Friday, March 31, 2017

How to Keep Your Homeschool Kids on Track Every Day

As a mother of many, one question I get all the time is: "How do you do it all?"  Of course, I don't do it all.  There's always something left undone.  More times than not there are a lot of somethings left undone.  But as I look around, the house is acceptably clean, someone is always eating, birthdays are never missed, laundry gets done on a regular enough schedule, and the kids are (in my opinion) well educated.  I'm typically pretty happy about how things are chuggin' along.

One thing I've learned since our early days of homeschooling is the day goes so much better if the kids can stay on track with their school work.  If mom can turn her back without chaos breaking out between the kids then she can get her work done while the kids get their work done.  

There are 2 components to keeping your homeschool kids on track.

#1 - Train you children in obedience.  And when they don't comply issue a swift and effective consequence.  In our house homeschooling happens first thing and, like most kids, our kids have a full list of things they'd rather be doing.  The best consequence for not staying on task is a double school timeout.  

What is a double school timeout?  It's a timeout based on your age and then doubled.  If you're nine and daydreaming or hiding out in your room or shaking the table while your sister is trying to write then you stand on a 18 minute timeout.  

The timeout starts when the child is quiet, standing straight with their hands at their sides, facing the hallway wall.  I set a timer and they are expected to remain in position until the timer beeps.  If they talk, wiggle, pick paint off the wall, play with pocket knives, knock the Jesus with children art off the wall, then the timer is reset.  I have one child (who might be graduating this year) who once stood for over 40 minutes because he just wouldn't stop mumbling under his breath about the "stupid timeout".

Once the kids realize I mean business (yes, I should've been a drill sergeant) it doesn't take long for this method to be effective.  Because, let's face it, they'd rather get their work done and get on with their own plans than stand for endless minutes on a timeout.

#2 - Figure out the best planning method for each child.  Over the years I've used many types of planners for the kids.  I used Catholic Student Planners for a couple years with my middle grade kids.  I've used wall charts, checklists, homemade planners, work boxes....you name it we've probably used it.

This year I'm using a variety of methods because each child is unique with different planning needs.

I did share our planners live on Facebook.  You can view that here.  I'm not going to share those details here, just a quick picture.

When the kids know exactly what they need to do, they can plan their day accordingly and it's easy as the mom to check their lists to make sure they are staying on track.

I would like to share a little about setting monthly goals for the non-reader.  Non-readers and early readers need a lot of direction from Mom and my method for setting monthly goals instead of a daily to do list works best for me.  For our younger children, I divide a sheet of paper into 9 sections, label each with a month from Sept. - May, then number it 1-6.  I then list the goals I have for each month.

Possible Goals that Might Make the List

# of reading lessons
# of math lessons or pages in workbook
large motor skills
fine motor skills
# of art projects
saints to read about
field trip idea
# of books to read
living skills to learn
cultural event to read about (Thanksgiving, Groundhog Day, etc.)
.....and so many more.

Normally the month starts out strong, then life happens, then week 3 I look over the goals and pick up the pace a little.  By week 4 we are cranking out books and lessons because I like to end the month with a ✔ next to each goal.

In the end, keeping your homeschool kids on track every day requires effort from both the homeschooling parent and child.  Teaching children to be obedient and then giving them a workable plan and checking it twice will allow you, the mom (or dad) to get your work done along side your child making homeschooling and family life more enjoyable.

I hope you all have a crantastic day!

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Day With All About Reading

As you know from numerous other posts, we are in our 3rd (or is it 4th?) year of using All About Reading and All About Spelling.

When I'm researching a new curriculum option I like to see how other families are actually using the product.  Do they use it exactly as is?  Or do they tweak it to meet their needs?  

I tweak everything!!!  For one, Joseph does not fit into any box.  In some areas his skills are around grade level, yet in other areas he has substantial delays.  Homeschooling is the perfect solution to meeting his wide range of needs.

Today I'd like to share A Day With All About Reading.  

Joseph (Down syndrome, age 8) is working through Level 1.  Progress is slow, but consistent.  He's on lesson 16.  And we've been at this for well over a school year.  I spend a lot of time on the Fluency Practice pages and the word flashcards.  Let's say one lesson takes us 6 school days to complete, I still start each day with the green word flashcards.  It's become a habit and if I try to start instruction any other way, Joe gets grumpy and wants the fwashcards.  I also add in sight word reading lessons between each All About Reading lesson.

