Curriculum 101 Review

Curriculum101One of the biggest struggles homeschooling families battle is which curriculum is best for their children. We become overwhelmed by the amount of curriculum available, struggle to find the right fit for each of our children, proceed to doubt each choice made for at least the first several weeks, and continue to search for new ways of teaching well after we’ve already begun our year.

To this end, we thought we’d spend time launching discussions on all things curriculum.

What you’ll find in this series: Encouragement, help, tips, hints, and open discussion on what’s worked for our families and what hasn’t.

What you won’t find in this series: A push toward any curriculum in particular.

Our desire is to spend time in open conversation with our readers! We would love to share how we’ve taught each subject; what’s worked for us; and ways we’re still attempting to improve in each subject. What we don’t want to do is fit your child into our homeschooling box.

We’re praying you’ll join us in this adventure. Consider this an open invitation to share your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you, readers, on each topic; letting us know your thoughts, tips, and links to related articles.

Grammar & Composition
History & Geography
PreK Helps
Computer Sciences
Foreign Language

May this series enrich each of us. And, may the Lord use this time to encourage us all in our homeschooling adventures.

📢 Chime In!: Is there an area of study which continually gives you trouble or causes stress in your learning day?

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The Art of Organizing Recipes

Art_Organizing_RecipesOne of the curses of being an organized person, is that you constantly feel the need to reorganize until everything is just perfect. My recipe book is usually one area which is perfectly in order. I have a handful of recipes I cook on a regular basis and on occasion will pull something from the book to “spice things up”. Recently, however, I have become quite bored with the routine recipes and felt the need to stretch my wings in the kitchen department. An overhaul needed to take place!

The first step in our reorganization process, was to weed out recipes, frankly, we were never going to use. I mean, realistically, would my kids eat seafood mac and cheese? Next, we headed to the library and grabbed a bunch of books which seemed to have great ideas. We sifted our way through them, marking the ones we thought would be of interest, and then hunted them down on the internet. Those we could find were bookmarked on Pinterest for future use. Those we couldn’t, we scanned and filed on the computer. The recipes we found most useful (such as baking fresh bread) and likely to be used, we printed.

The printed pages were hole punched and placed into our new recipe book – a binder. We designed a clever cover and section dividers with witty sayings. We now have sections for just about anything!

  • Breakfast
  • Breads
  • Appetizers & Snacks
  • Sides
  • Pasta/Rice
  • Soups & Sauces
  • Main Dishes (divided into sections for fish, chicken, beef, and pork)
  • Family Recipes
  • Desserts (divided into sections for cookies, cakes, and other)

We now have a “book” filled with practical recipes that interest all of us. Some of the recipes will be more challenging, while others are simple. Some of them are new adventures, while others are subtle twists on classics. Our goal is to add one of these recipes to our home school day, as often as possible. Sometimes we will use them for lunch, other times for dinner and entertaining.

It is so nice to have this small portion of our lives a little better organized.

“Older women likewise… They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”
~ Titus 2:3-5

📢 Chime In!: Do you have a recipe book? How often do you update your collection?

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Our August Reads


August was out of this world busy. Between sick kitties, volunteer work, school back in session, and organizing group activities, life has never been more fun. With various field trips thrown in, mommy’s surprised we got much else done.  However, we are back in action. Thus, books! Each month we’ve been blessed with incredible reads. This month was no exception.

Two of these books were included in Our Morning Basket. The others were personal reads for mom. Here’s a rundown of the books we enjoyed during the month of August:

  1. A Rat’s Tale (Tor Seidler) – Montague Mad-Rat lives a solitary existence in the sewers of New York City. His only delights are scavenging through Central Park for feathers and berries for his mother, and painting the seashells his aunt brings him. One day, he rescues the beautiful Isabel Moberly-Rat, and upon escorting her home is introduced to a world he never knew existed. 
    A very cute story. I think our older children found this story to be a tad slow. However, the illustrations are charming.
  2. Good Morning, Miss Dove (Francis Gray Patton) – Miss Dove is a strict disciplinary, plus a well-respected teacher, who has inspired her students to individual greatness. One day during class, Miss Dove experiences great pain in her back. While in the hospital, her former students rally around her causing Miss Dove to reflect on her past. 
    Enough good things cannot be said about this story. Read it. You’ll love it. The story is not high in action and suspense, nor is it particularly funny. But it will touch your heart. One of the best reads we’ve covered in a while!
  3. Nature Anatomy (Julia Rothman) – See the world in a new way! Acclaimed illustrator Julia Rothman celebrates the diverse curiosities and beauty of the natural world in this exciting new volume. With whimsically hip illustrations, every page is an extraordinary look at all kinds of subjects, from mineral formation and the inside of a volcano to what makes sunsets, monarch butterfly migration, the ecosystem of a rotting log, the parts of a bird, the anatomy of a jellyfish, and much, much more.
    A highly recommended book, we borrowed this read from our local library. Mom liked it so much, it is now on my wait list for Amazon. We can see why everyone recommended Nature Anatomy.
  4. Baked Explorations ( Matt Lewis, Renato Poliafito, Tina Rupp) – Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito’s 2008 Baked was published to national critical acclaim and raved about across the blogosphere. Since then, their profile has gotten even bigger, with continued praise from Oprah and Martha Stewart; product availability in every Whole Foods across the U.S.; and a new bakery in Charleston, South Carolina, with even more traffic than their original Brooklyn location.
    Mom checked out this book because – well – sugar. It didn’t disappoint. The recipes might seem a tad hard for those new to baking. However, most are within reach for the average home cook.
  5. The Tiger, Love, #1(Frederic Brremaud) – A day in the life of the king of the jungle, this lavishly illustrated story follows a single majestic tiger through a wordless adventure of survival as it hunts prey and defends itself from other would-be killers defending their territory. This exciting tale is told without narration or dialogue, conveyed entirely through the beautiful illustrations of Federico Bertolucci. A beautiful, all-ages title that explores genuine natural behavior through the dramatic lens of Disney-esque storytelling. Like a nature documentary in illustration.While we might not want to judge a book by its cover, this one does not disappoint. Gorgeous inside and out, The Tiger is magnificent. My oldest found this at the library, but all of us have soaked up its pages, including my husband, the illustrator. When he wants to buy something, you know it’s good.
  6. National Parks, America’s Best Idea (Dayton Duncan) – America’s national parks spring from an idea as radical as the Declaration of Independence: that the nation’s most magnificent and sacred places should be preserved, not for royalty or the rich, but for everyone. In this evocative and lavishly illustrated narrative, Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan delve into the history of the park idea, from the first sighting by white men in 1851 of the valley that would become Yosemite and the creation of the world’s first national park at Yellowstone in 1872, through the most recent additions to a system that now encompasses nearly four hundred sites and 84 million acres.
    Considering it is National Park month in the good ‘ole US of A, this book seemed appropriate. Filled with spectacular photography, National Parks was a lovely way to learn American History and explore God’s creation.

September’s stack of books is already piled high and we’re ready to get moving. Our problem is never what to read, but having enough time to read them all! Wish us luck.

📢 Chime In!: Which book is at the top of your stack right now?

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Making a Contribution: The Blessing of Being a Volunteer

“From my early school days, I was brought up with the belief that we have a duty to use our talents, to volunteer and to make a contribution. ”
~ Michael Hintze

Contribution_VolunteerIt started with a simple booth at a fair and eager children wanting to play with kittens. What developed was more than I could have imagined. This summer, our daughters became active volunteers at a local neonatal kitten hospital, and our lives might never be the same.

Volunteering at the hospital has taught our children much in a short time. From taking medical courses in zoonosis to feeding classes, we’ve learned a great deal over this past summer. Alongside technical aspects of working in the hospital, our children have learned to cultivate a heart of service. We’ve gained an appreciation for the hard work which goes into caring for these sweet animals each and every day; the dedication both staff and other volunteers have in meeting needs.

We’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of the loveliest people. From working professionals to grandparents, you never know who you’re going to be serving with. (One gentleman spent part of his morning explaining the art of breeding rare pythons, his full-time business.) From the techs at the hospital to the youngest person serving, we’ve learned a lot.

Most importantly, our children have been given hands-on experience with making a contribution. Through the work we are doing at the hospital, our children are actively learning to put aside their own desires to think of other people and God’s creation. The Lord is using this time to open their eyes to needs around them, to which they otherwise were blind. They’ve learned the value of hard work outside our home, the need to work together, and the joy of a job well done.

The days spent at the shelter have given our children a wealth of knowledge and a heart of service. I know these days will never be forgotten, nor will the many lessons learned. May the Lord continue to cultivate a heart of service in each of us.

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:”
~ I Peter 4:10

📢 Chime In!: Is volunteer work a regular part of your homeschooling routine?

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Book Review: The High School Handbook

High_School_HandbookSometimes you come across a resource so good you just can’t stop recommending it. That is exactly how we feel about The High School Handbook. This one book contains so much helpful information regarding those all too important years, you just might not need another.

