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Hello Friends – Life in the Moment

This weekend I’m in Nashville, TN, spending some time with one of my favorite people – Carisa from 1+1+1=1. We’re both speaking at Teach Them Diligently Nashville and the downtime has been much needed.

It’s times like this weekend that remind me so much of the WHY I’ve been blogging and sharing over the years. Making connections with other homeschool families. The opportunity to encourage parents as they are starting out. Laughing, crying, and sharing honestly from my heart. This weekend I have met some incredible families and just loved the time we spent at the convention (and soaking up the beauty of the Gaylord!).

The kids meanwhile – well, I suppose there’s quite a bit to share on that front too (you know, since I last shared in October!).

11th Grade (McKenna)

One of the things McKenna has jumped onto with both feet is snowboarding – and she has fallen in LOVE with it. We are fortunate to have slopes close by (the mountain resort is essentially in our backyard). While the snow hasn’t been optimal this season, she has spent as much time as she can learning how to handle herself and tackle the various slopes, no matter how difficult.

On the school front, McKenna is working through all of her classes when she isn’t working locally. We haven’t been able to sit down and dissect her shark yet – that’s coming up (and truthfully I’m EXCITED to work on it!).

9th Grade (Zachary)

Many of our days are spent cozying up on the couch together as we go through various subjects (Geometry is his love/hate subject at the moment).

There are quite a few times where he stretches out and takes a nap (Kaleb too), because the early morning swim practices are catching up to all of us. 4:45am is a lovely dark o’clock hour and I feel for them. :)

Our co-op classes have been going along smoothly too – next week we start dissections with a worm, something we’re looking forward to.

We’ve also been able to continue volunteering at a local soup kitchen (of sorts) once a month and I love that the boys are helping take more ownership of the meal prep alongside us.

7th Grade (Kaleb)

Kaleb prefers to do as much of his work independently, and as I’ve mentioned before, he isn’t the hugest fan of writing in any form. We’ve added in a simple map/geography workbook for him so that he has a better handle on using an atlas.

Both boys recently aged up in swimming, so they have been working hard to make cuts for some of the larger meets coming up. The next several weekends mean a lot of competition time for them, but it’s so much fun to see all their hard work paying off.

The Graduate (Laurianna)

Our oldest, Laurianna, is still in Africa with Mercy Ships. The above tree was HUGE. She is absolutely loving her time onboard and has extended her service time until the end of June 2020. And then she will be HOME!!!

Once she returns, she will be jumping back into school in August at both our community college and another local university.

If you are interested in reading what she has been learning, I would so encourage you to visit her blog, Deeply Rooted.

That’s the super-quick wrap-up of our lives at the moment. How are you all doing so far this year?

Homeschool Wrap Up September 2019

As much as I truly want to share weekly updates, life has a way recently of flying by. My time on Instagram and Facebook has been limited. BUT our time with school has definitely been in high gear. 

We started our school year the first week of September. It’s the latest we have ever started, but after a crazy busy summer, two kids working, swim team, and still feeling behind from the rush of Laurianna’s graduation and then joining Mercy Ships – well, I personally needed to breathe a little. 

(Maybe you’ve noticed I’ve been a bit quiet here overall lately?)

I’m hoping to share a bit more on the whole “catching up” that I’ve been trying to do with life as we settle into a new year and adjust to a different season. 

But – how are YOU all doing this year so far? 

Despite my best intentions, we didn’t get a first day of school picture of the kids. So McKenna was more than happy to jump in and help out with that. She was even nice enough to include Laurianna – all the way in Africa. 

All that said – we have jumped back into school and managed to get into a fairly good groove overall. Most school days start rather early (M/W the boys are up at 4:45a and T/Th at 5:15a) for the boys’ swim practices. The boys have been doing really well with the early mornings (some days are a little harder than others). 

