This Month's Featured Resources...


ChristmasHistory BundleChristmas Latin Latin Calendar

Tuesday, December 12

Cultural Cooking : Russian


Something a little different this holiday season...we're featuring a traditional Christmas meal from Russia. Pull out your matryoshka dolls, light up the tree, and ... приятного аппетита (Enjoy!)

Kazakh Chai
  • 6 c Water
  • 6 tsp Loose black tea
  • 6 Cardamon pods
  • 1 1/2 tsp Fennel seeds
  • 3 c Milk
  • Sugar or honey to taste
  1. Combine the water, tea, cardamon, and fennel seeds in a large saucepan and simmer over low heat for 3 min.
  2. Add the milk and 2 min. later, strain the tea into cups.
  3. Add sugar/honey.

Christmas Sochivo recipe
  • 14 oz wheat
  • 3 oz honey
  • 6 oz poppy seeds
  • 6 oz walnuts
  • salt to taste
  1. Sort wheat, wash and put in boiling water.
  2. Bring to a boil, drain and wash under cold water, bring to boil, cover tightly and put in the oven until soft.  Then take out and cool down.
  3. Wash poppy seeds, scald, wash under cold water and ground until homogenous and white.  Add sugar or honey and a bit of salt.  Combine with wheat.
  4. If sochivo is very dense, add some water. At the end add chopped walnuts.
Beef Stroganoff
  • 2 1/4 lb beef (boneless)
  • 4 Tbsp flour
  • 4 Tbsp ketchup
  • 5 oz sour cream
  • 2 c broth
  • 1 Tbsp flour mixed with butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • salt to taste
  • pepper
  1. Cut the meat into long strips, and beat the pieces a little.  Season and roll them in flour.
  2. Saute chopped onion in a pan on high and, when it is gold brown, put the strips there.  Brown meat.
  3. Saute the flour that you mixed with butter for few minutes, add sour cream, ketchup, salt.
  4. Pour the sauce over meat and stew on a low heat during 15-20 minutes.
  5. Beef Stroganoff is served with fried potatoes.

Monday, December 11

Nutcracker Unit Study & a Giveaway (Fifth Day of Christmas)

On the fifth day of Christmas....

We gave you a Christmas classic, redesigned for homeschooling fun!
One of our Christmas traditions is to gussy up and go see the Nutcracker Ballet.  We follow it up with a nice restaurant, and the kids don't even know that they're learning about culture and etiquette.  Good memories, and a nice family tradition...  This year, we've decided to take the month of December off from our regular curriculum and do some fun unit studies.  The week preceding our Nutcracker outing will surely be focused solely on Tchaikovsky and the ballet!

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, ...Clara receives a nutcracker for Christmas, and wonderful things begin to happen.   There’s the battle with the Mouse King, the nutcracker magically transforming into a handsome prince, the trip to the kingdom of the Sugar Plum Fairy, and finally the question the next morning of whether it was all Clara's dream.  Was it?


If you’re want to listen to highlights, I recommend the key dances from The Land of the Sweets.  (The Battle Scene is from Act I, but leads into Act II.)

Saturday, December 9

Free Lego Christmas Goodies & a Giveaway (Fourth Day of Christmas)

On the fourth day of Christmas....

We gave you some free Lego goodies!!


Lego Crafts

Lego Advent Calendar

  • Pop the advent calendar box open on December 1st, and every day you will get to open a door that reveals a "mini-build" for an item to populate the holiday scene.  Legos every day!

A Holiday Tradition

Charlie Brown : Christmas special (see note below)

You can find all of the Charlie Brown holiday specials, as well as several extras (like 'the Mayflower Voyagers,' seen here) onthis DVD collection.  It's one that my children have watched over and over again...making it a holiday tradition for almost every holiday! 



This is part of the Twelve Days of Christmas giveaway extravangza!  Be sure to visit the landing page and enter all of the giveaways!



Today's winner will receive a copy of Write from Early Modern History.

Reader-Freebie
You can download the Lego Christmas pack for FREE through the form below.  We ask that you do not share the files, but direct your friends to our page.  If you like it, this pack, as well as the other eleven months of the year, can be found individually at our Educents store.  There are also several other Lego-themed products, and a bundle pack at a lower price.

Friday, December 8

Christmas Goodies & A Giveaway! (Third Day of Christmas)

On the third day of Christmas.....

One of our favorite things to do each year is bake up a multitude of treats to hand out to friends and family around town.  The kids are learning life skills, all while having immense amounts of fun destroying our kitchen!!!  Which then brings us to the 'cleaning' life skill...

Christmas cookies are always first on the list.  We bake several different kinds, and put a couple of each into every box we give out.  Some of the kids' favorites to make are :


They also came up with the Chocolate Peppermint Krispies, which are quick and easy to make...and an often-requested treat from the recipients!



