Friday, August 9, 2013

Free Virgin Coconut Oil Book and Green Smoothie Recipe

Are you looking for a good source for coconut oil? We love Tropical Traditions expeller pressed oil because it is healthy AND it doesn't have the coconut flavor so you can use it in anything. The gold label is also delicious, when you don't mind the coconut flavor- or if you just want to eat it plain. (This actually recommended for people with thyroid troubles.)

When I first made the switch to coconut oil, I didn't think there was any way I would ever use very much of it. That first gallon lasted us about 6 months. However, as I slowly broke away from using less healthy oils, I've been more and more thankful for the ability to buy such a great oil in larger quantities at a reasonable price. We use coconut oil for almost  every recipe that calls for vegetable oils and shortenings. I also make salves and lotions from it, and even used it as a hair conditioner for a while. It is the best thing for getting rid of craddle cap. Just apply to baby's head, let sit, brush, wash.  

The grated coconut is very good too. I like to throw a handful into our morning smoothies (see recipe below). In fact, we've been happy with everything we've ordered from them. I especially like knowing that I can trust them to sell a product without hidden "franken-chemical-additive" things. Their blog is a wealth of information for those who are concerned with clean and healthy eating. 

If  you have never ordered from Tropical Traditions website and use this referral link to make your first purchase, you will receive a FREE book, and I will receive a discount coupon for referring you. (Yeah! More coconut oil!!)

Green Smoothies aka "Pond Scum"

These taste much better than they look. 

2 ripe bananas
2 carrots, cut in chunks
1 cucumber, cut in chunks
1 cup steamed kale
1/4 cup almonds
2/3 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup grated coconut 
stevia, to taste

Place in Vitamix. Add about 6 cups water. Blend until smooth.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Preserving Homeschool Memories With a Yearbook

At the end of third grade, my parents removed my sister and me from the private Christian school we had been attending and began home schooling. While I eventually grew to like being at home, I still to this day enjoy looking at my old school year books from the private school. I'm sure I would enjoy looking at my home school year books as well, but there aren't any. Nor are there any pictures. Not one single photo to prove that I ever attended school after the third grade. So, when I was paging through an old Teaching Home Magazine and read about the yearbooks someone else had done, I knew this was a tradition I was going to start.

Memories created while learning at home are just as important as those created in a traditional school environment and have just as much right to be preserved. Just because you are a home educator doesn't mean you can't have a school yearbook. Making a homeschool yearbook is easy and it's almost as much fun as looking at one.

How Do You Make a Home School Yearbook?

Making a home school year book is a little more complicated than making a yearbook for your average school. There are no pages of class pictures to fill it with. There's few athletic teams and such. Instead, there are your children. That's wonderful, ofcourse, but it does require a little more creativity. It requires you to think about the things your children will want to remember from their school years and to be active in documenting them. Meaning, whatever they are doing, remember to take pictures.

Things To Include:

*Class pictures - I put a family picture on one page along with our theme verse for the year. I also do a separate page for each child. Some years I take a posed picture of each of them, some years I just put in few pictures I have taken throughout the year. Some years we include their signature, hand prints, lists of favorites, things they've learned, reduced copies of art work. One year I pasted pictures of their heads onto bodies cut from magazines to make caricatures.

*Sports - if your child plays organized sports, make a page or two for that. Add team photos, pictures of games, or a picture of them hanging out with friends after the game. If your home school group has a field day, scrapbook that. Or take pictures of your kids riding bikes, playing tag, and shooting hoops in the driveway.

*Clubs - Our kids are in AWANA, so we always include a couple of pages with pictures of cowboy night, crazy hair night, grand prix, closing program, etc. If your children are in a church program or scouts or such, make pages for those.

*Extra curricular activities- co op classes, library or museum programs, music classes, their Sunday school class. Field trips, vacations, special occasions (weddings and holidays) The arrival or first birthday of a younger child.

*Academics - I do a page for each subject with pictures of the kids working or doing projects or holding their books or dressed in costumes (for history or geography). Sometimes I've also put reduced copies of notebook pages or added journaling about what we've studied. I also have done special pages for things like "________ learns the alphabet" and "We like to listen to stories" (with pictures of friends and family reading to them.)

*Friends - we always include a page with pictures of friends and family. The definition of "friend" can be as broad as you want to make it. The librarian, the mailman, the kids next door? If it is someone your kids may remember years from now, they would probably enjoy having a picture of them. And years from now when that person is no longer around you may be thankful for the pictures you have of those people you now take for granted. A signature page is also a fun way to collect remembrances.

The Benefits of a Homeschool Yearbook

While our school year books are primarily for my children's benefit, they also have some extra advantages. They are a great way to share our lives with our family and friends. They are a great way to show doubters what a wonderful education our children are receiving. They are a good way for me to exercise my creative talents. And looking through books from past years is wonderful encouragement for me as a teacher. It is also a nice review for my children.

I would encourage you to start this practice in your own home. Sure, it takes a little time, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming. I work on ours a little here and there as I have time. I don't try to make it perfect, so my cuts aren't always straight and I may have smudges here and there, but no one really notices. The important thing is just to have something, so put into it as much or as little as you are able.

