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Archive for May, 2011

Meet up in Oswego & Fox Valley area

May 31st, 2011

Looking to connect with other homeschoolers face to face? This meet-up might be just the thing.

This is a place where homeschooling families from the Western Suburbs can connect with each other, socialize, make friends, set up events & playdates, ask questions, share ideas, explore resources, network together and have fun!   Most of our Meet-ups are in the Oswego, Naperville, Aurora, Yorkville, Montgomery and Plainfield areas however, anyone from neighboring towns is welcome. Many of our field trips also are in nearby areas. We are looking for active participants to get involved with events. We are a group that welcomes all philosophies on homeschooling.

Name: Fox Valley Homeschoolers

Location: Oswego, Il

Primary Contact Person: Joni Choudhary

Email: joni_choudhary@hotmail.com

Fox Valley Music Camp

May 31st, 2011

The Fox Valley Music Camp at Judson University

This week-long day camp for ages K-12 is held in Elgin, IL, June 27-July 1, 2011.

For K-2nd grade (half day) 9-12:30
Cost: $100

For Grades 3-12 (full day) 9-4:30
Cost: $200-$250

The camp offers private instrumental instruction,IMEA competition prep and both Classical and Contemporary ensembles.

Campers explore music history, theory and composition in addition to making music together. A recital concludes the week.

Where: Judson University, Elgin IL
1151 N. State Street

For more information: foxvalleymusiccamp@gmail.com

Website: www.judsonu.edu

Phone: Cheryl Richardson at 847.458.2729

Or Phone Robert Kania at: 847.628.1115 or email: rkania@judsonu.edu

TOS Crew Review — Read for the Heart

May 27th, 2011

Photobucket

Reading is an integral part of learning, and more so it is an irremovable part of our family life. Because of this, I am constantly on the lookout for good books. You know the ones. The ones that have withstood the test of time. The ones that both boys and girls can’t wait to hear more of. The ones during which you would never fall asleep. The ones that spark meaningful conversation even after you have closed the cover for the last time.

Sarah Clarkson wrote Read for the Heart to do more than just recommend some good books. She wrote it to help cast a vision for giving reading a place of prominence in your home. By the time you get to the book list you can’t help but be fingering your library card debating which book to put on hold or check out first. I know reading is important, but this book helped reignite my desire to pass my love of reading on to my kids.

Product: Read for the Heart

Details: A 384 page book with encouragement to make family reading and individual reading time a priority. Over 300 of the pages are lists of books that include summaries and background information to help you choose the best reads for your family and your kids.

Price: $17

What I loved . . .

  • Inspiring. I can find oodles of book lists all over the internet. While I appreciate getting a good book recommendation now and then, I really appreciated Sarah’s casting of a vision for reading. I love to read, and yet it is one of the first things I drop from my schedule when time gets tight. She reminded me with a passion how important time spent reading is in our home and school.
  • Personally and statistically supported. Creating beautiful word pictures, the author shares what crafted this love for reading in her heart. And, she shares statistics, quotes, and other encouragement as to the importance of reading. We owe it to the development of our kids’ minds to read early and read often, and this book can be a great catalyst to encourage you in the endeavor and give you the tools (great books!) to enjoy doing so.
  • Lists and more lists. Not just an alphabetical listing of books (although the index does provide that), this book breaks down the lists by popular genres (historical literature, fairy tales, picture books, etc.) Beyond that, each entry includes the author, other books by the author, illustrator, copyright date, and a brief summary of the book. A few quick lists also reference Caldecott winners, Newberry winners, and books especially for boys, girls, and families reading together.
  • Reading tips. Aside from rich motivation and abundant lists, she also gives some tips to making reading time special. From locations to treats she will stir your own imagination in this area.
  • A must have book. This book offers an incredible resource when doing your book shopping. I am always looking at books at a used book sale and trying to figure out by reading a sentence here and there if I or my kids will like the particular book. I will definitely bring this guide along with me now to see what it has to say when purchasing unfamiliar books. Obviously it won’t have all the good books listed either, but it does have many, and many that I am not familiar with as well. I look forward to bringing Sarah with me to all the book sales now and ask her advice before  I buy. :)

Some considerations . . .

