Homeschool math

Making a Simple Compass – Learning about the Earth’s Magnetism

making a simple compass and learning about the Earth's magnetism -

As part of our history time this year, each week we are working on simple projects with friends to go along with our studies. One week we may make miniature teepees, another we tie knots that sailors use. This past week we talked more about how compasses work and had fun making a simple compass of our own. 


We’ve been learning about early explorers to the Americas and talking about how they used compasses to help them find their way across the wide ocean. Truly they were much more adventurous than I am, because I don’t believe I’d be willing to do what they all did (however thankful I am to be living in North America now). 

It only require a few simple supplies to put our compass together and the best part of all – it really worked! Granted, we won’t be taking our compass on any grand ocean expeditions in the near future, but the kids were so excited and carefully watched as it found north each time. We tried it with several different needles to see if there was any difference, but all three we tried worked well.  

Making a Simple Compass


Here’s a quick look at what we used to create our compass. You’ll need: 

  • a needle
  • a magnet (a washer-sized magnet will work as well – we used one the size of a domino)
  • a cork
  • a bowl and water
  • tape (optional)


  1. Carefully rub the sewing needle on the magnet at least 30 times in the same direction (be sure not to rub it back and forth). 
  2. Tape the needle to the outside of the cork. We didn’t have any tape handy, so instead we poked it into the side of the cork. 
  3. Place the cork in a bowl full of water. Be sure the bowl is wide enough to let the cork rotate and move around a bit. 
  4. Once the cork has stopped moving, check and see what direction it is pointing. Compare the location to an actual compass – don’t hold the compass too closely to your homemade compass because it can skew the results. Gently turn the cork again and wait to see where it is pointing this time (is it the same area?). 


Why it works: When the iron/steel needle is rubbed against the magnet, the particles line up and turn the needle into a temporary magnet. The needle then aligns with the Earth’s magnetic field. 

The entire project took us less than ten minutes – super easy and a great chance to talk more about magnetism and compasses. 

Our 4th Grade Homeschool Curriculum Choices

4th grade homeschool curriculum choices - from Homeschool Creations

The main focus this year for Kaleb is reading. His reading skills grew tremendously last year, but with reading being the core of his starting to work on subjects independently (something important in the upcoming years), the core of all we do and focus on needs to be reading. Together he and I are reading aloud to each other and reviewing, reviewing, reviewing so the areas he struggles in becomes much more natural for him. Zachary’s 4th grade year (our other son) was the point when reading finally ‘clicked’ for him, so although I’m trying not to compare too much, I am truly hoping and praying everything really falls into place for him this year and he feels comfortable with his reading skills. 

Another area we will be targeting is history/geography. Kaleb will be working with Zachary (6th grade) on these two subjects, as well as some friends of ours. The intent in history is to work on a similar cycle with the boys and Laurianna so we can tie in some field trips with another family. 

The bulk of Kaleb’s studies are still done together with me, with the exception of math, since we use a computer-based program that essentially reads the lesson to him. He can definitely read more than he lets on most days – it’s just that struggle to actually DO it, rather than letting his siblings jump in (when they are so willing to do so). 

4th Grade Homeschool Curriculum

Here’s a look at the overall plan for our 4th grade year…

Kaleb has been going through science experiment ideas with me and we are compiling a list to work on about one experiment or STEM project each week. This boy is ALL about math and science, so he will be working on plenty of hands-on projects throughout the year both with me and on his own. It’s not uncommon for him to pull out our Little Bits set and work on something while he is waiting for me or when he is finished with his work. 

On the flip side, he is also a boy that loves to create and work on art projects. As the year progresses, his wall will be covered with various creations from Home Art Studio. I absolutely LOVE this program and the fact that Kaleb can work independently on his art projects – and all I need to do is prep a tray for him with all the supplies. Super simple and he can’t get enough of it. Win-win! 

