As a homeschool family, we get lots of questions about how we handle snow days, school breaks, and the like.  In the most technical sense, the lines of “break” can be blurred for many homeschoolers, as students don’t get up each day and board a school bus.  Our family follows my husband’s schedule (he’s a teacher), which makes it easy to define when we are and are not off.  Regardless, schoolwork can crossover into break, especially since we learn through life, not just traditional school.

We observed the traditional week before Easter off, and it couldn’t get here soon enough.  A few subjects (homework?) needed our attention before we could officially be “off.”  I listed everything on the dry erase board so it could be completed first thing Saturday morning, but my kids talked me into waiting until Sunday.  Having everything written down in plain sight really helped ensure that it got done.

Next, we moved on to the fun.  Normally we greet the warm weather with hikes, walks, and bike rides, but my oldest is on crutches due to an injury, so family activities had to be adjusted.  We drew pictures on the driveway with chalk.  We spent time with grandparents, great grandpa, baby cousin, and aunts.  We delivered (and ate) Girl Scout cookies.  We colored Easter eggs and talked about Easter.  We didn’t get to do a full Passover Seder with family this year, but we spent time talking about the significance of the holiday.  We emptied the master bedroom, primed it, painted the room and ceiling, and put everything back together.  We went to the $2 movie theater and saw “Sing.”  We did chores, organizing, and spring cleaning. The girls had a friend sleep over and a few playdates.  My little one taught herself how to make lipgloss out of coconut oil, thanks to Youtube.  We read- a LOT.  We did Easter crafts.  We cooked.  We relaxed on the deck and took in lots of fresh air and sunshine.

As all good things do, the week came to an end.  Our Sunday blues were intensified as we said goodbye to a week filled with downtime and family fun, but such is life.  Fortunately, the break gave us enough of a boost that we were able to jump back into the school routine with renewed energy and focus.  We’re immersed in the learning process, but also looking forward to the more-relaxed, slower paced summer ahead.  How did you spend your spring break?  If you’re not a homeschooling family, how different was your break from ours?  Share with HVP readers, below.

This is part five in our No Gym Required/Stair Workout series. We put all four exercises together in a flow with simple stepping in between to work the whole body and burn a bunch of calories.

In just two minutes, you can get a great workout right in your home. Stand in front of the stairs, and perform these movements:

  • Lunges: alternate forward lunges, 10 each leg
  • Incline Pushup: shoulders over hands, 10 reps
  • Flutter Kicks: 10 reps each leg for 20 total
  • Dips: 10 reps

Easy Easter Basket Ideas

It’s that time of year where everyone wants to know what’s in everyone else’s Easter basket. Moms wonder if they are giving enough, or too much, and what items are age appropriate. Some families celebrate with big gifts and some celebrate with just a few chocolate eggs. However you decide to celebrate is totally up to you!

When I was a little kid, my three siblings and I each received our own baskets. They were usually stocked with the same candies year after year. But that’s OK because we knew what to look forward to every year. We could count on each of us getting our own coveted Cadbury egg. By the time we were teenagers my mom focused on one family basket instead of four individual baskets. I think it was easier for her, but I also think she just wanted in on the candy haul without having to bargain with each of us for it. She filled one giant basket with all our favorite candies and no gifts. She also added in real eggs that had been dyed, and individual loaves of Italian Easter bread made from scratch. If you have not had Italian Easter bread Google it now and get to baking! Or find a bakery near you that makes them! So delicious!

For my kids, we have done something different every year. We usually include “gifts” in their baskets simply because kids never stop needing things. We use this as a great excuse to include whatever items they need at the moment, like a new pair of spring pajamas, swim gear, art supplies and rain gear. The kids think it’s the most amazing thing ever that the Easter Bunny knew they were running out of underwear. I didn’t say these were all extravagant gifts, but gifts none-the-less.

This year they have all the swim suits and underwear they need. So what’s next? Well, this Easter season has us smack dab in the middle of a new lifestyle challenge in our house. We are working hard to eliminate as much unnecessary plastic and packaging as we can. And let’s face it, every holiday comes prepackaged these days. I had to really think about this to find something new the girls will find exciting!

