Pizza Box Solar Oven

July 31, 2007 at 10:03 am (Uncategorized)

Years ago my friend Suzie made a Solar Oven and I have wanted to make one ever since!  (Yet, somehow I have never gotten around to it!  LOL)  Suzie’s was made from a big enough box she would actually cook meals in it!  (If I remember right most things that can be cooked in a crock pot can be done in a large solar oven.)  The other day I came across a post at the School For Us blog about making a solar oven from a pizza box!  We went and got pizza right away!  LOL 

We decided to make 2 since we had 2 pizza boxes.  Also I though it would be interesting to see if different circumstances changed the outcome.

Here are the boys working on lining their box with foil.

My daughter starts her oven by applying glue to her pizza box.

The foil is applied and ready to reflect the sun!

The ovens are ready!  (Well, almost we still had to put the black piece of paper under the cooking area.)

We decided S’mores would be a good 1st thing to cook!

Here the oldest 2 are with the 2 ovens.  We decided to put a black trash bag under one to see if it made any difference in the cooking process. (We also included a oven thermometer in each of our pizza boxes.)

Here are the kids hypothesis they made before we cooked the S’mores:

6 year old: 
It will get really heated up and melt in maybe 1 hour.  I think the one on black will cook faster.  It is possible they could cook at the same speed.

12 year old:
I think pretty much the same as my sister, but I think it will take 2 hours.  I think the black one will cook faster.

3 year old:
I think the pizza box will explode and go to the floor! (Said with a big grin and a giggle!  LOL)

Here is our chart of what happened:


TIME      TEMP                                      WHAT’S COOKING?      CHANGES

2:15         102 degrees (outside)      S’mores                              Just put out in the sun.
2:30         Black 125 – White 125                                                    Chocolate slightly melted
2:45         Black 127 – White 127                                                    Chocolate slightly melted
3:15         Black 160 – White 140                                                    Black – ready to eat!
3:45         White 150                                                                          White – ready to eat!


Opening the oven after the S’mores are cooked

First taste!

When asked by her dad later in the day how she liked making the solar ovens my 6 year old replied "It was awesome sauce!"  (Which is a strange, but popular saying my kids are currently fond of! LOL)

HERE are the step by step instructions for making the Pizza Box Solar Oven.

Now I would like to come up with something that would really "cook" in the solar oven.  (Instead of just heating up like the S’mores did. ) I am wondering about making brownies?  I will let you know if we try it!

Thanks so much to Dana at School For Us for getting us going on this project!


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Observations On Field Trips at the Jelly Belly Factory

July 30, 2007 at 11:32 am (Uncategorized)

Another place we visited while we were on vacation was The Jelly Belly Factory.  We have been to The Jelly Belly Factory about a zillion times.  We lived about 40 minutes from it for 9 years!  Sometimes I wonder why the kids never get tired of going there…Then I am reminded that they are kids and it is a candy factory!  LOL 

This is my favorite photo stop at the factory! I literally have pics of the kids growing up in front of this wall!

Here the kids are with our friedns we went with.  (My frined Faye and her husband and oldest son.)

The Governator in mosaic, made from Jelly Belly’s!  (They have a ton of art made from Jelly Belly’s.  They are incredibly well done!)

Of course we had to get a Jelly Belly shaped pizza for lunch!

Finally…the moment we have all been waiting for…Eating a Jelly Belly!  YUM!!! (My favorite is Buttered Popcorn.  Sour Peach is a close second in my book!)

This time was way busier than when we have been there in the past. Probably because we went on a Friday in Summer?  There were a TON of kids there on field trips with child care camps.  We stood in line for over an hour and then when we got sorted off into a group we happened to have twenty eight 3 & 4 year olds in our group!  They were a Summer Camp Group from a YMCA in San Fransisco.  (They were wearing yellow t-shirts stating so.) I must admit at first I wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of going through the factory with all these little ones.  (There were also about 20 other people in our group, which has been the more normal group size I have seen in the past.) But as we all started heading into the factory the 4 YMCA Counselors held the kids to the back and let everyone else go first.  The first thing I will say is that these 4 Couselors had those 28 kids really under control.  All the kids were assigned to a partner that they held hands with throughout the tour.  (Seemed like a good idea to me.  I am guessing 2 kids are less likely to wander off than one?) Now, since I have been on this tour so many times I turned my attention to the little kids in the group.  I have never been on a non-homeschool field trip before and I have to say this was quite different than what I am use to.