Most lessons have activity pages to go with, such as this one.  He just learned the /th/ sound and this activity page has him cut out and color (if desired) fried eggs, then place them in a pan and flip them to read.  I don't usually have Joe color the pages, but I thought it would be a good lesson in following directions and perseverance to have him use a highlighter to color in each yolk.  I gave him explicit directions to color in the entire yolk without getting any yolk on his egg white.  While he worked hard at this, I spent time reading books to Peter and Maria. 

I put three eggs at a time in the pan, he flipped them and read the /th/ word.  The activity pages in All About Reading are simple, fun, and effective practice.

I have a super fun idea to get your kids to practice reading and develop fluency.

Whenever our niece comes to visit, she has a poem to read to us.  Her assignment is to read it and have people sign that they listened to her.  

Peter is also working through Level 1 - we just started some time in the late fall.  He's really good at reading the flashcards, but needs a lot of practice with fluency.  Every other lesson of All About Reading has the student read from the phonics reader.  One time through the story isn't enough.  He's pretty slow and choppy and the meaning of the story is lost.  So, I thought about our niece's assignment and adapted it to our homeschool.

I wrote the name of the story on the notecard and then numbered it 1-6.  I told him he had to read the story to 6 people and then I would give him a treat.  I purchased a giant bag of candy for him to pick from.

It's working like a dream.  The first time he reads the story I sign, so then he only has to get 5 other people to listen and sign, but he can't double up.  Each person to sign has to = a reading.

Emily's home on spring break - Peter's reading to her while she folds laundry.

Peter reads "The Sad Hog" to Maria.

Peter reads it again to Sam.

Here's a look at his notecard with signatures.  I purchased some chocolate, too, so next time Joseph has a phonics reader lesson I'll be using this fluency practice technique with him, too.

All About Reading has been a winner for our family.  Do you have questions about this or other levels?  Just ask in the comments.

All About Learning Press is always offering new and exciting free games and other learning activities.  Here's a fun one for practicing compound words.

Banana Splits Game

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Weekly Wrap-Up....{the one where the dogs wore clothes}

Speaking of clothes, this dark load really sums up our week - a lot going on, but it sure wasn't laundry.  I did eventually get all this washed just in time for two kids to get the stomach flu.  Blah!

Here are the adorable pups Amber's been watching.  I think I mentioned last week they wear ski jackets.  I didn't make that up.  Amber just brought them in from a chilly evening walk.  

They went home yesterday, and I actually miss them.  I can't say that too loud or everyone will be begging for a dog again.

Bella is wearing a cheetah fur trimmed sweater vest while she studies "Civilizations of the Fertile Crescent"
Maria had such fun dressing Teddy all week.  And what a trooper Teddy was, she actually would lay on her back like a baby, letting Maria velcro the clothes on.

And when it doesn't work out quite right, ask your 12 year old brother for help.

Amber and I participated in a 5K.  It was the first one of the year - cold and had one killer hill.

When I shared the recipe for Southern Pork Barbecue, I listed the other new recipes I'd tried.  This is Frank's Chicken from this cookbook cooking in the crockpot.  I'll share this recipe soon.  It turned out very tender chicken.  I think I'll use a little less rosemary next time, though.


Noteworthy Homeschooling News

Amber finished Algebra 1 Teaching Textbooks this week.  She worked so hard this year, never missing a day, and it's really paid off.  She's very prepared for Geometry.

Joseph read a book to me at the library.  I pulled a Margaret Hillert book off the shelf and while I typed out a blog post, he sat and read the entire book to me.  I heard a few missed words, but I let them go and a couple times he went back and reread the sentence with the right word.  That's a HUGE win in my book because that means he's actually comprehending what he's reading.

Margaret Hillert's Beginning to Read series has become a favorite of mine this year.  Joe has been responding so well to the limited vocabulary in her books.

That about wraps up our week.  It's a windy, dreary day here in Wisconsin.  Springtime temperatures are welcome anytime now!!

Linking up with
Weekly Wrap-Up

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Science Curriculum Review {Moving Beyond the Page}

When talking with homeschooling moms, one thing I hear over and over is their concern for providing a good science education, yet moms often feel unprepared.

Once my background in science comes up, the confessions start pouring in:

I'm not really into science.

I don't know how to teach science.

I let my husband handle it.

Science takes up too much time and makes such a mess.

