Monthly Archives: October 2012

The Homeschool Mother’s Journal–A Week of Bat Guano

In my life this week… I spent a good portion of the week with my hands in bat guano (AKA bat poop). True story! Why in the world would I do that, you ask? Well, I’m glad you asked! This summer has been a very dry summer in the Pacific Northwest. Almost all of the perennials that I planted in the spring were fried, despite my best efforts. I decided that I am getting a bit tired of the vicious cycle of buying new plants every spring and then having them fried every summer. So I decided that I am going to experiment with planting more native-ish seeds in the fall and see if I can’t get my plants to survive heat waves by having more established root systems. Anywhoo… long story short, I really wanted to enrich my soil to improve the chances of my experiment working, so I found some awesome compost that has bat guano, chicken manure, and worm castings (that would be worm poop!) in it. You’d think I would have worn gloves to work with the stuff, wouldn’t ya? Well, a normal person would have and I had the best of intentions, but I just have this thing about working with my bare hands… I guess I feel like I make a better connection with the soil or some other esoteric something or other…. I can’t really explain it. I pretty much only wear gloves to protect myself from prickles and bugs.

Fish Diorama

In our homeschool this week… Dora and I finished up her study of vertebrates this week, by studying fish. We labeled the parts of the fish on a Montessori puzzle, read some fish books, and made this fish diorama by using two painted paper plates and  Saran Wrap for the “window”.

Issaquah Salmon Hatchery 2

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing… On Monday, Gohan had drama and Dora had music class. Tuesday, they both had co-op. Wednesday found us at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery (that blurry little thing in the photo above was a Coho fry, which was smaller than my pinky and jumping after a tiny little bug – it took 75 photos, shot non-stop, to get this image!). Thursday we attended our first Park Day with our local homeschool group and had a blast. Friday will find Dora and I had a Tiny Tots Symphony concert.

Issaquah Salmon Hatchery 1

Issaquah Salmon Hatchery 3

Issaquah Salmon Hatchery 4My favorite thing this week was… That the weather turned more fall-ish. I know a lot of people have been loving the extended summer that we have been having, but I’ve not been enjoying it at all. I LOVE autumn! It is my absolute favorite season! As is, we lost out on a lot of fall color, due to this wacky weather. A lot of leaves just went straight from green to brown.

What’s working/not working for us… So far, Gohan’s homeschooling is going really well. We’re using Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra and I honestly don’t care if some people consider it to be “light”, which I’m not sure if I even agree with, it works for him and that’s what is important.

Charlotte Mason

Questions/thoughts I have… Should I try to incorporate more of a Charlotte Mason approach into Dora’s homeschooling, she clearly learns really well from “living” books, yet there are many aspects of the Charlotte Mason approach that I do not like, such as dictation and memorization, not to mention that we are what would could be considered “secular humanists”.

Needle Felted Pumpkin

Things I’m working on… I’m needle felting some pumpkins, using the wool and directions from Bear Creek Design. So far, so good! Needle felting seems to be a fiber art that I am actually competent at! I find it incredibly relaxing to do in the evenings (especially while playing My Little Ponies!).

I’m grateful for… Mr. Mo, I couldn’t ask for a better husband!

A photo, video, link, or quote to share… Dora grew her own pumpkin this year!

Garden Pumpkin 2

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Labels: Arts and Crafts, Science, Things To Do Around Seattle, Wrapping Up Our Week
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading Wednesday–Reading About Amphibians and Reptiles

During the last two weeks, we’ve covered amphibians and reptiles. Firstly, we read About Reptiles and About Amphibians in the “A Guide for Children” series by Cathryn Sill. We also went on to read some fun fictional books about reptiles and amphibians. Our favorite book, hands down, was I Spy With My Little Eye. Dora loves playing “I Spy With My Little Eye”, so this book’s title immediately grabbed her attention. In each two page spread, you get a slight hint and a peek, through a hole in the page, of the animal that is on the next two page spread. Dora couldn’t figure out each animal by herself, so every time we came to an animal that she didn’t know, she’d make me start the book from the beginning so would “know” the answer to each of the “I Spy” riddles.

Another book that fascinated Dora was One Tiny Turtle, written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Jane Chapman, which was much more advanced than I had realized and I cannot really recommend for pre-schoolers, as it is rated as being for ages 5+ or grades K-2. The illustrations are lovely and it is a very interesting read and taught us both lots about sea turtles, but it is pretty wordy for pre-schoolers. If your child is very much interested in animals, like Dora is, then she might be ready for this book at an earlier age, like Dora was. Dora was enthralled with all of the challenges that the sea turtle had to face and was very concerned about the turtle’s plight. When I then explained to her that some people go to beaches to help make sure that sea turtle hatchlings make it to the ocean, Dora immediately wanted to go do it. I have no idea where or how one goes about doing this, but you can bet that I’ll be looking into it. To tell you the truth, after reading this book, I want to go help some hatchlings myself!Finally, we read about The Greedy Python, who is done in by his excessive appetite and inability to learn from his past mistakes. This book written by Richard Buckley and illustrated by Eric Carle.

What have you been reading lately?

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Literature, Science
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Montessori Monday: Math Work

Hundreds Board

I have a confession to make. During the last two weeks, I almost gave up on using the Montessori method with Dora. She seemed to have come to hate working in my office and refused to do anything there. So I tried to move some materials out into the playroom, but then she threw a fit and screamed that she didn’t want to do any of this “stuff” anymore. Finally, I started trying to take pictures of the materials in order to sell them, as they require a lot of storage space. Dora had an absolute fit and insisted that she never said she didn’t want to use the materials and that she promised she would work with them. It was then that completely surprised me! She saw some of the more advanced materials that I had set out to sell. She asked what they were and I decided that since I was getting rid of everything anyway, it wouldn’t hurt to let her do some of the materials out of order. First she really wanted to try the hundreds board. Though she finds the teen bead bars and teens boards to be very frustrating, she had no problem filling in the hundreds board all the way up to twenty!

Using a Balance 4

She then asked to use a balance that I had purchased to use with Gohan to help with illustrating equations to him. It was somewhat of an expensive balance, but I decided that she is old enough now that she probably wouldn’t break it. Not only did she do tons of experiments with the balance, she even did some practical life work with it! It has a built in weights set that comes with tweezers to lift out the weights. She loved using the tweezers to take the weights in and out and did that over and over again. She also experimented with putting the weights away in different orders and I realized that the weight set was essentially a mini version of the knobbed cylinders. She had no problem sorting the weights, even though she still struggles with sorting the knobbed cylinders. I’m not sure why she was able to do these so much more easily, perhaps because they were shiny and new? Like the knobless cylinders, the color and texture remain the same for each cylinder, so there were no other clues for her to use to figure out how to sort them…

Using a Balance 6

Finally, she asked to do the most difficult bolt board that we own. Previously, I had told her that she couldn’t do it until she could master the other bolt boards, because her frustration threshold is so low when she can’t do something. Then this week she said, “Mama, let me show you that I can do it.” So I opened the board and let her go for it. Not only could she easily sort the bolts by size into the correct slot, she could easily manipulate the flathead screwdriver, all while talking on the phone with my parents!!!!

Flathead Screwdriver Grading Bolt Board 1

So now I am left wondering if the problem was that I had not been leaving out challenging enough materials. She didn’t seem to have mastered the earlier materials and as I mentioned, gets easily frustrated when she can’t do something, so I had made a point of not setting out too difficult of materials. Now I don’t know what to think. Either she needed more of a challenge or she hit some developmental milestone, because suddenly she was able to do all sorts of activities that she wasn’t able to do last week.

