Friday, September 3, 2021

Armenia Geography and Cultures

We said “sayonara” to Japan and “parev” to Armenia. We started with our readings about Armenia from Children’s Atlas of God’s World and Passport to the World and answered the questions in MasterBooks’ Elementary Geography and Cultures workbook. We found Armenia on our map and each made an Armenian flag out of construction paper.

I found a free Google presentation on Teacher Pay Teachers that had embedded videos showing an overview of Armenian culture. From it we learned that all students in Armenia take Chess, so naturally we had to break out the chess boards and play some chess.

We also decided that we wanted to make some Lavash bread, or something as close to it as we could being that we are gluten free. A google search led me to Unicorns in the Kitchen's Easy Lavash Bread Recipe. I substituted Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1:1 Baking Flour, and even though it did not rise as much as regular flour, I think the recipe worked quite well. 

We then brushed the Lavash with some olive oil and garlic, added some cheese and tomatoes, and baked it for our own Armenian inspired pizza lunch. It was a huge hit with the kiddos.

We read two Armenian folktales with great lessons. Once There Was and Was Not is a great story warning against envy and encouraging sharing, hard work, and reaping what you sow. 

If your kiddos are complaining about why they have to do school, a Weave of Words holds the answer. It is a tale of a lazy prince that learns to read, write, and weave. In doing so he not only wins love but it also saves his life. 

Inspired by the illustrations in the book and other examples of classic Armenian illustrated letters, the children illustrated their initials.

I did not want to leave Armenia without studying the Armenian Genocide. As much as we would like to hide some of the monstrosities of the past, I believe it is important to study and discuss the past with our children. I chose the book Forgotten Fire by Adam Bagdasarian as a family read aloud to base our discussions of this time period off of. It is the story of Vahan Kenderian, a wealthy Armenian boy who grew up living a life of privilege until 1915 when everything is stripped from him. I often choose historical novels that are written through the eyes of a child, because I feel like it gives a more relatable experience. The Armenian genocide was a horrific time period. Adversity can either consume a person or make them stronger. Against all odds and with an incredible strength and will, Vahan survives and is stronger (like steel as he says). The recommended reading age for this book is 14-17, which is typically the age group I choose from when deciding on historical novels to read aloud to the entire family. However, you should know that this book is graphic and descriptive when describing the horrors Vahan and his family faced, so discretion is advised. There were some paragraphs that I chose to summarize as "she/he was assaulted" when reading it aloud to our children. I reminded our children as we read to "look for the helpers" (as Mr. Rogers would say) and to be mindful of the blessings. 

Thank you so much for stopping by! Be sure to follow our Instagram @pocketful_of_treasure for our latest homeschool fun and tag us in your adventures.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Japan Geography and Cultures

We dove into another homeschool year in early August with a unit study of Japan. We are using Masterbook's Elementary Geography and Cultures curriculum as our backbone for study. It uses the Children's Atlas of God's World and Passport to the World as the main textbooks. Because we operate our homeschool as a one room schoolhouse with all of our children between preschool and 7th grade studying the same subject matter for history and science, I added more hands on crafts and learning activities. One of the things I love about homeschooling the flexibility to be able to make each curriculum your own. Our plan is to study each country for two weeks and to include a country celebration at least one of those weekends during our family night. Considering that the Tokyo Olympics were being aired when we started, we decided that we would switch up the order and study Japan first. We did a brief heritage study of Japan a couple of years ago in American Heritage Girls, so we revisited some of those activities and added more.

For every country we study this year we will be locating it on both our map and our globe, and crafting the country's flag out of construction paper.

The first day we read the All About Japan booklet, a free resource from 123 Homeschool 4 Me. I love that this resource also doubled as a coloring book that the children could busy themselves with while I helped another child on a project.

I also assigned the older girls with the tasks of researching other facts on Japan and presenting them in a Kawaii style comic book. Kawaii simply refers to the culture of cuteness in Japan (think Hello Kitty or Shopkins). 

We watched several YouTube videos on Feudal Japan and read the books "The Sign of the Chrysanthemum" and "Shipwrecked!: The True Adventures of a Japanese Boy" for a better understanding of Feudal Japan. 

