Classical Conversations Cycle 3 Week 3 Evacuation Tea Party


Our History focus this week took us from the Pilgrims through the start of the Revolutionary War. We spent a few days learning about the French and Indian War and thanks to our Stories of America book we read about the establishment of each colony and the causes of the war.  We read an old James Daugherty book on Daniel Boone and spent a few days playing and learning with our Pin it! Maps US History Bundle.  One of our favorite new (to us) historical figures we read about was Captain William Wadsworth. The boys loved the story of the charter oak and the story of the drummers.


We worked to set the stage for the next week of American History. (See our booklist at the end of the post!)  I wanted the boys to have a big picture view by focusing on a few lives lived at the time. My older boys read some biographies in their spare time. Does that seem like a ton of work? The reason for all of this work is that our CC facility was unable to host us between weeks 3 & 4 so we had two weeks to do week 3. Everything was clipping a long at a good pace….


Then Hurricane Irma became a category 5 and headed straight for us. We fled to North Carolina.


I could write an entire post just about the stress and anxiety of that week.  Deciding what to save from our home and what to leave behind, determine the safest time to leave when faced with gridlock and gas shortages. It was exhausting. Praise God we made it safely to North Carolina, where we spent 6 days with my family.  We needed to get the boys out of the house so we took several nature walks, met up with friends and of course, went on a field trip.


We spent a beautiful day at Cowpens battlefield. We went on a walking tour with a ranger, enjoyed the beautiful weather and found all sorts of feathers and sticks and rocks.  The boys enjoyed asking questions and eventually the younger boys and I broke away for a slow walk in the woods.  A peaceful day that soothed us even though it took place on a battlefield.


6 days later we were home. Exhausted and overwhelmed and eager to get back to our usual rhythm. Most of the families in our community waited several days to get power back and my family is currently without internet, hence the radio silence on most of our social media these days.  We dove back into our books with more biographies and took advantage of the extra time to really delve into our Essentials charts.

Book list:
The Boston Tea Party by Russell Freedman
Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
George vs. George: The American Revolution As Seen from Both Sides by Rosalyn Schanzer
Can’t You Make Them Behave, King George? by Jean Fritz
The Scarlet Stockings Spy by Trina Hanks Noble
Sybil’s Night Ride by Karen Winnick
The Story of the Boston Tea Party: Cornerstones of Freedom
Colonial Voices: Hear Them Speak: The Outbreak of the Boston Tea Party Told from Multiple Points-of-View! By Kay Winters
Benjamin Franklin by D’ulaires
Paul Revere by Esther Forbes


Classical Conversations Cycle 3 Week 2: Pilgrims (j/k Explorers)


You know what I love about Foundations? The freedom.


Goodness gracious it feels great to go at our own pace! We spent the first couple of days learning about the Jamestown settlement and other early settlements in North America. We read a fantastic book called “Forts in America” by Harold Peterson that tied together our study of Castles last year to Forts. It was fascinating! Our Week 2 History sentence is about the Mayflower Compact. Here’s the thing, we’ve studied Pilgrims every year at Thanksgiving. Every. Single. Year.  We also did an incredibly thorough Pilgrim study during our MFW Adventures and Beautiful Feet Book Early American History study. I’m feeling like we are pretty solid on Pilgrims. I mean, we will still study Pilgrims again this upcoming Thanksgiving because its become a tradition and my boys LOVE it, but I didn’t really feel the need to do a ton with Pilgrims this week.


We read a few chapters from Lorene Lambert’s excellent book “Stories of America Volume 1” and we read the appropriate sections from our main spine “A Child’s First Book of American History” by Earl Miers.  Two books we enjoyed from our local living library where: “Shaw’s Fortune” by Edwin tunis and “Stranded at Plimoth Plantation 1626” by Gary Bowen. We spent extra time learning about Roger Williams and his passion for defending Native Americans and religious liberty for all. We did our narrations, charted the Mayflower’s journey and then we turned our attention back to explorers! The boys also read portions from our past US History studies that they enjoyed. We used our Pin it! Maps US History bundle throughout the week as we read.


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In recent weeks we had studied Polo, Vespucci, Magellan, Columbus, Cortez, Hudson, Pizarro, Coronado, Ericsson, Soto, Cortez, Cabot, Drake, Balboa, de Gama, Carties, de Leon, Champlain and a few more. Some of these stories were thrilling and exciting, others were appalling and sickening. This is a difficult topic for tender-hearted children, but I really feel that it is important to show them a balanced view of history. I read the writings of Bartolomeo de las Casas when I was in my early 20s. I had nightmares for months afterwards. I did not feel the need to outline the full extent of the atrocities committed by the Spaniards towards the native americans, but I did make sure that my children understood the level of horror and destruction those ships brought to the new world.  My boys read about a few of these explorers using the Gerrard Discovery Biographies for early readers during their quiet reading hour.


In place of our usual Friday Exam, I rolled out a large sheet of kraft paper and we began to map out the globe. This is where the fruits of our daily geography map tracing and blobbing really show.  I helped with a few initial placements but they did the vast majority of the work. We used this nifty little site to help us chart the individual courses.  It was incredible to see all the voyages on a map we made together.


