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Cola Geyser Science Experiment

We are wrapping up our last week of Science before our week break with a ton of experiments using this fun book I found on Amazon.

Lilly is always wanting to explode something or making something messy, so this was right up her alley.

Here is the video of them explaining in their own words what is happening. They also imported, edited, and uploaded this video, which I am stoked about. Technology is super important in our house and they had so much fun today they said it felt like they had only been doing school for 2-3 hours, but we actually pulled in a 7 hour day!!!  Which is SUPER RARE around here. Enjoy!

Our year so far…

We started the school year off in July after a 3 week break. The kids were ready to get back into the swing of things and I prefer them to stay on top of what they have been doing, otherwise they tend to forget (don’t we all!) 


A few things we have been doing that I’ll mention is last year we started a point system. They are awarded points for reading or completing their work. Sometimes kids, even adults, need a little extra something to get them excited. So we tried it out. An example: 1000 points for completely their Math for the day. Then when they have enough they turn in those points for things such as a pizza party with their friends or a trip to the ice cream shop. There are different levels. This worked great. 

However! 

Over the past month I’ve seemed to neglect using it. They both have over 100,000 points right now and neither of them seem to be in a hurry to use them up (even though there are some cool things they could do, like a $40 shopping spree, etc). 

So this has been out on the back burner. It worked amazing for about 4 months tho! ūü§ď

We have 5 huge changes this year. A few are to help us gravitate towards independence, a love of learning and unschooling. 

Number 1. 

Teaching Textbooks, finally!!!!

I love our other Math programs, but they require so much time from me and my kids weren’t really digging them. I finally splurged and bought TT4. They both complete a lesson each day. It’s graded for me. It’s engaging and I haven’t heard one complaint about it. It’s been 4 weeks. Thank you Teaching Textbooks!!!!


Number two.

Daily Journals.

I remember having a journal as a kid and I’ve read different articles why they are important to keep, so I went out and bought them each a cute journal (or diary if you will.)

I let them know that this is there’s. I won’t read it unless they ask (they haven’t). There are only 3 rules:

  1. You must write in it each day
  2. You must write out the date 
  3. You must write at least three sentences. 

They really enjoy this time. I do scan through and make sure they are following the ‘rules’ and try my best not to read it. I’m glad we started this. I think it really helps them understand how to get their thoughts on paper, learn to spell the date correctly and to express themselves in a positive manner. 

Number three.

Cursive notebook. 

I also went and bought them each a cute notebook. Turners says ‘I can do anything.’ And Lilly’s says ‘I’m a Rockstar.’

These notebooks are our new cursive books. When I was a kid my mom and I use to write back and forth Ina notebook because there were many time we weren’t hole at the same time and this was a fun way to communicate. 

Everything they write (and me) HAS to be in cursive. I wanted to switch it up this year and make it more natural. Now we write notes each day back and forth. It’s been wonderful. 

Number four. 

Three week session rotation. 

We use a three week on, one week off rotation. 

But I switched it up even more this year. 

We now rotate between Geography, Art and Cooking, History and Writing, and Science. 

It has made life so much easier, more organized, and fun!

We have completed our Geography session: studying South America and are finishing up our Art and Cooking session this week. 


I really feel we get more out of each topic since we are completely focused for three weeks. Then we take a break from it until it comes back around. History is up next and we will focus on SOTW #2, Medievil Times and writing an essay (a first for them). 

For us, we will hit each rotation three times in a ‘school year’ and have a two week review at the end. 

This has been so great! 

I also try to tie them together. For our Art session they have made globes, which they will paint and label the continents (South America/Geography)!


Number five. 

Class books and cover page. 

We have always read class books together and if there is a movie we watch it afterwards. 

What is a little different, is I’m having the kids make a cover page at the end (or you could call it a review page). 

They get a blank white paper and put the title on the top then illustrate and color a scene from the book. They can pick any part they want. They have completed the books and cover papers for Sign of the Beaver and 100 Cupboards so far. We are currently reading BFG for our class book now. I try to get one in each session. We got two books in our first session (1/13) because one was an audiobook we listened to in the car. 

At the end of the year they will have a folder with all their cover sheets to look back on. I think it’s a neat reminder

Until next time!

Teach Your Monster to Read

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I just wanted to share this website because my daughter really enjoys it. I know she is 8, and she doesn’t really need this website (she reads pretty well), but we stumbled across it about two months ago and she likes getting on here almost everyday.

I can hear her laughing and squealing as the game plays out. I would say it’s probably best for ages 8 and under.

Check it out Teach Your Monster to Read

Just finished our first week of school!

