Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Curriculum Review -Tapestry of Grace

We switched to Tapestry of Grace about five weeks ago.  I absolutely love it!!  As a history major, I've never found a history program that I love enough to get.  History needs to be studied chronologically and this is the one I would definitely choose!!

First, you decide the year.  This is a four year program that includes a lower grammer, upper grammer, rhetoric, and dialetic level for each year.  The year is broken down into four nine week units.  Each week has about seventy pages of information.

The first pages are the threads pages.  This goes over all the objectives for each level for history, writing, literature, geography, fine arts and activities, church history, government, and philosophy.  Yes, it really covers all of these subjects.

The reading assignments pages are next.  Each level is broken down with book recommendations for each subject.  I love the flexibility.  You can grab a book from another level or find a different one if you have it.  The weekly overview is next, divided up the same way.  It lists important people, timeline, vocab words, and basic topics to hit on.

Writing assignments is next.  This is broken up into 12 different levels.  You can put your child in whichever level you prefer them to be in.  Move up one week and down the next.  ITs all up to you. 

Student activity pages are next.  This breaks down by level the activities and discussion questions that you should go over.  It also has the activity pages for you to do with your child.

The last section is the teacher's notes.  What a fantastic source this is!!  Its about five pages of reading a week with all the background information that you need to teach you children.  This section also breaks out the dialetic and rhetoric discussion questions with answers and additional information.

There are several different things you can purchase along with the program.  I recommend the map aids because all the maps are set for each level and ready to go for you.  I could probably do that on my own, but I'm strapped for time and just can't do it.  The other part that I purchased was the writing assignments.  This goes over in much greater detail and has the assignments all ready for the kids. 

We follow some of the literature portion.  Right now, TL is supposed to be reading Les Miserables, but I though Swiss Family Robinson would be more fun.  He'll be following their reading schedule  more next year when we hit the 1900s.

Like I said, this program is very flexible.  There is no need to cover absolutely everthing, its up to you to decide what to do.  The cost can be an issue, it is a little expensive to get the books and the program.  You have two options with the program.  You can get the download file or get it in print, or actually a third option is to get both.  I've been lucky to have a bunch of books that I could use instead of the ones listed or have found books on Heritage History's website to use.   The cost for books then has been low for me.  You can also use the library to obtain the books for the program.  I recommend keeping a library list though so the next time you go through the program, you have the library list handy.

This program is easy to use and I just love it. 

One of the things that I really love, is that its definitely a project based learning approach, which makes learning more fun!!  The kids are really enjoying the projects and learning so much more!

Have a wonderful week!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Curriculum review-Home School Tracker

Okay so technically Home School Tracker is not a curriculum, but it sure makes your life sooooo much easier.  I highly recommend this program.

I first bought Homeschool Tracker back in 2006.  I had used their free version (which they still have) and was looking for a little more beef to my lesson planning.  Homeschool Tracker Plus was it!! 

Unfortunately, with our many moves and craziness with being a military family, I never used it to its full potential or even finished out a complete year.  As I was looking over this last week, I realized that I was very much behind in grading, record keeping, and resourse lists (which lists all the books we use during the year).  I was not looking forward to sitting down and doing all of this manual record keeping when I remembered that I still had this program.

I put the disk in, but it wouldn't was from 2006 after all.  I emailed the company and in one minute had an email back with a link to download the software and assurance that my old download registration code would still work. 

I waited with eager anticipation while it downloaded and then started looking at the many videos online for instructions on how to use the program.  As I stated, I never really used it to its full potential and there are a ton of new features.

First, you set up your school year.  You can name your school and put in the contact information.  Then you enter your student's data.  After this you set up your school calendar.  You can enter vacation days and holidays onto your calendar.  It will allow you to see how many days will be in your school year.  If you need to have a certain number of days, this is fantastic.  You can record attendance manually or have the program track it for you.  When an assignment is completed on a day, the program will automatically record that day as "present".  I'm sure that you can do an hours feature in there.  I know I saw it on the list, but I don't need to record hours so I don't use this part of the program.

