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Amber Teething Necklaces: Are They Just for Teething Babies?

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By Guest Blogger: Jenn Sanders

Author Bio: Jenn Sanders currently works as a marketing assistant at a company dedicated to the health and well-being of infants. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her family and outdoor adventures.

Amber Teething Necklaces: Are They Just for Teething Babies?

Baltic amber has had an influence on civilizations long before the dawn of the modern age. Ancient healers and mystics would use the gemstone’s “powers” to, not only heal people of their illnesses, but to also ward off bad energy and negative influences.

The modern world has just recently started to understand the natural healing properties of the stone and how important it can become to help them alleviate a variety of ailments. Through both word of mouth and the internet, people are getting familiar with the fossilized tree resin that can help heal wounds and alleviate chronic pain. It is no wonder our ancestors thought the stone contained metaphysical powers.

Baltic amber is a completely natural remedy that has many health benefits. It consists of a special chemical known as “succinic acid,” which is released into the body when the gem comes into contact with one’s skin. The warmth of the body releases the acid, and allows it to be absorbed through the skin and into our bloodstream where it travels all around the body acting as an analgesic. Furthermore, the  anti-inflammatory properties of the succinic acid in Baltic amber is of particular interest to those researching the medical aspects of amber.

Why Wear It?

Tree resin is a natural antibiotic that a tree produces to heal itself and ward off infections by sliding down the trunk of said tree, closing off any opening that could allow bad bacteria to enter. Once the tree resin of the now-extinct coniferous trees that amber came from hit the ground it hardened over millions of years. Amber, therefore, resembles a gemstone and can be worn as jewelry that also heals as it is worn. Baltic amber specifically has been known to work wonders on the body’s immune system and many scientific studies suggest that wearing it is a on one’s wrists, neck, ears or even ankles are all great options.

Why is Amber Great for Teething Babies?

Baltic amber is also widely used for pain relief when your child starts his teething. This is also why Baltic amber necklaces are given as gifts at baby showers. The round beads release succinic acid, which makes its way into the bloodstream, providing anti-inflammatory effects, helping the baby sleep comfortably.

Having a child is one of the greatest gifts life can give you. As a parent, you would do anything to protect your child. However, you might feel powerless when your baby begins teething. When your child’s teeth begin to sprout they may experience a lot of pain or discomfort. Having your baby wear an amber necklace is perhaps the best way to ensure that they are pain-free. All you have to do is put the necklace on them while they are under your supervision, and remove it during bath time and bedtime. Fortunately, the effects of the Baltic amber last long after the necklace is removed.

Thousands of people benefit each year from wearing amber necklaces that protect them against inflammatory diseases that normally cause a lot of pain. Here are some of the other benefits:

1. Protection Against Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can last for weeks and the discomfort leads to you not being able to sleep, not being able to properly communicate or worse. This pain occurs normally after serious injuries or disorders. Mothers may face this kind of pain after giving birth to a child, which can become serious if not given proper attention.

Frequent migraines are also probable, which is why amber necklaces are so important. Amber necklaces can both reduce that pain because of its anti-inflammatory properties, as well as replenish your energy. It can be especially beneficial for a mother who has recently given birth.

2. Helps with Arthritis

The Succinic acid that amber beads contain is released into the body as soon as it comes in contact with the warmth of your body. The acid then enters into the bloodstream and travels around the body. Arthritis causes the joins to inflame, which is why wearing the necklace can be advantageous. The necklace can help with joint swelling. Arthritis mainly affects senior citizens, which is why amber jewelry is a necessity in old age.

3. Helps with Anxiety and Depression

The mystical aspects of the amber stone include the effect it has on a person’s energy, namely their chakras. Chakras are described as the gates to the pools of energy inside our body. Amber helps to replenish these pools and allow for more positive emotions and a positive outlook to life. A mother wearing an amber necklace will be better prepared to care for a baby than one without it since her mental state will be continuously rejuvenated by the release of Succinic acid inside her body. Furthermore, some superstitious beliefs also proclaim that the amber crystal helps to “ward off evil spirits.”

4. Amber Oils

Another method of pain alleviation is rubbing or gently massaging amber oil onto the body. Everyday hassles can stress out anyone, which is why you must give your body some time to cope with it. Going to a spa might be the thing to do. A gentle rub against the body can free you of several bone aches and muscle pains. Mothers can use this technique on their babies to help them sleep better at night. They themselves can use the amber oil to reduce joint pains and back pains that many mothers experience.

5. Helps with Eczema

Eczema is a severe skin condition whose symptoms include long term swelling and continuous itching. Many people confuse it with an allergic reaction, which is why they are unaware of the medicinal properties amber has for it. Baltic amber combined with Hazelwood can help heal extremely dry and cracked skin. The amber necklace can then be worn to prevent eczema outbreak from occurring.

Bottom Line

As was with our ancestors, Baltic amber is starting to play a huge role in the medical industry, and there are different products people use to help rid their ailments. Without any side effects, it is quickly becoming the best choice for mothers who are concerned about their baby’s health and well-being. It is a smart purchase to make and the best suited to aid you, your baby, or anyone who is suffering from chronic pain or inflammation.

13 Homeschooling Tips from the 1990s

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By Guest Blogger Diane Napierkowski

Author Bio: Diane is a mother of five who home schooled her children and is passionate about learning, teaching, seeking the truth, living a healthy lifestyle, and spending time with her family. When not working as a Quality Engineer, she can be found supporting her husband in their family run fundraising business at Great Lakes Promotions.

Homeschooling Tips from the 1990s

1. Learn from little children. Meditate on why Christ would say that we need to become as little children spiritually and see if there is anything there that you can glean and apply to your homeschooling.

2. Work WITH your child’s mind. See your children’s minds as little trickles of water when they are born that turn into torrents of water as they age and work WITH that current – their own interests and curiosities.

