Archive | May 2017

List a day – favourite tools and supplies

I’m a homeschooling, handicraft mama. My favourite tools and supplies tell this very well:

Homeschooling:

  • Our Epson eco-tank printer. This thing is amazing!
  • A great pair of sharp scissors
  • Binders! Preferably D ring
  • Page protectors – great for using dry or wet erase markers on so your paper doesn’t get messed up! (For homeschooling and crafts)
  • A really good stapler
  • Cardstock!
  • Internet
  • 10 drawer storage cart – great to keep all the day’s work organized (we use a workbox system),
  • Ink pens, I like very fine ones -0.7 or finer! 
  • A really good sharpener

And for crafts:

  • good quality needles and crochet hooks
  • A pair of tiny, sharp scissors
  • Good lighting
  • Page protectors
  • Internet & YouTube
  • Ziploc bags for all the bits and pieces
  • Plastic storage containers that can handle all the yarn, cloth, etc.

Things I try to do every day…

  • Work on a handicraft – I try to create something with my hands every day. Lately I’m doing more cross stitching and tatting.
  • Take care of me! I know that it seems obvious, but some days I barely have the energy to brush my teeth and wash my face. Showers need to wait until the water is running warm, and some days this doesn’t happen! I know what you’re thinking, but I just can’t take cold showers. My body rebels and I get sick. I can’t wait till the water heater is installed!
  • Have some quiet time for just relaxing.
  • Write something, anything. 
  • Laugh. I miss laughing…
  • Remind my hubby how much I love him, how much I appreciate all he does.
  • Leave yesterday behind. I try, but it still manages to seep into today…

Menu planning…

We did it! We bought a brand new car! Now comes the hard part – budgeting so we can actually keep our standard of living.

Like anyone who just made a major purchase, we now have to start watching where our money goes. Things like utility bills, mortgage, car payments, etc are pretty much set in stone, so we can’t touch those. So the best place to start (hopefully) saving money is by planning our meals. No more buying daily lunches for Hubby. This alone can save $600 to $800 a month (in our dollars, not in US funds). This means I need to plan meals so that he can bring healthy and filling meals to work with him.

I spent hours scouring the web, looking for frugal and tasty meals. There were tons, BUT, we don’t live in North America. There are no dollar stores here, no discount stores, and not even coupons! Also, many of those “cheap” meals would cost almost double the price here since things like “tomato soup” and “cream of mushroom soup” are about $17 a tin (that’s about $3 US)! Caribbean grocery stores rarely have sales, and since a lot of it is imported, it can get really expensive. Forget home made macaroni and cheese – I can’t even find Velveeta on any shelves!

So what’s a woman to do? Get creative! We also have some issues with Peanut, who won’t eat meat (with few exceptions), won’t eat veggies, and has an aversion to certain food textures (autism does that!). Hubby also has an allergy to beef, so that eliminates a lot too. We also want to start eating a bit healthier, more veggies and less salt.

This coming week, I made a tentative menu, and I hope it comes in under budget, and tastes good too. I didn’t include any breakfasts or lunches for the weekend, we tend to have an early dinner and sometimes eat street food when we’re out and about.

I pulled a lot of recipes from Mom’s Bistro, and I’m probably going to subscribe to her monthly menus if we like these! Most meals seem to be easy to make, and they look yummy!

I didn’t include lunch for Hubby, since he will hopefully be taking leftover dinners for his lunch. I’ll always plan to put a portion of dinner away just for him! If there is still leftovers, I can freeze them in individual portions so we can have either a leftover day, or Hubby can have a choice of lunch instead of always having yesterday’s dinner. Gotta plan ahead!

