Month: September 2011

2011 Online SAT Prep for your Catholic High Schooler!

The Rolling Acres School

SAT Prep starts October 13th at The Rolling Acres School!

This class walks the student through one entire test front to back.  Recorded video lectures cover strategies for tackling problems of different types as well as general testing strategies like scheduling and study habits.  Live class is spent just doing problems and addressing problem areas.  This course will cover the standard test and the essay.

SAT testing dates are coming up, and run as follows: October 1, November 5, December 3, January 28, March 10, May 5, and June 2; which, we hope, makes this class a timely offering.  We will target the December test, beginning our class on October 13th.

The instructor draws on experience working for test-prep companies and tutoring agencies and helps the students tackle what is in many ways a necessary evil, which arguably is no real measure of intelligence or collegiate success.  Hence, rather than promising a “secret strategy” or “instant higher scores,” this class simply recognizes that the unique skill set that standardized test-taking requires can be cultivated through study and practice.

Our goal is to make the student thoroughly familiar with the test, to fill his ‘toolbox’ with all of the available strategies we can, and to set the student on a solid schedule which will ensure he is prepared and performs to the best of his ability.

Instructor: Kenneth Rolling

Age Range: Open to all students taking the SAT this academic year

Live Class Time: Thursdays 3:30 pm ET

Course Information Packet: Coming Soon

Prerequisites: None

Text: The Official SAT Study Guide, 2nd edition.  This text is often available through your local library

Art and Science in Catholic Schoolhouse, week 2

Homeschool Ideas
What is the art and science curriculum like at Catholic Schoolhouse? Fantastic!  Something I love about Catholic Schoolhouse’s science curriculum so far is that it borrows ideas from bloggers and websites across the web and helps us use the ideas in a 30-minute window during our homeschool co-op. Finding projects that can be done in such a short time window is perhaps not terribly difficult, but it takes time, which most of us do not have. The art curriculum is much the same way. It is not so difficult to think of projects or even to find supplies, but to take the time to prep the necessary materials or lesson plans is.Catholic Schoolhouse’s lesson plans are clearly laid out with supplies for each week and step-by-step instructions for students. This is a time saver!
In addition, as a mother of very young children still, I am learning about many resources to use later on in my own homeschool. This is invaluable to me.
What did I do with my students in week 2 using the Catholic Schoolhouse curricula?
We have 23 students at the Tour Guide level, and they range in age from 4 years old to 12 years old. Needless to say, having 23 young people in a small space with paint and glue can be quite challenging. Thankfully, there are at least three other mothers pitching in!
Camouflage and Pottery

Art: Inspired by Native Americans. The first three weeks of Year One Art at Catholic Schoolhouse focus on Native American art, so we have been working on pottery. This week we painted the pots we made last week with air-dry clay by Crayola. We used turquoise, yellow, and brown acrylic paints. Of course, the little ones mixed all the colors, but these colors when mixed made a lovely jade. An easy project that could be done at home, but with set up and clean up, a project most moms (myself included) usually neglect.

Science: Exploring God’s Creation. The first quarter of Year One Science at Catholic Schoolhouse focuses on zoology. We studied mammals the first week and then moved into amphibians and reptiles this week. As a fun project, Catholic Schoolhouse has students color a paper chameleon to match its habitat. This project was borrowed from the popular homeschool science website: Even the older students were challenged to camouflage their chameleons perfectly.

Drying Herbs in September

Homeschool IdeasThe Rolling Acres Farm
Oregano, Sage, Celery, and Lemon Balm Drying in the Foyer

This year we were a bit late harvesting our herbs due to baby 4’s August arrival.  Normally, we harvest in early spring before blooms emerge, again in mid-summer, then in late fall. This year, we harvested in late summer, but we will still have more than we need for the winter.

Why grow and harvest your own herbs?

  1. It’s easy! Most herbs love the cooler mountain air and its soil.
  2. Fresh herbs from the grocery store are expensive!
  3. Freshly dried herbs from your own garden taste 10 times better than any dried herbs from the grocery store.

How do we dry herbs?

  • Cut them from the plant.
  • Wash them in the sink (unless there was a rain).
  • Tie them on the line to dry in a dry area with good air flow.
  • Take them down after about 3 weeks.
  • Store in an air-tight container.

I like to leave the leaves on the stems until ready to use. Perhaps, they retain more of their flavor this way, but it is more of a habit for me to do it this way than a reasoned act.

In the Homeschool: Children are able to learn where “seasoning” comes from. Herbs are not just from a container in the store, but are plants that we can grow and harvest ourselves. When they taste the difference on their pizzas, that is the reward!

