Saturday, April 23, 2016

Why You Need to Hang Your Clothes Out to Dry

Modern technology is oh-so-convenient. I think my favorite modern invention of all time is air conditioning. I don't know how our foremothers lived without it, especially in the south. Whew! But there are many things about the old-fashioned, simpler lifestyle that are so much better for us than the modern way. Home-cooked meals, garden-fresh veggies, and clotheslines.

So, what's so great about clotheslines? I'll tell you several things, but my #1 reason for hanging out laundry is for the mini-break in my day that it affords me.

A relaxing break - When I'm standing out in the grass, hanging the laundry on the line, I'm forced to be still, be quiet, and think. I can hear the birds sing. I can smell the breeze. Even if I'm so busy inside with my children and homemaking, this simple task forces me to get outside for a few minutes when I might not otherwise make the time.

Better for whites - The sun is a whitener and brightener. It naturally bleaches your linens, socks, and other whites. And all without the chemicals. Moms who use cloth diapers swear by line drying.

Clothes last longer - Do you know why your dryer has a lint trap? Because your clothes slowly wear down with each cycle in the dryer. The lint you throw away is a little bit of your jeans, tops, and jammies. Hanging the clothes out to dry means no lint!

Electric bill is lower - There are definitely monetary benefits to avoiding the dryer. It heats the house and uses electricity. According to this chart, it costs .57 per load to dry laundry. In our family of 7, that's a minimum of 7.98 per week, and typically much higher. What does it cost in your home?

Sunshine is medicine - If you're hanging out laundry, chances are the sun is shining. Standing in the sun for 10-20 minutes is good for you in SO many ways:

Did you know the best source of Vitamin D is the sun? According to the Vitamin D Council:
The most natural way to get vitamin D is by exposing your bare skin to sunlight (ultraviolet B rays). This can happen very quickly, particularly in the summer. You don’t need to tan or burn your skin to get vitamin D. You only need to expose your skin for around half the time it takes for your skin to turn pink and begin to burn. How much vitamin D is produced from sunlight depends on the time of day, where you live in the world and the color of your skin. The more skin you expose the more vitamin D is produced.

You don't need me to tell you that sunshine and fresh air make you feel good. But getting your daily dose while doing laundry and saving money is a win-win-win!

If you have never used a clothesline, now is a good time to start. Here's a great post on beginner tips. I do all of these things, except for the folding table outside. I love that idea!

No matter the size of your space, there is a clothesline for you:


Of course, my favorite will always be this:

My quilts on my clothesline : )

Happy Laundry Day!

Shared at:
JENerally Informed

Monday, April 18, 2016

Happy Graduation, Homeschool Mama!

This is an open letter to you mothers who are graduating a child from your homeschool. You’ve been working toward this day for YEARS. Now the cap and gown are purchased, the transcript is polished, and perhaps the college applications are complete. Congratulations are in order for your student, right?

Not so fast. This is a congratulations for YOU. For years you have not only been Mom, you’ve taught every subject in every grade level. Letters and numbers, math and reading, writing and grammar, spelling and vocabulary, science, history, and everything else.

You agonized over curriculum catalogs to determine the best history curriculum. You filled out pages and pages of notes and ideas. You debated which timeline to purchase. You researched the most exciting way to construct a pyramid. Maybe you made Pilgrim costumes, and you definitely went on more field trips than in your own elementary career!

You dreaded high school math and as you helped your little guy with basic addition. You explained long division for weeks and wiped tears of math frustration. You may have even cried your own tears of math frustration. You hired a math tutor when it came time for Algebra and Geometry, dutifully driving to lessons each week and thanking your lucky stars that there are other moms out there who actually love math.

You taught every letter sound, checked every spelling test, corrected every math problem, discussed every era of history, explained more parts of speech than you thought possible, explored all the scientific theories and inventions, discussed all the literary classics, and stayed up late looking for answers when there was something your child “just didn’t get.”

You joined co-op classes and park days and teams and clubs. You put untold miles on your car to take your child to their homeschool basketball practices and games (because there is no school bus for homeschoolers). You organized a book club and held it in your home. You paid for lessons in violin, piano, tuba, and drums until your child found their true calling. You’ve started groups and teams when you couldn’t find the one your kids needed.

You were not only the teacher, you were the school counselor, nurse, lunch lady, PE coach, driving instructor, secretary, and janitor. On top of that were probably a church member, wife, neighbor, and friend.


You encouraged your child when they said, “I can’t do math,” and secretly wondered if it was true. You cried and prayed when you were so exhausted that you felt like giving up and sending them back to school.

Graduation day seemed to be hundreds of years in the future, until one day you’re placing the order for a cap and gown, scheduling senior pictures, and signing your name on that beautiful diploma. How did you get here? You probably had a few days in there when you though it would never actually happen!