Now, I have a rebuttal for each of these confessions, and if you don't like harsh, you might want to stop reading because it's about to get real.  I feel strongly about science education - no sugar coating my opinion.

So, you're not into science.  Okay.  What if your child told you they're not into Math or loading the dishwasher or saying Thank you.  As the authority you would require those be done anyway.  Right?  Each state has requirements regarding science and since they are the authority, must be followed.

Let's address the I don't know how to teach science argument.  When I first started homeschooling, the only thing I knew how to teach was science, but I learned how to teach reading and spelling and math.  If you're going to take the plunge and homeschool then you'll need to develop your style for teaching each subject.

Unless your husband is begging to teach science lessons, letting your husband handle the science education in the evening is like a public school teacher sending home a note saying she's going to let you handle the grammar instruction because it's not really her thing or there isn't enough time in the day.  That would be unheard of.  

Science does take up time and sometimes it makes a huge mess, especially in the volcano and oobleck making years.  But, with an open mind, a block of time and a plan, it can be a fun time learning with your kids.  


We've done science many, many, many ways over the years.  I have shelves of curriculum I like, and unfortunately, spent money on some that was plain awful.  Since I tailor each child's curriculum to best fit their needs, I've used science curriculums of all kind.

This year I chose Moving Beyond the Page for Sam (6th grade).  Sixth grade curriculum is all over the place when it comes to level of difficulty.  I knew Sam needed something concrete, well laid out with daily assignments.  I also knew a cumbersome textbook with a read a chapter, answer 25 review questions approach was not going to work for him.  I wanted a science program with variety in the assignments and the use of "real" books as the main source of information.

I wanted a packaged curriculum to alleviate too much prep work on my part.  

I was introduced to Moving Beyond the Page at our Virtual Learning curriculum fair.  One look through and I knew I needed to do a little more research at their website.  

A few things I found:

*Age groups, rather than grade level
*Units which use real books
*Assignments including weblinks
*Ready to go box of Lab/Activity supplies

I settled on four units - 1 for each month of Trimester 2 - Weather and Climate, Cells, Our Changing Earth, and one more to finish out the year in May - The Hydrosphere.

I feel prepared to review Moving Beyond the Page science units now that Sam is finishing up with his 3rd unit.  These units are well designed.

Sam is not our most independent learner, however, after a few pointers, completes each day's work with minimal complaining.  The lessons have been challenging and time consuming.  This is not a 5 minutes and you're done curriculum.  It requires effort.  On average he works on science 45 minutes a day.  The last lesson took well over an hour to design a classification system for household items.  I'm glad it took that long because by the end he demonstrated a strong grasp of the process of taxonomic classification.

Here Sam's learning about erosion in Our Changing Earth.  This activity simulates wind's impact on various soil types.

5 Reasons I Like Moving Beyond the Page

1.  Unit topics are arranged by age group rather than grade level.  I chose 3 units for ages 10-12 and 1 unit for ages 11-13.  These overlapping age groups allow you to choose the right level for your child.

2.  Customizable to your child's interests or to fill in holes in their knowledge with a specific unit.  Buy only the units you'll use.  We never make it through a full year packaged curriculum and all that wasted money just burns me.

3.  Spiral bound work text includes daily lesson plans and activity sheets.  For distractable children, having everything in one place is necessary.  If extra pages are needed for any of the activities, I have Sam staple them right into his work text.

4.  Two options are available for many of the activities.  Typically, option #1 requires less writing, option #2 requires more involved writing.  On days when we're busier option #1 fits our need, otherwise I like option #2 - it offers greater opportunity for critical thinking.

5.  I love the ready to go science kits that come with each unit.  Other than normal household supplies, everything is in the box and labeled.

I've been thinking about next year already and Moving Beyond the Page will definitely be a part of our curriculum for Sam (7th grade next year) and I'm considering trying out a literature unit for Joseph to see how it works for special education.

I'd love to hear what you're using for science and how you like it.  Share in the comments or at Facebook.

*this post contains affiliate links

Monday, March 20, 2017

Simple Nature Study in the Homeschool

Warren said it best today:

I saw my first Red-winged Blackbird, the melt is in full swing, and the herbicide sales rep called today.  It must be the first day of Spring.
As part of the agricultural world, we are very attune to the changing of seasons.  Each season brings its own type of work.

I enjoy pointing out signs of the changing seasons to the kids.  When they're young every little change outside is so exciting and they're so eager to listen and learn, but as they grow older and develop other interests sometimes they become blinded to all the intricacies if the changing seasons.

