April 30, 2010

No Wonder Home School Kids Can't Add

The other evening, we were invited to dinner. Since it was my girl friend's birthday, her hubby was handling all the arrangements and cooking.  It is really funny when men plan an event.

For one thing, I didn't actually know we'd been invited until the afternoon before.  The fellows' communication is a little  more vague than us ladies.  On Monday, Terry called Allen to ask if he could stop by and pick up the gift he had shipped to our house.

Allen says, "Sure thing.  We won't be home because we have class but Brianna will be here and she knows where Kathleen put it."

Then Terry says, "Yeah.  Katrina's birthday is tomorrow so we'll probably have you all (he's from South Carolina so it's pronounced y'all)  over this weekend to cook out and stuff."  (Terry always says, "Stuff" at the end of a sentence.)

Allen, I am sure, said something like, "That sounds good.  Let us know what we should bring."

Note some things here.  No definitive day or time.  If Katrina and I had spoken then we would have had the date and time secure, checked our calendars to confirm it was OK and planned the entire menu before hanging up.   

Allen came home from work that evening and said, "Terry is stopping by to pick up Katrina's gift."  As an afterthought he added, "He mentioned they might have us over this weekend."

Imagine Katrina's surprise on Friday when she called to see if we'd be able to make it, (since we hadn't called them to RSVP) and I said, "We didn't know we were invited."  Ha!  Two engineers, who are extremely precise in all their work at home and on the job but never think to clarify and confirm a dinner invitation.  How wonderful that they still need us! 

The difference between dinner parties planned by men and planned by women doesn't end at the invitation and planning, though.  You can tell which sex is in charge, shopped and cooked by the menu, too.  Burgers, cheese and chips.  All very delicious, especially cooked up on the charcoal grill.  Only Katrina and I noticed the lack of veggies.

While we were standing around chatting, the men were setting the kids' table.  Samuel came in and asked how he could help.  Terry told him to set out the cups and Katrina handed him a stack.  Shortly later, Sam came from the dining room asking for one more cup.  Katrina said, he had enough because she gave him 7 and Elisabeth had brought her own cup.  He went back and returned, scratching his head in confusion and asking again for another cup.  Katrina explained that he only needed 7 cups because Ellie had her own sippy cup.  Now we all walked to the dining room together.  I glanced at the table and noted that there was one place without a cup.  Then Allen counted places and noted that there were ten plates for eight children.  Two engineers who excel in higher math but need a four year old to help them count plates.  How funny is that?  And don't think we didn't tease them about it, either.  Old friends, like the four of us, LIVE to pick on each other!

And there you have it.  The reason home school kids can not add:  They have engineers for fathers☺   





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April 29, 2010

Pepper Jelly

Forever In Blue Jeans

I am joining Carin at Forever in Blue Jeans for her weekly challenge to get mom in the picture.  If you've not been in the picture this week, it's not too late!  Here's my four step plan to recovery.  1-Grab the camera 2- grab a kid 3- take a shot 4-post it!  You can't ask for easier than that.  I can't wait to see you in the picture.

This morning while the girls and I were making our pepper jelly the boys were trying out their photography skills. I had to put a two picture per boy limit on so we could stop smiling and get some work done. Who do you think took each?

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April 28, 2010

Meet Fred

On Monday nights, Allen, Kaitlin, and I go to Bible class together and then have dinner out.  This has become our regular date night.  Just the three of us.  We always tease KK about being the third wheel.  I guess she decided she was going to even things up a bit.  This week she brought a date along.  Can you see Fred in there? 
It's hard to see him isn't it?  Sorry about that.  Allen had to take the picture with his blackberry as it was a rare occasion that my camera was not in my purse.  In case you missed it.  Fred is a tadpole.  And that is why we don't believe in dating.  You never know who (or what) you might end up sitting across the table from!

But boy am I happy that we have such a good-natured daughter that she doesn't care one bit if I post a picture of her and an amphibian on my blog.


And before someone asks... The reason we were hauling a tadpole around with us to class and dinner was because Aedan got a tank to raise tadpoles on his birthday.  But... the pet store just got them in on Monday and since I had to stop at the fabric store before class we decided to run in and pick it up for him.  And of course we didn't want to leave it sit in the car all evening alone since it was cold.  And no!  No one thought a thing about us walking around with a tadpole because everyone knows the Wachters are a little different.  No!  Even Bethany, our waitress who serves us every Monday night, didn't blink.  Instead she was giving us ideas for names.  So there you have it the newest addition to the Wachter live stock.

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April 27, 2010

Well, There's A Thought

Now that my boys are doing well with their reading, I want them to develop a habit of having their time alone with the Lord in His word each day.  We have just finished a study on the book of Proverbs so I told them that each day I want them to read the Proverb that corresponds with the date.  On the first they read Proverbs 1 and on the second Proverbs 2 and so on.

