Our first week of homeschooling


This Monday we officially started to homeschool. New routines went into affect with the start of the new school year for all of us, including my parents who are providing childcare for us.  It was also my first week at my new part-time job.

Routine: We started each morning by doing 20-30 minutes of exercise, using youtube videos. Then we journaled for reading and math.  For reading we worked on our sight words and for math we are reviewing addition fact families. Then we had read aloud, more reading instruction, math and in the afternoon she worked on math, handwriting and sewing on her own while I was at work. We went to the library (as well as the grocery store) on my day off from work.

Read-Aloud Book: Our book this week is Meet Kaya, an American Girl book about a Native American girl growing up in the Pacific Northwest in 1764.  We are really enjoying learning about the culture and beliefs of the Nez Perce. We are going to read the next book in the series next week.

Now that we are half way through our reading program, since we started in the spring and took a break for summer, we’ve seriously hit a tough spot and will be slowing down a bit.  Consonant blends are words that begin or end with two consonants, i.e. dr, tr or sh.  We are breaking it down by focusing on two consonant blends each day and working more slowly on those fluency sheets in our All About Reading program.

We stayed organized this week, thanks to the great ideas from homeschool bloggers on Pinterest.  We got the idea to organize daily assignments in work folder from Life by Ashley Pichea. Each day I put worksheets or other assignments in a work folder for that day of the week.  This is what she takes to my mom’s house for independent work.


I created a visual schedule for each day.  I got the idea from this mom on Teaching Stars. There were lots of templates online, but we asked Kate’s sister to help us create the picture cards for the visual schedule, which are laminated and then attached with velcro.  She did a great job, using her sense of humor and her cartooning skills to create very unique cards.  Every time I see them I’m reminded that this homeschool is a family affair and that each one the cards is one of a kind, like our daughters, like our homeschool.



Kate finished her first week by attending a PE class for homeschoolers. I am starting to figure out how to make the best use of time at home doing one-on-one and the time spent at Grandma’s doing things independently while I’m at work.  So far, so good.



Curriculum Choices- Part II





I read many reviews for math curriculum which made me change my mind constantly for quite some time. In the end I chose MCP Mathematics Level C (3rd grade) and Math Mammoth Blue series (grades 1-6). MCP is a basic math curriculum and I got Mammoth to fill in the gaps with the concepts that need intense review/remediation. I started using Mammoth this summer and so far I’m impressed at how thoroughly it covers concepts; very visual and lots of mental math, too.

Handwriting is an area that we want to focus on this year.  Besides journaling in math and other subjects, we want to teach handwriting as a core subject.  Our main program will be Handwriting without Tears Level 1 (First Grade).  This was highly recommended by parents and Kate’s OT at the hospital. I also wanted her to work on mazes for both OT and to strengthen her hand-eye coordination. We got some books of mazes from Kumon. We are going to encourage Kate to learn sewing as a way to strengthen her fine motor skills by using the book, Sewing School.  The other day we had our first short lesson, threading the needle.  That was fun! She wanted to give up after 5 minutes. Finally, we are also using Draw, Write Now Level 1, a fun handwriting and drawing course.

I have amassed a ton of worksheets, activities and other resources from teacher sites including EdHelper, Teachers Pay Teachers and others to compliment our literary thematic units with activities for  Language Arts, Social Studies and Science.


Kate is signed up for the homeschoolers P.E. class which will start in a few weeks at a local park.  I’m hoping that gives her a chance to make friends and get strong and healthy.

So in a nutshell, that is our curriculum.  It took me a long time to put it all together and for that I’m thankful for all the moms who have shared their children’s curriculum and their experiences and opinions of the different programs out there.  Also, thanks to Pinterest.  (I love Pinterest!)



As the year progresses I’ll tell you how each component worked and how it was used in our homeschool. There are lots of things we hope to do, such as plant a garden, go on interesting field trips, bake an apple pie,etc.  We’ll make changes and add things as we go along.  I think we got her a curriculum that reflects where she is academically as well as where we believe she can go.  There will be a lot of variety and some new things to challenge her as well.

