Category Archives: Sustainable Living

An Honest & Thorough Review: “The Good & the Beautiful” Homeschool Curriculum

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An Honest & Thorough Review: “The Good & the Beautiful” Homeschool Curriculum

After a busy summer settling into our new property, chopping wood, planning gardens, and exploring our new 5 acres, we are now almost two months into our school year!  We have a 9 year old, a 7 year old, a 6 year old, and an almost 5 year old.  Of course, like any homeschool mom, I labored long and hard over the curriculum decision… wanting the absolute best for my kids.  However, being on a tight budget, “the best” seemed a far off dream.

Enter, The Good & the Beautiful! (Important note: These are my honest to goodness thoughts about this curriculum, I am not being compensated for this review, and we purchased the curriculum ourselves for use this year).

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A friend introduced me to The Good & the Beautiful just weeks before I planned to start our school year.  I spent hours reading reviews, exploring the freebies, and learning about the mission of this company.  I tear up just writing this post!  As I read Jenny’s mission, her values, and what she wanted to accomplish in creating this curriculum, my heart swelled inside me and I KNEW beyond a shadow of a doubt that THIS is what we were looking for!  I talked with my husband that night, showed him what I’d been learning, and he knew as well.  We ordered the levels we needed and waited in anticipation for them to arrive!

I am not one to skimp on academics so I also want a curriculum that covers all the bases.  The Good & the Beautiful goes above and beyond in that it includes an emphasis on good character and values in every lesson and reading!  This emphasis really spoke to me on a deep level because even above academics, I value character development… Jenny’s curriculum weaves character and values into every lesson.  It is a faith-based curriculum, but it doesn’t delve into doctrine or the deeper concepts of denominational differences.  She keeps it basic and focused on creation rather than evolution, and beauty rather than doctrine, allowing you as the parent, to incorporate doctrine and specific beliefs in according to your particular bent.

My motivation to “do school” swelled ten-fold as I prepared with new energy and excitement… I’m emotional again just now remembering that HOPE for a beautiful year of exploration and discovery guided by something I couldn’t create on my own. Below you can see the evolution of beauty in our homeschool space – this isn’t a post about our space… but as I anticipated with excitement the beauty of this curriculum, I was inspired to create… I hadn’t even received all the printed materials yet and I was already inspired just by browsing the pdf files I’d downloaded!  Jenny’s dream and passion is truly contagious!

Fast forward two months … We are fully in the throws of homeschooling… and honestly – loving it more than any other year!  Allow me to walk you through the products we are using and tell you what we love about them.

But first… take a look at these excited kids!

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LANGUAGE ARTS

Look at these photos of our struggling reader/speller… he has seriously grown so much just in these couple months of working with The Good and the Beautiful Language Arts Curriculum.  Look at those words he can READ and SPELL!  The repetition built into the program is fantastic but not tedious or boring.  It’s woven in artfully throughout the program in different ways so as not to become mundane.  The Mini-books (readers) that come with each Language Arts level are beautiful as well. The illustrations are quality, the stories are entertaining – often evoking peals of laughter from my children!

The Good and the Beautiful Curriculum is in an “Open and Go” Style.  This means there is little to NO prep work for teacher (do you hear that, Mom? No Prep!).  In the Language Arts programs, it is literally open and go, NO PREP!  Some of the history and science lessons do require some prep, but it isn’t extensive nor is it expensive – Thank you Jenny!

Jenny, being a homeschool mom herself, obviously KNOWS what we homeschool mom’s need… Look at this excerpt from one of the language arts books!  Do you see the lovely check boxes!  This “open  & go” style of workbook with it’s handy check boxes make it SOOO easy to keep track of what’s been completed and where we need to start next time!  Being a teacher of multiple children and grade levels at one time I find this feature to be a HUGE help in keeping me on track.

