Friday, September 13, 2019

BookShark Science

Performing their electricity related experiments with foil wire they made themselves. 

As a homeschooling parent, I have to work around my own weaknesses as a teacher. Historically, I have never been one to plan out a detailed homeschooling schedule as I find it to be a giant waste of time when I know life "stuff" happens and I won't be able to keep up to my good intentions. All this causes particular angst when the subject is something I, as the teacher, don't feel particularly knowledgeable or excited about to begin with. Science has been that subject for me. When the kids were younger, I made up for our lack of science learning at home by taking them to lots of science centers and exhibits, having various science related books about for them to read, and watching lots of NOVA's and other science documentaries that intrigue them. I have been using a Math and history curriculum for years that works well for me, but I have never found a science program or curriculum that would fit my criteria.

This year though I was motivated to look harder given that I have two middle schoolers literally begging me to do science. Kids this age are naturally curious and I do not want to hamper their curiosity. Who can say no to a kid begging to learn and curiosity is a valuable asset when it comes to learning science. So.... enter BookShark Science

BookShark offers boxed curriculum that pulls from many different resources and best of all has a teacher schedule and guide all laid out. All of their curriculum regardless of subject is strongly literature based which my husband and I really appreciate. Homeschoolers can purchase curriculum for an entire grade level or by subject. Looking through the options under science, I chose to start with Science 4 on Electricity, Magnetism and Astronomy. We are three weeks into this curriculum and I have to say I am very pleased. Once again I find myself learning right alongside my children. I don't have to have a full understanding before we dive in and it includes nearly all the materials required for each week's experiment. Therefore any pre-planning on my part takes less than 15 minutes a week.  So it seems that I finally found a good science curriculum fit for our family thanks to BookShark.

Elisabeth learning about current, circuits and cells in a series.

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Friday, August 09, 2019

Art Inspired by Maud Lewis

An original work by Elisabeth Rose

For Art Appreciation this week, the kids read "Capturing Joy: The Story of Maud Lewis." Maud Lewis lead a very simple life in small Nova Scotia hamlet and suffered from debilitating arthritis. Her works are beautiful in their simplicity and bold in their use of color. My 12 year old son made the observation that so many artists seem to more clearly see beauty and recreate it in their art as a result of suffering in their life. I found this to be a profound statement coming from one so young.

My daughter, the aspiring artist in the family, was tasked with creating something of her own (shown above) inspired by the works of Maud Lewis. I am fairly flabbergasted by the result! I'm hoping she lets me hang this one somewhere special. 

"Maudie" is a very good movie about the life of Maud Lewis starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke. 

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Friday, August 02, 2019

Art Appreciation: Frida and Friends at the Frist

A self-portrait by Frida Kahlo (@Frist Museum Aug 2019)
While on an impromptu stay in Nashville, we visited the Frist Art Museum where an art exhibition representing Mexican Modernism was on display. The works of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera were prominent pieces of this exhibition and through the interpretive displays we learned much about their lives and the context of their work. 
Clothes representing the dress and style of Frida Kahlo (@Frist Art Museum Aug 2019)
A mural by Diego Rivera (@Frist Art Museum Aug 2019)
Another exhibit "Monsters & Myths: Surrealism and War in the 1930s and 1940s," included some rather morbid themes. There were a couple of iconic pieces by Salvador Dali- "Apparition of Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach" being one of the most recognizable. 
Apparition of Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach by Dali (@Frist Art Museum Aug 2019)
When asked to point out her favorite work in this exhibit, my aspiring 11-year old artist to selected a piece by Wolfgang Paalen shown below.
"Paysage totémique de mon enfance" by Wolfgang Paalen (In English: Totemic landscape of my childhood) (@Frist Art Museum Aug 2019)
We have had other opportunities to learn about works of art over the years mostly from a historical context. My almost 13 year old son indicated that he is not a fan of surreal and modern art styles and prefers more realistic works like those we have learned about in our European history. My daughter, on the other hand, said that she likes different things about all art genres - spoken like a true artist I suppose.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Revolutionary War History at Kings Mountain NMP


We learned some little known Revolutionary War history at this lovely national park. The visitor center is top notch and there is lots of hiking. Family and equestrian camping are available at Kings Mountain State Park a few miles down the road.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Shakespeare: Great Middle School Resources

We are finally finishing up our history curriculum on the Middle Ages (The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child: The Middle Ages: (Vol. 2)). History is a subject I really enjoy, so I tend to add lots of supplementals. I was excited when we finally got to the Elizabethan Age and Shakespeare so that we could utilize all the wonderful resources out there on the subject.
The Graphic Version
There are two great books, both can be found at the library, that I really like and recommend:  Shakespeare: His Work and His World and Tales From Shakespeare Student Edition Complete And Unabridged by Charles and Mary Lamb. There is also a graphic version that is particularly good as a first introduction for younger kids also called Tales from Shakespeare and is pictured above.

In our curriculum, the story of Macbeth was used as the introduction to Shakespeare. I chose to also focus on Hamlet as we are fortunate to live in an area with a Shakespeare Theater where Hamlet was performed this last season.  My 10 and 12 year old enjoyed the slightly abridged version of Hamlet at Orlando Shakes though they still thought it was long. (They were not wrong.)

