Archive for curriculum

Credit History: Getting High School Credit for your Homeschool Work

Many homeschool parents wonder in the back of their minds: just how long can I do this? How far can I take my student? Naturally, high school is often a sticking point.

I’ve heard from other parents, “I can teach through middle school but after that, they’re going to high school.” Many are intimidated by their own memories of high school math and sciences, while others worry about the scope and rigor of the humanities.

We’re fortunate to live in an area where there are many good options for grades 9-12, so transitioning from home school to high school is not an uncommon choice.

In Maryland, the state does not award diplomas to home school students at graduation. Credits needed to earn a diploma are only granted by state-accredited institutions – the state won’t grant a diploma based on your home school portfolio review.

However, if you choose to enroll your student in public school during their high school years, your still may be granted credit for their home school work. Here’s how the general process works in my county:

Credit is determined by subject. Assemble your portfolio materials and bring it to your school, usually to your student’s academic/guidance counselor. The review seems to generally be conducted by the head of that academic department. Under state law, the school can include tests, exams, or interviews with the student to determine placement or credit.

Upon application of a child for admission to a public school from a home instruction program,the local superintendent shall determine by an evaluation the placement of the child and anycredits to be awarded toward high school graduation. The evaluation may includeadministration of standardized tests and examinations and interviews with the child.

Maryland COMAR 13A.10.01.04 I recently went through this with my school, and the results were varied. Math was the easiest, we were granted credit immediately.  English took a little longer but credit was granted there, as well. We’re working through the process with biology, and I’ll keep you updated on how that goes.

Why go through all the trouble? Because you need a certain number of credits, per subject, to graduate. If you don’t try to claim your home school work for credit, you either have to enroll in summer school, or else take academic classes where you would otherwise have taken electives. 

Next time: looking at portfolio assembly for math.

Posted by on September 4th, 2018

Math Mondays from Makezine



I recently discovered Math Mondays from Makezine, which combines two things I think are required to make a great learning experience: hands on, with a practical application. Try making Escher’s famous Relativity from a single sheet of paper – go ahead, it really works!

Posted by on May 31st, 2018

Cooking School for Kids: Chicken Paillard

Today’s menu: chicken sandwich wraps
Shopping list:
Chicken breasts
Panko bread crumbs
Egg whites
Salt, Pepper
cooking oil
lettuce/tomato/wrap filling other than your protein

Skill: paillard, touch testing meat for doneness, breading, panko crumbs

Kids seem to love chicken, so it would seem to be the obvious protein to teach. On the other hand, it can be frustrating as a teaching tool. The shape of a breast is incredibly uneven, sizing is unreliable. As a bonus, it’s the only food I can think of that, when cooked improperly, can be simultaneously raw AND overcooked. And what about cook time? A small breast can be done in 6 minutes, but a large one can take 6 minutes to a side.

So, let’s get to today’s lesson.

1) Uneven shape. The thickest part of a chicken breast can be as much as four times thicker than the thinnest portion. As a result, by the time the thickest part is safe to eat, the slender end may be approaching shoe leather. The fix: even out the thickness of the breast.

You will need:
a chicken breast
plastic cling wrap
something to pound with (I prefer a rolling pin, but you can use a small, heavy frying pan or an unopened can)


Cut two pieces of plastic wrap, about 12″ to a side each. Place the chicken breast between the two pieces and gently strike with the pounding tool. I like to start at the thinner end and use the tool to gently “spread” the meat out as I go. Continue until the breast is an even 1/4 inch thickness all over.

2) Get the coating to stick. There are all kinds of recipes out there to “coat” a protein. Before I found this method, the crumbs didn’t stick well, and those that did always fell off when being moved. This one works.

You will need:
3 shallow dishes (pie plates or cake tins are good for this), containing:
1) 1/2 C flour, mixed with 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/4 tsp garlic powder
2) 1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
3) 1 C panko breadcrumbs mixed with 1/4 c grated parmesan cheese
4) A dish or tray to receive the chicken

Important: once your chicken is pounded flat, pat both sides dry with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Dredge the chicken first in the seasoned flour, then the egg wash, then in the panko. Press the crumbs into the chicken to help adhere, then rest in your tray for 5-10 minutes (it gives the flour and egg “glue” time set up).

Don’t have panko? Or just hate to pay supermarket prices for them? Here’s a secret: Japanese restaurants don’t buy panko, either. They make them fresh for use each morning.

Panko bread crumbs:
Slice the crusts off 4 slices good white bread. Tear into quarter-size pieces and run through a food processor. Toast about 10 minutes at 325F, stirring regularly, and watch so they don’t burn.