Here is what will be in our Easter baskets this year:

Rain boots- my kids are coincidentally in need of new rubber rain boots. These are something we need as we simply cannot pass up a good puddle to jump around in.

Chocolates- I know real original. But, we buy from a local store where we can get individual favorites packaged together in a recyclable paper box, and chocolate bunnies in a paper bag. Due to food allergies we can’t have Cadbury eggs in our house. But that means we get spoiled with some really good chocolate!

Gift Cards- This is my new favorite item to give for every holiday! So much less packaging and nothing left to clutter up my house! It’s also like prepaying for our fun! We are adding gift cards to the local ice cream shop, Target, museum passes, even our favorite salon. Yes, I said salon. Kids need hair cuts and it’s like a fun day out for us girls!

T-shirts- not just any t-shirts! We bought the T-shirts from their favorite bounce place which will give us $4 off every return trip. You bundle that with a gift card to the ice cream shop and you have a really fun day out!

Summer shoes- They have also outgrown their summer shoes. Even though it is practical and it’s something I would have bought them anyway, I am turning it into a gifting opportunity. Also, I got them on a really great clearance sale last year. Ha!

Other fun things we’ve included in the past:

  • New umbrella decorated with their favorite character
  • Art supplies
  • Garden tools with matching apron and gloves
  • Bubbles and sidewalk chalk
  • Beach towels
  • Bikes (only because we got them free with credit card points and they arrived two days before Easter)
  • Bike helmets
  • Beach toys
  • Books
  • Swim suit and goggles
  • Summer pajamas

Now I know, most people eschew actual gift giving at Easter. However, I’ve never been one to really care what other people do with their money or holidays. I just try to stay in my own lane. So, whether throwing some candy in a basket and leaving on the kitchen table is more your thing, or hand stitching bunny costumes for every member of your family, no one here will be judging. Or nosing around your basket sneaking Cadbury eggs.

What’s in your Easter basket?

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

 

 

Whether your children attend school or learn at home, studying geography and trivia can be a fun part of your daily outings.  I don’t recall being particularly enthralled with U.S. geography as a student.  We learned the about the 50 states, their capitals, and memorized a United States map.  In music class, we learned to sing the states in alphabetical order- a catchy little tune that’s stayed with me all of these years later.  I never forgot what I’d learned, but that was the extent of my passion for U.S. geography.

Now that I have my own children, these topics have never seemed more exciting.  I’ve made it my life’s mission for them to embrace U.S. geography.  To give our pursuit some structure, I purchased Road Trip (http://www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com/u-s-geography), an inexpensive guide that teaches facts, trivia, and geography for the United States.  We listened to many versions of the 50 states song, settled on our favorite, and singing it became the opener to our geography lessons.  Then, we began the license plate game.  Whenever we’re out and about, we keep our eyes peeled for out-of-state plates, keep track of what states we see (and their capitals), and discuss the relative distance the car owner traveled to get to wherever we are.

As an unexpected surprise, we came across Tour the States, an amazing music video that we have not stopped singing.  Or learning from.  The geniuses who made this masterpiece (Marbles, The Brain Store) created another music video featuring the entire world (WHUT?) but we haven’t gotten there, yet.  File away for future use.

Finally, the fun parts.  I invested in a map of the United States that is actually a giant wall decal, with stickers to put on for each of the states.  As we learn about each state, we stick its decal on the map.  Every once in a while, I print off blank US map and have my kids fill it in.  Recently, I gave them a list of the 50 state capitals and had them fill in the corresponding states.  I was surprised at how exciting this was for them, especially given how many capitals they’ve learned.  Each time we study a state, we go on a “virtual” road trip.  We watch tourism videos about the state, look up the “Top 10 places to visit in…” and also look for clips of locals talking about and giving tours of their area.  After we’ve watched people drive around town, studied the architecture, and compared capital buildings from one state to another, we feel like we’ve actually experienced their unique culture.

Part educational and part fun, learning geography with your kids spices up daily errands and even road trips.  Find different ways to sprinkle this into your family life, and share your ideas with our readers.

