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 2018-2019school year and 2020-2021 school year), 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!!!)

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.

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
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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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