Back to (Home)School

This morning, Facebook was overflowing with pictures of tons of our friends posing in their new clothes with shiny new backpacks and big smiles on their faces.  Some held signs stating which grade they were heading toward for the first time.  Everything from kindergartners to seniors in high school graced my feed this morning…and I adored it.  This time of year has a buzz about it – a special kind of excitement.

We didn’t take any pictures this morning (though we did make one short video of our experiment revolving around ocean currents).  The Penguin didn’t dress in fancy new clothes and we didn’t even venture anywhere near the backpack aisle this year.  Nope. The Penguin was at her desk early this morning, in her pajamas, ready to get on with today’s assignments.  There was no fanfare.

To be fair, our first day of 6th grade was back in May.  The Penguin and I decided to give year round schooling a try this year.  We finished up 5th grade, took a couple of weeks off, and then started sixth grade.  It made sense to us.

We’ve taken several weeks off here and there throughout the summer.  We took a week off for church camp (Team Purple Forever!).  Camp Door

Then another for the 4th of July (during which we visited my parents and The Penguin visited an aquarium and she got to pet an actual penguin).19702619_10209710433223342_6969153814415028374_o.jpg

We took a week off for Music Camp.20286779_927514604053973_656456726954202785_o

And we took the following week off just to have some fun!20645092_10209998791392116_19309427080913909_o

Now we’ll settle into a more normal routine with less frequent breaks.  So, I guess, in a way, we did go back to school this week.  Back to homeschool, that is.

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Our Struggle with Math…is REAL

Our struggle with math is real…or at least it WAS real.

One of the things we were most excited about regarding homeschooling was math.  The Penguin thinks logically and has always found math to be quite easy.  She was always ahead and frequently had to wait until everyone else caught up.  The freedom to allow her to go at her blazing pace was so exciting!

Unfortunately, no one prepared me for the damage the spiral approach would do to my math-loving child.

We chose Saxon math because everywhere I looked, Saxon was the preferred math program for a child gifted in mathematics.  We did the placement test.  After having finished 3rd grade, she placed at the 7/6 level.  I was a bit shocked by that.  I sat down and went over the placement tests with her.  She had figured out how to solve problems she’d never seen before.  While I was thrilled, a warning was being shouted in the back of my head.  My mom alarm was sounding.  We decided to opt for 6/5 so as not to push her too hard.

Now, please do not misunderstand me, I am not saying Saxon is a bad math program.  Not at all.  Not even a little bit.  What I am saying is that Saxon was a horrible math program for The Penguin.  The spiral approach and my very perfectionist, very methodical, very mastery-oriented learner did not mix.  They were oil and water.

My biggest mistake?  I didn’t change it.  I had her keep going.  I had her push through.  Tears were shed.  Teeth were gnashed.  Frustrations mounted.  In the end, my child that loved math – my child that said math was her favorite subject – my child that was so very confident when tackling anything math related – HATED math.  HATED it.

When we’d finished her fourth grade year and had our annual evaluation, the teacher evaluating her work confided in me that she hated the spiral approach to math and then praised The Penguin for doing so very well.  Unfortunately, the damage was done and The Penguin’s confidence shattered.

So, for 5th grade, I went with a mastery based math program.  We decided upon the highly reviewed Rod & Staff curriculum.  I looked it over.  I knew it would be easy for her.  Almost too easy.  I; however, liked that it included frequent word problems that would challenge her while the rest of the program would…well…not challenge her at all.

She breezed through math last year.  While it was a welcome break for her, I felt – yet again – like I had failed her.  I had selected a math program that was too easy.  She really didn’t learn anything new.  I was ready to switch back to Saxon and give it another go…

And then I found LifePacs.  Glory!  Hallelujah!  LIFEPACS!  I could sing the praises of Alpha Omega Publications and their math LifePacs curriculum for days…weeks…months…YEARS!


I had her take the assessment tests and based upon the results, we selected four units from their 5th grade math curriculum with which to start.  I ordered those units and she asked to start them as soon as they arrived.  She absolutely loved them…and so did I!

She has since completed those four units and just began the first unit of 6th grade.  She feels far more confident.  She is being challenged.  The layout is methodical and makes sense to her.  In short, she loves math again.  And I am so thankful.

