Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bible Verses For Thanksgiving {freebie}

Need something to keep the kids busy while you finish up in the kitchen? Here are some Bible verse pages that they can color. I plan to hang these around the house after the kids are done with them.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Save Time In the Kitchen, The Easy Way

It seems like everywhere I look lately, I see directions for make-ahead crockpot cooking and meals for the freezer. These directions come with the promise that they only take "one afternoon" or "a couple of hours" to prep. But seriously, what homeschooling mother has an entire afternoon to set aside for meal preparation? How often can we even find a couple of extra hours in our schedule?

Actually, if I could prep several weeks worth of meals in one afternoon, I might be tempted to try it. But with a family the size of my family, those massive amounts of food you see artistically displayed in stacks of filled freezer bags don't last nearly long enough to make it worth it.

So, I don't follow any handy-dandy freezer cooking plans. And yet, I still manage to prepare from scratch meals, seven nights a week, without stressing. I even have a couple of meals ready in the freezer at any given time. How do I do it?!

No, I'm not superwoman. (Really, ask my kids.) But over the years I've discovered that taking a few extra minutes here and there eventually adds up to hours saved. None of these tips are very revolutionary. Most will probably seem elementary to experienced homemakers. But since they came to me in "duh!" moments after years of cooking for my family, I hope I can shorten the learning curve for someone by posting them here.

3 Tips For Saving Time In the Kitchen

1. Prep Once, Clean Once
It takes less time to make twice as much of anything as it does to prepare, cook, and clean up on two separate occasions. While you may not have the time or resources to double a complete recipe, you can still save time by doubling parts of the recipe each time you cook.
When you are browning ground meat, it only takes a little extra effort to throw an extra pound or two into the pan. Drain, cool, place in freezer bags- you've just saved yourself both cooking and cleaning time. If you are making a meatloaf, mix up enough for two and stick the second batch (uncooked) in a freezer bag. Add some vegetables on the side and you now have a freezer meal to use on a busy day. The same is true when making meatballs, though they will involve more time to prep and should be cooked before freezing. If you are cooking chicken, cook twice as much. Next time you need to add precooked meat to a recipe, you will be prepared.
When chopping vegetables, chop a little bit extra (or a lot depending on how much time you have) and toss in a freezer bag. There is nothing to say that you must fill the bag all at one time. Celery, carrots, green peppers, and onions are especially good candidates for this technique. It is soooo convienient to have some of these kitchen staples already chopped when you are in a rush and need to throw a meal together quickly. Just take out the amount you need and throw it into the recipe.
And on those days when you do have enough time, go ahead and double a whole meal. Place it in the freezer (cooked or uncooked depending on the recipe) and you not only have your first "freezer meal", but you also have a convience food you know your family will love.

