Spanish for You!

Debbie Annett, the creator of a Spanish curriculum geared specifically to homeschoolers, has put together a 30 minute video for a Facebook group of homeschoolers titled: How Your Child Can Become Bilingual.

Since the broadcast, she also put the video up on her YouTube page so others could use it as a resource.

If you are interested, you can find it here:  

There is also a blog post that reiterates what is in the video. That post is here:  

Muchos saludos,–
Spanish for You!

Creating your homeschool routine

I almost said schedule. But, it is rarely a true schedule. Maybe if you have one child. Maybe if you are very structure driven people. Maybe if you are using virtual resources that dictate a schedule.

But, for us, homeschooling is a routine, a framework for our day rather than a true schedule. As with most areas of homeschooling, there are a million ways to do this and you might come up with the 1,000,001 way. Not a right or wrong.

First, questions to ask yourself:

  • What does our daily routine already involve (number of people in household, waking time, work schedules, vacation plans, health concerns, appointments, etc.)?
  • What are my priorities in homeschooling (get these in before lunch, or during your family’s prime time)?
  • How independent our my kids about their school work?
  • What habits do I want to help my kids develop?
  • Are we morning people or evening people?
  • What outside sources am I going to use in our homeschool?

Once you have taken some time to think through, and maybe talk through as a family, those different issues you are ready to put your schedule together.

Yearly Schedule

In general terms, the school year spans roughly 36 weeks, or about 180 days. That leaves 16 weeks a year with no school.

As the teacher, school administrator, principal, superintendent, guidance counselor, and department head, you can decide how to fit in those 180 days. You can start in January or September or November. You can finish in June or May or December.

There are many, many ways to do this and we have tried most of them over the years.

Traditional – Many people for a variety of reasons simply grab the local public school’s schedule and duplicate their days in person and off school for their homeschool schedule. This is easy, gets the job done, and means your kids won’t complain about seeing kids playing outside while they press on inside.

Year round – This is the complete opposite of the traditional plan of taking 12-14 weeks off every summer and helps your family settle into a regular routine of school, while still allow lots of days off here and there. Maybe you school 4 days every week all year and take a week off four times throughout the year. Or, maybe you take a month of three different times throughout the year, or two weeks 8 different times, or whatever. “Year round” generally just means you don’t take three months off in the summer.

Cycle schooling – This is kind of an off shoot of year round schooling as it chips away at the amount of time taken off in the summer. Some people have found that they can really get high quality work done in six week chunks. So, they school six weeks and then take a week off, or a week and a half. School six weeks, take a week off. Repeat 6 times and you have a school year that took 41 weeks to complete and still leaves you with an 11 week summer. Any combination of on again, off again schooling can work in this way.

Challenges of following a non traditional schedule include:

  • Dirty looks from complete strangers because your kids aren’t in school when they are “supposed to be.”
  • Questions from your kids about why they have to do school when no one else is.
  • Fatigue midway through 8 weeks of solid schooling.
  • If you take a month off you can still experience some academic sliding and even after two weeks there is a little adjustment as you return to your daily school routine.

Find what works for you, and enjoy it. Or, try one way, and keep trying new ways until you find one you like. And, don’t feel locked into it. For a few years, schooling year round might be fantastic, then if you start outsourcing some subjects, you might find that your weeks off don’t line up with enrolled classes. No right way to do it, just get your subjects covered and keep trucking on toward graduation.

Daily Routine

I tackled the easy one first. Yearly schedules are way easier to determine than your daily schedule. My yearly schedule has settled into a traditional one for the past 6-8 years, but our daily schedule continues to change each year, and sometimes each semester.

Start the day with your highest priorities. We begin our day with a group Bible and history time. I read aloud, we usually have some memory work that we work on as a group, we discuss what we read, and we start our day. Together.

