2017-18 School Year–Week Nineteen

I can’t believe we’ve made it to February! Historically, this is my least favorite month of the year, because everything is so blah. Christmas seems like an eternity ago, but the end of the school year is still pretty far away. The weather is usually not the best. And there aren’t any special days (unless you’re into Valentine’s Day…I’m not) to break up the monotony. This year is different, though, because it’s a Winter Olympics year! So February isn’t looking too bad, even if our calendar is a little on the crazy side!

It’s been so nice to have a relatively normal week after all the crazy we’ve had since before Christmas. I say “relatively” because yesterday my students had a proposal for me. They said they’d do double lessons in all of their subjects if I would let them have today off. I couldn’t think of a good reason to say “no” to that, so we ended up with a four-day week that contained five days worth of work!

We’ve been studying a lot of interesting things this week. My four students are all over the place in their religion lessons. Turkey and Bunny have been learning about Joshua leading the Israelites. Ladybug is a little farther into the Old Testament, and got to read one of my favorite stories: Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Chickadee is even farther ahead of her siblings, and has started the New Testament, with stories about the Annunciation and the birth of John the Baptist.

Ladybug has been working with fractions and common factors in math. She kind of remembers learning about those topics before, but kind of not, so it’s almost like it’s new to her. Turkey and Bunny have been working with radicals, and they can’t remember why they used to think that was a difficult topic! Chickadee has been measuring in inches.

History has been a lot of fun. Turkey and Bunny learned all about Cyrus the Great, something Bunny was very excited about. Ladybug read about ancient Athens and Sparta, and their on-again off-again wars. Next week, she gets to move on to Alexander the Great, which is also exciting!

I’m really excited about our science lessons right now, too. Ladybug continued to learn about members of family bovidae, including bison and sheep, before moving on to family camelidae. Turkey and Bunny are learning about Mendelian Inheritance, and have been creating Punnett squares for various genetic traits. They even made an earlobe pedigree for our family! This is probably my favorite thing in biology, so it’s been a lot of fun to teach it!

We are nearing the end of both Heidi and Beowulf, and we started the final book in the Ramona series, Ramona’s World. Turkey and Bunny have also been working on writing assignments to show the emotions of characters in a story, while Ladybug is working on longer summaries of different literature selections.

Next week should be another fairly standard week, with the addition of the beginning of the Olympics, and some new lessons on South Korea…plus a bit of Korean cooking!

2017-18 School Year–Week Eighteen+

I’m wrapping up two-ish weeks of school, and I’m late with it to boot! But when you see how busy we’ve been, I think you’ll see why!

The week of the 15th-19th was just INSANE! Moose had off school that Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and we always do some different things on that date, so while we had school, it wasn’t exactly our normal schedule. And then Moose’s school cancelled school Tuesday on account of cold (don’t even get me started…I enjoyed having him home, but I really think the schools in the St. Louis area have a different definition of cold than I do after having grown up in the Chicago suburbs!), so that wasn’t really a full day of school for us, because we wanted to hang out with him at least part of the day. We did have a normal day of school on Wednesday, but on Thursday, we hit the road dark and early to go to Chicago, where we did manage to cram a few educational activities/field trips (visits to the Adler Planetarium, the Chicago Botanic Garden, Legoland Discovery Center, and Wheaton College, to see the Perry Mastodon, which went perfectly with Ladybug’s science lessons from that week) into our weekend:

The last week wasn’t exactly standard, either. We had school on Monday, but we spent the day at the Missouri History Museum, where they were holding a “homeschool day” focusing on immigration to St. Louis. It was really interesting learning about some of the groups that settled in this area (particularly Bosnian and German immigrants), as well as what their journey might have been like, and what kind of cultural arts they brought to the area with them (we loved trying Bosnian “carpet” weaving and Scherenschnitte, which is German paper cutting). We even got to try our hand at a bit of translation!

After that, the week was more or less normal…except for the half-day we had on Friday, because Moose had another day off. Turkey, Bunny, and Ladybug all finished up chapters in their science texts. We finally got back to our literature studies of Heidi and Beowulf. Ladybug has been doing some simplified versions of the things Turkey and Bunny have been working on in geometry (volume, surface area, and drawing circles with a compass), while they have moved on to working with radicals. I never thought I’d say it, but I am so glad their curriculum for the last few years has been so demanding, because it made everything seem much easier this time through! And we tried to observe National Lutheran School Week as best we could, even though I have never really figured out how to incorporate it into our homeschool!

This week should (hopefully) be completely normal, and I’m hoping we get a lot accomplished to make up for some of the weirdness in our schedule since basically before Christmas!

2017-18 School Year–Week Seventeen

Finally back to work after our Christmas vacation!

I will confess, we kind of took things easy this week. We didn’t do every subject every day (and we never did get around to literature at all), but I still feel like we got a lot accomplished.

Turkey and Bunny found the surface area of various solids in math. Ladybug got to use a compass for the first time, to draw circles of various sizes, which she found very exciting! Chickadee continued working on counting larger numbers, as well as more basic addition.

We had a very exciting week in science. Ladybug started a new chapter on ungulates. The very first animal we learned about was the elephant, which thrilled Chickadee…they’re her favorite animal! We also learned a bit about wooly mammoths and mastodons, and I’m hoping we may have a related field trip next week. Turkey and Bunny are still learning about cells, and they jumped right into the thick of things with DNA, RNA, transcription, translation, and mitosis this week! It was a lot of information, but also very interesting.

In history, Turkey and Bunny learned about different city-states in China, and then moved west to learn more about Assyria, Babylon, and Egypt. Ladybug learned about the Medes and the Persians and Cyrus the Great (Turkey and Bunny will be learning about all that next week).

We also got out of the house on Thursday, when it was (briefly) nice outside and visited the Missouri Botanical Garden. I love how it doesn’t matter how many times we’ve been there, or what time of the year it is, we always see and learn something new. We enjoyed the walk outside, as well as through the three greenhouses, and we especially enjoyed getting to watch some ducks and geese in the Japanese Garden!

I’d like to say we’ll be back on our regular schedule next week, but we have some extra special things planned, so it will be a fun, but very disjointed school week!

Christmas Ornament Crafts Revisited

It’s been quite some time since I last shared the ornament crafts we’ve done over the years, so I thought I’d update the list. In 10 years of homeschooling at Christmastime, we’ve made 16 different ornaments, and a few of those have had different variations, as well. Many of the ornaments have come from kits, but some of those are easily reproducible with the right materials.

2017–This year, we made bead and button icicle ornaments in both red & green and blue color schemes:

2016–I finally found a Nutcracker Prince ornament kit, which involved painting…a first for us at Christmas!

2015–Mop-n-Glo glitter ornaments in two different shapes!

2014–Clothespin donkeys:

2013–Spiderweb ornaments to go along with the legend of the tinsel:

2012–Jingle bell wreaths, and our one true ornament failure. I should have known better than to try to make paper ball ornaments, because I was also a failure at them when I was a student, but we tried, we made the best of our mistakes, and we made a memory!

2011–Button wreaths and pipe cleaner starbursts:

2010–Crystal snowflakes and spiral trees:

2009–To be honest, I’m not 100% sure what ornament we made this year…but I think it was probably these snowflakes:

2008–Our first year of homeschooling meant making the two simplest ornaments I knew how…beaded wreaths and candy canes:

And then there are the final two ornaments. I can’t remember what year we made either of them, but I know the penguins were part of a kit from Target…I normally avoid craft foam projects, but these were too cute to pass up! At some point, we also made Nutcracker Princes that were printed, colored, cut out, laminated, and attached at the joints with brads:

Other than hand-and-footprint turkeys, Christmas ornaments are my favorite craft project of the year. I especially love that they are something that we not only keep, but also get out again year after year to hang on our tree…and someday, the children will be able to add them to their own Christmas trees!

Christmas School–The Nutcracker

No school for us this week, because we’re on Christmas vacation, but I thought I’d share some ideas for using the Nutcracker in school or at home. In the last 10 years, we’ve done anything from a “Nutcracker Day” to stretching our studies out over a full week. In that time, we’ve learned the story of the Nutcracker, listened through the entire score, compared and contrasted many different productions, seen a live performance, learned a bit about Tchaikovsky, made some fun crafts, and read about how the Nutcracker came to be a Christmas tradition in America. It’s one of my favorite things about Christmas School!

Nutcracker Stories (It’s up to you whether you choose to teach the story before introducing the ballet. I think there can be value in both approaches, because being unfamiliar with the story before seeing the dance can really encourage students to “read” the ballet, but knowing the story first prepares children and lets to know them what to expect.)

Other Nutcracker Books


Ballet Productions (Of course, seeing the ballet live is the best option, and we’ve been fortunate enough to get to do that twice. But since it’s not always an option, I also like watching recordings of various productions, which also provides a great opportunity for comparing and contrasting how different companies interpret the story differently)


  • Nutcracker Prince–We done two different ornaments of the Nutcracker Prince over the years…one made of laminated paper and jointed, and one from a kit, which gave us a chance to paint our own.
  • Waltz of the Snowflakes–Snowflake crafts are so much fun, whether you’re making paper snowflakes or ornaments!
  • The Land of Sweets–We haven’t done this craft yet, but you could do all kinds of fun candy and treat themed crafts to go along with the Nutcracker Prince’s magical kingdom.

What kinds of fun Nutcracker activities do you like to do?

2017-18 School Year–Week Sixteen

Whew…what a week! But we’re pretty much done until after the New Year!

Our regular religion lessons were sidelined for most of the week, as we spent extra time learning about Santa Lucia on her commemoration day, as well as a brief study of the Feast of Dedication since Hanukkah began this week. We even got to read from the Apocrypha, which isn’t totally unheard of around here, but is a bit unusual.

In math, Turkey and Bunny learned how to find the volume of cones, spheres, and pyramids. Ladybug got to use a protractor for the very first time this week, and she was very excited about it! Chickadee kept working on addition, and also practiced with a calendar a bit.

Turkey and Bunny were very relieved to finish up the chapter on the cell in science, and they both did a great job on the test. I think they’re very excited to have a break from such serious learning for a few weeks…it’s been a bit overwhelming.

We finished reading Ramona Quimby, Age 8 this week. Chickadee begged me to start reading the next book, but I told her we need to wait until after Christmas. We also started Kirsten’s Surprise this week, we’re still reading through A Christmas Carol, and we’re trying to read through some of our other Christmas books, as well, so Ramona (and our regular literature) will just have to wait.

We also got to do some fun stuff this week. In addition to learning about Hanukkah, and getting to play the dreidel game, we went to Belleville’s Cathedral of St. Peter to see their display of nativity scenes from around the world (including a somewhat controversial hipster nativity). It’s been three years since we last got to go, and we discovered that the nativities were mostly different this time! We also got to take a shift as Salvation Army Bell Ringers through a Thrivent service opportunity, which was a lot of fun, and something I’ve always wanted to do!

We are going to do a few fun things next week, including our yearly ornament project, the viewing of some more productions of the Nutcracker, and finishing A Christmas Carol. But that’s all easy stuff, so really, we’re on vacation already!

2017-18 School Year–Week Fifteen

As is usually the case in December, this has been a crazy week!

In addition to our regular religion studies this week (everyone is still in the Old Testament, although Chickadee is getting close to the New Testament, which is very appropriate for Advent!), we spent some time learning about Nicholas of Myra and Ambrose of Milan, since we observed both of their commemoration days this week. The fact that they lived around the same time, and dealt with the same heresies in the church, makes them very interesting to study together!

In math, Turkey and Bunny found the volume of rectangular prisms and cylinders. They are both continuing to excel in this area of math! Ladybug has been working more with time, in addition to always practicing her long division skills. Chickadee has been practicing her addition skills!

Science was a little overwhelming. Turkey and Bunny learned about aerobic cellular respiration, which left me wanting a nap! Ladybug finished learning about rodents, and rodent-like animals, which included the platypus and echidna, which are always fun to study!

In history, Ladybug learned about some of the things Turkey and Bunny were studying last week…Homer, the Greek alphabet, and the ancient Olympic Games. Turkey and Bunny moved on to Assyria and Babylon, where they studied Tiglath-Pileser III, or as they call him, “TP3.”

In addition to Beowulf and Heidi, we added in our annual December literature study of A Christmas Carol. I always look forward to reading that book with the children! We’re also nearing the end of Ramona Quimby, Age 8. I hadn’t intended to read that whole series out loud this year, but it certainly has gone by fast…just a few more books after this one!

We also had our annual “Nutcracker Day” this week, which is a fairly recent re-addition to our December school days. Once we had more than two productions to watch, I used to stretch our Nutcracker watching out for a week or more (we’re up to six different versions from ballet companies all over the world!), but in recent years, with how busy we’ve been, I’ve needed a weekday in December to bake cookies for our church’s cookie walk. So, after a few easy subjects yesterday morning, we went back to the way we used to do it…we read a few Nutcracker tales, including my favorite picture book edition, The Nutcracker Comes to America, and The Day Before Christmas, and then settled in to watch the ballet, and take notes on the differences between the various productions. We only made it through three, which surprised me, but at least we saw our three favorites: The San Francisco Ballet, the Dutch National Ballet, and the Royal Ballet performances. Hopefully we’ll find time in the next month or so to watch the rest of them!

Just one full week of school left (hopefully) before our Christmas break…I hope I make it!