In The High School Handbook, Ms. Schofield does an excellent job of laying the groundwork for Jr. and Sr. High. She provides a helpful, step-by-step process to organizing your students’ workload, as well as ideas on how each can be implemented to their fullest. She explains, with clear reasoning, why each step is taken and how it benefits both your student and yourself. To further assist you with each step, Ms. Schofield has graciously placed helpful sample forms throughout the book, showing how her family has organized each area. She has also included blank forms for you to copy and use at your own disposal, making your job even easier.

Ms. Schofield covers every area of Jr. and Sr. High that you could possibly imagine. If you are unsure of how to organize your classes, this book will help. If you are unsure which classes are needed to attend a university, this book will help. Need tips on grading, courses standards, transcripts, and college? This book is definitely the one for you. From Language Arts and Arithmetic, to Driver’s Ed and Work Permits, this book has something for everyone.

On a personal level, I am extremely grateful I chose to read the book before our children started junior and senior high. Our children were still in elementary school (we are not including sixth grade as part of “middle school”). Had I waited until the summer before junior high, I might have stressed myself out with the amount of paperwork and organizing needing to be done. However, having read the book a full year in advance, I had plenty of time to prepare whatever forms were necessary. I very much appreciated the sections on Missionary Opportunities, Apprenticeship, and College at Home, as each of these areas are of particular interest to our family.

Once again, I find myself cracking open the pages to dig even deeper; hoping to find new sources of information or perhaps little facets I might have missed the first few go-rounds. High school is here in full force, with graduation a few short years away.

I highly recommend The High School Handbook for everyone with a child going into Jr. and/or Sr. High. Even if you don’t homeschool, it will help you to better understand what classes your child should be taking in their studies. It will help you prepare them for ACT and SAT exams, College Applications, and other areas common to upper grades. I greatly encourage you to read this book. Don’t wait until your child is about to start their higher education, help them now. You won’t regret it!

📢 Chime In!: For those of you with children already in Junior or Senior High, was there a particular book(s) that you found helpful in organizing the chaos?

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Homeschoolers and the Question of PJ’s

“One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.”
~ Groucho Marx

Homeschoolers_PajamasEver since I was little, my mom instilled in me the discipline of taking care of myself. When you got up in the morning, you made your bed, showered, got dressed, brushed your teeth, and looked presentable. Even as an adult, this concept remains.

As a parent, I find myself passing this on to my own children. At the start of our day, they are given a certain amount of time to become presentable and ready to tackle what lies before them. Why do we do this? Outside of habit, I find this to be a good life skill. By teaching my children to get a good start to their day, we are preventing procrastination and laziness.

I appreciate that my mom took the time to instill this in us kids, and I plan to continue this with our own family. Sometimes, however, I wonder if I’m the only homeschool parent crazy enough to forbid my children to live in pajamas.

What about your family? Do you…

  • Allow your kiddos to wear pajamas during their learning day?
  • How often do they wear pajamas while schooling?
  • Do you ever have ‘pajama days’, making this a special occasion?
  • If your kids have ‘pajama days’, do you participate as well?
  • If you do allow pajamas during your learning day, at what point do you insist on outside clothing?
  • Have you ever had a problem stemming/arising from the practice of wearing pajamas during school time?

We’re fascinated to hear your take on this fun topic. No matter how you’ve chosen to address this issue, we’re encouraged to hear how the Lord is leading in your home.

Do we ever lounge in pj’s? Occasionally. On the weekends, mom will let the kiddos sleep in a bit and get dressed when they are ready. On my part, I don’t want this to become a habit. Every once in a while it is fun to have a pajama day or to be a little lazy, but those days are special, not the norm.

📢 Chime In!: What is the cutest pair of pajamas your kids have ever worn?

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Planning to Avoid Failure

Fail-to-planI am huge on planning. Without a “vision” for my day, or my year for that matter, I can quickly lose balance of what needs to be accomplished and get overwhelmed by the surmounting tasks of the day-to-day.

In order to help me make sense of life and to prioritize the multitude of tasks that fill my routine, I decided to write down a “master plan”. A guideline to help me better manage both my household and my homeschooling.

Let me be the first to remind you, this is not a hard-line which cannot be crossed. Rather, consider these as they were intended, guidelines. They are a starting point which can be changed and manipulated at any given point.

What works for me, might not work for you. Please feel free to read with discretion, pray about what you are hearing, and then decide for yourself where the Lord is leading.

Part I:   Prioritizing Life
Part II:  Managing the Budget
Part III: Adding Events
Part IV: Planning the Homeschool Year
Part V:  Putting it all Together

May these ideas help you as much as they help me!

