Thursday, September 17, 2015

Art Appreciation For Children

From the moment I began homeschooling, exposing my children to fine art has been a high priority. One of my fondest homeschooling memories was when we were visiting the Hillstead Museum, and one of my young children was able to point out a painting by Whistler. They could pick out his paintings because they had been exposed to pictures by him in our homeschool.

One of my favorite resources for teaching art to young children is simply using art postcards, to do various picture study activities. In the following video, I demonstrate how my young son and I use postcards from the Child Sized Masterpieces set (with instructions from Mommy It's A Renoir) to learn to identify different painters and to appreciate some of the world's finest art.



Please forgive any mispronunciation of artist's names. This video was very spur of the moment, and I definitely could have butchered some of their names.


Let me know if I can answer any questions about how we do art appreciation.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Narration For Evaluating Reading Comprehension

When we first began homeschooling, we purchased a reading curriculum. The curriculum featured a reading passage and then pages and pages of workbook exercises to evaluate the comprehension of what was read. This worked okay with my oldest child, who loved to write, but the next students were bored to tears by this work.

Around this time, I discovered the works of Charlotte Mason. Especially The Charlotte Mason Companion, by Karen Andreola. This book helped me to see that reading comprehension could be checked by having the child tell back in their own words what was read. This became a favorite  method for checking reading comprehension as well as a wonderful way of working on speaking and listening skills.


In this short video, my daughter and I demonstrate a few examples of how we do narration.

If you would like to know more about narration, check out this post from Simply Charlotte Mason.

My son and I are enjoying this project of making videos about homeschooling, but we would love some feedback. If you have any suggestions for how we could improve, or have a question that you would love answered in a video, would you leave a comment below?

Thanks for reading and watching!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Phonics Games for Early Readers

I recently wrote an article for the Wild and Free homeschool magazine where I talked about easy games to play to help early readers, especially busy readers who would rather be playing Legos than doing school work.

You can access the bundle at the link above; it is a great compilation of information for new homeschoolers, including articles on learning styles, handwriting instruction, and even a book club.

In order to further explain some of the games that I talk about in the bundle, my son and I made this short video. If you want to learn about the rest of the reading games, you can purchase the "Beginnings" issue from

Moviemaking is a passion for my son, so I am really excited that he can use his interest as a project. Pursuing personal interests is one of the great perks of homeschooling.

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. 



This post has affiliate links. 

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.