3. Find the child in YOU. Do not lose the child within yourself.

4. Be authentic. Do not homeschool unless you are enjoying it. Hire a teacher to teach piano if you hate it. Your kids will pick up on your loves and hates.

5. Broaden the parameters of their world. Expose and explain HONESTLY the ugliness of the world, human nature (Hitler, Nazi’s, etc.) as well as the good. Be HONEST WITH CHILDREN. Respect their intellect.

6. Take your hands out of the dishwater. Meditate and roll around in your mouth the phrase, “The Teachable Moment.” It is a GOLDEN NUGGET when you see it in your child. Take your hands out of the dishwater, if necessary. Don’t let it slip away.

7. Keep honesty in the home. Express your own emotions honestly. Teach them to express themselves honestly and openly to those they love and trust.

8. Realize that the best things in life are free. Play and have fun. Plan picnics just anywhere. They are cheap and low stress. If you’re homeschooling you might be struggling financially because of educational expenses or whatever. Remember, the best things in life are free: Affection Libraries Delight 🙂

9. Self-sufficiency. Teach your kids to cook simple foods for themselves.

10. Grab every moment. Take EVERY opportunity to broaden their minds. A ride in the car can be enhanced with a guitar, a French book or a history tape.

11. Don’t be discouraged. Expect and anticipate anger from others. You are trampling on sacred ground when your example threatens some or when you are veering off the path they have taken. Take strength in knowing that Leonardo Da Vinci’s siblings kept him out of the will, that the NAACP felt threatened by Martin Luther King, Jr., that Jefferson was hated by many, that Lincoln and Edison were homeschooled and hated by some, etc. Even Einstein had strained relations with his family. Even Christ was hated by his siblings and neighbors. You are in GOOD company if you are hated in your town or family. Use it as a way to grow and mature.

12. Salty sour food! Give kids acidic foods like citric acid, pickles, lemons, tomatoes and natural salt from Utah (Real Salt©). I don’t know why this works, but it does!

13. Wine. Have a little wine now and then at supper time.

Family Photo 1994

Family Photo 1994

 

Reflections on a Homeschool Journey from 1987

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I was homeschooled with my four younger siblings growing up, and now as a mother of five myself, I am contemplating homeschooling once again (as I do every year before sending the older ones off to school). My mom found her journal from when she was weighing out the pros and cons trying to decide whether or not to homeschool and typed it out for me. It is amazing for me to see that she was struggling with many of the same things that I am now. In the following guest post, I have added all italicized content and the rest is as my mom originally wrote it some 30 years ago.

By Guest Blogger Diane Napierkowski

Author Bio: Diane is a mother of five who home schooled her children and is passionate about learning, teaching, seeking the truth, living a healthy lifestyle, and spending time with her family. When not working as a Quality Engineer, she can be found supporting her husband in their family run fundraising business at Great Lakes Promotions.

Written December 1987

*My mom hand wrote the original list and then her and my dad went through it together starring the the most important points.

Family Photo 1987

Family Photo 1987

Homeschooling Pros

  • No peer pressure (parent pressure instead)
  • Able to get along with all ages
  • **More of our values
  • Already I feel ostracized at Bushnell
  • *Very much a family
  • Enjoying these years instead of enduring these years
  • *New nicer friends, friends who respect religious conviction
  • Easier vacations
  • More respect from kids
  • *Kids get to be kids
  • No Christmas compromise
  • *No Rock ‘n Roll on the bus
  • Less busy work
  • Less sickness
  • *Sickness won’t interfere with school
  • *Twins won’t miss the big kids
  • Won’t feel that someone else has control of our children
  • Less $ spent on clothes
  • Lots of fun!
  • *Field trips
  • **More excitement about parenting
  • Next kids esp.

Cons of Homeschooling

  • **Can I do it
  • **Can I do it well
  • *Less kids to play with
  • Ostracized by teachers if they return
  • Expensive
  • *No free time
  • *Hassles with family and friends
  • *Maybe new friends won’t like our religion
  • *Lunch-time and $
  • *Learning well already
  • Court case
  • Brethren reject
  • Less stylish clothes
  • Dad added: ***Is it the best use of our time, that is using the government (?) for the good it does and then adding our own good
  • May fear telling world about our religion

    pros and cons

    Homeschooling Pros and Cons Original List

The Decision to Homeschool

When I was in the middle of 2nd grade and Jarrod was in the middle of 1st, they pulled us out of public school to homeschool us. I ended up going back to public school in the 8th grade, my brother Jarrod went back in the 11th grade, and my three younger siblings, Andrea, Lisa, and David were homeschooled K-12.

More than anything, being homeschooled allowed us to follow our own passions. Sure we did our workbooks and mastered the necessary skills, but the majority of our days were spent engaged in creative and imaginative play, exploring nature, and pursuing our own interests. 

First Day of Homeschool: Jan 4, 1988

Wow! Was it scary! “Is the school going to call? What will the neighbors say? Russ? Mom? Can I do it? Do I want to?” I needed encouragement today. But Barb Welch is in California for the refresher. Rich calmed me down markedly yesterday afternoon. “Remember why we decided on this, Di? It was for good, sound reasons, well thought out. We have legal protection, etc.” I needed to be reminded of all of that. We worked hard and long. Flash cards, work books, 2 pages each book minimum. School zone book 1 pg. Jarrod. Stacey and Jarrod spelling words.

First Day of Homeschool

First Day of Homeschool

Family Photo 1988

Family Photo 1988

First Year of Homeschool: June, 1989

What about the cons? Yes, I can do it and do it very well! There are fewer children to play with, but it’s really special when they do come over. No problem with being ostracized if they return. The money is well spent and fun to spend! I have plenty of free time – they help out with the baby, twins, etc. Good kids. No hassles from family and friends. Very minor occasionally, but it doesn’t bother me. Money and time spent on lunch is no big deal. TV is no problem. Just hard, fast rules with few exceptions on TV and Atari. They are learning well now. Brethren don’t reject much. The kids do wear less stylish clothes. It is definitely the best use of our time. Our short comings surpass their strong points. Our religion just is. It’s not like we’re so different anymore.

