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Stepping Into Tolkien's World

This year our 5th and 7th graders read Tolkien's The Hobbit.  It is a favorite for both my husband and myself and we were excited for our children to be exposed to such a timeless classic.  To kick off our school year, though, I really wanted our 7th grader to delve deeper into the world of Tolkien.  I knew she would enjoy every minute being a huge fan of the fantasy genre.  There are numerous resources available, however, I strongly recommend Tolkien's Middle Earth Guide by Houghton Mifflin for advanced middle-schoolers and/or secondary students.  
Additional Resources:

Stumped on Teaching Homeschool Science

Is it just me or does it seem that there are not many options for a quality, homeschool science curriculum? For our family, we have several things we seeking in choosing a program:


  1. Accurate Scientific Information: I know this seems a given, but many of the options available are so watered down the information becomes incorrect.  Let's face it! Today's child is inundated with information from a variety of resources.  Mythbusters and other Discovery Channel shows are some of our children's favorite shows.  I am confident they can handle the "real deal
  2. Hands On Fun: Really, shouldn't all learning be fun? Science should be more than simply reading, filling in diagrams and recording vocabulary terms.  Science should be experienced!
  3. Inquiry-Based: The buzz around the "powers that be" in education centers around promoting learning through critical thinking.  Many of us who homeschool have been doing this for years.  Why give kids the answer when they are naturally curious beings.  As educators, we should feed on that, nurture it properly, and watch it grow into something wonderful!


As you can see, we may have high standards and I seem to run across the same struggles each and every year when faced with choosing a science curriculum.  Some are too easy while others are too biased. Yet, others are just plain boring!  As a result, I end up gong with something as a guideline and spend hours trying to find ways to supplement the material to make it interesting and fun.

For this year, I am excited to report that I have found three programs that may fit our needs and save me valuable time: Pandia Press R.E.A.L. Science OdysseyClassiQuest Science Study Guide and CPO Science.


  1. R.E.A.L. Science: I have used R.E.A.L. Science Level 1 in the past and have been extremely pleased.  What I am excited about now, however, is the release in February 2013 of their Level 2 Biology materials.  Building on their level 1 courses, the level 2 program seeks to actively engage learners by bringing high school level material to middle school student.  Exciting!  For those interested in learning more about these courses, they offer both print and ebook formats, as well as, a "try before you buy" option.  Currently, all of their ebooks are 25% off until September 30, 2012.
  2. ClassiQuest Science: I actually stumbles across these study guides this morning.  What a find! These guides follow the classical education model and correspond to the Logic Stage appropriate for 5th-8th grades.  Using the The Kingfisher Science Encyclopedia, 3rd edition  and a few other resources as their spine, students are actively engaged in labs, research, and quality learning experiences.
  3. CPO Science: Our oldest daughter has been using CPO Science for the past two years.  This is a rigorous science course that integrates math and problem solving throughout each chapter.

Hopefully, this will provide some of you with options to consider when choosing your science programs for homeschooling.  As usual, I welcome feedback and/or discussion.

Happy Learning!



Love That Dog, Love That Creativity!

Let's face it! The idea of teaching poetry can be daunting to say the least.  I decided to take an unique approach with our children. Instead of spending hours teaching isolated concepts, I chose to have our kids dive right in through following the mentor text, Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech.  Actually, besides learning various poetic devices, we were able to simultaneously have an engaging discussion about a fantastic piece of literature.

At the time, our children ranged in age from 6-10.  We simply began by reading the story aloud together and laughing at Jack's remarks as well as his reluctant attitude towards writing poetry.  Jack feels writing poetry is simply for girls and he, quite frankly, doesn't want to be engaged.  However, his teacher, Miss Stretchberry, helps Jack discover his inner poet over the course of the year and helps him believe in himself and his abilities.  In order to accomplish this, Miss Stretchberry exposes Jack to classic poets and encourages him to emulate their style. Slowly, with time, Jack gains confidence and realizes he does have a story.  I'll save the rest for you to read!

I chose to follow Miss Stretchberry's gentle nudging.  After reading daily excerpts from the book, we would discuss Jack and what happened in the classroom.  Then, I had our children pretend they were in Miss Stretchberry's class.  They read  the same poems and tried the same activities as Jack.  In essence, our children became Jack's classmate.  Just like Miss Stretchberry, we would stop and discuss various literary devices as they surfaced and I encouraged our children to tell their story.  I have included samples of their work.


As you can see, our children began to find their own story.  They became excited about writing and looked forward to this part of school each day.  I loved Miss Stretchberry's organic approach.  She did not tell Jack what to write or how to punctuate, nor did she not stifle his creativity.   Instead, she exposed Jack to great literature and simply offered encouragement.  Eventually, Jack found his voice and what a story he had to tell.

Other Resources: 






Chasing Vermeer Activities

Our 4th grader just finished reading Chasing Vermeer  by Blue Balliett.  This is the perfect adventure novel for those who enjoy puzzles and a good mystery.  Try the following activities to enhance your discussion of this novel.

Book Report and Evaluation Ideas: 

  • Type a traditional book report using Google Docs
  • Create a video report using the iPad 
  • Make a stop-motion animation of a favorite scene or have students create their own mystery movie
  • Create an interactive report using Scratch 
  • Recreate favorite scenes using the iPad app, Toontastic 

Enrichment Activities

As always, please share resources or ideas.  Happy learning!


I'm Back!

As a mom of four beautiful children, I feel incredibly blessed.  As a mom of four busy children, I feel incredibly stressed at times!!  As with everything in life, you have to make choices.  In order to maintain some sense of sanity in my crazy, hectic life, I chose to let go of a few things as I prioritized my time.  As a result, I took a break from blogging and focused any extra time on my family (and sleep!).

With this year's gymnastics season coming to a conclusion in a few weeks, I feel like I will have more time to get back into blogging while sharing our journey in homeschooling.  Travelling with two gymnasts around the southeast, going to soccer games with two boys, tutoring and homeschooling takes a toll on one's creative juices! I'm back, though, and ready to roll!  

We have been doing many exciting things around our house and I am eager to share.  In fact, in the next couple of weeks, our kids are joining with another homeschooling family to reproduce our version of the 1903 "World's Fair."  Exciting!  Our 6th grade daughter as been exploring graphic design using her new Bamboo art tablet.  Our 4th grade son is diving deeper into stop-motion movies.  He is currently producing reenactments of some of the great battles from WWI and WWII.  Wow!  Our 3rd grade daughter finally found an author she likes! Thank you Roald Dahl for your contributions to children's literature!  Last, but not least, our Kindergartner is reading and cruising right along in addition and subtraction