A Study of Birds

For the last several years we have done most of our elementary science as part of a homeschool co-op. This is a perfect arrangement for me; I can enjoy nature study and reading about nature with my children in between our meetings, but then once or twice a month we meet with our co-op to go over the science experiments.

This past year, we studied birds with the younger students, and it was a wonderful exploration of our feathered friends. We used the book, Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day as a spine, and checked out lots of books from the library about the topics we were studying. After we read each book, we would write a narration about what we learned and then paint or draw a picture.

We also did some fun projects, such as building nests in the trees with found materials, creating these nests out of melted marshmallows and chow mien noodles, and making bird feeders with recycled bottles. We also collected feathers and diagrammed them, and made a diagram of an egg. There were so many interesting ways to make this study come alive for my children.

Although we read many beautiful books this year, one of my favorites was "Bird Watch", which was a book of poetry about birds. We also used the book, "Nature Anatomy" extensively. It was a perfect inspiration for our nature journaling activities.

We also watched a few movies about birds, including, "Winged Migration" and for the older kids, "The Big Year" When we study a subject, I love to include as many types of information as possible, including fiction works, non-fiction, nature guides, posters, and experiments.

This was by far, the most interesting year of science we have had, and also the easiest. By focusing on interesting literature, and experiments, and ignoring extras such as worksheets, we kept learning and having fun at the same time. Now if I can only find a way to make this happen with math!


Summer Science Fun

We have been having a sweet mix of school and summer fun here, spending a couple days a week reviewing our math facts and then swimming with friends or heading on an adventure the other few days.

As I was discussing what we would use for school next year with a good friend, she explained to me that she planned to use Tinker Crate for science with her elementary student. I got excited about the idea also, because I have felt a strong inclination to start making more of our science learning project based, in order to get my boys more engaged with the idea of science as a career. I had even ordered Snap Circuits as a coming home present for my boys, an out of character splurge for me, as I don't often buy gifts (aside from thrifted books) in between birthdays and Christmas.

The boys were thrilled with the Snap Circuits, so when I started looking into Tinker Crate, I got excited about getting a subscription, and using it for our science studies.

Our first box came midway through June, and coincidentally contained a constellation project and other projects related to astronomy. I say coincidentally, because my favorite homeschool resource is Wild and Free, and this month's bundle was all about stargazing. We were able to combine the two resources to really delve into a fascinating short study of the constellations, while also giving my children a beautiful introduction to fiber optics, and some extra skill with wiring electrical circuits.

There were several other science experiment ideas in the "Tinker Zine" that came in our crate, but by far, the fiber optic night sky that we created using the materials that were contained in the crate was our favorite.

Really, any activity that gets my sons off the computer, and into hands on learning, is a hit with me, and I loved that this engaging activity didn't require any convincing to get them excited about completing it.

You can sign up for Tinker Crate here,

They have a few great specials right now, including 25% off the first month of any subscription. 

You can sign up for Wild and Free bundles here (Wild and FreeThe Stargazer bundle also has all the beautiful audio from the recent Wild and Free conference. I have listened to the talks several times, getting new ideas with each listen, and I can't even tell you how encouraging the spoken word by Danielle Bennett was. I could listen to that every day.

A few other things we are doing to stay busy this summer;
1. Swimming in a lake
2. Visiting a beach with friends
3. Making lots of jam
4. Planting an herb garden
5. Hosting a graduation party
6. Going backpacking
7. Taking a quick mission trip to Mexico
8. Reading lots of picture books
9. Eating ice cream
10. Sleeping in a tent.

What are your favorite hands on science resources? How do you keep your kiddos busy and off the computer during the lazier days of summer?

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Reviewing What Worked



I am busy wrapping up the preceding homeschool year, and planning out our coming year. As I plan for how I will teach my four students this year, I find it helpful to thoughtfully review what we did last year, and to see how productive it was.

With each child, I simply looked at what we had set out to do for the year, and then made a few comments about its efficacy. Perhaps you will find it helpful as well.

1st Grade Boy

I was not a fan of Math Mammoth. Math is not my favorite subject to teach, and I felt like they skipped very quickly to abstract reasoning skills, which in my opinion is not suitable for a young child. We struggled through the first book and I won't use it again.

Spell To Write and Read/All About Spelling

Explode The Code Book 2

Rod and Staff Reading, Grade One, readers only

Mystery of History, Ancient Times

Apologia Flying Creatures


I loved everything else we did with my 1st grader, especially all the nature study and history projects that we got done through our co-ops. It was a wonderful school year, and the simple curriculum that I chose was a big part of that. Also, reading some fascinating books out loud was a big bonus.

4th Grade Girl

I had purchased a Saxon 3 book at a used book sale, so we finished that this year. However, I wanted more multiplication instruction so we are doing Math U See Gamma over the summer for review.

I also am revising when my children will graduate, which means my 9 year old girl is going to be in fourth grade again. When I first started homeschooling, I wasn't really planning for college and I just wanted them to graduate as early as possible. However, as I have transitioned several students into college classes, I have realized that I don't want my graduates to be leaving home for college at 17.

For this reason, I am adjusting the grade of a few of my students who were on track to graduate and start college at that young age. Also, because we do dual enrollment and try to earn an AA in high school, giving my students the time to get as many classes in as possible past the age of 14 is important to us.

Bible Copywork

We really loved this grammar program. It was very simple to use, and provided a wonderful review of grammar concepts. Along with Jr Analytical Grammar, we also used Jr Analytical Grammar Mechanics. Although we previously used Rod and Staff Grammar, which is very thorough, we all struggle with comma usage. JAG Mechanics provided a wonderful, simple and concise review of comma rules, which is making it so much easier for us to edit the volume of writing that we produce as a family.

My daughter was doing lots of writing on her own, so we didn't complete this book, but I did love the instructions for improving writing, and we incorporated them in her papers on other subjects.

Spell To Write and Read
I have used this program for many years, and love how it helps us to analyze words and develop an understanding of how things should be spelled.

Memoria Cursive

I loved this cursive program. It was nearly all Bible verses, so it helped make our Bible copy work very simple. I will buy a similar one next year.

Ancient History Reading List

Mystery Of History Ancient History

We listened to the C.D.'s in the car and read several of the chapters. It also was a great spine for developing our schedule for the year.

Apologia Flying Creatures

This was a great textbook for our study of birds this year. I didn't read every chapter, but simply looked at the concepts and then found children's books at the library that reviewed that concept. It made for a fun and thorough study of birds.

8th Grade Boy

Life of Fred Algebra

This really did not click for my son. (Can you tell that math is not my area of expertise?) We ended up going back to Algebra 1 with Teaching Textbooks and will have to keep working on it next year. I seem to to have a pattern of trying several algebra programs with my kids, and then when they start their junior college algebra class they do great. I am hoping this will happen with Emmett as well. He also loves programming, so he spent lots of time on Khan Academy doing algebra activities so that he could earn programming time.

Bible Copywork

Jr Analytical Grammar
 (I will do this as a class with the younger sister,
 followed by Jr. Analytical Grammar Mechanics or R&S Grammar)
We loved this!

Theme Essays with Co-op
Writing reports for our co-op was a great way to keep my 12/13 year old boy engaged with writing.

I.E.W. Ancient History Writing Lessons
I love how I.E.W. helps me as a parent to evaluate my children's writing.

Ancient History Reading List
The Golden Goblet was a favorite.

Apologia General Science

We had a co-op for General Science which was very helpful for keeping us accountable to finish the lessons

Studies in World History-Stobaugh

I loved this study. It was very inexpensive, but provided an overview of World History from a Christian worldview. It was interesting and gave us lots of food for thought.

10th Grade Boy
Algebra-Community College
Hooray! He finished a year of college algebra. I was so happy to be happy to be able to outsource teaching algebra.

Theme Analysis with Co-op
He wrote another book this year, so I gave him the freedom to work on that, as well as completing his papers for the co-op English class. His book, The Fire Trolls, is available on Amazon, and my 9 year old said it was the best book she ever read. However, it does contain some violence.

Ancient History Reading List

Beginning Painting-Community College
He loved this class and came home with several wonderful paintings which were given as Christmas gifts to all his siblings.

Philosophy 1 (audit Community College class with older siblings)
He got a B in this college philosophy class. I was so happy! He also ended up taking an ecology biology class at the college, which was a fascinating experience for him.

English 1A-Since he was working on his book, he took the biology class instead.

Studies in World History-Stobaugh

Spanish 2-BJU
We are making slow progress through Spanish!

12th Grade Boy
Study hard for SAT

Chemistry- Community College

Geometry- Community College

U.S. History

He graduated as an honors student with our cover school, and is also taking a final class this summer to earn his AA degree. I have officially graduated three students, and I am feeling pretty happy about that!

The children also do martial arts and ballet for physical education, as well as music lessons. 
We took a break from martial arts this year, but had our first experience with a community team sport, when my 5th son did a season of football. He had a great time.

For science and history, we will focus more on notebook pages with illustrated and written narration than on using tests or worksheets to assess their progress. We will do experiments and hands on work in our co-op.
Note booking was wonderful this year. I have a great collection of painted illustrations. Jodi Mockabee was very influential in helping me break away from simply writing reports, and transitioning my family into using illustrated and written narration on a regular basis.

For Bible, I am using Long Story Short and The 18 Inch Journey as my curriculum. We will also be reading through the Old Testament and copying Bible verses. 
I loved both of these resources.

Thanks so much for reading! I can't wait to post my plan for the coming year in an upcoming post.

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Road Tripping With Children

We just returned from a rapid road trip for a family event in Canada. Last summer was our epic family road trip, where all nine of us headed to La Conner, Washington for a slow and sweet celebration of family. This trip was a little different flavor. Two of my older children stayed home for work, and two of my middle sons were already in Canada with their grandparents, so the 24 hour drive up, was pretty quiet, and I was feeling full of excitement about seeing my boys again after 3 weeks apart.

We packed sandwiches and snacks, as well as audio books, nature journals, and DVD's to keep the youngest two occupied on the long drive. A few hours into the trip, we discovered that the DVD player wasn't working, so we contented ourselves with listening to The Jungle Book on C.D., as well as some of our Audible book selections.


We took a little short detour on the way up to visit a nature center, and then spent a few nights in Banff, exploring the natural history of that beautiful Canadian mountain town with some of our sweet siblings and cousins. We had scheduled the trip very tight so that we would be able to make it home for a conference, but we savored the time there with our family.

We also savored the time to see bears on the side of the road, to meet new friends, and to sit in natural hot springs as a family. Our time was full of new sights for my children, even though some of those sights were simply seen through the windows of a moving car.

Every new experience that your child can participate in, develops a whole store of confidence and openness about the world around them. I want my children to know that they can go where God calls them to go, and to do what God calls them to do. I want them to know lots of people, and experience many places.

 We might be frugal in the area of finances, but we do that on a day to day basis, so that we can give our children experiences that will help shape a big and brave outlook for them.

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