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Monday Q&A | Stuffed Animals, Homeschooling, and Bread Machines

Every Monday, I answer a few of the questions that my readers send me. If you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future Q&A post, just leave me a comment here or email me (thefrugalgirl [at] gmail [dot] com) and put Q&A in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!

So most weeks, I see in your grocery pics some furry friends. This week I think I saw a stuffed turtle? Are those part of your grocery purchases or are they your children’s friends that get to be in the picture? Just curious…. Also I was curious whether or not you included personal/paper goods (Toilet paper, toothpaste, etc.) in your grocery budget. thanks for your blog! I love it!


One of these days, I WILL get that FAQ page up, and these two questions will be on it. But I’ve slacked mightily on that, so I’ll answer these questions here. 😉 I apologize to those of you who already know the answers!

The stuffed animals all belong to my children and are not new purchases. Heaven only knows we don’t need any more stuffed animals in our house (though my kids would bring home new ones from Goodwill each week if I let them!). The stuffed animal in the groceries tradition started when Joshua snuck a little stuffed spider into a grocery picture, and it’s sort of taken off from there.

And yep, my grocery budget includes cleaning supplies, personal products, and paper goods, though I try to use a minimal amount of those.

I was reading about home schooling on your web site. I have a few questions:

Do home school students take the same test that public school students take? Do you give your children a report card?

How do you balance mom/ teaching?

How do parents decide what text books or curriculum they are going to teach? Where do they get the resources?

When a home schooled student is applying to college, what do they have to show? Is the college process different for them?


I’m just going to answer these one by one so that my replies aren’t too difficult to follow. 🙂

Do home school students take the same tests that public school students take? Do you give your children a report card?

Requirements for homeschooling vary state by state. In my state, the law simply requires that we provide regular instruction in the subjects that public schoolers would be studying, and the county requires that we either present a portfolio directly to them or to a certified umbrella group (I go the umbrella group route). So nope, we don’t take the same tests public schoolers do.

I don’t give my kids report cards because I don’t find it to be necessary. In public schools, report cards are partly for the purpose of reporting to the parents how well (or not well) the child is doing, and since I’m here all the time, I know how my kids are doing! 🙂 And since I have plenty of one-on-one time with my kids, they’re also pretty up-to-date on how they’re doing.

How do you balance mom/ teaching?

Well, I think they’re one and the same, actually. When I teach, I am Mom and when I am Mom, I am teaching. It’s one of the things I like about homeschooling…that I can train my children as I teach them.

Homeschooling is generally less formal than people imagine. When we homeschool, I’m just me and I relate to my kids like I do when we’re not doing school.

How do parents decide what text books or curriculum they are going to teach? Where do they get the resources?

That varies parent to parent. Some homeschoolers do a program thru the public schools and in that case, they get their materials from the school.

I make my curriculum choices based on my own experience as a homeschooled student and on recommendations from other homeschoolers. I buy most of my schoolbooks on, Ebay, or Amazon which saves me piles of money!

When a home schooled student is applying to college, what do they have to show? Is the college process different for them?

Most homeschoolers rely on their SAT scores when applying to colleges, though some have diplomas from their umbrella/oversight groups. Also, in my area many homeschoolers start attending our community college during their high school years which means that they can graduate with a two-year degree shortly after high school. I don’t have any personal experience with that, but I imagine a 2-year degree with a good GPA would make it easier to get into a 4-year school.

I know scads of homeschool graduates that have attended a variety of different colleges without a problem. 30 years ago it might have been difficult to get into a college with a homeschool education but that is happily not the case now.

Regarding your last question, I think that homeschooling generally does a good job of preparing students for college. Most homeschoolers are already used to studying on their own, and just generally managing their educations fairly independently, and that makes college much easier.

I am not much of a bread baker, but I do own a bread machine. I was wondering if you knew how your recipes might work in a bread machine. If you haven’t used one, do you know if any of your other readers have used your recipes in a bread machine?


This is one of those times when I’m really glad that I have a bunch of helpful readers. I’m just about completely clueless about bread machines because I’ve never used one!

For the record, though,I am not against bread machines. I’ve seen how they can be useful tools for some families and I think that’s great. Not everyone has to make bread by hand (or by Kitchen-Aid!).

(see also: You don’t have to make yogurt.)

So, my answer is that I don’t have an answer! I haven’t the faintest idea how to convert a recipe for a bread machine, but I am positive that one or many of my readers will have some helpful conversion advice for you.

Readers, have at it! Share your bread machine smarts. And of course any of you that want to chime in on the homeschooling questions can feel free to do so.

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Wednesday 8th of September 2010

I do have a few comments about the community college thing. I did a program called Running Start when I was in high school which is where juniors or seniors in high school have the opportunity to take some college classes and earn college AND high school credit simultaneously. You can do full-time Running Start for those two years and earn an associates degree, I didn't do this though.

You're right, there were many home-schooled kids taking those classes with me.

The thing that I wanted to discuss is this part "I imagine a 2-year degree with a good GPA would make it easier to get into a 4-year school."

That's not strictly true. Students (at least in my state, I think everywhere) with ANY college credit (even if it's Running Start and they don't have a degree) are considered transfer students when applying to a four year university. Universities have different policies regarding transfer and freshman students. My school has a MUCH smaller cap on transfers than on freshmen. Another school I applied to wasn't accepting transfers AT ALL for three years.

I think Running Start (and programs like it) is great and I wouldn't change the fact that I did it, but it did cause several complications when going to university. But the fact that I'm finishing a year early and saving $25,000 is worth it, though :)


Tuesday 7th of September 2010

Hi Kristen! I have a question for you, perhaps for a future Q&A if you have a chance to respond :) Do you have any meals/recipes you would recommend that are affordable and easy to make/transport that would be good for taking to people? (Also, we don't eat or buy very much meat, so anything vegetarian would also be helpful!) Right now, it's just me and my husband, so I've become very accustomed to cooking for two and the idea for cooking for an entire family is really intimidating to me! But we'd like to be taking more meals to families in our church in need, outside of pasta and salad. I thought you might have some good suggestions up your sleeve! Thanks :)


Tuesday 7th of September 2010

Hi carmen@lifeblessons! I thought I'd pipe in here with some ideas I have for veggie dinners for potlucks and take-alongs. Something that has been a HUGE hit with our friends is yogurt dip - we make homemade yogurt (which you don't have to do, but make sure you get plain if you buy it), add mint or basil or dill or something other herb like that, chop up veggies for dipping, and voila!

Another one I found to be a great is an avocado (sorry, Kristen, we know how you feel about avocados) cream cheese roll up. You take avocado, cream cheese, onions, a bit of yogurt (the original recipe might've called for mayo, but I don't like mayo), maybe some other things like tomatoes or veggies or maybe not, whatever, spread it on a tortilla, roll it up, and slice it into pinwheels. These keep fine, but they do turn brown, so beware if looks matter.

Homemade hummus is also cheap, easy, fast, and easy to customize.

Another one, less cheap, but good for meat people, is "tofubq." I feel like I've written about this one before - but cook onion/garlic in some oil, add tofu, cook some more, add bbq sauce, cook till hot, serve on toasted burger buns, optional cheese. Yum.

Have fun!


Monday 6th of September 2010

For most recipes that do not call for a bread machine, I just use the dough function. And I love the homeschooling information on this site. I want to homeschool my daughter when she gets a little older.


Monday 6th of September 2010

First of all, I would like to commend you for answering questions about homeschooling. You do it so well. Very simple and non judgemental. I dislike homeschooling questions, especially "Why?" My standard answer is "That's what's best for my family" or "What specifically do you want to know?" Seriously, do they want me to go on for hours on why I homeschool? :) Second, some of these questions make me sad. When did we become a nation that needs to send our children away at a very early age; a lot of preschools start at age 2 now, in order to learn? Just 2 generations ago my grandparents learned while doing. Want economics? Then balance the books at the store. Oh, that's math too. Social skills? great the customers and treat them well. Science? Grow a garden or farm. etc. Home education, as my friend in England calls it, is a whole different way of thinking. Being a mom and teaching my kids IS one in the same thing as you stated. For example, My daughter invited one of her public school friends to our homeschool geography night. All kids were handed a piece of paper to take notes and write down an interesting fact about each country. First thing this girl did was write her name on the paper. Not many of the other children did. This is what she was taught in public school. Next, her brain shut down and she didn't write anything else on the paper. This puzzled me. My daughter had a blast, learned about different countries and ate food representative of each country. As I continued to be puzzled a NON homeschooler pointed out what she thought happened. The friend is programmed to think that learning takes place between the hours of 8:30 and 3, in a school building, by a teacher out of a textbook. NOT on a Saturday night, by a bunch of kids, from whatever resources they wanted, in a church basement. When the friend gets together outside of school hours with her classmates it is for an ice cream social, dance, skate or sport event. It is NOT for learning. Wow! Light bulb moment. I had never considered myself that different that those that sent their kids to school. Even when our homeschool group gets together at a play ground, just for fun. One kid usually has a bug catching net and something will be caught and then some other child will produce a book and they will collectively try to figure out what moth it is or what butterfly it will become. Some might even have a measuring tool or notebook. I hope this answers the question as to why we don't need curriculum, report cards, tests, and certified teachers. Although we have access to all of the above. Home education, at least in my house, is not school at home.


Tuesday 7th of September 2010

I never mind homeschooling questions as long as they're not posed in an insulting way (and I definitely didn't think these were). I'm actually grateful for the opportunity to share about homeschooling and about what it is and isn't. Thankfully, almost all of the interactions I've had with people about homeschooling have been positive. :)

It does crack me up sometimes how formal people think homeschooling is, like it's public school, except at home. A lot of the things at public school just aren't necessary at home when the parents are the teachers.

Karen S.

Monday 6th of September 2010

"First thing this girl did was write her name on the paper. Not many of the other children did. This is what she was taught in public school. "

This is what kids are taught to do in public school. My son chose to do his entire math packet this summer--voluntarily--and he wrote his name on every single page...too funny! It's all in how you're raised and what you're used to. My son probably would not have taken notes--again, because that's not what he's used to. But he knows the routine in his public school, is pulling almost straight A's and is learning a lot! He did an entire unit in school on different countries, and they had a potluck international lunch. He learned a lot and had a great time! Again, it's all what you're used to :-)


Monday 6th of September 2010

'Your' way of educating sounds fantastic.

My kids are in (a very carefully chosen!) public school though and I do hope they are not as you describe, although I know there is some truth in what you are saying. I rather suspect that it is simply about people becoming their environment, not a conscious anti-learning stance from those whose kids go to school.

My girls are 8 and 10. They would have loved your lesson and made notes, although bear in mind that note taking is not appealing to the vast majority of people (I hold my hand up), but is helped ENORMOUSLY by coloured pens & pencils, as well as drawings to make the piece of work visually appealing. (Yes, they've learn the importance of that in school!) Sounds like a mind map would have been a good idea.


Monday 6th of September 2010

DO learn the order that things go into the machine. Mine is also liquids (including oil and eggs) sugar, salt, flour. Yeast in a little well on top of the flour. Sugar helps feed and activate the yeast. Do NOT put the salt in near the yeast as salt acts as a 'leash' for yeast. And if you add spice, keep it away from the yeast 'well.' I 'do' mine as "wets," half the dry (flour, etc), salt/sugar/spice, remaining flour, yeast on top. If I'm making pizza or breadstick dough, I put parmesan, oregano and garlic powder in as part of the salt/sugar/spice level.

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