Monday, November 30

Five Self-Care Tips for the Holiday Season

“Ho ho ho ho, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!” As this holiday season approaches, many of us are preparing for big celebrations and parties. Food, snacks, wine, beverages… there is no better time of the year to fill yourself to your heart’s desire!

If you are a health-conscious type of person, then this article will reveal some tips for staying healthy while everyone else around you gains 5 pounds!  The holiday season is only one of the few times of the year where you can truly enjoy yourself!  But keeping healthy during this holiday season is simply making sure you follow healthy habits just like any other time of the year.

  • Eat Snacks Moderately – Let’s face it, snacks are abundant during the holidays seasons (as if they aren’t already throughout the year). If you take a seat within an arm’s reach of the snack table, you’re going to have a tough time keeping yourself from unconsciously grabbing handfuls of party mix, candies, and the like and picking at them all day. By sitting on the other side of the room, getting to the snacks involves a conscious effort into getting up and walking over to get at the snacks.
  • Exercise, Exercise, Exercise! – There is no better thing to do during this festive season than to exercise! If the weather permits it, go out and take a quick walk around the house or block. If your celebration is taking place in a colder climate, you’ll be more inspired to quicken your pace and burn a few extra calories in the process. If the weather is bad, do 10-20 squats, stretches, or other brief exercise each time you go to the restroom. You only want to do just enough to elevate your heart rate, but not break out into a sweat. Chances are, no one will know what you’re doing, and you won’t have to feel self-conscious about trying to maintain your figure.
  • Eat More Healthy Foods – Take an extra scoop of vegetables and fruit when filling your plate, and by the time you finish, you won’t have room for the other foods which are higher in calories and more likely to cause you to gain weight. Also, avoid those fatty and fried foods (they taste good, but you know they aren’t healthy!)
  • Drink A Lot Of Water Throughout The Day – Water helps your body stay fit. Drink a fair amount of water or other unsweetened beverage before each meal, as well as during and between them. The liquid in your stomach will help trick your mind into not feeling as hungry, which reduces the tendency to gorge yourself on potentially fattening foods.
  • Eat In Smaller Portions – Instead of eating platefuls of food, try eating smaller portions throughout the day. No doubt, everything at the table looks good, and it’s all you can do to keep from filling your plate 2-3 times so that you can sample everything. An easy way to combat this urge is to simply take a smaller portion than you normally would of those dishes you’re most interested in, especially belt-bursting desserts. Split a piece of pie or cake with your spouse, child, or another family member who may be watching his or her waistline.

Tuesday, November 24

Homemade Persimmon Puddin'

My mami loves persimmon puddin'!  It was the highlight of the dessert table over Thanksgiving and Christmas...and it's something we've gone far too long without since her passing.  This year, we discovered persimmon trees at the back of the property and decided to give it a go...

  • 3 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 c sugar 
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 c milk
  • 2 ½ c persimmon pulp
  • 6 Tbsp butter, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, sugar, and brown sugar. 
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and milk together until smooth, and add the flour mixture and persimmon pulp.  Mix well.
  4. Stir in the melted butter. Put batter in prepared baking dish.
  5. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the pudding comes out clean, about 1 hour. 
  6. Cool before serving.  Top with whipped cream, if desired.

Find fantastic old-fashioned recipes in the Homesteading Course at SchoolhouseTeachers!

This homeschool homesteading course is designed for anyone who has a desire to live more independently and prepare much of what is needed each day using their own hands. In this elective course, the student can learn how to work for what they want by making it themselves, instead of participating in an “on demand” society. Homeschool students of all ages learn patience, along with the skills needed to make their own cleaners for the home, sunscreen, homemade ketchup and dry mixes, as well as how to choose animals and prepare for emergencies, and much more. Learning the patience and usefulness of “doing it yourself” can be immensely helpful not only in the sense of living a healthier life, but also for the budget!

Monday, November 23

Thoughts for Thanksgiving {Activity Round-Up}

From our homes to yours, the Homeschool Bloggers Collective wants to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving!  We've put together some of our best Thanksgiving posts to enhance your holiday.  Be sure to come back on Thursday afternoon for another round-up surprise!!

Family Learning

Food & Recipes


Wednesday, November 18

Eight Tips to Handle Holiday Stress

The holiday season is an opportunity to spend time with family and friends, to take some time off work, or even escape for a winter getaway. For all the joy and fun, though, so comes the stress...