7th Grade Learning

Even though we have a school room, the boys often like to spend time working in the living room, especially since we have a new couch and can spread out a little more now. Kaleb is really enjoying the switches we made this year with his curriculum. It’s allowed him a bit more independence and he is working hard to do as much without my help. 

This is a HUGE step for him, especially with his reading. He is currently 7th grade and although he is still behind grade-level, he has been making some great strides – which has definitely been encouraging to both him and us, and helped tremendously with his confidence. 

Grammar and math are two of Kaleb’s “pocket” areas. Grammar is one subject he has always done well in. In years past, he has worked through the daily lessons alongside me, but this year it is another one that he has taken over independently (and is doing great). 

Kaleb has also been working slowly through Word Up Vocabulary – short video clips and then some online Quizlet work with the new words. 

Another area we’ve really been hitting hard is spelling. While there are days it seems we are going so slowly, we are really trying to make sure Kaleb really has it down firmly. This year has been a lot easier going (some things have “clicked” a little more for him as well as his willingness to jump in full force).

There are moments when I can sit and breathe as the boys work. Sometimes that means I can grab a little bit of reading time, but more often it’s catching up and trying to stay ahead (currently reading Homeschool Bravely, amongst other things). 

9th Grade Learning

Most of our days are spent with our puppy VERY close by. Sometimes more of a hinderance than a help. :) 

Zachary started North Star Geography  last year and we initially planned to work on it over the course of two full years. After he started back up with the program this year, he decided to wrap it up sooner, so he will hopefully be finished with that class at the end of October. 

Last year Zachary started Algebra 1 with Teaching Textbooks. While he did get a good chunk of the program completed, I will admit to not being on top of all of his work, especially once our year went a bit haywire at the end. We initially planned to work on the program over the summer – but that just didn’t happen. 

Admitting my shortcomings to you all – plain and simple. 

Now Zachary has had to step it up to finish the Algebra 1 lessons and then jump into Geometry as soon as he completes it – hopefully end of October as well!

A new-to-us class this year, Grammar for Writers, has been going really well also. This should be a one semester class (1/2 credit) for Zachary, so he has a little wiggle room with lessons if he needs to focus on another area. The video lessons have been engaging so far and Zachary and I work through the lesson quizzes together. 

One of the things I am so glad that we decided to do again this year is a small co-op for both biology and Personal Finance. Biology has been so much fun already – and quite honestly it’s been interesting to see how much Zachary really remembers (and how easily he can memorize – because let’s face it, sometimes I wonder about the teenage brain). When it’s something he ENJOYS, he is all in.

And personal finance, he absolutely LOVES. We were recently out with friends and the bulk of the time he spent explaining compound interest to all of the kids. It was rather hilarious to listen to, but again – when he loves it, he is ALL IN!

11th Grade Learning

The bulk of McKenna’s work has been independent, and she checks in with me with papers she has written, etc… but overall she is falling into her own routine for the new year. She started a new job and works two afternoons a week, and her fall drama/musical class started at the beginning of October. 

The Kid in Africa

Laurianna is adjusting to life on the Africa Mercy and doing really well. Since flying to Guinea, Africa at the end of May, she has since sailed to the Canary Islands (while the ship was in dry dock and getting prepped for Senegal) and then on to Senegal.

She has already decided to extend her time with Mercy Ships. Her initial return would have been in March, but at this point she has pushed the date into May. We’re still waiting on a specific date, but thankful she is settling in. :) 

You can follow along with her trip via her blog here: https://deeplyrooted.blog/

One thing we are thankful for is the opportunity to Facetime with her. The ship has wifi, and we sometimes have a spotty connection, but it’s good to be able to SEE her, even though she is so far away. 

It’s rather strange adjusting to life with one less kiddo in the house – and being a parent of one that is technically an adult – and learning how to parent from a different place in life. But it’s also a good adjustment too. :) 

What We’re Using

If you’d like a peek at our curriculum choices (because we did switch some things up this year), feel free to click on any of the below links. 




