Getting Ready for a New Homeschool Year

Homeschooling in Hawaii is a bit different than homeschooling in Indiana where we have…oh…no real requirements. 

In Hawaii you have to send a letter of intent to your districted school. You have to keep records that prove your kiddos are getting – at minimum – an equivalent education to their peers in P. S. 

Records. Portfolios. Oy! 

But it’s still worth the hassle to be with these crazy-inducing little people and know that they get to spend their childhoods playing and learning what they need/want. 

I know homeschooling isn’t for everyone, and that’s cool. We aren’t anti-school either. We toured our local public school. We assessed our family’s needs for right now and decided that this is the path we are currently being called to and that works for this season of life. We are always open to the fact that things can and may change. That’s just life.

Choosing curriculum is alway stress-inducing. And I wanted to do as much as I could the same for both of them, with small adjustments, as possible. So they’re doing the same history and science curriculum.

We super love Bookshark around here. Their reading with history curriculum cannot be outdone. It’s rich in literature and interactive and gets their little brains really churning. And it’s easy to do one level for various ages/grades. There is no doubt that Bookshark will be the history curriculum we use year after year because it really is that amazing and I feel just that great about it. 

Last year we tried out Math U See but it wasn’t the love I had hoped for. So we decided to go out on a limb and try Singapore Math this year. I’ll report back once we’ve been using it for a while. 

All Mr. B really cares about is science! It makes sense since he plans to be a paleontologist chemist who will take 8 years off to be the president and will also be working as an FBI agent when not in office. Science was the hardest choice for me to make because I want them to love it and it’s not really my forte. Plus, everything secular I found seemed to have so many conflicting reviews. So I went out on a limb and ordered The Building Blocks of Science to use with both of them. We shall see how it goes. 

Miss H is deep in the throes of All About Reading and we had minimally began All About Spelling before we moved. Mr. B desperately wants to read, but AAR wasn’t clicking for him yet so I decided to try out Phonics Pathways with him and see how it goes. It does reading and spelling together, which I have mixed feelings on, but I won’t judge it until we’ve tried it. I assume that ultimately he will do AAR as well, but we shall see. The beauty of home education is getting to try different methods that work for different kids instead of a one-size-fits-all method (and let’s be honest, one size never fits all). 

I figured it’s time Miss H do some grammar and I’ve always liked some aspect of classical education, although in true practice it’s far too rigid for our tastes. But throughout my many late night perusings I did come to see value on their grammar approach and figures we might as well spice things up here and give it a try with First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind. I’m one of those people who thinks it’s pretty important to know proper grammar. Once you do, then you can break the rules (I do all the time. Have you seen how many times I’ve started a sentence with the word “and” or ended one with a preposition!?). 

Miss H and Mr. B also each have some Fun-schooling books from Thinking Tree to work through at their leisure. They’re more open and allow them to follow their interests and learn things in a much less-dictating way. Granted they’re not on complete overload, I plan on snagging a few more of these books over time for them to have for more on their own downtime. 

I also have a bunch of kids story books from different countries and cultures throughout the world that I plan to include as part of our curriculum. I think it’s oh-so important to know about the world around us, both past and present. And they’re such insightful and bright little nuggets, I don’t want them to miss out!

Of course, homeschooling isn’t all about workbooks. I plan to incorporate some STEAM activities for them; they’re signed up for a few monthly co-ops, and they each have one extracurricular: Miss H gymnastics and Mr. B karate. Ideally I’d like them both back in music lessons, as would they, but we have to find something affordable for that to happen.  

Plus, you know, lots of hiking and beach time and playing and cooking! And likely more episodes of The Magic School Bus than I want to admit to allowing, but hey! I’m about to have a newborn again (in tandem with a very active toddler). Momma needs some grace at times, too. I’m not Super Woman.

Fun Schooling!

We are fairly relaxed homeschoolers. Learning should be natural and authentic. And fun!

There are some things you simply will never be able to convince me are necessary to learn outside of needing to pass a standardized test; unless of course it actually will be a part of your future career. That’s why child led education is really what inspires us around here.

Miss H and Mr. B both really enjoy learning. They get excited about it! And that’s how it should be. They also enjoy workbooks and some more “traditional” work at times. I follow their lead.

They also like to wake up really early and want to get a move on doing school stuff and I’m usually like, “I haven’t had a cup of coffee or opened my eyes yet, loves.” So I like to have things they can do all on their own as well.

When I came across Fun Schooling with Thinking Tree books I knew this was exactly the sort of work/fun my creative little free-thinkers would enjoy.

