Our Inspiration Word & Scripture Theme

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We watched the Olympic opening ceremony and I was touched when the Refugee team, made up of ten refugees walked out. I also didn’t know this was South America’s first time to host the Olympics. We thought this opening ceremony was beautiful and amazing. And, if I’m understanding correctly, Rio de Janeiro’s national anthem is called, “Aquele Abraco”, which translates to “That Embrace”. Embrace, as in, hug or welcome.

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This past homeschool year, we did something we had never done before: we incorporated random weekly scripture verses which we tried to memorize, and I chose a yearly scripture theme as well, which was from our Doctrine and Covenants, section 88, verses 118-119:

And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.

Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.

As a new homeschool year is nearly upon us, I asked Marcus to choose our scripture theme and he selected one of his favorite verses from The Book of Mormon:

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I’ll be explaining the context of this verse in a later post. It’s actually a beautiful and amazing scripture story. ♥ Something new (to us) that I thought we’d try this homeschool year, is to have an inspiration word. It’s something many homeschooling families seem to do, choose a word to inspire their year of learning together. Our word is (you guessed it), Embrace. For us, embrace will mean to adapt, nurture, nourish, affirm, appreciate, cultivate, seize and foster. I chose Embrace as our word because I am entering another chapter of motherhood. I’m thinking of calling it, “I am now only one child away from being an empty-nester and I don’t like it one bit!”, which seems rather lengthy and a bit negative, but that is how I feel. Can you see why I need this word?

Did you watch the opening ceremony? Do you have a word that is inspirational to you at this time of your life?

Happy Hearts in Planning Mode

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It has been a busy summer here at our house, but it’s time I nail down our plans for this upcoming Happy Hearts homeschool year. I feel like we’ve come full circle. We started out homeschooling with just the two of us (my youngest son and I), and here we are, seven years later, back to just the two of us, now that both of my daughters are homeschool graduates.

So here goes… this will be Marcus’ eighth-grade year. I have already registered him as a distance student through the amazing Liahona Academy. His online classes will cover earth science, American government and civics, and a combined Geometry/Algebra 2 class. The best part about these classes is that they are filmed live, but the recordings are available anytime, and they are only Monday-Thursday. So, there’s a lot of flexibility for homeschoolers. Also, these classes are gospel based, which I love. This will be Marcus’ fourth year with Liahona.

That was the easy part! Now for the rest…

English/Language Arts- I want to cover more poetry this year. I purchased three poetry books to give us variety:

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The first is called, Pocket Book of Poetry and it contains select poems by several poets, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Lewis Carroll and Robert Frost. The second book is called, The Bridge Across the River by Shepherd Thorleif Halvorsen, and the third book is from Simply Charlotte Mason’s Enjoy the Poems collection (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow).

We have yet to try any Shakespeare, so with my daughter’s help, I chose, Much Ado About Nothing and I found some free online resources to accompany it, which I’ve downloaded into a folder.

We will also cover grammar and essay writing.

For our read-alouds, so far I have, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain, and the third book in the Mysterious Benedict Society series, and the second, Nightmares! (The Sleepwalker Tonic), by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller. And then, we’ll go from there, but I want to include a novel by Jules Verne (Last year we read, Around the World in 80 Days).

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Geography/History- I love geography so we have already learned the states and capitals twice, and having lived in Peru, we experienced another culture, but I want to go deeper this year and do a state history unit in order of the statehood dates, as well as a seven continent (with select countries from each continent) unit. This is where I’m still planning, but I have ideas swirling around my head (and jotted down), plus, I’ve purchased a couple of goodies to get us started. The first is this set of 50 state postcards. The second is this decorative USA map which I’m going to frame.

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Art and Music- We will continue with our set of Maestro Classics, which we started using last year. Since the only art my son currently enjoys is chalk pastel art, I purchased a couple of e-books from chalkpastel.com. One is American Landmarks so that will go nicely with our state history unit.

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I’m sure I’ll be adding a few more resources/curriculum as we go, but for the most part we keep things simple and leave time for new pursuits. As for our schedule, I can’t plan that in detail until I know his online class times. I only know the starting day is Aug. 30th. I’m also checking out different homeschool planners to see if one appeals to me.

