10 November 2014

Homeschool update

We have been homeschooling for almost 3 months now. While each day has its ups and downs, I would definitely call it a successful adventure! I want to go over what we are doing in each subject:

Dino has memorized the books of the New Testament and is working on the Old Testament now. Each day, we discuss a book of the Bible and point out the highlights of that book - the author, the theme of the book, and the key characters and stories. Dino creates a flash card for each book, which he uses to practice putting the books in order. I would like to start memorizing scripture as a family. We are going to start with what Dino's Sunday School class is studying - Hebrews 11:1 and 11:6.

We started the year using a book called The Life of Fred, which appealed to me because of the incorporation of other topics into each lesson. While this curriculum appeals to children who love to read but aren't too fond of math. Unfortunately, Dino is just the opposite, and it was immediately frustrating for him to read so much and have so little math to work on. Dino does much better just learning one math concept at a time, so we abandoned Fred in favor of worksheets printed out from a couple of different websites. He worked up to 3-line addition, 6-or-more-digit addition and subtraction, carrying and borrowing, time telling, word problems, basic fractions, and measuring using a ruler. We are now starting to introduce multiplication. Dino understands the concept of multiplication as iterative addition, so next I want him to memorize the multiplication tables.

Dino has started learning about the United States of America. He is learning to identify each state's location on the map, and he is memorizing the 2-character postal code for each state. We work on 3 or 4 states at a time, 2 days for each group.

We are not using any particular lesson plan for science, but rather grabbing opportunities as they come along. The local homeschoolers organized a field trip to the Department of Public Works, where they discussed water conservation. We read a book together about the life cycle of frogs. We read a book about fire safety and used a candle to demonstrate what elements fire needs to burn. He read an articles on push and pull forces, how things move, and the pitch and volume of sound. He has also read an article in a National Geographic book on wolves and another on dogs vs. cats.

Dino read an article on land use (rural/urban/suburban), and we discussed the election last week and how individuals are voted into local and state government.

We are using and loving Sonlight's Sequential Spelling curriculum. Instead of memorizing lists of spelling words, Dino is learning the logic behind how words are formed and is seeing the patterns in lists of words. The curriculum is set up so that he has a list of 25 words each day. I say the word, use it in a sentence if needed, and he does his best to write down how he thinks it is spelled. I tell him the correct spelling, and he corrects his paper if needed. We also discuss the homophones of words as they come up (when words have different meanings but sound the same, like thrown and throne). Each day's word list builds on the day before in an 8-day cycle. For example, day 1 might have the word bat, then day 2 will have bats, then batted, then batting, and so on.

Dino is reinforcing some things he learned in first grade - ABC order, homophones, synonyms, antonyms, nouns, proper nouns, etc. We are using worksheets from a book I found at Sam's Club called Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills. I expect us to get through the Grade 2 book by the end of the calendar year and go through the Grade 3 book next semester.

Dino loves the Magic Tree House books and has gone through 4 of them this school year, reading about 1 chapter a day. He took a break from them recently to read a few short story books. I try to read a chapter a day to him from another book. We finished The Jungle Book and are working our way through a young reader's adapted version of Alice in Wonderland.

We are also using the Comprehensive Curriculum worksheets for Reading Comprehension. Dino *hates* these because he actually has to think to get his work done! He has been doing sequencing (putting steps in order), identifying same/different details about 2 characters in a story, reading for details, and following directions. Like English, I hope to be able to go through Grade 2 and 3 concepts this school year.

We started cursive handwriting 2 weeks ago, and Dino loves it! We do about 2 letters a day, following the order prescribed on this website: http://www.kidzone.ws/cursive/
So far, Dino has learned 13 lowercase letters, so he is halfway through the alphabet! He is very detailed, so he tries hard to keep his writing neat and slanted.

Dino has a few hours almost every afternoon to run around with his friends when they're done with their school, so he is well-exercised! We go for walks together around the block to get our dogs some exercise, too.

We follow the local school's schedule for breaks and holidays, so that Dino gets the same days off as his friends. We did make an exception for fall break, however. We took a week-long vacation with family that didn't line up with the local school's fall break. We gave Dino the option of doing school on vacation so that he would have the same days off as the neighbors, or taking our break on vacation then just push through and try to get school done a little early on the friend's day off at home. He wisely chose the latter.

We don't have any particular art plan, but do things as they come up - some English/Reading assignments involve drawing pictures or coloring, he cuts and glues his Bible flash card every day, we make geography flash cards, and we recently made salt dough Christmas ornaments using a recipe on a Reading Comprehension assignment for following directions!

