By popular demand. Join us for this classic post from Allison.
Tis the season to go to grad parties. As I prepare to host my third and final high school graduation party, I was asked by a friend (who is on her first) for some ideas. There are many ways of doing a big celebratory event like a graduation party, but the task can be daunting, especially if you have never done anything like this before. I’ve compiled some of the ideas and tips that I’ve discovered by trial and error. I hope they help you.
Plan ahead: Make what you can ahead of time - Cook pork for pulled pork, ham, or turkey days or even weeks ahead and freeze. Do the same if you are having Italian dishes like baked ziti or lasagna.
Prepare for bad weather: Have room inside, in the garage, or under a tent in case of rain
Equipment: Use large electric roasters or steam pans for hot foods (meatballs for sandwiches, ziti or lasagna, pulled pork for sandwiches, turkey or ham). Keep cold foods on ice by filling larger containers with ice and placing the bowls of food inside them. Lids to catering trays work well for this as well as baskets with plastic liners. Borrow large coolers to keep foods in if you cannot fit them all in your fridge, or ask a neighbor if you can stash extras in their fridge.
Serving: If you are having an open house and people will be arriving over a long period of time and eating as they come, put smaller bowls of food out and refill periodically.
Dessert: A cake is a beautiful and expected centerpiece for a party, but if people are not arriving and eating all at the same time, guests will either miss the chance to eat any or miss the chance to see the decorated cake uncut. Consider cookies, brownies, or other single serve treats alone or in addition to the decorated cake.
Beverages: If you are looking mainly for convenience, cans of soda and tea and water bottles are the way to go.
You will need to line up extra coolers or plastic bins in which to put ice and the cans. Again, you can keep extras cooling in the fridge (if you have room) and refill your cooler/bin as it empties. This is also something that can easily be delegated. You can ask a helpful family member or friend to purchase the beverages and bring them. No prep is needed so it is a relatively easy way for someone to pitch in and help. The main drawback to this choice is the cost. You will spend more buying individual servings of beverages and some may be wasted as guests pick up a can and only drink half.
Another option is making large batches of iced tea and lemonade and serving them in large beverage servers. You can use the old standard “cooler” style servers which hold several gallons and keep the contents cold. A prettier option is the newer 3 gallon beverage servers with pour spout. You might not want to invest in these for one event, but if you host a lot of parties at your house they are definitely worth it. You might also ask friends if they own one. Most people are happy to share an item like this that they only used periodically.
Set Up: The best plan for setting up your food tables will depend primarily on your setting. Pick the area which works best with the size and configuration of your home and property. Whenever possible it’s best to keep the food indoors, or at least in a screened area. Otherwise you will have to contend with bugs helping themselves to your dishes. Also, keeping the food indoors on a hot day decreases concerns about spoilage.
Think like a guest: Try to arrange food, plates, plastic ware, and drinks to make it easy for guests to get what they want, carry it, and find a spot to eat it. One trick I have found very helpful goes against the standard buffet arrangement. Place the napkins and plastic/silverware AFTER the food dishes. This way guests don’t have to juggle all of these items while serving themselves. This also avoids wasting plastic/silverware. Guests will only take what they need if they come to these items after they have their food. If they must pick up their silverware first, they have to assume that they will need everything - fork, spoon, knife - even if they do not. It’s also helpful to have the drinks located away from the food tables. Many guests will be getting drinks throughout the party and they need to have access without getting in the way of those who are getting their food.
Trash: Make sure you have large trash cans located in several obvious spots. Make it easy for your guests to clean up after themselves. If you are going the canned drink route for your beverages, also have recycle cans next to the trash cans. Be sure to clearly label these so you don’t have to sort through the trash later.
Have a good time: Remember, this is a celebration. The point is for you and your guests to feel comfortable and enjoy yourselves. If any of these steps make you feel too stressed, find an easier way. Buy deli trays; have the whole event catered; or just have beverages, chips, and dessert. There are no rules to follow, just suggestions to help you plan your own personalized event.
