On Hiatus

GEDC1112This is the post that has been percolating in my brain for a long, long time.

This is the post where I decide to come clean.

I've been living a lie and now is the time to let you all know about it.

If you've read this blog for longer than a few months or have followed on Facebook, then you know that for a significant part of my life I have been Catholic. For the longest time it was "all things Catholic" around here. I'm here to say, today, that this is no longer the case. I've fallen away, and for the first time in a while, I'm actually OK with it.

It has been nearly two years since I've attended Mass. Two years, this coming Christmas. Hard to believe, but it's true. For a while, I was really torn about it....identifying as Catholic and feeling awful Catholic guilt. If you've been through this, then you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you haven't and you're Catholic, well, count your blessings. <smile> I think it's perfectly normal to go though these things. To have doubts, to have "dark nights of the soul" which may last a long time.

There isn't any one thing I can point to that made me stop going. I think it was just that I came to a realization that, instead of being the hypocrite in the pew (saying one thing, yet doing another), I could be myself out of the pew. I have no issues with the Church; I have no issues with those within the Church. I have plenty of issues with myself, to the point that I could no longer just sit back and hope for things to work out; to the point that I could no longer instruct children in ways that I was so unsure about myself.

If you're reading this and you're stunned and don't know what to say, then please don't say anything. Feel free to pray for me. Feel free to put out all the positive thoughts and vibes into the universe heading in my direction. Don't judge, don't condemn. Just love. I think Jesus put it best in the Gospel of John:

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (Jn. 13:34)

Because, really, when we truly love one another in an unselfish, sacrificial way; when we come to the table with ourselves, naked and bare, without expectation of the future, without the weight of the past, truly in the moment, that is when the world begins to change. That radical act is rarely, if ever, done in the pew. That radical act is carried out in the slums, in the heart of our families, in the world.

On a somewhat related note, I feel I should explain the lack of blogging (yet again, lol). While I've been battling my "demons" (so to speak), I have kind of come to the realization of a  few other things.

I enjoy living my life as it's lived.

I used to be compelled to document it, to share it on Facebook, to Tweet about it, to Instagram it. This commentary, by the way, is in no means a condemnation of those who share things via those platforms....this is only about me and how I view the world. I joke sometimes about how if I didn't Facebook/Tweet/Instagram/Pinterest it...then it didn't happen! Please, please, please see the humor in that statement! We know it isn't true, right? It's just that sometimes, especially those of us used to sharing things on blogs and connected through social media, it's easy to get hung up on documenting the moment instead of really living it, really experiencing it, being truly present.

Take a moment and get out from behind the phone, from behind the screen. You'll thank yourself for it. I guarantee it. <smile>

And, thus, the compulsion the be the homeschool blogger, to be the mom blogger, to be the whatever-is-taking-me-away-from-life-right-now blogger has waned in a big way. I don't know if I'll continue blogging here or if it will fade into the distance. We'll continue homeschooling until the little guy is done in another 10 years or so. But I no longer feel compelled to let the whole world know about it. And, if I get a mad hare up my butt, you can be darn sure I'll write a book about it instead! <smile>

If you've gotten this far, thanks for reading. Hopefully you'll continue to follow on social media because I do occasionally post fun or interesting things there.

Be good and live life!

Medieval and Renaissance Music Appreciation

MedrenplansWell, as promised, I have compiled music appreciation resources to complement the study of Medieval and Renaissance history.

I decided to have the units go along with the way the units are divided in the Connecting With History, Volume 3 curriculum (affiliate link). The numbering of the units follows the older edition that I have here at home, so if you're using the newer edition, please note that the numbering will be off by one unit.

I have made the units available as a PDF document, but will also set up the unit links here on this page. That way, if a link goes dead (as YouTube links are known to do), I can make the changes here first and eventually update the PDF and post the updated document in the downloads section of the blog.


Download Music appreciation for Volume 3

 You may also be interested in the playlist I compiled for this study on YouTube: CWH Volume 3 Music Appreciation: Medieval/Renaissance


Unit 1: Early to mid 11th c.: Review/Vikings



YouTube videos:

 Early Music Listening (Norton Anthology, needs free RealPlayer download)

Harmonia Early Music (needs free RealPlayer download)


 For Puchase: (affiliate links)


Unit 2: Late 11th C. and 12th Century (1070-1200): The Crusades, Feudalism, Knighthood, Chivalry, Military orders



YouTube Videos

Early Music Listening (RealPlayer)

Harmonia Early Music (RealPlayer)


Unit 3: 13th Century: (1201-1300) Religious Orders, Education, Magna Charta



YouTube Videos

Hymns: (St. Thomas Aquinas)

Early Music Listening (RealPlayer)

