It’s the beginning of summer, and the weather is hot, but not as hot as it’s going to get. Our coneflowers are in full bloom. That’s always a lovely sight to see.

Our homeschooling year continued full swing into the first half of June mostly because this is a testing year for us, and I wanted to finish up a few things before I administered the tests last week. As a result, I am feeling burned out on all things homeschool. I am so glad we have those tests out of the way, and now we can relax a little, though we have some exciting summer activities we need to get ready for. I’ll be able to tell you all about that next month.

We will do some “lite” homeschooling during the summer months, and I also do a lot of administrative work in the summer, but I don’t mind. I have to write up progress reports for the year, and I use that as a way to document everything the boys have achieved during the year. I’m not required to show it to anyone, so I include everything, and it makes a good keepsake. I also like to put together a slideshow of photos from our year, but I never finished the one for last year 😬, so I’m not pressuring myself to do it this year either.

I am still working on a 7th grade curriculum, which means settling on the resources for all the subjects plus a full literature curriculum, in which I’ve picked my own books, resources, and questions to ask (with help from the Internet). This is the first time I’ve planned so far ahead. It’s been fun, but it’s a lot of work, and it’s slow going because I have such little time to work on it. (Here’s where I daydream about a week alone in a mountain cabin to work on stuff like this. lol) I am also putting together a much more formal plan for 4th grade for my younger son than I ever did for his older brother, but that’s much easier to do since I have already taught 4th grade once.

My twelve-year-old told me recently that his younger brother was lucky because I already did all my experimenting before I got to him. lol That’s not always true, though. My younger son is very different in his interests and learning style, and I feel like I’m starting from scratch with him, though it is nice to have a bunch of resources and experience to draw from.

Speaking of curriculum, if you read my last post about how our year went, you might want to skim over it again. Because I forgot to include some things! Opps. I realized this as I was working on the progress reports. This is what I get for trying to write fast.

What else have we been doing? I just posted my twelve-year-old’s spring recital piece on his YouTube channel. I hope you’ll check that out.

As for me, I enjoyed having a photography job last month at the beautiful William Harris Homestead. My great aunt is the person who restored the log house and dreamed of using the homestead for heritage education. Now her daughter (my cousin) is carrying out that dream with help from a wonderful staff, which I got to photograph too. I love how my photos turned out, so I hope you’ll check them out. How I wish I could do more photography jobs. 🙂

We also took a day off to visit the Atlanta Botanical Garden Gainesville. Since my son has a keen interest in trees and horticulture, we bought a family membership to the Atlanta Botanical Garden last year, and we try to take advantage of it! We got lucky to see a pileated woodpecker while we were there.

And what else? Well, it’s mostly just been busy Daily Life stuff. But we do enjoy hanging out at home on our front porch when we can, and we all like to read and watch television. For fun, I thought I would list our current favorites.

Books to read silently:

12-year-old: Death Gate Cycle series

9-year-old: Calvin and Hobbes (any book will do)

Me: Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri


Books I’m reading aloud:

Chickadee by Louise Erdrich

Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins

Just for the 9-year-old: The Little House series



The whole family: Deep Space 9 (Netflix), Northern Exposure (DVD), Big Dreams, Small Spaces (Netflix)

The boys: The Adventures of Puss in Boots (Netflix)

Me: Scott and Bailey, The Durrells in Corfu, Poldark (all on Amazon Prime)


If you’ve read this far, thank you! I appreciate your readership so much. Please tell me what you have been up to. 


Shadows in our yard during the 2017 eclipse. One more thing that made this August special.

As I always say, summer has a mind of its own, and this year has been no exception. August, especially, has been full, mostly of good things.

The boys’ birthdays are both in August, so this keeps me busy most of the month, and we usually take time off around their birthdays so that I can decorate, clean the house, and bake a chocolate cake from scratch, etc. We do not do big birthday parties. We have some family over for dinner and cake on each of their birthdays, and this year we had a “birthday play date” with two of the boys’ friends too. It was just like a regular play date, but it included decorations, cake and snacks, and a game of Star Wars monopoly. Everyone seemed to have a lot of fun.