If you have more than 2 chickens, heat the oven to 200 degrees and use to keep finished product warm.

Heat 2 Tbs cooking oil in a 12″ skillet. When the oil is shimmering, lay 2 breaded chickens in the pan and cook, about 4 minutes to a side. Transfer to a baking sheet and pop in the oven to keep warm while you cook the remaining chicken.

Once your chicken is finished, you can cut it into strips and fill your wraps.

Posted by on April 7th, 2017

Cooking School for Kids: Tips for Roasting Vegetables

Roasting vegetables is pretty hands-off, for a hearty side dish. Thicker, heavier vegetables will take longer to roast than those with a lot of water in them – but you can roast them in stages, so everybody eventually comes out at the same time.

The procedure couldn’t be simpler.

  • Cut your vegetables into evenly-sized pieces
  • Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and toss to coat
  • Lay out on a baking sheet.
  • Roast until done.

That’s it. Basically. (But I also like to give it a squeeze of lemon before serving.)

Things to remember:

  • Roast similar things together: Check the roasting times. Cauliflower and broccoli get along great; tomatoes and carrots, not so much
  • Similar also means size: Cut your pieces into even sizes. Also, smaller pieces will roast faster than larger ones.
  • You can roast in stages: hardest veggies first, pop in the softer, thinner ones later
  • Don’t crowd the veggies: crowding = steaming. Distribute them over two trays if necessary
  • Don’t skimp on the oil: don’t drown it, but remember you need the oil to help achieve roastedness

Vegetable roasting times:

information from The Kitchn

Root vegetables (beets, potatoes, carrots): 30 to 45 minutes, depending on how small you cut them
Winter squash (butternut squash, acorn squash): 20 to 60 minutes, depending on how small you cut them
Crucifers (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts): 15 to 25 minutes
Soft vegetables (zucchini, summer squash, bell peppers): 10 to 20 minutes
Thin vegetables (asparagus, green beans): 10 to 20 minutes
Onions: 30 to 45 minutes, depending on how crispy you like them
Tomatoes: 15 to 20 minutes

Posted by on April 3rd, 2017

Cooking School for Kids: Eggs and Emulsions

Today’s menu:
Cheese souffle, green salad.

Time for eggs.

What can you do with eggs? Scramble, poach, fry, boil, sure – that’s a lot of options. Fry, boil – pretty simplistic. Poach? It’s a good technique, but best observed in conjunction with hollandaise, bacon and a muffin. Scrambling?

Right, right, you say. Beat up an egg and subject it to some heat, okay. Well, I figured we could go one step further.

Pt 1: Cheese Soufflé: Are you serious?

Yes. Because it turns out that soufflé is nothing more than bechamel (see previous lesson) lightened with egg whites.


Discussion points

How do you crack an egg? Contrary to the edge-of-a-bowl method, I greatly prefer to give a gentle rap on a flat surface.
How do you separate eggs? There’s the standard pour-back-and-forth broken shell method, but there’s also the catch-the-yolk in your hand method.
Why are you making us use three bowls for egg separating?I teach the kids to use three bowls when separating eggs: One to catch your white, a medium size for the yolks, and one main bowl to receive the clean egg whites. Break and separate your egg, make sure the white is clean, and dump it in the big bowl. Because the one time you contaminate an entire batch of whites with a broken yolk, you will kick yourself vigorously for ignoring this step.
The odds of breaking a yolk go way, wayyy up when teaching kids how to separate eggs. You’ve been warned.
What are the stages of beaten egg whites?

  • Foamy: The individual whites are coming together
  • Soft peaks: When you pull your whisk straight out, a soft tip forms but falls over
  • Firm peaks: When you pull out the whisk, a tip forms and stays

Mm, Emulsion

Kids and salad, like Oil and water

I don’t know about you, but salad seems to be a hit and miss proposition with many kids I know. However, this lesson is a great example of Kids Will Eat It If They Made It.

All my kids have seen the elementary school experiment of oil and water in a bottle. They don’t like each other because their molecules repel each other, so you can see them separate when you try to mix them together.

So how do you make a vinaigrette? You introduce an emulsifier. We could get into complicated explanations, but the easy one is this: an emulsifier is a fonger-trap type molecule that can grab a water at one end, and an oil molecule at the other end. When you add an emulsifier to oil and water and shake vigorously, the emulsifier forms a kind of web that prevents the oil and water from separating – at least for a while.

The easiest method to encourage salad dressing is this one, by Serious Eats. Kenji is a great teacher, go with it.