Harmonia Early Music (RealPlayer)

As a review of all the changes of early medieval music through the 13th century, watch part 1 of BBC’s “Story of Music” (up to 26:15)


Unit 4: 14th Century: (1301-1400) Castles, Royalty, Daily Life of Ordinary People, Cathedrals



YouTube Videos

Early Music Listening (RealPlayer)

Harmonia Early Music (RealPlayer)


Unit 5: 15th Century: (1401-1500) Beginning of the Renaissance – Artists of the Renaissance, Early Explorers



YouTube Videos

Early Music Listening (RealPlayer)

Harmonia Early Music (RealPlayer)



Unit 6/7: 16th Century: Protestant Revolt/Reformation, Catholic Reformation in Europe, Jesuit Missionaries to Japan and China, Continuing Exploration of New World



YouTube Videos

 Early Music Listening (RealPlayer)

Harmonia Early Music (RealPlayer)

Other Resources:


I hope you find these resources useful!

REVIEW: Homeschool Tracker Online

Disclosure: I have been given a complimentary subscription to Homeschool Tracker Online in exchange for my honest review. I would review for free since I truly like this product, but I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth!


HSTReviewOne of my favorite summer activities is planning for the upcoming homeschool year.

I know. I'm strange.

Seriously, though. Once I gave myself permission years ago to plan to my heart's content and allow myself the freedom to veer from those well-thought-out plans during the year (or dump them altogether), summer planning has always been something I have looked forward to with much excitement.

It wasn't always that way.

When I first started out, I made the mistake of purchasing and trying to use a paper teacher planner. The result? Lots...I mean LOTS...of erasing and a great deal of frustration. "What's wrong with me?" I thought. "Why can't I seem to follow through with these great plans?"

The reason?

Life happens!

In the midst of homeschooling, life will inevitably happen. Kids get sick, family comes to visit, an awesome opportunity to travel across the country pops up, and suddenly those beautiful, perfect plans get shoved aside. The difficulty with a paper planner is that if you set up your whole year, or even just a whole term, you are suddenly faced with the task of erasing those plans and moving them to a time when homeschooling will (hopefully) be more convenient. And then, another kid gets sick, somebody dies, you have a baby....and, the whole nasty cycle starts over again.

Beautiful planners abound in the market, many now specially tailored to the homeschool family (which wasn't the case when we started this journey 14 years ago). Admittedly, I consider them each and every summer. I'm a visual learner, so there is great appeal to a graphically attractive planner with all the extra pretties and do-dads. I get that. However, time and again, I'm able to talk myself out of that pointless purchase.

Homeschool Tracker

I have been a long-time user of Homeschool Tracker. I started using their Basic edition software, but quickly upgraded to Homeschool Tracker Plus (HST+) because I wanted the ability to look at shared lesson plans. This sharing was done by joining and posting to a variety of Yahoo e-mail groups. Aha! No more need to re-invent the wheel! I would create assignments and print out sheets for my kids. At one point, I was printing weekly sheets for six of our seven children. That's a LOT of paper! Needless to say, once HST came out with their online version, I was thrilled to check it out.

For me, the beauty of this online version is the ability to store your data in the cloud which means plans and assignments can be accessed wherever you are. I also like the ability to create multiple logins so that parents and children can have access to assignments. With five very online-savvy children still at home, this is a definitely an attractive feature!

Screenshot 2015-08-05 12.38.21While setup may take some time, especially for those who haven't used the most recent software edition of HST+, it is made easy by the online help and the video tutorials. Once you have set up your school year, students, subjects and courses, you can add to your library the resources you have or plan to use in the future. By simply inserting the ISBN of the resource, the Title, publishing info, and thumbnail are updated and automatically filled in for you. This is an awesome time-saver! For those who have used a previous edition of HST, the database is easily transferred to the online version by sending an e-mail with your zipped  database to customer support. I had my online version up and running within about ten minutes of sending in my e-mail after subscribing.

While there are many similarities between the software and online versions of this product, there are some differences which make for a slight learning curve in the transition. Once again, the online help is indispensable in that aspect.  I'm am currently finding some pleasant differences in the reports that are available. For instance, the Course List shows not only the information that you included upon setting up the course (description, etc.), but also shows the resources that you have designated to use when setting up the library. That is a very cool feature! For those who need to document attendance, there is a report for that.

The report that I refer to most frequently, though, is the transcript. Having sent two children off to college, this report has been a wonderful feature of the program. And while I prefer to format our transcripts in a more visually-pleasing manner and input the data into my own template, the information that is generated (GPA, credits, etc.) is invaluable.

And lest you think that HST is for those who utilize a more traditional school-at-home approach, you'll be pleased to know it can also be useful for those who are relaxed or who unschool. I know several uschoolers who use HST for record-keeping. They don't use the planning portion, but rather, keep track of what their children have done through unschooling "after the fact" on a daily or weekly basis--a kind of "planning in reverse", if you will. And I, as a relaxed homeschooler, use it to plan in a more traditional style, but assign in a more flexible manner. For those of my children who like to see things planned for the week, they have access to those assignments. And for those who like to flit around in their studies, I simply input afterwards from plans I may have made or what that child may have done "on the fly."

HSTOnline has several subscription levels available: monthly, annual, and two-year. If you're unsure if online planning is for you, you can give it a try for a month for only $7.50. The annual subscription is equal to the cost of many of those fancy planners out there, with the added benefit that once you have your database built, all you need to do in subsequent years is renew your subscription and add a few new things. Voila! No more erasing or rearranging sticky notes in a planner. If an assignment is missed, it's easily moved to the next convenient date. That feature alone, in my opinion, is well worth the price of subscription.

I wholeheartedly recommend HSTOnline. No longer do I feel like we're "behind" because life happened. Instead, we are right where we are supposed to be and when the time comes, we just do the next thing, all thanks to Homeschool Tracker!

Book Review: Homeschooling High School--It's Not as Hard as You Think!

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Please support a fellow homeschooling mom and download your copy today!


I recently had the pleasure to read through Meredith Henning's latest e-book Homeschooling High School--It's Not as Hard as You Think!

Homeschooling High School-It's Not as Hard as You Think by Meredith Henning of Sweetness-n-Light

Having homeschooled for 14 years and seen our two oldest children successfully make their way to college,  I wish I had had a book like this when we were embarking upon the high school years at home.  And, unlike our homeschooling predecessors, while I did have the internet at my disposal, it was often a lengthy process to wade through the amount of information available, often resulting in overthinking the way we chart our course through the high school years.

Meredith begins in Part One with a discussion of helpful resources and a review of the various methods, all the while stressing that “The number one key to success in planning for high school is to include your student in the process.”  This is advice I often give to parents who are unsure about homeschooling during the high school years. If the student isn’t involved in the planning process, it’s difficult for them to “own” their high school learning experience.

In Part Two of the book, she examines the various ways a student can go about homeschooling their high school subjects, including parent-directed courses, online classes, co-ops, dual-enrollment, CLEP exams, and others. Each subject area is given careful consideration, weighing how many high school credits are usually required by universities, with suggestions for helpful pre-planned curricula, ideas for living books, and online or DVD courses to look into. This is interspersed with anecdotes of how her oldest child pursued a certain course of study during the high school years.

Part Three is concerned with record keeping and transcripts as well as looking into the college application process and preparing for the ACT/SAT exams.  Meredith’s general advice is to begin the whole process early, which is advice I wholeheartedly agree with. Do NOT wait until your child’s junior year to begin compiling a transcript and prepare for college entrance exams. 

In Part Four, she broadens the discussion for those whose children may not be sure they want to attend college after high school. She includes some helpful questions to help parents guide a teen in figuring out what path they might wish to pursue. As a parent with one child beginning high school who says he has no desire to attend college, I found these questions particularly helpful, since it will help us collaborate on a plan for his high school studies. 

The best section of the book, however, is the “Day in a Life” section at the conclusion of the book. Readers are able to get a peek into the lives of several teens who express what it’s like to homeschool during the high school years and what they like most about it. Too often you only get the parents’ perspective when you read about homeschooling high school, so this was refreshing to read input from teens that have done high school at home.

Throughout the book there are helpful links to books, curricula, and websites that will make the planning process run smoothly. Meredith also included several checklists for planning in the Appendix of the book. For $7.95, this book is a great value and an indispensable help for those wanting to homeschool through high school. As one who has been through it, I agree that “It’s Not as Hard as You Think!”

The  book is available for download at Meredith's blog, Sweetness-n-Light.  Be sure to check out the rest of her musings on homeschooling and life, and don't forget to follow her on Twitter!

All Good Things must come to an end...

2013-04-13 20.05.48...or the "What I did for summer" post...

I had every intention of being better at this consistent blogging stuff. 


I did.

And then summer came and it hit like a ton of bricks and I once again succumbed to that phenomenon that hits towards the end of June when we hit the height of baseball season. You know...that overwhelming feeling that I'm treading water just fast enough to keep from drowning.

2015-06-23 16.26.29I know it sounds like a very dismal prospect, but I have to clarify that when I'm in the midst of it, I'm actually loving it. It's not until I've had a week of no baseball and I begin to process the previous 6-8 weeks that it hits me, that "Wow, this is what those weeks were like. And I made it through them once again."