A Whole Bunch of Ordinary Homeschool Time – Homeschool and Life Happenings

The last few weeks have been filled with all sorts of ordinary (and more, of course – because LIFE). One of my favorite things lately is making a cinnamon maple latte of sorts – super strong coffee (I use the smallest cup our keurig makes), frothed milk, 1/8 tsp cinnamon, and 1/2 Tbsp of maple syrup. So very tasty. And often necessary in the morning. 

You know earlier this year how I mentioned our daily/weekly routine was feeling all out of whack because swim practices changed and work schedules and all. They changed again. I just have to laugh, because really, truly – what else can we do. My brain is still trying to adjust, but we’ll get there. 

The boys are plugging along with their various subjects. Kaleb has been learning how acids and compounds react, so we had a little fun with eggs (compound: calcium carbonate) in vinegar (acid). Unfortunately there was a wee crack in the shell, so a bit of the egg oozed out when the shell started softening. He got the point though. 

Kaleb has also worked through seven of the ten Lifepac geography units for the year, so we are slowing it down a bit and taking a pause as we are wrapping up our study of Africa with a little more in-depth look at Nelson Mandela. I picked up Who Was Nelson Mandela and we’ve been reading through that for a quick overview. 

Notice all the paint cans still in the corner of the room. Yeah. Still haven’t finished painting the stairwell. It’s a project that is “out of sight, out of mind” until we’re in the middle of school – and well, you know. 

Working weekends on things will be a little harder over the next few months because we are moving into competition season (states, regionals, etc…) for the boys swimming and almost every weekend we have some type of meet for one of them. 

McKenna has decided that she likes to sit on her bedroom floor and work on school there. I will say it has caused some amount of tension because she and her sister differ on what “clean” entails in a room. Having her books, clothes, and everything in between makes it a little harder to keep thing tidy (in one sister’s mind…and the mom’s as well). 

She and I are still working on catching up on a small bit of chemistry, but otherwise she has been doing a great job balancing work and school. This past week she ended up flat out sick (same cold I had), so both were a little more difficult, but she is finally feeling better. 

One of the things I didn’t realize was that Zachary had gotten a little behind on his math. I found out when Teaching Textbooks 3.0 online did an update that added a lovely little “C” for “completed” next to the finished lessons.

Someone didn’t have a super happy day when that showed up, but he can’t blame the math program for that! So…time to do some catching up!

Don’t let the table resting fool you – this boy loves diagramming. Even if he doesn’t always show it. :) 

He’s also been doing a fabulous job working through All About Reading 4 and he has been such a goof at the same time. It definitely is helping show where he needs to improve, and at the same time his reading confidence has shot up (I AM SO THRILLED ABOUT THIS!!). 

Rick and I went away for the weekend and while we were gone and having fun, both boys were home READING. ON PURPOSE! 

One of Kaleb’s friends let him borrow a book and in one day he managed to read it. Meanwhile Zachary cranked out another Harry Potter book. In full disclosure, I had told the boys that if they started reading in their free time (as in not what we are reading for school), they could earn some extra Fortnite time. Apparently that was a key component to reading. But I won’t complain.

Having Laurianna around more in the mornings has been nice in so many ways, especially since it’s her last semester in high school. Lately she’s been on a baking kick, and shockingly, no one is complaining about that. 

Our week ended up with me not at home quite as much as I had planned, especially after my grandmother ended up in the hospital for a few days and needed some help with things. She’s doing much better now, but it feels like much of the week has been spent in the van driving all over the place – and that’s okay!

This weekend, as Rick and Kaleb are away for a swim meet, I’m planning to curl up and spend some time reading, probably do some cleaning (it’s inevitable, always), and hang out with the kiddos staying home. I just finished reading The Road Back to You (all about enneagrams and completely not on my reading list for this month – I got distracted), and then Walking With Henry by Rachel Anne Ridge showed up on my doorstep, so THIS is my reading for the weekend! Henry is a real-life donkey-friend and the cutest thing!

