Sunday, October 4, 2009

15% off at JoAnn for teachers

I noticed a while back that JoAnn craft stores offer 15% discount cards for teachers (yes, they actually include homeschoolers, unlike many retailers!), but I didn't remember to sign up until today. Go to and go all the way to the bottom of the site to find the link called "teacher rewards." Now, before you get frustrated by their statement that you must be a certified teacher and their request for an ID number, read a little further and you'll see that they also accept members of PEAH (which I'd never heard of, but apparently stands for "Parents Educating At Home"). I went to the site to see what joining entailed. Looks like they charge about $30 to print your own PEAH membership cards (uh, no thanks) - but never fear! There is a loophole!

Go to this page of the PEAH site-* and if you state that you're a homeschooler and give a few pieces of info (name, home state, etc) they will give you a one-time code number to use for your PEAH number on the JoAnn registration page. They will also offer you a free newsletter and stuff like that, but thats optional of course. I filled out their form and then returned to to submit my registration for a teacher discount card - no problems at all! (*you can also find a link to this same page on the JoAnn registration page for those who aren't PEAH members, so this is legit)

There is a note on the registration page of the JoAnn website that states that you may be asked to show proof of present current teacher identification to the store manager prior to first in-store purchase. I'm not sure what exactly that means for homeschoolers, since they aren't requiring PEAH membership for home educators to get the card. I guess I'll bring along a copy of my "declaration of intent to provide home-based instruction" form that the school district requires us to fill out every year and my homemade business cards in case there is any trouble.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Unit Studies

For a classic literature group that we're participating in (starting next week), we've been reading "The Song of Hiawatha"

Without intending to, reading and talking about the stories have led to other discussions. We've talked about our Chippewa heritage (related to some of legends) and how I visited Minnehaha Falls (discussed in several of the stories) during my mission to Minnesota.

That got me thinking about related enrichment activities that could be used to supplement her reading. Art projects (make a canoe like Hiawatha did, or draw a book cover)? Creative writing (a poem in the style of "Song of Hiawatha")?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"If you went to public school..."

Now there's a phrase you'll hear from time to time in our house, especially at back to school time, when jealously rears its ugly head.

"Yes, but if you went to public school, you....
  • would have to get up earlier in the morning and go to sleep earlier at night
  • would have to get dressed as soon as you woke up
  • would have to do schoolwork even if you wanted to take a break
  • would have to sit in a desk
  • would have to be quiet and raise your hand if you wanted to talk
  • would have to ask to go to the bathroom (thanks "Mean Girls" for pointing this one out)
  • would be at school most of the day, then do homework & chores when you got home
  • probably wouldn't get much one on one interaction with your teacher
  • probably wouldn't be able to work ahead when you had mastered the material
  • wouldn't get to watch TV at lunch time
  • wouldn't get to do things during the day, like go grocery shopping or to the library
I could go on here, but you get the idea. I can rattle off a hundred reasons why she wouldn't like going to public school, but if I'm short on time I get right to the "deal-breaker" - the ultimate argument in favor of homeschool....

"You wouldn't be able to spend all day with your sister"

...and that puts an end to it!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

When does school start?

We have school throughout the summer, though I have to admit that its a lot more casual than the rest of the year (and we're pretty casual to begin with). Having a baby that has just learned to crawl has made the usual annual planning more difficult that usual (I haven't exactly gotten around to it yet...). So, for the most part we've been doing book reports and reviewing math. If I have our real curriculum planned out by the time public school starts, then I'm "ok".

Since we started homeschooling, we've practiced dialogues that come up at this time of year. Well-meaning adults at grocery stores and in the neighborhood are always interested in talking to her about "back to school". At first, she didn't know how to answer their questions, which tended to make it kind of awkward. So, we practice. I ask things like, "Are you excited for school to start?" or "Do you like your new teacher?" so she has a chance practicing how to respond. These days, she has figured out that she can answer just about every question with "I'm homeschooled" (and then no further explaination, so I feel obligated to jump in with a cheerful "Ya, we have school all year round, but she's excited to start a new grade" or whatever is appropriate).

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

$9.00 worth of school supplies?

I've seen some Wal-Mart commercials that advertise school supplies and claim that you can get all of the school supplies you need for $9.00. Now wait a minute Wal-Mart - all the supplies for just $9.00? I've seen the school supply lists the school put out. $9.00? Is that for one day's worth of supplies? Well, I've seen those commercials dozens of times, but apparently didn't read between the lines well enough to understand that they mean "$9.00 each", as in each item. $9.00 back-packs, $9.00 t-shirts, $9.00 lunch-boxes, etc. I haven't been over to their school supply section yet, so I had to figure this out for myself on their website.