One more thing, I make my own bread, usually 4 loaves a week. Two loaves on Sunday, two loaves on Wednesday. I use my bread maker on the “dough” setting to do all the kneading, then split the dough into two pans, let them rise for an hour, then bake in the oven. Yummy home made bread without the hard work! If anyone is interested, the recipe is:

  • 1 1/2 cups of water (or 3/4c water and 3/4 cup milk)
  • 6 tablespoons of milk powder (omit if using milk above)
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 cups of flour (up to 2 cups can be whole wheat, but no more)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package of yeast

Place in bread maker in the order above, set on “dough” setting, then after the cycle is done, punch it down, divide into two, and place in prepared bread pans (I just line them with parchment paper or wax paper, easy to take out and no mess). Let rise in warm place till double, then bake in 350 degree oven for 30 – 35 minutes (or 20 – 25 minutes if you preheated the oven, I don’t preheat because I let them rise in the oven)

This recipe also makes wonderful buns, and you can also add to it to make herbed bread, or even roll it out, cover it with melted butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, and raisins, then “jellyroll” it to make yummy cinnamon bread!

Here is our meal plan for May 28 – June 3:

Sunday:

Monday:

  • Breakfast: Pancakes (from a mix or from scratch) – make enough to freeze a few
  • Lunch: Hotdogs (for Peanut)
  • Dinner: Chicken, veggie, and egg fried rice (cook extra chicken and freeze it for friday)

Tuesday:

  • Breakfast: Eggs (scrambled for Peanut, sunny side up for everyone else) with toast
  • Lunch: Kraft Dinner (one of Peanut’s favorite foods!)
  • Dinner: Slow cooker chicken tacos

Wednesday:

  • Breakfast: Baked oatmeal
  • Lunch: Mini pizzas on bread
  • Dinner: Sloppy Joe’s (using ground chicken or pork) and homemade oven fries

Thursday:

  • Breakfast: Home made muffins (save some for lunch tomorrow)
  • Lunch: Pasta salad
  • Dinner: Creamy bacon and peas pasta 

Friday:

Saturday:

 

So, I’ll check in as the week goes to give a review of the dishes, and also a breakdown of how much the week’s worth of groceries cost. My goal is to keep our monthly groceries to about $1000 a week( about $150 US), or $4000 a month (that’s about $600 US). So until next time, bon appetit!

 

When you fall out of love with your curriculum…

We’re on our last 6 weeks of Timberdoodle Kindergarten. I had very high hopes for this curriculum, but in the end, I honestly didn’t like most of it. At least not the actual “academic” components. Let me explain.

I consider “academic” components as things that are used to teach or enhance the basics. The three R’s. Reading, writing, Arithmetic. In our kit, we received (and how it worked for us):

The not so great stuff, or great stuff, just not great for us at the moment…:

The Reading Lesson

This was a good investment, and Peanut will be using this for the next few years to learn how to read. It’s nicely laid out, and very easy to implement. We do a page or two a day, but lately we’ve found Peanut isn’t progressing, so we’re taking a step back and using another phonics curriculum to reinforce what he already knows. We’ll pick this back up in a few months.

Italic Handwriting Book A Kindergarten

I thought it would teach the absolute basics of handwriting, and it really doesn’t. It assumes your child can draw certain shapes. I would prefer another curriculum like Handwriting Without Tears, and I will be picking up a copy of it when I order our McRuffy Math this year. Not that this program is bad, I will use it once Peanut is able to print.

 

Spelling you See Level A

Now this was definitely a ‘put on the shelf for a year, maybe two’  book. Peanut can’t write. Peanut can’t read. How the heck can he spell? Really??? I had hoped that this would integrate components from The Reading Lesson, thus learning how to spell the words he is learning to read. I even downloaded, printed, laminated, and cut letter tiles so Peanut could use them instead of writing. But no way. When he’s learning to read the word “cat” but having to spell “pot”, it got too confusing.  It will be a good asset in a year or two. Now, it collects dust.

 

Developing the Early LearnerDeveloping the Early Learner

Another four books for the shelf! Again, Peanut needs better fine motor control before he can do pretty much all the pages in these. Color, trace, mazes, etc. are not easy when you can’t handle using a pencil or crayon yet. Still, it will be an asset in a year or two. But collecting dust now…

 

 

Math U See Primer
Oh I had such high hopes for this. I envisioned my Peanut happily counting, adding, subtracting, and using manipulative blocks to reinforce what he was learning. I envisioned smiles at  the mention of math time! Instead, I got met with defiance, and when he finally sat down to do math, he spent more time making battleships and airplanes than actually learning. Why? Because he was very frustrated with it. It moved much too fast for him. I’ve written about this in an earlier post (or two, or three… ) and so for now it sits, like the others above, proudly on the dust shelf. Will we eventually use it again? I don’t know. If we don’t by 2019 I’ll probably sell it. Brand new condition, no writing in any pages, but maybe a few tears of frustration! hahaha!