What about the pros? 75% peer pressure gone. Definitely can blend in with all ages well. More of our values. No tug of war with school over whose kids they are (values, etc.) It is fun! We are very much a family. We are definitely enjoying these years. Jennifer Metskar – new good friend. Not many more. Kids are more respectful, polite. They are socializing and want to be cool still. Holidays don’t phase us at all. No bus ride. No busy work. Still get sick. Twins love them. No fear AT ALL that someone’s taking my kids away. LESS $ spent on clothes. Lots of fun. We need more field trips – Lansing, etc. Parenting is natural, what it was meant to be.

Family Photo 1989

Family Photo 1989

Homeschooling Goals for 1989-1991

  • Play the piano
  • Speak Spanish
  • Know all the countries, US States, capitals
  • Know the presidents
  • Do real well in math and enjoy it
  • Read avidly
  • Be into Church literature – studies, etc.
  • Be able to write stories (interesting), reports, letters
  • Get exercise, ride unicycle, water ski, snow ski
  • Be interested and self-motivated in science
  • Be very comfortable on computers
  • Type
Family Photo 1990

Family Photo 1990

Family Photo 1991

Family Photo 1991

Stacey Wants to Go Back to Public School (8th Grade): July 31, 1993

Pros of Going Back to Public School:

  • She wants to
  • More variety of involvement and education (pottery, woodshop, reports, sports, etc.)
  • Makes high school easier
  • More people
  • Easier to learn
  • Have a change to excel

Cons of Going Back to Public School:

  • Fear that she’ll go over the deep end (common sense, though, says she won’t)
  • Less free time
  • Mandatory learning
  • Not home until after 3
  • No sleeping in or up late
  • No after school sports
  • There are gangs
  • Lots of hallway kissing
  • Age in which most girls have sex
Family Photo 1993

Family Photo 1993

Update: Jan 25, 1995

Stacey’s in school – She has gotten into a “cool” attitude – disrespectful.

Family Photo 1995

Family Photo 1995

Update: Jan. 20, 2015

Stacey is considering homeschooling! I’m typing this up for her!! She’s a precious friend who uplifts me.

In Conclusion

So many of my young friends are asking me about my homeschool journey. It is so wonderful to see another generation of homeschool parents who are asking the same questions that I did. As time goes by, I feel even more happy about our decision to homeschool. A few doubts such as my inability to teach footnotes used to make me feel like a loser. Now I see that the greatest gift I could give my kids was to remove obstacles from them finding their own true norths. I think they each have.

*Read about my homeschooling pro and con list here.

Should We Homeschool Our Children? A List of Pros and Cons

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When you have a lot of kids close in age, it can seem like the most natural thing in the world to homeschool them…especially if you are already a stay at home mom and a former teacher. Every year before school starts, I contemplate homeschooling my children, and this year is no different.

I’ve published this blog before, but I edit it every year and republish it to go over my list of pros and cons once again. This year is no exception. I currently have five children. Ruby will be going into 3rd grade (the grade I taught) and Elliot will be going into 1st grade. At home I have Ophelia, who is 4 years old, Julian, who is 2 years old, and Jack, who is 5 months old. This summer has been VERY busy with everyone home and a new baby, so I’m leaning towards sending the older ones to school so that I can focus on the younger ones who have had a hard time sharing attention with a new baby, but it’s still a good thought experiment to conduct nonetheless.

Pros of Homeschooling:

1. I would get to be with all of my kids as much as possible. They grow up so fast, and I want to be there for as many of the moments as I can.

2. I would know exactly how they spend their days. Whenever I ask Ruby and Elliot about their days at school, it’s like pulling teeth. I have to go through each subject and each time of day just to try to elicit the smallest response.

3. I am totally qualified to do this! Not only did I teach for 8 years and get my Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an Emphasis on Linguistics, but I loved it as well! In my heart and soul, I am a teacher. Who better to teach than my own children?

4. I could make sure they learn everything right the first time. When Ruby was in 1st grade, I noticed that she made a few of her letters in a really backwards and random fashion, and I was sad that I wasn’t the one to teach her how to write her letters. With Elliot, I did a more structured “homeschool preschool” approach and was able to work with him side by side every day to write his letters. If I were to homeschool, I would be by their side for everything they learn.

5. They could work at their own pace without competing with others. Ruby really struggles with timed math facts tests. The concept of a timed test caused her a lot of anxiety, and she freezes up when looking at the sea of numbers. At home, we work on the concept of addition, subtraction, multiplication, etc. and find patterns in the numbers instead of just drilling random facts. If she were at home, I would be able to work with her as long as she needed in the areas where she struggles, and zoom through the areas she’s good in.

6. I could differentiate every subject as needed. Ruby is a very advanced reader, but she still spends just as much time as all of the other kids learning about phonics. Sure, she may have chapter books for homework, but there is a lot of wasted time in her day where she is “learning” things that are way too easy. At home, I could make sure that all subjects were in the zone of proximal development for all of my children.

7. I could choose my own resources. I would be able to pick and choose whichever resources seem exciting to me, and whatever I thought would meet the specific needs of each of my children. I could also tailor instruction to meet whatever passions each of my children expressed.

8. They would maintain their innocence. Teachers can only see and control so much. There are lots of things that happen in the classroom and on the playground where children are exposed to things like bullying, inappropriate language, boyfriend/girlfriend drama and so much more. They will experience it all eventually, but helping them to maintain their innocence at a young age is a precious thing.

9. They wouldn’t feel as much pressure to conform. School is meant to create cookie cutter kids. They set the bar at average and help all children to comply. Having children ONLY interact with children of their exact age is not reminiscent of the real world, and school creates this feeling that anyone who is different stands out and can be potentially ostracized.

