Homeschool Checkup: Keeping Them Interested and Learning


My youngest three, pretending to be sad…..probably about something school related. 😉

We have been plugging away at our school year. Lesson plans finished on time each week with little to no items carried over – just the occasional audio book that no one is in the mood to listen to (sometimes it is the book’s content – mythology/fables – and sometimes it is the heavy accent by some of the readers…turns a 10 minute listening period into 20 minutes because we have to keep rewinding!).  I checked our calendar and compared them with our lessons; I had given us a couple of weeks of flexibility in case of sickness or impromptu stuff, but we haven’t used any of it. So, it looks like our school year will be done May 12! I was so excited to see that date. We will enjoy a nice long Summer break.

One of the things we struggle with constantly is keeping kids’ attention. Whether it is nice weather or public schools’ days off or library activities or just plain old disinterest, we struggle (weekly!) with getting all the school-aged kids to actually pay attention for the full 2 hours of intense school work. I am a little more laid back with the earlier items of our school day – Bible (I let them speak up and ask questions), poetry (giggles usually ensue while we work on memorization….or hand motions for the words), nature study (lots of observations or questions pop up), and a few other casual things. I don’t get on them as much about focus or sitting still or being quiet; we just kind of talk and bounce ideas off each other and work to help the boys with memory work, too.

Once we get into the meatier subjects (math, history, science, Shakespeare), I tend to enforce more quiet and staying in one spot. When I find us all losing focus and interest, these 3 things help us get back on track:

1.Find another way to present the information.

We struggle, but digging into the info a different way helps us focus. In Addy’s history book, just read about how the Romans built a wall for the Britons to separate the lower part of the country from the Scots up north. Honestly, I would rather just show her Braveheart with Mel Gibson to cover that time period ;), but since that probably isn’t appropriate, we settled on finding a map that showed the island divided up and even showing the walls and castles. It was interesting, especially comparing it to a current map of the island. And I can honestly say I learned some things.

Iris and Lily have a more current history, one that I find a little more exciting. They are learning from This Country of Ours about the history of the United States. It includes a lot of detail, things I don’t remember learning in school. And we are finally moving into more about settlements along the Mississippi River, so it is fun to see things moving into our region of the country and noting places in relation to where we live. I probably find it more exciting than they do, but they are retaining names and places better than I thought…so I’ll take it. The one thing that really catches our attention is when there is a description of violence or death; I suppose it is because we are used to history being so dry, but this book definitely doesn’t gloss over things. Indians scalping settlers; the English scamming the Indians; a French guy lying to people in Paris about the awesomeness of Louisiana and into buying a bunch of shares of the Mississippi Company – all these have been pretty interesting and incredibly sad bits of history. We are learning to appreciate it. And finding our location on our big U.S. map and then all the places we’re discussing really helps them get into it. When I can take the information from the book and show the girls where it all occurred on our map, they find it a little more interesting. These things happened not too far from us and have named a lot of places near us, so they find it neat. If I had just read from the book and made nothing applicable to us, they probably would not have cared as much.

2. Get off track….a little.

This week, we were learning about the tower at Babel in our Bible lesson. We discussed all the details we already knew, and then part of the lesson broke off into cavemen. Then we started talking about cave dwellings, and we were able to look up Coober Pedy, Australia (click on it!) and the folks that currently live underground in the cave-like homes. All five kids and I were glued to the screen, reading and looking at the pictures. Then we hopped on YouTube and watched a guy give a tour of an underground cave home. Practically the whole town lives underground!

We would have probably become bored with talking about cavemen and cave homes had we not expanded our search to online, where we found all this cool information! NOW, we will probably remember a ton more from the Bible lesson than I had first thought. It helped us to get a little off track from the information to really dig into an aspect of the lesson we would have typically skipped over.

3. Take a break.

Sometimes, it does not matter how creative I get with presenting the lessons or reading. And sometimes it doesn’t matter what cool videos I found about an obscure bit of info.

Sometimes…we just have to walk away from it for a bit. I know that if I have tried a bunch of things and kids are still not responding (or they are responding with that whine that makes me want to tear out my eardrums), we need to do something else. This could be moving on to another, more exciting, subject, or it could just mean taking a snack or game break.