Now I'm sitting on the shore and I get to breathe and relax and essentially turn off my brain for a while. I don't have to run anyone anywhere if  I don't want to; I can park myself in front of the TV/computer and binge-watch whatever is the latest obsession (it's Poldark, in case you're wondering); I can plop down in my favorite cozy chair and lose myself in the other-world of a good book.

What I'm Reading

2015-07-25 15.00.47If you're connected to me on GoodReads, you'll see that I've spent a good deal of time reading. Part of beauty of travel baseball is that although you're at the whim of the baseball schedule, you tend to have a decent amount of "down time" and not nearly the number of distractions of home (you know, like housework, LOL). Here's a list of the books I've gone through this summer (note: there are some affiliate links following):

I am also currently reading the following:

I like to have a few books going at once, since I never know what kind of mood I'm going to be in. And if you're a keen observer, you'll see that about half of the books on these lists are related to the medieval period in history. Which leads me to my next thought...

Planning for the new school year

So I've taken some time to just chill, but that's not to say I haven't been thinking. Baseball season officially finished last weekend for us as a family and I gave myself several days of no-thinking before I turned my mind to planning for the new school year.

Actually, there are several things I need to wrap up from the previous school year before I can move forward for real. One major thing is getting the kids' assessments done. I think we will be using Ohio Homeschool Assessments again this year. We did assessments through Becky a few years ago and it was a really positive experience--a learning experience for me as a homeschool mom. If you're in need of an assessor, click on over an give Becky a try. She gives great, thorough feedback!

2014-02-28 13.07.57I've also really been considering stepping up our game a little bit here. I really would like us all to dive into studying Medieval History and since I have the pertinent guides from RC History, it would be a shame for them to just sit on the shelf. I have been making some changes, since I can never, ever seem to use a curriculum as it's written: I've switched out some books (I prefer to use secular texts for the core readings) and have looked up some fun/interesting videos and movies to watch.

I've even started working on a Medieval/Renaissance music history plan to go with the history units. I hope to publish these amendments and lists before we start back to school.

2014-08-07 13.54.57Science is another topic I've been  thinking about a lot recently. I'm torn between using a textbook approach for Biology with supplementary work from Biology Corner, and a more "living books" approach as suggested here and here.  I had come up with a multi-level life science unit for K-8 several years ago, so I might tinker with that and include some high school stuff so we're all on the same page. What I'd really like is a relaxed, meaningful (mindful?) approach that implements a health dose of nature study along with some serious lab work.


And, of course, planning means actually planning...not just thinking about planning! After many years using the Homeschool Tracker Plus software to help keep track of the kids' learning and generate transcripts for those who have moved on to bigger and better things (oh, do I have a story to tell you there...but...wait!), I finally took the plunge and purchased an online membership. It's very similar to using the software (in some ways it's easier), but what I like the most is that the kids will be able to access their assignments online! And if you are assigning things that are online, like YouTube videos or Khan Academy or some other educational website, the links are clickable from the assignment page. No more wasted paper! Hooray!

Preparing for College

As you may know, we now have two high school graduates, which means the next several weeks will be devoted to getting them ready to head off to college. Julia, our oldest, will be starting her junior year at Bowling Green State University. John was supposed to be heading off to play baseball at the University of Akron, but those plans have changed.

We were hit with a devastating blow about two weeks ago. The head coach e-mailed all the parents of the U. of Akron baseball team to say that the president of the college was eliminating its baseball program.  We're still incredulous that a Division I school would pull such a trick. Thankfully as an incoming freshman, our son has had plenty of options. After much consideration, John is going to take advantage of playing JUCO (jr. college/community college) baseball in California. He's flying out to meet with Glendale Community College next week for orientation and to meet with the coaching staff.

As he put it, he wouldn't want to spend the rest of his life wondering "what if" if he didn't take advantage of playing baseball in a warm-weather area. If it doesn't work out for him, he can come back home and start over...but at least he will have tried it. We're praying this whole thing is a blessing in disguise and that God has bigger and better plans for our son! I just could've used a good 6-12 months to wrap my head (and my heart) around a cross-country move. Such an enormous leap of faith for all of us. We are so incredibly thankful to the baseball community who have been so supportive of John through this process. Baseball family ROCKS!

So, I think that pretty much brings you up to date. Baseball is done and we have a few weeks' reprieve before we ship the two young adults out. I'm sure the time will go by in the blink of an eye, just like the past two months have. Hopefully this means I'll be a little more consistent with posting and sharing documents that I have created.

Please remember, that although I don't always post and share here, I do try to peek into the blog's Facebook page a couple of times a week to share new and interesting things relating to homeschooling. Be sure to follow me there!


