Homeschool Discoveries

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

H is for Health May 6, 2013

Filed under: Curriculum — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:20 pm

When I look back on my elementary school days, two of my least favorite classes or subjects were Health and Physical Education.   Health was just boring…and in Phy Ed, I was that kid who was the slowest runner or the one who wasn’t paying attention and got hit in the head with the basket ball.  Sports were definitely not my “thing.”

Among the requirements for homeschoolers in Minnesota is that we teach “Health and Physical Education.”   Oh fun!  We’ve really got  Phy Ed pretty well covered.  Our twice-a-month co-op has a Phy Ed class where the kids get to try out classic gym sports like kickball, dodge ball and floor hockey.  For the past couple years we’ve done a homeschool gymnastics class for at least part of the year, as well as going to “open gym” at the gymnastics club.   The kids do tennis and swimming in the summer.   We’ve tried out other sports at various times as well.   Not to mention family bike rides, runs around the block, jumping on the trampoline for a mid-day break, and tons of playing outside.

Last year (when Miss M was in 2nd grade), was our first year “officially” having to follow the homeschool law, since it was the first year that Miss M was 7 when school began.  So, I thought I might just buy a textbook to cover the subject of health.   As I read through the topics covered in the textbook, I realized  that so many of the topics in the book could be covered in the course of day-to-day life and/or incorporated into other subjects!

Here are the main topics this health textbook covered (aimed at 2nd-3rd grade), and how we incorporate these into informal discussions or into other subjects:

  • Basic anatomy/body structure — we cover this in science class
  • Personal body care and grooming — discussed in daily life
  • Caring for your teeth — discussed at twice a year dentist appointments
  • Basic nutrition — discussed often during meals and at snack time.  We talk about nutritious food choices, what food labels mean, and so forth
  • The importance of physical fitness — discussed in the course of life
  • Safety topics (fire safety, water safety, and so on) — some discussions during daily life.  We also covered fire safety in a special presentation from the Fire Department at our co-op.   Other safety topics come up as we participate in various activities.  When we are about to ride in a boat, we discuss boat safety and life jackets!
  • Illnesses/Germs — Discussed in daily life as we deal with regular illnesses or hear about others getting sick.
  • Medicines and drugs — Discussed in the course of life.  We talk about rules like alcoholic beverages being only for adults.  Only take a medicine a grown-up says is okay to take.  If we see someone smoking a cigarette, we may talk about how this is bad for their health.
  • Feelings — Comes up in daily life.   We talk about how to handle negative emotions regularly, and since we are at home…we can talk about how to take those feelings to God and turn to the Bible for wisdom.
  • Family issues — Comes up in daily life.  Homeschooling is full of opportunities to interact with and love family members!

Needless to say, we never read the textbook!  Anybody want to buy a cheap health textbook? 😉

Even though most “health class” topics are covered naturally in the course of daily life, I know I will have to be purposeful about some topics.  Sometime soon Miss M will be ready to learn more about the changes coming with puberty.  I’ll try and make sure we cover fire safety at home every year even if we don’t have an opportunity to hear a presentation somewhere from the fire department.  At some point we may want to do a first aid class or a more in-depth study on nutrition.    But overall, I’ve decided that the “health” requirement in the law is nothing to stress out over!  🙂  Homeschooling and the time we have together gives many opportunities to learn about this topic naturally.

I’m linking up with Blogging through the Alphabet @ Ben and Me!

Blogging Through the Alphabet


Collage Friday: Closing in on the Finish May 3, 2013

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 4:23 pm

Last weekend (and all way into Tuesday), we had beautiful weather.   And then it got cold and snowed again.  But let’s focus on the fun we had over our beautiful weekend:


We so enjoyed a family bike ride, first Dairy Queen trip of the year (It’s an outdoor/seasonal DQ), grilling, and a bonfire.  It was J’s first taste of S’mores!

Here are some of our learning highlights from this past week:


1. Miss M had her first-ever guitar recital over the weekend.  (See my “G is for Guitar” post here.)

2. It was warm enough to do school in a tree on Monday!

3. Mr. K was really into his dry erase/wipe off books again this week.  But low and behold, I actually did some RightStart A math with him as well.  He really wants to do school most days…it’s just hard to prioritize the 4-year-old!