In first grade, Dino's goal in reading was to find a book in the library each week with the fewest words as possible. He has made a huge turnaround in the past 3 months, finding books that he actually enjoys reading, and declaring that he *loves* to read! That, if nothing else, is a huge success in my book!

08 November 2014

Recipe - Potato Cakes

I used leftover mashed potatoes to make these fried potato patties.

Potato Cakes

1/4 cup Canola Oil
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) Butter
2 cups Cold Mashed Potatoes
1 egg
Optional add-ins: see note
1/2 cup All-purpose Flour
Salt and pepper

Heat oil and butter in a wide skillet on Medium heat.

Put the flour in a bowl or pie pan.

Combine mashed potatoes with the egg and any add-ins. Scoop out 1/4 cup of the mixture, shape into a patty, and dredge both sides in flour.

Fry for 5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Remove to wire rack to drain and season immediately with salt and pepper.

NOTE: Optional add-ins could include any combination of the following: 1/4 cup corn, 2 Tbs. diced onion, 1/2 cup shredded cheese, 2 tsp. dried chives, 2 Tbs. bacon bits, etc.
I added in leftovers that I had on hand - corn and diced onion.

07 November 2014

Recipe - Meatloaf

This meatloaf was a hit with both Tim and Dino!

for the meatloaf:
1 lb. Lean Ground Beef (I used 80/20)
1 egg
1/2 cup Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs
7 oz. Italian Seasoned Canned Diced Tomatoes (half of a 14-oz. can)
1/2 Onion, Finely Diced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

for the topping:
1/4 cup Ketchup
1 Tbs Prepared Mustard

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Combine all the meatloaf ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Do not over-work the mixture. Transfer to a greased loaf pan and smooth out the top. Place in preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Combine the topping ingredients and spread on top of the half-baked meatloaf. Bake for another 30 minutes. (I like to add the topping half-way so that it doesn't burn)

Remove from the oven after a total of 1 hour of baking. Cool slightly, slice, and serve!

We ate our meatloaf with green beans, potatoes, and rolls.

06 November 2014

Recipe - S'mores Cookies

S'mores Cookies
These cookies are loaded with Graham Cracker crumbs, chocolate, and marshmallows!

Note: To make graham cracker crumbs, place graham crackers into a large zip-top plastic bag, and use a rolling pin to crush crackers into fine crumbs. 

1-1/2 cups finely crushed Honey Graham Crackers
1/2 cup All-purpose Flour
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) Butter, melted
1 can (14 oz.) Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 cups chopped Chocolate Candy Bars or Semisweet Chocolate Chips
Mini Marshmallows (or full-size marshmallows, cut into 4 pieces each)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix together graham cracker crumbs, flour, and baking powder in a bowl.

In another mixing bowl, beat butter and sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Stir in vanilla extract. Add crumb mixture and stir until smooth. Fold in chocolate chunks/chips.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a lightly greased cookie sheet, and lightly press a marshmallow piece on top of each.

Bake 12 minutes, or until lightly browned and the marshmallow is puffy and toasted.

Let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

12 August 2014

What Students Remember

Today I read this article by Lori Gard on Pursuit of a Joyful Life:
What Students Remember Most About Teachers

I have very few memories of elementary school. I remember sitting at round tables in Kindergarten, with gigantic tri-fold cardboard dividers around our tests at the end of the year. I remember my Kindergarten teacher making green eggs and ham on a hot plate in our classroom. And I remember running in the field outside for recess, with the boys labeling every hole in the grass a "booby trap" and being appalled that the teachers let them say a bad word! Ha!

In 1st grade, I remember getting gigantic pink plastic-frame glasses, and I remember sitting on carpet squares in the front of my classroom to listen to Mrs. Duvall read James and the Giant Peach.

I don't remember 2nd grade at all. My mom said we did a lot of worksheets that year, and not much else, so it's no wonder.

My 3rd grade teacher was amazing. Mrs. Goodwin had class pets - a hamster that we could pass around in a container to pet, and an aquarium with a sea anemone! She would roll in the tall TV cart for us to watch episodes of Fat Albert and let us draw on long strips of paper. I remember doing Sweatin' to the Oldies videos in the gym for PE. Before winter break, we did a class play in which I was one of 3 kittens who had lost our mittens. We wore footie pajamas (blue, pink, and yellow - I probably picked pink) and my mom made cat ears out of matching colored felt and plastic headbands.

I started private school in 4th grade, and I have a lot of school memories from then on out.

Not one of those early memories has anything to do with the theme or decorations in the teacher's classroom, or homework assignments, or grades. I am sure they were there, and I am sure they enhanced the experience, but they were not the focus.

