Friday, September 28, 2007


Taken from the Official Book of Homeschooling Cartoons

Making Maple Candy

Last Friday we enjoyed making maple candy, to correspond with our study of Vermont. We made it according to the recipe found in Eat Your Way Through The USA by Lori Pettit. We've really been enjoying the recipes in this book! I highly recommend this as a resource if you are studying US Geography.

We started with a bottle of Grade A Medium Amber Maple Syrup. Then we boiled some water with the candy thermometer in it, so we would know the boiling point (which varies at different altitudes.)

We poured the syrup into a tall pot, because I wasn't sure how high it would boil up.

It didn't boil as high as we thought it would, so I could've used a smaller pot and perhaps gotten a more accurate reading on the candy thermometer. We buttered the top of the pot in case it boiled up to that point. We boiled it until it was 28 degrees above the boiling point of the water.

We removed it from the heat after boiled, and let it cool for about 5 minutes. Then we stirred it until it became opaque.

It was easy to tell when it started to "set up" and our time was limited to pour it off. I didn't have any candy molds, so...

we just poured it onto a cookie pan and let it harden into a not-so-pretty lump.

After a few hourse we broke it up, wrapped each piece individually, and put it in a pretty fall basket. Presentation is everything, you know!
It was a yummy, fun, and easy project. Maybe you could try it for part of your "fall" study, to correspond with the changing fall leaves. (Perhaps that's a stretch, but any excuse to eat straight sugar is good enough for me...)

"We Interrupt This Regularly Scheduled School Week...

for... a birthday!

This week was a fun week, but one with a few "interruptions." Isn't that what homeschooling is about, though? I've found that if we stay on track as much as we can (by God's grace!) then we have some margin for a nutty week now and then. And that's what we had this week.

When we first started homeschooling and I sat down to plan our calendar that first year, I took a look at the school district's calendar (off of the internet) and loosely planned ours accordingly- simply so that when we have breaks in Awana or other activities that correspond to the school calendar, or when the friends and cousins who go to PS are out, we would be, too. But, what to do with those "teacher inservice days?" I converted those days to our "birthday days". In our house, when anyone (students or staff) are celebrating a birthday, we all have a day off. I have loved that "attendance policy" over the years! So, this week we had Tuesday "off" (even though as busy as it was, it felt quite "on" to me! But, why should the birthday be that different from the "birth" day was 14 years ago? It started out as a day of labor!)

They had a very productive day Monday, hard at work... nose-to-the-grindstone, as it were... with Tuesday in full view. Tuesday morning we got up, went to the donut shop and then headed to the Palace of Wax and Ripley's Believe it Or Not Museum. Here are some pictures from our day:

Bethany got a special birthday greeting by Jay L*eno

Kyle, ever the crack-up, got to entertain David L*etterman with a joke. I can tell Dave thought he was pretty witty.

I finally got to tell O*prah some of my thoughts. (And boy, do I have some...) She seemed pretty receptive.

We got to hear the Sermon on the Mount,

and meet all of the presidents (Since we were the only ones there, I made them say each of their names, in order. Ever the teacher...)

Then we followed the yellow brick road!

It felt like we really did, because in the Ripley's museum there was even a tornado simulator you could go into! It was a fun, fun morning, and then the best treat of all:

Dad met us for lunch! (You can see their wax hands that they made at the museum. We brought them in so they wouldn't melt in the car.)

It was a great morning. Then we came home where I put the final touches on a chicken enchilada dinner and we were joined by our dear friends who are missionaries in China (the family that Bethany lived with for part of the summer of '06) who are stateside for a few months. I have found (at least in my part of the country) that if you really want to love on folks who have been living abroad, feed them some good Tex Mex! We had a wonderful celebration!

And, now, from the "if-I-post-it-on-my-blog-you-can-know-it's-true" department...

