20 Best Tips
Teaching Textbooks

Building Models, the SAT, and Getting on Track – Homeschool and Life Happenings

This week was fairly laid back and more of a “get-back-on-track” week for us: reviewing where we SHOULD be at this point in the school year, adjusting our schedules as needed, making sure we have all quizzes/tests completed for the older kids, and looking forward to make sure we have all the things we need for the upcoming few weeks. 

There were a few areas that needed tweaking, but I think overall we are all feeling better (aka – mom is feeling better) and next week will be definitely more focused. 

McKenna and I started off the week seeing the musical “Urinetown” – the one she will be in this coming November. It was great to see it live and get a better feel for how the musical flows. I know the title sounds odd, but it is rather hilarious – a satire if you will on so many things, and McKenna is going to do fabulous as one of the leads (and she is so excited). 

Overall the kids are doing well staying on task, although I keep forgetting some of the little things, like typing, for Kaleb. With the schoolroom all out of whack, it makes it a little harder to not be in a routine up there, so I’m going to have to make some lists to put on his desk with things he needs to check off daily. 

This week we did a little dictionary work to go along with the book he is reading on the Wright Brothers. He isn’t particularly thrilled with this newest book because it is a little tougher to read, but he is doing great with comprehension. 

Most mornings we get a rather short time with Laurianna before she heads off to classes at the community college. She is almost at the halfway point in the semester and doing great so far. She is loving all of her classes (microbiology), but sometimes there are ones you have to take regardless. 

This last week she took the SAT and in the next few weeks she will be studying for her nursing entrance tests (Kaplan) – but no pressure at all!

 

In his chemistry class, Kaleb is learning about atoms right now, so we worked on building an atom model made out of styrofoam balls. 

And you know as luck would have it, I found all the leftover styrofoam balls from Zachary’s model AFTER I’d bought new ones for Kaleb and he had painted them. I can be my own worst enemy sometimes when it comes to re-organizing things. 

The finished model turned out pretty great though! I’m pretty sure he created an atom of lead, but don’t quote me on that, ok? 

Can we stop for a moment and chat about some of the most amazing baking pans I have ever owned? Ones that make me want to slowly buy every single size they have available?

These aluminized steel pans are nothing short of incredible. No non-stick spray. Barely any cleanup. Just fabulous. The cupcakes I made popped right out of the pan, and it’s ready to use again. Seriously. They’ve made me want to bake all the time (which I haven’t decided if that’s a good thing or not yet…). 

The boys and I are having fun playing this new game together as well. We’re still getting the feel for it, but it reminds me a bit of Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride – almost as if they merged, had a baby, and themed it after national parks. It’s a little bit of geography and learning all rolled into a game, and that’s a win-win for me! 

Tomorrow the boys and I will be finishing up some prep work for their upcoming Scout camping trip and some badge prerequisites (yay, me!). They are both hoping to complete two badges over the weekend, so Rick and I are helping them read through the booklets and finish a few steps so they will be able to knock two more off. Fun fact: it will be almost freezing at night when they camp and it was 90 degrees earlier this week. 

That’s about it from this last week! I hope you all are doing well and would love to hear about your homeschool time – feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you’ve been up to. 

Be sure to stop by WeirdUnsocializedHomeschoolers.com and hang out with some other moms who are sharing their day-to-day happenings. 

Sunshine, Legos, and Curriculum that Clicks – Homeschool and Life Happenings

This summer we haven’t had much time for camping or family trips. Well, other than our two and a half week trip to Europe (grins). Once we returned home from those adventures, the days/weeks were full of recovering from our travels, swim team, and the girls’ work schedules. 

That and a whole bunch of rain. And more rain. 

We’d been complaining that we hadn’t camped nearly as much, but then when the sun actually started shining, we realized that almost every weekend would have been a miserable, soppy mess. 

BUT SUNSHINE HAPPENED ALL WEEKEND!!! 

