20 Best Tips

An Update on Laurianna (and Mercy Ships)

It seems as though life has been going in spurts lately. Things have felt like we are in such a tailspin here. While we are dealing with the various things happening in our state because of the COVID-19 virus, we’ve also been staying in communication with our oldest daughter, Laurianna, who is currently serving with Mercy Ships in Dakar, Senegal.

Before I go too far – please know that I am not trying to be vague in some of the things I’m sharing, but we are respecting Mercy Ships as well by not over-sharing information regarding the field service. One GREAT source of information can be found HERE: https://mercyships.org.nz/2020/03/24/latest-news-covid-19-plan/.

We SO APPRECIATE the many emails, messages, and questions we’ve received from you all about Laurianna – and knowing you all are praying for our girl as well is overwhelming.

Our daughter has been in Senegal since July 2019, but serving with Mercy Ships since May 2019. With the recent outbreak of COVID-19, Mercy Ships made the difficult decision to suspend their field service in Dakar at this time to protect both their patients and the crew.

Although the Africa Mercy is a hospital ship, it is essentially a surgical specialist unit. The vessel is not suited to take care of patients with a highly contagious respiratory disease. – SOURCE


As you can well imagine, the crew has been through a range of emotions regarding the suspension of the service, and our girl has struggled as well. We are so grateful to have the ability to speak with her via Facetime and there have been a lot of calls going back/forth along with a flurry of texts over the last several weeks.

Laurianna made the decision to remain with the crew aboard the Africa Mercy (with the possibility of extending her field service an addition 4-6 months). As parents, I’ll be honest and say that it’s tough being here and having your child (yes, I know she’s 18, but she’s still my kiddo!) across the literal ocean with so many unknowns.

There have been a few moments of panic from me, but quite truthfully, we do have an overwhelming peace about her and know that Mercy Ships cares immensely for each of the crew members on board – and everyone on board is healthy. :) (Continued prayers are appreciated for this!!)

Is the Africa Mercy leaving Senegal and where is it going next?

Yes, the Africa Mercy is leaving Senegal two months earlier than planned to begin the ship’s yearly maintenance according to maritime regulations. Our aim is to use this advanced maintenance to bring the Africa Mercy back to Africa so that we can continue our mission to bring hope and healing to the forgotten poor once the restrictions ease.
Mercy Ships is also evaluating how, given our operational limitations, the ship can be utilized to assist in the global COVID-19 response. SOURCE

I wanted to share a quick picture with you. Since many of her co-workers on the reception team have gone, the reception team is pulling 12 hour shifts. This past week Laurianna had the night shift and to keep herself occupied she would update the whiteboard in the reception area with something fun – but I love this verse she shared with a drawing of the Africa Mercy:

“Why are you gripped with fear? Where is your faith?” Then he stood up and rebuked the storm and said, “BE STILL,” and instantly it became perfectly calm. The disciples were astonished by this miracle and said to one another, “Who is this Man? Even the wind and waves obey His Word.”

Matthew 8:26-27

If you haven’t already, you are more than welcome to follow along with updates on Laurianna’s Mercy Ships Facebook page. Again – we SO APPRECIATE your prayers and love for our girl and her crewmates.

11th Grade Mid Year Homeschool Update

With four kiddos, it seems a bit overwhelming to share a mid-year update all in one post. For both my sanity (and yours), breaking it up over a few individual posts makes a little more sense, no? 

This week I’ll be sharing a bit about each of the kids and will start off with our 11th grader, Laurianna.

There is a tricky balance in this year for me personally with Laurianna. There have been a lot of firsts: getting her drivers license just before we started school, taking classes outside the home, visiting colleges… exciting things for sure, but my mom heart is really having a hard time in some many ways. 

Watching your firstborn grow up and become independent is a hard and scary thing. On the one hand, this is what you have been wanting and praying for over the years. On the other hand, there is a releasing that is oh-so-difficult. There is joy is seeing passions develop and grow, and meanwhile the reality that there are only a few years left with her at home can quickly overwhelm. 

11th Grade Homeschool Update

Last year this time we were dealing with some major health issues with Laurianna, and the start of this year had us still visiting various specialists (it’s been the year of medical bills to say the least). Since the start of the fall, Laurianna has had a few rough days health-wise, but overall she has really been doing much better. 

