Our Homeschool Science this Year

This is an ongoing series where I share how we’re doing different subjects in our homeschool this year. You can see my previous post “Our Homeschool Language Arts this Year” here.

And here’s how we’re doing science this year!

11th grade: My 11th grader started out the year with Oak Meadow Environmental Science but to be honest, she hasn’t gotten far with it. I am hoping one of my other kids will pick it up at a future date because it was a bit spendy! She is currently “outsourcing” her science by taking an Intro to Psychology course at the local community college and will probably continue on that path next year.

9th grade: My 9th grader is using Apologia Biology this year and we have been pretty happy with it. It is definitely a Christian-based program and we are a secular homeschool, but it has not felt like an issue at all. There is an occasional religious sentence or two here and there, but the science is solid and I am really pleased with the friendly tone it’s presented in. Much more interesting than I remember science textbooks being!  We got the CD-ROM version with the schedule from Sonlight and this has made completing the work much more do-able for both of us. The schedule breaks everything down into manageable pieces to complete each day and lets him know what he needs to have on hand for upcoming experiments. The CD-ROM has been great and I am glad we chose it over the traditional text. I think reading the material on the computer feels less intimidating than having a giant science book to get through. Throughout the text there are links to short videos. You can also click on many unfamiliar words to hear them pronounced, which I think is an awesome feature since I am terrible at pronouncing unfamiliar terms.

Apologia Biology Student Text ~ I chose to order the CD-ROM version from Sonlight

I also purchased the student notebook from Apologia for him and it has really made organizing all the notes and studying for the quizzes much easier. This is the first time  he has experienced a course where he was expected to take notes and study for tests, and I am glad he’s getting this experience. The only downside I have found is that if you don’t get to it every day (we have trouble with this) it’s easy to get behind. I would prefer to move on to chemistry (or something else) next year, so we may end up finishing this one up over the summer. The experiments so far have been successful and easy to do, but we’re not up to the dissections yet, so ask me again in a few weeks! He does this program independently, but I do check in to see what he has done each day and remind him when he needs to get ready for a quiz or a lab. He probably spends 45 minutes a day, on average, on this course.

7th grade: My 7th grader is using BookShark Science 7 this year, which comes with a daily schedule ~ my favorite way to do science, otherwise I find it tends to get put off! We have been mostly happy with this program. He has enjoyed the book selection so far, especially Cool Stuff 2.0 which he was very happy to see in his book pile. We started out having him do the questions provided with my Instructor Guide but he tends to get bogged down answering those, so we have switched to mostly discussing them. This has really saved him a lot of time and I find I get better, more detailed answers than when I have him write the answers out. I love the diversity of topics and titles in this level – there are books about robotics, canals and dams, garbage, weather, the Industrial Revolution, and more. The only downside we have found is that some of the experiments have been disappointing. Some of them were a bit “fussy”, some of them just plain didn’t work, and at least one didn’t seem doable. A few weeks ago, for example, we were instructed to create a robot, bring it to a crowded setting, and operate it secretly to observe people’s reactions. We quickly realized that with today’s security concerns it was probably not a smart idea to set something like that loose in a crowd of people! I have been letting him pick and choose from among the experiments and he probably does about every other one or so.

A few of the books scheduled in this level:

4th grade: Last, but not least, my 4th grader is using Sonlight Science D this year. She is really enjoying it so far. Like BookShark and Apologia, we have a daily schedule for this one and she has no problem keeping up with it. So far, she has read a book about Rachel Carson, learned about seas and oceans, read a Magic School Bus book about the human body, and spent a lot of time reading her favorite book, Mysteries and Marvels of Nature. She loves checking out the internet-links for that title after she reads. We are currently working through TOPS Radishes, as mentioned in my last post. We have a “divide and conquer’ approach to this curriculum that is working well. She reads some of it to herself, answers most of the questions on the activity sheets provided, and checks out the internet links on her own if she’s reading an internet-linked book. I read some of the more complex books with her, watch the science DVD with her when we’re scheduled to, and assist with experiments.

A few of the books scheduled in this level:


And that’s how we’re doing science in our homeschool this year…thanks for reading!

Homeschool Photo Journal

Just a few photos from our last week of homeschool life…

An easy jelly roll, a.ka. “Lincoln log”, for Lincoln’s birthday! We also attended a wonderful virtual field trip about Lincoln with Field Trip Zoom. I highly recommend this resource! This month we have also done virtual field trips focusing on the American Revolution and Mars, and I am looking forward to sitting down sometime this week and picking a few to do for March.

One of our read-alouds right now is The Hidden Treasure of Glaston ,one of my favorite read-alouds from BookShark World History 1.

