Virtual Curriculum Fair 2014: The Art of the Matter

My artistic ability is nonexistent. During high school art class I had trouble even drawing a straight line with a ruler! When it came time for art instruction in our home school, I knew that this was one subject I would have to outsource. Obviously God heard my plea, and about a year ago I won my choice of Home Art Studio DVDs from a giveaway that was held by Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. Since we were studying World Geography last year, I chose the first grade option because it focused on art projects from around the world. I had a third grader and a Kindergartener so I hoped my choice was a good one.

Home Art Studio Review

Why I LOVE Home Art Studio:

1) I don’t have to teach it!!! I tried a few things off and on before Home Art Studio, but they were supposed to be teacher led. Which sounds good until you realize that the teacher (aka me) doesn’t know the difference between a palette and perspective. Ms. Volin, who teaches all of the lessons, definitely knows her stuff and I have gladly turned the girls’ art instruction over to her! The only thing I’m responsible for is stopping the DVD when the girls need some extra time to work on something and then pushing “play” again when they are ready. That’s my kind of art class!

2) The projects are doable for a wide range of ages. When I requested the first grade DVD I was worried that it would be too babyish for my 3rd grader and too difficult for my Kindergartener, but that was totally NOT the case! Chipette enjoyed the lessons just as much as Magpie. Although there is a grade level printed on the DVD case, there is only Ms. Volin on the DVD without a classroom of children. I like this because it lets you use the different grade levels with different ages and they never know it was intended for someone else.

3) It uses artistic terms and concepts. While I may be art illiterate, my kids aren’t going to be. Ms. Volin uses artistic terms and concepts in almost all of the lessons and she is able to explain them in a clear and concise way that makes it simple for her target age range to understand. Even I have learned a lot!

4) It’s fun. Home Art Studio art projects are perfect for my kids because they are fun projects, and they actually turn out the way they should. Usually my kids get frustrated if their work doesn’t look like the picture in the book or like the teacher’s, but as we’ve worked through Home Art Studio First Grade, the results have been similar to Ms. Volin’s. They beg me to do art and, honestly, it’s hard to say no when it’s this easy and fun!

You can also purchase packages that include all of the art supplies you would need for each level to make teaching art even easier!


Check out the other bloggers who are reviewing and sharing the things that bring beauty to their homeschools:

44 Awesome Free Resources to Study Art and Music! by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Finding Beauty with Classical Composers Monthly by Kristi K. @ The Potter’s Hand Academy

Art and Music Appreciation Resource Lists by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses

Easy Guided Drawing: Benefits and Resources by Tauna @ Proverbial Homemaker

A Peek into our Homeschool: Seeking Beauty by Brittney @ Mom's Heart

All Things Lovely by Michele P @Family, Faith and Fridays

Virtual Curriculum Fair: the Arts by Jennifer @ a glimpse of our life

You Gotta Have Art! by Lisa@GoldenGrasses

Classical Crochet... Or Something Like That by Laura @ Four Little Penguins

Art Curriculum For Homeschoolers by LynnP @ Ladybug Chronicles

The Arts: Creating and Appreciating Beauty by Leah@As We Walk Along the Road

Our Curriculum Choices 2014 ~ The Arts & PDHPE by Renata @ Sunnyside Farm Fun

{Virtual Curriculum Fair 2014} Seeking Beauty: The Arts in Our Classical Homeschool by Sharra @ The Homeschool Marm

Learning Crafts For Kids & Adults by Kim @ Homestead Acres

Finding Time for Beauty in Homeschooling Including Fine Arts by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World

Arts & the Extras ~ These Are Some of Our Favorite Things by HillaryM @ Our Homeschool Studio


Home Art Studio makes things a little more beautiful in the tree house,



My Homeschool Writing Scope and Sequence

Due to a recent Google+ hangout about writing from the iHomeschool Network and a super long thread about writing on the Well-Trained Mind Forums, I was inspired to make a rough scope and sequence for writing instruction in grades 1-8. I’m sharing it because I want to encourage you to think about doing something similar. It’s a very basic view of where I want my children to be as writers entering high school. It has made me more deliberate and focused with our writing instruction time during the school day.