I instructed them to read it each morning before they get out of bed, each day at lunch and each night before they turned out their light.  This serves many purposes.  One, they truly make the word a part of their whole day instead of something to check off their to do list.  Two, they get lots of reading practice.  Three, they, hopefully, will absorb more by reading it three times instead of one.  Once it becomes a good habit, they will know which part of the day was best for them.

I was delighted the other morning to hear Aedan and Nathaniel sitting in their rooms, tucked under their blankets taking turns reading verses aloud.  When I peeked in the door, Samuel was laying in bed listening intently, too.  What more could any mother ask for?

At dinner on his birthday date, we asked Aedan what he thought of the boys' Bible study?  How was it working out for him and was he enjoying it?  An emphatic, "Yes!" was his reply.  "Why?" I asked.  He shrugged his shoulders as he said, "Well, it is the word of God and reading the word of God will make you wise."

"My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine."  Proverbs  23:15



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April 26, 2010

Birthday Date With Aedan

Having seven children means you need to take extra measures to make sure you have time with each one to really hear them and to make them feel special and like an important individual they are.  One of the ways we try to do this is scheduling dates with the kids.  We have had different methods for this over the years, varying by time and situation.  When all the children were young and we didn't have help with baby sitting, Allen took off a few hours one morning a week and we alternated turns taking one child out and staying at home with the others.  Dates could be breakfast at Starbucks, a walk in the park, putt-putt, a movie, or taking school to the library.

These days, whenever one of us has to go out to run errands, we always take one or two kids with us.  Even if we do nothing special, at the least it gives us time to just talk and visit and catch up without interruption.  Morning errands are usually dedicated to Samuel and Elisabeth since they can't afford to miss afternoon naps.  Afternoon errands fall to the middles. Evening expeditions are up for the big girls.  Not that it is written in stone, but those are the patterns we have sort of fallen into.

Every Monday evening, Kaitlin attends Bible class with us and then we have dinner together.  It has become a special time of becoming friends with our adult daughter and sharing conversation on a level that can often be difficult surrounded by a family of youngers. 

Now that the big girls can stay with the youngers, the kids get more opportunities to go out with both of us at the same time.  The one they look forward to all year is their birthday date.  The week of their birthday, they get to go out with us for dinner to any place they choose.  We use this time to take stock of the previous year, talk about the upcoming year, and evaluate their view of family life.  The children must always answer a series of several questions as we wait for dinner to arrive.  Yes, we even ask the littlest children, even though they usually just stare at us.  We want them each to know that we care about what is on their heart and that their thoughts and opinions are very important to us.

How's life treating you?  Are you happy with your situation?  How are things with your roommates? 
What can we do differently as parents to help you be more successful.  How is school going?  Is there anything special you would like to discuss.  We try to evaluate their walk with the Lord.  Prayer time and Bible study, of course, being high on the list of topics in that one.

Thursday evening, we took Aedan to Bone Fish Grill for his date.  We had a very enjoyable time and I was particularly tickled by his answers.  Our middle son just has a unique intellect for a child his age and one can never anticipate what delightful answer you may get when you ask him a question.

When we asked how things were working out with Sam's move to the boys' room he replied, "I like it well enough, except Sam talks a lot when we want to go to sleep."  I reminded him how he and Nathaniel can be good examples to him by kindly asking him to be quiet so they can go to sleep.  He said, "I remember that I used to talk a lot when I moved into the boy's room, too."

We were charmed by what he has remembered from his manner training, when his salad came and he was trying to assess which fork to use since neither was a true salad fork.  It was amusing to watch him try to politely work his way out of the predicament I left him in when I gave him a bite of my salad to taste.  I suppose it was too big a piece because it ended up hanging out of his mouth.  Which, would normally get a word about good manners but it looked so funny and he was trying so hard to be a gentleman that we had to laugh again.  And Pa snapped this picture with his blackberry.    

He and Allen shared the fish and chips because it is enormous and a favorite of both my men.  After finishing his portion of fries there was still some ketchup left in the sauce cup.  He asked for more fries to go with his ketchup.  Which, completely cracked me up.

But the best of all was when his dessert arrived.  At home when we serve ice cream we serve it in sauce cups about the size his ketchup came in.  So when his ice cream scoop came you can understand why his eyes grew to the size of the soup cup they served it in.  When he gave his order to the waitress and she said it was Blue Bell ice cream we couldn't resist telling him this little story about our Pastor.  Blue Bell is the favorite ice cream of he and his bride.  Years ago, when they were in Texas and came across his very favorite ice cream, they bought a number of gallons, packed it on dry ice and drove across the country with it.  We told Aedan about the night we were invited to the parsonage for dessert.  After all that build up, when his ice cream arrived, and the initial shock of the portion wore off, he took a taste and said, "It tastes like vanilla to me."  Ha.

