February One Thing Wrap Up

I am a member of the Homeschool Alliance, which Julie from Bravewriter runs. One of the principles we were introduced to is the One Thing principle. Focus on one thing for a month. It can be something you want to improve on, something you want to add to your homeschool or life, anything- but just one thing.  This goes along with what Gretchen Rubin says in Better Than Before,  something along the lines of- You improve what you track. 


For February I wanted to have one thing to focus on in our homeschool. I asked Jack what subject he would do every day if possible, of course he chose science. I asked if he could do one science which one would it be, he chose physics. So we made physics our one thing for February.  I gathered a few books to have on hand. My favorite is Physics for Every Kid by Janice VanCleave- the activities are quick and easy and most of the supplies are things you have on hand around your house. 



We did a physics project every day that we did school during February.  This was usually 3 days per week. Yes we had a light schedule due to ski days, park days and other activities. 


We both enjoyed this month of physics. One thing that I have noticed is it got Jack back into experimenting and doing projects. He is now waking up with an experiment or project already on his mind.  We are planning to continue focusing on one thing per month and have already chosen Astronomy and Rocketry for March.  Okay that might be two things, but they go together well. 

Have you tried the One Thing principle? Want to share your experience in the comments? 






Physics February week two

This was another fun week in our physics study. 


First up: Heavy Air from Physics for Every kid. 




Next: making a bubbler to study how the air displaces water.  I didn't get a picture of this one, but we did have some fun with the balloons afterwards.





Last:  Seeing if the swing of a pendulum changes if the length of the pendulum is shortened. 



Choosing one thing to focus on doing well this month has worked wonders for us. I'm starting to think about what topic to do for our one thing next month. Math keeps coming to mind. It would be perfect since Pi Day is next month.


Nature study this winter.

We have had a cold, wet winter in our area. It sometimes makes doing nature study outdoors difficult because we have little ones in our group.  We had to cancel a couple of nature days in December due to the cold and rain and I knew it was time to come up with an alternative plan for bad weather days. 

This past week, nature study fell on a cold day so we decided to go to our local wildlife museum for some nature journaling. 


Our local wildlife museum consists of hunting trophies from a local hunter so it is a interesting place to hang out. 




We walked through the whole museum, which takes about a half hour, listening to the audio provided.  While they walked the boys tried to decide on something to add to their nature journals. 


Jack decided to draw the leopards spots. They sat and did a quick sketch.  


Since this week it was just the three older boys, they asked if we could walk to the river nearby. The cold obviously wasn't an issue for them. 

They walked down to the river, skipped some stones and ran through some of the tunnels that were nearby.  We saw ducks and a few birds. 

I also took plenty of pictures for some future nature journaling at home. 

Night at the Museum Fair

This past weekend, our homeschool group held a Night at the Museum fair.  The children picked a character from one of the Night at the Museum movies to be for the fair.  They would hopefully dress like the character, present a "museum" type display for the character and then if they chose they could give an oral presentation. 

Jack chose to be Teddy Roosevelt.  


For his display he made a model of the Badlands. 



He also drew a map of Sagamore Hill. 




He gave an oral report, detailing the major events in Teddy Roosevelt's life starting with his birth and ending with his death. 


Some of the other presentations were: Jedidiah Smith, the Egyptians, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Capuchin monkey,  and Escher.  





This was a really fun activity and I am looking forward to doing it again. 

Non-violence and civil rights.

I've been trying to write this post for over a year, but each time I get started we get swept into it again. I have had people ask how I got Jack started in studying this topic and how I introduced it. Honestly I didn't do a thing. He got this started all on his own. Once he was going I tried to answer his questions and provide materials for his consumption. How I think it got started?  

From a very young age Jack was obsessed with Albert Einstein. He wanted to read books about Einstein but at 5 years old we had a hard time finding a book he could read on his own, with enough information to satisfy his interest. I ran across the manga biography series Great Figures in History. We bought the Einstein and he wanted more. So I bought the Gandhi book, followed by the Mandela book, then Mother Theresa. He couldn't get enough of them. I think these are what planted the seed. It took years for the seed to start growing but eventually he was asking more and more questions.  

When he was nine he wanted to learn more about Gandhi and I tried to find more for his age, which was hard. They were either to simple or too adult.  Eventually we let him watch the movie, with us of course.  He had so many questions. We tried to answer them as best we could and researched what we couldn't.  During our conversation we brought up Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr.  He had read the Mandela book and wanted to know more about him. So we research more. This was about the time that the movie, A Long Walk to Freedom came out. My husband and I watched it first, and decided to let him watch it. It really fanned the flame. I remember he watched it on a Friday before our homeschool group park day. We were over an hour late, because he had so many questions and the questions didn't stop for days. 