Hope your week has been fun!

The Week with a LOT of Falling Asleep – Homeschool and Life Happenings

Last week we started a blue jay chalk pastel project and managed to wrap it. Kaleb and I tweaked ours a little from the tutorial we saw, since our woods are filled with evergreens. In the process we realized that some of the paper we have for chalk pastels has two different sides – something we hadn’t noticed before. The texture on Kaleb’s pastel was so different from mine and it wasn’t until the end that we realized the difference. 

Saturday at some point I managed to get hit with a head cold that just didn’t want to let go. Most of the weekend was spent curled up and hoping my head wouldn’t explode. I attempted to read It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way by Lysa Terkeurst and did get through a bit of it over the weekend (loving it), but focusing was so hard. 

Unfortunately the cold just stuck around, much to my dismay, but also amusement. 

Monday morning my voice went along with it, with hilarious results. Siri wouldn’t recognize me when I tried talking to her and then when my father-in-law called, he thought he was talking to my husband. The flip side to my cold though has been falling asleep at the drop of a hat. Or the opening of a book. 

Kaleb especially has been having fun with this aspect. He takes an extra moment to cover me up with a cozy blanket, turn on the sound, and quietly tiptoe out of the room – and distract himself. :) 

The boys and I did manage to get pretty much all of their school work done, with the exception of our read-aloud since my voice has been completely shot. Or I start falling asleep when reading. 

Kaleb has been working through one lesson each day from All About Reading 4 and doing such a great job. I mentioned before that we are repeating this level (this time using the NEW color edition of the reading program that recently released). He has patiently been reviewing word cards with me and we are tackling a few problem areas (he sometimes wants to gloss over and rush through things), so this slowing down to review is great for him. It’s also been building his confidence when he sees what he CAN do and already knows/remembers. 

Laurianna and I have also been working on her Pre-Calc. Oy. She has been putting some of it off and my brain is flipping all over the place trying to remember key concepts and skip back and forth. What’s been so interesting about this process is realizing that sometimes my brain remembers how to solve an equation (or just does it) yet I can’t fully explain it. Trying to figure out how to backtrack it has been almost hilarious! Often what we are ending up doing is typing in the answer and then watching the solution walked out. (Gotta love it). 

Zachary has been working hard to get ahead in a few areas, especially his world geography. He has been reading like CRAZY, especially since he finished the last book in the Harry Potter series, starting with the first book in the series again and working his way through them.

He has been staying up late each night to read on his own and finished the first one and is reading the second one now. Seeing him get excited about reading and WANT to read has been such a huge encouragement! 

One new and fun thing that Kaleb and I worked on together this week was learning Scratch to create some animated graphics. It’s a part of his Wonder Crate box on Bill Gates and we’ll be sharing more on that soon! 

Not a lot of pictures this week (most of school took place on my bed this week), but the boys are gearing up for a swim meet this weekend as they move into state and regional competitions and try to make qualifying times for the last of their events. Kaleb is so close in a few events and Zachary is still trying to qualify in a few he hasn’t already. 

Tomorrow we’re going to catch up on a few things (Zachary is a bit behind in math and I didn’t realize that until the other day). He’s going to have to do two lessons each Friday and we’re going to add in some learning games for all of us as well (states and capitals and President Brain Box at the moment). 

That’s about it for us – how has your week been? 


The Week Seemed Almost Too Easy – Homeschool and Life Happenings

Aside from the general craziness of life, school itself seemed almost EASY this week. Either we’re getting into a groove much more quickly or I’m missing a huge chunk of something. (Let’s just hope it’s not the latter.) 

McKenna now has a set work schedule and she is blocking her days to work on subjects and get her schoolwork done, which is a huge relief to both of us. Initially she was getting a little stressed out (admittedly, her shifts were longer and now her job has adjusted their open/close hours which helps out a lot). 

