Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.


NBTS Blog Hop 2016: Curriculum Week – High School Lesson Planning

Here it is, folks – the long-awaited high school lesson planning post! And hey – it syncs up with iHomeschool Network’s annual Not Back to School Blog Hop for this year, which makes me happy. I don’t know why, exactly; I don’t actually participate the NBTS Blog Hop (as in, adding my link and everything). I just like that there’s a ‘plan’ and being on-task with it, I guess*. I’m weird; what can I say? Moving on then…

As you may know, my boys are technically a year grade apart, but I plan most of their work together. Since they’re so close in age, it’s just easier for me. That means that this year, since LBB is in 9th grade, and PeaGreen is in 8th, PeaGreen will actually start accumulating high school credits this year because he’s doing high school level work. Luckily, we live in Texas, a state with little to no state/government interference, regulations… oh, I mean assistance <wink,wink, nudge, nudge> so this work out quite nicely for us.

This is an interesting dilemma for me; on one hand, PeaGreen is perfectly capable of doing the same work his older brother is doing. Holding him back wouldn’t make sense to me. But at the same time, he is younger, and there’s a part of me that wants to make sure to keep that separation because as an ‘oldest child’ myself, I know how important that extra bit of privilege/responsibility is to identity. Then again, there’s a wider gap between me and my younger siblings, so maybe it’s less of a concern with closely spaced siblings? If you have input here, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. In any case, LBB will turn 15 in January and he’ll start Driver’s Ed, which will, at least for a while, give him a little bit of ‘extra’ that comes with age for a while.

Our school year was really easy to plan this year. When we started homeschooling, I decided to go with a 6-week on, 1 week off schedule, and school all year long. That got switched up and changed during the first few years for various reasons, but that’s always been my ‘ideal’. Last year, and most of this year, we’ve managed to maintain that, so I just stuck with that plan and mapped out the school year accordingly. That gives us 195 school days (we have some weekend days that we’re counting as ‘school days’ because of clubs or other projects planned for those days), spread out over 39 weeks, from September 2016-August 2017. This includes a month-long break in December, and a couple of weeks in July. In truth, there will be missed days here and there; our ‘normal’ school year runs somewhere in the neighborhood of 170-185 school days per year. I build a little padding in so that we necessary, I can take a break or call a ‘movie day’… or just skive off school entirely and go to the beach.
Here’s what a year’s worth of work looks like for my kids. It’s not quite accurate, because this doesn’t include their notebooks from this school year. They have one for CNN Student News/Current Events; Literature; Spelling/Grammar; Math; History and Science. But this is what goes into their binders each week over the course of a school year, and includes any worksheets or handouts that I give them or that they get from classes or clubs or events that they do during the year, arranged by week.  I don’t know if that’s ‘a lot’ or if it’s ‘not very much’. I try to avoid the trap of comparing what we do to what others do, but I thought I’d put this out there. The stacks are about 2.5 inches high in the center (when smashed down), if you’re wondering. I am about to file it all away, so I thought I’d snap a picture of it for posterity!

So… what I am sure you’re wondering is how I actually went about planning this school year, and what we’re using, right? Let’s get down to it!

As I mentioned before, LBB starts high school this year. We’re also in Texas, which means that although the TEA has regulations in place that govern how public schools may place and graduate students, private schools (which is what homeschools fall under in terms of designation) don’t have to follow those recommendations in any way. Shocking, right? I know… it scares the bejezus out of me, too, sometimes. Luckily, Annie & Everything is a blogger who apparently has my brain bugged, because every time I start freaking out over something high school related, she posts a blog that pretty much addresses my exact fears.

When there are no rules, what do you do (other than ‘pretty much whatever you want’)? I’ll admit it; started by looking at the TEA’s guidelines. As much as I fancy myself a bad-ass free-spirit who don’t need no fancy-schmancy ‘rulez’, the truth is that those guidelines are familiar and comfortable, and they’re just an easy place to start. We’re tweaking some of it, and have discussed with LBB his options as far as dual credit course and CLEPing courses that he covers well during his high school years, which means that he’ll be at least as prepared as his public school peers when it comes tome for secondary education. We’re starting with the basics, and letting him determine what direction he wants to go. While we’ve set University before him, that may not be his path (which is cool, man…), but we do want him prepared if that’s a direction he chooses to go in.

