19 December 2012

More on the CLEP

I'm not sure if high school is more complicated these days compared to when I was in high school or if it's just that it's more complicated because we're homeschooling and there's not a handy guidance counselor to deal with all the testing and other things pertaining to college admissions.

One decision is made, Sweet Pea is going to take both CLEP tests in US history. She may take an AP test or two in the next two years but for this year, this is the best decision. One advantage of taking either AP or CLEP tests is to get college credit for the class. Sometimes the student can get graded credit but more often it's just credit and also means that you don't have to take the equivalent class at college. These generally are freshman level general education classes. This pays off by either being one less class that needs to be taken saving a few dollars or freeing up a space to take a class they really want instead of one they have to take.

Another good reason to take a CLEP test if you're homeschooled is to prove the rigor of your classes. If you are shooting for college, you need to be taking a college prep class load in high school. One way to show that you are (and that Mom's not just giving you A's because she's mom) is by taking a CLEP or AP test and doing well on it. Even if you don't get college credit for the class you will show the quality of your high school work.

Now that I've made that decision, I have to figure out if it's worth it for Sweet Pea to take the PSAT next fall. Another decision for another day.

17 December 2012

A Plan, Finally

It's always good to have a plan. It helps you know where you're going and how to get there. I *finally* have a plan for something that I've been very indecisive about all fall. Sweet Pea is taking US History this fall. I wanted her to take the AP test in the spring but I kept going back and forth about it. I wasn't sure if our class at home would be enough to get her ready for it and I knew we wouldn't be done in time to spend weeks studying for it. I was also thinking about the CLEP test then I couldn't decide which would be better or if it really mattered which she took. This job of being guidance counselor for homeschooled high school students is not for the faint of heart!

I finally got to the point of thinking she wouldn't do either, she'd just take the class and we'd call it good. I had looked into the AP test and had some concerns - besides what I mentioned above, it's only offered once a year in the spring and this coming year it's May 15. We're planning on going on vacation the last two weeks or so of May and this could be a problem (the AP test date). One of the advantages of homeschooling is being able to set your own schedule and take vacations when you want, when everyone else is still in school. I do realize that it's sort of a different ball game in high school but we still are able to tailor our schedule to accommodate the things that are important to us and this vacation is one of those things. So I was dropping the idea all together.

Then the other day I got an email from a Yahoo group I'm on. Someone was asking about AP classes/tests and another person asked about the difference between AP and CLEP. One parent responded with a lot more detail about the CLEP tests and why they were a better option for her son. Reading what she wrote really spoke to me and after doing some CLEP research on the College Board website, that's the route we're going.

There's two US history CLEP tests - one that covers the early period to 1870 and the second is 1865 to the present if I'm remembering right. I've looked into the testing sites and while there's one close, the local community college has much better information on their website, including the registration form, so I think she may go there even though it's farther away. The really nice thing about the CLEP test is that you can pick the date, they'll tell you what time, you go and test, done. I really like that we can do the test on our schedule.

I feel like a weight has been lifted. I have a decision and it's one I feel good about, just hope that Sweet Pea feels the same way about it. It's good to have a plan.

16 December 2012

Important Character Traits

 I'm shamelessly swiping this from The HomeScholar. These are all great qualities not measured by tests but are so much more important that anything that testing can show. We're working hard to instill these in our girls, some we can help them with, some they are just born with, but we can help develop them. All will help them get along in life and make their lives that much better and the lives of those around them.

14 November 2012

Our dog

OK, so this post is only tangentially related to homeschooling. We have a Weirmaraner dog named Winni. She's not your typical weirmaraner; they're usually full of energy. Our Winni, she's much more like a big cat. She likes sleeping on her bed, comes up for a petting every so often, loves being around us, and doesn't really like the out of doors. If it's a nice day, she'll sun herself on the deck and by nice day, I mean sunny, temps between 65-80; any hotter, she's inside and any colder, she's outside just long enough to do her business before she comes back inside to warm herself by the fireplace. She's definitely a princess dog, but we love her.

Befitting a princess, she must have a dog bed. She's not one to sleep on the floor. Maybe the carpet if she must, but she likes a nice comfy dog bed. I can totally understand in her case. Weirmaraners do not have much fat on them and sleeping on our wood floors for long would not be comfortable. So to make things easier on us, instead of moving one dog bed around, we got her three, one for each floor. She managed to tear up one of her beds and we finally had to throw it out. I went to buy her a new one but wow, have you looked at the prices of dog beds recently? Really expensive! I had seen on Pinterest a dog bed made of fleece and stuffing and figured I could make one for her much cheaper than the prices in the pet store. So I did. Now she's got a nice, big bed (big enough for her plus one of the cats to sleep on together, if they're in a friendly mood).