📢 Chime In!: Are you a planner or a procrastinator?

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Crafting With the Kids – Quilling

ˈkwil iNG


a piece of quilled lace or other fabric used as a trim. (North American)
a type of ornamental craftwork involving the shaping of paper, fabric, or glass into delicate pleats or folds.
QuillingToday we revisited an art form we’ve put aside for a while now… Quilling. Some of them took to it right away, while others struggled at first. One thing is certain though; we all had a blast.
In order to better prepare for the lesson, we found these links to be very helpful:

Paper Quilling Basics

Paper Quilling Instructions

Quilled Creations Beginner Quilling Kit

It took a few minutes for the kids to get the hang of things, but once they did, there was no stopping them. I would surmise that my daughters appreciated this art form more than my son. But he did enjoy it all the same.

I don’t imagine quilling becoming a regular part of our crafting routine. However, this was a nice alternative to traditional mediums, and offered a new perspective on art. It was also a good practice in hand-eye coordination, as well as a study on paper-folding itself.

Now that we have the basics of quilling down and the kids have had some practice, perhaps we are ready to move on to a finished project.

📢 Chime In!: Have you done any quilling? Which project would you recommend?

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7 Gifts Good & Perfect

7 GiftsAbout a year ago, I was perusing Amazon and came across the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I was touched by her gentle manner and her thoughtful insight. It seemed every word she spoke was poetic and meaningful. It didn’t take long to find her website, perusing all of the wisdom she had to share. While wandering her site, I noticed that she had a particular entry about 7 Gifts. This piqued by interest and had me taking a deeper look.

What I found was truly a treasure. 7 Gifts encourages each of us to take a look at the everyday and see it in a new light; to take the ordinary and see its beauty.

If the concept worked for us as adults, why not bring my children in on this unique idea? What better way to teach my children the beauty of everyday life?

7 Gifts Good & Perfect is now a part of our daily routine. Each of my children and I carry a copy with us. When we find something that inspires us, we write it down. During our Bible time, at the beginning of our homeschooling day, we take the time to review each other’s lists.

7 Gifts

It never ceases to amaze me what my children find good and perfect… The smell of their clean sheets, the feel of their pillow, the taste of fresh-baked bread; these things have become meaningful to their lives.

My list for today:

  • The sound of quiet
  • The feel of a warm breeze
  • The calmness of a slowly taken breath
  • The smell of a clean sweater
  • The knowledge that I am not alone
  • The taste of Mexican hot chocolate
  • The feeling of accomplishment, when my day is complete

This has become an important part of our homeschooling adventure. Seeing the wonder and splendor in even the littlest things. Thank you so much, Mrs. Voskamp, for this wonderful idea!

📢 Chime In!: What 7 Gifts have you discovered today?

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The Practice of Oral Reading

Practice_Oral_ReadingI’m sure we all encourage our children to read. Silently. But, how much time is spent on reading aloud? Oral fluency seems to be necessary for good comprehension and an enjoyable reading experience.¹ If we aren’t already doing so, adding oral reading to our homeschooling routine might be of benefit.

Since their births, we have tried to instill a love of reading in our kids. Even before they could understand, we would read to them or read in front of them. However, reading to them isn’t enough. I want to make sure that as my children are growing, they are also reading to me.

There are some great ways to encourage oral reading. We can model how to read; ideally with us reading fluently to our children. We can read often; every day I make time to read with each child and have them read to me. We can read as a group; our family could memorize a poem and say it together.

What makes a good reader? One indication they are doing well, is that they are reading with expression; they will sound happy when it is called for and sad when necessary. Another pointer is that they are reading without struggling.

If you are looking for a great way to incorporate oral reading into your homeschool learning day, look no further than your book basket! If you care to find something a little more formal, I would highly recommend McGuffey’s Eclectic Readers

The key is to read at least once a day, preferably reading the same passage throughout the week. This might seem boring at first, but the repetition is important. Reading the same words over and over, builds fluency and helps your child become comfortable with the text. After a day or so, your child will be less anxious about the words; focusing more on expression and delivery.

When children read out loud, we can better detect their struggles and offer them positive feedback; helping them complete their learning goals. This is especially important for children who are already struggling with reading, giving them the help they need to be stronger readers.

Our children’s education will flourish when they are fluent readers. Fluency may seem out of reach, but it can be achieved. With consistent practice and constant encouragement, our children will ultimately reach their goal.

📢 Chime In!: Does oral fluency play a part in your homeschooling day? How do you find ways to encourage your child to read aloud?

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