Tag Archives: education


Middle school scheduling seems to change daily sometimes. It can be so tiring. But, changing we are. This time, we have put a ton of thought into what we are going to try. Additionally, we have put some parameters in place for helping ensure that the schedule is followed. And, third, we gave options to the middle schooler and took her answers very seriously. So, here is what we are doing for her this year.Miss E scheduleThis is where we are starting and we have acknowledged that some students work well with only positive reinforcement. Some need the possibility of negative consequences to do what is required. We have chosen a couple of possible consequences for the girls if they are not ready to start school on time. I am not looking forward to having to enforce this but we are prepared just in case the situation arises.

Since we discussed options for this schedule prior to its writing, we do not foresee issues. If there are some, we will change her to what is going to happen with her sisters. Their schedules are still set with a start time and have noted the days and times that we have scheduled activities, such as dance or Art Center classes. But, the big change is that Miss L and Miss J will be working with checklists. This will be the concept of “get started, work hard, and get done.” Check things off as you go and all will be good. Here are their schedules.

I am sure there will be days when this just won’t work but that is the beauty of home education. We can change things to help them work so that the girls are getting what they need, rather than what fits the majority.

I always enjoy looking at other families’ schedules. Please share them with me if you have a post written about what you are doing.

At Home.


Favorites: curriculum


That word is quite loaded, isn’t it?

What does that actually mean? Well, if you look it up, it means “preferred before all others of the same kind.” So when we are talking about curriculum, it means what is our preferred curriculum.

Still, that is pretty loaded. Do I go with what I prefer and like? Or the giggly girls? And which giggly girl? For which subject?

Miss J – age 7

Favorite subject: Math

Miss L – age 10

Favorite subject: English (specially cursive and poetry)

Miss E – age 12

Favorite subject: art


Horizons math cover


For math, we are using Horizons for all three of the girls. It is working well and it has taken us a while to get to this point. Miss J really enjoys math and will ask to do more than one lesson each day. She enjoys math games and has fun with all things numbers. We also enjoy using the free games from Sheppard Software and they have some pretty challenging math games.


For English, we are very eclectic. It also kind of depends on what you determine English to be. If it is Writers In Residenceparsing sentences, we don’t do that. If it writing, Miss L has been using Writers in Residence. She still is enjoying that and I think it is still a very good curriculum. For cursive, we have used a couple of different things (see New American Cursive) but really, once she knew her letter formations it was just a matter of encouraging her to put it to use every day. She really enjoys working on making it beautiful now. If you are looking for literature, we are using NotebookingPages.com. This opens up the critical thinking options and gives each child the opportunity to give her own take on the story or passage we are reading. We have researched a bundle of different book lists and ask the girls to read some specific books but overall, their literature comes from unit studies we are working on. Poetry? Well, Miss L really meant writing poetry. She doesn’t mind memorizing poetry, which we are doing, but she just enjoys the flexibility and freedom of creating her own poetry.

mobileMiss E? Well, she would rather not have to do school at all. So, she has absolutely no favorites. She really seems to enjoy art and we do that locally with The Art Center of Waco. They do a weekly artist study during the school year and we love attending that. We tend to try to do some additional study of that artist during the week and we have learned a lot of techniques with that. (See three posts I have shared about the Art Center: Matisse, Art Camp, and Rendon/Chagall.) We have also used Artistic Pursuits several times and we do keep that available for picking up a lesson here and there. (See reviews on the grade levels and on Construct.) Additionally, we enjoy using the art lessons from HodgePodge. Quick and easy yet applicable to many different studies we are doing.


My favorites? History. I really enjoy studying history. We do that a number of ways, much of which is literature based. We read and study a number of non-fiction books for each topic we cover and so far, we have chosen topics based on interests from the girls. Will that continue? I don’t know. With Miss E in 7th grade this year, we probably need to focus on some more specific topics so this area is up for debate at the moment. Hopefully, I will have this all parsed out in the next couple of weeks.

We will jump back into full time school at the beginning of August so I guess I’d better get moving on those plans.

At Home.

Favorite Curriculum 2016
I am sharing these somewhat random thoughts as part of the TOS Review Crew Round Up of Favorite Curriculum Choices. Looking for something in particular? Head over to the lineup and see what others have shared. (This goes live on Friday, July 22, at 8 EST so if you click over there ahead of that time, you might get an error. Come back and visit after the link goes live!)








