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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: 


8th Grade Mid-Year Homeschool Curriculum Review

I’ll admit that this year I was a little anxious about how McKenna would fare taking high school credits. While she was almost completely independent her 7th grade year in most subject areas, her load was going to increase quite a bit and with that – her stress level – and this is a girl who gets overwhelmed quickly. Typically it isn’t ever as bad as she believes it is and she settles down, but it can be rough going for a little bit. 

Homeschool happenings 2016-12

The first few weeks were hard and required copious amounts of patience on my part as she tried to find her own balance. About 4 weeks into the year is when she found her rhythm – and this momma was able to exhale. Granted we still have days of craziness, but she is very dedicated to her studies and doing well, and truly I am so proud of this girl! 

8th Grade Homeschool Curriculum Choices

8th grade homeschool curriculum choices 2016

Credits to earn: 5.5

Latin – Overall McKenna is LOVING Visual Latin (probably her favorite class by far). She is happily flying through spelling at this point as well. 

Geography – While memorizing maps with North Star Geography isn’t necessarily a favorite thing of hers, this girl excels as memorization and is doing very well with the class.

Literature/Writing – I’m take a minute to brag on McKenna – she is a fabulous writer! I know her literature load has been heavier this year than in years past, and involves many books she’d probably rather pass over, but her insight and writing capabilities have far exceeded what I thought she had in her (and I LOVE that surprise!). I definitely credit WriteShop in prepping her the last few years for these assignments. 

Math – Not necessarily her favorite class. At all. She is very thankful for Teaching Textbooks, but not a fan of Algebra. Period. 

Science – The physical class, while challenging for her, is definitely more fun with friends! This is one class we meet together with a few other families each week and another mom teaches the group. The hands on projects have been fabulous (we used this same program with Laurianna and loved it).  McKenna has finished the Archaeology part of her science and will be starting the next book this month.

SpellingLevel 6 of spelling is done – woot!

Swim – We’ve wrapped up our swim season for the year – PHEW! – but it has been wonderful to see McKenna push herself even harder this year in this area. She is discovering the strokes she loves and her new coach also had her try some things she didn’t necessarily want to do, and shockingly she even liked some of it. Because the back and forth travel was getting a little overwhelming for us (separate practices for the boys and girls), we decided to stop after our most recent meet and the kids will pick back up with summer league in May. 



Click any of the images below to see our homeschool picks for the current school year. You’ll also find links to past years choices in each post. 

4th grade homeschool curriculum choices - from Homeschool Creations 6th grade homeschool curriculum choices 2016 from Homeschool Creations 8th grade homeschool curriculum choices 2016 10th grade homeschool curriculum choices from Homeschool Creations 2016

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

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


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

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

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

Passport to Purity weekend with son

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

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


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


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

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

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


4th grade homeschool curriculum choices - from Homeschool Creations 6th grade homeschool curriculum choices 2016 from Homeschool Creations 8th grade homeschool curriculum choices 2016 10th grade homeschool curriculum choices from Homeschool Creations 2016

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

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

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

Drama, anyone? Anyone? 

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

Second Day of School

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

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

First Week of School-6

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

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

Kaleb – 4th Grade


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


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


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

First Week of School-7

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

View our 4th grade curriculum choices HERE. 

Zachary – 6th Grade


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

First Week of School-5

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


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

First Week of School-2

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

View our 6th grade curriculum HERE

McKenna – 8th Grade

First Week of School-3

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

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


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

View our 8th grade homeschool curriculum HERE. 

Laurianna – 10th Grade

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


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


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

View our 10th grade homeschool curriculum choices HERE


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


Our Homeschool Curriculum Choices…

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

4th grade homeschool curriculum choices - from Homeschool Creations 6th grade homeschool curriculum choices 2016 from Homeschool Creations 8th grade homeschool curriculum choices 2016 10th grade homeschool curriculum choices from Homeschool Creations 2016

Our 8th Grade Reading List

8th grade reading list 2016 

While McKenna is excited to start earning a few high school credits, she is also a little nervous because one of her credits focuses on literature this year. She enjoys reading, but the different types of papers she will be writing this year scare her a little bit. Many of the books on this list are similar to ones we have used in years past with Laurianna because they go along with the guide Introduction to Literature by Janice Campbell. McKenna will be reading one book a month for our literature class and writing three papers based on each book or short story. For writing reference, she will be using the book Excellence in Literature – Handbook for Writers. If you’d like to take a look at all of our 8th grade homeschool curriculum picks, you can do so here

We have added in a few additional books for her to read since they go along with the era of history we are studying (American History), and there are a few we’d like her to read before seeing some movies! Her typical pace is one book per month for the literature class, with three papers/essays assigned per book.

For the additional books she and I will have a discussion together, but otherwise, no special papers. The below books also do not include any book choices she makes during the year or read-alouds/audiobooks we work through together as a family. 

Our 8th Grade Reading List:

Many of the books also have a video version, so we’re hoping to watch them together (after we read the books, of course) and compare the book to the movie version. It’ll be a little something fun we can do with our co-op friends. Here are a few in our queue: 

A Few Extras on the List for 8th Grade:

8th reading list 2016

To go along with our American History learning, we’ve added in a few biography books for her to read as well as a few classic literature books. 

Overall not a huge list for the year, but several of the books are fairly hefty and will involve a lot of essay writing and discussion, so definitely enough to keep her busy for the year!

What books are in your kid’s reading stack 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. Stay tuned for our 4th and 6th grade reading choices!

American Literature high school reading list 2016_edited-1

Homeschool Reading Lists for our Other Children

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

8th Grade Homeschool Curriculum Choices

 8th grade homeschool curriculum choices 2016

McKenna is a wee bit anxious about the upcoming year, even though she honestly doesn’t have much to worry about. Last year she made huge strides in working independently, but the thought of earning high school credits this year is a little daunting to her. We are so glad to be a part of a small co-op where she has good friends to learn alongside in two subject areas (and make it even more fun too). 

Our biggest hurdle this year will be getting her daily routine in place. McKenna is our late riser and while that can be a lovely thing, it also puts a kink in the day when everyone else is ready to go early in the day and then finished up early as well. While this 8th grade plan isn’t quite as high school ambitious as Laurianna’s was, it will be a great “easing in” for her. The credits she is earning will give her a good jump on her high school years. 

8th Grade Homeschool Curriculum Choices

Credits to earn: 5.5

8th reading list 2016

Out of all the subjects, McKenna is most excited for Visual Latin and Physical Science. Literature and Algebra 1 are the most intimidating to her, mainly because – ALGEBRA – and the thought of writing three papers a month is something that seems overwhelming because they are a new style of paper for her. 

We opted not to include any additional grammar program this year because McKenna has a solid grasp of grammar and will rely heavily on it for her literature class (and a mother who is a stickler for writing well and editing). Both her physical science and literature classes will be a part of our small co-op group, although she will have a full load during the week in preparation for the classes.

Overview planning pages for middle and high school

One thing that has been a huge help to me in mapping out the upcoming years with McKenna (and Laurianna) is this middle school and high school planner. Essentially I am able to get an extended view and map out the future years to see what we need to work on and when it might fit in best -and make sure we aren’t missing anything overall. 

Curriculum in Year’s Past

In case you are interested in seeing the curriculum that brought us to this point, here’s a peek at what we’ve used with McKenna the past few years:

If you are new to homeschooling and aren’t sure where to begin in choosing homeschool curriculum, please don’t let this post overwhelm you! Here are a few posts that you might find helpful as you discover what is best for your family. Be sure to check out the entire Homeschool Basics series for answers to more frequently asked homeschool questions.

See What the Other 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