Actually, we only had 3 days of school last¬†week, and 3 this¬†week. That’s why we homeschool though, so we can go on trips or take off days when we need to¬†ūüôā We were supposed to start school on Monday last week, but I ended up needing to watch my sister’s two kids, and this¬†week we took¬†a field trip, so it¬†was ¬†another short week. It’s kind of nice starting off this year slow, to get into the groove again. We ended up having a 6 week break (WAY longer than I had planned)!

Here they are, proud to be moving up the ladder and getting more independent. Turner, our 3rd grader.

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Lilly, our 2nd grader.

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Caden, my nephew, also in 2nd grade.

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The kids said they had a ton of fun this week, my daughter even said she liked Math! (Although, I’m not sure why, because we didn’t do anything different, other than have complete one-on-one time, only her and I were at the table at once. Oh, and she loved writing on the window with dry erase markers!)

I really like our morning meeting time that I have implemented with things such as talking about famous quotes, learning a new ASL phrase, setting goals and plans to achieve them, assigning the kids an endeavor (they LOVE this!). We also meditate for 5 minutes, I recently read this interesting article about how good it is for you, which I’ll link to soon.

Another thing we do is have a character trait of the week. They each spell it on the board and we look up the definition in the dictionary, whoever shows that trait the most during the week wins the card and we will count them up at the end of the year to see who has the most with a small prize.

I am really trying to focus on character building, learning through natural ways and great discussions this year. There are so many ways to learn and grow without workbooks.

For History we started where we left off in SOTW Ancient, chapter 17. The kids really liked the story and compared it to The Hunger Games, it sounded just like it too (the people put names in a bowl then drew 7 boys and 7 girls to be sent off to another island with a Minotaur, then a prince ‘volunteers’ to go and kill it, which he does). They had fun working together as a group to build a Lego labyrinth (which Turner then compared to The Maze Runner!)

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We are studying a famous artist each week and this week we focused on Paul Cezanne and his painting, ‘The Blue Vase’. They used oil pastels and drew their own vase. I think they turned out amazing. I really like the look of oil pastels. Lilly has been crazy about them since we scored some for $1 at yard sale, and draws each day.

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For Physical Education we are working on our golf, bowling, and running skill sets.

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We call them skills, so the kids can see the progress they are making, and can see their progression each time. Just going and playing golf is fun, but to work on a skill set, such as putting 3 in a row, or hitting off the tee… they can then see how well¬†all their hard work is paying off.

Actually, I’ve been calling everything a ‘skill’ this year and they love it. Instead of saying let’s do some Math, I say, ‘Hey, let’s work on your factoring skills, or you multiplication skills.’ In Language Arts, right now we are working on our ‘how to write a paragraph skills’. For some reason, it has helped them focus more when we work.

I think a big reason we are starting off strong, is that I have really taken a lot of time to plan and have a goal for everything. There must be a reason we are doing something, otherwise it’s a waste of time. With this mind set, I have been able to see the smiles on their faces, knowing they have accomplished something great.

New School Year 2015-2016

Two 2nd graders, and one 3rd grader this year! Such fun!

I’m am excited to start the year off next week.

We homeschool Mon-Thurs and start around 8am. Last year we started later and ended up not doing quite a few things because of it. Once 1pm rolls around we are all ready to go our separate ways. Our ‘breaks’ are centered around my nephews’ dad’s schedule: when he comes home, we take time off, generally 7-10 days.

Each day the kids complete Math (either Khan Academy or their Miquon books, Turner will finish with Miquon soon and go to Teaching Textbooks). They also have reading (which is usually done before bed), and their ETC books (which I believe they will all finish those this year). Oh, let’s not forget PE too, staying active¬†is a big deal is this house.

Other than that, we are trying a new thing each morning before anything else, and I call it our morning meeting. We basically sit around our awesome new table fr IKEA and learn a new ASL phrase, discuss a famous quote and how it applies to life or what they think about it, discuss any goals they have and a plan to get there, and we are also have group vocabulary using Freerice.com, they really feel like they are helping others out and never complain about learning some new words! Win-win for us! A few others things we do are dictation and some group memory work every now and then.

It may seem super orderly, but it’s relaxed and fun. Nothing is forced or has a time limit.

Things that they will do a few times a week are keyboard practice, Coding (code.org), Art (we are studying one famous artist a week then creating similar art pieces),  History (SOTW), Science (Mystery Science), and Geography (Little Passports USA Edition).

