Who Said Summer was Easy?

Maybe nobody said that. Maybe I just made that up.

I think I was trying to make that up at least.

I had this great vision of summer being lazy, carefree, relaxing, and peaceful. Except for when it would be adventurous, exciting, enriching, character building, and memory inducing. I was all ready to start summer on Day One. No formal school (just the usual constant learning.) No schedules, no deadlines. Just summer.

But I forgot one major thing.

I’m a mom.

I’m a mom of 5 little children. I forgot that moms don’t get vacations.

I know, I know! It’s not like I’m completely new at this! How could I forget? I think it was just wishful thinking that my budding independent children would take care of themselves and, I don’t know… maybe the other kids too?

Ok, that was too much to ask. Or at least hope.

So things didn’t really start out how I was hoping, and I started summer in a bad mood. My endless hours of just reading book after book on the couch just weren’t meant to be, and it kind of made me grumpy! Don’t you ever feel like YOU deserve a break, too? Don’t you think that summer break wasn’t just made for the students, but for the teachers, too? When do we get to stop and just do nothing? Or at least do something exclusively for the rest, relaxation, and recuperation of ourselves and just ourselves? I have a friend and neighbor who teaches 3rd grade and she always laughs (in a sad, yet somehow also ticked off, sort of way) and says, “Who says teacher’s get summers off?”

Well, moms don’t get summers off either. (In case you forgot, too.)

Anyway, I asked a bunch of other homeschool moms what they do to help them transition from the scheduled, busy, action packed days to the more slow paced, children led,  do-what-we-want days. Many of them said they just kept doing school through the summer.

Uh…that was not my favorite answer.

But others suggested giving the kids a more relaxed schedule, with chores, gardening, yard work, etc. Or doing just one subject, like nature studies, that was more conducive to summer time weather, instead of scrapping everything all together.

But my whole thing was, I didn’t want to schedule things for my kids. I wanted them to take the initiative and do it themselves. I suppose that isn’t such a far fetched idea. And, really, eventually we will get to it. But it was the transition time that was kicking my rear. I was so ready to just switch gears. Alas, the children were not.

Transition. Next year, I am going to remember the transition. I’d been preparing myself mentally for weeks for these blessed, lazy months. But my kids, apparently, had not. And it didn’t go over so well when I just dropped summer in their laps and told them to have a good time.

Here is how our summer is looking, though, so far. It is actually a far cry from the smooth, lazy, lemonade-sipping, front-porch sitting, firefly watching days/evenings I was envisioning. (For one, we don’t have a front porch, and two, although I just learned there are fireflies in Utah, I have never actually seen one.)

The first two weeks of summer were sports camp! It’s like a suped up P.E. for 2 hours a day, 4 days a week. The kids love it! My (now) 1st grader was a little apprehensive at first. He was worried that there would be reading involved. But after day one he was sold! This is maybe our 3rd year with this program.

Then we had a week break. (And by break I mean we were still really busy, but our own kind of busy. We’ll get to get to that in a minute.)

And starting today we have two weeks of swim lessons! My sweet preschooler FINALLY gets to take swim lessons and he is thrilled beyond belief that this year he can actually get in the pool with the other kids instead of wait patiently on the lawn chairs with mom and baby. My challenge now is to keep my 2 year old from escaping my grasp and jumping into the pool while the other kids are swimming. (It might be a long two weeks, now that I consider it.)

Also, my parents came into town to attend missionary training! I have missionary parents!! Before they went in for training, we made sure we snuck a good hike in there with grandpa. I took him on the best local hike I knew. (Too bad everyone else and their dog – I am not even kidding, I have never seen so many dogs on a trail in my life – decided to go, too.) Still, it was lots of fun.

Here is that awesome trail! No dogs pictured – but we did see two moose right up close! (A little too close for my comfort – I didn’t use zoom on that photo!)

And here are those two missionaries off to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and share the Good News! A lot of people are in need of all three of those things right now. (So two photos: one when we dropped them off at the Missionary Training Center, and another the week after when they came back to get their bikes out of our garage. The reason for the second is because I look HORRIBLE in the first and I do have enough vanity in me to post a good pic of myself every once in a while.  And look at that fat baby!! Healthy. I mean healthy. Yeah, try lugging those chubby chubs in a hiking backpack. Not easy.)

My daughter has her choir tour this week. That means we are spending 3 full days (maybe part of a 4th) in Salt Lake City. I have no idea how this is going to work. Somehow we have got to be up in the city at 8:00 am every day, but we won’t be ready to come back home until about 10:00 pm. To say we will be tired is probably a gross understatement. I’m hoping the adrenaline of rehearsals, concerts, recordings, etc. keeps us going until Sunday – Oh! That blessed day of rest. I have a feeling we will need it more than ever this week. (Here are two songs arranged for and performed by her choir – although the children’s chorus doesn’t sing in either of these two pieces. If you need some music to help you feel the spirit of the Sabbath, try these right here!)

The good news is there are relatively long breaks between rehearsals and concerts, so it’s going to be a really big “Girls Retreat” at the same time. We’re going to hit up the zoo, maybe the aquarium, and hopefully stop by Grammy’s to take a nap and do some laundry – and take a shower. (Maybe we should have just gotten a hotel.)

But my biggest news – I don’t know, it’s big for me – is I started a hiking group on Facebook for homeschoolers in my end of the county. Every week I’ve been hosting a hike and inviting other members of the group to host hikes as well. We’ve done 4 trails so far and there is a hike in the works for next week (this week I will just be trekking back and forth to Salt Lake City instead.) It has been a lot of fun to explore new trails and meet new people. I don’t know how my area compares, but I feel like there are a lot of homeschoolers around here. I love connecting with other homeschooling moms and seeing what they are doing, how awesome their kids are, and getting new ideas and help with things I am struggling with, but that they have already gotten a pretty good grip on. Also, I’ve realized my children are learning leadership when I start groups, head up adventures, and plan outings for other people. I never realized it until the other day when one of them said something about it, but yes, I guess I am teaching by example how to lead, support, encourage, and develop friendships out in the community. Bonus points for me!

Plus I am addicted to hiking.

