Thursday, December 13, 2012


Wow, the school year is nearly half over and I haven't posted much.  It's been an interesting few months so I never did get a good schedule in place.  After Thanksgiving break, the teacher was wiped out from travels and didn't want to get up in the mornings.  We got a little lazy needless to say.  Now we are getting back to a better routine.
I got a new phone and this nice little feature "Siri" is handy for getting things done.  I've set timers before, but something about pressing a button and saying, "Set timer for 15 minutes," makes a bigger impact and her response, "15 minutes and counting."  Lets them know that we are counting time down.  I originally was going to not give them points for incomplete work at the end of the timer, but changed it to taking away their stickers.  If they accumulate 20-25 stickers depending on how many squares I draw on the index card, they earn a trip to the prize box.  It is a great incentive.  Now, if I can tell they've been working the entire time, but couldn't complete a task, I give them "grace" and reset the timer for a time limit that I think is reachable.  So far its working for us.
Another thing that I'm using for school this year is a Pinterest idea.  The idea was Walmart plastic plates, but I bought a serving tray from Target for a buck or two.  I write the date and weather and assignments for the kids.  We erase the completed items or put an x through them as the day goes on.  It is pretty cool.  I've done different things with the arrangement.  Today, we have bubbles and the kids "pop" the bubble when they are done with that task.  I clean it with Windex at the end of the week, but dry erase it during the week.

Sample day on our white board tray.

12 days until Christmas!  Shall we sing the song???

Here's what's on the agenda for next week!!!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Academic Honesty

Most schools have a policy on academic honesty.  I applaud this because it does teach and enforce a great principle.  I know that the biggest portion of these policies are about plagiarism and while we are in the beginning phases of creative writing, plagiarism is not a big problem here at our little school.
We've had an incident where my son drew clock faces for my daughter on her math work and she turned it in.  It was hilarious because he drew 2 of them incorrectly and she did poorly on that assignment.  That is how we found out about the cheating.  We made him research plagiarism, she didn't get credit for the work and he had to write a report about cheating and plagiarism so that he knew what it meant.  So far I haven't caught them trying to pull that one again.
Calculators have been an issue for us recently.  I bought the neat little $1 calculators for the kids before school because sometimes the math book asks them to pull one out and I don't always like them using the one on my phone.  Well, now that we all have our own calculator, we think it's important to be able to use them.  No, I'm sorry, but you need to know what 11-7 equals.  Not gonna happen!!!
So I didn't really plan to write a blog about my kids' errors, but about the temptations for me.  I think as a Homeschool Mom it is really hard to see my kids do poorly on an assignment.  Sometimes, if one of my children miss a whole section, I feel like they must not understand it and I give them a new teaching and have them redo the section.  I think other teachers do the same thing.
At first, if one of the kids skipped a problem, I would give it back to them and point it out, but lately it's occurring more because they are trying to get done quicker so they can have a longer recess.  I'm gritting my teeth as I grade the paper and just mark it wrong because life doesn't always let us get by with sloppy work. My kids are getting mostly A's in their classes and so I have to double check myself and make sure that I'm being honest in their grades and not being a doting mother, but a honest teacher.  So far this school year I've done well.  I'm giving examples that are not answers to the questions in their books.  I'm not giving lenience for things that are obviously wrong.  It's tougher than it seems.
Yesterday, though, my son had a math test and was instructed in writing to order the group of numbers from greatest to least.  He came and asked me if he was to do the whole group or one line at a time.  I looked at it and told him it was line by line and he needed to put the smallest number first and then the next and the next until each number on the line was written out.  Well that is not what the instructions said and he obeyed me.  I gave him credit for the whole section because he correctly did as I told him even though by the test book, he was completely backward.  On the same test, he skipped 4 problems randomly and I did count them wrong.  It was so hard to put in the grade book that he made an 83% on his test when he usually scores 90 or above.  He is still getting an A in the class and yes, even good students sometimes get a bad score now and again.
I think my worst temptation to be dishonest was on my daughter's science daily work.  She is supposed to read a section the book and answer a few simple questions.  I don't mind helping her find answers if she's struggling because this is a new concept for her in second grade.  She didn't have to do this independently last year.  Well, there were only 3 questions and my grade book is an Excel spreadsheet that keeps grades by percentage rather than points.  She missed 2 out of 3 giving her a 33% on that assignment.  Yikes!  I don't want my baby girl to have bad grades!  It was an actual score and it was accurate.  I think she was more interested in the kitty that day than her assignments and she deserved the grade.  Her grade book does have that score.  Really in the long run she's still getting an A in science and it didn't bother her nearly as much as it bothered me.
My goal is to have my children succeed in life and not just have a piece of paper saying that they passed each grade.  I don't want to give them undeserved scores.  I don't want to pass over things that they don't understand either.  A bad grade just means we need to revisit that topic and that is the beauty of homeschooling.  We CAN!  Both of my children have an education plan that will allow them to master each concept that they encounter at their expected level of understanding and I get to be a part of it.  I love it!  Though it's hard to type in a grade that is really bad, I do know that my honesty is really for their good.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

