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First LEGO League and Rest Times – Homeschool and Life Happenings

So the week started off with a whole lot of fun as Kaleb and a few of his friends participated in their First Lego League competition. They have had eight jam-packed weeks working to program their robot to complete missions. Overall they did amazing, especially since it was the first year for two of the boys. They received a 2nd and 1st place trophy in two of the judging areas and while they didn’t place first overall, they were excited to be interviewed for the local paper. :) 

Over the next few months they will spend more time learning about their robot and figuring out different ways to program it. There are so many things that it can do, but they haven’t had a chance to explore it all yet. This fall they had six missions they programmed, but during the competition is was interesting to see how other groups worked the missions and the attachments they created for their robots. 

A friend asked this week if she could come hang out at our house to see how a typical homeschool day runs around these parts. Here’s an honest peek into our year so far: we have been all over the place and going with the flow. One day we might be in the living room, another in the schoolroom, one in someone’s bedroom (or mine) – you name it, we take school wherever and just get it done. 

One of the history lessons the boys and I covered this week had to do with Aesop’s Fables. After we finished the lesson, we headed over to YouTube to see what we could find for fables and found a bunch of old Disney ones that were so much fun to watch (and the fact that we can drop what we’re doing and enjoy adding to our lesson this way makes me happy). 

One of the best parts of the week though? Listening to the kids relaxing in their room (sometimes their version of relaxing is not-so-quiet) and taking 30 minutes to read a book and put my feet up for a bit is such a huge help. 

p.s. If you don’t already, your homeschool needs a rest time – trust me. Try it for a week and let me know how it’s going!

Our swim practice has changed up a bit, but it is WONDERFUL because prior to this week we’ve had to balance two different practice times and locations. Because of a conflict with a high school team practicing, the kids will be practicing in the same place and almost the same time most nights (YAY!!!!). This is going to be a huge sanity saver, mainly for my hubby since he does the bulk of the running, but we also can have a later dinner and slow down the evening a bit. 

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

A College Visit and Planning a Trip – Homeschool and Life Happenings

This week has been crazy exciting and a wee bit SCARY all rolled into one. Between the boys having their first swim meet and Laurianna and I visiting her a college she is interested in, well, it was something to remember. Add to that – WE BOOKED A TRIP TO THE NETHERLANDS. Yes, all caps, because it was a huge step for us! We will be visiting my family in next May and the kids have been talking about the different places we might be able to visit while we are there. Needless to say – we are rather excited. 

On Monday, Laurianna and I met with the nursing department at the University of Virginia to get more information about their nursing program. Because she is taking classes at our local community college, we wanted to see how many of them would transfer over into the program. 

Before we arrived on the campus, Laurianna worked on a list of questions for us to ask about the program: what community college classes would transfer, tuition rates, what would make her more marketable to their program, etc.. The trip was really eye-opening – tuition-wise (yikes) and also gave us some alternative ideas for her education route the next little bit.

The advisor we spoke to was VERY helpful, especially in showing us a different program that would allow her a little more flexibility (and tuition savings) but result in the same marketable degree. Essentially she is a huge advocate for community college and suggested that we look at Laurianna getting her RN at the community college and then taking advantage of the RN to BSN program that their college offers. Definitely some things for us to look more into and pursue in the upcoming weeks. 

This week we also registered her for three classes next semester at the community college: Human Anatomy & Physiology II, English 112, and a Developmental Psych class. All three will be ones that she can use in her nursing major, so YAY for cheaper tuition rates! 

Pre-Calculus isn’t Laurianna’s favorite class this year, but can I tell you something. I LOVE IT!! Calculus was one of my favorite classes in high school and it is rather fun getting to work through problems with her (and I may be a bit giddy in the process – truly). Yes, it’s probably strange, but sitting down with her to work through problems is oddly relaxing for me. She does the lectures with Teaching Textbooks and will work through the problems she can, but I am rather enjoying this time with her, especially since she is primarily independent in the rest of her studies this year, so I’ll take it while I can! 

McKenna is gearing up for a busy week and a half with her Les Miserable musical coming up in less than two weeks. Trying to get ahead on schoolwork is one of the primary goals for her, but at times that can be a bit of a challenge for me. 

