January 2022

My daffodils are blooming early, and they will always remind me of my dad who died in January 2021. He had given me these bulbs. They were growing on a back corner of his property, and they may have originally been planted by my great-grandmother! I have many more around the front of my yard.

It’s the last day of January, and whew — I’m glad it’s over. This has been a very busy month, and it has been cold outside with a few days of almost warm. It also has been a month of remembering….remembering loss from last year and remembering pre-covid times when everything was so much easier. I have been doing lots of random things like going to physical therapy, and I have been ordering specimens for my son’s biology labs. I also baked a loaf of bread for one of his science experiments. I haven’t baked in a long time, but I was pleased to have the skill when it was needed. I finished another James Herriot book, and I discovered that I absolutely love Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. I’m so lucky to have musicians in my house!

The project that has taken the most time, however, is my 12-year-old’s new YouTube channel! Yes, we have taken the bird project to new heights! This year my 12-year-old is in an online ornithology club, which has really inspired him to dig deeper into the world of birds, and then I wondered if he might enjoy recording the birds in our yard and starting a YouTube channel. I was right, and he’s so excited about this. Every few days he’ll put the camera outside, picking a new place or a different angle, and we’ll put the seeds out there. Then we go inside and hope the birds will show up. They usually do. (And we’re at the window with our binoculars.)

This project is teaching my son more than just how to record birds. We have sat together to edit the film, and I’m surprised that he has so much patience to go through the recordings! He picks out the best parts, and I’ve shown him how to trim them. We are also going to learn more about video editing together, and I can see that it won’t be long before I won’t need to help. You never know where this could lead.

Naturally, he is most excited about getting new subscribers on his YouTube channel. So if you feel inclined, I hope you’ll subscribe. You never know, I might be fostering a YouTube star. LOL. Or, maybe Mr. Cardinal will become the star. We’ll see. 🤣

Here’s one of my favorite videos. Please go to his channel and click on “videos” at the top to see them all. And then you’ll understand why I’ve been so busy. This kid likes recording!

 

How has 2022 begun for you? I hope it’s starting out well.

September 2021

During the summer, I got up early to take my walks because it’s too hot here to take them any other time of day. Above is a photograph of a sunrise I happened to capture on one of my walks. It’s also symbolic of the path I’m on right now. I have to retrace my steps over and over in daily life. Sometimes this can feel like a grind, but if I pay attention, every day offers something new.

August 2021

This long year at home has given me a new appreciation for hostas.

I have finally completed the paperwork and put together the portfolios for my boys’ 8th and 5th grade years. This is something I do every summer. I save their loose papers in a 3-ring binder along with anything else from the year, such as brochures from field trips and programs from classical music concerts (sadly not included this time because of the pandemic). I also have daily charts I check off, which is how I keep track of attendance. Most importantly, I write up progress reports (as in accordance with the law in my state), which lists all of their work, including curricula, books read, test scores, and my comments, etc. These are several pages long. This year my 14-year-old had a resume I included too. (I did not have a resume at 14. This kid is something.)

This year feels really special to me because my 14-year-old has completed the 8th grade, and now he’s entering high school. And I got him here! I had help from his dad, of course, but I can safely say I did most of facilitating and all of the organizing. When my boys were younger, I also did all the teaching, but in the past couple of years, my eldest son is mostly self-taught. I find curriculum for him, and he does the work. I make sure he stays on task, and I help him when he gets stuck.

When kids get to a certain age, they can tell you when they need more help. They also tell you what they’re most interested in and what they want to spend their time doing, although they may not say it in so many words. You’ll figure out, if you’ve been observing them with an open mind. They’re mature enough to realize that they will need to spend some time on stuff they don’t like, but as long as they see the purpose for it, they are okay with that.

My younger son has completed the lower elementary grades, which is another milestone. Wow. Sixth grade will be more challenging, and my job will be to keep him on task so that he’ll be ready for high school in three years. I tell him he is lucky that I’ve already homeschooled his older brother, but in truth, he offers me plenty of challenges because he’s different than his brother. His education is not a repeat of his older brother’s education.

Starting next year I will be doing less teaching than I ever have because we’re going to be using Outschool and other online classes more. I know the boys will enjoy this change, and it feels like a relief to me too. They are getting to a higher level of learning, and I just can’t do it all. The online classes are fun for them, and I love how they’re interacting with other teachers and kids even if it’s all virtual. But the year may still be my busiest yet. I can’t wait to see how it goes.

