Category Archives: Handi-skill

Serving sizes for Math Lesson

Handi-Skill Spotlight: Serving Sizes

I don’t know how things work in your house, but on the rare occasion that I bring home fun cereal, it disappears at the speed of light. Invariably, one (or both) children feel like they didn’t get their fair share.

This past week, Momma wised up and came up with a solution. It’s so easy that I don’t know why I didn’t think of it earlier. Dividing it into serving sizes!

Serving sizes for Math Lesson

As I began to look at the side of the box, I realized – what am I doing?!? “Hey, Rex, come here. How much is a serving size of this cereal?” To which he replied, “About a bowl.” So, we had a lesson on serving sizes. Think of how many skills are used in order to divide up a box of cereal!

  • How to find the serving size using the information on the box (3/4 cup).
  • Look at the number of servings in the box (12).
  • Divide that number by the number in our family (4) to come up with how many servings he got to have (3).
  • Figure out how much cereal he should put in his zip bag by multiplying his servings by the serving size (2 1/4 cup).
  • Find the correct size measuring cup to most easily use for a situation (3/4 cup in our house) and how many scoops are necessary (3). {Of course, if he had realized that there was a 3/4 cup scoop, he could have cut out some of the other stuff – but, I didn’t let that cat out of the bag.}

After he finished the exercise, I called out “Monkey, come here,” and started the process all over again. So, in about 5 – 10 minutes, they worked easily {and naturally} with fractions, multiplication, division, and algebraall to earn some breakfast cereal. {We’ll get to the health side of the issue later.}

Dividing Cereal to Practice Math

If the goals are real, then the motivation is natural, and math doesn’t need to be scary at all. {My friend, Bon, over at Math Four would be so proud of me!} Have you found easy ways to practice math in everyday life? Won’t you share them in the comments {or, just tell me hi – I’d love to hear from you}!


grocery shopping for learning consumer math - unschooling

Handi-Skill Spotlight: Surviving the Grocery Store

Not sure what a Handi-Skill is? Perhaps a better name for this series would be Real World or Real Life Skills.

As we start out on our unschooling journey, I’ve had my eyes {and mind} open to finding unschool opportunities for those basic skills that I feel are necessary. I would say that Consumer Math is probably one of the most important to learn before going out on their own, and going to the grocery store has to be the most natural real world math experience there can be!

grocery shopping for learning consumer math - unschooling

I know it’s easier to go to the grocery store without the kids. Oh, boy do I know it! But, if they don’t go, they are missing out on a valuable learning opportunity. Or, maybe you always take your kids, and you are looking for ways to occupy their attention so that you can get the real work done. I want to suggest that perhaps they can be a bigger help than you realize – especially if they are school-age.

First, a couple of warnings:

  1. Do not attempt this when your kids are hungry, tired, or sick. You will both leave frustrated.
  2. Do not attempt this when YOU are hungry, tired, or sick.

In Christian Unschooling by Teri J Brown (p32), she shares how she encouraged her children to practice consumer math. She handed them each $10, and they were to buy their lunches for a week – and that they should be healthy. {I kind of forgot that last part – oops!} This could even be used with younger children – perhaps giving them $5 to choose their snacks for the week.

I’ll be honest, the idea of my kids holding up a line at the grocery store makes me VERY uncomfortable. I don’t like it. I want to take the money right out of their hands and do it for them. But… they won’t learn anything that way. So, I decided that this might be worth a try. {Plus, knowing that they really would only have one or two bills to work with on this first try made it a little easier to let go.}

When you teach a child something you take away forever his chance of discovering it for himself. Jean Piaget

This might seem like a simple exercise, but let’s break down all of the thinking skills necessary to make this a successful outing.

Price Comparisons

We had a few instances where they had to decide which package was a better price – which meant dividing it out and determining how much it was per ounce {or per item}. Then, even if it was cheaper for the larger one, you have to determine if it is enough cheaper to warrant getting it. For example, Monkey decided to get Pork & Beans. She could get the larger can for about a penny less per ounce, but that was not enough of a savings to warrant having to open a large can when she only needed a small one.

