Tag Archives: biographies

Wrapping Up Weeks 28-29 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
Hmm… it’s looking like I should be calling these “bi-weekly wrap-ups.”  Between a week off, Ian’s birthday and some sickness running through my little ones, it didn’t even occur to me until a couple days ago that I hadn’t written in a while.  And really, there hasn’t been that much to write about.  We started reading Heidi, by Johanna Spyri (using the translation by Helen Dole, which I highly recommend).  This is one of my favorite children’s books, but I’ve held off on it for a year or so, unsure how the boys would respond.  So far they seem to be enjoying it.

For history, we’ve continued reading several chapters in From Sea to Shining Sea for Young Readers, moving into the years when slavery became such a divisive issue.  We’ve talked about the subject before, particularly during our time studying the Underground Railroad, so I didn’t pull in a lot of outside resources.  I did read Who Owns the Sun? by Stacy Chbosky, a Five in a Row book we hadn’t used before.  I’m glad I saved it until the boys were a little older, because it is such a rich text and a beautiful way of helping children process the injustice of slavery.

We’re still tackling biographies regularly, though the boys pretty much went through those on their own over the last couple weeks.  They read about Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton, as well as watching the Torchlighters DVD (both the animated story and the documentary) about William Booth.

In our IEW lessons in All Things Fun and Fascinating, we moved onto the next unit, on writing from multiple sources.  I continue to be impressed by how much the boys have learned through their IEW class last year and now the lessons at home this year.  It seems like every week they are able to do a little more on their own, and they are starting to really think like writers, which is a huge blessing to this former classroom teacher who always felt at a loss when it came to helping children learn how to write well.

Of course, the boys continued plugging away in all their other subjects, but there wasn’t anything specific to take note of, so I think I’ll leave it here.

Wrapping Up Week 26-27 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
Like many of my friends across the country, our family got hit with a nasty bug last week.  Only my husband escaped it completely, though thankfully I never had the high fevers all five of my kids got.  It took about ten days for it to work it’s way through everyone, so we stayed home and took it easy for most of that week.  Thankfully, we were able to get in most of the school work I had scheduled, so we’re still on track to (hopefully) finish our year before the baby arrives.

I was especially thankful for the computer work the boys were able to do on their own while I was sick or while I was taking care of the other children.  They were able to get through a lot of work independently thanks to their Veritas Press Self-Paced Courses (history and Bible), Teaching Textbooks 4,  XtraMath.org.  Actually, they’re pretty self-sufficient with other things too.  Ian did all his work in The God Puzzle by Valerie Ackermann on his own, and they needed very little from me to go through their Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree (Book 1) and Sequential Spelling.  Sometimes I almost feel guilty for how much they do independently, but then I remember that Arianna will be officially starting Kindergarten next year and I’ll be schooling three kids, and I get over that feeling pretty quickly.

Together we finished lessons 14 and 15 in All Things Fun and Fascinating for writing. In last year’s IEW course the unit on writing a story from a series of pictures was a little frustrating for them because they still really relied on the structure of writing from a source text. This time around they seemed to enjoy the flexibility of this unit, and it was fun to see their growth in this area.

Here’s what else we worked on together over the past couple weeks:


We finished reading about the War of 1812 in From Sea to Shining Sea for Young Readers and then spent the rest of our history time digging a little deeper with the following resources.


We read several picture books about different events from the War of 1812.

Dolley Madison Saves George Washington by Don Brown tells the story of the First Lady saving a cherished portrait of America’s first President when the British burned the original White House and much of Washington, D.C.

The Town That Fooled the British (from the Tales of Young Americans series) by Lisa Papp is about the town of St. Michaels, Maryland, which avoided destruction by British cannons when they hung lanterns in the trees to disguise the true location of the buildings.  We also read a similar fictionalization of the same event called The Boy Who Saved The Town by Brenda Seabrooke, but I preferred Papp’s book for two reasons.  First, the illustrations by Robert Papp are beautiful, and I just loved admiring them throughout the book.  Secondly, the main character in Seabrooke’s story isn’t quick to obey his parents but rather tries to argue with them when they ask him to do something.  It isn’t something we encourage in our family and I felt like the boy in Papp’s story showed better character.

