Off to the races

Today was a good day for the cross country ski races. It was warm with temperatures in the upper teens and low 20’s, and fresh snow yesterday.

Karen was in the kindergarten through 2nd grade girls group and took 3rd place! Not bad for her very first race. (They were signed up for a race in December, but it was cancelled due to cold weather) We originally thought from the group of kids she was in near the finish that she would be 5th, but one of them was a boy and then she passed a girl right at the finish line to get third place. Her race was 1km.

Richard had a big disadvantage. Most of the others in his group (5th & 6th grade boys) were part of the ski club’s developmental competition team. They practice for 1.5 hours/day most days of the week. His race was 2km long. He finished way last, but did complete it so I’m satisfied. We need to practice more often and do more hill climbing so he can get better. He still wants to learn skate skiing next year. Perhaps we can get a good deal on those skis and boots at the fall ski swap or used from another family. He’ll also need new boots for his current skis. He’s growing fast đŸ™‚

I want to give a big thank you to the Fairbanks Junior Nordics for sponsoring them in these races.

Their next set of lessons begin Thursday night. They will be once a week for 6 weeks. Then in March, they will have lessons twice a week for 3 weeks. After breakup when things dry up, we will hit the trails starting cross country running and biking. Hopefully next fall we will all be in better shape for ski season. This year was mostly a test to see if everyone liked it and how well it fits without schedule. So far, I think it’s working pretty good. As they get older, if they are still interested in competing, we likely will have to put more time into it.

UPDATE: Well, we were right afterall, Karen did officially take 5th out of 9. I don’t know why she was given a 3rd place ribbon. Her 1km time was, 9:43.7  Richard’s 2km time was, 24:21.5 There were 13 boys in his race.

Beginning ski lessons

Winter is here. That means it’s time to get out our skis. This year we have a bit more spare time so decided to sign up for beginning ski lessons on Thursday evenings. Richard and Karen are in the Junior Nordics program and I am part of the adults.

It’s crazy at the start of the evening. Basically everyone converges on Birch Hill cross country ski center at 615pm. There’s over 100 kids and at least 25 adults, not counting the coaches. We click on our skis and find our groups for warmup. Karen is usually nervous because she doesn’t handle large groups well. Richard just heads off, making me nervous!

The kids have drills, ski practice, then play a group game. Their groups are by age so Karen and Richard aren’t together. At the end of the hour, I find them near the ski rack, tired but happy.

I’m in the beginning adult classic group. There are 8 students and 1 coach. So far, I’m intimidated by going down hills, but getting better. Last week was the first tine in 5 tries I haven’t fallen going downhill! Most of my problem is mental, not physical. If I’d just relax, it would be a lot better. It’s rather pathetic because the hills we’re doing aren’t very steep (yet). I think we are going to do a different hill trail next week.

Last week apparently Richard had a little adventure. He took the wrong fork on a trail so wound up on the Competition Loop. One of the assistants came to get him. He’s doing real good. They were supposed to go on a loop called Roller Coasters, but did drills instead so will probably do it next week. It’s a popular trail for the tweens and teens.

There are no lessons this week because Thursday is Thanksgiving. The kids want to go skiing anyway. I’m not sure if Birch Hill will be open or if we will got the university trails. However, the temperature is falling, so it may be too cold. Right now it is -15F in town and -5F at our house.

Curriculum recomendations

I’ve included websites for these companies below.

SCIENCE: Apologia science is good for high school. They offer several different subjects like biology, general science, and chemistry. I’ve also used science books in the God’s Design series. You can get both online from Rainbow Resource.

If you want to do physics, Exploration Education is fun. They do a lesson the computer then a hands-on activity and answer a few questions. There are 3 levels, but level 2 and 3 are similar but with more in-depth questions for level 3. This year my son is doing a science program from Sonlight (Core F science) focusing on anatomy and nutrition.

WRITING: For writing, the Institute for Excellence in Writing is very good. They offer many different programs for several different levels from elementary through high school.

For handwriting, Christian Light Education offers supplementary workbooks that are good (I Can Write Manuscript and I Can Write Cursive) that can be used independently. They take students from the basic stroke formation to writing letters, sentences, and finally short paragraphs or poems. We like them much better than the Abeka writing workbooks.

MATH: Math-U-See is good for hands-on learners. Each workbook has 30 lessons. Each lesson has 3 practice pages and 3 mixed review. You do as many pages as needed. The books are topical (single digit add/subtract, multi digit add/subtract, multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, etc) rather than spiral. They go up through high school calculus. There is a video the student watches before doing the lesson. There is a manipulative system for all books to help understanding. They use the same system for all books, so they don’t have to keep switching once they are used to it. There is a test book with lesson tests and unit tests as needed. Some people find it useful to do a page a day. My son does math only 2-3 times/week and is doing great.

My daughter does math using Christian Light Education. It is a spiral approach so you cover a broader range of topics in each year, but not as in depth. There are 10 workbooks per grade. Each lesson has an explanation at the start, then practice and mixed review. It is designed to do a lesson each day. There are also daily timed drills. Each workbook has 2 quizzes and a unit exam. Christian Light Education also offers a full range of other subjects for all grades.

