How We Homeschool {Preschool and Pre-K}

We’re almost halfway through our school year, so I thought I would write a post about how we homeschool with a preschool curriculum. (I know that some of y’all are curious since I’ve mentioned it on Facebook and Instagram.)

homeschoolpreschool

After reviewing several programs and types of preschool curriculum, I found the 3 Year Curriculum at ABC Jesus Loves Me at the end of September, and it is working really well for us.  All of the lesson plans and worksheets are free to use and print (for in-home, immediate family use only), and there are a ton of supportive ideas to enhance the weekly lessons.

In the 3 Year program, each week’s lesson includes a variety of things, including: Book of the Week, Bible Story/Verse/Song, Poem & Rhyme, Colors, Shapes, Letters, Numbers, Learning to Write, and Motor Skills. Since he’s so young, we spend less than an hour a day on formal lessons, therefore we don’t usually cover everything in an entire week.  I alter the lesson plan to focus mostly on letters, numbers, Bible story, learning to write, and motor skills. We have reviewed colors and shapes, but he already knows the material that is being covered this year in those subjects.

Since we’ve had such good luck with this curriculum so far, my husband and I have decided not to put our son in a formal Pre-K program next fall, and just continue with ABC Jesus Loves Me’s 4 Year Curriculum.  He’s an August baby, so we had already decided to hold him back an extra year from Kindergarten anyway.  The plan is to enroll him in a Transition program for young 5 year olds in Fall 2016 (or maybe we’ll use the 5 Year Curriculum instead!), then he will start Kindergarten the following year.

If you’re looking for a free, complete, Christian-based preschool and Pre-K curriculum for your 2-5 year olds, check out ABC Jesus Loves Me. I hope you love it as much as we do!

{I received no compensation for this review of ABC Jesus Loves Me. I just really like it, and I think it would be a blessing for your family!}

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Should We Have Another Baby?

I imagine this question comes up all the time for a lot of families…

{image courtesy of Jonathan Fitch and freedigitalphotos.net}

{image courtesy of Jonathan Fitch and freedigitalphotos.net}

It’s pretty safe to say that there’s no right answer to this question. It all depends on your personal circumstances.

When my husband and I started discussing the possibility last year, we knew we had some goals to accomplish first (bigger house, etc.) It’s very important for us to be in a good place emotionally and financially before adding to our family. (Some people say you never have enough money for a baby, but I’m just talking about “Can we afford food for this child?”)

And quite frankly, DS was a handful from the start, so we weren’t ready to add to the chaos at that point. Lol But, we finally got him out of our bed, and he goes to sleep at a decent hour, which was a big hurdle for us to get over.

So, I think we’re ready to start trying for baby #2!

But, why rock the boat when things have finally calmed down a bit around here?

For me, it’s as simple as this. I just don’t feel like my family is complete, and I’m not getting any younger. I want to, at the very least, have the opportunity to give my son a sibling.

When I chose “growth” as my one word for 2015, I wasn’t considering that it might include the growth of our family…but it looks like we may be on the right track for that! ;)

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How to Find Safer Cleaning Products for Your Home

The following is a guest post from Hannah at Wild Mint.  No compensation was received. 

Hello, The Practically Green Mom readers! My name is Hannah Helsabeck and I reached out to Allie recently after finding her blog and falling in love with her “green(ish)” attitude and advice. I couldn’t agree more with her motto of doing the best you can and trying new things when it comes to green living, which really aligns with the inspiration behind my company Wild Mint. I’m obsessed with researching all the ways to live a more toxin-free life and sharing what I learn with others. On Wildmintshop.com, I provide all the information and products that I use to do just that.

Today, Allie was gracious enough to let me share my knowledge about green and natural cleaning products, a big topic for anyone else who is a clean-freak like me! Harmful, chemical-based cleaning products have been the norm for so long that even the most dedicated toxin-free individual can have trouble finding the best types of solutions to use at home. The unfortunate practice of companies “greenwashing” products only adds to this confusion. If you haven’t heard this term before, greenwashing refers to companies claiming to be environmentally friendly by marketing products with misleading information.  These companies can mislead consumers by falsifying claims, using vague terms, and exaggerating green practices, just to name a few.