All that said, here’s what their actual schedule looks like this school year:

  • Math (D) (currently recapping middle school; will being Algebra I when finished)/Coding (1xW)
  • History – Ancients (2xW)/Geography (1xW)/Current World Events (3xW)/Community Service (1xM)
  • Science – Biology (3xW)/Science – Aquatic (2-3xM)
  • English I (3xW)/Literature I (D)/Grammar (D)/Speech 101 (1xM)/Writing (D)/Spelling (D)
  • Logic (1xW)/Debate (1xW)
  • Art History (1xW), Art Club (1xM), Art (practical)(2xM)
  • Music (orchestra – first year violin) Class (1xW)/practice (D = 1 hour)
  • Health (D) /Mental Health for Teens (spring semester 1xW)/Physical Education (D)/Home Economics (1xW)
  • plus notebooking for most subjects (D), field trips each week and driver’s ed in 2017

KEY: (D = daily) (#xW = 2 time per week, or 3 times per week, etc./ M=month)

They average between 4-5 hours of school work 3 days per week, with a lighter day of desk-work/book work on Wednesday (2-3 hours) to accommodate our homeschool group’s field trip or class, and this year we will have a full day at co-op on Thursdays. Like i said earlier, I don’t know if that’s a lot or only a little. Some days I feel like it’s a super lot; other days they get it done quickly and I wonder if I am being rigorous enough. Sometimes, homeschooling mommy-brain just won’t cut you any slack. Le sigh…

So here’s the grand finale – the part you may have been waiting for: What are we using this year? Here’s a list of most of the resources we’re pulling from this year. I don’t like ‘textbooks’, so you won’t see a lot of those on the list. Some of their classes are being taught by other homeschooling parents through either clubs, classes or our co-op. Having a strong support network/homeschooling community/village is so key to opening more options for both the homeschooled student and the homeschooling parent. We’ve worked so hard to build our group, and I cannot tell you how thankful I am to be part of such an amazing group, and how grateful I am to each and every one of the parents who are willing to put their time and effort into teaching and sharing and helping this community thrive. This year is going to be an amazing school year!

RESOURCES for this school year:


If you have resources that you love, or that you think I would, please comment and share them!
Happy homeschooling!


*upon further reflection, the NBTS Blog Hop is one of the first things I joined in on when we started homeschooling – I think it was the 2nd year they were doing it when we started – so it’s always been something that helped me feel connected to the homeschooling world, I suppose.


It’s May!


Well, it’s definitely summer now, and never you mind that the official start of summer is still another month away; this is Texas and Texas weather does not play by the standard rules. We had maybe two days of spring weather this year, and I think I was working on both of them, which is sad. But the good news is that and early summer means beach weather and I can’t wait to dig my toes into the sand! Our first  beach trip this year is coming up in a few weeks, and I am planning on digging out the beach bag this week in anticipation.

We started off this month with a vacation. I know – not super productive, but between work (which has gotten crazy) and just general stress and the blahs that were hard to shake, this mama needed a break, so I sent the kids to my brother’s for a week. Well, most of a week. My brother and sister-in-law live in Jasper, which is about an hour from us, so the boys for to go be country kids for a while. They have chickens, a pond, lots of room to roam, and best of all – no internet access. After a couple of days, I went up as well, which gave me a couple of days to unwind (for the most part).

We came back home and, naturally, jumped right back into the swing of things. Our homeschool group hosts a Teen Social each month, and this month’s event was a field day with games and contests followed by ice cream and swimming. Each parent submitted a mental challenge and a physical challenge, and the kids split into two teams to compete for bragging rights. There were a lot of games – more than we had time for – including a relay race, a LARP sword fight, a yoga pose challenge and an improv exercise. They had a great time!





We also finally got to go play D&D again – it’s been a while! The kids decided that we needed a picture that better illustrates the intensity and excitement of our campaign, so we staged this candid photo for you.


We join KidsBowlFree every year – it’s an awesome deal if you like bowling; kids get a free game every day during the summer, and you can add the family pass on for a single low price. I don’t have an endorsement deal with them or anything; we’ve just signed up for the last few years and it’s been a great way to have a thing to do in the heat of the summer that’s indoors and inexpensive, and family friendly. We did our first bowling a couple of weeks ago, but I didn’t snag any pictures.

