Homeschool Discoveries

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

Back to Blogging?!?! February 4, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — kirstenjoyhill @ 1:39 pm

I think I will try again to blog.  No promises on how long this will last or how much I will post though.  🙂  I’ve decided that I miss blogging about books, and using that as a means of keeping track of what we read and how much we like (or don’t like) various books.   I don’t miss trying to wrap up every week with lots of pictures, so I probably won’t do that.  I might share some thoughts about what we like or don’t like about various curricula we are using.

Here’s a quick update on everyone and what we are doing/using:

As a family, we are doing history from Creation to the Fall of the Roman empire with Mystery of History as our spine, and we’re using Science in the Ancient World by Jay Wiley for science.

Miss M is 10.5 and in 5th grade.  She’s using CLE for math (plus Life of Fred Fractions once a week and Xtra math for fact practice) and Treasured Conversations for writing and grammar, as well as Language Mechanic for some grammar and mechanics practice.  She already finished Sassafras Science Botany and is reading Quark Chronicles Botany.  We are going through the Susan C. Anthony list of Top 1000 words (Spelling Plus/Dictation Resource Book), and marking them up Logic of English-style for spelling.  Plus history book basket reading, and read aloud/read alone lit from a list I made.  She’s taking guitar lessons and does Bible reading and SOAP journaling every day. She finished a typing program earlier in the year and has had good intentions about doing German with DuoLingo, but hasn’t progressed very far yet.

Mr. E is almost 8 and in 2nd grade.  He is using Beast Academy for his primary math (he is advanced in math, so we are part way through book 3D right now).  He is also doing Spelling Plus/Dictation Resource book in an LoE style for spelling, and we are slowing going through Getting Started with Latin…both for learning Latin and for some light grammar.  I’ve been using English Lessons through Literature 1, though he hates the copywork so we dropped that early on.  We also started the year with him doing Elson Readers for reading, but now I am letting him choose books for free reading and having him read  a minimum of 20 minutes per day.  We also do daily Bible reading and sometimes SOAP journal writing during our school time.

Mr K turns 6 on Friday and is in Kindergarten.  He is doing Logic of English Foundations for reading/spelling/handwriting (we are a few lessons into book C).  For math, we finished up Singapore Essential K book B back in November, and decided to try out Miquon for him since he loves cuisinaire rods.  We’re using parts of the Orange and Red books.  He also listens in for English Lessons through Literature and Bible reading.

Mr. J is 3, and loves to play and find ways to make mischief.   We’re not doing much preschool yet…maybe next year.  🙂


N is for Newspaper July 11, 2013

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


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


Items for Sale! July 17, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — kirstenjoyhill @ 7:38 am

I have a few items I’m trying to sell that have been languishing on my shelves — Things we are done with and things we decided not to use and things I wish I could have used but it just never worked out that way.  😉  I’ll be linking up today with the Curriculum Sale @ the Happy Housewife, so check that link out if you are in the market to shop for other items!

  • A Reason for Handwriting Book D (Cursive, for 3rd or 4th grade, with Bible verse copywork) — Brand new, $12 SOLD
  •  The Making of America: The History of the United States from 1492 to the Present by Robert D. Johnston (National Geographic-published elementary textbook, good condition) — $5
  •  “Mudpies to Magnets” and “More Mudpies to Magnets”  (preschool science books – Ex-Lib copies) — $5 each
  •  Kindermath Teacher’s Manual (Preschool or K level math program — buy workbook separately from Hearts at Home Store or other source) — $3
  •  PHM First Grade Music (includes CD — more info here) — $5
  •  Science Play by Jill Frankel Hauser (science experiments for ages 2 to 6) — $3
  •  Harcourt Health and Fitness (2nd grade health textbook) — $4

 The “Fine Print”: Please plan on paying via PayPal. Prices do not include shipping.  If you are only interested in one item, plan on adding about $4 for media mail shipping or $6 for priority mail.   Kindermath is light enough to go 1st class for slightly less.  Email me at kirsten at tonyandkirsten dot org with the item(s) you are interested in purchasing and I will weigh the items and get you a more specific quote on shipping.   I am located in Minneapolis, MN and would be glad to discuss meeting locally for pickup/cash payment. I will update this post as any items are sold by deleting sold items.

