20 Best Tips
Teaching Textbooks

5th Grade Mid-Year Homeschool Update

The week before Christmas we shared a mid-year update for our 11th grader,  one for our 9th grader and our 7th grader. This week we will wrap it all up with our 5th grader, Kaleb. 

Our main focus this year has been Kaleb’s reading, since he has struggled in this area for quite some time. Confidence is a HUGE goal and fluency – and the first one can be tricky. One thing I love is that one of the subjects he loves (science) helps incorporate both of them into our day – and subtly. :) 

That definitely has helped him out as he realizes that he KNOWS the words and can read through the bulk of the material. 

5th Grade Homeschool Update

All that said, here’s a peek at what we are using this year and how it’s working for us. 

Math – This is one of Kaleb’s favorite subjects (this and science). Along with working through his own program, he is having fun sitting with McKenna once or twice a week and watching her work on Algebra. :) It’s rather sweet, and especially fun when he can answer the questions while she is working through them. 

History – One of the main switch ups for us this year was our history program. Granted, it wasn’t huge, but around the end of October Zachary mentioned that he wasn’t particularly enjoying the history we were using (not a set curriculum per se, but it just wasn’t working overall). After one lesson, he started spouting off all this information about the topic that he had learned years prior via Mystery of History

At that point the boys asked if we could use that program instead. We’ve gone through the set with the kids in years prior and have all the books, so we pulled them out and have been working through books 1 and 2 instead. 

Handwriting – We pulled out Printing Power Plus to use this year and really focus in on helping Kaleb write smaller. He is NOT a huge fan of anything handwriting related overall, but we’re trying to tighten up and get it more legible and enjoyable. He has worked through the one book and we will be moving on to the keyboarding part starting in January. 

Since his book is completed, the trade off is having him physically write more in his other lessons. (When I tell you all this is most-hated, I don’t know that you fully can grasp how much.)

Growing with Grammar 5 and Soaring with Spelling are the additional two programs we are using to have him write our answers and practice his handwriting, which is working well. 

Reading – We’ve pulled out some older readers for Kaleb to work through in the upcoming weeks, but the last few months he has really made some great progress in this area – something that is encouraging to him (and me). 

Yes, it’s slow-going at times, but progress is always wonderful. 

We are working through our All About Reading lessons as well as reading other books around the house, and that has been a good mix for him. 

Science – This is another area Kaleb LOVES. When working on this subject, it’s almost like you can see the little wheels in his head moving. Nancy Larson Science 4 has been a great fit for us this year and has been especially fun when it ties in with McKenna’s biology lessons too. Earlier in the year they both were working with microscopes, so he had the chance to look at many of the specimen slides we ordered for her. 

Lego League – At first, Kaleb didn’t seem super thrilled about Lego League. You might laugh when you hear why: Sunday football. 

The only time we could find for the four boys to meet was on Sunday afternoons. Kaleb is a HUGE football freak. Meaning, at age six, he knew more about the game and players than I know myself. 

It took him a bit to adjust to the few hours in the afternoon (haha), but it ended up being one of the highlights of his fall. The group will be getting back together in a few weeks to rebuild their robot and learn more about programming so they are prepared for next year’s tournament. 

One of the hardest parts (but in a good way, since it pushed him out of his comfort zone) was the presentation the team needed to make. They put together a skit and had to read their lines and perform in front of a small panel. Kaleb was literally shaking and so nervous during the trial runs – but again, it was a growing experience for him. In order for the team to do well, they had to work together in ALL areas. 

Co-op – Kaleb is in a small group with three other boys and they are working on science experiments together (some edible and some just for fun). It’s been a lot of fun and something he looks forward to twice a month. 

As for all the extras (art, Bible, geography), those are all subjects we are rotating through as we have time during the day. The programs we started with (other than history) have been working very well and in just a bit we will be back in the full swing of the school year!

How is your year going? 

Just One Peanut (and a whole lotta laughing)

Sometimes you overhear conversations between kids and just have to scratch your head. Or laugh out loud for HOURS after when the conversation comes back to mind. 

Zachary (age 12) was in search of a peanut for a science project, and the following conversation took place between him and Kaleb (age 10). Why this particular situation even happened in the first place? I have no idea. But I do know that it possibly speaks to my pantry cleaning abilities (although I have no idea how long it has been hiding). 

So I just continue to laugh. 


Zach: I need a peanut for my experiment but I don’t know where to get one.

Kaleb: Just one peanut?

Zach: Yeah.