Making gifts – Middle School Monday

Making Gifts

One thing that I love about the process of home education is that so much falls under the heading of education. We can do something in the evening and it will fall under schooling. Take, for example, making dinner and/or cleaning it up. All part of what a home economics class would be. So is sewing. But sewing also includes design, textiles, and the actual construction of the product. That was what we did today. And, it was a project for a baby shower. How perfect! Learn and then bless someone else.

All of us did some sewing for the baby shower but I am going to start with Miss E, since she is the middle schooler AND she did the project all on her own with only a little bit of input here and there or instruction when something didn’t happen quite like she expected. Her project was a personalized, light-weight baby blanket with a decorative border.Making gifts Miss E with blanket

Making gifts by Miss E


She did a fancy zigzag stitch on the top of the blanket for hemming the edges. Then, she decided where she wanted the name, positioned the fabric, programmed the machine, and made sure it went right. It came out so sweet. I just know that it will be loved!



Making gifts by Miss L



Miss L decided that she wanted to make some baby washcloths. So she picked a super soft flannel and planned them double sided. She stitched the edges and then turned the square right side out. After pinning the opening closed, she then top stitched around the edges of the entire piece. They came out real cute! This baby is gonna enjoy the soft washcloths.

Making gifts by Miss J






Miss J made a burp cloth for the baby. She chose a soft flannel, as well, and added a ribbon embellishment to it. She then sewed the piece with the right sides together, turning it out and topstitching it to close and finish the piece. It came out just like she wanted it to, she says.




So, we are ready for the baby shower now. A life of education that can couple with service or blessing others is definitely one that I hope the girls learn. And we are certainly on our way.

At Home.

Reading Aloud – Middle School Monday

Do you read aloud to your children or family? Our family absolutely adores read-alouds. We have at least one going at all times and it is not at all unusual for us to have three or four going. I have one of my choice going, At Home Dad has one going most of the time, and we often have one or more going to school purposes. (Right now it is just one: Little Men by Louisa May Alcott but when At Home Dad’s school gets over, he’ll take up either the final Great Brain book or a new Half Magic sequel that he found last week.)

It may seem crazy to some people to be reading out loud to children who are completely capable of reading for themselves. It isn’t. The research is more than compelling about the benefits of read out loud. But, more than that, it is great family bonding time. It brings us together, gives us a lot more to discuss, brings new words and ideas into our language and thoughts, and so much more.

Reading Aloud

I am currently reading The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. It is not the first time I have read it but it just as fascinating this time through as it was the last time. Mr. Trelease goes through a bundle of research on the benefits of reading aloud. He also gives a large amount of anecdotal research and background. These are a joy to read as they encourage and support our choices and understanding in this area.

The second half of the book is a treasury of titles and short summaries of books that are good read alouds. I plan to go through these and mark the ones we have done, as well as the ones we want to do. I have looked through this book before, but it was a loaner from the library so I could not mark in it. This time around, I bought my own copy so I can mark it up as I wish to. It was not too expensive at a big-box book store and I am so glad that I have my own copy. This is one I think is a “must-have” for homeschoolers and parents who want to do the right things by their children. I am actually considering making it a baby-shower present.

I encourage you to read it and to take up reading aloud to your children. Everyone will benefit.

At Home.

5 Days of Tips: Follow that Rabbit Trail

Follow That Rabbit TrailDo you follow rabbit trails easily? Do you know what I mean by rabbit trails? What I mean is when something you are studying creates a secondary area of interest to you or your children. Do you follow that interest and learn more about that?

Yea. We do. And that is why it takes us so long to complete studies sometimes. We have been following a rabbit trail for a couple of days now related to a music study we are doing. We have been studying Schubert from the Music Appreciation: Book 1 for the Elementary Grades by Zeezok. (Review is now up. – 5/9/16) It mentioned that he enjoyed playing the hackbrett, or piano. But in our workbook, it was noted that a hackbrett is not actually a piano but a hammered string instrument, similar to a hammered dulcimer.

hammered dulcimer played

We own a hammered dulcimer so the girls asked if we could get it out. So, out it came. We have played a few songs. The girls have played some on it. We have sung along to it and talked about how the notes are produced on it.

hammered dulcimerWe have also done a bit of online research about the hackbrett, finding out how it is different from a hammered dulcimer. What we have found is really interesting.

  • It is a traditional Austrian instrument.
  • Each pitch has 3 or 4 strings.
  • The strings are struck with a small mallet, called a hammer.
  • It is nothing like a piano, except for the fact that a hammer hits a string.

Add in a few random tips like Austria is the country where the Sound Of Music takes place, where it is in relation to Germany and the Netherlands, and other composers who lived there and we had a lot of information flying around as we ran down that rabbit trail.

We have also looked up some links in YouTube of folks playing the hackbrett. These two have been my favorite.

Video 1 – man giving demonstration of hackbrett; lots of technique in his playing

Video 2 – girl playing hackbrett; gives great view of strings and bridges at the beginning

This has been a fun rabbit trail and taught us things we didn’t know.

Don’t be afraid to follow those rabbit trails that present themselves. You might learn something you didn’t know and your children will learn that it is okay to follow those ideas when they pop up. That is how some of the most amazing inventions come about – someone followed an idea.

Here’s to the rabbit trails that come up in your education!

At Home.


Past posts in this series:
Change is Good?
Make Time
Structure vs Flexibility


5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents
Looking for more great ideas and tips? Check out other Review Crew members who are sharing tips all week long. Today, I encourage you to go visit these friends:
Jeniffer @ Thou Shall Not Whine
Jennifer @ A Peace of Mind
Jennifer @ Faithful Homestead
Joelle @ homeschooling for His Glory
Joesette @ Learning Curve
Kari @ Random Acts of Boyhood
Katie @ Katie’s Daily Life
Kemi @ Homemaking Organized
Kim @ Homestead Acres
Kylie @ Our Worldwide Classroom




5 Days of Homeschool Tips: Change is Good?

change is good

I don’t like change. I like to know what’s coming and how to maneuver through it. I like to have a schedule. I like to know what is expected of me.

BUT . . .

I like to have the flexibility to go with the flow and to do what is best at the moment. I like to make last minute plans. I like to change the order of things. I like to be able to walk away from something that is just not working.

So, maybe I am more of an outline person?

Really, though, change is a good thing. Most people don’t seem to think so. They seem to think that staying the course is what should happen and that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” While that is good advice for a machine or a motor, it isn’t really such good advice for a child.

Every child is different. The approach you take to reading for one child might not be the right avenue to understanding for the next child. Math online might be perfect for child number three but for child number six, you need to be right there working it with them on pencil and paper and restating it a million and a half different ways before the child understands it.

So, while it is fantastic to have a “tried-and-true” method, you really need to be up for change. You just might have to change your teaching style, your curriculum, your time of day, or your setting. You might need to change every single thing for that one child. Or you might not.

That is one of the beautiful things about home education. We can change what we need to for that one child.

One of our children loves math. I mean L O V E S it! She would do only math all day long if she could. She loves pencil and paper and seeing those pages turn with completion. However, what works for her is an absolute no-go for another child. That child needs someone sitting right there with her, checking understanding on most steps that she does until she is entirely – and I do mean entirely – confident that she can do it with no mistakes. So, we have searched and searched until we have found something that works for teaching her. (A combination of a fun book and using printable worksheets that I can pick and choose from. See the book we are using by reading this post. For the worksheets, see the review on Super Teacher Worksheets.)

For learning to read, sight words and just reading books worked well for two of the girls. For the third, she had to grow into it. She could do her sight words with no problem but reading a book was a struggle for her until she was ready. When she was ready, she took off and her reading is very good now. But she didn’t really start reading until she was a good year older than her sisters. And that is okay.

I have to be ready for change because change comes in educating our own children. That is part of why we home educate, is it not? So we can tailor their education to them? So, get ready. Change is coming. And it is good.

At Home.

Previous Posts in this series:
Make Time
Structure vs Flexibility

5 Days of Tips for Homeschool Parents
Looking for more great ideas and tips? Check out other Review Crew members who are sharing tips all week long. Today, I encourage you to go visit these friends:
Melissa @ Grace Christian School
Michele @ Family, Faith and Fridays
Missica @ Through the Open Window
Monique @ Mountain of Grace Homeschooling
Rebekah @ There Will Be A $5 Charge For Whining
Renita @ Krazy Kuehner Days
Sarah @ Renaissance Mama
Sasha @ Such a Time as This
Tawnee @ Adventures in Homeschooling
Tiffany @ The Crafty Home
Tina @ Desperate Homeschoolers

HelpTeaching.com ~ a TOS review

When you are educating your students at home, one thing we have found really nice to have access to is a great online site that gives you lots of worksheets and supplemental lessons for extra practice. We have been reviewing HelpTeaching.com, using their Pro Plan. This plan gives us access to all of their site. This means all lessons, worksheets, video links, game makers, practices, and more.

HelpTeaching Review

We have been focusing on the materials on HelpTeaching that are mostly related to middle school and up. This means searching the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade materials for supplements for what we are doing with the rest of our curriculum. There is A LOT on the site, which means a lot to wade through. There is also plenty there for the lower grades, but we have mostly used MS and up for this review.

About HelpTeaching.com

HelpTeaching is not a full curriculum site; it is supplemental. There are lessons and they are great supplements but they do not constitute a complete unit or curriculum. Much of HelpTeaching is Common Core aligned, so if you need those standard related to a particular you can look through English Language Arts and Math to find what you are looking for. This is one of the easier things to find on HelpTeaching as there is a link on the left sidebar with Common Core aligned materials.

HelpTeaching utilizes materials of their own creation, as well as videos and other material and activities from across the web. If it is a HelpTeaching original video, it has an HT symbol next to it. You can use what is there or create your own materials. When creating you material you can decide if you want to keep it private or if you want to make it publicly accessible.

HelpTeaching has the following categories:

  • Tests and Worksheets
  • Lessons
  • Games
  • Test Maker, and
  • Online Testing.

multiplying fractions worksheet sample fractions worksheet

Tests and Worksheets

These utilize already created materials as either tests or worksheets. These can be printed, completed online, or scheduled and sent to students in a link via email. The four core academic areas are here as well as materials for music, preschool, holidays, physical education, and more. The CC aligned materials are all accessible only through subscription though many of the other materials are free.

lesson in useLessons

Each lesson topic includes written material, a video, and links to additional materials. Some of these videos are not from HelpTeaching but are designated as such. The links to additional materials may take you to other sites but there are links to HelpTeaching worksheets and tests. Most of the lessons are accessible through subscription only, though a few lessons are free.


This helps you to easily create bingo game cards and word searches. These are free, but you cannot save without an account.game generators

Test Maker

With your own questions, you can create a test for your students to take. It can include images chosen from a bank the site has and includes options for questions to be fill-in-the-blank, multiple choice, open ended, and more. This is a good resource that is pretty easy to use. You must have an account to use the Test Maker.

Online Testing

Students can take tests online here. If you choose to have them take the tests from the category Tests and Worksheets, I could not locate a way to determine which questions were answered correctly and which were missed. However, if you have them take it through an emailed link, you can track their tests. Please look at their Online Testing information page for more information about what is available and at what level.

The site has a large number of material available for free but not everything is free. As a subscriber with the Pro Plan, though, you have access to all of these categories and materials.

rock lesson sampleFavorites

I really enjoyed using the lessons portion of this site. I felt like this is where the strong point of HelpTeaching is at. The lessons were really quite good at describing a topic in a way that Miss E understood. The lessons related to plate techtonics and volcanoes were especially good. The links to outside sites took us to sites we had not found yet and the activities there were really helpful in expanding understanding. The printed worksheets from the HelpTeaching portion were fine. We also used lessons on rocks and minerals. We used a number of lessons and were pleased with all of them. We mostly accessed science and social studies lesson, so don’t hold me too hard to the math section, as we did use any of the math lessons.


  • Materials can be created and shared by anyone. As far as I can determine, there is no moderating these materials, which to me indicates there is no assurance the answers are correct. We had to skip a number of questions on math worksheets because I could not figure out how to answer the questions or they were worded in a way that was very difficult to understand.
  • There is not a search function on the site. It takes a long time to find what you are looking for, if it is there at all. Several times I spent a lot of time on the site trying to find a supplement and, after 15 or 20 minutes, gave up because I couldn’t find one. You can use the page search function from your browser (on a PC, I was using Ctrl-F) but I found it did not catch all of the materials for a certain topic.
  • The materials are randomly placed within their categories. For example, when looking for fractions in 5th grade, I may find 6 or 8 worksheets but they are spread throughout all of the math listings and they are not in any semblance of order of learning. And often, what I found in one grade level, say 5th grade fractions, was harder than the materials place in a later grade level, say 7th grade fractions. I had to search from 4th – 8th grade to find fractions materials that fit what I was looking for and then put them in the right order to supplement our learning.
  • There is generally only one worksheet on the topic searched. That means I still had to go find other sites or create my own materials for additional practice.

Overall Thoughts

HelpTeaching.com is a fine site. There is a lot to offer there and some of it is done is a really nice way. The lessons are great but the practice materials and tests are not as good. While this works well for some people, it does not for others. We are some of the others. I feel my time is too valuable to spend stumbling around a site trying to find something that may or may not be there. We might continue to use a few of the lessons but this will not be a go-to site for us.

At Home.

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To read about how other families felt about HelpTeaching, please click on the banner below.

HelpTeaching Review

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