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.

First Form Latin: A Little Review

We have been studying Latin in our homeschool this year, which I am so excited about! I am really enjoying learning this language along with my kids. Quite possibly, I am enjoying it much more than they are;). But they are humoring me and going along with it, so all is good. Today, I want to share a bit about First Form Latin, which I am using this year with my ninth and seventh graders.

First of all, I am a huge fan of this program! I only wish I had found it earlier in our homeschool journey. We have been using First Form Latin for about ten weeks now and it is going so well. This program is very understandable and teacher-friendly even to me, someone with very little Latin experience! The lessons are clearly laid out and we were able to quickly develop a good routine for going through them, which I will share below.

For First Form Latin, I purchased the “complete set”, plus duplicates for some items.
This includes the following:

  • Teacher’s manual
  • Student texts for each of my boys
  • Student workbooks ~ one for each of my boys, plus one for me to work in alongside them
  • Teacher key with answers to the exercises and quizzes
  • DVD
  • Audio CD 
  • A booklet of reproducible quizzes
  • Flashcards
  • In addition to the above I purchased:
    • The First Form Latin schedule from Memoria Press – I love having a daily schedule; this one keeps me on track and tells me what exercises to do each day ~ and it has boxes I can check!
    • Desk charts (not shown) ~ I will confess I have not used these grammar helps yet, but writing this post reminded me that I should get them out!
    • Lingua Angelica set ~ I loved the idea of listening to Latin hymns as part of our learning so I also purchased this set, which includes an audio CD, teacher’s manual, student workbook, and songbook.  We have not been using the workbooks at all, so in retrospect, I could have done without them. We just listen and follow along with the lyrics in the songbook.
    So how do we do all this?
    On Mondays (typically) we watch the lecture for our assigned lesson. I feel like this time gives me a little break and really, we could not do this program without “our” Latin teacher. Hearing someone else explain something really helps those words on the page sink in!

    After we watch the DVD lessons (about 20 minutes) we head to the kitchen table and get out our textbooks. Each lesson contains assigned Latin grammar questions for us to go over, and Monday is typically the day we do this. This takes about 5-10 minutes. Next, it’s on to the heart of the lesson.

    Each FFL lesson contains several  components and I try to review each component each day we do Latin. We typically start with a recitation, then review the Latin saying and vocabulary for the week. Next we have “chalk talk” where we learn about conjugating various forms of the verbs and other grammar points.  We are usually told to conjugate a couple of the new verbs on a white board.  Then, on subsequent days we slowly work on conjugating the rest of the verbs on the white board.  Teaching the lesson takes about 10-15 minutes, on average, usually a bit more the first day.
    Next, we do the assigned exercises (from the MP schedule). As I mentioned above, I purchased a student workbook for myself and I do the exercises right along with my boys. This has made a HUGE difference to me  in learning and teaching Latin! The exercises usually take 15-20 minutes to complete, after which we all check our answers together. I am not sure why one of my kiddos is working with a sock on his hand, but whatever works, right?


    After we check our answers, we listen to our assigned Lingua Angelica song for that lesson – we usually listen to it twice.

    On subsequent days, we review each lesson for about 15 minutes, then do our exercises. Typical exercise include filling in tense ending charts, working with derivatives, writing out the saying, and working on translations. And each day we listen to our assigned hymn. On Wednesdays (or the third day of our lesson) we use the audio CD to review. I try to do Latin five days a week, though we don’t always get to it.

    On Fridays, we do the oral drill from the lesson and go over flashcards. Then, we all take the quiz for that lesson, and we are ready to move on to the next lesson.

    I honestly cannot think of anything negative to say about this program – it is well-laid out and organized and makes Latin so much easier for me to understand and teach than other programs I have tried. My hope is that we will be able to continue on with Second Form Latin next year.

    You Are an Artist Chalk Pastels: A Little Review

    Last week I shared a bit about the woodworking my boys are doing for their homeschool art this year. This week, I want to share about what my youngest Rose is doing. (In case you were wondering, my oldest daughter is planning to use Oak Meadow’s photography program for her art course this year, but with one thing and another she hasn’t quite started it yet).

    Okay, on to the pastels! Rose (9) specifically requested to work with pastels this year and I was fortunate enough to stumble across an absolutely wonderful resource ~ Hodgepodge’s You Are An Artist. This site offers video art tutorials and art e-books. I chose to go with the e-books both for my budget and my sometimes spotty internet connection. Both of us have been so thrilled with this resource! So far, Rose has completed A Seasonal Start in Fall Chalk Pastels and has been working through Chalk Pastels Art At the Beach. Tomorrow she will begin A Simple Start in Christmas Chalk Pastels and she is very excited to get started creating some fun holiday art!

    What’s included ~ When you order a chalk pastels e-book you receive a link to download your e-book, which you can either print out or use right from your device.  I save all of our e-books to a folder set aside specifically for our homeschool downloads so they are easy to find later. I print out each e-book, because pastels are messy and I think it’s easier to work from a printed page.  I print out just the cover and the project pages. To save ink, I don’t print the introductory material about how to work with pastels, though I definitely recommend reading through these, especially if you are new to working with pastels. There is a lot of good information in there.

    What you’ll need ~ To use the chalk pastel e-books you’ll need pastel paper, pastels, and baby wipes. I order pastel paper from Amazon; it’s much cheaper than at the craft store.  For pastels, Rose uses the Prismacolor brand, which we have been happy with. FYI, if you are new to pastels, they will break and look all messy like ours do ~ but they still work just fine! Using baby wipes for clean-up is a trick I learned from the e-books and boy does it work well! I just bought a tub of inexpensive baby wipes and keep them right with our supplies. They clean up both hands and any lingering dust on the table easily.

    How to do it ~ Rose usually does her pastels on Friday morning. I have her spread some newspaper over her work-surface before she begins. I keep all of her supplies together in a basket so she can  grab it and cart it out to the kitchen table. For reference, Rose is 9, and she can do these projects entirely on her own. The directions are written to the artist and have a lovely, chatty style that she really responds to and understands. There are plenty of illustrations as well, making it easy to follow along. I spray each finished pastel work lightly with hairspray to keep the pastels from smudging. After it’s dry Rose either hangs it up in her room – she has quite the gallery – or gives it away to a lucky recipient.

    You Are An Artist Chalk Pastels are a huge hit in our homeschool this year! If you want to try it out,  there are free sample lessons at the website.

    Monday Musings

    For the week of November 28th….

    A few plans for the week
    Our usual roundup of sports and outside classes :: adding a second ballet class and a contemporary dance class to Rose’s dance schedule ~ plus she has her first performance this weekend ~ so much excitement! :: a trip to the vet for a cat check-up :: going to see The Underwater Bubble Show with my girls
    Noticing the season ~ some things I’d like to do this week
    Watch The Rockefeller Tree Lighting on television :: get our Christmas tree :: make a batch of Christmas cookies :: set up the Christmas book basket :: listen to Christmas music in the car on our way here and there :: have cranberry orange pancakes on the weekend :: light the first Advent candle :: start our Advent calendars :: decorate the house :: start amaryllis bulbs
    Homeschool notes
    We’ve been on a light schedule the past couple of weeks, this week we’re back to our regular routine ~ at least for a couple of weeks. I’m starting a new read-aloud with Rose, The Secret of the Sealed Room, and continuing to read The Silver Branch with James. Grace is hard at work finishing up her first dual enrollment class ~ she has just a few weeks left. Dual enrollment has been a great experience for her and she’ll be taking two classes in the spring. I plan to row The Salamander Room with Rose ~ this may be our last Five in a Row book! We have done all the books we could from the first three volumes and I am not sure if we will continue on with Volume 4, mainly because we don’t own it and it’s expensive.  We “rowed” several books from Volume 3 recently that I never got around to taking pictures of….mostly because our rows lately have been very simple. We’ve  just focused on enjoying each book and discussing things from the FIAR manual. So we haven’t been doing as many of the hands-on things that lend themselves to photographs! But I do plan to do a post about our row of The Salamander Room when we finish in a couple of weeks.
    Out of doors
    We spent time winterizing the yard this past weekend ~ things like taking in the outdoor furniture, storing the grill, taking apart the trampoline…so we’re ready for snow now! But, I won’t be disappointed if it waits a bit.
    In the kitchen
    My two girls are vegetarian as of a few months ago and we are finally finding a new weekday kitchen groove. Once a week we do a vegetarian chili night,  but I do it different ways. Sometimes we have it straight up, with black olives, cheese, and avocado on top. Other times we serve it over corn chips (my boys favorite) or on top of spaghetti. Another night is “quick pasta” night ~ this recipe for broccoli fettucine alfredo is a current fave!
    Watching & reading
    We started off our Christmas movie watching season with A Christmas Story and continue to watch Lost Season Two with our older three. I’m currently reading The Child after finishing The River at Night (which was a quick read for me, but I didn’t love in the end).  I am really, really looking forward to reading Christmas picture books this week!
    I have posts in the works about our fourth–grade art program and First Form Latin, so I’ll be back soon…. have a wonderful week!