The Wednesday Five | Vol. 13

A Quote

But I”m glad it’s not rainy today because it’s easier to be cheerful and bear up under affliction on a sunshine day…It’s all very well to read about sorrows and imagine yourself living through them heroically, but it’s not so nice when you really come to have them, is it?
-Anne Of Green Gables

Anne, she says it like it is, right?

A Book

In case you hadn’t surmised, I have added a re-read of Anne Of Green Gables to my morning routine.  I haven’t actually read the books for close to 20 years, if I’m not counting listening to them about 10 years ago.  Now that I am almost old enough to be child-Anne’s mother, I thought it would be time for a re-read.  I do find myself relating to Marilla more and more, but I still find Anne pretty delightful!

A Bit Of Nature

This tree outside our library is always the first to give us a hint of fall.  However, overall I am shocked at how many of the leaves up here are already looking yellow-ish!

A Recommendation

I highly recommend the Acorn Spice cleaner by Mrs. Meyers.  You don’t have to tell me how it’s not very effective and not very natural - I use it for the smell.  I still haven’t found another cleaner that makes me so delighted to be cleaning.  This particular scent is deliciously fall-ish.  A few times I have found myself wondering what that wonderful smell is, and then remembering that it’s my all-purpose spray!

A Moment Of Happiness

We started homeschooling this week - a soft start, so every subject except reading/math instruction.  I was showing Wyatt his history and language arts books, and explaining his work for the day.   When I told him his language arts book would replace his old reading curriculum now that he’s in 4th grade, he perked up.  “No reading?  This book is it?”  When I told him yes, he said: “Hmm.  Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’m going to like school this year!”  That’s what I like to hear!

Goodbye To Galveston - Part Three

Before we left Galveston, you know I had to try to get some family pictures on the beach!  Unfortunately, I lost a piece of my tripod, so I ended up just taking individual shots of everyone, but I think the photos still turned out beautiful.  The light was so moody and pretty.

The next day we waved goodbye to Galveston, but on the way home we checked out a few places of interest.

First, we stopped at Brazos Bend State Park.  We had tried to go there when we spent a couple days in Houston, but they wouldn't let us in without a reservation.  However, the areas I could see were beautiful, so we scheduled a stop on our way home.  It was gorgeous!  I really wish we could have spent more time there to birdwatch.  There were ponds with all this beautiful vegetation, and big moss-covered oak trees everywhere.

We decided to take the route through Waco because I was just curious to see where the Magnolia setup was.  Unfortunately we missed it's re-opening by a mere two days, but it was interesting to at least drive past.  I'm not a huge Gaines-fangirl like a lot of people I know, but I can see how it would be a neat place to visit.

We also made stops at all the historical markers on the way home (including a small, very interesting cemetery), and we had some Texas barbecue for dinner!

The next day we took another slight detour and drove through the Oklahoma panhandle.  Remember, I was reading The Worst Hard Time, and I really wanted to see the heart of the dustbowl.  It was certainly dusty.  We also stopped in a city that was mentioned in the book, one that I pictured being much bigger, and I was surprised at how small it still was.  It was really interesting to have a book I was reading come to life like that.  Thankfully no dusters blew through.

We also made a stop at John Martin State Park and Reservoir, for more impromptu birdwatching.  It was funny, because the rangers told us that one of the birds we saw in Texas (I want to say the neotropic cormorant?) happened to be there, which would be really rare for Colorado...but we had already seen it in Texas, ha!

That is pretty much everything interesting that we saw on our trip!  The rest was just alot of driving, and trying to read in the car, and fast food, mixed with gratitude to be heading home.

(A peek at our beach photos.)

(Isn't the light just beautiful here?)

(Then our stop at Brazos Bend State Park!)

(These were from another gorgeous area of Brazos Bend.  Seriously, everywhere we looked was so pretty!)

(Driving to the hotel.  Eating our barbecue.)

(The next day in the Oklahoma panhandle!  Told you.  Dusty.)

(John Martin State Park.  Last interesting stop before we booked it home.)

Did anyone else take a road trip this year?  Where to?  It seems that it's the thing to do in 2020!

Narrowing It Down - Tips For Picking Curriculum

So let’s say you’ve decided to homeschool in the upcoming school year, and you have started looking into curriculum.  How do you not get overwhelmed with the endless curriculum options out there?  Because seriously guys, there is so much.  I’ve heard from so many new homeschool moms that all the different curricula is overwhelming.  How do you start to narrow it down, how do you figure out what will work for you family?  I have a few thoughts and tips on where to start.

Figure Out Your Homeschooling Style (As Much As Possible Anyway)

Before you start to wade through curriculum, I think it’s helpful to think ahead to what you are hoping to get out of homeschooling, for yourself and your kids.  What exactly do you want your homeschool to look like?  What are your main goals for your kids?  How do you want to evaluate their learning? Do you want it to look like textbooks and quizzes? Do you want opportunities for learning through doing?  Do you want them to develop any particular skill really well?  