Besides wrapping up last year and planning next year, I’ve been enjoying watching highlights from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with my boys, and even more close to our hearts is the 18th Chopin Competition. It’s an olympics of sorts for piano players. You can already watch the entire preliminary round on YouTube, and the 1st round will begin in October. You can read about the competitors here.

What are you looking forward to this coming year, and what’s keeping you busy now?

Our 8th Grade Homeschool Curriculum with High School Planning

As I type this post and think back over this past year, it feels like one of the longest homeschool years we’ve ever had. I’m sure that’s partly because we spent it isolated at home during a pandemic, but it’s also been a lot of work because my son is in the 8th grade, and it’s the last year before high school. Wow. I can’t believe we’ve made it this far! When I started homeschooling all those years ago, I had no idea how it would go, but I’m glad it’s turned out good.

As I wrote last year, I am creating PDF resources with all the nitty gritty about our curriculum just like I used to write blog posts, but now they are even more detailed. I have written 8th Grade with High School Planning to complement the one I wrote for 7th grade last year. It’s a bit shorter (at 10 pages) because it’s strictly about the curriculum, but I’ve also included my plans (so far) for each subject in high school and links that have helped me figure out how to award credits and create a transcript for high school.

In 8th Grade with High School Planning, you’ll find the the resources we’ve used for all the major subjects:

Writing
Literature
Vocabulary
Math
Science
History
Foreign Language

I was also happy to realize recently that Payhip, which is the company that I use to sell my digital products on, has created a bunch of cool new features for me to use, so now my store looks like a real website by itself. Please check it out.

I’m taking advantage of two new Payhip features. First, my products are set to “pay what you want.” There is a minimum price, but most of my minimums will be $1.00 unless it’s something much longer in length, such as The Everyday Homeschooler’s Guide to Teaching the Early Yearswhich will have a $3.00 minimum. But basically this will allow some people to pay a bit more, if they can, and if they feel my work warrants it. But if you can’t pay more, a dollar it is. My main goal is to help people, but I truly appreciate all the support I can get too.

The other new feature available on my store is a blog, which I don’t really need since I have this blog, but I thought I might use it for some quick, inspiring homeschool tips. You can check that out here.

What else should I do for my store? If there’s anything else you would like to see me write about, please let me know. I appreciate your support very much. If you can’t buy my PDF resources, that’s okay. If you can share my blog or store on your social media outlets, I’d really appreciate that too. And I always love hearing from you, even if it’s just to chat! Thanks so much. 🙂

March 2021

These daffodil bulbs came from my Dad’s property, and there’s a good chance they were originally planted by my great-grandmother. 🙂

Hello to anyone who still cares to read this blog. 🙂 I have been quiet here partly because there’s not much new to say. As you know, we are still stuck in this pandemic, though I’m starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. With a few spring-like winter days, our hearts are uplifted and looking forward to when we can start going places again.

Unfortunately, my extended family and I experienced a traumatic event in January as well as the loss of two family members. My husband, boys and I remain at home unable to visit grieving family face-to-face. This is another sad event during this time that is sad for so many people, and it’s not always easy. But I’m still grateful for so much that it’s hard not to be happy with life in general. It’s the tough times that make you appreciate the good times, so I’m grateful to them as well.

white crocus

I have to admit, there are some things I like about being stuck at home. I used to worry that we could not get as many homeschooling lessons done as I wanted because it takes a lot of time to get ready to go places, drive there, come home, etc. Of course, everything we did was very valuable, but this year, I think we’ve had more time to dig into academic lessons. I believe this because my 5th grader is a little further along in math than his brother was in the 5th grade. It’s not a huge difference, but it’s helping me plan something different for next year. Likewise, my 8th grader is making progress in all his subjects, though he has much more to balance considering he spends more time on music practice and theory.

Similarly, I can do the laundry more regularly, and I can predict which evenings I’ll feel like cooking a bigger meal. There’s something to be said for staying home. But, it can also feel a bit more like a grind, so when the weather warms up, like today, I told my boys to forget their afternoon lessons because we all needed to take a walk. And we did. I even have a little time to start this post before dinner.

camellias

One of the things that has gotten me through these past few weeks is reading a new textbook I bought for my son’s high school literature course, which I’m planning to teach him next year. I love it. I feel like I’m in college again, but this time, I don’t have to cram. I can read it slowly and savor everything. I forgot how much I love to read short stories!

Although I probably would not recommend it to any young person now, I’m very grateful that I was an English major in college. As a young person, I was very sheltered from the larger world. I kind of marvel at my younger self — I was so naive! But as an English major, though it did not prepare me for a lucrative career, it helped to open my eyes to the world, and it gave me so many valuable life lessons. It also made me a more compassionate person because literature offers a lens to see into other ways of life and how no one way of life is better or worse than any other. As I get older, I see that this kind of compassionate knowledge is missing in so many people. Most people I meet see the world only in black and white, and they don’t understand that it’s actually made up of many shades of gray. But who can blame them when the media, politicians, and even religious institutions will only paint the world in one stark shade with no room for nuance?

It’s for these reasons that I have enjoyed picking out the literature that my son reads for his homeschool lessons. (He reads a lot of books on his own too.) I have and will try to pick a broad range of titles that will give him many lenses to gaze through. I hope over these next few years, he’ll begin to see the world in all its complexity, and this will be one link in a long chain of lessons he has learned at home to prepare him for adult life.

purple crocus

Please leave me a message and tell me how you are coping during this pandemic. I hope you are well and that you’re keeping your spirits up.

Our 7th Grade Homeschool Curriculum and Schedule

Every year since my eldest son was in Pre-K, I have written about our homeschool and the resources we use. Now he’s in the 7th grade, and I’m still writing about it, but as I mentioned in my last post, while I love writing and sharing, I’m not in a position to put so much time and effort into this blog for free anymore. 😦 So, I’m trying something a little different. I’m not asking for donations or subscribers. I’m simply putting my work into pdf format, and I’m selling the digital files for a small amount. This way, you can purchase only what you need. If you do purchase one of my resources, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It helps me more than you know.

With that said, it’s my pleasure to announce that I have a new resource available in my store. Our 7th Grade Homeschool Game Plan contains all the information you want and more about the 7th grade curriculum I created for my son. At approximately 20 pages, it’s much longer than any of my blog posts. I include links to all the curricula I purchased as well as some alternative resources that I know to be quality products. If warranted, I comment on how we use each curriculum and give brief reviews of each. I also share how we plan our priorities and schedule our time.

Creating a course of study that is flexible and offers plenty of time for my son’s other endeavors was an important consideration as I planned this year. I am also including a printable checklist for those who would like to try my rotation method.

Topics covered are:

  • Language Arts (Grammar & Writing, Literature, Vocabulary)
  • Math
  • Science
  • History
  • Foreign Language
  • Critical Thinking
  • Art
  • Music
  • Making Priorities
  • Scheduling: My Rotation Method

As I mentioned, this resource is approximately 20 pages long, and I’ve been working on it since September. Yep, it’s taken me four months to write 20 pages. (Sigh.) But I’ve finally finished it, and I hope you’ll like it. I hope you’ll buy it!

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me! And please let me know if there’s anything else I can write up and share in a pdf format. I’m always looking for more ideas, and I’d like to know what people are interested in learning about.

Click here to go to MY STORE

Thank you for your support. If you like my blog and find it useful, I would greatly appreciate it if you would share my store with your friends. Thank you!

Project-based homeschooling: American Elm

‘Princeton’ American elm.

Happy Arbor Day!

In my last post, I told you a bit about my boys’ interest in plants and how we began identifying all the plants and trees in our yard. Even more so than plants, I think my eldest son is interested in trees, and he loves to try to identify them and propagate some of them, which I also mentioned in my last post. Today is Arbor Day, so I thought it would be the perfect day to write about my son’s special interest in American elm trees.

Sometime during this past year he read about the American elm tree. This is a beautiful tree that can grow to over 100 feet tall and live for a thousand years. You may already know how this beautiful tree used to line many urban streets in the central and eastern United States, but around the 1930s almost all of them died from Dutch elm disease. (Millions of elms were killed by this disease.) There were a few American elms that didn’t die, however, including one cultivar named ‘Princeton’ American elm. (Named so because it was developed by Princeton Nurseries in 1922.) Today these trees are under conservation, and many ‘Princeton’ elms are being replanted in urban settings. We have even found a few of these young elms in a town square of a small Georgia town we’ve traveled to.

For the first time, we’ve been able to see new leaves emerge on our American elm tree.

