Friday, April 10, 2020

Spring Time Unit Studies

This post contains affiliate links to Amazon. 

Spring is upon us and in my opinion is one of the best times of year to do Unit Studies! The children are wanting to be outside more, their attention span is shortening by the day, and there are so many good choices for units right now! 

So what kinds of things are there to do units on?? Well...If I had a list, it would rival a CVS receipt. No lie. Right off the bat, you can look at Spring Holidays.  Mardi Gras, St. Patricks Day, & Easter fill February through April. But do you want to really spend a whole month learning about one holiday?? No. 
My next go-to is to think about what we usually do in the spring. Gardening, Farming, Nature studies, Animals are having babies... there is a lot of new birth in the spring, so this is a great time to choose something in that realm.

For March, Our focus was a cultural one. We took St. Patricks day and expanded it to all of Ireland and Irish lore. Fairies, Gnomes, and things like that kept the kids interested. I didn't do a post on this due to our crazy schedule and I had a super bad accident that kept me down and out for a couple of weeks. Thankfully I'm almost healed and trying to keep things as normal as possible here.

For April, we have a lot to study! We decided on these topics- 
1) One week of Easter
2) One week of England (in honor of our daughter being born there and it's her birthday month)
3) One or two days studying Viruses..because hello pandemic! 
4) The rest of the month is Farming/Gardening - a focus for us to learn more about our new area, and since we live in the farming country, what is grown here etc. We also are planting vegetables again this year and its always fun watching them grow!

If you'd like to see our resources, check below for links and ideas!

Easter resources have been shared on my Facebook Page @Under The Willow Tree! There weren't many, but it was easy to do there!

One Week England Study
The kids wanted to learn about the UK and have tea and scones! How could I say no to that! 

London Brainbox Game
Book of Afternoon Tea
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain (Barnes & Noble)
My Busy Books London (Barnes & Noble)

Virus Pandemic Study 
The Bacteria Book
Understanding Viruses with Max Axiom
Virus 4D Model

Farming & Gardening Study
We have a lot of nature around us, and that means learning the plants for safety. Knowing there is poisonous things growing with edible things as well is very important. And we are trying our best to get a garden going! 

Foraging With Kids
Farmer Boy
Let's Hatch Chicks
Chicken 4D Model
From Cotton to T-Shirt 
Cotton Education Kit 
To The Coop!
Cow Cents


This is what we have so far. I've been trying to scale back our layout to allow time to do other projects and things too. 

Check back later for more fun resources!

Sunday, April 5, 2020

New Chapter, New Place

Our family just wrapped up 4 adventure filled years in Arizona. We had a lot of opportunities and experiences to grow on. My heart has grown to love new people, new places, and appreciating this homeschool life even more! The desert unfortunately was just too far away from all of our family, and we decided to do our best to get back to them! 

 On to a New Chapter!

We arrived at our new home in Georgia, just in time to enjoy Spring weather! We traded a tiny 15ft foot dirt backyard, for a 1.6 acre parcel of grass and trees! Yay! Our dog is happy, the kids are happy, and we have finally unpacked almost every single remaining box. Whew! 

Have you ever experienced a move so "all consuming" that you couldn't even think about doing normal things?? 

Thats kind of how it's been for us. Thankfully, we have been given some time at home to work on projects and settle in. It's been a true blessing! We have even taken bike rides and nature hikes to explore all of the wonderful nature around us!

One of my biggest goals was to get our homeschool room done first. It was a challenge because we had to paint and unpack the bazillion boxes of homeschool materials. I'm not a minimalist at all (and never claim to be lol). So now, our new homeschool space is also all set up and ready to go! 
Shown with our March theme & Unit Study.
Several weeks in and the kids are loving it here. We look forward to sharing more soon! 

In the following posts, I'll be sharing some awesome homeschool tips and new Unit Studies! 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Mayflower and Pilgrim Unit Study

Could you imagine giving up the life you had known for something entirely different? An adventure that turns into a grueling and desperate attempt to live free?  I imagine our pilgrims coming to America had big plans and many of them packed what they could ready to board a ship and never look back. 

The exhilaration and the sacrifice this journey was for our first settlers grabs ahold of us every year.  We grew up doing pilgrim and Indian crafts, partaking in mini feasts, and writing down 20 things we are thankful for...and chances are- you probably have a handprint turkey laying around somewhere. (I'm right aren't I??...It's ok, keep it, it's a memento!)

This isn’t your Mom’s unit study.  We are going deep into history to get a real feel of what life was like. 

This month, our kids have been learning MORE about the nations first peoples, and our first colonists.  Our indigenous people had so much more to offer than feather bands and teepees.  We studied some books and flash cards about their way of life in different regions. How they communicated and traveled and felt when the white man came. The eccentric beauty of their crafts gave way to our own imaginations too.  It's important to value the true history of Native Americans because of the heritage that they can still share with us today. The simplistic beauty of community, respect, and tradition cannot be compared to anything today. 

Our Native American study just evolved into Mayflower & Pilgrims since they go hand in hand! We wanted more hands on learning as we figure out what life was like being a pilgrim. How they made the things they needed and sourced out materials.  How they sacrificed their known lifestyles for the possibility of freedom and understanding the hardships they met along that path. 

