School Planning

This is my 15th or 16th year homeschooling. You would think I surely know what I’m doing by now. Ha! In some ways I do feel confident about things (I’ve settled on some curriculum choices that have fit our family well and prepared us for higher education), and in other areas I continually feel inadequate and ill-equipped to educate these precious children.

David and Sarah - the last of my homeschooling kiddos!

David and Sarah – the last of my homeschooling kiddos!

Thank goodness for the Lord’s guidance, equipping, presence and wisdom! Not to mention the amazing friends I’ve met and known over the years who gladly share their ideas and input.

Right now I’m in the midst of finishing up our school schedule for September. I’ve found a system that works for us, and I LOVE planning things out for a month at a time. I only have 2 children that I’m homeschooling this year. Gasp! Two in college and one in a full time program at the local technical school – crazy!

After much trial and effort, this is what I’ve developed for our school scheduling.

This oversize tablet is what I prefer to use:

Handwriting Chart

Handwriting Chart

Years ago I found this handwriting tablet at a school supply store. I used it for our science curriculum – I wrote notes on it and had the children copy them down in their own folders. After that it sat for a long time behind our piano (the storage place for random poster paper). When I decided to work on a large chart for the kids, this came to mind and I realized it would be perfect.

Originally I used it like this and hung it in the wall of our dining room:

Handwritten Chart

Handwritten Chart

I loved picking different colors for the kids’ school subjects and writing everything down. They liked being able to see at a glance what work they had to do each day and being able to check them off as they completed work.

At some point I realized the individual sections were exactly the size of our mailing labels from our holiday letters. A brilliant idea came to mind – I could use the template in Word to type out the kids’ schedules and then print them off. This would still allow me to color code things for each child, but would save me a huge amount of time in writing and re-writing each thing.

Copy and Paste is a wonderful thing!

Now the charts look something like this:

February's chart

February’s chart

I try to pick cute graphics for each month, and it still takes me a little time to draw the lines for the calendar, but the overall project is so worthwhile! I get to adjust our schedules easily and each child knows exactly what the month holds. Fridays we have co-op, so we don’t have much scheduled for that day.

A closer look of Sarah's chart.

A closer look of Sarah’s chart.

How do you organize your monthly school schedules?

Kathy

Related posts:

Read-Alouds

When I was a child we lived far from any of our extended family members, so summers were usually spent driving to either Virginia or Minnesota (sometimes both in one summer) from our home in southeast Michigan. The trips were long and (use your imagination here, young readers) took place with NO cell phones, iPods, dvd players, or other hand-held games. Eventually we acquired Sony Walkmans and earphones and could pass the time with our favorite cassettes (and music we taped from the radio).

To pass the time, my amazing mother would read aloud to us. For Hours! She held us captive with silly stories and dramatic tales. Our most often-read and favorite books were by a Canadian author named Gordon Korman. When Tim and I got married, Tim drove all around my hometown looking for copies of old Korman books so we could have our own collection.

David LOVES a good book.

David LOVES a good book.

And so a tradition has continued. We have read and re-read these books for years. Korman wrote and published his first book in JUNIOR HIGH!!! These fun young adult books are clever, well-written and full of memorable characters.

On this rainy day, Tim picked up Son of Interflux, and started to read. Such a great story. And a joy to me that Tim has continued this tradition from my family and passed on these hilarious tales to our children.

Snuggle, reading time!

Snuggle, reading time!

I can’t speak for ALL of Gordan Kormans books, but these are some of our all time favorites:

Can one student and his disgruntled classmates thwart a giant corporation's attempt to build a new complex on school land?

Can one student and his disgruntled classmates thwart a giant corporation’s attempt to build a new complex?

Running AWAY from camp has never been so funny.

Running away from camp has never been so funny.

A hilarious story about friendship, poetry and an attempt to reverse one's bad luck.

A hilarious story about friendship, poetry and an attempt to reverse one’s bad luck.