Between the additional errands, the extra traffic, and the stress of spending money that you don’t have – even the sanest mom will be questioning her sanity as the holidays near.

You don't have to be one of them!

With stress comes a greater risk of anxiety and depression, and depression is frequently an unwelcome guest over the holidays, but there are many ways you can minimize your stress and anxiety to allow you to truly enjoy the season.

Set A Budget

Shopping can be fun, but spending money isn’t always easy, and Americans spend almost a $1,000 every holiday season on gifts alone. It’s unavoidable, but you can minimize the damage by setting a budget and sticking to it.

Keep your shopping list in your purse to keep from being overwhelmed or worse – overspending. If you walk into a store and are bedazzled by all the shiny things, I can relate. I get so overwhelmed that I get nothing accomplished. Having a list can help fight this urge, keep you sane – and help your budget stay sane in the process.

Wrap It Up

As soon as you start buying, start wrapping. There’s nothing more stressful than tackling a mountain of unwrapped gifts two days before Christmas. Save on the cost of wrapping paper by buying it after the holiday each year and stowing it away for next year. Be sure to attach gift tags as you wrap. If you’re wrapping a month in advance, there’s no way you’re going to remember what that funky rectangular shaped box is, let alone who it’s for.

Make Wrapping a Cinch

To save time and sanity, wrap gifts that go together in all the same paper. For instance, wrap all gifts that will be going with you to your mother-in-law’s on Christmas Eve in the red paper with the gingerbread men. And put all gifts for your friends and neighbors in the blue paper with the snowflakes, etc.


The American Heart Association wants you to stay active all the time, but it’s extremely important to keep that up during the holidays. Any activity or exercise you can fit in will help reduce your stress and elevate your mood. It’s going to stimulate endorphin production and trigger a positive feeling in your body.

You might be busy, but if you can find time to exercise for half an hour three times a week, you will feel better. You can go walking or jogging, swimming or biking, play sports, and find time for aerobics.

Take It Easy

The American Psychological Association reminds us that we need to take time for ourselves. There are parties and gatherings and we are constantly surrounded by people. It’s great to be with the ones we love and laugh about the old days.

You shouldn’t miss all those great times, but what you should be careful of is setting unrealistic expectations. You can’t do everything, and it’s okay to take time out for yourself, even if it’s just 15 minutes.

If you do a whole lot of hosting, make sure you delegate- whether you ask everyone to bring a different dish, or you rope in family to take on certain tasks. 

Stay Smart

The holiday season is a time of indulgence, but as the Mayo Clinic directs- it doesn’t mean you should abandon your healthy ways. There’s no need for a free for all that will just add to your stress.

Enjoy yourself, but try having healthy snacks before holiday gatherings so you don’t over snack while you’re out. Make sure that you’re getting plenty of sleep, as you are more likely to overindulge after a poor night’s sleep.

Choose Your Battles

We all have someone in our circle that rubs us the wrong way. It’s only natural- not everyone can always get along. Allowing someone else to get under your skin, though, is only going to ruin your holiday and increase your stress levels. Learn to pick your battles, and don’t take the bait.

The Mayo Clinic suggests that if you have a real problem with someone, set it aside and save it for another day. Even the calmest people can lose their cool during the holidays.

Limit Your Travel

The holidays are about family, but they are also about togetherness and making memories. If you’re spending your holidays trapped in the car together, driving down icy roads, stressed out, consider ways to travel less.

Cook in Advance

Did you know that you can make mashed potatoes during the summer, freeze them, and have them ready for the holidays? Mashed potatoes can be kept in the freezer for months if you use a freezer-friendly recipe. Cook your mashed potatoes in advance and offer to bring them to Christmas dinner. You can skip the stress of cooking, because they’ll be ready and waiting for you.  Learn how to holiday freezer cook here!

Bottom Line

Make sure to take the time and create a deliberate plan!  Oftentimes the memories we are making are of a stressed-out mom, running around missing out on all the fun because she’s trying to create a perfect moment. Instead, relax and experience the holidays with your family. Between a little planning and taking some of the pressure off, you’ll have a holiday that would make Norman Rockwell sigh.

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Tuesday, November 17

Christmas Around the World!

Many families set aside their traditional homeschool in December to holiday-school...incorporating history, math, reading, science, and more into their holiday homeschool.  Today, we're bringing culture and geography together in Christmas Around the World!

