Thursday, November 13, 2014

From public school to home school, the struggle with freedom...

It's been a whirlwind of epic proportions. So much craziness in to me what feels like such little time, yet it's been almost a year. Wow time flies.

So, the catch up... End of last school year (about mid March/April) We decided that I would homeschool Cole along with Alec. We came to the decision for very different reasons than we did for Alec. Cole has never really struggled with school, he has always done great, always been on honor roll, etc. It was just so many changes that started coming down the drain (no pun intended) did not make us very happy. We had already begun to see common core creeping into the curriculum here, add to that the ridiculous STARR testing (previously known as TAKS) and almost equally ridiculous changes the district was implementing we felt it was time to give him a better education. So we quietly finished out the school year and when we received the district's attendance questionnaire, ("Will you continue to attend this particular school, another in the district or do you have other plans?") we checked "other plans" and in the blank space wrote "homeschool". So the journey of Cole, the homeschooler began. :)

So far it's been good. He is doing great with math (as I knew he would because he loves math)
He started a little behind on English and Science, but I got him pretty well caught up over the summer in preparation for the fall. But poor Cole, some days he reminds me a little of Brooks from Shawshank Redemption. The first few weeks of school it was confusing for him. "I don't have to ask permission to go to the bathroom?" "I can have a snack at the table while I do my school work?" The one that really spun his head was the fact that he gets to choose which subject he wants to work on & when. Completely tripped him up. In hindsight (more than a month later) I realized that I needed to start out structured with him, then gradually taper off; giving him freedom in small doses.  We of course have the issues when I am at work not as much school work gets done. Same issue I had with the oldest when he first started out. Self control is another big part of our homeschool routine. It is SOOOO easy to just park yourself in front of the TV, or read comic books all day instead of doing your school work first. So Cole's first year, (as Alec's was as well) is going to have a lot of "eat your frog" reminders, lots of evenings and weekends with no tv or video games. I have no doubt in my mind he will "get it" and begin to succeed in that respect. He is jogging along now, once he "gets it" I know he will be at a full gallop absorbing knowledge as fast as his brain can take it. (Un-like Brooks, but we won't go there)

One of the first science experiments he did was creating a Non-Newtonian substance. What is a Non-Newtonian substance you ask? Well it is a solid with out shape. (also known as an amorphous solid. How do you create an amorphous solid? Well get yourself a big baking pan, pour in about a pound of cornstarch and slowly add water, stirring with your hands until it is the consistency of honey. It will be drippy and run through your fingers when you hold it in your hand. It is so much fun to play with. as you can tell....

you can see another example of what we did here , just on a larger scale. :D We love the Myth Busters.

So, here is our curriculum run down for the year, this is all the stuff we love...

Teaching Textbooks Alegbra 1: yes ALGEBRA. He is using the disks this year (since we bought a new computer!) and is doing fantastic. I can't believe my son, who struggled with math for so long is LOVING algebra. Clearly he is not my son ;)

Apologia Physical Science: Even tho we are secular homeschoolers we love Apologia's science curriculum. It's comprehensive and explains things pretty thoroughly. Any gaps we fill with Bill Nye videos, etc. I like that it does talk about evolution (tho it is creation based). It is by far the best and most affordable option we have found. And his text book in particular I paid only $4, used but in really good condition from Half Priced books. So lesson here, check the homeschooling/education section of your local Half Priced Books. They have amazing deals! Got the teacher's edition off Amazon (used as well) for less than $10 including shipping.

Houghton Mifflin American Government: Now even tho we are secular homeschoolers, we DO NOT common core our kids. Most secular curriculums out there now days (the new ones anyway) are common core. So I picked up an older version of this on Amazon (copyright 2000), both the student textbook and teacher's guide were less than $20 including shipping (used of course).

Literature: As usual I do the literature myself. We make a list of books to read for the year, and I search the internet for study guides, or unit studies on them. If there is none, I write my own. So far this year he has read "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens. Currently all 3 of us are reading "The Giver" by Lois Lowry. Also on this year's list is: Fahrenheit 451& True Grit. We also will do poetry studies throughout the year (Edgar Allen Poe we always do around Halloween). is a great website for finding reading guides. They don't have every book, but that is usually the first place I look when we start compiling our reading list for the year. (good for older kids, not so much for younger readers)

We still struggle to find a good grammar program. We tried the Easy Grammar multiple times (I just don't understand what all the fuss is about with it) I have Jensen's in my online shopping cart, I just need to give it a try I know. I think grammar curriculums is probably what we have spent the most money on because we are having trouble finding one that fits.


