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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: 


4th Grade Mid-Year Homeschool Curriculum Review

January beginning means we are at about the halfway point in our homeschool year. Christmas break was a great time to evaluate what has been (or isn’t) working, how the kids are progressing, and see if we need to make any adjustments.


Overall, everything has been going well (we’ve been making minor tweaks throughout the weeks as we go), but I thought you might like to see what the kids are enjoying and also how it’s working so far. I’ll be sharing more on each grade level over the next week or two since it’s a lot easier than doing one gigantic post with everyone.  

4th Grade Mid-Year Curriculum Review

Overall each of our 4th grade curriculum choices have been working very well. We’ve been tweaking reading as we go along because the main goal has been to get Kaleb reading more confidently. We are still using All About Reading 3 as our core, but have pulled back from their readers. We do the lessons, but Kaleb picks out various readers at the library (with my approval) and we’re using those books to boost his fluency (ironically, same words, but for some reason it flows easier). 

History has moved up the ladder as far as favorites go, mainly because we are teaming up with another family once a week and doing some fun projects to go along with our studies. We work through a few lessons at home each week, and then on Thursday afternoons the kids and I, along with our friend’s children, do an additional lesson and activity to go along (cooking, building, etc…). This has helped Kaleb find a new appreciation for history since he gets to see his friends too. :)

Kaleb has been working on several subjects fairly independently this year: math and handwriting (via Spelling You See). Otherwise, the bulk of his subjects are done 1:1 with me, and frankly, I rather enjoy that. :) With him being our youngest, I will savor each and every moment I have. He is loving science and anything that involves tinkering (Little Bits), and he also loves snuggling to read together with me (being read aloud to is a favorite of his). 


4th Grade Homeschool Curriculum

4th grade homeschool curriculum choices - from Homeschool Creations

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

What We’re Adding (or Already Have)

A Reason for Science D germination lesson

  • Handwriting – A few weeks into the school year we added in Spelling You See Level C, not as a spelling program, but more as handwriting and extra reading practice for Kaleb. He enjoys the handwriting practice (when ironically he hates writing) and it’s one subject he also feels independence in. 
  • Science – While we have worked on various science experiments over the last few months, Kaleb absolutely adores science and needs more structure in this area. For the last half of the year we are adding in A Reason for Science D. The program has 36 lessons (weeks), so there will probably be some we will either work through more quickly or gloss over based on what he has already studied. 

What We’ve Slowed Down On or Put Aside for Now

  •  Bible – we are still working through, but focusing on things that include all of the kids. Big Truths for Young Hearts is something we can read as a family at night and learn together. :)
  • Art – we’ve slowed down some on this because Kaleb loves to create (and does so during our other coop time as well). He has been picking/choosing the projects he wants to work on, instead of focusing on every single one. That also allows him more free time to work on other projects (like building). 

What Mom Needs to Focus More On

homeschool world geography

Reorganizing subject order – Each year we find a different groove that helps us get things accomplished more quickly or puts us in a better flow. The last month before we took a break, we reorganized Kaleb’s workbox grid. This has been a great visual schedule for both of us to remember the various subjects that sometimes get pushed aside. (see the next item)

Geography – This tends to be the subject that gets shuffled to the end of the line, so it is moving up earlier in the day so we will get more accomplished. We aren’t doing a super in-depth study this year, but have picked countries that interest Kaleb and working from there. 

Writing Things Down – While the older three are all taking care of writing down their daily plans and then getting together with me, I have done a wretched job of writing down every thing that Kaleb has been working on (for my records). I know he is on target, so it’s more for my brain and filling in the blanks, but it is helpful to see what he has been working on when there are tough days. Sometimes that visual progress helps me push on and through. 

Reading with Kaleb – We started off well this year with read-alouds, but during the last bit of November and through December it all went out the window. He and I have been reading various books to go along with our history studies (just fun, light reading), but he loves it! 

Family read-alouds – The last few months have felt very helter-skelter and our kids have gotten SO picky about audio books (once you find ones you love hearing, it’s hard to listen to ones that are a bit ‘meh’). They love it when I read aloud and with the weather chilly and swim season almost done for us, these will pick up for sure.

See What the 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

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

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

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 Reading List 2016

4th grade reading list 2016 - independent readers and read-alouds for the year

I’ll admit that part of me is always hesitant to share reading lists or updates on our youngest. This is where that comparison issue rears its ugly head – comparison to our other children – or even friend’s kids. Reading is just harder for him and sometimes that’s really hard to accept, remember, and not become frustrated with – especially with myself as the parent and teacher. Sometimes I want to cry and other times it’s a mental note to be patient, patient, patient so we can celebrate every little milestone and keep reading fun and not something that is another check on the “to-do” list for his subjects. Already there have been several moments to cheer and celebrate – and that’s a gigantic YAY!!

This year, reading is the primary focus of all we are doing and we are trying to incorporate as much as we can into every area. Our 4th grade reading list is almost equal parts independent reading and read-alouds (and hopefully eventually read-togethers). While some of the readers are definitely easier reading, part of the goal is to keep his confidence boosted and go with what he loves (and the boy absolutely adores anything Amelia Bedelia). 

A Peek at the List

The core of everything we are doing is All About Reading 3 and we are working through two lessons each week. If we finish that level before the end of the year, we will move onto Level 4, but his mastery and fluency are our major focuses this year. These is such a solid program with constant review and I absolutely love it! While it may be more than he is often happy with, he is definitely learning through the review process. 

Rather than listing out every single smaller reader, let’s just say there is a large collection of I-Can-Read books we’ve gathered over the years that we are pulling from. We have some of the simpler level 1 all the way through level 4 books, but here’s a peek at some of the ones in our pile:

Read-Alouds and Read-Togethers

Several of the books in our pile are tied in with our history learning this year. Kaleb has really enjoyed our time to sit and read at least a chapter out of one of the books in his pile. While I didn’t use any specific guide for choosing these books, they will either match up with the historical period we are studying or be a ‘just for fun’ book. 

We will likely hit the library over the course of the year as well (we try to go every 3-4 weeks and stock up). Our library has a crazy-huge assortment of early readers (and Amelia Bedelia books) that will keep him going when this stack runs out!

One thing we started doing last year was buddy reading. When Kaleb is feeling overwhelmed or needs a little help, we take turns reading pages in the book – and then the next day switch to read alternate pages. Check out this post for more information on how it can help out (be sure to read through the comments as well – there are some additional great tips to try with your kids!). This year as we progress more, I’m definitely hoping we can use this approach in our ‘harder’ read alouds. The books on our list vary in difficulty, and Kaleb knows/comprehends more than he lets on at times, so hopefully as his confidence grows our buddy reading will as well. 

What books are on your kid’s reading list for this year?


Additional Reading Lists

American Literature high school reading list 2016_edited-1

8th reading list 2016

6th reading list 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