One of the most wonderful things about homeschooling is that we can utilize our “golden hours” – those couple of hours when we are at our best for working. For us, this is usually mid to late morning; the kids’ bellies are full, everyone is dressed, I have deodorant on….things are good. If we can pound out 2 solid hours of school time, we are set for the day. When someone is off and our golden hours are not working for us that day, we can adjust. Maybe someone is super tired, didn’t sleep well, is hungry, has to poop, lost a sock, whatever the case may be, we can pause, go play a game or have a snack (or use the bathroom) and come back to it later. We don’t have to force a subject; it won’t work anyhow – everyone will just be angry. I am so happy that when our funky moods get in the way, we can take time to adjust our attitudes and come back to our schooling when we are all much happier. And, honestly, sometimes that means doing no more schoolwork for the rest of that day. Every once in a while, usually if a few haven’t slept well, we just cannot get through our work. Those days, we just pack it up for the day and watch movies or play games or the kids all go to the basement to play imaginary things for hours. And I am totally fine with that (especially if they go to the basement and I can read or crochet uninterrupted for a bit!). We just pick it up the next day, even if it means we have to double up to stay on course.

I have never taught in a classroom. I only know this for my own children, but I assume it rings true for most kids…When you force the learning, no learning actually occurs. I can force Addy to read phonics lessons or her little reader books, but if she is not in the mindset to work on reading…she learns absolutely nothing. I can force Iris and Lily to read their George Washington book and write me things about it, but if they are not in the mind-frame to learn, they will retain nothing. Encouraging learning is a much better way to go. Making learning exciting and the information relevant and having a good attitude about it all as the Mom is a great way to engage the kids and keep the focus. But, on the days one or more of my kids are completely distracted by something (emotions, tiredness, hunger, etc), it doesn’t do any of us any good to force them to learn because the exact opposite will happen.

Can you relate to these kinds of days?? Do you have any tips or tricks that help you and your kids get the information when no one is really interested?


Homeschool · Household

Good Reads


(image courtesy of

Look at that bookcase! I would LOVE to have that!

We love to read in our house. Every single day, you can find at least one of us snuggled up in a chair or bed reading. It was not always that way, though. My husband was never much of a reader, but as we are older and wiser (ha!) we are devouring all kinds of books about the Bible and Christianity. And now that he is in Bible school, we are the proud owners of a million books to aid his studies. 🙂

I have always liked to read. I remember when our family would take trips, all of us kids would bring a bag in the car of stuff to play with or do. My sister and I always brought a couple of books each to read; we were big readers. I also love word puzzles, but I don’t want to give away too much of my nerdiness.

My husband and I joked the other day that although minimalism has seeped into every area of our lives….it has not yet touched our collection of books. We have many, many shelves of books – homeschool books, Bible books, fiction, non-fiction, books from my mom’s house (you should see her collection of books!), and so on.

We just love books!

The past few months, I have really taken up this thing of reading several books at once. Most of the time they are all different genres or at least different topics. But, right now I am kind of in a lull with good books. I have decided that every year I will probably read through The Life-Giving Home by Sally Clarkson. I read it last year and have started it again – it goes through month-by-month how we can breathe life into our homes and families. Highly recommend it! It has a workbook, too, that helps make it all applicable in your own home. Love it! Last year, I also read Own Your Life….another by Sally Clarkson. Such good stuff about understanding our life in Christ and how to fully live in that. I just started that one again, too. Those books are just so full of great biblical wisdom, that I feel like I missed a lot and need to reread them.

For homeschooling moms, I definitely recommend Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie. It is a Bible-based book, but it is about being your best in teaching your children, while doing it from a state of rest. Another oldie but goodie is Better Late Than Early by Raymond and Dorothy Moore; it is a few decades old but such an encouragement for homeschooling families to follow your child’s developmental leads and not push information on them before they are ready to actually learn. I am not reading that one straight through right now, just kind of skipping around to the chapters that seemed applicable to us.

I was so blessed with great books to read last year, that I feel like I am out of ideas. This led me to start those three books again, while deciding what else to read.

My husband is lending me Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis) book to read. That one is absolutely amazing, but it is so full of information that I can only read a chapter a day. There is an incredible amount of depth in each chapter that I feel it is one of those books you need to read, set it down, then let the words stew in your brain for a few hours to really break down and release the goodness. That C.S. Lewis was one incredibly gifted writer. This book is the “complete signature classics” of C.S. Lewis, and my husband is reading The Screwtape Letters (another meaty book) from it, so we are passing it back and forth each day. 🙂

Just yesterday, I added a bunch of books to my Amazon wishlist, but we agreed not to spend money on books right now….so they will sit on the wishlist for a while. 😉 But, I am headed to the library soon to see what others I might find!