Christmas is one of the biggest celebrations for the people belonging to the Christian faith, but it's not just celebrated among Christians.  The world is a global village, and this holiday is now celebrated all over.  The holiday is typically celebrated with high spirits and much fanfare, and while the dates may vary slightly, the traditions are even more interesting!  Some celebrate for a week, while others go on for more than a month.

Have you ever wondered where your favorite traditions came from?  Learn about Christmas Traditions from Around the World, and find a fun new one to add to your holiday season!

Eighteen countries (not including the United States) are addressed in the e-book.  It also includes a recommended reading and activities list, cultural movies, and Christmas music from around the world.
  • Australia
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • China
  • Czechoslovakia
  • Denmark
  • England
  • Ethiopia
  • France
  • Germany
  • Holland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Mexico
  • Poland
  • Russia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
This book does not address Chanukah, which is included in our Jewish Holidays through Literature bundle.

Pick up your copy of Christmas Around the World!

Subscribers can get a taste of this unit in our Winter Holidays Comparison Guide, available FREE in the Subscriber's Library.  Not a subscriber yet?  Sign up here!

Monday, November 16

Roadschool Trip to the North Carolina Piedmont

The piedmont, or foothills, region of North Carolina falls between the mountains and the central plains.  It's where I grew up, so I enjoy taking the kids to visit the old haunts when we're home...  Here are a few of our favorites, including Spencer Trains, Old Salem, and Duke Chapel (arguably not actually in the foothills)....just don't forget the Cheerwine & barbecue!! 

The North Carolina Transportation Museum (known to us only as 'Spencer') hosts the remaining structures of the historic Spencer Shops, once Southern Railroad's largest steam locomotive repair facility on the east coast.  Buildings include the Back Shop, the Master Mechanic's Office, the Flue Shop and the 37-stall Bob Julian Roundhouse.  The museum is a source of education and fun for the young and old.

We checked in at the train station, purchasing tickets for a train ride, and then perusing the gift shop.  One of the most fascinating finds was this old trainspotter's guide.  We studied up in preparation for the big tour!

We used our ASTC passport to get free tickets for the train ride!  (I cannot tell you how much we save each year with this membership.  If you travel, you should have one.)  This railroad car was remodeled in the late 1940s, and boasted all of the luxury from the golden age of railroad travel!

I love this picture.  Isn't it funny when you get a momentary glimpse of the future?  Like us, our son has inherited the wanderlust.  I can easily see him boarding the Eurorail someday and touring the countryside by himself.  When I asked what he was thinking, he said he was trying to figure out how they had connected one of the tracks out there...
The Roundhouse Tour is a special treat at the end of your train ride. Lots of history in the photos, printed stories, and activities that they guide you through! There are also hands-on exhibits.  At the 'model' center, you can see a layout of the original train station. 
We started the afternoon with Bojangles, that southern fast food staple, and ended it with Monk's (that's Lexington BBQ...only the best barbecue on earth). We're having a gastronomic adventure through the foothills of North Carolina, and it's fantastic!

An hour or so up the road is the village of Old Salem.  Old Salem has wonderful actors who dress up in 18th century costume and demonstrate daily living and worship in the original community.  When visiting, you get to experience life over two hundred years ago through hands-on activities.  We are all about hands-on learning!
In the kitchen, and out in the garden, we learned about :
  • peeling, slicing, chopping vegetables and fruits / mincing herbs
  • cook pots boiling over an open hearth
  • preserving food (sauerkraut, dried apples)
  • making baskets & candles
  • sewing cloth
  • planting seed, harvesting & seed saving
  • composting, mulching, & preparing seed beds
  • using cold frames, hot beds, bell jars
  • pruning fruit trees
In the barn, and out on the field, we learned about :
  • gunsmithing
  • tool repair & sharpening
  • gathering fire wood
  • building fire & baking bread in the bake oven
  • making soap over an open fire
We happened to be visiting during Homeschool Days: 250 Years of History.  The kids got to learn how the Moravians built the town in the back country of North Carolina, starting in 1766.  Some of the activities included :
  • How oats/wheat are threshed
  • Harvesting herbs for home use
  • Write with a quill pen
  • Try 18th century chocolate
  • Learn how dyes were made out of natural ingredients
The boys got to try their hand at making shoes and an ax in the Single Brothers House.  They learned how to tell time and how to use single, double, and triple pulleys.  They learned how to measure ingredients with a scale, for baking.They also learned how to make candles, how to make ink, and how to make lye soap!

