The Homeschool Lunch Lady

Easy Peasy Pizza

Often lunch at our house is microwaveable frozen dinners, chicken nuggets, spaghetti-O’s, and such. Don’t try to tell me that public school lunches are more healthy! But I am not going to cook at lunchtime and again at dinner. But it really is possible to break away from the usual without too much effort, so here’s some things that have been popular lunch offerings for us.

Mini Pizzas

Using the recipe found here, you can make several mini pizzas that can be frozen ahead, then popped in the oven and cooked just like a freezer pizza from the store.

Quesadillas

Between two flour tortillas you can put grated cheddar cheese and whatever leftover meat you have, or canned chicken or turkey, chopped green onions (optional), and then heat both sides in a non-stick pan tilled browned. Cut into six wedges and serve.

Egg Drop Soup

Heat two cups of chicken broth (or use chicken bouillon with water), add a quarter teaspoon each of garlic powder and ginger, an 1/8 teaspoon of pepper, and a teaspoon of cornstarch dissolved in a little water. When it’s hot, add a beaten egg and stir slowly and steadily till the cooked egg makes ribbons in the soup. Serve with chopped green onions if desired. A tummy warmer for a winter day.

Mac & cheese add-ins

The box mac & cheese, don’t be afraid of it. It’s good if you add a can of ham, a can of green beans, and if desired, a spoonful of French onion dip.

And must…have…dessert.

3-2-1 Cake

Mix one box of cake mix, any flavor, with a box of angel food cake mix. Store in a covered container in the pantry. When you want a serving, measure out 3 tablespoons of mix, 2 tablespoons of water, mix and cook for 1 minute in the microwave. It can be served plain or topped with frosting, fruit, and/or whipped cream. It’s as easy as 1,2,3.

Shortcake

Make a batch of pop-up rolls and serve them with a big spoonful of fruit cocktail and a dollop of whipped cream.

Bon appetit, homeschoolers!

Homeschool Curriculum Series: Music, Art, Foreign Language

George Frideric Handel

As homeschoolers, we like to cover all bases, go beyond reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic. As a creative family, we value the arts and consider it vitally important to include them in our curriculum. Thus, we’ve used some resources I’d love to share.

Music: The boys both had music lessons with private instructors for a few years. At home, we learned a lot about composers through the ages from Meet the Great Composers, Books 1 and 2. Each lesson provided a short biography, activity, and piece of music from each composer on the accompanying CD. We also read Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers, which was an informative book about the inspiration behind the great composers’ work.

Art: In elementary school we did lots of art projects, many of them using a book called Discovering Great Artists. Each lesson discussed a particular artist, taught his/her technique, and then provided an art project using their method, such as lying down beneath a table and painting on a paper taped underneath the table to represent Michelangelo’s painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Fun stuff right there. In junior high, we used Understanding Art (a mega expensive school textbook which we found dirt cheap on eBay.) It was a very complete study of art through the ages and around the world.

Foreign Language: This is a little bit tougher of a subject for homeschool and many who want to tackle it may want outside lessons. However, there are self-guided resources to use at home. Most are quite expensive. One that was more affordable (and we bought it cheaper used, as we did many of our school books) was Power-Glide, now called Powerspeak. My older son got a pretty good basis in Spanish using this.

As you can see, there are resources out there for every homeschooler’s needs and so much to choose from. Don’t be deterred. The search is half the fun!

Homeschool Curriculum Series: Social Studies Pt. 2

So as promised, I will give some recommendations for social studies resources, things that really facilitated learning for us. As tomorrow marks the 126th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution, I will begin with American history and government resources. I used several things available from the National Center for Constitutional Studies, namely the I Love America parts 1 and 2 for young children, and the American Government and Constitution Study Course. I have only good things to say about both of them. They were some of my favorite resources in all of our homeschool and were more memorable to my kids, (in a good way!) than other things. We also kept on hand The Declaration of Independence and Other Great Documents of American History. It’s always good to have the primary sources close by to refer to.

I mentioned in my last post the value of eyewitness accounts to history. Two outstanding books we read were When the Banks Closed, We Opened Our Hearts about the Great Depression, and We Pulled Together…and Won about World War II, both filled with fascinating short stories and anecdotes from the people who lived through those times.