And that alone, people, has made a WORLD of difference. 

This fall Laurianna had four classes on her plate. Two of those classes were completed at the local community college and the other two will carry over into the spring (math and foreign language): 

Laurianna has really THRIVED in her classes at the community college. She has jumped in and truly applied herself, working extremely hard at all she does. 

(Sometimes to the detriment of her classes at home – just saying). 

While it’s great to see her pushing herself and excelling in her classes at college, we have had talks at home recently about not forgetting there is a balance – and still other classes that need to be completed as well. Again with the balance. 

This is where the newer independence of having a license, friends that are more accessible now thanks to said license, working, and all the fun stuff come into play and create some wonderful life lessons. 

Grades for her fall classes at the community college are in and hands down her favorite class was Anatomy & Physiology. She loved both her professor and the content, which made it a definite favorite – and she can’t wait for the second class in the spring semester. 

Her English class was honestly not well-loved, mainly due to her professor. In that aspect, she is rather thankful it was only one semester – and we have also learned the value of reading reviews of potential professors via the Rate My Professor site. While we realize some of the ratings are subjective, as we read through her current professors reviews, we definitely could agree with much of what was said for both of them. 

All that said, I am rather thankful that Laurianna had a taste of two completely different teaching styles and had to figure out how to work toward her goals for each of the classes. 

As for her classes at home (I suppose you could say the true homeschooling, eh?), she is plodding through Pre-Calculus – and I mean that quite literally. Laurianna hasn’t been overjoyed with the subject (she would rather be done with math, thank you very much), but this is her final math class for high school. 

11th Grade Changes and Updates

For the spring semester, Laurianna will have a few changes to her schedule. She has completed two college-level classes so far this year and received a high school credit for each (earning 2 credits so far). Here’s a peek at the spring classes, where she will be focusing on three more classes that will apply toward her nursing major: 

At some point in the upcoming months, Laurianna will also take her SAT test. She completed her PSAT and will be going through a prep class this spring too. 

Laurianna has also been babysitting (a LOT) and working for a local small business, both of which she loves. This summer she met a few new families and really connected with them, making it even better since they are regular jobs that help her keep up with her monthly expenses. Having your own car is great, but you need to keep it running! :) 

As for college, we do have a bit of time for final decisions, but it has been great to sit down with the university Laurianna wants to attend and also our community college to map out a plan for the upcoming years. Initially she had wanted to attend all four years at the university, but the more we have talked to both schools, the better option appears to be a few years at community college and then completing her degree at the university through a RN to BSN program the two work together on. This program will also save us a significant amount of money in the long run as well, so double win. 

One plug I will make here: don’t be afraid to contact colleges your child is interested in attending and reach out to them with questions. It can be overwhelming, but it has also been wonderfully informative. The earlier you can reach out, the better too! Talking to the colleges has given us a game plan for the remaining time Laurianna has in high school (I’ll be sharing more on that later) and calmed my nerves quite a bit! 

Stay tuned – I’ll be sharing more on the other kids in the upcoming days. :)

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

American Literature High School Reading List

American Literature high school reading list

Our American Literature reading list was compiled from two sources: our history program Exploring America from Notgrass and also American Lit program from Excellence in Literature. The last two years we have used the literature guides from Excellence in Literature and love the format of the program, but we also wanted to intertwine some of the recommended novels from the Notgrass history list. Let’s face it – there are so many wonderful books that tie into American culture and history, so there are many to choose. Overall the class will provide Laurianna with 1 high school credit. 

The typical pace is for reading (to stay on top of things) will be one book per month, which honestly will not be too difficult for her to work through. We are also adding a few books by C.S. Lewis to her pile and trying to squeeze in more ‘downtime’ reading, to balance out her workload. 

Our American Literature High School Reading List

American Literature high school reading list 2016_edited-1


For each of the above books, Laurianna will have a variety of papers to write (at least three per book). Papers and essays vary from author profiles (learning about the life of the author), approach papers (quick summary, discussion questions, and character profiles), and some lovely essays based on questions from both the American Lit program from Excellence in Literature and ones I have pulled together for the books we added in to our list. The books with an asterisk next to them are ones included in the EIL program, while the other three books tie in with the historical period we are studying in American History.

Several of the above books also have a movie to go along, so we are planning a monthly movie time together to compare the book with the movie version. In past years this has proven to be rather…interesting and prompted some great discussions with the kids as well. There are also a few we won’t be watching movies for, but plan to find a movie or documentary set in a similar time period.

The “Just for Fun” Additions

Much of Laurianna’s spare time will be taken up with her school reading and other fun hobbies, but we did want to add in a few books to read together – which we’ve already finished and loved! She does love to read though, so hopefully we’ll add a few more fun books in as the catch her attention.

This list also doesn’t include any of the family read-alouds or audio books we will be reading together. 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!

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, 6th, and 8th grade reading choices!

8th reading list 2016

10th grade homeschool curriculum choices from Homeschool Creations 2016

See all of our curriculum choices for this school year in our 10th Grade Homeschool Curriculum Choices post. It includes our lit program and several other wonderful programs we are loving!

What books are in your kid’s reading stack for this year?


9th Grade Year in Review – Homeschool Curriculum Choices

9th grade homeschool year in review

As the end of this year finished up, it brought with it a lot of OH MY WORD – THIS GIRL IS NOT GOING TO BE IN SCHOOL MUCH LONGER angst. While I realize the end goal is to graduate our children and have them move on in life, the entire process is becoming more and more bittersweet. 


This year, Laurianna matured so much. She has always been a ‘solid’ and mature girl, seeming much older and wiser than her 15 years, but she’s deepened even more this year. In addition to getting her first real job (and saving money for a car, but we won’t talk about that now, ok?), she began leading worship for our church youth group. Over the last two years, she has virtually taught herself how to play guitar and singing is her passion. It has been absolutely incredible to see her grow and develop in this way because she has such a heart for worship. 

Add into that, her sheer determination work on projects and goals with a purpose – and she has all the makings of an amazing young lady. Of course, I may be entirely biased. (grins)

Here’s a quick look at what Laurianna worked on for her 9th grade year. Overall, she earned a total of 7.5 credits. 

Several of the above classes were done in a group setting this year (a small co-op of 6 high school kids) and one class she and a friend worked on independently during the week and then together once a week. 


Notgrass cultural influences

Notgrass was a new program for our family this year, but we absolutely loved the layout and projects in Exploring World History. Although the program offers two additional credits that can be earned through the year (literature and Bible), we decided not to do those. Personally I didn’t feel the literature component was as strong and detailed as the program we have used in the past (and used this year) – there were not solid literature prompts or enough direction for learning about the author, period, and components of literature (my personal opinion – so please don’t send me hate mail). As for the Bible credit, well, she does her own Bible study and we didn’t feel the need to earn an additional credit (again, personal choice). 

Some projects were more involved than others and took a bit longer than a week, so we moved around projects as needed. Otherwise, Laurianna loved the creative outlets to tie in with her history lessons (illustrating a children’s book was one of her favorites). We loved it enough that we have made plans to use their American History in our upcoming year. 


Well, I suppose Algebra 2 can be exciting for some, but there really isn’t much to say other than SHE SURVIVED ALGEBRA! Much happiness on that front and we are ready to move on to the next level of math. Praise Jesus. :) 


snow day high school

Our Literature and Composition class was so much fun this year since we added two additional kids to our small co-op (for a total of 6). Each of the kids has such a distinct writing style and personality, and it was so much fun to see them all grow throughout the year. 

One of the best parts of the class is the peer review time. Each book unit we worked on included writing three papers during the month – a profile of the author, a look at the historical period of the book, and then an essay topic based on one of the major ideas of the book (typically a 300-600 word essay). A week before the essay is due, the kids trade papers and take turn reading everyone else’s paper and making editing suggestions. While sometimes they get a little goofy, that time has been wonderful for them to gain five additional perspectives on their thought process and take additional criticisms. 

Not all the books were well-loved (there may have been much mocking about bean picking from the book Walden), but we did also have a chance to enjoy a live production of The Importance of Being Earnest at the end of the year (SO MUCH FUN). Grading papers for the mom isn’t near as enjoyable, but being with the kids and talking through book topics with them = very much fun. Laurianna is honestly a solid writer – which makes me very happy. 


Laurianna worked throughout the week on her science lessons and weekly met with her best friend to go through labs together. The other mom and I chose Biology from Science Shepherd for various reasons, one being the approach to evolution in the book. While we believe in a created world, we wanted the girls to have a solid understanding of the theory of evolution and be able to give a strong debate (or support of Creation). The book didn’t quite have the approach we were hoping for, but it is a solid curriculum. 

Dissection was the focus toward the end of the year, and the girls worked their way up from small creatures to a fetal pig. I may not have been present for that dissection (or been sad to have missed it for the most part (grins). 


Spanish is probably the area that we are struggling most with – between having computers die on us and then the program we were using not having support available since it was merged with another company, Laurianna hasn’t quite finished her second year. We found another program that we are going to try beginning this year and see exactly where she is (so far she has finished about 1.5 years of Spanish). 

When the program wasn’t working for her and we were trying to figure out an alternative, she checked out books in Spanish (some of her favorite novels) and worked on reading them alongside her copies. She also has been spending time with several friends who speak Spanish which has been encouraging and helpful to her. Overall, hoping for a much better outcome in the upcoming year! 

Personal Finance

personal finance ramsey high school

While there really aren’t any exciting pictures to show from this class over the past year, our Foundations in Personal Finance class via Dave Ramsey is one I would highly recommend for any high school student. We typically worked on one unit over the process of two or three weeks and the kids completed additional assignments during the week. 

One thing I personally loved – the kids created a zero-based budget each month (granted for some kids very easy since they currently had no income), but having them consistently walk through the process was good practice. Overall, the kids learned about a huge realm of topics: creating an emergency fund, insurance, purchasing a car, paying for college (without borrowing money), and hands-on, practical topics they will use for years to come. 

For Laurianna, it was very encouraging and gave her some definitely goals for the upcoming years. She has already established her $500 emergency fund and been working hard over the summer to put aside money for her first car. 


This was another class Laurianna absolutely loved, and one we completed as a part of our small high school co-op. Although we had a small group of kids (only six), the discussions on current topics and issues that have shaped society were great to listen to. Overall, the Lightbearers program itself was solid, and our only complaint was the need to update video clips to more current clips (rather than from the late 80s and 90s). 


Laurianna received credit for participating in a year-long swim team (she attended practices 3-4 times a week for 1.5 hours at a time). Her swimming did improve over the course of the year and she is definitely one of our more determined and focused children when it comes to practice. Her love for swimming has spilled over into her job for the summer too, and for her birthday she asked for a lifeguarding course – and now lifeguards and teaches swim lessons at a local pool.

Voice Lessons


During the spring semester, Laurianna had the opportunity to take part in voice lessons through a local university.  We had much fun getting to know her instructor better (what is nicer than having a weekly home lesson?) and preparing for a small recital. Singing is another passion of Laurianna’s, so this was an area we were completely blessed to have work out (all thanks to one of her swim team coaches). 

This year was wonderful, a bit challenging at times, but puts us another year closer to graduation. Gulp! It’s hard to believe the year has flown by so quickly and we definitely can’t wait for the upcoming year either!

Other Year-End Reviews

 Take a peek at our 3rd grade, 5th grade, and 7th grade year end reviews too! Click on the below images to read the post.

3rd grade homeschool year in review 5th grade homeschool year in review 7th Grade Homeschool Year in Review 2016 from Homeschool Creations

Home Hydroponics Experiments

Several months ago our oldest worked on a fun project to go along with one of the chapters in her  North Star Geography curriculum. We’ve mentioned several times that this class was one of her favorite classes last year, particularly because it included many hands-on activities as a part of the curriculum.

simple home hydroponics experiements using plastic bins, plastic bottles, and yarn to feed plants

The second part of the year  involved learning about agriculture and building a home hydroponics system (lesson 12). Laurianna decided to build two different types of hydroponic systems as part of her hands-on projects, one fairly simple system that used an empty soda bottle with yarn (to absorb the water from the bottom of the bottle) and another more elaborate system that involved some help for her dad to cut the lid of the bin she used. You can see the various ideas for home hydroponics systems here that she gathered while looking for systems to build.

