11 August 2017

Homemade Graham Crackers

While we're thinking about the start of the new school year, here's a quick and portable snack that my kids love to help make:

1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup water
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt

Cream honey, butter and vanilla. Mix in water. Add dry ingredients and combine thoroughly, kneading dough together. Split dough in half*, and roll or press out flat on two greased sheet pans. Cut into squares/rectangles, docking with the tines of a fork if desired, and bake at  F, one pan at a time, for 10-12 minutes or until bottoms begin to turn golden brown. Remove crackers to wire racks or countertop to cool.

*Theyll be slightly thicker and softer than commercial graham crackers, which we like, but if you want them crisp, divide dough into thirds instead and bake in three batches.

And if you have a choice between using sheets pans with and without raised sides, definitely use the ones without! I don't have any of those, and it's always a challenge to roll the dough out to the corners because the sides get in the way.

04 August 2017

Planning for the new school year

We're not remotely ready to start school yet, which fine as far as I'm concerned because why in the world are some school districts starting classes the first week of August? What happened to summer? Maybe this is just an Alaskan mentality, but we have so few months without snow on the ground, we need that whole 3-month break to get gardening and outside projects done, and get the kids outside as much as possible!

Plus, this year, first trimester ick has me thinking that waiting until the beginning of September really doesn't sound unreasonable. I do have a plan, though, even if I've only just finally finished ordering materials...

Okay, it's less of a firm "plan" at this point and more of a "well-considered list of materials". Good thing we've already established that I have several weeks left, right? 

We enrolled with one of the state homeschooling organizations this year, the same one I was enrolled in 7th through 12th grade. It is great: in exchange for agreeing to submit an Individualized Learning Plan for the year, a work sample for each subject each quarter, and progress reports at the end of each semester, parents are allowed to select the curriculum that works best for their students, and each student receives an allotment that can be used to reimburse purchases of non-sectarian materials, art supplies, music lessons, PE lessons (sports, swimming, martial arts, etc), field trips, etc. There are caps on how much you can be reimbursed in some categories, and you have to have at least four subjects—at least two of them core—that don't use religious/sectarian materials, or the allotment amount gets reduced. I sat down with our contact teacher from the organization a couple of weeks ago and wrote out Little Bear's ILP, which mapped out what subjects we'll be doing, what topics he'll be covering in each, and what our books/curriculum will look like. So for kindergarten, we're listed as taking Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, and Art. 

I expect to break Language Arts down into about three subjects on the weekly lesson plan: handwriting, reading, and circle (Waldorf-style song/storytelling/imaginative language development). For the latter, we're using the kindergarten curriculum from Lavender's Blue, a secular Waldorf-style program. I have high hopes for it, so I'll have to report back on it as we go. Handwriting will be the first grade book from Handwriting Without Tears, which just came in the mail today and honestly it looks waaaaay easy, so I'm going to have to keep on reminding him that the challenge is to do it neatly and carefully. I have a hand-me-down copywork book as well, which we may wind up using some of. And for reading, we will continue with Catholic Heritage Curricula's Little Stories for Little Folks, along with hopefully-frequent trips to the public library and the homeschool organization's library.

Math is straightforward this year: we'll be using RightStart Math, level B, with a book of Mind Benders logic puzzles from the Critical Thinking Company as a fun reward for getting other things done.

Science is a little more all over the place. He wanted to learn about "everything" this year, so we're planning to go through a couple of Magic School Bus science kits, starting with their Human Body Lab and going on to volcanoes and magnets. He reads so much on his own, and much of it nonfiction/science-related, that instead of working through a big science text this year I want to put more of a focus on nature study, spending time outdoors and learning about plants, animals, weather, seasons... We will see. I have a few Waldorf-style natural science books full of ideas.

Social Studies is going to be heavy on geography, because I love geography and he's going to learn to. :-) We have the first Maps Charts & Graphs book, which introduces the idea of reading the titular infographs with a focus on the local community. We'll also be going through a kids' atlas of the US and another of the world, reading through them and finding other resources to continue learning about any places or cultures that catch Little Bear's interest. We signed up with the Raddish kids' cooking program again, and that will also tie in with our learning about different places and peoples.

Art has never been my strong suit—I would go out of my way to avoid having art project disasters in the house—but I know it's important and I know Little Bear will enjoy it, so I was glad to see art projects included in the weekly lesson plans for the Lavender's Blue curriculum. 

And this won't be one of our classes for the state organization, of course, but we'll also be using the Who Am I? Kindergarten religion curriculum from Ignatius Press.

Writing things out is so helpful... I guess I  do have a plan for the year. Writing out weekly lesson plans is not going to be quite as simple as it was last year, but I think it's going to work out well. Little Bear just asked me to read this post to him, and now he's all excited about starting school; I convinced him that we need to wait until at least the week of the 21st.

If you have kids, when will (or did!) your school year start?