Homeschool Discoveries

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

Collage Sunday: Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas… December 23, 2012

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 6:13 am

In the midst of preparing and celebrating, I wanted to not forget what we were up to this past week.   We did a light school schedule Monday through Wednesday (mostly so the kids wouldn’t get too bored or stir crazy!).   Miss M did math and spelling review and read an assigned book.  Mr E worked on reading Cat in the Hat and played math games:


We did lots of baking and treat making.  The gingerbread people and house were from a kit that Grandma picked up for us after Christmas last year.  Saving it didn’t work out as well as I hoped — the frosting and icing was very dried out!


And as always, we had lots of fun.  And our new camera arrived (nothing fancy, just a point and shoot to replace an old one that was flaking out), causing me to follow kids around and get cute pictures.  Tony and I  also couldn’t resist opening up our Christmas gift to ourselves — a new espresso machine.  And the big boxes it came in were like an early Christmas gift to the kids.  😉


Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  Between celebrating, traveling, attending a church conference and my quarterly editing deadline, I’m not anticipating posting for at least two weeks and maybe closer to three weeks.  See you after Christmas break!

Linking up with Collage Friday!

Homegrown Learners

Collage Friday: Snow! December 14, 2012

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 7:47 am

We had a real snow storm last weekend (over 10 inches!), so this was the sight at our house:


Many years this isn’t really news in Minnesota, but this is our first “big” snow in almost two years! Last winter was very dry, and our biggest one-day-snow-total was only about 4 inches.  The last big snow similar to this was was way back in February of 2011.   The kids had a blast playing outside and helping with the shoveling.  And we were very grateful for help from friends and neighbors to get our long sidewalk shoveled out (my husband broke his leg in a bike accident last month and is still on crutches!).

Learning Highlights this week:


  • Miss M (8, 3rd grade) did school in her prairie dress on Monday.  She is seen here reading her assigned historical fiction for the week – The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz.  Miss M also picked a few other titles to read from the book basket this week.  We didn’t do a ton of history reading all together — Just a little bit of “A New Nation” by the Maestros.  Miss M and I are working on another history-related title at bedtime, Carry on Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham.
  • Mr. K (3.5) asked for more “school work” this week.  I printed out the letter pages from the free Preschool Daily Learning Notebook @ Confessions of a Homeschooler, and he really enjoyed those!
  • I planned this to mostly be a review/practice week for math.  Mr K (5.5, grade K) and I practiced some of the adding strategies in Right Start B (completing the 10, 9’s trick, Two 5’s trick), including playing “Adding War” with numbers 4-10.
  • Miss M wanted practice on her 7’s and 8’s facts in multiplication, so we played some Speed, a really fun skip counting game from Highhill Educational Supplies.  I also planned on having her review finding area in inches and centimeters, a topic we just did a couple months ago in RightStart C, and is repeated in RightStart D.   I guess I must have skipped or glossed terms like “square inches” and “centimeters squared” though for the most part in RS C — because that totally threw Miss M for a loop.  We’re still working on that terminology.
  • Not pictured: We did spelling as usual (Miss M will finish lesson 19 today in Logic of English and Mr. E is pretty much finished with Lesson 7).  Mr. E read a couple I See Sam books, and also wanted to start reading The Cat in the Hat.   Miss M read and notebooked another chapter of Sassafras Science Adventures: Zoology.

Fun Highlights of our Week:


  1. Sorting out our “done bin” of artwork and miscellaneous school work.  The boys in particular create A LOT of artwork.  Some of the best from the year got scanned in and turned into a calendar to give as gifts.
  2. Making homemade Christmas cards
  3. Miss M made a “fire” and “S’mores” for her favorite doll, Raggedy Ann, to enjoy. 🙂
  4. This is our attempt at an advent wreath.  We are doing a weekly family devotional for advent this year with Everyday Emmanuel from “What’s in the Bible?” and their video Why Do We Call it Christmas? 
  5. Strawberry Jello Spritz — made with a vintage “cookie gun” from my childhood.
  6. Chocolate Peanut Butter Holiday Bark
  7. Baby J (13.5 months) is cruising super well now…and that means a much higher level of chaos.  😉  Maybe I didn’t really think so clearly about all the consequences when we put this much-lower table in the school room.  Baby J is just super curious about everything, and is trying to figure out how to open every drawer and cabinet, press every button in his reach, and even open the fridge to pull things out (somehow none of the other kids ever tried that as toddlers).
  8. Mr. E had a bit of a fever and a cough yesterday, so he couldn’t go to our co-op for the Christmas party.  I was able to drop off the older two kids so they could still go to co-op.  Mr. E didn’t seem too upset at missing co-op — he got a strawberry shake and watched videos/played iPad for the afternoon.  I was probably more bummed than him to miss eating cookies and seeing friends I haven’t seen for five weeks and won’t see again until after Christmas!
  9. Mr E, excited to show us crafts he made at co-op.  The kids made crafts, did a gift exchange, ate yummy treats and still did their regular classes too.  🙂