We also had the last book club meeting and I am so annoyed that I also failed to grab a picture from that! It was a great group of kids this year, and I am so glad the boys actually got to participate this year. We always have had grand plans ion the past, but the date ended up in conflict with something else in our schedule. This year, it worked out – I think we only missed one meeting.

Park Day this month got rained out – at least we thought it did, so we rescheduled to one of our mom’s homes. I didn’t know it, but the families in our group got together and created  ‘Heather Appreciation Day’. I was so surprised! They wrote me the loveliest cards and just said the nicest things. I don’t typically think of myself as craving approval, but it was really nice to have it from so many moms that I have gotten to know and admire. It’s been so great to be part of their lives, and to watch them grow to support and inspire both me and the other moms in our homeschool group. We have such a great group, and I am so glad that they’re there to cultivate the vibe we have that makes our group the best!

There was also cake… amazing, delicious cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes, which is a fairly new bakery in our area. Y’all… it was ah-maz-ing. Seriously. My favorite cake now is the chocolate chocolate chip. It was SO GOOD!



We also spent that day prepping for WMC’s After School Playgroup Color War 2K16 (link below). We made holi powder with cornstarch and food dyes and water – so much mess fun! When you mix cornstarch and water, you get a non-Newtonian fluid, which is SUPER fun to play with. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make the best holi powder, so after some trial and error, we found that using only tiny bits of water and using gloved hands to mix the color in was the best way to get a good, bright mix.


This week, we took the kids back out to Clifton Steamboat Museum, which isn’t really a steamboat museum at all – it’s more an eclectic history museum. It started out as a private collection that belonged to the owner’s grandfather. The theme is ‘Heroes Past, Present and Future’ and it’s such a neat place! A couple of years ago, on our last visit, the kids took a photo with this same statue, so they did a re-creation this time. It’s tradition now, so we’ll have to do it again next time!

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Friday, we finally got all the holi powder off the kitchen table! We picked up my niece and joined quite a few of our friends at a local park for WMC’s After School Playgroup Color War 2K16.





Afterwards, we met some friends for dinner, and went to see a showing of The Goonies in one of Beaumont’s historic downtown theaters.

We’re coming up on the end of May, and since we school year-round, it won’t be a long break, but we do have a week coming up soon without class planned, so (even though we just had a week off) I’m ready for it. I will have a high school lesson planning post coming up in a few weeks – high school for LBB is only 3 months away! I can NOT believe that we’re there already. I did some preliminary planning already, but there are still some decisions to be made that I am stressing over. Too much; not enough; too rigorous; not rigorous enough… it’s a hard thing to decide on. Plus, our homeschool group is planning a co-op for high schoolers in the fall, so that’ll be on our plate as well.

Hope your last few weeks of school are passing quickly!




Homeschooling in Middle School: Lesson Planning

Well, we made it! Both of my boys are officially in Middle School. When we started our homeschooling journey back in 2010, I had a 2nd grader and a 1st grader, and now I have two pre-teens. I can scarcely believe how quickly time has passed.

Things have definitely changed over the years. If you’re new to homeschooling, then please be assured that we all started out right where you are – overwhelmed, questioning if we made the right choice, and wondering how we were going to make this work. And, like you will no doubt find, things just have a way of working out. We’ve tried lots of different things over our course of homeschooling, and some have gotten tossed right out the window while others have become a much-relied-upon staple of our learning day. The continuous theme has been ‘learning’, for me just as much as it has been for the boys.

When we started, I was really drawn to a more classical approach; more structure, more parent-directed. I wanted to make sure that they had a good foundation so that when they started looking into career focused education, they’d have a solid base to work from. Now that the boys are older, we’re moving past the basics and into a more interest-led dynamic, I am really glad that we chose to do things that way.

We recently celebrated our 5th ‘Not Back to School Day’, both at home (in our jammies) and with our homeschool group:




Once again, we’re trying some new things this year. We’re already a couple of weeks into the fall semester of our school year (we school January – November, on a 4-weeks on, 1-week off schedule). We ended up taking a month-long break during the summer, so we’ll be doing continuous schooling for the next couple of months with a few days off here and there. One big change is that I am working again. I stopped working when we started homeschooling in 2010. Now that the boys are older and they can work more independently, my schedule is a little more flexible. I work with our local produce co-op once a week, and am taking doula clients again, which means that I am on-call when I have a client who is due to deliver.

