Tuesday, November 21, 2017


That's right...you heard me straight. We "quit" school.

This first half of the year has been with our noses in our curriculum, making sure that my high schooler has everything she needs to attend a four year university. Also, my youngest has been diving into language arts, reading, math...you know all the subjects we are supposed to do. I've gotten very strict with her on learning more vocabulary and grammar. Both of my girls were writing papers every week. We were in a great routine with our heads in the books.

It has become a struggle and NO FUN! In the past we have always been so hands on. I have seen my girls LOVE to learn and learn pretty deep on certain subjects because they wanted to. I used to love how they would have more and more questions and look it up. I have seen them change their minds on what they want to be when they grow up. My youngest used to dream of being a marine biologists with her love of dolphins and sea creatures. When my oldest was younger, she wanted to be a volcanologist. Then a couple of years back she wanted to be a lawyer and then a gynecologist. Now this year she wants to be...a cosmetologist. Don't get me wrong. We need those. My sister-in-law is one of those. I really will support my daughter in whatever she wants to be when she grows up. I know she will be great at whatever it is. So my next point isn't about bashing cosmetologists. But you can see there was a major shift. We went from a doctor to a cosmetologist...and her reasoning was "I don't want to go to college. Why would I go anywhere that I have to keep doing more school?" This has been a trend for months and maybe even a year now. My high schooler lost her love of learning. She lost her passions. She has rejected "school".

Yes, this is my fault. I have been so caught up in the requirements of what high school credits she needs and making sure she can pass that ACT or SAT test. One of the main reasons we started homeschooling was that we were against the "standardized test" and now I am stuck teaching to a test so she can go to college. Does that not sound a bit hypocritical? So the reason she is now choosing cosmetologist is because she doesn't want to go to a university to do more studies. She has lost the motivation to learn as we have just been trying to get to the end of her textbooks and move through the subjects that we HAVE to do.

Maybe you remember that desire to learn when you kids were younger. I certainly do. They loved to learn and it was natural. They used to love looking up sign language to learn. They used to love trying to learn French because they were interested in Paris. If they found a new bug, they looked it up and learned about it. However, now because of high school requirements...we are skipping through the things they are passionate in just to get a credit. And now, my oldest rejects learning about anything. She doesn't want to do anything educational because school has been shoved down her so much. Sigh...it has made me sad. It has made me miss our younger days of homeschooling. I miss their excitement. I miss them wanting to watch YouTube videos of Black Widow Spiders, just because they kept learning something new and loving to learn about it. I miss them wanting to do science experiments because it was fun, not because they had to.

After talking to other homeschoolers and trying to figure out internally of what to do, we decided to watch a movie that was recommended called "Class Dismissed." You can find this on Amazon to rent as well for $2.99. It is EYE OPENING. Or at least it was for my husband and I. Even the kids paid attention the whole time. They even gave a lot of input after watching the movie.

My husband and I had some huge discussions. For my oldest daughter, we really have "quit school" with her until after Christmas. We wanted to give her some time, a break, to deschool. I honestly could use the same. I couldn't even go on a field trip without feeling behind and like we had to make the day up. We need to get out of the "school at home" mindset. I want her to find passions and interests again. This hasn't been an easy thing for us. Just in the first week of doing this, I found it terribly hard that my teen was spending a lot of time on YouTube. This is where the deschooling myself is needed. We've taken breaks before but I was worried on the first week. I literally cried myself to sleep, worrying about how we were going to do this. How was I going to trust that my daughter would come back to wanting to learn something? It takes a lot of trust. It's hard to take a step back and realize that your kids learn with life. They learn everywhere, even if they are watching YouTube.

We have and still continue to do a lot of research. We believe that we are going to lean toward child led learning in our homeschool. What does this look like? Here's an example. My teen has always been interested in the Holocaust. Yes, she knows about it. She knows quite a lot. So if she is interested in that, I literally want to be able to find a way to get "our high school subject requirements" from that topic. So I know that in biology she has to learn about genetics. So maybe we start with how Hitler wanted to make the perfect race of blonde hair and blue eyes and we dive deep into genetics. Maybe she wants to learn more about the country and language of Germany. Or maybe she learns about all the propaganda used or even the Jewish Religion. You may think of it almost like unit study, but the unit study will be based on her interest. She will choose what she wants to learn about. When they were younger, we used to do this very thing. My favorite was learning about dolphins. We learned about the types of dolphins, echolocation, what bodies of water dolphins were located in, and even spelling words that had "ph" in the words. Now that they are older, they would dive even deeper.

