20 Best Tips
Teaching Textbooks

Our Vacation and Week 7 of Homeschool

Typically we follow a schedule of school for six weeks and then a week of vacation. Silly me is taking another look at the calendar and might be revamping some of that, but overall that’s the goal for our year. The break at the end of six weeks is a chance for all of us to take a little step back and play!

Our First Week Break

The week off from school turned out to be a wonderful respite for everyone, but we were all ready to get back to work! We still had our co-op classes during our break so we weren’t completely on vacation, but a little break does a family good! It also gave me a chance to tweak a few things in our classroom, transfer everything over to a new laptop for the kids (after we fried the power source on the kid’s old laptop), clean up the school room, and play catch up on some grading (that’s the area I keep pushing aside).

Learning About Rocks and Minerals (Science for Grades 2 and 4)

Nancy Larson science for homeschool

Our boys have been working on Nancy Larson Science 2 together (the program is age banded, not based on grade levels). We just started a unit on rocks and minerals and spent some time outside finding the different sizes of rocks: sand, pebble, cobble, and boulder. The boys rather liked the time we spent outdoors (shocking, eh?).

Reading, Reading, Reading (and Writing)!!


In our first yearly sum-up post, I shared that Zachary had finished his first official chapter book (The Boxcar Children). Since then, I cannot tell you the change that has come over this boy. It really, truly makes me almost cry thinking about it because he CAN read, it’s just that he has had no desire to read (believing he can’t) and the more he wouldn’t read, the further ‘behind’ he would get compared to his peers. The peer aspect was hugely frustrating/humiliating for him and broke my heart over and over.

Once that first book was finished though, it was like a switch was flipped in him and he has been picking up books to read by choice! Above he is reading a book on Wilbur and Orville Wright for our language class, but he also has a copy of Billy Graham: America’s Pastor from YWAM publishing that he chose to read independently – he discovered he likes biographies! He’s also started on All About Reading 4 and is making great progress through those lessons as well.

Going along with his reading has been his desire to write. While past years have been SO hard to get him to write more than one or two sentences without complaining, this week I found TWO typed papers on his desk. Papers that I did not ask him to write, but we’re talking the entire page was typed full. He has been journaling every day as well as a part of his Learning Language Arts Through Literature program – and it has been so fun reading his thoughts. He can talk a mile a minute and has so many ideas in his head, so it’s great to see them on paper now – in his own hand! (I’ll be sharing some more about this later!)

Learning with Spielgaben

Spielgaben learning

During our second six week block I’m intentionally adding in some learning time with Spielgaben for Kaleb (a few of the other kids want in on the fun too). This week he worked on creating the Eiffel Tower, since we were talking about France during one of our lessons together. We used the manuals that come along for this project, but he also spent time creating a few other fun things as well.

When Kids Don’t Complete Assignments


Going through some of McKenna’s papers to grade this past week, this is a note that I came across on her paper. The assignment in grammar was to write five sentences – and she didn’t do it, claiming it “Takes forever.” The wheels in my brain have been coming up with different ways that I can pay back that sentiment – like an empty dinner plate with a sticky note that says the same. (cough) I wouldn’t do that, but believe me – I’m tempted, just to prove a point. Have a creative suggestion for this one?

When the Kids Need a Break


One of the things that I love about homeschooling is the fact that our kids can take a break from schoolwork when needed (or maybe if they are waiting to use the computer while another kiddo finished up a subject). During the day, it’s not uncommon for me to hear a ‘thwack’ outside the school window as Laurianna takes a ten minute break for target practice.

In anticipation of deer hunting this fall, Laurianna spent quite a bit of time taking a hunter safety class online – and then a lot of target practice time too. After an all-day classroom course as well, she is now officially a licensed bow hunter. Now to see how this all plays out.

A Field Trip to the Caverns

cavern field trip

This past weekend we had the opportunity to visit some nearby caverns. The kids and I toured them several years ago, but this time my hubby was able to visit with us. Walking through and seeing all the different stalagmites, stalactites, shields, and other amazing formations never ceases to amaze me – and make me wonder what we could be walking or driving over each and every day.

Phew! That’s a little peek at some of the things that we did the past two weeks. What have you been doing with your kids – and what has been the best moment for you?


Mary_CollageFriday weekly wrap up

Linking up this week with Collage Friday and Weekly Wrap-up!