Oh, and how does this relate to homeschooling you ask? Well, since she is wherever I am, I was carrying her one bed up and down the stairs so she could sleep on it while the girls and I were in the basement working on school. I finally got tired of that and made her new one.

Winni enjoying her new bed.

She's always in the sunshine.

Doing what she does best on one of her other beds.

30 October 2012


Last week while the weather was still nice the girls and I went to Montpelier for a visit. Sweet Pea is studying American history this year and just finished studying about James Madison. She was also reading about the War of 1812 and I was torn, deciding between going to Montpelier or Ft. McHenry. While I really wanted to head to Ft. McHenry (and have for several years), Montpelier won out since we had to be home for dance classes in the late afternoon and the traffic getting back from Baltimore may have been an issue. We'll save that for a nice Saturday sometime.

Montpelier was really nice. The day was beautiful, it was not crowded at all, and we enjoyed walking around the grounds when our house tour was finished. James Madison's grandfather first settled the land there when it was on the frontier of Virginia. His father built the original house there, which James and Dolley lived in. The land was sold after he died and Dolley was mostly living in Washington, DC. The duPont family bought the mansion in the early 1900s and did some major remodeling to both the house and the grounds. The house has been restored to how it looked when the Madisons lived there and they're working on gathering period furnishings. The race track that the duPonts put in remains in front of the home and the 78th Montpelier Hunt Races take place this weekend.

 View of the front of Montpelier.
 View from the front porch, the race track is in the distance. The property is still 2,500+ acres.
Madison's Temple, located to the left of the mansion. Below it is the ice house. Madison sat here and "contemplated democracy."

26 September 2012

What a year so far!

Wow! Things have not really gone as planned. Guess that's always the way. Although we got off to a pretty good start it's been rather rocky since then. We had a week that seemed filled with medical appointments (nothing serious, just time consuming), a badly sprained finger on a writing hand, and math and physics angst. Oh, and a horse that had a problem that needed attention twice a day for a week, which really took time out of our day. Now that we've made it through most of that (the math and physics are still hanging around), I think we can move on and hopefully get more school done. Guess it's all been a good lesson in life.

05 September 2012

First day of school pictures

So does everyone have the first day of school picture tradition? I've seen some twists on it - taken in the same place every year, taken with a sign showing what grade the kids are starting. I'm just lucky that I can remember to take the picture. Since my kids aren't heading out the door to catch the bus, I have to remember to actually go outside and take a picture of them. It may be afternoon since they don't always (very rarely) get dressed in the morning, but I think I've almost always gotten a picture.

This year, I almost forgot. Well, I did forget. We were going to my sister's for dinner the night of our first day of school which was also my niece's birthday. I was doing something and reminded myself to take the pictures before we got in the car to leave. Totally forgot. So, I took them when we got to my sister's. I thought it was funny that both girls wanted to be in her tree! I took Sweet Pea's picture first while her sister when in to say hi to her cousins. When Rosie Jane came back out, she went to the tree, not realizing that her sister had just been there. Anyway, I was just happy to get their picture taken!

Sweet Pea, first day of 10th grade

Rosie Jane, first day of 8th grade

04 September 2012

The "first day" of school

So today's the day the public schooled kids go back to school. I know there's a lot of happy moms right now! They're all probably at Starbucks or Panera. On the one hand, I'd love to be there with them, my kids in school and some time for me (not that I'm sure what I'd do with it). On the other, I'm just as happy to be at home with my girls, hanging out with them and teaching them. The biggest plus is mornings. I saw my neighbor post on facebook this morning that she was up at 5:30 and had to get her son up at 6 to get ready for school. I think he has to leave about 6:45 to catch the bus at the corner. Sweet Pea thought she was doing really well this morning when she got up just before 7 to help me make sweet rolls for breakfast. She did say if she had to be up at 6, she'd do it but I know she wouldn't be happy doing it every day. She'll happily get up that early to go snowboarding but for school, not so much!

The one issue that we've run into is that Sweet Pea fell on the stairs Saturday night. She hurt her middle finger on her right (writing) hand. I took her to the after hours care yesterday where she had it checked and x-rayed; verdict - it's a bad sprain. So now she's got it in a splint, which doesn't make for easy writing. It also means that when she goes to work this afternoon, she's not going to be able to ride and I'm going to have to help her clean stalls. Hopefully it'll be better soon!

