Category Archives: homeschooling

Year 4: The “Plots and Plans”

kids at the pond in our back yard

I do love the hopefulness of a brand new school year! I’ve been reading in earnest, boning up on the history topics we’re planning to cover this year. We’ve decided to split Tapestry Year 2 into two years. There’s just so much to cover, and it’s such an interesting period. We rushed through the first time. I felt breathless by the time we got to the revolutions!

Here are some of the resources I’m intending to use:


Still gathering and planning for Sarah, 4th grade.


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Filed under Curriculum, homeschooling

Snapshots From Our First Year of Homeschooling

Our family albums can be viewed in a slideshow format here: family favorites, our homeschool highlights, and some beauty shots of our gorgeous kids. Note to the grandparents, aunts, and uncles: You can order prints from the same site. (The site is better served using the Explorer browser.) Enjoy!

(I made this picture here — fun toys!)

Pretty as a picture

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“Literature is dangerous…

On the porch with Dr. Seuss

— except when taken in large doses.”

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Been Busy

I’ve neglected my blog terribly. Blame it on my woeful time management skills. We’ve just about made it through the winter. Everyone said February would be the toughest time. Ditto for January. We really lightened up our daily schedule, but I think we’re slowly getting back on track. Both kids are reading all the time. I’d guess they average anywhere from 3-6 hours a day in reading alone, especially on those days when they’ve used up their 2-hours per week tv allotment. They’re still happy to let me guide their choices, so I’m thrilled to see them reading so many classics. Caleb likes realistic books with protagonists near his age or older (“No magic or wizards, or fairy- tale stuff, Mom. I want stuff than can happen.” Outwardly, I just shrug, “OK,” but inwardly I’m saying “Yay!”). Recently he’s read Bud, Not Buddy, Understood Betsy, and The Wheel on the School. If He really likes a novel, he’ll shut himself in his room and finish it in two days (like someone else I used to know). Today’s Saturday, so he picked up The Boy Who Spoke Dog this morning and finished it by lunchtime. Sarah’s reading about 5-10 books a day from the easy reader section of the library. Frances, Olivia, and Madeline are big favorites, but she’ll read anything I put in the library book crate. It’s been a joy to rediscover long forgotten books of my own early years. She still shies away from chapter books, though she’s read a few.  My thrill has been reading the William Steig books.  I think I’m much more taken with them than I was as a child.  They’re wonderful.  Sarah’s reading and re-reading them several times.  I really like Yellow and Pink.

Caleb won his little spelling bee contest for the third graders, thanks to the relaxed rules that allowed him to get second chance if he misspelled a word the first time. It’s sponsored by HEART. I was proud because of all the practice time he put into preparing for the bee.

Caleb and Sarah have each progressed to the next year’s level in math, but it’s pretty challenging for them. Sarah’s still an emerging reader, and some of the word problems are difficult for her. Caleb’s enjoying it for the most part. Daddy’s a pretty patient and thorough teacher.
We’ve been to the homeschool skating field trips three times now, and the kids are having a ball learning to skate, getting better each time. They’ve each made a new friend in addition to Sam and Rachel, their best buds. We’ve gone on a few other field trips as well, but I’ve really had to push myself to get out there. I’m such a hermit by nature.

One fun surprise is how much the kids love their Latin lessons! We’re using “English From the Roots Up” and it’s really an inspired technique. The kids learn one root a week as well as 5-8 derivations. It’s a bit of a guessing game: We learned photos means light, and tropos means turn, then I asked the kids what a phototropic plant is, and they discussed the possibilities before figuring out that it’s a plant that turns its leaves toward light. The other day Caleb was on the computer and read the word “biography”, recognizing graph in the middle. He called me over and we discussed how bio means life, and graph means to write, etc. It’s so much fun to watch them see how the puzzle pieces fit together. Language is fun.

Caleb woke up the other night very upset and sad. He misses his friends from school, so I’m going to make a more concerted effort to have friends over. Two boys came over for a few hours yesterday, and it was great to see him let loose ( a little too loose at times, but he is just 9). I hadn’t heard that kind of wild laughter in some time. They were on the trampoline for an hour, and I thought they would wake the dead.

