August 31, 2013

Working on Behavior

One of my favorite tv shows is NBC's Parenthood.  There are so many times when I burst out laughing because I can totally relate to something said or done on the show.  I had one of those moments while watching the episode "Trouble in Candyland" during which one mom asks another about how she gets her son to behave and cooperate.  "Bribery," she replies.  "We call it an incentive program, but it's really just bribery."  While there is some debate about the technical differences between bribery and incentives, I found myself nodding in agreement, and laughing out loud.

The final piece of the school at home puzzle is behavior management.  You can't be an effective instructor, and your child can't be a receptive student if you both are constantly battling behavior issues.  We have created a new incentive program at my house, and so's working.  I'm calling it Working on Behavior.  My daughter is 9, but very much wants to get a job so she can earn some money.  We don't offer allowances at our house, but I won't go into the details of that decision right now .  We do, however want to fulfill her need to get some satisfaction for her hard work, so she and I had a talk about the fact that her school work and household chores are her job for now.

After some thinking and discussing we agreed on this...

She can earn up to $10 per day based on her behavior during school and completion of her chores after school.  At the end of each week, she will receive her paycheck, which she will need to deposit into her account.  She can then use her checkbook to buy rewards from us.  Rewards can be things like extra dessert, staying up late on weekends, or extra tv or video game time.  We also agreed that other rewards can be added to the list as we go.  This allows her to feel more grown up, and gives her more of the things she really wants while teaching her that successes in the working world are linked to performance and effort.  (It doesn't hurt that she is learning to manage money and a bank account at the same time.)

I sat down and made a chart to display how much she is earning each day, an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of her weekly pay, and then linked it with Word documents I created for printing her paycheck, blank checks, deposit slips, and check register.  I formatted all of these documents so that you can download them and quickly fill in your own information.  I set up the spreadsheet to accommodate up to 35 students, and set up the Word documents as mail merge templates so that you can easily print paychecks, blank checks, and deposit slips for multiple children.  Download my Working on Behavior Starter Pack for free.

Last, but not least, please congratulate Melanie S. on winning the Ready-to-read Bundle!  Thank you for the entries I received.


August 28, 2013

Mid-week Morsel: Playing the Stock Market

Even when my children attended traditional public school, it has always been important to me to teach them the things that aren't taught in school.  My 16 year old boys got their first checking accounts this summer, but they've known how to manage and balance a checkbook for several years.  It was one of our summer school topics a few years back.  Now I've found another great resource for my older kids; a free virtual stock exchange! features a stock market game allowing players to practice trading real stocks using imaginary money.  It will make a great addition when we learn about the stock market.  Speaking of which, they also have an education center on their website where both teens and adults can learn the basics of how the market works.


August 24, 2013

My Mega Ready-to-Read Bundle Giveaway & Sale

I'm ending back-to-school month with a bang!  With the help of my wonderful dad, I've been working hard to get some more of the materials I made for my daughter converted to pdf so they can be posted online.  I'm calling it my Mega Ready-to-Read Bundle.  It includes 5 books, 6 worksheets, 52 print-n-cut Word Builder cards, and a template for printing custom Words I Know cards.  There is one 8 page book for each short vowel.  I wrote the books so that, unlike many store bought beginning reader books, children just learning to sound out words can actually read the entire book themselves.  There are no difficult words in these books.  Each book has a review sheet which requires the child to match words from the book with their corresponding picture, and there is one final review sheet that covers all 5 books.  The books are formatted to either be read as ebooks or printed & assembled.  The print-n-cut Word Builder cards allow children to take the words learned in these books and use them build other words containing the same base sound.  For example, in "A Man, a Cat, and a Rat" children read the words "cat", "mat", "rat", "sat".  Take the "at" base, then add different letters to the beginning of the base to build new words such as "bat, "fat", "hat", and "pat".  There are 26 bases and 26 individual letter cards.  After you child sounds out all of those words, open the Words I Know template and print out each word your child can read.  Cut them apart and let your child use them to build his own sentences and stories.  There are so many ways to store these cards.  Punch a hole in each one and put them on a key ring, attach a magnet to each one and put them on the fridge (or print them on magnet paper), or create a Words I Know wall in your house so everyone can share in his accomplishment.  The purpose is to build your child's confidence while making reading interactive and fun.  

I have posted this entire bundle for sale in my CurrClick store for the very affordable price of $1.43.  $.43 goes to CurrClick for hosting my store, and I make $1 from every sale.  I have really tried to make my materials as affordable as possible. However, I know that sometimes each and every dollar counts, so I will be giving away one completely printed, and assembled set.  Minus the template; that will be emailed to you.  The giveaway will run for one week, ending at midnight on Friday, August 30th.  The winner will be announced in my post next Saturday, the 31st.  The more you spread the word, the more entries you can earn, so be sure to share about the giveaway on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter!  Even if you do not have ready-to-read aged children, this bundle makes a great gift.  I truly hope your family (or friends) enjoy these materials as much as mine has.
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August 21, 2013

Mid-week Morsel: How Nutritious is My Homemade Meal?

