Monday, August 15, 2016

Celebrating 11 years old

My baby, my first born turned 11 years old last week. I have no idea how this happened ya'll. He just keeps getting bigger and older and turning into this young man. I can't take it but I can't stop it either. Sigh.

Birthday donuts, a tradition.

One of the gifts we got Caleb was the Bean Boozled Jelly Belly game. He was so excited. If you aren't familiar with this game, it is basically a game of chance. You have a pile of jelly beans and a spinner. You spin the spinner and you eat whatever jelly bean it lands on. Sounds safe enough right? Wrong. For every good tasting jelly bean there is a nasty, horrifying jelly bean. But you don't know what you get until you eat it. So you could get a "Juicy Pear" (yum) or a "Booger" (gross). You could get "Peach" (yum) or "Barf" (double gross). Because the nasty ones look like the yummy ones....you are either in for a pleasant surprise or you are running to the nearest trashcan. The boys LOVED this and giggled like crazy the entire time. I gave it a try but after eating a "Stinky Sock" jelly bean I was done. No thank you.

Caleb hasn't had a birthday party since his SK8 party 3 years ago. Caleb didn't want a big party this year either, he just wanted 2 friends from his homeschool co-op to come over. So the guest list was small but if you know me I do big decorations. I love this kind of stuff. Love it. I did tone it down a little...sorta.

Theme: Basketball (of course)

I got the birthday banner on Etsy. I made the scoreboard. I added a few of his wheelchair basketball medals.

Bouncy basketballs for decorations and the kids took them home after the party.

Orange sherbet punch.

The cake! Caleb loved this! It's just a basic cake with chocolate frosting. Reeses Pieces are used to make the basketball. So cute and easy!

Basketball Oreo pops.

The table.

The face when he saw his cake. 


I'm a mom of an eleven year old.

All boys. Six boys in one house makes for a fun and crazy afternoon. There was a lot of running, nerf gun shooting and video game playing. It was perfect. 




Tuesday, August 09, 2016

First day of school pics, homeschool style

I'm a little late posting these....we started back up with school last week. I had to drag the boys outside for these photos. They are sick to death of holding these signs but oh well. I will force them to do this. They will do this when they are teenagers...maybe even when they go to college.



It's been a smooth transition back into our homeschool routine. That is yet another benefit of following a more year-round schedule. 



Sunday, July 31, 2016

Our "Summer"

We took six weeks off from school for our summer. Here are a few snapshots of our summer moments.

We did some art tutorials on ArtForKidsHub (super fun site, highly recommend).

We finally got around to doing some Tinker Crate activities that I had from months ago. 

We made a simple robot that could color on paper. It was actually pretty cool. You can see that Hallow is mesmerized as well.

We built huge towers out of cups.

We signed up for Kids Bowl Free and went bowling several times.

We celebrated Father's Day.

We went swimming.


Hallow went swimming.

She loved the water but was content to stay on the step.


We played Minecraft...a lot. Too much.

We spotted Caleb's photo on a poster while at Cook Children's.

We went to Hawaiian Falls. Despite the sassy face, Benjamin was excited to go swimming.

We celebrated the 4th of July.

Arcade fun after bowling.


More arcade fun after bowling.

We took a somewhat sudden and unexpected trip to Galveston to see a specialist for Caleb. More on that to come. We did a little sight-seeing while we were there.

Hallow enjoyed the hotel accommodations.

My boys...and my girl

More sight seeing.

Hotel pool fun.

There were Muscovy ducks in front of our hotel. Caleb was in bird-lovin' heaven.

While we didn't have time to swim in the ocean we managed to sneak a quick peek.


Hallow needed a quick beach nap.

We enjoyed hotdogs after swimming.

This was the first year I tried more of a year round schedule for our homeschool and I liked it....except I think the six weeks off for "summer" was still too long. Because we took a longer break I felt like I still needed to squeeze in some school by having them do math, reading, and writing. Even though those things only took a small amount of time, it still felt like we were doing school. I think I like taking smaller, more frequent breaks and making them true breaks. Live and learn. That's one of the many reasons I love homeschooling. We start another year tomorrow!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Our Homeschool Curriculum 2016-17

Our school year officially starts on Monday so I thought I would share our curriculum choices for this year.


No surprise here. I love TOG. This is our main curriculum. It covers history, literature, geography, worldview, vocabulary, and some grammar/composition.


I still love this simple approach to math for the boys. I love that it is DVD driven and gives plenty of opportunity for mastery.

This will be our third year to use Noeo Science. I like the simple notebooking approach to science. I was on the fence about buying science curriculum at all because I think my boys learn so much more by doing our nature walks and just by exploring and learning about nature in general. But I do like this curriculum and the books are vibrant and informative.

This is a relatively new curriculum and this will be my first year using it. I saw it at a homeschool convention over a year ago and I loved it immediately for Benjamin. It's a very simple, workbook based program. I'm excited to try it.

I mostly wanted this for Benjamin but went ahead and got the cursive book for Caleb. Again, a very simple approach to handwriting. I think it will only take a few minutes each day which is perfect. I've not used this before but I think it is going to be great, plus it was very affordable. 

While Tapestry of Grace does have a grammar/composition supplement called Writing Aids, it doesn't really teach. We still use Writing Aids through TOG because I like some of the activities and suggestions but I wanted something that would actually teach the different parts of speech, grammar, and composition. I found this curriculum at a homeschool conference and I love it. It is DVD and workbook driven. I use this for Caleb only at this point but will likely use it with Benjamin next year.