Posted by on March 17th, 2017

Cooking School for Kids: White Sauce, Roast Vegetables

Red sauce is easy: season your oil, drop in crushed red tomatoes, and simmer until thickened. That’s not a cooking lesson. White sauce, though – that was always a mystery. (I’m asian, so we didn’t grow up with cream-based anything.) I watched cooking shows on PBS where chefs in white toques whipped up bechamel and magically turned it into delicious sauces.

Then, one day, I found out that equal parts of fat + flour mixed with a cup of milk IS bechamel.


Today’s lesson: Bechamel and Roast Veg

Discussion points:

What’s a roux? Fat and flour cooked together in equal proportions.
What’s a bechamel? A fancy name for roux with 1 cup of milk added.

How can you alter a bechamel? The proportions of your roux. At 1 Tbs, it’s a thin gravy. At 2-3 Tbs, it’s sauce.

We talked about the different things you can do with a white sauce – use leftover fat from sausage patties instead and you have sausage gravy for biscuits. Add cheese and you have sauce for macaroni – which is what we did for today’s lesson.

Today’s lesson, pt 1: Cheese sauce
Step 1: Make a roux (melt 4 Tbs butter, stir in 4 Tbs flour)
Step 2: Slowly stir in 2 cups milk until smooth.
(Note: why 4 Tbs of butter and flour? Note that we are using 2 cups milk, so the proportion is still 2 Tbs fat/flour:1 C milk.)
Step 3: Season. Salt and pepper to start. Technically, by adding cheese we’re turning this into a mornay, so to boost the flavor we also added 1/2 tsp ground mustard. Then we started adding cheese, stirring in by handfuls until melted. Resist the temptation to add all the cheese at once; it has a tendency to separate and become grainy.

Today’s lesson, part 2: Roast vegetables

We sautéed vegetables previously. Steamed vegetables are good, but overly simple. Roast vegetables, though, can turn pariah sprouts into a dish your kids devour unquestioningly.

And the fact that they’re easy peasy doesn’t hurt.

Discussion points:

What happens when you roast vegetables? They caramelize.
Well, what’s caramelizing? A reaction induced by the application of heat. The naturally-occurring sugars in the vegetables start to cook, while the water cooks off. Tips become crispy, and darkened parts become sweeter. At the same time, the thicker parts soften as the interior cell walls break down.

Step 1: Heat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Step 2: Prep your vegetables. We went with broccoli and Brussels sprouts, two plants famously shunned by, well, everyone. Wash, and chop into roughly equally-sized pieces.
Step 3: Oil ’em up. Place vegetables in a large bowl and drizzle with a few tablespoons of olive oil. No need to be exact, just toss them around to coat until they look kind of shiny.
Step 4: Spread vegetables on the baking sheet and season generously with kosher salt and pepper. Into the oven.
Step 5: Roast about 25 min. Start checking at 20 minutes. They’re done when the tips are dark but stems are soft.


00:00 Preheat oven to 425 F. Start boiling a pot of hot water to cook macaroni.
00:05 Wash vegetables and start chopping.
00:10 Pot should be boiling. Drop in macaroni, stir to prevent sticking.
00:15 Oil and season the vegetables. On the tray, into the oven. Start heating one pan for the bechamel demonstration, start melting butter for mac and cheese topping in a small pan.
00:20 Start the roux. Send someone to drain the macaroni.
00:25 Add the milk for the bechamel, season. Have someone mix the bread crumbs with the melted butter.
00:30 Add the cheese to bechamel (now it’s mornay). Combine with macaroni in your serving dish, top with crumbs. Into the oven.
00:35 Start cleanup.
00:40 Check the vegetables, they should be ready to come out now. If the crumbs are browned on the mac and cheese, it can come out as well. While it cools for 5 minutes, finish cleanup and set out dishes to eat.
00:45 Serve.

Posted by on March 10th, 2017

Cooking School for Kids: Introduction


When I went to college, I had a great working knowledge of the microwave. I was okay at following directions to bake cookies. Oh, and I could assemble a sandwich – no problem there.

Cook dinner? HA.

A couple years out of school, I was asked to make dinner for some out-of-town guests one night. Skipping the gory details, I’ll cut right to the chase: it was inedible. Embarrassed as hell, I set out to learn to cook.

Fast forward a number of years: I’ve learned to cook reasonably well. A long way from MasterChef status, but well enough that I was asked by a kiddo if I would teach them to cook.

Hm, cooking school?

I start to look up some class options. Got $475 to hire a private chef who will give your kids cook lessons for a week? Me neither. I’m also cheap, so I wasn’t going to pay for a beginner’s curriculum. But, foolishly, I thought I’d look for one anyway.