Hike 1 – Dripping Rock

Hike 2: The Grotto

Hike 3: Some unnamed waterfall out in the woods at the end of an unmarked trail. 🙂

Hike 4: Devil’s Kitchen (A.K.A. Little Bryce Canyon) – this is more like a short nature walk with stunning views. (Kind of wild that both the red rock and the snow capped mountain were seen from the same .2 mile stretch of trail!)

So last summer’s campaign, A Hike A Week (AHAW) has been scrapped for the 2017 version, Hike it Homeschoolers (HiH).

And that baby and in the hiking backpack hasn’t gotten any lighter, let me tell ya.

In summary… how do you summarize a rather random hodge podge of only semi-related ideas?

In summary, our slip into summer was a little rocky. There are some things that I still feel need a little work (like my summer induced aversion to any and all forms of work whatsoever – I know that one has to go, but it’s just so hard to do anything about. Just being honest, here.) But many things are going really well. Although similar to last year, summer 2017 has its own flavor already, just like school year 2017-2018 will have its own flavor, too.

And I’ll be a little more prepared to anticipate and navigate the next transitions.

But I won’t start worrying about it just yet. I’ve still got a full glass of lemonade here calling my name. 🙂

Symposium Review

Because I couldn’t think of more boring title for my favorite subject in school.

And that boom box is rad. Yes, as in radical. Like the 80s were.

Symposium has been THE BEST addition to our homeschool this last year. You can look here for a little back history if you want. But if you are like me and you don’t like to click things, the simple explanation goes like this: every morning we spent 20 minutes together listening to one or two pieces of classical music (once or twice, depending on how long they were) while we drew, colored, wrote, or just relaxed. By the end of the week the kids were humming along and singing classical music to themselves during the day. I focused on one composer for about 3 weeks at a time so we could get a feel for his music (no lady composers this time.)

Why has this been so amazing for us? I don’t know. Maybe classical music is just amazing and enhances and enriches your life? You know, maybe all those good, lovely, beautiful, praiseworthy, and soul fulfilling things are indeed, actually beneficial – even for children.

It made us happier. And it helped us calm down.

But it also woke us up and put us in a good mood and ready to take on the day!

(Except for when the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute sang, “The vengeance of hell boils in my heart.” Although a lovely piece of opera, by the end of the week, we were all kind of in a bad mood.)

Ok, but besides boiling vengeance and whatnot,  symposium was a blissful experience.

(Except for during Camille Saint Saens’ “Carnival of at the Animals.” It was just too hard not to get up and MOVE! I suppose it all started with Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” but after Saint Saens, I kind of felt like I lost control of the kids for awhile. Then it wasn’t so blissful.)

But “Hoe Down” (Aaron Copeland) isn’t meant to be blissful, so we didn’t even try on that one.

So… let’s just get the bad review part out of the way. In a world where I had perfect control of my kids all the time, and they could read my mind AND obey every thought with joy and thanksgiving, they would have quietly sat, soaked in the music, analyzed the different instrumental parts in their cute little minds, and created artistic masterpieces in their notebooks depicting life, love, joy, peace, charity, and their perfect love and appreciate for their mother.

I would just hang those little drawing all over my house!

But instead, like I mentioned, sometimes they got a little crazy. And sometimes they seriously annoyed me.

Seriously. Annoyed. Me.

So for next year I am going to apply two different techniques to make a wonderful experience (despite my being annoyed and them being crazy) even better.

  1. I’m going to buy them special symposium notebooks and markers, pencils, and pens. We just used crayons and college ruled spiral bound notebooks this time. Sometimes if the kids have something they know is “special,” they treat it special. Which means with a little bit more respect. And behave accordingly.
  2. I’m going to stop being annoyed at children behaving like children and let them enjoy the music the way children enjoy music. They move. They dance. They make noise. And there is nothing wrong with that. And I just need to remind myself of that. Life would not be nearly as beautiful if my little scenario mentioned above (the mind control and perfect obedience thing) were actually real life.

(Yeah, I’m just going to keep telling myself that.)


I’m just kidding!! I love those little kiddos, and being their mom, even on their rough days and my rough days, is awesome because they are little people and I am a big person and we are all just doing our best together – not because we have it all figured out, already.

Or because I have perfected any mind control techniques.

Moving on…

Next year we are going to do things a little differently, and it may look a little confusing at first, so bear with me for a minute. My 5th grader keeps asking me when we are going to add art pieces into our symposium line up, but I am having so much fun with the music that it is hard to just drop it. I know some people go six weeks with music, 6 weeks with art, but I’m reluctant to do that at this point. So, this is my compromise.

Week 1: Listen to a piece of music every day for 20 minutes (like normal) but ALSO have 6 or so fine are pieces hung up strategically around the house (a.k.a. fridge and bathroom) for the kids to organically soak in. (I’ve heard that is a real thing.)

Week 2: Have the kids pick one of the pieces of fine art and work through a variety of activities found here (sorry, you’re gonna have to click on that one) to help them become more familiar with it WHILE we listen to week 1’s classical music in the background. Same drill, 20 minutes each morning.

Week 3: Start again with the week 1 routine, but with new music and new pieces of fine art hung up around the house… and just keep the pattern rolling from there.

Ok, so maybe that wasn’t so complicated after all.

I’m getting all my fine art pieces from Enrichmentstudies.com and my music just comes from amazon prime music.

A few music themes I’m working on in my head (meaning I’ve just thought about it and done nothing else yet) are movie scores (the kids are requesting Batman and Scooby Do. What?), music from around the world (3 weeks latin America, 3 weeks Chinese traditional, 3 weeks African traditional, etc.), choral music, music highlighting various instruments (3 weeks piano, 3 weeks flute, 3 weeks guitar, etc.) music from different ages (romance, baroque, whatever else there is – I don’t even know what I’m talking about at this point), and holiday themed music (mostly I just want Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor for Halloween! and some seriously amazing German Christmas music.) Throw me some other ideas! I know there are music lovers out there who can come up with some really wonderful stuff for us.

Speaking of wonderful stuff, here is what we have been listening to the last 4 months. Although the kids really loved many of these pieces, the most frequently requested piece in our house (by name, in fact) is Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (the Ode to Joy one, but my kids just shout out “Freude!”), and in second place is Aaron Copland’s “Hoe Down.” On the last day of school we listening to all 4 hours (about) of music in the background while we tied up loose strings in the other subjects and I seriously didn’t even recognize a few of those Debussy pieces, so obviously not every piece had the same mesmerizing effect on all of us.