Homeschool Writing Scope and Sequence
1st Grade:

  • Copy work (focusing on mechanics): Learn great sentence construction by copying great sentences.
  • Narrations: Tell me everything you can remember from what we just read. I will write it down.
2nd Grade:
  • Copy work: Begin copying multiple sentences at one time.
  • Narrations: Tell me everything you can remember from what we just read. I will write down a few sentences, and then you will copy it.
3rd Grade: 
  • Beginning summarizations: Instead of telling everything you remember focus on the main points or plot. 
  • Narrations: Begin writing your own. 
  • Teach and practice paragraph construction: Teach the basic paragraph construction of main idea with supporting sentences, and write one paragraph every couple of weeks on a topic or book.
  • Focus on writing strong sentences: This is the theme of the year. Every sentence should include strong word choice and vocabulary. At the beginning of the year this will be modeled through writing workshops with me. By the end of the year, it should be done independently. Strong sentences should be reflected in the paragraph that is written every two weeks.
4th grade: 
  • Written narrations and summaries: All narrations and summaries are done independently now at the rate of about two-three a week. 
  • Basic three paragraph compositions: Basically a report or essay without introductory or concluding paragraphs. Be sure and keep the strong sentences from last year. Write one composition every couple of weeks. Start out slowly with one paragraph and moving up to three by the end of the year.
  • Focus on writing strong paragraphs: This is the theme of the year. Focus on transition sentences between paragraphs and more advanced paragraph construction.
  • Focus on descriptive writing: Most of the compositions written this year will fall into this category.
5th grade:
  • Written narrations and summaries: About 3-4 a week.
  • Basic five paragraph compositions:  Adding in the introductions and conclusions to the three paragraph from the year before. Write one composition about every two weeks.
  • Focus on strong introductions/conclusions: This is the theme of the year. Learning how to hook the reader into your work and write a strong conclusion.
  • Focus on persuasive writing: Learning how to write persuasively and continuing descriptive writing from last year.
6th grade:
  • Written narrations and summaries: About 4-5 a week. 
  • More advanced compositions of varying lengths: Average about one every six weeks.
  • Focus on supporting quotes: This is the theme of the year. Finding and citing quotations and using quotations to make your writing more powerful.
  • Focus on comparison and contrast writing: Learn how to compare and contrast. Continue with descriptive and persuasive writing as well.
7th grade:
  • Written narrations and summaries: Five a week.
  • Compositions from each type of writing:  Practice writing descriptive, persuasive and compare and contrast compositions. Write 3-4 during the school year from a list of literature, history,and/or science topics. These should be in-depth and  researched with quotations where useful. 
  • Focus on refining all elements: This is the theme of the year. Focus on bring everything together: sentences, paragraphs, introductions and conclusions, and quotations.
8th grade: 
  • Written narrations and summaries: Five a week
  • Compositions from each type of writing: Practice writing descriptive, persuasive and compare and contrast compositions. Write 5-6 during the school year from a list of literature, history,and/or science topics. These should be in-depth and  researched with quotations where useful.
  • Focus on refining all elements: This is the theme of the year. Focus on bring everything together: sentences, paragraphs, introductions and conclusions, and quotations.

A few caveats about my list:

1. This list is compiled with Chipette in mind. I don’t even know if it will work with Magpie and Monkey. Your scope and sequence for your family or child should look different than mine.
2. I adhere to a mixture of Charlotte Mason and classical methodologies when it comes to writing philosophy. For that reason you won’t see a lot of writing instruction in the lower elementary grades.
3. I purposefully don’t list curriculum in my scope and sequence. This is for two reasons: new products hit the market every day and different kids might need different things. I do have ideas of what I want to use for each year, but I don’t hammer them in stone.

Feel free to use my ideas as a jumping off point to create your own. And I highly encourage you to watch the iHomeschool Network’s Google + Hangout about writing instruction in your homeschool. So much good information is there.

Proving the pen is mightier than the sword in the tree house,



Virtual Curriculum Fair 2014: Basic Instincts

Flash cards. Definitely not.

Timed math drills. Tear inducing.

