Ninth-grade Home Ec and the Homemaker Master Pathfinder Award

You may or may not be ready to think about curricula for next school year, but if you’re stressing over your child’s first year of high school coming up in the fall, perhaps this will ease your stress.

Combining home economics and Pathfinder honors turned out to be a time- and energy-saving trick we pulled for my son’s ninth-grade year. I had my hands full with the younger kids on a daily basis, and just didn’t have the time to put into creating a curriculum for this basic elective overall. By using the time-tested Pathfinder honors, my workload was greatly reduced, leaving only teaching/supervision of the actual projects and looking over his completed paperwork on my plate in terms of implementation and evaluation. The planning process boiled down to calculating hours, choosing the honors to complete, and scheduling the content.

In this blog post, I’ll run you through the process we used to incorporate Pathfinder honors into a curriculum to receive high school credit. This could be accomplished for many different electives.

Assigning Credit Hours
(As always, you will want to check with your state’s education department to verify the following information, as each state may have different requirements. The following information is provided as a general guideline, and you may need to adapt accordingly.)

Calculating high school hours seems daunting, but it’s actually fairly simple. One HS credit hour = 120-180 hours of work. This translates as 50 minutes/day for five days/week for 36 weeks. (Just a note: “core” classes like math, science, and language arts should receive 180 hours/year; electives such as art, music and photography fall at the 120 hour end.) If you finish 75% or more of a high school level text in a year, this is generally considered the equivalent of a high school credit. You also may complete a three-hour course at a community college and count it as one (1) high school credit.

A 1/2-credit course in high school will require exactly half of the full credit hours: 60-90 hours/year, with electives falling on the 60 hours of work end. The class may be taught over a year or a semester since homeschooling by nature allows for flexibility. Over the course of a year, the student should spend approximately 30 min/day for five days/week on the subject matter, or 50 minutes/day for two to three days/week. If the elective is completed over a semester, you would want to adjust the days per week or number of hours to meet the requirements.

Choosing the Content
The next step was to choose the content to match the number of hours required, and also meet the general requirements of a home economics course taught elsewhere. When I compared the Pathfinder honors available to pre-packaged curricula, they basically covered the same material.

A list of the Pathfinder honors under “Household Arts” is available at: http://www.investitureachievement.org/wiki/index.php/Category:Adventist_Youth_Honors_Answer_Book/Homemaking_Master_Award.

If you click on the “Homemaking Master” honor, you will find a complete list of the honors available in one place. Take note that completion of seven of the honors earns the master honor patch in this category. As I wanted to cover Home Economics broadly, we chose honors from several areas, rather than choosing all of the food preparation honors, for example.

The honors my son and I decided upon were Baking, Basic Sewing, Cooking, Advanced Cooking, Household Budgeting, Housekeeping, Laundering, and Nutrition.

Worksheets for each honor are at this website: http://rmcap.org/files/Honor_Worksheets.pdf, and the answers may be found at the first link given, under “Homemaking Master Honor,” at the bottom of the page.

I enlisted Grandma’s help for the sewing portion!

Writing a Course Description
After we decided which honors to pursue, and printed off the corresponding worksheets, I helped my son organize a binder for the subject’s paperwork. Then it made sense to go ahead and write a course description (below), as I would eventually need this detail for a transcript anyway. (You would want to alter this description to meet your specific needs, or write your own.)

Course: Home Economics
Course Credit: 0.5
Grade Percentage: 60% project(s) effort and completion, 40% written assignments
Course Overview: This Home Economics course teaches the fundamentals of Family and Consumer Sciences. Topics include baking, basic sewing, cooking, housekeeping, laundering, household budgeting and nutrition. Each topic includes written assignments meant to cover basic and some advanced theory/concepts and skills. Multiple projects are assigned with each topic to provide practical, hands-on experience and real-time instruction. The SDA Pathfinder honor requirements for no less than seven (7) honors are covered in this course to earn the Homemaking Master honor.
Textbooks: (none)

Scheduling
We decided to run home economics over the course of the entire school year. Our reasoning for this was that his other elective was music and it would also run for the entire year, thus making daily scheduling consistent for the year.