Huckleberries and a Crisp

RecipesThe Rolling Acres Farm

This spring we actually started huckleberry plants from seed. I had never tasted a huckleberry let alone seen a huckleberry, but the packet of seeds was free with an order of garden seeds. My husband and I worked hard to remove the large patch of poison ivy near the kids’ play area, something we had been putting off. Plantable earth is not bountiful on the mountainside, however, so we finally caved. The poison ivy was covering a perfectly nice piece of ground, at least for huckleberries and a pumpkin patch. It has a nice slope made by fallen trees placed horizontally on the ground and has a nice thicket of wild blackberry bushes, which we tried to leave undisturbed.

We planted the berries in June as 4-inch tall plants. We harvested a nice handful of berries in August. They have a very interesting taste, somewhere between a blueberry and a gooseberry. To dilute the flavor a bit, we cooked the berries in an apple crisp, which was quite tasty.

Apple-Huckleberry Crisp Recipe

  • 1 quart jar apple sauce (chunky)
  • 1/2 cup huckleberries
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 stick butter

Pour applesauce and huckleberries into buttered, oven-safe dish. In a separate bowl, thoroughly mix flour, oats, flaxseed, sugar, and cinnamon. Cut in butter or rub butter in with your fingers until crumbles form. Sprinkle the crumbles over the applesauce-huckleberry mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until bubbling and golden brown on top.

When they all cry at once.

Homeschool IdeasThe Rolling Acres Farm

Many days go smoothly in our house; others are recorded as “virtue training”. What does this mean? Well, naughty behavior decided to run free and had to be checked at every turn, so much so that the day’s activities were completely disrupted.

This past Monday was such a day. Within an hour, child #2 fell off the front step, slamming his head onto the concrete walk, child #1 stepped on a bee with her bare foot, much to her regret. Child #3 yells all the time anyway, and because Mama was helping children 1-3 and had to set baby 4 down, all the children were crying at the same time. (Realize here that child #2 was running after being told not to and child #1 had been warned not to step on bees in her bare feet.)

What do I do when this happens? Reality check. I look at the clock and watch the minutes very carefully. This reminds me that the time frame in which all of the children cry at the same is very SHORT. Usually no more than 2 minutes, depending on the circumstances. Once child #2 has a kiss, child #3 finds a toy, and child #4 has a bandaid, all is peaceful, and I can go to child #4 for a hug myself.

What do you get from Catholic Schoolhouse?

Homeschool Ideas
Tour Guides and History Cards

Having participated in my first week of our local Catholic Schoolhouse co-op, I thought I would write a post to list the materials new groups get from Catholic Schoolhouse when they decide to sign on. Interested groups/directors often ask the question, “What will I get from Catholic Schoolhouse?”

First of all, Catholic Schoolhouse (CS) offers a backbone structure to directors who already have their own ideas, but would like a little something to rely on to get started. The founders of CS, Kathy and Megan, are extremely helpful and eager to answer any and all questions about the program. What I would like to offer here is a brief list of what a director and tutors get when they sign on with CS:

  1. Tour Guide (for each person in co-op): This is a booklet that covers the 24 weeks of the CS academic year. Each week contains the memorization work to be learned in all subjects. There is not a CD yet to accompany this booklet, so directors and tutors are to come up with their own songs, chants, motions, etc. for memorizing the Tour Guide; however, there are songs, etc. in the director’s forum to help you along the way! The Tour Guide is set up on a three year cycle, so every three years you are doing Tour Guide 1 again.
  2. History Flashcards (for each person in the co-op). These include Catholic events and saints.
  3. Art Curriculum (for the art tutor). The CS art curriculum is a full curriculum with detailed lesson plans and supplies lists, allowing for minimal planning time by the tutor!
  4. Science Curriculum (for the science tutor). The CS science curriculum is also a full curriculum with detailed lesson plans and supplies lists, also allowing planning time to be minimal for the tutor!
  5. Director’s Forum. Each director is welcomed in to a community of other CS directors. You can share information and ideas here. Included are ideas on how to start a local CS group and forms and brochures you may need for getting started. Once started you will have access to videos and other downloads to help your tutors.
  6. Member’s Forum. Here tutors and parents can upload and share information. For example, need a VA map? Check the forum to see if another tutor in VA has shared one!
  7. Support! The founders are readily available to help directors, tutors, and families.

Since every family in the CS co-op has a tour guide and the history flashcards, families can easily review the material studied at Catholic Schoolhouse at home, then children and parents can more fully participate in the next week’s work!

Since the Tour Guide is a structure to hinge your own program on, each Catholic Schoolhouse community will look and sound different. Ages of children vary, songs vary, etc. Truly Catholic community that is structured similarly, but culturally varied.

Good Farm Chores for Young Children

Homeschool IdeasThe Rolling Acres Farm
4 year old and 3 year old making pizza dough.

What chores do our preschoolers and toddlers have on the homestead? Of course, they have their regular chores just like any other child their age: keep your room clean, pick up your toys when told, clear the table after meals, mind your manners, don’t hit your siblings, and obey your parents.