You would think it couldn't get better than that, except that he could not finish that big bowl.  In our house, if one does not finish anything to eat, you can bet there is someone else just waiting to have their share.  Aedan kept looking at the bowl and then looking around the table to see who would take it.  Then he would sigh and look at the bowl again and take a tentative bite.  When we realized the cause of his worry, I explained that he could just leave it on the table if he didn't want to eat it.  The relief in his voice as he let out one last sigh and uttered, "Thank you," was like the cherry atop the sundae of a lovely evening with our quickly growing man. 

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April 25, 2010

Crepes

Last week, in preparation for Aunt Dawn's visit, Emma made a batch of crepes to tuck in the fridge for breakfast. That reminded me of a promise last fall to post about crepes.  I took the pictures but somehow never got around to uploading them.

Crepes, the French pancake, are really easy to make. For some reason when most people think of making any French food, they instantly freeze up and assume it will be a difficult process. But nothing could be farther from the truth. The only difficult thing about crepes is the time it takes to cook them. Which, would not even be that long for the average size family. Crepes can be cooked ahead of time, layered between waxed paper and put in the fridge to save time when you are ready to serve them. They reheat in the microwave beautifully and no one will know that they didn't just come out of the skillet.

One essential to making crepes is having the proper pan. A crepe or omelet pan is ideal but any small skillet will do the trick.   A good non-stick surface will make the job easiest.  I do not allow anyone else use my skillet reserved for omelets, crepes and manicotti, to cook any other food so as to protect the non stick surface.  You need not have an expensive one.  Just keep the surface scratch free.

As for the recipe.  I have used the one in my 1972 Betty Crocker Cookbook for as long as I can remember.  The fact that there are NEVER any leftovers testifies to its goodness.  You can mix your batter in the blender, kitchen aid, with a hand mixer or even with a whisk.

Crepes

1 1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons melted butter

Blend all ingredients until smooth.  For each crepe butter an 8 inch skillet; heat over medium heat until butter is bubbly.  Pour scant 1/4 cup in skillet; immediately rotate pan until batter covers bottom.  Cook until set.  Turn to other side, using a rubber spatula, for a few seconds.  Slide onto waxed paper.  Repeat with all of batter, layering wax paper between each crepe.

Some people like to roll their crepes with filling inside.  Others like to fold them into triangles and arrange them artistically on plates or platter.  We do a little of each.  Sometimes we just serve them stacked and let everyone fix their own. 

When available, we like to serve our crepes with lots of fresh fruit and freshly whipped cream.  In the off season we use frozen fruit or home made jam.  One of my favorite ways to eat crepes is just simply a squeeze of lemon over the top and a light sprinkle of coarse sugar. 

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April 24, 2010

The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

In celebration of Aedan's birthday we had intended to head to Kentucky to visit the creation museum. He is super interested in science, dinosaurs, creation and how God did it all. Somewhere around Thursday we realized it was a full eight hours away instead of the six we expected, which just seemed too far for a one day visit. Instead, Saturday we continued our challenge to visit all the Smithsonian Museums this year with a family outing to the Natural History Museum.

Which should really be called the "National Museum of stuff they made up and don't have any evidence to support but still post signs everywhere stating it as fact even though it is all baloney..." Truly, we knew how much evolutionary teaching would be there and have armed our children with the truth and taught them how to refute such teaching, but just the same it was overwhelming. Oh, don't get me started on that!

It still was a treat for my dinosaur loving fellow to see "Rexie". Ellie was delighted to see the, "Big bling." And Allen and I hardly minded forking over $32 for 7 yogurts for a snack.

But first...Aedan requested lunch at Chick-fil-A for his birthday. Since they are closed on Sunday, we offered to take him on Saturday instead. We offered breakfast on the way to the museum or dinner on the way home. Having never eaten breakfast at Chick-fil-A before, he quickly agreed to that.
Forty five minutes later, I realized why we don't eat breakfast at places like Chick-fil-A when Elisabeth got sick all over herself as we headed into Dulles.

Which led us back ten miles to find the nearest Target.  Where we stripped the baby in the parking lot because she was too messy to carry into the store.  We wrapped her in Emma's sweater so as to not carry her around buck naked.   Then bought trash bags, wipes, bath towel, tooth brush, princess panties and new outfit.  Bathed her in the sink in the rest room.  Redressed her.  Brushed her teeth.  Put the car seat in the trash bag and hid it in the trunk until we got home and tossed it in the trash.  And then headed on our merry way again.

When all was said and done we made it to the museum a little after 1:30.

Checked out the dinosaurs.  Had some talk about evolution versus creation.  Laughed at some of the unbelievable absurdities.  Whizzed through more evolution in the Marine Science Exhibit.  And Headed to the Hope Diamond.
Which I personally thought was a grave disappointment.  I expected fifty some carats to be much bigger than that!  Of course, as much as they exaggerated their number on everything else (Dinosaurs lived 70 million years ago) perhaps the Hope diamond was really only two carats and not the fifty-ish that they claim.