“Whatever you do, DON’T lose my apartment.” 3 friends crazy adventures in the big city.

A drummer, a

A drummer, a “flute-guy”, one celebrity and two theives make for a hysterically funny story.

A loveable con artist?  Attack jelly, Cow Experts?  So funny!

A loveable con artist? Attack jelly, Cow Experts? So funny!

One of my all time favorites!  The story of a high school that finds some spirit!

One of my all time favorites! The story of a high school that finds some spirit!

Kathy

This post contains affiliate links to Amazon.com, which means that if you purchase a book through a link on this post, I will receive a small commission (4% of the purchase price) from Amazon.

Related posts:

Holiday hours!

One of my favorite traditions is the beginning of a holiday weekend. Whenever I am off from work (today I was released at 3 pm, because of the Labor Day weekend) I stand near the front door and shout, “Holiday Hours!”

This means different things, to different people. In general, it means that the usual rules and restraints of everyday life (homeschooling, working, etc.) are removed, and we permit ourselves a few days of sheer festive fun.

Hopefully Joshua and Rachel (at school in Tennessee) can have their own version of Holiday Hours, even while we are apart.

Kathy's in the midst of a decluttering project, but took time to help Sarah with her baking.

Kathy’s in the midst of a decluttering project, but took time to help Sarah with her baking.

When we lived in Michigan, I worked for Ford, and they shut down for Christmas. One of my happiest memories is the beginning of a long, two-week vacation just before Christmas. I would walk in the front door, shout “Holiday Hours”, and the fun of the Christmas season would begin in earnest, not to end until after New Years’ Day.

Sarah's donut holes are sure to be a hit wherever we go, this weekend.

Sarah’s donut holes are sure to be a hit wherever we go, this weekend.

It wouldn’t be a holiday if some of the dietary restraints were also thrown off. Of course, we pay for it later …

David revels in free, un-metered computer game playing (ordinarily we use a timer and poker chips which must be earned).

David revels in free, un-metered computer game playing (ordinarily we use a timer and poker chips which must be earned).

It is supposed to rain a fair bit this weekend, but we’re not worried, as long as we still have lots of computer games to play. Daniel just finished installing Civilization V, so maybe we can get into a multi-player game this weekend.

It is possible that we 'forgot' to notify  Daniel about Holiday Hours until he finished his yard work.

It is possible that we ‘forgot’ to notify Daniel about Holiday Hours until he finished his yard work.

We are very blessed to enjoy time off from our regular routine — thank you, Lord Jesus, for holidays!

Related posts:

Yellowstone Road Trip

When we decided to send Rachel’s car to college with her, I was delighted.

Finally, I get to do a road trip,” I chortled.

The motto for our trip, to which we faithfully adhered.

The motto for our trip, to which nearly all of us faithfully adhered.

For many years, I’ve been trying to get Kathy to agree to spending one of our vacations on the road. I have fond memories of many trips I took as a child and young adult, but Kathy doesn’t seem to think that 12 hours in a car is a good way to unwind. I remember one trip we took from Connecticut to Michigan via interstate 80 across the top of Pennsylvania at Christmas time. That was when I discovered that having heat on the floor is a good thing in a car (our heat would only work on defrost mode). Maybe I can understand Kathy’s reluctance, after all.

The Roosevelt Arch, gateway to Yellowstone from the north.

The Roosevelt Arch, gateway to Yellowstone from the north.

When the dust settled, it was Joshua, David and Sarah who would be traveling with me from Washington to Tennessee — somehow Kathy and Rachel were willing to miss out on the 2500 mile trip and fly (Daniel is traveling in Europe with Aunt Stephanie). I guess it takes all kinds. Now I just needed a destination a little more spectacular than Kearney, Nebraska. Looking at a map, I noticed that Yellowstone National Park was almost directly in our path.

The kids were always very glad to be allowed out of the car.

The kids were always very glad to be allowed out of the car.