Many of these explorers were also cartographers and we recalled some of those stories together while we worked on adding all the special details, like the compass rose.  It was a beautiful way to close our explores study and left us ready for our study of settlements in the New World.


We pressed on with Latin, Math and Science as usual. We have settled into a really nice flow in the mornings with the boys getting their instruction from me and then setting out to do their independent work while I help their little brothers. (If you have not read Leigh Bortin’s intro to the Foundations Guide READ IT NOW!) Essentials is rolling along nicely. I love that we are learning everything together. We are charting every single day and I am amazed at how much he is writing with each IEW paper. (Use our IEW button on the sidebar!) Our decision to use IEW Phonetic Zoo spelling is also working tremendously well for us. I’ll be sharing soon about how we tackle Essentials each day, I just want to get a couple more weeks under my belt before I do so.

Also, teeth are falling out all over the place. I need to step up my soup game and get more ones from the bank.


Meanwhile, my six year old is loving his slow and steady study with Playful Pioneers. Every day after lunch my littlest guy snuggles in bed and listens to audio books while my older children have their independent reading hour. That’s when my third born and I have “wonderfulest us time” as he calls it. 😊 He sits on my lap and works on his edging while I read aloud, followed by whatever activity is assigned that day. We look forward to this special time all day long and I’m always amazed by how hungry he is for it. No matter what we are doing he wants to be pressed up against my side. He’ll ask me to scratch his back or his head while I read. Sometimes he wants to sit in my lap and sing with me. It’s amazing how old six isn’t. For some reason the age of six makes most parents panic. Who is reading, who is writing, who can sit still, who can comply and conform, who is malleable to whatever the agenda of the day is? How sad. I have repeated to myself over and over the words of Andrew Kern, “children are souls to be nurtured, not products to be measured.” This perfectly sums up this tender time with my son each day. How we love our nurturing hour, our little liturgy of love and wonder. On the hard days it’s even more important to follow through with it.


This was our last week of school before our third year with The Homegrown Preschooler begins. I had to laugh at the number of times my kids asked for HGP this month (yes, even the 8 and 9 year old). I must have said “It starts in September” at least 20 times. We are so ready to start again!



His boxes are all prepped and ready to go. This year we are adding in some activities he was not developmentally ready for last year. Recently someone recommended the Leap Frog Letter Factory (DVD) to us. I’ll admit I kind of rolled my eyes at the recommendation but I really respect this person and my son does respond really well to music so I bought a copy. Now, he is turning 5 soon but I am in ZERO hurry for him to learn his letters. Guys, he watched this video three times and is suddenly writing out 10-12 letters, sounding them out and having so much fun with them. He keeps pulling out our letter board FROM JENNIFER and he sings the song as he traces the letters. Oh, my heart! Its killing me. So we are starting another year of playing skillfully and he has shown me that he is interested in letters so we will be adding all of those print rich activities this year.

On to Week 3!


Back to (Home)School!



The alternate title was: “Where did you get that…?”

If you have ever watched one of my Instagram lives or attended any of my speaking engagements or heard me at a conference, you know that I repeatedly say the following: “This is just what works for us. My hope is not that you try and make everything I do work for you. Unless you’re a night owl named Elsie and you live on a small farm in South FL with 4 boys of varying learning abilities and love CM, CC, HGP, etc., chances are an exact replica of everything I do will not work for you. My hope is that you see one or two things that work for you. Or perhaps that you find a bit of inspiration or encouragement that bring clarity as you piece together what you want your homeschool to look like. Learning, especially learning in the home, should be personalized! Forget about copying and start modeling with a heart to construct your own vision.” I also frequently remind people that my son has all of his therapies here in our home which is why we have so many tools. You don’t need all this stuff to homeschool. Please don’t look at this list and think that you have to buy all of the things. You don’t. You really, really don’t.

But since you guys send in so many emails, messages, DMs and comments asking “Where do I find that/Where did you get that?” I decided to compile a list of our favorite Homeschool supplies. My first few years of homeschooling were spent buying whatever was cheapest, which meant I was constantly replacing broken junk. Over time I discovered that we actually saved more money in the long run by getting better quality supplies a little bit at a time. For example, Id rather spend more money on Stockmar crayons that don’t break, leave beautiful brilliant colors and last ages and ages than have to buy a new pack of Crayola every month or constantly melting down fragments all the times to make new ones. Ever burn yourself using one of those precious little shape molds during a valiant effort to repurpose crayon fragments? I just don’t have the pain threshold or the time for all the thriftiness/preciousness anymore so Stockmar crayons it is! ****A reminder that yes, we are a single income family so I never (NEVER) purchase all the things all at once.****  I’ll be adding to this list whenever people write in and ask “where did you get that….?”

With that said, here is the list!!


