Monday, February 29, 2016

5 Money-Saving Tips for Buying Kids Clothes

Children.....they're born naked, and then at around 3 hours old they don their first teeny, tiny wrap-around t-shirt.  And that's when it starts......their constant need for increasingly larger clothing.  What?  You want new jeans to fit your new mama shape?  Sorry.  Baby needs a couple sleepers.  What?  You want a new bra to fit your new mama #%&*?  Sorry.  Baby needs two more sleepers because every night they poop through the first two before midnight.  What?  You want a new dress just because you want one?  Sorry.  Baby needs onesies and socks and rompers and then, oh no!  they just outgrew it all.  And the story continues and continues and continues.  Our oldest is 18 and I can tell you the need for clothes hasn't stopped yet.

What is a mama to do?  She wants to wear comfortable and stylish clothing, yet her children need clothes that fit.  And that's when thrift shops are a godsend.  I've been shopping Goodwill and other thrift/resale stores for years.  Since before my oldest was even born.  I've learned a lot over the years about shopping for previously owned clothing and I'd like to share my tips with you.  

I'm going to focus on buying kids clothes, however most of these tips work for adult clothes as well.  I've noticed that kids clothes stay stylish longer and are bargain priced more often than adult clothing.

Tip #1 - Know what sizes/gender are easy to find

Infant and toddler clothes are the easiest to come by.  Infants often receive so many gifts and grow out of their clothing so fast, it rarely gets worn out.  Toddlers are a little harder on their clothing, but still most things have quite a bit of life left in them.  If girl clothes are what you're looking for, consider yourself lucky.  The choices are endless even well into the older girl sizes.  Boys clothing, on the other hand, is spotty at best over 4T.  Just forget about finding size 7/8.  Boys do indeed wear their clothing to shreds.

Tip #2 - Know what items to look for

Never, never, ever, ever buy brand new pajamas.  Never.  Sure, you want cute and cuddly.  Obviously, you want the zippers and snaps to work.  It's very easy to find jammies to fit both categories.  Dress clothes are another fairly easy item to score.  Fancy dresses, dress pants, tiny suit coats, ties, church coats - all are worn only a few times before being outgrown.  Play clothes or everyday wear can be more difficult to find, simply being, they've been worn for play.  Play = dirty.  Dirty = stains.  Everyday wear can be found, it just takes patience and multiple stops.  Snowpants are easily found for small children, but once they get to the king of the hill age, most likely you'll have pass by the thrift shops.

Tip #3 - Establish your price limit per piece

Over the years I've overpaid for shorts, t-shirts, and leggings and it really miffs me.  I hate it when I'm strolling through Walmart and see shorts for $2.97 and think back to my last Goodwill stop where I paid $2.99 for a pair of used play shorts.  So, I've set price limits to help me shop smart.  Prices will be different for gender and size because certain items are harder/easier to find.  And size matters.  Older kids clothing will typically cost more than infant/toddler so plan accordingly.  Here are my current limits.  Having these limits keeps me from buying every cute dress I see.  

Currently I'm buying size 2T/3T dresses - $3.00 or less
2T/3T leggings - $2.00 or less
Boys 5T anything - $4.00 or less
Boys size 8 anything - $4.00 or less
Boys size 18/20 shirts/shorts/swim trunks - $5.00 or less
18/20 jeans - $8.00 or less
Everyone else wears adult sizes.

Tip #4 - Know when to shop

Every thrift/resale shop has a system to clear out clothing that's been there a while.  It's in your best interest to find out what day they begin their 50% sale and shop on the first day for the best selection.  The Goodwill color of the week begins on Sunday.  I like to get their in the afternoon and rummage through all the kid clothes looking for the sale color ticket.  I bought Maria's Christmas dress in October; a beautiful plaid, taffeta, layered dress for $1.50.  She wore the dress about 4 times.  Less than 50 cents a wear!  Another favorite shop of mine has a color of the month, so it's best to get there as close to the first as possible.  Now's a good time to mention shopping ahead.  I keep an eye out looking for items the kids will wear next season and buy them up, especially if they're 50% off.

