Teaching Kids Life Skills

8 Aug

So, I’m crafting a “Life Skills” curriculum for my kids which would include the basics in cooking/baking/kitchen skills, laundry care, car care, household handyman tasks, and personal finances. I may throw in some basic first aid, gardening, and household organizing for good measure. These are the skills I have thought of so far:


  • meal planning
  • grocery shopping (including selecting fruits, vegetables, meat)
  • reading a recipe
  • timing the different components of a meal
  • boiling water (very basic, I know, but definitely a needed skill)
  • cooking pasta
  • steaming vegetables
  • cooking eggs (boil, fry, scramble)
  • chopping vegetables
  • making a salad
  • making a vinaigrette
  • boiling chicken
  • roasting meat & vegetables
  • using a crockpot
  • sauteing vegetables
  • baking: cake, cookies, biscuits, pie


  • reading labels
  • sorting
  • treating stains
  • folding
  • ironing
  • sewing on a button
  • hemming


  • checking & adding fluids
  • changing the oil
  • changing a tire
  • washing exterior & cleaning interior


  • drive a nail
  • hang a picture
  • use a drill
  • paint a room
  • clear a drain
  • fix a squeaky hinge


  • creating a budget
  • living by that budget
  • managing bank accounts (checking & saving)
  • paying bills (paper & ebills)
  • giving
  • saving
  • using a credit card wisely

Some of my kids already have a handle on some of these skills, but none of them have them all.  I know there are other life skills that they will need to know like how to shop for insurance, how to buy a used car, how to shop for an apartment/house, etc., but the ones above I can teach even to my 10 year old.  I figure if my kids leave our house knowing these fundamentals, they’ll be able to navigate many of the basic challenges of living on their own.  (Plus, I’ll be brushing up on my own skills in the process!)

If you were compiling a list like this, what would you include?


Pizza Hut Reading Incentive Program Available For Homeschoolers

7 Aug

Pizza Hut Reading Incentive Program

Did you know that, as a homeschooler of kids between kindergarten and sixth grade, you can sign up to participate in the Pizza Hut BOOK IT program?  For every reading goal your child meets, you can give them a Reading Award Certificate  of a free, one-topping Personal Pan Pizza at Pizza Hut.  This is a great program if your kids are motivated by tangible rewards!

Go to http://www.bookitprogram.com/enrollment/homeschool.asp and sign up soon.  The enrollment is over for this school year on September 1st, so spread the word!

How Does Your Garden Grow?

3 Aug

This spring, we expanded our five raised bed garden to an eight raised bed garden, increasing our garden square footage from about 160 square feet to almost 300 square feet.  I use a modified “Square Foot Gardening” method.

Earlier in the gardening season when it was cool and rainy, my lettuce went gangbusters, the broccoli produced several servings for our family of seven, but the pak choy was a bust.  Now that we’re in the dead of summer with 23 days (and counting) over 100 degrees, my garden is a mix of failure and success. The summer squash is producing fairly well (although one plant succumbed to an onslaught by the squash bugs), the peppers are prolific (especially my Jimmy Nardellos) and the tomatoes have given us a few with great promise of more to come.

Lemon Squash and Jimmy Nardellos

I had hoped I would be a canning fool by now, but the high temps have really affected  the production of the tomatoes and beans. I’m not sure my pole beans are going to give me anything this year, but the bush beans have produced some (which I may end up saving to plant next year in hopes of better weather).

Hutterite Soup Beans

My winter squash is coming along, but I have lost about three plants to squash bugs.  They are REALLY annoying.  I lost ALL my squash plants (summer, winter, and pumpkin) last year to squash bugs.  I am determined to keep my garden as organic as possible, so I am trying to use organic insect prevention and control.  I started out this gardening season using Diatomaceous Earth to keep the squash bug numbers in check, but I was met with only minor success.  I have now moved on to a homemade insecticidal soap using Dr. Bronner’s Castile Liquid Soap (Eucalyptus).  I mix about four tablespoons of soap per gallon of water and spray it on the bugs directly.  It works quite quickly on the babies, but it takes a couple of minutes for the adults to succumb.  I don’t know if it has any effect on the eggs, but I think I may try the duct-tape-turned-inside-out-trick to remove the eggs off of the leaves tomorrow morning.  (The heat index is somewhere obscene like 115 this afternoon.)

