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Our Homeschool (and Life) Happenings – March 2017

If anything has made me more certain than ever not to do live videos, it would be my children. In trying to do a less-than-5-minute video, I was interrupted no less than 5 times by either one of the kids or the dog (sigh). Some rather loudly. It’s truly comical. And you all, I don’t know about the noise level in your house, but ours is NOT QUIET AT ALL. 

I’m not kidding when I tell you I purchased a pair of noise cancelling headphones for myself this week. For real. Sometimes I just need to not hear all the extra noises and be able to concentrate on something (noises are a huge trigger of mine – just being honest with you all). 

The last few vlogs have been a lot of fun to share with you all. :) While I recently shared our middle of the year updates for all of the kids (see links below), here is a peek into the last three weeks or so of life. Feed readers can click here to see the video

(can you see the sock feet hanging over the edge of the couch as we watch the live feed?)

Here are the basics: 

  • Last week was crazy and I forgot to mention the big ol’ power outage we had when that crazy storm swept through our area. So, our school consisted more of couch cuddling near the warm fire and doing what we could there, and then we spent the night at a friend’s house when we were worried we might not have heat overnight. 
  • One of the biggest things I want to instill in our kids is a heart for service. I know they aren’t always super thrilled to take a chunk of their day and feel like they are falling behind in their studies, but truly – they learn just as many life lessons during the time we give to others. So while our time serving at a local soup kitchen once a month can be interesting with the people we meet, it’s also allowing the kids to step out of their comfort zones and be stretched. 
  • Would April the giraffe please have her baby? The live feed is playing in our living room, and the kids are keeping an eye out throughout the day. I absolutely love giraffes ever since my trip to Africa several years ago. They just make me smile. 
  • We have a new-to-us van, a 2008 Toyota Sienna, which meant a morning of the kids helping me out to see how it fit size-wise. They are all thrilled – for real. It’s the little things. :) I’m not quite ready to give up the minivan even though Laurianna is close to getting her license and her own car – OY!

I’ll admit to sneaking in a bit of “mom” reading when Kaleb is working on math facts. He and I have been using his Teaching Textbooks with the book rather than the computer the last two weeks since Zachary has been hogging the laptop at times (part of it is work, part of that is “squirrel moments). While the boy does long division, I have a few minutes to read snippets of Never Unfriended by Lisa Jo Baker (really good!). 

The boys and I are still working through The Green Ember by S.D. Smith, but are only about halfway through. We try to read at least two chapters each day, but some days it ends up being less because I get a little sleepy during read aloud time. :) 

Kaleb has been working through The Beginner’s Bible and will likely finish it before too long, but I love that each morning he is wanting to read. We’re still working on pacing (because he likes to blow through those periods and just get.it.done). 

Several of our kids are fidgeters, and while I had looked at getting something to keep their hands busy, the two of them bought Rubics Cubes for themselves the last few weeks and have been working on memorizing the algorithm to solve it (which they have done rather handily). McKenna bought herself a speed cube. It cracks me up that the kids are playing with toys that I had when I was a kid. 

In history we have followed the Oregon Trail during our US History time and are now moving into the Civil War. The boys put together some covered wagon models for a little hands-on fun (and because I finally remembered we had them). We won’t talk about how many years ago I bought them and forgot to use them (cough). 

Zachary just finished up all of his science for the year – he’s been working through his program a little more quickly than I anticipated, so for now we will fill in with some extras (EEME & other hands-on fun). 

McKenna really loves her physical science class, but she wasn’t super thrilled with their latest experiment. Sadly, we didn’t have any skim milk in the house so she had to use powdered milk and vinegar to make a slime concoction which absolutely STANK thanks to the powdered milk. It was rather comical because she spent the bulk of the time gagging over the odor and didn’t even want to touch it. I supposed I could have let her try whole milk, but once she got going, Laurianna and I were cracking up and waiting to see if she could make it through the entire process. 


Fun socks make studying even better, right? Laurianna has been working hard to keep up in several of her core classes (chemistry, geometry, history, and literature) and filling in with the other three from her 10th grade curriculum list as she has the energy. She has a few big tests coming up this week and is working hard on those classes, finished reading her last book for literature class, but still has a few papers to write for that class. 


That’s about it for us – how are YOU all doing? 


A few links for you: 


Our Homeschool (and Life) Happenings via Vlog

The last few vlogs have been a lot of fun to share with you all. :) While I recently shared our middle of the year updates for all of the kids (see links below), here is a peek into the last six weeks or so of life. Feed readers can click here to see the video. 