Lessons From Our Homeschool Journey

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We didn’t discover homeschooling until our last child entered public school. You can read our homeschool story here. Until then, my husband and I blindly followed society and sent our children to local public schools where we experienced some good, but definitely the bad and the ugly that the system offers. More about that here. I started out homeschooling only my youngest, but eventually both daughters joined us (by then, my oldest had graduated from public high school). Now the girls are homeschool graduates and we’re back to a mom and son duo.

For the first four years, we blissfully unschooled (I highly recommend the unschooling approach for the early years). Now we are happy eclectic homeschoolers: Some of our subjects are covered through online classes. We use very little formal curriculum. We love reading great literature together, we enjoy unit studies, we self-teach, and we follow our passions.

With that in mind, here are some of the lessons we have gleaned in seven + years of homeschooling (in no particular order):

♥ We have learned that there will always be naysayers among our circle of family and friends, but we’re not homeschooling to please them. We’re homeschooling because that is what is best for our family and our opinions are the only ones that matter.

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♥ We have learned that we may sometimes feel alone on this journey, but the reality is that there are many other homeschoolers out there. There are other like-minded parents and kids who treasure homeschooling as much as we do.

♥ We have learned that education is not separate from life. They are one and the same. In other words, just living life is an education. (We have also been privileged to have lived in another culture and what an education that was!)

♥ We have learned that there are multiple ways to acquire knowledge. There is no single right way to learn something and the best way to learn looks different for every child and can even change from subject to subject.

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♥ We have learned that we will never go back to the public school system. For us, this is simply not an option. We value our freedom and time together and we can see how the system keeps getting worse.

♥ I have learned it’s unwise to compare our homeschool to any other homeschool. Each homeschool is unique because each family is unique.

♥ My kids have learned they should not compare their education to that of their friends, especially their public-schooled friends. We believe every child’s education should be one-of-a-kind because every child is one-of-a-kind. (Of course, schools don’t believe this.)

♥ We have learned that we prefer being outdoors surrounded by nature. We love our beautiful earth and appreciate it more when we go outside and immerse ourselves in it. There is much to discover and learn from nature.

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♥ And finally we have learned to embrace childhood and family time, to not get caught up in what the world thinks, but to live by our values and go with our family flow.

What homeschool or life lessons have you learned?

Reflecting Back (2015-2016 Homeschool Year)

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I can’t believe another homeschool year has come and gone! I think it’s good to reflect back on a year and what we’ve accomplished. This past year was spent mostly in the Arizona desert and partly at our home in Utah, and if you’ve followed me for a while than you know this is normal for us. We have a home-base in Utah, but we live for the most part, wherever my husband’s job takes us.

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Marissa at Epcot where they have lovely displays of flowers and shrubbery. Our Disney World trip was her high school graduation trip.

It was a milestone year for Marissa. She has now graduated high school and starts at a university this fall with the plan to major in Marine Biology. And, she was accepted without a state-issued diploma, solely on her merits as a successful homeschooler with a transcript (of 18 credits, but only 15 were required) and her ACT score. I can’t help feeling a bit proud about that! I am deeply thankful to Liahona Academy for providing her English, math, science and history through excellent online courses, as well as her transcript (which made my job a lot easier!).

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Here are the highlights from Marissa’s senior year-

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Her favorite read for English.

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Her favorite family read-aloud.

This book is special to us because it was our first read-aloud together when we first began our homeschooling journey and Marcus couldn’t remember the story so it was perfect to re-visit. It’s always been one of my personal favorites.

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Her favorite craft: her fairy gardens.

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Her favorite field trip: Tombstone, Arizona

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Her favorite event: Prom, where she participated in the senior-walk down a flight of stairs.

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Hanging out with Mater, at Epcot.

It was a year of excelling in math for Marcus who completed Pre-Algebra, Geometry and Algebra 1. The year before was a slower year for math as more focus was on his grammar and essay writing. So this was his math year. Hooray for homeschooling! Here are other highlights from Marcus’ seventh-grade year…

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His top two favorite read-alouds.

