Thursday, July 4, 2019

MFW 1850 to Modern Times: What I Did to Prepare

Happy Independence Day to my American readers! Although it is July 4th today, we actually began our current school year back in January. However, since I never got around to typing up what I did to prep for the year, and have had several inquiries about it recently, I figured today was as good as any to show you what I did!

Since my kids are getting older and are less taken by cutesy decorations, I didn't really do much in the way of posters or decorations in our homeschool space. A little negative space in the room has been nice this year!

I started off by separating the president and state pages from this year's pack of Student Sheets. Since we already started the 50 states and all the presidents last year in Exploration to 1850, I simply punched the ones for this year with my spiral binder and added them to the state and president books I made for the kids last year. Now each book is a complete set!

Next, I sat down with my teacher's manual and the Story of the World Activity Guide and made a long list of all the pages we would do this year. I ruthlessly pared down the possibilities. There's a lot in there, and I can't imagine anyone could ever do it all!  Then I printed out what we needed and collated them with the remainder of the Student Sheets from MFW. I spiral bound each set.

The State Flower and Bird cards were added to the card holder sheets I used last year, and I pinned the boxes of President Flash Cards to my bulletin board where they'll be just in reach.

All the rest of our books for 1850 to Modern Times were organized by subject into some magazine holders from Ikea and shelved nearby. These magazine holders have been in use about 3 years now, so they're starting to look a little battered, but they're so cheap and I just love how they help hold floppy books erect! Otherwise everything tends to slip, slide, and fall over when you take one item out.

Each kid has their own little desk with more magazine holders to keep their independent subjects tidy. My 8th grader has the most since she has a separate science in addition to the separate math and language arts.

For math, she has the text and a 3-subject spiral notebook. I picked 3-subject because it has room for lecture notes as well as her homework. I didn't like the suggestion of using a separate notebook for notes and assignments. That just means one more thing to try to keep track of!

For science I bought the notebooking journal that Apologia sells and a lab kit from Natures Workshop. Of course, just after we started our year, Apologia released a brand new edition of General Science. It looks amazing! And I'm a bit jealous that we couldn't get it before the start of our year.

For English this year we are using Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind, Vocabulary from Classical Roots, and Writing With Skill.  These are all pretty rigorous programs and we will end up only getting through half of the grammar and writing books this year.

I got two notebooks for English. The first is a 3-subject, wide ruled notebook for copying out vocabulary definitions, assigned copywork, and writing assignments that are not typed up on the computer. The second is a dotted grid notebook for diagramming sentences.

My youngest is still following MFW's math and language recommendations, so all he needed was a 3-subject spiral notebook to do his written assignments from Language Lessons for Today, and the occasional textbook assignments in Singapore Math.  Rather than have him doing his copywork lessons in the spiral as well, I used a handwriting worksheet generator to create a copywork book for him with all our Bible verses and passages from We Choose Virtues.

And that's about it! The biggest task this year was getting the Story of the World Activity Guide pages sifted through, printed, and bound.  I hope this helps a little for those of you prepping to begin 1850 to Modern Times soon!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Exciting High School Electives

I fell down a rabbit hole last night. Does that ever happen to you? You're innocently poking around the internet and the next thing you know you're hours deep with 15 browser tabs open researching something. 

What was I researching, you ask? 

High school electives. 

Yes, my eldest is only in sixth grade this year, but I've been working on making some curriculum choices for her for next year. Since next year will be her seventh grade year, and seventh grade leads to eight grade which leads to high school, you begin to see how this all happened.  High school is a whole different ball game where each year is tied to the others with a whole progressive course of study to be plotted out!

So, down the rabbit hole I went.

And I made some exciting discoveries! Not only did I sketch out a basic plan for my kids' high school years -- an endeavor made supremely easy by My Father's World -- but I discovered some really fun elective programs available to homeschoolers. At this point, I have absolutely no idea what my kids will be interested in for electives, so my gleanings are purely inspired by things I, myself, think are interesting or would like to present as options to my kids. Whether or not some of them are practical options from a financial standpoint remains to be seen as well. But, I figured since I was already meandering down that path, I might as well throw some links together and share my findings.

To start off, HSLDA has a list of 84 elective courses to consider. This list is by no means comprehensive, but it has some good ideas to get you thinking.

Foreign language is, in my opinion, one of the most important electives. So I looked at a lot of Spanish programs suitable for high school. Most of them, especially the ones involving a live video chat, are far beyond my budget for a single class, but Breaking the Spanish Barrier looks very promising.

