What's the big deal about Young Living

Up to 50% OFF on Costumes!

Right now Amazon is offering up to 50% OFF on costumes!

up to 50% off costumes

These deals usually last only until a certain predetermined quota has been filled, so you have to act fast to get the discount.

Does your family dress up for Halloween?

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Understood Betsy Read Aloud

Reading Aloud Understood Betsy

I have been reading aloud *Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield to our 2nd -3rd grade literature class at homeschool co-op each week. It is a charming little story published in 1917 about an orphan girl who, through a series of events she at first considers to be horrible, ends up living with “those awful Putney cousins.”

She begins to learn something brand new about herself while learning that the Putneys might not be so awful after all.

“It is possible that what stirred inside her head at that moment was her brain, waking up. She was nine years old, and she was in the third-A grade at school, but that was the first time she had ever had a thought of her very own. At home, Aunt Frances had always known exactly what she was doing, and had helped her over the hard places before she even knew they were there; and at school her teachers had been carefully trained to think faster than the scholars. Somebody had always been explaining things to Elizabeth Ann so carefully that she had never found out a single thing for herself before. This was a very small discovery, but it was her own. Elizabeth Ann was as excited about it as a mother bird over the first egg that hatches.”

 The 2nd-3rd graders are loving this story! Each 45 minute class period, while I read, I give them a coloring sheet that provides a clue about what the new chapter holds. One week the coloring sheet has kittens to color, and they listen while Betsy gets a new kitten from the Putneys. The next class, there is a picture of a school building to color while I read about Betsy going to a new school.
The class has an equal mix of about 25 boys and girls, and they all listen attentively and can’t wait to find out how the coloring page relates to the story each time. I stop periodically to ask questions about what I have read. “What grade did Betsy’s teacher say she would be in for reading?” “Why do you think Betsy was surprised about that?” “How did Betsy feel about her new kitten?” “How can you tell?”
If you are looking for a new read aloud for your elementary students, I highly recommend *Understood Betsy!
*This post contains affiliate links.
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Diffuser Jewelry SALE

Have you heard of diffuser jewelry? If you love essential oils, you will love diffuser jewelry!

I just fell in love with *this particular bracelet from The Oil Collection! This bracelet allows you to apply your favorite oils to a cotton pad inside a pretty silver, vented disc so you can enjoy the benefits of your oils all day.

diffuser jewelry

Diffuser jewelry sale

I received the bracelet in a little black, velvet drawstring bag, along with 4 little cotton pads (2 black and 2 white). I unscrewed the silver disc, and tried out one of my favorite essential oil combinations (lemon and lavender). Just 2 drops of each lasted an entire day, and I was still getting comments about the scent the next day!

“Mmmmm. Someone smells good!” “What is that amazing smell?” “I smell lavender!”

As the scent started to fade, I could still smell it every time I put my hand near my face. On day 3, I simply unscrewed the disc and added a new oil (Stress Away – Ahhhh!) to a different cotton pad.

I really love how pretty and trendy the bracelet is! I even had strangers who noticed it and asked me about it.

This bracelet is available *on Amazon at The Oil Collection, and with the code “SMOCKITY” you can get 25% OFF any bracelet in the collection!

*This post contains affiliate links. 

If you are more the necklace type, below is my favorite diffuser necklace. I love the way the lava rock absorbs the essential oils and slowly releases them onto my skin throughout the day!

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Do Dinner Like a Boss – Weekly Meal Plans

Weekly Meal Plans for as little as $1.15/WEEK!

Do you struggle to come up with creative weekly meal plans? My friend, Tiffany, from Eat at Home, is having a flash sale on her awesome meal planning service!

She does all the work for you, including making your color coded grocery shopping list. She has a Whole Foods Plan, a Slow Cooker Plan, and a Traditional Meal Plan. You get ALL THREE when you sign up! Not only that, but she includes 15-minute meals, freezer meals, and printable recipes and weekly menus too. You can cancel at any time if you aren’t happy with her service, but seriously THIS IS THE BOMB. It takes all the brain work out of meal planning!

Go on over to Tiffany’s site to snag this great deal for as little as $1.15/WEEK! (Enter “SUMMERSALE” at checkout to get the sale price.)

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Read Aloud Lists for All Ages

Read aloud lists for all ages

*This post contains affiliate links. 

I have written before about the many benefits of reading aloud to children of every age, and now I’ve compiled some read aloud lists for all ages. This list is by no means comprehensive. These are just a few of our family favorites. I believe it is so important to expose children, from an early age, to great literature, and this is how we do it.

By the time my children are reading independently, I cannot keep books out of their hands! I have to make them put the books down and stop reading to come to dinner, or get their chores done. For this reason it is so important to have excellent books available for them to read. This method has resulted in both of my homeschool graduates excelling on their SAT scores, thanks to their extensive vocabularies.

For more read aloud lists for all ages, check out the Read Aloud Revival and also Ambleside Online.