Free math programs. Absolutely no way.

Free trials. So-so.

I was having a horrific time trying to figure out a way to drill math facts into Chipette’s brain. Everything that I tried met with resistance. I had pretty much tried everything I could think of to make math facts fun (I know, oxymoron), but nothing was working. I decided that maybe knowing your math facts with instant recall was too much for her until…..


Yes, that is me shouting from the rooftops about this program. It finally, finally has made math facts fun enough for Chipette to be motivated to learn them.

Reflex Math Review

The setup is pretty simple. The child takes a placement test on their math facts the first day, then Coach Penny begins working with them on memorizing the ones they don’t know. Before the game part of the program can be played, Coach Penny teaches them the fact families for one or two facts that they have not mastered. That’s right! This program not only drills, but also teaches the facts as well!

After they spend about 5 minutes learning and completing picture puzzles with these new facts, they move on to the next part of the program: The Island. On the island, the different games are located. At first only one game is unlocked, but every day that they play adds up until they can unlock more games on the island. Not only are games unlocked, but they also earn tokens to spend in the store on the island customizing their game avatar’s clothing, hair, accessories, etc. Obviously this is Chipette’s motivation for learning the facts; she wants tokens to spend to make her avatar look good!

I never thought I would see the day, but Chipette actually begs to play Reflex Math. The games are a lot of fun, and the best part is that she is learning her facts. As the teacher for Chipette’s “class”, I get a weekly progress report of how she’s doing, and at any time, I can log into the teacher account to see which facts she still needs to work on. I can also choose which math operation I want her to work with, addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division.

I know that there are a lot of free options out there (we tried them ALL!), but for only $35 a year, Reflex Math has been worth EVERY penny. If you’re interested in trying it out, they do offer a two week free trial.


Check out the other people participating in the Virtual Curriculum Fair:

Our {almost} FREE 2nd and 4th Grade Math Program by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Supercharged Science's Mathemagic  by Kristi K. @ The Potter’s Hand Academy

Math & Logic Resources by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses

How We Tackle Middle School Math, Logic & Science by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

 A Peek into our Homeschool: Math & Logic by Brittney @ Mom's Heart

Math and Logic: Patterns and Reasoning by Leah@As We Walk Along the Road

2014 Virtual Curriculum Fair: Discovering Patterns: Mathematics, Logic, and Science by Stacie @Super Mommy To The Rescue

Virtual Curriculum Fair: The World of Patterns and Logic by Joelle

Discovering Science & Math w/ Apologia & Saxon  by LynnP @ Ladybug Chronicles

Make Math Fun: Your Kids Will Thank You by Tauna @ Proverbial Homemaker

Our Curriculum Choices 2014 ~ Mathematics by Renata @ Sunnyside Farm Fun

My Favorite Math For Boys by Monique @ Living Life and Learning

Discovering Patterns: Mathematics, Logic, and Science in our Classical Homeschool by Sharra @ The Homeschool Marm

Homeschool Math Choices for a Future Scientist or Computer Programmer by Amy @ Eclectic Homeschooling

Math--Our Four Letter Word by Nicole @ Schooling in the Sun

If I Knew Then What I Know Now by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset

Godly Patterns in Homeschooling by LisaN@Golden- Grasses

Math and Science anyone? by Michele@ Family, Faith and Fridays

My 7 Favourite Math Resources by Kim @ Homestead Acres

Basic Instincts by Chelli @ The Planted Trees

Getting My Teens Ready for Algebra by Debra @Footprints in the Butter

Math We Love by Laura @ Four Little Penguins

2014 Virtual Curriculum Fair ~ Math & Science by Jennifer @ a glimpse of our life

Our Take on Math, the Elementary Years - Charlotte Mason-style by HillaryM @ Our Homeschool Studio

Tackling Math and Science from Multiple Angles by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World

Math fact recall has become one of our basic instincts in the tree house,



Workbox Remix

This post contains affiliate links. See full disclosure policy here.

