Well That Escalated Quickly

Our “official” first day of school. Although we had been working on reading for about 2 months already.

So we have been homeschooling my Kindergartener for about 6 months now and things are going really, really well. I want to talk about our routine really quickly. First thing in the morning, we eat breakfast while we have some morning “table time”. This is a tradition in homeschools the world over where almost anything can happen, as long as it’s done together as a family. it can range from bible devotions, to history readings, to poetry memorizations. In our house, I have so many wiggly littles, that something that planned is somewhat unachievable, so we just talk about our plans for the day. Then I take some time to cuddle and play with my littles before my Kindergartener and I break off for one on one time.

Working on cursive letter “i”s (He’s a south paw)

The Littles play much better if we do this. We start with Reading (20 min). Then move on to Math (20 min). Then some cursive practice (10 min) and a page in our social studies notebook (20 min). All of this takes less than an hour and a half. He and his brothers have the rest of the day to play, we go on field trips, or hikes, or just run errands. I am loving all this time with my children!! If the littles are having a hard time respecting our one on one time, I just wait for nap time, and do the things requiring more quiet concentration (read here…math).

Now for progress with our curriculum choices. He totally blew through level 1 All About Reading before August even got started!

All done with All About Reading Level 1!!! (June 4, 2018 – August 1, 2018) We love these progress sheets that are part of the curriculum. My son can easily see his progress!! And what little kid doesn’t like getting stickers?

Then in November, we finished level 2!! WOW! I can’t believe how he’s flown through it! And I was worried about reading! These levels were supposed to last the whole year! Now I’ve bought 3 in one year!! Just in case anyone out there thinks I’m some amazing reading teacher, let me just stop you right there. This is all him! This kid is motivated to read!! He’s a bookworm and wants to devour every book he encounters. The fact that he can’t read everything yet, frustrates him and motivates him to move quickly through these books.

And now, we are all done with Reading Level 2. Sheesh!! Mama needs a money tree!!

Now he’s just a few lessons away from being through Level A of Right Start Math! We are on track to finish both before Christmas break. Math doesn’t come as easily for him, but Right Start is so gentle and cyclic that I know we can keep working through the material, even if he hasn’t completely mastered it and he will get exposure to it again soon. Or we can just pause lessons for a few days and play some of the games to cement a concept. I love it! We are about halfway through our social studies notebook, and have done 2/3 of our cursive letters.

I continue to be impressed by the potential that has already been reached by homeschooling, since he is essentially in 1st grade now at the halfway point of his Kindergarten year. For other children in homeschool, it’s the opposite story, and that is just dandy too! Kids should be allowed to go at their own pace and journey. It’s a marathon, not a sprint!

Tornado Damage!

For those of you living under a rock in Mount Airy, we’ve been hit recently by a tornado, and while everyone in town has been mourning the closing of the TJMax due to roof damage and flooding, we’ve been over here dealing with our own tiny crisis. On a farm with livestock, there’s not much worse than having a fence come down. And that’s exactly what happened during the high winds from the tornado. While we were not hit directly by the cyclone, we had some serious fence damage and were without power for a while.

This massive tree came down across an important stretch of fence, completely crushing it. It’s an extremely long stretch of fence, meaning that the entire stretch is affected by this damage. In the short term, we worried about animals that may have escaped during the time between it happening and when we secured the area, but luckily we did not have any daring souls try it!

Dan and I did a quick temporary fence around the area to keep animals safe overnight and then spent the rest of the evening “camping” in the living room without any power!

The boys thought it was really fun!

Then in the morning we got to work fixing it! The plan was to temporarily nail off the sections around the damage, while they cut up the tree and then splice in a new section of fence, without letting the pressure off of the stretch. Luckily we have awesome neighbors that offered to come over and give us a hand!

Trucks and Tractors in the field, you know there’s work happening! They got the tree cut out!
Splicing in the new section, takes a lot of braun and some decent brains too. I have the cushy seat in the skid loader 😀
All fixed! Not quite like new, but definitely good enough to hold animals in where they should be!

We have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving! Not being hit by a tornado that came very close, wonderful neighbors, and animals that are smart enough to stay in the barn during a storm!

