Friday, September 26, 2014

Homemaking Helps for the Homeschooling Mother

Is the laundry, cleaning and meal making overwhelming to you as you home educate your children? Here are some ideas to incorporate some homemaking into your homeschooling schedule which will help to relieve your daily duties while fulfilling your role as teacher:

#1 Audio books are a homeschooling mother's best friend. The library is full of them to borrow or you can even download your favorites online. One major solution I have found is to dedicate at least a half-hour (or more each day) of your homeschooling with an appropriate audio book (we choose books that pertain to something we are studying or are on our reading lists).
  • Turn your audiobook on in the kitchen and dump a pile (or two or ten…) of laundry on the table. Have your children fold the laundry as they listen to the literature being read. Little ones may not fold perfectly in the beginning but trust me, practice does make perfect! We started our daughter at 3 1/2 years and now she fold better than I do!
  • Children can also sort dirty clothes for you as they listen to the book. Teach them your system such as white's, lights and darks and have them prepare the piles for you accordingly. Teach them to check pockets and place clothing on the right side out. This will really help to lesson your laundry load.
  • While they are listening, folding and/or sorting, you can either tidy up or begin doing some dinner preparations. I usually will do some chopping of any vegetables needed in my recipes, shred cheese if necessary, cut up the salad in advance or any other quick steps that will make meal making that much smoother (you could also enlist a child each day to help you in this area too if you have a large family). Something always seems to come up around dinnertime and it really helps to have the bulk of the work out of the way while you still have a decent amount of energy.
While all this work is being done in your "little elf workshop", you are able to listen to books that have been on your homeschool reading lists. Your children are also getting a nice dose of home economics as some of these principles are being applied. Don't underestimate this valuable tool (it has kept me sane during many interesting times). You will find some of our favorite exciting and inspirational audio dramas here.

#2 Another way to keep up on your homemaking is to have an "independent curriculum". The idea is that it is something the children can do on their own {DVD tutorials are excellent choices} such as an art curriculum, a crafting kit that would interest your child or a nature study workbook {affiliate link}. A computer curriculum such as the Rosetta Stone for learning foreign languages is also a good choice. While they are working on these particular programs, you can be doing some home maintenance.

#3 Thoughts on toddlers. A special set of toys for little ones would be excellent to bring out during these homemaking times. These should only be utilized during your laundry and meal making management. This would also be the time to give them their special snack of the day or simply enlist the toddler in putting some of the easy laundry pieces away such as socks (they can do all the running around while everyone else is listening to the audio book and working).

#4 Videos and when sickness strikes. Of course, there is always the educational video, but I would rather do the options shared above prior to placing my child in front of a screen. I do reserve those moments of movie watching for times of sickness to keep the child comfortable and less miserable. This also allows you the time to prepare herbal teas and nourishing soups for the sick, the washing of soiled sheets, and all other issues that come up when illness is present.

#5 Meal making. There is no need to be a gourmet cook at this point in your homeschooling career! Stick to simple, healthy and fresh meals. They are just as tasty and better for you too! Make a large pot of soup for your lunch that week (idea here) and change it up daily with different crackers, cheeses or salads. Prepare a large batch of pinto beans and make the following easy menus each week. There is always the simple sandwiches such as grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly, etc. (serve it on some healthy bread, with some sliced fruit). This way, dinner is the only meal you need to fuss with as hardworking hubby would appreciate a variety for his special time with his family at home.

When it comes to housecleaning, don't forget to have the children help. Here are some ideas to get them involved.  Happy homeschooling and homemaking!

"Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise,
making the most of every opportunity..."
~ Ephesians 5:15-16a (NIV)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Make an Elderberry Oxymel and an Immune Boosting Herbal Soda

Our latest adventure with the infamous elderberry had us preparing an elderberry oxymel. What is an oxymel you might ask? It is simply a sweet and sour herbal mixture (apple cider vinegar with raw honey in this case) designed to make the not-so-tasty into something medicinally delicious. It was commonly used as a cough and/or sore throat medicine in the days of old (and it still can be!).

