Pin it! Maps USA and US History Bundle



FINALLY!!! I have been waiting a long time to get my hands on this beauty of a bundle. If you have followed us for the last year, you know how much we love Pin it! Maps. If you are new around here check out: this, this and this. Also, check out the Pin it! Maps site and check their FREE TEACHING MATERIALS tab for lots of free goodness.

How I wish we had these for our study of Adventures last year! We assembled these as fast as we could and started pinning away. My eldest is always amazed by how much better he understands Geography when he can get a 3D look and hands-on approach. If you have a kiddo struggling with Dyslexia, visual disorganization, etc., I highly recommend giving these a shot. My son is obsessed with the Revolutionary War and when we pulled out the map and started pinning he could not stop shrieking in excitement. “I can see it! I can see it now! I understand! This is awesome!”


These maps are just as beautiful as the previous bundle. Its very clear that a lot of love and time and effort went into these maps. They are hand drawn and shaded, incredibly accurate and so thoughtfully laid out. I love the biomes presented on each map legend. We are focusing on biomes in MFW ECC this year, so you can imagine the excitement.

The boys were eager to point out the carefully drawn landscape around certain battlefields to put them in context with nature and history and geography all at once. If I am going to introduce a resource into our home, I need it to be functional and rich in its learning texture and potential versatility, the USA and US History bundle meets this goal and its gorgeous to boot.


Pinning the tribes onto our 1800s map was also a great experience. One of my children noted: “People always make it sound like America was empty and waiting to be discovered. But it was already full, wasn’t it?” The visual connection hit home.



I kind of want to do Adventures and Beautiful Feet Book’s Early American History study all over again!!! These maps can go with any study. When we return to our Classical Conversations Cycle 3 study of US History next year, I will definitely be using these maps. My mind was racing with potential unit studies so I laid out a few possibilities!

The bundle comes with: US Land and Water Forms, US States and Capitols, US Flags, American Indians, The Thirteen Colonies, American Indians & Early Settlements, The Revolutionary War, The French and Indian War, The Civil War, and Westward Expansion.


Guess what? The brilliant cartographer behind Pin it! Maps has generously donated a USA and US History bundle for us to GIVEAWAY!!! EEEEEP!!!!

This set includes:
3 Pin Maps — (USA, US History 1800s and Early America)
11 Control Maps (listed above)
557 flag labels! (state & historical)
Plastic flag poles, bases
Scotch tape

All you need to get are the quilting pinsūüôā

We assembled ours while listening to audio books and are currently storing all our flags in several $0.97 pencil cases from Walmart.


How to Enter:
This GIVEAWAY is happening over on Instagram! So head on over and follow @farmhouse_schoolhouse and tag three friends! If you “like” Pin it! Map’s Facebook page, then add the phrase “Pin it bonus!”¬†when you tag your three friends and you’ll get an extra entry for reading our blog!

We’ll announce a winner on Friday September 30, 2016.

Thank you Pin it! Maps for the giveaway!

MFW ECC Norway


Norway! Quite possibly, our favorite unit so far. Surprising because on the eve of this study’s inauguration, my husband had to call an ambulance to come get me after I began to experience sudden and horrific pain. Two days in the hospital, lots of prescription meds and a slow recovery had me forecasting a pretty dreadful, overwhelming and miserable few weeks of school, but the exact opposite happened. Our village lovingly reached out and made meals, came to visit, took over some of my responsibilities and encouraged us. My husband even went in my place to our Classical Conversations community day and wore the Director’s hat on my behalf. ¬†It blessed me deeply to have such thoughtful love and care poured over us. Even the boys were extra helpful and diligent in their work. While we did not have as many outdoor adventures as usual, we still had a lovely time with our study!


We spent many, many hours reading this time around. The D’Aulaires have a wealth of books for Norway study and we read them all. Many cups of tea and several knit dishcloths later, we went through the pile and chose our favorites and read them again. We also enjoyed Joanna Spyri’s “Heidi” as one of our overall European books.

Norway/Scandinavian Booklist: 

Welcome Back Sun by Michael Emberly
D is for Dala Horse: A Nordic Country Alphabet by Kathy Jo Wargin
Once Upon a Northern Light by Jean Pendziwol
East of the Sun and West of the Moon
Norwegian Tales by Ingri D’aulaire
Ola by Ingri D’aulaire
Children of the Northern Lights by Ingri D’aulaire
Leif the Lucky by Ingri D’aulaire
Book of Trolls by Ingri D’aulaire
Katie the Windmill Cat by Gretchen Woelfe
Boxes for Katje by Candace Flemming
Hans Brinker, the Silver Skates
Hannah’s Cold Winter by Trish Marx
My Tour of Europe by Teddy Roosevelt Age 10 by Ellen Marx
Heidi by Johanna Spyri
Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan


Science with ECC continues to be a bit shaky at times. The kids love the science experiments (don’t skip them!) but POE is still hard to get through. So we do what we can and then we take off on our own. The BBC Planet Earth series is phenomenal and we loved the episode on forests. We used tree cards from Tanglewood Hollow and a beautiful crochet tree ring I received from a Montessori Materials swap. My son and I have been knitting tiny crochet bowls like mad lately and we have been using them to hold some of our favorite nature finds.


