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

Mompreneur Made the Perfect Mix of Hashtags

Helpful Tips from Mompreneur Cody at Lu & Ed

Favorite Mompreneur

Hey fellow handmade biz owners! I have someone terrific to tell you about and her latest post that will help you with the social media posts for your business. Meet mompreneur Cody from Lu & Ed!

Meet mompreneur Cody from Lu & Ed!
Meet mompreneur Cody from Lu & Ed!

Cody from Lu & Ed has long been my favorite #mompreneur. She loves her kids. Her business is awesome. Encouraging other small biz owners is something she is always finding time to do. Since December 2016, Cody has been “researching, experimenting, and perfecting the perfect mix of hashtags for a handmade business.” Not only that, she has put them into sections based on post type to make it easier for your to use the ones you need. If you have not been introduced to Cody yet or heard of Lu & Ed, you totally should. She will be your favorite mompreneur too.

Tag Bundles

“There’s a various amount of tags in each group, and several are repeated in different groups. Repeated tags are great for use on basically any post about handmade businesses! Then there are some that are highly targeted for specific types of posts, from WIP images to finished products to selfies & more! I set it up this way so you can copy & paste directly from this list into your IG posts, then add your own curated tags specific to your medium – for instance, I usually throw in tags like #monstertoys, #toystorage or #instagramkids for my Mon-stor posts.

“If you make jewelry, you will want to put in specific tags – #handmadejewelry #datenight #wedding #bridetobe #prom and so on! For drawing or painting or art makers, you will want to use specific tags like #prismacolor #penandink #drawing #watercolor and on and on. These little tag packets just help you get started!” – 100+ hashtags for handmade businesses… by Cody

Read, Bookmark, & Pin

Read, bookmark, & pin “100+ hashtags for handmade businesses, makers and small shops + tag hacks!” by Cody from Lu & Ed. You can thank me later 😉

5 Steps to Writing a Wildlife Short Story

Free Download 5 Steps to Short Story Writing

Looking for a homeschool summer writing activity? How about students writing a short story for a wildlife homeschool magazine? Download this FREE guide for your student to work on their summer wildlife short-story. When they are finished, you can submit their story and any illustrations they may want to include.

The Pinecone Grove has refreshed the mini-magazine into a homeschool oriented wildlife digital magazine. This season’s theme is Ocean Tide. You can learn more about the quarterly publication in my article: Grove Dispatch: Summer 2017 Digital Magazine.

Parents, if you are also interested in writing a wildlife short story for kids, you can submit your story in this summer’s magazine issue too!

5 Steps

to Writing a Wildlife Short Story
for the Grove Dispatch



Step 1: Characters

Create a character or three, give them a name, and write or draw something that describes them.


Step 2: Discover a Problem

Give your character(s) a goal to solve. It can be a character that needs saving, a question that needs to be answered, or a destination that needs to be reached.


Step 3: Try, Try, Try Again

List their failures and their final success. Everyone learns by trial an error. Let your character try to solve their problem and fail. Have them try something else a second time… Then, third time’s the charm; they solve the problem!


Step 4: Put it Together

Take steps 1 through 3 and compose your short story. Try to keep your story between 500 to 2,000 words.


Step 5: Press Send

Have a guardian look over your story. Then, with permission, send your story to


Bonus Help: Still not sure where to begin? Brainstorm with a friend 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.

Free Download 5 Steps to Short Story Writing

Sewing Expedition Part Two

Handmade Tank Tops for 3 Boys by The Pinecone Grove

Sewing Adventures Part Two

Today: part two of my sewing adventures. I used left over fabric from my Sewing Expeditions Ups & Downs to make tank tops for my young twin nephews. Now the three cousins can match on our next beach vacation! I really love the Doodle fabrics from Jo-Ann’s that my son picked out. The prints are adorable!

Handmade Tank Tops part two by The Pinecone Grove

New Patterns!

This evening I have gotten 5 more patterns from Peek-A-Boo Pattern Shop to try. So naturally, I will be heading back to the fabric store tomorrow.

3 Patterns for my son & nephews: Hang Ten Rash Guard, Surf’s Up Board Shorts, and Romperalls

2 Patterns for myself: Rainier RaglanSummer Lovin’ Shorts

I am seriously hooked on using my sewing machine. It is still prone to eating fabric. Other than my paper trick, I’d like to find out how to stop that. I also need to probably clean out the bobbin compartment and add a drop of oil… Not sure what kind of oil it needs though. Guess the next step is to find a manual online that goes to my sewing machine model.


That’s all for today’s post. Just wanted to stop in and share an update for my 30 days of blog project. At the moment, my son and I are having a Transformers: Robots In Disguise tv show marathon. We have 69 episodes recorded. How many episodes do you think we will make it through before we fall asleep?

30 Days of Blog 2017: Day 3

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

Sewing Expedition Ups & Downs

The Pinecone Grove Sewing Expediton

Sewing Expedition

Hand Sewing to Sewing Machine

When I was a young girl, I loved to sew by hand with my grandmother. She taught me how to add buttons, fix holes, make aprons, and get creative with thread. The sewing machine however… I gave it a few tries before it wound up in the shed. Recently, my dad pulled it out for me and I set it up in my closet office. It had a few technical difficulties. The part that holds the needle fell out in several pieces. (I didn’t even know it could do that.) Thankfully my dad fixed that the next day. Then, when I practiced sewing an old fleece blanket the machine started to eat my fabric. At that point I tossed out the idea of making all our clothes and launching a handmade clothing collection for the shop.

Renewed Motivation

Until I came across Peek-A-Boo (PAB) Pattern Shop. I subscribed. Then I joined the Facebook group. After seeing everyone’s PAB creations and reading about how easy it is to understand the patterns, I decided to finally go for it!

The Pinecone Grove Sewing Expediton

Yesterday, I bought the Tide Pool Tank PAB pattern and took my son to the fabric store. He chose 4 awesome fabrics, some thread, and wonder clips. When we got home I cut everything out and clipped them together. Then I began sewing at 7am.

The Pinecone Grove Sewing Expedition part 2

Problems & Solutions

It wasn’t all smooth sailing. My sewing machine still likes to eat the edge of my fabric. I came up with the brilliant idea of putting a small piece of paper underneath the starting edge. Then just tore it off when I was done. This worked marvelously. No more fabric eating!

I also ran into trouble with fitting the neck band to the scoop neck. Turns out it just takes a bit of practice because I figured it out on the second shirt.

When my son tried the shirt on I discovered another problem. For some reason it was too big underneath his arms. Maybe I didn’t cut or sew a completely straight line or I stretched the fabric when I was sewing it. Either way, this was an easy enough bit to hem and now they fit him perfectly.

Beach Ready

I LOVE how the shirts turned out and my son does too. They are ideal for our next beach camping trip. I can’t wait to tryout more fabrics and patterns.

This is just the beginning. I don’t know if I will get to the point of sewing all our clothes and making an earth-friendly clothing collection for kids, but I am definitely going to keep trying.

The Pinecone Grove Sewing Project finished

Stop by Instagram and tell me what projects you are working on.

30 Days of Blog 2017: Day 1

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.