How-To Start a Homeschool Club

How to Start a DIY Homeschool Club has been a project based weekly part of our homeschool curriculum this past year. This summer, I am excited to say, we are starting a DIY Club with our homeschool co-op group. (Read why I am choosing Homeschool over a Summer Break) My son loves the projects and he will have so much more fun creating them with friends. Every two weeks we will meet up with the goal of earning a new skill patch. In order to earn a patch, each child has to complete 3 challenges. The first 2 we will do as a group. The 3rd will be the homeschooler’s choice to complete. In case you are interested in starting a DIY Club with your homeschool group (or your children’s friends), I’ve decided to share how we are setting up and running our club.

Club Setup

Step 1: Choose a Name

For our name, I simply used our group’s acronym with DIY: FAHA DIY. You can of course name it whatever you like. My only suggestion is to keep the name broad, so you do not seem limited to a topic. For example DIY Foresters might lead members to believe they will only be working on Forestry skills.

Step 2: Choose a Hashtag

Hashtags are not really a necessity. The reason you might want one is so your homeschoolers can easily browse and follow their fellow DIY members. Also it works well if you share photos on social media or want to recruit members. Our hashtag matches our name: #FAHA_DIY.

Step 3: Outline Meetings & Skill Patches

You don’t need to plan ALL your meetings and skill patches up front. However I do suggest you schedule at least the first 3 meetings. suggests clubs meet at least once a month. Our group will be meeting 2-3 times per month with the goal of earning a patch each time. In order to do this you need to decide which challenges your group will be doing to earn the patch. You can do all 3 challenges together or you can do 2 together and let the kids choose their 3rd.

The First Meeting

DIY Club Member Skill Patch

There are many skill patches to earn on DIY and they keep adding more. So for our first patch as a group we are going to earn our Club Member skill patch. I’ve invited our members to join us at a local park on the group’s Meetup page and created a worksheet for one of the challenges.

Challenge No. 1
Design Your Club’s Logo

For this challenge I created a worksheet of sorts so the kids can easily create their logo, add their DIY member name, and share it with our group’s Hashtag. The worksheet features an empty hexagon so they can make a patch-like logo, or they can create their own from scratch on the blank side of the paper. The kids will need something under their paper so I will be putting together some upcycled cardboard clipboards. Crayons, markers, and colored pencils are also on my list of supplies to bring.

Challenge No. 2
Capture Your First Meeting

Bring your Camera! This step is important for every DIY project. You’ll need to take some pictures and sometimes videos of your children’s projects so they can put them on their profiles and earn skill patches. For this challenge I will probably take a group photo of the kids working on their first challenge. Parent tip: candid photos are best. Especially where younger kids are concerned. Modeled photos often take the fun out of things for kids and make them irritable.

Challenge No. 3
Kids Choice

For the third challenge, the kids will choose their own challenge from the skill patch page. They can do the challenge at our meeting or at home if they wish. When they finish their challenges they will upload their projects for approval by the DIY staff. In the comments they can include our groups hashtag so all or group can see each other’s progress.

Have you tried with your homeschool? Share your club hashtag in the comments below.

30 Days of Blog 2017: Day 10

Extended Deadline for Summer 2017 Magazine

Grove Dispatch: Ocean Tide Summer 2017 Magazine

Deadline Extended

The deadline for the Grove Dispatch Summer 2017 Magazine: Ocean Tide Expedition, has been extended from June 11th to June 18th. So if you are interested in sending in ocean themed projects with your homeschoolers, there is still time to get them completed and submitted.

Learn More


Free Download

You can also download a FREE short story writing guide for your homeschoolers in 5 STEPS TO WRITING A WILDLIFE SHORT STORY.

Let’s Work Together

If you have any questions or want to brainstorm some ideas, contact or use one of these writing prompts:

  • A sea turtle hatches on the beach and must figure out how to get to the ocean.
  • The coral reef is in danger. A seahorse with the help of friends, works to make the reef healthy again.


