Homeschool Discoveries

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

Of Book Reports and Ninja Christmas Carols February 2, 2013

Filed under: Books,Creativity — kirstenjoyhill @ 6:15 am

A little over a week ago, Miss M and Mr. E gave book reports at our co-op.  One of the reasons I really like participating in a co-op is opportunities just like this.   The kids get up in front of their class (a group of 8 or 10 students about the same age) and talk about a book they’ve read.  While we can discuss books all we want at home (and we often do), it is a growing experience to organize your thoughts into a few sentences or paragraphs someone else will understand, and getting up in front of a group to share those thoughts.

Miss M is really never nervous to speak in front of anybody, but writing out her book report has caused some stress in past years.  She narrated to me and I wrote it down as a first grader (we were in a different co-op when she was a K’er), then last year as a 2nd grader I thought she should probably be able to write it down for herself — a process which caused a few more tears than I was expecting.  Some of the tears were due to stress at not knowing how to spell what she wanted to say, and some of the stress was due to the difficulty she discovered in explaining the book she selected — she picked a mystery, which was hard to explain without giving away the whole ending!

This year, Miss M made an easier book selection (one of the “Caroline”  American Girl books), and has gained a lot more confidence in her spelling abilities.  In the book report process she mostly needed a bit of help to organize her thoughts and decide which details were important to communicate in order for the plot to make sense.

This was Mr. E’s first year to give a book report at co-op.  He wanted to pick The Way of the Ninja, a favorite Lego Ninjago book I’ve read to him several times.  He didn’t have too much trouble summarizing the plot, with me writing down what he wanted to say.  Prior to book report day, Mr. E was pretty nervous about giving his report in front of his class of K through 2nd graders.  I reminded him that I could listen in and prompt him if he got stuck on a word, and that his friends would enjoy listening to him give his report.  In the end he did a great job, reading some complicated words that he wanted to use and only getting stuck once!

We heard a lot about Ninjas over the last couple weeks with Mr. E thinking about and then practicing his book report.  By book report day, Miss M was inspired to write a Ninja Christmas Carol.   I guess she still has Christmas on the brain!

All of us ended up contributing to this unusual song, written from the perspective of a Lego Ninjago Ninja who has a “True Skeleton” sending him gifts instead of a “true love” — so the gifts take on a bit of a different flavor:

The Ninjago 12 Days of Christmas:

On the first day of Christmas my true skeleton sent to me: One creepy guy

On the second day of Christmas my true skeleton sent to me: 2 fights in the rain

On the third day of Christmas my true skeleton sent to me: 3 dead ninjas

On the fourth day of Christmas my true skeleton sent to me: Orders to find the 4 weapons of Spinjitzu

On the fifth day of Christmas my true skeleton sent to me:  5 rotten fruits

On the sixth day of Christmas my true skeleton sent to me:  6 more skeletons

On the seventh day of Christmas my true skeleton sent to me:  7 explosives in my house

On the eighth day of Christmas my true skeleton sent to me:  8 annoying parrots

On the ninth day of Christmas my true skeleton sent to me:  9 scary monsters

On the tenth day of Christmas my true skeleton sent to me:  10 balls of fire

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true skeleton sent to me:  11 skull motorbikes

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true skeleton TOOK from me: my 12 favorite weapons

(And my apologies if you now have the 12 Days of Christmas or this variant stuck in your head for the rest of the day!)  😉


“The Silly Plant” — A Story by Miss M December 7, 2012

Filed under: Creativity,Spelling — kirstenjoyhill @ 4:57 pm

Two weeks ago, when we were working on Logic of English Essentials List #16, Miss M started writing a story to practice her spelling words.  She didn’t finish the story before the end of that week.  But then when I asked her to write sentences including the “wor” phonogram words she learned for lesson #18, she decided to finish out her story with those words.