Teaching Textbooks Math 6: So far it's working ok. I think it is probably a little slower paced than Cole would prefer. We'll try this for the first year and see how we end up in May. If anyone has a suggestion for a little faster paced curriculum I am all ears.

Apologia General Science: It was a little above is grade level, but we started with the Young Explorer series and it felt too young for him. So we are taking our time with this, if we take 2 years to get through it I'm ok with it. So far he seems to like it.

Houghton Mifflin United States History: Again I found an older (pre-common core) version on Amazon, less than $30 including shipping for both the Teacher's edition and student text. The awesome thing is that the teacher's edition included a whole bunch of re-produceables, including flash cards for the vocab, all organized by chapter and section number! I just photo copied them on colored cardstock, laminated them and cut them out. EASY!!! (especially since for all the other subjects' vocabulary I type up the cards myself using the Avery app. that is time consuming but I can usually get it done while I catch up on my shows)

Literature: So far he has read "The Jungle Book", currently reading "The Giver" and on his list for the rest of the  year is Watership Down, and Tuck Everlasting. I have found reading guides for all of them for free online, just google search and pick what looks good to you. There are TONS. We also are doing little poetry units. Just finished one on Haiku poetry. Cole wrote a haiku about our chickens, then for art we learned origami and he made an origami chicken.

The Grammar Ace: We are using for grammar, along with the School House Rock DVD that was suggested by Sonlight. We are iffy on it. We really don't use the DVD too much, he gets the lessons pretty well on his own with out it.

So there is the nutshell, so far. Today, with the wind chill, we are below freezing. Winter is coming early to Texas this year. I gotta go run and grab firewood before it starts getting colder. Dinner tonight may be stew. The one think I LOVE about cold weather, time to start making stews, chili, sauerbraten, crockpot oat meal, all the hearty cold weather food. yum yum...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The first week

First week of school...

Poor Alec, who literally has not been sick since we started homeschooling (one of the many benefits!) started with a stuffy nose Sunday night and by Monday mid-morning had a full blown head cold. Poor guy!
And it rained like crazy almost all day, and since I was working and Alec was sick poor Cole had to walk home from the bus stop in the rain. Apparently he was completely soaked from head to toe. Including his back pack and all that it contained. (EEK!)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A new start

A new school year is upon us! It is the Thursday before school starts, officially for the public school kids around us and really for us as well since we tend to follow the district's calender.
The last few weeks have been exciting in our household. Boxes have been arriving filled with books and other sorts of things. I love that Alec is getting excited about school. (that never used to happen) Yesterday was a particularly exciting day for everyone because this arrived:
If you are in the market for a microscope for your home school, this is a great one! Super heavy, sturdy construction. Reminds me of the microscopes we used in high school science class. Inside of 30 minutes from opening the box I had it all set up and we were looking at the prepared slides that it came with. First up was the honey bee mouth parts, very interesting (and a little creepy), then intestines and parts of a stem and leaf. All so very interesting.

Today I am working on our lesson plans for the first few weeks of school. We are using a new science and grammar curriculum this year. (still on my quest for a grammar program!) We are really excited about the science program. I purchased Apologia from so we'll see how it goes. Alec did good last year, we learned about the periodic table of elements. We used "Elements & The Periodic Table, What things are made of" As well as some flash cards I purchased from an Usborne rep. by Basher Science, and of course we watched Bill Nye videos as well. He created his own giant periodic table of elements (drew pictures to represent each element) and an element discovery time line.

So that is all for today. It's time to get Cole ready for meet the teacher night at his school and TKD right after. Enjoy the last weekend before school everyone!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Celebrity Sighting, gem mining and garden planning 2012

First I am just BURSTING with excitement! Friday Maureen McCormick had lunch in my restaurant! (AKA Marcia Brady!!) I grew up watching her on The Brady Bunch of course. I LOVED that show! She was just the nicest sweetest person! Loved everything I made for her. This is her second time coming in (the last time she came in on my day off). It was a thrill.