You have finally discovered what other veteran moms, seminar speakers, bloggers, and authors told you: slow and steady wins the race. Homeschooling, like parenting, is a lengthy commitment, but the rewards are astounding. And you have completed the race!

Normally, we look down our noses when participation trophies are awarded because, hey, that’s now how life works, right? But in this race, everyone wins. Schooling your own children is not for the faint of heart, and a very small percentage of parents dare attempt it. But YOU did. And YOU finished.


So, consider this YOUR ribbon, your trophy, and your participation t-shirt, because mama, you earned it! Well done, good and faithful servant!

Now, take a day off, get a latte, a pedicure, and a nap! And then tell the world IT CAN BE DONE. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Using Louis L'amour to Teach History

If you've been following my blog for any length of time (or know me in person) you know I'm a big fan of Louis L'amour. I've already blogged about it here and here. So, naturally, I'll find a way to use  my favorite author in our homeschool!

You may think of westerns when you hear his name, and while that is mostly what he wrote (and what I love most), he also wrote several great books from other time periods. They make great historical fiction to go along with any study of history!

Here are some of my favorites. The links to each title (or series) go to, which include a map of each story location, and a sneak peek at the first chapter.

The Walking Drum - Europe: 12th Century.
"At the center of The Walking Drum is Kerbouchard, one of L'Amour's greatest heroes. Warrior, lover, scholar, Kerbouchard is a daring seeker of knowledge and fortune bound on a journey of enormous challenge, danger and revenge. Across the Europe, the Russian steppes and through the Byzantine wonder of Constantinople, gateway to Asia, Kerbouchard is thrust into the heart of the treacheries, passions, violence and dazzling wonders of a magnificent time. From castle to slave gallery, from sword-racked battlefields to a princess's secret chamber, and ultimately, to the impregnable fortress of the Valley of Assassins, The Walking Drum is a powerful adventure of an ancient world you will find every bit as riveting as Louis L'Amour's stories of the American West." 

Map from The Walking Drum

 Fair Blows the Wind -  Europe: 1589. "Shipwrecked on the coast of North Carolina, his companions killed, Tatton Chantry is alone--and ready for action. In the old world he fought wars, skirmishes, duels. Now, in the wilderness of America, this swashbuckling hero takes up against pirates, Spanish fortune seekers, savage Indians. Aided by a beautiful Peruvian woman, he braves the fierce challenges of the New World--always, like a true Chantry, with his expert hand on the hilt on his faithful silver sword." The story includes flashbacks to Chantry's earlier years in England, Ireland, and Scotland. I read this aloud to my kids as part of our study of the 16th Century. 

The Ferguson Rifle - America: 1803. "Stripped of all he values in life, Ronan Chantry takes up his prized Ferguson rifle and heads west -- into an unknown land and an uncertain future. For an educated man, Chantry is surprisingly tough. For a civilized man, he is unexpectedly dangerous. But even he can't know the true extent of his courage until he draws the fire of a man who will do anything -- kill anyone -- for the glitter of gold."

The Sackett Novels - England/America: 1600s. "While continuing to write Sackett stories set in the old west, Louis L'Amour also went back to establish the family's roots in Elizabethan England. "Sackett's Land" and "To the Far Blue Mountains" have much of their action set in the British Isles. "The Warrior's Path" splits it's local between the Spartan conditions of the early Pilgrim colonies and the tropical chaos of Port Royal, Jamaica, headquarters to the pirates plying the Spanish Main. "Jubal Sackett" travels west to what would become Colorado in the time of the Conquistadors."

The first four Sackett novels take place in the 1600s. The 5th one takes place in the 1830's, in and around Philadelphia. It's the only one that is told by a female (and a teenage female at that!). It's called Ride the River. The rest of the Sackett novels are westerns, and they are awesome.

The Sackett Companion is a non-fiction guide to the historic settings of the Sackett Novels. The books are listed in chronological order. Each book includes a map of story locations, and includes details about each character as well as the real places and historic figures that appear in the story. It's an excellent reference.

Down the Long Hills Wyoming Territory: 1848. This is a story about kids, trying to cross the Wyoming Territory on their own. The beginning could be a little scary (there is a murder) but Louis L'amour never deals in gore. Read the first chapter sneak peek to see if it's suitable for your family. I read it aloud to all of my children (ages 5-15). 

Comstock Lode America: 1860. A great story about mining during the gold and silver boom of the west. 

There are many Short Story collections, for those who prefer something besides a novel. 

After many years of borrowing these books from my grandfather, I have recently inherited his entire Leatherette Collection. Any books listed in my history curriculum are read aloud by me, but occasionally I'll assign books to my older students to listen to on Audible. We have every single Louis L'amour book that Audible offers. If you haven't tried Audible yet, click on the link at the top of my blog. You'll get 2 free books to start! And when you sign up, comment below and I will give you a third book free!