  • Some tips:
    1. Make a list of all the projects your child will need to complete the chosen honors.
    2. Divide these projects out on monthly calendars. List the honor AND NUMBER these correspond to, as well — it is hard to figure out whether the Edamame Salad went under “salad” or “vegetable” or as part of the “complete meal” after the fact!
    Estimate the time it will take to complete the written work and fill those assignments in on the calendar, too.
    3. In general, for a semester-long course, you will need two to three projects/week plus two to three days of paperwork. For a year-long course, plan on one to two projects/week and one to two days of paperwork. (Take each project’s estimated length into consideration when scheduling.) We front-loaded the practical work into fall semester, so that March and April were clear for make-up work and longer written assignments such as compiling a recipe file, completing a meal chart, creating menus, etc.
    4. Have your child check off and date each project completed on the calendar itself. Circle any project not completed in the week assigned so you can attend to it later.
    5. Do not attempt to schedule complicated projects (such as the Strawberry Cream Cake on the cover of your favorite magazine…) on days when you already have a full schedule. Teaching for a practical course doesn’t lend itself to rushed or tense explanations. Learning is best achieved in a relaxed environment, so choose days that are more wide open.
    6. Planning time on Thursday or Friday for cooking or baking projects is sometimes nice because you can take the completed work to potluck! Don’t forget freezing items for use at a later event, i.e. garlic rolls or cookies for a church event you will have to contribute to, anyway!

Our scheduling system has worked fairly well. I probably underestimated the time it would take to complete so many Pathfinder honors; if I were to do it again, I’d at least double — maybe quadruple, OIY! — the time it takes me to make a recipe or do the laundry when initially counting the hours for the class. But as they say, it all comes out in the wash…and hopefully he learned something!

A cooking project: breakfast of fresh pears, boiled eggs, and potatoes and onions.

What’s the BEST home education style?

Ahhh, homeschooling styles. A quick visit to any homeschool forum and you’ll soon see a post asking about styles and curriculum, and as many different opinions as there are responses. We all want the best for our children, and we’re all worried that we’re not supplying our kids with the best. It might be a Facebook post from a mother showing off the amazing nature study her child has done or a science experiment they’ve completed…and you realise you haven’t been able to do anything like that for a while. We all question what we’re doing from time to time.

Well, rest easy. Whichever style you’re using, it’s not the best. And, that’s alright. How do I know you’re not using the best style? Well, hear me out and see if you agree. Our society has been becoming more black and white, more all or nothing, and we’re losing the ability to see the nuances and the shades of grey between even two choices, let alone the amount of teaching styles available to us. We throw around terms like “best” without ever really defining what we’re asking. The “best candidate.” Yeah, for whom? About what? The “best home educating style.” What do we mean? What would be the best for the way your child learns? The one that gives them the broadest knowledge base? Or, is it the one that gives the deepest knowledge in their preferred areas? The best for us as the teacher? The best for their personality? The best that fits in with our family and the different children we are teaching? The best to impart lots of biblical knowledge? The best at helping them become the hands and feet of Jesus? The best for our educational philosophies? The best to comply with our states requirements? The best to foster a life-long love of learning? The list goes on…

There’s a good chance many of these questions would have a different curriculum or style — but still come out as the best. We all have to work out what we’re trying to achieve, and a choice for something is a choice against something else. So, what are we to do? With all the choices out there, how can we be confident that the style we’re using is the best for our children and family? I can’t tell you which method is best for you, but I can share the steps I’ve taken to make sure I’m comfortable with my choice.

1) As always, pray. Pray that we’ll have wisdom in what we’re doing, and that whatever we do, we’ll be able to raise the children we’ve been given to be the people God made them to be.