2. Let Your "Servants" Cook For You
 I once sat under the teaching of a wise woman who explained that, though modern women may not have "maidservants" like the Proverbs 31 woman, we do have appliances that we ought to be using to their full advantage.
Crockpots are great for creating meals out of a few ingredients hastily added to them in the morning, but they are also a useful tool for precooking ingredients for multiple future meals. Dried legumes take hours to cook from scratch. It is much easier to open a can of beans than it is to stand over the stove stirring a pot while they cook. However, I don't do either of those things because my servant cooks them for me. I just pour a bag of dried beans, lentils, or chickpeas into my crockpot, fill it with water, and leave it cooking on high until the beans are soft. Then I rinse them with cold water and bag them in quart size freezer bags. It only takes me about 10 minutes of my time to prepare 4 to 6 quarts of cooked legumes.
An outdoor grill can be a wonderful help "in" the kitchen by reducing the number of greasy dishes that need to be washed. In addition to meats, you can grill foil wrapped veggies for a complete "mess-less" meal. Grilled chicken breasts freeze well and are a handy convienience food to have on hand. (If you'd prefer to grill "as needed", at least mix up an extra batch of marinade and  pour it into a zipper bag along with some meat for next time. Store in the freezer and thaw the night before you wish to use it.) 
The oven is often under-used when it comes to cooking helpers. Many foods that are prepared on the stove top can also be baked in the oven, saving energy and reducing messes. For instance, bacon can be spread on cookie sheets and baked at 350 degrees. (Egg casseroles like Chili Cheese Egg Puff are some of my favorite Sunday morning meals because, unlike fried or scrambled eggs,  I can take care of other things while they are cooking.)
My rice cooker is another "servant" whose help I rely heavily on. Just pour in the rice, add twice as much water, place the lid on it, push the button, and you're done! Other kitchen helpers include blenders, hand mixers, and food choppers.
3. Clean Up As You Go
I know this doesn't seem like much of a time saver, but anyone who has ever tried to scrub pans which have been left to sit overnight will know the truth of this saying. Food which splatters out of the pan will burn onto your stovetop if it is not wiped up immediately. And it takes more time to work around a stack of dirty dishes than to work in a clean, organized kitchen.
If you are doing a lot of cooking at one time, keep a dishpan filled with warm soapy water so you can do a quick wash up of utensils and mixing bowls as you finish using them. It seems so much easier when you only have a few dishes to wash at a time, rather than having to face a mountain of them all at once. And by the time you finish cooking, you might be too tired to take care of them anyway.
By following these three time saving tips, you will accumulate hours of "free" kitchen time. Without taking an entire day to prep freezer meals, you will have on hand some quick-fix meals and home made convienience foods for days when you have no time to spend cooking. And you'll still have your sanity.

What are your tips for saving time in the kitchen?

Monday, October 29, 2012

f is for fireman {free printable}

Because CJ had asked to study firemen for "school" this year, I was excited to learn that October 7-13 was National Fire Safety Week. I had already searched the childrens' section of our library for books and videos on fireman.  But I had not found even half of the items that our nice librarians gathered for their Fire Safety Week Display. It was tempting to check out the whole pile of books ('cause that's what homeschoolers do, right?), but I controlled myself.

Yes, I know it looks like a tail,
but it is fire hose. Really, it is.

We will be spreading our study out over much longer than a week, but the fact that there is  a National Fire Saftey Week made it much easier to find resources. It's nice when lessons can be both fun and easy to plan. And since we are almost to the letter "f" in our Alphabet Notebooks, we skipped "e" (temporarily) so we could do "f is for fireman."

This fireman bears a strange resemblance to our "d" dinosaur. I wanted to add a face to make him more man-like, but I got out voted by my children. Feel free to get creative if you would prefer a face.

Here some additional resources that I found online:

I'm putting this first because, as far as 3 year old boys are concerned, the snack is the most important thing. Family Fun has a cute little campfire made out of cheddar cheese, pretzels, and green grapes and  Taste of Home has some cute fire trucks made out of graham crackers. (We are actually avoiding gluten and sugar right now, so I won't do either of these as written. But I'll try to adapt them for him.)


Saturday, October 27, 2012

How To Make A "Leather-Look" Vase

You will need:

* a glass jar or vase
* masking tape
* paper towels
* brown shoe polish

Tear small pieces of masking tape off the roll and place them, randomly but slightly over-lapping, on the glass jar. The edges of the tape should be jagged and not square. Make sure you put the tape on flat so you don't create wrinkles. Cover the entire surface of the jar.

Place a small amount of shoe polish on a paper towel and apply it to the surface of the vase. The shoe polish should gather in the cracks along the edges of the tape.

Do NOT polish the surface, but wipe gently as you apply so you don't have too much build-up on the flat sections of the tape. Be careful that you do not rub polish up under the tape or it will no longer stick. Let the shoe polish dry, then spray with a clear sealer. Add flowers to you vase and display with pride!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Five Free Downloads {5 Fab Freebies Friday}

Betsy Stout over at Notebooking Nook has created a new link-up for sharing freebies every Friday. Here are the rules:

Post 5 freebies to your blog or website, along with a link back to the 5 Fab Freebies Friday link-up. The freebies can be downloads you have created, or links to great resources you have discovered. (Just don't break any copyright laws.) Then head over to Betsy's blog and share the link to your post.