A few weeks ago I took the boys on a field trip to the Innerspace Caverns just north of Austin.
They were having a homeschool special day so we got discounts on the tour, gem mining etc. The boys had a fantastic time! They learned so much! I just wish we were studying geology but this came up after we had already started on the animal kingdom section.
The boys touching the 1 rock in the cave you are allowed to touch.
The caverns went down a LOONG way. Some places were kinda tight and then there were BIG areas like this. The farther we went down the more humid and hot it got. (and it was a cold day!)

Sooo the update...
Math: 10 days to multiplication mastery (we need to re-enforce the basics) Starting day 4 tomorrow.
History: Istanbul/ Turkey
English: figures of speech and contractions.
Science: continuing our Animal unit, learning about animal behavior
Art History: Continuing study on Impressionism, this week we will be creating our own impressionist paintings.
What we are reading together: Works of VanGogh (reading & studying the paintings)
Alec is reading on his own: Oliver Twist
I am reading on my own: Atlas Shrugged (I'll be reading this one for a while!) in preparation for part 2 of the movie coming out in October.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ah-MAZING Grilled Cheese

Who is in the mood for a yummy cold weather recipe? While here in Texas we have had a relatively mild winter, but I know a good majority of the country has not. Grilled cheese sandwich is one of my favorite things to eat when it is cold and yucky outside.
Now I am a chef at a shop that sells gourmet cheeses, and yes, we feature MANY different grilled cheeses on our menu. We recently changed things up on the menu and added some new ones. Out of all of them I think this one has become my favorite.

Bacon Jam is amazing stuff. Bacon is pretty awesome on it's own, bacon jam just kicks it up a few notches. Now I make our bacon jam from scratch for the kitchen. You can do it yourself, it is however time consuming. You can buy it from here , but $19.99 for only 7 oz (plus shipping) is VERY steep in my opinion. If you are in my neighborhood stop by Gourmage, We sell our special recipe (using high quality Raisin River apple wood smoked bacon) for WAAY less.

So back to the grilled cheese, First you want to seek out some really good multi-grain bread. You won't find anything good in the bread isle of your grocery store, all those loaves are too soft and squishy. Head over to the fresh bakery, or better yet if you have a good farmer's market close by or a good independent bakery check them out. I cannot stress how important the bread is. A grilled cheese is just a few ingredients, maybe 4 at the most, tops. All need to be the best you can find.
Next is the cheese. Now at work I make this with Chimay Grand Cru.

Chimay is a Belgium brie-like cheese. The rind is washed in the famous Chimay beer giving the cheese a yeast-y almost bread like finish. It is fabulously stinky, smooth and creamy. It is a great melting cheese, making it perfect for grilled cheese, fondue, mac and cheese, etc.

Next of course is the bacon jam. As I said before it is a long process to make it. The majority of the time tho (well how I make it anyway) it doesn't need your attention. I use the slow cooker to cook it. From start to finish it’s an all day job, but oh so worth it. Here are some links to a few recipes. In my recipe I do not use chipotle. I prefer for this application it tastes purely of the bacon.

Slow Cooker Bacon Jam
Homesick Texan Bacon Jam Recipe -This one was the first one I made and while I LOVED the smokey spicy-ness of it, I felt it totally overpowered the cheese.

The trick to grilled cheese is to grill the bread on all sides. I use softened butter and smear all sides of the bread. Grill until the first 2 sides are browned and slightly crispy. Next spread on about 2 oz. of bacon jam (more or less depending on how large your slices are) and top with about 4 oz of the Chimay cheese (make sure to cut off the rind and slice in to thin-ish slices so it melts faster) Top with the other slice of bread (also browned and crispy on the 1 side) placing the un-grilled side up. Cook over med-high heat for about 4 minutes each side or until the bread is browned and the cheese is melted.

( I apologize for the lousy picture. I had to rush and this is what turned out. :( poo poo. But the sandwich was YUMMY)

A few other ideas for the bacon jam (if you decided to make it you will have a LOT of it. But fear not, it lasts a LOOOONG time as long as you keep it tightly covered in the fridge)

  • Heat it slightly and smear it on a freshly made waffle.
  • Breakfast sandwich. (biscuit or English muffin split open, smear of bacon jam and an over easy egg. I suppose you could do scrambled egg, but the runny yolk is so much more fun!)
  • Smear on bread for a turkey sandwich instead of mayo.
  • My FAVORITE BURGER: Good organic ground beef, stuff the center with Tallegio or Chimay and grill it. put a thick smear of bacon jam on top of the meat after you have flipped it and serve on a grilled bun.
  • OR Mix some bacon jam in the ground beef!
  • Mix it in your Mac & Cheese
  • Bacon Jam, lettuce and Tomato sandwich :D
  • Just a spoon is good too!

