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Arc Notebooks for Homeschool

At the beginning of the school year, I knew we would be having a challenging year, with back and forth trips to Atlanta while we were in the process of selling our house, and being in a state of flux. In what can only be described as a Herculean effort (for me at least…), I spent a couple of days getting the ENTIRE school year planned out, printables prepared and organized into folders for 36 weeks. Each week all I had to do was reach for that particular week and distribute any printables between our daily folders. 

This has worked well for the most part. The one drawback I have had, though, is not being “with it” on a Sunday to fill the upcoming daily folders. Some weeks I have scrambled on Monday to get our week started out right.
 

I had a friend recommend the Arc Notebook system from Staples recently, and seeing how I am always looking for ways to be more efficient and productive, I decided to try it out and see if it meets our needs. The Arc system uses a special punch and the pages slip onto a series of discs via openings along the edge, rather than closed holes that are bound by rings. This system allows for easy removal and placement of papers and notebook components. 

Ready-made notebooks can be purchased in letter and junior sizes, and individual components are available separately.
 
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(left) the press and various components for making Arc Notebooks. (center) discs are available in two sizes. (right) We’ve made several notebooks recently, for school, personal bible study and weekly planners. They work great!

 
I have prepared arc notebooks for Kyri, my rising fourth grader, and now for Ender, my 4-year-old starting pre-K. 
 
For Kyri, I have made sections for each of our subjects.  Rather than our weekly folders, all of our printables are now contained in a single notebook, organized by subject. A full year of spelling printables, spelling test pages, math printables and facts practice sheets, geography printables, etc. Now I don’t have to worry about filling daily folders on a Sunday to prepare for the upcoming week because everything is already organized in our notebook. 
 
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(left) We used the larger discs for Kyri’s school notebook. (right, all panels) Kyri’s notebook contains all printables and consumables for her math, spelling, history, geography, bible, and science.

At the beginning of Kyri’s notebook I have included blank checklists, where I list daily tasks I would like her to complete. While most of our morning is spent reading together during Kidschool, she does have independent work as well as some guided work she does in the afternoon (and this material makes up the brunt of her notebook). 
 
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(top, left) We have made junior notebooks for general note taking. (top, right) Weekly planning pages for Kyri’s notebook. (bottom, left) One section of Ender’s notebook contains several Arc zipper pouches. (bottom, right) One section of Ender’s notebook contains letter and number cards for daily practice.

For Ender, his notebook is more for organizing laminated activity packs in zipper pouches. I have letter cards, and matching games, puzzles and sorting activities, all printed and laminated. I have one section for many laminated letter and counting cards, followed by a section of zipper pouches that contain printed and laminated preschool activities. Lined paper and printouts are in another section. I’ll go into specific resources for each grade in separate posts.
 
 

 

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Spring is for Plants!

In my previous posts, I have mentioned using Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding for our elementary Science. We have been working through A thread (Nature of Matter) of BFSU Volume 1 all year. I had originally planned for us to start in Volume 2 and continue A thread (this is the Classical schedule coming through…), but over the past several weeks there has been a lack of interest in continuing with atoms and molecules. I think the beautiful weather outside has a lot to do with it! So I did some thinking and decided to reevaluate how we are doing our science. 

 
Bernard Nebel, the author of BFSU, encourages moving between the four “threads” or disciplines (Nature of Matter, Life Science, Earth and Space Science, and Physical Science). I’ve resisted this only because we’ve followed the classical schedule for the past several years, with one subject each year in a four year cycle. But as we move away from the classical schedule a bit, I find myself wanting to jump around a bit (though in an organized way so not stress out my Type A personality). 
 
With that being said, I decided to cover Plants this June. Everything is in bloom, the weather is nice, and we’ve got a great garden in our front yard to study as well.
 
Over the past week or so, we have been studying the basic structures of plants. The core of our lesson has been B10: Plant Science I – Basic Plant Structure. We started with the three basic parts of a plant – roots, stems, and leaves. We discussed how even vastly different plants all have these parts, though often in a modified form. She was fascinated to learn that the spines of a cactus are actually highly modified leaves. 

 

We have a membership with Notebookingpages.com, and I printed up several pages from the Plant Study collection. Over the past week, we have been working through these pages, identifying various plant parts, margin types, leaf arrangements, etc. The Visual Dictionary of Plants is a wonderful resource for learning plant parts.