Occasionally, we get great ideas from the places that we visit.  It's wonderful to see and touch things that we've studied...and this underground root cellar / cold storage room was no exception.  We were inspired, and hope to do more research on this!

Located in the heart of North Carolina, Duke Chapel in Durham is an example of neo-Gothic architecture, which has stone piers, pointed arches, and vaults to create large, open spaces.  Combined, these elements create immense areas that are a bit imposing upon first seeing them.  We've studied various types of architecture on other field trips, but this was our first stab at Gothic.  

With its spires and enormous, arched doorways and windows, the chapel - as well as the rest of West Campus' architecture - is a neo-Gothic architectural beauty.  All of the stone for construction came from a quarry in nearby Hillsborough.
Both inside and outside, the use of consecutive arches frames the hallways, looking somewhat like tesselations.  Even the use of light (such as in these stained-glass windows) and shadow add to the beauty and mystery of Duke Chapel!

Wednesday, November 11

Middle School Science Projects that Celebrate the Holidays

When the holidays arrive, it's so tempting to completely put school aside...but one does not preclude the other!  Here are some fun ways to include science in your Christmas school...

Science-y Snowflakes

Chemistry comes to life with this fun snowflake project!

You'll need:
  • Borax
  • Glass jar
  • Water
  • String
  • Pipe Cleaners
  • Scissors
  • Pencils
  1. Create snowflakes from the pipe cleaners.  (Make them smaller than the mouth of your jar!)  
  2. Mix borax and boiling water.  Water should be slightly cloudy.  Pour mixture into jars.  Leave an inch or two of head space.
  3. Using string, suspend snowflakes into borax solution.  Set jars aside and wait two to three days for crystals to grow.  (They could grow quicker, but maximum effect will take a couple of days.)

Handmade Plastic Ornaments

This is a fun way to use up milk that is past its expiration date, and you can customize your ornaments for beautiful handmade gifts!  (Two cups of milk will make three set of ornaments.)

You'll need:
  • 2 c. Milk (skim doesn't work very well)
  • 2 Tbsp. White vinegar
  • Cheese cloth
  • Bowl
  • Paper towels
  • Silicone mold
  • Ribbon
  • Clear spray
  • Hot glue
  • Optional: Essential oils, glitter, food coloring
  1. Heat milk on the stove on the low setting.  Stir constantly until it just starts to steam.
  2. Pour steaming milk in a bowl and add 2 Tbsp vinegar.  Stir until milk separates into curds and whey (about one minute).
  3. Separate the curds from the whey by pouring through the cheese cloth.  (Toss the whey.)
  4. Squish the curds (the white lumps that are leftover) to remove all the liquid.  Then place them on a paper towel.
  5. Fold the paper towel and squish the curds again.  Do this a few times until you can make a ball with the curds.
  6. If you plan to add color, glitter, or aroma to your ornament, now is the time.  It only takes a couple of drops (because you want to keep them as dry as possible).  Work the extras into your ball o' curds.
  7. Place the curds into your silicone mold.  Pack them in well to remove air bubbles.
  8. Let dry for 24-48 hours.  Pop out of molds and air dry for another day.
  9. Poke a hole in the top of the ornament and string ribbon through it to hang.

Candy Cane Volcano

Put a holiday twist on the volcano with this peppermint blast!  This one is perfect for including younger siblings.

You'll need:
  • Baking soda
  • vinegar
  • candy canes
  • pipette
  • peppermint extract
  • red food coloring
  • roasting pan
  1. Mix 1 c vinegar with 5-7 drops red food coloring.  Add 10-15 drops peppermint extract.  Stir well.
  2. Coat a pan with baking soda.  Add a couple of candy canes just sitting in the bottom of the pan.
  3. Using pipettes, pour the vinegar mixture onto the baking soda and watch the magic!  It also smells super yummy.

Monday, November 9

Roadschool Trip to Hampton Roads

With family stationed at a couple of Norfolk area bases, we have had the opportunity to explore the Hampton Roads area at great length!  Some of our favorite museums include the Nauticus and USS Wisconsin, Mariner's Museum, Living Museum, Military Aviation Museum, and Virginia Beach Aquarium.  There are so many fantastic places to visit in this area!!