She wrote it out in pencil, then I helped her with a bit of editing.  I was so proud of how she spelled very few words incorrectly, and usually picked fairly logical phonograms to spell the words when they were spelled wrong.   Even the grammar and sentence structure was pretty good — especially considering we’ve done very little formal writing instruction (I figure there’s time for that later when we’ve finished our year of intensive spelling instruction!).

Here is Miss M’s story:

The Silly Plant

One day I had some dollars and cents. I spent it so that I could attend a school where I could take lessons on how to grow silly plants.  I get to pour water on my plant. I do not yet know what kind of plant mine is.

But the next day I find out that my plant is a new kind of plant that eats germs.

Today is the last day, and I get to take my plant home.  Now I own the plant. I have a wonderful idea! It would make an excellent gift for Lilly.

So I put the plant in a shoe box and started walking over to her house. But then all of a sudden, the plan started to grow and grow and grow!

“Oh no,” I shouted, “Oh no! It is too big!”

What am I going to do? This is the worst time for it.


“Hello,” said Lilly.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “It’s too big now. I’ll have to grow another one.  It will be a lot of work though.  But I’ll keep my word to give it to you.  Ok?”

“Ok. You know I have a bunch of worms in my back yard,” Lilly said.

“That will be perfect,” I said, “Let’s go.”

“What a wonderful world,” said Lilly, “That’s definitely worth your time.”

The End.


D is for Differences March 14, 2012

Filed under: Creativity — kirstenjoyhill @ 4:38 pm

There’s no doubt that each kid is a unique individual.  I’m sure that this will be true even among my three boys, but I see this difference so strikingly between my daughter (Miss M — she will be eight in May) and my oldest son (Mr E, turning five later this month).

Miss M had a “brainstorming” sort of assignment in her Spectrum Writing workbook last week.  First she needed to make a list of topics she is interested in and knows something about.  Then she picked one of those topics and listed everything she knows about that topic, as well as a list of questions she would like to know the the answers to related to that topic (yes, that’s a grammatically awkward sentence, I know).

Mr. E heard Miss M and I working on this (Miss M talked me into being her scribe so we could get her ideas on paper more quickly).  He wanted to do the same thing.

Check out Miss M’s list of things she knows something about/is interested in:

  • Horses
  • Tea Parties
  • Art
  • Book and Reading
  • Stories about Pets
  • Sea Horses (her “expert day” topic at co-op last year!)
  • Cooking
  • Bunnies
  • Tennis
  • Dancing

Now check out Mr. E’s list:

  • Fighting
  • “The Avengers” Super Heroes
  • Star Wars
  • The Heart of the Shield (a secret weapon from a series of stories about knights)
  • Tree man, an action figure (hmmm…I think he made this one up!)
  • Clone Troopers and Storm Troopers (yep, more Star Wars)
  • Guns

These lists could hardly be more different, huh?

I think I got even more insight into my two oldest kids in the next step of the process.  Miss M picked “bunnies” for her next step and we wrote out a nice list of facts she knows about bunnies, as well as some good questions.  Mr E. didn’t actually want to do exactly what Miss M was doing for his assignment.  He wanted to give me a list of questions and topics — things he is wondering about or wants to know about.  It’s a great list!

  • “The time of history” (he clarified that this is “stuff from a long time ago”)
  • “Roman people in Italy” (Fascinating…not sure if this was a random guess on his part or he remembers us reading about the Roman Empire months ago and where it was located)
  • People that knights fought in the time of knights
  • What were the weapons of people that knights fought?
  • How are crayons made?
  • How are crowns with jewels made?
  • Why do we have bones in our bodies?
  • Why do we have joints in our body? (I pointed out that we’ve been talking about bones and joints in science, but he said his “why” questions had not been answered yet)

He also told me he wants to build a robot, made a real model airplane (not one made out of paper), a model airplane “launcher”, and his own Star Wars movie.