Some "factoids" I found on when searching for info on the average back-t0-school costs for students:

Factoids: Back to School Costs

(It ain't cheap!)

Factoids: Back to School Costs $483 The average amount of money families with school aged children will spend on back to school items
$219 on clothes
$90 on shoes
$73 on school supplies
$101 on electronic/computer equipment

$14,790,000,000 The total amount parents/guardians will spend sending elementary and high school students back to school

I also found some "average" amounts that were even higher. Again, YIKES!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Back to school purchase o-rama

One of my favorite homeschooling perks: not being forced to purchase a ridiculous array of unnecessary and expensive school supplies. Kendall has had the idea for the past few years (thanks for nothing TV commercials and store displays!!!) that August means that its time for an entire new wardrobe, an enormous set of new school supplies, and a complete room makeover. Think again, batman! Sorry - you're homeschooled honey, we're not buying into that. Literally.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

YAY test scores!

Kendall's CAT 5 scores finally arrived in the mail today and she did FANTASTIC! She was rated a stanine score of 9 (the highest possible score in the above-average range) and scored higher than 98% of children in her grade, nationally.

Kendall has always done well in school, but since we've always homeschooled her, its nice to get some outside "validation"

Sunday, June 21, 2009

SEMINARY at home for primary-age children

A friend emailed, asking about how we do our version of "seminary" for grade-school students in our homeschool. She also asked a few other questions, which I'm happy to answer, but my reply started getting really long, so I decided to break it up into sections and post it on my blog instead of boring her to tears with a rambling novel-length email! Here's the first installment:

I started doing "seminary" a couple of years ago, 3rd grade I think, but only because I didn't think of it sooner! The way I do it could be adapted for any age, though. Kendall likes to think she's doing things like the teenagers, so I used that to my/her advantage - when she found out that the teens go to seminary she really wanted to do it. I went to the church's seminary website and looked up their curriculum (I decided to do the book of scriptures that we're studying for the year at church instead of the book of scripture they would be studying in seminary for that year. Like, this year I think seminary did New Testament, but we did Doctrine & Covenants at home instead. I thought it would help her to retain the info if we went along with the same scriptures/stories they would be using in Sunday School/Primary).

They have the materials for all 4 years on the website, so you can pick whichever one you want to do. The website has the whole student manual/workbook and other things (pictures, timeline, audio files for scripture mastery verses and related seminary songs). You can print out the pages from the manual as is, or copy the text to a word document and modify them if you want. This year, I was able to give Kendall the worksheets pretty much as-is because they aren't too complicated (I do leave out some of the bonus questions if the assignment was getting too long!). I have her do a section (or part of a section) of the manual every day, and I also give her a list of vocabulary for the week (included in the manual) and we do a quiz on Fridays.

When she was younger I modified the assignments to be more age appropriate (I'd type up a similar assignment with shorter, simpler wording). Also, when she was younger, I also focused more on the scripture mastery, too. I found some mp3's with the verses for the year set to fun music or hymns and she liked listening to those. There are also websites where you can print the flashcards, etc. I think I remember you saying that your daughter likes memorizing, so she'd probably love doing that for "seminary". We haven't done great at working on the scripture mastery this year, but I want to do better at that over the summer. When I was looking for more materials to use for our seminary, I just typed in something like "seminary Doctrine and Covenants helps" or "LDS seminary printables" in the search engine and found a lot of helpful websites.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sorry, Dewey Decimal!

The CAT 5 (4th grade) standardized test that I ordered from FLO finally came on Friday, so we've been working on that since Monday. They don't send an answer key because parents are allowed to grade the test (the test administrator, FLO takes care of that), but I'm confident that she's doing great so far.

The test itself does seem pretty outdated. There are several questions about library card catalogs (how to use them, read the index cards, etc). When I saw that, I was very surprised because as far as I know most libraries don't even have card catalogs anymore. I called my brother (who worked as an assistant librarian until a few years ago) and he backed me up on this one.

