salt on white paper, iron on low

All it did was turn the salt darker. Did I just burn salt?

A dryer sheet, iron while hot. Oh, some stuff came off alright. Right onto my ironing board cover!
And the iron is still dirty.

Ta-Da! Mr Clean wins again. A Magic Eraser!

Now I need a new ironing board cover. Here's a test; I wonder if any of my daughters actually read my blog. Who drew my name? I can't remember! I want one of those pretty covers like at TJ Maxx or Marshall's. 

(That was subtle, wasn't it?)

Back to the pinning board. If you'd like to be able to add pins to the board, let me know. As long as we are following at least one of each other's boards, I should be able to add you.

Happy Cleaning AND Pinning!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ammo Box Becomes a Table

I found an ammunition box at Goodwill several months ago for $5. It was dirty, the wood was rough and splintered, and there was wax all over the top of it.

My husband built a frame for it. I cleaned it up. Then after painting the base black, I stained it with COFFEE!

It is our new "coffee" side table.

Top left: Before

I've shared this post at
Happy Hour Friday 11.30  .
Dog Days of Winter Thrift it Link Party (Design, Dining and Diapers)
Check out all the other great links there, too!

Use What You've Got Christmas Decorating: Part One

What fun I've had using what I have around the house (and outside the house) to decorate! I wanted something different this year for Christmas, but in sticking to my Christmas challenge, I didn't go shopping or leave the house. Well, except for 3 cans of spray paint.

I used:

2 large branches from the yard
1 dead cedar tree from the neighborhood
pine cones
A bird nest I found in our satsuma tree
scrapbook paper
sheet music
A Burger King hat
misc craft supplies
some old family photos
items from around the house, including my shadow box from childhood which was packed away
Christmas ornaments, lights, and items I already had
An old window I picked up on the side of the road

 Here's what I've done so far:

Dead Tree "Revived"

A Branch Painted White and My Childhood Shadow Box

A Photo of Me With My Sisters

Mantel: Old Window, Paper Stars, Old Family Photos

I Love This View


I Believe I Love Christmas!

Christmas Crown

I'll post photos of the foyer and porch later this week, along with a special gift idea using what I've got without leaving home.

I've shared this post at Happy Hour Weekend Link Party. Lots more great links are there!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

My Christmas Challenge and a Sneak Peak

On Friday, the day after Thanksgving, I decided to challenge myself to STAY HOME this Christmas season.  By that, I mean not shopping, rushing, driving, or getting caught up in the stress and busyness that comes this time of year. I realize how blessed I am, how much I have, and how much I want to enjoy friends and family. I told myself, and facebook friends, that I would not buy anything unnecessarily or even go Christmas shopping.  I'll order on-line, or buy if and when I am shopping for regular household stuff. I'm going to "use what I've got" to decorate and in as much as possible to make gifts.

On Saturday I woke up with one thought,  "that was a dumb idea."

I had already thrown it out there for the facebook world to know.  But my husband didn't know. I seriously thought about fluffing it off and going shopping. I had a list of things I wanted in order to finish a gift/project and to decorate. I also wanted to buy some things for my daughters.

UGH! I just couldn't cave in.

I fessed up and told my husband. I really needed accountability. He thought it was a good idea, but also told me it wasn't necessary.

"YES, it is."

I still wanted to do it. I got out my list and decided that for everything on my list, I could substitute something.  It may not be exactly what I planned, but my decision was re-made. The only thing I could possibly justify was a can of spray paint.

We went to Walmart, with cash. Hubby asked me about how much money everything on my list would be.  I told him, and we committed to not use our debit card.  I got the few groceries I needed...and I passed on the spray paint. I was proud of myself. In the car, he asked if I remembered the paint. I told him I changed my mind, I'll make do. I had half a can leftover and I hoped it would be enough to do what I wanted. He insisted I buy the paint. I refused.

About an hour later, I ran out of paint. That's OK, I'll switch to liquid and a brush. Then, I realized I hardly had ANY white paint.  WHAT?  How does a crafter run out of white paint? Still, being stubborn I tried to use what I had.  I made a big mess. Sheepishly, I confessed.  I needed some spray paint. Oh Well. It is kinda-sorta a "staple" isn't it? To have white spray paint in the garage at all times? I went back, got three cheap cans for $3, and was back home in less than 30 minutes.

