Wednesday, November 27, 2019

2019-2020 Homeschool School Year

It's been a long, long time since I've shared an update on this blog.  Recently, I was updating some file download links because I frequently receive emails asking how to download the files.  Doing so made me decide that perhaps I should give a quick update so that those who stumble across this blog can see what we're up to now.

We are still homeschooling.  This year, our kiddos are 6th, 4th, and 3rd graders.  We school at home from Monday - Thursday.  On Fridays, we attend a homeschool co-op with 4 classes for each student.  This provides gym, art, specialty classes (such as learning about engines, sewing, survival skills, etc) and other classes that are more fun in a group setting.

We moved from My Father's World to Heart of Dakota.  Slowly, we worked our way away from HOD in order to combine children for history and science, as we enjoy sharing those parts of our day together.

We are using a lot of MasterBooks curriculum this year.  We're finding that it's beautifully Christ-centered, great for apologetics, and easy to accomplish each day.  We are doing devotions, science, and history together as a family.  

Below, they are working on a zoology project, making a 'water cycle' bracelet to go along with one of their lessons.

Currently, we are about 3/4 of the way through America's Story Volume 1.  We are about halfway through Elementary Zoology.  We are using the 10 Minute Bible Journey for our morning time together.  (You'll also see America's Story Volume 2 and Elementary Anatomy in this stack, as those are on deck to begin when we complete our current books.)

Our 6th grader, Alex, is using Language Lessons For A Living Education, Level 5.  This is a big switch from our former curriculum, Growing With Grammar.  I loved Growing With Grammar, as it's simple and covers everything well.  I did notice that, although Alex is great with grammar, many of these lessons just weren't 'sticking'.  I gave him the option to try LLFLE this year or continue with GWG, and he decided to LLFLE a try.

He's also using Math Lessons For A Living Education.  He began a few years back with their 4th grade book, and he's now working in their 6th grade book.  Math is not his favorite subject, and this is one that is thorough, but doesn't cause a lot of tears or fighting.  (This is why we gave up Singapore - it led to regular tears and anger in our home, beginning in book 3B.)  Writing Strands is also in this stack, although he hasn't used it so far this year.  He made it about halfway through the book last year, but we've put it on hold so far because LLFLE 5 is meant to be all-inclusive.  He is also using a Proverbs Bible study that I think is really neat - it's simple, yet thorough.  (This is not from Master Books, although we did order it from their website.  They no longer carry this product.) 

Max, our 4th grader, is using much of the same - Language Lessons 4 and Math Lessons 4 from Master Books.  Math is for sure his strong suit!  He is so good at mental math, and he's almost finished with Math 4 already.  He'll be starting Math 5 after Christmas. He has Writing With Ease Volume 3 (not from Master Books), but he has not used it yet this year.  We've loved the first two, but like his big brother, we are holding off on additional writing curriculum while we adjust to Language Lessons. Max also is finishing up Cheerful Cursive, which he started last year.  It's my favorite cursive curriculum.  I believe we bought it from Rainbow Resource.  For Bible, he is using the Jesus Time provided by our church.  He is probably our most diligent student, knowing that the sooner he completes his work accurately, the sooner he can go off and have fun on his own.

Our 3rd grader, Jensyn, is using the same math and language as her big brothers.  She has completed Language Lessons 2  now, and she is working her way through Level 3.  Level 2 is in the picture, as we were still finishing it up at the beginning of the school year. (Language Lessons 2 came out last fall, after our school year had already started, so she got off to a late start.)  She's also using Master Book's More Than Words curriculum, which is a neat Bible and character program.  It's new this year, and she BEGGED to use it.  She really likes it, and I do, too.  I love the topics and themes, but I will likely have her do a more focused Bible study next year.  I do miss that!  We also tried A Reason For Spelling.  There's nothing wrong with it at all.  It's a neat program.  We have decided to simplify, though, and just have her use the spelling in Language Lessons.  (She also have Writing With Ease Level 2, but we are not currently using it.)