Math, reading, spelling, you name it; they’ve got it! Fun Schooling journals where the kiddos get to take initiative and decide what exactly they want to learn and research about all on their own. Mr. B and Miss H were sold!

They were eager to get up in the morning and color and doodle and do “work” while Momma tried to climb out of bed. I’d find them under their covers at night with lights working on their books. When kids enjoy what they’re learning about, they’re eager to keep going and the information sticks!

Miss H loved her comic and Minecraft-inspired math book and was even excited about spelling!

Mr. B loved that there was a Fun Schooling journal completely appropriate for him.

I think their favorite by far at the moment is their Yum-Schooling book. They both love to be in the kitchen, and they love to be independent.

They cracked open their Yum-Schooling book and told me to step away.

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I obliged.

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Y’all, in one easy morning they worked on fractions, reading, team work and collaboration, and learned a bit about chemistry when they forgot the baking soda, ha.

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I am so very excited to see where their Fun Schooling takes them and all the things they decide to pursue learning and exploring. They’re all ready such inquisitive little thinkers, I know they’ll go far in this world!

 

 

 

 

***Full disclosure: I was given Fun Schooling books in exchange for this post. All thoughts and opinions are genuine and solely mine.

Whoopie Pies and Math

All my tiny humans love being in the kitchen. They love cooking and they love eating!

Let’s be real; they come by it honestly. Their papa is an amazing cook and their momma is an amazing eater!

I try not to let them watch television when we’re at home. I save it for long travels that way it’s a bit more enticing. But sometimes, we do have movie nights, or when Sweet M is napping B and I will turn on PBS and watch cooking shows. (And yes, some days they just watch tv all day because, well, those days do happen.) 

Last week Mr. B and I are watching Martha Stewart on Create makie whoopie pies and other desserts. It was no surprise that Mr. be honed in on those whoopie pies and decided that he, too, must create such masterpieces. I mean, chocolate and icing? What isn’t there to love?

Our week has been busy though, cleaning and purging for our trans-Pacific move (more on that another day), and sweet M has been very clingy. We just haven’t found the time to get in the kitchen and make some dessert.

So I told J that Saturday morning was for me and B to finally bake. He entertained M while B and I winged our own whoopie pie recipe. 


We try to avoid gluten and dairy, and I really didn’t want to have to buy any extra ingredients when we are trying to eat through our pantry, not add to it, so we came up with our own, yummy recipe! 

I also had a lot of fun watching Mr. B count and add fractions as he added ingredients. Instead of giving him a one cup measuring cup, I gave him a half cup, so he had to put those 5-year-old math skills to the test when he needed 2 cups of GF flour, etc. 

He learned how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon, and had to count some pretty big numbers when we needed 6 tablespoons. 

Not every moment has to be a learning moment, but gosh darn it, you can bet that I will try, ha. 

The end result was surprisingly yummy. Well, I guess it wasn’t much of a surprise. I mean, chocolate. Need I say more?


So if you’re looking to add some fun math to your life, or just eat some yummy desserts, enjoy Mr. B’s whoopie pie recipe!

Mr. B’s Gluten and Dairy Free Whoopie Pies

Cake Ingredients

  • 2 cups GF flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup almond milk (or other milk substitute)
  • 6 tblsps shortening 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1 egg
  • Pinch of kosher salt

Icing ingredients 

  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 2 cups powdered sugar 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease muffin pans.
  2. Mix all of the cake ingredients into a large bowl and beat until mixed thoroughly.
  3. Place a heaping tablespoon into each muffin slot. Shouldn’t be more than about 1/3 full. 
  4. Bake for 12 minutes – toothpick should come out clean.
  5. Move into wire rack to cool.
  6. Beat icing ingredients in large bowl.
  7. Put icing on the tops of half the whoopie pies – be generous! Then too with another cake piece. 
  8. Voila! Enjoy your creation!


I will admit that I’ve never had a “real” whoopie pie, so our method and ingredients may be blasphemous. I apologize. But they’re delicious! 

Batgirl at Super Hero High

Another 12+ hour drive with three little darlings under my belt. I wish I could say it was a breeze, but…10 month old. 

He hates the car. We only made it an hour before our first stop. I was tempted to turn around then and call it a day. 

But I didn’t.

Instead I put in an audiobook for the big kids and let the baby have the DVD player for a bit. 

I know. I know. 

But 12 hours in the car.

The big kids were more than happy to listen to “Batgirl at Super Hero High” by Lisa Yee. And I was pleasantly surprised myself! 

