Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Our History and Vocabulary

My Facebook newsfeed is testimony to the excitement associated with the first few days of a new school year.

I think homeschooled students and teachers also feel the excitement of a new school year.

This week begins our third week of the school year.  So far, we have been diligent to keep up with lessons and lesson planning.  I have not done much lesson planning the last few years (due to a curriculum that came with plans), so this is a big deal for me.

As I mentioned in this post on our plan for this year, we are doing an in-depth study of Scotland.  

What have my students done so far?

The first week, I had them make a salt map of Scotland so we could refer to it in our discussions and so they could get a better feel for the topography.

These photos show their finished salt map.  Obviously, we had to have the discussion about Scotland being connected to England; it is not an island as depicted here. 

I think the physical map should give them a better idea of the Firths, Forths, and Lochs and how explorers and invaders would have used them to their advantage.

2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups water
1 cup salt
2 TBSP cream of tartar

Mix all ingredients together in a medium saucepan.  Heat on medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture is thick and satiny.  Let cool to room temperature.  Store in plastic ziploc bags.  

This recipe was more than enough for our project.  My students painted their finished product, but you could add food coloring to the dough and use it for play clay or other projects.  This does air dry over time.

In addition to this hands on project, my students read in the selected history texts.  For literature they chose one of James Herriot's books:  All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Wise and Wonderful, or The Lord God Made Them All.  

They learned that James Herriot is a pen name.  Did you know that?  Each of my students chose a different book and read it over a two week time period.  They are required to keep a list of new words to add to their vocabulary study.  These are the new words they encountered in their reading: 


As you might expect, some of these words are medical terms and some are rarely used, but they found more words than I expected them to find.  If your students needs some new vocabulary words, choose some of these.

How is your new school year progressing?

Saturday, August 23, 2014


I accompanied my son to two college visits recently.  Both schools were in Austin, Texas.

The schools were very different in size and the visits were very different in scope.

We left at 4:00 a.m. on a Thursday morning to arrive at St. Edwards University for our scheduled campus tour.  Even though we didn’t really know where we were supposed to park or where the tour began, the school was small enough to be able to find our way around quite easily.

St. Edwards University is a small (5000+ students) private school.  When you are on campus you don’t feel like you are in a big city.  We didn’t have any appointments with advisors or admission counselors, we just toured the campus.

Generally, when you take a campus tour, the student tour guide will have the prospective students tell where they are from and what they plan to study.

A campus tour nearly always includes the library, rec center, dining hall, a dorm, and the academic buildings.  The tour guide will try to connect the students with their intended major by pointing out the building (Science, Engineering, etc) where students will attend many of their classes.

In my experience, campus tours will usually last about an hour or so, no matter the size of the school.

After leaving St. Edwards, we grabbed a quick lunch and headed to the University of Texas. 

Once again, we didn’t have an address for the building we were looking for or for the parking garage.  (Note:  always double check that your student has that information.) We don’t have smart phones so we resorted to calling my husband to look it up on the university website.

I have visited many universities over the last ten years, but this was the first time I could not tell where the city stopped and the university began.  Since the University of Texas is in downtown Austin, I’m not sure there is a delineation, other than the street signs are burnt orange. 

After several trips around the same block, we did find the correct parking garage and get pointed to the right building.

My son was attending a 3-day honors colloquium at the University of Texas.  The dorm his group stayed in was 15 stories high, with several other groups also being housed there. 

The contrast between St. Edwards University and the University of Texas (50,000+ students) was vast.

During the honors colloquium students not only toured the campus, but had classes with professors and learned more about the colleges and majors that interested them. 

What was our take-away from the two visits?

 The University of Texas is BIG.  I have been on large campuses before, but this one overwhelmed me.  But students seem to love it.

2.  A public university education is much less costly than a private university education. (We already knew this.)

3.  You can be in a big city and feel like you are not.

4.  You can be on a university campus and feel like you are not.

5.  A campus tour ideally should be coupled with individual appointments with department advisors and/or interaction with professors, if possible.

My advice?  Many colleges offer full day or week-end events for prospective students.  These events will give you more information than just a campus tour.

 High School students should plan to attend events that colleges have for prospective students.  These events usually require pre-registration and often fill up.    High School seniors should research what is available and plan to sign up for fall events immediately.

What is your experience with college visits?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Cheesy Shells and Italian Sausage

 A super easy recipe that is very delicious!
Posting it here for those who have requested it.  Enjoy!
Cheesy Shells & Italian Sausage
8 oz (250 g) bulk hot Italian pork sausage (see Cook’s Tip) 3 garlic cloves
3 cups (750 mL) unsalted chicken stock
1 jar (24 oz/680 mL) marinara sauce (21⁄2 cups/625 mL)
12 oz (350 g) medium shell pasta
4 oz (125 g) reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel) 1⁄4 cup (50 mL) fresh basil leaves
  1. 1  cup (250 mL) seasoned croutons
  2. 2  oz (60 g) fresh Parmesan cheese (1⁄2 cup/125 mL grated)
  1. Preheat broiler. Cook sausage in RockcrokTM (2.5-qt/2.35-L) Everyday Pan or RockcrokTM (4-qt/3.8-L) Dutch Oven over medium heat 4-6 minutes, breaking into crumbles with Mix ‘N Chop.
  2. Press garlic with Garlic Press into Pan. Cook 30-60 seconds or just until fragrant.
  3. Stir in stock, marinara and pasta to Pan. Increase heat to high; cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, 7-9 minutes or until pasta is cooked but firm.
  4. Meanwhile, chop basil with Chef’s Knife. Process croutons in Manual Food Processor until finely chopped; place in Classic Batter Bowl. Grate Parmesan with Microplane® Adjustable Fine Grater over batter bowl. Mix crouton/Parmesan mixture well.
  5. Remove Pan from heat. Stir in cream cheese and basil until blended. Sprinkle cheese mixture evenly over pasta. Place Pan 2-4 in. (5-10 cm) from heating element. Broil 1-2 minutes or until top is golden brown.
Serves 8
U.S. Nutrients per serving: Calories 370, Total Fat 15 g, Saturated Fat 4.5 g, Cholesterol 30 mg, Sodium 830 mg, Carbohydrate 43 g, Fiber 3 g, Protein 18 g
Cook’s Tip: 8 oz (250 g) Italian turkey sausage (2 links, casings removed) or 8 oz (250 g) 90% lean ground beef can be substituted for the bulk Italian pork sausage, if you’d like.
© 2013 The Pampered Chef used under license. P5958-08/13