We worry about illness, finances, our academic weaknesses....and at this point in the year we are tempted to worry about whether all of our schoolwork will get done on time!
Am I the only one who doesn't find a lot of comfort in Matthew 6:34? This Bible verse presents a challenge to me, and it's not very comforting to read that trouble is the rule, not the exception.
Making devotional time with God a priority is the only way I can resist the temptation to worry.
My dear homeschool friend of many years, Lisa Schea, has things that tempt her to worry. In addition to the normal concerns of life, she herself suffers from a chronic illness. Her commitment to time with the Lord and His word resulted in a book of devotions that we published here in the 7Sisters EBookstore.
Here's a taste of the rich material you will find in God Meets Me Here:
For more inspiration to fight the urge to worry, download Lisa's devotional book today for $2.49 in the EBookstore.
Join us for a classic post from our intern, Kyle. Kyle is about to graduate from Grove City College and head for grad school. He homeschooled all the way through high school. The study guides and curriculum that he used in high school are the very things we carry in our ebookstore. Enrich your homeschoolers' lives with Literature Guides, Writing Guides, Psychology, Human Development, Career Exploration and more.
If you’re part of the homeschool world, you probably have some familiarity with “the bubble.” You want your children to receive the best education possible, so you tailor your teaching to fit each child’s individual needs. Consciously or unconsciously, you make decisions that affect not only their education but their social, emotional, and spiritual life.
I know because this is what my mom did for me.
I had the privilege of growing up with some of the most awesome friends and teachers because my homeschool community was the perfect environment for me. In other words, I had an excellent bubble.
The only downside to being inside an excellent bubble is that, in the end, it’s still only a bubble. At some point you discover that the rest of the world isn’t quite so perfect. There are people with different values and different beliefs. There are some people who may not be interested in your individual needs at all. (Shocking isn’t it?)
The bubble is safe, but outside the bubble it can get scary. Growing up is all about moving outside the bubble. Usually that means graduating from high school, going to college, getting a job, getting married, getting a house, and having kids. But you can do all of those things and still live in a bubble. You could do what I did and move from the homeschool bubble to a college that is essentially a larger version of the same bubble. Your bubble can be whatever you make it. Your youth group, your Bible study, or your mom’s group could be a bubble.
Like I said, the bubble is where you feel safe, and safety is a good thing. God can teach you a lot in friendly, comfortable settings, but that knowledge isn’t much use until you take it outside the bubble. You can’t grasp the full value of your knowledge until you’re willing to get your feet wet.
Speaking of getting your feet wet, that’s exactly what Peter had to do before he learned to trust Jesus. It was one thing to listen to Jesus’ teaching on the safety of the mountain, but it was another to step out of his boat onto a lake in the middle of a storm. Even when he found he could walk on top of the water without drowning, he became afraid when he saw how violent the wind and the waves were. Think how he must have felt when Jesus saved him and brought him back to the boat. In that moment Jesus had unmistakably proven everything Peter believed about him.
Have you experienced that “Aha!” moment where you start to doubt what you know about God only to see him prove himself in a remarkable way? I have had a few experiences like that this year. Not only have they helped me to grow in my faith, they have also allowed me to show God’s love to people I never would have interacted with in my own personal bubble.
Although there are times when a comfortable bubble gives us the security we need, that bubble can keep us from growing and acting on our faith. If we let it, the bubble becomes a prison. It’s only when we allow God to burst the bubble that we can experience true freedom.
It is important to have friends. Proverbs 18:24 talks about it:
A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. KJV biblegateway.com
The 7 Sisters Homeschool just got back from some road trips. We moms have such fun together!
After homeschooling together for many years- we've done co-ops and group classes, choirs, service clubs, rhetoric teams, sports, and field trips together. We feel like sisters and our kids feel like siblings. We support each other through tough times and good. We laugh, we confront, we pray, we learn- together. So do our kids!