Recipe: Grilled Cheese with Chimay and Bacon Jam

2 slices good quality multi-grain bread
2 oz. bacon jam
4 oz. Chimay Grand Cru, rind removed

Spread butter on all 4 sides of bread. Cook on griddle over medium-high heat till browned. Spread bacon jam on one of the sides, top with cheese and place other slice of bread on top. Cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Serve hot with a cold beer. ;)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Wow. So much as happened since my last post. Boy, reading it over it was kinda gloomy wasn't it? That is the reality of things sometimes. Homeschooling isn't all rainbows and unicorns.
Currently Alec is getting ready to compete in a home school science fair. He has been diligently working this past weekend on it. He hasn't written his report yet, nor have we started on his display. (YIKES!) I just pray he gets it done before Friday morning.

On the work front things have been going great. Had a photo shoot week before last with not 1 but 2 publications. If you are in the San Antonio area grab the April/May/June issue of TASTE magazine. My fresh chevre ice cream will be featured as well as some BEAUTIFUL pictures of cheeses from the shop. We also had our local paper come out and do a story on the candies we made for Valentine's day including strawberries and cream marshmallows. (they are SO GOOD!)
I made some Salted Caramel sauce that we added to the hot chocolate and we sold out EVERY DAY last week. Then I got a little naughty and made the breakfast special Irish Oatmeal topped with diced green apple and drizzled with the salted caramel sauce. HEAVEN in a mug!

So I had started this back a long time ago in an effort to get me to post more often, so I'll start it up again, tho this will be for last week

So last week we worked on:
Math: Beginning geometry (eek!!!) and of course practicing math facts (mostly addition and long division)
History: Asia/Hong Kong
English: Continuing unit on Poetry and Prose
Art History: Continuing study on Impressionism
What we are reading together: Masterworks of Monet (well, reading and studying the paintings)
Alec is reading on his own: Oliver Twist
I am reading on my own: Mockingjay (on the kindle app on my phone) I know I am totally late to the whole Hunger Games craze. My friend just got me started on it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Question I get asked a lot

"How do you do it?" is a question I get asked a lot. When people find out that I home school, work as a chef, am council PTA president they always ask that. I always seem to be scrambling to find an answer. I know they are looking for some magic method that allows me to get everything done.


I have no clue.

I am sitting here tonight in the class room, by myself. The boys are sleeping, Derek is playing a video game downstairs (some new game that he has been glued to since he got it) and I am up here grading papers, organizing completed assignments, printing and clipping coupons. Feeling a bit annoyed. You know that saying "No man is an island", well I am feeling like an island tonight.
I know everything I have read about homeschooling says that you (as the mom) shouldn't count on your husband to be involved at all in the schooling. I am just feeling quite over-whelmed at the moment. My kitchen is a disaster, pile of dirty laundry is almost as tall as me, and of course I have a small stack of assignments to grade, grades to enter in the grade book, bathrooms that need cleaning, trash that needs to be taken out, and a thanksgiving dinner to plan. I won't get help with any of it, and Derek is angry with me about I am sure all of it.

I wish I could be like some of those other moms out there that can post about how they are proud of their dirty dishes, piles of dirty clothes and smelly bathrooms because it all means They are busy doing something more important and impressive.
My husband isn't impressed at what I accomplish in a day. He doesn't care that today I got 1 load of laundry done, gave Alec a history test, worked on a Science lesson with him, went to the bank, Target, Walgreens, HEB, put out a PTA drama fire, helped Cole with his homework, made dinner, swept the kitchen floor (not once but twice today) and paid the bills. None of that is impressive because there are still dishes in the sink. Frankly it drives me crazy too. But when it is 11 pm, and I have to prepare for school tomorrow, and I am just flat exhausted I almost feel guilty for needing sleep.

Well, I have taken enough of brake time, back to work grading papers, and perhaps I can get a load of laundry tossed in before I pass out from sheer exhaustion.