 
Kyri and I went on a Plant Walk this week, armed with a few nature books and plant identification guides. As we explored, we discussed the three basic parts of a plant, and I asked her to identify various aspects of plants we found, such as:
 
type of leaves – simple or compound
arrangement of leaves – alternate, opposite, whorled, fascicled, or clustered
leaf venation – parallel, pinnate, palmate or arcuate
leaf margins – smooth, serrate, dentate, crenate, sinuate, lobed, or cleft
 
On our plant walk, she was particularly interested in finding a Sweet gum tree, because she had read about it and its identifying features in one of her books. We wrapped up our walk with the triumphant discovery of a Sweet Gum tree at the end of our street.
 
We have built up quite a collection of nature study books, and Kyri absolutely adores them. I can often find her with one or more tucked under her arm. Here are some of our favorites:

Here are several pictures from our walk!

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Vegan Super Bites

This is a simple and delicious treat to make for a grab-and-go breakfast or snack. It’s full of superseeds so it packs quite a punch in the morning. 

 
Vegan Super Bites
 
Combine all ingredients in a stand up mixer (or use a sturdy wooden spoon).
 
1 cup natural peanut butter
1 cup quick oats
5 Tbsp agave syrup
1/2 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup hemp hearts
1/4 cup ground flax seeds 
1/4 cup chocolate chips (optional)
1 tsp vanilla
3 tsp maple syrup
 

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After mixing together well, scoop out one spoonful at a time into the palm of your hand and form a compact ball. Set aside on a parchment covered cookie sheet. When all the mix has been formed into balls, move the cookie sheet into the fridge to let them chill and become firm – around 20 minutes. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

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pancakes

Maple Oatmeal Superseed Pancakes

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1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup oats
2 Tbsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 flax egg (1 Tbsp flax plus 2 1/2 Tbsp water)
1 banana
3 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1 Tbsp hemp seeds
1/2 cup maple syrup

Combine dry ingredients (flour, oats, sugar, baking soda, salt, chia and hemp seeds. In a standup mixer combine milk, oil , maple syrup and banana. Add in dry ingredients and flax egg. Cook in preheated, oiled cast iron skillet or griddle.

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Peanut Butter Granola Muffins

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The arctic blast has reached us all the way down here in Texas. So I have been baking comfort food for the kiddos. They absolutely love the peanut butter granola I prepare.
 
But lately I’ve been on a superseed kick, so I have been adding them in where ever I can.
 

I typically bake a triple batch of my peanut butter granola recipe, and lately I have been adding 2 tablespoons each of chia seeds, hemp hearts, and ground flax seed to the oats before adding the liquid ingredients. They give the granola that extra kick of goodness.

I was inspired after browsing recipes on Evernote’s Food app and discovered a recipe for these peanut butter granola muffins. After preparing granola today, I took some and prepared these muffins for the kids. 
 
Peanut Butter Granola Muffins
 
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup granola (use a spatula to break apart clumps)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1 banana, mashed
2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 flax egg (1 Tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 2 1/2 Tbsp water)
1 Tbsp chia seeds
 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
 
Mix together maple syrup, milk, peanut butter, mashed banana, coconut oil, and vanilla. 
 
In a separate bowl combine flours, granola, and baking powder. 
 
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix together. 
 
Add flax egg and chia seeds and mix to combine.
 
Pour batter into cupcake cups in a muffin tin – cups should be almost completely full.
 
Bake 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick or knife comes out clean after inserting.

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The Ever Scholar

I’m working on a new project. Well, it’s not really a project so much as a mission. I have always been a book worm, having several books in queue at any given time. But over the last several years, between the pressure of growing a career and the pressures of growing a family, my personal reading habit has suffered.  

 
Now I find myself moving into a new phase. We are officially done growing our family, and my youngest, at 7 months, sleeps though the night regularly. My home routine s becoming more regular as the children get a little older. While my life is far from calm, with a husband, four kids and four dogs, I am finally able to find small lulls to focus on myself again. 
 
Even though I’ve gone through college and graduate school, I will be the first to tell you I still have a lot to learn. I’m not going back to school, though I am about to start a year-long course that I’m really excited about (I’ll post more details on that soon). What I am doing is reading, lots of good books, on a variety of subjects. And I’m not settling for passive reading, just to log books as “read.” I’m reading books “actively,” taking notes and annotating as I read, following rabbit trails when they appear, participating in online book groups and discussions. 
 
I realized that, as I record my notes on the books I am working through, I’d love to share them with others. Since I’m reading several books at a time, and also doing an in-depth Bible study as well, I have decided a new site would be the best thing for sharing. I will be posting my Bible sudy notes, book journaling and other personal scholar notes over at the The Ever Scholar.  I would love to have you follow my reading progress there!