Finally, we read By the Dawn’s Early Light by Steven Kroll.  It tells the story of Francis Scott Key witnessing the British attack on Fort McHenry, which led him to write the lyrics to what later became our national anthem. I especially loved the illustrations by Dan Andreasen (and went running to verify that he had also illustrated the Felicity books from the American Girl series because his style was so recognizable).  Another book about this story that’s good for kids to read on their own is Francis Scott Key’s Star-Spangled Banner by Monica Kulling.

I also bought a used copy of Mr. Madison’s War: Causes and Effects of the War of 1812 by Kassandra Radomski, but I decided to hold off on it until my kids are older.  It’s not a “living book” like the previous ones I’ve mentioned, just a non-fiction book about the war.  I’m going to keep it so the boys can go a little deeper the next time we cover this history cycle (Elijah will be in 5th grade, which would be a better fit), but I saw no need to spend time with it now.


While we were sick, I went searching for videos we could watch on the War of 1812.  I found two on Amazon Instant Video (both free to watch with Prime).  Anthem: The Story Behind the Star-Spangled Banner focused on the history of the song, from the tune’s roots as a British club song to embellishments in the melody that later became standard practice.  As a former music major, I found this more interesting than my kids, but it was still worth watching.

They preferred Proof Through the Night, which elaborated on the life story of Francis Scott Key.  Produced by the Christian History Institute, this video wasn’t of the same caliber as some of the documentaries we’ve watched, but I appreciated their efforts and enjoyed learning more about the faith of the man who wrote our national anthem.



For our biography this week we read about Lottie Moon, an American missionary to China.  The boys each read Lottie Moon: a Generous Offering from YWAM Publishing’s “Heroes for Young Readers” series, as well as Lottie Moon: What do you need? from the “Little Lights” series.

We’ve been doing school for 6 weeks straight since our Christmas break, so I’ve decided to take next week as a “Sabbath” and let the boys have some time off.  I’m hoping to use the time to get the house tidied up and reorganized for our next stretch of school, which will take us right up to Passion Week.

Wrapping Up Weeks 24-25 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
In the last two weeks, we’ve had three awesome field trips (to the Aquarium of the Pacific, and La Brea Tar Pits, and the Discovery Cube), so we got a little behind on our regular schoolwork and are still playing catch-up going into next week.  I normally wouldn’t pack so much into such a short time frame, but we wanted to join our homeschool group at the aquarium.  Then we had free admission to the tar pits because of our membership to the natural history museum over the last year, and we wanted to be sure to visit before it expired at the end of the month.  And finally Ian was having a fun day at Disney’s California Adventure performing with his handchime choir (and of course, just enjoying the park), so I took the other kids to the Discovery Cube that day, where we became members so our whole family can go back anytime we want over the next two years.

I have to admit, I had to battle the side of me that just wants to get through all our work and force myself to be okay with getting behind.  Since we aren’t doing a formal science curriculum this year, however, I was glad for chance to let the kids explore and learn on their own during those three days, and they all really were wonderful experiences. Luckily I scheduled a catch-up week in February when I wrote out my lesson plans for the year, so we should be back on track soon.

Here’s what we’ve been doing over the last two weeks in between all the fun:


In From Sea to Shining Sea for Young Readers we read about the Supreme Court and Chief Justice John Marshall.  It was a great week for talking about the different branches of the government, and the boys watched two Learn Our History videos, one about the the Supreme Court, and one about the President.  Ian also watched President Trump’s Inauguration with me and we had some good discussion about the practical side of changing Presidents.

Then we started reading about the War of 1812.  I want to be able to spend some time focusing on the Star-Spangled Banner, so I didn’t rush through these chapters.  We’ll probably spend at least another week on this war, as I have some picture books I want to read to help it come more alive.


The boys read two books on one of my favorite Christian workers: George Müller: Does Money Grow on Trees? and George Müller: Faith to Feed Ten Thousand.

The rest of our time was spent trying to squeeze in our usual work and enjoying our latest read-aloud, The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks.  We got a little behind in our writing assignments from All Things Fun and Fascinating, but hopefully we’ll catch up in the next few weeks!

Wrapping Up Week 23 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
I didn’t write a post about a “Word for 2017,” but if I had, my word this year would SAVOR.  It’s so easy to get caught up in trying to get everything done and the busy pace of life around us in Southern California, but this year more than ever before I have felt the Lord prompting me to savor the precious moments I have with my children.  Savor the last few months of Nathaniel being the youngest and soak up all the affection he lavishes upon us.  Savor those sweet hours by the fire reading to my older boys.  Savor the cuddles with Arianna as she reads her first words, and the constant serenading of Nico singing his ABCs and number songs.  Savor those little flutters getting stronger every day as my final pregnancy ticks away and we get closer to the arrival of our youngest child.