It is important to have homeschool friends. They help us moms with our homeschool and motherly identities. Friends help our kids build strong identity- and they help each other grow.
I send my youngest to Sara to do Algebra II (I stink at math). I send him to Sabrina for literature because she and her lit guides inspire him to think great thoughts (and he insists on having her teach him this). I send him to Marilyn for essays (and even sometimes to Allison for research papers) because I really don't like to teach those. They trade off their kids to me sometimes, too- history (World History and Philosophy coming in June), psychology, human development... It varies year by year. We believe in homeschooling in community.
We are thankful for our supportive families. We are thankful for our supportive friends. Praise God that He gave us Proverbs that told us about friendship, we all looked for those friends and He abundantly supplied!
How do your homeschool friends support you?
Here's Sabrina's shy thoughts on socialization:
Homeschoolers can learn some powerful lessons from Psalm 19. Here are 5 teaching concepts embedded in this beautiful poem:
1The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
2Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
3There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
4Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,
5Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
6His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.
Lesson 1: Teach the wonders of God's creation
God's creation is constantly celebrating His glory! If children learn to stop and appreciate the beautiful things God made, they will learn to show His glory by voicing (or drawing or writing) praise to Him. This is a lifestyle, not a biology class!
7The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
8The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
Lesson 2: The study of Scripture is a homeschool subject and a way of life
Reading, discussing, and memorizing Scripture helps our children to be strong in their soul, wise, happy-hearted, and open-eyed.
9The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
10More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Lesson 3: Learning to be awed and amazed by God is good, pure and to be greatly desired
This comes from modeling a worshipful and wonder-filled attitude in church and home. It comes by noticing His work in
our lives and creation.
11Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
12Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.
13Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
Lesson 4: Self-awareness is an important skill for homeschoolers.
It is important for kids and adults to know: What they are feeling, Why they are feeling that way, What they are going to do about it. This is taught by discussion, modeled by parents, and sharpened by knowledge of Scripture (especially Psalms, Proverbs, epistles).
14Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. (biblegateway.com)
Lesson 5: Good manners are first a gift to God and second an important skills towards people.
Etiquette is important for getting along with people, thus it makes an important homeschool subject. However, most importantly manners honor God.
What are some lessons from Scripture that you have taught your homeschoolers?
You can teach your kids Social Skills with our $3.99 10-lesson activity book. You and your teens can experience some interactive prayer activities in our Prayer Journals. AND download lots of FREE material.
Hey, homeschool friends- here's an idea we already knew from Scripture!This post is running concurrently on the blog for Pike Creek Psychological Center, where I work as a therapist (besides being a homeschool mom for the past 25 years).------------
Cheesy, I know- but it is true: being grateful helps you feel better.
The relationship of gratitude to optimism was illustrated in an interesting study done by Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami., and reported in the Harvard Health Newsletter. http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mental_Health_Letter/2011/November/in-praise-of-gratitude
Participants were assigned to three groups and asked to write a few sentences each week. One group wrote about things that had happened during the week for which they were grateful. One group wrote about things that had irritated or displeased them. One group wrote about events that affected them but with no requirement on whether the topics be positive or negative.
After 10 weeks, those in the first group were more optimistic and felt better about their lives than those in the other two groups.
Dr. Emmons and McCullough also found that the gratitude group (as compared to the other groups):
• Were also exercising more and having fewer visits to their physicians;
• Were more likely to have made progress on personal goals (academic and interpersonal);
• Were more likely to have helped someone else.
Participants of a 21-day version of the research who had neuromuscular disease reported:
• More days of “high energy positive moods”;
• A greater sense of being connected with others;
• More optimism about life;
• Better sleep duration and quality.
(Reported by Emmons Lab: Gratitude and Well-Being Research) http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/Labs/emmons/PWT/index.cfm?Section=4
So, it might feel a bit cheesy to practice gratitude- but then again, a daily gratitude list might just help you feel better!
Click here to download 7 Sisters' FREE white paper on how to truly help a friend in hard times: Carry Each Others' Burdens.
