November 23, 2014

Linden Flowers and the Cough Kicker Tea {Fresh from the Cabinet}

Plants. They are all around us. They provide us beauty, fresh air, and a lot of natural remedies for every day issues. I have really enjoyed diving into the world of herbal remedies and discovering new and exciting ways to use the many herbs and flowers that grow on our earth.  One of the plants that I have had fun exploring recently is the Linden tree--also known as the common lime or basswood-- a native tree to most of the middle and eastern United States. Known throughout folk medicine for its fever reducing properties as well as a long list of other health benefits, the flowers (also called lime blossoms) from this tree  are a valuable everyday remedy for any home.
Learn more about Linden flowers and Cough Kicker Tea

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Let me start with a HUGE disclaimer: I am not a botanist. I am not a medical provider. I am not an herbalist. I am {just} Doctor Mom with an unquenchable thirst for trying to find ways to keep my family healthy, without relying on many of the side effect filled over-the-counter drugs being used to treat everyday problems. As always, please use common sense and wisdom. Consult your health care professional before undertaking the advice shared here, to best assess your individual needs, symptoms and treatment. This information is intended to just provide you ideas about more natural ways you could deal with everyday issues in your health and home. I have included all sources that I have studied for this article at the bottom of this blog post for further reference.

Linden Tree--aka common lime---aka basswood

linden flowers
The Linden tree (also known as the common lime or basswood) is a native species to a most of the eastern United States. It is a deciduous tree with soft, green, heart shaped leaves and clusters of tiny drooping lemon colored flowers. The flowers show up starting about June and will give way to a small velvety green fruit during the fall. These flowers are very pleasing (and strong!) to smell and bees love them. The flowers (also called lime blossoms) hang down from the tree in clusters. 

The tree is said to be able to grow up to 130 feet tall and can live up to 500 years. It has dull gray bark when young, which browns up slightly as it matures.

I asked Love-Of-My-Life about them...he knows them by their name Basswood, but says he only knows of one in the area at his uncles property--there aren't as many around here any more, though they are native to this area (Kentucky).

The tree is very pleasing to the eye and is used in decorative landscaping (and as a shade tree) frequently. It's wood--more familiarly called basswood--is used in making models and for carving due to its light density. Did you know it's used for making musical instruments and for artist's charcoal? Even the inner bark can be used for things like rope, baskets, mats and other woven crafts. 

The tree is amazing...and we aren't even to it's homeopathic uses yet!
Linden Flower Tea

It is commonly known in the homeopathic world that the linden flowers (aka lime flowers) have many medicinal uses.  The flowers are best known for containing a high amount of the curative plant fiber mucilage--great for dealing with respiratory complaints. Natural healers have been taking advantage of the warming properties of the trees blossoms for years in making fever reducing tea. Drinking a hot linden-flower tea is known to induce sweating--which as you know is the body's way of cooling itself...thus linden-flower tea is known throughout folk medicine as "fever tea".

But that's not all! 

Remember when I said that it was a must have in your house for everyday remedies? Here is a "short" list of what linden-flower tea is also known for:

*alleviates respiratory ailments including coughs and the byproducts of the common cold
*stimulates the appetite, promotes healthy digestion, and soothes intestinal disorders
*helps calm the nervous system, thus reducing symptoms of anxiety
*to help promote natural sleeping
*eases painful cramps
*skin health and regeneration
*swelling reduction
*a mild diuretic and good for easing the symptoms of gout and rheumatism.

I think you can see the benefit of having linden flowers at your disposal! I have also read that linden flower honey is delicious! I'm a big fan of honey in general, so I would love to try some!

You aren't limited to using it medicinally! The fresh tender leaves of the linden (lime) tree can be added to green salads. You can even remove the stalk from the leaves and add them to your next sandwich. 

Obviously, you have to make sure you are really harvesting a linden tree before you ever consume anything from it...and if you find one, make sure it's not anywhere near a place sprayed with pesticides/herbicides. You don't want those added to your diet!

But if you are like probably just want it already harvested for you. If so, you can buy the linden flowers from most herbal suppliers. My personal favorite is Mountain Rose Herbs. They have excellent prices and are careful to make sure they only provide you herbs that are either organic or cultivated without chemicals or synthetic products--and aim for ethically harvested plants in the wild when available. But, if they can grow it themselves, they do!  Here is the link to purchase dried Linden Leaf and Flower like what I use in our home.

How can you use it to benefit your health?

If you do a search on Pinterest, you can find all sorts of herbal recipes with Linden Flowers in it. I have found many in the books I have read. Linden flowers can be used on their own or mixed with complementary herbs. They are definitely a common denominator of ingredients in the herbal recipes I have checked out.

To use the Linden Flowers as a tea, the most basic recipe is this:
Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 tsp of linden flowers, and then steep for 10 minutes. Be careful not to steep too long or the flavor will be lost.

*Sip it (as hot as you can stand it) three times a day to reduce fever and to promote perspiration.
*Drink a cup or two of the tea each day to help break up mucus buildup and congestion, relieving bronchial problems and to help eliminate painful cramps.

I will throw out this note that as I was reading I learned there are contrary arguments regarding drinking large amounts of linden-flower teas. Some sources believe it might damage the heart, while others claim it's safe. Those with heart disease may want to limit their intake to be safe. 

How about a great facial?
Clean your skin and pat dry gently. Place 4 tbsp of linden flowers in a bowl and add 1 litre (1 3/4 pints) of boiling water. Lean over the bowl and cover the head with a towel to trap in steam. Remain in this position for a least 10 minutes to allow the steam to open and cleanse the pores. Then wipe your skin with a cool damp cloth. Pat dry and allow the skin to cool down naturally for about 30 minutes before heading outside.

Simple and oh so effective for a great deep cleaning feel. I like to do this when my skin is at its oiliest. It makes my face feel so good!

Have puffy eyes?
To decrease swelling, simply soak cotton balls in the tea (cooled down of course) and place them on the eyelids for about 20 minutes. The flowers are said to reduce swelling, so this a simple and quick remedy.

How about dealing with sleep issues?
Make a tea by boiling 2-3 handfuls of linden flowers in 1 quart of water. Strain this mixture and pour it into the bathwater (or put the handfuls in a muslin bag and toss into your bathwater). Bathing in this will help calm nervous tensions, fight insomnia and is effective for calming children and babies before bed.

I'd even throw in some lavender blossoms (or a couple drops of lavender essential oil) for a truly delightful and soothing bathtime soak.

As I did my searching, the ultimate goal was to find a great recipe to help my boys with the nasty wet cough they have thanks to this nasty warm-cold-warm-frigidly cold-warm bipolar weather we are having this year. A sign of the month of November it seems. I know we aren't the only ones dealing with it this month.

Once I learned that linden flowers had such a great amount of mucilage (great for breaking up mucus and treating respiratory issues)--similar to one of my favorite herbs Slipper Elm Bark-- I knew I wanted them in a tea. I looked at a lot of recipes and came up with the following recipe--I used it today and the boys not only liked the taste, but it I could hear the coughing ease as they drank their tea. I would say that they got a good 2 hrs free from coughing thanks to the tea--and it prepped them for a great night of sleep too.

This recipe is great for boosting the immune system and for alleviating all those annoying bronchial issues--especially the never ending cough! Only want one cup of tea? Just remember it's a 1:1 ratio on the herbs--with a smidge extra for the linden flower. You can adapt it to fill just a tea ball or a tea infuser mug. I don't really measure--I really do pinch! LOL!
cough kicker tea
What my herbal pile looked like before putting it in my tea pot. It's so pretty! 

*When I am giving the boys (age 4 and 8) herbal tea, I make one mug of tea and split it between them giving them about 3-4 oz each. This has always worked well and I would recommend a similar dosage of herbal teas for any child 4-10 years old.  

I get all my herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs and everything in this recipe can be purchased from them. This makes a delightfully rosy colored up of tea which just looks pretty too. And as always, LIBERALLY lace it with raw honey for extra flavor and help kicking the cough.

I hope you enjoyed learning more about the amazing Linden flower. You can see why it is so valued in herbal medicine and I hope that you will consider adding it to your natural remedy "medicine" cabinet in your own home!

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*Ageless (website)
Botanical Encyclopedia entry for Linden Flowers (

*The Illustrated Book of Herbs (book)
by Gilda Daisley
Illustrated by Ingrid Jacob
Copyright 1989
"Lime" pg 86-87

*The Complete Guide to Natural Healing (book)
Copyright 1999
Therapeutic Teas (Group 2 Card 9)
Linden-Flower Tea

"Benefits of Linden Flower Tea" by Joanne Marie
May 17, 2014

*Linden Tea (website)

November 19, 2014

Blue Ribbon Awards 2014~ Our Top 10 Favorite Products

It is hard to believe that it's been a year since I received the incredible news that I was chosen to participate with The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew team for 2014. The reviews are done for the year and I get time to reflect back over what we did and what we enjoyed. Our team voted on all the products we reviewed (from 58 companies!) to award the Blue Ribbon Awards for 2014 in 27 different categories. I thought it would be fun to share which of the 33 products we were blessed with to review were our Top 10 Favorite Products!
top 10 favorite products for homeschool

Here are the ten products we reviewed this year that we loved the most. These aren't in any particular order, and I have noted which ones won the Blue Ribbon Awards for the whole crew. All of my links will be taking you to the reviews I wrote on the products.

Drum-roll please...............

1. WriteShop (won Favorite Writing Curriculum)
We love Write Shop and even though the version we had was too easy for my writer, it was an excellent program and one that I recommend to anyone seeking a great beginning writing curriculum. We loved it so much we will be continuing to use the curriculum in the future as well. We have WriteShop C to use this year and I hope to use some of the advanced ones later.

This was one voted by Little Britches as being one of his overall favorites for the whole year. It was enjoyable and fun. I also liked how easy it was for me to "teach" it and do up assignments for him. He wishes he still has access to it. 

3. CTCmath (won Favorite Math Program)
This is the one that we voted as our favorite math program AND the best resource we didn't know we needed. This program actually was like love at first sight for both boys. They both really enjoy the videos AND the program. We discovered that Little Britches did better with this program than he did with me teaching him a lot of the math. We ended up buying an 18-month subscription which will start once our free trial wears out. We highly recommend this and several friends have purchased subscriptions and have raved about it too!

4. ARTistic Pursuits (won Favorite Fine Arts Program/Curriculum)
This program was so much fun! Baby Britches just had a blast using it! It's a great program and so comprehensive for teaching and encouraging art. I can't wait to continue to use this. We will be considering using it as we continue homeschooling--just with higher levels.

5. Maestro Classics
Maestro Classics was a super fun product and the boys are STILL in love with their Mike Mulligan CD. It's a daily thing that they listen to while they get dressed and do their morning chores.

6. Veritas Press (biggest winner of 2014! Won Favorite History Program, Best Digital Resource AND All Around Crew Favorite)
Love love love. We LOVE this history program. Since the first day we did it, it has been a family favorite. This is one subject that I have no problems with getting Little Britches to work on. He asks if it's time to do it. The retention of the information is great and he just soaks it in like a sponge. I highly recommend this program (the only drawback is the price...the ONLY drawback) and we will be using it again in the future at some point.

7. Roman Roads (won Favorite High School Resource)
Roman Roads. I reviewed this history curriculum myself and it was AWESOME! I loved everything about it. It's definitely a great one for the middle school level at the very earliest--ideal for high school. I can't wait to bring this out again for the boys when they are old enough. I am still working my way through it just for pleasure because it is so well done.

8. My Student Logbook (won Best Resource I Didn't Know I Needed)
This was a GREAT product. And I agree with the category it won in. It has made our routine so much easier since he is able to just look at what he has left to do and check it off. No more questions of "are we done yet?" or fights about how much is left. He can see it all right in front of him. I highly recommend this product and we will be continuing to use it.

9. Institute for Excellence in Writing: Fix It Grammar (won Favorite Grammar Curriculum)
I am so glad this product snagged a category win. It is excellent and so useful! We both agreed to keep it as part of our regular curriculum because it worked well and he loves it. No groaning on this product either. I look forward to continuing in the books as we progress.

10. Heirloom Audio Productions: Under Drakes Flag (won Favorite Book, Audio Book or Audio Drama)
Little Britches chimed in on this one. He really really loves this audio drama and asks for it every time we go anywhere of distance. It doesn't matter how many times he's listened to it. He loves it all the same. I am looking forward to purchasing the next one In Freedom's Cause which is available this month!
Well there are our 10 favorites for this year...there were more that we really enjoyed, but these 10 stand out as the best of the bunch. I hope you will check out my full reviews on each of them and consider making some of them a part of your own adventure! If you want to see what some of my fellow crew members chose as their favorites for the year, you can head on over and read about in the Blue Ribbon Awards 2014 post!

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November 17, 2014

It's Time for a Homeschooling Progress Report! {Week #10}

It's been several weeks now since we started school. As I mentioned in my posts talking about what we were going to do for third grade and preschool, we had a lot of ambitions. So where are we now? How have we done so far? What changes have we made? 
Homeschooling Progress Report
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What's been going on in our third grade routine? 

I had a grand third grade curriculum summary that I set out to do this year. As we dove into our year, we discovered that it wasn't really realistic for our routine. So we made some tweaks. 

*For the Bible lessons this year, I said we were going to be using God's Names/God's Promises and We Choose Virtues. Right now we are still using God's Names for our weekly lessons. We are following a "curriculum" that I created which includes a memory verse each week. This is very interesting for us both and we are enjoying it. At this time we aren't still working on We Choose Virtues. I will add them in at some point, but for now, the lessons we are doing for God's Names working very well.

*We are still on track for History as we continue our work in the online curriculum from Veritas Press. We work through one unit every two weeks doing it 3 days/2 days. We aren't even half way through the curriculum yet, which is fine by Little Britches. He loves it and asks for it. He's currently working on the unit about Westward Expansion. We made a covered wagon for this unit which was fun.

*Geography is going great. We are completing several pages of The Complete Book of Maps & Geography each week because it's so easy to put in. It's really something above and beyond because there is a lot of geography being covered in his history lessons.

*We made a few changes in our Math. While we are still working on and enjoying, we have decided to use IXL (we reviewed it earlier this month) as our supplement. We haven't worked on Ubersmart much at all thus far. IXL is a great supplement because it reviews the skills he's learning in CTC. Both programs are online, but the IXL is also available on my Kindle as an app which makes it portable. 

*We are on track with Science as we work through Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the 5th Day...but we are wishing we had more experiments. There are only one or two per chapter and they are "boring" (his words!) and sometimes we don't have any at all. I am considering adding something "extra" relating to what we are learning to make it a bit more exciting. We are enjoying everything else about the lesson though and find them very interesting.

*In Language Arts, I had planned on doing Pentime (Handwriting), WriteShop C (writing), Fix It Grammar (grammar), Logic of English (Spelling/Vocabulary), Lightning Lit 3 (Reading and reading comp) and free reading. As we went along as started Lightning Lit 3, I discovered it was more than I thought and included some grammar, and writing with the literature study. We've not had the need for Write Shop right now. We are continuing to use LOE for our spelling about 3 times a week and do the Fix It Grammar 4 days a week as it's laid out.  So the biggest change was throwing out Write Shop for right now. I have every intention of using it at some point but Lightning Lit is turning out to be a fabulous program and a pretty complete program so we are enjoying using it.

*It would be safe to say that Foreign Language studies is going great. Both boys are enjoying the lessons and absorbing them quickly. Song School Latin rocks! But we aren't stopping there! We are also learning Spanish with Middlebury Interactive Languages! We've discovered that both languages blend well together and use a lot of the same rules and even have similar bases. 

