Back to School – The Plan {2014-2015}

It’s time again. Everybody is posting first-day-of-school pictures on Facebook. Although I missed that deadline by 3 weeks (as I usually do with getting pictures up on Facebook…still have a whole summer’s worth of albums to put up), I did manage to take a first-day-of-school picture. Maybe sometime soon it will get to Facebook. Maybe…


I’m ready and not ready to start all at the same time. I’ve spent the last month cramming to get everything done (we’ve switched doing all our lesson planning to OneNote but that is a post for another time) and still am a bit behind.

All in all though, I’m pretty happy with our schedule and our curriculum scope and sequence for the year. After running it for a few weeks it needs some minor adjustments, but overall we did good. The major goal I am setting for myself this year is to get up earlier and more consistently. Last year with having a newborn and being up most nights, I didn’t do very well at all with getting up at a consistent time. We still had a great year and accomplished a lot but I always felt like we were running behind all the time. Mainly, because we were running behind all the time. With Norah past the one year mark this school year, my nights are a bit more regular.

This year is a big adjustment for us schedule-wise in that it is MUCH more structured. I’ve always been a very relaxed homeschooler. I loved that we could start school at 10ish, be done whenever-ish and follow lots of rabbit trails, especially in history and science. But this year I have an official junior-higher going into seventh grade, a fifth grader, a third grader, a second grader, a kindergartner, a preschooler, and a toddler. To say my life is full is an understatement. Somehow I need to move my seventh grader into more challenging work to prepare for high school, which is really just around the corner, while also making the time to spend with my kindergartner who is just ripe for learning to read. But I also need to give extra time to my two middles, third and second graders, who still need more teacher-to-student time as they are transitioning into independent readers. I need to keep my preschooler busy and out of trouble and my one year old just learned this week (yeah me!) to climb chairs. I see impending disaster in my future with that one.


So this year hubby and I sat down and brainstormed like crazy pasting and copying subject time slots until everything that we wanted to do meshed with everything that we needed to do. This was no small task. This is the most packed, structured schedule we’ve ever been on. I’m not going to lie, the day before school started I was trying not to have a mini panic attack at the thought of sticking to a schedule. Just ask my husband. I am NOT good at following schedules. I just love to make them. I adore planning for them. And they always seem so ripe with promise every year. And then I immediately deviate and forget I even made one. I like my rabbit trails and interest-led learning that takes place and I’m not sure if there is any room for that this year.

But I also know that more important than my need to have fun and go off on learning tangents, is the need my kids have for structure. The need I have for structure. There are too many of them and only one of me. They all need my time and each of them is equally important. So a structured schedule it is. And even though there is a small part of me that cringes at using a clock and a timer, the bigger part of me loved that we got to all our stuff and started on time every day.

Here is what we are learning this year.

MathTeaching Textooks (2nd, 3rd, 5th) and Khan Academy (7th)

Phonics – Bob Books, Starfall, YouTube (Pre-K)

Literature – list varies for each child (All)

GrammarFirst Language Lessons (2nd, 3rd) and Rod & Staff English (5th)

SpellingRod & Staff Spelling (2nd), Abeka Spelling 2 (3rd Grade)

WritingBasher’s Creative Writing and Writing with Skill (5th and 7th)

CursiveKumon Cursive: Letters and Kumon Cursive: Words (2nd, 3rd)

LatinSongschool Latin (2nd, 3rd) and Latin for Children, Primer A (5th, 7th)

SpanishRosetta Stone 1 & 2 (5th and 7th)

History – Age of Exploration and Early American History (All)

Geography – United States & Capitals (All)

Science – Zoology (All) and History of Science (5th & 7th)

ArtTechnique: Drawing in Color and Drawing Animals in Nature (All)

Art – Appreciation: Baroque, Romantic, NeoClassical, Pre-Raphaelite

Music – Theory: Basher’s Music: Hit the Right Note (All)

Music – Appreciation: SQUILT Technique with Baroque, Romantic, and Classical styles; Composer Studies

BibleChronological Study Bible (5th, 7th), Child’s Story Bible (K, 2nd, 3rd), Awana (All)

PhilosophyLittle History of Philosophy (5th, 7th)

LogicArgument Builder (7th)

Physical Education – Aerobics & Weights (Girls), Boxing & Weights (Boys)




I am hoping to write a separate post for an in-depth look at each subject. That may or may not happen. I can’t promise anything. I always have way more blog posts floating around in my head than I ever get the time to sit down and write. But I can give you a glimpse into our year and our week. I’ve uploaded my Relational Subject Comparison 2014-2015 for the year to give you a small taste of what we are going to be studying for each of the 36 weeks.