You Decide! Applying the Bill of Rights to Real Cases provided a good study of court cases involving the Bill of Rights. The student is placed in the role of judge and they have to take the facts given, study the amendment involved in the case, and make their own decision and back it up with argument. Then they get to find out what the court really decided.

For economics, Whatever Happened to Penny Candy by Richard Maybury and the accompanying Bluestocking Guide provided a good, clear, understandable study of that subject.

We wanted to study our own state during seventh grade, and most states require such a study. For this, I designed a study myself using websites, books, DVDs, field trips, and several hands-on experiments and art projects. The kids had a booklet in which they could check off assignments and projects and earn treats, with the final reward being a field trip to the state Capitol building when the legislature was in session.

Historical Wall TimelineOne of the most valuable things we ever did and of which I’m most proud, all through their years of schooling, 1st through 12th grades, was to maintain historical timelines. They are indispensable to a good study of history. For instance, Mozart was composing music at the same time the American Revolutionary War was happening, but you never study those two things together, so timelines give you a sense of the world as a whole at any given time. I keep up a large timeline covering an entire wall, running from 5000 B.C. to the present, and color coded according to different types of history, such as political, religious, exploration, scientific discovery, inventions, and cultural events. Then each of the boys had their own sketchbook in which they put the events as they studied them, and including a small quarter-sized picture drawn in colored pencil to go with each entry.Historical Timelines Book

Some favorite geography resources: Children Just Like Mea fun look into the lives of ordinary children all over the world, and Trail Guide to World Geography which includes a most enjoyable study of the Jules Verne classic Around the World in 80 Days. So fun to make an adventure part of your learning.

And speaking of adventure, we are often armchair travelers and have enjoyed some very inspiring documentaries and films to supplement our studies. Some of the most impressionable to us were History Channel’s The Story of Us, the Ken Burns’ documentaries Lewis & Clark and the Journey of the Corps of Discovery, and Baseball. Others that bear mentioning are the old James Stewart film The Spirit of St. Lewis, Ron Howard’s Apollo 13, which we never tire of watching, and Steven Spielberg’s recent film Lincoln.

Have fun doing your own exploring. It can be fun for adults and kids alike!

 

 

Homeschool Curriculum Series: Language Arts

Antique booksNow we come to one of my favorite subjects, the written word. As with all subjects, there are too many excellent choices, but here’s what’s worked well for us. The first books my boys used was a series called Explode the Code, which includes three primers and then eight workbooks, all consumable, teaching all the letters and phonics. A great start for reading.

In third grade I started them on Learning Language Arts Through Literature. The company makes the course for first through eighth grades, and then two courses for high school, one each covering American and English literature. We only used it for third through eighth grades. It uses good children’s classics, both complete books and excerpts, to teach grammar, spelling, vocabulary, reading, and writing. There are sections on poetry, research, reports, and study skills in each course as well.

We supplemented LLATL with Easy Grammar, which makes grammar easy by teaching students to identify and eliminate prepositional phrases, which then helps them to easily find and identify all the other parts of the sentence. Very thorough. An intense grammar drill of only about 10 minutes a day gave them a good command of grammar.

The boys learned their Latin and Greek roots by using…card games! Rummy Roots and More Roots each teach a lengthy list of roots and their meanings through four levels of play. When all four levels have been mastered, players know enough to decipher 2000 words without using a dictionary.

In high school we used a couple of A Beka’s literature books, but also just studied classic books on our own for both American and English literature studies. Two writing books I particularly thought were good are the Train of Thought Writing Method and Wordsmith Craftsman. The latter provides a good basis for college essay writing. I also insisted on a read-through of Strunk & White’s Elements of Style.

I made a couple of my own supplements. One was Daily Diagrams, 180 sentences from classic literature for them to diagram, one each day. And to help them get practice in library research, I made a library treasure hunt that used riddles, codes, and puzzle pieces. They did some of it each week at the library, and when finished, earned a new book of their choice. The material is specific to our family and our local library, so it’s not something others can use, but maybe it can give you ideas to do something similar on your own.

And don’t forget read-alouds for all ages! You can never hear too many good stories.

