Homeschool Scheduling- a chalkboard approach

I've tried many different scheduling approaches for our homeschool planning. After more than 10 years homeschooling, I haven't found a system that sticks. Some have worked well for a year, or a month... but then the look of our school day changes, and my schedule falls by the wayside.

The chalkboard of ultimate power sprung from the clever whiteboard system used at our Classical homeschool group. I realized I was onto something possibly brilliant in execution...and so I asked sky to put up a chalkboard wall for me.

I chose a spot in the room we do most of our school work...the dining room area. Sky simply painted this wall with chalkboard paint.

I write out the flow for our day for my 3 youngest students, so they can see what comes next and what is left to do.

I have a running list of things I need to do. Here's the brilliant part....I erase as they are done.

If it's still on the board, I still need to do it.

It's my board, no one else is allowed to write on it. Ha!

There you have it, homeschool planning/scheduling for the Bridget Jones homeschool mom.

Viking studies with young students

Our studies with Sonlight Core 2 have taken us to the fascinating history of the Vikings.

We read about the vikings in A Child's History of the World. We then took paint to paper and followed the Vikings adventures, starting with the Viking homelands.

This is Amie's Viking settlements map.

We read more about Viking villages and Viking ship building methods in
the Usborne Book of World History. I had the kids draw a picture from the reading, and then write a narration about what they learned.

Window on the World is another Sonlight 2 book. I love this book. It's colorful, full of interesting facts, and outlines the role of Christianity in each country and gives the students points to pray for. This book is big on cultivating a heart for missions.

It helps my boys to have something to do during the read alouds. Here is a flag coloring page I found online.

My Sonlight history notes suggested we go outside and measure out a viking ship.

80 feet by 16 feet. I had no idea. Fascinating.

This is a glimpse into our history/geography studies last week. Thanks for visiting:)

Growing borax crystals-a homeschool science project

Last week, the Home crew grew crystals from borax soap. Borax soap-as in laundry detergent, just check the laundry's a powder. This project was instigated through our Classical Conversations group, I am a tutor this year for master's class. I admit, if I didn't have to do this for the class, I most likely would not have done this cool project. I spend most of my time working to get our basic school work done, special projects get left by the wayside, unfortunately. But, I'm here to tell you...

*This one was fun! *Didn't take much preparation!

*Didn't need many ingredients! *Wasn't messy!

Each time I pull off a neat project, I am inspired to do more with my kids- I hope this inspires you to do the same!I chose to use Borax powder instead of sugar to make rock candy, because I had heard and read mixed results with the success of getting the sugar to grow. (and then I cheated and just bought rock candy!! The sugary final product to eat is the point, really now-admit it)

I found the directions by googling on the internet. Here is roughly what we did:


  • jar
  • boiling water
  • pipe cleaners cut into small pieces, we then twisted them into star shapes
  • string and a stick to tie them to
  • borax powder (3 tablespoons per cup of hot water, I used 2 cups of water in my jar)


Prepare your pipe cleaners and string first, make sure they will hang in the jar without touching the bottom, yet will hang low enough for the 2 cups of water to cover them.

Boil your water. Once boiling, measure out 2 cups and pour into jar. Parent needs to do this.

Next, stir in borax 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring to dissolve. This part is fun for the kids.
After the borax is all in, put in your stars and then set the jar somewhere where it will not be disturbed. Check daily to see crystal growth.

I made lab sheets on Word, typing in the name of the project on the top, with the directions to draw what they observed.

I made a second comprehension sheet that listed the experiment, the hypothesis, and our procedure. Then, I typed in a short paragraph describing what occurred and why- the Science behind the project, leaving blanks for key-word like "crystal", "dissolve" "salt" "cube-shaped", "molecule", "saturation" and the kids filled these in as we discussed the why.





try it!

Play School

Heart Stress-Test

describes the jumpings and flutterings my heart muscle did as I watched my youngest 2 race around this empty pool at the skateboard park. They raced, several times. I don't know why.

-watched from far away, on a balcony. Too far to shout to them.

too far to shout or get their attention. close enough to make my exit strategy:

  1. grab expensive camera
  2. grab purse
  3. run screaming down stairs
  4. until the worst happens, mutter to yourself as a mantra: "the children's emergency room is just across the street! least they are wearing helmets, they won't break their heads!"

Discovery: some serious moves going on down there. Look, big brother is teaching baby sister the robot.

It all falls into place some-how.
relax...just bust'n a move.

We had our Classical group class today.
For one of our Science activities we made plaster fossil moldings.

it was pretty cool.
and not as messy as I thought it would be.

For Fine Art, we studied a little about Fra Giovanni Angelico and the halos she painted in real gold. (Art Studies inspired by this* book)

Then we turned the kids loose with a little paint, some chalk, and some tin foil.
not case you were wondering.

Glad to report no war scenes today. We had a ballerina (my only girl student) a Bible, a light pole (I think) a paint-splatter modern-piece, and a fish with bright scales and bright bubbles.

Here is mine.

(take time to play school) :)

This Week at home (a homeschool diary) part 3

A peek at our Homeschool Week that was...
-part 3 of a post that began here* with Monday & Tuesday

Friday began with Sky dropping Meg off at the Stables on his way to work. I then picked her up a little after 10 a.m. We had a late start in our homeschool day, we started with a Bible/Character story with the 3 littles around 9:30. Josie worked on her own Bible reading assignment from Sonlight 6, and also her own devotional reading from her youth group.

Our homeschool centers a lot around reading out-loud...which is a bit of a challenge for 2 wiggly 10 year old boys, and bordering on problematic for our bonus student, Teddy- who has an auditory processing disorder. (Frankly, I just don't know how to get around this until his reading is up to grade level..for now, I am better at moving through the material using we are doing what we can to adapt when we can, such as finding coloring sheets to anchor the reading material)

All of that to explain that I quit using the Sonlight Bible reading schedule with the 3 littles, it was just too much. Instead, I use the Awesome book of Bible facts they schedule, and I switch back and forth between the Miller books and The Child's book of Character building.

I then had to leave to pick up Meg at the stables, so I turned the kids loose. They immersed themselves in a new Playmobil set Demi got as a gift.

I returned home with Meg, and we began table-time. The kids all helped themselves to a snack and juicebox, bringing them to the table while they worked. Today we worked on Math, handwriting and a language arts worksheet. Josie worked on Math, her math notebook (copying times tables and area formulas) grammar (with some intro work with me) and then she got out her notebook with her Sonlight assignments which are history and literature. I spent a few minutes directing her with some map worksheets. Meg worked on the same subjects as Josie, but with different materials/books. (minus the math notebook).

We had a quick lunch.

We then put our books away and headed out to the skate-board park, which I count as p.e. We spent a little over two hours there.

When we came home, I set the 3 littles up with their phonics work ( 2 online and Amie with her workbook, she did 2 pages) Josie read more history work, Meg worked on a creative writing story she is doing on the computer. Then, we were done for the day.

I commenced cleaning and going to the store/baking a birthday cake. The kids played inside/outside/ at the neighbors.

We had a small party that evening with friends and family for Josie's birthday. She is 13 now...I officially have 2 teenagers in the house.

This friends, has been an accounting of our week.
I couldn't squeeze everything into my posts, I did not put in music practice, music lessons, fencing/tennis lessons, orchestra rehearsals...but I'm sure you get the picture!

Thanks for visiting!

This Week at home (a homeschool diary) Cont.

A peek at our Homeschool week that was
-2nd part of a post that began *Here with Monday and Tuesday.

Wednesday began with Josie, Amie and Demi-Sky writing persuasive essays that they had begun on Tuesday with a pre-writing exercise. Amie was assigned a persuasive letter, instead of an essay. This project took about 45 minutes for Amie, and about an hour for Josie and Demi.

