Welcome to Life at the Holman's.


Within this blog, you will find everything from recipes to school ideas to everyday fun stuff and things we have learned along the way. From time to time you will find just a chronicle of our journey here in Oklahoma. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Last Post on the Blog

I wanted to take the time to let every one know that I will be discontinuing my blog as of this Wednesday.  While I did enjoy blogging about my schooling and cooking and such, I feel it is not something that I will be able to continue at this time. I have lost the excitement of blogging and have decided that I can use my time more wisely in other areas.

Just wanted to give everyone the heads up so that you are not left wondering what happened to the blog.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What's for dinner? - Ozark Apple Pudding

Mmm...mmm...good!  I was online yesterday and found a recipe for Ozark Apple Pudding.  It was on the website TastyKitchen.com. This particular recipe was in the blog tab in the step-by-step recipes.
 
When we found the recipe, both Savannah and I agreed that it was a must that we try it today. While I would not consider it a pudding as the title would suggest, it is a wonderful apple cake and was so easy to make. There is a step-by-step recipe with pictures here. It smelled wonderful while it was baking and was moist and delicious when it was eaten!

I did a couple of things different.  First off, I used 1 cup of cinnamon flavored apple sauce for one cup of the oil and only used 1/4 cup of oil.  I also left off the nuts...one - we were out of them and two - I am not really crazy about nuts in my cakes, cookies, or breads.

Just a heads up...I also made the coconut granola from the same blog area (here is the recipe).  It turned out alright and would have been much better had I not forgotten it in the oven.  It turned out a little on the brown side but was still pretty good.  The kids enjoyed eating it as cereal with milk on top.
 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Scholastic Website Thanksgiving Webcast and Activities

Last year, we took part in the Scholastic Thanksgiving Webcast as part of our November activities.  We were able to watch a live production of an interview with "Pilgrims," see various buildings and tools that were used during the Pilgrim era, and learn a little about their way of life.

Last week, I received an email announcing that the Thanksgiving activities were available again this year.  One example of an upcoming activity takes place on November 9th at 1 p.m. ET. There is a  "Tour the Wampanoag Homesite" that will be available for viewing online.  The website offers many other interesting activities and is really a fun way of learning a little about the past. For those of you interested in signing up, follow the link here.  This will take you to the sign-up page.

We received our first Pilgrim email today.  It is a letter from a Pilgrim child telling about the journey on the ship to the New World.  This letter has links to a Thanksgiving unit and other audio versions of "letters from Pilgrims." We look forward to following the site a few days at a time up until our Thanksgiving break.  It will be a chance to see what we remember from last year's unit and what new things we can discover.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Annual Trip to the Pear Trees

This morning started out with a round of beautiful fall weather.  The temperature was perfect.  Of course, our Oklahoma fall wind was coming in strong, but it was at least not cold.  We decided to take a nature hike and head to the pear trees.  We had not checked on the pears this year and were wondering just what we would find.  

Last year the pear were abundant (here is the post). However, this year...there was not a single pear to be had.  Out of the 3 trees in the grove, there were no pears in sight.  Now, we have the quest to try and solve the mystery of why.  Could it be the extreme drought? Maybe it was just a "sleeper" year for the trees. I am leaning more toward the drought because there was so much vegetation that was destroyed.  Our area was really hit hard.  

Anyway, we still have some pears from last year in the freezer so we just have to wait until next year to see if the pears return.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Great Website

Some time back I stumbled upon a home school blog called Practical Pages.  It is a great site to find ideas for art ideas, notebooks, lap books, etc.  If you click on the above link, it will take you to the "Sketch Tuesday" for this week. I signed up for her newsletter and the "Sketch Tuesday" posts are my favorite.  She sends out ideas that sparks a creativity to help bolster up our weekly (or at least we are trying to do it weekly) art lesson.

The following pictures are of the Sketch Tuesday ideas that we have completed so far.  For each idea, we first made a list on the board of various items.  Then we started drawing.  We have completed a brown page, a blue page and a green page.
JJ's brown
Brown by Savannah
Notice the "brown" Oklahoma.  This stems from the extreme drought we have been having.


Savannah's green
Now if you notice Missouri is green.  She always said that Missouri was taking all the rain and wouldn't share!


JJ's green
Savannah's Blue Jay

Friday, October 28, 2011

Into Term 2

Well, Term 1 is over, fall break is through, and have almost 2 weeks behind us for Term 2.  It has been a few weeks since my last post because I actually took the time and relaxed (at least more than usual) during this break.  Usually, I am always planning for the next round of lessons, but I decided to just take a break.  I made sure the gist of my plans for the first week were already completed before fall break started. I wanted to take the time to evaluate our progress/feelings about the home school calendar change so far.

First off, as for the idea of having the longer breaks...it is/was wonderful!  I asked the kids how they liked the new 9-week straight terms with longer breaks in between and here are their responses:

Savannah said, "I loved it.  It was much easier.  I needed the break."