Are you reading anything spectacular right now that you’d care to share?? It can be any genre! I am not a huge fiction fan these days; I don’t know why, it just doesn’t appeal to me right now. BUT, I am open to suggestions for some good fiction.


Back to the Grind

We enjoyed a full week off of school last week. It was lazy and boring and absolutely the best idea we’ve had in a while! 😉

On the Friday before, we finished up a full 12 weeks of school – Term 1. It was a lot of work. With a week of vacation in there to the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter (both AMAZING places, by the way!), the kids worked really hard to accomplish all we I had planned.

Monday is the beginning of Term 2, and I feel like we have really found our “people” as far as curriculum goes. We use Ambleside Online; I may have already mentioned that a time or two. I just adore the richness of this curriculum. It is based on books – old, rich, heavy, books. The language in them is a challenge at times; no one today speaks like the authors, narrators and characters in these books. Sometimes we have to reread a paragraph an extra time to fully understand the message. BUT, it is worth it. My girls are picking up on the words and the language and have even begun using more mature words, which I definitely appreciate. (“Oh mom, you startled me!” Not every 9-year-old uses the word startled.) I am hoping they move completely away from the less-than-awesome books series they have become accustomed to from the library. No more Dork this or Dumb that. Those books, to me, have absolutely nothing for their young brains. I get that they are easy to read, and the girls can quickly finish them (they check out 3 or 4 of the books for a two-week period. I mean, come on! That right there shows how simple they are.). I just hope they realize (soon!) that the books don’t do anything for their imaginations and turn to some classics.

We still haven’t finished Old Yeller together. But, we are all enjoying it. The language in it is funny at times, but it really makes them think and use those brains God gave them! Not every little detail is spelled out – there’s room to imagine!

Ok, off my soapbox about books. I feel like I’m becoming a book snob….for the kids. HA!

For Term 2, I am excited for the content we will cover – everything from Greek mythology to Benjamin Franklin. We are working through the Answers in Genesis book, Answers for Kids, for our Bible curriculum. The kids are remembering quite a lot of the content. I even overheard one of my girls telling a neighbor girl about the “7 C’s of History”. 🙂 That girl does not believe in God, so I am not sure she understood what was being shared. BUT, it warmed my heart to know my girl was retaining the information!

Math is going great! Addy had me worried for a little while with her lack of interest in anything, but she surprised me the past couple weeks with how well she catches on to new concepts and is able to apply them. I feel like she matured a whole year in just a few weeks. I am considering skipping ahead in her math to get to some more challenging (for her) lessons, since she is in the first grade book but actually in second grade (according to her age). We’ll see, though; I don’t want to push it and lose her momentum.

We are adding in Plutarch this next Term, for Iris and Lily. I am a little nervous about that….mostly because I’ve never read ANYTHING of Plutarch’s. In fact, I hadn’t heard of him until a few months ago. So, we’ll see how that goes; I hear it can be a challenge because of the “ancient” language, but I’m willing to read and reread until we understand. Plus, how cool is it to say your 9 and 10 year olds are reading Plutarch?! 🙂

Also, for Term 2, we are adding in a full schedule/routine for Spanish and Piano. We found free online piano lessons through Hoffman Academy , which I am ecstatic about. I watched the first lesson, and it was great. I can definitely see that the girls will pick up on it and move along quickly. AND, it’s free and at home. You can’t beat that! For Spanish, we already have the computer cd’s; I just haven’t really pushed them to be habitual with the lessons. But, most of the kids have learned numbers 1-10, so it is time to do something more formal for them.

I am feeling good about starting Monday. The week off helped immensely with planning the next 12 week term and with giving us all a break from the routine; although, the break from the routine was slightly stressful when it came to chores. The kids took a break from everything!

Now, I am off to pick up some honey from a family we know. The girls are at a sleepover, so the boys and I are hanging out for a little bit just the 3 of us. Should be interesting! 🙂


The Beauty in Patience


Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

(I Corinthians 13:4-5)

There are a lot of things about home school that STRESS ME OUT. I have five kids ages 3 years to 10 years. I have to plan out lessons for 4 of them each week. Each one has a different way of seeing, understanding, and retaining information. The lesson plans have to accommodate those differences….or nothing is learned!

One of the things that can stress me out most is how to fit everything into my day – church commitments (not just on Sundays!), housework, meals, running errands, school work, supporting my husband with his school work (which means doing a few more things around the house to make it easier for him to focus), and getting the kids outside so we don’t all go crazy! I tend to plan way too much for each day, expecting perfection in attitudes and responses so that all of it can be done. It NEVER happens that way, in case you were wondering. 😉

In order to try and fit all these things in, I may or may not be rude and impatient with my kids. I hurry them along through every task – chores, schoolwork, readings, getting out the door. When the plans written in my planner are falling apart, I find it easier to grouch at the kids….like it is their fault or something. I always regret it afterward, but for some reason I find it easy to default to grouch when things don’t get done.

