Monday, August 27, 2012

How to Homeschool Year-Round

I ran into a friend today who reminded me of a time I actually used this blog.

So, hello there! I am back. Well, today at least.

I get questioned a lot about how we homeschool year-round. I hope to answer most of those questions here and lay out for you specifically how I plan my school year.

We chose this system for it's ease and adaptability. We have used this system from the start and I would never want to use the traditional system after the years spent loving year-round schooling.

Most homeschoolers use the public school system "9 months of school to 3 months of vacation" rule. You have your major holidays off, a spring and fall break (usually consisting of 3 days to a week in length) and then a long summer break.
That is not quite the way year-round homeschooling works.

When I plan out my school year, first I count to see how many weekdays there are from my start point to my end point. So, my school year this year will start September 11th and end September 11th. The end date is a "target". I may or may not actually end on that day. By "end" I mean complete my Tennessee law mandated 180 days (find your law here). I may not take as many breaks as I intended and finish early, or I may have some big catastrophe that mucks up a whole month and our school year may end a week later (like the 2 births I have had to add in over the past 7 years-- this is not to be confused as a catastrophe, by any means, but births do throw a wrench into your perfectly scheduled year) . Of course, the beauty of this system is that you plan for those catastrophe days in advance so you can slip them in unnoticed, barring an overlap in school years.

To count out and plan my school year, first I print a calendar year out or use the calendar that is usually in the front of my teacher planner book. I print all my calendars here.   I use this basic planner. Then you count all the weekdays from your start day to your end day. This is an average of 260 days, depending on the year and where your start and end dates lie on the calendar.
Our count for the 2012-2013 year is 261 weekdays.  Be sure to jot your number down. Next, subtract your law mandated days by your weekdays number. Here is my math:  261-180 = 81. 81 is now my favorite number. That is how many days I can now choose to take off throughout my school year.

Now for my favorite part. You will need your calendar and some highlighters. --Side note: I love highlighters. Can't and do not want to live without them. End side note.-- Look through your calendar and mark off the days you KNOW you will take off. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, etc. Maybe you already know when your beach vacation will be, or when you make your family visits to relatives half-way across the country. I choose a yellow highlighter for my vacation days. Here is how my calendar looks at this point in the planning system. (yellow highlighter does not show up on the scanner, so for your benefit, I made this one with x's representing our vacation days)

*this calendar does not include our last month of school in September '13

I have marked off our Beach Vacation, Thanksgiving Break, Christmas Break, Spring Break, and Fourth of July Break. This took off 35 days and giving me a remainder of 46 days. I like to leave myself between 20-30 days of sick/mental health days. I can use these for just about anything that comes up. That leaves me with about 15 more vacation days to plot out. I decided to add an extra week to our January and July breaks and then I threw in a Fun Friday May and marked off all the Fridays in May. This left me with 31 sick/mental health days. Here is my next revision with the additions marked in green x's.

Again, this looks much prettier in highlighter. As you can see, though, we get a wonderful spattering of breaks throughout the year.

You can now hole punch this calendar and place it in your notebook or folder or planner and use it as your attendance sheet. I highlight every day we are at the school table (or on a field trip) with a green highlighter.

Here is a look at what my calendar for this past school year looked like. This is almost a whole school year's worth of tracking.

My yellow vacation days are not visible (we decided to take off whole months- September/December/March. I didn't like these long breaks as much, so I have adjusted accordingly for this upcoming year), but you can clearly see the days I have marked for attendance in green. The slashes were sick or mental health days. Next to each month I have kept track of where we lie in the 180 days we need to have, and how many days we did school during that month. Our school year last year didn't actually start until October, so we did really well this year and have finished a bit early (we finish in 12 days to be exact- about 2 1/2 weeks earlier than I had planned). These days will not be added in anywhere else. I didn't like starting in October (it messes up too many of my co-op plannings), so ending early and just "eating" those extra days is worth the earlier-in-the-year start. My goal is to get back to August start months. Having our fourth child, Harry, in October three years ago caused a late start year and now we are just trying to slowly work back to a normal- or, normal to my other homeschooling friends, haha.

