Our Curriculum this School year.

This year I was able to attend a homeschool convention and at the Geography Matters vendor booth I found our treasure for this year!

I really like the idea of unit studies in home education as it eases my workload with multiple students and keeps us all on the same learning path together.  I have tried other unit studies and they overwhelmed me with too many options of exploring the subject matter. An overwhelmed or confused mind says no, so we ended up searching for new ways of learning and that was expensive and frustrating for me. I was looking for SIMPLE and FUN in our learning path this year, and yet something that would still CHALLENGE their minds and grow their character.

Here’s what we ended up with:

For 5th grade:

  • Our core unit study- Cantering the Country,  encompasses everything we need except for math. Find it at www.geomatters.com.  This has each of the 50 states in it, an overview of their history and important facts, a list of resources for the state in general and then suggested significant people in history from that state to study, science of their state bird, tree, rock, flower; and character of their state motto or pledge.
  • We are weak in our language arts so I also have Learning Language Arts Through Literature- the Purple book, to enhance this part of our studies.
  • The Word of Life Quiet Time will be our family Bible core, even John and I have one and no matter what age, we all read the same passage. Our church is starting Word of Life Clubs this year too so it will help the kids with that program as well and we’ll have more accountability in our verse memorization too. I’m really excited about this part of our program!
  • Go Science is a 6 pack DVD set I bought from Vision Forum ministries. It has high energy science demonstrations that also have spiritual applications to point to our Creator. My 5th grader has a major hunger for experiments that I can never seem to satisfy so I am hoping that watching these will excite all of us to try them ourselves when possible or be happy some days, just watching his demonstration.
  • Math is going back to A Beka Arithmetic. We tried Teaching textbooks last year, and while he loved the computer aspect of it and many days voluntarily did more than one lesson, I felt it was leaving gaps in his math program that had been so strong with A Beka since preschool. We are actually finishing a 4th grade book before I even purchase 5th grade because I feel like he had too much fluff math and not enough of the clues and foundation that he will need in the coming years.
  • Eat your Way Through the USA is a cookbook that can also be found at www.geomatters.com. Our kids love to help in the kitchen and this adds to the sensory learning aspect of going through each state in our unit study!

1st Grade:

  • Cantering the Country unit study.
  • A Beka Arithmetic 1
  • Learning Language Arts Through Literature, the Blue Book.
  • Word of Life Quiet Time.

Kindergarten:

  • Cantering the Country Unit Study, this is for 1st-5th grade but she is very capable of learning with us.
  • Word of Life Quiet Time – Gopher Buddies.
  • A Beka Arithmetic K

That’s it! That is our core curriculum. I am looking into electives like Spanish and Art for them as well and have my eye on two in particular. (I’ll share later)

We’ll be doing lap books for each state each week (some states may take more time, some less) and I am hoping to have the kids do presentations each week on Skype for family members to:  1. help solidify what they’ve learned by sharing it, and 2. help them grow in being confident presenters.

We are doing school at the kitchen table and anywhere else we are led this year too, we tried a school room but I think we all felt suffocated in there so it is pretty much empty now. 🙂

Hope you enjoyed a peek inside our school cabinet! It also has fun preschool activities inside for our 2-year-old, but she is so little that the most important thing for her is beneficial busy-ness like coloring, puzzles, starting with scissors, glue sticks, and singing songs that teach too. 🙂

No matter what, I want to instill a desire to learn in our children. I want them to love discovery and look at each turn of the page as an exciting adventure. I know not all school is fun for every learner, and we definitely have areas to improve in, such as writing, spelling, and even reading, but the important thing for me is to keep trying to find the style that will click with them and pursue it. I think we found it this year and I am so thankful for that.

Focus

Today I pray that the Lord helps me to remember that our children are the most pressing ministry at hand and all my other lists of things are the distraction, not them.

First day of school!

We were going to start last week but I still wasn’t feeling 100% so I gave myself grace and the kids didn’t mind at all. 😉

So today we start and I have to be honest, I’m still not 100% ready or prepared with all that I’d like to have but it is enough and the focus needs to be on what we do have and we will learn together how to fill in the missing pieces.

My biggest obstacle with educating our children at home is my own discipline. I have different lists for different responsibilities that I have and sometimes I put those other things… even if it’s housework, above training our children in wisdom and knowledge both of God and the world we live in. That would be an epic fail if that path continually is not maintained and I am purposing this school year to make my ministry to my children more effective and closer to God’s heart and desires for their growth.

