Category Archives: Homeschool

Finally Organized the Homeschool Cabinet

Remember last summer when I said I was going to get all organized, starting with the homeschool cabinet? Well, as I posted later, that never happened. Why? Writing. Once you get serious, it takes over your life. In a good way. Sort of. Not in a we-eat-homemade-food-every-night way, and not in a the-house-is-usually-clean-way. More in a oh-my-goodness-I-actually-wrote-a-book way.

But yesterday. Oh, yesterday. Our school stuff was taking over my kitchen table. Taking over.

You see, the homeschool cabinet was so full, that I quite literally couldn’t jam everything in there. So where did that stuff stay? On the table. I would try to stack in neatly and shove it to the side when we ate meals, but that doesn’t really work. I was going crazy.

I’m happy to say that yesterday a new school storage area was created. It’s a roll-top cabinet my father made, and right now it’s in the dining area. There was all kinds of stuff in it, but somehow I managed to find new homes for all that stuff (sort of–as long as no one opens the doors underneath…) and make room for our supplies.

It took me about ten minutes. Honestly, I don’t know why I put things off so long. So everything has a home, and I’m happy.

Fabulous Find – Free NaNoWriMo Workbook Downloads for Elementary, Middle, and High School!

I’ve been eating, sleeping, and breathing NaNoWriMo right now. Okay, not really, but I am doing a bunch to prepare my novel for July. I have a solid outline–possibly the sturdiest I’ve ever had going into a writing project. I have a timeline going, which is a first for me.  I have also read and watched tons and tons of articles and videos on NaNo, writing techniques, writing snacks, and…well, you get the point.

NaNoWriMo’s Young Writer’s Workbooks. Free Download!

In my various travels through NaNoWorld, I found these free writing workbook downloads at the Young Writer’s Program website. I browsed through them, and they are pretty awesome. The homeschool mom part of me, though enjoying summer vacation, was thrilled!

There’s three different levels: elementary, middle school, and high school.  Each one has the same basic information, but it’s tailored a little differently for each grade. The elementary workbook is definitely for older elementary children. I think third grade might be a touch young,  but fourth or fifth grade is just right.

You can also purchase a copy if you would prefer. It’s totally up to you.

I hope you and your kiddos find these useful!

Scrivener Review–Great Computer Program for Writers and Students

Last November when I participated in my first NaNoWriMo, I tried out Scrivener, a writing program that was a sponsor for the event. As a perk for completing my word count and winning NaNoWriMo, I was able to purchase Scrivener at a discount. I would have purchased it anyway; I love it.

Click the picture to learn more about Scrivener. While you’re there, you can try out the free trial!

So what exactly is Scrivener? Here’s what their website has to say: Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.  

I can’t imagine writing without it. Let me tell you why.

1. When you start a new writing project, you can choose Blank, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Scriptwriting, or Miscellaneous.  You don’t have to set up your format–Scrivener does it for you. So far I have only used Fiction, so that’s what I’ll cover.

2. When you choose Fiction it gives you three options: Novel, Novel with Parts, or Short Story. I really appreciate the short story format when I write Flash Fiction.

3. Whether you choose the Novel option or the Novel with Parts, it will take you to a screen with a ‘bulletin board’ and a chapter already started for you. As you write your chapters, you simply add to your bulletin board. Once you are in a chapter, you can add scenes. Your character, setting, and notes are on the left hand side of the screen and easy to see and access at any time. 

4. You can label your Chapters and Scenes with their status: To Do, First Draft, Revised Draft, Final Draft, Title, or Done. This is such a great resource when you’re in the editing phase.

5. When your story or novel is complete,  Scrivener will compile everything for you and save it as a Word document, pdf, web page, and more.  While I’m writing, I will compile large chunks of my book, compile it as a Word document, and then e-mail it to my husband’s Kindle. It reads just like a book. It’s an easy way for him to give me feedback.

As many of you know, I homeschool my children. We’re still in the low end of elementary, and aren’t ready for a program like this…yet.  What a great resource this will be when they’re older.

Click here for several tutorial videos if you want to learn more. The very first video is a great introductory.

I love this product, and that’s why I’m doing a review.  I’m receiving no compensation from Scrivener. 

Planning, Procrastinating, and What I Want to Accomplish this Summer

I wish you could all meet my mother.  She is a woman who knows how to get things done. She recently moved to the lovely little mountain community of Eckert, Colorado.  The yard was big and beautiful…but needed a whole lot of work.  I don’t get up there as often as I would like, but she sends me pictures. You should see it now. Every time I speak with her she’s finished another little project.  New fences, painting, planting, weeding,  transplanting, she’s tackled them all. She’s a wonder. They’re putting in a green house soon. Seriously.

