Thursday, January 30, 2014

Our "Homework" Policy

This Mamma got tired a few weeks back, as did Daddy, of having the campers drag their lessons on and on until it was well past time for supper. So, Daddy and I made a new homework policy. Any work that is not finished by 4 PM (and next year the time will go down to 3 PM) must complete that work without help on Saturday. Any work not finished by Saturday evening will be given and E grade.

This has saved so much headache and arguments over the past couple of weeks it's not even funny! There's only been a few times it's been used but boy did it work! We also added a rule to go with it that if you're complaining about your school day too much you get to do some form of copy work on Saturday irregardless of the fact you may finish all of your regular school work on time. And it's cut waaay back on the amount of complaining that goes on around here!

So, here's what we did:

Earlier in the year we'd purchased three inexpensive (we're talking a dollar here folks) student planners but had no clear idea on how exactly we planned to use them since the children just use my lesson plan book to get their lessons out of, or simply ask me for them.
How the student planners look on the outside.
As soon as we came up with the new homework policy (we'd never assigned homework in our homeschool prior to this) I knew just what to use these books for! 
What they look like on the inside...
YCJ's was assembled backwards! So double check
before you purchase!
Each day I open my lesson book in the morning. Peanut gets her lessons directly from me, ECJ checks the book before and after each assignment and checks them off as he goes along (I add a check once I'm sure that the assignment has been finished), and YCJ checks and has me tell her alternatively what her next assignment is and has me check it off as she finishes it. 
My lesson plan book...
A closer view of my planner. In this book the teacher divides the spaces as they see fit
and then fills everything in. I color code mine for simplicity when I'm looking at it.
Pink for Peanut, purple for YCJ, and blue/green for ECJ.

So, in theory what the children are required to do is any assignment that hasn't been finished by 4 PM on that day gets written on that day as homework. If they have no homework they can either cross out the date or draw a smiley face on it. What usually happens is that it gets written on one or both of the weekend days instead so we're still working on that part.

Peanut most likely won't have any homework until at least next fall or later. However, she wanted to be included and we wanted her to be in the habit of using this method. You'll notice nice big green smiling faces on all of her days (at least up to the date I took these pictures). If at the end of the month when we look at her book she has all smiles then she's allowed to pick out one item from Dollar Tree as a reward. We're doing this so that "homework" isn't associated with a bad idea and eventually we'll remove the reward aspect of this for her. It does make her want to get all of her work finished however, because she likes the idea of getting to pick something out for herself. Next year we may offer a different reward, such as an hour of crafting with Mommy or getting to watch an hour of cartoons on Netflix (subject to our approval of the cartoon of course).

YCJ's book looks a bit different. Not because she failed to do her school work on time any of the days this month (she's had no issue with that since the week we began this in December largely due to the fact that "homework" doesn't get help from an adult) but because she spent a full day complaining about her school work and dragging her feet at it all day long. So, she ended up with one Saturday where she had to copy her spelling words out in cursive, which she's only just learning so we were going to write the first one out for her. She also has a small reward system in place but it's that if she doesn't get any homework assigned for the month she's allowed to stay up one night on a weekend and watch a DVD quietly. She really enjoys her alone time and the idea of being allowed to stay up late appeals to her since now Peanut goes to bed and actually goes to sleep which provides for uninterrupted quiet time.

And, finally, ECJ's book. Well, he was doing pretty well. And then we noticed unfinished assignments and a lot of slacking off and back talk. So, everything that he hadn't completed got written (by me) on that weekend in my red pen. He spent the entire weekend working on his homework and getting everything done. The last time he needed to do homework (other than when he was in public school) was last month when we began this policy. He did NOT like it one bit. He doesn't have a monthly reward if he gets no homework. He's expected not to have any homework whatsoever. He's twelve now and in sixth grade and perfectly capable of completing his work on time every time. As a matter of fact our school days are only currently ending at 4 PM due to his shoveling job taking up part of his mornings on some days. He still says that having his weekends free is the best reward because we no longer school on Saturday unless for some extreme reason we feel we need to.