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about how my mom was coming over to teach my kids music lessons. Last week, I got a call from a sweet, fun friend of mine who faithfully reads my blog (:::waving to S.::::). She asked if it would be at all possible for she and her kids to come every other week and join the fun. How could she have known that the first week, though we enjoyed it immensely, I was sitting there thinking "Wow, this would be even more fun with a few other people!" SO, we now have ourselves a little "music co-op" of sorts! We met Wednesday morning for an hour, where my mom continued to teach the Solfege scale, we read through some music, and learned a hymn, which we are going to do each month. Fun!

Later that afternoon, after we got as much school done as we could, my daughter got to go with some friends and volunteer at the Shohanna's Hope booth at the Stephen Curtis Chapman concert. They collected "change for orphans" and were able to collect thousands of dollars that evening, which was given as a grant to a family to help them fund their upcoming adoption. Isn't that great? And, oh, the concert was SO good. How do I know? During the last four songs she called me on her cell and left it on so I could hear it. I put it on speaker and jammed while I sorted laundry and washed my face for bed (ever the multi-tasker!) It was another wonderful day!

Yesterday we finished our George Muller book and finished a few projects that we had going, and today we are taking what we've done over to a friend's house where the kids will be assembling George Muller lapbooks. I currently have oatmeal cookies in the oven (because oatmeal is what they would have for breakfast in the orphan houses.)

It's been a great week! I'm looking forward to a bit of a more "normal" schedule around here next week, but what's that, right?

I hope this has been a wonderful week at your house, and I can't wait to catch up with some of you on your blogs to see what you've been up to.


Daily Folders

While I was posting today I thought I'd post something that I've found that helps in my weekly planning... a file folder for each day.

I used to have just one set of folders, but now that my kids are each doing more of their own thing, I have two sets. (The cute zebra ones with the pink labels are my daughter's, and the plain colored ones are for my son.) When I'm doing my planning for the upcoming week, I put their assignment sheets or any copies I've made for them for that day into the appropriate folder. Since our combined subjects are on Friday, I just have one Friday folder into which I put our God's World News, mission study pages, Latin puzzles or other things we will be doing together on Fridays. This way, things are easy to get to and they don't have to wait for me to find our copies for that day. Nothing puts the brakes on good school-day-momentum than mom scrambling around looking for stuff!

This has been a simple step that has helped me tremendously!

Friday, September 21, 2007


Isn't this what it feels like some days???

Taken from the Official Book of Homeschooling Cartoons

School Update

Well, we're at the end of our third week. As I visit around some of the other blogs and they are reflecting on week 5, 7, or 8 it makes me feel somewhat behind, but I must remind myself that I've got 35 strong weeks planned and we're getting a lot done! Somehow for me it seems like the end of the first six weeks. I wonder how that works? I think we've packed a lot into our days. Now that I just have one middle schooler and one doing mostly ninth grade level stuff (so, effectively a "high schooler") I am seeing that they are seeing the "big picture" more and more, realizing that if they don't get something done one day, they will see it the next day, and if we have enough days like that we'll be sitting here all summer. I think that's a good thing on one hand, but on the other hand I see them being sort of slaves to their assignment sheets on certain days, so I'm working to help them find a balance, as I also try to keep one! It's always been a struggle for me to make sure that my curriculum and plans work for me and not the other way around!

Our days have settled into a good routine. Mondays through Thursdays their alarms go off a little before 7:30 and they come down for breakfast. We've been finishing up breakfast with a chapter out of Live Like A Jesus Freak or our George Muller biography, then they do their morning routine in time to be down in the schoolroom by 9:00. The past few days my daughter has adjusted her morning schedule to be able to start her schoolwork at 8:30. The rest of the day is spent going through the assignments on their assignment sheets with my help when necessary. If it's a lesson I want to teach or discussion questions (like for Omnibus) I put the words "with Mom" on their assignment. Otherwise they can just do things in the order they like. I suggest they start with their least favorites so they can get things overwith and they won't be tempted to procrastinate. The afternoons can be l-o-o-o-n-g for all of us if we're slogging through things that they didn't particularly like anyway and none of us has fresh energy. I'm all about "delight-led learning" but sometimes there are things in which one doesn't particularly "delight" that simply need to be learned. That's life. :)

