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A Little More Than Halfway Done – 19 Week Homeschool Update

Somehow getting over the halfway mark seems to make a mental difference – do you know what I mean? We ended in December on week 17, and I have to tell you it may have made me a little wiggy. Somehow Christmas seems like it should be the mid-point, but really – that extra long break for us at Christmas was fabulous, so I’ll just let it go (and now I’m humming that song, thank you very much).

Getting back into the swing of things was admittedly a little rougher (because really, truly – I rather enjoyed having a whole bunch of lazy days, but routine is nice too). Having done absolutely nothing over Christmas break turned out to be a very good thing for all of us. But everyone managed to pull back together with a day or two and we’re all good now and it’s back to the typical attitudes (Truth = my kids aren’t always keen on all we do! Shocker, I’m sure).

History Time Together

homeschool history time together

In our history time, we’ve been learning about a wide span of things in the mid 1800’s thanks to Mystery of History 4: the French rule of Mexico, emperor Meiji of Japan, the Dominion of Canada, Abraham Lincoln, and the Civil War. While we’ve literally been hopping all over the place, it’s been fun to see how things tie in together historically too. I tell you – there is so much that I either don’t remember or never learned. Homeschooling is truly such a great learning time for me as well (either that, or I appreciate some things much more now that I’m older – let’s just go with that).

We typically use the coloring sheets that go along with Mystery of History, the kids often start stick-figuring what we are talking about (there may be many Civil War battle scenes lately) or take notes on what we’re learning. Stick figures are always popular.

The Fun of Science (9th Grade)

Exploration Education physical science

Laurianna is continuing Exploration Education physical science with our small co-op (there are only 4 kids), and they are having a lot of fun with the hands-on projects to go along with the weekly lessons. Over the period of a few weeks they work on different labs/projects (so far they have framed and wired a miniature house, made a glider, a steamboat, a racecar), and they are currently building a working scale.

During the week she study the lessons and work on experiments independently, and once a week the group works on additional experiments and reviews the learning material together. Our co-op time is usually about an hour and a half or so – just enough to squeeze in a little more.

Reading Time

true adventure of homer p. figg

We haven’t been dedicated in sitting down to read, but we’re currently in the middle of The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg. The story takes place during the Civil War (and I think it’s hilarious). While it’s below the reading level of the older two, it still has been fun to listen to together.

read aloud time

Sitting still during reading time can be a bit tough, so the kids will color, draw, or build when I am reading. The boys have spent quite a bit of time building with their new Simple and Compound Machines K’Nex set they received for Christmas. 

On the reading front, Zachary recently discovered the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books and has been reading and re-reading them. I cannot tell you how much this makes my heart happy. He has gone from ZERO interest in reading to scouring the library shelves for something new to read in just a few short months.

Art Time (9th Grade and 2nd Grade)

homeschool January 2015-34

Kaleb is rather happy to be working on art projects again (we love Home Art Studio). Just before we started back with school, I rearranged the wall above his desk and took some of his artwork from the fall down. He loves to display it when he’s done and usually works on at least one project a week, so it can get a little crazy above his desk. With the above project he worked on color mixing and using oil pastels as well as drawing his own fish.

homeschool January 2015-36

Last semester Laurianna’s art time at co-op was spent working on a marionette. She sketched out her project, cut dowel rods, and molded and painted the body parts for her puppet. Her marionette was based on the story of Esther and she chose the king. Her teacher helped with sewing the clothing after the fabric was chosen, and she is SO excited about her creation.

The Puppy

homeschool January 2015-19

The biggest change in our house has come in the form of a little puppy, Addie. We’ve been talking about getting a dog for well over a year and finally brought home a little one. Needless to say, the kids are thrilled and (mostly) pitching in to help with all the fun stuff that goes along with having a puppy.

homeschooling with the puppy

Addie has been joining us in the schoolroom during the day, and most often we’ll find her trying to chew on our chair bottoms or curled up in our bean bag chair (much like I would like to do). Of course the kids say that she ‘helps them study’ – ha! Not so sure I believe that, but it has been rather fun.


Well, that’s a quick look at the last two weeks for us – what have you been up to with your kids?


Mary_CollageFriday weekly wrap up

Linking up this week with Collage Friday and Weekly Wrap-up!