Favorite supplies:
Ticonderoga Pencils– the ONLY pencil that doesn’t break all the time. A box of 96 lasts  a good long while!
Stockmar Beeswax Block Crayons I just checked and I last purchased these in March of 2016 and they are still kicking!
Stockmar Beeswax Stick Crayons Remember that prices on Amazon fluctuate! Be sure to check some of the other store resources at the end of this email for alternate price comparison.
Prismacolor Colored Pencils
Paint brushes
Fine tip dry erase markers Perfect for our Essentials chart work!
Pencil sharpener So full disclosure our electric pencil sharpener is from the 70s. But when it dies, I am getting this one!
Drawing pencils
Sheet Protectors

Rainbow Cart
Book Stand: Ok, ok. Technically, it a recipe stand. We have six of them now and we use them all day, every day and I’m not exaggerating when I say, it is my main “must have” for homeschooling.
Book Display
Folders One pocket for each day of the week! I use this for all my notes.
Gummed tabs


Paper Goods:
POSTERS Check out PAPER SOURCE for $3-4 Cavallini wrapping paper.
Drawing paper
Watercolor paper
Lessons books
Astronomy lesson books
Book of Centuries
Narration books  Great for transitioning from oral narrations to written narrations.
Comic book paper for narrations


Handwork Supplies
Needle Felting 
Roving wool
Crochet hooks
Knitting Needles
Wood Carving
Carving Tools
Thumb guard
Walnut carving blocks


Kitchen Supplies:
Boards, Pans, etc. 
Raddish Kids

Curriculums we love:
Right Start Mathematics
The Homegrown Preschooler
Playful Pioneers
My Father’s World Kindergarten
My Father’s World Adventures in US History
Beautiful Feet Books Early American History
Beautiful Feet Books Ancient History
Beautiful Feet Books Geography Study
Beautiful Feet Books Character Study Through Literature
Beautiful Feet Books Music History Study
Tapestry of Grace
Pin it! Maps
Exploring Nature with Children
Blaze New Trails

Student Writing Intensive Level A ($109.00)

</a></div>”>IEW- Phonetic Zoo Spelling

Student Writing Intensive Level A ($109.00)

</a></div>”>IEW- Student Intensive A


Favorite Stores:
Bella Luna Toys
Treasures From Jennifer
Imagine Childhood
Magic Cabin
Paper Scissors Stone
Miller Pads and Paper
Rainbow Resource








Classical Conversations Cycle 3 Week 1: Tell Me About Columbus.


Let me start out by saying that I am LOVING the freedom we have to study what we want, when we want. I had a rough outline of ideas we could pursue this week, but ultimately, I wasn’t sure what the kids would want to chase down.

After community day the boys were quite keen to jump back into their study of explorers. We read Igri D’aulaire’s wonderful book “Columbus” and we also read accounts from “They Put Out to Sea” by Roger Duvoisin, “A Child’s First Book of American History” by Earl Miers and “Stories from America” by Lorene Lambert. The boys laid out a large piece of butcher paper and together we charted the four trips Columbus took to the Caribbean. We also reviewed our photos from our field trip to the Nina and Pinta replicas earlier this year.  Make sure you check out their Port Schedule! The crew was incredibly helpful and informative (and PATIENT!)


Along with their study of Columbus we also finished up our study of Vasco de Gama, Ferdinand Magellan and Jacques Cartier.  Give us all the explorers!

Each day the boys worked on their geography maps right after breakfast. Later in the day they would use their US History Pin it! Maps to further cement what we were reading. They are spending a great deal of time on Geography lately and it has become one of their favorite subjects. We make sure to devote just a few minutes every single day to this strand, knowing it will make a great difference in their studies now and in the future when they hit Challenge A.  We loved our Geography reads this week. Maine alone has so many beautiful stories. You can find the list of what we read over on our initial Quarter 1 post. We managed to read everything under the Geography heading with three different people reading aloud.


Our Latin studies with Memoria Press are progressing well. I loved when the boys opened their lessons books and stared with such dismay at the verb conjugation chart. Then they realized they had already memorized the most important parts through their years in Foundations at CC!  “MOM! Its 1st conjugation present tense! O, S, T, MUS, TIS, NT!” “Oh yeah, look at the singular and plural parts: I, you, he, she it, we, you (pl), them! We already know this stuff!” Guys, we conjugated most of the vocabulary, just because we could. They are slowly stretching into their Dialectic phase of learning and its so beautiful watch. If you have no idea what I am talking about, please pick up a copy of Leigh Bortin’s THE CORE. After our initial lesson, the boys take 10 minutes every day to drill vocabulary with each other.  These tiny, faithful increments add up to a great deal. Once they are done with Latin they move into their math lesson with Right Start Mathematics. Last week they wrapped up their most recent level and I offered them a few days off before jumping into the next level and they both refused. They could not wait to see what came next. This blows me away because they were constantly begging for breaks from their Saxon work. Now math is something they enjoy and even beg for. We played most of our favorite games last week, playing one or two after each lesson. Check out our IG stories on Instagram this week for a closer look at our lessons in action!


