Meal Planning for Homeschool Families

We are all set to start our new homeschool year towards the end of this week — I am super excited, my kids maybe not quite as much;).

Want to see our plans for this year? Click here!

We spent some time this week getting ready for our new year. It is super important to me to try to be as organized as I can this year, because we have so much going on….among other things:

Sports — sooo many sports & outside classes – I wouldn’t have it any other way, but it does mean we need to be quite organized to get stuff done!

Home construction — we started adding some bedroom space over the summer (and by “we”, I mean the people we hired) and while I was hoping it would be over and done before we started school, it — isn’t. So we will be homeschooling to the tune of drywall sanding and nail guns.

My new job — I’m so excited to be joining the staff at Brave Writer this fall! I’m teaching The Writer’s Jungle Online class.

So anyway, back to the organization. I did a whole bunch of stuff this week to get myself feeling ready. Or, more ready anyway. Here, I’m going to share my meal plan for the whole month of September!

Yes, really. At the risk of sounding like a total braggart, I am so gosh-darn impressed with myself for doing this.

Meal planning is my nemesis. With six people in the house and crazy-busy schedules, planning our meals is a must, but it’s a real pain to do every week. I had the idea of just doing it once a month and having it done. I got the kids involved and assigned them a couple nights to cook, too.

I assigned “themes” for each day of the week, based on what we’ll be doing. Then, I just plugged in some matching meals on a printable calendar page and had the kids fill in their nights. We used erasable pens so we can adjust as necessary, because obviously, plans will change!

FYI, I adore these erasable pens — they have totally changed my life.

 

So here are the themes we came up with and what we’re going to make!

  • Monday ~ My oldest (who happens to be vegetarian!) will cook
    • Pineapple tofu fried rice
    • Tofu tikka masala
    • Chickpea cauliflower gyros
  • Tuesday — Quick sandwich or pasta night
    • Turkey, cranberry, stuffing sandwiches
    • Eggplant or meatball subs
    • Lasagna (made ahead and popped in the fridge)
    • Fettucine-Broccoli Alfredo
  • Wednesday  — Crockpot (mostly) chili 
  • Thursday — Take along dinner (My youngest has a late gymnastics practice, so I got her a thermos and plan to make something she can take along with her)
  • Friday — My boys will cook
  • Saturday — Burgers-on-the-grill
  • Sunday — Sunday dinner
    • Grilled pizza
    • Grilled brats/sausages
    • Homemade lobster rolls
    • Thanksgiving-in-the-smoker ~ we smoke a turkey breast, then serve with fixings

One other thing I did — I put the meal plan in a folder and added in print-outs of any online recipes. I hate trying to follow a recipe from my phone!

So, that’s it! A whole month of meals planned in under an hour!

Homeschool Curriculum Picks for 2018-2019

It’s August already! I am not sure where the time went! We won’t be starting “school” till after Labor Day, but I’ve been working on plans.  I will have a 12th grader who will be taking classes at the local community college. And then I will be homeschooling a 10th, 8th, and 5th grader.

Here’s what we plan to do, and what we’re going to use to do it!

LANGUAGE ARTS

My 5th grader will use:

My 8th grader will use:

My 10th grader will use:

Everyone will participate in:

MATH

My 5th grader will use:

My 8th grader will use:

My 10th grader will use a combination of:

All three will use:

CRITICAL THINKING

My 5th grader will use:

My 8th & 10th graders will use:

Everyone will do:

LITERATURE & HISTORY

My 5th grader will use:

My 8th grader will use:

My 10th grader will use:

All three will use:

SCIENCE

My 5th grader will use:

My 8th grader will concentrate on forensic science using:

My 10th grader will use:

In addition, I am hoping to do nature journaling once a month or so with these references to help inspire us:

FOREIGN LANGUAGE

My 5th grader will use:

My 8th grader will use:

My 10th grader will use:

ART

My 5th grader will use:

My 8th & 10th graders will continue with:

All three will do:

MUSIC

My 5th grader will use:

My 8th and 10th graders will listen to:

And I think that’s it! It looks like a lot all typed out here, but I’m feeling excited!

Maestro Classics: A Little Review

My fourth grader and I have been using Maestro Classics to round out our music study this year. She began the year by listening through all of the Classics for Kids CD’s, which she very much loved. In my search for something similar, I came across Maestro Classics. We ordered two to start with…Peter and the Wolf and Swan Lake.

These CD’s were in instant hit with both of us! We have since listened to The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and we’re currently working through The Nutcracker. We have developed a routine for listening to these, which I’m going to share along with a few thoughts on this resource.

Each Maestro Classics CD is like a self-contained little unit study.

There are two parts of this program…a little activity booklet and the CD itself. Each title is also available as an MP3 with a downloadable activity book, but I’m old-fashioned, so I chose the CD:).

Each of the four CD’s we have listened to has been around an hour long. The content of the CDs varies a bit. The Story of Swan Lake begins with 30 minutes of music interspersed with a narrative story. This is followed by a short talk about Tchaikovsky’s life, then we get to listen to the band Speed Metal Swan play some music from Swan Lake ~ with an electric guitar! There is another track with interesting information about the music, then a short track that sets some fun lyrics to music from Swan Lake ~ which really helps you remember the tune!

The little booklets are beautifully illustrated.  Again, these vary by title, so I’ll just share a bit of what’s in this one. There is a page about Tchaikovsky…

A double page spread devoted to the orchestra….

A little rebus story to read, plus a dot-to-dot, and several more pages.

We take about four sessions to finish each Maestro Classics title, probably about two hours total. In the first session, we listen to half of the CD and do a page or two of the booklet.  In the second, we listen to the other half of the CD and do a couple more pages of the booklet. For our third and fourth sessions, we complete whatever parts of the booklet we haven’t gotten to, and listen to the main track containing the music/narration once or twice more.

I would recommend Maestro Classics for about K-5 grade, or up until 10. Younger kids could certainly enjoy the titles and there are a couple of titles I imagine would be great for preschoolers- like Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and The Tortoise and the Hare. We haven’t tried any of those, but they sound wonderful for a younger child. I have gotten a lot out of this program myself, so older kids would definitely learn from the program, but I do think the narration style and booklet activities are best suited for the under-10 crowd (or a multi-age group). There are two CD’s recommended by Maestro Classics for “older kids” ~ The Soldier’s Tale and The Merry Pranks of Master Till. We have not listened to these yet, but they are on my wishlist for next year.

Maestro Classics also has free curriculum guides on their website with extension ideas for each title. We have done a few of the extra activity ideas and enjoyed them. After finishing Peter and the Wolf for example, we watched Disney’s Anastasia, mapped Prokofiev’s travels, and read about the history of Matryoshka dolls.

Maestro Classics has been a great addition to our elementary homeschool music study!

La Clase Divertida Level One: A Little Review

My fourth-grader, Rose, and I have been learning Spanish this year using La Clase Divertida Level One. We have just a few weeks left of the program, so I wanted to share a bit about our experience with using it this year. This is my second time through La Clase Divertida ~ I used Levels One and Two with my older kids. I really love this program and think it’s an ideal introduction to Spanish!

I purchased the La Clase Divertida Level 1 Kit, which includes everything we needed for the year. Please note that I purchased my base kit many years ago, and this year I only purchased a $15 student pack so that we would have a new workbook and craft materials. I do not believe that the program has changed much (if at all) since I made my initial purchase, but just keep in mind that I did buy the program a few years ago.

The kit includes:

  • Two DVD’s of lessons
  • One audio CD, for additional practice
  • A craft kit containing most of the items needed to make the crafts in the program
  • A teacher’s manual
  • A student workbook

How we use La Clase Divertida:

The teacher’s manual has a suggested schedule in it, and we pretty much follow that. At first I was dubious about the included schedule, because it involves a ton of repetition, but I decided to trust the process and I now think it’s perfect. This is not a “watch one lesson a week” type program. We watch each lesson several times over the course of two weeks, plus we use the audio CD for practice. She also does some workbook work over the two weeks, then we wrap up each lesson with a fun activity.

We stick pretty closely to this routine:

Day 1: Watch the lesson on DVD

Day 2: Listen to the audio CD to review past lessons

Day 3: Watch the DVD lesson again

Day 4: Listen to the audio CD

Day 5: Watch the DVD lesson and do the first page of activities in the student workbook

Day 6: Watch the DVD lesson again

Day 7: Listen to the CD

Day 8: Watch the DVD lesson one final time and finish the second page of student activities

Day 9: Listen to the CD

Day 10: Do the fun activity included in each lesson

Each new lesson begins with watching the DVD. The DVD lessons are super fun; you get to follow along with a real Spanish class. Each lesson begins with the class reviewing previous material and “spaces” are left for you to answer questions before the class does. We have learned many Spanish songs, lots of vocabulary, conversation starters, and more.

These are actual kids in an actual class, so things don’t always go as planned, people fidget and sometimes forget the answer, but I like the informal nature of it. The teacher even brings his dog to some lessons! The kids in the class are often asked to “interact” with the audience. For example, they will ask us a question and then wait for us to answer, then we are told to ask them the same question and they answer.  Each DVD lesson takes around 20 minutes to watch.

The next major component of the program is the audio CD. You are meant to use it in between watching the DVD to reinforce what you are learning.  The whole CD is about an hour long. We only listen to the parts we have already covered in our DVD lessons.  How we handle it is – when we start a new lesson, we start at the beginning of the CD, but we only listen for 15 minutes total on our “CD day”.  I keep a note of where we stopped and we start from that point on our next CD day. In the beginning, when we hadn’t covered as much of the CD, we just listened to the same tracks each time until we got to unfamiliar material. Now it is too long to listen to the whole thing each time, so this has been our solution to get in that review without spending too much time.

The next component is the teacher’s manual…this is actually the item I use least of this program. It has a list of objectives each week and some vocabulary words. It also has the answers to all of the workbook exercises, which comes in handy. But it doesn’t contain the actual lesson: that’s on the DVD.

Next we have the student workbook. There is very little writing in this program, which makes it great for younger kids. Rose completes just two workbook pages every two weeks. You could even skip the workbook pages if it felt like too much ~ my older daughter did this program in kindergarten before she was comfortably writing and we just focused on the DVD, CD, and projects.

At the beginning of the program, we were instructed to choose Spanish names for ourselves. Rose chose Adriana (and wrote it on the front of her workbook). I chose Elvira.

Here’s a peek inside the workbook. For this lesson, she practiced writing the days of the week and parts of the body in Spanish. I love how they give separate little lines for writing the letters on ~ makes it easier to learn the spelling!

Another workbook page:

Learning the Spanish names for animals!

So basically, we just carry on watching (and rewatching) our Spanish lesson and listening to the CD in between. By the time the two weeks are up, we really know our stuff and we are excited to see what’s next. We don’t always get to Spanish every day, so sometimes the lessons take more like three weeks to complete. When all of the watching and listening is done, we do the fun activity! This might be a craft, a cooking project, or watching a puppet show about some aspect of Mexican history on the DVD.

Just a few of the projects we have done:

A Xochimilco Float

Ojo de Dios

Mexican wedding (and flag) cookies

And tissue paper flowers!

We will definitely be moving on to La Clase Divertida Level 2 next year. I cannot really think of anything negative to say about this program. The only caution I would give is that the age range suggested on the website is K-8. I have a seventh grader and he doesn’t participate in this program with us, mainly because he wanted to learn French this year, but also because it seems a bit young for him. There is a lot of singing, some dancing, and some overall goofiness that I think is better received at a younger age. This would depend greatly on the child in question though – my 7th grader has no patience for singing! La Clase is definitely introductory Spanish ~ we have learned lots of vocabulary and conversation starters but we will in no way be proficient in the language after finishing this program. But our goal is to get a fun introduction to the language, and this program has definitely done that for us! We give La Clase Divertida Level 1 two thumbs up!

Our Homeschool Foreign Language This Year

This is an ongoing series where I share how we have been doing different subjects in our homeschool this year. This is how we are doing foreign language this year with kiddos in 4th, 7th, 9th, and 11th grade….

11th grade: Our eldest is taking Spanish at a local community college this year. It has been a really fantastic experience for her and I will definitely take this route with my other kids if they have an interest. In my opinion, unless you have a convenient friend or relative who speaks Spanish fluently, a real live class is the way to go at this age. She has learned so much more than she ever did from anything we tried at home. She is currently on her second semester of Spanish, with plans to continue her study next year. She has class two mornings a week.

9th grade: For my ninth grade son this year, we chose Fluenz Spanish. We had tried Rosetta Stone in the past (with our oldest) and she got through two levels of it without really feeling like she retained or understood much. The reviews of Fluenz seemed more positive, so we decided to give it a whirl. There is no speech recognition software with Fluenz like there is with Rosetta Stone. So when he does Spanish, he is just listening and typing answers.  I have encouraged him to repeat after the speaker, but that rarely happens.  I do try to ask him most days to tell me something he learned in Spanish to try to get him speaking at least a little bit. This said, he enjoys the program and it is one of the first things he chooses to do each day (and he does do it most days), so in that regard it is definitely working! I only wish there was an easy way for us to each have our unique account with the program so I could try to do it along with him. 

Also with my 9th grader, and my 7th grader, we are doing Latin this year with First Form Latin. We typically do Latin 4-5 days a week. I love this program, and I reviewed it earlier this year.

 

 

7th grade: My seventh grader is puttering around with Duolingo French this year, in addition to his Latin study. He does French for for about 15 minutes, 3 days a week. Next year, we will probably choose something a bit more intensive, but I wanted him to have a light year this year since we are also studying Latin.

4th grade: My fourth grader is studying Spanish and Latin this year. We do Latin about 4 days a week, for 15 minutes each day, using Prima Latina ~ review here.

We do Spanish 3-4 days a week, for 20-30 minutes each time using La Clase Divertida, which we love. I am hoping to get a review of this program up soon to share how we are using it. But basically, we take two weeks to cover each lesson. We watch the lesson on DVD multiple times and use the practice CD a couple times during those two weeks. She also completes two workbook pages per lesson, then we wrap the lesson up with a fun project.  Each lesson has a craft, recipe, or puppet show to watch. We are having a ton of fun with this program and we will definitely be using Level 2 next year.

And that’s how we’re doing foreign language in our homeschool this year! I’m happy to answer any questions; just leave me a comment ~ and thanks for stopping by!

 

Our Homeschool History and Literature this Year

This is an ongoing series where I share how we have been doing different subjects in our homeschool this year. This is how we are doing history and literature this year!

The short answer: We use BookShark (or Sonlight).

The slightly longer answer: I love both programs because I am a dedicated box checker and I love having everything neatly laid out for me each day. In my instructor guide I have book summaries, questions to ask the kids (plus the answers!), vocabulary words, and suggestions for timeline and mapping work. There are also lots and lots of notes. I love the notes in the early years because they add a little extra layer of understanding or clarification. Starting at about Core 100, the notes get very long and are often overly opinionated for us. So we tend to mostly ignore the notes starting at that level. We don’t use the language arts portion of either program, but we do use pretty much all of the history/literature as it is written. We started using Sonlight about 9 years ago and have used it pretty much ever since, with a short break when we tried Oak Meadow. When BookShark started selling secular versions of the Sonlight cores, we switched to primarily ordering from that company, except when Sonlight has a product we need and BookShark doesn’t (case in point, Core 300).

Here’s what we’re doing:

11th grade: My 11th grader is using Sonlight Core 300, which is 20th Century World History. The history spine for this Core is the The History of the Modern World. I would rather have seen a more engaging spine, like my younger kids have this year, but it serves it’s purpose. It is a very comprehensive encyclopedia and I do like how it is divided up by year. Basically, she just has assigned pages to read each day and we discuss them once or twice a week. I started out the year trying to read ahead of her so that I could more properly discuss, but have found it difficult to keep up with. To go along with the spine, there are several biographies and historical fiction novels. This level also has included mapwork and timeline work, but we mostly keep it simple and just focus on reading and discussing. Here’s a little peek at some of the books used:

She also uses the Core 300 literature. I try to read some of these before she does in order to better discuss them, but I don’t always succeed! There are some great titles here, though there were a couple she didn’t enjoy overmuch ( like Kon-tiki) and one she ended up skipping because she just couldn’t get through it (Cry, the Beloved Country). She’s going through this program a bit more slowly than previously planned because she’s also juggling a couple of dual enrollment classes right now, but she should still finish by year’s end. This will be her last Sonlight core, which I cannot believe! She plans to take history and English at the college next year.

Here is a sample of the literature books for this level:

 

9th grade: My 9th grader is using BookShark 100, American History, along with the literature. In general, I am a fan of this level. I love the spine, Joy Hakim’s History of Us. I love many of the literature selections. I love that this is the first year when he has his own guide so he can see what’s on the schedule and what we will be discussing. We don’t stick strictly to the schedule though; he just has “work on your BookShark reading” on his daily list and he gets to what he can. This is the first level that has no scheduled read-alouds, but his dad and I have read several of the titles aloud with him anyway. He isn’t a big fan of fiction and he seems to process it much better when read-aloud. It’s fun doing it this way too! We tend to read with him in the evenings, and we each have a book from this level we are reading with him. I also read-aloud from his assigned poem book with him, because I just think poetry is better read aloud.

I haven’t had to skip much from this level, though I did skip the book World War II because it is very opinionated and I just didn’t feel it was appropriate as a “history” book.   Like I mentioned above, we also skip most of the notes in the instructor/student guide. The instructor guide has daily suggestions for dates to add to the timeline book. We pick and choose from among these and add them in. His timeline book is getting quite full! You can see my review of the Timeline Book here.  I still love it! This level also has separate mapwork, where the kids are supposed to plot various locations on black and white maps.  We found this too time-consuming, so we gave it up pretty quickly. Instead, I have him look up the locations on a globe or map. Here’s a selection of history books used in this level:

And a peek at the literature titles:

 

 

7th grade: My 7th grader is using BookShark 6, World History 1.  This is my second time through this level, so I am getting to read books again, which I always enjoy. The main history spine is The Story of the World, which I at first thought was a bit too easy, but I find it actually works really well when read at this age. The simplified information is easy to digest and he tends to retain it pretty well. Volumes 1 & 2 are used at this level; volumes 3 & 4 are read at the next level. The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia is also used at this level, along with plenty of historical fiction. The poetry book for this level is Favorite Poems Old and New, my favorite poem book of all time ~ it’s huge! I love all of the read-alouds for this level; the readers have been a bit more hit and miss with my guy.   He could not get into Mara, Daughter of the Nile or Black Horses for the King, so I ended up letting him skip those. He is not usually a fan of fiction however, so this isn’t necessarily a reflection on the books themselves. The instructor guide for this level includes locations to find on the included map (it’s hole-punched and fits right in the instructor guide, which is great). This level also includes timeline figures to add to his Timeline Book. Here’s a peek at some of the history and read-aloud titles for this level:

 

And a preview of some of the readers:

 

4th grade: My fourth grader is using BookShark 3: American History 1. This is one of my favorite levels, and it’s my third time through it since my older two did the Sonlight equivalent, Core D. I love re-reading these books with her and she is my bookworm child so she is really soaking it all up. We have a few different history spines with this level, which is nice. We read from The Landmark History of the American People, Beginner’s American History, and The Children’s Encyclopedia of American History. We are usually assigned one to read from each day. Like the other kids, she has a lot of historical fiction, a good poetry book, and a set of readers. There are two choices of readers for this level: regular and advanced. We went with the advanced because she loves to read and goes through books quickly. She also does map work most days with the map included in my instructor guide and keeps a timeline book. Because she loves reading more than anything else, she often asks me to read more than what is scheduled and reads ahead in her readers. She makes me feel accomplished because we are usually right “on schedule” or ahead!

Here’s a peek at the history and read-aloud titles:

And a few of the reader titles:

 

And that’s how we’re doing history and literature in our homeschool this year!

Homeschool Photo Journal Part 2

A few photos and memories captured from our last week of homeschool life…

We are slowly wrapping up TOPS Radishes (a science selection from BookShark 3). It has been so much fun! I highly recommend this resource if you are looking for a hands-on way to learn about plants and don’t mind committing to around 30-45 minutes of work each day for three weeks. Here are the results of our “toxic stress” experiment. Rose put some seeds in vinegar, some in salt water, and some in freshwater. She correctly predicted that the freshwater ones would grow best, but was a bit surprised that the others didn’t grow at all. This experiment really brought home the hazards of acid rain and too much salt in soil!

 

She also did a neat experiment on phototropism by creating a foil “radish” and bending its leaves the way she thought a radish seedling would react to light. Sure enough, both seedlings were tipped towards the sunlight coming in through the windows within just a few hours.

Here’s another neat experiment where she placed a little seedling on the inside of a damp cup and traced over it with marker. Within a day, we could see how the seedling had moved, the roots slowly tipping down and the unfolding cotyledons, or seed leaves, slowly starting to unfold.

And now our radish experiments are done! I just need to figure out some way for her to store all of her lab papers and little notes ~ we may hole punch them and create a little booklet. She didn’t want to get rid of any of her fledgling seedlings, so we spent the morning planting them in various containers because it isn’t quite warm enough for them to be outdoors. Here is our laundry room radish garden in all its glory….

Hopefully we will get at least radish or two for salad! We are scheduled to do TOPS Corn and Beans next, but we’ve decided to hold off for a few weeks so that we can hopefully plant those seedlings outdoors afterwards.

In other news, my boys build this awesome squirrel lounger. I think we may need to get some proper yellow corn for it and move it a bit lower because we haven’t had any squirrel visitors yet. But isn’t it cute? This is a project from The All-New Woodworking for Kids, which they are using for their art curriculum this year (little review here).

Nothing to do with homeschooling, just a cute dog picture….

Three of my four took the National Mythology Exam. They report that it went well. This is something we have been doing for years and that I hope we will do for many more.

My boys and I started Unit 3 of First Form Latin, which I was super excited about, because I get excited about things like that. We are focusing on nouns, which is nice for a change. I reviewed this program here. I still love it.

We’ve been making maple syrup, too! This is our first batch and we’ve been adding to it all week. We usually get about 2 gallons of syrup from 10-12 maple trees. Sadly, two jars from our first batch got broken in the freezer and I am not sure we will be able to make up for it. The weather has been unseasonably warm so I’m expecting a short season.

Finally, some pretty hyacinths and a read-aloud James and I are finishing up, one of my favorites from BookShark 6!

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you had a wonderful homeschool week!