29 July 2011

Williamsburg, yet again

Just had to write about Williamsburg yet again tonight.  Last night Bob was catching up on his reading and didn't like what I said about our favorite time of year to go there.  I told him that I had kept it simple.  Really, we love to go almost anytime.  The spring is very pretty with everything blooming.  There's lots of gardens with plenty of showy flowers.  The summer is ok, but it's usually crowded with visitors and it's also really hot and muggy.  If I want hot and muggy, I can get it at home but at least here I can stay in the a/c. 

The fall is also very pretty.  There's plenty of trees changing colors, the crowds are fewer.  This picture is from a few years ago but you can see how pretty it is there.  No, it's not Jan. 2004, the camera date wasn't set; it was the fall of 2007.

The winter is another of our favorite times to head to Williamsburg.  The houses are so pretty decorated in the Colonial fashion for Christmas, if you're lucky there's snow, and Bob's favorite thing about Williamsburg in the winter is getting hot apple cider.  He loves to go there, get some cider and a cookie and walk around looking at the decorations, taking pictures, doing some Christmas shopping, and having a fun time with family.  We usually try to get together down there with my family sometime in December but it's getting harder as the kids get older and busier.

One last thing about Williamsburg.  They usually have homeschool days planned twice a year.  We haven't actually been to them because we're there several times a year at other times.  The ones this fall are scheduled for Sept. 10-25.  The website does say that they have special activities planned for then so maybe we will go down.  If you want more information about the homeschool days, you can find it here.

27 July 2011

Scheduling - the Big Picture

We're getting ready to start school in a week or so.  Already?? you say.  Yes, already.  I know the public schools don't start again until after Labor Day in September, but I like to start the the first week of August.  One of the great things about homeschooling is going by your own schedule (both daily and school year).  I start early for a few reasons.  I like to get a jump on things just in case life happens.  It sure did last year and we felt it!  But because I had started in August we were able to have a cushion before life intervened.  I don't usually take off the days the public school kids are off, no teacher work days, no Monday holidays (hubby is always working then so we might as well be doing school), we don't even usually take a snow day off.  Also by starting in August, we can take our family vacation in the fall when the places we might want to go are less crowded.  Huge advantage!  We also take a week off in February every year to visit my sister-in-law in NH so we can play in the snow, go skiing/snowboarding, and have fun with them.  While we ski and play in the snow the public school kids here are still in school.  We take a longer break at Christmas, sometimes a few extra days at Thanksgiving, sometimes but not always we take a spring break.  As for snow days...no, I'm not a mean mom.  The girls usually get up, play in the snow first thing, come in to get warmed up, eat breakfast and do some school.  Then it's back outside.  They get plenty of time to play in the snow but they also still get their schoolwork done.

So for us, the big picture of our school year is this...we start the first week of August and basically work through until a few days before Christmas.  We'll take a week or so off sometime during the fall for vacation and Wednesday - Friday at Thanksgiving.  Then the first Monday in January, it's back to school, take off a week at the end of February, a week sometime in April (maybe), and we should be done by the end of May.  We do take the random day off here and there for a break, a fun field trip (Williamsburg often is the place), or sometimes just because.  Where we live there is no requirement for homeschoolers to track the number of school days, hours, or weeks.  We do shoot for and plan for 36 weeks of school and get at least that much in.  Around here learning continues all year round although studying the books may take a break here and there.

So figure out what your minimum number of school days or weeks are that you want to get in and plan your year around the fun and life that you want to have.

26 July 2011

Homeschool notification

Once again it's that time of year.  Time to turn in the paperwork to the county so we can homeschool for another year. I find that in our state it's pretty easy to homeschool.  I can teach the girls what I want then at the end of the year send in standardized test scores to the county to show that they're learning.  Here we have to notify the state that we're homeschooling, there's no approval necessary.  For some odd reason, there's two deadlines, by Aug. 1 we have to send in the test scores and by Aug. 15 we have to send in the notification for next year.  I don't understand why they're not the same date; sure seems like it would be easier.  Maybe I should have Sweet Pea write a letter to our representative about this, a good lesson in government.  I just send everything in together anyway to keep it simple (and so I don't forget something!).  So I've got my paperwork ready, we've prayed over the next year so I think we're good to go.  Just need to get it in the mail. If you're a local friend reading this, don't forget to get your paperwork turned in!!

23 July 2011

Personal Finance

Personal finance, or money, has been on my mind lately.  Bob and I are trying to work up a new budget to do a few things, like save some money for a dream that we have percolating on the back burner.  There's also some more immediate things we want to address as well, especially as the cost of food, gas, and just about everything else is going up these days.