A Little Bit of Nature Study

The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Comstock is a staple for those who follow the philosophy of Charlotte Mason in home education. Comstock was born in upstate New York and attended Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Since I'm currently nearby in Cooperstown, NY, I couldn't help but think about the author of this most handy resource when I was doing my own informal nature study this morning on the property of the home we're renting for the week. The book, which is probably about 3 inches thick, is also available for viewing online here and there are a number of websites that give guidance in how to implement the book in your homeschool nature studies.  My favorites are the page at Charlotte Mason Help and the Outdoor Hour Challenge.

2015-06-24 11.04.04I grew up in what we called "upstate" NY, but what true upstaters would likely call "downstate." We called it upstate to differentiate from what most people thought of when you say you're from New York: the city. So, we'd clarify with the modifier (often said with indignant emphasis) upstate New York. The emphasis signified that we weren't those city folks, the ones who come up in the fall to clog up the local highways and byways taking photos of the vibrant colored mountains and hills. My childhood consisted of playing in the woods, making up imaginary games where pine needles were spaghetti and pine cones were meatballs, and my house was a lean-to made of fallen tree limbs and hemlock branches. My brother, cousins, and I would forage for wild native treats like woodland strawberries and blackberries. I was even so bold to try the tangy red berries of a sumac tree (which scared my poor mother to pieces, thinking that the local trees with the fuzzy red berries were poison sumac)! And sometimes, in a wild streak of rebellion, we'd take off down to the bottom of our dead end road to the stream that was too close to the highway for our parents' comfort and try our hand at catching fish.  Now, as an adult, I live in a subdivision and my kids are probably more "citified" than I'd prefer them to be. Thankfully, our property is set on 1.5 acres of a nicely wooded lot, with several more unoccupied acres of forest behind us. We also have a creek that borders our property, so the kids at least have a chance to explore a little like I did, without the danger of trespassing.

2015-06-24 11.00.50This rental home set on a wooded hill on Otsego Lake reminds me a lot of my childhood home. I spent the morning identifying several plants and trees that were familiar to me, but whose names had escaped me. Thankfully there are a number of handy smartphone apps that helped with identification while I was out walking. Here you see a collection (r to l) of Eastern Hemlock pinecones (small), mature and immature White Pine cones, and Red Pine cones. (I like the green one, which I found close to the house).

2015-06-24 10.43.55This plant is growing all around the house and I remember it from my childhood. My mom used to call it "skunk cabbage", which always confused me because there was never anything smelly about the plant. I now know she was mistaken in that name. It is actually a giant Burdock plant and this plant's leaves are about 2 feet long! The plant can grow up to a few feet in height and sprout a spiny purple flower (similar in some ways to thistle) which then leaves a burr seedhead.

2015-06-24 10.41.38


The burrs were apparently the inspiration for the manufacture of a popular hook and loop fastener.




2015-06-24 10.50.22

Plants aren't the only things I've identified around here. We have seen these insects on the window screens every morning. I knew they weren't crane flies since I knew they looked like giant mosquitoes.  I suspected that these were the "shad flies" that my uncle used to talk about and my suspicion was confirmed by a quick look up online. They are also known as May Flies.

2015-06-24 09.40.21And of course, I can't forget the chipmunks! They are plentiful on the property and are fun to listen to as the "chip" to one another. Sorry the photo of Mr. Chips here is not very clear. They are hard to catch posing and I was able to get this shot only because I had been sitting on a stump, identifying a plant when I looked up and saw him. We have chipmunks in the greater Cincinnati area, but the only times I see them on our property is when one of the cats has made a kill.


2015-06-23 16.26.29On the baseball front, the 12U Cincy Flames continue to do well. They won all 6 of their regular pool play games, most of which were no-hitter, shut-outs finished in four innings. Our young man hit a homerun during their one night game. The team is the 6 seed heading into the tournament bracket games. With such a high seed, they get 4 "byes" before playing later tonight. The weather has been gorgeous and cool, with the exception of a brief downpour during yesterday afternoon's game. I hope they play well in their bracket, but I'm really looking forward to heading a little south to visit my family for a few days.


Cooperstown (yet again)

2015-06-22 08.01.08Good Morning from the Lake of Shining Waters...

I know, I know. It's name is Otsego Lake and it's nickname around these parts is "Glimmerglass." While "Glimmerglass" is almost an Anne-ish nickname, when I first came to this rental home, all I could think of was "the lake of shining waters"; and so, that is what it will be in my mind. After all, I just recently finished reading the second and third books of the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery, so Anne's poetic nickname is fresh in my mind. From where I sit, I can hear blue jays raucously calling to one another from the tall pines above while the chipmunks chip happily in the forest undergrowth below.