Through our research we also learned of the documentary, A Force More Powerful.  I would highly recommend this to anyone. It is a wonderful look at non violent protests throughout history and their effect. I also liked that it looked at some of the well known protest through the lives of participants who were not as well known as say Mandela or MLK jr. 

During our research, it was mentioned more than once that Gandhi was a big influence on Martin Luther King Jr. and our civil rights movement in America.  We started watching and reading what was available. There is a great episode of American Experience about the Montgomery Bus boycott. 

Last year on Martin Luther King Jr. day I took him to see Selma. It was an amazing experience to be in the theater that day.  As we were standing in line to get tickets, an older couple started sharing their experiences of living through the time of Martin Luther King Jr. and what she remembered.  

Just recently we were able to attend an event at our local university and the main speaker had interviewed Martin Luther King Jr., marched at Selma and attended his speech at the March on Washington. 



This has been one of my favorite rabbit trails in our homeschooling experience and a perfect example of how I want all of our homeschool experience to be.  I can't wait to see what else we will explore on this subject and where it takes us and especially where is takes Jack. 

January homeschool review

This year has been a hard one homeschool wise. We just haven't hit our groove, which has been odd because with Jack we have always had our groove.  He has always been easy to homeschool.  I'm not sure if it is him or if it is me, but this year we have been struggling. 

Early in December, I decided that we would take time off until January. Our schedule was busy already with holiday activities and I could take the time to decided on a game plan for the rest of our school year. Call it professional development.  On January 4th I was still not ready to start school, but we tried. The first day we found ourselves back where we left off. In a rut. Unhappy. This wasn't what I wanted for our homeschool.  I called another time out and started doing some serious reflection and learning on what I could change.  

Enter Julie Sweeney and Bravescopes. I have been following Julie's scopes since the beginning, but still hadn't managed to keep up on watching them all.  Specifically I listened to the Morning Routine scope and the Enchanted Education scope. It was just what I needed.  In talking with a few friends it dawned on me that Jack was bored...out of his mind. He is the child who only needs to hear something one time and he has it. He is the child who moves at the speed of light through concepts and understanding.  He is the child who can carry on scientific conversations with college students. And here we were trudging through a curriculum. And that is what it felt like. Trudging.  Okay so how could we change this. 

We are bagging most of our curriculum. I know. Part of me cringes at this thought.  We are bagging our schedule. Ouch. That one is hard for me too. Here is our plan:

Morning Routine:

  • Wake up, read, play.  He always reads in the morning and I am not going to rush him anymore. 
  • Breakfast and animals. He always comes out of his room dressed so that is not an issue. He will eat breakfast, usually with a book in his hand and then turn on the lights for his lizard and snake. 
  • Morning Time- We love morning time. We will read our current book club read, science, astronomy, history, whatever. Rich and varied. 
  • Table time- math, Bravewriter class, and whatever else I feel like we need to work on. 
  • Lunch break. Food and movement. 
  • Project time. The time after lunch we will work on science or history projects. I have a friend who does science one week and history the next, this gives them time to go deep.  I'm not sure how this work for us yet, if we wills witch every day or go by the week. I kind of think we will just go with the flow. 

You will notice that we also signed up for one of the Bravewriter online classes. I've been homeschooling for 16 years. I have never outsourced a class. We have never had a co-op that offered classes. It's time for that to change and I felt like this was the perfect opportunity for us. So far we love it. I would highly recommend Bravewriter online classes. 

My main goal with these changes is to slow down, allow him time to engage with learning that interests him, and allow time for enchantment.  

This week our learning plans are:

  • start reading Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea for book club
  • Work on a display for our groups Night at the Museum activity this weekend, he is doing Teddy Roosevelt.
  • Study astronomy- books, telescope
  • Our Bravewriter course. 
  • Harry Potter- he read the first four in one week and is now reading the fifth. This has taken up most of his spare time. 


The Hobbit book club meeting

This past week we had our book club get together to discuss The Hobbit. The general plan was to have the kids dress up if they wanted, have each child prepare a project based on their favorite part of the book, have each child tell everyone their favorite quote, and then move on to a Hobbit tea and discussion of the literary elements of the book.


First we had to set the stage. A quick quote on the chalkboard by the front door, excuse the sloppy writing, and The Hobbit soundtrack on Pandora.


