Geography Curriculum is Finished!

I’ve been in a frenzy working on my geography curriculum and am happy to announce that it’s finished! I may still add new materials as I come across them or tweak a little this or that, but it’s ready-to-go for those of you who would like to use it.

Click on the picture below to check it out!

Geography curriculum

Guest Hollow Geography Curriculum

homeschool geography curriculum

Coming soon! I started working on a geography curriculum that I hope will be finished in a couple of weeks for the new school year.  I’ll post an update here on my blog when it’s finished.

P.S. The dog in the picture above is Beowulf. He’s a character in the book I’m working on that hopefully will be finished by spring of 2015!

Japanese, Russian and Writing Tutoring Services

I posted awhile back about my daughter’s e-tutoring site (email correspondence or Skype lessons).


 She asked me to let you all know that there are new options like advanced Japanese and Russian that are now being offered as she is partnering with some of her native speaking friends. The gentleman who is teaching Russian is a really brilliant and amazing young man (college student).

 She is also offering options for writing where she will either help edit, critique and grade assignments from any writing curriculum or will assign writing assignments and help students edit their work until they have a finished product. Another option is a pay-per-paper editing fee.

 The courses are for any age/grade and even adults. :-)

 If you use the code GUEST you can get 5% off of a course and there is also a 5% discount for early registration which ends tomorrow!!

 I hope this is helpful to someone. She is really a very talented teacher and loves working with students.

Summer School ;-)

drugsYesterday Otter started a new series of drug and alcohol identification and enforcement classes. CHP officers are teaching the Explorers all about the effects of drugs and alcohol, how to recognize intoxication, alcohol blood levels, when arrests can be made and so on. Otter’s learning that even if a person doesn’t necessarily look it, s/he can still be legally intoxicated, the blood chemistry behind all of that and smaller clues to look for – with those who can “hold their liquor”. He loves these classes and said he had to take a TON of notes. This week they covered alcohol. Next week they’ll be covering some drugs. He got to go on some ride-alongs recently too where he wrote some tickets for speeding and was instructed in many other law enforcement skills during the officer’s shift with the various things they ran into.

I think it’s important for homeschooled kids to get classroom time in some form or fashion. Otter’s Explorer classes have helped to fill that need – with a multitude of experiences including “pop” spelling quizzes, taking notes, tests, and teamwork.

He also got quite a bit of class time in one of his camps this year. He spent hours working on earning merit badges in First Aid (where he learned CPR and other valuable skills), Citizenship in the World and Emergency Preparation. He now has almost all the merit badges he needs to start working on becoming an Eagle Scout.

citizenship_in_the_world_lg emergency_preparedness_lg first_aid_lg

He added to his swimming skills this summer too. I am so proud that my boy who USED to be afraid of the water is quite the fish and that he was working with a younger boy who is afraid of swimming – trying to help him overcome his fear with the understanding and patience of someone who’s been there and done that. ;-)

Otter has been in a lot of leadership roles this summer. Earlier this summer he was Den Chief for the Cub Scouts and helped teach & lead a group of boys during Cub Scout Day Camp. He’s also been working as Senior Patrol Leader for his group of scouts. When he started Boy Scouts, he was one of the youngest scouts. Now he’s one of the “big boys” and helps teach (and corral, lol) the younger boys. His Scoutmaster has talked to him about moving up as a jr. assistant scout master in the future. He’ll be helping out in Vacation Bible School later this summer too.

I love watching Otter grow and mature as such a responsible young man who is involved in a lot of positive activities that allow him to interact with many different mentors and law enforcement officers who put in hours of teaching time as well as kids of all ages and backgrounds.

Switching Spanish Curriculum

I planned on continuing with Rosetta Stone for Spanish, but I found a more complete curriculum that will work better for Otter’s learning style. Rosetta Stone just doesn’t cut it for us when it comes to helping us understand Spanish in more depth. We both could understand enough to click on the correct boxes (most of the time), but weren’t really understanding the grammar or even what specific words mean, even though we could kind of figure them out in context.

We are going to be using Avancemos, which is by Holt McDougal and available via a special price if you order the homeschool package (more details on how to get that at the end of the post).

Here’s what we are ordering:

9780547858654 Level 1 Avancemos Homeschool Kit $96.75 – 20% (homeschool discount) = $77.40

For that price I’m getting the print student edition as well as the student and teacher digital access codes.

The access codes give you access to the digital textbooks (both student and teacher editions), all the teacher resources and answers, student worksheets, tests, videos, audio…There is a TON of stuff that is available for this program. I’ve included some screenshots below to give you an idea of what you get.

The online student text has all the video and audio integrated right into the text itself (just a click away) as well as self-checking chapter activities sprinkled throughout the online pages. I love that you can click on the audio icons as well as all the words highlighted in blue to hear them (no guessing when it comes to pronunciation)!

spanish curriculum


The online student text has a tab where all the unit resources are available at a click. There are animated grammar lessons, flashcards, self-check quizzes, interactive games and TONS of worksheets (all the answers are included in the teacher resources).


Here’s an example of one of the interactive games – a crossword puzzle you can fill out online.


Another online game:


Worksheets have numerous pages of varying activities to practice what’s being learned in the text:spanish3

There are also interactive online “worksheets” for additional practice:


There is even a “at home-tutor” option that walks you through practice materials step-by-step.

The teacher’s resources contain even more printables and activities to help your students learn Spanish like conversation cards:


Clipart & flashcard printables:



There is so much more. I couldn’t fit all of the teacher resources in one screenshot, but you can get an idea of what is available by taking a look at this:




Each arrow and plus sign leads to a drop down menu of more choices. There are more things than you will ever need to use. I love having so many options. If we understand a chapter, we’ll be able to move on more quickly. If there is something we don’t get, we’ll be able to dig in and stay awhile. ;-)

Emily used Holt’s German program with great success. Avencemos has even more features than her program did so I think it will work out great for us. The homeschool pricing makes it even more attractive and the multiple resources & modes of learning make it more valuable to us as a Spanish program. It’s structured in such a way that I believe we will be successful with it, even though neither of us speaks hardly any Spanish.

In order to get the special package price you must be either a homeschooler, independent study or charter school family. If you meet those requirements you can contact Shannon Cullip (shannoncullip [at sign] or call toll free: 855-386-9297 option 1.

Happy homeschooling!

10th Grade Plans

10th grade is coming up and I’ve finally figured out what we’ll be using in our homeschool. I made a few changes to my initial plan and am much happier with the final result. Here are some of the things we’ll be using:

Sonlight Core 300 – 20th Century World History, Bible, Language Arts and Literature

I have to send a HUGE thank-you to my dear friend who is lending me this core as it’s not in our budget to buy it outright. She has been such a great support & help over the years in so many ways!!

Although Otter and I have really enjoyed using the Awesome History Timeline Schedule (which is available for free here on my website), this year I wanted something with a schedule with an integrated language arts & literature where I can just check the boxes and see at a glance what I need to do every week without having to think about it!  Sonlight Core 300 turned out to be a great fit.

Life has been really busy and I just didn’t want to have to come up with all of the related discussion questions, writing assignments, mapping assignments, related literature and more every week so I decided to go the packaged route for our next school year. Having everything laid out for me as a teacher will be a nice change instead of having to come up with everything from scratch for almost every subject! No more hours of prep-work and fussing with the library to try and get the books I need on time.

Take a look at a small portion of the awesome instructor’s guide. You just move down the column for each day of the week and then look over the notes for each day (not pictured below).

igClick here for a 3 week sample of the Core 300 Bible and history instructor’s guide here.

Here’s a sample of the parent’s language arts guide.

The core comes with parent and student guides with lots of notes, maps, timeline assignments, discussion questions, writing & vocabulary assignments, literary device discussions and more.

I’ve used Sonlight in the past and enjoyed it – but found that parts of it were not a match for Otter when he was younger. I also used other cores with my older kids who later moved on to other things like Tapestry of Grace for a bit of change.  I credit Sonlight for some of my daughter’s heart for and current involvement with the Japanese because of the worldwide and multicultural focus of Sonlight’s studies.

