by Nicole on January 27, 2016

in homeschool,science

Something fun that we did in the fall was take part in a swap called Nature Pal Exchange. Through Instagram I discovered this fun way to see and experience a bit of nature in another part of the country.

nature pal exchange goodies

We were paired with a family in Alabama who sent us some amazing treasures that they collected and made for us– things quite different from what we sent them (mostly beach-themed).


We had a lot of fun adding some watercolor artwork and a map of a local nature preserve to our collection for them.

thanksgiving table with preserved leaves

Some items that were unique for us SoCal-ers were the cotton (“It’s just like a cotton ball, mama, but on a plant!”), various preserved leaves (which made lovely table decor for our Thanksgiving dinner with our Community Group), a magnolia seed pod, and cicada carcasses.

nature pal exchange

They also sent us a bunch of handmade bookmarks which have come in handy, watercolor art, and maps/postcards. It was so fun! Thank you, Ness family, for all the treasures!


our simple kindergarten curriculum (pre-k friendly)

Brody is thrilled to be starting kindergarten, and at just fourteen months behind him, Hallee is officially a pre-k-er this year! After watching Brody and Hallee interact, observe and participate in the homeschooling we’ve done to this point, I’ve decided to begin teaching both of them the same material this year.

I’m primarily focusing on reading, writing, and math with them (I’ve heard this referred to as “reading, writing, & ‘rithmetic, which is kind of cute), for their specialized kindergarten work.

letters and numbers for me

For reading lessons/phonics, we are using The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading (and Bob books eventually); for handwriting we are using Letters and Numbers for Me, by Handwriting Without Tears, and for math we are starting with Math-u-See Primer. It’s pretty basic, but I like that they enjoy it and are breezing through it. I’m hoping that make math seem super fun for them and not a burden.

The fun thing about having an older student in the family is that B & H get exposed to a lot of what Gigi is learning. So even though I’m not “requiring” in-depth history work for them (Susan Wise Bauer recommends starting Story of the World in first grade), they are learning right along side us and joining in with lessons activities whenever they can. They love getting their own copy of the mapwork and trying to follow along for example.

On regular homeschool days, they are also taking part in a lot of what Gigi does— in memory work and other morning time activities, enjoying our family read-alouds, games, and also learning some Spanish and a bit of Latin (but that one I’m gearing towards Gigi primarily).

brody off to kinder classes

At our charter school’s learning center Brody has language arts and a bit of math enrichment, drama, chess, Spanish and health/wellness (basically a P.E. class).

Hallee gets the special blessing of having her own little “school day” outside of the home, too — a dear friend of ours who used to be a preschool teacher and has a daughter the same age as Hallee decided to invite a few friends to join them for a little preschool morning on an almost-weekly basis. Hallee had her first class last week and loved it!

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3rd grade curriculum

It’s hard to believe that we are going into our fourth year of homeschooling and that Gigi will be in 3rd grade! Here’s what curriculum we are planning to use this year (which could always change, of course, but this is what we’ll be starting with).

For language arts and social studies we’ll be looping some of our curriculum (see that plan here), rather than trying to fit it all in each homeschool day.

Language Arts

Cursive- finishing up Cursive Handwriting and beginning Cursive Success

Grammar- First Language Lessons Vol 2

Writing- Writing With Ease Vol 1, Story Starters (found this spiral flip book at Lakeshore and it looks really fun!)

Spelling- Purposeful Design (we’ll keep going in the Grade 2 book)

Reading- books of her choice, classics and more TBD (I just got a huge pile of books from a former homeschool mom to look through!)

Super excited to try these new-to-us language options:

Song School Spanish

Song School Latin


Math-U-See Beta/Gamma

Life of Fred Elementary Series (Gigi is currently finishing up Cats)

Social Studies

Story of the World Vol 3, supplemented with A Child’s History of the World and various encyclopedias and literature

Liberty’s Kids DVD series, plus some U.S. history/geography projects

CC History Timeline song


Gigi really loved our introduction to Shakespeare last year so I’m thrilled to keep learning more about him and his stories and memorizing passages with the kids.

Tales from ShakespeareHow to Teach Your Children Shakespeare, Usborne’s Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare

Keyboarding Without Tears

Long Story Short (this is the devotional that goes with our church’s children’s curriculum)

Exploring Grace Together devotional

Corinthians study (Community Bible Study)

Gigi will be hopefully taking a math/science project-based class at her learning center, and then we will supplement with nature journaling, and some science that relates to our history units.

At the charter school’s learning center, Gigi will also be taking drama (her fave!), art, chess, and horticulture/economics (where they do gardening and usually some kind of market project where they design and make some kind of product or service to sell at the holiday market).

Processed with VSCOcam with f3 preset


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prepping for school -- 2015-2016

On one hand, I’m ready for the new school year, but on the other hand, I feel like this year, and this summer have flown by. Does anyone else feel this way?

I love summer so much that it’s hard to see it fade away, and yet, every year by mid-August I find myself itching for the rhythm and routine that the school year brings. All around us, friends are starting school (which seems crazy early to me!), and I find myself in the limbo period of clinging on like mad to the freedom of summer and also looking forward at what’s to come in September.

Planning for school makes me super happy and excited. This year I have come across some really helpful tools for this, so I thought I would share some of my preparations here on the new online home for our family’s homeschool journey (welcome to this fun, new blog! I hope you like it. You can read more about us and about our homeschool if you’re new here.)

2015-2016: 3rd grade, kinder, & pre-k

Since I’ll be officially teaching two different grades this year, I felt like I needed to set more of a schedule for my day to fit it all in, especially because we only have three homeschool days each week.

I know myself and our family well enough to know that we will not follow this to the letter every day but we will at least use it as a guideline on the days we are home all day. My goal on most days is to try to stay home and get school work done all morning and then get out in the afternoons. But I know inevitably we will not be able to resist taking days off to hit up the zoo, Wild Animal Park, the aquarium, or Legoland, so we will creatively re-work the schedule on those days. That flexibility is one reason why we homeschool after all!

A note: I will be teaching Brody and Hallee the same stuff on homeschool days, rather than specifically kinder and pre-k separately. More on this in a future post.

Our daily schedule

The most helpful tool that I’ve found recently that I’m working into my schedule is something called loop scheduling, which I learned about from Sarah Mackenzie and Pam Barnhill, two women who have quickly joined the ranks of my go-to homeschool gurus. I watched their super-helpful webinar about loop scheduling and have been working it into my schedule as you’ll see.

I’m also really going to try to implement a “morning time” routine, which I have loosely tried in the past but haven’t really stuck with (not surprisingly for this ENFP mama).

The other new element I’m excited to add is a Poetry Tea Time on Friday afternoons when we are home. I know the kids will love this.

Here are some screen shots of my plan so far. I zoomed in on Friday afternoons since Friday mornings are a little up in the air still.

I will share details about our curriculum choices soon. :)

monday wednesday schedule friday afternoon schedule

Notice the Loops?

So as you’ll see, there is a loop in the morning for Gigi’s Language Arts, and a Social Studies loop on Friday afternoon. The webinar and this post explain it much better than I can, but basically we will cycle through the things on our loop, in that order, hitting as many items as our time block and attention span will allow. The next time we come to the loop, we’ll pick up where we left off.

Gigi’s Assignment Book

Another idea from Sarah Mackenzie that worked great for us last year, was using a simple spiral notebook to write Gigi’s assignments in (along with any other relevant plans for the day) for her to check off. This proved to be very helpful for her to see what was on the docket for the day, and also for me to look back and see what we actually accomplished.

More planning resources:

Upside-down & backwards planning— I still use this method, rather than detailed lesson planning too much in advanced. I basically just keep going in whatever book we’re in, but keep track of the specifics we accomplish each day.

My printable planner page— this was a great tool for our 3-day homeschool week when I just had 1 student. I might either just use my regular planner homeschool stuff, or modify this one to fit 2 grades worth of details.

A Simple Homeschool Planner— I’ve used many of the pages Tsh designed and found them helpful, with a lovely simple design as per her usual style. (This one is an affiliate link.)

I’ve also heard great things about Pam’s planner but I haven’t checked it out yet. I also really love the look of Mrs. Hutchinson’s planner, which I’ve been getting glimpses of on Instagram.

I’m always interested in more planning help, so if you have some, let’s hear it! 😉

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Our simple plan for science: nature journaling

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Gigi and I recently decided to back out of the science part of our co-op and just focus on the history part– that’s the part we really love, and science was feeling a little overwhelming. She’s pretty young still and a lot of the stuff they were doing was on her level, but not really […]

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2nd grade curriculum update, 2014-2015

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We’ve been plugging along for a few months now with second grade and my two little preschoolers, so I thought it would be fun to do a bit of a homeschool/curriculum update. As most of you know, we homeschool part-time, through a hybrid charter school. Gigi goes to school for enrichment 1-2 days a week. If […]

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What I love about classical education

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In April 2013, I went to a seminar with Andrew Kern from the CiRCE Institute. It was an inspiring, eye-opening day where I learned, on a deeper level, what classical Christian education is and entails, what its benefits are and how it differs from conventional schooling. That seminar strongly confirmed that this is not only the […]

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When times were tough, I didn’t give up. Here’s why.

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This post was written in January of 2014. It’s one I like to re-read every now and again, because we all know the hard days will never totally disappear. I’ve had many days where I want to quit doing homeschool with Gigi. Some days are just harder than others. If it was just me and […]

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