Friday, May 29, 2020

Two Weeks of Books at My House

I've been jotting down books being read or listened to at my house for the last two weeks. I thought I would share them here. I am not sharing the countless picture books I have read aloud to the younger kids. We usually read a stack of 5 each morning, and often another stack each evening.  

Currently Reading:

Trapped by James Ponti - This is the third and final book in a fun series about two kids who use TOAST (the Theory Of All Small Things) to help the FBI solve some mysteries. I've read these aloud at the lunch or dinner table and can't wait to make it to the end of this final book. 

The Magician's Nephew by C. S. Lewis - Joseph is reading this. He decided that he wants to read/reread the entire Narnia series this summer.  

The Ballad of Snakes and Songbirds by Suzanne Collins - Emma is reading this. My sister dropped it off, and there is a line to read it among my teens and myself. 

Polar Bears Past Breakfast by Mary Pope Osbourne - This is one of the Magic Treehouse Series. Mason has been reading them, and is currently on this book.

Ranger's Apprentice: The Ruins at Gorlan by John Flannagan - Oliver is wading into this series for the first time. It's fantastic, and I can't wait to have conversations about it with him. It is a series I love enough that it has a home on my shelves, instead of just an Kindle book. I also love the related series The Brotherband Chronicles. 

Ben and Me by Robert Lawson - Daniel is currently reading this funny book about Benjamin Franklin.

Calico by Ethel Calvert Phillips - Daniel is also reading this book. It is a fun story about a pony that shows up at a farm, and the adventures the children there have with him.

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull - Caleb is reading/listening to this one. It is the first time he's asked to do a book for fun. I'm trying not to be super obvious about how thrilled that makes me, but he knows. 

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart - Several of the boys are listening to this currently at bedtime. 

The Heart of the Rebellion by Sian Ann Bessey - This is my current read. It is set in the 1400s in Wales, a time period and place I am not familiar with. So far, I love it!

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan - Joseph listens to this right now in the afternoon during quiet time. It's an old favorite.

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan - Oliver started listening to this book today. He likes the Egyptian mythology themed series and hasn't listened to it in a year or so. 

Recently Read:

The Hound of the Baskervilles and several other Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - Emma owns the complete collection of Sherlock stories and has been rereading.

The Magic Treehouse Series by Mary Pope Osbourne - Mason has read a stack of these and is still going.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin - Daniel finished this book and loved it. 

Bunnicula Strikes Again by James Howe - Oliver just finished this book. He likes Bunnicula and felt like it was a bit of mystery without being scary. 

The Lost Kingdom by Chester Bryant - This was Joseph's last read. It's about a boy from India who starts out living in an American foundation. Then he moves out to some ancient ruins that his grandfather owned. The boy wants to learn about his past, and eventually, he does. 

The Mysterious Children of Ashton Place series by Maryrose Wood - The boys have listened to this entire series recently.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart - The boys just finished listening to this one. It's an old favorite. 

Heir of the Curse by Deborah Grace White - This is the first book in a series. I read it this week and enjoyed it. 

The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon - I finished this book at the beginning of the week. I really wasn't sure I would like this one, but I did. 

The Firethorn Chronicles series by Lea Doue - I read this series last week. I'm looking forward to when the rest of the books release. 

May 23rd - May 29th: Tie Dye and Gingerbread and Lego

This is a tiny part of the Legos we own.
We are having fun sorting them out. 
The giant bins of mixed Legos are in the attic,
we pour out part of a bin each time we sort.

Saturday was lots of family time. We did get out of the house in the late afternoon for a fun drive. Many of the families with graduating seniors from church had set up tables 10-15 feet apart along one family's yard. We were able to stop at each table and visit through the open window/doors with each family.

Sunday was a quiet day with church at home as usual for quarantine. We sang, prayed, had the sacrament, and then did a fun jeopardy-style scripture game. It had these categories:
  1.  People
  2. Visions and Dreams
  3. Who Said That?
  4. Doctrines and Principles
  5. Anything Goes!
 In the afternoon we worked on sorting more Legos for our big project. It is slow going, we have only finished two of the five giant tubs of Lego we have. 

