We are winding down now, with only a month left of school.



Some of my favorite things from this year:


All the Minecraft learning.

mam-made Stampycat doll


I think I have come a long way compared to the days when I was annoyed with all the MC Youtube videos the kid would incessantly watch. Now I watch them right along with her and sometimes even sneak an episode of Stampy in my own freetime. I no longer just nod my head when she throws all the gaming lingo at me but actually speak the speak with her. Ever since I asked her to share Minecraft with me, it is like a door was unlocked, and I love that I have a sweet, patient guide to this new world.

multiplication tower for math


Besides trying to do some of our work via Minecraft, such as her Lincoln exhibit and math lessons, it has also been a great platform for her to build an expertise and then share her knowledge with others. She has spent hours reading and watching about MC in addition to her time spent in game. She nerds out and exchanges knowledge with friends–I really do love it when she shows friends how to ride a pig. I am also inspired by how she shares Minecraft with me. She makes sure that I have a firm basis in the game, constantly sharing info, posing questions, mostly patiently answering all of mine, and challenging me to keep getting better (she makes sure I don’t just know how to build but also how to battle zombies and the like). Going through this process with her has also provided a space for us to discuss how she learns best–a conversation that I look forward to continuing to watch grow…


Field trips with friends! I love that we have a homeschool group to go on field trips with, but we also enjoy going with regular old friends, too. So far this year our ventures included going to an Andy Warhol exhibit, cedar glade, basset hound rescue fundraiser, two horse stables, swimming pool, cemetery, petting farm, historic house (too many times for her taste, though), botanical garden full of bug sculptures, zombie walk, natural history museum twice, kids’ science center, camping with our Girl Scout troop, theater twice, park a million times, with still more to come (and I may have missed some). Really we can’t get enough field trips…

my little bug heaven for my horse loving girl the cutest teddy bear of a lamb


I love that for independent reading she chose to pick up Harry Potter again. The series was her first book love, and it makes my heart happy that the embers are still burning brightly…


All the new books we read. Besides The Borrowers all of our read-alouds were new to both of us, which I don’t always seek out. Usually I feel like I am introducing my favorites to her, so it is nice to discover new ones with her…


Watching and discussing movies with her. We haven’t watched many new things, mostly old favorites,  but I really do love experiencing movies with her. We probably talk more with movies than with our read-alouds, but I am perfectly fine with that. I am taking this as inspiration for next year to deepen the conversation even more…


I also love experiencing poetry with her. Until we started doing the Brave Writer poetry teatimes, I had not read much poetry beyond required reading in school and Lily had not read any. We don’t always drink tea with our poetry but carving out time to even if we only have just read a single poem to each other each week making it a routine has added to our homeschool in many ways. She gets practice in reading fluency; it’s another strand with which to enrich our language-arts tapestry; I get to make up for all those years with no poetry. By far her favorite is You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You written by John Ciardi and illustrated by Edward Gorey. My favorite is a vinyl recording of Dylan Thomas reading his poetry…

reading from her favorite poetry bookmy favorite

Outdoor education is also a favorite and a constant in our homeschool. This year she is taking a homeschool class from our local nature center. Besides providing a group learning opportunity, it has also served as springboard into our nature studies at home. Last year we didn’t use a formal science curriculum but had various kinds of science fun here and there. I love the depth of this for science study and plan to take it as inspiration for what we do next year…

checking out aqua critters in our creek

Also, adding bones to our nature collection was super rad.

deer bones

She’s not so interested in the work of cleaning them, but that is okay with me–more fun for me. I cleaned up a deer skull and vertebrae and will be working on a box turtle shell next…


Studying chemistry was really done on a whim based on a conversation about her interests. Until recently though I didn’t realize that her vision of chemistry involved explosions, meanwhile we had been doing a fairly boring Minecraft class about the elements followed by the curriculum, Inquiry in Action. While Inquiry in Action was not exactly the showy chemistry she was expecting, it was still an excellent curriculum, including not only activities to understand chemistry-related concepts but also to practice the scientific method…


I also love crafting with her.

This year we’ve done more sewing and a bit of knitting. She also got into making loom band bracelets. My favorite is working on projects with her for her doll, and I look forward to adding to her wardrobe over the next year, too…


I already reviewed our Lincoln study so I won’t repeat that. Right now we are studying fashion history, which started out with us following a timeline. Now I just ask her what she would like to look at each week using the Survey of Historic Costume textbook I held onto from my own studies and various Youtube videos as inspiration. Lily said she wanted coloring sheets, but I couldn’t find one comprehensive resource I liked so we used some of these paper dolls from Practical Pages and I also made some of my own using my geeky prowess. We also had discussions about technology and social history, which were a nice bonus for this history nerd–more history, yes please.

As part of our study we also went to an exhibit of wedding dresses owned by women from our community. It was one of the best museum experiences I have ever had. Another visitor, an older lady, started a conversation with us by asking Lily where she went to school. Lily answered that she homeschools and the lady actually had a supportive response, which was refreshing in comparison to our other exchanges with strangers on the topic. She shared about her experience in attending a country school (I ‘m assuming one-room school based on her description). She also shared with us that her wedding dress and her husband’s suit were in the exhibit and talked some about their wedding story. Then she told us about his experience in World War II and about a documentary that included his story, which brought their family an opportunity to visit sites where he had fought. When we got home I watched the documentary and realized I may have missed out by avoiding military history in my studies; it’s about more than just military tactics and engagements…


Recently we also decided to do more Girl Scout badges independently from our troop to complete any remaining ones she is interested in before she bridges to Juniors at the end of the year. Right now she is working on the Make-Your-Own badge. Her topic is books, and she has decided to make a PSA about book care, make a poster showing the parts of a book, learn more about her favorite author, and learn how to and then construct a book. She can earn one of these badges each year so I think we may do it again next year as part of school…



All in all, I am really glad that I have stopped planning solely based on what I think she should learn and instead that she takes the lead more. I am also taking joy in being inspired by what we do to take up in my own learning. I think this is my favorite year so far…




One of the many ways we have added Minecraft to our homeschool this year was through building a museum exhibit about a historical figure. Bug chose to learn about Abraham Lincoln who she says is her favorite person in history.

The way we went about the Lincoln study was exploring questions she had and resources that I found, which I thought she would enjoy. I really had to reel myself back because history is my favorite, and I didn’t want to overwhelm her.

The first thing she wanted to learn about was his hat. We found specs on the size of hat and made a paper replica. We also checked out the real thing thanks to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library’s interactive and engaging website that shares primary sources related to him. For all the primary sources we look at we go into greater depth by analyzing them (a great resource if you are interested in trying this is the Primary Source Analysis Tool from the Library of Congress).We also read Abe Lincoln’s Hat by Martha Brenner.

We also found out how tall Lincoln was and made a life-size drawing of him.

lily and lincoln

Another aspect we explored was photographs of Lincoln. We looked at several of photographs from the Library of Congress. (We also followed a bunny-trail to learn about the daguerreotype process.)

Most recently we delved into the childhood of Lincoln. We started by reading Stand Tall, Abe Lincoln by St. George, Judith; it helped us to connect to the story of his childhood, which was heartbreaking and inspiring. We also did several other activities related to his childhood, including playing a game about pioneer survival, making a  lifestyle comparison, analyzing and discussing the ax in relation to his childhood chores, and making a batch of pumpkin butter to represent a food he may have eaten.

Miss Lily decided that was enough for her so she set to work creating her exhibit.

Abe ExhibitAbe Exhibit

She included a statue of Lincoln and model of his hat. The hat is large enough to walk inside of and shows how he kept important papers in it. This is the first time I have had her do a culminating project like this, and it is a great first try.  While her grammar and spelling are not strong, which I could see in her labels and books that she made with the exhibit, this format gave her a chance to also work in something she excels at, building in Minecraft.



In January we will embark on a study of fashion history combined with clothing and accessory crafting for us and Lily’s American Girl knock-off. I might even whip up some patterns to share for the latter.





October 2, 2014

We’re a couple months into the school year. I wanted to share about what we have been up to lately. It took us a bit to get back into the rhythm of things after taking the summer off. I think we are finally at a point where we have a routine that allows us to get some work done, but it isn’t the end of the world if we abandon our plans to go to the park or on some other fun venture. Our routine looks something like this:


  • Minecraft math lesson, plus extension activities (games, related books, etc.)
  • Movie (documentaries, movies based on books we’ve read, etc.)


  • DIY chemistry study with a Minecraft class about the elements as the core for now (next will be the Inquiry in Action curriculum from the American Chemical Society); we also do a fun activity or two each time (we are def using our fair share of vinegar and baking soda)
  • Poetry


  • Nature study, our old favorite!
  • Prep for her nature center class, which so far involves lots of non-ficition reading (something we don’t get nearly enough of), research, some worksheets, and field study


  • Minecraft project (self-directed)


  • Lincoln study looking at primary sources, reading picture books, and doing some projects related to his life and legacy
  • Art narration–sometimes tied into the Lincoln study or from favorite artists/artworks


  • Read aloud (we are currently reading Redwall) study using the Arrow from Brave Writer
  • Independent reading where she chooses the book
  • Copywork related to the current read aloud or writing letters (an idea she came up with)
  • Art and craft projects
  • Games
  • Minecraft lessons for me (a recent addition to our routine where she gives me a lesson and assignment in Minecraft)


I am happy that we are doing more of a block schedule where we spend a day to focus on a topic (in addition to our version of the Brave Writer Lifestyle), rather than having a little bit of everything every day or so. I feel like this simple change has greatly added to the learning potential in what we do–before I felt like sometimes I was just glazing over some topics to get to the next thing on the list.

Minecraft is obviously a big focus for us this year, which is something she requested at the conference-of-sorts we had before school started this year. I really want to make an effort to give her more choice, which is also playing out in her choosing to study Lincoln, chemistry, which read alouds we read, and to go with the Minecraft math classes instead of the textbook route. This has made for a happier homeschool and the bonus of her being motivated to dig in deeper.

So far third grade is pretty stinking great.


Nature study is something we picked up several years ago

kindy nature study











and which Bug continually asks for, though it has taken on a different shape this year. This year we have raised tadpoles and butterflies, put her green thumb to use, taken an Audubon Adventures class, learned with our co-op, explored the woods and creek by our home in more depth, and continued to take inspiration from the  Handbook of Nature Study Blog.



Last summer we had tadpoles to observe their metamorphosis.We had six that kept growing and getting bigger, until one day we noticed there was one missing and another day, then two. Bug was disgusted to learn that some species can be carnivorous; she had no interest in caring for the remaining monsters. Lucky me. I also found out that if you feed them too much their cycle of metamorphosis can be slowed. I was hoping to get the last tadpole out of the house before winter but it seemed like it would never grow. Finally, mid winter it started to sprout legs.

All together it was a failed experiment survival-wise, but we did have a chance to learn more about frogs during the process. When we raised caterpillars Bug was much more interested and was able to release five butterflies into the spring sun. Our next project of this sort will probably be vermiculture, which I have already made a bin for.

While I have good intentions as far as gardening goes it is something that I really have to work at and usually ends with dry wisps of plants. The little miss though seems to have a green thumb. She has managed to keep alive  a geranium for nearly three years.

photo by Mandy Jones

photo by Mandy Jones












She is always starting seeds from our kitchen and those she finds outside. I decided to play on her interest in plants and gardening this year. We have explored a bit more with garden related experiments and projects before the weather was right for planting,

testing soil pH

testing soil pH











and now she has started some marigold, cantaloupe, and cucumber for her own little garden. Maybe she can help me keep my garden alive this summer, too.

dreaming of radishes













I have written about the classes at our local nature study before but it has been awhile since we have participated in one. She is at an in-between age–too old for classes she has taken in the past and not quite old enough for the homeschool class they offer. A few months ago though we found out that she could take a new class they were offering–an Audubon Adventures class. The classes took place over a course of several weeks, each focusing on a different bird. With this class, Bug had an opportunity to read  non-ficiton, research, birdwatch, and do various kinds of projects. It was also a great chance to be with homeschool and nature center friends.

This year is the first that we have been part of a homeschool co-op, and we love it. Last semester there was a class about trees, where the kids learned how to identify trees by leaves and other fun. This semester there is a bird class where they read a story and then do a craft about birds, which has paired well with our other birding ventures.

Each Wednesday, like clockwork, she asks to go on a nature walk. These are usually informal; we go wherever she leads. Her favorite spot continues to be the creek, the same creek I loved to explore as a girl.

exploring the creek last fall











I am really enjoying discovering it all over again with her. We usually keep to one section that is easy to traverse without having to wade through the thicket of brush the grows all along the banks of the creek.

The blooming of the daffodils draws us into the woods that are momentarily free of the dense brush, which usually deters us from entering. At our house the daffodils usually bloom in the woods near the creek so when she wanted to pick flowers this spring she also noticed other little things. She found a natural seat in a tree.

her seat by the daffodils













She also found a new place to enter the creek and since the woods were not as thick with brush we decided to follow it and found some new favorite spots in the creek. Now if only we could figure out how to develop a few trails so we don’t have to fight the thicket.

Another thing we revisited several times for our nature walks was a deer skeleton in the woods. I found it last summer in an area where the creek had flooded. The dry bones were covered with some soil, and grass had started to grow over it. At first we only moved the skull so that we could observe it more closely.

adding bones to the nature collection











Somehow though we ended up leaving the woods and ending our nature walk one day with a bag of bones. Suddenly this nature study thing seems very intense. Bug has decided to add some vertebrate, ribs, and the entire skull to her nature collection. Now to clean them.  Luckily I had heard of Jake’s Bones through my museums classes; he offers some very helpful guidance for cleaning bones.

Bug’s  favorite nature study from Barb at the Handbook of Nature Study Blog has been the Cat Nature Study. The morning we were going to start the nature study I was scolded for spooking one of our indoor kitties, Lucy.  I thought the girl had been eating her breakfast, but she was actually spying on the cat. We decided to observe our outside cat, Sirius, up close because he is the only one that would be tolerant of that. Bug had her magnifying glass and was checking out Sirius’s paws and face while I read selections from the Handbook of Nature Study about cats. After this we tried to observe his behavior but mostly, he just wanted some love.

Sirius wants some attention

Sirius wants some attention











Even though this was months ago she is still fascinated with the cats.



All together I think our nature study has been well rounded this year, and I look forward to seeing how we continue to grow with it.


This year is such a stark contrast from the previous, and I really want to do a better job of sharing what we do on here. I updated the 2013-2014 page with what we have actually done for the most part so far. Here is a look at a day when we are at home together. These days seem rare what with Girl Scouts, soccer, and co-op fun.

I typically get up around 7, do my daily information gathering, etc. I also take this time to write her to-do list on the whiteboard and finish any preparations that I need to make for the day.

Bug gets up around 9 and usually fixes herself breakfast. I have found that she works best in the morning so we get to work right away. She chooses what she wants to do from her list. She usually chooses games first. She has complete choice with this so it could really be anything. We have games like Rat-a-tat Cat, Math Dice, Jr., Cranium’s Cadoo, and Monopoly, but she is just as likely to make up a game.


One of my least favorites, but she can talk me into if she agrees to be the banker.

Other favorite things on the list is anything to do with science or Minecraft. Currently for science she is taking a Minecraft astronomy class. I have added a few hands on activities, related interactives and readings, and notebook pages to add to the class content offered. After gathering the info she needs she works on a model assigned to make on the class server, such as the surface of the moon.

moon surface

The surface of the moon that she built in Minecraft.

We are also doing a garden project. We had been working on different activities to learn about gardening, but now that spring is here we are starting to get to work on our garden. She started seeds for her garden bed a few weeks ago–cantaloupe, cucumber, and marigolds.

Lily's garden plan

Her sketch of her garden plan including some cucumbers, cantaloupe, and a bunch of flowers.

Bug is currently reading a Goosebumps book for her independent reading. After she reads I have her draw and narrate about something from the day’s reading.

Cuckoo Clock of Doom

She loves spooky things so I wasn’t surprised when she choose this for independent reading.

Handwriting had been something that caused much gnashing of teeth, but I found a copywork book of jokes, which she loves. I enjoy that she gets in some much needed handwriting practice and seeing her illustrations for the jokes.

handwriting practice

I love her sweet little brains.

For read aloud this whole year we have been working through the Harry Potter series. We are on book 5. I usually read a chapter, and we talk about the story as I read. Each time we finish a book we also watch the movie. This all started by reading the first book on vacation over the summer. I had intended to stop after the first one so we could read one book every summer, but I couldn’t say no to her wanting to keep going. These books are her first book love, and I am enjoying see that love grow.

LEGO Harry Potter game

Her owl that delivers messages to me, or rather is hurled at me with a note tied to it.

She was Hermoine for Halloween.

Sporting her Harry Potter related garb.

She named the new cat, Sirius Black, of course.

(Just a few of the ways she shows her love of Harry Potter.)


We also follow the Brave Writer lifestyle where we rotate through nature study, poetry reading, art narration, and film watching. Recently we watched Frankenstein (1931) and Frankenweenie for comparison.

This spring we also started working on Partnership Writing. She is currently working on the personal timeline project; we are working on captions to go with all of pictures she chose.

For math we have finally come to place where she doesn’t complain quite as much. We are using Math Mammoth, and she seems to be doing well with this. I decided earlier in the year to add to this with a kind of BWL for math, which has made things better. We do math-specific projects, games and taking in mathy books and videos.

We are usually finished with all of this by early afternoon.  Afterwards Bug has freetime for the rest of the afternoon and evening. She spends a lot of time playing outside, playing on a Minecraft server or on her own, and watching movies/tv. We eat around 6 pm and she gets to bed a bit after 9.

The other morning when I was doing my daily information gathering–scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed–Lily spied an article about the new Harry Potter stamps from the USPS. We clicked over and she read it. Until the last few months getting her to read has been like pulling teeth.

For reading we had been working through Progressive Phonics. At the end of last year she had not completed her phonics program so I was under the impression she would be behind; I planned to review the intermediate level before moving into the advanced level of Progressive Phonics. She seemed completely bored with the program though, and I noticed that she really already knew the material. We are reading through the Harry Potter series as our read aloud. One day she asked to read it and curious to see how she would do, I let her. She only missed one or two words in two pages, and she read those pages aloud fluently.

We have stopped doing Progressive Phonics. For now, she reads independently for at least 20 minutes a day. I have gently pushed her to read outside of her comfort zone, which is still with beginning readers. We have some picture books and chapter books in our collections that I think are more her level so she is working on those. I generally have her do an oral narration of what she reads so that I can check her comprehension.

After reading the article about the stamps, she said she would be interested in more of the like, which would work well to supplement what we have at home since we have primarily fiction books. I pinned a few articles and blogs on a Pinterest board for her so that she can choose as she likes. Here are some of my favorites:

When she gets to reading them I will post what she likes.


Hello. Long time, no see.  Homeschooling here in the big woods has been going well lately. I thought I would share a bit about what we have been doing in math.

I had planned for Lily to work through Grade 2 Math Mammoth, but a thread on SecularHomeschool.com inspired me to do more with math this year. Lily is good at math, but it has been one of her least favorite subjects, especially after our experience with online school last year. The Brave Writer Lifestyle consists of activities to create a language-rich lifestyle. Applying the the Brave Writer Lifestyle to math seems like a great way to learn and support a healthier relationship between Lily, me, and math.  

In applying the BWL to math, I have created a routine of various math-y activities. In addition to working on Math Mammoth everyday, we generally do math games 2-3 days a week, read a math-related story at least once a week, and work on a math-related project once a week. Occasionally, we also look at math-related videos. I have also made a point of talking about the math she encounters in her play. And of course, there is always cooking and baking.

Here are some of the ways she has enjoyed learning and playing with math:

Minecraft pocket edition, app

building with LEGO

Math Dice Jr., game

Greg Tang interactive books

Vi Hart, on YouTube

Bedtime Math, daily math problem

Numberphile, on YouTube

Marley’s Math Farm, app

making smoothies

Building a geodesic dome

Building a geodesic dome

Rat-a-tat-cat , game

Reading Alice in Numberland

Setting a goal in soccer and charting her progress


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