Archive for February, 2012

Okay, I just can’t leave well enough alone. I tried (and loved) the idea of organizing a month’s worth of homeschool assignments at one time. I ran into one minor problem however. Most of my daughter’s workbooks have a 2-page spread layout. This means that on one side of each page, you have another lesson. A single lesson is not on the front & back of one page. That became confusing for my daughter and more work for me. So, I tweaked the method just a bit.

I still have a hanging file for each week of school. In each hanging file is 4 manila file folders to hold daily work for 4 days. As I mentioned previously, we do academics 4 days per week and on the 5th day do other school related activities such as library, field trip, or other activity. For those days, I just write a journal entry.

Here is the change that I made. Instead of tearing all assignments out of the workbooks, we are using a post-it note tab placed in the workbooks as a bookmark. I found that placing a standard bookmark in the workbook always falls out. The workbooks and her Reading textbook are placed in a box that I made into a magazine holder.

In each daily file folder, I have any worksheets that are written on one side only, lapbook components, or an art project from her ArtPac course. I have written her daily assignments onto a 4×6 index card. It lists each workbook and her Reading textbook with their lesson numbers. As I mentioned, she also has a post-it note tab marking each assignment in the workbooks & reader. As she completes each assignment, she crosses it off.

I am still able to pre-plan her work for a month, quarter, or even the entire year. The only addition is the index cards. These cards can be placed into an index card box with numbered tabs for each week or simply placed in the daily file folders. On the computer, I made an assignment sheet. To get 2 per page, I have the paper in landscape format with 2 columns. I typed up each of Little Miss’ courses with each book/workbook listed. Next to each is a blank line for writing in the lesson or page numbers. When I am able to get to the copy center, I will print those out to use instead of the index cards.

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Keepers of the Faith Sunday

I am going to try and post each week something that our kids are doing in the Keepers of the Faith program. For those unfamiliar with the program, it is a Bible-based program that is similar to Awanas or scouting, but is very family friendly and adaptable to the abilities of your children. The girls use the Keepers at Home handbook and the boys use the Contenders of the Faith handbook. For the younger children, they have the Little Keepers at Home and Little Contenders of the Faith for children 4-6 years old. At age 7-14, the children advance to the Keepers at Home and Contenders of the Faith programs.

I love these programs. They encourage academics as well as promote the learning of handicrafts and skills that are fitting with those using the Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling. Ms Mason believed that children should learn to do handicrafts that taught a valuable skill, not just do the “fluff” or quick crafts that are so common today. In teaching children to do a skill that requires time, the child also learns diligence and patience. They learn to take their time instead of rushing through everything. This is not to say that ALL crafts that my children do are the more time consuming ones. You have to build up their patience for that gradually. We do some quick crafts, but these are rarely used for the Keepers of the Faith program.

The first area that Little Man is going to be working on is his ABC’s. This one will take quite a bit of time to accomplish. We are going to start with the “Letter of the Week” workbook that I bought. It contains activities that we can do each week to help teach him the letters. With Little Man, that will take much longer than a week for each letter. It is giving us a place to begin. I have a chart of the alphabet letters that I can also use with him. It will provide a method for me to gauge which letters he understands and those that he doesn’t. Being non-verbal, when I ask him where is the letter “A”, he can point to the letter on the chart. If I ask what letter makes the ă sound, he could point to the answer. Writing the letters will be done using a variety of methods. Play dough on a mat, a baggie of gel, or using a bingo marker to trace a largely drawn upper and lower case letter are all methods I will use.

In crafts, Little Man is working on painting and coloring. These are also a part of his occupational therapy that we do at home. He has trouble holding a pencil or crayon and applying enough pressure to get the color transferred onto paper. Painting is something that he thoroughly enjoys. I am working with him more to help him do more than simply pounce a paint dauber up and down. We are working on teaching him to make actual pictures with the paints.