So I took the kids to Yellowstone. We spent two days exploring the park, and then rushed on to Tennessee. It was totally worth it, as I think you will see from the pictures, if not from my descriptive prose.

Mammoth Hot Springs was both Mammoth and Hot, and smelled of sulphur, too!

Mammoth Hot Springs was both Mammoth and Hot, and smelled of sulphur, too!

We started our exploration of the park from the north, visiting Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower Falls as we moved south. We had all slept well in Bozeman the night before, so we hit the park with cheerful attitudes and eyes wide open.

Tower Falls reminded us of waterfalls back home in Washington.

Tower Falls reminded us of waterfalls back home in Washington.

I broke my toe the day we left, but many of the sights of Yellowstone are accessible via a short walk from the road, so it wasn’t too bad. The kids hardly ever mocked me for my slow pace, although I’m not sure they ever believed me about the toe.

“Face it, Dad, you’re not as young as you were last time you visited Yellowstone,” they hinted. I last visited Yellowstone National Park in 1973.

We camped at Canyon Village, in the center of the park.  Joshua's hammock was well-favored.

We camped at Canyon Village, in the center of the park. Joshua’s hammock was well-favored.

Some people (like my brother) plan their road trips meticulously, but that is not really my style. I did make a few reservations, but my total research time for the entire trip was less than two hours. Imagine my delight and surprise when I discovered that our campsite (reserved) was at 8000 feet above sea level. It was about this time I regretted some advice I had given while packing.

Sarah: “Should I bring any warm clothes, Dad?”

Me: “Nah. It’ll be hot, pretty much the whole trip. One sweatshirt and one pair of long pants will be plenty.”

Those words came back to haunt me when the temperatures dropped into the low 40′s, during the night. Unfortunately, I had followed my own counsel, something I usually scrupulously avoid.

Wildlife abounded -- we found this elk in a ditch by the road.

Wildlife abounded — we found this elk in a ditch by the road.

During our visit to the park, we saw many elk, dozens of buffalo, a few small black bears, and lots of chipmunks. The wolves, grizzlies and moose eluded our spying eyes, though. Maybe next time.

Main attractions in Yellowstone include the 'Grand Canyon', which (while not as Grand as THE Grand Canyon) was stunningly beautiful.

Main attractions in Yellowstone include the ‘Grand Canyon’, which (while not as Grand as THE Grand Canyon) was stunningly beautiful.

Not far from our campsite, the Yellowstone River plunges over two waterfalls (Upper and Lower Falls), hundreds of feet into the yellow-rock canyon that gives the park its name. We hiked to the Lower Falls the first day, and found the Upper Falls overlook on the afternoon of the second day of our visit. Both views were well worth the hike, even for “Old Hopalong”.

The Yellowstone River Lower Falls was spectacular.

The Yellowstone River Lower Falls was spectacular.

We settled into our campsite and put up our tent. Rain threatened, and the temperature was dropping fast.

Joshua taught Sarah and David how to braid rope with a series of slip knots, providing hours of amusement for everyone.

Joshua taught Sarah and David how to braid rope with a series of slip knots, providing hours of amusement for everyone.

It was a delight to travel with Joshua, David and Sarah. None of them complained even once, the whole road trip, and they were very pleased and impressed with Yellowstone. Indeed, I was very glad to be able to share it with them myself, since my memories of Yellowstone from 40 years ago are sketchy at best.

We ate noodles and soup for supper -- David (as treasurer) was later persuaded to buy us each an ice cream cup.

We ate noodles and soup for supper — David (as treasurer) was later persuaded to buy us each an ice cream cup.

Joshua and I didn’t sleep very well in the tent. He had the dubious privilege of sleeping at our feet, and being kicked by me, most of the night. I was awoken by two men across the road who thought it was a good idea to shout greetings to each other at 5 am, and I couldn’t get back to sleep. I was reminded of Proverbs 27:14, and made a mental note to pull all their tent stakes in the middle of the next night. Both Joshua and I felt that our sleeping pads had not really helped much. David and Sarah, sleeping on comparatively-cheap foam mattress pads, were rather smug about how well they slept.