I’m looking forward to another day of laid-back learning today (The older two kids may be getting a touch of a sore throat/cough as well), and a fun weekend with more preparations for Christmas.  The two older kids will also get to sing in the church service along with other kids from church — so I am really hoping they can fight off whatever bug it is that has hit our house!

Have a wonderful weekend! I’m linking up with Collage Friday and the Weekly Wrap-Up.

Homegrown Learners

Collage Saturday: The One With a Hard Day December 8, 2012

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 9:34 am

It’s only natural to put our best foot forward when writing a week-in-review.  By the end of the week, hard moments are usually water-under-the-bridge compared to all the fun and learning.  But I’ll be honest — yesterday was one of those really hard days.

Math tends to be a crucible for character development at our house, at least where Miss M (3rd grade) and I are concerned.  We’ve had a pretty easy-going past month since we started Level D of RightStart, but we hit some new material this week.  Miss M easily became frustrated, and had a hard time listening to my explanations of the concepts.  I guess by both she and I had had enough by Friday.  She got highly frustrated and I got highly frustrated in return.  Not good.   By the end of the day all was forgiven and schoolwork finally got done.  But this is one of those weeks I am really happy for the break the weekend brings!

Here are a few learning highlights from this week:

Spelling/Phonics:  Miss M completed lesson 18 in Logic of English Essentials.   To practice the “WOR” phonogram words, she finished writing a story she began a couple weeks ago (you can read here story here).   Mr. E (Kindergarten) started lesson 7 in LOE Essentials, but we weren’t super motivated in the spelling department this week, so we’ll be continuing on with that lesson next week.  🙂  Mr. E also read from I See Sam books every day this week.

Math:  Mr. E enjoyed using the geoboards in RightStart B, as well as getting out the math balance again and learning about vertices and diagonals with hexagons and pentagons.  Mr. E also continued to practice the “9’s trick” and started learning about the “Two fives” trick. All told, we worked on lessons 62-66 — but he still needs more practice on these two adding strategies before we move much further in the lessons.

In RightStart D, Miss M worked on lessons 68-70 covering large numbers in the hundreds of thousands, and 73-74 covering multiplying a larger number by a single digit.  We’ve been skipping around a bit due to many of the lessons being review from Level C.  On one hand, I want to coast for a bit and just do some of the review lessons from now until Christmas given the challenges we had this week and the fact we have ample time to finish D before the end of the year.  On the other hand, I really do believe the issues we are having is less about math and more about the character area of being teachable (like when Miss M says to me, “I just hate it when anyone has to teach me how to do something”…LOL!).

History: We’re really diving in to the period in US History after the Revolutionary war.  Our non-fiction read-alouds at the moment are “A New Nation” by the Maestros and “The Year of the Horseless Carriage 1801” by Genevieve Foster.  Miss M read, “Away Goes Sally”  by Elizabeth Coatsworth for an independent fiction reading assignment this reading.

Science: Miss M continues to work through Sassafras Science Adventures Zoology.  With some prodding I convinced her to write on the notebook pages on her own (with the promise that I wouldn’t correct her spelling unless she asked me to!).  The kids also enjoyed watching a couple episodes of “Sci Girls” this week.   We’ll be picking up more science study as family after the Christmas break.


And now for the FUN we had this week:



Top Row: Baking and decorating sugar cookies with Grandma Karen

Middle Row:  Miss M’s friend Miss J spent the afternoon with us on Wednesday.  The kids made pretzel/kiss/m&m treats and had a tea party.

Bottom row:  Mr. E’s Lego Angry Birds Level,  A trip to Ikea (yea for “kids eat free Tuesdays”!), and a few of the 16 Christmas books we hauled home from the library.

Have a wonderful weekend!

I’m linking up with Collage Friday and the Weekly Wrap-Up!