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Overall, I LOVE The Good & the Beautiful Language Arts Curriculum!  We have been using the Level K & Level 2 curriculum this year.  Our 6 year old will graduate to Level 1 probably about half-way through the year and our 4, almost 5 year old, will probably graduate INTO Level K.  Our 8 year old, 9 this week, is working through the Level 2 book and will probably finish it before the year is up as she is highly academic and independent.  She LOVES the geography that is so beautifully incorporated into the curriculum, and is truly learning to understand and appreciate art!  I love all the beautiful pieces and the brief history of the piece as it is mentioned in the lessons.

Frugal Mom Tip:  I would highly recommend purchasing the PRINTED curriculum for at least one child.  I purchased the printed book and the PDF downloads.  I printed the whole download in black and white for each child, and then, when we come to a page with artwork or something else better viewed in color, I pull out the printed book.  In this way I am able to use the printed book for more than one child.  If you can afford to purchase the printed book for each child, I also encourage you to do that just to support this amazing company!

SCIENCE

Oh how we are loving science!  We are working on the Arthropod (Bugs) unit this year!  As I was creating our homeschool space the kids were inspired and motivated to prepare for their bug study – energy and inspiration is contagious – The Good and the Beautiful got us ALL excited for the school year!  They scrambled with the small amount of summer we had left to collect various bugs for their bug board!  They accumulated quite a collection!  Here is a sampling!

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Check out the variety of Science Units The Good and the Beautiful offers!  None of these sets is over $22 for the PRINTED COPY and all are full color on high quality glossy paper.  We ordered the Meteorology unit for our next unit as we will be finished with Arthropods by the beginning of 2018.  And there are more units planned for the coming years, so keep checking back!

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TYPING

I cannot begin to express how thrilled I am with this course!  My 8 year old is fast becoming an accomplished typist!  She types quickly and accurately without looking at the keyboard, and all without the “video game” style distraction of most modern programs!

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NOTEBOOKS

We have been using the Nature Notebook this year but I also ordered the Creative Writing Notebook.  The Nature Notebook is wonderful for exploring the seasons.  Once a week is enough to accomplish each season’s activities during that season.  The Creative Writing Notebook is beautifully designed and we can’t wait to use it next year.

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HANDWRITING

The Handwriting courses are wonderful independent work for the kids!  As you can see below, my son’s handwriting has improved visibly in just the past several weeks!

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Each page includes handwriting practice and art!  Sometimes just asking to draw or color a picture, sometimes giving more direction like, “Draw a picture of a mountain or a rainbow”.  I love that the kids can work independently on their practice as the numbers and arrows are there for their instruction. 45

 

HISTORY

Can I just say, this History Curriculum is GORGEOUS and FUN!  We’ve been learning about Creation and Ancient Egypt so far.  The activities are not only educational, they are fun as well!  Dressing up like Egyptians, making a representative timeline on the floor demonstrating how LONG the period of Ancient Egypt was as compared to how long the US has been a nation!  I’M learning along with the kids!  The Big Book of History Stories is high quality, full color, and engaging writing!  We love when we get to pull that book out with a lesson!

IMG_4506We adore the audio dramatizations that accompany the curriculum as well!  I really feel they enhance the experience.  Also, even though our children are young, we’ve been enjoying the Keys of History Board Game.  I, as the teacher, appreciate the sneaky repetition this board game accomplishes!  Seriously, all those facts I labored over in public and private school – all here, in cooperative game fashion (we work as a team to “beat the clock”), studied from a young age.  These kids will actually REMEMBER these facts when they are adults… and they won’t even know they worked to memorize them!

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BOOK LIST

This Book List has been a FOUNDATIONAL part of our homeschool plan this year!  The books included on the list are ALL wonderful books you can truly trust to be safe for your children!  We have very much enjoyed reading books aloud off The Good & the Beautiful Book List, as well as reading alone during Quiet Reading Time.  Our favorite so far is a book we would have never found had it not been for this list… A Tree For Peter… What a beautiful inspiring read!  The Good and the Beautiful team puts out an ANNUAL update to this list, continually adding to the amount of beautiful books you can feel confident about!