The First Six Weeks for Our 8th Grader

Laurianna is working on her 8th grade homeschool year this year, which has meant a larger workload for her, especially as she is working on six high school credits in addition to a few other subjects. Over the past six weeks it has been so incredibly amazing to watch her step up and take on the workload (with hardly a complaint other than typical teen emotions at times).

This has really been such a new area for us both. Remember preschool and early childhood are my specialties and where much of my focus has been for many, many years. Making the switch to actual brain work has been – umm…interesting at times! (But it’s all good!)

Here’s a peek at what Laurianna has been working on. For high school credit she is working on Algebra 1 (1 credit), Geography (I credit), Spanish (1 credit), Literature (1 credit), Physical Science (1 credit), Greek Mythology (1/2 credit), and an extra science class (1/2 credit). You can get a peek at our overall high school plan here.

Here are a few highlights of the last six weeks…

North Star Geography

North Star Geography Experiments

Geography has been one of Laurianna’s favorite ‘new’ subjects this year. We’re using North Star Geography, a new program from Bright Ideas Press, and she has been LOVING it. She literally has some new little tidbit she is telling me about daily, between her country fact sheets, what she is learning in her mapping time, or as a part of the hands-on projects.

Email subscriber can click here to watch the video clip.

The hands-on activities are probably her favorite part of the lessons (see the above project), and although it is one of her more intense classes, it is FUN. To me that speaks volumes alone! She’s also been pulling out our GeoPuzzles to work on and help her remember the various country placements.

Not only do I love hearing about all that she is learning, but I recently discovered the Excel spreadsheet grading sheet Bright Ideas Press provides as a part of the program and am 100% in love with that. With all the lovely quizzes and mapping projects, my life just got a lot easier (and my brain has to think a whole lot less!). Amen.

Physical Science

Glider from Everday Exploration

Even though she does most of the work during the week, Laurianna meets with a small group of homeschoolers (four total) to review the labs and other work in her physical science class. Everyone in the house has enjoyed watching her glider progress over the last few weeks as well. It’s a little bigger than we expected – but oh so fun! Keeping two certain boys away from it has been difficult!

Literature and Writing

All of her other classes have been going along well too, including her Lit class (another one we are working on as a small co-op). One thing that I have to say – I am SO very thankful for our using WriteShop 1 & 2 the last two years with Laurianna. That program gave her such a great headstart in becoming a great writer – which shows in her literature papers.

And there have been a lot of papers – even with only four kids. Enough that as the teacher I am remembering one of the main reasons I did not pursue that last semester of my English education degree. (grins)

The kids are taking it all in stride and very excited because many of the books and short stories we are reading this year are also movies, so we get to spend time together comparing the book to the movie as well. It’s the little things that make life fun, right? Personally, I can’t wait for the boys to sit through Jane Eyre (hee hee).

Saxon Algebra 1

And Algebra 1 – our switch to Saxon was mainly because a friend of Laurianna’s was using it, so she wanted to as well. Despite her misgivings about Algebra and her belief that it wouldn’t click with her, she doing great, and I’m remembering how much I absolutely love this realm of math (no, seriously I do!).

In other subjects (Greek Mythology, History, Spanish, etc…) she is working along and doing great! That pretty much wraps up our first six weeks of school for 8th grade. How are your middle and high school adventures going?

Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

Four Weeks of School Down…

For the last four weeks we’ve slowly been adding in subjects as the weeks go along and our fifth week will mean we’ll have a full schedule. The phasing in of subjects helps me figure out the overall rhythm of our days and start tweaking things early on so we don’t get too overwhelmed with what needs to be done.

Snap circuits lego and puzzles

The first week we focused on the basics: math, language, reading, handwriting, and Bible. Week two we added  science, writing, and art. Week three added spelling and starting our fourth week we started with LEGO Education and Snap Circuits (although the boys have been sneaking them out the last two weeks – wink).

This week we add in our final subject: history. I am so excited to start the fourth year of Mystery of History. The kids have been asking about it, so you know they are ready! Also our last piece of curriculum, All About Reading 4, is on it’s way here (woot!).

So far, I have to say that we are loving Learning Language Arts Through Literature. It was a big switch for my brain, but it has been a great fit for both of the boys and for that I am so happy. It was one of those decisions that I was so nervous about, so the fact that it has fit in so seamlessly is a a huge relief.

