How I Plan Our Homeschool Subjects

Here you are at the beginning of a new homeschool year. You have your stacks of books, workbooks, and teacher manuals. Now how do you transfer all of those materials into a workable learning plan for the year?

It’s taken me a long time to write the last of my planning posts. Mostly because I wasn’t sure what my own method was for planning subjects. I’ve tried every planning book ever invented. Seriously. All of them. I’ve done electronic planning. I’ve tried various paper planners. I’ve tried not pre-planning our subjects {ACK!} which didn’t last long for my type-A self. I’ve tried planning just a few weeks at a time, but I really like knowing the big picture well in advance.

But there are two major problems with planning all of your subjects for an entire year…

1) What do you do if a child moves more quickly through one subject than the others?

2) What do you do if you have to change some {or ALL} of your curriculum in the middle of the year?

Both of these scenarios can wreck a nicely pre-planned year.

Before we get started with planning our subjects out for the year, you need two pieces of information. You need to know how many days you plan on schooling and how many times a week you plan on doing each subject. Check out my How I Plan Our Homescool Year and How I Plan Our Homeschool Week if you need help figuring those things out.

Here’s my process:

1) Go to Donna Young’s website {AMAZINGLY helpful place!} and print off 4 pages of the subject planner for each subject. These four pages are enough to plan 180 days of lessons. If you are doing a subject for less than 180 days, then only print out as many sheets as you need. For example, the subjects we only do three days a week, I would only need to print three sheets.

She actually has an option to type your plans into a pdf file of these worksheets here. I chose this option because the type is MUCH smaller than I can write in the boxes so I can fit more in each square. The only drawback to using the typeable pdf is that there is only one page, so be sure and print your plans before erasing it to move on to the next page.

Donna Young is now charging to access the subject planner form so I've made my own which you can download here for free. 

Now fill in the subject sheets with your assignments, page numbers, reading assignment, topics to study, etc. Some subjects will be a lot more detailed about what you want to do while some will mostly be page numbers.

Here is a picture of my filled out math subject sheet (mainly page numbers):

Here is a shot of my science subject sheet (more detail):

This step is the most time consuming, but pays the most dividends. An entire year of assignments at your fingertips, the thought makes me giddy!

To make this chore a little less intense, I plan the subject as the book/s arrive in the mail. I don’t order our entire curriculum at one time but spread out purchases over the year due to finances. As one subject arrives, I plan it immediately, print out my sheets and file them away. This makes the planning not take as long. I have had marathon planning sessions where I would spend a week planning every subject in one fell swoop. I don’t recommend that unless you have a live-in housekeeper to take care of your family and an intravenous supply of caffeine.

The best part is that pre-planning for the entire year by subject solves the two problems I had at the beginning of this post:

1) What do you do if a child moves more quickly through one subject than the others? You simply mark off all of those completed boxes on your subject plan and move to the next box.

2) What do you do if you have to change some {or ALL} of your curriculum in the middle of the year? Throw away the old subject plan you had and make new ones for the new curriculum.

Another added bonus is to save those subject sheets by grade for any future students you have. Everything will be planned out for you already!

Find the other planning posts in this series here:


Tasty Tuesday: Variety is the Spice of Life

Mashed. Fried. Baked. Roasted. 

However you want to cook them I LOVE potatoes. But some methods are healthier than others. This potato recipe is so good. I love the blend of spices, the crispiness of the potatoes, and the flavor of Parmesan cheese, so I’m sharing with all of you.

Here is what you need to make Parmesan Potato Wedges:

4 medium or 1 pound of potatoes (I used a mixture of golden and sweet potatoes.)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ tsp. Cajun seasoning
½ tsp. parsley flakes
¼ tsp. onion powder
¼ tsp. garlic salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

First, peel or scrub your potatoes. I peeled the sweet potatoes and scrubbed the golden potatoes, but left the skin. Cut each potato into eight wedges.

Next, place potatoes in a gallon size resealable bag. Add oil; seal bag and shake to coat.

In another resealable bag combine the cheese and the seasonings.

Add potatoes a few at a time and shake to coat.

 Place potatoes on a foil-lined cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Turn potatoes and bake for another 15 minutes.

The result is a flavorful side dish that is healthy and yummy.

Parmesan Potato Wedges
4 medium or 1 pound of potatoes
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ tsp. Cajun seasoning
½ tsp. parsley flakes
¼ tsp. onion powder
¼ tsp. garlic salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

Peel and/or scrub your potatoes. Cut each potato into eight wedges. Next, place potatoes in a gallon size resealable bag. Add oil; seal bag and shake to coat. In another resealable bag combine the cheese and the seasonings; add potatoes a few at a time and shake to coat. Place potatoes on a foil-lined cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Turn potatoes and bake for another 15 minutes.