03 September 2012

Week 1 - DONE

We've made it through the first week of school, mostly in one piece. A couple of courses (physics and algebra II) were a little tough for Sweet Pea, but I think we'll make it. We have yet to actually start everything. I know some families take a slow start like this and ramp up but we usually don't. This year we just weren't organized enough to start everything at once. I added some things to an order a friend was making and a few items were backordered. Hopefully that will come in this week so I can get the workbooks I ordered and Rosie Jane can get started on them. Her science is also delayed. I've finally gone through the science kits and know what we need to order but the website was down, well, not really down but acting wonky and I couldn't order. Sent them an email (I hope!) and hope to get it ordered this week so they (Rosie Jane and her bff) can get started on science.

We still have a week of easing in before things get crazy around here. The girls' language classes don't start until Sept. 10/11 and Rosie Jane's dance classes start then as well. Once we add in French, German, and Russian, that will take an hour out of each of their days. They both enjoy those classes and have been doing well in them. Adding them in just means longer school days than we've had so far. I think school will take longer anyway, now that they're in 8th and 10th grades.

We're set for week 2, we'll see how it goes.

27 August 2012

Today's the day!

Today's the first day of school here. We're trying a few new things here this year, mostly changing some habits rather than curriculum and hopefully they'll make the day go a bit smoother. I got both the girls' assignments done for the week so they're busy at work. I had to explain a few new curriculum things to them but they seem to have caught on.

One new habit we're trying this year is having our family meal at breakfast. Once I took at look at the girls' afternoons and our evenings, I knew there would be few dinners that we could have together as a family. I've told everyone that we're eating together at 8 so that Bob can head out the door by 8:30 and we can head to school. Just because we're eating together doesn't necessarily mean that I'm cooking every day - some days may be get your own breakfast (cereal, eggs and toast), some days I'll fix something for all of us. It will be nice to eat together in the mornings. Hopefully it'll get us all off to a good start. Just hoping that Sweet Pea doesn't have too hard of a time getting up that early!

I think we'll have our first day of school celebration next week when the public school kids go back to school. I was thinking of taking them to On the Border for lunch next Tuesday. Should be fun! We've got some things to do this afternoon so I'm not sure we'll be able to fit it in today. Next week will be good, just another reminder of how flexible our schedule is as homeschoolers.

Here's to a great year!!

20 August 2012

Starting soon...

at least I hope we're starting soon! Usually by this time we've already done 2 or 3 weeks of school. This year we were on vacation in Alaska until the 7th and I still have organizing, buying of curriculum, and some cleaning to do. Today and tomorrow we're getting new windows put in so I didn't want today to be the first day of school. It's pretty loud around here and there's lots of chaos.

Subjects for this year:

Sweet Pea, 10th grade
American History (maybe AP, maybe not)
Algebra II, then Geometry
French II
Russian I
Driver's Ed
Art History

Rosie Jane, 8th grade
World History
Pre-Algebra, Algebra
German II

Both are doing PE (riding, snowboarding, skiing, dance, maybe some biking). Seems like something is missing from Rosie Jane's list, but at the moment I'm not sure what it is. We're looking forward to a good year!

13 August 2012

The end of summer

Summer seems to be coming to an end very quickly! We just got back from a vacation of a lifetime to Alaska (thanks, Mom!!). We had a wonderful time, saw lots, learned a bunch about our 49th state, and enjoyed time with family. My mom took all four of us, my sister and her girls, and my brother and his family. We took a cruise then a land tour after so we got to see a lot of Alaska, but there's so much more! Bob and I have already talked about going back, maybe flying to Anchorage and renting a camper so we can get back to some of the National Parks that we only briefly got to visit.

Now it's time to turn my attention to school. I was doing some cleaning before we left and it left the school area kind of a mess. I worked today on that, but there's still more to do to organize downstairs. I need to find a couple of hours to myself and finalize the details of the year - what classes they're going to be doing, what books we need and what I still need to get, figure out the calendar for the year, do some scheduling, as well as do some more long term planning (those high stakes high school tests). We also bought some new bookshelves before we left and they still need to be put together and the books and games transferred from the old ones. I plan to get a lot done this week so we can jump right in next week, at least with the things I've got since there are a few classes we can't start yet.

01 July 2012

Summertime and the living's easy...

We dropped the girls off at camp tonight. They'll be gone for the week, having a fabulous time and I'll enjoy the quiet. They're starting their summer vacation now - all of July off (except reading) and we'll start the new school year in mid-August.

