Thursday, May 26, 2011

Homeschooling in the Garden

Time for garden updates at The Homeschool Village's Garden Challenge

We completed our experiment comparing Miracle Grow Potting Soil with our handmixed soil.   We had planned to complete the experiment after four weeks, but ended it early at three weeks because our lettuce was begging to be made into a salad. 

Here are the two pots side by side.  You can see the lighter pot (our handmade soil mix) has grown quite a bit bigger.

 Up close of our hand mixed soil results.

Up close of the Miracle Grow soil pot

Miracle Grow pot's red romaine is 12 3/4 inches tall.

Home-made potting soil red romaine is 13 1/2 inches tall.

Freckle Lettuce in hand-made potting soil is 10 1/4 inches versus

Freckle Lettuce in Miracle Grow potting soil which grew to 7 1/4 inches.

Hand-mixed potting soil frilly lettuce is 9 1/2 inches versus

The Miracle Grow potting soil frilly lettuce which measured 7 1/2 inches.

I was actually surprised with the results of this experiment.  Thinking the Miracle Grow, with its added quick growing fertilizer, would have had the advantage with a short growing crop like lettuce, I was happy to have such concrete results which proved otherwise.   Another variable I hadn't thought about was the amount of moisture the different soils held.  Holding moisture longer than my hand-mixed potting soil, the Miracle Grow pot often still had wet soil when the other pot was dry and ready to be watered.  So it never dried out.   This could have effected the results of the growing experiment.  

In other gardening news, my garden beds are slowly, but surely filling up.

Cucumbers and lemon balm

I-E made this trellis for me.

E-R planting some thyme next to our basil and lettuce plants.

Baby cuc

But the all-time favorite garden past time has been

Trying to throw the trowel

just right, so it lands in the dirt upright--it's harder than it looks!

This fat guy is always waiting for us in the afternoon!

How is your gardening growing?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Why I Homeschool

I homeschool to avoid busywork, so that time can instead be used for motivating and rewarding projects.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Kid's Guide to Drawing the Presidents of the United States of America Review

How to Draw the Life and Times of Benjamin Harrison by Melody S. Mis. is a book filled not only with facts about President Benjamin Harrison, but also step-by-step instructions on drawing the iconic images of his time.

This hardcover 32 page book begins with brief overview of Benjamin Harrison's life and includes fun facts such as Benjamin Harrison's great-grandfather signed the Declaration of Independence and his grandfather, William Henry Harrison, also served as President of the United States.   Included with this overview are the shapes and drawing terms which will be needed to understand  the drawing directions found later in the book. 

After the introductory section, the book has sections covering one part of Benjamin Harrison's life with step by step instructions on how to draw a representation from that part of his life.  The section, The Benjamin Harrison Home, discusses the different homes he lived in, what has happened to some of those homes, and finally the home he lived in and conducted his front porch campaign from that is now a museum.   Then a step-by-step guide is provided to draw the front porch of the house which is now a museum.

Included at the end of the book are a timeline, glossary, index, and link to further websites about Benjamin Harrison.   

This book provides a very basic overview of our nation's twenty-third president suitable for elementary aged students.   I was a bit disappointed with how some of the history of the time was dealt with.  In the section dealing with the Samoan Islands, the dispute about who would control the Samoan Islands between Germany, Great Britain, and the United States is explained.  It further explains that these countries signed the Berlin Treaty which gave the Samoan Islands the right to self government.   Then ends with the sentence, "Later that year Harrison annexed Eastern Samoa for the United States."    What?  Huh?    I think even in an elementary text that action deserves a bit of explanation.

The drawing instruction in this book is superb.   Even a child without much drawing experience will most likely be able to follow the steps provided to complete a drawing they would be happy with.   My kids were able to follow the instructions on their own and complete these fabulous drawings! 

Benjamin Harrison's civil war uniform jacket

  Miami University's seal.  Benjamin Harrison was an alumni of Miami University.


Benjamin Harrison opened Oklahoma territory to settlers on April 22, 1889.

HMS Calliope--the only ship to survive a hurricane in the harbor of Apia, Samoa.