By this time it was after three and were sufficiently convinced that Elisabeth didn't have a stomach bug and that she must be hungry seeing as she lost her whole breakfast and we were all well past ready for lunch ourselves so we headed to the cafeteria.  Not really wanting junk food we opted for some yogurt (the fresh fruit didn't look so fresh) and we appalled to shell over $32 for seven yogurts and an unsweetened ice tea.  Which, I think ought to be illegal, since you can buy a large supply of the same organic yogurt for that.  But, we all know that is what you are asking for at such places.  So, you won't hear me complaining.

The birthday boy stated he was tired and ready to go home, some one seconded the motion and all voted in favour or beginning the return trek.

It seems that I am not the only one who was worn out.  We weren't even out of the city before they were snoozing. Nathaniel...
Ellie, Samuel, the chicken and all.
Remind me again, why we thought all this culture was good for the family?

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April 23, 2010

She's So Conflicted

It's tough to be a girl in Spring. One day it's 96 and we pull out summer clothes. The next we were wishing we had kept out our woolens. Elisabeth is no exception when it comes to the conflicting messages spring in Maryland can bring.

First we shed our shoes and don our flip flops.

Then the weather turns cool again and only a snow suit seems like it will do.

Finally, she settled on a compromise. A sundress and the pink snow boots.

What else is a girl to do?

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April 22, 2010

It Was Worth the Wait

Forever In Blue Jeans

I am joining Carin at Forever in Blue Jeans for her weekly challenge to get mom in the picture.  This is my first week in her 2010 challenge and I am excited to be here!  If you've not been in the picture this week, it's not too late!  Here's my four step plan to recovery.  1-Grab the camera 2- grab a kid 3- take a shot 4-post it!  You can't ask for easier than that.  I can't wait to see you in the picture.

Sunday was the big day I've been waiting for- Aedan's birthday- and the day I got to give him his quilt.  

 My boys are very tactile.  The first thing he did was rub the fleece border and tell me how soft it way.  Then he sniffed it.  What can I say?  They are raised by three older sisters.  I will  not tell you the super embarrassing story of walking through Victoria's Secret with Nathaniel when he was about three years old and him rubbing all the satin night gowns and telling me how I should buy this one and that one because they were so soft.  But some woman will thank me some day.
 And then we checked out the buttons.  Which he was delighted with. 
 For which I was rewarded with a great big snuggle. 
 And a warm little boy as the temperatures dropped back to 34 Sunday night.
Are you in the picture this week? 

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April 21, 2010

Home School - Grammar

A while ago, I exchanged some emails with a friend and reader about curriculum. Recently, I received another email on Easy Grammar Systems.  After finishing my reply, I realized I had written a whole post on grammar.

By way of introduction, let me say, as a general rule, I do not start a grammar program until my children are firmly established in reading and phonics.  Typically, I would introduce grammar around third grade.  My curriculum of choice is Easy Grammar Systems.  In answering this question I feel like I really explained what I found particularly appealing about their program.  In the sake of time, I am reprinting her question and my answer with slight editing as necessary to make it more appropriate to this forum.  If you have further questions, as always, please leave me a comment or click that email button on my side bar.

Hello Kat,

Before you mentioned them, I had never heard of Math U See or Easy Grammar.

I looked up Easy Grammar online today. I see they have a student workbook and teacher’s edition for 180 Daily Teaching Lessons.

I cannot tell from this website much about the teacher’s edition. Could you answer a few questions for me?

1. Could you tell me how it is set up…is the Teacher’s Edition a duplicate of the student workbook with an answer key in the back of the book?

2. It says, “Reproducible,” and I am wondering exactly what part is reproducible.

3. 10 minute lessons…exactly what do they mean – that it takes 10 minutes to teach the lesson, or that it should only take about 10 minutes to complete the lesson?

Then they have:Daily Grams: Guided Review Aiding Mastery Skills for Junior High / Senior High Level teacher text

Is this in addition to the lessons the student does in their easy grammar workbook? I did not see a student workbook for this.

Don’t hurry to get back to me; maybe you could just answer the questions when you have spare time one day.

Dear Friend,

I am more than delighted to answer your questions. I had to check out the Easy Grammar link you sent because they have changed and updated it a little from what we have.

Their system consists of two parts. The teaching text and workbook and the Daily Gram Daily Review.

The Daily Grams are quick, ten minute or so each, sheets that review about five different concepts. For instance, in Emma’s grade there might be one sentence on capitalization. One sentence on punctuation. One question on sentence combining. One question with a list of nouns the student would need to write "P" for proper or "C" for common and one question dealing with adjectives.

These were originally intended to be put on an overhead for a class to do as a warm up either orally or in their notebooks. Home schoolers used them as a workbook and they started marketing them that way. The kids usually find them a fun little exercise. You can copy them if you wish to use for all your students but quite frankly I didn’t feel like taking the time to copy them all and they are inexpensive enough that I just got a work book for each student and used them as consumables.

