Our Fifth Homeschool Year!

Part of me feels as if we've homeschooled for the past ten years, and the other part of me can still remember vivid details of our first week homeschooling. I keep telling those who ask that homeschooling is no different than parenting, and from that perspective, I feel it rings true. :)

These smokey phone images were taken from an outing with my kids and have nothing to do with this post. :)

These smokey phone images were taken from an outing with my kids and have nothing to do with this post. :)

I wanted to share a little bit about our year last year as well as some of our plans for the upcoming year just in case you find either or both helpful. I had written out my expectations for each child (a very limited list!) in my school year post last year and I am so happy to report that we were able to meet those expectations!  See, friends, when you set them low enough, you can accomplish them! If interested in our last year expectations, that post is here. If you're hoping for a new school year list, alas, that hasn't happened. But based off of my blogging twice in one month, it just might in the near future.

Last Year & This Coming Year: Fun stuff first!


The twins quickly learned how to read using "Reading Lessons Through Literature." I'm not sure this simple program is for everyone, but having learned how to read through the Spalding approach, this fit my understanding of phonics, yet kept teaching a little more simple, which is just my style!  We will continue to go through the book (it moves very quickly, so I used spelling lists from "Spelling by Hand" in between lists which elongated the process). I also used Spelling by Hand when teaching CVC words (Consonant, Vowel, Consonant). Their tactile approach is what helped the twins learn to blend sounds.  Teaching them to read was an absolute joy slash science experiment as they are pretty much exactly the same developmentally!



Carter (grade 6) had his first year of high school math! He did an online class through HSLDA Academy. This was a great experience for him.  I was a little bit hesitant as he skipped both 7th and 8th grade math, but he seemed to know all the prerequisites in order to take the class, so we went for it. It challenged him and confirmed for him that he does, indeed, love math. He ended the course with a 99%--go Carter boy! We have enrolled Carter for a second year through HSLDA and he will be doing Algebra 2! THIS HAS BEEN A GREAT DECISION in our homeschooling journey. Carter is so capable and academic, yet he does best when he's left to teaching himself or having someone other than his mother teach him. :)  We have been able to separate this subject from our relationship and have both benefited greatly because of it. Mamas, do not feel like you need to do it all on your own. Each child is different and I am learning that it is just fine to source out subjects for the sake of relationship.

Scarlett and Everett (grades 2 & 4) continued on through Math Mammoth for their grade level. We were going to start the next grade this summer, but decided to take an official summer break starting in July.  It's been nice. I like this curriculum. It's cost efficient and doesn't bore the children.  Both Lu and Everett do not enjoy math as much as Carter, but I feel that it at least keeps their interest. We skip through some common core stuff on occasion, but for the most part, they plow through.  The twins will be starting year 1 Math Mammoth this year--so the younger four will all be using Math Mammoth. To think that I paid $50 for all six years of it! That's been a good investment. ;)

I started the twins (kinder) with fun games and puzzles, paying attention to their developmental cues.  By mid year, they were begging for "Mad Minutes" (these are timed drills for math fact memorization).  They have worked through basic principles of addition and subtraction and have even started doing multiplication and division. They are the best little students and learners! They want to do everything their siblings do.  Math Mammoth starts at Grade 1 and I wanted to wait until they could read and do their math independently, so they'll be starting this year.  To keep them busy towards the end of last year, we used the workbooks, "Math in Focus: Singapore 1A"--as Singapore is known to be similar to Math Mammoth.


This was the first year we have ever done spelling aside from working with phonics.  Carter never needed spelling, so we bypassed it for him, but both Lu and Everett both showed that despite the amount of copywork they did, some words just didn't "stick" with them.  Therefore, we went through "Sequential Spelling" in small intervals throughout the year. I saw a lot of improvement in simple words as they introduce a few spelling rules such as doubling consonants and dropping the "e" when adding an "ing" throughout the lessons--they also have weekly homophones, which taught the children to ask, "which one?" when being dictated a word such as "meat". Having the two work together on the same level created a little healthy competition throughout, which made the process short and fun for everyone. 