As much as I think Spanish would be the most useful foreign language for my kids to learn, I'm not sure they are as interested in that option themselves. In fact, I'm pretty sure at this point they'd rather study Japanese. For that, I discovered Japanese I at Georgia Virtual Learning. If Japanese isn't your thing, maybe look at their Chinese, Spanish, German, French, or Latin courses.

Boys and girls both could benefit from this Auto Upkeep course. Maybe I'll even rope Hubby into taking this one with us!

It would be a blast offering Forensic Science as an elective in our homeschool! Or maybe in a co-op setting using something like the Mystery of Lyle and Louise.

In my youth I had no idea how fascinated I would be by psychology as an adult. I'm quite enthralled by the idea of offering Sonlight's AP Psychology class. I want my kids to take this one just so I can take it too!

Other than designing your own program, because obviously that's a fabulous option too, have you run into any exciting elective courses out there?

Monday, January 22, 2018

MFW Exp to 1850: Weeks 1 & 2

Our first two weeks back to school have been slightly bumpy, but overall great! It's always tough transitioning from vacation mode back to a schedule and assigned tasks, even when you homeschool. On top of that, we had some frightfully frigid weather keeping us homebound more than is typical.

We started off our year with some back-to-school pictures. E insisted on donning his Viking costume since we were learning about Leif Eriksson on day 1.  I have found that costumes are one of the best ways to get my son engaged in what he is learning. The nice ones can be pricey, but if you shop costumes on Amazon when it's not close to Halloween, or check the clearance sales just after Halloween, you can usually get some good deals on historical types of costumes. 

Miss M was completely ready to begin our school year. She loves academics and appreciates the routine of our school days.  Our first two weeks were a bit of a light start with some subjects not being added in until Week 3. Miss M is excited to start Writing Strands: Intermediate and Vocabulary from Classical Roots in the coming week. E is not so thrilled to be starting cursive in Week 3, but I'm confident he'll survive.

On Fridays we meet up with another family using Exploration to 1850 to do some activities together. We sailed ships from Spain to the New World. I'm sorry to report that only the Pinta made it across as the NiƱa and the Santa Maria were not quite seaworthy. Care to guess which child managed to fashion a suitable ship from aluminum foil, a hunk of clay, and a bamboo skewer? (Hint: it was the only boy in the group).

Week 2 brought us to some national leaders of the 1500s and some exploration of the people who were in this great land before the arrival of Europeans. Miss M wisely asked why they don't get the credit for "discovering" America, and E was just happy to spend hours and hours in his makeshift teepee with a "campfire" to keep him company.

Ever since I first heard that we get to memorize the book of James in Exploration to 1850, I have been looking forward to it! We memorized James in my 7th grade Bible class and it was a great experience. The kids were a little unsure about the idea, but so far they've done great keeping up with the daily memory work and recitations. I am fully confident that they are capable and have high hopes for staying on track.

Miss M has really enjoyed the Draw Write Now books that go along with our studies. E isn't interested since they are "too cartoony," but he got really into our still life artwork from God and the History of Art in Week 2.  Even after homeschooling for 7 years, things like that still surprise me. I can never accurately predict how either child will respond to an activity like this. One loves it, the other hates it; one spends tons of time and effort, the other gives it a lick and a promise. I really just never know what to expect. But I was very pleased this time with the effort both children gave and more than that they both seemed to really enjoy it and asked to do it again some time. Score!

We are looking forward to moving out of the introductory weeks and into the full swing of things. We're also really glad that the major cold snap we had has broken and we've gotten some more humane temperatures lately.  February is right around the corner and experience has taught me that February is a brutal month for homeschoolers. I call it burnout month! We'll be taking two full weeks off in February to watch the Olympics and generally ride out some of the dull days of winter. Spring can never come fast enough.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Lego Zip Line STEM Challenge

Every so often I like to pose a STEM challenge to one or both of my kids. We've done some really fun challenges like building bridges strong enough to support 100 pennies with just 3 notecards and some tape.  I recently ran across a post where they used a clothesline and pulley to construct a Lego zip line.

Since the kids' nana had just recently given them a set of Classic Legos, this seemed right up E's alley.  And boy, was I right!

First we looked for a plastic clothesline pulley at Walmart, but they didn't have any. Then we went to a small local hardware store, but only found expensive metal ones. So we tried a big name hardware store and finally hit the jackpot!

Pulley: $2.38
Clothesline: $2.78

You could buy them on Amazon here and here, but they are more expensive there.

Next he had to build a platform and figure out how to attach it to the pulley.