Dr. Bronner's Liquid Soap

I’ll let you know the results of my new approach to squash bug control.  If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears!

So it’s now August…

3 Aug

It seems to me that August ought to be heralded as the New Year, because when you have school-aged children, it sure feels like it! I got off track with the blog during the holidays last year, but I am determined to pick it up again as we begin this new school year.
We are trying a few new things this year:
Alpha is utilizing a local co-op for his science (Physics) and math (Pre-Calc) as I did not take either in high school or college and am a little leery of tackling both of those without some outside help. He may also take a class in the spring at a community college if all works out well.
Bravo is continuing on in pretty much the same way as last year.
Charlie, however, asked if she could go to a local Christian school this year and had several good reasons why she would like to try it. We told her that certain doors would have to open for her to be able to do that, and they all have so she will be “going to school” this year. (Which also has an impact on the whole family as we will now be tied to an outside schedule/calendar…more on that in another post.)
Delta is starting fourth grade and may be doing more on the computer as he really enjoys that medium for school work.
Echo is quite proud to be a pre-schooler (he will turn four this month) so I need to start putting together some activities for him. I am hoping to utilize some montessori methods with him this year.

For some reason this year, I am needing to find extra inspiration. Usually I am raring to go by now, but I feel drained already. Perhaps it was the extraordinarily weird summer we have had here in Joplin. While our family was not directly affected by the tornado, our whole town has gone through some sort of collective Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I hope to get some free time to peruse some other homeschooling blogs over the next week or two to find some fresh ideas and garner some sort of inspiration. If you have any suggestions, please let me know!

You Know You’re A Homeschool Parent When…

2 Nov

There are days when you may doubt yourself or your kids on your homeschool adventure.  There are days when you may wonder if the stress and having to be “on” 24/7 is really worth all those lofty ideals you had when you started homeschooling. There are days when you daydream about what it would be like if all your kids actually went to school.  Those are the days when you need to connect with other homeschoolers, laugh a little, and maybe declare a school holiday. Because you know in your heart of hearts that homeschooling your kids IS a good thing.

The following is copied from A to Z Home’s Cool Homeschooling.  (It is a website with a ton of articles and resources and links to great stuff.) How many of these apply to you?

You get to change more than diapers, you get to change their minds.

When a child busts a lip, and after seeing she’s okay, you round up some scotch tape to capture some blood and look at it under the microscope!

You find dead animals and actually consider saving them to dissect later.

Your children never ever leave the “why?” stage.

When your teenager decides to take one community college course, and comes home and asks you why the teacher wrote “At” on his paper. (A+)

You ask for, and get, a copier instead of a diamond tennis bracelet for your wedding anniversary.

Your kids think reading history is best accomplished while lying on the floor with their head resting on the side of their patient dog.

Your husband can walk in at the end of a long day and tell how the science experiment went just by looking at the house.

You never have to drive your child’s forgotten lunch to school.

Your child will never suffer the embarrassment of group showers after PE.

The only debate about the school lunch program is whose turn it is to cook.

You never have to face the dilemna of whether to take your child’s side or the teacher’s side in a dispute at school.

If your child get’s drugs at school, it’s probably Tylenol.

Your neighbors think you are insane.

Your kids learn new vocabulary from their extensive collection of “Calvin & Hobbes” books.

Your formal dining room now has a computer, copy machine, and many book shelves and there are educational posters and maps all over the walls.

You have meal worms growing in a container….on purpose.

If you get caught talking to yourself, you can claim you’re having a PTA meeting.

Talking out loud to yourself is a parent/teacher conference.

You take off for a teacher in-service day because the principal needs clean underwear.

You can’t make it through a movie without pointing out the historical inaccuracies.

You step on math manipulatives on your pre-dawn stumble to the bathroom.

The teacher gets to kiss the principal in the faculty lounge and no one gossips.

Your honor student can actually read the bumper sticker that you have put on your car.

If your child claims that the dog ate his homework, you can ask the dog.

Some day your children will consider you to be a miracle-working expert and will turn to you for advice.