One thing that really helped me was doing a little research into different homeschooling educational philosophies - learning more about the possibilities really helped me figure out the specific things I wanted for my kids out of different subjects, and out of our homeschooling journey as a whole.  I wrote a summary of some popular homeschooling styles here, and I also highly recommend watching this video to give you an idea of the different homeschooling styles.  

Don’t get too bogged down in research, but once you know the types, I think you should think carefully about which style (or which aspects of different styles) appeal to you.  If you really like the idea of learning through interesting books (as opposed to textbooks) that will affect the curricula you pick. If you want your kids to have more input into what they learn (as in unschooling), that will guide your whole year.  If you love the idea of the trivium in classical homeschooling, you’ll want to look for a curriculum that incorporates some of that.

And if you look at all the different styles and you still have no idea where to go with it - don’t worry.  I’ve got more tips.

Attend A Curriculum Sale 

If there are any homeschool conferences or curriculum sales in your area, I highly recommend you attend (though I do realize that this may be hard to accomplish in 2020).  If you can’t find a curriculum sale, see if there are any physical bookstores in your area that carry homeschool curriculum (Mardel’s is one), or you can ask friends who are already homeschooling if you can come over to look through their curriculum.  It is so much easier to get an idea of what you like and don’t like in a curriculum if you have a chance to look through it.  

Even if it’s a curriculum you aren’t initially considering, take a look at it anyway.  Read through the parent notes at the beginning of the book and start thinking through what you agree or don’t agree with.  Look at a curriculum that has a lot of moving pieces, and see if you like that or not.  I think just looking through different curricula of different styles will help you start to decide which direction you want to go.

Choose A Curriculum That Appeals To YOU

I think it’s tempting to try to choose a curriculum that’s going to be perfect for your specific kid and their learning style.  But…as Pam Barnhill says in Plan Your Year, “the best homeschool curriculum is the one that will get done.”  And especially if your kids are young, the person who is driving the curriculum is you, as the mom.  You want to work with a curriculum that you are excited about, that you want to open up and start with your kids.  If you open up a book and feel excited to teach the subject to your kids, then your kids are most likely going to become more excited to learn it.

Consider Your Child’s Dislikes

As you are looking at curriculum, I think considering what your child hates to do may be more important than considering what they like.  One of my goals for homeschooling is that my children learn to love learning, so I don't want to make it harder on them than necessary, especially in the younger years.

If you kid really hates writing, you’re going to want to avoid a curriculum that’s mostly writing-based.  If they are still getting a handle on their reading, don’t choose a curriculum that expects the child to read huge chunks of text (unless you know you have time to read it to them).  If you know your child loves learning in a certain way, by all means incorporate those things!  But pay attention to the things that are difficult for them, or that they dislike, and find a curriculum that you can adapt to work around those things until their skills develop more.

Other Things To Consider:


One of the most important things to me in picking curriculum is making sure that I choose a curriculum with a biblical worldview.  A major reason why I homeschool is so I can impart a knowledge and love for the Lord to my kids as an integral part of their education, so I try as much as possible to pick curriculum that fits with that (especially with subjects like science and history).  Before you pick curriculum, make sure you are okay with the worldview it has as its foundation, and also make sure you agree with how it presents differing worldviews.  Since this is such an important aspect to me, I've eliminated a lot of curricula on this point alone!

All-In-One Or Piecing It Together

Is it really important to you to choose an all-in-one curriculum, or are you okay with piecing together different curricula for different subjects?  A lot of moms like the ease of an all-in-one curriculum, and the fact that a lot of the subjects can be integrated and connected in an all-in-one, because someone else already thought it out for you.  Other moms (like me) have specific ideas about how they want to teach different subjects, and it’s easier to choose curriculum for subjects individually in order to get exactly what they want.  

Learning Styles

What about learning styles, you may ask?  How do you figure out if your kid is an auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learner, and how do you find a curriculum that fits with that?

This is just my opinion about learning styles in my experience so far, so take it with a grain of salt…but I don’t think kids’ learning styles are quite as important as people sometimes think.  Learning styles are still being researched, but it's my understanding that there is no hard evidence to support the learning styles theory, or the idea that we must teach to specific learning styles.

In my very unprofessional opinion, I suspect that most people probably work within a combination of learning styles - some people may lean more toward one style than another, but most people are served well through a combination of hearing, sight, doing, etc.  

And if your child really does appear to lean heavily toward one learning style, you can probably adapt most curricula to fit within that.  For example, if your child retains more by hearing, consider the audio version of a textbook if it’s available, or just plan to read it aloud to them (or have them read aloud to themselves).  But where a curriculum doesn’t quite fit, your child can also get practice in other learning skills too.  Maybe your child is a big visual learner, but practicing listening skills through audiobooks would also be a good thing for them, for example.  You don’t necessarily have to pick a curriculum that focuses on one learning style just because your child might lean that way.  

However, I do think it’s important to consider your child’s skill areas and areas of struggle when choosing a curricula - this is less about an innate "learning style", and more about being aware of where they are excelling or still growing. To me, it’s more important to consider my child’s current skill level in order to not overwhelm them in that area too quickly, as I explained under “Consider Your Child’s Dislikes”.  If my child is a weak writer, I want to gradually stretch them in that area, but I don’t want to make them drink from a fire hose by choosing a really writing-heavy curriculum either.  That would just be a recipe for a miserable year for everyone.