We homeschool 4 of our students through a home-based charter school in California, so today was our scheduled meeting with the credentialed teacher who looks over our work. There are different types of charter schools in California, and even among home-based programs, the set-up can look a bit different. We chose a charter that gives the parent full choice in scope and sequence and in books/materials used. (the exception is that they cannot pay for curriculum from Christian publishers, but I am free to buy it myself and use it.)

Today was our meeting day, so we sat down with our piles of books and notebooks and had a show-n-tell, basically- of what we had done the past month. Wednesday is the day of the week we do not have Teddy here, his mom is able to work from home on that day and keeps him, he also meets with his special ed. tutor at his house on Wednesday.

Our meeting went a bit long, so I made the kids sandwiches and we jumped in the car, heading over to Art class for Josie, Demi and Amie. (the younger 3 ate lunch in the car)

  • The above photo is of an oil painting Amie did, love all that red! (I'm going to have to frame this one!)

Meg and I headed over to a local bagel shop for lunch, and to discuss her History and Lit reading for her Sonlight Core 6. The heart of Sonlight is the use of Socratic oral discusssion. So, discuss- is what we did. During this discussion I can tell how much comprehension she had, and emphasize any major points I think she missed...or even just give her something more to think about. (shh...if I didn't get a chance to read the books that week, Sonlight gives me notes...!)

we came home, the kids all did a math page (because everyday is math day!...) and so ended the parent-driven school part of our day.

Thursday began with our table-time work...on this day we tackled Math (all together...everday is Math day...!) handwriting and Language Arts writing workbooks. Then I gave the kids a break while I dropped Meg at her High School General Science class. She stayed for Science, lunch, study hall and Photography class. Back at the house, Josie continued her History reading on her own, and then moved on to her Health/Science book. I had the 3 littles read aloud from their health/science readers. Next, I moved the 3 littles through Explode the Code online (For Demi and Teddy) and Explode the Code 3 workbook (for Amie).

  • Our school instruction for the day, with Mom at least, then ended.

The kids played outside with friends for a while, I went back to pick up Meg from her classes, Meg finished a math page,and then we packed up and headed out to a hockey game. This was Amie's very first hockey game, Demi and 2 boy cousins are on her team, and Sky is the coach. I had a blast watching, I think the parents laughed more than cheered...we had many new players on the rink this day!

Thus ends our day, thanks for visiting!

This week at home

A peek at our homeschool week that was...

Monday found us very busy, our first day back-to-homeschool since our winter-holiday break.

I started the day with a walk/run, and then had the kids dive enthusiastically into the meaty part of our studies. We started the morning off with a Bible reading, then table work for all 5 kids. This Monday, table work began with Math for everyone. We use Math-U-See for all 5 kids right now. Each child opens to the next page, and I help or explain as needed. Today I had to que up the computer with a Math chapter lesson for Josie ( I love Math-U-See!, it's on dvd!!)

Next, the 3 littles (my youngest 3 students) began their handwriting work. Meg began working on her grammar, I started Josie on a writing assignment. After the writing, I worked with the 3 littles on grammar/writing from a Flashkids workbook...I have all 3 on the same page for simplicity sake. Next came the all important snack break.

After snack break, Josie and Meg took out their Sonlight assignments already put into their weeks-work binders, and they decided which books to tackle first. I began one of the boys on the computer with Explode the Code online, while the other did...I don't know what, can't remember...played with the dog maybe? Practiced the piano, possibly... I opened up Explode the code in workbook format for Amie, she prefers the workbook to online...(She did 3 pages) After 15 minutes, I switched the boys on the computer. Teddy's special-ed tutor arrived at this point, so he sat down to work with her...and I turned Demi and Amie loose to play outside.

I sat down, watched the Math dvd with Josie, who was stuck...and then explained to her how to find the area of a trapazoid. We went on a rabbit trail with avarages...since we had to first add the two bases of the trapazoid and then find the average...We completed 3/4 of the page together, then I turned her loose to finish the last 4 problems solo, no coaching. I then wrote the equation for finding the area of a trapazoid in her math notebook, and had her copy a whole page. Then I assigned a whole notebook page of a multiplication family, and then a page of area and primeter formulas for review.

Amie came inside and experimented with our new colorix colors. She did the above house painting. I began lunch prep.

Teddy's tutor left at lunch-time. While they ate, I read two poems from our Sonlight Core 2, and then after I ate my lunch, I read to them about Ethiopia from the book Windows on the World, which is also from Sonlight Core 2. We got the world map out and located Ethiopia, and reviewed our continents and Oceans songs.
Next, I pulled out A Child's History of the World(also from SL2) and read to the littles about Charlemagne while they colored a picture of his palace. I asked them some questions while I read. Meg and Josie completed a vocabulary workbook assignment. And then I turned them loose for the day, because I was's been a long holiday break...

Tuesday was our Classical group day. The highlight for me was our art activity, we learned about the artist Giotto. We looked at examples of paintings he had done, and then we tried our hand at crushing up color pigments (in our case, color chalk) and mixing them with egg whites and water to make our own paint, the way many painters of old did.

Here are Teddy and Demi-Sky hard at work on their paintings. Did I mention before that I have 6 boys in my class, and 1 girl? Only half the paintings were on war themes...I was relieved.

  • Relieved to be pleasantly surprised that I didn't get 99% war themes, or
  • relieved that my two boys aren't the only ones who paint/draw constantly on this theme?...

I'll leave you to guess...

Here's a look at the time-line cards we memorized this week for the classical class. They are from Veritas press. We also did two science experiments from The Van Cleave Science book. One was about the Earth's tilted axis resulting in different seasons in the two hemispheres. I had to use a styro-foam ball and a flashlight to demonstrate this. We also did one on water molecules expanding when frozen and the effect glaciers have on rocks...that one was kind of cool to draw. I handed out lab worksheets, and spent a good amount of time reviewing the scientific method with them. These experiments are not real on the 'wow' -factor...nothing fizzing/exploding (yet), but the point really, is to teach them how to use the Scientific method.

The math that day was memorizing the formula for the area of a rectangle...Josie was pleased, since she's been writing this for weeks! :)

We arrived home from our classical group around 1 p.m. -had lunch and then everyone did Math. Then I had Amie, Demi and Josie do a pre-writing exercise for a persuasive essay due on Wednesday. I turned them loose after that...our Classical group day is kind of a heavy day, with a lot of memorization work, we are all kind of fried afterward. My friend Gracefulmom is down for the holidays from Singapore, so she came over and we hung out at the dining table, while the kids played around us/inside/outside the house. Just like old times. :)

The rest of our week, to be continued:

*part 2 can be found -here (part 2)
*part 3 can be found -here (part 3)

Wol pellets for a silly old bear

We had a fun day at Classical Conversations today, we dissected owl pellets! This is something I've always had a hankering to try...when I was young, I read a lot, and somewhere I read about owls coughing up pellets- yet I wasn't sure exactly what that meant, or what one would look like, but I went looking for them out in the orange groves that were near our house.
Now that I've seen one, I doubt I would have recognized one! We found a bird and a shrew in our pellet. I divided the room into two groups, the other group found a rodent and a shrew.
My van wouldn't start after class. It just had to be the day I decided to not pack lunches and to just go home for lunch. I had a van-full of hungry kids. Luckily, it was just the battery, Sky came down and gave me a jump. Later, he came home and presented me with this...I'm a lucky girl! He then installed it, filled up my gas tank and washed my windows. He's a full-service kind of guy! Again, I'm a lucky girl!
This is the first year my dwarf apple tree is bearing apples. Look, they are turning red! Apple trees in So. Ca are not an everyday thing...we don't get the cold spells needed, this tree is a special tree for our area.
Lastly, here's my baby. Who could not love a face like that? Again, I'm a lucky girl!