Jenny is graciously offering a FREE book list download to my followers,
valid only from 11/8/17-11/11/17 … Check out the sample page below.
There are over 500 books listed and thoroughly reviewed on this book list!
Click on the image below to find the Book List!

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TIME

Of course, there is also the question of time!  How much TIME does it take to get through the lessons, and school as a whole for the day.  That is another thing I love so much about The Good and the Beautiful !  It’s open and go so I’m not scurrying about during school hours wasting precious time gathering supplies, or printing a forgotten worksheet.  I’m homeschooling four children Level 2 and under, so all of our lessons in the Language Arts book and for History and Science are done with me there.  We start school at 8am, and we’re done between 11-12!  That’s 3-4 hours TOTAL!  I’m not even kidding!  And I spend at least 30-40 minutes with each child INDIVIDUALLY and then we do History together twice a week and Science and Nature together once a week.  I have the family lessons sprinkled throughout the week on different days so it’s not all clumped into one day.  Not only does this 3-4 hours include The Good and the Beautiful Language Arts, History, Science, and Nature… I’m also doing Math with all the kids and one is doing The Good and the Beautiful Typing!  We are ALWAYS done before lunch!  Isn’t that incredible!

 

COST

As a homeschool mom on a very tight budget, I SOOO appreciate Jenny’s commitment to making The Good and the Beautiful AFFORDABLE!  Not only are the printed materials SUPER reasonably priced, there are also many FREE downloads if you just can’t scrap together the money to buy the printed version!  She STRIVES to make it possible for every homeschool family to have access to QUALITY curriculum!  This mission and purpose is something I can stand behind and support WHOLEHEARTEDLY!

Look here at a couple of the science units for an example.  You can print the Arthropods Unit at home for only $8.99!  Or you can buy it and have it shipped to you for only $16!  The Meteorology unit is the most expensive unit and still only costs $12.99 for the PDF or $22 for the printed + PDF!  These units are WELL worth that amount of money!

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Also, look at the Language Arts Level 1 Course set.  You can get the whole thing for FREE if you just access the PDF download (look at the color portions on a Tablet or computer or print it in color at home or an office supply store).  Or, you can order the physical course set for only $58!  How many curriculum’s can you name where an entire year of Literature, Spelling, Phonics & Reading, Grammar & Punctuation, Art Appreciation & Writing (& Geography as well in Level 2 and up) are included for only $58!  Or, save yourself a couple bucks and print the phonics cards at home and spend only $51 for the physical course set!  This is AFFORDABLE!

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Don’t want to buy the whole set… maybe you’ve bought it already and just need the coursebook again for another child?  Buy pieces separately.

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That Level K Reader is so cute and fun to read.  Forget other primary readers and their repetitive “blah” style and unimaginative stories.  This reader is wonderfully written to inspire and teach!

OTHER REVIEWS

If you’re still not convinced, to supplement your research, here are a few other reviews on this amazing curriculum:

 

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Well, I think that about covers it!  I think you can tell that we LOVE The Good and the Beautiful!  Please hop on over to the website and explore the curriculum for yourself!  Download one or more of the FREE Language Arts courses and read the whole thing!  Take the guesswork out of ordering the printed copy by previewing the entire course for FREE!

Don’t forget to take advantage of that FREE Book List Download as well!

 

 

Have you tried any of The Good and the Beautiful Curriculum in your homeschool?
Comment below and let me know your thoughts as well!

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Making Jam – First Harvest

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On the hunt for Jam Recipes lately!  I need a way to use all that rhubarb that is coming up! 🙂  I love these adorable jelly jars!  Wouldn’t they make cute gifts?!