History is the peg we hang our year on. It is the rudder that is driving everything else. We follow a chronological 4-year history cycle and literature, geography, art, music, and sometimes science are all, somehow, related to what we are studying for history. So this year I created the above 36 Week comparison sheet and wrote the key historical peg we’d be studying then, during my planning, I used that to determine which week we read or mapped or did what activity that correlated in a different subject. It makes the year flow better and allows me to pre-plan some rabbit trails without overburdening our schedule down. I can use this as a quick-glance guide for each week’s planning to remind me during the nitty gritty weekly planning, especially for pre-requesting library books. This style of planning also helps us to cement information in our head when it is presented in different ways throughout the week. This year we are on year three of the cycle which covers from Columbus up to the Civil War (1492-1860’s).

Here is a blank Relational Subject Comparison for anyone else who is interested in planning this way.

Some people look at the above list of subjects and can’t imagine how we get it all done in a week. Here is a small taste of what our Sample Week looks like so you can see how we make this a doable reality. Remember, we don’t do every subject every day and this is fitting in essentially 5 different grades into one week. Not every grade is doing every subject on the above list. And it is especially important for new homeschoolers of younger children to remember that our schedule was not always this full. We started out with years of 2-3 hour school days and lots of extra time for library and field trips, lots of nature walks and outside play and, most importantly, LOTS of interest-led learning. Enjoy your little ones. Enjoy the slower pace. There is a time and season for a busier, more challenged schedule but the early elementary years is not that season!

So, how did our first week go you ask?

Find out here.


2014 – 2015









How to File Paperwork if You Are Not a Planner {a.k.a. Unschooling}

That time is upon us once again….

Yep, filing paper work with the state education board. Fun. Fun.

This is my yearly quandary…

One of the huge advantages of homeschooling is following a MUCH more relaxed schedule. For us that contains a fair amount of unschooling…or child-led interests and rabbit trails. These really can’t be planned per say. But our state requires curriculum to be approved ahead of time. How do you balance spontaneity with a detailed plan to your state?

I do plan…in a general large-scale sorta way. We do history generally chronological. This year it will be modern history with an emphasis on the Great Depression, WWI and II, and the Industrial Revolution. But most of my planning comes in the form of strewing. I look for great living books to have on hand during chunks of learning time. I keep a running book list that I can use when purchasing on Amazon or at a library sale. We follow math and phonics in a somewhat sequential order but even these I hate to delegate to a “grade” because each of my children learn at different rates and sometimes we are still in the middle of a book when the school year “ends” and sometimes we are already in the middle of another book.

When I was trying to write out detailed plans to my state I was getting bogged down. What would we cover this year…when would we cover it…when would we be done? These questions my state would want to know and I would start sweating and becoming grumpy mommy as I desperately tried to put something on paper.

Don’t get me wrong…the planning part felt good. When I was done I felt this sense of accomplishment. Oh, of course that’s what we’ll study this year (i.e. science lessons all mapped out in great detai)! Happily I would start our year and miserably I would end it feeling like a failure because we were SO off track. Never mind that my kids were learning at a rapid pace. Never mind that they had filled their time with way more additional learning then I had written down. All I saw was those original lessons plans with a big red F across them!

Then I came up with a brilliant idea. Why not just write down a Scope and Sequence based on everything I had? I just started typing by category. Math? These were the books I owned (text and living). These were the manipulatives I owned. These were the games I owned. I put general grades after them. For instance, after listing Math U See I put K-5th Grade in parenthesis behind it. Suddenly I began to see a skeleton take shape. Eventually this is what I would teach to all my kids through all of their elementary school years and some beyond. Before I knew it I had an 8 page Elementary Scope & Sequence that MORE than covered any paltry state requirements.

I am free! This year all I had to do was pull up that file, delete and add a few things and in less than an hour I was finished. Print. Mail. Ahhhh….THAT felt good! The best part? Doesn’t matter that I’m homeschooling (officially) three children all at different grade levels. This one paper covers them all. Doesn’t matter where we are at the beginning of the year or the end. We have the freedom and leisure to learn any of this stuff at our own pace and our state has the peace of mind that we will be covering all the bases…eventually!