I think it's so important that children become and stay aware of the natural world around them.  In our fast paced lives and with nearly unlimited access to screens, it's easy to take our eyes off the slower paced natural world.

One book I've used over and over for nature study is The Beginning Naturalist:  Weekly Encounters with the Natural World.  With 52 very short chapters following the seasons, this book introduces the reader to the seasons, including:  midwinter to mudtime, spring into summer, summer, and fall and winter again.

None of my kids have read this cover to cover in order, however, I assign chapters based on the time of year.  For example, now would be a great time to read "Pussy Willows" and "Redpolls".  After reading, they narrate the chapter to me.  This way I can add any unusual sightings or experiences I've had.

Sam started this book last spring, in 5th grade, and just now finished it.  I typically assign 1-2 chapters per week, aiming at having them read ahead a little so they are ready for whatever nature encounters are to come.

You might like

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Southern Pork Barbecue....{and more new recipes}

I mentioned the other day that I was going to lay off the new recipes.  For one, I end up buying spices that I don't normally have on hand, and spices are expensive.  The second reason for giving up new recipes is that sometimes they are terrible, which is money down the drain - something I can't afford at this point in life.  We're getting close to having 4 teenagers in the house - 1 needs packable lunch food, 1 is a bodybuilder, 1 makes Greek yogurt, chia seed, fruit, etc. smoothies every morning, and 1 is growing like a weed (age 12, wears size 13 shoe).

Logically, I should be whipping up tacos, spaghetti, meatloaf, and soups all with a side of rice, potatoes, or bread.  But, I just can't restrain myself.  I love looking up recipes on Pinterest.  I love reading cookbooks and marking all the recipes that sound good with Post-it Notes.  I love trying new recipes.

Last month a friend gave me a cookbook that she somehow had two of.  Jackpot!!

I read through it many times and marked 11 recipes.  The first one I tried was Southern Pork Barbecue.  It is delicious!!!

That's the original recipe above.  Basically you slow cook a pork roast in water, shred the meat, add a delicious BBQ sauce, load up your buns, and top it with cole slaw.  It might sound weird, but cole slaw on burgers and such is pretty common fare in the south.

Here it is all cooked and shredded with the sauce.

Southern Pork Barbecue (with my changes and notes)
3-lb. boneless prok loin roast, trimmed mine was 4.5 pounds with a bone
1 c. water
18-oz. bottle barbecue sauce I used Sweet Baby Ray's original
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 to 2 T. hot pepper sauce I used 1T. Taco Bell Fire sauce
1/4 c. brown sugar, packed next time I will omit this completely
1 tsp. salt go light
1 tsp. pepper
16 to 20 mini hamburger buns any buns will work fine

Place roast in a slow cooker; add water.  Cover and cook on high setting for 7 hours.  Shred met; return to slow cooker.  Stir in remaining ingredients; cover and cook on low setting for one hour.  Serve on buns, topped with coleslaw.  Makes 8 to 10 servings, 2 buns each.  Next time I will take out some of the liquid before adding the BBQ sauce ingredients, so it's not so drippy.

1 head cabbage, shredded I used 1 bag coleslaw mix
3 carrots, peeled and shredded
1 c. mayonnaise
1/3 c. sugar I used 1/4 cup
1/4 c. cider vinegar

Mix all together and serve on Pork Barbecue.

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Menu Plan Monday - weekly dinner inspiration for the week of March 20/17 - dinner without stress and chaos

I also made Frank's Chicken for supper last night.  I'll share that one later this week.

And if you like Sunbelt Granola bars, then you will like this recipe for Double Crunch Bars.

I also made Philly Cheesesteaks, a recipe I found on Pinterest, which were yummy.

3-Ingredient Hawaiian Chicken, not so great.

Happy Spring.  I hope your week is off to a great start.  I woke up to the awful sound of a child throwing up.  It's not the sound that's so awful, but the thought of it traveling through the entire family.  St. Joseph, pray for us.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Weekly Wrap-Up.....{two weeks worth}

Weeks go by so quick so these weekly wrap-ups are turning into more of a two or three week wrap-up.  I have a variety of miscellaneous pictures from March, which I'll use to recap the month so far.

