Homeschool Discoveries

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

Rides and Camping and Sand Castles, Oh My! August 28, 2012

Filed under: Fun Stuff and Extras — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:41 am

We wrapped up Vacation 2012 on Sunday night:

It was an exciting 10 days! Highlights included: rides at the mall, camping at Mystery Cave/Forsestville state park, a tour of the Mystery Cave (which I neglected to take any pictures of!), going out for Gelato, a trip to the Minnesota State Fair (largest fair in the country by average daily attendance!), a trip to the extended-family lake cabin and nearby beach.

We spent yesterday tackling a twenty item to-do list of unpacking, laundry and whipping the house back into shape.  Today’s equally long (if not longer) to do list is filled with tasks  still needing to be done before we start a full school schedule.  Miss M wants to start school this week, so I am aiming to be ready on Thursday (we’ll see how that goes!).  Hopefully in the midst of that I can get back into the regular blogging routine too.  🙂


Logic of English Essentials Update (July/August 2012) August 14, 2012

Filed under: Curriculum — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:06 pm

While I hadn’t necessarily been planning on posting very much this week…I had the night “off” from directing VBC tonight (thanks to one of my co-laborers who insisted she could run the show tonight), and writing a blog post seemed like an enjoyable way to spend a bit of my extra time.

I wrote a post a few months ago about my initial thoughts on using the Logic of English Essentials curriculum.  I’m intending to post continued thoughts about LOE-E and snapshots of how we’re using the curriculum throughout the year.  After a six-weeks-or-so break from all formal schoolwork, Spelling was one of the first subjects we added back in early July.  We started lesson 7 today, so we’re still early on in the program.


We’re still enjoying the games:

Though I do have to say it presents a challenge that Mr. K insists on playing with us most of the time.  But he barely knows his letters, much less his phonograms.  I also haven’t been working a whole lot with Mr. E yet on knowing all the sounds each phonogram makes (that’s on the to-do list once we get rolling with a full school schedule in September).  So, it makes for rather interesting game playing.  We still have only tried phonogram games for the most part.  I’d like to try some spelling word games soon.


I did make up my own game to practice choosing long A sounds.  I created cards for the various ways of spelling the /long A/ sound that we studied in lesson 4:

And Miss M and Mr. E had to run and grab the card that explained why a word has a /long A/ sound as I announced each word.   It was an okay, active game.  I think I could do something similar with /Long O/ sound words we are now studying in lesson 7.


Helpful Videos:

Logic of English has a YouTube channel.  I found the recent video of LOE author Denise Eide demonstrating how to do spelling dictation to be particularly helpful.  I discovered I was doing the “finger clues” for the number of letters in each phonogram incorrectly.  I also had Miss M watch the video.  She kept trying to tell me that I was “giving away” how to spell the words when I dictated a spelling list to her.  Having only done traditional “spelling tests” in the past, she didn’t quite understand that the point of spelling dictation is really to learn words that she may not already know.  Seeing the video helped her understand that I didn’t just make up some crazy way of teaching spelling words.  😉



I noticed that Miss M was having a hard time with the sounds associated with the -ng phonogram, so I created a little worksheet to help her.  Mr. E used it as well:

During review lesson #5 I noticed that Miss M would hear a word ending in -ng and have a hard time deciding which vowel sound she was hearing in front of that phonogram. I was hoping that if she created a little visual to go with each sound, it might help her keep the sounds straight.  We haven’t revisited those words yet to see if this helped.  Writing this out reminds me that I need to do that.  🙂


Writing Stories:

Miss M asked if she could write a story with her spelling words each week.  I said, “Of course!”   She is pretty good about asking how to spell words she doesn’t know but wants to add to the story.  She has written two stories so far — the first contained no mistakes (not counting words we haven’t worked on that she asked about first before writing down), and the second story only contained a couple of small mistakes.  One mistake that was kind of funny to me was her spelling of the word “later.”  She insisted several times that it must be “lader” — because that is how it sounds when she says it!  I had to write down “late” and “later” before it clicked for her!  Maybe “enunciation” or “articulation”  is a subject we’ll have to pay more attention to in the future!



I had Miss M do a copywork page using a suggested sentence to remember the nine words where EA says /long a/:

I’m also planning on reinforcing the spelling rules throughout the year by creating copywork pages based on each rule!