In the evening we chose the two tie dye styles we each wanted to do. Then we labeled bags with each person's name and the style, and rubber banded shirts. Between the twelve of us that was 24 shirts! We also bagged the 24 playsilk blanks I bought from Dharma Trading Co and labeled which color or colors we planned to dye each one. 

Monday morning after breakfast and chores we headed outside to tie dye. It is quite a production to work through 48 items. It took 2 1/2 hours from beginning to end. We did run out of a few colors by the time we got to our playsilks, but we just picked different color combinations for those few. Now we wait until tomorrow morning to rinse out each item. That should be interesting! 

Tuesday there was a lot of rinsing and washing shirts and silks. The shirts all turned out great and now everyone has two new shirts for their summer wardrobe. A few of the kids were willing to model shirts today.

The kids decided to watch Inspector Gadget the movie and got a lot of laughs out of it. We've watched all the cartoons before, and it was fun to see it made into a live action movie.

Emma and I baked gingerbread cookies and added cream cheese frosting today. It was a new recipe, we've never really made gingerbread cookies before and I wasn't sure if any of the kids would like them. Surprisingly, most of them loved the cookies!

Wednesday morning my mom came to watch the kids and my sister picked up Makayla to take her to work at the farm, while Mason and I headed to his yearly check up with his eye surgeon. Everything looks good and he ordered new glasses. We came home, and then I ran to pick Makayla up from the farm. We spent the afternoon and evening just playing and doing family things. Oliver lost a tooth. I think that is the 6th or 7th tooth a kid has lost in the last three months. In the evening my three youth had a fireside online.
A peek at all the playsilks we dyed.
It has been probably 10 years since we made playsilks.
The middle and younger kids are thrilled.

Thursday kicked off with Emma's orthodontist appointment. They finally removed the appliance that has been in the roof of her mouth for 17 months. Depending on how the rest of braces treatment goes, she will get her braces off around January of next year. 

I baked chocolate chip banana muffins for lunch, but dumped the batter into a couple of bread pans instead of muffin tins. It was yummy, but doesn't slice well. Next time I'll use the muffin tins. While everyone was eating I watched Julie Bogart's live reveal of the 2020-2021 book picks for the Dart, Arrow, and Boomerang programs. Each month you read a book and have activities, discussion questions, grammar, spelling, and mechanics practice, dictation, literary devices to learn about - everything centered around the book of the month. I'm considering many of the Boomerang titles for my middle and high schoolers. 

Friday morning is here. Kids have been working on their summer charts. I thought I would explain how summers work here, in case anyone is looking for ideas. We try to keep a bit of a routine going, even in summer. For this year we print a one page chart out for each child each week. They have tasks to do each day, including a chore that changes every few weeks, daily reading, math practice twice a week, and writing once a week. They are free to play a lot, and they do. One thing I've loved about quarantine is that their play has become even more creative. 

Rebekah watched my braid Makayla's hair this morning as she prepared to head to the farm to work. She usually refuses anything beyond brushing her hair, but today she wanted braids like her big sister. She still has really thin hair, and wiggles a lot, but here is a peek at the final braids. 

The kids are calling me to come read a chapter of Trapped to them, so that's all for this week!

Friday, May 22, 2020

May 16th to May 22nd

Mason and Samuel using Pokémon cards for a battle.
It is a great way to get them doing math and
problem solving. 

As I was preparing this post, I realized that it basically is a repeat of rain, family time, play, and food. Over and over and over. Such is life sometimes!

Saturday was grocery day, cleaning day, and family day. Wait - every day is family day, right? Oh well, Daddy is home on Saturday, so that makes it special for us.

Sunday we started the great Lego sort. I really don't know what I was thinking. Maybe it was looking at the solid week of rain in the forecast? We are sorting our Lego collection by color, with two bins that are not colors (Minifigures and Bionicle/Hero Factory). I expect this project to take us well into June, and will share photos later on.

