Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Birthday Traditions

 Birthdays are special days themselves, but I try to do something to make them memorable for each of my children. These are some of the things we have done.

Birthday Tablecloth

I've taken a twin size flat white bed sheet and had birthday party guests sign it. To prepare it I wash and dry the sheet and write the child's name and birth year in the center. Before the party of gathering I mark off an area in masking tape and write the child's age and the year in the center of the marked off area before hand. Then I ask guests to write their name in pencil. I try to remember to ask them to write a little larger than a normal signature. After wards I write over everyone's writing with a liquid embroidery pen and then iron over them to making the writing permanent. You can use one color for all the signatures or several colors for a rainbow look.


Each year I have made my children a decorated cake. Some years they have been more elaborate than others. The style or them depends on their interests or activities for that year. Some cakes have been pianos, castles, cars, rockets, or just shaped with basic decorations. I always take a picture of the birthday child with the cake and that way I am sure to have a picture of them from their birthday. I also try to take a picture of the cake with the number of candles for that year so I can remember when a particular cake was made.

Birthday Meal

We try to go out to eat for each of our birthdays (Mom and Dad included). When we do the birthday person usually gets to choose where we go (within reason, of course). If we aren't able to go out then I try to make the meal the birthday person would like at home.

Because our school schedule has some flexibility to it, we take birthdays off as a school holiday. For a couple years I let the birthday child decide if they wanted to go on a field trip on their birthday. When we did this we explored several different museums. Not quite a field trip, but one year I took my daughter to the American Girl store near our home. She had a great time.

I'm linking up with Home and School Mosaics

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Math Choices

In an attempt to start writing a little more here I am going to share some of the curriculum which my children are using this year. These are the math programs my  5th and 8th grade age children are using this year.

Teaching Textbooks

Several years ago I was told about Teaching Textbooks by a friend whose children are several years older than mine. I had seen TT before, but was initially put off by the cost of each level. However, it is very complete and does a through job teaching . Having the option to see exactly how a problem is solved step by step and comparing your work is very helpful. Having a math curriculum which does the grading is also a huge plus for me. One less subject to grade saves time and that is very valuable as well. All of these positives really make it worth the price for our family.

My oldest has to work hard at math to get it, she can do it but it takes work for her. She likes working on the computer so I hoped that would be a plus for TT, even though it is math. She is currently doing Algebra 1 in Teaching Textbooks. She doesn't really enjoy math, but I think I can honestly say she is happier doing it on the computer than she would with a book and paper.

Consumer Math

This year my youngest is using a consumer math course. He used Teaching Textbooks 5 last year which he loved, but according to their placement tests he was easily able to skip the next level. That meant he was ready for PreAlgebra this year. However, he is 5th grade age and I really didn't want him doing algebra in 6th grade. So I decided a better option was to have him work through life skill math.

He has been using Math in Everyday Life. This addresses wages and salaries, payroll taxes, preparing income tax returns, budgets, grocery shopping, household shopping, mortgages, utilities, remodeling and home repairs, purchasing a car, and  insurances. There have been a couple exercises which are not written very well and some of the information is outdated (copyright 2000) but overall this is a pretty good overview of practical, life skill math.


Several Years ago I found a copy of Family Math-The Middle School Years at a used curriculum sale and snatched it up. We had used the elementary version from the library quite a bit. Family Math is a collection of hands on math activities to teach higher level concepts and ideas. Many of them align with concepts in PreAlgebra.

As these activities are hands on they require manipulatives, but they are easily found around the house or can be easily substituted. Most activities don't take longer than half an hour and are a fun break from book and paper math. They are a great way to apply those book concepts in a concrete way. We haven't used the book in a while, but I think it's about time to take it off the shelf again.

Home and School Mosaics is sponsoring a curriculum linkup one Wednesday of each month. The current link up coves the subject of math. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Get Organized with Homeschool Planet

Homeschool Planet 

from           Homeschool Buyers Coop

Subscription Rates    $65.00 a year or $6.95 a month

My thoughts are interspered throughout the review in colored type.

Homeschool Planet is an online organizer for the homeschool familys whole life. It can be accessed on a computer, tablet, or smart phone. Access to schedules and information is determined for each user when their profiles are set up. These can be changed by updating individual profiles.

The main feature of Homeschool Planet is scheduling classes, assignments, and activities. This is done by setting up profiles for each student and classes or subjects. Basic classes are available to choose from in a menu and you have the ability to add your own classes as well. You also have the freedom to decide which days a class is scheduled for, it doesn't have to be everyday, it can also be a specific day or several days a week. Another option when setting up classes is to assign a them a specific time. This would be great for online or in person classes outside your home as well as if you schedule your day by time. 

After setting up your classes there is a pop up box (access by clicking on the 'Edit' link at the end of the line in planner mode)in which to input assignments for each day. If more than one child has a subject there will be several tabs - shared assignments, and one for each individual child with that subject. After selecting who you want to give assignments to you can begin putting in the assignments. Simply type away. You can also add a web url to an assignment blank and it becomes hyper linked for easy access. There is also an option to add something to each class entry if you have something which should be done for each class. Here you will also find tabs for a notes section, a grades tab and hours tracking tab.

I love being able to add a web url. My children have used for website for supplemental sources because it is right there and I don't have to go searching for the site or bookmark when they are ready for it.

When setting up the class there is the option for giving assignments to one child or the same assignment to multiple children. I am not sure if you can make an assignment for several children without giving it to all without having to type it for each. For example with four children I don't know if you can make an assignment for child 1,2, and 3 excluding 4 without having to type it individually for the first three children.