Another question I am often asked is how I turn in my grades. There is no difference in how I turn in my grades than anyone else. I keep track of all my children's grades in a simple notebook and when the time comes to turn in the grades, I mark that as the end of a semester, average the grades, and turn them in. There may be an overlap of a grade level in the grade average (say 3rd grade Grammar blended into 4th grade Grammar mid semester) , but that is OK and rarely happens. I always begin a new grade level on a different page, so that I can keep track of grades per grade level for my personal records. If an issue ever comes up, or anyone comes after me looking for my record of grades, I have them at the ready.
I try to always make it a goal for each child to begin their new curriculum (ie: newest grade level) by the beginning of the public school system's school year. This happened for us perfectly this year, with the exception of my daughter's Math. I didn't want her lost in a sea of unfamiliar fraction multiplying-long division, never finding land. So, we took our time, sometimes taking 2-3 days on one lesson. She is now a half year behind on her Math. I am OK with this. I know that she "gets" her work instead of us just giving up and moving on.

One final question I get asked is whether my kids hate me for making them school through the summer. For one, we have always schooled this way, so fortunately my children are used to the system -- it's all they know. There will be the weeks where my daughter is itching at the seams to play with her friends who are on summer break, but this only acts as motivation and most school days during the summer she is done early and can play. By the time summertime hits our school year, we have finished the extra-curricular subjects and the kids only have to zoom through their core work.
And second, it is soooooooo hot anyway, especially here in the south. It helps us to stay in where it is cool during the hot summer months and take our breaks when the weather is milder.  

I hope this covers some of the major questions about homeschooling year-round. I plan on making my semi-yearly curricula picks post soon! Keep an eye out for that! Find me on Pinterest if you discover yourself missing me. You can always find me there, haha.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Water Bottle Tote

This little beauty is made from the bottoms of my daughters old, and full of knee holes jeans. She now has a nice pair of play shorts AND a bottle tote for those long summer bike rides that will fill her days in the weeks to come.

This is a very kid friendly sewing project, and start to finish only takes about 20-30 minutes. Apologies in advance as to the quality of these photos for they were taken with my phone while I sewed in bed. I only have two excuses for this.
a) I was lazy   and    b) I was pretty lazy

First, you need the bottom of those jeans, that are now a cool pair of shorts. The pants I used were a size 8, super skinny. They had a touch of spandex.

Next, roll up the cut end twice to make a cuff, or at least enough to roll over the hole if there was one in the knee like mine. Cut a strip of strong ribbon about 34 inches long (this length fit my 11year old, skinny daughter perfectly, but you may need more or less depending on who will be using it). Line up one end of the ribbon to the top edge of your rolled cuff. Make sure it is as dead center as you can make it.

Next, sew it into place using a basic stitch, being careful to sew just the cuff and ribbon together and not to the pant leg itself. Neatness doesn't matter here as the stitches will not be seen.

 Repeat for both sides, being sure the ribbons line up in the middle on each side.

At some point you may acquire company. You will persevere none the less.

 Next you will roll the cuff up once more. Now that sewing job you did is on the inside of the cuff.

Make a finishing stitch to this side, being sure to sew the cuff to the pant leg. I chose some nice wide x's. Repeat on the other side.

Now your top is done. It's time to finish with the bottom.

Line up a water bottle to your tote and roll up the bottom of the leg so that it becomes the same length as the bottle. At least three rolls up is suggested. If your pant leg is too long, cut off some of the bottom before rolling it up so that your cuff won't be too bulky.

 Next, you will unroll the cuff once. This is so you can follow the same method that you used for the top and fold up the cuff once you have stitched the ribbon on.

There may be a better method for this, but seeing as I sort of came up with this project on the fly and didn't think it out very much, you will have to live with my processes.
I took one end of the ribbon and tucked it inside the seam.

Next, I opened up the bottom of the leg all the way and pulled the ribbon along the opening to measure the circumference (i say measure, but i did nothing of the sort).

Then tuck the last end inside the seam and mark this final length on the ribbon. Make your cut. I had about a 9 inch strip of ribbon once I was done. If your legs are bigger round, you will most assuredly come up with a different length for this bottom piece.

Complete the bottom using the exact process as you did with the top cuff.

Folding up here. Finished with the same wide x stitch as used before.

 Here he is, all finished, resting happy on the bed.