Thanks for looking!


Top Ten Questions about Homeschooling June 26, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — kirstenjoyhill @ 8:58 am

I’ve liked several of the “10 in 10” blog hop topics organized by the iHomeschoolNetwork and linked up to Top Ten Tuesday @ Many Little Blessings for other topics, but I haven’t been organized enough to participate in any of  the “10 in 10” topics yet!  I was clued in to this week’s topic early enough today to get a post written, so I thought I would join in the fun!

So here are the “Top Ten Questions People Ask Me About Homeschooling”:

1.  Why do you homeschool your kids?  We did not make our decision primarily for academic reasons, though I do really appreciate all the wonderful academic opportunities we have with homeschooling to give our kids an excellent, personalized education.   We chose homeschooling because of the unique opportunity it gives us to help our children develop Godly, Christ-like character and to be the primary influences in their lives during some very formative years of their lives.

2.  At what point did you decide to homeschool your kids? I can honestly say we “decided” or at least both agreed it was a path we would consider before we were even married!  Both my husband and I were really impressed with several homeschooling families we knew in the church we attended before we were married.  As we discussed a number of topics while we were courting, the topic of education came up and we both agreed that many of the homeschooled kids (and former homeschooled kids who were now college students) were some of the most mature, well-grounded kids we had ever met.  We both thought at that point that if we did get married and have kids, homeschooling is something we would like to do.  So after we did get married and then have kids, we already had the path of homeschooling in mind and planned to head that direction right from the start of our parenting journey

3.  Is it hard to homeschool with a baby and a toddler and a couple of older kids as well? Yes, some days it is very challenging!  Other days, it doesn’t seem so bad as the boys play together and holding/feeding a baby is pretty conducive to doing school simultaneously.  Planning ahead helps.  I wrote a post a couple months ago with a few more thoughts about homeschooling with a new baby in the family.

4. Is homeschooling expensive?  It doesn’t have to be!  I feel like I am a “moderate” spender when it comes to homeschooling expenses.  So far, we have typically spent a few hundred dollars per year on curriculum and activities.  I try to find bargains whenever I can (often by buying used), but I am also not afraid to make good investments and to value my time by not creating everything myself.  Some families spend a lot more than we do.  Other families make do with spending much less, and all still give their kids a good education.

5. Do you have to be super organized and creative and love planning to homeschool?  Okay, so no one ever asked me that question exactly.  But people do say to me on a regular basis things like, “I could never homeschool because I am not [insert description here] like you”….where the “blank” in that sentence is often “organized”, “creative” or “a planner.”   The answer is definitely, “No” — you don’t have to be “like me”  in those ways to homeschool.  It’s true that homeschooling isn’t for everyone.  BUT, I make certain choices in my homeschooling because of my personality and strengths.  There are many homeschooling methods and curricula that are very conducive to homeschooling for people with strengths, weaknesses and personality types very different than mine.

6.  How do you find time to cook, clean, shop and do everything else you need to do AND homeschool? I don’t clean my house very often.  Seriously.  It is hard to find time for everything, and I am not always the best at balancing other household demands along with homeschooling (or along with parenting in general).  I could improve at this and need to get my kids more involved, particularly with cleaning and dishes.  On the other hand, kids are only little once and I am more concerned with raising Godly kids than having a spotless house.

7. Do you have a lot of rules and regulations you have to follow? Do your kids have to take standardized tests? Every state has different laws for homeschooling, but in our state (Minnesota), is fairly moderate as far as regulations go.  For each student (age 7 or older by October 1st), we file an annual form with our school district and agree to take a nationally-normed standardized test of our choice each year.  We also agree by law to provide instruction in basic subject areas such as math, communication, science, social studies and health/P.E.   That’s it! The state does not tell us what books or curriculum to use or exactly what to teach.   We don’t have to keep track of hours or days of schooling or report what we do.  I’m thankful for the freedoms we have!

8.  Do you have to stay home all the time if you homeschool?  Well…No…and Yes!  There are so many opportunities in our area for homeschoolers: co-ops, classes, lessons, sports, performances, group field trips, individual field trips…  You could easily spend all day, every day engaged in some sort of activity.  But if you spend too much time doing all those great activities, it will be pretty hard to get those “3 R’s” done, not to mention history, science and all the other subjects.  I find I need to guard our time carefully.  We participate in a co-op twice a month.  During our school year we go on a couple field trips per month and the kids may be enrolled in one (or possibly two) extra curricular classes, sports or other activities at a time.  We have to say “no” to a lot of interesting, fun worthwhile activities, playdates and so on in order to have enough time at home to get our homeschooling accomplished!

