KnowledgeCornerstone » Ramblings from an educator and life-long learner

MacBooks and School

I have been itching to do it and I finally did. I bought the girls MacBooks. Not new ones. VERY OLD ones. I wanted something that was easy to use. Luckily we are bilingual when it comes to operating systems in our house, so they will grow up knowing both a PC and mac. But for now, with as young as they are, macs are the way to go.

I bought them off of I had been watching them go on sale pretty frequently. They are refurbished, and trust me…you can tell by the case, they are not new. I explained to the girls about buying used as long as they insides are good. They have seen me take computers apart enough to know that you can replace all the parts and have it run like new.

These were the same…with one exception. I could not get the DVD player to work. I almost broke a cd getting it into the optical drive. Disappointed…I took the whole thing apart. Now, this was my first time taking apart an apple product and let me just say, they LOVE little tiny screws.

Once I had the whole thing apart and out, I manually opened the cd case only to find it was empty. The frame on the computer had been bent so it could not take in a cd properly. I straightened that out, but the 8 million screws back in, and voila! A new MacBook.

On a lighter note…I did get all the girls material for the fall for homeschooling. 🙂

Our 1st Year of Homeschool: Wrap-up

Well, we made it through our first full year of homeschooling.  I am glad it is over and am excited to move onto the next year. I decided to compile a list of the most important things to remember after the first year. These are just my 2 cents…but I hope they can help someone else.

  • Don’t stress over the first year. This is repeated OVER AND OVER…but seriously…you have to let it go. Being a teacher this was really hard for me to do, but once I decided I can reverse any damage done the next year, I felt better. (Unlike my first year of teaching and my first crop of students…I might have ruined them forever!!!)
  • Find what works best for you. I thought I would be strict about a classical education, but I have found (like most) that I have combined all of the philosophies to create what I am comfortable with. Not to mention my public education experiences mixed into it.
  • Don’t structure it like school. Although I had an agenda, and we did calendar math everyday, I eventually moved away from that because it was too school like. Make it work with your comfort level. Consistency is nice and your children will appreciate it, but don’t make it so rigid that you hate it.
  • I have always felt like I encouraged learning outside of the school day, but I find myself doing even more now than ever. That means that my girls might get up and play all morning and in the afternoon we go outside and work in the garden and that is their school for the day. Everything has become a relaxed lesson in life.
  • I work full time, so I am more dependent on worksheets than most homeschool families. And that is ok. I just started on my PhD (I know I am crazy to be doing all of this…) and an article I recently read for research was the comparison of private school vs public school and how students learn. Interestingly, the private school students that had a low teacher/student ratio did not know how to learn by themselves as well as the public school students where it is sink or swim. Since public school has so many kids in a class, students have to rely on each other and study skills in order to learn the material. My girls spend A LOT of time helping each other (esp if I am on a conference call). I can already see my 4th grader becoming more and more independent with her work and she was in public school before!
  • Don’t buy everything under the sun. I spent over $1700 last year on supplies and curriculum. The good part was I quickly learned what I liked (and what my girls liked). This year I have only spent less than $400 and I have everything for the year. Invest in things you can reuse. Tapestry of Grace is a great history program that can be used 3x over. Many book publishers are coming out with a yearly subscription to digital content. Evan Moore is only $79 a year and you could teach every single subject with that one site. (It is not a nice laid out curriculum, rather it is worksheets for every grade level and you would have to build the curriculum around the work.) There are complete programs out there if you go that route. (Sonlight, Abeka, etc…) It is not cheap, but it is easy and you know you are getting the entire curriculum.  There are also online programs out there as well.  Even though I work in an online environment, I don’t want my elementary students sitting in front of a screen all day.
  • Try and get to a conference if you can before you leave so you can actually place your hands on material so you can decide what you like. Again…the Well Trained Mind forum is a great resource for reviews on content.
  • Invest the $50 for Homeschool Tracker Plus. They have a free version, but they don’t charge enough for the paid for version!  It has a bit of a learning curve but is a MUST for organization, lesson planning, transcripts, report cards, student agendas, etc…
  • I keep “wish lists” on amazon of books I want and supplies/games/manipulatives for homechool.
  • If you do buy content, I have found that you can get most of it through Paperbackswap or used on Amazon.
  • ALL of the materials, homeschool or public school take a stance on the information they provide.  Find the one you can support while you teach your children.

