Thursday, March 28, 2013

Homeschool Grade Sheet

I know a lot of homeschoolers don't believe in grades.  Honestly, I don't really either.  My state doesn't require them and in the elementary years they don't really mean anything.  I make the kids redo their work until they get it right anyway so they all get straight A's, right?  Actually, I have a couple of reasons for doing grades, even though I don't really believe in them.

1. Motivation:  Some of my kids are motivated by those big letter "A"s at the top of their work.  And once in a while I will offer a reward for good grades, which in our house mostly mean they worked hard to learn the stuff we are studying.

2. High school transcripts:  In high school we need to keep track of grades for their transcripts.  Colleges will want to see them.

3. Practice:  When they get to college, they will be graded on their work.  They might as well get used to it now.  It's also given me a chance to practice keeping records for their high school transcripts.

Ultimately, it's up to you (and possibly your state) whether you record grades for your homeschool or not.  If you do and you want a form for record keeping, this is what I use.  Hopefully it will help you:

You can download the editable Excel version here.  It's in the same file as the planner pages so if you downloaded those, you already have these.

You can download the write-in pdf version here.

The font used in the downloads is Space Woozies and can be found here.

The font used in the image above is called Sunshine Poppy and can be found here.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Recipe of the Week: Sweet and Sour Meatballs

My family loves this recipe.  I usually make it with pineapple tidbits instead of the crushed so I can pick it out...  I know, I know.  But if I made only what I like and won't pick stuff out of, my family would suffer greatly!

Sweet and Sour Meatballs
1 can of crushed pineapple
1 tbsp corn starch
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
24 meatballs
 Mix all ingredients except meatballs in a large saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until well blended.  Add meatballs. Simmer for 10 min. Serve over cooked rice.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Homeschool Calendars

I keep two kinds of homeschool calendars.  The first is my yearly at-a-glance calendar.  Here is what it looks like along with a few notes on how I use it:

I also keep a monthly calendar to which I can add field trips, birthdays, vacations, and other important dates.

When planning my year, I usually start with Christmas or Thanksgiving and work my way out.  We do 4-6 weeks on and 1 week off except at Christmas and in summer.  I usually start the first Monday in September.

Actually, this year we really won't have a stopping and starting point.  I plan on just continuing what we are doing, and when we finish a book, we move on to the next one.  We've had way more breaks this year than planned because of the new baby and some personal issues so I plan on schooling right through the summer (knowing that we will probably have lots of breaks in there for fun stuff - camping, day trips, etc).  So our school year will "begin" in September but really it will mostly mean new school supplies and decorations in the schoolroom (also known as the living room - that's the price you pay for homeschooling 5 kids in a very small house).

You can download both of these calendars here.
The font used in the Excel version is called Space Woozies and can be found here.
The font used in the images above is called Sunshine Poppy and can be found here.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Kids' Homeschool Planners

My kids haven't always had planners for their work.  Some years they've just done the same thing every day (moving on to the next page or chapter or whatever) and some years they've come to me and asked what they needed to do.  In the early years, I sat down and did everything with them.  We really don't do any independent work for the first couple of years so they didn't need planners then.  The last few years, however, the kids' planners have been invaluable.  I know it looks like a lot of stuff to fill out every day but really, it only takes a minute or two for each one.  In fact, the older kids will fill out their own pages most days.

Here is a tour of my older son's planner pages:

You can find the editable Excel version of my kids' planner here.

The write-in PDF version is here.

The font used in the Excel version is called Space Woozies and can be downloaded here.
The font used in the example above is called Gilligans Island and can be downloaded here.

To read more about my Teacher's planner, click here.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Recipe of the Week: Loaded Baked Potato Soup

This is another one of those recipes I found online and tweaked to suit my own needs.  Rich and creamy, this soup is a wonderful winter comfort food.

Loaded Baked Potato Soup
4 cups frozen hashbrowns
2/3 cup butter or margarine
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups milk
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
4 green onions, chopped
12 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup sour cream
 ~ Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add flour, stirring until smooth. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk. Add hashbrowns.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture is thick and bubbly and hashbrowns are cooked, 5 or 6 minutes.  Add salt, pepper, green onions, bacon, and cheese. Cook until cheese is melted and soup is heated through. Stir in sour cream. Serve.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

How I Plan My Homeschool Year

This may seem like a funny time of year to be blogging about planning the homeschool year but I really do start thinking about next year in the middle of the current one.  We are far enough along in our “classes” that I usually have a pretty good idea of whether this or that method or book is working for us and I can start thinking about whether or not we will continue it next year.  This is also a good time to start planning the financial side of the homeschooling experience, in case you need to buy one or two books at a time to help spread out the expense – plus, the suppliers aren’t as busy this time of year and you can get your books faster.  If you wait until July or August they tend to be swamped and you may not get your books in time for the first day of school, let alone in time to plan out the class.

So, down to business.
The first thing I like to do is design my planner pages for the year.  There are several things I need to know before I can do this, however:  1) who I am teaching, 2) what subjects I am teaching, 3) what order I am teaching them in, 4) what books I am using, and 5) what information I need to write down for each assignment.