Our Mid-Year Homeschool Review

Technically we’re one week shy of being halfway through our school year, but we’re ready to take an extended three week break for Christmas. In years past we’ve taken the week of Christmas and a bit after and truthfully – well, everything just feels rushed and crazy-like. So this year, we planned in a much needed break that will coincide with a nice trip to the grandparents.

Anyway, here’s a little peek at what we’ve been up to the last few weeks, thoughts on how our school year has been going so far, especially with the new curriculum pieces we added in. We had a laptop crash and the new laptop already had a minor mishap (how in the world??), but everything is finally re-installed on the new computer and up and running. You can view our full 2014-15 curriculum list here.

I’d love to hear what you all have been up to as well, so please leave a comment and share your thoughts on your year as well!


Now that our brand-spankin’-new textbook for Mystery of History 4 has arrived, we’re feeling all official. Truthfully, I’m feeling so very overwhelmed in some ways because there is SO much to learn and it is hard to touch on just a small fraction of history. We do look in-depth at things, but switching into the modern era there is an overwhelming amount of information to intake.

Maybe that’s just me. (grins)

We’ve covered the thirteen colonies, many of the early American leaders, the French and Indian War, Catherine the Great, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte, the War of 1812, the Trail of Tears, Karl Marx, famous abolitionists, Florence Nightingale, Charles Darwin, and are just about ready to talk about the Civil War.

History is flying by! We are loving the lessons and occasionally adding in some dvd clips from either Liberty Kids or Drive Thru History just for variation. We haven’t had as much time to add in a lot of read-alouds from the time period (with swim team this fall), but hopefully that will be back on track in the upcoming months.


We’ve taken a little break from Picture Smart Bible in November and December to focus on Unwrapping the Greatest Gift and work on another family devotional from Focus on the Family. We are really loving the Advent study from Ann Voskamp – those coloring pages just seal the deal. The kids love them.

Laurianna is almost done with the What on Earth Can I Do? in the What We Believe series, and McKenna is working on Who is My Neighbor?


Do you all have visitors in your homeschool room? Please say yes. Olaf made a special appearance and was apparently helping McKenna with her math. Really, more like distracting everyone and causing unending giggles.

One kiddo is learning multiplication (his 1,’s, 5’s, and 10’s), another is starting with long division, and Laurianna is making my brain hurt with algebra equations. It’s a good hurt and my brain is happy to solve things that can actually be solved.



My momma’s heart is so very happy in this area with all of our kids. Kaleb’s reading is growing with leaps and bounds. He is working on All About Reading 2 and we’ve gotten into a great daily groove with lessons and review.

The other day someone asked Zachary what his favorite subject was – and the boy said READING. You all, I wanted to cry happy tears right then and there. Knowing what a struggle it’s been for him (believing he can’t vs. his capability), that is such an amazing thing to hear – and the biggest thing has been the first book he finished this year as a part of his language program. Since then, Zachary has finished four books on his 4th grade reading list (yay!!). In addition, Zachary is about halfway through All About Reading 4, and he is so excited about that!

McKenna has finished seven of the books on her reading list and Laurianna is almost halfway through hers as well. Unfortunately (well, not really), both of these girls are voracious readers and get sidetracked easily after a trip to the library.


This year one of the things I was most nervous about was switching the boys to Learning Language Arts Through Literature. While we aren’t using everything in the lessons (spelling and some reading are separate), both boys are really liking the change. The biggest thing for Zachary is the tie-in with what he is reading (more of the book study approach), but he is also learning about research papers, and more this year.

McKenna has loved the switch to Growing with Grammar and also the online WordBuild vocabulary. She discovered a love for diagramming – takes after her mom in that!


Snap circuits

The boys are a little more than halfway through Nancy Larson Science 2. Although Zachary worked on this level a few years ago, he asked to do it with Kaleb this year and has been a great help to Kaleb. They both are having fun with the hands-on aspects (we’re learning about levers and simple machines right now) and tying in some fun LEGO projects. On the side, Zachary is working with Snap Circuits and K’Nex projects – we try to find a project that goes along with our lessons that week.

McKenna isn’t as crazy about her science program as Laurianna was a few years ago, but it’s a change from what she has used in the past. She is finally getting settled with it, but part of the problem has been moving to a more independent program. While Laurianna enjoyed that aspect, it’s a little harder for McKenna.