We met another family in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. One of the things Zachary really wanted to see was the point where the Potomac and Shenandoah River meet. Because of all the recent rain and hurricane that came up along the East Coast, the water levels were ridiculous.

Granted, not nearly as high as they’ve been in record years, but everything was still a mess. The Appalachian Trail was closed as well because the water was covering the trail at one point. 

The campground had an early trick-or-treat night (which we didn’t know about), so a quick Walmart run resulted in some silly costumes for the kid (a princess, a pirate, a nerd, and someone from the 80s), along with a younger princess friend. 

As soon as we were back from camping, Kaleb headed to one of his Lego League meetings. The group of boys have built their robot and also created several attachments to complete the various missions, but they are still working on completing the programs for those missions and the timing to earn the highest number of points. 

They’ve worked so hard this year and are building on the knowledge they gained last year, so this is so much fun to see their improvements. Their competition day is in early November, so they still have several weeks to tweak their robot’s maneuvers and put together their presentation. It will be fun to see how they do this year compared to last year!

Zachary typically starts his day with Teaching Textbooks Algebra 1. He is doing really well with the class. I haven’t quite figured out what the fascination is with using the computer downstairs rather than the laptop we have for the boys, but if it gets finished, I really suppose I shouldn’t complain, right? 

Both boys are reading new books now. Zachary is about halfway through of The Witch of Blackbird Pond and Kaleb is reading Wilbur and Orville Wright: Young Fliers. The one Zachary is reading isn’t on his initial reading list, but since he is working through them a little more quickly than we anticipated, we added this one in. Kaleb isn’t as excited about the new book in comparison to reading Boxcar Children (a little more challenging), but it’s finally clicking for him as well. 

With the schoolroom in complete upheaval at the moment, McKenna spends most of her day curled up in her room working on her school. Hilariously she has created a bit of a “nest” and is usually surrounded by her laundry, schoolbooks, and makes everything all cozy. 

One of the best changes we made this year was switching to the History and Geography Lifepacs – it’s been a perfect fit for Kaleb. At the start of each unit, we divide the readings up over a series of days. It’s given him a visual of how much to do each day, and helped him mentally not get overwhelmed with the work for the year. 
The smaller units are a HUGE win for us, rather than having one (seemingly) overwhelming text. Loving it!!! 

Usually we are able to fit our school work into four days, but this week we are going to do a little bit on Friday too to catch up and fill in the things we have either missed or put aside until we had time. We’re also planning on a little fun too (I have a new game which I’m sure will be met by groans, but we’ll see!).  

That’s about it from this last week! I hope you all are doing well and would love to hear about your homeschool time – feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you’ve been up to. 

Be sure to stop by WeirdUnsocializedHomeschoolers.com and hang out with some other moms who are sharing their day-to-day happenings. 

Serving, a Field Trip, a Surgery, and a College Visit – Homeschool and Life Happenings

It’s amazing how there are times when life can seem to fly by and at the same time go ever-so-slow.

The last two weeks have been like that in many ways. We’ve been plugging along with school, but we’ve had a whirlwind of things happening both in and out of the house that made it really hard for me to sit down (both physically and mentally). 

Between getting the day-to-day school done and then juggling some parenting stuff heaped on top of it, it has really been an exhausting two weeks. 

We’ve been dealing with good days of school (everyone happy and working hard) versus days when there have been tears (from child and parent), self-doubts on my part, and moments of crazy fun and laughter together. The roller coaster of it all 

Keeping it real – this is the current state of our school room. McKenna has been working off of my desk since the wall behind hers in being primed. We haven’t even started painting yet because life has just been so full. 

Because of the disarray, it’s meant we’ve been all over the house with our school time (even though we are more focused when we are in one room). 

Zachary has been working on several science labs/projects with Exploration Education. His first one was building a racer (battery powered) to help us measure mph (speed) (measuring the distance traveled and the time it took). 

Something fun in this experiments was seeing the difference a battery makes. Apparently some of the 9 volt batteries in our closet are used/old and the car was moving rather pitifully. We recently purchased new lithium 9v batteries and the speed on the racer was hilarious in comparison! 

