Homeschool Discoveries

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

Collage Saturday: Mostly Done and Nature Observations May 11, 2013

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

Happy Saturday!  We had a busy day yesterday with little time for blogging, so I am reviewing our week today!

Yesterday afternoon the older kids had Ornithology/Bird watching classes at a local wildflower garden/bird sanctuary.  While the big kids were in class, the little boys and I went to visit a nearby bog and pond (and we observed some birds ourselves):

Nature 2013-05-10

Here are a few of our learning highlights for this week:


1. I am trying so hard to not rush Mr. E through RightStart C too fast…but somehow even though I planned to only do one new lesson this week and then review or play games, we did three new lessons AND reviewed/played games. 🙂  We enjoyed Short Chain Solitaire and Subtraction Corners this week, and tried a game of Long Chain Solitaire (but that was waaay too long for a six year old’s attention span!).

I am planning on no more new lessons for a while, and just doing review/games for the summer…but this math-loving boy may insist on learning some new stuff over the summer.  I just don’t want him to finish C before the end the next school year, since I already promised a friend she could borrow my D book next year!

2.  Speaking of level D, Miss M finished the very last lesson in RightStart D! Hooray!  She liked this week’s drawing/geometry lessons because they required less precision.  😉  It’s on to games/review over the summer, then RightStart E in September.

3.  and 4.  I printed out the new Star Wars free printable packs from 3 Dinosaurs and Royal Baloo.   There were tons of preschool-level pages that kept Mr. K busy for days, plus Mr. E was thrilled to find fun printables at HIS level as well (he especially liked the clocks, word problems, add/subtract sort and word search).

5. Miss M is really into Robins, and did a lapbook and science unit about them recently. Just when I thought the robins must be nesting somewhere else, we had the opportunity to observe a robin building a nest on the overhang of our house this week!  We watched while a male robin very industriously brought a ton of nesting material up over the course of only a day.    But now we haven’t seen him very much in or near the nest, nor have we seen a female in the nest yet.  We haven’t really done much research about robins’ nesting habits yet, but we are hoping that we will see a pair at the nest soon sitting on their eggs!

6.  Congrats to both Miss M and Mr. E on completing their Geography Challenge at co-op.  Mr. E had to recite his complete address and phone number, as well as identifying the highlighted states on the map in the picture.   Miss M had to know the locations of all 50 states again this year.  Each student gets $5 for completing the challenge for their grade level, so they have a lot of motivation to practice.  🙂

7.  Miss M spent some time cooking this week.  I finally had the confidence to let her loose in the kitchen (after helping her select a recipe and making sure she found all the correct ingredients.  I actually left the kitchen and sat in the dining room (close by so she could ask any questions!).  She did an excellent job making these M & M Blondies all by herself.  She also make some pizza dough with very little help from me.

Not pictured:

History:  We finished up our Civil War unit with a few more book basket selections read.  We’ll be studying our state’s history in an informal way over the summer.

Spelling/Reading:  Miss M finished up lesson 36 in Logic of English Essentials with another perfect score on the end-of-week assessment! Yay, Miss M!  We’ll now take a break from spelling lessons over the summer.  I think we’ll do the last few regular lists from Essentials in August, and start over the with the advanced lists by September.   Mr. E checked off about “three and a half” more lessons of LoE Foundations.  He read all of “Clifford the Big Red Dog” and part of “A Fish out of Water” (two scheduled books in the curriculum), plus did two lessons with spelling lists.  I would still like him to finish up the remaining 4 lessons currently written in the Foundations curriculum sometime in the next two weeks.

So, other than those few spelling/reading lessons for Mr. E, we’re basically done for the year other than testing and fun stuff like field trips and a couple other fun “at home” activities I want to do to wrap up the year.  🙂  Next week Miss M has standardized testing from Monday through Wednesday for most of the morning each day (once travel time, breaks, etc are figured in).  That will involve me and all the kids as well, since we test with our co-op.  I’ll be administering a test to a different age group of students (other than Miss M’s group), and the boys will play with other kids too young to test.


Just for fun, here are my favorite “Cute Toddler” shots of Mr. J this week:



Enjoy the rest of your weekend!


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

Homegrown Learners

Book Discoveries this Week: Plagues, Pox, Pestilence and Fast Supercars May 8, 2013

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:06 pm

It’s always interesting to see what my boys, ages 4 and 6, pick out at the library when they browse in the non-fiction section.   I’ve heard that many boys gravitate toward this area of the library.  My boys have gone in phases.  I remember Mr. E (now age 6) going through a phase at about age 3 where he wanted to hear any and every book about sports we could find at the library.  Mr. E and Mr. K have both gone through phases where they wanted books about cars and other vehicles.  Various science topics, weapons and war in general are often popular with the boys.

Lately, they haven’t ventured much into the non-fiction section on their own.  While they’ve enjoyed history and science-related books I’ve selected as a part of topics we are studying as a family, they have gravitated more toward Star Wars, Ninjas, and Super Heroes for their book selections.

This past week, however, they came away from the non-fiction section with a big stack of pox-plaguesbooks to bring home.  I think they chose Pox, Plagues and Pestilence by Richard Platt more because of the outlandish illustrations of giants rats, bugs and germs than because they were really excited to learn about disease.  They were actually surprised to find out that this was a true book!

Pox, Plagues and Pestilence details the history, causes, effects, cures and more for many of history’s worst diseases — the black plague, small pox, malaria, influenza and more.  The pages are very busy, full of lots of illustrations and small boxes of text.  I think this very visual presentation was part of what kept the boys listening…for over 45 minutes while I read almost all of the book on a recent afternoon!

I asked them several times if they were ready to be done hearing about death and disease…but no, they wanted me to continue.  I thought the author did a pretty good job of giving death statistics and describing the effects of the diseases without being unnecessarily gruesome.  One word of warning for those with a young audience like mine — there are a couple references to diseases being transmitted sexually.   But those references are minor and easy to edit out for an audience not ready for that sort of discussion.

fast supercarsMany of the books in this most recent library stack are about cars.  I was surprised at how much I myself was draw into Fast! Supercars by Ian Graham.  Mr. K picked this one out on a recent night when I was on duty to read bedtime stories to the boys.  I told him I wasn’t sure we had time for the entire book…but I kept on reading to the end because I was interested too!

Now, before you are too amazed, I do have  to say that I am a sucker for anything having to do with transportation history.   🙂  Fast! Supercars covers a lot of historical ground about the cars that were the fastest in their day, and many that broke the land-speed record at various times in history.  People have been trying to beat the land-speed record for well over 100 years.   I was vaguely aware of that, but I had no idea that more recent land-speed records were set by jet cars and rocket cars — or that the current land-speed record holder broke the sound barrier traveling over 700 miles per hour.  The boys and I all thought that was pretty amazing!

It’s always amazing to think about how much random information the boys are picking up from all these books they select at the library — and how much it adds to their imaginative play.  Just today I overheard the boys pretending that some of their lego weapons could infect the bad guy minifigures with the black plague or smallpox.  🙂

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


Robins Lapbook and Backyard Birds unit May 7, 2013

Filed under: Science — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:46 pm

I’ve been meaning share about Miss M’s Robins lapbook and our unit on backyard birds for a while, but I just haven’t gotten around to it.  🙂  This year Miss M (age almost 9, 3rd grade) took an interest in the robins we were observing in our yard and she decided she wanted to learn about them in more depth.  We were only able to find one book solely devoted to robins at the library (that was available — we were on a long waiting list for a couple others that didn’t arrive in time).   Even though Miss M was most interested in robins, we took this opportunity to get books about other birds we see in our yard, as well as a few other nature-related books:

bird books

The books in the picture were some of Miss M’s favorites:

We also checked out a few assorted field guides — the most useful one was a guide for kids that focused on birds from our state.  We might buy a copy of that one.

Miss M also requested a lapbook on Robins.  I was beyond thrilled to find an excellent, free lapbook from Dynamic2Moms (Scroll down toward the bottom of the page to see the Robins unit).    Most of  Miss M’s lapbook came from that file:

Robins Lapbook 2013

We also found inspiration and information from the following sites:

American Robins @ Animal Diversity Web

Robins Lapbook and Unity Study @ Homeschool Creations

American Robin @ Journey North

American Robin @

Various youtube videos of baby robins (I forgot to bookmark which ones we watched, but if you search terms such as “baby robins hatching”, you’ll find some neat videos!)

Miss M’s bird unit will culminate with an Ornithology class this Friday at a nearby nature area — though I guess it is really more of a “continuation” of her interest in birds.  Though our formal study for school on birds is finished, she can often be found in the yard or at one of our windows observing what the robins are doing in our yard.  🙂

Linking up with Science Sunday @ Adventures in Mommydom!

Science Sunday


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