Here’s the sum-up: 

  • We are on a six week on, one week off schedule – which means a break for us next week. (Happy dance here!!)
  • The weather has been crazy back and forth. Part of me wishes we would go ahead and get a good snow already, but then the warm weather comes and I wonder what I’m thinking. Either way, I wish it would make up it’s mind, because snow one day and 70 degrees the next is CRAZY!
  • Swim team is officially done, so no more back and forth nights with practice. I am much relieved. 
  • We had a new baby join the family (nephew) in January and my mom’s hip surgery went well (eventually). The first few days were really rough, but she is doing much better now – thanks so much for your prayers!
  • The days our oldest is struggling health-wise make me ever-so-grateful we homeschool (much more about this in the video). 
  • Hardest part for me the last 6 weeks has been dealing with diet restrictions and a complete revamping of the ‘familiar’ tried and true recipes/menus we had in place. I’m a creature of habit, so having to re-think everything has been quite a bit of a challenge. I’m also an all or nothing girl, and baby steps have been h.a.r.d. for me to take. Just sayin’. 
  • Incidentally, THIS BOOK is fabulous. Cannot say it enough. 
  • And a dog. A cute dog is sometimes what I need to see and snuggle with. And yes, she needs a haircut. You all were cracking me up on Facebook thinking I posted a picture of a skunk. 😂

That’s about it for us – how are YOU all doing. 


A few links for you: 


10th Grade Mid-Year Homeschool Curriculum Review


This homeschool year with Laurianna hasn’t quite gone according to plan, which has been a little hard on both her and myself (definitely more her though). I mentioned a few months ago that she has been dealing with some health issues thanks to a tick bite almost two years ago. That has in turn meant a lot of changes in our home, both physically and academically. 

Prior to our Christmas break she was becoming extremely fatigued and it was difficult for her to get all of her work done, so we had to slow down in some areas to help her out. Over the last bit we have been trying some different avenues to help her feel better and have a lot of doctor’s visits in the future and will keep you posted. If anything, I am most thankful at this time that we homeschool and have the flexibility in her schedule to adjust things and timing. 

10th Grade Curriculum Choices

10th grade homeschool curriculum choices from Homeschool Creations 2016

Credits to earn: 7


Overall, Laurianna has been keeping up grades in her core subjects have excelled: chemistry, literature, history, math, and Latin and slowing down in art (she tends to focus on this when she is resting more). Art and history are her two favorite subjects this year. 

Co-op – Three of her classes meet once a week in a co-op setting (literature, history, and chemistry) for 1-2 hours, although she is responsible for the bulk of the work during the week at home. The group setting has been wonderful for feedback from her peers and in two of the classes also having a different mom giving helps is great too! :) 

notgrass history creative assignment

History – History is definitely one of her favorite subjects. The focus this year has been American history and we’ve been able to include several field trips to go along with the period of history we are studying. We have a few more trips planned for the last half of the year (warm weather would be nice!). It has been fun seeing the various artistic avenues she has been exploring for history as well: writing a small children’s book, designing flyers, and a range of other projects. 

Math – We are definitely thankful to be using Teaching Textbooks for geometry this year. Math is never a favorite, per se, but any way we can make it easier and more enjoyable is wonderful – and Teaching Textbook does that! 


Chemistry – Although this may not be a favorite subject, but with friends (and fun hands-on ways to learn), it is definitely easier. This year has definitely confirmed for her the course she wants to pursue for college. We’ve sat down with a friend and been talking about colleges for nursing degrees – and here it begins! 

Latin – Visual Latin has been a great fit this year for her as well and we will definitely plan to continue with a second year next year. She has finished up her second year of Spanish and we are determining if she will do a third year as well. 

black and white sketch

Art – Even though she is focusing on her core subjects, art is one subject she is able to work on when she is resting – and truthfully it helps her unwind as well. 

Government/Constitutional Literacy – This class has been one we have slowed down on because we know we can continue it through the summer if necessary. While we love it, it was more of an elective this year rather than a core program and was one we needed to put aside when needed. At this point she should be halfway through the program, but we are about 1/4 of the way through instead. 

Literature – Lots of reading (and maybe some books that are on the dry side – in the kids opinions, at least). One thing I love about this class is we have tied in the books with the periods in history the kids are studying and we celebrate the end of a book (and the corresponding papers) with watching a period movie or one that goes along with the book we are reading. A few of the books have surprised Laurianna – she really enjoyed Uncle Tom’s Cabin – and she has been doing great keeping up with the three papers due each month for each book read. 

