Monday, July 28, 2014

Creating a Block Schedule to Get More Learning Done

Do you ever feel like that? I do, all the time.

This year though, we will 'get 'er done' by using a BLOCK SCHEDULE. Most traditional schools in my area do something similar so I stole their idea and made it my own.


We use WORKBOXES a concept I found in author Sue Patrick's book and showcased on several homeschooling blogs. Check out some ideas on how to set it up here: click


I break up subjects based on the following:

1) Which classes should be done everyday
2) What class would the student benefit from a break
3) Can this class be condensed? Spread out?


Get a calender (I use some of the free ones online)
Block out days where there is no school
Block out days where you are cutting school short
Block out your Semesters (Like a College would. We have Fall/Winter and Spring Semesters).
Note the number of lessons for each subject


Create a template for your season's schedule.

The schedule is placed on the outside - see through - pocket on my kid's notebooks.

They take a dry erase marker and 'X' out the subjects they've finished.

At the middle / then the end of the day I go and check what was finished and what wasn't, check / correct work and return it to the student that evening.

Note the Numbers on the left of each subject- They represent the WorkBox Drawer the materials are in for the course.

Note the underlined L# - That notes the Lesson Number for that particular subject. Abeka Academy DVD/Streaming programming is very organized and has a specific Lesson Number for each school day. This makes planning for me VERY easy.

Note the Subect Name on the right side - This lets both parents (my husband, my tutor and myself) know how long the particular class will run and the subject name.

Note the sports/extra curricular activities at the bottom - Those are added each season.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


My 4th grader used to have a terrible temper. I mean really at 9yrs old he was still having tantrums. I have to admit it was pay back. I used to be one of those moms that watched a child have a tantrum like his in the store and thought the parent was being irresponsible. He's the youngest of my 4 kids and I have never had this problem with my other kids.

Uhum, well now I see that every child is different.

There were lots of possible reasons for my 4th grader to have this issue with his temper. I've never gotten him tested for any medical 'prognosis' to his behavior, but plenty of his former teachers loved throwing around words or diagnosis without proper training. The odd thing was, he was a great kid who listened, rarely had tantrums at home - with mom and dad. But when he was with other people, it was a different story.


Well I knew I could take him to see someone about his anger issues. But the deal is - I - ME - PARENT would have to work on those challenges with my kid everyday. And I knew my kid better than anyone. If it was consistent behavior done at home and at school, my initial solution would've been different.

The most that happened at home was a stomping to the time-out corner, mumbling under his breath and when I wasn't looking throwing something down. But when he was with his grandmother, teacher or friends he had a temper and a mean, disrespectful mouth.

Now, even though my kid didn't display this behavior with me or my husband face to face. I knew I had to find a way to work with him on a daily basis.


So, I came up with the CALM DOWN list. I made this specific to my kid's issues. Controlling his temper, not having a tantrum, not yelling, learning to calm down, don't internalize things when they don't go his way.

This list of 10 things that he needs to do to calm down, evaluate the problem, open communication and gain forgiveness was a lifesaver.


We read the list every single day before we start our homeschool. I read it with him. He mumbles it sometimes. We sing it sometimes. We chat about it at times. AND when he is having an issue, I read it as I set the 'time out' timer. He either spends that 'time out' in the corner, on the couch, on the floor, with his head on his desk - OR - on mom's lap with her arms around him.


This has worked for us because everyone in the house knows about Speed Racer's list. I take it with me and now Speed Racer 'remembers' his list that he doesn't have to read it every day, multiple times. Now he knows how to calm himself down.

THE LIST: (Make it specific to the needs of your child. Keep it for at least 6 months til it's memory)

1) It's not so bad.
2) Breathe slowly. Relax your shoulders. Count to 10.
3) Don't beat yourself up. Hit a pillow - anything besides YOURSELF
4) Pray for peace inside your head.
5) Tell your story - slowly and respectfully.
6) Take control. 'I am in charge of my own choices and perception'
7) Find small physical distractions. Squeeze a stress ball. Pet our Dog.
8) Talk. Be respectful though. Don't suffer in silence.
9) Tell how you want to turn the situation around.
10) You're not always going to get your way, so don't expect to. Don't plan on everything to come out perfectly


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Our School Curriculum 2014-15

I'm Revealing Our New School Year Plans! Woot~!


First of all, my kids are awesome! They've improved so much this past school year (their first as homeschoolers) that I have no words for what a great adventure this has been.

After testing them, evaluating where they are academically, both of my kids are moving up 2 grades in their curriculum.

I know it seems like a stretch. Most parents wouldn't do it, but my kids are on board for the challenge and so am it.

Speed Racer will go from grade 4 in Abeka Academy Homeschool program to grade 6. The only area we really have to focus on is Writing and Spelling. This area he made improvments in overall, but I don't feel is at 6th grade level. I have a remedy for that.

Tiger Lilly will move from grade 7th to grade 9th (combined). Since she finished 4 credits of her requirements for high school in 7th grade, mid year our Umbrella coordinator suggested reporting her as an 8th grader so she could keep the credits in the high school pool.


- Five Days A Week (afternoon and evening instruction) excess work to do on weekends
- 2 Online courses
- Longer School year with more monthly breaks
- Block Schedule on non-core subjects


- Mom (afternoon courses)
- Dad (morning courses)
- Tutor (enrichment and childcare)


Tiger Lilly (9th Grader) - to coach her to CLEP her general requirements for Associates Degree at our local Community College. She will be starting Community College courses  the first semester of her 10th grade year and will only be homeschooled on subjects planned for the coming semester as a prep for each subject.

Speed Racer (6th Grader) - continue to improve his focus, writing, spelling and logic.



