Thursday, June 30, 2011

Checking Off One of My Summer To-Dos

I was inspired last week to by my The Old Schoolhouse Crew Mates to finally make my own laundry soap.  We do a lot of laundry here, people.  Laundry soap is one of those necessities that sure make me say, "ouch" when I grab a gallon of Tide at the grocery store or Walmart.

One of my hesitations in making laundry soap is needing to cook the soap to get it liquid and gel. I don't know why, but it just seemed a lot of mixing and mess that I didn't want to get into.

One of my Crew Mates, Jennifer Dragoo Southern at Creative Learners posted this recipe:

  • 2 cups Bar Soap (finely grated)
  • 1 cup Washing Soda
  • 1 cup Borax
Here's what I did: 
  1. Since I don't have a hand grater, I used my food processor and coarsely grated the soap.  I took out the grater wheel and put in the regular blade and let the food processor chop up the soap into teeny, tiny little pieces. Two bars of Fels Naptha soap worked very well to give me the needed two cups for the recipe.
  2. I added a cup each of Mule Team Borax and Arm and Hammar Washing Soda.  I found all these ingredients very easily in the laundry aisle at Walmart.
  3. Mixing up the ingredients is really important.  Next time, I will just add the washing soda and borax to the food processor and let it all get well-mixed.
  4. Put it in a covered container.  Jennifer's recipe suggests using two tablespoons per load.   There are 12 tablespoons in a cup, so that means I've got enough soap for about 24 loads of laundry.  We do about a load a day, so I shouldn't have to mix up any more until the end of July (just in time to do laundry from Ben's Boy Scout trip!)
I have a front load washer, so I was a bit concerned about this detergent being too soap-y and bubbly, but I haven't found that to be a problem.  The clothes are coming out smelling clean and are soft.  I haven't had to tackle any rubbed in stains, yet, but I'll keep you posted.

Here's the cost of my supplies:

Fels Naptha soap = $1.94  (94 cents each)
Washing Soda= $2.77
Borax= $2.98

Total cost is $7.69, but both the Washing Soda and Borax are large boxes and will last me for several batches. 

Next up will be trying dishwasher soap!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer School

I am a meany.

For all intents and purposes, we've had about 3 weeks of nothing. nada. zip. to do.  It was great!  Kids played.  I trashed my schoolroom, looking for items to sell.  I caught up on laundry.  I avoided grocery shopping (although I shouldn't really be proud of this, huh?).  Went on a few day trips.  It's been lovely.

However, experience at this mom/homeschooling thing has led me to conclude that too much of nothing is NOT a good thing. I cannot remember if it was the summer after 3rd grade of 4th grade, but one year we did no math at all -- and I cannot tell you the chaos that came upon us in September.  Honestly, it was as if Ben had forgotten to add!  Tears, tears, tears.  And he cried, too.

Since then I make an honest effort to do a little math over the summer and, of course, read.

This is everyone's plan for Summer School 2011:

Ben:  Finish Singapore Math 6A; Mad Dog Math drill, Read for 30 min. (I'm selecting some of his books), and do a little grammar daily (since we got a late start on Easy Grammar 6)

Luke: A lesson of MUS Beta daily, Mad Dog Math drill, Read for 30 min (he's doing this so well!)

Levi:  Read an I See Sam book to me daily. These books are working very well for him.  We're almost at the end of the 2nd set of books and I'm seeing him sound out words in his head, then reading much more fluently.

Lest you think I am just eating bon-bons while the kids are doing all this (really, it takes less than an hour daily, not including reading), I have a few assignments myself:
  1. Go through Teaching the Classics to prepare for teaching literature next year
  2. Prepare Lesson Plans using Donna Young's Quarter Planners by subject.  I think this will save my sanity next year.
  3. Read Ben's literature books for next year (at least a couple from the first quarter, then I'll try to stay up on his books as the year progresses).  
 What does your summer school look like?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Good-bye, Ruth

For the past week, I've been pawing through our school shelves looking for items to sell at our support group's used curriculum sale this week. 

Sometimes, it is just plain hard to decide what to sell and what to keep.  I will (likely) not be one of those homeschoolers who saves materials for their grandchildren -- our home just isn't that big!  My two biggest struggles are:

1. Lovies.  There are some resources we've used that will always hold a dear place in my heart, because of the memories it evokes.  An especially wonderful read aloud we shared as a family.  Some math blocks that my boys' use so creatively.  The Beginner's Bible that two of the three have read. 

