Friday, October 28, 2016

Homeschool Book Club - Our Next 6 Books

Our family has been in a homeschool book club since we started it in 2010. We have enjoyed many books along the way. Today we met and chatted about our most recent read, Rascal by Sterling North. This picture is of a raccoon we met this week. He was in one of our outside garbage cans one morning and after we found him he fled the scene to our garage. He is hanging out in our garage for this picture.

Today we chose the next 6 titles we will read as a book club. Because I love reading others' book lists I'm sharing ours.

  • Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis - We'll read this for November. Narnia is a much beloved series in our house and this will be fun to revisit.
  • Little Women by L. M. Montgomery - Way back in 2011 we read Little Men during book club and loved it. We decided it's time to share Little Women with our children. We will read this over December and January.
  • Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson - Many of our children love Peter Pan in movie format, Jake and the Neverland Pirates cartoons, and we read Peter Pan the book in 2015 as a book club. Peter and the Starcatchers tells the beginnings of a boy named Peter Pan and how he learned to fly. We will read this adventure in February.
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle - A classic tale of space and time that we've never read in book club, we'll dive into this one in March.
  • The Wishing Spell (Land of Stories book 1) by Chris Colfer - Several of the children have read this book and have been begging to add it to our book club lineup. It made it on the list for April.
  • The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong - The 1955 Newberry Medal Winner, where a small group of Dutch children notice the storks have not returned to nest and set out to change that. This will be our May book.

What are you reading aloud as a family?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Art Class: Totem Poles, Marionettes, and a Real Live Snake

Today was another homeschool art class at our house. The kids were excited to get together and create, as always.

First up was a totem pole project from our Deep Space Sparkle membership. I cut some paper grocery bags for the brown paper and made sure the pieces were a bit smaller than our 11 x 18 white background paper. The first task was using oil pastels to create a background. This was relatively quick and easy to do.

Next was to make the actual totem pole. Each child folded their brown paper in half like a long skinny hot dog bun. On the outside of the bun they drew a series of large bumps, with a wing shape if desired. They cut the folded paper along this line and opened their totem. Their first job on the totem pole decorating was to draw dividing lines with a dark oil pastel at the indentation of each bump to divide the totem pole into several sections for creatures.

Kids then drew shapes (we had examples from actual totem poles) and decorated their pole. They were free to do any decorations they wished. The bottom left in the picture above, for example, has Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, and their light sabers. The final step was to glue the totem poles onto the background papers.

The marionettes were a project I was slightly apprehensive at attempting with our mixed age group. I knew several of the children would need help with tying knots, placing holes, and so on. I also knew it would be a very fun final product, so I was willing to make it work. Looking back, I would have probably tried to get a few more adults to help, but it was totally worth it. The kids LOVE their puppets.

We used the following materials:
  •  1 toilet paper tube
  • 1/2 toilet paper tube
  • tissue paper
  • 1/2 of a chenille stem
  • glue stick
  • hole punch
  • yarn
  • 2 craft sticks
  • beads for feet
  • Masking tape to secure sticks together and yarn on sticks

Tubes were covered in tissue paper, hole punched, and then came the pieces of yarn for legs and strings, a chenille stem for a neck, and some nimble fingers to tie.

Makayla, my oldest, also brought out her snake Olympia for the kids to pet and visit with. They were thrilled. Olympia was very well behaved as usual.

We love our art class every other week! Next month we'll be diving into clay projects. I'm excited to see what the kids create.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Friday Mash Up: Dissection, Writing, and Menu Notes

We've had a nice week with lots of normal. I've kept notes each day and I'm sharing highlights from those. Enjoy this peek at some of our week!


Makayla had an earthworm dissection to do with mom. Kids had new math lessons. New history weeks. 4 middles did snowball writing (EXPLAIN). Oldest turned in a draft for proofreading/edits to mom. Vet class. Skip Bo. Time outside. A nap for mom. Wonky internet continues.


This started with Daniel complaining of a headache, which often means he's going to be throwing up shortly. He made sure to start increasing his water intake in case he is dehydrated and took some Tylenol. In other medical events for the day I had to call the pediatrician to get Mason in later in the afternoon. He struggles with eczema and the weather changes make it worse. Currently he's on a prescription strength cream that isn't coping. His worst patches are on his thighs and they are close to becoming open sores, which is really bad because he's paralyzed. He can't feel things but his skin is extra fragile and doesn't heal well. Something like this opening up could take months to heal, or could end up deepening to the bone or getting infected. It's just not something to mess around with.

