Homeschool Discoveries

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

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


E is for Educating Myself…and for End! April 21, 2013

Filed under: News and Info,Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 9:35 pm

I missed my usual Friday (or Saturday) wrap up post for this week, because I was furthering my education as a homeschooler by attending the annual MACHE conference in Rochester, Minnesota.  MACHE is the Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators.

I’ve attended the conference two previous years when it was held closer to my home in St. Paul, MN.  But this was the first time I made the conference more of a getaway.  I went to Rochester with two friends, and we shared a hotel room on Friday night and enjoyed our fun dinner out and staying up late chatting about what we were learning at the conference. Good times!

I enjoyed hearing several informative and entertaining speakers, browsing curriculum, and making a few purchases (nothing too major or exciting this year!).

The kids got the thrill of daddy being their “substitute teacher” on Friday while I was gone.  🙂  I’ll wrap up last week and the upcoming week at the end of this next week.

E is also for End!  As in, maybe someday winter will actually end in Minnesota (though I don’t think that end is actually here yet, with more snow in the forecast this week).  Here’s what we woke up to on Friday morning as I was getting ready to leave for the conference:

Snowy april 2013

Yes, that’s another 6.5 inches of snow.  Luckily most of it has already melted.  But things are still very not-spring-looking outside.

With our unseasonably cold weather, it is hard to believe that the end of our school year is fast approaching.   We have three “regular” weeks of school, then we have our “testing week” (MN is a state that requires annual standardized testing, and we will test over three days with our co-op), and our last week of school (which is made unusual by Miss M’s birthday, a final co-op meeting/picnic, and preparations for a Memorial Day weekend trip out of town).

Of course, learning never has to “end” even when we take a summer break.  (Though one wonders if even at the end of May if the weather will still only feel spring-like…or if we are just going to skip spring this year and go right into summer weather!).  This summer we’ll review math facts, the older two kids will learn typing, and we’ll study some Minnesota history.  And then we’ll start adding subjects back in sometime in July.

I’m linking up with Blogging Through the Alphabet at Ben and Me!  It looks like I’ll be about the 50th blogger to link up for the letter “E”.  Wow!  Head over there to see what other bloggers have thought up for this letter.

Blogging Through the Alphabet


B is for Birthday…A Birthday interview with Mr. E! March 25, 2013

Filed under: Fun Stuff and Extras,News and Info — kirstenjoyhill @ 9:44 pm

Happy 6th Birthday to Mr. E!  We love making a special day for our kids’ birthdays.  The birthday child gets to choose the menu for the day, an outing or “field trip” (along with a day off from homeschool for the school-age kids), and an evening family activity for after dinner.

For this birthday this year, Mr. E chose Fruit Loops and Blackberries for breakfast, ham, E 6th birthday breakfasteggs and couscous for lunch, burritos from Chipotle for dinner and chocolate-dipped apples and strawberries for dessert.  We went to The Works (a small science and engineering museum) this afternoon, and had an impromptu stop at Ikea for snack since our trip to the Works was shorter than we expected.  All in all, it was a fun birthday celebration for Mr. E and everyone in the family.

In honor of his special day, here is a birthday interview with Mr. E:

1. What is your favorite color? Yellow or as E loves to say, “ye-yow”
2. What is your favorite toy or thing to play with? Red Darth Vader Light Saber
3. What is your favorite thing to do outside? Snowball fight
4. What is your favorite tv show or movie? Star Wars
5. What is your favorite thing to have for lunch? Ikea mac and cheese

6.  What are you really good at? droideka rolls
7. What is your favorite game? Settlers of Catan
8. What is your favorite snack? Blueberries
9. What is your favorite animal? An angry bird
10. What sport do you like best? Soccer
11. What is your favorite book? The Padawan Menace
12. What would you like to learn more about now that you’re 6? Legos
13. What is your favorite part of the Bible? Genesis 1 — I like that God makes the whole world!
14.  Where would you go if you could visit any place? The Ocean
15. What is your favorite movie character? Princess Leia
16. What is your favorite school subject? Spelling
17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? Princess Leia Bird stuffed animal
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Cream of Wheat
19. What is your favorite holiday? My Birthday
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? An Astronaut!

Happy Birthday, Mr. E!

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


On Time Changes, Internet Connections and Vintage Books March 13, 2013

Filed under: Books,News and Info — kirstenjoyhill @ 12:46 pm

I’m sure I’m not the only one that feels thrown for a loop by the Daylight Savings time change over the weekend.  The semi-annual time change seems to get harder the older I get and the more kids whose time schedules I have to manage as well.  🙂

On top of the time change and the usual life excitement and distractions, we’ve had ongoing internet connectivity issues that have seemed particularly bad the last several evenings.  Tony spent a while on the phone with tech support last night and a few changes we’ve made to our set-up might help…or we’ll have to replace some of our equipment soon!  So, all that adds up to having a hard time finding time to blog the last few days.

I’ve recently downloaded several vintage English books on to my iPad — books covering topics like  grammar, spelling usage and composition.  I just love looking at vintage books.  Having finished up Sentence Family (review coming soon!), I decided we would start the vintage story Grammarland by M.L. Nesbitt.    We read the introduction today, and I was struck by the quote, “For who could imagine a king or queen saying, ‘I is,’ or ‘you was,’ or ‘it wasn’t me.’  No one speaks that way except people who have never heard of Judge Grammar.”     Now, I think I have heard plenty of people say, “It wasn’t me!”   At least, plenty of children in my house.  Or maybe they are more likely to just say, “Not me!”.    I would venture to guess that “Not I” and “It wasn’t I”  sound pretty formal to most 21st century readers/listeners.   I love the formal style of this 1878 story, but it will be interesting to see as well how many other grammar conventions have changed in the past 135 years!

