Teaching Textbooks

The First Six Weeks for Our 8th Grader

Laurianna is working on her 8th grade homeschool year this year, which has meant a larger workload for her, especially as she is working on six high school credits in addition to a few other subjects. Over the past six weeks it has been so incredibly amazing to watch her step up and take on the workload (with hardly a complaint other than typical teen emotions at times).

This has really been such a new area for us both. Remember preschool and early childhood are my specialties and where much of my focus has been for many, many years. Making the switch to actual brain work has been – umm…interesting at times! (But it’s all good!)

Here’s a peek at what Laurianna has been working on. For high school credit she is working on Algebra 1 (1 credit), Geography (I credit), Spanish (1 credit), Literature (1 credit), Physical Science (1 credit), Greek Mythology (1/2 credit), and an extra science class (1/2 credit). You can get a peek at our overall high school plan here.

Here are a few highlights of the last six weeks…

North Star Geography

North Star Geography Experiments

Geography has been one of Laurianna’s favorite ‘new’ subjects this year. We’re using North Star Geography, a new program from Bright Ideas Press, and she has been LOVING it. She literally has some new little tidbit she is telling me about daily, between her country fact sheets, what she is learning in her mapping time, or as a part of the hands-on projects.

Email subscriber can click here to watch the video clip.

The hands-on activities are probably her favorite part of the lessons (see the above project), and although it is one of her more intense classes, it is FUN. To me that speaks volumes alone! She’s also been pulling out our GeoPuzzles to work on and help her remember the various country placements.

Not only do I love hearing about all that she is learning, but I recently discovered the Excel spreadsheet grading sheet Bright Ideas Press provides as a part of the program and am 100% in love with that. With all the lovely quizzes and mapping projects, my life just got a lot easier (and my brain has to think a whole lot less!). Amen.

Physical Science

Glider from Everday Exploration

Even though she does most of the work during the week, Laurianna meets with a small group of homeschoolers (four total) to review the labs and other work in her physical science class. Everyone in the house has enjoyed watching her glider progress over the last few weeks as well. It’s a little bigger than we expected – but oh so fun! Keeping two certain boys away from it has been difficult!

Literature and Writing

All of her other classes have been going along well too, including her Lit class (another one we are working on as a small co-op). One thing that I have to say – I am SO very thankful for our using WriteShop 1 & 2 the last two years with Laurianna. That program gave her such a great headstart in becoming a great writer – which shows in her literature papers.

And there have been a lot of papers – even with only four kids. Enough that as the teacher I am remembering one of the main reasons I did not pursue that last semester of my English education degree. (grins)

The kids are taking it all in stride and very excited because many of the books and short stories we are reading this year are also movies, so we get to spend time together comparing the book to the movie as well. It’s the little things that make life fun, right? Personally, I can’t wait for the boys to sit through Jane Eyre (hee hee).

Saxon Algebra 1

And Algebra 1 – our switch to Saxon was mainly because a friend of Laurianna’s was using it, so she wanted to as well. Despite her misgivings about Algebra and her belief that it wouldn’t click with her, she doing great, and I’m remembering how much I absolutely love this realm of math (no, seriously I do!).

In other subjects (Greek Mythology, History, Spanish, etc…) she is working along and doing great! That pretty much wraps up our first six weeks of school for 8th grade. How are your middle and high school adventures going?

Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

Little Passports Geography Sale


Little Passports is a fun geography program that we’ve used over the years (and are currently using with our youngest). Our kids have loved the special packages that they get each month in the mail as well as the activities that go along with it – both at home and online.

Little Passports Coupon Code

This month Little Passports is celebrating FIVE years of filling mailboxes with geography learning and I have a coupon code to share with you all!

Sale: 15% Off New Subscriptions through 4/8
Dates: Now – 4/8/2014
Promo Code: HAPPY5

About the Little Passports Program

Little Passports is a subscription program that is delivered right to your doorstep. Children ‘travel’ the world with their imaginary pen pals Sam and Sofia. Each month a new package arrives full of special activities, souvenirs, a letter, and games to help your child learn about different countries around the world. Parents can choose between a world edition or the USA edition to learn about our country and the world around us!


Click HERE to use promo code HAPPY5

during checkout and save 15% off!

Cherry Blossoms in Porcelain Vase Art Project – Asian Theme Art Lesson

Last month our co-op spent some time learning about a few countries in Asia. As part of the lesson with the older group {grades 4 and up}, we worked on an art project tying in a few different themes: blue and white pottery from China and cherry blossoms from Japan. 

Cherry Blossom in Porcelain Vase art project from Homeschool Creations


After looking on Pinterest for some ideas {the vase from this one, the background from this one, and the color mixing on white/blue porcelain from here}, we merged a few projects together to put together a fun art project that the kids loved – and the results were FABULOUS! The kids learned some watercolor techniques, practiced mixing colors and shading, and experimented with several different mediums. Want to tag along on our project?

