Random musings from a Wife, Mom, Homeschooler, Student, and Friend

Archive for the ‘Mayflower Academy’ Category

Lesson Planning

I don’t know what it is about the last few cold weeks of winter, but they make me want to do lesson planning…for schooling we will do six months from now. I know. I have an illness. Maybe it was because I had to go to Staples for printer ink today. Just the smell of office supplies is intoxicating. A mix of ball-point ink, rubber bands, paper, and electronics. (Yes, electronics have a smell. They smell like static. Yes, static has a smell. It smells like electricity.) After a few deep nose-to-toes breaths of that heady aroma, I caught the bug. A lesson planning bug. (And probably a cold. The clerk who rang up my ink sounded like she had swallowed a cat and had just wiped her nose with her hand. Thank the Lord for hand sanitizer!) I spent the rest of the day surfing curriculum websites and loading (then emptying) my cart on Amazon.

We’ve spent three years away from Sonlight, but we are heading back to them. We never really left them anyway–I filtered all of our reading lists through the lists on Sonlight’s website. The girls and I have had a great time using Trail Guide to Learning: Paths of  Exploration and Paths of Settlement. The Boy has enjoyed his year with Notgrass’ Uncle Sam and You, while getting his civics and government requirement taken care of, and I feel that all three are ready to dive into Sonlight again. The Boy and Beanie are going to use Core F: Eastern Hemisphere Explorer, and Lemony is going to use Core B+C: World History, One Year. I’m already rearranging the shelves to make room for all the lovely books!

The scariest part is that I am starting to plan The Boy’s high school path. Core F, Core 100, Core 200, Core 300, then Core 400. High School.

Wasn’t it just yesterday that he was this cute ‘lil stump-climbing boy?

The Boy on stump


Take a Break to Smell the Sharks

I’ve been trying to cram a 6 week unit study into 3 weeks, and the cracks are starting to show. This morning, I let the kids go about their morning uninterrupted, and the most amazing thing happened.

First, The Boy took a shower. On his own. Amazing!

Second, the girls are sitting at the kitchen table playing with their stuffed animals. The dialog I am hearing is just wonderful: “You have poison on your paws!” “Oh no! I have to get it off. I’ll just roll in this water. Nooooooooooo! Anything but piranhas!” followed by “Uh oh, she smells like wolf…no like shark.” “There are no sharks. She’s not poisoned.” “Those aren’t sharks, they’re PYTHONS!!!”

Wouldn’t you love to crawl into their imaginations and “see” all that they are seeing right now?

Soon, I’ll have to interrupt and get on with our day, but for now, I’ll just sit here and pretend that I am not listening to them play. This is bliss.


End of the Trail

Today is our homeschool portfolio evaluation for the 2012-2013 school year. We finished up 5 of the 6 unit studies in Trail Guide to Learning: Paths of Exploration. Although it won’t “count” for the state’s purposes, we will work on the final unit (which is mostly review) for the rest of this month.

So, my final impressions of Trail Guide? LOVE IT! In fact, we are going to continue with Paths of Settlement  for the 2013-2014 school year. I am going to make some adjustments for The Boy (I’ll post about that later), but the girls will be going all out on Paths of Settlement.

The best adjustment I made with this curriculum was getting away from the pre-printed notebooking pages. Other than printing up the occasional map and specialty worksheet, this curriculum works beautifully with “homemade” notebooking. That is another thing I love about this curriculum–all the pages you need come on a CD with the main textbooks. This is also a great choice for those who are required to keep a portfolio–it’s built in!



Edited to add:


Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Debbie Strayer. She will continue to have a positive impact on all of the lives she touched with her work.