Monday it rained. The kids did their summer learning and played.

Tuesday it rained. A lot. We were surprised by friends from church dropping off a box of Lego their now adult son no longer used. It had a lot of pieces from the old Lego Kingdoms series of knights and castles, which made my kids' day. They played all afternoon with the new to them Legos.

There was also a lot of Pokémon battling.

Wednesday it rained some more. The kids started the day playing Pokémon. I started the day baking cinnamon scones with maple glaze. We crafted, played, read, and watched some shows on BYU-TV. There was a lot of Lego building.

Thursday it was still raining. We decided it might be a good idea to start making a boat. It was another day full of family time, and I will be honest, I had to remind myself to be grateful for the continual messes, requests for help, and cooking.

Friday Caleb requested that we pull the rainbow looms out of the attic. It has been months, possibly a year, since anyone has used the looms. Various kids have used them over the last 10 years. Mason asked to learn how to make a bracelet when he saw Caleb working, so he made his first bracelet. I suspect the afternoon will include a mix of rainbow looms, Lego, and Pokémon. I'm hoping to sneak in a few chapters of my newest book!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Curricula We Used This Year: My Thoughts

Phew! Another homeschool year is finished at my house. I thought it would be fun to share my thoughts on some of the curricula we used this year. I know many people are beginning to plan for next fall's homeschooling. Hopefully this will help! I will share another post in the future with our curriculum plans for next year. I will sort by subject area.


We used Math U See for everyone. The specific levels we used this year were Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Epsilon, Pre-Algebra, and Algebra 1. We like MUS. It is solid. The only thing I don't like about it is the early levels don't include what I would call 'real life math topics' very well. Things like using a calendar, learning shapes beyond basic circle, square, triangle, rectangle, using money, measuring with cups/spoons/rulers/yardstick, and telling time, are taught in very spread apart lessons with no hands on elements, which means for some kids, they are not memorable or functional.


Joseph was our outlier this year. He wanted to study the history of scientists and scientific discoveries beginning around Einstein. This meant he had a textbook we chose as well as living books to read. It went well, he liked it, but missed being a part of the family history studies. He will rejoin us next year for history.

Everyone else did history as a family using The Good and the Beautiful History 2. We love this because it is flexible. The basic program itself has a mix of reading from the lesson manual, an ongoing audio adventure, photographs, maps, a timeline, and read alouds, along with student explorers (notebooks) for different ages. The older grades explorers include more articles to read on more history topics, writing assignments, book lists to read from, etc. TGTB History covers the span of history from Creation to modern times in each of the 4 years, stopping at different topics, events, and people each year, and helping you put into perspective the people and events you've learned about in prior years. We love it! For those who prefer a much heavier reading list, it is easy to add extra books using the read aloud suggestions.


Joseph and Emma used Apologia's Exploring Creation with Biology this year, along with a dissection kit from Home Science Tools, our microscope, prepared slides, and other experiment materials. They don't love this curricula, but they don't hate it either. It is a textbook based course, and I don't really know many teens who love those. However, it is a solid course and they learned a lot from it. I used it for Makayla, my graduated child, and will continue to use it for each child when they are in 8th or 9th grade.

The rest of the kids did science as a group. This year we did a mix of unit studies based on topics we were interested in, with books and materials I gathered from the library or our shelves, and purchased science units from The Good and the Beautiful. They enjoyed it all, and especially loved our most recent unit from TGTB, Mammals.

Learning to Read

Caleb and Samuel continued using All About Reading this year. This 4 level course is our family's favorite for teaching reading. Caleb started the year in level 3 and is now in level 4. Samuel started the year in level 2 and is now in level 3. They will continue using it during the summer, because we don't take a break from reading. Kids learn to read at different ages and times. I'm comfortable with that. We don't use AAR exactly as written. There is a letter tile component, flashcards, activity pages (games!), reading pages, and then chapter book readers. We skip the letter tiles and flashcards completely. None of my kids have liked using them for long. They love using the games and reading from the readers.

