A Homeschool Day In the Life (with an 8 & 6 year old)

Over at Simple Homeschool Jamie is having the “Homeschool Day In the Life” series where you post what one day of homeschool life is like.  I participated in this two years ago (my boys have grown so much) and thought that I would do so again.

Here was a random Thursday that we had, but most days follow this routine.


I get up around 6:45 and get ready to go and workout (from an online video).  I never set an alarm to wake-up and let my body naturally wake-up.  Before I workout, I check some of my emails on my phone.  I then workout for 30-60 minutes (today was for 45 minutes).

The boys are waking at the same time I do, or a little later, but they usually spend 20-30 minutes talking in bed before coming out into the family room where I am.  If it is a workout that they like, they’ll join me :).  After some prodding, my oldest gets in the shower and my youngest follows him (my husband is on a work trip, but if he is home he usually starts working out at this time).  After the workout, I make breakfast for both of the boys, but many days they will make their own breakfasts or their dad does before he works out.  I just have to remind them that they have to have a protein and not just sugar!  After they are finished with breakfast they have been doing the online math program Smarttick (it’s good, but I saw the sticker price and we will not be continuing after our trial is up!).  Each kid gets 15 minutes of Smarttick.  Afterwards, they usually stay at our dining room table and draw pictures or they go and play with Legos.  During this time I finish checking all of my emails (including reading blogs I follow) and check to see the status of April the Giraffe!

Around 9am I hop in the shower and get ready for the day.  On good days I hope to get school started now, but I’m running slow!  I also stay in the shower much too long, but the house is cold and the shower feels so good!  Once I’m ready I gather all of the materials that I will be reading to the boys for school and we head into our family room to start school.  The boys get a snack or a second breakfast (they are two bottomless pits!).  We start “school” and I read stories from our Build Your Library (BYL) curriculum.  This includes language arts, science, and geography.  On Thursdays Nathan’s schoolwork goes first and then I move onto Anderson’s.  The boys really enjoy this time because they like being read to.  After the BYL work I read some picture books that complement what we are learning for history.  I quit BYL for history and have gone back to using History Odyssey (HO).  We are currently reading about the Middle Ages.  HO has more book recommendations that I think work better for my boys and get them interested in the time period.  Neither of my boys are independent readers, so much of our time is spent with me reading to them.  I look forward to when I can give them instructions on what to read and they can do it without me :).  If there are any activities to go with what we are reading and learning about we will do that now.


My oldest isn’t grumpy, he just wanted to make that face for the camera!

It’s now about 11am and we take a break so that I can have my breakfast.  My husband and I are eating breakfast so late because we do intermittent fasting.  We only eat for 8 hours during the day (11am-7pm) and so far this way of eating hasn’t been bad at all and is something that we both are happy with.  Since my husband and I are making food this prompts the boys to want to eat too, so they make themselves an early lunch, which is usually a sandwich of some variety.  The boys take a longer break to play because they aren’t as enthusiastic about the next portion of learning.

We have been using the program All About Reading for both of my boys.  My oldest is categorized as being in third grade, but he is not independently reading yet.  I had heard from many people that this is a great program for those who are not up to grade level with reading.  I’ve found that this program has been great!  Both of my boys like it and I’ve seen huge improvements with my oldest.  Each lesson has just the right amount of reading to not be frustrating, which is a big plus.  My youngest is in Kinder and I have found that he is beyond his level in the program (he started reading on his own), but we still do the lessons so that he has a good foundation.

After reading we do our math program Right Start Math (RSM).  When we were starting out homeschooling this year I wasn’t sure what math program we should use and I took this quiz and it was suggested that RSM was the best fit for us (my husband got the same results).  I  like the program and my boys seem to enjoy it too, although sometimes they complain about having to do it.  I think that they complain because it’s usually the last thing that we do for the day and they just want to be done!

For reading and math I work with one boy at a time.  They alternate who goes first each day.  I tried having one do reading and then the other one do reading, but that was a no go.  While one of them is working with me the other one is usually playing or trying to find ways to annoy their sibling while they are working.  My oldest does have to read by himself for 20 minutes.  He can pick any book and read as much as he can.  Lately, he’s been reading Captain Underpants.


