Category Archives: Homeschooling

Making Soap

One of the items we offered at our Middle Ages market stand was soap.  I got into soap making several years ago and made my own for a short while but then eventually stopped.  I decided it might be fun to offer soap at our stand, so I got out all my dusty supplies and made a few batches.

This is the book I use when making soap.


I usually always make the Basic Soap recipe.

First I assembled all my supplies:  distilled water, lye, kitchen scale (a must), glass jar w/ long wooden spoon, olive oil, palm oil, coconut oil, grapefruit seed extract, essential oils for scent.


The next step, after assembling your supplies, is to measure your lye into the glass jar.


Add distilled water to the lye… and you get a very interesting reaction.  The mixture heats up to 200°.  It happens instantaneously.   It then takes about an hour and sometimes more  to cool down to the proper temperature for use.

While the lye is cooling, I then melted/heated the oils.  The oils are heated just until the bulk of it has melted.  I added calendula (I think it was) to the oils to try and get a yellow soap.


Once the oils had cooled to the proper temperature, I strained the blossoms out.


I then added the lye to the oils.


To this mixture was added the grapefruit seed extract and essential oils.  This was stirred until it reached a trace.  (A term used in soap making that stands for just the point when the soap is starting to thicken and you can take a spoon and drizzle some mixture across the top mixture and you are able to see it the trail you make.)

I poured the liquid soap into my molds which were boxes I had on hand.  I lined the boxes with freezer paper using masking tape to hold it in place.


I placed the soap under a few sleeping bags to keep it warm and left it overnight.


I made a second batch and used liquid chlorophyll for the colorant.  This is the soap after setting overnight.


I took the soap out of the mold and using a ruler measured the bars, then cut.


I don’t know why I get white spots on the top surface of the soap but it seems to always happen.  So, I scraped it off.


All the pieces that are scraped off can be gathered together into a ball and used.  It’s not pretty but no soap goes to waste either.


The soap is left to cure for 3-4 weeks.  The odd shaped bars were kept for our own use.


I wrapped the soap in saran wrap and printed labels to go on the wrapped bars of soap.  

Did you know there really was a group of knights called Knights of the Bath?  They received this name when going through the ceremony to become a knight.  Part of the ceremony involved taking a bath as a symbol of purification.  Maybe if you have boys that are allergic to baths you could entice them by explaining that even knights had to take baths. 🙂  Scrub away boys!




Filed under Craft Corner, Unit Studies

Our Middle Ages Co-op Day – Part II

To see part I of our day go to my post on Our Middle Ages Co-op Day – Part I

Just at the time our event began, the rain completely stopped (after raining for 4 hours) and it was quite beautiful outside.  It was too late to change anything so we continued with having the event in the racquetball court.

The marketplace was so much fun for everyone.


We told the kids to haggle and to be loud when offering what was at their table.  “Fresh bread and butter.  2 shillings!”



We also told our guests beforehand to haggle because once the “coins” in their moneybags was gone, it was gone.  Everyone did great on the haggling.  It was a very lively marketplace.


Newspapers were sold.


A lord helping his lady down the hillside.


Since we are of Scottish descent my Zachary told some of William Wallace’s life story.  Someone at our church had a Scottish kilt, of what clan I do not know, and we were able to borrow a Wallace tam.  The afghan which is almost identical to a Wallace plaid we found at Goodw*ll.  Zachary’s form of speech was a dramatic interpretation and if you do not know what that is ( we learned about it during our speech class) you can look it up on YouT*be.  It’s a very fun and interesting way to give a speech.  Do you see the knife he is holding in his hand?  Zachary and Wesley both made one. (Wesley’s is still the size of a spear.)  They spent hours working on it.  They built a fire that burned all day so that the coals would be extremely hot.  They pounded and pounded their piece of rebar until they had the shape they wanted.  You know how much satisfaction one gets the more effort they put into it, well they are so happy with the end result.


Why don’t I just show you a close-up picture of it?


This was the first time for all these little ones to give a speech.  Not too many years from now, they’ll be so big.


We were taken on a tour of different rooms in the castle.  This was the dungeon.