Fun stuff, and fun questions! So, I thought I would ask Miss M a question that might lead her to make a list like Mr. E gave me.  Her response was that she wanted to learn more about horses (that’s her “expert day” topic for our co-op this year), and that she just wanted to read lots of books.

I pressed her a little bit, and she said yes, she did want to do more art projects, and learn history as we read through our history curriculum and learn how to play tennis through the park tennis program again this summer…but what she really wants to do with “extra” time is immerse herself in all kinds of stories.   She wants to read stories, write stories and “play” the stories.  I was the exact same way at her age!  I had insatiable curiosity about things like science and computers as I got older, but when I was a second grader…I was cleaning the library out of stories from my favorite authors and series too.

I just love the different ways that God has created my kids and the differences in their interests…it makes our home an even more lively and exciting place!

I’m linking up with:


“Lego Star Wars: Save the Galaxy” (and the Creative Writing it Inspired) February 29, 2012

Filed under: Books — kirstenjoyhill @ 12:48 pm
Tags: ,

Mr. E really likes Star Wars books a lot, so I think it’s really saying something when he says that “Lego Star Wars: Save the Galaxy” is the best Star Wars book he has read so far.  We found this fun and unique book at the library last week.  It’s an oversize board book with the story of Star Wars Episode IV (A New Hope) told in comic-book format.  But it’s not just any retelling of “A New Hope” — it is very funny and irreverent with lines like “You’ve been Darth-in-Vadered!”

After listening to the story several times and looking through the book on his own a few times as well, Mr. E wanted to write his own story inspired by this book.  He narrated it to me (in the format of a play or screen play, perhaps, given that he gave me a list of characters first), and I wrote it down (some of these are close to being quotes from the book…others are totally made up by Mr E):

A Star Wars Book, by Mr. E


  • Darth Vader
  • Princess Leia
  • Obi-Wan Kenobi
  • Luke Skywalker
  • Han Solo
  • Sand People
  • Batman
  • A Battle droid
  • The death star
  • R2D2
  • Geent Cho (a Storm Trooper)
  • Water Bottle Man (a Storm Trooper)
  • Superman
  • Sarge (he shoots a piece of cheese)
  • Zeebu (a lego guy)
  • Dinosaur Cot (a lego guy)
  • Kungs (a super hero)
  • Batarang Man (a military truck that does Karate)
  • Gimme Twenty (a military truck disguised as Chick the race car)

Princess Leia: Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope!

Darth Vader:  I got you, Luke Skywalker!

Sand People: No Stereo? Who doesn’t have a stereo in their land speeder?

Obi-Wan Kenobi: Boo, I got you Sand People!

Meanwhile, R2D2 is trying to dig for a new land speeder in the dirt

Obi-Wan Kenobi: Here’s a light saber!

Princess Leia: Not you again!

Han Solo: Should I blow up the death star by shooting my gun?

Darth Vader: Search the Can Opener for the crew!

Obi Wan Kenobi: Luke, you must go on without me!

Batman: I’m flying in to the rescue! I’m coming to fight the death star by throwing batarangs at it.

Death Star: I’ll shoot lasers at you!

Zeebu: Hi-Ya! I’ll get you, battle droid!

Batarang Man: Flying to the rescue! I got you, Darth Vader!

Superman: I’m flying to the rescue too! I’m going to break the storm troopers with my super punch!

Princess Leia: {Pew! Pew! Pew!} [Shooting her gun]

Batarang Man: Ouch! Where am I?

Storm Trooper: Your’re in a trap, Batarang man!

Batarang Man: I’ll just throw a Batarang and it will shoot lightning and make a hole and I’ll get out. But wait, how can I get out?

Kungs: Magical, Magical, make the death star a motorcylce! This is Kungs in disguise! I’m coming to get you Darth Vader

Sarge: Yes, it is time to shoot cheese at these storm troopers!

“Chick”:  Vroom!

Han Solo: I’m shooting all the Storm Troopers!

The End!