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Still No School (but lots of rest) – Homeschool and Life Happenings

This week has been a slow and wonderful week. Truly

We started off the week driving home from upstate NY where we had been visiting Rick’s family after Christmas. It was COLD, you all.

Saturday was a balmy 16 degrees, so the kids were excited to go ice skating at the local rink. That lasted less than an hour, but hey – they did it, right? 

We returned home with crazy low temperatures at -22. Yep. We were ready to head back home. :) 

One thing I am so thankful for – we invited two families over to spend New Year’s Eve with us. One family spent the night (best idea ever), and while the adults enjoyed sitting and talking for hours, the kids all ran off and occupied themselves with cookie decorating and food. It was truly wonderful. 

And in that white bowl above is one of the BEST APPETIZERS EVER. Super easy and unbelievably yummy – bacon wrapped mini potatoes. Served with an aioli sauce, you may want to eat the entire bowl. Ask me how I know. 

Ringing in the new year with friends though was really the best. We all had so much fun catching up, laughing, and relaxing together. 

Somehow I misjudged our time off before Christmas, thought we had another week that we would be able to take off, and then managed to mess up our break. Whoops. 

We decided instead to tack the extra week off during the first week of January since Laurianna hasn’t started classes at the community college yet. And it’s bone-chilling cold here as well. 

All of the Christmas decorations were packed away, the house cleaned and organized, and we are ready for the upcoming week (well, almost). The fireplace has been on quite a bit as well, helping keep the house nice and toasty. Meanwhile, I’ve been curled up with a GREAT book (seriously, it is amazing how timeless the points in the book are), we’ve been playing games, and just BEING without needing to be anywhere or doing anything in particular. 

And that is a lovely thing. 

Next week, we’ll be back in the school routine (and I have some new routines planned for the kids to hopefully kick us out of some habits and add some new things in). 

How was your week? 

9th Grade Mid-Year Homeschool Update

Yesterday I shared a bit about how our 11th grader is doing mid-year and today I’d love to share a little about our 9th grader, McKenna is faring. 

In short – fabulous

This has been a year of her discovering new passions and jumping in with both feet. There are still struggles to find the right fun:work ratio (fun is always more tempting, isn’t it?), but McKenna has been doing great finding her own groove. Granted, it isn’t always the way I might have her do it, but for me that’s also a part of this whole high school journey – guiding her, but giving her the freedom to make her own decisions (and helping redirect her when needed). 

9th Grade Homeschool Update

McKenna has 7.5 credits on her plate for this year. Several of the classes are using programs we have used in past years (history, math, literature, and Latin), and a few of them are new to her (or us) this year. We did make a change in one program around the end of October (biology), which I’ll share more about below.  

History – Notgrass has a great format that we really enjoy. Each lesson is broken up over the course of five days and has a weekly quiz and project. We are only using the history portion of the program (it includes a literature and Bible portion as well, but we have opted not to use either of those). 

Science – This is an area where we’ve made a big switch this fall. We are working on this class with another family and together decided to change programs. We started out with Biology from Science Shepherd, a program we used with our oldest a few years ago. When Laurianna worked through it, one of our other friends taught both her daughter and Laurianna. 

While the program wasn’t quite what we expected, when we pulled it out this year to go through with two new girls, both were struggling to fully comprehend some of the concepts – and truthfully, the moms were having a hard time too. Some of the answers were hidden in subtext and odd places and trying to wade through was rather difficult. We did love the labs we were working on and worked through nine chapters before making our switch.

We found a new program, The Riot and the Dance, which we really liked the layout of and found it explained things in a way our girls both understood much more clearly. The book is full of hand-drawn illustrations and analogies that give you an “aha” moment – something we love. 

Our plan with this is to merge some of the labs from the new program with the ones we had initially planned on doing with our other biology program (I may like the mashup we’ve put together). One other thing that we like about this program as well is there are weekly quizzes at the end of each chapter, tests after every three chapters, and then unit tests so the girls are constantly reviewing the information they are learning. 

(So far our only complaint is there isn’t an answer key for the chapter questions at the end of each lesson.)

Drama – This has BY FAR been one of the best things we decided to do with McKenna. She loves singing and truly has an amazing and unique voice (yes, I know we are biased parents, but she does) and stepped out of her comfort zone and auditioned for a role in Les Miserables. 

