Just Write Curriculum Review

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“Just Write,” a writing curriculum by Rachel Tolman Terry, provides 150 writing prompts for middle school. Such a book will make your life easier if you would like a no-prep writing curriculum.

Homeschoolers studying

My children using “Just Write” on a regular school day.

This curriculum is consumable. The pages are lined, so that it really functions as a workbook. Every two-page spread has a black-and-white picture on the left and the lined page on the right. At the end of the book, you can read briefly about the photographers.

Think about it: a school year has 180 days. We usually spend 30 days on field trips, illness, or concerts. Realistically, we can count on 150 days of active book instruction. With “Just Write,” you can plan on your child’s writing something every day. Meanwhile, you did not have to do a thing to prepare. Continue reading »

Lessons from the Thirteenth Week

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The title could also be changed to “How to Homeschool While Your Entire Family Has the Flu.” Yes, we had the flu all of last week. It started the weekend before that, but we had no clue. We thought it was just a sore throat due to seasonal allergies.

Orchestra portrait

Every year, they take official portraits for the youth symphony.

Then our son started coughing badly on the way to orchestra. He stayed for the photo session, happening only that day, but not for the rehearsal. The next day, he was running a fever. A visit to the doctor confirmed he had the flu. By now it was too late for anything other than rest and lots of fluids. I made tea and heated up soup several times a day. Continue reading »

Lessons from the Twelfth Week

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We are 1/3 of the way through the school year. Just like that. I am excited about the progress we are making. Also, I am happy with the changes we have made so far to our schedule.

Last week included two days away from home: one preparing for Science Olympiad with two different coaches in Knoxville, and one hiking with our Wild and Free Great Smoky Mountains homeschooling friends.

Seven Islands Hike Board

My kids on one of the hikes at Seven Islands

As such, I had to do some more adjustment in my head about book learning. In the end, I know we will finish our goals for the year. It’s just that I have to allow for weeks like this one to happen. In conclusion, I find it gets easier over time. Continue reading »

Lessons from the Eleventh Week

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One thing I forgot to mention last week: the Science Olympiad coaches invited my children to try out for the Write It, Do It (WIDI) event, to represent their team. Each team has 14-16 members and they all participate in 2-4 events each. There are 35 or so events. Each event has two team members. Since my children only signed up for 2 and 3 events respectively, the coaches wondered if they would be interested in WIDI.

Black bear in our yard

Black bear in our yard

Science Olympiad organizers set up the schedule of events. So, our coaches look at the schedule and decide which kids could fit the slot for this or that event. This happens after every child has suggested them 5-10 events they would like to participate in. Continue reading »

Fourth Grade Curriculum Choices

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One of my readers wanted to know our curriculum choices. As I browsed through my blog, I realized I have not actually spelled out much for 4th grade. Before I give you the list, let me just say this is what I am using this year with my 4th grader. It is slightly different from what I used with my son, who was in 4th grade two years ago. Here we go.

Reading – Mensa for Kids, 4-6 book list Also, the National Spelling Bee Bookshelf titles. They change from year to year. User discretion is advised. We have had to skip some titles because of their political or occult content.


Spelling and grammar – Logic Of English Essentials – Level A

Story of the World Volume 2

Story of the World Volume 2


Writing – Writing with Ease, Level 1 – if your child is not yet writing well, do some more copywork. Alternatively, you can make your own sheets online. I had a book for cursive copywork with nature facts and Bible verses, titled Cursive Copywork. Continue reading »

Lessons from the Tenth Week

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Time flies when you are having fun. Indeed, it applies to us this school year. Some days fun eludes us, but, overall, we can say with certainty this year has turned out better than the last.

Kids on a trail

Ijams trails

Just last week, my son exclaimed, “I love this new way of doing math!” He was referring to how we skip around the page, not doing every single problem in the chapter. I observe him solve the first few exercises to make sure he got the concept, and then I assign certain problems or exercises as I see fit. Continue reading »

Lessons from the Ninth Week

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We have started preparing for Science Olympiad this week. Although the coaches are still recruiting, they have already put assignments out for our children to work on. We might even add another event by the end of the week. Not sure yet. Our kids have to go through a try-out.