Soda Bottle Hydroponic System

soda bottle hydroponics system using inverted soda bottle with yarn to absorb water and feed the growing plant-1

After looking through the different ideas online, Laurianna started with a simple soda bottle hydroponic system based on this pin. The pieces needed to get started were very easy to find:

  • an empty soda bottle
  • yarn
  • potting soil
  • seed or seedling
  • water

Laurianna cut the small soda bottle and inverted the top section into the lower section. She poked several holes through the cap of the bottle and threaded yarn through the holes, making sure they were long enough to be immersed in the water. The top part of the bottle was filled with potting soil and her seedling.

On the side of the bottle you may notice a blue line. This was her water gauge line to make sure the water was at a high enough level for the yarn to absorb the water. If it was below the line too much, the yarn had difficulty feeding the plant.

This was a super-easy system to implement and she was able to work on it independently and complete in a fairly short time frame as well. The hardest part for us was finding a good window with light to keep the plant growing well because many of our window sills are not quite wide enough to perch the bottle without the danger of someone knocking it off and making a huge mess.

Plastic Bin Home Hydroponic System

plastic bin hydroponics system using inverted soda bottles with yarn to absorb water and feed the growing plant-1

Based on an idea from this pin, Laurianna built a larger hydroponics system in a plastic bin using the following items:

  • a 10 gallon plastic bin with lid
  • 3 empty soda bottles (cut in half)
  • yarn
  • potting soil
  • 6 pepper plants
  • air filter our old fish tank
  • water

example of inverted soda bottle hydroponics system - bottle drops into lid of plastic bin-1

above you can see the yarn that she fed out through holes in the lid

My husband, Rick, helped Laurianna cut the holes in the plastic lid of the bin because it was a little tricky (and we also wanted to be sure all of her fingers and appendages were still in place at the end of the project. Laurianna then cut each soda bottle in half and poked holes in the caps of the tops of the bottle or holes in the bottoms of the bottles to thread yarn through (similar to this idea here). Once the yarn was threaded through, she filled the bottle half with potting soil and planted a seedling in the bottle.

plastic bin home hydroponics project - soda bottles are dropped into the top of plastic bin and fed with water from the bin-1

Water was added to the base of the bin and plant bottles were placed into the six holes of the bin lid. Laurianna measure to see how high the water needed to be in the bin so the yarn coming from the bottle bases would touch and absorb the water. At least half of the yarn needed to be in the water or it wouldn’t absorb well.

home hydroponics project using plastic bin and soda bottles - North Star Geography activity-1

The fish tank filter was added about a week after she started the experiment because the yarn wasn’t being oxygenated enough. To add the filter, she cut a small hole in the side of the bin and fed the filter through the side of the bin. That helped tremendously (she was hoping to get by without needing it).

The plastic bin hydroponics system was definitely more complicated to put together (although complicated is fine in her book), and it yielded some great a results. All six of the plants began to thrive once the water filter was added to the bin and were later transferred to our garden when they were budding and large enough to grow peppers. Since their transfer to the garden they have been producing like crazy and Laurianna is now in habanero and cayenne pepper heaven. (grins)

Hydroponic System Results

The soda bottle hydroponics system was simple to make and  overall worked well for the one plant that she grew using this method. Unfortunately someone (namely a high schooler) forgot to put water in the base of the bottle when we left for vacation, and the plant dried up and died while we were gone. The water in the bottle base needed to remain at a certain level or the yarn wouldn’t absorb the water correctly, so no water = a not happy plant that shriveled up to nothing.

The plastic bin hydroponics system was by far the favorite method of growing plants although it did require a bit more work (and cleanup – especially because salamanders seemed to think it was a fabulous place to crawl into and die). Most likely results were skewed based on the massive amounts of spicy peppers that were produced as well, but Laurianna was definitely proud of the work she put into it.

Overall the projects were both successful and now other children in the house are now anxious to have their turn at North Star Geography – and you have to love that! Quite honestly, it has me thinking about ways that we can better grow some of our favorite plants (or continue growing) through the winter months with a little less care on our part – so maybe it was good for everyone in the family.

Have you tried hydroponics at home and found a method that works well for you?

Find out more about North Star Geography HERE.

North Star Geography Online Course

We used the hardcover version of North Star Geography and are thrilled to see it is now also available as an online course from Bright Ideas Press! The new self-paced option also includes audiobook and instructor help!