On Fridays (like today!) they may sleep a little later and we'll do all our subjects together. On Fridays we do our missionary study. We've been reading chapters from the biography during the week, but we'll do some projects on Fridays. Right now we're studying George Muller. Also on Fridays is Latin, which we're picking back up today. We've been s-l-o-w-l-y going through Latina Christiana using the DVD course. The teacher herself says "there's no reason to rush through Latin." Alrighty, then! We're certainly not rushing! We've taken two years to go through LC level 1! We'll also do an art project on Fridays. Last Friday we painted their back-to-school flower pots and today we'll do a yet-to-be-determined art project for our mission study. (We're in a small mission study co-op and we're assembling George Muller lapbooks next week, so we need some more items for those). Also on Fridays is music- either theory or appreciation. Today is music appreciation, listening to some of the music from George Muller's time period. (The Timetables of History by Grun is an excellent resource for finding what was going on in all the time periods.)

Anyway, that's what our typical weeks are shaping up to be like. Here are a few pictures of what we've been up to:

My son is enjoying Trail Guide to US Geography. We are in the New England states right now and we are both learning lots of facts we didn't know!

Have you seen one of these wire book-propper-uppers? We found these last year at our local Mardel store and it is really handy for copywork. I'm not sure what they are called (as I'm sure my term isn't exactly technical) but we've really found them helpful!

We've been doing lots of short science demos. I used to do so much of this when they were younger, but now they are having lots of "lightbulb moments," and things are really clicking like never before. I can see how in the logic/beginning rhetoric stage concepts really start to synthesize for them and they make new connections between old and new material. I've also learned that just because they were taught something in 4th grade doesn't mean they will remember it in 8th. (I remember it SO clearly because I taught it, but they have lived a proportionately bigger percentage of their lives since then!) So we've been reviewing basic concepts.
Here's Kyle building a structure that would withstand an earthquake.

We had so much fun with salt maps last year that I had Bethany do a salt map of the landforms in her BJU Geography 9 book. There were 20 landforms that she had to include in her map. I've "refined" our salt dough recipe to simply: equal parts flour and salt, then slowly add warm water until it's the consistency you can work with. Simple. The mountains are pretty thick, so they are upstairs drying until next week when she can paint it.

She's learning about stars in her Earth and Space science, so this week I had her choose 5 constellations to "punch" onto black paper. They are in the window above her desk now, so she can study the stars, even in the daytime. They turned out pretty cool!

Here's Kyle doing a simple science experiment from his BJU text, simply to predict the outcome and practice writing scientific data. In this one he had to predict how many pennies in the styrofoam cup would break the fettucine on which it was hanging. This was good to make him slow down and record data and not just blaze through an experiment (which both of us are prone to doing, I must admit).

We've been really enjoying the book Eat Your Way Through the USA. Last week we had a lobster dish (Maine) and a Boston Cream Pie (Massachusetts). This week we had a wonderful corn chowder and an orange cake (above) for New Hampshire and today we are making some maple candy (Vermont.) Geography can be yummy!

We've also settled into our outside activities: drum lessons, gymnastics classes, Bible study, and Awana. It's just enough that we don't feel "gone" all the time, but some great enrichment. God has faithfully helped us establish a schedule that helps us keep our priorities where they should be.

Well, I can't wait to have a Friday afternoon break and head on over to some of your blogs to see how your school year is going. I need to get caught up with everyone! Thank you so much for stopping by our school blog and visiting us. Have a wonderful weekend and a blessed week next week!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Works-for-me Wednesday: Daily Assignment Sheets

I posted a WFMW this morning on my other blog about killing ants, but later as I headed into our school room I saw something else that works for me, so I thought I'd share that here today.

As I've posted before, I do my planning on my computer using Excel spreadsheets. This has been a lifesaver for me, and has really helped cut down on my arrows, erasing, and frustration because I can simply copy, paste, drag and move things and it always stays neat.