 

 

Homeschool Curriculum Series: Science/Health

Science has been an interesting subject to my boys. Our main books we use throughout most of the grades is A Beka books. In junior high we used their Science in Action book to guide us through a complete science fair project, including a research report, experiment, and display which was entered into a science fair.

The boys kept Nature Notebooks in which they wrote about various plants, animals, rocks, astronomy, copied quotes, pasted photographs and small specimens, and drew and painted pictures.

We’ve done many labs using a borrowed microscope and buying dissection specimens and supplies from Home Science Tools, and watching more labs via YouTube.

In high school we switched to Apologia for chemistry and physics. They are written especially for homeschoolers in an easy conversational style. Mom doesn’t have to know everything about science to teach it.

For an especially fun supplement, we use the Holt Anthology of Science Fiction, which includes short stories categorized by the field of science they involve. There are discussion questions and activities at the end of each story.

For health, we again used many of A Beka’s books. They have books for every grade, but we only did health every other year. For little kids, Proper Manners and Health Habits, written by Mennonites was helpful for teaching manners. And for older kids Growing Up: Gospel Answers About Maturation and Sex is a most complete and respectful book in teaching that subject.  We believe it’s the parents’ job to teach about the subject of sex, and I appreciated having such a valuable resource for that.

Science can be a fun subject for homeschoolers. We enjoyed using a weather kit from Real Science Made Easy during the summer. They make several kits for different types of science. And for old time’s sake, we got some DVDs of 1950s school films from the Bell Laboratory Science Series. Good times right there!

By the way, I do NOT buy all these things new. I have saved hundreds of dollars over the years by finding deals on good, used copies of curriculum. I’ve always been happy with what I’ve found.

 

 

 

Homeschool Curriculum Series: Math

We’ve had the privilege of learning from some very good resources in our homeschool, and I thought I’d like to share some ofSchool books them. As new homeschoolers soon discover, there is so much to choose from that finding resources is never a problem, but trying to choose something can be downright intimidating. I would not attempt to say that our choices are the best; there are just too many excellent choices out there to use them all, but here’s some that have worked well for us.

First up, math. Our main curriculum throughout the kids’ school years has been Saxon Math. We skipped the kindergarten set and started them on the first grade course when they were four, which worked great. We followed Saxon’s books all the way through, except skipping Saxon 87 and going straight to Algebra 1/2. (I heard 87 was sort of just repetition, and we didn’t have any problem going straight to Algebra.) My oldest got through Algebra 1 and 2, Advanced Mathematics, and Calculus by partway into 11th grade. The youngest starts Advanced Mathematics this year in ninth grade. I like Saxon because, early on, I learned some good mental math skills I’d never known before and they’ve helped me ever since, and I feel like my kids got a good command of math.

I saw a book once called Grocery Cart Math, and while we didn’t use it, it gave me an idea and I put together a few of my own math investigations which the boys had to do during trips to the grocery store, just practical things like comparing prices and amounts, determining which thing is a better buy, hidden costs, sales and coupons.

Geometric Constructions from Castle Heights Press was a fun math supplement in that it used stories and riddles to teach constructions. Paper and pencil, a protractor, and a compass were all that were needed. I don’t find it readily available now, but I’m sure many similar books exist.

One thing Saxon didn’t have was a consumer math text. We used A Beka’s Consumer Mathematics, which taught some good, practical things about credit, banking, insurance, budgeting, taxes, financial planning, etc.

In your search for curriculum, you may want to refer to Cathy Duffy Reviews, a comprehensive breakdown of curriculum choices. She’ll tell you everything you need to know to make good choices.

 

 

Homeschool Funny 2

Organization–if they offered a Ph.D. in that, that’s what I would’ve gone for! So it naturally followed that when my son Taylor reached the ripe old age of three, it was past time that I teach him to make and follow a schedule. And since he was reading and writing then (refer to this post), I thought it’d be fun to show him how to plan his day and write down stuff like 1) coloring 2) lunch 3) read with Mom, etc. Yeah, I sound like a fun mom, huh?

But anyway, he liked the plan and made out a most impressive schedule if I do say so myself. A short time later, he was naughty and had to stand in the corner for a few minutes. I don’t remember why. And no, it wasn’t for not following the schedule. (What do you think I am? An organization nut or something?!) He, however, was an organization nut because he very angrily wailed from the corner, “THIS WAS NOT ON THE SCHEDULE!”…….One of those times you can’t stifle your laughter and have to pretend you’re laughing about something else.

