Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Homeschool: Sharing "What's Mine"

Mom, sharing what she loves!

First, and foremost, our homeschool does not look like public school.


Why not?

Because we live there, we pray there, we play there, we LOVE there. Our focus is on the "Home" part of the word, not the "School" part.

Our home is a Home of Learning.

The picture above is a photo one of my kids took during our school time. I was busy sharing "what's mine."

What's "what's mine?"

"What's mine" is a term my friend and author (who happens to also be a homeschooling mom), Rachel DeMille, uses to explain what she teaches to her children. Basically, "what's mine" includes the things I, as their mother, want them to know and understand.

Every few months, I sit down and I plan what I want to present to my children. I use a four year rotation as a personal preference, just because I know that if I don't plan, I forget what I want to share. It's just how my brain works, so I've learned to accept and embrace who I am and how I function.

(I also adore making spreadsheets. It's a disease, really, but thankfully it's been a useful one...)

Every day, my kids clean, cook, study the Gospel, do math exercises and read. Those are the basics around here. Then during our "school time," I share the other things I want them to learn.

  • Mondays we clean the house and I have Mentor Meetings with our scholar kids (12 and older). 
  • Tuesdays we go to our Commonweralth School classes (see more about that here:
  • Wednesdays we study history together.
  • Thursdays we learn about music. (Composers and music theory lessons)
  • Friday is our science day.

Four Year Plan

Because there are so many things to learn under each general subject, I put them on a four year rotation to be more organized. Here's what that looks like:

Year One
  • Gospel: Old Testament & Pearl of Great Price; 
  • History: Ancient
  • Science: Chemistry

Year Two
  • Gospel: New Testament
  • History: Modern World
  • Science: Biology

Year Three
  • Gospel: Book of Mormon
  • History: Geography
  • Science: Physics

Year Four
  • Gospel: Doctrine & Covenants/Church History
  • History: United States
  • Science: Astronomy & Earth Science
We are currently on Year Four.

Learning Resources

Obviously, we have a variety of ages and levels in our family. But we use materials that all can understand, and that are more hands-on and fun. Then the older kids can go in more depth on their own-- which they do.   A great resource for more in-depth, advanced learning that we frequently use is Khan Academy. (Our scholars do more advanced math there, as well.)

We also have a MULTITUDE of books the kids can read, too-- especially for history, which I think is one of the most important subjects anyone can know! 

Here's one of the great resources we are using for our U.S. History studies this year:

Found at Deseret Book

For Science, we are using this awesome book:

Found at Latter-Day Family Resources

For our music study, we read about a composer, listen to his music, and then we learn a little about music theory. My favorite composer book is this one:

Also from LDFR

We also read aloud as a family-- one of the most important things we do for our learning AND our family culture. Right now, we are reading this:

From Deseret Book

(And it's AWESOME!!!)

How much time?

Our "school time" is not very long-- about an hour, sometimes an hour and a half. Then the big kids go off and study on their own, and the little ones play. The middle ones are always working on some project or another. Those projects are usually hands-on, and often messy, but they have a lot of fun learning!

A lot of time is also spent cleaning, organizing, cooking, and fixing things. I believe that ALL of life is learning, and the practical life skills we all need are a major focus of "what's mine." 


I hope this little glimpse into our homeschool day might help others see that homeschool does not need to look like public school. I always try to remember that we are running a HOME, first and foremost. The rest happens organically.

I am so grateful for the freedom to teach my children the things that Heavenly Father wants me to teach them! I could not do any of it without Divine Inspiration. So, in reality, when I'm teaching "what's mine," I'm also teaching "what's His."

Love, Mama Rachel

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Book Review: "The Inventor's Secret"

I was so grateful to get a chance to pre-read this great book-- the first in a series of family-friendly adventures. It came out on March 5th, and I'm so excited to share my review with all my readers!

The story is about twins Abby and Derick, grandchildren of famous inventor, who are entering an exclusive, new school called "Cragbridge Hall." The innovative lessons at the school immerse the students in learning in amazing ways! While Derick is confident and ready for any challenge, Abby deals with feeling inadequate and unworthy to attend the exciting, advanced school named after her grandfather.

As the students settle in to their new surroundings, tragedy strikes and the twins have to face their dangerous, new challenges with courage-- something that seems easy for Derick, but daunting for Abby. The twins need help, but don't know who to trust. Who will help them face this dangerous struggle?

I really love that the book is written for a younger audience! The danger the characters found themselves in was real, but not too graphic or frightening for children. Even though things were toned down for the younger readers, it was still exciting and engaging enough for adults and teens. This is a BIG plus for me, as we like to read books like this out loud as a family, and I really appreciate not needing to "edit" out the really scary stuff while I read!