When I work with private clients, they usually want to focus on one of three areas: abs, hips and backs of the arms–the triceps. Fortunately, if you are losing weight in addition to doing exercises, your arms will be the first to show improvement. And if you’re frugal like me, you’ll love knowing you can effectively tone your arms right at home. Plus, doing dips on your stairs may be safer than doing them on a bench as the smaller height of the step limits the depth of the dip and prevents you from lowering yourself too far and risking shoulder injury.

This great simple exercise provides many benefits:

  • tones backs of the arms
  • strengthens shoulders and chest
  • stretches shoulders
  • works core
  • increases overall upper-body strength

Next time you walk past your stairs, take one minute to shape your arms!

The last few rainy days have kept us inside in search of something silly and fun to pass the time. We do like to get out and dance in the rain, but today was just too cold. We were bored and in need of something different to occupy ourselves. I took a look around the house to find something new, something we haven’t already done a billion times. Well, as luck would have it I checked out a couple of books from the library last week with a ton of fun things for us to do! And I found a craft that is super easy, using only things we have in the house where we can stay warm and dry.

MATERIALS:

  • Tissue Paper
  • Marker
  • Scissors
  • Large dinner plate
  • Tape
  • Balloon

 

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Unfold the tissue paper completely and lay it flat on the table. Trace the outer edge of a dinner plate to create a circle.

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Draw a snake shape inside the circle, or simply cut into a spiral leaving room to make a head. If you want you can draw on eyes and tape on a small tongue.

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Next comes the fun part. Tape the tale of the snake to the counter. Blow up the balloon and tie the end. Now rub the balloon against your head (or something wool if you have it) to create an electrostatic charge. Now, laugh at how your hair stands straight up! Then apply balloon to the head of your snake. As you raise the balloon the tissue paper snake should attach its self and follow the balloon. This looks like you are charming the snake.

 

That’s it! A fun, quick craft that my kids enjoyed. They continued to play with the balloon without the snake because when you are six nothing is more special than a balloon; even if it can make you a snake charmer. Hope you are surviving the rainy days of Spring!

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

 

Abs are really easy to work without equipment. Typically, we get down on the mat for crunches, leg lifts and planks. With this move, you don’t even have to get all the way down to the floor–just sit on your steps.

Work your way up to twenty reps of these flutter kicks, and shoot for a couple sets throughout the day. The Flutter Kick exercise has lots of great benefits:

  • Strengthens core
  • Firms thighs
  • Improves posture
  • Develops focus
  • Works on balance

Many of the things I want my kids to learn don’t come from a textbook.  In fact, some of them don’t even have anything to do with school.  Throughout the homeschool day we spend plenty of time learning academic subjects.  I hope they’ll retain it, but odds are, much will be forgotten until they learn it again in the future.  Meanwhile, I focus on life skills which I hope will stay with them and allow them to function as confident, responsible, competent adults one day.  These random life lessons are not all-inclusive, but here are a bunch that come up often.

Using the Library

Finding desired materials online, looking them up and ordering them through the library system’s website, and even calling the library to request materials.

Shopping/Making a Purchase

Knowing how to find items in the store, politely asking for help when needed, how to compare prices including an understanding of unit prices, estimating a purchase price, presenting the proper amount of cash, counting change received, and interacting with the cashier.

Finances

How to count money, safely store it, open a bank account, understand interest, deposit/withdraw money, and how credit cards and loans work.

Answering the Phone/Making Calls

Politely answering the phone, knowing how to make a call to a business and ask for help/make arrangements, request assistance, make appointments, and develop an overall confidence with speaking on the telephone.

Respect for the Elderly

Spending time in a nursing home/assisted living, developing a comfort with individuals in various states of the aging process, learning how to interact with and value the elderly, and how to help take care of older relatives or neighbors.

Meal Preparation

How to plan, shop for, and prepare a healthy meal, including reading labels and recipes, kitchen safety, and use of kitchen appliances.

Cleaning/House Maintenance

How to treat a space respectfully, clean up after oneself, wipe up spills, sweep, change batteries in household devices, use a washer and dryer, be a conscious consumer of water and energy resources, and use household tools such as a hammer/screwdriver/drill.

Animal Care

Respectful care of pets, and how to feed, water, and properly clean up after them.

