Incoming!

Our homeschool closet is cleaned out, our portfolios are ready to go, and we are ready to tackle today’s project… putting in the new school books!

It seems all this week I have been reading posts by other homeschooling families who are getting their curriculum in place and are eagerly ready to start their school year. We, too, are getting things finalized, but with a slightly different twist. Unlike other families, I am not anxiously awaiting the arrival of our books; ours have been here since May!

I have found waiting until the middle or end of summer to order our books, to be stressful. There are several reasons why this doesn’t work for our family.

  1. I don’t enjoy summer knowing that I still have work that will need to be done.
  2. If I wait, I might not get the order in time or it might be backordered.
  3. If I wait, I will need to rush through the curriculum to set up our routine and determine how much work should be done daily.
  4. If I wait, I can’t take advantage of all the great promotions available for those who order early.

Usually, aBeka starts having demos of their curriculum around April. Once I receive their flyer in the mail, I highlight the closest location with a date that suits our schedule. I make sure to add the date to my iCal program and then I start researching. I don’t want to peruse at the demo; I might be led by impulse instead of through prayer. To ensure I am only buying what I need, I will look through aBeka’s website first. From there, I will write down any items that I know are necessary and compile a list with the item numbers and prices. If there are items that I have never seen or items of question, I will write those at the bottom of my list and highlight them. Those are the items that I will review with my husband and pray over. The day of the demo, I check out the items that I might have highlighted, sit down to fill out my form, and then check out. Because I have ordered at a demo, I will save 10% up front and avoid shipping costs. Usually, I save myself about $60 this way!

One of the main reasons I order our books so early, is because I don’t order teacher guides. (I have not found them to be necessary for the younger grades and don’t care to spend money that could be better spent elsewhere.) Due to the fact that I don’t order teacher guides, I must spend a little time planning out our year. I open each text and lay out our lessons, ensuring that everything gets covered. This is very simple but it still needs to be done. For very little work, I am saving myself a great deal of money. On average, textbooks for all four of my children run me $250 per year. Not bad, all things considered!

We usually end our school year just around the beginning of May. By the time we have finished school, our books for the next year are just coming in. I make sure they are all here, I take the time to go through each one (mapping out how many lessons get done a day), and then they get tucked away until the end of July. I am now free to enjoy my summer, knowing everything is here and we are ready to start come fall.

Now that summer is just about over, it is time to put those books on the shelf and do any last-minute reorganizing. I have double checked the books (refreshing my memory about lesson schedules), organized how I want them to be placed in our cupboard, and added any reference materials I thought would be necessary. Ah, what a beautiful sight!

Just two more projects and we will be ready to start on Monday.

When do you order your books? Do you order early? Do you wait? I would enjoy hearing when you choose to get your books and why!

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The High School Handbook

Our oldest daughter is in sixth grade this coming August. Not one to wait until the last-minute, I wanted to spend some time this summer reading up on Junior and Senior High. I want to be fully prepared for what lies ahead. I want to know what I need now so that I am not panicking at the last-minute, worrying if I am doing something correctly or not.

To this end, our ISP principal highly recommended The High School Handbook by Mary Schofield. In The High School Handbook, Ms. Schofield does an excellent job of laying the groundwork for Jr. and Sr. High. She provides a helpful, step-by-step process to organizing your students workload, as well as ideas on how each can be implemented to their fullest. She explains, with clear reasoning, why each step is taken and how it benefits both your student and yourself. To further assist you with each step, Ms. Schofield has graciously placed helpful sample forms throughout the book, showing how her family has organized each area. She has also included blank forms for you to copy and use at your own disposal, making your job even easier. 

Ms. Schofield covers every area of Jr. and Sr. High that you could possibly imagine. If you are unsure of how to organize your classes, this book will help. If you are unsure which classes are needed to attend a university, this book will help. Need tips on grading, courses standards, transcripts, and college? This book is definitely the one for you. From Language Arts and Arithmetic, to Driver’s Ed and Work Permits, this book has something for everyone.

