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Homeschool and Life Happenings – Back to School!!

We did it! We survived the first week of our new school year! :) Over the last few years one things I’ve learned is easing-in works so much better than trying to start every single subject right off the bat. For us that means keeping it simple with math and grammar. If you haven’t had a chance yet, here’s a peek at what we are using this year at each grade level. 

5th Grade Homeschool Curriculum Choices 2017


Technically Laurianna hasn’t started yet. This week she spent the week at the beach with her best friend’s family. Just before she left we took a trip to the community college she will be attending and picked up her parking passes and had her student ID made. It’s getting real, people! 

If it’s any consolation to you all, I completely forgot until Sunday night to load math software onto laptops. Since we’ve been playing the laptop shuffle and had a new laptop in the last year, we had to call in and reactivate our code for Teaching Textbooks (head up – you can’t do that Sunday night if you are procrastinating), so that was something we had to do Monday morning. That said, math is going well – all five lessons in. 😜

One thing I really want to focus on this year with all the kids is games. Zachary and Kaleb both celebrate birthdays late in the year which makes it a little hard to have parties at the pool, so this year we had an early birthday for both of them. One of the families gave Kaleb a game called Puck! (from Target). The kids and I have been having a blast playing it together. Essentially you try to bounce your wooden pucks into your opponents cups and be the first one to get it in all their cups. 

Our county fair is this week and Tuesday night marked a first for our kids – they went to the fair ALONE (well, ok…with friends). McKenna and Kaleb hung out with one of McKenna’s friends and Zachary had a group of his friends from swim team that decided to go together. It worked out rather nicely since I had a whopper of a migraine and it was a rather yucky night for me.

I have to say, this is a wonderfully freeing stage of life and oddly strange at the same time! It likely won’t hit me in full until next week when Laurianna buys a vehicle and drives off to her classes at the community college though. 

This week we’ve had a little company in the form of another puppy. Our friends that are at the beach have a dog similar to Addie and she has been staying with us. It doesn’t really impact anyone else in the house other than me because both of them need to be near or ON me every waking moment. One misses her family and loves me and ours then feels the need to prove I AM HERS AND SHE IS MINE. It’s honestly a miracle I haven’t tripped over one of them at some point this week, although it hasn’t been for lack of trying!

That’s it for this week. :) I’ll be back next week with what we’re up to this next week as we add in a little more work for each of the kids. We are starting back up with our high school co-op next Tuesday and can’t wait (well, at least I can’t!). 

Homeschool and Life Happenings – The One Where We Ate Crickets

Testing is done. Sealed in an envelope and mailed back. Hallelujah and amen. The above pretty well sums up my feelings on that one. 

This last week has been fairly laid back. With Memorial Day weekend, we finally managed to visit a campground we had booked last fall but had to cancel/reschedule. We spent four days camping, relaxing, and looking for shark’s teeth at Westmoreland State Park – love that place! 

And we found a ton of shark’s teeth! McKenna found over 20 of them – the girl has a definite eye for catching them when sifting through the pebbles on the beach! Two of the kids made necklaces out of one of their finds and are loving those. 

Me on the other hand. I take pictures of rocks on the shore and then when the kids look at my pictures later, well, they point out the shark’s tooth in the picture that I didn’t pick up. Way to go me. (If you look closely, there is a RATHER LARGE ONE almost dead center, but up just a little bit to the left, between the big black rock and the black rock in the middle.)

The kids were also thrilled because this spring we finally invested in a few kayaks for the family and this was the first chance we had to try them out. The water was a bit choppy and one of the kayakers swamped the boat right after getting in the water (we won’t mention any names), but the kids had a blast otherwise. 

After our lovely day, we ended up taking everyone out for ice cream nearby and while there we made a last minute purchase. 

Sour cream and onion flavored crickets. For real

Everyone took turns eating one. It was a lovely ummmm….experience. Let’s just say I got a HUGE one and was picking legs out of my mouth for a bit after. (shudder) We’ll chalk it up to a family bonding moment and one the kids will have a blast remembering in years to come. If you are really bored, you can watch the above video as proof we did it. :) 

Did I mention we have baby birds? Every few days we have to water the fern they have decided to nest in (yet again), and it’s sweet to see how big they are getting.

As far as school goes, the girls are still wrapping up a few things, but otherwise our pool also opened for the summer so Laurianna has started lifeguarding again and summer swim team practices have started. While the kids just have to show up to practice, Rick and I have been busy getting everything set up since we help manage our local swim team (it’s fun and crazy, but mostly fun). 

I may be excited too about the pool opening. Once regular swim hours settle in, it will mean a lot of poolside relaxing and reading, and I’m all about taking some time off to relax and enjoy the beautiful weather! 