Adding in Co-op

first day of coop 2014

During our fourth week of school we also added two different co-ops to our schedule (you are free to call me crazy at any time). Both of them offer different opportunities for the kids – one offers two high school classes for Laurianna, and the other involves fun ‘extra’ classes that often get put to the side (PE, music, etc…) for all four.

For the fall semester I’ll be teaching two classes: high school lit and the 3-year-old class. (Can you guess what we talked about in the 3 year old class this past week?) My brain may be having a bit of trouble jumping back and forth on lesson plans for those.

A Peek at High School

Graph Paper-1-2

Laurianna has been the one with the most changes this year in her work load. While she is (almost always) handling the changes well, she is fully understanding the intensity of high school level classes, but doing it with much dedication. Definitely proud of that girl!

A certain mom realized that said daughter could work on every other Algebra problem and still do what was necessary (it only took 13 lessons before I remembered we did that very same thing in high school). One of her favorite subjects though this year has been North Star Geography. Maybe it shouldn’t make me giggle, but I love hearing the little factoids that she is learning about different countries.


That pretty much wraps up the first four weeks of our homeschool time. How has school been going for you?


Mary_CollageFriday weekly wrap up


Linking up this week with Collage Friday and Weekly Wrap-up!

The First Two Weeks of Homeschooling

Whew!! We’ve done it and managed to get back into a groove, survive the first two weeks, and have fun in the process. (Fun is always good!)

Homeschool Collage 1

I’m so glad that I’ve been taking a few pictures here and there, because looking back is reminding me of some things that I don’t want to forget!

I’ve mentioned before that Zachary isn’t a big reader. He’s not super fond of the process and picking up books to read on his own isn’t something he enjoys. He’s read some simple chapter books, but nothing of ‘substance’ as I would call it. Not a REAL book cover-to-cover.

As part of Learning Language Arts through Literature (Orange), he just finished The Boxcar Children. Ironically, we had a copy of the book before (couldn’t find it), so I ordered a new copy. He saw the new one with a snazzy cover, picked it up right away, and said he was so glad they had updated the book. I waited until he was done to tell him it was just a new cover. Smile He has been ALL SMILES because he read it from start to finish, and I am one proud momma.

Kaleb has been SO excited to start working on Teaching Textbooks. He has the computer out before school even starts in the morning and frequently wants to work on more than one lesson. I know it’s making him feel like one of the ‘big kids’, and it’s fun to watch.

Our first day of school = funnel cake for breakfast. I know it’s not healthy (in my defense I used whole wheat flour), but it is so much fun – and it’s TRADITION!!

Laurianna is working like a champ on her high school credits. We’ve figured out a good routine for her to work on her studies, many of which she is doing independently. We got halfway through the second week when I realized I’m going to really have to start tracking grades for high school credit – ack! Part of me wants to plug my ears and pretend she isn’t that old.

And that bigger picture in the collage – just makes me happy. I wasn’t feeling well this week (hello, migraine) and laid down on the floor in the school room. Zachary picked up our science manual, pulled out all the stuff we needed to finish the lesson, and HE followed the directions to do the lesson with Kaleb. It was so sweet to watch and he did a great job. The giggles on the buoyancy experiments were hilarious.

Six Flags Field Trip

Our first week of school (ok, I’ll admit it was officially the first day of school), we took a field trip to Six Flags. The weather was gorgeous, so we jumped on the trip and used our Read to Succeed tickets the kids earned last winter. There were lots of roller coasters and spinning rides that day. And I’m feeling old after all those bumps and turns!

Home Art Studio Chinese dragon

Kaleb’s favorite part of school starting again? The art supplies are all out in full force. He’s had his eye on our Home Art Studio dvd, so I piled a tray with the supplies, he popped in the DVD and did the lesson all by himself. I love that he can be independent with it and needs very little help from me at all! Art is one of that boy’s love languages – and he definitely gets some great art projects in this way!

Another exciting part of this week? A fun interview with the Weather Channel’s morning show about my Calendar Notebook Printables. They love that kids are learning how to track weather (and I think it’s pretty cool too). You can view the clip with Maria LaRosa here if you can’t see the clip above.


That’s a quick peek at our first two weeks? How is your homeschool going?


Mary_CollageFriday weekly wrap up


Linking up this week with Collage Friday and Weekly Wrap-up!