Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Homeschool Update

Photo from June

Our Fall has not just been full of blueberry picking, baking and hiking, we actually did start homeschooling, too. I guess we can consider our outings field trips or PE, right!? ;-)

Our four older kids are in 7th grade and Little Miss is in Kindergarten. I haven't taken an official beginning of the school year photo yet {mom fail}.


You can click on the logo to view Monarch.

We are still mostly a Monarch-family. Mr. T does all five subjects (Language Arts, Math, Science, Bible and History & Geography) plus a Health elective on his computer. He works very independently, and wanted everything to be Monarch. We respected his wishes, and he is doing great.

Monarch is great for the independent learner - the lessons are all together, the program is easy to use, and even though it is a new program, we rarely come across any bugs any more (an issue in the first months last year). Monarch grades most of the problems for you, so that is a major plus for a busy mom. I check my student's daily work report every day, and any time they didn't get 100% A, I check why. I don't expect them t get perfect scores, but I want to check if the computer made a mistake, or if my student didn't learn the concept. Sometimes I need to mark problems to be reworked.

Missy uses Monarch for everything except Bible and Art. She has been doing very well in her studies (much better than she did when our children attended a Christian school - I think school then was mainly a social activity for her).

Missy's, Mr. A's and Mr. D's elective this year is Family and Consumer Science. It is a fantastic elective on basic life skills like housekeeping, cooking, finances etc. Mr. T is planning to take it in the Spring - I want him to, this is so excellent. As a teacher, I decided to take quizzes and tests out, I want my students to have fun with this class.


Click on the photo to view Apologia

Our Bible curriculum this year is Apologia's Who Is God? And Can I Really Know Him?
I am perfectly happy with Monarch's Bible Curriculum, and highly recommend it, but we won this book last year in a giveaway, and it also looks very good, so this year we are going with it. Some days we read the lesson together, and some days my students do the lesson independently. We have notebooks for everyone, and practice handwriting by writing Bible verses down. We also have a Who Is God coloring book for Little Miss to follow along (which at the moment she isn't too interested in).


Mr. D and Mr. A were not enjoying science last year, so I started reviewing various science curricula for them. Missy and Mr. T chose to stick with Monarch, which was fine with me. It looks like we will be doing a mix of science programs this year. Today they started Science Jim's Live Web Class on Newton's Laws. They missed the first two live classes, but were able to watch them online. This is what the description says on Science Jim's website:

Join Science Jim and explore Newton’s groundbreaking discoveries as we discuss gravity, momentum, acceleration and all three of Newton’s laws of motion. What does Newton’s first law have to do with getting ketchup out of a bottle? Why should all amusement parks be called NewtonLand? What do Newton’s laws have to do with me riding my skateboard (and wearing my helmet)? This class will make you realize how key Newton’s laws are to everyday life and will have you seeing them everywhere! The lessons in the free Bite-Size Physics: Mechanics eBook accompany each online class and are packed with experiments and activities that the students are encouraged to do as "lab work" after each class. We will discuss the "lab findings" the following week. Each class is recorded so you can watch them whenever, and as often as, you’d like.

This is a 9 week class, meeting once a week until November 8th. The students are able to communicate with Science Jim during the class via chat, and ask questions. Mr. A & Mr. D loved it!! Missy decided to join in also, and all three of them reported they participated in the class. Yay! I'm sure Mr. Science Jim can teach Newton's Laws way better than this homeschooling mom... We'll most likely continue Science Jim's classes in the Spring, too. Mr. A has his eye on the Physics of Flight classes. It is wonderful to see the boys excited about science again!

Before we found out about Science Jim, we did one month of Supercharged Science. There are great videos and lessons available, but we did find it a little confusing what to do when. We'll still use some of their material, there is a free live tele-class next week on sound and sonic vibrations we signed up for.

We also signed up to access Robert Krampf's The Happy Scientist videos and experiments. Via Homeschool Buyers Co-Op the fee was only $10. These videos are short, and the kids have found them interesting.


The girls are using Atelier for their art classes. I discovered Atelier at a homeschool convention in Virginia this summer, and purchased a trial size curriculum. It had six lessons, and the girls finished them in a week. I was thrilled to buy a full curriculum for this year with a discount through Homeschool Buyers Co-Op. I gave the boys an option to participate, but they weren't interested. Atelier is a dvd-based curriculum where you watch the teacher give an art lesson, and step-by-step instructions, and you watch, listen, then pause the dvd to do the steps yourself. It is designed to be used at home or at a homeschool co-op. We think it's fantastic!