Speaking of lessons in action, the other day someone asked my boys what time they started school. One of the older children said 10AM. I was a bit startled and asked, “how so?”  He explained that morning time, music time, and chores felt more like family time and that he didn’t feel like school started until he opened up his Latin book or math book.  This made me smile! “When does your learning start each day then?” He tilted his head a bit and responded, “Learning started when I was born and hasn’t stopped. We don’t start learning every day. We just open our eyes and keep on learning like we always have.”  These little conversations mean the world to me. I love that they value personalized learning so much. Morning Time is really what cemented that for us. All of those mornings without measure, created a family culture of learning and appreciation for truth, goodness and beauty. It is by far, the most important aspect of our day. Last week we had our final recitations of the Apostles Creed and this week we have begun our study of the catechism.  We wrapped up our picture study with Leonardo DaVinci, which was fascinating in light of our reading in Genevieve Foster’s The World of Christoper Columbus.  We fished memorizing our latest round of poems using The Harp and Laurel Wreath and  we are continuing to enjoy our architecture study through LM Hillyer’s “A Child’s History of Art.”


Responsibilities have risen around here in the last few months. I recently trained the eldest two boys to do their laundry start to finish, which is one of the greatest gifts EVER. (I loathe laundry). It occurred to me recently that one of the reasons my boys are so willing to help me now is because I never pushed them aside when they were willing toddlers. You know the “Me do it” phase most toddlers hit? I let them do it. Even if it took forever, even if it made a bigger mess, even if it drove me crazy.  I didn’t do this with any kind of foresight or intentional chore planning for the future, at the time I simply wanted to foster independence. Now I see the real fruit of “Me do it” and that is “I got this, Mom” or “How can I help you, Mom?” or “Whats on the list today, Mom?” All those enormous “Me do it” toddler messes? TOTALY WORTH IT NOW.


This week’s science covered the four kinds of tissue. We delved into our Lyrical Life Science books and learned the song and filled in the workbook. It was simple, straightforward and enjoyable for the most part. Then we walked outside to watch Mama Cardinal feed her brand new hatchlings when one of my little guys let out a cry of sorrow and we all looked at the base of the tree and saw a tiny hatchling, stiff and unmoving. My boys were pierced. I went inside for some disposable gloves and brought him inside for observation. We marveled at him for awhile first. We read a Robert McClung’s book, Red Bird. We measured, studied, observed and recorded our findings:  3 day old hatchling, 6 cm long, fused eyelids, colorful tongue to attract attention, feather tracts in place, parasites in droppings. Then we found a small, empty box of chalk and made the long walk to our favorite oak tree.


They fought over who would get to dig the grave and a few tears of anger were shed. After a group huddle, the older boys dug a small grave and they all gathered around together. Then one of the middle ones started singing “This is My Father’s World” and “For the Beauty of the Earth” while the mosquitoes made quick work of our arms and legs. It was one of those perfect because its imperfect homeschool moments we’ll always remember. The little ones called out their goodbyes and dropped in every flowering weed they could find before covering the hatchling up with dirt. We walked back to the house and we stopped by Mama Cardinal’s tree to let her know where her hatchling was. This small event led to an hour long discussion about life and death, about nature’s life cycles and God’s creation. Somehow, we eventually landed back on cells and tissue.


One of the final components of our school day is our silent reading hour. The older boys are currently reading their Garrard biographies and they are absolutely devouring these books: Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, Daniel Boone, Buffalo Bill, Henry Hudson and Abigail Adams. We have about twenty left on our shelves and they are bent on reading them all!

We are looking forward to a few days with the Jamestown settlement next week before moving on to PILGRIMS. Stay tuned!



Classical Conversations Cycle 3: Before Week 1.

We started our Cycle 3 American History year a week early because VIKINGS (+ other awesome explorers). Here is a look at what we did.


First, we enjoyed some of our favorite viking stories which included:
Leif the Lucky by Ingri D’allaire
Eric the Red and Leif the Lucky by Barbara Schiller
Into the Unknown by Stewart Ross
Viking Adventure by Clyde Robert Bulla

We also used our wonderful history spine “A Child’s First Book of American History” by Earl Miers.

I read these books aloud while the boys made Viking longships out of modeling beeswax. This beeswax is a bit pricey BUT it lasts a great deal longer than playdoh, I had my last box for two years, and it smells amazing! I really love setting out a welcoming invitation for my kids to come and learn. I light a candle, put a few play silks on the table, I give them the beeswax, their composition notebooks and a bunch of art supplies. Then I step back and let them do as they wish with the materials. One boy made a mermaid (complete with seashell bra). This had absolutely nothing to do with Vikings, but he wanted to make a mermaid he could giggle over and he gave an absolutely lovely narration so I let it go. The mermaid was not a hill I wanted to die on. I’ve found that when I nitpick about too many things in their schoolwork, the boys shut down fast. They like to lead the way in learning, they love to make decisions, so I evaluate our time and find the crucial day-shaping decisions and I make those–the rest I leave to them. We are all happier for it.


After I posted our Charlotte Mason Approach to Cycle 3 posts for Quarter 1 and Quarter 2, I had a number of people asking for my list of rare living books. I didn’t post them earlier because some of these are extremely hard to find (read: ridiculously expensive) and I never want to send the message that you need to drop $125 on ONE book or else your child will have an inferior education. Cuz guys, you don’t need to drop all that money on one book. There is an ABUNDANCE of books available on these topics and you do not need to drop a fortune on one subject. If I had a limited budget I would purchase or borrow the Mier’s book and the D’Aulaire book and call it a day. But for everyone wanting the list of vintage living books we used, here is a handy dandy bookscape of all the book porn. Please know that most of these books came from our local living library and the others were rescued by me for just a couple dollars. We are not millionaires. We are a single income homeschool family. Keep your eyes open at book sales, library sales, estate sales for these gems. If you have the chance, be a book rescuer!