30 Days of Blog 2017: Day 7

How To Make a Papier Mâché Adventure Hat

Finished Papier Mâché on The Pinecone Grove

My son and I work on a weekly DIY for homeschool. Sometimes the projects stretch out over two weeks when they need time dry or some such other step. This project was one of them. As much as my son LOVES rockets, remote control vehicles, math, and inventing things, the projects he has been really drawn to are the challenges in the Paper Crafting and Bookbinding skills on Two weeks ago he officially finished a Papier Mâché Adventure Hat (I made one too) and earned his Paper Crafting skill patch. Here is how we made them.

First off, I just want to say I have been spelling papier mâché incorrectly all my life. (I always thought it was paper mache.) Love learning something new everyday. Another bonus to the homeschooling lifestyle. On that note, I’ll get to the fun stuff.

Unfortunately I didn’t take a lot of work in progress photos this time around. Probably because it was so messy. Before we made the hats though we mixed flour, water, and food coloring to make paint. Then we mixed a separate batch of flour and water as glue.Papier Mâché Paint for DIY project on The Pinecone Grove

Completed Papier Mâché Paint for DIY project on The Pinecone Grove

We measured our heads and cut a hole in cereal boxes to fit. Then we blew up balloons (left over form my sister’s twin gender reveal party) inside of the cereal templates to the size of the hats we wanted.

Next came the actual papier mâché part. In the past I have always used newspaper, however we no longer have newspapers at home so we repurposed tissue paper. I do NOT recommend this alternative because it took more than 6 layers to make each hat. Still they turned out very durable and much more like a construction hard hat than I expected.

papier mâché hat balloon mold on The Pinecone Grove

Finally, we painted them. Emmett had fun using all the colors he made. I used the deeper blue jean color for mine. This project probably took us longer than any of our other DIY project because of the time it took to dry between layers. However, we both had a lot of fun making a mess, and crafting something so fun together. I’ve ordered his patch which we will be sewing onto an adventure bag as soon as it arrives. I’ll be sure to share more about that soon.

Finished Papier Mâché on The Pinecone Grove

What papier mâché projects have you and your little explorers tried?

30 Days of Blog 2017: Day 6

Summer Break or Homeschool?

Homeschool in the Summer: Yes or No?

I’ve been asked a lot lately when we will finish homeschooling for the year. Some schools in our area will end a couple weeks from now while others ended a couple weeks past. If I say our last day is July 31st and his first day will be August 1st I’m likely to hear: “kids need a summer vacation.” Maybe kids do need a break that are in public school. I know I did. School was always stressful for me. Too many tests, too much homework, and too much time lost in a day. I don’t know how finished anything let alone enjoyed hobbies.

Why I want to homeschool this summer.

Make Learning Way of Life!

Keeping my son from needing a 3 month break from learning is high on my priority list for homeschooling. Once a month, we seem to take a vacation. Sometimes we camp at state park and others we travel to Disney World for a week. During our stays there are lots of hikes, expeditions, workshops, aquariums, museums, and other experiences for learning. Every vacation is a field trip to me, and my son loves it. We make travel pages and do other types of journaling to record his favorite memories. I can’t wait for our next field trip (a.k.a vacation!) We live a homeschool lifestyle.

How I Answer:

Officially, my son’s “last day of homeschool” was March 31st. Unofficially however, we are not finishing homeschool for the year. Although this is his “kindergarten” year, I have been homeschooling my son since he read the word elephant at 18 months old. Everyday there is a chance to learn something. To create something. Experiencing life by living it is educational. One should enjoy learning. Learning should not be work or a chore. So yes, I will be homeschooling this summer. That means we will read books, we will go on field trips, we will have fun projects, we will ask questions and find answers. This summer will be our best summer yet.

Will you be homeschooling this summer?
Officially or Unofficially?

Thinking about homeschooling year round?
Here are The Benefits of Year Round Homeschooling (with free printable)
by Hip Homeschool Moms.

30 Days of Blog 2017: Day 2

Grove Dispatch: Summer 2017 Digital Magazine

Grove Dispatch: Ocean Tide Summer 2017 Magazine

Grove Dispatch Summer 2017 Theme:

Ocean Tide Expedition

Hello Explorers! Are you ready for summer adventures? This week I am working on my latest magazine for The Pinecone Grove. This summer edition is paper-free! Because we love trees and digital downloads make for quick delivery. Currently, I am looking for work from parents, homeschoolers, students, educators, scientists, park rangers, and other nature science specialists. Here are 3 steps to get published.