School happened this week.  Of course it did.  But since it was mostly just continuing on with everything I wrote about last week, I see no reason to cover the majority of what we did.  I’d rather spend the time doing some of that “savoring” and just jot down some notes for future reference about our time studying the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark expedition. (Hear the Classical Conversations families breaking into song?)



Geography Activities
  • We continued learning the states by adding those in the South and Northeast on this online geography activity
  • The boys colored in the states in area of the Louisiana Purchase on our maps (following current state lines, so it’s not entirely accurate, but I just wanted them to get the general idea of how the nation was expanding over time).

Wrapping Up Week 22 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
It’s been a long time since I’ve done a weekly wrap-up (I think my last one was Week 12 of this school year), but I’m already regretting taking such a long break.  I often refer back to these posts to see what resources I used when covering a particular subject, and I’ve left a gaping hole in that record.  I’m hoping to at least pull together a list of everything we used to cover the American Revolution, as that’s the thing I’m most likely to want to come back to.

As is often the case when returning after the holidays, we’re making a few changes for the rest of the school year, the biggest being that we’ve decided not to return to the Classical Conversations community we were a part of in the fall.  Due to some minor concerns with my pregnancy, I am taking my doctors’ advice to cut back on activities and will be trying to spend more days at home.

I had considered taking one more week of holiday, especially since we just returned from a family missions trip to Mexico, but I’m a little concerned about completing our school year before the baby comes (hoping she’ll hang on until May), so we plunged back in completely this week.


Arianna (age 5) has been showing so many signs of being ready to move ahead with reading.  Although she’s been doing well on Reading Eggs, she lacks confidence, so I decided to start being more intentional with her each day.  When we’re cuddling up to read together, I’ll occasionally ask her to find a certain word on a page (she loves things like I Spy and Where’s Waldo books, so to her this is a similar kind of game).

We also started going through a very old Harper & Row reader, Janet and Mark.  I learned to read with this series, and my mom used it in her Kindergarten class for decades.  She even had the book broken up and stapled into individual story books, which we inherited when she retired, so Arianna is proud to see her progress as she masters each “book” and moves on to the next.  They use a whole word approach, rather than phonics, which she already gets plenty of in her Reading Eggs lessons.  She is SO excited to finally be reading actual books, and I’m glad these books are helping her be successful.

Just as a final note on this, it took her a while to get used to the style of this reader.  I know many people are turned off by the unnatural way of speaking, and Arianna definitely thought it was strange.  However, she was aching to find some reading success, and it didn’t take her long to get over the odd syntax because she was so thrilled with her achievement.  (My oldest, Ian, had the opposite experience.  He was bored by these books and gained confidence so quickly he didn’t really need the them the way Arianna does.)


With the two older boys, we had reached a couple natural “breaks” in our curriculum before the holidays, so things felt fresh and we enjoyed getting to move ahead this week.


Before the break, we had finished up The Light and the Glory for Young Readers and moved on to the next book in the Discovering God’s Plan for America series, From Sea to Shining Sea for Young Readers.  (We’re using the older editions of all the books, which are titled “For Children” instead but are essentially the same, just without the questions at the end of each chapter).  That put us just after the American Revolution and the creation of the U.S. Constitution.

This week we read chapters 2 and 3, which covered the migration of people westward toward the Mississippi River and the circuit riders who preached during the great period of revival in that area during the decades after the Revolution.

I want to be sure the boys are getting a good foundation in geography, so we started working on memorizing the states, beginning this week with the original 13 colonies.  They used an online geography activity to get started (computer games make everything more fun, right?) and then labeled a map of the colonies from Map Trek: The Complete Collection.  This book is an incredible resource for history lessons, with maps that can help build understanding from the span of history.  The included CD-ROM includes reproducible student maps, so it’s easy to just print out what you need.

In addition to the map of the 13 colonies, I printed up one of the entire country and had the boys color in the states those colonies became (noting the name changes of West Virginia, Vermont, and Maine).  As we continue learning about the expanding nation, we’ll color in additional areas.

The boys also got in some extra geography practice as they put together a couple different puzzles of the continental U.S.


To coordinate with our history lessons, our biography this week was Daniel Boone: Bravery on the Frontier from YWAM Publishing’s “Heroes for Young Readers” series.   I was hoping to also read a couple chapters about Boone from Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans but it just never happened.

[Note: During the weeks I didn’t write about, we covered John CalvinJohn Knox, Hudson Taylor, William Carey, and Amy Carmichael (also another book on her and the DVD from Torchlighters including the documentary).]


I don’t want to always have our read-aloud books line up with what we’re studying in history, but it seems like that’s what I do more often than not.  This week we read the first half of Streams to the River, River to the Sea by Scott O’Dell, an award-winning novel about Sacagawea.  I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, never having read it myself.  We enjoyed O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins a few months ago, so I figured we’d give it a try, even though I wasn’t sure if the boys would get into it.

All of us have ended up really enjoying the book, however.  They beg me to read more each day, and it’s making me want to read more about Sacagawea on my own.  We’re getting into the chapters on her journey with Lewis and Clark now, and I’m looking forward to tying it in with our history lessons (and biography) next week.


For spelling, I’ve made a minor change.  Ian has been going through Sequential Spelling 1 for several months now, and it has been incredibly helpful for him, both in terms of his actual spelling ability and as far as his confidence is concerned.  However, there are a full 180 days worth of lessons to each level and I wanted to find a way to accelerate him through Level 1 a bit so he isn’t stuck at at this level through next year.

However, I wanted to avoid skipping lessons or making him do multiple ones each day, and this week we tried out what I think will be a good solution.  I’ve had Elijah join him in the program, and rather than using the DVD-ROM or having me administer the “test” each day, they take turns with the Student Workbook and Teacher Guide.  That way each of them goes through two days’ worth of lists each day and has to concentrate on the spelling of the words, but they each take a turn writing the words down and being the “teacher.”  I also selected several of the week’s words and created a list at SpellingCity.com so the boys can play games while getting in a little extra practice.

In writing, we completed Lesson 10 in All Things Fun and Fascinating from IEW.  I still have to work with boys pretty closely each step of the way, although they are starting to be able to write their rough drafts mostly independently.  Sometimes they get caught up in their writing and skip over things from their outline, but I usually just let that go until we start editing because I love that they’re so focused on getting their ideas written.  Then later we go back over the outline to make sure they included everything important and they work through their checklists to make sure they’ve used all the writing elements they’re supposed to have in each paragraph.  They’ve both come such a long way since we started using IEW materials last year.


Once we reached the last lesson focusing on teaching multiplication in Teaching Textbooks 4 (lesson 66) back in early December, I had them hold off on moving ahead.  Instead, we spent a few weeks just focusing on multiplication facts.  We played “Memory” games, where the boys had to make matches of the problems and answers.  They played games on multiplication.com and used Learning Wrap-Ups.

And of course, they kept up daily practice on XtraMath.org (both boys had either mastered or come close to mastering addition and subtraction, so I just changed the program over to multiplication).  We also listened to the skipping counting songs from our Classical Conversations audio CDs several times a week in the car.

This week it was time to start moving ahead, and it was obvious that the time we spent working on memorizing facts was well worth it.  They were able to move through the more advance multiplication problems fairly quickly because they didn’t need to stop and look up each fact on a times table.

Independent Computer Work

After lunch, I usually try to lie down and rest with the little ones for a while, so the boys work independently on math and a few other extras on the computer.  I’ve tried to give them some variety each day so they don’t get bored, yet I’m trying to be intentional as well.  Here are some of the things that found their way on to their lists this week or will in the near future:

Most of these aren’t free, unfortunately.  Some we still have subscriptions to after I wrote reviews, and others we’ve chosen to purchase after getting a chance to try them out because we found them to be so worthwhile.

So that was our first week of school for 2017!  I’m looking forward to a few solid months before we switch into baby mode.

Wrapping Up Week 12 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
 We are officially a third of the way through our school year!  I can’t believe how quickly the weeks are flying by, but it feels good knowing we’ve gotten in twelve solid weeks and we’re moving along at a good pace.


I had grand plans to get back into some preschool activities this week.  We started off with a tea party where I read How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, one of our favorite books from Five in a Row.  I figured it would be a great way to build upon our field trip to the apple farm last week.

But then we didn’t get any farther than reading the book.  Granted, Arianna spent one night at Grandma’s house, and then she had ballet one morning, and we had a park day with our friends.  Still, I’m frustrated by our schedule this year, which doesn’t give us any long mornings at home.  We’re squeezing in bits and pieces here and there, but I’m sad to not have more time to spend doing fun learning activities with my preschoolers.



pups-of-liberty-dogWe’re taking a break from The Light and the Glory for Children because I wanted to spend a little more time dwelling on the Declaration of Independence before plunging ahead with the next chapter.  To learn more, we watched an episode of Animaniacs, “The Flame”;  Pups of Liberty: The Dog-claration of Independence on Izzit.org; and Learn Our History: The Declaration of Independence.

We also watched four episodes of Liberty’s Kids:

  • #12 Common Sense
  • #13 The First Fourth of July
  • #14 New York, New York
  • #15 The Turtle

We did go ahead and readguns-for-general-washington Guns for General Washington by Seymour Reit, which tells the story of Henry Knox leading a group of men in transporting the cannons from Fort Ticonderoga hundreds of miles to help General Washington reclaim Boston.  We learned about that event last week, but I’m glad we read it, because it really helped the story come alive for the boys.


I decided to go back and spend a little more time on George Washington this week.  Because Ian learns so well through audio resources, I recently purchased a collection of old time radio and other audio dramatizations: The American History for the Ears Ultimate Collection.  From that collection we listened to an audiobook of the section on Washington from Four Great Americans by James Baldwin, as well as two episodes of the old radio show “Mr. President.”

The boys also read a cute story, George Washington and the General’s Dog by Frank Murphy.  They both really enjoyed this true story about Washington returning General Howe’s dog to the British leader after a battle.

american-history   four-great-americans   george-washington-and-the-generals-dog


We got all the way through Lesson 4 in All Things Fun and Fascinating, and I continue to be blown away by the boys’ progress.  This week they wrote their key word outlines completely independently, and then typed up their stories all by themselves.  (There was a little grumbling about that, with one boy thinking it would take him way too long to type himself, but I think he was surprised at how quickly he did it, and I don’t anticipate any such complaints in the future.)  The only place I needed to offer some guidance was in choosing a title and helping them find appropriate places to add in “dress-ups.”  This was Eli’s story:


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Wrapping Up Week 11 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
As we get further into this first year with Classical Conversations, I’m starting to feel like it’s not going to be a great fit for our family.  I think it’s a great program, especially if you like having someone else plan your year.  My problem is just that I still want to do my own thing, and doing CC on top of all that is proving to be a bit much, primarily because we lose most of Monday each week.  We already lose most of Fridays for the kids’ various music classes (choir, handchimes, composer study, and various others), so that leaves us just three days to try to squeeze in everything else I want to do.  (And I’m not even covering a science curriculum this year!)

This week was even crazier, as we had a field trip on Thursday.  Thankfully, the boys are both really good at working independently, and for the most part they are diligent about getting started and doing their best without too much prompting from me.  I had actually forgotten about our field trip when I wrote up their checklists for the week, yet they still managed to accomplish everything by Friday afternoon.

And our field trip was SO worth it.  We’ve been to Riley’s Apple Farm before, but this was the first time we’ve attended one of their “homeschool days.”  The kids got to learn about life on a homestead in the late 1800’s by participating in the many chores and activities a child living then would have done.  They helped build a log cabin, sawed wood, beat rugs, pounded coffee, did laundry, hauled water, made rope, pressed cider, wrote fancy letters with a feather pen, and so much more.


What We Did This Week


Now that Elijah’s got his Veritas Press Self-Paced History Course he’s not quite as eager to get through his VP Bible Course, but he’s still plunging ahead beyond my expectations.  This week he completed more than twice the lessons I had scheduled, finishing up the 10 Commandments, completing the entire unit on “Aaron and the Golden Calf,” as well as “Moses Gets New Tablets” and starting in “The Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant.”  At this rate, he should finish Genesis – Joshua by Thanksgiving.



This week we read Chapter 13: The Birth of a Nation in The Light and the Glory for Children, covering the Continental Congress’ appointment of George Washington as the leader of the Army, the failed Canadian campaign, the retaking of Boston, and the vote for Independence.