Swim Team – With her fatigue, swim team had to be pulled from her daily schedule. This was really hard for her because it was something she definitely enjoyed, but she physically could not keep up with the demands – which has been difficult emotionally for her. She knows that long term it will work out and she is looking forward to summer swim team, but knows that right now she needs to focus on resting and getting her health back to a more “normal” range. 


Drivers Ed – Laurianna also started DRIVING! Ack! You all – I feel for my parents and how that must have been for them so many years ago. There is something rather nerve wracking having your child behind the wheel and not having physical control (maybe that’s just my issue alone – cough). I know this is an area that as our kids get older we are ‘releasing’ them – but oy, it’s hard! The first few trips were a bit challenging, but there will definitely be some huge perks when she finally does have her license later this summer and I’m not opposed to those! 


That’s it so far! How has your year going?


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

What We’re Up To In Our Homeschool Time (Weeks 3-4)

We took a vacation the third week of school. That is the beauty of homeschooling, my friends. We can plan to do whatever we want, whenever we want. With Labor Day and my hubby having a vacation day, school would have been a bust anyway, so we had planned on camping. Unfortunately, it turned out to be one of the hottest weekends this summer, so camping was scratched and we found an indoor activity to keep us (slightly) cool, and technically we could count it as PE for the week. 


Incidentally, if you are wondering when the best time is to hit an indoor trampoline park, the answer would be a Friday morning before noon. Another tip, if you have birthed at least child, you may want to consider purchasing a ticket for the shortest jump time possible, unless you have taken stock in adult diapers. You’re welcome (and so the truth). You just remind your children it is all their fault. 

Very last minute, we decided to have the kids participate in swim team again this year. Our local team has new coaches and a new practice schedule, so we waited while trying to figure out how we were going to balance life and practice with four kids, and not lose our sanity in the process. We’re one week down and so far so good – but we’ll have to see how it is going in a few months. :) 

Monarch butterfly (c) Homeschool Creations
Butterflies are emerging from their chrysalis and those are moments we simply sit and stare. It just never gets old. Ever since I’ve was teaching preschool over 18 years ago, it has completely fascinated me, and now our kids too. This year we didn’t get to see the process itself, but did see something interesting. Aphids were all over one batch of milkweed we brought home and after one butterfly had gone into it’s chrysalis, the aphids were all over the thing. We were worried about it for a bit because we didn’t know what they might do. Yesterday when we looked at it, all of the spots where the aphids had been were little tiny golden dots – it was the most amazing and pretty thing to do – a gold polka-dotted chrysalis (and sadly we didn’t get a picture of it). 

Passport to Purity weekend with son

While there aren’t a TON of things to share that we’ve been doing during our school time, one of the more monumental moments came when my husband took Zachary away for his Passport to Purity weekend. Our initial plans for the weekend didn’t work out, so the two of them found a hotel, Rick planned a surprise football game trip, and the two had a great time away together. Rather than picking out the same gift as his sisters (because a tea cup just doesn’t do it for the boy), Rick and Zachary found him a great knife for him to have in the years to come, especially handy during his time with Scouts. If you’d like to read more about our weekend away with the girls, you can read more here. This is the only picture I have of their weekend – grins. :) 

In the meantime, we’ve been plugging away at school, adding in a new subject each week now that the kids are getting more into the routine of things, and overall it’s going really well. Most days. There are still major moments of drama (I will not name any names) and frustration, but there are also many moments of success that completely fly in the face of all the frustration (and those are worth their weight in gold, my friends). 


Reading for Kaleb is plugging along. We have picked up some various readers for him to read every other day and he is really doing so much better – which is an encouragement to both of us. This is again one of those times when I need to remind myself not to compare where his progress is, especially in comparison to his siblings. Zachary at this point was starting Level 4 of All About Reading and Kaleb is on All About Reading Level 3 – but progress is progress and we will take every little bit, especially the fact that he is wanting/trying to read other books to us.  


Our one computer is back up and running, which means McKenna can now work whole-heartedly on Latin. She is absolutely loving Visual Latin this year (and earning that credit). She and Laurianna both are trying to talk to each other in short phrases which is cracking me up. The first time I heard them trying to say something to each other I thought they were using Pig Latin and couldn’t figure it out, until they started cracking up and told me what they were saying. 