The audiobook was read by Mae Whitman which was a treat for this Parenthood aficionado. 

The story of Barbara Gordon who becomes Batgirl is fun, complex, and has just enough high tech super villain drama to keep you on your toes. 

Despite being a bit younger than the target audience at 5 and 6, Mr.B and Miss H were intrigued and captivated throughout.

I truly appreciated the parent/child storyline between Batgirl and her father, and the complexities of emotions a parent must go through when they so desperately want to keep their child safe, but also know they must let them soar to their dreams and they cannot, in fact, protect them.

Throughout the story we follow Batgirl as she becomes an official scholar at Super Hero High; as she navigates the rigors of schoolwork, the highs and lows of friendships, and ultimately learns what everyone’s strongest super power is (their brain), and must test hers to its limits to defeat The Calculator. 

We enjoyed this audiobook so much and are eager to pick up another DC Super Hero Girls book and see what adventures await us!

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

The Schooling Path

I love all my children fiercely. But it’s my eldest, my poor, sweet guinea pig, that challenges me as a human and as a mother on a daily basis.

It is because of her that my parenting is constantly evolving. She is paving the way, and helping to create a better, more flexible, insightful, and compassionate mother for her little brothers. And for herself. 

What a big task for such a little girl.

After returning to school from Thanksgiving break Miss H has just been off. 

I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something was changing. 

She was more weepy. She’d cry at the drop of a hat over things that didn’t make sense (a friend at Girl Scouts agreed to let her go first after she asked and she immediately lost it). She was being unusually unkind to B. She was purposefully testing boundaries and choosing not to listen; moreso than typical things. 

My sweet, happy girl was transforming into someone I wasn’t fond of. 

And before I could put my finger on it the meltdowns began. 

Good golly. Meltdowns that gave 3 year old Miss H a run for her money. 

And then, finally, the words.

I miss you! She would sob to me in a complete heap on my lap. I miss you every day! I hate being away from you! I miss my brothers! I miss Papa! I don’t want to be gone from you all day!

Rinse and repeat this for the past two weeks. It’s been an emotional roller coaster.

I’ve always been totally supportive of her desires and aspirations; including school. No one will ever rally and champion  behind that girl the way her momma will. 

So when she cries in the morning, begging me not to take her to school, I remind her of all the things she loves about school.

And when I pick her up and ask her what the best part of her school day was and she quips with “you coming to pick me up” I re-ask the question so she gives me something school related.

But for how long do I push? When is it safe to retreat? Why in the world did she not come with a guide book? 

There is only a week and a half left until winter break. Maybe that break will be what she needs to return excitedly and re-invigorated. 

Or maybe it’s what she needs to be certain that as much as she loves her friends and teachers and work, school, no matter how liberal, just isn’t her cup of tea and she’d prefer to homeschool with her brother.

Whatever the path, one can be sure, she’s making it easier for her brothers (and her momma!) to navigate this messy path to education.  

Little Passports

We’ve been Little Passports fans over here for nearly a year. Last Christmas my mom purchased Miss H and Mr. B a subscription for Christmas – a great and fun way of spreading the cheer all year long. 

The kids love receiving mail (who doesn’t!? Unless it’s bills. You can keep those.), and they are ever-curious about the world as we instilled travel bug ls into them early on. 


Little Passports offers three different programs: Early Explorers, geared for ages 3-5; World Edition, targeted for ages 6-10, and USA Edition, for ages 7-12.

H and B have a subscription to World Edition and its oodles of fun. I always tecieve an email before their monthly package mails out, telling me which country it is about. This is great because it gives me time to grab books at the library or google supplementary recipes and crafts to go along with their Little Passports. I primarily use the extra resources with Mr. B whom I’m currently homeschooling. The info and activities provided are more than sufficient on their own though. 

We were given the opportunity to sample the Early Explorers and USA Edition, and the kids absolutely loved those as well. 

Mr. B enjoyed the large continent map he recieved in his Early Explorers package, as well as the ocean cards full of fun facts and a little wooden fishing game. He was thrilled to have a letter from Max and Mia telling him all about the things he would learn about. (He picked up the fishing game and returned it to its nice cloth pouch so he wouldn’t lose any pieces – unprompted. He definitely likes it!)



Miss H was very excited to recieve the USA Edition with its more “grown up” filing folder and small journaling notebook. She’s big stuff now that she’s a first grader and she was definitely pleased that her box lived up to her expectations. She read me her letter from Sam and Sofia and then immediately got to work in her USA scratch book.