I’m not sure if it is the fact I’m getting older or trying to streamline things a little more in the new year, but I decided that our current method of workbox system (described in this post) needed an update. The workbox system kept each of my daughter’s individual subjects orderly on their school bins, while I kept our daily routine as a printout in my binder. I kept having to pull out the sheet to remind myself what in the world we were supposed to be doing next and, basically, I had enough. Surely I could figure out some way to put up our daily routine and blend it with the workbox system that has worked so well for us.


What’s Great About My Remix

1. It is visible to everyone. Now we all know where we are in our daily routine (I do routines, not schedules!). In fact, I clip a clothespin where we are on our chart so that a quick glance tells all of us what we have left in our day.

2. It is durable. I didn’t want something that I would have to rewrite or make again every year. I purposefully laminated the pretty paper pieces so that they would be durable for years to come.

3. It is adjustable. One thing it took me about one month to learn in homeschooling is that schedules and routines are made to be destroyed. If I was going to design a new way to keep track of our day while combining our workbox system I wanted it to be able to adjust when I needed it to without having to redo everything. For that reason I didn’t make the categories permanently affixed to the laminated backgrounds. I printed them out and taped them to the chart. All I have to do is simply peel them off if I decide I need to make a change or drop a subject.

4. It flows with our week. This school year the subjects that Chipette and Magpie do together are different on different days of the week. They have science on Tuesday and Thursday and history on Monday and Wednesday. Whatever I designed needed to be able to flow with how we did our week. Thank you binder clips! When I need to adjust our together subjects for a different day of the week, I unhook the binder clips and flip that piece around, then reattach it. On the back is the alternate day’s schedule.

5. It kept the visual, compact workbox system that’s been working for so long. Instead of putting our workbox chart on their school bins, the chart has been dissected and affixed to our daily routine chart. This has an unexpected benefit of keeping Monkey’s little hands off of it since it hangs high enough on the wall that he can’t reach it.


What I Used to Remix

This project was really easy. I used some pretty tree-themed scrapbook paper that I found in the craft closet. I cut it into six 10 inch by 4 inch pieces. I was able to get three of them out of one piece of 12x12 scrapbook paper. Next I laminated them all and affixed Velcro circles to two of the pieces for the new workbox grids. I punched holes in the top and bottom of each piece. Using 12 circle binder clips, I attached all of the laminated pieces together. The last thing was to print out the order of our day and tape those to the empty pieces. I hung it on the wall using these hooks so it wouldn’t damage the paint.

My completed daily routine/workbox hybrid chart:


No more hearing myself say, “What are we supposed to be doing next?” in the tree house,



Virtual Curriculum Fair 2014: My Dream Writing Program

I love to write. In fact I wanted to major in writing when I was in college, but I settled for taking a few writing classes as electives. However my love for writing has not helped me to teach writing to Chipette. For first and second grade we used Writing With Ease. I really liked the program and felt that it gave a good base for narrating and summarizing. Once third grade rolled around I knew that Chipette needed more than just copy work, dictation, and summaries. I had heard so many rave reviews of Institute for Excellence in Writing’s programs that I bought Student Writing Intensive-A and we jumped in. Initially the program was great. Chipette enjoyed Mr. Pudewa’s teaching style, and I felt that the key word outlines were beneficial, but then it started to fall flat. At first I thought it was just me. It seemed a little formulaic and repetitive, but if Chipette was learning, I didn’t mind. Then one day about half way through the program she came to me and asked if we could do something else. At that point I realized that it wasn’t just me; she was feeling the same way.

Now I didn’t know what to do. I wanted something that still had narrations and summations, definitely some copy work, but was a little more creative for Chipette who has a vocabulary and imagination that won’t quit. Plus throw in something that helps them learn how to write using strong parts of speech like Institute for Excellence in Writing does. Not a huge wish list, huh? Winking smile 

We dropped Student Writing Intensive-A and were continuing with Writing with Ease 3 since I didn’t know what else to do, when I heard about a new writing program that was on the market from Classical Academic Press called Writing and Rhetoric. I looked at the generous three week sample and I was sold. I’ve never been so rash with my homeschool budget, but I knew that this was what fit my wish list from above so I preordered it before it was even released. Meanwhile, I printed out the three week sample and had Chipette start working through the program. It didn’t take long before she was in agreement with me. It was really fun and she was learning a lot about what makes a good writer and good writing.