At the Military Aviation Museum, near Pungo,  we visited collections of World War I and World War 2 airplanes.  They have some fairly unique exhibits in their collections, largely coming from Germany.  The WW2 hangar is an original from the airfield (and so hot!), and the Enigma machine was fascinating.  

There is a ladder that is used to service the Zepplin aircraft, and a nice demonstration of how the first aircraft machine guns operated.  One of the most interesting finds, though, was this set of classroom maps from Germany showing the battles and invasions...

The Virginia Living Museum in Newport News hosts exhibits depicting Virginia’s natural heritage from the mountains to the sea. Visitors experience animals native to Virginia in habitats, discovery centers, and interactive exhibits. There are hands-on exhibits, and the docents are fabulous with the kids!  The trail is nicely laid out, and easy to navigate, even on rainy days.  Before you go, make sure to pick up a museum study guide (choose your grade) to turn this trip into an even-more-educational field trip! 
Inside the museum, you'll find two large sun rooms with different Virginia ecosystems.  Learn about both the coastal and mountain regions, as well as the animal life they support.

Simulated caverns showcase nocturnal animals.  We even found our oldest son's relative.....the pack rat.  During the downtime, we got to learn what it would be like to be a turtle!  It's actually quite difficult to navigate!
Outside, on the trail, we learned how to distinguish the tracks of all the animals we were about to see.  While many of these animals were not new to the children, there was still a lot of information on the placards that they didn't know.  It's a bit like a zoo, but with animals strictly from the local area - such as the red wolf and bald eagle.

Their favorite parts about this museum?  The big one loved getting to see the bald eagle up close and personal (yes - we were only about three feet away...that's not a zoom lens).  The little one enjoyed the virtual dissections, like the frog one shown above.  He got to take apart the animals, and learn the anatomy, without having to get messy!

The Mariner's Museum covers seafaring history of the Virigina coast, from the early explorers to modern day.  As a homeschooler, I appreciate the various study guides they offer online.  You can study everything from the Voyage Across the Sea (66 pg of lessons!), to the Birth of the Navy, or even the Battle of the Atlantic.  There are more than a dozen guides available!

One of the boys' favorite exhibits was the USS Hunley, a Civil War era submarine that has been re-created.  They discovered that it was a lot smaller inside than anticipated!  Nearby, they were able to design their own submarine and then discover it's merits and pitfalls in battle.  This was a great engineering exhibit, and we spent a lot of time here.

They were able to role play in the Captain's Quarters, seeing how well he would live in relation to the various enlisted men.  At another section in the museum, we were able to see the real submarine, as it is being restored in an underwater environment.

Near the Naval Shipyards of Norfolk is the Nauticus Museum and USS Wisconsin.  This one is the hands-down family favorite museum to visit in the area!  I think they like the combination of history, science, and battle aspects all rolled into the ship.  They love the ship!

In the submarine control room, the boys spent a lot of time exploring the different controls and taking the vessel up and down, through the waters of the different ports.  One son recruited the other to join the Navy for World War II, and then we got side-tracked by the Naval Aviation section before chatting with a marine biologist.
.....but their hands-down favorite of the inside part of the museum was getting to drive the submersible vessel.  They used the robot arms to pick up objects on the sea floor, and learned that it is a really difficult thing to do!  After a little 'discussing' whose turn it was to pick things up again, we decided it was time to head outside for some fresh air.
Beside the museum stands the USS Wisconsin, a Naval submarine from the WWII era, now used as an educational piece.  It was considerably larger inside than the outside even lets on.  We took a few hours to explore every nook and cranny possible on the sub.  The boys were most fascinated by the radio / communications room of the submarine.  All those switches and knobs...

The Virginia Beach Aquarium has lots of different animals to look at, and a huge focus on oceanography!
Our son used this trip as a chance to speak with scientists and researchers while completing his Oceanography Badge for Boy Scouts.  It wasn't that crowded, so we were all able to have some quiet moments exploring the things that interested us most.  Then again, silly family time is important, too...  HELP!  We've been eaten by a shark!
The two favorite stops?  Inside a submarine - which the kids could actually pilot.  And the moment when the cobra fanned himself at us in warning.  Argh!  Finally, we stopped in at the travelling exhibit, which was all about dinosaurs.  The dinosaurs moved and roared, which was a little disarming, even to the biggest of kids!