JJ's response was "You feel more refreshed and relaxed because you have one big long break."

Jason and I both agree that the year long method of scheduling is a great improvement.  Some of the advantages that I have found so far are:
  1. We can actually finish units and not be interrupted by shortened weeks. When we were trying to follow the regular local school year calendar, it seemed like we had shortened weeks constantly.  The public school gets off for holidays as well as teacher meetings so every time we turned around, we had a day off.  I am not complaining about the days off because believe me I look forward to days off just as much as the kiddos, but it seemed to really disrupt our normal flow of school because the random days off were constant.  
  2. We had something to look forward to....we knew that we would be working really hard for 9 weeks and that the hard work would be rewarded with a relaxing extended break.
  3. We are also able to fit our schedule more along the lines of my husbands job.  As a handyman, it is really hard for Jason to schedule time off in the warmer summer months.  With this schedule we will be planning our winter break as an extended break during one of Jason's less busy times...the holiday season. We will have a full week off at Thanksgiving (instead of the traditional Thursday and Friday),and we will take 3 weeks during the December/New Year time frame.  
  4. Many subjects/lesson ideas are just better taught in a full week session.  Maybe it is just old habit of a traditional 5 day a week lesson plan, but (for example) spelling lessons fit a lot better when you have a full week to complete it.  When it comes to spelling, we have an order of doing things.  We introduce our words on Monday with a "pretest" to see what words they know and what words they need to practice.  We practice the missed words that day.  On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, their spelling book provides an activity for extra practice.  We do another review-practice test on Thursday and have the final test on Friday.  Even as a public school elementary teacher, it was always frustrating to have the week shortened by losing a Monday or a Friday to break.  You end up either shortening the lesson for the spelling unit in order to get it done, or you have to extend the unit into 2 weeks.  Of course, the problem with extending the unit is that there are typically 34-36 units in a spelling book which accounts for the exact number of school weeks in a school year. As for shortening the lessons, if there are words that the kids are having trouble spelling, they need that extra day to practice and prepare before being tested.
I will stop there for now with advantages.  As for disadvantages to our new calendar, the one biggie that I noticed was the "getting back into the swing of things" lag.  I knew that it would be a possibility and was actually expecting it.  While I was excited to get back to work, the kids were thoroughly enjoying their free time.  Part of it is that we had finally had some relief from the extreme heat and drought that was happening here in Oklahoma.  (We actually had rain!) The back to school lag was not bad and would be compared to coming back to school after a 3 day weekend...getting used to getting up earlier and going to bed earlier...those kinds of things.  So, the one idea that we have of trying to combat it is to have the first week a shortened Wednesday to Friday week and add the missing 2 days to the end of the session.  It is a promising proposal because that would give us 2 days at the end that would strictly be for wrapping up the lessons.  I am still working out the logistics of it, but it is a promising possibility for Term 3.  

In a nutshell, I am really pleased with the change so far.  I am sure that as time goes on and new changes and scenarios arise we will be forced to adjust, but that helps make home schooling more interesting and fun!  

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What's for dinner? - Chimichangas, Yellow Rice and Re-fried beans!

Tonight's dinner was another dish from one of our favorite cuisines...Mexican!  We eat a lot of Mexican foods whether it be at home or out at a restaurant.  We recently tried a different Mexican restaurant here in town.  I decided to stray from my usual taco salad and try some chimichangas.  They were excellent! They were not the usual ground beef or chicken filled chimichinga, rather they were beef tip filled (tiny steak bites).  

Before we left, I talked to the waiter at the restaurant and asked how they get their chimichangas to stay together when they fry them. When I tried to make them in the past, the most difficult part was getting the tortilla to stay shut. He said that they actually have a basket that goes around the tortilla that holds it together.  Great!  Back to square one because I do not have that wonderful basket!

Anyway, we tried making chimichangas again tonight. We ended up with our own little Mexican restaurant. JJ had his typical cheese enchiladas, rice, and beans while Jason, Savannah, and I had chimichangas, yellow rice, beans and salad topping consisting of lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and homemade guacamole.  Mmmm!

Here is how we did it:

Homemade Chimichangas

Ingredients:
Chicken, Beef tips, or ground beef seasoned Mexican style
Tortillas (homemade or large store bought)
Mexican blend cheese
Toothpicks
Oil for frying
White melted cheese 
Shredded Lettuce
Diced Tomato
Sour Cream
Guacamole

Directions:
While the oil is heating, stuff your tortillas with a couple of spoons full of meat mixture and about 1 Tbsp. of cheese.  Tightly roll the tortilla tucking in the ends (early in the rolling process) so that the stuffing does not fall out during the frying.  Take a toothpick and use it to close the side.  After all the tortillas are stuffed, then comes the difficult part.
Since I do not have the fry basket, I used 2 tongs to hold the tortilla shut. It is necessary to hold the tortilla shut for a while even though you closed it with a toothpick because it will expand and open up in the frying process. The toothpick only holds the middle so make sure your tongs are toward the ends.
Allow the chimichanga to fry until it is a light golden brown­­­­ turning it throughout the frying process.  Remove it from the oil and allow it to drian on a paper towel.