4.-5.  Science and History book baskets are looking empty as we returned read books to the library and we’re wrapping up a science unit on backyard birds (with some other random nature-related books thrown in), and our history unit on the Civil War.

6.  In Logic of English Foundations, Mr. E has completed up to lesson 108 (with the exception of one “read a book” lesson for which we didn’t have the book on time from the library).  He’s doing a “match the contraction” activity in the picture.

Only 5 more lessons with spelling words, and three more lessons with books to read are left (of the 115 that have been written — I think the final program may have a few more).   Miss M did a review week in Logic of English Essentials.   We’ll do one more lesson next week (#36) before we break for the summer.

7.  Mr. E practiced 4 digit addition this week in RightStart C…and we played a lot of addition and subtraction war.   Since he is a Kindergartener is in early lessons of what is typically a 2nd grade math book, we’re good to take a break whenever.  😉  He loves math, so I am sure we’ll do some new lessons next week, and maybe even while we are on summer break.  But even if we don’t do new lessons, my goal for him is that we would find fun ways to review/work on facts over the next couple months so he doesn’t forget all we’ve worked on!

8-9.  Miss M continued with drawing/geometry related lessons in RightStart D.   Today’s lesson involved drawing and assembling a paper cube. Only five more lessons left in level D (not counting the bunches of lessons we either skipped because they were review, or covered with alternate lessons in Math Mammoth instead).

Next week is our last “normal” week before summer break!  It hardly seems possible given the weather outside! And we might be able to be mostly done at the end of the week if everyone works hard.   Then we have three days of standardized testing for Miss M the following week (it’s a state requirement to test here in MN), and the week after that features Miss M’s birthday, and a special end-of-the-year co-op meeting and picnic.   I will be tickled if we can be mainly finished up at the end of next week, and use the “extra” days in the next two weeks before Memorial Day for field trips, educational games, extra reading time, and other such fun pursuits!

Have a wonderful weekend…I hope it is warmer wherever you are than it is here (where it is cold enough for freezing rain and snow flurries).

I’m linking up with Collage Friday, The Weekly Wrap-Up, and Homeschool Review!

Homegrown Learners

Book Discoveries This Week: Chickadee by Louise Erdrich May 2, 2013

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:02 pm

Earlier this winter, Miss M and I read the first three books in Louise Erdrich’s Birchbark House series.  You can read my review of The Birchbark House here, and my review of The Game of Silence and The Porcupine Year here.

After finishing these three books, which feature main character Omakayas as a girl, we decided we wanted to wait a bit before reading the fourth book in the series, Chickadee.  Chickadee picks up Omakayas’ story a number of years later.  She is now a grown woman with twin boys of her own.   After reading and enjoying the first three books, we just weren’t quite ready for Omakayas to grow up immediately.

Now that a few months have passed since the reading of those three books, we were ready chickadeeto meet Omakayas in 1866.  (This is actually well-timed historically, since we just finished up a read aloud on the Civil War!).   It’s maple sugaring time, and Omakayas and her family are in the Sugar Bush with many other families.  An older man makes fun of Chickadee for his small size and unusual namesake — Great-Grandmother Nokomis gives this older gentleman a piece of her mind, while Chickadee’s twin, Makoons, takes it a step further and pulls a prank on the old man.

In retaliation, the old man’s sons decide to kidnap one of the twins to take back to their cabin as a servant.  They don’t really care which one they end up with…after all, they reason, don’t they look just alike? And couldn’t the family spare one since they have two of the same?

Babiche and Batiste reach into the family’s shelter in the night, and end up taking Chickadee with them.  Babiche and Bastiste are pretty hilarious and very awful all at the same time. Living in a mouse-infested cabin and seeming to not really care about this, they sing songs in praise of the awful concoction they apparently eat at every meal (and demand that Chickadee prepare for them now that he is their servant):

Bouyah, Bouyah!

The way to start the day!

If your stew is full of hair,

Just spit it out and swear!

If your stew smells like your feet,

 there’s more of it to eat…

Not long after being kidnapped, Chickadee outsmarts the brothers, is temporarily “rescued” by a group of Catholic nuns who would like nothing more than to scrub him down and cut off his braids, and then sets off a journey through the wilderness that he hopes will lead him home.