Kaleb: Only one?

Zach: Yeah…

Kaleb: I have one.

Zach: What?

Kaleb: Here I’ll show you. *leads Zach to pantry*

Zach: You have just a single peanut?

Kaleb: Yeah look. *pulls cereal boxes away to reveal single peanut sitting on the shelf* *picks up peanut* Here.

Zach: Why… do you have this?

Kaleb: I put it there a while ago. I was saving it.

Apparently being the fourth child means one has to hoard and ration food, wherever one is able. Because I have NO idea when the last time was that we had peanuts in the house.
For real. 

4th Grade Mid-Year Homeschool Curriculum Review

January beginning means we are at about the halfway point in our homeschool year. Christmas break was a great time to evaluate what has been (or isn’t) working, how the kids are progressing, and see if we need to make any adjustments.


Overall, everything has been going well (we’ve been making minor tweaks throughout the weeks as we go), but I thought you might like to see what the kids are enjoying and also how it’s working so far. I’ll be sharing more on each grade level over the next week or two since it’s a lot easier than doing one gigantic post with everyone.  

4th Grade Mid-Year Curriculum Review

Overall each of our 4th grade curriculum choices have been working very well. We’ve been tweaking reading as we go along because the main goal has been to get Kaleb reading more confidently. We are still using All About Reading 3 as our core, but have pulled back from their readers. We do the lessons, but Kaleb picks out various readers at the library (with my approval) and we’re using those books to boost his fluency (ironically, same words, but for some reason it flows easier). 

History has moved up the ladder as far as favorites go, mainly because we are teaming up with another family once a week and doing some fun projects to go along with our studies. We work through a few lessons at home each week, and then on Thursday afternoons the kids and I, along with our friend’s children, do an additional lesson and activity to go along (cooking, building, etc…). This has helped Kaleb find a new appreciation for history since he gets to see his friends too. :)

Kaleb has been working on several subjects fairly independently this year: math and handwriting (via Spelling You See). Otherwise, the bulk of his subjects are done 1:1 with me, and frankly, I rather enjoy that. :) With him being our youngest, I will savor each and every moment I have. He is loving science and anything that involves tinkering (Little Bits), and he also loves snuggling to read together with me (being read aloud to is a favorite of his). 


4th Grade Homeschool Curriculum

4th grade homeschool curriculum choices - from Homeschool Creations

Here’s a look at the overall curriculum plan for our 4th grade year…

What We’re Adding (or Already Have)

A Reason for Science D germination lesson

  • Handwriting – A few weeks into the school year we added in Spelling You See Level C, not as a spelling program, but more as handwriting and extra reading practice for Kaleb. He enjoys the handwriting practice (when ironically he hates writing) and it’s one subject he also feels independence in. 
  • Science – While we have worked on various science experiments over the last few months, Kaleb absolutely adores science and needs more structure in this area. For the last half of the year we are adding in A Reason for Science D. The program has 36 lessons (weeks), so there will probably be some we will either work through more quickly or gloss over based on what he has already studied. 

What We’ve Slowed Down On or Put Aside for Now

  •  Bible – we are still working through, but focusing on things that include all of the kids. Big Truths for Young Hearts is something we can read as a family at night and learn together. :)
  • Art – we’ve slowed down some on this because Kaleb loves to create (and does so during our other coop time as well). He has been picking/choosing the projects he wants to work on, instead of focusing on every single one. That also allows him more free time to work on other projects (like building). 

What Mom Needs to Focus More On

homeschool world geography

Reorganizing subject order – Each year we find a different groove that helps us get things accomplished more quickly or puts us in a better flow. The last month before we took a break, we reorganized Kaleb’s workbox grid. This has been a great visual schedule for both of us to remember the various subjects that sometimes get pushed aside. (see the next item)

Geography – This tends to be the subject that gets shuffled to the end of the line, so it is moving up earlier in the day so we will get more accomplished. We aren’t doing a super in-depth study this year, but have picked countries that interest Kaleb and working from there. 

Writing Things Down – While the older three are all taking care of writing down their daily plans and then getting together with me, I have done a wretched job of writing down every thing that Kaleb has been working on (for my records). I know he is on target, so it’s more for my brain and filling in the blanks, but it is helpful to see what he has been working on when there are tough days. Sometimes that visual progress helps me push on and through. 

Reading with Kaleb – We started off well this year with read-alouds, but during the last bit of November and through December it all went out the window. He and I have been reading various books to go along with our history studies (just fun, light reading), but he loves it! 