It is now Sunday night, and I haven't stopped using what I've got since.  I made three gifts, and totally revamped our Christmas decorating. I am having a ball! I'm not quite finished, but here's a little preview.

I can't believe how much I got done once I started thinking outside the box. I came up with some pretty creative solutions for some "gotta have such-and-such" items. "Operation (stay at) Home for Christmas" is underway. Does anyone want to join me in this challenge?  

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thoughtful Gift Idea: Mini Albums!

I've never lived near my family as an adult. Sometimes, that has been hard for me. One of the challenges has always been gift ideas, especially at Christmas time. Sometimes,  I buy a little something for my sisters and mail the gifts. But often the cost of shipping outweighs the cost of the gifts! Most of the time, I try to think of something creative, lightweight, and thoughtful. None of us really need is just fun to exchange presents and send a little love their way.

Last year, I really got into making mini albums.  They are really cute! There are several styles and tutorials on the web along with TONS of ideas for how to use them. They can hold photos, thoughts, sentiments...and even include pockets and pull-outs! You can make them from toilet paper rolls, scrapbook paper, cereal boxes, the list is endless. I've made birthday booklets and included a gift card holder, blank books with journaling lines available and of course, photo albums. For my sisters last year, I made them each a little "Heritage Book".

Heritage Mini-Album

This is a photo of one I kept.  On their books, I included a metal brad on the cover that says "family". Family Tree, get it?  Inside, I included the last names of our grandparents and parents, and I adhered small wallet size photos of each couple. Towards the end are photos of each of my sisters and of course, me.

Our Mom and Dad

Rather than trying to find photos that would fit, or could easily be cropped to fit the small pages, I chose the photos I liked, and had them printed as wallet sized prints. That gave me several photographs of each. I had left over prints, but will use them in albums for my children, so it was worth the printing. (And I'm sure I used a coupon.) The books were really cute.  They don't take up a lot of room or clutter for my sisters, AND they did not cost a lot to mail.

Of course, another idea could be to make a blank book and let the receiver include their own photos. If you do that, you may want to add photo corners, or include a disposable tape runner. Anything that would make the photo inserting easier for them.  Otherwise, they may never add any. You know how it is.

I found the instructions for how to make this book here.  The MAZE BOOK
It is a great little video, easy to follow.

After learning how to make a maze book, I started exploring other sizes and ideas.  I wanted to make a book, similar to a card, to include a birthday poem and a gift card.  I found this great tutorial.  I love this book! Outstanding Mini Albums. And I really appreciate that she gives free instructions on her website. Check her out, she has lots of ideas.

All I did to include a gift card, was to make a pocket out of card stock. I used a circle punch to create the cut-out. I didn't really measure; I used a gift card and folded the paper around it for my pattern.

blank gift card holder
You can add a strip of paper or decorate the holder

Not only can these be given with photos included or personalized with a gift card, but you can give blank books as gifts. These could be used by others to give away, a ready to go present.

The best thing about these mini albums is that they can all be made with only one sheet of 12 x 12 scrapbook paper or cardstock, a few embellishments (optional), and recycled cardboard, if you want a hard cover. What a quick and easy gift idea!  I love them.

Here are a few I made last year:

A Variety of Mini Books, Albums and Themes

Happy Crafting!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Taking Christmas Out of the Box

Every year, Christmas is different for me. I tend to focus less on the holiday itself, and more on what is going on in my heart from about Thanksgiving through mid- January. It isn't something I plan for, it just happens, and I've learned to lean into it and enjoy the season. That doesn't mean the season is always fun and jolly. There have been a few Christmas seasons that have been very difficult for me. But, once I figured out what Christmas means to me and for me it became my favorite time of the year.

Yes, Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ, our savior. That means everything to me, but let's face it, it doesn't mean very much to many in our society today. We say it does, but it has become so commercialized, so busy, so of this world. For the many who love and follow Christ sometimes it is very hard NOT to get caught up in everything else. I gave up trying a long time ago. What did I expect? How could I expect a pagan holiday to develop into a religious one without compromising the holy? So, I took Christmas out of the box. And it has become the best gift and most "holy" time of the year.

