Monday, December 21, 2009
I am signing off until 2010. Before I do, let me leave you with some of the highlights of 2009.
In January I published my 100th post, shared how you can make Math Time Story Time, and encouraged you not to Skidoo when homeschooling gets tough but instead to put on Christ and find your fulfillment in Him.
February brought home remodeling and a lot of prayer requests. By God's grace, in the midst of the chaos, we managed to complete a project for our homeschool association's International Festival.
The remodeling ended in March... Drum Roll, Please!
In April, I found myself in the middle of a teaching experience that was Not Exactly What I Had in Mind when I wrote my OLIVE goals. I also revealed more of our remodeling efforts in The Cubby Hole. Most exciting of all, we received our copy of Crayola's Youth Art Exhibition book in which Wilbur's painting was published! Praise the Lord for blessing my sweet boy!
I found myself reminiscing in May. Michael and I celebrated Fourteen Years as husband and wife, and I recalled a science experiment the boys enjoyed as preschoolers in If All of the Raindrops. My boys competed in the Youth Birding Competition and shared how they created their birding journals.
I posted my very first Not Me Monday in June. I did NOT know what I was getting myself into with that! I also began my journey on the TOS Homeschool Crew. I did not know what a BIG adventure that would be, too.
In July, I began the Plan-It School Series and wrote three articles about our goals for education, Compartmentalized Education, Debugging, and Developing a Strong Work Ethic.
Plan-It School was finally completed in August. The series was born from the love I have for homeschoolers and desire to see them succeed. I have links to the entire series in my side bar.
Orville placed second in our local run-off for the National Bible Bee in September. What a great time we had meditating on God's Word!
Orville turned ten in October. I made a big whoop-dee-doo of that. He is my baby, and I'm his momma. Couldn't help myself. ;)
In November, I posted two of my most popular articles to date, Preschool Peace and Poor Wally Is Dead.
I ended the year with a Freezer Cooking Plan and by sharing a neat technique for teaching your child to Read Music.
Thank you all for joining me in 2009. I have loved having you around and getting to "know" many of you. It has been an exciting year in which the Lord has prospered Olive Plants by bringing you here and making you a part of our lives. I value you and with God's continued blessing hope to bring you an even better year of school ideas and encouragement in 2010.
May the Lord bless you all! Have a very Merry Christmas!!
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
In the third grade, I had the cutest little teacher. Seriously, she was little... about 4' 8". I have always been tall, so we were almost eye-to-eye. She liked to square dance and would wear her darling gingham square dancing skirt to school every Friday. When we finished our lessons, we would move the desks to the back wall and create a dance floor. We paired up, and she taught us to dosey doe.
She loved to dance and she loved music. She introduced us to many different styles, from country to classical. One day, she brought in a recording of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf. I loved the bird theme, played by the flute. It was then that I knew I wanted to learn the flute. Little did I know that one day my third grade son and I would enjoy bird watching together, too. All that reminiscing made me want to share Peter and the Wolf with my sons, so I went to YouTube.
I found the video below, and my jaw hit the floor. I have no idea how he manages to beat box while playing the flute. I would hyperventilate and hit the floor, only after hitting many bad notes first. I don't know the performer or anything about him or his music, other than I like this particular performance. So don't take this as an endorsement. But, I hope you will enjoy this as much as I did.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Mathletics.com is a paid membership site where your child can log into his personal account and complete grade-appropriate math challenges.
On the Mathletics homepage, there is a Hall of Fame where the top students for the day, both in the US and internationally, are listed. One of my sons made the list a few times. This was highly motivating.
I liked that I received a weekly report. It was sent to my inbox once per week and allowed me to easily monitor their progress. When we first registered, I was allowed to place them at the grade level of my choosing. After a few reports, I saw that one son was not being challenged and was able to change his grade level immediately. I like that flexibility.
Interested? Now is a good time to purchase a membership. A one-year subscription for one child normally costs $99, but currently, the cost is $59. I would renew at that price and feel like I had received a good deal.
I received 2 memberships to Mathletics, one for each of my sons, for the purpose of completing this review. I have received no other compensation and have offered my honest evaluation. Please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog to read more reviews.
When I asked my younger son to give his opinion, he answered that he did not like the story at all. I was shocked by his answer and asked a few probing questions. He explained that the hare is prideful and his statements were rude. As I listened to him state his case, I realized how well Maestro Classics kept his attention and got him emotionally involved in the story. He was able to recall many details and defend his position.