By the end of the week we were ready to move on and we spent a nice chunk of time reading about the early days of Columbus. Remember that we spent this summer reading  “They Put Out to Sea” by Roger Dusoivin, which is the story of how our world map was slowly put together through expedition and discovery. This has sparked an Explorer Frenzy in our home. We have read in depth about everyone from the Phoenicians to Marco Polo to Henry Cabot. This week we read about Amerigo Vespucci, Vasco de Gama and Magellan. The boys were so captivated by these stories! They loved to hear the perspectives of other explorers in and around Columbus’ day. History told from several different perspectives is so powerful. The Genevieve Foster books are particularly wonderful with this idea.  We also read “The Story of Chocolate” to understand the history behind one of the goods being traded in this time period. We are big fans of chocolate and we were riveted by this story. The boys loved including two or three pages of illustrations and narrations on chocolate in their history journals. We enjoyed some while we read, of course.


Most of our explorer research was done using Gerrard Discovery Biographies which the boys read independently. I found a box of 40 books at a library sale for $10 a few years ago. We adore the writing for this reading level. My eldest children (age 9 & 8) read for one solid hour each afternoon. They loved reading these biographies so much they would ask for them in the evenings as well, bringing their independent reading to almost 2 hours each day. It sounds crazy when I write that, but with little bits here and there added to that solid one hour chunk, they are getting a lot of reading in! A few years ago I wasn’t sure if this would ever happen for us, but I kept faithfully reading aloud to my children every single day and I have watched a love for reading grow within them. From a tiny flame to a full on blaze, it is the slow work of many days that has brought us to this place.


We studied history every day because we are geeking out over it right now. Other subjects we did every single day? Math, Latin, Spelling, Writing and 2 minutes of Geography.  Our current lunchtime reads are  1) The Burgess Bird Book for Children and 2) Sherlock Holmes.

We are continuing to move forward in our mathematics with Right Start Math and I am still singing its praises. Teach multiple levels with this curriculum is so doable! Here is how we do it:

We all sit down with our math  materials and we open up with a game that all three children (9,8 and 6) can play using our Right Start Math games book to build our math fluency. After a couple of rounds (5-10 minutes) I hand my six year old a slate of sums to practice while my eldest children run through their skip counting and the opening portion of mental math questions found in each lesson (>5 minutes). By the time they are done my 6 year old is usually finished with his sums. I take his slate and hand him his wooden pattern blocks to build large geometric shapes or animals with. As he plays and explores shapes, I teach the new material to my older children. This takes about 10 minutes, 15 at most. They open their workbooks and complete their sums practice or work page as needed. I turn to my six year old and admire his creation. He explains what he has made and we look for and name geometric shapes he has made. The I open his book and we run through mental math and skip counting. I teach his new lesson which takes about 10 minutes. By this point the older children have finished their work and they are ready for it to be checked. My six year old dives into his workbook. I check the older children’s work and we walk through any corrections that need to be made. Once this task is complete the six year old is ready for his work to be checked.  We wrap our time together by playing one more game.  Math takes about 45 minutes total for both levels of math. This include 2-3 games, skip counting, mental math problems, two new lessons, worksheets if applicable, pattern block play, and sums practice.  Guys, I never ever ever thought I would say this, but math is fun! I’ll be sharing a bit about our favorite lessons each week from here on out!

We devoted 20 minutes to our Latin studies each day. The boys practiced their respective instruments for about 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening.  We also take about 20 minutes to work on our Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A Spelling program. Between each subject they are still racking up 15-30 minutes of play time depending on their age. Multiply that by 4-6 learning block each day and you’ve got a nice chunk of free play!

The boys worked on their independent loops which included:
Handwriting (cursive)
Pin it Maps


Our Morning Time for this cycle opens each morning with prayer, scripture meditation (one verse that changes every three weeks), recitation of the creed and prayer requests.  We take a couple minutes to work on our CC Geography (Literally two minutes). We eat breakfast and then dive into our morning time loop.
This week’s loop:
Poetry– The Lamplighter by Robert Louis Stevenson (older boys)
Celery (IEW Poetry Memorization) for youngest son’s speech therapy
Spanish- Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and Francois
Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare by E Nesbit
Architecture- A Child’s History of Art by Hillyer
Hymn- O God Our Help in Ages Past Verse 1
Art Study- Leonardo daVinci
Character Study from Animals in Nature

On Fridays we use Beautiful Feet Book’s Music Study in the morning. We are enjoying this study ever so slowly (I anticipate a two year time frame on this one) and we simply adore it.  I’ll be sharing more in depth about this one next week! Their Geography study, History of Science study and Horse study are gorgeous as well. Check them out!