Other than that, I’ve got tons of paperwork out and I’m working on figuring out a plan for the upcoming year – curriculum and whatnot to pull together for everyone. One year is done and it’s time to get everything lined up for next year. 

How are YOU doing? 

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

10 Things We Plan to Do This Summer

Over the next bit before we kick back into full school mode, I am a wee bit determined to keep the kids occupied with something other than the tv {can I get an amen?}. When the weather starts heating up, we are sure to hear the ‘it’s too warm to play outside’ line and I plan to be prepared with a few things to do together.

1. Pick FIVE things on our Pinterest boards to actually do. I know that I am not alone in having massive amounts of things pinned on my gagillion Pinterest boards that look super fun…and then forget about them, right? The kids and I are going through the boards together and each picking one thing to do this summer. It can be as simple as painting our nails something fun {well, maybe not for the boys}, or building a water balloon launcher that we’ve been talking about for ages.

And this bulletin board idea from Find Joy in the Journey? Ummmm…genius!! Especially because we can also plan out some fun activities and add pictures from my Instagram feed. Oh yes – this is FIRST on my list to do!

2. Serve in our local community. With the Adventures in Odyssey ‘Summer of Service Challenge’ in full swing, we’ve made a list of things that we can do to help others in our community and beyond. Some projects are for family members that are older, and others include simple projects locally.

3. Read out loud {or listen to audio books}. A lot. With limiting tv, we are going to start a ‘quiet hour’ again in our house – a time when everyone needs to just sit and be still. Coloring is ok, but down time is something that we all need more of! We’re working on a list of books to read during the hot days, and I completely forgot about some audio books that I downloaded from Lamplighter Theatre a few months ago, so those are getting loaded on the iPod for us to listen to together.

4. Play with our sets from LEGO Education. We’ve been having fun since February with a few different kits from LEGO Education {Simple Machines and WeDo} and when you are playing with LEGO® bricks…well, it’s definitely a fun day, right?

Lego StoryStarters Save the Tree Project (52)

The LEGO® kits have also been wonderful to have on hand when we are reading, because the kids can build while they are listening and recreate scenes from the stories {or make their own!}.

5. Have fun at Vacation Bible School. The kids are very excited that next week is the local VBS – and I may be a bit giddy too {grins}. While the kids are having fun and learning, it will give me a few hours to get planning for the upcoming year with a bit of quiet time {sometimes I forget what that is like!}.

6. Learn about the Constitution as a family. It may sound a little nerdy, but we found a book all about the Constitution that was written by a 14 year old, Our Constitution Rocks!

Our Constitution Rocks

This was a book that we picked up at our homeschool convention and thought it would be a great thing to study as a family {and I’m guessing the adults may learn a few things too}. 

7. Visit the library. A lot. Air conditioning and lots of books to choose from. Need I say more? We also have to work on those Reading Challenge Charts, so the kids have bags to fill and reading to do!

8. Head to our local children’s museum. After a season of not going to the children’s museum, we went ahead and bought a one year membership.


don’t ask…because really, I don’t know…

The kids have really missed it, and I forgot about the theater area and the plethora of art supplies that they have – and the mess that is no longer in my house when the kids are working on projects there {cough}. The money I’m saving on random art supplies may just help us break even on the membership cost {grins}.

9. Swim, swim, and swim some more. Can you say exercise? The kids are a part of one of the local swim teams and while I hit my swim team plateau about 2 meets before the season is over, at the moment we are having a blast. The kids are getting some great exercise, learning a lot about encouraging others and how to be a good sport, and staying cool at the same time.

10. Write our Compassion children even more and find some fun things to mail to them over the next year. There are lots of fun things that we can put together for the children we sponsor through Compassion and have ready to mail to them. I’ve been adding pins to a Flat Crafts for Sponsored Children Pinterest board, so we’ll be working on ideas from that first.


What fun things do you have planned for the summer months?



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Our Science Studies

This year we are all working together on Nancy Larson® Science 2 {recommended for ages 7-9} and have been studying a range of topics. At the moment I’m rather anxious to get into the bird section of the program {since we moved our birdfeeder up onto our porch}, but we are definitely having fun and learning a lot this year.

We are a little more than halfway through the Science 2 program and are working through the fourth of the six units. We’ve already covered:

~ The Physical Properties of Matter: solids, liquids, and gases; measuring the mass of a solid; the transparency of matter; exploring magnetic attraction; naming magnetic poles and the states of matter.

Needless to say, the scale has been a big hit. Whenever the science bin is pulled out, I’m sure to hear “Can we play with the scale too?”