While the older boys finished cataloging tree rubbings and leaf samples in their nature journals, my youngest children went with me to the kitchen to make The Homegrown Preschooler’s Herbal doh recipe. We had a lovely time practicing math and practical life skills. The older children went outside and collected pine needles and pine cones to decorate the table. I set out some natural materials like acorns caps, sweet gums, petals and walnut shells. The boys sat and played with doh while I read through books and eventually we switched over to enjoying various Scandinavian composers and musicians.


Its encouraging to witness the engagement that takes place through living books. Dry textbooks just do not impart the same connection and inspiration. The boys were utterly captivated by the life of the Lapp children and spent many hours learning more about reindeers and the midnight sun and of course, the northern lights.


Even during their quiet time, I caught them reading in little corners all over the house. I think we all needed to be still for a few days. Don’t get me wrong, by the time my husband returned home they were always bouncing off the walls with pent up energy, but overall, they were content to snuggle on my recovery bed, drink tea, knit and listen to stories. Or at times, day dream while I read and make incredibly accurate laser gun noises under their breath while they battle evil forces in a galaxy far, far away. Ah, boys.


Towards the end of the week we experienced an actual beautiful weather day! Granted, a massive tropical storm was providing cloud cover for the entire state, but hey! it was nice and cool! So we jumped on our chance and headed outdoors for a picnic. But first, the boys had to get incredibly dirty. They caked on the mud, made leaf crowns, painted each other’s faces, adventured in other realms and had a marvelous morning. They settled onto their blanket as I read aloud from a stack of books I brought outside with us. They watched the clouds for a bit as I read and eventually, they each closed their eyes and just listened to the story. They looked so peaceful all cuddled up together. This only lasted a few minutes before someone threw a punch or tooted or threw grass in someone’s face and the equilibrium was lost. But still, those fleeting moments of silence and peace were magnificent.


Lastly, we marked the anniversary of our faithful friend’s passing on September 6th. Our beloved pup, Frankie, who was with us for 8 years. It was a hard day for everyone. I am thankful that the boys have had time to grieve his death and I recognize that they are still sad and grieving. Its the biggest loss they have encountered so far and it was a heavy day in the midst of our study. I am glad that we could honor that day the way these boys needed to. Reindeers, Dutch cookies, Norwegian myths, poetry tea time and a walk to our friend’s grave with a fistful of purple flowers.


Norway was beautiful and its one of those studies I will treasure in my heart because of all we experienced as lived out our week.

We’ll meet again in Paris!






My name is J and I am the other half of Farmhouse Schoolhouse. ¬†I am a¬†homeschooling father of 4 young boys, which means that about once a month I retreat to a quiet room of the house, hold my head in my hands, and wonder ‚ÄúWhy on earth are we doing this? ¬†Public school is still free, and 8 hours a day, right?‚ÄĚ ¬†Well, this section of Farmhouse Schoolhouse will be where I share the experiences that drive me into those moments of quiet retreat in the first place, and the many factors that coax me back out and encourage me to continue walking down this homeschooling path with my family.

‚ÄúLive and learn‚ÄĚ is a common mantra around here, and we are willing to share what we have learned as we progress.


Given that Elsie is a bookworm and I am an engineer, our perspectives should be diverse enough to present a broad view of the daily academics and experiential learning that make up our homeschooling life, and what works and what doesn’t.  My intention in writing is twofold: to share my experiences as a homeschooling dad with other homeschooling dads out there, and to provide homeschooling mommas with a perspective on another father’s role and duty in the whole homeschooling process.


Finally, Elsie and I are adamant about the purpose of the Farmhouse Schoolhouse blog, that through sharing ideas and experiences, other families in the homeschooling community can be encouraged and strengthened.  Hopefully this can be a place where you find unique and interesting ways to strengthen your family through educating and nurturing your children.


So welcome to Dr J’s Corner. Stay tuned!

MFW Kindergarten: Water




The sad news is my computer crashed and I lost all my pictures. The good news is that super smart computer people are working hard on recovering the pictures. I don’t even have the words to describe what they are doing, where they are getting pictures from or what they are transferring the pictures to–that is how bad I am with technology. And so dear friends, forgive me for using some pictures that were not taken at the time we finished this unit.


Our water study began as a carry over from our Octopus study. My little guy had memories of his brothers studying Water in Kindergarten and he came ready with opinions and ideas of what he wanted to do.

First up? Playing with water and studying its flow and learning about gravity. Once upon his Dad (and I on occasion) worked in rural Honduras installing gravity fed water systems. We pulled out the old scrapbook and looked at pictures of the water tank and discussed how the pipes were laid and how the system worked to bring water all the way down the mountain to the village homes. We headed outside and turned on the hose and aimed the water down the drive. We took note of where the rivulets and streams formed and then we put things in the water’s path and watched the streams diverge and move around our obstacles. This used to be one of our favorites things to do at the creek near our home when we lived in Pennsylvania.