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Our 2014-15 High School Plan

As I mentioned last week, I am branching out and creating our own curriculum for history and English this year.  

Because we are all a little curious as to what other homeschoolers do for high school, I am sharing what my junior and senior will be doing this year.

For history, I found some history books in the library that we will use for the first couple weeks (at least) and some websites.

For English, my students will read the following books, chosen because the authors are Scots or the setting is in Scotland.

Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott
Poetry of Robert Burns
Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson
The Black Arrow, Robert Louis Stevenson
MacBeth, Shakespeare
Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie (not the Disney version!)
Sherlock Homes, Arthur Conan Doyle
James Herriot books
Kenneth Grahame books
Scottish Chiefs, Jane Porter
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson 
At the Back of the Northwind, George MacDonald
The Highlander's Last Song, George MacDonald
The Shopkeeper's Daughter, George MacDonald
And other books as I find them.

They will also write every week, with 4 major papers this semester and a major research paper in the Spring.  Writing assignments will include a weekly blog post.

In addition to these subjects, Christina, my high school junior, will also be studying:

Chemistry (Landry Academy online class).  This is the first time any of my students have taken an online high school class.  I will let you know how we like it.

College Algebra (at the local community college)

Spanish I (at the local community college)

Art (How Great Thou Art I & II)


My high school senior, Jesse, will also be taking:

Physics (at the local community college)
Statistics (cc)
Ear Training (cc)
Theory I (cc)
Intro to Programming (cc)
Piano (private lessons)

Yes, it looks like I am turning over a lot of the teaching responsibility to others this year.  I suppose I have taken on more of a counselor role than teacher.  However, I will be teaching/directing History and English. 

Do you find that you become more of a counselor when your students become high school juniors and seniors?

Friday, August 8, 2014

More Books Children Love

 Today's post is another installment of books my children loved to read.  I originally said that I would not list a book twice if two different children chose it, but I have changed my mind.  One book on this list from my oldest son was also on my oldest daughter's list.  I have included it here because the 'why' they loved the book is different.

Related posts can be found here from my oldest daughteryoungest daughter,  
 and myself.

The Hardy Boys series by Frank Dixon
The adventures of Frank and Joe Hardy are hard to put down.  It’s by design, of course: every short chapter ends with a thrilling cliff-hanger that compels the reader on to the next chapter, especially if the reader is a young boy.  Of all the mystery stories I read, these were my favorite.  I read dozens of them.

It’s a picture book, not a chapter book, but I loved it (and still do) for its special combination of silliness and cleverness masquerading as logic.

The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss
I really liked survival stories.  This one was more fun to read than Robinson Crusoe, because the Swiss Family Robinson was a family.  This book has a special kind of “we’re all in this together” feeling, and is full of fun and fascinating details about building things and living on a tropical island.
I read this book until the cover fell off my paperback copy, and then I read it some more.  It even tempted me to run away from home myself, although I never made it very far.  Like The Swiss Family Robinson, this survival story gives the reader all kinds of interesting woodcraft, like how to make a fishhook out of twigs and string.  Also in this category (but not owned by me as a child, and hence not read to the point of falling apart): Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.

Like The Hardy Boys, this is a series that seemed to go on forever, and wasn’t at a particularly high reading level, but was, in some way deeper than syntax and vocabulary, enchanting.  Brian Jacques created a world that kids want to live in with his stories of fighting and feasting animals, and I read all of these books over and over.

What does an adventure loving young man do once he has grown up and can go exploring?  Find out here.

**this post contains affiliate links.  That means if you click on them and decide to buy something, I will get a small commission (no cost to you).

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


For the last ten years, we have done basically the same curriculum for history.  Using first Tapestry of Grace and then My Father’s World, we have learned history from the beginning of time to modern day, on a four year rotation.

My two current high school students have done the rotation 2.5 times.

I don’t know how they feel, but frankly, I’m bored.

I cannot bring myself to have them start the rotation again, so we are shaking things up a bit.

This year I gave them the option to choose a country or a time period to study in-depth.  They jumped at the chance and chose Scotland.  Having visited Scotland in April, I know this will be a very rich study.

Scotland has a very interesting history with many famous authors and artists to tie into our Literature and fine arts studies.

If you would like to follow along with our studies, sign up to receive posts by email.  

What about you? Have you done something different for history or another subject?  How did you design your curriculum?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Young Entrepreneur's Guide to Starting & Running a Business

The Young Entrepreneur's Guide to Starting and Running a Business: Turn Your Ideas into Money!

This book is a very thorough guide for entrepreneurs, young or old.

Steve Mariotti uses very easy to understand language to guide you through the whole process of starting and running a business.  

  Beginning with creating a business, he guides you through all the steps you need to cover to be successful, including how to write a winning business plan.
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