I am very visual, and very contemplative. If you've known me for many years, you understand. It may be hard for some of you to believe that about me because being silly, creative and my hating squirrels is often all you may see. I suppose I do that because under the surface, my heart and my mind don't stop reflecting on the deeper issues of life and eternity. Sometimes, this girl just needs a break. Silliness keeps me sane! And cleaning? I have my best prayer time while I clean.

This time of year, I let both sides of me flow. What I am sensing, what I am praying for, what is in my heart gets expressed thematically, creatively. Gifts I choose, how I spend my time, and plans for the coming year reflect what I think the Lord is leading me into. What may seem light and fun, sometimes is just that. Other times, even Santa Claus decorations take on new meaning. Last year, my papercrafting  came back to life after a few years of being dormant. I was drawn to snowflakes, book pages, and lights. I also made a new wreath. Red and Sparkly. I am not usually a sparkly kind of woman. Was that why I was unusually more spunky this year?

Christmas Mantel 2011

I still haven't  "unpacked" what the snowflakes symbolized, but I know there is something about them to be learned. They just won't get out of my head. I used a lot of "gifts" as decorations last year. (Wrapped boxes stacked high, with teddy bears sitting on top of many.) I also spent a lot of time shopping and in the hustle bustle of the season.  And I LOVED every minute of it. Turns out, the year 2012 became the year for me to settle into deeper relationships with many people, both family and friends, but mostly my husband. Maybe that's what the red wreath was about.

This year, I'm gearing up for a simple Christmas. Being out and in the middle of it all is NOT where I belong. Next year, I may be right back at it, but for now I need to pull back. Its not about money or energy. It isn't about decorating either. In fact, STARS seem to be drawing my attention this year. There seems to be a somberness "in the air" I cannot describe  It is more than the economy, more than politics, more than anything in the news. I suppose this is my year for being reflective, looking for eternal value, and cherishing the simple things in life He has given. But most of all, it is about LIGHT. He is my LIGHT and my LIFE.

The Lord is my light and my salvation-Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life-of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 27:1

Therefore, over the next few weeks when you see me post about decorations, gift ideas, and fun, don't think I'm being superficial. I'm simply unpacking Christmas.

Praying for all of you to know, enjoy, and believe all that HE gives you this year.

Love, Roxana

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Quick and Easy Chili- Crock Pot or Stove Top

Here's another quick and easy recipe.  The original recipe is for a crock pot, but I usually make it on the stove top if I am home while it is cooking. This chili is different than my normal chili, because it does not have chili powder. I suppose you could add it to taste, but I like the lighter taste of this chili sometimes. Its almost refreshing, for chili.

Easy Chili


  • 1 pound lean ground beef, browned
  • 1 can light kidney beans drained; 1 can dark kidney beans drained
  • 2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce
  • 3 cans chunky tomatoes
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 chopped green pepper
  • salt, pepper and other seasonings to taste (I use garlic)


Combine all ingredients in slow cooker; cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 9 hours, or cook on HIGH for 4 hours. 2 hours on the stove top, on low.

Quick and Easy Chili

Not everyone in my family likes green pepper, so I omitted it in this batch.

Squirrel Wars Part IV: Retaliation and Repentance

A few days ago, I came face to face with a squirrel.  Well, not really face to face, we were about 4 feet apart, but we were at eye level.  My eye level.  And we were both scared to death! I had walked up to the entrance of my Tuesday house, a small brick alcove, and there he was. He didn't hear me coming, so he was trapped. I didn't see him until he started running up and down the brick and across the small thresh hold and stopped, frozen in fear, stuck to the wall. We stood there looking at each other for a few seconds, neither of us knowing what to do. Neither loosing eye contact.  Only one thought was running through my mind. He knows who I am. Then, the thought changed to, He's going to jump on my head and never let go. It never occurred to me to simply take a step back and let the squirrel run away.  But, after a moment, I did realize that I should snap off a quick photo.  Don't get a chance for a close up too often.  But when I reached for my phone, he took off.  Just as well. He was ugly anyway.

I've explained to you how the squirrels gained 3 points in our little war and how I've earned 2. If you need to catch up, you may want to start at the beginning. Now, it is time to bring you up to date to our current status: 4-4.

Once the snakes moved in, life with squirrels settled down on the homestead. We didn't see them much on the porch, and never in the attic.  But I could hear them running around, and they left plenty of evidence behind. Nice little packages of droppings, drippings, and of course, prints. At least they learned to stay out of my way. Or maybe they were simply hiding from the snakes. With the house secure, I could concentrate on the front line, the roadways.