As I said, they are fun exercises but once your student has a solid foundation they seem more like fluff to me. Around fourth grade I usually do away with them. Some students quickly forget what they learned previously and need to keep coming back to old concepts and for them I would recommend it. Only you can determine if your children need the additional refreshers. But that is what daily grams are… daily refreshers… they do not teach any new material. They would be good for review with any grammar curriculum not just Easy Grammar. Oh, and there is just the Daily Gram book. No separate student or teacher. The worksheets are in the front with answers in the back.  At one time they sold two versions of the book.  One with answers in the back and one without answers.  They were identical otherwise.  I do not believe they sell them like this anymore.  


The Easy Grammar Text book builds on very simple concepts and teaches only one concept at a time. The very first thing you learn is prepositions… which is quite different from other programs. Once a student knows their prepositions, they can quickly master sentence diagramming, which truly is the basis for understanding the other parts of speech. Therefore, it indeed is very short teaching time. The worksheets require five or ten minutes for the student. My children spend about 30 minutes on Grammar a week. That would include teaching any new concepts and the worksheets, reviews or tests.


The way the text is written, my girls have often been able to learn the concepts and do the assignments almost exclusively without my help. Once in a while I may go over a difficult area with them but even then they usually catch on very quickly and it takes but a few minutes. On the very conservative side, I would say a weeks worth of lessons would take an hour for teaching, assignments and grading.

I usually have my children check their own assignments. If they get any wrong they report to me and we see why. As I look over Emma’s assignment book here, I see that in the last 7 weeks, 70 workbook pages, 2 tests, 2 reviews, 2 cumulative reviews, 2 cumulative tests she only got 7 wrong. Often, when they are finished checking and come to me, they already know what they did wrong.


The teacher book is laid out with two of each page side by side. The left facing page is the teacher page with answers written in. The right facing page is the student page which appears blank just as it would in the student work book.  Here is an example of the teaching page 295 on Adverbs that tell where.  It appears just like this in the student workbook as well.  On rare occasion there are additional notes to the teacher.


The following page in the teacher book is the student workbook page answer key.  This is page 296 in the teacher book.  You will see it tells, at the top, which page corresponds in the student text.

The next page is teacher page 297.  This is the right hand facing page which corresponds to student workbook page 124.

If you were so inclined, you could photo copy the student pages for your children and have them work directly on them. It takes a lot of time to photocopy and by the time you figure in the cost of ink cartridges and printer paper you probably aren’t saving much for your time’s sake.


You could also have your students work from the blank pages in the teacher book and write their answers in a note book. I, personally, would be frustrated if I had to do all the copy work of printing sentences in a notebook for each assignment, and so I didn’t want to make my children do that. The idea is to learn grammar not spend as much time as possible doing the assignments. It just seems like a waste of time and effort to me. I chose to buy workbooks and use them as consumable products.


There is the option of doing some or all of the questions orally. When Brianna was still really working with her dyslexia, we did almost all of her school work orally so that she could learn without the frustration of trying to write also. I do not feel that not doing the assignments in writing in anyway jeopardized her learning of different subjects.

I hope I have answered your questions. If you have any others just speak up! Because I know you have been using the Rod and Staff program, I think you will really like Easy Grammar. I went from Rod and Staff to Easy Grammar and found it so refreshing. We have been using this at least since KK was in the fifth grade. The Rod and Staff is an excellent foundational program, but it can get very cumbersome and laborious, in my humble opinion.

After my original reply I received this additional question:


Wow, Kat, that was really great of you to take the time to write such a long and thorough answer! I have only one other question. How do you know which level to begin with for an older child? I don’t see any link to a placement test.

I am thinking of (name of child deleted for privacy reasons) He is currently using the sixth grade English book of Rod and Staff. He is my only child that has struggled with learning. I see encouraging progress, but I know he gets confused with all the details of grammar. I spend much time reviewing with him.

We are currently working on relative clauses. He does well with simple sentences, recognizing the direct objects, indirect objects, and objects of the prepositions, predicate normative and predicate adjectives. Where he gets confused is recognizing these parts within complex sentences. 

Hi, again.

I would start him in sixth grade. Even with all her troubles, Brianna had no trouble with keeping on level in their books. They repeat much from level to level so it is unlikely that he would miss something from grade to grade. Our books, which are a revision earlier than the ones online, contain a pre and post assessment. I am assuming they continue those in the new revision.

If he continues to have a difficult time even with Easy Grammar you might try slowing it down. Perhaps teach a lesson and do the odd numbers one day and the even numbers the next day. With these sorts of issues it seems it is the constant review and practice that really builds mastery. He may spend two years in the same book, but he will be less frustrated and in the big scheme of things progress quicker later  on because he has accomplished a complete understanding.