Chicken Chimichanga Filling
Ingredients:
Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast, cut into small pieces
½ packet of Sazon Seasoning from Goya
Green pepper, finely chopped
Yellow Pepper, finely chopped
Onion, finely chopped
½ tsp. olive oil
Chili Powder
Cumin
Garlic Salt
Pepper

Directions:
Sauté the peppers and onions in olive oil for 2-3 minutes in a cast iron skillet.  Sprinkle the mixture with chili powder, garlic salt, and cumin (just enough to add flavor).  Add the chicken pieces and about 2 tablespoons of water (to keep the chicken moist).  Sprinkle the sazon over the top of the meat, pepper, and onion mixture.  Allow it to fry for about 4-5 minutes until the chicken is cooked.  Do not overcook the meat or it will be dry.  Allow it to cool for a few minutes and then stuff the tortilla shells.

JJ requested that I make yellow rice instead of our traditional mexican (red) rice.  He wanted his meal JUST LIKE the one at the restaurant, and this particular restaurant happens to serve yellow rice!  I did a quick search online and found this recipe at ehow.com.  Here is the link to the exact recipe.

Mexican Yellow Rice

 1 c. rice
 2 c. water
 1 tsp. crushed garlic
 1 tsp. olive oil
 1/2 tsp. Sazon seasoning by Goya
 1/2 tsp. turmeric  (I used ginger.)
 1/2 tsp. salt

Directions:
Add the oil to a sauce pan that is set on medium heat. Add the garlic, sazon, and tumeric (or ginger in my case) to the oil as it is heating. Brown the garlic slightly and then reduce the heat. Add the water and bring it to a boil.  Once the water is at a full boil, add the rice to pot, stir, and return it to a boil. When the rice and water has returned to a boil, turn the heat down to low and allow it to finish cooking. It is important to keep an eye on the rice and stir it occasionally.  If the water boils out and your rice is not completely cooked, add a little bit of water (about 1/4 cup at a time) to keep it from sticking and to give it more time to cook. The recipe says to allow it to cook for 25 minutes, but I typically only let long grain rice cook for 18-20 minutes.  I just check it and see if it is cooked all the way through and soft.

As mentioned above, I used ginger instead of turmeric.  I had Savannah do a bit of research to find out exactly what turmeric was, and she found it to be an Asian plant that is in the ginger family.  That was good enough for me!  I replace the required turmeric with just a dash of ginger (I didn't want to over do it!).  It worked.  The rice was great!

With everything done, it was time to put the plates together...chimichanga smothered with melted white cheese, refried beans with a bit of shredded cheese sprinkled on top, yellow rice, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and guacamole. Here are a few tips:
  1. Do not over fry the chimichanga.  They will be extra crunchy if you do. (speaking from experience)
  2. When you are draining the chimichanga, turn it on it's end to allow some of the extra oil that made its way inside to drain out.  
  3. You can also add a bit of fire to the meat stuffing by putting in some hot chilies or sprinkling it with red pepper. 
  4. If you do not have time to make refried beans from scratch, you can use a can of pinto beans.  Heat 1 tsp. of bacon grease in an iron skillet.  Pour in the whole can of pinto beans (juice and all) and use a potato masher to mash up the beans while they are "re-frying." Lightly sprinkle the beans with chili powder.  Add water to the mix if they are getting too dry and sticking to the skillet.  Savannah actually made the beans tonight. Using the canned pintos turned out much better than the "pre-smashed" variety of canned refried beans.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Catch of the day!

With the cooler weather, the whole family is spending the evenings out doors catching up for all the times we were heat bound over the last few months.  This evening, the kids decided they wanted to head up to the half of the pond that is left (because of the drought) and go fishing.  Of course, the prospect of digging up worms right now is about impossible so they decided that they would try fishing with hot dogs.  We had a half package of cheesy hot dogs left that they decided to use (the kids did not like the cheesy dogs).  They headed to the pond with the rods, hot dogs, and a bucket of water for all the fish they would catch.  I have to admit...I was not expecting much!

About 20-30 minutes after they left, we hear them screaming, "Come here!  You have to see this."  They yelled and yelled until Jason arrived at the pond (I followed a few minutes later.).  Savannah was beaming with excitement because she caught a huge fish.  It is by far the biggest fish we have pulled out of the pond yet.  We had been told by one of the guys who lived here previously that there were some really big fish in the pond, but we were skeptical.  Not any more!