This isn't going to be easy at all. I have literally taken a scope and sequence of subjects because I still want to prepare her to know what she's supposed to know at the end of high school. I'm going to be keeping a log. I'm going to be checking off things...but they may not be in order and it may not be in one school year. I've always been one to piece a lot of our studies together before, so this will just be around their interest.

I plan to sit down with both of my girls after Christmas we keep an "interest inventory" and set personal learning goals for them. I will be asking them what they want to learn, what they want to do, maybe what they want to do next with a skill they already have learned, what do they think they NEED to learn.

Ashlyn writing her novel   
For the time being, my youngest daughter is playing a math game called Prodigy. She hates math in general and it has never been her strong point, so I am trying everything to put some fun in it. She is an excellent writer when it comes to writing beautifully thought out stories or papers and is doing the NanoWriMo challenge of writing a Novel in 30 days. During this she has learned about Protagonists, Antagonists, and Plots and even applied it to theatre. She has theatre practice just about every night as she is in a professional youth theatre right now as well. She is also reading the book Little Women as she knows that is a play she is auditioning for very soon. She definitely has the 3 R's down with reading, writing, and arithmetic. She also loves to watch Magic School Bus. We also took a trip to the aquarium and we've played a history trivia game twice in this week. The three of us also cozied up last week to watch the Blackfish documentary and stayed up really late, my teen has joined in on a few of these things even though she is supposed to be deschooling.
My teen wanted to stay at the stingray tank forever. She loved seeing them. One kept following her and coming back to her. This is what I want to see as we deschool. I waited forever to move on from this spot, because she was interested.
I really can't even name all the things they do outside of what I would think of as learning. My youngest has her own YouTube Channel. She can film and edit to make professional quality videos better than most of you. She is up to 300 subscribers and even draws questions in on her Instagram that is used for YouTube on how she makes thumbnail pictures, etc. She has been facetiming kids her age that she has become internet friends with from all around the world. She jokes about how her friend from Canada takes temperature in Celsius or how her friend that lives in South Africa tells the time in military time. This.is.all.learning. For some reason, I haven't looked at life lately as learning. I'm learning to do that again.

We're relaxing. I think I'm the one that is having the control struggle the most. I came from a school system that told me the subjects I had to learn, when I had to do it, and what page to turn to. So this is hard to break out from. I know that we have schooled this way before...yes, when they were younger. We had fun. There's no reason we can't still have fun learning as they are older. For some reason, I let the stress of high school requirements get me there. I regret it.

Here are some more resources that I wanted to add to this blog post that I came across during my research:

These resources have to do with unschooling. I don't believe we are going to be what you would call a radical unschooler, but I do love the philosophy of unschooling.

I love how these websites answer so many questions and even seeing the evidence of this working. This was a path I considered and still want to lean toward in child led learning.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

How We Do Current Events as an Elective and Why I Think it is Important

When I sat down with my high schooler with a list of electives she could choose from to do this year, she chose current events as one of those. I thought I'd write a post on what we do for our current event subject.

Each morning we start off with Channel One News. I was so glad when I came upon this website because I remember being in school and Channel One News came on every morning and we had to watch it in class. I'm not trying to make our homeschool like "public school", but my oldest and I grab a cup of coffee and just cozy up to watch the news like many Americans do in the morning. So I was thrilled to find it. It is definitely a news source that relates to middle school and high school students, even teaching them a "news related word of the day" that they may hear in stories in the video. Sometimes there are even polls that you can vote on after the video and they could be featured in the next day video. We participated in one of the polls on our first day of watching and my oldest thought it was pretty cool to see the poll and responses on the news the next day. Even if your child leaves a comment after the poll, they even feature some of those comments. Each day there's a different video that pertains to everyday news and I don't find it too biased.

