Homeschooled Teens Book Club 2016-2017

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The twins are running an online teen book club again this year. They decided to host it through Facebook groups in hopes of making it more personal than it was last year. If you have a homeschooled teenager who would like to be part of an online teen book club please visit the Facebook group and have your teen request to join. Also please note that I am in the group to ensure it is a safe place for all the teens. I am also looking for one more parent to join to help keep an eye on it. If your teen is a member (or will be) and you would like to help moderate please let me know.

The book club will read one book a month and spend the month discussing the book with other members. The twins and I picked books that are both classics and modern and dealing with a wide variety of topics and genres to keep it interesting from month to month. The list is as follows:

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  1. September Book – All We Have Left 
  2. October Book – 1984
  3. November Book – The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B
  4. December Book – A Pocket Full of Rye
  5. January Book – Girl in the Blue Coat
  6. February Book – X: A Novel 
  7. March Book – The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia 
  8. April Book – The Shining
  9. May Book – Much Ado About Nothing

The group opened up today and the book club will begin in September. The book club is free for everyone. If you know a homeschooled teen who might be interested, please pass on the information. Thank you!

8th Grade, 2016-2017

8th Grade Year2016-2017

The youngest boy is growing up. We are heading into 8th grade which is amazing to me. Next year he will be a high schooler which is weighing heavily on me. I want him to be prepared for high school work, but I also want him to enjoy this year which I have a feeling will be a year of growth both academically and physically.

I learned something important about this guy last year and that is he seems to thrive in an online classroom environment. This year in planning that was the most important aspect for me and you will see this reflected in the choices I made for the year.


Math – The guy will be following in his sister’s footsteps and taking classes at He is very similar to his sister in regards to his strengths and his struggles and math is definitely a struggle with both of them. Jann, who teaches the classes at MyHomeschoolMathClass, has a way of teaching upper level math that my daughter really understood. I am hoping the boy has similar success working with her. He is doing pre-algebra this year.


Writing – The guy is an amazing writer and spends hours a day writing but he hasn’t had much exposure to academic writing. This year he will work through WWS 1 as the twins did, but he will be doing it through an online class at the Well Trained Mind Academy. He is not that excited about this, but I have read many great reviews about this class and I do believe he will get a lot out of it.


Literature – The guy has gotten out of the habit of reading which is something that I really want to work on this year. Because it has been a struggle I have decided to put him in an online literature class. The one he will be taking is Intro to Literature through Captive Tutorial Thoughts. We looked at several online literature courses and this is the one he decided to go with.


Science – He loves the Medical School courses from the Great Courses, so we are going to spend the year watching those. In addition to this he will be working through Ellen McHenry’s Mapping the Body with Art. We will also add in books and documentaries which I have not planned out yet but when I do I will make a post about it. I am very excited about this study!


History – The guy has decided that he wants to do an archaeology study. We will be using another Great Course for this – Archaeology: An Introduction to the World’s Greatest Sites and will be adding in books and documentaries. Our main book will be A Practical Handbook Of Archaeology: A Beginner’S Guide To Unearthing The PastLike our science course, I don’t have all our resources planned yet but as soon as I do I will share it here.

Foreign Language – I am still working on this. He really wants to learn to read Italian so I am trying to get him set up with his sister’s Italian teacher. If that doesn’t work I will have to keep searching. Italian is a harder language to find resources for as it is not as popular as other languages.

Outside of his formal studies he will continue with his writings, filmmaking, and animating. I am excited for this year and believe by the end of it he will be ready for high school work.



New Support Group for Homeschoolers with 2E Teens

For those who may not know, I have started a new homeschool group called AHA! This is a homeschool group for those homeschooling twice-exceptional kids and teens. I am very proud of this new group as gifted and twice-exceptional education is very close to my heart. IMG_2444

AHA! has opened up its first group on Facebook. This group is for parents who are homeschooling their twice-exceptional teens. If you have or will soon have a 2E teen, please join us. Our hope is to become a welcoming and supportive place for each other as we are on this journey. Thanks.

