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!

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:

Thursday, May 17, 2018

MAY 2018 FIELD TRIP: Cahokia Mounds

ILLINOIS HISTORY has been one of JJ's subjects this year. A few weeks ago, he began studying about the early inhabitants of Illinois - the Mississippians from CAHOKIA MOUNDS.  So, we decided to schedule a field trip, and ended up visiting over Mother's Day weekend. 

EL and JJ at Cahokia Mounds.

We arrived just in time that afternoon to join a free, guided, walking tour. My mom is in this photo with the kids, waiting for the tour to begin. 

Here we are on the walking tour, learning about the different types of mounds on the grounds. There are 3 different types:  Platform, Ridge-top, and Conical.

This was one of the mounds we passed on the walking tour. I believe it is a ridge-top mound, which was probably used as either an area landmark or a burial ground. By this point in the tour, we had  been outside for about 10 minutes and realized how hot it was getting (near 90 degrees!). My mom and I could not handle the heat, so we exited the tour and all went back to the air conditioned Interpretive Center.
One of the murals inside the museum shows what the village might have looked like.

After watching a short theatrical presentation about the village, we explored the museum and saw life-sized models of the natives and their surroundings.

A view of some of the foods they ate. Their diet consisted of squash, corn, seeds and beans, berries, wild game and fish.

Here is one of the recipes displayed which the natives probably ate.

Some of the arrow heads that were found on the grounds.

JJ looking at another mural.

David is watching a short video about Wood henge, which was a large en-circled area used to keep track of the seasons.
Family photo in the museum.

I did not take this photo, but found it on Wikipedia. This is Monk's Mound, a massive platform mound, most likely where the high chief lived. It is the largest man-made earthen mound north of Mexico. This is the only mound at Cahokia Mounds that is allowed to be climbed. As you can see, there are stairs leading all the way to the top. JJ really wanted to make this climb, however, it was near 94 degrees by then! So, we decided we would return in the Fall, when the temperatures are cooler, and make the climb then.

Cahokia Mounds is a free (donation-based) historical landmark in Collinsville, IL. If you get a chance to go, it is an interesting trip. Just don't go on the walking tour when it is in the 90's, unless you bring lots of water and are accustomed to high temperatures. 

Saturday, April 7, 2018

APRIL 2018 FIELD TRIP: Lincoln Log Cabin Live-in Program

Yesterday was the 3rd year JJ participated in a "live-in" program with our homeschool group at LINCOLN LOG CABIN STATE HISTORIC SITE. This was his last year to participate due to aging out, but he has really enjoyed this program. The students are dressed in period clothing and are "transported back in time" to the year 1845. The girls wear dresses and aprons while the boys put on work shirts. They spend a couple of hours performing duties and chores that were typical on an 1840s farm.

Here is where the students start out. They are told the rules, and then dressed in their costumes. Several families had to cancel this time, so there were only 4 boys and (I think) 9 girls. In previous years, we have had up to 15 or more in each group.

The boys pushed a wagon over to the stable to load dirty straw onto. This is a working farm with real animals, so the chores are real, also.

Here are two of the boys using pitchforks to load the straw. JJ is on the right.

After the straw was loaded, they pushed the load down the sidewalk and took it to a place to dump it.

Another chore for the boys was carrying wood from the wood shed to the wood box inside the cabin. The boys were also allowed to saw wood using a two-man saw, but I didn't get a picture of that chore.

Here is JJ carrying wood into the cabin where the girls have a fire going and are working in the kitchen. 

The girls were nice and warm inside the cabin, making Johnny Cake for us all to try. EL was asked if she wanted to participate, and she said no, but we stood in cabin for awhile to watch what they were doing. She's the one in the hat.

The boys are taking turns dipping candles. The girls did this also. When they were finished, each student was allowed to take home one candle as a souvenir.

JJ and a friend are carrying a heavy bucket of spikes, which were needed for the next chore of splitting a log.

The boys are lined up and taking turns hitting the spike with a sledge hammer.

JJ is taking his turn with the sledge hammer. This was his favorite chore.

It was a chilly day, but at least the sun was shining. JJ's arm muscles were sore the next day, but he was happy to have taken part.