Wesley was an old man telling his grandchildren the story of King Alfred, whom he had fought with in his younger years.  Wesley was breathing heavily the whole time he gave his speech.  At first I thought it was part of it but then I realized that he was having a hard time breathing with that big beard!


At intermission, the lads had a melee.  We had about 12 swords.  Eventually, they made up teams.  Sometimes one side would charge the other side and demolish their army.  At other times they would have several people in the “ring” at one time.




“Joan of Arc”


Our family, minus one.  Where are you, Seth?


This royal family’s servant (daughter)  prepared the food for everyone (about 80 people) as part of her high school requirements.  The meal was perfectly done and served right on time.  A++  Then the royal family served it. 


Speeches are all done.  Whew.  Time to eat, talk and relax/play (depending on your age 🙂 )


And finally, a group picture of all who spoke.  (The spots are caused by dust in the air.)


Filed under Unit Studies

Our Middle Ages Co-op Day – Part I

Here at last I’m getting to the pictures of our co-op day.  How fun it was!

The day started out beautifully and the framework for our marketplace was started.


But then it started to rain and it rained off and on for several hours.


We couldn’t put the sheets on the “roof” of the marketplace because of the rain.  What to do?  Our whole event was planned for the outdoors.  A last minute decision was made to move into the racquetball court.  Off to the store some of the men went to buy some plywood and such for a platform and straw for the floor.  A racquetball court is very echoey so you have to do something to absorb sound. 



Meanwhile, much preparation was also being done inside the house.  Zachary made iced mint tea from his garden to sell at the marketplace. 


“Money” was being put into coin bags to give to our guests.  They then used the “money” to buy goods at the marketplace.


Beautiful long hair was being braided in medieval hair styles.


At last it was time to begin.  To start, we had all our guests go to our front yard.  We then would take 13 at a time and have them enter the time machine.  The time machine that a few of the mom’s worked on turned out to be just great.

All the windows in the dining room were covered with black plastic .  Around the door you can see where the sign reads “Time Portal – Destination”.  Around the edges of the door which you cannot see, it read “Middle Ages”.


The light bulbs in the dining room were changed to colored ones.  These were blinked on and off during our journey back in time.  To complete the effect and make it totally dark a black piece of plastic was pulled across the opening once everyone entered the time machine.  Noises were made resembling space ship sounds using a karaoke machine,

All the participants went through first. 


A poem from the middle ages was read while “time” rolled backwards on this big time wheel.


Then a soft voice spoke saying “You have now reached the middle ages.  You may exit to the right.”  They were now back in time. 

Ready for adventure!


Off the participants went to the marketplace to await our guests.


Lots more pictures to follow but that’s all for today! 🙂

Updated to add:  Part II is up.  Click here.


Filed under Unit Studies

Bread for our Middle Ages Market Stand

I arrived home yesterday to the lovely smell of bread wafting through the house.  The kids had been busy making 40+ loaves of bread for our Middle Ages Market.  We are going to have a market place where our guests that come to hear the children give speeches (see this post if you are wondering what I’m talking about) can shop and bargain for any goods they would like to purchase.  We made coin bags (see this post) several weeks ago and each family will be given one with “money” (flat marbles) inside to buy anything that pleases them in the marketplace.

One of the items we’re offering is bread.

Just look at these beauties.

It would have been nice to have the dark rye bread but since we hadn’t experimented with any recipes we used our tried and true 12-Grain Whole Wheat Bread recipe.

The tired bakers that worked at this for several hours.


Wesley had been in on the action the day before…


making these beauties… but sometimes things don’t go as planned.  Little brother (we won’t mention any names here 🙂 ) cranked the oven up to 500° and the bread burnt some on the outside and was doughy on the inside.  😦  We get to eat this bread but we had to make some more for our guests.  This was before the bread went into the oven.


Thus, Wesley retired from the kitchen and Zachary became Serenity’s assistant baker.


Not to leave Wesley out, we let him come back in and do some clean-up!


Even though he’s wearing the same shirt this really was the day before.  I think he looks like he was having more fun making bread than… 


washing dishes.  What do you think?