Grove Dispatch: Ocean Tide Summer 2017 Magazine

The Grove Dispatch is an activity based publication from The Pinecone Grove. Content focuses on kid-friendly nature topics in botany, zoology, geology, and astronomy. Articles with The Pinecone Grove are geared toward parents needing wildlife adventure tips for their homeschoolers. My goal is to create a community where parents & kids can connect with other nature oriented families.

Send in your Ocean Tide Expedition themed work
by Sunday, June 18, 2017

Step 1: Create

First, you’ll need to decide what you’d like to publish in The Pinecone Grove’s refreshed digital magazine. Make sure all work submitted is kid-friendly.

Fiction Nature Short Stories

Write a short story about the life of a sea turtle or how a seahorse saved the coral reef.

Nonfiction Wildlife Articles

Share your nature studies with readers so they can learn more about the wildlife you love. You may include photographs with your article if you wish.

Expedition Articles

Recount your latest tide pool, snorkeling, or beach experience.

Nature Science Articles

Report wildlife species finds in the ocean, your successful beach cleanup project, or results from your salt water experiment.

How-To Articles

Because everyone loves a DIY! Write how you take care of the beach. Let us know how to recycle trash into ocean art. Teach an ocean inspired cooking lesson. Or maybe how-to exchanging everyday disposables for reusables.


Did you get a new pair of water shoes or a tropical field guide? Write a review about it. Reviews should include the product and brand, where you got it (gift, Target, etcetera,) your experience in using that product, and a rating: 1 being the worst, 5 being the best.


Construct an ocean inspired poem with us that is at least 10 words in length.

Illustrations and Photography

Your ocean wildlife inspired art and photographs can be digitally created or handmade, scanned, and emailed to I do not accept mailed submissions at this time.

Kid-Friendly Brands

I love to support small business owners. Write an article or send me a pitch for approval on something parents or kids would love to learn about. Include a small feature on your brand or a related product so my readers can connect with you and your brand.

Step 2: Guidelines

Note: the article guidelines listed below do not apply to poems, illustrations, or photography submissions.

Now that you have decided on the type of article you want to write, follow these guidelines when creating your work.

  • Article Length: Your article must be 500 – 2,000 words in length.
  • Article Images: 1 Feature Image (1600px width x 1101px height) & 1 or more Content Images (262px width x 325px height or 800px width x 800px height). Be sure to cite image sources (Photographer/Illustrator/Designer/Etc. & URL). If you are using your own images include your info with the images.
  • Article Links: 1-2 Topic Relevant Links & 1-2 links to your Blog, Shop, or Social media account where readers can follow you. Place links in brackets after the intended linking text.
  • Article Style: Snippet Introduction (125-160 characters), Main Introduction (1 Paragraph), 1 or more Headings, 2 or more Subheadings, Conclusion (1 paragraph), & a Call-to-Action (visit a site, subscribe to something, donate to a cause, etcetera).

Step 3: Email

Finally, you can submit your summer ocean themed work. Please send your email to me: Start the Subject line with OCEAN TIDE and your topic or pitch. I can’t wait to see what you have created!

  • Briefly tell me who you are.
  • State the title of your proposed article or work.
  • Tell me how The Pinecone Grove readers will benefit from your work.
  • Paste your article or share an outline of your pitch.
  • Especially important, sign with: “Pinecones Grow On Trees, [Your Name]” so I’ll know you read the guidelines 😉

Why You Should Publish with The Pinecone Grove

  1. Sharing your passion for nature with other families is a great way to encourage earth conscious living.
  2. A great project to work on with your kids and get the whole family excited about a nature friendly publication.
  3. Plus, if your work is accepted, you’ll receive a FREE digital copy of the summer magazine.

Accepted Work

I accept most submissions to the magazine. Within 24 hours you should receive an email back from me about your submission. Due to large amounts of email, I do not respond to most rejected works. However I may respond with constructive notes to help with the creation of future submissions.


Note: I retain the copyright of all material published in The Pinecone Grove magazine. An author/artist/photographer cannot republish the same work elsewhere; it must remain unique to The Pinecone Grove.