Here is a peek at my copy (your own will, obviously, vary) as well as a copy of my statement about using living books as that inventory list is WAY too long to send my state!

Elementary Scope & Sequence

Learning History Through Living Books

Feel free to download and steal these and modify for your own use!

Happy planning!!!

(P.S. please let me now if these links do not download right and I will try to fix! I tested them and so far so good.)

The Homeschool Mother's Journal 



Scheduling…or not!

While I am taking a break nursing in the middle of our put-together-the-playroom-by-the-end-of-the-day project, I linked to the site of another homeschooling momma who journals a little of everything. (Can you tell the name of the blog drew me there? Gentle Art of Chaos…ahhh, how that spoke to me!!!) And then I linked to her How I Schedule School Subjects  post and then I read and laughed the whole time shaking my head. And then I read and laughed and shook my head some more as I thought of my husband who JUST had this conversation with me the other day on how I just frustrate my own self by setting up systems that are bound to fail. And then I laughed as I cried as I read…

In case you want to make your own chart (and really, who wouldn’t?)

…and, again, thought of my husband tsking me as I DO want to make this chart!!! (Really, I’ve been thinking magnets for a while now. Now I know, it can work. Right? Right?)

So, stop on over and read about how we schedule too! (Well, not the chart part…yet…but all the rest is how we fly!)

She is definitely getting added to my blogroll!!!

Little House on the Prairie Lapbook Unit Study

Updated 10/11/15 – check below for more links including this incredible documentary! Like what you see in this post? Come join me for More Little House on the Prairie for more activities and book suggestions!

Now that we are done with the Civil War era (will back post on books and links this winter when I have a bit more downtime at home – but notice how I finally updated the book bar on the side!) we will be moving on to the Pioneer era. And what better way to do this then through the Little House on the Prairie book series? In fact, I know of very little who don’t love this series.  I remember watching the TV series as a small girl and falling in love with this time period. I can’t wait to share this with my children and let it become a memory of their’s as well. We will be studying the period lazily over the winter. By lazily I mean taking our time, delving deep, letting the books speak and guide our direction and interests. I have no idea how long it will take us.

We will be continuing our use of lapbooks with this study. We have found, through a bit of dabbling in it this year, that the kids respond to my choice of books better and remember the information better if they have this to look forward to after the readings. Lily loves lapbooks because it is much like scrapbooking our history information. Gabe loves it because it frees him of the burden of narrations. I have narrowed narrations down to one main narration per time period that they will stick in their lapbook/scrapbook and it will be based on a book of their choice to read from that time period. I know this isn’t quite the Charlotte Mason way but it still fits and I have to do what is right for my family as God whispered to a dear church friend who wrote it to me in an encouraging note. This worked so well while studying the Civil War and Gabe ended up doing a lovely narration effortlessly when allowed to choose what he thought was an exciting book, not what I thought.

Luckily, Homeschool Share has a free lapbook for each of the original Little House series beautifully made by Heather L. This is the main site I used to download pdf files for our use. I have fallen in love with this site! I encourage every homeschooling mother to go there and poke around.

First of all, here are the living books we will be using:

The Little House on the Prairie Book Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

starting with

Little House in the Big Woods (perfect now that we have a forest in our backyard!)

We will also read all of the My First Little House Picture Books concentrating on the winter ones first since we are in that season.

And read a living biography on Laura Ingalls Wilder

As spines alongside our literature study we will use If You Were a Pioneer on the Prairie

as well as A Pioneer Sample: Daily Life of a Pioneer Family in 1840

and Look Inside a Log Cabin by Mari Schuh

These three books will be great sources of information for making the lapbooks and answering questions about the time period. And to delve into the science of the period we will be, obviously, studying prairie grassland habitats through these books:

One Day in the Prairie by Jean Craighead George

A Tallgrass Prairie Alphabet by Claudia McGehee

Prairie Food Chains by Kelley MacAulay

and America’s Prairies and Grasslands Guide to Plant and Animals by Marianne D. Wallace

And for activities to supplement or add to the study:

Updated – 10/11/15

I’d have never guessed when I first wrote this post almost 5 years ago how popular it would become! Besides my Rock and Mineral Unit Study post, this page keeps my tiny blog afloat amid the absence of current posts that my seven kids lovingly prevent me from writing! 

