Homeschooling, part 2 (or: Oops, should have written this first!)

I had several questions about why we chose homeschooling in the first place and how someone could start doing it now, if they wanted.

Why
Honestly, I do not remember what made me look into homeschooling in the beginning.  I was probably surfing the internet, clicking here, clicking there (NO idea how I get to some pages!).  I know that the decision was never a “Yes or no, right now” sort of choice.  We came to it the long way around, especially because Byron is a good bit older than I am and was raised not only in and by a different generation, but in an area that was almost like a different country when compared to my upbringing.

The 60s versus the 80s, black versus white, country versus suburbia—it took us a long time to work out terms for our trial run!

Remy always enjoyed the learning games we would play when he was 2 and 3 years old.  I would write out the words of his favorite things—truck, ball, Mama, Daddy, bunny, book, car, baby, Remy—and as I would write each letter with his crayon (he liked to choose different colors) I would say it and he would repeat it.  At the end of the word, I would say the word, he would repeat that.  After playing this game for a little while, he could say the word without me prompting him.  Then a little after that, he could give me the word without the letters being dictated to him.  I hardly realized that he had learned to read!!  Sure, he could only read about 10 words, but he was TWO and he could READ.  We kept playing that game, mostly because he liked to have me sit on the floor and play with him, didn’t matter what game.  And scribbling was cool, too.

We moved to Florida in September of 2004.  He had just turned 3 and had never been to daycare.  A few days after we ripped him from his familiar home, we moved into a hotel (we lived in the hotel where we worked for months) and put him in full time daycare.I was miserable!

So was he.  He had a difficult time transitioning, although I can’t blame him since we hardly gave him a chance.  We were asked to remove him from 2 different daycares before he finally started doing better at the only daycare choice in town that we had left—the one that took in the “difficult” kids.  I have since realized what a wonderful place that daycare is, but at the time it was a bit of a stigma.  We also know now that he was acting out all along because he was bored silly. LOL  Once he “graduated” from there, he moved on to public kindergarten.

His teacher there was a blessing!  She loved having him in class and did not hesitate to let us know that he was a handful!  She saw that he was well ahead of other kids in the class, and because she was lucky enough to have an aide in her room, she was able to keep him busy and learning.  When I told her that we would be moving, she cried.  I was proud and angry all at once because 1) she was upset to be losing him and 2) she was upset to be losing his test scores.  Whaaaa…??  Then she told me that she was gaining a new student as she was losing Remy and while Remy could read well, this child only knew the letter “X”.  Somehow it was hard for me to feel bad for her, even though I was proud that Remy could make a teacher feel that way.

We moved back from Florida on March 1, 2007.  Since Remy didn’t turn 6 until August of that year, we had already agreed to homeschool until then.  We would decide whether to continue or enroll him when the decision was forced upon us.  It only took a few months before Byron (the hesitant one) realized Just. How. Much. Remy knew!!  One of Remy’s favorite games was to randomly tell Daddy facts he had learned from a book or a worksheet, or show off his mental math skills in the car.  The ability we had to be flexible with our scheduling and all the stuff we didn’t have to do “for school” was enormous, too!   The main benefits for us, then and now, are the hours, subject availability, safety, character development, and social opportunities.

1.  Hours—we are night owls.  Getting up at oh-dark-thirty is NOT for us.  I remember it well and Remy sleeps like me.  It would be a scene, every morning.
2.  Subjects—we can choose whatever subjects we want.  Or not.  We can choose unit studies, different publishers, mastery or spiral, any language—the sky is truly the limit, and public/private/charter/whatever schools just cannot offer that.
3.  Safety—shootings, stabbings, stupid rules that are necessities in a large school setting, bullying, internet—we don’t have to worry nearly as much.  Still some!  But not as much.
4.  Character development—we can make sure certain things are covered that we, as his parents, feel are required.  We choose to include Bible studies, but we do not homeschool for solely that reason.  In fact, it wasn’t even a consideration when we made the choice.
5.  Social opportunities—SOOOOO many people are concerned with socialization.  This issue has been debunked so many times now, but it is still the first question many people have.  You can read about it here, here, here, or here.  We have many chances to interact with many different kinds of people of all ages—just like you would at a job, within a family, or out in public.
I’m not saying that there aren’t folks out there who try to take advantage of the potential for isolation and “homeschool” to cover up other things—it has been in the news a couple of time lately.  You can read about one here.  They are few and far between, though.

