Summer Planning

People almost always seem to think home school students don’t have to work as hard as traditional school students. It’s simply not the case.

Our school calendar is more flexible, though. For instance, a traditional school student might be taking 9 weeks off during the summer but my students are working through June and July, as well as doing some learning activities on Saturdays and Sundays. This is because the fall/winter holiday season is generally a very busy time for us. Most of our school holidays happen during this time.This could cause a person to misunderstand, I suppose.

Also, I require a good deal of work and study from my students. I want them to learn to seek for knowledge on their own. I want them to know how to study things about the life around them.

While they’ve been working on the subjects they’re taking for the summer, I’ve been working on next year’s school plan. Putting a curriculum list together and then putting all that information into a workable plan is not easy. Any traditional school teacher will tell you. The difference is in planning for a small group of kids of all ages as opposed to a larger group of kids who are all the same age.

This is the main reason I love the Charlotte Mason method of teaching. I can teach the same toopics to my kids and simply assign age appropriate activities, home work, projects and tests to reinforce what they’ve learned.

Our curriculum list for this year includes:

  • Wheelock’s Latin – I’m so excited about it! With all the resources available to us for this particular book/course, I feel confident we’ll have tons of fun with it.
  • Harmony Fine Arts – I have tried many times to teach music appreciation and I believe we’ll be able to do great with this particular set of lessons. I chose composers I knew I had information on already and I’ll use these lesson plans more as guides. They offer lesson plans in many grades and cover artists as well as composers.
  • CK-12 Biology and CK-12 Life Science – If you’ve never checked out the CK-12 website, I highly recommend it. It goes along with most traditional public school curriculum and can be a great reinforcement tool during the summer or during the school year. And the best thing is…it’s FREE! The books are available online and have teacher guides, tests & quizzes, and keys. Some of the books are available on Kindle, too.
  • Life of Fred – This curriculum teaches math through literature and is like no other math curriculum I’ve seen. For a reader (like my oldest daughter or me), I think it’s a great way to learn a subject that can be difficult sometimes. My 10th grader will be in the Advanced Algebra book. My 6th grader, who started the series later in her school career, will be finishing up the books in the 3-5th grade series and beginning the intermediate series.
  • Literature choices – I try to choose a wide range of books to increase the vocabulary and comprehension skills of my students. We usually start with something ancient and work our way through to more modern literature. We always read Shakespeare in the month of December. And I try to find digital books whenever possible, ones which also have audio files for days when sore throats make it difficult to read. Here’s our list of books: The Epic of Gilgamesh; Volsungasaga; The Pilgrim’s Progress; The Tempest; Around the World In 80 Days; Murder On The Orient Express; White Fang; The Hiding Place; The Life of Pi; The Girl Who Threw Butterflies (The last is a bonus book in case I’m not able to get one of the others for some reason.) (Those not linked are available on Amazon at the time I’m writing this blog post.)
  • CK-12 Common Sense Composition – I’m using this for both my 10th and 6th grade students. I think it’s important to reinforce writing knowledge and skills all through the school years. It’s such an important skill to have, not just for college, but for life in general.
  • Neo-Classical History – History was a puzzle this year. Our family lives on an extremely tight budget. It’s so tight, in fact, that it would be tough to put our kids into public school at a moments notice. I could not find a history curriculum that fit our budget this year so rather than use outdated books on current modern history, I chose a book in which the information should not have changed at all, if the author was conscientious when he compiled it. We’re using “The Age of Voltaire” in “The Story of Civilization” book series. These books are not for everyone. The language is precious (meaning “a treasure”) and the style is different than most text books today. We’ll be learning about “the history of Western Europe from 1715 to 1756, with Special Emphasis on the Conflict between Religion and Philosophy.”
  • Logic – Introductory Logic: The Fundamentals of Thinking WellThis is a wish course. The price is far outside our budget. But if we should sell enough of John’s books or prints, or any of my art, then perhaps… I think it’s very important to teach children the art of logical thought and critical thinking skills.

I don’t buy all my curriculum at once. When I plan my curriculum list, I also plan a dated shopping list so that we can purchase the items we need as we go through the school year. This makes it much easier on our budget and eliminates a ton of stress. I also have a plan B in place should we not be able to make a scheduled purchase.

I hope this is helpful to another family who is choosing to teach their children at home, or thinking about doing so. Homeschooling can be done on the tightest of budgets because learning is something we do all the time. School is guided reading of books, guided figuring of problems, but it’s still learning about the world around us and how it works. And it learning doesn’t stop when we leave the classroom.

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn” – Benjamin Franklin


What A Discovery!

For some of you who live in more prosperous areas, this may be a dull post. But for my family, this was a tremendous find, indeed! We discovered a treasure trove at the public library in a town 40 minutes away from us. This library has three floors packed with knowledge and adventure.

And to make it even better, there’s a Makers Room. In the Makers Room, you can use your imagination to create things either alone or in groups. It’s a relatively quiet place to work, even during busy times. And with a laser cutter, a 3-D printer, robotic and electronic building kits, recording/photography/film supplies, and a sewing machine, visitors get a chance to experience things they might not otherwise be able to afford to do. It’s an excellent opportunity for any person and even more so for a homeschool family.

As I sit here typing this blog post. My girls are busy working on a robot they tried to create last week when we first visited. What are they learning? Well, they are learning that it does matter how the parts fit together. They are learning how important it is to read directions very carefully. And they are learning how to work together to make something awesome.