I'm here in Cooperstown, NY in the region that is not north enough to be Adirondack and not south enough to be Catskills, but still hilly and beautiful and rustic. It's called the Leatherstocking region (named thus for the leather breeches the frontiersmen in the area wore in the 18th century) and was the home to James Fenimore Cooper, author of Last of the Mohicans.  Cooperstown is probably best known, though, for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

2015-06-19 19.03.27Our reason for being here is definitely baseball-related. In fact, it is our third time to visit the area for strictly baseball reasons. Our 12-year-old son is playing baseball at the Cooperstown Dreams Park, a tournament that is run as a summer camp for around two months, hosting hundreds of teams from across the US and Canada for a week-long run. The teams stay in barracks with their coaches and essentially eat, sleep, and breath baseball 24/7.  For a kid who lives to play baseball, this is a dream come true!

JohnOur oldest son (pictured here, age 13), who is college-baseball-bound this fall, went here in 2007 when they still did a week of 10U baseball, and then again in 2009 as a 12U player. Needless to say, the whole Cooperstown Dreams Park experience has become "old hat" for us as a family, but seeing them play is still as much fun as it was the first time.



2015-06-21 10.58.50Our current 12-year-old's team did very well on their first day of games. They won both games, scored 25 runs--4 of which were hit out of the park--and didn't allow their opponents to score any runs. This has placed them at the top of the standings list after the first day, which likely means there will be a buzz around camp that they are the team to beat. We'll see what today's games have in store for the boys and hope they perform to the best of their abilities.


In our down time we have visited Glimmerglass State Park (which is almost directly across the lake from our rental home) and attempted to find a place to fish. Tomorrow is supposed to be stormy, so the Dreams Park has shifted the game schedule so more games will be played today while the weather is fair. We'll find something touristy to do in our down time tomorrow.

Until then...

2015-06-20 12.49.24 2015-06-20 12.53.25 2015-06-20 13.08.21

Geography Fun (how we do it in our relaxed homeschool)

2015-04-21 14.57.23The high school baseball season has come to an end for us. There were at least two straight weeks where our son was playing games six days straight. Add to that two other boys who play ball, our oldest daughter moving back home for the summer after being at college, doctor and dentist appointments, and sundry other children who needed food, clothing, and loving attention, and you'll understand why blogging once again got pushed to the back burner.

Please note: this post contains affiliate links for which I earn a small commission should you choose to click through and make purchases. Many thanks for that small kindness!



I do!

I think it first started when we took a trip across country when I was in fifth grade to deposit my older brother at college in Utah. I was allowed to use the atlas to figure out where we were going and I perused it often to help pass the time on some very long drives. So, it's no surprise that once we started homeschooling, our first purchases included wall maps and a globe.

Our home has long been a place where geography has been an intriguing subject. However, we have never used a formal curriculum. Instead, we have made geography a staple in our everyday lives, through conversations, living books, home decor, travel to other places, and--above all--play.

Our dining room (that's no longer a dining room) is the place where the maps are hung and where we have several types of globes. It's also where my awesome homemade map table now stands. This table has proven very useful in creating some geography games for the kids. We have had two inspiring geography products for a while now, and I thought they'd lend themselves to some games:

  • Safari World Landmarks TOOB
  • Landmark Flashcards (these were the ones I found at my local Target store in the $1 section. Check there when the back to school sales start coming around. National Geographic also used to sell similar cards as well as Rand-McNally, but all I can find is way overpriced used ones online)

2015-05-19 08.42.05

The first game is setting the TOOB Landmarks on their proper places on the map.

You can see how crowded Europe and Egypt got, as the bulk of this TOOB was European landmarks. If you click on the photo, you'll see the landmarks include Big Ben, Stonehenge, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Colosseum, the Parthenon, the Pyramids at Giza, and the Sphinx.

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The Asian landmarks include the Taj Mahal, Buddha of Lantau, and the Great Wall of China. The set is rounded out with the Easter Island Heads, the Statue of Liberty, and Mount Rushmore.



2015-05-19 08.43.43The other game is a simple matching game where the child matches the TOOB figures to the landmark cards. I'm not sure we have all the cards that match the figures, but most of them do have a card to match.

So, that's it for our map table and the games we play there. However, we have other items that make learning relaxed and fun.

2015-05-19 08.44.27The Geography Shelves

We have a lot of fun items to explore on our geography shelves. They range from Montessori materials to puzzles, books, and games.

