Simplicity: In the Homeschool



Homeschooling our children is very important to us. It’s something we knew we wanted to do from the time I found out I was pregnant with Seahawk. We never considered any other option, and now that we’re ten years (almost eleven!) into parenthood and five years into homeschooling, I’m so glad we made this choice. I wrote on the “School at Home” page of our 2013 family yearbook that teaching our children at home is one of my greatest joys as a mother, and I truly mean that. Of course there are days when I wonder what it would be like if the older two were off at school for 8 hours a day. Then I come to my senses and remember why I wanted to be a mom! (Hint: It wasn’t so I could ship them off somewhere the minute they turned five so I wouldn’t have to “deal” with them until they were 18.)

So, how do we balance living simply with homeschooling? There are so many different styles of homeschooling out there – almost as many styles as there are homeschooling parents – and it’s all just a matter of finding a balance. I’m going to go over the way I teach today. This is not a tell-all, do-it-this-way-or-you’re-awful kind of post. This is just what works for us, and if you can take some or all of what I say to make your homeschool day easier or better for you, then that’s awesome. If not, that’s awesome too. But enjoy a little glimpse into our day.

We wake up between 8 and 8:30 each morning. I prefer to be the first one up so I can have a little bit of quiet time before the day starts. That doesn’t always happen though. I’m working on getting the kids into a routine that involves them getting dressed, making their beds, and reading a chapter from their Bible before they come out for breakfast, but that’s still a work in progress. We eat breakfast around 9 (typically just cereal or toast, but sometimes biscuits or pancakes). On the days he’s working from home, Will takes Small Fry out in the mornings so the older kids and I can do school more easily and efficiently. (He works in the afternoons on those days.) Ideally, by 9:30 we’ve started our school day.

I’m a visual person, so I need my kids to “do” something for school, not just read a bunch of books and call it a day. I do know that they can learn so much from reading different books – and we run a very literature heavy school – but it still gives me an odd peace of mind when they do paperwork or projects. We’re somewhere between “school at home” and “natural learning.” The first thing we do is bring out the schoolbooks. After reading a blog post last year on homeschool organization by Jamie at The Unlikely Homeschool, I totally took her idea and bought magazine racks – one for each kid. These have been worth their weight in gold for the simplicity it’s brought not only to our school day, but also to the bookshelf in my sewing room where I keep all the school stuff.



Everything we need for a given day (except for the read-aloud books and pencils) is in those racks. Right now, our main focuses are:

  • Spelling – Spelling You See
  • Bible – Apologia’s What on Earth Can I Do?
  • Literature – Little House in the Big Woods study by Progeny Press
  • Cursive Handwriting – This is different for each kid. Munchkin just finished up Logic of English’s Rhythm of Handwriting, so he’s been writing a letter to someone each day; so far this week he’s written to his pen pal in Utah and his great-grandmother in Southern California. Seahawk is working through Patriotic Penmanship, a practice workbook that we received for another review. He likes it because the lessons are very short.
  • Math – Learning Wrap-Ups

We’ve been working our way through An Island Story: A History of England for Girls and Boys and The Burgess Animal Book for Children this year, too, but we’ve got so much other stuff going at the moment that we’re taking a break from those for a while.

On a normal day, we manage to finish all but one of our subjects before lunch – which one varies from day to day. I don’t let the kids choose what they learn per se, because they’re still young enough that there are tons of things that are non-negotiable (times tables and proper spelling, for instance). To help them feel like they still have some control over their own education, then, I let them help decide what order we do the subjects in.

At the end of the school day, all the books get put back in their magazine racks and the racks put away on the shelf until the next day. And that’s how we keep things simple – and organized! – in our homeschool.

What’s your favorite homeschool organizational trick?



Homeschool Curriculum Review:

Science4Us ReviewDo you struggle to teach your kids science? Looking for a great science system for early elementary kids? So was I, so when the opportunity for a Online Subscription was offered to me in exchange for an honest review, I happily accepted.

What is I’m glad you asked. It’s a great program for early elementary kids, from Kindergarten through 2nd grade. It doesn’t cover experiments, but it gives kids a great foundation in a variety of subjects. Kids learn about the basics of science (starting with the tools that scientists use), and then move on to more “fun” stuff like animals and space. Each topic runs for 8 lessons, and each lesson takes roughly half an hour to teach. There are also fun activities that children can do on their own on the website. One of the cool things about is that while it’s teaching science, it’s also reinforcing things kids this age learn in other subjects. One of Munchkin’s favorite activities was the “Silly Bulls” lesson, which is where key words from the teaching part of the lesson are broken into syllables, mixed up, and the child puts them back in the right order (get it? Syllables … Silly Bulls … ).

s4us silly bulls has a login page for each student as well as one for the parent/teacher. You can sit right next to your kids while they do the activities, or you can set them free on the site to work through the modules and check their progress, including information/activities from their digital science notebook, in your teacher dashboard. The website allows you to assign modules to your students, and also for your students to select what they want to learn about each day, so there’s a bit of freedom in how you work the program.

While the website is geared primarily toward younger kids (Kindergarten through 2nd grade, like I mentioned above), it’s also a great place for upper elementary kids to get a refresher course in what they learned when they were younger. Even though Seahawk is in 4th grade, he’s been using and loving it. Because it’s geared to the younger children, though, I’ve been focusing on having Munchkin use it and letting Seahawk on there when time permits.

Once they finished the science tools module, it was interesting to see what each kid chose to study. Munchkin was all over Life Science, which covers Living vs. Nonliving, Plants, and Animals. Seahawk wanted to study Space, which covers Exploring the Universe and Earth in Space. The Exploring the Universe module was really cool. My favorite part, and I think Seahawk’s too, was the exploration of our galaxy. It opened up a map of sorts of the Milky Way, and you could click on the different planets and it would zoom in and give you all sorts of facts about each one. You could also rotate and spin around the solar system. They provided a “ring” showing each planet’s course around the sun, which I think was helpful in keeping them straight while you clicked through them, making sure you chose the one you wanted to explore further.

s4us space 1

This is the “main” view of the solar system page – what you see when you first open it.

s4us space 3

s4us space 2

And these two show you how you could flip all around to get different views.

s4us venus

And here’s Venus’ page. There was one of these for each of the planets, the sun, and Earth’s moon.

For a basic science curriculum for young kids, I think is a great choice. There are so many choices in study topics that there’s something for everyone. With the “assign” feature, you don’t even have to strictly monitor your kids if you don’t want to. The website is ad-free, so you don’t have to worry about that while your kids are learning. As a subscription-based service, there’s a ton of flexibility, too. You can keep it during the school year and let it go during the summer, or you can keep it year-round if that’s your thing. They also provide printable pages for the kids if you’re a “worksheet” kind of teacher. You still need to have the online time, since the information is taught using online videos and interactive activities, but the worksheets are great for reinforcing what your kids have learned during their online sessions. And at $7.95 a month, it’s a really affordable option if you don’t know what to do for your young learner’s science needs.

To close, I just want to show you guys how big an impact this program had on Munchkin. We have a notebook that he and I write in, letters back and forth, and in one of his recent letters, he included this picture:


Little things like that are what I’d call a glowing review!



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