Wednesday, July 17, 2019

New Year Curriculum Planning

This post contain amazon affiliate links for convenience. Any profit made is very very small and goes into the maintenance of this blog. 

It's my FAVORITE time of the "School year"!!!
           July!!! Back to school sales, sooo many markers, pens, and cute colors. All the things to get a school supply addict excited!  For many of us, we are just lucky that whatever we purchase, stays in our home. It doesn't get dumped into a communal bucket, but happily rests in each one of our own children's desk space. 

Well, that's the easy part. Stocking up on paper, pens, and crayons is mindless fun. Scoring deals on cute staplers, tape dispensers, scissors, is even better. But what do you do about the real meat of your homeschool? 

I love to spend hours searching catalogs and websites for educational supplements, fun things that get our kids excited, new reading material, and of course, the core curriculum. In this blog series, I'll be sharing what we have chosen for each grade by subject! When planning for three grade levels, I have to break it down this way so I make sure I don't miss anything!

This is what happened in May... I had to purchase everything before we went on vacation to avoid late shipments. It was fast paced, and kinda scary knowing that I was on a timeline. Part of the rush in ordering was due to our educational funds needing to be spent by a certain time. And then, the UPS guy showed up with everything in one day. 

No joke... all at one time. Ha!
It was like Christmas! Each of the kids had 2 boxes each from BJU Press, and a few things from Amazon, Lego Education, and Back to The Roots.  Now that we are back from vacation and cleaning up our homeschool area, it's going to be fun to separate everything and share how we are using these great materials! Now..on to the first subject! 
Here is our first Core Subject: Language Arts! 

I often refer to this as English, because I'm a child of the 80's and that's how it looked on my report that's just what I occasionally call it. But Language Arts, or ELA usually encompasses English, Writing, Vocabulary, Spelling, and Reading.

We've decided to continue using BJU Press for our English & Grammar. I really love the style of the books, the ease of the Teacher Guide, and how each grade sort of follows another. For Vocabulary, my middle and high schooler are using BJU Press again, and my 4th grader is using BJU Press for Spelling. Then I added Patriotic Penmanship for the older ones to practice their handwriting, and my 4th grader will be using BJU Press Handwriting again this year (not pictured). 

4th Grade Language Arts 
For 4th Grade, I've got IEW for extra writing, and some other fun supplements listed below! 
8th Grade Language Arts 
For 8th Grade, we are incorporating some important literature such as 'The Diary of Anne Frank' and 'To Kill a Mockingbird'.  Then I've added a few other books and supplements for a broad range of study. 
10th Grade Language Arts 
Finally, for 10th Grade, we have Literature from BJU Press! I'm super excited to give that one a try. We will probably read 'The Scarlet Letter' and 'The Great Gatsby as well'
Well, that wraps up our Language Arts Curriculum. Please comment if you have questions!  Also stay tuned for our next part in this series, Math... 

Have you seen our New Logbooks??? We created these tools for each child to keep track of their progress! You can get individual designs for your kids 

We Went on Hiatus...

We had these incredible plans... a vacation jam packed with fun, family, and making memories. In fact, in the beginning of June, this was true. Our vacation started out as expected. We stopped in San Antonio, New Orleans, Pensacola, and stayed for awhile soaking up Florida sun and Salty Air! (I'll make a fun post about this later) Then, we headed north to more family in Ohio, hoping to enjoy some unique adventures up there. And then a family member fell crucially ill and our plans changed. 

I can only praise God for giving us some time there with them, because without that vacation, we may not have been able to have that. After two weeks, and a few fun activities, we had to come home. It was a long and harrowing two full day trip home. Hello, July... we began to settle back into our lives here, cleaning the house, unpacking, snuggling our precious animals, before we got the call that our family back in Ohio needed us again.

So now we are floating around our home, trying to settle, but not really because we might have to move closer to family. It's a hard feeling to have, and of course the emotions that come with a very ill family member. I mean it's's not something that is going away until God call's them home. 
We are sending a few of us back to Ohio quickly for support, while Mama, that's me, gets to stay home and hold down the fort. 