10. We could accomplish way more in a day than is possible at school. With 28 kids in a classroom of varying abilities, transition times, lunch time, two recesses, busy work, behavior management, and so on, how much actual learning takes place? I know from experience (both being homeschooled and being a teacher) that the amount of actual learning in a 7 hour school day could easily be done in 2 hours at home. That would allow me to get through all of the standards and skills with plenty of time for free exploration, imagination games, outside time, crafts, field trips, and more!

11. Their tanks would be full of love. When Ruby and Elliot home from school, decompress, do their homework, play with her siblings, and have some choice time, there is very little time that we actually get to spend with them. What would life be like with all five kids are in school? How would we ever be able to fill all of their tanks with love? If they were at home with me all day, however, I could parcel out special one on one time for each child throughout the day.

12. They would learn from each other. Yes, there are varying abilities in any classroom, but in a homeschool environment with siblings ranging in age, the younger ones can learn from the older ones and the older ones can learn from teaching the younger ones.

13. They would learn more about life. In a big family, children can learn how to take care of babies, cook meals, keep the house clean, and work together. They could see how I manage the house on a daily basis, and I could teach them valuable life skills that would serve them when they are independent and on their own.

14. I’m here anyways! I am going to be home anyways with Jack for the next five years, so why not throw a few more kids into the mix while I can!

15. We could stay up late and sleep in. Even during the summer, we try to keep the same bedtime because the little ones need it, but there are occasions where we want to stay up late. Letting the kids sleep in until they naturally awake is a precious thing to make sure they are getting all of the sleep they can without any alarms.

16. We could take vacations whenever we wanted. Instead of worrying about the school schedule, we would be able to make vacation time happen whenever we wanted.

17. My heart always tells me to homeschool. In my heart of hearts, I keep feeling like it is what I should do, but then the cons start percolating in my mind, and I just can’t seem to make that decision.

Cons of Homeschooling:

1. Public school provides a big social scene. Ruby and Elliot love recess most of all because of the huge social aspect. When at school, they get to be a part of a big group with PE, music, concerts, group activities, field trips, and more. Sure we could find homeschool groups to join, but most of them are based in religion, and that is not what we are looking for.

2. School has introduced new things. In kindergarten, Ruby really took off with writing more than I was ever able to do with her at home. In 1st grade, she learned about Pixie 4 in her computer class, started reading chapter books, and got excited about taking care of the Earth or whatever else they were learning about. Elliot struggled socially at the beginning of kindergarten (he has TONS of energy and very little impulse control), but made nice growth in his behavior by the end of the year among other things.

3. Getting to school is a huge motivation to kick off the day. During the summer, it’s a struggle to even convince the kids to get dressed (Are we going anywhere? Is anyone coming over?), but when we have to be out the door at a certain time for school, they get dressed, eat breakfast, and brush their teeth and hair in record time.

4. Would I have enough time for everyone? Ruby likes to do a lot of intricate projects that require a lot of help from me. In doing these projects with her, I’m not able to spend as much time with the younger kids who need me too. I’m just worried that if I were to homeschool, there just wouldn’t be enough of me to go around.

5. One day our kids will be out in the world, shouldn’t we prepare them for it? Being independent, being autonomous, being on their own, learning how the world works…these are all things that public schools help to teach our children. How young do children need to learn this, however, and/or do they?

6. What about the long winters? In Michigan, the winters are looooooooong. It starts getting cold in October and doesn’t really warm up until June, so for 9 months out of the year, the weather is inclement and it takes great effort to go outside. Often times, we long for a mall or children’s museum on the weekends just to let the kids stretch their legs. Going to school allows for some activity to break up the monotony of winter.

7. It would cost money that we don’t have. We are already pretty strapped financially with five kids and a single income. How would we be able to provide all of the necessary materials to teach them properly? I’ve always dreamed that the $4,500 that is allocated for each of my children to attend public school could be rerouted to me, and then OH MAN could I ever do things right…but in reality, the best things in life are free, and with the Internet, library, and my imagination, I could probably conjure up just about everything I need.

8. When I was homeschooled, I missed the social interaction and wanted to go back to public school. When I was a child, I was homeschooled starting in the middle of 2nd grade. I was bored at school and loved the idea of staying home every day. But then, starting in 6th grade, I started to get bored at home and longed for something more. My mom finally let me go back when I was in 8th grade, but let me tell you, 8th grade is no walk in the park. I felt like I was thrown to the wolves and experienced a lot of bullying, peer pressure, and very little academic growth. Would I have done better if I had been in the system all along or would it have been better for me to never go back? That is the question that I always have when I reflect on my childhood, and it makes me think that it has to be all or nothing.

9. What if they complain? What if I work really hard to get materials, books, and supplies, set up a routine, and get everything all into place only to have them whine and complain about it? I imagine that I would just keep going back to the drawing board until I got it right, but it could be frustrating.

10. What if they spend too much time in front of a screen? I would have a pretty set routine that wouldn’t allow for too much screen time (like we do over the summer), but what if I’m up late in the night with little ones, or feeling sick, or have too many things piling up?

11. The kids don’t want to be homeschooled. Elliot is my sweet loving guy who cries sometimes when he has to go to school because he’ll miss me, but when I talk to him about homeschool, he says that he would rather go to public school. He LOVES being around all of the kids and so does Ruby. They love belonging to a community and being a part of something structured.

In Conclusion

I keep coming back to the idea of homeschooling because it seems like something I should want to do. But every year when I reflect on the idea, the cons seem to outweigh the pros. It’s probably because I always have a baby in my lap and so many little ones in diapers, and it makes me think that as they grow older and more independent, it could be the other way around.