This week while they're gone I'm going to be busy painting their bathroom. It really needs to be redone and that's most easily accomplished by doing it while they're gone. I'm heading to the paint store tomorrow to pick out the paint and towel rods.

Next week, we have VBS in the evenings. I also plan to spend a lot of time finalizing plans for the year. I'm pretty sure that Sweet Pea is going to take AP US History and I need to decide which study book she's going to use. I need to check with my friend about science for Rosie Jane and make sure what's going on there. Still some books to order as well. A busy week plus then we head off for vacation but for now, we'll enjoy the easy summer living.

19 June 2012


We're moving into summertime. This week it's going to be HOT and humid, typical for our area. Because of the weather, we tend to keep schooling a bit in the summer. When it gets too hot to head outside they can still get school done. We do lighten things up during the summer. This year, they're both taking a language review class so they don't forget the French and German that they've learned and Sweet Pea is taking an intro to Russian class. They're doing math to keep up their skills and this morning Sweet Pea told me that she's much more focused during the summer than she is during the school year, may have to investigate that a bit more and figure out what's going on. Sweet Pea is doing history so she can finish up world history before moving on to American history in the fall. Rosie Jane is doing some writing this summer, crazy journaling type stuff, nothing serious. An hour or so of school in the morning isn't going to kill them and will help them in the long run.

I still have a few things I need to iron out for the fall, a few last minute changes and new ideas that I've come across. I also need to read some books the girls will be reading this fall so I know what they're reading. Organizing our school bookshelves is on the list as well, I need to make more room for school books there. I'm also still trying to finalize their online classes, waiting to see if Russian I will be offered in the fall (looks like it will be) and I also found a really interesting history class but I still need to see if it works in the schedule.

The girls will still get plenty of summer fun - summer camp is coming up in a couple of weeks, our big family vacation is after that, hopefully a trip out to visit the cousins in August, then it's back to school for 8th and 10th grades. In between, they'll get to the water park, the pool with their friends and cousins, golfing, riding, hopefully some camping.

11 June 2012

Convention, Part II

I had a few more convention related thoughts. One reason I enjoy going to the convention is so that I can see some of my friends. I have a few that have moved out of the area, but still live in the state so the only time I really get to see them is at the convention. Oh, we "connect" over facebook during the year, but it's nice to actually see their faces and talk with them. There's another friend who I met through Sonlight's forums, she lives local but our paths don't cross in our everyday lives and I usually get to see her at the convention as well. I didn't this year although I know she was there. And this year, I got to meet someone I've "talked" to on the Sonlight forums who lives in another part of the state. It was nice meeting her and putting a name to a face. I think my girls were kind of shocked at me, that I actually went up to someone who I didn't know and introduced myself. Yes, it's rather out of the box for me, but I did know her, sort of. Anyway, we had a nice chat and now if we head to her neck of the woods we can have a meet up and I'll know who I'm looking for.

So now the school planning is done, most of the school books are bought, and the real work begins. Since Sweet Pea is doing US history again this year, I need to figure out field trips (not hard here) and see what else we're going to be adding. I'm also adding an anthology book to Rosie Jane's world history and need to schedule that now to make things easier this fall.

10 June 2012

Convention Time

My state's large homeschool convention was this past Thursday - Saturday. I went down on both Friday and Saturday, which made for a long few days since it was 1.5 hours away. One of the speakers I heard said that we've got one of the best conventions he's been to, we've got a huge vendor hall, a large used curriculum sale (UCS), and all sorts of workshops on things ranging from homeschooling, raising a family, how to save money, and all sorts of other things.

I went down early on Friday morning. There was a speaker workshop I wanted to hear that started at 9, so I left the house early so I could check-in and if there was time drop off my used books. There was no traffic on the way down and no line to check in so I had plenty of time to walk down the really long hallway to the UCS and drop off my books. The first workshop I went to was given by Carol Reynolds about incorporating the fine arts (art, architecture, and mostly music) into teaching history. She was a really dynamic speaker, very interesting, and I gleaned some good ideas from her. I had a hard time finding her booth, but later met her and had a very nice chat with her.

I spent the rest of the morning and a good part of the afternoon walking around the vendor hall. First I walked through to see who was there and what they had, basically just scoped out the scene. I went back through more methodically and made my purchases - bought a couple new t-shirts for the girls, got a few books from YWAM, bought some actual school stuff.

Later I went to two workshops by Debra Bell - study skills and teaching teens. I've heard her speak before at the convention and enjoy her. Gained some new insights and some ways to help the girls learn to study. We don't have many tests at our house so they really need to learn how to study and get things into their long term memory so they'll succeed at college.