Basic really and super simple to do. We're hoping that by starting this now with the girls that assignments not getting done will not happen as they reach higher grades. Plus, the bonus here is that this is working!!!

Link-ups this is shared with:
Our Busy Homeschool (Sharing What Works)
Squishable Baby 
HOT Homeschool Blog Hop

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Religious Education Plans

Our religious education plans for the rest of this school "year" (yes, it's in quotes because we DO school year round here) are actually fairly simple. I tend not to get overly stressed out about planning this part of our lessons. I also try to purchase very little in this area because in all honesty one good family Bible can be used to teach most all things about God, it is His word after all.

So, for January we are trying something a bit different than the first half of the year. I was able to get a copy (adult version) of a periodical called Magnificat by visiting their website and asking for a free copy to try out. (Word of warning: you cannot ask for an adult version of this for free and a junior version as you will not be able to receive both for free at the same time, if you'd like to try a copy of each for free you will have to request them separately and for different months.) Each day in this publication has morning prayers, meditations, and intentions. Daily mass information and everything for the evening (pretty much same as the morning). Also, this has a small blurb for almost every day about a Saint. I read the morning information in the morning (along with that day's saint being covered) while the children work on their morning binders and right after I've gotten us ready for the day. The mass section I read to myself sometime around lunch and ECJ reads it before bed. I read the evening selections when we have our desert/evening snack before bed. This along with some readings from the Bible are basically all we've done this month other than a bit of prayer copy work.

For the rest of the year we're also visiting Holy Heroes about twice a week (other than at Lent and part of summer where this will be more often as both times there are some more focused things on the site). Before and after Lent this is for mass preparation for the children. During Lent Holy Heroes has an adventure that is similar to their Advent Adventures only this one focuses on Lent. And they have another adventure for the summer. All of these are free and come with printables for that week/day ranging from coloring pages to "tests". Although ECJ has grown out of some of the younger video clips on the site he still enjoys watching most of them and learning about the word in another way. Of course the Cracker Jack's will be continuing with their catechism classes through our parish (once the schools aren't shut down due to the cold thus effectively cancelling catechism classes for that day as well).

For the months of February, May, and June we will only be doing our daily readings from our Bible out loud as part of our lessons other than some copy work. The children, especially the Cracker Jack's, say their rosaries daily (as do Daddy and I) and of course our other daily prayers.

March will be a bit different as not only is this when Lent begins (and thus our Lenten Adventures with Holy Heroes), but also because I have requested a copy of Magnifikid (the junior version of Magnificat) for us to try out. If it is laid out in a similar fashion as Magnificat then we'll use it just the same way that we used the adult version for January. April also contains much of the Lenten season and we'll be using Holy Heroes quite a lot during that month as well.

In May both of the Cracker Jack's will be making their first communions (yes, they're both late to do this because we've moved too often in the past to get this taken care of). Which means of course that they'll both be getting their first "adult" rosaries (and Peanut will be getting her first "real" children's rosary), both will be getting their very own Holy Bibles, and a few other wonderful gifts to help them follow a life devoted to God at this time. 

Peanut is concentrating right now on her "regular" prayers. The prayers we say before meals, our bedtime prayers, and our prayers to our Guardian Angel. She often joins YCJ or myself for at least a decade of the rosary each day. YCJ is working terribly hard at learning all of her prayers and the order in which the rosary goes along with all the mysteries. She works diligently at this every day. ECJ has a few problems with memorization and so he spends the time his sisters use practicing their handwriting on copying his prayers that he has yet to memorize. We've learned in the past that with him copying and repetition, repetition, repetition are what it takes to get something to "stick".

So, as simple as it really is, this is our plan for the rest of the school "year" for our religious education here at Homeschool Campers.

