Research Projects for My 1st and 3rd Graders

Ashamedly I haven’t maintained this blog though I’ve had plenty of reason to.  Rather than try to catch you up I’m just going to tell you what we did today.

I came up with this brilliant idea to incorporate my sons love of technology (i.e. iPads) into their lesson today.  I titled my whiteboard “Research:  Healthy Apple Snack Recipes.”  Their instructions were to look up recipes, via Google, see if we have all the ingredients and prepare their snack.

They loved the freedom to find their own recipe and gather the necessary tools and ingredients.  I asked them to present it to me and fill out a questionnaire.

1. What was the source of your recipe?

2. Rate the degree of difficulty of this recipe. 1 star = Very difficult to 5 stars = Super easy.

3. How does it taste?

4. What would you do differently? (Ex. Dice apples instead of slice)

5. Would you add or take away anything? If so, what?

6. Would you make this again?

7. If you could give your recipe a new title what would it be?


I liked this lesson because it engaged the boys and technology on a non-game level.  They know that their iPads are a source of entertainment but it can also be a source of useful information.  They had to find a recipe.  They had to check our pantry and see if the ingredients were on hand.  They had to decide if it was a recipe they could execute.

Part of the lesson involved preparation.  Their work area had to be clean and cleared of non-recipe related items.  I was able to show them how to lay out their tools and arrange them so that it wasn’t a jumbled mess of confusion.  They learned proper safety measures in the kitchen when handling the mandolin. I was right there with them when THAT was used.  They’ve seen how to Improperly use one of those suckers thanks to me.

They also had to use their writing skills and critical thinking when filling out my questionnaire.  I made the oldest put more thought into his answers.

My boys were expected to clean up their mess after it was all said and done AND in order to score extra points on game playing they went a step further and swept AND mopped the floor.  Wow!  I should do this more often.  Granted I should warn you, although it sounds wonderful … upon further inspection my son only mopped the half of the kitchen they used.  Oh well, gotta start somewhere.

I suppose we could compare various, maybe three, recipes to see how differently it could be made and how they would make it their own but perhaps I will wait until they are a bit older.

In the end this was a fun project and I plan to do it again.

What research projects have you done? How old are your children and how did you modify your expectations according to age differences?  Let me know!


My Secret Weapon

Many times at our School desks, aka the dinning room table, I have to call attention to our task at hand.  Raising my voice or slapping the desk table, can usually get my boys to look up and take notice.  This can be VERY frustrating when I’m having to do it a lot on particularly feisty days.

There were too many unnecessary distractions on their work area so they had to be eliminated, granted sitting next to each other was one of them but I’m looking into this.

A great friend was down sizing her homeschool supplies and I was a lucky recipient of a bell.  It was the type you would find on a family store counter to get the attendants attention.  I began to use this tool to bring order to our day and something magical happened.

One time I accidentally hit the bell and instantaneously both boys (who were playing with bubbles in the kitchen sink – who were supposed to be washing dishes) turned at the same time and looked to me for instructions.

The clouds parted.

It was an “Ah Ha!” moment for me.  The cogs in my mind started to crank with visions of bell trained obedient boys .  From then on out I tapped on the button, the bell rang and the boys stopped what they were doing and looked to me for some kind of announcement.  Well, armed with THAT kind of power, I began to take advantage of it and soon I began to abuse it.

I often would bang on the bell to stop arguments.  Boys cringed, covered their ears and begged and pleaded for me to stop.  They offered up their obedience in return for their hearing.  I have to admit it was wonderful but I could see that I was getting out of hand.  SO, rather than have the boys fear for their hearing I used my newfound tool for good rather than evil.

I still use the bell to bring order or get them to come back from a break BUT it’s now a tool for games like, “Who can answer…” type questions to see if they were listening.  My boys love to compete.

I teeter on the edge of Queen EvilBell  Ruler every moment.  Perhaps, one day, my beloved secret weapon will go missing so I MUST be careful.  I must be wise and NOT abuse my power.  In order to keep me grounded I have devised some rules to cut down on distractions at the table.

Here are just a few of our Class Rules:

1.  No toys at the table.

– All toys will be confiscated and you will not be able to play with them ALL DAY (even after school).  Sorry Lego man.

2. No snacks.

–  There are designated snack times and once the time is up all things must be cleared away.

3.  Pencils Down

–  You will not fiddle with pencils, crayons or anything that will take your attention away from the lesson UNLESS it is part of the lesson.

4.  Raise your hand if you would like to speak (sometimes eagerness to answer makes this difficult)

5.  ALWAYS ask if you can leave the table

– Nothing drives me more crazy than a boy who thinks he can escape to snuggle with a cute sleeping dog under the table).


What rules have helped bring order to your class?