2) Keep up with research about the way people learn. Read books on the subject; subscribe to websites where researchers on education have posted. There are some fascinating articles in psychology today on education. This allows us to check regularly against what we’re doing, so we can see if there is something we can implement. Don’t settle for anything just because it’s always been done that way. As home educators, we can look at the pros and cons of everything. It’s a real blessing not to be burdened with doing something just because it’s the way it’s always been done. We can know why we do everything we do.

3) Find out which style of homeschooling best fits our educational philosophy. Once we know a bit about how children learn, and we know our own children, we can start to look at the different styles out there to help us teach our kids. There are many websites with quizzes where you can answer a few questions about your priorities, and these will then tell you which style suits you best. I did this when I first started looking into home educating. I hadn’t heard of most of the styles it mentioned, but it gave me a great jumping off point for my research. I knew I could get away with only a quick skim of any that didn’t suit me, and focus on those that matched our philosophies. This saved a lot of time, and as I read up on different styles, it was incredibly accurate.

4) Research the recommended methods and curriculums available, and join some forums or facebook groups dedicated to those methods. You can learn so much from other parents. Once you know your philosophies, you can start to glean information from like-minded folks and see how they incorporate things into their system. Remember, you don’t need to do everything exactly the same as others with similar philosophies. Some people fall in love with a style, and disapprove of anyone doing it slightly differently to how they think it should be done.

5)  Look realistically at your children and yourself, and see what will work best for your family and its particular situation. I have three boys. They’re all different, but I’m not about to use three totally different styles. It would be impossible. I can use slightly different implementation for the different boys, but overall the philosophy isn’t going to change. I didn’t want to start one thing with the first that wouldn’t also work for the other boys. There were compromises to make there. On top of that, while I could see them flourishing from a particular style, I knew with my health issues it wouldn’t work very well for our family, particularly in the younger years. I believe that where we’ve ended up is the best compromise for our family.

Once you settle on a style, get started. It won’t be perfect; nothing here on earth is. What’s important is that you know why you’ve chosen what you have, and why it’s best for you right now. It will change and evolve. When you see things other parents are doing, you may want to add a bit. If something isn’t working, you may want to replace it with something else. We always need slight corrections as our journey progresses, but if we know why we are (or aren’t) doing something and have a philosophy behind it, then we at least have a place to start.

Do you agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear any thoughts.

Staying Consistent at Home and School

I’ve heard it since I was round with my first overdue baby: “The secret to parenting is being consistent.”

My parents said it. Uncles and aunts said it. The doctor, the grocer, the pastor all said it. To a large degree I see it’s true, but on many days it feels the only thing consistent about our life and parenting is the chaos. This is especially clear now that our kids are old enough to homeschool.

Staying Consistent at Home

Although we often feel like failures in this department, there are a few things we can count on in our house. They may be few in number, but they pack a punch.

  • Sabbath
    We keep the Sabbath in our house. We may be less strict with toys and activities than some Sabbath-keeping families, and more strict in other aspects, but the weekly observance is the same. Our kids can count on the Sabbath. They can depend on church, lunch with the grandparents, and a relaxed day.
  • Discipline
    It may have been a rocky uphill climb, but we have finally landed on a system of discipline that works well for us. We stopped spanking, and our kids do push-ups for disobedience. It really has stopped a lot of behaviors that we were not happy with (including our own). The push-ups give the kids a chance to slow down, calm down, and breathe.
  • Love
    No matter what happens everyday (as I said, we live a hectic life), in our house the kids can count on love — hugs whenever they want them, lots of kisses and cuddles and encouraging words.
  • Nap Time
    Sometimes we aren’t at home for nap time or the kids sleep in the car. If this happens we skip nap time. If we’re home, though, the kids can count on nap time at 2 p.m. every day. This recharges Mom, gives the oldest an opportunity to have quiet time, and gives the two youngest some much-needed sleep.

