Homeschool Discoveries

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

Collage Friday: Testing and our “Official” Last Day May 17, 2013

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 3:08 pm

Whoo-hoo! It’s Friday, our standardized testing is done for the year, and we’re calling it a wrap on this school year.

Here are a few highlights from our week:


1.  Miss M had our required-by-state-regulations standardized testing this week.  We opted to do the Iowa Test of Basic Skills with our homeschool co-op.  It gives Miss M a quiet environment away from siblings, (and with no worries that I might not be a fair test administrator to my own child).   On Monday and Tuesday I read a test to a younger student from another co-op family (and the boys played with other siblings too young to need to test).  Then on Wednesday while 3rd graders and up continued testing, I took the boys to play at a park.

2.  I told Miss M I would treat everyone to lunch after she was done with the last day of the test.  She picked Little Ceasar’s Pizza.  I asked her if that was what she really wanted, because I didn’t mind going to the “nicer” pizza place…but no, she really wanted the cheap pizza as her post-test reward.  🙂

3. Miss M is thrilled to now have more time for outdoor pursuits…like trying to climb the tree in the front yard.

4.-5. Miss M and best friend Miss J from across the street had the brilliant idea of a “free art” stand.  They get to have fun chatting with neighbors and others who stroll by, and I get the side benefit of less paper accumulating in the house.  I told them they can definitely do this one again!

6.  We had one surprisingly hot day in the middle of the week, surrounded by warm or even cool days.  The temperature was over 90 degrees on Tuesday, but unfortunately our outside faucets were not on yet and I couldn’t manage to get them on myself.  So, the kids enjoyed water guns and buckets of water.  Mr. J can’t quite figure out the water guns yet, but he could definitely use part of one of the guns to cool off the “old fashioned way”  (aka just dumping the water on his head!).

7.  Today was our “official” (as I determined it) last day of school for this school year.  I had originally planned this for next week…but the way our schedule was shaping up, we’ll not have a single “ordinary” day.  And we always call a summer break by Memorial Day. So today (among a couple other errands), we bought a few new books for summer reading at Half Price Books, and went to Panera for a treat and to discuss our favorites, least favorites, etc from this year (that will deserve it’s own post, perhaps, another day).   This afternoon I’d like to do some clean out of school supplies, books and papers…but I am not sure that is going to happen.   I guess that’s what “break” is for!

Between our Monday-Wednesday testing and our “last day” today, we went to one of our favorite museums, The Works, on Thursday to see a new exhibit and do the new activities in the “design lab”:


It feels good to be on break…like maybe I can catch up or begin on a few projects and goals of my own.   I promised the kids I wouldn’t bug them about any summer schoolwork/review for at least two weeks (though I am still going to try and keep Mr. E practicing reading…I’m afraid even two weeks would be too long of a break for him with his budding reading skills!).

Then once June rolls around, we’ll add in math review/games, learning to type (at least for Miss M, and maybe Mr. E), and a summer study on our state’s history (coupled with plenty of field trips, of course).  At some undermined point (July?), we’ll add back in a few new lessons in some subjects…leading up to two weeks of vacation in the end of August, then a full start to the new school year on September 3rd.  Good times!  But for now, bring on the Summer Bucket List!

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

Homegrown Learners

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

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

Collage Friday: Crazy Weather, Robins and Lego Star Wars April 26, 2013

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 9:27 pm

It’s been two weeks now since my last full “”weekly highlights” post.  Last Friday and Saturday I was attending our state’s homeschool conference, and by the end of the weekend I just wasn’t up for trying to remember all that we had done the week before.  🙂  So…now I have to try and remember what we’ve done for two weeks!

We’ve had some crazy weather, that’s for sure!

Spring 2013 Weather


Maybe now we are finally done with snow, and can move on with actual spring.   We are all so ready for nicer weather! Today (the first day of truly warm weather so far this spring),we did a very minimal amount of school work and did some “fun” errands (including a book sale…I love those!), and spent time outside.


Here are a few of our learning highlights from the past two weeks:




1.  – 2.  As usual we’ve been playing lots of RightStart Math games…but it’s a bit of a blur and I can’t remember which ones.  🙂

3.  Mr. E (Age 6, Kindergarten) has been working on beginning multiplication and on learning to tell time to the minute in RightStart C.

4. In Logic of English Foundations, Mr. E is up to Lesson 103.  In the picture he was working on a “silent E sort”  — deciding the reason for the Silent E in a variety of words.  Miss M (Age almost 9, 3rd grade) finished Lesson 33-34 of LoE Essentials in the past two weeks.  This week she had a perfect score on the end of lesson test!