Then there are the activities we do throughout the week after watching our news video of the day. The first day consists of filling out a current events journal page. I either let her pick a story she watched on Channel One News, or she can go to other sources as long as they are valid sources (www.abcnews.com, foxnews.com, etc.). You can download this sheet here from www.kathysclutteredmind.com for free.
Our second day is always starting with the news and then learning new words that are in the news. She picks 5-10 words that she doesn't know and finds the definition along with synonyms. Then she does an activity with the words and synonyms or definitions that she researched. She gets to choose if she does WORD ART, CROSSWORD PUZZLE, WORD SEARCH, or her own project to do with words.
After watching Channel One News, the third day my daughter chooses to do either a comic strip dialogue or a news broadcast project that pertains to her news article that she wrote on the journal page on day one or she can do it on a topic she learned from the news this week. You can find the comic strip dialogue here and the news broadcast project here for free thanks to the Panicked Teacher.   
Our final day of the week, day four following Channel One News is news topic discussion day. So each week I come up with a news-related topic to discuss with her. For example, one week we focused on how to spot fake news vs. real news. You can actually find that lesson here. We watched a Mediaocracy video that talks even more about the effects of social media and the news. Another week we discussed biased media and went to https://www.allsides.com/ and looked at the difference of opinions, the point of views, and biased views from the different news sources and discussed it. So this is what I mean by discussing news related topics. 

I think its important to teach your child what's happening in the world and the news so they become informed and involved. I can't tell you how many times my oldest came to me and told me something she saw on Instagram during the Presidential election that clearly wasn't true but because she saw it on social media, she thought it was. So I believe that in this social media age, we need to teach our young people to be informed with truth, especially when it comes to our world and national news.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Naked Egg and Osmosis

I'll be honest here, the main reason I keep a blog is so I can go back sometimes and remember what we did. This is especially the case now as we are now in the high school years. One of the universities in our area actually requires homeschoolers to list a lab and explain it, even down to the materials that we use. This is part of their application process. So this will be helpful in remembering what we did. 

Anyways, I don't have very many pictures for this lab, because well - I dropped the ball as we had family in town and forgot to take pictures. 

The first step to this lab is to get a naked egg (or two depending on how you choose to perform the experiment). If you aren't sure how to get a naked egg, you place it in vinegar for 24 hours. It's a pretty easy process. 

The things you will need for this lab are:

Corn Syrup
Food Coloring
2 Naked Eggs (or 1 if you do it the way we did)

The experiment for osmosis can be seen in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyYz-1gqt68. We changed it up in just putting one egg in corn syrup and then putting it in water the next day to see the change. 

We're loving doing these labs as they are definitely reinforcing what my high schooler has been reading during the week in the text. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Our Edible Cell Project

My oldest had fun with this. We just used what we had in the kitchen to make her edible cell project. I offered to take her to the store and by candy to do it. However, being the smart girl she is, she said, "I don't want to waste money on candy I may not even like or eat." So we just used things we had on hand.

Everytime she was writing down the organelles in her "cell key," we were also going over the functions of them.

Fridays are our project days or lab days with biology. I'm loving the time with her doing these to make sure she is understanding what she is reading throughout the week. She seems to be loving it, too. Now that she is a teenager, I am savoring these moments.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Is it an acid or a base?

For this experiment, we used a red cabbage powder to determine if regular household chemicals or liquids were an acid or a base. You can make your own red cabbage powder. Click here to get instructions. You can also just do what I did and buy it offline. Red cabbage powder is the purple color indicator that scientist use to determine and measure whether something is an acid or base and it contains a natural pH indicator.

My oldest had fun doing this experiment with things around the house that she started grabbing more and more things from our cabinets to test it on. It's not every day that you hear your high schooler say, "This is cool," when it comes to science.

So we tested it on things like creamer, dish soap, vinegar, baking soda (dissolved in water), sugar (dissolved in water), lemon juice, etc. If it made the color pink or red, it was a base. If it made the color purple, it was neutral. If it made the color blue or green, then it was an acid.

It was a pretty simple experiment and you can take it a step further and get those pool strips that test water pH within a pool and actually try to indicate what the pH would be.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

We love Character Quality Language Arts

The school year is off to a great start and I thought I would blog about it. This year for my 7th grader, we are doing Character Quality Language Arts by Donna Reish. This isn't the first time we have used pieces of her curriculum. We did samples of the program last year. This year we are using it as our full language arts curriculum for my middle schooler. My 10th grader is also using Meaningful Composition, also by Donna Reish, this year as well. I definitely recommend it and I will say, I found this curriculum while looking into Institute for Excellence in Writing. To be truthful, I didn't want to pay that much for a writing curriculum I didn't know would work. So I came across Meaningful Composition as a MUCH less expensive option and with the Checklist Challenge, it seems to be very similar to IEW.