I probably won't be participating every week, but I have a few new printables to share this week so I thought this would be a fun way to do it. And since tomorrow will be absolutely crazy-busy around here, I'm taking Betsy's lead and posting a day early. Here are my 5 "Fab" Freebies:

I've mentioned before that I don't actively try to teach my preschoolers their colors, but I'm also not against activities that just-so-happen to teach them. For instance, my three year old, CJ, has had fun using the color sorting card I made him. His siblings and I also like to name the colors of different objects he sees. And he has had the opportunity to see what happens when colors mix together when we made "fireworks" in a glass of water and when he played with colored vinegar and baking soda. Here is a page I made for him to experiment with color mixing while he plays with his finger paints.

2.  A-D Letter Recognition Cards
I've been using these cards with CJ to help him learn his letters. Since we've only made it through "d" in our alphabet notebooks, the cards I've made only go through the letter "d." I printed these on cardstock and cut them into strips. My original plan was to have him use clothespins to mark the matching numbers, but so far we have just pointed to the letters and talked about which ones were the same. If your child enjoys using the clothespins for this activity, you might also want to download my free clothespin counting cards.

I found a really cute pumpkin clipart alphabet that was just begging to be used. I was also trying to find some fun activities for the kids to do during Thanksgiving vacation. Ta-da! A fun little page for creating an acrostic poem about Thanksgiving.

4. Thanksgiving Notebook Pages
Notebook pages are like shoes. Sometimes you don't really need new ones, but they are still fun to have. That must be why I end up making a new set every Thanksgiving. Here are three new ones to add to your collection. I also have a set of Thanksgiving Copywork available for sale at Currclick.

5.The Study of Five Lapbook
Limited Time Freebie! Many years ago there was a request on one of the Yahoo Groups I subscribed to for ideas to create a lapbook about the number five. The mother who asked for suggestions was wanting to create a lapbook for her daughter's fifth birthday. Since my own daughter was also nearing that eventful birthday, I started brainstorming ideas. Due to a computer crash, the lapbook I started was lost. However, I recently went back and recreated that project. This lapbook will be available free through the month of October. Sorry, this lapbook is no longer available.

That's all for Fab 5 Freebie Friday here at Lilliput Station. Head on over to Notebooking Nook for more fabulous freebies.

This post is also linked up at:


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

D is for Dinosaur {free printable}

alphabet notebook page
I knew when I started making an Alphabet Notebook with my son that it would be a hit-or-miss activity. With seven older childer to educate and a baby to care for, it is hard to find time to time to squeeze in preschool projects. But I had no idea it would be over a year before we made it to the letter "d"!
This is actually the second page we have done for this letter. The first time, we followed the example on the Totally Tot's website and made a daisy. It was a disaster. There was no way to make it look right AND make it look like a "d." Besides, daisies don't really hold much appeal to rough and tumble little boys.

handprint dinosaurs
Yesterday CJ and I made handprint dinosaurs like the ones on Red Ted Art's Blog. He had so much fun that today I got up early today and made a pattern for a "d is for dinosaur" notebook page. He was thrilled and ran upstairs as soon as we had finished putting it together so he could show it to his oldest sister. I hope you enjoy it as much as he did.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Traditional Textbook or Math Notebooking: Can You Do Both?

Just because you use a traditional math curriculum doesn't mean you can't take advantage of the benefits that come from math notebooking. As with any other subject, the lessons learned in mathematics can be recorded using the notebooking method. While the problems contained in the textbook give the student an opportunity to put into practice the concepts taught, the math notebook is a place where the student gives voice to those concepts. Math notebook pages can include notes on what is being learned (a great reference to use in solving this type of problem in the future), visual illustrations of the concepts learned, and examples of problems from the lesson. The math notebook can even be a place to copy and solve those problems.

Additional Ways To Use Traditional "Textbooks" With Notebooking:
  • Upcycle Workbooks- The drawbacks to workbooks are that they are consumable, disposable, and the information is diluted throughout a large space of pages. But workbooks can be a good solution when you or your students need a change of pace, or for times when you just need something to keep them in practice while other subjects receive a more intense focus. And when you have finished a workbook, it can be upcycled and put to new use in math notebooking. Directions for completing the workbook pages contain formulas and definitions which can be copied into- or cut out and glued into- a math notebook for later review. Charts and diagrams provide inspiration for additional math notebooking. And colorful clipart cut from old workbook pages can be used to add color and interest to math notebooks.  Even those who are opposed to the use of workbooks can find thrift shop cast-aways to repurpose. (Mad House Academy has a Flickr Photo Set with examples of notebook pages created in this way.)

  • Work Your Way Through Some Library Books- Check the shelves of your library for books on math topics or math puzzle book and do notebooking on the concepts you learn. We have created notebook pages based on our studies using the book Go Figure! by Johnny Ball and my Math Notebooking: Geometry pages were a result of our studies using Figuring Out Geometry by Rebecca Wingard-Nelson. We found both of these books in our library.

Links To Other Bloggers Who Use Textbooks With Notebooking:
  • The MacRAK- using a combination of living math, Saxon, Life of Fred, Ray's Arithmetic  and Teaching Textbooks with notebooking.

This is post is the third in the Math Notebooking Series.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Monsters of Myth & Literature Notebook Pages

Pages for 29 different creatures for $5.00
Introducing our newest product- Monsters of Myth & Literature Notebook Pages. Their creepy and dangerous. They repluse us and fascinate us. Monsters are found in myths and literature from around the world, dating back to ancient times. Whether you are looking to capitalize on the current vampire and zombie trends, or are planning a unit related to Halloween, this notebooking set makes a great addition to an in-depth study of some of histories scariest creatures. It includes 87 pages covering 29 different creatures, from Basilisk to Zombies.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Integrating Math With Other Subjects {math notebooking}

One of the problems with modern schooling is the artificial divisions it creates. Children are put into grades based on their ages, rather than their learning abilities. Learning is labeled as scholastic and non-scholastic. And subjects are divided as if they had no connection with each other. This is one reason many people have a hard time grasping the concept of math notebooking.

We have been trained through this system of artificial divisions to think of math in terms of numbers and equations. And how can you notebook that? But when we step outside of this box, the variety of ways that notebooking can be used in the study of math becomes much more clear.

History & Math: The Fibonacci Sequence

Someone say, "math" and we think numbers. But if someone says, "the history of math" something entirely different comes to mind. For instance,
  • how, when, and by whom were numbers first used?
  • what did those numbers look like, and how did they change over time?
  • what were some of the most important mathmatical discoveries, and who made them?
Think about "geography and math" and you will come up with a different list:
  • how did the first explorers use math in navigation?
  • how do we use mathmatics in navigation today?
  • what do numbers look like in different countries?
  • how is math done differently in those countries?
  • how is math used in mapmaking or in reading a map?
You might be tempted to object that this is not really a study of math at all. But when you child is able to see how math relates to other subjects, they will understand why learning math skills is important for what they want to accomplish in other areas of life.

Here are more ways to integrate math with other subjects:
Once you begin to think of ways to integrate math with other subjects, there is no end to the ideas for math notebooking that you will discover.

This is post is the second in the Math Notebooking Series.

*Go to Part One of the Math Notebooking Series*

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Geometry Puzzle {free printable}

A friend shared this puzzle on Facebook and I thought it would make a nice challenge to keep the kids thinking during their time off of school- so I whipped up a little worksheet. If you try this, please post a comment with the number of squares you found. I did it three times and got a different number each time.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Menu With Cook's Notes {freebie}

Earlier this year, I took the baby and  flew to Michigan for a cousin's graduation, leaving the house and the rest of the children to the care of my husband. I was gone for almost a week. My oldest daughter (age 13) took over all the cooking during that time.