 Beginning Geography

Yep, you guessed it. Shelf. Dust. Why? Because, again, Peanut can’t read yet. How is he supposed to know Main Street or University Boulevard if he can’t read them? How is he to know the sign for Bank vs the sign for School?  It does say on the cover it’s for K-2 so I will keep it for another couple of years and try it again.

 

Cola Fountains and Spattering Paint (what a huge) Bomb!

Not once single experiment worked for us! We ended up checking YouTube and found some people who had some success with them. Again, dust collector!

 

 

TinkerLab

Very beautiful book, and tons of great experiments and art projects. Why is it on the dust shelf? because a lot of the projects take items that aren’t easy to get here. In time, i’ll start getting them, but for now these great ideas sit waiting for the time I can do them with Peanut.

 

 

 

So what do we actually use from our Timberdoodle kit? All these:Kumon Cutting Skills - Set of 3Djeco Friends Light Clay KitVisible Human Floor PuzzleKumon Mazes - 5 book setBOB Books Set 1: Beginning ReadersUsborne The Big Book of Things to Find and Color miniLUK Set AThree Little Piggies Smart GameOodles of DoodlesDjeco / Discover Color Color-Mixing Workshop, Chirp-Chirp

Pretty much it’s mainly fun stuff. games. activity books, toys, art. So what did I end up using to supplement for the actual “academics”? I pulled from several sources.

Phonics and reading: Progressive Phonics takes absolutely no assumptions with your child. You start at ground zero. It is in depth, easy to do, and even has lesson plans! You can even incorporate handwriting too, which she provides, if the child is ready. All you need is a printer, some paper, cardstock, a laminator (or clear packing tape – poor man’s lamination for me!) and scissors. Peanut is learning how to read very well with this. It’s interactive, so I read, he reads, and we enjoy silly stories together!

It has Stories, flashcards, worksheets, lesson plans and even words for the wall!

Beginner Book 1 Screenshot 2Screen shot of Book 1 Activty Worksheets, page 1Word Wall Small Size

We also use Hooked on Phonics. It is a fine dance with this one. We tend to take two steps forward then one step back. Still, it’s working, so between that and Alphabetti, then The Reading Lesson for reinforcement, Peanut is getting there!

We also use Explode the Code get ready series, but don’t do any handwriting. Peanut is definitely better at learning his sounds with this series! 

Geography: Daily Geography grade 1. It moves at a gentle pace, and isn’t as intense as Beginning Geography. We actually enjoy this one!

What was my biggest “pro” about Timberdoodle Kindergarten? I’d say all the fun stuff. We were introduced to games, puzzles, and art kits we normally wouldn’t even have heard of! The STEAM (science technology, engineering, art, and math) hands on components are awesome!

Biggest “con” about Timberdoodle Kindergarden? for us, it was boring. same old thing every single day. Unlike programs like Bookshark or Moving Beyond the Page, there is nothing to look forward to. No learning about dinosaurs one week, and learning about airplanes the next. It lacks any kind of “journey through the world” as I call it. It’s endless days of math, geography, a game, writing, reading, a game, cutting, mazes, a game. If you want to learn about octopusses or medieval knights, it won’t happen in this curriculum! I know they keep costs down by not including books to read, but at least a weekly theme, a suggestion for read aloud books to go with them, would be appreciated.  Would I recommend Timberdoodle? Yes and no. Yes for the fun stuff, but use another company such as Bookshark, Sonlight, or Moving Beyond the Page for your main curriculum. Also, as grades in Timberdoodle progress, so do the amount of workbooks. Not great if your child has issues with fine motor skills!

