31 Days of Homeschooling & Homemaking With a Happy Heart

31 Days of Homeschooling & Homemaking With a Happy Heart! on Simply Vicki | vicki-arnold.com

If you follow along on the Facebook page or are on the actual blog often, you may have noticed that I have done some re-branding. I have a snazzy new header, new design, and coordinating Facebook graphics. The Facebook page is currently still the Vicki Arnold blog, but I have moved the blog back to my original blog title of Simply Vicki. Facebook page will follow suit eventually.

Previously, my blog tagline was “Where P31 & Titus 2 meet Colossians 3:23.” I think this only made sense to me. I was aiming to chronicle my attempts to follow in the big footsteps left behind by the Proverbs 31 and Titus 2 women with the right attitude, according to Colossians 3:23.

Over time, as things tend to do, my life changed and this tagline no longer really reflected what I was blogging about. While I started off in a more reflective, journaling type of writing, I eventually moved on with a desire to encourage and equip women. Particularly in the areas of homeschooling, homemaking, and Christian faith.

So.

Over the summer, I began to pray, think, and brainstorm. I realized quickly that I did not like the name of the Vicki Arnold blog anymore because ultimately the blog is NOT about me. To make this long story a little shorter, I eventually realized that while I wear many hats throughout my days, at the end I am simply Vicki. Thus, I moved back to my very original blog title.

The tagline actually came via my friend Becky after discussing what I was wanting my blog to be focused on going forward. I tossed around several ideas, but when Becky took a few of my words and rearranged them to give me “Homeschooling & Homemaking With a Happy Heart,” I was THRILLED.

It was perfect. It covered my niches and it used alliteration. Oh, how I love alliteration!

Fast forward to now, with my snazzy new design and updated name and tagline. I have decided to participate in The Nester’s 31 Days writing challenge. While I had a few ideas in mind, I thought this would be the perfect time to break out all those posts I had trapped in my writing notebook and give you a taste of what the blog will be like going forward.

Once the month of October is passed, I will NOT be continuing to write 7 days/week. I am not THAT talented. ;)

About Homeschooling & Homemaking With a Happy Heart

Before we dive into the posts, I wanted to give you an overview of what these topics will encompass from my perspective. This extends beyond this 31 day challenge.

  • Homeschooling – A bit obvious, I am a homeschool mom. I will be sharing resources to help make homeschooling easier. These will include encouragement for a homeschool mother’s heart, curriculum reviews, resource lists of all kinds (including free), and any thing else relating to the world of homeschooling. I will also be creating and sharing activities and printables.
  • Homemaking – This will be a relatively new area here. I will be sharing ideas for meal planning, recipes, sewing tutorial round-ups, and resources for inspiration in anything that falls under the homemaking umbrella.
  • Happy Heart – This is the unclear one. Happy heart includes family, faith, and holistic living. I am bringing back my Sunday Psalms for the 31 Day challenge and will be sharing some great parenting resources. I also plan to share things that make us laugh because laughter is a big part of our home.

31 Days of Homeschooling & Homemaking With a Happy Heart

Below are the posts that make up this challenge. As each one goes live, I will add the link. Or you can subscribe via email to make sure you don’t miss them!

  1. Introduction (this post)
  2. Healthy Chocolate Breakfast Shake
  3. Fun Science for Kids Using Candy
  4. 25 Free Activities to Do With Kids
  5. Sunday Psalms – Psalm 19:1
  6. Teaching a Biblical Worldview
  7. Pumpkin Pie S’Mores
  8. Where to Buy Homeschool Curriculum
  9. Pumpkin Pie Cinnamon Rolls
  10. Raising Independent Learners – How and Why
  11. 7 Tools for Cultivating Your Child’s Potential
  12. Sunday Psalms – Psalm 104:13
  13. Homeschooling Resources on Pinterest
  14. Sewing Tutorials for the Home
  15. Homeschooling Resources on Facebook
  16. How to Make Pizza Dough & 10 Ways to Use It
  17. Preparing for Homeschooling Middle School and Beyond
  18. Books for Duck Dynasty Fans
  19. Sunday Psalm
  20. Huge List of Art Tutorials
  21. Disposable Items That Can Be Made Reusable
  22. Big List of Books for Art Study
  23. How I Use Costco to Save My Family Money
  24. Writing Ideas That Are Fun!
  25. Lead Your Family Like Jesus
  26. Sunday Psalm
  27. Pen Pal Writing Printable Pack – Thanksgiving
  28. Not Your Typical Loaded Baked Potato Soup
  29. Pen Pal Writing Tips and Resources for Kids
  30. Pinterest Resources for Homemaking
  31. Grand Finale Giveaway!