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His favorite science lab: designing a cell cake.

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His favorite field trip was also visiting Tombstone.

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As for me…

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This desert scene on our homeschool room wall took us a few days to create.

I loved our desert unit…

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And all the nature walks we took together here in the Sonoran desert. I feel we’ve embraced our life here in Arizona. ♥ Stay tuned for a planning post for our upcoming homeschool year, with just me and my son.

The Perfect School Day

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Easy going, stay cozy in our pajamas, linger over a pancake breakfast, together mornings.

No backpacks, no cold lunches, no need to bundle up, no bus to catch.

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One daughter, comfy on her bed, laptop open, paying rapt attention to her online science teacher.

No loud bells, no lining up, no hall passes, no hurry-up-and-get-to-class-or-you’ll-be-tardy.

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One son, at the table, creating a chalk pastel masterpiece, taking his time.

Leisurely lunches together, laughing and talking while we eat. We can have peanut butter!

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Free to go outside anytime we like. Let’s visit a museum or take a nature walk together.

Free to stay inside if we prefer, warm and snug. There’s plenty to do, alone and together…

Dive into a unit study.

Read a classic book.

Set up a science experiment.

Cultivate a talent.

Play a game.

Create something amazing.

No afternoon slumps, no homework battles, no wondering how their day was because I shared their day and they shared mine.

The perfect school day and it took place at home.

Our Homeschool ABC’s

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I’ve always wanted to make a homeschool ABC list! But instead of a how-to-homeschool list, this is a benefits and blessings list and my kids contributed. 🙂

A is for Anytime, Anywhere, Anything goes! Unlike public school, homeschooling takes place anytime of the day, anywhere inside or outside (in the real world!) and anything goes as far as the curriculum (the Bible counts!) and learning methods utilized.

B is for Books, books and more books! My kids love all the free time they have just to read. When they read for pleasure, reading is a pleasure!

C is for Creativity. Arts and crafts, baking, science experiments, Minecraft, fairy gardens, Oh My!

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D is for Days. Snow days, vacation-anytime days, read-aloud days, field trip days, unit- study days, science days, art days, nature days, friend days at the zoo. Days our way!

E is for Excelling. Recently I asked a professional math teacher to evaluate my son’s math level. Compared to his public schooled peers, he is two levels ahead. Three Cheers for homeschooling and excelling at your own pace!

F is for Family and Friends. Homeschooling has given us more quality family time which means more time to nurture sibling and parent relationships, and friendships, too.

G is for God. God is welcome in our home and we can feel His spirit here.

H is for Happy Hearts. Spending our days learning together makes our hearts happy!

I is for Influence. Our home influence is one of love, acceptance, encouragement, unity and high moral standards which fosters self-confidence and individual worth.

J is for Jammies! Learning in pajamas is comfortable and fun!

K is for Knowledge, both academic and spiritual together, which we believe makes up a complete education.

L is for Life. We actually have a life! It’s not all about school. There’s a nice balance.

M is for Mornings. We love our relaxed, ease-into-the-day mornings together. We have time for a hot, nutritious breakfast, for a morning nature walk, for curling up and reading together…

N is for Never-ending Possibilities! Homeschooling means we can dive into a subject that catches our fancy, switch gears in the middle of the day or have a spur-of-the-moment picnic lunch at a park.

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O is for Outdoors. Who wants to be stuck inside at a desk when it’s a gorgeous sunny day outside?

P is for Peace. Homeschooling has brought me great peace of mind, knowing my children are safe from the worldly and negative aspects of public school that we experienced first-hand.

Q is for Quiet. At home we can hear ourselves think! Sometimes the world around us is noisy and confusing, but at home, we can tune the world out and focus on what matters most.

R is for Rhythm. We learn, play, eat, sleep, (go to the bathroom!) at our own natural rhythm. So much healthier!

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S is for Science. My son’s greatest passion (except maybe Minecraft). Plenty of hands-on science activities at our house.

T is for Time. Time to be a family, time to be a kid, time to parent, time to listen, time to play and explore the world around us, time to learn and grow, time to eat lunch, time to just be. Sweet, blissful time that isn’t wasted sitting at a desk for hours, day after day.