For the eleven-year-old’s birthday, however, we changed our plans at the last minute because we found out that the Yargo Trio was giving a free concert, so we all went to that instead. This was also special because it was the eight-year-old’s first time attending a live, evening performance (that wasn’t his brother’s recital), and he did great! He even said he enjoyed it. So now I’m excited that this coming year might include lots of free concerts that all four of us can go to.

I finished up all the paperwork I needed to do to wrap up our 4th & 1st grade years. I finished making a slideshow from this year’s photos. I was disappointed that I got lazy this year and used my camera phone for most of the photos, and I took less too, but it’s still a fun slideshow to watch. I also gave the boys’ a certificate of completion, which really isn’t necessary, but it kind of makes the year feel complete.

I put all these things into their portfolio binders, and one of these days, I’ll figure out where to put the binders — binders are stacking up after these past few years of homeschooling!

Although I’m not planning to officially start 5th and 2nd grade until the first week of September, I’ve continued to do lessons throughout the summer. They have been “light” lessons, mostly readalouds and some math. And my big project was to find a Spanish curriculum that I thought we’d stick with. I found it! I will be sure to write about it in the future.

This month we also took the boys one day to the Georgia Museum of Art. We loved the paintings by Martin Johnson Heade, which was a temporary exhibit. (Click the link to see some of his work.) It’s fun to go to the museum once in a while and see what they have on display.

What else have we done this month? I have been organizing the new year’s curriculum, going through stacks of random resources that I’ve been given or bought at library book sales, putting away what I don’t need and setting out what I will use.

I’m also thrilled that I finished my small project: The Everyday Homeschooler’s Guide to Teaching 1st Grade(Although, it’s really for any child between the ages of 4-8 or thereabouts.)  I have some other projects I’m thinking about, but they will get done very. very. very. sloooowly. Because my urgent to do list always takes precedence: plan daily lessons, laundry, fix breakfast, do dishes, teach lessons, fix lunch, do dishes, teach lessons, go to an appointment, laundry….you get the drift.

Random appointments and extracurricular activities have begun again. Piano lessons never stopped during the summer, except for the eight-year-old, who stopped them completely. However, he’s begun taking cello lessons, and he loves it! His teacher is great. We’re very excited about this change and can’t wait to see where it will go. So this year we’ll be looking for free cello recitals and concerts to attend as well as piano. 🙂

Although it’s always a struggle to keep a garden in this climate and on my budget, I’ve been enjoying the few flowers I’ve managed to grow and especially the butterflies I’ve attracted. I’ll write about that another time too.

What else do I want to write about on this blog? Let’s see. I have created a page for both book reviews and curriculum reviews that you can access from my right-hand margin. (The curriculum review page is not yet live.) I have a goal to write about the books we read both on here and at home/school/life, and I’ll also write more curriculum reviews for the home/school/life blog. So I wanted to give you a way to access all of those posts from this blog, but I also encourage you to follow the home/school/life blog because it’s a good blog too!

Once we’re settled into our new school year, I’ll write a post about this year’s curriculum, and later in the year I’ll write about what worked and didn’t work as I always do.

I’m also going to set up pages that is all about our history lessons. My husband let his History for Homeschoolers’ website expire, but I can still give you links to his lectures on YouTube. I’ll also write about how I’m teaching history to my boys as we go along.

But all of this takes so much time. I wish I could blog everyday, but my posts are random at best. This just means that our homeschooling life is full and busy, and that’s a good thing. I hope you’ll write to me in the comments section or by e-mail. Feel free to just chat or ask questions about what you’d like to know about homeschooling. You might inspire me to write a post. And I’d love to know how homeschooling or parenthood is going for you.

Thanks for reading.

