Thanks to Finch N Wren!

My friend Wren, half of the blog Finch n Wren, has been doing a fun series all summer long: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About… where she sent interview questions out to some of her favorite bloggers. This was an easy way for her to keep her blog active while she dealt with some health issues, and I was more than happy to participate. Head over to their blog and check out my interview!


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6th Grade


I have two middle schoolers this year. Two! I can’t believe it. Today’s post is all about Munchkin and what he’ll be studying for his 6th grade year, at least for the foreseeable future. (I’m not always the best at keeping things going, so we might change things up. Also, well add other things in as he finishes some of these curricula/topics.)

Math: I picked up a workbook for him for his math this year. We’ve tried lots of different things over the years, but I wanted to keep it very simple, clean, and no-nonsense this year. A $9 Spectrum workbook fit the bill.

Literature: He’s currently finishing up the Charlotte’s Web study guide we received from Progeny Press  when that’s done, we’re going to go back to Readers in Residence from Apologia.

Grammar: I plan to buy level 3 of Fix It! grammar from IEW soon. The website is a little confusing, but if I’m reading it correctly, the level we need has been on back order. Hopefully I can get it to our house in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, we’re using Daily Grammar from

Foreign Language: Rosetta Stone French is the main one we’re using. But he had such a great time when we reviewed Greek ‘n’ Stuff that he’s continuing on with Greek as well.

History: Were doing the unit study route for history this year. I let each of the boys choose their own topic, no limits. Munchkin chose the French Revolution, so I’ve cobbled a few things together, including a lapbook from Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus and a list of books for him to read.

Cooking: Each week, the big kids are each cooking one meal. I’m guiding them through it, and they’ll each learn 3 or 4. We’ll repeat them monthly until they have them mastered and can cook the meals independently, at which point we’ll add in more. Munchkin has has 2 lessons so far: chili with cornbread and … I don’t remember what the other one is right now. But there have been two, I swear! This week he will learn to make pancakes and syrup from scratch and hash browns.

That’s it for now. We’ll add in science before too long, but we haven’t yet.


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Traveling the World (Let’s Go Geography review)

Learning about the place we live can be exciting for a young child, and it’s fairly easy to teach them. But what about teaching about places that are far away? That’s a lot trickier. A good homeschool geography curriculum is vital in that, and I have one to tell you about today.

Let’s Go Geography is a downloadable curriculum that offers a lot of hands-on activities, which is perfect for its target age demographic of grades K-4. Because my two older boys are outside the age range, Small Fry (K) and I have been learning about the world around us for the past few weeks. He’s barely at the point where he can differentiate the city from the state where we live, and definitely doesn’t understand about the countries yet, so his little mind is perfect for starting fresh with something like this.

lets go geographyAfter you purchase the curriculum, you are given access to the site, where you can download the lessons. If you’re like me, you may not want to print the entire year’s worth at a time though. Let’s Go Geography sends you an automated email each week (at roughly the same day and time as when you first signed up – for me, this is on Sunday evenings), reminding you to get the new lesson ready, including direct links to the lesson (just log in to the site to access). I think that’s pretty neat! There’s no excuse for forgetting that way.

The Specifics of Let’s Go Geography

Each lesson covers a specific geographic area, and the first several lessons are all based on North America (Northeastern United States, Hawaii, Canada, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Belize are the first six, which is all I’ve gone through yet.) Each lesson is broken down into “chapters,” making it easy to divide the work up over a single school week. In order to get an idea of how the curriculum works, I’m going to go over the “chapters” in lesson 1 in a bit of detail.

Map It!

This chapter shows children what the country they’re studying looks like. Depending on the map you choose to download and print (there is one suggested and linked in the curriculum download, but it’s just a suggestion; ultimately, you’re responsible for finding your own map), it could also show them where the country is located in relation to the rest of the world also. Children are instructed to color the map. For older children, you could also have them label important parts (individual states, large cities, rivers, etc).