The Montessori materials include the following:


We also have a variety of puzzles, games, and books:

 I love the Target $1 bin when the back-to-school sales begin late in summer. I've found all sorts of cool flash cards that can be used for geography games or added to continent boxes (animals of the world, landmarks, etc.). They also sometimes have inexpensive workbooks and wipe-off white board maps to make learning geography low-key and fun. My 10-year old enjoys using the map white board to test her knowledge in state capitals--much easier than erasing a worksheet or a paper map if she makes a mistake!

Making Connections

One very important thing to keep in mind is helping your child make connections. If a country comes up in what you're reading, casually suggest finding that location on the US or World map. I find it's helpful to use the words "I wonder...?" when making the suggestion.

If someone you know is traveling, once again, rely on your handy-dandy map to seek out where they are going to be. My husband travels a lot for work and the kids are constantly looking on the map to see where dad is headed next. My sports enthusiasts use the maps to find the locations for their favorite teams (I'm reminded of Elizabeth Foss' Monday Night Football Geography and Cuisine post).

And, of course, geography goes hand-in-hand with the study of history and humanities. I love the maps from Knowledge Quest, especially the MapTrek series. They are handy downloads that can be printed up at a moment's notice. If you haven't checked the series out, there is a free sample download available.

They also have several curriculum integration guides, so you can see which MapTrek maps can be used alongside your favorite history curriculum (included are Story of the World, A Little History of the World, Ambleside Online and Sonlight. Check back at this blog for a similar integration for those of us who have the older editions of Connecting With History from RC History).

Don't forget about their FREE Globalmania curriculum, a $14.95 value! This is a great way to learn together as a family in a fun and relaxed manner.

Our Favorite Apps

Lest you think we're all about paper and tangible items here in our pursuit of geographic knowledge, we also make use of technology to enhance our learning.

Stack the States

This is a cute app which teaches US geography with trivia about the states. It also uses strategy to stack the state shapes without having them topple over. When you complete a level, you "win" a state that gets placed on your US map. It's very cute.

Stack the Countries

As with Stack the States, you can learn about world geography through trivia and strategy. It too is available for Android, iOS, and Windows.

Both of these games are available in free Lite versions for the iOS platform.

National Geographic GeoBee Challenge

We actually have the board game version of this geography trivia game. The Android version makes it easier to just do the straight trivia, rather than having to keep track of cards and game pieces. Plus, you're able to take it on the road, which isn't easy to do with a board game! Also available for iOS.

Google Earth

Of course, this is a must-have app, available for free for Android, iOS, and Windows. The beauty of Google Earth is that you can explore geography in such a unique way. This product allows you to do fly-overs and see world cities in 3-D. Google Earth also has Street View, which gives you a whole other experience, enabling you to see places in the world you might never get to see in person. I made serious use of Google Maps and Google Earth when planning our trip to Ireland in 2014.



So, there you have it--how we do geography in our home. I hope you find some of these resources useful in your home learning journey.

Do you have other resources you have found helpful?

Any tips you'd like to share? Leave a comment or drop me a line at my Facebook page.

Let's keep the conversation going!


Grassy Run Field Trip

2015-04-24 13.43.14The Grassy Run Rendezvous in Williamsburg, Ohio held their student day today. I was expecting the event to be packed, but we were pleased to share the encampment with a couple of small local Catholic schools and likely a handful of other homeschoolers.

What I love most about these living history encampments is that the folks are really eager to share their knowledge and skills with the patrons. That love of history makes things stick longer in young (and old) minds!

2015-04-24 12.37.22Our first stop was where a lady was spinning wool. She explained to us the process of shearing sheep wool, how lanolin colors the white wool a yellow color, and how it needs to be cleaned and carded. We remembered carding wool from our visit to Sharon Woods Heritage Village and had the chance to do it again. Then she took the wool and showed us how she spins it into yarn on the spinning wheel. AJ was intrigued by how the wheel was threaded so that the yarn could be gathered on the spool.

We then stopped and chatted with a nice gentleman who told us a bit about the Battle of Grassy Run. He also shared a story about Simon Kenton running the gauntlet when captured by the Shawnee. Did you know that after Kenton's death, they had found a couple of indentations in his skull that they think had been caused by being hit with a pipehawk when he ran the gauntlet? Neither did I! Late in his life, old Simon had complained of frequent headaches, which they think was caused by the head wounds he suffered. I don't know if this is a completely true story, but it was interesting nonetheless!

We skipped the table where the school kids were crowded around, testing out writing with a quill and ink. We'll have to try that out here at home instead. We also skipped the tin punching since that was also a favorite of the school groups. We were entertained by a couple of different musicians. One fellow played the penny whistle and explained the lyrics of "Yankee Doodle", most notably what "macaroni" stood for. Another played the hammer dulcimer, which my sixteen-year-old daughter thought was really cool.

