8 Ways to Include St. Patrick’s Day in Your Homeschool (And Why I Think It’s Worth Celebrating)

Until a few years ago, I didn’t really “celebrate” St. Patrick’s Day, other than maybe wearing green and having a Shamrock Shake. I didn’t really understand what it was about, other than a celebration of Ireland. As silly as it sounds, it was a Veggie Tales video that my children were given that told the story of St. Patrick bringing Christianity to Ireland that clued me in.

Since then, I also discovered that I have some Irish heritage – one of my great-grandmothers was descended from Irish Catholic immigrants. As a result, I’ve made a bit more effort to celebrate on March 17, and to teach my children more about the real meaning of the holiday and about their heritage (my husband has ancestors from Ireland as well).

I know that there are some non-Christian symbols associated with the holiday, but the same can be said for Christmas and Easter. That doesn’t change the original and important reason for celebrating. Also, some of those symbols are misunderstood. The reason a shamrock is used to represent St. Patrick is because he used the three leaves to teach the people of Ireland about the trinity, not about “luck”.

I recently had someone tell me that it is a “Roman Catholic” holiday. Actually, many Protestants also celebrate it, as St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland more than a thousand years before the Reformation, meaning that Catholicism equalled Christianity at the time. There wasn’t another option.

If you plan to celebrate it this year (or are teaching your children about Ireland), here are some ways that you can include it in your homeschool:

  1. Make a Shamrock Shake or dairy-free version
  2. My Book About Ireland copywork
  3. St. Patrick’s Day Notebooking Pages Freebie
  4. Video: Drive-thru History Adventures
  5. Video for younger children:  Veggie Tales – St. Patrick
  6. Music video of a beautiful Irish hymn filmed in Ireland
  7. Art Project:  Simple Shamrock Painting
  8. Read-Alouds:

I hope that you find these useful, and that you have a blessed St. Patrick’s Day!

Make Your Own Dairy-Free Shamrock Shake

When I was growing up, one of the ways that we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day was by enjoying a minty “Shamrock Shake.”  However, since my children have food sensitivities, I cannot take them out to the local fast-food restaurant to do the same for them.

Several years ago, I began searching for a recipe to create my own shakes at home, and I’ve tweaked it to accommodate each individual family member’s needs.  It’s an easy and fun activity that your children can help with, and it gives them some practice with measuring.  It makes three to four servings.

  • 4 cups of vanilla frozen oat dessert (we like Oatly or Planet Oat brands)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1½ cups oat milk (or almond or coconut milk)
  • Optional:
    • For green color, add 1 cup of spinach, kale, or peppermint leaves
    • For a sweeter shake, add 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • Blend well and top with non-dairy whipped cream (we prefer Reddi-Wip coconut or almond)

There’s a variety of non-dairy “milks” on the market to choose from these days, but my adult son previously worked as a barista and at a smoothie bar, and he swears by the consistency of oat milk in blended beverages.

We personally do not add any sugar to ours.  The original recipe that I found called for it, but we find it to be sweet enough for our taste without that addition.

After we have our corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day, we’ll be finishing our celebration of Christianity being brought to Ireland with our homemade shakes.  I hope you enjoying making them with your family this year as well!

Valentine’s Day Science Experiment

This February, I found a Valentine’s Day-themed science experiment including candy hearts in a children’s ministry activity pack.  It looked like a simple and fun activity, so I offered to do it with the younger children in our homeschool co-op.  Unfortunately, after gathering all of the supplies and transporting them to co-op, the experiment did not turn out nearly as impressive as I expected that it would.  I was kicking myself for not trying it at home first to work out any kinks, although the other moms agreed that they really liked the message that went along with the lesson.

I promised my daughter she could try it at home on Valentine’s Day, so we decided to make some adjustments to the instructions, as well as adding some glitter just to see what would happen.  It worked so much better!  The really fun part was what happened with the glitter, which is not what I expected. 

The supplies that we used:

  • A 32 oz. mason jar
  • A 16 oz. bottle of sparkling water
  • A small box of conversation hearts
  • 4 Alka-Seltzer tablets (two envelopes)
  • Red and/or pink glitter

The steps that we followed:

  1. Drop the Alka-Seltzer Tablets, candy hearts and some of the glitter into the bottom of the mason jar.
  2. Add at least 8 ounces of the sparkling water.
  3. After the reaction begins to occur, add a layer of glitter on top.

