Thursday, October 18, 2018

Avoiding Household Toxins

Many mainstream household products contain ingredients that are harmful to humans, animals, and the environment. We really strive to avoid as many of these toxins that we can in my household. In this post I will share which chemicals are most important to avoid and my favorite alternatives to mainstream products with toxic ingredients.


Ingredients To Avoid:

Sulfates- Sulfates are found in almost all mainstream shampoos and detergents. Sulfates can cause skin irritation and have been linked to  endocrine disruption and neurotoxicity.

Parabens- Parabens are estrogen mimicking chemicals often used as preservatives in the cosmetic industry.

Artificial Dyes And Fragrances- Artificial dyes and fragrances contain a slew of carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. They've been linked to cancer, birth defects, allergies, and nervous system disorders.

Phthalates- Phthalates are endocrine disrupting chemicals often found in personal care products and detergents.  They've been linked to breast cancer and early onset puberty in young girls.

PFC's- PFC's or perfluorochemicals are organic pollutants often used in stain resistant clothing, fast food wrappers, and non stick cookware. They've been linked to low birth weight babies, thyroid dysfunction, liver inflammation, and reduced immune function.

Alternatives To Mainstream Products With Toxic Ingredients:

Most mainstream shampoos contain sulfates, parabens, artificial fragrances, and other toxins. Luckily there are quite a few shampoo brands out there with fairly clean ingredients. A few of my favorites are:

-Ology: which can be purchased at most Walgreens stores or on Amazon. 

-EO Essentials: they're a small business based out of Marin County California and sell a variety of shampoos, conditioners, soaps, and lotions with safe ingredients.

-Another option is going shampooless. This doesn't mean not showering or washing your hair but washing with just water. Believe it or not, most people's heads will adjust in just a few weeks and your oil production will drop significantly. My kids have never used shampoo a day in their lives and have beautiful clean healthy hair.

Most toothpaste contains sulfates and artificial dyes and fragrances. Toothpaste also contains fluoride, which is a known neurotoxin. Fluoride applied to the teeth in tiny amounts and properly rinsed is unlikely to be problematic but the problem with fluoride is that we are exposed to far too much of it. Many cities add it to their water supply and children are often given vitamins containing fluoride. Consuming fluoride is not a good idea, it can cross the blood brain barrier causing brain damage. It also causes severe damage to our pineal glands.

If you choose to use toothpaste with fluoride, be sure that you and your family thoroughly rinse your mouths after use.

My favorite clean ingredient toothpastes are:

-Dr. Collins


-Earthley's Remineralizing Tooth Powder

Anti-perspirant deodorants contain aluminum, another known neurotoxin. Aluminum in deodorant has also been linked to breast cancer. Deodorants often contain artificial scents and other toxic ingredients. There are a few aluminum free and artificial scent free brands out there including:

-Earthley's Mineral Deodorant

-Kiss My Face's aluminum free deodorant line

Or you can make your own. It's really pretty simple. Wellness Mama has a good recipe here.

Dryer Sheets
The chemicals found in mainstream dryer sheets are considered to be some of the most toxic in the home.  And what's worse is the toxic fragrances in dryer sheets are designed to stick to your laundry where they slowly leach chemicals onto you and they're surrounding environment. Instead of dryer sheets, try adding wool dryer balls to your dryer when drying laundry. Or just skip the dryer all together and line dry your laundry.

Lotions often contain ingredients you don't want to lather your skin in. Instead use raw shea or cocoa butter. Or even plain old olive oil works great as a moisturizer without all the unwanted toxins.

Household Cleaners
Household cleaning products contain a lot of nasty chemicals that I don't feel comfortable using around my home. Instead I make my own cleaning products. You can check out recipes for my most commonly used homemade cleaners here.

Or of you prefer store bought, these companies sell cleaning products with safe ingredients:

-7th Generation


Pest Control Sprays
Pest control sprays around your home and on your pets are probably some of the most dangerous chemicals in the home. Instead of using toxic chemicals, consider switching to more natural pest repelling methods like diatomacious earth, herbs, essential oils, or borax. You can find out more about natural pest repellents here.

Also avoid mainstream mosquito repellents containing DEET or other harmful ingredients. Instead try this DIY kid safe bug repellant that my family uses.

Local water supplies often contain many unwanted contaminants, not to mention the fluoride many cities add to their water supply. To find out about potential contaminants in your local water supply, visit the EWG What's In Your Water page. Once you know the contaminants specific to your water supply, you can shop for the water filter that will best suit your needs.