Why We Homeschool

“Why did you choose to homeschool?”  It’s a question often asked by parents who are considering to do it themselves and other times it’s curious friends or strangers.

The number one reason I give in response is:

I want my boys to learn.  Plain and simple.  I don’t want them to learn how to pass a test.  I don’t want them to learn how to give a correct, specified answer in order to pass so that our school district can “earn” their funding and have good standing.  I want them to explore knowledge, it limitless.

Another reason we homeschool:

Freedom OF Religion

I can teach my sons about the foundation of our faith without fear of reprisal.  We can openly discuss our biblical worldview.  I want my boys to be able to stand firmly in their faith and KNOW what they believe and be ready to defend it because they will have to.


I don’t want my sons to learn a revisionist history of this GREAT NATION.  I love my country.  We have done GREAT things and I want to promote love and allegiance for their country.  I want them to learn about our founding fathers and not through the 21st century lens.

The best advice I heard was to let my children learn about the Revolution and Civil War directly from the men and women who LIVED through it and not from some college grad’s interpretation.  AMEN!  Autobiographies here we come!

There are countless reasons why homeschooling is the best choice for our family.  I can tailor their education to the individual.  I can speed up their lessons or go as slow as we need to go.  We can explore art and nature and physical education whenever and wherever we want.  We’re not tied to our home as some would believe.

Many parents tell me homeschooling is something they could never do.  I was one of them.  Some would say you have to have a degree in teaching.  I’m sure it helps.  We teach our kids all the time by action and in-action.  We’ve taught our kids to speak yet most of us are not certified linguists.  Some of us have taught our toddlers to identify letters, shapes, signs, to read or even a second language before they get to preschool.  You can teach. Continue reading

Socialization is for the dogs. Not my sons.

Miss Sundae

Miss Sundae

There’s a hilarious Pin on my “In a Few Words” board on Pintrest that features Ryan Gosling “Hey Girl,” meme.  It basically says we socialize dogs and educate kids.

Wikipedia‘s definition of “Socialization” states

Socialization is the process by which human infants begin to acquire the skills necessary to perform as a functioning member of their society, and is the most influential learning process one can experience.[9] Unlike other living species, whose behavior is biologically set, humans need social experiences to learn their culture and to survive.[10] 

As the whole world knows, home educators NEVER leave their house, hence their concern for the well-being of our children.  When they ask the inevitable, “What about socialization?”  What most are REALLY asking is, “Do you ever leave your cave?”  As if we are hermits, holed up in our compounds, who never make eye contact with civilization when we dare to make a trip to the grocery stores without our husbands (or wives).  (gasping for breath)

Okay, okay, it’s not THAT bad but the question does surface and not necessarily from friends but sometimes strangers.  My husband and I were grilled, chastised, made to stand trial for our decision to homeschool our kids by acquaintances (a former teacher and her daughter… who was a teacher).

“We need good kids in our schools.”  Like it’s MY fault I won’t feed my sons to them?  She proceeded to ask the question of the universe, “What about socialization?”  Her nose crinkled  when she asked it.  I immediately thought of the bullying epidemic.  Was that the ‘socialization my sons were missing out on? No thanks.  I don’t recall our answer.  My husband jumped in to enlightened them.  Satiated with our reply,  the women went on to complain about class size and uninvolved parents.

Yes, the question does get under my skin. Continue reading

The First Day of School

School in Review:  First day of school was priceless!  It was like Christmas morning for my first grader.  He had been looking forward to our school house decorations.  In fact, he had reminded me on several occasions NOT to forget to decorate.

Third Grader

Third Grader

My plan was to day by day prepare decorations and put them up before going to bed the night before school. FAILED!  August 25th I scrambled to put my plans into action.  I hastily printed Mario coloring pages and employed my husband to color them in as soon as I cut them out.  I pasted figures on 12 x 12 scrapbook pages of blue and red. I searched my supplies of poster board sticky letters and spelled out their names and “Welcome Back” and arranged them carefully on the paper.

Meanwhile, I grumble under my breath, Why did I start this tradition?  Why didn’t I just set aside the time until now??

It was midnight when I finished.  My husband had gone to bed at 11:30 so I was left to tape up decorations and make sure they were reasonably centered. FAILED but I really didn’t care.  I was glad said husband had gone to bed because THAT would never do.

I showered and crawled into bed.  My alarm was set to go off at 6:00 AM.  I was not off to a good start of the school year.

Next morning I got out of bed, made coffee and sat down to do my devotional then get on with MY time to write.  (I write novels as a hobby that maybe one day I’ll do something about).  7:30 creeps around and my Cowboy starts to bumble out of bed.  My husband watches from the hallway as Cowboy enters the dinning room where I had set up for school.  Amazement cracks open his sleepy blue eyes and a smile threatens to close them up because his cheeks can’t get any higher.