The Flag

flag mapIn this chapter, children learn to identify the flag of the country they’re studying that week. Included in the curriculum is a map of the overarching section of the study (in this case, North America and some of the nearby islands) with places to glue the flags. Students are also asked to draw a line connecting a flag to its country. Another option is to download the “passport” that goes along with the curriculum (an extra fee of $2.99, or go to the website and share about the curriculum on your favorite social media outlet to get it for free). Once you print out the passport and put it together, your child can glue the flags onto the correct pages of that.

The Music

An example of the page for the chapter on music. You can see that includes lyrics for the song as well as a link to hear the song. This is an example of a page that is better on the computer than in print.

The music page in the Hawaii lesson. You can see that includes lyrics for the song as well as a link to hear the song. This is an example of a page that is better on the computer than in print.

This section provides links to listen to musical selections from the country. There are also lyrics for the national anthem.

Let’s Explore

In this chapter, there’s lots of information specific to the area you’re studying. In the Northeast U.S. lesson, students are taught about the geographical features specific to the region. This includes photographs of the region and short descriptions of what you might find there or things the area is famous for.


This is a fun chapter – it provides a craft for the children that relates to the region. For the first lesson, children use a red Solo cup and printable flames (included in the curriculum) to make a lighthouse.

The final pages include a coloring page of the region and a notebooking page for older students to make a written record of what they learned during the week. (Due to the age of my student, we didn’t use the notebooking page, but he loves to color, so we did use the coloring pages.)

How We Used It

As I mentioned before, I used this curriculum with my Kindergartner. It was a bit intense for him to go at the rate of even one chapter per day, so we took it nice and slow, getting through one region approximately every two weeks. At this rate, it will take us 2 years (kindergarten and 1st grade) to get all the way through this curriculum, but that’s okay – I was blessed with lifetime access to the product (I’m not sure if this is the way it works for everyone, or if your purchase of the full year is good only for one year). I had him glue his flags onto the map I described earlier rather than into the passport, simply because the passport gave me a lot of grief in the printing process (which is not a problem with the file itself, just in that reloading paper into my printer and getting it to print correctly was a bit of a hassle). Also, I didn’t have any cardstock to make a good passport cover.

Right now, all of his papers are just kind of loose all around the school shelf, which isn’t ideal. I think I’m going to help my 5 year old to turn all of this great info into a lapbook pretty soon. This will keep it all very organized, but also make it much more interesting to look at, and will give him a keepsake to look back on when he’s older. The curriculum download includes several notebook cover options, one of which we will put on the cover of the lapbook. If you have an older student who would do better to keep his papers in a binder, you can use the cover printout in that way instead.

Final Thoughts

We’ve enjoyed working with Let’s Go Geography. I didn’t realize when I blindly printed out the first lesson that a lot of it is better used on the computer because it includes live links to things (the printable map, a YouTube video of the national anthem, etc). But some of it works just fine printed – in fact, some of the pieces have to be printed. So my advice is to spend the time on your computer going through each lesson in advance and printing just the pages that actually need to be printed.

You can get a full year of Let’s Go Geography for $21.99. If that’s a bit difficult for you to swing all at once, they also have a payment plan, wherein you agree to the whole year but make two equal payments of $12.99, one for the first semester and one for the second. If you’d prefer to buy just one semester at a time, the first semester is available for $14.99 (I didn’t see anything on the site about the second semester individually). There are also coupon codes available from time to time – currently there is a 25% off special going, but I don’t know how long that will last.


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Let’s Go Geography {Reviews}

Visiting Noah’s Flood (Barbour Publishing review)

As you know if read very many posts here at all, my 11 year old son likes to read. A lot. So whenever we have the opportunity to review a book comes up, I give him the option of requesting it or not, and he almost always says, “Yes, please.” Such was the case with a new Bible adventure novel from Barbour Publishing called Imagine. . .The Great Flood by Matt Koceich. Biblical fiction has been a genre I’ve enjoyed in the past in “grown up books,” and I’m really excited to see more and more Biblical fiction for kids books being written these days. This one takes a modern kid named Corey and plops him smack dab in the middle of Noah’s Ark.

