Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Homeschool Math Curriculum: Our choices for the 2017-2018 School Year and How we got here

I get a lot of questions about curriculum.  I have been homeschooling for 16 years, and over the course of time, I have tried MANY different curriculum....and have researched even more.   In the past, we have used:  Singapore Math, Teaching Textbooks, Life of Fred,  Abeka, Horizons, ALEKS and Critical Thinking Press.    Some of those have worked well for certain children and were disasters for others.  My firstborn LOVED Singapore for elementary, but my next two were brought to tears by it.   Those same two really liked Teaching Textbooks but my firstborn HATED how they over-explained and repeated things.  So, there likely isn't a perfect curriculum for every family (or even every child  in the SAME family for crying out loud.) (That is my disclaimer).  Some of the favorites for us, some of our friends don't like at all.  That's okay..we're all different.

Thankfully, with all this experience under my belt, I now know which curriculum is best for which type of math student...and can better choose for each of my children based on past experience with siblings who have similar personalities and math abilities.   For that reason alone, I encourage everyone to have a half dozen more kids or so cause homeschooling really does get easier then. =)  You don't want to have to quit when you have finally figured it all out.  

I'll address elementary first.   Pretty much any curriculum can work for kindergarten and 1st grade.  Even the companies that include "Drill and Kill" (a term where they kill their students by a ridiculous amount of problems on a page until they despise math)...don't typically overwhelm the 5 and 6 yr olds.
But whoa buddy....if you survive to 2nd or 3rd grade, some of those workbooks  should come with a few boxes of Kleenex.  Enter diagram A:

Can you even imagine being an 8 yr old boy who just wants to be outside and being given a page (or TWO!!!)   of this stuff?????    They either get it or they don't.  20 problems is not better than 5, seriously...maybe over the course of the week but in one sitting.   Just shoot the kid now and put him out of his misery!!!        This is what I found in curriculum like Abeka and Horizons.   For some reason, everyone just thinks Abeka is the best.   There are some books worth using in Abeka....I'm not denying that, but if that is all  you use for everything....you and the kids will soon hate homeschooling.  It's like school at home, and well, stressful!

There are other options for the little people to help them (and you) enjoy school more.   Using LEGO's,   math around the house,  online math games and if you want a curriculum, I REALLY like Life of Fred  When I use this for my 8 yr old, he is so happy!  After attempting an Abeka 3 math book last year and seeing the drill and kill, he asked me for something else.   We switched to Life of Fred and he thanked me every day for a week!    Because we were zooming through the books so quickly last year, I'm adding  a new workbook to use along with Fred to slow us to a normal speed and solidify some concepts.  I will be using Math Lessons for a Living Education book 2 for my 6 year old  and book 4 for my 8 year old.  I will also be doing a few lessons per week with them in Life of Fred because it's just so stinking fun and we all love Fred.  (Here he is now...)

Okay....my next student is going into 6th grade....LOVES and thrives with Fred and will be doing  Decimals and Percents this year along with Zillions of Practice Problems.   She will probably finish early and will head on into Pre Algebra 0 with Physics which is Fred's 1st of 3 Pre Algebra books.

My next daughter is going into 8th grade and does not think math is the greatest subject in the world.  (scratching my head).  She is learning Mandarin Chinese but the Fractions book was complicated.  Okay then.  So she will be stopping her Life of Fred career as it was not a good fit her for, and using Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra.    Because she has a similar math interest and ability as a few older siblings, I know this is the perfect fit for her.  She will stick with Teaching Textbooks throughout high school as well.

The next in the lineup is going into 9th grade.  He just finished Life of Fred Beginning Algebra and really likes it.  He has requested to use Life of Fred Advanced Algebra next year...so we are!

My oldest still in home school is going to be a senior.  She will likely take a dual enrollment math course this year in College Algebra or College Math.   I'll let her choose cause she is working on a degree in English.....and she just wants to write ALL.DAY.LONG.    (and she has fulfilled all her math courses required for high school...but she wants to take more).