My team and I at Wild Mint strongly believe in the importance of transparency, awareness, and education so you can make your own informed decisions.  Alongside awareness, we suggest the following tips when looking for safer cleaning products:

  • Be a Label Checker - A good line of defense is to buy products from brands that list all of their ingredients on their label and are transparent both on their website and in their product offerings. A product should clearly state what is and is not used in its production in a way that is easily understood. You should also look out for and avoid products with the following terms listed on the label or packaging:
    • Fatal if inhaled
    • Fatal if swallowed
    • Watch out for terms like “poison,” “danger,” or “fatal”
    • Vague terms like surfactant or solvent
    • Skip phosphate additives
  • Be a Certification Critic - Some companies go above and beyond to certify their products and make their brand even more reputable, with certifications such as USDA Organic, Fair Trade, Cruelty Free (PETA), Energy Star, Green Seal Certified, and so on. Take a look at the certification on a label, and do a quick search on your phone or at home to see if the certification is valid.
  • Vague Terms - A prevalent greenwashing tactic to look out for is “vagueness”. Some common phrases to look out for include Eco Friendly, Environmentally Friendly, Earth Friendly, Environment Safe, Harnessing Nature, and Eco Chemistry. Remember, transparency is key; a company should be able to prove their products are indeed safe.

So what brands can you trust? Well, some of my favorites include Better Life, Dr. Bronners, and Eco-Me, which you can find here.  I use this all purpose cleaner and this multi-area scrubber cleanser by Better Life regularly.  I love that the Better Life products never leave a toxic smell after cleaning (like some chemical cleaners do!), are plant-based, and made without the use of harmful chemicals, making them safe for people, pets, the surfaces in your home, and the environment.

hannah Wild Mint - guest

You can also try your hand at making natural cleaning solutions yourself! Try Allie’s homemade air freshener made with essential oils or a combination of vinegar-based solutions.

Thank you to Allie for letting me guest post today and feel free to send me any of your questions about toxin-free living at hello@wildmintshop.com!

~ Hannah Helsabeck

President, Wild Mint Shop

Hannah Helsabeck is President and Co-Founder of Wild Mint, an online shop dedicated to helping families find toxin-free and eco-friendly products for healthier lifestyles.  She is passionate about educating others on the benefits of healthy living and the importance of taking small steps towards eliminating exposure to toxins in people’s daily lives.  She also enjoys finding new ways to be eco-conscious and is often found in the kitchen cooking up simple meals with real, whole foods. Hannah is the oldest of six kids, has amazing parents as role models in business as well as life, and currently lives in South Florida with her incredibly supportive husband.

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Out of my Element – Raising Boys

“Mommy, you be Rollout. I’m Bumblebee. Fight!”

“Ummm…ok…which one is Rollout again?”

I want to be Bumblebee, because it's pretty obvious which one he is!

I want to be Bumblebee, because it’s pretty obvious which one he is!

As my son gets older, I realize that I am severely out of my element when it comes to his new interests. (I mean, I can finally pronounce most of the dinosaur names now, and he’s loved those for years. Let’s just stick with that!)

At almost 3.5 years old, he is diving headfirst into the world of Ninja Turtles, Transformers, and Skylanders. I’m not a girly girl by any means, but I am so clueless about raising boys with these toys…

(Speaking of Skylanders…is there a GOAL to this game? What am I trying to accomplish while I wander aimlessly?)

So, I continue to grow as a boy mom. Spending my days learning the names of “robots in disguise”, and dodging the Shellraiser full of Ninja Turtles as it speeds through the kitchen. :) And I’m sure once I finally have all of this down, he’ll abandon it completely for something else…lol

Do you ever feel completely out of your element when it comes to your child’s interests?

**Edited to add: Yes, I realize girls can play with these toys, too. I’m not being sexist. I just HAVE a BOY, and as a young girl, I knew nothing about superheroes and such (even with a younger brother). So, I’m just going by my experiences.

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2015 New Year’s Resolutions – Growth #OneWord365

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you’re all having a wonderful first day of 2015!

I’m sure a lot of you are making resolutions and such. Last year was the first time I did One Word 365 rather than the typical new year’s resolution. I’m not sure I would describe 2014 as “relaxing”, at least not the first half of it anyway. Regardless, a one word goal for the year is much less intimidating than a list of them, so…

This year, I’ll try to pick something a little more realistic (maybe?) My #OneWord365 for 2015 is GROWTH.

(image via http://www.restingbuddha.co.uk)

(image via http://www.restingbuddha.co.uk)

Growth of this blog, personal growth (mentally and spirituality)…basically just to step out of my comfort zone more often.

What’s your #OneWord365 for 2015?

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Amazon Gift Card Giveaway {2nd Annual Santa’s Little Helper Giveaway Hop} #SantasHelper

Welcome to the Santa’s Little Helper Giveaway Hop, hosted by the Blogging Mamas Network!

