Category Archives: homeschool

Classical Conversations – Cycle 1 – Week 3

Okay, so if you are very observant….you noticed that I did not write a post for week 2! Sorry. We had a great week last week, but I just didn’t make time to get to my blogs.

This week (week 3) has been great so far. Below are some ideas that we have either done already or that I plan to do this week with my kids:


We spent the last 2 weeks on the 10 Commandments. This week we moved on to Ancient Greece and Rome as we learned some of the Greek and Roman gods. My son especially loves this because he is fascinated with Greek and Roman mythology! I found another one of those free lap books online that had some info on the Greek and Roman gods. Yesterday we used one of the printables to put in our Book of History. We haven’t done the writing part on our page yet, but we read about some of the gods and then cut out and glued some pictures of their gods into our book. We discussed how the ancient Greeks and Romans fashioned (that’s an IEW vocabulary word for those in Essentials!!) these gods to worship, thus breaking God’s Commandment to not make unto thee any graven image!

Reading about History:

We also started reading Black Ships Before Troy. We will read this a few times a week over the next several weeks. Our history sentences each week will continue to focus on Ancient Greece and Rome for a few weeks, so this will be a good “connection” for them. Just reading the first couple chapters, we found so many things mentioned that the kids were familiar with. There was LOTS of places mentioned from Cycle 2 geography, as well as names of their gods and some of their myths.


After spending the last 2 weeks on how living things are classified and the kingdoms of living things, we moved into learning about animal cells this week.  We have some great hand motions that we learned last time we did cycle1 that really help you remember the parts!  So far, we have practiced the parts using the hand motions.  That’s it.  Hey!  It’s only Wednesday!  Give me a break! 🙂  No really, I ended up continuing our learning about the Animal Classifications.  We don’t have CC next week due to Labor Day, so I decided to go ahead and take more time on the last 2 weeks worth of Science before doing our next page in our Book of Science.  Today, we read more about why scientists classify animals along with why they use Latin to name all living things! (great connection to the importance of learning Latin!).  We finished up our page in our Book of Science from last week by gluing pictures of each of the Kingdoms on our page and then writing a short paragraph about classifications and some distinctions between the Kingdoms.    On Friday, I will have move into the Animal Cells (which is really this week’s Science) by having them watch a great video about cells!  I found all kinds of wonderful educational videos on United Streaming!


Continue in Math U See for both of my children.  We also do Math Drills!  We use flash cards, timed worksheets, games, learning wrap-ups, and TimezAttack online.


For Latin this week, we have done a lot of singing!  The jingles for Latin are great.  But I also wanted them to see what they were saying.  I found a printout on the CC Connected file sharing site that they could fill out.  We filled out the noun endings for the 1st Declensions today and then sang them.

Other items


lots of signing and using the timeline cards to see and learn about some of the picutres.  We also found the song without the words!!! It was fun trying to sing to that!! We were pleasantly surprised with how well we did.  🙂


Still doing “Map Making” 2 times a week.  This consists of either tracing maps, making map blobs (as described in The Core), or labeling and coloring maps.  We have been reviewing all 3 weeks’ worth of geography everyday by pointing to the places.


Yep…everyday!  Sometimes it’s CC Memory work, Bible verses, quotes, spelling words, etc.  Today it was the beginning of Psalm 23, the helping verbs, linking verbs, definition of a verb.

Read Aloud :

In the morning I sometimes read aloud to them.  Right now we are reading O Little One of Israel.  It’s about the Israelite slave who was captured and taken to Syria by the Syrian army.  Through a series of events she ends up a Naaman’s house who was the Captain of the Hosts (Captain of the Syrian Army).  He had Leprosy at this time.  It’s not only a WONDERFUL story, but it TOTALLY goes along with Cycle 1!  We have not only found tons of vocabulary words from Essentials, but every page holds the names of places we are learning on the map!  Then while reading through Leviticus we learned about the clean and unclean laws and had a discussion about Leprosy already.  We had also been reading about Elisha because my daughter’s phonics program had a lesson on it.  Don’t you just love it when things all work together??

Essentials (Language Arts)

Week three starts the “real” grammar assignments.  The first couple weeks are an overview and some charts, but this week we start doing our “task sheets.”  It’s still very easy because we start with the most basic of sentence patterns S-Vi.  DJ easily did his task sheets.  After doing this all last year, he knows exactly what to do.  We are working hard on our Noun and Pronoun chart this week too.  There’s a lot to know on those charts and copying charts is NOT his favorite thing!

For writing we have another paragraph to write this week. First he completes a Key Word Outline (KWO) from the source text about Gilgamesh.  Then he has to turn that into a rough draft (doing that today) and then finish by adding in dress-ups and decorations to help make his paragraph sound interesting and have quality word choices.  He really doesn’t mind this anymore.  He’s realized how simple it can be….just follow the steps.

We also have a Book Club in our class.  Our first book is The Cricket in Times Square.  I read this book when I was young and loved it.  I have been reading this at night to both of the kids so they can both hear the story. DJ seems to really enjoy it so far.  It’s not very long, so we should be finished way before our deadline of Sept. 24th!