The CM week is not complete without a nature walk. Its hot as blazes here right now and usually “nature walk” = “sit in lukewarm water” but this past Friday was nice and overcast so we took a walk.


We spent the first half of our walk tracking a raccoon. For my boys this was the highlight of the day. Follow a raccoon around, find a pile of his scat and feel like a king. Find the remnants of his crayfish lunch and loose your mind with excitement. We also found gorgeous mole cricket tunnels (which look a bit like subnivean tunnels for all you northerners) and we raced around trying to find the point of origin.


We rounded out the week with lots and lots of baking. Have I mentioned that my children are officially British Baking Show junkies? They have become food critics overnight and love to whip things up in the kitchen. My splurge for the year was a subscription to Raddish kids and I am loving the resulting  independence and confidence in my children’s cooking skills. They each took a turn baking something fun while I taught the other children their new set of chores for the year. My eldest children are doing their own laundry start to finish now. I love writing that sentence as much as I hate doing all the laundry for six people. The six year old is almost done learning how to unstack the dishwasher and my little guy is in broom bootcamp right now.

We are so excited to dive into our Week 1 material for Cycle 3 this week. Who else is doing cycle 3? What are some of your favorite reads leading up to this cycle? Share in the comments below!

A Year of Planning Skillfully: Learning Spaces and Sensory Bins for my Homegrown Preschooler.

With our Charlotte Mason Approach to Classical Conversations year underway, I can now turn my attention towards prepping for our THIRD year with The Homegrown Preschooler, which thankfully fits beautifully with Classical Conversations. Its not an exaggeration to say that Homegrown Preschooler changed our lives, if you haven’t heard of them before, please check them out! I’ve been slammed with requests for information on our parallel learning spaces and sensory bins so I thought we could begin there. Please remember that all the information below is what works for MY family, MY particular situation, MY home, MY schedule. I am happy to share all this in the hopes that you might find a piece here or there to take and use in your home. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what works for me, what matters is that you are able to take pieces from several different places and find what works for YOU.


Purposeful Planning
As with all my planning, I sit down to do a heart check first. I remind myself not to panic buy things I don’t need. I have been using this curriculum on its own for two years with my youngest and it has served me well without add-ons or extras. This year is his first time in class at our CC Community. What sorts of things will be changing for him? What challenges will he be facing with his SPD?  How can I best equip him to tackle the year with joy and wonder and freedom? What character traits or habit training does he need to get to the next place with confidence and grace? How does my plan fit into the greater WHY behind my homeschooling? I sort through all these questions and make my list of goals.


HGP is divided into 9 months of activities within a wide array of developmental learning. (You can find a free month of activities here). Some of the activities he enjoyed as a 2 year old will still work and many of the activities out of his reach then fit fine and dandy now! Since its our third year I’m looking to get to those once out of reach activities.

I plan three months in advance. The first thing I do is look for common supply needs between the activities, or even acceptable substitutes. This way I can save money and use what I have on hand. Next, I make a list of things I definitely need to acquire in the order I will be needing them so I can slowly chip away at the supplies.


Then I look at what my older boys are doing and I find spaces to introduce new items to my youngest.

For example:
This year my eldest children are paying special attention to explorers in American History. They are drawing TONS of maps. When they are working on their maps I can work on the “My World” book activity with my youngest. Once its created we can go over it whenever the older boys do map work. We can also review his CC Geography at that time.

Before I buy anything new, I rummage through art/craft supplies, kitchen items and other household items to make sure I actually need the item. As I stated above, sometimes I can find something similar that stands in as a great substitute. I purchase scrapbook storage tubs from Michaels and I group subject resources in there. Then I use plastic shoeboxes to store theme items for each month of HGP, now that its my third year I have a nice supply of reusable items. For example, the November shoe box is full of felted acorns, crocheted leaves, velvet pumpkins, indian corn and other sensory rich fall materials. All of these shoe boxes are stored up high and brought down as needed.  I prepare new sensory bins every month and on Fridays I check the bins to see how they are holding up, track down any loose pieces or replenish base fillers if needed. I match several up with HGP and the rest I create based of my son’s current interests.  (More specifics at the end of this post!)

My third born still occupies his own desk in the corner of our classroom. My eldest boys meet at the table or at our new Science/Art bar. My youngest has his own desk and chair, which are height appropriate for his age. I have a Waldorf Playstand set up behind him, filled with manipulatives and Montessori style “work” that he can do during the day. A small adjoining open bookcase houses his current sensory bin work. The boys can all work at their stations  at the same time, but there is also room at the main table for everyone. In laying a feast of ideas a lá Charlotte Mason, I don’t want to simply distract my preschooler so that he is left on the floor begging for crumbs. If he wants to join us he can. He can come be with us at the table or he can go back to his own space where he has full reign over his resources. Lesli and Kathy have written about environment extensively in their initial Homegrown Preschooler book. Check it out!