We also braided Kumihimo cords, which is the Japanese Art of Cord Braiding. The Samari once used Kumihimo cords as laces for their armor. You can find many tutorials on YouTube, but we liked this one by a middle school art teacher.

The tutorial was easy to follow and once the kids got the hang of it, they spent many hours braiding (bringing it in the car and to their beds for quiet hour). 

Our next activity explored Japanese writing. I printed out several pages of Kanji, a Japanese writing system where symbols represent words. The kids then chose a Kanji symbol they liked and wrote a Haiku about it. They then drew their Kanji and a picture onto a cardboard fan and wrote their Haiku on it.

Remember, a Haiku is a three line poem written with a 5/7/5 syllable pattern that is non-rhyming. Here are some of their Haiku's:

Flying in the cage
Holds four beautiful budgies
They are so pretty

The cold white snow falls
Falling down upon my head
Makes me so happy

Dinosaur running
Running quickly after me
Please do not catch me

The second week, we focused mostly on the Ring of Fire and the many natural disasters that impact Japan. For this, YouTube was my teaching assistant. I had originally planned on more books, but did not make it to the library on time. Thankfully the internet provides a wealth of resources! 

I also wanted to add in another craft for the second week. We have made homemade volcanos many times, so in researching something different to do I came across water marbling (or Suminagashi in Japan). Thanks to Amazon (for which I am an affiliate and I so appreciate your support as it helps me continue to fund our homeschool), I had a Water Marbling kit at my door the following day! This was a big hit with the kids! We also watched some YouTube videos of professional Suminagashi. Quite impressive!

Then it was time to party!!! The children decorated the house with fish drawings and origami. We put a mattress in the middle of the floor which we covered to use as a "table" so we could sit on the floor and each Japanese style. I reminded them of the Japanese table manners which we previously studied. I served Matcha lattes and Cucumber Sushi with some homemade Yum Yum Sauce

For dessert we made Matcha Pound Cake

We ate the leftover rice the following day with some potstickers and practiced using our chopsticks.

We concluded the night with playing our new favorite game, Go Sushi Go Party! You can play with up to eight players, so our whole family was even to play. Even our four year old (even though he did not grasp the strategy of the game) was able to put down cards and be a part of family night. (If you find the directions confusing, which I did at first, watch a YouTube tutorial on game play. It is really quite a simple game once you understand how to play). 

Thank you so much for stopping by! Be sure to follow our Instagram @pocketful_of_treasure for our latest homeschool fun and tag us in your adventures.

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Friday, July 30, 2021

Quick Start Guide to Homeschooling in Arkansas

Before we even start, let me say how proud I am of you for exploring options for you child's education! You are about to embark on one of the hardest, yet most rewarding and life changing journeys of your life."Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire." ~W.B. Yates. Let's get that fire going!


Currently the only thing you need to do in Arkansas is file what is called a Notice of Intent. It can be done online in a matter of minutes. You have to do this every year by August 15th. Right now, Arkansas does not require assessments, state mandated subjects, or teacher qualifications, so it is a pretty easy state to homeschool in. However, I am not a legal expert, so please seek the help of an attorney or legal advisor if you have any questions. These requirements could also change. Here are some websites to familiarize yourself with and stay up to date with the latest requirements. 

Arkansas Department of Education

Arkansas Education Alliance

Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA)


Ponder these two quotes:

"I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious." ~Albert Einstein

"Teaching is a function, not a profession. Anyone with something to offer can teach." ~John Taylor Gatto

You know your child better than anyone else. You know his or her strengths and weaknesses. You know what motivates your child and what he or she is passionate about. You can do this! Plus, we live in a day and age when there is literally a world of help at your fingertips. You will also be amazed at how much YOU will learn! Some days I wonder what I did in history class at school growing up, because I feel like I am learning much of it for the very first time! 


Arkansas has no requirements for what must be taught, so you are literally free to use whatever you want. The downside to that is that there are so many different subjects and curriculums that it can be very overwhelming for a new homeschooler to decide what to use. Here are some questions to ask as you evaluate your different choices:

What is my child interested in learning?

