Homeschool Recap, Year 5

These pictures are entirely irrelevant to the post, but I have been trying to pull out my DSLR camera more often, so these are from a camping trip the kids and I went on a few days ago. It was the sweetest time and I find that the more we do these things, the more dialed in we get, which makes everything so much easier. The boys set up the entire camp while Lu and I set up the kitchen area and it made me so grateful to be in this stage where they are so capable! Every new stage has greater benefits!!

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Regarding last year… it was very challenging. I am hoping that this will be one of those school years that I can share about with other moms in the future when they are encountering difficult times—you know, to tell them it’s temporary?! We started our year pretty depleted from house renovations and then there are some very trying ongoing situations that we have had to work through outside of our home, which have all affected the heart of our schooling (mostly because I’m distracted). We also had lost most of our smaller homeschooling community to a private school, so we had to navigate our way through figuring out a new rhythm with different friends. That part ended up being bittersweet, because as I grieved the loss of our old community (even though we are all still great friends), it was sweet to spend time with families that we hadn’t ordinarily done life with. I am looking forward to doing more of that this upcoming year as well! All I can think about this last year is that it was a trying season, but that doesn’t mean that there wasn’t beauty in it. Our word for last year was “GROWTH” and I couldn’t think of a better word for it. Unless it was something like “HANDLED” or “BROKE.” But that’s not very positive!!

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Now that I got some of the emotional stuff out the way, let’s recap some of our academics. If it helps at all, the finished years of the children are as follows:

Carter—7th, Everett—5th, Scarlett—3rd, August & Elias—1st.

Grammar & Spelling:

I had mentioned that Carter was going to take “Foundations of Writing” through HSLDA. This class was a high school class and was divided between grammar and writing. It was an experiment for me because, if you’ve read my Getting Started Manual, you would know that I don’t believe in formal grammar until at least junior high, maybe even high school! I just don’t think that a subject should have that much repetition. If it requires years and years of the same practices, obviously our children are not cognitively capable of understanding. It should take one time. Anyway, that’s my philosophy, and I was curious to see if formal grammar lessons, let alone at a high school level, would be too much for Carter. He loved it and was just fine. As per my assumption, they reviewed all of the parts of speech and basic mechanics within the first few weeks. Because he was cognitively ready, he was able to understand and apply those mechanics immediately. They worked through “Analytical Grammar,” for those who are interested in the curriculum he used. For the writing portion of his class, he spent a lot of time online writing and conversing with his fellow classmates. I did not like this portion of the class. Since we try to keep technology low in our household, it was hard for me to see him on the computer so much. Also, the subjects of some of his essays were frustrating for me. He had to write persuasive essays on subjects such as social media, following trends, and other mediocre topics. After having years of beautifully written narrations, this was by far the most challenging part of “letting go.” It didn’t last long. :) I decided that I only get him for two more years before he heads to college (through a dual enrollment program) and I wanted control over the content that he was writing about. Therefore, we dropped out of the writing portion and he was able to join us again in our notebooking.

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The younger four were combined in an introductory grammar lesson, via the curriculum “Daily Grams.” This was another experiment as I have not done any curriculum in the past few years aside from math. Each twin had a workbook while I dictated the sentences to Scarlett and Everett. Daily Grams covered very basic grammatical principles, includings some parts of speech, capitalization, and formatting (such as letters and addressing envelopes). While it’s not my favorite subject, I enjoyed having them all at the table together and also appreciated some of the simple concepts that they learned. We did this lesson four days a week and it took about 10 minutes.

After completing Daily Grams, we would move onto spelling. I pulled Spalding lists from the internet for first grade, and would dictate a weekly list. If the older two were able to finish the list without any errors, they would not have to go on with that list for the week. After dictating the list each day (there were typically 30 words), I would then dictate five sentences that used most of the spelling words. I would not repeat the sentences to the older two, and they had to use cursive, but the younger two had less limitations, because the sentences were often too rigorous for them to remember. Many times I would add some grammatical elements to help apply some of the material we learned in Daily Grams (ie: possession, commas, capitalizing proper nouns, etc.). Here are some examples of sentences I would dictate: “He’s sorry he broke the young woman’s sugar press.” or “Who among you thought we should swim in January?” I have been asked a lot about our spelling approach on Instagram and I am considering writing a spelling list/ sentence dictation block. If you’re interested in this, let me know and that might motivate me to do it. :) Our spelling lessons were typically 15 minutes a day, for four days. I started giving spelling tests on Fridays because the twins requested them. If either or both of the older two hadn’t yet passed, they would also take the test on Friday.

