Friday, July 19, 2013

Everything is coming up roses and daisies and dianthus and...

The gardens are in bloom and really filling in this year. After the driveway and sidewalk were replaced, Bass edged all the gardens and we put down a thick layer of mulch. The mulch was hurting since we skipped doing it last year. All sorts of things that I don't remember planting are coming up and growing like crazy. 

The front gardens are a little more formal and symmetrical. My daylilies are doing great, and the crepe myrtle that I was really wondering about seems like it has finally gotten established.

The new lamp and post look good in the front garden. I still need to add a few perennials in this bed though.

I pulled the fading pansies out of the pots and put in white impatiens and pink geraniums.

The side garden is a little different this year because of the driveway redo. We moved the birdbath up towards the garage and added some (clearance rack) dianthus at it's base.

The rest of the side garden is really filling in. Daisies, hosta, and bee balm...


 Another potted geranium on my garden hook...


And my absolute favorite, the row of 'Limelight' hydrangeas we bought on clearance last fall are filling in and actually starting to bloom. They were sickly looking things but they were so inexpensive that we figured if they didn't make it, it wasn't too much of an investment. The only one struggling is the one that is directly under the bird feeder. The birds apparently are not genteel eaters. I'm excited to see how these keep filling in along the back of the house.

So what's blooming in your neck of the woods?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Homeschool Portfolios in the great state of PA

I went looking and realized that I've talked about our homeschool portfolios but I never really posted about how I put ours together. The state of PA has a pretty extensive homeschool law. It's not difficult to comply but you do need to know what they require (and conversely, what they don't or can't require) based on the law. For portfolios, I need to submit a Log, samples of the student's work, achievement test scores if applicable (only 3rd, 5th, and 8th grades), and a letter or other proof that we had an acceptable evaluator determine if progress was made during the year.

I work on our portfolios throughout the year so that I don't get overwhelmed at the very end. I've found that if I file the younglings worksheets weekly, I can easily go through the file box at the end of each quarter (every 9 weeks) and put things right into their portfolios. It makes the very end of the school year easier to finish up.

So what IS required for our portfolios? (Each state obviously has different laws so I'll just share what I do for PA. Although I like having a completed portfolio at the end of the year. It's kind of like a memory book or yearbook for us. The younglings like looking through them from time to time also remembering all the fun or maybe not-so-fun things we did!)

At the beginning of our school year (aka back-to-school supply sales time) I buy each youngling a two inch, 3-ring binder. In them, I put tabbed file dividers for the following categories:
Logs, Attendance, Testing Results
English (under English, I hole-punch cardstock sheets and add little Post-It flags for the various categories like grammar, spelling, penmanship, composition, vocabulary, and reading)
Science (with a cardstock sheet divider for Geography)
History (with a cardstock sheet divider for PA History)
Civics and Safety
Health, Physiology, and Phys. Ed.
Music and Art
Electives (for Spanish, Typing, Bible, etc)

The very first page I include is a signed letter from our evaluator stating that they looked over the submitted materials and deemed that the student made progress in the past year.
Under the first tab is where I put our attendance log (I use this one) and our weekly log sheets (check those out here). Since I only write MFW week 1, day 1 etc for our My Father's World studies on the younglings personal weekly logs, I also include copies of the weekly grid from my teacher's manual.

For each subject, I include a brief typed summary of the main texts we used (textbooks or living books) because I'm also required as part of my 'log' to include a book list. That way in my more extensive book list, I don't have to type out the same math book for every week of the year. I write a basic overview of what we covered for that subject including any projects that we did, trips that we took that correlated with the subject, and extra resources we used. (This is where blogging regularly throughout our school year totally helps me and my less-than-stellar memory!)
After the summary, I often copy the index of any main textbook that we used so that the school district and our evaluator know what was included in that particular text. (Like the Saxon Math book or the Rod and Staff English)

Then I include a book list that I update regularly throughout the year. I put it in an Excel spreadsheet so that I can include the title, author, subject the book was for, the date they read it (I go with 'the week of' for dates so I don't drive myself crazy or be unintentionally dishonest), and which student read it. Some titles they both read; others are just for one or the other. I put in all our library book titles immediately when we get home and then have the younglings put their personalized paper clip color in the book after they have read it. (Soprano is purple, Tenor is green) I still end up asking ALL the time, "Did you read this one yet?"
So there's my summary, the indexes, the book list, and then any grading sheets (really only for Math and Spelling) and samples of their work. I try to include 1 sample from each quarter which I pull from my file box. I usually have a few more with math and grammar.