After learning about the American elm and the conservation efforts to save it, my son wanted to get one to plant in our yard. We certainly don’t need more trees, but how could we say no to our little conservationist? Last October, we got one from Thomas Orchards, and we planted it in a grassy area in our front yard, which is near the street. It’s been exciting for us to see its first leaves appearing this spring and to think that someday it may tower over our street just like American elms did long ago.

Planting our new tree last October.

By coincidence, several years ago I got the opportunity to photograph an estate in Twin City, which is a tiny town located in central Georgia. On that property, there was a huge American elm, which was a rarity. The owner of the house said that researchers from the university had come to see her tree and study it. Here’s a photo I took of that tree:

Quite impressive, isn’t it?

What is your favorite tree and why?

Project-based Homeschooling: Plant Project

A winged elm (Ulmus alata). We found two fully grown winged elms in our yard when we began our mission to identify and label all the plants and trees in our wooded yard.

Happy Earth Day! To celebrate, I thought I would write about a project we’ve been working on for over a year. My older son has always had a special interest in plants. When he was little, he became obsessed with seeds for awhile. Then he had his carnivorous plant project, and we still grow the carnivorous plants. My younger son also enjoys gardening and likes having his own plants to care for too.

Wild ginger (Hexastylis arifolia) grows abundantly in the woods behind our house, and I love this wild plant. If you pull back the leaves, you can see their bell-shaped flowers.

About a year ago my twelve-year-old became extra interested in plants, especially trees, and he even asked to go to the Atlanta Botanical Garden for his birthday.  He’s been learning how to grow and propagate trees by himself, particularly redbud trees. His younger brother wanted to try this too, so he’s trying to grow some hickories. Needless to say, my refrigerator has been packed with little pots of dirt and seeds this past winter! If they have any success growing these trees, I’ll be sure to write about it in the future.

Butterfly Pea (Clitoria ternatea). We found this growing wild by our driveway!

There are some trees that are very difficult to identify, such as this prominent oak in our front yard (center). We think it’s a post oak. (Quercus stellata)

What started all this? Well, we decided to try to identify and label the plants and trees that grow naturally in our wooded yard. I had mentioned trying this a long time ago, but I never did it because it was a huge undertaking. Finally my twelve-year-old wanted to do it in earnest, so we got serious about it.

So far we have identified and labeled 20 different species of trees and plants! It feels like we’ve made a lot of progress, but there are so many plants we still haven’t identified!

Plants we’ve found:

Butterfly Pea (Clitoria ternatea)
Wild Ginger (Hexastylis arifolia)
Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatom Communtatun)
St. Andrew’s Cross (Hypericum hypericoides)
Smartweed (Polygonum pensylvanicum)
Pennywort (Hydrocotyle microphylla)

Trees:

Wild Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)
Dogwood (Cornus florida)
Willow Oak (Quercus phellos)
Winged Elm (Ulmus alata)
Hawthorne (Crataegus)
Blackjack Oak (Quercus marilandica)
Water Oak (Quercus alba)
Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
American Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)
Carolina Basswood (Tilia americana caroliniana)
Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda)
Shortleaf Pine (Pinus echinata)
Holly (Ilex)

Water Oak. (Quercus nigra) Surprisingly, we have only one water oak in our yard, but it’s huge, and it’s near our front porch. It also happens to be my favorite tree in the yard.

As a homeschooling mom, I can say it feels great when your kid gets old enough to do the hard work by himself. This project has led my twelve-year-old to learn how to use a dichotomous key when trying to identify plants and trees. He has used Tree Finder: A Manual for Identification of Trees by their Leaves (Eastern U.S.), Winter Tree Finder, A Field Guide to Eastern Trees and the Internet to identify several plants and trees. Then he lists the plant names in a notebook. Sometimes he takes photos of them, but I often do that. I’ve also been helping by uploading some of our photos to iNaturalist, which has been a big help in identifying plants and trees too.

We have several white oaks. (Quercus alba) The ink on the label has already faded in just one winter. Time for a touch up.

I also help by writing out the labels that we put on or near the trees and plants (because I have the nicest handwriting). We always put the common name and the scientific name. My yard is starting to look a little bit like the botanical garden….well, I guess it would need to be much neater before I could say that! But I enjoy seeing the labels nonetheless.

We have a few wild black cherry trees. (Prunus serotina) They surprised me one year by producing small, tasty cherries! These trees have beautiful bark too.

This Friday is Arbor Day, so I’m going to use that day to post about a particular tree my son wanted to buy and plant in our yard.