Laurianna does much of her science work independently during the week, but once a week gets together with a small group of kids to go over additional experiments. She is loving her physical science! So far they’ve built a glider, a boat, and are working on framing a miniature house complete with electricity. So much fun!


Home Art Studio artwork

While Zachary and McKenna do an art project every now and then – they enjoy them, but don’t live for them, Kaleb is the exact opposite. The boy would work on an art project every.single.day if he could.


When the rest of his schoolwork is done, he grabs his art DVD, all the supplies I’ve pulled out, and runs downstairs to work on a project. The wall above his desk is crazy full of fun paintings, drawings, and more.

The Rest of the High School Stuff

North Star Geography Experiments

Really, there are so many other subjects! A few of Laurianna’s high school credits I touched on briefly above (math and science), but a few don’t fully ‘fit’ into any of the above areas.

Greek Myths (1/2 credit) – This was the one class she was so very excited to take this year, maybe partly due to Percy Jackson – who knows. Unfortunately, while she enjoys the main text, she isn’t super thrilled with the class overall. It isn’t quite what she expected, which has made the last few weeks of the class hard. She’ll be finishing it up in just a few days, and it’s one that she’ll be happy to say goodbye to. On the bright side, it’s been a great lesson in perseverance even when things are going the way you expected.

North Star Geography (1 credit) – Laurianna didn’t expect to enjoy this quite as much as she has been. Overall, it is her favorite subject and the one she looks forward to each day. I’m beyond thrilled with the teacher’s plans, the grading spreadsheet (that does all the work for me), and the many, many helps that come along with the course. BEST class for both of us this year!

Spanish – We had a minor snafu with our program when our laptop died. We went from two inputs to only one headphone jack and someone (ahem), kept forgetting to purchase a splitter. Thankfully, Laurianna was already ahead in her lessons, so she’ll be back on track after the start of the year. (phew)

Intro to Literature – While the class has been challenging (in a good way) for Laurianna, I’m so very thankful for the years that she used WriteShop Junior. Her writing is so much stronger because of it, which has been helpful this year in her lit class. I’ve been reading the books along with the kids and grading papers galore. My one complaint about the program is the lack of grading rubrics/standards. While they have one generic one they use as an example, I’ve had to pull together my own grading sheets (but that’s just me being picky). Writing is a tough area to grade, because so much can be subjective.


Phew – that’s a big, long sum-up of our year so far and what we think of our curriculum (we’re happy with it all!!).

How are YOU doing?

In Which We Finish 13 Weeks of Homeschooling

Rather than taking our typical break after each six week block, the kids (and dad and mom) decided to push through the next few weeks and take a full week off at Thanksgiving, and then a little more than three weeks off at Christmas. Somehow December manages to always get crazy fast, so we’re hoping this will make it easier (and fun!).

Ready to see a few things that we’ve been up to? Apparently I wasn’t super ambitious with the camera – but it’s been a GREAT two weeks and we’ve gotten so much accomplished (I love that feeling!).

Learning about Wheels and Axles

simple machines nancy larson

The boys are working together on Nancy Larson Science 2. The most recent unit has been on force, friction, and work. One lesson in our unit was about wheels and axles, so we pulled out our Lego Education Simple Machines set and put together cars to show how they move down an inclined plane. While many of our science lessons are already hands-on, adding LEGOs definitely made it even more fun! 

Parallel Learning

boys at the table homeschooling

One of the things that I love about the above picture – two boys working on completely different projects (reading vs. LEGOs), pjs vs. fully dressed (ignore the crazy hair) – it’s just a snapshot of what our days looks like. Granted, it isn’t always quite this peaceful (or cooperative), but that’s another part of our days, right?

A few of you have asked what books are sitting on the table next to Zachary. While I was cleaning off our shelves and pulling out things for my nephew, I found some old Scholastic Early Readers and had Kaleb go through them that morning. He was having an “I can’t read” day, and it was so encouraging to him to FLY through almost the entire box of books in no time flat (encouraging for both him as well as me!). He was all smiles when he finished reading them, realizing what he COULD do.

Incidentally, the above picture shows Zachary working on his third book this year (yay!!) from his fourth grade reading list, and he just finished it up this week!