All of the kids read the reading list that I required last year as well as their own picks from the library.  We had a meeting the other day because I was curious what their favorite read alouds were.  I wanted to share some of them with you because they were just too delightful not to share! These are in no particular order.  We read many other books, but the following list was agreed upon as our past year's favorites:

  • Swiss Family Robinson (my personal favorite and probably my most inspirational parenting book)
  • Jasper and the Riddle of Riley's Mine
  • Cheaper by the Dozen (my second favorite--I totally related to the dad and his quest for efficiency!)
  • Wonder
  • Holes (this was the twins' favorite as they learned words like "butt head" in it)
  • A Wrinkle in Time
  • Caddie Woodlawn
  • Rascal
  • My Friend Flicka
  • Misty of Chincoteague
  • Brighty of the Grand Canyon
  • The Railway Children

I wish I would have kept a running list of our favorite picture books because we had quite a few new ones we were introduced to through the library. Maybe next year. :)


Grammar & Writing:

We continued on with our notebooking, which took the place of both subjects.  The kids are fantastic at narrating verbally and through our homemade approach (covered in my Notebooking Manual), but when checking their free write books, I noticed that their grammar could use some help. I am not planning on teaching formal grammar until Everett is in at least 7th or 8th grade, where I will then teach the four younger kids grammar all at the same time in a block form. I honestly don't think any of them are developmentally ready for parts of speech and diagraming, but I do believe that they need help with capitalization, punctuation, and sentence combining.  This year, I will be introducing "Daily Grams" to both Lu and Everett. I will have the twins participate to see if anything clicks for them, but they will not be working in a workbook.

Carter will be starting another HSLDA class, Foundations in Writing.  I am planning to take it with him. :) This will be a guinea pig situation as he has not had any formal grammar. This will be a true test to see if he needed it prior!  I'll be sure to report back if so. I do know, according to the syllabus, that they will be covering diagrams and sentence types, etc. I think he's at a great age developmentally to be able to understand the concept of diagraming, so I am hoping that with their brief review of parts of speech, he'll be able to stride through. If he's okay with me sharing his experience at the end of the year, I'll be sure to do so.


This past year we took advantage of homeschooling and went on a lot of trips and had beautiful experiences!  Some of them included road trips to Mammoth Lakes, San Francisco, and Utah. We hiked, we ate new foods, and tried new things.  This is why I work! It's so fulfilling for me to be able to expose my kids to as many environments and people as possible. There is still so much to do and see, but we are going to continue to keep experiences a large part of our homeschool. It can't be measured academically, but I am confident in the value of them, so I keep working, and we keep going. :) Until the Lord asks us to do otherwise.


By far, the most memorable subjects studies were the two blocks that we moved through, the Biomes Study and the Africa Study. We organically move through other smaller studies all throughout the year, but there's something about diving in head first and dwelling there that makes a huge impact.  We have plans to do the same this year.  Our first subject will be art, and I am REALLY looking forward to it, because I don't believe I have personally ever dug deep into art appreciation. All of my children are interested in various forms of art, so I can predict this will be a fun one for us!


Last Year & This Coming Year: The Hard Stuff.

I discussed homeschool burnout on my last homeschooling post (which was probably a year ago). It's a real thing. Through my quiet time, I have learned that for me, it's more about an attitude and a mindset.

I truly believe that some moms experience burnout because they are literally investing everything into their children and forgetting to take time to invest in themselves.  I know wonderful, selfless people like that. But I am not one of them. :)  If you are amazingly selfless, I highly encourage you to read Gretchen Rubin's The Four Tendencies--this was a life changing book for me! And my guess is that you are an Obliger. ;)

I have no excuse for burnout, because I do invest in myself. I set boundaries with my own children and friends so that I am sure to have some quiet time daily, and that I get my run in and my work done. I don't struggle with giving them my all and forgetting about myself. My struggle is with giving God my all. In the past year, I have learned that I can double up on reading the Bible and running--there's an amazing app called the Daily Audio Bible.  What a way to be efficient! Bible and run at the same time! While a good portion of God's word was able to make it into my mind and through some of my thoughts, it just wasn't the same as sitting at the table and reading his love letters and instruction to me. My need for efficiency ended up depleting me of nourishment.

For the past few weeks I have been asking him why I am not looking forward to this upcoming year (thankfully, things are changing attitude-wise there!), but he gently let me know that I am not investing in him. This year, he is calling me to a quieter year.  Two of my close friends who were in my small homeschooling circle are sending their kids to school this year and I really grieved and wrestled with that (not for them, but for me and my kids)... I had a pity party and asked him why he has called us to this task when it can be so hard and lonely at times. He gently gave me the following instructions that I am going to share with you. Perhaps you can use them:

  • Rest in His Leading:
    • Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Being still for me will look like an actual quiet time, not just hearing His words while running. :)
    • Exodus 14:14 says, "The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
  • Seek Him and Know Him:
    • I don't need to grieve my friends, because he's my friend. He will fulfill those needs if I give them to him. Philipeans 4:6 says, "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
  • Create a Biblical World View:
    • went through a strange year last year, questioning if I was over spiritualizing things with my kids. I didn't like quoting scripture as a way to discipline or talk through things, because I was afraid of creating a religious environment. He has assured me lately that "for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." (Luke 6:45) Bam.
    • He also reminded me of our homeschool vision, and the verse he had given us at the beginning of our journey: "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds, tie them as a sign on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Teach them to your children, speaking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." Deuteronomy 11:19.
    • And also, he reminded me of the verse of our family vision: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (That pretty much sums up a Biblical world view!)
  • Guard my Heart:
    • atthew 6:21 "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your vision is clear, your whole body will be full of light."  This was the kicker for me.  I just sat and cried as he gently reminded me of five treasures who need a mom with clear vision. With clear ears to hear from the Lord.  
    • So many times in my homeschooling journey when I didn't know what to do, if I was in the Lord, seeking him, he would often tell me. Down to little things like introducing spelling. He is so good and he wants to be that close to me. Yet, at times, I cram him into an app and give him 30 minutes of my day while I multi-task. You'd think I'd learn by now! One thing he wants from me this year is to guard my heart from distractions. I am working on a plan to where I can still bring in some income so that we can experience, but also simplify my own extra things. That's going to look like less speaking engagements, less work outside the home, more time with my family, and more time on my knees. I am truly excited for clear vision. I believe if I can keep my eyes clear and my heart guarded, I will be able to avoid burnout.  But just like the grammar experiment, I'll let you know how that pans out! :)
  • Gather my Harvest and Remember my Storehouse!
    • In scripture, farming terms and allegories are used throughout and the Lord was reminding me of my storehouse. He told me to reread my Getting Started Manual.  This was a manual I developed out of the abundance of three beautiful school years.  It was based off of trial and error, following his voice for our family, and understanding what it means to swim upstream and at times be counter culture. 
    • The heart of the manual was to help other moms figure this out as well for their own families. But at the time of writing it, my heart was on fire for the purpose of homeschooling. I was experiencing harvest and wanted to share the process of pruning to get there.  He reminded me of that time. He said that by writing about it, I had created a storehouse that I can always go back to and experience the harvest.  So I did. I reread it perhaps four to five times and I learned something new each time. Haha! This is hilarious and humbling to say.  But, this past season, the past six months of moving then renovating our home has almost erased the beauty of homeschool for me. It took me to a place of depletion, so that everything was clouded by decision fatigue and lack of inspiration. But he's working on me and I'm getting there! :)
    • This is not a sales pitch. If anything, it's to encourage you to document your time of harvest so that in times of depletion, you have something stored to pull you out! :)

If you're still reading, you deserve a metal. :)  I just wanted to share my heart out there, and encourage anyone who is not looking forward to the new year to spend some time being still, and possibly work on an attitude adjustment. And if you're one of those amazing moms that is depleted because you have forgotten to care for yourself, take time to care for yourself! We must give our children a healthy and whole mother, one who has clear vision.  Investing in yourself and investing in your relationship with the Lord may help with that! :)

Oh, and for history's sake... the word the Lord gave me this year was GROWTH. No surprise there!  The past years have been: PEACE, DISCIPLINE, BOLD, and TIME. I can honestly say each word has had a true meaning every single year. Cheers to growth, friends!


