14 May 2018

American Literature and Composition

This year we used Janice Campbell's American Literature (published by IEW) for our American Literature spine.  It was perfect!  We included:

Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin
Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

There are nine modules in the book, and we opted to do six very well rather than doing all nine poorly.  Roughly, we spent 4 - 5 weeks on each book, with the exception of Moby Dick where we added a couple weeks.  For each book, we completed an author profile, at least one enrichment assignment, and an essay.  Some of the assignments were suggested by the Guide and others I assigned because I thought they'd be fun.  ;)

Author Profiles, brief biographies of the authors, included best-known works as well as how personal experiences, current events, public figures, and American places influenced their writing.  Our enrichment assignments varied from writing our own list of 13 Virtues (Franklin) to a social media page for Ichabod Crane (Sleepy Hollow) to a map of the Pequod's voyage (Moby Dick) to a slave narrative (Huck Finn) and more!  Intentionally, I included much Geography and History in our enrichment assignments.  For composition, we wrote a variety of essays that included an autobiographical excerpt, several short stories, a persuasive essay, and a comparative essay.

Recap: Huck Finn was the best, Mohicans was the worst, Moby Dick was the most challenging, and the Irving stories were the easiest (and best read-alouds!)

In my earlier blogging days, I would have had separate posts for all our different assignments to showcase all the learning and fun.  Today, however, I'm counting this a success for at least summarizing our Literature plan for the year!

04 May 2018


I haven't gotten a child into college yet, but I'm super close. Others who have gone before me assure me that I am on the right path.
Remember, colleges today are far more interested in who your child is and what makes them unique. Every student applying for college will have taken U.S. History. Not every student applying for college will have rebuilt an engine, or served on a mission trip, or starred in a musical, or volunteered faithfully at the YMCA. This is what you will want to showcase.

General Credits for College Prep Transcripts
UNC Schools
Approximately 24 Credits Needed

In the state of North Carolina, nothing is required to graduate a student from your homeschool.
However, if your student desires to attend college, a college prep transcript is needed.
Students will need approximately 24 credit hours (in the following subjects) for their transcript. A credit
can be earned from 130 - 160 hours of work in the subject.

My personal advice (to make your life simpler and joyful!) is to award your student 4 credits a year
from academic subjects and then let the other 2 - 3 credits come from stuff they are already doing
[music lessons, dance, theater, sports, babysitting (call it home ec), driver's ed, Bible study,
computer coding, typing, scouts, test prep, etc.]

Includes Literature, Grammar, Spelling, Vocabulary, Writing, Composition, etc.  

Suggestions for transcripts:
a. Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry, Pre-Calc
b. Algebra I, Algebra II, Advanced Math I, Advanced Math II
c. Math I, Math II, Math III, Math IV
It is recommended that prospective students take a mathematics course credit in the 12th grade.

One unit in a life or biological science (ex. Biology)
One unit in a physical science (ex. Earth Science, Chemistry, Physics, etc.)
One lab course

One unit must be in U.S. History
Includes World History, U.S. History, U.S. Government, Civics, Culture History like Music/Art,
Geography, etc.


Includes Music Lessons, Art Classes, Art Curriculum, Photography, Theater/Drama, Dance  

UNC schools suggest two years of a foreign language.  Many colleges want three.
My advice would be to contact an admission counselor at a college your student wants to
attend to see what the college prefers.  You would want to learn this information early in
their high school career, not later.

First Aid/CPR/Cooking/Etc. can all count as a health credit

IX.  ELECTIVES - 6 or more
a.  Logic
b.  Home Economics
c.  Driver's Ed
d.  Computer Coding/Programming
e.  Typing  
f.   Bible
g.  Philosophy/Sociology/Psychology
h.  Debate

22 April 2018

Teens Need Teens

Multiple times a week, my children and I will have a moment of learning, and I will think: This would make an excellent blog post!  I long to keep updating my blog regularly, but life and learning get in the way.  That really is a good thing.

However, now that I really am in the homestretch of this journey, I do want to remember what it is that I have learned through the years as much as I want to remember all that my children have learned and accomplished.  My hope is that maybe I can bring new life to my blog by sharing some quick and easy tips about how we've made this journey last as long as we have.

Three years ago our son was convinced that he wanted to go back to school.  Now mind you, he hadn't been to school since he was seven, so he really had no idea what school was like.  After helping him unpackage his thoughts and concerns on the subject, my husband and I came to a realization.  He didn't really want to go to school.  He just wanted to be around students his own age more often.  Through some trial and error, we also discovered that he did not want those times to be academic.  He didn't want to gather with peers once a week to discuss Literature (this is often what happens in a homeschool co-op or class setting.)  He wanted to gather with teens regularly yet spontaneously in order to shoot hoops, eat Chick-Fil-A, or wander the mall.