After the moment of fame, we did decide to allow the fish to continue to grow.  We figured if he made it this far, he deserved to continue his life.  Dad transported the fish back to the pond, and everyone watched him swim away.

The kids fished until dark with JJ catching a fish of his own.  It was too late to clean it for dinner so he decided he is getting up early to go catch some breakfast and lunch tomorrow.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Homemade Butter Pecan Syrup

We recently ate at one of the local restaurants that served butter pecan syrup with our pancakes. Everyone in the family thoroughly enjoyed it so we decided to try and make some syrup of our own.  I searched online for a recipe and here is the one that we tried.  The only thing I changed was that I only boiled the syrup for about 4-5 minutes.  We just didn't want to wait for the full 10 minutes, but it still turned out great and thick enough for out taste.

JJ stopped in the middle to let me take a quick picture!
Here is what is left!

I only made a half recipe which turned out to be just enough (with a little left over) for our family of four.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

1st Quarter Down!...3 more to go!

Yeah!  Our first quarter is winding up and a good long break is here!

This year we decided to change up our family home school yearly calendar and tried a new tactic.  First a little background...This summer turned out to be a dreadfully hot, unbearably long summer.  It was actually too hot to even go swimming.  Oklahoma set a new record for days over 100 degrees...I am not sure exactly how many we ended up with because lost track after we broke the previous record of 50 days form back in 1985.  It was big news on the stations around here.  Every day the news anchors would come up with some way to let us know that is was really hot..."We are one more day closer to breaking that record," " Only ___ more days to go before we break that record for number of days over 100 degrees," etc.  The worst part was that we had absolutely NO RAIN.

I have never experienced a summer like this one.  The fields around our area were bear where there were usually vast amounts of cattle grazing vegetation.  Even the ponds were close to drying up or were dry.  (Fortunately, the 2 ponds in our fields kept enough water to keep the fish alive.)  However, as you travel around the region, you see the toll the hot, dry summer has played on the ponds that are empty and the grounds that are cracked.  Our own yard is practically barren of grass and only has a few remaining weeds that are hanging on the for green look!  We have sunken areas that were not there before and long breaks/cracks that run through our yard.  That HOT, DRY summer is what helped us make the decision to draw up our new home school calendar.

Oklahoma City public schools adopted a new school calendar this year.  They decided to go to the year-long school calendar that would spread the number of school days out throughout the year.  It has less focus on a long summer break and has more extended breaks during the year.

Since the hot summer kept us sort of house bound this year, the kids were bored and that was when we opted to start school on July 18th and begin our quest of the year-long school calendar. Our first quarter which ends Tuesday was from July 18th to September 27th.  It was a straight 9-week quarter with the exception of a Friday and Monday off for Labor Day.  We will now have a little less than 3 weeks off.

The rest of the school year will look like this:

Quarter 2: October 24 to December 23 with one week off for Thanksgiving
Winter Break: December 24 to January 22 (3 week break)
Quarter 3: January 16 to March 16
Spring Break: March 17 to April 15
Quarter 4: April 16 to June 15
Summer Break: June 16 to July 29
Then we will start our school year (2012-2013) after the 6-week summer break on July 30th.

At first, the kids were not crazy about the idea of "losing" their summer break.  We took the time to have a "family discussion" about the positive and negatives of the new calendar.  Once they realized that they would have a long break after only one quarter, they decided that it was as great idea.  They would be able to take their first break when the weather was nicer and camping out was more of an option,

Well...the first break is here. Just a bit more odds and ends to tie up in the first session, and we are done! The weather has finally cooled, and we even had a couple of inches of rain this week. The kiddos are looking forward to setting up the tent in the yard.  Of course, we are still on a "burn-ban" so there are no camp fires allowed which they are a little bummed about. I have to say that I am looking forward to the break, too.  (Maybe even more than the kids!) While I love home schooling, I certainly like the relaxed days of no scheduled expectations.  Just good ol' sweatshirt wearin', coffee drinkin' mornings to laze around before the day really begins.  Look out break....here we come!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Fun and Games Website

Both of my kids enjoy working on the computer.  When I find games that pique their interest and are educational all at the same time, I jump on it.  Today, thanks to Dianne Flynn Keith at www.Clickschooling.com, I found this great educational games website: schooltimegames.com.  The first game that I found and tried myself was "Pharoah's Tomb."  Now, I have to admit that I did not even make it through the first 3 rooms before I died (that was on the easy!).  Also, I am not really sure what educational advancement this game will lead to, but it was fun and would go great with a unit on Egypt!

The math section of the website has some great games, too.  There are many games to choose from like logic games, multiplication, a "tetris" style game, and others. The "Incredibots" game under the science section is a great thinking game to use with alesson on machines and how/why they work!  While I haven't explored the entire site yet, I have already found plenty of great games that we can use to incorporate into our curriculum.  Thanks Clickschooling!