The softcover book (cover price $5.99, currently on sale for $4.49 through the publisher’s website) is 110 pages, although the story doesn’t actually start until page 7. It’s the first book in what will become the Imagine series. Mr. Koceich’s goal in writing the books is to offer kids ages 8-12 a place to think and ponder what living through biblical events might be like.

imagine review

Since Munchkin is the one who read this book, I’m going to do a little interview with him on his thoughts of the book.


imagine coverGive me a short synopsis of the plot.

Corey is chasing his dog and he hits his head and gets injured. Next thing he knows, he is flashing back in time to ancient Mesopotamia and living in Noah’s flood.

You read this book alone. How long did it take you from start to finish?

Two days. I read for about one hour per day.

Was it too easy for you? Too hard? Just right? Do you think it would be a good fit for other kids your age?

I think it would pretty good for kids my age (11). It was a little easier than things I’m used to reading, but I wouldn’t say it was “too easy.”

When you first learned what this book was about, what did you think it would be like? Was it as good as you thought it would be?

I expected he would be on the Ark, but he got taken back to modern day before the Ark set sail. That was surprising to me. Yes, it was as good as I expected.

Tell me about your favorite scene from the book.

I like the part where Corey was fighting the Nephilim (giants). He fought them a few times, but I liked the first one the best because he had never seen them before. It was really terrifying because the people were so big. Corey didn’t win; in fact, he barely escaped. In most books the good guy always wins, so this was very refreshing in that he almost lost.

Who was your favorite character? Why?

Shem. He fights the most, and I liked those exciting scenes.

In the book, Corey learns a lesson in forgiveness. Did you feel like you learned any lessons reading this book?

Yeah. I was reminded that God always has a plan for what happens, even if it’s unclear to us.

Would you recommend this book? Why or why not?

Yes, I would recommend it. It was good because it’s time travel with biblical history. I like that a lot. It combines two very interesting types of books into one.

Any final thoughts?

I read in the back of this book that there’s a sequel coming out in March 2018. (Mom note: It’s about a girl transported to the Exodus and Ten Plagues of Egypt.) I would really like to read that one.


As you can tell by Munchkin’s answers, Imagine. . .The Great Flood by Matt Koceich was a hit in our house. As a mom, I like that there are good, Christian books for kids coming out that I can feel good about offering to my sons to read.


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Imagine. . .The Great Flood by Matt Koceich {Barbour Publishing}

Picture of the Week: Basket Buddies

Small Fry has long been a fan of standing on the back of the shopping cart. Now that Dragonfly is “big” too, he’s joining those ranks. I don’t let them do this when it’s me and the kids, but Will was with us this day, and he’s a lot more fun than I am (lol). So they had a great time riding on the outside of the basket for a few minutes while we were walking through the store.


Have a great weekend!


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Oregon State Fair (part 2)

I wrote recently about all the neat cakes at the state fair this year. Now I want to go over the other stuff we saw there.

First up, these buttons. When Will was there four days earlier (he was a featured speaker on Author Day), he got to meet the woman who made them. Apparently she was there one of the days creating new buttons for spectators to see. That would have been neat, but we weren’t able to make it back that day. Even so, seeing the buttons she had made was pretty cool. Her work is sublime. I’m especially impressed by the ones with people on them. The tag said that they were all inspired by her grandparents.


Near the buttons were all the knitted and crocheted entries. Lots of neat stuff there! Even though I don’t normally crochet anymore, or even really like the look of it that much (I vastly prefer knitting), my very favorite entry was this crocheted elephant rug.


Munchkin’s favorite was this crocheted turtle.


Next up was the quilts. There were so many to see! It was almost as intense as the Quilt Expo we went to a few years back. My favorite one was this bicycle quilt.


This Halloween themed quilt caught my eye because not only is it beautifully crafted, but I recognized the name of the artist! She used to go to our church, and she made a quilt for Small Fry for my baby shower two weeks before he was born.


The main thing we did besides the artists room was the animals. We saw all sorts of animals, but everyone’s favorites were the cows and pigs. Here are some of our favorite pictures of those.


You don't normally think of cows as needing "haircuts," but apparently they do!

You don’t normally think of cows as needing “haircuts,” but apparently they do!


And that was basically our time at the Fair!


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Happy Birthday, Munchkin!

