Preparing For a New Homeschool Year

While we haven’t technically finished up last school year ~ looking at my two olders who still have several math lessons to go ~ I am definitely thinking about next year and trying to squeeze in a bit of planning time each day.

Here are the things I am hoping to get accomplished in the next few weeks:

  • Finalize basic curriculum plans for each child
  • Consider online classes for my oldest – I’m thinking about Bravewriter
  • Decide on a family art and music plan for the upcoming year
  • Place curriculum orders
  • Plan for and sign up for extracurricular activities
  • Create a 36-week plan for each child 
  • Order a teacher planner and fill out the first week ~ I love Plum Paper for this
  • Set up my working teacher binder
  • Order student planners ~ possibly from Plum Paper as well?
  • Submit samples and plans to school district for review
  • Check supplies – pencils, binders, notebook paper, etc. and make a shopping list
  • Purchase art and lab supplies needed for whole year
  • Clean off school shelves, file all papers, store or toss curriculum, restock for a new year
  • Pre-read Sonlight Core 300 history & literature 
  • Deep clean the house – I always want to do this and usually don’t get very far, so we’ll see!
  • Plan Five in a Row for the year
  • Read some inspiring books
  • Plan a routine for next school year – how our days & week might (ideally) look
  • Set up a fall meal plan – meal planning takes me too much time; I’d like to try to do it ahead
  • Update chore chart 
  • Update (by which I mean start!) high school transcript for my rising 11th grader

In addition to these things, I really need to get in gear about late highschool/college. I keep putting this off and really just need to put my head down and get going. So be expecting a second list detailing my checklist for that…after I research, talk to Grace, and wrap my brain around things a bit. I keep telling myself no one said this would be easy!

Thanks for visiting!

Homeschool Summer Reading List

Row of Books in Shelf

It’s summer! I am excited to actually have time built into our schedule to make it to the library. During this past school year, library trips just didn’t happen often enough. But this summer we have some convenient gaps in our schedule between picking up one kiddo and dropping off another….so I am planning a weekly library day! That means a library list is in order.

My own summer reading list includes some just for fun books. I read Wolf Hall during our recent vacation and was pretty excited to learn there was a sequel. And I loved the first Grantchester book so I definitely want to read the next two of those.  Middlemarch is one I have had sitting on my nightstand for months.

I also have some books I am reading in order to be able to discuss them with Grace next fall. She will be continuing to read through Sonlight’s Core 300 (secular-friendly books only). She will be starting off on week 12 with that Core next fall. I have found that reading the same books makes all the difference in being able to discuss. I can’t read all of the kids books, obviously, so I am focusing on high school literature. Christopher is officially a high schooler next fall too, but thankfully I have already read most of what he will read.

I also want to read some books about homeschooling or learning ~ for inspiration….

Next up I have a list of books to search out for the kids or suggest to them if they are stuck ~ some elementary/early middle grade for my youngers…

Some later middle grade/young-adult titles for my olders….

Rose just started reading the Story Thieves series and she absolutely adores it. She literally sighs as she reads and tells me it is “the best book ever!”. I know the kids won’t necessarily like all (or even most) of my suggestions, but I think we’re off to a good start. I’d love additional summer reading suggestions if you have any!

Thanks for stopping by!

Homeschool Summer Fun Kit

I still haven’t finished my homeschool planning for next year, but I have switched gears for a bit.   The weather has been hot and summery and we are wrapping up our school year. So it’s time to make some fun summer plans!

I love making a giant list of things I want to do with the kids over the summer. However… I have to reign myself in a bit, because our summer is super busy with sports. We don’t have a lot of lazy summer days around here anymore. And we don’t have much time to do awesome summer field trips, as much as I’d like to. So, my kit is focused on things we can do at home.  I had so much fun putting this together!

Here’s what I am going to include:

 Big bubbles ~ Because these just look really, really cool….