Monday, April 25, 2011

What's For Dinner? - Baked Teriyaki Chicken

It has been a while since I have posted a recipe.  Honestly, I have just not had time to try new things or experiment around with cooking new meals.  However, tonight's meal was a keeper so I thought I would share.

I am a member of the Allrecipes.com site.  It is a sight that I have mentioned in the past as a great resource for recipe ideas.  You can find a recipe for just about anything.  If your looking for that wonderful recipe that your great great grandma used to make that everyone calls by a different name and you have never been able to figure out how to make, this is a great site to start your search.  All you have to do is type in the recipe name in the search.  For example, where I grew up we called this wonderful chocolate desert with chocolaty fudge icing by the name of Mississippi Mud Cake.  Since I grew up along the Mississippi, this name was fitting in our area.  However, many people know the same cake as Texas Sheet Cake. (I am sure there are probably other names for the same cake, too.)  That is where the site comes in handy because you can type in a recipe by whatever ol' name you know it as, and many times find just what you are looking for.

However, if that does not produce the results you need, there is a question and answer/recipe request area that you can use.  Just describe the type of recipe you are looking for and within a short time (usually), someone will respond.  I have never posted a question that someone has not at least attempted to answer.  And...most of the time the advice is great!  You can also use this area to get recipe ideas for a meal.  For instance, if you have some chicken thighs and don't know what to make, just ask the group for ideas.  You are notified through your email every time someone responds.

That brings me to today's recipe.  I am subscribed to a newsletter form Allrecipes.com, and this week one of the recipes caught my eye - Baked Teriyaki Chicken.  You can find the direct link to the recipe here.  We made it tonight, and  after taking a vote, the entire family agreed that this recipe was a keeper.  The only thing I would change next time would be to make about half again the amount of sauce.  My family really liked the sauce, and I made the meal with rice so a little extra sauce would have been a great addition for spreading on top of the rice.  In addition to the chicken and rice, we had broccoli, raw carrots and celery, and ice tea.  Unfortunately, I really did not know what to expect from the meal so I did not get any pictures, but the picture on the recipe site is actually pretty close to what it looks like except we did not have that much sauce.
Baked Teriyaki Chicken Recipe
Picture from Allrecipes.com website
Baked Teriyaki Chicken
1 Tbsp. Cornstarch
1 Tbsp. Cold Water
1/2 c. Sugar
1/2 c. Soy Sauce
1/4 c. Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Minced Garlic Clove
1/2 tsp. Ground Ginger
1/4 tsp. Black Pepper
12 Skinless Chicken Thighs

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Combine all the above ingredients (except chicken) in a saucepan.  Let simmer, stirring frequently until the mixture boils and thickens.  Remove from the heat. Place the chicken thighs in a 9X13 pan and pour the sauce over the top of the chicken.  Turn the chicken  to make sure all sides are coated.  Bake 30 minutes.  Then turn the chicken and bake for an additional 30 minutes.  The recipe suggests to brush with sauce every 10 minutes.  However, I just returned the chicken about halfway through the last 30 minute baking segment to help re-coat it and keep it from drying out, and it was fine.  

When we made our chicken, I accidentally got a bag of chicken legs out of the freezer instead of thighs.  So we had about 6 chicken legs as well as 3 chicken thighs (not overly huge chicken thighs) in our 9X13 pan.  This worked out fine, and they cooked evenly.  As a matter of fact, I cut off about 5 minutes of cooking time, and the chicken was cooked to the perfect "done-ness" and was very moist.  So the cooking times will definitely vary according to your specific oven as well as the size of the chicken thighs that you have.  

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Meet Jason!

The other day I realized that I had yet to introduce a very important person in my life.  For some reason, in the beginning of my blogging, I introduced my kids and the animals but never took the time to introduce my husband.  So here he is:
This is Jason!
Jason and I have been married for almost 15 years.  He is currently working as a full-time self-employed handyman here in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  You can read more about his work at his blog - Life As A Handyman.

Here is some loving family time with the kids:

Wrestling is one of those fun family bonding times that we all enjoy! 
I am very thankful that I have a great husband that is actively involved in the home.  He makes a point to try to spend quality time with his children whether it be wrestling, playing a game, or just going up in the field for a walk. He is thankful and appreciates when I cook a good meal for him.  He even helps out in the kitchen once in a while.  I think I will keep him!





Math, Science, Vocabulary, and Geography Site

In our History and Geography, we have been studying the individual countries of the Asian continent. I want my children to both have a good geography background so that when they hear of countries, cities, etc. on the news and in everyday life they have a idea of what area of our world is being discussed.  Throughout our study, they have located city/country names like Iraq, Kabul, Iran, Israel, Japan, etc that they can recall hearing about in the recent news stories.  This gives them a visual picture of how far away various conflicts or disasters are that are being reported on.