It's not an easy thing to do, to plan for a move, or a funeral, and a homeschool year for 3 kids all at one time. However, I have to keep the wheel turning. 

Stay tuned for our next blog posts on our trips and new school year curriculum! 

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Wrapping Up Your Homeschool Year

This post includes a few amazon affiliate links. There is very little made from any purchase through that link, but is greatly appreciated! 

It's almost SUMMER!!!

For our family, who didn't start homeschooling until the kids had many public school years in, we love keeping with the summer break tradition...for the most part! We do our best to finish out the curriculum, and get grades logged, papers filed, and cleaning the plate so to speak! This year, our summer break has a vacation in it, so everyone is super motivated to wrap up! 


 I'm a planner. I plan ahead. I don't want to wait until the last minute in July to piece together the next year's plans. Are you like this too? Here is my personal list for wrapping up the Homeschool year! 

  • Recollect Successes- Think about what worked really well this past year, and try to plan a few things like it the following year. For us, we tried Morning Basket's, Christmas School, Unit Studies, and Nature Journal's. The things they liked most, we will continue to use!
  • Order next year's curriculum now! Sales are going on. Convention season is in full swing, which means discount's galore! If you order now, you'll not only be prepared, but you'll have plenty of time to go through the book's, set things up the way you like, plan it out, and be able to purchase all the fun school supplies in July! Scroll down if you want to see our favorite curriculum supplements! 
  • Gather summer reading materials and games! It's important to keep those little hands and eyes busy. They will get bored. No matter how many activities you plan, or how much free time they have to never fails. We never stop learning, so have some fun themed books and games on the ready! You'll find my list to the left on the sidebar!
  • Grade those papers! This may not be necessary if you have little ones, but mine are older, so it is important for us. I also like to use my middle daughter to help as she is an excellent grader/helper.
  • Organize & File Away! As your children complete their workbooks & lessons, you will need to decide what to keep and what to toss. If you move often, it's necessary to keep a portfolio if you don't know where you will move onto next. For some of us, we have to be mindful of our household weight as tossing old workbooks after samples are removed, and selling books that we are finished with or didn't work out, is imperative. 
  • Creating Portfolios- I love to use this Mead Organizer with file sections. I label the cover with their name and school year, then put in samples, test grades, report cards, etc. This is just a precaution in case I need to prove their home education. See my previous post on How to Create a Portfolio

So those are my main steps for wrapping up the year. Then the fun begins for cleaning and reorganizing book shelves and our learning spaces! But we have all summer for that! Ha! 

Looking ahead, we also created some fun LOGBOOKS for each child to use to help them accomplish their daily tasks! You can use them all year or just for learning purposes! Revisit my Grade Tracking post about how we use our logbooks!

The great thing about our logbooks, is they are downloadable and you can customize them! If you have a binding machine, you can easily print all the pages needed for the year and snap those suckers together! I recommend printing the cover on cardstock and/or laminating it AND adding a stiff back to keep it nice all year long! We recommend the Swingline ProClick Punch & ProClick Coils to add and remove sheets as you go! 

Our Favorite Curriculum Supplements! 

Curriculum Shopping is upon us! We either love it or hate it. No matter what, it need's to be done. For me personally, I love it. I love looking at it, discussing among peers, and always finding a new & fun thing! This year, I found a few new fun things!  