A great way to beat the heat while building up your immune system is to make a refreshing herbal soda with your oxymel. This is especially a treat for us since we don't purchase soft drinks. Rich in vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, B6, it is an ideal beverage to bridge the gap between summer and autumn, to begin boosting that immune system while quenching your thirst in the last of the summer's heat. 

"Elder flowers and berries have a long history of use for alleviating the symptoms of cold and flu, in particular fever and congestion of the nose and sinuses... Laboratory studies suggest that constituents in the berries may activate certain immune cells and act directly on viruses to reduce their infectivity."

In order to prepare the sweet soda, we must first make the easy oxymel:

1. Fill a clean jar 1/4 of the way with dried elderberries (if using fresh berries, fill jar half way).

2. Add warmed apple cider vinegar up to the half way point on jar (If you are using fresh berries, warming the vinegar may not be necessary). For the healthiest oxymel, use raw apple cider vinegar which boasts many medicinal benefits.

3. Fill the remaining jar space with raw honey (it is okay if your honey is thick, it will eventually dissolve into a nice syrup as you shake it) and cover.  If you have a metal cap, I recommend placing a plastic layer under the lid so it doesn't corrode.

4. Store this mixture in a cool, dark area (like your pantry) for 2 - 4 weeks. Shake often to infuse the flavors and dissolve the honey (like once a day or so if you remember).

When the allotted time is completed, strain your oxymel and store it in a clean glass bottle or jar. We were impatient and waited 2 weeks and still had a nice strong flavor. This syrup should keep for six months in your pantry (and longer if stored in the refrigerator).

Don't discard your precious, strained elderberries (especially if you paid for the dried elderberries like we did)! Boil some water and prepare a large batch of hot or iced tea with them. This will be another healthy drink for your family. I am freezing my leftover strained pieces in order to make a "scrap" syrup {see frugal recipe here}. For our complete collection of DIY elderberry recipes, visit here!

Homemaking Hint:

I suggest starting off with a pint-sized jar for your first oxymel so that you can perfect your ratio. If you want a sweeter oxymel, you can add more honey into your next batch, if you want a more tart oxymel, you can add more vinegar. Once you have your desired proportions, make larger batches. 

To prepare the herbal soda, we like to place 2 teaspoons of the elderberry oxymel into an 8 oz. glass of iced, sparkling water. However, I encourage you to create your own concoctions! 

Suggested Usage and Dosage:

Of course, your oxymel can also be taken by the spoonful or with a glass of warm water or anything else your taste-buds can recommend (like enhancing a salad dressing, etc.).

The Mountain Rose Blog suggested that "at regular health a spoonful a day would be supportive however, if you are in the middle of a cough you could take a spoonful as often as every hour for soothing support".

I would personally begin administering any form of elderberry medicine at the first signs of illness in our family (such as the flu, cough or cold). You may also be interested in making "elderberry infused herbal honey".

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. While I do seek scientific confirmation of the safety and effectiveness of the herbs and remedies I use, remember that using remedies is a personal decision. Nothing I say on this blog is approved by the FDA or intended to diagnose, treat or prevent disease. All things on this blog are my opinion or the opinion of others.

Friday, September 19, 2014

"The Way You Keep Your House" ~ Housecleaning Inspiration

“The way you keep your house, 

the way you organize your time,

 the care you take in your personal appearance, 

the things you spend your money on,

all speak loudly about what you believe.

The beauty of thy peace shines forth in an ordered life.

A disordered life speaks loudly of disorder in the soul.”

~ Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be a Woman

"Let all things be done decently and in order."
~ 1 Corinthians 14:40

Housecleaning Inspiration:

This post may be shared with some or all of the following link-ups: The Art of Home-Making MondaysModest Mom Monday'sHomestead Barn HopAmaze Me MondayMonday's MusingsMarriage MondayTitus 2sdaysTitus 2 TuesdaysTuesdays with a TwistRaising HomemakersMake Bake CreateWise Woman Link UpWow Us Wednesdays, Wildcrafting WednesdayThe ScoopCoffee and ConversationSo Much at HomeHomemaking ThursdaysHome Sweet HomeHearts for Home ThursdaysGrowing in Grace ThursdaysHome Acre HopFrom the Farm Blog HopFarmgirl FridayFront Porch Friday Blog HopSimple Meals FridayFoodie FridaysCultivate NourishingSimply Natural Saturdays and Clever Chicks Blog Hop. Thank you lovely ladies for hosting these.  All the beautiful paintings are by Walter Gay.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Lavender Lotion Bars DIY ~ Easy to Make {Just Three Steps}

The light filtered in through the glass-paned windows. The morning sun was calling the mother and daughter duo into the kitchen to play...

This easy-to-make lotion bar recipe only requires three steps; measure, melt and pour! We used our homemade lavender infused medicinal oil to prepare it but you could also use your favorite body oil and simply add in some lavender essential oil if you like.

"{Lavender} Being an inhabitant almost in every garden,
it is so well known, that it needs no description."
~ Nicholas Culpeper, The Complete Herbal, 1652

Simple Supplies:

  • 1/2 cup of shredded beeswax or beadlets (which are easier to work with)

Homemaking Hint:

The packed beeswax comes out of the measuring cup easier if you grease or oil the cup first.

1. Melt together beeswax and your oil of choice on low heat (stir until blended and wax is dissolved).

2. If you want to add additional fragrance or medicinal properties, stir in some essential oils (but do so after letting the mixture cool off a few minutes so that the oils don't evaporate under all that heat).

3. Pour mixture into your molds (but let the mixture cool off for a few minutes or it may melt your mold if using a flimsy plastic one like I did). I now recommend using the silicone molds (you will find out why further down this post) or you could also use cupcake liners in a cupcake pan, tins, ramekins and/or ice cube trays. You could also pour some of this mixture into chap-stick containers for an instant lavender lip balm.

4. Once cool and the bar has set, remove from molds (you could also freeze it to expedite the process).

We interrupt this segment for some "blog bloopers":

#1 ~ I knocked the lavender flowers all over the floor when my skirt caught on the white runner during the "photo shoot". So much for the serene setting.

#2 ~ We poured the hot mixture too quickly (I didn't let it cool enough) into the plastic molds and melted a few of them (hence the un-perfect looking bar). This caused a "lava" trail of hot wax to stream along my kitchen countertop. One of those options shared above would have been a better choice for the mold! The poor plastic one shown in the photo above is no longer with us (R.I.P.).

You could imagine the laughter going on in the kitchen as I was attempting to make some presentable and "dignified pictures" all the while mayhem was actually taking place... I am grateful that more than lotion bars were made this day, memories were created also. {Happy kitchen-crafting, ladies!}

To use your lavender lotion bars, simply rub over your skin as needed. These are nice to have for the dry autumn and winter months ahead. I keep my little bar in a pretty dish on my nightstand to moisturize before bedtime. These would also make nice gifts. You can place a bar in a antique saucer or dainty plate (inexpensively found at second-hand stores or yard sales) and tie down with twine or...

"two yards of narrow lavender ribbon..."
~ Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

This post may be shared with some or all of the following link-ups: The Art of Home-Making MondaysModest Mom Monday'sHomestead Barn HopAmaze Me MondayMonday's MusingsMarriage MondayTitus 2sdaysTitus 2 Tuesdays, Tuesdays with a TwistRaising HomemakersMake Bake CreateWise Woman Link UpWow Us Wednesdays, Wildcrafting WednesdayThe ScoopCoffee and ConversationSo Much at HomeHomemaking ThursdaysHome Sweet HomeHearts for Home ThursdaysGrowing in Grace ThursdaysHome Acre HopFrom the Farm Blog HopFarmgirl FridayFront Porch Friday Blog HopSimple Meals FridayCultivate NourishingSimply Natural Saturdays and Clever Chicks Blog Hop. Thank you lovely ladies for hosting these.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Teaching Your Children Good Habits ~ Charlotte Mason Series