The second project Zachary built for physical science was a steam boat. His vessel wasn’t 100% sea-worthy, but it did putter around the tub for a bit without taking on too much water. 

In this experiment, he built a boat using a thin metal sheet, an excessive amount of hot glue (grins), attached a small boiler plate, and then used a small candle to heat the boiler plate that eventually powered the boat in the water. 

Kaleb started his typing program from Keyboarding without Tears finally (I may have forgotten for a bit). It’s definitely a bit more intense for him than the level we used last year (and we’ve had to switch to another laptop since the boys’ laptop is a bit glitchy at times). 

Laurianna has been working hard in her four classes at the community college and survived a microbiology test as well as her first paper for her English class. Something encouraging to me was having her professor comment on her knowledge of MLA (that may be an area we have drilled on over the last few years). 

Later in the week we also visited another university to talk to them about their RN to BSN program and see if their may work with her current studies. Prior to heading into this visit, she was leaning very heavily toward attending another university, but is now reconsidering her options, especially because it would also cut back on expenses and offers some different options. 

Once a month the kids and I help serve at a local church and serve a meal to those in the area who need a hot meal. The kids have become a huge help – but let me tell you something: they don’t always want to do it and attitudes sometimes stink when we head out. 

I get it. I don’t always want to either, but regardless, we go and serve. If there is one thing we really do want to instill in our kids, it’s that it isn’t always about what we want to do, but more about putting the needs of others above ourselves. 

At the end of last week, my dad also had back surgery. Initially his surgery was scheduled for the following week, but he was bumped up last minute so much of my Friday was spent waiting for updates on his seven hour surgery, being with my mom or him at the hospital, and then hanging out after all was done. He is home and has a long recovery period over the next few months, but hopefully this will offer some relief for his back. 

Earlier this week I shared a picture of how life feels at the moment: a bit messy. Kaleb was working on some of his schoolwork at the counter and they are covered with “stuff” – letters that need to be filed, bills that need to be paid, random junk and other things that need to be organized. 

We do school and life still happens in the midst of it. So while he works and I talk him through things, I cleaned up (somewhat). It’s one of the perks and downsides of homeschooling. We’re home which means messes are made while we are living and working, and often those messes seem to multiply. :) 

McKenna is plugging along to in her work. One thing I loved hearing the other day was that McKenna’s favorite subject is Algebra. She wasn’t a fan of geometry (I really can’t say that I blame her), but Algebra is something she loves. (My inner math geek is rather pleased with this.) 

Here’s the honest part about homeschooling our teens: there are days that I get a lot of pushback. Different personalities sometimes result in my hearing things that can really hurt and cut straight to my insecurities as a parent/teacher. And the yuck in that area can be really hard to sort through.  

Mid-week I walked into the schoolroom to find the boys had pulled out our Backseat Drawing Jr. game (aff link). They were supposed to be working on a few other things, and my initial reaction was one of frustration and wanting to get them back on track. 

And then I took a deep breath and instead sat down to play with them. 

Games are something I love and the plan was to include them much more this year in our school time, and quite honestly – we needed some time of fun. McKenna came into the schoolroom after a bit and we all took turns giving directions. 

One person has a picture card and everyone else tries to draw an object based on how the card holder describes it. So much laughing and quite a good way to show the importance of accurate phrasing and step-by-step directions (and following them). Also how people interpret things can be hilarious!

We wrapped up this week with a day-long Shakespeare workshop with Zachary and McKenna while Kaleb had the chance to hang out at a friend’s house and work on his school work and also build some of the missions for this year’s Lego League. We’ve been planning this trip since May and first saw the play As You Like It in the morning and then attended two workshops based on portions of the play: one on character interpretation/movement and another on poetry and learning how Shakespeare uses iambic pentameter throughout his writing (and how each line can be interpreted multiple ways based on inflection). 

That’s the bulk of our last two weeks – minus some parenting drama. I hope you all are doing well and would love to hear about your homeschool time! 

