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4th Grade Year in Review – Homeschool Curriculum Choices

It is always VERY helpful for me to sit back and reflect via a few blog posts on what worked (and what didn’t work) during our homeschool time. While sometimes I can be really hard on myself in some areas, it’s always good to see where we can improve in areas – or where we really excelled. 

Looking back also helps me with my overall look at the upcoming year too. You can see all of our curriculum choices in the linked posts, but I wanted to focus this post more on Kaleb’s 4th grade year and how everything worked out overall. 

Patience and determination – those are the two words that I think of most to sum up Kaleb’s year. I’ve shared quite a bit about our struggles and celebrations over the last year, but those two really hit home for me this year. Sometimes it’s the little things that matter most and leave the biggest impact. 

Our 4th Grade Plan

Here’s a look at what the overall plan was for 4th grade…


While we didn’t start out with a formal curriculum for this area, it was an area that we moved to having more structure. This is probably one of Kaleb’s favorite areas of learning, so we started using A Reason for Science (Level D) in January.

homeschool science kits from Insight to Learning

We also worked on quite a few projects and experiments with Little BitsInsight to Learning, and several other hands-on extras. Kaleb LOVES these hands-on projects! Next year we will be switching over to a more formal year-round science program, Nancy Larson Science 4 (not grade level specific) and I’m hoping to add in several of the Tinker Crates from Kiwi Crate

Reading & Spelling

This is probably the BIGGEST area of achievement for Kaleb over the past year. Truthfully, I’d call this year a success no matter what based solely on the progress made in this one area and wouldn’t care how any other subject area went. That may sound off, but reading has been the hardest struggle for this boy and one that led to tears (from both him and myself) but also huge celebration. 

We didn’t finish our entire reading curriculum (the plan was to work on Level 3 and 4 ofAll About Reading) – and that’s ok! We’re going to continue on with it next year and move at the pace that Kaleb is comfortable with. The big thing is – KALEB READ TWO CHAPTER BOOKS! We worked through the bulk of the books on his 4th grade reading list (woot!), but once we moved to those chapter books, he didn’t want to go back. That was probably one of the most exciting moments – rather than choosing an easier book, he made the decision to keep going. :) 


One of the biggest helps for Kaleb this last year was using these multiplication worksheets I put together to keep those numbers lined up. Teaching Textbooks Math 5 worked wonderfully for us (as always) and we will continue on with the next level next year. 

History & Geography

This year another friend and I used the same history program and once a week a few of her kids and our boys would work on related projects together. Sometimes we cooked. Or learned how to fold a flag together. Traced the path of Lewis and Clark. Or built miniature teepees together. Overall – SUCH FUN! But things are always more fun with friends, right? 

While we didn’t cover as much geography as I would have liked, we used a variety of printables, our Little Passports, and other hands-on materials and did manage to get around the world quite a bit. This is definitely an on-going area that will carry over into next year. 


So there aren’t many pictures to share of grammar, because diagramming isn’t that exciting for many, eh? 

Ivy Kids Pezzettino Kit

Periodically we also spent time working on Ivy Kids Kits. Sometimes it was a simple activity like creating a puzzle or a writing activity, and other times we had a chance to play with some fun new art products. For us it’s very reminiscent of our Five in a Row work, but also another excuse to cuddle up with a good book together. :) 


We love using WriteShop and I realized this is about the only documented image I have from this last year. One of the best parts about the program is the hands-on aspect it offers, other than just ‘writing.’ Early on kids learn the process through different means and it ties in so well with our grammar program as well. 


Quite honestly, this was one area we decided to let go early on. Between what the kids are doing at church (I love our children’s ministry) and 


Art has been and continues to be one of Kaleb’s favorite areas. While we didn’t do quite as much as I would have liked to do this year (we skipped some of the lessons in our Home Art Studio dvds), we will definitely continue with both the structured lessons next year as well as impromptu ones such as our fun with Kwik Stix


One of Kaleb’s favorite additions this year was Spelling You See C.  We used this primarily as our handwriting program and also for additional reading practice.  He loves the daily practice and it has also been great for him to work on daily identifying various vowel blends and additional reading and dictation work.  Definitely planning to keep this on our list for next year. 


This past year we participated in only one co-op group. The chance to get together is so much fun, especially when we have the chance to work on a few classes that we might not put in our normal day. Different classes Kaleb had this year were Five in a Row books and Spanish. 
The kids were also a part of a year round swim team until the end of February when my energy began petering out. 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 6th, 8th, and 10th grade soon, so be sure to check back – as well as our plans for the upcoming year as well!  

New to Homeschooling? 

If you are new to homeschooling and aren’t sure where to begin in choosing homeschool curriculum, I have some helps for you! Check out the entire Homeschool Basics series for answers to more frequently asked homeschool questions.

Curriculum We Used This Year

Click any of the images below to see our homeschool picks for the 2016-17 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

Homeschool and Life Happenings – May 2017

Well, the nutshell is we are on the tail end of everything here. The past week has been a mix of wrapping up testing for each of the kids, finishing a few subjects together with the boys, and letting the girls work through the remaining lessons they have in a few areas. 

Overall, it’s been fairly light the last two weeks for sure. 


Life at Home

We’re headed out on our first camping trip of the year this weekend, so in the middle of everything it’s been craziness trying to get meals planned, everyone packed, and make sure we don’t forget something key. Last time we went to this campground we had one child forget every single piece of clothing. Good times. 

Rick and I have been rather busy too getting things ready for our local swim team to start up. That’s meant a lot of hours behind the scenes for me and trying to organize things so the year goes smoothly. I may also be making lots of notes so next year will be even easier. :) 

One fun thing we were able to do recently was travel to Atlanta with just McKenna for the last Teach Them Diligently conference. Rick wanted to tag along on this one too, but it was so much fun because Carisa and her husband also brought their oldest – and he and McKenna had a blast together. For Rick and I, it was also some much needed time 1:1 with McKenna only. 

Our family is back to volunteering with a local soup kitchen – we usually do it once a month, but had to skip the month of April. The above picture is a rather hilarious look at an incident that happened this past time. We serve lasagna and I have to unwrap the containers (the Costco premade lasagna is fabulous). At one point I kept searching for the knife I was using to cut through the plastic covering and couldn’t find it. About an hour later I heard, “What in the world is this?” and we discovered where the knife had disappeared to. Oops. On the bright side, nothing started on fire – so there’s that. 

The kids are thrilled about one recent purchase my husband made. I stress the last part on WHO MADE THE PURCHASE, because well – noise level, people. There was a great deal on a drum set and the last two weeks have been rather, well, interesting. The boys are having a blast with them. Unfortunately for me, the one place in the house where they can stay at the moment is directly under our bedroom. I sent the above picture to my hubby on the first day when I found his work headphones. And now for lessons…

Part of our month has also seen quite a bit of travel already. We headed to Tennessee to celebrate the wedding of one of our friend’s sons. What does a hamburger have to do with that? Well, we found this AMAZING restaurant while there – burgers that were ridiculously huge (and enough to fill up a growing 12 year old boy). Crazy good. The wedding was amazing too (grins), but the burger lives on in the heart of a certain son. 

Everyone in the house is itching for summer to start officially. Granted, the girls need to complete their work before we are “officially” done, but here’s a look at what each kiddo still has on their plate: 

Kaleb: finish reading 2nd Boxcar Children book

Zachary: finish reading last assigned literature book

McKenna: finish two North Star Geography lessons, about 8 more lessons in Algebra 1, and a few Visual Latin lessons

Laurianna: finish last 4 weeks of Constitutional LiteracyVisual Latin lessons, and a few more projects from Artistic Pursuits Book 1. Her biggest hurdle has been catching up with the things she had to put aside when she was really sick mid-school year. 