Today is my second son’s 11th birthday, so I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that here 🙂

Generally speaking, Munchkin is the quietest of all four boys. His preferred activity is reading 90% of the time. He read his first novel, Charlotte’s Web, when he was just 6 years old. (I mentioned that briefly just a couple of days ago in a post.) He’s a very hard worker, and he always wants to please the grownups around him. It’s this desire to please that allows him to bond with adults better than he does with kids most of the time (just like me when I was his age). He is a blessing to us, and I’m so glad I get to be his mom.

Happy birthday!!


Reading a Favorite Book with Fresh Eyes (Progeny Press review)

progeny press review

One thing that the Homeschool Review Crew is amazing at is introducing me to products and companies I’d never heard of. Such was the case four years ago with Progeny Press. Every year that I’ve been on the Crew (this is my 4th), Progeny Press has offered literature study guides to members of the Crew. And every year, I’ve been blessed to review one. This year, Munchkin has the Charlotte’s Web E-Guide to work through.

Charlotte’s Web has a special place in our hearts because it was the first novel Munchkin ever read when he was just 6 years old. I thought it would be a fun one for him to study deeper even though he’s read it before and is very familiar with the story. It’s neat to take books you know and love and look at them through a more critical lens, and that’s just what I’d hoped Munchkin would accomplish through his review of this study guide.

IMG_0666[1]Progeny Press offers study guides for literature of all genres and age ranges from lower elementary (roughly grades K-3, including novels such as Frog and Toad Together) clear up to high school with selections like The Hunger Games. The study guides are available as instant downloads or you can purchase a physical CD-ROM. The guides are interactive PDFs, meaning that you don’t even have to print it out if you don’t want to – the student can type their answers right into the PDF reader. That doesn’t mean that you have to do it that way, though. Printing is allowed by the copyright, so long as it’s all for students in the same family. For our use, I received a downloadable study guide, which I’ve saved to my computer (and backup drive) for use with future kids, and I printed one copy for Munchkin. To save on paper – and make it feel more “legit” – I printed front and back, then punched holes in the pages and added them to his school binder.

Once we had the study guide all situated, I bought the Kindle version of Charlotte’s Web for him to read. We already have two copies of the paper novel, but they’re packed up in storage (read: difficult to access and/or find) and I didn’t want to deal with possible late fines through the library. At just $4.99, buying the e-book was the right answer for us.

progeny press worksheet

One of the pages of questions (click to enlarge). The red spot is just because he wrote his brother’s name, and we don’t use the kids’ real names here on the blog.

I love Progeny Press Study guides for a lot of reasons. I love how they start with prereading activities to do before you even crack open the book. In the case of Charlotte’s Web, they suggest studying spiders and having the child(ren) do a short report on them; taking children to a working farm to learn about the animals; and starting a vocabulary journal so that they can learn and start using all the “fancy” and “complicated” words that Charlotte uses. In addition to the prereading activities, the study guides always include a synopsis of the book and short biographies of the author and illustrator (when applicable).

Then you dive into the actual studying. Each chapter chunk has comprehension questions, which are superb. They help your child make sure he read the book and understood what he was reading. Comprehension is where a lot of literature guides end, but not Progeny Press. In addition to the comprehension questions are a variety of different activities for making sure students understand the vocabulary of the selection. These activities include multiple choice for figuring out the definition of potentially problematic words, having students come up with their own definition of the words based on context, thinking of synonyms for vocabulary words, and more.

Once your student has finished the vocabulary and comprehension sections for the selected chapters, Progeny Press really shines and stands out from other literature programs. There are “thinking about the story” questions, which go beyond comprehension and push students to think about the way things are in the book rather than just about what happened. For example, one of the questions in the Charlotte’s Web guide is “Why do farmers raise pigs?” This is the kind of question that relates to the story indirectly, forcing students to really think for themselves rather than just flip through the book to fill in a blank. (In case you’re wondering, my almost-11-year-old responded to this question with “To make bacon.”)