A few months had passed since our last battle when we were notified that the owners of the big, yellow house were listing the house for sale. It was time to move again. Not able to find a house in the same area, we ended up renting one not far from the first Tallahassee house.  The one with the "nice neighbors". I was a little concerned at first. The house was surrounded by trees.

On the positive side, it was a smaller house, only one story, and newer construction. We moved in, and I quickly staked my claim. The first thing I noticed was a bird feeder hanging on the front porch. Nice idea if you like watching birds from your living room window, but NOT if you want squirrels all over the porch feeding off of the scattered seeds. My husband loved the idea of watching birds, so we moved the feeder to the back yard where he preferred to sit. I put a rocker on the front porch, and declared that my new throne. From there, I could guard the new homestead. I chased squirrels away from the front.  They scurried around to the back, where they were more tolerated. As long as they stay off of his feeder, he doesn't mind them. In fact, he likes to watch them and even throws a little extra seed onto the ground for them.  TRAITOR!

Having settled in, I was quite content. The squirrels knew their boundaries. Except for one. It seems he could read. He saw that the doormat on the front stoop said, "WELCOME", so he started helping himself.  I knew it was happening because it was disappearing just like the last one, only this one was going at a faster rate. One day, my daughter called out, "This squirrel looks just like he is eating spaghetti!" WHAT? Sure enough, there he sat, cramming his mouth so full, he looked more like a hamster than a squirrel.

Caught in the Act!

After taking the picture, I ran him off.That's how the squirrels got another point to bring them to 4. But it wasn't long before I splatted another one with my expert driving skills, so I earned another also. That gave me 3. RETALIATION!

I was happy, I was content. I now had a reputation both in the human and squirrel community of being a squirrel killer and I felt highly respected. Then one morning, as I was driving down my street and saw a new target, I sped up and got ready to strike. And then something unexpected happened. God spoke to me. It wasn't auditory, it wasn't a whisper. It was one of those moments when He speaks to your heart and you KNOW what He is saying, and what He is saying will change your life forever. The "conversation" went something like this:

What are you doing?
Its just a squirrel.
Why are you trying to hit squirrels?

And I repented. I felt really, really sad. really, I DID. I wasn't sad for the squirrels, but I was so convicted, I felt sort of guilty. I apologized, asked for forgiveness, and vowed - with His help- I would stop aiming for squirrels. Hard to believe, maybe. But I was turning over a new leaf. From that moment on, unless I am joking or being silly, I stopped swerving towards squirrels.  Well almost.  It took a couple of weeks to get out of the habit.  Sometimes, I did swerve, but then I'd remember and offer up a quick, "OOPS, I forgot. Sorry!" and go about my way.

Now if a squirrel runs under my tire or falls from a tree onto my hood (wouldn't that be neat!?), I am NOT responsible. Such is life. Mine, not the squirrels', because I did hit another one.  But hey, he ran out in front of me. 4 points Rox

So, we are tied and I am a nervous wreck. Can we call it even? Will they leave me alone now? Only time will tell. So, will the Squirrel Wars Diary continue? To be honest, I really hope not, but I'm sure it will.......

Friday, November 16, 2012

Teaching From Your Strengths-Another List of Classes

Today was the last day of co-op for 2012. The last day is always bittersweet. The kids can't believe it is over already, the parents are pretty much READY for the break.  Not that it isn't worth it for us all.  But, in all seriousness, it is HARD WORK. As parents, we get tired towards the end, but after a few weeks, most of us miss it and are ready to get back to it. Aren't we? Well, not always.

One of the hardest things about being a part of homeschool co-op with several classes is coming up with class ideas. It can be intimidating and overwhelming. We try to keep conversations open through our private email group.  Making suggestions and requests is a great way to trigger new ideas. But even with all the ideas in the world, if you aren't confident with what you are teaching, you will probably get discouraged and not enjoy it.

Many parents think that they don't have special skills, or that they are not "good teachers".  They feel overwhelmed just teaching their own children. The thought of being responsible for teaching someone else's children is scary. But, you CAN teach. You simply need to find out what you can teach.  Ask yourself, What are my passions? What are my strengths?  What CAN I do? Begin to identify that, and you will be amazed with the ideas that will come to mind. And if the ideas don't involve your child(ren)'s age group, go for it anyway.  You may learn something about yourself in the process.