Middle School Summer Reading List

Summer Reading List

The youngest boy needs to get back in the habit of reading this summer so I am assigning reading to him. I just put together our summer list and thought I would share it here. The boy is a young 13-year-old so I am choosing upper-elementary/younger teen books and I am making sure there are plenty of mysteries on the list as that is his favorite genre.


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The Underdogs – I choose this one because it is a mystery likened to The Westing Game which all my kids love. I am hoping this book is as enjoyable for my mystery-loving teen.

When a popular teen beauty’s body is discovered by the pool at an elite tennis club, the regulars are shocked―especially twelve-year-old Evie and her best friend, Chelsea. While everyone else is haunted by the teen’s death, Evie and Chelsea jump on the case, dogging the footsteps of the lead detective as he investigates. As temperatures soar over the summer, tensions rise, fingers are pointed, and a heroic act sets in motion a chain of events readers will never see coming.


Pax – I meant to pick this up when it was originally released but somehow I forgot. It was one of the first books I put on our summer list and I am looking forward to reading it too.

Pax and Peter have been inseparable ever since Peter rescued him as a kit. But one day, the unimaginable happens: Peter’s dad enlists in the military and makes him return the fox to the wild. At his grandfather’s house, three hundred miles away from home, Peter knows he isn’t where he should be—with Pax. He strikes out on his own despite the encroaching war, spurred by love, loyalty, and grief, to be reunited with his fox.


The Search for the Homestead Treasure – I am excited about this book as it seems to be a mix of a good mystery and historical fiction.

Missing his friends and life as it was before his brother’s accident and his mother’s silent grief, fourteen-year-old Martin Gunnarsson is trying to hold his family together on the homestead where his ancestors died of diphtheria in 1865. The only one who had survived was his father, a baby found in the arms of his older sister Cora. But somehow rumors of a treasure on the farm survived, too, and when Martin discovers Aunt Cora’s journal in a musty trunk in the hayloft, he thinks it might give him a clue. But what exactly is he looking for? Reading Cora’s diary in secret, and just as stealthily becoming fast friends with Samson and his Roma family, Martin slowly begins to see his new surroundings, and himself, a little differently. But only when he recognizes that his small sister, for so long a mere pest, holds the true key does Martin start to understand where the real treasure might be found.


The Trials of Apollo – The boy loved some of Rick Riordan’s books and was lukewarm on others. I am adding this to his list hoping he enjoys it.

After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disoriented, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus’s favor. But Apollo has many enemies-gods, monsters, and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go . . . an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood.


Rain ReignAnother book I have wanted the boy to read for a while now. He tried listening to the audiobook earlier this year but did not like the narrator. I’m adding it to our summer list so he will read it.

Rose Howard is obsessed with homonyms. She’s thrilled that her own name is a homonym, and she purposely gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Not everyone understands Rose’s obsessions, her rules, and the other things that make her different – not her teachers, not other kids, and not her single father. When a storm hits their rural town, rivers overflow, the roads are flooded, and Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search.


Theodore Boone: The Scandal – We have listened to all the Theodore Boone books over the years and we really enjoy them. This one just came out recently so he hasn’t read it yet.

Thirteen-year-old Theodore Boone knows every judge, police officer, and court clerk in Strattenburg. He has even helped bring a fugitive to justice. But even a future star lawyer like Theo has to deal with statewide standardized testing. When an anonymous tip leads the school board to investigate a suspicious increase in scores at another local middle school, Theo finds himself thrust in the middle of a cheating scandal. With insider knowledge and his future on the line, Theo must follow his keen instincts to do what’s right in the newest case for clever kid lawyer Theo Boone. 


The Amanda Lester series – I stumbled across these books on Amazon a few weeks ago and was intrigued. I am always on the lookout for a new mystery series for the boy and here was one I had not heard of before. The reviews were positive so I decided we would give it a try. There are four books in the series and they seem like they will be a fairly quick read.


The Other Side of Truth – The boy likes stories that deal with events outside of America so I thought he would enjoy this book. The story looks exciting and suspenseful which should hold his attention.