Can you think of a time that you practiced gratitude and felt better for it?
Whether we are naturally crunchy or not, we all want our homeschools to include healthy eating and good nutrition.
When my kids were little, I had zero tolerance for children refusing to try new foods, and all of my kids were basically "good eaters" by the time they were in middle school. But as we all got older and busier, I found myself cooking less intentionally (or cooking less. period.) and my kids didn't always make healthy choices when they were fending for themselves in the kitchen.
Here's what we've been doing around my house recently to improve nutrition and health:
Gradual is good.
The changes we're making are gradual, subtle changes. I've learned in other situations not to start a campaign to correct things that have drifted off-course. I began modeling better eating choices last year. My husband slowly came on board, and now the boys who still live at home are following suit because they are seeing the wisdom of it. Instead of taking teenagers and young-adult children to task for not eating enough vegetables, I have trusted God to speak to them about healthy changes even as I quietly began making those changes He was telling me to make.
No, I don't do a true menu plan. It's just not me, and it's not our family, either. But I do make a list about twice a month of entrees that I will make sometime soon, and I build my grocery shopping list from that. I got a couple of new cookbooks with whole food recipes and vegetarian alternatives to old favorites, and I choose my meals from those or from recipes like them online (Pinterest has been a great tool for me). Honestly, I plan menus like I plan everything using the Scheduling Backwards principle to set my priorities. (Scheduling Backwards is a FREE white paper you can download by clicking here. It's a time management tool that can be adapted to apply to lots of life.)
I have resigned myself to shopping at the farmer's market and having to make the trip there twice a week. Buying fresh produce in larger quantities simply necessitates more frequent shopping trips. The upside to going shopping more often is that my youngest son who likes to cook often accompanies me and we have a good time picking out produce together.
Time to Cook.
Finding enough time is a huge struggle for me, because highly-processed foods are typically much quicker to prepare. For me, the best solution has been to designate one day each week on which I will do a LOT of cooking. Then we will eat from the food stashed in the fridge over the next few days. That way, I'm not trying to watch the clock every day in order to get dinner started on time. Additionally, my husband is a shift-worker, so regular dinner times are an impossibility in our house.
In addition to the new recipes I've been using, I have fallen in love with my NutriBullet. (No, this is not a sponsored post. I just love the dumb thing!) It makes whole food prep quick and easy to clean up. I have also converted a lot of the new recipes I've found into crock-pot cooking; using the crock-pot means more of the family eats the healthy food I prepared since it's sitting, warm and inviting, on the counter whenever they get in from work or activities.
What strategies work in your kitchen?
Some parents with children on the autism spectrum are finding that homeschooling their children is a good choice. In our local community there are a number of kids on the spectrum who homeschool. Some local kids who are on the spectrum have already graduated from homeschooling and are finding success at college. Homeschooling works!
The US Center for Disease control estimates that 1 in 88 children born in the US are somewhere on the autism spectrum. That's a lot of kids with a lot of parents needing resources. So, based on my service as a homeschooling advisor and a mental health counselor, I've accumulated a few resources to help. Can you add some more?
Excellent advocacy and research organization. Lots of good information and resources.
A TV channel for and by folks on the spectrum (and their families). Streams for free on Roku.
Special Needs Radio at the Coffee Klatch
Brings interviews and also blogs by some of my favorite people like Temple Grandin and Russell Barkley. (They cover a range of different special needs topics.)
Dr. Grandin, who is on the spectrum herself, has done an amazing job collecting resources on sensory training, social skills, and more by various people. Check out her catalog.
Natthan has been around for many years. An organization that brings encouragement and support.
I think that being an HSLDA member is important. One reason is their great resources and support.
Some homeschoolers have found that the Charlotte Mason approach is helpful because of its emphasis on atmosphere, real-life education and discipline.
For required achievement testing, Hewitt Homeschool offers the PASS test- untimed and developed for special needs students.
