Competitive Lamp Building

After cutting one cord (literally) on one floor lamp and the fiddly switch giving out on the other one, our living room was recently left lightless. I went to Lowe’s and was looking at replacements, and not seeing anything I loved, I opted for cheaper table lamps.  I was going to get two different style lamps, but then I thought it would be fun to have a round of…




Two kids…

two lamps…


It’s a relatively small sport, lamp building. It’s not deck building (which we’ve spent much of or week doing) or pool handstands (which we will do later today). But it’s real… (hmmm…)

I just heard from the arena, in a sportscaster voice ” —- pulls into the lead with a completed table!”

In under 15 minutes two lamps were built. A victor gloated, so they got to take the trash out. Of her win Big remarked, “I credit my victory to building IKEA chairs.”

“Not the directions?”

“No, I didn’t use them.”

Life skills and chores CAN be fun. Not always, but sometimes. ๐Ÿ™‚


High School Planning: Rocket German

This spring I’ve started looking into our High School plan. It makes me sweat with fear and to be honest, I am a little overwhelmed. We’re planning on moving fairly soon, so in addition to looking into local laws, I’m learning new ones, projecting our plans, and trying to make sure Big is prepared for ALL of her dreams. It’s a big order. So, I’m trying to take it one bite at a time…


Big needs at least 2 years of foreign language. We’ve done Latin in the past, and I think that’s a great foundation, but she really wanted to try something else. Sure! I’m game.

She picked… German. Seriously. I don’t speak German. DH doesn’t. We’re not in a good community for it. But, I’m game! Her grandmother (step, but who cares!) is a native German speaker, and her GrandPop is learning German. We also have some friends who speak it. With that encouragement, I started researching.

First, we looked at the Oklahoma State German Online program. It had good reviews, but we weren’t wowed by the videos. “Outdated” would be a compliment.ย  Now, we don’t need slick, but they were super fuzzy and a little dry.

We have Rosetta Stone Spanish. We don’t LOVE it, so I’m not interested in investing again. (And honestly, if I’m not making Big use it, you can tell I’m a little ambivalent.)

I looked into the Middlebury College high school Interactive Languages. I wasn’t totally wowed. I wanted to be. My sister is a Middlebury graduate. ๐Ÿ™‚

I looked into the BYU High School distance learning program German. This one looks really good, but I really don’t want a classroom set up just yet. Maybe for level 2. I think this will be on the reserve list.

I looked into The Potter’s School. They had good recommendations, but again, I’m trying to keep this independent learning. I want to be able to travel during the school year and not be tied to a schedule, and I want her to start this summer to lighten the load in the fall. For that reason TPS didn’t make the cut.

After all the research, I decided that for German 1, Big would use ROCKET GERMAN.

What do I like about it?

  • It was highly reviewed online.
  • It’s very thorough. (I’m having cut and paste issues, so you’ll have to check the site to see what I mean, sorry!!)
  • It’s funny and engaging.
  • It has a really solid speech recognition element.

Here’s our plan…

1. In Level 1, there are about 66 lessons, about an hour long each, minimum. She will complete those, and then move to Level 2. There are 3 levels in the program so we’ll have plenty of time to meet the 120-140 hour requirements for a high school credit.

2. We will supplement with writing assignments, and maintaining a student notebook.

3. We will add in conversation with grandparents for practice.

4. We will also add in a German workbook recommended by GrandPop’s wife, “Auf deutsch, bitte!, รœbungsheft“.

5. We are planning on taking an immersion field trip in the fall. This is my favorite part of the plan! ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m pretty happy with this plan. We’ve started this summer with about 45 minutes a day. Big is having fun, and I think learning a lot. She needs more speech practice, so we’ll be working on that!!

How about you? Are you working on setting up a High School language credit?

My “Sweet” Daughter

Yesterday I got a text from my oldest sister. She has whooping cough. For real. She was put under a quarantine (yes, she’s been vaccinated… and recently had a booster… and all her family vaccine stuff is 100%…) and is camping out at home.

My “sweet” daughter wanted to make her aunt a present.