I am learning, this school year, the beauty in patience. Patience with failed plans. Patience with less-than-perfect children. Patience with myself when I just cannot keep up with my ridiculously long To Do lists. If I can be more in the habit of being patient, the days are much more enjoyable. I may not get everything done on the list, but I get to notice things I am unable to see when I am in “go” mode. I get to see my kids holding hands while we go on our nature walks (totally on their own, without me suggesting it). I am able to really see Ethan figure things out just by looking at his facial expressions. (He and I watched a video of a snail eating a mushroom, and it was amazing to see him taking it all in. His eyes lit up as the little snail munched, and he stumbled over what words to use in order to share his excitement. Would have totally missed it had I still been in my grouchy, pushy moment.) I get to ENJOY our time together.

I have heard from several moms that wish they could stay home. Moms that would love to school their kiddos at home. But they can’t; whether it is finances or job instability or whatever, they aren’t able to live their dream of being home. And here I am missing moments with my kids because I did not get to check off “scrub bathroom floors” from my daily list!

Today, I had planned to do the majority of our school readings and group time then head to the library to drop off and pick up. Then I remembered I had a package to mail. I felt myself getting flustered with MORE to put on my list for the day, but I was able to stop and remind myself that whatever we do today we get to do together. I changed up the day’s flow and we ended up going to the post office first, then we made a quick stop at the library before heading down a little sidewalk to the river. We spent about 45 minutes walking the little river walk and checking out seashells. I brought a little snack with, and we ate as we walked. Ethan WILLINGLY held my hand, and even let me hold him long enough to see two ducks snuggling on a rock together in the river. When we got to a good stopping place, the kids threw rocks in, searched for seashells and even found some dead river life (crayfish and small fish that washed up onto the rocks). I didn’t prod them to make an educational notes or do a drawing or discuss any life cycles. We just kind of hung out and enjoyed the river.

Sure, Ethan ended up with muddy legs, and I almost fell in trying to help a fish that got stuck in the shallow area….but it was just fun to be with them. I don’t always feel that way. Like I said, I am usually rushing everyone everywhere. Even if there is no real reason to rush, I just do. Like if we slow down, someone will act up and the day will be ruined! haha!

So, there is beauty (A LOT of beauty) in patience. Things typically unnoticed really get the spotlight. Relationships are strengthened. Moms realize the kids are pretty fun to be with during events that have the possibility of being chaotic. Kids realize Mom isn’t always a meanie. 😉

I am so thankful for homeschooling. I am thankful for the curriculum we have settled on. It was definitely God who brought us to it, and I am so happy we jumped all in with it this year. Even with what seems like more subjects than we were used to (definitely more reading aloud!), there is much more excitement with it and a peace to the day. Of course, we still end up with those crazy days where really nothing gets done because of bad attitudes. BUT, we are learning together how to avoid them and let go of expectations.

And I am learning the beauty in patience.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

(Ephesians 4:2)


The AHA! Moment

“Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”

(Charlotte Mason)


As a parent, it is so fun to see your child have those moments where they just get things. The algebra equation finally makes sense. An often misspelled word is finally mastered. A long and challenging book is conquered. It is the “aha!” moment.

As a home school parent, we often get to see the majority of those moments with our kids. And even though there may be many, each one is still a joy to see!

And then there are those PARENTAL aha! moments. 🙂

This morning, the kids and I started school time like we normally do. Dad happened to be home because he was scheduled to work later in the day. He sat working on his college classes on the computer and encouraged us to stay in the room with him to do our schoolwork, even though I offered to take the kids upstairs (because I know how loud we can be!). So, there we all are in the same room. Dad is typing away on computer. The kids and I are spread out in the room. The boys brought out every single Megablock we own (somewhere close to 300, I imagine). The girls had coloring books and crayons sprawled out on the table.

Now, I have learned to accept what my children need in order to listen to me read. When we first started the read-aloud times, I forced them to sit still on the floor or couch and look at me, so I could be sure they were paying attention. This did not work. I found out my oldest would get lost in her thoughts about the wrinkles on my face. The boys wouldn’t even look at me and started fighting with each other. And the other two girls cried…a lot…about how boring it was. I decided, after a lot of reading from Charlotte Mason’s books and others like her, that it would be OKAY if the kids did something while they listened.

So, I allowed them to bring Legos to the table or crayons and coloring books. The boys could bring action figures or blocks. We had deflated balloons filled with rice or flour they could sit and squeeze. I let them string beads on old shoelaces to make a personalized string thing. Whatever would keep them in the room and semi-quiet. My only rule was they could not talk to each other while I was reading.

Back to the story…today we had megablocks everywhere. The boys were building. The girls eventually abandoned the crayons and books to sit and build with the blocks, as well. I was reading fine, until Ethan decided to pester a sister, causing her to scream. I had to get after them about being quiet and keeping hands to themselves. Dad had left the room for something and as he came back in, he finally noticed the mess of blocks and children on the floor. Knowing how particular I am about school/mess/crazy 3 year olds, he asked, “How can you get anything done with him(Ethan) in here? And how can they hear you read if they’re playing with all the blocks?”

I could see he was genuinely worried that we were not getting any school work done with the blocks and that Ethan was just irritating everyone. I did not really have an answer right then, so I just smiled and shrugged my shoulders. And then our Bible lesson was done, so we moved on to reviewing maps and our Paddle to the Sea book. Not even a minute after Dad had asked me that, Buddy (5 years old) answered my question about the lake in our story and the Great Lakes. When he shouted out “Lake Nipigon!”, Dad turned around and yelled out “Wait a minute! What in the world is Lake Nipigon? And how does Buddy know about it?”

Realizing what was happening, I just smiled again and shrugged my shoulders. And then the kids went on to explain what and where Lake Nipigon was. 🙂 What I saw happening was Buddy had just showed that we were getting things done and that the kids were hearing me while they played with blocks. We have been reading that book for a few weeks and matching up the locations it describes on our own little map. Buddy, while playing with blocks and keeping his hands busy and his mouth quiet, was able to absorb everything I was reading and explaining. He was getting it!

I had my AHA! moment this morning. The methods I had forced on the kids prior to this Summer were not working. The methods I had implemented this Summer WERE working. When I let go of my desire to control everything – their environment, how they learn, how much mess I would allow (!!) – they were able to relax and learn how God created to learn. Through play. Through a relaxed environment. Without pressure to memorize every little fact. We were reading history, science, and other subjects in books with stories that contained the facts I wanted them to learn. Because it wasn’t just a textbook of facts – boring old facts – the information came alive for them and they understood it. They enjoyed hearing more of it, loved remembering it.

Up until a few weeks ago, I had no clue about Lake Nipigon. We have a giant map of the U.S. on our wall, and I really didn’t pay much attention to just North of the Great Lakes…..where our map clearly has “Lake Nipigon” marked. Haha! And yet, now, my kids know of a location that most adults don’t. They can name the Great Lakes because Paddle (in our story) is travelling from Lake Nipigon all the way to the Atlantic Ocean by way of the Great Lakes. The kids are absorbing the information about geography and science through a story of a young Canadian Indian boy who sent out a wooden boat on a journey to the ocean!

I have had my AHA! moment. I understand what Charlotte Mason is saying in all her books on education. Children need a relaxed environment. They need good books….LIVING books. They need reading and to be read to. They need to be able to process the information in whatever way works for them – whether keeping hands busy or pacing the room or lying on the floor staring at the ceiling. I cannot expect them to sit in a chair at a desk and stare at me while I read – they don’t all learn that way. Some do, and that is great. But some don’t, and I have to embrace that and give them what they need or they may never take in the information they need. They may never enjoy learning or pursue it on their own.

While I love to see my kids finally get it, I loved that I saw myself get it today. And I love that we are learning…in a mess…on the floor…all together.


Character Study – The Real Lie Detector!


Yesterday, we started our Character Study back up. I had found free printables a few years ago and thought they’d be an excellent addition to our school day. We could learn about one positive character trait every week or so and memorize a Bible verse that correlates.

Well, that only lasted about three weeks. I forgot to change out the character trait, so I kept saying “well, we’ll study this same one a little longer.” AND, I was not exactly working to incorporate the trait into my own daily life…which made it even less of a priority. The study quickly fell off the radar.

After seeing some major bad attitudes from the kids (and myself!) the past few weeks, I decided we should start the study again. And this time, I told myself, I would work to make sure I was displaying these attributes as well. Since we seem to have extremely short fuses around here, I chose Patience as our first study.

Yikes! Talk about conviction!!

