Monday, August 10, 2015

2015 Curriculum Plan


As we soak every moment out of summer, I am simultaneously planning and purchasing for our upcoming school year. This year I will officially have five students, although my oldest student is only in my school this year, because I discovered through trial and error that trying to get scholarship funds to a Christian college is much easier if you are applying as a freshman than as a transfer student. For this reason, my oldest son will do one more year of high school to better prepare him to transfer as a freshman, and hopefully get some financial help with his schooling. I will update next year, with the results of this experiment

I will also be sending my other high school student to community college with the oldest three. This is another experiment. Only time will tell if it is a good one. He took an online class at the community college last year and scored well, so I feel it is worth a try to let him take two days a week of classes with his older siblings. Although I am presently not willing to send my children to public school (aside from my spiritual objections, I feel that high school wastes a lot of time) I do believe that older boys especially might benefit from the instruction of someone other than their mother as they grow. Especially this mother. I love teaching the younger years, but because I tend towards being a little better at relationships than consequences, having the experience of a classroom with a teacher who doesn't love them, might benefit my kids as they grow. So far, it has worked well for my students, and we will see how this one does.

Without further explanations, here is the plan.


1st Grade Boy

Spell To Write and Read/All About Spelling

Explode The Code Book 2


Rod and Staff Reading, Grade One, readers only

Mystery of History, Ancient Times


Apologia Flying Creatures


4th Grade Girl

Bible Copywork

Spell To Write and Read


Memoria Cursive

Ancient History Reading List

Mystery Of History Ancient History

Apologia Flying Creatures

8th Grade Boy

Life of Fred Algebra


Bible Copywork

Jr Analytical Grammar
 (I will do this as a class with the younger sister,
 followed by Jr. Analytical Grammar Mechanics or R&S Grammar)

Theme Essays with Co-op

I.E.W. Ancient History Writing Lessons

Ancient History Reading List

Apologia General Science

Studies in World History-Stobaugh


10th Grade Boy
Algebra-Community College

Theme Analysis with Co-op

Ancient History Reading List

Beginning Painting-Community College

Philosophy 1 (audit Community College class with older siblings)

English 1A (semester 2)

Studies in World History-Stobaugh

Spanish 2-BJU

12th Grade Boy

Study hard for SAT

Chemistry- Community College

Geometry- Community College

U.S. History

The children also do martial arts and ballet for physical education, as well as music lessons, for, well, music.

For science and history, we will focus more on notebook pages with illustrated and written narration than on using tests or worksheets to assess their progress. We will do experiments and hands on work in our co-op.

For Bible, I am using Long Story Short and The 18 Inch Journey as my curriculum. We will also be reading through the Old Testament and copying Bible verses. 



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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Homeschool Planning

I have been busy over the last few days feverishly sipping iced coffee and working on plans for our upcoming school year. Although a few of my students were still finishing up stuff from last year as I worked, that small fact won't deter me from getting started on our plans for a new year. I will have five students in the coming year, and although I will be sending a few of my students to community college for some of their classes, it is still a tremendous amount of planning.

The very first step for me when planning our homeschool year, is to evaluate what went well in the year we just (nearly) finished. If a curriculum was causing a lot of frustration, then it it will probably not be used again. Same thing with classes and activities; because there are so many of us, I have to carefully evaluate what we spend our time and money on.

The homeschool planner by Alicia Hutchinson has been a great resource for me this year, as I work on this process. I usually pull together calendars and lesson plans from various sources on the internet, but when I saw that Alicia had put together a planner that was sold as a download so I could easily fit the pages into my existing binder system, I was really excited to try it.

One of the first pages that I used was the, "More Of This, and Less of This" page. Tools like this, really help me to nail down my thoughts so that my planning makes sense.

Once I had jotted down some thoughts there, I printed one of the lesson plan pages which I used to jot down ideas of which curriculum I would use for each child. This provided a helpful grid for remembering which subjects I needed to cover as I hashed out what resources I would need. As I filled in the squares with book and curriculum ideas, I then made notes at the bottom of the page about which subjects I would need to purchase. As a long time homeschooler, I am blessed to be able to pull from a stash of books that I have collected through the years. This is one of many ways that I am able to homeschool on a budget

I also started a comprehensive list of what books we would be reading in the coming school year. I don't want our schooling to be just about getting through a textbook, but I want my children to interact with real ideas from living books, the kind of books that bring history to life. The planner from Alicia also included a helpful resource for book lists. 

If only the work ended there, but unfortunately, the next task usually takes the longest. Before I can get my students baskets filled with their new books, I have to weed through the pictures and pencil stumps and (mostly) finished workbooks to decide what to keep and what to get rid of. I used to keep nearly every bit of work, until a helpful friend recommended just keeping a few samples. You could check with your state, but this article from HSLDA suggests keeping samples of work, attendance records and records of what curriculum you used, among other things, but doesn't say that I have to keep every single workbook page. Sweet relief.

