Build Your Basics with Block Scheduling

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Do you ever feel like, as soon as you really start to delve into a subject with your children, it is too often time to put it away and move onto the next class? Do you find yourself wishing for larger amounts of time to spend really studying your current topic? Does your day seem crammed full of too many fragmented classes that never really seem to be properly attended to? If your answer is “yes” to any of the above, then a solution for your home school may be to consider block scheduling.

With block scheduling, it is exactly what the name states — blocks of time in which you schedule your homeschool classes. Your first step is to choose the period of time that you want to divide your homeschool into. You can have a block of time — called a term — that might be as long as half your school year, commonly called a semester. On the other hand, you might choose a term that is as short as a couple of weeks.

With traditional scheduling, you have your list of classes you are going to teach, and you teach all the classes each week. Perhaps you are teaching both science and world history: You might teach science class two days a week, and world history two days a week. If this type of a schedule works for you, great! But if you feel your child is forgetting what they learned earlier in the week because there has been a day in between of teaching a different subject, then you might want to consider block scheduling.

For example, with the two classes already mentioned above, you might decide to teach science class for four days a week the first semester, and no world history at all; then, when second semester comes around you do the opposite, teach world history four days a week — but you have already finished your science curriculum for the year.

If you have many topics of study you want to teach, block scheduling may help. For instance, I would like to teach my daughter cooking, baking, and sewing. I could try to fit in a day of each, every single week, but I would most likely burn out with trying to keep them all going. So, these subjects are a great possibility for block scheduling.

In our home school this year, I have our school year divided into six terms of eight weeks each. During our first semester, we did term one with cooking being one of our subjects. When term two came around, we stopped specific instruction in cooking — although of course my daughter continued making foods she had learned how to make — and changed our focus to baking. With term three, our concentration changed to sewing. Our plan now for the second semester coming up is to simply repeat a term of each one of these; so, we will have eight weeks of cooking, followed by eight weeks of baking, and finally eight more weeks of sewing.

Other possibilities for block scheduling could be to spend a term on writing and another term focusing on literature, or a term of spelling and another term of grammar. Using block scheduling this way can lesson the number of subjects you are concentrating on each week, and therefore each day.

“But, what about math?” I can almost hear someone ask! Well, I’m glad you asked that question! There are definitely some subjects that really are best done on a daily basis. Reading instruction when you are teaching your child how to read is one of those subjects. So can be handwriting practice, mathematics, and foreign language study.

Now, if you have a really, really good memory, you just might remember that back at the beginning of this school year, I wrote a blog post about loop scheduling. So, if I convinced you then on the merits of loop scheduling, but now I am singing the praises of block scheduling, which one do I use? The answer to that is BOTH! As I already mentioned above, I am using block scheduling for our cooking, baking, and sewing classes. I also use block scheduling for our physics, social studies, robotics, and art. However, I find I like loop scheduling best for our Bible, since I have a variety of materials I am using in our Bible time, and I want to make sure I can get some study or reading done using all of the materials. I am also using loop scheduling for our language arts materials for the same reasons; we are doing language arts every day, but the specifics of what we are doing changes as we work our way down our loop.

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And, what about our “must do daily” types of things? For our family, that is mainly our math and our music. So, those are the two subjects that I do not put either in a loop schedule or in a block schedule. We simply do them every single day.

I hope this has helped give you some ideas of how you can use different schedules to meet the needs of your family, and help de-stress your home school daily life! Remember — your schedule is to work for YOU, not you for your schedule!

Early Learning Calendar Board!

Since my oldest graduated and my next two are in middle school, I am re-entering the early learning phase with my three-year-old! Over the last 17 years of homeschooling, I have learned so much about what works for our family and for each child. It’s been a lot of trials, errors, and triumphs, but I am looking forward to starting again. This time, though, it will be more relaxed.

I am a firm believer in waiting until a child is developmentally ready for formal education. I believe young children should have lots of free play time and time to discover their interests. Our three-year-old is one who loves music and singing. She sings all over the house and remembers words to songs very well. So, what better way to introduce her to topics than through song? She asks me every day what day of the week it is, so I knew she was ready to start learning the days of the weeks, months of the year, and calendar. Pinterest is one of my favorite spots to find great ideas, and it was here that I stumbled across this adorable calendar trifold board. The credit for this idea goes to Amber from her blog From ABC’s to ACT’s!