So, I tried three recipes yesterday.  The first is this reduced sugar recipe from Local Kitchen which is quite yummy, though I think I would decrease the lemon next time and add pectin.  It did not set up at all for me.  Maybe I can’t make jam, who knows!

Reduced Sugar Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

The second recipe I tried was this one from Rhubarb Central.  Rhubarb Conserves with Orange, Walnuts & Raisins.  It was AMAZINGLY delicious, but also needs pectin.

Rhubarb Orange Conserve

And the third, this one, also from Rhubarb Central.  Seriously an awesome site for all things rhubarb!  Again, didn’t set up for me.  Maybe I really can’t make jam.  Hmmm…

Rhubarb Orange Jam

I’m on a quest for jams with less sugar… any ideas?  The first one with all the lemon is decent on the sugar side, but the other two… yeah, too much sugar for me.  I know, it’s jam!  It’s supposed to have sugar, right!?  Well, I can’t have sugar but I still want Jam!!

All Recipe Nutrition Information calculated at CalorieCount!  Coolest thing ever!

If you have any links or recipe suggestions for reduced-sugar homemade jams, please do let me know!  I think for now I’ll be making the orangey ones with less sugar and added pectin.  We’ll see how that goes.  One reader suggested Pamona’s Universal Pectin found here… I have yet to try it.

Just another tip… I love these lids (wide mouth) or these (regular mouth) for my mason jars so I don’t have to mess with the rings when a jar is in use in the fridge.

A Garden Update

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I am incredibly excited about our garden this year!  It’s growing beautifully and soon we’ll have loads of tomatoes.  I’ve already harvested the herbs so they won’t be pictured in this post as, well, they aren’t very pretty anymore!  But the tomatoes!  Ooooooh the tomatoes!  Check this out!

Here’s the two I bought at the Farmers’ Market… On the left is a Black Krim tomato… a GORGEOUS fruit (I’ll show you in a minute).  On the right is a Rose tomato – kind of like a grape tomato.  I stuck the kids tractor in there to show the size of these plants!  I’m not even sure how I’ll pick the fruit off the Rose because it’s so crammed full inside the tomato cage!  The Krim is so tall & heavy we had to tie it with a string to a the nearby lilac bush!  And they are both bursting with fruit.

 

 

Here’s the underside of the Black Krim!

Here’s a cluster of Rose Tomatoes… do you see how dense this plant is?  Amazing!

And here’s a picture of our first ripe Black Krim fruit…  Isn’t it gorgeous!  The outside goes from a forest green around the top & fades to a deep red.  The flavor was AMAZING!

 

Onward… these next two tomatoes we got from Costco, and had I been thinking straight when we planted them, I would have put them in larger cages!  The ones that came with the plants were decidedly NOT tall enough.  On the left is another Black Krim & on the right is a Sweet 100 Cherry Tomato.  These are also bursting with fruit & I hope they make it because the vines are bending all the way to the ground over the short little cages.  Live and learn.

 

A shot of the ripe Sweet 100… I think I’ll let the kids pick those for snack.  They’ve been checking the plants for ripe tomatoes every day for weeks!  They will be very excited!

 

And last but not least, the Bell Pepper!  Got this little guy at the Farmer’s Market as well.  I wish I had a picture of what he looked like in the pot.  I tried to grow him in a pot like the guy said, but he just never perked up.  Never even got another bloom.  My husband decided one day that we were going to just try putting him in the ground in our Back to Eden garden.  Since then he’s put on over 8 new blooms and has a 2″ fruit!  He’s quite a bit taller as well!

 

Said fruit…

 

 

At any rate, I’m excited about our wonderful garden & can’t wait for next years’ plans!

Oh, and by the way… I am eating bread that I just baked on the front porch IN MY CROCK POT!  Here’s the recipe.  It really does taste quite good, and is apparently fool proof.  I didn’t have any eggs left so I substituted flaxmeal for the egg.  Simply put 2 Tablespoons ground flaxmeal in a one cup pyrex.  Add  boiling water until mixture reaches 1/4 cup.  Whisk until the consistency of an egg!  Easy peasy.

