How in the WORLD do you homeschool FOUR children while telecommuting? Love, patience and a TON of coffee... Just in case you wanted it, here's a glimpse inside Mrs. Kastner's Klass.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Benefits of homeschooling

There are so many benefits to homeschooling. Some are solid, backed up by fact. Some are fuzzy, warm intangibles. But all combine to make homeschooling a valid (and in my humble opinion), superior educational choice.

1. Small student-teacher ratio -- Even in VERY large homeschooling families, the student-teacher ratio is MUCH smaller than in the average traditional school. According to the IES National Center for Educational Statistics in this nation's schools, the average student-teacher ratio in 2009 - 2010 was 15.38 students to 1 teacher. The student-teacher ratio in the Kastner household -- 4 to 1. The Kastner children are getting nearly four times more teacher attention at home than they would in a traditional school. This means that they cannot get off task as much. They cannot daydream and zone out. They cannot write a note instead of listening to their math lesson. They cannot sneak a novel inside their science textbook and read during science class (YUPS! this book nerd DID that!) Bare bones: they get MORE time from their teacher, which I believe translates into higher quality education.

2. Individualized curriculum -- In a traditional school, the curriculum is standardized by a curriculum committee that dependent upon your district could take into consideration the needs of all children in a given grade for your entire school, district or even state. This makes some people very comfortable... knowing that all fourth graders in this school, district or state are learning ______________. However, this mom doesn't want her kids getting a one-size-fits-all education. One size DOESN'T fit all in this house. Noah is very interested in history, studying wars, and learning about weapons. Jeremiah has such a strong creative bone... devising stories, role playing, and pretending are all his forte. Elijah is a math WHIZ! He LOVES a great math lesson. Hannah just loves everything about Kindergarten so it is hard to say what her "leanings" are towards. By intimately knowing these children, I am able to individualize their curriculum so that while Noah is researching Pearl Harbor (HIS chosen research paper topic by the way) he doesn't even realize he is learning to research, form sentences properly, make an outline, organize a research paper. He is so excited to learn about Pearl Harbor I can sneak in all sorts of English lessons. And when something EXCITING happens around here I can use it as a learning experience. Most importantly I am able to incorporate our faith and our morals into every single lesson I teach. We start each morning by pledging our allegiance to our country, our Savior and the Word. We rattle through the books of the Bible next. We memorize LARGE portions of scripture. Every subject is taught from a Biblical worldview. Being able to individualize our curriculum choices to our family and our children delivers a superior educational experience for them.

3. Flexibility -- This one is a little more intangible, and it has been touched on in previous blogs. Homeschooling allows the flexibility to decide what will be taught, when it will be taught, where it will be taught. A homeschooling schedule allows children to go to dentist appointments without missing instructional time. It allows parents to take off on educational tangents that interest THEIR children. It allows learning to take place at home, in the car, even on vacation. Many homeschooling families educate year round. We in the Kastner household do an abbreviated schedule in the summers and around holidays, but we have VERY few times of complete and total abstaining from school. The flexibility of homeschooling allows me to give my children not only MORE educational time but higher quality time as well.

4. Learning Struggles -- There is no teacher in this world who loves Noah, Jeremiah, Elijah and Hannah as much as I do. [Please note that I say this as a teacher who LOVED her students as if they were her own. I CARED about those children A LOT, but still I know that there is NO WAY I cared about any of them more than their mom did.] There is no person in this world who is more committed to their educational success. There is no one who will more doggedly pursue solutions to their struggle, who will more passionately run after the tools needed to make them succeed, who will work as hard as I will work to make sure that these four children grow into functioning adults who love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and being. This being said, I don't believe I am an island. I employ the instructors at the TAG Center to teach my children swim lessons because they have an expertise in it. I will likely outsource other parts of their education as well: foreign language, musical instruments, geometry (AH! I hated geometry! Thank you Bob Miller and Mr. Welborn... I would have NEVER made it through geometry without YOU!) My point is with ME on the case these children will get through their learning struggles because it is INTENSELY important to me that they do. The fact that the teacher is the mom works to a child's advantage providing them with an intensely devoted educational program that helps them navigate the tough parts of their education.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying all of YOU have to choose to homeschool. I'm just laying out the benefits of homeschooling as I see them.... I welcome your thoughts, realizing that if non-homeschoolers stumble upon this blog, it could become a bit hot in here.

Have a GREAT day everyone!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Asphalt Project

There are SO many different reasons I love homeschooling, but one of them is FOR SURE this... I want my kids to learn to be LEARNERS. All of their life I want them to keep on learning. I love to turn everyday things into lessons because I want them to be the kind of people who see lessons EVERYWHERE.