When we began this in depth continent study, I realized how lacking my own geographical knowledge was.  I really do not recall a specific "geography" course that I took either in high school or in college.  (I am not quite sure how I missed that!)  I do, however, remember many of the history courses that I took and remember talking about various countries, but I never really "learned" the countries and their locations.  For one thing, I think when I was in school my primary goal was to memorize the facts for the test enough to get a good grade and move on. As an adult, learning has taken on a whole new meaning and interest to me.  I actually enjoy taking the time to learn rather than memorize. I find more pleasure in discovering how things work, move, and interrelate.

Because of my lack of geography knowledge, I decided that I would learn as many of the countries and their locations that I could right along with the the kiddos! Right now we are slowly making our way through the largest continent Asia.  (There are sure a lot of little countries shoved in that continent!)  We have learned many of the larger more common countries and their capitals and are adding more as we go along. We are also studying various mountain ranges, major rivers, and deserts located on the continent.

That brings me to the site that I found.  There is a great site that has various quizzes in math, science, vocabulary, and geography.  It is called That Quiz. (Here is the link.)  We have been using this site to occasionally check our knowledge of the locations of various Asian countries, capitals, and rivers. It gives me a good idea of what exactly the children have really learned and gives them a chance to see their progress as well.  There are level adjustments that you can make on each of the quizzes to be able to set it to the age appropriate level for your student.  At the end of each completed page you are shown a running total of how many you have answered correctly/incorrectly.  When the quiz is finished it gives you a percentage along with the answers that you answered incorrectly.  You can then go back through the quiz and have them show the correct answer to see what you missed.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have also used a couple of the other subjects just to check up on some basic knowledge in other areas.  I remember now exactly what I missed learning in trigonometry! There is such a wide variety of topics covered in this site that it is a good resource for all ages.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New Chickens,Better Eggs by Savannah Holman

The only chicken left from
the 1st batch, a Rhode Island Red.
I recently purchased some chickens from Atwoods. I was wanting to start a farm of my own. I started off with five baby chicks. They were alot of work but it was alot of fun to watch them grow. I had one dark and light brown Araucana chick, two Rode Island Red chicks, and two Barred Rock chicks.
The Araucana was my favorite one of them all. (You can watch a video of the type of  chicken she was at http://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/araucana_americanas.html. It has a breed guide up at the corner )
The only Red Production
left from batch #2.
Later, I also bought two more younger chicks. Our new Chocolate Lab puppy Rocky (or Rocko) killed one of my chicks. Dad punished  him. When we had chickens before, Lucy did not seem to bother them. She almost killed one of them though.

One day  I was checking on my chickens and I discovered something was trying to get to my chickens by digging a hole under the door. Lucky for my chickens (and me), it was not able to get in. I saw a track just the moment before I stepped on it. I thought it was a fox but Mom and Dad said it was probably a raccoon or coyote.

One night, we ordered  pizza and rented Despicable Me. Earlier in the day my dad let my chickens out to roam around. Before we went to pick up the pizza, we did not even think about putting them up. I now regret that because after we finished the movie, I went to go put my chickens up. I was calling for my chickens, but they did not come. I ran back up to the house and told my dad to come help me find them. He brought out the spotlight, and we looked all over, but we only found two of them . My Araucana was gone. I ran back up to the house to tell my mom. At this point, I was crying. We did not find them, but I still had two chicks left.

Rocko - the chicken lover!
We went back to Atwoods and got four more chicks. Two of them were Australorps. The other two were a mixed breed. Rocko again killed two more.  At least I do not have to worry about my little chicks getting cold with my original 2 chicks (that are bigger now) around. They keep them warm.

My Araucana
Our neighbor ordered some Australorps from Atwoods, but she accidentallly got Barred Rocks instead. Yesterday, she let me buy some chickens from her, and I went over and bought six. She also had a full grown Araucana chicken that she said I could have. The  Araucana is already laying eggs.
Right: Store egg
Left: Fresh Araucana blue egg
Araucana eggs have a blue coloring to them.

Today my dad went out and checked on my chickens while I was doing school . He said my Araucana was acting weird, and I should go check on it. So I went out to her coop and there was an egg in her nesting box I was so exited.

The farm egg has a darker color to its yolk
than the store egg.

I decided to do a taste test with store bought eggs versus farm fresh eggs. Since I do not like eggs, I let Mom and J.J. do a taste test. Mom and J.J. both agreed that fresh eggs are better than store eggs.

JJ enjoying his Breakfast Egg
Burritos!
I love my chickens and am very glad to have them.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Garage Sale Find!

Our family really enjoys going to garage sales.  It is fun to see who can find the best deal!  This past weekend, the kids and I enjoyed our time visiting the Perkins, Oklahoma city-wide garages sales.  It is an annual "event" in a small town about 15 miles south of Stillwater.  This was the first year that we had heard of it, so we decided to check it out.

We spent 4 hours traveling around this tiny town.  the second garage sale that we visited supplied what we thought was our find of the day.  I bought a clothes basket full of odds and ends such as C-clamps, steel cutting blades, an old telephone amplifier, plastic sheeting, a rolling pin, a small saucepan, and a few other items all for $2.  Actually the only reason I purchased the basket was for the C-clamps because I knew we needed them and knew they were worth well over the $2!  At this same sale, Savannah found a basket full of arts and craft paints and supplies, and I bought 3 salad size Corell plates (since I have a tendency to break my "unbreakable" Corell Ware).

The only other real find was a metal box of organizing drawers full of bolts, screws, and other odds and ends.  I actually paid $5 for it and later thought....why did I even buy that!  It was even missing a drawer, but I was just thinking about how many bolts, screws, washers, etc. that we have purchased over the last few months for various jobs that Jason has been working on, and the cost really adds up!  I brought it home to Jason and could see that he thought I did alright but not the greatest.  I took out each drawer and began digging through it.  In one drawer there was $1.03 worth of odd change so that brought down the cost to $3.97.  A little better! He did eventually say that I did alright because there were definitely things that he would use so I felt a tad better about my purchase.

However, as we continued our digging, I found a coin collectors plastic case with 2 coins in it.  
One was a 1876 dime and the other was a 1858 quarter.  After a little research online, the total worth is about $25-30 for both of the coins (Ebay here we come!).  The quarter is actually the most valuable of the 2.  We also thought it was really neat to think that we were holding coins that were 153 and 135 years old.
This crazy nuts and bolts find ended up being the best buy of the day!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Buying Used Curriculum

When it comes to purchasing home school curriculum, the costs can really add up, especially when you have multiple children.  You can spend $50-100 an year even as much as $500+ for one child.  When you start adding in multiple children, you see the costs really begin to rise. However, there are several ways to overcome the costs of home schooling and minimize the amount you spend while maximizing your child's education.

One way to reduce the cost of home schooling is to develop your own curriculum through various free resources found online. There are so many websites online that offer free lesson, games, tests, etc. that one could spend hours and hours of time combing the Internet and still not even touch the surface of what is available.  I know I have found myself overwhelmed at times with so may sites and ideas that it becomes hard to pick and choose what to do.

In the past, I have done a lot of my own research and curriculum writing.  I have written my own history lessons as well as my own science and math lessons.  We have used lap books, library books, and various online sites to put together units that cover a variety of topics from China to our current unit on the ocean (we will be starting our lap book portion of the unit next week!).  The downside is that writing your own curriculum is very time consuming.  It takes several hours to prepare just one unit for one subject which then only covers about 7-10 days.  Also, if you are not careful, printing off the various lap book pages and unit sheets can really add up in cost.

The upside to developing your own curriculum is that your kids have a learning tailored to them.  I like it because I can teach both of my children the same topic at the same time just adding various levels of difficulty depending on their learning ability.  My kids have thoroughly enjoyed every unit that we have done thus far and have learned a great deal.  The self-created units are more hands-on and usually have more activities and less "textbook" teaching.  We are able to tailor each learning experience to allow for more "teachable moments" which in turn lead to a more expanded learning because we do not feel bound to a textbook to learn what they "say" we need to learn.

While I would love to write up all my kids units for every subject, time just does not allow for it.  As the children get older, their units require more in-depth study to prepare.  Because of our lack of time and increased difficulty of subject matter, I make sure we have a "spine" for each of our subjects in order to have a goal in mind, and we then base lessons off of this text and supplement with the Internet as well as other library books.  I am so glad we have a textbook option, but one of the biggest problems with textbooks is they are EXPENSIVE!  That is why I wanted to share some of the ways I avoid having to pay the higher prices...buy used!  Here are some sites that I have used to purchase my used texts:

Vegsource Home school - Vegsource is a site that actually covers a wide variety of topics.  They have a home school section that has a "Swap Board."  You can use this board to advertise books that you have for sale as well as find used curriculum for all sorts of learning styles. One thing I do not like about this site is that the list format they use is sometimes difficult and time consuming to search through. However, I recently found a World History 5th grade A Beka book that I was able to purchase for $5.00 shipping included.  It saved me quite a bit so it was definitely worth it to me!

EBay.com - Of course, E Bay is my good ol' standby.  I have purchased tons of books as well as sold many books/items on this site.  My most recent purchase was a set of 4 books that would have been close to $100 if I would have purchased them at regular price. The books have been recently discontinued, and it was going to be difficult to even find them, but as usual...you can find just about anything on E Bay! The books were brand new with the stickers still in tack, and I paid $26 with $4.00 shipping.

There are also several Yahoo! groups that have used curriculum for sale.  You can search in the Yahoo! groups for just about any "type" of home schooling you want, and you will find a group to join (many of them have "for sale" areas).  One group that  I found was the Use Home School Books  group.