Because of my son’s dislike of the story, particularly the hare’s attitude, I listened to the story a second time to make sure I had not missed anything inappropriate. The hare is rude, but not any ruder than in any other telling of the story I have heard. Keeping to the theme and moral of the original fable, this rendition teaches an unambiguous lesson.
There are a couple of statements on the teaching tracks of the CD that clash with my worldview. The sing-along is about a pretzel vendor on the Champs Elysees who sells his pretzels to American tourists on Sundays. Because we do not work on the Lord’s Day, I felt uncomfortable allowing my children to sing this song. In one of the teaching tracks, “B.C.E.” is used in place of “B.C.” However, we were able to work around these minor issues, and they did not affect our overall enjoyment.
I give Maestro Classics two thumbs up and may purchase other titles in the Stories in Music series, like Casey at the Bat, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, and my personal favorite, Peter and the Wolf. Each CD is currently available for $16.98, a great price for such a quality product.
I received one Maestro Classics CD for the purpose of completing this review. I received no other compensation and have offered my honest opinion. Please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew to read more reviews of this and other products.
Tektoma offers GameMaker tutorials and teaches you step-by-step how to create your own computer games. My boys set out to create a race car game which is right up their alley. They are gamers and particularly like non-violent, racing games.
The tutorials are very good, offering both audio and video support. You see what you should be doing at the same time you are listening to the instructor explain the steps to follow. It is simple to use and good for all ages.
Surprisingly, my boys were not that interested. I do not understand why. I guess they like playing the games but not creating them.
If you have a young gamer in your family who would enjoy making a game of his or her own, I highly recommend Tektoma. Membership costs $14.95 per month or $140 per year. For the quality of instruction offered, I think the price is reasonable.
Not sure if your child would fall in love with game making or be bored to tears by it, Tektoma offers a free 14- day trial.
I was given a free membership to Tektoma in order to complete this review. I have received no other compensation. I have offered my honest opinion. For more reviews, visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Last week I did not end my Not Me post with a joke.
I did not say that you should come back soon so I can prove to you that I am not scatterbrained.
I did not write this purely as a joke with absolutely no intention of doing such a thing. I mean, I am not scatterbrained after all. Not me. No way! Writing a post to prove this would be unnecessary.
After I hit publish on my hee-hee, ha-ha of a joke, the following did not happen:
- I did not forget to email the Mathletes' problems of the week to the team members.
- It was not Tuesday morning when I finally realized I had not yet sent them out.
- I did not send an email apologizing for my tardiness, explain that the level 2 and level 3 problems and their solutions were attached, and type the level 1 problem into the body of the email.
- I did not promise to send a second email with the solution for the level 1 problem.
- After hitting send, I did not start to type out the solution to level 1 and realize that I had not written the problem down or sent the previous email to myself.
- I did not have to write another email explaining what I had done and attempt to write out steps for solving the problem, omitting the numbers. It did not sound like this:
Take the first % in the problem of the second number. Then subtract that answer from the second % I listed from the third number. (I would never give instructions that are so vague. Not me! I'm a master teacher who can explain everything with ease!!)
- About an hour later, I did not begin to do the PoW with Orville and Wilbur and realize that I still did not have the numbers for the level 1 problem and that I, the coach, would have to write the team moms and ask them to send me the PoW!
- Before I had a chance to write that email, one of the team moms replied to the original email. My dilemma should have been solved since the reply contained the level 1 problem, complete with numbers, except that she had written to inform me that I had not attached the levels 2 & 3 problems and solutions.
- I did not send yet another email to the group with the attachments actually attached.
- About an hour after that I did not receive a phone call from another team mom. It seems that when scanning the level 2 problem, I did not place it cock-eyed in the scanner and cut off part of the text.
- I did not send out a fourth email with a fully legible PoW. That was not the worst job I have ever done... EVER!
There! That proves it! I am NOT scatterbrained. Not even a little bit.
Come back next time when I will prove that I am not…
Never mind. I won’t go there again.
Just come back next time.
I’m sure it’ll be interesting.
P.S. If any of my Mathletes or their moms read this, thank you for being the best, most understanding group ever! :)
Friday, December 11, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
I decided to give it a try anyway and have been happy with the results. Now that I know these dishes do indeed freeze well, I will share my recipes. The first dish I made for the freezer was Tater Tot Casserole.
