Homeschool Discoveries

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

R is for Room July 17, 2013

Filed under: Getting Organized — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:00 pm

…A School Room that is.  We have one…but it hasn’t been used for “school” nearly as much this last year as it was at first.

R is for Room

When we first moved into our current house, Miss M was just beginning Kindergarten.  Being that all three of our kids (at the time) shared one bedroom, there wasn’t much room in there for toys.  Our other main-floor bedroom was a playroom/schoolroom.

By January of 2012, Miss M now had three younger brothers instead of two, and she was ready for her own room.  We were also ready for the school room to be a bit quieter place.  So Miss M moved upstairs, and the playroom/schoolroom became a mostly school room, with a few quieter toys.    Here’s a blog post about our overhaul of the play/school room.

This past year, Miss M started doing more independent work — most of which she did at her desk in the school room.  I also found myself often working with Mr. E  while Miss M worked independently — and our talking made it difficult for Miss M to focus.   I had to look all the way back to October to see a school-work “action shot” taking place in the school room (not counting Miss M working at her desk, which she doesn’t really like me taking pictures of).

Meanwhile, Lego play has become more and more of a “big deal” for the two older boys.  And the Legos are in the school room as well.  It’s a catch-22: They are in the school room distracting the big sister…or they are in the boys room with the toddler (and then we either have to keep the toddler out of the room with all his toys or allow him to run amok with the Leogs!).  So, they stay in the school room most of the time, and sometimes we make a rule that they cannot come out until school is done for the day.   But that’s hard for the boys since they are done with their school obligations much earlier than their big sister.

We did almost all our non-independent school work at the dining table this year.  But all the books are kept in the school room!  We ended up many times this year with either a large school room occupied by one 3rd grader doing school work…or a large school room occupied by no one doing school and instead occupied by boys playing blocks or Legos or by a toddler noisily pulling books off the shelf.

I haven’t really figured out the solution to this problem yet.  I would love to find a way to move Miss M to a different spot in the house for her independent work…but she is the type who does not like change and is resisting the idea of being anywhere else in the house.  I’m glad we aren’t starting back to a full schedule until the day after Labor Day this year — because I still need some time to figure this out!

I’m finally caught up on my alphabet posts and I’m linking up to Blogging Through the Alphabet this week at Ben and Me!  I’m also linking up to the School Rooms post at the Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop!

Blogging Through the Alphabetnbts-blog-hop-calendar-2013


Q is for Quotes July 16, 2013

Filed under: Fun Stuff and Extras — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:29 am
Tags: , ,

“Quotes” was an easy choice for me for the letter “Q” in the Blogging through the Alphabet challenge.   I’m a bit biased, but I think my kids are really funny.  Especially, Mr. K (currently age 4).  He seems to have inherited his daddy’s sense of humor.  🙂  I often post funny things my kids say on Facebook to entertain my family and friends, and today I picked out ten favorites from 2013 so far to share with you:


  1. Mr. K:  “If Puffed Wheat cereal is just made out of wheat, then I guess Puffed Ice Cream cereal would be made out of sugar, ice cream, wheat and fruit loops, right?”
  2. Mr. K leans in toward me and q is for quotessays, “Mom, I know what the “s word” is!” Then he leans in closer and whispers, “Stinky!”
  3. Mr. K: “Mom, I’m going to write a book about the ceiling. Will you edit it for me?”
  4. Mr. E: “Mom, I have a different kind of present to give you. I’m not going to sit OR lay down on top of the table today!”
  5. Mr. K: “Can I sometime brush my teeth with ketchup? [pause]…I like getting cavities filled. Can you get me ‘getting some cavities filled’ for my birthday next year?”
  6. Mr. E: (after seeing that our neighborhood Aldi store is completely rearranged): “I know how they did this…some Ninjas came in during the middle of the night and moved everything around.” And then a few minutes later, Mr. K says to a random Aldi employee stocking shelves, “Hi Ninja!” (of course, the guy looked really confused so I felt obligated to explain Mr K’s greeting).
  7. Mr. K: “Did you know that plungers use electricity? A robot told me that.”
  8. When asked by Tony why he kept falling off the couch, Mr. K just answered, “Gravity.”
  9. Mr. E: “I’m the superhero Princess-Man!”
  10. Miss M: “Calculus? Oh, I know all about Calculus…no, wait…I was thinking of Celsius.”