Santas-Little-Helper

We all know that everyone could use a little help around the Holidays, so for this Event I’ve teamed up with more of your favorite bloggers to be your Santa’s Little Helper… giving away prizes that anyone would want to see under the tree! You might find the perfect gift for a little one on your list – or even for yourself, so hop around to all the blogs on the linky at the bottom of this post and don’t miss the Santa’s Little Helper Grand Prize from Step2!

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This is a self-sponsored event. One lucky winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card, just in time for the holidays!

amazon25

Fine-ish print: One winner will receive an Amazon gift card via email, valued at $25. Giveaway runs from December 4th {12:01 am EST} through December 18th {11:59 pm EST}. Entering is easy! Simply fill out the Rafflecopter form below. By filling out the form, you are agreeing to the terms and conditions linked in the bottom of the Rafflecopter. Must be 18 or older, and a resident of the U.S. only. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Winner has 48 hours after initial contact to claim prize.

12.19 AmazonGC


Be sure to visit these other awesome bloggers for more giveaways!




So Easy Being Green, Viva Veltoro, the Blogging Mamas Network, and the Santa’s Little Helper participating bloggers are not responsible for sponsors who do not fulfill prize obligations.

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Lessons Learned – Car Seat Safety

** This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting PGM!

You’ve probably seen this story circulating all over Facebook for the last week or so. I shared it on The Practically Green Mom Facebook page, and based on my post, one person has already told me that she turned her daughter’s seat back around. :)

But, Cameron’s passing should start a conversation about more than rear-facing vs. forward facing young children. We should really be talking about PROPER USE of ALL car seats. A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about rear-facing vs. forward facing. Today, it’s still one of the most read posts on this blog, but I no longer agree with some of the information I provided my readers.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE read the following graphic, and FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS in your car seat’s manual regarding installation and proper use of the seat (height and weight limits). Also, verify that your car seat is not EXPIRED by looking for a label on the seat itself. (Yes, car seats have expiration dates!)

expirecollage

If the label has a date of manufacture, but no specific expiration date (like the picture on the right above), you will need to verify the expiration year with the manufacturer. In this case, from the Britax website: “BRITAX convertible car seats manufactured after June 2010 (excluding the Classic line) have a service life of 7 years.” So, this seat with an August 2011 date of manufacture will expire in August 2018.

Rear-Facing (birth to age 2 minimum, ideally age 3-4)

The best way to keep your child safe is to have them rear-facing as long as possible. A child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Infant seats are not intended for long term use, as most babies outgrown them before their first birthday (usually by eight or nine months). If your child has outgrown their infant seat, the next step is a convertible car seat that can be installed rear-facing.

My son is 3 years old, and he could still be rear-facing…if we had a seat like the Graco Size4Me Convertible that would accommodate a taller child. (I believe this is the tallest rear-facing seat that is currently available.)

We have an older model Britax Advocate 70 CS Convertible – manufactured in 2011, which is outgrown in height earlier than some other seats (as I found out after I bought two of them…lesson learned!) Based on the “1 inch from the top of his head to the top of the shell” rule for this seat, my son has outgrown the rear-facing limits. The easiest way to measure this is to find a 1″ thick book, and put it on top of the head perpendicular to the shell. With the headrest in the way, you’ll have to eyeball it, but it’s pretty easy to see that we have 1″ or less between the top of his head and the top of the shell.

RFinAdvocate-booktest1

**The new Britax ClickTight Convertibles seem to have fixed this problem, though. Children can rear-face in these seats until their heads are one inch below the adjuster on the headrest, not just the shell. So, outgrowing the ClickTight seats in the rear-facing position by height won’t be an issue (even for really tall, skinny kids) as long as they are still under 40 lbs.

Forward-Facing (age 2 to age 5 minimum, ideally age 7)

As I mentioned above, the older Britax convertibles don’t accommodate taller children well, so he is also at the highest forward-facing harness level in the Advocate.

FFinAdvocate1

So, we are replacing that seat in DH’s car with a Harmony Defender 360 soon. The Defender is a Combination Seat, which transitions from a forward-facing seat with a harness into a booster. This will allow him to continue forward-facing with a 5 pt. harness until he is old enough (and mature enough) to sit properly in a booster seat with a seat belt.

Another popular Combination Seat is the Britax Frontier 90 Harness-2-Booster which I have in my car now. It has the tallest forward-facing harness on the market as of this post. (See, I did my research this time! lol) It is ridiculously easy to install with the ClickTight technology, and my son has plenty of room to grow in it.