We went to the store and bought some fabric and after school she set to work…


Yes, Big reads a lot of pirate stories…


Which is why she /graciously/ made her aunt a quarantine flag to hang in front of her house. And a plague flag, because she thought it was hysterical.


Watch out. Kids who read are funny.

UPDATE: After the long tests they all found out they didn’t really have whooping cough. Apparently there are different tests. Who knew! I’m grateful they’re all healthy and well. And, that they have a great sense of humor and found the flags funny!

What works – FUN FRIDAY

Every year the kids get older homeschooling gets more serious. Last year I was facing “MIDDLE SCHOOL”. I had a 7th and an 8th grader, and while we are an academically focused famiily, I still wanted homeschooling to be “fun”. It’s a hard balance – take it seriously, but find time for the extras…


One way our family found the balance was with FUN FRIDAY. I sincerely hope we can continue this until the kids graduate!!


SO, what does FUN FRIDAY entail?


Well, first of all we have the mandatory items – math test (we use Saxon so every Friday is a test day), and a science lesson (we use BJU online, so we can’t drop a lesson a week or we’ll NEVER get done). Then, any other mandatory stuff – bible, CNN student news, etc. Usually the “MUST DO” items take about 3 hours. [As an aside, when we did Sonlight, we always chose the 4 day schedule. For us, it was plenty.]



Then, we schedule in the fun stuff:

+ art projects (craftsy or her stuff)

+ logic

+ cooking lessons (which may include shopping for ingredients)

+ hands on science stuff beyond our class (programing, electronics, etc.)

+ extra merit badge stuff

+ Pinterst projects that catch our attention

+ food pantry pack out

+ deck building (or other home projects)

+ bike rides

+ field trips

Even with the fun stuff we tend to be done a little earlier than usual on Friday. To me, that’s a great reward for our hard work in the week, and a great start to the weekend. And, the kids LOVE Fun Friday. We all do. We get the “fun” and the “extras” in, and it’s low stress. Losing a day of grammar to me, is totally worth it!!

My Review – Missoula Children’s Theater

Recently Big and her three besties participated in a production of Sleeping Beauty put together by the Missoula Children’s Theater. I’ve seen the MCT put on productions on the Air Force Base where DH frequents every summer, but we’ve never actually attended. This year Little was at Boy Scout camp the week of the MCT camp, so I thought it might be fun for Big to invite her friends and for the four girls to spend a week acting, swimming, and generally being tired. [And honesty, sometimes I don’t get enough “arts” done in the school year, so I love a good “intensive” experience!]

I looked a lot on the internet for reviews, and didn’t find a ton, so I figured I’d provide one “mom’s review” of our experience.



Monday at 10 am the kids “audition”. The staff (we had 3 AMAZING MCT staff) have the kids sing, speak loudly, express, and generally have fun. By noon they have their line up and they announce to the kids. Our group was putting on Sleeping Beauty, and we ended up with Scarella, the Lady in Waiting/Madame Butterfly, and two trolls. We didn’t have a load of kids so everyone got a part, but that’s not always the case.

Once the rolls are announced the rehearsal schedule is shared. Some kids have to be there for every rehearsal, some for a few. Rehearsals through the week run from 10-12, and 12:30-2:30. If the kids have to be at both rehearsals they need to bring a sack lunch. My group had a varied schedule, with Tuesday being a light day and full days from Thursday through Saturday.

Rehearsal. Lots of singing, learning locations, and general fun. One thing I didn’t realize that MCT does (which is GENIUS!!) is they have an on stage narrator played by one of the MCT staff. BRILLIANT! This enables the kids, even the little ones, to have a familiar, capable on-stage presence. Should anyone worry or freak out – no problem, there’s someone there to help. Another thing they EXCEL at is crowd control. I saw some great techniques (clapping, time counts, etc.) that the staff uses to encourage the kids to listen, get in line, etc. It was great. The atmosphere was so positive and encouraging for every age level!

More rehearsal. Kids are expected to learn their lines by Thursday, but with all the coaching and help mine were all ready. Songs were sung (FREQUENTLY!) in the car, around the house, etc. Each day my group came from rehearsal smiling, having fun, and relaxed. It was great!! For putting on a full musical in a week, there was really no pressure.