We have actually decided to allow our children to go back to our local school (where they can ride the bus and thus save a 20 minute drive each way for drop off and pick up). We decided to switch schools originally (mid-year when Ruby was in kindergarten) because of test scores, resources, and community, but now that we’ve experienced both, we can see that there’s really not much of a difference.

In the end, I feel like I homeschool all of the time whether or not I actually do. Our home is full of learning stations and bright minds that inquire, create, discover, and explore over the summer, on weekends, after school, and on breaks from school. In this house, learning is something that we do all of the time and school can provide a break that will at the very least engage them in social norms and allow me the time to engage someone that I have to keep content more than anyone else…myself.

15 Ways to Make Your Backyard a Perfect Park for Kids

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15 Ways to Make Your Backyard a Perfect Park for Kids

These are the ways that we have transformed our backyard into a super fun and engaging backyard haven for our five young children. We have about an acre of fenced in land behind our house, and with everything we have created, built, and purchased, we are very content to just stay home and enjoy ourselves. This works out especially well right now seeing as how we have a newborn this summer!

I believe that children should be free and have autonomy to choose their own activities and be independently entertained. I also believe in giving kids as many natural settings and experiences as I can to help them develop their creative and imaginative minds. By incorporating these things into our yard over the past three years, I think we have done just that.

Here’s a video of our yard as we gear up for summer.

1. Sandbox

When we moved into our house three years ago, building a sandbox was the first thing we did, and our children LOVE it! They play in it every single time we are outside.

Our Sandbox

Our Sandbox

2. Stock Tank Swimming Pool

We wanted a durable swimming pool that all of us could fit in that wouldn’t break the bank, and this stock tank swimming pool has been perfect! Learn how we made stock tank pool here.

Stock Tank Swimming Pool

Stock Tank Swimming Pool

3. Garden

Our kids love every aspect of gardening from preparing the soil, to planting the seeds, to harvesting the garden. It’s a lot of work to put it in, but I love maintaining it and reaping the benefits. Read about the benefits of gardening with kids as well as to see the gardening tips and tricks I have here.

Ruby Picking Beans in Our Garden

Ruby Picking Beans in Our Garden

4. Obstacle Course

Our kids love challenging themselves with this simple obstacle course put together with nothing more than some old tires, boards, and a few screws.

Our Backyard Obstacle Course

Our Backyard Obstacle Course

5. Teepee

I got the idea for this teepee from the one my mom made in their field and from the one at Blanford Nature Center in their natural play area. Every year we add more sticks, stalks, old vines, etc. to it, and the kids love using it for imaginative play.

Our Backyard Teepee

Our Backyard Teepee

6. Stepping Stumps

This was another idea I got from Blanford Nature Center. Whenever we see someone chopping down a tree, my husband races over with his pick up truck to collect the stumps. The kids love walking back and forth on them and jumping into the sand that is piled below.

How to Make Stepping Stumps

How to Make Stepping Stumps

7. Hills

The first hill we made was unplanned. As we were digging up the sod for our sandbox, we decided to pile it up making a little hill. We were surprised at how much our little ones loved running up and down it, so we got some dirt and added a few more. This slide has also been a really fun touch.

Our Big Hill

Our Big Hill

8. Tent

I love setting up an outdoor tent in the spring, summer, and fall as both a holding tank for blankets, toys, and books, as well as a retreat for anyone wanting to duck away from the wind, cold, sun, or people.

Our Backyard Tent

Our Backyard Tent

9. Sports Equipment

I love having a basket with a variety of sports equipment that the kids can use freely. We have soccer balls, jump ropes, hula hoops, frisbees, baseball bats and balls, rubber kick balls, and more.

Sports Equipment

Sports Equipment

10. Swing Set

We initially got a swing set like this at our local shopping market, but we always wanted a big wooden structure like this. As luck would have it, we knew someone getting rid of one for free! It took three guys seven hours to take apart and put back together, but it has been perfect for our older children.

Swing Set

Swing Set


Wooden Play Structure

Wooden Play Structure

11. Electric Cars

For a brief time in my childhood I remember having electric cars, and my brother and I LOVED them! We now have an electric dune buggy, jeep, and mini four wheeler for our kids, and they get used every time we go outside. This is the 3rd summer we’ve had them, and with the exception of some new rechargeable batteries, they have held up very well.

Julian and Ophelia in an Electric Car

Julian and Ophelia in an Electric Car

12. Water Pouring Station

In the winter, I have been brave enough to bring this inside, but in the summer, it is so nice to have the mess outside! My little ones play with this water table every day. I like having some kind of table (like this tool bench) nearby to hold the cups, teapots, buckets, and other pouring supplies. I also love having it near the sandbox so they can incorporate sand into their water play.

Water Pouring Station

Water Pouring Station

13. Playhouse

Having a playhouse encourages all kinds of imaginative play. The kids love this one especially because of the little seats, windows that open and shut, and small door. We usually pick a spot for the house to stay for the season because it kills the grass underneath, but you could always move it around.

Playhouse

Playhouse

14. Mini Kitchen

With the mini kitchen, we also have a kids sized picnic table, mini grill, and baskets of play food and plastic dishes. The kids love preparing pretend meals and feeding us hungry adults.

Elliot and Julian Playing with Our Mini Kitchen

Elliot and Julian Playing with Our Mini Kitchen

15. Basketball Hoop

Our daughter Ophelia has particularly enjoyed this basketball hoop. She stands on a little stepping stool and the balls are collected in this little wagon. And of course we have an adult sized hoop as well. We debated laying some concrete, but have enjoyed simply having the ability to shoot baskets.

Basketball Hoops

Basketball Hoops

In Conclusion

Occasionally, we do like to go places, but mostly we just enjoy staying home. Between the 26 learning stations we have inside and the fun we’ve created outside, our kids are never bored and neither are we.

Here’s a video of us getting our yard ready for summer last year. You can really see how much things have changed!