For some of the subjects that are hard to hole-punch samples for (science projects, fine arts, electives), I include a picture collage with captions of activities we did throughout the year. These are collages from 2011-12. This year I used my new My Memories software for much nicer looking final products.
If I have samples of art that are easily included in a binder, I add those too.
I also throw in any brochures from field trip locations.

I include probably more samples and more extensively written out summaries than most folks (and more than what is actually required) but I'd rather err on the side of having enough in case the school district would want to review our portfolios more intensely. The rest of those worksheets and projects... fire feeders! The younglings love burning up their old schoolwork! :)

Portfolios are a lot of work but the key, at least for me, is to work on them throughout the year to keep it manageable. The end result it a great keepsake!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Summer Touches

For my summer mantel, the shutter screen, blanket basket, and sheet music paper wreath stayed in place. I added my beachy apothecary jars, an aqua vase, and a few beach themed knick knacks. Bass found the driftwood in our stash of vacation treasures so I added that in as well. 
I used my sand dollar and starfish garland again this year. My bronze bird cage and black lantern didn't look right with the other lighter elements so I went on an emergency shopping trip. :) I found the white lantern at Home Goods for under $10 and the white wire bird cage at Michael's (40% off).
I put away the spring lambs that were on this living room end table and added some jars and my little brown bird.
On our little entry table by the front door, I used an aqua jar with seashells and some berry vine along with a cute little sign I got on vacation one year.
I put my spring birdies away in the dining room and added some summer flowers. The color isn't quite right but I had all of these left over from my sister's bridal shower, so I just went with it. A bit of twine, a bit of shine, and a bit of sea glass from our Wildwood Crest beach vacation this year.
Now we have a lighter, summery look for the next few months.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Latest Project at the Homestead -- A Brand New... Driveway!

So it's not nearly as exciting as the announcer on the Price is Right saying 'A Brand New Car' but we desperately needed a new driveway. The old driveway was original to the house (50+ years) and hadn't been sealed in forever so it was sinking and crumbling and growing things and sending all the rainwater from the street straight down our sidewalk to the house's foundation.

Bass spent hours researching contractors and getting bids and figuring out what would need to be in place for this to happen. He finally found a driveway/paving company to do the driveway and got in touch with a concrete contractor (a great guy from our church) to do the sidewalk.

The sidewalk went in first, they fixed the curve to make it more natural as well as widened the sidewalk. It's about 8" higher than the previous one (also to help keep the rainwater away from the house.) They also ran some conduit underneath for the electric cable that goes from the house to the outdoor lamp post.

Bass edged all of the beds for me this spring too.
After the sidewalk was in, the driveway guys removed the old driveway and dug it down a bit. Then they added a thick base coat and finished with a super thick top coat. They also graded it so that it slopes slightly away from the house towards the side yard.

We changed the shape of the garden at the corner of the garage, pulling it way back because it made parking awkward.
Mulch stays in the garden bed now because the driveway was raised up.
Once the construction stuff was done,  Bass got to work adding top soil and seeding the lawn around the sidewalk, front garden, and down the side yard by the driveway.
The new grass is the non-weedy stuff. :)
We were also blessed by my folks who were cleaning out their basement and found a brand-new outdoor light pole. We used a gift card (from Bass's folks) to buy a lantern style outdoor light. So thanks to our parents, we now have a super-bright, dusk to dawn light fixture. Our street is pretty dark and our porch lights a little far from the driveway so I'm liking the security of our new light.
Here's the before and after of the outdoor light.
I'm not quite sure what happened here but suffice it to say, the light didn't work.
And the 'after'. Look at all the new grass along the driveway too. So pretty!

And now the best part, the official before and after!


Well, the best part is actually not worrying if we'll get water in the basement every time it rains! :)
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