One thing that’s helped me keep the kids on-track when I can’t be there is Discovery K-12. DK12 is an online homeschool program that is free. If you know anything about me, then you know that I am all about the free! DK12 is designed to be a stand-alone curriculum for homeschooling students. The student logs in, and there are are daily assignments in all of the basic subjects (including PE and Art/Music). We’re using this as a supplement for days when I am not available to teach our regular curriculum, and it’s been working nicely to fill that void. It’s almost a review of sorts, because it’s different from what we normally do, both in scope and method. For example, we use Story of the World for history, and work chronologically, from ancients to modern. DK12 uses a more traditional, grade-based history program. While we’re in book 3 of SotW (Early Modern Times), LBB (7th grade) is studying Medieval times at the moment and PeaGreen is studying Early Civilizations – both of which we’ve covered before. I like that it revisits those eras; it gives them a different perspective than what we’ve learned in the past. I think the boys like it because they’re learning different things. Since my two are so close in age, I school them together for the most part. DK12 is grade-based, so they both get something different, and I think they like learning about something the other one isn’t privy to. That sounds odd to say, considering that if they were in a different school setting that would be the norm, but homeschooled kids have their own quirks, I guess!

English, which I use as a broad term to encompass Grammar, Language Arts, Writing, Handwriting, Spelling, Reading, Literature, etc…, is always a complicated think to explain, because I do group those subjects together. Right now, we’re working from Wilder’s ‘Little House’ books for reading & lit, and even grammar (using the mentor sentences method). We’re covering some geography as well, mapping out the lives of the Ingalls family as they travel. I would link to specifics, but there are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of resources for that series if you Google it. The boys are also reading Tom Sawyer in their DK12 lessons, so we’re working on that as well. We still lapbook, so we’re working on those for both books also.

Other grammar-related work includes sentence diagramming, and various writing assignments. I found a great idea for collecting topics for personal narratives, which we’re adding to our thoughtful journals (which we still make use of, and I LOVE!). Writing,, journaling and note-taking/notebooking are also staples for basically everything. We watch CNN Student News 2-3 times per week, and I have the kids take notes (traditional style or mind-maps). They also take notes for history and for several subjects when they work on DK12 assignments. Essays have gotten longer and more detailed, and research projects are more ‘on your own’ than in class time.

For math, we’re using Khan Academy’s student program. It’s gotten to the point that I am no longer comfortable ‘teaching’ them, so that’s a really good way for them to have expert examples and explanations for complex maths. I created my account, then added the kids. They do the practice and skills assessment assignments (mastery-based) for their grade level and earn badges, awards and energy points. I have my own account and am brushing up on my skills as well. We’re keeping tabs on each other and competing for energy points (and seeing who can upgrade their avatar fastest), which makes it competitive and fun.

We’re also working through Life of Fred this year. It’s more of a supplement at this point, but I am sure it will get more challenging as the kids work through the series. We’ve worked through The Number Devil in the past and are tacking it again this year as a supplement as well, and maybe some tasks in The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math if we need it.

For history, we’re in book 3 of Story of the World, soon to be in book 4. Science this year is focusing on biology. We’re using a text book and working from Khan Academy’s Biology section as well.

Because I am a slacker mom, I missed out on the NBTS Blog Hop this year, so I am playing catch-up with this all-in-one post. I updated my lesson planner in December last year, but never posted it. I kept some of the same elements, but re-designed the whole thing, and I am really happy with it! Here’s mine:

lesson planner THEAcademy2014picture

And here are downloadable blank versions for you to use if you like:

TAL_BLANK 2015PlannerPAGE1

TAL_BLANK 2015PlannerPAGE2

As always, we snagged school pictures for this year, although I may re-take them. We normally take pics outside, and it was sunnier that day than in previous years, so both boys have squinty eyes.

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How’s your new homeschool year going? What are your kids using/learning about? What grades are you teaching this year? Share!!

To Write, or Not to Write…

So, I have a dilemma, and I am hoping that someone(s) out there in the blogosphere can offer some ‘been there, done that’ and tell me that I have nothing to worry about so that I can rest my wee pretty head about this subject.