Setting Up an Outdoor Play Tent Sanctuary 

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Setting up a tent outdoors isn’t just for camping! Every spring, we set up a tent in our backyard to use as a sanctuary and a holding tank, and it has been a very beloved location, especially when we have little babies.

In Michigan, we get REALLY excited when spring arrives! The problem is that even though the snow thaws, it’s still pretty chilly (and windy) until June. Having this permanent tent set up ensures that we always have a warm place to play that will allow us to enjoy the fresh outdoor air while staying protected from the elements.

Materials Needed

  • Tent – We usually just go to the nearest box store and pick up whatever is cheapest. (We learned the hard way this year, however, that it’s very important to make sure the tent has a window so you can get a cross breeze.) We’ve been setting up outdoor tents for the past 4 years and have never had a tent that lasts more than one year. By the time snow falls, the walls of the tent are so worn, they just rip apart. Because of this, we usually go with a cheap tent like this. This tent would be a a bit more luxurious and if you’re looking for a really permanent tent, you can go with one of these canvas tents.
  • Padding – Some foam padding like this 1-inch king size mattress topper (or this 4-inch mattress topper) will turn your tent into one big comfy bed!
  • Waterproof Cover – There is always a bit of water getting into the tent for one reason or another, so it’s a good idea to cover your foam padding with something like this.
  • Sheet – I like to put a fitted king size sheet over the waterproof cover.
  • Blankets – I don’t think we can ever have enough blankets in this household, so I am always on the lookout for good blankets like this at garage sales and thrift stores. I put one blanket down under the pillows and baskets of books and another blanket loosely on top. This second blanket can easily be taken out and shaken if it gets covered in sand and debris. This is also the blanket I’ll use if I want to have a blanket on the grass.
  • Pillows – Having about 3-4 pillows makes it really nice to stretch out for a little snooze.
  • BasketsWicker baskets like these are really nice for holding books and a shallow basket like this is really nice for holding toys.
  • Books – I love having a wide assortment of books, but I don’t keep my best out here in case of water or other damage.
  • Coloring Supplies – This is the first time I’ve included coloring supplies like coloring books, workbooks, blank notebooks, pencil boxes with pencils and crayons, and the bigger kids really enjoy it!
  • Toys – Because I have kids ranging from newborn to elementary school age, I have a variety of different toys that everyone can enjoy.
  • Little Chair – The kids especially love this little chair when I put it out on a blanket in the grass. Reading is always more fun when you’re in a little chair!
  • Diapers and Wipes – Because our tent is a little ways from the house, it’s nice to be able to change a diaper without having to go inside.
Outdoor Tent in Use

Outdoor Tent in Use

Directions

  1. Find a good location. It’s nice to have something that can be in shade or partial shade so it doesn’t get too hot in the summer. It’s also nice to have the opening of the tent facing an area of high activity so that you can see what’s going on when you’re in the tent and vice versa.
  2. Set up the tent. We keep our tent in the same spot every year, so after the grass died and it was all dirt, we leveled it with a rake to make it flat.
  3. Put some sheets of wood in front of the tent. You could also use a big rug or Astro turf, but basically you want something to keep grass and dirt out of the tent.
  4. Fill it with fun stuff. Based on the ages of your children, location of the tent, and the purpose of the tent, you will want to fill the tent with things to suit your needs. I like filling my tent with books, coloring supplies, toys, and pillows and blankets.
  5. Play inside the tent. I like to keep the tent closed if it’s going to rain, but as soon as we head out to play I like to open it up and let the kids come and go as they please.
  6. Use the tent as a holding tank. If we want to hang out outside with babies, I like taking a blanket out of the tent and putting toys, books, and the little chair on it.
  7. Keep it clean. When our tent gets full of sand, dirt, grass, and leaves, I am so happy that I keep my extra blanket nestled lightly on top so that I can easily shake it out. If it gets really dirty, I’ll take everything out and either sweep or use the leaf blower.

In Conclusion

We enjoy setting up our tent as soon as the snow is gone and leave it up until snow threatens to fall again. We have enjoyed having a tent every year for the past four years and will probably continue to enjoy one for many years to come.

*Update: We had a big windstorm that ripped our tent to shreds, so we opted for a bigger more expensive tent, and boy am I glad we did! My husband recently spent the night out here with our two older children, and they all loved it!

Our New and Improved Tent

Our New and Improved Tent

5 Creative Ideas for Making Photo Albums of Your Kids

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5 Creative Ideas for Making Photo Albums of Your Kids

By Guest Blogger: Alex Gomez

Author Bio: Alex Gomez is a social media professional who dabbles as a freelance tech writer and photographer. This gadget and car enthusiast also plays video games and keeps himself updated on technology news in his spare time.

5 Creative Ideas for Making Photo Albums of Your Kids

Back in the early days, we documented our best memories through compact cameras with disposable film rolls that could be developed into photo prints. As years have gone by, printed photos began to go out of style, and soon we switched to the digital way of photographing kids.

With the advent of digital photography, the photos we’ve taken remain stored in our computers and storage devices until who knows when. Are you going to just let the memories that come with your children’s photos become forgotten?

If you want to preserve beautiful memories that your kids can look back on when they grow up, print your digital photos and create beautiful photo albums with them.

Time to get crafty! Here are five creative ideas for making photo albums of your kids:

1. Alphabet Photo Album

letter-j-for-jump

Image Credit: flickr.com

While there are different alphabet learning resources that can help you teach your kids their ABCs, a photo album can also be a great one! Snap photos of meaningful things, people, activities, and places whose names start with a letter in the alphabet. Your choice of photos has to mean something to them, so they can recognize it easily and learn their first ABCs fast.

2. Poem-Filled Photo Books

End a fun-filled day with your kids by reading them poems that you’ve personally written just for them. If you can’t find the right words, you can search for meaningful poems and quotations of mothers and fathers to their children. Include photos of you interacting with your children, whether it’s giving them piggyback rides or just having a hearty laugh with them.