FFinFrontier

Booster (age 5 minimum to age 10-12)

There are three types of booster seats (confusing, I know!)

  • Combination Seat: As I mentioned before, this seat transitions from a forward-facing seat with a 5 pt. harness into a booster.
  • High Back Booster: Designed to boost the child’s height so the seat belt fits properly. Only for children who are old enough (age 5 minimum) AND mature enough (for many kids this isn’t until age 6-7) to sit correctly 100% of the time with only a seat belt. High Back Boosters are recommended for younger booster riders, because the high seat back reminds them to sit correctly, and they usually do a better job of positioning the seat belt on smaller children.
  • Backless Booster: Just like the High Back, it is designed to boost the child’s height so the seat belt fits properly. Be sure to have a vehicle headrest behind the child’s head, at least up to the tips of their ears.

Children should remain in booster seats until they are tall enough (4’9″ tall) to fit in a seat belt properly, which happens around age 11 for the average child. A proper seat belt fit meets the following 5 step criteria:

  • Child sits all the way back against the vehicle seat.
  • Knees are bent at the edge of the vehicle seat and feet are on the floor.
  • The shoulder belt fits evenly across the collarbone and sits flush with the torso. It does not cross the neck or face.
  • The lap belt is low on the hips, touching the tops of the thighs, not the stomach.
  • Child can stay comfortably seated this way for the entire ride.

And remember: your child should still ride in the back seat (even in a seat belt) because it’s safer there!

If you are getting concerned about the number of car seats you may have to purchase over your child’s 10-12 years riding in one, I have good news! There are a few seats on the market that could safely fit a child from birth to booster, including the new (and highly sought after) Graco 4ever All-in-One. (I wish I had one to review, because I have heard nothing but good things about it!) In fact, I did recommend another “all-in-one” seat (Safety 1st Alpha Omega Elite) in my previous post, but I would like to retract that recommendation. I got this as a back-up seat for my in-laws’ car, and we’ve used it twice (I think) in over three years. While it is a perfectly safe seat in both rear and forward facing harnessed modes, it is not truly the “only seat you’ll ever need”. It is difficult to properly install rear-facing, and the versions with a 40 lb. harness limit may be outgrown very quickly height-wise. (Most of these models do not allow use of the top slot in harnessed mode.) This would cause a child to move into booster mode too early. And speaking of booster mode, several reputable sources and car seat techs do not recommend any child use this seat in booster mode due to inadequate fit.

I know I’ve given you a lot of information here, but it is SO important! Again, please FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS in your car seat’s manual regarding installation and proper use of the seat. If you have questions, PLEASE ASK a certified car seat technician! There are several Facebook groups (including Car Seat Safety), and online forums (like car-seat.org) with people ready to help you keep your child safe while riding in the car.

{This post is not affiliated with any car seat manufacturer, but does contain Amazon.com affiliate links. Making a purchase via these links helps support this blog. Please read my disclosure policy for more information.}

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Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth with Lucy’s Cookies {Review}

** I was compensated for the following review, but all opinions are my own.

I have a big sweet tooth, and that’s part of why I love the holiday season! But, for people with food allergies, it can be tough to find a snack to truly satisfy a cookie craving…

That’s where Lucy’s Cookies come in! The company’s founder, Dr. Lucy Gibney, has a child with food allergies. So, all of Lucy’s products are:

  • Gluten Free
  • Vegan
  • No Peanuts, No Tree Nuts
  • Dedicated Bakery
  • Ingredients Tested
  • O g Trans Fat
  • O mg Cholesterol
  • Non-GMO
  • All Natural

lucyscookies

I just tried the Chocolate Chip cookies for the first time, and they are really good! Not overwhelmingly sweet, with just the right amount of dark chocolate chips. I do prefer cookies that are chewy (which these are not), but these are delicious! Even my three year old liked them (and we all know how picky little kids can be about food!) I can’t wait to try the other varieties of Lucy’s Cookies, especially the seasonal options like Pumpkin Patch, Holiday Sugars, and Chocolate Mint. Yum!

If you need some allergy-friendly cookies for a holiday party, or to satisfy your own sweet tooth, give Lucy’s Cookies a try! You can find Lucy’s products at your local retailer, including Target and Whole Foods Market.

{I received two boxes of Lucy’s Cookies in exchange for this review. All opinions are 100% my own. Please read my disclosure policy for more information.}

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