9.  Do you plan to homeschool your kids all the way through high school?  I get asked this a lot, actually.  And in fact, no, we don’t plan to homeschool through high school.   I’m always a bit nervous when this subject comes up among homeschooling friends, because I’ll feel like it’s an unpopular choice.  But before you throw the rotten tomatoes for thinking I don’t have the guts to finish the homeschooling job, hear me out.  🙂

Remember those homeschooling families I mentioned in question #2?  A lot of them sent their kids to public school for high school.  Not because they didn’t think they could do a good job of education in the higher grades or they didn’t want their kids to miss out on prom.  Instead, it was because by the time their kids were high school aged, their kids were ready to be more of a positive influence in their school than the school environment would be a negative influence on them.  They were ready to be  a shining light in a public school environment and share Christ with their friends.  We would love to have our kids in a school environment in high school to work alongside them to show Christ’s love to their friends.  We see it as a stepping stone to them being even more independent in college — perhaps doing what we did and living in the dorms and sharing Christ with friends on their dorm floor.

We’re still six years away from having a high school student.  Proverbs 16:9 (ESV) says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”  We will, of course, continue to prayerfully seek the Lord regarding our plans.  If being in a school setting for high school isn’t what is best for one or more of our kids (or they aren’t mature enough for that step), we will of course do what is best for that child.  If one or more of our kids really don’t want to go to a school setting for high school, we won’t “make” them do it — we really need them to share in this vision with us it’s going to work.  Or maybe we’ll be convinced that this just isn’t a good plan.  All in all, I’m glad we still have a few years before we have to make any decisions.  🙂

Finally, on a lighter note…

10.  I’ve heard that a lot of people get the question, “But what about socialization?”  They are worried that homeschooled kids just won’t learn to communicate with or get along with other people, I guess.  No one who has ever met our kids has ever asked this question.  Instead they are probably thinking to themselves, “Do these kids ever stop talking???”   The answer is no…unless they are sleeping, and sometimes not even then!  😉

Do you have any burning questions about homeschooling? Are there any great questions that people often ask you if you do homeschool?

Visit this week’s Top Ten Tuesday @ Many Little Blessings to read more Top Ten Lists about this topic and more!

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings


K is for Kirsten…J is for Joy (aka me!) May 8, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — kirstenjoyhill @ 5:33 am


When I joined the “Blogging through the Alphabet” challenge, I had great intentions of writing a separate post for each letter of the alphabet about something homeschooling-related.  I made a document with ideas for every letter…but “J” really stumped me, and I missed that week all together.

I even considered having a “jammies” day just so I could do “J is for Jammies.”  But unlike (apparently) many homeschoolers, the thought the thought of a day in my jammies and having to see my kids in their jammies all day was enough to drive me batty.  I am so not a jammie day person! Even my babies get dressed for the day! So, with that personal quirk out there, I was at a loss for anything related to homeschooling that started with “J” that I would actually have anything to say about, and my ideas for “K” weren’t much better.

Then it occurred to me that I could take an easy out with this one since my first and middle initials are K and J.  And since I am the homeschooling mom writing this, that’s related to homeschooling, right? (I know, it’s a stretch).   I know I like to “get to know” the writers of the blogs I read, so maybe someone will want to get to know me, Kirsten Joy, a little bit better too. 🙂

Places I’ve lived…: I currently live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Growing up, I lived in several other towns in Minnesota (Mankato, New Ulm, Willmar and St. Cloud).  I also lived in Ames, Iowa for eleven and a half years (college plus the following 8 years). I tell people I’m “originally from” St. Cloud, MN since that’s where I graduated from high school and where my mom still lives, though I actually only lived there for four years.

When I was growing up I wanted to be…: For a long time I wanted to be a chemist or a computer programmer.  Then my mom told me that chemists make bad things that hurt the earth and that by the time I grew up that computers would program themselves.  😉  Next I decided I wanted to be a civil engineer and build bridges.