I also had to promise him a game of “Pooh sticks” for our upcoming visit to North Carolina. It was the first thing we did when we got to our favorite bridge. If you are unfamiliar with “pooh sticks” please run to your local library and grab a copy of AA Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” and investigate. It is such fun and a great way to study stream flow and currents!


Next we looked at  A Drop of Water by Walter Wick. I love the photos in this book. We went on to study the three states of matter in our kitchen. We let an ice cube melt into a pan and then we set the pan on the stove and watched the water evaporate. I held a piece of aluminum over it to gather some of the moisture and then we froze the collected water into a wee little cube.


Of course this unit calls for field trips! We stopped by a local river to observe the water and its ecosystem. We managed to find a pond and made similar observation. Last but not least, we went to the seaside to enjoy the water. It was a great day.

I made a few trays for him that week using river stones from the dollar store. I included a pitcher of blue tinted water and he had fun making different land form inside his tray. I would introduce various safari toobs and he would play with the corresponding animals. I also used a pack of instant snow and we played with some arctic animals.




He spent the last two days of his study reading lots and lots of fun library books from our book basket and trying out some experiments with one of his brother’s science books. They did half a dozen water experiments that day and made an enormous mess. But they learned so much together, through trail and error and teamwork. It was worth the mess!


MFW ECC Brazil


On the night before we began our study of Brazil and South America, the Olympics began. Totally unplanned. It was so much fun to see the opening ceremony and watch a presentation of Brazil’s history unfold before our eyes.


We loved hearing the music too! The boys asked me to find some more Brazilian music and we began by listening to Putumayo Kid’s Present¬†Brazilian Playground¬†and the Bossa Nova tunes of Sergio Mendez.

Of course another highlight was the world parade. We tried to find each country on the map as they were announced. I was greatly encouraged to hear how much the boys have already retained.  It also peaked the boys interest in the world flags.


In an effort to avoid an enormous post covering three weeks worth of school work, I will share how we did our Geography & Culture work for this unit and then a few tidbits and other resources for a few other subjects.

Geography work for South America consisted of several things. First, I made extra copies of a map of South American with clear black line borders and little else. Every day the boys would sit down, and fill in all the countries they could remember onto their maps. Then I would hand them a correctly filled out map and they would check their work. Then they would add two new countries and we would recite the countries again and I would switch back and forth between asking, “Show me ____” and “Tell me what this is?” ¬†I would only quiz them on countries they had filled in so far. The next day, they would receive a brand new map to fill in from memory, check their work and add a few more in. By the middle of the second week of Brazil study, they could fill in the entire map correctly. I learned of this method from Sonya Schafer at the last homeschool conference I attended and its really worked for us.


We would reinforce our work by building ¬†geography¬†puzzles¬†(note: We purchased ours on Zulily for $19) and using the Geography game that comes with ECC. I love this simple game. The boys have learned so much using it and I like that I can walk away and they are confident enough to play and learn on their own while I work with the other two kids.¬†We often close out Geography time by reading “Around the World in 80 Pages“which gives us a closer look at all the other countries in the continent we are currently visiting.


Cultural study has taken many forms this year. Again, we have to acknowledge that they cannot walk away from this year experts on every single world culture, so I am not stressing out about reading ¬†every single “Welcome to >Insert Country’s Name<” book the library has to offer. I am looking for my kids to make heart connections with the people in these far away lands. So in the first few days of encountering a new country/continent, I spread out the “delectable feast.” A variety of books about the country. Culture study, a cookbook, travel books, biome information, indigenous peoples book, and a books about crafts or fine arts. I play some culturally appropriate music and they sit down and dig in. Its really important to me that they get to follow their interests and seek out treasure to dig out and claim for themselves. Its so much more meaningful than randomly reading out statistics. They get to notebook whatever they have discovered and then they get to present the information to us. ¬†They often go in completely different directions. This week my eldest went from tapirs to butterflies to brazilwood to the Yanomami tribes to homemade dye. He had to make his own a few days later and paint a rainforest picture with it afterwards.


As the days progress I incorporate living books about the country. We had several favorites this study that really drew us in and made us feel like we were there! Check out our book list at the end of this post.


The boys have been keeping science notebooks this year with illustrations and narrations from our work with the Usborne Living Science Encyclopedia. We continue to use Biome cards and animal ecology study work from Pin it! Maps. (Check out the free teaching materials tab!)


Based off of their interest, they spent several days learning about the variety of bird beaks in the world, while I avoided all of the laundry in the house. They were fascinated by all the new information garnered and when we went for a visit to our local zoo’s Amazon section, they were calling out all the different kinds of beaks they saw. ¬†Some of their new artwork for their ornithology albums came out so lovely. Its especially encouraging to this art challenged mother to see our diligent work paying off little by little. We are still using Drawing with Children since we had to hold off for a long time on it until we were ready. I am so glad we waited! Its been much more fruitful now.