So now my coffee is cold, and Peanut is up and begging for some “Minecraft” time. I guess that’s my cue to say goodbye for now, and I hope your day brings you much laughter and smiles. Till next time!

McRuffy math?

So by now I am absolutely convinced I want Moving Beyond the page level 4-5 for Peanut’s  2017-2018 school year. That’s a given! I honestly am very excited and anxious to order it, and can’t wait till it arrives so we can jump right into all the wonderful stories, activities, and leaning some amazing things along the journey through this coming school year!

.

But math. Oh boy, why are you so hard to choose! What I really wanted was RightStart Math 2nd edition, but WOWZERS!!!! the price!!!! I would need to sell a kidney and take out a second mortgage! $294 for one year’s worth of math!!!!! Ouch! Don’t forget the cost to ship it here – probably another $150! That’s $450 for one year of math!!! No way! not in this lifetime!

Moving Beyond the page offers RightStart Math 1st edition, and it’s a more reasonable $157.50, but it’s 16 years old, it’s format is much more confusing, and it has a lot less hands on games than the 2nd edition. I mean, they updated it for a reason, right? I was set to just suck it up and order it along with our main curriculum, but it just felt like I was settling for second best somehow. I was not happy. So I thought maybe there may be a way to ‘tweak’ it, or find something very similar but more affordable.

So with a heavy sigh, I did some online research. With my trusted coffee steaming away in my hand, and soothing my frazzled soul, I read tons of reviews. Then I stumbled onto a website with a math curriculum selector and that was a total game changer! It has a fairly in depth quiz about your child’s learning style, your teaching style, and then spits out your scores for various math curricula.

The secular grade K-6 rates your compatibility for Beast Academy, Math Mammoth, Mathematical Reasoning, McRuffy, Miquon, RightStart, Saxon, Shiller, Singapore, and  Teaching Textbooks. The Christian math k-6 rates your compatibility for Abeka, Bob Jones, Christian Light Education, Horizons, Life of Fred, Lifepac, Math U See, Rod and Staff, and Switched on Schoolhouse.

Yes, I was surprised to learn that even math can have religion thrown in! I’m speechless! Not that I’m not spiritual, but for me, I’m not integrating our faith and beliefs with our school curriculum, it’s a very personal choice.

So I did the quiz, and was surprised (sort of) by our results! Our scores:

  • Score for Math Mammoth: 3 I own this, and was thinking of using it in a couple of years. Seems it may not be a good fit, at least not right now. Maybe down the road…
  • Score for Mathematical Reasoning: 8 We are using this now! It’s not awful, but not great either. It gets the job done, but with no explanations.
  • Score for McRuffy: 13 Wow! look at that! Tied with my first choice, and costs significantly less too! This just became my first choice!
  • Score for RightStart: 13 Reinforcing what I thought, RightStart would be the best option for us!
  • Score for Saxon: 6 this was my backup, and was seriously considering this since on paper it’s almost a RightStart clone! But look at that score! Less than what we use now!!!
  • Score for Math U See: 2 Ironic! This is what we started with at the beginning of our 2016-2017 year! We were not even half way through Primer when we decided enough was enough, and put it on the shelf. We may try to use it in a year or two, but it just wasn’t working for us on so many levels!

I had heard of McRuffy once before, but never thought anything about it. Maybe the name turned me off? I don’t know. But now, here I am looking at their website, checking out reviews, and falling more and more under McRuffy’s spell! I like it. I really like it.

Check out this Video, It lists the “cons” of this program as only going to grade 5! Wow!!! This says a lot. This program is so good that it’s a “con” that it doesn’t continue on into higher grades!

I am usually totally against getting curriculum from two or more places, but this year, I think I’ll make an exception. Two places. Two boxes to ship. And I’ll still come in just at my budget, maybe a few dollars more.

Kindergarten Color Math Curriculum | Main photo (Cover)

The best place I’ve found to get McRuffy’s is at Rainbow Resources, and they also sell the manipulatives kit too!