READING: A good list of age appropriate literature books for each grade can be found on Ambleside Online. It’s a good resource but can be adjusted as needed. We also use Christian Light Education for reading. There are readers and workbook questions to improve reading skills and comprehension. The stories are old fashioned, but keep my kids interest.

HISTORY: For history, I use programs from WinterPromise. They are rather expensive, but include lots of quality literature and activities instead of textbooks and workbooks.


Battling homeschool stereotypes

My children are thriving being homeschooled as well as several other families I know. Every child is different. However, many people try to stereotype them based upon limited or no exposure to homeschool families. So if they see a well adjusted family they may think that is how all homeschoolers are. Same applies if they see a bunch of misbehaving brats with fanatical parents. It’s not. Just like public and private school children, each is different. They are just being taught at home by their parents instead of in a class.

Plus, many people think their way of schooling (public, private, or home) is the BEST way for everyone and those who do school differently are somehow inferior. That is not true. Every family and situation is unique so what works for one may not work for another. There is no one way of schooling that is best for every family all the time.

As for the idea that homeschoolers miss out on social events, that isn’t totally true. Yes. They miss daily traditional classroom things, but they get social interaction other ways. Homeschool children do not spend their entire days at home. Many regularly participate in group activities like lessons, sports, co-ops, community and church events, etc. Because they are not limited to mostly being around other children exactly their own age, homeschool children often are more comfortable interacting with people of various ages than those who attend school. Some areas even have events like prom and graduation just for homeschoolers, so they don’t even have to miss out on them.

Plans for 2012-2013 school year

Where has the school year gone? Between Richard being sick and our vacation this spring, we have fallen rather behind. That means we will be doing summer school to finish up. If everything goes well, we will be living on our boat which means fewer distractions demanding our attention. Hopefully that will allow us the time needed to get everything done.

Even if we don’t quite manage to finish up, I still need to decide what they will be doing for next year. They will be in 3rd and 6th grade. Hard to believe Richard will be half done with school.

They will continue with Christian Light Education for reading, language arts, and Bible. Karen will probably also use them for math since she is doing better since I switched her into it. Richard will do Math-U-See level Zeta which covers decimals and percents. I always struggled with that so it will be good for me to review it with him.

They will be doing health for science. As part of that, we need to do a physical fitness test. Karen will use Health, Safety, & Manners 3 from Abeka which is a basic introduction to good health. Richard enjoyed going through it and I think she will too. This is only one semester so I’m not sure what else to do the rest of the year.

I will order Science F from Sonlight which covers health, medicine, and human anatomy for Richard. He’s already done the Abeka Health 3, so this will cover many of those topics in more detail as well as others. I can’t decide if I want to get the 4 or 5 day package. The 5 day has four more books than the 4 day. I just don’t want to get overwhelmed. On the other hand, those 4 books seem like things he is interested in like DNA and fossils. I’ve given up trying to do my own unit studies or cobble together related books. I’m just not organized enough to get through a full year like that.

I just added it all up. Richard’s will be $335 or $375 depending which science package we get (4 or 5 day). His is more expensive because of the Sonlight science. Karen’s will be less because we can use Richard’s old reader and teacher guides. It will be $145. That’s a total of about $500 for both of them.

Study time

School is out or almost out for summer break in many places. That means parents are planning for the upcoming school year. Some families will decide to homeschool. One question that new homeschool families have is how long should they spend studying. Well, that depends upon state law as well as what curriculum or program you will be using.

Flexibility is one of the great things about homeschooling. That includes being flexible in study time. Unless required by law, there is no minimum time. Nor are there any requirements for when in the day you must do school. My kids have done school at almost all hours of the day, including delaying bedtime because they were still awake and interested enough to keep going. However, there are a few tricks to keep you from falling behind or feeling overwhelmed.

If you are doing a program like online, create a schedule by dividing your work out and making due dates so you don’t get behind. Too many online students get behind then panic at the end because they still have so much work to do.

Otherwise, you need to study for however long it takes to understand your work. Some days will be longer than others. Rather than a time schedule, create a goal/assignment list. As long as you get everything on the list done, it shouldn’t matter how long it takes. Some days my kids are done in 2 hours. Some days they work all day. However, it doesn’t have to be done all at once. You can study some in the morning then again later in the day if that is what works for your other activities.

It is a good idea to do school at least 4 days/week. I’ve found fewer days than that makes too much work at once so you tend to get overloaded. The more often you do school, the shorter you can make your study sessions. Your schedule should not be super rigid. After all, it’s homeschool and life sometimes interferes. If you miss a day or two every so often, that’s no big deal. It’s only when those missed days turn into missed weeks or *gasp* months, that you should worry.

Yummy, easy rice pudding

I had some left over rice tonight and decided to try making rice pudding. I’ve never made it before and always imagined it was a lot of work. However, this recipe was very easy and good. The kids helped measure and stir.

  • 2 cups milk, divided
  • 1.5 cup cooked rice (I used brown rice)
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. In a saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups cooked rice, 1 1/2 cups milk, sugar and salt. Cook over medium heat until thick and creamy, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup milk, beaten egg and raisins. Cook 2 minutes more, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in butter and vanilla. Serve warm sprinkled with nutmeg and cinnamon.