We also got a bit of sensory fun added in with a prepared “Smells of the Rainforest” Tray featuring things like cinnamon, cacao, coffee, hibiscus, etc. (Check out Mirus Toys¬†for sensory activities and bird beaks study)

Last bit of information for science, we found these beautiful insect and butterfly cards for FREE here. (Thanks Eltern Vom Mars!) which we used during our brief look at entomology. We also spent time with our CC Science work, learning all about biomes and consumers.


During our second week we decided to catalogue all the edible natives in our farm along with all other fruit bearing plants on the property. It was so grand¬†to realize how many dietary options we have should political anarchy ever shut down all grocery stores. Our nature walks have been so brief lately due to the tremendous heat index down here. We are doing our best to get outside in some way, but the time is always short. Unless…


We hit the beach.


Now that is my kind of nature walk in the dead of August!!! I know once the tropical weather calms the heck down we will have plenty of time to do more nature walks. Until then, nature walk = farm and beach and books. And that is ok! Next month we will resume our walks and we will be starting “Blaze New Trails” an adventure guide by Holly Giles of The Giles Frontier¬†as part of our nature study experience. We’ll let you know how it goes! (PS If you are studying Little House in the Big Woods this year at all, check out Holly’s “County Fair” study. Its darling and I can’t wait to use it over summer break next year!)

Brazil was a three week behemoth. It was fun, but we were so excited to move onto Norway. A few other things that happened outside of Brazil during our three week study?

LOTS of practical life work. How to change a lightbulb, how to sew a button, how to load the dishwasher, how to get a cookbook and finish a recipe from start to finish (Check out Mollie Kazan’s Honest Pretzels) to name a few. ¬†I am reminded that there are many, many things I do doing the day that could really be taken on by someone else now. Someone much shorter than me and way eager to help and learn. It takes time to teach new skills, but this intentional investment of time is so very worth it!


The boys are still working on their pottery skills with their teacher and I love the glow they get when working at something difficult and worthy.


Our knitting projects have all but wrapped up and we are starting to venture out into the world of knitting socks. Four needles!? Yowza! And my second born has started embroidering, which is fun but a bit maddening when he gets stuck and I have to jump in and figure out where he is. My eldest still shows very little interest in this sort of handiwork so he has picked up more Paper Sloyd and is enjoying completing some beautiful work on his free time.

I am grateful once more that my children get to fully experience that wonderful, fleeting bit of magic known as childhood. Not everyone gets to and I am so thankful they have one. ¬†I continually remind myself to make time for them to just be children–to have joy and wonder and space to ponder.


I am also thankful God brought us to homeschooling. There will be many dropped balls and missed academic goals and fumbled parenting moments, but I am so secure in walking this path God has called us to because of His merciful reaffirmations and bountiful grace in leading us. I have complete faith that Christ has a plan for my children and their lives. They belong to Him.¬†Our calling is not conditional upon how many lesson plans are completed or how many baskets of laundry are completed each week. ¬†I get to beat back the devil’s lies and whispers with the TRUTH of victory already won. Thank God for that! See you all in Norway!

Brazil Book List:
The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry
The Rain Forest Grew All Around by Susan Mitchell
Up and Down the Andes by Laurie Krebs
Biblioburro by  Jeanette Winter
Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown
The Tapir Scientist by Sy Montgomery
A Mango in the Hand: A Story told through Proverbs by Antonio Sacre
Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl (4th grade +)
Welcome to the Green House by Jane Yolen
The Umbrella by Jan Brett (Costa Rica, but we were late in reading it. Rain Forest Biome fit though)
Nature’s Green Umbrella by Gail Gibbons
Slowly, Slowly, Slowly Said the Sloth by Eric Carle

Rain Forest by Ben Morgan (SUCH gorgeous photography!)

How We Blend it All Together


We have had so many requests for an in-depth look at how we juggle all our “curriculums” and activities that I finally sat down today to churn out this monster of a blog post. Its long. Really long. There were that many questions to answer. So for those that asked, here we go.


First of all, a philosophy of education is not a curriculum. Its a philosophy. In using various methods we have knit together our own family philosophy of education and in all likelihood it is different from everyone else’s because it is personalized for our particular family’s needs. Everyone’s personal philosophy of education will differ and that is a beautiful thing.

Let me begin by listing what we are using for each subject in our household of four boys aged 3-8 this year so everyone is on the same page.

Math: Saxon Math, Make Math Meaningful and Life of Fred
Science: Properties of Ecosystems (My Fathers World), Usborne experiment books, Beautiful Feet Books History of Science, The Giles Frontier Nature Study, My Father’s World Kindergarten, and finally, lots and lots and lots of nature walks with Wild Explorers Club or gathering finds for the Nature Pal Exchange.
History/Geography: My Father’s World Exploring Countries and Cultures, Stories of the Nations (Simply Charlotte Mason), Brave Companions by Dave McCollough, Pin it Maps.
Bible: MFW ECC (^^) Our 24 Family Ways by Clay and Sally Clarkson
Language Arts: Spelling Wisdom Book 1 (Simply Charlotte Mason) Student Intensive A (Institute for Excellence in Writing) Explode the Code (book 6 for my 7 year old, book 4 for my 8 year old), Linguistic Development through Poetry (IEW), Delightful Reading (Simply Charlotte Mason) My Father’s World Kindergarten
Fine Arts: Pottery Class, Drawing With Children, Guitar and piano at home, Artist study (Simply Charlotte Mason) Composer Study (Simply Charlotte Mason, Hymn Study (Simply Charlotte Mason).
Foreign Language: Memoria Press Prima Latina

Throw in A Year of Playing Skillfully (AYOPS) for my 3 year old (ok, ALL my kids because everyone loves it) and Classical Conversations for three out of four kids (and myself since I am the Director of our Community).