Be sure to stop by WeirdUnsocializedHomeschoolers.com and hang out with some other moms who are sharing their day-to-day happenings. 

Fall Read-Alouds for Middle School Boys

This fall our read-alouds are focused more on the boys and their interests (or things they will hopefully be interested in). While our girls were avid readers, our boys have more of a “meh” attitude when it comes to reading, so one of my goals in reading out loud with them daily is making it FUN and enjoyable. 

We have four books in our pile for our fall reading: 

We are currently reading The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt – and it is HILARIOUS. If you have middle schoolers (boys or girls), they will love this book told from the perspective of a 7th grade boy. And beyond that, you as the reader will love it too (I’ve laughed out loud and even teared up at a few points). 

The boys may have had to remind me IT’S NOT REAL, MOM! (For real.)

Anyway, here are a few thoughts on our choices for the fall read alouds. 

Read Aloud Tips

Maybe your family is having a hard time settling down for a read aloud time? If so, maybe one of these Six Read-Aloud Tips will help your family out {especially little ones}.

Books We’ve Previously Read Together

Here are a few other books that we’ve read together and blogged about. Click over to see our thoughts on them!

Audiobooks for Families to enjoy

 

College Visits, Mom Doubts, and Routines – Homeschool and Life Happenings

I’m not going to lie. This week hasn’t been all sunshine and happiness in the house. Aside from the fact that it’s literally been overcast and we were prepping for some major rain thanks to Hurricane Flo (which it now looks like will miss us), kiddos have had headaches, and there have been some rather stinky attitudes all around. 

The kind that make you cry a bit, call a friend to vent and get some reassurance that you are not scarring your children for all eternity. And then you pray even more for guidance.

We all have doubts and there are days when little (or big) things the kids say or do touch on insecurities and make us question all that we are doing. 

So we regroup. Refocus. See if there is something that needs to be tweaked. And we keep going.

Our Days…

One of these days I will get around to sharing what a day looks like in our house. Except here’s the thing – each day doesn’t follow a set routine. 

We do start our days with routine of sorts, but our kids aren’t on a minute-by-minute block schedule. We know what subjects need to be done each day and work through them in the order that works best. 

But every morning the boys watch CNN 10 together and then take turns using the downstairs computer to work on their Teaching Textbooks. Having the 3.0 online version of their math levels has been a huge help for this since they can use any computer in the house. 

As soon as they finish up math, we read together. Currently we’re reading The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt and absolutely loving it. And because of all the cream puff references, I need to find a local place that makes them fresh so we can all enjoy one. :)

Independent Work

Back up in the schoolroom (which is still unpainted), the kids all work on their work independently as much as they can. Zachary is on a bit of a learning curve with this – checking in with me and making sure he is tracking everything in his planner. 

For the most part, I’m sitting between Kaleb and Zachary and helping Zachary as needed. Kaleb is getting into a better routine and definitely jumping into his new subjects without complaining. 

Kaleb finished up his first unit from AOP Lifepac History and Geography and started work on the second unit. He really likes the format and although the reading at times is hard (hello to names of countries from the beginning of civilization). Having him writing more is also a huge encouragement for me. 

If anything, this year has been a definite turn in attitude for Kaleb toward his school work and expectations. We did have a talk at the start of the year about him needing to step it up a bit in some areas. Since he loves swimming, we made a comparison to his dropping times in events to his level of practicing. 

For him that helped him understand that even when he doesn’t necessarily enjoy something (such as reading or writing), it won’t get better if he doesn’t keep practicing and work on it. 

One more subject we added in this week was spelling. We’re not using paper to write the practice words this year, but instead using our  Boogie Board which Kaleb loves. 

In reading, Kaleb has started reading Mad Scientists Club in addition to The Yellow House Mystery Boxcar Children book. He was a bit hesitant at first in adding more reading to his day, but he is really enjoy the Boxcar Children (and wants to read more), and has 

McKenna has been working and figuring out her schedule and trying to balance her drama class since she spends about 8 hours (or more) in class each week in addition to memorizing her lines and songs. It’s definitely been a lot of work, but she is loving the class. 