Anyway… substituted for the egg, and accidentally heated the milk way too hot so I cooled that with a couple ice cubes!  Pathetic… I’ve never made such a mess of bread.  But it tastes DELICIOUS and is a nice texture.  I’d probably have a hard time slicing it thin for a sandwich, but that could be my tom foolery with the egg bit too!

How’s your garden growing this year? 

 

 

 

Unconventional Cooking

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I have a confession to make… until this week, I’d never started a campfire by myself!  I know… crazy.  Well, I’ve made some improvements, and to date I have started THREE fires… and not just fires… COOKING fires!

Back in April my husband built us a lovely fire pit in our back yard.  If we wanted barbecue, this is how we did it.  Traditionally, I would have a meal ready, he would come home from work, start the fire, wait for coals, cook dinner.  Not exactly my favorite thing ever since I like having dinner ready when he gets home so he can relax.

The fire pit started out as an occasional way to have a BBQ treat, since we don’t often barbecue.   As the temperature increased, we became less and less thrilled with cooking indoors in a home with no AC!  You can imagine why!  So, we started grilling a lot more often.  Which meant more late dinners, more hubby having to cook after arriving home from work.  Not ideal.  But, at the same time, we were becoming better and better at cooking over a fire!  Yea!

So!  The beginning of this week I had a meal planned that would take a little too long to wait for my Mr. to come home.  So… I mustered up as much courage as I had, built a wood tee-pee in the fire pit over some torn up egg carton, and lit a match!  Eeek.  But, check it out!  It’s a pretty good first fire!  And it was reduced to perfect coals by the time Mr. got home!  I was so proud!   And, yes, that’s a snow sled in the background… we use it to haul wood!

Even after building such a beautiful fire, I still wasn’t brave enough to cook with it.  So, I left the grilling to the pro.

Fast forward a couple days, and I did it again.  Built a fire, Mr. cooked dinner.

Fast forward to last night… I built a fire… AND I cooked dinner!  This is where things get interesting!  Dinner HAD to be Craveable Taco Dip, from the Costco cookbook.  I was craving it.  However… it was H.O.T outside… which, of course, meant it was around 84 in our house.  Oven?  Yeah, not a chance!

Okay, so we don’t have a dutch oven … technically (Update: Now we do and I Love it!).  But, in case you don’t have one, if you have two cast iron skillets, one somewhat larger than the other you can make a “dutch oven”!  Since we’ve been campfire cooking all week anyway, I figured why not branch out & do something other than grilling?  Experiment a little… I experiment for a living (mom’s do that), and dinner is no exception in this home!  Here’s what I came up with as a “dutch oven”…

Yep… it is actually two skillets one stacked on the other!

I set a few rocks up beside the fire, spread the coals around, stabilized the grill on the rocks, laid some foil out on the grill so as not to smokify my marvelous cast iron, and put the smaller pan on the grill on top of the foil.  Then I stacked the larger pan on top, lined it with foil, filled it with coals, and timed it for 20 minutes!  I looked at the clock seriously every 3-5 minutes, I was so anxious to see if it worked!

The whole time we were waiting for dinner, the kids were riding on their little outside cars.  They’d come up to me every thirty seconds giving me pretend money and asking the “gas lady” to fill up their car with gas!  So, I took imaginary money, and “Ffffffssssshhhhhh”ed my way all the way till the timer went off!

Finally it went off! I got some pot holders and practically ran to the pit.  When I lifted my giant pan off the top of my “dutch oven”, I saw bubbling cheese all around the edges!  Oooooo, was I excited… not just because I LOVE this meal, but mostly because I COOKED ON THE FIRE ALL BY MYSELF!!!!!  Okay, I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but to me, this is a huge milestone!  I’m so excited!