9th GRADER - Blended Schedule
Time in School - 6.5 hrs a day
School Year - July 28th - May 20th

Daily Classes:
Algebra 2 - Abeka DVD & Teaching Textbooks as supplement
Writing & Composition - daily course, Analyzing Lit
Chemistry - Abeka DVD
US History - Abeka DVD
Spanish - Abeka DVD and weekly tutor
Speed Reading - ACE Software

Blocked Courses (Either 1, 2 or 3 times a week) or start mid year
Python Programming - Landry Academy with as supplement
Java Programming - Homeschool Programming with as supplement
Art - Art DVD course
Physics - Abeka DVD Course and
Psychology -
Sociology -
Economics - Abeka DVD

Misc. Enrichment planned
Chemistry Hands on Lab Review at Landry Academy Camp (6 days in June)
Computer Repair Intensive at Landry Academy (2 days in Sept)
Java Programming IDTech camps (6 days in July)

Martial Arts



Time in School - 5.5 hrs a day

Daily Classes:
Bible - Abeka DVD
Math 6 - Abeka DVD with Teaching Textbooks Math 7 supplement
Reading - Abeka DVD
Spelling - Sequential Spelling and Abeka DVD
Writing - Sandiego Scribblers online Paragraph Writing Course
Science - Abeka DVD with Uzinggo supplement
Spanish - Abeka DVD with Tiger Lilly
History - Abeka DVD

Blocked Courses (Either 1, 2 or 3 times a week) or start mid year
Computers - then 3D game design
Art Appreciation
Music Appreciation
Art of Argument - Logic

Break Dancing Competition
Martial Arts


I'm adding weekend and monthly day trips that are for learning and fun

National Zoo
Shakespeare Play
Orchestra Visit
Smithsonian Natural History
Smithsonian Air & Space Museum
Girls Stem Day at Naval Academy
Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Tour
Monument Tour
Food tour (Ethiopian, Indian, Chinese, Tai)
Mount Vernon
Hirshohorn Museum Sculpture Garden
Coracan Art Museum
B&O Railroad
Star Spangled Banner Flag House
National Musuem of American Indian


I did take a moment to walk through the schedule template with each one of my kids. They are on board with it.

Each month we will have 5 days off from school to do what the kids want to do. Therefore our overall school year will run longer than this past year.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Planning For A New School Year

I’ve learned a lot about my two younger kids in their first year of homeschooling.

This makes PLANNING our new HOMESCHOOL YEAR so much easier.

Both are Audio, Visual learners that need to write-it-out.


LIST OF NEEDS. If you didn’t know, both my husband and I work full-time outside the home. This hasn’t changed this school year. However, our overlapping childcare provided by our older two kids is now gone.

So we had to list out all our needs for this school year, things we may or may not had needed last year.

1)      Childcare (2-3) days a week. $40 a day as needed is our budget

2)      Coverage of more subjects for new High Schooler

3)      After School Activities will consume 3-4 days out of our weekdays.

4)      Curriculum that is 80% self teaching with resources

5)      Tutor for Algebra 2 and Chemistry

6)      Tutor or Reviewer of Writing


There was a lot of different curriculum that we tried out. Some were failures and others were lifesavers.


A+ Interactive – Not fun (my 4th grader thought)

Switched On Schoolhouse – my kids didn’t like doing all the reading and when turned on the read out loud feature they said it sounded horrible. The support was great and the potential and subject matter well covered.

Time4Learning – could only be used as a supplement and required more time than mom had to coordinate lessons

Ask Dr. Callahan Geometry – this was a disaster because it required a lot of my time to organize. The book was nice enough, but the videos were not in an ordered fashion to the books, lessons and such. My daughter also found it frustrating.

Thinkwell Geometry – The lectures were great. However, the cohesiveness of test, quizzes and practice problems were seriously off and caused my daughter to have to research other resources to be successful on these test and quizzes.

Thinkwell Biology - The lectures were great. However, the cohesiveness of test, quizzes and practice problems were seriously off and caused my daughter to have to research other resources to be successful on these test and quizzes.


Abeka DVD Based Curriculum – This spoiled mom because everything was laid out. It comes with Tutor support on the phone. My kids are used to the traditional school setting and this just provided it to them on DVDs we could take every where. I kept quizzes, test and projects for easy show to our Umbrella Organization for proof of work. It made it easy for my husband and older children to administer school and the kids never missed a beat. I don’t think I would’ve been able to pull this year off without this.

Analytical Grammar – Another win. This helped my daughter really focus on Grammar in a few short weeks. Came with a DVD teacher. Didn’t take much time and I allowed her to check her own work. We saw improvement. – This allowed my daughter to submit her writing to an actual teacher. This was great for me and her and ran 9 weeks only costing $99.

Sequential Spelling – I used this with my older daughter since the Abeka program had so many words and it took her more time in memorizing than I wanted to spend. This was quick and effective teaching of spelling by the method called word ‘chunking’. I will be using this for my younger student this year.

Teaching Textbooks – Although I wouldn’t use this as our core math curriculum because the math problems provided aren’t as challenging as the Abeka program, it is serving as a great Supplement/Math Lab. – Great resource for fun kid friendly video learning. Had to make the kids take notes since this doesn’t come with test or quizzes to the extent that I would give. So I had to make my own but the kids enjoyed them.


For us we will need 5 days a week to get through our curriculum in 1 year. Also, we will be running from the end of July to the beginning a June.

A long school year since my high schooler will be going through a lot of subjects to prepare her for taking DUAL CREDIT Community College classes in her 10th grade school year.


Now after all of this, I have a template for the days of school, draft of ‘must do’ curriculum from the previous year while I search out new curriculum to add.