One thing that we decided on this past week though is to switch out McKenna’s biology program. We are working through our class with another friend and both of our girls were struggling to fully understand some of the concepts. At the suggestion of a friend, we looked into another program and showed excerpts to the girls. Both of them really liked the samples they saw because of the analogies that the text offered to better explain concepts.

This new program, The Riot and the Dance, does have a different course outline (although the chapters line up to the point we are currently at), and we decided to keep our labs the same as we planned previously, but overall we are looking forward to using the new program (and reading it ourselves!). 

This past week I did something a little out of my comfort zone too! Carisa (from 1+1+1=1) and I co-hosted an online essential oils class. We’ve both been using them for about five years now and I’m finally at a place where I feel like I have the time to really share more about them with our friends, but have many that don’t live nearby, so Carisa and I set up a Facebook class to share our thoughts – much fun! :) 

One fun thing the boys have been very much into this week – flag football. Every afternoon the boys have been out in the front yard playing together (which is rather hilarious since they don’t really need flags for TWO PEOPLE). You have to love it, but they are definitely getting some exercise and getting along – so I’m all for it. 

And this view. I really never, ever get tired of it. Our leaves aren’t as vibrant as they have been in the past, but there’s something about a dirt road with beautiful leaves that just calms my heart. 

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

Transcripts, Coop, and Laundry – Homeschool and Life Happenings

Life here this week was nothing short of interesting. :) Last week we were off from school and left Thursday for a 4 day camping trip with friends. We truly had the best camping weather – 70s during the day and 40s at night. It was wonderful. 

We haven’t had much of a chance to go camping this year, especially with our (new to us) camper, so we’re still getting used to where everything is in the new layout. All that said, four days away was great and a chance to just relax and the kids could just play and have fun. Coming home though – OY. Hello to the mountains of laundry that needed to be tackled. Seriously, I think I did about nine loads and then we found the cat peeing all over stuff in our bathroom so I had to redo some stuff. It was fabulous. 

Laurianna hadn’t been feeling great while we were camping, so I took her first thing Monday morning to see the doctor. With all of her health stuff recently, we didn’t want to mess around. All of her tests came back clear (we were worried about mono on top of everything else), but then we got a call that she had strep. Because my voice was still gone, the doctor put both of us on a round of antibiotics. Turns out that TEN kids in her college class were out this week because of strep – and here we were scratching our heads trying to figure out where she picked it up. LOVELY. 

We had our joint co-op again this week and Kaleb is really enjoying his group because it involves hands-on learning for the boys. This week one of the things they made were gel beads from the book Amazing (Mostly) Edible Science. (Below you can see the four books we are rotating through for activities for this class with the boys.)

While I know this is silly, this picture just cracked me up. The boys were watching this week’s CNN 10 (and wanted to catch up on the ones they missed last week too), so Zachary decided he could do a chore and do a little school at the same time. Proof that it can be done. :) 

Our high school classes with McKenna are moving along well too. Personal Finance is always one of my favorite classes, especially when the kids really start taking ownership of their money and understand the concept of budgeting and delayed gratification. Foundations in Personal Finance  is a fabulous resource (100% recommend).

McKenna opened her own checking account this past month (she already had a savings account), and over the past few months she has saved up enough for her $500 emergency fund. For her, budgeting and the waiting to spend the money has been a little harder. She typically doesn’t think about where her money is going, so it has been more of an eye opener for her, especially in holding off on purchasing some things – and debating if other things are really worth it. 

Much of my spare time this week has been spent working on updating and tweaking transcripts for Laurianna as well as we prepare for our first campus visit next week to a nursing program she is interested in. While the transcript I have is sufficient, somehow I always have to make it a little bit better. (It’s just me.)

One thing that I was really proud of Laurianna for this week was seeing how she is taking initiative in her classes with her professors. Her English teacher hasn’t been the easiest and is probably one of the most demanding of all the English professors on campus. Despite having a pretty heavy workload, she is more than keeping up and decided this week to make an appointment with the professor to make sure she is on track with a research paper project. The professor was encouraging to her because the students who do the best in her class are typically the ones who seek her out and ensure they are on the right track (her words). I’ve really tried to stay out of her classes (outside of encouraging her) and let her find her own standing in this area, and it made me so proud to see her do the mature thing in this case, especially knowing she is in high school (I’m allowed to be proud, right?). 