  • One person’s opinion. You might feel differently. Her glowing opinion will not guarantee that you will like it. For example, she loved Across Five Aprils (which I have also heard many other people rave about), and I had to force myself to trudge through this book with my kids a few years ago. I was not impressed. But, we are all entitled to our own opinions and will love what others didn’t and vice versa.  You will still need to determine what books are a good fit for your family’s interests, values, attention span, academic subject, and personalities.

This book stirred up an incredible amount of enthusiasm within me. I cannot wait to finalize plans for the coming school year and include some of the great books recommended in this resource. I would strongly recommend this book to any homeschooling mom needing encouragement and ideas for making reading come to life in your home. You can check out the table of contents as well as a sample chapter if you would like to see a bit of the book for yourself and accept Sarah Clarkson’s invitation to more than just a “reading list, but to a reading life.”

For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This product was provided to me free of charge through Apologia as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.



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Dance class

May 26th, 2011

This class is geared for the very young beginner dance student and is a prelude to formal ballet instruction. Students will work on developing gross motor skills through music and movement in a structured environment. An excellent and fun way to introduce young children to the joy of dance.

Ages 4-5

When: Tuesdays 11:30-NOON (please arrive 15 minutes prior to class)

6/21, 6/28, 7/5, 7/12, 7/19, 7/26, 8/2, 8/9

Cost: 8 weeks 1x/ week                     $40

Where: 900 Robertson Road, South Elgin

Class size is limited.

Please call in advance to register. Payment is due in full at 1st class.

Needs: Sports shorts & t-shirt, long hair in a pony tail

If little girls have pink ballet costuming, they are welcome to wear it to class

Please DO NOT purchase new costuming prior to talking to instructors

Please bring a labeled drink bottle with water to classes

There will be a Final Presentation Tuesday, August 16 in the evening for family & friends to see what the children have accomplished. This will include presentations from the older dance students as well. An approximate $10 costuming fee will be required.

Kendra Knorst (age 16) & Megan Martin (age 17), accomplished students of MagnAttitude will be teaching the classes.

“Let them praise his name with dancing” Psalm 149:3

MELISSA MARTIN, director of MagnAttitude Dance Academy, began her fine arts training at a young age. She studied piano and later flute at the Chicago Conservatory. Most of her early dance training was with her mother at Valley Dance Center. Advancing rapidly  she continued  to study at many well  known studios in Chicago including the Ruth Page Foundation, Chicago City Ballet, Ellis-Duboulay and Elizabeth Boitsov. Madame Boitsov is a graduate of the State Ballet School and State Bolshoi University in Moscow. Melissa was selected to train for the International Ballet Competition and studied in New York City with Madame Darvash. She has appeared in the full length productions of Cinderella, Coppelia, La Fille Mal Gardee, and the Nutcracker and has performed solo variations from ballets such as Don Quixote. At the age of twelve Melissa held the leading role in a student production of the Wild Swans. She then appeared with Rudolph Nureyev and the Zurich Opera Ballet. She started teaching in 1990 and especially loves imparting excellent technique to her students. As a teenager and after a dramatic transformation that took place in her parents’ lives when they dedicated themselves to God, Melissa accepted Christ as her own personal Savior and Lord. She is married to David Martin and the mother of 11 children.

Magn Attitude

“O Magnify the LORD with me, and            let us exalt his name together.” Psalm 34:3

“Your attitude should be the      same as that of Christ Jesus” Philippians 2:5

900 Robertson   Road, South Elgin, IL  60177

847-931-0698   mmartin0698@sbcglobal.net

Judson Music Camp

May 26th, 2011

Music Camp

(June 27-July 1) for Guitar-strumming, drum-pounding, keyboard-playing 6th-12th grade students interested in learning how to form and play in a worship band.

Form a worship band on Monday — Play a concert on Friday!

Cobey Bienert  from the band  The Hudson Branch will
show your students how to do it at the Fox Valley Music Camp at Judson
University, June 27- July 1.