The author is great at engaging EVERYONE in my family-- and we have listeners from adult down to toddlers. His use of humorous dialogue kept us laughing out loud, and the fascinating inventions used in the school were easy to picture and marvel at. Now we all want to learn history in 3-D!

I also really enjoyed and appreciated the author's use of great people and events thoughout history. There were several historical personalities and events we were completely unaware of-- and this book made us all curious to find out more about them! (This homeschooling mom LOVES books that do that!) We found ourselves almost as immersed in history as the students of Cragbridge Hall. It was awesome!

My favorite part of the book is how we were able to relate to the character of Abby. She embodies human feelings of inadequacy so well! And yet, she finds that her love for others gives her the strength to do extraordinary things. This was a great lesson for myself, personally, and for my children, as well.

We love this book at our house! It is a great adventure story that kept us all engaged and excited to read. It also teaches some great lessons and made us thirst for more knowledge about great people and places. This mama gives it five stars and two big "thumbs up." I know my readers will love it as much as my family did. We look forward to the next book in the series!

{Disclaimer: I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book free in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions presented in this post are my very own. :-) }

Love, Mama Rachel

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Day of Inspiration

Return of Captive Israel, by Minerva Teichert, 1945, oil on canvas, 53 1/2 x 90 inches.
Courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Today was a day of constant inspiration! :-) This morning, I got to sit in on a wonderful class by our homeschool group, on the subject of "Perseverence" with a book discussion on "The Lonesome Gods" by L'Amour. The class was taught by a talented fourteen year old young man, and I learned some things I really needed to hear! 

Later this afternoon, I got to hear four VERY talented and well-trained kids from 12 on down play gorgeous, difficult classical piano pieces. I was so impressed! And I'm thankful for the opportunity and example!

Then this evening, listened to a dear friend give a presentation on the life and works of her grandmother, artist Minerva Teichert. What a talent and what a life devoted to her family and her faith! 

Lately I've been pondering the importance of inspiration. I want my home, my surroundings, and my life to be surrounded by things that truly uplift and inspire me to be a better person. I am grateful to my Heavenly Father for giving me such a beautiful day to ponder upon!

Love, Mama Rachel

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Math In Our Home

Valentine's Day crepes made by Bonny-- She used math!
Lately, I have been meaning to share more of our homeschool experiences here on my blog, but life has been really interrupting my writing time.

True confession: So has the time I've been wasting on Facebook. Bleh...

Anyway, as a way to "get back in the saddle again," I thought I'd share my response to an e-mail I received yesterday. A sweet lady in my community was asking about how we do math in our home. Her specific questions were in regards to our use of Khan Academy.

Here's my response:
I tend to only use Khan Academy with my older kids-- mostly because they have to have a Google account to sign into it, and they can't have a Google account until they're 13. I do have one child who uses my Google account to sign in, but if I have more than one child sign in that way, I can't check their progress or what they are each doing in the teacher portion. This is just for the exercises portion-- ANYONE can watch the videos, of course!

I don't like all of the videos-- I want my kids to stick with the math portion. In the other videos, Sal just teaches what public schools teach about subjects that I think need to come from a different perspective. (History and Science, for examples.) My oldest boys do like to learn about programming, and I am fine with those.

For math, we have actually started using Xtra Math for exercises, because kids can be any age to use it. And we only use it to "close the gaps" and keep track of where the kids may still be struggling. It's just for beginner-type math-- Khan Academy is better for the harder maths.

How do these programs tie in with TJEd philosophy? My goal is to keep learning fun, and to inspire my kids to love math. So they do a few exercises on Xtra Math, and we read stories about mathematicians, read some "Life of Fred", and talk through word problems, and cook, and try to help the kids see math in their lives and everything they do.

Personally, math text books give me panic attacks-- and I am not even joking about that! Saxon Math works great for many, but for me, it started me down a spiral of burn-out. Everyone is different, so I think it's important for each of us to follow our own promptings from God. :-)
I have never been a math-lover. In fact, I've been a pretty rabid math-hater for most of my life. Some of my most vivid memories of feeling overwhelmed, stressed, frustrated and worthless have to do with learning math.

(Can I get an "Amen"???)

I don't want to perpetuate a "hate of math" among my own children. I want them to see math as the integral part of life that it is! I want them to understand math principles, and not just keep them boxed into the idea that "doing math" means doing page after page of number combinations that mean nothing to them. I want them to love math and recognize it in their everyday lives.

We love learning!

I love sharing what we do with other homeschoolers! All my mistakes and fumbles over the years should be of some use to someone, I hope...

Since this blog is also for the grandparents and other family, I will end this post with another picture of some cute kids.

Ronan and Cowpoke Davy

Mama Rachel