Now, before people grumble at me for using items that I'm getting a free copy of to try out as part of our lessons, let me explain why I'm doing this. Last year I was given a beautiful little book with all of the daily prayers listed for three months and I really enjoyed it and plan on purchasing it or something similar for myself soon. I am attempting to determine which periodical (and there are quite a few) that I prefer. I'm also trying to figure out which, if any, periodical would be a good addition to the children's studies. 12 issues of Magnifikid (for one child) is $34.90 US, a complete liturgical cycle (3 years) for one child costs $79 US. Considering that we work within a budget for each child of between $100 and $150 for each school year and ECJ is in middle school years I need to be able to justify such a cost and at this time I'm not sure I can mainly because I haven't received my sample copy as yet. The adult version for one year would cost me $44.95 (for the US). I am not sure I am willing to spend that much for myself. It is a beautiful periodical and I really enjoy it, however, I can get my daily readings for free either online or from my local parish paper each week. That being said I will continue to search for a little "book" for myself at the very least over the next few months, who knows ... I may just receive something special for my birthday in May!

Our religious studies are most important to us. We don't want to shirk on them in any way. However, there is also no need to spend money that we could better use on our bill (just as an example) if it is not something that is going to fit our family. Our catechism alone cost us more than we'd originally budgeted for simply due to the cost of the first communion rites and Peanut will be attending catechism as well next year. Catechism costs are not part of the rest of our curriculum budget for the year, however we do have to budget for these things. 

I use a lot of free resources for our homeschool in general. We live on a pretty tight fixed income and it makes no sense to me to have to pay for something that I can get for free. Yes, the worksheets and all other printables cost me paper and ink ... but in all honesty, even with every item on my wish list I'd still be printing most of these things off anyways.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

15 Ways to Keep Busy in the Cold

Joining up today with Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers for List It {Tuesday}.

"Oh the weather outside is frightful..."

So, what the heck do you do to keep yourself, and your children, entertained during frigid temperatures that are more suited to the Arctic Tundra than the U.S.A.?

Play with science! Small science experiments, either purchased or homemade, can entertain everyone for anywhere from a few minutes to hours! Dollar Tree (the bigger ones) even carry a couple small ones for a dollar! Grow sugar crystals, build volcanoes, let your imagination run free!
Create food to match a book you're reading! I still don't want to say what book this desert was inspired by (I'll be talking about it in my Weekly Wrap-Up), but it's only one of several inspired by a beloved children's book! Even just changing the color of a food can be a fun and creative way to bring a book alive.
Create your "twin" (evil or not)! (To read all about what our evil twins were about and a quick walk through of the science experiment shown above go here .) Who doesn't remember tracing their body for one reason or another as a child. Speaking from experience this activity provided fun, distraction, moral lessons, and over an hour of peace and quiet for Mommy!

Bake/cook with your kids! Yes, I talk about this a lot. Yes, I know all the reasons to avoid doing this and still think it should be done. It's fun for the children to get involved with cooking and baking! They enjoy being able to help in the kitchen and really enjoy being able to eat what they make.

"Relax" with someone you love! I couldn't resist posting this picture to go along with this item to do! I know the dogs were relaxed but I'm not all that sure Daddy was!

Read out loud to someone! There's always a good time to read out loud to someone in the family! Big to small reading a book to another person is always a good way to spend some time.

Organize something! This little cupboard once held our board games but as Peanut's Play Dough collection has grown it needed it's own home! This nicely organized (if I do say so myself) has been dubbed "Play Dough World" by Peanut and she loves the fact that she can find everything she wants just by looking!
Learn a new instrument! This freezing cold weather isn't good for much but it has allowed for extra time the warmer weather doesn't ever seem to have enough of to spend some quality time learning new instruments.

Build with Legos!!!! ECJ has recently rediscovered Legos! That beautiful beach side resort was a creation of his own! Boy, wouldn't it be nice to be there for real?? 

Find the time to snuggle up and read a good book! This weather makes us all want to snuggle under our favorite blankie and watch a fire, watch a new show, or better yet finally read that book we've wanted to but haven't been able to find the time to. I managed to read three books in the past week and a half myself! A Star Trek book, a Dean Koontz book, and another book by Stephan King.