But – that’s the sum up of our week. How was YOUR week? 

A Week Off – Homeschool and Life Happenings

Initially we weren’t planning to take the entire week of school off, but between having family in town for a memorial service and camping, we decided to take a much needed break, especially since we haven’t taken one since the start of school (other than Labor Day weekend). 

My aunt flew into town last week and we started preparations for a memorial service for my uncle. Both my grandmother and my father are unable to travel right now (she is 93 years old), so we wanted to do something here locally. It was a small service, but wonderful to share our stories and be together as a family. We spent a lot of time going through old pictures, laughing over silly stories, and just having a great time celebrating his life. 

While I had plans at first to do a few projects around the house, we also had a few things this week that played well into our week off: a sick kiddo, a birthday, and a camping trip. 

Laurianna started one of her “episodes” on Sunday night. She came home from church early and then spent much of the next two days in bed. Fortunately she didn’t have classes at college either of those day (fall break), so she was able to rest at home and not worry about anything. By Wednesday she was feeling much better and ready for classes to start again on Thursday. 

Zachary celebrated his 13th birthday on Wednesday. We have three teenagers in the house – yikes! He spent much of the day running errands with me (to pick flavors for his ice cream cake), buy himself a football, and help shop for our service day on Thursday.

Thursday the kids (minus Laurianna) helped serve at our local soup kitchen. One thing I am so appreciative of as homeschoolers is the kids have this opportunity to help out during the school day. Those visiting and getting meals appreciate having the kids there, and the kids are great about not only serving but talking to the many people who walk through the door. Our typical meal to serve (about 60 people) is Costco lasagna, fruit, dessert (usually brownies), and salad. 

As soon as we finished up serving on Thursday, we ran home to load up our camper and head out for four days. The last four (or five) years we have spent a weekend in October camping with a group of friends and it is always so much fun. The weather is promising to be amazing (mid 70s during the day and 40s at night – perfect for campfires!!) and the kids are looking forward to relaxing with us. We always take a huge water cooler with us while camping, and while I know it seems crazy, using a funnel to rig the water on the fridge to continually pour = pure genius. :) 

Overall, a great week off – even if we didn’t get everything done that we had hoped to! How was YOUR week? 

Tweaking Our Days – Homeschool and Life Happenings

Even though we are quite a bit into the school year, we are still adjusting and tweaking our days to find just the right rhythm. Part of it has been our evenings have been very full with swim team, worship team, babysitting, and it makes our evenings feel like a whirl. 

Normally, I like to have our house straightened up before we go to bed, but lately I’ve felt t.i.r.e.d. So I wake up in the morning and the kitchen is a disaster, which makes me feel even more behind. It also didn’t help that the weather cooled down quite a bit here…which may have put me in a baking mood – so hello, to more of a mess. 

With later evenings for swim, the kids have also been sleeping in later, making it a bit harder to motivate them to get moving every morning. :) Meanwhile my challenge is finding that right “loop” of subjects to work through each day before the boys begin their independent work. 

Part of this has been tied to the fact that the kids are spreading out around the house to do their work. As we start the morning, Kaleb likes to bring a pile of work to the kitchen…and then the living room…and we spend time running up and down the stairs to grab books…and kids get distracted. So back to the schoolroom we go, where certain boys also cannot get distracted by food (ahem).  

To get the days started, the kids will often watch CNN 10 for the morning news and after is where we are still trying to find that sweet spot for our routine. This was something we added in this year, but they LOVE it – as in, insist we watch it and remind me when we don’t. It’s really been a great addition to the year and spurned some good discussions as well. 

Laurianna has been working hard to balance her time between her classes at the community college, work, and her additional subjects at home. At times they are a bit of a challenge, but she truly has been working hard to stay on top of everything and still earn money. 