Co-op Learning

This year we are only participating in one co-op with all of the kids and trying to keep life a bit more simple in that regard. While Kaleb isn’t as upset about it (he’s a fairly even-keeled kiddo emotionally), he does love our smaller co-op because his best buddy is also a part of it. Our co-op meets every other week with the elementary and middle school kids, so it isn’t overwhelming for planning. This year they will be working on the following two classes: 

  • Spanish – last year they had a level 1 Spanish for elementary with one of the moms – and really loved it. She is hoping to use a new program this year – so we’ll keep you posted on how that is going. 
  • Five in a Row – two of the moms tag-team teach this class and work on one book each month – art projects, science experiments, etc… 

Curriculum in Year’s Past

In case you are interested in seeing the curriculum that brought us to this point, here’s a peek at what we’ve used with Kaleb the past few years:

If you are new to homeschooling and aren’t sure where to begin in choosing homeschool curriculum, please don’t let this post overwhelm you! Check out the entire Homeschool Basics series for answers to more frequently asked homeschool questions.

See What the Other Kids Are Up To…

Click any of the images below to see our homeschool picks for the current school year. You’ll also find links to past years choices in each post. 

4th grade homeschool curriculum choices - from Homeschool Creations 6th grade homeschool curriculum choices 2016 from Homeschool Creations 8th grade homeschool curriculum choices 2016 10th grade homeschool curriculum choices from Homeschool Creations 2016

3rd Grade Year in Review – Homeschool Curriculum Choices

3rd grade homeschool year in review

We are far past officially DONE with the year, but it’s fun to look back and see what worked well – or didn’t work. (There’s no shame in that. We can always learn from what happened!) 

Last year I shared a series of year end posts and it really helped me figure out a plan of attack for the upcoming year as well. You can see all of our curriculum choices in this post here, but below you’ll get a good look at what we used for Kaleb’s 3rd grade year and how it all worked out overall. There were a few more challenging spots for us with him (and one area we didn’t get to), but it has been a great year overall. 

progress in small way adds up to big improvement - HomeschoolCreations

The one thing that I feel I personally have walked away with this year and Kaleb’s learning is that progress is progress – and sometimes it’s seeing the small progress over time that adds up to big improvement. 

The 3rd Grade Year Plan…

Here’s a quick look at the overall plan for our 3rd grade year…




Science is hands-down one of Kaleb’s favorite subject areas. In addition to Nancy Larson Science 3, Kaleb had a BLAST with creating Little Bits projects and creations with KEVA planks (secretly I may want to get many more of both). 


We also added in some more hands-on fun with the  Rock Hound’s backpack and it has opened up a love for ALL rocks with Kaleb. He is constantly looking for rocks to learn more about and I love that it has inspired something in him. His backpack now sits in our living room and there are rocks on our counter all.the.time. 

While we are not planning to use a full science program next year, these three will definitely be handy and we are looking at getting more of the Little Bits and Keva Planks to use! 

Spelling & Reading

Our weekly schedule for All About Spelling was about one lesson a week or every other week, and I love that our spelling and All About Reading overlap and tie-in together. We didn’t push too hard but did see huge improvements in the area. We also worked on All About Homophones, but that was more of an occasional lesson (maybe seven throughout the year based on what we were learning).


Writing is one of Kaleb’s least favorite areas, but one thing that helped a lot was our Boogie Board LCD tablet – for Kaleb it made the handwriting bit of things a bit more bearable (grins). Every lesson we worked on several sentences as well. Overall, a slower year than what we were planning, but we were trying to keep pace and not have him get frustrated, so we’ll be finishing up the book next year.

One thing I’m thankful for is the flexibility the lessons offer in working through the levels as appropriate for our kids.The similar formats simplify the teaching and they streamline well together. This will definitely be a program we use again next year. (For those of you who know me well, you know that it is our favorite homeschool spelling program, hands down!). 


While we didn’t get through our All About Reading Level 3, Kaleb did make some HUGE strides in his reading. Buddy Reading was something that made a big difference in our reading as well (taking turns reading pages – this article explains it a little better). 

We took a bit of a break for a little while and added in the Life of Fred readers – and oh my goodness, the boy LOVED them. Kaleb prefers to read these over and over again, building his reading fluency and speed as he goes through them – and I LOVE that. You can learn more here. For now, we’ll move the rest of AAR 3 to next year and keep going at a pace that works for him. 



We managed to get through almost all of the read-alouds from Kaleb’s 3rd Grade Reading list and then some other great books and audio books as well. Kaleb has loved the audio adventures from Heirloom Audio this year especially, and those CDs have been in the boys’ room during their rest time to listen to over and over.  



Using Teaching Textbooks was a great fit for Kaleb and we will definitely plan on using it again next year for him. We added in some fact learning fun using Times Tales (we used the download version). This program helped the boys focus on some of the harder times tables and we’ll keep the videos on hand to review next year as well. 