So did your parents teach you about how to handle money as you were growing up?  I realized recently that mine didn't.  I watched my mom pay the bills and saw her ledger sheets.  I knew that you should save some, give some, spend some on yourself ("mad money"), as well as have enough to pay the bills.  But I was never really taught HOW to do that; how much goes to each part, how to budget so you have enough at the end of the month to pay the things you have to as well as hopefully some for the things you want.  I really want to be more intentional about teaching Sweet Pea and Rosie Jane these things.

I'm a member of the Homeschool Co-op that gets discounted deals for homeschool families, mostly on software products. One of their recent/current offerings is Dave Ramsey materials, including his high school program.  I'd really like to get this to use with the girls to teach them how to manage their money so they know what they're doing when they're on their own in a few years.  I know at least one of their friends has been through one of Dave Ramsey's classes, not sure if it was the high school one or another one, and thought it was really good.  I'm going to suggest to Bob that we offer a "Bible study" using the high school materials so we can teach the girls what they need to know to give them a good foundation for their future.

21 July 2011

My girls

My girls are at camp this week, hopefully having a good time even though it's boiling hot out there. I've been busy but am missing them a little bit so here's some about the joys of my life.

Sweet Pea is my freshman.  She's also the guinea pig in the family since she's the oldest.  Yes, you can feel sorry for her, I've learned a lot from teaching her and am hopefully doing better with her younger sister.  Maybe it's just that I'm doing it different for the younger.  Anyway, her main academic loves are history and writing.  She's written two pretty long stories and has plenty of others ready.  I think this year we're going to try the one year adventure novel writing class.  She's also taking world history, algebra, earth science, French, and Bible.  Outside of school, she likes riding her horse, snowboarding (she so can't wait for winter), riding her bike (she just finished biking the C&O Canal).  That pretty much keeps her busy!

Her main love is the snow and snowboarding.  Right now her goal is to be in the Olympics as a snowboarder and compete in boarder cross - four crazy people racing down the slope, first one down wins.  Beyond that I'm not sure she knows what she wants to do when she grows up.

This is Sweet Pea at one of the forts we visited in Florida last time we were down there.  We saw just about every fort between VA and Florida that trip. 

Rosie Jane is the younger sister.  As different as can be from her sister!  She loves science and math and wants to be a nurse when she grows up.  Actually she wants to be a pediatric or NICU nurse as she loves kids.  If she can't do that she's also been talking about being a dance teacher.  I think she'll do anything that involves kids. 

Rosie Jane will be in 7th grade this year.  She's going to be doing science with her bff this year, which should be a lot of fun.  They've talked about going to college together and being nurses.  She's also be taking English (not her strong suit!), math, German (through an online class), doing a study of the Narnia books which will cover some history, Bible, writing, and some other things. 

This is Rosie Jane getting ready for dance class right before the recital.  Dance is her passion.  She's taking five classes this fall and would like to be taking more if she could fit it in.  She also enjoys golf and is part of the First Tee program here.  She's hoping to move up to the next level this summer or fall.  Her goal in golf is to keep doing well and be invited to the First Tee tournament at Pebble Beach.  It's always good to have goals to shoot for in life.

So that's a quick snapshot of my girls.  They keep me busy but we enjoy life as a homeschooling family; it gives us so many opportunities that we wouldn't have otherwise.  I'll have more about Sweet Pea, Rosie Jane and our homeschooling adventure coming soon.

16 July 2011


PE, or physical education...do your kids need a high school credit (or two)?  Yes, they probably do.  Some colleges require it, I'd guess most expect to see it.  It's a required class here in the public schools for 9th and 10th graders.  So what exactly is PE?

A few days ago I read a really good post by Lee Binz, The HomeScholar about PE.  Of course, we all know about the physical part.  Participation in sports (soccer, football, baseball, dance) will cover that part of the class, but there's also the "education" part of PE.  What can you use there?  Lee suggests thinking outside the box here.  Things like nutrition, health, sex ed, how to play a sport, first aid classes all qualify as PE.  Around here, the kids get their classroom driver's ed as part of PE so you could count that as well.  Thinking outside the box again, any sort of exercise will count towards your PE credit - running or walking, hiking on a camping trip, skiing or snowboarding, participating in a charity run.  Just be sure to track what your kids are doing and when you get enough hours they can get a credit for it.  What's a credit? you ask.  Stay tuned!

If you want to find out more about what Lee has to say about PE, here's the link to her article about PE outside the box:  http://www.thehomescholar.com/physical-education-outside-the-box.php

08 July 2011

Applying to college and record keeping

Just a quick post on applying to college.  I'll be putting up lots more about applying to college in about three years but just a few more food for thought things that will help you in the later years.