Language Arts

Once my kids can read decently well we move out of All About Reading and into The Good and the Beautiful Language Arts. This year I had five kids using various levels. (Levels do not correspond to grade levels.) This language arts curriculum covers reading, writing, grammar, spelling, dictation, poetry, geography, picture study, and art. I'll talk about each level we used this year next.

Level 3 - Mason and Oliver used level 3 this year. It was their first time doing TGTB LA. In the end, it was a great fit for Oliver, but challenging for Mason, who has some fine motor disabilities that made the writing overwhelming at times. This level is actually one of the oldest levels by TGTB, and just this month has been released in a completely overhauled and redone edition. While Oliver will move on to level 4 next fall, Mason is going to do this new version of level 3, which looks lovely.

Level 5 - Daniel did this level, having done level 4 the previous year. It was a great fit. The reading, geography, and often the art related to one another. The sentence dictation is a solid way to improve spelling and grammar, alongside the rest of the grammar work. Daniel will move into level 6 in the fall.

Level 6 - Joseph and Emma did this level, having done level 5 the previous year. I feel like this level really improved their writing skills, with great work on essays. The liked the level well enough, and chose to continue with level 7 next fall.

* Next fall I will also have kids using level 1 (Samuel) and level 2 (Caleb). We have not used these levels before, but both are reading well enough to move out of All About Reading by the end of the summer. Level 7 for Joseph and Emma is also new to us.

That sums up the main materials we used this year. Feel free to ask questions if you have any!

Friday, May 15, 2020

May 9th - May 15th: Summer Break Begins

Saturday and Sunday were a quiet Mother's Day weekend spent as a family, still quarantined due to COVID-19. It was peaceful and a blessing.

Mason and I wearing masks at the 
surgeon's office. 

Monday Mason and I headed to the city to see one specialist, get x-rays, and discuss upcoming surgeries. At this point Mason's scoliosis is stable, which is my favorite word to hear from a surgeon. We don't need to do anything for his spine right now, which is a giant blessing. His right leg currently has a growth restrictor plate on the femur correcting a valgus (leg bone is growing angled instead of straight). He has had the plate in for over a year and we are finally getting close to removal. Mason's growth is slower than average, and the plate needs a certain amount of growth to do its job. We go back in 3 months to evaluate and see if we are ready for surgery to remove the plate. At the same time, we will reevaluate three other potential surgeries. The right knee is contracted, and will need a muscle and tendon release in the future as it worsens. The left leg has begun to have a valgus and will at some point need it's own growth restrictor plate placed, but isn't quite severe enough for surgery yet. And the left foot has a contracture that will also need muscle and tendon releases at a future date. What may happen is that all three of those issues will be severe enough to do in the same surgery as the removal of the current plate in the right leg. Yes, that would be four surgery sites at once. Currently, Mason has had 23 surgeries. We know he has quite a few ahead as he grows up. The task now is to manage when is the appropriate time for each surgery, trying to wait as long as possible before addressing issues that are likely to reoccur as he goes through his growing years, so we don't have to repeat the same surgeries over and over. At the same time, if we wait too long, some things can't be corrected as well.

Today my husband also was able to see a surgeon. He has some vein surgeries that it has taken nearly a year to get through the doctor process to schedule, and we still can't schedule yet, as his surgeon isn't allowed to do these semi-elective surgeries. Unless a blood clot worsens a lot, it is a waiting game for surgery. The doctor has signed off on surgeries, which is good. Now we wait for restrictions to lift in our state.

Tuesday we woke to frost at nearly the middle of May. Brr. The morning and afternoon were spent playing. In the evening we turned on a movie - National Treasure. The older kids mostly remembered it, but it was new to the rest of the kids. It was so fun!

Wednesday the weather was beautiful, so outside we went. The kids play a ridiculous number of rounds of hide and seek in our backyard. We are so thankful that so far there are no mosquitos out. I have a couple kids who are allergic to mosquitos - every bite swells up into giant hives.