U is for Uniqueness. Each child’s unique talents, abilities and personal interests are celebrated and pursued!

V is for Values and Virtues. At home, we learn and live by The Golden Rule and The Ten Commandments. We forgive, serve, and love one another.

W is for Witty! We feel rather clever for going off the traditional path of public schooling and daring to take education into our own hands! 😉

X is for X-tra. Extra a-ha moments that I get to witness!

Y is for Youth. Teens need their parents and homeschooling lets parents be more of an influence.

Z is for Zero! Zero grades. Zero data-mining. Zero “teaching-to-the-test”. Zero conformity. Zero tears.

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Kid to Kid-Homeschool Q&A

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These are actual questions public schooled kids have asked my homeschooled kids:

Q: Don’t you want to go to school? 

A: “No. Been there, done that, I am never going back!” -Marissa 

A: “I do want to go to school if it’s my Liahona school, which I have visited. But if you’re talking about public school, then absolutely no.” -Marcus  (Liahona is an LDS-based private school which has an amazing online distance program which we utilize.)

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Q: Are you ever going back to “real school”?

A: “Define your definition of ‘real school’ because I am doing real school”. -Marissa

A: “What’s considered ‘real school’? I had a great education at home. I didn’t miss out on anything. You know how a lot of people like the processed stuff? That’s what public school is. It’s processed. It’s edible, but it’s gross.” -Darcie

A: “I am at a real school, but if you are talking about public school, well, my school is just as real as public school. But, I will never be going back to public school unless I am forced with unbelievable amounts of force!” -Marcus (my dramatic one)

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Q: Are you antisocial? Do you know how to interact with kids your own age?

A: “Just because I’m homeschooled, doesn’t mean I don’t see and talk and hang out with friends my own age.” -Marissa

A: “We have friends all over the world and we have friends of all different ages.” -Darcie and Marissa

A: “I’m talking to you, aren’t I?” -Marcus

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Q: Do you actually want to be homeschooled or do your parents force you?

A: “I want to be homeschooled. I have been to public school and I didn’t like it. I can feel the spirit when I learn at home and that is something I cannot get at a public school.”          -Marcus

A: “I enjoy being homeschooled more than I enjoyed going to public school. I’m getting better experiences at home than when I was at pubic school.” -Marissa

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Q: Do you know anything about the real world? Aren’t you sheltered? 

A: “No, I’m not sheltered. I’ve probably seen more of the real world than you have.”           -Marissa

A: “I think I might actually know more of the real world because I’m actually able to spend more time outside.” -Marcus

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Q: Are you homeschooled because you’re Mormon? 

A: “No. In fact, most LDS kids we know are not homeschooled.” -Darcie and Marissa

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Q: Do you just sit around and do nothing all day?

A: “No, I don’t sit around all day, but I do have more free time. I can take a break whenever I want. I also read whatever I want at any level.” -Marissa

A: “Not at all! In fact, usually when I wake up, I have more energy and I finish my school work in about three hours and then I am free to do whatever I want. I can read a book, I can go swimming, I can play a video game. The possibilities are endless.” -Marcus

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Q: Aren’t there gaps in your education? And how will you take the ACT/SAT and get into college?

A: “Yes, there are gaps in my education and there are gaps in your education too. Public education is filled with gaps! I knew things in my first semester of college that my public schooled peers had never learned.” -Darcie

A: “I took the ACT the same way you will take it. I studied with a book. I took practice tests. I went to the nearest testing location. I did well enough on it that I was accepted into the university of my choice.” -Darcie

Marissa has never been asked this question and suspects it’s because she looks years younger than her actual age, but she was recently accepted into a university as a homeschooler, so yes, it can be done! 🙂

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Q: How do you like homeschooling? Or…What do like about homeschooling?

A: “I love homeschooling! I get to sleep in. I can go at my own pace. I can explore my interests. I can spend time with my family.” -Marissa

A: “I like that I can get up every morning, stay in my pajamas. I’m not forced to get up at six in the morning and go to school. I like how I can choose what I’m going to learn.”          -Marcus