Homegrown Learners

“The Silly Plant” — A Story by Miss M December 7, 2012

Filed under: Creativity,Spelling — kirstenjoyhill @ 4:57 pm

Two weeks ago, when we were working on Logic of English Essentials List #16, Miss M started writing a story to practice her spelling words.  She didn’t finish the story before the end of that week.  But then when I asked her to write sentences including the “wor” phonogram words she learned for lesson #18, she decided to finish out her story with those words.

She wrote it out in pencil, then I helped her with a bit of editing.  I was so proud of how she spelled very few words incorrectly, and usually picked fairly logical phonograms to spell the words when they were spelled wrong.   Even the grammar and sentence structure was pretty good — especially considering we’ve done very little formal writing instruction (I figure there’s time for that later when we’ve finished our year of intensive spelling instruction!).

Here is Miss M’s story:

The Silly Plant

One day I had some dollars and cents. I spent it so that I could attend a school where I could take lessons on how to grow silly plants.  I get to pour water on my plant. I do not yet know what kind of plant mine is.

But the next day I find out that my plant is a new kind of plant that eats germs.

Today is the last day, and I get to take my plant home.  Now I own the plant. I have a wonderful idea! It would make an excellent gift for Lilly.

So I put the plant in a shoe box and started walking over to her house. But then all of a sudden, the plan started to grow and grow and grow!

“Oh no,” I shouted, “Oh no! It is too big!”

What am I going to do? This is the worst time for it.


“Hello,” said Lilly.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “It’s too big now. I’ll have to grow another one.  It will be a lot of work though.  But I’ll keep my word to give it to you.  Ok?”

“Ok. You know I have a bunch of worms in my back yard,” Lilly said.

“That will be perfect,” I said, “Let’s go.”

“What a wonderful world,” said Lilly, “That’s definitely worth your time.”

The End.


Book Discoveries this Week: Black Beauty and Justin Morgan Had a Horse December 6, 2012

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:27 pm

Miss M and I have been on a bit of a “horse kick” the past few weeks with two horse-related read-alouds:  Black Beauty by Anna Sewell and Justin Morgan Had a Horse by Marguerite Henry.

We did a horse unit study last Spring, so this is not a new interest on Miss M’s part.  But of course there are so many great horse-themed books out there it may take awhile to get to all of them.  😉  Black Beauty was a read-aloud I considered last year.  But somehow I had gotten the impression it was a really sad (or even depressing) book, so I didn’t end up selecting it.   So far this school year, my bed time read alouds with Miss M have all been history related, mostly due to her desire to keep selecting historical titles tied into our American History studies.

After our last read-aloud, Miss M asked that we picked something unrelated to American history next.  After a brief attempt at a fantasy book that neither of us were very keen on, we decided to go for historical fiction of a different sort than we have been reading.  I chose Black Beauty from my list of potential non-US-history read-alouds for the year.

In case you aren’t familiar with the plot of this classic story, Black Beauty is told from the perspective of a horse in 19th century England.  Black Beauty gets his start in life as a colt on farm where he trained and treated kindly, after which he is sold to a gentleman named Squire Gordon.  The Squire and his employees also treat Black Beauty very well, but when the Squires wife falls ill, the horses all must be sold.  Thus begins a long line of owners for Black Beauty ranging from another nobleman to cab owners to a corn dealer.

Sometimes Black Beauty is treated well, other times he is ill used or treated harshly.  But in all cases he maintains what you might call “good character.”  He remembers what he was taught in his youth, and always does his best to work hard and not return evil-for-evil.  There are some difficult moments in Black Beauty, which may be where it got its reputation for being a sad book in some ways.     Animal cruelty is definitely present in this book, and a few horses (other than the main character) do die through the course of the story.   But moral lessons are present throughout and I think the author’s hope was that by telling this story of how horses were treated, that perhaps people might think twice about how they treat their horses or other animals.

Miss M and I both definitely enjoyed this book — she told me it may be her favorite read-aloud so far of the 2012-2013 school year!

We continued with the horse theme but also picked up with our current historical time period in US History (roughly the time from the end of the Revolutionary War through the War of 1812) with Justin Morgan Had a Horse.  This 1946 Newberry Honor book begins shortly after the Revolutionary War, and ends sometime after the War of 1812.   It’s a fictionalized account of the horse that was the foundation sire for the Morgan Horse breed, one of the first breeds to be developed in the United States.

Henry’s story opens with schoolmaster Justin Morgan and his young pupil Joel taking a justin morganlong journey from Vermont to Massachusetts to visit a man who owes money to Mr. Morgan.  Morgan’s friend can’t pay back the loan in cash, but offers two horses instead.  Little Bub was so little that Morgan hardly wants him at first.  Joel, on the other hand, just knows that Little Bub would grow up to be a special horse.

