Friday, August 25, 2017

Week 2 ~ The Sweet Spots and Hard Edges

As the school year gets into full swing, we are finding the sweet spots and hard edges to our days. So far, the hard edges are minimal and I think I can fix the hardest one by shifting our schedule in September. Right now, Wednesday really is hump day around here, and we haven't yet added in Wednesday night dance classes. We just have too many commitments sprinkled all throughout the day to keep up good momentum.

This week the kids worked on gaining independence and using their lesson planners. Anne immediately took to using hers and Dean is adjusting to his.We did more tweaking with Dean's history curriculum and it is working better now. The kids have been introduced to all of their independent and working together curricula, and everything seems to be a good fit. There are only the remaining curricula to introduce next week for the two classes that I am teaching in our tiny two family co-op.

Our sweetest spot seems to come each evening when we gather for read-aloud time. Dear Husband reads our family book, and Anne works on a puzzle while Dean draws. Everyone is engaged and together. It is a warm, family togetherness time to wind up the day. As a bonus it gets a bit more school time in as well. I hope that it continues to be a peaceful time even after evening dance lessons begin.



Next week we introduce chore time back into the schedule. They have done a 10 minute pick up here and there, but I gave them a break from regular, established chores for the last two weeks. We also start homeschooling Rose (13) on Tuesdays and introducing British Literature and biology into our schedule. 

The Solar Eclipse ~ We were in the 99% area of the eclipse. I decided not to travel to an area of totality because the news was predicting horrible traffic jams. I figured 99% would be impressive enough. We had solar eclipse glasses and invited another family to join us. We thought it would get darker than it did, but the crickets got super loud, the eclipse looked pretty through the glasses, and the temperature cooled for a while. It was cool enough, but I think I will travel to 100% totality next time, if I'm able.  




Blessings, Dawn











Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Review ~ Everyday Cooking

Everyday Cooking

I knew it was important to my daughter to do home economics this year and that she really wanted to expand her cooking skills and repertoire of recipes. I looked at lots of cookbooks and didn't see just what I was looking for. Then I was asked to review  Everyday Cooking from Everyday Homemaking, and this was exactly what I was looking for. 
Everyday Homemaking
I received a digital copy of Everyday Cooking by Vicki Bentley. This is a fantastic teaching cookbook that could be used as a family with young children or independently with an older student with some cooking skills. My daughter has cooked at my side since she was a toddler, but she wanted to learn more meals and be able to do it completely alone in preparation for adulthood. This cookbook is divided into sixteen sections listed below.
  • Timesaving Tips
  • Breakfast Ideas
  • Appetizers and Dressings
  • Bread and Grains
  • Main Dishes & Soups & Sides
  • Desserts & Snacks
  • Homemade Vanilla Extract
  • Low-Carb & Gluten-Free Pantry Helpers
  • Basic Measurements & Helps
  • Meal Planning & Shopping Hints
  • Sample Menus & Menu Planning Masters
  • Basic Cooking Skills Checklist
  • Basic Kitchen Accessories
  • Kitchen Equipment
  • The Tortoise & The Hare
  • Pressure Cooker Tips and Favorites
Sausage Cheese Balls
My daughter (13) has made about 10 recipes so far. She finds them all easy and the directions are clear. She likes that she is learning a variety of skills. The recipes are nice because the student gets to learn to make something delicious, like deviled eggs, and is taught every single step, including how to make a hard-boiled egg first. She is learning how to make chicken, beef and fish dishes. I love that she is getting such a well-rounded education in cooking. In the end, she will be able to make a full repertoire of dishes that will be for everyday or holidays. She will also be able to plan, budget, shop for deals and create the meals all on her own. Her favorite dish that she has made so far is fruit smoothies. The book has many suggested add-ins. The family loved it when she made wonderful sausage-cheese balls. So far, all of the recipes have been very good. A huge bonus is that I get the evening off from cooking two times a week. 

Toward the back of the book are lots of tips on how to do menu planning, getting your meals organized, sample menus and a conversion chart for measurements. There is even a useful food and nutrition mini-unit study. This is a very versatile cookbook that would enhance learning at any level. There are great tips scattered throughout the book. I love how the book teaches techniques on how to throw a party. There is advice on how to set up a buffet line, which is a very useful skill. I can't wait until she makes it to the desserts and makes the "Neiman Marcus $250 Cookies".

