Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Homeschool Home Base

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I love homeschooling and I enjoy decorating my home, so it's natural that I've always loved seeing pictures of other people's homeschool rooms. I had always meant to share pictures of my own school room once it changed rooms in our house, but never got it done. But now that we're starting our final year of homeschooling, I figured it was now or never, haha! Yet, the timing does seem a little harsh. I grew up on the Texas Gulf Coast and I have family and friends who live in the Naples/Ft. Myers area of Florida. With so many people dealing with damaged or destroyed homes or worse suffering, it does seem a little worldly to be sharing pictures of a school room. I'm grateful for God's blessing of a home, but I hurt for those who have lost so much.

With one off at college and two teenagers at home, we really don't even need a homeschool room anymore. Yet, I still love having a homeschool room, mostly just because I love this room. More than any other room in our house, this room tells our story: it holds the books we love, things we've created, mementos we've collected on special trips, gifts from friends and family, precious items inherited from loved ones who are no longer with us, not to mention all the documents and less pretty items that prove our existence in the world.

It's purpose has evolved and it's more of a home base. It's where you'll usually find me on my "throne" with two dogs at my feet. It's where we work through math problems together or just chat about life. It's my spot for Bible reading, praying, menu planning, bill paying, and (a few times a year) Netflix binging.

The magnetic white board that was used for so many years for All About Spelling, diagramming sentences, and working logic puzzles is now mostly used for announcements and reminders. This room started out with a student-sized desk for Grace and then was replaced with a regular adult-sized desk, but last week she moved all her stuff out to work at a desk in her room. Ryne also works at a desk in his own room, which is separated from the school room by a bathroom. The laundry room is conveniently located on the other side of the school room so I have no excuse to get behind on laundry. The hallway that connects all these rooms is lined with six of these Ikea bookcases for our family library, but most of the homeschool books are kept in the school room.

The school room itself is a mishmash of my parents' belongings and Ikea. The focal point of the room is The Beast, my mom's dining room hutch. It weighs about a million pounds; Marc and Ryne and I almost died getting it up the stairs several years ago. But somehow (with lots of tears and screaming on my part) we finally got it up and now this room will forevermore be a homeschool room because The Beast is never leaving. I swapped out the glass shelves and 70's gold hardware and now I can't imagine not having The Beast in this room. The sofa also came from my parents' house. I was hesitant at first because I thought it was the most uncomfortable sofa ever, but that was because it was in one of those front-of-the house living rooms that never got used. Once the sofa hosted a few hundred read-aloud sessions it acquired a more relaxed look. And now that the dogs have adopted it as their daytime habitat it has a very relaxed look!

There's a bit of an outdoor theme going on, inspired by some nature prints that belonged to my mom. We've had this color of sage green walls in every house we've lived in since 1995. I took a picture from a Martha Stewart magazine (before she was a household name) to the Sherwin Williams store and said make me something that looks like that, and I've just used the same color code three more time since then. No matter what the light, it always makes for a calming room. Calming + Homeschooling? Now, that's a Good Thing.

When we first started homeschooling, our school room was in a room above our garage that had served as an office for the previous owner's construction business, so even though we used the room as homeschool room/home office/guest room, we always called it The Office. We laughed about how other kids went to school but ours went to the office. And now that our current room is slowly becoming less of a homeschool room and more of an office, we're pretty stuck on calling it The School Room, of course.  And like I said earlier, The Beast is not moving until professionals move us out of this house someday, so the school room is staying as it is. My official homeschool journey is ending soon, but there's still a lot of work to be done in launching these kids on the paths God is laying out before them. And I'm guessing a lot of that work will still be done from this room that I love so much.

I hope you enjoy the tour.

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This is Camelot.  Anna got him for Ryne when she left for college, but he follows me everywhere. There was no way I was going to get pictures of this room without him in it, but he cracked me up because as I moved around the room taking pictures, he moved around the room too so that he would always end up in a photo. Camelot, you're in my spot!

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This is my throne. I spend way too much time here. Marc installed the handy Ikea shelf behind the end of the sofa and it's the perfect place for all the books I need quick access to. I never have to leave or get up for a thing!

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Yes, we still have the last Little House book nearby, with one chapter left to be read. Grace and I can't bring ourselves to read it, because then it will truly be the end of an era. My little girls will have grown up.

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The maps are one of my favorite things in the room. I used spray adhesive to paste them directly to the wall and then I also used the adhesive to glue some trim Marc cut to go around the maps. One piece eventually did fall, so we put a couple nails in. The maps are definitely pretty enough to be artwork.

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You do know these photos are staged, right? Because I guarantee this table is usually piled with stuff, my to-do list is a couple pages long, and the inbox holds papers I keep "forgetting" to grade. The coffee is very real, however, and very necessary. The laptop is soon to become Ryne's because I found it hard to edit photos on the small screen and because it's way too easy to sit on my throne all day with my eyes glued to a screen.

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This was Grace's desk. Last week she moved her stuff to Anna's old desk in her room, which is why it's empty. This will now be my workspace. I'm trying to get used to using a desktop again. Grace painted the picture of the Russian nesting dolls (which are actually across the room in the book case).

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Marc framed and installed the magnetic white board for me, which is screwed directly into the wall. Actually, twice he had to install it, since we moved our school room. He was thrilled about that, haha! #sorryhoney

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I love The Beast. And I think she's much happier being stuffed with books than a bunch of dainty china.

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The canvas bins have been holding many of the high school books, sorted by grade level as Anna finished with them. Even though the girls go/went to a private school, Ryne uses many of the same books in Classical Conversations, so this was a good way to keep everything organized. Now that Grace is in 9th grade, I'm not sure what we'll do with the bins as I start to sell the stuff we don't need anymore.

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My dad's slide rule and math tables from when he was in college. So thankful for calculators!

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A vintage puzzle we found in my grandmother's stuff. Marc's set of LOTR books from his growing up years.

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My mom's ruler from her years as an art teacher.

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The Beast holds a ton of stuff!

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This is Izzy, my dad's dog, who came to live with us just before he died. She only hangs around with me if Anna or Marc aren't around, so she showed up at the end of my photoshoot. She's a little scruffy and needs to visit the groomer. And, yes, she has some pink hair on top (that's actually faded quite a bit). You can ask the girls how that happened.

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I may not be Izzy's favorite, but this one... he's all mine. He's not the best homeschool student, but he does a great job of keeping my feet warm.


Other Blue House Academy homeschool room posts (a fun trip down memory lane):
Our First Homeschool Room
History Timeline
School Room Switch-a-Roo
Homeschool Room Closet
(the closet has evolved too -- we outgrew the need for workboxes and this summer I cleaned everything out and got rid of almost half the contents of the closet!)
Christmas Homeschool Room


Saturday, September 9, 2017

2017 - 2018 Curricular Plans


This is it.

My last curricular planning post.

The 2017-2018 school year will be my last year as an official homeschool mom.

In reality, my retirement will probably be gradual, but this will be the last year that I get to pick the books, and isn't that really why any of us become homeschool moms anyway? #kidding #maybe

The annual curriculum post has always been a favorite tradition of mine; in fact, it was the ONLY post on this blog for the 2016-2017 school year. I finally accepted the fact that I just don't have time for blogging, but I can't pass up the opportunity to participate in the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop one more time. This is the 9th year of the blog hop and I've participated almost all of those years -- take a look HERE for a trip down memory lane! Time flies, mommas.

So, let's get down to business. I have one official homeschooler this year: Ryne, my 18-year-old son who was diagnosed with autism when he was two. He is in his senior year and is enrolled in the Classical Conversations Challenge III program. He is only doing a half day at CC, taking the rest of his classes at home. My youngest, Grace, 14, is returning to the 3-day-a-week classical Christian school she attended 5th-7th grades, although she will outsource her foreign language requirement, taking French II at The Potter's School. Anna, 19, is starting her second year of architecture school.

In Challenge III and IV, students can pick which courses they want to participate in, so our group is not even offering math or Latin because everyone was using their own math program and most did not want to continue studying Latin. We also chose not to participate in the Rhetoric/Logic portions because we had other things we wanted to accomplish in our last year of homeschooling.


(through Classical Conversations)
Apologia's Exploring Creation Through Chemistry, 3rd Edition

Shakespeare and Poetry 
(through Classical Conversations)
Much Ado About Nothing
Julius Caesar
Henry V (long-time readers know what we'll be doing after reading this!)
Brightest Heaven of Invention
The Roar on the Other Side

American History 
(through Classical Conversations)
A Patriot's History of the United States

Latin Alive 2, Classical Academic Press (he still has a few chapters left from the last school year)
Latin Alive 3

I'm both shocked and proud that Ryne chose to continue with Latin this year. It's not the easiest subject, but he does enjoy it. Last year we tried (again) to love the Latin curriculum Classical Conversations uses (Henle), but we only made it a few weeks before I ditched Henle for good (to the cheers of Ryne and Grace). We switched to Latin Alive 2 and once we got into a routine it was clear we made the right choice. The kids all grew up on the elementary level programs from Classical Academic Press (Song School Latin and Latin for Children) and loved them, so Latin Alive was a natural fit.

Math U See PreCalculus with Trigonometry

We learned the hard way with Latin that if something's not broken, don't fix it. Thankfully, we did not make that mistake with math. It took almost all of our first year of homeschooling to find a math curriculum that clicked with Ryne, but once I found Math U See and started Ryne at the Alpha level, it's been pretty smooth sailing. We'll miss Mr. Demme after this year! And, yes, I'll be taking Pre-Calculus too -- I bought my own student books for Geometry and Algebra II and did all the lessons and tests. If sticking with MUS was the best math decision I've ever made, this was a close second. And guess what? I like math a LOT more than I did when I was in high school, and I understand it so much better. I feel like a rock star when my kids come to me for help and I can actually solve the problem, haha!

Research & Writing
(or at least I think that's what I'm titling the class on his transcript!)
A series of online writing courses through BraveWriter

Ryne has made a ton of progress in his writing skills through Classical Conversations, but it's still a struggle. He actually spends the majority of his free time writing science fiction or fantasy stories, so it's not that he doesn't like to write. Unfortunately, writing research papers and literary analysis don't come quite as easy. I kept hearing such wonderful things about the BraveWriter online courses for both struggling writers and gifted writers, so I decided that we'd give it a try. I'll try to update as the year goes on and share how it goes.

Information Technology
Digital Savvy, CompuScholar

With the heavy workload in the Challenge program, Ryne's had few opportunities in high school to just take an elective of his choice. So, he's skipping rhetoric/logic and taking a self-paced online computer course instead. Anna took a similar course at the community college and found it very helpful.

Total Health, Susan Boe
Starlite Press Health
Spark, John Ratey
First Aid/CPR course
A variety of autism books

For a course that is traditionally one of those get-er-done type classes, my list of sources we'll be using is probably overkill. Yet, health issues seem to be some of the biggest struggles we face in adulthood, whether it's our own health or that of a loved one. So I decided to take health education seriously in our homeschool. But I wasn't in love with any of the health books I looked at, so I kind of pieced together our own health course that will meet our needs and interests better.

Physical Education
Cross Country & Track Teams

Ryne is part of two great Christian school teams that welcome homeschoolers. It has been a huge part of his high school experience and extends far beyond just physical fitness.


In case you haven't noticed, Ryne has eight courses on his schedule this year, yikes! Somehow I missed that fact in all my summer planning. Thankfully, we started some of the health stuff last spring, and I had told his Classical Conversations tutor months ago that we'd be cutting out some of the presentations and writing assignments since he was taking an extra writing course. We're still fine-tuning that now that I'm able to better gauge what each subject involves.

It's an exciting but bittersweet time at Blue House Academy. I'm so humbled and grateful for the Lord's guidance and provision over the past ten-and-a-half years, and I'm eager to see what new paths He has in store for us. Until then, we're going to focus on having an amazing senior year.

Happy Homeschooling!

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!!!