The first year I taught, not just "helped" in a homeschool co-op, my children were young and I did not feel very confident in my teaching ability. I had taught children's church for awhile, but not academics.  I was sure the kids would know more than me. But I had a passion for crafts. Still not confident in myself enough to work with older children, and not patient enough to work with very young ones, I chose the younger elementary age group. It went very well.  I didn't really teach, I just enjoyed making things with the kids. I worked my way "up" from there.

Another semester, I taught a group of teenagers Paper Crafts. And then, I moved up to Jewelry.  By that time, I gained enough confidence to teach two classes each semester, and I usually opted for one "fun" class and one a little more academic. In the academic class, I thought about what was interesting me at that point in my life. Besides ideas based on what we were doing at home, often times I chose topics that I enjoyed or wanted to learn more about myself. A couple of years ago, I was curious about Pirates. One of the parents mentioned that a Pirate Geography class would be fun, and I agreed.  I had no idea what that would look like, but I liked the name! By the time that semester was over, I knew more about Pirates than I ever thought I'd care about, and I discovered that maybe I do want to travel.  Before that class, I had no desire to leave the country. I had taught geography classes before, two of them in fact.  But this class...this class brought me to "new" places I had never heard of before.  And I want to go.

Your passions may be creative, technical, or domestic.  You may be talented in cooking, sewing, or with computer software.  Find your passions and interests and make a list. If you still don't feel confident. enlist a friend to co-teach with you.  Sharing the workload helps and keeps you encouraged.  If you want more ideas to jump start you, here is another list of the classes we've offered at L.I.F.E.

Spring 2011

Kindergarten-2nd Grades

Animal Science and Art- learned about 10 different animals and how to draw them.
Reading, Spelling and Fun- artwork with simple spelling words 
Science- Electricity and Sound ( experiments and games)

3rd-5th Grades

Math 24 Game 
American Sign Language 
Magic School Bus (videos and activities)
Cultures and Cuisines- simple recipes with a study on originating cultures 

Music- Intro to piano, singing, reading music 4th  grade and up

Middle School

Adventures of Tom Sawyer 

Middle and High School

Pirate Geography- geography and history study through the lives of famous pirates
Creation Geology
Script Writing and Drama

Picture This (photography)- photography basics with a look at famous photographer’s work  
Career Research-researching 7 suggested careers with guest speakers

High School Only

Homer’s Odyssey – reading and studying
Dave Ramsay Foundations of personal finance for teens Part II

Thursday, November 8, 2012

How I Make Teaching Homeschool Co-op Classes Work for ME

Coming up with ideas for classes to teach in our homeschool co-op used to be a challenge for me.  Each year, as I was planning what needed to be taught to my own children at home, I got this gnawing panic that co-op may overwhelm both me and my girls.  There was no question as to whether we would participate in co-op. I knew the experience and fellowship was well worth one morning a week.  But HOW was I going to cover everything that needed to be done at home AND teach an extra class?  And HOW were my girls going to get all their work done?

It took me a couple of years to figure it out, but I came up with a plan.  The first thing I did was to plan for a 4-day school week. Each week, Monday-Thursday, regular lessons were done.  Fridays, during co-op sessions, would include co-op classes and park time.  Fridays during the rest of the year would include finishing any work not completed M-Th, or they got the day off.  Of course, I planned for more to be covered during M-Th, but once everyone got used to it, we never turned back. The second thing I did was to start coming up with ideas for classes to teach at co-op that would be an extension of what I was already doing with the girls at home. This covered two things at once. I didn't have to come up with any new material or lessons, and my girls were able to get the extra time needed to learn about a particular subject.  This worked particularly well when they reached middle and high school grades.They were still able to choose classes that appealed to them, fun classes or serious material, but for at least one period, they HAD to choose MY class, if it was an extension of what we were doing at home.