Fortunately, a healthy-sized community has evolved within our YMCA Homeschool Program.  This has made the biggest difference in our personal homeschool.  Teens need other teens in their lives.  

Our son, even more so, needed some friendships that were his own.  It was important to him to initiate relationships without me.  Sometimes, as homeschoolers, this is a bit of a challenge because we are often connected to entire families.  Because I am friends with another homeschooling mother, naturally our children will be friends.  This works well when children are young, but this is not what my son desired.

My son now has contacts all over the South Charlotte area, many of whom I do not know.  (I do not even know all of the people in the picture above, which I lifted off his Instagram.)  Giving him this level of social independence has enabled us to remain on this journey.

18 January 2018

Ten Activities of 2017

I'm allowed to post about 2017 as long as it's still January, right?

2017 was an even busier year for us.  I know all of you with teens understand.  As homeschool children age, their lives become more active.  The same could be said of teenagers in high school.  It's a season of life, and like all seasons that have come before, it will pass by rather quickly.  It just seems rather hectic and eternal when in the throws of it.

However, even with all the chaos and all the activity, 2017 was a wonderful year for us.  Since I am still desperately trying to record memories for my children, I thought it would be appropriate to post what I believe were our top activities in 2017.  Here are ten, in no particular order.


We journeyed to Alaska, then Portland, for two weeks in June.  It was magical.  My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, and this was their request for a party.  Since the trip, weekly we've had discussions on how we can return to this great state.  In the little bit of time that we were there, we actually saw quite a bit of Alaska -- by train, by boat, by car, and by plane.  Our children were the perfect ages to travel to the 49th state.  They enjoyed the trip as much as we did.


I've made it no secret that we've upped-our-math-game.  Basically, my homeschool philosophy for high school is:

1. Make sure they know Algebra.
2.  Let them teach themselves everything else.

I will let you know if it gets them into college.


My son runs daily.  Literally.  In 2017, he got pretty fast.  In 2018, he's hoping to get even faster.


It's how my daughter spends her spare time.   And by spare time, I mean 20+ hours a week.  But she loves it.  In 2017, she performed with two separate dance companies within her studio.  We had several weekend trips for classes, conventions, and performances.  We will be traveling even more in 2018.


It's how I spend my spare time.  And again, by spare time I mean 20+ hours a week.  Our homeschool program at the YMCA has grown tremendously.  We have close to 500 students involved!!  What started 5 years ago as PE and swim lessons has evolved into a complete alternative learning center.  We are in the works of tweaking the program a bit to make it more simple and sustainable going forward.  Stay tuned ....   


I would love to say that I still read aloud to my children every day.  Sadly, because of our schedules, that doesn't happen.  However, I did discover in 2017 how much I loved reading short stories aloud to my children.  Short stories are the perfect read alouds for teens.  Most can be finished in about an hour.  Then, if you don't pick up the book again for a week (or two, or three) you don't need to remember what chapter you're on.


My son spent all of 2017 earning his necessary hours for his provisional driver's license.  In November, he received his 6-month license which allows him to drive between the hours of 5 a.m. - 9 p.m. with a single passenger.  This has changed my life.  Seriously.  I wasn't sure if I wanted young teenage drivers.  But, my husband talked me into it.  He said, "I think your life will be significantly freed up once you have another driver in the house."  He was right.  I see light at the end of the hectic-lifestyle tunnel.


I think my son would rank driving much higher on the list than scouting, but nevertheless, it needs to be mentioned.  He spent two weeks of July at the Boy Scout Jamboree in southern West Virginia.  He will never forget that trip -- it was a phenomenal experience.  I believe the Boy Scout Jamboree is the way Scouts are rewarded for their perseverance.  We also helped our son make the decision to switch troops.  This will hopefully provide him with the necessary motivation to finish the journey.  Anyone who has managed a Scout's career knows that it pretty much takes a village to keep him motivated and encouraged til the end.  We're nearing the end now.

Grieving and Caring

We had our beloved boxer-lab mix euthanized in February.  Since then we have taken a rabbit and a Weimaraner into our home.  While searching how to spell Weimaraner correctly, I noticed Wikipedia describes the breed as stubborn, alert, intelligent, energetic, speedy, and aloof.  Ha!  This adequately defines the puppy we brought home in mid-August.