My basic criteria:

  • For a complete beginner
  • That complete beginner is between 11 and 18
  • Small group size (10 people or less)
  • Lesson time kept around 1 hour
  • About 10 weeks worth
  • FREE (curriculum, not materials)

I know, I know – not asking much, am I? Well, just so you don’t waste 25 hours searching: what I was looking for, it ain’t out there. Well, until now, that is.

I found Home Ec lesson plans published by school systems (which is now called “Family and Consumer Sciences Education”, btw) but they were either too simple (“Let’s make a milkshake!”) or required resources I didn’t have (“Kitchen laboratory time: 2 hours/session, 3 days”).

So what do they need to learn?

I believe learning to cook is parts techniques, part fundamental thinking about food, and a little chemistry thrown into each.

The technique part includes stuff like knife skills and gathering vocabulary. Knowing what a saute is, or a roux, or roasting versus braising. Gathering the fundamentals gives you a reference point when you’re working in a kitchen.

The thinking habits are a little more complicated, but you can start asking with the core question: why is a corndog like a big mac? Answer: because they’re both, essentially, a kind of sandwich. Protein between two layers of starch, and portable. That’s it: the essence of a sandwich. The corndog has the added novelty of being on a stick, but other than that… you get the point.

For me, my views about food and cooking were permanently altered when I found myself deconstructing dishes in my head. Dice ingredients, saute or roast, add a sauce: that’s just about every weeknight casserole, ever. Make my own soup? Let’s see, I guess I would make a base, thin it out with my broth of choice – AH HA. It dawned on me that I really could make a better version at home, and usually for less money. Also, I realized that many, many, many dishes are the product of What Do I Do With These Leftovers thinking. WASTE NOTHING. Cheap, remember?

So, whatever we end up doing, the most important thing I want to impart to my students is a cooking mindset.

The practical bits

I’ve ended up designing a 1 hour lesson, to be taught once a week, and then the students spend the remainder of the week putting their skills into practice. Each week we’ll learn a skill or a concept, and practice by making a dish that we share at the end of the hour. Repeat and eat, 10 weeks.

Here are my notes. Feel free to read through them, but use at your own risk.

  • Week 1: Knife skills Recipe: Stir fry chicken and vegetables
  • Week 2: Onion and garlic. Recipe: French onion soup and cheesy garlic bread
  • Week 3: Saucy! Recipe: Red sauce, white sauce, skillet pasta
  • Week 4: The Incredibly Edible Egg Recipe: Cheese souffle
  • Week 5: Saute Recipe:
  • Week 6: Roast Recipe: Roast vegetables
  • Week 7: Boil, simmer, and steam Recipe: Skillet pasta, steamed vegetables
  • Week 8: Bake Recipe:The chocolate chip cookie experiment
  • Week 9: Recipe:
  • Week 10: Recipe:
Posted by on February 28th, 2017

Free Study Guides from Glencoe

The folks at Glencoe have published free study guides, available as PDFs. Yes, you could use Sparknotes or something similar – but these are easy to navigate and (for those of us who still cling to luddite ways) easily printable. Browsing through quickly, I found more than half the resources I would use with an 11th grade high school english reading list.

Glencoe Literature offers a collection of hardcover books that allows you to extend the study of literature to your choice of full-length novels and plays. Each Glencoe Literature Library book consists of a complete novel or play accompanied by several related readings, such as short stories, poems, essays, or informational articles.

Posted by on September 11th, 2016

Algebra I Curriculum, free online

Found two possibilities for free Algebra I curriculum. And you know me, I love the free.
Option 1: A complete curriculum from – This curriculum includes animated video instruction, a reading section, a textbook section (printable worksheets), and tests. It only has selected answers, however, so you may have to dig around a little if you aren’t certain of your answer.
Option 2: Blue Pelican math publishes a complete curriculum, AND makes the first semester free. To get you hooked, like those people giving out free samples outside the Lindt store and you eat one of those miraculous little golfballs and get sucked into the store and the next thing you know you’re at home on the couch, sheepishly wiping away smears of truffled chocolate, and wondering where $45 went. Honestly. BUT ANYHOW: You can use student and teacher materials, but no tests.

Posted by on September 7th, 2016

Algebra II curriculum – FREE

Blue Pelican publishes a complete Algebra II curriculum. Lessons are clearly laid out and explained in simple language. A motivated student could definitely completely this as a self-paced course. Only materials for semester I are free, and do not include tests.
Blue Pelican Math:
View the student version PDF:
View the Teacher PDF:

Posted by on September 7th, 2016