I'm linking up with The Weekend Potluck at Frugal Family Favorites, so click over there and see what other goodies you can salivate over.

Feeling good about potato variety in the tree house,


Mama Monday: When Being Perfect Isn't Perfect

As a perfectionist I’ve struggled with becoming immobilized by being perfect my entire life. When I noticed the same tendencies in Chipette, I knew I didn’t want perfectionism to hold her in its grasp.

Check out my article about dealing with perfectionism in your children on The Homeschool Post.

When Being Perfect Isn't Perfect @hsbapost

Practically NOT perfect in every way in the tree house,



Summary Saturday: Floating Needles, Shining Sun, and Paper Pizza


Math: We did a chapter out of our Math in Focus book this week and the corresponding workbook pages. I also let Chipette take two of the upcoming chapter tests because I really thought she could pass the tests without doing the work. I was right; she made 100% on both. That’s two chapters out of the book we get to skip! Yipee!

Language Arts: We are still working our way through Sentence Island, Practice Island, Music of the Hemispheres, and Building Language. I can’t believe how quickly Chipette is able to find all the parts of speech and parts of a sentence now. It was such a struggle at the beginning of the year I was afraid I’d made a mistake using Island level for 3rd grade, but it’s been the perfect fit.

Our most exciting news is about writing. We are using Classical Academic Press’ new writing program, Writing and Rhetoric: Fable. It has been exactly what we needed for writing. While I loved Writing with Ease and the skills it was teaching Chipette through narration, copywork, and dictation, she is such a natural writer that she was wanting more and a chance to really work on some creative writing. Writing and Rhetoric: Fable is the perfect blend of a classical writing program like Writing with Ease, but with a fun creative writing flair thrown into the mix. Perfect for kids like Chipette who enjoy writing, especially creative writing.

Here is Chipette’s rewrite of the fable The Mouse and The Lion. 

Her instructions were to chose an animal smaller than a mouse and write the story from the experience of the smaller animal helping the mouse.
Literature: We finished Unit 8 in K12’s Third Grade Literature program. This unit was all about Greek mythology. A great warm up for our 4th grade study of ancient Greece.

Read Aloud: We finished A Long Walk to Water this week. It was such a wonderful story! Next up we are reading Children of the Longhouse to go along with our study of the Mohawk and Iroquois nations.

Independent Reading: Chipette finished The Secret School and is starting Freckle Juice this week.

Natives and Nations: I caved in to the girls’ demands, reworked our weekly schedule, and started back our world geography studies by finishing up Kenya and starting South Africa this week. Here are the completed Kenya notebooking pages:

For her own personal study Chipette and I are studying Native Americans two days a week. This week we focused on the Chippewa or Ojibwa people who lived in the forests around the Great Lakes area.  Here are our completed Chippewa notebooking pages:

Did you know that almost all of the wild rice that is harvested in the United States is still harvested by the Chippewa people and in almost exactly the same method that their ancestors have used for hundreds of years? Well now you do!

Science: Currently Chipette is doing two science programs, Sassafras Zoology and Apologia’s Flying Creatures, but this will be changing soon since she is only one chapter away from finishing Apologia. This week we did an experiment to see how a water strider was able to walk on water by making a needle float.

In Sassafras we have gotten WAY behind. Since I tied it to our world geography studies when we stopped world geography, we stopped Sassafras. Unacceptable according to Chipette since she LOVES Sassafras! This week we finished chapter two about lions and cheetahs and next week we’re moving on to chapter three. 

Math: She did pages 123-136 in Singapore Essentials A and pages S-1, S-2, S-3, and S-4 in Miquon Orange.

Phonics:  This week she completed three lessons in Logic of English Foundations A and two lessons in Reading Made Easy. She also finished Book of Get Ready for the Code. She starts Explode the Code Book 1 this next week and is SUPER excited!

Literature: Our book study this week was The Three Pigs by David Wiesner. I had never read this one before and it was such a FUN book! Definitely put this one on your list for your next library stop. I even caught Chipette reading it on the sly! Here’s Magpie doing a piggy math activity:

I’m still trying to find a chapter book that will grab Magpie’s attention enough that she doesn’t need a picture on every page. This week I’m checking out Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry to give that one a shot.

Science: This week for our Bernstein Bears’ science program, we studied the Sun. We learned some basic facts about the sun, and then we talked about how the sun makes daytime and nighttime, our years, and our seasons. Lots of work with the flashlight and our globe! Magpie works hard on her notebook pages and here are some that she completed this week:

Language Arts: I’m branching out into something different for Magpie this year for first grade. We are using Language Lessons Through Literature Level 1. I had never heard of this curriculum until a couple of weeks ago, but it was exactly what I wanted for Magpie, a very gentle introduction to language arts using copy work, picture study, poetry memorization, and fables. This level focuses on writing mechanics, and the next level for second grade focuses on parts of speech. Our first week to use it was this past week and she loved it! So far I’m pleased with my purchase as well.


I try not to be one of those mothers who thinks that everything their little darlings do is soooo advanced, but I have to say that Monkey’s fine motor skills for a three year old boy are AMAZING! Check out this pizza and toppings that he cut out and glued while I was doing school with Magpie.

He wanted something to do so I gave him a page out of this old cut and paste book. When I looked over he was cutting like a champ, so I told him I’d pick up a new cut and paste book for him. It was actually really cute.

Monkey: I school too, Mommy?
Me: Sure, I’ll buy you some cut and paste books like this and you can do those.
Monkey: You be my teacher?
Me: Of course.
Monkey: *Huge hug* Dank you, Mommy!

So that’s a major selfish reason that I homeschool, it doesn’t get better than that!

Lots of ciphering, reading, and writing planned for the upcoming week in the tree house,



Thursday's Thoughts: Week of August 18, 2013


Today during Lit for Lunch (our read aloud time) I read Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco. In the back is a recipe for Thunder Cake which is basically a chocolate cake, but with 1/3 cup of pureed tomatoes as one of the ingredients. I promised the kids we’d give it a try next week. I’m not sure if the thought of tomatoes in a chocolate cake is a good one or not. We shall see.


Still finishing up the Tasha Alexander Lady Emily Mystery series that I mentioned last week. I’m trying to find the inspiration to read the non-fiction book I have checked out. I’m not feeling it yet.


To Chipette make her concentrating noise (like a humming sound) while finishing up her independent work for the day. Preacher Man took Magpie and Monkey with him for a quick Wal-Mart run. I’m not sure how quick he’ll make it with those two in tow!


About how tired I am. Not a good night’s sleep last night. My mind would not settle.


My last homeschool planning post for the blog about planning your subjects. I’ve put it off for way too long and I’ve almost finished it so be looking for that post next week sometime. We’ll see if really winds up being my last planning post. I’m sure I can find something else that needs a planning explanation. J


Feel free to follow me on Pinterest using the button in the sidebar. I wanted to share some of my favorite finds this past week:

Homeschool: I pinned an awesome free Amazon book deal earlier this week so I wouldn’t forget to claim it when it went into effect. Here is my pin so you can click on it and claim your free Amazon book too. The pictures are stunning!

Home: I pinned this neat idea for tooth fairy money a few weeks ago and with Magpie super loose tooth I’ll probably be using it really soon!

Cooking: I’ve mentioned before about Preacher Man’s love of German Chocolate Cake, so when this came across my Pinterest feed it was a no-brainer. I’m making this for our next small group night at church because I do not need leftovers coming home with me.


The back to school pictures that Jenna took of my girls this year. If you haven’t seen them check out my meet the students post. These are only a sampling of the wonderful pictures she took of Chipette and Magpie. They are all so great!


The excitement and fear of my children about a week ago during their first power outage. A storm rolled through and knocked out the power for a couple of hours. Taking a note out of my mom’s playbook we broke out the board games until it returned.

Don't can now follow me on Twitter and Instagram as well.

Looking forward to a new week of productivity, loving, learning, laughing and cooking in the tree house,



Wordless Wednesday: When You're Hot, You're Hot

You know it’s hot when the squirrels are laid out on the back porch under the ceiling fan for some relief!

Ready for these hot summer days to disappear in the tree house,


P.S. Sorry about the poor quality of the picture. It was taken through glass with my phone.

Wordless Wednesday on Only Passionate Curiosity


Tasty Tuesday: Pork in Pisa

I love simple food. And this recipe is very simple with a great flavor. I can’t even remember where I picked it up, but I’ve been cooking this delicious pork chop dish for quite a few years now.

Here’s what you need to make Italian Style Grilled Pork:

¼ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. vinegar (I use apple cider.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp rosemary
2 Tbsp basil
5 boneless 1-inch thick pork chops

First, blend the oil, vinegar, garlic, rosemary, and basil to make marinade and place marinade in a plastic food storage bag.

Next, add pork and marinate at room temperature for 10 minutes.

To cook, remove pork from marinade, spray grill heated on medium heat with nonstick cooking spray, and place pork on grill.

Grill for a total of fifteen minutes, turning once halfway through.

The result is a juicy, flavorful piece of pork that looks as good as it tastes!