There is one small willow oak (Quercus phellos) trying to grow among the the other hardwoods in the backyard.

I hope you are having a happy spring!

Our 6th and 3rd Grade Homeschool Curriculum

This year I needed to save time (as a homeschooling parent I am sure you can relate), so I wrote about our 6th and 3rd grade curriculum on the home/school/life blog only. This is a list of all the resources we’re using right now in the 2018-2019 school year. I may write individual posts on these resources/subjects at a later date, if I can find the time. Please don’t hesitate to ask me questions, if you have any.

I hope you don’t mind making one click to access this post at home/school/life:

At Home with the Editors: Shelli’s 6th and 3rd Grade Curriculum

I also wrote about this year’s homeschool schedule in How to Create a Homeschool Schedule.

And please share your wisdom and favorite resources in the comments section!

Secular Curriculum I Can Recommend

This is a master list of all the curriculum and resources I have used during the elementary years that I can highly recommend. The link will go to my review, if I’ve written one, or to where you can purchase the product online. Feel free to e-mail me with questions, if you have any. Everything is secular except where noted.*

For middle school and beyond, please check My Store for my curriculum recommendations and more. (Our 7th grade curricula can be found here.)

Reading

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
Starfall.com
Usborne Very First Readers – set of 15 books

Language Arts

writing & grammar

Institute for Excellence in Writing’s Student Writing Intensive Level A (I would recommend this curriculum for children who are struggling to write. If you have a child that is naturally drawn to writing, you may have more success with a less formal approach.)
Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree: Student Book 1 with Teacher’s Manual
Michael Clay Thompson’s Language Arts Program, Level 1 and Part of Level 2

poetry

Vintage Poetry for Modern Kids
Music of the Hemispheres (part of the Michael Clay Thompson’s Language Arts Program)

spelling

All About Spelling — This is a solid program, and I really liked it. However, my son hated it, so we stopped after Level 1.

handwriting

Calligraphy Set & an Instruction Book (makes learning to write fun)
Handwriting Without Tears My Printing Book
Handwriting Without Tears Printing Power
Beginning Traditional Cursive
Cursive Writing Practice: Inspiring Quotes

Free Typing Lessons

Math

Life of Fred* elementary series
Life of Fred* intermediate series
Life of Fred: Fractions*
Life of Fred: Decimals and Percents*
Khan Academy
Mathantics
Spectrum Workbooks
Singapore Math (U.S.) (Level 1A & 1B)

General 

Workbooks are good for extra practice, to make sure you are covering the basics, or for preparing for standardized tests, but I mostly prefer working with other resources that are more engaging. If you want a workbook, I recommend:

— If your child likes Star Wars, check out the Star Wars workbooks.
Spectrum workbooks are good. (These are sold on Amazon.)

Also, Ducksters.com is a helpful website for basic information on history, science and geography in elementary school.

If you have a mature middle school student or high school student, I highly recommend Great Courses Plus streaming service.

Social Studies

my husband’s history lectures
The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia
The Usborne Encyclopedia of World History
One World, Many Religions: The Ways We Worship
The Kids Books of World Religions
Documentaries!
Follow my history lesson logs…These list the resources and library books that I use for each history topic.
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales

Science

Documentaries!!!
Magic School Bus Books
Let’s Read and Find Out Science Books
My Citizen Science Projects
See my homeschool science posts for more ideas.
Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding This is a very good curriculum, and it’s secular. However, it requires A LOT of reading and prep work on the part of the parent!

Spanish

Risas y Sonrisas
Salsa
Mango (free via public library)

Chinese

Better Chinese

Art

Developing a Sketchbook Habit (doing this has been invaluable)
Cave Paintings to Picasso
Georgia Museum of Art (field trips to)
Carla Sonheim online art classes (link goes to her free stuff)
Drawing for Older Children & Teens by Mona Brookes

I also recommend my resource, The Everyday Homeschooler’s Guide to Teaching the Early Yearsfor anyone with a child up to eight-years-old. It will get you started in creating an atmosphere at home that will promote independent learning. It also has a big list of secular resources in the back. And tons of other tips and practical advice. I hope you’ll check it out.

 

* The author of the Life of Fred  series is religious, and this is apparent in the books, but there are few references and nothing preachy. It was a non-issue for us. However, this is a controversial issue in some secular online forums where followers don’t want to support an author with his views.