Paper Crafts for Thanksgiving!

I LOVE making holiday crafts with our kids. So much so that we collect different colored paper, ribbon, stamps, and other craft supplies throughout the year. We’ve often checked out craft books from the library, but we also collect some of our favorites from Amazon and local used book stores.

Holiday craft time is the perfect occasion to talk about a holiday’s origin and why it is important. You can even consider this time as school (history and social studies).

We can also count down the days until the holiday as we prepare various projects (calendar review and math).

Crafting fulfills those “hands on” needs elementary children (and older children!) have and provides a happy break from some of the more academic things we do. And if you have a child that’s more artistically inclined, even better!

The presence of extended family and friends and the chance to make and eat our special holiday recipes (like our family’s huge pumpkin gingerbread cookies) all make Thanksgiving special, but the chance to examine and talk about what we are grateful for leading up to Thanksgiving is a not-to-be-missed opportunity (character training).

As far as crafts go I especially LOVE paper crafts – they are fun for multi-age siblings (and mom!) , inexpensive, and not terribly time-consuming.

If you love them, too, here is a must-have book that has simple, inexpensive Thanksgiving crafts that kids (and moms) love to make.

This useful Thanksgiving craft book has plenty of patterns and clear, simple, illustrated instructions for making turkey pop-up cards, a “Happy Thanksgiving” table greeting, a 3D “I am Thankful for my Family” sculpture, a cute reuseable turkey stencil, and much more.

The book begins with a easy-to-understand history of the Thanksgiving holiday and suggestions for using recycled paper to complete the projects.

In the “Read About” section at the back there are further book suggestions and website links to places where you can read more about Thanksgiving and see additional Thanksgiving crafts.

My favorite project is the pop-up turkey card.

turkey pop-up card

I love the crafts in this book!

Does your family have specific crafts you love to make for Thanksgiving?  I would love to hear about them in the comments!



The Question Box – a lesson plan you can use over and over!

fun idea for any unit

I am not sure where it came from or where it went, to be honest, but we used to have a small, shoebox-sized square box.  It had large red and green paisleys running around the outside and at one time probably held a yummy food gift.

But this was no ordinary box—this was the Question Box.  Using it MADE EACH UNIT MORE FUN by:

  • getting my kids excited about what they were going to be learning
  • starting our school day/history study with a fun, challenging activity  
  • helping our kids actually see how much they were learning as the unit progressed


After morning devotions, our routine was to head to the schoolroom and start the academic day with the kids taking their turns excitedly pulling a question pertaining to our unit study from the box.  Here’s how it worked.

How to do it.

Customarily, I would make up numbered history and science fill-in-the blank and short answer questions on the computer and print them out, making them different colors.  

I also made myself a key on a separate sheet of paper. Don’t forget that. 

I cut the questions apart and into the box they went.  I coded them so we knew which were the ‘younger student’ questions and which were the ‘older.’ 

We would have a new boxful at the beginning of every unit, and a big box full of new questions was always something my kids looked forward to.

Typically, at the start of a new unit they wouldn’t know many of the answers. (If they did not know the answer, the question went back into the box.)

But they had fun guessing and, at the same time, became more interested in what they would be learning. As we progressed through the unit, they were jazzed about how they were getting more and more of the questions right, and how I had to throw in some harder questions just to keep things interesting. 

By the end of the unit they usually had all of the questions, even the hard ones, answered correctly. We also had contests and sometimes received prizes (like a piece of gum or an M&M) for answering, for example, three questions in a row correctly. 

This simple idea could be adapted in a variety of ways:

·The kids could create and decorate the box

·Older students could make up questions for the younger ones

·Kids could pull a ‘seat work’ assignment out of the box, such as a verse to copy or memorize, a sentence with errors to edit, a short word problem to figure out, etc.

·An older elementary, middle or high school student could pull out a person, place or event to research, write about, and present to the group (or to you)

·Even household chores for that day could be chosen from the box.

As I have been slowly cleaning my way through the school room this summer, I came across some of our Middle Ages questions that would be appropriate for late Primary (K-2nd), Intermediate (3rd – 5th) or early Preparatory (6th-8th) students. The last five or so would be suitable for Preparatory and/or Secondary (9th-12th) students.

Sample Middle Ages Questions and Answers

The answers are in bold type and in parentheses after the questions:

1.  What is the name of the part of a castle that is a tower, often round, with many stories?  There, nobles slept, ate and planned.  Soldiers lived on lower stories with the dungeon below.  (keep)

2.   Between 1100 and 1300 AD, large groups of knights, nobles and even some peasants (and children!) traveled from Europe to the Middle East to try and take possession of the Holy Lands from the Turks.  These trips were called the ___________.  (Crusades)

3.  What are two popular games played today that originated during the Middle Ages? (chess and checkers)

4.  During the Middle Ages, craft _________ were set up to make sure their members were properly trained as apprentices and produced high quality goods. (guilds)

5.  From what disease in the 1300’s did about a third of all the people in Europe die? (the Black Death or Bubonic Plague)

6. What was the name of a legendary king who ruled a Kingdom where people were peaceful and content? He came to represent the ideals of justice, peace and honor.  (King Arthur)

7.  Large, rural estates were called _________.  (manors)

8.  A craftsman who made tools, weapons and cooking utensils from iron was called a _______. (blacksmith)

9.  Books were copied by hand, one by one, usually by ___________.  (monks)

10.  In manor houses, people used ___________ to cover walls, to keep out drafts, and/or to divide rooms.  (carpets and tapestries)

11. What were musicians called who traveled around the country, played, sang and told stories at special feasts and other events? (minstrels)

12.  ________ traveled great distances to buy and sell goods. (Traders or merchants)

13.  A special design each knight carried on a shield or his clothing that helped knights tell each other apart in battle was called a  _____ __ ____. (coat of arms)

14.  What were pictures called that were painted directly onto wet plaster?  (frescoes)

15.  What was a mechanical device called that hurled heavy objects into the air, at or over castle walls during an attack?  (a catapult)

16.  The ________ ________ was a survey completed in 1086 of nearly all the lands in England and was conducted by officials of King William the First (also known as William the Conqueror).  (the Domesday Book)

17.  Dried plant seeds, roots and/or leaves that were used to flavor foods or make not-so-fresh meat taste better (and were quiet expensive) were called ________.  (spices)

18.  The _________ was one of the most highly skilled craftsman of the middle ages, combining the jobs of architect, builder, engineer, and sculptor today, working on all stages of a building project.  (mason)

19.  Many ________ and _________ were used as medieval remedies for sickness and disease.  (plants and herbs)

20. What was depicted by the famous Bayeux Tapestry? (The Bayeux Tapestry depicts the famous Battle of Hastings in 1066, when the Norman invader William, Duke of Normandy, challenged Saxon King Harold.William’s forces won the battle; henceforth, he was called William the Conqueror.)

21.  Briefly describe the feudal system. (Vassals gave loyalty and service to lords in exchange for land and military protection)

22. Describe the concept of chivalry. (Chivalry is a group of character qualities thought to be exhibited by the perfect knight, including loyalty, honesty, courage, and courteousness—especially towards women.)

23. Describe the Magna Carta and its significance, as well as the circumstances under which it was signed. (The “Great Charter” was the first document in English history that forced a monarch to be subject to the law and provided for the creation of a strong parliament.King John, a wicked and greedy king who had levied incredibly high taxes, was forced to sign it by his rebellious barons in 1215 in Runnymede, England.Once it was signed, the barons again swore fealty to King John, not realizing the king had no intention of keeping the agreement.)

24. Name at least one key character from the Middle Ages and describe why he or she was historically significant. (This has many possible answers! Among them:

  • Alfred the Great: a noble and wise ruler who bought about an educational revival in England; 
  • King John: [see above]; 
  • Joan of Arc:a young French girl who rallied the French against the English and who victoriously led the French army in battle.She was eventually captured and burned at the stake as a witch; 
  • Charlemagne: French ruler, Charles the Great, who controlled most of west and central Europe and presided over what was called the Carolingian Renaissance; 
  • Genghis and Kublai Khan:Grandfather and Grandson, these Mongolian leaders ruled over much of Asia and almost to Europe.Although Buddhist, they were tolerant of most religions other than Islam.Kublai did much to encourage literature and the arts.)

25. Who were the Moors? (A nomadic people from Northern Africa, the Moors descended from Arabs and Berbers who had moved into the Holy Lands and spent many years fighting the English during the Crusades.They are known for their goal to spread Islam across the world and for their magnificent, unusual architecture.)

Please feel free to use these questions in your school, and have fun making up some of your own!  (And if anyone wants to send in their questions, we will post them.  Many hands make light work, you know.)

How do you think your kids would do at this? Do you see how it could spark some interest in what were studying?


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Teaching Character Using Poetry II

Considering that April is National Poetry Month, it’s an ideal time to examine how you can incorporate poetry in valuable, meaningful ways. Continue reading throughout this month as we discuss poetry for all ages and various subjects!

This is a continuation from our last post about Teaching Character through Poetry. Today we’ll look at another example from Scripture:

Psalm 8

1 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
above the heavens.

2 From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.

3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,

4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?

5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.

6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:

7 all flocks and herds,
and the beasts of the field,

8 the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

9 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Important Character Concepts and Activities from Psalm 8

When we consider the glory of God and all He created, we should be in awe and amazed just as David was when he wrote this poetry! God’s majesty lies before us in all of creation and He never lets us forget His greatness.

  • Character conceptHumility…which us of could create an animal or put stars in the sky?
  •  Possible related activity: Take a nature walk and note every possible thing that could only be created by God. Discuss how we should be humbled that a God so awesome not only created us, but loves us above all of the rest of His creation. Have your students draw something observed from your walk, and include Psalm 8:9 as copywork under your drawing.
  • Character concept: God places man “a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” With this glory and honor comes responsibility and stewardship. How do you think God expects us to treat His creation?
  • Possible related activity: Make a chart of the many parts of God’s creation from which man benefits. In one column, generally note the creation and then in a second column, specifically list benefits. For example:

Plants     /     medicine, herbs, food, art, cleaning the air

Ocean    /      medicine, food, beauty and leisure

Expanding your study

  • Memorize this Psalm or another one in honor of National Poetry Month!
  • Have your high school student choose another psalm and write “character concepts” and “possible activities” as we have in these last two posts.  Use that to teach a younger sibling or friend.

Which psalm is your favorite for teaching character? Would love to hear about it in the comments!

Editor’s note: This post was written in collaboration with Beth Hempton, formerly with Train up a Child Publishing. You can read more from Beth by going to her website at Classes by Beth or checking out her blog

How to Make Your Own Natural Easter Egg Dyes!



Did you know that thousands of years ago the ancient Chinese were already dyeing fabric?

Or that the Maya in South America created red dye from ground insects?

Instead of buying those pre-packaged egg-dye kits this year, why not create your own natural dyes?

You have most of the ingredients in your refrigerator and pantry already. Experimenting with various vegetables and spices and turning out eggs that are one-of-a-kind is a great hands-on, multi-age project.

Here’s what you need:


The items we used are pictured above. (We had to go to the store to get red cabbage to get a bluer-blue, so add that one.)  Here is a list of what we used this year and the color that each material yielded:

  • yellow onion skins: dark red
  • red onion skins: purplish-red
  • coffee: light to dark brown
  • tea: light tan/golden brown
  • spinach: light green
  • turmeric (spice): bright yellow
  • red cabbage: bright blue
  • raspberries: light pink

Gather items you can use to make dye, such as the ones above.  Try some other spices, grass, flower petals and other items you might have outside with one crucial caveat:

 Check and make sure that nothing is poisonous, please! 

You would not want to touch or have your children touch plant parts that are poisonous, and you certainly would not want to put anything poisonous in your cookware. If you do not have a thorough field guide to your local plant life, just stick to vegetables and spices.

You will need at least four small saucepans. (Smaller pans don’t require so much dye material.)

Depending upon how many eggs you would like to dye and how much material you have  –  I recommend at least 12-18 uncooked white eggs. It seems over the years that some eggs absorb dye better than others – I am not sure why that would be; does anyone know?

IMPORTANT NOTE: Authorities say eggs are not safe to eat if they have been out of the fridge more than two hours after cooking, so keep track of this unless you aren’t going to eat them.



  1. Chop (veggies/skins) or mash (berries) each item that needs it and put a cup or more in each saucepan with the egg(s).  The typical four burner stove allows four saucepans/dye colors to be done at one time.
  2. Measure about two cups of water  – or just enough to cover the egg(s) – add one tablespoon of white vinegar for each cup of water. Stir it.
  3. Boil the eggs for 20 minutes and turn the heat off or remove pan from burner.
  4. Check the color of the eggs.  Leave them in the water longer/add more dying material if you would like a deeper value.
  5. You can even leave the eggs in the water overnight if you refrigerate the pan with the water and the eggs. (Cool before putting in your fridge.)

Leaving three eggs  in red cabbage/water overnight (in the fridge) resulted in the gorgeous blue pictured below!



Other Method

Another method is to use the procedure above but without cooking the eggs until you have boiled the material for an hour and strained it.

Once the dyeing material has been boiled and removed by straining, use the water to boil the raw eggs  for 20 minutes.  This probably results in a more solid, uniform color, rather than the “textural” look of our eggs.

I have never tried this.

Perhaps I was too impatient to boil it for an hour….

While You are Waiting

While you are waiting for the eggs to cook/dye to take, you might read and talk about the history of dye creation. Here are a couple of links to get you* started:

General historical info about dye (Science)

Dying silk (Science/history)

The famous “Silk Road” trading route: (History/geography)

*Please do not let your kids loose on links without first taking a thorough look – I did not read every word on every page connected to these.

The Results

When you are done cooking the eggs and you are happy with the color, remove them from the dye water, gently pat dry and refrigerate. The egg carton they came in is a perfect place to keep them. When they have cooled, shine them up with a little vegetable oil to bring out the color.  




What About You?

Have you ever dyed your eggs using natural dyes?  How did they turn out? Do you have any dyeing material that you particularly like?




What’s Labor Day all About?

Child labor
“Addie Card, 12 years. Spinner in North Pormal [i.e., Pownal] Cotton Mill. Vt.” by Lewis Hine, 1912 – 1913
Picnics and barbecues. Parades. Weekend beach getaways. Last days by the pool. These are what most people think of when the words “Labor Day” come to mind — enjoying time with friends and family as most people have that day off from work.

However, Labor Day has a greater and richer meaning than that. Keep reading to see why we honor this special day.



More than 100 years ago the labor force was completely different than it is today. Men, women, and even children of five and six labored ten to twelve hours a day for little pay, seven days a week. There were no weekends. No sick leave days. No vacation days. No over-time pay. Working conditions were often dangerous and unsanitary.

In 1872, a New York City carpenter by the name of Peter McGuire rallied over 100,000 workers to go on strike and march through the streets of the city, protesting these conditions. Many people have credited McGuire for the idea of Labor Day. McGuire fought for a decade to earn rights for workers.

Workers began organizing into labor unions to fight for higher pay, shorter days, and rights for children. They fought to set an age limit on the children who worked to prevent them from injuries. Finally, in 1882, McGuire had the idea to designate one day as a special holiday for workers.

On Tuesday, September 5, 1882, ten thousand workers once again joined together in the streets of New York City. However, this time it was for the first Labor Day parade. The Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York by also celebrating a “workingman’s holiday.”

Labor Days in the late 1800s typically consisted of street parades followed by festivals for workers and their families. Elected officials used the opportunity to speak, and picnics and celebrations abounded. Then, in 1894 Congress passed a federal law declaring the first Monday every September as Labor Day.


Labor Day Ideas for Children


  • Have children create an “Occupation Collage.” Provide magazines and newspapers for children to look through and find workers. Cut out pictures of various workers in our country. Glue and display the pictures onto colorful, patriotic paper.
  •  Thank You Cards. Show your children how to write/stamp the words “Thank You.” Allow them to stamp the words onto paper. The children can decorate cards then deliver them to community helpers (Library, Fire station, Bakery, Post Office, etc.).


  • Have children choose an occupation. They can draw a picture of the specific worker then together brainstorm a list of the responsibilities or things a person must do for the job. See the link for a helpful worksheet.
  • Thank you cards are also perfect for elementary students! Also consider the folks that pick up the trash and deliver the mail (but nothing inside the mailbox, please!) Consider adding some freshly baked cookies to your thank you!
  •  Interview. Children can select a few jobs that interest them or that they want to know more about. Schedule interviews with people in the community and allow the children to conduct the interview after first working together on listing appropriate questions.

 Middle School

  • Build a Resume.  Middle school students can research what skills and education are necessary to obtain  jobs they might be interested in. Have them create a “future” resume of what they would need to accomplish in order to be chosen for a job in that specific field.


  • Volunteer. Have your high school students choose a job that they would like to pursue. Have them arrange a day where they can volunteer or shadow someone in that profession to experience the responsibilities and commitments that are necessary for success.

Note: The little girl pictured above worked in a mill. She told the photographer she was twelve, although her coworkers all said she was ten. 

How are you planning on celebrating Labor Day this year?