We Are Still Here

Well, as much as I planned and planned for this school year, I could never plan for our life events.  I knew the start day of school and curriculum and students, though.  Yes, we did start on time, but family events have taken all of my extra time.  I'm just popping in to try to get back to normal again.  As time goes by and the intensity of the situation is much less, I may elaborate some day.  For now, I can say there's been a shift and our family unit of 4 is still in tact and growing stronger daily.  We have seen God at work all around us and He is mighty and amazing!!!
We are in the middle of week 5 of school.  There is so much to say about this school year already and little time to do so.  I am loving our curriculum choices that I mentioned in our last post.  I am going to order the newer versions of Learning Language Arts through Literature for next year, though.  I am ending up making my own workbook type pages almost every night and that is getting tiring.  That is kind of the price I paid for "free" books.  The cost will be less than $50 per kid and I will reuse the teacher book for my youngest in a few years.
We forgot to take first day of school pictures.  We forgot to mark our height on our measuring stick.  We haven't gotten a chance to go on a field trip yet or family vacation, but we are learning and loving!  The beauty of home school is that we can be flexible and missed opportunities can turn in to lessons.  I like to have things a particular way and not getting my way all the time is valuable for me as well to know Who is really in control.  Can chaos be an answer to prayer?  YES!  The best part about it is, that we get to see God at work as He brings chaos into order.  That's been His gig from the beginning of the world.
Today's family lesson was unplanned, but very valuable for us.  In health we've been talking about feelings and being a friend.  We had a fun class to learn how to actively listen.  We mirrored each other and I role-played a bad listener and a good listener.  We were all enjoying that part, but when we sat down to discuss why we did the role plays, my kids laid on the floor, started kicking each other and it was as if I hadn't been teaching them how to listen.  I tried to gather their attention and then dropped the books on the floor to get a bang sound.  It was intense for a few minutes.  I left the room for a few minutes and prayed.  I came back with the solution which escalated the tension too.  I made the kids take out their journals and write a page with complete sentences on what it means to listen and how we can become better listeners.  My kids both hate writing in their journals and doing creative writing.  Well, after another 30 minute or so meltdown and calls to Daddy, they successfully wrote in their journals in their own style and we could move on with the day.  This has turned into a great day for our other lessons and now I have a new and creative way of discipline for during the school day.
Now if my kids start to enjoy writing in their journals I won't be able to use it as punishment, but I will be happy because it will be another obstacle that is overcome.   By the end of the page, both of my kids were proud of how much they wrote and said that it was pretty easy so maybe this detest for writing will soon be over.  Obviously I am not lacking for words.
Hello 2012-2013 school year!  We are going to get through this with great results!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ready, Set ... Not YET!

I've been so excited for school to start and I feel like a race car revving its engine to start a race that doesn't actually start for a few more days.  In our case a few more weeks.  We have a few family trips that we want to take and I don't want to get all of our ducks in a row, leave for three days, come back and get set up again and leave for four days and then really start.  Sooooo... we wait.
I know how impatient I am when I see it in my kids too.  Well, I have a hard time with Christmas and birthdays, but school?  YES!  I love school!  I bought a teacher's plan book over Memorial Day weekend on a shopping trip with my mom and I couldn't have it just sit around.  As soon as I got the last of our curriculum in a little over a month ago, I began to plan my first month of school.  I then had to just put it down.  I feel sorry for people who have come to my house for a visit because I pull out one book or another to show them.  I anticipate this more than I ever anticipated a paying job.  I think there are 2 main reasons for that.  First of all I get to teach my favorite kids in the entire world.  Second, I get to learn with them about some things.
This time I even have the teacher manuals for every class so I don't have to overextend myself and do the same work as both kids.  I found a character curriculum by the name of KONOS that I plan to use as a supplement.  It can be used as a primary curricula, but I have too much other stuff in the works too.  My mom had an art book by A Beka Books that she never used for my siblings and I will use that for this year.  Math was tough.  We were doing Everyday Mathematics which I think is a good program, but I don't want to pay $500 per kid to teach it.  The teacher manuals are the expensive part of this program and for 2 kids, it just didn't seem worth it.  No 2 math programs are the same either, so we went with Horizon's Math by Alpha Omega Publications.  It seems to be the best transition program for my kids for the money.  It was also my most expensive subject, but I think it will be worth it in the end.  We still have Horizon's Health from last year that we will continue.  It is not a required subject, so I'm spreading one book out over 2 years.  Being a nurse, I think I can manage any extra discussions we need to have.
Language Arts is a subject that I really enjoyed in elementary school.  Both of my kids got a great using A Beka curriculum, but especially my daughter didn't like the repetition once she mastered a task.  I found "Learning Language Arts Through Literature," by Common Sense Press and I like it so far.  I just hope the kids do.  My second grader has gone through a lot of the second grade things, but not much of the third grade things, so we're starting in the middle of the red book which is for second grade.  As soon as she masters it we will move up to yellow.  My 4th grader is just at the right level for his orange book and I'm excited about the approach they take with spelling.  We tried it for a few weeks last year and it really suited his learning style better.
Since we believe in Divine Creation of the world and all that is in it, I wanted to go to a place that specializes in creation science.  While the Institute for Creation Research is an awesome place, they don't offer a full science program, only a supplement.  We've chosen to go with Answers in Genesis and only bought one set this year.  We'll do the other 3 if we like this one.  It is designed for multiple ages so it will fit well in our family.  They do a lot of comparing world views to Biblical views and I like that.  I said I was excited to learn too, well this is one of those things I'm excited to learn about.
We're doing a government pack from about elections and I'm teaching the ukelele and piano and guitar and clarinet to the kids as time allows and their interest sparks.  If they really start showing skill and dedication to one particular instrument, I will work on getting lessons for them at a higher skill level than I have, but for now basic will do.  My gracious neighbor has made tapes from his record collection for us for music appreciation too.  We do swimming, baseball, bike riding and running for PE, I'm planning on keeping a better log of this this time.
Lastly, the subject I'm most excited to study with my kids will be history.  We're using The Story of the World for this portion of our day.  I'm super excited about this four years of study.  I hated history when I was young for some unknown reason, but now I want to know more.  Since I spend so much time right now doing things for my kids, it seems like history study for myself would be a burden.  So while this choice of curriculum may be a bit selfish, they do have an awesome program and a great workbook with exciting extra activities that I'm sure my kids will enjoy.
Did I mention that I'm excited to begin?  Well, truth be known, I've always enjoyed opening at least one gift on Christmas Eve.  We've actually done one lesson in each subject already.  Not like a whole school day worth of work, but we have done a few hours here and there for the last few weeks as sort of an appetizer.  So far the only complaints I've gotten are for Language Arts because of the written work that is necessary.  This was actually intentional as well.  My kids need a push in creative writing and any kind of writing.  Computers make people lazy in writing skills.  ... just my opinion ...  I want to work on disciplined penmanship and cursive writing as an art form.  I also see my kids come up with imaginative play and I know that if I can tap that in their writing skills, they will probably amaze me.  I'm hoping that I've found just the ticket.
Sorry for such a long and boring post, but I'm excited!

