Monday, August 20, 2018

Summer Clean Out the Pantry Vegan Menu

So, my Pantry was over full, and I needed to reduce my inventory of staples on hand before an upcoming move. I had dried lentils; canned black-eyed peas, white beans, black beans, and canned tomatoes;  dry rice noodles, spaghetti, quinoa, rice; and frozen peppers & onions, okra, and mirepoix;  as well as refrigerated carrots, cabbage, celery and onions. All of it needed to be planned into a menu.

And, of course, who wants to bake or make complicated dishes in the summer?

So, I planned this menu, only buying the extra ingredients I needed to finish out each dish:


Lentil Soup over Spaghetti

Quinoa Salad

Pad Thai

Veggie Burgers (from Grocer's Freezer), Potatoes in the Slow Cooker, and Black Bean Salad

Fasolia Yachni

Stir Fry Veggies over Rice

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Monday, August 13, 2018

Seminar Scheduling for Homeschool

Seminar Scheduling for Home School
Quite by accident, I have happened on a new and happy method of planning our home school
schedule - one that has been much more effective and lower stress for us than the other methods I have tried or seen.

The usual or traditional way of "doing school" for most folks is to make a daily schedule and block off a standard amount of time per subject, doing 4 to 12 subjects per day, with an approximately even amount of time spent on each. You know:

9AM Math,
10AM English,
11AM History,
1200 Lunch
1PM Art,
2PM Science,
3PM Phys Ed.

About an hour each and you have a schedule. If you're a Charlotte Mason fan, you might do 15-20 minute per subject, and do even more subjects. This is the norm for both traditional school and most conventional home schools. Less conventional home schools might do something like a unit study incorporating several topics, or an unschooling day - again with a variety of topics.

We school year round, and take occasional breaks.

Over time, as we approached breaks, I got in the habit of paring down our schedule to just the tasks that I really felt needed to be completed at that moment . . . "Let's see, we really need to finish this science text before break, and the last so-many pages in English, but our other subjects are to a stopping point. We'll just focus on English and Science from now until break." Then science would finish, and we'd only have English left. Of course, Religion is not a subject that "gets done" so we'd still do Religion every day.

After doing this "pared down" plan two or three times in preparation for a school break, I discovered that those "pared down" times were WAY more productive than our full schedule times. And less frustrating, too. There was no pressure of, "We need to finish Math so we can get Science, English, Foreign Language and Art done before we go out to dinner this evening!" We could simply work at Math, Math, Math then be done for the day. And, if there was a promised break when the Science text was done - well - it was amazing how much science could be covered & how quickly! : )

And I began reflecting:

When students go to university, they don't usually rush from class to class, instead they might spend 3 hours on one class. Likewise, when many folks go to work, they might be required to spend long stretches of time on one project. So, longer stretches on one subject are better preparation for the adult world than are pressurized little capsules of time in a day (although certainly some professions are more that way). 

I also thought back to my own years as a student. I attended institutions with a variety of schedules: Semesters, Quarters, and Seminar. In a Semester schedule, one would take a wider variety of classes fewer hours per week each, but the classes would each stretch 16 weeks. I found Semesters rather miserable, they seemed unproductive and the term seemed to last forever.

In a Quarter schedule, there would be more hours per week in a class, very slightly fewer classes, and the class would last about 12 weeks. I found that more tolerable. Not much more effort per week, but the time passed so much more quickly.

But my favorite was the "Seminar" - here you'd go for 1 to 5 weeks and study JUST ONE THING (or maybe 2). All day, every day. You'd really delve into that topic, be able to focus on it, and not be distracted by other stresses. I loved it - it was a great way to get a lot done. And by making a month's progress (as done in the Semester plan) in a day or two, you really felt like you were learning more effectively and efficiently. It made me feel more productive and "smarter" in the subject at hand.

And upon reflecting, I realized that we had stumbled upon seminar scheduling for our home school!

My daughter was able to focus on JUST TWO THINGS for the vast majority of her school day. And, when that was done, SHE was done. And able to do something she enjoyed more. Many of her "hobbies" are still educationally beneficial, so she might still get other work done with the rest of the day - but it wasn't required.