2015-04-24 13.05.42The kids also tried their hand at tomahawk throwing. AJ managed to hit the target once, but Liz was frustrated by being, in her opinion, too close to the target to be effective.

We watched many demonstrations and listened to explanations on what a typical 18th century settler would've work and carried with them when they were out hunting. We got to see and even handle a variety of weapons, from tomahawks to flintlock rifles.

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The kids and I also got to try our hand at weaving after watching a demonstration by the very garrulous and friendly weaver. And a couple even attempted to work together to cut through a piece of wood!


2015-04-24 13.52.28Our last stop of the outing was the rope-maker. His station was crowded when we first came to the event, so we came back around and learned how to make rope. Liz was the anchor, holding the hook that would spin the individual cords into the rope, while AJ turned the crank that wound the cords. Each cord is twisted until it prompts the hook on the opposite end to twist the three cords upon themselves to make the rope. It was pretty cool and we got to keep our rope as a souvenir!


Here is a video clip of the kids working with the rope-maker to show how it's done.




Here are some resources that are good for early Ohio history (some affiliate links):

Homeschool Spring Cleaning

2015-04-20 11.14.35Inspiration hits in unusual ways.

It all started when I was clicking through Bloglovin' and came across this brilliant little post about decoupaging a child's table with vintage children's book images.

"Hey," I thought to myself, "I have a tired old table that could use some rejuvenation!"

I let the idea stew a little. Then I talked about it with a couple of the kids. And then, one afternoon trip to Hobby Lobby sealed the deal. I knew they had paper maps there as well as large bottles of Mod Podge, among other tempting goodies. I don't know what it is about a craft store that makes me go ga-ga. I was good, though; I didn't go overboard. I was a woman on a mission and didn't let myself get distracted by packs of multi-colored permanent markers or lovely watercolor pencils or pretty scrapbook paper (these are seriously things I tend to purchase even though I don't need them...sigh).

Anyway, I jumped right into the project. I mean, how hard can it be? Right? Umm...wrong! If you are considering replicating this genius idea in the photo, be sure to actually research the best way to attack this project so you will spare yourself the grief and frustration that come as wrinkles and bubbles!

So, after letting the map table project relax while I went to Atlanta and back in a 36 hour time span (can you say "rained-out baseball tournament? sigh), I decided to paint the border around the map this morning before going out to an all-girl hair appointment. And, well, once we got back and I was so pleased with the look of the table, I decided it was time to spruce up the room a bit.

Cleaning the Resource Room

I should explain why I call it a resource room. Actually, I still call it the dining room, even though it has never, ever functioned as that kind of room for us! We all know it's the room that we walk through from the kitchen to the den. But for you, dear readers, I am calling it the resource room. Why? It's not a schoolroom, since we learn all over the house. It's the area where the bulk of our resources (besides books, that is) are housed.

Here...have a gander at some BEFORE photos:

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The photo on the left was taken after I had started moving things around and cleaning. There was a bookshelf against the window by the wall (which you can see in the first photo at the top of the page) that I decided didn't need to be in the room anymore. It now has a new home behind my desk in the den (which is the adjoining room). The bookshelf was holding a lot of early learning materials that we no longer need to have sitting out. I moved those things into a box in the basement...not sure why??? To have around for grandchildren? (shrug) It's still kind of weird to go through certain items and know we won't be using them anymore since our youngest child is seven and reads quite well. Anyway, I digress...

After culling old items, cleaning, and rearranging the shelves, I came up with a happy arrangement to the room:

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Can you tell I'm a little map-happy? We enjoy geography around here. Maps, globes, geography games...it's all good!

The white shelves all house "centers", or grouped items to invite independent exploration in various subject areas. The geography center is obvious, right? Next to that is science and nature, then math and art. The two small tables are the writing center. There are various papers and writing instruments, including calligraphy pens. There are also lined white boards for penmanship practice and Montessori pink and green spelling cards.

The clock hanging there no longer keeps time very well. It was moved from our living room (and I got a new clock at HL for 50% off on that same trip...BOOYAH!) I figure it can be used to teach telling time with Roman numerals. Or it can just hang there and look pretty.

There are still a couple of areas that need fixing. Next to the entry to the kitchen is a old desk that needs to be repainted. It is where we keep a lot of our craft supplies, but it also tends to be a clutter-catcher, so I need to re-think how we're going to use it. Also, next to the map table is a white shelf that has basket storage cube things that the kids used to use to hold folders, workbooks, and various scraps of papers. They kind of fell into disuse as we changed our approach to learning and record-keeping (I really like binders as well as digital records), so that area will be revamped as well.

Here's one last photo of a spontaneous game that happened with our World Landmarks Toob (affiliate link) on the map table (a certain red-headed child ran away before I could get a picture of her playing):