Acting is something she has decided she would like to continue pursuing in the upcoming years. Auditioning was a challenge for her since she had never done anything like it before, but when she was placed in a part (not the part she had hoped for), she fully embraced it and ran with it. 

Over the course of the class she made some great new friends, and as parents we learned the ins and outs of working behind the scenes. Rick helped out by running sound for the production (something he loves). This past month, Rick has also been looking at various recording programs for the kids to use as they record some music together. 

Literature/Writing – One of the books we read this year, The Count of Monte Cristo, about kicked McKenna’s bum. Weighing in at 1200 pages, it was about the death of her. This is one of the classes we are working on with a few other kids and so far they have read through four different books: Robinson CrusoeWalden, The Count of Monte Cristo, and Heart of Darkness. 

During the spring semester we will read through four more books. Each of the book units takes us four weeks to work through and the kids work through a cycle of three papers: an author profile, an approach paper, and an essay. One of the weeks the kids work on peer reviews of each others papers and then take an extra week to make adjustments to their paper. 

Latin –  Visual Latin is one of McKenna’s “no problem” classes. She is in her second year of the program and loves the teacher. 

Personal Finance – I love seeing a subject carry over into real life. McKenna has been fully embracing the principles being taught in Foundations in Personal Finance. One of the first things we covered was putting aside the $500 emergency fund which she recently completed. 

Her next goal is saving for a car, even though she still has a bit of time until she will have her license (she has a little over a year until that can happen), but it’s great seeing her set goals for herself and treat her money with responsibility and planning. 

Currently we are talking about not incurring debt when attending college, and as she follows along with her older sister’s journey, it’s a great hands-on look at how there are other options available when working toward a degree. It’s also given her some time to sit and consider what she would like to do after college (still deciding on that). 

Math – Geometry is the subject of the year for McKenna. Math really isn’t her favorite subject – ever – but many days you can find Kaleb sitting along side her with her explaining things to him. It’s rather sweet. 

Swim – Over the course of this fall McKenna hasn’t been able to participate in as many meets as she would have like because of the weekly drama classes. The next few weeks have us in a bit of a lull, but things will pick back up after the start of the year.


That’s about it for our 9th grader up to this point. You can read our 11th grade mid-year update here. I’ll be sharing how our 7th and 5th grader are doing as well soon. 

How is your year going so far? 

The Week of Winding Down – Homeschool and Life Happenings


We honestly had no idea it was coming, so when we woke up to the ground covered with fluffy whiteness, it was a huge (and beautiful) surprise. This is another one of those times that I love our road because the snow blankets the trees and it’s just lovely. 

This year, one of my closest friends and I haven’t spent as much time together because both of our girls are taking classes at the community college – so our co-op time has been limited. Over the last two years we have always spent at least one, if not two, weekday afternoons in high school co-op (and then inevitably chatting together). With the girls in classes, we see each other every other week very briefly, so we’ve had to be intentional about our time together.

We signed up for a wreath-making class along with another friend who couldn’t attend last minute. During the class we were trying to divide our time between the three wreaths and it was a bit comical – losing wire, clippers, etc. We went ahead and made a wreath for our friend as well (fortunately we waited and did hers last so she had the benefit of our learning curve – ha!). I ended up waiting to decorate mine until we got home, but it was definitely fun and something we’ll have to do next year, but this time after we gather our own greens and such!

Tuesday our group co-op met up for a Christmas party and the kids all had a chance to make blessing bags for a local homeless shelter. There was also much yummy food involved.

We typically keep the bags fairly simple: socks, gloves, chapstick, combs, lotion, soap, some snacks, toothbrushes/toothpaste, gum, and a few additional items all put together in a ziploc bag. The bags are then handed out when our church helps out at a local overnight shelter. 

A few weeks ago my aunt sent a special butterfly puzzle to our family, and we finally pulled it out to start working on. I haven’t worked on a puzzle in quite some time and honestly forgot how much I enjoy them (and how sucked into them I can get!). We set up the puzzle at the beginning of the week and throughout the week, the kids would try to work on a few pieces here and there. 

Let me tell you – I don’t know that I will ever, ever again work on a puzzle that DOES NOT HAVE STRAIGHT EDGES. Ever. The above was one of the edge pieces of the puzzle we are working on together. I had pulled out all the pieces I thought might be edge pieces. Only about half of them really were. I thought I would lose my mind. 