My boys are finished with school and now it is time to do some chores!  They clean up their messes and sweep.  They have to do this before they get an hour to play video games.  They play either Minecraft or Super Mario Brothers on our WiiU.  We set a timer for this and almost every day it is a struggle to get them to quit playing.  If I have to tell them to get off more than a few times and they don’t listen to me they lose it for the next day.  When they are finished playing they either go outside or stay inside to play.

Around 3-3:30 they ask to go see if their friends (who go to public school) can play.  I tell them that we should take a walk with the dogs since it isn’t raining!  We get the dogs ready and head on out.  On our walk, they stop at their friends’ houses and ask if they can play, but they have homework to do, so they continue on the walk with me.


I start working on dinner around 4:30 and the boys play.  We eat between 5:30-6.  After dinner I decide that we are going to do the Deep Space Sparkle (DSS) President’s Day art project that I never got around to!  I read to them two books about Abe Lincoln and then we do the project.  I’m pleased with how they turned out, but my oldest is being grumpy and says that he doesn’t like his artwork.

Homemade pizza! I’m trying to eat healthy, so I have the zucchini pizza sliders 🙂

The boys now have time to play and I usually catch up on emails, social media, reading, learning to play the guitar, learning how to use my camera, or watching Gilmore Girls.  The boys really like to bother each other and I think that I spend more time “yelling” at them to leave each other alone.  At 7:30 I tell them to get ready for bed, but it takes them about an hour until they are finally ready for bed.  Once they are ready I read to them and they go to bed.  When their dad is home he is the one that reads to them before bedtime and that gives me some much needed alone time!

*On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday my boys have either Fencing or Parkour classes, so that changes those days up a little bit.  If we have extra time we like to do science experiments, play board games, or free draw.  Every day doesn’t go smoothly and I’ve left out plenty of arguing and fighting from everyone in this day! 🙂






Our Favorite Series of Books to Compliment Schooling


The Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborne is a fantastic series of books for elementary aged students that compliment schooling really well.  It is about Jack and Annie, two kids that find this magic tree house that takes them to different points in time where they have a mission that they need to accomplish before they return home.  The kids are both respectful and there are some nice moral lessons that are prevalent throughout the series.  The best part about the series is that it actually teaches you something about the time period that the kids go to.  Mary Pope Osborne puts in factual information and at the end of each book there is a section that gives you more facts about the story in the book.  You can tell that Mary Pope Osborne put a lot of research into each book.

Many times when we are learning about history there is a Magic Tree House book that complements what we are studying.  For example we were reading about George Washington and then we happened to read one of her books that had him in it.  I don’t plan to read her books to correspond with what we are learning, but many times it just happens to work out perfectly.  The books are just long enough to keep the boys’ interest, but not too long that we all get bored with the story (one book can be read in a sitting).  I have found on multiple occasions that the boys will remember factual information about a time period easier from these books than from other books.  Mary Pope Osborne makes the information interesting and having a fun story behind it makes it more memorable.

There are 53 books in the series so far.  We get all of our books from the library, but we are thinking of buying the set because the boys love them and I am sure that once they are reading independently these will be books that they turn to.  The books are also available in audio format and Mary Pope Osborne is the reader and we all enjoy listening to her read the books.


Thrift Store Score Before and After


I’ve been on the hunt for a globe to use for homeschooling because I have found that it would be so easy to refer to places that we are talking about if I had one (prior to moving to our new home we got rid of ours because it took up space and we weren’t sure if we would use it, ha!).  Brand new ones are a little on the expensive side and I was shocked by this.  That meant that Craigslist and thrift stores were my best bet.  I was surprised to find that the ones on Craigslist were still a little expensive for used globes (the cheapest I found was for $15).  I had found many at the thrift stores that were reasonably priced, but the globes were out of date or broken and wouldn’t turn.  I found this beautiful huge globe on this really nice wooden stand, but alas the globe was out of date and we don’t want to refer to a globe that isn’t correct geographically!  Then one day I happened to be in our local thrift store looking for something else and I saw this globe on a cart waiting to be shelved.  I asked the worker if I could take this.  She said yes.  I looked at it and it looked like all of the countries were listed correctly and it worked!  It was just a bit dusty.  I got it for the low price of $5!