For almost ten years I've been educating my children at home.  I only have a fraction of that time left.  I do believe that 3/4 of the journey can be filled with games, costumes, snow forts, crafts, Legos, and all kinds of fun.  But during the last quarter of the journey, some consideration needs to be given towards my children's future.  I think we're on the right path.  And, we're still having fun!

19 November 2017

My Quarterly Blog Post Where I Post About Not Having Time To Post

Halloween 2008.  I only know this because digital photos tell you when they were taken, thankfully.
A dozen or so years ago, I used to regularly scrapbook with several women from our church.  Some of the women were younger moms (like me), others were empty-nesters, and the rest were somewhere in between.  I remember one evening in particular where many older women were sorting through past Halloween photos.  Each woman was having difficulty remembering which year went with which costume. At the time, my children had lived through maybe three Halloweens.  I thought:  Will there really come a day when I won't be able to distinguish when or where a picture was taken?

The answer to that question is:  Yes.  Overwhelmingly, yes.

Now comes the paragraph where I explain (like so many times previously) how I want to take regular pictures of my children's learning, events, and activities and very simply post it all to this blog like I used to.  However, it's not regular anymore.  Nor simple.  It's rather sporadic, and I can no longer remember which Halloween is which.

So periodically, I'll log back into Blogger and inform the few people who read this that I love homeschooling teens.  I could not imagine my children's high school years being any different.  I firmly believe that we are accomplishing all that we need to (and more!) for a college preparatory home education.  Plus, my children have the added enjoyment that comes from not being in traditional school.  Our routine still looks very similar to what it did in the beginning of our journey -- somedays structured and other days completely unconventional.  (Although, now we do much more math.)

Last week, we finished our first 10-week term with the Y Homeschool Program.  We have one more week of workshops following Thanksgiving.  Since I have difficulty blogging regularly, here are ten highlights from the past ten weeks.
  • We are all on LESSON 44 (!!!!) of our Saxon Math levels -- Algebra II for my son, Algebra I for my daughter, and Pre-Algebra for me.  (Side note: Last spring I told parents to work their way through Saxon 7/6.  I'll add to that challenge, and now say work through Algebra 1/2.  I can do Algebra II alongside my son, simply because of what I know from Algebra 1/2.)
  • To my children, I read Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (not the easiest read aloud) and Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (excellent read alouds for teens!!)
  • Along with Algebra II, my son is also in a Problem-Solving class that uses the book Crossing the River with Dogs.  The class promotes collaboration while teaching mathematical problem-solving strategies.  If you're looking for ideas for an upper-level co-op class, I highly recommend this book.
  • My daughter has been in a Creative Writing class and has completed three short-stories (that I know of.)
  • Both children were in a Psychology class that ended the term with this article.  Is there a correlation between smartphones and mental health in teens?  Most likely.  
  • Cross-Country ended for my son a little sooner than he had hoped for because of a recurring pain in his left foot.  Even with an abbreviated season, he still posted some respectable times for his sophomore year.  
  • Our YMCA program now boasts 400 students (and it continues to grow).  Originally, I was slated to work about 8 hours a week.  I'm averaging about 22 - 25 hours a week.  This is one of the reasons I am having difficulty blogging.  (And cleaning our house.) 
  • My daughter's ballet company performs their version of The Nutcracker six different times in four different venues over five weeks.  She began performances last weekend and will continue rehearsing and performing until December 15th.
  • We still have a puppy. 

  • My phone died.  Literally.  It started dying a slow death after we got caught in a monsoon at a Muse concert last June.  I managed to keep it alive until October.  I am not interested in purchasing a new phone right now, so my son managed to make my SIM card operable in an old phone of his.  I'm now disconnected from all apps.  It's kind of nice.  On the other hand, I'm taking even fewer pictures than before.  Fortunately, I can 'borrow' pictures off of my children's devices (which I did for this post) and they are now old enough to help me remember which Halloween is which.
I hope your Thanksgiving is grand.

15 October 2017

The Wells Fargo Wagon Is A-Comin'

For the past year, we have diligently worked to help our children learn some basic finance fundamentals, specifically in regards to budgeting and stewardship.  If you are curious to how we've managed this, read on ...

Last January, they opened their own checking accounts.

We have never been a family that paid money for specific chores because we believe that if a chore needs to be done, someone needs to do it.  Immediately.  If the dishwasher is clean, unload it.  If your clothes are dirty, wash them.  If the lawn needs mowed, cut it.  If it needs to be done, no one is getting paid for it.  Therefore, my children have never operated with an 'allowance' system.  However, over the past year, my husband became very convicted about our children having their own money.  If they wanted to see a movie, or grab food, with friends, they needed to be responsible for paying for these events.  Our children needed to have some concept of how much things cost as well as begin breaking the habit of always asking us for money.