*Fine Arts...hahahahahhahahahah. Here is where we have strayed very much. At this point, I am incorporating art into our lessons and not as Art History as planned. I do want to get him back over to my MIL for lessons, but she has started subbing at the schools more often so she's not there often enough to count on her.  It's been the same thing for music. I really want to get back on track with lessons at some point...but am now thinking Little Britches might like to switch over to the recorder for a little while. I mean, don't all elementary kids learn how to play the recorder (to the despair and suffering of their parents!) 

*The extras...these ARE extras so I didn't have them as set in stone. We have been enjoying keyboarding, but took a break from it to get caught up in other areas. We will be putting it back in this week because he enjoys it. Essential Skills Advantage. This was another extra and we've let it slide. I might add it back for Friday work since we don't have major lessons on that day.

But wait...I've added something!

We have been taking advantage of morning work by adding in a daily math problem from a little book that I was given. It's called Figure It Out Book 2: Thinking Like a Math Problem Solver. This book is small--just about 31 pages. Each page provides a story problem and then walks the student through the process of solving a story problem. 
story problems for math

It's very simple and step by step and I love it--and the best thing is he enjoys it too.

We've also added a bit of creative writing too using the Snake Oil game like I talked about in my review from last week. These two things make our morning work more fun!

Okay--so we know where we are with Third Grade...but what about Preschool?

Preschool. Sigh. Well, the best laid plans just haven't...worked. As I mentioned in my post sharing our Pre-K curriculum,  the "core" of what we were going to do was going to be Before Five In A Row. Well...this has been put on the back burner. I've discovered that while he adores books and was doing very very well with the program, that he wants something "more". He gets restless and bored some days even when doing the B4FIAR work. So we changed up our routine. We now do three types of school: paper school, cabinet school, and computer school.  We start the day with him declaring which one he wants to do first. 

Paper school means he's in the mood to do things with worksheets and workbooks. Coloring, circling, cutting...workbook type activities. If he wants this, then I pull from the workbooks I have for him. We work on them together until he's "done". 

Workbook pages

If he requests cabinet school, he wants to do activities from our cabinet--puzzles, beads, beans, games...manipulative style learning.
lacing cards from $1 store
He's recently fallen in love with lacing and loves to spend time on lacing his animal cards.
 We have been doing a lot with his magnetic letters and pom-poms ("fuzzies"). Today we did something new. I flipped the back of a cheap $1 cookie sheet over and wrote two colors on the back with a line to separate using dry erase markers. Then he pulled off all the fuzzies and letters to match the colors and stuck them on. We did this with green and yellow too.
cookie sheet color match
Write on the back of a cookie sheet with dry erase and have them match all the same colors.
Computer school is self explanatory. It's the online programs that I let him use to work on skills. Sometimes this means using my laptop, but usually he uses my Kindle Fire. I will be sharing a post of the apps that I use for each boy in the near future.  He likes to do CTCmath, IXL and on the laptop. He is working at Kindergarten level in each of those programs. He gets to spend 15 minutes doing this.  Sometimes I need to help him if the program doesn't have audio for him--or it's asking to do a bit more "mouse usage" than he is able to right now.
With this new way of doing school, we move at HIS pace doing what HE'S in the mood for. We regularly do all three types of school in one day--but some days we don't. We are still doubling up on the foreign language and he sits in on history and science. We DO sometimes do a unit of B4FIAR, but right now this other way is working much better for us. We've already met some of the goals we set at the beginning of the year!

So there is my progress report. We've branched out in some ways and just trimmed off others. It's working for us right now without anyone (myself included) getting overwhelmed. This is another thing I am really enjoying about being "out of the box" this year with our curriculum.

I will do another progress report at week #20 to see how we are doing then too! I think it's fun to see how our routines morph as the year continues.

If you homeschool, what changes have you made since you began this year?
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