Kaleb isn’t quite old enough to start Boy Scouts, but he has been attending meetings with Zachary and working on requirements for badges alongside Zachary so he can get a head start when he is old enough in a little over a month. 

This month, Zachary’s troop is working on their cooking badge together. Instead of attending camp this next summer, they decided to work on ten badges over the course of the year, one each month they meet. Zachary has put together a meal plan and each day is cooking himself a meal – one morning it was Eggs Benedict and toast for Kaleb and himself (and they said it was good!). 

Kaleb also has been working hard on his math (Zachary too – but oy with the fractions and percentages!!). I cannot say enough how much I love having Teaching Textbooks as a part of our curriculum. 

In biology we are back to working through labs together with one of McKenna’s friends. This week’s lab we looked at cheek cells from one of us (we won’t talk about how many scrapings we had to take in order to get it to work). 

A little bit of iodine was added to the slide so we could better see the skin cells. We also looked at an amoeba and a paramecium and managed to get a little blood from one of the siblings to look at as well. :) 

But these too – it is definitely much more fun to have a friend to work through our biology studies together. These two are hilarious – between botching the pronunciation of words, getting distracted by a crazy cat, or deciding who will try to poke their finger to draw blood. 

Kaleb and I had put science aside for a few weeks while we concentrated more on reading and a few other things, but this week we were talking about vascular and non-vascular plants in Nancy Larson Science 4

After our lesson Kaleb took a hike in the woods around our house (along with my camera) to find five specimens of non-vascular plants. 



That’s all for this week – how has your week been? 

The Week My 12 Year Old Passed Me in Height – Homeschool and Life Happenings

We’ve been noticing for quite a bit that Zachary is stretching out, but oh.my.word. Our boy – who is currently 12 – passed me in height this week and is quickly gaining on his dad (and no, that’s not a 9, it’s a 6). Almost 5′ 10″ and eating his weight to go along with it, but THREE inches in just a little over six months. Normally I’m one to have him start wearing pants as the weather gets cooler, but it appears it may be more beneficial to have him stay in them (and look a little more appropriate as well). 

Lego League

This fall we decided to have Kaleb participate in a small Lego League with three other friends. We were fortunate to get a grant from a local company (because yikes those robots are expensive!), and the boys have been meeting once or twice a week to get ready for their competition in November. 

Together the four boys are building, testing, and programming their robot and learning how we find, transport, use, or dispose of water.  So far the four are enjoying the class and working on their oral presentation (that may not be Kaleb’s favorite part), but the building and programming is very fun! It has renewed an interest in Legos for both Kaleb and Zachary, even though Zachary isn’t participating, which I love to see. 

STEM in Co-op

Kaleb and another group of boys are also working on various science and STEM related projects every other week. Sometimes it’s as simple as understanding how our senses play into things that we eat or drink. This week we disguised several different drinks (lemonade, apple juice, and tomato juice) and changed their appearance with colors. The boys had to plug their noses and had to sip and see if they could figure out what was in their cup. Tomato juice wasn’t a favorite no matter how they tried it. 

The boys are also working through some of the Instant Challenges that I’ve done before with other classes. This week they tried the Marble Track Instant Challenge. I love seeing how each time we do the challenge, the kids come up with different ideas despite having the exact same materials. 

And cooking is another fun part of the STEM class at times too! (Because what boy doesn’t like a little bit of creativity that tastes good??) The boys made molten chocolate cakes – with yummy chocolate oozing from the center. 

Yeah – they weren’t excited or anything… :) 

Forensics Class

One of the co-op classes Zachary is a part of this year is a Forensics class. There are four kids in his middle school group and so far they are learning about the importance of observation, checking facts, and how our senses can often help us as we search for clues. 

This week they did a cotton ball sniff test and had to guess what each of the cotton balls were soaked in. Here’s a peek at the books we are using to go along with the class (in case you are interested): 

Meanwhile, McKenna is moving along with all of her subjects and we had another great co-op week with the one friend that is taking biology with her. Laurianna is truly loving her classes at the community college and doing well too (she scored a 102 on her last anatomy test). Her health overall has been doing much better, although she did have one off day this week again, unfortunately on a in-class day at college. 

That’s all for this week – how has your week been?