Writing last Saturday's post has inspired me to try out new recipes for breakfast and beyond.   However, when I get creative and start changing recipes to suit my family and our tastes, I often wonder if the end product is as nutritious as I want it to be.  As I was researching new recipes, I discovered this recipe analyzer from  It's easy to use, and free! There is nothing to sign up for, no account to create, and you don't have to post your recipe anywhere.  Simply enter each ingredient, it's quantity, and the total number of servings, and Calorie Count will calculate the number of calories and nutritional breakdown of each serving.   Now you can have your cake, know it's nutritional value,  and eat it too.


August 17, 2013

Great Days Need Great Starts

Okay, you've chosen your curriculum, set your schedule, and planned your lessons.  You are ready for school to start...or are you?  All your hard work getting the materials ready might not mean anything unless you get you and your student ready to succeed.  Your best chance for success starts with a nutritious and delicious breakfast each day that will wake you both up and fuel your bodies & brains.  There are a few cold cereals out there that actually pack in a lot of vitamins and minerals, but why settle for over-priced, soggy cereal that had to have nutrients added to it, when you can get your nutrition straight from the source?  With three kids of my own, I know that healthy homemade breakfasts that fill you up can be time consuming and expensive.  I've scoured the web and found some mouth-watering ideas to start each day right, without busting the budget, or cutting into your beauty sleep.

Breakfast wraps like this peanut butter and granola wrap are a
very portable way to do breakfast.  Get creative and wrap just
about anything up in a whole wheat tortilla (or in an egg white

Oatmeal doesn't have to be hot, or boring for that matter.  Use this
overnight oatmeal recipe from Betty Crocker to find ways to jazz
up your baby bear's porridge.

Kids love waffles, but most moms don't like the gallon of syrup &
inevitable sugar rush that comes with them.  Making a tasty Carrot 
Cake Waffle Breakfast Sandwich will surely satisfy everyone.

"You know what ELSE everybody likes? Parfaits! Have you ever
met a person, you say, 'Let's get some parfait,' they say"
know the rest.  Parfaits are delicious.  Breakfast parfaits made
with either yogurt or cottage cheese, like this Mango Avocado
 Breakfast Parfait, are sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Like oatmeal, rice can frequently be thought of as a boring
breakfast.  If you get creative and think outside the box, you can
come up with some new and flavorful ways to have rice for
breakfast.  My Chocolaty Rice Cereal is a special treat that will
wake up your taste buds.

Not all muffins are created equal.  Some are more like dessert, and
others try to be so healthy that you might as well eat raw grains.
Blah!  Either way, they are loaded with carbohydrates.  These
Morning Muffins, on the other hand, are made with more egg than
flour, and contain only 7 grams of carbs.  Make a whole pan and 
have breakfast all week.

What quick and healthy breakfast list would be complete without
smoothies?  Smoothies are so versatile, they can be made to suit
even the pickiest eater.  Peanut butter banana smoothies were my
go to food when my sons went through their picky phase.  Boston 
Magazine recently published a colorful list of 12 healthy breakfast
 smoothies that will start your day off right.

Okay, so quick breads might not be the healthiest item on my
list,but they sure are good.  They don't have to be all that bad,
though.  There are simple recipes to make healthier quick breads,
like this pecan topped pumpkin bread.  My Recipes compiled a list
of 5 irresistible healthy quick breads to give you some ideas.

I hope this list of ideas for delicious and nutritious breakfasts help you and your family start each day right.  If you have any great breakfast ideas that I didn't mention, please post them in the comments below.


August 14, 2013

Mid-week Morsel: Scratch

Most kids aren't too excited to get back to school.  While they may have a favorite subject or two, there are plenty of other less well liked subjects to curb their enthusiasm.  Whether your children attend a traditional public school, are unschooled, or fall somewhere in between, adding something truly fun to their school year can work miracles in terms of keeping up their morale.  I have found several ideas for adding some fun education this year that I will be revealing in upcoming Mid-week Morsels .  The first is Scratch.  What is Scratch?  Their website explains it best..."Scratch is a programming language and an online community where children can program and share interactive media such as stories, games, and animation with people from all over the world. As children create with Scratch, they learn to think creatively, work collaboratively, and reason systematically. Scratch is designed and maintained by the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab."  Scratch is a great free way to introduce your children to the world of programming.  My next idea will be introduced in the August 27th Mid-week Morsel.


August 10, 2013

How We Use Block Scheduling

If you are the parent of a child who goes to school at home, you know what a difference scheduling can make in how smoothly your day flows.  Now that you understand your child's learning style, it's time to consider her personality traits.  Ask yourself questions like, "Does she transition easily between subjects & activities?", "Does she loose interest in activities after a certain period of time?", "Does she feel overwhelmed by the number of classes she has to take?"  Knowing the answer to these kinds of questions will help you decide what type of class schedule will work best for your child.  If you have more than one child, remember, they may all be different.