Tomorrow I will share what we are using this year for our three students and toddler.

In the meantime, despite my restless night, God grace is enough and He will enable me to accomplish great things today! I pray the same for you.

Todays stand out verse in my quiet time:

Ephesians 3:12 NIV

In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

Be confident today in His purpose for you!

 

My homeschool convention journey…

This year I attended the HEAV (Home Educators Association of Virginia) convention in Richmond, VA. We use to live in that area so the 10, almost 11 hour trip for this wonderful convention and the opportunity to see an old friend again and some family was completely worth it.

My husband couldn’t get the time off work so the kids and I made a whole week of the trip and spent Tuesday driving, Wednesday playing with cousins in the pool, Thursday through Saturday in Richmond for the convention, visiting a good friend,  and hotel pool play, and Sunday at church with family and pool time again. Monday was a big day filled with going to the National Zoo in D.C. and taking a boat tour of some of the D.C. monuments.  It was a long day but lots of fun! (Other than the massive headache I ended it with that made it hard to even move or see straight…I’m thankful those don’t hit often)

The convention wasn’t what I originally dreamed it would be for me… a complete mommy break with me slowly strolling the convention booths and thoughtfully considering the plethora of choices that are presented. (whew! That was a sweet dream, but not a practical one!)

Instead, I had our four blessings with me, we drove around the 6 block radius of the convention hall for almost a half hour looking for available parking, stomachs were hungry after walking through one aisle. One! Ha! So we took a break within the first 20 minutes and spilled our drinks, chips, and various other munchies in the table area.

I made a decision after realizing that going to sessions wasn’t practical with four kids to purchase the convention MP3’s and that decision was so very freeing to me. I didn’t have to be upset that I was missing encouragement and refreshment or new ideas, I’d get them later and focus on enjoying my children now. I’m so thankful I did that!

God cares about my heart and wanted me to enjoy the children that I had been dreaming of having an escape from! We all had a great time, the boys enjoyed controlling Robots and getting their “robot drivers license”, the girls made bracelets, we played with puppets, watched amazing young jugglers, shopped the massive used curriculum, and my highlight was getting to meet Debbie Strayer.

I really had not heard of her before, but God knew she was exactly who I needed to speak with and be encouraged through. Debbie is the author of Gaining Confidence to Teach, and the co-author of the Trailguide to Learning series. (there are more too, but those are the key one’s I’ve looked at) 🙂  I spent a lot of time (at least the kids thought so) at her Geography Matters booth and even left after one conversation and came back in an hour or so for more.  She was friendly, understanding, empathetic, and offered practical solutions laced with grace and wisdom. She felt like someone I could easily spend hours at the kitchen table chatting with and an oasis to me as I have felt my soul to be in an emotional desert for some time. (especially in the long dark winters of our north country dwelling place)

I began reading her Gaining Confidence to Teach last night as it just came in the mail and within the first 3 pages she showed me again why I so enjoyed our short conversations together. Her daughter put it best… “She lives in the real world, she knows things aren’t always perfect”. (her daughter told me this when I was going to have the children apologize to Debbie for her having to sit them down and stop a squabble)

That’s it! That’s why I connected with her, I love transparent and real people. She is a woman who understands that life happens and chooses to allow God to teach through those happenings and make her a more effective ministry to others for Him. It’s what I desire, what I’ve been taught by wise leaders in my youth, to take each moment good or bad, and to glorify God because of it.

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NASB)

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

Some people think we as Christians shouldn’t share when we are having a hard day or season or when we are struggling in certain areas, but in truth, in hiding our own weaknesses we are hiding the ability for others to see God at work in us.  I’m not saying we should be complaining or moping, or constantly negative, but things happen in life that aren’t fun! IF we are vigilant to seek God’s will for each happening, we are bound to bring glory to Him, or perhaps someone else may be able to help our perspective change to see His hand. I desire to always be willing to be used by God, even  if I feel inadequate. According to the above verse it would show God’s power even more greatly if I know that I was weak so that His power would be perfected.

Blessings,

A final test and a lesson in one

Today we finished our end of the year CAT (California Achievement Test) for both our boys. Our 6-year-old didn’t legally need it, but I wanted to have him experience scan-tron testing and see where he was… it all was pretty silly to him and very simple. Good news for mom!