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Filed under Unit Studies

Speech Writing for the Young

Just how do you go about writing a speech for younger children that have not learned to do it for themselves?  How can you guide them into being able to eventually do it for themselves?  There are always so many ways to approach something and if you have something that works for you that is different than me – great!  But for those that need some direction, that wonder where to start, I will share what has worked for me.

For our upcoming Middle Ages Homeschool Speech Co-op Day I have 5 children giving speeches.  Their ages are 3, 6, 11, 14 & 17.  The older ones wrote their own speeches, including Serenity (age 11), but Audrey (age 3) and Justus (age 6) needed help.  Now Audrey does not have to give a speech but she wants to and asked me one day if I had her speech ready yet.  So I had to come up with something.  I settled on the subject of Chess and wrote her out 3 sentences.  She also has 2 pictures to show the audience.  That was one easy speech to write – once the topic was chosen.  Now all that’s left is practicing those 3 lines with her everyday to help her memorize them.

Justus is in the early stages of learning to read so how is he supposed to give a speech?  It’s easier than you think.  One of the books we were reading together was Coat of Arms by Catherine Daly-Weir and Jeff Crosby.  It’s a very simple book and easy enough for little children to understand.  I made sure that Justus was in the room when I read it to the other children.  He also agreed that he would like to give a speech on Heraldry so I told him to be sure to pay attention so that he would know all about it.

After several readings of the book, we were ready to write Justus’s speech.  The first thing I do is decide where we need to begin.  In this case we wanted to begin with the duties of Heralds a 1,000 years ago.  I then asked Justus what Heralds duties were.  He tells me what he knows and I write it down.  If he needs some prompting I will do that, too.  Then we move on to the next point we want to cover with me asking him what he knows about it and writing down what he says.

The above step is so important.  I have heard children give speeches that were completely above their heads because the parents did the writing and expected the child just to say what was written.  Most times, with the final speech, there is still something not quite right about it.  The child is unable to read it (or recite it without much help ) because they have been unable to make the speech their own.  When a child can tell you back what he has learned (does this sound familiar?) as they do during an oral narration it becames his own.  It’s information he possesses – not just what mom has learned and wrote down. 

When the child “owns” the information for himself, he is able to share it with others without being so tied in to a written speech.  Sure he needs an outline or even an actual speech to direct him from point to point, to keep everything in continuity but the words are his words.  The understanding is at his level.  Besides, there’s something really cute about children’s words even when everything is not said perfectly.

The other problem when a parent does most of the writing is that they want to include any information they(the parent) learned in the child’s speech causing it to become overwhelming for the child and usually too long.

Okay, so now what am I’m going to do with Justus’s speech since he is unable to read for the most part?  I put his speech to pictures.  I was a little apprehensive about the time it would take for me to put his speech on Heraldry to pictures but was pleasantly surprised at how quickly it went.

This is page 1 of his speech.


When he looked at it he wondered what in the world it was all about but once I explained each picture (and many of them repeated themselves) it was no problem.  Because the information had become “his own” he was able to see the pictures and know what he was talking about.  His speech is near 3 minutes long.  Sometimes in his speech he may not be grammatically correct but that doesn’t bother me a bit.  I think it adds to it.  Besides, those things will fall off in time.

Just to reiterate, here are the steps I followed:

1.  Read the information to the child.  (not information that is above their head but at their level)

2.  To write the speech, decide where it should begin & what points you want to cover.  (you may want to make an outline)

3.  Go over each point with you child and ask him to tell you what he knows about it.  (prompt him if necessary)

4.  Write down what your child has said.

5.  You (mom) either write the speech using pictures or if he can read, write the words.  (you will need to flesh out his sentences since he will have given only facts)

6.  Have him practice his speech every day and you will be amazed at how proficient he will be! 


Filed under Public Speaking

Review – Beginning Public Speaking

Beginning Public Speaking Teacher's Guide

Beginning Public Speaking

Written by:  Teressa Moon 

Publisher:  Communicators for Christ


For the past several months I have been teaching a public speaking class to about 13 homeschoolers.  My guide for conducting the class has been Beginning Public Speaking by Teresa Moon, published by Communicators for Christ.  It has been a wonderful resource.

