Free Metals Lapbook!

Hands of a Child is currently offering a free lapbook on metals for grades 4-10.  It’s a huge file full of all sorts of goodies that you can incorporate into your lapbook (or notebook if your kids prefer notebooking).  You can check it out here.

If you’re new to labooking, these articles might help make the first time a success.

Have fun!

Lots of Nifties and One Book to Make You Think

Here’s all sorts of cool things online that have caught my eye lately…

I’m reading a book right now called “Radical Homemakers” and it’s led to some great conversations with the kids. I’m really enjoying it and the ideas the author throws out about how our homes and family goals have changed in modern times.  She points out that homes used to be about production (we raised animals, grew crops, made clothes, etc.) and now they’re about consumption (we buy food, clothes and services), and how we are now slaves to unsatisfying jobs in order to afford all of the things we used to happily produce ourselves.

I really agree with so much of what the author says, and it resonates with how we try to live.  While we’re not exactly raising goats and weaving our own cloth, we live on a fraction of what most American families supposedly need in order to get by — and I think we live pretty well.  I know that a big part of that is because we do run our home like it’s about production and not consumption.  We grow some of our own food and preserve tons that we acquire in other ways at harvest seasons.  We buy used and make do without.  We make our own meals, mow our own lawn, watch our own kids, paint our own walls, and so on.

I’d love to hear what other homeschoolers think of the book.  I got it from the library and am not even 1/3 of the way in, but I like the way it makes me think.  🙂


I am a terrible blogger lately. I am also a terrible house cleaner, homeschooler, bedtime book reader, writer and general person.

I mostly hold my belly and groan.

Hopefully I’ll be done with my progesterone soon and perhaps that will help.  Next week I have my first prenatal appointment (the doctor won’t see me until I’m done with the first trimester) and if all looks good I should be able to stop the supplements.  Actually, if it’s all bad then I’d be able to stop the supplements too, so either way I should be done with those soon!

I’m trying so hard to do good mama things.  I’m just so sick and so tired and so weak, I’m not that good at it!  🙂

Here’s some writing elsewhere to make up for my quiet here…

Easy ways to give kids the gift of good handwriting

Sure, you could have your kids do endless copywork and penmanship lessons, but for many kids that’s about as fun as watching paint dry.  Luckily for parents, there are lots of sneaky ways to improve their handwriting that they’ll…

Free lapbook and lesson plans to teach children about Japan

In the wake of the tragedy in Japan last week, many families are focused on the country.  If you’d like to do a unit study on Japan, here are some great resources around the web.  Lapbook Lessons has a wonderful free lapbook on the country with…

Happy Saint Urho Day!

Sure, much of the world will be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, but how about joining in with the Minnesota-born Finnish-American festivities of St. Urho Day today?  St. Urho is a mythical Finnish hero who was created by imaginative…

Review: iHomeEducator’s Wonders of Old Ancient Timeline app

iHomeEducator has teamed up with Knowledge Quest to present Wonders of Old: Ancient Timeline, a unique educational app that uses photos, links and facts to create a new kind of timeline…

Researchers find that attached babies grow up to be better partners

A new University of Minnesota study shows that attachment parenting doesn’t just help children in the short term, but also helps them in their romantic relationships when they are grown up.  Researchers found that young adults who had been…

12 Great sources of natural mulch for your vegetable gardens

Do you mulch your vegetable gardens?  If you don’t, you should.  The right mulch helps retain moisture, prevents weeds from getting a foothold and even enriches the soil as it breaks down.  Here’s 12 great sources of natural mulch …

Anti-GMO groups call for boycott of Land O’Lakes for secret GM seed company

Minnesota-based dairy giant Land O’Lakes has quietly created a company to team up with Monsanto and produce genetically modified alfalfa, leading sustainable farming advocates and anti-GMO organizations around the country to call for a boycott…

Review: Thugs, Drugs and the War on Bugs

Every once in a while, you come across a book that makes you question everything you thought you knew…

Sixteen ways to save money on organic foods

Yes, organic foods do often come with a higher price tag.  The more you’re willing to work and be creative, the lower that price can get.  Use these strategies and you can eat delicious organic meals at less than your neighbors spend on drive-through…
Goals for tomorrow:
  • Get outside and puddle stomp with the kids.
  • Do a fun craft.
  • Order neat sounding books through interlibrary loan for Daryl to pick up, so I can still read buckets of books to the kids.
  • More laundry
  • Finally remember to get the beans soaking in the morning so we can have Mexican for supper (I may be unable to stand up, but I’m still going to make refried organic black beans from scratch for our burritos!) .  😉
  • More writing.
  • Brainstorm creative HS assignments and projects to throw at the kids.
  • Serve some green things!
  • Be gentle with myself, no matter how much I get done.
  • If all else fails, lots of snuggling.