I had no doubts about her ability to cook (she's been doing it since she was about 6 or 7), however I was concerned that she might not be able to handle all the organizational details that are involved in feeding a family of  eleven nine. In preparation for the trip, I planned the menu (not unusual since I always plan my menus ahead of time) and precooked as much as possible. My secret weapon was a menu with space for "cook's notes" along the side.

my "secret weapon"

In the "cook's notes" I told her things like "Mon: Get out bread and place on counter to thaw for lunch. Get out two packages of hamburger and place in fridge to thaw for Wed. Cook rice for tonight's casserole." Her orders were to look at the menu every morning and find out what she needed to do to prepare the food for the day. Other than a couple of phone calls concerning the location of certain items, it went off without a hitch.

I'm really thinking I ought to make use of this menu for my own benefit. I don't even want to admit how often I forget to thaw the meat for supper. :)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Be Real!

"Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes don't see as well and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand" ~The Velveteen Rabbit

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Home Education and The Preschooler

Although I believe strongly that children should be taught as much as possible, as young as possible, I also believe this teaching should take place in a fun and non-pressured environment. I have never set my children down to learn their colors, numbers, or shapes. They pick those up pretty easily in day to day life. Once in a while we do traditional "preschool" activities because they are fun, but not because I think they are necessary.

My children begin "formal" schooling between the ages of 3 and 4, depending on the child, learning phonics in a relaxed way while continuing natural every day learning. Additional learning is introduced casually. I try to bring home books from the library on things that interest my children, but I also use books to introduce them to new interests. Counting and math are learned with manipulatives and games; science and history through crafts, experiments, field trips, and nature walks. Geography studies are really fun to do with little ones because you can play games, do crafts, fix foods, listen to music, and wear costumes.

I try to limit writing as much as possible. Children don't usually have the physical skills for writing until about age 6, and I gave my older children a permanent dislike of writing by pushing too much too soon. Drawing is a fun alternative way to practice these skills, without the pressure (especially drawing exercises where they are supposed to copy step-by-step). Mazes and dot-to-dots also help them to practice pencil control. There are many ways to use notebooking with younger children who aren't writing yet.

Because young children absorb things so easily, it makes sense to include them whenever possible while you are teaching the older children. It also solves the problem of "what to do with the little ones" during school hours. However, it is also good to have some alternatives for the times when it won't work to include them.

Some of the solutions we have come up with are:

1. Take advantage of nap times.
2. Have the older children take turns entertaining the younger ones while you give one-on-one attention       to your older students.
3. Teach the little ones to sit quietly for short periods of time and read or color.
4. Have special toys and activities prepared which the little ones can only use during these times.
5. Place them in a safe area (a playpen or their bedroom which is closed off with a baby gate) and allow them to play by themselves while you work with the others.
6. Give them a snack (or scatter cereal or chocolate chips on the floor for a scavenger hunt- they eat off the floor when you aren't watching anyway)

Sometimes, the baby is the lesson
Preschoolers add a lot of noise and chaos to the homeschool. However, their ability to absorb information and their excitement over learning adds sparkle to the learning environment. Sometimes it is necessary to use distraction techniques in order to get the lessons done. But sometimes, the baby is the lesson. Enjoy the days with preschoolers in your homeschool. They will be gone too soon.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Using Anchor Charts In Math Notebooks {math notebooking}

One of the easiest ways to begin math notebooking is by having your students create anchor charts for key concepts they are learning. In the traditional classroom environment, an anchor chart is created by the teacher (with student help) and hung on the classroom wall. But in a math notebooking environment, the anchor charts will be created by the student (with teacher help) and placed in a three ring binder for future reference. Pinterest is a great place to search for ideas. Here are a few printable math notebooking pages I have created, as well as links to the anchor charts that inspired them:

This is post is the second in the Math Notebooking Series.

*Go to Part Two of the Math Notebooking Series*

These Sets Can Be Purchased at

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