A great feature is the ability to rearrange assignments with just a mouse click or two. In the scheduling window at the end of each assignment line are several options for rearranging in a drop down format. Simple click on the one you wish to do and the changes are made automatically without having to retype everything. Rescheduling can also be done at a later date. If you don't mark all assignments in some way on the day they are assigned when you log in on succeeding days you will get a pop up window reminding you there are unmarked assignments and asking what you want to do with the. This is easily done by marking the corresponding circle under headings like complete, move forward, don't ask about, ignore, etc. However you do need to make some kind of notation here before you are allowed to move any further.

I found this feature to be really helpful when my children  didn't get to everything scheduled for a particular day. I could easily reschedule what wasn't completed. While I like the convenience of this feature I found the way some of the things are worded to be confusing and at the beginning had a hard time figuring out which option I wanted use. Things aren't described in the manner I was thinking of them.

Other activities such as chores, appointments, trips, and events can be put into the calendar and managed in the same way as classes.

Homeschool Planet  keeps track of the number of days in a school year. The settings category has an option to note start and end dates as well as intentional vacation days. When these are all noted it calculates how many days are in the defined year. There is also the option to track hours.

This feature would have been great when I lived and worked in a state which required tracking instructional hours.

Homeschool Planet also has a grade recording feature along with the ability to create transcripts. For keeping grades the user has the choice of classifying work as homework, project, quiz, or test. When making assignments you can weight the type of assignment towards the final grade and Homeschool Planet does the calculating for you.

How Nice !  If you forget to grade an assignment one day you will be prompted to enter a grade the next time you log into Homeschool Planet.

The main display allows for user customization in several ways. You can choose a  planner type view or a calendar view, whether you want to see a day, week, or month of assignments at a time, and whose schedules you wish to see. Next to each assignment there is a box for noting an assignment complete (click twice to have the whole square colored) or partially complete (click one for a half colored square). When an assignment is shared there is an option to show two boxes and then they are marked individually for each student. By selecting "add more assignments to this day" from the options in the window on the right side of the assignment input area it is possible to have multiple assignments for a subject each day with a check box for each.   In addition users are sent an email each day when they have something on the schedule.

I like the customization options here. My oldest has email and browser privileges on her kindle so I set Homeschool Planet up so she can access her schedule for herself on her Kindle. For my younger child I choose planner style showing only his assignments and print him a hard copy of his weekly schedule. With 11 subjects it often ends up so that each day prints on a separate sheet of paper which makes it easy for him to see what he needs to be working on each day. This flexibility is great for my childrens' individual needs and stages.I just learned how to add more than one assignment per child per subject each day and have a seperate check box for each assignment. This will be extremely handy to note several assignments as well as to break down large tasks into smaller steps.

The daily emails are great for me. In addition to the daily schedule there is a link to the Homeschool Planet website. I love this link so that I don't have to scroll through bookmarks to get to Homeschool Planet each day.

Users also have the option to add widgets to their main screen. The widgets may be placed on the right side or at the bottom below the schedule information.Widgets to choose from include weather, to do, shopping list, daily quote, daily Bible verse, look up and messages.

I only have a few on my page, but I think these are just pretty neat.  I don't text so some of them aren't applicable. However, the to do list and weather have come in handy on several occasions. The to do list even features a check off square which draws a line through the task. A great motivator to check things off.

Another useful feature is the ability to sync Google and other e-calendars among anyone who has a profile in your Homeschool Planet account.

I have not used this feature with my husband as he needs to keep a private calendar due to the nature of his work.

Homeschool Planet performs many functions for the busy parent and reading about all of them may have been confusing and overwhelming so I will try to summarize  the many features. The toolbar at the top of the page has five categories.

  • Reports Assignment lists, class notes, grade report, class hours, transcript
  • Helpers      Grading Helper, Rescheduling Helper
  • Settings      General, School Year &Vacations, Subjects &Categories, Grading, Track Class Hours, Share, Theme, My Account
  • Print
  • Help
Most of what I've described falls under the settings category.

Homeschool Buyers Coop offers a free 30 day trial of Homeschool Planet. 

Concluding Thoughts

Homeschool Planet is one of those things that I don't know how I lived without.  It has made planning school assignments so much easier. With Homeschool Planet integrating home tasks with school tasks is easier, because I can see all of them on one screen. This way I can schedule more demanding home tasks with lighter school days and vice versa to ease the too much to do and not enough time problem.

When I first started using Homeschool Planet it did take a while to figure out how to set up subjects or classes. So I ended up with some subjects having two assignment boxes, one for each child, and others with only one, with the individual assignments showing up in the same box. I am not sure if I could have gone back and made just one class for each subject without losing information I had already put in. In the end this isn't a big deal, but the uniformity would have made it easier for telling at a glance what was happening and it would have simplified putting in assignments.

Using Homeschool Planet for my course scheduling and planning is so much easier than a paper planner. It has made shifting the schedule so much easier due to not finishing assignments or something unexpected coming up. Since it is on the computer it is always handy and I don't have to find my planner or a place to put it. It is also so much easier to give my children their assignments. I am not having to rewrite everything in a planner for each of them or cutting and pasting on a computer.

Read what other reviewers had to say at Home & School Mosaics.

Disclaimer: I received a free subscription to Homeschool Planet to enable me to write this review. I have not been compensated in any other manner. All views expressed here are strictly my own.