I’m still catching up with my “Blogging Through the Alphabet” challenge posts!  See more alphabet posts at  Since I have ten quotes, I’m also linking up with Top Ten Tuesday @ Many Little Blessings.

Blogging Through the AlphabetTop Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings


P is for Pajamas July 15, 2013

Filed under: Fun Stuff and Extras — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:04 pm

There’s this common stereotype of homeschoolers that we all like to do school in our P is for Pajamaspajamas.   I feel like I hear homeschoolers touting this all the time as a major benefit of homeschooling — you don’t even have to get dressed to do it.  While I am sure this fits and is a benefit for many families, I can assure you that not all homeschoolers like to do school in their pajamas.   We I certainly don’t.

Now, let me just say that I think I must have a “thing” about pajamas.  I have never been the type to want to stay in my PJs all day.  I don’t feel like the day is really started unless I have changed clothes.  I discovered as soon as I had kids that I felt strongly about them only wearing pajamas at bedtime.  You know how most people like have their little babies lounge around in their cute little footie sleepers?  Well, I discovered that this drove me crazy!  So even when my kids were tiny, I still dressed them in “day time” clothes for the day, and the cute footie PJs for sleeping.  Crazy, I know.

Even now, I ask all the kids to get dressed by a reasonable time.  It’s hard for me to feel like they can take their day seriously in their jammies either! I have one kid who wants to get dressed almost as soon as he wakes up, one kid who will generally not stay long in pajamas, and a kid who would barely even change clothes once every two days unless someone made him (the same kid recently told me he wished he only had to take a bath once a year).  And of course there is the toddler, who gets dressed when I want him to.  🙂

We’ve only had an official “Pajama Day” once in recent memory…and it was really quite a while ago.  I am sure a majority of my kids would love it.  Meanwhile, all the other days…we are definitely not doing school in our PJs.  😉

I’m still catching up with my “Blogging Through the Alphabet” challenge posts!  See more alphabet posts at
Blogging Through the Alphabet


O is for Opinions July 11, 2013

Filed under: News and Info — kirstenjoyhill @ 1:41 pm

It doesn’t take long at all to discover that homeschooling is just like a lot of other aspects of parenting — there are lots of people out there with strong opinions about how other people should do it.  From blogs to books to forums to friends offering advice, it’s a sea of often contradictory opinions.

Should you use a text book “school at home approach”, a relaxed approach, a classical o is for opinionsapproach, an unschooling approach or something in between? Should you take a summer break or school year-round? Start academics early or wait? Use an all-in-one curriculum, or piece it together on your own? Is spiral or mastery better for math? Should reading be taught with phonics, and if so what kind of approach to phonics?  Should we use a unit study approach to science and history, or a systematic four year rotation?

I’ve read or heard advice promoting all of these choice and approaches at one time or another.  Sometimes it’s just people shouting the praises of an approach or a curriculum that works well for them.   I like to do that too.  If I’ve found something works, I love to tell my friends about it.

It’s the people with slightly stronger opinions that can be harder to shake off.  I read a blog post earlier this summer that practically claimed it was a sin to not take a summer break from homeschooling.   Other bloggers are almost equally strong in proclaiming that we are modeling that learning is not a lifestyle or that we are conforming too much to the school system if we take the summer off.  Friends try and persuade other friends that curriculum X is the Best Thing Ever and Everyone Will Love It!

I think it’s pretty clear that different choices and approaches will work best for different students and different families.  Not everyone has the same goals.  Not everyone has kids with the same strengths and weaknesses.   We as parents may have different teaching styles and preferences.  We all have different scheduling situations, different budgets, different family dynamics and different climates we live in.  All those things and more can affect our homeschooling decisions.

I love to read what other homeschoolers have to say about their methods, approaches and curricula.  I love to talk shop with other homeschooling moms.  But I also know that at the end of the day, I (along with my husband) need to decide what’s best for our family — for who we are, for who are kids and and for the goals that we feel God has laid on our hearts for our family.