We kept to our usual school routines, knowing we would finish up before the appointment time arrived. My first teaching moment this morning was spent with Oliver (2nd grade, beginning reader) and Caleb (kindergarten, learning phonics). Each child grabbed a lined dry erase board and I wrote 5 letters or 5 words on their board depending on age. They would tell me what a line said (phonetic sound or reading the word) and then they did copywork of what they just read, writing in their best handwriting. They love the dry erase boards and being able to choose different colored markers.

Makayla worked on a presentation for her online veterinary class. It is her report of the day she spent shadowing a local veterinarian. She will speak live and had to make visuals for her presentation as well. She chose to make a Prezi, which is similar in some ways to a PowerPoint presentation. Today she was doing editing and adding photos from her day shadowing the vet.

Our writing project today for Oliver, Daniel, Emma, and Joseph was to make our first grammar folder on punctuation (from Write Shop Junior level D). We're a pretty flexible family on the writing front and I pull from a variety of materials we've collected over the years depending on what sounds doable and fun for the ages I'm working with. We use a lot of Brave Writer principles. However my kids have been wanting some hands on games and activities to go with their writing in the planning process, which is something Write Shop Junior does well. It is also planned out for you, so I just print and we're off. It's a program I had laying around that I used years ago with Makayla. We've decided to run with it for as long as it is motivating us.


The morning started as it always does, a 5am wakeup and heading out the door by 5:40am to take Makayla to seminary. The other kids got up and going by 6:30am. Chores and breakfast happen early on, then kids are free to play until 8am or they can get a jump start on their school work. Most mornings they choose school work. Oliver finished reading Champ in his All About Reading level 2 reader. Caleb practiced counting backwards from 20 and adding zero to a number. Kids read literature books and scriptures. Makayla had me quizzing her on the parts of a chicken's reproductive system before she took a midterm test for her vet class (she aced it).

Writing with the four middle kids had us learning about the parts of a letter of invitation (date, salutation, body, closing, signature). Then I pulled out a pile of papers. They were 3 different letters of invitation that had been cut into their parts. The kids had to work together to find whose pieces made an entire letter. History and other subjects just moved along as usual.

Today we did managed to remember our book club read aloud! We are currently reading Rascal by Sterling North and while my kids are enjoying it I had to take a long break from reading aloud because of being sick and coughing so much. I'm just barely back to where I can manage reading our history books and add in Rascal too.


This week has been really nice because I have been able to sit down first in the morning with my younger school age boys, Oliver (2nd) and Caleb (Kindy), to work together. We've done math and copywork together. Then we read or they pull out playdoh with Mason and Samuel.

Today's writing activity had the kids cut apart robot parts and put together a robot that tells the parts of a letter of invitation. Then the kids got a writing prompt and journaled a letter of invitation for some event they came up with at a dinosaur park.

Okay, that's all the highlights I have time for this week. We are on the cusp of birthday season at our house. Tomorrow (Friday) is Joseph's 12th birthday. Four days later is Daniel's 9th birthday. Then birthdays happen less than 2 weeks later, 2 weeks after that, 3 weeks later, , then Christmas less than 2 weeks later, then 2 weeks to the next birthday, and then a big break of 6 weeks to the 7th birthday.

Have a great weekend!

Menu Notes - I decided to share some of the meals we cooked this week because I love seeing what others are eating to gather ideas. Meals here aren't fancy, but they are generally filling. Here are some of the things on our plates this week.
  • Apple crisp
  • Taco Frito - taco salad with corn chips.
  • Crockpot chili and cornbread
  • Bean with bacon soup
  • Crockpot Beef Stew
  • Grilled Cheese sandwiches and tomato soup
  • Polish sausages on hot dog buns
  • Hamburgers and oven fries
  • Cake with bacon and sausage patties. Yep, just keeping it real. I made a cake from scratch and added some protein one evening because if we can't have fun occasionally then we're being way to strict on food! The kids were not on board with putting the bacon on top of the cake, but I did it on mine. Yum.
Linking to Weekly Wrap Up.

Friday, October 7, 2016

School notes for this week - The No Picture Edition


It was easy and straightforward. We had no appointments outside the house so the day went predictably from new math lessons to history, literature, biology, writing, and so on. It was lovely. I'm a routine kinda girl and change stresses me out. Give me regular, predictable days and I'm happy! New math concepts this week include carrying in addition, finding the area of a parallelogram, and introduction to the metric system, and lovely geometry topics like adjacent, supplementary, complementary, and vertical angles. Daniel is reading The Mouse and the Motorcycle, a new literature pick for him. The rest of the kids are still working on unfinished books they've been reading.