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What I Chose for 4th Grade (and Why)

The funny part about all the research I did on curriculum for our first year of homeschooling (The Penguin’s 4th grade year), is that I missed so much.  So. MUCH.  The even funnier part?  I was getting so overwhelmed!  I had barely scratched the surface.  Every time I thought I had a good idea of what we were going to use, I found something else.  I have since come to realize that this was normal.  After consulting with The Penguin, I first decided on WHAT we were going to study.  Then I concerned myself with finding the curriculum we would use.

Spelling:  Spelling You See  – I had no problem choosing spelling curriculum.  The Penguin had been subjected to the normal list-based spelling drudgery for years…and her spelling was atrocious.  I mean it was horrible.  Horrible.  So, when I found Spelling You See, I knew we had to give it a try.  It was my hope that completely changing the way in which we approached spelling would benefit her.  It did…but more on that later.

Grammar: English Grammar Recitation, Memoria Press – I decided upon this particular grammar curriculum because of it’s formality and the memorization.  It looked like everything we needed and it wasn’t particularly expensive.  However, I mostly chose this particular grammar program because it was Memoria Press…and I KNEW we would be using Memoria Press’ writing curriculum FOREVER.

Writing: Classical Composition I, Memoria Press – Oh how I loved the look of this curriculum!  I love to write and I think I’m fairly okay at it.  I was; however, terrified of teaching The Penguin to write.  I mean – HOW do you do that?  This curriculum looked perfect and was very highly reviewed.  It was a no-brainer in my mind.

Literature: Memoria Press Study Guides – Again, I loved the look and layout of these guides.  I also loved the literature they suggested.  We read: Homer PriceThe Cricket in Times Square, The Blue Fairy Book, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Math: Saxon Math 6/5: The Penguin loves math and is quite and it comes easily to her.  Everyone I spoke with recommended Saxon and it is highly reviewed.  I had her take the placement test.  Even though her scores recommended starting her at 7/6, we opted for 6/5 since the spiral approach would be new for her.

Science: NOEO Science, Biology II – NOEO came highly recommended and I really liked the simplistic approach.  We chose biology because The Penguin wants to be a veterinarian.  These seemed like a great way to get my feet wet in the science department.

Social Studies: Heritage Studies, BJU Press – I chose this for one simple reason: it was the curriculum the school she attended used for elementary.  It seemed logical to pick up where they left off.

Bible Building Life Castles 4th Grade, Positive Action for Christ – I selected this curriculum because it came highly recommended to me.  The Penguin and I looked over a few samples and decided that we’d give it a try.

Latin: First Form Latin, Memoria Press – The Penguin was excited to begin learning Latin.  She wants to be a vet, after all, and a firm grasp of the Latin language will be helpful down the road.  Memoria Press’ Latin series is highly reviewed and seemed pretty teacher friendly (necessary since I haven’t done a thing with Latin since high school).

Handwriting: A Reason for Handwriting D – Again, I chose this simply because it was what she’d been using.  Continuing with it made perfect sense.

We were all set.  We just needed some school supplies and we’d be ready to go!  We had a plan.  And that plan…that plan quickly went awry.


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Step Into My Not-So Way Back Machine

Step into my not-so way back machine….

The decision has been made.  We are going to homeschool!  The Penguin still had about two months of 3rd grade left.  She was enrolled in a local Christian school.  We sat her down, a little concerned about her reaction to homeschooling, and told her the plan.

She. Was. All. In.  You see, The Penguin was having trouble navigating certain social situations.  She came home crying frequently because of the “girl drama” in her class.  She wanted desperately for everyone to get along.  She wanted desperately to be friends with everyone.  However, she often found herself dealing with anger and resentment from one group if she played with another.  The Penguin is tender-hearted and sweet as a fully ripened peach…and this situation was taxing her spirit.  When we presented her the option of homeschooling, she was overjoyed.  She didn’t hesitate.  She immediately said, “Yes, PLEASE!”

We were elated The Penguin was on-board!

But…now what?

It is easy enough to homeschool in our state.  You file a Notice of Intent, keep a portfolio for review upon request, and submit an annual evaluation.  It doesn’t get much easier than that, my friends!

With the legal part out of the way, I turned my attention to what ended up being the greatest challenge we faced that first year – selection of curriculum.

I know, I know.  So many of you amazing homeschooling mamas out there are rolling your eyes at me right now!  Trust me – if unschooling or child-led learning would work here, I’d be all over that like a fly on stink.  Truly.  I tell you, though, that absolutely would not work for The Penguin.  Not even a little bit.  The Penguin is a being of structure and schedules.  Chaos in her routine causes anxiety and frustration.  I knew we needed a solid plan.  I knew we needed a structured day.

So began the research into the myriad of curriculum options there are out there.  What a blessing to our homeschooling community!  There is so much – SO MUCH!  I spent hours upon hours upon hours researching, reading samples, reading reviews, etc.  I took it subject by subject – and discovered that no boxed curriculum contained everything I wanted, so I pieced things together.  Boy – did I make some mistakes – but that’s a post for another day!

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The Why of it All….

I don’t know about you, but I get asked this question frequently enough that it seems only logical to make it the subject of my second post:  WHY?  Why did we choose this path?  Are we CRAZY?  How on Earth can you stand to be with your kids day in and day out?  Don’t you worry about proper socialization?  And so on and so forth.

Okay – so that’s several questions.  Let’s address them one (or two depending) at a time, shall we?

  1.     Why?  Why did we choose this path?

My husband and I discussed homeschooling ad nauseam.  Really.  We did.  Like for a long, long time.  He was adamantly, from the very beginning, PRO homeschooling.  I, on the other hand, had my doubts.  I questioned whether I would be a good teacher.  Whether I would provide an adequate education.  Would I seriously screw her up?  I mean, seriously?  These were all very real concerns in my head and heart.  As we discussed each one of my reservations, my incredibly supportive husband kept telling me that I would be the very best teacher for our child – because no one on this planet loves her more than I do.  No one is more invested in her than I am.  No one will work as hard to make sure she is thriving and learning and growing as I would.

When you think about it in those terms, how could I choose not to homeschool?  NOW – don’t get me wrong.  I am certainly not throwing shade at anyone that chooses not to homeschool.  Not at all. This lifestyle ain’t for everyone – and I get that.  For The Penguin and me, it was the correct choice.  The only choice.

2.     Are we CRAZY?

Yes, thanks for asking.  Homeschooling has little to nothing to do with that, though.

3.     How on Earth can I stand to be with my kid(s) day in and day out?

I love this question.  The short answer is – I really like my kid(s) (I’m including The Boy here – even though he has graduated).  They’re pretty great.  Even when my children were in school, I was never the parent longing for summer break to end so that my children would be back in school and “out of my hair.”  I; however, have met some children in my lifetime that – honestly – would make me that parent.  Sometimes personalities just clash.  I am thankful that is not my lot in life.  My hat is off to the parents of those children.  Stay strong, my friends.

4.     Don’t you worry about proper socialization?

Yes, yes I do.

However, I am not convinced that school is the place for “proper socialization.”  The Penguin attends church where she has several friends.  We are fortunate enough to have a local homeschool band and orchestra – of which The Penguin is a part.  She has met several friends there.  We are part of two very large support groups that plan field trips, get-togethers, play dates, book clubs, and so much more.  If I am to be honest, I have worried less over “proper socialization” since we began this journey than I ever did when she was in school.

I could go on.  I really could.  For. A. Long. Time.  However, what it all boils down to is this: we feel this is the very best thing we can do for The Penguin.  She is thriving.  She is learning.  She is growing.

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Hi there!

Hi there!

Let’s dive right in, shall we?

When we began this crazy adventure, my husband suggested I start a blog as a daily journal that chronicles our triumphs, mishaps, and the overall hilarity we knew would ensue as I attempted to cultivate the minds and hearts of our children.  I, however, wasn’t sold on the idea.  I mean – who would ever want to spend time reading about…well…us?

Fast-forward two years, mounds of mishaps, a plethora of triumphs, and a barrel full of belly laughs later, and here we are.  The Boy has graduated from high school and is pursuing a degree in IT at the local University.  He also works full time at a land surveying company. Above all, he is working toward ministry as a children’s pastor.  The Penguin is entering the middle school years.  She plays the upright bass.  She LOVES animals (evidenced by the small zoo we’ve accumulated).  She desires to become a veterinarian.  She has a fierce love for God.

We share our school space with an African pygmy hedgehog, Quilhelmina:

Two hermit crabs, Eugene & Hermie:

and two pups, Poundcake & Anubis:

I’m learning this blogging thing as I go (which is pretty much how I do EVERYTHING), so please bear with me as I navigate the ins and outs of just about every aspect of blogging about homeschooling (and life in general).


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