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....

Saturday, September 30, 2017

SEPTEMBER 2017 FIELD TRIP: Lost Creek Orchards

On Wednesday this past week, we took our first Fall field trip (not including the total eclipse trip we took on our first day of school). We went to Lost Creek Orchards for the 5th year in a row (and our 6th time in total). By now, we know this orchard really well, and it is actually more of a tradition for us than a learning experience. We enjoy the familiarity of this trip, the laid back tour, and also the social time with others in the group.  So, even though JJ is in High School now, we will continue going on these trips as long as we are able, and as long as he still has an interest in going.

JJ chatting with friends before the tour

EL posed for a nice picture by some pumpkins

Walking through the corn maze

Several boys taking a break after walking through the orchard

Heading down the hill back to the lodge

EL is pretty as a peach!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

A [Hopefully Final] Change in Math Curriculum

Over the years, we have used several different Math programs for JJ. He is one of the "lucky" kiddos who has always struggled with Math, so we have had some difficulty finding which curriculum works best for him. Some of our choices have included:

All of these curriculum have pros and cons. They all worked well for awhile and helped JJ to learn, and to advance in his math skills. However, none of them really helped explain the math process to him in a way that he could understand. I have noticed I have been able to do most of his math problems on my own and get the correct answers, however, explaining HOW to do them in a way that HE will understand has been more difficult.

At the beginning of last school year (2016), we were using ACE paces for his Math. He was doing well with it for the most part but, eventually, hit a brick wall. So, we started using Math Antics to help explain different concepts, and found it to be very helpful at times. But, Math Antics isn't a full math curriculum. So, I once again, began the search for a different curriculum, one that is more visual like the Math Antics videos. I had heard about Teaching Textbooks from so many people and, I don't know why, but I never really wanted to go that route. I'm guessing the price was a bit of a deterrent. Plus, I just didn't have any experience with it and was used to using a workbook approach. But, I asked around in my homeschool circles to see if anyone was ready to sell the level 7 CD's, and I found a good deal on a used set. (One thing nice about Teaching Textbooks is that, even if you buy the curricula used, you can call the company and they will gladly give you an access code to be able to use it on your own computer.)

So, at the start of second semester last year, shortly after Christmas break, we started using TEACHING TEXTBOOKS. It still hasn't been without some difficulty. However, it has helped greatly to explain HOW to do the math problems. JJ went from making C's (and sometimes lower) with ACE paces, to making A's and B's with Teaching Textbooks. Plus, it is self-grading, which makes it a lot easier on me, too. Success!

So, hopefully, we will be able to continue with Teaching Textbooks throughout the rest of JJ's school years, although I am not opposed to supplementing with other curriculum if needed. I don't anticipate him getting into the higher levels of math before finishing High School (Algebra 2, Pre-Calculus, Trigonometry, etc.) but that's okay! He isn't interested in a career that will need those higher levels of math. So, we will have him continue to work at his level, and move on at his own pace. That is the beauty of individualized home education.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Back to School 2017: The Beginning of JJ's Freshman Year

Our first day of school this year was Monday, August 21st. We took a field trip with some friends of ours to Southern IL to see the 2017 Solar Eclipse. Totality only lasted a couple of minutes, but it was an incredible sight to see! The pictures do not even come close to showing what it was really like.

Then, on Tuesday, we started easing back into our book work. Since EL has graduated, we only have JJ to do official school with this year, although EL is still doing some light schoolwork to help keep her mind active.

JJ is now a High School Freshman!

We started our day on Tuesday with Toaster Strudels for breakfast, one of our favorite treats.

Then, I had the kids write "Thank you" notes for the gifts they received for graduation. I also had JJ write a short field trip report from Monday's trip to see the eclipse.

The next two days (Wednesday and Thursday), we added Spelling, Grammar, and Spanish. Then, next week, we will add a couple more subjects.

We are using an eclectic mix of different curriculum for JJ this year, which includes the following:

I will try to update as we progress and let you know how things are going with these options.

Keep us in your prayers, and have a great school year!

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!