October/November Updates


It took us a few weeks but we got our family vegetable garden going again.  We are getting so much rain lately that we barely do any watering.

Shopping for our veggie garden.

Shopping for our veggie garden.


I am thankful that we joined the homeschool co-op in our area.  In exchange for a few hours of volunteering each month, doing simple things like being hall monitor or assisting a teacher, my child gets the chance to explore new things in a low pressure environment.  The beauty of co-op groups is that, at least at the elementary level, there is no grade level box to fit into, but rather it is organized into fluid age/grade grouping.  Kate made homemade pasta last week in her cooking class, which I guarantee is an experience she wouldn’t have had at home. I’m amazed at how her cooking teacher can get ten kids creating great food and cleaning up after themselves.

Cleaning up is an important part of cooking class.

Cleaning up is an important part of cooking class.

Kate found the perfect Halloween costume inspired by our time in ancient Egypt reading The Golden Goblet.

Kate, with her friend Fitz, ready for trick or treating.

Kate, with her friend Fitz, ready for trick or treating.

The new book is Tirzah, another historical fiction novel, about the exodus of the Jewish people out of Egypt.  I’m sure she’ll learn a lot by reading this book.  I love how good books make you curious about the world.  I’ll be honest, so far we haven’t gotten into this book, but I’m sure that she will learn so much by going on a journey in someone else’s sandals.  Already because of our book club I was inspired to sign up for my first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on Coursera, to learn more about the history of this part of the world.

We continue focusing on reading skills.  Having a tutor work with her has taken some of the pressure off of me.  It’s great to get feedback from her on what she sees going on, what skills are emerging and which ones are still inconsistent.  Also, it’s nice that she actually looks forward to doing reading with the tutor.  (That’s okay, I don’t take it personally.) Kate and I do short lessons from Explode the Code workbook, reading aloud and oral reading from readers that she chooses from the library. I try to get her to practice reading to me every day, even if it’s ten minutes, to work on the fluency.

She is making good progress with her keyboarding program.    Where at first she became quickly discouraged, now she can concentrate for longer periods of time and is learning good typing habits.  I started to include regular handwriting exercises from Handwriting without Tears. We are also going to look into getting regular OT sessions going again.  The other day the cooking teacher asked me if she had trouble with handwriting and it was because Kate was complaining about her wrist hurting when she was whisking ingredients in her class. It may be time to reevaluate these skills.

While I am certainly not relaxed by nature and I live, work and commute in a not relaxing area, I’m glad for the constant reminder to stop and enjoy this life, now.

I’m thankful for all that we continue learning together.


What we are reading now:  Tirzah by Lucille Travis

Books read this school year: 30

What we’re looking forward to:

Visiting family in Illinois for Thanksgiving, Snow and

Christmas (and not just because of the break from school)





Monthly Updates: September 2015


While we are still learning about the process of homeschooling, last school year was a steep learning curve.  It’s become more like a normal routine and my new work schedule is also making a big difference in giving us more quality time together.

Kate is really enjoying the classes offered at the homeschool co-op in our area.  She chose cooking instead of a music class this semester.  We are also part of the book club and are enjoying the first selection, a book about ancient Egypt, The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw.  What an awesome way to learn history.  We complete the reading assignment together using Learning Ally audiobooks. She’s not always happy about completing reading assignments, but she is beginning to understand that to be a part of this group, she needs to come prepared.  I am getting less resistance and more interest as we get into the book.  She will often stop me to ask about words she doesn’t know.  For example, today those words were: sarcophagus and monotonous.  Sometimes we’ll do additional research online about interesting things that come up in the book about Egypt.   It’s also wonderful to see her interacting with the other students as they discuss the themes of the book.  We decided to put aside the other novel we were reading (Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale) and really focus on this one as our main read aloud to get the most out of the book club experience.

Grating cheese for pizza during cooking class at homeschool co-op.

Learning to safely use a knife during cooking class.

Learning to safely use a knife during cooking class.

I am very thankful for the homeschoolers co-op, however, it is a long morning and she comes home completely exhausted.  I also feel wiped out. Is it all the socializing or the free Muay Thai class that I take while Kate is in her cooking class? Yes, I am a student, too, of a martial art.  I bought my first pair of boxing gloves and shin pads and I’m learning how to use them.

Another super fun addition to the homeschool this year is Art.  I struggled last year with how to incorporate art and even put her in classes at the community center.   I can’t believe how easy it is to have art lessons at home with the Atelier homeschool program.  You just read a description of the project, gather materials, watch the DVD and do the projects.  So far we’ve managed to do a few projects and it has been the highlight of our week.

Creating a "Stormy Day" project using watercolors.

Creating a “Stormy Day” project using watercolors.

We are using a few new computer based programs this semester which we are really enjoying and may review them in more detail in later posts.

Keyboarding-Keyboarding without Tears (they also make Handwriting without Tears, which we love)

Spanish- Middleburry Interactive Languages

Math- CTC Math

We are also enjoying some more traditional curriculum this year, such as additional Touch Math products, MCP Phonics  workbooks and Learning Palletes.

Being able to mix it up is important to keep the energy flowing.  I think that I’m figuring out how to integrate all these different curricula to accomplish our learning goals while not feeling overwhelmed and burdened by these programs.  Consequently, planning for each week is much easier now.  I also started to give Kate her own to-do list with the activities we want to accomplish each day, including reading time and activities she needs to do independently or with minimal assistance from me.  I give her a daily to-do list so she doesn’t feel overwhelmed and can feel proud of herself for completing her work.  Each activity counts as a point and at the end of the week we count the points, which she can use or bank for rewards, i.e. going out for frozen yogurt.

Our current Read Aloud: The Golden Goblet

Books read this school year: 17

First Field Trip: Flamingo Gardens (SOS Save Our Swamp Educational Event)

What we have coming up: Restarting our family garden for the school year and hopefully an awesome Halloween (possibly Egypt inspired costume).

March-April Updates: Hands On Learning


I am in awe that we are in the final stretch of this school year and   my daughter and I still like each other (most days).

What we’ve been up to:

Spanish- We are still taking lessons through the Homeschool Spanish Academy.  It’s been wonderful to see her make progress and feel more confident with her conversational skills and vocabulary.

Social Studies- In social studies we’re working on our Florida history using our first Intellego Unit Study.   This curriculum is web-based and focuses on engaging all learning styles.  So far, we’re very happy with this approach.

Math- I  decided to switch our math curriculum to Touch Math and have been using it for the past week. Her school used this program when she was in pull-out intervention in first grade. It was familiar to Kate and it is a solid curriculum, which made for an easy to transition.

Reading- We are continuing to use Explode the Code for reading, both the workbooks and the online version.  I was surprised that she likes the workbooks better.

Science- In science we finally put the materials for experiments from the Magic School Bus science kit to use to learn about electricity.  We also used the full episodes of Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Learning about static electricity with Dad.

Learning about static electricity with Dad.


In March we went on “Spring” Break to visit family in freezing Illinois.  It was wonderful to see family and Kate’s wish came true.  The day before we returned home they got four inches of snow.  She got to play in the snow and we had our flight delayed and then cancelled, but eventually made it home.

We got Kate a subscription to Kidstir to encourage her interest in cooking and baking.  Each week we try to make one of the recipes that they send along with kid-sized kitchen tools. She loves getting a package in the mail and adding the new recipes to the binder that they sent her in the first package.  She is learning the basics, like separating eggs and measuring ingredients and is motivated to stick to it and complete her cooking project.

Kate unboxes her first box from Kidstir.

Kate unboxes her first box from Kidstir.


Making one of the Kidstir recipes, chocolate lava cake.

Making one of the Kidstir recipes, chocolate lava cake.

In April we will be finishing our Spanish lessons.  We started art lessons with our city on Saturdays, something that was missing in our homeschool and which Kate was constantly requesting.  Music is coming up next with a much anticipated field trip to the symphony later this month.  We will try to follow-up with another Intellego Unit Study on the orchestra.

Later in the summer I would like to review the Intellego Study Units that we complete as well as the Touch Math program and Explode the Code.  I do see her responding well to these programs, but I want to use them for a while before writing the reviews.


Proudly showing off her homemade sugar cookies. They were very tasty. 

Field Trip- Last week we were able to participate in an unexpected treat, a field trip to the beach where we learned about marine debris from a local 4-H Club and participated in a beach clean-up.  I was so thankful that it was scheduled on my day off from work and that we were able to enjoy the beautiful weather as we were doing hands-on learning together.

Kate, volunteering at the 4-H Education/Beach Clean-up.

Kate, volunteering at the 4-H Education/Beach Clean-up.

Read Aloud- Finally, our read aloud since March is the book: The Princess Academy by Shannon Hale.  I got this suggestion from the website A Mighty Girl.  Kate loves princesses and I wanted to challenge her with a book where the main female character was  independent and interesting.  I’m amazed at how focused she can be when she is listening to a story.  Just when you think she might be losing interest she’ll stop you and ask the meaning of a word she hasn’t heard before.  Our new way to make the most of every minute together is to listen to the audiobook together while I get ready for work. So far, we are both enjoying this book and can’t wait to see how it turns out.  We’ll keep you posted.