I highly recommend you stop by your local library to see what kinds of things they may offer to brighten up a “boring” summer day. Personally, I’d love to have one “boring” summer day in the midst of all my hustle and bustle in getting ready for the next school year. 🙂

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Our girls working in the Makers Room ~ Photo by Melody R. Kittles

Home Economics: Sewing

Being a home school family, we can take a little more time to learn all about the care and keeping of a home, which, I believe, is important for any person to know. This year, I wanted to take that a step further and plan out some specific activities that would stretch their wings and their imaginations. The first half of our school year was devoted solely to cooking and keeping house. The second half of our year is devoted to sewing.

The girls got new sewing machines for Christmas, which was really helpful. We chose the New Home Janome for the price and the functions available on it. So far, we’re finding it easy to use. It runs slowly, steadily, and quietly, making it better for beginning learners who may be afraid of speed or sound.

For our oldest daughter’s project, I chose to assign a reversible steampunk bustier. She’ll be able to do most of the basic sewing on her machine. I’ll probably have to do all the finishing on mine, though, because the little Janomes are made for simple sewing. I don’t want to run the risk of messing up the machine. Right now, she’s working on the trim for the circus side of it. (The other side will be a mercenary.) I feel like this is going to be an intense project for her but it’s something she really wants. I find when I really want something, I’m willing to work a bit harder for it and I generally do a better job. We’ll take it slowly and I’m confident she’ll be happy with it in the end.

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— Learning how to care for and use their machines —

Our youngest daughter had her own project in mind. Our daughters are both plushie collectors. TheRo decided she wanted to create a plushie of her imaginary friend, Cuddle. She drew the shape on graph paper and I taught her how to enlarge the pattern using the grid. She cut her pattern out of fleece fabric. We drew on some eyes with a permanent marking pen and I taught her about creating a satin stitch. (My embroidery skills still suck! 😦 ) She sewed her plushie and stuffed it. Then I taught her how to close the seam with an invisible stitch. She was so happy with her project and I’m proud of her for completing it.

— Her Cuddle pattern and her finished Cuddle plushie —

Ugly Sweater Holiday Craft

Our eldest daughter attended an ugly sweater party with her church youth group last weekend. She was told she didn’t need a sweater but being the creative family that we are, why not? I had a green sweater I was never going to use and it was a perfect base for this craft. Using craft felt sheets in green and red, I cut out a stylized Christmas tree and coal bag. Next, I used glitter glue to label the bag “COAL”. Then my part of the project was done. The girls decorated the tree with sparkly pompoms and recycled sequin trim. My daughter outlined the coal bag with more glitter glue and added a couple of black pompoms to represent coal. All in all, it was probably too simple to really qualify as a true ‘ugly sweater’ but she had her sweater and was able to join in the fun. Here’s a photo of the tree and coal bag after they were decorated but before they were added to the sweater. We used Aleene’s Fabric Glue. I prefer Fabritac, since it adheres much faster but the Aleene’s Fabric Glue worked fine as long as we allowed it to dry overnight, undisturbed. If you have the time, it may be a less expensive alternative. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year from my Merry Muddled Mob!

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The decorated Christmas tree and coal bag – Felt sheets in green and red, sparkly pompoms, and recycled sequin trim

Art Club and Christmas

This has been a year of firsts for us. It’s the first year my husband has taken a definitive teaching role in several school subjects so that I can continue my part time job. It’s the first time we’ve attempted to start a homeschool club of any kind. There’ve been a few other firsts but these two apply most to today’s post.

Our daughters have always been enamored with the idea of school clubs. They first thought a kite club would be fun but we didn’t really know many of the home school families in the area well enough at the time to invite them. We had no way to really connect. Then they wanted to start a book club, which is another admirable kind of club. The trouble with this one was they didn’t want to limit it to home school families and it was difficult to find a time to fit everyone’s schedule and decide on a place to meet. This year, we decided to start an art club. The mother of one of the girls’ friends actually jump-started the idea in my head and I pitched it to the girls with success. We’ve met three times so far and have a total number of 7 members and two prospective members. I’m satisfied with the way things are going in the club and the way the members are all pitching in and working together to make it successful.

Since it’s the holiday season, the girls and I made some Christmas cards to send to a holiday card drive. I found out about this through deviantArt, a site where I post and sell some of my artwork. Here are the cards we created.

Christmas Card 2015
“Christmas Card 2015” is a mixed media art creation by Melody Kittles. If you’d like to purchase a print, card, or print gift with this artwork on it, please visit my deviantArt page:
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“Merry Christmas Card 2015” is a colored pencil art creation by Shiloh Kittles.
Ro Christmas Card 2015 001
“Starry Christmas Card” is a colored pencil creation by Rowan Kittles.

I hope you enjoy checking out these bright and magical cards created to brighten someone’s day. Wishing you all the joy, peace, warmth, love, and good wishes the season brings! Merry Christmas!

What the Heck Is The R³B Method, Anyway?

I grew up with the saying, ” ’round Red Robin’s barn” which means to take the longer way of getting to your goal. You can read more about it here. I did not realize where the phrase I’m familiar with actually came from, nor its original form. I learned something new today! Who knew it actually came from the story of Robin Hood?

Why do I say we apply that term liberally at our home? Well, the best reason is probably because we get so caught up in details, or so much in a hurry, that we miss the obvious helpful hints and tricks along the way that would make a job easier or faster. We shortened it to R³B when our son was in high school and taking algebra courses. It seemed appropriate to relate it in a shortened formula…and fun!

I know this is a short post but I simply wanted to explain about R³B.

These are the old grain drying bins my family used when the land we live on was a working farm. This photo is one I took and edited with my phone. If you wish to use this photo for educational purposes, please just ask. If you wish to purchase a print of this photo, let me know and I'll set it up.
These are the old grain drying bins my family used when the land we live on was a working farm. This photo is one I took and edited with my phone. If you wish to use this photo for educational purposes, please just ask. If you wish to purchase a print of this photo, let me know and I’ll set it up.