As far as outside interests, both boys are in a Christian program that is similar to Scouts.  It is offered at a local church.  They do badge work, Bible lessons, and 'boyish' projects together twice a month. 

Alex loves to be helpful and hands-on.  He enjoys following Dad, learning to do all sorts of odd jobs around the house and yard.  He has helped install a new sump pump, tear out a patio, fix small electronics, etc.  He likes to know how everything works! He likes to research the latest technology for phones, tablets, and computers. This semester, he took an Engines class at co-op, learning how an engine works and assembling his own working engine model.  He also took a survival skills class (photo above), in which the boys learned a lot of neat skills - building shelters, starting fires in the rain, making clean water for drinking, etc.

Max is our creative one.  He enjoys acrylic painting, building Legos without any instructions, creating out of random items, reading for hours, and playing soccer.  He also took the engines class at co-op, and he really enjoyed building the motor. He also took an art class, gym class, and Legos.  He's all about the creativity and fun!  He's an energetic kid, but he can also get totally absorbed into a book or project, and he sits still and totally blocks out the world for hours on end.

Jensyn is our dramatic one.  I don't mean in a stage-production way.  I mean in a 'you never know what you're gonna get' way.  She can be quiet and sweet, or she can be feisty and spirited.  She is also involved with a local girls group, similar to Scouts, that meets at a local church.  They do crafts, games, and Bible lessons together twice a month.

At co-op, she had art class, gym class, sewing, and book club.  She didn't love sewing, but she made a cute tote bag and some fun scrunchies! She is looking forward to a class called "Crafty Panda" next semester, where they'll try a variety of crafts throughout the semester.

She loves to draw, color, craft, cook, and bake.  Her free time is often spent doodling or writing in notebooks.  She often pops into the kitchen and takes over for me as I am making dinner.  She has started her own little cake decorating business, thanks to some kind friends & neighbors who are willing to pay for her services.  So far, she has earned $10 - $15 per cake.  She is still very much a beginner, but she is proud of her efforts, and she's learning more all the time.

I think that about sums it up.  I may try to pop in and do a yearly homeschool update post, but there are no guarantees on that, especially when you consider that the last post was from 2015!

While I'm not quick to reply to comments, I do try to respond to contact form emails within a week.  Please don't hesitate to contact me with questions or for help finding what you need on the blog.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Homeschool Update #3

{Beyond Little Hearts Unit 21, Little Hearts Unit 4, Little Hands Unit 3 & 4}

We’re now doing 4 days per week of Heart of Dakota and one day of our homeschool co-op.  We’ve had three co-ops so far, and we are really enjoying our current semester!  It’s such a WONDERFUL group of moms and kids!

Alex is taking:
History Through Music, Solar System, Foods & Nutrition, Gym

Max is taking: Sign Language, Solar System, Foods & Nutrition, Gym

I asked them separately, and they chose almost exactly the same schedule!  They are LOVING their foods and nutrition class!  The teacher lives on a farm, and she brings fruits and veggies from the farm each week.  They’ve done a tomato taste test, talked about the vitamins and minerals in different produce items, learned about ‘eating the rainbow’ each day, made a rainbow fruit salad, and made a rainbow salsa with homemade cinnamon tortilla chips.  The kids are doing the slicing and measuring with guidance from the teacher, and they are truly enjoying themselves!

Jensyn is in the preschool class, where they sing songs, do a Five In A Row story and character lesson, do a craft, have gym class, and do a show and tell/activity hour all based on the weekly theme.  Here’s Jensyn with a few of her preschool friends after we made a fruit salad together on “Fruit of the Spirit” day.

I’m in a mom’s prayer group, helping in a jr. high/high school archaeology class, teaching a Fun In The Fifty States class, and leading the preschool show & tell/activity hour.  (Here are the ‘big kids’ in the hands-on archaeology class.  They’re using crushed berries to make paint.)