At first glance it appears to be Joseph's birthday, but of course, his is in August.  March brings us Warren's birthday.  The little kids really wanted Dad's birthday to be a party.  The best place I know of to get party supplies is Dollar Tree (where everything's a dollar, except some candy bars, which are only 69 cents).  $4.00 later we had all the makings of a party - 1 balloon, 1 centerpiece, 18 birthday plates, and a 60 pack of candles.  We didn't use all the candles, but it was nice to actually have enough.

Once the balloon was tied to Dad's chair, Joe sat down and literally didn't move all day.  He kept saying, "It's mine, it's mine."  I see lots of helium balloons in my future - because let me tell you, knowing exactly where to look for him was pure joy and I need more of that in my life.  Keeping track of his wanderings is a full time job.  Often I need a few LTE's to help out, too.

That's a lot of fire.

Sadly, Nick had to work so he missed out on the fun, but we saved him some fish and cake.

 Sam, Joseph, Peter, and Maria have been following along with Holy Heroes' Lenten Adventure.

Peter's been sneaking off with my camera lately.  He fills the card with pictures like these.


Counting down, remembering to pray for the daily intention, placing coins in the Rice Bowl - Lent is well under way.  You can find directions and a free printable for making your own calendar here.

Always playing communion.  This little activity keeps her busy for a long time, and she has no problem distributing them to the entire family.

One day the ground is clear, the next it's covered in snow again.  I just want the sun - cold March temps are bearable if it's sunny.  Amber's already working with Rhythm getting ready for fair.

Now that Sam has turned intermediate, he's advanced to clip shoes.  He just bought them in size 13.  And he's still growing!


Amber is dog sitting; there's 3 of them.  Family? recognize these dogs?  Bella, Daisy, and Teddy(not shown)

Amber and Bella

Joe and Bella
These little dogs live a pretty posh life.  They wear sweaters and ski jackets.  They eat salmon and bible bread.  They have their own stroller and rolling luggage.  We get to keep them for another 10 days.

That sums up our March so far.  

On the homeschooling front, we're in week 25, which means we should wrap up the year on May 27, just in time to get the garden in.

I hope to be back soon with a number of recipe reviews and a recap of what we're using for math this year and how it's working.

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Weekly Wrap-Up

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Learning About the Saints::St. Frances of Rome

Image of St. Frances of Rome 
St. Frances of Rome video at Catholic.org

March 9 was the feast day for St. Frances of Rome.  I happened upon her story in Book of Saints on March 8, and since we hadn't celebrated a saint day in a while, I did a quick Google search for a few coloring pages and made plans to read her story the next day.  

My coloring page search didn't turn up anything for St. Frances, so I improvised quite a bit.  The St. Frances story in Book of Saints starts out having kids try to understand how they see things differently as they get older.  The older they get the more details they see.  As they see more details they begin to see more deeply what God has in mind for them.  That's how it was for St. Frances, anyway.  St. Frances also obeyed her parents and married a noble prince.

With that my Google search turned up a couple anatomy of the eye coloring pages as well as a girl wearing glasses and a married couple.  

Coloring is a great way to keep their attention during longer, pictureless saint stories.

Are my kids the only ones who think there's only one St. Francis and he's wearing a brown robe, calling in birds?  We had a little discussion about how one letter sometimes changes the gender of a name.  I pulled out Bread and Jam for Frances and let them figure out if Frances is a girl or boy.  They were stunned to learn that Frances is a girl.

I also ran across this lovely little saint book in the room where Sam takes Suzuki violin lessons.  Interestingly enough, it too, had the story of St. Frances of Rome - more detailed than the one in Book of Saints.  If you've never read her story and you're a mother and you have a hard time prioritizing (children, God, housekeeping, husband) you might enjoy it.

Sometimes she must leave God at the altar, and find him in her housekeeping  -St. Frances of Rome

Saints Budding Everywhere is the copy I'm referring to.

In other news, I told my family (and myself), "NO new recipes for a while."  Whenever I try new recipes the grocery budget takes a hard hit from the extra spices and other ingredients needed.  And sometimes they're complete flops which is money wasted.  Argh!

As usual I didn't stand by my plan.  So far I've made:

-Hawaiian Chicken
-Southern BBQ Pork and Slaw sandwiches
-Double Crunch bars
-Crockpot Philly Cheesesteaks
-Southern Fried Fish with Cornmeal

I'll try and share those recipes along with my reviews soon.  The Southern BBQ Pork and Slaw sandwiches were a TOTAL HIT!!!  It came from this cookbook.

We're having a beautiful sunny day here in Central Wisconsin, which is a real treat even if it's below average cold.