And then there my very favorite part of Progeny Press guides: the biblical “digging deeper” section. In these questions, the author of the study guide gives scripture references that relate to a part of the story and asks questions to draw the two together. For example, “Do you believe that human lives and animal lives are equal in value? Read Genesis 1:26, Genesis 9:3, 8-11, and Psalm 8. What do these passages say about the place of humans and animals in God’s creation?” This is the type of question you don’t get with most other literature guides, and it’s what makes Progeny Press one of my absolute favorite curricula for studying literature.

Munchkin, an avid reader anyway, has absolutely loved having the opportunity to reread something “easy” that happens to be one of his favorite books anyway. I love that he’s getting some new perspective on this favorite classic. He’s not too far into it yet (he worked lightly over the past several weeks, and has picked up a lot more steam now that we’re doing school each day in earnest), but he will absolutely be finishing this one. It’s a keeper!


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In case you’re interested, we’ve reviewed for Progeny Press in the past. Click the following links for my past reviews: Little House in the Big Woods, Tuck Everlasting, and Give Me Liberty. For more of this year’s Homeschool Review Crew reviews of Progeny Press, click the banner below. Selected titles include The Bears on Hemlock Mountain, Charlotte’s Web, The Silver Chair, and MacBeth.

Study Guides for Literature {Progeny Press Reviews}

Book Club: Austenland

Book Club with Lori

Lori suggested 2 books she’d recently read for this month’s book club, and of her two options, I chose Austenland by Shannon Hale. This was a book I’d heard a little about, but never picked up. When I discovered the Overdrive app for my phone and iPad (a digital library that partners with real libraries to offer digital content – ebooks and audiobooks – to patrons), and learned that my home library was one of the partners, and that Austenland was available as an audiobook, it was a no brainer for me. I could listen to the book while I knitted and not have to choose between the two pastimes. Score!


Jane is a young New York woman who can never seem to find the right man—perhaps because of her secret obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Predjudice.

When a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-obsessed women, however, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency era gentleman suddenly become more real than she ever could have imagined.

Is this total immersion in a fake Austenland enough to make Jane kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own? (From the publisher.)

For my post, I’ve taken a few questions from LitLovers, but Lori says that they seem to be the same questions that were found in the back of her copy of the book. Since I had an audiobook, I didn’t have that feature.

Austenland, besides chronicling Jane’s stay at Pembrook Park, lists all thirteen “boyfriends” she’s had in her lifetime. How well does the reader get to know Jane’s past? How much has she changed from her first relationship at age twelve to the one that is now just beginning?

Hearing about some of those past relationships were my favorite parts of the book. It was really interesting to hear about her Jane’s past and discover how they helped to shape her current self. And of course she changed – who wouldn’t over the course of 20 years? It would be silly if she hadn’t.

Jane observes of the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice: “Stripped of Austen’s funny, insightful, biting narrator, the movie became a pure romance.” What would Austenland be like without Jane’s own funny, insightful, biting narration?

Because I’m not a huge Austen fan (out of ignorance, not necessarily dislike), I don’t think I could have handled this novel without Jane’s personality. I’m afraid I would have found it dull and awful if she’d been a true, non-rule-breaking participant in Pembrook Park, aka Austenland.

Jane’s great-aunt Carolyn set the whole Pembrook Park adventure into motion. What do you think Carolyn’s intentions were in sending Jane to this Austenland? Do you think Jane fulfilled those expectations?

Carolyn left Jane the trip to Pembrook Park in her will only after a visit with Jane six months earlier showed her to be a fan of Jane Austen – particularly the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice. They had a bit of a heart to heart talk wherein Aunt Carolyn learned that Jane was more in love with Mr. Darcy than she was interested in finding someone real. Knowing that, I think she sent Jane to Pembrook Park with the hope that she’d find herself. It was an effort to allow her to explore this interest of hers while combining it with the reality of the now. If I’m right about Carolyn’s expectations, I think Jane passed them with flying colors.

Jane walks away from Nobley and Martin at the airport with the parting words, “Tell Mrs. Wattlesbrook I said tallyho” (186). Why does Jane enjoy her last line so much? What does she mean by “tallyho”?