How
To begin homeschooling, go here and click on your state to find out what the laws are for your area.  To find support in your area, you can use Facebook, search via your favorite search engine, or even ask your local librarian.  It took us some time before we felt comfortable venturing out into a group setting—I always thought we were doing something “wrong” – but don’t let it stop you!!  Check your YMCA or local grocery stores for school-aged kids out during school hours.  Just ask them!!  We homeschoolers aren’t contagious superfreaks, after all.

Ok, maybe a little  🙂

I can help you find answers, too, so if you can’t seem to find someone local, ASK!!!
I will cover other curriculum choices in another post, including more for the younger set.  It is easy to homeschool for free, or to spend hundreds of dollars a year, and tons in between!  It is all overwhelming to newbies, but there are tons of “been there, done that” parents out there willing to help.

Homeschooling

We have homeschooled pretty much from the beginning.  Remy went to public school kindergarten for a few months in Tallahassee, but when we moved home to Cleveland, we decided to give HSing a test run.  Remy was still 5 and Ohio’s compulsory attendance law is for 6, so it was a good time to try.  By the time August rolled around, we knew we would NEVER send Remy to PS again.  He learned SO much from us, much more than he had learned in public school, plus it worked with our schedule–very important since Byron had just started working 3rd shift full time for the first time ever.  Besides, we weren’t ready to spend so much time away from Remy again.  We really hadn’t liked sending him to daycare and then public school, but in Florida we didn’t feel we had much choice.  We are now finishing up our 7th (!!!) year of homeschooling and we have never looked back!  There were a few bumps along the way which I may touch on later, but we have been wildly successful (in spite of those bumps!!).
Remy is currently working on the following courses (although he is in different places in each):
Disclaimer: I link to various other sites throughout this post, including sites from which I purchased and publisher specific sites. If I didn’t buy directly from the publisher, I include that link as well.
Algebra 1
We use a combination of several resources that I meshed into an Excel worksheet.  They include:

clip_image002[5] Cool Math
clip_image004[5] Algebra, Grades 5 – 8, by Don Blattner
clip_image006[5] Practice Makes Perfect Algebra, by Carolyn Wheater
clip_image008[1] Teach Yourself VISUALLY Algebra, by David Alan Herzog

We also have tons of worksheets that we print from the internet and use, including Algebra Help and Math Aids.
One we don’t currently use but is available for extra help and practice is James Brennan’s site — this one has a downloadable text as well as being online.
Another site that is super helpful but a little different is The Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching (CIMT). It offers the entire PreK-12 curriculum for free, everything is printable, and you can pay for physical books to be shipped if you prefer. We have used this website several times in the past.
I created a spreadsheet that lists all the individual sections of each book, what concepts they teach (a scope & sequence, if you will), and in what order—all side-by-side in columns. Then I matched it all up, gave it a sequence that made sense to us, then created assignments from it. Yes, it took hours, over several days. Yes, it was very tedious. But, it was worth it and it’s good for a year’s worth of math 🙂
Science

clip_image010[1] We currently use Apologia’s Exploring Creation with General Science. Remy prefers to use the full course CD-ROM version of the textbook, although I do require him to use the student notebook to record his answers & complete lab reports. We will continue doing this for next year’s Physical Science, as well.

Bible

clip_image012[1] We are using the Christian Studies series from Memoria Press, specifically Christian Studies II right now.
We also read the Keys for Kids daily devotional. You can also get these in paper form here.

Language Arts (or English)

clip_image014[1] We use the Classical Composition series from Memoria Press for writing. We just started the second in the series, the Narrative stage. We did the first stage, Fable, on a (my) whim. Remy wasn’t doing well getting his thoughts on the page and was honestly dreading this course. We looked over the sample at the link and he was ok with it, but not enthused. I was looking for something that would “unlock” writing for him since the items we tried previously just weren’t doing for either of us.
This is how MP describes this course series:
What if your could teach your child using the same writing program that produced such masters of the language as John Milton, William Shakespeare, and Benjamin Franklin? What if you could have the same composition curriculum used by Quintilian, the greatest teacher of ancient rhetoric, and Cicero, the greatest persuasive speaker of all time?