My daughter does not transition easily between classes, but my boys do.  However, she can stay interested in a topic much longer than my boys (unless we're talking about video games or military history & weaponry).  She is also more likely to feel overwhelmed by having too many classes to complete each day.  Because my children have such different personalities, they also have very different schedules.

I don't really have to do much scheduling for my boys because they are capable of scheduling themselves...which is the ultimate goal.  From time to time one or both of them may put off one class so that they can work longer on another class. They will do this when they are in a groove and don't want to stop, but for the most part they follow a pretty traditional school schedule, working a little on each class every day.  They are both the type of person who feels like he is getting more done if he can quickly cross things off his to-do list.  Give them a longer list of quick things to do, and they breeze through it.

My daughter is just the opposite.  If she saw a list of seven classes to be completed, it wouldn't matter if you told her each class would only take five minutes, she would be overwhelmed.  For her schedule, we use much larger blocks.  Last year, she only worked on one class each day, completing a week's worth of lessons at a time.  That was actually a little too big.  This year she decided she would like to have two classes each day, completing half a week's work for each class. Bigger blocks allow her time to get a lot of work done in a subject without having to "change brains" too often.  Here is our plan for this year:

One of the perks of schooling at home is having flexibility in your schedule.  If after a few weeks of school, we realize that this schedule isn't quite right, we can tweak it a little...or completely trash it and start from scratch.  If you aren't sure what type of schedule is right for your child, check out this free ebook from The Education Alliance at Brown University.  It is written for schools systems, but starts with some great examples of various versions of block schedules and lists pros and cons for each.

What kind of class schedule do you use in your home?  What type of schedule does your local school use?  How is it working for you?


August 7, 2013

Mid-week Morsel: What kind of learner is your child?

How does your child learn best?  Is he a visual, aural, read/write, or kinesthetic learner?  Perhaps he's a multimodal learner, meaning he uses more than one way of learning.  More importantly, how can knowing what type of learner your child is help him be a better student, and you a better teacher?  Understanding how your child learns best will enable you to present information in a format that most interests your child, and allow him to absorb the information.  Even if your child attends a traditional public school, knowing what type of learner he is, and passing that information along to his teacher, can help her know how to interact with him in order to bring out his best.  Furthermore, understanding your child's learning style gives you the information you need to teach him study strategies that will actually work for him.  Writing down and reading notes is not an effective study method for a child who is not a read/write learner.  Have your child take this 16 question VARK (Visual Aural Read/Write Kinesthetic) questionnaire to determine his learning style.  Then read the helpsheet(s) for your child's learning style(s).  They offer tips to improve your child's input, study methods, and output.  In case you're interested, there is also a questionnaire for adults, too!   So you both can get the most out of this school year!


August 3, 2013

Our Modified Workbox System

Ready or not, August is here.  All month long I'll be writing posts about what we are doing to be ready for school.  Today's post is all about our version of Sue Patrick's Workbox System.  If you're not familiar with the Workbox System, it is an organization and teaching system that allows your children to work more independently.  There is much more to her system than I will cover here, so if you want more information you can search Google, or buy her ebook.  However, let me give you a brief overview.

You start with some sort of cabinet or container for each student.  It can be a set of shelves, an organizer drawer set, or in our case a portable file box.  Within that container you have smaller containers for each class that student is taking. For example, if you are using shelves, you might choose to use plastic shoe boxes for each class.  If you use an organizer drawer set, then use a different drawer for each class.  Since we use a file box, we have one hanging file for each class.  I know that sounds a little confusing.  It's not complicated, just kind of hard to explain.  Let me show you.  Here is my daughter's workbox, and each of the files for her classes.

Each day, I only put that day's classes in the box.  So, if she only has math & social studies on that day, those are the only files in her box.  Within the files is that day's work for the class.  I include everything she needs so that she can work independently and not loose focus because she has to find her textbook, manipulative, or any other material.  I also include an instruction sheet so that she knows which pages to read, what problems to solve, etc.  (Tip:  I use blank transparency sheets for my instruction sheets, and write on them with Crayola Dry Erase Crayons so they are reusable.)  Here is what is in my daughter's social studies folder for her first day of class; it contains her textbook, workbook, lapbook, and instruction sheet.

Notice that there is a cute little decorative label clipped to the front of the file.  I made these easy to remove in order to boost her sense of accomplishment.  We have a ribbon with paper clips hanging on the wall at my daughter's desk.  As she completes each class, she hangs the label on the ribbon as a visual reward for finishing the class.  This makes it very easy for her (& me) to see what she has done, and what she has left to do.

I hope this helps you understand the Workbox System and how you can customize it to fit your home classroom.  It does take a little bit of time to set it up for each day.  I usually get the next day ready after the kids are in bed each evening. However, it saves even more time each day because everyone knows just what to do, and has all the tools to do it.  Next week, I'll share how we use a block schedule to stay focused.