On a personal level, I am extremely grateful that I chose to read the book this summer. Our daughter is still in elementary school (being that we are not including sixth grade as part of “middle school”); had I waited until the summer before junior high, I might have stressed myself out with the amount of paperwork and organizing that needs to be done. However, having read the book a full year in advance, I have plenty of time to prepare whatever forms might be necessary. I have the time to systematically lay out classes and to talk with my daughter about where she feels the Lord is leading her. I very much appreciated the sections on Missionary Opportunities, Apprenticeship, and College at Home, as each of these areas are of particular interest to our family.

Our HS Outline

The High School Handbook is highly recommended for everyone with a child going into Jr. and/or Sr. High. Even if you don’t homeschool, it will help you to better understand what classes your child should be taking in their studies. It will help you prepare them for ACT and SAT exams, College Applications, and other areas common to all students. I highly recommend this book. Don’t wait until your child is about to start their higher education, help them now. You won’t regret it!

For those of you with children already in Junior or Senior High, was there a particular book(s) that you found helpful in organizing the chaos? I would love to delve into a few more books. The more ideas, the better!

Summer School: Science Fun

It wasn’t until high school that I developed an appreciation for science. There, we were able to do fun experiments; mix chemicals, dissect frogs, and other fun things like that. I wanted to make sure that our kids had the opportunity to truly enjoy science at a much younger age. During summer, we step outside our regular curriculum and shake things up.

Our “rubber” egg

As I mentioned in Summer School: Geography Fun, we do ten weeks of summer school. One day each week is dedicated to science experiments and over the last couple of years we have found some doozies. Some are from my school days, some from my husband’s, and some just from a basic search on the internet.

Homemade Crystals

When picking experiments, I try to ensure that each week covers a different area of science. So, for example, one week we might be covering magnetism and the next, micro-organisms. This keeps us interested and ensures that more topics are covered.

 

Not sure where to find just the right experiment or what to cover? Try Kids Science Experiments! I have found this website to be very helpful and organized. There is something for just about everyone.

Lastly, make sure to let your family know your plans. They are wonderful helps when it comes to ideas. My father-in-law added the crowning touch a few summers ago when he had us over to do a rabbit dissection. The kids learned so much from him and he loved being able to be involved.

Volcano time!

“Call to me and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you know not.” Jeremiah 33:3  The Bible reminds us that the Lord will show us His might hand in all of His creation. If we seek Him and ask Him to show us the wonders of His work, we will truly be amazed at what a wonderful God He is.

Summer School: Scheduling Fun

School has ended; the books are put away, the paperwork is filed, and the heat has begun to hit. With twelve weeks of summer ahead of us; what do we plan to do with our free time? … Summer School!

Learning about sea creatures in Monterey Bay

(Gasp) Summer School? I can hear the groans of children all over America and imagine the questioning looks from parents. Why on earth would I want to do summer school voluntarily? My kids must really be behind, right? (Come on, I know that’s what you are thinking. Be honest.) In all seriousness though, there are several great reasons why we do summer school and none of them have to do with my kids’ lack of education. In fact, just the opposite!

 

Learning about Germany

There are three basic reasons why we do summer school. 

  • My kids and I get to have some great fun together! We enjoy each other’s company and learning becomes a family event that everyone enjoys!
  • My kids don’t lose any of their skills. Studies show that children will lose about twenty-five percent of their skills over a summer vacation. The beginning of a school year can be challenging enough without the kids getting frustrated at their lack of memory. We make sure we work in a small amount of workbook time everyweek. Nothing stressful and nothing too complicated. Just something to keep them “up to par” and prep them for their next grade level.
  • My kids never have an opportunity to get bored. I make sure that I keep our summer activities very hands on and fun! The kids look forward to each new learning day, knowing that Mommy has something fun for them to do. Once we are done with the activities, they know they have the remainder of the day to play and do whatever else they might have planned.

Like all other activities I plan, I try to be very organized about our summers. In order to do this, I create a routine for myself. This helps me to know on which days we are doing things and which events I am going to prep for. Here is our basic routine for summer:

  • Monday-Summer Vacation Workbooks/Hands on Geography
  • Tuesday-Science Experiments
  • Wednesday-Summer Vacation Workbooks/Fair Projects
  • Thursday-Field Trip (if available)/Library Journals for Summer Reading Program
  • Friday-Library/Park Day or Friend Visit

Now that I have our routine in place, I will start plugging in the details. Interested? Come back tomorrow for our list of summer workbook suggestions!