- Brown 2 lbs extra lean ground beef. As it cooks, season with salt, pepper, garlic powder (I don't measure but just give it a light coating), and minced onions (don't measure these either- a couple of shakes worth).
- When beef is cooked thoroughly, add 2 cans of cream of celery soup. I use the 99% fat free soup. Stir until beef and soup combine.
- Place beef mixture in a 9 x 13 foil baking pan.
- Arrange 1 bag of tater rounds (or tater tots- I like the rounds better) on top of the beef mixture.
- When cool, cover with press and seal paper and aluminum foil. Place in freezer.
- On the night you want to serve it, preheat oven to 350 and bake the casserole for 40 minutes.
- Remove from oven and cover with shredded cheese. I have used Monterrey jack, cheddar, a blend of the two, and pepper jack. Return to oven until cheese melts.
I found the carrot recipe here. I followed the recipe as is and let the carrots cool. Then I placed them in freezable containers, covered with press and seal, and placed the lid on the container.
I bought the bread at Kroger, ready to bake. It is called "Wholesome Harvest Fruit n Nut Wholegrain Bread". I found it in their bakery for $1.25 per loaf.
Next time I will share my Chicken Pot Pie and roasted sweet potato recipes.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Why is the game cabinet open? Don't look inside! I didn't drink that Vanilla Coke in the foreground, either. As one commenter said last week, I am the "Energizer Bunny". I don't need caffeine.
I would never allow my work space to become that cluttered. I am all about organization and efficiency.
To further establish my case, I give you exhibit B. These pictures prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am not messy.
At least the floor's clean...
and this leak didn't require the services of a plumber, an electrician and a carpenter!
So there you have it. Proof positive that I am not messy.
Come back soon when I will prove that I am not scatterbrained. Nope, not me! I always remember....
Um... what was I saying?
Saturday, December 5, 2009
These are my lemon verbena soaps. They make me think of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
This is the Sweat Pea collection with glycerin and goats milk soaps.
Last but not least is my Christmas collection. There are smaller soaps for the sink or kids bath, popsicle soap, Christmas trees, and snowflakes.
If you are a local friend and are interested in purchasing my soaps, call me for more information.
If you are an online friend, I won't be selling via the internet this year. If the Lord wills, perhaps next. Feel free to let me know what you think of my soap collection in comments.
Friday, December 4, 2009
For Best educational use of audio, I would like to nominate My Audio School. MAS "exists to provide children with excellent audio content on a variety of school subjects in a format that they can easily use all by themselves."* My sons enjoy using the site, and it has enhanced their studies. You can read more of my thoughts about MAS here.
Thank you to Molly Evert, MAS creator and owner, for all of her hard work and dedication to creating a site to enrich the lives of students.
You can nominate your favorite educational blogs, too. Visit the edublogawards homepage for details.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
What I found most difficult about workboxing was having to fill the boxes every night. Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I love to teach/lesson plan/do anything school-related. However, filling the boxes was taking over an hour each night.
Maybe that's because I'm an overachiever and do too much.
Maybe that's because I'm getting old and don't move as fast as I used to.
Maybe that's just because workboxing takes that much work.
I don't know for sure but I do know that I could not keep up with it all.
Then I read this at the HSBA Post and decided to make some changes. Rhonda's idea of using Homeschool Tracker is great, but I don't have a subscription or the money to buy one right now. So, I did what homeschoolers do best and improvised.
I have nine boxes for each boy. I have designated one box for each of the following: math, writing, reading/journaling, geography, memory work, handwriting/copy work/coloring, other language arts (spelling, reading skills, etc.), project, extra-curricular.
These are Wilbur's workboxes.
Here are Orville's boxes.
On Saturdays, I place all the materials needed for the upcoming week's assignments in each box. I include activities like computer work and musical instrument practice. Sometimes a box will be filled with materials for a project. Sometimes it will contain a workbook or a game. Sometimes it will simply contain a card that says, "Complete two levels of math practice on mathletics.com each day this week." It takes me about three hours to put it all together which is still a lot of work. However, it makes the week run much more smoothly, and I have the energy for it on Saturdays, unlike at 8 p.m. each week night.
Here is a better view of Wilbur's boxes. He has a card box that contains a game, a DVD to watch, workboooks, copywork, and a cd with one activity in the bottom row.