Jim Selby has blown the dust off the writing curriculum that was used in schools for over 1,500 years and put it in an easy-to-teach format that will revolutionize your home or private school curriculum. Presented clearly and systematically in a structured curriculum, Classical Composition will give you a clear road map to writing excellence.

Ancient writers invented a way of teaching writing known as the progymnasmata, which provided a method of teaching composition that not only taught budding writers a disciplined way to approach communication, but also helped them appeal to the heads of their audience. The progymnasmata gave them the sylistic tools to appeal to their hearts as well.

The greatest communicators of ancient times, Quintilian and Cicero among them, employed the progymnasmata to teach their students the art of communication. The 14 exercises, organized from the simplest and most basic to the most complex and sophisticated, were the core education of a classical speaker, designed to produce what Quintilian once called, “the good man, speaking well.”

Who wouldn’t want to try that?!?! So I bought it.
We both struggled through the first few lessons, trying to get the hang of this complex and ancient learning style. We finally caught on, though, and after that it was smooth sailing. It turns out that this was what Remy needed! His writing has improved tremendously and we have already purchased all the stages through VI. We would have bought them all, but Memoria Press hasn’t put VII through IX out yet! 🙂

clip_image016[1] For grammar we are using The Mother Tongue: Elementary English Grammar, which is actually three books. They were published prior to 1923, so are copyright-free. The first book can be downloaded for free here, book 2 is here, and book 3 is here. The books are divided into easy daily lessons, but you can rearrange as needed. We typically complete 2 lessons at once, once per week. We are intentionally stretching it out so it lasts longer. This is all the grammar Remy needs, since he also studies Latin.
clip_image018[1] For the literature portion of our day, Remy is working his way through the 7th grade literature set from Memoria Press. It is packaged a little differently than how it was when we purchased it, though—ours includes Robinson Crusoe (current), Wind in the Willows, As You Like It, and A Midsummer’s Night Dream.

Latin & Greek

clip_image020[1] Remy is in his fourth year of Latin, all using Memoria Press material. He is currently using Second Form Latin, after completing Prima Latina, Latina Christiana I, and First Form Latin. He says Latin is his favorite subject and we plan to continue his Latin study through graduation. Latin teaches grammar in a way that almost replaces the need for English grammar as a separate subject. English has a lot of Greek roots, too, so we still use The Mother Tongue, but now it makes more sense why we are going so slowly. 🙂
clip_image022[1] We supplement his Latin with Lingua Angelica I (and later II), as suggested in the Form series. It uses Latin chants to help kids memorize prayers, songs, verses, and blessings in Latin and “connects the dots”, especially for younger learners. For an example of this sound, you can go here and scroll down to hear samples.
clip_image024[1] Remy just finished The Greek Alphabet book, which teaches how to pronounce, read, and write the entire upper & lower case Greek alphabet. It was an introduction into basic Koine Greek (ancient or biblical Greek), and we liked it! I wanted Remy to have a solid foundation in what I call “master” languages (in my head 🙂 ) so that he could choose from a large assortment of modern languages later (if he wants) and do well. Including Greek is also a part of a classical education and I wanted to at least touch on it. We are waiting until August to see if Memoria Press publishes their First Form Greek course (they are still working on the Teacher’s Manual & DVDs/CD); if they are out, we will use those. If not, Memoria Press is substituting Elementary Greek 1, 2, & 3 that we will probably get and zoom through.
clip_image026[1] We just started studying Roots of English – literally, we just completed the introduction! This is the book that takes the Latin & Greek roots of our language and brings it all together. It has no teacher’s manual or lesson plan guide, but the way it is laid out makes it simple to add as much or as little as desired to your school day (or week). I am hoping to have it completed by the end of the (school) year, but if it turns out to be a little more complex than it looks on the surface, we will slow down.

History

clip_image028[1] We are working through The Story of the World, Volume 3 (Early Modern Times) by Susan Wise Bauer, which covers the years 1600 to 1850. Remy also fills in information in a timeline binder and a map each week that corresponds closely with the reading done in SOTW. This follows volumes 1 and 2 and precedes volume 4.
clip_image030[1] The timeline binder uses these timeline figures. I bought an 11” x 14” landscape-oriented binder and cardstock from Staples. I used the guidelines (scroll down) that Homeschool in the Woods suggested for date ranges on the pages and we decorated the front with history-related pictures that spoke to us. It was fun! See!?
clip_image032[1]
clip_image034[1] The geography curriculum from which we pull Remy’s maps is Map Trek, the Complete Collection, from Knowledge Quest. It is divided into 4 separate time periods, just like SOTW and the timeline figures. We use the curriculum integration guides here and here to make it easy for these “pieces” to be a comprehensive history course. We also play online games like this and board games like this and this.
clip_image036[1] One last thing we also use for history is Famous Men of the Middle Ages from Memoria Press.