First Year Homeschooling – Kindergarten Curriculum Choices

(R-L: Logic of English’s Rhythm of Handwriting – Cursive, Teachers Pay Teachers – My Social Studies Notebook, Right Start Math Level A & Manipulatives. Not Pictured – All About Reading Level 1)

Hey all you wonderful people! I’m back to talk homeschool curriculum! I have had many chats with other homeschoolers in our area, visited a homeschool curriculum fair, and done TONS and TONS of research online. And here are my choices. Because I am new to this, and not super confident as a teacher yet, I opted for a few things that are open and go (AAR & RSM)* and a few more open ended things. Also, because its only Kindergarten, I’m not going as crazy as I would have liked to. There was some SERIOUS self censure happening. After visiting the curriculum fair, I wanted to buy ALL the curriculum!!

Keep in mind that each state has different requirements for homeschooling and there are multiple websites to help you determine which rules you must follow. I’ll try to find some links and add them, but honestly, there are other blogs that are probably better suited for a “this is how you start homeschooling” person than mine.

Ok, so the two most important subjects for me where Math and Reading, so that’s where I spent most of my budget. I opted for All About Reading (AAR)* for learning to read. Because this is a Orton-Gillingham style program, it is well suited for those with learning differences. It’s not the cheapest show in town, but it’s not the most expensive either. Plus they have thousands of amazing reviews and people that love it. Also, I really liked that from the very first lesson, students are able to read their first story in the supplied readers. Which for my son, was extremely motivating and made him hungry for more immediately! The teacher’s manual is written like a play script with stage directions (build the word “mat” with your tiles) and lines (place your finger under the word and say to your student – What is this word?). I bought this at the homeschool curriculum fair from Rainbow Resource Center for $119. That has everything you need to teach the course except for the letter tiles kit. You buy this once and use it for all levels. It was $20. They also have an iPad app that does the same thing for the same price. You don’t not need the deluxe kit with the bag and the card box. But if that’s what blows your dress up, do it!

Math was a harder decision. There are so many great ones to pick from. We finally decided to go with Right Start Math (RSM)*. They have a unique approach to teaching math that encourages a lot of mental math and picturing numbers in a unique way that is nothing short of spectacular! It’s a bit labor intensive for the teacher, since each lesson is meant to be 1 on 1. The program is also a bit on the pricey side, but definitely not the most costly one out there. It is highly researched by Dr. Joan Cotter who has a Masters in curriculum and instruction and a PhD in mathematics education. Each teacher’s manual/student workbook combo is around $90. The manual is reusable for other kids, you just need a new student workbook. Then there are several options for manipulative kits. You only need to buy this once and then you will have everything you need for every single math level. (Math Curriculums are really intimidating in this way, because you feel like it’s a long term commitment and you’re not sure if you will love it. So make sure you do your research, but also know that everything has pretty good resale value on curriculum swaps or eBay.)

The deluxe “includes everything” manipulative kit is somewhere in the neighborhood of $250. But has a lot of things that most people have laying around the house already (like coins, calculator, popsicle sticks, mirror, and others) so they also offer a “Super saver” for $150 that leaves out all of these items and even includes some “printable” items. Guess which one this chick went for? Yea Super Saver all the way. We bought it at the homeschool curriculum convention and they were offering a Convention Discount. So all told we made it out of there for about $240.

It sounds like a lot I know. I am a big time budget shopper, so this hurt a little. Recently I have been accused of have “bougie” (sp?) taste when it comes to curriculum. But I like to think of it as an investment into my children’s minds. I know, I know, more expensive doesn’t always mean better….but I absolutely love the way Right Start teaches you to “think like a mathematician”. I mean, what is the chief complaint of all people that hate math? “I’m just not a math person” or “It just doesn’t click with me” or even “I just don’t get it”. Not so with this program (supposedly). If you do what they ask of you, and don’t try to bypass bits in the lessons (ask me how I know this – We started with skipping the first 20 lessons since they seemed to only cover teaching numbers 1-10, which my son already knew. But there were a ton of little gems hidden in those lessons about strategies for using the abacus, and using mental math to group numbers. So we had to go back and cover all of those before we moved on).

For Social Studies I fount this cute little “social studies notebook” on Teachers Pay Teachers (which is another really great place to find great and inexpensive curriculum). Each little mini unit came with book recommendations that we would get form the library every week and read, and then do the activity.

“PE” was playing outside – lets not overcomplicate this right?

And for music we sing and I am trying to teach him how to play the ukulele with free YouTube videos!