Staying Consistent at School

Our homeschool is not consistent in any stretch of the imagination, but we’re working at it. At this point in time there is very little the kids can count on, because we just changed our curriculum. Since it’s so chaotic, we try to keep the things that we can as consistent as possible.

  • Rewards and Praise
    We try to reward the kids for school work, both in game time (either video games, or the games on their school program). We also like to use stickers, along with hugs and kisses (which works the best for the youngest two!).
  • Same Time
    I try very hard to have at least some class time at the same time each day. This affords my son the opportunity to think, “oh, it’s time for school,” at the same time each day. It also gives him a special time that’s just his. When the others are old enough to have school daily, I will give them their own time as well.
  • The Subject Matter
    We tried a curriculum that only taught sight words for reading, but realized our son responds better to phonics. We finally chose a system of learning that we’re happy with, so now we are sticking with it. We’re sticking with a curriculum that reflects our beliefs as well as what we learned, so we’re better able to teach them.

A Routine

It’s so important to have a routine. Since we’re not in a place to have a consistent routine in our house, we’re at least going to discuss a routine every morning, and that will be consistent. We can call it The Breakfast Battle Plan. This will be a solid start.

Curriculum

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This time around let’s talk about curriculum. As I said in my last post, there are many choices. We will look at four different curricula today:

The first one is well known among Adventist homeschoolers. It’s Sonlight Education Ministry. This curriculum is free to download and print, making it very affordable for anyone who is on a budget. It includes math, history, geography, health, music, nature lessons, voice lessons, and Desire of All Nations. For parents it comes with a letter to read about the curriculum, checklist documents to keep track of books you need, a catalog, outlines for lessons, posters, and other helpful things to make the curriculum easier to use.

This curriculum is totally centered on Christ and the Bible. Every subject is Christ-centered and uses the Bible as a stepping stone to ensure learning. I have used this curriculum myself and have found it to be complete, hands on, and very in-depth. It’s laid out in an easy-to-use, concise manner. If having a budget friendly, Christ-centered, easy-to-use curriculum is important, this is the one or you. It only gets better because it’s Adventist, so there is no need to worry if the curriculum creators beliefs are in line with your own.

The second curriculum that we will cover is also popular among Christians: Abeka. While this curriculum is expensive, it is the choice of many homeschoolers. It can be used independently or guided by teachers. The price depends on which option you choose. Each kit for third grade will run you about $300, for example. When I looked up teacher-led, it ran about $1,000 for a year. Abeka, like the Sonlight Education Ministry, is Christ-centered. It uses the Bible as a way to help children learn their lessons. Subjects included are math, language arts, art, science, music, foreign language, health, spelling, phonics, reading, and electives.

We have used a few things from Abeka, and they were cute and fun to use. The lessons are thought-provoking and engaging. I would use Abeka again, but it wouldn’t be my first choice due to price. If you want an engaging, Christ-centered, easy curriculum, this is a great one. If, however, you are on a budget, this may not be the best choice for you.

Our third curriculum is Christian Light Education. Like the other two, this one is also Christian-based. Unlike the other two, it looks like you must buy every subject separately. They offer reading, Bible, language arts, math, science, and social studies. Despite that, the curriculum is often talked about as being a great choice among homeschoolers. Their first grade social studies is relatively cheap at about $18. I have used one of their social studies books, and they teach such truth. My son learned that during Columbus’ time people already knew the earth was round, whereas in public school I was taught people thought it was flat.

This is a great curriculum if you want Christian teaching and in-depth learning. I think the only downside may be that I haven’t seen anywhere you can buy it as a whole curriculum. Other than that, this is a wonderful choice for many homeschooling families.

Our last curriculum this post is Tapestry of Grace. I have heard this one talked about several times in homeschooling circles. They go by years starting at primary and ending at year four. Year one is about the ancient world. Like the others it is centered around Christian beliefs. An example would be that all governments are established by God. This curriculum offers history, literature, geography, government, arts and activities, writing, and worldview. Pricing depends on which package you buy: the unit sampler package costs $85, while the family package runs close to $500. So, this curriculum can be highly affordable if you have a budget. Many homeschoolers say this is their curriculum of choice due its Christian roots and pricing.

