What “Homeschool Homestretch”Is Looking Like!

nopeekWe have had a great time during our “Homeschool Homestretch” event!  So far we have been able to offer these encouragements to lucky winners in our group:

Today’s giveaways include:

Coming up, we have these FABULOUS donors still to feature (the donations are a secret…no peeking or peeling back the gift wrap!):

Come join us! Prizes post at 9am (Mtn Time) daily, with winners drawn via Random.org at 9pm. Two prizes tomorrow, and the remaining for a Grand Finale on Friday!

Special Secret Santa Bundle

secretsantaI have a Secret Santa giveaway that I will be giving to one special member of Schoolin’ Swag on December 1. This will be lovely 3-book bundle from Dyslexia Games (The Thinking Tree)​ (“Coffee Time Journal, “A Day Like Tomorrow” and “How to Homeschool” purse sized guide!).

I’m not telling how I am deciding upon the winner. Let’s just say I’ll be watching for who’s naughty and who’s nice. 😀

A Day in the Life: Rats, Snowy Poetry, Lazy Lasagna, Bloody Mary and the White Witch

I thought I’d take you through some snapshots of what our school day looks like. I remember as a new homeschooler, I was so curious about how everyone’s day was structured.

Our 4th grader is always up first, so we get her started with breakfast and chores. She had a little extra to take care of today, tidying the school book shelf in addition to the other things on her list. By 10am we were starting school. I’m an advocate of letting our kids sleep and getting the best hours out of them instead of yanking them out of bed at “dark thirty” and having a counterproductive educational experience. Here is what Katie’s day mapped out to be:

  • Keys for Kids (she listens to the daily broadcast, does the key verse for her cursive practice along with her signature, and we discuss the lesson).
  • This year is reading-intensive, as you’ll see. This is deliberate, because my sciency gal struggles in writing and spelling. First, she read a chapter from Hero Tales (we are now learning about Dwight Moody…in the last lesson, the Chicago fire was mentioned so we looked up some info on that).
  • Read aloud time. We are reading a chapter or two from “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH”. She sketches a scene from the story. Next we will begin “The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate” (a book about a sciency girl, back in the 1800’s–our public library has it as well as the sequel!).
  • Wiggle break (Katie dances around to get some nervous energy out…her choices were “The Syncopated Clock” and “Sleigh Ride” which goes along with her current poetry project).
  • She reads her “for fun” reading. Right now it is “The Little Lemons Detective Agency: The Case of the Missing Suspect” (which I got free for Kindle).
  • We are working on memorizing and reciting “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost.
  • She has a spelling list to practice, using Spelling City. Her reading curriculum with Christian Light has a list of words which corresponds with each story in her reader, so I just plug that in so she can review word meanings and practice spelling with games and exercises.
  • Today’s lesson for math is on fractions. She’s been doing well with this curriculum…today we cover 10ths and 100ths at CTC math. katectc
  • Today we are taking a break from our regular science (we alternate science and history, every other day), which is a study of plants, their structure and uses from Christian Light. We found a Venus fly trap and a grafted cactus to add some fun to that study last Friday. Today I came across this neat experiment in my web wanderings, looking for goodies to post at Schoolin’ Swag. I happened to have all the things needed for it, so it’s a go! That rounds out our day.

Meanwhile, I am slogging through the laundry that I forgot on Saturday (yep, it happens!), and throwing together the layers for Lazy Crock Pot lasagna for supper.

Our 10th grader has fewer subjects, but does them more intensely. After waking up and getting chores squared away, he checks into Homeschool Planet to see his daily assignments.


  • His Bible time right now until the end of the semester is brief daily readings from scripture at Bible Gateway. Then he journals what the verses mean for him personally. We just completed a series of videos and resources on creationism and apologetics, so I wanted to switch gears back to personal application.
  • We are using Teaching Textbooks for his algebra curriculum. This includes an interactive video and  practice problems. He can also read the transcript of the lesson if he needs to. In the workbook are review questions.
  • We recently decided to do a modified block style of lesson plan for Michael, which means that his core subjects of Physical Science, World History, Language Arts/Grammar, and Literature/Writing each have one day assigned to them. On that day, we do a more intensive lesson, usually containing double lessons. Today he is answering 15 review questions from his chapter in Story of the World on Mary, Queen of Scots. Then he is viewing a video about her from the History Channel.
  • Finally, he will do some practical application of what he has been learning about greetings and introductions in Spanish class. He will do an interactive exercise at this website, and then write his own dialogue between two friends, using the vocabulary he has learned thus far.
  • For his reading block, Michael has been going through “The Lion, the aslanwitchWitch, and the Wardrobe” by C. S. Lewis. Tomorrow, his literature/writing day, he will read Chapters 13 and 14, and then write out what he believes the “secret conversation” between Aslan and the White Witch may have been like.

My other activities during the day include reviewing these materials which I just received from The Learning Tree (exciting stuff!), and gathering up the last of the donations for the “12 Hours of Christmas” event coming up on December 1st at Schoolin’ Swag. Today I got donations from the Anne of Green Gables page on Facebook and Plant Therapy …still waiting to hear from Apologia. Exciting times!

For the Love of Learning,

Dyslexia At Our House (Plus Freebies and HUGE Giveaway Bundle from The Thinking Tree–value over $100!))

I noticed our son had some reading challenges early on. Not only that, but letter writing challenges, number challenges, math challenges, and handwriting challenges. This was prior to putting him in our state’s virtual academy for homeschool. We only remained with K12 for a year and a half, but in that time, testing was done (along with reams of IEPs and tons of online meetings which were very frustrating, to be honest). Dyslexia. Not profound, but significant.

When I pulled our kids from K12, I had to maintain my own course and establish strategies that would work for our son to succeed. Here are some of the things I found helpful:

  • I used a basic evaluation like this to discern if I was headed in the right direction prior to formal testing.
  • One of the best discoveries I made as a mom was realizing it helped our son a great deal to separate his math from any reading assignments. Do math first. Do math after recess or lunch. Why? Because in reading, his brain is going top-to-bottom and left-to-right on the page. Then in math he had times when his brain was required to perform processes going from right-to left, and bottom-from-top. A simple truth, but one I’d never considered before. His brain was exhausted. This is what it may have looked like to him during a normal school day: http://space.io9.com/nasa-tossed-astronauts-with-this-gimbal-rig-before-laun-1727900059
  • We started slow with reading, and I found that the Abeka pages I reverted to (because I had them on hand) were way, WAY too busy for him. There was too much color, too many different concepts on his math pages in particular. So at that point, I switched to Rod and Staff , which was very basic, one concept at a time, and no bells and whistles to distract. Now that he is older, we use Teaching Textbooks, which is simple, quiet lecture, easy to follow, and appeals to visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners.
  • For reading, I found for our son that he had the best success when he read books in comic book form, with text bubbles. There was something about having small bits of text, isolated and not in paragraph form, that really helped him. “Missile Mouse” (we bought the whole set for Christmas) was a favorite, and we had a wide variety of these books at our library.
  • I used Abeka Phonics for all three of our kids, with good success. It uses some rote drill along with pictures, and that helped our son to associate sounds with images in his mind.
  • I also found that in the beginning he made good progress writing in text bubbles as well! We made our own story boards, but here is a fun, free template source.
  • Simple exercises like these can help exercise the mind!
  • For reading comprehension, I found it very helpful at the start for our son to use sticky notes for each paragraph. We would decide what the “big idea” in that paragraph was, and write it on the note. This trained his mind to look not only for main ideas and subjects of sentences, but also for how everything works in context.
  • Using a bookmark under lines of text while reading helped a lot. Pointing at each word with his finger did not help him to train his mind to see groups of words together. Using a straight edge under each line of text helped his eyes to embrace ideas instead of just syllables.
  • Something that is a relatively new idea is the dyslexia font, available free here. It can be used to create your own printables and worksheets. This was not around when we were first testing the waters, but I’m happy to offer it now!
  • While we spent time on handwriting (of course), I didn’t make a federal case out of it, and for our purposes we only focused on cursive for his signature.
  • One of the most liberating things we did was teach typing/keyboarding early. Not only is this a skill our kids must have in this generation and beyond, but for our son, it skipped the whole mental gymnastic thing with the letters he commonly “flipped”. Because he learned the keyboard by rote, his brain told him “b” and he typed “b”. Incorporating the keyboard into our homeschooling was a total game-changer for us! You can find good, free typing programs here.
  • Our son reads well now (but still prefers not to read aloud). He enjoys works with more difficult vocabulary and mythical names, etc. like the Narnia series, the Chronicles of Prydain, and the popular Tolkien books. I’m so grateful for his progress.
  • Even now, when we have a good handle on reading, I still see the challenges show up again in math. He can do mental math very quickly, but on paper, it’s a chore. For instance, in multiplication review, using numbers in hundreds and thousands, and remembering to bump numbers one spot to the left in the answers…the frustrations came up again. Understanding fully the “why” of doing it helps some, and TT does a great job at that. But I remembered again that he cannot do reading in close proximity to math. I’d forgotten, and set him up for a very bad day with algebra.

I hope these tips might help someone else who is struggling on this journey. In the last year, I discovered The Thinking Tree–a resource I would have given my right arm for years ago! Go and check them out!

Meanwhile, I have a HUGE giveaway for you from The Thinking Tree! Comment below to enter (and be sure to “follow” this blog!). I’ll post the name of the winner on Friday, 10 am (Mountain Time). Here’s what you are entering to win:

The Boy’s Journal (value $32.00)

The Girl’s Journal (value $32.00)

The Spelling Journal (value $24.50)

The Handbook for Moms (value 32.50)