The kids like to have a daily assignment sheet rather than a whole week-at-a-glance (which seems kind of overwhelming, I must admit). Since my plan sheets are a week at a time, though, I came up with a way to not have to rewrite the sheets or create additional work for myself, but still have it in the format they prefer.

I simply go to my plan for that week, copy the cells (including the subject headers), open Microsoft Word, make the page format "landscape", paste the cells, and if it's not Monday, delete the cells for the previous day, which makes the current day shift up.
I then post their day's assignments on the front of their lockers with a magnetic clip. Here's what they see in the mornings:

(You can click on the pictures to see the sheets better.) I have the template for my lesson plan book to view or download here, but there are some great forms at Donna Young's site and others. Oh, and I bought these lockers years ago from a catalog which doesn't offer them anymore, but I there are cute ones here and all over the internet...

A quick way to get their assignments to them each day... works for me!

Hope you're having a wonderful week in school! For more ideas or to link your own, visit Shannon.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The "Real World"

"What will happen when your kids (meaning, homeschoolers) have to encounter the 'real world' someday?"

That's a question I've heard often during my years of homeschooling. It's usually a sincere question, but one that indicates that the person asking it doesn't feel that being at home is being part of the "real world." It's actually a mindset that I, myself, had before I left the classroom to be a full time stay-at-home mom.

I remember very, very well what we were doing the morning of September 11, 2001. We were living in an apartment, having sold our house and in the process of building another one in a neighboring community. My husband traveled and was not home, and would be sitting in a board room in Corpus Christi, TX for most of the day. My children (kindergarten and 2nd grade at the time) and I were sitting at our little dining table in that small, third-floor apartment finishing breakfast and prayer time and beginning our schoolwork. The phone rang, and it was a friend who knew I wouldn't have the TV on, telling me I'd better turn it on. I watched in horror as I saw what had happened to the first tower. Then I saw it happen to the second tower. In the meantime the report came on about the Pentagon. It was horrific and surreal. But it was real. It was happening. It was something that would impact all of us, and it was unfolding at that very moment.

I remember being so glad my kids were there with me that day. We were able to discuss what was going on and to immediately go to our knees in prayer. I didn't have to wonder if I should go get them at school. (I know many who wanted their kids with them, and rightly so.) We were able to discuss that no, we were not in danger of a plane being flown into our apartment even though we were on the third floor (a very real concern to a 5 year old, who thought three flights of stairs was a skyscraper!) They were able to talk to their father on the phone, who was getting one of the last rental cars available in the city where he was, and to pray while he drove home. They processed what was going on in the way their minds could comprehend it, all the while being reminded that God is in control and being comforted by their mother. I remember that God gave me the hymn "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" that day. I tried to help the three of us keep our eyes on Jesus, especially given what was in front of our eyes on the news.

Meanwhile, the kids in the elementary school near us knew nothing about what was going on (not that they should've told them in that setting). Since it was not known if schools were a target, the administration made the (wise) decision not to allow them to go outside for recess, and they were told it was because of an "ozone warning." The horror-stricken teachers had to slip out of their classes and go down to the office or teacher's lounge to catch snippets of what had happened, all the while not letting on to their students that one of the most historic events to happen in our country in their lifetime was unfolding. The students continued doing their work as if everything was fine, and the teachers had to stay in their classrooms, largely uninformed.

Who was experiencing the "real world" that day? My kids or those kids? Those of us who knew what was going on or the ones who were sequestered away from it? I don't get into the "public school vs. homeschool" debates, and I don't think homeschooling is always superior for every child, but I do tire of the argument that homeschoolers aren't in the "real world."

It's days like this that remind me that yes, they are.

Friday, September 07, 2007

A (First) Day In The Life...

I hope you have had a good week! As I posted Wednesday, we finally got started this week. Since my blog has become sort of a "digital journal" for me (since I don't *gasp* scrapbook or rarely even get pictures developed!) I decided to snap some pictures during our first day...