Dino is 7 years old now, old enough to remember just about anything he sees or does. He is entering the 2nd grade. I don't know what exactly he will remember, but I want him to remember being, as the article I mentioned at the top says:

Being available.
Being kind.
Being compassionate.
Being transparent.
Being real.
Being thoughtful.
Being ourselves.

11 August 2014

Almost Show Time!

School starts this week!!! We intend to keep to the same school year calendar as the local public school, so that Dino will have the same days off as his friends. That way, he is not stuck "doing school" when the neighborhood kids are on break and want to play.

Unfortunately for Dino, the first day of school is going to start with a 9am dentist appointment to get some cavities filled.... But that means we will give him a very light schedule for the first day of school: The Magic School Bus videos and maybe a couple of easy worksheets once he comes out of the Nitrous Oxide fog!

I have read about some homeschooling families who have an annual celebration of their first day each year. A "not going back to school" party could include ice cream for lunch, staying in pajamas all day, or a movie day! It sounds like Dino's first day this year might set up a first-day tradition like these!

Day 2 of school will start the real daily schedule.

I sat down last evening and planned out the first couple of weeks. Dino was so excited to see all of the newly organized school supplies! He was so excited to get started that he put together a puzzle of the U.S. and started labeling a blank map with the states. Learning happens all the time, not just during school hours!

Last week, we mailed our Letter of Intent to Homeschool to the local school board Director of Pupil Personnel, as required by our state. I sent it Certified Mail so that they would have to sign for it, and I got a receipt back confirming that they received it. As a courtesy, I also sent a copy of the letter to Dino's former public elementary school so that they could remove him from his teacher assignment before school starts.

Check out all of my homeschooling posts!

04 August 2014

School Options

I have already shared how we reached our decision to Homeschool. I am so thankful that we Americans have options for educating our children as we choose.

There are three options for educating children in the U.S. - public school, private school, and home school. All have their pros and cons.
*Public school is paid for by taxes and is free for the most part, though there could be some fees, especially in high school.
+Private school is varying degrees of expensive, and you also have to pay for the consumable workbooks and possibly text purchase or rental fees.
=Home school costs as much as you want it to. There is usually a large start-up costs for textbooks, workbooks, and supplies that would normally be provided by the school, but you may be able to recoup some of the money by reselling your textbooks.
Extracurricular cost:
*+Public and private school will have fees for extracurriculars (band, sports, field trips), though there may be funding from the school or fundraisers to help offset that cost.
=Homeschool extracurriculars are paid for entirely out-of-pocket. Homeschool groups may qualify for group discount rates for field trips.
*Public schools have requirements set by the country, state, county, and local school board.
+Private schools each set their own education requirements, though there may be some state or local influence.
=Each state has its own laws for homeschool requirements, but it is an option for any family in any state. Some states require certain concepts be taught in certain grades, and some states require that you disclose your chosen curriculum.

Class size:
*Public school classrooms are typically quite large, with one teacher trying to meet the needs of 20 or more students. Our county has an ideal maximum of 22 students per class, but there are often more than that.
+Private schools typically have a smaller ideal class size, giving each student more personalized attention. They accomplish this by capping enrollment or hiring more teachers to lower the student-to-teacher ratio.
=Homeschool class size is only dependent on the number of children you choose to educate at home. You already know your own child's needs intimately, so you are able to challenge them and focus on things with them as they personally need.

*Public schools are required to take whomever they get and provide each child an equal education. (This is hard to do, no matter what school option you choose!) Children learn to play and work with other children from varying backgrounds, religions, and races.
+Private schools are allowed to be choosy about whom they accept as students, so children may not be exposed to as much diversity, but you know that they are around other families whose beliefs are similar to your own while they are young and impressionable.
=Homeschoolers obviously get the "short end of the stick" when it comes to socializing with a group of like-aged children, but in my experience, homeschooled children often have a much more diverse group of friends because their families make a point to socialize with many other families.

One thing to note is that there are also cottage schools or homeschool co-op groups in many places, which provide an option in between private and home schooling. Students meet together at least one day a week for group classes, which may be core classes (Reading, Writing, Science) or elective classes (Karate, Astronomy, Cooking, Music). These provide the students with an opportunity to learn together with other children in a classroom setting and expose the students to teaching methods other than your own, which will benefit them in the long run. Most of these utilize the parents as teachers, assistant teachers, and administrators, to keep costs down. Some of the higher grades may bring in professionals for things like advanced math classes, at a higher cost.

We may consider a one-day-a-week parent-led co-op for the Spring 2015 semester, but registration is already full for Fall 2014.

We chose to home school this school year because it is the best fit for our family right now. It will be the best way to meet Dino's needs today. We will see how it goes, and decide next year whether to continue homeschooling or make a change.

Check out all of my homeschooling posts!