And, with water bottle tucked inside.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A new use for an old knife block

My husband purchased me a nice new knife set for my birthday (yes, he's a keeper).
My old knife set had been reduced to just two usable knives, that I now store in our knife drawer, and left me with a wooden block that I hated to see dumped in the trash. So, I came up with this school supply caddy! Perfect for my little area at the homeschool table.
Repurposing is f-u-n!

Step 1. Give the block a light sanding all over. Wash well and let the block dry completely.

Setp 2. Pick your color palate (I later decided not to use the orange).

Step 3. Give your block 2 nice even coats of paint, letting the paint dry before applying the second coat. I used standard acrylic paint. Be sure to use long strokes from top to bottom. Try to avoid a quick up/down motion as this will leave unsightly brush marks on your finished product. The wood grain was just barely visible with two coats; if you'd like more of a wood grain look, try one coat, or if you want no visible grain, try three.

Optional Step 4. Let paint dry overnight. Add stripes or other embellishments. I chose a few vertical stripes. Be sure to use painters tape to help guide the stripes, other tapes will remove your old paint job when removed. Let dry overnight.

Now you can add you desired items. The top part held scissors and rulers perfectly, along with a bone folding tool (which I use to make folds and creases on all those lap books). The bottom part is holding some binder clips and I made a little paper clip dangler with the paper clips themselves and stuck it inside one of the slots. Along the side I attached a Post-it Flag Pad with a Command strip. I also found a Post-it dispenser and attached this to the front with the adhesive strips provided.

Now I have a nice little buddy to keep all my other supplies at the ready. I imagine this would work splendidly with other slender supplies and artists tools. The possibilities are endless!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Bright and Beautiful

Upon which Harry turns two, admissions are made, and smelly things are dissected on my grandmother's dinner plates.

I am not making stuff up.

Harry is now two. My smallest, blue eyed, sweet as candy boy, growing up and becoming terrible. And I mean that in the most cordial way ever. Terrible twos are a right of passage.

He now spends every waking moment prying open front door locks and sneaking out to drive his new car.

Admission #2 (#1 here): Homeschooling can deplete you of yourself.

Wondering where I've been? Me, too. This is my sixth year homeschooling. #5 was rough. #6 has been rough. Every veteran homeschool mom to whom I have spoken has told me it happens. It happens to the best of the best. And it takes its toll. The definition of "rough" is completely relative to the persons involved in their own respective environments. For me, it's defined by depression, resentment, and laziness. I yell(ed) at my kids, took too many naps, and forgot to hug and laugh and say nice things. Also, I consider myself a control freak and the fact that I have lost control of the household happiness threshold means failure in my eyes.
Here's the point: It's either cave-in or dig out. I am currently holding shovel and gazing above, unsure which route will cause a collapse or rescue us all from suffocation and misery.

Onto smelly things.

Our co-op has been doing dissections every other week. You can now thank me for not posting pictures of the cow's head (definition: entire furry head with eyeballs and eyelashes and bullet hole). You're welcome. Also, I do not involve myself in the dissections (too many years of being a vegetarian), but instead ship my daughter off to the respective classroom as she desires to one day rescue animals from sickness and fertility; ie: become a veterinarian. But, last week, time ran away from us and I was sent home with a baggie of squid bodies.
We made do with nail scissors, exacto knife, tweezers, and printable instructions.

I only got sick twice. Score.

It was actually pretty neat-o. "Neat-o" is not to be confused with "let's do it again".

And now, as coldness sets in, all I want to do is read and burrito myself in a fluffy blanket.
And also make stuff like this:

And this:

Cooking blogs sometime in the future.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ground Beef Kebabs with Creamy Dill and Feta Sauce

Towards the close of summer, our school year ends. We break at the peak of seasonal enjoyment. The mornings are cooler, so gentle strolls out to water the garden seem to take a bit longer, as children pick and savor little tommytoes, or help me coddle and coo at the butternut nasty heat to blast our morning to rot.

My level of contentment seems to rise, also. Cooking seems less a necessity. I spend a lot more time around the stove or counter, tinkering away at new recipes. To wrap up my sentiment toward this time of year, I just plain old LOVE fall.

This recipe came from 1) my boredom with ground beef, 2) an excess amount defrosting in my fridge, and 3) my children love anything on a skewer.

I gave the meat mixture a Mediterranean flare, but you could add any of your favorite seasonings or veggies to make it your own. Also, this meal was as kid friendly as I could make it. If I were dining alone, I would include marinated artichoke hearts, stuffed olives, and maybe some stuffed grape leaves along with.