I did find that since we moved away from using so many workbooks, and more towards integrating written and oral narration, our keepers are much more fun. I ended up stapling some of the best ones into a booklet that we could flip through later to remember our happy homeschool year. This amazing post by Jodi Mockabee gives some more clever ideas for saving your children's best work.

Once I had gone through and cleaned out the baskets, they were ready to fill with our new curriculum, which I am slowly compiling. As I filed last years school work, I also averaged out test scores to give grades to my high school and junior high students, and filled in simple report cards for all of them. We don't make a big deal about grades in our house, everyone is expected to give their best effort, but I do start coaching them on the importance of grades as they enter the junior high and high school years. That is when grades start adding up to money for college, if that is the path they choose.

Once all the grades have been logged and last years school work filed, I am left with empty baskets and a happy list of what we will be studying in the coming year. There is plenty more to do, before I officially start school, but I am super happy to have the most difficult jobs behind me so I can get back to reading aloud to my kids.

I was blessed with a review copy of the planner, which is well worth its bargain price tag. It had tons of options for planner pages, and is a great tool for getting your homeschool organized.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Resources For Special Needs Homeschooling

Some Great Resources For Parents of Special Kids

1.  A lending library, family directory and discussion board are just a few of the resources available here for families with special kids. This Christian ministry also helps match adoptive families with special needs babies.

2.  Home School Legal Defense Association has counsel at their website for parents of special needs children as well as being a great resource for all your home education questions.

3. Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready by June Oberlander- This book is full of developmental activities for children to age 5 and a list of what is “normal” development.

4. Homeschooling Children With Special Needs by Sharon Hensley- Another book, this one a great overview of how to homeschool a child with special needs.

5. Homeschooling the Challenging Child by Christine Field- One of my favorite books about homeschooling special kids, full of practical advice, checklists and resource lists.

6.Too Wise To Be Mistaken…. by Cathy Steere-  A memoir about one family’s journey through helping an autistic son. It also includes a good list of resources and explains some of the nutritional aspects of special needs as well as giving an overview of the neurodevelopmental approach to helping a child with autism. 

7. The Out Of Sync Child-Carol Stock Kranowitz, M.A.- The first book that really gave me insight into my daughter. It includes many exercises to help children overcome hypersensitivity. It also includes an excellent checklist to help parents determine if their children have sensorimotor issues.

8. Healing The New Childhood Epidemics by Kenneth Bock, M.D. - This is a fascinating book which links asthma, autism, adhd and allergies to toxins that children are exposed to as infants. I appreciated the information about the impact food allergies can have on learning and function and I feel it is important for parents to be aware of the connection between nutrition and behavior.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Summer Of Fun

My time with my children is moving so quickly. These happy days of childhood will be over all too soon, and in my earlier years as a mother, I was often so deep into survival mode, that I couldn't take the time to reflect on how quickly the days were flying by. 

As I have grown to understand that my time to build relationships and influence my children is limited, I am even more intense about creating memories while we can. Because of this, I try to take time each season to brainstorm with them some favorite activities to complete. Each season has it's own special celebrations, and because there are fewer national holidays in the summer, we make a point of thinking up special summer celebrations.

Last summer, I found this amazing post by Ann Voskamp, which inspired me to look at even ordinary things as a celebration. As I started highlighting these occurrences to my children as special celebrations instead of taking them for granted as part of the everyday, our summer gained a little sparkle and delight.

This summer, we sat down and talked about all our dreams for the summer. Some of them are simple while others will take a bit more planning, but because we have created a culture that values simple fun, my kids didn't even think of asking for tickets to Disneyland, or a Hawaiian vacation.

On our list;

1. Sleep in a tent

2. Go to the beach

3. Roast s'mores

4. Have a party

5. Swim

6. Eat ice cream

7. Jump in a lake

8. Go to the fair

9. Go to a farmers market (I grow a fair bit of our fresh food, but haven't completely detached from grocery store produce.)

10. Ride bikes (we live on a dirt lane, so this takes a special effort.)

11. Pick berries

12. Read a novel (this one is for me, the kids seem to find time....)

We rescued a baby bluebird.

Through the years, we have also tried to find special books to celebrate the seasons. 
Preschoolers and Peace highlighted some great picture books on this post.

We checked out a few of those, but have also enjoyed A Time to Keep by Tasha Tudor as a book to celebrate the seasons, and also, Swallows and Amazons for a wonderfully fun summer read aloud.

Had a family vacation.

What makes your summer extra special?

Went to the beach!

and read.

Affiliate links in post.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Nature Journaling

I have always tried to include nature journaling in my homeschool. I have a photo of my children, taken ten years ago, of them at a historic site journaling their lovely surroundings. Old notebooks are filled with drawings of trees and whales from those early days of nature journaling, and nature guides such as the Golden Guide were frequent companions on our forays into the wilds.

Our nature journaling has gotten a boost in the last few months with the addition of just a few amazing resources. 

The first resource that has helped us in our nature journaling efforts is the amazing artwork of Kristin Rogers which is featured in the bundles from Wild and Free homeschool community. Kristin is a photographer and artist from Southern California who is an avid nature journaler and homeschooler. Her artwork has inspired more nature journaling in my homeschool, but it has also inspired me to take the time to nature journal. My artwork is pretty basic, and I often want to pass it off as that of one of my youngest children, but I have so enjoyed sitting with my children and visiting together over paints and paper, instead of just giving them nature journaling as an assignment while I go on with other tasks.

The other resource that has made nature journaling more fun in our homeschool is the beautiful resource from Simply Charlotte Mason, "Journaling A Year In Nature". This is an amazing resource which has given us some great prompts to guide our nature study. The journal is spiral bound card stock, organized by season. The hard cover and spiral binding make it very convenient for travel, and the heavyweight paper holds up well to watercolor painting. The journal is organized by season and has pages specific to different kinds of natural wonders. 

My son and I drew crabs in the section on animals and insects, and my daughter and I painted tall trees in the section on trees. The journal also includes inspiring quotes to give you "something to think about" while you are journaling. We took the journal on our recent 10 day family camping trip and filled it with drawings and paintings of the natural treasures that we found.

We saw so much natural beauty on this trip; soaring trees and wafting ferns, tiny crabs hidden under rocks, and beautiful rushing waterfalls. I took lots of pictures, but we also enjoyed sitting quietly in the trailer after a day of exploration and recording our finds in our Simply Charlotte Mason Nature Journal. 

We have incorporated drawing and painting into every subject of our homeschool. We do written and illustrated narration in place of book reports, draw and paint narration for history subjects, and paint our way through science studies. Resources that help us become more proficient at recording what we are learning, such as "Journaling A Year In Nature" are a welcome addition to our homeschool.

This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Large Family Road Trip

We just returned from a ten day road trip with all seven of our children. We have gone on long road trips like this before, to Tennessee while we were missionaries in Mexico, and even earlier, we took our then four children to Canada for a two week long driving trip. This trip was different. Now, instead of taking four or five young children, we were taking seven children, and most of them are hardly children. We were taking a van full of big people, with big opinions. When everyone was small, it was easy to say where we were going and to make the decisions about what we would do. Now we would have to take the interests of a wide range of people into consideration as we planned our stops.

The idea for the trip had started when a magazine that I contribute to called Wild and Free, planned a conference in Portland, Oregon. We had talked for several years about taking our children to see the Pacific Northwest, but with our yearly trips to Mexico to visit the orphanage, it had been hard to find the time. However, with the opportunity to speak at this conference before me, the choice to take our children along became an easy one.

It was also an easy destination to want to visit because Scott and I both have special memories from the Pacific Northwest. I spent many summer days walking around Lake Marie as a child and Scott had gone up and down the I-5 to Oregon on his way to visit his aunties several times throughout his childhood. 

We started the trip with a day long drive to our first destination, where we camped beside pretty little Lake Marie. We walked the one mile pathway around the lake, smiling inwardly as I remembered walking around that same lake as a child, and groaning about the awful distance, much as my own young daughter resorted to. The ferns and mosses were awe inspiring, as were the tiny creeks. We had come from dry California, after all, and the rushing water everywhere filled us with joy.

After a sweet visit there with some of my dear relatives, and an amazing tour of my childhood home, we headed up the coast to our next destination, LaConner, Washington. When we pulled in, it was a bit discouraging. We were camping in a hybrid travel trailer and I wasn't at all excited about close neighbors hearing our every mutter through the thin walls. The last campground had been relatively deserted which is exactly how I like it. This one was teeming with people. We finally found a little campsite, which although cramped, was at least surrounded by shrubs, and set up our trailer. 

The next day we headed out early to see my aunt in Canada, and spent the day exploring the outskirts of Vancouver. We got separated without phone service in Lynn Canyon Park when the six and eight year olds who were with Scott decided they didn't want to go over the suspension bridge, and the rest of us were too hemmed in by people to turn around. I kept going, trusting that my husband and I and the younger children would find each other eventually.  We did find each other, and enjoyed the rest of our day with my favorite B.C. relatives.