A Quick Disclaimer
Before I go any further I would like to clarify two things:
First, a great deal of habit training went into this system. We started with one tray…not thirty. Once he demonstrated that he could care for the tray, his environment, etc we moved on to two trays. He is responsible for fetching his tray, using it appropriately and then putting it away. For the most part, he is able to keep this area tidy and if a mess occurs he is more than capable of cleaning it up himself. But he is not limited to tidy work! Kids are messy. Part of the their learning IS mess-making. The trays that require mess-making are not stored on this shelf. Messy trays are prepared by me and used outside in our “No-free” zone. There the kids can run riot with these things to fully discover them and enjoy them. We usually leave the messy work at the ready to use during our free spaces. By then all four boys are ready to go outside and make a big mess!


Secondly, because of my son’s sensory needs and our lack of coverage for services, I provide his therapy here at home. Therefore, I have an abundance of therapy tools for him to use. You do not NEED to fill your home with these tools in order to homeschool or in order to use Homegrown Preschooler.


Weekly Execution
My eldest children have asked to help their brother with everything in the Social/Emotional category and I am so excited to watch them teach and lead in that area.  Language/Literacy and Math will be done in the morning hours and I have made trays for the majority of those activities. Sensory activities will be included there as well. Our science activities will be done in Fridays before we meet up with our Wild + Free nature group. I have laminated a copy of HGP’s fabulous “5 Common Topics for Preschoolers” chart (p14) and tucked it into the inside pocket of my little guy’s nature journal.  I made copies for the older kids too! We plan to use this chart as often as possible. Art/Music activities and Gross Motor activities will be interspersed throughout the week. These usually occur when my older children complete their block of study and are waiting for the next block to begin. They are already anticipating the week when they’ll assemble PVC pipe into a pendulum with their little brother.


Family Style Learning
Have you picked up on that inclusive language? HGP is not just for my preschooler. Its become a family lifestyle for us. We are a family that plays together. I don’t ever feel like I have to FIT IT ALL IN SOMEWHERE!!! Because I don’t treat it like a box that has to be checked off. At the beginning of each month I list a bunch of HGP activities on our board, kind of like a monthly bucket list, and I tell the kids all about it.  They latch on to it and when their free time comes they ask for those activities instead of a movie. Come September I’ll hear “Doggie, doggie, where’s your bone?” float in through the open window. They’ll build their pendulum and an obstacle course and make clay tree faces. I leave the supplies out and they take care of the rest!


This year I will be sharing posts about our HGP and Classical Conversations year, so be on the look out of those updates. With each post I will add info about our current trays and bases we are using. Here is an example using our current bins.

Current Trays:
Black eyed peas, colored craft sticks, farm animals Safari toob.
Gems, seashell Safari toob, small magnifying glass, small bowl.
Kinetic sand, butterflies Safari toob, small net, small geometric forms
Water beads, frog pond life cycle toob, foam cut outs, measuring cups.
Play sand, Desert animals toob, small test tubes.
Potting soil, ant life cycle safari set, small terra-cotta pots, flowers safari toob.
Geometric shape tack set
Organs safari toob, Humany Body book, magnifying glass, three part cards.

General Sensory Bin Base Supplies
Water Beads
Kinetic Sand
Play Sand
Black-eyed peas
Black Beans
Beeswax pellets
Potting Soil
River Stones (Dollar Tree)

We are so excited to start our THIRD Year of Playing Skillfully! Thanks for following along!




A Charlotte Mason Approach to Classical Conversations Cycle 3 Quarter 2



Friends, thank you so much for your excitement and patience as I finished up quarter 2. It was a very busy summer for our family between travels, conferences and practicums. I was blessed to be the practicum speaker at two events this summer which gave me the opportunity to study Logic in depth for the first time. What a blessing it was! Now that the practicums have wrapped I can get back to updating the blog more often. What better way to jump back in than with our Quarter 2 list for Cycle 3. Remember that my family will not read every book on this list. This is a feast of offerings and we aren’t looking to gorge ourselves, we are looking for a healthy portion to savor.

Please the read the following post: “A Charlotte Mason Approach to Classical Conversations Cycle 3 Quarter 1” for background information regarding book of narrations, book of centuries, math, latin, map work, science, morning time, etc.
The only change is the decision to use Lyrical Life Science for my two eldest children.

Week 7

Trial and Triumph by Richard Hanula
Step Back into Ancient India by Daud Ali

On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Sitting Bull: Dakota Boy by Augusta Stevenson
Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
Carl Sandburg: Adventures of a Poet by Penelope Niven
A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Aldrich

The Flag Maker by Susan Bartoletti
The Star Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key
By the Dawn’s Early Light by Stephen Kroll
An American Army of Two by Janet Greeson
Cornstalks and Cannonballs by Barbara Mitchell
Young John Quincy by Cheryl Harness
Once on this Island by Gloria Whelan

I’m growing by Aliki
Week 8

A Castle with Many Rooms by Lorene Lambert
Chp 1– The Long Fall (Visigoths sack Rome)
Trial and Triumph
Chp 6 Monica and Augustine
Peril and Peace by Mindy Withrow
Chp 10 Early Creeds and Councils
Chp 17 Jerome

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia Maclachlan
Tree in the Trail by Holling C Holling
Buffalo Bill by the D’Aulaires
One Day in the Prairie by Jean Craighead Moore
Team Moon by Catherine Thimmesh
Prairie School by Avi
Little Britches by Ralph Moody
The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell

Unspoken by Henry Cole
A Gathering of Days by Joan Blos
Moses by Carole Boston
Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter
Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine

Hear your Heart by Paul Showers

Week 9

A Castle With Many Rooms by Lorene Lambert
Chp 2 Justinian the Great
Chp 4 The Monastery
Chp 6 Making a Nation (Franks)
Chp 7 The Scroll and the Stone (Muhammed founds Islam)
Chp 8 Charles the Hammer (Battle of Tours)
Chp 10 The Rushing North Wind (Vikings Raid)
Monks and Mystics by Mindy Withrow
Chp 6 Islam
Peril and Peace by Mindy Withrow
Chp 19 Benedict
The Vikings by Elizabeth Janeway
Viking Tales by Jennie Hall
Viking Adventure by Clyde Robert Bulla


Brighty of the Grand Canyon by Marguerite Henry
Welcome to the Sea of Sand by Jane Yolen
Knots on a Counting Rope by Bill Martin Jr
Hoover Dam by Elizabeth Mann
Song of the Swallows by Leo Politi
Redwoods by Jason Chin
By the Great Horned Spoon by Sid Fleishmann
Cactus Cafe: A Story of the Sonoran Desert by Kathleen Zoehfield


Who Own’s the Sun by Stacy Chbosky
Stories of America by Lorene Lambert
-Chapter 3 The Sad Story of Slavery
If you lived when there was Slavery in America by Anne Kamma

The Magic School Bus Inside the Human Body by Joanna Cole

Week 10

A Castle With Many Rooms by Lorene Lambert
Chp 3 The Earliest Explorers (Erik the Red)
Chp 9 Charlemagne
Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula
Chp 11 Alfred the Great
Lief the Lucky by Ingrid D’Aulaire
Monks and Mystics by Mindy Withrow
Chp 5 Charlamagne Crowned by God
Chp 8 Vladimir
Chp 9 A Divided Church (East West Schism)

A Year with Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill
Balto by Natalie Standiford
The Trumpet of the Swan by EB White
Where the Red Fern Grows by Willis Rawls
Cowboy Charlie by Jeanette Winter
Prairie Town by Bonnie Geisert
Davy’s Dream by Owen Lewis

Daily life in a Covered Wagon by Paul Erikson
A Pioneer Sampler by Barbara Greenwood
Dandelions by Eve Bunting
The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
Frontier Living by Edwin Tunis
Apples to Oregon by Deborah Hopkinson
Stories of America by Lorene Lambert
-Chp 1 Heading West on the Oregon Trail

The Respiratory System by Christine Taylor Butler

Week 11

A Castle with Many Rooms by Lorene Lambert
Chp 13 The Battle of Hastings (Norman Conquest)
Chp 14 Feudalism
Chp 16 The Cross Upon the Shield
Chp 17 Lionheart and Robin Hood
Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula
Chp 15 Francis of Assisi
Monks and Mystics by Mindy Withrow
Chp 11 Crusades
Chp 13 Francis of Assisi
Chp 15 Aquinas
Machu Picchu by Elizabeth Mann (Incas)
The Sad Night by Sally Matthew (Aztecs)
Mansa Musa and the Empire of Mali by PJ Oliver
Ashanti to Zulu by Margaret Musgrove
Sundiata: Lion King of Mali by David Wisnieski
Ancient Japan by Fiona MacDonald (Shoguns)

Abraham Lincoln by the D’aulaires
Abraham Lincoln’s World by Genevieve Foster
The Gettysberg Address by Abraham Lincoln
The Emancipation Proclomation by Abraham Lincoln
Stories of America
-Chp 4 How Lincoln Became President
-O Captain My Captain by Walt Whitman
-Chp 5 The Great Civil War
-Chp 6 War on Land and Sea

Germs make me sick by Paul Showers

Week 12

A Castle With Many Rooms by Lorene Lambert
Chp 19 The Great Charter (Magna Carta)
Chp 20 The Mongols
Chp 21 The Travels of Marco Polo
Chp 25 The Black Prince, The Black Death and the White Knight of Orleans (100 years war + Black Death)
Chp 29 Rebirth (Renaissance)  
Chp 28 Conquest of Constantinople
Stories of the Nations Vol 1 Lorene Lambert
Ch 2 The Ottomans
Chp 9 Kangxi, Emporer of China (Ming and Qing Dynasties)
The Travels of Marco Polo by Marco Polo
Khubla Khan by Kathleen Krull
Masters of the Renaissance by Jim Weiss
The Magna Carta by James Daugherty
Genghis Khan by Demi

Marching to Appomatax by Ken Stark
Robert E Lee by Helen Monsell
Ulysses Grant by Mike Venezia
Ulysses Grant by Red Reeder
We Were There When Grant met Lee at Appomattax by Earl Miers
Abraham Lincoln’s World by Genevieve Foster
Stories of America by Lorene Lambert
-Chp 7 After the Civil War

A Drop of Blood by Paul Showers

I will be adding Quarter 3 once I have finished my research for those weeks! In the meantime, we are gearing up with our Cycle 3 into study. Stay tuned for our “before school starts” study.