Meaningful Composition vs. CQLA:
Character Quality Language Arts incorporates everything into one. It covers spelling, grammar, vocabulary, writing, dictation, and if you want to get really technical it covers topics like history and science as well...only because you are writing and researching more about the passage of the week. Here's an example of my 7th grader's writing in our first week below:

I was extremely impressed that she took the time to research a little about the Franco-Prussian War to add it into her writing. She also even took it upon herself to look up synonyms to change some of her boring words. This is actually done in the Checklist Challenge after you write your rough draft. However, my daughter has already made it a habit and did it before doing the checklist. She was rewarded Starbucks yesterday for the time and effort she put into her three body paragraphs. Don't worry, I do test her to see if she knows what scrupulous and benevolent mean after she adds them to her essay.  I love that she knows to look for synonyms in her writing, as it is only building her vocabulary.

The end of our week ended with grammar quizzes, a spelling test, and a dictation quiz. Just in the first week I could tell this is exactly what my youngest needed and she did so well even scoring a 103 on her spelling test (I gave her 4 bonus words and she got 3 correct). With spelling always been her struggle, I was so excited for her. She is the writer of the family, however, spelling and grammar isn't her strongest point. So I am confident with how this year is going to go using this curriculum.

Here she is having to write prepositions and she is using a toy figure and toilet paper roll to list as many as she can think of.

My 10th grader is strong in spelling and grammar. However, her struggle has always been writing and getting her thoughts on paper and forming longer, descriptive sentences. So this year she's not doing the full language arts curriculum like CQLA. As I previously mentioned, she's doing Meaningful Composition. As I feel like we need to really focus and take more time there. Meaningful Composition is basically the writing portion only part of CQLA. However, it still has a checklist challenge to where she is putting in prepositional phrase openers, descriptive adjectives, and such. So while it has some grammar, it's definite focus is writing. She's always done so much grammar in the past (like Easy Grammar), this year we are going to truly focus on writing and literature.

With all this talk of curriculum, I thought I'd lay out what we are doing this year.

Here's my middle school plan for my 7th Grader:
1 Hour of Math-U-See Zeta
1 Hour of CQLA
1 Hour of Reading/Vocab (she will be doing a Book of Virtues Unit, as well as other novels (Island of the Blue Dolphin, etc., 80 Days Around the World), a biography, poems, and books to learn with history and science)

My high school plan for my 10th Grader:
Math-U-See Geometry
Meaningful Composition
American Literature - she's starting off with the Scarlet Letter, but it will include To Kill a Mockingbird, and other short stories, poems, and biographies (I take my guide from allinonehighschool.com and tweak little things). She will be learning a lot of rhetoric devices.
Biology from Guesthollow
Spanish 2 from allinonehighschool.com 
Personal Finance with Dave Ramsey's Foundations in Personal Finance

1st Semester Only: Current Events (elective)
2nd Semester Only:
Geography (some mixed in with current events and 2nd semester she will be doing more of this by itself with also reading of 80 Days Around the World with her younger sister)
Health - Ted Talk Health Videos, First Aid for Free (an online first and CPR course) (2nd Semester)

It seems like my highschooler has a lot on her plate. However, she is always so fast at her work and seems to get most of it done correctly every time I am checking it and going over it with her. She is just a fast learner, so it looks like I pile a lot on her, but she is always the one that STILL gets all of her work completed before her younger sister. My youngest takes a lot more time to do her subjects. I have two opposite kids...they couldn't be more different.

Anyways, here's to a great year! I'm excited to see how week two goes.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

I Got It From My Mama!

As we were getting settled in the car from a normal Friday afternoon park day (months ago by the way), my oldest daughter (13 at the time) asked, "Mom, can I tell you something?" She then preceded to tell me, "I was playing and then coming up to find you and I overheard someone's mom talking about me with other moms." I then preceded to ask her what she heard, who she heard it from, and so forth. At that point, I just told her that I'm sorry she heard that, we don't want to be like that, and to let it roll off her back and move on.  When kids are doing it to kids, or even when moms are doing it with moms...it can be easy to dismiss it and move on. However, when moms are talking about children...sometimes it is easier said than done for sure, especially on my end as a mother.

I bring this topic up, because today I had a an old friend message me and tell me about a very similar situation. However, I think it is a bit worse. I don't need to go into all of it, I shouldn't. However, I do want to say that in this particular situation the mom was gossiping, talking bad about, and encouraging other girls to share insults about my friend's daughter. That right there should really speak volumes and set off a few red flags.