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Upon finishing our Spalding lists, we would then move onto Sequential Spelling for the older two. I personally enjoy the fact that it includes prefix, suffix work and allows the children to figure out spelling patterns based off of adding or taking away from the root word (without having to have a separate lesson). They do this list in cursive as well.

Bible, Memory Work, History, Nature Study, Science, and Literature

We cover Bible, prayer, stories of martyrdom, memory work (Bible verses, poetry & hymns), history, nature study, science, and fictional literature through our Morning Collective time. I allocate certain days to certain subjects, but Bible, prayer, stories of martyrdom and memory work are our daily practices, as well as the current fictional piece to finish it off. We narrate usually after each read, but our narrations depend on our time frame (you can read about this whole process in my Getting Started Manual).

We did two blocks in the year, the Art Study and the Wildcraft Study. They were awesome! Our block work is done after our daily practices and replaces history, nature study, and science, although usually those subjects are naturally woven throughout the studies. The blocks allow us to get a little more hands-on and subject-specified, which is a nice break from all the short readings that we do throughout the year.

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Writing:

We continued our informal writing lessons through Notebooking. I mentioned two different new techniques for our writing and Notebooking in a recent Wild + Free conference and I’ll include them in here for you as well. In my Notebooking Manual, I mention that we notebook up to four times a week. Since we have added grammar and spelling lessons in, we now only notebook 3x/ week. On Mondays, it’s our copywork for whatever verse/ poem/ hymn we are memorizing. Tuesdays and Thursdays are written and illustrated narrations. If you would like more information on how we notebook and how they organically learn to spell/ write, you can find that all in the Notebooking Manual. :)

Here are the two types of narration that I referred to at the conference as “Burnout Narration:

Classroom Narration

  1. We gather together in front of the chalkboard and I have them take turns narrating in sequential order. If someone has a helpful date or fact, or any information to add, they raise their hand and respectfully interject after the individual child’s narration.

  2. I write down key points from their narration on the board.

  3. The oldest child writes three 5-sentence paragraphs, the middle two write 2 5-sentence paragraphs, and the twins write one 5 sentence paragraph.

  4. They take the sequential facts, make complete sentences out of them, and fill them with beautiful language to create a written narration.

  5. Then they illustrate.

Quick Write Narration

  1. After completion of Morning Collective, the children either narrate from their choice of readings or I assign a narration. They get the same assignment as before (paragraph-wise). Their sentences have to be complete and legible and they write them in their “free write” composition books. I go through each one, correct spelling and grammar, discuss with them their mistakes, and then they make the corrections. 

  2. On another day, if I don’t have the time or energy for the entire process of notebooking, I will have them select one of their narrations from their free write book and they will illustrate and copy them using our notebooking technique. This way we have a beautiful record of their narration, but it is broken down in steps and I am barely involved. :) I look at it as mediocre notebooking, haha!

Math:

If you have come to “know” me, then you understand that I am a big fan of change, however, I am so surprised to see that we have stuck with the same math curriculum all of these years! The youngest four continued to work through Math Mammoth. We don’t have specific time frames for them to complete a year because they do math year-long. Currently the twins are in 3rd grade math and Scarlett is in 4th grade.

Everett wakes up at 5:30am to go to work at the llama farm and likes to get his math done before he leaves. We were struggling with some accountability there, so I had to move him to an online program that will check his work for him and that I can monitor without his math papers becoming fire starters. ;) My friend, Rachel Kovac, mentioned that her son uses the online program “Thinkwell.” I checked it out and appreciated its method, so I signed him up for the 6th grade math course at the end of the school year. It has been the perfect balance for us and provides the right amount of accountability that I was struggling to keep.

