Saturday, August 30, 2014

4 Resources I've Found Helpful on This Home Education Adventure!

This is not an earth shattering post by any means. I only have a year under my belt and I have many many years of home schooling ahead of me, but for some one starting out... this might be helpful!

6th grade science with my brother (middle) and future husband.
 Tuesday afternoons my Mom did "edible science" classes with us.

 That said, as a second generation home schooler, I like to think I have a bit more to carry into this than I might have other wise ... I remember what I loved about home schooling and what I wished away. I remember many hours with my siblings and how much I treasure what my Mom (and Dad) gave us: a slow childhood with them. As a matter of fact, that's the number one reason I want to home school.

my brother age 8, swinging in our back yard on a spring morning..
I want my kids to know the joy of getting to snuggle up in your own space and read the afternoon away. To play money games with their Dad on the living room floor, with REAL MONEY (big stuff when you're 6). To be surrounded by other kids who love to read and are used to doing things to the beat of their own drum too.  To spend the day exploring  parks, streams, creeks, and woods with friends (who also home school) for "P.E." days all while the class room kids were doing work sheets, standing in lines, stuck inside, only getting to talk freely and play for a few minutes at set times of the day. School isn't all bad, I went to school for several years. But I treasure the childhood I was blessed with, the slow cozy days with family. The afternoons riding bikes with my best friend (now husband) who home schooled down the street. The home-work free afternoons climbing trees like a monkey over my Mother's head ,while she read out loud on the ground below. The drama clubs, enrichment classes, music lessons 4H activities, and field studies we were free to experience with out rush. 
Okay enough rambling...   
So here is my list of 4 resources I have found invaluable in this journey of home education..
#1 I guess the number one site I have found helpful would be the Home School Review Website. If the curriculum is out there, you can probably read reviews on this site! I probably give them more traffic than I care to admit when I am geeking out over a curriculum I've just discovered.  
#2 I Read Books...Anything by John Holt, specifically  Learning All the Time 

The book also makes a great picnic snack cutting board FYI. 
I read this book back when I was pregnant with my youngest and it was fascinating and encouraging. It was also, I think, his easiest read. His obvious love for children, families, and vast experience as a teacher comes through loud and clear. His writing style is warm and interesting as he delves into how learning happens, the roots and the ends and what learning is not.  
If you're serious about home education, reading at least one of John Holts books (considered the Father of Home Schooling), will both educate and empower you.
This was also a good one, it's not just if you want to unschool.
This  is THE book I have found most helpful, and I would recommend reading if you're just starting out. Or maybe do it your way for a year, and then read it and wish you'd read it before! :D Actually the book is all about doing it your way! But it's like this more seasoned home school Mom took you out for coffee and said, "Here's what happened to us, it's a common challenge- if you hit this wall: don't throw the home schooling out with the bath water!" And then goes on to ask you challenging and helpful questions for you to evaluate both your goals as a family and the unique kids that you're teaching! She then has an action plan at the end of each chapter to help you set goals and get a strong picture of what you're doing and why! That curriculum I shared in my last post? She showed me I could do it. She also helped me remember why I wanted to do this. To really *choose* home schooling for my  kids. Not because I figured I would (but found it so much harder than I imagined), not because my husband is passionate about it too. Not because I hate the thought of my kids being away from me 40 hours a week- in my local (not stellar) public school. Not because of any lofty ideal or picture I had when I started out.
But because I looked at each child and their specific needs and I learned how to make this about relationship, not education or check lists. Alicia Kaszuc taught me that, and I am eternally grateful. Since I read that book (2 months ago?) we haven't had a single power struggle over "school", my kids are begging to dive in to what I planned, and we've been enjoying it immensely.
#3 CONNECT! I love message boards, there are several out there for home school support. The Mom's there? They are amazing resources! If all else fails, get thee self on local FB groups and home schooling message boards! Join some home schooling playdates! Playdates at parks are the best, kids are busy: moms can talk! Ask them your questions and get some answers! Ask them, read, listen! Find the older Mama's and ask them what works for them. It might not be what works for you, but knowing they're in this too, want this too, work at it too? Awesome encouraging stuff! 
#4 Go local, field trips are everywhere! Kind of in line with connecting, I always ask local people for field trip recommendations if we're heading to a new city or state. Educational opportunities and family fun are everywhere.:) 
Our trip to MayflowerII on our trip to New England during summer. Awkward family photo FTW!


School 2014-2015 Animals Animals!!