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Classical Conversations – Cycle 1 Week 1 Plans

Well, yesterday was our first day back to CC.  We had tons of fun.  Since our CC group has grown so much this year, there were lots of new faces.  My daughter actually missed her first day.  She had been feeling icky the day before and I just wasn’t sure if she was okay to bring.  She spent a day with her dad and had fun watching movies and playing games.

First days are usually a little crazy, but I don’t think it was too crazy….especially counting in the facts that we had so many new families and there was a construction crew working in the parking lot!

So now our CC at Home begins!  Here is a glimps of some of our goals and activities this week:

Copywork: Both children will copy the 10 Commandments as written in our History Sentence for this week (which is actually just the first 5 this week).  They will also copy Bible verses that we are working on, and a quote that I picked from my new favorite book: Great Men Bow Down (more on that book later)

Geography: We are still working on drawing the world “blobs” as outlined in The Core.  So they will start with blank paper, make folds for the great circles (equator, Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn, Arctic Circle, Antarctic Circle, Prime Meridian.  Then they will draw “blobs” (these are estimated shape drawings) that resemble each continent.  We will also review and locate our Geography places learned at CC this week: The Fertile Crescent area.

Maybe we’ll watch the movie! The Ten Commandments

History: Our history this week and next week is actually the 10 commandments.  I plan on using that as part of their copy work.  We will also read the Exodus story in the Bible reading through the Laws given on Mt. Sinai.  And for fun, we might watch Prince of Egypt (the Disney movie about Moses).  We have many books about this time in history….Egyptians, the Fertile Crescent civilizations, Abraham and God’s Covenant, etc… also books about the Babylonians and so forth. All these books are in my “Book Bin” for us to choose from. We will read each day from books like these as well as the Encyclopedia.  My 7 year old will make a page for her “Book of History” by telling back some of her favorite things about the 10 Commandment story or about Moses in general.  I will write down her short narration for her to copy on her paper.  She will then illustrate.  We also have the first 7 events on our CC timeline to memorize…but with the new song it’s VERY easy!

Science: This week is classification of living things.  We will practice saying them in order, reading in our Science Encyclopedia about animal classification (Taxonomy), and learning the classification of some of our favorite living things.  I also found a free printable from Homeschool Share.  It is an Animal Classification lapbook.  I don’t really do lapbooks, but I like to incorporate some of their parts/elements into our “Book of Science” that the kids make during the year.  So we might pull a couple pages from the lapbook to glue on our pages in our Science notebook.

Math: Both kids will continue to work in Math U See.

This is the Ancient History Book used for CC Cycle 1

English/Language Arts: Josephine, who is 7, will continue to work on reading, phonics, and handwriting.  She also has memory work from CC for English.  DJ, my 5th grader, will do his assignments from the CC Essentials class.  This year I a1m the Essentials tutor as well…so no excuses from DJ! 🙂 The first couple weeks are pretty easy….just a couple charts to memorize and then write a poem or two.  He knows the charts pretty well from last year, but we will copy them to make sure it’s all fresh in his memory.  We will spend about 2 days doing his poem writing. The writing assignments come from the IEW Ancient History Based Writing book

Latin: Review CC Memory Work

That’s about it…. I will let you know how it all goes and if I get any other ideas!! 🙂

Anyone else doing CC this year have some good ideas?  As you can tell, I like to keep things simple.  In the right way….less is more in my opinion.  But I love new ideas!

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Classical Conversations – Getting ready for Cycle 1 (2012)

Well, it’s here! We start CC on Monday. I can’t believe we are starting Cycle 1 again. The really cool thing for me this year is that we started in Cycle 1, so we are now cycling back to this cycle. This will be the first time we have repeated a cycle. I wasn’t sure what that would be like…would we be bored? Would it not be as exciting? Absolutely not! I’m so excited! I keep looking at the memory work and remembering all (okay…some) of the facts. I’m so excited about going through it all again. I think I will even enjoy it more! I have grown so much over the last three years in Classical Conversations. Less worry, less anxiety, just excitement. I’m no longer worried about what my kids are learning or when or if it’s enough….I know it is!

Okay, so I’ve mentioned in other posts about my approach to using CC as my WHOLE curriculum and how I implement CC at home. I think I’m going to try to give some “peeks” into our days as CC continues this year. It won’t be every week…but I will try to at least post every 2-3 weeks with what we plan on doing and/or what we did at home.

So far I’ve done my “school shopping” and I’m organizing my resources. I purchased composition notebooks for each child. Last year I used spiral notebooks, but these old-fashioned black and white composition notebooks were calling my name at Staples today! We will use these for our copywork each day. I also picked up some new markers, white board markers, paper, and pencils to freshen our supplies. My Amazon wish list is LOADED with awesome books. I will probably pick a couple every once in a while to order to build my library at home.