In an attempt to finally clean off my camera’s SD card, I managed to delete a slew of pictures I thought I had already uploaded of some of the other things we worked on the past two weeks: science experiments with Zachary, a few pictures of Laurianna and her artwork, but the good thing is – the pictures don’t mean that progress wasn’t made (thank goodness). And my SD card is much happier at this point too since the pictures from two years ago have finally been removed. 

That’s a really quick look at our past two weeks – what have YOU been up to? 


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

The First Two Weeks of Homeschool (or when the computer and pencil sharpener decided to stop working)

Grand plans, people. You know what they say about those? Yes. Well, then. Let’s sum up the first day, shall we? 

A computer went kaputz (battery=dead, but under warranty, so shipped back to manufacturer). That in turn meant we couldn’t use the computer for math, which set one child off in a panic. (FULL BLOWN, mind you). Said child may also have a wee bit of a love for very well-sharpened pencils, so when the pencil sharpener also decided to STOP WORKING, the world may have almost come to an end. 

Drama, anyone? Anyone? 

I promise, I was about ready to go back to bed within the first hour. Overall, the bulk of the day (and kids) ended up cooperating, but it definitely wasn’t the start I envisioned. And we never got around to first day of school pictures. 

Second Day of School

Instead, we settled for the second day of school pictures. Because really? The kids hadn’t changed that much in 24 hours (unless you count cooperation), so we took pictures and called it good. And while Zachary appears taller than his oldest sister, she vehemently disagrees and says she was slouching. He still has several inches to go before he can call it even.

We all managed to survive almost two weeks without the before mentioned computer (and one child is happily sharpening all the pencils in the schoolroom ad naseum now that the most amazing pencil sharpener showed up in our house just in the nick of time). As much as I hate to admit it, we have become very connected to our laptops. From math to writing (for the olders), and a few textbooks online, it was a bit of a juggling act to get it all balanced. Now that the one is back, there may be an issue with the much older laptop coming unhinged.  I do believe I may give up. 

First Week of School-6

Did I mention too that we are suckers for butterflies in our house? It doesn’t matter how many times I see it, I’m still fascinated and could watch them for hours. The kids took a bike ride one afternoon and five minutes later returned with four caterpillars for us to watch. Two of them are already in the chrysalis and the other two are munching away, growing like crazy. The entire process just boggles my mind and is completely amazing.

Other than that, here’s a quick sum-up of our first two weeks by kiddos…

Kaleb – 4th Grade


We’ve started the year off hitting reading hard. Kaleb is using All About Reading Level 3 and we are working at the pace of one lesson every two days.  At this point we are through four full lessons and while it’s still slow going most days, every day is a little more progress. 


When Laurianna is working on chemistry, the boys have a chance to do some fun go-along history projects with two of our friends (don’t tell the other mom, but I think I’m getting the better end of this deal). Both of our families are working through the same history lessons together and right now we are learning about Native Americans. This week the kids all work on petrooglyphs – and the results were hilarious. The kids tried to guess what the others had ‘written’ using pictures. 


Although we don’t have a formal science curriculum this year, we have been using an engineering kit from Insight to Learning and Kaleb is loving it. The first project was to build an 18″ parking garage that could house four cars – which was going along well until a certain mother accidentally knocked down a 16″ structure and it needed to be rebuilt. Oops.

First Week of School-7

Building a house with a slanted roof was another project in the Insight to Learning kit, and Kaleb had a BLAST with this one. That boy is particular to the core, so it took him quite a bit of time to complete it, but it was well worth the time. 

View our 4th grade curriculum choices HERE. 

Zachary – 6th Grade


On the eighth day, the computer was returned and all of the children and the mother did a happy dance. Math was back on track and everyone was happy to stop using the go-along textbooks. We are a rather happy Teaching Textbooks family. :) And headphones. Thank the Lord for headphones that help keep distracted children on task. 

First Week of School-5

A new project from EEME arrived in our home recently too – Q the Robot! Zachary has been looking forward to another electronics project and jumped right in to start on it. We’ll be posting a full review on it soon and sharing our thoughts. 


Two of our newer subjects for Zachary, Who is God and Writers in Residence, are keeping the boy rather busy. His love for reading doesn’t help with the workload, but he is enjoying both of the programs. We are still working on pacing and focus (someone is a bit distractible), but otherwise sixth grade is looking good on the boy.  

First Week of School-2

Science is definitely Zachary’s favorite area of study. Between building projects or running experiments, he manages to find the time to work on them. Always. He is loving the two lessons and one lab layout of Rainbow Science and spent time setting up several tests to measure distance traveled from acceleration. 

View our 6th grade curriculum HERE

McKenna – 8th Grade

First Week of School-3

Figuring out how to balance the new workload and classes has been a bit of a challenge for McKenna. She is trying to find her groove for the classes and not having a laptop made it a bit difficult, especially because she had four papers due for literature class the first 2 weeks. (Yeah. That was fun. I only have myself to blame for that one.)

Science and Latin are so far proving to be her two favorite classes, although geography is right up there as well. She has some basic experiments to run at home, but has also been working on building a race car and a glider for her science class. The hands on part of it is something she loves MUCH!


The two of us sit down together once a week to go over her different subjects and plug in the information from her student planner (she l.o.v.e.s. the new design) into my main planner. This gives us a chance to also go over any questions she might have about the upcoming week and make sure she is staying on target with her lessons.  

View our 8th grade homeschool curriculum HERE. 

Laurianna – 10th Grade

Laurianna is trying something a little different this year with her schedule (and trying to convince McKenna to do the same. Rather than working on every subject every day and switching gears constantly, she has blocked out her schedule so she works on some classes two days a week and the rest the other two. That gives her a day to finish up anything not completed and otherwise have a little breather. With two afternoons of co-op classes, her week is fairly full and swim season starts this week as well, so evenings are going to be packed as well.  


This year will be interesting to see where Laurianna’s interests truly are. She still has some time before figuring out a college path and major, but is contemplating a few different options, including nursing. Biology is under her belt, and this year we are moving on to chemistry, so it will be fun to see how it develops as we go along. 


No matter what, art is still one of her favorite areas to spend time. Adding this class as an elective this year was a great choice and gives her some down time while doing something she adores (and can receive credit for). So far she has three sketches to put in her portfolio for the year – and I love the above one she worked on this past week (even if it makes me want to get my eyebrows done…grins). 

View our 10th grade homeschool curriculum choices HERE


That’s a quick peek at the first two weeks of our school time – how are things going in your house? 


Our Homeschool Curriculum Choices…

Click any of the images below to see our homeschool picks for the current school year. You’ll also find links to past year’s 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

American Literature High School Reading List

American Literature high school reading list

Our American Literature reading list was compiled from two sources: our history program Exploring America from Notgrass and also American Lit program from Excellence in Literature. The last two years we have used the literature guides from Excellence in Literature and love the format of the program, but we also wanted to intertwine some of the recommended novels from the Notgrass history list. Let’s face it – there are so many wonderful books that tie into American culture and history, so there are many to choose. Overall the class will provide Laurianna with 1 high school credit. 

The typical pace is for reading (to stay on top of things) will be one book per month, which honestly will not be too difficult for her to work through. We are also adding a few books by C.S. Lewis to her pile and trying to squeeze in more ‘downtime’ reading, to balance out her workload. 

Our American Literature High School Reading List

American Literature high school reading list 2016_edited-1


For each of the above books, Laurianna will have a variety of papers to write (at least three per book). Papers and essays vary from author profiles (learning about the life of the author), approach papers (quick summary, discussion questions, and character profiles), and some lovely essays based on questions from both the American Lit program from Excellence in Literature and ones I have pulled together for the books we added in to our list. The books with an asterisk next to them are ones included in the EIL program, while the other three books tie in with the historical period we are studying in American History.

Several of the above books also have a movie to go along, so we are planning a monthly movie time together to compare the book with the movie version. In past years this has proven to be rather…interesting and prompted some great discussions with the kids as well. There are also a few we won’t be watching movies for, but plan to find a movie or documentary set in a similar time period.

The “Just for Fun” Additions

Much of Laurianna’s spare time will be taken up with her school reading and other fun hobbies, but we did want to add in a few books to read together – which we’ve already finished and loved! She does love to read though, so hopefully we’ll add a few more fun books in as the catch her attention.

This list also doesn’t include any of the family read-alouds or audio books we will be reading together. Overall not a huge list for the year, but several of the books are fairly hefty and will involve a lot of essay writing and discussion, so definitely enough to keep her busy for the year!

Homeschool Reading Lists for our Other Children

Check out our reading choices for this and past years by clicking on the links below. Stay tuned for our 4th, 6th, and 8th grade reading choices!

8th reading list 2016

10th grade homeschool curriculum choices from Homeschool Creations 2016

See all of our curriculum choices for this school year in our 10th Grade Homeschool Curriculum Choices post. It includes our lit program and several other wonderful programs we are loving!

What books are in your kid’s reading stack for this year?