So this is how our Seminar days are looking lately:

Breakfast & Music
Over breakfast we listen to music - usually either Church Music, Bible Memory Songs, or School Songs

Chapel & Read Aloud

We always start the day with Chapel - because that's not a "subject" to get done - it's a way of life. This usually includes my daughter reading aloud the Bible, and a Story of a Saint. Sometimes we include other things, too, like an Icon study, a video, or a story of the Feast of the Day. 

Then a brief  reading session - usually my daughter reading aloud a non-fiction book that she enjoys, and provides some educational benefit - maybe stories from Science or Apologetics or some such special interest. Sometimes we also watch a youtube video on the topic, if it is particularly intriguing.

Seminar #1
Then it's session 1 of the Seminar class. Each day has a set goal of how many pages/hours/percent must be complete to be done for the day.

Lunch & Games
Then lunch and sometimes a few educational computer games, like or Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? 
Fun educational Videos - like Carmen Sandiego, might also be included at lunch or at needed breaks or some favorite music videos like Mr. Betts Class

Seminar #2
Then session 2 - a second class for the afternoon session - again, going for a nice stretch of time.


Piano Practice or Lesson
This, of course, is an after-school lesson for children who go to traditional school - for us it finishes our home school day. Read here about the free online program we use.

We don't always follow a seminar schedule, but we find it a lovely alternative scheduling method for times when we have need to focus on one or two subjects, or when we need to finish some things before a planned break. 

Using this plan, we have seen productivity skyrocket, and stress reduce. Besides that, we have seen subjects that were previously discouragingly difficult become much easier, as they are done in a nearly immersion-type method.  What was before "I'll NEVER figure this out!" is now - "A week ago this seemed SO hard!" So confidence and enjoyment are rising, too.

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Monday, August 6, 2018

How to Start Homeschooling - TOMORROW!

Do you need to start homeschooling right away, and don't have time or money to spend months - or even weeks -  planning and buying things? You can do it! 

I recently met with a new friend who was considering homeschooling her children. One of the children had been cruelly assaulted by a gang of classmates, and Mom wanted to get the kids out NOW! But, she hadn't actually withdrawn them yet, because she felt like there was so much planning to do to get started. So she was waiting to take them out - until she was ready to undertake the task.

If you've never homeschooled before, it can be a very daunting prospect!

I didn't really realize until I met with my friend exactly HOW daunting this prospect could be - I've been homeschooling long enough that it's now "easy as falling off a log." But, after meeting with my friend, I realized that a lot of people might benefit from a post on how to get started as a new homeschooler with little or no notice.

Perhaps you have months to plan, but maybe you don't.

Relax! You CAN do it, starting tomorrow - if you need to. And you don't need to buy a single thing, in most circumstances. 

Here is what I would do if I were starting tomorrow:

(of course, this is not legal - or any other sort of  - expert advice, just my personal opinion)

1. Pray 

Be persuaded that this is God's best for your child. Both parents need to be on board with this decision.

2. Check Laws. 

I'd go to the Home School Legal Defense Association website and (just to double check) the website of my state's Department of Education, and check out the laws for my state, to make sure that I was meeting the legal requirements for homeschooling in my state.

3. Comply with Laws. 

I'd check whatever legal boxes my state required. Frequently, this can be as simple as filling out one document and taking it to be filed with your local school district.

4. Keep a Log

Start a Simple Word Processing Document to Keep Records as you go. Plan to make a list of what you accomplish each day, as it's done - a basic diary. Books read, websites visited, papers done, programs attended. This way you have a nice record for legal purposes (in most states, you're NOT likely to need to present a legal record, but better safe than sorry). But also, and perhaps more importantly, if you end the day and think, "Did we get ANYTHING done today?!" you can reassure yourself : ) And, in two weeks when you want to email a friend a link to that great video you watched - you'll be able to find it. And, in ten years, you'll have a memory book to enjoy! I just type my record up on my computer each day in Microsoft Word, while I'm sitting at the computer to do school anyway. It takes about 3 minutes a day : )