The next day we visited Seattle, the place of my birth. One of the top places to go on the tourist information was Pikes Place, and since we all were wanting a good cup of coffee, a pastry and some books, we decided to go there. I don't recommend it with small children. My six year old thinks it is okay for him to run ahead like his brothers, and so I spent the entire time in terror that I would lose him among the crowds. After seven children and a Mexico move, I am not the most easily rattled person, but by the time I reached the car I was in tears. 

We headed out of the city to the beautiful Japanese Gardens, which was much more my pace. The whole Washington Park Arboretum was incredibly beautiful, with its lush rhododendrons blooming on every hillside. Someday I will go back to Pikes Place, but definitely not with a crowd of my own people to try and keep track of.

Our Washington campground was situated on the pretty Skagit Bay, and was a natural wonder for my children. The two youngest reveled in turning over rocks and counting crabs, of which there were plenty. The three boys built a raft out of driftwood and set out to sea, abandoning ship and swimming to shore when the currents gave them the impression that they might indeed be carried away.

One of our favorite parts of our time in Washington, was visiting the San Juan Islands. We were hoping to see whales while we were on the ferry, making it the cheapest whale watching trip with nine people ever, and although we didn't eventually see whales, we did eat a gorgeous tart at the San Juan Bakery, find some amazing books at the local thrift store, and finally get a great americano. Being more of a country girl, than an urban dweller, I found the slower pace on the island very refreshing.

We ended our trip in Eugene, Oregon, visiting another sweet relative, after spending two nights in Portland. The waterfalls surrounding the city were awe inspiring, and although I didn't do as much exploring as the rest of my family, because of the extraordinary conference I was attending, I did get to listen to one of our family's favorite musicians and meet his beautiful family, as well as meeting many other amazing women.

Because our time with our children is ultimately limited, Scott and I were so very thankful to explore some incredible places with them. The small trailer got crowded and smelly with all of us staying there, the car rides were long and tiring, but the sights we saw, the people that we met, and the sweeter bonds that we formed with each other, made all the little inconveniences insignificant. 

We only have one chance to raise our children, and intense time together is one of the best ways to connect and to stay connected. What will you do this summer to renew love and connection in your family?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What's For Dinner?

I must admit, cooking is one of those chores that I would love to outsource. Although I don't, as a rule, dream of the day my children grow up and move out, I do look forward to not having to feed so many people. When they all move out, (in like 15 years) I will stock up on food from Trader Joe's and when my husband asks, "What's for dinner, dear?" I will holler from my spot among my garden or my books, "Look in the freezer, dear"

However, those days are far off, and so I do try to find inspiration to make decent meals for my family. I usually make the same things in a rotation of about ten entrees, give or take a few, and there have been a few real duds, such as the "goulash" I made by combining several kinds of leftovers in one big pot. My family was not impressed. It might have even caused a little conflict.

As much as I don't love cooking, I do love reading and was excited to find the book, Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist at the library. I though it was a book about community which is a big idea for me right now. If I had known that it was mainly a book about cooking and eating, I might have thought twice about bringing it home.


I am glad I did though, because as I read about how much enjoyment Shauna gets from feeding the many people in her life, I felt inspired to make this same task more of a delight in my life. It isn't that I hate cooking, it is just the monotony of providing 21 meals a week that really begins to wear on me.

A last, remaining breakfast cookie

The book is full of descriptions of beautiful meals and beautiful community. Although, some of the community that I can develop with my large family is going to be different than what she can do, (I don't foresee taking my entire family to Paris for a week and eating fine french food at restaurants anytime in the very near future), I can work to develop a community around the table, right where we live.

So, in the last two days, I tried three of her recipes. White Chicken Chile, Breakfast Cookies, and Mango Curry. The first two were well loved by my family, and were so easy that I could see adding them to our rotation, giving my family some relief from the same few dishes we had been eating.

The White Chicken Chili was so easy in fact, that after I had finished serving and eating dinner, I made an extra batch of it to freeze. I actually cooked dinner twice in one night!

I hope you enjoy the recipe here, which I adapted from the book, and I hope you can get your own copy of the book, so you can try more of her great recipes. Then, invite some people into your home, put out the fine china, or the jelly jars and paper plates, and start building community right where you are.

White Chicken Chili

6 chicken tenders, cut into small chunks
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bunch cilantro, washed and chopped
6-8 cups chicken broth
4 cups cooked or canned white beans
1 jar salsa verde (green salsa)

Brown chicken, onion and garlic in a large soup pan until chicken is cooked through and onion is transparent.

Add cilantro, chicken broth, beans and salsa verde to pan.

Cook over medium heat for 20-30 minutes until flavors have intensified.

Serve with more chopped cilantro, tortillas or tortilla chips and sour cream.