  1. Grieg, Piano Concerto in A minor
  2. Grieg, In the Hall of the Mountain King
  3. Grieg, Peer Gynt Suite 1: 1, Morning Mood
  4. Grieg, Peer Gynt Suite 1: 2, The Death of Aase
  5. Greig, Peer Gynt Suite 1: 3, Anitra’s Dance
  6. Beethoven, Symphony No. 9 in D minor: Choral IV, Presto
  7. Beethoven, Symphony No. 5 in C minor
  8. Beethoven, Moonlight Sonata
  9. Beethoven, Fur Elise
  10. Mozart, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (all 4 movements)
  11. Mozart, The Marriage of Figaro Overture
  12. Mozart, The Marriage of Figaro Duettino Sull ‘Aria
  13. Mozart, Die Zauberflöte (the Magic Flute) Overture
  14. Mozart, Die Zauberflöte, Der Vogelfanger bin ich, ja!
  15. Mozart, Die Zauberflöte, Der Holle Rache Kocht in meinem Herze
  16. Copland, Fanfare for the Common Man
  17. Copland, Hoe-Down
  18. Copland, Appalachian Spring: Allegro
  19. Copland, Appalachian Spring: Doppio Movimento
  20. Saint Saens, Carnival of the Animals (all 14 movements)
  21. Debussy, Reverie
  22. Debussy, Clair de Lune
  23. Debussy, Arabesque No 1 in E major
  24. Debussy, Pour Le Piano (all three movements)
  25. Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue
  26. Gershwin, Cuban Overture
  27. Gershwin, An American in Paris
  28. Gershwin, Porgy and Bess
  29. Gershwin, Summertime performed by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong

How’s that for eclectic. That must have been my theme for last semester. Either that or “Stuff I just pretty much love and remembered at random.)

I don’t know if that last one is “classical” as much as it is a classic, but I thought it was fitting for the last week of school.



The Space Race AND a Field Trip to Io!


Obviously we’ve done a lot of field trips lately. And although we’ve learned and experience new things on all of them (because we are always learning, all the time) the most academic field trip so far this year was our planetarium trip to finish up our Space Race section in history.

Quick Space Race insert:

Our entire unit on the space race consisted of 5 books (well 6, but one isn’t pictured). We tacked this on to the end of a greater unit on Communism and the Cold War. (We would have done more, but I ran out of time and we just really wanted to start summer! You can’t really blame me, right?)

While some of the books were really simplistic, they were all really good. Sometimes simple is better. I don’t know a lot about the space race. I don’t know a lot about NASA or the different missions in space. So technical jargon or a book that assumed I already knew the basics was going to be too advanced for me. (Now, give me a basic book about botany or the human body and I might fall asleep – but space technology? This is, indeed, rocket science, and that just isn’t my forte.)


But a couple of books gave us deeper information, and that was nice, too. One book, in particular, gave us a short history of flight in general. And it was written by Buzz Aldrin. I hear he’s pretty famous among astronauts. *wink wink*

But, the best part of this unit by far was the field trip.

A trip to Io, the third largest of Jupiter’s moons and the most volcanic world in our solar system!!!

Just kidding. It was the Clark Planetarium.

But we felt like we were on Io. Or maybe more it looked like we were on Io. We’ll get to that part later. But first, the top three reasons why this field trip was awesome.

1) It was free. We just had to get ourselves there.


2) Sometime the public school field trip kids would have to go watch a film or sit for a presentation, so all the computers and exhibits were empty and available to our kids! For about 30 minutes at a time we had free range of the entire place! (Then the other kids would come out, climb all over things, take selfies on their phones, bang on stuff, glance at the exhibits and then move on. I felt bad for the kids in those groups who actually wanted to learn. They would be just getting into a program or an exhibit – like programing the space rovers – and the other kids in their group would be done taking selfies or climbing on the moon rocks and would be ready to go.)

3) The exhibits were really interactive and really educational. My children used simulators to test different rocket models and amounts of fuel needed to get a rocket off the ground. Lots of trial and error until they were able to get a working configuration. The two older boys worked on his for about 20 minutes or more.  There were other computer simulators for landing probes on the moon, exhibits to experiment with heat sensor technology, moon rover programming, and an opportunity to try landing a physical probe onto a space station with a joystick and other controls. There was time space continuum stuff (that I can’t really wrap my head around), and a lot of other things that we didn’t really even have time to see!

Every exhibit in the planetarium was FULL of educational opportunity for those who were willing to actually read the plaques and take a minute or two to figure out how to operate the computers/machines. While the younger kids mostly ran around and had fun (like the public school field trip kids) the older kids got to do and see and learn A LOT.


One of my favorite thing to see was the Io exhibit. The lighting was reddish and vacillated between day and night (just lighter and darker), to help with the effect. There were some rocks and murals painted on the walls, enhanced with digital volcano images that would occasionally erupt, accompanied by loud nosies and darker lighting. Although this was one of the areas where the public school kids went super crazy (rocks to climb on, you know) I really thought it was cool (The reddish lighting also drove my littlest one kind of nuts, too. That, and maybe that we had been there for 2 hours already and he was pretty hungry. Thankfully all those kids were so loud and rambunctious that hardly anyone noticed the two year old throwing tantrums in the corner.) The kids got to program little space rovers and get them to solve problems and interact with the other rovers. Sometimes they would get stuck and it would take a lot of programming and maneuvering to get them out of the deep sand, or just untangled with the other robots. DSC08356

In this lovely photo said 2 year old managed to hold still AND smile at the same time! Actually, he only held the top portion of him still, but you know what, that’s pretty darn good. And besides, this photo just makes me laugh! Why didn’t they have any space moon backdrops when I was getting my school photos taken? I feel totally gypped.


We are going up there again. And soon. I don’t care if it is summer time and this trip is educational. They want to go and I am willing to take them.

In fact, my 5th grader gave me his dream week schedule and he had scheduled the planetarium on there twice! (The zoo, aviary, and aquarium had to share a day!)

And lest you think we spent our entire field trip solemn, serious, and studious (and tantruming, depending on your age)…




2017-2018 Preview (I am SO Looking Forward to This!!)

As much as summer break is going to be awesome and refreshing and relaxing and exciting and well-earned and needed…

… I am so looking forward to what I’ve got planned for next year.