Otter used Sonlight for Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade but ended up needing something much more linear with easier readers and a heavier dose of non-fiction, more hands-on activities and books more customized for his personality and retention level. He’s flourished with the curriculum I made for him but I think this will work out better this coming year for us both. He likes to see what’s coming up via a schedule and right now, so do I, lol. I’ll continue to use the Awesome History Timeline for supplements, if we have time.

Take a look at the meaty and interesting books that come with this core. I’m so looking forward to them as I never used this core with my older (now adult) kids!

Click on any book below to see more about it on Amazon or visit Sonlight’s website to see their comments about each book.

First, there is a selection of Bible & Apologetics books. Sonlight also schedules readings from the Bible itself and verse memorization.

Know why you believe Know why you believe 51fKZeTKOUL._SL160_ how to ruin your life by 30

Then there are the history books, biographies and historical fiction (with TONS of notes in the instructor’s guides, related mapping assignments, timeline entries and so on to make every book more meaningful):

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Next there are the literature & poetry books (with multiple notes, discussion questions, related writing assignments and more in the guides). I like that the language arts program covers the things Otter needs to work on for understanding literature as well as writing and that some of the selections are tied to the year’s history study. Some of the language arts topics that will be covered are: creative expression, response papers, creating a compelling plot, how to cite works, writing & tense, critical essays, elements of grammar, writing a script, advertising, the editing process, eliminating the passive voice and much more.

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I like the mix of books. There’s some heavy stuff punctuated by lighter reading. Perfect!

With Sonlight, we have all the major parts (or “core”) of our 10th grade curriculum taken care of. I will be adding in a couple more things for additional language arts practice in areas Otter still needs to work on like spelling and grammar. He will also probably continue with some materials I have on hand to improve his writing.

Otter’s additional subjects and activities will be:

MathTeaching Textbooks Algebra (finishing up level one and moving on to level 2 when he’s ready)

Spanish – We will either continue with Rosetta Stone online or The Learnables and read children’s books written in Spanish and/or watch familiar movies dubbed in Spanish. Otter will also continue to learn Spanish from his friends and some of his teachers in other activities.

Otter at the range practicing shotgun

Police & CHP Explorers (2 separate classes) – With classroom time, ride-alongs, D.U.I. checkpoints, community service and other activities, Explorers will take up quite a bit of time and will continue to be an important part of Otter’s week. Just the other day Otter got to shoot a taser for the first time! The officers who work with him are doing a great job teaching him the many skills he’ll need to be successful as a future police officer.

Firearm Shooting – Otter will continue to hone his shooting skills in preparation for his future career in law enforcement. He got an invitation to join a local trap team this past weekend when one of the instructors saw him trap shooting (he’s pretty good if I say so myself), but we probably won’t be able to find the time due to his other various commitments and wow, is it expensive (ammunition is sooo pricey).

Boy Scouts – He is getting closer to his goal of being an Eagle Scout and will be going on multiple camping trips and other outings over the course of the year.

Piano – He’ll be continuing weekly lessons. Otter plans to work on various hymns in addition to the classical music he loves.

Tactical MedicineAnatomy, Physiology and First Aid – This is the only custom made curriculum Otter will be doing in the fall. I had planned on sharing my schedule but since I decided to use an out of print book for a portion of the first aid section (my husband’s textbook he used when getting his degree in law enforcement years ago) as well as other specialized law enforcement related books, I may not be posting it and just leaving the current schedule up.

One of the books Otter will be reading for the above course is Tactical Medicine, a textbook designed for SWAT teams.

We will also be signing him up to become certified in CPR and he’ll be earning his first aid merit badge sometime this summer.

Latin – I decided not to continue with Latin as we simply don’t have time for it anymore, but Otter will still be learning Latin roots in his vocabulary program.

I’m looking forward to 10th grade. I think it’s going to be a really productive year and one step closer to Otter’s goals!

Summer & Fall Tutoring

My daughter is offering e-tutoring for both English (language arts) and beginning Japanese.

From her website:

Enrollment is open for semester-length, month-length, and 2-week E-Tutor Writing courses.  Semester-length courses for Fall 2014 begin August 11th, unless other arrangements are made.  Summer courses can begin at any time.  Please check out the courses page for more details on courses offered.

She is has a variety of options available:

Course A -The first type is one in which I will help edit, critique and grade writing assignments from any writing curriculum.  This may be ideal for homeschooling families that already have a writing curriculum, but need help coming up with a polished product, and grading.

Course B – The second course option that I offer is one in which I assign writing assignments, and then help the student edit and critique their work until they have a finished product.  This is better for families or individuals that desire a more guidance-rich experience.  Please note that both course types cost the same fee, so the customization is up to you!

We have 3 available course lengths and pay-per-paper services.

The 3 course lengths are semester-length, 1 month and 2-week length.  We also offer a pay-per-paper editing/critique service.  Please see our courses page for more information on pricing and FAQ.

Additional Services:

Are you interested in studying a language other than English?  Hannah has N5 certification in Japanese and can offer discounted courses on basic or conversational Japanese.  Please contact for additional information.

Hannah (known as Emily on my blog) is a gifted teacher who really cares about her students. Check out her website for more info!

A Busy Summer is Coming Up!

Warning: This is a rambling post, lol. You’ve been warned! ;-)

Besides working on my new book project, I’m going to be busy with schoolwork over the summer. Yes, that’s right, we school year round! I’ve just found that works better for Otter. It keeps things consistent and allows him to throw himself into the time consuming things he’s passionate about like the two Police Explorer programs he’s involved in. This summer he’ll be participating in D.U.I. checkpoints (he just worked one the other night), learning first aid, writing real tickets on CHP ride-alongs (something Mr. Follow-the-Rules loves to do), and working hard at P.T. (physical training) with his explorer friends. The other day I figured out that he’s spent about around 312 hours on ride-alongs since he started the explorer program! That doesn’t even start to take into account all of the classroom hours and activity hours!

I tease him that he likes to play “dress up” like his sister always did – only his version of dress up is in a uniform with a badge and handcuff pouch. The boy collects things for his police belt like some others collect figurines for a shelf, lol.

Otter also has a ton of Boy Scout activities coming up this summer (he’s the senior patrol leader) and will be working on his shooting skills as his goal is to take “Top Gun”, in the future, as my husband did in the academy.

Besides extracurricular stuff…

I put in an order for some new writing curriculum and other things for him to work over the next few months into the fall. I can’t wait until our big box of goodies arrives! It’s like Christmastime in May, lol. Here are some of the things we may be using:

Jensen’s Format Writing

Jensen's Format Writing

I’ve read good things about Jensen’s. Some people don’t like it because it uses a first person format for a lot of the writing. However, those with older reluctant writers say it’s the only program that helped their high school kids progress from tear-filled sloppy paragraphs to 5 paragraph essays with a minimum of fuss. I’ll write a review here on my blog after we’ve used it for a bit.

Vocabulary from Classical Roots

Vocabulary from Classical Roots

This is something I used with my older kids when they were teens. I’ve always been partial to vocabulary programs that teach Greek and Latin roots. This particular program is really easy to use and takes a minimum amount of daily time to accomplish.

I’ve also found the Kindle to be super useful for vocabulary. Otter is so used to touching words for the definition that he laughed out loud the other day when he tried to do that in a paperback book.

Rosetta Stone Spanish

Rosetta Stone Spanish

We get a discount for the online program and have found it to be worthwhile and easy to do, although I think I will need to supplement it with some kind of workbook at some point. Otter also uses Mango for free via our library’s subscription. All we have to do is enter our library card number and we can use the program at no cost at home. He’s put in a few hours for Japanese and Korean too as he enjoys sharing vocabulary from those languages with his sister when she visits.