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Disclosure: Some item links in this post are affiliate links. I will make a small amount of money if you click on them and make a purchase. All opinions expressed, however, are 100% my own.

Labels: Math, Montessori, Summer, This and That
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

Homeschooling Through High School–Standardized Test Taking for the College-Bound Homeschooler


Two weeks ago, I posted about registering for the PSAT as a homeschooler, but a student’s SAT or ACT score is the score that colleges will actually be looking at when considering a student for admission (except for some select schools, which no longer use standardized test scores as part of their admissions process). The SAT and ACT may be taken at younger ages, but are traditionally taken during a student’s junior or senior year of high school. Both are offered at multiple times and locations throughout the year. Registration is done online.

Currently the written portion of the ACT is optional, but before opting out of that portion, students should ensure that the colleges they are interested in applying to don’t require it. You can read this post if you would like more information about the differences between the SAT and the ACT

In addition to these two tests, some colleges require SAT subject tests. These tests are best taken as soon as the student completes the subject. So if a student studies world history in 10th grade, it would be best to take that subject test in 10th grade, rather than wait until 12th grade, when he may have forgotten a lot of what he learned. Some schools require more subject tests from homeschooled applicants than from public and private-schooled applicants. Many homeschoolers refuse to apply to such schools, but if your student really has his heart set on such a school, he may need to take four or more subject tests.

Finally, Advanced Placement tests are often used as a means for students to further improve their transcript. AP tests can also be used to earn college credit for students, as can CLEP tests. If a student hopes to obtain college credit with these tests, he should investigate his college preferences first, as not all schools will grant credit. Also, not all AP tests are offered at all locations. You will need to call AP Services, no later than March 1, to coordinate testing for an AP exam. CLEP tests tend to be administered at colleges and after you find a test center through the CLEP website, you will need to contact the test center to make arrangements for testing.

As with the PSAT, homeschoolers have a special school code for these tests that they should provide if they want their scores sent to them. The SAT test code for homeschooled students is 970000 . I am no longer able to find the ACT test code for homeschoolers on the ACT website. It used to be 969-999 and the HSLDA still lists this as being the code. Please make sure you verify all test codes shortly before your student is going to take his test as codes can and do change at times.

With all of these testing options, it is a good idea for students, seniors in particular, to plan out their annual testing schedule now, rather than waiting until closer to admission packet deadlines.

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Labels: High School
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff

What We’ve Been Reading Wednesday–It’s Banned Books Week

If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all. – Noam Chomsky

Books usually are challenged with the best intentions—to protect others, frequently children, from difficult ideas and information. – ALA Website

This week is Banned Books Week. It is an important reminder to those of us living in the United States that no matter what our opinion is, we may write, talk, or read about it without fear of government persecution. As frustrating as it can be at times, we cannot enjoy this freedom ourselves if those, whose opinions we whole-heartedly despise, are not granted the same freedom. To learn more about Banned Books Week, please visit the American Library Association’s “About Banned & Challenged Books”.

Banned Books Week is an annual observance from the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) that celebrates the First Amendment right of the freedom to read. During Banned Books Week, libraries, schools, and bookstores across the country will celebrate the freedom to read by hosting special events, exhibits and read-outs.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the annual celebration, and to commemorate this milestone anniversary, ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom is coordinating a “50 State Salute to Banned Books Week.” The “50 State Salute” will be the highlight of the second annual VIrtual Read-Out, and will consist of videos from library leaders from across the country proclaiming the importance of the freedom to read.

Also celebrated during Banned Books Week is Banned Websites Awareness Day on Wednesday, Oct. 3. Sponsored by the ALA’s American Association of School Libraries (AASL), Banned Websites Awareness Day aims to raise awareness of the overly restrictive blocking of legitimate, educational websites and academically useful social networking tools in schools and school libraries.

“Banned Books Week: Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Freedom to Read”, American Library Association, July 29, 2008.

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Labels: Literature
Posted by Maureen Sklaroff