I’ve mentioned before that I have signed my children up for a program that requires us to take an engineering/entrepreneurship/technology class each year. I’m not super into any of that stuff, but the program helps fund my entire homeschool. So I can handle a few robots here and there, or selling cupcakes or dog walks or whatever, if that (and a little oversight) is all it takes for me to be able to afford some really fun learning activities and experiences we would not have had without the extra funds. (If I can figure out how to get my spreadsheets up here, I will get a post on with all my budgeting, for those parties interested in seeing how I manage all the money.)

One of the minimal requirements is a written description (500 characters or less) outlining each course for each child with specifics as to what material we will need reimbursed. (They don’t reimburse religious material and a few other things.)

Anyway, without further blah blah blah, here are the course descriptions I submitted and had approved for next year (and in parenthesis a little added detail for those who want to know what our class is REALLY going to look like – you can only fit so much into 500 characters!)

5th grader –

Math Saxon Math 7/6 Student will learn and practice “functions and coordinate graphing, integers, exponential expressions, and prime factorization. Student will specifically learn about the order of operations, number lines, decimal place value, how to find the percent of a number, how to round decimal numbers, attributes of geometric solids, and more. Lessons contain a warm-up (with facts practice, mental math, & problem-solving exercises); introduction to the new concept, lesson practice exercises where the new skill is practiced, and mixed practice exercises, which includes 25-30 old and new problems. In-depth “Investigations” are provided every 10 lessons, and have their own set of questions.” Also tests every 5 to 10 lessons, and supplemental facts practice. (I copied some of that verbatim from the Saxon website. Actually, pretty much all of that is from their website. We do math every day as our first “core” subject. Generally it takes us about 1 hour per kid, depending on resistance level of the children, which of course varies from day to day.) 🙂

Language Arts – Student’s primary textbooks/workbooks will be Latin for Children Primer C, Writing and Rhetoric semesters 3 and 4, Zaner-Bloser Handwriting Level 5, and lots of library free reading books. Fine art pages from Enrichmentstudies.com will be used weekly as writing prompts. Grammar will be added as needed. (I’m going to buy a Grammar/Language Arts book(s) from The Good and The Beautiful this year for my 5th grader. It’s religious in nature so I didn’t bother to add it to my course description. We alternate grammar with handwriting during the week, usually Grammar on MWF and Handwriting on TTH. This is another morning subjects. We also do the Writing and rhetoric books only 2 or 3 days a week – depending how long it takes my son to get through the chapter/lesson. We will also have spelling practice every day and a quiz on Fridays.  I use the Mcguffey’s Eclectic Spelling Book to come up with the spelling lists and, if I am feeling up to it – read “less lazy than this year” – I will pull out the phonogram cards again to work on those, just once through a few times a week. I already have the spelling book and cards so I didn’t add them to my course description. Latin is actually an afternoon class – right after lunch. We finish a chapter each week. I don’t do anything for reading specifically except let the kids read a ton. They are above grade level so I’m not too worried about it.)

(Also, I need to add, because it isn’t anywhere else, we have an extra “class” every morning, first thing, for 20 minutes. This is symposium – and I will have a longer blog post about our experience this year up in a week or so. Next year for symposium we will be listening to music from a certain composer for a month or so. I’ll pick about 10 minutes worth of music and we listen to it twice. While we are listing to the music, the kids can draw, do some creative writing, or just listen. Also, during the music symposium week I will have the fine art pieces from enrichment studies posted strategically around the house – read as “in the bathroom and on the fridge door.” Maybe 5 or 6 pieces at a time. The second week of symposium we will repeat our first weeks songs, but add a little of THIS!!! I have wanted to do this for years and I’ve decided that I’m actually going to take the plunge and just do it. The idea is it will only take 20 minutes every morning, just like we’ve been doing with the music, but we’ll be able to add a little something extra. Week three we will be back to music and I will hang up different fine art pieces for the kids to look at around the house. Wish me luck, I want this to work so bad!)

Science – Life Sciences. Student will work primarily out of R.E.A.L Science Odyssey Biology Level 2 textbook/workbook. Scope of this course includes cells, genetics, organisms, evolution, ecology and population dynamics, and classification. Field trips (zoo, aquarium, biology based museums and attractions) and other labs or experiments that supplement learning in this course will occur as needed and as relevant. Equipment needed will include but not be limited to a microscope and accompanying supplies, dissection kits, plant and growing equipment (grow lights, trays, seeds). We will compile a science journal with notebooks, a camera, pens and pencils for botany/ecology units to record what we see and learn. (So I already bought a new fancy digital camera and I’m going to let me kids use my old one until it breaks… it’s kind of on its way out. I’m going to get a family membership to a semi-local children’s museum/attraction called Thanksgiving Point. They’ve got a dinosaur museum (relevant), a beautiful 55 acre garden (relevant), a little farm (relevant), and a curiosity museum (we can make it relevant.) Also, new this year, I’m going to get the pass to the zoo. It’s about an hour away so I’m not sure how often we will really make it up there, but even if we go just twice, I’ve saved money. We’re kind of a large family (7). Also, that first part about the scope of the course is lifted straight from the R.E.A.L Science Odyssey website. We do science every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon after lunch and Latin.)

Entrepreneurship – Student will spend the first half of the year working through the Biz Kids series on Amazon Prime to learn about personal finances and the basics of running a business. Additional assignments and projects will be added as needed. The second half of the year will focus primarily on creating a product or service to sell. The culmination of the year will be setting up a booth at the Kid’s Market in Provo. (Student will also probably be selling his product/service earlier in the year as well.) Supplies include whatever is needed to create his product, as well as perhaps field trip fees to businesses and other relevant events, and market booth rental fees. (He wants to make mini-crossbows. These are super cool but a little tricky to make, so we’ll see how this works. If not, my kindergartener is going to be selling plant starts – making use of that grow light, trays, and seeds from biology – so if all else fails, all the kids can just sell cookies and plant starts or cute little flower pots. Last year our engineering class was a bust – maybe because this is the forced on us class – but I am anticipating a really fun time with this particular entrepreneurship course. We generally do our “tech” class every Friday afternoon after lunch and Latin.)