Carter took a year of Algebra 2 through HSLDA. He liked it, but his teacher wasn’t his favorite (which was nice, because I want him to experience sticking through a course even though not all teachers are a great fit). He also joined Thinkwell when the school year ended and has been working through their PreCalculus class. I am not sure what we are going to do for him next year.

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As for next year, I am not sure of our plan. Using our approach doesn’t require much planning, glory! However, I would like to take some time to pray and figure out what direction we will head in. I will try to come back here and share any new resources should we choose to use any. I can’t believe we are going into our sixth year. It seems like just yesterday when we started so young and so fresh!

Also, I will try and come up with a book list of some of our favorites from last year. I am SO bad at documenting our finished materials, but I will sit with the kids and find out their favorites. I’ll save that for the post to come. :)

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I hope you’re enjoying your summer! xo





Kitchen Remodel Before, During & After

Well goodness gracious.  Jason and I just finished installing the last outlet covers for the kitchen and it felt like a huge sigh of relief!  The last couple of months have been a whirlwind of crazy hard work and dedication. But we have a completed kitchen, yay! And we've been able to host larger groups of friends and family and that has made the project well worth it.

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From this perspective, there were two rooms; to the left a small and narrow dining nook and on the right, a laundry room.  We removed the walls for the laundry room, moved the plumbing a little bit over, kept the laundry room closets for our pantry and added an engineered header to support the roofline and upstairs.  The header was a big project, one that took a large portion of our budget, but it was the most important!  Dayn at Martin Timberworks did the work and left his trademark screw plugs. 

I designed the prep table to be some sort of potting table/ prep table. My hope was for it to be in white oak, however, I learned something new... apparently white oak is on the east coast and red oak is on the west, so if you're on the west coast, you'll pay a pretty penny for white, and if you're on the east coast, it's pretty expensive to buy red.  So we settled with red and I had to stain it with a gray based stain in order to tone down the oranginess of it. I really do love the grain that it brings into an otherwise low contrast room. As of now the table serves as the smoothie bar, the kids' sink, and a place to put drinks when people come over. To give you a size perspective, the table is 8 ft long.  This room is really large, but it's hard to get a feel for it based off of pictures.

The lights over the prep table are from Lamps Plus (although they're not available any longer), sink and faucet are from Signature Hardware --their faucets are super hardy, but reasonably priced compared to similar styles. I didn't want all of my hardware, faucets and lighting to match in finish, but I wanted it to look like it was pieced together over time. Try to ignore the unfinished plumbing under the sink. As with most of this entire project, the finishing pieces have to be custom ordered. (Eye roll!!)

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Here is a before photo. The laundry room wasn't captured, however, but you'll get an idea of the dining nook.  I have really sweet memories of my boys knocking down that wall. It was the first wall to come down. The not so sweet memories are of all of us tearing down the drywall of the entire room for my Mother's Day present!

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I'm just going to say it... the photos above raise my blood pressure a bit! We had fun, though. It was exhausting and exhilerating at the same time!

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This wall was originally a built-in pantry and where the fridge was located. Because we were using the pantries in the laundry room, we didn't need them. It was the only place where I could put a gas range without spending the entire budget on moving a gas line.  It makes the "cooking triangle" a little bit more stretched out than I'd hoped, but it works. Having an island between the range and sink help a lot as well.  I researched several brands of ranges and ultimately chose the AGA Elise Dual Fuel Range.  Some of the comparative brands offered a grill plate on the top, rather than larger burners, and I knew we'd rarely use the grill pan in comparison to needing the space for larger pots and pans. I have no regrets. This stove is a workhorse! We have been using it non-stop since purchasing it and have all grown in our culinary skills!  It really is the perfect marriage of simple yet offers many functions. The grill drawer is used daily for broiling toast or grilling veggies. I can't recommend it enough! 