Biggest thing I dislike so far:

So, no program is perfect and I knew eventually I might find something I disliked about LOE-E.   I am finding I really don’t like the format of the workbook so much.  Not the activities themselves — those are fine.  It’s the kind of paper they are printed on and the perforations.

I’ll be honest and say that Miss M has had some moments of frustration while doing spelling dictation (though mostly before we watched the video — that really did help a lot!).  And when erasing needed to happen…the thin paper the workbook is printed on ripped very easily.  I think we have had no less than three out of six spelling dictation workbook pages we attempted to use ruined by ripping/holes during frustrated erasing.

And the pages really don’t stay in the workbook very well.   This is all fine and good I am sure for use in schools where papers are turned in to the teacher.  But I would prefer to keep a workbook together to use for review and reference and that’s just not going to happen with this workbook.  I really appreciate that the cost was kept low for this massive workbook, but I think I am now feeling like I would have gladly paid more for a nice spiral bound workbook with regular paper.

I’m still mulling over my options — I might purposely pull out a lesson’s worth of pages at a time and hole punch them or use my proclick binder on them.  At least they might stay together that way.  It wouldn’t solve the ripping problem, but I am crossing my fingers that we’ll have fewer frustrations in the future.

I’ll plan to share another update in a month or two!


All Quiet on the Bloggy Front… August 12, 2012

Filed under: News and Info — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:59 pm

Things may be pretty quiet around here for the next couple weeks (August 13th through August 26th).  I’m directing Vacation Bible Camp at our church this week, and then we’re taking 11 days of vacation/stay-cation.   I may write a post or two if I really feel like it…but don’t be entirely surprised if nothing shows up here for these two weeks.  I have a lot of posts in mind, so there should be some interesting things here to read after that! 🙂


Collage Friday: It Almost Feels Like Fall August 10, 2012

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 4:48 pm

Temperatures have finally moderated and it’s getting cooler at night.  We didn’t go to the pool at all this week.  The boys pulled out pants and long sleeve shirts (I guess 55 or 60 feels cold after weeks of lows in the 80s!).  We added back in another school subject for Miss M.  Slowly, it’s starting to feel a bit more like fall around here.  We even found a few leaves prematurely changing color!

We still have a few last hurrahs of summer left on our calendar though before we really dig in to our full “school year schedule.”  Next week we have Vacation Bible Camp at church.  I’m directing our VBC for the third year in a row.  I have to admit I have been kind of “phoning it in” in terms of my organizational duties based on work done in previous years — but that kind of caught up to me this week and I spent a lot of time answering emails (hence the lack of blog posts…too much computer time eaten up by that effort!).  Following our week of VBC, we have our vacation/staycation week 11 days.  We’ll be taking a couple of short trips out of town, plus doing a few more summer bucket list items here in the metro during this time Tony has off from work.

Here are a few highlights of our week:

1-2:  I love our annual block party for National Night Out.   NNO is very popular here — the city of Minneapolis makes it really easy for individual blocks to block off the street and have a party for a couple hours on the 1st Tuesday of every August.  Many, many blocks in our neighborhood participate! This year we were treated to a visit from the mounted police officers!  Doesn’t baby J look relaxed? All the kids have a great time playing with other kids on the block, on the one night of the year that it’s okay to ride your bike in the street!

3: This week’s “most creative” awards go to Mr. E for his collage of a “candy robot” and a collaborative effort from all the kids on this airplane.

4-6: Cooler temps meant more time outside doing things other than swimming.  We took the books and blanket outside for some school time (which never happened outside…too many distractions). Miss M tried rollerblading for the first time!

7. A sudden rainstorm led me to declare a spontaneous indoor picnic yesterday with cocoa, popcorn and finger foods for lunch.   I read three and a half chapters of our current history read aloud (Om-Kas-Toe: Blackfeet Twin Captures an Elkdog) while the kids enjoyed their “picnic”.

8.  Besides our history reading, I worked with Miss M on spelling  (LOE lesson #6), and Math (RightStart Level C, lessons 107-109).  These were our first new math lessons since May! Most of spelling and math were smooth sailing, and I think the bumps in the road we did have this week with school and otherwise (which on at least one day were not necessarily minor bumps) are helping reveal ways that I can be more effective in working with Miss M.

9. Today we spent almost all day with friends at a huge park about half an hour from our house — it has so many slides and ladders that its nickname is “Chutes and Ladders” (It’s really the Hyland Play Area).  I can’t imagine having done this while it was so hot earlier in the summer, but today’s weather in the 70s was perfect.