These are just a few of the options that you have when it comes to purchasing curriculum. I guess you could say that I am a very patient person when it comes to buying curriculum because I am willing to wait until I know that I have a good deal before I make a purchase. I buy curriculum in advance -usually beginning in about December (or whenever I see a good deal!) looking for the following school year's books. And, I always keep in mind that one day down the road, we will be finished using our curriculum, and I will sell it all over again!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

GREAT Math Learning Site!

A couple of months ago, I was introduced to the website www.kahnacademy.com through another website that I follow.  We have only used it a couple of times because we are actually in the process of "reviewing" another online math curriculum.  However, tonight on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, the maker/creator of Khan Academy was featured in the Education Nation portion of the show.

When the clip came on, the kids said, "Hey...it is Khan Academy...we have that!"  I listened to the remainder of the interview/news clip and was reminded of why I was so drawn to the website in the first place.  The Khan Academy is a great site for just good old math basics practice.  The site has educational videos that correspond and help teach the various math concepts.  I must admit that I have not used the video clips as of yet, but I am looking forward to seeing just what they offer in the very near future.

On the website, the Khan Academy has a video portion and also a practice portion.  In the practice portion, the student works his/her way through a maze of math topics on various levels.  If the student is struggling with the concept or needs to be instructed on the idea, there are videos located on that webpage (at the top of the practice area) that the student can click on to be shown how to work those particular types of problems.  As one level is mastered, the next level is opened for practice.  The student is give a choice of a 2-3 suggested areas of study, and they choose what they would like to learn and click into the lesson.  They are taken through a series of problems on that designated topic.  The student is then required to master the topic by getting 10 problems in a row correct.  At that point, they are allowed to move on.

Throughout the lesson, the student is earning points and "badges" that pop up on the screen at various times.  There are badges for "speed," "answering 12 problems," "going transient," etc.  You can then click into your point area to see how you are doing and see how many badges you have earned.  The student can also see what he/she has mastered and what they have yet to master.  Even I have had a lot of fun with the website.  I have been working my way through the math progression ladder myself.  I decided go through the site on my own that way I would be able to see exactly what my children would be using with the site.  Also, it is fun to be able to see how quickly I can answer the questions and get through the topics.

I will say that I am very impressed with what this site has to offer.  It is a wonderful tool for any parent - home schoolers and public schoolers alike.  Probably the greatest part of all is that it is absolutely FREE!  So, check it out and see if this is a program that could work for you.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Story of the World Volume 1

Earlier this year, I purchased a new history curriculum that I had read about and researched online as well as heard the praises of in forum that I follow.  The children were really excited when we started the book (Story of the World).   It reads in a story-like format and follows up with various activities.  I liked the fact that the book followed chronological order and thought this was a plus since it seems logical to study what happened in the past in order! However, I noticed from the beginning that the lessons seemed to be very shallow and left out a great deal of historical information.

The main topics in the book only cover the most basic of information.  I knew from the beginning that I would need to find supplemental information, but I did not realize just how much extra would be needed.  I also begin finding some ideas in the text that did not line up with what I was finding in other books and online. For example, while studying Egypt, I  found some name discrepancies when comparing the Story of the World text with another text that we were using to supplement out studies.  I was a little cautious after I found this, but I continued with the book.  However, after completing our study on Egypt (which my children thoroughly enjoyed), I discovered that some of the lessons that followed were not historically accurate.  In an effort to make the book take on the story form, I felt that the author took a lot of liberties in adding information that was unnecessary and did not correspond with what I believed (the stories were of a Biblical nature).  At this point, I could not ignore my leeriness of the book any longer.

We have since discontinued our Story of the World history text.  I still would very much like the kids to study history in chronological order.  While I have been diligently searching, I have been unable to find a written curriculum book that will fit our need.  I do want to continue to teach the history as a
"group" lesson rather than having them learn separate topics on their own.  Needless to say, I began my history lesson research today.  I have created an outline of study that we will work through over the next however many months it takes to bring us to present day "history."  I will be using various sites that I have found online as well as documentaries from the library and YouTube.com.  I hope to start our independent history study next week.

On a side note, for the next week, we will be using the Scholastic site found here.  It is a part of the Black History month activities that they have put together.  It is a great lesson/online tour/story activity that you can follow to learn about the lives of slaves and their use of the Underground Railroad.  We have already completed part of the site.  Not only have my children enjoyed it, I have too.  It is really fun to learn new things right along with my children!  If you are a home schooler and have not joined the Scholastic Teacher's Site, I would highly recommend it.  At Thanksgiving, they had another activity site up that followed the Pilgrims and even had a Live Virtual Tour/Interview that we were able to watch Live online.  It was very interesting.  Here is some more information on the Scholastic Teacher's site.