A Homeschool Day in the Life of…


(Click on the image above to link to SimpleHomeschool.net)

A Day in our Homeschooling Life: 7-year-old, 10-year-old, 11-year-old, and a 15-year-old nephew

Breakfast and Before:

A typical day for me starts anywhere from 7am-8am. I try to get up, showered, and dressed at least an hour before the kids get up. Sometimes it actually works. 🙂 I head downstairs to make coffee, and while it is brewing I open the drapes, unload the dishwasher, and straighten up a little. After I have my cup of necessity and cream beside me, I settle in for my daily devotions. Right now I’m reading through The Love Dare Day by Day: A Year of Devotions for Couples on my phone. (I love the app version because the Bible passages are linked right in with the reading.) This is my daily reminder to be a more loving person, not just to my spouse, but to everyone. Great book. About the time I’m finished with my quiet time, I hear Lemony pattering into the kitchen. After some snuggles, she goes back upstairs to get her brother and sister, and they all get dressed and eat breakfast. I head back upstairs to put in a load of laundry and begin the long process of getting my 15-year-old nephew out of bed. I head back downstairs, get a little breakfast for myself, and wrangle the kids to the table to start school. To use my step-dad’s favorite expression, it’s like herding cats.

Pre-Lunch School Time:

We start with Bible time, copy work, and then our read-alouds. We are using Trail Guide to Learning, Paths of Exploration which we love. (See this post.) This week, I’ve started a new sequence to keep the doers and the dawdlers on the same page in group work. (The picture below, sans Beanie, tells the whole story–someone is always in the bathroom around here!)


We do our Bible time together, and then we used to start on copywork and memory verse writing just after. But, with bathroom breaks and other dawdly type nonsense, the doers were sitting around getting antsy, and the dawdlers were, well, still in the bathroom. So, now we go straight from our Bible time to our read-alouds, which we take turns reading. After that, we launch into our word study, vocabulary, and/or reflective writing assignments. Lemony, my 2nd-ish grader, does abridged versions of these assignments, but she also works in her Abeka workbooks–Letters and Sounds and Language 2–daily. I let the kids finish this work while I list any pre-lunch assignments on the board, such as copywork, spelling, memory verses, and math:


Once each child is finished with those assignments, they are free for lunch. And here’s where the new sequence is working brilliantly: the doers can eat lunch then play in the basement until a certain time and the dawdlers either have to buckle-down and finish or forego any playtime. (This is not a situation where a child is struggling or frustrated. Just dawdling, dreaming, etc.) I use this time to use the computer, make some calls, start dinner/think about starting dinner, switch out the laundry, and/or make bread.

20130130-112114.jpgDawdler strikes again. Notice the doers doing and the dawdler, well…? ;o)

Somewhere during all this time, the teen emerges from his bat-cave, showers, eats breakfast, meanders a bit, and starts on his work. I have the same basic schedule lined up for him each day, each week. He seems to do well with a concrete plan. Bible study, MathUSee Algebra I, Biology via ACE, grammar on M/W/F, writing and reading assignments to work towards his term paper on T/TH, 20th century history readings and summarization, and hopefully soon, Spanish. He will ask questions when he needs direction or information, and we usually do the math together. But for the most part, he is autonomous. It’s a beautiful thing. (It hasn’t always worked this well, but I am thankful that we finally found a schedule and curriculum that works for him.) He breaks for lunch when he’s hungry, and grazes the rest of the time.

Post-Lunch School Time:

This when we get back together to do another round of group learning from Trail Guide–geography, science, art, etc. When this is completed, the girls and I have tea and all three do their personal reading and update their book logs. This is typically when I find the teen chuckling somewhere, iPhone in hand, YouTube open and redirect him to the less amusing world of grammar or history or biology. Then the kids do their personal reading while I straighten up the kitchen, then we start putting away the school stuff. The kids have some free time until 3:30-ish.