Little Miss is currently working on Little Readers in which she has to read 10 books. She is a beginning reader, but is coming along really well. Thankfully, she loves books and we go through a lot of them each time we go to the library. In her reading log, she has to track not only the book title but include a sentence or two telling what the book was about.

In crafting, she is working on coloring an entire coloring book. It isn’t as simple as it sounds. I am teaching her how to carefully color with both crayons and colored pencils so that the strokes do not show. Simply laying color to paper isn’t acceptable. The goal is to teach her to take pride in her work and do her best. She colors nearly every day, so her ability to color very neatly show reflect that. She is also learning to make her own greeting cards using scrapbook paper, stickers, and rubber stamps.

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Gluten Free – Oh My!!!

We are preparing to begin a new adventure. I have been reading up on gluten-free cooking and am planning my first trip to the health food store. I am amazed at the wide array of recipes for various flour mixtures to use in place of wheat flour. It seems that each website or book has a different blend that they say is the best. I am overwhelmed. Do you really need different flour mixtures for different purposes? Or can you find a single flour mixture that you can use in any recipe?

Another question that I have to figure out is whether or not you have to adjust liquid content in recipes to allow for the flour changes? Do some gluten-free flours require more liquid? Less liquid? It can be confusing. I know from cooking with wheat that when kneading the bread dough, you could use flour on the table if the dough was made with white flour, but whole wheat flour had to be kneaded on an oiled surface to prevent the bread from becoming to dry.

There is so much to learn. I am reading everything that I can on the topic and have found a couple of good recipe websites. Next step is to omit dairy from our diet. We are nearly there already. Baby steps….that is what it is taking.

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Snakes – YUCK!

Today the kids saw a their first snake of the season. Lovely. I am no Steve Irwin-type person who sees a snake and gets all excited says, “Look at this here beauty!” I hate snakes. I understand that they are useful in keeping rodent populations down, but I prefer them to be away from my house & yard.

Well, being that we live in a rural area, snakes are a part of life here. Each year, we have to remind the kids to keep a watch out for snakes and never to try to catch them. We teach them to stay out of brush or tall grass as well as firewood piles. If a snake is found, we try to educate them as to the type of snake and whether or not it is a poisonous species. Little Miss and Grandson are getting good about not only alerting us but telling us the size and coloring.

Today, Little Miss saw a pygmy rattlesnake about 12 inches long. She kept an eye on it while Grandson came to tell us it was out there. Great team work! When my son-in-law and I got out where they saw the snake, the snake was already hidden. My son-in-law tried to find it, but it had found a small hole somewhere and got away.

Next time that we are in town, I am going to buy a few boxes of moth balls. Snakes don’t like them. We put some in and around the outhouse, the kids’ toy bin outside, and under the porch steps. Basically anywhere outdoors that they may try to hide. It works really well. In the meantime, looks like there will be a snake picture in a nature journal sometime soon.

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Tofu Nuggets

Here is a favorite recipe that is very easy to make and the kids love them. The original recipe contained egg, but I use a flax seed meal and water mixture instead to make this recipe vegan. You can make it completely gluten-free by using gluten-free cracker or bread crumbs.

Tofu Nuggets

You only need: cubed extra firm tofu, 1 Tbsp flax seed meal mixed with 3 Tbsp water, Italian bread crumbs or the gluten-free equivalent.

Dredge the cubed tofu in flour, then in the flax seed meal mixture, and lastly the seasoned bread crumbs. Place on a rack in a baking sheet. Bake at 350*F for 15-20 minutes or until crisp.

My kids love these for dipping into applesauce, ranch-type dressing, or even yogurt. For those unfamiliar to using flax seed meal, the mixture listed above is the equivalent to 1 egg. I mix it together and let it rest for a few minutes before using. This gives it time to become thicker and more like an egg yolk consistency.