  • Grace&Grit- I stumbled upon their booth at the DFW Great Homeschool Convention! It was soo cute and I immediately fell in love with their historical empowering female figure boxes! 
  • eat2explore - These great little food kits are perfect additions to your older child's culinary experience! They come with a curriculum guide, with geography, cooking skills, spices, a fun tool, and a country pin to start a collection! 
  • Lego Education - Years ago, my son fell in love with robotics at his public school. Today, lego education offers more robotic kits for early ages to high school! Coding and computer jobs are our future, so I never skip out opportunities to teach STEM & Computer Science. This year, we purchased the WeDo 2.0 for my 9 year old! 
  • Drew's Art Boxes - We have been using Liza's art boxes all year! She is continuously coming out with new, fun, and unique ways to teach modern techniques. We just purchased her Fluid Art kits and look forward to the next Alcohol Markers & Agamograph kits! 
  • Back to the Roots- If you're a nature loving, green thumb, these kits are great! You can find free curriculum online for an Herb kit, Mushroom kit, and Aquaponics Garden! There is even a special discount for educators if you contact the company! 
Do you have a fun supplement you'll be using too?  Please share! 

Comment here, or reach out to me on Instagram @WeWouldRatherBeReading or email me: 

What is a Homeschool Portfolio & How to Create One

What is a Homeschool 

So, you've committed to creating a portfolio for your child but have no idea where to start...
If you live in a state that does evaluations, a portfolio is necessary! It shouldn't be stressful or time consuming. The requirement is simply to show progress. 

It's never too late to create that homeschool portfolio, even if you have to dig papers out of bins from two years past! 

What is the purpose of a 
Homeschool Portfolio?

Many homeschoolers have a variety of choices to evaluate your child each year. Creating a portfolio is a popular choice throughout the US. Always make sure you check your state's requirements.  Here in Arizona, we don't need to create a portfolio, but it is a good way to keep some things for your child to look back on or in the case you move where one is required. 

The purpose of a Portfolio is to show progress of your child's learning throughout that year. It can also become a keepsake. The idea here is to create something that can best convey what your child learned. 

Gathering Supplies 

You need to decide what to keep your work samples in! Some people choose a 3 ring binder, and some choose an accordion file folder like the Mead Five-Star Organizer. 

Not everything has to fit. You can also take pictures of large works like lapbooks, posters, dioramas, etc. Then put them in the file with a small description. 

If you're super organized, you may want to create a Table of Contents, Book Lists, Curriculum Descriptions, Report Cards, & details of Course Studies. 

You will need to possibly print out a lot of these, and use Page Protectors to keep them clean. 

You will also need your planner and dates of field trips, and the attendance dates your child did school. 

Best Things to Include in a Portfolio

  • Table of Contents
  • State Homeschool Laws
  • Attendance
  • Examples of a Weekly Schedule
  • Description of Curriculum and/or Study Area
  • Work Samples for each Subject (Labeled or Divided)
  • Book Lists 
  • Certificates of Completion (Dance, PE, Music, Sports) 
  • Extras like Art work, or other documentation, and Report Cards
*You can visit HSLDA for a list of requirements for each state. 

Ways to Show Progress 

If you struggle trying to think of ways to show your child's progress for different subject areas, here are a few ideas. 
Writing Examples, Math Worksheets, Tests, Quizzes, & Book Reports.
You'll want to show a few samples from the beginning of the year through the end. No, they all won't be a shining example, but it WILL show progress! 

For English/Language Arts: 
book reports
spelling tests
grammar excercises
research papers

For Math: 
quizzes & tests
practice sheets

For Science: 
Lab notes
science reports
experiment pictures
quizzes and tests
nature journal pages

For Social Studies: 
history reports
history projects 
pictures of projects

For Fine Arts:
composer and artist studies
certificate of completion for music or art lessons

For PE: 
Certificate of completion
Competition Medals or Trophies
Pictures of Activities 

Time to create!

You've now got a great starting point! You can share these ideas with other homeschool moms that are in the same boat! 

Have suggestions??

Comment here, or reach out to me on Instagram @WeWouldRatherBeReading or email me: 

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Marine Life & Ocean Unit Study

*This blog post contains Amazon Affiliate Links for your convenience. It doesn't cost you anything but we may make a tiny percentage off a purchase made through a shared link. 

Ahhh, I can almost feel the refreshing salty air breeze...  