Another new idea we are implementing is Individual Weekly Questions. During our morning meeting, they each decide on a question they want to know the answer to, then present that information to the class on Thursday during the morning meeting. They are responsible for researching the topic. It will be on something they want to know, whether it’s how Legos are made, or how old the trees in our yard are. I will guide them in finding the answers if they need it, but they are on their own during the presentation.

One last thing we have are endeavors. They love them. I basically write down their endeavor on a card and they work on it in their free time until they completed it. Once they have it mastered, we write a completion date on the card and they keep them so we can look back at all their endeavors each year. Endeavors are skill sets I want them to work on tailored just for them: shoes tying, counting on Spanish, writing their address, knowing the states that border us, writing their birthdate, etc. the possibilities are endless.

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Mystery Science – Plant Adventures

We LOVE this free Science curriculum, Mystery Science! This is our first unit with it and I already plan on using the other units as our core Science curriculum. We generally do 1 Mystery a week, and it takes about 2 hours. (We don’t rush and also add things like the flower drawing below).

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The kids really like the videos and it asks the kids to predict what will happen before moving on in the lesson. This really gets the kids thinking and I love the look on their faces when they just discovered something new.

So far we have finished Plant Adventures Mysteries 1-4.

Mystery #1 talked about the different ways seeds can travel. The activity included making our own paper versions of seeds and dropping them to see if the made it out of the Zone of Darkness. The glider seed worked the best and the kids, for some reason, love the ‘zone of darkness’. We also went outside on a nature walk and they pointed out all the different seeds they found (this is still going on today….even when we were at Silver Dollar City they would run up to tell me they found another seed)!

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Mystery #2 talked about how plants don’t really eat dirt, and only use the minerals in the soil. They grew their own radish seeds without dirt (hydroculture). I also had them draw and label a flower.

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Mystery #3 got my kids excited because they talked about the worlds tallest trees, and when I told them we plan on visiting them someday they¬†were pretty¬†stoked. ¬†I meant to have them do a similar tree drawing and label its parts, but we haven’t got to it yet; however, they really enjoyed the ‘extra’ videos they had after the lesson. They thought it was so cool how you can watch plants follow the light.

Mystery #4  They learned that not all plants need a ton of water or sunlight to survive. They knew most of this, but they really enjoyed the videos. They were surprised at how big Saguaro cacti are too! We did the worksheet and drew our own cacti with the type of animals that use it for shelter.

Mystery #5 Coming soon… we are working on it this week!

Trying out some new stuff: Mystery Science, Life of Fred

I came across this free curriculum¬†for Science a little while back, and never got around to implementing it into our schedule; however we are going to start using it and I am pretty excited.¬†¬†All the units aren’t up yet, but they add new ones throughout the year. We are starting Plant Adventures tomorrow. I¬†know we are going to love Mystery Science because it has videos along with fun activities that get you interested and thinking.

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I switched how we go about our day….. again.

The kids now have complete one-on-one time with me for Math and Language Arts. This has been HUGE! They are learning so much better, and we are using our time wiser. We still do our Science/History/Geography/Class Book together.

Before they had worked on their Math/LA at the same time, but it was too distracting and frustrating trying to teach 3 kids, 3 different things at the same time. Caden is an early riser, so he does his work first, then Turner wakes up, and Lilly is last. Before we just seemed to hangout until they were all awake or force them to wake up before they were ready. Now everyone is much happier in the mornings.

Life of Fred.¬†After reading so many positive things about this program I thought we would give it a try. I bought the first 4 books (which isn’t cheap). We read 2 chapters a day before our ‘Math’ and got through the first 2 books. I didn’t like it, and I polled the kids and they weren’t fans either. I think it is somewhat useful, but my kids really didn’t take to the unbelievable storyline and main character Fred. I guess they are more realist. They did learn about deciduous trees and reading a clock really well, but for the price it’s not worth it to us to continue to use them. I wonder if they would like them as they got older and made Math more enjoyable… not sure. I would like to read though one of the high school books someday.

Another new thing we started was more spelling and vocabulary work online with Spelling City. ¬†It’s free and I like that the kids are learning to spell better with it. They seem to enjoy it and only use it 1-2 times a week.

The kids all got new Cursive books, and will be working on those most days.

Another new thing we are trying is Time 4 Learning online. It’s not free, and I’m not sure I will like it, but the kids really like to watch videos and learn that way, so I thought we should give it a try. I like how you can move up grade levels (or down) if you need to. Turner is set on 1-2 grade levels ahead on most subjects. UPDATE!