Meanwhile, his family has traveled to the plains to try and find Chickadee.  Even when they realize he is no longer with the brothers who kidnap him, they decide to put down roots near the Red River while they await Chickadee’s return — starting a new chapter in the family’s story as learn they way of life in a very different environment.

I liked seeing how the characters have grown and changed in the year’s that have passed since The Porcupine Year.   Even Omakayas’ brother Quill has grown up into a respectable, married man (who plays a big role in helping Chickadee return home!).  Nearly all the major characters from the previous books appear in Chickadee — though I kept wondering what happened to the boy that Omakayas’ mother adopted as a baby in The Game of Silence, who traveled with them as a toddler to the Lake of the Woods area in the third book.  He isn’t mentioned, so I hope that plot “hole” is explained in a future book in the series.

Miss M and I enjoyed this title in the Birchbark House series just as much as we enjoyed the others.  And we’ll be looking forward with great anticipation for the next book in the series (though, in looking at the gaps between the previous books, we probably have at least another year or two to wait!).  Readers who haven’t read the first three books could easily jump in at this point in the story…but the first three books are so good that you probably wouldn’t want to.  🙂

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


G is for Guitar

Filed under: Fun Stuff and Extras — kirstenjoyhill @ 4:27 pm
Tags: ,

Miss M has been taking guitar lessons for three months now.  She had her first recital last Sunday afternoon:

G is for Guitar

She sang and played “Do Re Mi” from The Sound of Music.   It was sweet and very exciting to see her perform along with lots of other students.  She has worked hard and learned a lot in a short period of time.  While we have had a few days where Miss M was not excited to practice, overall she is pretty self-motivated to spend time practicing each day.  This is our first foray into music education for our kids, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.  🙂

I’m linking up with Blogging Through the Alphabet @ Ben and Me!
Blogging Through the Alphabet


F is for Frustrations May 1, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:08 pm

Life has its share of frustrations big and small – some of mine this week have included catching the dreaded “spring head cold” (just when you thought you escaped cold season without getting sick, you find out you aren’t out of the woods yet!), the return of snow and cold yet again after a beautiful weekend that tricked us into thinking that spring was really here to stay, and two months of spotty internet service (we’re finally getting a new ISP at the end of the week!).  I’m trying to stay thankful in all those circumstances, but it’s definitely been a bit harder than usual to keep the frustrations at bay this week!


How about when our students get frustrated doing schoolwork? My oldest child really likes her schoolwork to fall in that “sweet spot” of not-to-hard, not-to-easy.  Too easy, and it might be boring.  Too hard and…well, the results aren’t always pretty.  Sometimes, the assignment is not too hard, but we have a hard time being on the same wavelength communication-wise.  Sometimes a frustration is really not about the assignment at hand, but about something else (that was the case with the crumpled spelling worksheet in the picture).  Some days any schoolwork might end in frustration if the student would rather being doing something else (or anything else!).

I know all students have their moments of frustration, but M maybe has a bit harder time than some kids properly channeling her frustration — Or maybe a lower tolerance for puzzling through a difficult problem (especially in math!).  I definitely see frustration-related behaviors that I’m trying to help her avoid.

I’m trying to find ways to avoid the frustrations in the first place, of course.  A little bit can go a long way.  We may play soothing music in the background during a difficult subject. I make sure M is getting plenty of snacks and breaks.

Even with those preventative measures, frustrations do still occur.  And sometimes in the hurry of the day we forget a preventative measure!  On those frustrating days I’m trying out a variety of means to help M regain her composure.  I often suggest taking a break, praying, reading scripture, or approaching the problem a new way.  Often times my suggestions are not met very favorably.  Sometimes I just wait it out.  Sometimes a consequence of some sort is needed if frustrations are expressed inappropriately.

I don’t know that I’ve found all the answers.  Sometimes it feels like things can spiral out of control with one frustration leading to another.  But I trust that God is working in my character and Miss M’s character to make us both more like Christ.

How do you handle situations where your student gets frustrated? Do you have any suggestions for us?

I’m a week behind (this week’s letter will be posted tomorrow, I hope!), but I will still be linking up with…

Blogging Through the Alphabet