In college I studied…: My first major was, in fact, Civil Engineering.  However, after getting a “D” in freshman physics, I took a hard look at myself and my abilities and realized that my true love was all things related to language and communication NOT science and engineering!  I changed my major to English with an emphasis in Rhetoric and Professional Communication.  I was considering pursuing a career in technical writing or technical editing, but God had other plans for my life!

After college I…: While finishing up college at Iowa State University, I felt called by God to pursue full-time Christian ministry after graduation.   I did not grow up going to church, but I placed my trust in Christ and became a Christian my junior year of high school.  As a freshman in college I found a great church where I grew in my faith, made lots of close friends and spent a lot of time involved with various campus ministry endeavors.

I had the opportunity after graduation to continue working with this church and campus ministry as a full time staff member. This was an incredible opportunity to be paid to do things I absolutely loved, like women’s ministry, event planning and administrative work.  I also took on a role as assistant editor for the daily devotional publication of the association to which our church belonged.  I continued in my role as a campus ministry staffer full time until Miss M was born, and then part time until we moved to Minneapolis. I continue editing for the devotional on a quarterly basis.  (Just don’t judge me as an editor by my writing here…I am terrible at editing my own work!).  😉

How “boy meets girl”…:  My husband and I both attended the same church in Ames, Iowa.  We worked together in a few ministry roles, and the sparks flew.  After a short courtship and engagement, we were married in September of 2002…hard to believe it is our tenth anniversary this year! Time flies when you are having fun! Tony was working on his PhD when we first got married, so we knew we would stay in Ames at least until he was done with school.

How I ended up here…:  We moved to Minneapolis, MN so my husband could pursue post-doctoral research.  We stayed after that was over because we didn’t feel like God was telling us to go anywhere else!  Tony left the academic career path for a job in industry.  We love the church that God led us to here and the city neighborhood in which we live.

Why we decided to homeschool…:  The short answer is that we were impressed by the lives of homeschooled kids we knew in our church in Ames (both kids still in school and friends we knew as fellow college students who had been homeschooled themselves).  We wanted to have the same opportunity to influence our kids during their formative years. We hope to use homeschooling as an opportunity to raise kids of outstanding character that we can launch into the world as kids/young adults who will positively impact others for the kingdom of God.

Why I started this blog…:  I had a “general” blog (it started out as our wedding website!) for many years.  It was really just intended for family and friends to read and what I wrote about changed as I changed and as our life changed.  We let the hosting for that blog expire last summer and I realized I missed having a creative outlet for writing.  But I also decided that “this time around” I wanted to focus on a topic I am passionate about (homeschooling, with a focus on books/reading) and reach out to develop broader readership beyond my facebook friends.  I want to share my “finds” and chronicle our homeschool experience along the way.

What I like to do in my “spare” time:  Now that I have this blog, I like to blog in my “spare” time!  Other than that, I really like to cook and bake (I am obsessed with breakfast baked goods!), read books and blogs, and hunt for bargains at thrift stores and garage sales. I also really like playing board games, trying new restaurants and generally experiencing adventures in the city with my family.

What I want to do when I grow up when my kids grow up:  I envision I might have another “career” of some sort later in life.  Maybe!  I day dream about jobs involving books, history, or writing…or maybe I could come up with some combination of the three!  At least I have a while to figure that out.  😉  Just a blog and a very part time editing job is plenty for me right now on top of juggling all the responsibilities of staying at home with my four kids!

Visit the “K” post link-up @ Ben and Me to see what other bloggers came up with for the letter K!


Welcome to Homeschool Discoveries! January 12, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:54 pm

Hi! Welcome to my new blog, Homeschool Discoveries.  I had a general purpose blog for about eight years, and my post topics changed and varied as my life changed through those years as we started our family, moved, changed jobs, added to our family, had various hobbies and interests, and began homeschooling.

After letting my old blog lie dormant for a good part of a year, I decided it was time to leave the old behind and try something new — a blog focused on my passion to share my discoveries along the way in the journey of homeschooling.  I love to share with others about the books we’re reading, the curriculum we are using (or even ones we’re not using but have researched or checked out), interesting websites and more.  I hope this blog will be informative, helpful, and maybe even inspirational at times, just as so many other homeschooling blogs have been that for me.