Ground Beef Kebabs with Creamy Dill and Feta Sauce

For Kebabs
8 wooden skewers, soaked in water at least 10 minutes
2 lbs lean ground beef
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp dried oregano, or 1/2 tsp fresh oregano minced
1/4 tsp onion powder, or 1/4 of an onion, grated
salt and pepper to taste
1 onion, divided into small wedges and separated a little (or any other veggies that you might want to add to your skewers)

For Dill and Feta Sauce
1/2 cup low fat sour cream
1/4 cup crumbled feta
1/8 tsp dried dill
1 to 2 tsp water

Heat your indoor or outdoor grill to medium high and spread a little vegetable oil on the grates, especially if you are using very lean meat like I did. Mix ground beef with garlic, cinnamon, oregano, onion, salt, and pepper. Using about 1/4 to 1/3 amount of the meat mixture, form a loose ball in your palm and then wrap that around a segment of skewer. Tuck a small onion wedge on each end and one in between your next meat mixture.

Place the kebabs on the grill and let cook for about 6-8 minutes on each side. Give a little extra sprinkle of salt and pepper on the top, for extra flavor. Be sure to rotate them so that all edges cook on the grill surface. Don't be too hasty to move them about, but rather let them alone so they get lots of toasty marks on all sides.

Once removed, let sit for a few minutes while you assemble a few accompaniments. Mix the sour cream, feta, and dill to make your sauce. Add enough water so that your sauce can be spooned and delivered onto your plates easily. I served our meal with pita bread, that I grilled for a few seconds on each side, and some chopped tomatoes. You can fill the pita with the meat and onions, adding a dollop of sauce and some tomatoes, or you can eat them separately. Little Harry enjoyed dipping everything, not so neatly, in the sauce.

Mangia Bene!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Grilled Pimento Cheese

Sandwich time again! I L-O-V-E pimento cheese. Never did I think to grill it, though. Let me just say, it is heaven.

I didn't measure, really, so I have just included the ingredients.

Grilled Pimento Cheese

1 small jar of pimentos
8oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
real mayo
3 green olives, chopped
a fistful of chopped ham
butter or olive oil for pan

Combine pimentos, cheese, olives, and ham. Add enough mayo to mixture to make it stick together and creamy enough to smooth onto a slice of bread easily. Snuggle two slices of bread with the cheese. Spread a small amount of butter on each outer slice or spray with olive oil. Grill until golden brown on each side and the cheese starts oozing out around the edges.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Our Summer

To play a bit of catch up, here is a pictorial view of our very hot summer.

My father grew blackberries the size of small children (who readily consumed abnormal amounts on every visit).

(here Cohen shows off one of the BOOS -blackberries of obese size)

The children graduated from their respective grades.

( here they show off their favorite subjects from the year. Ashton- 4th grade graduate, favorite subject: Grammar; Keaton- 2nd grade graduate, favorite subject: Math; Cohen- 1st year PreK graduate, favorite subject: Numbers)

Ashton turned double digits.

(happy with her new ipod)

(10 years old!)

My awesome kids. My, how they grew this summer....

(Pictured from left to right: Ashton, Keaton, Harry, and Cohen)

Lots of suffocating, heat-filled days meant many trips to the creek and surrounding lakes.

(my little water bugs)

We got a puppy! But, hey, you already knew that!

(Layla, 4 month old bundle of cuteness.)

And lastly, beautiful amounts of cuddles, dancing, singing, playing, running, bike riding, puppet shows, and the like.

(here Cohen puts on a Pooh theater show for us)

At every moment-- every cry, laugh, scream-- I found within an incomparable peace. It makes those miserable days of putrid heat so worth it. I hope you all, also, were able to find enjoyment with the little things.

May God bless and keep you safe!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

This, and nothing else

Sticky kisses. Tangled arm hugs. Squeals and giggles and puppy howls. Mommy, watch me. I love yous.

Seriously...who needs blogger. (there is no question mark because i dont need an answer). I might be back. Or not.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Meet Layla

or....Layla Virginia to be exact. She's a bluetick beagle. And, yes. She is as awesome as she looks.

We are keeping her, for what appears to be forever.

God help's just like having an infant. *wiping eyes in tired-like strokes*


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