Welcome! I am using this blog to share our family's homeschooling thoughts and experiences.

THIS SCHOOL YEAR (2017-2018): Our oldest child, EL, finished her formal education in May, so we only have our son, JJ to school this year. We intend to homeschool him through High School, and will be using a variety of different curriculum choices to complete this goal.

Please feel free to follow along....

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Update On Using Notgrass History

Last school year (2016-2017), we used NOTGRASS HISTORY:  UNCLE SAM & YOU for our History/Civics/Government curriculum. JJ was in 8th grade, and EL followed along with us for her final year of school as well. (It is geared towards middle school students, grades 5-8). We all enjoyed the curriculum. It is easy to use, and covers many different areas of interest. Each chapter covered 4 days worth of topic. Then, on the 5th day of the week, there is an optional lesson on a holiday of your choice (included at the back of the textbook), along with a recommended family activity.

On a typical day, I would read the day's text out loud to both of the kids, so we were all learning together at the same time. Then, at the end of each chapter, there were suggestions for activities to do such as Bible study questions, additional reading from The Citizen's Handbook, vocabulary and writing assignments, and a page or two in the corresponding workbooks.

The workbooks are optional, but we found them to be helpful for reviewing the material. There are two workbooks to use or choose from. The Lesson Review is for those who just want to answer review questions (written or oral), and The Student Workbook is for those who prefer fill in the blank types of activities, crossword puzzles, and drawing assignments. We used a little of both, but mostly used the Student Workbook.
A Literature Package is also available, and it includes 8 books that correspond with the time period/topic being studied. We did not read ALL of the books, but chose a few that best suited our needs and interests. I read these aloud also, and our favorites were "Basher Five-Two" and "Lost On A Mountain in Maine."

What is nice about this curriculum is that you can order just what you need/want, or order the entire curriculum package. If you use the entire package and included activities, you will be covering the subjects of Bible, Civics, Vocabulary, Creative Writing, and Literature. You can also buy most of the books used if you find someone who is selling them, and then re-sell them yourself, making it a more economical choice.

We are not continuing with Notgrass this school year (2017-2018), but not because we didn't like it. We have decided to go in a different direction for now, covering IL History and US Geography (We will begin our school year on August 21st!) However, when the time comes for us to jump into World History or US History at the High School level, I will definitely be looking into Notgrass again.

Thumbs up for Notgrass!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Our 2017 Graduates

At the end of May, we finished our 2016-2017 school year, and that means our daughter, EL, completed 4 years of High School and, therefore, "graduated" from SONset Academy. Her special learning needs kept her from being able to complete high school level work so, after consulting with HSLDA (Homeschool Legal Defense Association), we felt it was best to give EL a Certificate of Completion rather than a Diploma. She will not be attending college, so a diploma is not really necessary for her anyway. But, regardless of what type of certification she has received, we are very proud of her accomplishments.

Our son, JJ, also graduated this year - from 8th grade. So, this past Sunday, we finally had a small graduation celebration for both of them. (It has been a busy Summer, so this was the best time to schedule the party, even though they technically graduated at the end of May.)

David/Dad/Principal - Signing the graduation certificates

We had a casual, simple ceremony in our garage. To start things off, Aunt Jackie played "Pomp and Circumstance" on her flute as the graduates walked out of the house and into the garage where family and friends were waiting.

David gave a short message/word of encouragement to the graduates, as well as to the rest of us in attendance.

JJ received his 8th grade diploma

EL received her Certificate of Completion.

After the ceremony, we had a simple reception:  A decorated cake, Veggies and Dip, Trail Mix, Goldfish Crackers, Cherry Candies, and drinks. The colors were red, white and blue. Decorations came from Dollar Tree, Dollar General, and Walmart's clearance section.

Family photo with the graduates.

It was a nice day. 
Now, we begin High School with JJ!

Friday, August 4, 2017

May 2017 Field Trip: Horse Farm & Sheep Farm

Here it is, the end of Summer 2017, and I am just now getting around to posting about the field trip we took in May. I don't really have any excuses. Life has just been busy and blogging here hasn't been a priority. But, I'm hoping to get back into it as we finish up the Summer and get back into a new school year.

On May 23rd, we took a field trip to a farm where they train horses, then also to a 4-H sheep farm. Here are a few pictures, followed by a short report from each of the kids.

A horse in the ring

JJ riding a horse (EL did not want to ride)

JJ Petting a horse

Shearing a sheep

WHAT I LEARNED:   It takes a horse a long time to have a baby. For a human, it takes 9 months. A horse takes 11 months. It takes a sheep 5 months. A horse gets freaked out when he goes to a new horse farm. It is just like when a kid transfers to another school - they don't like it. I learned that sheep want to die every day but, if you care for them, they will live longer. A sheep gets shaved once every year.

WHAT I LIKED:  I loved riding on the horse!!! And, I liked watching the sheep get shaved. I liked playing with the dog and cat. I liked mostly the whole day.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: I did not like the dust. Other than that, nothing really. Like I said, I liked the whole day.

WHAT I LEARNED:  A horse has white legs. The horse is big and brown. The mule runs fast with 4 long legs. The mule has long ears. The mule has a tail like a horse. It's a mule tail. I saw a black horse and some white horses. And, I also saw a black and white horse. I pet the horse. Horses make sounds. I saw a girl riding a mule. I saw a saddle on the mule's back. I saw a black and brown cat. The cat meowed. I just watched the kids ride on the mule. I saw a gray and white cat. I pet the cat. The cat says hi.

WHAT I LIKED:  I like the black sheep, just like the song. I saw a little white lamb named Sunny. Don't forget the ram with horns. I saw 2 dogs, a gray and brown dog, and a black and white dog. The dog sniffed my hand. I pet the dog.

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE:  I didn't like the loud noise of the man shearing the sheep. The sheep makes a loud baaaing sound.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Quick Update

This school year is going by fast. I haven't taken many pictures this year, so I haven't had a whole lot to share. The kids are older now, and we just aren't doing as much "fun" hands on types of things. But, I did end up making a few curriculum changes that I want to tell you about, and also want to share what has been working for us. Be watching for these future posts.

Friday, September 30, 2016

SEPTEMBER 2016 FIELD TRIPS: Apple Orchard & Ray Hanna Stables

Lost Creek Apple Orchard 
This was our 5th year attending this orchard. They always give a nice, informational tour with friendly service. 

JJ walking through the orchard with friends

EL picking apples

JJ on an old tractor

EL running to the finish line during a race through the corn

Walking through the corn maze

Ray Hanna Horse Stable
The U of I Extention Office set up this tour. We were able to meet the trainers and caretakers of the race horses, see the equipment the horses wear during a race, and interact with the horses up close.

One of the trainers with "Cole Heat."

EL with a sweet dog named Casey

JJ's favorite horse was "Fox Valley Dandy"

Cole Heat wearing his racing gear

Saturday, September 17, 2016

JJ's Star Wars Limerick

Part of JJ's Language Arts curriculum this year is to do one lesson each day in LANGUAGE LESSONS FOR THE SECONDARY CHILD - VOL 1. This volume is written for a child between the ages of 10 and 15 and includes lessons in grammar, punctuation, copywork, narration, dictation, picture studies, letter writing, and learning how to write different types of poetry.

Last week, he had two lessons about a type of poetry called a Limerick. This is one of the most fun types of poetry - not really meant to be insightful or thought-provoking, but just written for fun. It consists of only 5 lines, with lines 1, 2 and 5 rhyming with each other and lines 2 and 3 also rhyming. Here's an example of a limerick (Author unknown):

There once was an old man from Peat
Who had an affection for feet.
He found them so cute
He would not wear a boot
And his tootsies were pretty soon beat!

JJ was required to write his own limerick, so he chose a Star Wars theme (What else!?), and this is what he came up with. He did this completely on his own, with no help from me, except I did correct his spelling:

There once was a man named Darth Vader,
And he was a very big hater.
He wanted more power
So he could devour
All the people he thought was a traitor. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Back to School 2016

Monday, August 22nd, was the first day back to school for us. JJ is in 8th grade this year, and EL is in 12th. I kept things light this first week back, and just wanted to get us back into a routine.

For the past 7 years, we have used My Father's World for our main curriculum (which included History, Science, Bible, Art and Music). I loved MFW but, this year, we are trying something different. I wanted to focus on Civics/Government for our History lessons this year, so we are switching to Notgrass History: Uncle Sam & You (which includes Civics/Government, Bible, and Language Arts). We will be starting this curriculum on Monday, with all of us working and learning together. It looks like it will be a fun and interesting year.
For independent work, JJ will be using:

Apologia Science, with a focus on Astronomy 
Queen Language Lessons, for the Secondary Child-Vol. 1
ACE Math

We will see how things go with these curriculum, and may need to tweak things here and there if they are not working for us.

I am also going to be working with JJ one-on-one with a new Spelling program. About three years ago, JJ was evaluated at a Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic, and it was determined he has developmental delays in the areas of Reading and Spelling. He seems to have several symptoms of Dyslexia, although there was not enough information at the time of testing to make this type of diagnosis. Since that time, we have continued to work with JJ and he has made great improvement with his reading. However, he continues to struggle significantly with Spelling. So, over the Summer, I did some research on different ways to help him with that, and decided on using All About Spelling. We are going back to the basics (starting with level 1), and hope to see some results.

As for EL, this will be our last year of formally educating her. Besides the Notgrass curriculum, she will be using: 

ACE Science 
Queen Language Lessons, for the Very Young-Vol. 2
Explode the Code
Spectrum Math

As I am able, I will try to update on how things are going with our curriculum. 

Have a great school year!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Story Mountain

We have finished our school year, and are heading into Summer fun, but I wanted to share what we have been working on for the past couple of weeks. We used an idea a friend gave us called "story mountain" to work on a creative writing project. If you do an Internet search for it, you will see various images. The basic one we used showed how to start at the base of the mountain by introducing your characters and the setting of the story. Then, you move halfway up the mountain where something happens to get the story started (the build-up). At the top of the mountain, there is a problem that comes up. Then, going halfway down the other side, the problem is resolved. Back down at the bottom of the mountain, the story is finally finished.

JJ writing out his story

The kids worked on developing their stories on paper. Then, I had them type the stories on the computer. They learned how to type this school year by using Typing Instructor for Kids. It worked really well for both of them. JJ flew through it and loved playing the games. EL wasn't thrilled with it, but has learned to type well, she just can't seem to pick up her speed past 5 words per minute. So, we will continue to work on that.

EL typing her story

JJ has still not finished his story. He has a lot of ideas that he wants to get down on paper, so that might be a good Summer project. But, EL finished a short story about some animals who live on a farm. Most of the words are her own words. I just helped her develop the story by giving her some ideas, then I helped her edit it to get the proper punctuation and spelling. Here is her story and artwork to match:

Molly On the Farm
By:  EL Stankus

On the farm there was a pretty blue bird named Molly. There was a worm named Hans.  One day, there was a mean and hungry orange and white cat named Nellie who came into the yard to eat Molly. And there was a chocolate lab named Nick. He was very nice.

Molly flew down from a tree to get Hans the worm. “Hi Hans,” says Molly.

“Hi Molly,” says  Hans.

Molly pulled Hans out of the hole, and put Hans inside her mouth. Then, Molly saw Nellie. “Please don’t eat me.” said molly the bird. “Nellie you are a mean cat.” Nellie opened her mouth. Then Molly heard a sound. It was Nick the dog barking. Nick growled and barked at Nellie. Molly flapped her wings and started to fly. The worm dropped out of Molly’s mouth, and Nellie ran away. Molly flew back down and said, “Thanks, Nick, the cat is gone.”

“You’re welcome,” said Nick. “But are you going to eat Hans the worm like Nellie wanted to eat you?”

“Yes, I’m going to eat Hans the worm, said Molly, “because birds eat worms, and I need to eat.

Nick said,  “Nellie the cat needs to eat, too,  like she wants to eat you.”

“She could eat cat food,” said Molly, “I don’t have an owner who could feed me bird food. Nellie is so mean to me.”

“You should pray for Nellie,” said Nick.

“Yes,” said Molly, “because God wants us to pray for our enemies.”

Luke 6:27-28  “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Molly closed  her eyes and prayed.

No body got eaten that day. Hans didn’t get eaten and Molly didn’t get eaten. Nick saved the day.

The End.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Using Pinterest as an Educational Tool

My daughter, EL, has autism and developmental delays. One of her favorite toys of all time is a Fijit Friend named Willa. 

In some ways, even though she is a teenager, EL is developmentally at the level of a 2nd grade child. She still loves young children's toys that talk, light up, and play music. The music is her favorite.

In other ways, EL is like a normal teenager. She has mood swings, she likes to stay up late, she likes to get new clothes, and she likes to watch movies like "Teen Beach Movie."

Over this past year, EL's therapists have been working with her to combine her love of musical toys with a more age-appropriate activity of pinning things on Pinterest. It has been a great learning tool, as it has opened EL up to the computer world. She has learned she can ask for help when she wants to pin something to her page, then she has also learned to click on the pictures and videos she wants to see, and to close them out when she is done. I am grateful to EL's therapists, and the work they have been doing with her to improve her quality of life.

Here is EL watching a video of Willa on her Pinterest page.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Math Antics Saved the Day

Adding something new and more complex to my son's Math curriculum usually causes him a boat load of anxiety and he tends to shut down and not want to continue. This morning was one of those mornings. After awhile of trying the new concept, we both grew frustrated and wanted to quit, but I decided we were not going to give up. We did take a little break (sometimes that is necessary), but we kept working through it. 

While we were on our break, I decided to look online for a video that could explain the math concepts in a more visual way. In my search, I found a website, Math Antics, with a math video that really helped. After watching the video, my son understood the concept a little better and was able to complete his work.  I'm sure we will be using this website again in the future. Here is the link, and a little more information about them:


ABOUT Math Antics (as found on the website):  It is the work of two individuals, Rob and Jeremy, who want to make learning math a little easier for everyone. We know that many students struggle with math and that many teachers and parents need better tools to help students succeed. Our goal is to provide simple and engaging math resources that make learning math more fun for students of all ages.

All of the video lessons on Math Antics are FREE. It is not a complete curriculum, but they include fun videos that cover concepts in arithmetic, fractions, geometry, percents, and algebra basics. You have the option to subscribe for $20. 00 per year, but that is only if you want to use the exercises and worksheets that go along with their videos.   

In the FAQ's on the Math Antics website, it says this about their main goals:  Our math lessons are organized by subject rather than grade level. Our goal is to create math videos that clearly explain math concepts to students of any age. At this time we do not have plans to align with common core or any other specific math standards. One of our main goals for Math Antics is to be as universal as possible. That is why we don't organize our content by grade. While the majority of students may learn a particular skill or concept in a particular grade, we don't want to discourage older students from going back to learn or review the fundamentals.