So, here’s the final product.  I give it to the littlest in a bowl with a spoon, and to the bigger two in a tortilla shell.  Can you believe I cooked this in such a fashion!? Next time I’m trying pizza!

I just gotta say, I know this post is a little strange, but I’m just so proud of myself I had to share it somewhere.  It makes me happy to know that I’m saving money by cooking outdoors, and it’s kind of empowering, in a weird sort of way, to know that I can cook the same outside as I can inside!  With some creativity and improvisation, anything is possible!  I only wish I had a real Dutch Oven so I could cook a cobbler! (We just planted our very own berry patch, so I have cobbler on the mind!).

One of my favorite bloggers is Kelly over at The Morris Tribe.  She’s been blogging a lot lately about sustainable living, cooking outside, raising your own food, breadmaking!, and many other things relating to living more simply.  We started our fire pit as a way to just have fun… but Kelly’s influence, and my own desire to spend less and not heat up the house, has made me think a lot more about the things we take for granted.  What if my stove broke?  What if natural gas was rationed in our country?  What if the power went down & I hadn’t cooked dinner yet?  It’s not only fun to explore other options, but now I’m seeing that it’s actually practical.  It’s good for me to know that I don’t have to depend on someone or something else to prepare food for my family.  I can do it with a fire pit and some scrap wood scavenged from construction site dumpsters!  I can cook for free!

Cloth Diaper Rash Troubleshooting

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Finding the cause of rashes can be a daunting task.  Some rashes I’ve found out right away, and some took a week or more.  I have compiled a list of troubleshooting ideas to help get you started finding that pesky problem causing your little one’s rash… I hope this list helps you find the source of the problem so you can continue to Cloth Diaper successfully.

Here’s some ideas:

1. Are you using a good cloth diaper friendly detergent?  Either something specifically for cloth, or this homemade detergent has worked well for me.  Perhaps the detergent is building up in the diapers or maybe baby is sensitive to the detergent in the first place.  Ruling out detergent sensitivity is simple: wash her clothes in it for a while, if the rash doesn’t show up anywhere else, this probably isn’t the issue.

2. Your diapers need disinfected because there is bacterial buildup… run them through a load with some bleach, then rinse rinse rinse.  Or hang in the sun for several hours.

3. Has she started solids?  It could be a reaction to a new food that she may be sensitive to.  Sensitivities that I’ve noticed causing rashes are wheat, dairy, eggs.

4. Do you need to strip your diapers?  Have you done this recently?

5. Could be a yeast infection… but if it goes away & comes back, maybe not?  At the same time, maybe there is yeast in only some of your stash.  If that’s the case, you NEED to strip them & disinfect them.  Here’s an article on yeast in diapers.

6. That being said, did you buy the diapers used?  I’ve haven’t known many people who buy used (from people they don’t know) who have success with the diapers… they usually end up infecting their whole stash with something or other.  Yeast being the major culprit.  People who get rid of their cloth diapers before the baby is out of diapers are probably running into recurring rash issues and need to de-yeast their diapers – if they can – or toss the whole lot.

7. A word about rashes… is the rash on her bumcheeks or inside the labia & around the anus?  If it is on the cheeks, you most likely have a DIAPER issue (try the stuff above), if it’s inside the cracks, you most likely have a FOOD issue.  That’s not 100%, but it’s a great place to start.

8. Do you use disposable diapers at all?  Are the disposables scented?  Some babies are really sensitive to fragrances and some are just sensitive to paper diapers in general.

I really hope this list has been helpful… I know it is not complete… mostly because I just found this AMAZING troubleshooting guide by Cheeky Bums Blog.  It is the most thorough troubleshooter I’ve found to date!  Head over there & take a look.

Please, if you have a tip I have not listed here, leave a comment & I will add your tip to the list.
I would like this list to be as comprehensive as possible so we can help
as many people as we can have success with Cloth Diapering!