Saturday, December 8, 2012

Musical Containers

Know any small angels who are in need of a harp?  How about one of these rubberband harps?  They are easy to make, and a fun activity for kids (of any age).

I was experimenting with these homemade harps because I needed a craft for a Sunday School lesson about David the Shepherd.

It's interesting to try out different thicknesses of rubberbands and see what different sounds can be made.  Also, you can try different containers.  I found that a really nice sound came from using a shallow microwave potato dish (see photo below) with SMALL rubberbands (so they will be fairly tight).

The big styrofoam tray (far back in the photo at the top) makes a deeper sound-- this could be a science experiment, too.  If you use a larger countainer, you need longer rubberbands, and vice-versa-- if they're too loose you will not get a musical tone.

The sound these harps make is fairly soft (you don't have to worry about this activity making "too much noise!") but you can get a range of tones, and the container-harps are fun to make and play-- plink plink, plunk!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Remodeling in Progress!

     This afternoon I'll be revising all 20 files for ebooks that are offered on our website.  They all need to have a different website URL put in, as we are changing ours (to  Have been working on a website remodel, and over several months, have migrated our content over to a Weebly site.  You can see it up now, though I still have a couple of bugs to work out here and there.

     I'm excited about this move, because being on Weebly is FREE (no cost at all to set it up or maintain it, other than a domain name fee) and that means it will be easier for us to stay there indefinitely.  It also has a nice crisp look, and Weebly is really easy to work with, to put content on (if you've ever wanted to make a website for ANYTHING, this is a great wizard to experiment with!).
     The one downside to this move is that we will no longer have automatic delivery of ebooks-- when people order, we'll need to send them the ebooks after we receive payment from PayPal; a PayPal shopping cart is part of what Weebly offers, which is GREAT!  We have been using it already, but our former cart was pretty fancy and also handled doing automatic downloads of eproducts.

     OK... time to get to work on those file revisions . . . come visit the new site, and tell me what you think!  Let me know if you find any missing links or other problems, too-- THANKS A LOT; for a day or two we'll still have both sites up.  Then, the former URL ( will become a redirector to the new site.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Math With Fred

This morning James and I were reading his math lesson.  He's using Life of Fred textbooks, and is over half-way through the decimals book.  Just recently he started asking me to go through the lessons with him, even though they're written TO kids to read on their own (they are also written in a way that encourages kids to do all the correcting-- it's great!).  I'm not sure if he's asking me to read with him because he's needing help with math or because he wants someone to laugh with him about all the hilarious stories and language in this math textbook.

Huh, math textbooks funny?  Well, yes . . .  I wouldn't have thought so, either, because in my own school years, the textbooks we used for learning math seemed just barely tolerable. In teaching my own kids using many different programs and books, math has continued to seem like a necessary evil . . .

 . . . that is, until Fred came along . . .

Now, math is fun for me.  Not sure if it's always fun for James, as he still has to work all the problems . . . but it is much MORE fun than any other math book or program.

Thanks, Fred, for making math learning much more interesting and enjoyable.

And, you know what, since I've started doing these last few lessons I even remember things like how to find the area of a circle and a triangle-- things I NEVER remembered (beyond about 5 minutes) my whole life, whether in school math classes myself or in teaching math to my own kids.

It's said that laughter is a good medicine.  I think it's a good teacher, too. :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cookie People

These people look like cookies, but they're really going to look like this, when they are finished:
They are felt people, and the group above was set out on the table, getting ready for mass-production!

There are lots of different kinds of people that can be made; here are some more pictures:

"Cookie people" can be made in all sizes and colors, and you could make special figures for historical characters/ occupations, etc.  The body is made from two layers of felt, with a face embroidered (using seed beads for eyes) and the layers sewn together by hand.  This makes the felt figure sturdier than a usual felt board person.  Clothes are then added on front and back (I sew through both front and back at the same time).

These toys can be used for imaginary play, or to tell stories-- either on a felt board, or off it (on your rug/ couch/ table, etc . . .).

For a pattern to make these "cookie people" in a range of sizes, see Fuzzle Family Felt.

There are also some pre-sewn felt people at Fuzzlemania, my new Etsy site (the pattern e-book is available there, too).  Come take a look!

Do you enjoy crafting with felt?  What kinds of things do you like to make?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Felt Creatures

I'm having fun making lots of different felt creatures.  Here is a camel.  You can see some others at the new Etsy shop, Fuzzlemania.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Make Your Own Cleansers and More!

Do you know how vinegar got its name?  How to make your own homemade vapor rub, face scrub, antiseptic ointment, sink and shower cleanser, wood paneling cleaner, silver polish, and stain remover?

Did you know making all these things is a lot easier than you might have expected? That is, if you have some tried and true recipes, like those in this book, to tell you how to do it . . .

Lisa Barthuly has used natural cleaning products and health care/beauty aids with her own family for many years, and has written this very conversational and friendly book, to share her findings with others.

She says, "No need to keep cupboards stocked with a different commercial cleaner for every room, every appliance, every gadget, every surface, every THING at my homestead."

She tells us about some very simple natural ingredients that can be used to work wonders as cleansers and disinfectants.  She also has some great recipes for things like bug repellant and skin lotion.  Lisa offered me a review copy of her e-book, and I was impressed with how much practical info is included; I'm ready to start trying out some of these cleansers and recipes-- we have some sinks with stains, and I want to try that homemade paste that cleans scuff marks and crayons off walls . . .

This book is available in both e-book and printed versions, at

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Copy and Draw - Penmanship practice WITH Art

Copy and Draw work page e-books are here!  Do you have kindergarten or early elementary-aged kids who would like to draw pictures along with their penmanship practice? Here is a set of 68 work pages in PDF format-- can be printed out as needed.

For some examples of completed pages, see Gentle Shepherd's website art gallery.

With many drafts and revisions, this e-book project has taken almost a year and a half to complete-- from beta test stage to final draft.  And what used to be one set of work pages turned into SIX different e-books.  That is because there are 6 versions-- two different writing line styles multiplied by three different penmanship styles.

If you are using Italic or Manuscript for penmanship, Copy and Draw is available in both of those styles, as well as in the custom font it started out with.

Come take a look; you can see sample pages for all the versions by clicking the links on THIS PAGE.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Handmade Spinner Game-- Parts of Speech

This is the spinner from the game James and I were playing recently. It uses a game board that looks like this:

It's basically a trail game . . . you start at one end and follow along to the other end.  If you land on a pink dot, you jump ahead to the next pink dot-- except for the very last pink dot; if you land there you have to jump backwards to the previous pink dot.

The spinner in this game assigns a number for each of the 8 parts of speech.  So whatever you land on is the part of speech you must use on your turn AND the number of spaces to hop along with.

It doesn't have any fancy name; we call it the "parts of speech sentence board game."  It's easy to play, and can also be a lot of fun.  Last time we played it the sentences turned into an ongoing story . . . it was suspenseful and interesting.  But we don't usually play it that way.  The only requirement on your turn is that you make a sentence that uses whatever the part of speech is that the spinner lands on.  Then you can go the number of hops indicated, along the game path.

This game is really easy to make-- I found the clear plastic spinners at a school supply store-- the pink background with words and markings is just taped onto the spinner with small pieces of clear tape on two opposite sides.  The game board (14" x 22") is a piece of poster board with hand-cut paper circles glued on.  We use game pieces from a Parcheesi game.

It's great for a review of the parts of speech-- if kids don't know them all while playing, that's OK, too--you can give some examples if they don't know what kind of words to use for a certain part of speech. 

Do you like to make games?  Do you know of any others (homemade or not) that have helped in learning/practicing the parts of speech?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Handy Handbook . . . for Using Ebooks!

     Are you thinking about getting an ebook reader?  Or just wanting more info about ebooks in general-- how to use them and organize them?  Did you know there is a free software that will help you convert files to different formats (that may be needed for different e-reader devices) as well as easily catalog the ebooks (even if you don't use a device).

     What are the advantages of ebooks for home education?  Lisa Hodgen, of Me and My House Ministries, says, "Ebooks can save you space and money, two things home educators tend to be short on."

     I learned some interesting things from her short ebook, Putting the 'E' in Home Education, and now I can clearly see the pros and cons of e-readers vs reading on computer or tablet.

     We haven't used ebooks for reading long chapter books, but Lisa's handbook explains how this can have advantages.  How would you like to carry a library of a thousand or so books in your purse?  As a book-lover, this sounds great to me.

     Of course, e-readers aren't needed for ebooks that are meant to have pages printed out (worksheets, materials to self-construct)-- as all of our Gentle Shepherd ebooks are at this point.

     But I found Lisa's book very interesting and just maybe we'll be entering the rest of the 21st century and doing some of our reading on an ebook device sometime soon!

     You can find Lisa's ebook handbook (only $3 as a special introductory sale), Putting the "E" in Home Education, Freedom and & Simplicity Guide, at

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sidetracked Sarah

On Friday, I had the opportunity to make a guest post on the homeschooling blog, Sidetracked Sarah.  There are several pictures, and the post tells about a hobby I like to do-- hand-sewing with felt.  Here is a link:

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Real Science! Really New E-books, too!

There are three new e-books on our Gentle Shepherd website!  These are review activities to accompany Gravitas Publications' Real Science-4-Kids level I science textbooks.  You can see sample pages for all three e-books (Chemistry, Physics, Biology) at

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Princess and Dragon

Here's a photo of some new felt pieces:  a castle tower with princess in it, and a knight fighting a dragon.  Eventually would like to make patterns for these available on our website.  They make nice toys, and would be an exciting addition to the felt family pieces that we already have.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Da Vinci Novel

We recently finished reading a book about Leonardo Da Vinci for a read-aloud.  It is called, Leonardo: Masterpieces in Milan, by Catherine Jaime.  This is the type of book that gets you right into the historic setting, so you can feel like you are experiencing what things were like at that time.  We learned some things about Leonardo's life story-- but mostly this book was focused on the time he spent in Milan working on assignments for Duke Lodovico-- which included various paintings, a huge horse sculpture, being a wedding planner/coordinator for three weddings of nobility, and painting the wall mural, "The Last Supper" in a large room of a local monastery.  The author has woven an interesting story-- including some hints of intrigue and suspense about the political events occurring at the time of Leonardo's work in Milan.

We took a look at pictures of  "The Last Supper" right after finishing the book-- we just had to see it, after hearing its story.  We also learned some interesting things about this painting on the internet, like how the door-- that is currently intruding the bottom center part of the painting-- was not there at the time the mural was painted.  Also, this work of art was nearly destroyed in WWII-- if it hadn't been especially protected with sandbags, it might have been lost when allied planes bombed this monastery in Italy in an air raid.

This is only one book in a series of three about Da Vinci by this author. She has written a historic novel about Leonardo's earlier years in Florence, Italy, and also a book that describes his entire life.  After reading this one, I'd like to read some of her other books-- she has MANY books about various people and places in history.  Her website is