Saturday is PLAY DAY and is a pretty long day. The kids arrive at 11, and get all costumed up (MCT provides all costumes and make up), and have a dress rehearsal. They need a sack lunch this day, as they run from 11-3, when the play starts. Some locations charge for tickets, others don’t. Programs are provided. It’s just awesome!! At 3 our play started – and it was FABULOUS!! Costumes, singing, live piano, happy kids. It was great. We stayed and helped put up the set – and we were all wrapped up and leaving by 5:30.


I cannot recommend the Missoula Children’s Theater highly enough. The staff was amazing. I won’t go into a lot of detail, but one of my troop has some significant social anxiety (diagnosed and medicated) as well as other levels of challenges – and the MCT staff was AMAZING with her. By the end of the week that kid was singing a solo, acting, and ENJOYING IT. I get misty eyed even thinking about the progress she made that week and the wonderful mentorship of the MCT staff. It was awesome.


If the MCT red truck pulls into your town – go – you won’t regret it!!

Eigth Grade History… Ponderings

It’s the season for reflection…to consider the year behind and the year ahead…to spend time reflecting on our mission as homeschool parents…and to sweat the year ahead! LOL!!

This morning I am sitting in the quiet (and annoyingly freezing cold, LOL!!) local Starbucks. I’m blogging. Catching up. And shopping a little for the year ahead (we start up July 1, so I need to be a little prepared).

One of the things I am prayerfully contemplating is Little’s history for the upcoming year. Big wants to do her own thing, and I can respect that, so for the first time they’ll be splitting up.

Honestly, it’s a little weird. ๐Ÿ™‚

For the past few years we’ve done, and loved, Sonlight. We’ve been through:

Grade 7 – Core W – One Year World History

Grade 6 – Core F – Eastern Hemisphere

Grade 5 – Veritas Press Self Paced – 1815 to Present

Grade 4 – Veritas Press Self Paced – Explorers to 1815

In thinking my options over for him I am thinking we could do:

Sonlight Core 100





Sonlight has it’s pros and cons. We’ve used it, love it, and know the system. A year of American history would be good for him. He’s a great reader and the curriculum is solid. But, it’s expensive, and Little has read the vast majority (80%+) of all the books that aren’t directly related to the history portion. I might want some more flexibility this year before we have to face the high school giant, but after paying for Sonlight I always feel like I should (mostly) stick to the schedule. I also think he needs to spend more time writing this year, and Sonlight can be reading heavy / writing light.


MAKE YOUR OWN. This also has pros and cons. Pro – I can tailor. I can focus on trips, travel, and scout merit badges as add ons. It can be fun and challenging. I’ve been looking at geography for next year, but nothing is totally warming my heart, so this could be a great way to do that. I was thinking of this method:

YWAM missionary biography a week (or some other solid biography)… have him draw a detailed map the country of the missionary… notebook about the country… present a written book report on the missionary… and use Visualize World Geography and Sheppard Softwareย  and possibly The Trail Guide to World Geography to round it all out. In the spring I could also switch things up and do a semester on US, or government…

Cons – I’m not as good about sticking with things I plan. Will it work? It’s hard to judge what’s enough and when to stop.

SOMETHING ELSE. Honestly, nothing is really jumping out at me right now. I’m trying to avoid ancients, since he’ll likely do that Freshman year with My Father’s World. The Veritas Press Self Paced Omnibus looks like too much for what I want for him this year. I’m not a huge fan of conversational history texts for this age, so Mystery of History and Story of the World are out. Textbooks like really dry and not a great fit for this kid (he’ll read them, get a 90%+ on the tests, and remember nothing… just like me!!). I’m also trying to avoid too much video teaching, but so far I’m not really seeing anything that wows me there, either.

For today, I am leaning toward MAKE YOUR OWN. Its hysterical to me – the longer I am on this homeschool journey the more crunchy and free I get with my plans! Classical Schmassical! LOL! Who knows, I might even make good notes and offer the plan here. You never know!

What about you?

Are you grappling with Middle School history decisions?