Our 10-year-old has pretty much never taken tests well, especially the TIMED ones! Yikes, his breathing becomes rapid, he stresses out and has to read everything twice to get it because he’s panicking so loudly he has no idea what he’s reading. He only legally has to test every other year in NY, we took our break last year so this was a “have to” year.  He did well on all of the tests, he’s obviously weaker in the language arts but I already knew that and it’s something we continue to work on so it’s not a concern to me. Math though, he’s a grade ahead in his math level and he still flipped out on the first math test. He got through it, and only missed one of twenty, but oye, the panic was heartbreaking to watch.

SO… we took a moment to pause and I explained to him how he is so strong in math skills and had 18 minutes to do 20 problems, some of which were 7×1 and 25×1 and 23×2, those should all take about 10 seconds to glance at and fill in the circles for so he’d have a whole minute at least for each problem that remained. He still wasn’t calm at this explanation so we took it further and I set my phone timer for a minute and asked him to look into my eyes for one minute.

We sat there staring into one another’s eyes for 60 seconds and I just kept thinking about how much I love him and how proud I am of him, how he’s growing so fast and our time is so precious. I love these learning moments together. He grinned at me and stared sweetly back for that whole 60 seconds, even asking toward the end if it was almost done. Lesson learned. A minute is a long time if we clear any panic and worry and just focus. 

He did his next test with another 20 problems and 18 minutes and finished in 12 minutes with a BIG grin on his face and he got them ALL right. Yay!

Take time for each one you love. What you have many not be much, but each minute counts.

My Homeschool Brain

This is the first must have purchase for me each summer, I LOVE the Well Planned Day Homeschool Planner!

Here’s why I love this planner:

1. It’s for up to four students… perfect for our family!

2. There are small boxes  inside each frame that you write your task in for that subject, I can use that for checking off that it was completed, or use it for recording the grade earned for quick reference when doing evaluations.

3. There is space at the top of each column for me to write my husband’s schedule for that day in so that I know if he’ll be available to help or what meals I’ll be providing for him. 🙂

4. It is visually appealing to me! I love the design.

5. There is a month at a glance followed by the week outlooks for the “big picture” planning like field trips, vacations, when state reports are due, and all that other family life stuff you need to know is happening in order to realistically plan their school days.

6. Perforated shopping list sheets!

7. Annual budgets, birthdays, contact information for your groups or new homeschool contacts.

8. I love that it runs from July to June of each year! Much more user-friendly than a basic wall calendar.

9. There are verses of encouragement on each page

10. There are designated spots for Bible, Math, History, Science, and English… AND there are additional rows under those for subjects that change or disciplines to work on… like art, music, handwriting practice, foreign language, etc..

There are also report cards that you can fill out for your student. I haven’t used this feature yet, but may eventually. Sometimes there are discounts or freebies for the students if they show their report card and as homeschoolers, we don’t always have that ability.

I haven’t even covered every feature that these planners have, just my favorite! The binding is durable and has never bunched on me or unravelled.

This planner is my brain, I really try to keep it open on the counter most of the time… unless I really need the room or we are done for the day! We were just doing some planning yesterday and I ran out of planner so my husband said it’s time to get next years! woohoo! Things in the north country come alive starting in May so we have at least 2 field trips a month and other activities we can’t do in our long winter months, we need to keep it all straight and in one location, and this is what has worked for us for 3 years now.

I am having major issues with banners and links with any of my sponsors, here is the website where you can further learn about this planner, they have a digital version coming soon too! eeeck!

(the links to the product I just applauded are affiliate links, in full disclosure) 🙂

Taking Time to Wait

This is the time of year that home school families all over seem to be evaluating, re-evaluating, and shopping for new curriculum. I am one of those, with an exception.

I have decided to give myself time this year and not rush into any decisions that may not be the best fit for our children, I am also paring down our current schoolroom as it seems to overwhelm me as the teacher and so logically, my students are overwhelmed by the room and NONE of us are as productive as my planner says we should be.

I have been getting catalogs, and looking through them, but without any concern over needing to pick something at this moment. I am attending the Home Educators Association of Virginia Homeschool Convention that takes place June 6-9, in Richmond, VA. I am SO looking forward to this!

As I have been looking at our year, I am compiling things I love that have worked well for us and trying to keep those ideas and resources in one notebook just in case something happens and John needs to know what makes our homeschool tick in rhythm. I will be doing short blogs over the next few days of what items we love and will keep incorporating. I’d love for you to share your must-haves too!