I’ve pulled some books from my shelves for the “Book Bin.” If you didn’t read my post on my Book Bin….this is a bucket that I use to store all the books that relate to our studies that week (or for a few weeks at a time). I keep our encyclopedias, read aloud books, history or science based fiction, and all the non-fiction I have that relates to our study. I pull from this Book Bin each day to read and learn from!

I also love the idea of notebooking. We’ve done this already, but I’d like to develop this more. Normally we use the paper that is blank at the top and lined at the bottom to write and illustrate our writing. We do this for Science and History creating a Book of Science and Book of History through the year. This year I’d like to add more than just our writing and an illustration. I’d like to incorporate some ideas from lap-booking into it. Maybe an occasional fold-out piece or lift-the-flap in place of an illustration.

Well that’s my plan so far. I’ll let you know how it goes after week one.


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My Homeschool Plan – Using Classical Conversations – PART 2

If you haven’t read PART 1 of this post, you might want to read that first!

Here I am continuing my subject-by-subject overview of how I use Classical Conversations at home.  I’m excited about sharing what we did with Science & History!!  After struggling so many years with the pressure to use other curriculum (I say pressure…from myself!!), I finally found a way that would keep Classical Conversations as my ONLY Science & History curriculum while also providing a concrete (hands on) study of the topics.

First…A Look at the Book Bin:

The Book Bin

Here are just a few books that I’ve already pulled off my shelves for the CC Cycle 1 year. These are all history & science books

I use the idea of a Book Bin for my history & science studies. The idea is simple:  Take a look at the next few weeks.  See what topics or time period you will be covering for science and history. I do this by looking in my Classical Conversations Foundation Guide.  Go through the books you already own and find all the books that cover those topics and put them in the book bin!  I’m a book junkie so I have tons to choose from, but if you don’t have big selection then you could use the library.   In a way, this “book bin” becomes my “curriculum” or my “text books.”   These are the books that we read and learn from.  I try to have a variety of types of books.  Encyclopedias, fiction, non-fiction, biographies, novels to use as read-alouds, and more.  Anything and everything!  We might not read all those books, but they are there!  Sometimes if we are working on math and they both need me at the same time, then I can tell one child to take 10 min. and read a book from the bin.  It’s great!


Each week at CC, we are introduced to a new science fact to memorize.  At home we expand on that science fact.  The science for CC each year is broken into 2 distinct fields of science.  This year (Cycle 1) we will be studying Biology during the first semester and Earth Science during 2nd semester.

During the week, we read books (from the “Book Bin”) about the science fact, discuss anything interesting, and then write or draw about what we learned.

My children each have a sketch book.  It has the type of paper that is blank at the top and lines at the bottom.  This allows us to write something about the science we are studying and then draw, clip, copy or diagram a picture at the top.  Since we do this each week (or at least most weeks), by the end of the year, we have a wonderful Book of Science.

Since they have memorized facts about each topic/page, they are able to also explain each page and really HOLD onto the information they are learning.  (As opposed to spending a year going through a science text book and ending up with kids that can’t really remember and/or explain any of it later!)

1-3rd grade: For my 7 year old, the pages in her “Book of Science” are usually just copywork of the science fact we are memorizing that week.  To change it up a bit I sometimes have her tell me something interesting that we read about.  I write down what she says (narration) and then she copies it into her book (copywork).

4th – 6th grade: For my 10 year old son, I would have him take “Key Word Outline” notes (*this is a skilled learned from our IEW writing program) from one of the science books we read that week and then turn the outline into a paragraph…thus writing a science research report (1-2 paragraphs) on each week’s topic! He would also have the option to illustrate his page with a drawing, chart/graph, clipart, diagram, etc.

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History, Geography, & Timeline

I treat history in the same way that I treat science.  At home we work on memorizing our history sentence and our timeline cards.  We spend time each week reading about the topic for the week.  Usually, we read from our Usborne Internet-Linked World Encyclopedia.  It just happens to be the Encyclopedia that I have.  However, I am thinking of purchasing the Kingfisher Encyclopedia.  The Usborne Encyclopedia is GREAT, but the Kingfisher is better for the upper elementary and middle school years.  My son is turning 11 this school year, so I want to get one that has a little more information to read!

Classical Conversations History Cards – This year, we have a NEW set of timeline cards!  Previously, CC used the Veritas Press timeline cards.  The problem was that due to copyright issues, CC could not publish the timeline card titles/events in the Foundations Guide!  Also, the timeline could not be added to our audio CD or any of the other fun tools and resources CC offers.  This year they released their own timeline cards!  I’m very excited.  As much as I loved the Veritas cards, I love these even more.  The events and titles are different (which means we all start over), but I believe that they represent a broader range of events, cultures, and peoples.

Grades 1st-3rd: We also have a Book of History which is just like our Book of Science.  It has the pages that are blank at the top and lines at the bottom.  My daughter does the same thing for History as we do for science.  We read through the week (together) and then discuss anything interesting.  We often find connections to our geography and our timeline cards!  Then she writes her history sentence (copywork) or narrated to me a couple sentences about something interesting.  I write them down, and then she copies them into her book.