Let me explain… no; is take to long. Let me sum up… (sorry; I couldn’t resist!) Yeah. You get the long explanation with back-story. You know you wanted it. {wink}

When I was in school, I always loathed directions that said to ‘answer in complete sentences’, or to write anything out that could be answered more simply. English was my forte, and it was so boring to be stuck on that kind of thing for long periods of time.

Since we started homeschooling, partly with the thought of how much I hated writing text-book type stuff down just to show that I understood it, I’ve been letting the boys (ages 8 and 10) circle or underline or answer orally when we have grammar work – if you can show me what the noun or adverb or complete predicate is, or understand and can tell me how to merge two simple subjects into one compound subject, that’s the part I need you to know, right?

But now, I am starting to question that, not because I question whether they’re learning the material (they clearly are), but because I am wondering if all that writing is more for handwriting practice than to cement the concept. By no stretch of the imagination do my boys have what could be termed ‘neat’ penmanship. It’s improving, yes – notebooking is helping with legibility (we’re notebooking-lite; journaling for nearly every subject now), as is daily penmanship practice – but when they have to write things, it’s often with ‘stop. look. erase and write again’ reminders and they’re easily frustrated and they end up hating it. I’m not adverse to making them do things they hate, but I think that there has to be a better way to go about this.

To clarify a bit further, my forte is English. I love to write. Getting my thoughts down on paper or on-screen makes me happy. My boys’ forte is math – they’re ALL about the maths. Part of their joy in math is the nature of the lessons – we’re doing Everyday Math 4 and Saxon 3, plus supplemental materials, and there are tons of opportunities for manipulatives and math journaling. LBB is ADHD/SPD and PeaGreen is used to the more dynamic way that we do lessons and I’m fine with that – I think because I am so bad at math, I actually prefer that they’re stronger in math – but I am wondering if their lack of spelling skills and neat handwriting is more than ‘just’ being boys who aren’t interested in writing.

To be fair, they do their own share of writing on their own. They both have personal journals, notebooks and art journals that they write in, and I am seeing more of that now than I have been – so I don’t want to squash their natural interest in putting their thoughts on paper. I’ve been thinking that (and my Loverly Husband has offered is reassurances as well) that the writing will come with time and maturity and better hand control, etc.  – but I also don’t want to just ‘hope’ that they’ll get better. I keep thinking that Charlotte Mason said that around age 10 was when written narrations ‘should’ start and wondering if a more structured writing program towards middle school is ‘okay’.

That sounds silly – asking the internet if it’s ‘okay’ to wait; I appreciate the absurdity of the situation, but I am curious about how others handled reluctant writers. So how ’bout it? What about y’all out there – anyone have late writers? How did that work/turn out? What do you think of waiting vs. a more structured writing program at this age?

Hoping for some thoughtful replies and wishing you a lovely (and warm!) evening,



Lesson Planning 2011 Part 2: The Core

I consider ‘core’ the basic three: reading, writing and math; plus language arts (which includes phonics, spelling and grammar), science and history. Our daily schedule usually has all the above daily, with science or history on alternating days.

In my last post on this topic, I wrote about using the ‘complete’ workbooks as a guide. I really liked the math sections for both 2nd and 3rd grade in the HB series, and I think we’re going to go ahead and get them. We’ll still be using MEP as our main math, but the wkbk would be nice to supplement with, especially on days where I need an easy day!

We’ve pretty much given up on Saxon Math. I know some love it, but it’s just too overwhelming for me to use. We’re still using bits and pieces from it like the morning meeting, the daily problems and warm-up, problem or concept of the day – stuff like that, but as our main squeeze, I’m ditching it. We’ll also be using Math Mammoth, Lesson Pathways and Khan Academy videos for new concepts, and plenty of manipulatives for illustration and repetition. We’re still math journaling to keep track of math work and to serve as our weekly review. If you haven’t seen Integer Jim’s math journals, then do check them out – they’re something to aspire to!