Finally, as a family tradition, when the temperatures are consistently below-freezing, we make our Cinnamon Hot Candy.  This one requires more adult supervision.


While you've got the oven turned on, and the ingredients pulled out, why not whip up a batch of cinnamon applesauce ornaments.  They'll make your tree smell cinnamon-y delicious for days!



And while you're baking up all this magic, why not have a crockpot of hot apple cider going in the background?  It'll bring a heavenly scent to the whole house, and some healthy yumminess to end your day!  Have a girls' night out baking party with our six favorites, featured here in the Happy Holiday Baking Party!

What's your favorite holiday treat to bake up with the kids?






This is part of the Twelve Days of Christmas giveaway extravangza!  Be sure to visit the landing page and enter all of the giveaways!

Today's winner will receive a copy of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Canning.

Thursday, December 7

DIY Mason Jar Lights & A Giveaway! (Second Day of Christmas)

On the second day of Christmas.....

Little Log Cottage School taught us how to make Mason Jar Lights!

These cute mason jar lights are inexpensive and easy to make.  Such a simple elegance, especially on a dark winter evening, they're a wonderful craft for the kids to whip up as Christmas gifts!!  

While anyone can make these, they are simple enough that even your littles will be excited and able to get involved.  So let's get started!


You'll need :









Pull the napkin apart so you you have one thin layer of the decorative part of the napkin. Then cut it up into fourths.







Now for the messy part. Set the jar and Modge Podge on a paper plate. Quickly paint a couple of strokes of Modge Podge onto the jar.





Start adding the pieces of napkin around the jar. Add as much Modge Podge as you need.

Once it’s all covered you can go over it with a light amount of Modge Podge to secure the napkin and to smooth out any wrinkles.

Turn on your tea light candle and drop it down into the jar.


See the original post here.





This is part of the Twelve Days of Christmas giveaway extravangza!  Be sure to visit the landing page and enter all of the giveaways!


Today's winner will receive a Cricut prize package.

Wednesday, December 6

The Magic of Advent & a Giveaway (First Day of Christmas)

On the first day of Christmas....


Our Cozy Den gave us the gift of a Magical Advent Season - including a free advent calendar!!

Our children love using the homemade elf calendar I made a few years ago nearly as much, if not more, than Christmas Day itself.  
But you don't have to get fancy with the needle and thread.....here's an easy way to bring the advent season into your home!
The activities that we do are a mixture of several different kinds of things: crafts, outings, giving back, & traditions. Here is how you can incorporate these things to create an Advent calendar of your own!
  1. Print off your Advent calendar.
  2. Do some research.
    • For many of the activities below, no research is needed. But for things in your local area, you’ll need to browse around the internet a while to find some fun places to go!
  3. Put your activities into something fun for the kids!
    • It doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be as simple as cards pinned on a string, a paper chain, a 24-ct muffin pan with paper covering the holes, etc. There are an infinite number of ways to do this, so you can make it as crafty (or not) as your ability/time allows!
I try to mix it up so we are doing a little of everything, and it’s all spread out pretty evenly. Take a look at some of the categories below, and start filling out the calendar that you printed in step 1.

Traditions
  • Put up the tree & decorate the house (this is always day 1 for us)
  • Build & decorate gingerbread houses
  • Get new ornaments and add them to the tree
  • Tell the Nativity Story (we get out our Little People Nativity Set and reenact it!)
  • Make & decorate Christmas cookies
  • Christmas caroling
  • Get a new Christmas movie
  • Christmas tree pancakes (with sprinkles!)
  • Christmas Eve scavenger hunt — when we get home from church on Christmas Eve, the kids have a set of clues to follow that leads them to a family gift. It’s always a game, movie, or toy that we will all share. That’s the only gift that gets opened on Christmas Eve.
Giving Back
  • Take toys to the Toys for Tots drive
  • Fill shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child
  • Take Christmas cookies to the neighbors
  • Take goodies to local fire stations/police stations
  • Random Acts of Kindness day — this one is my favorite day of Advent. We also do it randomly throughout the year.
Crafts & Games
  • Mistletoes
  • Handprint Santas
  • Rudolph paper bag puppets
  • Jingle Bell bracelets
  • Paper plate wreaths
  • Christmas BINGO
  • Gingerbread dice game
  • Salt dough ornaments
  • Pipe cleaner candy canes
  • Cotton ball snowmen
  • Christmas tree crafts
Outings
  • Homeschool co-op Christmas party
  • Work Christmas party
  • Live nativity at a church
  • Christmas lights at the zoo
  • Craft & story time at the book store
  • Christmas events at the library
  • Ride the North Pole Express train
  • Christmas party at the Children’s Museum
  • Drive around and look at lights
  • Christmas party at the art museum
  • See the Nutcracker Ballet
  • Christmas festivals
  • Christmas markets
  • Christmas activities with the local Parks Department
  • Add your own!  (Chances are, your family already has some traditions that you do every year. Put those in the calendar so it’s a surprise when the time comes to do it!)
See original post here.