Grades 4th-6th: My son used to do this same process, however, since he started the Essentials program at CC he doesn’t do this.  As part of Essentials, he writes a paper each week.  Sometimes it’s just a paragraph, while other times he will work on a 3-5 paragraph essay over the course of a few weeks.  Each writing assignment is about a topic in history!  The topics always “go along” with our CC cycle.  His Book of History is actually just a collection of all his history reports he wrote for Essentials!  I didn’t see the need to make him do both.

History also includes our timeline.  As I mentioned, we simply just review our timeline.  Outside of review, we don’t really do much with our timeline.  Learning 160+ facts on a timeline is a lot in my opinion.

Geography is done during CC review time.  However, I’ve recently done more with geography.  After reading The Core, by Leigh Bortins, I decided to implement her ideas on teaching Geography.  She has a step-by-step plan for teaching children how to draw the world, the great lines, and the continents.  We have been working on those steps lately and the kids LOVE it!! During the CC year they will be learning 4-5 places/features each week.  They learn where they are and can located them on their maps.  We also practicing tracing and drawing their maps.

Thanks!! Hope that helps give you a few ideas for you own use!

This post is part of Trivium Tuesdays at Living and Learning at Home!

This blog has been submitted to the Classical Conversations Blog Carnival at Half A Hundred Acre Wood!

Classical Conversations Carnival


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Why I love Math U See

I am often asked what Math curriculum I use.  When I answer, I’m usually asked “Why?”

Here is my response:

I’ve mentioned in a few posts that I love Math U See.  As a former Math teacher in public schools, I’ve seen and used many curriculum including Saxon.  I was actually trained by the Saxon company to teach Saxon in school.  I have many friends who love Saxon and I’ve seen it work extremely well for their children….so when I say that I hate prefer not use Saxon, it’s not because I believe it’s worthless or anything.

Please, please, please….if you have a math curriculum that works well for your children, KEEP USING IT.  Changing Math curriculum over and over is NOT a good idea.  That can create “holes” in their learning.  Find something and stick to it…unless you just hate it….then switch.

Mastery vs. Spiral:

Math U See is a “Mastery Based” method.  This means that a child doesn’t move on until they have mastered a skill.  Since Math builds one skill on the previous skill, this is important.  Another important aspect of Math U See that I love is that it’s also cumulative.  This means that while it’s teaching only one new skill at a time…and continuing with THAT skill until it’s mastered, it also reviews past skills.  Some “mastery based” programs leave this part out.  Kids then soon forget what was previously taught.

Saxon is a “Spiral Based” method.  So you Saxon people are saying, “Saxon has lots of cumulative review!”  Yes, it does.  The difference is that Saxon introduces a new concept, reviews previous concepts and then continues with another new concept…reviews….continues with another new concept….etc.  This might seem like it should make sense.  However, there is never a place that it stops to REQUIRE mastery of a new concept.  Even when there is a “test” or assessment, a child could miss every problem that contains a certain skill, and still pass the test.  Lets say that the child has learned several skills.  On the test there are many questions about multiplication, reading charts, word problems that involve adding, subtracting, and multiplication, roman numerals, and place value notation.  Many skills that have been taught/introduced up to that point.  A child could miss all the questions about roman numerals or all the questions about place value notation and still pass the test.  Has your child “mastered” all the skills necessary to go on? No.  Is it obvious that he has a “gap” in the skills learned so far? No, because he made a good grade on the test.

That being said, most parents (if they are closing watching and checking) can see when something new is just not making sense to their child, or when they keep missing problems that are all the same TYPE of problems.  They might stop and work one-on-one with their child on that new skill until they feel that they are “getting it” and then let them continue on with their lesson.  By doing that, they are turning their Saxon (spiral approach) into more of a mastery approach.  Does that make sense?

Before I get some of my best friends angry with me (they love Saxon), I will say that Saxon is proven to work.  It’s not some new funky fad.  It’s been around for a LONG time and has studies and data to back it up.  If you use Saxon you will know that you will be covering all the math skills your child needs.   Saxon is used in many public schools, especially in the Special Ed Dept.  They have studies showing how effective it is with students with learning disabilities in the area of math.  By the way, these studies always deal with students that have learning disabilities because if a program will show success in children that have a difficulty in that area, then it will work really well for those who are of average ability.

(you know I’m going to now say something about how Math U See does all that and more right?  I’ll just let their website do the talking)

If you would like information about how Math U See works in public schools and what their data is showing, you can click here: Math U See in Schools

If you would like to know more about how Math U See works in homeschool: Math U See – Homeschool

Don’t take my word for it:

Article reviewing Mastery vs. Spiral Math Curriculum compares Saxon, Math U See, Singapore, Teaching Textbooks, etc..