Jack did some perler bead projects.  Bilbo's sword, the dragon's eye, Smaug, and a hobbit door. He also made a hobbit sign which I didn't get a picture of.


Here is sampling of projects from a few of the other kids.


A sample of the food for tea.  There was a lot more than this and like true hobbits they ate it all.


For our last book club, we introduced a simple plot map, for this one we introduced the hero's journey and talked about how it correlated with the plot map.  I know, why would we introduce the hero's journey to kids so young?  Because it's awesome and we think they can understand it if it is explained and we take the time to make sure they understand it.  And I think they all did learn something from it, even if it was only "without the trials and tests the book would have been boring and Bilbo wouldn't have changed" which was what they said when I asked them about taking out the middle part of the hero's journey.

After the discussion, the boy who made dragon's head also brought a bow and arrow to shoot it with, so they all took turns with that.


As everyone left, I gave them a small little treat bag with a ring pop, gold coins and a blue glow stick.


The outside of the treat bags.  The kids all loved the treats.

We also took a vote to decide our next book. The Black Stallion won.  I wonder what activities we will think up for that one.

Morning meeting

A few weeks ago we added morning time to our homeschool routine. We are still tweaking it and making it ours, but here is what we have right now.


I like having a checklist to keep in our basket and mark off.  Right now this all takes us about an hour. The top rows of books have chapters that stand alone, which is why we rotate through them. I find on chapter books we do better if we read them daily instead of rotating through them. We both have a hard time if the story continues and we take too many days off between readings.

We usually start by reading from our astronomy book, 365 Starry Nights, then I continue to read while he adds a drawing to his astronomy notebook. After he is finished with that he works on a geography project- pin it map, coloring book or map puzzle. If I am still reading after he gets finished with his geography then he has a coloring book that he can color in either botany or Pixel Power.


Don't worry, Moby Dick was put aside for now and replaced with Peter Pan.

He also has the option to work on a handicraft while I read. I expect that will be used more as we approach the holidays. 

For memorization right now he is working on learning the poem Invictus.

Overall, we are loving our morning meeting. It has given our read aloud time priority and we are really enjoying all of our books. I love how much we learn in such a short period. It really packs a punch.


Weekly wrap up

Our homeschool this week:

Last week we added in the rest of our subjects for the year. We are still settling in with the new routine. Added to that one of my adult children moved back home this week, so our school room that we just got settled in is back to a bedroom. Late nights with the moving and friend issues also make the week a little rougher than usual. But we survived.



We had a wonderful hike with our nature group. The weather was just about perfect this week. We were able to find some cool things to include in our nature pal exchange package that we will be mailing out later this week.


Jack has started working in the Botany coloring book once each week. This week his page was on plant cells and I remembered this model kit that I had ordered. He enjoyed putting it together and putting it on display in his room.


He reviewed the land and water form pin it map that he had memorized last month.  This time working outside keeping his sister company while she put up some Halloween decorations.


All the botany has spurred a renewed interest in his microscope and making slides.  Some that he made: a peacock feather, an eyelash, a piece of the shed snake skin, water from a puddle outside in the chicken pen- eww,   a leaf and more.

Carving pumpkins.


At park day we played a few Halloween games and did some experiments with dry ice- boo bubbles and film canister rockets. 


Saturday morning we went to a car show and all abilities fair in our town square.  Jack loved seeing this tank up close.  He also made a paper and duct tape rocket and then launched it into the air. The rockets went really high. We were impressed with the set up.


We have been having fun getting ready for our big Halloween party tonight.


Explorer fair

Our homeschool group tries to have at least one fair each month. We give the fair a theme, but are somewhat open to how it is interpreted by the children. They can do any project they want, or no project at all. They can give an oral presentation along with it, or they can just put their project on the table for display.  We try to have these fairs at park day where it makes it more convenient for the members who live farther away to make the trip.

This past week, we had an Explorer Fair.  Jack chose to do his presentation on Teddy Roosevelt.  To prepare we read a couple of short biographies and also watched a documentary about Teddy;s younger years.


For his presentation, Jack first showed a teddy bear and explained the story behind the naming of the teddy bear. Then he gave an oral presentation about Teddy and some of his adventures, including his camping trip with John Muir in Yosemite.   Then he read the quote often referred  to as The Man in the Arena.

Other fairs we have had in the past include: biography, wonder of the world, literature, science, math, geography, history, and Christmas traditions around the world.


Two other children gave presentations on Neil Armstrong and Eric the Red.

Book Club

Recently I started a book club for the kids in our homeschool group. Well actually I started in hopes of getting my own son interested in reading harder, bigger, longer books than he usually did.  You see, Jack tends to get in ruts or jags as they call them. It happens with food, movies, clothes, and books.  He has book that he has read 20 times. He practically has them memorized. However, once he gets in a jag it's hard to get him out of it. I decided that maybe peer involvement would be a good way to help him stretch and go beyond.

I had him choose the first book. His older siblings had been trying for ages to get him to read one of Brandon Mull's books. He chose The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull.  It wasn't a classic, but it was a good size book and he was excited about the club.  

The kids were all excited about the book even though some had read it before. I chose to keep this club to ages 7 and up because I wanted to be able to have good literary type discussion and not have to worry so much about book content.

While everyone was arriving I had the kids start thinking up a name for the book club. After everyone was there, I passed around folders for everyone to keep their papers in and a simple plot diagram for them to fill in if they wanted.




First, we discussed what a protagonist is and who they thought the protagonist was in the story. Then we did the same for the antagonist.  I then explained how if you had a protagonist and an antagonist in a book there would be conflict.  



Next we discussed the  six different types of conflict. I had a big pad of paper and on it I wrote man vs. six times. Then I asked them to tell me what types of conflict there were. The first they came up with was man vs. man since I led them into it by explaining the protagonist vs. antagonist first.  Between the parents and the children we were able to come up with all six kinds. The only one they had trouble with was the man vs. machine so I gave some leading clues.


Next we discussed the climax of the book. I gave them the definition on my big chart first and then let them discuss and brainstorm on what part of the story was the climax. A few times I had to bring them back to the definition to see if their theory fit.



After they had discussed the climax and seem to come to an agreement, I introduced the theme.  I thought this would be better after discussing the basic plot so they would have a better idea of the theme. It was still hard for them to get on the right track. After a bit, one of the parents suggested good vs. evil as a theme and we discussed that to see if it fit. In this book there was a part where the kids were doing something wrong, but trying to do the right thing. So we also discussed that and maybe times when it would be appropriate. 

That was it for the discussion on this book. I didn't want to overwhelm them, a lot of them weren't aware that we were going to be discussing it in this way. The kids then decorated book marks and also filled out note cards suggesting names for the club and book suggestions for  future club picks.


Before the meeting I had chosen five books for the kids to vote on and choose a book for the meeting next month. I had: The Hobbit, The Birchbark House,  Captains Courageous,  From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and Around the World in 80 Days.  The kids voted and chose The Hobbit.


The kids also brought their favorite candy, enough for everyone, labeled with the super power you gained from eating it. This was a major part of the book. Each child took a turn to tell us about their candy and pass it out. 

And they voted on a name...The Big Bull Riders. What can I say there are a lot of boys in the group.

Wild explorers club


If you haven't already heard of Wild Explorers Club, you are missing out. This new program has been the answer to some of our prayers. We don't have a scout program that we feel comfortable being a part of in our town, yet we always wanted a similar program for our kids to participate in. Luckily this came along at just the right time for Jack.


He eagerly awaits the assignment each week and it has given us yet another excuse to spend more time out in nature doing what we love.


It's great to see him thoughtfully  go above and beyond for each assignment.



Miss Cairo got her own Wild Explorer badge for her backpack since she accompanies us on all of our adventures.



For his birthday I gave him a special present with more items for his explorer pack and a little note telling him how much I have enjoyed our adventures together.


He has recently completed the first badge, wolf. I will post how we celebrated next week.


Poetry tea time


One thing we are trying to make part of our routine this year, is poetry tea time.  It's been kind of hard to find a slot for it with our added co-op activities this year, but I think we finally found it's place.


We each pick a drink- tea, hot chocolate, or hot apple cider. I try to remember to have a treat on hand. I let him pick which book we will read from.


Sometimes I have something healthy ready. Cheese and crackers are his favorite.


Sometimes it is inside, but more often than not it is on a blanket outside or sitting on the front porch. And it is quickly becoming one of our favorites times!


I guess I am having a hard time getting in the groove of blogging again, but here is to new beginnings.

Here is an update on how our 5th grade year is going so far.  The Charlotte Mason method is working so well for us this year. We are really trying to embrace it and it feels like coming home. It just fits.  While we aren't using Ambleside Online, we do use some of their suggestions and then use the method and make our other curriculum choices fit. 

Starting today we are back to our full schedule with all of our subjects. It only took us three months to add them all in.


This is our basic schedule. I print a copy out each week that he can use as a checklist each day.  Each day I go through and add what specific lessons he does for each subject in our FunSchooling planner.

We have planned more activities with friends this year including a nature study group and a book club in addition to our weekly park day and field trips.

For the nature group we are being really low key with planning. We go and the kids explore. I was kind of worried about our lack of planning and direction. As the weeks have progressed though, I see the kids really doing well with it. I was worried without direction it would turn to playing and nature study would be forgotten, but that hasn't happened. If anything each week they are doing more and more.

Our first book club meeting will be this week. For the first book I let Jack choose and he picked The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull.

This was a favorite author of his older siblings. You might have heard of his other series Fablehaven.  At this meeting the kids will choose from 4 other books for the next meeting.

We also have at least one fair per month with our homeschool group. For example, this week we are having an Explorer's fair. The children will pick an explorer, or an aspect of exploring to learn about and do a project or presentation for the fair. We have had some fun with these in the past. So far this year we have had a biography fair and wonders of the world fair- Jack did the Dalai Lama and Eater Island for those.






5th grade!

Oh my goodness! I can't believe that my youngest child is in fifth grade already! Times flies! We started back to school about two weeks ago, though I hesitate saying that since we believe learning is a lifestyle and you should be learning something everyday.  I didn't have much planning to do since we are just continuing with a lot of the same books and curriculum as last year.


We will be finishing Saxon 5/4 and starting 6/5.


 Finishing up Story of the World volume 3 and starting Story of the World volume 4.  We are trying to switch over to more of a Charlotte Mason style homeschool this year. For history this means that we are focusing on narrations and starting a Book of Centuries.


Science was a hard subject to figure out for me this year.  Jack is a science geek. He loves it. One things he doesn't like is story science or little kid science as he calls it with pointless activities. He wants it to have experiments but not busy work experiments.  We decided to try Exploring Creation with Botany by Apologia.  I liked that it had note booking and made it feel like we were kind of following a Charlotte Mason approach and that it will help us along with our nature journals. He likes that the activities don't seem like busy work.


Geography:  We are doing the map work included with Story of the World.  We are also working through the Geography Coloring Book. The idea of a geography notebook intrigues me but I need to research more ideas for content.  We are also using Pin It Maps. Right now we are doing the Land and Water form map. We will also be working with the North America Map since it goes along with our history.

For our language arts studies, we will be using the following:

  • Easy Grammar- finishing up level 4.
  • Handwriting By George- right now this is handwriting and copy work. He likes George Washington and enjoyed learning about him. This was a win-win for both of us.
  • Bravewriter Partnership Writing.  We are using the method and doing the projects outlined where they fit. Right now he is working on a presentation about the Dalai Lama for a biography fair this week. Reading, taking notes, and writing cards for the presentation.


Foreign Language:

He is still working on Rosetta Stone German.


Nature study/botany curriculum


Nature Study/Botany:

Along with this we are doing nature notebooks and a group nature study that I have planned based off of these books. I will post the plans for that soon.

4th grade curriculum part 2




Language arts:

  • Handwriting Without Tears Cursive (we are do Printing Power for review)
  • Language Lessons for the Elementary Child by Queen Homeschool
  • Spelling Workout

* a few weeks in to our school year and some of our language arts plans are changing.  We will be finishing out the Explode the Code series and Handwriting Without Tears.  I think we will drop Spelling Workout. I am adding in Easy Grammar 4 and will decide once we get that if we will continue with Language Lessons. 

We will be using Partnership Writing by Bravewriter this year for writing. For copywork I am having him choose quotes to copy into his commonplace book.

History: we will be finishing Story of the World 3 and moving on to Story of the World 4.

Science: We have been using Pandia Press REAL Science Odyssey.  I like the hands on activities in this curriculum.  Science is his favorite subject and because of that he actually knows a lot of the material already.  When I can I amp up the Pandia Press curriculum by either adding new higher level info, videos or activities.  Like last year when we were going through the life science curriculum we adding in dissection.  He has fun with the activities in the book so I don't want to do away with it altogether.  * I am looking into Standard Deviants Chemistry for him right now.

Geology- He wants to learn what my freshman daughter learned last year at college. Luckily her professor sent home some books he was throwing out.  Along with those I picked up a roadside geology book.  We live in an area with a variety of geological landforms so we will be planning lots of field trips to those areas to study.

Math- we are finishing up Saxon 3 after a bad experience with Teaching Textbooks last year. Once that is finished we will be starting  Saxon 5/4.

Astronomy- We are using 365 Starry Nights along with astronomy notebooks from Imagine Childhood.

Read Alouds- We are using the Burgess books, George Washington's World, and Farmer Boy to start.