Here are a couple things I noticed:

1. While keeping the group of kids at the back was nice for the rest of the group…it was not the optimal viewing area for the wee ones.  The kids had 1 little window to look through and out of the 28 kids only the 6-8 fastest and strongest could really see what was going on.  (Survival of the fittest?)

2. When the kids asked questions they were told to "watch the video" by the well meaning Counselors.  This kept the kids quiet, but as a homeschool Mom I hated to see them not getting the answers to there questions when they asked them.  I also doubt they asked them again later.  That’s just how kids are, they live in the moment. Even if they do ask questions later Mom and Dad were not on the field trip and may or may not know the answers.

3.  When your in a big group no one is pointing out the things that really interest you. I realized that while were  went through I made sure to hold my 3 year up so he could see the mechanical robot they use in shipping. (I knew that would be his favorite part!) I also made sure to point out a thank you note I saw hanging in a display case written in braille.  My 6 year old is all interested in braille right now.  I made sure my 12 year old saw the mosaic of the Governator since I knew he would like it.  These kind of things make the kids feel connected to the field trip. 

4.  Kids in camp get a lot packed into their day!  I overheard one of the counselors telling a kid "When we get back to San Fransisco you are all going to go swimming."  I thought "Wow, I my kids would not have the energy to go swimming after driving all this way, standing in line an hour, eating a ton of candy and driving all the way home."  My kids were pretty much done for the day when we got back to my friends house.  We ate dinner and lounged around until bedtime.

Don’t get me wrong I think it is great that these little guys get to go on fun field trips.  I just could not help but notice the differences.  One of the things I love most about homeschooling is the privilege of taking my kids out into the world and learning along side them.  I am glad we have those times together.  I am glad I was there and can answer the questions as they arise.  I am glad I can hold them up and a make sure they can see.  I am glad I get to point out things that excite them.  I am glad they are making the memories and holding the hands of their siblings.  I am glad we homeschool!

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Cheap School Supplies

July 28, 2007 at 4:16 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s that time of year again!!!!

Every year at this time Target runs school supplies ridiculously cheap!  I finally got smart a couple years ago and started stocking up for the whole year during the Back-To-School Sales.

Here is what I got for this year:

16 packages of glue sticks $2.40 (.15 cents per package)
4 packages of blue ink pens (10 each package)  $2.00 (.50 cents per package.)
5 boxes crayons $1.00 (.20 cents per box.)
10 boxes colored pencils $2.00 (.20 cents per box)
60 notebooks $6.00 (.10 cents per notebook)
1 teaching clock $1.00

Total spent for 1 year school supplies for 3 kids…drum roll please…$14.40!!!!

Hooray for me!!!!

(Rent-A-Kid sleeping on bed extra!  LOL) 

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Diet Coke and Mentos

July 27, 2007 at 10:17 am (Uncategorized)

We have been wanting to do this experiment for a loooong time!  We finally got to do it with our friends in California…It was well worth the wait!

The big boys get things ready…
These 2 have known each other since they were 2 & 3 years old!  What a blessing to hang out with old friends!

The first bottle blows!

And blows!!!!

Getting ready to shoot off another bottle! Can’t you just see how excited everyone is?

My 3 year old has obviously learned when it is time to RUN!!!

Thar she blows!!!

Of course once all the exploding was over we all had to taste it! (It tasted gross in my opinion!  LOL)

The best way to clean up after such a messy experiment is to throw all the kids in the pool!

Of course the dog wants to swim too!

Whew, she made it!

This was VERY fun!  Thanks so much to our wonderful homeschool friends for having a "blast" with us!

You can learn all about why Diet Coke and Mentos explode HERE.

Click HERE to see an awesome video of Mentos & Diet Coke exploding like fountains!  (You have to see this!)

