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The Frugal Homeschool: L is for Leaf

Just for fun (and because I've received many requests!), I'm going to start posting a little peek into our homeschooling here every few weeks. I hope that it is an inspiration to those of you who are homeschooling young ones or looking for educational things you can do with your little ones which are inexpensive and simple.

If you haven't done so, you can read more about our homeschooling curriculum and philosophies here.

Recently, we studied the letter "L" and our theme of the My Father's World unit was leaves. What fun we had!


The girls collected leaves and we used them for quite a few different things: we sorted from smallest to largest, we talked about big and little, and used them to practice counting.


We talked about patterns and used these lollipops to make a variety of patterns.


This is one of Kathrynne's favorite games. It's just the uppercase and lowercase alphabet printed on cards and we use it to play Alphabet Memory.


While Kathrynne and I work at the table, I have a basket of different fun things for Kaitlynn to play with that I slowly dole out one by one to keep her occupied. Here she's "reading" Caps for Sale–one of our read-alouds from the leaf unit.


She loves the Paint with Water Books–and so do I! I just give her a paint brush and a cup of water and let her go at it. Sometimes water ends up in many more places than the book, but it's much less mess than actual paint!


Next up: bubbles! Again, these make a little bit of a mess, but it's very easy to clean up and she has a blast playing with them. I picked these up at the Dollar Store and they gave the girls hours of fun!


We took the leaves that the girls had picked and made leaf rubbings.


Who says you have to wait to teach Home Ec. until high school? The girls have a real interest in cooking and baking so I've been making a point to spend time teaching them basic cooking skills. It takes extra time and effort now, but I'm hopeful it will pay off in the long-run with my girls being able to do much of the cooking and baking for our family in the not-too-distant future.

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  • Your girls are so cute in their adorable matching shirts…very special to be able to learn at home with mom!

  • It’s also really great that you are involving the younger one in the studies. It’s so easy to leave out the younger children until it is “their time” – when really so much learning can be accomplished with little ones when they believe that learning is a “privilege” for older kids!

  • Honey says:

    Thanks for the ideas. My youngest 2 are turning 6 so we are doing K this year. I sometimes overlook them because I am trying to work with my (2) 1st graders and my 3rd grader. I want to make more of a point to do some things tailored just for them instead of them just tagging along with the other three. We did form abc’s with sticks in the yard. You’ll see when Silas is older, BOYS LIKE STICKS. Give ’em a stick and they are entertained for hours. Since you can only do the straight letters with sticks we are going to use string to make the curved letters soon.
    Last year I let the kids help me each week to make a dish for the freezer to be served on Thanksgiving. We made hashbrown casserole, sweet potato crunch, dressing (or stuffing to some people) pumpkin pies, fudge etc. This made the actual day so much easier because we were working on things a bit each week for 3-4 weeks (instead of 3 straight days of mommy-only cooking). And they were glad to say they helped:)

  • I have been beating my head against the wall today trying to think of things to do with my 2 1/2 year old. She’s very smart but has a SHOOOORT attention span. Thanks for the tips and insight!!

  • Stephanie says:

    Oh so cute! It will definitely pay off training your girls young. My girls (ages 14 and 11) can cook, clean, and do laundry and are such blessing to me!

  • Margery says:

    My then 3-year old (now 5) ended up almost teaching herself how to read just by the fact that I was homeschooling my then 6-year-old! It’s great that both of your girls can both be involved in their own ways!

  • Ellen says:

    My children love to cook – especially my boys!

  • connie says:

    Thank you for sharing your homeschooling with us! We too use MFW 🙂 Adventures and we are so thankful for your blog- a daily read! Blessings to you today! ~C

  • Carrie says:

    I agree — allowing siblings to learn together seems like one of the great advantages of home schooling. I wish more schools were like Montessori with their mixed-age classrooms.
    I have to hand it to you — I have always looked forward to them going off to preschool and now kindergarten so I could work on blogging while they are gone. It’s amazing that you’re able to keep them all day, do the lessons, and keep up with your blogging as well.

  • kathi says:

    There are ever so many subjects you can teach beyond home economics using food (depending on your child’s age level nutrition–ton of stuff here from basic preschool identifying food groups all the way up grad studies in dietetics; math measuring, nutrition analysis, etc; social studies where DOES all that stuff come from? who grows it? how does it ultimately get to “our” house? what kinds of food did people eat in other times, places; science–raising foods; chemical changes; reading, this usually comes BEFORE the food prep when they want to make x “just like ? in the book” but also gets into following directions

  • Thanks for the peek into your homeschooling routine! I look forward to more as I just began homeschooling my three kids (7, 5, 4) this year.