One thing I would encourage you in, is to consider what is the real purpose of grammar? In my thought it is to help one have better comprehension of what they read and become a better writer. If the student is accomplishing those two goals without a complete mastery of grammar then perhaps it is not necessary to push it too much for a child who is struggling. I do not believe that is absolutely essential to know what a predicative nominative is in order to read and understand the Bible or to write a business letter to your associates. My hubby is a very successful business man who communicates in writing on a daily basis and he can’t tell me what a predicative nominative is. For that matter he does not know what an adverb is, either☺

As with any curriculum, when possible, it is a good idea to visit a home school store (not all materials are available in stores but this is), visit a home school fair, or ask to thumb through a friends copy of Easy Grammar to see if it is something that would work for you.  When buying materials you should carefully check out the return policy if you think there is any chance that you may change your mind.  Although, home school suppliers tend to be willing to work with you, it is often common policy not to allow returns on reproducible materials.  It is very upsetting to spend $50 on a book to check it out, find out it is not the right thing for you and then discover it can not be returned.

Websites, such as eBay, can be a great resource to find used books for much less than when buying direct from the publisher.  When buying older editions, be sure that you can get corresponding teacher manuals when you think you will need them.  

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April 20, 2010

Homeschool-Kindergarten Curriculum

I need to qualify this post by saying I think the need for Kindergarten is highly over emphasized  in our country.  I think that, if children are beside you as you go about your day...  and if you are talking about the world around you as you go about your chores... then your child will not need to sit at a desk, in front of a book on a beautiful day to learn their numbers and colors.  They will have learned to count by saying their numbers out loud as they put the clean glasses in the cupboard.  Your preschooler will have learned their colors while helping you sort laundry, fold socks, choose produce in the grocery store or cut fresh flowers for the dinner table.  They will sing their ABC's and learn their phonics sounds as you walk together to take cookies to the neighbors.

However, in our state every child age five is required to attend full day kindergarten.  Don't get me started on my opinions on that, it really belongs in a very LONG post all of its own.  The Bible commands us to obey the rules of our land and so I log the kindergarten hours with my children.  Really, with older home school children, I find the younger children are chomping at the bit to start school, long before I am beginning to think about it or before the age of legal requirement arrives.  Usually, by age three and almost definitely by age four, they are dying to start school.  That's when we pull out my favorite series for preschool and kindergarten students.

For the child who is able and ready for more focused work book time, all my children have started with the Preschool A-B-C Series. This inexpensive set of workbooks, Bible story book and Bible coloring Book are the official start of school for Wachter children. They enjoy them so much that each time Samuel pulls out his book someone still says, "I remember doing those books. They were so much fun." Rod and Staff is expanding this program with new books and plans to add G-H-I for the child who is not quite ready for first grade but has finished the first set. Even though, they are far beyond these books, my first and second grade boys lament that they have not published the last two in this set yet and ask me about once a month to call and see if they are for sale yet. The whole set is a whopping $20 so where can you really go wrong there? This set of books are excellent for your preschool and Kindergarten students.  Rod and Staff is one of the few companies that does not have online sales.  You can order a complete free catalog by calling 606-522-4348.

As far as formal book learning is concerned, I prefer to keep the first years of school focused on the basic three r's, reading, writing and arithmetic.  Adding too many other subjects really muddies the waters at a time when building a firm foundation in the essentials is really important.  Therefor, for kindergarten the only other formal school time I add is Math-U-See Primer.  You can read more about that in my post on Math.

Not to say we do not learn other things, such a science, music, history and Bible.  But we keep that as an informal exercise.  Science is often centered around reading "Your Big Back Yard" together while curled up in our pj's on a rainy morning.  This magazine put out by the National Wildlife federation has been a favorite of my little ones since Emma was a preschooler.  But that's not all!

Our program is centered around whatever in nature strikes the kids fancy at any particular time.  Bugs, dinosaurs, trees, plants, the body, butterflies, flowers,  and just about any topic that you could name has filled our science curriculum at one time or another over the years.  We search the library for books and videos to learn more about the current fancy.  The internet is also a wealth of information if your little one can't wait until the next library day to learn about clouds or volcanoes.

I do like to steer away from using the internet too much for school, especially at this age.  I think there is a lot to be said from the simple aesthetics of flipping through a book and studying pictures of octopus and squid to learn about God's underwater creation.  Furthermore, I am trying hard to not raise my children in the world of ease and instant gratification which the internet and fast food industry has thrust all of us into.  You might remember, I believe very strongly at this age and the formative school years are more about teaching your children how to learn, helping them love learning, and equipping them with the tools (such as reading) to go about it.  If they spend too much time doing their learning on the internet they will only know how to hit a button and get an answer that someone else has posted, not how to find the answers for themselves.

With my little soap box out of the way, you are most welcome, I will tell you we approach history much the same way as science.  Story books about historical events of interest to the children grace our coffee table.  Discussion at the dinner table is centered on famous people from history.  Having older children, we find our younger children are very much interested in things which might have gone right over the heads of other children their age.  Allen and I are both very interested in history so our daughters have a natural curiosity themselves.  Which leads to many meal time discussions our youngers have listened to.  They then ask questions and before we know it, they've all had a history lesson.  When someone takes a particular interest in a specific topic we make a trip to the library for some books and videos to expand on the subject.

For other fun materials that we like to use at the preschool and kindergarten levels you can check out my post on Circle Time.  


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April 19, 2010

Redeeming the Panini

Do you remember the expose in which I revealed the travesty surrounding the panini maker?  Well, anyone who knows me, knows I could not have rest until I found a way to turn that appliance to the side of good and nourishment.  At last, success was reached.  Say goodbye to those processed, nitrate filled meats.
Say hello to Chili Pepper's Caprese Panini!

Saturday, when Allen pulled out his griddler, I put my mind to work to find something that resembles nutritious food to press between those hot plates. I surely arrived at something delicious.

Here it is my masterpiece! 

Chili Pepper's Caprese Panini 

To begin with we spread a whole what hoagi roll (Allen sliced the top and bottom off to make it thinner) with home made pesto.  (I always make a bunch of this and freeze it during the summer to have on hand for quick sauces all winter long).   Then add tomatoes that have been sliced very thin and top with mozzarella cheese.  Fresh mozzarella would have been best but I had grated left over from Dish night on Friday so we used that.  Grill in panini maker and serve. 


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April 18, 2010

Happy Birthday Sweet Aedan!

I can NOT believe my sweet Aedan is turning seven.  It seems like just last week we brought him home from the hospital and sat under the cherry tree in full bloom admiring my darling little blondie with his dimples and blue eyes.
He has been a constant delight and joy to our family these seven years.  I can hardly imagine life without his careful way of life, deep thought, thoughtfulness and consideration toward others.  He is the hardest worker I have ever seen for a child his age who lives to honor his parents and more so the God he loves.

He is always pondering deep spiritual matters that seem far beyond his years and will share them with anyone who will listen, and sometimes even if they don't care to listen.  His genuine heart for the lost brings me to my knees time and time again.  There is nothing more humbling than being brought to conviction by a six year old.

So without further fuss, let me share with you the Wachter birthday blessings and praises on Aedan's seventh birthday.

Pa:  I am thankful for the love you have for your siblings, your parents and your God and the tenderness and concern you have for all others.  The blessing I claim for the new year is that you continue to grow in God's grace and that you never cease in growing your knowledge of God.

Mama:  I cherish Aedan's love for the Lord, desire to see all souls saved and delight in serving everyone around him.  His tenderness toward younger children, animals and God's creation are truly a marvel to behold.  I pray for Aedan to never lose those qualities that the Lord surely meant when He spoke of coming to Him with the heart of a child.  Love to my sweet boy, Mama

Emma Rose:  I praise his hard work.  He always does his best when he is asked to do something.  My blessing for him would be that he would continue to love God.

Kaitlin:  He is always willing to learn more about everything but especially the Bible.  My blessing would be that he never lose his curiosity.

Brianna:  My praise is for his discernment.  He thinks things through very well and comes up with a good solution for problems.  My blessing would be for him to always be the sweet little Joelie.

Samuel:  When something is broken and it is fixable he will come and fix it for me.

Elisabeth:  He gets excited to play with me, read to me or help me. 

Nathaniel:  I am blessed by how kind and generous he is.  I pray that he will continue to get wiser as he gets older. 
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April 17, 2010

Happy Birthday Uncle Rice!

Meet my brother-in-law, husband to my sister, Diann, father to my darling nephew Gabriel. Whose name happens to be Ben. Which is quite unfortunate for him, since the kids could not resist making a connection between their Uncle Ben and the whole grain brown rice product we buy. Which led to him being nicknamed, "Uncle Ben."  His birthday was April 16th.  We are sending him a great big Wachter Happy Birthday wish!

In the tradition of the Wachter family, we wish to send him birthday blessings and praises.

Allen:  I pray that you continue to grow in your new role as father and that your children's children will call you blessed.  And that the dolphins will do at least as well as the Rams!  I am thankful that you took Diann off my hands ☺ No, seriously.  I am grateful for the love you have brought into her life.

Kat:  I love his good humor and desire to bring laughter to the hearts of those around him.  Although, one might question his sanity in making a choice to willing join a family such as ours.  His easy going spirit and ability to roll with the punches makes him an asset to the Wachter family and the wider Paternoster clan.  In the new year I wish him to seek the heart of our Lord for eternal life and guidance in leading his family.  Happy Birthday, dear brother of mine!

Kaitlin: Happy Birthday, Uncle Rice! My praise to you would be that you always are thinking of others, and your always willing to pitch in and help-such as at a family gathering. My blessing would be that God wold give you the wisdom, grace, and courage to raise your son in the admonition of the Lord. (see Ephesians 6:4b.)

Nathaniel: My blessing to you would be to pray that you would be saved. My praise is that he is fun to play cars with.

Emma Rose:  I appreciate his good sense of humor.  I hope that they will be moving back to the states very soon.

Aedan Joel:  I pray that he will follow God.  I hope that he will enjoy the rest of his time in Italy.

Elisabeth:  I am grateful for a new cousin... it's about time one of my Uncles got around to it!  ☺ Now I hope Uncle Ben will bring him back home soon so I can break him in right.