I'll be using this with Benjamin. I used Level 1 and 2 with Caleb and again...I loved the simplicity. I think simplicity is my goal for our school year! This will cover parts of speech, dictation, grammar, and memorization. These are great books, and very inexpensive. I've only used Level 1 and 2 so I can't speak for the upper levels. I switched Caleb to Essentials in Writing after 3rd grade.

And that about covers it. I'm really excited about our choices for this next school year. I love watching my boys learn and grow. I can't wait to see how they mature over this next year. 



Wednesday, July 27, 2016

How I plan Tapestry of Grace

Tapestry of Grace can be a very intimidating curriculum at first glance and it does have a learning curve. But once you have a unit or two under your belt, planning is a breeze. After completing two years of TOG, I have perfected a system of planning that works great for me. I thought I would share it here in case it could help some other folks considering or using TOG.

When you purchase a year of  TOG you have the option to buy the printed version, the digital edition or both. I like to have both the digital and print. I like having the actual paper in my hand instead of on a screen but the digital version is nice for easy printing and can be updated easily if needed. There is no right or wrong, it is just whatever works for you.

A year of TOG comes in 4 separate units. The first thing I do when I get my new year of curriculum is do a happy dance and then put each unit into its own binder. 1 1/2 inch binders work great for me.

Some folks like to plan for the whole year but that overwhelms me greatly so I focus on one unit at a time. Because TOG cycles through history, I know we will come to each year at least 2 or 3 more times. For this reason, I like to protect the pages. I go through the Unit we will be studying and pull out the pages that are relevant to my boys. TOG separates things by learning levels, Lower Grammar, Upper Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric. Benjamin is Lower Grammar and Caleb is Upper Grammar with some overlap in between. So I only pull out the pages that are for Lower and Upper Grammar, I ignore the rest.

TOG color codes the pages so you know which pages are for your child's learning level. After I pull out the pages for my boys, I also pull out the teacher's notes for me. I do this for each week of the Unit. Each week is about 60 pages but I can reduce it to about 30 after I pull out the pages I need. I then put each page in a sheet protector. It is a tedious process but it works for me. I like the sheet protectors for several reasons. First, it keeps the pages clean and perfect so they hold up over time. Second, it allows me to take notes using a dry erase marker directly on the sheet protector.

After I sheet protect all the pages from that Unit, I start printing out the Reading Assignments for that unit. I use this to check for books at my library. I look at the Lower and Upper Grammar books recommended for each week and check to see if my library has that book or a very similar book. I also check Amazon to purchase only those books that I can't get from my library and that are used for several weeks or more. I do not buy books that I will only use for one week. TOG also has Bookshelf Central where they sell every single book that is recommended for that year. This is handy when a book is out of print and/or your library doesn't have it. I usually compare the TOG price against Amazon before I make a purchase. There is a lot of wiggle room with Lower and Upper Grammar. It is okay if you can't find or buy all the recommended books. I have learned that finding a similar book works just as well for these lower grades. TOG also gives you a list of alternate reading resources that can be used if you can't find the recommended books. I usually try to get 3 weeks of books at a time from my library.

The next thing I do is print out the Planning Aids for the unit. This is a relatively new service that TOG offers and it is awesome. If planning TOG scares you to death, then Planning Aids is the answer. Planning Aids can be purchases separately for a very small price and they will lay out a schedule for you so you don't have to worry about planning each day. The work is already done. I use the Planning Aids as a basic guideline. They do save me some time when planning our week.

Left-the recommended reading assignments for the Unit. Again, I only look at the books for Lower and Upper Grammar. Right-the Planning Aids for Lower and Upper Grammar.

While I don't plan for the entire year right off the bat, I do get some things organized for the whole year.
I number 36 file folders to cover each week of our school year. As I plan each week, I put everything we need (maps, worksheets, lapbook inserts, math, etc) in the corresponding folder.

I also get the Lapbooks separated by week and put in the numbered folders.


All of the Lapbook pieces separated and ready to go into the folders. This just saves me time throughout the year and it is one less thing that has to be done. I love the Lapbooks and highly recommend them, especially for the lower grades. 

I also print out any maps that we will need for geography during the unit and put them in the appropriate weekly folder. I make copies of any student worksheets we may need as well. Again, I only do this for one unit at a time.

They each have their own binder for the entire year. Everything goes in here. I have dividers for math, science, literature, handwriting, geography, etc. I used to do separate binders for different subjects but that just got ridiculous. One big binder it is! It works perfect and takes up less space.

I have Monday-Friday pocket dividers in each binder.  That way they can open it up to the "Monday" divider and pull out their assignments for that day.

I use Homeschool Planet for planning. I love it (although it also had a learning curve and took some time set up). It costs about $6 a month. You can try it for 30 days for free.  On the left is Caleb's plan for the whole week. This is for me so I have a visual of our week and I can mark things off as we do them. On the right is his daily assignments. These are for him. He can quickly see what needs to be done for that day.

His daily plan goes with his assignments in the divider folder for that day.

Benjamin has the same system in his binder.

Because I plan my units ahead of time and I have the numbered weekly folders, I can just pull that weeks folder and put the assignments in the boy's binders. The upfront planning before the Unit does take time but my weekly planning is drastically reduced because I put in the time beforehand. I usually take about an hour each weekend to read the Teacher's notes for the upcoming week and make sure we have everything we need for the week ahead. It makes for a much smoother year.

So that is how I plan with Tapestry of Grace. It is a system that has worked for me the past two years. If you have any specific TOG questions, feel free to ask. I'll do my best to answer them. I am passionate about this curriculum and I am happy to share our experience.

TOG has several resources on their site to help you learn more about the curriculum and some strategies for planning. 

Some helpful links:


TOG Year Three Pinterest Board (I just started this one)

There are also Facebook pages for each year of TOG. These are great resources and I highly recommend them. 




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