What do I want my child to learn?

What does my child need to learn to go into his/her desired profession?

What are my child's strengths? (If reading is not one of them, do not choose a curriculum that is heavy on reading unless there are audiobook versions)

What are my child's interests? What are they passionate about? How can I use that to help my child learn? (Did you know that there are entire courses designed around Minecraft, legos, and board games?)

What are my child's weaknesses? Will the curriculum help your child overcome weaknesses without exacerbating and frustrating him or her?

Is the curriculum visually appealing? Is the font big enough (but not too big)? Is there enough color or pictures throughout the book (but not so much that is is distracting)?

How hands on or independent do you want to be in your child's education?

What kind of learner (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) is your child?

What is the cost? 

Here are a couple of things to remember:

1.If you try something, and it doesn't work for you or your child, you can always change it and try something else. You can see how our homeschool curriculum changed and evolved over the years: (2021-2022), (2020-2021), and (2018-2019).

2. Remember, homeschooling does not have to be public school at home. There is so much more to an education! Ponder this quote: "Do not let schooling interfere with your education." ~Mark Twain


Congratulations! I do too! And I can tell you that homeschooling is hands down the best thing I ever did for our children. You not only see their "disabilities", but you also see their abilities. You see how incredible your child is. You know what motivates your child. You know how to get that fire burning in your child. You can move at the pace that your child needs. Homeschooling does not mean that you have to do everything on your own. Over the years we have had an incredible team of speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, Orton-Gillingham tutors (for dyslexia), counselors, and psychologists. As I learned more about my children and how to help them, I took on some of the interventions myself. We also still use some specialists. Over the years I have also learned to redefine "normal". Our children are fearfully and wonderfully made. Yes, I want them to become all that God designed them to be and help them be the best version of them that they can be, but I also understand that they are all individuals, designed by God to be different. Our one son has been very delayed in all areas and has a long list of learning disabilities, but he is absolutely brilliant when it comes to engineering. He sees things in a completely different way than others. His ability to problem solve is mind blowing to me. He would not do very well in a public school system (we actually tried when he was little for about two days because I bought into the lie that he would be best off there). However, here at home he is thriving, learning, growing, and we are finding ways to let him shine with his strengths. As a homeschooler he has the opportunity to attend homeschool programs at the local Construction and Trades academy. I am confident that because of homeschooling he will be far more prepared for adulthood.


In Arkansas, there are no tax breaks or state funded programs to help homeschoolers (and that's a good thing because it also means less government oversight). So, how much does it cost to homeschool? Well, that is completely up to you. If you are choosing to do a lot of co-ops, online courses, enrichment classes, field trips, tutoring, music lessons, art lessons, sports, and everything else out there, then it can cost you a whole bunch. Some curriculums cost a whole lot more than others. On a budget? Me too! Here are some helpful tips for homeschool on a budget.

1. Shop used whenever you can! I literally stalk our thrift stores all summer long. Check facebook marketplace. Go to used curriculum sales. I buy as much as I can secondhand.

2. If you buy new, see if you qualify for any discounts (teacher, military, missionary, etc.). You can get a Home Educator Card  to use for teacher discounts. See if you can find coupon codes from other homeschool bloggers (Like my $5 off Not Consumed). Not only do these coupons save you money, but they also help out another homeschooling mom. Also, see if there is a rewards program offered through the curriculum. With Masterbooks and Not Consumed I can earn points on my purchases and for things like leaving a review that can be cashed in to save on my next order. 

3. What can you get for free? What books would it be ok to borrow from the library? Take advantage of YouTube and other free online programs. Our daughter loves art, but she already is involved in gymnastics and plays several musical instruments. She can find lots of art classes online for free. Someday we may make the decision for her to take art classes, but for now this is an option that is allowing her to continue to learn and advance while keeping us on budget. We also use Treasure Hunt Reading, a free online reading program. There are numerous free resources like this online.

4. Shop around and take advantage of sales. You'll start learning the rhythm of different retailers and when their sales are.