The science behind it:

Alka-Seltzer tablets contain citric acid (C6H8O7) and sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3).  When the tablets are added to water, the ingredients dissolve and react with each other.  During the reaction, the covalent bonds are broken, and cardon dioxide (CO2) gas is formed and released as bubbles.  A sodium citrate ion remains in the water.

I expected the glitter to “dance” with the conversation hearts, but instead, it floated to the surface of the water and formed a layer of surface tension on top.  Then, as the carbon dioxide bubbles rose to the top, they were trapped under the glitter, creating glittery bubbles.  Two hours later, the bubbles were still trapped there.  I took the final photo before we went to bed.  The bubbles were mostly gone by then, but the candy hearts had floated to the surface and were trapped under the glitter instead.

The spiritual application:

Good things happen to us in life that can lift our spirits like the bubbles lift the candy hearts.  Likewise, bad things happen to us at times that can crush our spirit and make us “feel down.”  However, God’s love for us is like the water in the jar that surrounds the candy hearts.  No matter what happens to us, we are always surrounded by God’s love.

This was a simple activity to do, and it was a good fit for us, since we are studying chemistry as our science this year. If you are looking for an way to use up some leftover candy hearts, I recommend giving it a try.

“Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone.”  – Psalm 33:22

“Many are the woes of the wicked, but the LORD’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in Him.” – Psalm 32:10

“For you bless the godly, O LORD, you surround them with your shield of love.” – Psalm 5:11-12

My Shameless Plug for Grove Collaborative (and how they helped keep me stocked in toilet paper during 2020)

I am a terrible salesperson.  I’ve been an affiliate for several web sites for a couple of years now, and I never promote any of them.  I used to be a Mary Kay sales consultant, and I wasn’t very successful at that, either.  It’s silly, though, because I only affiliate with companies whose products I actually like and use.  I think it is due to a childhood memory I have of my mother complaining about a Mary Kay consultant that she knew who was too pushy.  So, I am choosing to step out of my comfort zone and share with you what I really think about one of the companies that I am an affiliate for and how their service has benefited me during the pandemic – Grove Collaborative.

Natural Options with Less Allergens

I’ve been a member of Grove for just over four years.  I started using their service because they have a lot of natural, fragrance-free, dye-free soaps and cleaning products.  Ever since I put my children on the Feingold Diet, I’ve avoided buying soaps with fragrance or dye in them.  It’s also been helpful for my husband, whose skin is very sensitive to regular soaps.  I like Grove’s selection of natural brands and that I can order large refills from them that last longer than the smaller bottles in the grocery store.

Better for the Environment

I believe it’s important to be a good steward of the earth.  I’ve been disturbed at the increased waste I’ve seen created by the use of single-use gloves and masks by the general public, especially since some people are not disposing of them properly.  Personally, I make a point of using a cloth, reusable mask and just wash my hands rather than using gloves.  I purchased lovely glass hand and dish soap dispensers from Grove that I fill with soap refills that arrive in my automatic monthly shipment.  In the last year or so, they’ve had more options of soaps in pouches instead of plastic jugs, which create less waste.  Some of their soaps are plant-based as well.

Toilet Paper and Paper Towels!

When the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020 hit, I was pleased to find a package of Seventh Generation toilet paper available on Grove!  Since then, I’ve kept toilet paper, paper towels and tissues in my regular monthly shipment.  That way, if we experience a shortage in our local supermarket, at least I know they will show up in my Grove box.  An added bonus is that the paper towels I order are made from bamboo, meaning less trees are cut down.

Flexible Monthly Shipments

You have access to monthly shipments,  so you never run out of essentials.  I usually skip the cleaning aisle in the store most of the time now.  Grove sends me a reminder seven days before each shipment, which I can edit or reschedule at any time.  I have the regular membership, which means I need to spend over $49 to get my items shipped free; otherwise shipping costs $4.99 per order.  Since I order all of my hand soap, dish soap, paper goods, and cleaning supplies for the month from them, I typically get free shipping, anyway.

If you want to guarantee yourself free shipping on every order, you have the option of joining their VIP Membership Plan.  It includes unlimited free shipping and returns, four free (full-size) gifts per year, exclusive sales, and unparalleled customer service from their Grove Guides.  They are currently offering new customers a free 60-Day VIP Trial along with a free gift set that includes: A Grove Co. Matte Cleaning Caddy with Mrs. Meyers Multi-Surface Cleaner, Dish Soap, Hand Soap, and a Grove Co. Walnut Scrubber Sponge if you spend a minimum of $25 on your order. You can claim this offer at the link below.

Receive a Mrs. Meyer’s Winter Bundle for FREE with your 1st purchase of $25+

Free Product Samples

When you spend over $70 on any order, they send you full-size samples of some of their products.  I’ve received a cleaning caddy, tea towels, a bamboo dish scrubber, natural face wash, etc.  It’s a great way to try new products and see if you like them without any commitment. This month, I received this glass spray bottle, all-purpose cleaner, shampoo and conditioner samples free with my order.

Personal Touch

Every box that I receive from Grove has a personal, handwritten message on it.  They carefully tape the soap lids closed, so nothing spills in the box.  They arrive quickly, and the one instance when I had a problem with an order, I contacted customer service and they credited my account for the cost of the entire order.  I don’t feel that I get that kind of service from most companies these days.

That’s my shameless plug for Grove Collaborative.  I hope you give them a try and enjoy their products and service as much as I do.

History Project: Make Your Own Quill Pen & Ink

Make Your Own Quill Pen & Ink

Last winter, we were studying the early modern period in our homeschool, so we decided to do a project that would help us to experience what life was like during this time in history. We wondered how much more work it may have been not to have a modern pen to write with, but to use a feather quill instead.

Here is the link to read the rest of this post that I wrote for the Homeschooling with Heart blog.

Make homemade ink and quill pen

After writing this post, we found a turkey feather and had a chance to make our own quill pen.  We used these instructions, which were helpful, because they have detailed pictures on shaping the tip of the pen.  It’s tricky to get the shape right, and some sharp tools are required, so your child will need assistance with this.  I also do recommend heating the tip of the quill in the sand, as described in my Homeschooling with Heart post, before you attempt to shape it.  This will make the tip easier to work with.

homemade quill pen

It takes a lot of practice to get the hang of writing with a quill, but we definitely enjoyed doing these projects together.

Pulling Back the Veil on Comprehensive Sex Education

Comprehensive sex education

Recently, a teacher in Philadelphia made waves when he posted a series of tweets about how uncomfortable he was teaching through distance learning this fall.  His concern was that he would not be able to have honest conversations with his students about issues like gender and sexuality, knowing that the children’s parents might overhear.  He said that he operated on a “what is said here, stays here” premise within his classroom.  Personally, I feel that if a teacher is not comfortable with the content of a conversation with a student being overheard by their parents, then they probably shouldn’t be having the conversation in the first place. 

This reminded me of an article that I read a few years ago.  A school district was planning to implement a new sexual education curriculum and it was available at a meeting for parents to peruse.  Only one parent showed up, and she was appalled when she read it.  She took photos and posted them to the internet so other parents would be aware.  The curriculum, which was intended for middle-schoolers, gave explicit instructions on how to perform every sexual act imaginable, along with crude illustrations and jokes, which made light of the whole subject.  While researching this, I found numerous articles about today’s sexual education and reservations that parents have about it, from California1, Washington State2, Scotland3, Canada4, and South Africa5, among others.

When I was in school, sexual education included learning the basic scientific facts of reproduction, the risks involved, and how to avoid disease.  I also remember our teacher explaining to us how serious a responsibility it was to become sexually active and how it was not something to rush into before one was ready or to allow oneself to be pushed into.  However, in recent years, the United Nations has been encouraging countries to adopt something called “Comprehensive Sexual Education,” which focuses more on the pleasure aspect and appears to encourage sexual activity in minors.

If the material presented to children in school, by teachers whom they are taught to respect, makes it seem as if sex is not something to be taken seriously, that is likely to affect their attitude about it.  They may even feel like a “prude” if someone pressures them to engage in sexual behaviors that they don’t want to.  Besides the negative emotional consequences that a child may experience as a result of early sexual activity, it could also open children up to exploitation.  Kim Wendt, co-founder of Informed Parents of Washington, told The Christian Post that Seattle-area police officers who have worked in the human trafficking division, after viewing content in the CSE curriculum in her state, say the material mirrors how traffickers groom their child victims to enter the sex trade2. In Canada, there was a scandal over the development of their CSE curriculum, because it was overseen by a deputy education minister who was later convicted on charges of creating and possessing child pornography and counseling another person to commit sexual assault on a child4.  

As a Christian, I want my children to have a biblical view of this subject, and I believe the responsibility of having these conversations should fall on the parents.  Teaching the basic biology in school is one thing, but indoctrinating children into a worldly view while putting them at risk of abuse is another.  I am grateful that I am homeschooling my two school-aged children, so that I can introduce this subject in the way that I deem best.

Having already raised two children to adulthood, I do not believe that there is a specific age at which all children need to learn about sex.  They are individuals and will begin to ask questions at different ages.  The only aspect of it that I make a point to instill in my children at a young age is that there are parts of their bodies that are private and that other people should not touch, and that they should tell me if anyone does.  Aside from that, I do not push information on them that they aren’t already expressing curiosity about.

When your child begins to ask questions, there are many book series out there by Christian publishers that give varying degrees of information, depending on the age of the child.

With the recent pandemic, many parents are now choosing homeschooling, and for some, it is only temporary.   There are also homeschoolers who enroll their children in school when they reach a certain grade.  This is a good time for them to take this into consideration.  If you are planning on sending your children to public school at some point:

  1. Look into what sex ed curriculum your school district is using and address any concerns you may have about it with the principal.  Some have links to their curriculum online, where you can view what is going to be covered and at what grades. 
  2. If it does not meet your standards, find out if you can request that your child opt-out of the class.
  3. Make sure that your child has a solid grounding in the biblical view of sex first, in an age-appropriate manner.   
  4. Teach your children why you believe what you believe.  I attended a Christian elementary school and was taught many things from a biblical viewpoint that, when I entered public high school, were challenged, and I had no rebuttal to.  I try to prepare my children for the things that they will hear from the world and explain that they are not part of God’s plan.

Shortly after I was born again, I heard a sermon in which the pastor explained that God is not trying to be a bully or ruin anyone’s fun by putting limits on our sexuality.  He, as our Creator, designed it a certain way, as a good thing, and Satan tries to distort it into something wrong.  When we go outside of God’s will, we experience hurt that He never intended, so God’s limits are for our protection.  He specifically pointed out how the Bible describes the sex act as “becoming one” (Mark 10:7-8) with another person and how this explains why, when a relationship ends, the pain of that can feel like losing one of your own limbs.  As a young woman who had experienced that hurt myself, it finally all made sense to me, and I was able to begin the process of surrendering this area of my life to God.

Unfortunately, in today’s world, the stakes are even greater.  With online predators who target children, pornography available at the click of a mouse, and human trafficking as a growing problem, it is more important than ever that our children are grounded in the Truth, what behavior is of God and what is not, so that no one is able to take advantage of them or lead them astray.

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” – Matthew 18:6

“Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.” – Matthew 10:14

  1. Mary Margaret Olohan, “Here Are the Details on California’s Sex Education,” Daily Caller News Foundation, July 8, 2019
  2. Brandon Showalter, “Parents Push Back Against Wash State Sex Ed Bill; Gov Expected to Sign,” The Christian Post, March 10, 2020
  3. Dorothy Cummings McLean, “Scots Protest New Sex- Ex Curriculum that Forces Children to Endorse Sexual Choices of Adults,” LifeSiteNews, September 16, 2019
  4. Joe Warmington, “Liberals Can’t Deny Levin’s Role with Sex-Ed Curriculum,” Toronto Sun, March 3, 2015
  5. Tom Head, “Controversial Sex Education Curriculum Faces Parliamentary Review,” The South African, October 31, 2019

Fine Gardening Magazine Article

sweet potato slips

My sweet potato slips made it into Fine Gardening™ magazine!

It’s a funny story.  Last year, I started my slips before Christmas and ended up with about fifty by the time I was able to transplant them to my garden.  I plant mine in containers, and I didn’t have enough room for all of them.  I have a neighbor who has an amazing garden, so I asked her if she’d like them.  She responded that she had enough of her own, but she wondered if she could borrow mine to take some photos of them.  It turns out that she works for Fine Gardening™ magazine and was taking photos for an article on growing sweet potatoes.  She said my slips were more “photogenic” than hers, so I lent them to her for the afternoon.

You can read the article here.  If you are interested in growing your own sweet potatoes, it has a lot of helpful information.

I purposely started my slips a little later this year, and ironically, spring got an early start here.  Today, I transferred my first two slips to the pots where they will stay until the threat of frost has passed for certain and I can transplant them outdoors.

20200315_161216(1)

I’m excited to get gardening!