As you start looking at college websites, many now have a page for homeschooler applicants that lists the requirements if you have been homeschooled.  Many times the requirements are pretty much the same as for any other applicant, sometimes they request/require something more.  Even though the homeschooling "movement" is growing larger each year there are still many colleges that don't have information on their website for homeschoolers or sometimes even know what to do when one applies.

Some basics to know now before you get too deep into high school...even though they may never ask for it, you should probably keep a list of all books read during high school.  I think we're going to have a pretty impressive list around here.  The other thing I think I'll do is have a box around and throw any writing, tests, lab books (at the end of the year) and any other important stuff into it.  I'll label it "9th grade" and stick it onto a shelf in our storage area.  I'll do the same for all four years of high school.  Chances are no college is ever going to want to look at this stuff but if for some reason they do (to substantiate a grade you gave maybe) you'll have it.  Or if your computer crashes and takes your grades with it, you've got the paperwork to go back and recreate it.  Or if for some reason your student decides to go to a private or public school you may need to show some of this stuff to get them into the appropriate grade/get credit for classes taken.  It won't take up much room and it's better to be safe than sorry.

Some good advice I got about high school - it's really just doing the next thing.  Make sure your student knows the current lesson well then move on to the next thing.  The biggest difference is keeping grades, you have to do that even if you haven't done it in the past (I really haven't, no need to).

That'll probably be it for college talk for now, back to high school planning.

07 July 2011

Planning high school classes

Maybe it's time to actually talk about school. Summer sure does seem to be winding down fast so it's time to get the plan finalized and books bought.  Some tips today on how to come up with a high school plan.  I take no credit for coming up with this idea, I got it from the Sonlight forums but it's really helped me focus and organize what Sweet Pea is going to be taking for her high school classes.

First thing you want to do is to take a look at the state graduation requirements.  Not that, as homeschoolers, we have to follow them but to give you a starting point of what you may want to include in your student's plan.  Also take a look at what colleges are looking for on a high school transcript.  To me this is much more important.  It doesn't matter is the kids in public school must take a semester of health.  While it's probably a good idea, if you teach that in daily living and a class in classical music is more important to getting into the college music program, teach the classical music.  So take a look at the entrance requirements of a few colleges your student is likely to think about going to.  You'll find that most colleges are pretty similar although there can be key differences.

Once you do that you can start with a basic plan for the next four years.  It'll probably look something like 4 years of English and math, 3 years of science and foreign language, 3 years of history/social studies, and a bunch of electives.  You may end up with more math, less history, and that's ok.  Just do this in pencil or on the computer so you can change it if you need to (hopefully before your student gets there!).

Having the general classes listed, you can then fill in the specific class.  For example, if you have 3 years of science, what science are you going to teach?  Are they going to be lab sciences?  Most colleges I've looked at are  wanting to see something like 3 years of science and 2 must be lab sciences.  Sweet Pea is going to do 4 years of science, earth science, biology, chemistry, and something else as yet to be decided.  Once you do that part, you can fill in what specific curriculum/books you're going to be using.  For earth science, we're going to be using parts of Apologia's General Science and Physical Science.

What I've done is make up a chart that lists in the first column the class (science), then the title (Earth Science) then in the last column what we're using.  For some, especially English or a foreign language, you may not have a specific title until you put it on the transcript. So my chart looks something like this:

9th grade
English                                 Sonlight LA
Science    earth science       Apologia Gen Sci/Physical Sci
French                                 Rosetta Stone French I
History     world history        Sonlight World History, Pt II
Bible                                    Sonlight Bible (core H)

I have done this for all four years, at least the first column.  Some of the older grades have specifics already penciled in, some don't.  All of it, except 9th grade is still subject to change.  Hopefully this will give you a good starting point to start thinking about what your student is going to be doing the next four years.

06 July 2011

Enjoying summer

OK, so we're totally enjoying summer here.  Spent the 4th at my brother's, enjoying his pool and the cousins.  Honestly, not much school is happening right now.  Both girls are working on math (Sweet Pea on Algebra I and Rosie Jane on Fractions and Decimals).  Sweet Pea is still reading her science so progress is being made.  I think they're both reading.  We're really in summer mode here.  They'll be off for a few weeks, Sweet Pea is going to bike the C&O Canal with her nana and cousin and Rosie Jane is going with me to see her new cousin.  The next week they're both going to an awesome camp, Camp Highroad.  After that we'll get back to school.  Hopefully the science will be finished by mid-August, the math will get done when it's done and they'll move on to the next thing.  I'll be doing more serious planning for the fall soon, finalizing what Sweet Pea's classes/credits are going to be for this year.  In the meantime, we're enjoying summer (have I already mentioned that?).