This book gets a thumbs up from us. I look forward to eating many more lovely recipes made entirely by my daughter. I am sure she will be much more confident about her cooking skills by the end of the year.

To see what others had to say, click on the banner below.

Everyday Cooking and Chores Systems for your Family {Everyday Homemaking Reviews}
Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Week 1 ~ Adjustments Already!

First and foremost, we had a really good week. Everything went more smoothly than anticipated and only one child completely balked over one curriculum choice. So I am calling the week a strong start. We completed all that we set out to do. However, I did make two changes already. This year I am not struggling through stuff that doesn't work. If I can't adapt it to make it fit, out it goes! If it is in my power, we are going to have a smooth, productive year without all of the drama of last year.
The first day of school started with a run to Starbucks!
So what did I change? Anne was calling me to come help her on the first day of math, insisting she had no idea how to do the subject at hand. I looked at it and saw that the curriculum (Kumon Math) didn't explain the concept well. It only explained the simplest problems and then asked the student to do harder varieties that hadn't been taught. I looked ahead and saw that this method continued throughout future lessons. It worked well last year, but much of it was review to make her foundation more solid. This year is new material. So I switched her to No-Nonsense Algebra. She is pleased and asks to do math first thing each day. That is a win in my book!

The second change is removing Cover Story from their course work. We struggled through a third of this program last year. I knew the kids were not thrilled with parts of the curriculum. However, since the girl we homeschooled a few days a week really hated it and complained tons about it, I thought my kids were just copying her. This year, I decided to only use it with my crew. However, Dean was very distraught when it was brought out and, after reminders to express his feelings in a more respectful manner, gave me several valid reasons why he did not want this to be his writing course. I switched him to Spectrum Writing (8th grade)even though it will count as part of his 9th grade credit. This program covers the same basic material that Cover Story did. He is much happier and life goes on. Anne is also using the Spectrum Writing program.


What Dean did this week
  • He worked two mornings at the Nature Center fulfilling his volunteer job for the summer. He logged another 8 hours in his Career and Technology course.
  • He attended his guitar lesson and practiced his guitar at home for three hours.
  • Dean did three chapters in Life of Fred Fractions and the corresponding pages for each chapter in Zillions of Practice Problems Fractions.
  • Dean listened to a reading of Macbeth and participated in a family discussion with some of the related questions from Progeny Press. We completed one act a night. 
  • He spent two hours drawing a new picture he calls Experience Tranquility.
  • He did two chapters in the Book of Trees and the corresponding workbook pages. He really likes this one. 
  • Dean read four chapters of The Story of the Thirteen Colonies and the Great Republic and did the corresponding workbook pages.
  • Dean did Lesson One of Spectrum Writing  and lesson 27 of Cover Story.
  • He watched CNN10 (formally CNN Student News) daily.
  • He attended two hours of physical education class with the Wandering Swordsmen.
Anne center back
What Anne did this week
  • Anne attended six and one-half hours of ballet this week. Her pointe shoes "died" mid-class one day and her teacher deemed them dangerous. We had to race off to the store to replace them the very next day. 
  • Anne sewed all of the elastic and ribbons onto her sixth pair of pointe shoes. She gets faster at sewing, and her needlework improves with each pair. Her sewing was recorded for home economics credit.
  • She watched CNN10 daily.
  • She shopped for ingredients to make four recipes from her home economics cookbook (which we will be reviewing next week). She prepared them without help and fed them to her family.
  • She did nine pages in her logic book, Unlocking Analogies.
  • Anne listened to a reading of Macbeth and participated in the discussion of questions from the Progeny Press unit study.
  • Anne finished four lessons in No-Nonsense Algebra.
  • She read two chapters in her history text and answered the corresponding questions.
  • She completed two lessons in her Spectrum Writing Book.
  • She continued reading one of her Harry Potter books.
We will be adding more workbooks and reading/writing assignments over the next two weeks as we progress into a full schedule. 

I am glad to be back to school and to a routine!

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Balancing Out-of-the-Home Classes

This year I am homeschooling one middle school student and a high school student. Their out-of-the-home classes are more than extracurricular. They are classes that support their future career hopes.