What books would you add to this read aloud list?


A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

Winnie the Pooh series by A.A. Milne

Peter Rabbit series by Beatrix Potter

Early Elementary

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield

Robin Hood by Howard Pyle

The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales

Upper Elementary

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving

Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maude Montgomery

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Middle School

The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Tom Sawyer

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

High School

Animal Farm by George Orwell

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

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How to Help in Times of Disaster

Independence Day

We celebrated Independence Day late into the night with a group of friends, as usual this year. What wasn’t usual though, was that I got an early morning text the very next day that the home of one of those friends was struck by lightening and had burned down during the night. Everyone got out safely, but all their possessions were lost.

I was shocked at the news. We had just been with them a few hours before, and they had talked of leaving in a few days for their vacation. Now, just a few short hours later, their home, all their clothes, their shoes, their underwear, even their cars, everything was in ashes.

How to help during disasters 2

I immediately got dressed to go over and do… something. I didn’t know quite what yet, but I grabbed an ice chest out of the garage and stopped to pick up ice and bottled waters. Some of the fire fighters were still there when I arrived, and I found my friends whom I hugged tightly and tearfully.

They were in shock. It had all happened so fast. Ground shaking lightening, then the smell of smoke, and the sound of smoke detectors beeping, all within a few minutes time. By the time they woke the children and got them out the door (one of the girls in nothing more than a t-shirt and panties), they could see the flames and the smoke billowing from the roof.

More friends began to hear and arrive. We all asked the same question:

What can we do to help?

But, as you can imagine, our friends were in no state to think through what they needed. They could barely even fathom what had just happened to them.

When I got home (after not really being able to do anything except offer moral support) I asked for advice from my Smockity Facebook readers, who came through in a big way. It turns out several of them had gone through similar tragedies and had lots of tips on how to help, and also how not to be a burden to, the newly devastated family.

Here are a few of the ways they suggested helping.

How to Help in Times of Disaster

  • See if you can launder any of the salvageable items.

    Here is what one commenter said:

    The greatest tangible gift we received was from a local laundromat owner. He had us come in & wash what was left of our laundry for free. If someone I knew had a fire, I would either offer to wash laundry or give them laundry baskets, soap, rolls of quarters & gift cards to replace some immediate necessities.

  • Don’t assume the kids need to be whisked away.

    One commenter shared this tragic story:

    We lost everything we owned to a fire when I was 9 years old. Two weeks later, my dad died as a result of the fire. I needed to be with my mom and siblings–being separated from them was terrifying to me. Well meaning relatives tried to keep us kids ‘out of my mom’s hair.’ “

  • Don’t donate unneeded items.

    Here’s how one person shared that this was a burden:

    My house burned down in June of 2012. It was hard, so hard. People brought bags and bags of clothes, but we didn’t have anywhere to put them, and I couldn’t go through them (PTSD). My best friend came over one day and sat there with me; she went thru every bag, every piece of clothing, held it up and I would say yay or nay. Then, she took all the nay away.

    Here’s how others put it:

    The community gave a trailer full of stuff, like clothes and furniture. A lot of it smelled of animal urine and couldn’t be used. The family then had to not only deal with the fire, but also figuring out how to get rid of a trailer full of unusable clothes and furniture.

    I was a teen when we had our house fire. A lot of the donated clothes were really outdated, and I remember being embarrassed about how unfashionable I had to dress until my parents could get me some new things.

  • Donate cash or gift cards.

    This advice was repeated several times from those who had been through tragedies themselves.

    Donated cash or gift cards allows the recipient to purchase for themselves the items they most need. Or if they wish, as in the case of my friends, they sent a volunteer to Target with their girls and some donated gift cards to buy pajamas, underwear, socks, shirts, shorts, and toiletries. The girls took pride in being able to pick these items out for themselves, and it gave them a distraction from the burned rubble at home.

  • Set up a Facebook page to coordinate efforts.

    Add any friends who may want to help. This eliminates the situation where the family in crisis is answering the very same questions over and over again.

    All needs, meal sign ups, questions, concerns, etc. can be posted in this group so everyone can stay informed.

  • Ask (and coordinate on the Facebook page dedicated to the disaster) when the family needs help removing salvageable items.

    How to help during disasters

    At some point, after the insurance adjuster has inventoried the contents of the home, the family may need help saving photos and other items that can be restored.

    How to help during disasters 3

    In our case, several friends helped organize the things the family wanted to save. We spent the day working together, and then we all circled up and held hands for a prayer of thanksgiving that our friends lives were spared. After that we all sat and ate and laughed together with those friends. Laughter through tears and tragedy. Beauty from ashes. It was simply beautiful.

  • Consider donating items volunteers will use.

    You can see from the above photos that items like a canopy, bottled water, trash bags, and storage bins were very useful in our case.

Have you ever been through a tragedy, like a house fire, or helped someone through one? What would you add to this list?

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