Work NOT Accepted

This magazine is for families so all content must be suitable for children. Consequently, any work submitted to my magazine containing inappropriate content will not be accepted.

  • Work with adult-themed or sexually explicit content will NOT be accepted.
  • Work that promotes hate, violence or discrimination in any way will NOT be accepted.

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3 Steps to Get Kids Published in Grove Dispatch This Summer


Our Series of Unfortunate Events

Toad on Fallen Leaves photographed by Ashley Shelton

 Our Series of Unfortunate Events

Have you every had one of those months weeks days where one bad thing after another keeps happening? Lately, we have had our own series of unfortunate events. Bad stuff can be super hard to share sometimes. You don’t want to over share and honestly it really isn’t that bad. Right? Since there is a ton of stuff I could share, I’m going to stick with the OUCH moments for now.

Toad on Fallen Leaves photographed by Ashley Shelton on an unfortunate ankle

Poisonous Plant Expedition Leads to the Tooth Fairy?

Each week, our homeschool group has a meet up to go hiking and talk about nature topics. Last week we met up at the nearby reservoir to talk about poisonous plant identification. I was really looking forward to this because I have always stuck to the motto “If you don’t know what it is, don’t touch it. Or at least just poke it with a stick.” I want Emmett to learn more about what to avoid in nature and why, so he can enjoy exploring the safe wildlife up close.

Unfortunately, Emmett got hurt knocking a tooth loose when his chin hit his knee before our meet up even began. Lots of blood. The other moms were super helpful and supportive as we worked our way back to the car and off to the dentist. He had yet to lose a tooth. So it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Damage beneath the gum and tooth worried me the most.

Thankfully he did NOT lose his tooth or have any damage underneath and his tooth felt much better by dinner time.

Beach Expedition Winds Up In Stitches?

For mother’s day weekend we went to the beach. We had a great time despite an incident that happened on the beach playground. My son was climbing one of the ladder structures when another boy started climbing from the other side. Then the boy proceeded to climb overtop of my son to reach the landing on the play set. Then the boy’s foot slipped and he landed on my son’s head. Neither boy cried, they both seemed a bit startled for a moment. I helped Emmett get down safely while the other boy proceeded to play on the play set. During the collision his chin made contact with a rung of the ladder and split open the skin. Just DAYS after he hurt his tooth. I thought for sure he was going to need stitches or something.

We were blessed again to discover his chin just needed to be cleaned, and covered with bacitracin and a bandaid. I took him to the doctor when we got home and she confirmed it was fine, no stitches needed and it wasn’t infected.

Steps to Crutches?

Yesterday morning was a 70 minute drive for us to meet for a hike with a park ranger and our nature study club. It started off a bit hectically. When we arrived, I discovered that we had to pay for parking or you would have to pay an extra fee or some such… And I didn’t bring cash with us. So I went ahead and parked anyway, deciding I’d pay the fee later. My son and I put on our sunblock and sprayed DEET on our shoes, hats, and clothes before heading over to the visitors center. The park ranger told me I could pay with a credit card so I headed back out to my car to get my wallet.

On my way out… the step was much closer to the door than I realized and I twisted my ankle. We had a long drive and I knew Emmett was really looking forward to hiking with his friends and the park ranger, so I stuffed some ice cubes in my sock, got my card from the car, and proceeded to hike a mile with the group.

The ice kept my ankle numb throughout the hike. My sock was soaked from the ice on the drive home. But it was worth it. I’m not on crutches. At most it is a slight sprain however it is most likely a bad twist. I might go to the chiropractor in a few days to readjust my ankle. For now I’m just going to prop it up, walk on it as little as possible, and soak my foot in some Epsom salt.

Fortunate Blending with Unfortunate

So really, all those unfortunate events were not so unfortunate. Emmett and I ate frozen yogurt after the dentist. Thanks to bandages, we still had a lot of fun at the beach. And I get to soak my feet in the bath this weekend. Things can always be so much worse and sometimes it is easier to focus on the negative. But when we take a moment to focus on the positive, it really brightens everything up.

Pocket Sale!