This isn’t one of Kaleb’s favorite subject areas, but it was made tolerable with our comic strip illustration printables. He isn’t a huge fan of drawing overall, but he does stick figures like a boss, especially since he can keep up with them. For us, that’s his way of ‘writing’ so he doesn’t have to ask how to spell every word and the pictures help him remember the story. 

Next year we will be switching up history a little bit – not because we don’t likeMystery of History 1 and Story of the World 1 – but we are going to try to tie in our learning with our high schoolers so we can go on some fun field trips together for US History. 



This boy loves his grammar work. There honestly isn’t much to show in this area, but it is one thing he is determined to work on each day. (grins) For vocabulary, we worked through several cards a week and will continue to use the cards from Marie’s Words next year. All of the kids really enjoyed the visual part of learning the words. 



Kaleb finished up most of his WriteShop C program, although he didn’t necessarily do a lot of physical writing, but would dictate his stories to me. One thing he loved were the Story Detective printables that I put together to go with some of his lessons. 

Next year may prove a little more interesting in the writing department, but I have to remind myself that we’ve had another reluctant writer in the past as well. These tips for a reluctant writer have been a renewed encouragement to me this year too. 


We took it slow and easy with Grapevine’s New Testament Overview (as a group) and also added in Big Truths for Young Hearts each morning. The latter is one we will continue working through since it’s more of a family discussion time and has about 52 weeks of reading. 


Definitely a subject we will continue next year, especially with Home Art Studio. Kaleb enjoys art so much and creating projects to display (where we have other kids who could care less – grins), so if he is willing to work on them, I am more than happy to oblige!



While the cursive program (and memory verse learning) we worked on this year was great, I will likely switch us back to a pre-planned program next year, since I was the one putting it together. 

The Bust Subjects

Our geography plans went out the big ol’ window this year, but we are re-vamping that for next year. It’s all good. 


Co-op pictures-12 
This past year we participated in two different co-op groups, and I truly love the chance to get together with other families and work on different classes we might not normally fit into our year. Next year we will only be participating in one co-op (for my sanity), but it was fun while it lasted! 
Different classes Kaleb had this year were US Geography (perhaps I reason I didn’t focus as much on it at home), Five in a Row books, Spanish, PE, and Music. We wrapped up one of our co-ops with a large musical as well. 
The kids were also a part of a year round swim team, and while they started off enthusiastically, by February/March, their energy was petering out. If we decide to do it again, we will likely choose a shorter time-frame for the kids. Kaleb is one of our strongest swimmers and truly loves it, but it involves a lot of driving and time in the evenings, so sometimes finding the balance is tough! 
I’ll be sharing our year end review of 5th, 7th, and 9th grade soon, so be sure to check back – as well as our plans for the upcoming year as well!  

3rd Grade Mid-Year Homeschool Curriculum Review

We’re at the halfway point in our homeschool time, and even a few day beyond. Even though it’s technically a little closer to the middle of January, our Christmas break provided more of a chance to sit down and look at how each child is progressing and see if there are any changes we needed to make to what we are using.

Overall, we’ve been really happy with our homeschool curriculum choices, but we have tweaked a few things – and I thought you all might like to see what the kids are enjoying the most as well! Over the next week or so, I’ll be sharing a post on each of the kids (it seemed easier than grouping it all into one post!).

3rd Grade Mid-Year Curriculum Review

Overall our 3rd grade curriculum choices have been a great fit. We have added and/or delayed a few subject areas. Kaleb’s favorite subjects are definitely science, grammar (he loves Daily Grams), and anything art related. He strongly dislikes diagramming though (my heart breaks). While history hasn’t been his favorite, adding in comic strip illustrations to help his take notes and remember the lessons has made a difference the last two months.

3rd grade homeschool curriculum choices from Homeschool Creations

Kaleb is one of our most dedicated learners (i.e. not one to complain about his work other than possibly reading). He is typically working on school work before it’s even time to start the day and it isn’t uncommon to find out that he’s finished his math and handwriting – always a nice start to the day! He is also the boy that wants to do as much as he can 1:1 with me, so this year we are pushing him a little bit in working on math via the computer (last year we used Teaching Textbooks, but I did all the lectures with him because he said the computer was too hard – it wasn’t, he just wanted to be with me more).