We also watched four episodes of Liberty’s Kids:

  • #8 “The Continental Congress”
  • #9 “Bunker Hill”
  • #10 “Postmaster General Franklin”
  • #11 “Washington Takes Command”

I read The Cabin Faced West by Jean Fritz aloud to all the kids.  It was a sweet story about a girl whose family has left Gettysburg to live in the “Western Country.”  I had never read before and chose it for this week because in flipping through it I had seen that George Washington was in it briefly.  However, it is actually set after the Revolution, so I wish I’d saved it for later, because we have lots of other books set during the War that I want to try to read.  (For instance, Guns for General Washington by Seymour Reit is about Henry Knox transporting the cannons from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston to help retake the city.  It would have been perfect for this week, but now I’m trying to figure out whether to try to squeeze it in or just save it for our next time through the history cycle.)


Since we only had two full days at home, this was a good week to watch a Torchlighters DVD.  We watched The William Tyndale Story and the accompanying documentary, which helped all of us appreciate our easy access to a Bible in English.


all-things-fun-fascinatingThe boys finished up Lesson 3 in All Things Fun and Fascinating, writing their own version of the old fable “Belling the Cat.”  It is so rewarding to see how much easier it is for them to write this year after all their hard work last year in their IEW class.  This week they only needed to focus on adding “strong verbs,” but both of them automatically threw in other “dress-ups.”

I’m SO glad I decided to use this book this year, and I’m thinking we’ll be sticking with IEW materials for several years to come.  I wish I had known about them back when I was teaching in a classroom.

Upcoming Reviews

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Wrapping Up Week 10 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
My passions were given free reign this week as we continued our study of American history, moving on to the story of Paul Revere and the battles at Lexington and Concord.  Although we did do all the rest of our normal subjects, history pretty much ruled our week.  We even got Daddy interested through all our discussions.  Leigh Bortins talks about how homeschooling redeems the education of two generations, and we are definitely experiencing that in our family.  Eric and I both learned alongside the boys this week as we dove into the American Revolution.


History: The Start of the American Revolution

I am really glad we are using The Light and the Glory for Children (and its sequel) as our “spine” this year.  It is helping set a good pace for us as we move through the events of early American history.  Without it, we might be tempted to speed through the entire Liberty’s Kids series, but because we are going chapter by chapter in the book, we have time to really explore each event, looking at various books and videos to help the children become familiar with the important people and details.

Light and the Glory   libertys-kids
This week in The Light and the Glory we read “Chapter 12: War!”  It covered several important subjects:

Paul Revere: We’ve talked about Paul Revere before, when we were going through Five in a Row, but that was three years ago, so we pulled out some of our favorite resources from that study, as well as adding a few new ones this time around.

  • paul-reveres-ridebook: Paul Revere’s Ride (there’s an audio recording of this poem from Homeschool Radio Shows)
  • audio: “Listen My Children” from Homeschool Radio Shows.
  • audio: Adventures in Odyssey #197 “The Midnight Ride” (This was interesting because it discussed some errors in Longfellow’s poem as well as giving more information about Paul Revere.)
  • video: Liberty’s Kids episode 5 “Midnight Ride”
  • video: “The Flame Returns,” part of Animaniacs Season 3, Episode 25 (streaming on Netflix right now, though they call it Vol. 2, Episode 12)

Lexington and Concord: The battle at Lexington lasted only about 15 minutes before the British moved on to Concord, but it is important because it marks the beginning of years of fighting between the Americans and the British.  We found several good resources for learning about it, and the boys really memorized a lot of details that kept popping up in each one.

  • book: Sam the Minuteman (We also used the literature guide from Progeny Press, which led to some great discussions, as well as a helpful vocabulary lesson that was reinforced in several other resources we used this week.)

sam-the-minuteman   study-guide


  • video: Liberty’s Kids episode #6 “The Shot Heard Round the World”
  • video: Schoolhouse Rock “The Shot Heard Round the World” (and we watched “No More Kings“)
  • video: April Morning (This is full-length movie starring Tommy Lee Jones about a father and son at Lexington.  It’s not rated, but my husband and I watched it with the older boys and we were okay with it.  It is about battle, but there’s no gore and as about little violence as one could have given the subject.)

Ethan Allen and the “Green Mountain Boys” at Fort Ticonderoga:

Ian and I also watched The American Revolution, which covered all these subjects.  (I found it this streaming on Amazon Prime and it’s aimed at children, so I figured we’d give it a try.  Ian, always ready to watch anything, joined me in previewing it, but I found it a little too slow to show to the other kids and after we got interrupted I didn’t bother going back to finish the whole thing.  The best thing about it was reinforcing things we had already learned about.

Chapter 12 in The Light and the Glory also mentioned the battle of Bunker Hill, but we’re saving that until next week when it’s covered in Liberty’s Kids to talk more about it.


The last sentence of Chapter 12 in The Light and the Glory introduced the man who would step up to lead the new Continental Army: George Washington.  I decided to make him the focus of our biography studies this week so the boys would be more familiar with him as we move on.  We read George Washington: America’s Patriot from YWAM Publishing’s “Heroes for Young Readers” series, as well as George Washington by Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire

 washington-ywam washington-daulaire

Veritas Press

Elijah has been begging me for months to sign him up for a  Veritas Press Self-Paced History Course, and while he loves his VP self-paced Bible course, it just hasn’t satisfied him.  This week I heard the VP was having a Back to School Sale (use code BACKTOHOMESCHOOL for $100 off until 9/26!) on their Self-Paced courses, so I decided to go ahead and get him started on “Explorers to 1815.”  In the first three days he completed 7 lessons, and the first words out of his mouth when we woke up Saturday morning were, “Can I do a history lesson?”

These courses really are amazing.  The only thing I would change is that I wish I could purchase them on CD-ROM so we could pass them down from one child to the next.  I’m not requiring him to do any of the lessons at this point.  It’s just a chance for him (and Ian to some extent, as he enjoys watching) to review things we’ve already learned about, and hopefully eventually he’ll catch up to where we are in our family history study.  I’ve made a note of when 6 months is up to make sure he’ll have enough time to complete the course before our subscription runs out, but I’m hoping he’ll just go through it at his own pace without me ever needing to schedule it.

Upcoming Reviews

We’re enjoying several products right now, so watch for these reviews in the next few weeks (may contain affiliate links):

Wrapping Up Week 7 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
 Now that others around us are starting to go back to school, we’re getting a taste for what our school year is going to be like.  This week we had our first real Classical Conversations morning, with Ian, Elijah, and Arianna all off in their own Ian at CCclasses and me tutoring a group of 4th grade “Journeymen.”  For the most part it went really well.  I’d forgotten how much I enjoy teaching, and I’ve got a great group of kids to tutor this year.  At the end of the day, my own kids were all smiles and excited about the mornings they had had with their tutors, so we’re off to a good start, and I look forward to seeing where this year takes all of us.

I also got to meet with the moms from our homeschool support group, and I’m looking forward to a year of encouragement, support, and fellowship with these awesome women of God.  We’ll be doing field trips, park days, and holiday celebrations (plus a monthly Mom’s Night Out) with these families, so I definitely don’t have concerns about “socialization.”  (Do any homeschoolers actually worry about it?  It seems like the only people who think it’s an issue are people who don’t homeschool.)

We’re still a couple weeks away from starting up our Friday music classes, and I’m also weighing whether I can squeeze in a weekly women’s Bible study, which would start in a few weeks.  There’s a homeschool room that would allow the boys to get some work done while I’m taking care of feeding my own soul, so we wouldn’t lose the morning.  My only hesitation is that it means we’d be out of the house for something every weekday, and I love being at home.  I’ll be praying about this decision.  I’m not sure what would be better for my spiritual well-being: a quiet morning at home or a time to worship and discuss the Bible at church.  Hmmm…

Enough rambling… here’s what we did this week.

Classical Conversations

Cycle 2: Week 1

As I’ve said before, this is kind of a trial year for us with CC.  I’m not willing to set aside the curriculum/style that’s been working for us, just in case we decide it’s not a good fit for our family, so I don’t plan on doing a whole lot of extras related to what we’re learning at CC.  (I realize that 6 months from now I may be kicking myself or laughing at my attempt to avoid the inevitable.)

And this week I just couldn’t resist doing at least a little to go along with our memory work.  If we have things at hand and the kids are interested, I figure I should take advantage of that.

I had printed a page from CC Connected that had pictures from Schoolhouse Rock to illustrate the 8 parts of speech for our memory work bulletin board, so of course Ian wanted to know what those were from.  I found several Schoolhouse Rock grammar videos that helped the kids learn more than just the list of terms.

Schoolhouse Rock

We also read about some of the continents in a series called Our Amazing Continents.  (I have all the books except the one on North America, and I just let the kids choose what they wanted to find out more about.)

Continents books
Finally, we read The Elephant from Baghdad, a picture book about Charlemagne.