We also had a homeschool day at our local library this month.  It’s a new program they are hoping to get going.  The theme this month was architecture.  They built Jenga towers, read a fictional book about building bridges, and made structures with toothpicks and marshmallows.  My kids all had a great time!  (Jensyn was here, too – somehow I didn’t get a picture of her!)

Max with his friend Xander (who is also a part of our co-op)….


We also had a fun field trip to an apple orchard with our co-op friends!

Now, on to the ‘meat’ of our homeschool…

(Alex, age 7)

As you can see, we haven’t made a whole lot of progress through the guide since the last update.  In 13 school days (including 3 co-op days and a field trip, so 9 days at home), we’ve done only one unit in Beyond.  Whoops!  We’ve been working on getting Alex settled into a good routine in some other areas, so we’ve made slower progress than we normally would.  It’s all right – I don’t mind, as long as he’s learning.  We can stretch this guide a little longer if needed.

Teaching Textbook seems to be a great fit!  We finished Singapore 1B, and Alex has completed eight or nine lessons in TT3. He is excited to do math again! 


He is struggling with two-digit odd and even numbers, so we’re going to take a day or two to work on this before moving ahead.  Other than that, he has done VERY well with Teaching Textbooks 3!  (Below, he’s working on an odd/even color by number that I printed online. We’re gonna master odds & evens with a little fun!!)


Spelling.  This boy.  He is an excellent speller.  It seems like this just comes to him naturally, and though he isn’t perfect (who is?!), he seldom struggles with a spelling word.  HOD spelling is a perfect fit for him – it’s simple and quick!  I’d always thought I would use All About Spelling with him, and I’d considered continuing Spelling You See (which we reviewed last year), but I just don’t see the need to complicate things since he is doing so well. 

DSCN4645Growing With Grammar – Beyond’s grammar program just wasn’t enough to help the grammar concepts stick in Alex’s head.  I bought Rod & Staff 2, but it seemed like it wouldn’t be the right fit for Alex at this point.  I kept coming back to Growing With Grammar, and it has really been a good choice.  Alex enjoys it, and he is doing well with it.  He’d rather rush, skip over the directions, and end up making mistakes, but when he is encouraged to concentrate, he does excellent work!

We highlight important words in the directions (he LOVES to highlight now!), and this seems to help the directions stick in Alex’s mind.  His ability to write a sentence (with subject/predicate, capital letter, and punctuation) has really grown.  I am thankful to have come across Growing With Grammar!  I have heard it’s repetitive over the years and kids often grow weary of it, but for now, it’s just what Alex needs!


Ahhh, the FUN of science/history lessons!  Alex complains that, as he gets bigger, school is less fun and more work.  He’s jealous of Max and Jensyn’s short, playful lessons. It’s true that math lessons are more challenging, grammar and copywork are harder than handwriting practice, and everything takes a bit longer.  But seriously…look at this stuff…he’s still having lots of fun, active learning projects!

In history, we read about a young French pioneer named Marie.  She and her family were traveling in an Indiana canoe as they relocated to Detroit.  We read of the adventures they experienced along the way, the Indians they met, and the challenges they faced.

One of the projects in Beyond was to make homemade salt dough (measure and mix) and then build a canoe with toothpicks and dough, using a picture in the history book as a model.  Alex LOVED this project, and I love how his canoe turned out!  He is very proud of this canoe! 

DSCN4621  DSCN4622

Here is his history book, propped with a pencil box, so he could use the picture as a model.


During this unit, we learned about different types of clouds.  Alex made the clouds out of cotton balls and glued them to a paper chart.  This correlated with our history lesson when Marie and her family were travelling by canoe during a rainstorm.

We also read about Marie spotting a hummingbird.  After this history reading, our science reading was about birds.  Then we filled several containers with different foods (rice, popcorn seeds, colored water, etc) and used a variety of household items as “bird beaks”.  We explored to see which kind of “beak” was best for picking up each kind of food.  This was really neat, and all three kids wanted in on the fun!

DSCN4637 DSCN4638DSCN4639 DSCN4640

Each unit ends with a Bible study on Day 5, rather than a history lesson.  I absolutely LOVE how Heart of Dakota ties in Biblical truths with the history lessons for the week.  This week, we read from Philippians and talked about how the pioneers had to learn to be content with very little. We talked about feeing anxious or worried, and what it means for US to be content.

(Max, age 6)

We are off to a slow, but steady start with All About Reading Level 1!  Here is the much-loved rhyming word ice cream cone project.  Alex loved it several years ago, and now Max enjoyed it just as much!  When he finished, Max colored the ice cream so that each family member could have a cone in their favorite flavor.

DSCN4624 DSCN4625

Here’s Max working on the “Feed The Monster” activity in Lesson 3.  He LOVED feeding the words to the monster!

DSCN4720 DSCN4721DSCN4722 

We’re working through Rod & Staff’s “Going On Eagerly” book.  Max enjoys it, especially the ‘finish the pattern’ pages.  Beginning with the “G” book, each R&S book features a different biome.  Max is not too interested in the arctic facts on each page, but I try to read those to him whenever possible, as they are interesting facts!



My little math whiz is zooming through Singapore Kindergarten book B.  I’m pretty sure he’ll be starting first grade math sometime after Christmas.  Other than the occasional backwards number, he is handling the math with ease!

DSCN4632 DSCN4633

…and sometimes, we are GRUMPY about math…when it’s straight fact practice with no fun!


After reading our Bible story, we had an activity about rain and clouds.  We played with dry cotton balls, wet cotton balls, and a cup of water.  We made heavy clouds and rain.  Max thought this was GREAT fun!


(Jensyn, age 4)

{THIS POST contains links to some of the extra worksheets we find online…}

Somehow, we’ve made more progress with Jensyn than with the boys.  I’m not quite sure how that has happened.  So I’m including pictures of two different units here.  It’s not much, as I somehow didn’t get many pictures of her, but she is thoroughly enjoying her school time with Mommy!

Jensyn LOVES to make playdough.  Because of this, we’re doing the printable playdough mats from 123HomeschoolForMe.  In these pictures, she made a playdough “C” (with a little help from Mama to roll the snake-shape) and is driving a playdough car around the c-shaped race track.


Things Jensyn loves – her Rapunzel playset and her Bible.  This is from an activity related to the story of Abraham and Isaac, in which Jensyn had to hug her Bible and say she loves it more than anything – even a special toy.

DSCN4628 DSCN4630

We talked about how we can’t hide from God.  We tried to hide (camouflage) our names, but we could still find our names.  Here is Jensyn’s ‘camouflaged’ name.  She is very proud of it!

In this picture, Jensyn found and circles (and connected…) all of the D and d letters on the page.
Number Four page to correspond with the activity in the Little Hands guide – Jensyn drew 4 ‘ladies’ and traced the number 4.


Jensyn takes great pride in making these pages PRETTY!  (It’s not schoolwork unless you can find a way to decorate it!)  On this page, she traced the lines, circles the D and d letters, and then colored it pink and purple to make it pretty.

DSCN4708 DSCN4710

And…her counting page.  We drew 5 ladders.  Then I turned to help her brother for a few minutes.  When I turned back, Jensyn had made her page pretty.   In each little box (meant for the numbers), Jensyn had drawn a purple heart filled in with pink.  We wrote the numbers inside the pink hearts.

DSCN4712 DSCN4713

And last of all…she INSISTED she needed more work.  So I gave her this page…color the uppercase Ds pink and the lowercase ds purple.  She was all excited, but then she started to pout and say that her hand hurt.  I told her she’d done enough, and she was welcome to be finished.  Instead, she INSISTED on staying at the table and completing the page…with a pout on her face.  Silly girly!