Prodigy Math ~ I signed Rose up for a free account and she adores it! I wanted an easy, painless way for her to review math over the summer and this math-masquerading-as-video-game is right up her alley. James will get an account just as soon as he finishes his math. My older two will continue to work on their Teaching Textbooks levels throughout the summer.

Match a Pair of Birds ~ My kids still love memory games, but our original memory game is getting too well-loved. All the various dings and stains make it a bit easy to “remember” where the cards are. A new challenge is in order.

      Food Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of Our Edible World ~ My kids loved talking food and cooking food, so I think this will be a popular read.

      I chose a few mind-challenging games too, namely….Set, Spot It, and Mastermind.


      State birds & flowers puzzle ~ I try to get a new 1000 piece puzzle each summer. We keep one set up on the sunporch for anyone to work on when the urge strikes. I often choose one that sneaks some learning in, because I’m like that. I especially love the puzzles made by White Mountain because they have gorgeous detail.



      Meatless Cookbook ~ My girls want to eat mostly vegetarian – for the summer at least.  A new cookbook to inspire us all is in order, but I have found that my kids really only enjoy reading cookbooks with tons of pictures. Hopefully this one will fit the bill. 

      Klutz Lego Chain Reactions Kit ~ We have so many Legos in our house! But my kids seem to be losing interest in them lately. I am hoping this book/kit combo will reignite that building spark. 





      Liberty Kids ~ I have heard so much about this series over the years, but for some reason we’ve never watched it. Next year, Rose and I are going to be reading though BookShark’s American History, so I thought this would be a fun little intro for us.

       Naturally, we have other resources and things lying around for the kids to do this summer. But sometimes it is just nice to bring in a new batch of things to inspire everyone. I definitely could have added more to this list, but I wanted to keep it (fairly) inexpensive. In addition to all of the above, there will be lots of books. We have had a hard time making it to the library this school year, but summer will be easier in that regard. I am planning to put together a list of books I want to have on hand for the kids to read over the summer, and that list will hopefully be the topic of an upcoming post.

        Thanks for stopping by!

      A Summer Bag (To Keep in the Car)

      We have such a busy summer planned, and I have been trying to brainstorm ways to make it easier on all of us, especially me, the designated family taxi-driver. I have spent a lot of time lately waxing nostalgic about the days when the kids had one or two weeks of day camp in the summer (if that) and the rest of the time was ours. I would like to go back in time and tell my former self to appreciate those totally unscheduled days, to savor all those empty squares on the calendar. I would insert a photo of our summer calendar here, but I can’t bear to turn the page to July. It terrifies me, quite frankly. 
      I like for us to have a lot of time at home, for the kids to be able to just hang out, go in the pool, play games, stop by the library, go to the lake, read in the yard, or have friends over without planning weeks in advance.  I like to have time to work in the garden, hang out with the kids, and prepare for our new school year. I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around a summer that seems like it is going to be mostly spent in the car ferrying kids to one thing or another. And yet, that is the season I am in right now, and while I do my fair share of complaining (mostly in my head), I see much value in the activities they have chosen.  And it’s nothing new really, just more of the same, and more in-depth. Counselor-in-training, tennis clinics, horse shows, summer practices…oh my, the summer practices, especially for my soon-to-be competitive gymnast! If I think about it too long it makes my head spin, especially taking into consideration that not one single thing is closer than 25 minutes away. 
      So, I have been brainstorming ways to ease the load a bit and keep this summer from disappearing in a haze of driving.  We might not have many lazy days at home, but we will have lots of little moments here and there when a sibling is not quite ready to be picked up, when we get somewhere early, or when practice is running late. It’s for those sorts of times that I made up my summer bag to keep in the car. 
      I found this large tote bag with lots of outside pockets at L.L. Bean. It’s sturdy and stands up by itself, which I love, because it is super easy to pack. The plan is to keep it stocked with things to make our driving trips easier and more fun. 
       First of all, this bag has lots and lots of pockets, which I love. Pockets are key; I have a big tote bag with no pockets that I thought about using for my car bag, but I really hate spending tons of time digging through a big bag looking for a tube of sunscreen. There are some small pockets on the inside….

