Cake Decorating Day Oct. 10

I love using sneaky methods to teach my kids valuable lessons. One of the “queens” of sneaky learning is cooking. Let’s think for a minute, how many different things is a child learning when they are cooking?

Measuring

Following directions

Reading

Motor skills

Kitchen safety

Waiting for expected outcomes… hopefully teaching patience

Amazing Chocolate Cake Recipe

Mix together the wet ingredients, then add in the dry ingredients. Put into 2 round 9″ or one 9×13 greased pan. Bake at 350* for 30-35 minutes/ cool for 10 before removing.

2 c white sugar

1 3/4 c flour

3/4 c cocoa powder

1 1/2 t baking soda

1 1/2 t baking powder

1 t salt

2 eggs

1 c milk

1/2 c vegetable oil

2 t vanilla

1 c boiling water

 

Icing (gotta have icing – it’s cake decorating day!)

3/4 c butter

1 1/2 cocoa powder

5 1/3 c powdered sugar

2/3 c milk

1 t vanilla

Cream butter til light and fluffy – Mix remaining ingredients together in mixer and spread on COOLED cake.

 

See original recipe here: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/17528/extreme-chocolate-cake/

 

Getting Ready for Summer Learning

Cozumel, Mexico - Going here in January! Hope it is as beautiful as this picture suggests. :DI know, this post just might not be the most popular post – especially with the kiddos. Yet, this year I am realizing that I need my children to keep on working through the summer. There are alot of areas that I feel they are slack in and could use the extra work. We’ve talked about it this week, and I must admit I felt as if their stares would burn a hole right through me.

Though my children do school just about every single day, there are still some gaps that I have noticed. So, our goal this summer is to fill in the gaps and get ready for the next “official” grade.

My first grader has a bit of dyslexia. She is struggling with reading, and is getting pretty frustrated. I plan on keeping her working on basic phonics skills and small readers throughout the summer. We will use the first grade language arts lessons from T4L to help her review what she has already learned. I also love Bob books, and will use those in conjunction with a Disney princess early reader. (simply because she adores Disney princesses!)

My third grader does well with her writing and grammar… however, at our house this is the pivotal year for multiplication tables. She understands multiplication, but just doesn’t have the “facts” down. We will be working through those during the summer- getting them to the rote memory stage. I love using kids learning software along with other math learning games.

My seventh grade twins are both doing fairly well. They are currently writing their first research paper (translate- I’m losing my hair). They also have begun learning some basic algebra. So, during the summer we are going to continue using Time4Learning as a supplement and reviewing the spelling lessons through Spelling City’s customizable lists.

4 Resources for Literature Based Learning

So much of our homeschooling is based on literature.  Boiled down, it is the written, oral, or practiced word that instructs. I’m not always able to sit by my children and verbally instruct them… this is where good literature comes in handy. I can find incredible resources in many places some of which are so much fun!

1) The local library – of course! This is an amazing resource for the homeschooler. We love using the library – as long as we keep track of which books we have taken out. There is also a wealth of information on the Galileo system. If you library uses this, you can get free access with a passcode they provide.

2) Invest in good books – books can be expensive… but we can usually find good resources through Amazon.com or on half.com.

3) Online resources – you would be surprised at the amount of books that are available through the internet. Many of the classics that my girls have read during their high school years have come from internet sources – all for free.

Project Gutenburg – free ebooks

Classic Reader

Litscape

4) Homeschool Literature is also a great place to find quality literature for homeschoolers. We love that site for many reasons but most of all because there is a whole section dedicated to literature written by homeschoolers!

Highschool Homeschooling Summer Courses

highschool homeschoolIn our last post we talked about summer learning. Yes, we are joining the ranks of those that homeschool all year round. As a former teacher, there is something in me that just “balks” at that idea. My mind, my body, and my soul need the summer break!!!!!!  Uh – hem… excuse that…

Anywayssss… it looks like we will be doing Summer School – Lite Edition. As I mentioned before each of the younger kiddos need a few specific areas worked on, and our highschool daughter has a few areas that we neglected this year.

We have tried to incorporate “dual enrollment” with our highschoolers, and have begun this as well with our oldest daughter. They are doing dual enrollment with a local Bible College that I work with. By the time she graduates, she will have an Associate of Arts degree in Bible. This doesn’t really assist her with credits or course load when she enrolls in university, however, it does prepare her for how college courses are given and what is expected and required. We are a dedicated Christian family, and since our daughters are attending state institutions, we want to make sure that they are rooted and grounded in their faith. During these highschool dual enrollment courses, it is a great time for them to take inventory of what they really believe, study it out, and take a stand for it.