I was going to go to one more workshop on Friday night, but I was pretty tired from my early morning and wanted to get home. I think I made a wise decision, especially since the speaker I skipped had handouts so I've got those. Got home and slept in on Saturday morning!

Since I'd finished all my shopping on Friday, I didn't need to rush back down to the convention on Saturday; I was just heading down for a couple more workshops and to pick up any books I wanted back from the UCS that didn't sell.

I heard Carol Reynolds speak again about the top 5 skills needed to succeed academically. Some of it common sense, some not so much, but she's very funny so it was quite enjoyable. I really hope they invite her back next year. I'm friends with the person in charge of getting the speakers for the convention so I put in a big plug for her.

I had thought of going to another workshop but ended up talking with a good friend for too long. It was really time well spent though. We had a good conversation about some stuff that's going on with one of her kids academically and it was helpful to me. We also talked a bit about next year, although I totally forgot to confirm with her that our daughters are going to be doing science together again next year. I'm sure it's not an issue!

The last speaker I heard was Andrew Pudewa. I've heard lots about his Institute for Excellence in Writing but have never heard him speak before, although he's been to our convention in the past. He was really funny! I did learn some really good things from him that I'm going to be putting into place almost right away. I had thought of using IEW next year, heard some things that led me to think maybe not, but now I may have to rethink again.

It's been at least two years since I went to any workshops at the convention. The last two I've gone down to do my shopping (most vendors offer free shipping if you order at the convention), some things I can only get there and I like to look around, especially if I'm going to be changing something up. I always get some "just for fun" stuff as well as school books. This year I saw a few that caught my eye as interesting and it was definitely worth it to attend them. The convention is over for this year, most of my books for the fall are bought, I just have a bit of organization to do, gather the last few books, and we'll be set for a new school year.

05 June 2012

Year end meetings

Our school year is pretty well wrapped up. We'll keep doing a couple of subjects through the summer when we can and do have one or two things that need to get finished up this month, but otherwise we're done. One thing I do at the end of the school year, now that the girls are older, is have a year end meeting with each of them. They can pick somewhere to go out, usually for a snack type treat where we can talk. Sweet Pea and I got together a few weeks ago at Starbucks and I hope to take Rosie Jane out tomorrow to Tropical Smoothie.

When we get together, we talk about how the past year went - what did they like and not like and why, what went well, where can we improve things. Usually, most of this I know. I have a pretty good idea of how things are going, they're both pretty vocal about something if they don't like it. Sometimes I can change it, sometimes I can't and they just have to work on it anyway.

We also talk about the upcoming year. I enjoy this part more, I think. I share with them what I have planned, I get their input, and hopefully what I have planned and what they want mesh together. I also ask if there's something they want to study the next year and we see if we can fit it in. One thing Sweet Pea is very excited about is the possibility of learning Russian this fall. Hopefully the class she wants will come together. The other thing she wanted to do is an art history class. I think it's a great idea but hadn't thought of it myself for her.

When I got together with Sweet Pea, we talked about next year specifically and the last two years of high school in pretty general terms. She's shared what her current career ideas are and I've worked a high school plan taking that into consideration. I told her some of the "why's" of the classes I was picking for her so she would understand why she'll be taking a lot of math and science, even though her favorite subject is history. She also shared some ideas of history classes that she'd like to get in sometime during high school. I think we can get in everything she wants to do. One of the great things about homeschooling is being able to really tailor classes to your student's wants and needs.

When I get together with Rosie Jane, we'll mostly talk about next year, 8th grade and I'll share my initial plans for her high school years. She still doesn't really have any idea what she wants to do so there's only a few things that have been written in pen for her plan. We've already talked a little bit because the convention is coming up this weekend and I needed to get some input from her about a few things. Hopefully tomorrow we'll get into more detail about next year so I can finalize some ideas I have for her.

25 May 2012

First summer weekend

It's Memorial Day weekend, a day to remember and the first weekend of summer. It's also a weekend to celebrate for us since Rosie Jane's birthday was yesterday. We've got lots of fun summer stuff planned but first, we've got to finish up school.

We're getting close to wrapping up the "official" part of the school year. Most of their subjects are winding down, if they're not finished already. The have finished their testing and I need to get the rest of  the paperwork ready to send in to the county. I've got plenty of time since it's not due until August.

I've snuck in some extra science for Sweet Pea. Right now she really wants to be a meteorologist so since we finished up her earth science class, she's working on some weather stuff and I have a Great Courses class on meteorology to use as well. I may save that for the really hot days that are coming.