Multisensory curriculum is often useful for young people on the spectrum. Bright Ideas Press has lots of curriculum that would fit well into that category such as Mystery of History and Wondermaps. Trail Guide to Learning bases its history and geography lessons on the ideas of Dr. Ruth Beechik. Amanda Bennett has wonderful unit studies for k-12.
Timberdoodle has some great curriculum for younger kids on the spectrum.
Your turn, what are some helpful resources your have found for a child on the autism spectrum?
I don’t know about you but each January I am SO ready for the end of the school year. Sometimes it gets downright discouraging thinking that math (or science or ...).
Maybe it is cabin fever? Maybe a little burnout? Whatever the cause, it doesn’t eliminate the fact that all the schoolwork must and will get done before the end of the school year.
So here are some things that help me, hope they help you:
1) Make one major switch-out.
It may be time to face the fact that the curriculum you loved for the past umpteen years doesn’t work. If you are waking up every day dreading that text- think about what it is like for your kid?
It’s late, but maybe you should dump it and get a different text or style.
I know this year, I had to toss the long-beloved Teaching Textbooks Algebra. While I loved the earlier texts, it wasn’t working with my son’s learning style and every lesson was an ordeal. We stepped down a level to Globe Fearon’s Pacemaker series, and are blasting through. Just had to happen.
2) Have an adventure.
Do something in your happy place.
My 11thgrader’s adventure is playing in his band- or even playing his guitar at home. He loves playing and singing. It gets him into his happy
zone. Happy zones can leave a lingering gladness that carries over into tiresome academic subjects.
For me it is going on a prayer retreat. Imagine: sitting alone with God and His creation for hours.
That is my happy zone. It will carry me for weeks.
3) Do some healthy self-talk.
Instead of, “I can’t stand this.” Try, “I can do anything for ___ weeks. (By God’s grace and with His help, anyway.”)
How about some healthy humorous self-talk?
On really tough days, I quote one of my favorite poets, Archy the coachroach (Archy and Mehitabel by Don Marquis):
if you get gloomy just
take an hour off and sit
and think how
much better this world
is than hell
4) Do a countdown.
How many days till the end of the text or year?
My 11th grader did this for years. He wrote on the upper right hand corner of his texts how many lessons are left after today.
I know, it sounds like a platitude. It sounds cheesy. But at the end of the day, our help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.
What are some things you do to help you get through till the end of the year?
BTW- To help strengthen your homeschool journey, we have 3 prayer journals in the e-bookstore. They contain prayer activities, inspiration, and ideas. Blessings!
Here's an encouraging thought from Sabrina to brighten your day:
We have good times and bad times. Here's how to plan for making the best out of the good and handle the bad:
1) Good times: This is the best time to switch out mediocre curriculum. If it ain't broke don't fix it, but if it is broken try something new. (Check our product page for short literature study guides, poetry writing guides, career exploration, social skills, and psychology.)
2) Good times: Celebrate winter! Log phys ed hours shoveling and playing in the snow or make some crafts or some music in your nice warm house. Find something to do that you wouldn't ordinarily do and make that your homeschool day.
3) Bad times: Cabin fever- ugh!Make
hot chocolate and have everyone watch something hilarious on tv or You Tube. The warm milk has a calming effect on irritable nerves and laughter releases healthy neurochemicals to make you feel better (as in: A merry heart doeth good like a medicine...).
4) Bad times: Winter blues- blah! Not enough sunlight- so get some natural/full-spectrum light bulbs or a sunlight. It will help your brain make the neurotransmitters needed to whip the blues. THEN move your body- run outside, climb stairs, play Wii Fit, just do something!
5) Smart times: That's how I feel when I do solid scheduling. I like Sabrina's Scheduling Backwards (FREE download) to help with this!
In other words, winter is time in your homeschool to plan to make good things better and bad things better, too! Plan some fun, some new stuff, some self-care- and it will be good homeschooling times!
Here's a homeschool success moment (kinda-sorta) from Sabrina's video journal on YouTube - enjoy!