I can picture this book, along with the others in the series. used as a basis for notebooking about American history.   The timeline and glossary resources along with the drawings created would help to make informative and fun notebook pages.

This book and the rest of books in the series can be found in Timberdoodle's history offerings.   Timberdoodle also offers a free catalog simply for the asking.

As a member of Timberdoodle's Blogger Review Team I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a frank and unbiased review.

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Starting Young and Moving through the Teens with Money

Talking about money seems to be a taboo subjects in many homes, but it need not be so.  

Talking about money will be as natural for our children as we make it.  

Start young and keep it simple.   

As young as two, or whenever you know the money won't end up in a mouth,  kids can start learning about money by actually handling it and learning what each coin is called.    A penny is one cent.   A nickle is the same as five pennies.   A dime is the same as ten pennies or two nickels.

This is also a good time to start instilling your values about money.    Think about what you do with your money.       How much do you save?    How much do you give to charity?   How much do you feel is appropriate to spend on just yourself?    How much do you share for family obligations?   It's never to early to share this information with children.   They may only have a dollar, but that's enough to split up into spending, charity, long term savings, short term savings, and what ever other categories you feel appropriate.

I've found that when kids are young it's good to have them physically place money in containers. When our children were younger, we utilized an envelope system.   Everybody had a large manila envelope that smaller envelopes fit into.   These smaller envelopes were labeled with our money categories: long-term savings, short-term savings, tithing, spending, and family activities.   A favorite past time was getting out their envelope, counting the money, recounting, and just feeling those coins in their hands.    Trading coins for bills as the amounts in the envelopes grew were pure magic. 

Playing games involving money is also a great way to practice budgeting on a larger scale without the risk factor real money holds.  Monopoly, Life, and many other classic games involve counting money and budgeting.   Another game that specifically requires the player to think ahead and budget is Budget .  Before each round the players must plan a  budget of  what they will spend until next payday.  If they stay within their budget, a bonus is coming their way next payday.   I like this game because of the amount of money the child works with, $2000, as well as covering real life situations and expenses, renting vs buying a home, doctor's bills, investing vs short-term savings, groceries, buying a car, car repairs, brand-name clothes vs thrift store finds, ect.

A similar game, Payday,  uses a month-long period as its base for budgeting.   I'm not as thrilled with this game because of the luck factor involved.  I am morally opposed to gambling, and this game involves playing the lottery and winning jackpots. Guess I should have looked at the description a bit more before buying which was an opportunity to have a discussion about money with my family!   Never miss those opportunities--even mistakes on our part can be learning times for our kids.  

About the age of 12 we transfer the long term savings from the envelopes to a bank account.   I remember growing up having a bank account with an account book.   I lived in a small town, and the little bank in our town was locally owned.   Someone from the bank came to my school and met with my class.   With $1 we were allowed to open our very own savings account,  and we were welcome to come into the bank with our grubby hands full of coins to deposit into our own account.  The teller would hand-write the amount we had put into the bank and then stamp it with the bank stamp.  

Oh how times have changed!    When it was time to open an account for our oldest we had a hard time finding a  bank that would open an account for him without a large minimum amount and without a parent as the official account holder.  Fees were also a deal breaker for most small savings accounts.  I finally located a local credit union that was willing to open accounts for children--even if the parents weren't members.  The minimum amount necessary to open a children's account was $25.   My experience with them was fabulous; they were willing to work with children and even excepted those grubby handfuls of coins.   I would recommend looking at local credit unions to see what services they offer for children.

If you can not find anything local that fits your needs, you may want to look at this online option, ING Direct. This account  does welcome children's accounts with a joint adult account holder.  The account is easily accessible and has wonderful online tools to watch money grow without the fees or high account minimum. 

Around the age of fifteen we opened a checking account with an ATM card for our oldest.   We deposited money in the account each month requiring him to pay for expenses such as school books, lunches, dentist appointments, and clothing.   With careful planning he was able to have a little extra for fun activities.   Mistakes have been made, overdrafts have popped up and lunches have been missed, but I would rather he make these mistakes on my watch with small amounts of money then make them later in life with larger amounts of money and bills such as a mortgage or car payment. 

There is no escaping the influence money has on our everyday lives.  Let's be pro-active and teach our children our money values instead of letting the media and others teach their money values to our children.

This is the second part of a series of posts about teaching about money.   Be sure to check out last week's post   and come back for next week's post about curriculum resources I've used to teach economics.  

 Check out what other Hip Homeschool Moms are doing this week at the 

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Homeschooling Links

Two awesome homeschooling links have recently come to my attention that are too important to let pass by.

features curriculum reviews by real homeschool moms that have used the curriculum with real kids
 sponsored by
 The Happy Housewife

should be a must read for all homeschoolers. 


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Resource of the Day: WebQuest

About three years ago, I stumbled across WebQuest.Org. My path to WebQuest has been lost in the chronicles of time, but thank goodness that path was trod.

What is a WebQuest?    According to WebQuest.Org, " a WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented lesson format in which most or all the information that learners work with comes from the web.   WebQuests originated at the San Diego State University Department of Educational Technology in February 1995.  Since those beginning days, tens of thousands of teachers have embraced WebQuests as a way to make good use of the internet while engaging their students in the kinds of thinking that the 21st century requires."

 WebQuest is a painless way to add variety to my lesson plans.    A huge list of shared lesson plans that utilize the Internet, I've used it to find meaningful research projects for all different types of topics.

The last WebQuest we used was Mayan Time Capsule  .   Students work to put together a time capsule of important artifacts from the Mayan Civilization making sure to include artifacts from different aspects that will be important to future generations' understanding of the culture since an impending air strike is a possibility.  Of course, my kids changed the air strike (much too mundane) to a zombie apocalypse.  Throughout the process students work on research skills, public speaking, logic, debating skills, writing, as well as discernment.  Learning to work together and divide tasks according to strengths and weaknesses was a much appreciated by-product. 

As with any shared content website the quality of product varies greatly, but in general the content of this website is excellent.   Art, music, business, technology, science, history, English, and life skills are just some of the topics covered by Webquest.  Currently the search function seems to be a bit handicapped.  Hopefully this is something that will be corrected soon as this is an excellent resource for any educator. 

Be sure to check out what other moms are using to  


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Why I Homeschool

I homeschool, so my children have opportunities to have varied friends that span generations, interests, and belief systems.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Teaching Economics

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In the next few weeks I will share a series on teaching economics in our homes. Some casual everyday ways, some games, and some more formal curriculum resources that are out there.

According to the Federal Reserve the personal bankruptcy rate of 2009 in the United States increased 14.4% from the previous year.  Of those declaring bankruptcy the average credit card debt was 1 1/2 times their annual income. reports the average American has 2.7 credit cards with an outstanding balance of $14,743.   The average APR on these balances is 13.44%.     Americans under the age of  35 most likely got their first credit card around their 20th birthday.  

And debt isn't just a problem for individuals. lists nine countries with national debts that exceed their gross domestic product(GDP).   Japan leds the pack owing more than 200% of its GDP.  Owing 97% of our GDP, the United States also has a huge debt load.   In fact, our country is currently worrying about being able to pay their debtors.   

 The Council for Economic Education puts it this way.  "The spiraling rate of personal bankruptcies and credit card debt; the lack of understanding of the importance of saving and investing; the inability to discern the consequences of powerful international economic changes, or even to know the meaning of "profit," are all evidence that we as a nation can no longer afford to make economics an option in our schools. It is especially necessary to give our young people -- who are our future -- a grasp of the basic principles of the American economic system."

As homeschoolers we are in the unique position to teach economics in a meaningful hands-on way.  Our children are with us through out the day as we deal with all different kinds of money issues.   Things as mundane as paying bills and running to the grocery store can be learning moments, if we take the time to make them such.  Like the rest of the nation though we sometimes fall short. 

What are some of the issues that keep us from educating our children about money?   Growing up money was not discussed in my family.   I'm not sure why that was.   My parents didn't have an abundance of money, but certainly used what they had in a responsible manner.   Frugality was a lesson my siblings and I learned by example.   But talking to us about savings, how to save and how they used savings, would have been helpful to us as we left home and started our own families.   

What keeps you from discussing money issues with your children?  

Are you afraid to share personal money details with your children because they might be passed on to the neighbors?

Do you feel you yourself needs to learn a bit more first?

Is it just something you feel your child shouldn't be burdened with right now?

Is it just a taboo issue that brings as much embarrassment as the birds and the bees talk?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Monday, May 9, 2011

What are our real goals?

This is a repost from last year.   It's that time of year when I start thinking about our next school year.  

Eight more weeks of school left until summer break. This thought causes music to ring in homeschool moms' ears while at the same time riping right through their hearts! Summer--time to sleep in. Read lots of books. Enjoy the outdoors while nature studies naturally happen. A time to catch up on chores and organize the house from top to bottom. And best of all-- time to plan next year! And that is where the fear comes in. Only eight more weeks left!!! Those plans from last summer have not been fullfilled! The two science programs. The one and half math levels. The extended unit studies covering every last detail of ancient history. The mastery of spelling and the English language. The exploration of nuclear fission or was it fussion?

Why do homeschool moms place so much pressure on ourselves? Why is it that we have so much trouble setting reasonable goals and being satisified when those goals are met? Why is it not okay to have average kids--that sometimes struggle with reading, only finish one math program each school year, and misspell the same words over and over? These same kids may excell at swimming or music or thinking outside the box. Or perhaps, they exude kindness for their fellow man? They may read all the Judy Moody books and never become experts on the Civil War.

It's that time of year again. Time to plan next year. What are our real goals for next year?

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Memory Monday May 9, 2011

Happy Memory Monday.    Last Monday I realize I was AWOL;   I was suffering from a nasty sinus infection and would have rathered died than thought about Memory Work.!   Thanks to modern medicine and lots of naps, I have returned to the land of blogging.

But I do want to report that our on the go method we utilized during testing week worked brilliantly!   Having each child in charge of teaching the rest of us one thing worked wonders for flagging enthusiasm.   Having the visuals stored in the car made it easy to remember to review our memory work every time we got in the car.    Although we won't be traveling in the car as much every week as we did that week, I believe we will continue to use car time as review time.

This week we will focus on learning those wars I've been mentioning for so long.  

I made a poster including the dates of the war, name of war, and who was involved in the war.

This poster will most likely lean up against the wall in our dining room or living room.

Each tab has the winner of the war on the back

Then comes the game part (we live for games).   I made an overlay

with flaps on it.  Games will be invented I'm sure

involving dice, play money, and even chocolate

Because that's how we roll! 

Our grammar this week will be a continuation of conjunction rules

 A subordinating conjunction is a word that links a dependent clause to an independent clause.

An independent clause is a complete thought or sentence, including a subject and verb.

 A dependent clause is a thought that cannot stand alone as a complete sentence.

Science will include the needs of living things:

Living Space
Proper Temperatures

And also Classification of Living Things

What is your memory work this week?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Curriculum Clean Out Udpate---WINNERS!

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

Thanks so much to all that played!   I had a wonderful time checking out everyones blog that visited, and I entered some awesome give aways myself.  

Winner Number One:   Sally from With Eager Hands

She won

Have fun with this, Sally.   We love History Pockets.  

Winner Number Two:   Cellista at La Scuola d' Argento

She won

All of these books have been enjoyed by all five of my children.   Enjoy Cellista!  Hope your family enjoys them as much as we have

And we have two Winner Number Three:


have both won a copy of

Our family first read this book when my youngest son was in K--(he will be entering high school this coming year!).  We have reread it many times since.   The messages about families and how we view people around us are timeless.   Enjoy!

Winner Number Four:  

Is an Anonymous Winner I'm going to call Trish!

She has won a wonderful book all about Bugs!

As a bug lover I'm sure she'll enjoy this fanscitnating book.

Winner Number 5:

 is Laura

She has won

Laura, enjoy this wonderful set of books.   All of my children have used these for hours upon hours of drawing fun.   Hope your family enjoys them just as much.

Winner Number 6

Is Melissa

She won an awesome Book that tells the Biblical History of the World through art

Congratulation Everyone!

I had great fun with my first few giveaways and am looking forward to having more giveaways in the future.