We sat down to talk about it yesterday, and after reading the definition the kids did not appear to completely understand what it meant. The definition is “bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint.” I could tell that, for sure, the boys (ages 3 and 5) did not get it. The girls seemed a little unsure, too. So, I thought we’d give some examples.

“When we are waiting for the bathroom and we are banging on the door and jiggling the handle and yelling at the person using it……is that patient or impatient?”


Ok, so they totally understood. 😉

But then our examples got to be a little too personal for me. And we were describing MY talk when I am trying to get everyone out the door. Or when I am putting them to bed. Or when we need to sit down for group school work.

Nameless child: “What about when you are yelling at us to hurry and get our shoes on? Or when you tell us something one time and then start yelling?”

Whoa. That was a bit eye-opening. I sound AWFUL when I am in a hurry (and not even in a hurry for a serious reason – just because I want to be in a hurry). The kids thought it was a funny exercise, but I was quite ashamed. Almost embarrassed in front of them. We talked for a while and discussed the correct way to respond to people and situations and what actions we could take that day to be more patient.

And then we went grocery shopping.

(I could probably end the post there because I know you moms understand the amount of patience needed to shop with children. And not just walk through the store and grab items, but when we need to price compare and figure out our coupon situation and cross off list items and figure out where the sale item is when it is not in the normal spot.)

Why does mom always have to be the one to lead with the correct attitude and reaction?! Why can’t the kids just do the right thing while mom acts impatient and sulks? 🙂 It was a rough shopping trip, I must say. I did catch myself several times before I said something snippy or sarcastic to the kids, but I still failed multiple times with the rest of my patience attempts. The one thing that was different was at the end of the trip – we were all in the car driving home, and one by one the kids apologized for their bad behavior. And then I apologized for losing it on them. They weren’t even that bad in the store; it just wasn’t what I expected out of them. That tends to amplify the slightest misbehavior in my eyes.

While our actual shopping time was just awful (as far as my actions towards them), we did make up in the car pretty quickly….which is new for us. We will be reviewing Patience again today, and I am a little nervous at the opportunities God is going to bring for us to practice using patience! I am praying we tackle it much better than yesterday. And I am thankful for the turnaround time in making things right with each other. Baby steps, right?

As much as the Character Study really shines a light on our (ok, mostly MY) flaws, we should probably keep it around and see how much we can grow from it!

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

Ephesians 4:2

Homeschool · Organization

The School Plan

Well hello there! It’s been a while!

I took a break from a lot of things to regroup and stay on track with our Summer homeschooling. And now it is August! I just cannot believe how fast that went!

We took off the month of June for outdoor fun in the sun and lots of playing. We eased back into schooling the first two weeks of July before taking a week off for our church’s Vacation Bible School. Then, we jumped right back in with a little bit heavier schedule. And here we are in August with an almost-back-to-normal school day. The schooling through the Summer went exceptionally well; I tried not to expect perfection or too much focus from the kiddos, and I think that helped. 😉

Last year, we dabbled in the Ambleside Online curriculum. I love how they lay everything out online and that it is heavy on the reading (group, individual, and LOTS of classics). This Summer, we completely immersed ourselves in the Ambleside curriculum and will continue that into the rest of the school year.

Ambleside is a Charlotte Mason-based curriculum (not completely Charlotte Mason, but they pull a lot from her principles and ideas for most of their curriculum). It relies a lot of books for the material. Many of the books are old, which is what I love. Obviously, some of the history and science have to be supplemented with more current things, but all of the children’s individual reading is older books. There aren’t any dumbed-down books. A lot of what my girls have been reading the months before Ambleside were books with no substance. I am sure they were enjoyable stories, but they weren’t challenging. And I was having to look over A LOT more of their modern choices because of content (boy/girl stuff, name-calling, witchcraft, etc). After becoming frustrated with a silly comic book that included a very sensual picture of a female character (thankfully Iris saw it before the younger kiddos and brought me the book), I decided I would “push” the older books more. For any school or free reading, I am selective on their choices. I still let them choose – but I give them the selection from which to choose. 🙂 Sure, it’s a little sneaky, but we are avoiding a lot of the less-challenging books and offering more books with morals and characters to model themselves after.

I thought it was maybe a bit silly at first to limit what they read. I mean, why not just let them read if they are WILLING to read? BUT, I kept coming back to that verse in I Corinthians 10:23 – “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” Just because they are reading books doesn’t mean those books are benefiting them. I wanted to be able to say what they’re reading was helping them read better or BE better. No offense to the author but Dear Dumb Diary isn’t really the kind of book I’d be proud to say my girls read (though they have…).