Sign up now by sending in a registration form found at:
http://tinyurl.com/FoxValleymusiccamp-form

Questions? e-mail foxvalleymusiccamp@gmail.com

Meeting Location: Thompson Center at Judson University

Address: 1151 N. State Street, Elgin, IL

Website: www.judsonu.edu

Phone847.628.2500 or Cheryl Richardson at 847.458.2729

TOS Crew Review — Eagle’s Wings

May 25th, 2011

Eagle's Wings

Science often strikes fear into the hearts of homeschool moms. It is the topic that many feel unable to teach when they first begin, but with the right tools we can all succeed and enjoy our science experience. Many homeschool moms actually say that science is their favorite subject to teach after a few years under their belts. Eagle’s Wings’ Considering God’s Creation can be a great tool for the new mom that needs some help figuring out how to bring science easily in their home, or for the veteran mom that loves teaching science and is looking for a quality, affordable product.

The book has 36 lessons which covers topics such as: Creation, The Universe, Weather, Kingdoms, Anatomy, and more. The authors present the lessons from a solid Biblical worldview in this easy to use and easily adaptable science book.

Product: Considering God’s Creation

Details: A science curriculum covering natural science and adaptable for second to seventh Grade.  272-pages plus Teacher’s Manual with audio CD. The authors, Sue Mortimer and Betty Smith, are sisters that grew up as homeschooled missionary kids in Mexico. They initially wrote this curriculum to use in homeschooling their own kids.

Price: $29.95

What we loved . . .

  • Science for almost the whole family. Made to easily work with 2-7 graders, but my K and 1 are easily following along with it all. They suggest even having an older child teach this to the younger ones as their own science. We didn’t try that, but I am considering seeing how it goes. You always learn so much more when you dig in to material to actually teach it. This might be perfect for my 7th grader to actually teach to the younger ones and all their science would be taken care of for me. I really like the sound of that.
  • Created by homeschoolers for homeschoolers. There is a lot to be said for curriculum written by someone who has been there and knows what homeschoolers need in a curriculum. We want easy to use, all in one, multi-age, accurate info, hands on supplements, and I especially want Biblical grounding. These homeschool veterans had all that in mind when creating this science course. It’s not the flashiest, most beautiful book on your shelf, but it has everything you need to teach your kids science well.
  • Lots of learning styles. They use music, experiments, discussion, crafts, projects, observations, listening, and reading to get their lessons across. My kids enjoyed the simple activities, the catchy tunes, and the suggested studies. This program was definitely a good fit for us. I look forward to finishing it in the year ahead.
  • Can be reused. We didn’t tap into these, but at the end of each lesson they offer “Digging Deeper” resources for use on your second run through the material a couple years later.
  • Biblically grounded. If you have read me for any length of time you know this is of utmost importance to me. Each lesson is tied in to Scripture. You could easily use that portion as your Bible lesson for the day as well.
  • Student book may be copied for your kids. You only need to purchase the one set that comes with the student book which you are free to copy for your own children. This is wonderful for kids that love to redo favorite crafts and it is helpful on the budget since you don’t need a workbook for everyone.
  • Focus on Creationism — This kind of goes with the Biblical grounding, but it bears repeating because they repeat it so often. They often present “evolution stumpers” that focus on truths that validate Creationism and weaknesses in the evolutionary theory. This is a huge part of why I want my kids to learn science at home, so I really appreciate their intentional emphasis on this area of teaching and learning.

Some considerations . . .

  • Lessons aren’t broken down by days. Although the lessons are scripted, it is up to you how much you do in a given day. Each of the 36 lessons are meant to fill a week of science classes so the curriculum takes a full school year to complete. But you have the flexibility to determine how much you do in a day, how many days each week you cover science, and how deeply involved to get with each lesson.
  • Black and white. The student book has lots of graphics that it uses for the different notebook activities, but they are all black and white. If you have a kid that loves color they can of course color their own, but be aware that the cover is the only page in color in these books.

Eagle’s Wings has created exactly what I like to find in a curriculum. It offers you a quality product at a reasonable price and creates an easy to use curriculum at the same time. This might not be a good fit for every family, but it has really clicked with us. The activities are easy to pull together and I’m not tempted to skip them because I know they won’t take a lot of time or clean up and the kids will enjoy them. This is exactly what I needed in a science curriculum.

For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.

Disclaimer: This product was provided to me free of charge through Eagle’s Wings as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.