Math Manipulative Super Set (K-3) | Main photo (Cover)

So now I’m feeling pretty good about this year’s choices. I hope it’s a fun, eventful, learning filled year filled with tons of those light bulb turning on “aha” moments for Peanut! And lots of hands on art and crafts. And sparklies. We need sparklies! Now to reward myself with a warm cup of coffee, with a sprinkle of cocoa and a dash of vanilla! Way to go Mama!!!

Just when I thought it was over… The great 2017 curriculum debate part 2!

A couple of months ago I was absolutely sure of what we were going to use for our 2017-2018 school year. I was excited about it. I began counting the days till I could order it. Moving Beyond the Page 4-5 plus RightStart math seemed almost perfect. The only flaw was that RightStart math was the 1st edition, I would have much preferred the 2nd edition or Saxon math K. But it was as close to perfect as I could get from one company!

Then came a notice in my email that Bookshark did two amazing things. They have redone their curriculum guides, now they are in color and are more user friendly. The second huge difference this year, they are now selling RightStart Math 2nd edition! Not only that, they also have Saxon Math too!

What’s a homeschooling mama to do?

I have 3 options floating around now.

1.  Stay with my original choice. Moving Beyond the Page is a fantastic curriculum. 30 books to read, 30 topics to explore. Peanut will be having lots of fun through all the fun read-aloud books, art, crafts, internet links to videos, etc.

RightStart math 1, 1st edition, is a bit harder than the 2nd edition to do properly. It also is less user friendly, the 2nd edition is better laid out. They don’t offer Saxon math, so I have to go with the 1st edition or opt for the Mathematical Reasoning Ebook like I did this year. Not to say Mathematical Reasoning isn’t a good, solid math curriculum, it is. It just doesn’t explain the concepts. This is why I want to switch to a more hands-on math curriculum.

Also, the cost would be approximately $885 including shipping for the curriculum and the math, or if I threw in ABeCeDarian reading program, it would be $975, about $80 over what I wanted to spend, but still very much in our price range!

Pros:

  • over 30 fantastic picture books! This will keep Peanut’s attention!
  • Every 5 days is a new book and new topic
  • There are allowances on ALL writing – they even provide ideas for non-writers so that they can still do the writing lesson – ie. instead of writing the letter A, they will trace it in a tray filled with shaving cream! (messy but fun too!)
  • almost ALL the needed materials for the program is included in a kit, and each unit’s items are separated for ease! So for example, if you’re doing unit one, you just grab the bag labelled unit one and you’re set for allmost all the hands on stuff for the week.
  • Some days are kind of ‘light’ academically, and although it may be a con sometimes, it may also turn out to be a pro since Peanut is still having issues with attention span.
  • It looks amazingly fun! I actually want to do this curriculum!!!

Cons:

  • I’m not getting the math I really want for Peanut
  • They offer an online or hard copy of the instructor’s guide, not both together. Once you activate an online unit, you have 3 months to use it. After it expires, you have a year to still view it online (without access to the student pages). This means you can’t print out the student pages all at once. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but it’s annoying, since I would prefer the online guide over the hard copy.

2. Go with Bookshark Pre-Kindergarten package, but opt for the Kindergarten Language arts and readers. For math, I have a choice between RightStart 2nd edition, Saxon math, Singapore math, or two others!

Pros: (from their website)

  • Provide your child a small glimpse of our large world with the colorful Kids Beginner’s World Atlas. They will also be introduced to history and how cities and streets have changed over time. From professions to transportation, this year is an exciting time to explore the world!
  • Read-Alouds are a building block to reading and provides a memorable part of homeschooling that you will share with your child every year with BookShark! Snuggle up and read our collection of stories like Winnie the Pooh and Babe the Gallant Pig!
  • Learn about seasons, weather, plants, animals, the ocean and much more!
  • Starting in Week 11, you will work with hands-on manipulatives to build a math foundation that focuses on patterns, shapes and numbers (recognition, counting and addition/subtraction).
  • Daily Time Requirement: Less than an hour

Pros: (mine)

  • I’ll get the math curriculum I want!
  • Peanut will get 21 fantastic read-aloud stories ranging from Winnie the Pooh to Why do Tigers Have Stripes
  • The Kindergarten Language Arts teaches phonics, writing, reading, creative writing
  • The built in Pre-K math will reinforce what we’ve already learned
  • I’d be reading Peanut some of my favorite childhood books!
  • The cost! Approximately $956 including shipping. This is about $60 over what I planned to spend, but it includes RightStart math AND Handwriting Without Tears!

