Homeschool Highlights From 2018

Raising butterflies is always a highlight of my year.

I am finding extra pockets of free time during our holidays, and I thought I would use a little of it to put together a list of my favorite memories from this past year. We live an ordinary life, but it’s been a good year. I am thankful that we are all healthy, and we’re able to keep homeschooling.

The most time consuming adventure has been my son’s Three Years of Piano. He has come so far in such a little time, and we’re so proud of his hard work. This summer we took the time to interview teachers and chose a new one, and earlier in the year we started his YouTube channel. You can see his most recent performances there. I’m sure some people think we’re tiger parents, but I truly don’t think a child could do this unless he wanted to do it, and I know my son does.

I’ve also truly enjoyed being with my younger son as he takes cello lessons and practices almost everyday. I feel like I’m learning so much about the music world through both my boys, and we love attending local classical concerts at the university too.

For my younger son It’s Still Birds, and he has turned us all into birders. We had an exciting moment when two wood ducks landed in the trees in our front yard. I also loved visiting the Audubon Center near Biloxi, MS, and then we had the most exciting adventure when we visited the Sandhill Crane Wildlife Refuge (and part of that adventure had to do with the carnivorous plants too). Then, of course, my favorite part of our visit to Ormond Beach over Thanksgiving was the birdwatching too.

On dreary winter days, it can sometimes feel like we’re always stuck in the house, but keeping this blog is a remedy for that. Because it reminds me of all the places we took the boys this year, including the Museum of AviationNoah’s Ark, Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, Mobile Museum of Art, USS Alabama Battleship Memorial ParkMichael C. Carlos Museum, Booth Western Art Museum, Tellus Science Museum, North Georgia Zoo & Petting Farm, Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta Botanical Garden, and the Atlanta Botanical Garden at Gainesville, which I never wrote about. We also went on nature hikes a few times too.

This blog also reminds me of those wonderful nature experiences we had this summer, including raising black swallowtail butterflies and then giant swallowtail butterflies. Speaking of bugs, the boys had a great time in their bug camp too.

This is the year the boys and I had fun re-creating the tiny trail that winds through our wooded backyard, and my eldest son also became interested in trees. We’re trying to identify and label all the trees and plants that grow naturally in our yard. I haven’t written about that yet.

And what an accomplishment to finish up the 5th and 2nd grade and move on to 6th grade and 3rd grade.

Wow. Time flies.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year. What have been your highlights of 2018? I would love to hear about them.


It’s October, and our year is well on its way. (Even if it does feel like August outside.)

This year I’m putting in the effort to plan our week’s lessons on the weekend, and this has been helpful for me. Writing, grammar, cursive, math, history, science, Spanish, Chinese and more — not necessarily in that order — but we’re getting to all of it. Usually.

We also have a plant project going on that may last all year. We’re learning about trees, especially the ones in our yard, and the plants that grow in the woods. My eldest son got some field guides for his birthday, and he’s making use of them. 🙂

All the photos in this post were taken on a day hike that we took last weekend. We never plan these excursions. We just wake up and decide it’s a good day to go.

My son requested a science curriculum this year, so we’re trying CK-12’s free, online textbook, Earth Science Concepts for Middle School. He likes it so far, but we don’t have time for it everyday, which is frustrating. There’s so much to do!

We started U.S. history, and I found a cool kids book at the library about Cahokia. We are also going to try another library book about the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, which we learned about on our trip out west. That should be interesting! Haven’t found time for Ancient Rome, though. We’ll have to stick to one history subject at a time.

We finished reading The Mad Wolf’s Daughter, which was fun (book review forthcoming on the home/school/life blog), and now we’re reading Freedom Train, a little book I own because I bought it when I assisted the author at a writer’s conference many years ago (before I had children). It’s a good read and will give them insight into racism and social justice.

My eldest son has finally caught the Harry Potter fever, and he’s already on the fifth book, which he reads at night before bed. My younger son is reading pretty well now too. He likes to read comics in his spare time just like his older brother, and I’m currently reading Old Yeller to him, which he remembers, but he wanted to hear it again. It’s one of those classics that never gets old.

Every morning I roll our round table out onto our front porch to do our lessons. It’s a bit of a hassle to move the table, but I don’t mind. It’s beautiful outside in the mornings. We get distracted by the birds, bugs, our dog, and the sunlight (we have to move the table to and fro as the light changes), but all the distractions are worth it. I let them (the boys and dog) take breaks and run around the trees. It makes me happy to be outside, and I hope the boys will remember their mornings spent on the front porch. Pretty soon it’ll be too cool to go outside.

I wrote a post about our curriculum like I do every year, but this time, it’ll be posted only on the home/school/life blog. (I need to save time.) I’ll be sure to link to it from here. I’ve also written about how I schedule our lessons, and I’ll post that here in the near future.

I’ve never seen a tree grow like this in the woods before. Can anyone guess what made it do that? I have no idea!

I’m enjoying our routine, our learning, our nature excursions, the music in the house as well as local recitals we attend. If you saw the Excel spreadsheet that I meticulously work on to plan each day you would probably think I was one of the those uber-organized freaks. Maybe I am? But I have come to this over six years of homeschooling and realize that it’s necessary when you stay home with two kids and take on their entire education. When you think your kids are probably college-bound, and there are three hours of instrument practice between the two of them each day, you’ve got to be organized. You have to plan meticulously to get everything in (almost everything, anyway) and leave a little free time too.

There’s a lot that goes undone. I don’t cook meals from scratch. I don’t scrub my floors or the bathrooms every week. (Though I do clean. And do laundry. Every single day.) I don’t visit friends or family very much. I don’t take days off or ever visit the bookstore by myself just for the fun of it. I don’t get much writing, photography or other pleasures done. But I consider it a time of life where my priorities are elsewhere.

(There are positives to being busy with kids, though. I don’t spend too much time on social media or dwell too long about negative things!)

I don’t think there are any people who truly understand this lifestyle we’re living except maybe other homeschoolers. I say “maybe” because believe it or not, I was criticized once by another homeschool mom. It made me realize that within the homeschooling movement, there are a lot of different opinions about how to homeschool. But most homeschoolers have a live and let live attitude because they get judged a lot. And most of them get it. They take full advantage of this lifestyle and know why it’s worth it. Other people don’t need to understand, and maybe it’s a good thing. If every parent who could manage it understood the benefits of homeschooling, then….well, there would be too many homeschoolers, and the resources would be stretched and there would be parents who were doing it for the wrong reasons. (And that sometimes happens now, unfortunately.)

But I’m off on a trail that I didn’t mean to go down. I just wanted to say that October is here! We have a full year of learning ahead of us. We have good books to read and excursions to take. We have concerts to attend at the local university (we’ve already been to several). We have homeschool science classes to attend at the nature center (yay!). My eldest son will be giving more recitals and attending studio classes and other cool events arranged by his piano teacher. My younger son is making strides on the cello. It’s all so exciting.

Every time I check off the plans completed for a day or week, it feels very satisfying. I wish I could blog more about it, but you’ll have to make do with these occasional long, windy posts that I write here and there and try to edit into something cohesive. If you’d like for me to write about something specific, or you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or send a private e-mail.

I hope you are having a fulfilling autumn too. I wish you peace and joy and perfect weather. (We’re still waiting for that weather here in Georgia. :/ )

Late August

It’s that time of year again, and I think this must be my favorite time of year. There’s a hint of autumn in the air (at least early in the morning).  My boys have had their birthdays, and all the deciding-what-to-do-this-year and present buying is over, and they are happy with some new projects to work on (i.e. models and games and such).

They are now nine and twelve-years-old. Where does the time go?

I can put away a full year’s portfolio, which is brimming with paperwork showing that my boys accomplished quite a bit in their “2nd” and “5th” grade year. I have created shiny, new 3-ring binders for their “3rd” and “6th” grade year, and I look forward to filling them with whatever lies ahead of us for this coming year.

I always work on a rough “weekly schedule” for our new year even though it’s a futile endeavor. We can never keep to a set schedule. However, it’s helpful for me to have a kind of compass, especially when I wake up early, bleary-eyed, and my brain isn’t sharp enough to think of what lessons we need to work on or what appointments we need to go to that day. I can look at the schedule and think, “Ah, yes, math, grammar and Spanish today.” Or I think, “Well, we didn’t actually finish the writing yesterday, so I’ll start with that.”

Although I won’t officially consider the boys in the “6th” and “3rd” grade until next week, grade levels don’t mean as much while homeschooling. We are continuing the work we’ve always been doing, but we add challenges, occasionally have new resources to try out and always try to progress to the next level of difficulty in any given subject. The nice thing about homeschooling is that I don’t have to push to the next level until I’m sure my child is ready for it.

The boys have their projects, which is their freely chosen yet heavily supported self-study. They also will have a good dose of parent-planned lessons. (More about those later.) Then we have lots of documentaries to watch, books to read, games to play, and time spent outside. So far it’s been a pretty good way to homeschool. Hopefully it’ll continue to work well.

 Here’s a challenge for you: Ask me two questions. What would you like to know? I won’t promise I will answer every kind of question, but I’ll answer what I can.