"The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days…"

The thought of home education can be daunting to many mothers. Perhaps they are imagining children hanging from the ceiling fans, running circles around the learning center and living a sloppy, tangled, disorderly life. The truth can be anything but that when mother puts the actual training of her children at the center of home education. These important lessons on character building to instill good/godly habits will bless all other areas of the parent's and child's life. Because you have created an orderly environment (and our magnificent God is a God of order), your home is now a fertile ground for education! You will be able to successfully teach and your children will successfully learn.

"The habits of the child produce the character of the man, because certain mental habitudes once set up, their nature is to go on forever unless they should be displaced by other habits. Here is an end to the easy philosophy of, 'It doesn't matter,' 'Oh, he'll grow out of it,' "He'll know better by and by,' 'He's so young, what can we expect?' and so on. Every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend."

"Consider how laborious life would be were its wheels not greased by habits of cleanliness, neatness, order courtesy; had we to make the effort of decision about every detail of dressing and eating, coming and going, life would not be worth living. Every cottage mother knows that she must train her child in habits of decency, and a whole code of habit causes a shock to others which few children have courage to face. Physical fitness, morals and manners, are very largely the outcome of habit; and not only so, but the habits of the religious life also become fixed and delightful and give us dues support in the effort to live a godly, righteous and sober life."

"But all the minor moralities of life may be made habitual to him. He has been brought up to be courteous, prompt, punctual, neat, considerate; and he practises these virtues without conscious effort. It is much easier to behave in the way he is used to, than to originate a new line of conduct."

"In conclusion, let me say that the education of habit is successful in so far as it enables the mother to let her children alone, not teasing them with perpetual commands and directions--a running fire of Do and Don't; but letting them go their own way and grow, having first secured that they will go the right way, and grow to fruitful purpose. The gardener, it is true, 'digs about and dungs,' prunes and trains, his peach tree; but that occupies a small fraction of the tree's life: all the rest of the time the sweet airs and sunshine, the rains and dews, play about it and breathe upon it, get into its substance, and the result is --peaches. But let the gardener neglect his part, and the peaches will be no better than sloes." 

Perhaps we can glean from the well known verse (Matthew 6:33 paraphrased), "Seek the kingdom first and the rest will follow." In the world of home education, we can also adopt this similar thought, "Seek to train in good/godly habits first, and the rest {academics, etc.} will follow!"

"Train up a child in the way he should go:
and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
~ Proverbs 22:6

Visit here for more posts in the Charlotte Mason Series.

You may also be interested in:
Reading the Bible and Narration ~ Charlotte Mason Series

Queen Homeschool Supplies, Our Favorite Charlotte Mason Curriculum
{Note: We are affiliated with them and do receive a small commission if purchased through our link.}

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Examining the Store-Closet, Cellar & Such ~ Odds and Ends Series

"Second. Examine the store-closet,
and see if there is a proper supply of all articles needed there."
~ Catharine Beecher & Harriet Stowe, The New Housekeeper's Manual, 1873

Welcome to the fourth installment of our monthly home maintenance series where we attempt to follow some old fashioned Victorian Era advice. This step involved checking our pantry supply of inventory and preparing a monthly grocery list based on our findings. You can print our "Essential List for a Stocked Pantry" here if you are interested. Once this was completed, we moved on to the following instructions.

"Third. Go to the cellar {or pantry}, and see if the salted provision, vegetables, pickles, vinegar, and all other articles stored in the cellar are in proper order, and examine all the preserves and jellies."