A sample (and of course, fictitious) Log entry might look like this:

1 January 2000 - New Year's Day - 6 hours
Bible - Genesis 1
Reading - Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, Scene 1
Math - Khan Academy First Grade, Counting Practice
Science - E-Learning for Kids - lesson on skeleton
Music - listening to Handel's Messiah -
Art - Drawing Mountain Scene with Pencil
Phys Ed - Riding Bike

5. Gather Supplies. 

What do you truly need to homeschool? In my experience:
  • Paper, 
  • Pencils and Pens. (Crayons & colored pencils are a nice little luxury, but not strictly necessary.)
  • Computer with internet access (which you probably already have if you're reading this!), 
  • Library card.  
  • A table and chairs - the one in your dining room or kitchen will be perfect.
  • Access to a computer printer. A printer is a nice-to-have to print out the many free resources out there (but, again, not absolutely necessary)  But if you lack that, check out this website: Homeschool Printing Company.  Also, often printing can be done at the local library for a small fee.

6. Don't Spend! 

I would not buy ANYTHING before starting! So many beginning homeschoolers go out and shop for a box curriculum before they really know what it is like to teach their own kids at home. Then, they get started, and the particular box that they thought would be perfect doesn't work for them. And they ditch the brand new curriculum - losing hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Instead of feeling the pressure to find something to buy before starting, I would plan a simple homeschool "skeleton" day (only the most essential subjects) and use that for a while, to give me an idea of how my kids learn, and how I teach. Then, as "great curriculum" is found (or you write your own), and learning and teaching patterns established, it is a simple matter to plug that curriculum in -  one class at a time. And, your day will probably gradually stretch to be a little longer, and include those things YOU think are vital (or that your state requires): A Foreign Language, Art, Music, Home Ec, Auto Mechanics, etc.

But, it is quite possible (and perhaps even likely) that you'll find that the free program you start with is one you'd like to keep : )

You don't need, at this point, to plan a 12-year, or even a 1 year "scope and sequence" for everything your child will learn all year. In fact, there's a good chance that such a plan might cause more harm than good - especially if done so early. All you NEED to do is make sure that your child is learning things each day that he didn't already know, or developing skills that are stronger than they used to be!

After you get started, you can check in with a good "Scope and Sequence" - like the one from World Book  - periodically, to reassure yourself. 

7. Start with a basic, simple plan. These are the materials I would start with:

(note: these suggestions work for a very wide range of grades and levels, but for very big kids, scroll on down : )


Start each day with Prayer, and Read from a Bible Story Book each day. If your child is little, read to her. If she's older, have her read to you! If she's big enough that she's past the storybook age, have her read aloud a chapter from an easy translation of the New Testament. As she gets older, choose more challenging translations. If you need links, check out the top right of my sidebar. You can even listen to an audio Bible, or listen to Bible stories online together (again, links are at the top of my sidebar)!


Online: Khan Academy.  and/or
Offline/Paper, but still free: Amy Maryon's Math

Note: Khan academy offers nearly all of the subjects (taught from a secular perspective) and Mrs. Maryon's Program is available for many subjects and grades. 

If you need to grade math work, and aren't a math genius, there are great online calculators that go all the way through the higher maths, and explain how problems are done. Try Symbolab or MathPapa.

Language Arts

Again, Amy Maryon offers a free curriculum.

If your child does not yet know how to read, or if he has problems reading new words that he has never seen before, read my post on Teaching Reading with Confidence.

If the children are very young (Preschool thru early reader) Starfall is a GREAT site to sign onto each day (you can even have them do this while you're learning how to teach them reading, from my above post  : )

For "reading books" (once homeschooling is underway) just go to the library or a local thrift store each week and check something out that your child will enjoy (if he enjoys reading). If he doesn't enjoy reading, find a book that you know he CAN read and that you'd like him to read, and have him read it to you each day. Having children read aloud is very important for learning to pronounce and comprehend new vocabulary, even into higher elementary grades. Keep the book on the easy side if your child is not a strong reader.

