Creating a K-3 Unit Study

I say “K-3” because these are the simplest ages for which to create a study, and because I often tell people that they don’t need to purchase a science or a history curriculum for the very young. When my children were that young I often just went with either what they were interested in or what I felt every child should have a basic knowledge of. make friends with your librarians – they have a wealth of knowledge and might even have teacher’s boxes you can borrow. So as an example I’m going to choose “OWLS.”

Usually my first step was a trip to the library, but that was back in the stone age and now most of us in the 21st century have computers at home. You all have so many resources out there, take advantage of them and save your money! Here is just a sample of non-fiction books I’ve found on our library’s website: “Owls and Their Homes” by Deborah Gibson; “Egg to Bird” by Carolyn Scrace; “Owls: hunters of the night” by Elaine Landau; and ALWAYS look for DK or Kingfischer or Eyewitness books such as “Amazing Birds of Prey” by Jemima Parry-Jones.

Fiction Readers for the kids to read: “White Owl, Barn Owl” by Nicola Davies;  “Owly and Wormy, bright lights and starry nights” by Andy Runton; “Julie and the Eagles” by Megan McDonald

Read alouds: “Legend of the Guardians” by Kathryn Lasky

And just for the fun of it: “Odd Owls & Stout Pigs: a book of nonsense” by Arnold Lobel

As they read through the factual books have them make lapbooks or do some notebooking. Personally I like a mixture of lapbooks and notebooks.  You can find great ideas for lapbooks on websites such as    And you can find some great ideas for notebooking on line too

Next step, find out if there is a nature preserve in your area or a wildlife place that rescues injured animals. They may have owls on display. Call your park system and see if they offer a night hike. A local camp might let you come visit in the evening to hear owl hoots.

For a science experiment you can order owl scat pellets online, dissect to see what the owls ate. Can you identify the bones inside?   You can also study endangered owls either from books or cool websites, and let your kids memorize a couple of their scientific names

Time for crafts, again hit the library:  “Baskets, Beads and Black Walnut Owls” by Sarah Healton  And don’t forget to check pintrest for ideas, or find websites such as  And just think while they’re baking cookies they’re also learning fractions!  How about owl pine cones?  Printable owl coloring pages

and don’t forget the videos available at libraries:  “while the World is Sleeping” by nutmeg Media; “Wild Chronicles” by National Geographic.

Now lets tackle history. At age 5-9 my kids found certain people fascinating – Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington Carver (among others). After 3rd grade we started doing history chronologically, but you can still find great ways to incorporate unit studies within those parameters. Again hit the library for information. Lets take “ANCIENT EGYPT”

Factual books: the Bible (read about Moses); “Ancient Egypt” by Niel Morris; “Usborne Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt” by Gill Harvey; “You Wouldn’t want to be Cursed by King Tut” by Jacqueline Morley; and again Eyewitness book “Ancient Egypt by George Hart.

Readers for the kids: “Boy of the Pyramids” by Ruth Jones; “Cleopatra’s Coin” by Gerry Bailey; “Egyptian Diary: the Journal of Nacht” by Richard Platt; “Thea Stilton and the Blue Scarob Hunt” by Thea Stilton.

Read aloud to them: “The Long Lost Map” by Pierdomenico Baccalario; “The Case that time Forgot” by Tracy Barrett.

Crafts: “Make history” by Nancy Fister.

Fun stuff?? Who can build the biggest pyramid from sugar cubes? “Cooking in Ancient Civilizations” by Cathy Kauffman. Make you own mummy!!  How about a coloring book?

Videos abound for Ancient Egypt. PBS is always a good place to start.  Also try to watch a modern Egypt video to give your children some social studies.

So there you have it – two weeks worth of science and social studies planned out. Really at that age you only need to do those subjects 2 or maybe 3 times per week. Make it fun! Book work will come soon enough….





Home Schooling through High School

Several people have asked for advice as they advance on the period of credits, transcripts, and college applications. I am in no means an expert but, as usual, I will indulge by sharing my not-so-humble opinions. If there is something in specific you would like to see discussed on here, or if there is something I left out, leave me a comment !

The first step i would suggest is checking on the HSLDA website if you’re not sure what your state laws and regulations are. Always follow the state guidelines.

Next consider your objectives for your student’s high school years. Is the child college bound? Wanting a skilled vocation? Ready to start their own entrepreneurship? This will determine your plan of action. In all these decisions, include your student and have them make the connections and phone calls. This is their adult life we’re talking about here.

If the student is interested in starting their own business, help them to make a business plan. This may require meeting with a skilled professional who knows how to work logistics and marketing. Find someone in a similar business for your student to “shadow” or to do an internship. Same with a job skill – if their desired vocation requires specific training then help them seek that out. Some vocations now require classes and certification when they didn’t in previous years.

If the student is college bound you will want to have them take the SAT and/or the ACT… a couple times. Some universities have you submit your best overall test, some let you submit separate scores for each of the sections of the tests, so you can choose the best of the multiple times they’ve taken the test. You also will want to have a general idea in which universities they are interested, or at least which type of university or college. Then start checking the requirements for those colleges – do they require basic classes, college prep courses, foreign language, and do they offer dual credit or CLEP tests. (Dual credit or post-secondary is when a high school student enrolls in a college course and receives both high school and college credits for said course.) As a home school student, your son/daughter might be asked to take a couple entrance exams for a particular college – my daughter took them and did quite well. So don’t panic over those.

I may be a renegade but when it comes to transcripts I want some guided help. I use an online company and so far have been really pleased:  There are umbrella schools which you can use for transcripts. Universities are looking for well rounded applicants, so ontop of the typical classes/subjects you will want to document any extra curricular activities in which your student participated such as mission trips, theater and choir participation, team sports, church activities, volunteer work (hospital, animal shelter, soup kitchen), summer jobs, community involvement, internships, Habitat for Humanities (or something similar)…

When you are assigning credits for each class you should first look at the way your state assigns credit. Some give one credit for a full year academic class. Some give one credit for a semester of an academic class. Next check shat your state has as required amounts of credits for each category – Language Arts, Math, Sciences, and Social Studies. Also usually needed are P.E., fine arts, government and other electives. Consider which classes you should put in specific categories and which you can put into electives. Such as, you may have drawing and painting as fine arts, but choose to fill required elective credits with other art classes such as photography or sculpting.  *side note: most colleges do not accept pre-algebra worthy for a credit and most no longer accept physical science as a high school course*

Some classes that can fall into these categories (this is not a complete list)

Social Studies: American History, World History, Medieval/Renaissance History, Geography, Ancient History, European History, Modern History

Language Arts: Intro to Writing, Advanced Writing, Essay Writing, Creative Writing, Intro to Literature, American Lit, English Li, College Writing, Composition, Literary Analysis and Composition, World Literature

Math: Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry, Pre-Calculus, Calculus, Trigonometry, Statistics, Accounting

Sciences: Environmental Science, Biology w/labs, Chemistry w/labs, Oceanography, Botany, Anatomy, Earth Science, Physics

Government (in it’s own category)

Economics (again, in it’s own category)

Arts: Intro to Art, Drawing & Painting,Art History, Music History, Photography, Interior Design, Drama, Choir, Jewelry Making, Sculpture, Graphic Arts, Ceramics

Electives:  Food Prep, Nutrition, Health, Horticulture, Microsoft Office,  Sociology, Speech, Foreign Language, Technology/Computer Science, Journalism, Personal Finance, Marketing, Game Design, Web Design, Dance, Theater Arts

P.E (again own category) you can include yoga, dance classes, sports, 5K training & participation, horseback riding,

Butternut Squash Soup

This was a fabulous soup. We tried it shortly after going vegetarian. I’ll share more recipes on here that even my carnivore husband loves.


Butternut Squash Soup
1 medium butternut squash
2 T butter (real butter, not margarine. that stuff is horrid for you)
1 medium onion diced
3 cups vegetable stock
1/2 t pepper
1/4 t curry powder
8 oz cream cheese
First, choose a cold day (we have plenty of those lately), the day BEFORE you want to make the soup. On that very cold day, make your kitchen nice and cozy by baking the butternut squash. (many recipes call for peeling and cubing the raw squash – this is insane and will do nothing but result in blisters on the fingers… trust me, I’ve tried. Plus baking it beforehand eliminates the need for blending the soup in a food processor.) Split the squash in half lengthwise. Put 1/2 inch water in bottom of baking dish. Place squash upside down in baking dish. Bake at 375 approximately 45 minutes, or until the squash is soft. Let cool and spoon out into a container, and place in fridge.Next, since your oven is heated up put in a sheet of your favorite cookies.
The next day, in a large soup pot saute the onion in the butter until transparent. Add squash and sitr in the vegetable stock slowly. Add pepper and curry powder. Bring to simmer for about 10 minutes. Turn heat down to low. Cube the cream cheese and add to soup. Stir constantly until cream cheese melts. Heat through another 3-4 minutes.
Serve hot, preferably with French bread and a big fat salad. (“big fat” and “salad” don’t really belong in the same sentence do they?)

If I Could Do It Over Again

Again – this is a repost from the other blog that is no longer functioning:

The other day I was thinking “If I could start over again and redo the homeschooling years, would I do anything differently?” Not that I messed it up (although we all have mistakes), it’s just that I hear from all these new homeschool moms how worried they are. They want to get a jump start and give their children the advantage. So what advice would I give them? What specific items or curriculum would I recommend they use?

First off, if you want to give your child an advantage then LET THEM BE CHILDREN! What I mean by that is that they are only young once; they have many years for formal education with textbooks, workbooks, assignments. There is no need to rush your 3 or 4 or 5 year old into seat work. Let them play, experience nature, learn life skills, bake cookies with you, go grocery shopping, run, jump, climb, use their imagination.

Next advice, do not try to force a child to learn to read. Just because Johnny can recite the alphabet does not mean he is ready to read. There needs to be a certain maturity and skills developed before the brain can actually decode the written language. Guess where they get those skills? From exercising, and playing, and developing their imaginations. Some are ready at age 4, some take until age 10. Don’t panic, try a phonics/reading program and if it’s too painful for the child then he/she is not ready. Wait 6 months and try again. Repeat this until the light bulb comes on and he/she can retain the information of the sounds from day to day and week to week.

As for items I would definitely have in my house for homeschooling right from the get-go – a globe (nothing fancy), and a BIG wipe off map of the world and one of the USA; tons of art supplies like cheap watercolors, paintbrushes, pencils, paper of all sorts, Elmer’s glue, glitter; a good kid-friendly dictionary and a thesaurus; and books – loads of books: story books, nature guides, art books, atlases. The bigger the library you have the more your kids will be invited to read.

Curriculum – this one gets sticky because people are offended if you dislike the brand they use, but honestly, please wait on the workbook/textbook style such as Abeka, Bob Jones, Christian Liberty Press, Alpha Omega, Lifepac… for one subject it’s alright, but for the entire package it is boring for the children AND for the parent. Also when you use these package deals you have separate books for each grade level, so if you have multiple children you are going to stretch yourself way too thin. By choosing a non-traditional style you can school several children with the same books!

Curriculum I would do over again because it was just that good???

Five in a Row (also Before Five in a Row, and After Five in a Row) – a fabulous beginning to homeschooling especially for 4 and 5 year olds. It covers familiar children’s books with fun ideas.

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy lessons – when my children were reading-ready they learned quite well from this book. Looking back, I would use a more in depth phonics program after they finish this book just to strengthen their skills.

Miquon Math – this program is great for K-2 and uses Cuisenaire rods as manipulatives. It is workbook form, but it really seems to the kids as if they are playing games all the while teaching them the “why” of math.

Considering God’s Creation by Eagle’s Wing – this was so easy, well arranged and so much fun for little ones grades 1-4. It can be adapted for a co-op very easily also.

American Girl (yes the doll people) History Curriculum – this is a fun way to learn American history for grades 2-4. The library carries all sorts of extra books to go along with it – crafts, cooking, fashion, maps, games. I’m wondering if the boy version, My Name is America, has a history program for their books?

Prairie Primer – based on Little House books, this was great for one year. Again, full of ideas so pick and choose which ones you like – don’t try to do them all!

For math I love two curriculums – Saxon and Teaching Textbooks. Saxon moves a little faster and is more advanced, so if your child struggles with math I would recommend Teaching Textbooks. While it is thorough it does not move as fast and just has a different format.

For writing – anything from Institute for Excellence in Writing. Fabulous program and well worth the money spent. Also if you become familiar with how it works and have the program you can make some extra money teaching classes for other homeschoolers.

My favorite curriculum by far has been Sonlight history and science programs for grades 1-8. It is well layed out without being overwhleming, comes in either 4 or 5 day plans, and is very easy to teach multiple children close in age from one core year. We love literature and it’s a great way to learn. I have not used the highschool levels.

Tapestry of Grace is in a class of it’s own – while it is very thorough especially if your child is college bound, it is time consuming for the parent (or at least for me). I am always revamping because I feel the standards are a bit high if your child is not REALLY advanced. Also I would not use it before middle school level. It’s not really kid friendly for youngsters. Great for a co-op though!!!

My final advice, and this is something everyone hears and never does… Take time for you… regularly! Have a date night with your hubby, go out for coffee with a friend, or just go sit in a park and enjoy the birds singing. As homeschoolers we get so wrapped up in homeschooling that we often forget that we need friends, down-time, quiet time, and bonding time with our husbands. Find someone to trade babysitting with once a month or once a week if possible. Beg grandma to watch the kids for an hour. Barter for babysitting – garden veggies, haircuts, baked goods, housekeeping.

Getting Started w/ Homeschooling

Getting Started with Home Schooling

Because of problems with my other blog, I switched to here and am reposting this article:

Recently there have been many questions on different chat places about how to get started with homeschooling. Really, there is much too much information to post on these chat forums so I thought I would provide some information here.

Step 1 – First you should check the laws and regulations in within your state. HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) should have information on their website to supply you with the information you may need.  

Step 2 – My second suggestion is to find support groups within your area. Remember that not all support groups are created equal, so check the structure of several different groups. Support groups are a wonderful way to meet like-minded people, a social outlet for children, and can help meet the educational needs of your child. However, remember that support groups do not run by themselves – they take work. Perhaps you can volunteer to help out in some way.

Step 3 – Next step is to consider the different teaching philosophies and learning styles. There are different approaches to teaching your child at home. You do not need to stick to just one for each and every subject – in fact I recommend you provide a mixture of styles to meet different aspects of learning. Not all styles of teaching/learning work for every family; it may take some trial and error.

Teaching methods:

Classical education – A Classical Curriculum includes reading of great works of literature and studying logic and rhetoric, broken into 3-4 levels from elementary(grammar) middle school (dialectic) to high school(rhetoric). The goal of this style is to teach critical, independent thinking and develop communication skills. Most classical curriculum uses various source books. (Tapestry of Grace; Veritas Press; Classical Conversations; The Well Trained Mind)

Charlotte Mason – This is another literature based form of teaching, with subjects taught in an integrated way. “Living” books written in story form are used instead of dry textbooks. The goal of this style is to nourish the mind, soul and body of the child by encouraging spending time outdoors and experiencing nature.

(Ambleside; Sonlight; Simply Charlotte Mason; literature based unit studies)

Montessori method – This is similar to the Charlotte Mason style but is primarily concerned with lower elementary children. The Montessorri style provides the child access to materials, resources and exercise designed to stimulate sensory and motor training by observation. Children are included in on daily life skills. Adults are guides while letting the children explore their interests and express their ideas.

(Whole Child Education)
Unschooling – This is a student-directed method instead of teacher-directed. This style avoids use of textbooks, reviewing and formal testing. The natural curiosity and interest of the student direct their daily activities, with a high emphasis on imagination, nature, and art and music. There are no lesson plans or defined “school time.”

(unit studies of any sort could be a starting place for this style; John Holt books)
Traditional methods – Mimicking public school classrooms, this style of teaching primarily uses textbooks, workbooks, worksheets, continuous review and formal tests. Clear lesson plans are usually provided by the curriculum supplier. Virtual school is within this category, most often requiring clearly defined hours of “school.”

(Abeka, Bob Jones, Alpha Omega, Lifepacs)

Accelerated Learning – This is usually used by homeschoolers who choose a faster pace and see no reason of wasting time in traditional education. They typically graduate from high school very early and go on to do online college courses, or learn a trade skill.

Principle Approach – This is uniquely Christian with the idea that all learning centers around God’s Word. Students learn the methods of the founding forefathers and focus on research, reasoning, and recording.

(Noah Plan; Judah Bible Curriculum)

Now for learning styles:

In a nutshell you can break learning into three basic categories: lookers, listeners, and movers. Most children (and adults) are a mixture of all three, but have tendencies toward one or another. Many parents will make curriculum choices based on what makes sense to them, but if their child is a different learning style, the child may not retain the information or may become bored. It is common to have a math or phonics curriculum that works well for child #1, but child #2 needs a completely different approach. Furthermore, there is no such thing as one “right” kind of material for a given learning style.

Below is a checklist (albeit short) of some commonalities in specific learning styles.

Visual/Spatial learners:

–          Tend to be quiet, observant, and remember where things are

–          Excellent at copy work

–          Can assemble most things without instructions

–          Create well-spaced drawings or graphs

–          Vivid imagination

–          Early readers

–          Doodles on paper when talking

Usually visual students flourish when taught with textbooks, pictures, flashcards, matching games, workbooks, maps, timelines and puzzles; or when the teacher demonstrates the skill to be learned.

Auditory learners (Listeners)

–          “Talk your ear off”; easily express themselves verbally; talk out problems

–          Remembers jingles, poems or television commercials

–          Sing/ pitch memory

–          Sound out words phonetically

–          Tend to be poor test takers (can’t sort out visual material fast enough)

–          Are easily distracted by background noises and have trouble paying attention to detail for accuracy in math, science, and history

–          Enjoy listening to radio, CDs, or books on tape

–          Tend to read aloud when reading to oneself

Usually auditory learners flourish when they are told step-by-step what they are to learn, read aloud to others, and memorize rules, plays and poetry. They tend to do best when using CDs, rhymes, echo games (singing and rhythm), puppets, fieldtrips with interview, and curriculums using integrated content.

Kinesthetic Learners (Movers)

–          Relate to others in action rather than words; tend to show anger physically

–          Rarely sit still; prefer playing, jumping, or wrestling in their spare time; often labeled hyperactive

–          Tend to touch everything as they pass by; use many gestures and facial expressions

–          Often make paper airplanes or fans when listening to lecture

–          Have excellent muscle coordination in sports, dance and can often retain balance while blindfolded

–          Tend to dislike long range goal setting, analytical work and proofreading

–          Excellent in taking gadgets apart and putting them back together

Kinesthetic (hands-on) learners flourish when their learning experiences involve touching and “doing”, demonstrating a task for other students, kept moving with activities including role playing, puppets, tracing, math manipulatives, dramas, timelines and maps that he makes himself/herself. The key to teaching this type of learner is using a wide range of methods with lots of hands-on activities.

Other divisions of learning styles break it down into more detailed groups:

Visual (spatial): students prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.

Aural (auditory-musical): students prefer using sound and music.

Verbal (linguistic): students prefer using words, both in speech and writing.

Physical (kinesthetic): students prefer using their body, hands and sense of touch.

Logical (mathematical): students prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.

Social (interpersonal): students prefer to learn in groups or with other people.

Solitary (intrapersonal): students prefer to work alone and use self-study.

Step 4 – Send away for catalogues from various suppliers. Some of my favorites are Timberdoodle, Farm Country General, Christian Book Distributors, Discount Homeschool Supplies, Veritas Press, Greenleaf Press, Rainbow Resources, Beautiful Feet. Several unit studies I’ve used personally used are Prairie primer, American Girls history curriculum, Konos, and Weaver.

Step 5 – RELAX. You have 12-13 years to cover all the information necessary. Enjoy your time with your children and have fun.

Here is a list of as many curriculums that I could come up with. (poor grammar ending in a preposition; I must be from the Midwest)

Abeka, Alpha Omega, Apologia, Beautiful Feet Books, Bob Jones, Cardon Creek, Calvert, Christian Liberty Press, Classical Conversations, Covenant Home, Critical Thinking, Diana Waring, Eagle’s Wings, Greenleaf Press, ETA Cuisenaire, Hearthsong, Heritage Institute, Horizons, Konos, Lake Shore Learning, Miquon, My Father’s World, Oak Meadow, Progeny Press, Rod & Staff, Saxon, Sonlight, Tapestry of Grace, Teaching Textbooks, Veritas Press, Weaver.