I was also struck by a little statement in the introduction to The Modern Speller by Kate Van Wagenen, another book I downloaded “just for fun.”    The book starts out by mentioning that this book emphasizes teaching spelling by the Dictation Method — essentially with full sentences instead of lists of words because it helps the student move toward real composition.  The author states, “It is because of this great gain that in all modern schools, teachers are beginning to recognize the advantages of teaching spelling by the dictation method.”    Maybe the modern schools were doing this in 1916 with Van Wagenen wrote her spelling book, but clearly this knowledge was lost somewhere along the way…since all “modern” schools when I was a kid and most schools and spelling methods today teach with a list of words.  🙂  I’m curious now as to how this dictation method exactly worked itself out in these “modern” schools of 1916.


Happy Birthday, Mr. K! February 6, 2013

Filed under: Fun Stuff and Extras,News and Info — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:28 am

DSC00453Happy 4th Birthday to Mr. K!  We started celebrating last night by having two neighbor families over for cake and ice cream.  For today, his birthday day, our family tradition is to let the birthday child pick the menu.  Mr K picked cinnamon rolls and boiled eggs for breakfast, macaroni and cheese with hot dogs and Cars soup for lunch, and Fish Tacos for dinner with French Silk Pie for dessert.  We’re celebrating our 100th day of school this morning, then Mr. K wanted to head to the Minnesota Children’s Museum in the afternoon, followed by a movie night tonight after dinner.

In honor of his special day, here is a birthday interview with Mr. K:

1. What is your favorite color? green
2. What is your favorite toy or thing to play with? toy monster truck
3. What is your favorite thing to do outside? play in the snow
4. What is your favorite tv show or movie? Avengers
5. What is your favorite thing to have for lunch? Storm Trooper Macaroni Cheese

6.  What are you really good at?  Taekwando (which is funny because we’ve never taken lessons or gone to a class for this!)
7. What is your favorite game? Boomer Wings, a game I made up
8. What is your favorite snack? Pancakes
9. What is your favorite animal? dolphins
10. What sport do you like best? Baseball
11. What is your favorite book? A Pokemon book
12. What would you like to learn more about now that you’re 4? Incredible Hulk
13. Where is your favorite place to go? The Mall to ride on rides
14.  Where would you go if you could visit any place? Grandma Hill’s house
15. What is your favorite song? I like a song I made up called “How Low You Go and How High You Go”
16. What does Daddy do at work? Math and Science
17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? My stuffed animal Luke Bird and Han Solo Bird and Chewbacca Birds
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Apple Cinnamon Rolls
19. What is your favorite holiday? Christmas
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? A Race Car Driver

Happy Birthday, Mr. K!


Happy Blogiversary to Me! January 15, 2013

Filed under: News and Info — kirstenjoyhill @ 9:36 pm

I missed marking the actual one year anniversary of the first post here on Homeschool Discoveries.  I realized after I posted my weekly wrap-up last Saturday that my “blogiversary” is that day, January 12th.

I’ve really enjoyed the past year of having an outlet for my thoughts on homeschooling, a place to share books we’ve enjoyed, and once again having a record of our week-to-week homeschool life.

It’s been harder the past couple months to find time to write, but my goal is to get back in the swing of things with the new year.  We’ve finished several read-alouds, nearly finished two whole history units, and made a few curriculum adjustments — plenty to write about.  And while this is primarily a homeschooling blog, I might write about a few home-making things this year too.  I figure it relates….because homeschooling usually happens at home, right?  😉

Thanks to all of you who read and comment!  It makes me feel good knowing I am not just writing into empty space.  🙂


First Day of Home School, 2012-2013 September 1, 2012

Filed under: News and Info — kirstenjoyhill @ 3:17 pm

We had our sort-of-first-day-of-school on Thursday (more on that in my week-in-review post), and we took our annual “new homeschool year” photos.

Miss M is now in 3rd grade:

Mr. E is a Kindergartener:

Mr. K is a three-and-a-half-year-old Preschooler:

And Baby J is 10 months old as of Thursday:

And here’s my best attempt at getting them in a “school photo” all together:

Check out more homeschool photos in the “Not Back to School Blog Hop!

Not Back to School Blog Hop


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! 🙂


Closed: Curriculum Clean-Out: Preschool/K Package Giveaway! July 30, 2012

Filed under: News and Info — kirstenjoyhill @ 7:52 am


This is now closed.  Kim (Comment #43)  is the lucky winner.  I’ll be sending Kim an email, and if I don’t hear back from her within 48 hours, I’ll select another winner. Thanks all for entering!!!


I’m participating in the Summer 2012 Curriculum Clean-Out hosted by Jolanthe @ Homeschool Creations!  This link-up is full of give aways from bloggers who want to get rid of homeschool items that are sitting on the shelf gathering dust.  I will send one lucky reader a package of four items for preschool or kindergarten age students:

This package includes:

  • Playful Learning: Backyard Discoveries (easy nature-related science activities)
  • Mother Goose Math (nursery-rhyme themed math activities)
  • Teaching a Young Child to Read by Wood Smethurst (simple activities to work on reading skills)
  • Preschool Projects: Construction (ideas for a PreK or K unit study on this topic)

Would you like to win all four of these items? Just leave a comment on this post! You can get a second entry by subscribing via email or RSS and then leave a comment letting me know that you subscribe!

This giveaway is open to US addresses only.  Entries will close on August 4th and a winner will be selected via random number on August 5th.

Be sure to visit the Curriculum Clean-Out link up and enter some of the other give aways too!