Homeschooling High School – Coursera and Other Options

As I start planning Big’s second year of high school, I am starting to think outside of the box more. There are some areas where we need some reinforcement, and others where she needs a jet pack and a maybe a parachute. One area I really want to shore up is writing. We’ve done a couple levels of IEW, an online course through Landry Academy, and other bits of instruction, but I want her to be STRONG. Math is easy for me to implement and grade, but writing is not. For that reason writing will be our major emphasis this upcoming year.

One short course she is taking toward this goal is the Adventures in Writing course through Stanford. It’s free, fun, and short. Big thinks it would be more effective for a younger crowd, but she is enjoying it. Unfortunately, it’s about writing, but doesn’t actually HAVE any writing assignments. It’s about a week long course and a good way to break up some early spring blahs. Reviewing the basics is almost always a good thing, and this course did it quickly and in a fun way.

I am also planning on signing Big up for the Coursera Academic English: Writing Specialization courses. This specialization is a set of  4 courses and capstone project. I’m not super sure what it all means, but I think it’ll be more rigorous than anything I can do locally. I am planning on having her work through the summer (you know, spring optimism and all), and then using any unfinished portions for her fall writing course. I think it should take about 6 months to complete. There is a fee for this series, though I am a little confused about how it works. I thought I read online it was $10/month or $50 total, but today I was reading $50/month. Honestly, $50 a month is pretty steep, so I am enrolling Big in the first course (for free – not an “enrolled” course) to get a feel for it, and then decide if we’re going to use it as a full course and pay the full enrollment fee. I have no idea if they run sales, but it might be worth watching over the summer.


For an art credit Big wanted to take the Photography Basics and Beyond: From Smartphone to DSLR specialization series. Again, with this being our first go at Coursera, (she’ll start this one Monday after the ACT), we decided to enroll in the first class ($79) and see how it goes. If it’s a good fit, we’ll continue on with the 4 fill courses and capstone. She really wants to improve her photography for the fall robotics season, so I think this will be a great series for her.

I know there are lots of other courses out there: Edx, MIT OpenCourseware, etc. and I am hoping to explore those throughout the summer and see how they might fit into our school planning.

How about you? Have you or your kids used Coursera or any other cool online platform?

5 Things

I’ve been reading all these blogs where people are sharing five things that they’re loving this week so I decided I would join in!



I received this is a birthday gift and when I’m able to pry it out of the hands of the two teenagers in the house, it’s absolutely amazing! You can talk to it and have it give sports updates, play Pandora, adjust my calendar, set alarms… It’s just absolutely fabulous, and the sound quality is awesome.

2. Spring Weather.


Low 80s. Low humidity. Low pollen. It’s rare those collide here so we’re soaking in as much as humanly possible!

3. Summer Jobs


I’ll wrote more about this in a whole post, but I’m LOVING the kids running their lawn service. It’s great. So many lessons. So much good about it.

4. Surprises.


This morning I came home from my walk to this. It was so delicious and we were so stuffed we ate lunch at 2. Another surprise? A dear friend came by unexpectedly with her toddler. Another friend received good news and we got to celebrate. It’s a good day!!!


5. Tony Chocoloney.

I love you. Salted caramel. Real chocolate. Amsterdam I miss you.

How about you? What’s blessing you this week?

Landry Academy Biology Lab Intensive – Review

This spring my two kids, 8th and 9th graders, attended a Landry Academy Two Day Biology Intensive. I have seen online where a lot of people have questions about these events, so I figured I’d share our experience. I wasn’t paid or compensated for my review, and every opinion is mine (or my kids).


A while back I jumped on one of the Landry sales and it included two intensives as “free” add ons. I was intrigued by the idea of knocking out all the labs in a couple of days, stretching my kids a little, and providing some social time with other homeschoolers. So I plunged in and registered Big. She would be taking Biology online with BJU this year so it seemed like a great idea.


Then I shared it with her. Well, she wasn’t thrilled. It wasn’t the idea of the intensive, but the idea that she wouldn’t be doing biology labs until the spring. Science nerd drama ensued. I relented. I bought the BJU Bio kit ($246…. and the microscope from last year). Now, I don’t begrudge spending the money and I am a HUGE proponent of labs – real live, gross, dissecting labs – but I had a plan. Wah. My plan was foiled. The Intensive became an add on for Big.

As the time drew closer to attend I decided, nearly last minute, that Little should also attend. I figured he would take Bio next year and we could pre-lab with him. He’s less finicky about science, and apparently Big shared with him what she learned this year – that Bio labs can be a hassle, and watching them on dvd with an intensive on the side would have been a descent plan after all. I also realized that if he attended I would have 2 DAYS of alone time. Seriously. A few emails, some money sent, and he was registered.


Now, the city with the Intensive was, for us, about a 2 and a half hour drive. We would have to hotel it – so with Hotwire at the ready we booked  a place fairly nearby and with a free breakfast. (In hindsight the free breakfast needn’t be mandatory – the kids fast for a lab on the morning if day 2.) We arrived the night before the first class since the kids had to be there at 8:45 am.

Upon arriving at the lab location the kids received a lab notebook and some lab gear. They needed to carry a sack lunch, but otherwise everything was included. Really – for the two days my only job was to make sure they had food, get them there, and pick them up. (I see the appeal of a traditional school now….really….wow.). This was new to me. I enjoyed it. LOL!!

OK, so, the set up was great, everything was well organized, and the amount of pre-check in material and communication was great – but what about the labs?



Well, both of my kids really enjoyed themselves. They both say they learned a lot, and it was a great experience. Big, Science Nerd, loved the hands on and thought the teacher was fabulous. Little, less science-y but more social, enjoyed the other kids in the class, the material, and a couple of days of “fun” school. Both kids learned a lot about having lab partners – a rite of passage for high school IMHO – and both really liked the other kids in the class. It was a great group. One thing that surprised me was that ALL the kids in the class commuted from at least a couple of hours away. I was a little concerned it would be a pack of kids from a local group and my kids would be outsiders – but that was not the case at all. ALL of them were at hotels for the class.


Will we do it again?

Yes, we will be attending another Landry Intensive in the future. It was a great way to break up the spring blahs, to meet some new people, and to knock out some labs that are harder to do at home. The quality was great, the teaching excellent, and overall the whole experience was one I would HIGHLY recommend.

So, have your kids attended an Intensive? Have

Mardi Gras – New Orleans – 2016

Last year I took Big to the Mardi Gras parades in Mobile AL with a friend. We had a blast. The weather was great, the crowds weren’t insane, and we got tons of swag.

This year we decided we’d up our game…NOLA.

Before y’all think I’m a wretched parent for taking my teen daughter to New Orleans, please know that NOLA and I have history. I lived there from 1995 to 2000. I met and married DH there (who, incidentally, grew up in a suburb of NOLA). I have been back at least annually, and took the kids last year (among other trips there).

I love New Orleans. Love it. It’s a part of my heart, really. Which may seem like a lot coming from a Jesus loving, non drinking, evangelical Christian.

So, I don’t think it was a stretch to go to a couple of parades in less icky parts of the city and enjoy the atmosphere.

We, of course, started at Cafe du Monde. Beignets. Frozen cafe au lait. Swoon.


We got there EARLY expecting a crowd. No crowds at 7, yet. But sunrise reflecting on the cathedral, quiet, street sweepers, and locals… It felt like my old NOLA. I remembered my love for the city as we ate breakfast and walked Royal Street. Really, New Orleans is an gem.


Rousses. There are a few in the city. Go. Buy local things. Like iced coffee concentrate. It’s amazing.


Jackson Square… before the crowds. It’s beautiful.


We needed some place to sit after the early wake up, cold temps, and walking so we headed to Starbucks on Canal Street to chill. It was a great pick with hot tea and comfortable chairs.

I decided to head out and look for our parade spot and decided on the neutral ground on Canal. I took a seat about 10:15 for the 11 am parade start.

In terms of parade swag, we had a great spot. We were right after a turn and right on the corner. We met really nice people on our corner, though closer to parade time we did need to defend our front row status a little. It was a hard balance, being kind and defending the spot we stood there for 3 hours to secure.



The parade was great. Unfortunately, it started late and that coupled with colds, no sleep, and a few other factors, we only made it through one parade. We had planned on Tucks and Iris, but only made it through Iris.

Having been to both Mobile and New Orleans parades, two of three voted for a return to Mobile over New Orleans. I might vote for New Orleans, but with some major changes. The Mobile voters preferred the smaller crowds, the family friendly atmosphere, and the casual feel of the scenes. New Orleans definitely had better swag, but the trade off was some seriously drunk people nearby, some inappropriate crowd wear (really), crowds, expense (parking was insane), and traffic. Seriously  – insane traffic (which honestly, was partly my fault and planning because if we had stayed for Tucks it would have been better).

My revised New Orleans plan…

  1. Get there early afternoon on Friday. Sleep well.
  2. Skip Cafe Du Monde, sleep in, hit PJs for coffee enroute, and set up for the parade around 11.
  3. Park in Audobon Park or somewhere west of Napoleon.
  4. Watch the parade in the Garden District. Anywhere west of Lee Circle would work. Don’t forget chairs and swag bags. A cooler or thermos wouldn’t be wasted!
  5. Suck up the tired and hit all the parades available for one day. Push it. Wear it out.
  6. Sleep over Saturday night. Sleep in late Sunday.
  7. Travel home Sunday.

Big’s Plan:

  1. Do Mardi Gras in Mobile. Stay Friday night, hit a parade or two Saturday, and go home.
  2. Then, go to New Orleans in around April when the weather is perfect. Spend a few days. Walk around. Ride the street cars, eat at all your favorite places, tour the WW2 Museum. Go to other museums. Take a cooking class. Relax. Don’t rush. Avoid crowds.


I think Big has a great idea there! Sadly, New Orleans didn’t show well this weekend. All that people who love New Orleans defend against (“Why would I go there? It’s loud/smelly/drunk people are everywhere/there are falling down drunks everywhere/people are rude/traffic is awful….”) was out in full force. It’s a shame because New Orleans is a beautiful city with a great heart, and in the past I don’t remember Mardi Gras being so glaringly negative. Maybe it was and I didn’t see it until I was looking through the lens of having a 14 year old with me. Either way, I still love the city, and I would do Mardi Gras again – but I would likely use Big’s plan. I think it’s a great one.




Homeschooling Older Kids – – MUSIC

A question came up recently on a homschool board I’m on about kids listening to music when they’re doing their daily studies.

When my kids were younger I usually had some relaxing music on when we did our work. I am a music loving person, so it was soothing to me. I’m not sure if that started it, but now one, and sometimes both of my kids like to listen to music when they work.

I am 100% fine with it as long as it’s appropriate, and they get their work done (with retention). I have one that can listen to music and read. Not instrumental – more like Owl City. To me that’s super weird. But, they’re relaxed and they retain like crazy, so I’m good with it.

I also have a “not so loud I have to beat you with a broom to get your attention” rule. I hate having to scream at the kids to listen. So, reasonable volume is a must.


Needless to say, we fight over who gets to use the Pandora One account. Normally, it’s me! And NO (no, no, no, no!!!) I didn’t pick all all the channels on the screen!! I prefer the likes of George Winston, The Piano Guys, and Fernando Ortega during the day.

How about you? Do you prefer silence or music when you work?

Teen Boy Bible Study / Devotional


With the new semester I’m changing up a few little things. I’ll share here done new stuff, and at some point I’ll do a summary…

One thing I’ve done is added a new devotional for Little. He’s working through the Bible Study Sampler in Core 100, but I wanted him to have more application. A couple of years ago we bought and read through the Bob Schultz devotionals Boyhood and Beyond and Created for Work. They’re EXCELLENT. I decided we’d pull then of the shelf and have Little work through them again.

Twice a week this is his assignment:
1. Read a section.
2. Write out the answer the section questions.
3. Write a paragraph summary of the point of the section.
4. Find 2 other verses to support your conclusion.
5. Write out 1-3 action points for him to work on toward the biblical truth learned.

We’re only two lessons in, but so far I LOVE IT. I think he likes it a lot too, and it’s definitely not a “fill in the blank” system for him. I’m excited to see how this challenges him in his walk with the Lord!!! If you’re looking for a new way to challenge your teen son, I highly recommend these books!

Do you have any other great teen boy bible study or devotional tools? What’s worked for your family?🙂