5. – 7.  The past two weeks Mr. K (age 4, Pre-K) has been very into mazes, coloring create-your-own Lego Mini-Figures (I don’t know why I haven’t printed these out before…I guess I kept forgetting!  I think about a dozen of these were colored by the two boys this week!), and lots of pretend play, of course.

8.  Mr.  J (18 months), has been into making messes, of course!

9.-10.   Mr. E finally got to do his Lego Star Wars expert day presentation at co-op (it was postponed from earlier this month when co-op was cancelled due to bad weather).  He did an awesome job!

11.  Miss M is in the drawing/geometry section of RightStart D.  She doesn’t love it as much as she did when we did similar lessons in RightStart C, and she is amazed that I don’t always know exactly how to draw the figures (the manual does not give step-by-step instructions).  I keep reminding her that until the drawing/geometry in RightStart C, I had never even used a triangle or T-square!

12.  After being very interested in Robins and reading a number of books about them, Miss M decided she wanted to make a lapbook about Robins.  She worked on that over the past two weeks and finished it up today.  I’ll give that the attention it deserves in it’s own post sometime next week!


Have a wonderful weekend…we’ll be out enjoying our lovely warm weather!!!!


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

Homegrown Learners

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


Collage Friday: Being Flexible and Taking a Few Rabbit Trails April 12, 2013

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 4:44 pm

We had a few unexpected happenings this week….

April Snow 2013

Yes, we got an April snow storm.  The forecast was for such vast quantities of snow that the building our co-op meets in preemptively planned to be closed on Thursday, the day our co-op meets.  So even though we got nowhere near the foot of snow the forecasters said we might get, we still had no co-op.  And the roads in our metro area were definitely icy.  So, Mr. E’s  Star Wars Lego collection was all packed up with no where to go.   He will do expert day later this month instead.


Here are a few other learning highlights from our week:



1.-2: Baking Soda and Vinegar make for a fun rainy snowy afternoon activity.  Even though we’ve done these activities before, it still makes for a fun discussion on various science topics. The kids were thrilled that I gave them a whole bottle of vinegar and a whole box of baking soda and said, “have at it!”

3.  For math this week, Mr. E (Age 6, Kindergarten) continued to review 2 digit addition with Right Start C.  We also hit the lessons with making groups from stars on the flag (pictured) and grouping the dots on a Chinese checker board.  He wasn’t so keen on these activities.  I think this is where his young age for the book comes through — he barely had the patience for the flag, and didn’t have the patience to finish the checker board activity.  I bet it will be a much different story when we hit the checker board again at the end of C (since that will be about a year from now!).

Miss M practiced two digit by two digit multiplication in RightStart D, and did some multiplication and division word problems.  We’re kind of skipping around at this point…next up for her are the drawing lessons at the end of D.

For math games this week, we played Speed (both M and E), Skip Counting Memory (Game P2, both kids), and Find The Two Factors (game P29, just Miss M).

4.  For History and Science we took a few “Rabbit Trails” in our book basket.  We’re studying the Civil War for history, but we spent some time this week zeroed in on a topic of interest — a confederate submarine called the Hunley (Read my post from Thursday to find out about a book that inspired this rabbit trail).   In the science basket, we now have books about backyard birds, as well as books for the unit I planned on Simple Machines. Miss M told me she was really into Robins right now (we have one, pictured in our top collage, that hangs out in one of our trees quite a bit) and wanted to learn more.  So, we found one book devoted to robins, a few books about other birds we have in our yard, and a few books about backyard birds in general.

5.  For Spelling/Phonics this week, Mr. E completed another five lessons of Logic of English Foundations (he’s up to lesson 95 — it’s hard to believe there are only about another 20 lessons left in terms of what is currently written…he’s almost all the way through!).  He liked the assigned reading of “The Foot Book” and also continued with the next chapter of the Little Bear book he started reading last week.  Miss M worked on lesson 32 of Logic of English Essentials.  This wasn’t her best week testing-wise, but at least most of the mistakes were small ones.