Happy Memorial Day!

15 May 2012

Panic attack today!

Today was one of those days, major attack of self-doubt about homeschooling high school - doubting if we're doing the right thing, am I picking the right classes for Sweet Pea, not just for next year but for the rest of high school?, am I pushing them hard enough, too hard, or not hard enough?, are they going to be able to get into college? The odd thing was that the panic started over history and English, not science which is what I've been worrying over recently.

I feel good about science for the rest of high school. She's going to do physics next year, then chemistry, followed by advanced physics. I know she's not going to get biology in high school, but I think (hope) that will be ok. Right now she wants to study meteorology in college and that's a lot of physics and chemistry (and calculus) so I want to give her a good base in those courses. I think she's had enough basic biology in the past and if it's an issue, she can take a class at the community college her senior year. I think her senior year she will take the AP Physics test. I'll need to look into that when she gets much closer.

The other thing I've been trying to figure out for next year is art history. I've gotten some good suggestions and I'm pretty sure I know what I'm going to use. This was a class I suggested by Sweet Pea really wanted to take. I'm looking forward to it and think it will be interesting. I'll have to plan time to take some field trips to the art galleries downtown next year. I've been thinking about having her take the AP Art History test, it's lots of memorizing artists and dates so we'll have to see.

I think I decided after today's panic, I'm going to simplify some things. I had been doing a combined world/American history with Sweet Pea and due to several issues, it's taking longer to get through than I had originally planned. I really want to finish by next spring so that the fall of her junior year she can start 20th century history then government in her senior year. BUT, I also think she needs a really good background in American history. What I've decided to do is to finish the book we're using as our spine for world history, hopefully this summer then in the fall pick up with American history. That will give her a world history credit (creation to 1800-ish) and a solid American history credit. I think if I continue to combine, she won't get in enough American history.

Still worried about the English credits and I've hardly started thinking about Rosie Jane's classes for next year. It will come together and we'll be fine.

03 May 2012

Moving along...

We're moving along here with school. Even the nice spring weather isn't holding us up, mainly because the last couple of weeks have been chilly for this time of year. It's kept us in the house and on track (mostly) with school. Sweet Pea has wrapped up one subject for the year, Earth Science, and is working on a short study of weather (maybe 1/4 credit, maybe part of her earth science credit, we'll see). French and German will be done next week. Both girls are taking a summer course in their respective languages. It's once a week and will keep things a bit fresher in their minds so they'll be ready to go when class starts again in September. Most of their other work will be "done" by the end of the month or early next month.

We usually do some school all summer. We don't really homeschool year round, but just do some subjects to keep them fresh or because they enjoy them. We do them when we can, when we're home in the summer. Sweet Pea will keep going with math, probably history, and French while Rosie Jane is going to do math, maybe science, and German. Sweet Pea is also going to be doing an introductory Russian class. She's SO excited about that! She's really hoping that the teacher will continue with a regular Russian I class in the fall.

The other big thing coming up is our yearly testing. I find it rather easy to live in Virginia and homeschool. Send in our paperwork in August, use any national standardized test at the end of the school year and send in the results by August. The goofy thing is that the state law has two different dates. Sure would make things easier (I'd think) if they used the same one. As it is, I just send everything in together, the results from the current year along with the paperwork for next year. I ordered the girls tests last night so they should be here probably on Saturday. We'll do them maybe next week or the week after (I need to get them done this month before Sweet Pea goes on her week long bike trip) and get them sent back for scoring.

03 April 2012

Volunteering aka Community Service

This is what I was originally going to write about the other day, community service. There was an article in the paper last weekend about community service. In Maryland, community service is required to graduate high school; it sounds like in Virginia it's recommended but not required. I don't know the specific requirements for Maryland, but it sounds like it's quite a bit. I'm surprised that this is a requirement to graduate. I can see how some kids would find it hard to find time for community service and even more how they would find the motivation if it was required, not something they wanted to do. I can also see the last minute panic to get the time in and then fill out the follow up paperwork to get it counted.

Community service or volunteering is something we do as a matter of course in our family. All of us at some point have volunteered at our church doing all sorts of things, from helping with children's programs, leading the youth, to working with the mission trips to DC to feed/clothe the homeless. Bob and I also volunteer outside of church, me with Girl Scouts, him with different things related to his work. I'm sure by the time the girls graduate they will have quite the accumulation of volunteer hours. I do track them since there's various awards they can earn as Girl Scouts based on the type of community service and the number of hours they complete. Our Council has an award you can earn based on hours to the GS community, international community, and government. It's a lot of hours to do but they can do it, they just need to look out for the opportunities.