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Homemade Play Dough

I recently found in my notebooks an old recipe that I used to use for making a homemade play dough. I can’t remember where I originally found the recipe, but was intrigued due to the finished play dough being long lasting provided it is properly stored. In making the recipe, I found that the food coloring pastes, like the cake decorators use, will give you a much brighter and truer color than the food coloring drops. the recipe is a favorite of mine. The first time that I made it for Little Miss, the play dough lasted nearly 2 years before it needed to be replaced. You can color it with powdered fruit flavored drink mixes for a scented play dough. It may affect how long the play dough will keep. I would not advice a scented play dough if you have little ones who will mistake it for something they can eat. This recipe makes a fairly large batch of play dough. I am including both the original large batch recipe and the smaller one that I use for my kids at home.

Large Batch Play Dough: 4 cups of flour, 1 cup of salt, 8 Tbsp of Cream of Tartar, 4 cups water, 4 Tbsp oil, and food coloring. (Small Batch Play Dough: 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup of salt, 2 Tbsp Cream of Tartar, 1 cup water, 1 Tbsp oil, and food coloring.)

To make the play dough: Mix all ingredients into a sauce pan. Heat over a medium heat, stirring constantly, until it forms a mass separating from the sides of the pan. This takes about 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool just enough that it can be handled. Knead the play dough on a lightly floured surface if needed to remove any stickiness. Let cool completely. Store in a container.

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This has been our 1st year of officially homeschooling our kids. Previously, I was preschooling Little Miss. In planning the current school year, we realized that though she was of the age to do Kindergarten, the curriculum for that grade level was too easy. She already knew most of it. The choice was made to do more of a K1 level which would provide review of the Kindergarten and end with a solid 1st grade curriculum. One of the blessings of homeschooling is that we can school year round without the long summer break if we choose to. With this in mind, the K1 decision was an easy one to make. Now that we are halfway through the term, I am looking ahead towards next year.

There is so much about the homeschooling that we enjoy. The flexibility to adjust the curriculum is one of them. We found that the phonics materials we chose moved too quickly at one point. Using other materials for a few weeks provided the practice needed to build a solid foundation in reading before moving on with the original curriculum. Our daughter is learning to become more independent in her studies. For example, today she was able to go through her assignments entirely only needing assistance twice. The rest of the work she was able to figure out the instructions on her own. It is a joy to watch as she gains more knowledge and confidence in her studies. The excitement that she exhibits when learning something new is contagious. She becomes bubbly and very animated. One the days when Daddy is home from the road, she takes pride in showing him the schoolwork that she has done while he was gone. He takes her education seriously and praises her lavishly as she shows him what she accomplished.

As I consider all that we are doing now, I am seeing areas where we may need to make slight changes. Not many, but there are a few. One area being to adopt a few more of Sue Patrick’s ideas into our homeschool. Now that I am doing more formal homeschooling with Little Man also, I need to get a better TEACCH workstation set up for him. Little Miss is doing well with her current desk area set up as it is. Little Man will be needing something more like those that the TEACCH program suggests. This will limit the distractions. I am also going to be making him a set of visual schedule cards for his task boxes. I want to start teaching him how to use the cards along with a visual schedule more in line with Ms. Patrick’s approach. In working with Little Man, I am seeing where Ms. Patrick’s suggestions are very sound. Some of her suggestions may not be necessary for Little Miss, but Little Man will benefit from them.

The planning of the curriculum is a big change from how the current term started. While I did plan the daily lessons, I did it on a weekly basis. I am seeing how well the preplanning of this month’s lessons has helped bring less stress to my day. Everything is preplanned and ready to go. I am now looking at preplanning the next school year in this manner. I may go as far as preplanning a quarter at a time. We will be buying Little Miss’ curriculum early enough to give me the time necessary to prepare her lesson plans in advance. The preplanning fits our family’s lifestyle. With everything that I do each day, it is nice to have the peace of mind in knowing that the lesson plans are already prepared.

I put together a school supplies list of things that are needed for a typical school year. I am setting it up as an inventory sheet to include quantities needed for the entire school year. As I see supplies on sale in the stores, I will be stocking up. With this in mind, I am going to have a bookcase set aside just for those supplies. It will be nice to have everything in one place and readily available.

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