Non stick cookware is often coated with dangerous chemicals like PFC's that can scratch and cook off into your food. Yuck! Instead of using mainstream cookware, use cast iron or stainless steel.

Also be aware of plastic food containers. Many plastics contain endocrine disrupting chemicals that can leach into your food. Instead, use glass storage containers.


The Combined Effect of Methyl- and Ethyl-Paraben on Lifespan and Preadult Development Period of Drosophila melanogaster (Diptera: Drosophilidae) 
Journal of Insect Science, Volume 16, Issue 1, 1 January 2016, 15,

The estrogenicity of methylparaben and ethylparaben at doses close to the acceptable daily intake in immature Sprague-Dawley rats
Scientific Reports  
volume6, Article number: 25173 (2016)

Joseph M. Braun, Sheela Sathyanarayana, and Russ Hauser

Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014,

Philippe Grandjean, MD, DMSc and Richard Clapp, DSc, MPH

volume6, Article number: 25173 (2016)

If you enjoyed this post, check out:

-DIY Kid Safe Non Toxic Bug Repellant

-How To Reduce A Fever Naturally

Follow me on:

Monday, October 15, 2018

Simple Autumn Leaf Craft

One of my family's favorite autumn activities is collecting pretty colored leaves. My kids love finding them and bringing them home to photograph and use for crafts. In this post I share instructions for a simple autumn leaf craft we did recently.


Collecting Your Leaves:

Take a short nature walk in your neighborhood or a near by park to collect leaves.  Try to find a several different shapes and colors.

We ended up with several gorgeous maple leaves, a few yellow cherry leaves, and couple oak leaves.

Making Your Own Leaves:

Once you've collected some leaves, take them home and let your kids look at them up close. Talk about the colors you see and the different shapes and parts of the leaves.

Trace a few of the nicest shaped leaves onto white paper and have your kids color or paint them to look like some of the leaves you saw and collected on your walk. We used oil pastels because they work well for blending colors but colored pencils or water colors would work well too.

Have your child cut out the leaves and glue them to a piece of black construction paper.

Extend the fun:

We paired this activity with a fun book we found at the public library called Colorful Leaves.

Check the library for books about autumn leaves or check out some of these fun online resources about autumn leaves:

-Why Leaves Change Color In Fall from Kidzone Science 

-Why Do Leaves Change Color from Environmental Education For Kids

-Why Do Leaves Change Color Video from SciShow Kids

If you enjoyed this post, check out:

-Fall Leaf Investigation

-Nature Stamping

Follow me on:

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Set Up Your Own Creation Station STEAM Table

I like my kids to have access to lots of materials for creating and building whenever inspiration strikes. That's why I recently set up a Creation Station STEAM Table in our homeschool space. The idea is to keep the table stocked with materials for building projects, creating art, and working on simple science, that my kids can use anytime they have a little free time.


Why Set Up A Creation Station?

Kids need unstructured time to just experiment and create without instruction or adult interference.  It's those times that kids learn to problem solve, build self confidence, and develop critical thinking skills.

I love how creative my kids can be when left to work on their own ideas. Recently my daughter designed and sewed a gown for one of her Barbie dolls. I was blown away by her finished product. It was so creative! And she made it completely on her own which made her feel really proud of herself.

How To Set Up A Creation Station STEAM Table

First, find a space to use. A corner of your learning space or even a corner of your dining room will work great. Set up a decent size table with plenty of room for stocking with supplies and working.

Then find materials to stock the table with. Some materials we often keep on our Creation Station table are:

-Construction paper
-Colored Pencils 
-Toilet paper rolls and paper towel     rolls
-Rubber bands
-Pipe cleaners
-Pom poms
-Craft sticks
-Sewing supplies 
-Beads and string
-Magnifying glasses
-Rocks and minerals we've collected
-Kinetic sand
-A small basket of Legos

Pretty much any material you feel safe letting your kids build and create with!

Organizing Your Creation Station STEAM Table

You can organize your materials for your table however you want. I keep a large bin at the far end of our table for random loose materials like toilet paper rolls, rolls of string, duct tape, pipe cleaners, etc...

I keep pens, markers, scissors, glue sticks, etc in a couple small baskets along the back of the table. We keep sewing supplies and jewelry making supplies in a couple plastic bins with lids.

If you have toddlers or young children in your home, you may want to keep supplies that you don't want them having access to in containers with tight fitting lids or in a nearby cupboard or cabinet. We usually keep tiny or sharp things like the beads and our sewing kit in the cupboard above our Creation Station table so my two year old can't access them.

And that's it! Once your table is set up and stocked your kids can get busy building and creating!