Four of us in a three-man tent was very snug -- but even so, Sarah was cold.

Four of us in a three-man tent was very snug — but even so, Sarah was cold.

On the second day, we started out at Norris, one of the larger collections of geysers (there are an estimated 10,000 geysers in the park). There we found our favorite, the Vixen Geyser, which began spewing water just as we walked up to it, and stopped as soon as we left. Most of the geysers were not particularly spectacular in terms of a high plume of water, but everywhere you looked there were hot springs bubbling and stange colors from the mineral deposits and thermophilic bacteria around the edges. We were able to get within about 20 feet of Vixen Geyser on the wooden boardwalk that spanned the basin.

Vixen geyser, while not particularly large, was very active and energetic.

Vixen geyser, while not particularly large, was very active and energetic.

We were a little disappointed with Old Faithful, perhaps the most famous of the geysers, because of its regular eruption schedule. We had hoped to see a plume of a hundred feet or more, but the one we waited for was only about 40 feet high. It was funny to see how many people (several hundred) were waiting for it to erupt, considering how few were on the trail at Norris, where there were dozens of less predictable geysers and pools.

Old Faithful mostly smoked, but it did get us a little wet.

Old Faithful mostly smoked, but it did get us a little wet.

We brought lots of lunch meat and cheeses, and each day of our trip we made sandwiches — it was a very good way to save money and we were well-satisfied. One of our best lunches was devoured on the porch of the lodge at Old Faithful.

Waiting for the geyser to blow its top ...

Waiting for the geyser to blow its top …

Kathy made travel activity books for David and Sarah, to help them occupy the hours of travel. One game they played was the 50 States license plate game — Yellowstone was a great place to find travelers from all over the country.

Joshua was very pleased to find a rare  Connecticut license plate, since it is the land of his birth.

Joshua was very pleased to find a rare Connecticut license plate, since it is the land of his birth.

We also visited the Grand Prismatic Pool, which was very colorful, but hard to photograph, because of all the steam from the hot springs.

The Grand Prismatic Pool, in some of its glory.

The Grand Prismatic Pool, in some of its glory.

On the way back to our campsite, we drove along the shores of the gigantic Yellowstone Lake, and also happened upon a hike to a viewpoint overlooking the Upper Falls.

The Upper Falls, while shorter than Lower Falls, was also well-appreciated.

The Upper Falls, while shorter than Lower Falls, was also well-appreciated.

We were very glad to have seen most of the major attractions of Yellowstone in a whirlwind, two-day visit. We decided to press on toward Tennessee rather than camp that night, since Joshua was very eager to get to his college in time for a Life Group leadership retreat that he was supposed to be helping to run.

The buffalo feel free to roam pretty much anywhere in Yellowstone, including the roads.  This herd was content to stay in pasture, however.

The buffalo feel free to roam pretty much anywhere in Yellowstone, including the roads. This herd was content to stay in pasture, however.

As we were getting ready to leave, Joshua and I both discovered that we had forgotten to inflate our self-inflating sleeping pads the night before.

“I think sleeping on the ground, directly, would have been softer,” Joshua commented, bitterly. Truly we win the prize for dumbest campers ever.

Joshua started a fire with damp wood, just to prove that he could.  Happily, my fire-extinguishing curse doesn't seem to have been passed on, genetically.

Joshua started a fire with damp wood, just to prove that he could. Happily, my fire-extinguishing curse doesn’t seem to have been passed on, genetically.

We had a great time, and were very glad we took the two days to explore Yellowstone. Now, on to Tennessee!

Related posts:

Big Sky Country

I’m not quite sure how I come up with some of my ideas. I was worried about David and Sarah (who have not been brought up properly, and don’t have extensive road-trip experience) and I started thinking about the long drive from our home to Bozeman, MT. After some reflection, I decided we would drive through the night (letting them sleep in the back), hoping that the 12-hour trip would seem more like five or six hours to them.