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Summer movies $1

May 24th, 2011


Starts June 13th!   Runs 9 weeks!  $1 per ticket, all ages!  Each week, Monday through Friday at 10:00am we offer an entertaining PG movie.

Playing at the following 12 theaters: Canton Cinema, Capital 8, Eastside 9, Forum 8, Hamilton 16 IMAX, Kalamazoo 10, Kendall 10, Portage 16 IMAX, Quality 16, Randall 15 IMAX, Savoy 16, Willow Knolls 14

www.gqti.com/kidsummermovies.aspx

Staycation — nation wide

May 24th, 2011

All across the country, bloggers are sharing the great things to do right in their home town, or somewhere they called home at one time. You can now easily jump around to all of these posts and read about great ideas for vacationing or staycationing in any region of the country. Whether you are staying here in Chicago or have trips planned to visit family in nearby states, we can all use some fresh ideas for enjoying life right where we are.

Here they are, the rest of the country at your fingertips:

New England

Connecticut – Parenting Miracles
Boston, Massachusetts – ‎ Maven of Savin’
Manchester, New Hampshire – Common Sense with Money
Western Maine – Bubblegum and Lollipops

Mid-Atlantic

Erie, Pennsylvania – Growing Kids Ministry
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania – Somewhat Crunchy
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania – Family Balance Sheet
Buffalo/Niagara Falls, New York – Coupons, Deals and More
New Jersey – Oh! Diane

Midwest

Cedar Rapids, Iowa – Indoor Garden Musings
Mansfield, Ohio – Live the Adventure
Cincinnati, Ohio – Savings Lifestyle~Cincinnati
Mount Vernon, Ohio – Living Better One Day at a Time
Dayton, Ohio – Savings Lifestyle~Dayton
Grand Rapids, Michigan – Kitchen Stewardship
Metro Detroit, Michigan – “Cents”able Momma
Oakland County, Michigan – Bargain Shopper Mom
Warren, Michigan – Saving Dollars and Sense
Grand Forks, North Dakota – Frugal Front Porch
Indianapolis, Indiana – Bargain Briana
South Bend, Indiana – Excuse The Mess
Kansas City, Kansas/Missouri – Kansas City Mamas
St. Louis, Missouri – The Pickledpigsfeet
Branson, Missouri – Getting Freedom from Debt
Springfield, Missouri – I Think I Can
Rochester, Minnesota – Everyday Notions
York, Nebraska – Heavenly Homemakers
Omaha, Nebraska – Mom Endeavors
Madison, Wisconsin – Many Little Blessings
Oshkosh, Wisconsin – A Little Bit of This and That
Chicago, Illinois – Chicagoland Homeschool Network
Champaign, Illinois – Chambanamoms
Black Hills, South Dakota – Little House on the Prairie Living

South Central

Checotah, Oklahoma – Blessed With One Income
Tulsa, Oklahoma – Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures
Gadsden, Alabama – Aint Mimi
Dallas, Texas – Funky Faith Girl
Dallas, Texas – Grocery Shop For FREE
East Dallas, Texas – Surviving The Stores
Fort Worth, Texas – Smockity Frocks
Austin, Texas – Stetted
Houston, Texas – Moms Travel Tales
McKinney, Texas – Wisdom Begun
East Texas – The Full Pantry
Murfreesboro, Tennessee – Life in a Barn
Nashville, Tennessee – The Country Chic Cottage
Mobile, Alabama – A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned
Birmingham, Alabama – iGoBOGO
Brunswick & the Golden Isles, Georgia – Teri Lynne Underwood
Alpharetta, Georgia – Cuponeando
Atlanta, Georgia – See Jamie Blog
Augusta, Georgia – Hyperactive Lu
Athens, Georgia and Mississippi – Tractors and Tire Swings
Little Rock, Arkansas – It’s Real Life