Before you go, check out the long list of movies adapted from Louis L'amour's books! Hondo is my favorite. It's almost word-for-word exact to the book, and it stars John Wayne. Several of his movies star some great actors, including Jimmy Stewart, Sam Elliott, and Tom Selleck.

I hope you and your family enjoy Louis L'amour as much as we do!

Check out my History and Homeschooling pages for more fun suggestions.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Teaching Shakespeare in Your Homeschool

Don't let the fact that you haven't spent years as a high-school English teacher deter you from enjoying Shakespeare at home with your children. It's fun, and with the help of modern technology, it's easier than you think.

You can read about our Custom History Curriculum and our 17th Century World History Curriculum to understand how we learn at our house. Here's how we're learning Shakespeare at home.


Start with a little research on his life.

William Shakespeare- 1564-1616

I am not ashamed to recommend Wikipedia for a starting point. It gives a basic overview as well as rabbit trails to follow. Parents, if you need a refresher, now's the time to get it: Shakespeare Wiki.

Now, I introduce the Bard to my kids.Shakespeare’s Life and Times Activity Book is a great place to start. I haven't used this particular book, but I have several others in the series. They are thorough and fun!

For daily lessons, especially for junior high and up, I recommend Shakespeare Lesson Plans at These are free and can be done in a few minutes per day. Paired with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (online at Many Books), or your own copies of the plays, a nice overview of Shakespeare's plays and how they are written can be achieved.

But how do you bring these famous works to life?

For the older students, I recommend these books, used in the following order:
**The Shakespeare Encyclopedia by A.D. Cousins
 Shakespeare Plays with modern translation series

The Encyclopedia has a great overview, plot, character map, description of themes, and lots of color photos from live plays and movies---for each play! Using a copy of a play with a side-by-side modern translation makes all the difference. Try to read through one full play, and then watch a live version of that play, or at least a movie (check YouTube and Amazon Prime). When done in this order, it's less painful, and might really hook your students!

Many famous actors (especially the Brits) have done Shakespeare on the stage, and you can find videos of them online. Ian McKellan (Gandalf) did many, So did Benedict Cumberbatch, David Tenant, as well as Alan Rickman (and here he is reciting Sonnet 130 on YouTube). Find an actor your students like and use that to get them excited.

Visit The Royal Shakespeare Company online for information, education, and history of the company. It's pretty fascinating!

For younger students, I'll follow the same method, but on a smaller scale. They'll have another chance down the road to cover this on the high-school level, so I'm not worried if they don't watch and read an entire play.

**Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare by Usborne
**Great Scenes from Shakespeare’s Plays (Dover Coloring Book)
**Lego Hamlet on YouTube
Lego The Tempest on YouTube
(If your students like these, have them try their hand at producing one!)
Romeo and Juliet paper doll costumes and here

To add some fun stuff, I recommend these (generally used for most or all ages together at our house):

**The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood
**A Shakespearean Tale by S. A. Cranfill (we are privileged to know Mrs. Cranfill, a local playwright!)
Teaching Shakespeare to Kids at Kids Love Shakespeare
The Play’s the Thing board game
3 Free Illustrated Guides to Shakespeare
Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb (I've heard great things about this but haven't read it)

The Shakespeare Stealer is a great historical fiction, and all of my kids loved it. A Shakespearean Tale is perfect for the younger kids! My 10 year old read it to himself before I could read it aloud!

What it looks like at our house

After introducing a play in the above manner(s), I'll give the kids a chance to color from the Dover Coloring Book (all of these coloring books are amazing!) while I read aloud from our fun books. The kids will have assigned reading from a play (or illlustrated book of plays) on their own time. Some days we will watch a video from the lists above. We generally spend an hour on this.

My kids love to act, and (as I mentioned above) get to work with Mrs. Cranfill, a graduated homeschool mom, history teacher, and playwright. Shakespeare is a natural study for budding actors and actresses! Imagine my homeschool-mom-nerd-overload when Mrs. Cranfill invited us to take part in a local series of presentations on Shakespeare's life and plays -- right when we were doing this study! Talk about immersion! So, all of mine have been memorizing facts about Shakespeare and lines from his plays, and presenting them on the stage. Oh, if only every study ended this way!

Naturally, we had to have costumes, and since I like to sew (and now my 15 year-old does, too), we got busy with these patterns:   
McCall's M6420

There’s lots more on my Shakespeare Pinterest Board that you may find fun.

In our history notebook/smashbook we will insert:

You will know how little or how much time your family wants to spend on Shakespeare. We have spent at least 4 weeks (not daily) and still have about a week to go. My 15 year-old is now hooked, and is collecting the plays for her own bookshelf! Just have fun exploring!