Supplies We Used:

Our time frame: 3 hours start to finish            

Grades: 4th – 8th

    Learning Watercolor Techniques

watercolor techniques

Our first part of the lesson was spent learning how to use watercolor Paper. We used liquid watercolors {these are different than cake watercolors, fyi}. We spent time talking about how to create the right shade of color we wanted {we used yellow, blue, green, and red for our choices}.

watercolor techniques

Each child had a piece of watercolor paper that was 1/3 of an 11”x14” piece of paper {watercolor paper is fairly pricey}. We practiced on some scraps before tackling the actual paper. The kids learned about the watercolor wash technique and that the watercolors will adhere to the parts of the papers that are wet.

watercolor techniques

If you look at the backgrounds on their projects, you’ll notice there is a white border. Part of the fun was leaving an area that wasn’t wet when they applied the watercolor wash. A few kids practiced the controlled wash, while a few others tried the open drip technique. {Much fun all around}.

Great video tutorial to learn a few basic watercolor techniques:

Watercolor techniques
    Learning About Blue and White Porcelain

While our watercolor backgrounds were drying, we had a short lesson on the history of blue and white porcelain and talked about the Willow Pattern story. While the Willow pattern isn’t from China, it was fun to talk about, especially to note some of the details in the pattern and how the pottery could tell a story.

Asia Art Lesson-19

Once the history lesson was finished, each child sketched a vase design on their Bristol Paper. Although we asked the kids to attempt a simple design, several decided to work on a more intricate pattern. The kids cut out their vases and then designed a pattern for their vase.

Asia Art Lesson-9

We mixed together blue and white tempera paint to make six varying shades of paint. Using their choice of colors, they painted their vases following their patterns and set them aside to dry.

Couch Coop October - January-45

One of the boys in our group did such an amazing job on his design. He was pushed for time {and would have done so much more}, but his vase was the most intricate {notice those thin handles and remember this was a vase that is about 3” tall} and a well thought out design including the two birds from the Willow pattern story.

Adding Cherry Blossoms

Asia Art Lesson-16

Once the vases were completed, we pulled out black tempera paint to paint branches coming out of our vases. The kids each placed their vases on their watercolor backgrounds to estimate where the branches would need to be shown coming out of the vase {each child had a different vase design and the vases were not yet adhered to the watercolor paper}.

Note: we were going to use India ink, but forgot to pick some up at the store. I would definitely recommend the ink vs. tempera for more of a ‘pop’ on the branches.

Asia Art Lesson-37

After the branches were in place, we used q-tips to dot pink and white tempera paint ‘cherry blossoms’ on the branches. Most of the kids did a grouping of pink dots with a single white dot center.

Once everything was dry, we used a double sided tape to adhere the vase to the watercolor paper, and we were done! Here’s a look at all the finished projects:

Asia Art Lesson-27boy, 4th grade Asia Art Lesson-32girl, 5th grade Couch Coop October - January-35boy, 5th grade
Couch Coop October - January-34boy, 6th grade Couch Coop October - January-36girl, 6th grade Couch Coop October - January-43
Couch Coop October - January-37girl, 7th grade Asia Art Lesson-42girl, 8th grade Couch Coop October - January-32boy, 8th grade

This honestly was one of my favorite lessons that we’ve done together with the co-op – and one of those that makes me excited to do more. Hope you enjoyed it too! Please feel free to leave any questions, because it is highly possible I forgot something! {grins}


Other Art Lessons for Children:

Helpful Links:

Amazon Animals Chalk Pastel

Last year you may remember me sharing a few of the chalk pastel projects that we worked on thanks to Tricia at HodgePodge. This year, for one of our co-op projects, I somehow managed to sign myself up for the Amazon region art spot with the older group of kids.

Amazon Animals Chalk Pastel

Relying on all the fun we had last year with the chalk pastels and knowing how forgiving they can be, we pulled together a fun Amazon Animals Chalk Pastel project for the kids using a few basic supplies {see a version of this project at Deep Space Sparkle}.

  • 9×12 black paper {we used construction paper because it’s what we had handy, but in the future I would use something different}
  • Chalk Pastels
  • Oil Pastels {to outline}
  • And LOTS of baby wipes. Lots, people.

Amazon Animal Chalk Pastel-10

Each of the children {ages 8 to 13} chose a picture of a frog, bird, or animal that had been printed out prior to the class {I printed out a few pictures via a Google image search}.

Amazon Animal Chalk Pastel-14

They lightly sketched their version of the image onto their paper using a black oil pastel and then colored it in with the chalk pastels.

Amazon Animal Chalk Pastel-19

Once the chalk pastels had been smudged, outlines of the picture were retraced to make it ‘pop’.

Amazon Animal Chalk Pastel-17

The kids all had a blast creating their projects and we think they turned out great!