For our last month of school, we are going to do a Unit Study that will help take our minds off the dry desert weather. We're headed to Florida soon, back home to visit family and make some memories.  Since we are all getting anxious for our trip, I figured we could pass time quickly by diving into a HUGE Marine & Ocean Unit Study.

Preparing for this one has my old memories popping up. I once spent a summer camp exploring tide pools and marshes in the panhandle and it was the best time ever. We waded in the shallow water collecting water samples to test, explored water plants necessary for the habitat, and discovered so many little creatures. In high school, I chose a year long Marine Biology science class that turned out to be my favorite kind of science! Can you tell how this topic excites me?! 

This Unit Study collection will encompass all of my children's levels (3rd-9th). I think Units like this are easy to plan for multiple ages because they really are an a la carte of learning.  

Two Ways to do this Study: 

1) Piece together books and activities that you can do when you or your child want. 
2) Plan, Purchase, or Download a step by step guide for your unit. We decided the FREE Marine Biology Unit Study from The Good & The Beautiful would fit our needs, and it allows wiggle room to add or subtract things. 

*All unit studies could be prepared either way. Scroll down if you'd like information on where to buy Unit Study Guides. 

Focus Areas Let's be honest...the Ocean is a vast and complex system with thousands of living organisms. If you have younger children, they may not be ready to learn about currents, riptides, the abyss or the scary creatures that lurk there. Or your older children may not want to color sea-life pages and call it a day. You have the freedom to narrow this unit down to key sections such as the shorelines & beaches, tide pools, ocean animals, submarines, or ocean weather.  Our Focus Areas will include Sea-life, Tide Pools, Marshes, all of the Oceans, oceanic careers, and Reefs. Some will go into more depth while others will be a light covering. The reason I chose this many was to include all of the kids as well as get them prepared for things they will see on our trip!

Gathering Materials! 

 This is my favorite  Amazon, Michaels, Joann's, and the Dollar Tree really helped pull this together. Sure we have loads of books, but Ocean themed games, activities, and projects will make this unit memorable!  Scroll below to see what we collected.. 


Marine Science for Kids
The Complete Aquarium Adventure
Coral Reefs
Shimmer & Splash

Island of the Galapagos
Sharks & Other Deadly Ocean Creatures
Oceans & Seas
Marshes & Swamps
A Day in the Salt Marsh
Sea Turtles
Explore Earths Five Oceans
Explore Australia & Oceania
Teach Yourself to Draw Sea Life
Seashells, Crabs, & Sea Stars
Coral Reefs
Merlin Missions: Shadow of the Shark 
Magic School Bus: On the Ocean Floor
Marine Biologist
Why is the Sea Salty?
Eyewitness Fish
Eyewitness Ocean 
Science Comics Coral Reefs
How to Draw Incredible Sharks
Ocean Renegades
Ocean The Definitive Visual Guide
MTH: Dolphins at Daybreak 
The Beachcombers Companion
Who Was Jacques Cousteau?
Where is The Great Barrier Reef?
Where is The Bermuda Triangle?
Field Guides: Saltwater Fish, Shells, Seashores
Adventure Beneath The Sea
Amazing World of Sea Creatures (Glow in the Dark Animals)
Magazine: Science World Orcas in Danger


Popular Mechanics for Kids
BBC Blue Planet (online)
Life in a Tide Pool (Amazon)
Chasing Coral (Netflix) 
Jacques Cousteau's Legacy 



Sand (Kinetic or Real) 
Sea Molds 


Layers of the Ocean - We purchased 5 bottles from Michaels to create the layers. 
Wave Pool- You just need a clear bin, some sand, water, and food coloring! 
Coral Reef Diorama- Pompoms, colored clay, pipe cleaners, beads, Construction paper, paint, felt, & glue. (This idea came from Pinterest)
Tide Pool - Tin foil pan, shells, sand, and starfish toys. 
Ocean Pollution Activity- Clear Bin, Sea Toys, Boat, coffee grinds or cocoa powder & vegetable oil mix. 
Submarine Diving- KidzLabs Diving Submarine, Baking Soda, Water, Clear Bin

Identifying Tide Pool Specimens- I found a wood jewelry tray from Michaels, and some tide pool & coral samples from that fit nicely in the sections. 

Printable Resources & Websites:

Coral Worksheets-
Worksheets & Activity 
Marine Biology Unit Study- 
Other Unit Study Guides- 

Website for Ocean Fun-

For More Books & Activity Ideas, Check out My

So that's our Unit Study in a Nutshell. Eventually I had to talk myself out of buying more. We are truly blessed with what we have, but sometimes we are really passionate about certain topics.  If you like this blog post, please share or pin it for later! For more pictures of our progress, check us out on Instagram @WeWouldRatherBeReading !! 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

April Morning Basket ~ Spring Has Sprung!

This site contains an Amazon Affiliate link. 

While the rest of America is figuring out what season it is, Arizona has finally settled on Spring. So we are taking advantage of the short lived season here and spending much needed time outside! 

This gorgeous weather has influenced a little gardening lesson. Now..first let me tell you...I have very low hope that anything will maintain here. Unless it's a succulent, it won't last. We've tried. 
Let's just say this lesson is a good refresher for us, gets our hands in the dirt (real dirt), and teaches the kids about seed germination and growth. That's enough for us until we find ourselves in a more fertile environment. 😊

April's Basket is a combination of Gardening and Easter. We are combining the two as part of a small Morning Basket. Peter Rabbit loved veggies and so do my kids. They just goes hand in hand. 
I was also inspired to make Vegetable Fact Cards, a Vegetable Anatomy Sheet, and Gardening Activity to just enhance the lesson and offer up a few more facts. Those are available in my etsy shop!

I do want to say, this basket is for a minimalist. I did NOT add Easter Basket fillers to it, because that is special and meant to be for Easter morning. 

Our Books this month include: Botanicum, It All Starts With a Seed (Usborne), The Usborne Book of Growing Food, The Ology, Tales of Peter Rabbit, Where is Easter Island?, Who Was Beatrix Potter? and Poetry Teatime Companion.

Our Games & Activities are Wildcraft Herbal Adventure Game, Bible Go Fish from the Classical Historian, Foodle Board Game, Planting Seeds in our garden, and doing some watercoloring! 

If you're looking for some more ideas, check out my

Grab these Free Spring & Garden Journaling Pages with Cutouts! You can create your own carrot banner like my picture above, and use the rabbits for play! 🙂
Just click on the image and they can be yours!

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Medieval Unit Study - A Thousand Years of History

This blog post contains amazon affiliate links. It doesn't cost you anything and it rarely makes me anything. Just think of it as a convenient way to build your amazon wish list. 

When my son, my 15 year old, was getting close to his Middle Ages unit in his History book, I started getting really excited. That feeling was short lived as I soon realized, they meant to cram 1,000 years of History into a single week.  A Thousand Years..of the most influential, invention development, political chess, crusading era that gave us the beginning of our modern and civilized society today. Beep Beep, Back the Truck Up... No way are we going to skim over the tippity top of the Middle Ages!! What could he possibly take away from that?!

So began my hunt for all things Medieval & Middle Ages. When the average person thinks about that time frame, what typical things pop up? 

-Knights (in shining armor, duh)
-King Arthur
-Beautiful Gowns

And then there are things that the history lover would think of. 

-The Crusades
-The First Christians
-Castle Music
-Queens of infamy
-Fashion Trends

Now, I'm not a history buff, by any means, but I do LOVE history.  When we lived in England for two years, I simply appreciated the fact that many of those Medieval buildings stood and you could have access to them! I mean, one minute you're traipsing around the dungeon of a castle, and you cross the street to shop in the mall the next minute.. (that's Norwich Castle). Unfortunately for my children, two were tiny things and one wasn't born yet when we lived there, so now they get books and movies. Sorry kids. You might also be thinking...why am I using 'Medieval Times' & 'Middle Ages' together simultaneously. Well, as I myself learned, they are terms meant to gather the years in that 1,000-ish timeframe from c1100 to 1453, the period of history from the fall of the Roman Empire to the fall of Constantinople. Although some resources pinpoint that era as 500-1500 roughly.  They mean the same thing basically but some people are more familiar with one term. I hope that clears up the confusion. 

