Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Chocolate Challenge

So how do you homeschool?  Do you like a nice, structured curriculum with lesson plans already laid out for you, or are you a free spirit who likes to wing it?  I must admit I tend to be the former.  I like structure, schedules, calendars, and lists.  I love lists.  I am a huge list person.  Just give me a list of what my kids need to be ready for the standardized tests each year, and we can work through it and I know I have no gaps and my kids have what they need!  The only problem is, it's a little boring.  Lately I have been hugely turned on to UNIT STUDIES and LAPBOOKS and all kinds of fun things like that!!!

Not that I think I could use unit studies exclusively.  Some people do and love it.  Some people are very creative and thoughtful and are able to work all their math and science and vocabulary and spelling words into interesting unit studies so that their kids hardly realize they are having school, they are having so much fun learning.  Not me.  I like LISTS of vocab and spelling words.  Math workbooks that go in a nice, organized order.  I like workbooks.  Have I mentioned I don't want any gaps?  I'm deathly afraid of gaps.

Well, amazingly enough, there seems to be a balance somewhere in between.  Oh, I still have my nice, organized workbooks.  Can't get enough of those.  But I can have the kids do all the even questions and skip the odds and get some of them done in half the time.  (Of course, if they miss too many, they have to go back and do them all.  This also helps ensure they study and make sure they get them right the first time!)  I can skip a few quizzes if I know the kids have mastered the material.  Or if we come upon a section that seems to be mostly review, we can just take the quiz and then move on.  My rule of thumb is generally that the kids have to score at least an 80% before we move on.  If they haven't mastered 80% of the material, we probably need to spend some more time on it.  Skipping some of the busy-work, however, opens up hours that we can spend on those glorious unit studies and lapbooks.  Incentive helps, too.  If I promise the kids a fun day or a field trip when they finish a certain amount of work, they finish it in a record-short amount of time!  With a good grade!

I've probably mentioned that my boys are hands-on learners.  And my girls like crafts and cooking.  And I'm a book-learner and a list-maker, so I have to adjust a little.  All this brings us to what we have to show for our school-time today.

Not much, it seems.  We started with 8 kids (a few homeschool friends joined us) and 5 trays of homemade chocolates.  This is all I could manage to get into a picture.  It didn't last long.  I believe the memories will, though.  We began Download 'N' Go's Chocolate Challenge unit study.

History, vocabulary, a little math, biography, geography - it's all in there, neatly organized with almost no prep time on my part.  Internet links, videos, recommended books, even coloring pages for the little guys.  Doing it with friends just added to the enjoyment.  We started our chocolate lapbooks.  As a little extra, I printed off the "Chocolate Challenge" title and each child's name in LetteringDelights.com's "Assorted Chocolates" alphabet, and they used these as the titles on their lapbooks.

And at the end of Day 1, we made our own chocolates.  If you've adored the little molded candies at showers and parties but thought they would be too difficult to make, let me assure you they are one of the easiest things to do with your kids.  You can purchase the candy molds and the small candy melts in chocolate, vanilla, or a variety of colors at a craft store like Michaels.  (Or you could just melt a Hershey bar.)  You simply melt the candy and pour it in the molds.  A few hours in the fridge and it's ready.  Um, but if you decide to do this project with 8 kids ages 3-11, be prepared for a fair-sized mess to clean up!

Happy Homeschooling!  

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