Boy lying on a log

Being in nature allows children to hug a log, among other things.

I will announce our final events next week, when we know for sure what they will have to do. Until then, suffice it to say that we are excited. And a bit nervous. Science Olympiad takes extra time to prepare. But the lesson is, stay positive, get organized, and keep calm. Keep Calm and Science Olympiad. Now there’s an idea for a T-shirt.

Continue reading »

Lessons from the Eighth Week

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In no particular order, last week we learned the following:

  • We still have days when we do not get the basics done. While I accept it on an extraordinary day, I fear this has happened a bit too much lately. We will reduce the screen time to 30 minutes per day, Monday-Friday, in an effort to increase their focus and attention span. On the weekends, they can still have one hour per day. We announced this during a family meeting and the kids took it well. No rebellion. I think they were scared they were going to get 0 screen time M-F, because I mentioned we knew families who did this. But then, when they heard they still got 30 minutes, they breathed a sigh of relief.
The Nina and the Pinta field trip

The Nina and the Pinta field trip

  • No fall break because we already take a break from instruction once a week, for Wild + Free. My daughter heard Knox County has a fall break next week, so no orchestra practice. She perked up, asking when we take our fall break. Sorry, there will be none. We already take only four days a week for book learning. We spend the fifth day with our local Wild+Free group, hiking or experiencing a nature destination. I never thought about explaining why we do not have a fall break. It goes to show how important communication is in any system, including a homeschool.
My kids next to the Pinta

My kids next to the Pinta

  • We learn life skills, a.k.a. adulting, as we travel to Wild + Free destinations. My son and I learned the hard way how to communicate as he gave me directions from the GPS on my phone last week. The lady said, “Turn left, then right.” I said, “Look at the map. What does she mean? I have several left turns available.” My son said, “She means to turn left, then left again.” I made a U-turn. He said, “No, not there. The next left.” We spent the next ten minutes explaining to each other what we meant and how we should communicate in the future. If you think this is not an important life skill, think again. When was the last time you had a “conversation” with your spouse about how she gave directions?
Playing with sticks and leaves

After a picnic, they played with sticks and leaves.

  • The Nina and the Pinta field trip taught us lots of things about Columbus. I wrote down two books from the tour guide and plan to get them soon: Columbus: The Four Voyages, by Laurence Bergren, and Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus, by Samuel Eliot Morison.

Lessons from the Seventh Week

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This seventh week taught us several things. First, children will eat vegetables they pick out at the grocery store. One day, after a routine doctor’s appointment, I took the kids to Kroger and showed them all the fruits and vegetables available. They knew most of them, but things like bok choy, artichoke hearts, and turnips looked unfamiliar to them.

Fort Loudon

My children at Fort Loudon Historic State Area

We do not use those veggies in our dishes, but I wanted them to know they exist. I have cooked turnips before, but I did not like them, so I stopped buying them. Plus, they remind me of rutabaga, and I have some bad memories about rutabaga. The less said about it, the better. Continue reading »

Lessons from the Sixth Week

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We lost somebody to cancer this week – an acquaintance from Romania, who was actually married to my sister’s sister-in-law. He suffered from a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Tragically, he went from diagnosis to death in three months. Only 52 years of age, he left behind his wife, now a widow at 49. An avid hiker, he loved nature and traveling in general.

Walker Sister's Cabin Sign

They loved this hike to the Walker Sisters’ Cabin.

When we hiked to the Walker Sisters’ Cabin for our weekly meet-up with the Wild and Free Great Smoky Mountains group, we thought of him. He loved mountains, hiking, and the great outdoors. A citizen of the world, he had traveled from Iceland to Japan and to many countries in between. May he rest in peace. Continue reading »