This is part of the Twelve Days of Christmas giveaway extravangza!  Be sure to visit the landing page and enter all of the giveaways!


Today's winner will receive a copy of Dr. Bonyfide's complete Know Yourself Academy curriculum!


winteriscomingWe’re joining the Mommy Island and The Kids Did It to bring you MANY great giveaways today!!  Be sure to enter them all, found below.

Tuesday, December 5

Help Somebody (Van Zant)

We stay in a LOT of hotels throughout the year....every city comes with a new hotel room, as well as the transitory stays between cities. So a few years ago, we started making notes and picking and choosing our favorites, as well as noting why they were chosen, so that we would remember to stay there (or avoid it) the next time we were in the area. Thus was born our "Hotel of the Year" award. 



Some years, (such as the Middlebury Inn in 2014) there's a clear-cut winner, while others (such as Hampton Inn - Mannheim in 2015) it's been a close call. This year's award was easily given...

2017 Hotel of the Year : Holiday Inn Express - Lebanon, PA
Without further ado, meet D-Khana - a little man with a big smile! (Although, he's not a fan of having his picture taken...LOL.) He alone was the reason this year's winner was so easy to choose.

D-Khana works at the Holiday Inn Express in Lebanon, PA, and it's our favorite hotel stay of the year. Interestingly, it's only a stone's throw from a previous winner...and we really think that this area is one of the friendliest areas in the US. If you haven't visited Central PA, you should plan a trip!

We were at this particular stop for almost two weeks, and had a chance to see the ins and outs of this location.  D-Khana works in maintenance, but he's more of a customer service man.  No job is too big or too small...even if it's not his job.  In fact, not once did he ever exhibit the "it's not my job" attitude.  We saw him covering maintenance, customer service, housekeeping, breakfast, and the front desk - all with a terrific attitude!  

When our air conditioner quit working and the room had some other issues, but the hotel was completely booked, he found us a new place and then went straight to work trying to fix the original issue.  When someone quit and didn't show up for their job, he did his own and her job, too!  He came early, he stayed late.  When it was his day off, but a co-worker didn't have a ride to work, he picked up said co-worker, brought him in, and then proceeded to work both of those days without pay...just so he could be there to bring the man back home after work.  

In the spirit of full disclosure, he works the day shift - which was fabulous, while the evening shift was completely and utterly useless.  In fact, the few times we had an issue in the evening, and were unable to get it resolved within a few hours (or even just a question that resulted in shoulder shrugs from the staff before they turned away), we would bring it to him in the morning and have an answer / resolution very quickly.  He is ALWAYS trying to see how he can make someone else's day brighter!

D-Khana exhibited an attitude toward life, and his work, that is lacking in today's society.  He sees something that needs doing, and he does it without being asked.  He expends more energy on helping others than he does on pleasing himself.  His work ethic is outstanding, and he is why we voted this small-town hotel as our best stay of the year.  

So the next time you're heading to Amish Country, Hershey, Chocolate World, or Gettysburg...you now know where to stay!!



How to Write a Business Letter (and Why!)
As students become teens, it’s time for them to learn how to write a business letter. The goal of this writing is to articulate a concern and seek or suggest an action.

Whether you've experienced troubles or enjoyed your stay, a business letter or follow-up to a phone call is a life skill that all teens should learn. These letters aren't just for expressing displeasure -- they're also a great opportunity to point out what's right with your product / service...although all too often, these letters aren't the ones that get written.

Business letters are used for the following situations :
  • To praise a product, service supplier, or staff person
  • To compliment a speaker
  • To compliment or praise an author
  • To praise someone for an achievement
  • To complain about poor product quality or poor service
  • To ask for political or social action or change
  • To write a letter of recommendation
  • To request information
A few notes :
  • Letters may be written in block or indented form. See examples of both here.
  • Be professional.  A business letter should be on par with a resume; clean and precise.  It should also be fair and not abusive (if it is a letter of complaint).
  • Write clearly and to a point.  Use active writing and short paragraphs.  Keep it to a single page, if possible.
  • Single space your letter and leave a space between each paragraph. Use a plain font like Arial or Times New Roman.
  • Use underlining or bold print to emphasize a few words or a phrase that is the most important part of the letter.
  • Be persuasive.  Suggest a solution and provide sound reasoning for the suggestion.
  • Proofread your letter!!  I cannot stress this enough.

Writing Assignment

Use the sample letter below to practice writing a letter to one of these recipients :
  • City council member 
  • State legislator, representative, or governor 
  • Owner of a local business 
  • President or CEO of a corporation 
  • College or university admissions department 
  • Chamber of Commerce (to request brochures or travel information

Sample Letter Format

Contact Information (Your contact information. If you are writing on letterhead that includes your contact information, you do not need to include it at the start of the letter.)
Your Name
Your Address
Your City, State, Zip Code
Your Phone Number
Your Email Address

Date

Contact Information (The person or company you are writing to)
Name
Title
Company
Address
City, State, Zip Code

Dear Mr./Ms. Last Name: (Use a formal salutation, not a first name, unless you know the person extremely well. Note that the person's name is always followed by a colon (:) in a business letter, and not a comma. If you do not know the recipient’s name, it is still common (and safe) to use the old-fashioned “To Whom It May Concern:”).

The first paragraph of your letter should provide an introduction as to why you are writing so that your purpose is obvious from the very beginning.

In the following paragraphs, provide more information and specific details about your request or the information you are providing.

The last paragraph of your letter should reiterate the reason you are writing and thank the reader for reviewing your request. If appropriate, it should also politely ask for a written response or for the opportunity to arrange a meeting to further discuss your request.

Sincerely / Thank you,   (Choose one.)

Leave four lines for a Handwritten Signature (for a hard copy letter — use blue or black ink to sign the letter)

Typed Signature

Monday, December 4

Teaching Kids About Herbs : Echinacea


December's herb is Echinacea...a fabulous daily immune booster, just in time for winter!


Echinacea (Coneflower)
Just the Facts

  • Plant Description : Echinacea looks like tall daisies with purple (or pink) flowers and a large, prickly seed cone…hence the name ‘coneflower.’  The leaves feel rough.
  • Parts to use : Entire plant may be used
  • Used primarily for : Inflammation, cold / flu, immune booster, infection
  • You can make : Tea, tincture, capsule, syrup
Projects

  • Echinacea Tea : Mix 1 Tbsp dried echinacea with 1 cup hot water, steep 5 minutes, and strain the herbs.  Drink a cup every hour or two until you start to feel better.  (Echinacea is a very safe herb, and you can take it in large doses, and frequently.)
  • Toothache Soother : Make lozenges using echinacea tea (see the section on Slippery Elm) and chew or suck on them as needed to ease the pain of toothaches and erupting teeth.
Do it Yourself!

Friday, December 1

Do a Good Deed in December!

December – Do a Good Deed!
‘Tis the season to do something good for others.  While you’re at it, do something good for yourself!  What do I mean?

Examples of Ways to Give
 What will Giving to Others do for your health?
  • Being altruistic can lower your blood pressure…it lowers stress and increases gratitude.
  • Being charitable could help your heart.  Happiness helps protect your heart.  Moving around (physical exercise) while giving back is even better.
  • Giving back could help you live longer.  You’ll be more satisfied, too.
  • Practicing gratitude will help you sleep better.  Well-rested people are happier people.
  • Generosity and gratitude can reduce your stress…and we all know that less stress is better.
What will it do for you as a person?
  • Volunteering can relieve the sense of social isolation and help you fill empty hours in the day.
  • Everyone, rich or poor, takes from society, and volunteering is one way to show a sense of appreciation.
  • Volunteering is an excellent way to explore your likes and dislikes, or to practice a hobby.
  • Volunteering can offer a new perspective—seeing people who are worse off than you are, yet still hanging in there, can help you see your life in a whole new light.
  • When you volunteer, you realize just how much you are truly needed. Meeting people who need your help is a strong incentive to continue—people are depending on you. And unlike your job at home, the recipients are usually appreciative!
  • Helping others makes you feel good about yourself, because you’re doing something for someone that they couldn’t do for themselves.

Do Something Good for Yourself
Laughing has some pretty amazing effects, which can last up to 45 minutes after the giggling is over...
  • decreases pain
  • relaxes muscles
  • boosts immune system
  • strengthens heart
  • reduces stress
  • releases endorphins
  • exercises abdominal muscles
  • improves circulation
  • helps us live in the moment 
 Laughter trumps stress every time.  Pencil some fun into your schedule, whether it's a comedy club date night, a funny movie, or just reading jokes with your kids!

 


Lose the Phone
I really think it’s come to this….that we have to list this as a way to give to others and to yourself.  Crawl out of the virtual world and back into the real one!
 
Seriously.  I don't own one, and this gives me the unique perspective of being able to look around at restaurants, stores, and literally every single place that we go and see people just glued to their phones.  Teenagers are sitting in a silent group....everyone is on their device.  Couples are out on date night....and they're both on their devices.  Families are out for dinner....the kids are entertaining themselves while their parents are technologically-engaged (or, if the kids are older, all of them are engaged).  Please - for the sake of the future of humanity, declare couple-time and family time "tech-free."
Great graphic from imgur.com.