Elective – Private piano lessons through Lauren Cybulski. Lessons are twice a month. Practice time required is 30 minutes per day, at least 5 days a week. Supplies needed are lesson and theory books as required by the music teacher. (I only do lessons twice a month because then I only pay half as much – but yes, we potentially progress slower, especially if the kids’ practice is lacking in sincerity. I actually pay for the entire year up front (in September) and then have the kids take lessons all through the summer as well.)

3rd grader  

MathSaxon 5/4 “covers concepts such as number sense, numeration, numerical operations, measurement and geometry, patterns, relationships, math functions, and data manipulation are introduced. Students will specifically learn to add three-digit numbers, subtract numbers with re-grouping, read time, write numbers, estimate arithmetic answers, divide with two-digit answers, multiply three or more factors, simplify fraction answers, use a decimal number line, etc. Lessons contain a warm-up (with facts practice, mental math, & problem-solving exercises); introduction to the new concept, lesson practice exercises where the new skill is practiced, and mixed practice exercises, which includes 25-30 old and new problems. In-depth “Investigations” are provided every 10 lessons, and have their own set of questions. Math 5/4 also includes 8 in-lesson activities and 5 investigation activities.” Tests are every 5 -10 lessons. (Again, this is pretty much just lifted from off the Saxon website. Same schedule as her older brother.)

Language Arts – The primary language arts texts for the student are Latin for Children Primer A, Zaner-Bloser handwriting level 3, and First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind level 3. Spelling tests will be given weekly. Also, lots and lots of reading through books from the library and other special books purchased throughout the year. Fine art pieces will be used weekly as writing prompts. Also, we will purchase writing materials as needed and not otherwise in our possession. (Same deal as her older brother, same learning schedule, just different leveled books and a different grammar book altogether. The 5th grader already worked through the entire First Language Lessons grammar series. BUT… this is her first year of Latin! And my first year of having two Latin students at a time. So that may be a little challenging.)

Science – The primary textbook/workbook for this course will be R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Life (life sciences). The scope of this course covers cells, the human body, classifying life, the animal kingdom, and the plant kingdom. We will utilize many field trip opportunities: The zoo, the aquarium, the aviary, Thanksgiving Point (gardens and dino museum specifically), working farms, and various accessible natural habitats. Other supplies needed may include a microscope, plant growing equipment (grow light, trays, seeds). We will compile a science journal with notebooks, a camera, pens and pencils for botany/ecology units to record what we see and learn. (I supposed I didn’t mention that the whole science journal is actually probably going to look like – hopefully a nature journal. This is another thing I have never successfully done – like the fine art stuff – but I figure we can just go out on hikes – natural habitats, right? – and do a little journaling. I hope this works.  Also, my lower level kids (3rd and 1st grader) will be working out of the level 1 Biology book whereas my 5th grader will be working out of the level 2 book. I haven’t figured out how I am going to teach biology twice at the same time with different books. I’m hoping I can get my 5th grader to work a little more independently. These are all a lot of big “ifs” and “hopes” but we will make it work, and what doesn’t work, we will just adapt.)

Entrepreneurship – Student will spend the first half of the year working through the Biz Kids series on Amazon Prime to learn about personal finances and the basics of running a business. Additional assignments and projects will be added as needed. The second half of the year will focus primarily on creating a product or service to sell. The culmination of the year will be setting up a booth at the Kid’s Market in Provo. (Student will also probably be selling her product/service earlier in the year as well.) Supplies include whatever is needed to create her product, as well as perhaps field trip fees to businesses and other relevant events and market booth rental fees. (Same deal as the 5th grader, but she wants to make jewelry.)

Elective – Children’s Choir through Millennial Choir and Orchestra. From their mission statement: “MCO was founded for the purpose of teaching and encouraging excellence in quality sacred and classical music. Its primary purpose is to fulfill the need for more refined music performance education in our communities.” Rehearsals are weekly, concerts are at the end of each semester with optional summer tours (paid for by participants.) (I LOVE THIS CHOIR. But let me tell you, concert weeks are crazy busy and intense. Also, my daughter is still going to be taking private piano lessons, but for the sake of the funding, I pay for her piano lessons through our “extra tech” fund and not an actual class fund. I’ll post a spreadsheet in another blog post to show just how much this stuff costs and how I track our expenses and maybe there it will make sense.)

1st grader 

 MathSaxon Math 2 teaches young minds in an incremental manner, slowly building upon previously learned concepts and increasing retention. Math 2 covers working with larger numbers, geometric shapes, Venn diagrams, graphs, basic calculations, simple fractions and multi-step problems. Math manipulatives will also be purchased if needed.

Language Arts – Student’s primary workbook/textbooks will be First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind Level 1 and Zaner-Bloser Handwriting Level 1. Spelling quizzes will be administered weekly. Fine art pieces will be used weekly as writing prompts. Other resources will include a library membership to the Provo Library, writing supplies (paper, pencil, pens), and art supplies to supplement creative writing/poetry work as needed (markers, tape, glue, etc.).

Science – The primary textbook/workbook for this course will be R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Life (life sciences). The scope of this course covers cells, the human body, classifying life, the animal kingdom, and the plant kingdom. We will utilize many field trip opportunities: The zoo, the aquarium, the aviary, Thanksgiving Point (gardens and Dino museum specifically), working farms, and various accessible natural habitats. We will compile a science journal with notebooks, a camera, pens and pencils for botany/ecology units to record what we see and learn.

Entrepreneurship – Student will spend the first half of the year working through the Biz Kids series on Amazon Prime to learn about personal finances and the basics of running a business. Additional assignments and projects will be added as needed. The second half of the year will focus primarily on creating a product or service to sell. The culmination of the year will be setting up a booth at the Kid’s Market in Provo. (Student will also probably be selling his product/service earlier in the year as well.) Supplies include whatever is needed to create his product, as well as perhaps field trip fees to businesses and other relevant events and market booth rental fees.

Elective – Private piano lessons through Lauren Cybulski. Lessons are twice a month. Practice time required is 30 minutes per day, at least 5 days a week. Supplies needed are lesson and theory books as required by the music teacher.

(You’ve maybe noticed I am not teaching history this year. Actually, I am doing history this year, but I needed lots of money for our biology class and next to zero money for our history class so I didn’t bother to write up a course description for history. I only need about $15 to buy the Story of the World: volume 1 Ancient Times. The rest of the course will be library books, special projects, powerpoint reports, and other creative reports like writing a song, a poem, drawing a comic book, or a big piece of art, or whatever else sounds fun and engaging. We are going to study the ancients (again, we did it 4 years ago) but I think we will focus most of our time and projects on Ancient Egypt, Old Testament history, Ancient Greece, and Ancient Rome. One of the things I am most looking forward to is taking my kids to a Greek restaurant and wearing togas while watching the winter olympics! We do history every Monday and Wednesday afternoon after lunch and Latin.)

So that is that for now.  Hopefully this is helpful for those who also have to write course descriptions, or would just like to write their own course descriptions to give themselves a basic outline and some goals for the year. These are super general in a sense, but as far as curriculum goes they are pretty specific. We have lots of flexibility, but still a pretty good backbone as to what we want to accomplish.

And I think it is going to be so fun!

So stop for a minute.

Does this look completely overwhelming to you? Because even when I go back and read through it, it kind of sounds a little intimidating.

But we just take it a day at a time, a chunk here, a chunk there. After initial bumps, things seem to fall into a routine and the wrinkles start to smooth out – or we crash a burn a little – and tthen pick ourselves back up and try again.

So we may only make it to the zoo once? So our nature journals may turn out to be a big flop? So what? Yes, I will be a little disappointed, but overall most of this stuff (just one step in front of the other) is doable (as long as you take it one step in front of the other.)

But having a positive outlook is the first step.

And I can check that off my list already.

Happy Homeschool Planning!


Year in Review: 2016-2017 School Year

How’d it go?

I feel like I must have done something right this year, because I am SO EXCITED for next year already! How is that possible? We’re supposed to be all burnt out and hanging by a thread this time of year.

Not me.

I’m already buying stuff for next September! It’s gonna be awesome.

Even though my kids have officially gone crazy the last 3 days (I think it finally hit them that it is almost summer break) we are still loving this homeschooling gig up to the very last day.

Which was today! Hooray!

I separately asked my 4th and 2nd grader about each subject and what they thought about how things went this year. (I didn’t ask my kindergartener because I’m pretty sure his answers would all be “I hate reading. I didn’t really like school very much,” even though I know he had a lot of fun and has learned a lot. I’ve just got to figure out a way to to get less resistance from him (a.k.a. figure out what intrinsically motivates him.)

Anyway, lets’ begin.


4th grader: I liked that I could do a lot of the math on my own without having to have help. I learned a lot of new things that I didn’t know before. It was better when I only had to do the odd problems in my Mixed Practice sets because having so many problems to do is overwhelming for me and then I can’t do it.

(Mom perspective: Yes and yes. As long as he was still getting good grades on his tests and was getting the vast majority of problems correct on his daily assignments, I didn’t worry about him only doing half the actual workload. This made a HUGE difference for us this year. Imagine that! I don’t have to do what the book says (make sure your child does every single problem!), I can make up my own rules! The main issue for this child was lack of focus and distraction issues – which I guess are the same thing. I’m hoping this is something he grows out of. If not, I will have to look into other ways to help him. (He has improved actually a lot on focusing this year, too, so I am not overly worried.) Saxon Math 6/5

2nd grader: I liked math. It wasn’t too hard. I learned a lot of new things like division and multiplication and long division.

(Mom Perspective: Agreed. I’m really excited to have her on the next level next year, though, because there is less hands on activities. Does that sound horrible? I don’t mind manipulatives, but with math I really just don’t want to go upstairs and fill water containers with different volumes or bake brownies. It doesn’t fit my neat little conception of “doing math” even though it is obviously worthwhile. Saxon only has you do stuff like that for grades 1, 2, and 3. And probably kindergarten. We start with level 2. But level 5/4, which is where she will be next year, is more of the self directed format like what my older son was working on. It’s math more my style. She did awesome, though. Math, although not her favorite subject, is not a problem for her and that is a great blessing!) Saxon Math 3


4th grader: I like it when I just sit down and do it. But sometimes it takes a long time. It’s not my favorite subject.

2nd grader: Grammar was good. It’s not my favorite subject.

(MP: I love this grammar. I admit it gets a little boring and redundant, but they actually learn grammar rules! Also, although the lessons in level 4 can take some time, level 2 is usually only a 5 to 10 minute time commitment.) First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind Level 4 and 2


4th grader: Uh, it was fine. But I don’t like to write.

2nd grader: I don’t like handwriting. But I do want to learn cursive better.

(MP: Agreed. What the 2nd grader means is she doesn’t like doing her handwriting workbook. We had a major blow up a few weeks ago. But we both learned valuable information from it. One, if she knows she is doing something incorrectly but doesn’t know how to fix it, she needs to come and ask for help. Two, I need to supervise her handwriting much closer to make sure she understands what she is supposed to be doing. I neglected to actually teach her anything and just assumed the workbook would do it. I was even prompted – yes prompted by the Holy Ghost – to check on her regularly throughout the year with her handwriting. But I didn’t listen. Because I was lazy. And it resulted in a blow up that made her cry – a lot – and gave me great reason to apologize. the majority of the fault was mine. But we are friends again and know what to do better for next year. I guess there were three lessons learned. Three, listen to the Holy Ghost, even if he is just helping you with your handwriting lessons.) Zaner-Bloser Handwriting Level 4 and 2C


4th grader: I liked this WAY better than last year when I had to do the workbooks. But I don’t really know if I’ve learned to spell any better.

2nd grader: I don’t really have anything to compare it to because I never used a spelling workbook. I don’t really know if I am better at spelling. But it was ok.

(MP: The previous years we have used Spelling Workout workbooks and I felt like they were a huge waste of time. I attended a conference workshop wherein the presenter said to not waste our money on the expensive spelling programs down at the curriculum fair but to instead use McGuffey’s Eclectic Spelling Book ($10) and some phonogram cards (If you really want to know, ask, and I’ll go downstairs and dig them out to tell you which ones I bought). She suggested just practicing a list of words from the book 4 days of the week, quizzing the words on Friday, and going through the phonogram cards every day (which we stopped doing because I was in a hurry, I think.) I like this system better also. But it is kind of hard to tell if their spelling is getting better because of the quizzes or because they read all the time. I think I just learned to spell by reading a lot…. and spellcheck.) Mcguffey’s Eclectic Spelling Book.