The boy is in awe.  “How did she do that?”  He asks his Daddy, who slowly turned the lights brighter so he could get a better look.  Cowboy rushed off to wake up his brother and tell him the great news and our day begins.

My heart is overjoyed.  That’s why I do it.

That’s why I will stay up until midnight to get the job done.  My sons will remember this.  That I’m sure of.  They’re going to remember the crazy things I did to show them I loved them, long after I am gone.

First Grader

First Grader

This School Year Goals and Lesson Planning

When planning this year’s school schedule, I kept in mind it wasn’t going to be a hard and fast schedule.  It is a living, breathing schedule of which I give myself permission to deviate from.  Every year I set a goal for myself when tackling the school year. This year resembles last year but let me show you how it has progressed.

1st year – NO clue what I was doing.  My goal was simple: Teach my kid the basics and survive.
PRO’s: We both survived.  Whew!  CON’s:  I was terrified of homeschooling.

2nd year – 1st grade:  Join a group.  I heard that socialization was a BIG thing the world around me was concerned about.
PRO’s: Hooked up with some great moms with great advice. CONS:  Too social. I scrambled to finish curriculum.

3rd year –  2nd grade and Kinder – My youngest joined our schooling in ernest.  Goal: Organize, stay on track and forget homeschool groups.

PRO’s: I was focused on curriculum and I had a close homeschooling mom that we “socialized” with frequently. CON’S: See PRO’s

4th year – 3rd grade and 1st – Be Organized and stick with it.  Devote special time to my 1st grader and reach out and find Mom’s with boys.
PRO’s:  I’ll let you know, as were heading that way in two weeks.

SO! Part of my organizing goals I am lesson planning. I almost had myself convinced to buy a $65 program.  It was going to plan my LIFE.  Then  I found a free one.  After entering about nine weeks of lessons, just for the 3rd grader, I decided to print the report.  WHA??? Horrible, jumbled weeks, and screwed up columns made it hard for me to follow along.  Sure, I should have printed a sample before 9 WEEKS but I didn’t.

I searched my Pinterest Homeschooling Resource board for pins and found something I had explored last year.  It was an editable Cute Lesson Plan created by Living Laughing and Loving (I wish there was an IOS form).  It was simple, colorful (it had to be pretty. I love eye candy) and FREE!  I am so happy how this is working for me.

Again, a lesson plan is like the back bone for my schooling but I may need to run a child to a doctor’s appoint.  I can pick up where we left off or push it back another day.  Having a lesson plan brings me comfort and helps me stay on task for those days when I lack the desire to teach.  If there is a plan and lessons are pulled it makes it easier to press on.

Do you plan lessons?  What method or planning works for you.

First Day Traditions

Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Candes and I homeschool my two sons, Baseball Shews (8 years old) and Cowboy (6 years old).

I thought it fitting to begin my new blog with our homeschool,  “First Day of School” tradition.  I have been educating my boys for about four years now and each year I like to make the first day special.

When I first started teaching my oldest I felt bad that he wouldn’t know the joy of walking to school with his brand new backpack.  I worried he wouldn’t know the excitement in seeing the rush of new faces eager to start the great adventure (or the crying faces of those who would have rather stayed home).   So, I vowed I would make his day exciting!

The night before school starts I stay up late creating, “Welcome Back to School” signs out of construction paper and bright, fun name plates.  I hang up my store bought posters of the alphabet on the shelving in our dinning room, aka school room.

The first year was the traditional red apples with their names on it.  The next year was a paper chalkboard with their names written in chalk. Over the years I have perfected my decoration themes.   Last year’s theme was Star Wars with hand crafted light sabers name plates  (complete with starburst action effects)   for each boy and coinciding, handmade, Star Wars book marks.

I thought I was being silly, doing it mostly for myself but last year my youngest, Cowboy, asked if I was going to decorate the room.  His face lit up and smiled as wide as his six year old cheeks would allow him when I replied, “Of course!”  I was so excited to learn he actually noticed, not to mention LOVED it.  He wants to be surprised and I can’t wait to plan it out.

Unbeknownst to Cowboy, it’s going to be Wii Mario for him and Nerf guns for my oldest, Baseball Shews.

Besides the tradition of decorating the room, another of our traditions is dressing nice for the first day, getting the backpacks on and going outside to stand in front of our American flag and say the pledge.  I usually take photos while Daddy leads them before heading off to work.  It’s a proud moment for us all.

New traditions I would like to start:

First Day is Picture Day – I’ve taken pictures but not pose-at-the-fake-desk pictures.  I’m kind of ashamed I hadn’t done it and my oldest is in 3rd grade already!

A Special Breakfast – I want to make their favorite meal. Pancakes, bacon (lots), milk and juice.  Not too hard but in the past I hadn’t given it much thought.

What are your plans to start the year off right?