Yesterday we got a new driveway!  If you want to read about it in proper order do it like this:

It was such an exciting experience for our family and on Friday morning I decided to turn it into a project... [we're still in the midst of that... final versions expected some time next week] Our project is CHOCK full of lessons, subjects, and experiences. By the time we are done, it will have included scientific hypotheses, creative writing, careful observation, photography, English, research, picture selection, caption writing and portfolio assembly. This project is the definition of AWESOME!  

We started around the kitchen table. We discussed our hypotheses of what we would see, hear, smell and touch during this project. [We discussed the fact that while taste is our fifth sense, we wouldn't really taste anything in this project.... yet STILL at the end of the day the kids BEGGED me to let them taste the driveway... NO! I didn't let them! I'm not THAT crazy!]

When we finished our conjectures we waited for the men. Every time a truck came down our road the kids RAN to the window. The excitement was so thick you could feel it. The kids wrote their blogs about what this driveway would mean for our family as they waited. 

When they arrived the kids ran outside clipboards in hand to begin checking off the items on their lists of things they would hear, see, smell and touch.

We took turns taking pictures of the event.

After at least a good hour of observation, we headed inside where we started writing out our observations. What we heard, smelled, and felt. We took time later in the day to go and FEEL the driveway, which ended with them barrel rolling down the driveway as the landlord arrived to check it out.

Today we are finishing up our writing, choosing pictures, sending them to be printed, and then starts the portfolio assembly. We plan to send one completed portfolio to our landlord so he can take part in the fun too!

And here's the best part.... the kids hardly realize that I snuck in grammar, science, creative writing, photography, and a myriad of other lessons! woohoo! That's what I call a homeschooling victory!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fall Vocational Break

This week we took a short Fall Vocational Break... It was inspired by our NEED for John to finish up the bedroom he is remodeling for his niece, but it turned out to be a different kind of "school." See that's one of the things I love MOST about homeschooling! The classroom NEVER closes!  Here are the vocational courses completed this week during our "break" from school:

Noah... Having a Job 101... Noah arose at 6 a.m. each day of "break" and headed off to work with dad. He worked a full day, hanging, mudding, sanding (and other things I can't begin to understand) drywall. He measured, cut and nailed. He worked HARD! The first day he slept all the way home in the van.

Jeremiah.. Big Brother 101... Jeremiah typically gets to hang out in the background. Being ultra responsible and reliable, doing his thing, but not having as much on his shoulders because he is second in line. This week, he learned how to be THE big brother. He stepped up and took Noah's place while he was off working away and it was a great learning experience for Jeremiah.

Elijah... Prayer 101... Elijah's vocational course was COMPLETELY unintentional... instigated by waking a little too early... he went on a prayer walk with me... it was DIVINE seriously it WAS... as we walked I would tell him what/who I was praying for and then we would walk in silence a little, each praying silently to ourselves... when I told him I was praying for him, he asked, "For what?" I said I was praying that he would love Jesus all the days of his life. He said, "I'm gonna mom! I'm gonna be a pastor you know." with a little exasperation in his voice, like how could I NOT know that??? (baby book moment... hope I remember to write that in there when I find his baby book)

Hannah... Princess 101... seriously is there any other course for this one? She did step it up a bit in the area of chores... REALLY loves getting the chance to do other people's chores, but refuses to do her own... true princess material.

So Fall Vocation Break was a SUCCESS with some intended and some unintentional victories...  I'm glad we did it, but I'm also glad that today is BACK TO SCHOOL for the Kastners!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wanna know Wednesday....

I wanna know what you think... I'm redesigning my blogs... having a ton of fun... give me some feedback please!

It's really not that difficult:

see where it says 0 comments??? [it ALWAYS says 0 comments!!!!] click on that... type your comment... choose whether to comment publically (if you have a Google ID) or privately... your comment won't show up immediately... I have to approve it... that's so WHACK jobs can't put inappropriate things here (trust me! that HAS happened on my other blog... it is NOT a pretty site!) and VOILA! you have made me a happy camper!

Looking forward to your thoughts!

one more thing... FOLLOW this blog! see that thingy over to the right? it says "Follow by Email"??? enter your e-mail address in there... confirm your choice via the e-mail you receive and you TOO can receive AUTOMATED updates whenever I post!  You know you WANNA do it!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

my life as a lesson: I need a computer geek...

my life as a lesson: I need a computer geek...: This post is atypical for my site... It is a help wanted ad. I need a computer geek BAD. WANTED : Computer Geek Experience : none necessar...

Friday, September 16, 2011

National Play-doh Day

One of my biggest goals this year is to make school more FUN! Since I work (TWO JOBS) from home and homeschool... life here often turns into something that resembles boot camp dipped in concentration camp.  I mean business! ALL of the TIME!  Well this year my goal is to throw a little bit of FUN into my business!  Sooooooooooo...

Today we celebrated National Play-doh Day (all I have to say is my transformation into my mother is now complete... henceforth, I will answer to the name Kathi Haugh as well as my given name.)

You all know how I feel about Pay-doh right??? I like to call it Satan's-doh... Does that give you a hint?

But actually our Play-doh party turned out just fine. We had a BLAST! Of course because we're homeschoolers we had to turn it into a lesson... we MADE the play-doh from scratch... complete with food coloring so it would be colorful.

It was very orderly and as crafts go... not too messy. Fun was had by all!  See for yourself:

Play-doh party TUCKERED her out!

Friday, September 9, 2011

First week recap

Did ya miss me? PHEW! That first week hit me HARD, but it is going GREAT!  I actually stayed on top of my MRA workload, kept current with all our lesson plans, almost met my writing quota and threw in a surprise trip to Hartford during the middle of the first day of school to get two tires replaced after I ran into a curb, breaking a steel belt in my back tire. We had a busy but GREAT week!

I don't want to jinx anything but I really feel like we have turned some odd kinda corner attitudinally (it's a Jamism... deal with it!)

Noah---- will always vocalize his dislike for school (however, I feel some of that is remnants from the icky traditional schooling experience he had and I am hopeful that every year it will dissipate a little more.)  He is not "thrilled" about school on the outside, but my teacher's eye can see that he is a little different. His blogs are MUCH more verbose. He is VERY engaged in his math. While we haven't yet started social studies, I can tell he is excited... he is studying the weapons from historical wars this year and that is RIGHT up his alley.

Jeremiah... he REALLY loves school. He loves the Bible. He loves AWANA. He loves just about everything. He has such a sweet teachable heart and does some of the most amazing things. Today, he and Elijah got into trouble. I really don't know what it was as I was doing laundry and daddy was handling the situation. I came into the living room to hear him saying, "Dad I want to take Elijah's punishment." John said, "Jeremiah why do you want to do that?" Crying, Jeremiah said, "Dad, I just don't want Elijah to have to be sad." I don't know why I was lucky enough to have that angel straight from Heaven dropped in my lap, but I am GLAD to be blessed with the teaching and the raising of him.

Elijah... He LOVES school. He LOVES school. HE LOVES SCHOOL!  He is SO excited to finally have his own e-mail and be blogging. He begs me thirty times a day to let him check his e-mail. He loves being in THIRD GRADE! He is so glad he gets to start learning cursive this year. He is also RACING along by leaps and bounds in his reading, doing great in math and excelling in his penmanship. His year is DEFINITELY off to a good start.

Hannah... oh dear Hannah. What a kindergartner!  Like none I've had before. It is like God said, "Jami, you toughed it out through trying to get three little boys to sit still and learn crud for the past three years, now I give you---- A GIRL!" She is excited not only to be in school "like her brothers." She is very well suited for school tasks. She likes reading. She loves learning. She is fine with sitting still. The only thing is once in a GREAT while (okay FINE! three times per subject AT LEAST) I have to fight her tiny little will. We have a bit of a mother/daughter conflict going on, but with a little support from Daddy and a tiny little will   stubborn as a mule will of my own, we are making it just fine thank you.

Today was such a blessing! Our homeschooling neighbors were unable to do recess, so to make up for that we took an impromptu trip to Hartford for lunch and the park (I have REALLY got to get them to the park more often. I literally think that was the first time since we MOVED that we've been to a park! that's in TWO YEARS! yikes!) anywho a picnic lunch, playing at the park, beautiful sunshiny day... were a PERFECT way to end the first week of school.

Forward HO! We are on to next week!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The First Day of School Eve

Tonight we had a First Day of School Eve party. It was F-U-N.. FUN! We started with a "Great Things About Homeschooling" scavenger hunt which ended with a First Day of School present (pencils, erasers and sharpeners). We had cake to celebrate and ended with prayer for a great week of school. It was a fun way to build the excitement for the first day.
We spent the earlier part of the day building the excitement as well... we woke up on time to practice our morning routine. We cleaned and filled our desks. We got binders ready.
Noah... is not AT ALL excited about the start of school. Noah loves to hate school. Jeremiah, Elijah and Hannah are very excited. Elijah and Hannah have been begging me ALL day to start school today ***so cute***.
So tomorrow is the big day! And we are READY! now if I could just get them to fall asleep tonight!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Wanna know Wednesday....