We're about to dive into our second official year of home schooling! This year I am embracing interest-lead learning by setting loose over-arching goals for each child and pulling from many resources to meet those goals.
 What will we be using?
Our theme this year is "Animals and Their Worlds" habitats and their ecosystems. I am using a lot of resources from the Winter's Promise A&TW Curriculum for K-4th grades but I have decided not to use their teachers guide. We'll be doing our own unit studies on 9 different habitats as well as a unit on the night sky and space. Our main text book resource will be from the "One Small Square" series for each Habitat. 
We're taking a "gap year" from History and focusing purely on geography in nature and science studies. My over arching goal is to use Living Books for each Habitat unit to really give us a peek into each corner of the world- some will be playful fictional books. Others will be books like Chipmunk Song to really get deeper, yet playful, real-life peeks into where and how animals live. We'll also be doing geography and reading a few fictional stories about the people who live near or in each habitat.
I am really building this as we go, and I think when we get to the end of the year I'll have built some thing really cool!
 Monday is Library and Literature day: which is really just a FREE day for planning. We'll focus on phonics (SPELLING u SEE and the "Hooked on Phonics" iPad app ) and our preschool Heart of Dakota curriculum activities (mainly our number, letter, and animal of  the week and a few Bible stories). We'll also be listening to our audio books together (most of our read aloud books will be animal themed as well, we're reading "Ribsy" by Beverly Cleary right now).
For planning I'll search key words on the library website for anything that might be fun for us to read in line with our habitat for the week. In the afternoon we'll be making a trip to the library and we'll get our books for the week. That evening I'll sit down and set loose goals for each day in line with the One Small Square Habitat study and our daily theme focus...
Maybe I should back up a bit, the true core of our curriculum is our Daily Themes:
Like I said "Monday is Library Literature Day"
Phonics and word fun is our main focus...
building letters and words!
Tuesday is Math and Life Skills Day
We created a Lego Math Game using math addition/subtraction dice and Lego blocks for manipulatives. We'll also be focusing heavily on our Math U See curriculum Tuesdays and math apps.
Wednesday is Art and Music Day
We'll be using Ed Emberley's "How to Draw Animals" it will be our main art and handwriting (Yes! Sneaky hand writing! All the animals use key letter shapes!)  resource this year. We'll use this day to create animals for our habitat dioramas, and work on filling our diorama box for the habitat unit. I think Wednesdays are going to be a favorite day, we love to craft!
 We'll also be touching on musical pieces and composers as well.
Thursday is Science and Nature Day this is the day we'll be doing "field studies" from The One Small Square and adding things to our Nature Note Book  
We'll also be going through the Rod and Staff Second Grade Science and Nature workbooks we used their fine motor and thinking skills books last year and the kids loved them!.
We'll also be reviewing our animals in the alphabet! We'll be using the DK Animal Encyclopedia (awesome!!!) and read again about the animal and add it to the ABC section of our nature notebook.
Friday is Geography and Adventure Day
We'll be reading Living Books about people who live near or in our habitats, putting stickers on our giant world map, and the afternoon will all be about getting out on an adventure... We are now proud members of our local Science center so we'll probably be heading over there on Fridays to explore the hands on exhibits and play.
I think we'll be dong pretty well with out a Teachers Guide-not missing out too much? ;)
On top of our busy mornings of learning we'll be adding in ballet and gymnastics to our week, and we have a little 2 year old Side Kick joining our days-it's going to be an interesting, busy, awesome school year!!! 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

5 Things I Learned My First Year Homeschooling

The official school year is fast approaching! Every few days I find another sweet "First Day of School" picture in my Facebook newsfeed. The fresh faces full of anticipation for the new adventure: a school year!

We've continued to do "school" all summer, settling in, enjoying slow summer days of learning together. It's been a wonderful, wonderful summer!

With all those reminders of the coming seasons change, I find myself looking back over the past year.  I wanted to verbalize the things I've learned this past year.

So here they are:

5 Things I've Learned My First Year of Home Schooling...

1. Set loose Goals.
 Before the school year begins set out a SHORT (especially if your kids are young) bullet point list of the basic age-appropriate things you hope to learn together. Last year for example,I wanted to introduce these concepts and see where my oldest landed. Some of these might be too academic for some familes, and others might find my list too simple. These were things she had expressed interest in the concepts and we worked towards it and she "got it" to varying degrees.
My list looked some thing like this:
  • count well to 100
  • by 10's 
  • by 5's 
  • understand the concept of counting to 1,000.
  • understand basic addition and subtraction.
Our goals for the rest of our curriculum were...
  • to love and enjoy reading together even more.
  • to read through the entire Bible (in general stories) from Genesis to Revelation.
  • To give her a general idea of world history and the concept of time and dates.
  • To really understand Seasons, Months, and Days
Our Seasons and Months Art Project. Our boxed curriculum had a great way for teaching Months of the years and all 3 of the kids can chant the rhyme pretty well- the littlest in her own way! :)
2. Ask any one you can what they do for school and follow a few homeschooling sites on FB.
This is a pretty personal one. All personalities are different and another homeschooling Mama might find this completely AWFUL. This is just my preference, I like to know about ALL the options, have a general sense of what they are, and be able to evaluate on a gut level if they'd be a good fit for one of my kids.
I have a binder that I call "All the Things Learning" and I have a section of the Binder that is just for this information. I have a plain piece of note book paper with each curriculum or resource I find as the title. I fill the page with bullet point snippets about the curriculum (from websites and online reviews). I may never use the curriculum, but if I wrote a lot about it I probably hope to! And it's there when I'm circling around to a new school cycle and am weighting my options for each child.

For *me* this is helpful. I don't find it overwhelming and I tend to only keep detailed information on curriculums that really catches my fancy. There are probably about a hundred times that one click on the website told me it wasn't a good fit, and I only wrote it on a list of "math curriculum options" or whatever. A glance at a website can often quickly tell you if it's worth any time for your child.

3. Just DO IT. 
You don't have to know all the curriculum out there. You don't even need to have a curriculum. Set some loose goals, and search (google and pinterest are handy!) for ways to make it fun and relationship building.

4. Know your child...Guiding them to Discovery brings JOY!
This is probably my favorite part of homeschooling. These are my favorite people, and discovering what interests them and what doesn't adds this beautiful dimension to life together. I want my kids to be interested and invested in whatever we're learning together.
This year we were using Heart of Dakota "Little Hearts for His Glory" and it was great! I loved it! It was open and Go and I would advise any first time homeschooler to get a "all in one" home school curriculum.
*Not because you'll use it all.
*Not because it will enable you to teach all the things it says your child will learn.
*Not because it is the best way to home school.

None of that was true here! But it gave us an awesome baseline. It said "this is what you can introduce to your child today...give it a shot!"

A lot, I discovered, my kids didn't like. They didn't want to do handwriting. They disliked some of the hands on activities, they looooved others!! They disliked math work sheets or being given a big thick book full of un-done work (one piece of paper please!). I learned a hundred more things about how they learn, what works best and all with in the frame work of that all in one homeschool curriculum.

We made paint together and learned about mixing colors...

We took a field trip together to a local Museum and got a hands on look at local History
I discovered SO much, and I am so glad for the experience. I also learned an "all inclusive" curriculum isn't a good fit for us right now. We need eclectic! We need to be interested! We need to be asked "what do you want to learn this week?" and then head off to the library, youtube, pinterest, and google to discover what's out there on the subject!

Which brings me to my next and final "thing I learned"...

5. There is no right way to homeschool...or unschool!
It's completely individual. The awesome and awful part -as with all things in parenting- you just have to dive in and figure out what's right for your family. Read books about it. Ask older home school Mom's to hear what they're doing and what their kids have enjoyed.  Also, home schooling doesn't have to be any thing like a class room.
 For many kids and parents learning together isn't going to involve a straight path of objectives and check marks. Learning is cyclical. It's a spiral. You introduce a concept, you find creative ways to help them practice new skills. It's holistic, you're working with a whole human being here, with many other areas of life they're growing in as well. Some months new math skills aren't going to be a good thing to investigate. If it's not working, if there is refusal to get involved, if there is upset over a subject...Step back! Ask yourself, "Do they HAVE to know this NOW to survive?"
 Learning happens, really happens, when the person is wanting to learn and invested in the knowledge. No one wants to grow up and be ignorant! Just like they learned to walk, and feed themselves, and talk- they'll do it! We all want to  know things.
Balancing the "they need to know this now" pressures from the outside can be tricky. "Does your 6 year old really need to know how to write perfectly and tidily, NOW? Maybe playing some letter shape games together with chalk or on a chalk board would be a better use of hand writing practice time. It doesn't have to fit in a box, learning is learning...and it is only learning if it is really LEARNED. :)
hand writing practice: playing Doc McStuffins together...She'd copy the words or sound out her own when it came to writing the "Diagnosis" in the Big Book of Booboo's. :)

Okay I lied, there's a #6
6. Challenge yourself.
What do you want to learn more about? Are there novels you've never tried to read before? Time periods you'd like to discover? Take some time to educate yourself, for fun! It really really is fun, and it is probably the most rewarding part of home education: you get hungry for knowledge too!

Next Post! 4 Resources I found helpful to me as a Mom on this learning Adventure...

Thursday, August 14, 2014!

I am writing this to say, more to come soon! The writing bug has bitten, and I have some things to share... soon!


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Vanilla Honey Tea Time Macaroons

I found a recipe in one of those free for kindle cook books. The weird thing was, when I mixed them up? They were terrible. The consistency was impossible, dry and crumbly and we were obviously heading for a huge baking fail. It was one of those moments when you have to ask if the authors of those books even attempt the recipes before publishing. So I got creative and I think *my* end results were amazing.

2 Cups unsweetened shredded coconut*
2 eggs
1/4-1/3c honey*
1tsp vanilla
1T coconut flour
A pinch of baking soda

* if you use sweetened coconut reduce honey to 1T
*I like them less sweet but if you prefer a pronounced sweetness go for more honey.


1. In mixing bowl combine eggs, honey, vanilla, flour and soda- mix well... mix  in the coconut.

2. **on parchment paper** covered cookie sheet press cookies into firm mounds and pat down into a flat cookie. This is probably the most labor intensive part of these cookies, they are quite loose and messy. But they bake into a nice non-crumbly cookie. They don't spread while baking, so what you put in is what comes out. The firmer you press them the more macaroony they'll be.

Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes (until bottom edges are golden brown and tops don't look liquid or squish when you gently tap them.

Enjoy with some Tea and some Read Aloud Time.
 (slurping spilled tea off the table optional)
4yar olds...sigh.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Grain-Free Savory Mini Burgers

One thing about this grain free adventure has been trying to balance our clean eating (we try to only consume organic meat and dairy products) with the budget. This gets tricky in a family of 5...The kids eat more individually at each meal than my husband and I do!

Thankfully, we are blessed to have easy access to abundant options when it comes to free range and grass fed meats-especially important with our youngest who has corn allergies. But how to prepare it? These Savory Mini burgers stretch to about 24 burgers from 1pound of ground beef! I used to make meat loaf with gf oatmeal... it always used an egg in the recipe and it kind of lead to some experiments in how to stretch a pound of hamburger to feed several people.

  • 1 pound hamburger 
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 T shredded onion
  • 2 cloves garlic minced or pressed
  • 1/3 C shredded *unsweetened* coconut*
  • 3 dashes of chili powder (1/2-1tsp)
  •  1T of ketchup
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1/8tsp black pepper
* another option would be to use 3/4 cup of cauliflower that's been put through the food processor so it's finely ground and sauté in butter or refined )coconut oil for 5minutes.

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and knead together thoroughly. Add 1-2T oil to skillet and add meat to hot pan in small meatball sized portions. Press down into burgers when you flip them.

Serves 6-8 approx. 24burgers
Prep Time 5minutes
Cook time: 20?

They're delicious on their own or dipped in sweet and sour cranberry dipping sauce (recipe coming soon!), spicy mustard, or (my kids preference) organic (HFCS free) ketchup.

Sides: oven baked French fries!
Or pan fried Sweet potatoes with drizzled maple syrup and cinnamon.
I often add some roasted kale chips or broccoli for some greens.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sweet Chilli Hash Stew

It was one of those, "what do I Maaake???" Sunday afternoons. I threw stuff in the chefs pot and Sweet Chilli Hash was the result.

This was a delicious sweet and gently spicy stew. It got 2 giant thumbs up from my normally picky 4 year old. She and the 2 year old had 2 big bowls each!!! I really think some of the secret to it's success was the sweet and spicy pasta sauce from Wegman's...checkout their ingredients to find some thing similar! 


Sweet Chilli Hash Stew
By H. Burgett
1 pound ground beef
1 LARGE Sweet Potato (diced)
4-5 medium russet potatoes (diced)
1 medium/large onion (chopped)
2-4 cloves garlic (minced) 
1 23oz jar of Spicy-ish Pasta Sauce (I use THIS from Wegman's)
3-4 dashes of chilli powder
2tsp sea salt

We use coconut oil for our cooking oil. In large skillet or wok brown beef until nearly cooked, add  oil (if beef is lean) and  potatoes (both kinds), onions, garlic, salt.

Toss potatoes occasionally for about 10minutes if potatoes stick (we don't use non-stick pans) pan add 1/4c of water and loosen with stirring.

Put lid on and cook for 15minutes stirring often.

Add jar of sauce and dashes of chilli powder  stir well... allow to simmer (stirring often) until potatoes seem soft (5-10minutes).

8-10 servings (depending on the crowd)

Option 2: I also browned the beef, sauted all the ingredients but the tomato sauce a bit and then threw it in the croc pot, mixed in the sauce, and left it to cook on low for 5-8 hours.