In addition to these, there are many opportunities on a farm or cottage for a young person to share in the work and have a great time doing it! Here are some things our children have done and do:

  • Feed animals. They can help carry water or feed buckets when doing chores. They love helping their pets. Each child can have a pet that is his responsibility, e.g. Johnny feeds the cat and Suzy feeds the dog.
  • Plant seeds. Kids love to play in the dirt! Let them bury seeds in a patch. Of course, the seeds will not be in straight row, but your back will not ache either.
  • Weed. Kids love repetitive work! Once your child can distinguish between grass and chives, he is ready to weed in earnest.
  • Wash produce after harvest. Kids love water! Let them splash all they want so long as the carrots come out clean.
  • Gather spent flower heads for seeds. A favorite! Give your child a basket and let them go.
  • Mix Bread dough. Kids love playdough! Why not give them real dough? We have never had such good pizza crusts before! I put in the yeast, water, oil, and salt, then I give once child the flour and the other the spoon. Once it is too difficult to mix, I add the rest of the flour, mix, then turn it over to them to knead.


What Instrument do our children learn first? Ukulele

Homeschool Ideas

Ukulele? Yes. Ukulele. Why?

Here are the five reasons we start with Ukulele:

  1. It is an instrument readily available to purchase at any time online.
  2. It is inexpensive, $20 for a decent Ukulele.
  3. The instrument requires fewer refined motor skills. Very young children (3 years old for example) can comfortably pick it up and be taught how to hold it and play it without their needing to have such refined motor skills as are needed with say the recorder. It is a rhythm instrument.
  4. Music on the first day of lessons! Children can learn to play a strum the first day of lessons that they can sing along with. Since their vocals are already developed, it is only a matter of time before they connect the songs they already love to sing to the notes from the Ukulele. Then, they are making music along with Papa!
  5. The musical skills learned with Ukulele are easily transferred to other instruments they wish to learn later.

How do you collect flower seeds from plants?

Homeschool IdeasThe Rolling Acres Farm
A Giant Marigold in Full Bloom

It is the first week of September, and autumn is on our minds. For many, this week signals the beginning of the homeschool year. For others, school has already begun. What is on my mind this week is flower seed. We do not buy flower seeds each year, but we collect seeds from this year’s plants to use next year. September-October tend to be the best months for this project (Note that many herb seeds should already have been collected, e.g. dill and cilantro).

A Marigold Flower that has whithered and dried.

How do you know where the seeds are on a plant?

This is much easier than many people think! Plants are not in the habit of keeping their seeds a secret. Typically, the flower heads will dry out, and given enough time, you will begin to see the seeds slowly coming loose and falling from the old flower head. This is simple enough!

Some flowers are a bit trickier and take some investigation. Impatiens are an example. You should look for a green pod hidden amongst the leaves. Pull it off carefully, so it does not catapult its seeds. Watch this video to see the pods and how the “explode”.

How do you collect the seeds and store them?

Marigold Flower Head Broken up to Reveal Seeds Inside

Once you have identified the seed head or seed pod, just pull off the seeds. You may leave the seed head/pod as is, or you can have small hands disect the seed head and place the seeds in small paper bags or other containers. We have often used mason jars and every day tea cups for storing seeds. Place your containers in a cool, dark cabinet.

In the Homeschool: This project is great for studying the anatomy of flowers! Children can pick flowers in full bloom and then find a seed head. Both can be examined and you can talk about the changes that have happened.

Harvesting Potatoes on the Homestead: A Favorite for the Preschoolers and Tots

Homeschool IdeasThe Rolling Acres Farm
Potatoes in various colors make a good color study for the little ones.

We started planting potatoes in the garden last year, and we carried on our new family tradition this year. Children love to dig in the dirt, most children love potatoes, and how happy they are when they discover they can dig in the dirt to FIND potatoes!

Why Potatoes?

1. They taste better straight out of the ground. 2. We know what goes in the dirt around them. 3. This is a good project for the children to be involved in.

When to harvest? We harvest our potatoes after the plants wilt away. This year we harvested them at the beginning of August.

How to harvest? Put on your working clothes and grab the shovels, kids-sized shovels included! Everyone gathers around the potato “patch” (a 4′ x 16′ raised bed) to harvest the potatoes. As the adults shovel up the dirt, the children work hard and with giggles to grab all the potatoes. Giggling can be spurred on by potatoes, worms, or the occasional millipede. All wonderful opportunities for short nature studies.

The 1-year-old watches as his 4-year- old sister cleans potatoes. Papa supervises.

Once all the potatoes are in the buckets, we head inside for cleaning. We only clean what we will eat right away. This job is for the 4- and 2-year-olds. They take turns washing and scrubbing the potatoes. They LOVE to play in the water and use the little scrub brush! The one-year-old watches his older siblings.

How to store the potatoes? We store our potatoes (unwashed) in buckets in the basement. We nestle them in amongst some clean straw. They keep for months this way!