The ability to help shape our children into functional adults rates high on the list of privileges and responsibilities as parents.  I’m sure I’m forgotten a few, so feel free to share what skills and lessons are important in your family!

UNION

With the warmer temps beginning this week I am looking forward to getting outside! However, it can be a challenge to get my kids outside. Once they are outside they will play, but I typically have to set the stage for them first. As a mom I am totally baffled by this. When I was a kid you could not keep me inside the house. I was happiest sitting outside under a big tree watching the clouds going by, or racing up and down the neighborhood street. Not sure how I ended up with two kids who need to be prompted to be outside.

I have discovered if I set a craft up outside they are more motivated to join me in the back yard and will likely stay outside longer. It can be a simple craft, or an entire project, but it helps transition to spending time outside.

By now you all know the benefits to getting kids outside. But just in case, here are 5 more reasons:

  1. Kids who interact with nature tend to engage their imaginations more and invent their own games. This involves critical thinking and observation of what’s in their environment.
  2. When kids are more physically active they are building gross motor and fine motor skills.
  3. Kids who spend time outside more tend to develop a lifelong love of nature and see the need to preserve it.
  4. Kids tend to develop more visual and spacial skills when learning to navigate natural environments.
  5. Anyone who spends time outside feels less stressed.

You may have heard the benefits of kids crafting. I like to be thorough so again, here are 5 more benefits:

  1. Crafting benefits executive functioning. Having to plan a project or craft and lining up each step helps kids with focus and memory skills.
  2. Develops fine motor skills. This helps with handwriting and coordination.
  3. Helps kids recognize patterns and sequence recognition.
  4. Crafting builds on long term academic skills like math and reading.
  5. Teaches social interactions like learning to share and use manners when sharing.

Why not combine these benefits and craft outside? The bonus is you can make a mess outside and not worry about having to clean it up right away, or any of the materials staining your nice dining set.

Outside crafts to do with your kids

If you are tired of the old standby of bubbles and sidewalk chalk try these 5 things to amp up your outdoor craft time.

Make colorful bubble art. Simply pour some bubble mix into a shallow bowl and add food coloring. Mix well and use the bubble wand to soak up the mixture. Blow bubbles right in front of the paper or canvas to be sure they land and splatter on the surface. This will make a really unique print for your house. Or turn the paper into personalized stationary.

Paint some rocks. You can paint rocks to add some color to your back yard, or create a fun tick tack toe set by painting three similar rocks to look like lady bugs, and another three rocks a solid color. If you really want to make a fun project sign up to paint some Kindness Rocks to leave around your community, or for friends and family to find in your back yard.

Make your own fossils. This was fun when we did it with cookie dough, now I can’t wait to try it with baker’s clay. Simply roll a small piece of dough into a ball and press flat between your hands. Then press a leaf, or pine cone, or blades of grass into the clay to create a fossil imprint.

Design a paint brush from nature. Simply dip flowers into paint and press flat against your paper to make a pretty print. You can also dip leaves, feathers, a bundle of pine needles or stems into paint and use them like a paint brush.

Re-imagine your water table. When my kids were really little we used the water table for more than just water fun. We filled it with things like shaving cream, a bubble bath for dinosaurs and cornstarch with water (it creates a really fun solid that melts into your hand).

Crafting outside has long term benefits for kids, and the combined benefits create life long skills sets. You don’t need to wait for summer vacation to give any of these ideas a try. As soon as the weather is nice enough to be outside skip the chalk and do something a little different! Your kids will always remember the fun you have together, no matter the craft.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

In part two of our No Gym Required series, we’ll be doing push-ups on the stairs. This is an ideal way to work our way up to “regular” floor push-ups. Doing this move on the stairs allows us get a full range of motion that may not be possible on the floor depending on your strength level. Even if you never get to the floor push-up, you can still strengthen and shape your upper body with this move.

Be sure your shoulders are above your hands, your body straight and core engaged as you lift and lower yourself. Try to get your ribcage as close to the stairs as possible. Do ten reps of this move several times a week, and you’ll reap these benefits:

  • increased core strength
  • toned arms
  • sculpted shoulders
  • overall upper body conditioning

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