Our morning basket happens pretty much every day. Today we started by singing I Know my Father Lives and praying. For our devotional we are rotating through a couple things and this morning was Who's Your Hero? Volume 1. We read the story of Alma the Younger and talked about apologizing, repentance, and hard vs. soft hearts. It went really well with several talks we heard this weekend during General Conference. We had a great discussion. Then we read about a couple of medieval jobs in Archers, Alchemists, and 98 other Medieval Jobs You Might Have Loved or Loathed. It's a really fun book and goes well with our history studies!

Math went well again today, which was nice. I'm much more deliberate at using the manipulative blocks consistently with Oliver than I was with some of the older kids (who wanted to use them 1 day for the lesson and no more). It is making a big difference for him. Caleb has started reading a couple of CVC words to me each day using the tiles for All About Reading. Today he did -op and -it words. Emma finished reading How to Train Your Dragon today and picked up the second book. Makayla asked to put off the earthworm dissection until later this week and get the rest of this week's reading done, so I agreed. She'll be doing it Thursday instead.


It was supposed to be art class but the other family ran into car trouble so we moved that to Friday. However, before I found out about the car trouble we had already been up and preparing. Chores were all done, 4 dozen muffins were cooling on the counter, and kids were midway through school work. It was 8am. That's just how we roll. It meant that by 9:30am kids were done with all individual work and had turned on a movie to relax for a bit. We tackled group work a bit later.

On this evening Makayla and I headed to an education fireside an hour away. It was a great evening with a lot of information and encouragement. The presenters were from four church schools: Brigham Young University (BYU), BYU-Idaho, BYU-Hawaii, the LDS Business College, as well as from Institute. How can it be time to learn about colleges already?


A typical school morning happened. Bliss! Math, reading, writing, history, science, etc. Then speech therapy for Samuel, dinner as a family, etc. This day also had a couple errands in the afternoon and evening. Okay, more than a couple. I was so tired of seeing the inside of my car and the inside of places by the end of it.


Art class happened today! We did our early morning chores, math, and some other subjects depending on the kids and then our friends arrived for art class just after 9am. I blogged about that with pictures here. After lunch our friends headed home and we had our usual afternoon medical care for Mason (an hour in the bathroom - every afternoon). I also put leftover chicken from last night's dinner in the crock pot with cream of chicken soup and sour cream, topped with crumbled crackers mixed with melted butter. Easy dinner, just add some veggies. After a while some of the kids headed upstairs to play with Legos and other kids asked to turn on Fixer Upper on Netflix. Sounded great to me, so that's what we did! Daddy got home from work during Fixer Upper and we've had a quiet family night since.

Also on the blog this week: Comparing History: Beautiful Feet Books and Simply Charlotte Mason.

Linking this post to Weekly Wrap Up.  Also, some links in this post are affiliate links for Amazon.

Art Class: Watercolor Castles, Scarecrows

Today we got to do another art class with our friends! We finished the castle drawings from last time by using watercolor pencils on them. Then we started a new project: scarecrows!

This project happened in a couple stages today. First the kids used templates to trace and cut out the pieces they wanted for their scarecrow. I had a stack of scrapbook paper available for them to use and nobody used exactly the same papers in the same way.

Once all their pieces were cut out they chose white or black sulphite paper as their background. Today everyone chose black paper except Emma. They glued the scarecrows to the paper and let them dry.

The last step some children chose to do was use chalk pastels on the background. You can also see that there were children who added patches to their scarecrows. Some chose to do faces and others did not. These made some fun fall decorations to add to our walls!

What art projects are happening in your home this week?

Comparing History: Beautiful Feet Books and Simply Charlotte Mason

A friend of mine caught me on Facebook to ask for my perspective on two history programs: Simply Charlotte Mason (we used in the past) and Beautiful Feet (we are currently using). I happily typed up what was a not so brief response. I know other families might be interested so I'm sharing it here, edited for clarity. Please remember - this is just my experience. I'm coming at this comparison of the pros and cons from a decidedly large family perspective with 9 children, 6 of whom are officially old enough to be considered students. I'm also a long-time homeschooler - we started homeschooling from the very beginning and our oldest student is currently a 10th grader. We purchased each curriculum at various times. With those details out of the way, here we go!