By Wednesday, we had a good chunk of the puzzle worked out and when we got home from a Christmas party that night, we all stayed up and finished it together. It’s amazing how you can look at a piece so many times and not realize where it’s supposed to fit until the last moment. 

And really you all, we had some fun conversations while working on the fitting it all together. Enough so that I have a Christmas puzzle on order for us to work on over the next few weeks. My aunt texted me today and told me she has worked on the same puzzle each year at Christmas since 1977 – think on that for a minute. 40 years!! And she has never lost a piece! (That’s a small miracle in and off itself.)

Laurianna also finished up her semester classes – two college classes down!! She is still waiting on a final grade for one of the classes (English), but she pulled an A in her anatomy class (YAY!!). Her PSAT scores also arrived this week, which was an added bonus and now incentive to start working on her SAT at some point this spring. 

Other than that, the rest of us had typical weeks. School. Life. Repeat. 

How was YOUR week? 

The Week of Reading, Baking, and Games – Homeschool and Life Happenings

We are still decorating around our house. Even though we started the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the process of moving things all around leaves me wanting to clean off my shelves and make space. So it never ends up being a simple process. Right now there are boxes of books we are trying to sell and meanwhile find a spot for the decorations we love. 

I may also have the Hallmark Channel on as often as I can. Typically the tv isn’t on in our house, but since Thanksgiving when the Christmas movies started…well, that’s a little different. Where we live we can’t get cable, so we are trying a month of Sling TV (it’s still a little hard to buffer live). 

For decorations this year we added a creche. Growing up we had one (see it behind our hilarious tree?). This picture is one of my favorites of me and my brothers because it has so much of what I remember from being young. 

Last year I asked my dad to make a creche similar to the one we had and have our boys help. He finished it up this weekend and we set it up in our bookshelf. We found some figures for it and I love it. My dad is going to make some for my brothers as well and then hopefully we can make one for each of our kids too. I’m all about passing along traditions to our kids, and this one definitely is one to keep going.

The boys and I have spent a lot of time reading this week. Years ago our entire family read the Gregor the Overlander series (so good!!), so when the boys asked to read this again, I was happy to oblige. 

You all, I really do enjoy reading out loud. Sadly, I’m easily distractible and will admit that with the boys it’s harder than it was when the girls were involved. The girls could sit for hours and the boys aren’t always as thrilled. I haven’t been as committed this fall with reading out loud, so we are trying to remedy that. 

Now that we’ve finished this book, I have a few on hand for the boys to choose from, so we’ll see what happens after Christmas. 

My bed has been the place where quite a bit of Kaleb’s learning has been happening this week. It’s warm and cozy in my room (and snuggling can happen). Kaleb has wrapped up his handwriting book and will start on typing after Christmas, so in the meantime I’ve had him do a LOT more of his own writing in his workbooks.

Writing is honestly one of Kaleb’s least favorite things. He doesn’t mind handwriting books (go figure), but when it comes to completing other assignments – the eyes roll and the whining begins. It hasn’t gone like sunshine and roses, but he is getting to the point now where he is mostly ok with it (grins). 

On Wednesday, Kaleb was having trouble getting the laptop to work, so we put his math aside for the day and instead pulled out Numbers Sequence and played a few games – thus fulfilling my love for games and a bit of fun for the day too. :) 

After we finished school for the day, Kaleb helped me make a Dutch cookie recipe. I have one cookie I remember having when we were little, but my mom can’t remember what in the world I am talking about. 

I did a little research (it wasn’t a sweet cookie, but more of a savory – if that makes sense) and the closest thing I could come up with was a cream cheese cookie (super simple for the most part).  I want to try them again, but this time minus the jam, since that will be a little closer to what I remember. 

One of the chairs in our living room lost a leg this past week, so we brought up a huge recliner we have in the basement. The kids are rather enjoying it, and have decided that it is a fabulous place to do just about anything. 

Thursday morning, I had a doctor’s appointment and just before I left, looked over to see this happening. McKenna was working on her Geometry, and Kaleb decided to sit and watch with her. She was explaining how to do the problems and it was hilarious because he was figuring out some of the problems in his head. 