South Atlantic

Ft. Bragg, North Carolina – Military Wives Saving
Charlotte, North Carolina – The Carolina Clipper
Charleston, South Carolina – The Tween & Me
Greensboro, North Carolina – Mrs. Happy Homemaker
Jacksonville, Florida – Saving The Family Money
Orlando, Florida – Orlando’s Best Deals
Virginia Beach, Virginia – The Singley Fam Blog
Richmond, Virginia – Daily Dwelling
Hampton Roads, Virginia – A Home Made by Kiki
Charlottesville, Virginia – How to Have it All
Blackwater Falls State Park/Davis, West Virginia – Holy Spirit Led Homeschooling
Treasure Coast, Florida – The Cardamom’s Pod
Saint Augustine, Florida – Jypsie Visions
Lake Norman, North Carolina – Stretching Pennies Saving Dollars
Washington, DC – The WiC Project
Baltimore, Maryland – The Happy Housewife
Brunswick & the Golden Isles, Georgia, Teri Lynne Underwood

Mountain

Tucson, Arizona – Saving with Pam
Phoenix, Arizona – Mom Endeavors
Albuquerque, New Mexico – The Chou Life
Kalispell, Montana – Our Family Adventures
Salt Lake City, Utah – Just the 2 of Us
Thermopolis, Wyoming – The McDonald Family
Denver, Colorado – Denver Bargains
Colorado Springs, Colorado – Colorado Springs Bargains

Pacific

San Diego, California – Life As Mom
Yosemite National Park, California -Handbook of Nature Study
Seattle, Washington – Queen Bee Coupons & Savings
Whidbey Island, Washington – Manning the Homefront
Olympia, Washington The Coupon Savant
Portland, Oregon – Frugal Living NW
Willamette Valley, Oregon – An Oregon Cottage

Frugal Vacation Tips

Vacation or Stay-cation: Eating without Busting the Budget – Eat at Home

TOS Crew Review — Pearson Education

May 23rd, 2011

  • Grade 1
  • Product: Pearson Education enVision MATH 2011

    Details: A full year math program for first grade in a consumable workbook. Each day the student removes a page from this book that measures about 11″ x 17″ and then folds their lesson in half like a booklet. They complete the booklet and can then stick it on their refrigerator or some other location for display. Contains 20 topics each with 4 to 13 lessons, a problem solving lesson, a test, reteaching material, a game, and “home-school” connection sheets.

    Price: $34.47 for the student book

    What we loved . . .

    • Made to display. Each lesson is made to be torn out of the book, folded in half, and put on display. When my son saw that he didn’t hesitate to get to work. As soon as we opened the package and he saw it was for him, he ripped out a page, worked hard at it, and put it right on our fridge. I love that motivation.
    • Fun to use. My son loved using the book. He liked the activities, the fun pictures, the ripping and folding. It is a very kid friendly product.
    • Internet connections. Although this is a paper product, it mentions web based games as well that reinforce the learning done on the page. I had to Google it to find them because the student book did not have the actual web address, but we did find it and were able to play the games that fit the activities online as well as  in hand.
    • Gentle math. If your child is just easing into math at this age this is a fairly gentle introduction. No speed drills, no sheets of adding and subtracting. Games, activities, application of math principles, mostly fun, hands-on learning.

    Some considerations . . .

    • Not a reasonably priced teacher book available. Since this is not really initially designed with the homeschooler in mind, the teacher’s guide is included in a $525 resource pack. Obviously not something you would purchase to help you teach one or two kids for a year. And, without it there were spots in the book that we had to make up as we went along. I don’t think we missed out on too much, but it would have been more beneficial if we had some instruction through certain segments. Even where to jump on the web was not included although I could figure it out with the help of Google.
    • Awkward shape. This book is ginormous. It would not fit on a bookshelf or in a backpack and barely fits in his arms when he carries it around. I assume it is made to fit in a school desk, but it is not a convenient size for at home use.
    • Doesn’t have much built in review. The book covers 20 topics, but doesn’t revisit them as you go. I prefer math programs that review at least every couple weeks to make sure that young minds don’t lose what they have already learned.

    While I did find this a cute book and one my son really enjoyed pulling out the pages and working through, I did not feel it was a good fit for homeschoolers the way it is right now. However, if you have a kids that loves workbooks and is always asking for more pencil and paper work like the big kids do, this would be a helpful book to have on hand. You can tear a page out, keep your child busy for a while, and then show off their work on your wall or fridge.

    For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.

    Disclaimer: This product was provided to me free of charge through Pearson Education as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.