While I have never personally used this curriculum, it does seem very Christian based, and the books look beautiful.The price is great, and it seems you get a lot of customer service support. One day I will sample it to give all of you a better idea of what it is like. I went ahead and added it, though, because so many people recommend it, and it is on many list as a top Christian curriculum. From what I can see, it really is a beautiful, in-depth, Christian curriculum.

Well, that is it for this posting! If you have read until this point, thank you! Please join me in my next post where I will discuss how you can use Christian teaching and ideas in health and even physical education curriculum.

Exploring Methods for the Early Learner | Unit Studies

exploring-homeschooling-methods-for-the-early-learner

Do you and your kids like hands-on projects? Do you like to lose yourself in your studies, immersing yourself and discovering the many facets of a topic? Do you like to weave together math, science, history, language arts, and more? Do you have two or more kids whom you would love to learn as much together as possible? If you answered yes to any of these questions, unit studies might be a great approach for your homeschool.

A Little Bit About Unit Studies

Unit studies are a bit different than the other methods of homeschooling I will be talking about, as they are compatible with most homeschooling theories or methods. Unit studies can be used as part of the Charlotte Mason Method, unschooling, the Moore Formula, and more. They can also be combined as a stand-alone homeschooling strategy.

Unit studies may be small, lasting only a week or two, or large, lasting for a whole quarter or even a semester. By taking a theme, let’s say the “Human Body,” and stretching it across subject areas, you have the opportunity to dive deep and create a unit of study. You may read about the human body in a book, play games about the human body, build models of the body, read books about famous doctors or people who made great discoveries in health. You may work on exercise and healthy meals, do human body science experiments, or write a fictional story about how the immune system works. You can explore vocabulary, and even use math by measuring the length your small intestine would be if you stretched it out and more.

One of the best things about unit studies is that you can include the whole family in much of the activities, slightly tweaking assignments for varying ages. It cuts back on planning and requires less time than covering different topics as separate subjects for each child.

Why Unit Studies

Young children are masters of unit studies. Have you ever watched a preschooler or early elementary child get hung up on something like firefighters? For a time, they are obsessed. They want to dress like firefighters, play with fire trucks, and be a firefighter when they grow up. Any hose-like object becomes a firehose, and no danger is too big to escape their heroism. They want to read about them, watch them, and more. This continues until they are ready to move on to the next new thing to explore — maybe horses.

By surrounding a child with opportunities to learn about something in different ways, often their curiosity is naturally piqued, and they grasp hold of the topic or theme being presented. Children love making connections.

A Day in the Life of a Unit Study Family

As with unschooling, it’s difficult to say what a day in the life of a family following a unit study plan might look like. With this type of homeschooling, the amount of structure varies, and it can be easier to see an overview of a whole unit study, rather than a particular day. For purposes of discussion, I’m packing more in this example day than would actually be feasible. These activities might all be broken up over the course of a week, but I feel it can give you a better picture of what homeschooling might look like.

The family in this example is a family of three, a four-year-old boy (Trent), six year-old girl (Trudy), and seven-year-old boy (Trevor). They are studying about pioneers and the westward expansion.

7:00 a.m. – Everyone is up, working on their chores, and helping to get breakfast rolling.

8:00 – Family worship at the breakfast table, then everyone helps to clean up and get ready for the day.

9:00 – Everyone meets at the table to start the school day with calendar time, math, and any individual lessons. Handwriting might include copying sentences about pioneers. Trevor and Trudy review some vocabulary words from the story they are reading — things like bluffs, spade, foundation, and sprain. Trent joins in mostly for calendar time, but plays with his toys while his older siblings finish up.

9:30 – Everyone gathers around to read The Little House on the Prairie. Today they are reading about building the cabin. Trent plays with his cars while he listens, Judy colors, and Trevor just sits and listens.