Is your head spinning? Mine is just from writing it all down. But we’ve established our daily rhythm and our understanding of how and why we are doing this so during the week it works for us!


Here is the first thing I establish when I look at my year. SEASONS. Not the usual four season of spring, summer, fall and winter, but the seasons of our activities.

Classical Conversation runs 24 weeks out of a 52 week year so I am all about getting lots done whenever CC isn’t going on. We always start our main curriculum, My Fathers World, in June. This year I will have a solid 10 weeks of school under my belt before the first day of Classical Conversations. (Hooray!) This gives me a huge lead as I navigate the rest of the year. By the time CC wraps its first term the week before Thanksgiving, I only sneak in one more week of MFW before we wrap for Advent. We like to take the whole month of December off to really enjoy Christmas together. We still do AYOPS, but its such a fun month that it feels light and easy. This year, my eldest will be using the month of December to review and work ahead towards Memory Master. We’ll see how that goes!

In January we start up again. By this point, our MFW year is nearing its end! We usually wrap up in March and CC ends in April. Now you are probably wondering about my K student. Well, he started Kindergarten in March of last year. Which means that while his brother’s were on “summer break” from March-May, I was making headway with my guy on his K work. It was so much fun to just focus on him for awhile and I am so thankful that I scheduled it that way. As a third born his normal speaking voice is a near shout! He definitely blossomed under that special one on one time and attention. Once his brother’s started in June he was so confident in his work and his rhythm that the transition was nearly seamless. Praise God!

I’m sure there are some readers thinking, heck no! I need everyone off at the same time and I need a break! But the truth is, for us, this is what works and its how we make it all work. Seasonal shifts in our schooling with the ability to focus in on a specific student during their neediest time of year. I’ve loved it and the work load is so much lighter during those seasons that it feels restful.


Which brings me to how we homeschool. We homeschool from a place of rest. If you have yet to read it, I encourage you to pick up Sarah Mackenzie’s book, “Teaching from a Place of Rest.” It is life giving and life changing. Friends, I feel called by God to homeschool my children and I am resting in His sovereignty and grace. I am not panicked about my children’s educations. I do my research and put it before the Lord in prayer. I make a plan, I pull the trigger and I adjust as God leads.

The main thing I do as a homeschool mom is stay flexible and adjust where needed. We are not teaching stagnant little robots. These are growing, changing, creative beings and their needs, interests, challenges, passions, and requirements evolve constantly. If we have pulled our children from a system that seeks to standardize, then we need to relish the opportunity to personalize!


Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education echoes my heartbeat when it comes to education. Classical Education is what my children enjoy. I read “Consider This” by Karen Glass and realized that these two philosophies can and do blend together beautifully. SO we school under an umbrella of CM/CC. We read tons of living books throughout the year and if its possible to accomplish it outside, then that is where you will find us. My goal is to blend Charlotte Mason and the Classical Approach together in all we do. We are in the midst of Charlotte Mason and the Grammar Stage and I can honestly say I wouldnt change it for the world! Additionally, The older two love interest led learning. The younger two thrive with Waldorf and Montessori flair sprinkled throughout their days.

How does that look on a typical day when all parts of our year are in full swing? First I’ll share a break down of our day and then I’ll share a bit about how I plan and prepare for smooth days. Here is an example from the month of October with greater detail than my previous scheduling posts:

Breakfast/ Morning Meeting
While I cook breakfast the older boys work on their Classical Conversations Geography maps which I keep at the breakfast table along with their dry erase markers. The youngest helps me prepare breakfast and sets the table as his practical life skill. I set out a pot of tea and do a quick round of “show me/tell me” with the maps, picking various locations from the past weeks or perhaps whatever they learned at community that week. Then I sit down and we pray and then sing a few of the hymns we have learned so far during hymn study. We discuss whatever habit we are currently cultivating. Sometimes its just a check in, sometimes we read a book or story pertaining to the trait, etc. Next I choose something out of our morning basket (We have something for each day of the week: Artist study, Composer study, hymn study, poetry study, catechism). We will do whatever was assigned for that day for a few minutes. It is short and focused. The point of this time is to nurture and inspire and awaken. Not to hammer or quiz or lecture. Next I will read from our current history read aloud (This year its Stories of the Nations from Simply Charlotte Mason). ¬†Next we go over any big assignments for that day or appointments, errands, etc. or we write thank you notes or notes of encouragement to others for a couple minutes. We sing CC’s scripture passage that we are learning for that cycle (This year we are all memorizing Ephesians 6) and we end the meeting. The boys go and make their beds, change out of their pajamas, brush their teeth and clear off the table. 10 minutes later we meet up in the classroom.