Sunday, May 20, 2012


We successfully completed our first semester at Life Song Academy on May 11, 2012.  A whole week early!  Yahoo!  I have to put the final 2 days' grades in the computer and print of a grade card for our records. I'm very proud of my kids!  We ended the year with all A's and 1 B between the two of them.  The B was within 1/2 percent of an A and really, I told them that A's aren't the most important thing in the world.  They're exciting to earn, but the most important part is that they learned something.
Our final day of school consisted of a Chronicles of Narnia marathon where we watched the 3 movies put out by Disney and had a cousin who just graduated from preschool join us.  Then we did a math assessment to check for readiness for our new math curriculum that I'm ordering for next year.  They cried about the test and during the test because they thought they couldn't do the work.  They actually took the exact same exams a month before this and each passed with low passing scores.  We worked on their problem areas since we are switching curricula and I really want them to be ready for next year.  After all the fuss, they finished the assessments with 94/102 and 90/100.  I think they just wanted to be done with brain work.
This past week has been refreshing to me and the house is clean again except our classroom.  I kind of fell back on housekeeping as we put in extra long mom-intensive school days to get done a week early.  I really want to organize the classroom differently, but am not sure how to do it yet.  The kids have each read a few books and are ready for the library's summer reading program.  I might take a break from blogging until I prepare for next year or I might come up with some ideas or post our summer activities.  I guess that's for us all to find out.
I'm excited to start our next year with curriculum that I think will fit well with my kids and I will have teacher's manuals to help me!!!  YAY!
Until next time!

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Lesson in the Making

Yes there is a lesson in making things that we don't always see.  We need to use our right brains!  I think that is how we will eventually be able to apply what we learn with our left brains.  I'm by no stretch an expert in this, but it's just a hunch.  I just think too much left brain will not allow us to find solutions that to problems like, "if there's no door in the room, how do we get out?"  Some people could not say, "Through the window." or anything like that.  
So for us, even a project that turns out poorly, we try to learn something anyway.  Today, we were doing the hairdryer/crayon art that I've seen posted on Pinterest and many-a-blog.  I am not one who likes to copy a project in every way, so we developed a new way to do this.
This picture or one like it can be purchased on Etsy where I snagged it from.  

Well.... it didn't turn out the same, but we learned a few things.  Here is what we did.

First I took a few tools: Hair Dryer, Broken Crayons, Tape, and Paper.

The kids watched me make an example.  I taped a crayon to my paper and began with the hair-dryer.  I guess I didn't tape the crayon at first and realized that it was a mistake.  It blew across the table at first.  So after it began to melt, I removed the tape and stuck another one beside it.  I then realized that glue would be a good thing, so I started gluing crayons to the paper.  I used 6 crayon pieces approximately 1 inch long plus a small crayon chip that was about 1/4 inch long.  I told the kids to start gluing crayon pieces to their papers as I created my masterpiece.  Our paper is 18 inches x 12 inches.  There are no before pics, but after I looked at my kids' pictures with more than 20 crayon pieces on each paper, I decided we needed to modify our method. 
I turned on the oven to 220 degrees F not because it was a special formula, but that is where the dial landed when I stopped turning it.  I didn't want to bake the paper, so I left it at this low temp.  When the projects were ready, I popped them in the oven.  The first one was a mess!  The colors started running together and the 3 boats on the ocean were no longer, but one stream of blah was in the center.  Sister bear said that she didn't want hers to melt together like that so we took it out shortly after the first one.
We brought the projects to the table and began with the hair dryer and the most interesting colors were popping from beneath my son's picture.  It looked like fire to him so we began to create a fire picture.  "Smoke on the Water."  Well, not really, but we turned the picture sideways and it looks pretty cool.  Like a burning ship.

Brother's burning ship picture.
I just love the texture from the wax of the crayons.  Sis said that hers looks like wind on the flowers.  Since she wanted the flowers to remain in tact to a point, I tried not to mess them up with the blowdryer.  Her butterfly is a bit deranged, but I still think her picture turned out to be pretty neat too.

Sissy's picture of flowers, a butterfly and a cloud.
 Practical lessons were learned today.  If we ever are to repeat this project we need to use smaller bits of crayon.  The glue was a good way to hold the crayon in place.  Also, the wax melts through the paper and so my pan turned out a little messed up, but it is an easy fix.  I rarely use the cookie sheet without aluminum foil or silicone or parchment anyhow, so the non-toxic crayons shouldn't be a problem.

All in all the biggest problem was too much crayon makes a big mess.