Have a wonderful weekend!  I hope to come up for air from Vacation Bible Camp long enough for at least a couple posts next week.  🙂

Linking up with Collage Friday and The Weekly Wrap-Up.

Homegrown Learners


Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop: Curriculum Week August 5, 2012

Filed under: Curriculum — kirstenjoyhill @ 9:45 pm

Not Back to School Blog Hop

It’s time for the annual “Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop” hosted by the iHomeschoolnetwork. This week it’s curriculum week!

I keep a page updated with our curriculum choices, so if you are finding this post later in the year you can check there to see if we continued with these choices!

Here’s a few highlights of what we’ll be using this year:

Family Subjects (everyone participates as they are able, at their own level):

History: United States History Year 1 (Beginnings to 1850-ish) — Using my own outline/plans

Science: Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding (BFSU) — Finishing Volume 1, Starting Volume 2 (Read here to find out a bit more about BFSU and about a resource you might find helpful Collaborative Pinterest Boards!).   We’ll also be reading some science biographies.

Bible Study and Character Building: Various resources from Doorposts books, Hero Tales book series, Leading Little Ones to God, and possibly other resources

Art Appreciation: Artistic Pursuits (Book 2 for Grades K-3)


Miss M, Age 8 (3rd grade, turning 9 in May 2013):

Math: RightStart Math Level C (Read here about why we like RightStart Math!)

Spelling/Writing/Grammar: Logic of English Essentials (Read some of my initial thought about LOE in this post)

Bible Study: Proverbs: A Bible Study for Kids by Kids (from BtoZ Publishing) + daily Bible reading

Handwriting: Cursive practice using copywork related to Bible, History and Science

Literature: Various read-alouds (projected list here) and assigned or free choice individual reading


Mr. E, age 5 (Kindergarten, turning 6 in March, 2013):

Phonics/Reading: Phonics Pathways + Easy readers for practice

Spelling: Learning Phonograms as presented in Logic of English Essentials, Possibly starting spelling lessons in LOE-E as the year progresses

Handwriting: A Reason for Handwriting Book A

Math: RightStart Math Level B

Literature: Assorted chapter book and picture book read-alouds

Fun Printables, Themes and Interest-Led studies as desired!


Mr K, age 3 (Preschool, turning 4 in February 2013)

Lots of Picture books (we’ll have a “classic picture book” of the week)

Letter of the Week Activities (Animal ABCs from 1plus1plus1Equals1, and other letter activities as desired)

Gentle intro to number concepts inspired by RightStart Math A

Fun Printables, Themes and Interest-Led studies as desired!  Possibly a “theme of the month” and a Holiday or Season of the month!


Baby J (Turning One on October 30th, 2012!)

Looking cute, listening to stories, having fun! 🙂


Don’t forget to visit the Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop page to find out what other homeschoolers are using this year for their curriculum!


Collage Friday: Historic Fun, Olympic Fun August 3, 2012

Filed under: Fun Stuff and Extras,Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:13 am
Tags: ,

Is it Friday already? This past week has just flown by! Last Friday, we visited Historic Ft. Snelling.  This living history site recreates what the fort was like when it was first built around 1820:

We enjoyed talking to the “soldiers”, learning about washing, school days, the blacksmith’s shop and more.  Miss M’s favorite area of the fort was learning about children’s games of the 1820s.  The boys’ favorite was the infantry drill and seeing the “soldiers” shoot their guns (it was loud, as you can see in the middle picture!).  The boys also joined the soldiers for a march around the quad.  After our visit to Fort Snelling in the morning, we stopped by Ikea for lunch (as you can see in the bottom right corner picture of the kids with the Ikea Snoopy house).

We rounded out our busy day with a stop on the way home at a discount store we rarely visit (that would be the one whose initials are W.M.) for a couldn’t-pass-it-up deal of glue sticks for ten cents each.  I bought 50 — hopefully I don’t wish I had bought 100 before the next year is up!  We use a lot of glue around here!

And then of course on Friday night, we started doing what almost everyone else in the world is doing this week…watching the Olympics:

We let the kids stay up super late on Friday night to see the whole opening ceremonies.  I made up special “Olympic Packets” for the kids with bingo games, coloring sheets and other activities to use while watching the opening ceremonies and other sports over the two weeks of the games!