When Nigeria’s corrupt military government kills their mother, twelve-year-old Sade and her brother Femi think their lives are over. Out of fear for their safety, their father, an outspoken journalist, decides to smuggle the children out of Nigeria and into London, where their uncle lives. But when they get to the cold and massive city, they find themselves lost and alone, with no one to trust and no idea when — or if — they will ever see their father again.


A Study in Charlotte –  Another mystery choice, this one for teens. I want to make sure I have some books on his list that push him out of his comfort zone (aka children’s books) a bit.

Jamie Watson has always been intrigued by Charlotte Holmes; after all, their great-great-great-grandfathers are one of the most infamous pairs in history. But the Holmes family has always been odd, and Charlotte is no exception. She’s inherited Sherlock’s volatility and some of his vices—and when Jamie and Charlotte end up at the same Connecticut boarding school, Charlotte makes it clear she’s not looking for friends. But when a student they both have a history with dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.


Sabotage: The Mission To Destroy Hitler’s Atomic Bomb: Young Adult Edition – The boy likes non-fiction, especially WW2 non-fiction. I searched for a  book on Amazon for a while that would interest him and then came across Sabotage. I knew immediately I had to add this to our list.

The invasion begins at night, with German cruisers slipping into harbor, and soon the Nazis occupy all of Norway. They station soldiers throughout the country. They institute martial rule. And at Vemork, an industrial fortress high above a dizzying gorge, they gain access to an essential ingredient for the weapon that could end World War II: Hitler s very own nuclear bomb. When the Allies discover the plans for the bomb, they agree Vemork must be destroyed. But after a British operation fails to stop the Nazis deadly designs, the task falls to a band of young Norwegian commandos. Armed with little more than skis, explosives, and great courage, they will survive months in the snowy wilderness, elude a huge manhunt, and execute two dangerous missions. The result? The greatest act of sabotage in all of World War II.”



Mr. Hats

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The boy spent the day working on his newest character, Mr. Hats. I love seeing how he goes from a rough sketch to a digital version.









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I also love that he has time to spend on his artwork and with his imagination. Today he sat in his room for a long time just quietly working on this. No distractions, no time constraints, no criticisms…what a wonderful way to spend a day.

Reflections on Homeschooling- the Final Years



The twins on a snowy day last winter.

My twins are nearing the end of their junior year and will be turning 17 soon. We are so close to the end, the end of homeschooling and the end of their childhood. It is a bittersweet time for me. I am so proud of these two and how hard they have worked over the years (and let me tell you they have worked very hard) and I am so excited to see where their lives are going to take them. At the same time I am feeling sad that we are at this juncture and have been spending a good deal of time reflecting on their high school years.

In the homeschool community there are a lot of parents talking about how amazing homeschooling is. You can see posts daily on Facebook, on Twitter, and on various blogs that excitedly explain all the benefits of homeschooling. They seem to be selling “homeschooling” to whomever will listen. And yes it is wonderful, and yes, I am so glad we took this path.

But it is not all wonderful. There are challenging days, weeks, even years – especially in the high school/teenage stage. You are educating these kids and spending almost all your time together while they are dealing with hormones, body changes, and growing independence. It can be difficult and emotionally draining on the parent, and this should be acknowledged.

It is also a demanding, and sometimes, thankless job. You have to educate your child and help them reach their potential. You have to make sure that whatever they want to do post high school that they will be able to do it. They need to be ready for college or employment and for an independent life. It is quite a bit to take on and to do it well can be a challenge.

And if you don’t have huge resources at your fingertips it can be even more difficult. Those that don’t have a big budget or a supportive environment can become discouraged when they see all that other homeschoolers seem to be doing. The amazing experiences, the expensive tutors, the endless money and time spent on individual interests can be impossible to replicate for some. And when that lifestyle is sold online by homeschooling parents it can be damaging to those in the community who are not able to provide in that way.

And it is not always a true lifestyle that is being sold. I know families struggle, everyone does at times. I know it is hard to educate teens and to help them grow emotionally strong. It is a challenge to teach them school lessons while also teaching them life lessons. And that’s okay. We were all teenagers once so we should remember what it was like. It wasn’t always the most enjoyable time, but some of our best memories come from that time.

And that’s how I feel these last few years. There have been difficult times, but there has also been some wonderful times. The children have grown into these confident, young adults who can stand on their own two feet and who will be able to go off soon on their own. It hasn’t always been a smooth transition, there were days when I went to bed completely exhausted, both mentally and physically. And there were days when the same happened to them. But we’ve made it. We are almost done with the journey, and as I said, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Does Everything Have to be Meaningful?


Three kids just sitting on the couch while watching a movie.

Homeschoolers have a tendency to get excited about everything. I know this because I am a homeschooler and have been one a very long time. I love planning out my student’s school year, pouring over resources, and thinking about how I can put together the most amazing study for my student. I love planning trips, weekend excursions, museum visits, concerts, etc. I love going to the beach, a hike in the mountains, or a day out bird watching. Basically I am very enthusiastic about what the kids and I do.

And many times, we as parents in this day and age, want to share it all. Look what amazing thing my kid did or look how incredible this opportunity is.

But there is many times when I don’t plan anything at all. There are days when I barely get my act together enough to do math with my youngest. And there are plenty of days that the kids and I are getting on with daily things with no thoughts of grandeur in our minds. And that is a good thing.

Because not everything can be meaningful, nor should it be. To make memories, to get the kids excited, to have a moment when you think “wow I nailed this” means you have to have a lot of times when you don’t. Days, months, years even, when you are barely getting by or perhaps just doing what needs to be done and nothing more. The daily grind can be hard and sometimes boring but it does make for a childhood. I think it is important to remember that.

Weekly Update with the Youngest Boy


Once upon a time I used to write weekly updates here on my blog nearly every week. I somehow got out of the habit the last few years. I have decided to try to start writing a weekly update again in hopes that it helps me stay on track with homeschooling. For some reason knowing that I will be writing a weekly update at the end of every week motivates me to stay on track during the week.

This week the youngest boy and I put our new plan in place and got back on track with school. We did school every day of the week and were able to finish everything we set out to do. This was a great achievement for both of us (especially the boy) as we have had an off year up to this point.

One of the reasons I believe we have had such success this week is that we switched up our curriculum. I let the boy have input on what he wanted to study and then I added in resources that I thought he would enjoy. I also tried to work to his strengths as much as possible. So what did our week look like?


  1. We started a Harry Potter study from Build Your Library. We are using the study somewhat loosely. The guide helps us stay on track and there are some ideas in it we are using as a springboard. There is also a great herbology study included in the unit, but we are not using that portion too much due to the book choices (the boy has trouble using encyclopedia/DK type books due to too much information on one page).
  2. I did like the idea of a herbology study though, so I am putting together our own study using the BYL unit as a guide. We watch videos on the topics covered in the guide and the boy is reading through Wicked Plants a wonderful little book that discusses all poisonous plants out there. He is enjoying this book quite a bit.
  3. We worked on art through our Harry Potter study and our plant study. This kept him engaged.
  4. We worked on math first thing in the morning. If we get it done in the beginning of the day it sets us up for a successful day. It also seems to go much more smoothly when he attacks math with morning energy.
  5. Cozy Grammar – We worked through level 1 previously and now we are working thorough the intermediate level. This is a wonderful, relaxing grammar program that I highly recommend.
  6. Animation class – The boy had his weekly animation class and worked on his weekly assignment.
  7. CNN Student News – I decided to add news into our schedule. He is getting old enough to learn more about current events and because he has grown out of some of his anxiety this has been an easy add to our day.
  8. The boy and I spent time outside everyday. This was one of my goals I talked about last week and it is working out nicely.
  9. I also added two apps to our day, Stack the States 2 and DuoLingo Italian. He is loving both!

As you can see this is a fairly light schedule, but we are getting it all done every day. And he is proud of the work he is doing! He is also happy to have plenty of free time for animating, writing, drawing, recording, and anything else he wants to work on.