Tip #5 - Accessories

Shoes, hair accessories, slippers, bathrobes, swimwear, belts, purses, backpacks, winter hats and gloves.  I like to peruse through these items as well.  Often I find mittens for under $1, adorable shoes for under $4.  And if you've shopped for shoes lately, you know what a steal that is.  Kids shoe prices are a racket.

From ThredUp
If you'd rather shop from home, ThredUp is a great option.  I've purchased a number of items and everything has come in perfect condition and so well packaged, it feels like I'm buying new clothes. 

Hopefully these tips have given you a little insight into the art of thrift shopping.  And with all the money you save shopping smart, you will have enough to keep yourself well-dressed to boot.

Share your shopping tips in the comment section below.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

All About Reading ~ Fluency Practice Pages

If you are a regular here, you know I use the All About Reading program with Joseph.  The teacher's manual is well laid out, making it so easy to jump right in and begin teaching.  Being a certified reading teacher isn't necessary at all.

I've also learned throughout my years of homeschooling that any time I can tweak a program to make it uniquely ours, the kids will benefit.  The reason being, I know my kids best.  I know what parts of the program they'll like and what parts will make them grumpy.  I know what will hold their interest. I know when I'll have to perform a dog and pony show to entice them to want to keep trying.  (How many infinitives can be in one sentence?)  

The one area I've found that needs a little tweaking is the use of Fluency Practice pages.  Lesson 6 Fluency Practice includes 93 words plus sentences on the back.  There is no way I could or would expect Joseph to sit and read each word in one sitting.  Not because he has Down syndrome, but simply because I want to keep reading fun and rewarding for him.  Reading is hard work.  He gets very tired after 12 minutes of reading.  After 15 minutes, he pretty much checks out.

Once we get to the Fluency Practice part of the lesson we slow way down.  I have Joseph read a line of words.  After each line he gets to put a sticker.  This little break relaxes his eyes and busies his fingers, then we begin with the next line.  He typically reads 2 or 3 lines a day.

Then I give him a highlighter and I say a word, he finds it and highlights it.  He really enjoys this.  Sometimes I say an easy word, sometimes one he struggled with.  It's great practice skimming for a beginning sound.  It's also a chance for him to practice his pencil grip on the highlighter.

We spend about 6-7 school days working on the Fluency Practice page, new and mixed words sections.  If you're a little bored with simply reading through the list, try these methods to add some interest to the lesson.

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For more of our homeschooling and an All About Reading Level 1 review

Sanding Season on the Cranberry Marsh

I'm sure you're wondering, what in the world is sanding season?

In a quick sentence:  it's laying down a layer of sand over the cranberry vines to invigorate growth.

Isn't it winter?  Isn't everything covered in snow and ice?  Well, yes it is.  But on the cranberry marsh, late winter is a very busy time.

Here is the process of (what cranberry growers across WI call)sanding.
This is the sand pile.  

Basically, sand is scooped from the pile and then dumped onto the A-frame.  

Sand falls through the screen into the dump box and shale rock rolls off.

Here's a closer look.  You can see the large chunks of shale rock rolling off.

The sand inside the dump box, all clean and ready to be spread.

Interestingly, the top layer of sand is frozen, however, the frost only goes so deep.  Everything underneath the frost layer is loose; that's the sand used for sanding.
Once the sand is loaded into the dump truck, it's time to head to the cranberry bed to be sanded.

The sand spreader has been mounted onto the truck/tailgate.  It spins, allowing the sand to be spread in a uniform layer on the cranberry bed.
 Now you might be thinking, how in the world can a dump truck loaded with sand drive out on a frozen, snow-covered cranberry bed without causing damage to the perennial vines.  Earlier in the year when temperatures were falling below zero the marsh was flooded just as it was during cranberry harvest.  The goal is to make enough good ice to hold up a loaded dump truck.