3. Book of Firsts

book-of-firsts

Image Credit: flickr.com

Your kids’ first year is the most exciting time because that’s when they experience things for the first time. Document their first haircut, first step, or their adorable first smile. Better get your camera ready so that you won’t miss out on those precious, unexpected moments and have something to add to your children’s books of firsts.

 4. Travel Photo Book

travel-photo-book

Image Credit: flickr.com

 

If your family loves to travel, preserve your vacation memories by making themed photo books. Instead of stacking your photos in your closet and hard drive, make exciting and adventurous stories out of them. If you want to get creative and make one on your own, make a DIY travel scrapbook instead.

4. Birthday Memories

Compile photos of your kids’ birthday parties in one album. Start from the very first birthday to the most recent ones. This kind of photo album will be a sentimental way to keep track of how much your kids have grown through the years.

In Conclusion

You kids’ photos don’t deserve to be tucked away in a shoebox and buried deep in your computer’s hard drive or storage device. They should be displayed and preserved so that when your kids grow up, they have physical mementos that will tell wonderful stories of their childhood.

4 Ingredient Slime Putty

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silly putty colors

Slime Putty Colors

We are always looking for quick and easy art projects, and this one fit the bill! Ruby actually found this recipe on YouTube Kids, and we just so happened so have all of the ingredients to make it laying around! This recipe was an instant hit with the kids, and after playing with the first batch, they wanted to make a variety of colors. This was quick and easy to make and the kids have really enjoyed playing with it…which is a win, win, win!

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Dump out the glue into the bowl. Tip those bottles upside down and get out as much glue as you can!

    elliot adding glue to make slime putty

    Elliot Dumping Out Glue

  2. Mix in the food coloring. Start with a few drops, stir, and then add more as needed to achieve your desired color.

    elliot adding food coloring to make slime putty

    Adding the Food Coloring

  3. Make the borax mixture. Fill up a cup with warm/hot water and mix in about a teaspoon of borax. Let it sit/stir it until it dissolves.

    mixing borax and water for making slime putty

    Mixing Borax and Water

  4. Add the borax mixture to the glue. *This part is really tricky and very easy to mess up! If you add too much of the borax mixture, it will turn to a hard blob, if you don’t add enough, it will stick to your hands.
    adding borax mixture to glue to make slime putty

    Adding Borax Mixture to Glue

    You want to add just a little bit, stir, stir, stir, add a bit more, stir some more, mix with your fingers (about 2 minutes), then only add more if it’s still sticky. Trust me, add less than you think you’ll need and you’ll be just fine.

    mixing slime putty mixture by hand

    Mix it By Hand

  5. Final Slime Putty: The consistency should be soft and stretchy, but not sticky. (Although, if you do what Elliot is doing below, pieces WILL get stuck in your hair, and watch out, because this stuff can get stuck in carpet and on clothes too if you’re not careful!)

    Elliot Wearing His Slime Putty on His Head

    Elliot Wearing His Slime Putty

  6. Play with your goo! Stretch it, pull it, roll it, and have fun! Store it in a ziploc bag when you are done so that it won’t dry out.
    Elliot Rolling Out Slime Putty with a Rolling Pin

    Elliot Rolling Out Slime Putty

    *Now that you’ve got your Borax out, you might want to whip up a batch of some homemade laundry detergent!

How to Make a Mud Pit for Summer Fun

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Embracing Motherhood How to Make a Mudpit for Summer Fun

“You want to make a mud pit…on purpose…in our yard?!?” I can imagine your spouse yelling as you try to present the idea of creating a mud pit in your backyard, but hear me out…

Having Fun in Our Mudpit

Having Fun in Our Mudpit

We kind of made our mud pit on accident when we were trying to cover a dirt hill with sod (which is a story for another blog post), and in the process, I noticed how much the kids absolutely loved playing on a hill of pure dirt. They would climb up it, roll down it, dig tunnels through it and holes in it, and basically get really, really muddy. We would have to strip them down before they entered the house, and it created a lot of messy laundry.

Well, the hill was eventually covered with sod, and the parts that weren’t covered sprung up with grass and other foliage, but the hole that we dug the sod out of still remained, ready to be used. We originally were going to make another sandbox on top to mimic the one we liked at Blandford Nature Center, but well, we kind of ran out of money and were looking for a cheaper alternative.

I had a bunch of leftover seeds and plants from planting our summer garden and the kids were still begging for another dirt hill, so I went to work digging and made a dirt hill surrounded by a moat, surrounded by a path, surrounded by some plants. We stretched three hoses connected together to allow water to flow to the furthest regions of our yard, and walla! Mud pit!

Materials

Directions

  1. Plan It. Find a space in your yard that will be just perfect for a mud pit…preferably away from any pools you have, not right near the front door, but close enough to a water source.
  2. Dig It. Using a pointy shovel, dig out small squares of sod. You can use them to build a small grassy hill if you’d like. Just place the sod pieces on top of each other. Eventually they will settle in and make a nice little hill. Our kids love playing on ours!
  3. Shape It. Try to give it your mud pit some character. Build it up high in some spaces, level it out in others, use your imagination, and try to visualize how your kids will use it. I really think having a moat type structure is a good idea because it traps the water in and makes it more usable.
  4. Use It. I highly encourage all play in the mud pit to be conducted with bathing suits on! This way, kids can be sprayed off with a hose, jump through a sprinkler, or jump into a kiddie pool to get clean afterwards! With a few shovels, buckets, and watering cans, this mud pit has entertained our kids and their friends for hours.
Playing in the Mud Pit

Playing in the Mud Pit

Conclusion

Yes, making a sandbox is probably an overall cleaner project, and one that our kids have enjoyed just as much, but there is just something so primal about a mud pit that I think all kids should have a chance to experience. Being able to interact with nature, feeling the cool mud with its abundance of free electrons boosting your immune system, getting completely filthy, and creating, digging, and exploring the properties of mud are all hallmarks of any good childhood.