Writing and Rhetoric

Things I love about Writing and Rhetoric:

Super Easy to Teach. Everything is laid out clearly in the teacher’s manual.

Sentence Play Section. In my opinion this is where the learning how to be a good writer takes place. A sample sentence is given and students are instructed to change out different parts of speech for stronger synonyms of the original word or to change word order and phrase placement to see which is a better choice.

Elocution. I didn’t even know that this was a focus in the books when I ordered them, but I am SO grateful that it is included. Chipette is a great reader, but when she reads orally she tends to rush and skip words. All of the practice with oral readings and the elocution instruction in the book are helping her with this a lot!

Memory Work. Another pleasant surprise from this program is the passages that are included to be memorized. In the Fable book students are expected to memorize a fable, two poems, and their own story summary. Some of the memorization was really long for Chipette, but we took our time and eventually she got it.

Discussion Prompts. I will be eternally grateful to Writing and Rhetoric for helping me know how to talk to Chipette about writing. Early on in the Fable book she had to compare her own writing to a sample in the book and determine which was better written and why. She immediately noticed that the sample in the book was superior to hers so we began discussing why. I immediately noticed a change in her writing on the next exercise. Our discussion had helped her understand what she needed to improve and do so!

Things Chipette Loves About Writing and Rhetoric:

Recording her narrations and summaries. I don’t know why I had never thought of this before, but she ADORES taking the iPod and recording herself reading her own work. I then download it to the computer and we play it later that night for the entire family. This has also made her more aware of making sure her elocution is clear and controlled.

Amplifications and Rewrites. I told you that Chipette has imagination in spades….well this is where she gets to shine. Writing and Rhetoric lets her expand on classic tales and completely rewrite them with new characters, but the same basic plot. She will spend a long time getting her story just write with no pressuring from me.

If you are interested in learning more about Classical Academic Press’ Writing and Rhetoric program please check out their website. It explains more about the program and offers that fabulous three-week sample so you can see if this would work for your 3rd or 4th grade student.

Writing and Rhetoric: Fable

Also be sure and check out the other curriculum being reviewed and discussed by these other bloggers in the Virtual Curriculum Fair.


Language Arts {Virtual Curriculum Fair} by Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses

A Classical Take on 6th Grade Language Arts by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

The Power in a Word by Michele@ Family, Faith and Fridays

The Latin Road to English Grammar Volume 1 by Kristi K. @ The Potter's Hand Academy

Starting a Foreign Language in Elementary School by Amy @ Eclectic Homeschooling

These are the words we say by Christa @ Fairfield Corner Academy

A Peek into our Homeschool: Language Arts by Brittney @ Mom's Heart

Our Curriculum Choices 2014 ~ English by Renata~Sunnyside Farm Fun

Virtual Curriculum Fair: A World of Words by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

It Starts with the Alphabet by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset

Playing w/ Words-Charlotte Mason Style by Lynn P @ Ladybug Chronicles

2014 Virtual Curriculum Fair ~ Playing with Words: the Language Arts by Jennifer @ a glimpse of our life

Our PreK-1st Grade Language Arts Mix by Tauna @ Proverbial Homemaker

Fun (or Not) With Spelling by Nicole @ Schooling in the Sun

Word Nerd Love by Lisa N@Golden Grasses

Our Favourite Resources For Teaching Elementary Language Arts by Kim @ Homestead Acres

Unconventional Reading Lessons While Homeschooling by Lori@My Journeys Through Life

My Favorite Writing Curriculum for our Boys by Monique @Living Life and Learning

Virtual Curriculum Fair: Playing With Words - Language Arts  by Stacie @Super Mommy To The Rescue

Fun With the Language Arts by Mary @ Winecup Christian Homeschool

Our Grammar Path by Laura @ Four Little Penguins

Virtual Curriculum Fair !!! by Jessica @ Modest Mama

Creating a High School English Course (or two) by Debra @Footprints in the Butter

Language Arts in Our Homeschool This Year by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World

Writing and Rhetoric reigns supreme in the tree house,