Laurianna is probably most frustrated out of everyone because she begins her summer job of lifeguarding soon and feels the pressure of getting things completed, but also wanting free time to enjoy things. That can be a catch 22, eh? We are also sitting down with our local community college in the next few weeks to talk about her taking a few classes in the upcoming year that will be dual credit – YIKES! That means getting her transcript pulled together completely and making sure we have everything lined up. Part of me doesn’t want to acknowledge that we are at this point already, but on the other hand I’m so excited as she starts another phase of her academics.

While the kids may be wrapping up their schoolwork, that means I get to start officially planning for next year – but beside the pool! The pool opens next week and for us that means we will likely start heading there on the gorgeous days – because SUMMER!!

Are you ready for a summer break – or working through? 

Homeschool and Life Happenings

It’s hard to believe that in a few short weeks our homeschool year will be done!! The pictures I have from the last month are fairly scattered, but I’ll try to give you the quick run-down on what’s been happening with each of the kids. We have testing coming up in a few weeks, and one by one the kids are wrapping up subjects (some a little more quickly than others). 

And while I did consider doing a vlog for some other stuff, a) it’s too noisy in the house and b) sitting down for more than five minutes has been hard the last few days because there are a ton of things going on right now. My mom is scheduled for her next hip replacement Wednesday (tomorrow), so I’ve been trying to get things lined up here (rather unsuccessfully to my aspirations) before I have to spend at least two nights with her at the hospital. Add in the rest of life and some other things happening (swim team restarting soon, etc…) and I feel like I’m being pulled in a million different directions. Feel free to remind me that I did say “yes” to these things, so I heaped it on myself, ok? 


That said, here’s a peek at life in our house the past month. 


4th Grade (Kaleb)

Kaleb has been working hard on his math and is eight lessons shy of finishing up his Teaching Textbooks Level 5 for the year. The multiplication worksheet that I put together for him has been a definite help and I’m working on a division one as well to keep those numbers lined up. That said, decimals may be the death of me. (grins) On the bright side, once he fully grasps the concept, this will be the last time it needs to explained. So there’s that.

Two weeks ago something rather fun showed up on our doorstep, which the boys were completely thrilled to help me open and expand it. I haven’t shared a lot about this yet (but you all – I will be soon)! The kids were fascinated by the memory foam aspect of this convertible beanbag from Cordaroys. They are especially excited since it means we will have a queen size bed for sleepovers with friends! See the picture below for what it’s like in beanbag form (and if you are interested in a coupon code, let me know). 

The very best news of the month though??? Kaleb finished up the first book in The Boxcar Children series. Can I tell you how much rejoicing there was in the house – and how proud Kaleb was to have read it?

After he finished reading The Boxcar Children book, I pulled out the other books from his 4th grade reading list for him to look over. Admittedly, it was one of the harder books on his reading list for the year, and I assumed he would pull out one of the easier ones to finish up in the next few weeks. Instead, he asked if we could find the next book in the series and read that one. Inside I may have been jumping up and down. For him to make the choice on his own, rather than my telling him what he was going to read, made reading that much better and easier if you will. His attitude toward reading changes when he has “control” over it, and his reading improves. And that I love. 

In other subject areas, Kaleb has finished his grammar and science, and we are getting close to finishing history as well. Math should be wrapped up in the next two weeks and we are continuing reading, writing, geography, and spelling until the end. 

6th Grade (Zachary)

Zachary has been working overtime in a few subject areas, especially writing and math. He isn’t super crazy about writing things out by hand and we have had some software issues (we finally broke down and subscribed to Microsoft online). With all of the laptops that have broken the last two years, they haven’t been de-registered from our previous software programs – and oy. Now Zachary has no excuse in the typing department (wink). 