In the breakfast aisle, there was a particularly unusual case. Due to an extra savings that we were eligible for, the larger box of Pop-tarts was actually cheaper than the clearanced smaller package. Four extra pop-tarts? Score!

Kid learn which is the better buy

Clearance normally indicates a rock bottom price, but you should always check.

Making Tough Choices

Monkey also wanted to get some frozen pizzas. So, we looked at one brand {which is not her favorite} and determined that 5 pizzas {with coupons} would be $4ish, and she divided it out to be 81 cents per pizza. Then we looked at the french bread pizzas {which she prefers}, and she determined that it came out to $1.75 per pizza. So, I asked her – does eating 1 french bread pizza fill you up twice as much as the other kind? She decided that it was not worth the extra cost.

Rex’s hardest decision was a little more cut and dry – logically, albeit not emotionally. He desperately wanted some powdered sugar donuts.

learning about tough choices - consumer math

But, at $3 a bag, that put him over the $10 budget. He immediately saw that it was not a good option to put back his corn dogs, but he wanted me to allow him to pull $1 from his own money. Let me tell you – he was so angry at me when I told him no – that the exercise was in making decisions and making the purchases fit inside the $10.

Working Together

They both wanted to get Pop-tarts, and the best choice was definitely the 12 count box. But, they both wanted to have more than one kind, so we suggested that they might want to work together and swap some packages when we got home.

This thought had never even occurred to them! But, once suggested, they eagerly agreed that made sense. {Although I do not hold any allusions that will last for an extended length of time.}

Planning Ahead

What they purchased had to last a week – a whole week. Now, yes, they know that mom and dad have back-up food {ie PB & J and Rice}, but they needed to plan out how long what they were purchasing would last them.

Rex knew that he needed to plan on 2 corn dogs for a meal because 1 just does not fill him up. So that had to be accounted for when he was deciding how much to get.

I anticipate being able to help them learn the coupon process in the future as well – that way they will be able to stretch their money even further.


They kept a running total as they went to make sure that they didn’t go over their $10. They knew that we would make them put something back instead of rushing in to the rescue. {And, I am happy to say that they both came in under with a little bit of change left over.}

Working with Money

Not only did they need to have an idea of how much everything should cost {so that they knew if it all rang up correctly, they also needed to have an idea of how much their change should be – and count it to make sure that they got back the right amount.

By practicing {and Mom not stepping in}, they will get faster and less trepidation when trying to give the money to the cashier. This was probably the most stressful part of the trip for me.

People Skills

Oh, could this be where those social skills come in? We chose to go through a real lane instead of the self-checkout lane so that they could get practice handing the money to a person {ie not balled up in a bunch but lying flat and straight} and receiving change from a real person. This way human error was a possibility – necessitating counting the change. :)

For this to work, Mom {and Dad}, you have to be willing to let them make a mistake. You have to be willing to let them experience the consequences of their actions. Definitely guide, but it has to be their decision. For example, had Rex chosen to get the donuts, we were going to let him – then he would have been missing his “real food” in about two days. And, on the flip side, it also makes any successes their own!

I know that some of you are probably very nervous about handing over $10 to your kids. And, let’s be honest, $10 for a week of lunches at home, really is quite a lot. For us, our grocery budget {for 4} is $70 a week for food, so forking over $20 of that was a little stressful. But, I do think that the skills they will learn from this process is definitely worth the sacrifice. And,  on the plus side, no more complaints about there being nothing “good” to eat – it’s all in their hands.

For some further ideas on how to incorporate math into your unschooling life, I highly recommend Joyce’s article Unschooling Math found, coincidentally enough, on An Unschooling Life.

How have you incorporated math into your everyday life? Or does it just happen naturally? Please share your experiences in the comments!


Faux Stained Glass

Handi-skill Spotlight: Stained Glass

Not sure what a Handi-Skill is?

Making stained glass is probably a skill better suited for the older kids. Here are two different  methods for achieving beautiful results.