The Block Schedule
We begin our lessons on the hour. Math is always, always first. (Leigh Bortins has an excellent explanation of this block schedule process in the first portion of the 4th edition Foundations Guide and I will state from the outset that the block schedule is the heartbeat of our rhythm and without it this circus would go up in FLAMES). We sit down to the table together and practice skip counting, counting in tens, counting up to five hundred, counting backwards from 200, whatever! We all do it together, out loud. The younger ones benefit from hearing the older ones recite for a few minutes. Then I pull out one of my prepared math trays or activities for my 5 year old and 3 year old to do. I pull out the Saxon lesson for my older boys and we work through the new concept and then they do their lesson. While they do their lesson, I pull my five year old over for a math game. Anything I do with him regarding math is just for fun and mostly interest led. If he’s into bugs, we count bugs or put them in ordinal positions. This is not a huge drawn out thing. It is brief and fun and I leave him wanting more. Which is KEY for getting little guys to like school. Next up, I get my three year old and do a morning circle time with him. We read a Waldorf story and play with his wooden animals. We sing songs and he spends lots of time sitting on my lap and getting that pressure hug he craves so much as a sensory needs little. Usually the older boys finish up while we are in circle. Sometimes they wander over and join in, sometimes they run outside to play or ride bike, sometimes they pick up art supplies or knitting needles or legos and do their own thing. I wrap up with the younger ones and then I usually have just enough time (10-15 minutes) to throw in a load of laundry or do a quick chore or answer emails or scream into a pillow. On some hours, we all finish at the same time and we go outside to enjoy our farm and play in the back hollow together. Or sometimes the elders will be working and the littles need something hands on so we leave the classroom and go to the kitchen to bake bread or assemble a pie while the elder brothers wrap things up in silence. Point is, on the next hour, everyone comes back and is mentally refreshed and ready for the next topic.


We transition with our CC Memory Work. The subject that comes after Language Arts is History. So we will sing our history sentence as we gather up for history. Or our Geo song as we gather for geography, etc. Transition time is review time for CC. We usually close out our morning by singing the Timeline song and adding anything new we learned into our ¬†individual book of centuries. And this is how our morning progresses. We all gather on the hour and recite our work together and then move to our respective work in shifts. The older boys have slowly been working towards independent learning for years and now its really paying off! I can explain what they need to do and they execute with minimal guidance as they progress. As they work, I continue with the 5 year old. Having fun and learning new things and planting little seeds of independence that will help him in years to come. Then the 5 and 3 year old repeat AYOPS activity or start a new one. We have anywhere from 5-7 options available for them to choose from. We sometimes play games to learn new subjects to help our kinesthetic learner. When we do spelling I have to input each word verbally into my eldest son’s head since he is visually disorganized. My youngest son’s therapy always happens in the middle hour while everyone else is working. My third born needs at least 5 minutes of my undivided attention every hour or he will absolutely break down (This is one of the reasons why he is the only one with his own desk/workspace). My second born is always looking for something to do, and I don’t mean some useless cutesy pinterest craft, I mean something to do that is useful and valuable and of importance. Its a lot to juggle and I had to pay close attention to figure out all these specific needs and by the time I pinned them down they were usually starting to change. ¬†This means I am constantly on my toes but the truth is…I can do this because I am the world’s leading non divine expert on these children. He gave them to me, He called me to do this, He listens to my petitions and cares about my cries and He ultimately equips me in ways I didn’t know were possible!


Lit Lunch
By the time lunch rolls around we usually have finished math, language arts and history/geography. I do this purposely so that if we are having a hard day and its all going up in flames I can call off school for the rest of the day and hide in my bathroom and eat chocolate. Its good to get the basics down and done by noon. The rest of the day is icing on the cake! I make lunch and the kids blow off steam. I always hope they’ll choose to do ¬†and pleasant lovely things but usually they just wrestle and beat each other up in the living room and holler like crazy. Eventually I’ll call one over to set the table, usually its a recently injured child that needs a breather. We all gather at the table for the meal and sing the Doxology. I pull several books from our book basket for the week (K and ECC) and we read aloud as we eat. I pause between books to get some of my lunch in too! ¬†Lunch is long and leisurely and we often chat and share ideas. I love it. At the end of lunch the boys do their narrations for the day. Sharing what they have heard and absorbed and what they know. Sometimes I will pull out a large piece of block paper and ask them to draw something for me while I ask them questions. This is how I administer tests. They narrate, create, explain and make connections while I jot down notes. They never even realize they are being tested.