[Sorta... I missed Wednesday! I had SUCH a stressful day yesterday!!!! And today too! So one day late, here is my Wanna know Wednesday....]

When does school start?

For the Kastner Family... school starts the Wednesday after Labor Day. When I taught at H.C.S., I absolutely ADORED the idea of having the Tuesday after Labor Day off before school starts. Therefore, when we started homeschooling, that was the model we adopted. (Well except for the year John had brain surgery... that year we had brain surgery the Tuesday after Labor Day so school did NOT start the Wednesday after Labor Day.)

As the years have passed, I have developed more reasons for placing our "First Day of School" on that day. Like:

In my experience, going "back to school" is not much fun for homeschooled kids... no new school clothes... no seeing your friends after a long summer apart.... no new teacher, new class, new room... it is all the SAME... therefore, it is my belief that a SHORT first week of school is good for not-too-thrilled-about-going-back-to-school children and the parents who have to teach them :)

Soooooo when does school start for you?

Sunday, August 28, 2011


I full well know what a dork I am... No one in their RIGHT mind should get THIS excited about school supplies, curriculum, lesson plans.... However this time of year ALWAYS takes me back.... to a time when I got paid to do what I love to do... See right now

1. I have one job where I get paid... period.
2. I have another job where I get paid to do what I like to do...
3.  and I have one job where I don't get paid to do what I love to do...

But when I was a teacher, I got to do what I LOVED to do. I got to plan lessons, impart knowledge, see that light bulb of comprehension go on above a child's head.... and I got PAID (although not very much) to do it!  AWESOME!  This time of year always takes me back a little!

Alas, I digress...

I know how dorky it is to get THIS excited about things like this:

*two weeks ago I bought expensive zipper binders for the boys. Mead Pro Platinum Heavy Duty Zipper Binder, 1-1/2"
I searched and searched for JUST the right ones. I needed a 3-ring binder part for their dividers (can I get a WITNESS??? who was in my 6th grade class?  remember the BINDERS???? my kids do them too!!!!)  I also needed file sections for 1.) work to be completed 2.) work to be graded 3.) work to be filed. I found them... paid $10 each for them (nearly puked at the price but rationalized, "They should last more than one year, right???") this was a BIG purchase for me and I hemmed and hawed and loved EVERY minute of picking those binders!

*at least once a week ALL SUMMER LONG I visit the A Beka site...


refill my shopping cart with the books I'm gonna buy... Then hop on over to to virtually shop for our math curriculum....
Saxon Math 3, Student Work Kit & Fact Cards   -
Tomorrow I get to click PURCHASE on my orders.  I'm seriously so excited I'm not sure how I'll sleep tonight!

*I wait with anxious anticipation of the first day of "traditional" school then I wait a few more days... and I CHARGE to Walmart list in hand and snatch up all the clearance school supplies I can fit in my cart.  LOVE IT!  Can't wait for it!

Also, first week of school planning is under way!!!!  It's gonna be a first week of school CELEBRATION like the Kastners have never seen before!

1. Each child gets to pick a favorite meal to be consumed during the first week.
2. The first day we have a CAKE to celebrate.
3. Fireworks!  Last year we did FIREWORKS to celebrate the end of the first day of school... think we'll do those again.
4. Presents!!!!  We're having presents this year!'
(I'm sure there will be more hoopla!  I have over a week still to come up with more crazy ideas! so stay tuned)

9 MORE DAYS!!!!!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

It's coming!!!!!!

The beginning of the school year is RAPIDLY approaching!  In fact, so rapidly I haven't finished purchasing supplies!!!!  I'm so excited and ready for the year.

Here's a sneak peek:

*Hannah's in Kindergarten!!!!!
*brand new (EXPENSIVE) binder system
*History of War (Noah's social studies... he's gonna LOVE it!)
*Science by Dad (crazy MythBusters style science experiments... the MESSIER the better!)
*Psalm 27... that's our first memorization this year... good stuff. You should READ it!
*Family Reading... 1st novel: Pilgrim's Progress



*I really TRULY hope to blog BETTER about homeschooling!  This poor site is my most neglected blog.

So get to swimming Kastner kids!  the end of summer approaches!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wanna know Wednesday...

Team sports... what are you doing about them?

Jeremiah has been BUGGING me forever to find a basketball team for him to play on. I have been googling for three straight days.  WOW!  I cannot find much in my area!  However, here are a few tidbits I picked up:

1.  According to WIAA bylaws, homeschool children canNOT play on Varsity public school teams.  (This was a shocking revelation to me as I had always been under the understanding that they could, but NOPES they cannot compete at the Varsity level.)

2.  Dodge County does NOT have many rec leagues!  GRRRRRRR!  I found a soccer program out of Brownsville that also includes kids from Mayville (the Mayville branch's link is broken right now) and little league in Mayville (which we are just a few days too late to sign up for), but both seem so OFFICIAL!  I don't want my child on the fast track to the big leagues... I just want him to have a chance to experience these sports and see if he wants to pursue them any more.

3.  Washington County Home School Athletics seems GREAT!  (WOW!  do I wish they had one of these in Dodge County!)  They have a few middle school and pretty many high school teams. However, they give preference to athletes who live within a 20 mile radius of West Bend, and we don't.  Also I can't get a reply to my request for information from them. Finally, they don't have a cheer team, which we all know is an IMPORTANT factor in this household.

4.  Mountain Top Christian Academy will allow my children to play on their teams; however, at some point (when they are a little older) they require the participants to take one PE class through their school to be a part of their athletic program.  (I'm not thinking that will happen for us... kinda defeats the purpose of HOMEschooling in my opinion.)

Sooooooooooooooooo I'm trying to start a team.... I know!  I know!  I need another thing to do just like I need another hole in my head!  But Jeremiah REALLY wants to play!  BAD!  I wrote a proposal for a basketball team/cheer squad and submitted it to the Program Director at the TAG Center.  Wouldn't it be IDEAL if my kiddos could have a team just 10 - 15 minutes away????  If you live near "ish" to Mayville and would have an interest in Boys' Bball and/or Girls' Cheer, shoot me an e-mail and I'll keep you posted on the status.

So finally to the Wanna Know part!  I wanna know what you're doing for TEAM SPORTS?  What you've found? What you've tried? What you've heard about?  Even if it is outside MY area, SHARE because

1. it might give me an idea.
2. it might give someone else in your area an idea.

[On an aside, John's has been teaching our children martial arts for a LONG time, and he is now trying to get certified in a new type of martial arts called Christjitsu.  We're hoping he will actually be taking that public and teaching it to others outside our family soon.  If you're interested in that, let me know and I'll have him keep you posted on it.]

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The beat goes on....

I love that homeschooling is flexible... I love that we can homeschool at the hospital or homeschool at Oma's or homeschool at night.  I love that WE set our schedule... birthdays are school holidays for us... vacations don't require us to do a bunch of makeup work...  And I also LOVE that:

The beat goes on!!!  I looked outside my front window to see snow falling.  It's accumulating pretty well out here.  But guess what?  I don't have to worry.  I don't have to think CRUD!  What am I going to do if the kids get sent home early from school?  I don't have to find child care for an unexpected snow day or schedule an extra day because we had too many snow days.  I love that I can look out at the snow falling and not change a THING about my schedule... the beat goes on... In fact... I'm actually assigning MORE work due to the snowy conditions!  The only change I'm making to our schedule today is:  I'm going to assign some snow time during free time today... I'm going to endure the stress of dressing 4 children in snow clothes:  boots, snow pants, hats, mittens, and scarves (just so Hannah can have to pee after 3 minutes in the snow) because we are homeschooled and sledding and snowballs and snow play are VALUABLE skills to learn in this teacher's mind.

Happy snowy day everyone!  Hope you have a great one!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wanna know Wednesday...

This is a CRAZY question that has little to nothing do to with homeschooling, but I WANNA KNOW!

How many gallons of milk do you go through in a week? (include how many kids you have please)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wanna know Wednesday...

Here's my question of the week:

What's your favorite part of homeschooling?

(I'm answering right now. I will post the kiddos answers later.)

My favorite part is just being there.... Being there to hear Hannah recite the books of the Bible to herself... Being there to see Elijah's brain working through the window of his bright blue eyes.... Being there to feel the excitement in Jeremiah's anticipation of the next chapter of our historical novel... Being there to observe Noah's confidence grow as he learns new math concepts... My favorite part is just BEING THERE.  That's my favorite part.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A part of our schedule....

I have a four year old who nearly knows ALL the books of the Bible.  Here's how...

We start the group portion of our daily schedule at the kitchen table.  We read a chapter of the Bible.  After our Bible reading, we pray, and we stand to our feet and recite:

*Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag
*Pledge of Allegiance to the Christian Flag
*Pledge of Allegiance to the Bible

IMMEDIATELY following this, I have them recite the Books of the Bible.  We do this EVERYDAY... and guess what's happening???  Hannah is starting to say them along with the boys!!!  Guess what else???  Auntie Marge is starting to say them TOO!  AMAZING!  If you hear something often enough, you will remember it, and Hannah & Auntie Marge are starting to memorize them too!
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