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    The Staycation — Chicago style

    May 23rd, 2011

    I have said it before, and I’ll say it again — we live in an amazing area! As I continue to look for fresh ideas for field trips, family outings, and meetups with friends  — I keep finding them. New places, new ideas, new experiences, and all within an hour or so driving time, which is a good thing. With gas flirting with $4.50 we need close to home and cheap. If you are looking to spend your summer mostly in the Chicago area but still want to vacation, keep reading for enough staycation ideas to keep you going through Christmas.

    If you want my more complete list of where you can visit in the Chicago area check out the detailed listing of field trip ideas. If you want something a little less overwhelming, let’s break it down into some favorite fives. We’ll explore the Chicago area with my top five: outing genres, free spots, deal websites, city sites, suburban sites, on our agenda for this summer, and tips to save money while seeing the world (or at least Chicago). Remember, I can not share everything there is to do. Chicago is monstrous and I found over 100 places when I compiled my field trip listing, and I’m sure I missed plenty. So, I just want to share some family favorites to hopefully help you find something new.

    Favorite Five Outing Genres

    Alright, so I usually think of genres when it comes to books, but a lot of our favorites definitely fall into categories as well, and genres just sounds so much better than categories.

    - Historical Farms — These seem to dot the landscape around here, and they each have something different to offer. Many hover around the mid-1800s and offer lots of free family fun on weekends throughout the year. Check out just a few of these around the area: Kline Creek Farm, Bonner Farm, Garfield Farm, Blackberry Farm, etc.

    - Water related fun — (of course there is your neighborhood or park district pool, or . . .) Splash parks are a great, often free, fun.

    - Tours – when it is too hot to enjoy playing outside we love to schedule a tour with a group of friends. Costco offers great tours with locations all around the Chicago area. Also check out nearby factories. We have enjoyed tours in nut factories, jelly bean factories, Oberweis, and other food related products.

    - Nature Trails — If we are up for a drive we might head out to Starved Rock or White Pines State Park (gotta drive through the water at least once each summer), but there are plenty of closer places to enjoy as well. Check out some lesser known Forest Preserves in your area for a new look at the world around you. Many have little nature centers with enthusiastic volunteers staffing them in the summer.

    - Non-professional sporting events — you probably have one not too far from you and they are way cheaper than driving into the city, paying for parking, and fighting the crowds. Our standing favorite is the Kane County Cougars. You can often get BOGO tickets on Mondays and with free parking it is one of the best sporting deals around. Lake County has a team as well, but I have not been to theirs yet to comment on it.

    Favorite Five Free Spots

    - Cosley Farm in Wheaton — Farm animals in a stroller friendly park. Great for younger kids or big animal lovers. My best memory there, my oldest was just a few years old and we stopped in there in March sometime. A baby cow just a couple hours old was there to greet us. An amazing experience. And, at the time we had the place to ourselves, but that is a rare occurrence nowadays. ***Edited to add: Apparently Cosley is no longer free for non-Wheaton residents. Kids are still free, but adults have a $3 admission fee. Thanks to Kate for letting me know!***

    - Independence Grove — wonderful natural setting in Libertyville. Swimming lake, playground, lots of space to enjoy. There is sometimes a small fee if you are not a Lake County resident.

    - Fermi lab – Science lovers should be sure to schedule a visit to Fermi Lab. They have an annual open house in the winter, but visitors are welcome during other times of the year as well. They have an educational center, a buffalo herd, walking trails, and more.

    - Peck Farm — We discovered this beautiful place a few years ago and enjoy the old estate house with hands on fun for the kids, walking trails, an observation silo, and in the summer a little butterfly house (donation admission suggested).

    - Air and Water Show — How could I almost forget this? Amazing! You can’t just do this whenever you want to, but it is worth the crowds and the heat to enjoy the impressive displays.

    Favorite Five Deal Locators:

    - Free Things To Do in Chicago — They list everything from concerts to paper shredding events to free food giveaways. Not always free, but at least once a week I find something worthwhile on this site. I get it sent to my inbox so I never miss a deal.