Good Evening Explorers! Over the years, I have been working to make Pinecone Grove products as earth friendly as possible. My nature inspired Pocket FieldCards™ have always been printed on 100% recycled paper produced by wind-power. This year, I have decided to make this tool even more earth friendly. On that note, I am happy to announce I will be launching Digital Nature Tools for Little Explorers! Now you’ll be able to download your products straight to your computer, tablet, or smart phone, paper-free. I still have some FieldCards™ in stock that are ready to ship. Pinecone Grove’s Pocket Sale includes shipping, so the price you see is the price you get. Below are the FieldCards™ and Collectable Cards currently available for the sale. No Coupon Necessary.

Pine Tree Lifecycle Pocket FieldCards™

3 Sets Available

Pine Tree Lifecycle FieldCards™
“Does your little explorer collect pinecones? If so, have they ever wondered how Pine Trees grow from the cones? This set illustrates the life cycle of pines. While hiking or exploring the forest, young explorers can identify local trees using our Pocket FieldCards™. Additionally, these cards describe each stage of the lifecycle. Because Pocket FieldCards™ are small, kids easily handle them indoors and out.”

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Pocket FieldCards™

2 Sets Available

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly Pocket FieldCards™

“Has your little explorer seen any yellow or blue butterflies? They may be a butterfly known as the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. While hiking or exploring the garden, young explorers can identify local butterflies using our Pocket FieldCards™. Additionally, these cards depict the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly’s life cycle. Because Pocket FieldCards™ are small, kids easily handle them indoors and out.”

Northern Cardinal Pocket FieldCards™

1 Set Available

Northern Cardinal FieldCards™

“Has your little explorer noticed red birds with black masks flying across the backyard? Say hello to the territorial songbird called a Northern Cardinal. While bird watching from the porch or on the trail, young explorers can identify local birds using our Pocket FieldCards™. Additionally, these cards illustrate the areas where the Northern Cardinal is the State Bird. Because Pocket FieldCards™ are small, kids easily handle them indoors and out.”

Spring is in the Air: Cetch Collectable Card

23 Cards Available

Spring is in the Air: Cetch Cottontail Collectable Card

Cetch is a field cartographer for the expedition team, he reads and draws maps during treks so the team never gets lost. In the spring, he likes to bring along a handkerchief to thwart pesky pollen. This limited edition collectable card was designed to celebrate this little bunny’s birthday. On the front of the card is an original watercolor illustration of my Pinecone Grove character. On the back is Cetch’s scientific species name, occupation on our expedition team, and a short bio.

Shop the Pocket Sale Now!

3 Reasons Your Homeschool Should Have a Name

What School Do You Go To?

Uhh… My House. Outside. The World.

Some states require a homeschool to have a name. Virginia is not one of them. However, Wednesday my son had a writing activity that asked questions about the school he goes to. Since he does not go to school, he got the chance to name his homeschool and pick a mascot. While he worked on his lessons, I designed an identity to go with his new idea. He chose Aero Academy for the name, a rocket for the logo, an astronaut for the mascot, and his current favorite colors: green and orange. Below are 3 reasons you should name your homeschool too.

Our Homeschool Brand Identity

Reason № 1: Discounts

Discounts! Yes, Please!

Other than fun… what is the point? Since then I’ve been browsing around, curious about what other people name their homeschool and how they apply it. I mean, do people have homeschool sport and game co-ops where kids play for their homeschool team? Do they have uniforms and coffee mugs and bumper stickers… Then I found an article on Life of a Homeschool Mom that said “Some states require your homeschool to have a name and others do not. However there are benefits for naming your homeschool. Many companies offer discounts to homeschooler, but most will ask for the name of your school.– How to Name Your Homeschool

Reason № 2: School IDs

Have Proof and Claim Those Discounts

Naturally, I did some more research. You know how much I love to research! It wasn’t long before I came across another article. The Benefits of a Homeschool ID Card for Parents and Students on Mommy Maestra which also had a link to The Complete List of 82 Teacher Discounts! How fantastic is that?!

Our Homeschool Student and Teacher IDs

For home educators, homeschool IDs are great for getting discounts at museums, workshops, classes, and local stores. And in rare circumstances: “If you are ever questioned by a law enforcement officer as to why your child is not in school, you can prove that you are a homeschooling family. (This is really not likely, but it depends on your state and how serious officers are about such a policy.)” – The Benefits of a Homeschool ID Card for Parents and Students.

