Friday, May 20, 2011

Preparing for Next Term of Homeschooling

It's hard to imagine, but it is already time to prepare for next school
term. I have been looking at various curriculum online for a couple of
years. I wanted to find one that fit 4 major criteria: had to be
Christian-based, strong in the core subjects, encourage independent
study, and adaptable for Micah's special needs.

Finding Christian-based curriculum is never difficult. There are
numerous providers online. You can also find them through networking
with other homeschool families in your local homeschool association.
The key is to find one that fits closely with your beliefs. Whether you
want one that is more non-denominational or one that is
denomination-specific, the curriculum is out there.

Being strong in the core subjects may seem obvious, but surprisingly
there are curricula available that rush through the lessons. These
leave the child and their parents frustrated when the material does not
give enough practice to reinforce the information being taught. I
wanted a curriculum that would provide plenty of practice and clear

Encouraging independent study is vital to me. While at 1st grade level
it may seem silly, the concept is a sound one. Too often, homeschool
children can grow to depend on their parents to walk them through each
lesson. Though this is fine at the beginning, it is not good for the
children in the long run. I want my children to be able to learn on
their own, without me having to hand-hold them through it. In early
years, I will guide, but at some point in the future they will need to
be able to do this for themselves. Some curricula is set up to
encourage independent work better than others.

Finding a curriculum that can be adapted to fit Micah's needs has been
the hardest part of choosing which to use. For the sake of simplicity,
I wanted to be able to purchase all of the needed curriculum for both
children from a single publisher. I needed something that would
challenge and teach Abbie, yet be able to be broken down into segments
that I could later teach to Micah. This week, I finally found it.

We decided to get our curriculum from Rod and Staff publishers. The
company is owned and operated by Anabaptists (Mennonite) in Kentucky.
In looking through the examples of the curriculum, I found it to be best
for our family's needs. The gentle and steady progression in learning
reminds me greatly of the way I was taught in school. In the 1st grade,
the main focus is on the 3R's - Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. The
reading course is based on Bible stories. There are 3 sets of workbooks
to go along with the Readers: reading workbooks that help focus on
skills like reading comprehension, spelling, English; phonics workbooks
that teach the child to read, and worksheet workbooks that support the
Reader stories. There is a Penmanship course (writing) that is
extremely thorough in teaching proper writing skills. Workbooks and
additional writing tablets of paper for additional practice are used to
teach the children proper formation of the letters along with copywork
for them to practice writing sentences and verses. The 1st grade
Arithmetic course teaches addition, subtraction, measures, money,
fractions, place values, and more. The workbooks, along with speed
drills and blackline worksheets, give the child plenty of practice. The
final course I am ordering from them is "Developing Motor Skills in Art"
which gives weekly projects for the children to complete covering the

Rod & Staff does not have a Science or History/Social Studies course for
1st grade. They focus only on the foundational skills that every child
must have to build on to be successful in future school years. Instead
of having a textbook for these 2 subjects, I am planning to do thematic
studies and activity centers. This will give Abbie the opportunity to
learn these subjects through hands-on projects.

We are really excited about the curriculum. Once Abbie is finished with
it, I will set it aside until Micah is ready for it. For him, I will
have the option to simply cut his worksheets into thirds or half to give
him a manageable amount if necessary. Because of how thorough the
materials are in the presentation of new concepts, I can easily break it
down into lessons that Micah will be able to learn more easily.

Until August, we will continue working on reviews and staying in routine
with the homeschooling. I am also going to set up a better area in the
house for Abbie to have a space to do her schoolwork using the workbox
method of organization.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Going Vegetarian......Again

Well, here we go again. I had been eating meat and as always, my chronic pain issues have increased. Seems to go with the territory. Ever time I quit the vegetarian style of eating, I start having problems. So, I am getting serious with the vegetarian diet again.

This time around though, I am taking it a step further. I already know that Micah cannot have dairy without getting stomach and bowel problems. Too much meat does the same thing to him. I am gathering recipes for gluten-free foods for us. I am curious as to what that may do for us all. Gluten is a big problem with many autistic children. I am wondering how Micah would do if I gradually cut out the gluten.

Making the change all at once is difficult. I am finding that many gluten-free foods are very pricey. With that in mind, I am gathering recipes to try out that will allow me to make the foods from scratch. While the packaged foods are expensive, making them yourself doesn't have to be.

I was recently given the book "Gluten-free Cooking for Dummies" by a dear friend. In it, they have a recipe for a gluten-free flour mix to use in place of all-purpose flour. The various flours used in the mix may be harder to find, but I am sure that I will find them at an affordable price. I love to be challenged in my cooking. Learning to make everything gluten-free & dairy-free will be a great opportunity for me to stretch my abilities.

Micah has often turned away when we try to feed him meat. At times, he will even spit it out. It seems as though I am simply allowing him his own choice in this. At 3 yrs old, he rarely will eat meat without a fuss. I have mentioned to others often that if it were not for the yogurt, cheddar cheese, and eggs that he eats, Micah would be vegan.

I am looking forward to learning to convert family favorite recipes into a gluten-free, dairy-free alternative. From what I am seeing, it won't be a difficult transition. I will have to find a hand-cranked grinder to mill the grains into flour. This will be the most economical way to get the flours we need to make a good, nutrient loaded flour mix for making our breads and other foods.

Another option that I am adding is raw foods. There are many easy recipes to make that fall into this category. With the hot summer days ahead, I am also looking at the fact that I won't have to heat up the kitchen when making the meals. I already have known that the closer to raw a vegetable or fruit are, the higher thier nutrient levels and the more calories that are burned to digest the food. Overall, it is an excellent option for us.

I am so blessed that Joe supports his change. He enjoys trying the new recipes along with us. Being on the truck most of the time, he is able to get meat daily if he wants to while at a truck stop or through the home canned meals I send with him. When he is home though, he eats the vegetarian diet with us. I love that!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

It's a "well duh" Moment

Oh the never ending question....... how to earn an extra income from the
homestead. This has been a goal of ours for quite a few years now. We
have been looking for various ways to do this. Well, ideas have been
flowing lately. I am realizing that the best way can be summed up in
one word...... seasonal.

Agrarian lifestyles are seasonal, so why not use that to our advantage?
When I think of all the things that I can do on a seasonal basis, I am
inspired. I feel as though a stumbling block has been lifted. I can't
go into much detail yet, but there are some new things coming up.