On the other hand – he is my baby and I want to enjoy every last minute of this 1:1 time that we have together (shhhh – don’t tell him).

3rd Grade Homeschool Curriculum Choices

Here’s a look at our overall plan for the 3rd grade year…

Our cursive handwriting has really been fun too (although there are complaints some days). I haven’t figured out a way to share the printables yet, but each week we review a verse from the Bible and practice letters and words based on those verses from our Seeds Family Worship albums. It’s been a great way to review verses we’ve learned via song and further cement them in our hearts (for me too!).

The youngest three and I are working on history together and combining Mystery of History and Story of the World has been great. With comic strip illustrations, he is remembering the bulk of what we are learning. Through history we are looking at past and modern geography (I’ll admit that I’m learning a thing or two!).

The vocabulary cards aren’t Kaleb’s favorite, but he is remembering quite a bit, although he is slower to grasp the words than Zachary and McKenna. He tolerates them, but gets frustrated easily since the older two want to give the answers quickly. They have been a fun way to start the morning though.

What We’re Adding (or already have)

  • Life of Fred Readers – We added these in about a month after we started school and they have been a HUGE hit. You can read my Life of Fred beginning readers review for more information, but Kaleb LOVES them. We are using our 3rd grade reading list for additional book choices too.
  • A few unit studies from Ivy Kids. So far we’ve used A House for Hermit Crab and are in the midst of Make Way for Duckling – absolutely loving them.
  • Big Truths for Young Hearts has been our Bible time, until we start Grapevine in February.
  • Times Tales – To help out with the upper times tables, both boys worked through Times Tales (we used the download version)
  • PE – The kids decided to participate in swim team for the year. Kaleb has practices 3-4 times a week, depending on our schedule and he has really enjoyed swimming (and is improving quickly).
  • Weekly LEGO, Keva Brain Builder, or Little Bits projects – Kaleb is typically finished with his school day a little earlier than the rest of the kids and he LOVES challenges and projects like these. While this has been on our initial list, we haven’t worked them in yet, but I am planning out a weekly project for him to do
  • Kaleb has LOVED his Rock Hound’s backpack and has already added that into his school time. He is constantly looking for rocks to learn more about and I love that it has inspired something in him. While this isn’t a daily subject, it has definitely been a great addition to his learning.

What We’ve Put Aside & Postponed

  • Writing – We absolutely love WriteShop but are focusing on Kaleb’s reading for now. He does have writing prompts and copywork through his handwriting and history, so we have shelved it for the time being. If we are at a point where we can add in lessons, we definitely will.
  • Geography: Although I had grand plans with this for the year, we are focusing on what we are learning through history and not working on a specific program. Waiting until next year on this one.

What Mom Needs to Focus More On

Looping subjects – Occasionally there are areas that I tend to push aside (or they just get pushed aside) because we have other things happening or something interrupts and we get sidetracked. Spelling and learning games are two of those areas (as well as read-alouds – see below. With these two, as well as science projects, we’re going to put onto a loop schedule where we rotate what comes next. Rather than having an assigned day of the week for each subject, they are going on a rotation schedule a few days each week and work on the next in line. That way if we miss a day, it’s really not a big deal because we can work on it the next day and no area gets lonely.

Reading with Kaleb – I also need to focus more on reading alone with just Kaleb – my reading TO him, other than our read-aloud time. He is a ‘get it done’ boy and focuses in on making sure everything is done properly (cough) and doesn’t always take a lot of time to relax and enjoy – and that is so important too.

Read-alouds – Much of our read-aloud time was spent with audiobooks in the car, but was also hard since one child was here and another was there and no one wanted to miss out on anything. We’ve decided instead to push along in a book and later tell the missing sibling what happened when they were gone. That way we can cover more ground together. Having the kids DOING something (like building with LEGOs or drawing) has been a huge help.

That’s about it for our 3rd grade mid-year curriculum review! How is your year going so far?

Take a peek at our 3rd grade5th grade, 7th grade, and  9th grade curriculum choices for the year as well! Click on one of the images below to look over their curriculum piles.

3rd grade homeschool curriculum choices from Homeschool Creations



Oh the FUN Weekend (Really, not Really)

This past weekend the kids had their first swim meet of the season. They’ve been looking forward to it for the last few months, especially in seeing their improvement since last year and the end of summer league. Competition is a little more intense at this level, but all of the kids have handled their attitudes well with the focus being improving their own times and strokes. Placing is great, but we really want them to focus on encouraging others and knowing they are doing their personal best in an area.

We left the house bright and early for a two hour car drive to the meet. Guess what – the sun doesn’t come up until close to 7am around these parts, so 5am is dark o’clock. (Side note: a few of my kids are WAY TO CHATTY for 4:45 am. For real.)

The boys started out the meet with their events. Swim. Sit. Repeat. Times were improved and all was well. Afternoon session the girls had their events and the boys headed outside to play for a bit. And then the fun really began.

Kaleb came in, sat down in front of us, and quietly began to cry. I noticed after a few minutes that something was wrong (he is our quiet sufferer). He held his arm and through silent sobs said his arm hurt.

buckle fracture xray

Hurt was really an understatement. While playing outside on some lovely chin up bars, he’d fallen onto his arm and fractured his radius (although we didn’t know that at the time). One of the parents from the competing team was also an orthopedic surgeon and after a quick look at his arm recommended a trip for x-rays.  We iced him up, supported his arm with a magazine and an impromptu sling made from his sweatshirt, and headed out.

Kaleb distracted by football

Fortunately there was a hospital about 5 minutes away, and we were able to hit the ER there (somehow our ER visits lately always happen while we’re out of town…).  Rick and I were texting each other with updates (he was in the waiting room with the older three and I stayed with Kaleb in the ER). When I pulled up the tv channels to distract Kaleb, he immediately picked Fox. I was confused why he would pick that, until he looked at me and said, “Mom, it’s Saturday afternoon – college football is on.” He is SO his daddy’s boy! But – the crying stopped and his focus was elsewhere (grins).

Kaleb with splint

X-rays did how a buckle fracture (small, but still there) of his radius, Two hours later we were on our way back home, all splinted up with the promise of a cast sometime this week. Not especially the way we wanted to spend the weekend, but on the bright side it wasn’t a serious break and it is his left arm so he’ll be able to do much for himself.

All in all, while a break isn’t ideal, we are truly amazed that in almost 15 years and 4 kids (especially with Zachary!!) this is the first bone break that we’ve had! Deep discussion has already taken place over various cast colors. Currently in the running are either green (because it’s his favorite color) or dark blue and white for the Cowboys. Gotta love that boy!

How was YOUR weekend!

3rd Grade Homeschool Curriculum Choices

3rd grade homeschool curriculum choices from Homeschool Creations

Kaleb is one of our most dedicated learners (i.e. not one to complain about his work other than possibly reading). He is typically working on school work before it’s even time to start the day and it isn’t uncommon to find out that he’s finished his math and handwriting – always a nice start to the day! He is also the boy that wants to do as much as he can 1:1 with me, so this year we are pushing him a little bit in working on math via the computer (last year we used Teaching Textbooks, but I did all the lectures with him because he said the computer was too hard – it wasn’t, he just wanted to be with me more).

On the other hand – he is my baby and I want to enjoy every last minute of this 1:1 time that we have together (shhhh – don’t tell him).

3rd Grade Homeschool Curriculum Choices

Here’s a look at the overall plan for our 3rd grade year…

Kaleb will be going solo with me this year on Nancy Larson Science. The FIRST day of school he was already asking to do that and art (we phase in our subjects, so we are waiting until this week). He is also watching Zachary create from afar, so he’ll have a chance soon to work with Little Bits as a ‘bonus time’ at the end of each day for him for some STEM work.

Overall, he has been so excited to start this school year – and I honestly am too with him!

Co-op Learning

Kaleb is still in the younger age group of one of our co-ops and this year they will have two classes together: Spanish and Five in a Row. We have loved the books from Five in a Row and each week we meet will focus on one book and work on several go-along activities for the story.

Curriculum in Year’s Past

In case you are interested in seeing the curriculum that brought us to this point, here’s a peek at what we’ve used with Kaleb the past few years:

See What the Other Kids Are Up To…


3rd grade homeschool curriculum choices from Homeschool Creations

Take a peek at our 5th grade, 7th grade, and  9th grade curriculum choices for the year as well! Click on one of the images above to look over their curriculum piles.

Want to see how the year ended

3rd grade homeschool year in review