Subjects To Do Together

If you have multiple kids it is very easy to combine different age groups for certain subjects.  You don’t have to do this - you can choose grade-specific curriculum for each child in your house if you would like.  But if you have a bunch of kids (like I do) doing some subjects all together will make for an easier and shorter homeschool day, so that may be something to consider when you are looking at curriculum.  

For example, we do history, science, and Bible all together as much as possible in our house.  I read the book to all my kids, and then I might give my older kids a couple extra tasks to reinforce the lesson.  We are able to do subjects that way because I chose a history and science curriculum in which we could all participate together.  If I had chosen a curriculum that was more grade-specific, or an all-in-one that had different books for different grades, this might be harder to do.

So to sum up, here are some questions to ask yourself, and these will help inform what kind of curricula you should be looking at:

-What is my preferred homeschooling philosophy and teaching style?  Does the philosophy of the curriculum I’m looking at fit with that?
-Does the curriculum I'm looking at support or undermine the worldview I am trying to pass on to my children?
-Do I want an all-in-one curriculum, or do I want to hand-pick each subject?
-Do I want to combine multiple age levels for certain subjects?  Is the curriculum I’m looking at conducive to that?
-Have I looked inside the curriculum and read the teacher’s notes?  Does the philosophy of the curriculum make sense to me?
-Am I excited about this curriculum?  Would I have liked it as a kid?
-Is this curriculum a good fit for my child’s current skills and abilities?  Will it stretch them without overwhelming them?  Does it include too much of any elements my child struggles with? 

I hope this post has been a little helpful if you are still struggling with choosing amongst the sea of curricula!  And if you have any questions or additional tips, please add them in the comments!

Galveston Island - Part Two

Once we were on Galveston, we spent a lot of time at the beach, the hotel pool, and out on trails!

We tried a couple different nature trails, and we saw so many interesting birds that we don't have where we live.  When we were driving in the car in Houston, I spotted a bird with pink wings flying overhead, but I couldn't tell what it was.  "Oh," Wyatt said, "maybe it's a roseate spoonbill."  Well, lo and behold, when we went on a nature walk, what did we see?  A bunch of roseate spoonbills in a pond!  It was so cool to see those birds, because they really aren't anywhere else in the U.S. except right along the coast in Texas and Florida.  We also saw a blackbellied whistling duck, a yellow crowned night heron, neotropic cormorant, and a common gallinule.

We ate picnic lunches along a canal (it looked like a popular fishing spot), and the beach.  We also went out to eat a couple times.  Our favorite was The Rainforest Cafe!  We don't have those where we are, and the kids thought it was so much fun!  Well, except for when the "thunderstorm" started - then Georgie slapped her hands over her ears and made the cutest little face until it was over.

We went miniature golfing, and really, is there anything cuter than little kids trying to hit a golf ball?  I think not.

We went to the beach a couple times and built sand castles and waded in the water.  None of us went out very far though, because there were rip tides a few of the days that we were there, which is terrifying to me.  I'm a born mountain girl, and the ocean scares me in general, so we are very cautious with the kids by the water.  We make them wear their life jacket/floaties whenever they even put their feet in the water, and they aren't allowed to go our past their ankles without one of us holding their hand.  Like I said, the ocean scares me a bit.  But I loved getting to relax, and play in the sand with the kids, and read!  I got a little paper reading in, but I mostly do audiobooks on the beach so I can watch the kids at the same time.  Even with Derek there, it's good to keep two sets of eyes on five kids.

We also loved the hotel pool, and we went swimming almost daily.  The kids are getting more and more confident in the water!

This was a quieter vacation for us overall - we generally pack our days with all the local sights, but this trip we just took it easy.  It was a nice reset from months on stay-at-home orders, though I told Derek I felt like we needed another week!  One week to get back to a stressless baseline, and another week to really refresh.  But still, it was a timely and needed vacation.

(See the spoonbills?)

 (We walked along the seawall to get to a gift shop we wanted to visit called Murdocks - which is funny, because Murdocks at home is a country-western store, not a store filled with seashells!)

(The seawall had these tiled benches all along it, and they had information about ocean-related things.  We stopped and read each one.)

 (All kinds of neat coral and shells.  We let the kids each pick out a shell as a souvenir.)

(Rainforest Cafe!  We also got the kids little stuffed animals here, which they proceeded to play with the rest of the trip.)

(Inside the cafe.)

(Mini golf!)

(This would be a great picture of me, if it wasn't for the mini-golfing/overalled figure behind me, ha!)

(The ocean, just after a big rainstorm. Of course we proceeded to walk on the beach, because the light was so interesting and pretty.)

(These pelicans just kept flying past in a huge line.)

(Frozen yogurt in the evening.)

(Lots of evenings at the pool!)

(And more sandcastle building and reading on the beach!)

We saw a few pretty sights on the way home, so last part of our vacation photos coming next week!
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