Cons: (mine)

  • No arts and crafts. No hands-on activities. I’ll have to turn to Pinterest to get some ideas…
  • Peanut may not want to sit still long enough to hear stories from books with minimal illustrations (Winnie the Pooh, Babe the Gallant Pig)
  • Some of the book discussions may be over his ability

3. Use Bookshark level K with Saxon math. RightStart math would bring the cost of the package to $745 plus approximately $400 for shipping to the island, so that’s about $240 over my budget! Ack!!! I know we could somehow manage it, but Saxon math would only bring it to  $640 plus approximately $350 for shipping, making it only $100 over budget.

Pros: (from Website):

  • Study Ancient Egypt, Rome, knights and castles, geography, climates and much more.  Engage your child with conversation as we equip you with questions to connect him or her to the various people and places you will discover.
  • Reading aloud to your children builds their vocabulary, listening skills and imagination. Read-Alouds also help build your children’s congnitive development and gives them a passion to learn. Cuddle-up and read 23 Read-Aloud classics like Dr. Dolittle and The Boxcar Children.
  • After your children learn just 8 letters of the alphabet they will read real stories in the Fun Tales series.
  • Science K introduces basic concepts in Biology, Earth Science, and Physics—topics you’ll return to again over the years. Includes nearly 100 science experiments in the Discover and Do DVD along with supplies you need so you and your child can recreate the experiments.
  • Daily Time Requirements: 1.5 – 2 hrs

Pros: (mine)

  • I love the selection of books for this level, they are childhood favorites of mine!
  • I love the way Peanut will be introduced to everything from dinosaurs to space flight!
  • The instructor’s guide is laid out for 36 weeks, and 4 days a week, this is exactly the schedule we currently use! It’s like it’s made for us!!!
  • There are science experiments, and it includes almost all the necessary items!
  • I can choose the math program I want!
  • The language arts incorporates phonics and reading, no need for an extra program.

Cons:

  • Not as hands-on as I’d like, but it still has 2 or 3 activities a week plus a science experiment a week too. I know I can add to it by getting ideas online from Pinterest, but it’s a con since I’d have to do all the leg work from finding the arts/crafts to gathering the needed items.
  • The read-aloud books aren’t as heavily illustrated, so they may not hold Peanut’s attention, and he may get bored.
  • This curriculum relies on discussing the books as we read them, and Peanut isn’t ready for a true discussion yet. He’s getting there, but it may be another year before he can get the full benefit of this curriculum.
  • The language arts program is wonderful, except the writing part may be too hard for Peanut. He will likely need Occupational Therapy for his fine motor skills for handwriting.

 

So what’s a confused, anxiety ridden mama to do? Go with a GREAT fully loaded curriculum full of picture books and great hands-on stuff every week (Moving Beyond the Page) but not have the math I want? Go with a literary based pre-K curriculum (Bookshark) with minimal hands on activities but a GREAT math program? Or go with a GREAT literary based 5-7 year old program that offers some hands-on fun, a science experiment a week, a GREAT phonics & reading program, a good math program (Saxon), but may not hold Peanut’s attention yet…

Actually, writing all this out has helped me. I think I found my path!

For 2017-2018 we’ll probably do Moving Beyond the Page 4-5, RightStart 1st edition (ugh!), and may do ABeCeDarian Reading, but I’m not sold on that one. I’m still unsure of getting the hard copy or online version. I also could just get the curriculum, and get Saxon Math (plus the manipulation kit) as well as handwriting without tears from Rainbow Resources, and still come in just slightly over budget.

For 2018-2019 we’ll do either Bookshark 5-7, or if we love Moving beyond the page, we’ll stay with that and do their 5-7, but math would be an issue again…