She and I had a chance to work on her Chemistry labs as well. We’ve had to make some adjustments to the days we go over things together, but we’re getting it all worked out. 

I’ll be sharing a mid-year update on her 10th grade year next week – so stay tuned for that! 

One thing that has been so great to see is Zachary jumping into reading and WANTING to read. I will admit that we are rewarding him with some Fortnite time, BUT he spent most of his Sunday afternoon reading next to me. 

Tuesday we had Laurianna home with us most of the day (have I mentioned how nice it is to have her HOME this semester?). While we are still waiting to hear from Mercy Ships on what may happen this summer, we will soak up the time we do have with her. 

Zachary absolutely loves the Harry Potter series and has decided they are his favorite books – so he picked up another one and asked if he could read it, after finishing one on Sunday. Yes, please! There are one or two other books I would love to have him read this year, but for now we are going to run with his choice. Plenty of time before the school year ends.

Last week we started working through All About Reading Level 4 with the hopes of boosting Kaleb’s confidence in his reading. There are definitely some areas he can use improvement, but even starting the program again last week and testing what he was doing well, was a huge encouragement to him. Since then he hasn’t been hesitant to work on a lesson daily in addition to his general reading. 

In addition to All About Reading, he is reading Who Is Bill Gates, a book that goes along with a subscription box called Wonder Crate (we’ll be sharing more about this!). Next week we are planning to learn more about coding and scratch – he is really looking forward to it. 

As I’m going through the pictures from this week (all taken different days, mind you), I’m noticing a common thread – Kaleb is wearing the SAME SHIRT every day. I do promise the boy has showered, but apparently he likes his pajamas and puts them right back on. 

Kaleb is learning about chemical reactions in Christian Kids Explore Chemistry. I am so glad we are using the program (we used it previously with Zachary), but he really enjoys the lesson topics and hands-on activities that each lesson provides. 

One thing we FINALLY got around to doing was a chalk pastel art project. We were only able to get about a third of the way through it and will finish it soon (our walls need a little decorating), but chalk pastels are so forgiving and enjoyable to work with. :) And they may be a little relaxing for the mom too! 


That’s it for our week – how are you all doing? 

8th Grade Mid Year Homeschool Curriculum Review

This year had me a little anxious when it came to Zachary taking a few high school classes (truth be told). He and I had a few great conversations prior to (and during) this school year to make sure he was ready and prepared for a little more accountability and intensity (if you will) associated with taking a class for a credit. 

Here’s the thing: I am very much of the mindset that not all of my kids are on the same academic course. Do I want them to excel in their studies? Absolutely. Will they all put the same effort in? Likely no. Not all of our kids will be dual enrolled in the community college. And that is JUST FINE. Really – it’s fabulous.

That said, I’m really pleased with how Zachary has been doing and working so far this year. Granted there are days when he would prefer to put in the absolute minimal effort required to get an assignment completed, but we are finding a good groove, tailoring things to his interests and strengths, and moving from there. Ah, the joys of homeschooling! 

8th Grade Homeschool Curriculum Choices

Here’s the mid-year look at how each of these subject areas is progressing: 

Math: We are loving the online version of  Algebra 1 from Teaching Textbooks – not needing to worry about WHICH computer we log on to the program with (or where) has made things so much easier. There are a few things he keeps tripping up over, but fortunately each time he is figuring it out more quickly. 

Physical Science: One of the things I love most about our Physical Science from Exploration Education are the hands-on labs and building projects Zachary has to complete. There are times when he is learning that he can’t just throw something together and skip steps (shocking, I know), and fortunately for him (or much to his dismay) I have enough leftover pieces from prior lab kits with the girls that he is able to rework something he may have done incorrectly – and slow down to get it done right.

He’s had the most fun (and frustration) making the steamboat since it actually floated and worked. And also because it involved matches. 