Dual Enrollment also acts as a “Wow” factor with the university and – as with her sister- they eagerly grant acceptance into their program. Of course, in this Associate’s degree there are other courses besides Bible that are required  including such things as a world history highschool course, Biology, Physical Science, English Comp., and Speech. Though she takes the course from the college, it actually counts as her requirements on her highschool transcript. Ahhh… the beauty of dual enrollment!

Have you used dual enrollment with any of your homeschool students?

Phonemic Awareness for Pre Reading

reading strategiesLearning to read is by far one of the greatest accomplishments of a person’s life. Yet, so often we tend to take this amazing feat for granted. As a homeschool mother, with each of my children I seemingly sweat bullets every time it came to teach them how to read. I guess I realized all too well how vital this ability was to their future success in school. Consequently, on the flip side of that…. is the realization that when taught phonemic awareness on a regular basis the child will eventually read when they are ready. It took me just six kids to realize that one!

When I begin to teach a little one how to read I always start with the basics. Here is a simple timeline of my process for providing them with pre-reading skills.

1) Start with basic letter recognition

2) Build to letter sound recognition

3) Teach consonant and vowels

4) Build to consonant and vowel blends

5) Teach children how to make ABC order

6) Build to consonant blends

7) Teach children how to decode words ( short sound, long sound, special sounds)

8) Introduce short words

9) Build on that!

Christmas Break Activities

Well, all the Christmas gifts have been made, bought, and wrapped. Most of the Christmas parties are now over… so we’ve been on break for a while now… are your kids complaining about being bored? Mine are already claiming their fame and are actually ready to do some fun activities. A great way to fight boredom is to find some fun and exciting games or printables.

My kids love Christmas crosswords or even word search puzzles. Here are a few of our favorite Christmas ideas…

1)Christmas symbols word search

2)The Twelve Days of Christmas word search

3) Christmas coloring book

4) Christmas word play games

5) If you can’t find one that you love – make your own with this word search maker

6) Make your own Christmas cards

7) Make your own Christmas ornaments

8) Listen to holiday audio books and old time radio stories – many homeschoolers love The Cinnamon Bear epidsodes…

9) Make placemats and napkin rings for your Christmas dinner!

10 ) Listen to the Christmas story together.

Teaching Highschool Math… it can be fun!

homeschool highschool mathI think everyone here already knows about my crazy stupid love for math. Yes, I admit it… I am a nerd. I love the “puzzle” that math affords, and I can always count on math to be black and white – solution or no solution. So, when it came time for me to start teaching my own children high school math subjects… it took on a new meaning. Though I had studied through calculus in high school, and had minored in math in college… it had been 12 years since I had done advanced math. I had to go back and study before I could teach them ANYTHING! It wasn’t pretty… at first.

Now that I’ve been through all that hairy scary math for my oldest daughter… it comes so much easier for the others. Yet, I know that the average homeschooler doesn’t love math enough to go back and study the course just ahead of their children. So, I’m here to tell you that there are other ways!! Teaching high school  math doesn’t have to be insanity. It can be a smooth process that gives your highschooler everything they need to meet the demands of future college courses. Since I began writing for Let’s Homeschool High School, I’ve been introduced to some amazing homeschool highschool curriculum and resources. You need to check their curriculum directory out for a very comprehensive listing of great cheap/free homeschooling resources.

However, knowing which ones are student friendly and those that have been tried and true can only be found through someone who has walked that road before us. Though I’ve not used every one of these curriculum, close friends of mine have and I am using their opinion in conjunction with my own.  I also want to preface by saying that though I love ABEKA for many subjects, highschool math is not their strong point. I have always used other types of math curriculum for my homeschool.

My all time favorite algebra curriculum is the Glencoe high school math series. This however, is a regular text book and must be taught by a teacher/parent. So, this is definitely not for the faint hearted, but the book covers everything that would be needed for basic algebra on up to what an advanced algebra math student might need. I started using this book simply because I was tutoring the neighborhood children and this is what the public schools were using.

For those who just can’t teach their highschoolers math. Aleks math is a great curriculum that works on mastery. The student masters a skill and then is able to move on to the next skill. There is also a way for highschoolers to log certain of these courses with ACE as college credit. This curriculum costs $20 a month but is pretty easy to work with and understand. The Aleks system doesn’t keep records beyond the course that your student is in currently. Make sure that you retrieve any necessary information prior to your student starting their next math course.

Another one of my favorites is the new Time4Learning highschool algebra curriculum. This has just been released this year, but I had a part in writing the curriculum map for Algebra I so, I know the details of what this course covers. It is definitely a comprehensive course and one that is presented in a fun and engaging manner. If your highschooler likes using the computer for courses, this is definitely a win/win for them.

I have friends that use the Saxon math for high school, and they love it. It has definitely been a great foundational tool for college math courses. It is very review oriented, just like the elementary Saxon math. Yet, it is challenging and covers everything necessary to meet college expectations.

Finding the right math course isn’t a walk in the park… but it is achievable. My advice, take time to review each of them and if possible let your student try them out. Sign up for any free trials that they offer and see what works for you!

The Simplicity of Teaching Reading

homeschool readingYes, as a homeschool parent teaching reading can often feel like a huge mountain to climb. In reality, it isn’t all that difficult. Teaching reading does include some specific instructional steps. However, the act of learning how to read is quite simple – theoretically!  Over the years, we have all seen that the wide and varied methods of teaching reading don’t always work. However, over the years… one tried and true method has stood out from the rest. It’s one that has worked time and again and across a wide variety of students. Homeschool requirements vary by family, but this method typically works well for almost every child and still helps the learner even through adult life. This method is based on instruction in the same way we do our other subjects using a mastery approach or building on a foundation. If these educational theory works for all other subjects – why wouldn’t it work for reading as well?

The educational theorists and researchers have done extensive studies on the best way to approach reading. These studies have finally agreed that the method of teaching phonemic awareness or otherwise known as teaching phonics… is the winner! I know, I know, many of you are saying… big deal… I’ve known that for years. Well, you are right. This isn’t a “new” thing. In fact, it is a very old thing. This is how reading has been taught for centuries, I guess our highly intelligent educational gurus are just now catching up. I love this great yet simplistic Reading Skills Pyramid that Time4Learning has developed. I keep a copy of it in my homeschool binder.

Here are a few simple reading fluency guidelines to make sure that you include in your reading instruction…

1)Students should be able to recognize individual sounds in words – you can accomplish this through games such as clapping for each sound.

2)Students should be able to distinguish first and last sounds of various words. Again, you can play a game where you say a few words and ask the child to tell you what the first and last sounds are.

3)Once students know their letter sounds and can recognize the letters, they can begin “coding” and “decoding.” This is simply sounding out words and then breaking apart the word’s sounds to be able to write the word.

4)Two very fun ways to practice and gain word familiarity are to recognize syllables in words  and to make rhyming words. There are a ton of fun games that can be played to practice these skills. We enjoy clapping/stomping to find syllables in words, and then we have a blast making rhyming words from a simple word that they know and recognize!

Preschool Homeschool Fun!

preschool homeschoolingHaving a preschooler is always excitement. I know there are days when it doesn’t seem like so much fun, but even then there is always excitement. The preschooler is full of energy, giggles, and silliness; and they love it when other people join them. For this reason, I try to make my lesson plans for my youngest exciting and full of fun. Of course, since this is summer… things are definitely even more fun.

During the school term I usually schedule a few of my favorite tried and true curriculum work books for us to use, but then supplement with other great curriculum resources on my ipad and on the internet. This year we used Singapore math books for my youngest and a variety of other fun puzzle based books for language arts. We love to do jigsaw puzzles and play games as well! My youngest daughter seemed to really respond well to the animal games and other kindergarten science curriculum programs. Yet, during the summer… we typically just do the apps or computer programs, read together, and then spend lots of time having fun outside. A few of our favorite apps are cupcake math, short vowels, long vowels, meteor math, bob books, and seasons.

What do you do to make learning loads of fun for your preschooler? Comment and share below!

Homeschooling Your High Schooler

high school homeschoolI meet so many young people these days who are begging their parents to homeschool them. They are dissatisfied with the government schools for one reason or another. The sad thing is that many of these families just think they “CAN’T” homeschool. I have been able to tell many of them how truly easy it is to homeschool  – and not just homeschool but homeschool with excellence!

One of my most amazing discoveries has been the vast wealth of information available from American Ivy League schools for free! Yes, you heard me correctly. These courses come in the form of what many call “open courseware” and they are truly available for free. The university or college will place their video lectures for particular courses on the web, and anyone is able to view them and gain knowledge. They do not include any tests or quizzes nor do they offer college credit for these courses. However, students can use these courses as their high school lectures and receive a top quality education for free.

Another option to even further your investment (FREE goes a long way) is to encourage your children to complete open courseware courses on subjects that are available through CLEP. If you haven’t heard of CLEP it stands for College Level Examination Program. Students can take tests through the College Board (makers of ACT/SAT) and then receive up to a certain amount of college credit based on their test score. This is a great way to get your highschool homeschool courses for free and get a jump on college!

I have started this process with my two oldest children. We purchased the CLEP study guide, and have been using several of the free open courseware courses as our high school homeschool curriculum. When we finish these courses this spring we will be off to take the CLEP tests. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.

Of course, if you’ve already had experience in this area… please share and let us know how it went for you.