1) Who am I teaching? 
This seems like kind of a no-brainer, huh?  I’m teaching my kids!  Actually, it’s not so simple – for our family anyway.  Every couple or three years we add a kindergartener to the list so I have to decide whether I will be starting formal lessons with them and in a year or two I will have older kids starting college, so I obviously won’t be teaching them anymore.  Anyway, it’s still a simple question but an important one.  I need to know for whom I am keeping records.

2) What subjects am I teaching?
This question is a little more complicated.  There is always a million more things I’d like to teach than I have time/resources for so I have a system for weeding them out.  Start by brainstorming a list of things you’d like your children to learn this year.  Include things you’d like to teach, things they’d like to learn and things that you think they need to learn.  Make it as long as you want.  You obviously won’t be using all of them.  Include outside classes they are taking, are going to take, or might take this year.  Now, step away from that list for a while and make a list of educational goals for your children for the year.  Once again, include needs and wants.  Try to make them realistic and achievable.  Compare your two lists.  Are there subjects on your first list that will help achieve some of the goals on the second list?  Are some of your subjects seeming a little less important now that you know what your goals are?  See if you can narrow your list of “classes” down a bit.  I keep mine at 10 classes but I break down some of the subjects into sub-subjects (language arts usually covers several).  Keep in mind here that most of my “classes” are only 10-20 minutes long, depending on the subject and the age of the student. 

3) What order am I teaching them in?
Okay, this may not be important to you but I like my planner pages to have the subjects listed in the order I am teaching them.  This is purely a convenience thing for me.  I start with the subjects we all do together.  We try to have short together time first thing that includes singing a hymn, a prayer, reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance, memorizing a scripture or house rule, and a fun song practice.  When we’re short on time (which is often), this gets skipped.  Thinking about it now, I realize that I need to make this time more of a priority.  Anyway, then we do history, as we are all working out of the same book but a different level of narration is expected of each of them.  (More on that later.)  Then we do grammar.  My oldest three are working on this together.  After that, I fill out my oldest’s planner so she can go off and do her own thing.  Then I do my second oldest’s planner so she can do her stuff as well.  Next I do science with the next three kids (the youngest two aren’t “in” school yet).  After that’s done, I can fill out their planners and send them on their way to do the rest of their school work independently.  I try to stay available for help on individual lessons.

4) What books am I using?
At this point in my homeschooling career I usually know, for the most part, what books I will be using.  My oldest is still the biggest question mark because she’s learning stuff that no one in our house has and so I usually have to come up with new resources for her.  For most of the other stuff, I can just dig up things I’ve used in previous years.  (I could go into how to choose curriculum here but that is a whole ‘nother set of information that I couldn’t even begin to cover in one blog post.)

5) What other information do I want to include in my planner pages?
Okay, so I have a column for each student and rows for each subject, with spaces for the titles of the books and spaces to write daily assignments.  I also like to include a row or two for “other” stuff that comes up that I may not have thought of at the beginning of the year.  I also want to include a place for the date, as well as the term we’re in and the week number within that term (not terribly important information but it helps me know when there’s a break coming up).  I also need a place to record grades and notes for the day.  You may not need a place for grades (especially for the younger kids) but I have a highschooler and one in junior high and they will need records for college.  The younger kids get them because they feel left out if I don’t do it – and it helps all of us see how well everyone is staying on track.  I keep notes on the back of the previous day’s planner page.  Last but not least, I like to have an idea of what information I will be writing down for each assignment.  Will it be just a page or lesson number? A series of page numbers? A chapter title?  Some sort of instructions?  I need to know these things so I can size my boxes accordingly.

Whew, that’s a lot of information!  Sorry, I tend to err on the side of too much information...  Anyway, hopefully this will help you in getting started with your planning.  The next image gives you an idea of how my pages work (this year anyway).

You can download the editable spreadsheet version of my planner page here.  It includes some of my other pages which I will talk about in a future post.  You can edit any part of the pages but the stuff that I recommend editing is in red.  


Monday, March 4, 2013

Recipe of the Week: Spinach Quiche

This recipe is from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.  You know, the iconic red-and-white checkered one.  My mom has had a copy of it for longer than I can remember.  Then my younger sister got a copy and it got wet and some of the pages got ruined so she gave it to me and got a new copy.  I don't use the book nearly as often as my mom did (she didn't have Pinterest, after all) but it's still my go-to cookbook when I know what I want to make but don't already have a favorite recipe for it.

Anyway,  Rock had never had quiche when we got married and so I made this for him.  Actually, when I said this is the recipe from the book, well, it's not quite the same.  Over the years I've made some changes to make it cheaper/more convenient for me.  I made it right out of the book that first time.  Now he gets this version and he's never noticed the difference.  The kids really like it too.

Spinach Quiche
1 pie crust
1/2 chopped onion
6 slices bacon, chopped
8 eggs
1/2 c sour cream
1/2 c milk
1/4 t salt
1/8 t pepper
dash ground nutmeg
3 c lightly packed chopped fresh spinach (in a pinch, I'll use 2 cups frozen)
1 c shredded mozzarella
Line crusts with foil and bake in 450 oven for 8 min. Remove foil and bake 4-5 min longer.  Reduce oven  to 325.  Cook onion and bacon in skillet.  Drain.  Beat eggs in bowl.  Add next 6 ingredients.  Add remaining ingredients.  Pour into pie crust.  Bake at 325 about 45 min or until knife comes out clean.  Let stand 10 min before serving.