Here is a link to the homeschool convention  I will be attending. Let me know if you will be coming too!

(the link above is just for your information, it is not an affiliate link, I just want to spread the word.) 🙂

Have a blessed day!

Mt. Vernon, VA

We went to visit George Washington’s place! It’s sad how many people don’t know that Mt. Vernon is his home and say it’s Thomas Jefferson’s!

I have fun memories of playing in the mansion front yard with school friends and was amazed that I really remembered nothing else about the place except the way the front looked, playing in the yard, and the gift shop! Ha!

What a day! I would recommend finding a hotel and making this a two-day event, simply because there is SO much to take in!  We did it in one day, but the kids really didn’t pay attention to the museum as much as I would have liked. It’s a more recent part of the experience and excellently done! It starts with how we are trying to use science for facial mapping of George Washington, did you know that we don’t actually know exactly what he looked like? He moved somewhere around 7 times before he was 12 and I got a kick out of that since we have moved 13 times in 12 years.  (No pictures are allowed to be taken in the museum or mansion, sorry!)

We saw the ration of clothing that the slaves received for the year and were amazed, learned about his fishing adventures, gardening, and his life and death in the mansion. He was a loved president with great vision for the country, without political party cares. The people wanted him to be our King, but in his wisdom he saw that this was only going to lead back to the lifestyle they left in England and did not accept. Thank you Mr. Washington!

The mansion is undergoing renovations and the front was covered completely for the work being done so that was a bummer, but the kids found a bush to play in and had a great time!

We went down by the river and enjoyed the breeze and the view of the gardens.

The kids enjoyed seeing the animals too, they had new baby piglets that were fun to see too!

Mt. Vernon has a quest for kids map that while going through the property the children are to take note and look for answers, when they turn it in at the gift shop they got a souvenier smashed penny of Mt. Vernon… we happen to collect those so that was great!

George Washington died quickly in his own bedroom and the custom then was for the widow to move to another room of the house at her husbands passing and shut their bedroom door for good. So sad! Martha went upstairs to an attic bedroom and people said she never had the same spark about her. She died not long after George of what seems to have been a broken heart. Poor Martha! I definitely did not remember or know that part of their story.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a bit about Mt. Vernon and I encourage you to make it a family day or field trip sometime soon, they encouraged us to come back for their Christmas festivities, I bet it would be beautiful!! Although I think the flowers in the spring and summer are worth the trip too. 🙂

Missing blogger finds visuals

Hello! Oh, didn’t mean to startle you, I know I’ve been a “missing blogger” for quite a while now!

It seems my life sped up, blind folded me, spun me around and let me go dizzy there for a bit. (Can you see that picture!?) We have been very busy and yet somewhat lazy in some regards here at our home lately. I have much to catch up on in posts and look forward to filling you in on quick meal fixes we’ve enjoyed, a field trip to Mt. Vernon, career search challenges, spiritual growth, home care,  homeschool ideas and wonderings, and just plain old life. I am working to set aside time each day to prepare a post or two so that on days that I am just not going to make it to the computer… yes.. I DO have those days!… I will be able to share something that I’ve prepared but not yet published. :0)

One thing I will share now. I recently saw a “neighbor” that I had met 6 months ago for the first time in those 6 months! NY winters are about 6 months so this isn’t completely strange, but the children and I wish it wasn’t so hard to keep in touch and develop new friends in the cold, dark months. Anyway, she is moving in 2 months to California! Of course she is! As we were chatting she mentioned that her son was frustrating her the other night with his math homework and just didn’t seem to get it. She said how much she respects my ability to homeshool and tolerate learning curves. I was thankful for the compliment but later that night also thought that this is just another reason that I love homeschooling! Yes, there have been moments in our days where I wonder what language I need to say something in for them to “get it” because I feel like I’ve said it 200 times! However, usually in those moments I have the upper hand as a home school teacher because I know what and how my students have already been taught and if repetition isn’t working, than usually a visual is needed. (or just a 15 minute break!)