A Bloggy Year in Review & Looking Ahead (2013)

A Bloggy Year in Review & Looking Forward at Vicki-Arnold.com

the Vicki Arnold blog News

The year 2013 has been a wild ride for this little blog. I started the year with a handful of readers and God has grown that tremendously. I’ve enjoyed the time. I’ve learned a lot about what kind of blogger I want to be and what kinds of things you all enjoy reading. Thankfully, the two match up well.

Coming into 2014, you will see less reviews here on the blog. They are fun, but time consuming and I’ve felt God leading me away from doing so many for a while. I have one more review coming soon that I’m excited to share with you, after that you won’t be seeing a review for a little while.

What will you be seeing? That is something I’m pretty excited about.

I have a fun project in the works with a blogging friend. This project will be year-long and center around a certain set of 26 letters, particularly for preschoolers. I hope you like printables and books. And fun.

You will continue to see posts about homeschooling, gardening, and goal setting because I love writing about those. I will also be doing more sewing tutorial round-up posts (you’ll see why below).

Another new thing this year, I will begin writing about some health topics. These will center around holistic ways to take care of the body God gave you (me).

Other News

2013 saw the launch of my newest project, The Library Adventure. God put together a great team of writers. We have reviews, books lists, and hands-on activities. Our mission is to grow a love of reading and a passion for the libraries that serve communities worldwide. We aim to provide resources for both library patrons and librarians.

I also became a Lilla Rose consultant after reviewing and giving away a flexi-clip for my 12 Days of Christmas in July giveaway series. That was a fun one, too.

The Top 10 Posts of 2013 on the Vicki Arnold blog

10. 4 Books That Made a Reader Out of My Son

4 books that made our son love reading fiction

9. 5 Quick Tips for a Successful First Garden

5 Quick Tips for a Successful First Garden

8. Scriptures to Memorize for When I Don’t Like Myself

Scriptures to Memorize for When I Don't Like Myself

7. Planning Your First Garden

Planning Your First Garden

6. Free Printable Homeschool Curriculum Planning Pages

Homeschool Curriculum Planning Worksheets (free printable)

5. Websites Frugal Homeschoolers Need

Websites Frugal Homeschoolers Need

4. 54 Free Maternity Sewing Tutorials & Patterns

Free sewing tutorials and patterns for maternity - over 50 tutorials!

3. Free Sewing Tutorials for Skirts

69 Free Tutorials for Skirts

2. 23 Free Sewing Tutorials for Women’s Dresses

23 Free Dress Tutorials for Women's Dresses

1. Free Sewing Tutorials – Dresses for Little Girls

Free Dress Tutorials for Little Girls

Posts I WISH Were in the Top Ten

I love the posts that made it in the top 10, but there are a few that I wish had been seen better over the year. I’m sharing those in closing today.

1. Dear Guilty Mom, Give Yourself Permission

Dear Guilty Mom - Give Yourself Permission

2. How to Stay Encouraged While Homeschooling

How to Stay Encouraged While Homeschooling

3. Sensory Bin Resources for Beginners

Sensory bin resources for beginners. An ebook, a few Pinterest boards, and some advice to get you started...not overwhelmed.

4. How to Read Blogs and Not Feel Like a Failure

How to Read Blogs and Not Feel Like a Failure

5. Bible Verses to Memorize About Joy – Selections from Psalms

Bible Verses to Memorize About Joy - Selections From Psalms

Blog 101 – What Are Affiliate Links?