Are we breeding "mean girls"?  Have you ever heard "I got it from my mama?" I don't think that children are mean intentionally. However, I do have to question lately from hearing or seeing situations this year, do girls learn how to be mean from their moms?

In a world of social media, sometimes I think it can breed feelings of competitiveness, not only amongst kids, but adults as well. I think it also can stir some jealousy and insecurities in both kids and adults. And "where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." - James 3:16

For my friend's daughter and my own daughter, I feel as if they have such strong personalities, and the qualities they possess like being outgoing, self driven, determined, and good at sports make them targets unfortunately. They succeed at what they do but want everyone to like them, so while they try to make friends and be nice, it doesn't always work out that way. All kids are going to be kids, make mistakes, and going to have to learn to get through insecurities or jealous feelings. In the mean time, could we as moms not sit and tear other children down along with them to make our kids or ourselves feel better? We're supposed to be the adults. Maybe we can teach them to give compliments, praise, root for the underdog or even the one that is good at everything, everyone hates her. Maybe we as adults shouldn't be "judging" children. Maybe you don't like the mom of the child, but that's not the child's fault.

I know that I am not perfect, I remember just a little while ago in the car that I strike up a conversation with my husband and my husband had to stop me and say, "Is this a mom of one of the kids' friends? We need to stop this conversation and wait until we get home away from the kids." He was absolutely right! So we ended the conversation and waited until we were away from our kids. We need to be aware of ourselves, whether that's in talks with other moms, children, and even social media. Our children hear us, observe us, and mimic us. They hear us venting to our husband about another person that may be driving you up the wall. They hear you gossiping on the phone to another mom about a situation.  Let's be truthful, sometimes we need to vent...whether that's to a husband or a friend. We're all still learning how to handle emotions. What I am saying is, DON'T do it front of your children, your daughters. Your children become a product of everything they hear. They become a product of you.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Why Not Dissect a Chicken Leg?

My oldest daughter has been taking Biology, but really with an Anatomy emphasis, because she is thinking of going into the medical field. As we have finished learning about the skeletal system, integumentary system,  and muscular system, we ended a unit today dissecting a chicken leg.

My youngest was intrigued too, so of course, she did it with us. 

Many animal systems have skeletal systems similar to ours. Our leg is very much like that of a chicken including the femur (thigh bone), knee (hinge joint), fibula and tibia (smaller bones of the shin), cartilage, and ligaments that are all part of our skeletal system. We pointed out all of these things in our chicken leg. 
We even went a step further and broke the largest bone to observe the bone marrow. We talked about people actually can give bone marrow for people with life threatening diseases like leukemia. 
 I've never been a fan of dissecting anything, it always grossed me out in high school and I ended up letting my lab partner do most of the work...but I realize now it is different to see your kids dive in and learn. So now I can't wait for our next dissection!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


This is something I've definitely needed this year and I know I will need all four years. So I created an excel spreadsheet, as well as a PDF (I have an actual paper version in my high schooler's binder) to help make sure we are on track through these four years. I thought I would share what I use to help with planning out our goals for highschool. You can print one or download one yourself from my FREE PRINTABLES link.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Evaporation in Less Than a DAY!

So this week, my youngest daughter has learned about the water cycle. We have used In The Hands of a Child's Water Cycle Unit.

In the unit, we have to do an evaporation experiment. We have actually done one of these before years ago when learning about clouds. You can see my post here when we did it in 2012. This time there was a BIG difference! I'm about to tell you why. It was more than just a learning experiment of evaporation, it actually ended up being a learning experiment about WHERE water is evaporating from for my youngest and oldest daughter, too.

In 2012, we lived in Tennessee. When we did our water evaporation experiment in Tennessee, it took days or maybe even weeks for all the water to disappear. It definitely took a couple of days or a few for the water to even move down the cup. Now in 2017, we live in Arizona...that's right - the DESERT! Anyone see where I am going with this? With this experiment, we filled the water to the line we marked on the cup and put it out this morning and before the sun had even set, the water was gone! My youngest daughter was amazed because she slightly remembers the last time we did this. Her hypothesis was at least a few days (because we put a smaller amount in the cup than last time).

This became a lesson on the humidity in Tennessee versus the dry desert in Arizona causing the time of the evaporation process to be different. Because of the humidity, the evaporation project took longer and because of the desert and it being so dry here, it evaporated so fast.

Yay! Don't ya love it when an experiment turns into more than you thought it would?