I got home and cleaned all of the dust off.  I really wasn’t a fan of the blue plastic globe holder and I thought that I would use some of the rubbed bronze spray paint that we had for another project that I am slowly working on.  I checked to make sure that it was good for plastic and it was!


I took the ball out of the base and then sprayed the base with this spray paint (my oldest helped too).  I did about a couple of coats and let it dry, which happened fast.  It was super easy to do.  Once it was dry I put the ball back in and ta-da!  We have a new globe that looks much fancier than what we purchased.


Here’s a close-up of how the numbers look after being spray painted.


I’m really happy with how our globe looks and very happy that I waited patiently and only paid $5 for it!

Happy thrift store hunting!

Pi Day!

Pi Pie

I figured that we should make a pie for Pi day!  It was yummy, even though I burnt the outside of the crust a little bit.

A fun art project that we did earlier this year (not on actual Pi Day) was the Pi art skyline.  The boys were amazed that the numbers kept going and going and never stopped.

Hopefully, you got to enjoy some pie yesterday!

Winslow Homer Seascape Art Project


The boys and I are reading from the book What Your First Grader Needs to Know.  In this book they have an art section and one of the artists that they talk about is Winslow Homer.  I decided that it would be fun to do a Winslow Homer art project to go along with learning about him.  We looked at his painting Snap the Whip, which was in the book and then talked about it.  I checked out the kids’ book Winslow Homer  by Mike Venezia from the library to read to the boys.  In this book they discuss more of his seascapes, which he was famous for.

The art project that we had planned was doing a seascape inspired mixed media painting.  I got the idea from ARTipelago.  The site that I got this project from did this with her fifth graders, but my Kindergartner and 2nd Grader were easily able to do this project.


  • Art paper (we used drawing paper, but I think anything will work.  We used 9×12) 2 pieces/kid.
  • Paints–blue, black, and white (tempura or BioColor)
  • Origami paper or colored paper
  • Scissors (if not doing origami)
  • Glue
  • Watercolors
  • Paintbrushes

On day one we painted a 9×12 piece of art paper with light blue, blue, black, and white BioColor Paints (these paints are pretty awesome).  We painted the page to look like the ocean.  My oldest and I made a design in the paint by using the end of the paint brush.  We then let the paint dry overnight.




Day two we cut out the shapes of sailboats.  I had looked into doing origami boats, but it looked too complicated for my boys. The origami paper that I have is the same color on both sides and it would have been nice to have different colored sides so that the sails and the boat looked different.  I freehanded both the boat and the sails and traced them onto colored paper that the boys picked out themselves.  The boys then cut out their pieces.  My kindergartner needed help with this part.

Day three we took the ocean paper and started to tear it into long horizontal strips.  When you tear the strips the top edge usually has some white of the paper where it ripped that looks like surf from the ocean.  Tearing the paper also gives the water some movement like waves.  We glued down the strips of paper onto another 9×12 piece of art paper.  We layered the paper a little bit to give it more dimension and a 3D look to it.  We glued the ocean part about 2/3rds of the way up the paper.  Next, we took some blue watercolor paints and painted the sky.  Once that was done we took our cut out boat parts and glued them to the water.  Then we let the masterpieces dry until they were ready!



This was a fun project and I’m really happy with how the results turned out!


p.s. Any links that go to Amazon are affiliate links and if you purchase the item through the link I get a small percentage of the sale which goes directly to buying more homeschool stuff!  Thanks for supporting us!



Creo Chocolate Factory Tour


At the beginning of this month the boys and I went on a homeschool field trip to The Creo Chocolate Factory.  I have to admit that when I hear and/or think chocolate factory I think of a big factory like the one that my previous employers had (we made cosmetics in a big warehouse with big machines and that’s what my image of a factory is).  I’m sure that the boys thought it might be along the lines of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  We get into the building and the first thing you notice is the aroma of chocolate, which wasn’t all that bad for this non-chocolate loving person.  The space was very clean and decorated nicely.  It had a very relaxing and comforting vibe and felt more like a coffee shop.  The space, including their “factory” was the size of a coffee shop and not a big factory.  I should have expected this since I knew it was an artisan shop and I went on a chocolate factory tour in Los Angeles and it was even smaller.

Here is the story of chocolate and particularly Creo’s chocolate.


First, a little backstory about them.  The name Creo /KR-É-OH means I believe in Spanish and I create in Latin, which the family who owns this business felt meshed nicely with their business motto.  To learn more about the family and how they got into chocolate and came to own the store go here.

The process starts down in Ecuador where the cacao beans are grown in pods on cacao trees.  The beans mostly grow on the trunks of the trees, which was neat to see.  Once the pods are ripe (they turn a different shade) they are ready to be harvested.  They are taken off of the tree and then cut open.  When they are cut open there are all of these white looking seeds that have a citrus smell to them.  These are the cacao beans, but they can’t be used yet.  The farmer will then take these beans put them in bins/boxes and let them ferment.  This process gets the white pulp off of the cacao bean.  Once they are done fermenting they are laid out on concrete, asphalt, or something hard and sun dried.  The owner told us that some farmers will use the roads to dry the beans and when this happens anything from cars that leaks or anything that is on the roads can get into the beans and because of that these beans are cheaper to buy and mostly the big mass produced chocolate makers buy these, yuck!  While they are drying they are raked and the workers will wear special shoes while stepping on the beans.  The beans are then sent up via a ship to Portland where the owners go and get them.  They are then stored in the basement until they are ready to be used.  Here are some videos to watch of the growing to shipping process.

Once the beans are ready to be used they come upstairs to the store.  The first process is to sort them.


The next step is to roast them:


Here are some roasted beans:


After they are roasted they are put into a container that looks like a funnel with a drill at the bottom that turns this machine and “smashes” the beans.  What it is doing is removing the outside husk/shell.  Under the husk are the nibs.  These are the chocolate and taste very much like dark chocolate (yuck for me, but yum if you like dark chocolate).  The bean parts are then sorted by size.

The beans now make their way to the winnower (I got video, but it wasn’t that great and I was behind some people who got in front of my camera).


Here is the winnower:


Once the nibs have been separated from the husk they are now ready for the conching process:


Sugar and/or milk is added at this point.  This is a conching machine:


Once the nibs are done being tempered they look like melted chocolate and taste more palatable than the nibs (it is that extra sugar and milk!).  Now it is time to temper them.


Here is the tempering machine:


The chocolate is put into molds, shaken to fill in the mold evenly, and then put in a fridge to harden.  When the chocolate is ready they take it out and pop it out of the mold.  They then put it in a compostable cellophane wrapper and cardboard sleeve.  It is ready to be sold!

This store only sells dark chocolate and I had some samples and really didn’t care for it (I don’t like chocolate and can only handle small doses of milk chocolate, yes I do know some people think that I am crazy!).  My boys really liked it and the other guests seemed to too.  The owner and his son were really nice and if you are ever in the Portland area and are looking for some chocolate you should stop by this store!


A picture of a cacao pod with cacao beans


Lastly, their bathroom floor was made with pennies and it was the first one that I have seen and it was very interesting and pretty to look at (there were 20,000 pennies!).

IMG_20160105_111028180_HDR IMG_20160105_111037933






beesPart of our Language Arts block for this month we will be telling the story The Queen Bee by the Brothers Grimm.  As a part of the block it was suggested that we do something related to bees.  I thought that it would be fun to go and check out an actual beehive, so I did some searching around and I found an urban farm near us that has an apiary.  They told me that the first Saturday of the month they have a get together and they teach others about the bees.  That first meeting was last week and we got the whole family to go!

We were greeted by Beth, who was our very friendly host, and she showed us around the farm and then took us to the bees.  At this time the farm has two working hives, but they will be getting more bees this Spring.  The volunteers were cleaning out some extra hives to make room for the new bees.


The two active hives that were being checked out

Beth got the boys the headgear that you wear around bees and had the boys put it on.  She then talked to the boys all about the bees.  It was educational and Nathan seemed to enjoy it.


The boys were given a hat and veil

Next, the fun part came!  Beth opened up the hives to see how they were doing and to look for the Queens.  Anderson wasn’t interested in looking, so I hung back with him while Nathan and Christopher went by the hives.  I was a little bit jealous because I wanted to see :).  Beth did a great job at explaining what everyone was seeing when they were pulling out the frames.  They found the Queen Bee in both hives.  Christopher thought that she would be bigger, but she was just a little bit longer than the worker bees.  They also got to see all of the stages of the bees inside the hive.  As they were looking some bees were flying out (they did not smoke the hive), but there weren’t too many (I imagined a huge swarm coming out).  The bees landed on everyone, but no one got stung and it seemed pretty safe.  Once the hive was inspected everything was put back together and Beth came over to talk to us more about bees.


Looking at the open hives

At this point we were really excited about the bees and were ready to jump in and get started on beekeeping!  Unfortunately, the best time to get bees is in the early Spring.  We realized that we need more time to find out the rules/regulations of keeping bees where we live and we need to read up on it more and and buy supplies.  Beth gave us some very useful information to get us going on our journey and we are all excited about that!  We also got a quick lesson on how to catch your own swarm of bees.

As we were leaving, Beth let Nathan and Anderson have a big chunk of the beeswax from one of the hives.  The boys were so excited about that!  They smooshed the wax up and shaped it into big balls and have been playing with them since (they smell wonderful!).


If you are interested in keeping bees the two best things to do per Beth are:

  • Find a local beekeeping organization near you.  They will have a lot of information for you and will be able to answer your questions.
  • Find a mentor.  If you can find someone that will help you out and guide you it makes beekeeping easier.

I’m looking forward to next year when hopefully we will add bees to our family 🙂


Piet Mondrian Art Lesson


In celebration of Piet Mondrian’s birthday (3/7) I decided that we’d do an art lesson on him.  I think that he is one of the easiest artists for kids to replicate.  It is very simple and young kids have an easy time following what they need to do.  Before we get to the lesson, let’s learn a little about Piet Mondrian himself.

Piet was a Dutch painter born in 1872.  He was part of a group of artists that formed a new style of art called neoplasticism which was art painted on a white background with black vertical and horizontal lines in a grid shape.  The geometric shapes were only painted the primary colors.  He lived in Amsterdam, Paris, London, and New York.  It was in New York where he went away from the black grid lines and instead followed a grid with the primary colors.  He was very much influenced by the jazz music scene, and the city itself.

It was funny because I had already had a lesson planned out for him and I just happened to come across this Lego video that does a Mondrian.

My boys LOVED it!  Right after we watched the video Nathan went and got paint, a paint brush, and Legos to recreate what he just watched (no prompting or suggesting by us).  He sat there “painting” his Lego Mondrian.  When he was finished he built a Lego frame and hung it on our wall.  Anderson made his own painting too, but he didn’t try and recreate it like this video.


Working on creating the Mondrian


Here is the second version of the Lego Mondrian (the first one fell off the wall and broke)

I had wanted to read a kid’s book to the boys to introduce them to Mondrian.  Unfortunately, there really aren’t any great ones out there.  I only one I could find was Coppernickel Goes Mondrian (affiliate link).  The book has a character that is supposed to be Mondrian and many of the paintings in the book have the grid shape and use the primary colors.  At the end of the book there is a little write-up about Mondrian.  This book wasn’t a huge hit with my boys and I would actually recommend checking it out from the local library first to see if you like it.

As fate would have it, another Mondrian video randomly showed up for me and I thought that it was interesting and shared it with the boys.

Now for the art lesson!

Step 1:  Gather all of your materials.  We used our BioColor paints, paint brush, 1/2″ masking tape,  and painting paper.


Step 2:  Tape off the piece of paper in a grid of your choosing.


Step 3:  Color the rectangles or squares either red, blue, yellow, or white (you could leave some of the spaces blank and not paint them white, but I found that my boys were getting some stray paint in the white areas, so it was better to just paint it white.


Step 4:  Once the paint is dry pull off the tape.


Step 5:  Paint the area that was under the tape black to create your black lines for the grid.


Anderson’s Mondrian


Now your kids (or you) are all done and you have created your own Mondrian!!



Chinese New Year


All of last week we learned about Chinese New Year (also called Lunar New Year because other countries besides China celebrate it), since the New Year date was on 2/19/15.  The new year is always held sometime between the end of January and the end of February, and is based on the moon.

We started off by talking about how we celebrate our New Year in the United States.  Then we read these three books:

Bringing In the New Year

Dragon Dance

Sam and the Lucky Money

I thought that Bringing In the New Year  was the most informative out of the three books.  It also kept the boys engaged.  At the end of the book there is a bit about the history of Chinese New Year written in a kid friendly manner.  After we read the three books we compared the similarities and the differences between Chinese New Year to our New Year.

Another day we started making these dragon puppets, but the boys weren’t interested in coloring them, so that project didn’t take off :(.

One Chinese New Years tradition is to give kids money in red envelopes (hongbao).  I thought that it would be fun to make some origami red envelopes and give to my boys.  I followed this great tutorial:

I made small envelopes because I only had small red paper and I figured that my boys would be happy receiving a quarter.  On the envelopes I added the Fú symbol    which means “good luck” or “good fortune.”

Here is one my finished envelopes:


On Chinese New Year we went out for Chinese food.  We wished our waiter “Happy New Year” and she was surprised that we knew about it.

On the weekend we went to Chinatown to the Chinese Garden to celebrate the New Year.

First we went to the Wishing Tree where we each got a ribbon with a gold piece tied to it.  We were supposed to throw it on the tree and make a wish.  All of us got our ribbon to stick with the first throw.  Other visitors were not so lucky :).


Nathan getting ready to throw the ribbon


Nathan and the wishing tree

Next we looked at all of the red lanterns hanging throughout the gardens (very pretty).  At about this time the Lions came out to dance!  The Lion Dance is done during the Chinese New Year to ward off evil and bring good fortune.   Many people mistake the lions for dragons, but one easy way to tell if it is a lion is to see how many legs it has.  The lions only have four legs (two dancers) and the dragon has more.  We all really enjoyed the dance very much (the dancer’s seemed to get a great workout)!


After the dance we went out to visit the Sheep pavilion, since it is the Year of the Sheep/Ram.  As a fun fact, my zodiac sign is a sheep.  My husband’s is an Ox and supposedly we do not make a good match 🙂  One of my sons is a Tiger and again the Sheep and Tiger aren’t supposed to get along well.

Gung Hay Fat Choy! Xin Nian Kuai Le! 新年快樂!


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Weather Tree


Last year in one of the online Waldorf groups that I belong to someone had posted about a weather tree.  I had never heard about a weather tree, so I was intrigued.  The idea is to have a visual representation of what the weather is like for your family where you live for the whole year.  You have a tree with twelve branches that represent a month of the year.  On each of the twelve branches you have the number of leaves that correspond to the days that month (a total of 365 leaves, unless it is a leap year).  Every day you color a leaf to represent what the weather was for the day.  I thought that a weather tree would be something fun to have, especially at the end of the year when you can look back and see exactly how the weather was.  This concept is one that is common in the Waldorf community and there are many ways that a family can go about creating one.

I had wanted to buy one to make it easier on myself and I saw this one.  I really liked the look of the poster from the UK, but the pricing was too much, especially to be shipped to the US.  I looked around on the internet and the other trees out there just really didn’t fit the look that I wanted.  I came across a tree that I loved the look of, but couldn’t find any way to purchase a print.  My next best option was going to be for me to make one inspired by the one I had seen.  I figured that I could make the outline of the tree and then I could have my boys help me color the tree.  I wanted to start the weather tree on January 1st, so that we would have a complete record of the year.  Well, you’ll never guess what I did?  I procrastinated!  It was the end of December and I knew that I probably wouldn’t get it done in time.  That is when I had the genius idea of using our projector and copying the image of the picture that I really like.  I got everything all set up and got to work.  It was a quick and easy process to transfer the image onto another piece of paper.  Once I got it done Nathan helped me color the tree brown.  Then we decided together what color a leaf would be to represent the weather.


A close-up of some of our leaves

We taped up the weather tree in our homeschool area (aka our dining room).  Every evening after dinner our family talks about the day’s weather.  We then pick out the colors of the leaves that we would use to color in the leaf and proceed to color the leaf.  One observation that we made was that the day could have different types of weather.  We decided on days when this happens we could split the leaves up so that all of the weather types could be represented.  So far January is done and we are working on February.  I am very excited to see how the tree looks when the year is over with (I’ll be sure to post a picture).


Has your family created a weather tree?