Geography: I wasn’t quite sure how geography would go over with Zachary this year since it involved a whole lot more memorization and reading for him as well as sometimes having to dig for answers, but he has done great with North Star Geography. He is working through the program over two years, rather than one year like his sisters did and in some ways I like that option (although I do feel he could push himself a bit more as well). 

Prior to this year we haven’t done a lot of weekly quizzes or tests with him, it’s been more 1:1, but with this being a high school class I’m wanting more a paper trail (call me paranoid). But he has done SO WELL and been learning a lot. 

Language: We definitely could be doing a bit more with this program than we are, but with the shift in reading material (see below), Zachary has worked through the units for books he has completed and then we have skipped over some material that I felt he didn’t need to work on because it overlapped something we have already covered or he has already mastered that specific area – a bonus to homeschooling !

Poetry: We’ve finished up the bulk of  Grammar of Poetry, and one of the best parts of the class was participating in a poetry workshop at a nearby Shakespeare theatre. It was a full-day event and tied in so well with the program we were using. 

Reading: Zachary has read a few books that tie-in with the Learning Language Arts Through Literature (Gray) program, but in December I may have upped the ante for him a little bit. He is NOT a reader (not a fan of reading, rather). So we discussed various book series he might enjoy (because of course whatever I choose is never enjoyable – just insert me rolling my eyes here). 

He decided to read some of the Harry Potter books – and YOU ALL. The boy has been reading for school each day WITHOUT COMPLAINING and some nights staying up until late to read just a bit more in the book. He finished one this weekend and spent much of his Sunday afternoon with me and reading. It was so great to see. For his reading out of school time, I may have also thrown in some bonus Fortnite time to reward him – but he has now declared that it is his favorite series ever – so huge win.  

Writing: We are working through the second half of the WriteShop Basic Set 2 program. Zachary has been doing really well with this program as well and his writing has improved so much, other than typical grammatical errors and his usual here-and-there spelling mistakes because he doesn’t run spell check. 

Spelling: Confession: we’ve only done 2 lessons of All About Spelling Levels 6 . Yep. Need to step it up a little here. 

Art: Confession #2. Zero art with either of the boys. Big fat zero, nada, nothing. In my defense, they are very involved in swimming and Boy Scouts. If starting fires can count as art, Zachary is passing with flying colors. 

Bible Studies: I held off in this area until after Christmas break, so the boys and I will be starting the Do Right study this coming week, just after our halfway point.

Swim Team and Boy Scouts – Zachary has not only grown taller, but he’s gotten so much stronger this year. Just after Christmas, he was asked to join the Level 1 group of our swim team. He’s been dropping time like crazy in his events, qualified for the state swim meet, and is so close in several events to qualifying for nationals. 

Traveling to Pittsburg with our team was a big step for him this year and he’s really been pushing himself to both work hard and improve his stroke technique. The season hasn’t been without struggle though. We lost our primary coaches in October and were thrilled to have a new head coach join the team, but he was only able to stay a short time because of a health issue with a family member. Despite all of those changes though, it’s wonderful to see Zachary’s improvement. 

Boy Scouts continues to be one of Zachary’s priorities as well and he will be ranking up at the next Court of Honor (and thinking of Eagle Scout projects next!). They haven’t had the opportunity to camp as much lately since the weather has been crazy ridiculous with ice one weekend and rain/sleet/FRIGID temperatures another. While they have camped in snow before, the 20 degree temps weren’t something to get too excited about. 

That’s about it for our mid-year wrap up.

How are things going with your homeschool time? 


Planning the Middle and High School Years

Overview planning pages for middle and high school

One thing that has been a huge help to me in mapping out the upcoming years with our kids  is this middle school and high school planner. Essentially I am able to get an extended view and map out the future years to see what we need to work on and when it might fit in best -and make sure we aren’t missing anything overall. 

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.

Homeschool Teaching Styles and Philosphies.png Identifying Children's Learning Styles copy How to Choose Homeschool Curriculum