Homeschooling: Summer Planning

Even after these last few years of homeschooling, I’m still not sure whether it’s better to take the summer off from doing lessons or homeschool all the way through. There was that summer that had a mind of its own, and we didn’t do any homeschooling. However, we took a trip to Chicago where we went to all the awesome museums and places we could go there, and the boys were in two or three summer camps…I would count that in my attendance sheet of homeschool days!

Last year, we took some time off and also did some lessons, and that’s kind of what I have in mind for this summer. There is a balance to strike between having free time and too much free time. I have noticed that having some structure to our days helps me, and it prevents the boys from getting too aimless and bored. But unlike last year, which (I think) I filled with math, this year I’m (mostly) letting the boys pick the lessons they want to do. This is great fun because I don’t get a lot of complaints, and they still learn a lot!

So I came up with a big list of what we could do, and I showed it to them, and they made their picks:

Nine-year-old’s picks:

Science — He loves science, and I would wager that he’s way ahead of his peers in his subject, but we’ve never used a curriculum in science. My husband and I thought it would be a good time to start, and we picked out Elemental Science Biology for the Logic Stage. This is a middle school secular science curriculum for homeschoolers, and we’ve just started it, but so far, my son likes it. And it’s actually going to give him some reading and writing practice (Shhh! Don’t tell him!), although I’m not making him do as much writing as the curriculum requires. (After all, he’s only in the 3rd grade.)

Music history — We’re going to keep reading about famous composers. We’re finishing up Meet the Great Composers Book 1 and about to move into Book 2. After we finish this, I’d like to find some more in-depth biographies of his favorite composers.

News/current affairs — We both love reading the news from the News-O-Matic app, which you can download onto an Apple or Android device. It’s definitely for kids, so I wouldn’t read it on my own, but I enjoy the stories too.

Piano — My nine-year-old will also be practicing piano everyday and having a lesson at least once a week.

**On top of this, both my boys will be attending a week-long day camp at the Botanical Garden this summer. ** 🙂

Six-year-old picks:

Star Wars 1st grade Workbooks — Math, Reading and Writing Skills Can you believe it?! He wants to do workbooks! He might change his mind after he realizes that they are harder than the kindergarten workbooks he finished earlier this year, but I’m still super impressed that he picked these.

(What he didn’t pick was the Singapore Math, Handwriting Without Tears workbook, and reading lessons on Starfall.com and in the Starfall workbook. I guess since I picked those, they aren’t as fun as these workbooks which cover almost the same stuff. ;))

The six-year-old is also working on a project right now: a model of a barn owl. If it gets finished, I’ll blog about it.

Mama’s picks:

There are a few things I feel it’s important to continue with the boys throughout the summer, and that’s…

Readalouds — I’ll be picking some good literature and maybe history books to read to the boys this summer. 😉

Memorizing the multiplication tables — We didn’t get very far yet, and I’m afraid after our short break, the boys have already forgotten the 3s and 4s! So we’ll continue to work on this a few minutes each day.

Art — I plan to continue Art Fridays this summer, and I’m hoping since we’re going light on lessons, I’ll have more time to plan art projects and art history lessons!

General Practice for the nine-year-old — We signed the nine-year-old up for Time4Learning so that he can review and get general practice in math and language arts. UPDATE: We ditched this because we just weren’t using it, and I found an app on the iPad I love and the boys like, so we’re using it instead. It’s the 24×7 Digital TeachMe Apps.

What are your homeschooling plans for the summer?

The Summer Rundown

An Update On Our Homeschool, Projects, and Life

Okay, so I know that life speeds up the older we get, but gah, homeschooling can really make it move! We spend everyday exploring, doing chores, learning, doing chores, working toward our goals, doing chores…you get the picture. I might add that I’m the one doing most of the chores around here. For the boys, you can switch “doing chores” to “playing.” 😉

But life is good. I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t look at my family and my home and think how lucky I am. Sure, we’re always striving for more, but I’m pretty happy with what we’ve got.