    Your girls are adorable.

    ~ Jennifer

  • Funny that you did leaf rubbings too! We did them yesterday and today!

  • Cindy says:

    Great pictures of your adorable girls!

  • Tausha says:

    Yea! I was hopeing you would start doing homeschooling posts. My son is a little younger than your girls and we are hopeing to homeschool. These may become my favorite posts along with Baking days

  • Bev says:

    Start a homeschooling blog too! So much fun. My kids (all Homeschooled) have a blast

  • Challice says:

    awwww that is so sweet! Goo ideas there.

  • Charity says:

    I see you use the My Fathers World curriculum How do you like it so far? is it easy and basic. I am wanting to start my daughter next summer and im looking for a good biblical based curriculum that is easy to follow. I was also looking at Rod and staff but I looked at my fathers world and it looks good also and it’s not very expensive wich is good.

  • Jenni says:

    We have used MFW since Kindergarten (our oldest are 2nd graders now) and are so happy with it. All four of our children are boys. All the science and hands-on stuff really appeals to them, and them loving learning really appeals to me! Its great to see that it is a good fit with your girls, also!

  • Great post! Don’t forget about ironing them between sheets of wax paper. Or carefully gluing on fall colored construction paper and covering the front with clear contact paper. Then you can use them for Thanksgiving placemats.

  • shel says:

    Letting the little ones help is a great thing to do, even though it takes us adults longer to get things done and requires lots of our patience…I have a lot of helpers now, 2 teenagers plus even my 5, 8 and 9 yr olds are very capable at peeling and cutting (I have smaller chef knives for them to use and they have been taught how to use them safely), they fold clothes very well and clean pretty good too…it was a lot of work when they were younger, but it is paying off big time, so keep it up! Your girls are adorable (and your baby boy is so sweet). Thanks for allowing a glimpse into your life, this is what makes your blog so enjoyable:-)

  • Jennifer says:

    Okay so how do you manage to do so much? Homeschooling, baking and cooking from scratch, couponing, blogging, finding time for the kids, finding time for the Lord, dates with your husband and hunting down adorable clothes at a great price (which in itself is like a full time job for three kids). I don’t know about everyone else, but I really would like to know. Each day I wake up and say today I am going to get it all in and every day I go to bed knowing I didn’t even come close. So what is your secret?

    Money Saving Mom here: Please don’t have illusions that I have it altogether or do it all. I don’t, I promise. I do pack a lot into each day and probably don’t always get as much sleep as I should, but I love my life and feel blessed to have the opportunities that I do!

    I’ve found that I can only do a few things well at a time. So I stick with those and I let a lot of other things go. I also keep things super simple, try to stay home quite a bit, and am blessed to have a husband who is very involved at home.

    My biggest “secret”, if there was one, is that I begin every day in prayer and Bible reading. I cannot do what I do without God’s help. Dedicating my day to the Lord and asking for His help and grace and ability to use my time wisely makes a huge difference. In addition, I’m a very simple person who streamlines everything and keeps thing super simple. I’m a minimalist so we don’t have a lot of stuff and I am always seeking to keep things pared down to the basics. I think this helps enormously, as well, when it comes to efficiency.

    However, I always have a never-ending to do list, too. And there are days when I feel completely overwhelmed with life. So please don’t get any impressions that I have all my ducks in a row. Anyone who knows me in real-life knows this without any shadow of a doubt!

  • madhu says:

    how do u do it?i have a 5 year old who goes to school full time.he’s smart …i keep telling myself that he should have some time at home doing some kind of homework on top of what he’s doing at school.i have a 17 month old too.i keep putting things off excusing myself by saying that the 17 month old doesn’t let me do do u do it?where do u get all the time to do all this out of the same 24 hrs a day that we all have.
    kudos to u


  • Jen Wellbrock says:

    What wonderful ideas! I don’t homeschool, but I do have a daughter who is off preschool 2 days a week and we are always looking for creative and educational things to do. So glad that you are going to start writing about these activities in your blog!

  • Denise C. says:

    I love their matching tops! So cute!

  • Stephenie says:

    I enjoy this blog, but I miss your other blogs. They were an encouragement to me. I am homeschooling my children (3 of the 6 are “officially” being homeschooled) but I was curious about your homeschool budget. Do your activities (bubbles, paint books, etc) come out of your homeschool budget or how do you work that? I would be interested to hear how you went about budgeting for homeschooling. I’ve been following your blog for well over a year, I don’t think I’ve seen much about that. Thanks!