Math is one of those areas that Zachary has gotten a little bit behind in. To make up, he has been working on two lessons a day to stay on top of it. We had to go back through some of his past lessons together and have him re-work through them with me. While he isn’t thrilled at the doubling-up, much of that is due to his wandering (literally). He gets 2/3 of the way through a lesson and gets distracted. And I haven’t been doing a great job following up on his completion, because he “said” he did math, but left out the fact he hadn’t finished it. So, we’ve been working through those to get it all done. :)

With the weather warming up, we’ve had some fabulous days for sitting outside and learning from the lawn or porch swing. Whenever possible, our history and read-aloud time has contained sunshine in some form. 

That said, he took one of his writing assignments from Writers in Residence and went crazy (in a good way) on it. Rather than keeping it simple, he turned an autobiography assignment into a fourteen page paper. We are still working on editing the assignment, but I didn’t want him to fly through the assignment to complete another one if he was taking this one so seriously. (sidenote: it’s hilarious – and good, so win-win)

Outside of school, Zachary has been participating in Boy Scouts and wrapping up requirements to reach First Class (should be soon). He is loving the camping – even in the rain – hiking, and all the other fun stuff that goes along. 

Zachary has wrapped up his Rainbow Science and both Who is God?  and Who Am I? so far. He is reading the last book on his 6th grade reading list and history will be completed soon as well. 

8th Grade (McKenna)

McKenna is *this* close to finishing up her Literature class and Algebra 1. She should be able to wrap up the remainder of her classes by the third week of May. 

We are fortunate to have an incredible Shakespeare theatre not too far from us. Each month they offer student matinees and a “talkback time” with the actors after the show is over and we love to take advantage of their acting and knowledge. The theatre we visit is a recreation of Shakespeare’s indoor theatre and the actors and actresses are fabulous. 

Our high school co-op group laughed and followed the bulk of the performance we saw, but at times the dialogue moved so quickly some parts were lost on the kids. Still, it brought a deeper level of respect and understanding of Shakespeare to the kids. One more paper to write and she is done!!

10th Grade (Laurianna)

This is one of the only pictures I have of Laurianna recently (her 16th birthday), but she too has been working hard in her studies. There will be some subjects that will carry over into June (Constitutional LiteracyVisual LatinArt, and DriversEd.  

Her co-op classes will be ending mid-May, so history and literature will be finished then. She only has about ten lessons remaining in math (woot!) and then the extra free time she has will be poured into focusing on her remaining classes. Although it hasn’t been the optimal year for her health-wise, she has worked hard when she can and is determined to finish strong. 

In Other News…

April the giraffe finally had her baby!! We were getting ready to head out the door for an Easter event at our church when I happened to turn on the live feed and saw that labor was happening. We watched as much as we could before we left and the kids had the live stream on all the way to church. We had to pause the feed during the egg hunt (we were helping with face painting, etc…), but we saw everything once we returned home. And then it was too much fun watching that little baby giraffe walk around. 

Speaking of the Easter event – this is what 3+ hours of making cotton candy can do to a person. And this is after I spent time wiping off my face. This pictured doesn’t honestly do it justice, but I was rather sweet until we were able to get home and clean up. Sticky, sticky, sticky.

That’s about it for the last few weeks – how are YOU all doing? Close to finishing up the end of your year?  

A few links for you: 


Multiplication Worsheets

While our older children are able to use graph paper for their math problems, our youngest struggles with his penmanship size and also the graph paper doesn’t help him quite enough in keeping his numbers in the right column. Even though he may do his math correctly, when it’s time to add up the numbers – well, the columns don’t line up correctly and mistakes are made.

I tried adding lines to regular notebook paper, but that didn’t always do it either, so instead I put together a simple worksheet for him to use when he is working on multiplication facts (I’m working on a division one too, because that’s the next thing we need to straighten up a little). 

We love our Teaching Textbooks program

With the multiplication worksheet pages, he is able to use the sheets over the course of a few days to work through problems (he can note the problem number next to his work), and be reminded of where the numbers go. This has helped TREMENDOUSLY in cutting back on mistakes and frustration for him.

