Homeschool Discoveries

Sharing a few things I've discovered along the way…

K is for Kirsten…J is for Joy (aka me!) May 8, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — kirstenjoyhill @ 5:33 am


When I joined the “Blogging through the Alphabet” challenge, I had great intentions of writing a separate post for each letter of the alphabet about something homeschooling-related.  I made a document with ideas for every letter…but “J” really stumped me, and I missed that week all together.

I even considered having a “jammies” day just so I could do “J is for Jammies.”  But unlike (apparently) many homeschoolers, the thought the thought of a day in my jammies and having to see my kids in their jammies all day was enough to drive me batty.  I am so not a jammie day person! Even my babies get dressed for the day! So, with that personal quirk out there, I was at a loss for anything related to homeschooling that started with “J” that I would actually have anything to say about, and my ideas for “K” weren’t much better.

Then it occurred to me that I could take an easy out with this one since my first and middle initials are K and J.  And since I am the homeschooling mom writing this, that’s related to homeschooling, right? (I know, it’s a stretch).   I know I like to “get to know” the writers of the blogs I read, so maybe someone will want to get to know me, Kirsten Joy, a little bit better too. 🙂

Places I’ve lived…: I currently live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Growing up, I lived in several other towns in Minnesota (Mankato, New Ulm, Willmar and St. Cloud).  I also lived in Ames, Iowa for eleven and a half years (college plus the following 8 years). I tell people I’m “originally from” St. Cloud, MN since that’s where I graduated from high school and where my mom still lives, though I actually only lived there for four years.

When I was growing up I wanted to be…: For a long time I wanted to be a chemist or a computer programmer.  Then my mom told me that chemists make bad things that hurt the earth and that by the time I grew up that computers would program themselves.  😉  Next I decided I wanted to be a civil engineer and build bridges.

In college I studied…: My first major was, in fact, Civil Engineering.  However, after getting a “D” in freshman physics, I took a hard look at myself and my abilities and realized that my true love was all things related to language and communication NOT science and engineering!  I changed my major to English with an emphasis in Rhetoric and Professional Communication.  I was considering pursuing a career in technical writing or technical editing, but God had other plans for my life!

After college I…: While finishing up college at Iowa State University, I felt called by God to pursue full-time Christian ministry after graduation.   I did not grow up going to church, but I placed my trust in Christ and became a Christian my junior year of high school.  As a freshman in college I found a great church where I grew in my faith, made lots of close friends and spent a lot of time involved with various campus ministry endeavors.

I had the opportunity after graduation to continue working with this church and campus ministry as a full time staff member. This was an incredible opportunity to be paid to do things I absolutely loved, like women’s ministry, event planning and administrative work.  I also took on a role as assistant editor for the daily devotional publication of the association to which our church belonged.  I continued in my role as a campus ministry staffer full time until Miss M was born, and then part time until we moved to Minneapolis. I continue editing for the devotional on a quarterly basis.  (Just don’t judge me as an editor by my writing here…I am terrible at editing my own work!).  😉

How “boy meets girl”…:  My husband and I both attended the same church in Ames, Iowa.  We worked together in a few ministry roles, and the sparks flew.  After a short courtship and engagement, we were married in September of 2002…hard to believe it is our tenth anniversary this year! Time flies when you are having fun! Tony was working on his PhD when we first got married, so we knew we would stay in Ames at least until he was done with school.

How I ended up here…:  We moved to Minneapolis, MN so my husband could pursue post-doctoral research.  We stayed after that was over because we didn’t feel like God was telling us to go anywhere else!  Tony left the academic career path for a job in industry.  We love the church that God led us to here and the city neighborhood in which we live.

Why we decided to homeschool…:  The short answer is that we were impressed by the lives of homeschooled kids we knew in our church in Ames (both kids still in school and friends we knew as fellow college students who had been homeschooled themselves).  We wanted to have the same opportunity to influence our kids during their formative years. We hope to use homeschooling as an opportunity to raise kids of outstanding character that we can launch into the world as kids/young adults who will positively impact others for the kingdom of God.

Why I started this blog…:  I had a “general” blog (it started out as our wedding website!) for many years.  It was really just intended for family and friends to read and what I wrote about changed as I changed and as our life changed.  We let the hosting for that blog expire last summer and I realized I missed having a creative outlet for writing.  But I also decided that “this time around” I wanted to focus on a topic I am passionate about (homeschooling, with a focus on books/reading) and reach out to develop broader readership beyond my facebook friends.  I want to share my “finds” and chronicle our homeschool experience along the way.

What I like to do in my “spare” time:  Now that I have this blog, I like to blog in my “spare” time!  Other than that, I really like to cook and bake (I am obsessed with breakfast baked goods!), read books and blogs, and hunt for bargains at thrift stores and garage sales. I also really like playing board games, trying new restaurants and generally experiencing adventures in the city with my family.

What I want to do when I grow up when my kids grow up:  I envision I might have another “career” of some sort later in life.  Maybe!  I day dream about jobs involving books, history, or writing…or maybe I could come up with some combination of the three!  At least I have a while to figure that out.  😉  Just a blog and a very part time editing job is plenty for me right now on top of juggling all the responsibilities of staying at home with my four kids!

Visit the “K” post link-up @ Ben and Me to see what other bloggers came up with for the letter K!


May Showers May 6, 2012

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:49 pm

We’ve had a lot of rain the past several days.  On Thursday, the first rainy day, the rain showers hit just as we were coming home from an appointment at the clinic for baby J.  As much as the practical side of me wanted to keep the kids inside, I let them head out in the rain to play:

I just love how Miss M shared her umbrella.  🙂  Mr. K stayed out the longest of the three big kids.  He broke his umbrella last fall and we did not replace it…but he didn’t care how wet he got at all!   I had a bit of extra wet laundry to wash, but it was worth it to see them have so much fun out in the downpour.


Collage Friday: Finding the Silver Lining May 4, 2012

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:48 pm

We’ve had a looooong week.  I’m rarely so happy to be finally relaxing with my decaf latte on a Friday night! If you want to see fun pictures and read about the silver lining we found in the storm clouds of our week, scroll down a way.  If you want to read the “real life” stuff that was going on, continue in the next paragraph.  🙂

Miss M in particular was having a rough time of things this week.  We had a few rough patches last week, especially while doing math.  I wasn’t sure if the math was to blame, or something else.

This week the math lesson that caused tears on Friday was “so easy” on Monday.  But the spelling lesson that was “the best way ever to learn spelling”  as of last week was “way too hard” on Monday when it should have been only incrementally more difficult that what we were doing last week.  Then I heard from Miss M that she has “never seen anything like this before” when she was doing a math review lesson on Tuesday.  By Tuesday afternoon, Miss M’s behavior while doing school and otherwise had resulted in the consequence of losing a few privileges.  And Wednesday was better, but not much.

Tony and I discussed what might be going on, and we couldn’t put our finger on any one reason for Miss M’s uncharacteristic behavior and difficulty with school work.  I think it could be a combination of things: burnout as the year ends, “spring fever”, schedule changes/longer school days as I try to work in Mr. E’s Kindergarten work into our schedule, maybe not getting enough sleep and probably a few character areas that need some refinement (and training/practice during times of non-conflict!).

Whatever the case, we sat down and looked at our calendar and realized that with a variety of things going on this month that will take us away from time spent doing school (special events, field trips, Miss M’s birthday, annual testing…etc), we have few “regular” school days left at this point.  Tony and I decided that we could end a week earlier than I had initially planned (finishing right before Memorial Day instead of on June 1st), and we could also take the rest of the month off from new spelling and math lessons.  The times of stress while doing these lessons were coming frequently enough that the negative consequences of continuing was probably more than the educational benefit we would get.  We’ll spend extra time playing math and phonogram/spelling games instead!

Despite the “storm clouds” that seemed to follow Miss M most of the week, our week definitely had a pretty silver lining:

1.  Baby J turned six months old on Monday!  Here he is laughing at something Mr. E did…a frequent occurrence in our house.  Baby J is so giggly — probably the most giggly any of our kids were as babies.

2. It was convenient that the next lesson in Right Start C was going to be a game lesson anyway…so we can at least say that we finished 2.5 lessons this week.  🙂  This game was multiplication memory.

3. Meanwhile, while Mr. E practiced writing numbers and I helped Miss M with the math game, Mr. K played with his puzzles…by dumping them all out to find the one he wanted!

4. and 5.  With formal lessons not going so well this week, I encouraged Miss M to spend extra time reading.  I gave her a stack of books I picked out at the library to give her some variety from her typical picks of late (boxcar children and horse/pet books).  She is really enjoying the “Toys Go Out” trilogy (she just finished the second one tonight).

6. Making a water color painting of the garden.

7.  Our state requires annual standardized testing beginning the year the student is seven by October 1st, so this will be Miss M’s first year to test. Knowing that Miss M does much better in situations where she knows what to expect, I decided to order this test practice booklet.  We spent about half an hour going through it orally today, and we’ll spend maybe 15-20 minutes a day on it next week as well if all goes as planned.   Most of the questions themselves are really pretty easy for Miss M, but we are discussing how to read directions, the types of questions she’ll see on the test (she has seen very few “multiple choice” type questions before!), reviewing terminology, as well as talking about some math terminology that is different than what we are used to with Right Start.  The results of this test are really for our use only, but I know that Miss M will be much less stressed out while taking the test if we’ve prepped for it a bit ahead of time!

8.  Stopping to watch ants while out on an evening walk/ride.  Another day the kids were finding cracker crumbs to give ants on our sidewalk, and watching with interest as the ants tried to carry them away!

9. This is my favorite silver lining of the week.  🙂  On Tuesday night after our rough day, Tony “randomly” selected a NOVA documentary on Netflix about the Wright Brothers for us to watch as a family in the evening.  Now everyone is super excited about studying aviation history!  Now I feel vindicated for keeping around this four-volume series of books about aviation history that I picked up free at some point (You can get the series free in .pdf format here!).  😉  Miss M read three of the four books this week.  Today we used Ami’s Delight Directed study planning page @ Walking by the Way to brainstorm how we will study aviation history further this month.

Oh, and Mr. E has been doing some Kindergarten work here and there:

His enthusiasm is waning a bit from a few weeks ago as nice weather abounds.  🙂 But a lot of progress can be made on K level work in a short time.  Mr. E enjoyed coloring while I read the first book in the “Boxcar Children” series, practicing writing on paper and in a salt tray.  He asked to go back to learning printing this week and to learn lower case manuscript.  So much for cursive first! Maybe he can just learn both at the same time.  He wanted to “write some math” too, so while Miss M and I played a math game, he wrote out adding equations and asked if they were “true” or not.  They were almost all “true”, other than a few backwards numbers.   We didn’t do any new phonics lessons this week, but he continued to read a few pages per day out of the phonics readers I downloaded a few years ago from

Whew! That’s a long week-in-review too!  I’m looking forward to what I hope will be a relaxing and fun weekend.   Hope yours is great too!

I’m linking up with Collage Friday @ Homegrown Learners and the Weekly Wrap-Up @ Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers!

PhotobucketWeird Unsocialized Homeschoolers


Book Discoveries this Week: The Railway Children May 3, 2012

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:16 pm

After finishing A Little Princess, I decided that Miss M and I would try another older classic for our next bedtime read-aloud — The Railway Children by Edith Nesibt.   The Railway Children is a turn-of-the-20th-century story of three English children who leave their city home after their father is mysteriously sent away from the family.   Roberta, Peter and Phyllis find themselves in a country home near a railway, which proves to be a source for interesting adventures.

Nesbit is an author whose work I’ve been wanting to like, if that makes any sense.   Last year we tried listening to an audio book of The Enchanted Castle.  It just wasn’t what I expected, and Miss M and I lost interest after about 2/3 of the book.  Maybe someday we’ll try that one again.  I originally had Five Children and It on our book list for this year, but we committed the cardinal sin of book-to-movie adaptations by watching the movie without having read the book first.  The kids didn’t particularly enjoy the movie, and although I read that that book has a somewhat different story line, I wasn’t very motivated to try reading the book after our movie experience.

I wish I could say that the “third time was a charm” for me with Nesbit’s books, but that wasn’t entirely true.   While I don’t think Miss M liked this story as much as some we’ve read this year, she told me she enjoyed the book.  And she did beg for additional chapters most nights, a sure sign that she was “into” the story.  (The chapters are long, so I had to say “no” most nights!).

I found the narrator’s voice in the story to be somewhat distracting and off-putting.  While the story is mostly written in third-person language, a first person “author/observer” voice comes in on a regular basis:

“I hope you don’t mind my telling you a good deal about Roberta. The fact is I am growing very fond of her. The more I observe, her the more I love her. And I notice all sorts of things about her that I like.”

The narrator even asks the reader a few questions:

“Washing is fun. I wonder whether you ever done it? This particular washing took place in the back kitchen, which had a stone floor and a very big stone sink under its window.”

Besides the unusual narrative voice, I also found the children’s many adventures to be a bit over-the-top for one story.  Even those well-loved Alden kids usually only save the day or solve the mystery once per book.   The Railway Children manage to save a train from crashing, help a lost political prisoner and save a boy stuck in a tunnel with a broken leg all in the same book.  While this put it in the “yeah, right” category for me, I think Miss M loved it all the more because of all these exciting (in a quaint, turn-of-the-century style) exploits. All in all I didn’t hate this book, but I probably wouldn’t enjoy reading it out loud again.  My favorite part might have been the happy ending.  🙂

And speaking of the Aldens, a new fan (or maybe even two) have joined the ranks.  After listening to Miss M joyfully recount the plot of yet another Boxcar Children book, Mr. E asked me to read the first one in the series to him.  Miss M had to grab it one afternoon while we were in between chapters and spend an hour re-reading it for herself.  🙂  This seems to be the first chapter book that Mr. E has truly loved — he has sat for as many as three chapters at a time! Definitely a first for him.  Even Mr. K has grabbed his special pillow and cuddled up for a chapter or so at a time. I’m hoping this will be the beginning of more patience from the boys for longer stories.

I’m linking up with Read-Aloud Thursday @ Hope is the Word!