Sarah’s taking piano lessons ( thankfully we finally have a keyboard with a connection for headphones!) and she’s pretty good about practicing. Both kids are about to begin baseball again. We are all greatly anticipating spring.

There’s a lot more, of course, but I’m doing good just to get anything in my poor little blog. Happy homeschooling, y’all!

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Filed under Classical Education, homeschooling

Ancient Civilizations: Chinese, Anyone? I Don’t Mayan If I Do!

Sorry. Couldn’t resist. Hey, I spend my days with a six and a nine-year-old, OK?

It’s been a busy three weeks as we continue our whirlwind tour of ancient civilizations. The curriculum called for us to spend a week on China, but we were enjoying it so much we stretched it out to two. The history of ancient China was fascinating. We read many books about the history and geography, the Great Wall and how it came to be (a rather brutal back story), customs, literature, inventions and achievements, and religions.

I was hesitant to study Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism with the kids. In the end, Caleb read about these, but I decided Sarah should wait. We’ll revisit this unit when she’s older. We also read about missionaries who went to China. Together we read Flight of the Fugitives, a children’s book about Gladys Aylward. I’d planned on reading a chapter a day, but it was such an exciting page-turner, the kids begged me to keep reading. We finished in two days, and we all wanted to know more. We have been reading from a terrific book calledHero Tales, stories about Christian heroes, many of whom have gone into the nations we’re studying in order to be missionaries. I can’t get over the kids’ response to these. They have shown such tender hearts (and believe me, there are times when I wonder) and they are fascinated. They have tons of questions and some pretty interesting ideas themselves. We also watched the movie Inn of the Sixth Happiness based on the stories about Gladys Aylward. It’s an old technicolor picture starring Ingrid Bergman. We thought they did a great job, but the book was better, of course.

We took one Monday off to see Rock City with Tim’s whole family. With our two and David’s six kids, we qualified for the home schooling discount! It was a beautiful day, and the leaves were at their most gorgeous. We got some great family photos:

The Bratchers at Rock City Nov 2007

We just finished up a week on Mesoamerica, mostly the Mayan culture (the Aztec history is an even more violent one – we’ll save that for later). Caleb was assigned two chapters a day from the bookThe Corn Grows Ripe, a fictional tale set in Mayan times, but he read the whole thing in a few hours. I’ve had to make sure I always have additional reading assignments for him. From our wonderful local library (and our second home) I found a neat video for kids about the Mayans. Caleb also made a board game based on one he read about in Step Into Aztec and Maya Worlds. The Mayan unit was fun, but it wasn’t the crowd-pleaser China was!


Caleb has finished with his cursive book and now writes almost exclusively in cursive. He has beautiful handwriting for a third grader, though his printing is a bit rough. I need to get him going on a typing program. Sarah Mae is still working through the Italics Method book and Explode the Code (she’s getting a little bored with it, but it’s working). I’ve begun assigning daily journal entries. I expected to face some resistance, but I was taken aback by how much they love these! They want to do this before anything else, and they prefer it when I give them a topic. I was going to alternate between free writing and dictation, but Tim thinks we should just let them write freely. Caleb likes for me to correct his mistakes, but I’m letting Sarah just write as she likes. Her spelling is pretty creative, but the point is communication. The goal is to allow her to express her thoughts without worrying if it’s “right”. Besides, I think this will provide me with potential spelling lists for both of them for months to come!

Sarah loves “Einglish”

Translation: “I like English. I like it because it has stories. What Story? This story.”

I’m already stumbling when they ask me for help with their math assignments! Daddy has them working with geometry concepts, and as first and third graders they are already learning about things I’ve never studied or have forgotten. Thankfully, Tim is happy to take math and science over completely!

Tim also finished Genesis with them and they have begun Exodus. He reads a chapter a day with them skipping some now and then, though when I have a corresponding history assignment, I’ll jump ahead with stories from Catherine Vos’ A Children’s Story Bible ( a treasure).

I brought home a book of Aesop’s Fables (great art and well written) from the library with a plan to read a few to Sarah, but Caleb loved them so much he read the whole thing to Sarah on his own. I was thrilled, and Sarah was so happy that Caleb actually wanted to read to her. When he does it of his own volition, he’s terrific, using a lot a variation in his pitch and tone, making up voices for characters. When  I make him read to her, he does the whole thing in a speedy monotone, which frustrates his sister (and his mom) to no end.