And today I’m excited to add a few nuggets to the Little House extravaganza. Thanks to the generosity of the blog Little House on the Prairie, I’ve been able to add a number of free activities above such as how to host a Little House on the Prairie party, how to make rock candy, and even free printable Little House paper dolls – which are way super cute! They are also sending me a copy of their new documentary “The Legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder” to review which I’m super excited about. Will be reviewing and linking back to here very soon. You must go over and watch the trailer. Maybe I’m a bit of a nerd, but watching this has me like a child running to check the mailbox everyday looking for that package! 

And now you can also enjoy a little slice of this Americana too. The people behind  Little House on the Prairie are offering a coupon code which allows you 20% off the already low price of $19.95. This is an excellent addition to any homeschool living history library. Just click on their  Amazon link and add to your cart. Enter LHSCHOOL into the promotion code box when checking out. Voila! Instant savings!

A Day in the Life of…

I try and stick to a schedule, I really do. I made a simple one for this year. One that allowed for chores worked in and daily habits set up. One that allowed for lots of leeway for daily life interruptions and one that is stripped back to essentials that I want covered. And by essentials I am including art and nature study because even though they are the fun subjects, they often get pushed aside for more academic work. So I have this completely workable, flexible, well-rounded plan for the year. We’ve been at it for 2 weeks, this week is our third. I was glad for the leeway time because we used up every bit of it working out kinks the first couple of weeks. We, and by we I mean I, are starting to get into a routine, at least for the morning part. But there is just this part of me, this hippie-idealistic-spontaneous part of me, that just can’t stick to it…no matter how simple. Life just doesn’t work that way. I had promised myself that I wouldn’t change anything for at least three weeks…no tweaking, no diverting, no extra plans, no changed plans. And while this schedule is much more realistic for our lifestyle of a large family, I can’t say I’ve totally stuck to that promise.

So I thought I would record here, for posterity purposes, what my schedule was suppose to look like versus the actual of what happened. A note of caution ~ I am not belittling our day or beating myself up or feeling guilty. I see how much we accomplished and moved forward and learned even if we didn’t follow the schedule to a T. This is just more of  a reminder to myself that the best laid plans are still my plans. I still deal with 5 very independent wills each day with a sixth kicking me as a reminder that his, too, will be reshaping my plans. And I daily learn to trust that God’s will is the only essential for the day, which may look completely different from my own!

My purposed schedule:

8:30 AM ~ Breakfast

9:30 AM ~ Morning Chores

10:00 AM ~ School Time

  • Bible ~ Scripture memory verse, Bible story, Song, Prayer
  • Math ~ Gabe works independently while I work with Lily
  • Literature ~ Mom reads aloud (my choice)
  • Poetry Memorization (their choice)
  • Grammar through Dictation

12:00 PM ~ I prep for lunch while they have 5-minute tidy then a bit of free time.

12:30 PM ~ Lunch

1:00 PM ~ Afternoon Chores

1:30 PM ~ Break (They watch Fetch on PBS and I set up for afternoon activities or nurse baby to sleep.)

2:00 PM ~ School Time

  • Science ~ Read from Exploratopia and do corresponding experiments
  • Art ~ Go over a new technique, practice time to play with technique

4:00 PM ~ Free Time (for them, chores or dinner prep for me)

Sounds simple enough, right?

Here was my actual day:

6:15 AM ~ Adam leaves for work.  I sit nursing baby wishing desperately that she would go to sleep so I could get at least one more hour before having to be up. (She was up from 2-3:30 AM and from 5-5:30 AM already and I am extremely exhausted.)

6:45 AM ~ Tried laying baby down, didn’t work, still trying to rock, nurse, and console over two molars trying to come in. Gabe has gotten up and gone downstairs for his allotted video game time. Luc is up and begging me to find his Green Lantern mask so he can be a superhero as I am trying desperately to ssshhhh him so I can lay the baby down. He finally relents and goes downstairs with Gabe.

7:15 AM ~ Baby is NOT sleeping and decides to join the boys downstairs (She can now maneuver herself up and down the stairs and up and down the bunk beds…15 months old…incredible!!!) and I collapse on my bed, letting the morning breeze wash over me as I bury my face in a pillow and lay there dozing.

7:20 AM ~ Luc comes to ask for cheese crackers for breakfast. No, we are NOT having cheese crackers for breakfast! I encourage cereal (was going to bake muffins but who has the energy?). I hear him rummaging through pantry, pull out bowls and try to open the cereal box, which is a new one, and know he will be back shortly.

7:30 AM ~ Trying to ingnore Ivy by my bed babbling for mommy to get up. Think she wants cereal too. Trying like crazy to force myself to get up.

7:40ish ~ Luc brings me the cereal box and I open it for him. Lilah brings me a different cereal box and I open it for her.

7:47 AM ~ Ivy babble-yells at me and I finally drag myself from the bed. We get for-real cereal on the table, I pour milk, Luc prays, I yell for Gabe to come upstairs.

8:15 AM ~ Luc and Lilah have run off to play. I bring my bowl to sink and put on water for coffee. Gabe and Lil sit at table talking and pull out their Fire Fighter Safety booklets (free from a neighborhood park get-together). I stumble to the back to get dressed and make my bed. I also pull sheets of Ivy’s crib to be washed for the day and gather laundry together.

8:30 AM ~ Put hot coffee in carafe to stay hot. Gather diapers downstairs for a day of stripping (to remove detergent buildup from cloth diapers and give them a bleach – only do a couple of times a year when needed in order to refresh and keep cloth in good working order). Pull Lilah upstairs with me to get changed for the day.

9ish AM ~ Change Ivy and Lilah, putting both in disposables since cloth is out of order (which also means Lilah’s potty training is interrupted for the day – she won’t potty train in disposables). Put cereal away in pantry and remind the kids, who are busily working at the table, that the table still hasn’t been cleared or cleaned and it is a school day.

9:30 AM ~ Kids have done chores and still want to work on fire safety books. Littles are downstairs playing blocks and Yoshi. Lily comes to show me a story she has written (i.e. drawn and told to me orally) this morning about a ghost who goes to school, has craft supplies, makes two posters and a craft paper, drives home on the school bus. I praise and am amazed she already had time to squeeze that in. I check to make sure her bed is really made and think about starting school a half hour early. Then I remember my promise not to change. The kids are expecting 10 AM and relish having this extra time for their stuff. I grab a cup of coffee, sit in my chair and go over World War II living books.

10:00 AM ~ We actually start school on time. Verses are said from memory. A story about Joseph and his coat is read from an over 100-year-old catechism book. We talk about still trusting God even when things don’t seem to be going your way and Him having a purpose for your life, even when it doesn’t seem like it. We sing “Trust and Obey” with Lily assuring me she doesn’t need the lyric sheet anymore and me wondering why I still do when we’ve been singing it for over two weeks and it is a familiar song to me anyway. I discipline Lilah several times mid-song to stop sitting on Ivy. Despite the correction, she is still merrily singing away with us.

10:20 AM ~ I read aloud chapter one from Addy story (American Girl History series) and we talk more about slavery, which leads to an Underground Railroad discussion and Harriet Tubman. I ask Gabe to pull a book from shelf. We quickly read that as well. Meanwhile, Lily is flipping through the Addy’s World book and exclaiming on all the projects she could do.  She notices American Girl dolls in back which reminds her of her birthday wishlist and decides, for today, that Addy is the doll she wants, then decides on Molly who I remember I just checked out a book on because Molly is from WWII period and I am in the middle of reviewing for that. Lily is ecstatic and wants to read now. I remind of her of math and tell her she can look at it later.

10:40 AM ~ Gabe and Lily go to kitchen table to work on math. I turn on “Follow the Drinking Gourd” for them to hear while they are working. I am sitting here realizing I have picked no dictation for them to do. Should I just pull something together? Adam’s new job kept me from my normal planning day. I’m winging it this week. And do I pull them over to do poetry recitation? Gabe already has his memorized and Lily still hasn’t picked. And what about Grammar? No dictation means no grammar. Just skip for today?

10:45 AM ~ Work with Lily on her math, mainly checking. She is doing well with subtraction book. Remind Gabe…again…to stop talking with Lily and concentrate on his own work. Go down to restart diapers and check on littles. Sit on couch with Luc and Lilah (who are watching Word World) and discuss how apple starts with ‘a’ and pie starts with ‘p’. Lilah requests that I sit with her downstairs. I go up, grab a cup of coffee and snuggle with her and Luc on the couch and nurse the baby.

11ish AM ~ Put Ivy down for a nap. Forget that I pulled off her sheets and replace them quick. She cries but I know she needs sleep. Get out Lily’s phonics workbook for her to work on. That counts as grammar, right? Tell Gabe to practice his Latin flashcards twice in his room then come review with me. I count that as grammar too – vocab roots. Sit down on the floor with Lily and let her cut recycle paper and practice taping to construction paper. Luc soon joins us and both are excited to be working with me and talk about how much they love projects. I like that they are learning cutting and taping skills without using an expensive preschool curriculum. Simple is the key.

11:30ish AM ~ I juggle going over Lily’s phonics work (making a sentence) and reviewing Latin with Gabe while still getting tape for Lilah and Luc and keeping their fighting to a minimum. I then have to get the baby who awakes because of the Air Show practice. Lily, inspired by the littles, decides to cut from old magazines and make a grocery list. She soon runs out of tape and we switch to glue sticks. Gabe soon joins in and a project is going on.

12:00 PM ~ I realize I should be making lunch but no one seems to notice, no one wants to stop, and the table is a wreck.

What to do? It’s still nice out. Back porch for lunch it is.  But before I can start prep, Luc asks me to read to him. It’s the Santa book and in it he is kissed by Mrs. Claus and Luc wants to know why the kiss is on his cheek. So we divert into a discussion on painted lips and I model with my lipstick. The kids are fascinated and running around with lips on their cheeks. Lily puts some on and kisses her grocery list. I finally shoo them outside and get lunch ready.

1:00 PM ~ Lunch. A half hour behind. Are we even going to get to science today?

1:30 PM ~ I finally sit down to my lunch while kids run outside, completley ignoring the dishes that need brought in. Suddenly Gabe runs in with a cardinal feather he found, ecstatic. He goes to clean it and wants to draw it. Well, I think, that solves what we’ll do for nature study tomorrow.

2:12 PM ~ I shooed the kids downstairs to pick up while I vaccuum upstairs. I can’t stand stepping on another scrap of paper (found three stuck to my feet as I started laundry again). Well, maybe we won’t be too far behind today. The phone rings. It is Pop and he wants to take the older two out to hit golf balls. We must finish science first I insist and quickly scramble to put an experiment in place. Only, because I didn’t get my planning time, I realize I need 24 hours for it to set up. So I vow to set it up tonight to do tomorrow as I let Gabe call Pop back and they go out for some physical education.

2:30ish PM ~ I start this blog entry while the littles are playing and happily chewing the gum Pop gave them. I try not to feel guilty that we missed science. I figure their earlier project covered art.

3:15 PM ~ Luc and Lilah come up for a snuggle. Ivy sits on my lap and scribbles on paper. I break from blogging. As I put Ivy down I realize that Lilah is on my kitchen counter and has spread green food coloring everywhere.  I redirect and Luc wants the Curious George Audio CD.

3:30 PM ~ I sit down to finish my post and the older two come home. I chat with Father-in-law about rusty golf games and the tournament this Saturday.

3:51 PM ~ Gabe comes to me with Explorotopia book and finds an experiment about cleaning with vinegar and salt. I break again and get him his supplies. Lily comes to help. I guess we did science after all.

Our Favorite Science Book!!!

4:00 PM ~ Start my posting again.

4:09 PM ~ Lily wants to finish reading the Molly’s World book. We have discussions on WWII and American Girl Dolls. She wants to know if Molly or Addy is real. We discuss fiction versus non-fiction and fiction using historical facts. She gets out her American Doll magazine and pours over her birthday decision. Break and talk with her while reading a Bob book to Lilah two times.

4:22 PM ~ Start rice in rice cooker for casserole. Nurse baby while finishing this post.

5:00 PM ~ Baby finally asleep and I head off to make dinner and switch over laundry.

And, of course, that doesn’t even begin to count all the interruptions for diaper changes, disciplining, bathroom breaks, and the zillion questions that interrupt our activities. At least I know tomorrow is a new day!

John James Audubon Study – Part II

Sorry this second part of the post has taken so long to get to. There are a few reasons that is…the first of which is we actually started the study this week so we have been busy with school. The second of which it is nice outside and we have been trying to get the first of garden preparations done.

Now I have split this up into categories to be user-friendly, but we will actually be tackling the study on a much more interest-led-see-where-the-day-brings-us way. I find we actually accomplish more this way because one thing will lead into another. If I just do a “Well, children, this is what we are doing today,” I get accosted with groans and mumbles. I leave those for our formal math-latin-grammar work! Some of the books fit into more then one category but I tried to pick the category we would most be utilizing it as. And you may think that you have some books that you would add to categories as must haves, especially in the Literature section. That may be. I only listed what I had available to me that we already owned or that I could readily find at the library.

Our Bird Shelves


  • Learning the history of who John James Audubon was and what he contributed to America. (History)
  • Learning about naturalists ~ who they are and what they do. (History & Social Studies)
  • Narrations on books read (Reading Comprehension, Assimilation & Logic, Grammar, Writing)

  • Learning about the egg and its development from embryo till birth. (Science)
  • Learning about the feather and how flight works. (Science)
  • Learning Bird Anatomy through 3 part cards Download here for free. (Science)

  • Learning to recognize bird calls and songs. (Science and Music)
  • Learning to identify birds by sight. (Science Classification)
  • Playing our Montessori Bird Puzzle. (Good for the toddlers to do while reading bird books to the older children.)

  • Taking nature walks to practice birding skills and look for treasured feather finds. (Science, Physical Education)
  • Practicing sketching and watercolor/colored pencil techniques with drawing birds and eggs. (Art)
  • Playing with our Audubon stuffed birds (also helps in recognizing bird calls) (Assimilation)

  • Reading poetry and children’s literature about birds and other springtime animals. (Literature & Poetry)
  • Memorizing poetry about birds. (Poetry)
  • Copywork on spring poetry, narrations, original Audubon writing excerpts (Penmanship, Grammar, Poetry & Literature)
  • Listening to our For the Birds CD (Music, Poetry, Science)

John James Audubon History Biographies (all preread to be excellent living books although the first two are my favorites!!!)

Birds (References, Field Guides, Science)

Bird Music

Bird Art & Sketching

The basket that holds our colored pencils and sketchbooks.

Inside our Nature Walk basket.

Other Naturalists (Supplemental Reading or rabbit trails – these are just the ones we happened to see at the library, by no means the only good books on them!)

Literature (have included other spring animals as well for the season of spring)

Foreign Languages ~ French (Audubon was sent over from France to avoid the Napoleonic French War ~ Lily picked up on the French phrases in the biographies we’re reading and wnted to know more)

And, last but never least, our Easter selections. They are included here because we will be reading them alongside this study. It goes perfectly with spring and the egg ~ the renewing of life. And we want our children to know that the only reason we get to enjoy all else is because of this most amazing sacrifice on the cross. Would love to celebrate this more formally with Lent but did not have time to research a book I wanted to put the time or money into. We will do that for next year. Am open to suggestions in the comment box.


Our marbled eggs that the kids love to feel and play with.

The Four Pillars of Too Much

holy experience

As I am in the process of cleaning out my fridge and freezer and pantry, in order to embark on the first-of-the-month big shopping trip, everything appears cluttered, disorganized and it makes me feel panicky. It is not as if this is the first time I’ve noticed this. Every time I do I say to myself, ‘I’ll get to that next week or month or whenever I have some free available time.’ But today it dawned on me that I will never have enough free time to work on it. My life is also filled with chaos and clutter and disorganization. I am a mother of five children with open plans for more. My children are home with me all day long. Sure there is learning and joy and projects and endless reading of great worth. But there is also a stream of destruction that follows me all day as I try to keep up with the flow of household management.

We do dishes but again we eat. We do laundry but again the hamper fills up. We play outside in the joy of budding spring but drag in the mud and leftover winter debris. We do school and things get out of place, half-used, disorganized. We read so books end up in piles everywhere. We play so toys get pulled out creating death traps on the stairs. We do life and life is messy.

So how do we combat this? I ponder this daily. I know in part it is about teaching good habits and making sure everything has a place and keeping up on chores and creating a daily rhythm that works for our specific needs. But I wonder how much of it is also about having too much, always wanting more, filling our days and cupboards with too many choices – even if they are worthy and wonderful choices. Do we have breathing room?