I love laminating fun little activities, and putting them on a trifold board was a perfect condensed way to work with her, so this was right up my alley! All of the printables were free. I laminated them, cut them out, and affixed velcro to the back. I then positioned them on the board and put the opposite velcro where I wanted them to stick. The headings, days of the week, and months of the year are secured with clear packing tape. I also made pockets out of two sheet protectors. Then I bordered the whole thing with fun duct tape. All in all the project cost about $10! She really loves it and sings the songs all over the house.

Her schedule this year consists of morning time with me and her older siblings, where she plays while we do memory verses and some poetry. Then I do her calendar board with her. After that she has free play, story time, and outside time, and sometimes does a sensory craft with mama. That’s it!

Early learning doesn’t need to be stressful. Keep it simple and open ended. Let them play and explore.

Resources:

Calendar Board Printables – Free

Trifold board and velcro were purchased from Walmart.

Homeschool Fruits: Serenity

According to my handy-dandy dictionary phone app, serenity is “the state of being calm, peaceful, tranquil, unruffled.” It is a freedom of the mind from “annoyance, distraction, anxiety, obsession.”

This is totally you in your daily homeschool life, right?!?

There may have been a bit of sarcasm there. I know when my child still wasn’t reading at nearly nine years old, I didn’t feel particularly calm. The fact that he’s currently a grade and a half behind the rest of his studies in math…does not leave me feeling tranquil.

But, those are momentary emotions, and those emotions do not speak to the longterm truth of homeschooling: Homeschooling allows your child to complete his education where and when he or she is ready — not when the public or private school system dictates, not when Aunt Betty thinks it should be done, not even where any of your own preconceived hopes and plans have placed him. And, that is what brings the homeschool mom or dad the fruit of serenity.

This has been on my mind a lot the last couple months since my son hit his teens. In the elementary years, it seemed we had forever. Now that he’s a teen, I’ve had to remind myself that we still have as long as it takes.

As your child enters or nears the high school years, there is serenity, peace, to be obtained in remembering that homeschooling has so many more options than most of us grew up with in a school system.

Maybe your kid will be the one who homeschools all the way through high school, and completes it with a homeschool transcript, and takes the tests necessary to head into college. That seems like the preferred path to most of us, but don’t get nervous if you’re not sure your child is cut out for that. There are other avenues.

College often provides a base of learning from which you can choose numerous careers.

If he wants to try out an Adventist academy, he can. Many academies would be happy to work with you to integrate your child into their system. If that works out, super! But, here is the serenity of homeschooling again: If it does not work out, if for any reason your child does not flourish in that setting, all he needs to do is come back to homeschooling. There is no success or failure here; there is merely the option of a different path.

Another opportunity might be junior college. She may have finished her freshman and sophomore classes, but is becoming dissatisfied and anxious to “get on with life.” Numerous homeschoolers make it to about 16 years of age, and then decide to just morph into junior college. They may live in a place where they can get dual credit, or they might eventually have to take a GED, but at least they can get a headstart on college. Likewise, your child may not be headed for a four-year degree, but they might want to pick up some classes at the junior college to enhance their personal business plans.

An electrician is a skilled profession that will be needed even in times of poor economy.

If they’re of a more technical bent, they could instead look into the requirements for getting into trade school. Opportunities are endless. Sometimes those of us who took the college route get stymied thinking “whatever could my child do(?!?)” if they don’t have a desire for college. There is so much out there. I’m going to list a bunch here that helped open my brain’s horizons: web developer, electrician, plumber, health field technician, commercial driver, HVAC tech, heavy equipment operator, licensed practical or vocational nurse, medical laboratory tech, computer programmer, non-airline commercial pilot, network systems administrator, animator, electrical engineering tech, first responder like police officer or fireman or EMT, aircraft mechanic, architectural drafter, graphic designer, diesel mechanic, and probably many more than I could think of. Most of those require two years or less of training, and offer quite decent income.

Sometimes the key to Sabbath off in a manual labor job is proficiency. Unwilling to lose my husband’s skill (masonry), his company allowed him to take off Sabbaths when he refused after they initially requested Saturday work.

What about manual labor? Sabbath work requirements are often a fear, but there are jobs to be had where they are willing to work with your Sabbath-off needs, or even where they don’t usually work weekends. Here’s another list of possible jobs or areas for the child who needs to move or craft to be happy: track switch repairman (here’s an example of easy Sabbaths off, as railroad jobs often have weekends off), machinist, petroleum pump system operator, concrete, plant operator, construction, key holder, brick and stone mason, cleanup, iron worker, welding, and more.