For fourth grade memory work…Rose memorized (most of!) the Gettysburg Address and is quite proud. I got her an illustrated picture book version and she just read it to herself once a day until she had it down. She loves memorizing things and I have been using The Well-Trained Mind suggestions for history memory work for her this year. Now she is working on memorizing the American presidents with a set of flashcards (these are available from Rainbow Resource, but Christian Book has the most up-to-date set).

Also with my fourth-grader, we just started using Maestro Classics. She had listened to all of the Classical Kids CD’s several times so we needed something new. I have been listening with her and these are great! We chose to start with Swan Lake. I will hopefully do a little review of these soon, maybe after we finish our next one, Peter and the Wolf.

She and I are also working our way through TOPS Radishes. This is my second (or maybe third?) time through this curriculum and it is a family favorite. You do need to commit to doing it every day for nearly a month (they give you a schedule to follow) but it is so engaging for the kids and well worth the time. We have radishes growing everywhere and we’re both learning so much! She started by sprouting 20 radish seeds in a juice carton. She used those to track growth rates and learn about the different stages of the sprouts.

She’s also been doing experiments such as finding out what happens when some plants get more light than others….the yellow plants sprouted under foil while the green had exposure to sunlight – quite a difference!

This week, we also made some easy paper lanterns. We made these for Chinese New Year, but they’d make a fun decoration any time.


Thanks so much for stopping by!

Games We Play: Snail’s Pace Race



I came up with the (perhaps preposterous) idea the other day to challenge the whole family to play every game in the game closet at least once before the end of winter (okay, maybe spring).  As soon as I came up with this idea, I realized it was probably virtually impossible, so I amended the challenge to at least two people play each game. Of course, all six of us playing every game would be awesome, but everyone has different schedules and many folks around here have very definite opinions about what games they will and will not play. So the object is just for someone to play the game.

We have quite the game closet, so this will be quite the challenge.  I am thinking this will also be a great opportunity to clean out the game closet ~ if everyone flat out refuses to play a game, I’ll know that game isn’t popular (I’m looking at you Monopoly!). We have quite a few games in there I think the kids have probably outgrown and some that some of them have never really tried, so I think this will be a good opportunity to review the collection.  I plan to post about most games here on the blog ~ not a long post, just a quick little review and some thoughts on each game. For the record, my kids are ages 17, 15, 12, and 9.


Okay, on to our first game…Snail’s Pace Race!


We have had this game in our closet for as long as I can remember. It was one of the first games that any of the kids learned to play. The recommended ages are 3-7, so obviously all of mine are above that age! This isn’t a game that comes out much anymore, but it was on the top shelf of the closet which was where we had decided to start our challenge, so we gave it a whirl. Snail’s Pace Race is great for beginning gamers, because it isn’t very competitive. First, everyone guesses which snail they think will come in first and which snail they think will come in last. Hint: write down everyone’s guesses so you don’t forget! As a variation,  we have also had everyone guess the order that all the snails will come in (1-red, 2-pink, 3-orange, etc).

To play, everyone takes turns rolling the colored dice and moving the snails accordingly. A pink and red roll means the pink snail and the red snail both get to advance one space. The snail who gets to its matching leaf first is the winner! If anyone predicted that snail would win, they also win. Play continues until the last snail is home and whoever guessed the correct last snail is also a winner.  What is nice here is that multiple people can win. Plus, it’s really the snails playing, not the people, so if you have some kiddos that tend to get a bit upset if they lose (we of course know nothing about that here, ahem) this is a great game.

How long it takes: Snail’s Pace Race takes around ten minutes to play.  To extend it, we created a house rule that once all the snails get to their leaf they have to return to their home space, having another race on the way.

Who can play: Ages 3+ and up to 6 players. Kids can even play by themselves. There is no reading required. Like I said earlier, my bunch is definitely on the older side for this game but they still had fun with it when I broke it out. I will say there was more of a “horse-race” atmosphere going on than I remember from when they were preschoolers, though!  I turned down several suggestions that we bet money on the snails.

What it teaches: This is a great game to introduce the concept of playing a game and taking turns in a low-key way. For the really littles, it also teaches color matching and basic counting, because they’ll want to know how many more spaces “their” snail needs to go.

What I love about it: The wooden snail pieces are so cute, colorful, and sturdy! This is a game I will be holding onto for future generations; it has held up remarkably well after years of use.

Our Homeschool Language Arts this Year

Hello! I hope you are having a wonderful homeschool week! I am planning to do a series on the blog about how we are doing different subjects in our homeschool this year with all the different ages we have. I’m happy to answer any questions about the resources we are using; just leave me a comment on this post.