Quiet Time/Nap Time
Mandatory. Thats all I can say. Hate napping? Fine. Lay in bed and listen to audiobook. Its quiet time. Don’t want quiet time? I will give you the grossest job in the house to do on constant repeat until you beg for quiet time. I need quiet time. Every day. Cant function without it. Also, kids need quiet time. They need time to process what they have learned. They need time to ponder and wonder and just be. So yes, we have quiet time at my house every single day.We do it in shifts. The younger two usually listen to Ted Jacobs poetry CDs or The Jesus Storybook Bible, Beatrix Potter, AA Milne, etc. Something lovely and calming. The older boys and I get the detail work done during this time. Things they can only do when their little brothers arent around to mess it up. Usually art or weaving or detailed recordings in their science journals. We spend about 30 minutes doing that and then we move on to either Latin or¬†Science. Once we are done the older boys go to their rooms for some quiet time and the younger ones bust outta their rooms like bats from a cave. The older boys use their time to play with legos or knit new projects and listen to GA Henty or Lamplighter audio books. The littles and I play, play, play, play, play. Usually its some kind of game involving letters of the alphabet or animas or naming things, etc. The older boys join us by the end because they LOVE AYOPS! I usually leave them playing skillfully together while I drink tea or read a book and just grab a few minutes for myself. On days when I just cant do anything organized because I am sick or have cramps or am seriously considering sending them all to school and going back to work, then I plop them in front of the TV and my substitute teacher Ms Frizzle teaches them for a bit while I decompress. I never ever regret it.

Nature Time/Poetry Teatime
Usually around 3pm we are ready for a snack. If we didnt get enough outdoor time in the morning between subjects, then we will grab a snack and head out for a walk. If we’re pretty tired, I set out a tablecloth, break out a large pot of tea and we read poetry while we eat snacks. I’ve said it on here before, if I feed them, they will come. I provide snacks and tea and they come to the table and soak up poetry. Its wonderful and quite possibly, my favorite thing we do.

Blessing Hour
At 4 pm I start making dinner and my boys clean the house. They bless our family by doing work so that when Daddy gets home we can enjoy dinner together and relax and play afterwards. They clean up books, put away legos, sweep the floors, wipe down counters, stack dishes, put away laundry, collect dirty laundry and toss it into the machine, etc. I love Blessing Hour and definitely feel the burden of housework when it falls by the wayside. I always spend a couple of minutes of Blessing Hour making sure my littlest littles know what they are doing. At other times of the week I will work with them to teach them how to do certain tasks. For example, learning to do dishes. They watch me do dishes several times, we do dishes together several times, I help them do dishes several times, I watch them do dishes several times and finally, I walk away and they do dishes by themselves forever and ever, AMEN! The process takes many long weeks but its worth it for smooth days in the future! If you are wondering, dishes is actually next on my list for a couple of my kiddos and I cant wait!

Depending on the day of the week, we usually eat dinner right when Dad gets home. Sometimes we have sports practice afterwards, sometimes we have small group, but during most seasons, its just family dinner every night of the week which is an extremely high priority for us. I say NO to a lot of things around us so I can say YES to family dinners. We read our Bible stuff during this time and we enjoy it together.  After we eat its free time. Romp around the farm, play music, read books, watch a fun movie together.


Boys shower, brush teeth and get to bed (8/8:30). We read books with the littles and then turn on their audiobook. I sit in the rocking chair in the older boys room and we read an awesome book together. Right now its Anne of Green Gables! Once that is done its Mommy and Daddy time!
And that is a typical day for us in the fall. Exception? Our community day which is CC all day long. Or Fridays, which has us doing a nature walk or beach day most of the afternoon and then working on our individual presentations for Classical Conversation’s next community day. We hold strict school hours. We have to. Friends can come play after school hours. On days when we say, “sure! come over whenever” it all falls to the wayside. We hold hard and fast to our rhythm because after many years of trial and error we ¬†stumbled into what works and its up to me to guard the boundaries and protect it.

So how do I prepare for all this learning? At the beginning of the year I set character goals and education goals and make sure they match up. If I have an education goal they dont have the character to realistically accomplish, then I need to readjust! I plan lessons by month. First, I make sure that our lessons are short and focused. This keeps their attention and also grows their habit of attention slowly over time. I always leave them wanting more and I often leave them open ended so they boys can chase the spark of interest from what they have learned if they chose to do so. I do use a homeschool planner (Debra Bell’s planner) and fill it out with our block schedule. I coordinate everyone’s subjects to the appropriate hour. ¬†I look at all the science experiments we are doing that month and then never, ever assign them a specific day. This helps me not feel like a failure when I fail to do it on that day. Instead I assign them to a week which gives me a little breathing room. I look at our AYOPS curriculum for that month and I pick out whatever is easy and most affordable first. Then I look at anything I can do an approximation of using whatever I happen to have on hand. It wont be perfect, but it will be close thanks to creativity and mother necessity. Then I pick one or two awesome new things that just look too good to pass up and I plan on doing it no matter what. I take an evening to prepare all this stuff while my hubby watches the kids or they all watch a movie. Oftentimes I will place activities on trays or in plastic bins (think Montessori style) and I leave them for my kids to use. The understanding is that they maintain the freedom to do this as long as they clean up each time they complete an activity. Leave it messy? Lose the freedom till you earn it back. Next I make copies of whatever worksheets the boys need (which isnt many b/c I loathe handouts) and then I go onto my public library site and start putting books on hold for the next few units. If the children have expressed particular interest or curiosity over something, this is also the time when I try and sneak some of that in wherever I can for them just to keep them LOVING what they do all day.