Post-School, Pre-Dinner:

It’s now chore time. I’m going to admit something: I pay my children to clean the house. This is more than the usual “pick up your room” stuff. On Mondays and Fridays, we deep clean the downstairs. Each child has a room to clean, dust, vacuum/mop, then they all converge on the powder room, hall, and stairs. (I always keep the kitchen as my chore room.) On Wednesdays, we clean the upstairs, including the bathrooms. Since I’m paying for their services, I am very, very picky. ;oP

Here’s the powder room checklist that I posted on the back of cabinet door as an example:

(Yes, I realize that there isn’t a tub in the powder room, and yes, it bugs me that my sign clearly suggests a tub. And yes, I thought about taking it down and, retyping it before I took this picture. No, I am not quite that nuts, but close.) This is a total win-win. My house is clean! The kids have their own money to spend at the store! I didn’t have to do it all! My house is clean! (Sorry, said that already, didn’t I?) I hope this is teaching the kids how to keep house and learn the most important fact: the house doesn’t clean itself. They are proud of the job they are doing–I can tell that by the way they bounce up and down and beg me to come “inspect” their work while they grin from ear-to-ear. They are also taking greater care of the house in between cleanings.

Now it is time to get dinner started and wind down our day. Whew. I’m kinda tired…in a good way!

Trail Guide to Learning: The Half-way Point

We started Volume 2 in Paths of Exploration this week. Here we are at the halfway point in this curriculum. So, how’s it going, you ask?

We still love it!

Our days have a pleasant rhythm to them with this curriculum. While we are doing things in the same general order every day–copywork, read-aloud, etc.–it is far from mundane. The books are wonderful! Initially, I was hesitant to put all three kids (2nd, 4th, and 6th graders) in POE. Beanie and The Boy had already completed the first half of American History through Sonlight’s Core D a few years ago, and both curriculums have books in common. I am so glad we made the decision to put all of them in POE. First of all, this is much more than American history, as the countries that gave rise to these explorers are studied as well. Second, the in-depth study of Christopher Columbus, the Jamestown Settlement, and the Pilgrims allowed us to flesh out these topics in a way I have never given time to before.  For anyone looking at this curriculum and thinking, “We’ve already studied that,” I urge you to pick it up and try it. You will find something new! Third, I have been able to adapt POE and its Middle School Supplement to fit our family, especially in reading.

Here are some ways we have adapted the reading. Each unit has two main reading books–a lighter/easy reader and a more advanced reader. I have my 2nd grader read the easy reader assignments aloud to us all. Then I have my 4th and 6th graders take turns reading the more advanced book aloud.  The assigned reading does not take long, and after we read those, I have my 6th grader take turns with me reading aloud the assigned reader from the Middle School Supplement. We didn’t start out reading the MSS books aloud. I wish we had started this from the beginning because we missed out on reading aloud Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, one of my all-time favorite stories.* Starting with the Pilgrim unit, we began reading these together, and they add another layer of depth and information to our studies. And, they are just great books to share with everyone. Middle schoolers shouldn’t have these all to themselves! 🙂

There is a big difference in the work load from Vol. 1 to Vol. 2. The first volume seems to have a lighter, more gentle pace. The second volume steps things up. I like that! The kids are ready for new challenges, especially at this point in our school year when the winter doldrums are at their worst. (I think we are all praying for summer!) There is a greater emphasis on writing across all subjects. (So, if you are worried about the writing part, and you are still in Volume 1–don’t fear! It is coming! It is effective! Stay the course!) I also love the way reflective writing is incorporated into the geography in this volume.

There are some glitches in this curriculum, such as some of the readings don’t align with assignments at times and one book, Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims, that is assigned in the text is not available from Geography Matters. (GeoMatters replaced it with Squanto’s Journey, and the corrected assignments are available online.) In our case, I just ordered the correct book from Amazon and read both Squanto books to the kids. A win-win! The writers also maintain a yahoo group that supplies many of the corrections and offers suggestions and additional information. This is a relatively new curriculum, and I’m sure these minor issues will be corrected in upcoming printings. In the meantime, I don’t feel they are bothersome enough to stop me from going forward with Trail Guide.

To sum it up–we made the right choice for our family this year. Once we have completed this first unit in Vol. 2, I’ll update again.



*I wasn’t crazy about the book chosen for the Jamestown unit (Pocahontas by Joseph Bruchac). The Boy and I read this independently, and so far that is the only book on the list that I don’t love.