Simply Charlotte Mason History Guides

For SCM the history guides are broken into 6 modules. In a module you have books that are family read aloud titles and then lists of books for different grades: 1st-3rd, 4th-6th, 7th-9th, 10th-12th. They offer a free curriculum guide online with books listed and no schedule. The SCM guide takes these books and divides them out into daily reading assignments. It will incorporate map work for geography about once a week (or there is a separate geography product SCM now offers) and bible study about once a week (there are journals/books to purchase from SCM for these). A day's plan will tell remind you to ask your children about what happened the last time you read together, then what to read that day in your family read aloud, as well as what each child is to read in their grade level based book list (you read to younger kids, older kids read independently).


· You are all in the same time period, though not always the same topic at the same time (ex: Vikings for 1st grader may be a week or two before the 5th grader begins their Vikings book).
· There is a daily reading schedule so you know exactly what to read each day. This can also be a con, as there is less flexibility to adjust the daily readings to fit your week without having to rewrite the guide. For example, it may work better for my family to read 3 chapters one day and 1 chapter the next, due to an appointment on the second day.
· Literature based. Your family is reading from whole books, not a textbook of choppy facts crammed together. I like many, but not all, of their book selections, depending on which history year you are doing.


·  Book choices - I don't like some of the books they use as the spine/family read alouds for the year. They're too dry for my family's taste. You can replace these with your own picks of course, but then you have to schedule out your own readings.
· Cost - It's expensive to get all those books. Depending on your local library system you may be able to borrow some, but SCM tends to spread out the reading over multiple weeks so you may not be able to keep the book long enough. Also, getting books from the library for the specific week you need them is sometimes hard to accomplish. We tend to buy books to avoid these issues.
· Kids really spend the majority of their history reading separated by grade group. The family read aloud averages 1 chapter per day. Then kids separate to do their individual books. I prefer having most of our readings together until a child is in high school. You can get around this by choosing to use one grade group of books for all your children. For example, if you have five elementary age children like I do, you could use just the family books and the 4th-6th grade titles, reading them aloud to the group.
· There are no discussion questions, research assignments for high schoolers, or other helps to round out the history study when desired. You have to come up with these sorts of things yourself when using SCM.

Beautiful Feet Books History Guides

Beautiful Feet has a variety of history guides to choose from based on your interests or ages. They do not have a single guide containing all grade levels. However, as my plan is to group kids together this doesn't bother me, I find one guide that works for several ages. They have a recommended sequence here if you are curious.

Each guide has a book list for the year and is written for a grade range. For example the Medieval History Intermediate and Junior High guide is written for 5th-8th grades. Then there is a Senior High guide for the same time period written for 9th-12th grades with a heavier book list. The guide includes:
  • Reading assignments for that week. You get to break it up to fit your week. It may say read chapters 1-8 in One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, but I get to decide if that means we’re reading 2 chapters a day, or 3, or what. Reading for Intermediate level averages 100-150 pages a week, so 20-30 pages a day.
  • Vocabulary for the books including the first page your student will encounter the word.
  • Map work as it relates to the time period and books.
  • Writing and research suggestions with included websites to begin your research.
  • Discussion questions - just a few quality ones each week to really get you and your students thinking and talking. 
  • 1-2 book suggestions for the library if you want more on the week's topics.
  • An occasional hands on activity for those who want one.


  • Together in a time period - you can keep your family in the same time period generally. This promotes conversations about shared topics.
  • Flexible weekly reading assignments - you get the books divided up for you so progress is made but you have ultimate decision making as to how many chapters on which day each week.
  • Literature based - Your family is reading from whole books, not a textbook of choppy facts crammed together. I really like the book selections. The Intermediate/Junior High level has quality, interesting books. They are reading many of the same topics at the high school guide on a more age appropriate level (in page count, depth, and content).
  • All the other goodies in the guide I described above, from discussion questions and research or writing assignments to vocab and mapping that directly relates to the books/time period. Again, this is flexible. If you want them, they are there for you ready to go. If just reading the books is enough at any point then you don't have to use the rest of the assignment ideas.


  • Cost - yes, you have to buy books. It's going to cost something. I do think BF is reasonable in the number of books they assign and you may be able to find books used or at your library.