Family read-alouds – The last few months have felt very helter-skelter and our kids have gotten SO picky about audio books (once you find ones you love hearing, it’s hard to listen to ones that are a bit ‘meh’). They love it when I read aloud and with the weather chilly and swim season almost done for us, these will pick up for sure.

See What the 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

Our Homeschool Happenings – First 9 Weeks of 2016

My plans to keep updates on our homeschool happenings every two to three weeks are way overdue. That doesn’t mean we haven’t been working hard at school, just that a momma has been a wee bit sidetracked with other things and at times has a lack of pictures to share (especially of the older two). 

We have officially finished nine weeks of homeschool. Gah! The last week of October we took a week off, which gave me a little bit of a chance to re-evaluate where we were with each of the kids and tweak our schedules to make sure we were getting everything in that needed to be done, including adjusting things as necessary (i.e. laying down the law with a kiddo or two and making sure they were back on track). 

I will say, that means also taking a hard look at a few of the things I am (or am not doing) and making plans to follow through in those areas. I’m just as guilty of ignoring some things and thinking I’ll tackle it later, which can be both to my detriment and the kids. Although we have a weekly schedule, there are subjects that are very easy to put to the side and say we will get to them ‘tomorrow’. We have a lot of tomorrows stacking up in our house, people. Am I alone in this? 

That said, here is a quick sum-up of what we have been doing the last six weeks (or so) by kiddo. 

4th Grade –  Kaleb

View our 4th grade curriculum choices HERE. 


Our biggest focus this year has been improving Kaleb’s reading skills. While there have been a few days with tears (from both myself and him), the last month and a half has shown remarkable improvement for him. While we are using the lessons from All About Reading 3 still, we have currently put aside the reader and picked out a huge stack of books from the library for him to read to me. His current favorites are from the Frog and Toad series (or Amelia Bedelia), so he will typically read one story a day to me from the reader. I’m not sure what it is about the AAR readers that gets him worked up (I think the smaller and tighter text overwhelms him, because he quickly says the same words in other settings – it’s interesting). That said, I’m not stressing about it right now because his fluency has picked up and he is reading with inflection and happily – so we are good for now. I do feel the AAR lessons are still very important because they show him how to break down words and read proficiently as well. 

super slime

We haven’t had a formal curriculum this year with Kaleb (which I am having a love/hate relationship with). Together he and I have picked out experiments to work on. In October we worked through a few different homeschool science kits and otherwise are using the book Smithsonian Maker Lab as our guide for the year. The hands-on experiments have been a great incentive for Kaleb to keep up in all his other subjects too. :)  You can see how we made the above in this Facebook video – a fun and quick lesson on molecules. 


The boys have been working on history and we are currently studying the American Revolution. At home we are working through lessons and once a week we get together with a few other friends for hands-on projects. In the last few weeks we have tried a few colonial dishes, created gardening tools from deer bones and sticks, making a simple compass, and taken a few field trips to learn about colonial life and Native American tribes. Based on the above picture you can tell one of the cooking projects wasn’t well received (hasty pudding). The ginger cakes though – HUGE hit! Overall it’s been a very relaxed learning time and so much fun. 

homeschool world geography

Geography has been slow-going at best, but we’re taking it slower because that’s what Kaleb wants to do (and I’m all good with that). We’ve gone over basic world geography and while we aren’t doing super in-depth studies of each country, if Kaleb wants to look at something more we go ahead and do that. He really enjoys using Little Passports whenever we have a chance because he can also get online and play games to go along with the countries we study. 

writeshop E lesson

We held off starting our WriteShop D lessons until three weeks into school and now we are having a great time working through the activities. Kaleb doesn’t like the physical part of writing, so he dictates his stories to me and we work on them that way. When he has a final copy, and depending on the length of his story/project, he might copy a portion of it of the entire thing. 

spelling you see lesson

One thing we have added to our daily routine for Kaleb is Spelling You See C. We didn’t have a handwriting program this year, so we are using it primarily for that purpose and also for additional reading practice.  He loves the daily practice and it has also been great for him to work on daily identifying various vowel blends and additional reading and dictation work.  

Ivy Kids Pezzettino Kit

Another thing we try to work on several times a week are a few of the activities from one of our Ivy Kids Kits. Sometimes it’s a simple activity like creating a puzzle or a writing activity, and other times we had a chance to play with some fun new art products. Above were three activities we did to go along with our Pezzettino book. 

6th Grade – Zachary

View our 6th grade curriculum HERE

robotics for kids - Q the robot from EEME project

Zachary has absolutely been loving his robotics project from EEME. The most recent one he worked on has really piqued his interest in robotics. We have had so much fun playing with Q the Robot too. :) 

reading in the dark

A few days ago I shared a picture of Zachary, albeit blurry, but it was one that literally brought tears to my eyes. Two years ago, Zachary was in the same boat as Kaleb when it came to reading, but at the start of his fourth grade year, something literally “clicked” for him. 

We had a swim meet this past weekend and Zachary brought along three books with him to read. Not one – THREE. And a flashlight so he could read in the car on the return trip. Diary of a Wimpy Kids may not have been my first choice of reading for him initially, but now that he chooses to read on his own, I’m a huge fan. :) Especially since he read five books from the series over the course of the weekend. 


Zachary’s planning sheets are doing well keeping him on track (most weeks). He still has a difficult time staying focused throughout the day and tends to be the wanderer in our group. :) Having him write down his daily work and track it himself has been a good stretch in independence for him. Overall he is staying on target with his subjects (and may be ahead in one, but please don’t tell him that quite yet!). 


Every now and then the boys take a break together to work on LEGOs or Little Bits together. In the above they were creating a soccer ball kicking machine. 


Field trips have been something we’ve really focused on this fall too. All of them have focused around our US history studies, including a trip to Monticello where we toured the gardens and shelled beans together. One of the best parts of our field trips this year has been taking them with another local family. In case field trip are something you push off to the side for another day, you may want to check out my post  Your Homeschool Needs a Field Trip


Another thing Zachary has really been enjoying is his time in Boy Scouts. Rick and I are still trying to wrap our brains around how the badges and various ranks all fall into place, but he has been working hard toward advancing to First Class by taking on added responsibilities with his troop. Unfortunately for me, this means he is even more into fires, knives, and also poison ivy. :) The bulk of his birthday and Christmas presents revolve around items he would like for camping and Scouts – which is a good thing!

8th Grade – McKenna

View our 8th grade homeschool curriculum HERE. 

high school physical science

McKenna has finally gotten into a groove with her schedule of classes. The first few weeks were a little bit hectic/crazy and she felt overwhelmed, but she has really embraced her studies and jumped all in. The physical science class has her working on many hands-on projects (above she is building a miniature house that will have wiring). She has also worked on a glider, boat, and battery powered car as well. 


North Star Geography honestly scared the girl a bit at first and she went overboard crazy memorizing every tiny detail on maps. Since then she has been working at a pace that is keeping her on target in her class and she loves the hands-0n aspect of the class as well. In the unit covering the structure of the earth, she created a ‘lava lamp’ of sorts to learn about the earth’s mantle. It honestly makes me happy that she and Laurianna still are able to include so many hands-on learning helps with their curriculum instead of having it be just reading and memorization. 

high school lit 

Speaking of reading, McKenna has logged in some major reading already this year and is now fully into reading Jane Eyre. As time consuming as the class is, it has been great to see her digging into literature and writing some solid papers for her literature class.  

10th Grade – Laurianna 

View our 10th grade homeschool curriculum choices HERE


Most days, this is where you will find Laurianna – on her bed, headphones in and working hard on schoolwork. With the boys moving around a lot in the school room, she finds it easier to focus on her work where it’s a little quieter. 

apologia chemistry - candy bonds

Chemistry might be a rather dull class all by itself, but when you add candy to equation (literally), it can perk it right up. Laurianna is working on a chemistry lab with one of our friends and they had a very candy-filled day to go along with learning various bonds during Apologia Chemistry time.


Granted the above image doesn’t quite seem to fit in with anything, but we may have had a little bit of fun using SnapChat filters during a semi-boring video on Benjamin Franklin. Mind you, I rather enjoyed the video, but the kids were starting to lose interest, so we opened up a few filters and brought the laughter in.  Seriously you all – sometimes we just need to have a little fun. Colonial times never looked quite so hilarious…

notgrass history creative assignment

Laurianna’s artwork overall has been fun to see from her general art class, but during Exploring America from Notgrass history time she has turned in several different projects that I have loved. She wrote and illustrated a children’s book, “George Washington’s ABCs” and above is one of the pages from the book. It is seriously adorable and may have earned her some huge points. :) 

That’s the sum-up from the last nine weeks or so. How is your school time going with your family? 