In addition to these book materials, I found several videos that were entertaining and insightful for all of us. I have mentioned videos by Crash Course in the past for history topics, but they also have both a Literature and Theatre video series that include information about Shakespeare and his works. The literature video series has episodes that give an overview and literary importance of Hamlet, The Sonnets, and Romeo and Juliet. The theatre video series includes several episodes expressly about Shakespearean Theatre in a historical context. (Since every parent has different filters for their children, I suggest parents watch these first.)



  • The English Renaissance and NOT Shakespeare: Crash Course Theater #13
  • Straight Outta Stratford-Upon-Avon - Shakespeare's Early Days: Crash Course Theater #14
  • Shakespeare's Tragedies and an Acting Lesson: Crash Course Theater #15
  • Comedies, Romances, and Shakespeare's Heroines: Crash Course Theater #16


  • TedEd has some great educational content in general as well as this little gem on Shakespeare's Macbeth:

    As you learn about Shakespeare and his works, one can't help but discover the controversy surrounding the identity of the man himself. There is another TedEd talk on that subject called, "Did Shakespeare write his plays? - Natalya St. Clair and Aaron Williams" and a documentary that I personally found fascinating entitled "Last Will & Testament." (Last Will & Testament is currently available on Amazon Prime and I believe PBS Passport.) 

    I was already convinced of the importance of Shakespeare's works when at a recent homeschool convention I learned that the works of Shakespeare are considered Honorary Classics. There is The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer, The Aeneid by Virgil, The Divine Comedy by Dante, The King James Bible and then the works of Shakespeare, considered by many to be the "Western Canon." I look forward to delving more into the works of Shakespeare in the coming months and years. Once again, I find myself learning along side my children and finding new interests and amazement in things that I would have never before imagined and I am grateful.




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    Sunday, May 12, 2019

    A New Kind of Mother’s Day Gift



    Jonah installed new feet on my computer today for my Mother's Day gift! 
    A couple of weeks ago, I told him about how for two years I have had these new plastic feet for my 10 year old laptop computer and have been too intimidated to install them myself as it required the computer to be slightly disassembled. I suggested he may need some help from Daddy, but that this was the gift I wanted for Mother's Day. Well, Daddy didn't need to help at all!
    Over the last year Jonah has gotten braces (and dealt with all the maintenance and appointments that go with them) and glasses as well as learning how to use contact lenses. He has experienced the glories and struggles of competition both in fencing and First LEGO League, learned how to be a team player in our family and in First LEGO League, started mowing the lawn for a bump in allowance and, just this week, cared for and entertained children much younger than him at church functions. When today rolled around, he had all the confidence in the world to take my laptop apart and replace the plastic doohickies so my desk won't get scratched up. It was awesome! 
    He has been growing and maturing a lot the last year in many different areas. This has made me a bit nostalgic at times, but, especially today, I'm really appreciating his newfound confidence and maturity. Happy Mother's Day to me!

    Friday, April 26, 2019

    An Artist in the Making


    She was bored while watching something so she whipped this up. I am not sure where she gets it from, but her art skills continually impress me. 

    Friday, February 08, 2019

    Nerf Battle Playdate

    Some days were made for a friendly Nerf Attack! Thankful for good friends, kids and adults alike, who know how to have fun. 


    Girls Nerf too!


    Team Strategy.


    Hydrate and eat Cheetos or else!


    Mid-game action.

    Saturday, January 26, 2019

    Elisabeth’s 1st Spelling Bee


    There were 13 other contestants 4th - 8th grade in this Spelling Bee put on by a local homeschool group. Elisabeth was very nervous about being in front of a crowd. Overcoming her anxiousness, she made it through five rounds before misspelling the word "pennant."  Her consolation was the relief of being done with the experience and a newfound confidence for her next competitive exercise. 
    It was a great opportunity and one in which we will look for again in the future.

    Tuesday, January 08, 2019

    Furniture Assembly by Middle Schoolers

    The start of every year usually finds me sorting and reorganizing something somewhere in the house. Having moved in the last few months, my husband and I both had a long list of tasks to accomplish in those free days between Christmas and New Years Eve. This year, my goal was to make our homeschool/project space more usable, which required a trip to IKEA.
     Elisabeth picked out a desk and chair and Jonah also picked out a desk chair. I was pleasantly surprised that they were able to assemble their desk chairs all by themselves. Elisabeth had some very minimal help from me involving tightening a couple of screws, while Jonah had none, giving me exasperated looks if I even came near. Elisabeth's desk was a bit too complex a project for her to accomplish on her own, but she did give me a lot of help and even assisted me in putting together my desk.
    Lately, I have been particularly struck with how grownup these two are and somewhat nostalgic about those days when they were younger and supremely adorable. One forgets how tiring those days are and just remembers how stinking cute they were. The joy of their sweetness overwhelms the weariness of it all. This experience has reminded me that there are advantages to their independence and this phase of their development. I still look at them in adoration and wonder these days, but less due to raw cuteness and more for the amazing persons they are becoming.


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