This ice along the edge of the cranberry bed shifted, cleaved and allowed for a visual of the thickness.  It looked to be about 10 inches thick.

The sand is laid out in strips about 3/4 inch to 1 inch deep.

Getting into position.

Lifting the dump box, engaging the spreader and driving at an even speed - precision matters.

Backing up into position again.

You better be good at using those mirrors.

Taking it to the edge, but not quite.

In order to get all the sand out, a box vibrator is engaged.  It shakes the sand so it spreads freely.
There are a number of reasons for sanding cranberry beds.  As the ice melts and the sand sifts down through the vines, it creates a layer of drainage.  Cranberries grow best in well drained soil.  On newly planted beds the sand layer invigorates growth by supplying a rooting surface.  Cranberries grow on slightly woody vines which produce runners.  These runners help the new plantings to fill in nicely; a uniform mat of vines ensures the best possible growing conditions for the cranberry.  During harvest cranberry leaves fall, creating a nice wintering habitat for insect larva and eggs.  The sand helps to bury this layer of leaf trash and potential insect pests.

Temperatures are expected to reach 46 F on Saturday, which will most likely put an end to good sanding ice.  It's been a good year of sanding; more than planned for was accomplished.

You might also like:
Cranberry Marsh Tour.....(in the comfort of your own home)

My 14th Annual Cranberry Harvest

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Trying Our Hand At Maple Syrup Making

Sam is working on the Ag in the Classroom essay contest.  This year's topic is making maple syrup in Wisconsin.  What better way is there to learn about maple syrup than to tap a couple trees and make some syrup of our own.  Sam's been reading about small batch maple syrup making on the Whole Fed Homestead blog.  Today we tapped a couple trees....can't wait to see what's in the bucket tomorrow.

Reading story books is helping us all learn more about the art of making maple syrup.  Here are our favorites from today:

Do you have any maple syrup making tips for us newbies?  Please share.  We're at the bottom of our learning curve.  

Monday, February 15, 2016

Chewy Molasses Cookies.....(best ever)

If you made a New Year's Resolution to lose weight, you'll have to skip this recipe.

If you like molasses and ginger and butter and sugar, then stay right here because these are the yummiest, chewiest  molasses cookies ever.

A batch of these baking warms the house and makes it feel so cozy.

And lard is in the list of ingredients.  Yes, you can substitute vegetable shortening, but lard is actually healthier.  One google search for "benefits of lard" and you'll be amazed at what you find.  

Cream together butter, lard, and sugar until it nearly white and fluffy.

These are no store bought eggs.

Crack in 2 eggs.

Pour in molasses.  Remember to eyeball it, it saves time and creates less sticky dishes to wash.
Mix thoroughly.

Add in flour, baking soda, salt,cloves, ginger, and cinnamon making sure to sprinkle the spices around for quicker mixing.

Dough will be fairly stiff.

I like to use a small cookie scoop for perfectly sized cookies that way they bake evenly.

Even though the recipe calls for rolling the cookies into balls, I don't.  I just plop the cookie scooped dough into sugar and roll.  The rolling action tidies up the edges and they turn out just fine without messing up my hands.

Place on ungreased pan and smoosh slightly with spatula.

Bake at 350 F for 8 minutes.  They will look slightly puffed and just undercooked.  Remove from oven and let set on pan for about 2 minutes.  Remove to cooling rack/paper of choice.  And enjoy!

Molasses Cookies
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. lard
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c. molasses
4 c. flour
2 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 1/4 tsp. ginger
1 1/2 tsp. cloves
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Cream together fats and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in molasses and eggs.  Measure in dry ingredients, sprinkling the spices evenly over the flour.  Blend until smooth.  Using cookie scoop, scoop dough and plop into sugar bowl.  Roll until coated with sugar.  Place on ungreased pans.  Bake at 350 for 8 minutes, until puffed.  Cool 2 minutes on pan.  Remove to cooling rack or paper.