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part Five

Fail-to-planI love it when a plan comes together. That is how I feel when I set about planning my routines. Once we put them into place and they start working for us, it is a beautiful thing.

Now that I have my chores, events, and schooling organized; I need to put them all together and get moving. Once the school year starts, I will need to put all of my organizing together and make these separate schedules work together smoothly. This will help me, once again, see where I might need to do some last-minute rearranging and restructuring. It will also help to see where I have some flexible hours, in case anything should come up.

The first things I want to combine are my chores and my schooling. As I mentioned in Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part One; my first ministry is to be a keeper of my home. If the house and my kids’ education cannot be merged smoothly, events need to wait. My weekly schedule with both chores and schooling combined usually looks like this:

Monday:

  • Start load of my laundry right before Bible
  • Do Bible lesson and start kids on core curriculum
  • Change loads of laundry at breaks or between subjects
  • Finish Core Subjects and begin History & Science
  • Lunch Time and Finish Laundry
  • Family Chores
  • “Rotations”
  • Remainder of the Day Free

Tuesday:

  • Start load of kids’ laundry right before Bible
  • Do Bible lesson and start kids on core curriculum
  • Change loads of laundry at breaks or between subjects
  • Finish Core Subjects and begin History & Science
  • Lunch Time and Finish Laundry
  • Family Chores
  • “Rotations”
  • Remainder of the Day Free

Wednesday:

  • Start load of linens right before Bible
  • Do Bible lesson and start kids on core curriculum
  • Change loads of laundry at breaks or between subjects
  • Finish Core Subjects and begin History & Science
  • Lunch Time and Finish Laundry
  • Family Chores
  • “Rotations”
  • Remainder of the Day Free

Thursday:

  • Do Bible lesson and start kids on core curriculum
  • Finish Core Subjects and begin History & Science
  • Lunch Time
  • Mommy does grocery list and menus
  • “Rotations”
  • Remainder of the Day Free for kids
  • Grocery Shopping for Mom

Friday:

  • Testing on all core subjects (All of our testing is done Fri.)
  • Collect Library Books and Straighten up House
  • Library
  • Errands
  • Lunch
  • Homeschool Co-op or other Homeschooling Event
  • Remainder of the Day Free for kids

Normally we are finished with school anywhere from 2-3pm each day, with the exception of Friday. Friday is quite a bit shorter, but I plan it that way on purpose; counting our library time and our homeschooling events as part of their education.

Once this list of chores and schooling as been combined onto one master schedule; I can now add my events. Knowing that I am pretty busy Monday through Thursday, I usually avoid planning events on those days. Should the need arise though, I am free after 3pm and know I am available. Fridays are usually the days that I try to plan anything special or extra.

With life more organized, we are free to have fun events like this one… Renaissance Night with the homeschool group!

As with most things in life, this schedule isn’t perfect. There are days when we take longer to school or there is an unexpected event which causes us to rearrange our schedule; field trips during the week can cause a temporary change for example. This schedule isn’t meant to be concrete and final, simply a structure that I put into place; one that I am free to move around and fit to my family’s needs.

1 Corinthians 14:40 says, “But all things should be done decently and in order.” I pray that the Lord would find me faithful in having obeyed His Word; that my family would be a living example of what He has commanded us to do; that He would be glorified and honored through the keeping of my home, the education of my children, and the ministry we accomplish in our free time. It is not for our own name that we do these things, but His.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part Three

Fail-to-planThis week is full of activities; yesterday we had a field trip, today I had a doctor appointment, tomorrow is grocery shopping and dental appointments, and don’t even get me started on this weekend. Not every week is this busy, but when it is, there are some key things that I can do to ensure events are as stress-free as possible.