The Children's Domain

A little bit about our renovation process: The floors on the entire downstairs (except the kitchen) as well as the stairs and an upstairs bedroom were carpeted.  We were originally going to live in the house as is and assess things for a longer term picture, but Jason is allergic to cats and we discovered that there had been cats at some point in the house. His allergies would not allow for that. Darn it, I guess we had to move quickly instead.  :)

While our friend, Ryan, helped us sand the entire downstairs, we decided to move in upstairs.  There is access to the outside through the staircase, so we were able to go in and out accordingly.  This week or two (I don't even remember the duration!) was crazy.  The sawdust was everywhere and there were fans blowing it out of all fo the windows. There was a nice film on anything that came in and out of the house and surrounding. I'm a little bit traumatized over it. Ha!

Anyhow, it was a special time upstairs with the kids. Jason and I shared a room with Lu and the boys all shared a room while I worked on painting two of the bedrooms.  I think we'll all remember snuggling together around a heater, living in sleeping bags, and doing schoolwork on the floors.  

During this time I was able to work on the kids' rooms because we were kind of at a stand still.  We were working on demoing the kitchen and dining, but that had to be within certain hours because I can't do all of that myself...unfortunately!


Carter wanted a very subtle blue/ grey (we used Kelly Moore's Feather White) and didn't want much on the walls. He's my super simple guy, always preferring clean lines and nothing too loud. I can appreciate that! When I don't know where he is, I can usually find him on his bed reading maps, his Bible, playing with his calculator (haha!) or playing an instrument.  Below is his desk space.

Those are some of the topographical maps the sellers had left.

Those are some of the topographical maps the sellers had left.


This is from standing in the hallway... the twins' room and Everett's attic room are on the left and Lu's room is behind me.


The office already had these built in cabinets, however, we adapted them a little bit to make the desk space wider as I believe it was designed for a small child. :)  Now we have a larger work space and more leg room. Color on the walls is Valspar's "Honeysuckle Delight".


The twins' room was already painted white, SCORE! This is the room that was carpeted a nice, orangey red color. We replaced the flooring with Coretec's Calypso Oak flooring.  I researched high and low for a durable floor that was soft underfoot.  This was about the only one I could come by besides cork, but the bonus is that the underlay is cork, so sound is muffled and it's softer on the feet.

They wanted minecraft and science in one room. Not sure how to do that, but they also are the most laid back with color, so I got to do my favorite color palette, which is naturals. :)  They chose the pillows and blankets, both from Target.  

I used Beddy's as their main bedding because I am such a big fan of their concept; developed for little hands that may struggle with making a symmetrical bed. 

Light is from  Lamps Plus ... it was a tester to see if I wanted additional lights in the dining area. :)

Light is from Lamps Plus... it was a tester to see if I wanted additional lights in the dining area. :)


Lu's room is the best room in the house. It's big and bright and charming. The wallpaper was installed in 1941! While the pattern was a little too much for the entire room, I really wanted to keep a majority of it as an ode to the home's history... and because removing it is not the most fun. So Jason and I added board and batten, painted it white, and called it good.


She wanted pink everything. Oh man, that's so hard!  We used the curtains we had at our last place and my friends generously added the gauze ruffles to lengthen them. The twin beds were left here as well as the armoire that I painted with the remaining paint from the office.  I'm not sure I have a photo of that? Anyhow.  There are some scale issues in this room, like the rug being too small, but that is pretty standard with me and my fast clicking, no measuring skills. :)


Lu wanted horse ribbons hanging in her room, but I think you have to compete in horse competitions in order to get them?! Instead, I bought a pack of silk remnant scraps off of ebay and we tied them on her bed and hung them on her chandelier. And she was happy. :)


Below are the befores... we didn't have to do anything structural, so there's no real jaw dropping transformations, but I do always enjoy seeing the before and afters, so there you have it. Also, you'll recognize some furniture!

I realize I totally forgot to take photos of Everett's attic room.  I'll just update those when I get a chance, like next year or something. :)