Article explaining the dangers of Spiral math programs

Okay, I will get off my math high-horse now.  Honestly, I haven’t said all this before just because I don’t want to offend anyone that might love Saxon (or some other math program).  The point is that it’s not important to me what you use.  I hope that homeschool parents take time to understand their choices, try out a few things, and then pick something that works for them.  As much as I love Math U See, I purchased Saxon 5/4 last year to try with my son.  He was just getting tired of the same curriculum and wanted a change.  Plus, I know that when he reaches the Challenge level of CC, they teach from Saxon (although you can still use any math curriculum at home).  I thought that if I was going to switch him over to Saxon, now would be the time.  I put aside my personal opinion of Saxon and we gave it a go.  What I noticed was that although it introduced many things that we hadn’t covered yet in Math U See, it was also NOT introducing some key things that we had already learned (see this is how “gaps” are created when switching programs).  At first my son liked it just because it was new.  I was impressed with the amount of drill they had.  After a week or so, we both hated it. (And I promise, I never told him my personal feelings about Saxon…I didn’t want to sway him).  We pressed on for another few months, then I gave up.  I ordered the next Math U See book and we went back.  Now he loves math again.

Well, for those who always ask why I love Math U See…I hope that this has helped.  If you hate Math U See, that’s okay too.  Use what works for your child and what keeps you from going insane! 🙂

This post is part of the “Not” Back to School Blog Hop
Not Back to School Blog Hop


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Why I love Copywork

I found this definition of copywork from a website ( under their “Dictionary of Homeschool Terminology for the Totally Confused”

This technique is used to help students learn to write — from the initial skill of forming alphabet letters, all the way through learning to write sentences, paragraphs, poetry and more. Once students have the ability to copy sentences and paragraphs, they usually copy excerpts from good/classic literature. The idea is that by copying, they learn the techniques of great writers that they can then apply to their own original writing. 

I started adding copywork into my homeschool last year. Prior to that, we had never done any sort of copywork at all.  I had heard about copywork and even read some classical education books, Charlotte Mason books, and articles about it.  I became very interested for a few reasons.

  1. It would provide handwriting practice without having to “do” handwriting
  2. It was something my children could do on their own
  3. They would eventually learn/memorize the content they copied if it was copied over and over
  4. I liked the idea that they would read and copy quotes, pieces of literature, etc from sources greater than myself!

I researched a little on line and found so much information about it.  There are wonderful websites that offer free copywork downloads, ideas, papers with handwriting lines, and more. I even downloaded a few ebook samples that had copywork that went along with our CC studies for the year.

I made a list of sources and ideas for copywork that I could look at each day to get ideas.  I decided that my son would copy more (he’s older and could use the discipline and muscle development that it would require).  Since our CC year was Cycle 3 (US History), I also decided that I would use copywork time to help my son memorize the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence.  That was just something I thought would be cool. 🙂

This is a list of ideas I used last year

Each day, I would write on the large whiteboard in our school room.  I had a section for each child and wrote what their copywork should be.  At first, I wrote out the entire thing just as they would.  Later I simplified some items by just giving them the topic.  For example, I would write out the entire first sentence of Declaration of Independence for him to copy word-for-word.  Then I would also list something like “x8 multiplication facts” or “week 4 History Sentence.”  He would either know what to write from memory, or know where to find it so he could copy from something.

For my younger child (she was 6 and turned 7 in May), I didn’t do that.  I wrote everything out just as I wanted it to look on her paper.  Sometimes I would even type it up and print out the page for her to copy from.

I also had them copy their CC Memory Work as copywork.  At first my goal was to have them (especially my son) copy all the memory work EVERY day.  That would be a sentence or list for each subject, each day.  That’s a lot of writing when you combine it with the Declaration of Independence sentence and any other copy work.  I changed it to copying certain CC memory work on certain days.  Sometimes we would work only on a certain subject of our CC memory work.


There are many free resources online for copywork paper.  You can print paper with decorated edges (maybe matching a certain theme  you are learning).  You can also print out paper with handwriting lines for different ages.  Again, I kept it simple and just used notebook paper.  I actually had a special spiral notebook for each child that I called their “Memory Books.”  These spirals were only used for copywork and any other work that I wanted put to memory.  For my son, he often did his Essentials charts (that’s the CC Language Arts class) in his Memory Book. I sometimes use First Language Lessons for my daughter.  It has , among other things, poems that they are supposed to memorize.  Those would be written out and put in my daughters Memory Book.

Benefits I saw:

At first my children complained and whined about the copywork.  It would take them FOREVER.   I didn’t give up.  I found that they complained more and took longer if I was in the school room with them. I started getting all the copywork ready the night before.  When we were ready for school, I had them go in and start their copywork.  I would come back in about 10 min (I would check in to make sure they stayed on task during that time…but I wouldn’t actually go in).  After 10 min I would check to see how far they got.  If they got a lot done and had been working hard, then we stopped and started other things.  If they sat there staring into space, I gave them more time to get done.   They quickly learned that with copywork, just like anything else, it’s best to take it seriously, focus on the task, and work hard.