Figure out your prime time for productivity. Maybe it’s not morning. Maybe its evening. Maybe your house does better sleeping until 10 and starting after a late breakfast. Maybe you love the early morning and will start school at 7 (that is way easier when you don’t have to pack lunches and catch a bus). Find the rhythm of your home and embrace it with your homeschool.

Encourage independent work. My kids each get a weekly assignment sheet that they check off and keeps us all on track. I still walk through their English and math lessons with them, and usually their science as well. Then, they work on their own, bringing questions to me as needed. I’m rarely sitting around bored, but as my kids get older, our school days have gotten shorter as they don’t rely on me quite as much.

There is no universal best way to structure your school day. We generally do Bible/history from 9-10:15; individual subjects (math, English, etc.) until noonish; afternoons for other group discussions, reading, PE, art, science, and everything else I feel like throwing in or throwing out. Grade schoolers are generally shortly after lunch, and my high schoolers are usually done a couple hours later, but sometimes they like to take breaks or start early and you can find them doing school at 7:30 am or at 7:30 pm, although they can stop as they get tired and work whenever they are fresh. We definitely don’t punch a clock.

Leave time for passions. My kids find a lot of discretionary time in their days and fill it as they see fit once their assigned work (and chores) is done. My ten year old loves to read. So, some days he will get into a book (neglecting his other work . . .) and read for hours on end. The next day he will make up for it and do double lessons. Others are into art, digital projects, fitness, creating, or a passing phase. The flexibility of homeschooling lets them pick how to fill their time and grow their interests in doing so. Before their weekend truly begins, they must have completed their weekly assigned work, but they have some flex how and when they work Monday through Friday.

Chores. Maybe that doesn’t sound like school, but maybe if you found your family all at home more the past few months you understand. Homeschoolers tend to do more chores than other kids their age (I have only anecdotal evidence for this). We are home all day. We all eat there three meals a day, most days. We use the bathroom at home. We drag school books all over the house. Our house is lived in 24/7. Because of this, our chore list is well beyond my realm of personal responsibility. They clean the bathrooms and have chores related to meals. It’s nothing excessive, but it is a necessity of having many people using the space for so much of each day. Therefore, chores become part of our daily school routine as well.

Find your groove, tweak as often as necessary.

Homeschooling from scratch in a hurry

Sometimes we enter homeschooling as a journey, a gradual zero depth wading pool. Sampling, testing, experimenting, exploring, researching. Other times people enter their homeschool journey from the high dive. Many parents find themselves there now. Toes on the edge, wondering if they can do it, terrified by the risk, but with a growing line behind them and the clock ticking, it’s jump or ??? Well, the analogy falls flat there. There are other options. Your child will not fail or die or be ruined for life whether you choose to homeschool or not this coming year. Whatever successes or challenges they face this year can be redeemed or neutralized in subsequent years.

I know this, because we have had “those years” before. Like the year my grandfather died. I spent hours many days driving to visit him, bringing him lunch, knowing the trip might be the last of its kind and choosing to ignore the way I “failed” as a homeschool teacher that year. Another year I started a new job that should have been 15 hours a week and turned into 50-60 before settling into 20 after a few months. Homeschooling happened in bits and pieces with the stress pooling in the corners of my eyes and the strain in my verbal instructions many days.

And, somehow they thrived. They knew we loved them. They knew some days were better than others. They learned greater independence and the value of elders and serving others and a million other life skills that I didn’t realize I was teaching as assignments were graded weeks late instead of daily.

They also thrived academically. In the bits and pieces, the “car” schooling (Thank the Lord for audio books) that sometimes become more the norm than the exception, the Saturday studies done of necessity, the shortened Christmas or spring break, they learned more than I ever could have imagined.

Yes, sleep was in short supply, and I wanted to quit (homeschooling, life, my job, parenting, everything!) Hard days and seasons came and went and we all stood stronger because of them.

So, what now? You’ve decided to take the leap, or prepare in case you get shoved off the high dive. First order of business (and the one I honestly get asked the most when people find out I homeschool) — what curriculum do you use?

If we were wading in, this is one of the later questions, but assuming you are hoping to start school in a month, it is kind of pressing. No time to research educational philosophies, or sample a few methods to see what you enjoy, or interview academic experts in your sphere of influence. We need to jump right in. The water’s cold, but you’ll adjust quickly.

This is where the self-interview begins:

  • How much time do I want my child to spend on the computer?
  • Do I have a religious affiliation that I want reflected in the books I choose?
  • How much time do I have to find this curriculum?
  • How much time on a daily basis do I have to help my child with their studies? (this is not asking how capable you feel, that is a whole different issue)
  • How much can I afford?
  • Am I planning on returning my child to a traditional school in the near future or am I trying homeschooling as a potential long-term option?
  • Does my child do well with more desk work, or do they need to move regularly?
  • How much room do I have to store extra materials?
  • Do I have access to a well-equipped library that I know how to use (or am willing to learn)?
  • What technology is available in our home or am I willing to invest in?
  • Are there other like-minded families around me that I can rely on for mutual support?

Once you come up with an idea of the boundaries of what you are looking for, you are more prepared to actually look at curriculum. Set your budget, determine some expectations, and tomorrow we will look at some resources and how to make up your mind.

In future posts, either here or on the Facebook page we will explore more curriculum questions, age specific considerations, working with special needs, setting goals, record keeping, and setting a schedule.

Volleyball in Sugar Grove

Received via facebook:

Dear Home-school Families,
We want to invite all the home-school volleyball players out there (ages 10-18) to a couple hours of volleyball training from 9-11 A.M. Saturday, March 26, 2016 at Village Bible Church (847 N. Rt. 47 in Sugar Grove). It will be an All-Skills Clinic, run by Coach Kathy Evers. We will be covering passing, setting, and hitting and get some scrimmage time in.
Please RSVP to Kathy Evers,, if you are able to attend. There is no cost for the clinic.
If you have any questions please contact Kathy Evers.

Incorporating Science naturally into your home(school)

Guest post from Jamie Strand of

Photo from Pixabay

3 Fun Lesson Plans for Kids Who Love Science

When parents foster a love of science in their children, they grow up observing, questioning, experimenting, thinking critically, and reasoning. These kids love to hypothesize, figure out why things work the way they do, and experiment while playing. Sometimes, it is more difficult to teach science to kids who already love it because they know so much about it. The basics won’t cut it with these kids because they already have a good understanding of fundamental science concepts. That’s why it is important to use fun, unexpected science lessons with kids who love science. Here are a few options:

1. Construct a Bird’s Nest

Most kids have peered up into the branches of a tree and seen a bird’s nest, but they may not realize just how much work the construction of one requires. Having them construct their own is a fun way to experiment, explore building materials, and gain insight into the amazing world of birds to appreciate some of nature’s most clever builders!

Start by going on a nature walk in a wooded area to get a real look at birds’ nests up close, being mindful not to touch or disturb them. Look closely and make a list of all the materials you observe: twigs, straw, leaves, grass, etc. Look out for any man-made materials — birds often use newspaper and stray pieces of cotton or cloth they’ve found to cozy up their homes.

Next, have the kids gather the kinds of materials they saw used in nests during the nature walk. Make sure there are enough supplies for everyone to build. Don’t forget a small bucket of mud to help hold the pieces together!

Head inside and give everyone workspace protected with newspaper. Have the kids use the materials to construct their own bird’s nest. Help them test to ensure they’re sturdy and hold together. Test them out by placing them outside in tree branches, a hidden corner of the fence, or anywhere else they think a bird may want to call home. Discuss what materials made the strongest nests, what extra substances they added for insulation or camouflage, and all the trials and error involved in the process.

2. Dancing Oobleck

Kids may understand the three states of matter: gas, liquid, and solid. But, they may not realize that there is a strange fluid, called Oobleck, which is a solid and a liquid. You’ll begin by making thick Oobleck with two cups of cornstarch and one cup of water. Allow kids to play with the Oobleck for a bit to realize that when it relaxes it is a liquid, but when they push on it or move it quickly it becomes a solid.

Now is a good time to talk about why the Oobleck changes its state; it is a pressure-dependent substance, like quicksand, that is a liquid when it moves slowly because the cornstarch particles have time to separate but a solid when it moves quickly because the particles are forced together.

To begin the Dancing Oobleck experiment, you’ll need a subwoofer, a thin metal cookie sheet with sides, an MP3 of an audio test tone, and food coloring. Place the cookie sheet onto the subwoofer’s speaker and pour in the Oobleck. Search online for Subwoofer test MP3s. Experiment with various tones to see which works best, and be prepared to turn the volume up fairly high. (The three frequencies that typically work the best are 40Hz, 50 Hz, and 63 Hz.) Kids should make observations of the Oobleck at each frequency.

If you don’t mind a bit of a mess, or stained kids’ fingers, allow kids to add a few dots of food coloring to the Oobleck and test the frequencies again. It is fun to see how the colors mix and it helps kids visualize the ways in which the Oobleck moves by watching the colors mix and form shapes.

3. A Day in the Life of…

There are all kinds of science careers that revolve around animals, but do your kids know about their options?

Have a discussion about different animal-related fields and careers, covering everything from veterinarians, zoologists, marine biologists, animal trainers, and animal behaviorists. Let each child pick their favorite career, then write a “Day in the life” story. They can research it online, in books, or even interview someone in the field. (If you can swing guest speakers for most or all of the careers, even better!)

After they’ve written their stories, ask them to present to them. Have them explain why they chose that career and then read their story aloud. Would they interact with animals directly? What kind of skills are required? Did the research live up to the initial idea they had of the career, or was it different?

Building a bird’s nest, dancing Oobleck, and picking animal-based careers are just a few lessons that will excite kids who love science. Challenging kids who love science with lessons and experiments like these, which take their assumptions and basic knowledge to the next level, is a great way to get them to love science even more.

Jamie Strand loved being homeschooled. Today, he teaches at a local community college. He created with a friend in order to make it easier for kids throughout the U.S. to find science and math camps in their area. In addition to teaching, Jamie loves spending time with his wife and young daughters.

Homeschool Spelling Bee in South Suburbs

Dear Families,
I wanted to let you know that it is time to sign up for the 4th annual Homeschool Spelling Bee! We need to sign our group up and pay in the next few weeks (SCRIPPS charges $136 per group but thankfully ComEd underwrites some of the cost). Each family cost would be $10 no matter how many students per family participate.
So . . . if you are interested in the SCRIPPS official Homeschool Spelling Bee sponsored by this group of local homeschoolers please contact me at : The Bee is open to students (not participating in any other Bees) in grades 1 – 8. On one afternoon we usually run one Bee with the lower level grades (K-3 or 4) and one with the higher level grades (3/4 – 8). The winner of our Bee is eligible to keep moving on to the district & regional Bees with an opportunity to head to Washington D.C. and the Nationals!! Our winners the last 3 years have enjoyed the district Bees.
The Bee will be held the second Thursday of December, Dec. 10. We will be at Moraine Valley Church in Palos Heights again this year. When you register with me, I will send you an email with the password info that gives access to the official website, spelling lists, rules, fun games to help with practice, etc.
If you “think” that you aren’t a good speller, THEN HERE’S YOUR CHANCE TO LEARN HOW TO SPELL EVEN BETTER!! Nothing like a little friendly competition to spur each other on to greatness! Friends and family may come to cheer you on, and it is a fun afternoon together! Last year we had such a fun and encouraging crowd and it was great!!
Our group needs to be supported by enough families and signed up with fees to me by October 10th! so I will be waiting to hear from YOU!! Please feel free to pass this along to any homeschoolers in the South Suburban area who might be interested. They do need to live in Illinois 🙂
Cindy Johnson

WWII Event

World War II Days


Experience the World War II Era

Saturday, September 26, 2015  11 am until 5 pm

Sunday, September 27, 2015  11 am until 4 pm

World War II Days includes elaborate and realistic battles complete with tanks, artillery, armored vehicles, and exciting pyrotechnic displays. Saturday the battle shows are featured at 1:30 pm and 3:30 pm. Sunday the battle time is 2:30 pm.

The popular World War II Days returns this year and promises to be bigger and better than ever!  With more than 1,200 re-enactors representing the soldiers of the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, Italy and Japan.  In addition to the action on the battlefields, enjoy the skirmishes in the Village and Woods, demonstrations and displays in the buildings, woods encampments and the ambiance of the beautiful venue.

Maps of the event site will be available when visitors arrive showcasing the battlefield and the various encampments and attractions. Everything we offer will be held rain or shine.

Visitors will also experience:

  • Elaborate 1940s displays in historical buildings on the museum property acting as the back drop of a European village during World War II
  • Encampments of Allied and Axis troops in the Midway Village woods and realistic skirmishes integrated in the historic village
  • Soldiers’ base camps filled with period vehicles, tents and artifacts
  • Shop for World War II memorabilia from numerous vendors
  • Food and refreshments available for purchase
  • A  1940s era USO-style swing dance 7 pm, Saturday, September 26.  The public admission is $7.  Registered re-enactors and vendors are free with a wristband.  Admission is paid for the dance at the door the evening of the dance.

This is one of the largest World War II era re-enactments in the United States with over 1,200 uniformed re-enactors from 40 states representing soldiers from the United States, Great Britain, France, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Japan, Italy and Germany along with 70 to 80 vintage tanks, halftracks and other 1940s era military vehicles!

Back By Popular Demand – Friday Evening Tour
The Behind The Lines tour will take place again on Friday evening from 5:30 pm until 7:30 p.m.   Tour guides will take  you through the Village to get an up close look at what is in store for the weekend.  Space is limited. Make reservations for the tour by contacting 815-397-9112.

Looks amazing, but there’s more! School groups can get a sneak peak on Friday as the troops roll in. Here’s the link to the form to register as a school group, you will want to do this soon as space is limited.

Ballet in Frankfort

Received via email:

Ballet 5:8 School of the Arts, a christian ballet school in Frankfort
IL, would like to offer a once a week, daytime class specifically for
home school families.

The class would be open to ages 9+ and it would
serve as a Physical Education or Fine Art credit for your students’

Ballet 5:8 is a unique organization, with the mission to
share the gospel through the arts. This mission informs the way we
teach, the music we use and the excellence that characterizes our

We would love to partner with your family by providing a
safe, encouraging environment for your student to grow in their
knowledge and love of dance.

If you are interested in this class and would like more details,
please contact us at or
708.329.8773. We would love to hear from you!

Julianna Slager

Illumination Celebration at Wheaton College

Received a notice about this event via email:

Illumination Celebration!

Illumination Celebration!

Saturday, April 11, 2015, 1 – 4pm

Location Meyer Science Center Building

In celebration of the United Nations’ International Year of Light, Wheaton College hosts a free open house featuring science- and light-themed fun! The event takes place on campus at the Meyer Science Center from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 11.

This family-friendly event invites children and families to learn how light-based technologies work, enjoy interactive, hands-on labs, and (weather permitting) use our state-of-the-art equipment for solar observations.

The Meyer Science Center is located at 430 Howard Street in Wheaton; parking is available in the Howard Street parking lot, or on the east side of the Billy Graham Center. For more information, please call the Office of Media Relations at 630.752.5015.