5. Is what you are buying consumable or reusable? Will you be able to either sell the curriculum at the end of the year to help you out with next's years curriculum, or will you be able to save and use it for another child?

6. Be creative! You don't need the latest and greatest and fanciest. One year we chose not to get all the math manipulatives and counters. We used a lot of beans, rocks, sticks, and lego men. Guess what? They probably had more fun and were more engaged (thus learned more) than they would have with the plastic counters. Before I buy anything I always ask myself, "Do I really need this?" You may be surprised at how often the answer to that question is "No."


Unless you live way out in the country and never leave your home, there are probably hundreds of opportunities for socialization. Are co-ops and play dates a good thing? They absolutely can be! But so can a trip to the grocery store. Teach your child to hold the door for an elderly person. To show sympathy to the mom there with a small, screaming child. To thank and make small talk with the cashier. To be able to respond to the comments of "wow, you have your hands full" and "shouldn't they be in school right now". To grab a cold fruit punch to share with the homeless man on the corner and share the love of God with him. If you pay attention you will soon realize that socialization is the least of your concerns as a homeschooler, and your child will learn to interact not only with children their own age, but also the young and the old. 


Absolutely! Isn't there always more to learn? Isn't cultivating a love of life-long learning one of the great advantages of homeschooling? Life-long... that's the key. It's ok to not know everything right now. I am 9 years in and still learning more everyday. You know enough to get started. You've got this! August 15th is fast approaching so get that NOI filed today and dive in. You've got this momma! Check out my Homeschooling Tab for more resources, give me on a follow on Instagram, and check in to let me know how your homeschool year is going!

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Diving into another Homeschool Year

It is hard to believe that I am already entering our 9th year of homeschooling. This year we will have a preschooler, 1st grader, 2nd grader, 4th grader, 6th grader, and 7th grader. In case you lost count, that is SIX children that I will be guiding through their education this year. Oh, and we will have a toddler at home. 

I admit that I may be a little crazy, but I am so excited about this year. I am also not going at it alone this year. I have Jesus and coffee 🤣

Plus we decided to outsource some things this year. Our preschooler to a Mother's Day Out program two days a week, which will help him break out of his shell, give him some age appropriate opportunities for play, and allow me to focus on the older children. We will also be participating in a homeschool co-op for some extracurriculars, and our older two will be utilizing some video/virtual classes.

(Not all school takes place in a “classroom”. We love Roadschooling and a lot of our learning takes place out in nature).

 The number one question I get asked as a homeschooling mom is, “What curriculum do you use to teach all those kids?” I will share with you what “boxed” curriculum we use, but it’s important to know that our homeschool does not fit inside any box. I don’t even teach neatly inside one particular methodology. We fall someone between Charlotte Mason and unschooling with a strong pull towards wild and free. We have two goals for our children. The first is that they grow in their knowledge and understanding of the Lord Jesus Christ. The second is that they develop a life long desire to learn. In everything we do I try to connect it back to God and also to experiences. The curriculum books we use are simply a springboard. A typical day starts in our textbooks, which may lead to a “living book”, which may then lead to some imaginative play in the woods, which could lead to a discovery, which then leads to a YouTube video, which leads to a journal entry, which perhaps leads to an art, which inspires and leads to a music, and so on. The textbooks we use to jumpstart our learning have changed some over the years (you can see what we used in the 2018-2019 school year and 2020-2021 school year and check out my Homeschooling page), but here is what we have planned for the upcoming school year.

HISTORY: Everyone (yes, our preschooler all the way through our 7th grader) will be doing World Cultures. I decided to go with MasterBooks' Passport to the World as the backbone. Because we have so many ages I have had to put some work into expanding this curriculum to engage all ages, but I'm really happy with the Teacher's Guide and accompanying books. I have been scouring the thrift stores on a weekly basis for picture books on the countries. We received Little Passports for a couple of years, so I consulted with those guides and other homeschool blogs to find supplemental activities. I planned a lot of crafts, sensory bins, recipes, composer studies, missionary spotlights, and more! We will also be starting our mornings with World Watch News. Be sure to follow us on Instagram because this is sure to be a fun year!

(One of my thrift store hauls… everything here totaled only $6.50!!!)

Anatomy & Physiology

SCIENCE: I was first introduced to Apologia science a few years ago when I was teaching Physical Science and Physics at a co-op. I fell in love with the curriculum and we have been using Apologia for science ever since. This year we are studying Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology as a family. Again, I have been hitting up the thrift stores on a daily basis to add some picture books to engage our little learners. I am also putting together a sensory bin that I am pretty excited about, and added these cool finds from Amazon.

General Science

Our 7th grader will be doubling up on sciences this year. Human Anatomy is the one Young Explorers textbook that she never went through. She thinks she wants to go to college for Physical Therapy or Sports Medicine so she doesn't want to miss out on this course, but she also wants to stay on track and take General Science. While I absolutely love the sciences, I do not have the time to prepare lessons for two sciences and we are trying to increase independence, so we decided the best route for her would be to use the Video on Demand General Science Homeschool Course offered by Apologia. She got a head start this summer since she knows she will have a heavy load this school year, and so far she has been very happy with the videos and the course.

MATH: We are still using Math for a Living Education by Masterbooks with each child in their own level (with the exception of our 6th and 7th grader whom will be doing virtual math with my sister). The stories at the start of each chapter help our children see the real world connection, plus I love how it has character training and other subjects interwoven. A great place to teach math is in the kitchen, and boy are there some yummy recipes in the book! I'm sure we will be using some of these recipes as we travel through our World Cultures studies. 

ENGLISH: We are also still using English for a Living Education for our 1st through 4th grader. Again, I love how it incorporates bible study and character training. 

We will continue with daily writing prompts, as these were a huge hit in our homeschool last year. We fell into a rhythm last year of Imagination Monday (creative writing), Tea Time Tuesday (poetry prompt), Wacky Wednesday (silly prompt), Think It Thursday (problem solving prompt), and Free Write Friday. 

Visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store to grab your FREE Ants Writing Prompts. While you are there be sure to click "Follow Me". More fun resources to come!

READING: We have a few children with dyslexia, dysgraphia, and working memory dysfunction. They were receiving tutoring until the COVID shutdown. During the shutdown we discovered Treasure Hunt Reading, which is a free program by Prenda Learn (we did buy the workbook, but you can print yourself). Their website describes it as following “an Orton-Gillingham, multi-sensory, systematic approach to literacy to support learners of all levels and abilities.” Two of our boys will be working through the remainder of this program. We supplement with lots of other hands on activities, games, and early readers. As they near the end of Treasure Hunt Reading I add in the Abeka Readers, and our elementary aged children will continue working through the Abeka Reading program at their own page. 

 I have a fun CVC Treehouse Climb in my Teacher's Pay Teachers store that is a fun way to get lots of practice. You can even use an army man or other figurine to climb the ladder.

Our 6th grader will be doing To Every Nation 2 by Not Consumed, which will use the 12 books from the Christian Heroes Then and Now series to tie together history, geography, language arts, and character study. (Save $5 off your order at Not Consumed with this link).

Our 7th grader will be taking English Literature: Exploring Biblical Principles through Literature. It will be her first live, online class through Apologia. Our little extrovert is very excited about having "classmates".

TYPING: Also designed with dyslexics in mind, we will continue with TTRS (Touch Type Read Spell). It is a no frills typing program but I absolutely love that I can customize and add in their reading lists, science vocabulary words, history facts, and more. It really helps to reinforce all of our other subjects while also teaching them to type, which we believe is a valuable life skill. 

EXTRACURRICULARS: The girls are involved in competitive gymnastics and the boys do BMX racing. Music is a big part of their education. They five oldest take piano lessons, and they also have started learning ukulele, guitar, violin, and most recently added mandolin. It’s not uncommon for me to say, “Why don’t you write a song about that.” Whether it is a history lesson, science lesson, bible memorization, or even math facts, we have found that putting it to music helps us learn. Our 7th grader will also be learning calligraphy and our 6th grader will focus on drawing and possibly add some watercolors this year. Which brings me to another aspect of our homeschool -  entrepreneurship and financial literacy. They are never too young to learn how to make and manage money. I love seeing the creative business plans they come up with. Check out their online Etsy shop to see their latest projects for sale. 