I, her daughter, am nothing like her in that respect. Nope, not me. I have projects all right, and I’m pretty handy with Pinterest, if I do say so myself, but I’m not so great with the action part of getting things done.



I’m sort of stuck in the planning stage. I love to plan. Oh, it just makes me so happy to sit down with my planner and dream of all the lovely things I’m going to accomplish. And after you plan it, you must highlight it with all kinds of colors according to category and importance. After that, you must make a list of everything you need, and that list has to be organized and categorized and amended fifty-billion times!

It’s the step after the list-making stage where I get stuck. It’s the doing.  I don’t know why, but sometimes it’s scary to start. Overwhelming, even. Maybe I take it too far, make the task too big. We’re not talking about remodeling a house here, people–we’re talking about small things like organizing a closet or cleaning out the fridge.

Once I start, if I ever start, I’m fine.  In fact, I usually enjoy whatever it is I’m doing. It’s like writing. Sometimes you stare at your computer screen, and you wonder, how am I going to turn this blank document into a story…a chapter…80,000 words? But then you’re clicking away at your keyboard, and you have no idea what you were so worried about.

We’re starting school again the third week in August. I have just two months to tackle my to-do list. The most important thing on that list is reorganizing our school area.  We have a fairly simple set up–a kitchen table and a bookcase–but toward the end of last year I came to the conclusion that wasn’t going to cut it for much longer.  My other big project is a book I’m writing. I’m at 50,000 words, and I would like to be finished around 80,000. As long as I don’t get distracted, I should have plenty of time.

There’s a few more little things I want to accomplish before the summer is over, like building a new bed for Weston, keeping up with the vegetable garden, and canning lots of summer produce.  I need to do quite a bit of freezer cooking, and I have a lot of sewing and soaping I want to get done.

I’m starting my lists and plans today, because frankly, I can’t live without them. This time I will progress past the planning to the doing stage. I’m thinking of starting with something really, really easy today–like organizing one shelf of the school bookshelf–just so I can check it off my list.  I figure that once several small items are checked off, I’ll have some real momentum to tackle the big stuff!

What are your summer projects or goals? How are you going to accomplish them?

Our Favorite Books from the 2013-2014 School Year

School is over! I can’t believe it. It truly feels like we just started. This year was our first with Sonlight. I’m smitten, and we’re definitely using it again next year. We used Core A for Weston (6/7) and Chelsea (4/5). We also used the Level 1 readers and Language Arts for Weston.

Here’s a few of our Sonlight favorites.

Weston’s Favorite:

This was our first read-aloud, and Weston chose it as his favorite.  I’m pretty sure he’ll be reading this to himself in the near future.

Chelsea’s Favorite:

This was one of our history books. Chelsea loved, loved, loved this book (we all did, actually).  I can’t tell you how many times I had to climb up Chelsea’s bed to find this next to her pillow before we started school.  If it wasn’t in Chelsea’s bedroom, it was in Weston’s where he had taken it to use as a guide to build Lego models. It has cute illustrations, and it’s very informative. I don’t agree with everything at the very beginning (timelines and such), but I feel that our Instructor’s guide touched on everything that needed a little extra discussion.

My Favorite:

My mother read this whole series to me when I was very young, and it was wonderful to share this book with my own kids. I only remembered a few things–like Laura getting her doll and the maple syrup candy–so it was like reading a whole new book. I learned so much! If you’re curious how people used to preserve meat or if you want to know how to make pale winter butter bright yellow, then you need to read this book!

For Science we did the God’s Design for Life Series. We had three books total: The World of Animals, The Human Body, and The World of Plants. I really loved these books, and the lessons are short and easy to understand.

We covered The World of Animals at the beginning of the year, and it was Weston and Chelsea’s favorite.


We used Horizons for math, and we’ll be using it again next year.  I definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a traditional math course.


In August when we started school, Weston was struggling with reading.  Sonlight’s language arts course started with the I Can Read It! readers. We trudged through the first book. It was painful, but he was learning. Then something wonderful happened in the second book. It started clicking. By the end of the second book, we were really making progress, and by the third book…magic happened. I can’t gush about these books enough.  One tip I received from a fellow Sonlight mama–read the story first, and then let them read to you. It’s not cheating, I promise. Weston can do it all by himself now, but he needed to hear what he was reading in the beginning.


A few more favorites:

These books weren’t part of Sonlight, but we enjoyed them.

Ah, I just love Splat. We read bunches of Splat books this year, and we loved them all.

I already reviewed this book here, but it’s so wonderful I had to add it to the list! Right now we’re using the checklists to find all the birds. I’ve already seen several local birds I’ve never seen before, and all because I didn’t know where to look. There are Wild About Birds books for different regions, too.