One thing I wanted to do as well – keep the main lines black and columns grey so he can get a better visual of how to line things up. Above is a little peek at how the worksheets are set up. 

There are two sets included in the free muliplication worksheet printables: one with and one without zeros as place markers to remind children where to place numbers. Each sheet has at least twelve spaces to work on multiplication problems and there are different sheets based on how many digits are being multiplied: 2×2, 3×2, or 3×3. 

We’re printing them off double-sided and using them over the course of the week. It’s already helped so much! Feel free to download a set by clicking below – enjoy! 


Still need a little work on multiplication facts? Check out these FREE Skip Counting Charts

Homeschool and Life Happenings March 2017 (take 2)

(photo credit: my lovely daughter, McKenna)

Hi everyone!! Life feels like it is picking up speed the last few weeks. The weather has been warming up again (yay!!), and we are trying to spend more time outside to enjoy every bit of it! Trees are blossoming – it’s been lovely, especially after our early March snow storm.

And we are still waiting for April (the giraffe) to have her baby. Whenever we can, we peek in on the YouTube feed to see if anything is happening, and the kids ask every morning what the update is. I will say we have been learning a lot about giraffes and having so much fun with the live feed (I may have it streaming on my phone while writing this – it’s true). 


So many of you have been enjoying the video clip sum-ups of our weeks, so here is a peek into the last three weeks or so of life. Feed readers can click here to see the video.  The lighting is crazy and I’m hiding in my bathroom again (so there’s that), but somehow the whole actual talking thing makes me also feel like it’s more of a conversation between us (albeit one-sided). 


Here’s the quick sum-up (and more below): 

  • I’ve been traveling. Last week I was in Arkansas and this week in Nashville, TN speaking at Teach Them Diligently. I absolutely love this part of the year because I get to connect with other homeschool moms and really share my heart, pray with others, and be encouraged through the process. This past week I was also able to meet with some friends I haven’t seen in over twenty years (since the early 90s). The two babies above? Those are the kids of two kids (now grown men) I babysat many years ago. It was SO wonderful to spend a few hours with them and meet their wives and catch up! 
  • School goes on when I’m not home. The girls have been working through their work independently. Zachary and Kaleb require more 1:1 attention, so I’ve left detailed lists with what they need to work on and my mom has been going through their work with them. 
  • The kids have been playing this game almost every single morning. 
  • Next week we have a week off (our six week on/one week off schedule). I’m looking forward to a lot of cuddle time with the kids and enjoying not needing to be anywhere. 
  • Laurianna has still been having off days health-wise. She had a 3 week spell where she was feeling great, but then last week had three really rough days again. Since our last break, she has scaled back on her workload and is tackling the core subjects and fitting in a few lessons of others when she can, but essentially trying to keep herself feeling well. We finally had an appointment with an auto-immune specialist and based on bloodwork, he does not believe her Bartonella is causing all the issues. So – we’re back to square one and waiting on another doctor for advanced genetic testing because she is showing all the markers for a connective tissue disorder. The good news is – we can lighten up on dietary restrictions at this point, which makes it much easier on both her and myself! 
  • Kaleb is reading an honest to goodness chapter book. We pulled out The Boxcar Children and he is now at chapter seven and reading to my mom and others – WOOT!!!!

My biggest challenge is staying on top of Zachary and making sure he is completing all of his work. Sometimes his memory is a little different than actuality. :) There is a fine line between stretching independence and work being done. 

The kids have been having a blast with our new Sphero SPRK+. We’ll be using it more in the next weeks, but it’s charging and taken a few trial runs around the house. We have an older Sphero, so the kids have been comparing speed and details between the two.

There has been much clicking and twisting going on in the house. My brain may be on sensory overload from the Rubiks Cube. But they are loving it and having fun, so there’s that right? And I especially can’t complain when they have saved up their own money to buy them!


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


A few links for you: 


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: