Category Archives: Getting Started

Mid-Year Curriculum Update

This year we changed things up quite a bit curriculum-wise for our 6th grader. If you read my post Our 2016 – 2017 Curriculum Plans then you may remember our 6th grader had a full line-up of workbooks plus online curriculum. Around October I realized he was greatly lacking in his history knowledge and I was struggling to find a way to make the subject fun and memorable. (History is my least favorite subject.) Researching online I stumbled upon the Acellus Academy homeschool program. I tend to research things to death, so I watched MANY of the sample lessons and talked to fellow homeschool parents in online groups who also use Acellus.

Acellus Academy is an online video lesson program where students watch videos of a teacher teaching a lesson, then answer 5 – 20 questions after the video. A typical day’s lesson may include 3-5 videos, depending on the length of the videos. Best part of all? It’s an app you can download to a laptop or tablet, and the children can wear headphones so they aren’t disturbing others.

On Acellus, our 6th grader is taking:
6th Grade Math (once a week)
6th Grade Language Arts/Reading (5 days a week)
6th Grade Science (3 days a week)
Ancient Civilizations (2 days a week)
Middle School Health (2 days a week)
Middle School Finance (2 days a week)

In addition to Acellus, he’s continuing to take:

Saxon Math 7/6 (4 days a week)
Easy Grammar 6 (3 days a week)
Switched on Schoolhouse Spanish (3 days a week)
Spelling City (4 days a week)
IXL online (2 days a week)
Computer Coding

All in all, most of the book work he now has is the Saxon Math. He likes math, but like most kids, he doesn’t want to spend a lot of time doing problems. It takes coaxing, prodding, and sometimes even bribery to get our son to complete the number of math problems Mom deems appropriate.

Fast-forward to this week, we started our 3rd grader on the Acellus Academy homeschool program as well. I had noticed her watching some of her brother’s science and health lessons she seemed to really enjoy them.

Here are the courses our 3rd grader is taking on Acellus:
3rd Grade Math (once a week)
3rd Grade Language Arts (5 days a week)
3rd Grade Social Studies (3 days a week)
4th Grade Science (2 days a week)
Ecology (2 days a week)
Fine Arts – Music (2 days a week)

In addition to Acellus, she’s using:

Horizons Math 3 (4 days a week)
Sequential Spelling (LOVE this spelling program!) (5 days a week)
Easy Grammar (3 days a week)
IXL online (2 days a week)

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Posted by on March 27, 2017 in Curriculum


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Our 2016 – 2017 Curriculum Plans

This school year our children will be in 6th and 3rd grade. Well, those are their “official” grades anyway. (More about this at What grade are you in?)

This will be our 6th year homeschooling; wow time flies! Before I list what curriculum we’re using this year, let me preface this by telling you I know some people would go crazy without having an all-in-one curriculum. If this is your first year homeschooling then I recommend an all-in-one curriculum for your sanity. The curriculum we’re using I’ve found to work best for our children’s learning styles.

For our 3rd grader we’ll be using:

easy grammar 3Horizons Math 3
IXL Math (online)
Khan Academy (online) for additional help & instructional videos
Switched on Schoolhouse Language Arts (trying this out for the 1st time)
Easy Grammar 3
Spelling City (online)
IXL Science (online)
Harcourt Science 3rd grade
IXL Social Studies (online)
Learn Our History dvds
Typing Teacher (online)

For our 6th grader we’re starting on:

math lukeSaxon Math 7/6 & Teaching Textbooks (haven’t decided which one we like best yet… they’re both new to us this year) *See update below
IXL Math (online)
Khan Academy (online) for additional help & instructional videos
Easy Grammar 6
Spelling City (online)
IXL Language Arts (online)
Reading Comprehension 6
IXL Science (online)
Science Is…
IXL Social Studies (online)
New World History & Geography (Abeka)
Switched on Schoolhouse Spanish (1st & 2nd quarter)
Computer Coding (online) (3rd & 4th quarter)

scratch games

IXL online consists mostly of practice questions/answers, but it’s a wonderful resource to assure we don’t miss an important topic. What’s even better is we have access to all of the grade levels at once! This is hugely helpful when a child is ahead a grade level in some subjects, but not in others.

For reading both children have daily silent reading requirements and read-aloud several times a week as well. Both children also keep a writing journal throughout the year. Their typical writing assignments include poetry, fairy tales, idioms, short essays, book reports, etc. This is simply what works for us.

This year our children are also enrolled in these classes outside of the home:

  • American History – co-op (3rd grader)
  • Plant Biology – co-op (3rd grader)
  • Literature – co-op (3rd grader)
  • Chemistry – co-op (6th grader)
  • World History – co-op (6th grader)
  • Art History & Elements of Art – local artists (both children)

***Update 9/2016: We’ve decided on Saxon math for our 6th grader. He didn’t like doing his math on the computer and now that he’s been using Saxon for a few weeks I’m in love with it. 🙂

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Posted by on June 26, 2016 in Curriculum


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Curriculum Plans for the 2015 – 2016 Year

As August is quickly approaching I’ve been gathering our books and jotting down plans for the upcoming school year. Our oldest is starting 5th grade and has stayed on target or a little ahead of schedule in most subjects. Our youngest technically started 2nd grade in February (the joys of having a late birthday), but for ease of explaining what grade she’s in we’re considering her to be in 2nd grade this coming year.

5th grade booksFor our 5th grader:
Harcourt math (we’ve moved on from Horizons math since we needed better instructions on the “how” behind the math), IXL math (online), Khan Academy (online)
IXL language arts (online)
Easy Grammar 5
All About Spelling, Spelling City (online)
Literature K12 level 5 (this is our first time using this curriculum… we’ll see how it goes)
Writing K12 level 5
Music K12 level 5
Art K12 level 5
Vocabulary – Sylvan, Spelling City (online)
Reading Comprehension – Sylvan
Social Studies – unit studies
US History – public school book & online resources
Science – unit studies & ABeka Health grade 5

2ndgrade booksFor our 2nd grader:

Horizons Math grade 2, IXL math (online), Khan Academy (online)
IXL language arts (online), Daily Language Review
Shurley English 2 (grammar)
All About Spelling, Perfection Spelling
Horizons Phonics & Reading, Explode the Code
BJU Reading 3
Social Studies – unit studies & Famous Americans
Science – Lifepac, ABeka Health grade 3
Music & Art – assorted online resources




daily weekly assignmentsAs for when to do which subjects… that’s where the planning and organizing comes in. Obviously all of the subjects can’t be done on the same day. Otherwise we’d be doing lessons and school work for 8+ hours a day.

Subjects like math, reading, writing, and spelling are done daily, while grammar and science are twice a week. Music, art, and health are typically once a week subjects. I use a simple system of post-its on the books to keep track of which books are done which day while planning. Then I can list my plans in Evernote (or a notebook if I’m feeling old-school).

You’ll notice I like to use multiple resources for teaching some subjects. Some things, like IXL, are simply for practice, but not geared towards learning new concepts. Resources like Khan Academy and Spelling City are great for teaching, practicing what they learn, and then applying the knowledge in their book work.

So, this is my basic plan curriculum-wise. It may change a bit as we get past Christmas (things always seem to evolve as we go) but staying flexible is key. Hope your school year planning is going well.

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Posted by on July 18, 2015 in Curriculum


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Tracking Grades and Why I Create Report Cards

math testWhy Keep Track of Grades?

Tracking grades helps me have a record to look back on to see how the children have progressed in each subject.

In some states keeping track of grades is mandatory, however many states (such as ours) require only attendance records and mention nothing about grades. It’s up to you if want to record your child’s grades. Some parents use a portfolio which may include samples of their child’s best work, photos of projects, a list of field trips, and a list of any community service work their child has done. Other parents record numerous tests, daily grades, project grades, and so forth.

I don’t recommend grading every piece of paper your child completes, nor do I recommend putting a large amount of emphasis on the grade for each test or project. It’s more important to encourage a child to do their best, follow directions, and use neatness. For this reason I rarely discuss grades for individual projects or quizzes with the children. After a written test they immediately want to know how many they got wrong, but this is typical for everyone, no matter our age.

science social studies exampleHow Can I Grade Subjects Like PE and Art?

I keep track of grades from tests, oral quizzes and project grades for most subjects.Then at the end of the quarter every subject gets a daily work grade which is usually decided based on these three factors:

1. Completed daily assignments on-time
2. Neatness
3. Followed Instructions

For subjects like PE where there typically isn’t any written assignments I grade the children on:

1. Participation (always trying their best)
2. Attitude (willingness to do what is asked with minimal complaining)
3. Following Instructions

These same factors can be applied to Art or Music as well. Don’t be too easy or too hard on your children. Think about their work from an outsider’s perspective. Did they really put forth effort and try their best?

What do I Use to Track Grades?

Some people use a teacher record book or homeschool grade book.

Other families use an app like Homeschool Helper, which can be really helpful if you have a tablet or smart phone. (I’ve used it only briefly, but I liked what I saw).

I use a spreadsheet software called LibreOffice Calc (it’s very similar to Microsoft Excel). Any type of spreadsheet software should work. When I first open a new document I rename the tabs at the bottom my children’s names. Then each child has their own page.
Next I list the subjects across the top and simply copy/paste the subjects to the other children (modifying any that may different for a child in a different grade). After that it’s simple to list the date on the far left and each graded item under the subject column. Be as specific as you want to be. I’ve found giving more details helps me when I look back a few quarters later.

grades example sm

Example of spreadsheet with grades. Note the child name tabs at the bottom.

As you can see above, I put the final quarter grades in blue. For the next quarter I just skip a few lines and then keep going. It’s much easier to keep all of one year on a page, plus if you name the document Grades 2014.2015 or something similar you can easily find the year you’re wanting later on.

I HIGHLY recommend putting a copy of your child’s grades in a cloud storage place such as Google Drive or similar. Computer hard drives go bad, lightning strikes, and all sorts of mishaps can happen. A backup of their grades in a cloud storage will allow you to retrieve their grades from any computer no matter where you are, all you’ll need to do is log-in to Google.

Why Would a Home-schooled Child Need a Report Card?reportcards 2014

While a report card isn’t a NEED for most homeschool families it sure has its benefits.

#1 Our children have answers ready for the inevitable question of, “What did you make on your report card?”

#2 Local rewards for As!
Get a free doughnut at Krispy Kreme for each A (up to 6 for free). Get a free Happy Meal at select McDonald’s for straight As. Get a free game of laser tag at Lazer Zone for straight As. I’m sure there are other places that give rewards for As, but these are the ones I know of.

Get your own report cards.

Get your own achievement certificates.

Do you do things differently? Have any suggestions or comments? Please leave a comment.


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Posted by on December 21, 2014 in Record Keeping


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Ready for the 2014 – 2015 School Year

school area2 2014We are all set for starting school this week and I’m too excited to sleep! To celebrate, we have a tradition of going on a field trip the first day of school. This year we will be visiting the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center.

The main attraction at the Exploreum right now is the LIVE African penguin exhibit! We’ve been looking forward to seeing them all summer, though I think I’m probably more excited about the penguins than the children are.

Our children will be in 4th grade and 1st/2nd grade this year.
Why the 1st/2nd grade? Because we started our daughter in K5 a year early, which put her doing 1st grade work last year. We went at a slower pace throughout 1st grade so she will still be finishing up 1st grade math and reading this fall, but is at a 2nd grade level in the other subjects. This is actually pretty common with homeschooled children. It makes the question “What grade are you in?” quite interesting. I expect her to be in the 2nd grade books by January or February, but we’ll go at whatever pace she needs.

luke 4th grade booksHere is the list of curriculum we’ll be using for our 4th grader:
Our American Heritage – Geography
Heritage Studies 3 – Social Studies (using this with both children)
Horizons Spelling & Vocabulary
All About Spelling
Horizons Math 4
Discover the Wonder – Science (using this with both children)
Daily Language Review – Language Arts
Easy Grammar 4
Phonics Plus
Reading 3 (finishing up some lessons from last year)
Cursive Writing 3rd & 4th Grade
View from My Window – Writing
Write on Track – Writing

Online curriculum: – Math
Easy Peasy Online Homeschooling – Typing Lessons & additional Social Studies lessons

*Side note: I’m aware a couple of the books in this picture are the 3rd grade level instead of 4th grade. I was feeling lazy and just grabbed the books that were closest to me. The covers are different colors, but you get the basic idea.

brooke 2nd grade booksOur 1st/2nd grader will be using the following curriculum:

Horizons Spelling & Vocabulary
All About Spelling
Horizons Phonics & Reading 1
Arithmetic 1 – Math
Horizons Math 1 (this is more advanced & fast paced so we’re doing this after the other book)
Grammar Skills
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
Explode the Code – Phonics & Reading
Heritage Studies 3 – Social Studies (using this with both children)
Discover the Wonder – Science (using this with both children)

Online curriculum:
Reading Eggs – Phonics & Reading
Easy Peasy Online Homeschooling – additional Social Studies lessons

Our children are also enrolled in co-op classes that meet once a week. Our oldest will be learning about Alabama history, elementary chemistry, and grammar; while our youngest learns about science, geography, logic & critical thinking, and PE. The children absolutely love their co-op classes and I enjoy having them learn from different adults besides just boring mom all the time. 🙂

Do you have a question about curriculum or anything else about homeschooling? Feel free to leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you.

***This post contains affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for more info.

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Posted by on July 30, 2014 in Curriculum


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Our Curriculum Plan for the 2013-2014 School Year

I wrote this post back in June, but due to vacations and summer events I’m just now getting around to posting it.

Since our children finished kindergarten and second grade I’ve been preparing their curriculum for the upcoming school year.  My husband and I believe in year-round education (because learning never really stops) but we still take several weeks off at the beginning of the summer so I have time to plan for the next stages.

I follow a loose schedule of teaching our children in 6 week sessions; taking 3-5 days off in between with a longer break at Christmas time.

1stgradecurriculumThis may sound like I’m pushing our children too hard, but we don’t do every subject every day. Instead we spend more time doing the things they are interested in. Some days are spent mostly on reading, while others may be science and art days.

By the time a 6 week session is over hopefully our children have had fun learning a variety of things. That really is the point isn’t it? To instill a love of learning for life.

Here’s my plan for our 1st grader:

MathHorizons Math and IXL Math at
SpellingAll About Spelling
Phonics & ReadingHorizons Phonics & Reading and many actual books
GrammarShurley English (I don’t use all aspects of this book, but I love the jingles)
Writing – weekly journal drawing along with a sentence to go with it and Easy Peasy at  (online lessons & videos)
Science Purposeful Design Science
Heritage Studies

Art & Music – various books, cds and online sources

Here’s my plan for our 3rd grader:

Math – Horizons Math and IXL Math at
Spelling – All About Spelling
Phonics Phonics Plus
ReadingBJU A&B Reading (I’m not overly fond of this book, but it was free)
Grammar – Easy Grammar
Writing Horizons Penmanship and weekly journal writing
Science Purposeful Design Science
Heritage Studies
Art & Music – various books, cds and online sources

3rdgradecurriculumSomething I try to keep in mind when making my curriculum choices is each child is unique.  Just because I used book A for our oldest child doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best book for our youngest.

Many of the books I’ve chosen for our son this year are unfamiliar to him and me.  I may get half-way through the first quarter and realize a particular book just isn’t going to work for us.

It’s difficult for me to change my plan once I have everything all set.  I mean, it’s my PLAN and I can’t deviate from it, right?  Well… if I said it more like, “It’s MY plan…” then it’s easier to see where the problems can come in.  Just because a particular book or curriculum works for ME doesn’t mean it works for my child’s learning style.  I find that I often need to remind myself of this along the way.

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Posted by on August 18, 2013 in Curriculum


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How American Homeschoolers Measure Up

This is an AWESOME visual way to see how homeschoolers measure up!

Homeschooled: How American Homeschoolers Measure Up


Posted by on August 17, 2013 in Getting Started


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