Mrs. Wattlesbrook is quite prim and proper. She takes her theme park (for lack of a better term) to huge extremes, and not just the time period. She herself has taken on the role of a nobleperson of the era. Tally-ho is the kind of phrase that’s used by commoners – lower class people. During Jane’s stay at Pembrook Park, she proved herself to be just that time and time again. I think this line is just her way of taking one last jab at Mrs. Wattlesbrook.

What might Jane Austen think of Austenland, if she were alive today? Could she have possibly anticipated how influential her novels would become, even for twenty-first-century audiences? Could she ever have imagined a fan like Jane Hayes?

If Jane Austen was anything like most current authors, I think she’d be flattered by novels like Austenland. Because “fan fiction” is quite a large genre of its own nowadays, this is just a new take on it. As for whether she could have anticipated her novels’ influence… maybe. But it was probably more of a hope than an anticipation. Would she have imagined a fan like Jane Hayes? Again, maybe… but hoping more than expecting or imagining. (As a former fiction writer, take my word for this – it’s what we all hope for.)

book club button 200

I have a few book ideas in mind for next month’s book club. I’ll either update this post or make a new one (or both) once Lori picks from my list. But before you go, make sure to hit up Lori’s blog and see what she thought of Austenland.


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We started our official homeschool year this week. Seahawk is in 8th grade now, Munchkin is in 6th, and Small Fry is in Kindergarten (I suppose that might mean I’ll have to change his blog nickname soon since he’s not really that small anymore…). I’ll give each of these boys a special day here on the blog to talk about their favorite things and what we’re planning to use for their curriculum this year. Today, I’m starting with my brand-new Kindergartner.

I told him he could decorate this sign any way he liked. He chose to fill the K with stars, and then he drew a fan near the bottom because "I like to make fans." He drew a picture of an envelope next to the fan because he "likes to mail things." Then he filled the rest of the area with random letters because he loves to write, even though he's not proficient enough to write anything but his name yet. Speaking of his name, he wrote that on his paper too, but I marked that out for privacy reasons. That's what the green box on the left is.

I told him he could decorate this sign any way he liked. He chose to fill the K with stars, and then he drew a fan near the bottom because “I like to make fans.” He drew a picture of an envelope next to the fan because he “likes to mail things.” Then he filled the rest of the area with random letters because he loves to write, even though he’s not proficient enough to write anything but his name yet. Speaking of his name, he wrote that on his paper too, but I marked that out for privacy reasons. That’s what the green box on the left is. Oh, and that’s not a black eye he has. He just likes to use my eyeliner to get pirate eyepatches sometimes.

Small Fry is 5 years old. His birthday is right near Will’s and mine (all three of us are in a 9-day period in July), so that’s pretty special. His favorite foods are spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, pizza, pickles, blueberries, and ramen (a newfound love). He started learning to read about six months ago, and we’re really going to be cracking down on that skill over the next few months. He also loves to watch movies (just like his dad) and play outside with his big brothers and their friends.

For his Kindergarten year, we’re keeping things pretty simple. We will continue to work on real life skills like having him help in the kitchen and learn to really clean up after himself. For official curriculum, we’re going to use things we started during the spring and summer and focus hard on really getting the concepts down. This includes just a few subjects:

Reading: We will finish up the Eclectic Foundations curriculum we reviewed a few months ago. When that’s done, I think I’ll just have him practice his reading using easy readers from the library.

Math: We’re using Starfall Kindergarten Mathematics with him. Even though it was designed to be used in a classroom setting, I’m really impressed with it and have been modifying it to work with just one student. So far, it’s a hit with Small Fry.

French: He got his very own Rosetta Stone account on my computer this week (we have the full program, which allows up to 5 students and were only using 4 before now). On the first day, he made it through half a lesson. Considering that first lesson is quite involved, I’m impressed that he made it that far – and was doing quite well with it.

Geography: We are currently reviewing Let’s Go Geography, a curriculum for kids in grades K-4. I’ll have that review up here on the blog in about two weeks.

That’s it. Like I said, I want his Kindergarten year to be full of meaningful education, but I don’t want him to get burned out on school, so we’re keeping it very basic until more is absolutely needed.


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