24 March 2012

Panic time!!

This is not what I was going to write about today, but I think it's more relevant to me right now. Always in the back of my mind (and I'm sure in the minds of most homeschoolers) is the thought, Am I doing enough? Are they learning what they need to now and to get into college? Am I failing them by keeping them home?

These all came to the front again today when I saw a friend's post on facebook that her (always homeschooled) daughter got into JMU. Congratulations to her! But that panic rose up again, are MY girls going to get into college? I know Sweet Pea has a unique enough outlook on life and her life experiences are different enough that she'll stand out that way, but are the academics enough? If not, I've only got 2.5 years to fix it. I'll probably worry about it for the next 2.5 years until she gets accepted into college.

On the other hand, with her goals, she may not go to college right away. Something else to think about - how to prepare her for life after high school, taking a couple of years off to chase her dreams, then head back to college. College will still be there in a year or two. And knowing her, she'll figure out a way to take classes online or during the summers or both while she's dream chasing. That could work, too.

Maybe I just need to focus on what's going on now, making sure she's doing the best she can with what she's got in front of her at the moment. I think we've got a good plan for high school and that's about all we can do for right now. We'll do some tweaking, I'm sure, but right now we need to focus on this school year and finish it out well.

21 March 2012

Spring has come!

It's been a while. We've been busy with vacation, school, and snowboarding. Now that snowboard season is over for this year, I'll have more time for many things. We're also done with vacationing for a while, so I guess that leaves us with school. At least school is moving along well. A few subjects are already wrapping up for the year. I may have the girls start on the next level or I may just fill in with library books for a while.

French and German are on spring break this week so we made a quick trip to visit family. I think spring break was scheduled in the middle of the class (it ends in May) but it sure messes up our schedule since Rosie Jane has a break from dance next month. Oh well, we'll just keep working on school and maybe take a day trip to Williamsburg or Charlottesville next month. Spring is a lovely time to visit either place.

You can tell it's spring - I'm starting to get curriculum catalogs in the mail already. It's time to start thinking about what we're doing next school year. As I've already said, I know what we're doing for most everything but there's still a few things up in the air. I'm also looking forward to the convention and looking at the vendors there, you never know what you're going to find. I'm hoping to find just the right thing for a few holes that I've got to fill.

One of the things I'm really looking forward to now that it's spring - we'll get to start doing school outside again. We've done school on the deck, in the hammock (best for reading books), and also on blankets in the backyard. Time for that again. We're also going to get in some science and p.e. time by taking the dog for walks in some of the nearby parks. It's time to get outside!

27 February 2012

February Vacation

Aah...the joys of homeschooling. One of the great things about it is being able to keep your own schedule. Since the girls were little, I've been bringing them to New Hampshire at the end of February to visit my sister-in-law. Usually we get to play in the snow, we've gone tubing, ice skating, and snowshoeing in the woods. Unfortunatly this winter there's hardly any snow. We got about an inch Friday night but that's all there is right now. If the girls went to school, there would be no February trip for them since they'd be in school.

This year, besides getting in some big mountain skiing/snow boarding, they get to play with their "new" cousin. He's 8 months old and as cute as a button. All Rosie Jane wants to do is play with Z. We haven't been able to play in the snow, but the girls did go tromping in the woods. Not snow shoeing though. Maybe next year.

20 February 2012

It's only February

Yep, it's only late February and I'm already thinking about school next year. I have most of the courses/curriculum picked out but still have a few glaring holes to fill. I also have some weaknesses that need to be addressed next year. The main thing both girls need work on is writing; all sorts of writing except creative writing in the case of Sweet Pea. I've been mulling over IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing) since I keep hearing really good things about it but it's really expensive. I just spent some time (again) looking over their website since it's been a few years since I last looked at it. I think I've found a way I can make it work for both girls and be affordable, I just need to think about it a bit more. I'm thinking I'll probably get it and have them work on the writing together next year and also do some separate grammar and vocab with Rosie Jane.

Apparently I'm procrastinating in figuring out what science to do with Sweet Pea next year. I'm pretty sure it'll be biology but I'm not sure what we're going to use. I'd kind of like to do something totally out of the box with her but really don't feel comfortable pulling something together myself especially at the high school level. Science really isn't my thing.