The core subjects are listed on the program and you can then set up additional subjects and courses under each subject.  For example, under Math I have set up Math 6/5, Math 5/4, and Algebra I.  The absolutely wonderful feature of this program is that it saves all of your lesson plans!  No more doing the work over and over or looking for those lesson plans from two years ago for the next child in line.  Its all done for you.

After you set this up, its time to set up your year.  You can use the program to its full potential or only do what you want.  It allows you to list goals, resources, and supply lists; and it links them to your lesson plans.  I set up a lesson plan for each child.  I use the core subjects and then courses to differeniate the plans.  It helps me stay organized and a fantastic feature is that you can copy lesson plans from one child to another.  For subjects like history or science that you may do together, this is a great feature.  I like each child to have the information that we did during the year and this keeps everything together for me. 

Lesson planning is easy.  There are three different ways to do your lesson plans.  I put in one plan per child as I stated earlier, and then make lessons for each core subject and course.  You can link the goals, resources, and supplies that you need for each lesson.  Under directions, you can write instructions for the student to have on their assignment sheet.  There is also a space for notes for yourself to remind you to gather supplies that you may need in a few days or to make copies.  This note list is not printed on the student assignments if you don't want it to.  You can print a seperate list for yourself.   Another option is to enter assignments after they are already completed, but I like this way better.  After I enter the assignments in to the lesson planner, I go week by week and move them over to the student assignments.  I generally do this at the end of the week for the next week.  This way, if we get off task one day, I don't have to change all the due dates. 

When the assignments are completed, I can check that they are finished and they move out of the current assignment grid into an archived grid.  I can record grades that they received at this time.  There is also a place on the tracker to make journal entries each day or week if you wish.

One of the best features is the reports.  I can print seperate lists for each child for goals, resources, supply lists, grades, attendance, and transcripts.  There is a place to record field trip information, student activities and achievements, standardized test scores, memorization, and reading logs.  They have truly thought of everything.

When I purchased this program years ago, I wanted more flexibility than the free version.  The new plus version is now $49.  Its a steep price, but well worth it, especially if you have several children.  It will take time to set up but once you get the information in there, your year will run much more smoothly and record keeping will be a dream.  I've already been eyeing the transcript feature for TL and daydreaming about how easy it will be to do when the time comes.

Since I just put this program on this week, I am backstepping a little.  Yesterday we finished our second term.  I am going to do in and record one assignment for each course for each term to put their grades in.  I am not going to manually input each assignment and grade.  The only thing I am going to focus on for the first part of the year is making sure the TL's books are all recorded in there so that they will show up on his transcript.

 I am really looking forward to using this with our Tapestry of Grace program.  Under history, I have set up Year 3 with both a Rhetoric and an Upper Class course.  So the next time we go through using these levels (which will not be for many more years) I will have access to my lesson plans and not have to redo them or find them somewhere!

I encourage you to check it out!!  I'm sure that you will love it as much as I do!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Update on stocking up on a budget

Before I tell you how much I've gotten over my three month stock up period, I think I should let you know that I did use $200 extra from our tax return to get some extra stuff.  The reason is because we didn't have any extra things in our pantry.  Every time we move, we have to rebuild from scratch.  It generally takes about two to three months, just to get everything you need......those few items that you don't use alot, but need. 

So, with spending $7.50 on food, I've gotten:

4 cans green peas
4 cans peas
4 cans corn
4 cans cranberry sauce (we eat this year round in my house, the kids love it)
4 cans mandarin oranges
4 large cans of pears
4 large cans of peaches
4 jars of applesauce
20 gallons of water
6 tomatos soups
4 cream of chicken
4 cream of mushroom
2 cheddar cheese soups
2 cream of potato
3 bags of cereal
1 bottle of syrup
2 cans of oats
15 pounds of flour
10 pounds of bread flour
4 packages of yeast
15 pounds of sugar
1 jar peanut butter
1 jar grape jelly
1 ketchup
1 mustard
1 bottle vinegar
1 bottle oil
1 can crisco
1 large box of tea bags
1 can of unsweetened cocoa
3 cans of tuna
2 jars spaghetti sauce
2 pasta-elbows
2 pasta-egg noodles
2 pasta-penne pasta
2 pasta-bowties
4 large cans of raviolis
4 large cans of spagettios
4 bottles apple juice
2 bottles of sunny d
2 baking soda
2 baking powder