Then he tested his contraption and discovered it arrived at its destination too forcefully. In fact, it smashed to smithereens!  So he contrived a way to slow and pad the landing by wrapping a paper towel around the clothesline a foot or so from the end. During this phase we had a lot of great discussions about angles, gravity, force, friction, tension, and construction stability.

Lastly he decided to add a mechanism to assist in pulling the zip cart back to the start. You could avoid this step if you anchor the higher end of the clothesline a bit lower, but ours was high enough that Mister E needs a stool to reach it.  He tied a piece of leather thong to the underside since that's what he had at hand.

Once the construction phase was complete, E played with his device for hours and hours on end. I was amazed with how long it held his attention.  He kept coming up with new treacherous scenarios for his Lego man to overcome.

If you give this challenge a try, find me on Facebook and share a picture! We'd love to see what you come up with.


Monday, January 15, 2018

He's Still Working on Me (FREE Printable Scripture Art)

He's still working on me
To make me what I need to be
It took Him just a week to make the moon and stars
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars
How loving and patient He must be
'Cause He's still workin' on me

This is a song I heard often growing up. I don't remember if my mom had it on a record or cassette or if she just sang it to us, but it's been on my mind a lot lately. (Listen here).

As my kids grow and develop, they hit stages where they really want to try out their newly discovered faculties. Sometimes this results in some pretty uncomfortable moments where they're each pushing at and picking on the other -- one to try out a newfound knowledge, the other rejecting input and desiring space to be their own person, etc.  It seems to be really hard for them to see each other as a work in progress rather than as an already complete -- and faulty -- individual.

In pondering our goals and focus for the new year, God laid it on my heart that we should strive to keep in mind the work He is doing in ourselves and in each other.  I chose Philippians 1:6 as our focus verse for the year.

"For I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus."

I want to keep this idea and specifically this verse always before us this year, so I created a big banner to post up on the wall in our school space. I also made smaller one-page size posters and put them throughout the house -- in the kids' rooms and the bathroom.

If you'd like to print one too, select one of the color schemes below to download the full page poster.  

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Getting Ready for Exploration to 1850

When you use My Father's World, you really don't have to do any prepwork to get ready for your year. Things are all planned out for you and you can easily just open and go.

However, I am a bit particular and like to have things just so. I find that putting in just a little effort before getting started helps eliminate small frustrations as we go along. Since I had the time and wanted to, I decided to do a few things to get ready for our year.  This post will make more sense if you read our curriculum picks first.

The first thing I did was open our packs of student sheets and separate out the State Sheets and President Sheets. I used my brand new binding machine -- a Christmas gift from Hubby that delights my nerdy heart -- to bind each child's pages into a separate notebook.  Since you receive some of the sheets this year and the rest of them next year in 1850 to Modern Times, it made sense to me to separate them out so at the end of the year it's easy to set these ones aside to be added to next year.

I choked back my design objections and allowed each child to design their own covers for their notebooks.  The covers are not as themed or uniform as I would have made them, but it's one easy way to allow the kids to take ownership of their studies. We downloaded royalty free pictures from Pixabay, inserted them into a Word document, and added text boxes for titles. Then I sent them over to Office Depot to have them printed with nice paper and good ink. I could do it at home, but for only 22 cents apiece, it's a little luxury we really enjoy.

The next thing I did was trim down the state bird and flower cards. I bought some 8-pocket pages to appeal to the kids' desire to collect things.  The only problem is the cards punch apart about a quarter of an inch too wide for the little pockets. So I broke out the paper cutter and trimmed 1/8th inch from each side of the cards. Now they fit into the little pockets beautifully!

While I was having covers printed at Office Depot, I also sent over the PDF of Writing Strands: Intermediate 2.  Did you know when you upload a file to be printed at Office Depot, you can delete certain pages you aren't going to need? I ended up with only the writing lessons, not the reading lessons we aren't using. I stapled each lesson in the corner and put them into a 3-ring binder. I didn't spiral bind them like the others because Miss M will be adding her finished papers to the binder as the year progresses.  Affix a cute cover on the front with washi tape, et voila, we're ready to go!

As in previous years, I used the grid pages from my teacher's manual to create a lesson planner for the year. My Father's World graciously allows for copies of the grid pages from their TMs to be made for your records if you agree to never sell, loan, or give away the manual or any copies at any time.  At the end of each year, my lesson planner becomes part of the records I keep to satisfy Missouri state law.  In addition to photocopies from the TM, I created another grid page for the kids' math, English, and foreign language lessons. I could have pencilled these in on the grid pages themselves, but it seemed neater to go ahead and type it all up in advance. Now each week of school is a two page spread in my planner. In the front I included a year-at-a-glance calendar and a monthly calendar for keeping track of holidays, events, and field trips. In the back I added a place to track a few grades and math drill scores, and a copy of the book of James for quick reference since we will be memorizing it this year.