    Money Saving Mom here: I miss the other blogs, too, but this one takes a lot less time and mental effort to keep up with, so I’m enjoying having streamlined to one blog. Maybe in 25 years from now I can start another blog again. 🙂

    As far as homeschool supplies, we have a $15/month budget for those. I use stuff I find at the Dollar Store, the library, PaperBackSwap, borrow from others, and we request some things for birthdays/Christmas for the girls (such as the paint books). I used the money from our garage sale to invest in the initial MFW K curriculum.

  • Lee says:

    I have a 6 yr old doing 1st grade and a 3 1/2 yr old doing preschool. We do some thing together, but because my 6 yr old has High functioning Autism we do have to do some seperate time. But I have always taught my kids to be in the kitchen with me. They learn fractions really well that way. Plus I will have 2 boys (soon to be 3) who can cook! I believe homeschooling is more than “book” work but also “life skills”. I teach my boys to do laundry, cooking and chores. Usually once a month my boys get to pick, plan, and make dinner with adult help. Usually it is spaghetti, hotdogs, or something of the sort. but it teaches them nutrition to remind them we need a veggie and possibly a fruit with a more balanced meal.

  • Wendi says:

    We LOVE MFW. My oldest is on 5th grade and we have used it from day one. My youngest is in Kdg. as well and we are using it for him. Except he wants to do his sister’s work. We are so blessed to be able to homeschool. Thanks for sharing your pics and your blog on homeschooling. Have a wonderful year and enjoy MFW.

  • Tracey says:

    I think that it is great that you are incorporating cooking skills into your homeschool curriculum. I have been teaching in the public school system for almost 27 years. I teach family and consumer science and can not imagine doing anything else. I love it but we have not be call home economics since the early 1980s!!!

  • Andrea says:

    Love it!! We’re using the Hands on Homeschooling curriculum here, and we really enjoy it!

    I think “practical” education is just one form of education that’s so totally lost these days – I plan on teaching both my son (2) and my daughter (when she’s old enough, seeing as she’s not due until December…), plus any other children how to clean a home, cook, do laundry, etc. It was mind-boggling to me in college when my friends didn’t know how to do these things – I grew up doing them, and LOVED helping my folks out!

  • Tracey says:

    Family and consumer science not home economics!!! It is so much more than cooking and sewing now!

  • Christy Carden says:

    Even working parents and parents whose kids are in school all day should use teachable moments at home like cooking and helping with laundry. My 2 1/2 year old puts away our silverware (sorting), matches his socks in the laundry, is involved in cooking by helping throw trash away and put recycling in the “cycling bin,” etc.–is slowly getting a little more involved and wants to help measure.

    I work full time outside the home. I am a teacher, currently 2nd grade, but I have taught K and 4K and my expertise lies with the younger children. You wouldn’t believe how much kids just don’t know today because they don’t have prior experiences–they watch TV and play video games all day. I make it a point to include my son in daily activities like cooking, walking the dogs, etc. and it is amazing how much he is learning just by exposing him to things, including him, and talking to him about things. He learns a lot at day care/preschool, but I also see all the great things he learns just by building experiences. I can really see all the research I’ve studied about children having early experiences come to life in my own son. It’s not always the big flashy things like the aquarium, the zoo (although we do those too) it is just as important to include children in day-to-day activities! Keep up the excellent work!

    PS I agree with Andrea too. I had a roomate in college who once mopped our bathtub because she didn’t know how to clean it and had already tried to pay each one of us to do her turn (apparently that had worked the year before–not with us :-))!

  • Crystal, You are doing such a wonderful job with your girls. This is the exact kind of homeschooling I did with my girls at that age…it is exactly what they need. What a blessing to get a Frugal and Homeschool Blog in one!! I love it.

    Brings back so many memories.

    I sent you an e-mail earlier, hope you received it.


  • Jenelle says:

    Just wondering where is Silas during all this…I feel like my little one takes so much of my time.

    Money Saving Mom here: We usually do most of our school work during Silas’ morning naptime or I just nurse and teach at the same time. 🙂 I also take advantage of his nursing times for reading aloud with the girls.

  • Kristina says:

    I just wanted to say thanks for posting this today, it is exactly what I needed. I’ve been a terrible Mom lately, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and have been letting it out on my kids and really have been distant from them. My two year old who is normally super bubbly and giggly was so down and depressed the last two days, she kept saying she was sad. I could really see how my outlook on life and my lack of patience was wearing on her. This post gave me ideas and really just hope. I can get my life together and I can become a better Mom. Thanks for the encouragement! Your children are SO precious and very lucky to have you! God bless you!