How We're Using Beautiful Feet This Year

We chose to group my K-6th grade kids (5 kids!) in the Intermediate/Junior High level guide that is written for 5th-8th. To make it work for all ages I read aloud the books. Kids have a higher listening comprehension than reading ability from early on, so while my Kindergartener can listen to Robin Hood and follow the storyline he could not read it on his own. Grouping my children together is wonderful because we have great discussions and grow to love and loathe the same characters. We can do the discussion questions aloud. I have the kids keeping notebooks. They illustrate and write about the reading, with younger kids doing oral narration I write down on their picture for them. There are the writing and research ideas in the guide and sometimes I give one of those to the older 2 kids in this group. 

I would have even been happy to put my 10th grader Makayla into this level too, because she could have done every research assignment, including writing papers, written responses to the discussion questions sometimes instead of oral, and had a great year. So why didn't I?

She fell in love with the Senior High book list. It is way too hefty for junior high or elementary kids! She'll be reading Mark Twain’s Joan of Arc (452 pages) while the Intermediate Joan of Arc book is 119 pages. She's got side by side translations of Beowulf and The Canterbury Tales with their original language while the Intermediate level book choices are written in story format. She loves the reading and is still in the same time period with many of the same topics so we are still having great conversation across all ages. She also is doing most or all of the other assignments each week in her history guide.

In the end, we love literature based history and both Simply Charlotte Mason and Beautiful Feet Books provide quality products for specific needs. Each homeschool family is looking for the right fit for them. Hopefully this post helps you see if either of these are a good fit for your family. I'm glad we have so many options available!

If you have any questions be sure to leave a comment, and while you are at it I would love to hear what your family is using this year for history.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Friday Mash Up: Microscopes, Busy Life

Last week was a bit crazy, but what week isn't in a family of 11? I typed this up Friday and just now am getting it posted.

I, Mom, am sick, several kids are coughing either as leftovers from colds or from asthma acting up (lots of asthma issues going on), and it has been gloriously cool and rainy. At the same time Mason and Mom spent 10 hours at medical appointments this week, Samuel had speech therapy, the insurance adjustor came Monday to see about storm damage (a leaking roof), the restoration company came to do their own inspection Tuesday (and will hopefully come back next week to do the repairs), there were kid activities Tuesday evening and Cub Scouts was cancelled Wednesday evening due to being rained out. Daddy is in college and working full time so he was either at work or doing school work. Oh, and our internet is only working about half the time so we've been dealing with the internet company for that because Makayla's veterinary medicine class and Daddy's college work are all online.

Homeschooling is our constant. It is the dose of routine in our day that keeps us happy and sane. We sing, we pray, we read, we talk, we learn as individuals and as a group. One thing I want to remember is the magic of a microscope. During Biology this week Makayla was taking a closer look at invertebrates and her microscope use inspired the younger kids.  They took turns exploring our prepared slides. I think the creepiest was the tiny spider. Close up you can see hairs on it's legs! Ick. The kids were fascinated though.

Reading happens as usual. We started our next Homeschool Book Club book - Rascal by Sterling North. History has everyone immersed in One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. Some kids finished reading books this week. Joseph finished reading the Book of Mormon for the first time on his own. Daniel finished The One and Only Ivan. Oliver read Green Eggs and Ham for the first time.

Makayla has been tucked away at the computer writing. I'm not sure which book she is working on right now because she discovered a draft for one from last year's NaNoWriMo, so she may be working on that one. Then she will come ask random questions like, "Where can someone get shot and still be able to function for a bit without dying?" or "Would an EMP (Electromagnetic pulse) take out our generator?" Generally, I just don't ask. She seems to take joy in making life difficult for her characters.

A Few More Notes for my Journal
  •  Essential Oils Notes for the Season: We've been using several oils regularly to support our health this fall as we deal with colds and allergies. I like to keep stocked up on Thieves, RC, Breathe Again, and Raven. I just ordered a few we're running low on and decided to try SniffleEase, so that is on it's way too.
  • Tobias took his first steps this week, he's 10 months old. He's also thrown his first temper tantrum - when he wasn't allowed to keep a book whose paper pages he was trying to eat. He was mad and let me know.
  • The kids have been so excited for General Conference weekend. We have food planned including our traditional cinnamon rolls and a new recipe of chicken enchiladas, notebooks gathered, and lots of blankets for snuggling. And candy - you can't forget the candy.
  • Samuel had a decent week at speech therapy, he knew what to expect and was able to participate more. The speech therapist was better at communicating with him too.
  • Caleb surprised me this week and showed me he can sound out some short vowel words. I guess it's about time to pull out All About Reading level 1 for him.
This post is linked to Weekly Wrap Up.