We’ve probably watched 1-2+ hours of Olympics each day — very different from our normal TV habits!  But since it only comes around once every two years to have some kind of Olympics to watch, it seems worth it.   Miss M’s favorites so far are rowing and gymnastics.  The boys like fencing, shooting, whitewater canoeing and archery.  For some odd reason, everyone also really liked water polo.  🙂  We are all looking forward to track and field, and Miss M can’t wait for equestrian jumping.

We did do a little bit of school this week (but no pictures made it to the collage!)…I tried to keep spelling fun and we started a new history read aloud.  I’ll have posts coming (I hope) next week about what we’ve read so far in our first three-ish weeks of US History and the ideas I thought of to keep review and practice fun with Logic of English.

It wouldn’t be the Hill family getting interesting in something without spontaneous crafts and activities.  😉  Miss M made some nice Olympic rings to hang up.  Mr. E gets the creativity gold medal this week for his picture of a sport he created (“A guy stands on a really high bar with a really heavy weight in one hand and bombs in the other hand.  That’s a really hard sport, mom!”).  He also started the kids on a “Duplo Olympics” by setting up Duplo Synchronized Diving.  Miss M followed this up with Duplo Gymnastics (each aparatus was represented!).  The kids also did regular diving, archery, shooting and airplane tricks (Mr. E’s other suggested addition to the Olympic line-up).

Mr. K finally had some success in the potty department this week (after four not-so-successful months, we took the last two months or so off).  Miss M dressed in a rather unusual costume to present Mr. K with a gold medal for his efforts (and Mr. E followed up by presenting him with a bronze medal as well).

Miss M gets the family gold medal for swimming and diving! After much hard work she passed her swim test at the pool (25 yards of the front crawl) to be able to use the diving area for the first time! Yea!

Finally, Baby J gets the gold medal for “Most improved at Locomotion”.  🙂  We wished Baby J a happy Nine Months Old on Monday.  While he isn’t crawling yet, he certainly qualifies as “mobile.”  This week he became proficient enough at scooting on his bottom to move from room to room, pull books off the book shelves, attempt to chew on cords, and discover the joy of pulling plastic bowls out of the drawer.   Let the selective baby-proofing and teaching-of-“no touch” begin!

Linking up with…Collage Friday and the Weekly-Wrap-Up


Homegrown Learners

Book Discoveries this Week: Little House on Rocky Ridge series (books 1-3) August 2, 2012

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 8:14 am

I really like working on a series of books for read-alouds with Miss M in the summer — especially when I already own the books.  It’s nice to just know what comes next and not have to think too hard or work too hard to find the next book.  🙂  Summer read-aloud time can be more sporadic for us since I read to Miss M right before bed, and there are more times of staying up too late to realistically do too much before-bed reading — so it’s nice not to be relying on timing our reading with books arriving from or needing to return to the library.

For this summer we decided on the “Little House on Rock Ridge” series by Roger Lea MacBride — aka The Rose Years series.  This eight book series features Rose, the daughter of beloved “Little House” characters Laura and Almanzo.

The first book in the series, Little House on Rocky Ridge, opens as the Wilders are leaving drought-ridden South Dakota in search of a better life in Missouri.   After their long horse and wagon journey, they need to find the perfect farm and get settled in before cold weather hits.

Once settled in their new farm, called Rocky Ridge, of course, Little Farm in the Ozarks and In the Land of the Big Red Apple continue the story of the family settling in and trying to develop a prosperous farm.  Rose goes to school, makes friends, learns life lessons (all the stuff you might expect in a “Little House” sort of a book).

Fans of the original “Little House” series will probably enjoy these books as well, though they don’t quite have the same classic quality to me as Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books.  It’s hard for me to put my finger on exactly what it is that makes me feel that way about these books.  I did find it somewhat tiresome that some incidents from the original series are “re-told” in the Rocky Ridge series books in the form of family stories being told to Rose.  While I’m sure this is helpful background to a small number of readers who didn’t read the other series first, I could have done without those passages.

Unlike many of the books in the original Little House series, the early books in the Rock Ridge series take place one right after another with very little elapsed time in between each book — or no elapsed time in the case of books #3 and #4!  We started book #4, On the Other Side of the Hill, just before the Olympics started (completely distracting us from getting any bedtime reading aloud accomplished!) and it starts literally hours after book #3 ends!  Reading the books one right after another also makes it feel odd that the background of some characters or key incidents are re-told in the text of each book.  I suppose this is necessary for readers who may take longer breaks between each book or jump into the series mid-way, but it felt awkward to me.  I can’t remember any moments like that in the original series (but we did take longer breaks between some of those books, so maybe I’m just forgetting about it!).