Writing and Rhetoric:

4th grader: I really, really liked writing the stories at the end of each lesson. I really liked this book this year.

2nd grader: N/A until 4th grade

(MP: First time using this. Love it. And this is the kid who doesn’t like to write! Ha!) Classical Academic Press Writing and Rhetoric Books 1 and 2


4th grader: Um…. Latin is kind of hard. It is a lot of work. But I like that I am learning Latin because I think it is cool to learn Latin. Even if it is hard.

2nd grader: N/A until 3rd grade

(MP: I think so, too. It is hard. It is a lot of work. But what the heck the kid is learning Latin? That’s just awesome. I like the curriculum we use because it teaches actual grammar. I haven’t enjoyed other language programs for kids because they just had you memorize vocab or stock phrases. We could do a lot to improve our study, though. Like better use of flash cards, listening to the chant/song CDs in the car sometime, maybe even  watching the DVD every day instead of just on Monday. Also we stopped doing the translations in the little “reader,” after a few weeks, too. We did them all last year. Maybe next year with Primer C we will start up again.) Classical Academic Press Latin for Children Primer B


4th grader: Oh, I LOVED history!! I liked doing the projects, especially the lap books. Except I didn’t like it when you would say we had to hurry up and finish. I would like history better if I had more time to do everything. I think I would like to do more lap books. I liked it when you read out loud to us, too. I like to listen to the books, especially the little book.

2nd grader: I really liked history. But I didn’t like doing the lap books. I mean, I didn’t like having to write things in the lap books. I liked the cutting and glueing part. I mostly just liked when you read aloud to us. I like that A LOT!

(MP: The 4th grader is referring to our “textbook.” I liked history, too, although modern history is so hard to teach. I think it turned out pretty well. I tried to focus on less, but more. As in less projects, but bigger projects. The Civil War (and here) and WWI got the biggest emphasis as far as projects go. Near the end we did less projects and more just out loud reading. I guess we were going “Charlotte Mason” by doing the “living books” thing. I think really I was just a little burnt out on big projects. Next year we are back to ancient history and I think we will mention the “littler” stuff, but then just do big projects for the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Old Testament history.) Story of the World: Volume 4 Modern Times


4th grader: I liked physics. I liked to fun projects. I liked learning about all of those things. But I didn’t like writing out all those papers. It was better when you stopped making copies of the worksheets and you just read to us and then we did the experiments.

2nd grader: We learned a lot of really cool things but science isn’t my favorite subject.

(MP: Science – for the last 2 years – has driven me nuts!! Not because I don’t like the curriculum (I really REALLY like it, actually) but because I can’t seem to get the kids to sit nicely in their chairs like robots and answer me politely and seriously. Nor can I get them to keep their hands off the science lab equipment until we are ready. Or to stop mixing things. Or stop messing around and being goofy. Basically, doing actual really cool hands-on science experiments is just too fun and exciting and tempting, and I am just not good at NOT being in control of everything all the time. I think if I cared less about making messes or things not turning out right, and just let the kids take more of a lead (and took more deep breaths) science would not raise my blood pressure as much. And I stopped photocopying the lab sheets for the last month because I got lazy and I forgot. But, really, I thought they were beneficial.) Pandia Press Real Science Odyssey: Physics Level 1


4th grader: I liked playing with the Engino blocks at first, but then after a while I got used to them and they weren’t as fun. I didn’t really like engineering.

2nd grader: I didn’t really like engineering. It’s just not really interesting to me.

(MP: I didn’t like engineering either. In fact, I didn’t even like the Engino blocks! They were so frustrating. And the little booklets that go with them were way above elementary age level. I only added this class because I had to have a tech/entrepreneurship/engineering class for a program I signed us up for. And it was pretty obvious to me – and in return probably obvious to all the kids, too – that we were just doing this because we had too, not because we really wanted to. I’ve noticed that even though a subject might not be a certain child’s passion, because I am passionate about it, they have a better attitude. I guess they figure if mom loves it there must be something worthwhile to it. We just never felt the love for engineering. Also, I didn’t realize until a third of the way into the year that our physics book had an entire unit on simple machines!!! If I had realized that I would have structured the class completely differently and I think we would have endured it better.) Engino Simple Machines kit.


4th grader: I really liked symposium!!

2nd grader: I forgot her response! Oops!

(MP: Me too!! I’m so glad we started this! I’ll have another post just for our symposium experience and what we plan to do next year. But for here and now I’ll just say, this was the best addition to our homeschool this year. Minimum added stress, maximum added value. My only hang up is that my kids were supposed to sit quietly and draw/color/write/rest as they listened to each piece every morning. But for goodness sakes, with some music you just have to MOVE! The problem is once you accept a lot of wild movement, you get a lot of wild noise, and then symposium becomes less of an enriching experience and more of a wild and noisy experience with awesome music in the background. I’ve got to come up with a better way to balance our physical enthusiasm for classical music!) no textbook.

Gosh, that has got to be the most boring blog post in the history of homeschooling! But I felt it had to be done. Technically my 4th grader has a week left of Latin review, I’m making the 4th and 2nd grader finish out their handwriting books – even though it will take them into the summer, and yes, you poor, poor kindergartener-going-on-first-grader, I’m gonna make you read a book every single day this summer. The Library summer reading program sign up is next Monday and we are going to be first in line!

But because today was the official last day of “school” for us I felt like I needed a little end-of-year closure.


Check! Check!

The school year is now officially OVER!

If someone would just let the weather know it is supposed to be WARM now, that would be awesome, too. 🙂

Today. Wow. Let’s All Go to Bed.

First of all, we woke up to snow. Not a ton of snow, but slush on the deck and snow on the hills.

It’s MAY!!!

But, then again, it’s also Utah. And Utah is just good at stuff like that, I guess.

Since 2 of the kids have already finished all of their math for the entire school year, the morning routine has been reduced from about 2 1/2 hours to just 1. Unless it is today, of course.

Today, everything was punctuated by preschooler crying. I have no idea why he was crying, even now, because he wouldn’t actually speak or give any indication of injustice or pain. Just cry. And then cry again. And wait a few minutes for good measure. Then start from the top.

Yes, today I’m pretty sure I still spent 2 hours with the kindergartener just trying to get him to finish the very last lesson in his math book, and then the very last lesson in his reading workbook, and then to read his three BOB books. And the 4th grader had one last thing to do in his grammar book for the entire year. He only had to write a letter and address the envelope himself. 15 minutes? 30 minutes?

No. An hour!

An entire hour because he couldn’t think of who to write the letter to. And he had to complain about it the entire time.  The injustice! And no. Don’t try to give suggestions because nothing can remedy or lessen the burden of writing 4 entire sentences! (While I was 6 feet away pulling my hair out and practicing as best I could my patient, loving voice with the kindergartener.)

Finally, his letter ended up being to himself. This is what it said:

“Dear Me,

My grammar book is forcing me to write this. I want to be done with grammar. I want to be done with school. I want to be done with writing. From, Me”

Whatever. It’s DONE!

30 minutes later (yes, we are still at it) my conversation with my kindergartener sounds something like this…

“I can’t do it.”

“Yes, you can! You’ve read this book two times already! This is the last time, and then I promise you will never have to read it again. I know you can do it!”

“No, I can’t. I don’t like reading and I can’t do it.” whine whine cry cry

“Honey, it’s ok if you don’t like reading. It’s ok if it is hard. You can say that, and I understand. But you cannot say you “can’t” read, because you know you can and you are a bright boy and I will help you.”

“I CAN’T!”

So finally, in my most patient, loving, irritated and slightly raised voice I gave him a lecture on how reading makes you FREE and I was so intent about teaching him how to read well so that he would never just have to take someone else’s word for something and believe whatever people told him, but that he could learn for himself what was true or not. Reading equals freedom, and all this struggle now will enhance and better him for the rest of his life. He can be the master of himself if he can work hard everyday and learn to read.

And actually after that he did try a little harder. But would only mumble at the decibel level of a whisper… while holding a blanket over his mouth.

But oh the screaming of the preschooler!

The rest of the day pretty much went like this.

Noise and Chaos.

Why? I don’t know? I remember thinking, “Is it because we are all cooped up in the house today? Did we not make it through the winter all cooped up? What is the deal?”

I read the “Final Thoughts” pages in our physics book to end that “class.”

But I had to start 4 different times because the baby and the kindergartener were being so loud I couldn’t even hear myself. Finally I just sent them downstairs so we could hear the laughter/arguing/playing/crying from a distance, instead of right in our laps.

Of course, though, the fun was all upstairs so they came back about a third of the way into our reading on the space race.

At which point, everyone began to fight about where to sit. It was musical chairs. Everyone was afraid to get up for fear the one “out” would take their seat. Preschooler got distracted and moved a few feet. Your seat is now gone. Second grader went to go to the bathroom. Your seat is now gone. Fourth grader needed a drink.

Your seat is now gone.

And Oh! the lamentation of those lost sitting positions!!!

The baby (ok, he’s a toddler, I’m kind of in denial) made sure he wasn’t forgotten, and would come and make demands every 5 minutes or so. Usually it involved him pulling the gallon of milk out of the fridge (yes, all by himself) and setting it on the carpet in the living room, pleading, imploring… no demanding! that he get a sippy RIGHT NOW!

It was constant noise. And constant movement. And constant demands, requests, deliberate annoyances and irrational expectations.

And then we looked up to see THIS!


An array of partially chewed on baby carrots in the window track. All lined up nicely in a little row.

Except for the chewed up bits all over the floor.

“But what do your little ones do while you teach the older kids?”

They destroy. The answer is, they destroy.

And dump out everything they can find. In every room.

Especially mom’s jewelry and science kits… things where if you are missing one piece, you’ve just nullified the entire set.

I finally just shut the book, stood up, and said, “really? You guys? What are we doing? I did not wake up today for this! Do you want to hear these books? Do you want to learn about this? Because we can just be done now. I’m pretty much done with it!”

And my cute 2nd grader, who really has been just good as gold this whole time (except for the deliberate annoyance part in regard to her brother, but she thought I couldn’t see her do it) nods her head vigorously, Yes! Mom! I want to hear! And my 4th grader sheepishly nods his head in agreement as well. He is interested, he promises.

Kindergartener, preschooler, and toddler don’t acknowledge my existence.

So I sit down and read some more.

Finally, we are done. Just go play… downstairs. Please, just do whatever, but do it downstairs.

Of course, it doesn’t stay downstairs. Shortly afterward, two dinosaurs are slowly progressing back into the living room as they viciously dislimb one another with who knows what kind of claws and teeth and such (all I know is one was a diplodocus and if THAT one was cutting off limbs somehow, you know if was brutal) accompanied by snarls and barks of various annoyance levels.

The toddler’s in the kitchen again. “Bread!” Yes, Honey, that is like your 5th half eaten piece of bread today!

“Mom? What was for lunch? Did we have lunch? I’m hungry.”

Oh my goodness, it’s dinner time! Yes, we had lunch, I’m going to make dinner right now. No, you may NOT make yourself something. We are going to eat in 30 minutes.

So he makes himself some complicated concoction involving yoghurt and sticky stuff.

What in the world are we going to eat in 30 minutes.

And the crying continues!!

“Ok, everyone! Go watch a movie!”

Well, we did have dinner. And everyone liked it – except of the toddler who was stuffed up on partially eaten pieces of bread. And everyone cleared their plates, put them in the sink, and obediently rushed around the house to clean it all up and put on pajamas. (Three hours late it is all messy again, but after dinner, I promise, the house was clean, orderly, and kids were ready for bed.

Because you know what today is, don’t you?

It’s Norwegian Constitution Day.

(I know you didn’t know that. It’s ok.)

And Norwegian Constitution Day means Krumkaker (shaped like ice cream cones) and strawberry ice cream in honor of our strawberry growing, krumkaker eating Norwegian ancestors. (Yes, I did spend 2 hours last night making the krumkaker for this very celebration!)

Plus my husband brought home a big chocolate cake that says “Happy Birthday” written out with excessive amounts of multi-colored frosting. I’m not going to ask. I’m just going to eat it.

And then I’m going to put on some comfy(er) clothes and read my book.

New, clean, comfy(er) clothes are definitely necessary, considering the toddler coughed up al his milk on me while I was putting him to bed.

“What is homeschooling like? What is a typical day like for you?”

Ummm….. well…. it will be better tomorrow.

Because I’ve got a whole chocolate cake!