Wish me luck!

10 Fun Ways We've Learned and Played Lately

Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to the past couple of days…

1.  We’re reading the Felicity books to go along with our unit study on the Revolutionary War.

2.  Victoria and I researched opossums for her opossum lapbook.  Did you know they’re North America’s only marsupial and they help homeowners?

Opossums help maintain a clean and healthy environment. They eat all types of insects including cockroaches, crickets, beetles, etc. They catch and eat rats and mice. They consume dead animals of all types. They like overripe fruit, berries and grapes that have fallen to the ground and they think that snails and slugs are a delicacy. They are one of the few animals that regularly prey on shrews and moles. They are known as “Nature’s Little Sanitation Engineers!

They also move on from each site after a couple of days, so they clean up the place and then go on to the next neighborhood!

3.  We’re all making Alex a lapbook about colors.  He loves to name colors and we found out today that he adores lapbooks (especially flaps and things) so we’re helping him make his very first lapbook.

4.  Daryl has been teaching Anna more guitar chords and has been giving Jack some easy lessons.

5.  The girls did practice standardized math tests and we talked about new concepts on them like right angles and obtuse angles for Anna.

6.  Victoria and I played “Scrambled States of America.”

7.  Jack, Anna and Victoria played “Are Your Smarter Than a 5th Grader?”  That game is excellent at sneaky homeschooling, by the way!

8.  Anna, Victoria and I played “Apples to Apples.”  That game is not so good at sneaky homeschooling but is very good for silly fun.  Quick, convince me which one of these goes best with “lucky” — swamps, Superman or science tests?

9.  Jack has been researching insects and making a lapbook about those.

10. Anna is reading a book about famous magicians and doing a lapbook about those.  Yes, can you tell I posted a lapbooking article today and got out our old ones for pictures?  🙂  You can read it and see a slide show of some of our favorites here.

And now, I have to check on our breadsticks and break up a fight…  I mean, teach some mediation skills.  😉

Lapbooking 101

A reader wrote and asked if I’d share my lapbooking speech so I’m posting it here.  This is my basic outline.  I also told a lot of stories of how we chose subjects, successes and failures, etc.

Note:  I brought an assortment of lapbooks that Jack, Victoria and Anna had done to illustrate various points and show how different they can be for different children and different ages.  I recommend bringing examples and passing them around to illustrate points as you go.  If you don’t have enough finished lapbooks in your own home, consider printing pictures of lapbooks online to at least give general ideas for how individualized they can be.  Definitely bring at least a few of your own so people can see them in person though!

I included the links mentioned in a handout so nobody had to copy them down, plus more.


Intro (introduce self, how long we’ve been lapbooking, why we love it)

Hi, I’m Alicia, a homeschooling mama to four kids — 2 girls ages 9 and 11 and 2 boys ages 2 and 6.  I’m here to teach you a little bit about lapbooking– what it is, how to do it and how to make it as fun and educational as possible.
I.  What is lapbooking?
a.  Definition
A lapbook is a project book or file folder, laid out in a creative manner, that fits in the child’s lap.  You can think of it as a combination of scrapbooking and report writing, using manilla folders, craft supplies and additions like hand made mini books, pockets, flaps and other nifties.
b.  Example  (hold up and pass around)
We’ve been lapbooking for about two years and my kids love it.  Some of the reasons we all enjoy it so much are…
c.  Reasons lapbooking is great for HS (list)
  • Hands-on, which suits lots of kids’ learning styles
  • Inexpensive
  • Creative, lets kids express themselves
  • Works in all different subjects— history, reading, handwriting through copying definitions or writing out poems and quotes, but also science, math, social studies and other subjects (give examples)
  • Children can revisit them and review whenever they like
  • Learn lots
  • It’s fun!

I.  How to lapbook

No matter how you lapbook, you’ll start out with this basic design…

Show basics of how to fold file folder shutter style, affix a back page (recommend double stick tape) and make pages with colored cardstock and packing tape.

General info with sites for samples, freebies, instructions and more:

a.  Premade lapbooks

1.  give handout with URLs to some free sites and paid sites

2.  show example


  • Everything is gathered for you
  • Less intimidating to start
  • Often lots of cute mini books and shapes


  • Can be overwhelming number of pages
  • Often involve lots of cutting and dull construction work
  • Not individualized to child’s level or interests
  • Confined to what someone else’s research found
  • Least creative control of all for kids
  • Can be “cookie cutter”
  • Can easily burn out parents and kids

b.  Lapbooking templates

1.  URLs (’s country template)
2.  examples

c.  Design your own

Talk about how this is the method we most often and use and why it works so well for us.  Pros and cons.