20111012-IMG_2216 20111012-IMG_2217

~ Observing Rocks and Minerals: classifying rocks by size {sand, pebble, cobble, gravel, and boulders}; comparing the hardness of minerals, and identifying the minerals in granite.

The rock collection that we used to talk about the hardness of minerals has also much fun. We went on several walks during our time learning about rocks and minerals. One of the best parts of those walks was listening to Zachary and McKenna point out the various rock sizes that we saw along the way. :)

20111018-IMG_2247 20111018-IMG_2249

~ Investigating Forces and Work: learning about gravity; demonstrating how lubricants affect friction between objects; learning about wheels/axles; observing how rollers make work easier; and inclined planes.

This unit involved several of our small race cars, a lot of our blocks to build inclined ramps and the involvement of all of the kids as we raced cars, used the coveted tape measure to see how far vehicles traveled with/without friction and more.

~ Examining Simple Machines: so far we’ve talked about how inclined planes work make easier; characteristics of wedges; identifying the functions of screws; and the characteristics of wheels and axles.

Our last two units will be exploring light and sound and then investigating birds {just in time for the warm weather!!}. In the meantime I’ve been snapping pictures of the many birds in our area and getting ready for that unit!

The Nancy Larson® Science 2 has been a step up in work level for the kids, but what I really love most is Zachary’s desire to participate in the reading of the text and seeing his study skill improve dramatically with this level. The Science 2 has added bolded words and has children highlight important text ~ and we have a little boy that is giddy to use his highlighter and find the important info in each lesson {and I definitely won’t complain about that!}.

While Laurianna falls on the older end of the age range for the curriculum, she still is learning things that we haven’t covered in the past and enjoying the ‘hands-on’ parts of the program too…and even Kaleb is having fun with those parts {especially the ramps and the racing!}.

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Wrapping up 12 Weeks…

Again, I really need to pay better attention to our overall schedule! I had a week planned for us to take off school and completely missed it ~ but all was good! :) We just took the next week off instead. Just to keep track of what’s going on in our school time overall, here’s a peek at what we did in our second six weeks:

History ~ This past 6 weeks we finished up the New World Explorers unit from Homeschool in the Woods. I had every intention of starting on the Colonial Life unit, but we slowed down a little in this area when we had a few setbacks family/health-wise. I’ve also decided to stretch out the units a little more and only cover three units this year, so we still have PLENTY of time to work on this. I also ordered some books for the girls that I’m still waiting on that are based on Colonial Christmas times that I KNOW they will love {Felicity’s Surprise being on of them!}.

Science ~ We’ve been continuing on with Nancy Larson Science 1 and enjoying it a lot. Our second six weeks have been focused on botany and trees. You can read my review of Nancy Larson Science 1 here.


Spelling ~ Zachary is still working on Level 1 in All About Spelling and both of the girls are still working on Level 3 of All About Spelling.

Language ~ Zachary has worked through lesson 54 in First Language Lessons Level 1 and is working on memorizing his fifth poem. The girls have worked through their first 12 weeks of First Language Lessons 3 {roughly somewhere around lesson 50} and are learning more about diagramming predicate nominatives, adjectives, direct objects and more.

Writing ~ This area has been more tied into what we are studying in other areas or books we are currently reading.

Math ~ The girls are loving their Teaching Textbooks and doing great. Both of them are a little ahead of where they should be {Laurianna has worked through lesson 73 of Level 4 and McKenna has worked through lesson 65 of Level 3}.

Reading ~ McKenna has become so much more confident in her reading over the last few weeks and since she loves reading the American Girls books, we are focusing on those for her.

Laurianna will read just about anything she can get her hands on too, but has been reading a lot of the Sisters in Time book series {historical books written from a Christian perspective}.

Zachary has been working on his Runt Pig as a go-along with the All About Spelling lessons. His reading has improved tremendously and it is so fun watching things ‘click’ with him!!

Spanish ~ Laurianna and McKenna are still both working on Latin American Spanish and are enjoying the program very much.

Bible ~ All of the kids are working weekly on their Awana verses, doing devotions independently {Laurianna has been using a series from The Good Book that she loves}. With Christmas coming, we’ve been doing family devotions from Tabitha’s Travels for the Advent season. You can read about what we’ve done weekly in my Raising Rock Star posts.

Handwriting ~ All three kids are working hard in their Reason for Handwriting books and making great improvement ~ especially Zachary.

Art ~ Nothing done with this yet but we should be starting up in January with this. Cindy from Along the Way and I are going to be working on some artist/unit studies for our kids to do together using the book Discovering Great Artists by MaryAnn Kohl.

That’s it in a rather large nutshell! How has YOUR school year been going? :)

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