Did you just read those last two paragraphs and think they mostly applied to boys? Nope. There are opportunities for your girls, too. Check out these articles to see how women are flourishing in nontraditional trades.

I don’t know what my child will decide to do. He’s not very hip on college right now, but that could change. He might decide to take some basic business classes and operate his own business. He’s a bit of a geek, so I don’t see him spending a lifetime on the construction scaffold, but on the other hand, he might spend summers learning masonry from his dad, and have a needed skill to fall back on no matter what his final career choice is. Or, he might decide to become an engineer or some other school-centric profession, and just take as long to get there as he needs — which could be extensive if current math efforts are indicative. LOL.

There’s no rule that your child needs to finish high school at 17…or 18…or 19…or 20…or period. The serenity fruit of homeschooling comes from knowing that we are allowing our kids to take the path that will best fit their God-given talents and abilities, even if it’s not the path we envisioned.

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you,” Isaiah 26:3 NIV.

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“The Holy Spirit produces a different kind of fruit: unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You won’t find any law opposed to fruit like this,” Galatians 5:22,23 VOICE.

Healthy and Happy in the Kitchen

We are not a perfect family. We try to eat healthy, but do not always succeed. At home I fix mostly vegan meals. Still, my kids love to go to Grandma’s for mac and cheese and ice cream. What to do? How do I instill in them a positive emotion towards healthy foods? While I don’t have all the answers for sure, this is what we’ve done to foster health and happiness in the kitchen. The side benefits, of course, are the skills they’re practicing in math, food science, home economics, nutrition, and time management. But, we won’t tell them all that!

Let Them Cook

My 12-year-old son has taken a liking to baking and cooking. What a delight! Steering him in the direction of foods that he loves to eat, which happen to also be healthy, is the ticket. We started with corn bread (from Cooking Entrees with the Micheff Sisters: A Vegan Vegetarian Cookbook) and moved on to vegan mac and cheese. Once he realized, “Hey, I can read any recipe and follow directions,” he moved up the difficulty scale to vegan lasagna. We served this scrumptious dish to company, and he got praise and positive reinforcement for his efforts. Double bonus!

Other favorites are pasta with sautéed mushrooms, garlic, basil, oregano, and tomatoes, using the pasta water to get the right saucy consistency; and, the ever requested grilled “cheese” sandwich made with vegan CHAO slices on whole grain bread.

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When the boy wants to make banana bread or muffins, and there are no eggs available, he simply looks up a vegan recipe online and goes to work. Through this process he has learned how to substitute ground flax seed and water for eggs. We are also blessed to have a vegan society in our town and take both our kids to the vegan potlucks where they get to sample a variety of yummy nutrition packed food. At one dinner my lucky son won a cookbook, “The Uncheese Cookbook.” I never thought I’d see a pre-adolescent boy get so excited about winning a cookbook. He was thrilled!

Younger kids can start helping in the kitchen by measuring and mixing. My five-year-old has become quite adept at “skinning carrots.” That’s what he calls it! By helping us when we juice vegetables and fruits, he then wants to sample the juice and has loved it from the start.

Below are some of the kids favorite recipes to make.

Spinach Lasagna by Heather McDougall (adapted from the Forks Over Knives App)

Ingredients:

2 lbs. water-packed firm tofu

2 tsp. garlic, minced

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1 Tbs. parsley flakes (or fresh parsley, chopped)

1 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup soy milk

1-2 lbs. fresh spinach, chopped (can use swiss chard)

8 oz. no-boil lasagna noodles (gluten free noodles work as well)

7 cups pasta sauce (we use Trader Joe’s Marinara)

1/2 cup Vegan Parmesan Cheese or daiya mozzarella style shreds

Directions: To make the tofu ricotta, combine tofu, garlic, nutritional yeast, sea salt, parsley, basil, oregano, lemon juice, and soy milk. Mix in food processor or with hand held mixer until just slightly lumpy. Place in large bowl, set aside. Chop spinach and mix into “ricotta.”

Preheat the oven to 350 ºF.