I remember that in grade school we had to "learn" about how to use the library every year. I loved to read, but I was always annoyed by these annual (or sometimes semi-annual if we had moved during the school year) seminars. The uber-boring librarian would go on and on about dewey decimal and blah blah blah. I would just sit there thinking, didn't we go over this last year (and the year before, and the year before?). Nothing ever, ever changed...but I guess they thought we'd forgotten the difference between fiction and nonfiction since the previous year. I never imagined that in a few decades everything would be computerized and that I would never have to look at those silly index cards again.

Now my arch-nemesis, the card catalog has returned from beyond the grave, rearing its outdated head to bore the next generation.

Can we update the CAT please? Its got to be at least 10 years old. Everyone is so worried about standardized tests being culturally biased (have to include ethnic-sounding names in the story problems in order to be relatable to all students) but no one cares that students are being tested on material about card catalogs that can't have possibly been taught in school in the past 10 years!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

School supply sales coming soon!

Next month the back to school sales start. Its almost unbelievable that its nearly time for that again already, since most public school kids in our area aren't even out of school yet!

Even the most frugal homeschoolers need school supplies, and the beginning of the back to school season seems to be the best time to purchase certain items. If you wait until closer to the actual start of the new school year, stores are either out of the loss-leader (ridiculously low priced) items, or they've jacked-up the prices again because everyone who has waited that long will be desperate for whatever they can get their hands on.

I've found the best deals, in general, are at Target and Walmart. I generally buy only a few basics- lined notebook paper, pencils/pens, glue sticks, and possibly some folders or notebooks (if we really need them). Happily, these basics are usually the loss-leaders (wire-bound paper notebooks are usually 10 for $1.00 at Walmart!). We don't really have a need for crayons right now in our family, since we have an infant and a 5th grader (who is too cool to use them anymore), but boxes of 12 crayons are normally 5 for $1.00 at Walmart, so I usually stock up on those anyhow. I've kept a stash of them for babysitting, entertaining rowdy children on a neighboring row at church, giving along with gifts as for younger children, donating to school supply drives, replenishing Primary supply closets, etc...

I also like to grab one of the school-supply lists that the stores provide, which show the required supplies that each student needs for the year at the public school in their area. I would never in a million years purchase most of the silly & expensive things on the list, but I do like to keep the list on hand as a reminder of yet another reason why I'm glad to be a homeschooler!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Library day!

We have a loosely scheduled library day on Tuesdays... I mean, it doesn't always happen, especially if I'm able to renew books online. The local library doesn't have educator cards and only allows 2 renewals (which is annoying to me because in Portland there were unlimited renewals and I was eligible for an educator card, which meant I could check things out for 8 weeks each time) so it seems like we have to make a trip in every week.

Our 4th grader enjoys doing reports, so she's doing a (brief) report on some of the major Activists/Reformers in US History (Susan B. Anthony, Helen Keller, Fredrick Douglas, etc). Its been fun for her to figure out how to find the books she needs in the junior biography section and she usually comes home with a few extra books "for fun". Today the bonus books were "You wouldn't want to be Cleopatra!" and "World War II for Kids".

She has her own library card, but thanks to a lost book, the wrong VHS tape being put in a video case, and a few "But MOM - I thought I returned that book 3 weeks ago!" incidents, she is responsible for her own fees from now on! I still remind and (now) double-check everything against the list of books checked-out online before we leave to return them, but if a book "disappears" again, she knows she will be responsible for replacing it now.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Exercise program

John is in charge of P.E., since thats right up his alley. He's developed a program of exercise for Kendall that he updates throughout the year. To get the recommended minimum 60 minutes of exercise a day, she does circuit training (sit-ups, handweights, etc) and also 30 minutes of cardio twice a day. She has 3 or 4 dance dvds that she can choose from (like Sabrina Bryan's BYOU2) for the cardio requirement.

We almost always have her in a sports class or lessons as well, and she plays tennis with John when the weather allows (we live right across the street from a public tennis court).

After taking a volleyball class through Parks & Rec, Kendall wants to try out for a city league. The tryouts are in November, and they use a point system (a certain # of push-ups = a certain # of points) for assessment, so we worked out a training program (needs to do 10 sit-ups by mid-May, needs to do 20 sit-ups by mid-June, etc).

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Night time is the right time to prep for schoolzzzzzzzzz

Every night when everyone else is (finally) asleep, I get things ready for the morning. I have a general scheme in mind for the year and month, including state requirements. I've tried planning the whole year week by week and day by day, but I just can't deal in micro-management like that. Besides, if Kendall gets ahead or we have a sick day/unexpected vacation it throws everything off and I have to get out the white-out and start over. No thanks! I make sure we cover everything as thoroughly as needed, whether that takes more or less time than planned.