I’m writing this post as a part of the Blogging Through the Alphabet Challenge at Ben and Me (I’m trying to get caught up to “R” by next week!).
Blogging Through the Alphabet


N is for Newspaper

Filed under: Uncategorized — kirstenjoyhill @ 6:00 am

I really wanted to make it all the way through the “Blogging through the Alphabet” challenge, so I am going to try and catch up even though I am a few weeks behind.  🙂  Maybe I can do N, O, P and Q over the next few days to be in time for “R” next week!

N is for Newspaper — A “Neighborhood Newspaper” that Miss M decided to create a few weeks ago. This is Issue #2 (with full names removed for privacy):

Neighborhood News 1Neighborhood News 2

Miss M and Mr. E wrote out the text they wanted to have appear in the newspaper.  This time Mr. K drew a picture and a friend contributed the comic.  I helped with spelling, layout and adding the pictures.   We made a bit less than 20 copies, and Miss M delivered them to neighbors, and friends at tennis class.

The Neighborhood Newspaper is a project that I am definitely going to encourage.  I am hoping that Miss M wants to continue it even beyond the summer!  It’s a great project to wrap into homeschooling.   Miss M and Mr. E can practice writing, typing, photography and drawing.  I’m thinking I should be able to teach Miss M sometime soon how to arrange the newspaper in Microsoft Publisher.   And there are all kinds of possibilities for teamwork and collaboration as other friends want to make contributions (a friend has already contributed a comic for issue #3!).

This post is a part of the Blogging through the Alphabet challenge at Ben and Me:
Blogging Through the Alphabet


Hermann Heights Monument in New Ulm, MN July 10, 2013

Filed under: Fun Stuff and Extras — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:04 pm

During our holiday weekend camping trip to New Ulm, Minnesota just after July 4th, we also took some time for a bit of sight seeing.  At the top of my list of places to see in New Ulm was the Hermann Monument, affectionately referred to as “Hermann the German”.  My childhood memory of this place was that it was a really huge structure, and my memory served me well — the copper statue and base has a total height of 102 feet, and provides a great view of the surrounding region from the viewing area:

Hermann Monument

The Hermann Heights monument comemerates the role that Hermann (also known as Arminius) played in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 A.D. — a victory for Germanic tribes over the Romans.   Over the centuries Hermann became a sort of national hero, and a much larger statue of Hermann can be seen in Germany, somewhat near the site of the battle.  You can read much more about Hermann and the monuments to him on Wikipedia.

In the base of the monument there is a small interpretive center with interesting artwork and displays:

Hermann Monument Interpretive Displays

The displays were quite interesting and I learned much about Hermann that I had forgotten (or never learned) since my childhood visits to Hermann the German.

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A Visit to the Wanda Gag House July 8, 2013

Filed under: Books,Fun Stuff and Extras — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:30 pm

This past weekend we took a three day camping trip to New Ulm, Minnesota.  It’s about a two hour drive from our home in Minneapolis, and is a town I lived in for about four and a half years as a child (from about age 5.5 to age 10).  Besides a fun and relaxing time spent camping, we also did a bit of sight seeing.

Miss M and I both were very excited to visit the Wanda Gag House.  Gag is well known as the author of Millions of Cats, and we have enjoyed several of her other picture books as well.  Gag lived in New Ulm her entire childhood in this house that is now a museum. I thought perhaps the boys would not be very keen on seeing the house — but they were excited to see it too!  So, we all went in to view the house.

Wanda Gag House

This was my first visit to the Gag house as well — The house was not purchased for restoration and preservation until the year after I moved away from New Ulm. The Gag home has been restored in a number of ways to the look it would have had when Wanda and her six siblings lived there.  After many, many layers of paint and wall paper were removed, decorative painting and scrollwork done done by Wanda’s father Anton Gag were visible on the walls!

A number of works of Wanda’s art are displayed on the main floor of the house, while works of art by younger sister Flavia (who was also an author and illustrator of children’s books!), and her father Anton are on display on the 2nd floor and in the attic space.  We learned many interesting facts about Wanda and her family.  One little tidbit I found interesting — the hand lettering featured in Millions of Cats and some of Gag’s other works was not done by Wanda but by one of her younger brothers.  What a talented family!

We bought our very own copy of Wanda Gag: The Girl Who Lived to Draw to take home with us.  We greatly enjoyed this picture book biography on at least two occasions from the library.

Linking up with Fantastic Foto Field Trips @ HSBA Post!

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