The kids loved their back-to-school flowerpots. Once they had checked out the schoolroom, which is sort of like Christmas morning (in the "let's-go-see-what-we-got" sense... not that the first day of school is a holy moment here or anything, LOL) we headed to the kitchen.

We enjoyed a back-to-school breakfast of sausage balls and muffins. We lingered at the breakfast table and read part of Live Like A Jesus Freak (a Sonlight book from last year's list that we didn't get to.)

Once they got dressed and did their "morning routine" (list of what to do in each morning... I'll post those sometime!) they came downstairs to the schoolroom.

Kyle got right to his math. It's his least favorite subject, so he wanted to get it out of the way. I've decided to start him in Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra, even though he's not through Math U See: Zeta yet. The Zeta book focuses on decimals and fractions, so when he gets to that chapter in TT Pre-Algebra, we're taking a MUS break to solidify those skills before he gets back to the Pre-Algebra. It may take longer, but that's okay. He really liked his first lesson, and he likes that format. He didn't know, though, NOT to write in the book. After me erasing it as well as I can and remaining cheerful (while hoping it won't affect the resale value) I decided to photocopy the practice set pages for him, for now...

It looks dark outside, doesn't it? That's because it was pouring down rain! Here Bethany is checking her assignment sheet for the day, deciding what she wants to work on first. She decided to do her Chinese lesson.

She headed to the family room so she could use the Pimsleur cd's with the cd player. Each day she is doing two of three things for Chinese: Pimsleur cd's (audio), Rosetta Stone (visual), and Chinese in 10 Minutes a Day (written). Today was Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone, 15 minutes of each. (I may increase it to 20 or 30 minutes each.) I had carefully loaded her Rosetta Stone on the school laptop, but of course I couldn't remember the password or find where I had written it. I ended up having to uninstall and reinstall it. There is now a sticky note in the instructions, reminding me of what it is. I shared that with you in case our school days come off as looking "perfect" or in case you think I really have it all together... I assure you that is not the case! My son's Switched on Schoolhouse Language was the same way! I thought I had it all ready to go, but I had to go into the "teacher" application and finagle it, too. These are things I prepared back in July! Oh, well...

After working for awhile, my sweet mom came over to visit and have a music lesson. While watching "The Sound of Music" lately I realized that I had never taught my kids the "Do-Re-Mi" (Solfege) scales and the accompanying handsigns. She's only taught that to thousands of kids in her 35+ years of teaching, so I asked her to come bless us with her expertise. We had a great music class! Here she is using the book Patterns of Sound: A Practical Sight-Singing Course for Young Voices. (You can find it here. You scroll down the page and it's on the right.)

Our school mascot, Zacchaeus-the-weenie-dog "chilled out" during music class. He can't do the hand signs because he doesn't have opposable thumbs, so he just listened...

Then, of course, they ended up at the piano. Here she is teaching them about the pentatonic scale (five-note rather than eight-note scale.) Did you know you can play "Amazing Grace" on all black keys? Try it! (Start on C-sharp) In all my years of music study, I had never heard this.

After Gram left, they got back to their books for awhile, and then it was time for lunch. I have decided to have a certain thing for lunch each day (except Fridays) to help streamline lunchtime. They both were glad about this. (I wasn't sure if they would think I was taking away a freedom!) That day was make-your-own-pizza day (with English muffins, pizza sauce, pepperoni, mozzarella and a toaster oven.) They thought that was fun!

After their lunch break I worked with one and then the other on different subjects. At one point I came into the schoolroom to see Kyle helping Bethany with her Word Roots. The first lesson was a pretest on your existing knowledge of word meanings (to show the need to learn the roots, I suppose.) She was baffled by words like "synchronous" and "mesocracy." Here came Kyle to the rescue. He has an uncanny way of figuring out terms like that (he does very well in Latin) so between his brain and her electronic thesaurus, she got some of them.