I'll be honest, there were some semesters that I really didn't WANT to teach my own children at co-op.  And they enjoyed the break as well.  Those semesters, I planned fun classes, or classes outside of their age groups. I still used the same subjects as what we were doing at home, just on a different level.  Fall 2010 was a good example of how I used a fun idea and got the most out of it. That semester, we were doing an extensive study of Latin America at home.  The girls were doing A LOT of reading and research, but they were interested and we were all learning so much. It would have been overkill to do more on Friday. That year, I exempted them from taking my class and I taught 2 classes using the things we were covering at home, one for younger students, the other for older students.

"Now Leaving South America" was a class I taught to 3rd-5th grade students.  I used a notebook style approach.  They were each given 3-ring binders with a blank map of South America on the cover.  Each week, I chose a different country and we studied the EXPORTS and history of that country, along with geography. Every week was different.  Some weeks we ate and studied the history of a particular food, other weeks we played games or did activities to learn about specific products.  The list of possibilities was endless.  That was a fun class.

"Latin America and US" was more of a history class. We did cover geography, but instead of only South America, we also covered many countries in Central America.  The title of the class was a play on words, because as we went through historical events in Latin America chronologically, we also looked at events in the United States that coincided. We did some role play activities, jeopardy type games, and sometimes watched a video. Things my girls were researching and learning at home made their way right into my class, so the work load was not difficult.  The hardest part was how to present the information without boring them to death. I used a lot of props.

In the Fall of 2010, LIFE Co-op had many other great classes also.  Below is a list of them all.  If you'd like information about what curriculum was used or how we taught any of the classes, leave a comment or email me at fourelevenrox at gmail dot com.  If I don't know the answer, I'd be happy to ask our members and pass the 411 along.

Fall 2010

Kindergarten- 2nd Grades

Crafts and Games
Exploring Nature
World Geography

3rd-5th Grades

Now Leaving South America
Zoology-Birds of a Feather (Notebooking using Aplogia's Zoology Book)
K-nex and Lego Club
American Girl Book Club
Food and Nutrition

Middle and High School Grades

Middle School Only Classes:

Forensic Science
Equine Science (study of horses, taught by a local expert, a horse was even brought to co-op!)

Middle and High School Grades Combined:

Inventors, Inventions, and Entrepreneurs 
Card Making
Advanced Drama
Latin America and US
Music Theory

High School Only Classes:

Plays From the Bard
Foundations of Personal Finance (Dave Ramsey)
Essay Writing
Beginning Microsoft Publishing

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Tuesday 411 on Cleaning: Permission to be Messy

I don't feel like cleaning today. I didn't feel like doing it yesterday either.  So, I faked it. I was home alone and totally distracted with a new art journal page I am naming Permission to be Messy because I didn't plan anything.  I just got out my paint, a journal, and some old newspaper.  I watched a video this week which inspired me to enjoy being messy both in and around my journal.

Jenniebellie Studio (If you are interested in seeing the video)

I did manage to get my bathroom clean. I didn't really do a thorough job, just swept up the dustpan full of (my) hair, wiped down the toilet, and wiped down the sinks.  I figured the shower stall could take a break after last week's makeover.  Hope I don't regret that next week.

My daughter had already cleaned the other bathroom on Sunday. All that needed to be done was floors.  UGH!  I hate cleaning floors, remember?  So I took a shortcut. Shhh...I skipped the vacuum.  I put it out, to make it look  like I had been in the process of vacuuming...but I never got around to it. Instead of that, I used a Swiffer and an old sock to get the "hot spots". Yes, and old sock.  I stopped buying Swiffer cloths a long time ago.  They have gotten too expensive.  Unless I have a really good coupon and they are on sale, I let them stay on the grocer's shelf and I turn to the Department of Missing Socks.  This is an administrative branch of office in my home, the WHITE house, located in my laundry room.

The Cabinet Members and Their Duties:

Tube Socks - they are the majority. They are great dusters.

Tights and Knee-Hi Hose - they are the minority.  They work great as strainers in homemade paper along with a few other seldom done tasks.

No-Show Socks - they are not all in unison, many colors and divisions. I use them to hide the truth of what really holds my art supplies. (old, used, cans)

Fuzzy-Slipper Socks- the hardest workers, also a minority. These are the ones I use on my Swiffer. They fit perfectly, catch all the dirt and dust, and wash well.

There are a few other, crazy looking socks. I use them as pain relievers. I fill them with rice and tie the ends into a knot. Then, I put them in the freezer to use as ice packs, or the microwave for 30 seconds to use as a heat pack. There is something about a wild, crazy colored sock that can cheer you up when you are feeling poorly.