There is a Teacher’s Edition, Student Workpack & DVD which are all available from Communicators for Christ for the price of $99.95.  I did not have the DVD’s but used only the Teacher & Student Book and I think you really could just use the Teacher’s Edition and not purchase anything else.  The individual books can be purchased through Christian Book Distributors.

The books are aimed at ages 8-12 but I adapted it for use for younger and older students as well since we were a more informal group and wanted to include everyone that wished to participate.  It was so cute to watch the little ones get up and practice introductions, impromptu speeches and their delivery skills. 

I acutally split the class up.  The younger class consisted of children up to the age of 11.  While they were giving their speeches the older ones would play a game or go outside.  Then when the younger children finished we had the older class come in (ages 12-up) to give their speeches.


The book is laid out for 9 classes.  The types of speeches covered are:

Impromptu Speaking Introductions

Reading or Recitation of a short story or poem

Expository Speech

Humorous Interpretation



Dramatic/Humorous Interpretation

Persuasive Oratory


The class went in this order:  Discussion, Presentations, Activity & Assignment.  If you have the DVD’s you can even watch a demonstration of the type of speech that you are assigned for next class.  Since I did not have the DVD, I usually just gave the speech myself.

This course was excellent in exposing the children to various types of speeches and teaching them the basics needed in good speech delivery.  I would have really liked to purchase the DVD’s but felt the price was much too high but if you were to get several people to go in on it, it would be doable.  I highly recommend this course.


Filed under Public Speaking

Getting Organized with Schedules – Part 2

After I made my 12 week schedule for our Middle Ages unit study (see this post – Keeping Organized with Schedules – Part 1), I then did another spreadsheet that shows me what we should be doing at what time.  I put the times in to help keep me on track.  You could also do a schedule that showed general blocks of time, for instance:  8:30-12:00a.m. Unit Study, 1:00-3:00p.m. Independent Study.

As I said, I did mine with specific times for each part of our unit study to help me to be able to just move from one thing to another without having to put any thought into what is next on the agenda.

On my spreadsheet I made 5 columns across the top.  The first column heading says Time and the other four columns have the days of the week.  Our school week is only 4 days a week at this point.  It seems that if I schedule 5 days there is no breathing room if our days do not go as planned.  Sometimes my husband needs their help or we’ll have visitors or other distractions.  It’s also nice to have a day to focus on other things.  

Are you like me?  Do you get frustrated if your days do not go as planned or do you take it all in stride?  I have determined this time to not make an overambitous schedule (which I am wont to do) and to trim things down to where it’s manageable for the children.   I really like the four day week and of course, the children do, too, although this does make the 4 days longer since it’s not spread over 5 days.

The other day when I was reading aloud to them, Black Fox of Leorn,  I went over time.  Seeing this, I was able to realize, because of my schedule, where the problem lay.  I now have moved that to the evening (before bed) for our ROL time.

At this point, I only have Monday times filled in.  I wanted to be sure that it would work okay.  It seems to be going well so next I will fill in the other days.  Some days will be different because we’ll have Artist Appreciation, Rummy Roots & Nature Study. 

A schedule is never perfect.  Someone once told me that everything seem to work for awhile and then it becomes no longer effective (chore charts, rewards, etc.).  This has been completely true in my family.  I do not have kids begging to go to the schoolroom.  This is normal, I think.  Although they enjoy learning and I do, too, there are days when you just want to do something else.  My schedule may be fine for us at this season but in a year (or less 🙂 ) it may need to be reworked.

I often lose sight of the fact that we are unique individuals – what works for one may not work for another.  For instance, when I see the amount of subjects Lindafay of Higher Up and Futher In covers with her children, I’m amazed.  Are we doing something wrong that we’re not able to do the same?  Sometimes I feel like we are but then I try (Oh, Lord, help me to do more than try!) to remember that other peoples lives may be on a different track than ours, we’re unique from each other,  BOYS are different than girls (highlight and underscore that!).  I must never forget that God is directing our family. 

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD

Psalm 37:23 

So, if these ideas on schedules can be a help, I would be so happy.  But do not feel that you are failing or are a terrible mom/teacher if you do something completely different. 

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Filed under Homeschooling, Organization, Uncategorized