Pandemic Homeschooling

Below are links to posts I’ve written specifically for parents who find themselves needing to homeschool during the pandemic. If you have any specific questions, don’t hesitate to email me. I would like to try to help.

Crash Course in Homeschooling

Scheduling Your Homeschool Day

School Closures vs. Homeschooling

Stuck at Home? Need to Teach Your Kids? Try these ideas.

If you are seriously considering switching to homeschool long-term, and you have elementary level students, I recommend my 48-page PDF resource The Everyday Homeschooler’s Guide to Teaching the Early Years. You can find it in my store.


Planning Junior High Homeschool

My son has finally reached junior high school or 7th grade. I won’t dwell on how quickly this happened. 😮

{Note: Every state seems to have different terms for these middle years. In Georgia, they call 6th-8th grade “middle school,” but for simplicity’s sake, I consider 6th grade part of elementary school and 7th & 8th grade “junior high school.”}

I spent the better part of last year thinking about his junior high level work….That is, 7th and 8th grade. It’s my goal to prepare him for high school level work by the end of 8th grade. It’s a little bit easier, I think, to plan for the next two years instead of one. And, yet, it’s harder to plan for this level too. I fell somewhere between a “relaxed” and “structured” homeschooler for elementary school, starting off very relaxed but then increasing the “structure” a little bit each year, and now we are much more serious and structured because he is college bound. (At least, that’s what he’s telling us. 😉 )

So what are my goals for junior high? This is what I hope to achieve so that we’ll be on track for high school. (Find more details about the curricula we’re using here.)

Writing — A solid grasp of outlining, summarizing, and writing a formal essay.

Literature — The basics of literary analysis, literary terms, and a good dose of excellent, young adult literature. I’ve created my own literature unit (with some help from online teacher resources), and I’m very excited about it.

Vocabulary — We’re going to learn word roots and the history of the English language.

Math — Complete Pre-Algebra so that he’ll be ready for Algebra by the 9th grade.

Science — Complete Earth Science for Middle Schoolers curriculum and as much of a Physical Science curriculum as possible. Basically I want him ready for a high school biology course in 9th grade.

History — I don’t have a specific goal for history. We are surveying both World Civilizations and U.S. history, and we’ll just continue with this throughout junior high and high school. The older he gets, I’ll weave in more research and writing projects related to history. As we study World Civilizations, we will be learning more in depth information about the major world religions as well.

Foreign Language — Both the boys have convinced me that they want to study Chinese. (We tried both Chinese and Spanish.) We’ll continue on with this as time permits.

Critical Thinking — I have added some resources that will teach my son the basics of philosophy and critical thinking. There is no set goal here either. We’ll continue this throughout junior and high school as time permits.

Art — I want to continue with some basics of drawing and art history, but this won’t be a high priority. We’ll do it whenever we need a break from our other work. We’ve already learned a lot by taking this relaxed approach to art education.

Music — Last but certainly not least, classical music training is my eldest son’s top priority. This makes it imperative that I find the best resources for his academic work that will be efficient and engaging as well as less time consuming….

So, the academic priorities will be writing, literature, math and science for this next 7th grade year. Everything else will be subject to the time we have.

Note: I owe some credit to the following publications, which helped me the most in making this basic plan for junior high school:
Homeschool High School Requirements — The free printable that you can access on that page was very helpful in trying to figure out where my starting point needs to be for high school.
The Well-Trained Mind, 4th Edition — I don’t consider us classical homeschoolers, and I’m glad I didn’t have this book during my son’s elementary years. However, in planning junior high school, I found some helpful advice and inspiration. My final plans veer far away from this approach, but it continues to give me a compass whenever I need it.

What are your plans for this new school year?

Raising Butterflies

Scroll down for a slideshow of our butterfly’s life cycle!

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on May 8, 2013.

Last year we raised toads from tadpoles, and this year we’re raising butterflies. This is surprisingly easy to do, and I’d encourage any family to give it a try.  It’s a wonderful experience for children and adults.

My sons received the Backyard Safari Butterfly Habitat as a Christmas present, but you can find other companies who sell butterfly habitats and the larvae online. The cages are around $15. The Backyard Safari Habitat came with a coupon so that we could order the larvae when we were ready for them. You need to wait for warm weather, if you plan to release the butterflies. (The larvae were approximately $10 with the coupon, but they are under $20 without it.)

We received six Painted Lady larvae (or caterpillars) in a small container with everything they needed to survive during this second stage of their life cycle. There were explicit instructions to not open the container. All we needed to do was set the container by a window (but not in direct sunlight). Note: I have read different opinions about leaving them in the container, so I suggest you do some of your own research.

Painted Lady Butterflies live almost everywhere, which is why they are often used in schools and homes for this purpose. In most places it’s okay to release them back into the environment. Another option is to find butterfly larvae in your local area and raise them, but each species has different needs, so you have to make sure you have the right food source.

We watched our caterpillars for less than two weeks as they stirred up the food, spun silk, and proved to be extremely bad housekeepers. When we got them, they were less than a centimeter in length, and in two days, they doubled their size. Right before they formed themselves into a chrysalis (or pupa), they were about an inch long and quite plump.

After the butterflies emerged, my son turned this into a project by making a model of the Painted Lady Butterfly! He studied it like a real artist!

According to the instructions I received, the caterpillars were supposed to climb to the top of the vial and attach themselves to the gauze that was placed under the lid of the container. There they would hang down and form into chrysalides, and then we weren’t allowed to disturb the container for two days. After that time, we could carefully remove the lid, and then pin the gauze with the chrysalides near the bottom and on the wall of the cage.

This is what really happened: The caterpillars made a huge mess in the container, and we couldn’t see through it very well. All of the caterpillars crawled to the top, but most of them didn’t stay there. In the end, there were only two caterpillars that formed chrysalides and hung from the top. We could barely make out one chrysalis on the bottom, and since there wasn’t any movement, I assumed the others down there were changing too.

Per the instructions, we waited two full days after the last caterpillar we could see formed his chrysalis. Finally we got out the butterfly cage, and found a small branch that fit nicely into it. Then I removed the lid to the container, and we discovered that the caterpillars had eaten most of the gauze! The two chrysalides were hanging from silk and the plastic lid. Luckily I managed to fit it over the twigs in the cage so that they hung down safely.

I had to scoop out the four other chrysalides from the bottom of the container with a spoon, and I laid them gently on the bottom of our cage. We had read that this can happen, and they should be okay, but unfortunately, two of these never formed into butterflies. We weren’t surprised.

After only five days, two of our butterflies emerged!  Two more butterflies emerged in the next few days.  They are beautiful, small orange and black butterflies, and we’re feeding them watermelon and oranges.

The whole process has enamored my six-year-old, and he wants to keep going, so we’re going to attempt to raise a second generation. Yep, call me crazy. If it turns into a good story, and I’m pretty sure it will, I’ll be sure to share it with you. Note: Yes, indeed, it’s turning into a story, and I will share it with you!

Below is a slideshow I created to show you our experience, and you can see the life cycle here too!

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Notes you may be interested in:

  • The butterfly’s life cycle is in four stages: egg, larvae (or caterpillar), chrysalis, adult butterfly.  (I highly recommend the simple app Life Cycles by to help with learning about nature’s cycles!)
  • The plural for chrysalis can be either chrysalides or chrysalises. (You can go here to hear the pronunciations.)
  • The word eclose is a verb which means to emerge from the pupa as an adult or from an egg as a larvae.
  • The red liquid that drips out off the butterfly after it emerges is meconium or the waste that was secreted while it was in chrysalis.
  • After the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis, it can live for about two weeks. During that time, they seek a mate, and the female seeks a host plant to lay her eggs.

If you like this, you might enjoy the slideshow I made of our tadpoles to toads last year.

Have you raised butterflies? Please share your experience!