My daughter (13) is a very serious dancer and wants a career in dance. She will be in Junior Company, which is a semi-professional company for serious teens. She will be taking classes in ballet, Limon, hip-hop (1 semester), modern, choreography, Butoh, and partnering. She will be at this dance studio eight hours a week (not including rehearsals for performances). Anne loves ballet foremost and doesn't get nearly enough at her Junior Company studio, so last spring she started studying an Italian form of ballet, Cecchetti, at a different dance studio. She loves it and is studying for the Level 4 Cecchetti exam in the spring. She will be doing about four hours of ballet and pointe at the Cecchetti dance studio. That puts her up to a minimum of 12 hours of dance a week. She is delighted. I am a bit apprehensive, so I keep reminding her that she has a heavy academic schedule and must maintain at least a B average. She is young, driven, focused and excited. We shall see how it goes. 

Image may contain: 1 person, standing


My son (15) decided to give up dance for now. This has been a major part of his life since he was about 7 years old. In recent years, the pressure to dance to a particular standard really stressed him out. So this year he is pursuing other interests. He will be taking one hour of guitar, two hours of art classes, and two hours of Boffing (which will be part of his physical education credit) each week. In addition, he will attend a two hour teen art lab once a month and a literature movie club once a month. That will be a total of five hours a week some weeks and more than seven hours a week on other weeks. We may add something else as time goes on. However, he needs to get used to his full high school academic schedule. He just completed 34 hours of volunteer work at the nature center that will count for his Career and Technology credit.

It is going to be a busy year!

Back to Homeschool Annual Blog Hop - 2017
Blessings, Dawn

Friday, August 11, 2017

Curriculum Picks ~ 2017/2018 Semester One

We start school Monday! Wow! The summer was fast, but we are ready to get back to work. We actually did lots of recorded learning over the summer, so we are starting off strong in some subjects. That is a nice feeling. I am only showing what we plan to do for the first semester, because I will re-evaluate after 18 weeks. The courses will stay the same, but the materials may change for the spring semester.

What my crew is doing together ~

British Literature (10th grade Dean and 9th grade Anne) ~ Together they will be reading Macbeth, Great Expectations, Silas Marner, The Adventure of the Speckled Band, and some other British poetry and short stories.

Biology (10th grade Dean and 9th grade Anne) ~ We are looking forward to using the Fascinating Biology online program, dissecting (fetal pig, sheep heart, large frog), conducting lots of experiments and extra reading from Biology Prentice Hall.

English 8th grade (Anne), English 9th grade (Dean) ~ This course was started last year and will be completed this year. We will complete Cover Story and attend a monthly literature movie club with friends. First semester films will include Call of the Wild, Johnny Tremain, October Sky, The Miracle Worker, and To Kill a Mockingbird. In addition, Anne will also be completing several grammar workbooks.


Dean's Curriculum Picks ~ 

Math I (9th grade) ~ Textbooks that Dean will be using include Life of Fred Fractions, Zillions of Practice Problems FractionsLife of Fred Decimals, Zillions of Practice Problems Decimals. He will also be doing one math project a month from Hands-On Math Projects.



Earth Science (9th grade) (1/4 done) ~ His textbook will be The Book of Trees, in addition to a whole host of earth science articles I have collected. We will also go on several field trips (including a visit to a fossil dig).


U.S. History (9th grade) (1/4 done) ~ Dean's textbook will be The Story of the Thirteen Colonies and The Great Republic.

Career and Technology Course (10th grade) (1/4 done) ~ This summer (finishes next week), Dean has earned 34 hours of volunteer work at our local nature center as a Junior Naturalist. This semester he will be reading selected chapters from Succeeding in the World of Work.


Physical Education (9th grade) (1/4 done) ~ Dean decided to give up dance classes, at least for now. He is tired of all of the drama and struggle to be good enough. He will be working on a physical therapy program at home to increase flexibility in his hamstrings, lower back and shoulders. He will also be working on his core strength, as was advised by his recent physical therapy evaluation. Lastly, he will be attending a Wandering Swordsmen class for two hours each week in which he will learn techniques in boffing and participate in controlled skirmishes.

String Instruments (9th grade) (2/3 done) ~ Dean will continue lessons with guitar teacher and practice at home. He will also increase his repertoire of songs on the ukulele.