Why We Are Giving Technology a Break

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Embracing Motherhood Why We Are Giving Technology a Break

It started out with educational apps on ipads, playing Starfall and Pixie 4 on the computer, and watching educational programs mixed in with a moderate amount of choice, but then we got lax on the rules and noticed one day that technology had taken over our lives.

We debated a gradual reduction or a reinforcement of the original rules, but it was too late for that…

We had to quit technology cold turkey.

First, the iPads

One evening, during our nightly wrestling routine with daddy, our daughter Ruby (6) just wanted to watch Digimon (I don’t even know how we came to allow this in the first place). Usually, we can ask her to put her iPad away and she does so graciously, but this time, there was ATTITUDE! When daddy asked her to put the iPad down, she flat out said no, and then when daddy got more stern she said,

“What are you going to do if I don’t?”

Hubba wha?!?!?!? We both looked at each other in shock! Where did this mouthy little teenager come from all of a sudden?? And so daddy said what all parents of teenagers must say,

“Trust me, you don’t want to find out!”

Well needless to say, we knew something needed to change. That night, I took all of the iPads and our touch screen computer and hid them away. I also unplugged our WiiU, Playstation, and computer in the homeschool room.

The Aftermath

We weren’t really sure how to handle the explanation of the disappearance of the touchscreen devices, and when Elliot asked me the next morning where they were, I relied on a little white lie to get me through it.

“Someone stole our iPads!” I explained.

Phew, that was easy. 🙂 Elliot was quite upset, but still a pretty easy sell. He said, “God must be mad at us to let this happen.” Honestly, I don’t know where he gets these notions!

But when Ruby came home from school, she was a little more skeptical. First she wanted to know every detail of said robbery including why they miraculously didn’t take my laptop. Smart girl. Then, she wanted to conduct an investigation including knocking on the door of every neighbor and writing letters to all of her classmates. When she wouldn’t drop it, I said, “You’re right, it probably wasn’t a robbery. I’ll bet Julian just took them and hid them somewhere.”

“Are you sure you didn’t just do it mom,” she asked.

I explained that no, I didn’t do it, but even if we had our iPads, we were going to restrict their use anyways because we didn’t like how addicted everyone was getting to them and the attitudes that were emerging as a result.

To explain the unplugged video games and computers, we said that we couldn’t afford the electric bill, and so we couldn’t play them until our budget was caught up. We talk about money and finances a lot, so although they were a little upset, they really understood and accepted this explanation.

Technology Free Days

The first day without technology was TOUGH! No ABC videos to distract Julian while I was cooking, no TV during breakfast, and no choice time to entertain them while I stole some time to myself.

As they engaged in play, it was almost like they forgot how to entertain themselves. So I sat on the floor and played with them as they went from room to room trashing everything in sight. I felt like I was constantly cleaning and constantly on the move!

We spent the rest of the day engaged in play outside, and my the end of the night, they were exhausted. So was I!

By the second and third day, something beautiful started to happen. They asked about their missing iPads less and less, the negative attitude was disappearing, and we were having so much fun as a family! Whenever it would get really quiet for awhile, I would worry, “Oh no! They found them!” But then I would sneak into the room to see them engrossed with reading, playing quietly, or find that they let themselves outside to play. It was beautiful.

“Why didn’t we do this sooner?” we wondered.

Well, at least we’re doing it now…especially as these fleeting summer days beg to be enjoyed.

It’s Okay to Be Bored

Children don’t need to be constantly entertained, and neither do we. Boredom is actually a gift, a mind break that allows us to come up with new and creative ideas. The longer our children went without technology, the less they relied on us to entertain them, the fewer messes they made as they became engrossed in sustained imaginative play, the more they interacted with each other and nature, and the closer we became as a family.

As we settled into this new routine, I started finding pockets of time for myself again to work out, blog, and create. Something else pretty amazing started happening too. As the children settled into their boredom, they were more interested in what I was doing and wanted to help!

Who knew that helping me make cookies, fold the laundry, and sweep could be so much fun!

The older ones were also more willing to pitch in and do chores, and I really appreciated their help. Ruby decided she wanted her job to be laundry, and so one day she helped me put daddy’s bin of clothes into the washing machine and put away her and Elliot’s clothes. Elliot said he was really good at picking up, so he picked up the toys in one room…then he got distracted and started playing with the toys, but hey, it’s a start!

Finding a Balance

After about a week of nothing, we decided that they (we) could watch one movie during rest time. Previously, they were engrossed in their own little iPad worlds watching toy videos on YouTube and Digimon on Netflix, but with a movie, it was something we could all cuddle up and watch together. We love finding old classics like the Last Unicorn, Little Nemo, and Home Alone and watching them over and over.

When school is out and summer gets into full swing, we plan on implementing our summer routine where the older kids have to do four workbook pages (handwriting, math, cursive, etc.), three activities, and one chore to have an educational computer choice (Pixie 4, Storymaker, working on Favorite Things books, etc.) or watch a movie.

We also are going to let them have 3o minutes (from 4:00-4:30 when daddy gets home) to have a choice to watch whatever they want if they good and do all of their work, activities, and chores. Having this time gives us some leverage (i.e. by taking away a positive reinforcement it becomes a logical consequence for misbehaviors).

In Conclusion

During the long winter months, we may bring back the WiiU, Playstation, iPads, and touchscreen computer in limited and regulated amounts, but we definitely agree that taking a break over the summer is what is best for everyone. Technology can serve a valuable role in many educational opportunities, but it is just too easy to let it be a babysitter and let limits slide until the devices seem to take over. Going cold turkey and taking a break really worked for us and is something we will continue to implement as needed with all things in life. *As a side note, if we need to do this again, I will just tell them honestly why we are taking a break rather than trying to make another story out of it.