The following subjects are ones that many homeschoolers (and many traditional schools) only do one or two days a week. You may choose not to do every one every day:


Tune your kid into a video each day or two - like one of these by Answers in Genesis 

Or watch a video from Moody Science

Fifteen or twenty minutes per day is enough for elementary kids, no need for a marathon each day.

This will keep your child's scientific mind growing, and you will quickly find additional resources.


Watch Liberty's Kids. There are 40 episodes - you can watch free on Youtube, or the entire set may be purchased rather cheaply.

Have Fun With History has some great, old "filmstrip" sort of videos- like what I was shown in school!

Drive Thru History also has some wonderful Christian material (there are minor flaws here and there, but overall it's extremely good). You'll find some full episodes on Youtube (look for episodes about 30 minutes long), and the program can also be purchased later if you find that you love it. 
Also, Biblical Era Drive Thru History can be watched free on the TBN site.

Also, I often simply search for a topic on Youtube adding the words "for kids" at the end - many teachers make great videos on individual history topics. I might type in: "Martin Luther King for kids" on Martin Luther King Day and find a great selection to watch. You'll soon find favorite channels and decided non-favorites from those you find. Be cautious. Sadly some teachers use bad words when they teach, and others unabashedly advance certain propaganda that you may not agree with.


Don Potter's Direct Path to Cursive 
Just download and print.


Free online lessons at Typing Club

Late High School

If your child is in the later stages of High School, try "First Year of College Free" at Modern States - complete with free lectures & free online textbooks! These lessons prepare students to take CLEP tests (College Level Examination Program). If you need financial help affording the actual exam when you're done with the course, they even offer test-fee scholarships : ) Although this program is free, the lectures and materials are not always as clear and approachable as they could be.

I highly recommend InstantCert for teaching advanced subjects & exam prep. There is a monthly fee (about $20 at the time of this writing) - but the materials are excellent.

In addition to the above, there are some popular free online plans most of which I have never used, but that I will mention in case you'd like to check them out:

Easy Peasy All-In-One Homeschool

Ambleside Online

Ambleside Emergency Start Plan 

Good and Beautiful Literature, early grades

CK 12 (thanks to the new friend who recently told me about this one! : )  

eLearning for Kids (not a complete curriculum, but lots of lessons - we have used this a little) (sadly, as of 2020, many resources on this site are being taken down)

Freedom Homeschool  (thanks to THIS BLOG for my awareness of this link!) 

Another list from Freedom Homeschool

As you get into a nice rhythm, check out some of my other posts on homeschooling resources - most of which are cheap or free:

Also, I Pin schooling ideas for each subject in my

Things you DON'T need to do before you can start homeschooling:


  • A Plan 

    I know, I know, sounds crazy! But you really don't need to spend much time planning at all!   Just follow my list of things resources above, and do each one in turn. Plan 1/2 hour for each subject for the first day, and adjust your time to suit as you get settled in! If the planning thing interests you, read more here: Once A Year Lesson Planning for Homeschool
  • Teaching Style: 

    You don't need to research decide what method of homeschooling you'll use long term. In time, you'll have a feel for whether you're eclectic, Charlotte Mason, Unschooler or whatever. Or maybe you'll NEVER research and put yourself into a neat little box. And that's okay : )

  • Learning Styles: 

    You don't need to decide your child's learning style. Maybe in time, you'll feel that your child fits one of those categories nicely - after you've read a lot about it. Or maybe not. "Boxes" aren't necessary for homeschooling, but if they work for you - that's your choice : )
    If this topic interests you, you might enjoy this post
    Rethinking Learning Styles 

  • A Classroom: 

    You don't need a classroom. Really. No desks and whiteboards or chalkboards are necessary. And certainly no completely equipped chemistry lab for the kindergarten. I DID buy a little desk at a thrift store when we started schooling, but that was because I had a preschooler at that time who really wanted to go to a school with desks, and it was a good selling point for her. I knew at the time I bought it that was its purpose, and we quickly moved out of it. 