I know it's Lent and probably not the best time to be sharing cookie recipes, but that's just the way the dough fell.  Have a great day!

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Kumon Workbooks Are The Bomb

Years ago when I was a much younger mom, I would draw straight, zigzag, and curvy lines on paper -- hand my youngsters a pair of scissors and have them cut on the lines.  It took a few minutes to prepare, but it was an inexpensive way to have them practice fine motor skills.  I'm older, have more kids, and have more grab and go curriculum items.  Kumon workbooks are awesome!  Each workbook focuses on one skill.  In this case, it's cutting.  The book is progressive in nature, starting with straight lines and working up to more complicated curves and start/stop/turn cutting pages.  The variety of pages is great for my age range of kids.  I tear out an appropriate page and let them begin cutting.  The paper is a nice weight -- thick, yet pliable.

Peter is using 5" Fiskars scissors.

One thing to keep in mind is choosing appropriate scissors for each child.  The scissors Maria's using are spring loaded.  The action of squeezing results in a return action of opening.  They work OK for toddlers, however, I originally bought them for Joseph.  He already had experience of me trying to teach him to use regular scissors, so he struggled with the use of these.

Joseph is using a medium sized scissors.  They have an easy action; he does well with these.

Take a trip back to 2011 and see Joseph working on the My Book of Pasting.

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Monday, February 8, 2016

Homeschooling.....(sometimes it actually looks like school)

One of the benefits of homeschooling is being able to tailor the education to the student.  Kids who like to move, can move.  Kids who like to sit and learn, can sit at a table.  Kids who like to lounge, can lay on the floor while doing math.   It works really well for us.

I get questions all the time about how our day goes.  People are curious about homeschooling and what it looks like.  To tell you the truth, it looks like life with books.  Lots of books.  And computers and apps and earbuds and games and notecards and............

Here's a glimpse of one morning at Camp Homeschool.  To set the stage, morning jobs have all been done (bed making, dishes, laundry piles, chickens, horses, dog, breakfast, teeth).  Emily has already left for high school.  She takes Symphony Orchestra and Spanish 3; she'll be home by 10:45.  Everyone else is at home living life and here's what it looks like most mornings.

Sam works on All About Spelling Level 5.  He's writing sentences containing words with prefixes and suffixes.
Sam also works on The Young Scientist Series set 5.

In what we call our school room, Amber completes lessons from Teaching Textbooks.  This year it's been pretty easy for her, so to advance her along more quickly I have her doing 10 lessons per week.  

On the other side of the school room, Nick is reading from A Patriot's History of the United States.  He sums up his daily readings in a written paragraph.  

Maria hunts/scares away the birds.  She's 2 and holds a gun like a pro....watch out!

Joseph occupies himself with car and train tracks.  He's taking a break before his reading lesson begins.

Sam still works on The Young Scientist Kit.  He's learning about the needs of fire:  spark, fuel, and oxygen.

The flame under the smaller glass goes out first because there is less oxygen present, therefore, getting used up faster.
 **If you haven't done this experiment with your kids yet, do it now.  Even the teenagers flock to the counter when fire is involved and it's a quick review lesson for them, in case they've forgotten the requirements of fire.  We had fun with this one and tried it under a large glass bowl.  It took about 3-4 minutes for the flame to die.  It's such a simple experiment with big impact.

Peter received a book store gift certificate for Christmas.  While shopping he found this Melissa and Doug animal puzzle set.  Quickly, it became a favorite.  He sets them over and over.
So there you have it another morning at Camp Homeschool.  It's different than regular school, yet we accomplish the same things.

Do you have questions about homeschooling?  I'd love to answer them!  
(leave a comment here at the blog or at my facebook page and I'll do my best to put together a question and answer post soon)

Outside my window it's snowing and blowing.  Actually looks lovely for a February day.

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