Monday, August 5, 2013

9th Grade {course plans}

These are the plans I have put together for my children's freshman year. The classes were chosen based on the guidelines for graduation in the state of Virginia, but may be varied based on each child's personal needs.   * This post contains affiliate links.

Algebra 1
Prerequisites: Pre Algebra
Grade Level: 9
Credit: 1

Option #1: 
329715: Saxon Algebra 1 Homeschool Kit with Solutions Manual, 3rd EditionThis course provides a comprehensive teaching of the fundamental aspects of problem solving. It offers a substantial review of pre algebra fundamentals while also offering  a basic overview of geometry concepts of area, volume, angles, Pythagorean Theorem, and perimeter of geometric figures. Major topics include evaluation of algebraic equations, thorough coverage of exponents, polynomials, solving and graphing linear equations, complex fractions, solving systems of equations, radicals, word problems, solving and graphing quadratic equations, solving systems of equations, and solving equations by factoring. With Algebra 1, students begin developing the understanding required for entrance into Algebra 2 or Geometry courses and will solve problems with practical applications for use in carpentry, construction, consumer economics, investing, and more.

Curriculum List


  • Virtual Home School Group (free self-paced course using the Saxon text)
    • Recorded Lectures
    • Computer-Scored Problem Sets
    • Computer-scored weekly tests

Notes: As a homeschool  student, I hated Saxon math and vowed to never use it with my children. However, my children began looking through my old books and decided that they enjoyed the Saxon approach. My 2nd born son is really good at math, and was able to get himself through algebra, as well as answering any questions his brothers and sisters might have. But since he is now working full time, I decided I needed something extra to help the next set of children to make it through. In my search, I found three different sets of teaching videos for the Saxon series: DIVE, Mastering Algebra John Saxon's Way (by Art Reed), and Saxon's own DVD's. After reading numerous reviews, I decided that the Art Reed set would be a better fit for our family.                                     

Option #2: 
This course introduces students to the language through which we describe patterns. It provides students with the foundation needed to understand higher-level math subjects. Some of the topics include linear equations, linear inequalities, linear functions, systems of equations, factoring expressions, quadratic expressions, exponents, functions, and ratios.

  • Khan Academy (free self-paced course)
    • Practice Exercises
    • Instructional Videos
    • Personal Learning Dashboard
Notes: My fifth born son has not done well using Saxon. As a result, he has needed to do some remedial math to strengthen areas where he struggles. We began using Khan's academy out of desperation, but will continue using it because it makes my job so much easier. The whole program is based on mastery, so he doesn't move on until he knows the material. And since everything is graded by the computer, I can just look at his dashboard to see how he is doing, rather than trying to find time to grade all his lessons. The best part is that he LOVES doing his math lessons this way. 

Physical Science
Prerequisites: none (Pre Algebra recommended)
Grade Level: 8-9
Credit: 1

337402: Exploring Creation with Physical Science Student Textbook, 2nd EditionThis course is designed to be the last science course the student takes before high school biology. It discusses such topics as the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, weather, the structure of the earth, environmentalism, the physics of motion, Newton’s Laws, gravity, and astrophysics. Students will participate in weekly  laboratory  experiments.

Curriculum List


  • Recorded Lectures
  • Computer-Scored Lecture Quizzes (OYO and study guide questions)
  • Lab Report Starters
  • Computer-scored module exams

Notes: I don't see any of my children pursuing a career path which involves science, so I have decided to follow Apologia's slower track for science. If you plan to take Physical Science during highschool, keep in mind that it must be completed in 9th grade to count for credit.  

English 9
Prerequisites: English 8
Grade Level: 9
Credit: 1

Option #1:

This course focuses on further developing basic skills in reading, writing, listening, speaking, and critical thinking. In addition to a review of basic grammar concepts, several new concepts will be introduced. Additional topics include lessons on outlining, poetry, letter writing, and practice in the five essay formats used in high school writing. Research and editing skills will also be taught and practiced.

Curriculum List

Option #2:
Students will focus this year on analyzing literature including poetry, short stories, novels, and plays. Students will develop their understanding of literary devices and terminology to be able to express researched critiques of literature. Students will produce a number of literary analysis papers as well as other essays. Additionally, students will be engaged creatively in writing short stories and poetry. Students will use the complete writing process and submit work for peer editing. Students will also read a variety of nonfiction and will be expected to produce a newspaper, newsletter and podcast as part of their nonfiction studies. To improve in their writing, students will study spelling, vocabulary, grammar, suspense, irony, metaphor, theme, mood and foreshadowing.   


History & Social Sciences (1/2 or full credit of choice)

Option #1:  
Geography: Map Skills
Prerequisites: none
Grade Level: 9-12
Credit: .5

In this course students will learn the basics of reading maps, the history of cartography, and how to draw maps of the places they study. After completing all of the mapping activities, the student will have drawn practically every area of the world, including many of the Pacific islands and Antarctica. Additional skills covered include using a compass, reading latitude and longitude lines, drawing map symbols, using time zone maps,  and understanding political, physical, road, city, weather, and product maps. The five themes of geography will also be covered. 