Italian Style Grilled Pork

¼ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. rosemary
2 Tbsp. basil
5 boneless 1-inch thick pork chops

Heat grill to medium heat. Blend oil, vinegar, garlic, rosemary, and basil to make marinade. Place marinade in a plastic food storage bag; add pork and marinate at room temperature for 10 minutes. To cook, remove pork from marinade, spray grill with nonstick cooking spray, and place pork on grill. Grill for a total of fifteen minutes, turning once halfway through.

Simple, delicious, and with an Italian flair is a favorite in the tree house,


P.S. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram!

Live Oak Academy's Fighting Squirrels

School Name: Live Oak Academy. Our name comes from one of the verses that my blog is based on Psalm 1:3 where it says, “He (the righteous man) is like… a tree whose leaves do not wither.” Live oak trees do not lose their leaves in cooler weather; they are green year round. We also have one in our yard so that was part of the inspiration as well.

School Mascot: The Fighting Squirrels. I pushed hard for The Acorns (cause you have to be a bit “nuts” to homeschool), but was outvoted.

School Motto: The Word, The Lost, The Goal

Meet the Students

This year Live Oak Academy has two students officially enrolled for the year.

Chipette is in 4th grade this year. She wants to be a ballerina when she grows up and is starting her second year at Level 5/Pre-Pointe.

Chipette in an acorn shell (see how I worked that nut theme in any way!):

  • Dramatic…all normal activities must have an element of a story or imagination to make it worth doing
  • Gifted in language arts
  • Loves Shakespeare, poetry, and literature
  • Excitement and joy show from the top of her head to her toes
  • Sympathetic to the struggles of others
  • Hates disappointment
  • Loves animals
  • To her the world is full of wonderful things to enjoy

Magpie is in 1st grade this year. She wants to be a teacher when she grows up and is starting taekwondo next month.

Magpie in an acorn shell:

  • My firecracker…not afraid to be brutally honest and a natural born administrator
  • Best laugh of any kid I know
  • Professional cuddler
  • Tenacious and tough
  • Amazing ability to memorize
  • Hates having her hair brushed
  • Loves small spaces
  • To her the world is something to be conquered

Live Oak Academy also has one unofficial student this year.

Monkey is three, but will be turning four in the spring. Not sure what he wants to be yet, but he’s got time to figure it out.

Monkey in an acorn shell:
  • Sensitive…he wears his heart on his sleeve and you have to be careful not to bruise it.
  • Natural born comedian
  • My biggest helper around the house
  • Amazing fine motor skills for a three year old boy
  • Living doll for his sisters
  • Hates the water
  • Loves singing at church
  • To him the world is something to be explored, preferably in a big pickup truck!

Live Oak Academy Faculty:

Teacher, Cafeteria Lady, Janitor: Chelli aka Mom

Principal and Maintenance: Preacher Man aka Dad

Superintendent: God aka Supreme Being of the Universe (Yep, He’s in charge of this homeschool)

Looking forward to a great year in the tree house,


P.S. A HUGE thank you to Jenna Hooker Photography for the beautiful pictures of the girls. I was dreading back to school without a camera, but you saved me!


Mama Monday: The Measure of a Man

A beginning is always a good time to evaluate where you are and where you want to be. And the beginning of a new school year is a perfect time to focus on our children. As mothers it is helpful to evaluate our children’s strengths and weaknesses. Where are they now? Where do we want them to be?

For homeschoolers, this question is often answered academically.

Chipette knows her addition and subtraction facts. I want her to know multiplication by the end of the year.

Magpie is halfway through her phonics program.  I want her to be finished by the end of the year.

I think it’s pretty common for all moms whether our children attend public school, private school, or are homeschooled to spend the school year focused on academic achievements and overcoming academic hurdles.

Recently I was reminded that there is much more to our children’s education than math, language arts, and science. In fact, I would say the most important parts of a child’s education are not the academics, but the growth of their character.

Use the start of the school year to write out the growth of character you wish to see in your children.

Here are some suggestions to help you:

1. Be specific. Instead of generic statements such as, “I want Monkey to clean his room,” say, “I want Monkey to learn how to put his toys in their proper bins and place his clothes in the cupboard.”

2. Schedule a time to review. Public schools send home progress reports and report cards about ever five weeks. You, also, need to review your goals for your kids. Make note of how things are progressing, or not progressing as the case may be, and adjust. Schedule reminders in your phone or on your computer right now for a once a month character check up.

3. Don’t share with your kids. Okay, maybe this only applies to my family, but I wouldn’t recommend sharing your child improvement plan with the child. This list is for YOU to focus YOUR attention on specific behaviors/character traits you want to develop in your children.

This year as you prepare for the first day of academic success, prepare for a year of character success as well. The measure of character your children possess will define who they are and their quality of life FAR more than the grades on their report card.

Making sure the kids measure up this year in the tree house,