Once my lesson planner was printed and bound, it was time to get out the one I ordered for Miss M. This year she asked for a paper planner rather than using Homeschool Planet like she has in the past. I thought that was wise since using an online planner has its pitfalls, not the least of which is the time-suck that anything on the computer can be, even if it's just "quickly" checking your email.

I once received a copy of The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students back when I was a reviewer with Home School Mosaics. (You can read that review here.) Miss M wasn't really big enough then to use it to its full potential, but she really enjoyed having it. I considered a lot of planners, but ended up going with this one again mainly because it's really difficult to find an undated planner for students, I needed a daily one, and I didn't want to write everything out like in a bullet journal or plain spiral notebook. She will be moving toward more independence this year with more opportunities for practicing time management, and I'm hoping this planner will be an excellent tool for her.

To go along with our planners and keep our place in my teacher's manual, I created a few quick bookmarks. You can use a spare piece of leftover lamination or even something opaque like cardstock or poster board. Decorate with stickers or washi tape. I love this kind because it doesn't fall out, but can be easily moved from one week to the next!

Last of all I went through our many back issues of nature magazines and clipped pictures to go with each week's science study.  This will make notebooking go just a little bit faster since the kids won't have to draw everything they want to illustrate each week.

I couldn't really say how long it took me because I did all these tasks over the course of several days while also catching up on laundry, deep cleaning floors, and so on.  And like I said at the beginning, none of this is strictly necessary for a successful year in Exploration to 1850. I just wanted to, and so I did!

What do you like to do to prep for your year?

Monday, January 8, 2018

Homeschool Sanity Saver: Meal Planning for a MONTH

Last year while on my blogging hiatus, I did something crazy. I planned meals out an entire month or more in advance!  And it was heavenly.

I give a lot of myself during a typical school day. My energies are consumed with many, many details. Did this child read today? Did she understand math? How many minutes did that lesson take? Do I need to supplement this topic? How long until they need a break? Did we cover everything? Is that spelled correctly? What is 7x12? How are we doing for time? Did I take my vitamins? Do we need to be anywhere today? And on and on.  By the time our lessons are over, I am frequently suffering from decision fatigue. I just cannot make choices about what we will eat for supper.  I will literally stand in front of the fridge or cupboard staring at ingredients for 15 minutes, then give up and order Jimmy John's.

To relive myself of this burden, I have discovered that having a meal plan in place is essential. I have enough physical energy to cook supper, it's just my mental powers that are overtaxed at that point. So if I have someone or something telling me what to do I am able to accomplish it just fine. That's where my menu comes into play. I can look at it and say, "Oh, we're having fish tacos tonight," and get right to work. No decisions necessary. I love that!

We like to eat a huge variety of foods, so it's not often that I will cook a meal more than once a month. I tried doing pizza night on Fridays for a while and, boy, everybody tired of that fast.  Yet I wanted some sort of method that would allow me to plan meals quickly and easily.  I finally decided on a two week theme rotation, and it has worked beautifully for the past year!  Each time I sit down to plan out the next month, I refer back to this basic theme.

These themes are not set in stone, so if I'm inspired to try a new recipe or someone has requested something specific I have no qualms about slotting that in wherever it seems to fit.  I left the categories vague enough to have a wide range of possibilities, but specific enough to narrow down my choices when I'm thinking about what to enter on the meal plan.  Thursday's pasta dish, for example, could be anything from turkey tetrazzini to Korean japchae to some good down-home mac and cheese.  Even the "tacos" category is loosely interpreted. Instead of just your basic ground beef crunchy tacos, I have made Cuban black bean soup, chicken flautas with cilantro-lime rice, chimichangas, and scrumptious fish tacos.  

Pinterest is my go-to for finding and storing the recipes I use. I have just one single Food Board so that I'm never trying to remember exactly how I categorized that recipe I pinned one time. My browser's search function or Pinterest's search Your Pins function get me the rest of the way when I'm looking for a specific pin on my board.

A final word about flexibility: when I'm planning, I try to make at least one meal per week a "freezer & pantry" meal. That way if my in-laws show up with Chinese one night or I actually do order in Jimmy John's, I can skip the meal comprised of freezer and pantry items that week (they'll keep just fine as they are) and bump the other meals by one day. This prevents the feeling that my plan is ruined because I now have ingredients for a meal I won't be cooking.

Do you use a meal plan? How far in advance do you plot out what you're going to eat? I'd love to hear what method you use to keep your sanity and feed your family.