This is probably the longest, most thorough post I have ever written. If you are still reading its probably because you are desperate for help so its time for me to encourage you. Running out and doing a carbon copy of my day is probably not going to go very well. I shared this much detail so you can see how much thought went into juggling all these personalities and learning styles. You need to crack your own family’s code. Here are the steps I recommend you take.

1) PRAY. Pray and ask God to open your eyes to your family’s needs and to His will.
2) Make a list of character goals and education goals for your child(ren). Ask yourself if the education goals or appropriate to the character/habits your child already possesses. For example, you want your child to do something independently everyday for 10 minutes. Can the child follow directions? how long is their attention span when no one is keeping them on course? etc. You may need to push the education goal back for a few months or a year and work on the character/habit goals they need to accomplish the education goal.
3)Spread everything out somewhere and have your spouse or a parent or a friend join you in the eagle eye assessment.
4) TRIM THE FAT. Go ahead. You don’t need to do every single thing the curriculum says to do. Maybe opt out of something and be creative with something you know your children will respond to. Are your kids little? Do they have time to think and play?
5) Find your balance. If you have more than one kid then you have more than one personality and you are officially in need of juggling skills. Make a rhythm for your family in PENCIL on a plain ole scrap of paper. Don’t laminate anything, you’ll just hate yourself later. Write it so you can erase it and try something else. Do this until you find a groove! Maybe your kids learn best at night? Maybe they need the hard subject first and thebest subject last so they have something to look forward to. Maybe its flip flopped. Maybe they need hard work first and you start the day off with chores. Maybe you want to book end the day with beauty so you end the day with “morning time.” Whatever you discover works best for your family and all the unique personalities and learning styles therein, jot it down and be willing to change it as time goes on and people keep changing.
6) LEARN TO SAY NO. Practice it in the mirror if you have to. And if you cant say no then practice saying “not right now.” As Sonya Schafer says, “not right now” is a firm no that leaves you open to the opportunity at a later date.
7) MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF (and hubby too). Kick junior out of your bedroom and have a faculty meeting with the world’s hottest principle. Or have a parent teacher conference at the local nail salon or coffeehouse. Don’t let yourself get down to a frazzled mess before you call time out. ¬†Its something I am working on now.
8) PRAY again over everything you’ve decided.
9) PULL THE TRIGGER. Its never going to be perfect, just go for it!
10) STAY FLEXIBLE. Be willing to adjust the plan as you go along.





MFW Kindergarten: Octopus



O-o Octopus was a huge hit at our house. Living in Florida means we have access to lots and lots of water. So having the Octopus and Water units back to back was tons of fun for us.

My son expressed an interest in learning more about octopus but also all sea life! I set up our K table with lots of free posters from our local nature center about various local sea life and set out several books that contained interesting and lovely illustrations. He spent a lot of time drawing, tracing and copying pictures out of these books while my older boys did their Exploring Countries and Cultures work.  I also picked up a pack of diffusing paper in sea life shapes, we used water color on these and made beautiful fish, seahorse, and turtle friends to hang up around the house.

Lastly, I set out a tray with some of our favorite nature finds from the shoreline for him to look at up close with a magnifying glass.


One of our friends celebrated his birthday on the beach that week and of course my son spent quite a bit of time hunting for an octopus whenever he wasnt jumping into the sea. The hostess provided nets for all the children and they had a blast!


We found a variety of crabs, small fish and bristle worms. Not a an octopus in sight but we still enjoyed the hunt.


We loved studying the Mimic Octopus our first time around and when I announced it was time for the Octopus week my elder boys ran in and begged to watch this youtube video and this one.

There are TONS and TONS of Octopus crafts on pinterest. My two eldest made octopus sock friends when they were in K. Sewing buttons on to make the suction cups for the tentacles. Of course number 3 wanted to be totally and completely different, thank you very much. He does not like following instructions to make a craft. He wants to forge his own path and make it his own. So he made a hat out of construction paper and attached tentacles with cheerio suction cups glued on. The hat didn’t last long but boy did he have a blast making something of his own!

Here are a few of our favorite Ocean themed books from this week:

How to Hide an Octopus by Ruth Heller
An Octopus is Amazing by Patricia Lauber
What lives in a Shell by Katherine Weidner
The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson
Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle
Underwater Alphabet by Jerry Pallota
Giant Squid by Mary Cerullo
The Octopus Scientists by Sy Montgomery
Down, Down, Down by Steve Jenkins
Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain by Edward Ardizzone
Burt Dow, Deep Water Man by Robert McCloskey
Sunken Treasure by Gail Gibbons

We finished gathering all of our nature finds for our summer nature pal exchange. I really can not recommend this program enough!


Our cocoplums finally ripened and we had a lovely evening picking most of them.


And it was FINALLY his turn to get a library card. Oh, how proud and excited he was that day!


Things are slowly easing into a good rhythm for our family as we juggle ECC, MFWK, AYOPS, therapy and SCM. Soon we will be adding CC to the mix. Its hard work but so worth it to meet all these different needs!