Other Stuff

clip_image038[1] Remy asked to have this course added to his day—he LOVES Home Ec topics, but wanted to have them in this light unit format so he had defined lessons to complete. We used a lot of CLE (Christian Light Education) when he was younger, but as he got older the courses were not always in the LU format (we he loved), he was progressing faster in some areas requiring me to research other options sooner, and I read a book called The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer. This course was a way to have his beloved LUs back and was also his version of an “easy A.”
clip_image040[1] We also have these art cards (Memoria Press, of course) hanging around to look through. We haven’t done much formal art study, although we also have this art history book and we have an entire room dedicated to various forms of art 🙂
clip_image042[1] Remy also has this guitar and this keyboard, plus he received an mp3 player last Christmas and has access to lots of different kinds of music. Byron and I have widely different tastes in music that only occasionally intersect, so he is exposed to a lot of stuff.

Phew!
Are you tired yet?
I am.
Hahahaha!!!

Not gone, hopefully not forgotten

I’m still here, I have been cleaning SOOOOO much in the craft room.  I will have a post on it soon.  Here is a sneak peek:

And:

I know you’re excited to see more, but reorganizing an ENTIRE room full of craft supplies, office supplies, clothes, and stuff I don’t remember having takes quite some time….  😀

Soon!!!!

I will be posting again later, so hang around!

Steak in cast iron….In other words, dinner!!!

I have been seeing instructions all over the interwebs on how to make great steak in a cast iron skillet.  In the house.  Not on the grill.  Now, this interested me because, as much as I love him, Byron’s not really great at knowing when the steak has turned to leather and I prefer my jerky seasoned differently.  I was hoping to make some steak that did not require barbecuing half the deep freezer along with it (so as not to “waste” the charcoal) and that *I* could make without someone (cough cough *Byron* cough cough) hovering as I use “his” grill.

I found this set of instructions via search, read the whole thing, then decided to do it my way.  Shocker, right?!

Here is my way, what is now known as the “right way” around here.  😀

First, I put my cast iron skillet on the stove on high and let it get *screaming* hot.  I put a little vegetable oil in it this time, but you could also use coconut oil, palm shortening, or any other oil that you feel comfortable allowing to get super hot.  We don’t like how coconut oil tastes in this dish, so I just use regular vegetable oil.  Use about 2 or 3 tablespoons, not as much as you see in the picture.

While it heated up, I opened doors and windows and turned on fans.  You’re gonna need to do that, too.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Use a cut of beef that YOU like.  We like less fat (one reason for the leather problem), so I chose these round steaks from Sam’s Club.

Then I sprinkled on a pinch of garlic powder, a pinch of onion powder, pepper to taste, and about 3 times as much salt as I normally use.  This is ok because a lot of it stays in the pan.  In the picture is some high quality Himalayan pink salt I found on clearance at Home Goods, but I prefer using leftover pretzel salt or any other chunky-grained salt.  The pink stuff is tasty but waaaaay too finely ground.

Season both sides of your steaks now, you won’t have time later.

These steaks were sized right to let me put 2 in the pan at once, but sometimes I can only fit one.

It’s gonna sizzle and pop and splatter.  Just accept it.  Try not to move the meat around for about a minute.  Then flip it over.

Let it sit for another minute, then move it to a large cutting board.

Try to work quickly here so your steaks stay hot.  Use a SHARP knife and slice the steak against the grain.  I like to get fancy and make it all diagonal and stuff.

Now normally, we will NOT eat beef that is still red.  Steak purists are up in arms, I am sure, but I don’t want my food to moo.  So, we are not done here.  First, do this:

Mmmmm….Butter…….

Next, take this:

and do this:

By the way, this is Too. Much. Butter.  Don’t use this much when you make it.  We’re not deep-frying here.  Save half of it for the end, you’ll see.