As we dive into the holiday season, if you’re searching for a fun, interactive gift that will keep on giving month after month for your or someone else’s kiddo, be sure to check out Little Passports! Or if you’re just looking for a fun and engaging way to include some geography into your kids’ everyday lives in a super fun way, look no further! 

Little Passports is a well-loved subscription box in this house that I foresee bringing my babes entertainment and delight for many years to come: and they’re learning geography in such an exiting way!

Tiggly Words!

Mr. B is working hard on learning his letters. He really wants to read now that he sees all the worlds that have been opened for Miss H, but he’s just not quite ready yet. He doesn’t have a very firm grasp on all of his letter sounds yet, and that’s okay! He’s only 5.

But lately he’s been working on mastering his vowels and their sounds. Because Mr. B is such an interactive and media learner, unlike Miss H, I’ve resorted to the wonderful world of technology in order to help him.

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We acquired Tiggly Words through Timberdoodle and Mr. B couldn’t love it more!

Tiggly Words is a fantastic learning app that combines media and manipulatives in order to learn. Tiggly Words includes a set of 5 silicone vowels that work with 4 different free apps that help to teach vowel sounds, phonemes, and create words. Needless to say, Mr. B is hooked!img_2075

I am loving how he is quickly picking up sounds and concepts as a part of his school work; and he is loving that he gets to “play” on the tablet without me nagging him to do something else all ready. It’s a win-win for everyone!

If you’re looking to include a fun, interactive language arts learning tool as part of your curriculum, or just as added fun your kiddo, look no further than Tiggly Words!

 

Homeschooling with BookShark

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I have without a doubt spent more time researching homeschooling curriculum than I ever spent researching universities to attend. It’s been just that important to J and I to give our kids the right start at academics.

And finding curriculums that meet our needs has been quite the quest.

I prefer something that tells me exactly what to do day by day. With three little ones I just don’t have the time (or energy) to piece together and create daily curriculum plans.

I also needed something flexible enough to meet our busy, spontaneous lifestyle.

I needed something structured, but relaxed.

Something that would engage Mr. B and light that desire to learn. I wanted him challenged and intrigued, but not overwhelmed.

I also wanted something secular.

I was certain I’d never find the just right curriculum.

But I did: BookShark!

And I’m not sure who loves it more: Mr. B or me!

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We are currently doing the Reading with History K. Once I get my act together I think I will incorporate the science as well.

Mr. B loves it! He reminds me if he sees our day passing too quickly and he’s afraid we won’t get to it. He loves the read aloud chapter books. He’s completely engrossed with The Children’s Encyclopedia, and fascinated with the pictures in the Mother Goose¬†book (which I had worried he’d declare he was too big for nursery rhymes, but he loves them too much too remember he insists he’s “big” now).

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BookShark has the weekly and daily schedule all laid out for me, complete in a binder separated by weeks. It doesn’t get more convenient than that!

Since it is a 4 day schedule, it gives us a ton of flexibility to pick which days works best for us, skip a few days, do 7 days in a row – you name it!

Mr. B is so engaged with the reading and learning, he never wants to stop when we are finished for the day. It’s interactive and engaging; and just the right length of time to hold his attention without crossing the threshold of being bored or overwhelmed.

I love all the great literature and books it includes. Many that I know and love, and several I’ve never read before. And escaping into book realms with my son is such a pleasurable experience, watching him become enthralled in storylines and deeply vested in characters. Another book lover, for sure!

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Plus, BookShark is completely secular so it’s a great choice for all families of any background!

I have a feeling we will be using BookShark throughout our entire homeschooling journey.

If you’re just now starting to research homeschooling and/or curriculums, or you’re looking for something new, be sure to check out BookShark!

A Letter to My Daughter Before She Starts First Grade

Before you were born and I envisioned your academic career. I foresaw academic and/or parochial private schools; swanky and rigid uniforms that you’d feel were akin to a straight jacket, unwavering academic succession where your only goal was to be better than everyone else (and you would be, girl, I know you would be), perform well on the test, do whatever you would have to do to go to the Ivy Leagues some day.

And then you were born, and without uttering a single word you changed my whole world view. On everything.

I knew you were too unique and spirited for a uniform at such a young age; you would not be easy to mold into the robot I thought you’d be. You were so much more than a test score or a letter grade. You were more than the very finest schools could possibly offer. And let’s face it, we’d never be able to afford Ivy League anyway (although we both know if it were your dream and you did get in, I’d sell my organs on the black market to make it happen).

And so I shirked those deep seeded notions of what I was supposed to want for you, and instead embraced the you I was given . And oh – what a gem I was given!