Other things we’ve worked on in no particular order: prepositions, diagramming direct objects and predicate nouns/adjectives, The Kite Rider, Chinese dragons, Robert Frost’s A Time to Talk, Mother Teresa, lapbooks, Pooh Corner, the months of the year and a “winter booklet”, practicing for Caleb’s first spelling bee which is coming up soon, and many Dr. Seuss books, which I’m thrilled to say Sarah is reading with greater fluency — and if I ever start to doubt my merits as a mother, I just remind myself how many times I have listened to “Go Dogs. Go!” and acted surprised by the ending (“A dog PARTY?!”)

I have to say, I love this. I love watching my kids change right before my eyes. They constantly surprise me. I surprise myself sometimes. Even the tough days generally lead us to something interesting. When I get with my other friends who home school, they know exactly what I mean. It’s so much more fun than I thought it would be.

Next stop: Ancient Greece! Olympics! Mythology! Gladiators! (Oh wait, I think that last one’s Rome. Guess I’ve got some reading to do.)

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Ancient Egypt’s Been a Blast!

Sarah’s Egypt Lap Book

We’ve spent the last few weeks learning SO much about the first great civilization. Want to know how they made mummies? We can tell you all the gory details. The kids had fun with the lap books and salt maps. We’ve seen how it all relates back to the Bible, especially imagining Moses’ life in Egypt. Pyramids, pharaohs , the Nile, deserts, archeology– whew! It’s been a great way to get the kids off to a happy start. Ancient Egypt is a very kid friendly mini-unit with lots of strange facts and hands-on projects.

Tim’s really doing great with the math and science. He’s quickly learning what they need and tailoring the lessons and homework to fit each kid. For science he’s focusing on both big ideas (the universe, Newton’s laws) and smaller ones (How does an air conditioner work? What are the parts of a door? Which pipes are used in plumbing?). He is also taking them through the Old Testament, which fits nicely with our history units. I know it’s a cliche, but kids really are sponges. He’s also teaching Caleb how to do some basic computer programming using Python. Caleb says he’s working on a program to turn English words into Pig Latin!

We are reading A LOT! I was afraid all of the assigned work would dampen his passion for reading, but he sets his alarm to get up early to read his “just for fun” books (Lemony Snicket has replaced the Hardy Boys for now). At lunch we’ve been listening to a terrific recording of Peter Pan. Jim Dale is the best narrator!

Caleb’s not so crazy about cursive, but he’s getting it. Sarah is really improving in her penmanship. She LOVES her grammar lessons. I am really impressed with Jessie Wise’s The Well-Trained Mind grammar books. I’ll probably devote a whole entry to those in the future. Caleb’s still not too enthused, but I’ll keep going for a while and keep looking for ways to supplement.

Daddy covers P.E. as well. They practice a little ball most days, and both kids are on teams this season again.

I’m still hoping to fit Latin and more fine arts in to our schedule, but not yet. We’re still getting used to the whole thing. I’m tired and Tim’s trying to figure out how to keep his work schedule compatible with homeschooling. I’m still trying to figure out how to balance it all. I’m think we might just take every fourth or fifth week off just to get some things done! I had plans for re-doing the living room, but right now I’m just trying to catch my breath. I’m also doing a lousy job documenting it all.

The bottom line is this — it’s already clear to me that this is right for our family. I love seeing my kids like this. They love all of the time they get to spend with us. A messy house is not much of a sacrifice for drawing us closer.

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Filed under homeschooling, Starting Out

Diving In the Deep End


On homeschooling: We’re beginning a whole new way of life in our home by taking back all of the responsibility of raising and educating our two children. My daughter just finished kindergarten, and my son the second grade. Though we had them in a private Christian school, I have been thinking and praying and reading about it for years, and I’ve finally realized there’s no such thing as the “perfect” time, as the Scriptures reminded me recently:

Whoever watches the wind will not plant

whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. ECC 11: 4

It’s time to go for it; lock, stock, and barrel.


Filed under homeschooling, Starting Out