Laurianna and I also re-visited one of the colleges she is interested in this week to make sure the classes she is taking at the community college line up with their requirements. After this fall semester she will have all of her nursing pre-requisites completed, so she will be able to apply directly to the nursing program and begin working on her electives as well. Next week we will visit another school and talk to them about their RN to BSN program and see how it will line up with her current classes. 

The last bit of the week we’ve been watching the hurricane via the Frying Pan Ocean live cam. While we are thankful that our area will not be receiving the magnitude of rain that was initially expected, we’re watching areas our friends live in and praying it doesn’t cause as much damage as they expect. 

That’s it for us this week. Hope you all are having an amazing week – talk to you soon! 

Be sure to stop by WeirdUnsocializedHomeschoolers.com and hang out with some other moms who are sharing their day-to-day happenings. 

A School Picture, No Internet, and Experiments – Homeschool and Life Happenings

It only took us two weeks, but we finally grabbed a “back to school 2018” picture last Friday when everyone was finally home. No editing (because my house looks yellow, it’s white), only two children had to be told to go put on something else because NO THAT IS NOT OK TO WEAR, and one child is completely faking her height by wearing boots with 2-3 inch heels so she can beat out her sister. 

But they are all smiling, so all is well – 6th grade (Kaleb), 8th grade (Zachary), 10th grade (McKenna), and 12th grade (Laurianna), and now I can check that off my list (even if it’s two weeks late. Don’t judge.). 

Not too long after though, I managed to back out of our garage and into our other vehicle when we were on our way to McKenna’s play practice. Not a shining moment. On the other hand, the boys will have fun helping me change out the light casing for the tail light and get that fixed. 

Let’s have a sweet puppy and kitty moment, shall we? 

As for this week, you know that saying about the best laid plans? Yes, well, apparently they have met our internet provider. 

We’ve gotten spoiled the last few months having internet that has a speed of over 1.3MB – we’re much closer to 100MB now after many years of begging and pleading. 

Unfortunately, that does little good when there is a service outage and then a small router goes berserk and the internet is down for two days. Especially when your husband’s phone is apparently in the middle of an update, freezes, and then he spends the next two days trying to access all the stuff. 

I know it’s a first world problem, but it’s crazy how dependent we’ve gotten on our devices, isn’t it? And with so many programs relying on computer access these days, it can put a little kink in plans when they can’t be accessed. 

Instead we relied on my phone’s hotspot and made the best of things (grumble, grumble) until things were fixed on Thursday for us. 

There was lots of reading aloud, independent reading, sticking with our everyday subjects, and then adding in some fun chemistry experiments at the end of the week for McKenna. 

Kaleb finished up the first unit in his AOP Lifepac History and Geography set – woot! 

I mentioned on FB and Instagram that we are using a different chemistry program this year for McKenna and on top of that, we don’t have the same group setting (i.e. I actually have to teach this time around). 

To say I’m a bit nervous is an understatement. I love the math aspect of chemistry and the fun hands-on, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t get frustrated at times with McKenna because we are both really strong personalities – which can cause going toe-to-toe at times. 

So far though I am really liking the layout of this program and we had a blast working on the experiments this week together (we’re doing them with a friend too). 

This week we worked on three different experiments – separating a mixture of salt and parsley, learning about the conservation of mass, and also the law of definite proportions. We’re meeting every two weeks to review the previous chapter and prep for the test and then work ahead on the experiments for the upcoming lessons. That way the girls know what is supposed to happen and understand the experiment/concept when we get to that portion of the chapter. 

Well, other than all the experiments, the literal fender-bender, and our two week late back-to-school photo – that’s our week in a nutshell. 

Hope you all are having an amazing week – talk to you soon! 

Be sure to stop by WeirdUnsocializedHomeschoolers.com and hang out with some other moms who are sharing their day-to-day happenings.