Amazon Animal Chalk Pastel Amazon Animal Chalk Pastel-3 Amazon Animal Chalk Pastel-4
Amazon Animal Chalk Pastel-5 Amazon Animal Chalk Pastel-6 Amazon Animal Chalk Pastel-7
Amazon Animal Chalk Pastel-8 Amazon Animal Chalk Pastel-9 Amazon Animal Chalk Pastel-2


Resources for Chalk Pastel Art

Here are a few projects we’ve worked on using chalk pastels and also a few resources in case you would like to work on one with your family:

Fall Art Tutorials Seasonal Chalk Pastel Bundle


Niger Geography Printables and Unit Study Links


In support of the Raise a Village campaign, I am part of a team of homeschool educators  partnering with Samaritan’s Purse to bring you part of an educational unit study of Niger.

Today I have a few printables to share with you based on the country of Niger {not Nigeria – did you know there were two countries in Africa with such similar names?}. If you are working on a geography unit for Africa, these printables will be a fun addition to your learning. Don’t forget to check below too. There are links to several other helpful printables, art projects, and lesson plans from other homeschool moms to help you out as well.

Niger Mapping Page, Country Factsheet, and Prayer Printables

Niger Geography Pages via HomeschoolCreations


The Niger Geography Printables include the following worksheets:

  • a mapping sheet for the country of Niger {map rivers, countries, mountains, and other geographical information}
  • a country factsheet to write down information about Niger including when it became a country, current population, climate, type of government, and more
  • a prayer sheet to display and use when studying about Niger

You can find out specific information on the country of Niger that will help you fill out the worksheets by visiting this site and also the Raise a Village page from Samaritan’s Purse.

—->  Download the Niger Geography Printables HERE <—-

Don’t miss these FREE geography printables listed by continent…

image image image image image image

Additional Printables, Projects, and Ideas for a Niger Unit Study

Visit the following blogs for more free printables and unit study ideas to use with your family when learning about the country of Niger:

Raise a Village from Samaritan’s Purse


You can find out how Samaritan’s Purse is partnering with Guidan Gado, a village in the country of Niger where families struggle in hopeless situations.

Raise a Village is an effort to change lives by supplying livestock, seeds, tools, and other aid that will provide the 1,400 people living in Guidan Gado with a hope-filled future. It is just one of the many ways we are working in Niger, which is one of the poorest countries on earth.

Follow the progress of Raise a Village.


Jolanthe Signature

I volunteered to create printables and share information about Raise a Village from Samaritan’s Purse. I was not compensated in any form and all thoughts, printables, and such are my very own.

Free Homeschool Geography Resources

free homeschool geography resources

If you are looking for free geography printables to go along with your homeschool studies, below you’ll find several notebooking pages you can use in your home. 

Click on one of the globe to search for geography resources by continent. Each page has downloads for flag coloring and information pages, mapping pages and links to blog post full of lesson plans and additional information.

Africa   Asia   Australia
Europe    North America    South America

free geography resources

Here’s a quick look at a few more free geography printables to help you out.

world flag cards for matching

World Flag Cards ~ The world flag cards represent 35 countries based on the countries that are studied in Galloping the Globe {with a few extras thrown in}. The set also contains 6 cards that represent 6 of the 7 continents {Antarctica is excluded} so cards can also be sorted by the continent the country flag belongs to. Country name cards are also included for your child to match the names of the countries with the appropriate flag. Also includes a key at the end of the document to help double check your answers.

Children Just Like Me notebooking page

Children Just Like Me Notebooking Page ~ This notebooking page was created to go along with the book Children Just Like Me. Your child collects all the information for the notebooking sheet from the children’s stories in the book. You can read more about the page here.

country fact sheet notebooking page for geography studies

Country Fact Notebooking Page ~ This notebooking sheet can be used for any country. There is room to record information about the country: country facts, famous people, landmark(s), and other fun information. Also room to draw pictures, add clip art and journal. You can see an example here.

science fact notebooking sheet for geography studies

Science Fact Notebooking Page ~ Similar in layout to the Country Fact Notebooking Page, this has room for famous inventors and inventions, science facts about the country, plant and animal life, etc…

famous person notebooking page

Famous Person Notebooking Page ~ Have a famous person that lived in the country you are studying? This is a notebooking sheet records information about that person: where s/he lived, hobbies, childhood, and what they are famous for. There’s even a little space to add a picture if you’d like.

country geography notebooking page

Country Geography Notebooking Page ~ Jot down some notes on the country you are studying: square miles, longitude/latitude, natural resources, religions, languages and more. It also has space to add a picture of the country you are learning more about.

And if you’re looking for more geography fun, you can take a virtual adventure with Little Passports ~ all you have to do is walk to your mailbox to start. :)


Hope that a few of these resources help you all out!