First up is language arts. For us, this subject includes grammar, writing, spelling or vocabulary work, and handwriting practice. Here’s how we are handling language arts in our homeschool this year:

11th grade

Grammar: I have decided to let my 11th grader be done with grammar.  She has completed all three seasons of Analytical Grammar and had started on one of that company’s high school review books but was finding it a bit tedious. She has done grammar every year since she was six and feels like she has gotten everything from it she can. So we have dropped this as a formal subject.

Writing: We decided to give Bravewriter’s online classes a try this year and I am so glad we did. She enrolled in Expository Essay: Exploratory and Persuasive to start off the fall, then finished the fall semester by doing Nanowrimo. She is beginning Bravewriter’s Expository Essay: Rhetorical Critique and Analysis this week, which is kind of a “part two” of the first class she took. She has really enjoyed the Bravewriter class format and feels it has been a really good experience for her as she transitions to college classes (she is dual-enrolled at a local community college). I plan to have my other kids also take Bravewriter classes in high school so they get to experience someone besides me giving them feedback on their writing. Besides this, her writing is primarily taking place through her other subjects and dual enrollment classes.

Vocabulary – She is completing the Vocabulary from Classical Roots series by finishing up Book E, which will complete her formal study of this subject.

9th grade and 7th grade

My two boys overlap a bit, so I’m going to combine them here…

Grammar: My 9th grader (and my 7th grader) are working through Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind. We have kind of a mixed bag reaction to this resource. My kids, to be honest, protest when I bring it out. But, being one of those people who really sees the importance of grammar, I have asked them to go through a year of it. The program is designed to be repeated every year, but we’ll most likely find something different for next year.  I personally think it’s a very thorough, rigorous program, but in my house it causes a lot of whining so I don’t think it will have staying power.  We have compromised by doing whatever we can orally and only completing half of the diagrams for each lesson. We try to cover 2-3 lessons per week.



Writing: Both my 9th and 7th graders are working through the fifth book of Writing Strands. We use this book in a bit of a loose manner, in that I don’t require the boys to do all of the assignments. They look at each assigned writing project as they get to it and decide if they want to tackle it or not. If not, I ask them to write up a nonfiction paper on something that interests them instead. Writing Strands is quite creative-writing oriented, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, so this has been our solution.  They just work a bit on either their Writing Strands assignment or other writing project a bit each day; we don’t try to stick to the exact daily assignments in the book. I am currently trying to decide if I want to introduce more Bravewriter-style writing projects as another alternative to the Writing Strands assignments.

Spelling and Vocabulary: My 9th grader is finished with spelling (he did the Spelling Workout series) and is working on vocabulary now with Wordly Wise 9. He does a few pages each week and at the end of each lesson we do an oral quiz on the words before he moves on to the next lesson. Easy and pretty painless.  My 7th grader is working through Spelling Workout G, at the rate of about one lesson per week.



4th grade

Grammar: My fourth grader is working through First Language Lessons 4. I really, really love First Language Lessons for elementary (review here). It has just the right amount of rigor, and there’s even a bit of fun sprinkled throughout the lessons. Last week, for example, we made a sandwich and used the process to review prepositions.  We usually do 2-3 lessons a week.

Writing: She is using Writing Strands 4. I modify the assignments for her as needed. For example, she just had an assignment to draw a floor plan of the whole house and then write a description for each room. I had a feeling that assignment  might cause a meltdown, so we have been working together on a description of just one room (we skipped the floor plan idea entirely). I also give her the option of other writing assignments if one of the Writing Strands assignments doesn’t catch her fancy.

Spelling: She is working through Spelling Workout D, usually completing one lesson each week.

Handwriting: My fourth grader is also doing handwriting practice, just a bit each day. She is using Zaner-Bloser for this (book 4).

In addition to the above, I am also using Five in a Row Volume 4 with her, which includes a language arts component for each book. This is just a fun extra for her right now and we are taking a few weeks to “row” each book. Our current book is Snowflake Bentley.

And that’s how we’re doing language arts this year in our homeschool!

Fifty Family-Friendly Netflix Ideas

We have had what I call “old-fashioned Netflix” for many, many years. Yes, we still get actual DVD’s in the mail, watch them, and send them back neatly re-sealed in their envelopes when we’re finished with them. We don’t have high-speed internet (yet!), so streaming is not an option. Eventually it will be, but I think I will miss getting those cheerful red envelopes in the mail.

I thought it might be fun to pick out fifty movies/documentaries we have watched with the kids over the years and make a giant list of them. Did you know you can look back and see your entire Netflix history?

Here goes (in no particular order):

Fifty Family-Friendly Netflix Movies and Documentaries

  1. Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  2. Ratouille
  3. Fantastic Mr. Fox
  4. Beauty and the Beast ( the new remake)
  5. Chicken Run
  6. The 33
  7. The Finest Hours
  8. The BFG
  9. Moana
  10. The Secret Life of Pets
  11. The Martian
  12. Guardians of the Galaxy
  13. The Addams Family
  14. Zootopia
  15. The Walk
  16. The Incredibles
  17. Despicable Me
  18. Biography: Ben and Jerry
  19. The Last Man on the Moon
  20. Chasing Ice
  21. Maleficent
  22. Hotel Transylvania
  23. Deli Man
  24. Ramona and Beezus
  25. Inside Out
  26. The Book Thief (would use a little caution with younger kiddos)
  27. Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery
  28. A Lego Brickumentary
  29. Jiro Dreams of Sushi
  30. Paddington
  31. City of Ember
  32. Island of Lemurs: Madagascar
  33. Mary Poppins
  34. The Boxtrolls
  35. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
  36. The Story of India
  37. Apollo 13
  38. Wild China
  39. Mankind: The Story of All of Us
  40. Modern Marvels: The Great Wall of China
  41. National Geographic: Creepy Creatures
  42. The Haunted History of Halloween
  43. How to Train Your Dragon
  44. The Muppet Movie
  45. WALL-E
  46. Benji
  47. The Black Stallion
  48. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
  49. Up
  50. The Wizard of Oz

Homeschool Round-Up

A weekly round-up of things we’ve been doing lately in our homeschool!

Making Mexican wedding cookies for lesson 6 of La Clase Divertida Level 1  ~ my 9 year old and I are having so much fun with this program! It is a very gentle, engaging introduction to Spanish and I plan to do a little review of it in the upcoming weeks.


Growing amaryllis bulbs ~ we start these every year around Christmas-time and it is fun to watch them grow each day. We grew two pink and two red bulbs this year. They staggered themselves very nicely, one opening up as another faded, so we’ve had several weeks of color.


Trying out new magazines ~ I subscribed to a couple of new magazines for the kids and the first issues came this week. We have loved Muse for years; Faces and Cricket are new to us. All are available from Cricket Media.

Rowing books ~ Rose and I are finishing up our last book of Five in a Row Volume 3. I asked her if she wanted to stop there, since I thought she might be outgrowing it….her answer was a very emphatic “no!”, so volume 4 and the first three books we need are on the way.

Starting new read-alouds ~ I am reading aloud from two levels of BookShark this year. For BookShark World History 1, I am reading A Single Shard. And from BookShark American History 1, I am reading Johnny Tremain.

Playing games ~ We played the Escape the Room game I got the kids for Christmas. It was so much fun, I am planning to order another. If you haven’t tried these, I highly recommend them. They are a one-time game ~ you get a set time limit to solve the puzzle. Once you “escape the room” you can’t play again because you know all the answers.


A few other things we did:

  • Watched The 33 with the kids ~ this is a great movie. It’s rated PG-13 but my 9 year old had no problems with it and the ending is a happy one. Highly recommend. We also went to see The Last Jedi and Coco and loved both.
  • Attended two virtual field trips (geology and astronomy) through Field Trip Zoom
  • Started preparing for the National Mythology Exam

Thanks so much for stopping by my new space! To celebrate, and because Escape the Room is a “play it once” type game, I am planning to give away our copy to a reader of the blog in a few days. Stay tuned!

The IKEA Raskog Cart for Homeschooling

I picked up a Raskog cart on one of last year’s IKEA jaunts. I am pretty much in love with this little cart! For the first few months it lived in our laundry room holding detergent and bleach and other not-so-exciting-but-necessary-stuff. One day I was dragging books out of our home library to start our homeschool day, and it occurred to me that  wheels would make the job a heck of a lot easier and more fun. So the little cart moved into our library and now I use it to store the books I need to work with the kids each day.

Every morning I wheel this baby out to the kitchen, where it is central to everything we are doing. We are very much a “homeschool all over the place family” but I tend to center operations in the kitchen. I originally thought I would store supplies like pencils, erasers, scissors and such plus books on this cart, but we have a lot of books so there is not enough space. On my next trip to IKEA, I am planning to get my Raskog a sibling and use her to store those sorts of things.

I use this cart for the books I need most days and the contents switch up as we finish books and start others. Each kiddo also has a crate of independent materials. So the cart is really for the subjects I do with them. I arrange the contents in roughly the order we work each day. I start the day with my youngest and the top shelf holds:


Going down a shelf, my older kiddos do much more work independently, so their shelves are shared.

On the middle shelf, I have:


Then, on the bottom shelf I have:


I honestly could not do without my little cart….and as a plus, it is just too cute. The only thing I am sad about is that I really wanted to get a blue one, but they were out of stock and it seems they don’t make a blue Raskog anymore. This color is the red/brown and I like it, but I have my fingers crossed there will be another fun and different color by the time I make it back to IKEA.