While I don’t usually go out of my way to plan any activities to go along with our bedtime read-alouds, I couldn’t resist buying a can of hominy after reading about the Wilder family making hominy in Little Farm in the Ozarks.   Everyone in the family liked this not-common-around-here dish.  We also spied a copy of McGuffey’s Third Reader in a gift shop last week — Rose’s class in school reads out of this book in Little Farm in the Ozarks and Land of the Big Red Apple.  It was fun to show Miss M what Rose’s book would have looked like!

Miss M is thoroughly enjoying these books — to the point where I am wondering if she will complain when we get closer to the end of August and I will want to move on to our new “school year” list of read-alouds.   Maybe I’ll just let her take the rest of the books we don’t read before the end of the summer and she can read them on her own (except that I do kind of want to find out what happens to Rose too!).

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


W is for Websites August 1, 2012

Filed under: Getting Organized,Technology — kirstenjoyhill @ 1:29 pm

I’m so thankful to be a homeschooler in the internet era.  It’s hard to imagine homeschooling without the resources, ideas and support that come from the many sites dedicated to or just available for homeschoolers to utilize.

So for my “W” post in “Blogging Through the Alphabet” I thought I would share a few of the websites that I have found most helpful (and refer to regularly) in my homeschooling journey:

1. Pinterest.  Yep, most of you reading this have probably jumped on the Pinterest bandwagon already.  If you haven’t (and you think you can use at least a little bit of self-control to not spend too much time there!), you should check it out.  Think of it like a virtual bulletin board — you can use it to save favorite sites/pages in whatever categories you choose (and then you have a handy visual reminder of these sites you want to visit again!).   You can also search or browse through “pins” that others have saved.  I love following other homeschoolers and seeing what great finds they pin! I’ve found some really great ideas and useful resources here. If you are looking for more homeschoolers to follow on Pinterest, check out this link-up — Over 400 homeschoolers have listed their Pinterest url’s in this link!

2. Homeschool Classifieds.  Looking to save a bit of money on curriculum by buying used? I’ve had great luck finding things I’ve been looking for here.  I’ve never had any problems either buying or selling here (use common sense — it’s not like there might not be a few spammers or scammers hanging out there!), and it helps stretch my homeschool $$.

3. Homeschool Share.   This site is full of free lapbooking printables.  They also have unit study resources, “five in a row” resources and kindergarten kits!

4. A Book in Time. Looking for books or crafts to go along with world history or American history studies? A book in time has many resources, sorted by era.

5. ClipArtETC.  This is a relatviely recent discovery for me — it’s a great source for all kinds of educational clip art.  Be sure to check out their Maps site as well!

6. Books Should Be Free.  There are quite a few sites dedicated to free public domain ebooks and audio books, but this one is easier to browse than some of the other sites.  If the public domain book you are looking for isn’t here, check out Project Gutenberg, LibriVox (audio books), Lit2Go (audiobooks), and the Baldwin Project (online children’s literature).

7. Jimmie’s Squidoo Lenses.  Jimmie has created tons of “lenses” (fancy squidoo term for a webpage filled with links and info about a certain topic) on Notebooking, Lapbooking and more.  When I am looking for a lapbook on a particular topic or advice on notebooking, I find myself on one of her lenses quite frequently!

8. 1plus1plus1equals1.  This site with a funny math problem for a name has some of the greatest printables for tots through Kindergarten age.  Carisa has put a lot of time into creating wonderful, free tot packs, preschool packs and so much more.   Following those links to her site will get you links to several other sites with free tot/preschool packs as well.

9. Paula’s Archives.  While not as fancy and modern looking as some sites, Paula’s Archives is packed with useful info on living books for history and science, movies for history, tips and ideas to entertain toddlers during school time, lunch ideas and more.

10. Guest Hollow.  I found a lot of inspiration from this site’s free American History curriculum as I created my history curriculum for this year. Besides two years of free American history plans, Guest Hollow features free curricula for ancient history and various science topics, as well as notebooking pages and other printables.

Those are just a few of the many sites that I have found helpful!  The homeschooling community on the internet is so wonderful, and there are so many free and low-cost curricula and tools for all of us to enjoy!

Linking up with…
Blogging Through the Alphabet Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings