Tuesday, September 6, 2016

2016 - 2017 Curricular Plans

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Welcome to any new visitors! I'm not a very good blogger, but for some reason the fall curriculum posts always bring me out of my hibernation. I guess I'm just a sucker for new books and school supplies! And if you are one of the faithful friends who've put up with my on-and-off-again updates, I apologize -- especially if some of today's news takes you by surprise.


This year I'll be homeschooling my 17 year-old son who was diagnosed with autism at age 2. He has been homeschooled since the middle of 1st grade. Although he's starting 11th grade this year, his skills vary. He's made great strides the last few years in the Classical Conversations program, and this year he is in Challenge II. For the last three years he's been my only homeschool student.

His two sisters (18-years and 13-years) have attended a classical Christian school three days a week, although they were both previously homeschooled. The oldest has now graduated and is off at college studying architecture. I'm not sure how that's possible since it was just a few years ago we used her handprint on the mug in the above picture. I digress....

The 2015-2016 school year was very stressful as we dealt with the death of my father, health issues for my oldest daughter, and the whole college search process. I was pulled in way too many directions and decided that this year I needed to simplify and narrow my focus, so we have decided to keep our youngest at home this year. The tentative plan is for her to return to the classical school in a year or so. For now, however, we're enjoying having her home full time again. She is in 8th grade. She is not part of Classical Conversations.

THE PLAN: RYNE (11th Grade, Classical Conversations Challenge II)

* Indicates particular to Blue House Academy, not the Challenge II curriculum


Ryne and Grace finished their four years of catechism training at our church and are now confirmed members of the church. I've always counted catechism class as part of our homeschool studies in addition to doing Bible study at home. This year I'm switching things up. My oldest had four years of world view classes in high school (1st year -- Intro to World View, 2nd year -- Homiletics, 3rd year -- Doctrine, 4th year -- Apologetics). I'm pulling from those courses and some other sources to put together a two-year world view course. I'm still figuring out the details, but here is the reading list so far.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stevenson (goes with the next book)
The Deadliest Monster, Baldwin
Universe Next Door, Sire
Answers for Difficult Days, Quine
Mere Christianity, Lewis
Biblical Worldview, Bob Jones Press

British Literature and Composition

The Challenge II reading list is exciting and, um, challenging!

Selected Canterbury Tales, Chaucer
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Weston
Paradise Lost, Milton
The Pilgrim's Progress, Bunyan
A Modest Proposal, Swift
Pride and Prejudice, Austen
A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens
Jane Eyre, Bronte
Animal Farm, Orwell
A Passage to India, Forster
Something Beautiful for God, Muggeridge
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Carroll
Robinson Crusoe, DeFoe
Favorite Father Brown Stories, Chesterton
A Morbid Taste for Bones, Peters
Out of the Silent Planet, Lewis
The Hobbit, Tolkien
The Screwtape Letters, Lewis

We are also reviewing some grammar using Rod and Staff's English 8 textbook (not part of the Challenge II curriculum, just something the three of us do together for about 10 minutes a day).


We've been using Math U See for 9 years now, so it's no surprise we're sticking with it to the end! We are trying something new this year -- time will tell if we're being brave or foolish. We're tackling both Geometry and Algebra II. We're only a few weeks in, but so far we're managing. (Note: CC recommends Saxon Algebra 2 for Challenge II, which includes some geometry.)


Apologia's Exploring Creation with Biology

Western Cultural History

The Annotated Mona Lisa
State of the Arts
The Gift of Music
Classical Music for Dummies
How Then Shall We Live?

* At least two musical events, such as the symphony or a musical -- a BHA tradition! Last year he attended a full-screening of "Star Trek (2009)" with the score performed by our local symphony, a Piano Guys concert, and the symphony's season finale of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony ("Ode to Joy"). It was one of our best cultural years yet!


Traditional Logic I
The Elements of Style


Henle Second Year Latin

I'm not a big fan of Henle Latin. Last year we tried to switch to Latin Alive 2, but fell behind on it because of all that was going on in our lives. I ended up not giving Ryne any high school credit for Latin last year, so this year we're just going to stick with what they're doing in Challenge II. A big motivation for me to join CC was the accountability, so last year's Latin fail was confirmation I really do need it.

[Updated: October 2016] Latin Alive 2

Yep, I lasted less than a month with Henle. It's overly tedious, the answer key stinks (I even bought a different answer key this year because it was supposed to be better than the original but I still hated it), and the subject material gets old (Gauls vs. Romans, Romans vs. Gauls, and some religious themes we're not comfortable with). Therefore, we're headed back to Latin Alive, from the same publisher as our elementary Latin curriculum (Latin for Children). Wish we could have just stuck with that all the way through!


CNN Student News -- 10 minutes of daily current events (Ryne's favorite part of the day!)


Cross Country/Track

THE PLAN: GRACE (8th Grade)


For Grace, I thought a natural progression after catechism/confirmation would be to focus on spiritual discipline and growth.

A Believer's Guide to Spiritual Fitness, Ruvolo
The Practice of Godliness, Bridges
Greater Than Gold, Boudia
Prayers of the Bible, Hunt
Desiring God, Piper

Grace's classmates from school will be spending the year studying church history, but she's had plenty of church history in our previous homeschooling and her catechism class, so we will just do some review in the spring using The Church in History (Kuiper).


Since the plan is to return to her school, we chose literature selections they will be using, plus a few I added on my own. The school uses Lost Tools of Writing, just like Ryne did in his earlier years of Challenge, so I'm adapting the Challenge writing schedule to fit the books we chose for Grace. One of my biggest failures in mothering is that I never finished The Little House on the Prairie books to her, so those are also added in (yes, I will read those to her, but the others she will read on her own). In the second semester, we will switch to short stories and poetry.

Lost Tools of Writing
Rod & Staff English 8 (together)
Vocabulary From the English Roots Up, Level B
Poetry for Beginners
Words Aptly Spoken: Short Stories

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Stevenson
To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee
The Pearl, Steinbeck
Out of the Silent Planet, Lewis
Mortal Engines, Reeve
The Giver, Lowry
The Count of Monte Cristo, Dumas
The Hiding Place, ten Boom
Little Town on the Prairie, Wilder
These Happy Golden Years, Wilder
The First Four Years, Wilder


Like I said earlier, we're either brave or crazy, but Grace is doubling up on math too. At least with geometry they are able to watch the videos together and we grade papers together. Doubling up was her request and we have no obligation to finish geometry if the workload gets too heavy.

Math U See Algebra I
Math U See Geometry 


Apologia's Physical Science


Introductory Logic
Intermediate Logic
Fallacy Detective


Grace took geography at school last year, but she really wished she could learn to map the world like the Challenge A students in CC do, so instead of a history course she will be mapping the world this year.

Foreign Language

Henle Second Year Latin

She would have been in her last year of Latin at her school, so I'm having her do Latin with Ryne. Having it all the same will hopefully make it easier to manage.

Bob Jones French I

This was her main motivation for homeschooling this year -- being able to take French. She will be starting an online class next week.


CNN Student News




Sorry, nothing is linked in my post. If you have any questions about books or materials or anything else, just let me know.

Happy Homeschooling!!!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Weekly Wrap-Up {Decisions and Celebrations}

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Daddy's little girl

It's been a full weekend, so I'll try to keep this update short and sweet!

Let's start with last Sunday... I volunteer in our church nursery during the Sunday school hour. It's a small church, so I usually only have 2-3 toddlers to watch, but this time a grandma brought her 4-week-old grandson to the nursery and asked if I could watch him for Sunday school. Are you kidding me?! The last time I got to hold a newborn that long was probably when Grace was born. I'm convinced if everyone started out their week holding a sleeping, cooing 4-week-old baby, the world would be a much happier place. : )

Monday and Tuesday were pretty routine -- school and activities. Algebra went much better this week. ; )

Wednesday got a little crazy because we added a new furball to our family. I'll formally introduce him in a day or two. He's currently curled up with his head on my feet as I type.

Thursday morning Marc, Anna, and I sat down at the kitchen table for two hours, trying to help her decide where she wants to go to college. She needs to accept or decline a scholarship to one of her top choices this coming Wednesday, so the time has come to decide if that's where she wants to go. Unfortunately, the deliberations did not bring a decision. She is blessed to have some wonderful options, so it just might come down to a coin flip on Wednesday.

Saturday was Anna's last Protocol with her Christian, classical school. It is always a highlight of the school year, and this year was extra special since she is a senior. The event always starts with a parent reception at the elementary campus. The dads escort their daughters to the front entrance of the school where they are greeted by one of the male students who then escorts the girls into the reception. We take pictures, nibble on appetizers, listen to a presentation about etiquette in the real world (Marc was the speaker two years ago), and then we take more pictures as they are whisked away in a limo. Then the kids attend a multi-course dinner and some sort of entertainment. Parents can attend the whole evening, but this was the first year Marc and I attended the dinner/entertainment portion and we had a wonderful time. The venue was a lovely historic hotel and the entertainment was a magician/illusionist with a Christian message. It was a wonderful evening!

After Protocol, the seniors hung out at one of their classmate's house for a few hours, so Anna didn't get home until 2 a.m. Nevertheless, she and I got up early to drive two hours to visit a church near the college she trying to decide on, hoping that might help make the decision easier. I always love visiting other churches because it's such a great reminder of our unity in Christ, but this was a particularly wonderful church to visit. She said she could definitely picture herself there, but she still just can't decide if that's the school for her.

I think the next few days might be interesting! Please pray. : )

Have a wonderful week!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Weekly Wrap-Up {Catching Up}

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Eek! I got a little behind on my weekly wrap-ups after our Disney trip in January. It just seemed like for several weeks in a row I was moving from one urgent matter to the next, and as soon as I knocked one off the list a new one was added. I'm not going to go through all of them, but here are a few of the things that have kept me busy:

Transferring the thousands of pictures I took on our trip caused my computer to have a mental breakdown, resulting in an emotional breakdown on my part. After three trips to the Apple store, we narrowed the problem down to a glitch in my Lightroom software or my lack of computer organizational skills or a combination of the two. ; )

College financial aid forms are torture. For those of you who've been through this, you know what I mean. For the others, college is highly overrated; just move on to Plan B. ; ) Seriously, I've learned some BIG lessons the hard way. Check the individual school's FAFSA deadline -- not all of them are March 1, like I was led to believe. Some are February 1, and trust me, January 30th is not the best day to learn this bit of info! I did get it done by February 1 and breathed a deep sigh of relief. But the relief was short-lived because then I learned on February 2 that there is another financial aid form called the CSS Profile, and it was also due February 1. And CSS is even worse than FAFSA. I was pretty sure they were going to ask the color of my underwear at some point.

One of my least favorite things to do in life is go shopping. Yet, it seemed like every weekend there was some new outfit to be bought -- a dress for Anna's Protocol, a business casual outfit for the scholarship luncheon (ended up that half the kids wore jeans, but at least Anna looked nice), and a suit for Ryne's Protocol (thankfully, Marc took over the responsibility for that one) One thing I didn't have to do much shopping for was for a car (SUPER thankful that Marc likes to do that!), but I did end up driving to Oklahoma to pick one up!

I'm no longer a minivan mom! It was a little bittersweet to say goodbye to our faithful Toyota Sienna (shown below on one of her last major road trips, camping in northern Michigan), but she was up to 265,000 miles and it was time for her to get some rest. She was truly one of the best cars we've ever had and I'm pretty sure she could drive herself to Denver with all the trips back and forth she made. Lots of great memories were made in that car!

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We replaced her with a used Hyundai Santa Fe, and of course, we found out a few days after bringing it home that the AC wasn't working. Yes, I'm thrilled to add one more urgent thing to the list.

Anna finished the last of her college applications on February 15th, so now we just wait. Except that some schools don't care about other school's deadlines, so things might get a little complicated in March. She was awarded a nice scholarship at a school she really likes, but she has to let them know if she'll accept it before she finds out if she's accepted to another school high on her list. You know, if I didn't personally know moms who've survived this whole college process, I'd never believe it's possible.

Homeschooling is going fairly well. Ryne continues to work hard; I continue to lag behind. We did manage to squeeze in a field trip to the Federal Reserve Bank a few weeks ago, which was very timely since he's studying economics this semester. We've both been doing very well with algebra  the last several weeks (I've mentioned before that I take the tests for each chapter to make sure I understand everything he's working on), but today was a disaster. We both got stuck on a review problem and I was convinced the answer key must be wrong, even though it was not listed in the corrections. So I texted Anna a picture of the solution and asked her if it was correct, which she affirmed. I'm pretty sure they're both wrong. Let's see . . . Mom who didn't do so great at algebra way back in 1985 vs. Steve Demme of Math U See. Or me vs. my daughter whose favorite subject this year is calculus. You'd bet on my odds, right? ; )

One little bit of fun news is that I got a new lens for my camera so I can take macro photos. It just arrived yesterday, so I've only tried a few photos, including the top picture of the dreaded algebra problem. I'm learning you need a very steady hand for macro photography (which I don't have) or you need to get out the tripod (which I always find cumbersome). Nevertheless, I'm determined to get some good practice in because spring is coming and I want to get some great up-close nature shots.

Hope your January and February were great! I'll try to get back on track with regular updates. : )

Happy Homeschooling!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Weekly Wrap-Up {Disney!}

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This will be a very short Weekly Wrap-Up because we are currently on our way back from an eight day trip to Florida!!!

The trip, which has been in the works for more than a year, was a gift from my dad to our family and my sister. Growing up, my sister and I were blessed with many wonderful family vacations. My parents weren’t big spenders, but travel was always a priority. We mostly visited National Parks and any place with a mountain, but we also made a visit to Disney World way back when Epcot was being built. Fast forward a generation, my kids love every single Disney movie and have always wanted to go to Disney World. My dad wanted to give the kids that opportunity, even though he wouldn’t be able to travel with us. Of course, we had hoped we’d be able to show him pictures and tell him of our adventures, but when he passed away last August we knew that the trip would instead be in celebration of his life.

And what a celebration we’ve had this past week! We were at Disney for 5 days and Universal for 3 days (just 2 at the park, 1 at the hotel pool). One of my biggest hesitations about the trip was that I knew I didn’t have the time to plan such an adventure, but my sister — a certified project manager — said she would plan the entire trip. She mapped out every detail on a spreadsheet and we didn’t miss a thing we wanted to see at either location. We met princesses and characters (yes, even teenagers like that sort of thing!), rode thrilling rides, and ate EVERYTHING! My sister and I relived childhood memories like flying through Space Mountain and spinning in teacups. The kids made lots of new memories. Anna even spent an evening auditioning to be a Disney princess and almost made it through to the final cut (more on that later)! The weather did prove to be a challenge at times (cold and sometimes wet), but overall it was an amazing trip. We are so thankful! Thankful for my dad’s love for travel and adventure that he passed down. Thankful for the many hours of planning my sister invested. Thankful for the many ways God blessed us on this trip.

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Of course, I took a million photos, so hopefully I will find time to share some of those later this week. : )

It will be hard leaving the magical life behind, but hopefully the happy memories will keep us smiling as we rest our sore feet and settle back into reality (and the low single digit temperatures waiting for us back home!).

Have a wonderful week and happy homeschooling!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Weekly Wrap-Up {9 Years!}

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1/4/16 - Playing around with my camera, trying to get some Christmas bokeh. Yes, my tree is still up. Sigh.

At Blue House Academy, January doesn't just mean a new year or a new semester; it marks the anniversary of starting our homeschool adventure, and this is our 9th anniversary! To God be the glory -- left to my own strength and abilities, we would have never made it past that first January. Oh, how many wonderful memories are wrapped up in those 9 years!

We had a peaceful Christmas at home this year. My mother-in-law and Marc's oldest sister came to visit for a couple of days before Christmas, so that made up for our not traveling out to Denver this year. It was the first Christmas in years we stayed home and we really, really, really needed that down time -- especially Marc, since he got very, very, very sick over the Christmas break. I had just a touch of it, but mostly kept from getting the full-blown virus by overdosing on olive leaf extract and vitamin C.

By the end of the break, I could tell we were ready for routine again -- Ryne had watched just about every DVD series we own (all of Star Wars, twice, all of Harry Potter, all of The Lord of the Rings), Grace had to be surgically removed from the iPad on which she spent hours chatting with her friends, and Anna slept for two straight weeks. So, in case I ever give the impression that we are perfect and spend all our free time reading, playing board games, and doing other lovely, worthwhile things . . . Ha! No, we were less than inspiring. ; )

Monday was back to school. It's funny, with the girls' school there is such a distinction between first and second semester, but for Ryne's homeschooling the lines seem a little blurry. Organization-wise I've been thinking of his schooling more in terms of transcript credits. Some classes he's finished with the first semester content and others he's not, if that makes any sense. For example, second semester he switches from American Government to Economics, but because I added in some more material for government, he's still finishing that up. It doesn't really affect the feel of our days -- we just study what we study -- but it does make me appreciate more the flexibility of homeschooling.

Tuesday was Anna's 18th birthday!!! It's hard to believe she's now an adult. For 2016, I'm adding the book The Songs of Jesus by Timothy Keller into my devotional mix, and Psalm 4 was the reading for Tuesday, which includes the verse that used to hang above Anna's crib, "I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety (verse 8)." Reading that felt like a hug from God. She's not my little baby anymore, but the Lord still watches over her.

Anna requested a pistachio cheesecake for her birthday, so after taking Ryne to the orthodontist that morning I quickly made the cake that I forgot should have been in the refrigerator all night. It still turned out wonderful and we had a nice family celebration that evening.

One of her gifts was a life-sized cut-out of Finn from the new Star Wars movie. There's a picture on someone's phone, but apparently not mine (I'll see if I can add it later). Finn stayed in the kitchen overnight and when I came downstairs to fetch my coffee Wednesday morning, I almost had a heart attack because I had forgotten about him and just saw some large person with a weapon, lurking in the darkness. He's now found a home in the senior lounge at school and is planning on attending college with Anna next year. : )

The rest of the week was more settling back into the routine of school, ballet, catechism class, dentist appointments, laundry, etc. I made a trip to the community college to pick up Anna's textbook for the statistics class she's going to take this semester. Turns out it's an ebook, so it seemed crazy spending $140 for a piece of paper with a code on it. I keep reading tips about how to save money on college textbooks, but so far with the two classes she's taken, there have been no options except to buy the material as offered in the school bookstore. I certainly hope next year when she's a real college student we'll have more options.

Since I missed the last weekly wrap-up before the Christmas break and then we had two weeks off, I'm sure I've left out so much, but these were at least a few of the highlights.

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas break! Happy homeschooling!