Category Archives: Organization and Scheduling

Odds & Ends


The weeks are sure flying, aren’t they?  We’re so busy nowadays that I blink twice and it’s Friday.  Here are this week’s highlights:

  • We spent Labor Day doing lessons in the morning, and then that afternoon Steady Eddie (who was off work) and I attended the funeral of my cousin’s mother-in-law.  She was a dear lady who suffered from Alzheimer’s during the last few years of her life.  She will be missed!  On the way home, Steady Eddie dropped me off by the mall for a few minutes, where I purchased a pretty tunic-style top to wear to the same cousin’s son’s wedding.  Yes, he is getting married the same week that his grandmother was buried.  The circle of life.
  • We spent Labor Day evening with my parents and sister and her family.
  • Tuesday and Wednesday were a whirlwind of activity between CBS leadership for me on Tuesday and co-op and piano lessons for the girls on Tuesday.  Wednesdays are long days for me this semester because Steady Eddie is gone all day long–from early morning until bedtime, and I go non-stop.  I sat in the nursery at church on Wednesday night and almost literally couldn’t hold my eyes open.
  • Thursday was our first at-home day,  which puts a good bit of pressure on me to make sure we do everything.  The truth is, though, that we do a pretty good job Monday and Wednesday of jumping into our lessons after getting back from CBS, so there’s no need to panic.  :-)
  • Lulu’s academic week went something like this:

Math:  RightStart E lessons 85-88.  She’s in the thick of dividing and fractions and factoring and averages.  Fun stuff!  She’s handling it very well.  We managed to play three math games this week–Factoring, each time.  I think the RightStart Games are brilliant! (Have I said that before?  :-) )

English grammar:  Rod & Staff 5 lessons 12-14.  She diagrammed lots of sentence skeletons and then moved into diagramming compound sentences.  We’re skipping the writing lessons.  So far R & S seems like a good fit for her–she likes to be fairly independent.  Sometimes I have a hard time figuring out how much is too much in terms of the exercises, but I’m trying to err on the side of avoiding overkill, which is actually a weakness of mine.  ;-)

Writing:  WWS1 week 3.  Lulu was introduced to the thesaurus this week.  She also did a couple of one level outlines.  So far, so good with this curriculum.  I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time over at the WTM forums lately, though, really trying to figure out where we’re headed.  In this document, SWB herself recommends either doing WWS1 half-time for a 5th grader or using something else entirely.  I’m still pondering this.  The first three lessons are something of a review/introduction, so they were easy enough for her, but I don’t want her to be very frustrated by it, either.  I’m considering adding Killgallons’ Paragraph Composing for Middle School Students or one its sister publications.  I also purchased a new curriculum, Treasured Conversations, written by a well-respected WTMer, and I think I might be able to use some of this with Lulu, too, for writing across the curriculum.  Despite the fact that yes, I have taught writing to community college students, I find that I feel a need for hand-holding when it comes to teaching my own children.   I have a lot of thinking and deciding to do this weekend! (Apparently that curriculum post I wrote a few weeks ago was merely preliminary. . .)

Spelling:  Lulu completed lesson 28 in R & S 4 and took a test in Spelling City.  She missed one word–Thanksgiving, which she failed to capitalize.

Handwriting–I think I had Lulu do one bit of copy work this week, the third stanza of our memory hymn. She does a fair amount of writing through her regular work, so this I’m sort of hit-and-miss in my assigning this to her.

Lulu completed one Perplexor puzzle.  (I have to dole these out like candy.)

  • Louise’s academic week went something like this:

Math:  Louise did RS C lessons 135-138.  This was her first real introduction to fractions, and she handled it well.  The biggest “problem” was the repeated building of the fraction chart–getting those fraction strips lined up was difficult for my Little Perfectionist.  :-)  (I also think the RS approach to fractions is brilliant, for the record.)  We also managed to play the same game three times this week:  Concentrating on One, in which we matched up pairs of fractions that add to one.

English grammar:  I switched Louise back to the old, familiar FLL a week or two ago.  R & S required too much handwriting for my third grader, and I think she missed the familiarity of the conversational lessons in FLL.  This week she completed lessons 4-6 in FLL 3.

Writing:  Louise completed week 3 in WWE 3 this week.  The biggest struggle in this for both girls has been to not over-narrate–to decide the most important things to share in their narrations.

Spelling:  Louise completed lesson 13 in R & S 3 and took a test in Spelling City.  She missed four or five words, but all of the ones she missed were possessive nouns, and she didn’t know where the apostrophe is located on the keyboard.  (She did this while I went to get an eye examination, so I didn’t know it until later.)

Handwriting:  Louise has opted to try a different type of manuscript than what Lulu learned, so right now she’s just learning her letters.  I have her practice her new letter in her PreScripts book and then practice some of the older letters on a lined whiteboard using a fine-tipped wet-erase marker.  This seems to work well for our lefty.  This week she learned capital and lower case F and capital G.

Louise completed one Perplexor puzzle.

  • Our together work included three rounds of Circle Time.  I’m pleased with their memory work progress.  We might finish the Declaration of Independence intro by Christmas!  We also did two or three lessons in Getting Started with Latin (which I’m loving, by the way).
  • Our chapter book read alouds this week were The Secret of the Andes and Lawn Boy for Sonlight/history and Then There Were Five for fun.

  • Both girls completed their marine biology assignments for co-op, which included a short oral report about a certain species of whale (narwhal for Louise and blue whale for Lulu).
  • Lulu continues to be enamored of Alabama history and shares all the juicy details with us after co-op.  She enjoys her reading and homework for this class.
  • Both girls are enjoying their co-op Spanish class, which is a very gentle introduction, mostly vocabulary.
  • I feel like we’ve stalled out in history right now, mostly because I cannot for the life of me actually carry off the Sonlight schedule.  Besides having the girls read a bit in an American history compendium and our history read-alouds, we did nothing.  :-(  I have major work to do this weekend!
  • I’m still struggling to make time for the DLM in our school day.  He is SO ready for a bit of formal learning.  I did make it to the library Thursday evening to check out a bunch of books for him, so I have hope that I can also work on this this weekend and start next week with a better plan in place.
  • I am in a major reading slump myself right now–too much else on my mind!  (See note above about spending an inordinate amount of time on WTM.)  I’m very close to (FINALLY!) finishing Flora and Ulysses, winner of the 2014 Newbery Medal and one of the strangest books I’ve ever read.

  • Last Sunday we finally broke open our new geography game, Ticket to Ride, and learned how to play it.  It’s fun!


  • Another game that’s getting a lot of playing time here at the House of Hope lately is Spot It!  It’s the DLM’s game-of-choice.


  • Our Fun Friday activity this week was traveling up to Decatur, Alabama, with my dad to where the USS LST 325 was docked.  This LST (landing ship, tank) was at D-Day.  Very interesting!

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  •  When we went out to get out in the van to go see the ship this afternoon, we had a visitor on one of the wires by our house:


I know hawks are common, but I’m always thrilled when I see one!

If you read this far, thank you!  I know long posts like this break all the “rules” of blogging, but you know what?  I don’t care.  :-)  I like having a narrative record of our homeschool journey, and if anyone reads it all, that’s just a bonus.

How was your week?


Weekly Wrap-Up




Circle Time–Term 1

DSC_0215-001 Our busy-ness this year is making Circle Time a challenge.  However, I feel strongly that this is something that should be a part of our homeschool.  I’m posting a pared-down version which I’m hoping to accomplish three times a week.  We’ll work on these selections for approximately six weeks.  (I’m planning to take a week-long break every six weeks, so we’ll re-set after the break.)  Lulu will also use some of our memory work for handwriting practice.  Louise is still working through learning the letters in cursive, so she won’t do this until much later.

Hymn:  “At the Cross”

Bible passage:  Psalm 121 KJV and weekly CBS memory verses Poetry:  “A Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

History:  Introduction to The Declaration of Independence (carry-over from last year)

I have a good idea for how to handle review, but I just can’t remember to buy what I need to do it when I go to the store.  Alternately, we’re just reviewing through my memory notebook by simply reciting the next hymn, Bible passage, and poem for review.  I shoot for twice a week for review.

2014-2015 Curricula: 5th grade and 3rd grade

This week we will begin our sixth year of homeschooling.  (That’s really hard to believe to me.  It feels like we just started a year or two ago, not half a decade ago.)  This year Lulu is a fifth grader and Louise is a third grader.    The DLM is a four year old, so I suppose he is really, truly a preschooler, though I’m in denial about that point.  This year we’re shaking things up a bit and have more outside activities (for both me and the children) than ever before.  I will be serving as the assistant teaching director for our Community Bible Study class, which means a couple of hours one morning a week I’ll have leadership council.   The girls will take along some independent school work to work on while we’re there.  One morning a week we’ll attend Community Bible Study, where each child will be in age-appropriate (and completely wonderful) classes.  We’ll also be participating in a weekly co-op from mid-morning to early afternoon one day a week.  More on that in a bit.

Here’s the current lineup for the year:

Circle Time:   I love circle time and consider it the most important time we spend together.  However, having so many morning activities is going to make having Circle Time a challenge this year.  I’m shooting for 2-3 times a week and will feel quite accomplished if we manage that.  I also plan to use some of our memory work for handwriting practice/copywork for the girls’ independent work.  I’ll share another post detailing this first month’s Circle Time later (when I get it figured out).

Math:  We’re RightStart users and fans, so both girls will be continuing in the levels we were working through when we took our summer break.  Lulu is in level E and should finish it this first semester.  That means we have a big decision to make before Christmas:  will Lulu continue straight into level G, which is all geometry, or will we transition to a new curriculum after level E?  Stay tuned. . .   Louise is currently in the last third of the level C curriculum, so she’ll be moving into level D when she finishes that.  We’ll continue to play math games, too, aiming at four a week.

English Grammar:   This is a big change for us this year.  We’ve always used First Language Lessons, but this year we’re changing to Rod and Staff grammar because Lulu has aged out of FLL and we really, really need something that’s a little less teacher-led.  I still plan to teach the lessons, but it’s helpful to have a slightly more textbook approach for our out-of-the-house days.  Lulu will be working through the 5th grade book and Louise the 3rd grade book.   Lulu will also be doing a 4-level analysis sentence from MCT Practice Town a day, and we’ll fold Louise into that when I can get her up to speed on how it works.  (I like the 4 level analysis method but have not found the MCT books to be a huge hit here.  I like them, but I think they’re a little too much for the girls.)  I’d also like to find a way to use the CC English grammar trivium table (and here), but I’m still mulling that over.

Writing:  This year Lulu is moving up to Writing with Skill I, which I hear is a pretty big jump from Writing with Ease.   I’m going to try to take it as it comes and not push her through it, realizing that it’s okay to do it half-time if that’s what she needs.  Louise will be working through Writing with Ease 3.

Spelling:  Spelling is a thorn in my side because I’ve yet to find a curriculum I love.  (Not true–I love All About Spelling, but I cannot do it and RightStart Math; they’re both very manipulative and teacher-driven, and we haven’t the time–or patience–to do both.)  I’ve reconciled myself to Rod and Staff spelling.  Lulu will pick up in grade 4 where she left off last year and then pick up with grade 5.  Louise will finish grade 3 and pick up grade 4.  Steady Eddie has graciously entered all their spelling lists into Spelling City, so each week the girls will take a spelling test on the computer.  I don’t love doing it this way, but it helps me out and they love it, so it’s a practical win-win, if not a moral one.  ;-)   I’ll be honest–at times this spelling work feels like busy work to me, which I loathe, but it’s not really very time consuming and it does get us thinking about words, so there is that.  The girls’ spelling seems to have gradually improved, too.  It might’ve improved anyway, but that’s something I can’t know, so we plod on.  :-)

Handwriting:  This is another thorny subject.  Both girls have been learning and practicing the Getty-Dubay Italic method/style, but they don’t love it.  I purchased PreScripts from CC for them to learn a loopier style of handwriting, but I’m not sure that Lulu is not too far gone with Getty-Dubay for that to work.  Sometimes I think I might’ve botched handwriting for them, but then I look at mine and Steady Eddie’s and realize that it probably doesn’t matter, anyway.  ;-)  We’ll see how this goes.

history books
history books


History:  This is our first year to not use Story of the World as our primary history book.   This year seemed like the right year to tackle American history, which is really where the girls’ interests are.  (They read history for fun.)  We’re using Sonlight Core D.   We’re using it for history, geography (sort of), and read-alouds.  I’m still a bit nervous about it, especially the fact that it will by force drive our read-aloud choices.  Again, we’ll see how it goes.

and more history books!

and more history books!

Geography:  I plan to focus on U.S. Geography this year.  I want us to try our hand at map tracing and learning all the states and capitals.  I also hope to incorporate some geography quests into our Fun Fridays.  We love to play games, so I want to slowly build up a small collection of geography board games.  I recently bought Ticket to Ride and am eager to learn how to play it.  (Heather has a list of geography games here.)

Science:  Science is the subject I feel I’ve dropped the ball the most in.  This year the girls will be taking Zoology 2/marine biology at co-op using Apologia.   They’ll have homework to complete in preparation for their weekly classes.  Rumor has it that they might even be doing a dissection or two in class!  I think it will be a fun year of learning for them, which is really what we aim for in science in the elementary years.  I’m particularly excited about it for Louise because this is definitely an area of interest for her.

Other stuff:  The girls will work through a couple of Perplexors books, primarily working on these on the days I have CBS leadership.  (I hope I can keep them from ripping through them in a couple of weeks.  They love these, and so do I!)

One of my disappointments in our homeschool has been that I have been unable to manage to include a Latin study in our learning.  Both girls will be taking a fun Spanish class in co-op this year, and on our Fun Fridays I hope to work through Word Roots Beginning as a part of our language and vocabulary studies.  We’ll keep up our Poetry Tea Times, which became a much anticipated part of Fun Fridays last year.  I hope to get back to doing art, too, as often as we can.  I purchased Great American Artists for Kids by MaryAnn Kohl, and this book and Deep Space Sparkle will likely be my most-used art resources.

Of course, we’ll keep reading aloud.   Both girls will take weekly piano lessons.  Lulu will also have an Alabama history class at co-op, and I anticipate many field trips for this class.   We’ll squeeze in 4H activities as they come up and we can participate.  Louise will take a p.e. class at co-op, but we’re still deciding if the girls will participate in any sort of sport this year.

Just typing all this out makes me feel like the year might be a wee bit over-stuffed.  I’m working out the details now–all of this won’t be done every day, of course.  We’ll hit the biggies 4 or 5 days of the week:  math, writing, language.  We read 7 days a week.  :-)  Other subjects will be hit harder on the days when the girls do more independent work.

I do have a plan, or at least the beginning of one, for the DLM, but I’ll have to share it on another day.

I’m trying to remind myself that this is always, always, always a work in progress.  We never arrive, and that’s the way it should be.

How is your year shaping up?

Previous curricular posts:

It’s that time of year again



Value academic work because nurturing the intellect is part of what makes us fully human, but don’t elevate it beyond its place.  There are relationships to cultivate, books to read, oceans to swim in, forts to build, toilets to scrub, bills to pay, paintings to create, dinners to make.  This is why we homeschool–because we want to engage in a full-to-bursting life.

Do we really think we need the perfect math curriculum?  The best line-up of books we can find?  We think God needs that to work through us?  Because I’m pretty sure if we just offer up our simple best and do it without fretting or becoming anxious over many things, then God can bless that a thousand fold.  And I believe He will.  (Teaching from Rest:  A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace by Sarah McKenzie)

End of the school year musings

Things have been relatively quiet around here at Hope Is the Word, at least as far as homeschooling is concerned, because I’ve been too busy doing it to write about it.  It happens.  Things have been super busy and stressful–as they usually are this time of year–and I just haven’t had the energy to even keep up my Odds & Ends posts.   To borrow a very apt metaphor, I’d compare our springtime homeschool (with a super chatty almost 4-year old and a cruising 14 month old) to making sausage–I could tell you what went into it, but if I did, you certainly wouldn’t want to do it.  ;-)


You’d think I’d have this figured out by now.  I mean, things fall apart every May.  I plan hope to go out with a bang, and instead we just fizzle out.  The outdoors beckons, and I succumb.  We’ve had picnic table school several times, and I’ve tried to corral Benny on a quilt under the maple tree while I read aloud quite a few times, too.  One of my girls can disappear for hours at a time into the backyard, playing with her beloved seashells.  Both girls have finally learned to ride their bikes (y’all, they’ve had at least three bicycles each, which is scandalous, but they’ve finally earned to ride!), so the bicycles beckon, too.



We haven’t finished one single curriculum piece this year.  And do you know what?  I’m okay with that.  Really.  Some pieces (like math) really aren’t meant to be done in a year.  Most pieces we didn’t start at the beginning of the year.  The only thing we’re really putting closure to this May is our memory work.  I promised the girls a special something (as yet undetermined) if they both finished memorizing Colossians 3:1-17.  They’re both close enough.  We didn’t finish the introduction to the Declaration of Independence, but we all learned almost half of it.  That’s a good start.  The girls did a great job on their poetry and hymn memorization.  (My Circle Time posts are here.)

Fill in the blank from memory for review
Fill in the blank from memory for review

My only real regret this year is how we dropped the ball on science.  We did Apologia botany for a while (er, Steady Eddie did), but life got really hectic and it just fell off the list.  The girls did read self-selected science books throughout the year.  We took some pretty good trips–from Dauphin Island to lots of visits to the Huntsville Botanical Garden.  I’m letting it go this year.

First on my list: clean the window crayons OFF THE SCHOOLROOM WINDOWS! (They’ve only been there for a few months.)

Tomorrow, summer break begins as of lunchtime.  We have a few odds and ends to finish up in the morning, and then we’re calling it quits on the formal lessons for a month or two.  We might play some math games here and there, and we’ll keep on reading independently and together, but we all need a break.  Aside from piano lessons for one girl (her choice!), a volunteer job at the library, and interest-based 4-H activities, I’m looking forward to some rest.   I have a list of housework a mile long, but even that sounds like a relaxing change of pace.  One thing I’ve yet to achieve is the balance between tutoring my girls and keeping up with housework.  It’s time to give our home some attention.  That, and the swimming pool (as soon as the water warms up a bit).

"Reading" my devotional book--these boys keep me on my toes!
“Reading” my devotional book–these boys keep me on my toes!

Yippee!  School’s out!