Next time I post will be after we all go back to school, meaning end of summer.  My older daughter goes back to school next week; 8th grade.  I start a new job next week, too.  I’m a certified health educator and work in the field of tobacco cessation/prevention.  I had been working as group facilitator and at corporate health screening events as a contractor for the past 5 months.  Starting a new job wasn’t something I planned at this time, but it’s a great opportunity and it is part-time.  I was able to create my schedule based on what I think will work for homeschooling/family.  I will work in the afternoon most days and my parents will help me with child care, as they have for so many years.  We are blessed to have them.

A lot going on here.   My plan is to take it easy this week as much as I can.


Curriculum Choices- Reading


In some ways the decision to homeschool is the easy part.  Then come the plethora of decisions about how to homeschool your child, your child with special needs.  Over the last few months I’ve had one thing on the front burner of my brain- Kate’s curriculum.


While Kate is going to the fourth grade, her reading is well below grade level, so we’re hopeful that we’re going to (finally) see some progress this school year. Thank God for my friend Celeste, a homeschooling mom I’ve known for years, whose child is also a brain tumor survivor.  She recommended our reading program, All About Reading.   It was developed by a mom whose child is dyslexic. Once Celeste shared her experience of seeing her child finally make progress with reading with this program after trying various programs I was psyched.  So far the program has not disappointed.

We started implementing the program this spring after school; introducing the activities slowly.  She thinks the program is fun and the lessons take us about 30-45 minutes, which she could handle even after school.  The program is multi-sensory, focused on phonics with many activities and tons of review.  Level 1 teaches reading to a (solid) first grade level. Our plan is to be able to complete Level 1 and start and complete Level 2 (second grade) before the end of the school year.  This would be a huge achievement for us.  I will give a full review in the future but if you want more information you can check out Celeste’s review of the program at her blog  Joyful Home Learning.

To bring some fun into reading this year we will be doing literary units from Five in a Row.  This curriculum has two levels, one for ages 4-8 and one for 8-12.  I decided to go with the 4-8 curriculum because it can because the books used in the curriculum will be interesting to Kate.  So how this will work for us is it will give us a weekly theme from the books included in the guide.  You can teach the books in any order and you can use the activities, adapt them or supplement with other activities.  What the curriculum does give you is a way to go deeper with these books and explore them.  We are going to do a world geography focus this fall by doing the books with stories based in Japan, Italy, Netherlands, etc.  Then we’ll do some stories with US geography focus starting in January.  I hope this curriculum will help us bring some fun, invite curiosity and creativity to balance out the more challenging aspects of our homeschool program.  Our first book will be How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman.

Next few posts will be focused on handwriting, math and extras that will make this year very exciting.





And the adventure begins…


The months of planning, reading curriculum reviews and downloading worksheets have brought us to this moment.  All that is left is to send the letter of intent to the school superintendent to inform them we will homeschool Kate starting this fall.  As a family we have had many challenges, ones we couldn’t prepare for, but this latest one we’re most hopeful and excited to embark upon.

Everyone who meets our daughter is blown away by her kindness, her beautiful smile and how she engages effortlessly with all kinds of people, adults, old people, teenagers, babies, everyone.  After completing her treatments for a brain tumor, we knew her social skills would be an asset that would help her in school.  When the radiation oncologist told us that radiation would affect her learning, he also stressed the importance of special education programs to help her overcome those challenges. We were naive to assume that having an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) would guarantee that she would receive all the interventions necessary to help her.  Sadly, this was not the case and we’ll surely tell that story in some other post. Seeing her struggle with learning and come home defeated from school, has been the second hardest thing I’ve had to deal with as her parent.


Mommy and Kate

But that all changes today.  No more second-guessing ourselves; this is the right thing to do for her now. We are moving forward with our plan for her education. For many years we started a website on Carepages to keep family and friends updated on her treatments and medical issues.    We’re glad we did, because it gives us the opportunity to connect and now looking back we can see how far she’s come from those first moments when we we were diagnosed in 2005.  We found ourselves updating less and less about medical issues, thankfully, because she has been doing well and has been in remission/off treatment now for 5 years.  However, we did not but not have an outlet for the struggles we were facing in dealing with her school over the past four years.  We hope this new platform, likewise, will give us the opportunity to document our challenges, our progress and connect with others who will help us on this journey as it specifically relates to learning and finding the ways to help her do her best and get the most of her educational opportunities.



Kate’s mom/teacher/advocate and stylist