Life Lesson.  Too much of something, even good things can ruin the big picture.  Not to the point where it is unable to be salvaged, but the picture will never be the same.  God has painted the picture of us and we do many things over the course of our lives which rearrange the colors and the patterns.  The picture is still beautiful in God's eyes and he still loves it because He created it. In the end, if we've allowed the master artist to keep painting and perfecting our mess ups, our life-portraits will truly be masterpieces.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Fieldtrip Journal

Just a shot bragging momma post.  I ask the kids to write in their "field trip journals" when we go somewhere.  Today we experienced prairie days at our local museum and my 3rd grader decided to make a tipi as was demonstrated by the volunteers.  I gave him the supplies that he asked for and he did this one entirely on his own.  A job well done!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Spring Fever

... Oh I've got it bad!  Thankfully we've had a few outings to keep us from going crazy.  The weather has been so beautiful that we hate being cooped up and I think I'm worse than the kids.  We went to the local museum of art and history on Monday and found out about an activity for children on Friday which sounds fabulous.  We've been invited to participate in the afternoon.  I need to teach the kids about the Homestead Act in the morning to prepare for our afternoon.  Gets rid of the mundane for sure.
We missed ukulele lessons earlier and will miss them tomorrow, but I think that's something we will work on through the summer to keep some form of schedule for us.  We've enrolled in 4H as well just in time to do a project for the County Fair.  We have baseball that we'll find out more about shortly as well.  As for the rest of our summer plans, I am just waiting on the Lord to lay them out for us.
BOOK IT! is taking enrollment for Home Schools now and we got ourselves signed up on the first day.  I've been giving the kids punch cards for their reading and they so love reading now that they wouldn't need the reward, but I love encouraging them in this way.  It will be nice to give them a reward that I don't have to pay for and yet they will enjoy!  GO PIZZA HUT!
We've put in enough hours in the last few weeks that we've knocked 2 1/2 days off the calendar, so done day is May 16th.  Then we get a party and program at church that night where the kids present their work to the parents.  Double good day!

After our group prayer on the National Day of Prayer 2012.
Brother did not want his picture to be taken.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Art Today, Health Tomorrow

We all are so excited about our art lesson today.  We got a library book called, Arty Facts: Our Bodies & Art Activities.  Since we are studying the human body in health class, I thought this was appropriate.

An example of how the book is laid out.  

Tomorrow we will learn about our lungs so today we made working bellows.  We didn't have the exact materials but we had a pizza box for cardboard, paint, paintbrushes, glitter glue, fabric and a hot glue gun with glue sticks.  I won't go tutorial here because I don't want to commit plagiarism, but there are some pics from my phone I will share.
Tomorrow we will have a health lesson on lungs so we'll be able to use our own bellows' to enhance the lesson.  I don't always take the opportunity to do these projects, but it is projects like these that the kids will remember.
My daughter has so much glitter glue on her bellows pieces that it may be tomorrow before I can put it together.  We've been playing with the camouflage one and it is really cool!

Getting Started.  She wanted pink and purple.  He wanted camouflage.
Adding a little more detail.
His finished product.

Her finished product.
Here they are together.  This is so far one of our favorites!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Fruit of the Spirit Collage

This morning in devotions we learned about the Fruit of the Spirit.  It was art day today and I had planned to do something with this stack of magazines that keeps growing.  At the last minute I decided to make collages for the Fruit of the Spirit.  Both kids know the God Rocks' Fruit of the Spirit song, so this just was more of a thought provoking lesson.
I asked them to think about what each of the fruit meant and to find a picture for that fruit.  I typed up each "fruit" word in a different font.  Copy and paste so each word is on the paper 2 times.  Print!


I gave each child a piece of orange card stock.  It is what I have on hand.  They took their scissors, the regular copy paper with these words, magazines and a glue stick and this is what they created.  I actually don't have a lot of magazines, but I get tons of Oriental Trading catalogs and I started hanging on to them for projects like these.  We also get farming catalogs and I've started to save them as well. 

My son's version
My daughter's version

It was a fun project.  My first grader lost her focus and needed to be redirected a couple of times.  All in all, it was good and took about 30-45 minutes to complete.

Friday, April 20, 2012

4 weeks left

We have 4 weeks left of school for the semester.  We are going to make it!  We've all decided that we love Home Schooling and want to continue next year.  Our new format has really improved our outlook and we've had very easy-going days.
I think we're starting to get cabin fever a bit.  When the sun is shining through the windows and the kids go outside with me in the morning to water the garden or do other chores or recess, they really want to get back outside.  I don't blame them. Our attention spans, yes "our," are shorter than normal, but things are still going fairly smoothly.
We finished the Chronicles of Narnia series today.  We had 4 chapters left so I told the kids that if they got their seatwork done by 11, then we would read the rest of the book.  Success!  Nothing like a little motivation.  Now I need to find something else to read to them for the next 4 weeks.  I have "Little House on the Prairie" and "Little House in the Big Woods" by Laura Ingles Wilder.  I think we might just do those. My kids love to be read to.  They also like to read out loud to me and I like that too. It is a rush in the mornings to decide who gets to read our Bible verses before each devotional in the mornings.
There are several new concepts that my son is supposed to learn in Math and I just don't feel like doing them.  We are switching curriculum for Math next year and these things aren't even covered until 5th grade in the new curriculum, and he's going into 4th.  There are a few things that were taught in 3rd grade that we didn't cover, though, so I'm doing supplemental pages to cover them, like reducing fractions and simple addition and subtraction of fractions.  He likes his math lessons.
Most of the concepts for My first graders are just reinforced now and she says, "I have to do this again!  I'm bored with it!"  Dropping the e to add a suffix or doubling the end consonant before adding suffix.  I know it bores her, but she doesn't always get them right when the rule is not spelled out in the directions, so we plug along.  I think her only real "new" concept is contractions, but she caught on quickly.  I don't know the true rule or a cute rhyme with it since I don't have the teacher book, so I just tell her to put the apostrophe where the letter(s) are missing and shove the 2 words together.  She is noticing contractions in her free reading time too.  I love this discovery time for both kids.
Oh ... the unexpected lesson of the week was last Saturday evening.  The kids wanted to watch the sunset, so we went for a drive.  There is some land South of town that has been in my husbands family for about 100 years and his aunt owns it now, but its abandoned.  We drove there to watch the stormy sky and the sunset. We wandered around the old farmstead and Daddy told us where the house use to sit and the grainery still had grain in it.  We were learning a lot.  We walked up to a barn and heard a mysterious noise. My daughter yells, "Dad, that's a snake."  You bet it was!  He immediately jumped back and found that He had been between 1 and 2 feet from a rattlesnake.  It was thicker than a 50 cent piece and  2-3 feet long, but coiled.  We all stepped back and kept our distance.  Daddy took a long stick and disturbed the boards in the barn so we could hear it rattle again.  We all now know how to identify the sound and appearance of rattlesnakes.  When we got home we watched a few videos online about rattlesnake and discussed how to deal with encounters and attacks by rattlesnakes.  First Aid was a little different than I thought even.  You don't cut where the bite is, but can try to suck out the venom through the bite itself.  We definitely counted that as school and it is useful information to have when you live where we do.