The intrepid road-trippers assemble ...

The intrepid road-trippers assemble …

So I wrote Joshua a note, asking him if that was OK.

“Sure, no problem,” he agreed.

About 7:30 pm on Wednesday, just before we were to leave, Josh turned to me. “I kind of skipped over the part in your email where you said we would be driving through the night. So, we’re not getting a hotel tonight?”

Sarah worked steadily on her Road Trip Activity binder -- and she takes her responsibilities as Navigator very seriously.

Sarah worked steadily on her Road Trip Activity binder — and she takes her responsibilities as Navigator very seriously.

“No,” I said, patiently. “We’ll push on through the night and get to Bozeman in the morning. Then we can rest up at the hotel there Thursday night, and get an early start for Yellowstone on Friday morning.”

Lewis and Clark posing heroically ...

Lewis and Clark posing heroically …

As it turns out, Joshua is still suffering from jet-lag from his two-month trip to Istanbul. We weren’t on the road more than 45 minutes before he was curled up in the passenger seat, fast asleep. So I drove as far as Spokane before we switched off.

Breakfast at Perkins, complete with Mammoth Muffins and biscuits with gravy.

Breakfast at Perkins, complete with Mammoth Muffins and biscuits with gravy.

By then, Joshua was wide awake, and he drove most of the remainder of the distance to Bozeman. We stopped for breakfast, with David’s approval (he is the Treasurer and decides how we spend our cash). We made a short detour to the Lewis and Clark Caverns, but decided to pass (admission cost was high, and none of us fancied a two-hour guided tour in the dark on such a beautiful morning). As it was, we arrived at our hotel before 10 am. Their official check-in time is 3 pm, so we prepared ourselves for a long nap in the parking lot. I had called and asked for an early check-in, but the clerk on the phone had seemed doubtful they could get us in before 12:30 pm or so.

David and Sarah were very cheerful, even with only a few hours' sleep.

David and Sarah were very cheerful, even with only a few hours’ sleep.

“It can’t hurt to ask,” I assured myself, and approached the front desk. Much to my surprise and delight, they let us have our room right away! We brought up our suitcases and I took the kids straight to the pool.

... and of course, the hot tub!

… and of course, the hot tub!

We spent the day napping, swimming, enjoying a tasty lunch of sandwiches and snack foods, and watched God’s Not Dead, an excellent movie that was recently released on DVD. We plan to hit the sack early and get an early start tomorrow on our whirlwind tour of Yellowstone.

So far, we've had the pool to ourselves, which has been an added delight.

So far, we’ve had the pool to ourselves, which has been an added delight.

So far, Rachel’s car is holding up very well. With the weight of four of us and all our luggage, plus the car-top carrier full of camping gear, the engine has labored a bit on the steeper climbs, but at such times we all lean forward and chant “I think I can”, which seems to help. The car-top carrier, contrary to all my expectations, has remained firmly attached to the roof; as far as I can tell, it hasn’t slid backwards at all.

Rachel's little car sees the light of a new day, dawning!

David stretches his legs at Lewis and Clark Cavern.

Morale is high, in spite of weariness, cramped quarters and my broken toe. David and Sarah haven’t complained even once, and the dread words, “How much farther?” have not yet been spoken on our journey. The road trip activity binders that Kathy created for the kids have kept them almost fully occupied, which makes Joshua and I very jealous (we were not given activity binders). Joshua and I (in the moments we were simultaneously awake) have made progress in settling the age-old question of which vice is the root of the others, Pride or Sloth. Speaking as I do with considerable expertise in both fields, Joshua weighed my words carefully.

Montana is beautiful country, if a little more rugged and brown than the scenery our Washington-bred eyes have come to expect. We are looking forward to the various attractions of Yellowstone, tomorrow — hopefully I will get a chance to take some pictures to share on this blog.

Tim

Related posts:

The musings and ravings of a bloggart family