      And then the whole outside is lined with deep pockets.

      The pockets go all the way around the bag, and I have things stashed in every one of them.

      Here’s what I have decided to keep in my summer bag:

      In the main compartment:

      • A large blanket – to use at the beach, on a picnic, or just to spread on the grass at the park to play games or read on
      • A couple of towels – for drying off after impromptu wading, sitting on when bathing suits are wet, or just putting over hot car seats
      • An empty reusable shopping bag – for separating wet items, carrying groceries, or just as an extra place to stash stuff
      • A Frisbee, and a ball to play catch with
      In the inside pockets:
      • Quarters – for meters and vending machines
      • A tiny bottle of hand sanitizer
      • Stick sunscreen 
      In the outside pockets:
      • Sunscreen – a tube of regular sunscreen, a tube of facial sunscreen, plus spray-sunscreen for reapplying at the beach
      • Bugspray
      • Wet wipes
      • Napkins
      • A little bag of sporks, plastic knives, and one sharp travel knife 
      • Bottles of bubbles
      • Baby powder – the easiest way I have found to get sand off of everyone’s legs and feet!
      • A deck of cards and another small game – currently it’s UNO; I plan to rotate games for variety
      • A small first aid kit with band-aids, antibiotic wipes, and Tylenol
      • A small hairbrush and extra hair elastics – for redoing ponytails before practice
      • Ziploc bags – for stashing little treasures and other things
      • Plastic grocery bags – to use as trash bags for carry in/carry out parks
      • Doggie bags
      • A small coloring book/drawing pad and box of crayons
      I was going to keep the bag in the car at all times, but have decided that it’s better to bring it back and forth to the house each day. That way I can easily restock it.

      In addition to what is in the bag, we may also need to bring along:

      Sun hats and sunglasses
      A cooler with extra water
      Snacks and/or lunch-to-go
      Reading material
      Swimsuits and towels
      Change of clothes/shoes
      Other sports equipment

      I have a little sticky note on the side of the fridge with these “extra” items listed on it, to jog my memory as we get ready to head out the door. I am already in love with my bag, and I’ve only taken it along twice so far. 

      Sonlight Summer Readers 2016

      I ordered Rose the elementary girls Sonlight summer readers and she has started reading through them. This year she is reading them on her own; last year I read them to her. Exciting, and of course a bit sad for me, all at the same time. But mostly just plain exciting.

       Here’s a little peek at what was in her box. 

      She has already read No Flying in the House and the Nancy Drew Clue Book (actually she read that last one three times). For a child that struggled and got quite frustrated at times when learning to read, she has really taken off. I often find her stretched out on her bed reading, usually when she is supposed to be cleaning her room. So she was quite pleased to get her box of shiny new books in the mail.

      The plan is to finish up Sonlight Core B with her (we’ll be starting week 33 this week) and then switch to summer reading mode, where I will read a bit to her each day from a book we decide on together. She has already decided that she wants me to read her summer readers to her after she finishes reading them to herself. I think she likes to check that she didn’t miss anything. She has also been loving the Secrets of Droon series lately, and I have been spending some time each week hunting down the next one she needs in the series. I must say I am jealous of the sheer amount of time she has to read to herself each day – definitely one of the things I miss about being a kid!

      Sonlight Summer Readers 2015: A Review

      I ordered our first Sonlight Summer Reader Package this year and I wanted to take a minute to do a little post on our experience, which was very positive. Rose and I had a lot of fun choosing the summer reader package, because she got to choose a bonus book from several options being offered by Sonlight. For her bonus book she chose  A Tale of Gold, which ended up being the only “flop” in the bunch, only because I think she was a bit young for it. We shelved that title to try again in a few years, but every other book was very much enjoyed. It was pretty exciting to get that package of shiny new books in the mail when all of our school books were looking and feeling tired. We finished our last summer reader just a few weeks ago, so it took us a bit longer than a summer to get through them, but only because our summer was exceptionally busy.

      She chose to read Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew first because of the horse on the cover, and we ended up getting another from the same series from the library, because she enjoyed it so much. I prefer the original Nancy Drew myself, but this was a fun, light read. Then we read Third Grade Detectives: Mystery of the Hairy Tomatoes. We got another of that series from the library as well.  I especially enjoyed reading these two books with her because they were her very first mystery books, and I adored mystery books as a kid (and still do). She had a good time speculating about each case. These are both very light mysteries – nothing at all scary.

      Next up we read Elevator Family, which we both thought was hilarious. It’s about a family who stays in an elevator for their vacation because the hotel has no vacancy.  Still More Stories From Grandma’s Attic was next, which is a really sweet, old-fashioned book. Since Stories from Grandma’s Attic is a Sonlight book that I had read with James,  I was already familiar with the storyline. Rose enjoyed these stories much more than he did, though. I think they were a bit girly and old-fashioned for his liking. There is a bit of religious content in this book, but no more than you’d find in the Little House series.

      We wrapped up our summer reading with Year of the Baby, which we actually just finished a couple of weeks ago. This one was a bit slower-paced than the others,  but she did ask to read it most days and she has asked me to get her the sequel. So all in all, the summer readers were a great experience! Read-alouds are one of those things that tends to fall by the wayside around here during summertime, and having a new stack of books around definitely helped us to read more this summer.

      Sonlight makes summer reader packages for elementary, middle, and high-school readers, and I did offer to get my older kids their own package, but they weren’t interested. My boys mostly prefer nonfiction for their free reading, and Grace is pretty picky about what she will read.  So only Rose got a package this year, but we will definitely be ordering again next year and trying to convince her siblings to branch out and do likewise.

      What didn’t get done and what did

      On the way home I noticed that the maples in the swamp are already turning red. How can this be? Lately it seems like every summer goes by so fast that there is hardly time to put a dent in the list of things we wanted to do. We didn’t go on a whale watch, do the library reading program, or tie-dye shirts. We only used our state parks pass a couple of times; I thought we’d use it way more. We didn’t read aloud as much as I had planned. We didn’t spend much time in the garden, and the weeds are there to prove it. We didn’t spend nearly enough lazy days at home, or play as many yard games as we normally do. No one played in the sprinkler even once.

      What we did do is swim a lot – in the backyard pool, in the lake, and in the ocean. We ate a ton of ice cream. We spent a lot of time driving around – to Rose’s gymnastics practice, Grace’s counseler-in-training program, and Christopher’s tennis clinics. We took a week off to take daytrips in the area and another week to head to the ocean. We ate a lot of taffy, and raspberries from the garden, and did a lot of grilling. We went on several hikes. We spent a lot of time with family and watched a lot of movies. And we got a puppy!

      Sometimes, it helps just to make a list of things you actually did do, rather than focusing on what you didn’t do. I enjoy making lists of things we want to do for summer, Christmas, and other special times, because I love to plan and have things to look forward to.  But more often than not I find that the lists stress me out more than they help. I never get to all of the things that I wanted to do, and it is far too easy for me to fall into the trap of feeling like a failure, of judging myself by that unfinished list.

      There are still a few weeks left of summer, I plan to make the most of them. Next week James and Rose have a day camp and Grace is doing her last week of CIT for the summer. Christopher and I are on puppy duty and I look forward to spending the mornings with the two of them. And then we will have a lazy week or so (I hope) at home, with a camping trip at the end before we jump into our new school year.

      I’m experimenting with bigger photos. I think I like it.