First, I list her schedule for the day (varies daily because of errands & appointments, projects, lessons/classes, etc) on the dry-erase board. Next, on a weekly assignment sheet, I list her assignments in each subject and gather the necessary worksheets, books, etc in one place so there isn't any last-minute hunting. Since she's old enough to do a lot of this work (reading, worksheets) on her own, this makes it easy for her to get started on her own (if the baby is screaming) and keep on schedule throughout the day. Some times I offer a reward (like extra computer time or helping me make brownies) for completing everything by a certain time that day. Its usually no big deal if we're a little behind schedule, but its fun for her to try to get the prize.

We've been homeschooling for 5 years -for the first few years, I didn't like having a schedule, so I didn't. I don't like having a minute by minute plan because it feels restrictive to me. Now that Kendall is older, its absolutely necessary to keep on task. If there is no plan, nothing gets done. Or, as I heard a million times in missionary training meetings, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail". Very, very true. If I wait until morning to try to work things out it is pretty much a disaster.

We have 5 general subject areas. Only because the sheet I use to list her assignments has 5 columns, though, so some are combined. First is seminary (gospel studies, but I call it seminary because it makes her feel like a teenager and seems to lessen the early-morning complaints). I have this first always, based on the principle of putting the things of God first in our lives. Next, math, and I try to keep her as far ahead of grade-level as possible, which takes more time than say, grammer. So both of those first two subjects are normally done by 10-ish. If something happens to disrupt school during the day (dr's appt, visiting teaching, etc) at least we have those two subjects completed - the rest can be made up on another day if necessary.

Our other subjects are English/Language (this includes spelling, reading, grammer, root words, ASL, and foreign language); Physical Education/Health (exercise program, sports, nutrition, etc); and MISC (everything else- History, Geography, Science, etc). The exercise program consists of two short cardio dance routines (on dvd) and a training program (sit-ups, etc) that we've created together to help her prepare for volleyball tryouts this winter. Chores are also considered part of school (home-ec, eh?).

Here is a typical weekday schedule:
8:00 eat breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth
8:30 seminary lessons/assignments
9:00 math lessons/assignments
10:00 cardio #1
10:30 training #1
10:45 language lessons/assignments
11:45 lunch
12:15 cardio #2
12:45 training #2
1:00 shower
1:30 MISC assignments
2:30 chores (straighten up bedroom & hallway bathroom, empty dishwasher)

If she finishes sooner than planned, she has free time or can move on to the next assignment, her choice.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Things worth buying for 4th grade part 1

If you glance over a homeschool supply/curriculum catalog, it's easy to get overwhelmed. I've never felt the need to buy a pre-packaged curriculum set because eliminating "busy work" and a desire to personalize the curriculum are some of the reasons we chose to homeschool in the first place. I create my own curriculum based on state guidelines and our personal choices. Sure, it would be easier to have a pre-determined set of assignments and worksheets already done, but it doesn't take that much extra effort. Also it keeps the cost of doing homeschool down a LOT. We have very minimal expenses. We use the library, the internet, etc. I make my own worksheet or find them for free on the internet.

We're nearing the end of Kendall's 4th grade school year, so here are some of the items that I did actually buy that were helpful for us this year:

"States and Capitals" memorization CD (Twin Sisters Productions)

I have used Twin Sisters CDs before. I would totally recommend them. We used "Phonics" and "Advanced Phonics" back when Kendall was learning to read and we would listen to them in the car during errands & my commute to college. They use songs to help you memorize, which saved me a lot of time and effort. Kendall memorized the states and capitals in ONE DAY (one day with a LOT of errands), which would have taken a lot longer the traditional way, so the $9 I spent was totally worth it.

Large Dry Erase Board
I used to have one of these on an easel, but a regular dry-erase board (like you would hang next to your phone) works just as well. We bought a large one (about 2' x 3'), which was only about $8.00 at Walmart. I write Kendall's school schedule on one side every night, so when she gets up in the morning she can see what we're doing for the day. On the other side, I write silly math story-problems for her to solve after she finishes her other math work.

Test Prep Book
I bought a 4th grade test-prep workbook for about $10.00 online (you can also get them at educational supply stores like Learning Palace). I bought one of these last year for 3rd grade, too, they are great for practicing standardized testing throughout the year. Also helps us identify areas where she needs more work (before the end of the year).