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Please Pray for Our House to Sell

July 26, 2007 at 1:41 pm (Uncategorized)

As you all know we have had our house on the market for quite some time.   The market is really bad here and we have not had one person look at our house.  This has been a difficult period of limbo for our family.  If you have a moment please ask God for our house to sell.  I would appreciate the prayer so much.

In Him,


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Teaching Mulitiple Ages/Abilities/Stages

July 26, 2007 at 10:33 am (Uncategorized)

JR asks:

My three kids are spaced almost the same as your three. Any advice on how to manage and DO fun things/school things/project with three different abilities, learning styles and developmental stages?

Well, this is a great question and one that I have struggled with a lot having kids that are 3, 6 and (almost) 13.  Here are some things I do.

When it comes to crafts and projects around the house:

1.  Let everyone work to their own ability.  I always include all my kids when we do a project, but I don’t expect the 3 year old to perform like the (almost) 13 year old or the 6 year old.  One example of this in when we Mummified Barbie’s.  I really did not think my 3 year old would want to mummify his GI Joe I bought at the thrift store.  I explained to him when we started that if he didn’t want to do it he could keep his GI Joe the way it was and play with it.  I even told him that once it was "Mummified" it would be hard and he probably would not want to play with it.  Well, he saw the other kids dipping and wrapping their Barbie’s/GI Joe’s and wanted to do his.  You know what?  He loves that silly mummy!  LOL  Much to my surprise eh frequently carries it around and plays with it.  he loves to show it to people when they come over.  He is proud of his mummy.  Now what I expected, but a fine outcome indeed!

2. Have alternate activities for the younger ones.  I usually have color books, puzzles, markers, stickers, etc. That way when my 3 year old tires of what we are doing I can hand him something on his own level that will keep him entertained and at the table with us.

3. Let the little ones wander in and out.  I don’t require my kids under 6 to stay "on task"  I invite them to do what we are doing, but if they want to wander in and out I let them.  If they start a project and don’t finish it I usually finish it for them.  That way they can be proud of their finished project because they did put some effort into it, even though they didn’t do it all.

4. Set aside some time to do activities aimed more specifically at the youngest child’s abilities. This is probably the one I struggle with the most.  My 3 year old is so happy doing what the older kids are doing I don’t always remember to do things just for him.  But, I do try every so often to pull out a a really simple craft for him (The older kids are welcome to join in!) and I try to get out the felt board stories on a semi-regular basis.  I let him pick a book at bedtime every night and I try to play whatever he is in to with him a little each day.  (Right now it is building rocket ships out of blocks!  LOL)

5. Let the older ones help the younger ones. This is HUGE!  I remember when I was pregnant with my 2nd child saying something to my husband about not knowing how I would do all the things with #2 that I had done with #1.  He replied "You won’t have to.  The older sibling will do a lot of it for you!"  Wow, was he right!  I am amazed how much my older 2 kids like to teach their younger brother.  When I need a chance to work with one of the older kids one on one I can almost always count on the other sibling taking the 3 year old and doing something with him.  It is a lifesaver for me!  It is also so cool to see things he know and realize his siblings taught him that!  (He currently knows the entire Spiderman theme song and it was taught to him by his big brother!  LOL  I would have never taught it to him, but he sure is cute singing it!)

6. Realize that some days just go CrAzY!   – Contrary to what you may think from reading my blog, some days are just awful!  I have admitted before that I am a cup half full kind of person!  I usually don’t blog about the days we are all crabby, fighting and nothing I do makes anyone happy!  LOL But there are days were nothing goes right and we are all mad at each other and we just have to stop and go to our separate corners and try again the next day.  That’s okay!  We are all human we get cranky, we make mistakes.  When these days happen I usually just put everything away and forget about school for that day.  Maybe we would go to the park.  Maybe they all need rest so we watch a movie.  Maybe we all need space so we go do our own things.  Don’t get upset with yourself when you have a bad day.  Trust me, we all have them!

When it comes to field trips:

I find that field trips can be a real challenge with a wide age span.  Here are some things I have done that are helpful.

1. realize you cannot do everything that is available for every age.  Sometimes I see a great field trip posted for ages 6 -11.  I usually have to tell myself "Bummer" because if we all can’t do it, no one can!