  • We checked our supply of canned goods to make sure all the lids were still properly sealed. We inspected our ferments to make sure that none were ready to be consumed or refrigerated. We  went through our brewing extracts and infusing tinctures to see if any were ready to be strained and bottled (we also gave them a nice shake to help with the macerating process). You may also need to restock your cleaning closet which was shared in our last post.
  • This is a great time to organize and straighten up your pantry (here is a complete set of pantry labels should you like to make a project out of it)! You will want to make sure all your goods are straightened nicely in rows with the contents legible for convenience. Remove any items that are expired, etc. 
  • This is also your opportunity to do some fall food preservation preparations which you will find here: Canning Day Checklist ~ Six Ways to Plan and Prepare.

"Fifth. See if there is a supply of dish-towels, dish-cloths, bags, holders, floor-cloths, dust-cloths, wrapping-paper, twine, lamp-wicks, and all other articles needed in kitchen work."

  • We went over our supply of dish-towels and retired the spent ones into our rag bin. Other household supplies were written on our monthly list to be purchased (such as additional dish-cloths).
  • We also went through our aluminum foil, parchment paper, plastic wraps and plastic bag section to make sure we had adequate inventory of those disposal items (we don't purchase paper towels or napkins as we use cloth but that would be included in this area if you do).

"Sixth. Count over the spoons, knives, and forks, and examine all the various household utensils, to see what needs replacing and what should be repaired."
~ Catharine Beecher & Harriet Stowe, The New Housekeeper's Manual, 1873

  • In this last step, we chose to organize our utensils, silverware and such. Instructions for how we straighten up these items is found in detail here.

Although some of these measures don't have the same meaning to us as it did in the 1800's, I went through the motions just the same to be in touch with my Victorian Era self (although forgive me for not counting the spoons as Ms. Beecher had recommended!). The simple weird reason for following her advice as close as possible is that homemaking is a hobby of mine and I enjoy it!

Here is what we have accomplished thus far on our "Odds and Ends" Monthly Home Maintenance Series (note that some steps were placed together and altered to make for modern day needs):

Are you ready to begin your monthly home maintenance?

This post may be shared with some or all of the following link-ups: The Art of Home-Making MondaysModest Mom Monday'sHomestead Barn HopAmaze Me MondayMonday's MusingsMarriage MondayTitus 2sdaysTitus 2 Tuesdays, Tuesdays with a TwistRaising HomemakersMake Bake CreateWise Woman Link UpWow Us Wednesdays, Wildcrafting WednesdayThe ScoopCoffee and Conversation, Whatever You Wish WednesdaysSo Much at HomeHomemaking ThursdaysHome Sweet HomeHearts for Home ThursdaysGrowing in Grace ThursdaysHome Acre HopFrom the Farm Blog HopFarmgirl FridayFront Porch Friday Blog HopSimple Meals FridayCultivate NourishingSimply Natural Saturdays and Clever Chicks Blog Hop. Thank you lovely ladies for hosting these. Jars pictured at the top of the post are these: 5 liter Fido jars.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Ode to Autumn ~ Link Up Love

"But the trees were gorgeous in their autumnal leafiness
- the warm odours of flowers and herb came sweet upon the sense."
~ Elizabeth Gaskell, North & South

Autumn is a time of beauty and change, a golden harvest of apples and pumpkins which mirror the coloring leaves. Today we spotlight this season from posts which were shared on the 16th edition of The Art of Home-Making Mondays. I hope you are inspired to try some of these decorating ideas and recipes!

10 Easy Fall Crafts For Your Home by Managing Your Blessings

 Velvet Pumpkins Fall Centerpiece by Penny's Vintage Home

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer by Our Leap of Faith Homestead

Pumpkin Bread Recipe by Our Leap of Faith Homestead

Homemade Spiced Apple Cider by The Locust Blossom

Autumn Aroma by Poppy View

"Summer days are over,
Summer work is done;
Harvests have been gathered
Gayly one by one."

You may also be interested in our Autumn Potpourri of Posts for all of our fall related projects and such. Thank you ladies for sharing this wonderful seasonal inspiration!  I invite you all to please join us next week for The Art of Home-Making Mondays. Your post may be featured here :)