Curriculum List

Option #2:
Virginia State History
Prerequisites: none
Grade Level: 9-12
Credit: .5

This course covers state government and leaders, historical events, growth and population, natural resources, economics and business, tourism, and cultural distinctions. Students will reinforce research skills as they prepare essays, employ math skills, enhance their writing, and learn about business. 

Curriculum List

Prerequisites: none
Grade Level: 9-11
Credit: .5

See my Keyboarding {course plan} for more details.

Prerequisites: none
Grade Level: 9-12
Credit: .5

See my Foods {course plan} for more details.

Health: Safety & Personal Care
Prerequisites: none
Grade Level: 9-12
Credit: 1

(I haven't finished planning this class yet.)

Additional Activities

  • homeschool co-op classes on fridays
  • Bible copywork: beginning to copy the book of Genesis
  • Penmanship using Writing For Your Future
  • reading from assigned book list, as able

Chore Charts For Large Families {free printable}

Since the chore chart I used as an illustration on my post about why kids need chores has been so popular, I thought it deserved a post of its own. My first attempts at coming up with a way for my children to keep track of their chores were a disaster. They consisted of separate lists for each child (worked for them, but hard for me if I needed to find who was responsible for a specific chore) and complicated lists with names scribbled all over them. Finally, through a lot of trial and error I came up with a simple system that used color coding. Because I had color coded everything else already (hangers, cups, etc.), my children had no trouble identifying which chores they were responsible for. And it allowed me to have different children doing the same chore on different days, without needing to clutter up the chart with a bunch of names. 

My color code, in order of age: 

  • Blue (son)
  • Red (son)
  • Yellow (daughter)
  • Green (son)
  • Orange (son)
  • Purple (daughter)
  • Pink (daughter)
  • Light Blue (son)
  • Peach (daughter)
  • Brown (all)

Some of the chores that have been on our list at different times, depending on what needed to be done and who was available to help:

  • Make Papa’s breakfast & coffee/ pack lunch (Back when I was in the midst of raising toddlers and nursing babies, my husband started paying our oldest daughter to get up early and fix his breakfast so that I could sleep in. Our 2nd oldest daughter, age 9, now does it for him. It is the only job on the chore list that earns  pay. 
  • Make bed/Straighten bedroom
  • Get dressed/do devotions
  • Help younger sibling dress
  • Exercise
  • Place bedding in the wash
  • Set table for breakfast/ clean up after
  • Make breakfast
  • AM dishes
  • Feed animals
  • Sweep & mop
  • Check garbage and compost- empty as needed
  • Clean  bathroom (wipe counters, fresh towel, etc.)
  • Clean bathroom (toilet and all)
  • Vacuum
  • Dust/wipe walls clean
  • Wash & dry laundry
  • Fold own laundry & put it away
  • Make lunch
  • Lunch clean up
  • Lunch dishes
  • Set table for supper
  • Help with supper
  • Make supper
  • PM clean up
  • PM dishes

Large Family Chore Chart {free printable}

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Uncle Eric Series {review}

The eleven volume Uncle Eric series provides a great, in-depth introduction to economic, history, and government as you've never seen them taught before. They are fascinating. I found them hard to put down!

These books are written by Richard Maybury aka "Uncle Eric" as a series of letters to his nephew Chris and deal with the topics of economics and government. But there is so much more you can learn from them. For instance, in the first volume Mr. Maybury also touches on educational theory, ethics, and history. Volume 2, Whatever Happened To Penny Candy, contains almost everything I learned in two college level economics classes plus a few things I didn't, explained in a simple and interesting way that even a younger child could understand.

In his first book, Personal, Career, and Financial Security, Mr. Maybury introduces the concept of models as "the way we think and understand the world." I really enjoyed what he said in chapter five about how to learn or teach models. I think it sums up pretty well the way I prefer to teach my children and why it works so well.

"Experience creates models automatically . . .This is why classroom instruction via lecture is the least effective way to teach and hands-on learning by doing is the most effective. We are made in such a way that we build models automatically by doing. Typically, classroom instruction is like teaching someone to play Monopoly just by making him memorize the rules and then giving him a test on those rules. . . Unfortunately, some models are impossible to learn using hands-on process, so one method humans use to substitute for real world experience is telling stories. Stories are used to demonstrate and illustrate ideas."

There is much more wisdom packed between the pages of these books, but I will leave that for you to discover. I can't quote the whole thing here.

There were a couple of things I disagreed with, but I see them as opportunities for additional discussion. For instance, at one point, Mr. Maybury states, "Beware of certainty. Certainty stops inquiry. " In another place he warns to always be open minded because we are humans who make mistakes and we can never be 100% certain of anything. While I understand what he is saying and agree UP TO A POINT, as a Christian I do believe that some things ARE 100% certain. I will be sure to point this out to the children.

Free Notebook Pages For Uncle Eric Books
Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?
Ancient Rome and How it Affects You Today
Are You . . . Liberal, Conservative, Or Confused?

* This post contains affiliate links.

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