Month: August 2015

Our Go Fund Me page for this School Year

gofundmeOur Go Fund Me campaign is up! I hesitated to do something like this, but in the end, even if it raises $20, it will help tremendously. We are entering grades that are requiring books that I don’t have from previous years. This year we will have 3 1/2 kids in school too, which means more pens, more paper, more activities, and more field trip costs. So, if you can forgive the panhandling, and chip in a tiny bit, we would be very grateful. ūüôā We will continue to keep you posted on our year and classes here on this blog, so if you know anyone who might be interested in what we are doing, share our address with them! Thank you so much for all your encouraging comments and support, Shelley


Preliminary Book List for 2015-2016

I think I have some general idea of what subjects we are doing this year, which means I have the beginnings of a book list too! It may not seem like a big deal, but I am very excited.

Language arts and Math will just be proficiency based textbooks, such as Algebra I and II for Vegas, Math 3 for Elvis, Math 1 for Axel, etc. Axel will be cultivating his reading  skills. Elvis will be working on his writing mechanics, grammar and creative writing, as well as mastering his spelling. Vegas will be completing a rigorous grammar program that we started last year, as well as a course in Literature study, and continuing his creative writing.

So, for the more variable subjects, here is what we will be studying.

Science: Biology, and continuing entomology, since Wicked Bugs was such a hit last year. I think we will focus on the works of Jean Henri Fabre.9782221054628_1_75

With a little Children’s Kafka thrown in…you know, just because. {*we may just skip to real Kafka, because I am not sold on this author, I just love the cover!}kafka

History: We will be studying The Middle Ages: From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of the Renaissance. This will tie hand in hand with our geography books. Vegas will have supplemental reading to challenge him, and there will be endless movie options for this time span. ¬†…”European, Indian, Chinese, Australian, Arabic, Japanese, Jewish, Mongolian, Turkish, African, Russian, Australian and American history during the period. Fascinating topics abound here, including knights, samurai, Vikings, the rise of Islam, the Crusades, Genghis Khan and the Mongols, the Plague, the Mayans, the Incas, Marin Luther, the Reformation, the discovery of the Americas, and much more.”61FFLskqvfL

Geography: We will be focusing on Cartography, and the history of map making. Last year Elvis went through a book on how to read maps and globes, and he learned quite a bit about keys, cardinal directions, topography, and scale. He will be putting those skills to work this year, creating maps of our city, and areas that interest him. {not to mention working on using a compass, and engendering a good sense of direction!}61yVAkzttmL



Maps Activity Book, to go with our Maps book that we got last year.

Art: Vegas will be studying art history, as well as honing his pen and ink skills, and practicing new mediums. Elvis and Axel will use the expanded ‘Art Camp’ curriculum to learn about {and try their hand at} many genres of art, and to study¬†notable artists within each genre. We will include Nature sketchbooks and scientific illustration.



We got Nature Anatomy last year, and I am very excited to use it!


Music: The boys will continue with their double bass and percussion classes through the PYP {Portland Youth Philharmonic}, and Vegas will be venturing out into the local middle school to participate in Advanced Orchestra for 8th grade. Elvis will continue with private lessons, as long as he keeps practicing! Axel and America love to play Elvis’s drums, so perhaps they will follow in his footsteps in the coming years!

Home EC: I am so excited about this book, and its companion lesson plan…I might have to get this one first! It covers all those things that I want to make sure my kids learn, but keep putting off….;)


The next step will be for me to compile a nicely organized list of supplies and books by subject, with prices and links. This will basically be for me, just in case I forget my notebook {and scraps with notes on them} when I am out and about finding shopping. Before I do that, I am taking a hefty break from my computer screen.

Putting in laundry… Shelley

Back to School…

stacks-of-old-booksAugust snuck up on me this year, and took me by surprise. Even now, I feel like it is the beginning of the month, when in fact, it is already the 22nd! I have not purchased a single book, ordered any curriculum, or planned one field trip. Last year I was super prepared, and had written a syllabus for each subject, chosen all our¬†books and organized my entire classroom by this time. After moving, we don’t have the luxury of a whole¬†room devoted to school supplies and workspaces, so we are still carving out little corners that will work for different activities. One of the things that I have loved about doing school at home is the flexibility to adapt what we are doing to life circumstances, and external factors. The thing that I don’t love about it is having to change my ideal plans due to life circumstances, and external factors. ¬†Ha! This summer has been nothing but change after change, resulting in some pragmatic planning. What do we have to do, just to make it through the year? What are the essentials, and how can they be most easily accomplished, with the least amount of extra work?

The simple answer is reading, writing, and arithmetic. But what about all the other stuff? Science, History, Art, and Music? What about tying knots, and learning how to use a knife? What about cooking, and sewing, and swimming? This is the point where my head starts to swim, blogs run together, and book lists all look the same; this is the point where I put off planning for a few more days.

Inevitably, self-doubt sneaks up on me too, asking me ‘why are you doing this?’, and ‘why do you think you are qualified to teach anyone anything?’. Aaaaannnd…that is the point when I go to bed, and watch NCIS. {It is amazing how old a show from 2003 seems, which just proves that I am old.}

In the morning, the simple answer sticks with me, and the rest can fill in all the wonderful extra time I will have with my family since we are all together. The knots will be learned on toy snakes while restraining siblings, and we will be swimming long after public school is back in session. It will all come out in the wash, I hope.

{this is painful to watch, but I always hear this song in my head whenever I hear the phrase ‘back to school’. You’re welcome.}I will be posting book lists, and supply dreams in the next week, and showing you around our new ‘school room’.¬†Making pizza, Shelley

photos: books,

Caution! This post contains a giant Tarantula.

We were able to set up a time-lapse camera to film Harriet, our Rose Hair Tarantula, molting a couple of weeks ago. Harriet has been our family pet {one of them} for nearly 12 years, and while she has molted about six times, we have never actually seen it happen.

Since she began molting around 10pm, we put a light on her tank, and set our time-lapse up to run overnight.

Harriet eats crickets. She is a menacing predator, but once the molting process begins, she is stuck on her back. She is basically a prisoner of her exoskeleton, until she is able to shed the old one. Imagine being stuck in a pair of pants that is way too small, inching them off, a little at a time. Crickets wait for this moment. They will attack and eat a spider stuck mid molt. Because of this, I joked with Vegas that it would be horrible if our time-lapse captured the cricket attack, instead of the molting process. Just to be certain, I double checked the tank before I went to bed.

Sure enough, there were three crickets, all lined up behind a rock, just waiting. They looked like they were waiting for a good movie to start.


I ran to Vegas’s room, woke him up, and we began extracting the crickets one by one. Harriet was just frozen on her back the whole time, and I kept wondering if she had any idea of what was happening, or if she was just annoyed that her molting was being disturbed by tweezers and lights.

After we were sure she was alone in her tank, we set the light and camera back up. The resulting video is one of my favorites, ever. I love how she rubs her face at the end, as if to say ‘ew! Get it off!’ Even if you don’t like spiders, the process is amazing.

The crickets we removed from her tank were tossed out into the back yard, and I think they are pretty happy with it, they’ve been singing ever since!

Researching curriculum, Shelley