Time proves Joel to be correct.  Justin Morgan gives Joel the opportunity to gentle this special horse.   Little Bub may be tiny, but he can pull and race better than the best of them.   Joel hopes to some day buy Little Bub for himself – but the road to owning the horse he loves turns out to be much longer than he expected.

Justin Morgan Had a Horse is the story of a famous horse, but it’s also a coming-of-age story as Joel grows into manhood, and never gives up his dream of bringing Little Bub home to his own stable.

This was another book that both Miss M and I really enjoyed.  It was a quick read — one that Miss M could have easily accomplished on her own.  But I’m glad we shared it together, as I am putting it at or near the top of my list of favorite read-alouds for this school year!

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



Collage Saturday: Christmas Fun Begins December 1, 2012

Filed under: Holidays,Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:54 am

After a quiet Thanksgiving at home, we enjoyed plenty of fun family time last weekend playing games, doing crafts, watching movies and a local Christmas parade on TV, and getting a bit more decorating done.  We also took the kids to an indoor play area (but I was too busy keeping track of them to take any pictures!).


On Monday it was back to school-days-as-usual.  Even though it was only a five day break, it was still hard to get everyone moving on Monday.  That made me reconsider taking a full three weeks off at Christmas!  😉  Overall it was a pretty quiet week with school in the mornings and plenty of time to enjoy Christmas activities in the afternoons:


1. Without really planning on it, we finished a lot of math lessons this week for both Miss M and Mr E.  Mr. E completed lessons 55-60 and started lesson 61 in Right Start B (though we skipped the midterm test — no need for a test for a Kindergartener).   We worked on telling time, adding coins, adding 9 by completing the 10, and he played his first game of corners.  The Corners game was definitely the highlight.   Unless something very surprising happens, we’ll finish B before the end of the year.  I’m not sure exactly what we’ll do after that — maybe some Singapore or Life of Fred?  Just play games? I just don’t think I want to start level C with a K’er!

2. Miss M worked on pages from early in the RightStart D workbook that she could work through on her own as review, plus we went through about 8 lessons together from the middle-ish portion of the book (starting with lesson 47, ending with lesson 68, and skipping a bunch in between).  We did some really interesting stuff, like learning about check numbers and “Terry’s Method” of subtraction.  We also got to assemble those “thousands cubes” to start talking about numbers in the ten thousands up to the millions.  Even the lessons we are covering together are pretty easy for Miss M so far (yea for easy math!), hence why we are able to cover so many lessons without a lot of effort.  We’ll start the section of Level D that’s all new in a week or two (but I’ll still be having her go back and do earlier pages for review and practice).  Now I’m starting to think that we may finish level D as well before the end of the year unless I significantly slow things down.   But I am not going to really “worry” about that at this point!!!

Academic Subjects Not Pictured:

  • Spelling/Phonics:  Mr. E read to me every day as usual, working a bit more on Danny and the Dinosaur as well as reading a few “I See Sam” books.  He also worked on lesson 6 in Logic of English.  Miss M did lesson 17 in Logic of English, and we were both proud that she scored 100% when tested at the end of the lesson!  I went the “lazy” route with spelling practice this week and just let them play Spelling City games for their respective lists instead of playing LOE games together.  😉
  • History:  We’ve “officially” moved on from the Revolutionary War in our American History studies and started studying the “new nation” period — with reading lots of living books it’s hard to keep things in a precise order, so I am considering events including the writing of the Constitution, the Louisiana Purchase and the War of 1812 to be all topics that are fair game right now!
  • Science:  Once again, no other science other than what Miss M is doing independently with Sassafras Science Adventures.  I think I’ll make it one of my New Year’s resolutions to get back on track with doing more science study as a family.

3.  Mr K randomly found a fun CD at the library: Kids Meet Composers by Wendy Rollin.  Kids are introduced to 10 composers with a short track giving a brief bio of each composer, plus a famous tune from each composer set to new words that again teach something about the composer and his/her music.  The kids all enjoyed listening to the CD and dancing or marching around the living room!

4-6: I started pulling out our fun Christmas “stuff” this week.  The kids enjoyed spending a few afternoons making Christmas crafts, using the Christmas play-doh set, and playing with the Playmobil Nativity set.

I’m linking up with Collage Friday and the Weekly Wrap-Up!:

Homegrown Learners