With that verse in mind, I have noticed a lot more of what we should be reading and trying to stick with it. (By the way, that verse is quite convicting for myself….not everything I read is beneficial either, and I have to be just as selective with MY reading!)

So, here we are in our school routine, and I think we have a handle on good books. Iris is reading The Borrowers for her free read; Lily is tackling The Peterkin Papers. Both books have bigger words than they are used to in their reading, but they both seem to be understanding and enjoying the stories! Addy and I are reading The Courage of Sarah Noble together; it is set back in early American times, and the words are definitely a challenge for her to understand. I am doing all the reading (she still struggles, but I wanted her to get a lot of these stories in!), but I have her narrate every few paragraphs so that I know she is following well.

Speaking of Narration – that’s a new(er) thing for us. I am very intentional about having the kids narrate because then I am completely aware of whether or not they are following/listening. If they can’t tell the story back to me, then we re-read it. This goes for all subjects – history, science, Shakespeare, Bible, and so on. I don’t want to be reading and no one listening! 🙂

For what we’re covering this year, I have Addy doing mostly Year 1 from Ambleside. She is moving along quickly, so we may be able to move up to Year 2 before the end of the school year. BUT, I am not pushing it. I am more concerned with her understanding and absorbing the info than just checking off the boxes! She is working through Level 1 in her math curriculum as well, and she is doing great – really catching on quickly! Iris and Lily are completing Year 4 with Ambleside. Iris is technically 5th grade, but Year 4 has many “heavy” books, and I don’t want to move her to Year 5 before she has a firm grasp on the older language used in the books. They are both doing Level 4 in their math curriculum as well, but I suspect they will whiz through that and both move to Level 5 before Spring! Again, though, not pushing it – understanding is much more important than a certain level. (I should mention – Year 4 with Ambleside includes Plutarch….having no clue who Plutarch was up until last year, I am not yet ready to dive into that his works. Perhaps in January we can revisit that and start reading. For now, Shakespeare and all the other subjects are keeping us quite busy!)

Below is our lineup for subjects we are covering. I have marked in parentheses the different looping groups they are in. I have looped several of the subjects because we just don’t need to cover new ground every single day in every single subject. Reviewing them every day might be fine, but some days we have a large project in another subject and we miss other subjects….and that is ok!

(And for those not familiar with “looping”, it is just taking a certain number of subjects and rotating them, rather than try and teach every subject every day. We don’t get to each subject every day in the loop, but we get to it each week however many times we get through the loop. I know some moms create the loop so they touch on some subjects more times than others in the same loop – like ordering Spelling, Grammar, Spelling, Writing, Spelling, Literature…3 times of spelling for 1 of grammar, writing and literature – but I think the 1:1 ratio is good for us now.)

In the morning, as a group, we have these items in a basket to complete together (I call it Morning Time….real creative, eh?):

  • Bible – story/passage/topic
  • Character Study/Review
  • Verse Memorization
  • Hymn Study (morning basket loop)
  • Picture Study (morning basket loop)
  • Composer Study(morning basket loop)
  • Map Drills (morning basket loop)
  • Poetry – Recite/Review
  • Shakespeare

Hymn, picture, composer, and map drills are rotated in on a loop. I don’t spend more than 30 minutes together with the Morning Time…so whichever of those four is rotated in for the day is probably the only one we will get to in order to complete the rest of the list. And we don’t cover a whole Shakespeare story, just a few pages to read and narrate. Shakespeare is heavy, and I don’t want to overwhelm the kids (or myself!!).

After the group time, the boys will go play or find something to do, while the 3 girls together will do Loop #1, Loop #2, and Dailies:

  • Nature Study (Loop #1)
  • Geography (Loop #1)
  • Science (Loop #1)
  • History (Loop #1)
  • Biography (Loop #1)
  • Spelling (Loop #2)
  • Grammar (Loop #2)
  • Writing (Loop #2)
  • Literature (Loop #2)
  • Math – done individually, with my help as they need it (daily)
  • Copywork – Iris and Lily typically have larger portions to copy than Addy (daily)

For Loops 1 and 2, we spend about 30 minutes on each loop. Whatever subjects we cover (one, two, or all!) during that time is fine. Wherever we stop is where we pick up the next day. So, if we only cover nature study one day in the 30 minutes, then the following day we start up with geography and carry on. The second 30 minute loop time on the first day might be able to cover spelling, grammar, and writing; so, the following day (when we start geography in loop 1), we would start at literature for loop 2’s session. Does that make sense??

Math and Copywork are daily items, so I did not loop them. I want them to learn/review math concepts every day, as well as become excellent in handwriting. And the time spent on those two subjects just depends on the math lesson – whether new or review – and how long the copywork is. I usually have the girls copy the same passage/poem for the week (4 days at least).

After all the morning subjects and loops are done, the kids all have free time. They can play outside, inside, have a snack (if we didn’t work one in already), or finish up any work they didn’t get to while we worked all morning. Lunch follows free time. Then nap time for the boys. I am hoping to work in a regular walk after lunch….but we haven’t gotten that far. Usually I get super lazy after we eat!

While the boys nap, I have the girls work on some independent Afternoon items (that require little or no attention from me, so I can read or do housework or work on the following week’s schedule):

  • Typing – Iris and Lily are using a free website ( and are loving it. I haven’t been consistent with every day lessons on there, but now that it is August and we are back into a full day’s schedule, it will become a daily afternoon lesson.
  • Foreign Language – I am still figuring this one out. I like the free site DuoLingo but have not been disciplined enough to work it into the schedule. I would like all 3 girls to work on this each afternoon together. They are all very curious about speaking Spanish, since it is a part of their heritage. 🙂 I think they mostly just want to impress their Hispanic grandparents with some skills.
  • Free Read – these are the books I mentioned above, the ones they choose from a selection I give them. They can get through these as fast as they want, but I require them to at least read a chapter a day. And I have them narrate the chapter to me, even though I probably shouldn’t. I just want them to be in the habit of sharing what they read, so they understand the story.
  • Drawing/Handicraft – I have a list of handicrafts for them to choose from (soap carving, crochet, and a bunch more I found online!), and the plan is to incorporate the craftiness a few times a week. For drawing, it will usually fall on the days we do nature study. We typically draw whatever nature item/creature we are checking out; I search for a YouTube video on how to draw it, and we follow along. It has been pretty fun so far! I may or may not have my own Nature Journal that I draw in as well. 😉

At least once a week, after the boys are up from nap, we have a Tea Time. I was not sure how apt they would be to have tea in the afternoon, but all five kids seemingly love it! They ask for different flavors of tea, and we even do it English-style with cream and honey. Unless it is a flavor that would not go well with cream in it. But, we all get tea cups and saucers, a snack of some sort, and we sit together to eat and drink while I read some poetry (usually A Child’s Garden of Verses) or our group read-aloud book. We started The Water Babies but got off track and stopped reading it after just a few chapters (though I would like to eventually go back to it!). Now we are reading Old Yeller. I LOVE this book. I remember reading it once or twice as a child and then seeing the movie. We are only on the second chapter because our reading times have been rather short due to rambunctious boys, but we are all enjoying the story. The boys especially enjoyed the part when Little Arliss ran naked from the drinking water pool to the house! They laughed so hard at that part!

I am excited to work in the last couple items (handicraft, spanish, etc) and be “officially” into our school year. At first, coordinating the subjects into a decent schedule seemed overwhelming…and then it WAS overwhelming when I tried to use other people’s plans and schedules. Even though I know our home is different from every other homeschooling home, I still felt like I needed someone else’s plan. I finally gave up that idea and worked up my own plan. And so far, it is working! Go figure – our plan working best for our family. Haha! Also, I am not following each subject exactly as Ambleside shows. I have the same subjects but we adjust them to the best way for us to incorporate and learn them. Some, for us, will be a lot less in-depth than for other Ambleside families, while we may choose to go more in-depth for other subjects. But I know we are still giving the kids a very rich curriculum, much richer than what I know of the public schooling atmosphere. (I am not knocking the public school, but homeschooling allows us to get more involved in each subject when we want/need to…and we don’t have a classroom of 30 students. We just have a lot more flexibility for my kids’ learning styles, and I am so grateful!)

At some point I would love to have some pictures of our morning basket or of the kids doing a nature study or something, but I haven’t been very great with the camera lately. If I don’t try and do EVERYTHING, I feel a lot less stressed. So, if I don’t get pics on here that is ok. But, my goal is to eventually post some, to give you an idea of how our day works for us!

And I plan to share a bit more on loop scheduling and bullet journaling (this is a newer item for me, but I am LOVING it), details on working through our morning basket as a group, and many other things. I am feeling inspired and motivated to get back into blogging. It will probably be a lot less about food things and much more about homeschool. I have really fallen away from my uptightness with food, but that is a whole other post for a different day. For now, I am just rejoicing in our plan for homeschool and the start to a brand new year!!!