In Homeschool This Week (take 7)

The theme of the week was tradition, ritual and sacred wisdom. It is important for kids to have family rituals that tie us all together. For example, every Christmas Eve the kids sleep under the Christmas tree. This is a tradition that my sister and I did as children, that we now have passed onto our own children. But there are rituals and traditions that we carry on in daily life, and these are just as important as the big holiday ones.

I found this great book at the library:


From Amazon: “Quality family togetherness—everyone wants it, but it seems increasingly harder to achieve. In a world run by cell phones, computers, and virtual networking, the comfort of human connection grows more important— and rarer— all the time. In a guide newly updated for the next generation, family expert Meg Cox offers a solution. Family rituals provide a sense of home and identity that kids and parents both need. From holidays and birthdays to bed times, meal times, pets, and even chores, The Book of New Family Traditions spotlights hundred of ways to bring the fun and ritual back to family life”

In this book, there was another book suggestion: “The Thundering Years: Rituals and Sacred Wisdom for Teens”. This was particularly interesting to me as the mom of two teens. I think it especially important for teens to go through the process of the “rites of passage” or “initiation” into adulthood. Native Americans describe these years as “The Thundering Years”. I immediately bought this book.


We started out this week by going out to my dad’s prairie/creek land and observing/drawing nature for an hour in silence. It was the best. Then, we sat down in the tall, dry, autumn prairie grass and read the first chapter of “The Thundering Years” together.

This chapter, “The Way of the Spiritual Warrior”, talked about the intensity, beauty, difficulty, and questions of the Thundering years, and how they are designed to challenge us to determine what path we are going to take in life. A Warrior’s way includes a journey to oneself and to one’s purpose.

The next day we used watercolors and worked into our drawings:




At the end of the first chapter of “The Thundering Years” there were instructions on how to make a Medicine Bag. So we did this as well. Pictured above is Kali with her artwork and medicine bag.


Kali’s completed artwork


I also created an artwork!


Fiona stitching her medicine bag together (not just for teenagers!)


One tradition that we have in our family is Movie Night! Is there anything better than sister snuggles?


Fiona strumming for mommy after bath-time. Music is so important to us.


Yoga in the woods at Blue Mound State Park

We read Sonnet 73 by Shakespeare in the woods, and then left it on a bench for another person to find. I’m going to start leaving poetry in the woods more often!

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
   This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
   To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

In Homeschool This Week (take 2)

Last week I said that I would not “plan any short weeks that also included two field trips” but then this week we had a regular 5 day school week that included FOUR. What is wrong with me?! Clearly, I am a homeschool newbie haha. In my defense, we do live in Wisconsin, so I have to take advantage of the good weather while I can. I will not be driving so much in the snow.

Monday started bright and early with a twenty minute drive to Kali’s first horseback riding lesson. She had taken some lessons before when she was younger, but she hadn’t ridden for a long time. She has always had a passion for horses and I am so excited that she is getting back into it. I highly recommend the Country View Equestrian Center if you are in the Monroe, WI area.


As luck would have it, Kali was offered an opportunity to earn more riding time by working doing chores at the stable. So now, we will be heading there on Monday AND Friday mornings! It is such great work experience while also being FUN!

On Tuesday, we headed over to Janesville to attend a picnic for the Rock Valley Homeschool Group. It was a great occasion to meet up with yet another group in our area and meet new friends. We had a blast at Peace Park, and I am constantly amazed at how nice and welcoming all of the other homeschooling families are. This is truly a great community!


We paused our Social Studies about the Sioux Nation to start a long-term study about Buddhism. We had the most amazing opportunity to see Tibetan monks creating a sand mandala at the Memorial Union in Madison. On Wednesday, we went to the Madison Public Library Central Branch (amazing) to read books about Buddhism and do a bit of Minecraft. I totally count Minecraft as school.


Then we walked over to see the sand mandala creation. We were all mesmerized by the beauty of the work and the concentration of the monks! In addition, we talked with one of the monks who showed us how to use a prayer wheel, let each of the children use it, and taught us about the symbolism and language in Tibetan Buddhism. It was a really special experience.


We bought a prayer flag from the monks, and we studied about that on Thursday and hung it up outside so the wind can carry our prayers and wishes for peace around the world. We also continued our mandala studies, and learned about the Eightfold Path. I found two wonderful PowerPoint presentations at One was about the Eightfold Path and the other was about the prayer flags, so now we fully understand the significance and also made sure we hung it up the right way. I also found this great worksheet about the Eightfold Path, and the older kids did that Follow the link for more worksheets on Buddhism and other religions as well.

Here’s another link I found with great teaching resources about Buddhism (via PBS).


Lunch with grandma at the iconic Memorial Union Terrace in Madison. We didn’t just eat chips and beer, btw…


So Thursday was our big at home day. The older kids finished their PowerPoint presentation about bees. All of the kids did their core studies on Time4Learning. We read books, did art, music, and more!


Fiona said, “Am I concentrating as hard as the monks?”


On Friday, my 14 year old son communicated (which is nothing short of a miracle sometimes) that he did not like Time4Learning. So, we looked into some other ways of doing his core High School curriculum and we decided on using Khan Academy for math and science, along with other science projects and experiments, and that I would assign him English and Social Studies projects (those are my personal strong subjects, so I feel comfortable teaching those myself).

We absolutely love Khan Academy. Along with using it for math and science, he has also started learning about Drug Addiction in the Health and Medicine section, and is currently writing a research paper on the topic.

Below is a wonderful video about educating for mastery by the founder of Khan Academy:

In Kindergarten this week, Fiona and I made a “hundreds box”. We filled it with 100 pennies, 20 nickles (to practice counting by 5s), 10 dimes (to practice counting by 10s), 4 quarters (to start understanding fractions and coin recognition), a $1 bill (understanding the concept of what is equal to $1), and Fiona’s choice of 100 safety pins, 100 beads, 100 white buttons, and 100 smiley faces (which she drew herself).


Then we added 100 stickers to the outside of the box and a 100 chart to help her count! Big brother was really sweet and helped Fiona count and taught her some tricks for working with the number chart. Fiona did a lot of work with math this week. She LOVES this box and carries it around everywhere using it for practice!

Overall, we had a great, yet very exhausting week!!!


via eclectic homeschool

In Homeschool This Week…

At I.D.E.A.S. Academy this week….our very first week homeschooling, ever, I witnessed a profound change in my 14 year old son. He started to READ. It has been like pulling teeth to get this kid to read since he was 6 years old. Now, he’s reading. Not just reading. LOVING it. Asking, “When is reading time?” and saying things like, “I love reading”! WHAT? What have you done with my son?

The difference that homeschooling has made in my son’s life, in literally ONE WEEK, is astounding. He is engaging with me, and most importantly — he is engaging with what he is learning. He is taking responsibility for his own education. He is communicating more effectively, discussing issues and ideas in depth. He is SMILING more. And when asked to do a one page writing assignment, he quickly typed out FIVE pages that were funny, creative, and smart.


Up close and personal at the Sanderling Nature Center in Kohler-Andre State Park. One of the awesome places we visited this week.

Our older daughter, Kali, is in 7th grade and has always “performed” well academically. What she has always needed to work on is critical thinking. Instead of being told what to do and how to do it, she is now put in a position where she is having to ask herself tough questions and come up with solutions on her own, which is going to be so beneficial to her especially as she enters teenage-hood.

Some of the things we did this week:

For Math, Science, and English, the older two kids did mostly Time4Learning. They also collaborated to start a PowerPoint presentation about bees, and completed two creative writing assignments in their Field Trip Journals.

For Social Studies, I find the Common Core curriculum to be severely lacking and narrow-minded, so I will be creating my own assignments. This week, we started a multidisciplinary, long-term study of the Sioux Indian Tribe. To begin, we researched and discussed the current events happening with the Dakota Access Pipeline issue. We also bought supplies that we will be sending out to help the people at the Sacred Stone Camp. A list of needed supplies can be found here. 

For Social Studies, we also read the book, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: An Adaptation for Children by Ruth Rocha and Otavio Roth, as a precursor to our upcoming studies about the United Nations. This is a great book for all ages.

Reading: Both of the older children have a book assignment each week. Matt is starting to read the Twilight series and Kali started “Island of the Blue Dolphins” which is one of my personal favorites. And for the little one we just read as many books together as possible.

Art: Kali and I collaborated to draw a “Fall Bucket List” poster. Kali also made a cat bed and stuffed cat toys (and did lots of other drawings – she’s always drawing).


Fiona creates a lot of artwork as well. My personal favorite of hers this week is below:


“Rosemere with a flower in her hair, crying because people were being mean to her” (paper and fabric collage with marker)

Matt has a strong interest in video editing, and we found a free online course at to learn how to use Windows Movie Maker (which is also free) to edit and publish videos. So he just started that and spends a lot of “after school” time working on his videos as well.

Arts education is extremely important to me, as an artist and art major in college myself. That is why one of our first field trips was to the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheybogan, WI to see the Supernatural exhibition. This exhibition highlighted prominent Magic Realism works by Wisconsin artists.


Of course, while we were up in Sheboygan, we had to stop at one of our favorite state parks, Kohler-Andre! We were so lucky that it was a gorgeous, hot day. Lake Michigan was warm and we got nice and sandy and wet. Not the best thing to do before the art museum but it worked out. Kohler-Andre boasts the amazing Sanderling Nature Center, and we spent a lot of time in there as well, making new discoveries about snakes, fish, turtles, birds, and more!


Gym class is way better at the beach!

As if one field trip wasn’t enough, we also went to the HEART Homeschool group picnic in Madison on Thursday. It was located at the beautiful Hoyt park, and it was so nice to meet a whole bunch of other homeschooling families, and learn about the many group opportunities coming up for homeschoolers. We all had a blast!

Our youngest, Fiona, is in Kindergarten and already at a high level, so my goal for her this year is to continue supporting her ideas, creativity, and nurture her natural love of learning. We will read lots of books and do tons of projects and fun activities. In order to save paper and ink, because I like to have handy reports on hand, and because Fiona enjoys online learning, I’ve decided to do Time4Learning with Fiona as well. I’ve already discovered that she is definitely at a First Grade level in both Math and Language Arts, and it’s fun to do the activities along with her and understand her level of comprehension! She also did a cut and paste worksheet about wants versus needs (you can find it here, over at Lesson Pathways which is a great resource!).

All of the kids are learning and sharpening their typing skills over at Typing Club (free!) Even the 5 year old can do it (I was shocked at how fast she is picking it up), and it still challenges the teenagers!



At the end of the week, I had the older kids complete a “Weekly Recap” (a two page worksheet where they write in the specifics of what they learned in each subject, along with some personal questions about what they liked and did not, what they want to learn more about, what their most successful accomplishment of the week was, etc), and we were all very impressed (if we do say so ourselves) in what we did this week. And we had Monday off for Labor Day! WHEW, our first week was exhausting but wonderful. I will not plan many short weeks that also include two field trips, but I’m relishing the excitement of starting our new homeschooling adventure. Happy weekend!