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The second post above was another wall.  Here, there was a narrow doorway into the dining room.  The kitchen technically only had one window above the sink, and since the kitchen is the heart of our home, I knew I would struggle with having so little natural light.  We decided to take the entire wall down, which of, or course, required another engineered post and header to bare the weight of the roofline and upstairs.  All kitchen and dining hardware is from Top Knobs and I chose a variety of styles all in the finish "German Bronze".

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Above is the before shot of the built-in pantry and fridge. That's the wall that the range is now against and we have removed the doorway and wall to the right completely.

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I added a little broom closet to the left of the fridge last minute. Because we didn't know what structural changes we were going to have to deal with, I had literally a week to make a plan and start executing.  A week is very short to make a ton of decisions! I'm glad I was able to sneak in this little closet because we use it daily!

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This is the opposite view of the kitchen.  I wrestled back and forth with having oak cabinetry, I really wanted oak but this portion of the kitchen (between the two headers) gets the least amount of natural light and I knew I'd have to keep things bright in order to maintain a cheery space.  Plus, cost was an issue. I ultimately decided to go with a standard shaker cabinet from a local cabinet maker. I was very pleased with his work and the cost was close to what we'd pay for boxes from a store!

I also struggled with choosing the right color as I didn't want just another white kitchen. I had about thirty swatches of greys and greiges and everything in between. In the end, I knew my senses could not handle color, so I went safe.  I chose Swiss Coffee through Benjamin Moore for all of the cabinets and trim and used Simply White for the walls. It is so soothing within this space! And after having added the butcher block on the island, that created enough contrast for me. 

I am still undecided on backsplash and may just stay that way for a while.  Originally I was going to do V-groove boards, but last minute I decided against it and am just going to let the kitchen decide for me over time.  So now we have a rail all the way around the kitchen, without a shelf or V-groove board underneath. :)

Sconces above the sink are Amazon! I think they were $13 each. For the sink, I wanted something a little bit different from just your standard farm sink, so I chose the Highpoint Collection Double Lip Sink from Overstock and mounted it above the countertop for some variation in dimension.  Since the appliances are integrated, I needed a little bit of dimension. Speaking of appliances... we went with the Fisher & Paykel Integrated French Door fridge and freezer. I really wanted the integrated look but spending $8k was not an option. This was the only brand I found that offered an affordable model. It took a little while for my cabinet maker to figure out the paneling, but aside from that, it has been a great addition.  For the dishwasher, we chose Fisher & Paykel Double Dish Drawer dishwasher as it fits our family perfectly. We don't have more than one set of dishes, so we often hand wash after each meal. Once I learned we were wasting more water handwashing than a single load would use in one of the drawers, I was sold. :)  This has been an amazing addition to our kitchen and I have a clean sink constantly because of its ease and efficiency. Win! We went through Monark Home to get the appliances because I heard their customer service was brilliant and it was!  The installers were very professional and even came back the next day when I couldn't figure out the buttons (there are only like four or five, so this was embarrassing)!

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Above is the before of this side of the kitchen...again, the left wall was taken down and replaced by a post & header.  The original kitchen itself was charming and true to the style of the farmhouse, but I wanted the liiiiiight! A big renovation for a little bit of natural light! 

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I battled back and forth with going with marble again or choosing something more durable. Because this move was about hospitality for us, we really wanted everything to cater towards durability and having a home that could handle masses of people and the wear and tear of children.  Ultimately, I decided to go with Caesarstone quartz.  I read up on the durability of the product and was delighted with the idea that a guest or a husband, for that matter, could simply cut a lemon on the countertop and there would be no etching.

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I ended up choosing "Cloudburst Concrete" because it just felt soothing.  Jeff over at Sierra Stone, a local company fabricated them and installed them. I was so glad I chose him as he has a top-of-the-line equipment, which made cutting the detailed grooves around the posts very easy. He did a beautiful job and was so professional to work with. He even let Carter and I watch the fabrication process, which was fascinating and we both learned a lot!

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Here's a full view of the kitchen side of the room. The island was a Mother's Day gift (along with a full day of demolition!). I had found it on Craigslist and it was actually a shop table with drawers. It was green and I sanded it down about four different times. Ideally, I'd like an oak island a little longer and skinnier with seating all on one side (the other side of the island looks exactly the same and has two stools as well), but cost-wise, this was the smartest thing for us to do. We bought butcher block from Lumber Liquidators and our friend Bobby helped glue it and add an oak trim around the perimeter. I've never had an island in any home we've ever owned, and I am finding out that it truly is the place where people hang out!

For flooring, this room and the twins' room are the only two spaces that didn't have original wood floors.  This room had a slab and because of previous flooring disasters on slab, I opted, yet again, for something durable.  After a ton of research, I went with Coretec Vinyl Planks in Calypso Oak. These have a cork underlay, which helps with sound, softness, and temperature, but are 100% waterproof and will not expand or contract.  I am very happy with them and anyone who walks in the kitchen immediately asks, "Are these white oak floors?" So I think they've done a great job an

The middle image is of the wall that was removed, you can see all the way back through the laundry room. The left image is of my very strong brother and step dad that came and helped us from time to time. The right image is of the headers being put in and an open space at once!

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Now for the other side of the room!  This is the view from our living area into the kitchen/ dining.  Walls in the living area are "Classic Gray" from Benjamin Moore.  I had to drive a few hours for the V-groove paneling from Trimac Panel. It's hard to come by! Ideally, I would have love to do wood planks, but again, cost was an issue, so the paneling worked out great. Plus, it was so easy to hang and paint!

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The dining/ school space!  This home is much larger than our last, and there are a few options for a school room, but to be honest, I miss hanging out around the table working together.  When I saw these windows and the beautiful view outside of them, I just knew that we would make this space work. We were originally going to leave the joists exposed, however, the noise of upstairs was just too much. Also, it was very rustic and the whole house is so classic, adding a rustic and industrial vibe felt awkward. So, alas, a very drywalled room. :) 

The furniture piece to the left came with the house, it was just in the living room (before pict below). I knew it would make for a great homeschool cabinet as it is massive. I had our cabinet maker add doors on the top to conceal some of the mess, we caulked the heck out of it, and then painted it the same color as the cabinets (Swiss Coffee) so that it would be cohesive with the kitchen.

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We added a small little window to the right of the cabinet.  The big windows are original so they do not open and we needed air flow from the front of the house to the back. I found the window at Restore and had a friend install it in exchange for a family photo session. You get desperate in times like these and your survival mode comes out. ;)

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The table is custom built by a friend's dad (support your local furniture maker!!).  We needed a larger table for the space and after eyeing an Ikea table, I just couldn't spend that amount on a piece of veneer.  Anyway, he was able to build the table and bench for nearly the same cost as the Ikea table and bench I was looking at, except it's in oak like my prep table. :)  I had been searching for months for the right chairs. I wanted something mid century, but it couldn't be too modern as the house just can't carry that style, so I found these on Craigslist and it was a small little miracle we were able to get them first.  Carter and I drove 2.5 hrs each way to get them, but I am so pleased we did. 

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Hanging pendants are from Lamps Plus.

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Jason's one and only opinion/ suggestion for this entire project was to add a door to the garage for entry.  Since we moved our laundry to the garage, this was a very wise decision. He is such a good man. Can you believe he only had one opinion this entire time? He basically gave me the money and followed my timeline and requests and just did whatever he was assigned to do--even if that meant creating a tent in a newly painted kitchen to trench through concrete. When everything came together towards the end (cabinets, countertops, appliances), he walked in and said, "Oh, so this is our kitchen?! Ha. So good. I think that's why we were able to do this with minimal tears and tension. He is a very good man. Thanks, babe, for your amazing attitude!

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The before picture. Guys, there were up to six layers of flooring underneath this carpet in places; I guess that's a given with the home's age (built in 1864), but man, so many layers!!

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That's it, folks!  I feel like I have sourced almost everything, but if you have any other questions, feel free to ask.  Companies that are live linked have either donated or offered discounts for their products in exchange for an honest review. Thanks for following us on our crazy journey!