A fun surprise! Dad came home during the middle of the afternoon! With the storms in the area, some of their jobs were rained out. He and Kyle enjoyed reading some science together.

Then, for some "first day fun" Kyle got made a "concoction" of his choice from one of our most-used resources, The Ultimate Book of Kid Concoctions. He chose to make a volcano. We've done this on numerous occasions, but I suppose one can never tire of combining baking soda and vinegar and making it spew. Especially if one is an eleven year old boy.

Not quite as "concoction-oriented" as her brother, here is Bethany reading her science. Her science experiments start next week. I have always, always, always combined as much as possible, especially science and history. Last year for seventh grade, she wanted to go more "textbooky" so she branched off (as well as did a small science co-op with a friend.) I still try to combine as much as possible, even though they both like to do their own things. Since we're not doing any co-ops this year, for all of the earth and space experiments and demos I will be combining them, since those are two chapters in Kyle's book as well. I love it when we're all together, and if I'm going to set up a big ole solar system or make something explode, it might as well be for all of us! I'm looking forward to getting into their science this year.

They worked hard this week, and it feels good to be back into a routine! I'm tired, though, and it's only been three days! But it's a good tired. I think it's going to be a great school year. I love, love, love teaching my children at home. Even on hard days, there is such a comfort knowing we are doing just what we are supposed to be doing, and they are right where they need to be. Every single year I feel like God has given us a gift.

I hope your school year has gotten off to a great start. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The First Day Of School!

First I just thought I'd share this fun picture of what you get when you sequester yourself in the school room to work on school plans and give your 11 year old son permission to watch a show about "robot warriors" on Discovery Channel. Our dachshund doesn't appreciate this particular type of radio-controlled technology! I heard a "ruckus" and this is what I found.

I counted it for science. So we're good. Ahead, even. ;)

It's back-to-school day! Here are their back-to-school treats. Last year I found these baskets at Dollar Tree. It worked out so perfect to do them in their colors. I wasn't sure what I'd find this year, but it worked out more perfect than I thought! We are going to paint flower pots Friday for art, to decorate our school room porch, and I found these at Walmart in their "colors!" I was so excited! They are ceramic, and I bought paint that will adhere to ceramic and is weather resistant. I wrote on these with a dry erase marker, which will come right off when it's time to paint Friday. Fun!

Inside I put some things I found at Walmart that are treats but also useful for school. A pencil box, some new glue and a scented eraser. (Hers is blueberry and his is green apple. Again with the colors!) I got them each some silly putty because they've always loved to play with clay or some other type of manipulative while I read. And read. And read. They love for me to read a lot, but they like to have something to do with their hands! I also found correction tape in dispensers with their colors, because I really want to work on neatness this year. I also threw in some fun candy "just because." Gum is allowed in our school!

We will have our back-to-school breakfast of muffins and sausage balls, have a time of Bible reading, then get into our assignments. My mom, who taught music in public and private schools for over 30 years is now retired. She is stopping by to begin music lessons with them each week (or biweekly) starting today. Having Gram drop by will be a treat!

Other than that, our fine arts and combined studies (art, music, Latin, missionary study, and Colonial Life unit) will be on Fridays. Their individual subjects will be Monday through Thursday for now. Each day they will have the following subjects: (Links to our specific curriculum are in the sidebar.)

8th grade
English/ Word Roots

6th grade

I've opted not to schedule specific subjects by time-slot yet, since we have a school laptop and a desktop computer for them to each use, so we're not trying to stagger computer time as in years past. I do ask them to start with their least favorite subjects first, usually. This year, Kyle will be doing activities from the Enchanted Learning Monthly Activity Calendar as a warm-up most mornings, too. I will have blocks of time available for each of them and try to have the other one working on something that I know will be independent, so I can fully focus on the other one during that time. This week and next week we'll be "finding the junk drawer." I'll post more about what words and doesn't now that we're in full "school mode." I'm ready for routine!

I hope your school year is clicking along great! I can't wait to stop by your blogs and see what you're up to!


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