The Rattlesnake

Friday, April 13, 2012

Art class

We had been so bogged down by lack of organization that we often left out a favorite class.  ART!  I hate to skip this because I love art.  With our new schedule format I scheduled art weekly and today is a reward for all of us.
I am finishing off this year with the misc projects I had bought for the kids but never found time to work on.  In the mean time I'm saving butter tubs syrup bottles, egg cartons and such so we have a good supply for cheap projects.  Pinterest has many great ideas but I dispose of all our waste.  I hate junk lying around.
As we start upcycling projects, I will post them with links to instructions.  In the rare occasion I come up with my own project, I'll try to do a tutorial.  I'm excited about that!
Today, I have plaster-like horses and craft paint for them to use in red, yellow, blue and white.  The horses were in a kit from a dollar-type store but the paints were all dried out.  Kids are having a great time!

Getting Started!
He's doing a nice job with the details.
"I made pink!"

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Best Day Ever!

My daughter has a habit of saying, "This is the best day ever!"  Sometimes she also says, "This is the worst day ever!"  I like that she continues to call a day the best because that means improvement/progress.  The worst days are usually when she just doesn't obey from the start.  I don't like those days either.  Coming off the holiday weekend, we did have a bit of a rocky start this morning, but things quickly turned around and in the end I told my kids that this was the best day ever at LSA.
What made this happen?  I've previously written about finding our pattern and it has been hard to do.  Now with 6 weeks remaining, I think I'm finding a good groove.  I've discovered this in Sunday School and Children's church teaching as well: When the teacher is well-prepared, the class runs more smoothly.  Today at LSA, the teacher was well prepared.  I've been looking over the many different teacher planning pages and most require lots of paper and ink for printing and others require a purchase of a book that only half has what I want.  Then from within me I hear, "Use what you've got."  OK, what do I have.  I looked at my phone apps computer programs and realized that I had been using Outlook's calendar for my planning when I was working as a director of nursing.  I have outlook on my computer and haven't used it since my primary email account is now web-based.  I opened it up and planned this week out by half-hour segments on my Outlook Calendar.  I know they offer similar calendars through gmail and yahoo and other sites.  I just have never used one to its full potential.
I might not stick to this in detail, but it gives me a more organized look at my day.  I really do better if things are more concretely organized and I found today that when I am organized concretely, my kids feed off of that and we all have a better experience.  Each home school parent must find a system that works for him or her or the end of each day will seem to have a feel of defeat.  Outlook calendars may not work for everyone, but since I've been to workshops on how to make Outlook work for me, I feel very comfortable with it.  I'm glad to use it in this setting too.
Now that I've given a lot of credit to my new system of organizing, I really need to rewind a bit too.  I went thrift store shopping to prepare for our family Seder meal. One local store is owned by a great Christian family and in it I found a devotional book.  One Year Book of Devotions For Kids book 3.  I've been reading  each day from this book since last Friday and this morning we started our school day with this and prayer.  I have not been consistent with time to start or praying before we begin and really feel that doing this will turn the direction of our school days.
The portion of the teacher being prepared for each school day is not made irrelevant by the devotional to start the day, but it actually is validated by this.  If I am spiritually prepared for my school day with my kids, it makes a huge difference as well.  We haven't arrived at "Home School Family of the Year" by any means, but we're getting better at what we do and that is a good thing!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Holidays, Weekends and Time Off

This was Resurrection Weekend and Passover week.  Many also celebrate Easter. Why do I differentiate?  Well, many people celebrate eggs and bunnies while others celebrate Resurrection and others Passover and others all 3 or 2 of 3.  That is not the point of this post, so I'll spare you our convictions.
Time off from school is a wonderful thing and sometimes a detrimental thing for us. As we go back to school after time off, our routine is all messed up.  Our drive is decreased and attention spans as well.  Part of me wants to just go to school 5 days a week no matter what.  Actually we can because school can be just as much a celebration as a work day.
As I have said in previous posts, we have patterned our school schedule after our previous Christian school and they got a 4 day weekend this weekend and so do we. We did family celebrations for the holidays on Friday and Saturday, so we had a school field trip on Sunday.  We ended up with 8 hours of school over the weekend which is fantastic!  We're behind on hours and so catching up on a few was necessary.
I find that if we turn a moment into a teachable moment, we can count it as school. I just log what we did in the activity section of our grade book.
One thing I learned from being a nurse is that if it is not documented, it was not done.  HAHAHA!  Well I did a lot of things that didn't get documented because when you shave a comatose woman's legs just because you know she'd appreciate it, and it took your documentation time, you only chart what the government thinks is important like medicines, bath or no bath, and vital signs.  I see a parallel in home school.  If we are audited, they want to see the paper portion of our school days. They want to see our hours spent on school and an activity log to account for those hours.  They don't need to see lesson plans or that you spent 30 minutes cuddling with your son who cried because the new math concept seems too hard.
So while we don't have official school on the "days off" I still log that we went to Sunday School and children's church and library time and I am actually thinking about logging today's lesson in the activity log as well.  On Mondays we haul the laundry hampers from all over the house down to the laundry room and sort lights and darks.  Just because it wasn't a school day doesn't mean chores cease.  Well today's tasks took longer than normal because my daughter has made my son feel insecure of his sorting skills and today it was his turn.  We had a lesson on sorting and folding and what to do with laundry.  It is a life skill that 1st and  3rd graders in normal school often don't learn.  Well it is not in the curriculum and if other parents are like me, they feel guilty about all of the school hours the kids are gone and don't give them "big" chores because they need a break in the evenings.
While I may seem like a task master by my lessons today, I will also confess that I've allowed the kids to spend several hours playing video games today.  That is a special treat for them.  They helped in the garden and the kitchen and in the laundry, but they've been very cooperative and I can't complain.  I love my kids!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Division My Way