I’ve been gathering more children’s books in Spanish for Otter to practice with and he gets plenty of exposure from the Hispanic boys in his Boy Scout troop who’ve taught him a lot of different words & phrases. We are lucky to live in such a multicultural area. Otter is able to learn Spanish and our daughter has been able to work on becoming fluent in reading, writing and speaking Japanese as well as a smattering of Korean.

Speaking of our daughter, she will be traveling to Tokyo in October, all expenses paid, via her employer to give some talks to Japanese high school students about the Y.E.S. ESL International Program in our area for college. She is really excited about all of the opportunities that have come up for her as well as the fact that she passed the J.L.P.T.

So anyway, back to some of the things Otter will be using this summer…

Teaching Textbooks Algebra

Teaching Textbooks Algebra

Emily had a lot of success using Teaching Textbooks, but it just wasn’t working for Otter at the lower levels. We started Algebra this year using Keys to Algebra, but it just didn’t click. I switched over to TT and Otter is having a lot more success. It’s fitting with him really well now. TT updated their books and software from when Emily used it and I LOVE the improvements. The entire program is much more engaging than the previous version and it’s much easier to grade, since all of that is automatic, lol. Otter has also been using and LOVING the Dragonbox Algebra app, but that’s another post. In fact, I have to credit Dragonbox with really helping him understand many algebra algorithms which has helped him in TT.

He’ll also be finishing up biology, continuing with history, reading every day and doing a variety of assignments to keep his academic skills progressing instead of stagnating over the next few months.

Speaking (er…typing) of reading, I’m so happy how Otter now devours books. He used to be a reluctant reader who was behind in his reading comprehension skills (although he could read actual words since he was a baby). This is something he’s struggled with for a long time.  It took YEARS of being totally patient, gently nurturing a love for books and working on problem areas with probably thousands of hours of read-alouds on my part and hundreds of dollars invested in building him a home library of books that were a fit for him. I had a 12 year old that still liked reading Berenstain Bears & pictures books but this was totally OK with me because I trusted he would blossom in his own time. All of our patience and hard work paid off. Otter is a voracious reader now and he reads very fast, like I do (unlike his sister who always has been a reading turtle, lol, despite her love of big, fat books). He is always asking for new books for his Kindle like this one he just finished:


Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun

Not my personal reading choice, lol, but as a future police officer, it’s something he really enjoyed.

For those of you with kids who are slow in an academic area or who don’t like reading, never give up hope. Keep providing a good example and don’t panic too much with time tables and grade levels. If you keep plugging along, you CAN get there. Some kids just need a bit of extra time and modifications in your homeschool plan that brings success one little bit at a time. That’s why so many of the curriculum plans on my website include such a variety of books and make use of picture books, even at higher levels. These are books that pack a lot of information into a format that is easier to retain and more fun to “look over” – a modification just for Otter (and one that’s been reported to me as very beneficial for other students who’ve used my programs as well, even good readers).  Now you’d never know there was ever an issue at all in this area. I guess the adage “He’ll be potty trained by college” works with things like this too, lol. Soooo anyway, he’ll be reading up a storm this summer, as usual. I love adding the “as usual”. It does my book lover’s heart good. ;-)

This summer I’ll also continue as a “homeschool helper” for Rabbit as she schools year round too. I’ll be on the lookout for some lapbooks for her because she adores them. Otter thinks he’s outgrown those types of activities, but even he reluctantly admits that when he does “interactive notebooking” (as we call high school level lapbook activities, lol), he retains the info so much better than just reading it from a book or listening to a lecture.

Here’s a couple pictures from some of his more recent history “interactive notebooking” projects:

These flaps lift up with definitions underneath:


Lift the flap with cartoons that illustrate each reason why the Articles of Confederation didn’t work:


So, we are getting into gear for a very busy summer that will bleed into 10th grade plans for the fall. I do get burnt out sometimes from everything homeschool related, but my new book project should alleviate some of that and no matter how tired I am of teaching, it’s so worth it to see the progress my son continues to make and how homeschooling helped my other children be what they are today.

Happy homeschooling to those of you soldiering on this summer and happy summer to those of you who are taking a break!