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

THIS SCHOOL YEAR (2018-2019): Our oldest child, EL, finished her formal education in May 2017. She remains at home due to her special needs, and continues to learn with us when she is able. Our son, JJ, is in 10th grade this year. We plan to homeschool him through High School, and are using a variety of different curriculum choices to complete this goal.

Feel free to follow along!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

FALL 2018 FIELD TRIPS: Apple Orchard & Monk's Mound

Our first field trip this Fall was on September 26th, our annual trip to a nearby apple orchard.

It was wet and muddy out there this year, but still a nice day to enjoy being outside.

Last May, you may remember we visited Cahokia Mounds. Here is the blog post I wrote about it:

On that trip, we wanted to climb the biggest mound, Monk's Mound, but it was too hot that day. So, we finally got the chance to go back in cooler weather. Here are a few photos we took when we went on October 20th. It was a windy day, but it was nice to have the sun shining.

There were 2 sets of stairs. Here is JJ on his way up the first set.
A view of the second set of stairs.
David's legs were hurting after climbing the first set of stairs, so he took a break. You can see him sitting on the bench.

JJ and I met David as he finally reached the top.

A view of the parking lot from the top of the mound. My mom and EL were waiting there.

I zoomed in a bit, and you can see Mom standing next to the van. We waved at her. 

A good view of St. Louis from the top of the mound.

David and me, sitting on a bench at the top. St. Louis is in the background.

The wind was really bothering my ears, so I went back down before the guys did.
Back at the van, I could see the guys standing at the top of the mound. You can barely see them in this picture. There are two dots to the left of the big tree.
I zoomed in again, and was able to see them better.

It was a fun little adventure, and definitely good exercise!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

BIOLOGY 101: Plant Life

For High School Biology, we are using the Biology 101 DVD curriculum as our core. It is a 4-DVD set which covers biology (a.k.a. the study of life) using the 6 days of Biblical creation as an outline. Each segment (a total of 9) runs from 20-45 minutes each, and include plant life, aquatic (water) creatures, avian (flying) creatures, land animals, mankind, and genetics. On the 4th disc, there is also a printable guidebook (reading material), quizzes, answer key, and an accreditation booklet (lesson plan.

This curriculum can be used in a variety of different ways, depending on your needs. I know of a couple families who watched the DVD segments, and then used them as a starting point for further research on a topic of interest. Others only use the DVD as a supplement to a textbook.

As for us, I have made my own lesson plans and we are doing the following:
  1. Watching each of the DVD segments (sometimes twice)
  2. Reading the included Guidebook (2-3 pages at a time)
  3. Taking the Quizzes (but doing them open-book)
  4. Using some of the recommended Labs in the lesson plans
  5. Additional Science kits (Labs) from The Young Scientists Club
  6. A frog dissection kit (coming in the mail from Home Science Tools)
  7. Watching videos on You Tube about topics mentioned on the DVD
  8. Doing some additional light reading from books on each topic
So far, it is going well. This week, we finished learning about Plant life and we worked on a plant lab about seeds, fruits, and other plant parts (Kit #28 from Set 10 of The Young Scientists Series)

We made a small "terrarium" with charcoal, soil, seeds, and water.
A few days later, you can see the condensation forming which waters the growing seeds.

We put celery stalks in water with food coloring.

A couple days later, you can see how the "veins" in the celery absorbed the colored water.

We put a garlic clove in a glass with wet cotton balls and observed it for a week. After several days, it started to grow little white roots.
A couple days after that, a green root was sprouting on the other end.

We also learned that cucumbers are not a vegetable, but a fruit. If it has seeds, it is a fruit. So, tomatoes and pumpkins are also fruits. A vegetable is a part of a plant that can be eaten, such as a stem (celery), leaves (lettuce), or roots (carrots).

Now that we are done with the PLANTS section, we are moving on to Aquatic animals.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A Few Weeks Into the 2018-19 School Year

We are a few weeks into our school year, the start of JJ's Sophomore year. Just like every year, it started out a bit "rocky." I was excited about all he would be doing, all he would be learning, etc. But, he did not share the same excitement. His complaints about the work, and about not being able to sleep in as much on school days, led to some tense conversations between us. But, just like every year, we have persevered and things are improving.

I think, this year, things really began to make a turn for the best when cousins Jon and Joe came for a  visit. They are both homeschooled as well, so they stayed with us last week while my brother and his wife attended a conference. During the week, all the boys were required to get up at a specific time each morning, and to do their school work before pursuing other interests.

I was pleased with how well the boys did. They fed off of each other in a positive way and showed responsibility by setting their alarms, getting up on their own, and finishing their schoolwork with very little complaints. Plus, Cousin Jon does most of his work independently; so, I think it was  helpful for JJ to see, and motivated him to do his work independently also.

Jon and JJ working at the school table.
Joe found a seat at the table in the kitchen. He's working on Math.

They all worked mostly on their own, and I was there to answer questions as needed. It was a good week. Since then, I am thankful to see JJ showing more initiative at getting his work done.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Back to School 2018 - JJ's Sophomore Year

Wednesday, August 22, 2018 - We had a "back-to-school breakfast" of a Toaster Strudel, half of a banana, and a cup of coffee. 

JJ was being camera shy. 
He wasn't thrilled about starting back to school.

But his cat, Sofie, tends to make him smile.

This is JJ's Sophomore year. We have quite a line-up of subjects for him to do, but I think it will be a good year. Over the summer, I did a lot of researching and planning to come up with a course of study that will hopefully be challenging, yet enjoyable. We have learned that he is a visual learner, and also enjoys working with his hands, so I tried to tailor his studies with those styles of learning in mind.

This is what we have chosen to use for his curriculum this year:
I hope to share more about each of these subjects in the coming months to let you know how things are working out for us.

Have a great school year!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

ON OUR BACK PORCH: The Growth of a Barn Swallow Family

In the middle of May, we noticed three barn swallows flying around our back yard, sometimes landing on a nail attached to our porch overhang, and sometimes fighting with each other. My guess is they were either fighting over their territory, or maybe two males were fighting over the female. Either way, eventually, there were only two swallows left, and then the couple began building their nest around the nail. It was interesting to see how they worked together as a couple, building a home to raise their family in, then taking turns feeding their babies, watching over them, and finally teaching them how to fly. Take a look at the photos and videos below to see the progression.

The top left photo was taken on May 12th. Below that is May 13th, then May 14th. The other side is May 15th, 16th, and 17th.

May 16th - Our cat, Sofie, was also watching the birds build their nest.

Top left was taken on May 18th. Below that is May 20th, and you can see the mama's head poking up out of the nest in that one. Then, the one on the right was taken on May 22nd as the mama was pulling feathers out of her rear end and lining the nest with them. 
The papa was keeping watch nearby as mama began laying her eggs in the nest.

In the short video below, you can see Papa Swallow taking a shower in the rain while the mama sits on the eggs in the nest. If you listen closely, you can hear a Matt Redman CD playing in the background with the song, "Oh no, You never let go, through the calm and through the storm." That did not happen intentionally but turned out to be appropriate, considering the mild thunderstorm.

May 29th - Five small speckled eggs were seen in the nest.

May 29th - Mama is nesting the eggs.

June 11th - Two or three of the babies, newly hatched

In this video, the parents did not like me being outside so close to their babies, so they started dive-bombing me to scare me away.

June 20th - Another look at the 3 babies as they sleep.

June 20th - The babies are awake, and poking their heads over the side.

This video was taken by my husband, David. We were watching the birds through an open window, and the parents started freaking out at our presence.

June 25th - All three babies sitting on the edge waiting to be fed.

June 27th - Almost fully grown. One of the babies had already taken flight at this point, was out flying around during the daytime, then came back to the nest in the late afternoon.

This video was taken with only 2 of the babies in their nest. They were testing their wings. The next day, the one on the left was also out flying during the morning hours, leaving only one bird left in the nest.

June 30th - In this photo, two of the babies were out flying during the morning hours, and one of the parents was still flying around, watching over the third baby. It seemed as if the entire family was working together at this point, trying to encourage the last baby to spread his wings and take flight.
June 30th - The final baby, still a bit too timid to try flying.

July 1st - The first two babies left the nest and landed on the top of our ladder, waiting for the third baby to finally take flight.

July 3rd - The final baby finally flew out and we were left with an empty nest.

It was fun watching the entire process from start to finish, and seeing how the parents worked together to raise their family; and it even seemed like the siblings were encouraging each other as they were growing up and heading out into the big world - the example of a close-knit family.

We occasionally see one or two swallows still flying around the nest, or stopping by for a visit, but they don't stay in it overnight. I have a feeling they will return in the Spring, so we have decided to leave the nest alone and wait to see what happens. I look forward to watching as they raise another swallow family.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

YEAR- END REVIEW: Survey of Geology & Archaeology

For Science this year, we focused on Earth Science by using a mix of curricula from different sources.