Summer fun: We always enjoy going to Snake Day at the nature center in early June.

One of things I don’t have, unfortunately, is time to blog as much as I’d like. I would love to make a separate post for each of my boy’s endeavors and homeschooling lessons, going in depth about what we do. If you read my blog regularly, you’ll know I try to do that when I can. But this summer, it’s just not happening. At least not yet. So I’m going to give you a little rundown about what we’ve been up to, and if I can get to a more detailed post later, I will. I’m writing this list as a way to help me do my record-keeping and know what to focus my writing on these next few weeks, but you definitely don’t have to wait until I find time to write about these things, if you want to know more. Just write me a comment or send me an e-mail. I love corresponding with fellow homeschoolers and offering support and encouragement.

We went blueberry and strawberry picking this summer too!


Our summer schedule – I decided to keep homeschooling during the summer, but we’re not working on all the subjects. Our priority has been math. I am planning to write a post about summer homeschooling, so I’ll go into more detail then.

Summer camps – I love summer camps, and I think they offer homeschooling kids a great way to socialize and focus on some of their main interests. I’ll try to write about the summer camps my kids attended this year at the end of the summer.

Art – I’ve kept up with Art Fridays (most weeks), including a fun field trip to the Georgia Museum of Art. I’m going to try to write about these when I can. Since my focus this summer has been math, Amy Hood’s Art Together issue focusing on art and math was perfect for us, and one day the eight-year-old and I learned about Fibonacci’s sequence, and I helped him build a structure using the sequence as inspiration. That was fun!

Civil War Badge – Both my boys earned a Civil War badge through the Georgia State Parks and Historic Places this summer! It was a lot of fun to learn a little bit about the war before we actually delve into formal history lessons.

Our history timeline – At the end of spring, I finally checked off a long-time goal and that was to make a big history timeline that now hangs in our upstairs hallway. Actually, I made two timelines. This will be something we add to over many years as we discover new facts about history.

Our end of the year review and celebration – I’m planning to do this again at the end of July, and I’m working on our annual slideshow of everything we did during the year. If you want to read about how I handle the end of the year, you can see ­­­­Homeschooling: End of the Year Review and Progress Report.

There’s always more time to go with my kid’s ideas in the summer.


As you know, I make my boys’ projects a priority. Some new interests have been creeping up, and it’s been fun to see them develop. As I get the time, I’ll write more about these:

Birds – I have been seeing the theme of birds pop up in my boys’ interests lately, especially for my five-year-old. He is carrying around some beloved bird toys, and he loves collecting feathers, and every night, instead of reading a book, we’re looking at birds in our bird app, looking at their photos, where they live, and listening to the sounds they make. I definitely want to write about this more when I can, but I have already written about how the real birds gave us a show this summer, and wow, how special is that?! And you can see the photographs I took of a cardinal family rearing their young on my photography blog.

Piano – My eight-year-old started piano lessons this summer! We are so excited about this, and I already wrote a column about that and will be posting it soon.

Robotics – My eight-year-old has been interested in robotics for a while, and he’s learned about them in a few different ways. But this isn’t something he works on everyday. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about the steps he’s taken with this in an upcoming post.

More building projects – I have noticed my son’s general desire to create things with cardboard and craft materials has slowed down, but he did finish another Star Wars ship recently, and he’s got a list of ideas he keeps saying he’ll work on. We’ll see…

The project calendar – In order to help me make sure that I’m giving my boys the time they need to work on their own projects, I developed a project calendar. I’ll explain how I’m doing that at some point.

After learning about food webs on the show Wild Kratts, my boys decided to make one of their own. All I did was print off the photos they wanted from the web.

My five-year-old decided he wanted to make one all by himself without his brother’s help.


You may have already read that home/school/life has a new website, and we’re giving away the summer issue for free to celebrate. If you want to take advantage of that, read this. I’m happy to see the magazine growing, and it’s getting a lot of good feedback, but we still need more subscribers. It’s a lot of work, and the brunt of that work is on editor-in-chief, Amy Sharony, but I feel hopeful the magazine will get to a place where it can afford to hire more writers and bloggers and general help!

I, too, am working on some other projects that I hope will eventually get me to my goal of earning a decent part-time salary working from home. I’m going to be pursuing more freelance opportunities, but gosh, it’s so hard to get everything done while taking care of my boys, homeschooling them, and taking care of the house too. (Obviously, if anyone has any leads for me, I would welcome them.)

Good thing I love what I do! I have worked out a system to get things done, and though everything gets done slowly, it gets done. Hmmm…that might be a good topic for a column or blog post someday too.

Funny thing, even though it’s only mid-July, public school starts here on August 4th, and since my boys are involved in some activities that correspond with the traditional school year, I’m starting to feel like summer is going to be winding down soon. And I feel like it’s barely just begun! Well, August is birthday month for us, though. That’ll slow down the homeschooling at least, and it’ll give me more to write about. Like I said, time is going fast, and my boys are growing fast too!

I hope that whatever you are up to these summer months, you are healthy, safe and having fun. If you have some time, I’d love to hear about what you’re doing in the comments section.

Summer Scavenger Hunts

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on Wednesday, August 7, 2013.

If you need some more activities to do with your children on these long summer days, try a scavenger hunt. Earlier this summer I made one up for my six- and three-year-old, and they had a blast. Kids love to have a mission.

I gave my six-year-old a list of ten items, and little did he know that I hoped he’d put some effort into reading the list. I was right – the game motivated him to read, and the three-year-old was in charge of carrying the bag, which he was proud to do.

My list included things they would have to search for inside and outside the house. I tried to think of fun things that my son likes too: A little seed, flower from the woods, pinecone, big seed, red crayon, string, little ball, something purple, something blue, and a bug.

I was worried that they would find everything in ten minutes, but my list was just the right size – it gave me about 45 minutes to sit on the porch and read! They were very proud of themselves when they reported back to me with all the loot.

Another variation of this game is great for preschoolers learning their numbers. When the six-year-old was four, I used to write the numbers 1-10 in chalk on the sidewalk. Then I would put dots under the numbers, which represented the amount. One dot under the number one, two dots under the number two, and so forth.

Then we would find things around the yard to put on top of the dots: one toy car, two flowers, three leaves, four twigs, five acorns, and so on…  He always had fun doing that.

Last year my sister-in-law sent the boys a Venn diagram with lots of fun trinkets for Valentine’s Day, and my boys loved it. We sorted those trinkets a half a dozen times. The other day I thought I would put a summer twist on it.

A Venn diagram is a visual way of sorting and comparing a group of things. Draw two or more circles and overlap them. Each circle will be labeled with one characteristic. If an object has that characteristic, it will go into one circle. If it has two characteristics, it will go in the area where the circles overlap.  If it doesn’t have any of the characteristics, it will go outside the circles. Is that clear as mud?

Let me explain.  I drew three big, overlapping circles with chalk on the pavement, and I labeled one “brown,” one “hard,” and one “curved.” Then the boys and I looked around the yard for what we could find with those characteristics. The first thing the boys picked up was a twig. It was brown, hard and curved, so it went in the middle of the diagram where all the circles overlapped.

A rock wasn’t brown, but it was hard and curved, so it went in the space where the circles “hard” and “curved” overlapped. We decided that a flower and a green leaf were only “curved”, so they went in that circle.

My son thought we should add a circle labeled “green,” so we tried that. After awhile, it was hard to find different kinds of objects outside, so I think this activity might have been more fun using toys or a variety of indoor and outdoor objects. It kept my sons busy for a few minutes, but the best part is that it got them outside, and as they searched the yard, other things caught their attention. Before I knew it, they were off exploring and playing on their own.

Do you love scavenger hunts? What versions do you play?