with the $5 per week on non-food items, I've gotten:
10 candles
2 packs batteries
2 flashlights
2 packages of toilet paper
2 packages of feminine products
2 toothpaste
2 shampoo
2 body soap
2 peroxide
2 rubbing alchohol

the extra $200 was used on meat and frozen foods to get stocked up there. 
2 packages of stew beef
10 pounds of hamburger meat
4 servings (for 6 people) of pork chops
5 packages of bacon
2 whole roasting chickens
4 large packages of chicken breasts
2 boneless pork loins
2 packages of breakfast sausage
1 package of perogies
1 large bag of french fries
1 large bag of tater tots
1 box of corn dogs
1 package of fish sticks

By my calculation, I have almost enough (except for water) of enough food to last a month if needed.  It would be a bare minimum but I could realistically make it stretch if I had too.  I have about two more months of stock up to go to finish.  The next two months after that will focus on medicines and first aid items and those food items we don't need but would desire:  crackers, spices, puddings, and cheese and butter.  So, by the end of June, I should have all of these items.  I hope then to redo this list and by the end of the year have enough  stock for another month.  If I redo this next year, I'll have a four month stock.  Of course, we'll have lots of veggies this year and I'll be doing alot of canning.  Plus, we're getting a beef cow and about two dozen chickens for eggs.

Just for an FYI, I am always rotating through my stock.  The stuff I buy goes in the back and we eat the oldest stuff first.  I shouldn't have to replace any items that go bad this way.

If you're interested in food storage stockup, I recommend that you first sit down and decide what you would need for a month (or a week if its easier) to make meals.  They may not be gourment, but they will feed you.  Decide how much you can spend a week stocking up.  Make a master list and shop the ads.  I starting trying to divide up by weeks what to get, but when things were on sale, I was moving stuff make a master list and go from there. 

Also, make a list of non-food items to stock up on.  Toilet paper, shampoo, soap, first aid items, batteries, flashlights, etc.  Its good to have extra on hand in case you need them.

I have found two fantastic websites on preparing for an emergency.  The first woman has designed a fantastic emergency binder.  It has everything in it and she takes it everywhere.  I personally, don't recommend carrying around your bank information and social security cards.  I do like the child id Kits she has and I think I may make a set to take with me.  If one of the kids went missing when we were out somewhere, I don't know that I would be coherent enough to give the correct information. 

The other website breaks down prepping by week.  One week she focuses on cereal, another first aid items.  She has a huge list and is very strict about telling you not to go crazy with it.  Do what you can.  She also has alot of useful forms that you can look through, including emergency evacuation lists.  Very helpful to those in hurricane areas.  She also has a list for a 72 hour emergency pack.  This may be helpful to those of us in tornado areas, if we could keep it in a safe place.

Hope everyone is doing well in your home!!  We're getting ready for our first "major" snowstorm, anywhere from 3-8 inches total. 

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

And the ceiling didn't fall in.....

It was bound to happen at some point.  After all, I do have five children.

Sunday, I was desperately trying to finish my homework when Princess came down.  After church, I let two friends come over to keep the girls girl and her little sister. 

"Don't be mad, mom".....uh-oh.  "We're trying to clean it up but we ran out of towels".........uh-oh.  Apparently, the little girls had gone into the bathroom and put the plug in the sink and then let the water run and run and run.....well, you get the picture.

At this point I was frustrated because I needed to get my homework done, but personally, I thought it was pretty funny.  Until I went into the living room.

The ceiling was soaked and staining as it got wet.  Thankfully, this part of the house is all plaster. 

I went upstairs and the girls were finishing cleaning up.  It looked pretty good.  PRincess was in questioning the three year old and the two five year olds.  I told her to stop, there wasn't any point.  Just told them never to do that again.

And I went back downstairs to watch the stain spread.

Its now about four feet by three feet wide.  Nice dark brown.....on the white ceiling.

Thank goodness, I have nothing else to do or paint in this house, lol!!

When I finish this class, I guess I'll be working on the ceiling instead of painting the dining room!