As usual, now that we’re getting into the swing of things at home, I’m tweaking my plans a a little bit.  Our focus on biographies is turning out to be a bigger blessing than I had anticipated.  I love learning about these inspiring men and women of faith, and my kids have responded positively as well, so I’ve decided to just enjoy them, rather than making them the focus of our writing.


john wesley_zpsuzhewumnSo this week (which was supposed to be a “writing” week), I decided to thrown in a quick look at John Wesley, since he was a friend of George Whitefield, whom we read about in The Light and the Glory for Children as we learned about the Great Awakening.  The only book I have on Wesley is for older kids, so we stuck with a video.  We had watched Torchlighters: The John Wesley Story last year for a review (it’s available for free streaming for Amazon Prime members, though then you don’t get to see the documentary that comes on the DVD), but I figured no one would mind watching it again.  Now that we had some historical context, I think we all got even more about of the story, and I especially appreciated the emphasis on grace over trying to earn salvation through good works, which I think can be a hard concept for children growing up in Christian families.


IEW outlineI really want the boys to keep building upon what they learned in their writing class last year, so when a friend mentioned that she wasn’t going to use the IEW book she had bought for her children to go through this year, I decided to take it off her hands and make that the basis for our writing program this year.  We jumped right into All Things Fun and Fascinating this week, and I was impressed with how quickly the boys were able to complete the first key word outline.  I’m hoping that between this book and their daily work in Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree (Book 1), Ian will be more than ready to start the Essentials program next year if we decide to stay with Classical Conversations.

For spelling practice, the boys are both working through Wordy Qwerty from Talking Fingers, Inc. and the spelling activities in Essential Skills Advantage, spending two days a week on each.  I decided I also want to start being a little more systematic about helping Ian develop his spelling skills, so we’re trying out Sequential Spelling.  (I’ll have him do this instead of ESA.)  Several people had recommended it in an online discussion I was following, and the DVD-ROM of video lessons was quite affordable on Amazon, so I figured it was worth trying.  My first impression was pretty positive.  It’s definitely not a “fun” program like I’ve been letting Ian play around on, but I saw him grasping new concepts even within the first three lessons, so I’m optimistic.  I’ll give a more thorough review in a few weeks.

Upcoming Reviews

We’re enjoying several products right now, so watch for these reviews in the next few weeks (may contain affiliate links):

Wrapping Up Week 6 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
Since we start our school year early, the first few weeks are just us settling into the “home” part of our homeschooling.  Now that summer is starting to wind down, we’re going to start adding in some of the extras that will add some flavor to our  year.  This past week we got our first taste of Classical Conversations, going to our orientation, meeting the kids’ tutors, meeting the kid’s I’ll be tutoring, and putting together my plan for our first week of Foundations, which starts tomorrow.  I’m a little nervous about how CC is going to affect our year.  I think the kids are going to love it, and I’m excited about all we’ll be learning.  I think it’s just the thought of losing a day (well, a morning) at home that feels a little overwhelming.  I’m trying to just breathe deeply and take one day at a time.

Pterosaur exhibit NHMThis week was another odd one, but again I’m thankful for the flexibility homeschooling provides for our family.  We attended a memorial service for a family friend, spent a few hours at the Natural History Museum to see the new exhibit on Pterosaurs, celebrated Nathaniel turning 1, and had an overnight at Grandma’s, so I planned a pretty basic week without any extras.

The boys went through their math, Bible, spelling, and grammar almost completely on their own.  Elijah finished up Read, Write, & Type and is ready to join Ian on Wordy Qwerty.  We read one more biography for the month, Louis Zamperini: Survivor and Champion from the “Heroes for Young Readers” series.  And we listened to the audiobook of Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition as we drove all over town.

Ian has been finishing his work earlier than Elijah, so I decided to give him a little something extra to do.  I’ve been wanting him to learn about coding for a while, so I started him off at Khan Academy.  He’s going through the course “Intro to JS: Drawing and Animation” to begin learning how to use JavaScript.

Elijah codingOf course, once Elijah saw what he was doing, he wanted to do it as well, and he loved it so much he begs to do coding every day.  He logged 188 minutes this week, and would have done more if I’d let him.  I’m amazed at how much he’s learned and the drawings he’s created with code.  For now, I’m learning alongside him so I can help, but I know it won’t be long before he’s zooming ahead of me and will have to figure things out on his own.

Upcoming Reviews

Here are the products we’ll be reviewing over the next few weeks (may contain affiliate links):

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