That about sums up our homeschool! Are you a veteran homeschooler, new homeschooler, or considering homeschooling? I’d love to connect with you on Instagram @pocketful_of_treasures

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If considering TTRS, use coupon code JBAKER at checkout
If considering MasterBooks, please use 
If considering Apologia, please use
If considering Not Consumed, please use Not Consumed Link

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Friday, May 28, 2021

Return to Palo Duro Canyon - Lighthouse Trail

 We went to Palo Duro Canyon in 2017 and immediately put it on our list of places to return to. Well, four years later we finally made it back! It is still just as breathtaking as we remember. Located just 27 miles southeast of Amarillo, TX, this impressive 120 mile long and 20 mile wide canyon suddenly appears out of nowhere.  It is thought to be the 2nd largest canyon in the US and is definitely the most scenic part of the Texas panhandle.  

In 2017 we were able to just show up without a reservation, but nowadays I would not recommend that. We planned ahead this time and were thankful we did because the campground was indeed full when we arrived. Last time we stayed in Sagebrush, which is one of the first campground loops you come to and is the closest campground to the play "Texas". This time we stayed at Mesquite which is several miles more down the road at the southern end of Palo Duro. It is located closer to the hiking and equestrian trails. The Mesquite campsites all have 30/50 amp electric and water hookups, as well as a fire ring and/or grill and a picnic table. During a heavy rain, this area can get a little flooded and the red clay turns into a slippery, muddy mess. Thankfully it didn't rain until the morning we were leaving.

Palo Duro Canyon had nearly 50 miles of trails. We hiked the Paseo Del Rio trail in 2017, an easy 2 mile trail that follows the river and passes a Cowboy Dugout. It was the perfect trail for a quick morning hike, but we had some more time this trip and were finally able to hike the Lighthouse Trail that leads to the iconic 310 foot "lighthouse" rock formation that you'll often see on souvenirs. 

There are many warnings heading into the trail about making sure that you are prepared with plenty of water and sunscreen. If you forgot sunscreen, there are dispensers by the trail head that look like hand sanitizer, but are actually sunscreen that you may use. If you have never hiked in a desert before, bring 2-3 times the amount of water you normally would (the state park recommends one gallon of water per person). There are no trees so you are exposed most of the hike. During the summer, temperatures on the canyon floor can reach 115 degrees. 

We had the perfect evening for a hike! The temperature was in the 60s, and the canyon walls cast some shadows on the trail. Still, we had more water than we thought we needed since we were hiking with 7 kids. I carried the baby, but this was the first long hike that our 3 year old completed by himself (and he totally rocked it). 

The trail is 5.7 miles round trip out and back hike. The first 2.5 miles of the hike are relatively easy. There are some gentle slopes as you follow the canyon floor, but nothing crazy.

 Do be aware that mountain bikers share the trail and come flying through here, so be alert and ready to move out of their way. 

The views of the desert and canyon walls are beautiful and you'll spy plenty of cacti, lizards, and possibly some other desert creatures along the trail.

After about 2.5 miles the easy, sandy, flat part of the trail ends and you'll have a near vertical ascent up to the lighthouse. It is not treacherous, but it is strenuous. Thankfully it doesn't last too long and you'll soon be rewarded with jaw-dropping views. Congratulations! You made it! 

You can either return the way you came (which is what we did), or for a longer hike back you can connect to the Givens, Spicer, and Lowry Trail.

We were so proud of this little dude for hiking the entire trail himself that we rewarded him with a souvenir hat from the trading post. 

Before leaving the Amarillo, TX area, stop by Cadillac Ranch and leave your mark! Don't forget to bring the cans of spray-paint!

Roadschooling in Amarillo? You may want to also check out the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum. 

Be sure to follow us on all of our adventures on Instagram @pocketful_of_treasures and check the Travel tab here on my blog.

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