The all-in-one workbooks also have spelling and LA, but I don’t know how much of that we’ll really use. We’ll be going back to doing an individual spelling lesson this year; I’ve let it slide as a stand-alone subject in favor of working on it through writing. That’s been going well and I think that my plan for this coming year falls into line with that method rather than the ‘learn this list’. My kids both have a hard time with spelling, so we’re going to go ‘old school’… as in, to the 1960’s. I have Power 2 Spell and Dr. Spello (this is 4th ed.; mine is 2nd edition and from 1968, but the table of contents list is the same). LBB has auditory issues, so I am hoping that going through  this workbook will help him with slowing down his thinking a bit and really listening. Once we’re done with Dr. Spello, we’ll move on to Power to Spell 2. It’s a second grade level book, but I think they’ve ‘dumbed down’ the spelling words over the years. I have a more recent spelling textbook for 3rd grade and the words in it are less challenging than the ones in PtS2. In any case, both books focus on ‘hearing’ sounds and connecting them with the letter that represents that sound. I haven’t been able to find a link to the Power to Spell book that I have, but this is it:

I used printouts from for LA concepts this past year; I’m hoping that the workbook will help provide more direction for this coming year. One of the things I liked about Charlotte Mason style and about Moving Beyond the Page’s ‘year overview’ was that LA, science and history are taught in conjunction with literature; using the reading selections to highlight, illustrate or expound upon the lesson. I’d like to work towards that more this year.

For our main LA curriculum, we’re considering using English Maven in addition to the workbook’s LA section. EM is computer-based, which appeals to my boys, esp LBB. We’ve also been using KISS grammar to some extent, but it is hard to navigate and use without an extensive read-through and exploration before use. Once you’re used to it though, it’s a good (if incomplete for all grades) program. Honestly, I think that the biggest helper for my kids in grammar and LA concepts has simply been reading. The Core Knowledge books also have a good overview of literature and skills by grade, so we’ll make sure to cover those as well.

The boys spend at least half an hour reading every day and when we started homeschooling, I was reading to them every day as well. We’ve gotten away from that, so I really want to focus back on that as well. I’ve noticed a marked improvement in both of the boys’ reading skill since we’ve been homeschooling. We started reviewing basic reading skills and they’re taken off since then. I use some of the reading assessment tools from A-Z Home’s Cool Homeschooling to check their progress. I don’t know how ‘accurate’ they are, but it gives us a starting point at least.

The writing stuff will be a challenge. Both boys are great at dictating their thoughts, not so much at writing them down. This is an age thing, I believe, and we’ll be working on developing and improving both handwriting and writing skills more this year. We started cursive with LBB in M5 last year; PG is still working on D’Nealian print. We’re using  Handwriting Practice books, along with custom-printed worksheets that I make (themed relevant to something we’ve been working on or will do). The boys both have email addresses and blogs for journaling online. We haven’t been as diligent on that as we might have been, but the goal for this coming year will be at least one blog per week. (Contact me for the link to their blogs. If you have a homeschooler who is looking for a pen pal, we can chat about that, too.) Journal prompts and handwriting worksheets also come from SuperTeacherWorksheets and whatever I may think of or they come up with to write about. For 2011′s school year, we will be focusing heavily on handwriting, note-taking and constructing paragraphs and reports in addition to daily practice.

Moving on…

I find science and history to be both extremely challenging and laughably easy to ‘teach’. I find it very easy to integrate both into the curriculum just through everyday ‘stuff’ – field trips are usually science themed and the world around us presents so many opportunities for delving into both of those subjects. That said, I find it hard to measure where they are because we’re not really using a linear system of learning. Not that that’s a huge issue or anything, but I am considering moving back to a more structured model for this year. Yes, I realize that this is more for my own need to quantify rather than a real ‘need’ for structure in these areas, but that’s how I roll. {wink}

For science, I am considering getting Spectrum’s 3rd grade workbook to use as a spine. I have our ISD’s science text books for 1-3rd grade (I found them at Goodwill), but they’re SO BORING, and quite frankly… simple. My boys are way past that level, so we need something a little more in-depth. I really like Moving Beyond the Page’s idea of integration of science and history into the LA work, so my plan is to work on doing that this year. I’ve also gushed about Super Science Concoctions in the past, and continue to extol its virtues. Fast, easy and fun; we’ve never been disappointed. I also have Jr. Boom Academy, which is similar to SSC and just as fun, as well as a variety of subject specific science books by Rosemary Althouse and Cecil Main (magnets, water, air, food, as we grow, colors) that have experiments and explanations of ‘how this works’ that we can incorporate into lessons this year as needed.

History ‘worked into everyday’ is easy. History as a ‘systematic course of study’ is more challenging. I really like The Well Trained Mind’s idea of history in stages; we’re current with 3rd grade (Late Renaissance – Early Modern (1600-1850) and will continue in that vein. MacroHistory has sectioned links that are great for timeline-making; we’ll be starting our scroll version this year. Mosaic, using SWB’s Story of the World was recommended to me; but SOTW seems to be pretty faith-based and I prefer not to use it. Also, there are three volumes (and several versions) of SOTW, so it’s confusing. Mosaic can also be used with Gombrich’s A Little History of the World; I’m finding that A Short History of the World by Alex Woolfe mostly works too. Again, the Core Knowledge books and the all-in-one will have some contributions to our curriculum this year; it will be as we get started that I determine how much of what we’ll actually use on a regular basis.

Learning Tools

A word about worksheets: they really don’t work for us – not in the traditional sense, anyway. We usually do them together, aloud and on the chalkboard (we have a 5′ long school chalkboard in our schoolroom). I may write the actual problem from the worksheet on the board or re-work it into pictures or symbols, or I may get the kids to write the problem or question out. I use the sheet to record answers and take notes from the lesson, and then file the sheet.

Lapbooks: We’ve been working on lapbooks for the last few months and will continue throughout this year, supplementing almost every subject with lapbooking fun. I love’s lapbook templates and unit studies. They’re easy to combine and mix-and-match as needed. HomeschoolHelperOnline also has a list of lapbooks, and you can’t help but be in awe of the resource list at Eclectic EducationKickButtMama’s master list of free printables is really spiffy, too. Practical Pages Lapbook Pages and  Jimmie’ s Collage Minibooks also have a bunch of nifty templates that you can print, cut and keep handy for lapbooking on the fly.

Manipulatives: we use file folder games I have this book), computer games, diagrams, lapbooks, flash cards, puzzles, math manips (like tiles, geoboards, marbles, playing cards, stones, legos, abacus, fraction tiles, math mini-office, etc.), maps, posters, crafts and projects – literally ANYTHING that I find or the boys show an interest in to make learning fun, exciting, engaging and memorable. Sometimes, we find things that we enjoy, sometimes we decide in the middle of something that this is not for us and chuck it in favor or attacking the lesson from a different perspective. It’s all about trial and error and keeping an open mind.

I’d also like to recommend Topsy’s A Few of My Favorite (Secular Homeschooling) Things article from a few weeks ago at Some of the resources listed there are too old for my boys, but I’m keeping them in mind for later.

Whew! That is a LONG list of stuff! I’ve been working on this post for weeks now and I am glad it’s all lined out. I’m sure I’ll be tweaking this more, adding and shelving things as we go, and I will have an ‘M1 Lesson Planning’ post with more detailed lists for the first 4 weeks going up as well. Up next: Lesson Planning 2011: The Extras!

If you’re lesson planning for next year, feel free to link to your blog in the comments so I can poke around!



Love Notes

Michelle at Lagniappe Academy shared a project that she and her DD are doing, which is a revamp of a post from The Homeschool Post that I think is amazing and wanted to both share and comment on (I know, you’re so surprised at that, right? {wink})

When I was little, my mom used to put notes and cards and little prizes in our lunch boxes. Infrequently enough that we weren’t checking the box every day, but frequently enough that after some time they were expected. We would know they were going to be in there, yet it was always a surprise to see it. She still does that; in fact, last week she sent me a card (through the mail, even though we live next door to each other) that was funny and cute and specifically to say, “I think you’re a great mom”.  She sent one to my sister and sister-in-law, too. It’s a wonderful thing, to be told out of the blue that someone you love thinks highly of you.

When my kids were in school, how could I not carry on with this tradition? It was challenging, because they were pre-readers, but we managed. Lots of pictographs (eye, heart, U) and little trinkets that even sometimes ended up coming home. Now that we’re homeschooling, it’s a bit more challenging to get this kind of unexpected delight in. Enter the Love Notes journal idea.

I love the idea of this kind of journal being a communication tool, rather than focusing on the academics of it. It’s really difficult to get my kids to focus on the now sometimes. We’ll be having a discussion about an event or a reaction and they’ll come out of left field with something completely different; Monty Python could not have been more surprising. I think that this will help them see that they do, indeed, have my complete attention, and whatever it is that they want to say can be clearly ‘heard’.

I can also see the benefit academically that this type of writing can net. Since LittleBoyBlue and PeaGreen both have typical ‘boy’ handwriting, I think they could both use some non-‘school’ opportunities to practice, and this seems like a lovely way to accomplish that.

I read on se7en+1’s blog a description of one of her kids – the one who likes to hurry up and get to the next thing. Both of my kids are like that, and so art projects and writing assignments are usually done to the minimum standard, and with as much haste as can be managed, just to get ‘done’. Though that’s not true in all cases, it seems like anything that requires academic creativity is rushed through. Maybe this will help them with that, and let me express how awesome I think that they both are; plus, this will be neat to go back through in a few years. My best friend in middle and high school and I got tired of exchanging lengthy notes between classes, so we started keeping notebooks that we’d pass back and forth. We don’t have any of them anymore, and I so wish we did. Oh, the teenage angst, lol.

It’s finding little things like this Love Notes idea that make me really appreciate the technological age we live in. I think that one of the most awesome things about the homeschooling community is their willingness to share – and there are some clever mamas (and daddies, too) out there. Many of the ideas that we now consider a necessary part of our homeschooling day have come from an idea I found on a blog or homeschooling community forum, or from talking to a homeschooling friend. Homeschooling parents (especially blogging ones) are always commenting on lessons they’ve learned, ideas they’re going to try, resources they’ve found to be helpful – it’s such a wonderful and open community, and I am so glad to be part of it.

So to ALL of you out there who regularly let me peek into your homeschooling life, THANK YOU!!



New This Week

We have a few new additions to our curriculum that I think are pretty cool that I’d like to share.

MES-English ,  FunFonix and Sight Words with Sampson

PeaGreen is having the worst time with self-confidence and reading. We’re over halfway through with 100EL, and he’s reading the stories in there just fine. We have Dolch flash cards, and he zips through those with only a few misses – but you give him a book or a sheet with more than a couple of lines to read and he’s absolutely overwhelmed.

He also reads backwards – with the ending sound first a lot of the time. I think that’s an age thing since he usually corrects himself. In any case, we’re working on building confidence and recognizing letter combinations and I think that these two sites will help that.

MES-English is a site for English as a second or foreign language, but it’s phonics section has a bunch of printable flash cards and handouts. We’re using the handouts as posters on the wall, and the flash cards I printed and cut to do drills. I had to re-size them to fit (2 per page) and it made nice-sized cards – about the size of a playing card. They’re easy for him to hold and flip through. I may get them laminated and put on a binder ring.

FunFonix has printable workbooks that are probably similar to other phonics workbooks, but you can print all or some of the pages. I printed out all of the first one, but may not for the others; it just depends on how quickly he moves through it. That’s part of the charm though – I want him to breeze through it to build confidence. We’re also still using Lesson Pathways and KISS Grammar for both boys, so this workbook is just a little extra for PeaGreen.

Sight words with Sampson is a flash site that I’m going to try out starting tomorrow. It uses 8 word lists and I think we’re going to use them as spelling words for now. Both of the boys find spelling to be a challenge, so maybe this will help since it’s more visual. I’ll let you know how that goes.

As usual, my additions are free to use  – I am all about the free resources. I found FreeHomeschooling101 a while back and LOVE their collection of links, and I also found Frugal Homeschooling ‘s article, Spending Time to Save Money. In comparing what she had to work with, I realize that we have many of the same resources here. Our library is great, we have more museums per square mile than any other US county (or something like that – there’s a TON of them!) and a relatively large homeschooling community (even if they’re not particularly open to ‘outsiders’ coming into their little groups) – but to give credit where credit is due, those homeschooling groups have done a lot to make homeschooling ‘normal’ in our community – no one bats an eye if we’re out and about on a school day during school hours because they figure we’re homeschooling.

I was reading somewhere that homeschoolers who want free resources are distasteful, but I disagree. I don’t expect companies to make their resources that others have to pay for free for homeschoolers, but there are plenty of resources – great resources – out there for homeschoolers to make use of without shelling out a fortune in curriculum. I also think of it as if I were wanting to learn something. Practically anything that I want to know more about, I can learn for free – all it requires is a little effort!

A couple more things I’ve found to be of interest, recommended by the lovely ladies over at Secular Homeschooling are Waymarking (similar to Letterboxing and GeoCaching, only different) and a really neat poster that talks about Forecasting the Weather.