2.  Team up with other Mom’s. Let them take your kid on the field trip and offer to stay home with any of her kids that are too small.

3. If the field trip is really "can’t miss" plan ahead  – See if Dad can take off to help or get another teen homeschooler to watch your younger kids.  I have done both of these things and some of the field trips that would have been impossible for me to do with 3 kids alone were great with a little help.

4. If you are going on a planned field trip through your homeschool group ask if strollers are okay.  I hate showing up with a sleeping little one (After having driven around the block for an hour to get to sleep!  LOL) only to find out I must wake him up taking him out of the stroller!

I hope this helps answer your question JR.  Thanks for asking!

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Christopher's Lapbook

July 26, 2007 at 10:26 am (Uncategorized)

This is my friend Christopher.  He made this awesome lapbook and said I could share it here with you…

Here is the cover:
It is called My America and he covered the folders with fabric!  Isn’t that beautiful!  He also made the flag out of fabric scraps glued to a piece of cardboard and then attached to the folder.  I just love it!

This is the inside left folder:
Here he has a time line, a booklet about America Symbols (like the Flag, Liberty Bell, etc.) a booklet on American Holidays (When they are and what they are.) a booklet on people (George Washington, Abe Lincoln, Betsey Ross, etc…) and a little match game of USA Landmarks and their descriptions.

Here is a closeup of the Holidays Booklet:
I think this is so clever!  He took a worksheet on the Holidays and cut them and folded them to fit in his booklet!  Great idea! 

Here is a closeup of his Landmarks Matching Game:
Excellent! (Oh, it is laminate with clear contact paper too!)

Inside Right Folder:
Here he has a flap on money.  This I thought was so clever.  He cut up a money placemat (.99 cents at Wal-Mart.) and made each of the coins and bills a little flap.  Inside he told about the denomination for the money and the Presidents on that denomination.  In the middle is a flag and under it is the meaning of each part of the flag. Below the flag is a ziploc baggie booklet of Patriotic Songs.  On the right is a cool game on the names of the States.  He took a blank USA map and numbered each State.  Then made the spinner at the top and has a check list to see if he gets the answers right!  So cool and clever!

Here is a close up of the game:

Close-up Under Flag:
This is under the flag and tells what the colors mean:
Red- Courage

Here is a close up of his ziploc baggie booklet:

Wow!  What a great job!  Thank you so much Christopher (& Mom) for letting me share your AWESOME lapbook!

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The Cost of Homeschooling/Train Museum

July 25, 2007 at 10:27 am (Uncategorized)

One of the fun things we did on our vacation was to visit the California State Railroad Museum.  This is a place that we have been to several times before, but not since #3 was old enough to enjoy it.  My youngest child is in love with all modes of transportation.  He loves cars, buses, bikes, motorcycles, planes, trains and anything else that moves and carries people.  I could hardly wait to see how he liked the Train Museum and he did not disappoint me!  He LOVED it!!! 

Here the kids are in front of a train at the entrance.

This is the kids exiting the Pullman Car.
This is a really fun exhibit because as you walk through the train car it is actually swaying like it is moving and has the sounds of the track being played inside.  There is a gentlemen inside who talked to the kids all about the sleeping car and let them feel the mattresses and see how they pull down from the ceiling.  Very cool!

The Dining Car
This is the (wax) chef and waiter in the Dining Car.

This lady was letting the kids ring the dinner bell that called guest to the tables.
On the tables are samples of the actual menus from the different train lines in the past and the China.  The kids thought it was amazing that the children’s meals were .40 and .50 cents!

This is my 3 year old checking out the coal burning in the engine.
There wasn’t really any coal burning, but they did have it lit up to look like it was burning.

My daughter in the conductors chair of the engine.

My kids with our friend Faye who joined us at the Museum.

Checking out the mail bags on the mail car.

The boys in the mail car.
The boys had a blast together!  My 12 year old remembers going to this museum when he was 3 and he loved showing everything to his little brother for the 1st time.

There were also model trian exhibits, which the 3 year old LOVED!