Suzy’s Artsy-Craftsy Sitcom has a fantastic tutorial for making Faux Stained Glass using glue, acrylic paints, and other easily obtainable materials.

If you have a teen who is ambitious, you may want to give the real stuff a try. has graciously provided step-by-step instructions for how to make stained glass.

Or, maybe your’re like us and just want to enjoy the beauty of the glass. We have a local glass shop where they allow customers to watch the process.



Handi-Skill Spotlight: Cross-stitch

Not sure what a handi-skill is?

Source: via Lindsay on Pinterest

Cross-stiching is an age old craft that comes in neatly packaged bags in craft stores everywhere. You can easily get started for under $10.

The sky is the limit as to the number of patterns that are available for your child to pursue.

There are towels, wall hangings, pillows, or how about the newest kid on the block? The Purl Bee has instructions for cross-stitching an iphone case. {What could be cooler, right?}

Source: via A on Pinterest


window painting

Handi-Skill Spotlight: Window Painting

Not sure what a handi-skill is?

Have you ever admired the window paintings in a store window? Did you ever think that people are paid to paint them?

Here’s a neat idea to start making those paintings at home.

For younger children, Hands on as We Grow has a great tutorial using soap and tempura paint which makes for easy clean-up – at least on the outside of the house.

For older kids (and for something more permanent but still removable), Glory’s Mischief has detailed instructions using a dry erase marker for the outline and acrylic paint. She tells you step by step how to create a cat in the window and pumpkins for a Thanksgiving Theme, and you could easily adapt the directions for other designs. (Note: The Window Woman warns against using acrylic paints that are advertised for glass because these are designed to be permanent on glass.)

If you have any questions, The Window Woman has free informational tips covering the types of brushes and paint to use as well as how to prep your window.

And, who knows – maybe one day you’ll have an artist who paints something like this…

Have fun!


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handicraft - teach children massage tecniques

Handi-Skill Spotlight: Massage Techniques

Not sure what a Handi-Skill is?

Monkey and her cousin Lilly used to set up a spa in her room complete with dimmed lights, signs reminding you to be quiet, and soft music playing in the background. Oh, how I wish I had thought to teach her the art of massage.

Do you have little girls who like to play Spa? Or a darling son who like to massage his poor mother’s feet? Well, then what a perfect time to teach them how to do massage correctly. (Not to mention, how awesome would it be to get said massage?)

Sadly, the best site that I found for teaching massage techniques seems to be directed more towards couples massage, but they do a good job of showing the hand movements. You definitely want to take a look at the site before letting the kids on there – or of course you can learn the techniques and then teach them yourself. has free video tutorials on back, foot, and arm massage as well as hands and fingers and some that you probably don’t need/want your kids to learn…

If you’re looking for some baby massage techniques, has a good article with some how tos.

And, massage has so many proven health benefits, what could be better than the whole family trading off massage time?

What do you think? Would your kids enjoy giving massages? Getting them? Tell me about it in the comments.


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Handi-Skill Spotlight: Origami

Not sure what a Handi-Skill is?

Origami is such a neat little skill to have, isn’t it? From amazing your friends to being able to fold napkins for a fancy dinner party, it’s just one of those things that always surprises those who see it.

It’s really not as hard as it looks (well, some of it) – especially if you buy the specially made origami paper available at most craft stores. The key seems to be starting with a square. Also, the store bought paper is nice and thin which allows for more folds without getting bulky.

The great thing about origami is that the initial expense is very low. There are online resources with the directions, and you could even cut your own paper if you didn’t want to purchase the special kind. (Although from personal experience, I will tell you that it is much easier when using the purchased papers.)

Source:  Sean on Pinterest

Origami-instructions has some particularly easy beginner pieces for very young children or to use as a great confidence booster.

The Origami Resource Center seems to be targeted to a little bit older child – or once you’re ready for something different.

And, for something a little bit different, Tammy Yee offers Print and Fold Origami which allows you to have an end result that is very colorful.