  1. After awhile, the complaining stopped and their ability to quickly complete their copywork improved!  But that alone was not the only benefit.
  2. They were memorizing all that they were copying.  Well, if I had them copy the same thing each day for a few days, they memorized it pretty quickly.
  3. They were being exposed to correct punctuation and grammar.  Every once in a while, I was able to relate something we were doing in grammar to an example in our copywork.
  4. They were learning more spelling and vocabulary words than I would ever include normally.
  5. Their handwriting improved.  I looked back at the beginning of the year and compared it to the end.  It was amazing how much better they were.

Here is another person’s blog about the benefits of copywork:



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Reorganizing – A fresh new start

I don’t know what it is about moving furniture, but I love that it makes me feel like I’m getting a new start!  I’m not a decorator by any means!  And I’m visually challenged…by that I mean that I can’t picture in my head how something will look.  I have to actually move things around.  This drives my husband crazy!  He’ll say, “Well, do you want the bookshelf here or over there?”  “I have NO idea!” I say, “Move it here…then move it over there and I’ll let you know which one I like!”  Needless to say, he doesn’t enjoy helping me reorganize a room.

My school room is a room the size of a large bedroom (maybe even extra large bedroom).  It has NO closet though! It has a door to the backyard and a sunny window!  I love it.  But since it doesn’t have  a closet, storage has been an issue.  We have this awesome large wooden wall unit that is divided into 1ft x 1ft squares.  It’s perfect for those square baskets.  I like it because I can divide up all my things by type or subject.

Here is my large wall unit. I have everything stored here. I used those K12 curriculum boxes for storing their school work/samples from past years. I don’t use K12 anymore, but I love their boxes! It’s still junky. I want to add more containers, baskets, etc… to contain each square. But I want to be able to see things too.

Ikea desks. These come separate….legs and top are mix-n-match. What I love is that the tops are like $5 so when they get all yucky, I can just replace the tops! Each child has one of these on either side of the sunny window. The guinea pig is in between them.

The kids have ikea desks that are just flat top tables with 4 legs, and I have a corner desk from ikea.  I originally had (all last year) my desk in the corner and the 2 kids on each side of me.  However, I just felt totally cramped and claustrophobic!   My corner desk was just too small, and I needed more desk space.

Well, for whatever reason, our July 4th was spent reorganizing the kids bedrooms and the school room.  It was a complete overhaul. Each of the kid rooms looked SO much better, but by the time we were done it was time for fireworks!  We got the kids to bed and then my husband (as wonderful as he is) stayed up with me till 2:30am rearranging the school room!  It is so much better now!!  I got another table next to my desk to give me my own large desk space!  The kids still have their own ikea desks but they are on the other side of the room.  Ahhh… breathing space.   The large wall unit got moved as well.  I  love it.

Chalkboards vs. Whiteboards

Now I have to decide where to put the large whiteboards.  I have a couple options.  However, I’ve had this desire to put up chalkboards too (or maybe instead?)  I have experience using chalkboards while teaching in public school (although I switched to whiteboards after my first year).  I just love the look and feel of the “old” chalkboard.  Plus, I bought a big thing of chalkboard paint and I’m dying to try it out!! 🙂

For now the school room is in better shape than before.  I feel that I have more room and a larger work surface! 🙂  The only problem now is that we have added a kitten (she was a wild tiny little kitty that we found sleeping with our chickens and rabbits outside).  We saved her and she’s living in our school room now.  So I’ve added a litter box and a kitten.  Oh well.  More on that later I’m sure!

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My Homeschool Plan – Using Classical Conversations – PART 1

I’ve recently led (or co-led) a few meetings with Classical Conversations families in our area.  These meetings were held to discuss how Classical Conversations could be used at home as a full program.  Many people have misconceptions when it comes to CC, and I’ve been working to help expose the myths and present the truths about using CC.  I’ve come across many parents who are interested in CC but felt they still had to purchase and use a whole other curriculum for their studies at home…that CC was a “supplement” that they could add to their schooling.
Classical Education Made Approachable
To read a FAQ about Classical Conversations….click here.

CC is a very flexible program.  If a family wants to join CC and use our program as a supplement only, they certainly can do it that way.  However, I suggest using the Classical Model of Education and using CC the way it was intended.  I admit that learning this was hard for me.  I tell people all the time that it wasn’t until I was starting my 3rd year of CC that I really understood HOW to use it to the fullest.  Retraining my modern education brain to understand the Classical Model of Education took some time!

Options are everywhere.  Even when using CC in a “classical” way, there are lots of paths one could take.  I wanted to simplify my life as much as possible, so I looked for ways that I could use what I already had on my shelves, what I was already learning at CC, and how I could combine those things to create a predictable schedule and pattern for us to use at home.  With that, I also wanted to incorporate some key parts into my home: copywork, read alouds, love of literature, etc…

I can’t say what would work for everyone, but what I can say is what I found works for  us.  I have rising 5th and 2nd graders.  If I explained each subject in detail (which is what I plan to do), it would be a very long post!  So this is part one!


I found this definition of copywork from a website ( under their “Dictionary of Homeschool Terminology for the Totally Confused

This technique is used to help students learn to write — from the initial skill of forming alphabet letters, all the way through learning to write sentences, paragraphs, poetry and more. Once students have the ability to copy sentences and paragraphs, they usually copy excerpts from good/classic literature. The idea is that by copying, they learn the techniques of great writers that they can then apply to their own original writing. 

I totally believe in the importance of copywork!  At first, I admit, that I wasn’t sure how much of an impact copywork would make for my children!  You can read all about my trials and accomplishments of copywork here.

Memory Work Review:

This part of our day is dedicated to practicing our memory work.  The source for our memory work comes from our Classical Conversations program.  The entire Foundations Program at CC (4-12 years old) is made up of Memory Work in each subject.

To read more about what the Classical Conversation’s Foundations Program is….click here.

We spend one day a week with our CC Community learning the copywork for each subject for that week.  Even more than that, we also see the tutors model for us (the parents) how to teach the memory work in a fun, fast-paced way!  Watch this video to see some clips from a CC Community.

Memory Work Review at Home

The time each day at home is spent orally reviewing, playing review games, and singing our Memory Work.  I spend anywhere from 10-30 min doing this each day.  Okay….okay….so I don’t do it EVERY day.  Don’t tell anyone!!  But…I am able to say that we do this at least 2-3 times a week at the house.  To give me some credibility, we also listen to all our Memory Work on CD in the car during the week whenever we leave home!  So we actually review this A LOT!  I mostly just use the ideas that I saw modeled for me at CC.


I’m going to start the with the math as the first subject. I felt it was best to talk about math first just because math is one subject that is not fully incorporated into the CC program.  We have math memory work to work with each week, but it’s not a math curriculum.  The math memory work is awesome and should NOT be neglected no matter what!  However, you will want to find a math curriculum that works for you (or if you feel confident, you can piece together your own stuff…especially for the younger years).   We use Math U See.  I love this program.

To see my post about Why I Love Math U See…click here.

To be continued… in my next post I will discuss Science and History!


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Getting Ready for School

Well, we are in the middle of summer now and us homeschoolers are thinking about the start of the next school year.  Usually around this time I am very busy researching curriculum, buying books, looking through that gigantic Rainbow Resource catalog, and becoming stressed out.  How do you choose?  How do you know that you’re not leaving something out?

After all that research and purchasing of books, I would spend the next several weeks planning out our lessons for the year…or at least trying.  Often times, I would be up to the wee hours of the night since that was the only time I could work in silence…and you know I needed to concentrate with all those important decisions.

Over the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to be part of Classical Conversations.  At first, I didn’t really understand how the program would work for us.  I knew it would be great, but I had no idea how much help this program would be! It has taken all the guess work and stress out of our homeschool!

We meet once a week with the other families in our CC Community for 24 weeks.  During that time, we are able to be introduced to the memory work for the week (in Math, English, History, Geography, Timeline, Latin, and Science).  We also spend time doing Science experiments, Fine Arts, Oral Presentations, and Review Games.  CC believes that the parent is the ultimate teacher and helps come along side you, as the parent/teacher to equip and support you!  The day at CC becomes your springboard for the rest of the week.

The other day, I was talking with some other homeschool moms (and great friends) about the upcoming school year.  “So, are you guys all set for school again?” These moms are wonderful homeschool moms with great kids!  I knew that, like any good homeschool mom, they would be very busy getting their supplies and curriculum together.  We talked about curriculum, resources, and even laughed at how big that Rainbow Resource catalog is!! When they asked me how my plans were coming…and what things I would be getting for next year….I paused and then said, “Great!  I don’t have to do anything to get ready!”  I almost shocked myself!  Wow.. I really don’t have anything to do!  That’s incredible!

It’s a wonderful feeling to know that I don’t need anything.  That’s the beauty of Classical Conversations!  I will say, though, that many people who participate in CC don’t use it as their complete curriculum.  They simply use it as a supplement to other things.  That’s okay, but if you want to get the most out of CC, then I suggest that you learn all that CC really is!  The only thing I add to our CC curriculum is a separate Math curriculum.

I have learned to use CC as my entire curriculum and it’s wonderful.

Let me say that CC does not come with text books for each subject.  Many people realize this and then figure that they need to go and purchase text books/resources for each subject!  I’m saying that you don’t have to (except for Math).   I use CC and the ONLY “text books” I use  (if you want to consider it that) are Encyclopedias (History & Science), a Math curriculum (we use Math U See), and books to read (like children’s stories, read alouds, library books, books from my shelf)

That’s it!


As you can tell, I’m so excited about how simple CC has made my life.  I understand that not everyone is part of CC though.  But, I have learned a lot about simplifying homeschool while getting the MOST out of your time and efforts!  That is what led me to writing my book “The Not-So-Perfect Mom’s Guide to Homeschool”  I believe that many of the things I’ve learned in my experience with CC, can be used by anyone!  I hope it will help with anyone feeling like I used to feel.  Now that I’m not spending all my time planning and researching, I can spend more time crocheting! 🙂 I will be posting some of my crochet projects on my other blog, Hoot N Owl Homestead, soon!