I place the index card with instructions for each day on top of the materials.
Here is an example card:
Occasionally, I write "see me" if the instructions are too complicated to write out or if I know I will need to assist or give a test.
After a couple of weeks, I also stopped using the schedule strip. I kept putting the same numbers on it in the same order every day, so it seemed superfluous. I let the boys decide the order they will complete their work. This means if they want to do box 6 first, then so be it. Just so long as it all gets done, right?
When each boy has completed a box, he removes the tag from the front of it (I have them attached to the front of the boxes with Velcro) and places it inside the box. When all his tags are removed, he asks me to check his work. If everything is complete, he is done for the day.
Those are our changes. I'm curious, though. How many of you use workboxes and what works best for you? Please share. I have started a conversation in my Blog Frog community.
Thank you to everyone who voted for Olive Plants, too. I really appreciate you guys and am glad that you are blessed by this blog.
Congratulations to all the winners!
Thank you to everyone at the HSBA Post. Hosting these awards has to be a HUGE undertaking, and all of us who participate profit from it, win or lose. Thank you!
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
First, I am dieting. I most frequently fall off the dieting wagon because I don't have a proper plan for dinner or I don't have the energy to follow through with a plan I have made. On nights that I don't know what is for dinner or I am just exhausted from everything the day required, I make something quick and easy (read fattening) or we eat out (read fattening).
Second, menu planning and shopping exhaust me. These are my least favorite responsibilities, right behind doing the laundry. I would rather clean the bathroom, really. It is the perpetual nature of the tasks. I know I can't do away with the work altogether but I wanted to streamline it as much as possible.
Finally, I wanted to spend more time with my family each night and less time in the kitchen. With the major cooking done, dinner prep is so easy. Clean-up literally takes minutes, especially with all four of us contributing.
However, preparing for the cooking day itself and keeping the kitchen running on the cooking day required careful planning. There are many ways to go about freezer cooking. In fact, Money Saving Mom has a meme going right now on the topic where you can get lots of ideas.
Actually, that was my first step... to gather lots of ideas. For about three months, I read blog posts and thought about why I wanted to bulk cook. Some moms do a little here and there and some do a month's worth like me. Others bulk cook every other month or a few times each year. One group of moms co-op their freezer cooking day. It is really important to decide what will be most helpful for you and make your plans accordingly.
Once I decided that I would take the plunge and cook a full month's worth of breakfasts, dinners, and desserts, I bought a spiral notebook with five sections. I labeled each section as follows: breakfasts, lunches, snacks, dinner- main dishes, dinner- sides, desserts. Though I would not be cooking lunches or snacks for the freezer, I still wanted to gather more ideas. As I visited blogs and looked through cooking sites and books, I jotted down several ideas in each category.
Then I narrowed it down to seven main dishes with accompanying sides, three breakfasts, and two desserts. I created a page for each dinner dish and wrote its recipe along with ingredients and cookware needed on that page. Then I decided on side dishes and wrote them on the page with the main dish they would accompany. Some of the sides were things I could cook and freeze, some were things I could buy already frozen. A few things will have to be bought and prepared fresh. Everything can't go in the freezer. Trust me, I tried! :)
Here are the final menus:
- Chicken Pot Pie with roasted sweet potatoes and corn
- Tater Tot Casserole with orange glazed carrots and peas
- Swedish Meatballs (low fat version) with salad
- Chicken Stir Fry with fresh fruit
- Mexican Chicken with Molly's Mac n Cheese (for the non-dieters in the family), green beans, and fruit and nut bread (bought from the Kroger bakery, ready-to-bake)
- Tagliarini, okra with onions and peppers, and Italian bread (bought from Kroger, ready-to-bake)
- Baked Chicken (to be made the night of), brown rice, hominy, broccoli, fruit and nut bread
- sausage biscuits
- two batches of cookie dough (frozen in sets of six- take from freezer and bake in a portion that does not tempt me to indulge)
I made 3-5 portions of each main dish. This gives us enough for one month with a couple extras to give to my parents. On weekends, I will make a crockpot meal. The breakfasts are for the boys. We thaw the night before or microwave in the morning, and they have a piece of fruit to go with. Also, this plan often provides leftovers for lunch the next day.
Here is the plan I followed for cooking day:
- Cook all ground beef while boiling noodles for mac n cheese.