Three of the kids headed out on Thursday night to go to a swim meet all day Friday. Laurianna and I get to spend the morning together working on Pre-Calculus together – exciting times, no? :) 

That’s about it for our week – what have you been up to? How was YOUR week? 

A Birthday and Getting Back to School – Homeschool and Life Happenings

Here we go – back to school. Even though we only took a week off (it’s a bit hard to do school when my hubby is home), getting back into the swing of things can be…fun. I went all out and made my self a cup of FULLY caffeinated coffee to start off the week, in a mug with a fun reminder to myself. :) It’s the little things, right? 

Kaleb turned 11 the day after Thanksgiving, and we celebrated with a pumpkin pie ice cream cake. He rather enjoyed it and loved his gifts too – mainly focused on items he needs to join our local Boy Scout troop with his brother. 

After getting the house decorated for Christmas on Saturday, I found a book of Christmas Mad Libs, so the boys and I had a bit of fun working through a few of them. And truthfully, it’s grammar (and hilarious), so a win-win since the boys want to do a bunch of them. 

Along with all the decorations, out came all the Christmas books. While we do have other books to read together, Kaleb and I are having fun reading through the picture books together (Gingerbread Pirates and Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree are two of our favorites). We’ll move back to reading Boxcar Children soon, but this has been a great treat and something he enjoys – and since reading is usually something he isn’t fond of, I’m more than happy to go along with this reading time and build his confidence. 

Mid-week my sister-in-law and I took a break to do a little something together: Paint Night at a local restaurant. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for awhile and finally managed to schedule in. 

We were also back to our group co-op this week as well. Kaleb has been loving his science class. One of the things they made was a version of homemade lemon-lime soda (we’ve heard nothing but praises for how it tasted JUST LIKE SPRITE) and then a wet battery cell made from layering coins and lemon-soaked paper towels (you can find the experiment in this book here). 

And finally – a good week deserves a milkshake, no? The peppermint chip is back at Chick-fil-A – one of our favorite places and our favorite treats around Christmas time. :) 

Otherwise, we are pushing forward since we have about three weeks, maybe less depending on how dedicated the kids are to working hard, until our Christmas break. McKenna has really been digging in the last bit and trying to get ahead on her work. 

That’s about it for our week – what have you been up to? How was YOUR week? 

A Musical and a Birthday – Homeschool and Life Happenings

This week we had a fairly busy week between trying to squeeze in school, volunteering at a local soup kitchen, meeting with an advisor at the community college, and starting McKenna’s musical.

The busiest part of the week by far was having a full week of dress rehearsals and performances of Les Miserables for McKenna. Rick has been running sound for the show as well, so he and McKenna head out out the door almost as soon as he gets home from work and are home around 11pm each night. (It’s been a little harder on Rick than it has been on McKenna – grins). 

She is playing Evelyn, the factory worker who steals the letter from Fantine and ends up getting her fired from the factory. McKenna has LOVED this experience and dipping her toe into acting and I’m not quite sure what she will do when this musical is over! 

We also celebrated McKenna’s 15th birthday! Her birthday was on Sunday, which was her first full dress rehearsal, so we ended up having her party on Monday night – the only night she had free this week. Hilariously, this was also the day that her director put the entire cast on vocal rest, meaning ZERO talking, singing, or noise at all that day. There’s a whole lot I can say about this…but needless to say, it was a rather calm day in our house. :) 

Kaleb really enjoys cooking with me, and one morning we decided to bake a little something as we were working through our schoolwork. Lately, much of our school time has been centered around the kitchen area, and it’s been fun to pull something together while we are there. We decided to make soft pretzels (similar to Auntie Anne’s) and ended up with the best batch yet! And now the kids want to make them every day. :) 

Laurianna and I met with one of the nursing advisors at the community college and at this point, we think she will likely head this route for working on her RN. Comparing the cost of $16000 in tuition alone for one school when she can receive her RN for less than $4000 a year is making the decision a little easier, especially since she can complete her BSN at the same university later (and they will cover the cost if she works at their hospital). 

The week (otherwise than being a lot of back and forth crazy) was fairly normal. :) How’s that for a dichotomy? Rick’s parents arrived in town on Thursday so they can see McKenna’s musical and also watch the boys swim this weekend, so overall full, but fun! We also spent our Thursday morning volunteering with a meal outreach program in our area (something we do once a month). 

That’s the sum up of our week. How was YOUR week?