10:00 – It’s time to do some brainstorming and planning. Trevor and Trudy are asked to use a mind map to brainstorm how they would build their own log cabin, what materials they would use, etc. Trevor writes a paragraph and illustrates it. Trudy writes a sentence and illustrates it. Trent talks about his cabin with his mom and draws a picture.

10:30 – They all go out and measure out the size of a typical cabin built by pioneers, and do some math from the reading. For example, if Pa built the cabin three logs high all the way around, how many logs did he use in all four sides?

10:45 – The children come inside and start to build log cabins out of Lincoln Logs.

11:15 – It’s time to make lunch together. The family has been cooking recipes out of the Little House on the Prairie cookbook a couple days a week for lunch. Today they read about staples from the country store, and are working together to make hasty pudding to go with the rest of their lunch. While they cook they talk about how it would have been different to cook on the frontier vs in modern kitchens.

12:00 p.m. – Lunch

12:30 – Everyone helps clean up.

1:00 – Quiet time. Everyone picks their own books to read. Mom reads to Trent. There is a basket of books about pioneers that the kids like to pick from to look at and read during this time.

2:00 – The afternoons change. Sometimes they do art, sometimes science experiments, sometimes field trips or music lessons, etc. Today they are going to start a new project. They are going to make plans for their own prairie garden just like Ma had. They will measure and plan, and if they get everything ready on time, they will get to go to the store before supper to pick out everything they need to start their garden.

This would end the “school” day and the day would continue as normal afterward.

Materials, Resources, and Curriculums for Unit Studies

Often people who do unit studies write their own. You can also find several free unit study ideas and curriculums by searching online, and there are several boxed curriculums and resources that make it easier. Please feel free to comment below to suggest other resources and ideas.

Amanda Bennett Unit Studies – Some pre-made unit studies of all different lengths: a great and inexpensive option to dive in with unit studies based on your state requirements, your child’s interests, or any timeline you may be following.

Konos – A full unit-study based curriculum that focuses on character traits.

The Weaver Curriculum – A unit-based curriculum from Alpha Omega publishing.

Five in a Row – A literature-based unit study approach that begins with Before Five in a Row for your two- to four-year-olds, and continues with Five in a Row for children up to age eight.

Are Unit Studies Right for Me?

Unit studies can work in a lot of different situations, but just like all schooling styles, the question is, is it a fit for you and your family?

  • If you like the idea of everyone in your family learning together, unit studies are a great way to span different ages.
  • If you enjoy diving deep into a topic and exploring things beyond a textbook, unit studies provide a great opportunity.
  • If you don’t mind taking the time to do in-depth projects and field trips, you might have just found your perfect match.

How About You?

Are you thinking about unit studies, but simply aren’t sure? What are your questions? Thoughts? Reservations? Excitements? Are there other homeschooling styles you are curious about for your preschool, kindergarten, or first- or second-grader? Let’s get the conversation started in the comments below!

Find Out More

  1. “What is a Unit Study?” By Amanda Bennett: http://unitstudy.com/blog/what-is-a-unit-study/
  2. One way to plan a unit study: http://unitstudy.com/blog/what-is-a-unit-study/
  3. Another way to plan a unit study: http://www.dummies.com/education/homeschooling/designing-homeschool-unit-studies/
  4. “The Ultimate List of Unit Study Resources”: http://www.sidetrackedsarah.com/2012/08/the-ultimate-list-of-unit-study-resources/
  5. Free online unit studies: http://www.freehomeschooldeals.com/category/unit-study/
  6. More free unit studies: http://eclectic-homeschool.com/free-unit-studies/
  7. Astronaut unit study I put together: https://homeschoolingatjesusfeet.wordpress.com/category/unit-studies/astronauts/
  8. Excellent planning resources and examples from a unit study family: https://www.pepperandpine.com
  9. Unit study resources recommended by SDA Homeschool Families: http://www.sdahomeschools.org/unit-study/