I also decided to add a handwriting curriculum as well. And after trying a few cheap workbooks, I caved and purchased the Logic of English Rhythm of Handwriting Cursive edition. There is some really great information on their website about why starting with cursive is better and easier. Ill leave that to you to read and research on your own. But it made an impression on me and I have been happy with the results so far.

We are a month into this adventures and we are very excited to continue! I plan to update you maybe every 6 months? Let me know if you have questions or want more updates!

Farmhouse! Homeschool?

We are entering a new season in our house. The season of schooling. Hard choices abound. For most people there are 3 main options.  Send your child to public schools, private schools, and homeschooling. They all have pros and cons.  We can’t afford private school, even if I work more than I do now, and I have some serious issues with our current public school system. (PAUSE to say that I have ZERO issues with all the fabulous, sacrificing teachers in our public school system…..you all are amazing…..seriously, I don’t know how you put up with all the C*@P that you do – my issue is with the box that you are stuffed into) And so for us, in this season, homeschooling makes the most sense. I am home most days anyway with our younger two, and additionally, we are fairly sure that our first has some learning differences.

I am terrified that he will be labeled the bad kid, or the loud kid. He gravitates towards those kids with the worst behavior and copies them. Is that just my kid? Does your kid do that? He is also incredibly bright, and I’m worried that his learning differences will be ignored because he’s able to compensate well and he won’t fall behind.

I was told by teachers that “it’s no problem if they aren’t falling behind, we don’t worry until they are falling behind the class!”. As if this would make me feel better about that. Except that I don’t feel better, in fact, I have a huge problem with that. How many kids are not reaching their full potential in life because they just “aren’t falling behind”? What if his potential is to be a grade ahead, two grades ahead? Even if his potential is to be a grade behind, his individual learning needs will still be placed to the side for the benefit of the group as a whole. I reject this. I know we are capable of much more as a society, and until there is a better solution in our public schools, I will take control of our children’s education.

So….stay tuned for some homeschool adventures!! I have NO IDEA what I am doing…so let’s learn together!! Got any burning homeschooling questions? Post them below!!!

Canning Safety

After I wrote the post about applesauce, I figured that a post with some home canning safety tips would be in order.  I have found that the website www.healthycanning.com as well as the NCHFP and the CDC are great resources for home canning guidelines.

Internet-land can be a great deep pool of knowledge, but sometimes the problem when cruising around in all that knowledge is that you are really just getting a lot of people’s opinions, like MINE! 🙂

Just because someone’s grandmother canned using (insert unsafe canning method here) and everyone was fine…..does not mean that it IS a safe method.  I equate it to driving without a seat belt.  A majority of the time, you will get to your destination and everything will have been fine, but that ONE time you get into an accident, you’ll be sorry you weren’t wearing it!  In most situations it doesn’t take any more time or effort to do it the right way, just like buckling up!  Just do it!

When we are talking about the safety of the food that MY family is going to eat, I want to know that everyone is going to be safe.  Food tainted with botulism or other food born illnesses do not always look and smell rancid!!! HealthyCanning.com has straightforward, easily understood articles about canning safety and I encourage you to head over there for some reading before venturing out into the internet to learn different recipes and techniques. And always after every article they provide resources for you to read more about the topic.  Evidence-Based practice? What? Instead of antidotal accounts? YEA!!! That’s what my little nurse heart loves!!  Never trust the first thing you read. Go out and search for the thing that proves it right!!

And just in case you are wondering, here are MY home canning rules:

  1. Do not fly by the seat of your pants – home canning is not the time to get creative. Find tested recipes and follow them to the letter.  This includes measurements, cooking and processing times.
  2. Always use proper, safe, inspected equipment – Always inspect your canning equipment before getting started and follow manufactures suggestions for care and maintenance.  Pressure canners should have their rubber seals replaced at regular intervals and dial gauges should be certified yearly. Make sure you are using genuine mason jars and never re-use lids (unless you sprung for the fancy reusable lids). Also make sure you are pressure canning what needs to be pressure canned and water bath can what should be water bath canned. They are not necessarily interchangeable.
  3. Do not store cans with rings and more that two jars high – rings left on can rust lids more quickly or allow a lid to stay “sealed” that may not have sealed properly. Stacking jars too high can cause jars to fall and break as well as the weight can cause seals to pop on lower jars.

That’s it! Follow the recipe, use proper equipment, and store them safely! Not so complicated right? GO forth, you can CAN!!!!