My son is expected to do word problems where division is required, but his math book doesn't cover division in 3rd grade.  I don't like him using a calculator in math, but the division is more difficult than 12  :  3 = 4.
I started to teach him to do division problems and then looked for tutorials and could not find the method that I made up for him.  I wanted what he was doing to make sense so I explained it this way.  It turns out to be about the same amount of work as some of the other methods I've found, but it made sense to us.  I just thought I'd share it in case someone struggling with long division wants to try it this way too.

75  :  3 = ? We start with the problem and then rewrite it as 2 equations.  The 10's of the dividend on top and the 1's of the dividend on bottom.  The divisor stays the same.
7   :  3 = 2 R 1  then bring the remainder down and put it in front of the number from the 1's place
1 :  3 = 5  For the solution, put the top answer (minus remainder) back in the 10's place and the bottom answer in the 1's place and we know that 75  :  3 = 25

Another example without explanation:

54  :  2 = ?

 5  :  2 =                   ----->     5  :  2 = 2 R 1
 4  :  2 =                   ----->   14  :  2 = 7
so 54  :  2 = 27

If the first digit of the dividend is smaller than the divisor, we then just skip the first equation and keep the first 2 numbers together in our first equation.

121  :  11 = ?

12  :  11 = 1 R 1
11  :  11 = 1
so 121  :  11 = 11

rather than saying 1 :  11 = 0 R 1  in the first line and so on we just skipped this step.


104  :  8 = ?

10  :  8 = 1 R 2
24  :  8 = 3
so 104  :  8 = 13

This method is not for everyone.  My son thought it was super easy to learn, but my husband just glanced at it and said, "That is not how you do division!"  My discriptions may be hard to follow, but I think if you look at the last few problems closely, you can figure out our method.  It works for bigger problems as well and the end answer can still have a remainder.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


The Bible tells us that God disciplines the ones He loves.  I love my students, my precious children, and know that discipline is an element of school that needs to be mastered.  Since this is the beginning of this blog and the beginning of our school, I'm sure this post will be outdated in short time.  We have not yet figured out what method of discipline works best for us.
We began with the disciplining that has been a staple for our family as a 3-hours-together-a-day family.  Well things get a little more sticky the more time one spends with another, especially with family.  When I turn my back to the children, they quit working.  We have a built in desk in the corner of our office/den/classroom area and I stay in the room and do computer things while they do seat work.  I get so irritated to turn around and the same blank paper sits in front of my daughter for 30 minutes.  I've resorted to screaming, swatting, talking, cuddling, pleading, throwing fits (yes, me, the mom), and calling off school until the next day.  I've seen little reward systems and demerit systems and just haven't fallen into one that is just right for us.
Since our children were both in structured classrooms of a Christian school, my husband and I have both told the kids that their behavior would not have been accepted at CCS and it is not acceptable here.  That is so true, but the other thing that is true is that this is not CCS and the structure of our class time now is completely different.  We like the different!  We like the hard work being done by noon!  We had a serious talk with the kids one night and came to the conclusion that our kids do not realize how many times a day they question my decisions, talk back, fight with each other, and/or need to have instructions repeated multiple times before obedience.
Through collaboration, my husband and I decided to place their deeds in front of them.  So far this has worked the best for the kids when I am consistent.  Every time the kids misbehave they get a check mark on their sheet by the day of the week.  My daughter got about 15 check marks the first day.  We had not decided what that would mean when we made the sheet, though.  At the end of the day, she was shocked at the amount of times she disobeyed.  My son got at least 5, but he is older and caught on more quickly.  I didn't know how much of an impact this technique would have and we decided that each check mark meant 1 minute earlier of bedtime.  The second day Jess got at least 10 check marks and had to go to bed earlier than her brother who had received 1 or 2.  By the end of the first week both kids were getting 2 or less check marks.  The bed time thing was a little silly at that point.
The check marks were minimal, but seemed to have less and less impact and my husband came up with the plan to have the kids make their own check mark so they would be active in their punishment.  Also if there are more than 10 checks on a day, the child with the checks will get punished by Daddy when he gets home from work.  I have become more tolerant of their behavior too and we have cycles of how bad the kids need to be to deserve a check mark.
If I post a definition of which actions deserve check marks, then the kids will be giving each other check marks and that won't do.  I've seen the clothespins on a rainbow sheet where they go up for good behavior and down for bad behavior, but my husband didn't like it because it may show the kids that good things will cancel out bad things and I agree that is not the mindset I want to instill in the kids.  For now we get check marks for bad and I just need to be more consistent.  We do have really good days and we also have really bad days.
I added the heart to the behavior sheets.  If I spy the kids doing something kind beyond expectation, I give them a heart.  Jonathan started his school day without complaint or being told while I was trying to hurry Jess on to just eat breakfast.  He got a heart for that.
Our behavior sheets are in the classroom at the back of the house where company may pass through, but not linger.  I do not want my children's downfalls to be broadcast to each person who enters our home and the point is not for all to see their issues, but to keep them before each child.  Like I said at the start, our discipline system will likely change as we learn about each other and become more established as a school, but here's how we've started.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Creative Writing

My kids both get hung up on creative writing.  I know they have great imaginations but the time it takes for them to write the words gets frustrating for them.  I took a break from it for a while and now we're back to at least 1 per week.  This week my son has 4.
He always asks me how many sentences I expect.  I wrote that he needed 6 earlier this week and his sentences were like, "It was red." Boo!  Today I said, write until I can understand what you mean.  His first completed assignment for today was only 4 sentences, but they were a much higher quality.
Then this afternoon, he drew a picture with his story and both story and picture were pretty good.