  • First, we used a curriculum pack from MASTER BOOKS titled  A Survey of Geology and Archaeology. This is geared for grades 7-12 and covers a general overview of basic Archaeology, Geology, Caves, and Fossils. The package includes 4 thin books on each topic, as well as a teacher's guide that includes the weekly lesson schedule, glossary of terms, student worksheets, quizzes & tests, and all the answer keys. It is a thorough program, and interesting. However, my son got bogged down with all the reading; and the worksheets were difficult for him. He made it through all of the Archaeology book, all of Geology, and a portion of  the Cave book. Then, we switched to a more visual approach to finish up the rest of the school year.

  • I already owned 3 of the episodes from Master Books' Awesome Science:  Historical Geology series with Noah Justice (along with the included study guides), so we took our time going through each of these DVD's and discussing them. I did not have the teacher's manual, so I did not have the answers to the questions in each of the study guides, but we did the best we could with answering them. They were at least helpful with guiding our discussion on each topic. These are the episodes we used:
Ep. 4:  Explore Yosemite & Zion National Parks
-  Ep. 5:  Explore Mount St. Helens
-  Ep. 6:  Explore John Day Fossil Beds

  •  The final option we used was 12 video sessions we found on You Tube from GEOLOGY KITCHEN. When JJ finished these, I had him choose one of his favorite episodes and write a short report about it.

All in all, it was a good year. JJ not only learned about Earth Science, he learned how to search for the answers he didn't know, and also to persevere when things are hard. He also came to recognize more fully that he is a visual learner. So, next year, we will be choosing a video-based curriculum for his Science course.

One more thing we did recently isn't really related to Earth Science, but is more of a General Science experiment. We did the microwaved Ivory soap experiment. Ivory soap is very light and floats on top of water, unlike other bars of soap because, when it is made, air is whipped into the soap before it sets. Those air bubbles contain water molecules, which expand when the soap is microwaved. It turns the soap into a cloud or cotton-like texture. Here is a short video of what we did...

Saturday, May 19, 2018

YEAR-END REVIEW: State History from a Christian Perspective

This school year, we used STATE HISTORY FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE to cover United States Geography and Illinois State History.

We started out with Geography of the Fifty States, which is a workbook-based study on the 50 united states of America. It can be used for grades 3-12, and is flexible to use based on skill levels. Each of the states are studied in the order of statehood.

The manual gives suggested schedules for using this curriculum as either a one-semester course, or for a full year. It can be used alone, or it can be combined with 50 States Under God (a study of U.S. History), or with a specific state history course. We chose to use Geography of the Fifty States as part of a full year course, finishing out the year with Illinois State History. This is their suggested schedule for that:
Allow a 30-minute class period per day, 5 days per week. For Geography of the Fifty States, spend 2 days per state (2x50=100 days) and 1 day for each of the 15 Geography Overview Lessons, allowing an extra class day for study before each of the 5 tests. This will give you 120 class days. You may choose to do the state history course at the beginning, the end, or at any point during the course. Whenever you do the state history course, cover one lesson per day. Total for both courses will be 150 days. With the remaining 20-30 days, you may do the state constitution study included in the state history book, do a state history course for another state, do field trips related to your
state, or assign research projects related to your state or any topic covered in the Geography book. A list of expansion suggestions is included in both the state history text and the Geography book.
Each state has a reading assignment and related map-work which includes geographical features such as rivers, mountains, lakes, and major cities. The 50 states and their capitals and locations are also learned (or reviewed, if already learned), along with geographical terms. There are 5 tests and answer keys included in the curriculum.

OUR OPINION:  The content is very good, and it has a lot of great information in it. I feel that JJ learned from it, and it was not a waste of time or money. However, JJ felt it was a bit dry and boring, and he didn't care for all the memorizing of facts, especially the geographical terms. So, I changed things up a bit and decided to use the worksheets from MAPS OF THE UNITED STATES by Emerald Books. These helped him learn more about how to do research and to record information about each state.

When we finished Geography of the Fifty States, we moved on to Illinois State History. Once again, there are several suggestions/ideas for how to use this book, based on age level and interests. Some choose to use a 3-ring binder to make their own state history notebook. However, we chose to use My State Notebook, a pre-formatted scrapbook from Abeka Books. No real reason other than we already had the book, and we liked what we saw. It was easy to use, and there are instructions in the IL State History Master Lesson Plan Book to use along with it that are very helpful.

OUR OPINION:  JJ and I both enjoyed this IL State History course. It is simple to use, and very flexible. JJ learned a lot more about Illinois and, because it was hands-on, I believe it helped him to remember more of the facts. I made him do several quizzes as open-book. Then, he was able to use the quizzes to study for the tests. He had fun learning, and had no problem passing his tests. As for the needed photos, a few are provided in the student text, but most of them we cut out of various tourist/travel guides. We also used some of our own pictures we had taken from around the State.

Now that the book is finished, we have a nice little keepsake to look back on. Here is a quick look at the finished book: