Friday, November 27, 2015

Why I Am Not Out Shopping On Black Friday

I can hear my children playing in the next room, and as I do the head count, I invariably step around toys that someone has left lying around. This has led me to believe that instead of needing lots of new stuff for Christmas, we would be better served by taking time as a family, or by encouraging talents through purchases geared towards creativity.

Sometimes it feels tiring, or stingy, to say no to toy requests from my children, I love them so much and would love to give them the moon. However, more stuff, does not equal more satisfaction. What it does equal is more time spent managing all the stuff.

Some of the things we will be doing this season;

Building a snowman

Drinking cocoa

Watching Elf

Reading "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever"

Making homemade gifts

Painting Christmas themed art

Caroling at a convalescent home

Putting Thieves on our feet to prevent sickness

Cutting down a Christmas tree

Hanging out on the beach

Going to the Monterey Aquarium for Homeschool Days.

I love that our Christmas plans involve so much togetherness, and hopefully, with a few less presents to buy, I will be able to focus more on relationship and connection, and less on buying, wrapping and  cleaning up stuff.

This post has links to Amazon items that we own and love.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Jr. Analytical Grammar

"Like everything metaphysical, the harmony between thought and reality is to be found in the grammar of the language."
Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein

When I had been homeschooling a couple years, I read Susan Wise Bauer's book, The Well Trained Mind. It was surprisingly simple to understand and gave me a few great ideas for organizing our school. I carefully took note of which curriculum she recommended, and because Rod and Staff Grammar was both on her list and available for free or cheap through used book sales and the publisher, I went with that for our grammar studies. I used R&S Grammar with my four oldest children, and along with all the books they read, it seemed to work well at teaching them the parts of speech.

My twelve year old son, however, was not as keen on continuing with R&S. He had a hard time with the vast cultural divide between himself and the culture of the publishing company, and grew weary of some of the colloquial sayings that are included in their lessons. Although I was a little annoyed with his annoyance, (I owned the curriculum, and was not keen on buying a new one), I was willing to try something different. 

We inserted a year of Easy Grammar, which might be very easy for someone who had more of an education than me, but I felt that the instructions were often a little light, which left some confusion. I did however, love their clear explanation of prepositions, so I am not ruling it out altogether for future years. It could simply have been an operator error.

Meanwhile, I read a few reviews of Analytical Grammar, and grew excited about giving it a try. I find that with my 12 year old, he does much better with more teacher involvement. He is a people person and wants the interaction. Because of this, and the fact that I am full time schooling his two younger siblings as well, I decided to try using Jr. Analytical Grammar with him and his 8 year old sister. 

It has been a wonderful asset to our homeschool this year. The lessons are very simple, but offer exactly the amount of review that these two need. The curriculum is simple enough for the 8 year old, but also gives my older son a good review of the parts of speech and their usage that he had previously learned in his use of R&S and Easy Grammar. I am enjoying teaching both of them the same material and having one set of material to grade. Although Jr Analytical Grammar was designed  for 4th and 5th grade students who are not quite ready for the more in depth coverage of grammar included in the regular Analytical Grammar program, it is working well as a grammar review for my son.

I also appreciate that Analytical Grammar is so clear and concise. The lessons are easy to understand, and build in a very logical way.  First nouns, then proper nouns, then articles and adjectives, and so on. As well, it is laid out differently than Easy Grammar and Rod and Staff, this is wonderful for us, because at the beginning of the year when we have lots of energy, we are now learning a different set of information. Instead of spending the first part of the year on prepositions, ala Easy Grammar, we now have the chance to get really good at identifying nouns, pronouns, articles and adjectives.

Although I truly believe that the most important way to teach your child good grammar is to read to them, and require them to read, great books, their ability to identify parts of speech will be a huge asset in their ability to communicate well. As an aspiring writer, I too am grateful for all the grammar review that I am getting. I need it and am thankful that we can enjoy studying grammar together.

Here is a video from the author, R. Robin Finley, with more information about Jr. Analytical Grammar.

This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Homeschool Co-op How To

I have had some form of a homeschool co-op for many of the 17 years that I have been homeschooling. I love being around people, and I love the accountability and enrichment that homeschooling with a co-op has provided. 

Although space limitations have kept our co-ops very small, I dream of one day being able to meet in a facility where I could join with more families in my community to learn together.

In past years, we have only met once a month, but this year with no baby nap schedules to worry about and with fewer students to manage, I have two co-ops that meet every other week. This means that I have a co-op meeting each week. My children and I never have to go too long between an inundation of time with friends. Hooray for that!

One co-op is especially geared towards teaching writing and science and I am having a great time teaching the Apologia Flying Creatures class to my students. We scavenge for feathers, build bird feeders, and mostly draw, paint and read books. It is loads of fun. Meanwhile, friends who are better at teaching the upper grades are doing biology and general science with my older kids. It is a wonderful situation where we all get to see our children learn and have fun.

I recently joined Periscope, a very interesting app for live broadcasting, and my son and I have been making videos, with my broadcasts or with iMovie. The video here is a broadcast that I did on Periscope which explains exactly how to start your own co-op.

Some of the specific steps that I talk about in the video are;

Find a group to co-op with

Pick your subjects or classes

Meet together to create a schedule

Designate who teaches what and where you will meet

Then, just do it!

It isn't too late to start a homeschool co-op this year. It could be as simple as a play date with a particular theme, or as complex as hosting multiple classes. Book clubs, sewing bees and adventure clubs are all wonderful ways to get families together for fun and learning.

If you don't have a group of homeschoolers to gather with, check out the Wild and Free groups page here, or look up your state's homeschool association. Somewhere there is a group of families waiting for you to join them and learn together!

If you have questions about how to start a co-op, feel free to post them here, or e-mail me at

This blog post also has some great detailed advice on starting a co-op.

If you want a comprehensive book that explains how to start a co-op, check out this one.

This post contains affiliate links.

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.