Blog 101: What are affiliate links? Why do bloggers use them? Here are your answers.

Disclosure of Affiliate Links

At long last, here is my post explaining affiliate links! The FTC recently changed some of the rules of disclosure for bloggers. What it means for readers is they are seeing terms like affiliate links and sponsored posts on the blogs they read more often. When I shared a link on Facebook and disclosed that it was an affiliate link, it dawned on me that other people may have no clue what I mean. So I asked. And, yep, most non-bloggers had no clue.

As bloggers, we are now required to inform our readers in each post, in an unavoidable way, before they reach any link that we may profit from. In other words, if we are getting paid, we have to tell you. It doesn’t matter how much we earn, we just have to tell you. Keep reading to see what I mean by “it doesn’t matter how much we earn”.

So What Are Affiliate Links?

An affiliate link is a link to a website that has been encoded with a tracking cookie. What that cookie does is note if you make a purchase after you clicked on the link. The website you bought from keeps track of the dollar amounts purchased, organized by the unique codes. The “owner” of those codes will then receive a commission for referring the sale.

Two things I want to note right away: 1) no one but the website you buy from sees any of your personal information and 2) this does not cost you anything extra.

I will give you an example. When you click on an Amazon link (like on book list posts) on my blog, you will see be using my affiliate link. When you hover over one of those links, you will see “tag=behthebeawitl-20″ at the very end of the link. That is my tracking ID. When you click through that link, Amazon puts a cookie in your browser that stays there for a few days (unless you delete your cookies) and gives me a commission for anything you may purchase.

Here is where I tell you the gobs of profit I am making off these links. I earn anywhere from 4-10.05%. Amazon’s affiliate system is tiered so the more sales you send, the higher your commission percentage. So if you buy a $2 dollar ebook through my link and are the only one to do so that month, I will earn 8 cents. You can see how this get rich quick scheme is really working for me now, right?

Tell Me More About These Affiliate Links

Are all affiliate links the same? No. Every website has it’s own affiliate program and they are all set up differently. Some cookies are set to count orders for only the original click and some count for days, weeks, or months. The commission rate is different with each program. There are affiliate programs that pay a set dollar or cents amount per click or sale; some pay only 3%; while others may pay 50%.

If they only pay pennies, why bother with them? It’s a numbers thing. If I only have a sale or two each month, it will take me a very long time to reach the payout level. For example, I joined Amazon’s affiliate program in 2008 and am just now reaching their $10 payout threshold. Not exactly a good ROI for my time. The thing is, with blog posts, these links are there until I delete them so as my traffic grows, so do my clicks/sales.

Why do affiliate links exist? Because it is a win-win situation. Websites only have so much advertising money to work with. With an affiliate program, they get more advertising that they don’t have to pay for until AFTER they actually sell something or otherwise benefit. It gets their name, logo, and website in front of more eyes, more often, and is more effective when coming from a personal recommendation.

Please note I am not saying that every affiliate link is a personal endorsement. I pass along resources that I have not personally used as a service to those who may be looking for those resources. For example, we have not read every one of the books on the composer study list, but I know that many homeschool families do composer study and might appreciate my taking the time to put the list together.

It is a win-win situation for bloggers like me who want to bring in “extra” money to support their family’s goals, but don’t want to leave their children or homes to do so. There are bloggers out there who make a full-time income from their blogs, BUT they are putting in full-time hours to do it. In the beginning, it can be more than full-time hours. The benefit most see is the flexibility to be home with their family and set their own hours.

So you blog for money? Well, yes and no. I blog because I enjoy it. I enjoy sharing my journey, encouraging others in their journey, and I LIKE social media. Except Pinterest, I LOVE Pinterest. ;) It takes time to write good blog posts. It takes time to review products and share them with you. It takes time to pull together resources (yeah, this takes a LOT of time). It takes money to blog, too. While my costs are fairly minimal, they still exist.

This is why I use affiliate links: it is a way to financially support this blog (and my family’s goals) without costing my readers anything extra.