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The Not So Perfect Plan – Chapter One – What Plan?

I’ve mentioned in an earlier post about writing a book.  I’ve actually started many writing projects that I haven’t finish or just give up on.  Over the last year, I’ve worked on writing an article/book about homeschooling.  It’s geared toward new and seasoned homeschooling parents who just feel frustrated with how they are organizing their curriculum or their school year.  I’m still working on a name for the book.  So far I came up with “The Not So Perfect Mom’s Guide to Homeschool”  with a subtitle: “One homeschool mom’s advice for creating a plan that works” Here is the beginning of my writing:

Chapter One

Plan…What Plan?

One of the hardest parts of homeschooling is getting a plan of action together…and then sticking to it. Well, the sticking to it might be the hardest.  But this first step is by far the most important step we must make.  This becomes our foundation upon which our homeschool year is built.  So why do we overlook it?  Why do we make it then forget about it?

Life Happens

If you ask my friends they will tell you that I often talk about my “utopia” homeschool.  It’s the homeschool world I would live in if I had total control of everything around me.  But reality is, I don’t.  Life happens.  Schedules change, people get sick, cars breakdown, and we get worn out.  I know that my “utopia” is not my reality.  I probably wouldn’t really want my utopia anyway…it would most likely be boring there with nothing changing. 

The truth is we need some changes in our life.  It helps to make us who we are.  Our children need to learn how to deal with unexpected things in their lives too.  So it’s a good thing that life happens, right? 

Yes and no.  Life does happen, which is why in all other areas of our life, we need to create order.  When things are in chaos, nothing can be successful.  We’ve all been there with too much on our plate.  We want to be involved and we want to help out our friends.  Then there are play dates, and co-ops, and sports, and clubs.  Is this just “life happening?”  No.  This is us creating a chaotic world for ourselves and our children.  But it’s hard.  Where is the balance?

Here is the reality (which is no surprise to any of you).  If we are too busy, or if we make our children too busy…no plan or curriculum will work.  If we stretch ourselves too thin, we will do poorly at everything we do.  I am the worst at doing this.  I get so excited about new things and ideas and want to just jump right in and do it.  Not only do it, but be the leader, start the group, organize the trip.  I take on so much that I am too busy to be a wife and a mom….let alone a teacher for my children.  

The result?  A whole lot of misery for me and my family and in the end I can’t be successful at any of it.  I mean you just can’t be slave to all those masters!  I get cranky, tired, anxious.  My kids feel the worst of it because they are the ones that I end up getting short with.  And they are tired too.  All that running around from activity to activity is hard on a kid. 

But what about socialization?  That’s the question we get, and that’s the issue we try to prove wrong as homeschoolers.  We try to show THEM that our kids are WAY more socialized than their kids.  Our kids do more, with a variety of age groups in different settings, than any public school kid would be able to do.  Which is great.  But at what cost? 

Does that mean I think we should just stay home all week?  No! I’d lose my mind if I did. But find a balance that works for your family. Help your children find something they have a passion for and only get involved in that activity for right now.  If you have a large family, you might want to alternate between the kids.  I know of families that rotate each sporting season.  One season child #1 will play a sport. The next season a different child will choose something. And so on.  It’s kind of fun because then the whole family gets behind that one child and his/her activity to support them.

Do what works.  But if you feel like a taxi and you and your kids are stressed out over your hectic schedule, then maybe it’s time to re-think it.  Don’t create stress…reduce it.  So when “life happens” for real and something unexpected comes up, you can handle it.  Remember, there is no plan for homeschooling that will work if you’re not home to implement it!  So take time to be home, be with each other, and learn together!


Well, that’s the first little bit of my book… actually that is just the beginning of chapter one!  I continue on as we learn what type of planner we are so we can see where we are strong and where we need help! From there I go on to talk about the HOW behind creating a plan that works for your family by helping you to understand what is important.  Creating a Christian Classical Education at Home (or any homeschool plan) is not hard.  The hard part is getting rid of all the old habits and ways of thinking in our own brains! Really, it’s much easier and more peaceful than the old way!  In my book, I hope to give you a humorus and very honest picture of what I have learned so that we can learn on this journey together!

But wait…I know you’re saying that you have that BIG book about being Well-Trained.  That big book is overwhelming and reminds you that you just can’t attain your goal right?  Well at least it was like that for me.  Look, I like that book.  I read it over and over.  But truth be told, no matter how much I tried, I could not replicate what was in that book in my own home.  Maybe I was too lazy?  Maybe I was not organized enough? (I know those who know me are laughing at that one…I love to organize).  There were many reasons why I couldn’t get that book to work for me.  I talk about some of those reasons in my ebook.  If you have that book, keep it.  It has wonderful information and works as a great resource.  Just don’t let the weight of that book weigh you down!

More to come!!

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