As I slowly morphed into the free range, mostly non-punitive, let-the-children-lead momma I am now. I lavished in the idea of having you home with me every day, until I could no longer keep you here as mine.

As a quiet, introverted kid I longed to spend my days at home, away from my peers, in the confines of my room, learning anything and everything my heart could desire through the written word. I wanted to be one of those homeschoolers that everyone always talked about as being weird. I was weird. I’d knew I’d be okay.

And so as my heart and brain changed to be the momma you needed, I began daydreaming about our own homeschooling ventures. How our years would play out.

But you know what? You weren’t the little girl of those fantasies either. You were even better. So much better than I could have ever imagined: vivacious, outgoing, charismatic, and tenacious. You craved more than I could give you, which often left me filling not quite up to par when it came to playing the role of your momma.

So again, I had to shift my views and my focus. I all ready knew what wasn’t going to work for you; as I said, your spirit is too bright and precocious for much of the traditional world. So thoughtful, creative, and innovative.

So when the call came that you’d been given a spot to a school that fitted all of your needs, I came up with 100 reasons why it wasn’t going to work. Too expensive. Too hot. Too much time away. Too, too, too…

But then there was you. Beautiful, perfect you. Smiling, talking, engaging. All those “toos” were moot points because this is where you belong right now. Today. In this season of your life.

I learned long ago not to make sweeping statements like “all” or “never.” So I don’t know if this is a long-term fit, or if some day you’ll gravitate elsewhere. Maybe that elsewhere would be back home. Or maybe it will be further away from me.

But I do know that right now you’re going to thrive here. You are going to grow and soar.

And so long as we keep working as a team, listening to one another, it’s all going to work out and be okay. Even if I have to constantly be changing my views, shifting my focus, to make sure I am meeting your needs, and not too caught up in my own wants.

This is your journey, sweet girl. This is your story. You deserve to be the author of it, not me.

 

All About Reading: The Only Reading Program You Need

IMG_9748 IMG_9753 IMG_9746 IMG_9742Look no further; I’ve found the reading program of your dreams.

When we first started considering the world of homeschooling, something I was originally sure I would never do because it was so foreign to me, my greatest fear of all was that of teaching my children to read.

I mean, that’s the foundation for everything. The rest of their lives.

That’s kind of monumental if I should screw it up.

I researched “how to teach your kid to read” until I’d left no link unclicked, no book unread, no person’s anecdotal story untold. I needed to know everything.

And after a few trial and errors, we finally stumbled into All About Reading.

All of my prayers were answered.

My kids love it. And I’m not just saying that! (And no, they’re not paying me to say that either!).

Yesterday when I had to take B to the doctor, H asked to bring a book. We only have 29384793849813 books, but she chose one of her All About Reading readers. Seriously. And she read it for nearly an hour to her little brothers.

After sleeping most of the day away with a fever over 102, B woke up at 6pm and begged me to please do his “schoolwork” with him.

Guys, they love it that much.

Now don’t get me wrong. We’ve had a few hiccups. When the content has been particularly challenging for H (aka, she hasn’t fully understood it within the first 5 seconds and it’s taken more like 5 minutes for her to get the gist of it), then H would get all mad and “I caaaaaan’t!” But that’s more tell-tale of her personality than of the program.

B has had zero interest in learning his letters, and it’s not been something I’ve pushed at all. I want my kids to learn as organically as possible. I definitely need resources to help with¬†that, but I want it to be as true to their nature and developmental readiness as possible. But B asked me a few weeks ago if he could have his own reading program after watching H do hers; and of course, yes! Yes, you can, sweet boy.

I ordered him the pre-reading program when I ordered H’s next level up. And he loves it. He asks to do it each day. He’s eager to do it. The lessons are just short enough to keep his attention, but long enough to help him transition into what it will look like someday (waaaaay down the road most likely), when he’s ready to do a full actual reading lesson.

And the actual reading lessons are short, too. We very rarely spend more than 20 minutes on a lesson each day. And when we do, it’s often because we’ve done two lessons that day.

Truthfully, I’m learning things I didn’t know before. Reading rules that maybe I was once taught, maybe not. But the English language in all of its complexities is making more sense to me now, so I can only imagine it’s serving my children well, too.

My favorite part might be how laid out it is for me, the teacher. The teacher’s book literally tells me word for word what to say to my kids to explain the lessons and help them understand. I couldn’t mess it up if I tried!

So whether you’re homeschooling, or just need some additional resources to help your kiddo read, I cannot recommend All About Reading enough!