So the next time you see a disclosure from a blogger using affiliate links, you’ll now know what they are and why they use them.

Do you have any other blog-related questions?

Leave them here in the comments or contact me via email.

Giveaways on the Internet – What, Where, and Why?!

Are Giveaways Worth It?

Occasionally on Facebook and Twitter, I will share links to giveaways I come across and/or enter. I have even hosted a couple giveaways. I realized that some of you may be wondering why, whether these giveaways are worth it, or even legitimate. About that…yes, yes they are. There are a variety of ways to enter these giveaways, but first let me explain something.

Giveaways vs. Sweepstakes

Technically speaking, most of the giveaways you see on the internet are actually legally defined as sweepstakes. Meaning, not everyone who enters will receive something and the winner(s) are chosen at random. Most people have an aversion to the word sweepstakes (thinking rip-off or scheme…) so the commonly used word is giveaway. It fits because something IS being given away, but it is not the legally-defined term. Clear as mud? Yep, like most things the government regulates, it can be confusing. So for this post, when I say giveaways, I mean a random drawing where you might win something if you enter. Okey dokey?

What Can I Win?

Just about anything under the sun. Here is a list of items I have seen given away recently:

  • hair accessories, shoes, clothes
  • books
  • movies
  • CD’s – music, audio books
  • complete homeschool curriculum sets
  • cloth diapers and baby gear (carriers, strollers, car seats, etc.)
  • all expenses paid vacations (You better believe I entered that one!)
  • gift cards to just about everything under the sun (including Amazon)
  • cash – via PayPal or through Visa gift cards (varying from $25 to $1000)

How to Find Giveaways {or Otherwise Get Free Stuff}

  • Twitter & Facebook parties – These are hosted by various groups, brands, or bloggers. Details vary, but for the most part they are simply a set-aside time for everyone to talk about the same topic at the same time. Questions are asked and answered, important announcements are made, and stuff is given away to those who participate. The way you find out about these is through your news feeds. Follow brands or blogs that interest you and they will alert you to upcoming events.
  • Giveaway blogs – Some blogs specialize in giveaways. They run them weekly or even daily. You can find those that are topic specific (like Homeschool Giveaways) or those that are very general (like The Adventures of J-Man and Millerbug). The way you enter the giveaways will vary based on what system the blogger is using, but most are rather simple to enter (because the point is to get as many people to enter as possible…more on that later).
  • Blog post round-ups – Some bloggers don’t host their own giveaways regularly, but have a regular posting of giveaways going on around the blog-o-sphere. Homeschool Survival hosts a link up each Friday where other bloggers can link up their giveaways. It seems a lot of these have moved to newsletter status, a service the bloggers provide to their email subscribers.
  • Deal blogs – These blogs focus more on freebies that everyone can get. They find free resources or “limited-time free” offers from around the web and share them with you. Again, these range from topic specific (like Free Homeschool Deals) to more general (like Money Saving Mom).
  • Pinterest – There’s a board for that. I have my own Giveaways board that I and several friends pin giveaways to. I am also a pinner on a couple of my friends’ Giveaways boards. These are great resources if you don’t want to follow a bunch of people or brands on Facebook or Twitter. Bookmark the boards (or better yet, follow them) and then check them as you have time.

Giveaway Focused Pinterest Boards

Speaking of Pinterest, here is a short list of some great giveaway boards to follow:

Why Do Bloggers Offer Giveaways?

What’s in it for Them?

I’m glad you brought that up. I will be very honest here and say hosting giveaways is a good way to bring people to your blog. People like free stuff. For some bloggers, this is a job. Unless you’ve done it, you don’t know how much time it takes to research, write, and edit good blog posts (not to mention taking photos, making graphics, and then promoting). Most bloggers blog because they enjoy it, but it does take time to create a good blog. How does traffic help a blogger? Well, I will delve into that when I cover affiliate marketing for you all next week. Make sure you don’t miss that (you can get my blog posts sent directly to your email by signing up on the top of the sidebar).

Do You Really Win These Things?