Thursday the kids were deep in play with the toy food, pokemon cards, and art materials. I got to work on my summer reading list. The rain kept us mostly indoors. We did get outside for a bit in the morning when Caleb dragged us out. He had been taking trash cans around from the curb and found a young bird in the backyard, hopping around but not flying away.

Friday different people worked on projects for current interests. There were art creations (Star Trek theme for one teen, robots for a younger boy). There were Lego builds and photography for a few boys. Rebekah is still loving the play kitchen and toy food, so she and Tobias spend large chunks of time cooking for people. We are still reading aloud Trapped! by James Ponti, the third book in a series. Dinner was homemade pizza. As I type this at nearly 10pm one teen is baking white chocolate lime scones. Tomorrow we have a list of cleaning projects to do, and some sorting/organizing/decluttering I hope to get to as well.

Friday, May 8, 2020

May 2nd - May 8th: The Last Week of the School Year

Daniel made me this origami pencil holder.
We're keeping it on the dining room table and 
so many people spend more time drawing
now that colored pencils are right in reach.

Saturday was productive. Multiple grocery stores in the morning (because shopping for a family of 12 is crazy fun!). Porch cleaning project. Daniel (age 12) put together two new shoe racks for me. Jason ripped out the insane ivy growing on one side of the house and into the porch through the screens. Joseph mowed. Kids cleaned. We grilled for lunch. We soaked up some sunshine in the back yard.

Sunday I woke up and made strawberry scones with lemon glaze. Yes, apparently I really love scones. The kids were not a fan of having fruit in the scones, which just means more for me. Ha! I also put a pork roast in the crock pot with some root beer, with plans to make shredded barbecue sandwiches for dinner. Our home church service was a bit chaotic today. It seemed the youngest kids were not in a reverent frame of mind. We all were laughing by the closing song, when Rebekah decided she had had enough. She just kept saying, "Stop singing," as she hid under a blanket on the couch.

In the afternoon I got to take a nap. It was wonderful. Then we watched a bit of Secrets of the Zoo together. It is centered around 'our zoo', and we are missing seeing the animals so much.

Boys reading after breakfast.

Monday many of the kids woke up around 6:30am. Breakfast and reading on the couch happened. Plumbers came to fix a bathroom sink that has been waiting over a month to be fixed while plumbers were not able to do anything beyond emergency calls. School happened easily. The kids have worked hard and so this week will be their last week of the 2019-2020 school year. We are all excited!

We spent much of the afternoon outside in the backyard. We found a young bird learning to fly, a nest with mama bird in our pine tree, and many flowers. For dinner we made pizza rolls (think cinnamon rolls with a cheese/butter/pepperoni filling instead of cinnamon/butter/sugar). They are a favorite. The kids even choose this over making homemade pizza.

In the evening we spent 25 minutes decluttering the boys' bedroom, then changing out the toys that are in the living room cubicle with a different set from the attic. As I type this a few kids are watching a documentary in the living room while the rest of the kids build train tracks around them.

A different view of the origami pencil holder Daniel made.

Tuesday morning felt chilly and slow moving. Kids knocked out their school work easily and got busy playing with trains, making origami, drawing, building with Legos, and just being kids. In the afternoon Makayla baked pumpkin scones. After dinner (Taco Tuesday on Cinco de Mayo!) a lot of the younger kids spent the evening using playdoh.

Magic Cookie Bars by Joseph

Wednesday I took no notes. What can I say? It was another day of quarantine surrounded by my people. We did finish reading aloud Vanished! by James Ponti. It was just as good as the first book, and the kids are already asking to start the third book. I do know Joseph and Emma each spent time in the kitchen baking (magic cookie bars by one and cinnamon biscuit rolls by the other). Emma actually was cooking with a bunch of the young women from church, they all met up on Zoom and baked together.

Cinnamon biscuit rolls by Emma.

Thursday was our last day of the 2019-2020 school year. The kids had a solid last day full of reading and creating. We did start reading aloud Trapped! by James Ponti, at the kids' request. We then spent the afternoon outside in the breezy sunshine.

Tobias wanted a picture of the bug costume he made
from his crate.

Friday I sat down on the couch and read a book just for me. There was no school work to oversee. Just me and a book... and about three hundred interruptions. The kids got to open their last crates from KiwiCo. The 6 month subscriptions (that I got a great deal on) have been a fun Christmas gift. Today's crates run the range from building catapults and arcade games, to making stomp rockets, kites, and insect costumes, to an ocean themed fishing game and a bug matching game.

Friday, May 1, 2020

April 25th- May 1st

Rebekah is enamored with dandelions. 
She loves carrying bunches around.

Saturday was a nice, quiet day as a family. There was cooking and eating. There was playing in the back yard. There was kinetic sand and Pokémon card battles. There was art. There was movie watching. Singing. Cleaning. Reading books. Basically, the same thing we've done for weeks, and still just as fun.

Sunday we had church at home. Some of the middle kids baked cookies with Daddy. We had a ham roast for dinner. There were kids creating with Model Magic. It was a lovely, restful day.

Monday morning rolled around and we finally got to the fish dissection Joseph and Emma needed to do for biology.

I have to say, it is always my least favorite dissection, because the fish smell is yucky. Various kids were excited to find they had finished their math book last week and so have this week off of math. We keep some math practice going all summer, but not every day.

In the afternoon we played in the backyard and I did haircuts on the boys. It was so much fun because we finally got a new set of clippers and this one is cordless. I love not dealing with dangling cords! Dinner was orange scones that Makayla made from scratch. They were delicious.

Tuesday I started the morning playing Sleeping Queens with several of the boys. Everyone had fun, and Rebekah even got in one the action as someone's helper. The repair man came to look at our washing machine. Our washing machine stopped spinning out last week, so we have to wring clothing out by hand and it takes twice as long to dry things. Thankfully, we have about 2.5 months left of the extended 5 year warranty we purchased, so the repair is all covered by the warranty. A secret for large families - the extended warranty is always worth the cost on high use appliances.

Wednesday was the last lesson in our Mammals unit from The Good and the Beautiful. We talked about wildlife conservation, endangered animals, and extinction. Then we did the optional end of unit activity - a jeopardy style game to review all the topics we've explored in the last nine weeks. It was so much fun, and the kids loved showing off the things they remembered. It was actually hard to get them to stop talking and explaining sometimes...ha! They had so much to share.

In the afternoon Joseph and Emma had their final biology lesson. It was the frog dissection. After all our dissections Emma has decided she really isn't a fan, while Joseph doesn't mind them.

It was a rainy day, more as the afternoon and evening went on. The kids were a bit wild and crazy stuck inside all day, but we tried to find a few things to keep them busy.

In the evening Emma's young women's group met over Zoom to do a Bob Ross painting class. She enjoyed herself.

Thursday was my birthday, I'm 39 years old. I decided to make chocolate chip scones for breakfast. They were delicious, but I think I prefer fruit scones. Lemon blueberry is sounding like something to try next. We worked on school while the washing machine was repaired. It rained on and off most of the day. Again.

Friday is here. Kids are done with school work. I need to look at what is left for each kid and make the official call of our last day of school. It will either be next Friday or the Friday after. My husband called earlier to let me know he has 22 stops to deliver to today, a very long day for him. He is likely to be home after bedtime, after waking at 2:30am to head to work. That means I'm already debating entertainment strategies to get everyone through Friday afternoon and evening.

Oh, and the governor extended our stay at home order for another month. Necessary? I don't think so. But we will make the best of it. I'm going to spend the weekend brainstorming May plans to look forward to with the kids, so there are fun things happening each week. I already know one - tie dye day. We've got the dye kits, two white shirts per person, and a stack of playsilks ready to dye. Now we just need a warm, dry day to do it all in the backyard!

Life is weird. How are you doing?