Unfortunately the quality of my mobile uploads to Blogger are not as good as the real pictures.  I uploaded one here and also to Facebook and they are definitely of a different quality.  I might have to start taking pictures with my regular camera for this site.
He writes, "This Jeep has just been bought in Africa by John.  John is driving it.  He sees what looks like an intersection.  He will drive into mud.  His engine died when he hit the mud.  'Oh brother!' John said."
He needed to write a story for the picture in Language 3 from A Beka books.  His assignment was to write 4 sentences in the workbook about the picture and then use those sentences and write a little story in his journal.  I am finding that when he is doing something that is so frustrating for him, I can't be too critical, but praise what he did well.

From her A Beka Language 1 book.  Jessie writes: "My Kite"  "My kite will fly high in the sky.  I run into the breaze, (yes, I know it's spelled wrong) and I pull my kite with me.  The tail is long, and the string is long too! The wind is so strong, that the trees are moving!  I like air outside."  
Her assignment was to write a story about a kite.  She was to use the words listed in the picture of the kite.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Curriculum woes

I have not been in this long enough to know a good or bad curriculum.  We have started mostly with A Beka books and I think they would be great starters in K-2, but I want to give my older child a more challenging curriculum.  He is in Bob Jones reading and I like that.  They both use Everyday Mathematics and I think it is fabulous, but I don't have a teacher guide and those alone would be about $300 a year per grade level.  It might be okay for large classrooms to spend that on a teacher guide, but for our home school with 2 students it is a bit pricey.  That is all I've really seen of curriculum because it came with them from their Christian school.
Next year we are changing things up a lot and I am excited.  I am mainly excited because whatever I buy will have teacher guides so I don't have to wonder if I'm teaching them correctly.  I have my wish list for next year all lined up, but don't want to share it yet unless I love it!
Kansas Home School Curriculum Guide is where I started.  I love this because it is not biased.  Most sites that I've viewed have a favorite and don't give credit to others.  I found what I believe will complement my children's learning styles and I have high hopes for next year.  My wish list will cost us less than $1000 total for both kids for the school year (that is less than $500 per child).  I've chosen to mix and match which might be a detriment because many companies use themes to bind all of their subjects together.  We'll see.

Monday, March 26, 2012


I never was a morning person, but learned to be when I had to be at work by 7am. I know there are good habits to get into and I want to train my kids right, but lately mornings have been less than great for me.  When we established our school the rule was that we had to be up, dressed and fed by 8 AM so that school could begin. After we took turns being sick for a few week, our good habits faded and now we are lucky to get started by 9 AM every day.
While it was a good try, I can't expect the kids to do something that I have not done. Now, we do like to be going by 9, but whatever time we start, we all start at the same time and get breaks after each hour of work.  My daughter, the youngest, was slow to get up this morning, so I let her start the day in her pajamas and she ate breakfast while I read a chapter from The Silver Chair and got dressed before the next hour of work began.  We have had pajama days, but the children are less productive in pajamas and so am I.
If we get started and do good work, we usually are done with seat work by lunch time which gives us a great opportunity to have fun lessons in the afternoon.  That is what is so great about our school.  I have found that I need to be in the room with them while they do their morning seat work even if I don't need to help them with anything.  I think just being in there makes them know that the day is seriously a school day and we need to be busy.
Morning things I need to work on.
1. Prayer to start the day
2. Tooth brush checks
3. Looking at the weather and discussing
4. Finding one piece of news for the day to learn about and pray about.
5. Prepare myself for the day to be prepared to teach my children before they are up and ready for me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring Break

I pondered what Spring Break would mean to our family.  I almost feel like we're on a perpetual break since starting our school at home.  We went to a wedding over the weekend, but financially we are not able to do a long vacation this week.  So we are sleeping in and enjoying ourselves.  The kids got their rooms clean and now I am doing spring cleaning.  I like the results, but am not excited about the work.  It so happens that our extended family who attend public school also have Spring Break this week.  To my pleasure, my children are spending 2 nights with their cousins and I am free to do my cleaning tasks uninterrupted.
Speaking of cleaning, home school has provided an excellent opportunity for me to teach my children life skills.  Our chore list has increased and the kids' willingness to help has increased as well. While I find that many tasks take me more time because of the kids' help, they are proud of themselves and the work does get done.  I've been told that these life skills can count as school credit.  Why not?  I haven't included chore hours in school yet, but it is something I am going to look into in the near future.  Kansas guidelines are so sketchy and there is much room for interpretation.  I have counted cooking in the school hours now that I think of it.  The kids LOVE cooking class.
There may be creative and fun things other families do over this week, but I think for us an unstructured week is almost as good as a trip somewhere... for now.  Happy Spring Break everyone!