  • Social Approval: 

    You don't have to persuade everyone you know that you're doing the right thing. In fact, this might be one of those things that you choose NOT to mention on social media for a while. Only you - the parents - need to agree, and feel that your choice is God's best for your family. After that, thank relatives and friends for their well-intended advice or opinions, and do what you believe is best.

As you begin, a few words of advice - not just from my own experience, but from what I've noticed of others' experience:

1. Keep God First.

There is no priority that is more important. Take the Lord's Day off from ALL school - strictly - no matter how much you might feel needs to be done. Make Religion the first subject in your day, and be willing to drop everything if a Spiritual priority arises - whether that means that you see a "teachable moment" about Faith, or you need to help the elderly widow next door, or you need to go to a weekday morning Church service and skip school (our school policy is that if we have a weekday morning service, we get out of school for the day - it really adds to the love of going to Church! ; )
If this subject interests you, you might enjoy reading more here Incorporating Bible into Your Homeschool

2. Presence:  

Your child will need your presence - your company - even more than your teaching - while they are learning. Going off  (physically or mentally) to cook dinner, clean the house, write a book, or surf the net, and expecting your child to "study independently" seldom works, at least before Junior High School, and even then . . . (of course, there are exceptions), Even some high school students do best with Mom nearby - involved and encouraging them - and that's okay! Independent learning is something to build up to gradually, not to demand in the first months of homeschooling. Do NOT make the mistake of leaving your children in the other room with internet access "to do their schoolwork" any more than you would leave them in the middle of a dangerous part of town without you being nearby. The internet has a lot of dangers for unattended children.  And homeschool children can end up spending many more hours on the internet than their public school peers. Keep them in the same room with you, so that their computer screen is facing the room and their back is to the room, so you can see at a glance that they are not in danger (or goofing off!), even if you are at the slow cooker putting dinner on for the evening.


I don't mean this in a harsh or mean way, but you must insist on good study habits, good work habits, paying attention, and in general good behavior and respect from your children as a CENTRAL priority. This is the #1 reason that I've seen homeschool Moms discouraged, demoralized, and yes, even quit. My own Mother, of Blessed Memory, was a professional classroom teacher. She said that the first two weeks she was a "drill sergeant" with her students, and then the rest of the year, the children behaved and they could all enjoy the year. In contrast, she watched colleagues who played "nice guy" the first couple of weeks, and spent the entire second half of the year screaming at their classes. If this is a problem in your house, spend some time listening to Dr. Ray Guarendi : ) and/or read Gentle Measures . . . by Jacob Abbott

4. Consider a Break. 

There is no reason, in most states, that you cannot give your kids a week vacation from school before you embark on homeschooling, or any other time you so choose (some parents find this helpful so that they and their kids can decompress before getting started on a new venture).  In many states, homeschoolers have to provide so many days (often 180) or so many hours (maybe 900)  of education a year. But, unless your state says which days those have to be, you can give a week off, and make it up later.

5. Don't Expect Fun

 Trying to make the day "fun" for yourself OR for your kids is a formula for disaster. (I respect that others take a different view on this topic, and feel free to check out the many posts saying the opposite.) Enjoyment in life tends to be the product of hard work. Expect hard work for yourself and your kids as you start the schooling process. Expect some complaining, some "I don't like this," some telling friends (or even strangers) they want to go to traditional school. That's okay, and it's not a negative reflection on you. It's simply a sign that hard work is being done, and that's a GOOD thing. Your children probably won't say (at least not very often) "Oh, Mom! I'm SOOO excited to study algebra again today!" or "Thank you SO much for showing me how to solve for 'X'!" or "I went ahead and studied my spelling words and cleaned the kitchen before you got up - hope you don't mind!" But, in time, God Willing, you'll find a lot of true, deep JOY in homeschooling - especially if you keep your focus on God. But a pursuit of superficial, frivolous "fun" will probably disappoint. If this topic interests you, check out this post What Creates a Love of Learning?

With God's help, you CAN do it! And it has the potential to become the biggest Blessing in the life of your family!

God Bless! 

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