Chelsea adores ZooBorns. Seriously, these are cute.

Well, there ya go! We’ll be doing lots of summer reading, so we’ll post our favorites over the next few months.


A Gentle Answer Turns Away Wrath

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Proverbs 15:1


When I first read this verse, or more likely the first time this verse soaked in, it was on a poster in my aunt and uncle’s laundry room. We were on vacation and staying with them, and I’d just moved some clothes over to the dryer. I remember looking at it, and having this grand epiphany. Of course! These are words to live by.

You know what? They are. Oh my, are they ever. There are also really, really hard to follow.  Easy to remember, hard to follow. 

My son, my sweet son, is like a volcano.  When he’s upset he has massive bursts of anger, and then–just like that–he’s fine. But oh, help me, I have to get past the explosion without losing my cool as well. You see, I’m a volcano too. I think we all are in a way, but some of us are a little more fiery than others.

He’s vocal, and loud, and stubborn, and sometimes it’s really hard not to snap back.  Sometimes he’s just trying to get me to snap back. I know, I see it in his eyes, and I remember doing it to my mother when I was young.

Those times when I keep my cool and answer with a gentle answer, and with prayer those times are becoming much more frequent, he cools a little too.  It’s hard for him, I know. I remember, but he’s growing so much.

God is working in his life, and it’s amazing to watch. Sometimes it’s painful, but in a good way. It’s also scary that imperfect, flawed me is his mother. I’m so grateful we have the Word to guide us, because without it, I’d be completely lost.

Parts of a Story Free Printable Worksheet

Today I want to share with you my Parts of a Story Worksheet for young readers.  I believe reading comprehension is so important, and this is a great way to encourage children to pay attention to both  read alouds and the books they read themselves.  You can either have them draw a picture in each box, or they could write a simple sentence or two.

You can also have them use this printable as an outline for writing their own stories.  I love to encourage writing and creative thinking!

Click the picture and it will take you to the download. Have a great day!


Draw a Story

Draw a Story

Snow is only exciting for so long, and then it’s just cold and wet. My kiddos are good at entertaining themselves, but sometimes they need a little inspiration when they’ve been trapped inside so long. I told them to ‘pretend they were someone or something else, and draw me a story about yourself’. Worked like a charm. They were busy for at least thirty minutes, and even better–they were thinking like writers!

Frontier Cooking – Homeschool Pioneer Study

I’m very excited about tomorrow’s history lesson. Last week we began a short study on the American pioneers, and tomorrow we’re going to wrap it up. As a special treat, I’ve decided we’re going to have a Pioneer cuisine day. I found a great website that lists sample menus from the time period we’re looking at. Here’s what tomorrow is going to look like.

Breakfast: Hot Cakes, Sausages, and Fried Potatoes

Dinner: Beef Barley Soup, Roast Turkey, Cranberry Sauce, and Stewed Carrots

Dessert: Apple Pie

Tea: Corn Bread and Stewed Fruit

This menu looks like a feast to me!

So how did I put it all together? I pulled meals from the sample menu, and then I looked below at lists of available foods. Available foods would change with the seasons, but meat was plentiful due to wild turkeys, deer, elk, fish, and prairie chickens. Fruit pies were listed as a dessert, and fresh apples were down the list under Wagon Train Cookery, so I went with apple pie. Beef soup was listed as a possible soup, and I saw that barley was on the list of available grains. Instead of roasting a giant turkey, I believe we’ll roast a turkey breast. I’d love to do all this on a wood stove or fire, but our modern kitchen appliances will have to do.

I can’t imagine cooking like this every single day! Especially when everything had to be made from scratch and without the conveniences we have today. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it!

If you’re interested in learning more about Pioneer/Frontier Cuisine, visit

I also had to share this ‘recipe’ I found from Chronicles of the Old WestCoffee – One handful of coffee for every cup of water. 

That’s some strong coffee!

Christmas Books – Turkey Claus and Project

Turkey Claus by Wendi Silvano


Turkey Claus is all about a turkey who travels to the North Pole to personally deliver his Christmas wish list to Santa. There’s only one thing on his list–he doesn’t want to be eaten for Christmas dinner. The book is cute and funny, and we really enjoyed it.

After we read the book, we dressed up Turkey in his Santa disguise! I used an online coloring page for the the turkey. I didn’t use a template for the Santa outfit, but it was pretty easy to wing it. Ha ha! Wing it–get it? He’s a turkey. Sorry…

And yes, my son is wearing a Bumblebee costume. Why? I have no idea.

Our Turkey Claus Project!
Our Turkey Claus Project!