This is one of my favorite pictures from the trip.
The boys look like they are listening to info about trains, but really they are having a conversation with each other!  LOL 

This is such a cool place and the kids had a GREAT time.  But, what does it have to do with the cost of homeschooling?  Well, one of the questions people (Usually Dad’s.) often ask me about homeschooling is "What does it cost to homeschool?"  I have decided after 10 years of homeschooling that is an impossible question to answer.  It all depends upon how you do the Math!  What do you figure in to the cost of your children’s education?  Would this trip to the Train Museum be a part of their educational expenses?  They certainly learned a lot!  But, would I figure in the cost of gas to get to California, the cost of hotels, eating out, admissions.  Or would I only count the curriculum I buy?  What about lapbooking, craft and other project expenses? (I would have to buy school supplies if they were in a traditional school, right?) Now here is the real BIG question…What about the salary I could have been making if my kids were in a traditional school?  What do you take into consideration? I think you could come up with a number as high or as low as you want!  I believe if someone really wanted to they could homeschool for free.  Using the internet, library and other community resources you could keep the cost to almost nothing.  Most of us don’t do that, but I do believe it is possible. My family tends to spend a lot on traveling because it is something we enjoy.  I am sure we would still do some traveling even if the kids were in traditional school. (We do a lot more with homeschooling because we are not tied to someone else’s schedule and can take off whenever we want.)  We are also starting to see a bigger return on our curriculum investment now that #2 and #3 are starting to use the Sonlight and Math-U-See I invested in for #1.  I remember once when I only had 1 child a homeschool Mother of 6 telling me I "wasting" money because Sonlight was "so expensive" and I was "only" going to use it with one child.  In my opinion the money was well spent.  Yes, there were cheaper alternatives, and using Sonlight was a choice to cut things in other places. But, compared to private school Sonlight was a bargain.  Also considering that I LOVE to get up every day and open up our Sonlight books I figured they were well worth the investment for ME!

So, I guess I have been no help in answering the "What does it cost to homeschool question."  But I think the bigger question is "What is homeschooling worth to you?"  Is it worth giving up your salary?  Is it worth taking educational vacations instead of cruises for 2?  Is it worth spending your hard earned money for curriculum and field trips and school supplies?  Is it worth dedicating a part of your house to storing all your learning materials? Is it worth having your children home all day for you to deal with?  Is it worth having a less tidy house because your house is also a school? Is it worth struggling to make it on one income in a two income world? Is it worth defending your choice to homeschool with skeptics and critics?  For me the answer is a resounding YES!  When I look at the pictures of my kids at the Train Museum enjoying each other, enjoying learning and enjoying that their education is a part of their everyday life (Even when they are on vacation!) I know that the cost of homeschooling is well worth the investment.

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Lemonade Pie

July 24, 2007 at 11:37 am (Uncategorized)

Last month when I blogged about Frozen Lemonades some wonderful Anonymous person left the following comment…

Jun. 29, 2007 – lemonade pie

Posted by Anonymous (

A favorite in our home is a can of lemonade mixed with 1/2 gal slightly melted vanilla ice cream. Pour the mixture into two graham cracker pie crusts and refreeze. Yum Yum! Also works well with limeaid.

Let me tell you…this is WONDERFUL!  We made it once while we were on vacation and it was a smashing success!  Then I made it again yesterday and well this is going to be my stand by dessert for Summer!  Yum Yum, it is delicious and since I only like to cook things that are not really cooked (LOL) this recipe is very ME!

I can hardly wait to make it with limeade!  Thank you Anonymous blogger whoever you are!!!

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Look Mom No Training Wheels!

July 24, 2007 at 10:47 am (Uncategorized)

One of my fondest memories from childhood is the day my Dad took the training wheels off my bike.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  The wind in my hair, the neighborhood kids cheering me on and chasing after me, the feeling of pride that I could ride like the wind, how proud my Dad was of me…..

So imagine how I felt this weekend when my own darling daughter had her training wheels removed!

Getting started with a little help from Dad!

Dad holding up his hands so I can see she is riding all on her own!

Father and daughter proud of their accomplishment!

I hope this is a day she will remember for the rest of her life too!

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