Yes. Here is a photo of items I have won recently. Not included is a registration to Teach Them Diligently homeschool convention because you can’t really take a picture of that. I won these from Facebook & Twitter parties and giveaways on individual blogs. I have won subscriptions to websites (List PlanIt), hair accessories, and a printable planner before, as well.

Are giveaways worth it? Here are few of the many items I have won. Hint: I think they are. ;)

Is it Worth It?

Well, that totally depends on you. If you are spending hours each day entering every giveaway you can find, probably not. If you follow a few places and just enter ones you enter as you come across them, then yes. Most take just a few moments to enter

So that is the basic gist of giveaways on the internet. I would love to answer any specific questions you have about them, too. You can either email me OR leave a comment with your question below. And be sure to follow my Giveaways board on Pinterest!

Follow Vicki Arnold’s board Giveaways on Pinterest.
I’m linking this up to Everything Frugal: The Ultimate Frugal Link-Up because, what is more frugal than free?

 

Everybody Loves a Good Party!

ubp2013-featured

Hello! The lovely ladies over at 5 Minutes for Mom are hosting their annual Ultimate Blog Party and I decided to participate. The way I do that is to publish a party post to introduce myself to the other participants…so welcome to my party post!

My name is Vicki Arnold (in case you missed that in the header up there). I have been married to my best friend for 11 years and we have been blessed with 4 pretty awesome kids. See?

the Vicki Arnold blog is joining the Ultimate Blog Party

My blog is about my journey through this blessed life. I hope to encourage other women in their journey. I love to laugh and if I can make you laugh, well then that makes me pretty happy. The tagline for my blog is “Where P31 & Titus 2 meet Colossians 3:23.” Basically it means I am trying to follow those big footsteps left by the Proverbs 31 woman and encourage other women to do the same (Titus 2), all the while working as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23). As I tell my children, “with a happy heart!”

The current most popular topic around here is gardening. We are striving to make the most of our one acre homestead and hope to inspire others to do the same. We homeschool our children, so you will see some posts on that. I recently started reviewing products with Mosaic Reviews, as well as independently.

I enjoy photography, sewing, and baking. I am a reader and love to share resources that I come across. I write for Free Homeschool Deals occasionally, too. I also love to blog about goal-setting.

As far as social media goes, I love Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Not necessarily in that order, but maybe?

You can learn more about me on my About Me page and more than you ever wanted to know about me in this post. Or maybe you want to know why I blog? Or maybe you are the type that likes to know what other people are reading?

I'm joining 5 Minutes for Mom's Ultimate Blog Party 2013! Join me!

My favorite posts:

My popular posts:

And that is me in a nutshell. Now, join me in checking out the other blogs partying by clicking the banner below.

Ultimate Blog Party 2013

Reading Blogs 101 – Other Ways to Follow

reading-blogs-101-other-ways-follow

Maybe you don’t want to start with Google Reader. Maybe you want to do something different. First let me tell you this, using Google Readers really is easy. Second, let’s move on to some other ways you can follow your favorite blogs, shall we?

Email

Most blogs have an email subscription service. That said, I don’t yet. Oops. Here is an example of one from another blog:

email-subscribing-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raising Arrows

If you don’t see a spot to fill in your email address, look for an email symbol like this one:

email-subscription-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Penny has both covered.

Once you’ve signed up, you will receive each new post in your email inbox. If you are not receiving new posts, check your spam folder.

Facebook

This is not as reliable as it once was. With Facebook’s algorithm, you are more than likely not seeing everything the pages you have “liked” are posting. Make sure when you click on the like button, you hover over it and “Show in News Feed” is checked. It will help with this, I’m told. You can also choose to receive notifications from pages you like by checking that option. I am going to experiment with this for a while and then give you a post on how to utilize Facebook better.

facebook-pages-help

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twitter

Most, not all, bloggers also share their links on Twitter. You could try to follow there. Just know that you may not see all of the posts you are interested in. However, you will also be seeing any pins, updates, or other blog posts that the blogger finds interesting in your feed. If the blogger you are following doesn’t tweet their new posts, moot point. (Related note: I do.)