We're all looking forward to our mini-vacation later in the week. It's time for our annual trip to New Hampshire to play in the snow. Only problem is that they don't have any snow! I guess it'll be time to play with the 8 month old nephew (who is as cute as a button!!) instead of in the snow. After that it's back to school probably for the duration. I don't think we'll take a spring break this year and instead just a few days off here and there to enjoy the nice weather.

13 February 2012

We've been busy!

We have been so busy recently. I can't believe that February is already halfway gone; it seems like it should still be January!  I've been heading down to Massanutten Resort with Sweet Pea at least twice a week since late December for snowboard team practice.  As long as she's focused, she has time to get her work done in the mornings before we have to leave.  It just makes the week kind of hectic since I'm gone all afternoon/evening on Wednesdays and Thursdays.  One of us has been taking her down on the weekends as well, so the time has just flown by!  Rosie Jane has been keeping us busy as well; it's just been trying to keep up with everyone's schedule that's hard. March is coming up soon enough though and with that the end of snowboard season.  I think they only have practice through the first weekend although the resort will hopefully be open later into the month.

Besides snowboarding, school has been moving along well. Their French and German classes have started up again.  After a rough start (the company changed virtual classrooms) they're back on track and it's going well.  Sweet Pea found out that their teacher might be offering an introduction to Russian class this summer.  She really wants to take it but I'm not sure it will fit in with our schedule; we'll have to see.

It was a good move to ease up on some things while we're so busy with winter sports. It's almost time to start thinking about school for next year. I have a general outline for what the girls will be doing, pretty much just the next thing, but I still have some decisions to make.  I need to figure out what Sweet Pea is going to use for biology and English, I need to decide if Rosie Jane is going to do two science classes next year (I'd like her to), and a few other things.  I still have some time, catalogs will be out soon (look for Sonlight's April 1!), the convention is in June (I'd better check the calendar and make sure I can go). We'll probably start the new school year in August, but we'll just keep working for now and worry about next year in a month or so.

My "why we homeschool" for today - I was just sitting at the kitchen table reading the newspaper (yes, I still get a newspaper) and happened to glance up.  The boy next door had just gotten home from high school and was letting his dog out, at the same time I was hearing Sweet Pea getting into the shower.  Yes, she did all her work this morning in her pj's.  Nothing unusual there.  The only reason she got in the shower when she did is that we were supposed to have Girl Scouts this afternoon so she needed to get a move on and get dressed (had to cancel - one of our few girls was sick - feel better!!).

20 January 2012


Like the lovely voice in the GPS says, I'm readjusting the direction of our school. We're only a few weeks into the new year but we need to readjust already. We've become super busy with a few things and I've decided that at least for now school needs to be simplified. Sweet Pea is on a snowboard team and since we live no where near a ski resort, she and I are doing a lot of driving. Totally worth it, but it takes a pretty good chunk of time out of our Wednesdays and Thursdays (not to mention Saturdays and the occasional Sunday).

I think at least for now, I'm going to set aside the French unit study I wanted Sweet Pea to do. It's an extra that she doesn't need right now. Maybe this summer. I'm going to focus on some basics with her for a couple of months, until the snowboard season is over; mainly math and science and her writing. Rosie Jane is another story, with other problems. I just need to figure out how to use my morning time more efficiently with them. I do need to keep them on track, especially Sweet Pea since she's in high school. Since she's a freshman, it's not quite a make or break year, but still things need to get done.

03 January 2012

Back to school

It's a new year and we're back to school. I tried to spend some time over break organizing but didn't get as far as I wanted. I've spent some time frustrated with computers. My old laptop is about to bite the dust; a couple of the keys aren't working well, the air card is dead as is the sound. I transferred my last backup of my Homeschool Tracker data file to the new laptop, but that was from mid-October. Sadly, I hadn't done a backup since then and can't get another one to work. I spent some time today filling in the blanks from mid-October to early December.  I should be able to finish tomorrow. I also need to copy over all my other necessary school files after I resave them all into Word or Excel documents. For some reason when we had my computer fixed the last time, Office didn't get put back on and we couldn't find the disks for it. I downloaded Open Office and used that for all my documents and spreadsheets and now need to resave all that stuff to use on the new laptop. Still a work in progress there.

We started back to school with just a few things yesterday.  Bob had to work and frankly, I hadn't realized that it was a holiday, so it was off to school we went. I gave the girls a few things to do, then we watched the Rose Bowl Parade, and relaxed the rest of the day.  Today was back to it with pretty much a full schedule. There's still a few things we haven't gotten to and I need to remember to get Sweet Pea to start the French study so she can finish before her French class starts again at the end of the month.