Spread 1 cup pasta sauce over the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Cover the sauce with a layer of noodles. Next, bread half of the ricotta mixture over the noodles. Top with 2 more cups of the sauce. Add another layer of noodles, the rest of the tofu mixture, 2 cups more of the sauce, and the rest of the noodles. Put remaining sauce over the noodles (make sure you cover all the edges), and sprinkle some parmesan or “cheese” over the top. Cover with parchment paper, then foil (we just use foil).

Bake for 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 30 minutes before cutting.

 

Baked Macaroni & Cheeze (adapted from The Uncheese Cookbook)

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Ingredients:

1/4 cup water + 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar or fresh lemon juice

1 large onion, chopped

1 lb. elbow macaroni

2 cups water

1/2 cup pimiento pieces, drained

1/2 cup raw cashew pieces

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 tsp. onion granules

2 tsp. garlic granules

1 tsp. salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 ºF.

Heat the water and vinegar or lemon juice in a large saucepan. Add the onion, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender (about 15-20 minutes). If onion sticks to the pan, add a few teaspoons more water to loosen it.

Cook macaroni in boiling water as directed on package. Drain and set aside.

Process the onions and remaining ingredients in a blender for several minutes until completely smooth. Stir blended mixture into the macaroni and spoon into a lightly oiled 3-quart casserole dish. Bake uncovered for 25-35 minutes. Serve immediately.

Healthy and Happy in the Kitchen

Yes, my son loves to make chocolate chip cookies and pizza too. But, I’m hopeful that his positive exposure to healthy foods and fun healthy cooking experiences will carry into his adult choices. At least he won’t find healthy foods unusual or different, just a taste of home!

How have you instilled healthy and fun eating habits in your family? Has cooking helped your children grow and learn in surprising ways? Share in the comments and let’s support each other on this homeschooling journey.

Homeschool Fruits: Freedom

Freedom to live, freedom to worship, freedom to study...

Freedom to live, freedom to worship, freedom to study…

I just love freedom! I love the freedom to make my own decisions. (I especially love nobody telling me what to do. Ha!) I love living in a country that operates, for better or worse, on the principle of freedom. I love serving a God who gives me the freedom to choose Him or not — no coercion.

I love the freedom of homeschooling, too. In fact, when we chose our official homeschool name this year, we picked a name based partially on freedom. I asked my son to tell me his very favorite things about homeschooling, and his top two were “freedom” and “doing my own thing.” Hence…Freedom Solus Academy.

Since my son and I are on the same basic wavelength, it gives extra freedom to our homeschooling. If he seriously dislikes something, he tells me. Then we either discuss why he should keep doing it the same way, or, more frequently, change it to something that works well for him. Likewise, if I’m not pleased with how a certain subject is going, I feel free to research other possibilities with his input, and change directions immediately.

An example of homeschooling freedom for us this year was my 7th-grader’s history. We signed up for a free online program, and he started in. Boring. Seriously boring. How many of us sat comatose through history classes when we were in school? If there’s one thing I really wanted to make come alive for my child via homeschooling, it was history.

So, I took their basic daily outline as a guide; substituted an awesome history series I found, produced by public television but available on YouTube; and supplemented with an interesting book of children’s literature set in that time period.

This semester is nearly over, and he recently finished that unit. Rather than go back to a provided program, though, homeschooling freedom combined with this semester’s success gave me the courage to do my own thing. (Wait! Wasn’t “my own thing” one of his favorite things about homeschooling too?!? Genetics, temperament, parental programming…? LOL.)

We have the coolest encyclopedia of ancient history. Each page also includes many links to interesting maps and videos and projects. Between that and a couple books a friend gave us on Greece and Egypt, I’ve created a semester plan on ancient worlds. Here’s what’s so awesome: It looks so cool and interesting that I want to learn it all, too! No more “history coma” for me or my child. Truthfully, it did take a little longer to prepare than the boxed curriculum — but, oh, the freedom…

Homeschooling offers us the fruit of freedom. If you still feel a little bit afraid to branch out and create your own curriculum, or to go from more structured to less structured for less stress, or to go from less structured to more structured if that’s what your child needs, or to simply change course midstream if something isn’t working — that’s totally okay. Relax and pray. Let that fruit of freedom ripen a little more within you, and you might be surprised and gratified at where it leads.

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“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,” 2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV.

“The Holy Spirit produces a different kind of fruit: unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You won’t find any law opposed to fruit like this,” Galatians 5:22,23 VOICE.