Brianna:  I appreciate the way he always takes time to listen to the little ones and gets excited about what they have to say.  My hope is that they would move back here *soon*

Samuel:  I am happy that he was kind to Mama when she came to Italy.  I pray for him to come back from Italy soon!


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April 16, 2010

Home School-Higher Math

As I am working my way through these posts on home school, I had a girl friend email some questions dealing with math.  After sending my email reply, I thought to myself, "Gee, that would have been a good post for my home school series."  So here it is.  Commonly asked questions regarding higher math in the home school.  I have altered my response a little to better suit this forum.

Hi Kathleen:  Hope you all are doing well.  If you don’t mind, I would like to “pick your brain” for a moment on math.  What math did Kaitlin do throughout high school? Are you taking your girls through algebra, geometry, etc.? What’s your opinion on going through the higher maths? Do they really need them?  Josh is stuck in algebra (and he is in 11th grade), and Bethany is supposed to begin 9th grade in the fall … she struggles with pre-algebra now.   Any input would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks. Katie

Hi, Katie.

I’d be glad to answer your questions! Math was a challenge for us when we began our home school journey. The first five years we used five different math curriculum ranging from the most popular Saxon, through Abeka, Rod and Staff and a few others. Kaitlin did not enjoy math and I, not being a strong math student, was at a loss to help her understand it. I finally settled on Math-U-See which I can not say enough good things about. Our math went from daily tears to one of our favorite subjects.

It is a pricey curriculum, but worth every penny. Except for the student workbooks, you can often find materials used on Ebay. Perhaps, if you ask around there is someone you can borrow materials from and then you will only need to purchase the student workbooks.  It is a good idea to peruse someone else's materials or visit a home school show to see if it is something that would work for your student.   They have a website that you can check out, too.

When it comes to school, math included, I try to keep the focus on real life skills. The rest is a waste, in my opinion. Allen and I do not really feel college is the place for our girls and so in that regard they have no need for higher math, either. For our boys, and if the girls should be interested in furthering their education, we would require two years of community college before we would consider a four year college. In which case, they will have to take the higher maths at that time, anyway. Therefore, unless they have an interest in it, it seems a waste of time and effort to pour energy into it.

For Kaitlin, she was ready to move on to other things and stopped math when she got to Algebra. She did complete an accredited High school program online and passed their exams in Algebra and geometry, so she must have picked up enough along the way to be on level with the average high school student. But I wouldn’t have been worried if she wasn't. Brianna is very into math and chose to continue on. She is doing Algebra now, and loving it. And is already looking forward to calculus and such. Yuck!

For the boys, who will likely be attending college locally or online, higher math will probably be in their high school curriculum, but we really take it year by year, child by child and try to let the Lord be our guide.

As for your pre-algebra and algebra issues. Perhaps, if they tried Steve Demme’s approach it could give them a boost past the areas where they are stuck?  Or some other teacher or program.  Everyone teaches things differently and if one is not working sometimes a fresh approach is the key.  Every student learns things differently and you never know which way will be right for your student until you try.  

Warning to home school moms and up and coming home school moms.  In our need to be thrifty and wise with our household/home school budgets, we moms/teachers sometimes get CHEAP.  There is a great difference.  I see moms sabotage their home school experience by trying to make all their children fit into the same mold because they already paid for this book.  You must be willing to surrender the cost of what you have sometimes in order to find the right thing for your student.

What is the point of continuing on in misery with a book you already have and ending up with a student who hates this subject or that.  I have often found, in my own home school, that when my children didn't like a particular subject, what they were really saying is they needed a new approach.  I can say with one hundred percent certainty that there is no subject my children do not enjoy.  But there have been times that I had to look outside of our existing programs to find something that caught their interest.  I will talk more about this when I get to History.  But remember that learning should be a fun enjoyable time for you and your student.  It should be a time of tying heart strings.  If it is not, then you have missed the boat.

In summary… if Bethany is not concerned with going further in math and is struggling in Pre-A, I would get her some consumer math to work on so she knows important things like keeping a budget, balancing a checkbook and such. That is what a young lady will need when she marries. If, at some point later, she decides she is interested in higher math, you can always come back to it.

Really, even though it is more likely that Joshua will need to know it for college, it is not the worse thing in the world for him to skip it and do consumer or stewardship math. When, if indeed, he decides to head to college, he will be more focused on it and can get it then. Almost every incoming college student has to take it in the core curriculum anyway. If you are really set on him getting through it, then you do have options, like I mentioned such as tutoring and trying a new curriculum.

{For those who are wondering about tutoring, I deleted that from my original email because it was on a more local and personal level.  But, if your student needs a little more help than you feel able to give, seek out home school students who are ahead of your student.  They are a wealth of knowledge!  Most of them are more than delighted to help their friends in difficult subjects.  Plus, the positive peer pressure may help motivate your student along in their struggle.} 
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