Visual Arts II (10th grade) ~ His lessons will be taught by Miss Laura 2 hours a week, and he will complete homework at home.

Anne's Curriculum Picks ~

Home Economics 8th grade ~ Anne will make five recipes each week, using the Everyday Cooking book. She will do the planning, shopping, budgeting and cooking of all recipes.


Math 8th grade ~ Anne will continue with No-Nonsense Algebra. She will also be listening to the Life of Fred books with her brother (but not doing the Zillions of Practice Problems book). She will also be doing one math project a month from Hands-on Math Projects.



World History 8th grade ~ This is a review year for Anne to make sure there are no gaps before going into high school. She will read and answer all questions in Everything You Need to Ace World History in One Big Fat Notebook. She will read and answer all questions. She will also be picking a topic of interest from the topics reviewed in the first semester to write a five page research paper.

Logic 8th grade ~ Anne will be using the following books: Unlocking Analogies, The Fallacy Detective, and Orbiting with Logic. She will also get credit for working through some Sherlock mysteries on her own.

English 8 ~ She will be studying along with her brother (see above).

Physical Education ~ Anne will be taking around 12 to 14 hours a week of dance classes this year. She is studying for the Cecchetti ballet exam (level 4) in the spring. She already has completed 14 weeks of dance (5 hours a week) over the summer. She will be studying ballet, pointe, hip hop, partnering, modern, limon and choreography. Her technical classes will count for physical education and extracurricular.

Performing Arts ~ The majority of her performing arts credit will be from dance classes that are working on shows, such as The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. She will perform in The Nutcracker in December. She will also be getting credit for songs she learns and memorizes on the piano.

It is going to be a busy year!! Here we go!



Back to Homeschool Annual Blog Hop - 2017
Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Math Essentials ~ No-Nonsense Algebra Reveiw

Math Essentials
Math is the most stressful subject in our household. I have one child who is good at math but hates it and another who struggles with math and feels very unsure about his abilities. When I was asked to review No-Nonsense Algebra from Math Essentials, I was pleased, but my kids were devastated. They were ready for a break from math and were not at all happy about testing out this new product over the summer.
No-Nonsense Algebra

What is it?
This is a two part program. It is a workbook and textbook in one paperback and there is a code inside the book which gives you free access to online lessons. As the title of the program states, there are no distractions or nonsense in this program. Each lesson is broken into five parts. 
  • The online video ~ a short lesson that takes about 10 minutes to watch and helps the student work through the corresponding problems in the lesson he or she is working on.
  • Introduction ~ This is at the beginning of each lesson and is written directly to the student.
  • Examples ~ There are two to four examples with each lesson.
  • Exercises ~ There are 15 to 20 problems to work out in each lesson.
  • Review ~ There are a few problems to go over in order to review what you have learned at the end of each lesson. 
How we used it
I decided to use the program with my youngest who is entering 8th grade this fall. She is comfortable in math but doesn't care for it. She likes the workbook style and is always telling me to find curriculum that will get her through her school work in the most efficient way possible so that she can get back to her first love, DANCE. She has been working in a pre-algebra workbook for a few months prior to this program. We worked on the first section, Necessary Tools for Algebra, which is essentially pre-algebra. As it turned out, she decided that the course "wasn't so bad after all". She thought the videos were nicely presented and explained the material well. The problems are worked out on a whiteboard, while the teacher talks in the background. She also liked the workbook layout. She liked that there wasn't a lot of problems. She liked that this program promotes independence and that she did not need to wait for instructions from me to get her work done. She could even check her solutions in the back of the book (as long as she showed her work on paper for me).
I like this program for her as well. It is just the right fit for Anne. I do think it wouldn't work for my son, because he needs tons of repetition. There are only about 15 problems for each lesson. I realize that the concept is that, if you understand it, you only need to do it a few times. However, with a learning disabled person, repetition is the key to success. That said, I think this program is great for many neurotypical ("normal") kids. 
I also appreciate that the book is non-consumable, so it could be used for multiple children. The student does need to write the problems out on a separate sheet of paper. My daughter decided to finish the workbooks that she has been using for pre-algebra and then return to this program to complete pre-algebra for this coming school year. She really likes that it is very efficient. 
To see what more crew members had to say, click on the banner below.
No-Nonsense Algebra {Math Essentials Reviews}
Blessings, Dawn

Friday, August 4, 2017

Dean's High School Transcript ~ Visual Arts I

Over the summer Dean finished his 9th grade Visual Arts I class, which he had been taking for several months. Dean's growth in art was remarkable this year. He took classes with Miss Laura, who is an accomplished artist in our area. She taught him a lot about shadowing, murals and portrait drawing. He had a very exciting opportunity to create a mural of his own that was accepted and placed outside a popular restaurant in our area. It will be posted for three months (July - September 2017). He used acrylics as his medium and used the grid method to move his drawing from a standard sheet of paper to the 4 foot by 8 foot wooden mural board.