Your kids refer to the neighbor kids as “government school inmates.”

You can’t make it through the grocery produce department without asking your preschooler the name and color of every vegetable.

You can’t put your produce in your cart without asking your older student to estimate it’s weight and verify accuracy.

You live in a one-house schoolroom.

You try to (quickly) capture the huge bee that was knocked unconscious as it accidentally flew into your car window, so the kids can classify and inspect it.

Your bank statement reflects the fact that you spend more at Books-A-Million than at fancy clothing stores.

You’ve got more books and bookcases than anyone you know.

You DREAM of a room (or even a whole house!) with wall to wall, ceiling to floor bookshelves.

The walls of your dining room are decorated with posters of the US Presidents, Periodic Table of Elements, Map of the Moon, Spanish Conjugation Chart and a copy of the Declaration of Independence, not to mention a poster of the Ten Commandments since no one can tell you not to!

You have children draped all over the furniture….and they’re reading…for the FUN of it!

Your children actually enjoy spending time with their family, even their siblings!

Your children aren’t embarrassed to be seen playing with someone younger than they are!

You are on a first name basis with the majority of local librarians.

You’ve laughed out loud when someone asked you “What about socialization?”

Cooking Adventures Lesson 1: Searing

27 Oct

Our Cooking "Textbook"

So yesterday, Bravo, Charlie and I tackled the first kill lesson in Alton Brown’s book, I’m Just Here for the Food. As you know, we didn’t have the called-for skirt steak so we used sirloin tip steak.

Getting the "hardware" and "software" ready

The recipe called for only a few ingredients, or what Alton calls “software”: steak, oil, salt, and pepper.  The “hardware,” or equipment, he recommends is cast iron pan (which we happen to have thanks to our friend Emilie who gave it to us before moving out of the country).

Seasoning the meat

As per Alton’s directions, we let the meat sit out for 15 minutes to bring it up to room temperature and decrease the difference between the temperature of the meat and the temperature of the pan.  We lightly coated it with oil, seasoned it with salt and pepper and then gave it a good rub.  The girls both thought that was a little weird but did it anyway.

Massaging the meat (really!)

After allowing the pan to heat up for a five minutes we carefully put the meat in, being careful not to move it once it hit the pan so we didn’t compromise the crust on the meat.

Is it supposed to smoke this much?

The first thing we were hit with was smoke.  And I mean A LOT of smoke.  Like Smoke-Gets-In-Your-Eyes smoke.  Like Smoke-On-The-Water smoke.  Like, the-fire-trucks-will-be-rolling-up-any-minute-now-because-our-neighbors-saw-smoke-pouring-out-of-our-windows smoke.  Seriously.  The photos don’t do it justice, but we almost couldn’t see the cabinets on the other side of the kitchen because it was so smoky.  We were a bit worried that the smoke detector never went off (which it has under much less smoky conditions—not that I am saying I burn things alot—so I think I will check the batteries on that thing today!) I don’t know if the pan was too hot or not seasoned enough or this is normal or what…but we had to supplement our oven’s exhaust:

Clearing the smoke

We concluded that our cuts of meat must have been thinner than a typical skirt steak because we followed the directions and cooked the first piece three minutes on each side, which was definitely too long.  By the third piece, we found that a minute on each side was enough.

Although some of the pieces were a little too charred, we enjoyed our seared steak with mashed potatoes.  Not bad for a first attempt.  Now we just have to clear that smoke.

Next week: Cast-Iron Duck.

Chasing Skirt Steaks

26 Oct

OK.  So the first recipe in Alton Brown’s book calls for skirt steak.  I have spent the past week and a half checking practically every grocery store and butcher in this city only to get the same response, “Yeah, that’s a hard cut to find.  You should check at [insert name of some other store on the other side of town].”  Aargh.  Not only could I not find skirt steak, but I came up empty on the acceptable substitute of flank steak.  Needless to say, I gave up on skirt steak and the dream of following Alton’s recipes to a T.

So, in my fridge sits a nice thin sirloin tip steak.  Not quite what the recipe calls for, but we’re flexible here, right?  This afternoon (finally) we will tackle the first skill: searing.  I’ll let you know how it goes.