    - Jill Cataldo — mostly about saving money on groceries, but look here for other great tips, like how we could get free Brookfield Zoo tickets

    - Groupon — You’ve gotta know about groupon. Daily deals, buying in bulk with the rest of Chicagoland. Get your group-on . . .

    - Ever Save — Another daily deal site (there are even more of these out there. If this is your thing, google for others). Fun activities, good food, discount prices.

    - Smart Destinations — This site allows you to build on the tickets you want to well known attractions and by purchasing in bundles you get a better price (or you can buy their premade card). You only add the attractions you want, and the more you buy the more you save. It looks like they are useable for a year after purchase, too, but must be all used within 30 days of first use.

    Favorite Five tips to save money while seeing the world (or at least Chicago)

    - Museum Adventure Pass — if you have a library card you also have access to a whole host of great place for free or at a discount. Ask your library if they participate. Each week you can print up to one pass for a place of your choice. You then present the pass and your library card at the location you are visiting for free admission according to the terms of the particular place. Each deal is different, so make sure to read them carefully. Some are for a certain number of admissions, most don’t include any parking fees that might apply. Our favorites on here are the Chicago Botanica Garden (one car in free), and Cantigny (one car in free). Okay, so we have a lot of kids, so if I can get them all in for the same low price of free it’s going to be a favorite. :)

    - Pack your lunches — Not a place, but we save a bundle by bringing our lunches along. If my aim is to have a great time on a budget I just can’t stomach shelling out $50 for everyone to eat lunch. Sandwiches in the car or at a playground — $5 for everyone. I need the other $45 for gas anyway.

    - Reading incentives — If you homeschool you can sign up for these on your own and encourage your kids to read while earning great rewards for family outings. If your kids are in traditional school and they don’t do these, check into it. Great America tickets, Pizza Hut (during the school year), baseball tickets (Kane County Cougars have a great program), and more.

    - Explore Chicagoland — a book that you can buy with admission to lots of places around the area. Kind of expensive up front, but if you will make use of one ticket every couple weeks you can easily make your money off of it.

    - Think free — Brookfield Zoo may be one of the best in the world, but there are other great zoos in the area when all your money is going in your gas tank. Philips Park in Aurora, Lord’s Park in Elgin, Randall Oaks in Carpentersville (fee on the weekends), Cosley in Wheaton, Willowbrook Wildlife Center, and Lincoln Park in Chicago are a few. Not the same as Brookfield, but still lots of family fun and most with playgrounds nearby to keep everyone happy on a beautiful summer day.

    Favorite Five on our agenda for this summer

    - Believe it or not, I have never been to Millenium Park, stared up into the bean, and played in the giant water-spitting faces. I would really like to get down there with my kids this year.

    - Another “one of these years” plans is to get to the Eyes to the Skies festival around Fourth of July weekend in Lisle. I can’t imagine much more breathtaking than watching a field of hot air balloons take to the skies. The morning lift off is free for viewing (but it is at 6:00 am . . .)

    - Great America. Not cheap, I know, but my kids each have tickets from reading incentives, so it works out to not be too bad. Parking is all we pay and then we bring our food in a cooler in the car. Our kids absolutely love the water park there and stay there pretty much from the time they open until they close.

    - Summer reading program. Free fun, better than free. Check out books, enjoy reading together with your kids, and then earn free tickets and passes. I could not imagine summer without the library’s summer reading program. Your library likely has a summer reading program with more goodies to outfit your staycation as well.

    - Summer movies. Lots of theaters offer $1 movies, or even free ones. We love these, especially on a hot day or when we just need to get out of the house and don’t feel like taking a long drive anywhere. Classic Cinemas is one company with a number of theaters across the Chicago area. They have $1 movies every Wednesday morning during summer months. Check for times and locations, and they even have the movie listings up already.

    A couple miscellaneous  items that just didn’t fit nicely anywhere:

    Explore Chicago — a website that has all the happenings in the city

    Famplosion – lots of family fun all listed in one place.

    Do you have a favorite that you don’t see here?

    Please leave a comment and let us know your secret getaway in the Chicago area.

    And, be sure to check back in here tomorrow when I will post about a hundred other links for other cities around the country. If you do have a chance to travel a bit you can find inexpensive activities in just about every state. Don’t miss the great staycation

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