Sarah, Plain and Tall

One of the things I have struggled with when it comes to public school is the lack of required reading specific books.  I know my girls read…A LOT…when they were in school, but they never talked about any of the classics that I remember reading.  I decided to research all the books I read and have them read them too.  Nice huh?  They were not thrilled.  Once we got started though, it was not as bad as it sounded.  I love Paperback swap for this very thing.

Stacey started with Sarah, Plain and Tall.  She finished the book in 2 days, which was not my intention, but oh well.  I found a teacher guide from Teacher Created Resources and was able to buy and download it.  One of the activities was to create a relief map which the girls were all too excited to do!  Stacey did not want to follow the directions exactly and make a map of the land where the family lived, rather she wanted to do a relief map of Texas.  Fine by me.

We gave it about a week to dry out before painting it. At that point Stacey was finished with it so Sydney painted it.

The Girls’ Desks

I was reading one of my many blogs this morning and the author was talking about cleaning out her rss feed because so many people she follows have the image of having a perfect life.  Then at church our pastor also talked about how we put on a front for people…we never want to accept our wrong doings.  In an effort not to appear “perfect” it is time to share our “art room” make over.  (I had been waiting to clean it up and post pictures, but life happens EVERY.SINGLE.DAY in this room.)

This is where all 3 of us girls work during the day.  Previously, the girls had a long make-shift desk that was made from 1/2 a sheet of mdf with 1/2 a sheet of shower board on top. They spent a lot of time goofing off sitting so close to each other.

I decided that they needed “real” desks and I wanted them to be something that would last. I also wanted it to be homeschool friendly so I could access both of them with ease. I searched around at garage sales, and even bought a desk I thought would work, but in the end it was too big.

I could not find the size I wanted, so decided to build one.

After drawing up the plans, I went to HD and picked up the wood. I could not find sturdy legs, so I put 3- 1″x3″ together.

After staring on the base of the desk, I changed my plans a bit and decided to build cabinets. Or I THOUGHT I would build cabinets. But the premade ones at HD were too tempting…so I bought 2 narrow kitchen cabinets and took the bottom off.

The base was pretty simple. I opted not to put a middle drawer in, just a shelf for a keyboard or small laptop.

Next came the hutch part. I wanted the girls to have easy access to their regular books, a place for finished work and then a nice big area on the back for a magnet board (which has yet to be finished). And yes, that is me…Stacey asked to take pictures while I was working.

Once the desks were finished I made a small shelf to put in front. My hopes is to have a table top that will fit over the end so we can all sit around it.

The final product:

I went to WalMart and found some cheap black office chairs and decided to dress them up a bit with some material I had.

I am glad to have a staple gun!

Kaci - holy cow! what can’t you do? that looks awesome!

Homeschool Happenings: The Little Passport

My girls love looking at maps, creating maps, basically anything that has to do with geography.  They do a daily geography sheet, but I stumbled upon this program called Little Passports.  When you sign up, they send you a little suitcase to keep your papers, postcards, items and of course your passport.

I waited to let the girls open this after Christmas, so it was nice to do something a little different.  We read about Sam and Sofia and how they are going on an adventure to a different country each month.  It had a picture of the two friends and a couple stickers to decorate the suitcase.

The girls worked through the worksheet to find out that the first country they would visit was Brazil.  I had waited so long to open the suitcase, that the next package was already waiting…so they were super excited to open that up!

There was an amethyst, picture, worksheet, a note from Sam and Sofia and some stickers.


  • The whole idea is really cute.
  • I love the passport book and that they collect stickers.
  • The worksheet is really neat.
  • We used Google translate to pronounce the words we did not know.
  • I think the $11 is probably  little steep for what you get.  I am thinking that a $6-7 range would be better.  (It is billed monthly, and I think there are enough countries to last 18 months.)
  • I really wish each of the girls got a worksheet and passport instead of sharing one.
  • We will do it for a couple months and see how it goes.

(And please ignore Stacey’s outfit.  They have been working on a “dance” they made up so they rush through their work to practice dancing.)