The Boy Who Chews…

History time

History is going great as well, although we are a bit behind on our history timeline – oops. Kaleb (sorry for the bad picture!) and the other kids have been using Chewigem pendants and tags the last week and a half. Honestly, I am really thankful for them, because Kaleb is a huge chewer and constantly has things in his mouth (typically Lego pieces) and that makes me super nervous. The Chewigem dog tags have kept toys and unsafe things out of his mouth and helped with a lot of the fidgeting in the other kids. 

Learning How Business Works

homeschool mini society project-1

The 6th through 8th graders in our high school co-op are working on mini society projects. Essentially, the kids set up their own businesses, create their own society with jobs, currency, etc… and find out what makes money work – a little crash lesson in life.

McKenna is working with another girl in her class and they have been busy making as much as they can with as little cash expense as possible. They have created rock monsters (made with googley eyes and cheap paint), t-shirt bracelets (using old t-shirts), and monster bookmarks that sit on the corner of book pages. It’s been a great experience to discover what works with marketing a product, how much time to budget for projects, and what products are worth the time/effort and have the best cost/effort ratio.

Listening to Books

Audiobooks for Families to enjoy

Last week I shared some of the recent audiobooks we’ve listened to as a family. Richard Peck has been a favorite author in recent weeks, but we’re headed back to the library this week to see what else we can find!


Time Away with (One of) My Girls


I’ll be sharing more soon, but this past weekend McKenna and I had a weekend away to have our talk on friendships, peer pressure, dating, and the S.E.X. word. Oh my goodness. It was such a completely different weekend than my weekend with Laurianna, but it was so absolutely wonderful. We did things that spoke to her heart, including spending time working on a special mug at a local pottery place. She has big plans for the finished mug, including toting it to church for Sunday morning coffee – love it!


On the Mom Front

The kids haven’t been the only ones busy around the house. I’m slowly working on my November book list (shockingly, I got distracted with two other books, but have finished two of the books in my pile, Start: Punch Fear in the Face and A Lady at Willowgrove Hall. I’m almost finished with Parenting with Love and Logic and Six Ways to Keep the Good in Your Boy – again, so helpful if I focus on ONE book at a time!


I’ve been working hard on my November goals too. Our living room is currently a work in progress, but it’s getting there! We’ve emptied out our entertainment center, moved our tv, primed the mantle, and we’re now prepping for full painting and bookcases on either side of the fireplace. Painting over the wood is killing me a bit, but I think the end result will be beautiful, so trying not to panic! (fyi – I hate, hate, hate decorating).


What have you been up to with your kids?

Mary_CollageFriday weekly wrap up

Linking up this week with Collage Friday and Weekly Wrap-up!

4th Grade Homeschool Reading List

4th grade homeschool reading list

(almost all books picture – minus the one someone walked off with)

The primary goal this year for our 4th grader was to instill a love for reading in the boy. While we read a lot out loud together, picking up a book independently isn’t something he does for fun. When we head to the library, he tends to be the kiddo that wanders around, asks to play the computers constantly, and comes back with a stack of books somehow related to Star Wars, but well below his reading level.

Keep in mind, he CAN read, but there’s something in his head that has convinced him that he cannot – and definitely won’t enjoy it. My encouragement tends to fall on deaf ears, and it can be incredibly frustrating.

The Boxcar Children was the first book on our list, and can I tell you how EXCITED Zachary was when he finished it (and one more since??). It’s helped him do a complete turn around in his approach to reading, and that makes a mom super happy too!

Our primary reading program is All About Reading 4, and the boy has been flying through the lessons already (yay!). We both love the new program, and these additional books below will round out his reading list for the year.

Books to Go-Along with our Language Arts Program

We switched out our language program to use Learning Language Arts Through Literature (Orange) this year, because there are five book studies built into the yearly program. Each of the books includes more detailed study with our language program.

One thing I found this summer – Zachary like autobiographies, and two of the books in the program are focused on historical characters.

A Peek at Additional Reading

Since four books isn’t quite enough to cover the year, I added several other books based on recommendations from the Reading Roadmaps guide from the Center for Lit. These are books that we will complete more detailed studies of, including filling out book reports, literature summaries, early story charts, and character studies. Adding these books will essentially put him on pace to finish one book (plus a little more) a month and give us plenty of time for the study activities.


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


Homeschool Reading Lists for our Other Children

Interested in seeing reading lists for our other kids as well? Check out our reading choices for this year by clicking on the images below.

6th grade homeschool reading list

9th grade reading list