Consigned and Collected

Our house has been mostly empty since we moved in. Years of moves and living as students left our decor in a perpetual state of “early matrimony,” a style graciously described by my Mom. We went to a few furniture stores and walked out empty handed and discouraged. They wanted lots ‘o money for poorly crafted stuff. That’s when we stumbled into two local consignment shops. The heavens opened up and the furniture angels sang! Pre-dented, pre-loved, solid furniture with “I-feel-almost-guilty-paying-next-to-nothing-for-awesomeness” pricing. Sure, I’ve had to refinish and/or clean up all of these treasures, but underneath the cobwebs and crustiness are items that are made to last. Here are a few of my favorite finds:

Here in the background, you see the piece that started it all–an 80’s era buffet scored at a local consignment shop for next to nothing. It’s been a dresser, an entertainment center, Christmas tree holder–you name it, and it has probably served that purpose. Now it holds DVDs and video games. (Well, that an a bunch of junk that I haven’t sorted through yet.) I didn’t do anything to it but clean it up and love it. Just above it is my treasured reproduction J.M.W. Turner painting I found at a yard sale for $1. (Yes, I noticed it was hanging crooked too. I just fixed it. ;P)


Antique sewing table–found this beauty buried in an old antique store. It still has the machine in it. Guess that’s why The Hubs nearly gave himself a hernia bringing it in. The painting above is from my beloved Great Grandmother. It was painted by her sister who died in her teens. It is one of my most treasured possessions because of all of the sweet memories I have of my GeeGee.


The before shot. Don’t be afraid of pieces that look like this–a thin coat of wood restorer can revive just about anything. If not, paint it!


I might love these end tables more than bacon. I practically stole these solid cherry beauties from my new favorite consignment shop. It never hurts to ask for a huge discount–you just might get it! Why, yes! That is the most perfect owl lamp in the whole world–found that at Penneys after at least a year search for the perfect feathered friend.


No consignment here, just my cute pup napping in his favorite spot. However, I did get the chair on the right 1/2 off in the As-Is section at Ikea. Worth every penny–extremely solid chairs!


I’m still waiting for inspiration to finish this side of the room. It needs…something. But, in the meantime, I’m thrilled with the antique buffet turned entertainment center!


Our first refinished piece. Beware–refinishing is addictive!


The first attempt at refinishing didn’t go so well. But, I got some awesome power tools to add to my collection to fix it!


My boys and their power toys!


The start of our library/office. This desk was hidden behind large pieces of furniture at a consignment shop, but it called out to me.

Trail Guide to Learning, Days 1-3

Day 1 of Paths of Exploration was…rocky. I wasn’t used to the format. I had to stop so the kids could complete an activity before plowing ahead. It…bothered me. I think all this time, I’ve been in college mode–load ’em with information then let them finish activities or assignments at the end. Easy for me, but frustrating to my kids. Trail Guide doesn’t roll like that.

Day 2 was better. A lot better. I am so glad it didn’t take long for my aha! moment. I started to love the format. The way the information is both presented and divided by age/ability level is brilliant. I was working with Lemony with spelling orally, while Beanie and The Boy were writing out their spelling. It was so organic and wonderful! I know I’m gushing, but this is just so revolutionary that I can’t help myself! During copywork, Lemony and Beanie share the main textbook, but The Boy for his level copies out a completely different passage from our read-aloud book. It just works.


Day 3–I’m learning to appreciate the pauses. The kids are doing their copywork, and I am answering questions as they come up while writing this post.

A note–I have a Leisurely Lucy in my group. She is a dreamer and a dawdler. I started having her stop when the other two had completed a section and let her finish later. Apparently, she didn’t like that. 🙂 Today, she was the first one done. That alone is worth the price of admission!


We are using Our 24 Family Ways by Clay Clarkson for our Bible time. We’ve had some great question-and-answer times this week using this book. I’m excited to see how the kids react to this book over the next several weeks.