For the adventurous types, check out the Napkin Folding Guide and be ready to amaze your next dinner guests.

Happy Folding!



Handi-skill Spotlight: Bubbleology and Designing Your Own Future

Not sure what a Handi-skill is?

Right about now, I’m sure you’re thinking – bubbleology? Is that really a thing? And, I’m here to tell you that last Fall (at the same nature fair where we got the Cloud Posters), we were thrilled and amazed by a Bubble-ologist.


Keith Johnson uses bubbles to teach lessons on everything from science and math to history. He is hired to perform at schools, libraries, and other events – so, apparently there is a career path available playing with bubbles. Whoda thunk it, right? :)

But, even more than the bubbles is the lesson– this guy took something that he loved to do – and was good at – and made a career for himself!

The recipe for making your very own touchable bubbles (<-tweet this)

  • 12 parts water
  • 1 part dish soap
  • 1/2 part KY (I’m guessing for the glycerin?)

{There’s an exercise in math right there, right?}

Don’t have a wand?

No problem – you can go simple with either a straw or paperclip, or you can go as elaborate as a hula hoop in a baby wading pool.  Really the sky is the limit.

Using a straw? Make a small slit in one end of the straw, and fold back the edges. Dip the end with the slit into the bubble solution.

Using a paperclip? Unbend it and reshape it into a ring with a handle.

When touching the bubbles, be sure that your hands are wet with the solution – dry hands equals popped bubbles.

If you have the opportunity to see Keith Michael Johnson in person, I highly recommend it – it was fun for the whole family!  His website lists his performance schedule.

In closing, enjoy some bubble fun from the master himself:

Video not showing up?

Do your kids have any crazy ideas that would be pretty cool as a career? Tell me about it in the comments!


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dirty laundry separated on the floor

Handi-skill Spotlight: Laundry

Today’s Handi-skill leans more on the life skill side of things. Well, not so much leaning as being a critical life skill.


The bane of my existence.

Luckily, this is now my children’s duty, and amazingly we now have clean socks when we need them. I was shocked when I realized that with the help of a step-stool (and a less filled soap jug), my 10 year old is completely capable of doing the laundry.

First, I taught them how to make our laundry detergent. It costs less than $7 for 10 gallons of detergent (a LOT less), and takes about 2 hours (or less) to make. And, yes – it cleans well – hypoallergenically too.

Then, on to actually doing the laundry – they have to learn how to load the washer, the temperature of the water, etc, etc…. There is really so much to learn.

My favorite source of all things laundry is Mama’s Laundry Talk. I think I’ve spent hours on her section on How to Fold Laundry alone…

On a side (somewhat unrelated) note, this past weekend I pulled out all the colored hangers and put as much as possible onto white hangers, and I can’t believe how much of a difference it makes. Now the hangers aren’t competing for my attention – the clothes are the stars – at least until they are put on, right?

What handicrafts or life skills have your kids been learning lately? I’d love to hear about it – let me know in the comments.


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White Tapered Candles

Handi-Skill Spotlight: Candle Making

Wondering what a Handi-Skill is?

There are so many different kinds of candles out there that you may have a hard time deciding which one to try first.

Tapered Candles

We’ve done this before, and it was fairly easy to do – although it will require adult supervision for any littles. You know your child best as to whether they can handle it on their own.

You need to have some sort of large can, clean and dry to use for the wax. We used a 28oz tomato can, but, A taller, skinnier can would have probably worked better. You’ll also need wax and some wicks (both available at the craft store) as well as a metal washer.

The hardest part was probably cutting wax off of the huge 4lb chunk to fit into our can. While you are getting the wax into your can, have a pot of water coming to a gentle simmer on the stove (NOT boiling). Once the water is ready, gently place the can into the pot of simmering water to allow the wax to melt. After the wax is melted, you’re ready to make your candles.

I found some great, really specific directions on how to make Colonial Candles that we used when making our candles.

Here’s how ours turned out.

And for a little fun, you can add crayons in your favorite color to the wax to make your own custom color candles (try saying that three times fast.)