In other fun this week…




1.  We took a trip to Minneapolis Central Library downtown this past Sunday.  It’s truly one of my favorite destinations.  🙂  Behind Miss M is the “Milestones Collection” of important first editions or other rare children’s books that don’t circulate.  One of these days Miss M and I want to make a special trip to go to that room and read a couple of out of print Maud Hart Lovelace books that are hard to find.  🙂

2. Kids making individual apple pies

3.  It was my birthday on Tuesday.  We enjoyed these yummy pastries from my favorite bakery for breakfast (and snack, and breakfast the next day).  We didn’t do a lot of special things on the day of my birthday, but Tony did bring me flowers and made us a yummy dinner and dessert!

4. Best “CT” (Cute Toddler or Cute Trouble) chaos moment of the week — helping himself to the stickers from the art cabinet

5.  Isn’t Mr. J a cute Toddler Darth Maul? 🙂


I just realized that Mr. K, the four year old, didn’t appear in any pictures this week!  I think he was too busy playing with Legos and pretending to be a super hero to stay still for any pictures.  😉


Have a wonderful weekend!


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

Homegrown Learners

Collage Friday: Simple Machines, Math Success, and a trip to the Zoo April 5, 2013

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 9:51 pm

Things finally seemed more spring-like this week here in Minnesota!  After a nice Easter weekend as a family, Tony left for a trip for most of the week — then he took after afternoon off on Friday after returning home so we could take a whole-family field trip to the MN Zoo!

Here are a few highlights from our week:


1.-2. Simple Machines:  We started a unit on Simple Machines for science.   There are a couple lessons from BFSU Vol. 2 on this topic I meant to look at…but meanwhile, the kids have been busy with library books on the topic and creating their own simple machines (like inclined planes, levers, and pulleys).

3.  Also science-related:  Miss M has taken a real interest in backyard birds, especially robins.  Here the kids are watching a video I found for them about baby robins.  They loved the cute baby birds that seemed always hungry with mouths open wide.  🙂

Not pictured is anything about our new history unit — we started studying the Civil War this week!

4.  Mr E is mostly ready for his turn at “Expert Day” next Thursday at co-op.  He selected, printed, cut and glued pictures on his board.  We also worked together on his 3 minute presentation, and he practiced it for Grandma and for friends.

5.  In Spelling/Phonics this week, Mr. E completed 5 lessons of Logic of English foundations.  He’s up to lesson 90 already!  He liked a list of words early in the week that he turned into two silly sentences: “Mothers have apple seeds.  Birds have buckets.”  (I think mother, apple, seed, bird and bucket were the five words on the list).  Meanwhile Miss M finished lesson 31 of LOE Essentials.

6-7.  Math can sometimes be a struggle for Miss M.  We experience more frustration with math than with any other subject.   We made a few small tweaks this week that I felt really made a big difference for her:  We tried to do math most days earlier in the school day than we have in the past, we put classical music on in the background, a few days I photocopied a section of the teacher’s manual (with answers then blacked out on her copy) for her to “read along” with me, and I was able to identify the fact that one thing that was frustrating her on Thursday was a lack of space for long multiplication problems, so on Friday I taped up a large sheet of paper to do the work on!  I think we “officially” did 3 or 4 lessons of RightStart D this week.  But I am super pleased that Miss M went at the beginning of the week having no idea how to do two digit by two digit multiplication, and by Friday told me it was “easy peasy lemon squeezy”  (a favorite expression of hers).

Mr. E worked on Roman Numerals this week in RightStart C, as well as playing a few games!  Games played this week by Miss M and/or Mr. E included Rows and Columns, Corners, Speed, and a four-digit subtraction game (that I have already forgotten the name of) that proved to be way more fun than I thought it would be!

8.  Most weeks lately we’ve headed to the Gymnastics studio for open gym, but this week we went to an open gym/indoor play area on Monday afternoon (we needed to be out of the house for a bit while some work was being done).  J was thrilled that he could play here too (he’s not old enough to play at the gymnastics open gym.  We also took a trip to Trader Joe’s afterwards as we were quite close by.  We bought some treats and fun food items.  “Cookie Butter” might be one of the tastiest foods ever invented!

9.  Most of our snow has finally melted! Grandma Karen came for a few hours on Thursday, and the kids enjoyed doing sidewalk chalk with Grandma.

Minnesota Zoo Outing:

We enjoyed our trip to the Zoo this afternoon, though the temperature started dropping quickly after we arrived, and by the time we were walking from the “farm” area back to the main buildings, it was snowing!  We weren’t really prepared for the sudden change in the weather, but had fun anyway.


Just for fun…here are some of my favorite pics of  Mr. J, our 17 month old from this week.  Toddlers are such a riot!


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

Homegrown Learners