  • Renee says:

    Check out It’s an entire blog devoted to homeschool activites for toddlers & preschoolers. About 100 other bloggers link up thier homeschool blogs every week and share their week in homechooling. I am one of them ( It’s a huge portal of information and they have over 1000 subscribers! Another blog is Another wonderful detailed blog about homeschooling toddlers and preschoolers. I am so excited that you’re a homeschooling mom too!

  • Jaycie says:

    Hi Crystal,

    This was so exciting to read! My kids are 22 months apart (33M and 11M now) and I love seeing how you teach your oldest while keeping the youngest busy. I’m tucking it away for future months! 🙂

    Funny how we forget simple things—I never thought about paint w/ water for my son! Great tip! We’ve been using messy finger paints so this will make for a change for other days.

    Thanks for allowing us into your personal world, too.


  • Lecia says:

    I am so excited to see you posting about your homeschool. I miss reading about your adventures with your little ones and how you so lovingly incorporate them into your everyday life. Yes, it is easier to send them off to play, but as I believe you show here, it is about incorporating them into what you are doing and teaching them through life. You are such an encouragement and I pray you continue to post about your homeschooling throughout your day. I have homeschooled for 19 years and have been so blessed with another little one (she is 3) so I have many more years ahead of me. I can honestly say that it can be done for those wondering how you do it all. No, it is not easy and not everything will get done. But, the most important thing, molding and teaching our little ones, is the job God gave us. So whether we homeschool or not, focusing on our children is so worth the effort. I pray all of the moms will be encouraged by your posts, I know I am.

  • Katie says:

    Hi Crystal

    I hope this okay to post. I work from home and run an activity class franchise. We teach children to read and write so have lots of lettersheets and resources which your readers can download and use. I’m in the process of posting many more. The resources that are posted on the web have been designed by teachers.
    Have fun:)


  • Lori Ewart says:

    A great LEAF idea is to get several colors of paint suitable for fabrics and paint the backside of the leaf (where the veins are) and make leaf prints on shirts, etc. *Place cardboard inside the shirt, so the paint doesn’t go through. I would wait several days to be sure the paint is dry before wearing. Turn inside out when you launder.

  • Trisha says:

    I love your ideas! Wow, thank you for sharing. I use to teach Kindergarten and I’m considering homeschooling. We use to always say “sharing is caring” so I try and share ideas when I can.

  • Jessica says:

    My girls were the same as yours at that age – even my son was – they LOVED to be in the kitchen! Our almost 9 year old (her birthday is tomorrow) wanted to make cupcakes to take to school (private school – there are only 7 in her class!). So, last night – SHE made them – with very little help from us.

    The girls (ages 9, 7 and 4) all have homemade aprons and help me bake and cook almost daily. Our son (age 11) astounds his friends by making breakfast for them when they spend the night. As you know, what you instill in them now reaps rewards later (and builds priceless memories for all!)

  • Trixie says:

    Thanks for sharing. I love updates on your family. The girls’ tops are so cute!

    I remember how fun those “painting” coloring books were.


  • Pam says:

    Thanks for sharing. Your kids are beautiful. Thanks for all the comments I got some very helpful info. form this article.

  • Dawn says:

    Thank you for sharing this post. It’s amazing the things our kids can learn from us just being at home and using available tools. I need to start working on a curriculum for my 3 year old son and you gave me some great ideas. And your daughters are very cute!

  • Anitra says:

    When and how did your little ones start learning in the kitchen? I have a 13-month-old, and she wants to be in the kitchen with me and gets upset when I’m trying to cook dinner and try to keep her out… but there’s not really anything she can do in our tiny kitchen without endangering herself (or me!)

  • Nancy says:

    Thanks for this. I’m interested in homeschooling, but get intimidated by the issue of how to educate one child and occupy another quietly.

  • Christy Carden says:

    Antira – my 2 1/2 year old started “helping” somewhere between 18 mos. and 2. Most of the time it is not really “help”– it is either, (1) what can I do to keep him busy so that I can cook? or (2) his “help” actually creates more work for me, but at least he is learning and involved in day-to-day activities.

    He started putting things in the trash can for me. Then he started putting things in the recycling bin which is on the porch just off the kitchen. (Sometimes I give him one item at a time to make many trips to keep him busy).