 

Homeschool Funny

Homeschool siblings argue, insult each other, and tattle-tale just like other kids, but their communications tend to have an “educated” sound to them. Like the day Tristan wailed to me from the other room, “Mom, Taylor hit me in the head and now my skull is in nine pieces!”

“How many is it supposed to have?” I asked.

“Eight.”

Go ahead, look it up.

 

Homeschool Recommendation Series: Websites

School books

Here is a list of websites that have been helpful for our homeschool. So many good resources, so little time!

Home Science Tools – A place to find all your science curriculum and laboratory needs. They sell books, kits, microscopes, dissection tools and specimens, and all kinds of tools for exploring the world around us and above. There are also lots of experiments on their site, with all the necessary ingredients and directions.

National Center for Constitutional Studies – Get all your American history and government education books and videos, and copies of America’s founding documents. Resources available for young children through adults wanting to learn more about their country.

Lissa Explains It All – HTML help for kids. Step-by-step help in making your own web pages.

BBC Dance Mat Typing – Kid-friendly free online keyboarding (formerly known as typing) courses and practice. You can be timed and monitor your improvement.

Khan Academy – A library of over 3000 online educational videos on a massive range of subjects. Most are about 5-8 minutes long. You can just watch, or sign up and acquire points and badges for progress.

Izzit.org – An online store of 10-20-minute DVDs on current events, and social and economical issues. Teachers (including homeschool teachers) can get one free DVD mailed to you per school year.

Classical Christian Education Support Loop – Lots of helps and resources, and very, I mean very extensive book lists of classics for every age group.

Teach With Movies – Whatever you’re studying, there’s been a movie made to go with it. Many you’ve heard of, many you haven’t. This site lists movies divided by school subjects, and there are even lesson plans to use if you need them.

Paula’s Archives – Just a little of everything: homeschool articles, tips and advice, curriculum recommendations, book lists. Go wild!

Cathy Duffy Reviews – The premier site for homeschool curriculum reviews. She reviews hundreds of books on all subjects, telling you how lessons are laid out, what’s helpful, what’s not, how much teacher preparation is needed, cost, etc.

Booksprice.com – Not just for homeschoolers. Look up any book you want and this site will find where copies are for sale online, giving you cost including shipping, condition of the book if used, and links to the online stores for each copy listed. Because of this site, I have found a 60 dollar advanced math book for 4 dollars, and an 80 dollar junior high art history book for 10. This is the first site I check when looking for a specific book.

YouTube – Probably too obvious, but keep in mind you can view any high school science lab on here, as well as view historic news footage.  

Introducing Moviemaker Taylor Davis

Taylor Davis“I dream for a living,” Steven Spielberg once said. And that appropriately sums up the aspirations of my son, 17-year-old homeschool graduate Taylor Davis, moviemaker extraordinaire. Taylor was raised in a family of movie lovers. We quote from them constantly, recall many favorite moments from movie history, watch the ‘making-of’ documentaries, and just generally love the visual form of storytelling. Taylor also took a liking to Legos early on and has amassed quite a collection of kits and pieces. So when he received his first video camera, a hand-me-down from his dad, it naturally followed that he would start filming Lego characters.

For years Taylor has educated himself in the art of screenplay writing, stop-motion filming, visual and sound effects, and film editing, improving his skills year by year. In spite of not making use of the instructors and upscale equipment some public high schoolers have, Taylor still managed to win first place (with a monetary award) in the local high school’s video contest for a Just Say No to Drugs PSA. Following that, he won third place in the comedy category in the Utah High School Film Festival, a very competitive statewide competition.

His YouTube channel boasts several million views which, besides leading to some heartfelt fan mail from young fans, have led to some money-making opportunities, including invitations for blog posting and a partnership with another YouTube channel that provided him with a brand new high-def camera, which is already improving the quality of his latest projects.

Taylor will be headed to college soon, where he hopes to develop a moviemaking career. You can see some of his stop-motion, animation, and live action films at TaylorPlacePro and BrickUltra.