2. Woulda-Shoulda-Coulda.  There are some materials I'm hesitant to part with because I should have used them! Perhaps they didn't match up with one of my boys' learning styles.  Perhaps it didn't mesh with my boys' ages at the time.  Maybe I didn't use it because I didn't feel confident enough to teach it.  Maybe we just ran out of time. 

Despite these two issues, I've amassed quite a collection of materials to sell.  The biggest is my lot of 6 years of Singapore Math curriculum.  I'm sure I've mentioned it, but as much as I love SM in concept, it really has not matched Ben's needs for years.  Mind you, he's done great with the program, but at the expense of some tears from both sides of the school desk. Ben needs more of a spiral approach to math -- something with systematic review built in (the 'built in' part is what I need).

But, as much as it didn't match up with Ben (or myself) a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.  I mean, I've got a whole elementary math program!

In discussing this potential asset sale with the school principal, he asked me thoughtful questions that made me realize that if the younger boys' math program (they use Math-U-See) needs to be changed at some point, I could purchase the Standards Edition of SM, which has review built in.  Yea!  I just love the principal of our school:

I noticed another trend in my sale box:  pre-school.  This past year was a pre-K/K school year for my baby.  He has a late birthday and didn't officially make the cut off for K (not that it mattered), but in the course of the year, Levi learned to read CVC words and finished off Math-U-See's Primer level math program (a K level program).  He can tell time!  He's had an amazing year.  So next year -- officially the K year -- he'll be continuing on in reading, starting spelling, and moving on to MUS's Alpha level, where we will park until it is mastered.  But this means that most of the preK materials and resources I've had for years.......9 years all told......are unnecessary now.  We've moved beyond preK and on to bigger and better.


Good-by Ruth Beechick.  Thank you for your help in those early years of homeschooling.  You are worth way more than $2, but I'm pricing you low so that you can bless another family with young children.

Thank you, Sonlight phonics games.  We had some great times!  I'm sure you'll help someone else master their basic phonograms.

Thank you, Singapore Math.  You really have been a blessing in this house.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Becoming a Prayer Warrior for My Boys

Last week I found this ebook:

And knew I had to get it.  My biggest failure as a Christian Mom is being consistent in prayer for my children.  I've participated a little bit in a Mom's In Touch program and learned to pray God's word through this program.

Then, after learning of the book, I learned of the challenge:

I must admit that after challenging myself to read the bible in 90 days-- and being successful -- I was up for the challenge and have joined in.

It started yesterday, and I prayed for obedience and submission to authority for my three young men.  I want my boys to grow to be strong, courageous, kind, loving leaders.  I want them to be servant leaders, modeling their lives after Jesus. Obeying Him, looking to Him, seeking Him out, making the choice to submit their lives to his authority and plan.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


...and that's it, folks, for 6th grade and 2nd grade.

Tuesday was our state law required year end evaluation. Although we've done standardized tests this year, I don't use those for our formal/ legal evaluation. I prefer to have a portfolio review, which serves several functions:

1. A portfolio assessment is authentic.  Your child is being compared to himself.  It is a collection of his/her work throughout the year; unlike a standardized test, which gleans how a student did during a testing session (several days) on a specific set of questions which may or may not relate to material the child has learned over the course of the year.  

2. It gives me the opportunity to review what my kids have done over the year.  For example, I didn't realize the amount of math we covered this  year -- almost 3 Singapore Math books, plus a Life of Fred book.  When I'm in the thick of the school year, I don't often take time to reflect on where we've been already in the school year.

3. In completing a portfolio assessment, I take it upon myself to write out a multi-page review of our school year (similar to the evaluation reports I wrote as an out-patient speech-language pathologist).  I write goals each year for the boys, so this gives me an opportunity to review these as well as helps me gather my thoughts together for the new year.  It is also an opportunity to assess my own skills as my child's teacher and gives me goals to work on for the next year.

4.  Since our state law requires me to maintain a portfolio for 2 years, I'm complying with two aspects of our law at the same time.

5.  I don't' have much time for scrapbooking anymore, so I decided this year to be intentional about including some pictures from our school year in their portfolios.  It was fun to look through pictures and include them.  Their portfolio has become a simple scrapbook of their year.

I love working with our reviewer -- I've known her for almost 10 years! It is always encouraging to me, and I love it when the kids walk back into the house with eyes wide and ask, "Did I pass?"

Now, on to summer!