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Browser Bookmarks

You could create a bookmarks folder and store the links to your favorite blogs there:

bookmarks

 

 

 

 

Then, simply navigate to that folder and click the “open all in tabs” link (or equivalent):

open-all-tabs-bookmarks

 

 

 

 

 

This way you don’t have to type in an URLs and can check each blog for a new post. This option would probably work best if you only follow 3-5 blogs. Any more than that and you will have too many tabs to be opened, only to find the ones that have updated since you last checked.

Honestly, the best and easiest way to follow multiple blogs is a reader. I promise you that it isn’t scary and can be fun. I will even show you how to really work Google Reader to your advantage in a few posts.

Personally, I use Google Reader, follow bloggers on Facebook and Twitter, and even have a couple sent to my email inbox (though this is probably going to change…way too much email coming in). So feel free to mix it up or try something new.

Do you follow blogs another way not listed here?

Using Google Reader – Blog Reading Made Easy Peasy

I use Google’s Reader to keep up with blogs that I’m most interested in seeing new posts. It is super easy to use. In the next post, I will cover other ways you can follow your favorite blog(s). I use a combination of them.

Here we go.

Go here - http://www.google.com/reader/ You will either create a Google account, if you don’t already have one, or sign in with your Google login.

After you login, you will see a welcome screen. Now you start adding blogs you want to keep up with.

Click on the orange subscribe button.

Once you click on it, a little box will pop open. Type the URL address of the blog you want to add (it starts with http://).

(By the way, I did see the typo below after I did the screenshot and clicked Add. Oops. Make sure you get the whole thing.)

Click Add.

Congratulations, you are now following a blog. Now each time the blogger adds a new post, it will be sent to your Google Reader.

The great thing about this is, you do not have to keep checking for new updates on each page. You can pull up your Reader box and check them all in one spot. Time saving win.

Next we will cover other ways to keep up with your favorite blogs. Until then, have fun adding to your reader!

Find the rest of the series linked in the Overview post.

Won’t you join me?
TwitterPinterestFacebook

Reading Blogs 101 – Why in the World?

reading-blogs-101-why-bother

I read blogs. I like reading blogs. I kind of even like writing blogs. So it is kind of important to me that you like to read blogs to. And since I’m on this mission to rule help the world out…ha ha, I jest. I’m not out to rule the world, just the internet.

Anyways.

Some people don’t understand why people read blogs so I’m starting this series out with a list of reasons why people actually like to read blogs. I’m going to toss in a few reasons why people actually like to write blogs, for good measure. Basically, I’m justifying this series by proving to you that I’m not alone in reading blogs and thinking others might like some tips to make it a better experience for everyone. Or crazy.

  • to keep up with friends, family, or people going through similar life situations (food allergies, developmental delays, cancer, homeschooling, divorce, etc.)
  • because they like or know the blogger (hopefully both!)
  • humor
  • information on projects
  • inspiration for taking the road less traveled
  • encouragement for hard days
  • to learn something new
  • entertainment

Why do bloggers blog? I shared my reasons already, so I thought I’d ask a few of my blogging friends to share theirs, in a nutshell.

  • “I blog because I have a insecurities and fears about writing. I don’t want my kids to inherit my issues, so I’m trying to develop my writing skills. I also blog to keep myself accountable with our school lessons and other short term challenges I give myself.” – Becky Marie, For This Season
  • “I blog to save time and money. Does that sound silly? I was “publishing” a family newsletter several times a year and it got to be way more than I could handle and way too expensive to mail to over 100 people. The blog is so much more flexible. I can post anytime and the subscribers get it automatically. I have a few elderly ladies who don’t have internet, so I do print out posts and mail to them occasionally.” – Paulita Jo Fogleman, Fogleman Forerunner
  • “I started my deal blog to share good buys with my family because I was sick of sending and getting a bunch of texts….next thing I knew I had 10,000+ facebook fans and a “job”! I love that I get to work from home saving people money!” – Jessie Alonzo, Moolah Saving Mom

Tomorrow, I’m going to share my favorite blog reading tool with you.