My permission to be messy is basically over now. Yesterday was Monday, today is Tuesday. My Tuesday house calls...then I'll go vote. Wonder which one will come out the cleanest today, our political system or my Tuesday house when I'm feeling lazy?

No-Show Cover-Up
Hardest Working Members of the Department

(Don't look at my baseboards)

Permission to be Messy

Monday, November 5, 2012

Thanksgiving Turkey - Sort Of

A friend just reminded me of the meal I cooked for Thanksgiving last year. My family doesn't like turkey, I wanted to have a traditional meal.  So, I came up with this compromise.  I couldn't resist an extra post today, while it was still fresh on my mind...

My Turkey Shaped Meatloaf

And the worst part is, it wasn't very good! Not sure what I'll do this year....

I've shared this post on Serendipity and Spice's Manic Monday

Practical Pantry - An Organizing Tip

My pantry was driving me crazy. Having been used to wood shelving in the pantry, moving into a home with wire shelving was a bit of an adjustment. Boxes tip over, cookbooks fall through, and the shelf organizers for cans I've used for years wouldn't fit without sinking down on one side.

I turned to pinterest and started gathering ideas.  Did I want pretty or practical?  I found two ideas. One was to use floor tiles as shelf liners, the other was for labels.  Both were good ideas, but I didn't want to spend too much time or money.  All I wanted was an organized pantry.  I went with practical....and cheap.

Regular shelf liners wouldn't work, not enough weight. The floor tile idea would work, but I wasn't going to buy any and I didn't have any around the house.  I'm a "use what you've got" sort of decorator and organizer so I started looking around the house for what would work. A pizza box. That could work.  But I only had one. Wait, how about those "for domestic use only boxes"? I had an endless supply of those (for free) and I had used them in my craft corner....

Can you guess where the boxes come from?
I picked up a few boxes (from my endless supply) and cut them open. I didn't really need to cover all of the shelves, only the ones that would hold boxes and cans.  The rest of the shelves would hold some wire baskets I already had on hand.  I had lots of leftover red card stock from a previous project.  I never throw my scraps away. From that, with no money spent, I organized my pantry....

OK, so yes, it may be a little tacky.  But it works for me, it was free and it STAYS organized. Everyone in the family finds what they are looking for and puts things back where they belong. That's all I ever really wanted anyway.

So here's the tip: For wire shelving in a pantry, or closet, use cardboard to line the shelves. It's cheap, and free, and it will keep your items from falling through the cracks. For easy labels, cut card stock to size, punch holes on each end, and secure with yarn or ribbon.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

New Art Journal Project: Encouragement Begins Today

Today is the start of the next art journal collaboration project I will be working on with a few friends.  Working in art journals is relatively new to me. I started my first one this past spring. I first learned about contributing to others' art journals from this book. Alphabetica: An A-Z Creativity Guide.

I had seen invitations on blogs to join in on some collaboration projects, but I didn't feel confident enough to venture out that far.  So, I asked some friends on facebook if they wanted to do a project with me and Between Friends was born. It was such a great experience!

The project that starts today will be very different.  There are still 10 of us, but 5 out of the 10 are new members. We will be working on ONE journal. Instead of mailing the journal to each of the artists, I am mailing paper, with instructions.  When they complete their pages, they will return them to me and I will bind them together into one journal.

Who gets the journal?  That's the best part.  We don't know!  We will be praying about and thinking of women we would like to bless with this journal.  The theme is Encouragement. This month, as we are working, we will submit nominees. No names will be given until the final decision is made.  Once we decide, and the journal is complete, the journal will be delivered as a Christmas gift.

Do you know a woman who could use some encouragement?  Send me a message at fourelevenrox at gmail dot com.  Or follow me on facebook and send me a private message.  Remember to give me your contact information but please, do not give the name of the nominee, yet. Tell us why you think she needs encouragement or a little about her. We will be sharing the nominee info privately, through our facebook group.

I will follow up with a video on the finished journal and how the project progressed later, in December.

Here's a look at the "starting point".  Just a lot of paper mess, mailing envelopes, a journal I am using as an inspiration to make the new journal, and a peek at the crazy stuff on my Inspiration Wheel

Yes, those are used tea bags hanging from my wheel