Let me give some closing thoughts on using Life of Fred in High School.  In my opinion, Life of Fred high school courses are more advanced than pretty much anything on the market.  He doesn't just teach you how to solve an equation, he wants you to know HOW and WHY you do that and THEN solve it.    Since the elementary series seems light and to some people "not very meaty" because it lacks "Drill and Kill" and it's "not the way math is done"  they also (falsely) assume that Fred must not be enough for high school.    That is just not true.   One of my students who used Fred all through high school (and only Fred)  scored a 35 on the math ACT portion (out of 36).  And was able to pass the College Algebra and College Math CLEPS....with near perfect scores.     So nobody can tell me that Fred is "not enough."    I think for some it is "too much" because non math kids sometimes struggle with the challenge of Fred.    It has more math in their books than Saxon and other heavyweights...that you can read about here.    If you have a child that wants to go into Engineering or a STEM field,  then Fred is what you want them to take!!!!  If you have a kid that just struggles with math and doesn't have the interest or desire to dig in and figure out the WHY of math, then I'd probably steer you to Teaching Textbooks.  (We have both kinds of kids in our family....they are not smarter or dumber just different and that is totally okay! Those same kids excel in other subjects that math nerds can't stand!)
So that is my (not so brief) explanation of why we do what we do when it comes to math curriculum.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Homeschool Curriculum: What We're using this year for Kindergarten and 2nd grade

I get asked a lot, especially my new homeschoolers, "What curriculum should I use?"   That is one of the hardest questions that I receive because the answer depends on so many factors, and there is not a one-size-fits-all curriculum that is best for every family.     I almost always strongly discourage new homeschoolers from using an all- in-one curriculum like Abeka...because it is, frankly, overwhelming, boring, and too time-consuming.   The goal is not to re-create school at home by using dry textbooks, but to use our freedom to teach our kids using real life experiences, real books and hands-on fun!   If you or your child dreads getting out all the workbooks and textbooks, then something needs to change.  If your 6 yr old little boy, who needs to be running and playing; exploring and creating sits at a desk for 4 hours in tears...then you're doing it wrong.

I'm not saying using abeka is bad  (I use a few abeka books myself in the younger grades)...but enjoy the freedom of making school fun.  Kids learn SO MUCH MORE when they enjoy school.   That said, there will always be a need for some workbooks...and there will probably always be some subjects that your child just doesn't look forward to----and that's okay.  But if there is an option to make it fun, or shorter, or less tiresome, then make a change even if it's mid-school year.  

With that introduction....I'll share what I'm using for school this year with my two, little, energetic, "oh look a chicken"  short attention span little boys....who do not have ADD despite the fact that they and every other 5 and 7 yr old little boy could easily be labelled such if they fail to enjoy sitting at a desk all day.  =)

They started back to school this week, so we are 3 days into it.  They already had 2 months off, and it's way too hot to do much else...so I'm starting early with these little fellas cause  1--their school doesn't take all day (we break it up)   2--it's too hot outside to do much for a good chunk of mid-day   3--we're moving in a few months and I want to get ahead so I can take a few weeks off of their school.

The most exciting new find that I've never used before and we are already loving..and they both remind me every day already to do science because they think it's fun....is Science Shepherd Introductory Science.   You buy a workbook for each child....Level A or B.  I recommend B for all kids...with help it's even good for my 5 yr old.         You also buy a 1 year access subscription to their video lessons.  (5 lessons a week for 35 weeks).  $35.   Each lesson is short  2-3 minutes.   I love that there are Bible verses each week that we will memorize.  I love that so far, they are focusing on Creationism, setting the foundation that God cannot lie...that the Bible can be trusted...that Evolution cannot be true.   We are memorizing Genesis 1:1.  They even have an activity or two each week.  Yesterday after learning how God created the world, they had to create their favorite animal out of clay and tell us why it's their favorite.    I'm excited about science this year for the little boys.
The curriculum is for 6-11 yr olds.  I think for the older range,  would add more to it like real books and maybe some documentary videos from Amazon prime or Netflix, but for my 2 little guys, this is perfect!!

For History, I'm using a combination of curriculum I'm piecing together to keep things fun.
I'll be using Abeka's 3rd Grade US history text as spine along with History for Little Pilgrims.  I will also add in some NEST videos from their history collection as well as coloring pages for each American we are studying.  (We are currently on Columbus).  We will also be reading a lot of real books outloud about each person from our library shelves....and doing some fun activities as well.  Young kids also enjoy memorizing, so we will work on the States and Presidents as well.

For Bible, we will be simply reading some of the Bible Stories from a kids' Bible we have that I've used before...along with Bible memory from our Science Curriculum.

For Math, we will be using a workbook.  Abeka math 1 and 3.  (They are both a year ahead in math).  My preference would be Life of Fred Elementary, but with all the other kids I"m also schooling and a move planned this year, I'm choosing to use a workbook to keep us on task so older kids can help them if I'm tied up.

Handwriting they will each do 3 times per week using Handwriting without Tears.
Ransom is using this one.  Gil is using this one. 

For Language Arts, it is a mix of them each reading out loud to me (well, Gilead is reading independently for the most part so he will read to himself more this year).    I like to use real books in their reading so they don't die of boredom..so books like Boxcar Children are good ones to start with(once they are independent readers).  I like Bob Books for new readers.  Then ask them to tell me about it to make sure they are comprehending.

Gilead will use a combination of these books that I've been happy with and used with success with his older siblings.

Explode the Code books 6-8 this year (I've used this series since Aslan for phonics and it's great!!)
Abeka Language 2   (1 page per day--simple, and covers basics in a few minutes)
English for the Thoughtful Child book 1  (I love this Charlotte Mason approach to Language Arts..it's gentle)

And for Ransom:

Explode the Code books 2-3
(along with reading out loud to me)

Ransom, being in Kindergarten this year, will spend about 2 hours a day on school....broken up into small chunks.  That includes all the history, science and Bible with Gilead, and working on his other books with me and reading out loud.   You have to trust me that a 5 yr old boy doesn't need more than that.  He's been doing school since he was 3 off and on as we had time. He is already reading short vowel readers and 1/4 of the way into 1st grade math.  

Gilead is in 2nd grade this year, and like Ransom, his school will be broken up with lots of breaks and outdoor time.  I expect all his school will take 2-3 hours a day.    He is 7 with a very short attention span.  Yet with short, fun school days, he is already reading at a 3-4th grade level and doing 3rd grade math.    

That said, all of our life is school here, so in the kitchen, at the store, outside, working with Daddy or brothers is all teaching moments.   =)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Cover Release for The Mystery of the Midnight Trespasser!!!

Hosanna first published this book last year. Since then, in her pursuit of becoming a better and better author, she has learned so much.    She has re-drafted and edited the book and also sought help in designing a more eye-catching cover.   So, we are happy to announce today as the official COVER RELEASE day!!!!   The book's 2nd edition  will be officially published and available for release on April 26th!!!!!!  

About the Book:

"Rosy growled, and I knew she was pacing the porch. I sensed her uneasiness. Something was wrong. Rosy never barked at cars; why would she choose this one?"

13 year-old Emily Kessler believes in God, but when she discovers someone trespassing in the middle of the night, can she learn to trust in Him completely? Will she have the courage to solve the mystery with her friends? And when everything falls apart, will Emily be able to keep those she loves safe?

Release Date:

The Mystery of the Midnight Trespasser will be released on April 26, 2016

About the Author:

Hosanna Emily wrote her first novel at age fourteen. She is a homeschooled, independent author who is the oldest daughter in a family of eleven. She enjoys exploring the sparkling creek by her home in rural Kentucky, reading, drawing, learning American Sign Language, and spending time with her family and with her Creator.

To learn more, visit her blog at:

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

On "Super Confessors" and Super Religion...and How they Lead only to Death....

I recently saw an article about Pope Francis recently nominating 1,000 "Super Confessors" in the Roman Catholic Church.       The article basically says that these "missionaries of mercy" were "created" by the Pope to forgive very serious sins that typically only the Pope or high church officials can forgive.     And, "thanks to their SPECIAL POWERS, they can also absolve fellow priests from serious transgressions."  This is heresy.

By Casa Rosada (Argentina Presidency of the Nation), CC BY-SA 2.0,

As a "non-Catholic" I have seen over the years in the news so many instances of the Catholic Church changing  long-held beliefs. Beliefs that have been in place for thousands of years.  Changes in doctrine, the way they handle mass, and "giving in" to make themselves culturally relevant.  It seems to have started in the 1960's with the 2nd Vatican Council and only gotten worse.

This particular event, however, is so obviously contrary to Scripture that I had to comment.   I have always wondered why a Catholic was required to "confess" to a priest in the first place.

1 Timothy 2:5

"For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,"

That clearly says that there is ONE mediator that goes between God and man--JESUS!  Not 1,000+

Lest I be accused of just "Catholic-bashing,"  sadly, Evangelical Christianity has not fared much better in the last century.  I've heard it said that the modern Christian church is just ONE generation behind culture in what it deems morally "okay."  I don't think you need examples to know that this is true.  American Christianity is no longer Biblical Christianity.      The common factor and failure in both of these situations (Catholicism and American Christianity), is that it is based on religion and following rules and not relationship.     Whether it's Rosary beads and Hail Mary's  or saying a "sinner's prayer" and showing up for church with no change in your sinning.....religion leads only to hell.     The Bible says that "all your righteousness (works) are as filthy rags."     

How then can we be saved?

  • Acknowledge you are a sinner (Romans 3:23)
  • Realize that the payment for sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23)
  • Know that heaven is "perfect" and to go there we must be too (Revelation 21:27)
  • But, we cannot earn our way there by being "Catholic enough" or "Christian enough" (Ephesians 2:8-9)
  • Good News!  Jesus paid the penalty of your sins! Because of Him you are declared "Not Guilty!!" (2 Corinthians 5:21)
  • All you need to do or CAN do is trust in Him (nothing else works!) (John 3:16  John 1:12)
  • You can KNOW you have eternal life (1 John 5:13)
Retrieved from:

Basically, when you truly realize the seriousness of your sin to a Holy God....and realize you are DOOMED to eternal punishment....that is BAD NEWS.   Then, Jesus comes and says, "I've paid the price for her sins....she is FREE!"   If you truly GET THAT......how can you not jump for joy and give everything to serve this Savior of yours?     You WANT to serve Him/love Him/tell others what He has delivered you from!  You start to hate what God hates (your sin!!!)  and along with salvation is repentance (which means to turn your back on your sin and STOP SINNING).     "Cleaning up your life" doesn't save you, though.....but Because you are saved you WANT to live right to please your King!  That is so different!!!!     So, if you have been stuck in a life of religious "do's and don'ts" and rituals and trusting in your religion...just stop...it is doing nothing for you!!!   Trust in a God that loves you and wants to be in relationship with you......you will never find joy and freedom until your life is in His hands and you are free from the burden of religion.   

Saturday, February 20, 2016

No, We Don't Want a Positive Role Model for President...thanks for asking!

Earlier this week, Fox News conducted a poll of Americans about the current Presidential race.  One thing really stuck out to me in cruising through the results....Americans don't care about our future President as a role model.   I'm not just saying that because of my opinion. It is here in black and white.

In question #7, when asked who they would like to see as the Republican nominee, the results were as follows:

  • Trump 36%
  • Cruz 19%
  • Rubio 15%
  • Carson 9%
  • Bush 9%
  • Kasich 8%

Scroll down further in the poll to question #27..."Which Republican Presidential candidate do you think is the BEST role model for children today?"  And the results were...

  • Carson 26%
  • Trump 18%
  • Rubio 17%
  • Cruz 12%
  • Bush 11%
  • Kasich 11%
I think it is interesting that over 1/4 of voters admit that Carson is the best role model for their children, yet only 9% of them will even consider voting for him.  I know people will argue that he doesn't have the political experience, or the "oomph" to run the White House....yet look at the presidents...current and many prior who HAD the experience and how that turned out.   Look at Clinton who was a moral disaster....and essentially did nothing for our country.   The current president who has experience, yet is trying to unconstitutionally make decisions without Congress and act as king.    

Our kids NEED good role models more than they need a narcissistic man running the show.  It seems to me that a good role model with good morals would make a heck of a better president that one that calls people names...or lies....or has been found to be sending emails illegally and needs to be in jail....or one who wants to turn American Socialist.

But Americans don't.  They don't care about morals, or killing babies....they just want what they want.  Their god is themselves....and so they look to Presidents who also have themselves as their god.      Morals matter....role models matter....I wish Americans would realize that........

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Homeschool Review: LANDRY ACADEMY

There are so many homeschool resources out there that it will make your head spin.  Over the last 17 years of homeschooling I have tried and used such a variety of curriculum.   I have loved some, hated some.   Switched some simply cause I had used it so long that I, as the teacher needed a change.   I had curriculum that worked PERFECTLY for one child, and was a total flop for the next.   That is the beauty of homeschooling!   We are not stuck with just one canned curriculum that must fit all 9 of my kids!!!
This year we tried a new approach for a few of our subjects, and it has been a WINNER!   4 of my kids are each taking a class from Landry Academy.   Landry is an online tool where we can choose from 457 classes---yes that is not a typo, they truly offer the homeschool community that many options!     From Chinese and Arabic, to Computer Programming.  From American Sign Language to Fiddle.  From Art, Photography, Medicine to Architecture and Welding...that have pretty much covered it all!!!

On top of their hundreds of classes, they also offer week and month long classes in all sorts of topics.  My 13 year old will be attending a week long camp in Filmmaking this summer and could not be more excited as he loves to make short films!!!

They also offer "2 day Intensives" where you can do all the science labs for an entire school year in TWO days and they offer these all over the country. (We have participated in 3 of these so far and were very impressed).

My children are currently taking the following classes this year through Landry:

  • American Sign Language 1  (Hosanna)
  • Filmmaking 1 and 2   (Josiah)
  • Animal Care Science  (Jubilee)
  • World History from a Christian Perspective  (Praise)

My daughter will take a class this summer in "Conversational ASL."

And next year, I have already signed up my kids for:

  • American Sign Language 2 (Hosanna)
  • Screenwriting (Josiah)
  • Film Producing and Directing (Josiah)
  • Biology (Josiah)
  • Writing Ropes (essays)  Jubilee
  • Pre-biology (Jubilee)
  • Exploring Creation Science (Praise)
  • Trip Around the World (a 6-language adventure)  (Praise)
On top of THOSE...they also have fun Community Groups.   These groups meet 2-4 times per month and are just for fun  (No grades).  They allow you to meet with students with similar interests under a Christian teacher that specializes in that area.

My kids are currently involved in 3 Community Groups.  Hosanna is in "Reservation for Two" which is for 13-18 yr old girls to encourage each other in their relationship with God and growing in character.   This meets weekly and it is her favorite hour of the week!

Josiah is in "Performing and Visual Arts" group that meets every other week as well as  a "Photography" Community group that meets every other week.  He loves both of these groups for learning more about filming and photography and connecting with other kids that shares his passions and teachers that do as well.

There is too much to say about Landry.   Let me just say that we got into it by buying class sessions a year ago.  We were able to buy "generic" classes a year ago for around $60/semester class.  The key is that we couldn't use them til a year later.  Well, we waited and we are impressed.  So impressed that I bought more generics so we can use them for next year.   If you look at their website, the prices regularly are $390 per semester class....but if you sign up for their email specials, and are willing to buy a year ahead of time, You'll be glad you did!!! You can enjoy all these classes for just a fraction of their regular prices so don't let their catalog deter you.    Also, the community groups are a great price regularly already.  ($97 per year!!)  So worth it in my opinion.  So if you are a homechooler....so check out their website!!!!!