Dean discovered his love of portraits this year. He much prefers drawing to painting and truly enjoyed drawing ears, eyes, hair and mouths. He spent hours perfecting each of these parts of the face and head.


He also explored creating figures of people. He placed them at different angles and worked on profiles and placed the figure in different positions. He also explored monsters.
Image may contain: drawing

Dean learned about several artists under the tutelage of his grandmother, who is also a trained and accomplished artist. He studied Paul Klee, Edvard Munch, Henri Matisse, Shel Silverstein and Jackson Pollock. After an hour or more of an art history lesson on each artist, he then did an art project using each artist's technique and style.




He attended First Fridays Teen Workshop at Roots and Wings most months of the school year. In that setting, he enjoyed drawing while hanging out with friends, learned more about anime and explored other mediums, such as plastic and shrinky dinks.

Dean went on several field trips to galleries and museums. The most exciting trip was to the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. Dean was delighted to see his favorite painting by Monet, Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies.

He also did a few cooperative art projects with his art mates in class with Miss Laura. One of his favorites was each of them separately drawing parts of a face, which created Harry Potter when all of the students put the pieces together.


It was a great course! Dean earned an A (95) for completing all assignments on time, doing all homework, full participation in all classes, completion and acceptance of a mural that was hung at Avenue M restaurant and impressive progress in drawing skills. 
Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

In the Reign of Terror ~ Review

In the Reign of Terror

Heirloom Audio Productions is one of our favorite companies. We were beyond excited to receive for review their most recent audio CD, In the Reign of Terror.  This is a two CD set that has an audio time of two and one half hours. I love the motto of this company, "Building character in the next generation by bringing the lessons of history to life".  What a wonderful motto to teach by. This is a very exciting production about the Reign of Terror that took place during the French Revolution. The Reign of Terror lasted one year in which upwards of 30,000 noble men, women and children were killed in horrific ways, including the guillotine. 
Heirloom Audio Productions

This is an exciting story about a young Englishman named Harry who lives with a French noble family during the reign of terror. The family starts out leading the normal lives of the well-to-do. However, the story quickly turns very dangerous for the family as they face prison and potential death at the hands of angry mobs, for no better reason than being noble. Harry becomes loyal to the family and does everything in his power to keep them safe as they try to escape Paris. There are many harrowing twists and turns throughout the story that kept us on the edge of our seats. 

We listened to the story while traveling on our vacation. I must admit that the story was so engaging that it may not have been advisable for the driver to be listening, since the story was so compelling that it was distracting. I will say that this time period is horrific and it clearly came through in the story. I am not sure that it would be appropriate for the youngsters who might be frightened by the details and horrors portrayed so brilliantly by the actors. I know it gave me chills at times. I love the moral lessons that are portrayed in this story. Harry resists becoming violent against his attackers and instead uses his wits and intelligence to outsmart them. He also relies heavily on his faith in God and his belief that God would not want him to become a murderer. His selflessness is contagious and commendable. 

Besides the wonderful audio production, we were given access to a great unit study. It is filled with excellent discussion questions and lots of Expand Your Learning opportunities. We immediately searched for all of the recipes and decided which one we would make. We made brioche following one of the recipes in the study guide. My kids love to do cooking projects that are connected to their learning. Heirloom Audio Productions also has a Live the Adventure Clubwhich is an exciting new way to get involved with the stories. This audio and study guide gets a huge thumbs up from our family. We really enjoyed it. The acting is excellent, the story is engaging and the moral lessons are timeless.
To see what other members of the review crew had to say, click on the banner below.
In the Reign of Terror {Heirloom Audio Productions Reviews}

Blessings, Dawn