Before planning out an event, there are some questions I should ask myself:        

•Did I pray about this? (Perhaps the Lord has other plans?)                                            •Did my husband say it was okay? (As a Christian wife, I respectfully keep my husband   aware of all that I plan to do.)                                                                                            •Will it take away from my first responsibility? (My first job is to be the Keeper of my home.  If this event will prevent me from doing that, I need to rethink going.)                               •Will my family benefit from the event? (Not all good ideas are good for us.)                  •Will I stress out trying to make the event possible? (Do I already have too many events planned on the same day?)

If my event has passed “inspection”; off to the calendar I go. I prefer to do my scheduling on my computer, there I can schedule email reminders and sinc with my iPod. It will also allow me to add notes regarding the event, such as “pack swimsuits”.

Prep for the event by getting any necessary materials ahead of time. Certain events, such as potlucks, often require me to bring along some food. When putting the event on my calendar, I will make sure to add these items onto my grocery list. If I have a birthday present to purchase, that will be added to my errand list. (See Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part One) The day before the event, I usually try to make sure my car has enough fuel; it is always a pain to get in the car and realize I now have to stop for gas… talk about stress!

On the day of the event, I map it out. Knowing what time your event starts is helpful, IMG_8050but (especially having kids) that information isn’t always enough. How long will it take me to get to the event? How long will it take me to get out the door? How long does it take to straighten up my house and kids before heading out the door? Do I have anything else going that morning that also needs to be done? See what I mean; lots of factors will determine how the day goes. I don’t like leaving things to chance; therefore I like to “work backwards”. It looks something like this:

Event Time:          3:00pm (With a drive time of 1hr.)

Leave Time:         1:45pm ( I like to have extra time.)

Kids shoes on:     1:30pm (Plenty of time to brush teeth, hair, shoes on, and get in car.)

Straighten House:1:00pm(If not decent, I don’t leave.I can’t tell you how often that pays off.)

Lunch:                  12:00 (Plenty of time to eat in peace, wash up, and grab food/presents.)

This schedule works very well for morning events too. I simply plug in my start time and “work backwards”. This will help me determine what time I need to wake up, what time my kids need to be up, and everything else that needs to get done before heading out the door.

Because my event was organized to the best of my ability, I am not rushing around trying to do things last minute. Everything I need is set in place and ready to go.  Barring any last minute changes, I am free to enjoy my day and anticipate a wonderful afternoon.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail: Part Two

Fail-to-planOut of all the chores I have, creating a grocery list and figuring out what to put on next week’s menu, is the hardest. For whatever reason, food just isn’t a priority for me. That doesn’t mean, however, that my family doesn’t need to be fed and taken care of. In order to make this job more pleasant, I have implemented a couple of steps to make things easier for myself.

The first thing that I have done is post an ongoing grocery list to the inside of one kitchen cupboard (conveniently placed above the pencil drawer).This allows me to place things on the list immediately instead of having to remember everything I need on grocery day. The morning I go shopping, I take the list out of the cupboard and do a quick house check to make sure nothing has been forgotten.

The second thing I have done is to create a list of meals my family enjoys seeing on the menu. I then sit down with THIS weekly menu, which my husband created, and start adding in meals for the following week.  As I go along I continue to add items to my grocery list, as needed. The finished menu is then posted in the kitchen, and I finalize my grocery list.

With my list and calculator in hand, I want to do a quick “budget check” to make sure that I am on track with my spending. Our family has a monthly budget for groceries and I need to make sure that I stick to the allotted amount for the week. If I am well in the black, then I feel free to add a couple of extras like cookies and chips. I will also make sure to check my coupon folder and grab any that pertain to my list. Now that my list is complete and checks out with my budget, I am ready to go

The third thing I have done is organize my grocery list to make my shopping faster and easier. When shopping, especially if the kids are tagging along, I prefer to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible. To accomplish this, my grocery list is organized according to the aisles at my grocery store. As I am shopping, I simply walk aisle by aisle grabbing the items listed for each. No need to go back to an aisle for something forgotten, or hidden further down the list; everything is organized and simplified.

With these the help of a few printable lists we’ve made one area of our lives a little simpler, leaving time for more important activities like spending quality time with our kids.

“For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.”
Psalm 107:9