1.  Steps

  • Agree on subject with child
  • Search for relevant information online or have older child do it (google the subject and kids, worksheet, facts or handout)
  • Print out coloring pages, handouts, B&W maps etc.
  • Use web sites like for printouts
  • Do a google image search and print images in color
  • Print out some fun shape books or just make up pockets, flaps, etc.
  • Put out related stickers and art supplies
  • Be your child’s helper in assembling, but give her/him full creative control
Include many subjects like:
Geography: print out a B&W map and have child color in area studying (or where something is from or where something originated)
Handwriting: have child copy relevant poems, quotes or passages
History: when something was invented, when changes happened, etc.
Science: relevant scientific principles, biology for animals, botony for plants, etc.
Math: calculate time passage, make timelines, average numbers, figure prices, calculate exchange rates, etc.
Art: draw, design, color
Spelling: make mini books with new vocabulary words and definitions
Home ec: include recipes from regions,  find out daily life and chores from other times or other lands, etc.

2.  examples

d.  Other resources (email lists, web sites)

III.  Do’s and Don’ts

a.  what not to do
  • start out with a huge project
  • micromanage
  • try to make it perfect
  • force a child to do them or keep working that day
  • get hung up on what it “should” include or look like
  • plan in too much detail
(Show Anna’s horse lapbook and talk about lessons learned from stepping back and letting her do it her way.)

b.  What to do
  • let your child take the lead
  • work it around your child’s style (etc. perfectionist, artsy, computer…)
  • start small
  • tailor the amount of cutting and mini books to your child’s level
  • adapt it to suit your family and timetable
  • let your child pick the subject at least half the time
  • make it easy (precut, have materials that help, etc.)
  • have great materials to make it fun
IV.  Ways to jazz them up, make more fun
  • Always put out lots of art supplies– markers, crayons, stickers and so on
  • Raid your scrapbooking supplies and look for neat stuff in scrapbooking stores
  • Use color– you can purchase boxes of colored file folders at office supply stores, and print pages and mini books on colored paper
  • Give the kids lots of creative control

IV.  Q&A

Back from the Conference!

We’re back from our trip to the big city for the annual MHA conference.  We survived Friday night rush hour traffic (barely!) and had a wonderful night in the hotel.  At the conference I got to see old friends, made new ones and met lots of great folks I had only known online.

The kids also loved the indoor play area that was set up for families.  I wish I had taken a picture to do it justice.  There were so many neat parts to it and it was multi-story with an area just for toddlers too.  It was $5 for each child for the day (an adult had to stay in the general area to supervise) and it was well worth it!  The kids also got to go through the vendor area and came home with oodles of fabulous freebies.

I think my lapbooking class went well.  Luckily we’ve done lots of lapbooks over the years so I had lots of examples to send around during the talk.  Victoria sat in and took pictures.

If anybody wants me to type up the gist of the speech (how to do it, how to design your own, links for nifties online and the big do’s and don’ts), let me know.

It was a fun time!

Strawberry Days

One thing I love about this time of year is the abundance of strawberries!

A few weeks ago we went strawberry picking…

Twenty pounds and twenty dollars later, we did a bit of strawberry prepping!

(I love this picture of Annalee!  It shows her style so perfectly!)

Then we did some strawberry cooking with the rest.  We made strawberry jam, strawberry rhubarb jam, strawberry mix and match bread, strawberry smoothies….

The last of our backyard strawberries were gobbled up last weekend.  We’re on to raspberries for fresh munching now, but luckily we have a freezer full of strawberries to keep us happy for a while too.

In the meantime I found this wonderful strawberry lapbook to to finish out the fun.

Here’s a bunch of strawberry lesson plans, book recommendations, links and art ideas, too.

“Even the coeur flottant merveilleux aux fraises, presented with a great flourish, made little impression, for it was no more than what may happen to the simple, honest dish of strawberries and cream once it falls into the hands of a Frenchman.”

Dr. Watson in ‘Sherlock Holmes and the Hapsburg Tiara’

by Alan Vanneman (2004)

Garden Lapbook Resources

I was perplexed to see that I had nearly 400 hits last week on a day that I didn’t post anything particularly amazing, so I went looking at my site meter to see if I could figure out why.  It turns out someone put up this great little page full of neat stuff to make a garden lapbook, and she listed my post about Victoria’s garden lapbook in her resources.

There’s a ton of neat stuff to use on a garden theme, even if you don’t do lapbooking — flower file folder games, a “how does your garden grow?” graph, a watering can shaped page to write garden poetry and lots more.

This may be just the thing to get us back into lapbooking, and the perfect way to fill a rainy Sunday.  🙂