Woodworking-The Marble Maze

Marble Maze

Parks received a set of tools this year for Christmas.  Thus, I thought he would have fun doing a block on woodworking and using his tools.  Well as luck would have it, Sims is taking a Wildlife Biology class on Tuesdays this month which is the day that he used to work with my dad doing physics.  I am sure my dad would love to work with Parks on woodworking-right?

Of course.  🙂  Last Tuesday was their first day working together.  I found a project on The Creative Homemaker blog on how to make a marble maze.  This was the perfect first project.  The first week, ,my dad and Parks worked on measuring out the maze, squares, measuring, and drawing straight lines.  They also used the drill to predrill the holes for the nails.  Parks’ homework was to paint the maze.  We used tape to keep the squares nice and square (this was the only part that I helped with.  I helped him place the tape).

Today, they finished up their maze.  They nailed the roofing nails into each corner.  There are a lot of nails in this project, but Parks got through them all today.  I thought he would need the rest of the week to finish it up.  Adding rubber bands around the nails was the final step.  Parks is very proud of his maze.  He is also very excited about his next project!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Gleaning, Cleaning, and Celebrating!

The week flew by!  Monday, we caught up from the fun-filled weekend.  School included reading and easing back into the swing of things after a week off.  Tuesday morning, everyone jumped right back into their normal routines, which was nice.  However Wednesday, I rocked their world by waking up and saying, “No school books today.  We are going gleaning!”

Sawyer picking green beans

Sawyer picking green beans

We have never gleaned before, but I  recently heard of an opportunity that we could join.  We met up with a group of about 12 people at Barbee Farms in Concord, NC.  We pulled into the farm and immediately jumped onto a tractor to take us out to the fields.  On this particular day, the group gleaned the green bean field.  The weather was absolutely perfect.  Clear skies with a gentle breeze.  As this was our fist time, we were not sure what to expect.  Well, it is fairly simple.   The tractor brings you to a field.  You hop off and start picking.  We were spoiled because with gleaning, we got to pull the whole plant out of the ground to pick the beans.  It gave me a major appreciation for all of the workers who pick our veggies throughout the year!  They have a laborious job!  At the end of two hours, all of the beans and people jumped back on the tractor and back to the parking lot.  Here, the beans were distributed to various people who deliver the beans to different organizations and neighborhoods such as loaves and fishes, the battered women’s shelter, and local soup kitchens.

I highly recommend the experience if you ever have the opportunity.  The Society of St. Andrew organizes gleaning groups all over the country.  Not only are you helping your community, you also meet amazing and wonderful people.  The kids learned about different crops, rotating crops, the importance of honey bees on the farm and so much more!

Today, we were back to school. They were extremely productive and motivated to work today.  I am not sure if that was due to the excitement of yesterday or the fact that they had their Muddy Boots Club at Latta Plantation today.  Either way, it was a terrific way to end a terrific week!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

First Quarter Update

8 weeks down!  Can you believe that we are done with our first quarter of school?  So what is going well and what had to change, because you know things never go as planned?


Parks is doing well.  He is enjoying his science program, Exploration Education, a ton!  In fact, I am pretty sure that he will be finished with it before the holidays.  He also enjoys grammar (I know odd, right?).  Reading is starting to come a little easier.  He is open to reading books a lot more this year.  Dancing Bears (our reading curriculum) is also doing a terrific job of teaching him how to break down words.  I started him with the Apples and Pears Spelling program (which works in conjunction with Dancing Bears nicely) at the end of last year.  He is continuing with this program.  He does very well spelling aloud but has a difficult time putting the words down on paper, so that is something that he is working hard on.  Parks is also thoroughly enjoying his heroes and saints block!

Sawyer is working hard on her time management this year.  She is very aware of what she needs to get done each day which was a difficult task for her last year.  She is able to do her grammar (Growing with Grammar) with minimal assistance.  She did not enjoy doing Exploration Education for science, so we made a switch.  I recently read a review of The Gumshoe Archives on Only Passionate Curiosity’s Blog, and I decided to give it a try.  So far (she is only on the first book), she is really enjoying the book.  She is still doing vocabulary with the program and some simple projects.  She is getting the information through reading and not so much hands on which is what works for her.  We are also focusing on poetry with her Man/Animal block which she really enjoys.   Sawyer is continuing to use Apples and Pears for her spelling, and Teaching Textbooks for her math.

Sims had a rough time getting into a groove, but he has found it now and is thriving.  Sixth grade is a jump in the amount of work in most subjects.  He is doing very well with increasing his independence with his work.  He started the year with Apples and Pears spelling, but he quickly got frustrated with it this year (which disappointed me greatly because he does very well with it).  Thus, we switched over to IEW’s Phonetic Zoo.  So far, he LOVES it!  He gets to do it on his own which is important to him.  He also enjoys that he has to master the list before moving on.  He is still using Dancing Bears for reading fluency, and I hope he will pick Apples and Pears up again-but I am not going to push my luck.  He is also loving Exploration Education for science.  The projects are fun and do a terrific job teaching the concepts.  He is doing very well with the vocabulary portion of the science as well using the T method.  Math is taking more time, but he is mastering it well.  He gets frustrated when he doesn’t get a 100%-he has high expectations.  LOL.  Originally, the plan was for him to do a block on Rome, but he asked to start with business math/economics.  Thus, he is reading through Striker Jones and going over it with me.

Overall, I think we have had a terrific start to the year.  We are getting outside which keeps everyone happy.  Everyone is getting into the groove of doing daily work and an individual unit study.  Let’s hope the momentum continues through the next quarter!

Nature Study and Outdoor Education for Exciting Adventures


I love it when others give me an idea for a post.  Today’s post is courtesy of Terri over at the Homeschooling Doctor.  If you have some time, go check out her blog!  She has fantastic information on nutrition and healthy eating, in addition to homeschooling.  In my previous post, I wrote about the importance of the outdoors for our family.  My kids love to go for a hike in the woods (which is funny because if you ask them to walk a mile down to the store, they moan and groan like you are torturing them immensely).  So how do we make hiking in the woods educational?  I have a couple of things that I typically do.

1.  I try to have another person with us.  I know, I know.  We should be happy going on our own, but bringing someone along or hiking with someone else adds a new element.  The extra person always has information that we can learn from-ALWAYS.  Also, an extra person gets my children talking and teaching.

2.  This is a sneaky one.  I don’t tell my kids that I do this but it works every time.  I pick something to find and I take pictures of it throughout the hike.  After a couple of pictures, they stop and start studying it as well.  Then they start looking for what ever it is that I am hunting for too.  Some ideas include-trees, leaf shapes, leaf colors, different types of pine needles, seeds, wild flowers, animal tracks, animal homes, tree bark, letters in nature, mushrooms, flowers, flower petals, snails, birds, bird calls, bird feathers, rocks, ground covers, berries….the list goes on and on.  Try to find something easy that uses one of your senses.

3.  Nature study.  We typically stop and do a nature study where ever we stop.  Everyone separates and finds a “home.”  This is the best part for the kids.  They like climbing a tree or a rock or burrowing into a hole somewhere.  A predetermined amount of time is set to sit quiet-no noise!  This is tough.  I highly recommend starting with only 30 seconds for kids under 8.  If they don’t know what to do, give them an idea such as close your eyes and listen for the next 30 seconds, watch the clouds,  observe the tree for insects, etc.  I bring paper, watercolors, and colored pencils usually for our nature studies.  They write words sometimes, paint sometimes and occasionally, nothing but listen and observe.  We come back together and talk about what each person observed.

4.  Snacks and water are essential.  They are kids and they are totally motivated by food, even fruit leather.  Knowing that they can stop and have a snack keeps then interested in hiking as well.

Don’t think that this has to be an all day adventure.  It can be short like 15 minutes or as long as a day.  Getting outdoors is amazing for our senses.  It is amazing for our well being.  It is amazing for our health.  And for our family, it is ESSENTIAL for our homeschool!

(Below is a slide show of our latest hike finds.  We were looking for different mushrooms and fungi.  If you happen to know what any of them are, please speak up!  We have been looking through tons of nature books and online resources, but we have a lot we have not named yet.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Homeschooling Ideas for a Reader

homeschooling for a reader

I am amazed at how different children can be-especially siblings!  Earlier I posted some of our ideas on homeschooling a child with dyslexia.  Today I am going to post on some of our ideas on homeschooling a child who doesn’t want to stop reading!  My daughter is a reader.  She loves to read.  We have to constantly tell her to put the book down to get out of the car, to walk into the store so she won’t walk into anyone, to go to bed….you get the idea.  She always has a book in her hand.  Yes, the fact that she loves to read is awesome-however, it can also make homeschooling a challenge.

Reading, spelling and grammar are not really major areas of concern.  She is an amazing speller but I continue her spelling program to reinforce what she knows from reading.  She reads amazingly well.  I do continue to have her read aloud for at least a few minutes each day.  Grammar is interesting.  If she sees a page that has improper grammar, she can spot it quickly (she is a good editor); however, grammar does not come naturally when she writes.  Thus, most of her grammar I have her fix.  She writes a paragraph.   I have her take a break from it and come back to it the next day.  She then edits her own errors and does fairly well.  If she does not take a break, she doesn’t slow down and edit properly.

Math: How do you get a child who likes to read to do math?  Find math story books!  Our favorite series is the Life of Fred series.  All of my children read through the books; however, Sawyer reads them, works the problems and then redoes each book.  She LOVES Life of Fred!  The stories are funny and relevant.

Science and History:  Another area that I have to be very inventive.  I have stated in the past that I am a very eclectic homeschooling teacher.  We mainly use the Waldorf approach but in this case we use as many living books as possible (more of a Charlotte Mason method).  Living books are simply books that children can relate to.  Living books tell a story that becomes real and that you can feel like you are living.  For example, this year one of Sawyer’s blocks included Judaism.  She read books on Judaism but she did it begrudgingly.  I also had her read The American Girl Series Rebecca.  Rebecca is a little girl who grew up NYC and her family is Jewish.  Sawyer learned exactly what I wanted her to learn.  She learned how Judaism effects a person’s everyday life and the historical events that are celebrated throughout the year by people of the Jewish faith.  Finding living books that relate to what you are trying to teach can be a challenge but it is doable (I actually found one about a family that harvests silk worms during our textile block-that took a lot of researching!).

Organization: Now it may just be my reader that is completely disorganized but I hear from other parents that organization is an issue for their readers as well.  When Sawyer begins reading, she does not stop (a good thing right?  not when you are trying to do school work!).  We use the timer on the microwave a lot.  She can read first thing after breakfast for 30 minutes.  The timer is terrific for a lot of things.  We use it to limit her time reading during school time and as a motivator for activities that she does not want to do.  We set the timer for 10 or 15 minutes.  She sees the time going by and she is able to continue with grammar or spelling.  Getting through all of her work in a day can be a challenge as well.  I am still working on this one and am open for suggestions..smile.  We tried a daily workplan, a weekly workplan, a workbox type of system in which she moved a card from needs to be done to the done side and simply me asking her what she has completed.  I saw on a post recently (I cannot remember where so I cannot give them the credit right now, but if I figure out I will) a method with clothes pins in a jar.  The clothes pins are snapped around the top of the jar and as the activity is complete, the clothes pin is dropped into the jar.  I may give this a try this year along with a timer.

What about pesky papers?  We use our main lesson books to place all papers into.  Papers are glued, taped or stapled into the book right after it is completed.  This includes the wonderful art work that used to be floating around the house.  Once a week, she goes through her cubby to declutter.  Again, this is still a work in progress.  As she gets older and more independent, paper organization and time management will become more important goals (these will be in her goal list for this next year).

Do you have a reader?  I love suggestions!



Encoding Breakthroughs!

I haven’t gone away. I am just taking a short break from blogging on this site. However, I did need to take a moment to brag on my boy today.

As you know, spelling is one of the toughest lessons for Sims each day. This year we changed curriculums from All About Spelling to Apples and Pears by Sound Foundations. All About Spelling worked well for him during spelling, but there was not any carry over into other subjects. I heard about Apples and Pears from a forum on homeschooling children with dyslexia. The program appears to Sims to have no rhyme or reason to it, but it does.

The curriculum also requires a lot more writing each day than what he was used to. I didn’t think he would be to keen on it, but he is. He happily does it everyday (in fact, he has finished the first book and is way on his way to finishing the second book). On top of Apples and Pears, I added another spelling curriculum called MegaWords. Apples and Pears is very teacher intensive, which he needs. MegaWords has more independent work for the student to do.

Well, today-he did his MegaWords book (actually, he did two more pages than what I assigned), a lesson with me from Apples and Pears and tonight-he actually asked me to dictate the words for him in his MegaWords book so that could move forward in the book tomorrow! Yep, three spelling lessons in one day!!

My 2014 Goals

January is going by way too fast for me!  I am just now sitting down to reflect on 2013 and to think about 2014.  I know many people post their plans for the year during the first week of January.  Obviously, I didn’t meet that deadline.  I am here now and that is all that matters.  Right?  So what are my plans?

1. Bring the family together through cleaning.  Don’t laugh-yet.  I spent some time reading through blogs and speaking to many families over the past few months and I realized-my kids are crazy spoiled when it comes to housework.  Of course, I am the one that made them that way so it is up to me to change it.  I recently found Motivated Moms.  Motivated Moms is an amazing system to plan out your cleaning schedule and chores.  They have an app and an e book. ( Here is a sample.) I am a paper girl and I want my family to see the chores.  I have only used it for a week, but so far it is awesome.  Each chore is broken down.  For instance, last week and this week we will be cleaning out the refrigerator.  The chores are simple and not a big deal.  The kids are easily able to pick one chore and do it each day,

2. Get outside and active daily.  Homeschooling has drastically decreased my stress but I am still needing something to reduce stress.  Nature/being outdoors is my fix (of course, sunshine is a big need and we have not seen much of the beautiful sun around NC lately).  I found that last year, I did not get outside as much.  When the kids were done with school, I would work on cleaning and getting dinner ready.  Over the past two weeks, I am focusing on getting outdoors and walking, hiking, running, biking or something active.  I won a copy of the Mountain Mermaid’s Daily Musings Book to journal my activities in.  I am loving it.  Journaling holds me accountable for my activity.


3. Eat more whole foods.  Last year I started purchasing more and more premade items out of convenience.  I am all about convenience, but I just need to rethink it.  I started with snacks.  My kids love granola bars and protein bars.  They sneak them all the time like they are candy.  The past two weeks, I purchased trail mix packs from Trader Joe’s with almonds, cashew, and chocolate chips.  They are a hit with everyone.  I found another trail mix pack this week with cranberries, almonds, and granola bites and white chocolate chips.  They are awesome too.  Of course, fruit and veggies are also an option.  A few new items are being added to the menu such as using spaghetti squash instead of pasta and keeping salad in the fridge for easy meals.  I will work on updating the recipe portion of my site soon!

So this is where I am going to start.  We are only three weeks into the new year, and so far all is going well.  The kids are working hard in their school work.  Everyone is helping out around the house-although some days there is still whining but for the most part, they don’t mind.  We hiked at Latta Plantation twice, played at the White Water Center, mountain biked at Fisher Farms and are planning to ski next week.  My plans are now out there-so hold me accountable!