Kiddos at Home

kids, crafts, food and fun while home schooling

Summer Activities for the Kiddos

When it comes to summer time, I feel like I need to take every opportunity possible to do projects with the kids, take them on mini excursions and just make the absolute best for their summer vacation! I know there are so many years ahead before they are off to college and getting their first jobs, but I also hear so many people saying just how fast the time went.

And you know once college comes and they get those jobs, relationships and their own families… well there just won’t be time (as there shouldn’t be if I did my mothering correctly!) to go with their parents to the zoo or on a cross-country road trip or out for ice cream! So I want to give my children all those fun experiences while we can!

But when it comes to doing fun things, there also comes the price you have to pay to participate. And things are sure going up in price! Every time I turn around, it seems even a box of cereal has gone up another dollar in price. So what do you do, besides sell off your first born, to pay for all these fun things to do? Or do you just say to heck with it, they can have just as many memories at the park as they can at Disneyworld?!

Here is a list of fun things to do with your kids:

Lowes hardware store offers “Kids Clinics” where your child can learn to use tools and build things like birdhouses and fire trucks. The classes are FREE and your kids will get a free apron! These classes are a great opportunity for you and your kids to learn some great new skills.


If you are a Bank of America member, check out their Museums on Us program just for card holders! Just click on your city, or a city you will be visiting and see what is available to you. What a great way to save just by showing your card!


Be sure to check out museums near you – many offer free admission days at least one time a month. They may also offer special summer classes or camps just for kids. Museums are a great way to keep your child’s brain learning and growing during summer vacation!


National Geographic put together this list of 20 free museums in the United States. It is worth checking it out to see if one is local to you or in a city you may be planning to vacation this summer!




Some national parks have pricey entrance fees. If your family enjoys a good hike like we do, you will be happy to hear that the National Park Service has several free admission days throughout the year. The next entrance-free day in 2013 is August 25th in celebration of the National Park Service Birthday. Check out other free entrance dates here.




If you live near a big city, or plan to visit one this summer, check out a program called CityPASS. Purchasing a pass (they currently offer in 11 US cities) entitles you to admission to different theme parks, museums, etc. based on the city of the pass you purchase. It is valid for 14 days from purchase, so it is a great opportunity if you want a whirlwind tour of one of these cities at a HUGELY discounted rate!


For a list of 65 FREE things your kids can do at home this summer, visit a great blog I came across called Homey Home Design. This list is full of great ideas from building forts to washing the family car!


If you have any other cheap or free ideas to keep your kiddos from being bored this summer, I would love to hear! I hope you are all enjoying those precious moments with your children and keeping your sanity as well.

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Fourth of July Food and Activities

Fourth of July has been my favorite holiday since I was a little kid.

While people say that the Christmas season is full of magic, I guess I always felt the magic in a warm summer night with the “ooo’s and aaah’s” coming from crowds of families enjoying the fireworks. When we were younger, we would go to the county fair to see the exploding lights in the sky, but when we got older, my dad would let us climb on the roof of the house so we could see the lights from four or so surrounding cities.

As a parent now, I enjoy making my children experience that same rush of excitement. In the afternoon, we host a big potluck with family and friends at our home. We dress in red, white and blue, have games and prizes and enjoy the summer weather. In the evening, we all take a drive to a nearby fireworks event, and we have sparklers to light after the fireworks come to an end. To end the night, we head back to the house and light up the fire pit in our back yard to make s’mores before bed time – sometimes setting up the tent to camp out in the back yard.

So what are some fun foods and games for the big event? Try out some of our favorites below!

It is not a summer BBQ without a good potato sack race! We hand out prizes for winners in different age groups – even the adults get involved with this game! Our prizes are not expensive, maybe a pair of patriotic sunglasses or a small toy. We often get our prizes from Oriental Trading, the same place we purchased out potato sacks. They have a dozen for less than $15, as shown in image above. What a bargain!



My husband refuses to participate in any holiday or event that does not serve deviled eggs. I am kidding, of course, but he really does love his deviled eggs! His favorite recipe is one I found by Emeril Lagasse, which I found on It has a little extra spice than your traditional or classic deviled egg and is worth trying out. Just remember to keep the eggs in the cooler so you don’t poison your guests with bad mayo!



If your grill is full of other foods, or you are planning not to light it up this year, try a quick and easy pulled pork recipe! I like to make pulled pork sandwiches for tail gate parties where grills are not allowed. It is Extremely cheap to make so if you are having a lot of guests or just need a quick and cheap recipe, this is the one! Let it sit in the slow cooker while you are preparing everything else. I only use this recipe from as I have gotten great compliments and it is SO easy!

Need some more ideas of food to serve for your Fourth of July gathering?

Corn on the Cob
Potato Salad
Chips and Dip
Veggies with Ranch Dip
Pork and Beans
Hot Dogs
Fruit Salad
Cucumber Salad (one of my favorites!)
Pie or Cake with Ice Cream
S’mores or Marshmallows

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The Importance of Eating as a Family



I remember when I was growing up, we rarely had dinners as a family. On the rare occasion that we did, we all sat on the couch or the floor in the living room in front of the television watching some old reruns. My family was not one to do a lot of talking and to this day we have odd relationships with each other – we have dinner probably twice a year together, making small talk until the check arrives at the table.

My husband had a completely opposite upbringing. They had dinner at 7:00 almost every single night, as a family. First they said grace, then they each got the opportunity to tell about their day. The parents also discussed politics, money, religion, the news… anything to get a conversation started and help their kids learn and grow. Now that they are all grown and on their own, they still have dinner as a family every couple weeks and they talk a couple times a week over the phone. They are all involved in each other’s lives and maintain very strong relationships.

When we were first dating and married, I found it extremely difficult to participate in my husband’s family gatherings. To be honest, I still do. I find myself shying away to a corner so I am never the center of conversation because, to me, it is just not normal to have a strong relationship with family.

When we first had kids, I knew immediately what kind of family relationship I wanted for my children. While I have never done well with the in-laws due to my shyness, I knew I wanted different for my kiddos. I love the way my husband gets along with his siblings and parents and I want nothing less for my family.

So, one Friday or Saturday night a month, we get together with his family for a big potluck. It is usually a BBQ in his parents backyard. The kids all run and play and have their own special table. The adults all sit and talk, luckily for me my new sister-in-law is also shy so I have someone to quietly talk to as the rest of them laugh and joke around with each other!

Every single night of the week, we serve dinner around 6:30. My kids help me cook if they are done with their homework and I clean up while they have some time with their father. We sit at a table and discuss the day. On weekends, we often play a board game once dinner is cleared from the table.

I can already see my children will have great relationships with each other.

Does your family do dinner together? How do you keep the conversation going to encourage more learning as a family?

For some amazing dinner ideas at a low-cost, visit where they have a ton of recipes that feed a family of 4 for under $10!

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Summer Reading

Summer reading is an extremely important activity for children and should be encouraged in every household.

You see, your kiddos are busy learning for nine or so months out of the year with school work. Their little brains are Constantly growing as they learn all the required materials for their grade level. But once summer time rolls around, parents and children alike are ready for a break!

Taking a two month break from giving our brains a workout is like not going to the gym for two months. Our bodies start to get flabby and start working against us – they forget the they are supposed to be strong and fit! Your child (and you!) need to constantly challenge your brain – make it work so it keeps on keepin’ on!

The other benefit in continuing to challenge your child is when the fall comes, your child will be that much more ready to go. If you keep discussing the things they learned in school over the summer, they are more likely to remember it when it comes time to learn those same subjects again!

Reading in the summer does NOT have to be a chore. Set aside an hour or so a day (I choose the hours with a peak UV Index outdoors because I don’t want them in the sun during that time anyway!) for reading time. The child get to pick any book they want to read so long as it is age appropriate (I did have one of my kiddos challenge me by picking out a book that was WAY too easy a read for her grade level!) and encourage them to keep track of how many pages they read a day.

There are many programs, both local and national, that encourage your children to read during the summer. The best way for you to find one in your community is by skimming your local Parks and Rec guides or doing an internet search for “Summer Reading Programs near _____”.

You can also visit the links below for national programs that give prizes like free books or pizza when your child reads a certain number of books.






Often times, public schools will give a list of books they want the kids to read during the summer in preparation of the upcoming school year. If you are a home school parent, you may be able to get your hands on one of these lists from the school district or a family friend with the same age kid. If not, check out these links to lists that will help you choose books for your kiddos.

ALA 2013 Notable Children’s Books

Oprah’s Kids’ Reading List Summer Reading

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Should Home School Children Have Homework?

A subject I hear many home school parents discussing is whether or not they should be assigning their children homework. After all, they are home all day working, so is it really necessary?

In my opinion, yes, the child should be required to do homework.

Why? Well, there are many different reasons.

Students, no matter whether they school in a regular classroom or at home, have the teacher right there with them every step of the way when learning something new. Homework is an opportunity to see how much a child retained from that information on their own. Yes, of course, a parent is still there to answer questions when needed and to check their answers when they are done. But the child should be doing most of the work themselves.

During homework time, a child should not run right to the parent when they do not know something. First, they should be consulting their books and notes. If a parent is always giving the answers, the child learns nothing from the homework assignment. Having them consult their books and notes helps the child to learn techniques of studying and proper note taking. Because a parent is not around much during college years and even in the child’s career later in life, these are extremely important lessons for the child to learn!

Having your child study alone also gives them confidence to do things solo. When it comes time for testing, the child should have enough confidence in him or herself to be able to take these tests without your help.

One more reason to assign homework to your child is so the other parent can help their child out. Like any school setting, many students respond better to certain teachers. If dad (or mom!) is working at the office all day, the child only has the opportunity to learn and study from the other parent. The working parent should use homework time to get involved in their child’s education and possibly help to clarify some things that didn’t click during school hours! The child will appreciate the efforts of both parents and their involvement in the education process.

I feel many home school parents do not give homework because they have not taken the time to create the homework assignments. While many books come with teacher supplements for this very purpose, often times they are not enough in helping your child learn everything they should. Do not give up! There are Many websites nowadays that offer printable homework worksheets for nearly every subject! Some require a minimal fee, like (about $20 a year), but are well worth the money spent.

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Back to School Budget – For Your Kiddos

Today I wanted to talk a little about back to school budgets.

My children have many friends who are Not from home school families, through sports and other activities. Those children always have their new shoes, new clothes and new binders every fall. While I used to feel it was not necessary for my children to have those new items specifically in the fall (I would just shop as needed), I felt my kids were uncomfortable being around the other children.



We are not, by any means, a materialistic family, but I hate to see my kiddos left out of conversations with their friends as they discuss their new back to school fashion. I like to see my kids fit in with the “regular school” children as much as possible!

So far that reason, I started a back to school budget for each child. With that money, they get to buy their own new clothing or supplies as they see fit. Should they choose to hold off for after school-year specials and purchase a bunch of new items or buy just a couple new things, I do not judge. So long as they are aware that this is the budget they get for the school year. Any other clothing is given as needed during growth spurts or special outfits for birthdays and other occasions.

Considering the prices out there for clothing lately (it seems as if a pair of shoes for $40 is actually a bargain!), we have a hard time coming up with a realistic budget. Jewelry, shoes, jeans and binders are all so expensive. Some are not even necessary, but again, I want my kids to feel good next to other kids! I feel I could have gone with $150 per child, but I also want to set an amount that makes our kids think before spending. Good sales and thrift stores are all options!

I finally decided to go with $80 for back to school supplies and a $10 allowance per week depending on the chores they complete around the house.

What do you think? Is this too high? Too low? Just right?

I would love to hear your opinions and your own back to school budget ideas!

If you are looking fun way to explain money and saving, use budget worksheets for your kiddos! Visit for printable worksheets. Also visit image source for more ideas on how to teach your kids about money.

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