Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Homeschool Summer Fun Kit

I still haven't finished my homeschool planning for next year, but I have switched gears for a bit.   The weather has been hot and summery and we are wrapping up our school year. So it's time to make some fun summer plans!

I love making a giant list of things I want to do with the kids over the summer. However... I have to reign myself in a bit, because our summer is super busy with sports. We don't have a lot of lazy summer days around here anymore. And we don't have much time to do awesome summer field trips, as much as I'd like to. So, my kit is focused on things we can do at home.  I had so much fun putting this together!

Here's what I am going to include:

 Big bubbles ~ Because these just look really, really cool....

Prodigy Math ~ I signed Rose up for a free account and she adores it! I wanted an easy, painless way for her to review math over the summer and this math-masquerading-as-video-game is right up her alley. James will get an account just as soon as he finishes his math. My older two will continue to work on their Teaching Textbooks levels throughout the summer.

Match a Pair of Birds ~ My kids still love memory games, but our original memory game is getting too well-loved. All the various dings and stains make it a bit easy to "remember" where the cards are. A new challenge is in order.

Food Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of Our Edible World ~ My kids loved talking food and cooking food, so I think this will be a popular read.

I chose a few mind-challenging games too, namely....Set, Spot It, and Mastermind.

State birds & flowers puzzle ~ I try to get a new 1000 piece puzzle each summer. We keep one set up on the sunporch for anyone to work on when the urge strikes. I often choose one that sneaks some learning in, because I'm like that. I especially love the puzzles made by White Mountain because they have gorgeous detail.

Meatless Cookbook ~ My girls want to eat mostly vegetarian - for the summer at least.  A new cookbook to inspire us all is in order, but I have found that my kids really only enjoy reading cookbooks with tons of pictures. Hopefully this one will fit the bill. 

Klutz Lego Chain Reactions Kit ~ We have so many Legos in our house! But my kids seem to be losing interest in them lately. I am hoping this book/kit combo will reignite that building spark. 

Liberty Kids ~ I have heard so much about this series over the years, but for some reason we've never watched it. Next year, Rose and I are going to be reading though BookShark's American History, so I thought this would be a fun little intro for us.

 Naturally, we have other resources and things lying around for the kids to do this summer. But sometimes it is just nice to bring in a new batch of things to inspire everyone. I definitely could have added more to this list, but I wanted to keep it (fairly) inexpensive. In addition to all of the above, there will be lots of books. We have had a hard time making it to the library this school year, but summer will be easier in that regard. I am planning to put together a list of books I want to have on hand for the kids to read over the summer, and that list will hopefully be the topic of an upcoming post.

  Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Seventh Grade Homeschool Plans

James will be in seventh grade next year! Here is my tentative plan for him.

Our Seventh Grade Homeschool Plans


History & Literature 

Language Arts

Foreign Language

Art, music, critical thinking, and science will be group subjects this year and I will post separately about them as I figure them out. If you want to see my previously posted plans for my rising fourth grader they are here. Now onto my rising ninth grader!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Our Ireland Trip Report

We recently returned from a ten day trip to Ireland ~ hence the rather long silence on the blog! Here's a little photo tour from our trip, which was just fabulous - Ireland is a beautiful country and there is so much to see that I fear we only scratched the surface.

A few notes: We decided to divide our nine night trip into three parts. We stayed four nights in the Midlands region, three nights near the Ring of Kerry, and the last two nights near the Cliffs of Moher. We have been using VRBO for several years now for our vacation accommodations and have yet to be disappointed in the homes we've stayed in.  Hotel rooms are too expensive (and too small) for us with four kids, so vacation home rentals have been the way to go! We can also cook some of our own meals, which is a nice bonus. The first few nights we kept things simple by eating out for lunch and then having "tea" for dinner. Our kids are foodies, and they love going to the local grocery store wherever we are traveling just to see what they have that is different. We picked up some bread, Irish butter and cheese, local jam, and local fruit and had that with our tea.

 My basic plan for this trip was to have one major activity or outing each day, with the rest of the day for meals, travel, and hanging out at "home".

First stop: Clonmacnoise, the ruins of a monastery on the banks of the River Shannon. It was founded in 544! This is a gorgeous site, but we only did a quick tour since it was our first day and everyone was pretty exhausted.

Second Stop: the Belvedere House ~  a large estate house built in 1740 for the First Earl of Belvedere. Where things get  interesting is that this particular guy had his wife locked up for many years because she cheated on him with his brother. He was also jealous of another brother who built a nearby estate, so he had a faux castle ruin erected in an attempt to block out the view. There are several other ornamental ruins or "follies" spread throughout the grounds of the house. It was a misty afternoon and we had the place pretty much to ourselves. We did a large loop around the property and woodlands and everyone tried the zipline before heading back home.

Third Stop:  Newgrange ~ a 5000 year old passage tomb built by Stone Age farmers. We did a tour of both that passage tomb site and Knowth. First we had to head to the visitor's center. We arrived an hour after opening and only had to wait about 45 minutes for our first tour. We used that time to eat lunch in the cafe, which was so-so. Then we headed out, first to Knowth and then to Newgrange. The tour guides were awesome. I don't usually love guided tours, but they were a necessity to see these sites at all and I am glad we did them. In retrospect, we could have just done Newgrange and had a fine time, but I don't regret taking the time to tour both. The views from the mounds were incredible! We were allowed to head into Newgrange with our tour guide, but we could not photograph inside. Going into the tomb was an awesome, if a bit claustrophobic, experience. 

Fourth Stop: We spent our fourth day touring Trim Castle. We had a choice of several castles in the area to visit, but I thought Trim would be nice for the kids because you are allowed to go inside on a guided tour and climb up into the keep.

I definitely recommend the guided tour at Trim - the guides are very enthusiastic and really bring everything you are seeing around you to life. Rose and I had recently read Castle Diary for BookShark 2 and it was fun to actually see and hear about some of the castle features we'd read about - we actually knew what a gong farmer was before our guide explained it!

Fifth Stop: The Rock of Cashel ~ we made a quick stop here on our way down to the Ring of Kerry area. We did a self-guided tour of the Rock and walked over to the ruins of Hore Abbey, across the road. Both were really fun to explore on our own, but if we had more time we would have done the guided tour of Cashel.

Sixth Stop: We spent a  day driving around the Skellig Ring and Ring of Kerry area. There were beaches to explore, ruins to clamber around in, cows and lambs to photograph, and a great chocolate factory. We were even able to get a glimpse of Skellig Michael, where part of The Force Awakens was filmed. I had originally debated taking the boat tour out to the island, but chickened out after hearing how rough it was. I am quite prone to seasickness. Another time maybe!

Seventh Stop: Killarney National Park ~ Here we visited Ross Castle and Muckross House (just looking at the outside of the castle and touring the gardens of Muckross). We also walked to the ruins of Muckross Abbey and had fun exploring all the nooks and crannies there. 

Eight Stop: Cliffs of Moher ~ We were fortunate to rent a home for our last two nights with an absolutely fabulous view right on the Cliffs of Moher. I think seeing the Cliffs was my favorite part of the trip. We could walk right down to them and they are absolutely spectacular. On our last night we saw several puffins, which was a wonderful end to our trip. 

Ninth Stop: The Burren ~ What a neat place! We parked far from the tour bus crowds and spent an hour or two clambering over the rocks and admiring all the gorgeous wildflowers. Not too mention the ocean! We had quite a bit of rain on our trip, which we expected, but we had long clear patches each day and on the whole we were quite happy with the weather. 

And the next day we went home, but we hope to go back one day. Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Lately ~ a very brief catchup!

I haven't posted in ages, but with good reason. We are working hard to finish up our school year, my work-at-home job has been a bit more demanding, and most exciting, we just returned from a trip to Ireland!

The Cliffs of Moher ~ so gorgeous!!

We are back now and settling back into our routine, which will hopefully allow time for a proper blog post soon. I am still planning for next school year, so posts on that are in the works. Also, I am putting together an Ireland trip report with lots of pictures, which will most likely be all scenery, no people....  I still haven't gotten over my inhibition about posting lots of pictures of my kids online.   I do want to mention, though, that my blog readers are more than welcome to follow me on Instagram  to catch up on some of our daily doings. Right now it's a private account which makes me happy, but the link is over in the right sidebar.  I love Instagram, but for whatever reason practically no one in my circle uses it, hence my sadly low number of followers and people to follow! Everyone I know in real-life tends to be all about Facebook, but I am a big Instagram fan. And I would absolutely love to connect with more homeschool moms this way!

Okay, signing off to get the kids to bed, we are all still a bit jet-lagged, though one nice side effect is that everyone has been waking up nice and early! Tomorrow we are back to the books, which I suspect may cause a few moans and groans. Wish me luck;)

Till next time!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Rowing When I Was Young in the Mountains {FIAR}

Rose and I have finished all of the Five in a Row books I wanted to cover with her from volume two (you can see all of our rows to date here).  I chose to skip several titles from this volume for various reasons, usually (but not always) because the book was out of print and/or not available to buy.  We will not be rowing Wee Gillis; They Were Strong and Good; Babar; Down Down the Mountain; Mr. Gumpy's Motor Car; Gramma's Walk; or Follow the Drinking Gourd.

Now, I am a 'finisher' so it pains me not to do every single book, but Rose is at the upper age range for FIAR right now and that factors into my decision, too.  We will just focus on covering the titles I want to do from volume three, rather than worrying about chasing down every last book. I have about six more books I want to do from volume three, which we have already begun.

Okay, on to our row of When I was Young in the Mountains!

Here's what we did!

*Social Studies*

  • We discussed the setting for this book ~ Appalachia~ and I showed Rose the general area on the map.
  • This story features a traveling photographer. We talked about what that meant and why people needed them then and not so much  now. And I tried very hard not to cringe at this picture of the kids with a giant dead snake around their necks, because I don't want to pass my totally unreasonable fear of snakes to Rose!
  • We looked for old-fashioned details in the illustrations...such as the outhouse behind Grandma's house and the water pump the children use. 

*Language Arts*

  • I asked Rose to identify the repeating phrase that runs though the book...hint it's the title! We talked about how this choice really helps tie the whole story together.
  • We discussed the theme of the book - which the manual tells us is contentment: being happy with just having enough. The lives of the children portrayed in this story are certainly a great deal simpler than our own lives!


  • In the illustration with the water pump below, the artist chose to illustrate the sky with just a little bit of color. We discussed that technique, which we agreed was a pretty awesome and simple way to get your point across. 

  • One illustration shows Grandma pouring milk from a pitcher and we talked about how the artist drew the milk - the stream of milk is curved. I had her pour some water from a pitcher to a mug to see the effect for herself. 
  • Using the notes in the manual to start us off, we discussed some of the illustrations in greater depth. We talked about how the artist chose to portray the faces of the characters very simply, and how a limited palette of colors is used throughout. There is a wonderful double-page illustration of the general store, and we made a giant list of all of the items we could see for sale at the store. We also took some time to admire the simplicity of the dedication page and how it really sums up the simple essence of this story. 

  • Because there is a scale featured in the general store illustration, we did a quick review of pounds and ounces. Then, I had her choose several items to weigh. She chose her owl from our row of Owl Moon

  • There was a suggestion to make up math problems using the scenario of the children filling buckets at the well. So I asked if they each filled a pail, how many trips would they need to take to get six buckets, and similar problems. She also made a bar graph showing the types of animals in the story and how many times they show up in the illustrations. 

I figured it would be snakes, since they seemed to be everywhere, but actually chickens won!


  • I read Rose the information about snakes from the manual and then she made a snake egg. The idea is to soak an egg in vinegar for a few days until the shell dissolves. But two days later I was checking it and somehow managed to break the shell ~ experiment fail!

  • As suggested in the manual, we used the illustration of the family's dinner to discuss the four food groups. Then, we fixed the cornbread recipe from the FIAR cookbook and had it with pinto beans for lunch. 
And that wraps up our row of When I Was Young in the Mountains! Stay tuned for our first FIAR volume three selection!