A Peak At Our STEAM Table:

Our rock painting station

My daughter's rock collection, some geodes we were recently given, and a basket full of pens, colored pencils, scissors, and paste.

Sewing kit, art kits, and coloring books

I keep a large bin at the far end of our table full of random STEAM supplies like paper towel rolls, string, a container of beads, clean aluminum cans, pipe cleaners, rubber bands, etc...

If you enjoyed this post, check out:

-Lego STEAM Activities 

-Toothpick Gumdrop Geometry

Follow me on:

Monday, October 8, 2018

Why I Don't Buy My Kids Halloween Costumes

I don't buy my kids Halloween costumes. I might buy them a particular piece they need, or take them to the thrift store to search for usable items, but I don't buy pre put together costumes. My kids make their costumes mostly from things around the house. I always made my own costumes growing up and it's become a project my kids really enjoy.


It Encourages Creativity

Making your own costume from scratch encourages creativity and can help develop problem solving skills. You have to come up with your own idea and your own design. You may have to think outside the box and use items in a way you might not immediately think of.

My daughter's been working on a genie costume for this year and made a really cool headband/tiara out of an old belt.

Allows For Mind Changes

I don't know about your kids, but mine tend to change their mind about 100 times before they make a final decision on a Halloween costume. So far my 7 year old has wanted to be Moaning Meryl from Harry Potter, a witch, a bride, Honey Lemon from Big Hero 6, and a genie.

Making your own costume eliminates this headache. My kids can change their mind as many times as they want up until Halloween day and it doesn't matter. Last year my daughter changed her mind from bride to witch on Halloween afternoon.

Store Bought Costumes Are Pricey!

I can't believe how expensive most store bought costumes are these days! Especially considering how low quality they tend to be. We bought my daughter a Princess Sophia costume on clearance a few days after Halloween a few years ago. It tore the first time she wore it. I was so glad we only paid a few dollars for it instead of the original price which was $35.

Making costumes from things around the house is much more affordable. I usually only end up spending a few dollars per kid, usually on costume jewelry from the thrift store, or headbands for making animal ears on.

It's Fun!

My kids enjoy getting to make their own costumes. It's a project they look forward to and plan for all year long.

How does your family handle Halloween costumes?

If you enjoyed this post, check out:

-Why We Don't Do Bedtimes

-5 Reasons To Let Your Kids Go Barefoot 

Follow me on:

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Homeschooling With A Toddler

Keeping your toddler happy and busy during your school time with your older children can be tough. In this post I share my best activities and tips for keeping your toddler entertained so that you can focus on working with your older children.

Sensory Bins

Sensory bins are a fantastic way to keep toddlers attention busy for awhile. A sensory bin is simple to make. They are a simple bin filled with some sort of tactile material like sand, rice, dry beans, kinetic sand, etc...additional materials can be added as well like small figurines, sea shells, pretty stones, pom poms, acorns, small toy cars, anything small and fun to play with.

Coloring Books

Even pretty young toddlers can learn to hold a crayon and move it around on a page. I keep a bunch of cheap coloring books on hand for my toddler to work in during school time. Her favorites are coloring books with cute animals.

Pom Pom Sorting

My daughter loves this activity right now since she's learning her colors. Just set out several plastic bowls and dump out a pile of different colored pom poms. Put one of each color, each in a different bowl and have your toddler try to sort them by color.

For younger toddlers, skip the color sorting part. They will just have fun putting pom poms in and out of the bowls. Plus it's good for fine motor development.

Legos Or Blocks

Playing with Legos (the larger toddler sized ones) or wooden blocks is almost always a hit around here. They can keep my two year old entertained for quite a while.

Get Them Their Own School Supplies

Get your toddler their own pencil box and fill it with crayons. Get some cheap Dollar Store workbooks and a couple notebooks. Your toddler will love playing school along with their older siblings. And you never know what they may learn. My two year old is learning the letters of the alphabet by listening to her sister's spelling lessons.

Board Books

One of my two year old's favorite things to do while her older sister and I work on reading is to "read" her own books. She loves to flip the pages and say "read, read, read...." it's seriously the cutest thing ever. I am so glad she is developing an early love for books. Hopefully she'll be excited to learn to read when the time comes.

Use Nap Time To Your Advantage

Luckily most toddlers take naps still, unless your one of my "sleep is for the weak children". Use nap time to your advantage, save messy or difficult projects and lessons for when your toddler is asleep.

Be Patient

Most important is just be patient, with yourself and your toddler. It's a tough balancing act. Toddlers have short attention spans and sometimes your older kids need your focus. Take breaks when you need to.

And keep in mind that one of the advantages of homeschooling is that you can work at your own pace. If a lesson gets interrupted, that's okay, you have time to do what needs to be done and then pick your lesson back up.

How do you keep younger siblings busy during school lessons?

If you enjoyed this post, check out:

-Homeschool Curriculum And Resources: My Top Picks

-Learning To Read Is Not A Race

Follow me on:

Monday, October 1, 2018

Avian Egg Investigation

Eggs are a really interesting subject to teach your kids about. An egg has to contain all the nutrients and material needed for a baby animal to form and grow inside. In this post I share several activities for learning about bird eggs!


Examine An Egg

Let your child handle and observe several eggs of different color and size. Talk about the differences and similarities.

Get out some rubber gloves and a bowl and let your child crack the egg open to examine the parts inside. Point out the white and the yolk.

Look Up Close

Get out a magnifying glass or microscope and look at a piece of an egg shell. You should be able to see tiny holes all over the egg shell. These holes are how the developing bird gets oxygen!

Check out this awesome video to learn more about eggs and gas exchange:

-How Baby Birds Get Oxygen Inside Their Eggs

Learn About The Parts Of An Egg And Draw A Diagram

Discuss the parts of an egg you saw during your investigation today and have your child sketch and label a diagram.

You can learn more about the parts of an egg here:

-Anatomy Of An Egg from The Accidental Scientist 

More Activities And Resources For Learning About Eggs

The Naked Egg Experiment from The Barefoot Mom- this is a super fun and simple experiment that allows you to examine an eggs inner membrane with the egg still intact!

The Bouncy Egg- a fun spin off the naked egg experiment. Learn how to make a raw egg bounce!

Parts Of An Egg -a video about the parts of an egg from The 4-H Netwok.

Baby Chick Hatching-watch a baby chick hatch from it's egg in this short video from Birdy Official.

If you enjoyed this post, check out:

-A Homeschool Feather Study

-The Egg Drop STEM Challenge

Follow me on:

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

How We Teach Geography Without A Curriculum

We use very little premade curriculum in our homeschool. I tend to build my own curriculum using library books, printables I find online, documentaries, workbooks, YouTube videos, and as many hands on activities as I can come up with (Pinterest is full of awesome ideas). In this post I share how my family is studying U.S. geography without a curriculum or text book. This method would also work great for world geography and geography of other regions. Once we're done with all 50 states, we plan on moving onto the countries of the world.


How We Got Started:

My plan was to spend a week or two studying each state, one at a time. In that week or two we would learn about the geography of the state, interesting state history, interesting facts, etc...

I started by showing my daughter a 
U.S. map and had her pick a state to start with. She choose Hawaii.

We hung a U.S map up on a bulletin board in our learning space where we can see it everyday. As we "visit" each state we stick a push pin in it on our map.


Free printables: I found free printable state map coloring sheets to color as we "visit" each state.

The public library: Your public library is an awesome resource. Use it! We take a library trip before we start a new state and check out books about that state.

YouTube: There are lots of free virtual tours of important historical and geological sites. 

Other Online Resources: There are lots of websites out there with general facts and historical information about each state. A simple google search will give you lots of results. A few of my favorites are:

-Duckster's: United States Geography

-National Geographic Kids

-National Geographic Kids: US States

Google Images is another great online resource. You can look at pictures of specific regions, neat geologic features, major cities, and important historical sites for each state.

A Look At How We Studied Hawaii:

The first state my daughter chose to learn about was Hawaii. We started by finding and marking it on our U.S. map and coloring a Hawaii state map.

We spent a day researching general information about Hawaii like it's state bird, what it's state flag looks like, what year it became a state. I had my daughter record important facts on a sheet of notebook paper.

We spent a day looking at images of Hawaii on Google Images and watched some footage of Hawaii's volcanoes erupting on YouTube.

We spent a day learning about Pearl Harbor and took a virtual tour of The Pearl Harbor Memorial on YouTube.

We spent a day learning a little about Polynesian history and folklore and read a few Polynesian folklore stories from a book we checked out from the library.

By the end of the couple weeks we dedicated to studying Hawaii, I feel like we learned a lot and we didn't have to open a single textbook and didn't have to spend any money on a curriculum kit. I'm looking forward to learning about the rest of the states!

If you enjoyed this post, check out:

-How To Teach Science Without A Curriculum

-Math Outside The Classroom

Follow me on:

Avoiding Household Toxins

Many mainstream household products contain ingredients that are harmful to humans, animals, and the environment. We really strive to avoid a...