The Main Focus

The primary focus for us to learn and create while taking away some deeper meanings. We usually don’t have a lot of time to spend on this unit, and in a way, it allows us to pick this apart for years to come!  One of the structured pieces of this study is the Explorers Box from Lakeshore. The activity guide has some parts that can help us learn about the Mayflower.  It is then on the individual books to teach us what life was like, and then we try out some crafts and cooking.  Some unit studies contain items for each subject and that can be really great for younger kids. I like to make ours open and free, so we choose something to do each morning before our regular classwork begins.  You can always find & use a study guide for this topic as well. 


I love the idea of exposing the kids to old craft.  Our ancestors were innovative and efficient at making items for basic needs. For this unit study, I wanted us to try Spinning, and where else to get a super cool, authentic spinning kit from than Plimoth Plantation itself!  I also scored a fun Tin Punching kit from Plimoth as well.  
Our other handcrafts include: 
Candle Dipping (this is a group activity as we only want to make this mess one time! The link has a kit for candle making).
Wool Felting (maybe not an authentic craft from the time, but it does show creativity with wool). 
Weaving- we started this with our Native American unit study and kept it out for our Pilgrims.  
Corn Husk Dolls- This one is for the girls! We found simple instructions online and purchased a bag of corn husks from the grocery store!

Pretend Play 

Our Jamestown settlers (safari toob) and Tri-corn hat came out for this unit! It’s so fun to dress up and pretend we are on our own ship! The tri-corn hat is part of the Discoverers Box from Lakeshore Learning, and you can find this sailor scope here (it works too)!! To make this more pilgrim-ish, we purchased the John Smith map of Virginia and it's on real parchment paper! This could take days to study on its own.


Little Pilgrims Progress (audio)
You Wouldn’t Want to Sail on the Mayflower
The Jamestown Colony
The Adventurous Life of Myles Standish
The Landing of the Pilgrims 
Squanto Friend of the Pilgrims 
Beginning Weaving Projects booklet (Plimoth Plantation)
Making Hand-Dipped Candles booklet(Plimoth Plantation)


(Play these as you have time, or need to alternate between reading.)


  • Build a Log Cabin (kit from Hobby Lobby or Rainbow Resource)
  • Dioramas & Paper Models 
  • Cooking a Wampanoag Recipe & Pilgrim Recipe (Scroll down to copy & print) 

Field Trips & Exploration

If you live in the east, you have a great opportunity to visit Plimoth Plantation and tour so many great spots!  Even in Ohio, there are little pilgrim villages or old time amusements that can be a fun trip! Out here in Arizona, we have zero Pilgrim exploring but we do hope to do some road trips in the future! 

Wampanoag Recipe ~Nasaump

Nasaump is a traditional Wampanoag dish that is made from dried corn, local berries, and nuts. It is boiled in water until it thickens, and is similar to a porridge or oatmeal.
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 cup strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or a combination of all three
1/2 crushed walnuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds or a combination of all three
1 quart water
maple syrup or sugar to taste (optional)
Combine cornmeal, berries, crushed nuts, and the optional sweetener in a pot of water and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes.  

Pilgrim Recipe ~ Curd Fritters

Curds are a soft cheese like cottage cheese or ricotta. These fritters are a lot like thin pancakes or crepes.  

5 eggs
curds (ricotta, cottage cheese) 
wheat or corn flour
cooking oil or butter

Make a thin batter with the eggs and equal amounts of curds and flour. Season with salt. Heat a small amount of cooking oil in your frying pan. When the oil is hot, pour in the batter and tip the pan to make the batter spread very thin (that’s what “let it run as small as you can” in the recipe means). They should be like crepes. When brown on one side, use your knife to flip them over or slide them onto a plate and flip them over into the pan. Add more oil to the pan when needed. Serve with sugar sprinkled on the top if you wish.
(Recipes borrowed from 
*Blog post contains affiliate links to Amazon for your convenience.  I have the potential to make a very small commission if you purchase any of the items linked but at no extra cost to you!

Save this blog post! Use this graphic on Pinterest!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Studying the Amazon Rainforest

"The Amazonia is on fire! I read as I scrolled through Instagram.  Did I see this on the news? No.  I read this weeks ago before celebrities and news stations started sharing about the crazy big fire that is sweeping through the Amazon. Completely baffled why regular new sources weren't sharing this, I decided we need to study this magnificent forest now.  

I've been gathering information and books for the unit study the entire summer. I scoured the Internet for a detailed guide, coming up scarce, and decided to make this a piece together plan. 

Why is studying the rainforest so important?  The Amazon Rainforest is the largest forest in the world. It produces 20% of Earth's Oxygen. And it's on fire.  It's a protected habitat harboring thousands of creatures and organisms in its' unique ecosystem, some of which haven't even been identified yet.  Our planet is special.  Our countries often overlook natural disasters in other areas and only focus on earthly fixes in their own regions, but how can we expect future generations to fully embrace our planet without being taught the importance of large natural habitats no matter where they are?! 

To begin this study, we are using a Brazil guide from, Rainforest worksheets from, and The Rainforest guide from Love at Home Education. 

Here are the books we have chosen to use: 

The games and activities we are doing: 
This one is fairly small compared to what I usually put together, but we are planning to do some Apple Activities later in the month in celebration of Johnny Appleseed Day! 

Stay tuned for upcoming details on that! 

*This blog post contains amazon affiliate links. These are placed for your convenience and I may earn a tiny commission off purchased products. 

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: 

Spring Time Unit Studies

This post contains affiliate links to Amazon.  Spring is upon us and in my opinion is one of the best times of year to do Unit Studies!...