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

Making a Simple Compass – Learning about the Earth’s Magnetism

making a simple compass and learning about the Earth's magnetism - HomeschoolCreations.net

As part of our history time this year, each week we are working on simple projects with friends to go along with our studies. One week we may make miniature teepees, another we tie knots that sailors use. This past week we talked more about how compasses work and had fun making a simple compass of our own. 


We’ve been learning about early explorers to the Americas and talking about how they used compasses to help them find their way across the wide ocean. Truly they were much more adventurous than I am, because I don’t believe I’d be willing to do what they all did (however thankful I am to be living in North America now). 

It only require a few simple supplies to put our compass together and the best part of all – it really worked! Granted, we won’t be taking our compass on any grand ocean expeditions in the near future, but the kids were so excited and carefully watched as it found north each time. We tried it with several different needles to see if there was any difference, but all three we tried worked well.  

Making a Simple Compass


Here’s a quick look at what we used to create our compass. You’ll need: 

  • a needle
  • a magnet (a washer-sized magnet will work as well – we used one the size of a domino)
  • a cork
  • a bowl and water
  • tape (optional)


  1. Carefully rub the sewing needle on the magnet at least 30 times in the same direction (be sure not to rub it back and forth). 
  2. Tape the needle to the outside of the cork. We didn’t have any tape handy, so instead we poked it into the side of the cork. 
  3. Place the cork in a bowl full of water. Be sure the bowl is wide enough to let the cork rotate and move around a bit. 
  4. Once the cork has stopped moving, check and see what direction it is pointing. Compare the location to an actual compass – don’t hold the compass too closely to your homemade compass because it can skew the results. Gently turn the cork again and wait to see where it is pointing this time (is it the same area?). 


Why it works: When the iron/steel needle is rubbed against the magnet, the particles line up and turn the needle into a temporary magnet. The needle then aligns with the Earth’s magnetic field. 

The entire project took us less than ten minutes – super easy and a great chance to talk more about magnetism and compasses. 

Our 4th Grade Homeschool Curriculum Choices

4th grade homeschool curriculum choices - from Homeschool Creations

The main focus this year for Kaleb is reading. His reading skills grew tremendously last year, but with reading being the core of his starting to work on subjects independently (something important in the upcoming years), the core of all we do and focus on needs to be reading. Together he and I are reading aloud to each other and reviewing, reviewing, reviewing so the areas he struggles in becomes much more natural for him. Zachary’s 4th grade year (our other son) was the point when reading finally ‘clicked’ for him, so although I’m trying not to compare too much, I am truly hoping and praying everything really falls into place for him this year and he feels comfortable with his reading skills. 

Another area we will be targeting is history/geography. Kaleb will be working with Zachary (6th grade) on these two subjects, as well as some friends of ours. The intent in history is to work on a similar cycle with the boys and Laurianna so we can tie in some field trips with another family. 

The bulk of Kaleb’s studies are still done together with me, with the exception of math, since we use a computer-based program that essentially reads the lesson to him. He can definitely read more than he lets on most days – it’s just that struggle to actually DO it, rather than letting his siblings jump in (when they are so willing to do so). 

4th Grade Homeschool Curriculum

Here’s a look at the overall plan for our 4th grade year…

Kaleb has been going through science experiment ideas with me and we are compiling a list to work on about one experiment or STEM project each week. This boy is ALL about math and science, so he will be working on plenty of hands-on projects throughout the year both with me and on his own. It’s not uncommon for him to pull out our Little Bits set and work on something while he is waiting for me or when he is finished with his work. 

On the flip side, he is also a boy that loves to create and work on art projects. As the year progresses, his wall will be covered with various creations from Home Art Studio. I absolutely LOVE this program and the fact that Kaleb can work independently on his art projects – and all I need to do is prep a tray for him with all the supplies. Super simple and he can’t get enough of it. Win-win! 

Co-op Learning

This year we are only participating in one co-op with all of the kids and trying to keep life a bit more simple in that regard. While Kaleb isn’t as upset about it (he’s a fairly even-keeled kiddo emotionally), he does love our smaller co-op because his best buddy is also a part of it. Our co-op meets every other week with the elementary and middle school kids, so it isn’t overwhelming for planning. This year they will be working on the following two classes: 

  • Spanish – last year they had a level 1 Spanish for elementary with one of the moms – and really loved it. She is hoping to use a new program this year – so we’ll keep you posted on how that is going. 
  • Five in a Row – two of the moms tag-team teach this class and work on one book each month – art projects, science experiments, etc… 

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 Kaleb 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! 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