For your students, having an ID is also great for getting student discounts. Is your child getting ready to take a standardized test or the SAT? Having a photo ID is often required. Bonus they can keep their student ID in memory boxes to look back on.

You can print a free ID card or have one printed on a PVC card at the Homeschool Buyers Co-Op. If your student wants to do a design project or you are feeling creative, you can also design and print your own.

Reason № 3: Yearbooks

One of My Favorite Reasons

As homeschoolers we have tons of those candid photo opportunities to document life in homeschool. So why not turn all those awesome photos, projects, and memories into a yearbook? You can use your new school name and colors to inspire your yearbook covers, decorate your pages, and add a motto or alma matter. The options are limitless.

Our Chatbooks Homeschool Yearbook Cover

Places to print your yearbook:

Chatbooks – If your wanting a small photo book to use as a year book, Chatbooks is a great choice. You can easily sync up photos from your phone, Facebook, or Instagram. They offer softcover and hardcover options.

Picaboo Yearbooks – Want a nice full size yearbook without having to buy 10 or more? Picaboo has kept us homeschoolers in mind. Their homeschool yearbook pages features: easy-to-use design tools, no minimum orders, 3-week turnaround time, plus free tools and support. I have not ordered from here yet but I am going to give this place a try near the end of our year. I’ll be sure to post a review then.

 Customize Your Homeschool with The Pinecone Grove

Custom Homeschool Logo by The Pinecone Grove

3 Activities To Get Kids Outside This Season

3 Activities To Get Kids Outside This Season coming soon

Autumn is my favorite season. Hot apple cider, boots, scarves, gloves, pinecone and acorn hunting… there is just so much I love about Fall. My favorite autumn phenomenon however is the changing of the leaves. I can literally stay outside for hours and enjoy the beauty of colorful leaves on the tress, gently falling and floating on the autumn breeze. My son however sometimes need a little encouragement to get of his electronics or taking a break from his LEGO®️ and Plus-Plus®️ constructing.

If your child finds the chilly weather deterring, here are some activities that will tempt them to step outside and capture their curiosity in nature. Bonus for homeschoolers, you can make these activities a part of your school day!

Nature Challenge

This challenge is like a scavenger hunt, but instead of one find per item on a list, you and your child will hunt for the most of one specific item in a certain amount of time. It’s a race to see who can find the most yellow, orange, or red leaves. Then hunt again to see who can collect the most acorns, pinecones, or twigs. Use whatever seasonal nature scavenger items are in your area to inspire your child’s exploration of nature. This challenge can happen in your backyard, on a hike, or at the beach! Seashells, mermaid purses (which are actually shark eggs), and sea glass also make for a great nature challenge in tropical places year round. The Nature Challenge offers good exercise, lots of fun, and gives kids a reason to be outside for a while.

Draw a Map

In your yard, choose a starting place and an endpoint or vice versa and help your child map it out. You can have a cache for treasure or a time capsule for the next adventure at the map destination to make things more interesting. Point out a stump or other landmark as you go so your child can draw and write it on their map. Ask them if they notice any landmarks as well. Maybe you have a little creek near by or a bird bath they can use. A compass would make a great tool for this activity. They can learn how to determine where East and West are at home and show that on their map. For example, the cache is North of the stump and West of the bird bath. When they are finished mapping it all out they can add color, a key, or copy it for a treasure hunting party. There are so many ways to customize this activity, your child is sure to enjoy it.

Field Journal

Take a blank book and some creative tools on an expedition. When it comes to field journaling there is more than one way to do anything. Your child can draw what they see, mount leaves in their pages, or write about their experience. Let them observe with their eyes, hands, and magnifying lens. Sort the species they find by tree type, color, or size. Or cottontail tracks versus deer tracks. There are so many great ways to make Field Journaling fun. (This is another good homeschool activity for science lessons). Encourage your child to record their observations and experiences of the expedition in their field journals.  They can draw their findings in color, note measurements, and color data. Develop their writing and memory skills as they describe their expedition and leaves collected. Parents can join the fun too by field journaling together.

Share your autumn expeditions and activities with us on social media:
@Pinecone_Grove & #PGExpeditions