- Strain ground beef and store in fridge. Mix mac n cheese, place in four foil baking pans and bake.
- Boil pasta for tagliarini. Assemble tater tot casseroles, except for cheese, and freeze.
- Remove mac and cheese from oven and allow to cool. Strain pasta and mix tagliarini. Set aside to cool.
- Boil carrots while peeling sweet potatoes.
- Prepare sweet potatoes and place in four foil baking pans and place in oven. Strain carrots and add glaze. Set aside to cool.
- Wrap mac n cheese and Tag and place in freezer.
- Remove sweet potatoes from oven and set aside to cool.
- Prepare Mexican Chicken. Place in oven to bake. Wrap and freeze chicken breasts for Baked Chicken. Cube chicken and prepare stir fry.
- Set aside Mexican Chicken and Stir Fry to cool. Wrap and freeze sweet potatoes and carrots.
- Prepare Chicken Pot Pie filling and set aside to cool. Make meatballs for Swedish Meatballs. Set aside to cool.
- Mix muffins and bake first round. While baking, make sauce for Swedish Meatballs and set aside to cool.
- Mix second batch of muffins. Remove first batch and allow to cool. Put second batch in to bake. Wrap and freeze chicken pot pie filling, except for one portion which goes to the refrigerator. Wrap and freeze meatballs and sauce in separate containers.
- Remove second batch of muffins and allow to cool. Mix third batch and bake. Mix cookie dough.
- Remove muffins from oven and allow to cool. Place 1st batch of biscuits in oven to bake (I used canned... shhhhh).
- Spoon cookie dough onto Glad Press and Seal paper. Seal in groups of six, place in large freezer bags, and place in freezer. Wrap muffins individually, place in freezer bags, and place in freezer. During this step, remove biscuits from oven and place the second batch in to bake.
- Remove second batch of biscuits and allow them to cool. Cook sausage and cool.
- Mix pancake batter and cook. Stack pancakes on a platter and allow them to cool.
- Assemble sausage biscuits, wrap, place in large freezer bags, and place in the freezer.
- Wrap pancakes individually in press and seal paper. Place in large freezer bags and into the freezer.
- Line a deep dish pie pan with a pre-made pie crust. Fill with pot pie filling that was stored in the fridge. Top with second crust, seal, cut slits, and brush with egg. Bake in oven on 400 for 30 minutes along with one portion of sweet potatoes. Microwave frozen corn. Serve for dinner.
- Clean the kitchen.
- Take long bath.
- Take three Excedrine Back and Body pain pills.
- Go to bed and sleep well, knowing there will be very little cooking to do for the next month! :)
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
This year, Michael thought we needed to change things a little. The boys have reached that place in their development that they know the Christmas story inside and out. We are also incorporating a lot of Scripture memory into our regular school day. It's not that we think you can reach a place of knowing Scripture too well; however, he thought it would be beneficial to build on the foundation that has been laid. This year he is not reading the Advent book and we are not having the boys memorize Christmas verses.
Instead he is holding a sword drill. Each night he reads an Old Testament prophecy and the New Testament fulfillment and requires the boys to learn the Scripture reference for each. After he does some teaching and discussing with us, I read one of the passages for the night, not naming the reference. He and the boys seek it out in their Bibles and step forward when it is found. Once all three have located the passage, I call on one of them to read the reference and the first phrase, much like a traditional Sword Drill.
In between passages, I call out a book of the Bible. Each boy locates it and steps forward. Michael participates and occasionally pretends to have difficulty locating the book. The boys think this is a lot of fun and work hard to "get there" before Dad.
We still sing Christmas hymns and let the boys explain the Jesse tree ornaments. We are having such a great Advent season singing and worshipping, spending time in the Word, learning together, and having fun as a family.
When we finish our family worship time, the boys take a piece of candy from this candy tree we made quickly and easily with toothpicks and a Styrofoam base.
I would love to hear from you. What are your Advent traditions? You can leave a comment if you would like or participate in the new discussion I started on the topic in my Blog Frog community.
I made this small, 8.5 x 11'', so it would be portable. She practices with it at home, and we use it during her lessons each week. If I could make a few changes, I would increase the size. Probably make it an interactive bulletin board for home use only. I would add in a space for the key signature. I would also make the treble clef interchangeable with a bass clef. Flute reads treble only, but for my pianist at home, I would want both.