Let me just say, that my intentions were to take the month of March and add the Middle Ages unit in, while they continued their normal work, however, we will be extending this as Spring Break and a Trip to Texas happened. {Homeschool Freedom!} 

Here are the resources I found for a complete Unit Study. They aren't in an order for any topic, but you can certainly filter out what your interests are in. And you may see more in the pictures than listed as I continued to grow our study. 

Middle to High School Level~
The Middle Ages Vol 1-4 Encyclopedia for Students
The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades 
The Templars
The First Crusade: A New History
The Medieval Knight
Story of the Middle Ages 
The Time Travelers Guide to Medieval England 
The Door in the Wall 

Elementary Level~
Draw & Write Through History 
Knight's & Castles: 50 Hands On Activities 
The Medieval Cookbook
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!
Good Queen Bess
Joan of Arc
Saint George and the Dragon
Knight's & Armor Coloring Book
The Midwife's Apprentice
A Medieval Feast
Much Ado About Nothing
The Two Gentlemen of Verona 
MTH: The Knight At Dawn
The Middle Ages 
MTH: Knights & Castles 
A Year in a Castle 
Marguerite Makes a Book
Sir Cumference Math Books 

DVD's & CD's ~
The Renaissance by Just the Facts

Keys to the Castle 
Medieval Go Fish (from The Classical Historian)

Projects & Crafts~ 
Project Bricks 
Catapult (Pathfinders)
Seige Tower (Pathfinders)
da Vinci Aerial Model (Pathfinders)
3D Castle Set  6+
Felt Toys from Willow & Owl 

You can also check out my Shakespeare post for other resources like quill pens, old paper, and poetry! 

Alright, now instead of leaving you here, I'll share some of the things we have done already. If you're like me, you seek visual inspiration, so this is for you! 
Playing Dreaming Dragon! 
Using Project Bricks, my son designed and built his own castle!

I know it isn't much yet, but we will be diving in soon. This week we are doing a Living History Presentation where they each had to choose one historical icon from anytime before 1900. Something like this would also be a great addition to your unit study! 

That's it for now! Please comment if you have questions or suggestions! 



Wednesday, February 27, 2019

March Morning Basket of Irish Folklore & More

This post contains amazon affiliate links for your convenience. 

Oh do bring out the Spring in us! I have to say since we began using Morning Baskets, each month is like a new fun filled surprise for the kids! Even I get excited to dive into our theme of stories and games! 
For March, we decided to start off with a little Mardi Gras celebration, which you can read about here on my blog! Then we jump into Ireland, Folktales, Fairies, and Leprechauns! 

Our Morning Basket is filled with green!!! I always love putting together our stories with a common theme, and we build on to other Morning Basket Plans as well. Our current Unit Study focuses on Medieval Times, so highlighting Ireland and it's Folklore fits right in! 

Here are our chosen books for the month! 

Tales from Old Ireland with Audio Disc
Saint Patrick Story from Knowledge Quest

Tales from Celtic Lands with Audio disc

The Secrets of Ireland (B&N)
A Treasury of Irish Fairy & Folk Tales (B&N)

Our Fun & Games This Month include: 
Story Cubes Voyages (ELA & Imagination)
Cardline Globetrotters (Trivia, Geography)
Clover Leap  (Vocabulary)

We have a short list this month as we are taking a road trip, but check back as I go over our entire Medieval Unit Study!! 

New Year Curriculum Planning

This post contain amazon affiliate links for convenience. Any profit made is very very small and goes into the maintenance of this blog. ...