Take a couple deep sniffs of the delicious smell coming from that skillet, then flip those strips:

Wait a few more beats, then remove the steak strips to a heat-safe container (I used a pyrex casserole dish).

 You might notice that there is still a good bit of red & pink in that beef.  Yes, there is–because the steak in that photo had *just* come out of the pan, and it finished cooking in that glass dish while I finished the rest of the strips.  This is where you add the other half of the butter from earlier, like I didn’t this time.  Normally I do, I guess my thinker was on the fritz this time.

But wait!  There’s more!

Take all that yummy, greasy goodness in the skillet and throw some of this on it:

Then add some of this:

Stir, wait.  Stir again, wait again.  You get this:

 Add a little extra water (plus the juices from the glass dish, if you want) to deglaze the pan, and who needs gravy????

Here is what I did wrong this time (as shown in these photos):

  • I took pictures.  This took too much time away from the process and the steak cooked a little more than I wanted.  It was chewy.  We’re not perfect here.  It was still good.
  • Too much oil & butter for the size of the skillet.  Still tasted good, but I wanted a sear, not a deep-fry.
  • I used fine-grained salt on this batch, and I should have used pretzel salt.  Big, fat chunks of it.  It will NOT make your meal saltier, but it makes a better “crust” on your steak.  Just comes out better, I don’t know (or care) why.  Just do it.
I think that’s all I remember doing wrong this time.  Important points to take away:
Make the skillet SUPER HOT and keep it that way.
Chunky salt
I’m full now.  Homemade applesauce for dessert (there’s always room in the dessert stomach).

Not your typical blog post.

You usually see fancy schmancy photos and stuff.  Not here, uh uh.  See:

Not bad, right?  Here’s what is looks like when I take a few steps back:

Hahahahahaha!!  Yeah, it’s still a disaster 🙂

I am in the process of replacing some of my organizational furniture, so there’ll be a crapton of new photos soon.  I hope.  Ha!  🙂

Just a quickie….

My last post was about my disastrous craft room.  While Remy & I were visiting my sister and dad in Arid-zona last month, I got to visit a store we don’t have nearby…Ikea!!!  I was SO excited!  I have drooled over organizational pictures on Pinterest and I have wanted to outfit my house from there for quite some time. During my inaugural visit, some of the things I bought were these little pretties:

It is the Dignitet curtain wire with 2 packs of hooks & clips.  While I wait for a friend to help me install the wire itself, I started clipping things together.
That is mostly paper quilling strips curled into baggies, then some card-making bling and other stickers to the right.  I can’t wait to get the wire up!!!

Craft stuff

Something I have always loved is expressing my ideas in creative ways.  I get ideas mostly from Pinterest now, but store displays, library books, and requests have lead to some interesting projects.

My sister tends to get overwhelmed by choices in craft stores, but I LOVE them!  I am VERY lucky in that I have an entire room I can devote to crafting (I’d rather fill it with more kids, but that’s not likely to happen at this stage).  This room has, of course, been made over many times, in many teeny ways.  I am always on the lookout for the perfect layout and organization for the room as a whole, but certain features really limit me, as well as the sheer volume of supplies.

Part of the problem is that I enjoy lots of different crafts, including but not limited to:

sewing clothing and accessories
card-making
quilting
polymer clay crafts
simple jewelry making
crocheting
mixed media crafts
stamping

Remy has picked up many of these interests during homeschool art times, as well as adding his own–he enjoys origami, paper airplanes, painting (with Bob Ross, no less!), and quilling.

I also facilitate small group activities with children & developmentally disabled adults.  We usually craft using perler beads, sun catchers, latch hook sets, plaster of paris, felt, paper, stickers, colored pencils, markers, glitter glue, pony beads, and many other items.
SO, knowing all that, this is what the poor room looks like right now (excuse poor photography, NOT my strong suit):

When entering the room, this is immediately to your left.

As you scan right, this is the bulk of the room, classy sheet curtain and all.

And the far right, where I sit as I type this 🙂
It needs tons of work, but it is REAL.  No magazine layouts, no Martha.  I am planning to replace the black shelves and the plastic drawers with these Cubeicals from Target.

They are larger versions of the small white ones you see on both desks (with the colorful fabric drawers in them).

 I also need to clean.  Instead, I wrote a post about it.  Ha!