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books & reading homeschool motherhood

What We’re Reading in Homeschool: September and October

We just finished week six of our homeschooling year and we’ve read a lot of great books already. I thought I’d take a minute to share the books we have finished so far as well as the books we are currently reading. I’ll give you my thoughts as well as some book reviews by my sixth grader so you can get the mom and kid opinions – which aren’t always the same!

Mom’s Review

It took me about halfway through to really get into this book. It seemed to start really slow and it took me time to adjust to the dialect and unfamiliar vocabulary. But the action definitely picks up halfway and I can see a lot of value in the story told. My eleven year old and I will be discussing the book for history and literature next month.

My 6th Grader’s Review

The book was really good. I liked it and think it has a fun adventurous plot to it. I think that it was a little bit dry though. The ending also didn’t feel like much of an ending. I think that a sequel should be made. But all in all, The King’s Fifth was a really good book.

We both gave The King’s Fifth four stars out of five


Mom’s Review

My 6th grader and I read this out loud as part of our homeschool curriculum and she loved it to pieces. It was very engaging, with plenty of rich details about the Incan people, the Andes mountains and Peruvian culture. The little mystery definitely kept us guessing. And of course the llamas were her favorite part.

My 6th Grader’s Review

Secret of the Andes was AMAZING. One of my favorite characters was Cusi’s llama, Misti. Misti holds a big part of the story line, along with the other llamas. The story was very free-spirited and fun. I LOVED the book. The book also had a slight sense of adventure. I think that Cusi finding his soul was another HUGE part of the story. Ann Nolan Clark did a great job with making the story fun, exciting, interesting to read, and it made me want to read more of the book. I had a lot of fun with the book, and I’m glad that I read it. I miss getting to read it though.

In the end, I gave this one four stars and my daughter gave it a solid five out of five.


Mom’s Review

This is the next book in our 6th grade homeschool curriculum, set in London in 1666. The story is nestled between the great plague and the great fire, but mostly centers around the title character, eleven year old Michael, who searches for family and purpose in the middle of one of the toughest years in London history. I found the book very engaging and I’m looking forward to hearing what my own eleven year old thinks of it.

My 6th Grader’s Review

I overall really liked the book. It had a good plot that made me want to keep reading, and some twists as well. Parts of it were kind of sad, some were a little scary, but for the most part it was funny. I really liked some of the characters like Tom and Susanna, but also feel like at a point, Tom kind of lost the character that I really liked about him. His fun and care-free manner was great, and I kind of feel like he lost it, then gained 1/3 of it. I think that the story also left on a sad manner, The whole of the characters were together, but one left.

I think that the story could have used a little bit more cheerful of an ending, but overall the story WAS really good, and I think that Eloise Jarvis McGraw, wasn’t quite going for a happy-go-lucky tale with happy-go-lucky characters. I think that she had a goal and she reached it, and the book wasn’t BAD, the book wasn’t boring, as I said, it had an interesting plot that sometimes twisted and that made me keep reading. I enjoyed the book all in all.

We both rated this book with four out of five stars


What we are currently reading

Mom’s Review

This was a story that kept me on my feet trying to guess what would happen next. My eleven year old is supposed to read this next month and I’m debating reading it with her instead of having her read it on her own so that we can discuss it in real time, because as much as I found it engaging, I’m concerned that the frequent discussions of seppuku might be distressing for her. It’s important to the plot, but still pretty distressing. I gave this book four stars, but it’s more like 4.5

I read this book ahead of time, before reading it with my daughter. We’re only about halfway through reading it in school so I don’t have her final thoughts yet. So far she seems to love it and frequently laments when we get to the end of a day’s reading. A great sign!


That’s it so far – next week my daughter is starting The Ravenmaster’s Secret by Elvira Woodruff as an independent reader and very soon we’ll be reading The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy as our read aloud. I’m thinking about doing that one as an audio book and giving my poor voice a break!

Categories
family fun homeschool motherhood

School Pictures and a Check In

It’s week three of our school year and we’re starting to find our rhythm. Last weekend I took the kids outside (with Doggo the Homeschool Mascot) for school pictures, because tradition.

My high schooler is settling into his virtual learning nicely. His classes are starting to assign actual assignments (I’m sure he misses when his math homework was “What is your favorite season and why?”) but for the most part he is still done by 3 most days and spends his afternoons catching up with friends via online video games. Basically he’s still living his best life.

He’s got a lot of the same beef as most kids right now – zoom can be a cruel mistress when your internet connection decides to bail on you or a teacher doesn’t notice you in the waiting room. Some of his teachers seem harder to get to know virtually. But overall he’s been my rock star, on top of things and thriving as best as you could expect.

My 6th grader has a pretty full workload these days but for the most part we are both enjoying it. I’ve started to find my inner teacher and given myself permission to deviate from or add to our curriculum as I see fit.

We’re still playing around with the structure of our day and I’ve learned quickly that if we try to be too unstructured that we pay for it with a loooong afternoon. But I’m starting to figure out a preferred structure and created a backup structure for days when appointments might disrupt our mornings.

We’ve done a handful of science experiments, including this impromptu one today which involved making a chromatography strip from a piece of coffee filter paper, felt tip pens, and a glass of water. (Note: sharpies will not work with this one. But my husband says rubbing alcohol would probably work with those.)

One of my favorite things has been seeing how our subjects all seem to connect to each other or current events whether planned or not. We have watched The Emperor’s New Groove and Pocahontas after realizing they are connected to a part of our history or reading curriculum.

We’ve found ourselves talking about cohesion and adhesion in normal conversation like weirdos. And while reading about New Amsterdam being settled and how it shaped current day New York, I found myself making mental notes for future family vacations.

All in all, the days have been packed and sometimes even difficult – but rewarding and one hundred percent worth it. I’m still tweaking our schedule and curriculum but I’m optimistic about the school year ahead.


How is your school year going so far?

Categories
family fun homeschool motherhood

First Week of 6th and 9th Grade

We’re nearly done with our first week of school – virtual public high school for my new freshman and our first year of homeschooling my 6th grader. It’s been a tiny roller coaster of emotions for me and probably the kids as well.

The first two days for my son mostly involved figuring out how to connect to his zoom classes and waiting for his teachers to actually post the right zoom links, upload assignments to Google Classroom and respond to emails.

Today was his first day of classes that almost resembled what “normal days” are going to look like for the foreseeable future. A mix of logging into video classes, completing assignments as they were posted, and still finishing before 3pm and disappearing to play video games while the rest of us trudged on. Basically his life is looking very smooth sailing for the time being.

As for my sixth grader, we kicked things off on Monday with a field trip to Cave of the Mounds (we invited her brother and the hubby since they both had the day off) where we explored the cave, learned about how it was formed, and got a sluice kit and panned for gemstones. Why yes, exploring a cave with masks on while trying to avoid other people was weird. But the kids had a great time so I’m going to call it a win for first field trip of the year.

The rest of Monday was spent doing science experiments (read: putting Mentos in Coke to watch the chaos) and starting our heath art, music curricula.

Tuesday was our first full book day and personally it walloped me over the head. I was so exhausted by the end of the day that I was practically calling for smelling salts and have a Scarlet O’Hara style meltdown about never cooking dinner again.

Then my amazing husband told me to order a pizza, calm down, and remember that the first day was going to be hard because we’d never done it before so we were still ironing out kinks and getting used to the curriculum. I also eventually remembered that I’d purposely done literally every assignment side by side with my little trooper so that I could be certain about which subjects I was comfortable calling independent work.

So after scarfing some pizza and grumbling to myself, I looked through the assignment planner and marked every assignment that I felt she could do on her own with little help from me. Then I followed the advice of literally every homeschool mom I’ve been stalking on YouTube this summer and sorted our schedule with all the independent work clumped together.

So Wednesday morning we did all of the other stuff and then after lunch was… you guessed it, the independent work. Being a smart, clever eleven year old, there was a lot of independent work. But she handled it like a champ and I was mostly only needed for keeping her on track, answering a few questions and grading assignments as she finished them.

Today we did it all over again and had pretty much the same results. It’s still been a long day as far as total time committed, but at the same time we aren’t even starting our schoolwork until 9am and my daughter seems to require a lot of wiggle breaks, cocoa making, granola bars and dance parties in the middle of assignments. And she’s finishing the day in good spirits. And my afternoon can be spent cleaning, cooking dinner, reading, preparing for future lessons or playing Angry Birds or whatever. I could probably even go to the grocery store.

So overall, I’d say so far so good. I like the curriculum we chose, my daughter seems to be enjoying herself but also learning and working hard, and I even managed to make dinner the last two nights without being sent to an asylum. So – win?

Categories
homeschool motherhood

Getting Ready for Back to School – 2020 Style

In three weeks we officially start our school year.

My fourteen year old is starting his first year of high school virtually. He’s the amount of excited but nervous that you would expect.

After months of hearing little more than crickets about what’s going to happen, the last week or two have been a comparable explosion of information. We’ve successfully completed online enrollment, picked up his school issued Chromebook, printed out the generic schedule explaining when his classes will meet virtually, and started talking about adjusting sleep schedules so that logging into class on time will be easy.

And then there’s the whole “I’m homeschooling my 6th grader” thing. Our Bookshark curriculum was delivered on Friday and, after spending the weekend organizing everything, things are looking pretty darn real now.

I’ve been labeling books, pouring over instructor guides, filling out lesson plans and calendars, and even started reading my 6th grader’s first independent reader for literature – The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell.

I’m hoping to stay a book ahead of her so that I’ll be able to really discuss those books with her and not have to rely solely on the instructor’s guide.

Along with the standard Bookshark curriculum, I also ordered a U.S. elections lapbook – which is a more hands on arts and crafts centered lesson. We’re reading about governments, elections, etc. and then filling out little charts and stuff and filling a fold out booklet with each project.

We’ll be using a similar thing in our social studies curriculum so I thought we’d spend the last few weeks of summer working on the election kit as a way to get our feet wet and ease ourselves into the school year.

I’ve also been figuring out things like health, art and music – which I’m making my own curriculum for. And talking with other mom friends in a similar boat about how to form little co op pods but with Covid precautions in mind. Occasional zoom chats or backyard study buddy time? Maybe some outdoor field trips?

I’ve also been watching lots of YouTube videos by homeschool moms and even started listening to a podcast called Homeschool Your Way. It’s sponsored by Bookshark but run by some mom friends who are longtime homeschoolers who also run homeschooling YouTube channels.

And of course I have to remind myself that we still have three whole weeks of summer left. So in between my spurts of planning and productivity, I’m trying to leave room for downtime. Watching movies with the kids, grilling dinner outside (thanks hubby!), playing video games and you know trying to breathe.

Speaking of breathing, I’ve been trying to spend some time reading or sitting outside while the weather is still nice. And my hubby and I are trying to commit to having coffee just the two of us at least once a week. Sometimes that’s outside in the backyard. Sometimes we’ll hit up a coffee shop with outdoor seating. But either way – it’s just us a good cup of coffee and no kids. Self care for the win!


When do your kids go back to school?

How have you been getting ready for the fall?

What are you doing for self care?