In the Books

We started school this week. Three days in, and I’m going to say I’m thrilled with the changes I made and the direction we’re heading (you can check out our curriculum here if you’re inclined).

A few highlights:

Our first day of school special breakfast was chocolate waffles.


The girls usually are still in pjs for breakfast, but they were excited and got dressed early for their first day.

I told them that at the beginning of each school day, I’ll put on a song for them, and they need to be at the school table ready to go by the time the song is over. They danced and hammed it up to the song I picked for the first morning, which was “Uptown Funk” (I couldn’t find “Happy” on my phone, which was what I wanted, but we managed to play that one Wednesday morning).

We started by singing the Gloria, praying, and saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Then I asked them if they wanted to have a new name for our school this year (why not?) and had them come up with one. They chose “St. Therese Homeschool” (last year we were “Holy Family Academy”). They helped me make a list of our classroom rules, and we discussed the things they especially want to learn this year (archery was high on the list), and then we started into our morning time read alouds from our Build Your Library curriculum.


The girls liked the new method we’re using with our workboxes. Instead of having them go through all of their drawers in order, I labeled the drawers and wrote in their new notebooks what they had to do for the day. Then they could do their assignments in whatever order they chose. We’re still working out some issues with this, as Sis and Lass have needed some help to decipher my pictures and words and abbreviations that tell them what to do. I think it’s going to work though, and cut down on my prep time each evening, too.


The two biggest improvements so far have been letting them color quietly during read alouds and our math curriculum.

I always thought that the girls needed to just sit relatively quietly while I was reading aloud to them in order for them to be paying attention. It turns out, they actually pay better attention if I put a box of markers on the table and some mandala coloring books and let them color while they listen! Our new curriculum also sometimes has some related pages that they can color while they listen to history and science readings as well. We are all so much happier during read alouds suddenly!


And our math curriculum this year is so much better. Last year’s math curricula for Miss and Lass were very strongly workbook-based. Miss hated doing her math each day and as soon as she pulled out her workbook would begin complaining about it. I knew I needed to get something different this year in order to avoid raising a bunch of math-haters. I researched a LOT of different math curricula, and I decided on Shiller Math, which is very hands-on. I have never been really into doing Montessori-method teaching, but this math curriculum is Montessori based, and we all love it so far.


We finished up our first morning with sandwiches and malts for lunch, and then had an archery lesson before dinner.


The rest of our short week (M-W, because we’re going out of town for The Labor Day Party) went well also. We had more archery and even did a little science experiment on Wednesday.





With week one in the books, I’m feeling encouraged that our year is going to be even better than last year. In the past three days, during family prayers at bedtime, my kids have all said things about being thankful for school, and for archery, and for our science experiment.

Miss even said she was thankful for math.

That makes me one happy homeschooling mama.

A Summer Reading Adventure

Last week we finished our Read the World Summer Book Club. It was based on the book “Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time” by Jamie Martin. We used a chapter a week to go through different areas of the world, selecting books to read and activities to do as we went.

Some weeks we were more into it than others. Some books were better than others and sparked more conversation and exploration. All of it was an exercise in learning about the wider world. Geography, language, customs, history. We talked about all of it through the stories told in the books we chose, all of which were recommended in Jamie’s book.

We began with gusto with Multicultural week, focusing on exploring lots of different cultures all over the world. We picked several books with this emphasis, and started out coloring each country that we read about on the map that was provided in one of Jamie’s first posts about the book club.


After doing this for a few days, the girls lost interest in the maps, which we dropped, but not the stories.

We rolled right into the second week focused on Africa with books and movies from the library about Kenya and Mali and Madagascar. We read about cassava plants and how tapioca is made from the starch of these plants, so I got tapioca pudding for them to try. They didn’t like it (neither do I), but they found it “interesting,” for sure.

After Africa, we moved to the chapter on Europe. There were lots of books in the Europe section of Jamie’s book (and the Asia section) that we have read already, but there were still plenty to choose from that were new to us. One that my girls and I especially enjoyed was “Boxes for Katje.” I had grand plans to make something European for dinner one night that week, maybe from one of my French or Spanish cookbooks, but I flopped on that one.

Next up was North America. Jamie suggested lots of good books, but our favorite that we read was “Jingle Dancer,” about the Native American traditional dance performed in a dress with metal “jingles” on it. We ended up going down a YouTube rabbit hole after this book, watching video after video of jingle dancing and various other types of traditional Native American dance. It was absolutely fascinating, and the girls just kept begging for more.

Our zeal for the book club hit its low point during the Middle East week, when we only read one book from those I checked out of the library. We quickly rebounded with Asia week though. I don’t know what it is about reading books set in Asia, but we have always loved reading about this region of the world. From our old books, “The Story about Ping” and “A Pair of Red Clogs” to the many new ones we read during this week of the book club, we just really enjoy the richness of Asian culture as we experience it through picture books.

One of our favorites during this week was “Bee-bim Bop!” which included a recipe  that we promptly made together, and which led to the girls’ first experience with Korean food (including kimchee!!).




The other favorite of the week was this:


The original name of this book was Little Black Sambo, and my grandma used to read it to me when I was little. I didn’t realize this was the same story when I reserved it from the library, but inside the jacket it explained the original title. The memory of my Gram reading it came rushing back, and I was so excited. I can vividly remember the distinct voices she used for Little Black Sambo and the tigers. I tried to replicate them in my reading of the story, but I didn’t do it justice. My girls enjoyed it anyway, of course, and so did I.

The next week was Latin America week, during which I picked a couple of books set in Brazil and made a lame attempt at an Olympic connection, but because we don’t have TV and weren’t really able to watch much of the Olympics, it didn’t really resonate.

And finally, Australia, Oceania, Polar Regions, which we wrapped up last week. I found these two reading “Diary of a Wombat” in our swing set tower the other day.


As I walked away after taking this photo, I heard them bust out in giggles over the silliness of the story. I love sharing special moments over books with my girls, and even more seeing them sharing the love of books with each other.

My Big Fat Curriculum Post

It’s that time of year again. Back to school is coming. At our house it will be upon us in about two weeks. Miss will be in second grade, Lass in first, and Sis in PreK4.

I’m simultaneously very excited and sort of scared to death. I’m not sure how it’s going to work to homeschool with a newborn in the mix. I’m banking on the possibility that he may nap every morning between 9 and noon. If that doesn’t happen, I’m screwed.


BUT, either way, I have my curriculum all lined up on my brand new pretty shelves and I’m so flipping excited about it I have to share.


I’ll start by telling you why we changed our curriculum from what we had last year, which was Sonlight. I picked Sonlight, hoping for a literature-based curriculum. Unfortunately, it turned out to not actually be what I consider literature-based. Usborn books about space and history don’t really qualify, in my opinion. A lot of the books were more textbook-y, and they seemed to bore my kids. I ended up ditching a lot of their selections in order to add in Five in a Row and The Story of the World. We didn’t like the math or the handwriting programs that came with it either. Plus, though I knew that their curriculum was not Catholic and that I would need to add in some religious studies to make it more in line with our faith, I wasn’t expecting to be so uncomfortable with the religious elements they did have. I ended up not using any of their religion choices and completely replacing them with Catholic Heritage Curricula’s study and lots of our own books.

By the end of the year, I was hardly using any of the sources that came in our Sonlight box.

So. That’s what we are not doing again this year.

Instead, I switched to Build Your Library as our main curriculum, and then added a bunch of stuff on to that. BYL is a secular curriculum that comes with literature, science, history, copy work, narration, and art study. You can check out BYL’s second grade package, which is the one we’re using, here.



I’ll do the science, history, art study, and literature read alouds with all of the girls together before they split to do their individual skill work.

Which includes:

Math – Miss hated doing math in a workbook. So this year I’m switching to Shiller Math, which uses a lot more brief lessons and hands on activities. I’ll also use Life of Fred from time to time and the IXL app for a fun change of pace.

Reading – We’re sticking with All About Reading. We all like it and it works. Miss is a pretty fluent reader, so mostly she just needs practice reading and reminders to sound out the words she doesn’t know. But I’ll finish up the AAR Level 3 with her and continue Level 2 with Lass. Later in the year I may start Level 1 with Sis, since she’s already finished the Pre-reading program, but I’m not in any hurry (she’ll mostly be doing typical preschool ABC, counting, sorting, coloring, cutting, pasting activities).

Language Arts – We’ll be doing lots of reading, narration, copy work, poetry memorization, etc. as part of our BYL curriculum. I’m also using First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind, Level 2 for Miss and Level 1 for Lass, as well as possibly including some of CHC’s Language of God for Little Folks. We’re using All About Spelling and My Catholic Speller Level A for Miss and My Very First Catholic Speller for Lass from CHC for spelling.

Religion – We use the Faith and Life Series from CHC for Miss and Lass. I added some books for Miss since she will be receiving her First Holy Communion this year.

If you click the images above it will take you to an Amazon page where you can read more and/or purchase the books (They aren’t affiliate links, I’m just trying to make your life easier).

Handwriting – Most of Miss’s handwriting practice will be copy work, either from BYL or from the Catholic Heritage Handwriting Series Level 2. She has expressed an interest in learning to write in cursive, so I’ll start having her do that a little later in the year as well. Lass has CHHS Level 1 for handwriting, and Sis has an old Seton handwriting book that I never ended up having Miss do.

Morning Time – Our morning time will start with singing a hymn, prayer, the Pledge, calendar, and then read alouds (like science, art study, and literature; we’ll mostly listen to Story of the World in the car). This year I’m also going to include nature study, SQUILT music appreciation, some easy art projects, the Bedtime Math app, and the occasional poetry tea time. I’ll alternate these activities throughout the week. I got awesome ideas from the podcast Your Morning Basket for making morning time more rich and more fun for all of us.

There are a few more odds and ends here and there, things I hold onto to add in and change things up a bit from time to time, but that’s the gist of it.

I love this time of year. We have new notebooks and pens and binders. I’ve stocked up on lots of new art supplies. I’ve reread Teaching From Rest. I even got some brand new PlayDoh. We’re basking in the last few weeks of summer, and I’m looking forward to the excitement of our new year.

A Homeschool Day in the Life

A few bloggers I enjoy reading (like Ana and Micaela) have recently participated in the Homeschool Day in the Life link up at Jamie’s Simple Homeschool blog. I love reading these kinds of posts, and they’re kind of fun to write too, so here’s my contribution with how our day ran yesterday, a pretty typical Monday:

6:45 – I wake up and get (decaffeinated) coffee. Proceed to office. Pray the rosary and do my Lenten reading : Rediscover Jesus by Matthew Kelly and the little black book for Lent from our parish (usually I read the Mass readings and daily devotions from Blessed is She, but this morning I got distracted before making it to these).

8:00 – Go upstairs to wake up all three of my kids. Usually at least one of them is up already, but not today (this is why I like springing forward better than falling back).

8:10-ish – Breakfast is on the table.

8:40-ish – The girls have finished eating and they go upstairs to get ready for the day. This consists of getting dressed, making their beds, cleaning their rooms, and brushing their teeth and hair.

8:50 – I have put away the cereal and I go up to hustle the girls into finishing and getting down to the school room. At this point Sis still doesn’t have a shirt on, but the older girls are done with everything except brushing teeth. I grab a shirt for Sis, and put pony tails in hers and Lass’s hair (Miss brushes her own). Lass helps Sis to make her bed, and I think we just might get the day started “on time” as I change my clothes, brush my own hair, and brush my teeth.

9:04 – Everyone is in the school room and ready to go around our old dining room table. We try to start at 9:00 every day, so I’m calling this close enough. We do our morning prayers, say the Pledge of Allegiance, and talk about the date and the weather a bit.


9:10-ish – We start our work together at the table. I don’t really have a name for this part of our day, though the girls usually call it our “reading,” and it might be like what some people call “circle time.” We do all of our read-alouds from our curriculum (Sonlight plus some Catholic add-ons, plus a late addition of Five in a Row). This usually contains some elements of religion, history/social studies, poetry, and science, with our FIAR book and activities added at the end. This week’s new FIAR book is They Were Strong and Good by Robert Lawson, and I love it!


10:00 – At this point I’d usually send the girls downstairs for some running and “recess,” but we don’t do this on Mondays because we have to be done more quickly to get lunch in before piano lessons. So I go ahead and send the girls to their desks for their independent work.

Each girl has a desk and a rolling cart with drawers. I think some people call this a “workbox” setup. Each drawer for each girl has an assignment in it that needs to be completed that day. As each element is finished, the girls return their completed work to the drawer it came from and move down to the next.


They have a mixture of things they can do on their own and things they need my help with. I try to stagger the items in their drawers so they don’t all need my help at the same time. This sometimes works, and sometimes fails miserably with me saying repeatedly, “I’ll be with you in a minute,” or “Please be patient,” or “Go on to the next thing in your drawer until I can help you.”

Mondays are a little light, and Miss, in first grade, has science questions, a math workbook, spelling words to copy, a handwriting/copywork exercise, a word list and some stories to do in her reader, a piano theory test, and piano practice in her drawers today (I always include their piano practice in our school day, or it will never get done). Lass in kindergarten has a Star Wars math workbook, handwriting, exercises from Learning Success, some addition and subtraction, some worksheets with word family/spelling practice on them, and piano practice. Lass has her pre reading curriculum, which includes some cutting and pasting, some prewriting tracing, and coloring.



10:05 – Sis gets my attention first with her All About Reading Pre-Reading curriculum work. She is nearly finished with this entire program (only Y and Z in the last section are left). As I’m sitting down with her to do Letter X, Lass starts complaining that she doesn’t know how to do her math workbook. I tell her what to do (counting sets of Star Wars characters from 11-20 and drawing a line from each set to the correct number). She starts wailing that she doesn’t remember those numbers. I tell her that’s why she’s doing the exercise, for practice, and help her demonstrate that she does in fact know these numbers better than she thinks. She wails some more, and then I snap at her to quit complaining and get to work. After a few minutes, she begins complaining loudly again, so I keep my cool a little better this time and send her to sit on the bottom step outside the school room until she can get herself in a better frame of mind and do her work without disrupting everyone. I manage to do this without freaking out, and she complies in kind, which feels like a small victory. I proceed with Sis and Lass sits out for about 2-3 minutes before returning to do her work without further complaint.


10:15 – After I finish with Sis, there is a period where no one needs my help, so I go to our book stack and my curriculum binder and get the books ready that we will need for tomorrow. I give direction as needed for the next 45 minutes or so.

10:30 – In between periods of helping the girls, I go to start lunch. We eat early on Mondays, so I’m getting some crescent-roll-wrapped hot dogs ready to put in the oven.

10:45 – Lunch is in the oven.

10:55 – Sis and Miss are done with their drawers. Lass is complaining that she is the last one done. I remind her that her negative attitude at the beginning of the morning and her messing around with her little sister at other times is the reason that she is not done. I let her know that we will be having lunch when the baking timer goes off and that whatever she hasn’t finished will need to be done when we get home from our afternoon classes.

11:00-ish – The timer goes off. The girls start lunch while I read our book study book to them. This month our homeschool group is doing Redwall.


11:20 – I start telling the girls to hustle up so we can leave for piano. I hate this about Mondays, that I have to rush their lunch a bit.

11:30 – I’m rushing everyone into socks, shoes, and jackets, filling up water bottles, and gathering piano binders so we can go.

11:39 – We’re pulling out of the driveway on our way to piano, with just barely enough time to get there on time.

12:00 – Piano lessons start. Lass goes in with the teacher first, while I let Sis and Miss play on iPads and I read my book The Second Greatest Story Ever Told, by Fr. Michael Gaitley. I also take the time to read my BIS email with the day’s Mass readings and commentary.

12:30-ish – Lass comes out and Miss goes in for her lesson. I get lots of instructions from the piano teacher about Miss’s “audition” this weekend for the Wisconsin Music Teacher’s Association. She’s not actually auditioning for anything, but will be playing some pieces in front of a judge and taking a written music test to accumulate points. Her teacher makes sure I know where to go and what to do because this is Miss’s first time participating.

1:15 – Miss comes out of her lesson and her teacher gives more instructions about what she needs to practice for the week to be ready for her audition. We leave piano and head to the YMCA for the girls’ homeschool gym class.

1:25 – I drop off the two older girls for gym and take Sis to Target for a few things.

2:00 – Still happily wandering around Target.

2:25 – I’m back at the Y to pick up the older girls, and we head home.

2:45 – I set Miss and Sis free to go play, while Lass goes to the school room to finish the work she didn’t complete for the morning. It only takes her a few minutes, and then she’s off to play with her sisters. I avoid doing anything productive, and instead spend about an hour and a half messing around on the computer and starting to type this post.

4:30-ish – My husband comes home and goes downstairs to play with the girls. He likes to do more gym class with them in the afternoons before dinner.

5:30 – We sit down to dinner. The girls animatedly tell my husband about the book we’re reading, Redwall.

6:00 – Our babysitter comes so my husband and I can go to our RCIA meeting (we are both sponsors this year).

8:15 – I come home (my husband got called to work). My babysitter tells me that the girls requested early/extra reading time before bed, and they read three more chapters of Redwall. I pay her, clean the kitchen from dinner, and go into the school room to get the girls’ drawers set up for the next day.

9:00 – My husband comes home and we talk and talk about some new things that happened at RCIA.

11:00 – I go to bed.

So there you go. That’s a pretty typical Monday around here. Our other days are pretty similar except we do a little more work. I usually will have All About Reading for the older girls (Miss is in Level 3 and Lass is in Level 2), and they have more recess time to break up the morning. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I sometimes add in an art lesson or a craft. Fridays we usually do less work in the school room and more other stuff, like chores or field trips. That’s it!

Head over to the link up if you want to read others’ “Day in the Life” posts.

Praying for Our Nation, 14 Years Later

Today during school, I taught my girls about 9/11 for the first time.

Our lesson started quite naturally after we said the Pledge of Allegiance. Lass asked if the Pledge is a prayer.

“No,” I said. “It’s something we say in the USA to show that we love and are loyal to our country. We say it to show that we believe our country is the best place to live and that we will take care of it.”

That provided a fairly natural segue into our discussion of the events of September 11, 14 years ago.

I told them about the twin towers and how incredibly tall they were. I showed them pictures. We talked about the airplanes and the men who made them hit the buildings. I told them about the Pentagon and the people who fought back on the fourth plane to keep it from hitting another building.


I was pretty nervous about having this conversation with them. I didn’t want to scare them. But I thought they were old enough for a basic description of the events of 9/11. I wanted them to begin to understand patriotism. I wanted them to see that people sometimes do evil things, but that good and God are still more powerful.

I’m glad I talked about it with them. They didn’t seem scared. They were very curious about the men who had taken over the planes. They wanted to know why they did it. We talked about how some people can do very terrible things if they let hate take over their hearts, and that that’s what those men did. They hated our country, and so they did something horrifying. We talked about how we should pray for them and for people like them.

As we were having this conversation, I was dismayed to find that my conviction faltered a little bit on some of my patriotic comments. I felt a little false even. My love for our great nation is still deep and strong and true, but right now I really don’t like Her very much sometimes. I hate to type this, but I feel like my own patriotism has waned of late.

I’m shocked and saddened and angered by so many things I see going on in our country. Things like how people don’t seem to care one bit about Planned Parenthood selling baby parts and that our president hasn’t even watched the videos showing evidence of it. Things like people being sued and losing their businesses and even being jailed for following their beliefs.

I get this sense of impotent rage, alternating with helplessness, because I feel like so many things are wrong here in our country, but I don’t feel like I can do anything about it.

Today, when I talked with my girls about 9/11, I wrapped up our conversation with the story of St. Paul’s Chapel. I just learned about this church today. I told my girls about its rich history and the fact that it is right next to where the towers stood, and yet when they fell, not even one window of the chapel was broken. I told them about how it was used as a place for rescue and recovery workers to rest and find some comfort during the hours and days following the tragedy.

We talked about how God must have protected that Church, and how He is so much stronger than any bad things people do.

I ended by telling the girls that, even though those men attacked our country and did something that hurt us very much, we were not broken or ruined by it, and in fact we came together to help and serve each other even more after that happened.

During the course of the lesson with my girls, and in my reflections on it and my own feelings afterwards, I managed to realize that no matter what laws are made, no matter what trash is spewed all over Facebook and TV, no matter how things may seem to be wrong in this country, it is still the country that I love, and I would not want to live anywhere else.

On this date 14 years ago, our nation came together in such a remarkable way. The attack on our country only served to make us stronger and to reinforce within our hearts what our we stand for. The men who flew those planes that day hated us, and they hated the religious beliefs that the majority in our country hold. It seems this is not very different from some of the issues we are facing today, except now we are attacking each other.

I told my girls that we can pray for the men who hurt our nation fourteen years ago and others like them. We will also be praying for a return to American strength and unity, for an end to divisiveness and hatefulness and persecution of those who think or act or believe differently than we do.

Let us never forget 9/11.

The First Week – A Homeschool High

I promise I will go back to blogging about stuff other than homeschooling very soon, but this week, it has pretty much been all-homeschool-all-the-time in my brain, so I’m needing to tell everyone how we did. Ready?


Ahem. We crushed it.

The week was fantastic.

The curriculum was very easy to follow and implement.

The girls loved the workbox system.


They are crazy about the Star Wars workbooks that I work into their workboxes in between their “real” work.

(When proofreading, I realized how many times I used the word “work” in that ^^ sentence. I started to edit, but then decided I enjoy the fact that it is used four times in there, with four different meanings. I’m leaving it.)

We did a science experiment.

We did an art project.



I let my kids use Sharpies, and we all made it out unscathed (including our clothes and furniture).


We learned about Mother Teresa (her feast day is tomorrow).

Miss developed an intense interest in Japan.

We read and discussed the Gospel for this Sunday, as well as most of them from the Mass readings for the week.

We memorized a Bible verse (Psalm 1:1). They did much better at this than I did. Even Sis has it down.

It was so fun.

We even named our little school after our patron saints. I had the idea the night before our first day that I was going to ask the girls to choose a patron saint for our school for the year. I worried a bit that introducing this might be a big disaster. I suspected they would fight over which saint we should choose. To my surprise, they came to an agreement almost immediately. When I first asked whom we should choose, Sis said, “Saint Joseph.” Miss said, “That’s exactly what I was just going to say!” Lass said, “Mary.” I said, “How about the Holy Family?” They said, “Yeah!”

So we are now Holy Family Academy.

I’m kind of feeling like Super Homeschool Mom. I’m having an “I need a cape” moment (these are few and far between, so I’m making the most of it).


Of course, it wasn’t perfect, by any stretch. There were a few tense moments. Even a few tears, because Lass has a hard time understanding that she isn’t supposed to do things perfectly when she is learning them, like cutting an oval shape. I repeated many times things like: “You don’t have to be perfect, you’re just learning,” and “It takes practice to get good at new skills,” and “In our school it’s okay to make mistakes. That’s how we learn.” And so on and so on. She still had a meltdown over the fact that her ovals were a bit angular.


I also need to streamline my process for prepping the next day’s work in the evenings and filling the girls’ workboxes. I think I spent at least an hour each night doing this, and that’s just not sustainable. I’m working on making it smoother, doing some of the prep work for the next day as the girls are finishing up their current day activities, and finding other ways to be more efficient. I’m hoping this will get faster as I get more familiar with the curriculum and once we are in a more user-friendly space after we move.

And speaking of user-friendly spaces, I learned that, although I really like having individual desks for the girls, I also like having the big table in the middle to use when we’re doing work together at the start of the day and when we do experiments and art projects. So we’ll probably be making room for the big table in our school room (we inherited a new dining room table from my in-laws).


So much packed into the first week.

Do you want to know my favorite part about the whole thing? I could watch my girls growing closer to each other through our work together and their helping each other.


I know that sounds crazy after just one week, but I swear they’re kinder to and closer to each other today than they were last Friday. They’re complimenting each other, they’re helping each other, they’re playing Star Wars together so nicely!

I’m feeling more connected with them too.

The house is a mess and my meal planning has gone to heck, but today it all feels so worth it.

First Day of School – Our Homeschool Plan

Today is the first day of school! I am really excited for this year, and so are my kids. Here’s what we have planned:

I am doing Sonlight first grade for Miss (Core B). I am always drawn to a literature-based rather than textbook/workbook-based curriculum, and that’s what I love about Sonlight. So far I’ve had to spend quite a bit of time organizing and figuring out my plan for exactly how to implement it, but I suspect that’s because I’ve added a bunch of stuff to it and decided to try to use workboxes for much of our school assignments.

Basically, I’ve come up with a plan in which we all do our religion, calendar, history, poetry, art appreciation, and reading for science together, first thing. Then the girls will go to their desks and start going through their workboxes. I have all of Miss’s math, phonics, spelling, handwriting, and worksheet questions in her workbox drawers, along with a few other fun activities (Hot Dots, Star Wars readers and workbooks, saints activity pages, etc.).


The girls will be instructed to go through their boxes one drawer at a time, starting at the top. They can’t open drawers further down until they finish the one they’re on. When they finish each drawer, they move the magnet on the bar from the left to the right and go to the next one. I think (hope!) they will find this fun and make the school day more exciting and interesting for them.


I think this will work really well for Miss, because she can read the instructions I write down for her in each drawer. I suspect it will be a little bit harder, especially at first, to get Lass and Sis going with this system, but I’ll give it a try anyway. At least at first, they have fewer drawers filled, so we’ll see how it goes.

After they get through their workboxes, I’ll read the day’s read aloud to them over lunch (our first one for the year is Charlotte’s Web). And that will be it, except they have extracurriculars some days in the afternoons (piano, gym, choir, art).

For Miss, the additions I chose to the Sonlight core (history, language arts, religion, science) are Horizons Math and Handwriting Without Tears. I’m already planning to switch her handwriting book though, to Writing Our Catholic Faith, which I just discovered yesterday and absolutely love! I’m also going to supplement her reading work by continuing with her All About Reading Level 2 (AAR) curriculum that we didn’t finish last year. The level of the readers that come with the first grade package from Sonlight is far too easy. I’m going to have her read them anyway, because they go along with her spelling words, but she can do the whole week of Sonlight readers in one day, and the rest of the week I’ll fill in with lessons from AAR.


I have added a specifically Catholic Faith and Life series to supplement the religion portion of Sonlight, and we’ll be doing lots of reading about saints and feast days. I also got Miss a Good News planner so we can learn about the coming Sunday’s Mass readings and she can keep track of her activities each week. We’ll be using Art Masterpieces: A Liturgical Collection for art appreciation and a DVD art course done by some nuns, which ties art with our Catholic faith and history (I can’t find the link for this anymore).

And that’s about it for Miss in 1st grade.

I’ve decided to start Lass in Kindergarten. She’ll do all the Sonlight curriculum with her sister (as will Sis) for the start of her day, and then her workboxes will have some math worksheets from Seton’s Math K for Young Catholics, some BOB books, her AAR Level 1 curriculum (which she will bring to me to do with her), Writing Our Catholic Faith for handwriting, and other fun activities similar to those in Miss’s boxes. She’ll also be using her sister’s first grade readers, which are more in line with her reading level than Miss’s.

Sis will be doing the pre-reading level of AAR (if I can ever find it in one of the boxes I packed away!) a few coloring pages, and various other fun activities.

I’ve got to go put some first-day-of-school cinnamon rolls in the oven and wake up my kids. Wish me luck!

Homeschool and Changes and Sacrifice

We are on the verge of beginning another school year at home, and this one feels like it is coming at me with many, many changes. I’m finding this both exciting and uncomfortable at the same time. I have hemmed and hawed about what day to pick to actually start school, and have finally decided on next Monday as the official first day, with a few small activities this week to get into the swing of things. We even took our first field trip today.



It’s been a little tricky getting things ready to start, because one big change is that we will eventually be in a new school room, and for the time being we are in a state of transition. Our new home was supposed to be finished around now, but is now not going to be done until October. Our old school room got all packed and put away when we put our house on the market, so I’m pulling out a lot of things from storage, and I’m having a hard time finding stuff, because when I packed it away I thought I would just be getting everything out in our new house around now, and not needing to find specific things in poorly marked boxes.


Since we’re going to be changing things around a lot when we move, I decided to go ahead and make a shift from an obviously preschool-like homeschool room to a room that will grow with us. This means individual desks for each of the girls (the little table we were using just wasn’t cutting it anymore), a bigger, free-standing white board, and workbox tray carts (which still haven’t been put together because the company sent me the wrong size). For right now, everything is being crammed into our former-school-room-turned-back-to-dining-room-and-now-partial-homeschool-room-again room.


I’m excited about the new way our school will be set up, if not completely happy with it’s current configuration.

The other big change is that Miss isn’t going to be going part time to our local Catholic school anymore. I love that we tried the hybrid homeschool model (I think Michele, who is trying it this year, coined the term), but it just wasn’t going to work for us this year.

There were many things I liked about having Miss in a regular school last year, and some things I didn’t. The main reasons we aren’t doing it again this year are that 1) having Miss at another school part time was disrupting the flow of my homeschool schedule; 2) it’s going to be a bit too far to drive after we move; and 3) she really didn’t want to go again. She said that regular school “takes too long,” which makes sense since we can get all of our homeschool work done for the day in a couple of hours, versus her being at school all day.

And in the same way that having Miss at school for one full day a week was disrupting our homeschool schedule, so were a few other things that I have had to move around or cut out. We aren’t doing any out-of-the-home lessons in the morning anymore. Piano got moved to the afternoon, and we will be starting a homeschool gym class two days a week at the YMCA and have homeschool choir and art classes once per week with some local families as well, all in the afternoon. This is hard for me, because I’ve always counted on having some time in the afternoons to get things done while the girls were resting and/or napping. Sis is going to be missing her nap more often, and I will be missing it too.

But the hardest thing about this change is that I have had to give up my bi-weekly Monday morning Catholic Bible study with my friends. It has been such a great experience for learning and building community with some wonderful ladies, but it just doesn’t fit with our plans this year. I probably could have made it work, but I feel pretty strongly that I want to get the girls into a routine of Monday through Thursday school time in the mornings. Fridays will be for some school things and extra projects, for field trips, or for a make-up day if we take a field trip or have something else during the week. In order to be consistent with this schedule, the Bible study had to go.


But while I’ve had to give up this one social activity, I’m trying to add in some others. Knowing that we won’t have any outside-the-home school this year, I’ve really been trying to establish relationships with other homeschooling families so that my girls can develop friendships with kids they will be able to see frequently. I am excited for their gym, choir, and art classes to start so they can begin forging new friendships and building on the ones we have already begun with some new families.

I know I need to do this, and it’s fun and exciting to meet new people (as uncomfortable as it can be for my introverted self to take the first step). But it’s hard to know that they won’t be able to see their old friends, who all go to school full time, quite as often. We can’t do weekly morning play dates with Super Friend’s kids anymore, for example. Her two oldest are in school every day now, and my family needs the school time in the mornings.


I feel kind of sad and anxious about these kinds of changes. I remember reading a blog post once in which the author claimed that homeschool moms have to give up their friendships with their non-homeschooling mom friends, because that’s what you have to do to put your children’s home education first. I don’t agree with this. At all. And I have no intention of blowing off my friendships or those that my girls have with kids who go to school. We will find other times to get together. But it still feels a little lonely to know that the easy days of morning coffee play dates with friends are over (at least until next summer).

So that’s where I am right now – on the verge of diving into a new year, excited and fearful about all the changes this will bring for us, and hopeful that I will be able to balance all the things to teach my children well with consistency, help them to develop new friendships, and manage to keep our old friendships going strong.


Getting Ready for School – 7QT

I’m having mixed feelings about the fact that it’s nearly the end of August. I can’t believe summer is almost over and I’m sad to see it go, but I’m also really excited about our curriculum this year and eager to get started on the school year. And I’m looking forward to fall, which is my favorite season and would be the best thing ever in my opinion, except that it’s always followed by winter.

Anyway, I’ll do a post next week about our plans for the school year, but here’s what we’ve been doing lately to get ready for it.

1. Reviewing curriculum.

Since our house was on the market, I have kept all of my homeschool stuff packed away, and I just recently got everything out. The girls went out to play in the rain the other day, so I set myself up with my huge binder of stuff and started figuring out what I’m supposed to do with it. Probably a good idea.



2. Getting supplies.

Since we homeschool, we don’t have big lists of things to get for the school year, but with back-to-school stuff on sale right now, we went ahead and got some fresh crayons and notebooks. Everyone loves fresh crayons. And back-to-school is always a good time to stock up on new socks and undies too.


3. Getting haircuts.

I guess I just like to make a bit of a production about starting school again, even though we’re doing it in our dining room. So I took the girls to get them back-to-school haircuts. They posed for a before picture:


And here’s the after:


They really wanted me to take an “after” photo of them facing the wall too:


4. Trying to check out a homeschool gym class.


There is a local homeschool group that meets on Wednesdays at a nearby park for gym. I have never taken the girls because it’s right in the middle of nap time. But now that Sis is the only one who naps regularly, and I’m trying to decide what we’re going to do for gym class this year, I wanted to take them to check it out last week.


I had the time wrong at first, so we were there an hour and a half early. Then when we the correct time finally rolled around and still no one was there, I called the woman in charge, who told me it had been cancelled that day. She said it was on for this week, but then we had an inspection scheduled for our house on Thursday, and Wednesday afternoon came and went with me completely forgetting to take them. Sooo, next week.

5. Putting stuff together.

When our house is done (hopefully in October) we will have a new school room. I decided I did not like having one table for all the girls to use for their work, so I got them individual desks that need to be put together. I also got a new standing white board and some craft organizing trays for workboxes. I haven’t actually started putting anything together yet, but I did get one desk out of the box, only to put it right back in when I learned of the inspection happening this week. It will happen before we start school.

6. Enjoying the last few days of summer.




Most of my girls’ friends will be starting back to Catholic school on Tuesday, so we’re trying to enjoy as much of the last few days of summer, especially with them, as we can.


7. Preparing myself mentally.


Not actually with beer, though that’s nice too (and doesn’t that picture just look like a little slice of happiness for a summer day?)

I’m trying to think through what my objectives are for the year. Obviously there’s the curriculum part, and my goals for each girl and what I want her to learn and accomplish. But I’ve also been working on really preparing myself to be more peaceful and have more fun in school this year. We started out great last year, but after a while things sort of started to drag on some days. We had a few awful moments when I got stubborn about just. getting. the lesson. done. instead of remembering that the happiness and growth and love of learning in my children is far more important than any lesson or curriculum or specific skill being taught.

This year I will remember that the most important thing for me to do every day is to help my children to find wonder and joy in learning, and to help them learn to learn. Beyond that, everything else is gravy.

I hope that you’re still enjoying the last few days of summer! I’m linking this one up with Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes Friday. Head over there to see more!


Edel, Summer, ALL the Good Things – 7QT

Happy Fourth of July! Two posts in one day, so that I can join in with Kelly for Seven Quick Takes Friday (it’s been a while!), and share all my love of summer to this point.


We had some fantastic 4th of July festivities with friends last night.


Wonderful friends, good food, good beer, and fireworks. Can’t beat that for a great American holiday celebration.




^ My husband playing chase with all the kids ^


I love our community of friends


Earlier in the week, we went strawberry picking. Summer in Wisconsin is glorious.



It really does make up for the long, cold winters. Well, almost.


Our house has been on the market for two weeks now and we’ve had two showings. I have been cleaning and polishing and pulling weeds so much, it’s really starting to get to me. Examples: last weekend, I got out of the car at the farmer’s market downtown, and I saw some weeds growing in the sidewalk cracks. I felt a strong urge to bend down and pull them, just for the thrill of getting the root. Then a couple of days ago, I noticed myself being careful not to leave fingerprints on my steering wheel while driving to the grocery store.

I really hope our house sells soon!


I’ve had some fun one-on-one time with my littlest girl while her sisters were at YMCA camp a week ago. She wanted to play princess and informed me that her name is “Annie,” (which is not her name). She was Princess Annie all day, until she decided she was Princess Baker Annie.


The Princess-Baker’s finished creation:


It’s not often I get to spend time with just my youngest girl. It was special.


Next week, I’m going to the Edel Gathering in Charleston! I had a blast there last year, and am looking forward to some much needed mommy-recharging time.


^ A selfie with Super Friend from last year ^

If you are coming to Edel, leave a comment and let me know. And please come up and introduce yourself! Even though I am really going to try to get past my introvertedness (word?) and meet new people, I probably won’t do a very good job of it to be honest, so help me out!


Speaking of introvertedness, I stepped out of my comfort zone and reached out to another homeschooling mom here in town. Although I really love our community of friends here (see above), all of the kids who are part of our friend group go to school. I’m realizing that I really do need to connect with more homeschooling families, so I called our parish to see if they have a homeschooling group. They don’t, but the woman I spoke to gave me the name of another homeschooling mom in our parish. That mom is a member of a (non-Catholic) homeschooling group I’m part of on FB, so I sent her a friend request, and then a message, and she told me there is a Catholic homeschooling group in our town, it just hasn’t been very active lately. She added me to the FB group, and I invited her to meet up at a park with the kids. It was so fun! We made all sorts of plans to revive the local group, and she gave me some good info on other homeschooling opportunities in town.

It might seem like a little thing, but I’m really excited about this for myself and for my kids (and for the record, I have nothing against hanging with non-Catholic homeschoolers, but there’s something really fun about discussing plans for an All Saint’s Day costume party and a May Crowning and such).


We are making a good, old-fashioned American feast for the 4th today. I have chicken brining, which I will fry this afternoon, my husband has his famous homemade baked beans cooking in the oven, I’ve got all the fixins ready to mix up some coleslaw, and lots of corn on the cob in my fridge. It’s going to be a great day.


Happy 4th of July!


For more Quick Takes, head over to Kelly’s link up!