So as I am taking a break from wiping down the freezer and writing up a shopping list to nurse a little one, my eye catches this post by Elizabeth Foss and I click the link to this book and start reading. And suddenly that peace that passes all understanding floods my soul that only happens when He places something in front of my eyes that speaks directly to my battle. And I struggle to not immediately order it (another symptom of the “too much” syndrome) but instead ponder it and wait on the Lord to see where He directs my steps.  So while I am pondering and adding this wonderful book to my Amazon wish list, I thought I’d share a few quotable nuggets with you to ponder this day too.

We are building our daily lives, and our families, on the four pillars of too much: too much stuff, too many choices, too much information, and too much speed. With this level of busyness, distractions, time pressure, and clutter (mental and physical), children are robbed of the time and ease they need to explore their worlds and their emerging selves. And since the pressures of “too much” are so universal, we are “adjusting” at a commensurately fast pace. The weirdness of “too much” begins to seem normal. If the water we are swimming in continues to heat up, and we simply adjusts as it heats, how will we know to hop out before we boil? ~ KIM JOHN PAYNE – SIMPLICITY PARENTING


We are facing an enormous problem in our lives today. It’s so big we can hardly see it, and it’s right in front of our face all day, every day. We’re all living too big lives, crammed from top to toe with activities, urgencies, and obligations that seem absolute. There’s no time to take a breath, no time to look for the source of the problem.  ~ SARA SUSANKA – THE NOT SO BIG LIFE


Simplicity is the ultimate manifestation of the spiritual gift of self-control. (one of my favorites!)


The reason that we are not fully at ease in heart and soul is because we seek rest in these things that are so little and have no rest within them, and pay no attention to our God, who is Almighty, All-wise, All-good, and the only real rest. ~ JULIAN OF NORWICH


“Do not be so given to the activity of Martha as to forget the silence of Mary. May the Virgin who so well reconciled the one with the other be your sweet model and inspiration.”  ~ ST. PIO

In a way, nobody sees a flower really, it is so small, we haven’t time—to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.” ~ GEORGIA O’KEEFE

And, last but not least,

“Who is rich?  He that rejoices in his portion.”  ~ THE TALMUD

This is where I start my week. I am tugging and pulling with simplification and need to jot down some Thanks to the Highest Order, The I AM of simplicity,  in order to bring balance to my week.

160) Finished ONE PAGE of my new schedule…only 6 more to go!

161) Went shopping with only one little one due to the beautiful sacrifice of a dear brother-in-law!

162) Kids got to visit the zoo twice in one week.

163) My camera ran out of juice so the zoo had to be about just being, not blogging or scrapbooking.

164) Hauled two garbage bags full of Garage Sale Stuff to the garage.

165) Blessed with an extra-warm house due to the efficiency of new furnace.

166) My kids did the dishes today…twice!!

167) New friends made at church for my little social butterfly.

168) Taking more time to read with the kids, even with a fussy baby.

169) Found a full tank of gas in my car on the way to church this morning just as I was thinking about how we would cover that expense this week. Thank you again, dear brother!

170) A pork roast that I didn’t cook and good company.

171) Learning about pandas and rocks and minerals.

172) A new ballet training CD arriving.

173) Math and Science tales of googles and quarks and fractals.

174) A Boy and his Cricket and the memories they evoked of my now eight-year old.

175) Baby Orajel.

176) Free Aldi’s boxes that work as bookends.

177) A full house of groceries and milk and fresh fruit.

178) One night where I slept all the way through!

May your week be filled with many blessings and may you slow down to find joy in the little things!

Schedules…Getting on Track

The beginning of January…a fresh start…a new beginning…this time things will be different.  That’s what most of us think. Why shouldn’t we homeschool moms be any different? I spent last week organizing fussing over all the school shelves.  I spent the past two nights tweaking a schedule I had already planned out extensively over the summer.  “We must have a place for everything with everything in it’s place before we begin!” I emphatically shouted to myself.  This time things will be different.  This time we will stay on track.  This time I will make a plan.  This time my plan will go accordingly. This time my kids will sit patiently, shout hooray when I announce it’s time for school, come running excitedly when I call, and quietly color as I read great literature and teach them about our founding fathers.

Just got interrupted in the middle of this post by a 2 year old dumping toilet water all over the laundry room floor.  Which, I’m pretty sure, just made my statement for me about our first day back in school!

Maybe tonight I will get a bit of peace and quiet to read this book:

Oh…who am I kidding?  Maybe will get a post in about our school week by the end of the week.  Obviously daily isn’t going to work!