    Now he puts our silverware away when it comes out of the dishwasher (for a while we just lived with a messed up drawer; now forks, knives, and spoons are sorted, but big and small forks are mixed together as are teaspoons and tablespoons). He also puts dirty silverware into the dishwasher, pours in the soap, closes the door, and turns it on (he learned the word lever this way)! He dries off unbreakable dishes from the dishwasher that are still wet. He wipes off counters (I have to do it again, but he is learning and is kept busy).

    He wants to cut when I cut, so I give him a butter knife or a plastic knife, a small cutting board, and a few of whatever I am cutting. Most of the time he is unsuccessful, but he either tries or pretends he is cutting and is content. I tried to show him how to snap the ends off of green beans the other day—not quite ready for that one!

    He also feeds our dogs which is part of our cooking/dinner routine. He knows how to measure the right amount and now really doesn’t need any help to do this.

    He helps pour measuring cups full of flour, sugar, etc. into my mixer when baking and is probably ready to help start measuring since he does so well with the dog food.

    As stated at the beginning, many times his “help” is more work, like when he dropped the pepper grinder and peppercorns were all over the kitchen and he insisted on sweeping them up himself! LOL!—oh, he also knows how to put salt and pepper in food. His version of sweeping is also a great way to keep him busy when I need some time to cook, but still have him close by and involved!

    He is steadily learning to do more and most of the time it is fun to have him help. I work full time (teacher) so I enjoy having him help with dinner and clean-up–many times I cook ahead while he sleeps and have minimal preparation but he helps with the prep. work and clean up. Daddy works 2-3 nights a week and we either eat leftovers or something light like sandwiches and fruit. He can almost make his own PBJ!

    Since he was in the front carrier or swing while I was cooking, I have been talking to him and telling him all the things I do as I do them. My husband laughed at me and said it sounded like I was on a cooking show–talking to your young children is so important. He is developing such a great vocab. for his age! So even if he is running back and forth to the recycling bin or “sweeping” I still talk to him about what I am doing.

    Oh, and he eats a lot while we prep!! 🙂

  • Davonne says:

    I am SO excited to read these homeschooling posts! I just started homeschooling my 5 year old daughter in September, and she actually asked me to read this post to her today. I love the frugal ideas!

    Ideas for you (if you want them!): She recently made a pop-up book using construction paper, scissors, tape, and crayons. So cute! She also created a pretend bakery shop in our kitchen complete with menus, a cash register (made out of cardboard), decorations, food, etc. It’s amazing how far construction paper can go!

    Can’t wait to get more ideas from you. Keep up the awesome work!

  • Candice says:

    So exciting to see little ones learning! My daughter is 3-1/2 and we are learning the letter “K” this week. I found an online resource ( and love the routine. It’s easy and very manageable. Especially with their age, they can only handle between 30-60 minutes daily. They look like they love it – I know my daughter loves hers too! Keep up the great work – you truly inspire me 🙂

  • Brandy says:

    Before I decided to stay home, I was a teacher and these are a couple of resources I encouraged parents to use at home. I’m sure you know about these already, but I thought maybe someone else might like to use them as well. Obviously, all websites listed below should have no spaces.

    www. starfall. com: It is FREE to use this website, however, they do have very inexpensive resources that go along with the site if you want to buy them. The school I worked for and the one my daughter goes to for kindergarten really like this site. The site teaches children to read. It starts with letters and goes from there.

    www. bookadventure. org: This site is also FREE to use and is sponsored by sylvan learning center along with others. It’s a lot like accelerated reader for those who have children in public school that know what this is. Basically, children read books on their level and then go on to the site to take comprehension quizzes on the book. Depending on the score of the quiz, your child can earn points. Points can be redeemed for FREE prizes, including a 6 month FREE subscription to Highlights Magazine.

    www. readinga-z. com: Sadly, this website is not free, but it’s so good that my school system paid for subscriptions for all the teachers to be able to use it. This site has leveled readers from as basic as it gets all the way up to about an 8th grade level. And the topics range from fiction (including serial books) to non-fiction (some of the best topics). It includes SO MUCH MORE than just the books but I just can’t list it all. They do let you download many books for free to sample.

    I hope this helps someone.

  • Jenny says:

    How funny… I love your blog, I get so many great deals from it. And I am using the My Father’s World kindergarten program this year. I have a 4 and 5 year old so they are both doing it, and loving it! I was just encouraged to read that you also use this.

  • Deborah says:

    Great ideas! Thanks for sharing.

    I posted some ideas for fall leaves here:

    I enjoy reading your blog!

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