Thought I'd add a cute little video.  Fishing would definitely be something to do on Spring Break!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Learning our Pattern

At this point, we are not part of the local Home School Association.  I have spoken with a few home school moms and have researched online and have read a few books on the subject and there is 1 thing in common with all of my resources.  They all report that no 2 home schools are alike.  That is good to know, so I know that I won't be completely wrong.
I am blessed to have 2 very smart children and found that I really don't need to plan lessons at this point.  I let them do their assigned work and when they have a problem with something, they come to me and we have individual lessons.  Sometimes I have to learn new things in order to teach them.  Lattice multiplication is an example of something that I have never done before, but I have taught my 3rd grader how to do it and he scores nearly 100% on pages where he uses that method.
We started by me reading a chapter of a book in the mornings and then saying the Pledge of Allegiance and praying and starting work.  We had a break for "recess" and then more work.  We found that this pattern was not working for us.  I really like structure, so I was having a bit of trouble figuring out how to help.  One fantastic thing about our school is that we know where to turn when we don't know what to do.  Not the internet, God!  We turn to God!  As I prayed about what we should do, I was led to begin the day with a prayer and then seat work.  At one hour time, we have to stop what we're doing and regroup.  We stretch and we get our wiggles out and then we have our reading time.  I read aloud to the children and they enjoy it. It is not part of our curriculum, but we are currently reading The Chronicles of Narnia.  I've never read them before so I am enjoying it almost as much or more than the kids.
We will not do more than 1 hour in a row of seat work because it is too frustrating to sit for a long time and be expected to produce good work.  After each hour we take wiggle breaks and we have science lessons and art and music depending on the day.
When we started, my son was jealous of my daughter who got to sit with Mommy and read out loud.  In early reading this is necessary, but it is difficult for him to comprehend.  He felt that I favored his sister and so he decided that he needed to read out loud.  Well after about a week of that, he changed his mind and said that it took too long to read out loud and he would read to himself.  We also changed how I assigned his reading portions.  If he had a story with chapters, I was assigning it as one chapter per day, but he wanted to read the whole story.  Now he reads the entire story in one day and then does his workbook activities for the next few days covering each chapter.
I haven't quite put my finger on my daughter's favorite way of learning yet, but I know she hates seat-work and really hates handwriting.  I take off points if she is sloppy and she always puts off her handwriting until last.  In fact she writes more neatly in her language workbook than in her handwriting workbook.
I think our entire home school experience will be dynamic.  We will learn how to learn and hopefully continue learning forever.  Can you imagine how boring a song would be if it were only one note and one rhythm and one dynamic the entire way through?  Our life songs will have faster and slower tempos, crescendos and decrescendos, piano and fortisimo, multiple rhythms and pitches.  Learning to play each section will be the challenge and I am ready to take them on!

In the Beginning

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  Gen 1:1  We aren't going that far back.  Just the beginning of our school.
Home schooling was a dream that my husband and I had when we first got married in 1996.  I was in college and had just become an LPN and was working toward my RN.  As our lives continued to change and develop together, I became very engaged in my career as in ICU nurse and really enjoyed my work.  Through many trials and losses, we finally had 2 beautiful children.  As they became school-aged, our debt was too great to have me quit my job and it never seemed like an option.
Within the first 4 years of having school-aged children, much had changed.  My job changed and we switched daycares for our youngest.  Our eyes opened to the possibility of debt free living and within about 9 months that possibility was reality and I resigned from my job as Director of Nursing in a local Assisted Living facility.  The talk of home school continued, but we LOVED our Christian School.  I'm sure there are others just as fantastic, but ours was incredible.  Stirring came and the Lord told me to start packing to move and I had no idea where, but knew it was soon.  My husband accepted a new job across the state and that is a story in itself, but we were moving to a new town.  I knew at the time we made the decision to move that we would home school in our new location.
We decided to let the children finish the semester at their wonderful school and we moved the week before Christmas.  Our school was generous enough to let us take the books with us that the kids were already using.  We would keep the workbooks and mail back the text books at the end of this year.  I logged in to and found the tab about homeschooling and followed the instructions.  We discussed names and came up with Life Song Academy and I registered our school.  We were ready to go!  My son is in 3rd grade and my daughter in 1st grade.  I planned to follow the calendar of our previous school for the rest of the school year and so on January 2, 2012 Life Song Academy began.
Over the break, in the midst of unpacking, I gathered all of our school books and counted pages and divided all of the remaining work into weekly assignments on my planner Jan 2-6, Language 3 p. 112-114 and so on.  I created a sheet to write out daily segments of the work for the kids to use as a plan.

Daily Assignment Sheet                     Name___________________

Math_________________                Spelling_________________
Reading_______________               Language________________
Math_________________                Spelling_________________
Reading_______________               Language________________
Math_________________                Spelling_________________
Reading_______________               Language________________
Math_________________                Spelling_________________
Reading_______________               Language________________
Math_________________                Spelling_________________
Reading_______________               Language________________

I know this is a very simple page, but it works for us and I added the grade-specific subjects on the "other" line.  I don't know that I will change this format during this school year, but I write lots of extra stuff in the margins that I have set for 1 inch.  The kids highlight or check off their assignments when finished with them and I keep them in my record book in case our files are audited.
I am finding that the kids' daily seat-work is taking 1-2 hours to complete and Kansas has a set amount of days for school if each day is 6 hours or more.  Well we don't always make 6 hour days, so I began to keep track of school by the hour.  We need 1116 hours per school year.  I am discovering, though that we can count Sunday School and Kid's Church and baseball into school hours, so we do.  We also watch the History channel and Discovery when the shows are appropriate for education and count those hours or half hours for school as well.
Finally, we needed a way of keeping track of our work and our grades.  I played with Excel and couldn't come up with something I liked.  I did some searches and downloaded a few templates and my favorite template came from  It is called Gradebook+ and it meets all of my needs.  In the attendance chart, I changed the word "days" to "hours" and type in how many hours we had of school that day.  The first worksheet of the Excel document is instructions and they are easy to follow if you are familiar with Excel.  I changed the grading scale to be a little more strict than the one provided.  I have found that the internet is a fabulous resource not only for the students, but for the parents.
So there is our start up in quite a large nutshell.