We tried it for one month. The kids liked the Science and History videos for the most part. The videos and voices are too ‘childish’ for my kids and they didn’t like them, especially the Language Arts. I decided to cancel my subscription. I felt like they weren’t learning enough to justify spending $35 a month. The curriculum was either too ‘childish’ or jumped up and expected them to be able to read paragraphs. It just didn’t seem put together that well.

Beginning of Spring

Lilly wanted to learn about where water comes from this week, so we talked about The Water Cycle. They watched videos, colored a picture, and narrated back the process.  Caden actually had a great grasp on the process and used the terms evaporation and precipitation perfectly.

We also did a tornado in a bottle experiment, which turned out pretty well, and we ‘Made a Rain Cloud’. It was alright, but didn’t turn out as great as others that I’ve seen posted (I made have used too much shaving cream).

The kids really like the Popular Mechanic for Kids shows that are free on Amazon, so I have been letting them watch one while I finished getting ready in the mornings.

Life of Fred is going pretty good. I’m not sure if I really like it yet. Turner and Lilly seem to think it’s funny sometimes, but Caden isn’t a huge fan. Although I really think he is getting the concept of telling time on the clock with the book. We will be finished with the Apple Book next week sometime. We are doing 2 chapters a day.

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Incorporating drawing into school

My daughter, who is 7, can sit down to draw and create all day and be perfectly content. I generally find her in her room, with the music blaring, creating something. I love watching her do this, however, my son is another story. He never thinks or cares about being creative or working on drawing technique.

So I decided to start putting drawing at the forefront of our school time. I think it’s so important to have something you enjoy and you can get better at. I always loved to draw as a child, and it really gave me an outlet as a child, so I want that for them also.

They draw 2-3 times a week following their favorite online tutorials right now. I encourage them to not erase as much as possible, this way they slow down, hit pause, and really think before they draw.

My son has really enjoyed this over the last 2 weeks and we will continue with it.

The tutorials are 5-10 minutes long.

To be successful we have done the following:

1. Let them pick the tutorial

2. Encourage and remind them to hit pause as many times as they need, take your time and it will look fantastic.

3. They sit in a completely other room, one at a time. No distractions. Only them and their drawing. 

4. They think about what they could do differently next time to make it even better. 

5. Go over the different types of lines all drawings are made up of: horizontal, vertical, diagonal, and curved. They can then decide which one they need to use to draw a specific part.

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Mastering Math – Going up a Grade Level

I’m going to introduce you to two Math programs we use, the only two. The two that has helped my kids progress quicker than I thought they would.

Around here, we don’t grade. We work until Mastery. Which is one reason why I love Khan Academy. Here is another post I did about Khan.

They make sure your kids know what they’re doing before moving them forward.

They test them through a Mastery Challenge each day.

They give real life examples.

Our kids are able to work at their own pace, whether that’s fast or slow.

There are videos explaining how problems are done, if you need them.

I could keep listing reason why I (we) love Khan, but I’ll spare you the giant blog post.

So I’m going to brag a little bit about my kids… I mean I am a parent, a proud parent, and I want to share with you what has helped my (just turned) 8 year old son.

Turner has always been good at Math, but Khan has helped him progress a little quicker.

Last week, he finished K-2. Mastered it. Turner just started 2nd grade (in July).

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Another thing about Khan, during Mastery Challenges, they sometimes put upper level problems, you can do those or click ‘I have not learned that yet.’ That is how he is already at 40% completed with 3rd grade right now.

2014-09-25At his pace, he’s pretty confident he will be finished with 3rd grade before he is even in 3rd grade.

Another Math curriculum that I want to mention, because I really feel like it’s a major reason why he and my daughter are advancing and understanding harder problems sooner is Miquon Math. Read about why we love it here.

One thing it doesn’t have though is word problems. That’s why Khan is a nice balance.

At first, Miquon is a little hard to understand and get the hang of, but we absolutely love it now. They introduce concepts such as Multiplying and Division by the end of book 1, and the end of book 2 introduces factoring. (both 1st grade level)

Here is a photo of Turner being introduced to factoring last week, end of Miquon Red Book.

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Now I’m not trying to get my kids to college by 12 or anything, but I do want them to be challenged and have fun with Math.

We see no reason to hold them back. If they are ready for bigger things, we are ready to help them.

If my kids need 1st grade writing and 3rd grade Math, that’s fine with me. I’ll do it. I’ll help them.

I’ll make sure they are not behind, but I will not close any doors incase they want to move forward.

Working year round has so many benefits, and I can see that clearly when I look at how far our kids progress and retain information.

Learning is a marathon that never truly ends. I want my kids to pace themselves, and enjoy the steps along the way.