I look forward to next week when we are adding history to our schedule. Until then…




Hitting a Brick Wall in Homeschooling



This school year will probably go down as one of the most frustrating I have ever had. Some may find this strange as I have been homeschooling for over ten years, and it would seem that by now I should have it all figured out. I will be the first to say that I haven’t, and I never will. Each year brings new situations, new experiences, new issues, new stages, and nothing is ever the same or go as planned. I know that and I am always prepared for anything that comes my way, but even with this knowledge it has been a difficult year in regards to my youngest and I feel we are in need of some major changes.

The homeschooling plans that I made at the beginning of the year did not match up well with my son’s learning style. Even though he enjoyed the material, the books were difficult to read with someone who has visual processing disorder and the amount of books we had to read daily overwhelmed him. After six weeks of trying to make the curriculum work I decided to abandon it and find something else. In addition to our main curriculum troubles I had to abandon our math program because it was at a level that the boy couldn’t keep up with. We needed to back up, review, and then move forward very slowly.

This all happened shortly before we took an extended road trip this fall, so finding a new curriculum and implementing it on the road did not happen. Instead I attempted to work on short units with the boy, tried out an online math program, and encouraged him to read and listen to audiobooks. This did not work out at all and soon the boy was spending his days working on his own projects. His days consisted of writing, making a movie for The 90 Second Newbery Film Festival, designing costumes, working on an animation class, and filming several of his own movies. In short, he was working around the clock on all his creative endeavors.


This is wonderful and I am glad he had time to do all this, but something was missing: academics. I feel strongly about my kids being exposed to strong and rigorous academics, and I couldn’t bring myself to fully accept how his new days were going. I vowed when we got back home I would get the boy back on a schedule for school that allowed him time for his creative passions and time for formal school work. I hate to admit it, but my plans did not work out.

We got home from our trip, I gave the boy some time to adjust to being home and then we started back up with curriculum I had on hand from when the twins were his age. The first week went smoothly, but then we got off track again. Now it is march and he and I are still off, still floundering, and still trying to find our way to the end of the year. In short we have hit a brick wall. A brick wall that I am having trouble figuring out how to get around.


So what should one do when they hit a brick wall? I don’t know what others would do in this situation, but I can tell you what I am doing.

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  1. Getting outdoors – The boy is nearly 13 and he needs to be active. I am just over 40, and I also need to be active. Getting out in nature and exercising helps both of us immensely. It helps him focus and it helps me feel calm. In short it is wonderful and now the top priority for our days. Ideally, I like to be outside with him for at least an hour a day if not longer.
  2. Staying off of media – This is huge for both of us and something we both need to work on. I have taken on many outside commitments this year and all of them require me to be on the computer for hours a day. This has not been good for me and I am trying to decide how I can pull back. When I am on the computer, so is the boy, and we both get distracted. It is amazing how much time gets wasted online isn’t it? For now on I am going to put everything away for at least five hours a day so he and I can be focused on what needs to be done.
  3. Curriculum that is not all computer based -This ties in with my previous point. The boy does have an animation class online which is probably the best thing he has done all year, so I don’t want to take the computer and media completely out of our homeschool plan, but I do want to minimize it. Working as much through books and on paper is another calming exercise and one that I want to make a big percentage of our days.
  4. Tried and true curriculum – We are going back to what I know works for him or programs that are similar. I don’t want to waste any more money trying out new programs (no matter how much I would like them). Instead we are going to use what has worked for him before.
  5. Art – The boy is very creative and he needs an outlet for this creativity. Outside of school he has many ways to express himself but I would like to add a formal program in which he can manifest his creativity and I would like to allow him some time during school for working on his artistic skills. Art is another calming exercise for him, and I think it will help him get through the longer school days.
  6. Being Kind to Ourselves – This plan may take a little while to implement, and I am almost positive there will be bumps along the way. I want to keep in mind that it is ok to take a while to get back on track and that it is ok to have bad days. They happen to everyone, and it is always better to treat oneself and one’s child with empathy and compassion.

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This is the plan for now. I am hoping in the few months, before the end of the school year, I can get us back on track. And with any luck, next year will be smooth sailing.