So the issue they were having was adding fractions and he just didn’t understand that the denominator stayed the same… repetition of the fact didn’t matter, he just asked why she kept saying it! So the work was turned in as is and I’m not sure he really got it yet. I was one of those students that had a hard time grasping math concepts too, and if we miss early concepts, it just gets harder! Here’s my solution to this visual need… When adding common denominators the denominator stays the same, the visual kinesthetic learner needs to see why this is in a tactile way. (Like me)

So lets say we need to add 2/8 + 3/8

I used a muffin pan and cut up paper towels for the common denominator. We have lots of Legos here so I had the kids get 3 of one color and two of another, they each get sat on the common denominator… so how many 8ths do we have filled up? The answer is 5/8. This can be done with subtraction too, they just need to start with the 5/8 and take away the 3/8 to get 2/8.

I know it’s a simple visual, but when you feel like you are banging your head on a brick wall trying to explain why math does what it does, sometimes the simple eludes us.

That’s all for now folks! More to come… really! 😉

Mini Pecan Tassies

I had never heard of a “tassie” before this recipe! I found this one in February’s issue of Disney Family Fun magazine and immediately tabbed down the page as a project to do with the kids. 🙂

We needed to double the recipe which was a great opportunity for adding fractions, making a grid (scoring), and the general keep practicing breaking eggs lessons.

 

Here are the Ingredients:

For the Crust:

  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the muffin tin.
  • 3-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon of fine cornmeal
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

 

For the Filling:

  • ½ cup pecans
  • 1 large egg
  • ¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch ground cinnamon

Loving the perks of being around after the cream cheese was measured!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 1: Using a piece of wax paper (or your butter wrapper), grease 24 cup mini-muffin tin generously with softened butter. Preheat oven to 350°.

Step 2: In the medium bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese together on medium until smooth, (1-2 min). Add the flour, cornmeal, & salt, reduce the speed to low, and beat until a dough forms. (about 30 seconds)

Adding in the salt.

Adding Cornmeal

 

Adding in the flour

 

 

Step 3: Lay the dough out and flatten to about a quarter inch, then divide the square into quarters and the quarters into 6 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball. 

Scoring, (this is a double batch)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 4: Dust your hands with flour, then drop a ball of dough into each muffin cup. Using your thumb, flatten the dough and press it around the sides of the cup to form a shell. Set the muffin tin aside.

Step 5: Chop the pecans with a knife (an adult please) then sprinkle one teaspoon of nuts into each pastry shell.

Step 6: In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, brown sugar, butter, vanilla, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

Step 7: Add 1½ teaspoons of the egg mixture to each cup, diving any remaining mixture evenly. (I found 1 teaspoon was plenty, start there and add more as needed so you don’t run low)

Step 8: Bake the tarts for 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 325° and continue baking until the tarts set, 10-15 minutes longer. (12 was perfect in my gas oven) Set the pan on a rack to cool. Serve warm or room temperature.

                       TaDa!…

 

This can be found in Virginia Williams book: Basic to Brilliant Y’all: 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up for company.

Milk & Soap Science Experiment

Our children LOVE experiment days! This experiment was taken from Steve Spangler’s book: Naked Eggs and Flying Potatoes

First, the ingredients: we needed Milk, Q-tips, dish soap, and food coloring and a dish to pour it in.

  • Pour about 1/4″ of milk in your dish and let it sit till no bubbles.
  • Dot a drop of each color of food color in the center of the milk plate.

  • Place a Q-tip in the middle of all the colors, don’t stir, just stick in and hold. Anything happen?

Now, DON’T BLINK!, dip the other end of your q-tip in dish soap and get ready to see the soap and the fat in the milk dance! This experiment could be taken farther by doing it with different milks,… whole, 2%, skim, almond, etc…  We get to see the soap attacking the fat in the milk because of the food colors and even though we saw the pictures in the book, we we’re so excited about what happened!

Don’t stir the soap dipped q-tip, just stick it straight in and watch.

POW!

It changes too, as it spreads through the milk and finds new fat cells to disrupt. We re-soaked and re-dipped more q-tips in other areas to watch it change more.

We then started going out on our own wonderings… what happens if we drop vinegar in? (not much) What about water drops? ~ those were kinda cool, they seemed to make everything move under the surface to make the top make this happen:

It left those circular “openings” in the color, and even made patches of color circles pop up in a different color section!

We let it sit for a couple of minutes, and I guess the soap and the couple of drops of vinegar that we put in it gave it a different density, this next picture is of water drops from a medicine dropper… it looks like it is probably a bit solid because those “holes” stayed, but it wasn’t, it poured smoothly down the drain. So interesting! (yea, that’s the nerds in all of us)

Try it for yourselves and let me know what you think!

Have a Blessed Day!