Get crafty! OK, so here we're always doing some kind of craft. There's paper scraps, bits of yarn, and other odds and ends all over my house at any given time on any given day. However, if you're stuck in the house because the wind's making it -30 degrees it's a great time to pull out some materials and make something new.
Drink something warm and play with Play Dough! Yup, that's my morning coffee and Peanut's morning Play Dough supplies. I spend a few minutes each morning playing with the Play Dough with her while I drink coffee and the other campers work on spelling. It's great for building strength not only in her hands (a must as they're not as strong as they should be, a product of her early birth that's still hanging around) but it also helps with my arthritis in my hands much to my surprise. My hands have never been more dexterous in the last ten years than since I've begun playing with Play Dough.
Exercise! LOL, nope, no pictures of Mommy exercising. Not gonna happen, sorry. Actually, nope not sorry. :-) I caught this picture of the dolls exercising this morning (with molded on bathing suits that are NOT removable thank goodness, I really don't like naked Barbie type dolls) and thought that it was too cute!

Have a dance party! We have one of these almost every day even if only for a song or two. It breaks up the day, it gets the wiggles out, and it gets you moving when otherwise you might be tempted not to even climb out from under those warm covers.
Give somebody a hug! Moragon is a great hugger and is often found hugging one of us or one of the children. We hug on her often enough that I think she just knows it's a sign of affection. There's almost no better way on earth to make someone else smile than by giving them a hug for no reason!

There's tons more things I could list. Truly I could go on and on. But, you get the idea. Get creative. Get moving. Get comfortable. Ride out the Arctic Blast by keeping busy and showing love.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

We Have Evil Twins!!!

While there are still several ongoing things we're working on for our Winter Bucket List, and a few on the list that we planned to be finished this week but didn't get done, we did manage to get two items checked off rather quickly.

We managed to grow crystals (number 6 on the list) really really fast! Of course we'll be doing this one or two other ways before spring (hopefully) but these were really neat! We received the kit from Santa for ECJ and Mommy kind of commandeered it. (I think Santa's elves just might have gone to Dollar Tree for some of the stocking suffers...)

It was super simple because all you had to do was put the colored cubes in a container and add water. We tried cold water first (it doesn't tell you what temperature of water to use) because it also made for a great sensory activity (for those of you looking for new ones on the cheap). And although there was some growth seen, and a lot of "testing the waters", they just weren't growing really really fast.

So, Mommy drained out the cold water (careful not to spill the "crystals" down my garbage disposal) and refilled with hot water. Boy, did those things start growing!!! It was at this point that the campers (lead by Peanut) discovered that if you put the end of a "straw" in the water and looked down the other end it magnified the crystals!

5-10 minutes after adding the hot water Mommy drained the water off again and placed the crystals on plates. It said to let dry slightly on paper towels but the feeling of being "oozy" was just too hard to resist.

The campers spent about 45 minutes discovering and playing with their crystals!

And they were all varying sizes!

One of the neatest things about this is it can be reused (as I type this they're drying out on the same plates I'd placed them on). Once fully dry they can be placed back in water and will grow again. I'm not sure how many times this will work but I'm not complaining what-so-ever.

The other thing we managed to get done was to make our evil twins (number 21 on the list). I wasn't quite sure which direction I wanted to go with these at first so I just showed them (mainly Peanut) how to trace each other and then the pencil outlines and then told them to "make your evil twin". I guess when you're getting traced by a sibling it can be a pretty ticklish experience :-) .

The creativity and originality they showed was impressive!

After they'd decorated their "twin" how they saw fit we decided to make it into a quick lesson on what you should do and what you shouldn't do. So each child either wrote, or had me write, all the things that made their twin evil all around the "twin". There were quick discussions and then the "evil twins" were taped up to each child's bedroom door.

Kinda scary actually....

We'll keep them up there for a few days before I put them away. I'll keep them on hand though in case we need reminders of how not to be our evil twins from time to time. 

Peanut did go back and change how her twin looked after a couple of hours and proclaimed that she was nice now and would never do those things again! All in all a really good project to do and they had fun doing it. Even if my hallway looks a bit creepy right now. 

I think in the spring we just may make something a little more cheerful with tracings of each other...

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