Click on the image to read about Acorn or to purchase

The boys have been interested in graphic arts for a while, and we have been looking at various photo or image-editing programs that wouldn't break the bank or be too difficult to use. This past weekend we purchased Acorn, and the boys are all learning how it works.


This Fall we didn't come up to Maine early enough to sign up for soccer, so they are not involved in sports at the moment. Mr. T is bummed about that, but is hoping to sign up later in the year for basketball or something else. We know all five of our kids will be skiing this winter, we were able to buy very inexpensive season passes for them. Plus we all enjoy snowmobiling, sledding & ice skating.

Missy started both Tap classes and Jazz classes, both for the first time. She is very excited, and is hoping to make friends through these dance classes. (We are still pretty new in this area - bought our camp in April, but traveled most of the summer.)

At the moment our PE consists daily walks from our rental house to the red cabin at our camp - and back. Some days twice or three times. Our camp is going through major rebuilding and is not fit for living (we tried). The small red cabin is almost ready, and has better internet than our rental house, so after breakfast and morning chores my four older students take their lap top computers and head to the red cabin to do school. It is also the Captain's office. It's maybe a 10 minute walk downhill to the cabin, but a rigorous 20-30 minute hike back up. Little Miss and Mama make the trek daily too (trying to get in shape here!). Plus we are really trying to go hiking most weeks until the snow flies. Which, we hear, could be as early as October.


Little Miss got her first bike this Fall!

I feel quite unorganized with Little Miss' Kindergarten Curriculum, but once I sat down to write down things we do, I realized she is actually doing quite a bit. At the moment we work together after breakfast, some days she wants to do school for an hour, some days only 10 minutes. We might do something later that day too, but not necessarily. I am trying to keep it fun and go at her pace.

In addition to PE, Bible and Art, we all visit the library, usually once a week, but sometimes more often. Little Miss loves books, so we read to her every day - usually at bedtime. Her favorite books at the moment are Berenstain Bears.

Image Link to B&N

We have three Kindergarten books we are working on: Phonics, Reading and Math. They are by Active Minds, but must be discontinued as I couldn't find them online anymore. The picture above is from the same series, but our books are Kindergarten ones.

Little Miss enjoys working on the computer, just like the big siblings. Our favorite Kindergarten (we used some of these for preschool, too) websites are Starfall and Explode the Code. She also goes on Pbskids.org, Nickjr.com and Disney websites. Most of them have educational games.


Overall I think our year has started well. After our stressful move from New Hampshire I felt weary to start our year, but homeschooling has brought discipline and routine to our days. We are starting to get into a good rhythm, and each child has daily chores around the house. As this is our third year of homeschooling I feel more confident than when we first started. An occasional horrible, terrible, very bad day doesn't mean the whole year is doomed (or even a few of them). Those are the days when a field trip is the best thing for all of us, or a pajama day.

And because we homeschool - we can plan another family trip in the Mothership - after all, we've been staying put now for almost a month :)

PS. I am not being compensated for mentioning any of these homeschooling products. I am just sharing what we are using and what works for us. None of the links benefit our family in any way.


  1. I love your blog. I love the way you are living life. Thank you for taking the time to share these things. I'm going to check out Monarch, never heard of it before.

  2. all of this looks so interesting and exciting. but i must admit, the idea of organizing it all also seems daunting. though you make it look do-able... and fun! thanks for sharing. you're giving me some ideas that i've filed away for future use. ;)

  3. Oh, I'm so glad to see the review of Monarch. I've heard mixed reviews but nothing quite as thorough as your treatment of the program. Thanks! I will also go look into the science program you discussed!

  4. Thank you, April <3
    Monarch is definitely worth checking out!

    jdavis2, it does look kind of organized, doesn't it? It's a miracle - I am not a homeschool mom by nature :-D

    Malea, Monarch is very good & has been a lifesaver for us. I think Science Jim will work well for us too.

  5. You gave me some ideas. That art curriculum especially looked interesting. Thanks for sharing that. You put together a pretty awesome curriculum this year!

  6. Anna, the girls love Atelier so much they did three lessons today :)

  7. I found this helpful, too...might have similar strengths/weaknesses as you when it comes to home schooling. ??? ;) Blessings!

  8. Jerusha, I'm glad you found it helpful. It's good to stop and evaluate on an ongoing basis. It's time for us to tweak our homeschooling a bit, again.. Blessings to you too<3