Enter the checking accounts.

After some discussion and research, we decided to have our children operate with a monthly stipend plan.  Every month, at the beginning of the month, our children are awarded their stipend.  This is their own money for entertainment, clothes, cell-phone add-ons, toiletries, fast-food, event registrations, gifts for others, etc.  It is not a large amount of money, but it is a significant amount if you're not used to having any.  They add to the amount with any money they earn from odd jobs, babysitting, gifts, etc.  The genius of the plan is that my children now pay for everything they need, or want, independently.  It's beautiful.  My husband and I put 1000 texts on their phone every month for $5, and we have told them that we will pay for the shoes they need for their activities, but that's it.  [Running and dancing require specific expensive shoes frequently.]  Everything else they need, or want, they pay for.

It only took a matter of weeks before my children began to understand money.  They learned that they could save to buy big ticket items.  They learned, sometimes the hard way, that if they spent their money by the 12th of the month, and they were invited to a movie the following week, they would be declining the invitation.  They've learned that Suave hairspray works almost as well as a salon brand, and Walmart athletic pants are almost as good as Adidas.  They've also learned that if they spend a significant amount on Lululemon leggings, they are going to take really, really, really good care of those leggings.  My personal favorite has been when they've attended concerts, or races, or dance competitions, and wanted to buy a t-shirt from the event.  I've simply said, 'It needs to come out of your account.'  Instantly, they stop bothering me about said t-shirt.

They each have their own debit card, which I believe helps with the entire process.  They have access to their accounts online, so they are able to track their spending and balances.  They both have begun learning when they are able to spend and when they need to save.

With this system, our son was able to complete several requirements for his Boy Scout Personal Management merit badge effortlessly.  And, just so you know how well it works, in the first month alone, my husband and I came out over $500 ahead in our personal budget!  Ownership.

25 September 2017


Nine years ago, when I began this homeschooling journey, my children and I joined a local co-op. New parents were not required to teach a class their first semester with the co-op.  However, after a few months of involvement, all parents were expected to submit at least one course description for a potential class.

At the time, my children were seven and five.  I was still pretty unsure of how this whole homeschooling thing worked.  My husband and I had read several books about homeschooling, and we had already taught both our children how to read, so we knew that educating our children at home was possible.  Looking back, though, I didn't have a vision for how I was going to teach my children all the subjects.  At the time, I also had no idea what classes I could offer a co-op.  I remember telling my husband: Maybe I could lead a high school girls' Bible study [we had spent the past ten years serving in collegiate ministry] or a high school girls' Health and Fitness class [I have always enjoyed exercising].

A few weeks into my homeschooling journey, I quickly realized I wasn't teaching my children.  I was facilitating their learning by learning right alongside them.  That winter, I offered a Natural Disasters class for the co-op because, at the time, my son was fascinated by Natural Disasters.  We studied hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, tsunamis, and more.  Prior to the class, I knew nothing about Natural Disasters, but I had access to the library and the Internet.  I also had a willingness to learn about Natural Disasters spurred on by my son's love for learning about Natural Disasters.  The class turned out to be a blast, and the following semester I offered another similar science-based class.

Since that day I have gone on to facilitate homeschool classes in English Grammar, Shakespeare, Ancient History, Medieval History, American History, Science, Math, Magic Tree House, American Girl, Latin, Geography, IEW, and more.  This fall alone, my schedule at the Y includes: Pre-Algebra, Poetry, Logic, [critical thinking and math problem solving skills for upper elementary students] American Literature and Composition, a beginning and intermediate level of Henle Latin, and an ACT/SAT Prep class.  [Side note -- I have never yet facilitated a Bible study or an aerobics class for teenage girls.]

I've said this many times, but I firmly believe that everyone can homeschool their children.  I'm convinced.  It does not take years of training with advanced degrees.  It doesn't even take lots of organization and structure.  Believe me!  It does take a little confidence, a little independence, a love for learning, a willingness to 'look something up' if you are unfamiliar with it, an enjoyment of your children, and a vision for who you hope your children will become one day.  All the rest of the details can be learned along the journey.

I share this today because when I am out-and-about with my teens and the homeschooling topic presents itself, the conversation has shifted from what it once was.  Nine years ago, strangers would respond:

Oh, you homeschool?  I could never spend all day with my children.

Today, I'm often met with:

Oh, you still homeschool? Do you think you're qualified to teach all the higher-level subjects?

Yes, absolutely.  Still.