See those really skinny small ones with the burned ends? We used those for my son’s 8th birthday cake. Yes, we did this project 3 years ago as part of a week full of Colonial activities.

Cost: around $25 – with plenty of wax left over to do this several more times. If you are able to find a 1lb pkg of wax, the cost can be considerably less.

Gel Candles

We’ve not done gel candles yet, but this is something that I’m interested in trying. There are so many options for fun designs that you really are only limited by your imagination. The good news (or possibly bad news if you’re easily distracted like I am) is that there is an entire row at the big craft stores dedicated to gel candles. Take a look at how easy these candles are to make.

Cost: You can get a Gel Candle Kit for about $25 at Amazon, but I’m sure you can get just a few supplies from the craft store for less.

Beeswax Candles

These look like a really fun way to do candles – lots of options and color. Since the wax doesn’t have to be melted, this looks like a great way to get started with the young ones.

Here’s some easy instructions to get started making your own rolled beeswax candles.

  Source: via Gidget on Pinterest

Cost: You can get a Beeswax Candle Rolling Kit with Decorating Ideas, in Bright Colors for around $20 at Amazon, but you may be able to start with less supplies to give it a try.

Molded Candles

Your creativity can really kick into gear with molded candles. Shapes, Colors, Scents – there are so many different options to choose from! This is probably the most complicated of the different candle styles, but I’ve found a pretty in depth tutorial on how to make your own molded candles.

Cost: This also looks to be one of the more expensive projects. You can get a kit for $30, but I advise taking a stroll down that candle aisle and seeing what you can get for a small project. You can also make your own molds.

There are lots of other possibilities out there including floating candles

and even a water candle kit

so there’s sure to be a candle out there that fits your budget and your style.

What’s your favorite type of candle? Tell me about it in the comments.


Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links.

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Handi-Skills Spotlight: Changing a Light Bulb

OK, time for something new to kick off 2012 – Each week I plan to feature a different handicraft or life skill that would meet Charlotte Mason’s approval.

The points to be borne in children’s handicrafts are:(a) that they should not be employed in making futilities such a pea and stick work, paper mats, and the like; (b) that they should be taught slowly and carefully what they are to do; (c) that slipshod work should not be allowed; (d) and that, therefore, the children’s work should be kept well within their compass. Volume 1, Home Education pp 315, 316.

While perusing a list of possible choices at Simply Charlotte Mason, I one struck me as odd – at first.

Changing a light bulb. And, then I asked myself the question – “Do my children know how to change a light bulb?”  Realizing that there was really no reason why they would, I decided that this should be our first task tackled (don’t you just love that alliteration?)

  1. Make sure the switch is flipped to OFF. (This could take some finagling in one of those rooms with several different switches that control the same light, BUT it can be done – when installed, they all were in the off position…)
  2. If the light just went out, wait several minutes to make sure that the bulb is cool to the touch. If you are unclear, you can tap a finger lightly (and quickly).
  3. If the bulb is above your head, find something sturdy to get higher.  NO – a chair is not a suitable step stool – and for goodness sake, if you do use a chair (because we all do it at least once, don’t we?), please don’t use a rolling one.
  4. Remove the blown bulb (Lefty Loosey).
  5. Place it aside on a level surface. It’s amazing how many tiny shards those bulbs can shatter into – and, if you happen to have the misfortune to break one of those corkscrew bulbs, you will have the added fun of cleaning mercury off of your floor… So, as the genie says “Don’t do it…it’s not pretty”
  6. Pick up the new bulb and then screw it in (Righty Tighty.)
  7. Flip the switch to ON to admire your handiwork.
  8. And, of course don’t forget to throw away the old bulb! (I always use the kitchen trash can because I feel like the bag is strong enough to take it if the bulb breaks.)

And now I feel better knowing that my kids will not be leaving the house without knowing how to change a bulb – and BONUS: I now have 2 new bulb changers in the house!

What about you ~ do your kids know how to change a light bulb?