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).


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.


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.

Maestro Classics (2)


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.


Curriculum Finds- Online Science Resources


We are passionate about science at our house so I thought I’d share some online resources we’ve recently discovered:

Science Fun For Littles

If you have a preschooler, head on over to Stir the Wonder where Samantha has some fun science activities.

KidZone has a super simple science section for preschoolers up to fifth graders. They also feature animal fact pages. This page is about polar bears.

Science News

Science Daily is a really cool science website that can help your kids keep up with the latest happenings in modern day science. Check out this story, with a video, that shows off a Lego model of the Vatican! (The first link is about an invisibility cloak!)

Free Science Textbooks

Ck-12.org offers free online science textbooks. My son is using their Life Science for Middle School textbook this homeschool year. All you have to do is create a free account and then you can download any of their textbooks. Web-links are included.

Science Videos

Have your child check out one of the fun discovery videos on National Geographic Kids.

Enchanted Homeschooling Mom led me to a new YouTube channel called, Bringing Smart Back. These clever videos are produced by super cute Keilee, who is a homeschooler. My kids love her videos so I bet your kids will too. Below is our favorite video so far:

What are your favorite online science curriculum/resources? I’d love to hear about them.

Happy Hearts Curriculum Choices for 2015-2016


We are moving in less than two weeks! I wish I had a real-life homeschooling friend who could help me nail down my plans for this upcoming homeschool year. I feel a little scatter-brained at the moment.

I can’t believe my baby girl is a senior! I am going to cherish every day of this school year with her. She will continue with her basic subjects as online courses through the awesome Liahona Academy. What we love about Liahona is that their classes for middle and high school grades are filmed and streamed LIVE, giving their distance students the choice to view them live (and participate) or to view them at a later time of their choosing.

We have ordered all of her textbooks, either directly through Liahona or from Amazon.

For English, she will be reading and studying the following books/novels-

  1. The Book of Mormon, which is basic scripture for us.
  2. Jane Eyre (A Norton critical edition), Charlotte Bronte, edited by Richard J. Dunn
  3. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
  4. Oxford World’s Classics Twelfth Night, or What You Will, William Shakespeare, edited by Roger Warren and Stanley Wells
  5. Stone Mage Wars, Journey to the Fringe, Kellie Swofford Nielson
For grammar, she will be using the Line Upon Line series, which is Liahona curriculum.
Saxon Geometry

For math, she will be using the Saxon Geometry, 1st edition

Exploring Creation With Chemistry

For science, she will be using Exploring Creation With Chemistry, 3rd edition

For history, both my son and daughter will be studying World History and World Government and they will use textbooks entitled: Threads of Religious Liberty, DeGraff & DeGraff, and Our Old World Beginnings: An LDS Supplement to European History, DeGraff & DeGraff

My son will be in 7th grade. He will be taking two online courses through Liahona (history and science) and I will tackle the rest of his subjects with him (English, math, art and music, etc.)


For science, he will be using CK-12 Life Science, which is a free download after signing up for a free account. He will read the text directly from my laptop and we will only print when he needs a paper copy of a certain page.

For English, we plan to read the following novels together, from our home library-

  1. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
  2.  Bud, Not Buddy, Christopher Paul Curtis
  3. Hoot, Carl Hiaasen
  4.  Just So Stories, Rudyard Kipling
  5.  Summer of the Monkeys, Wilson Rawls

For grammar, we will use free resources online such as Grammar-Monster, Daily Grammar and my daughter’s favorite, Purdue Owl


For music, we will be using Maestro Classics, Stories in Music collection.


For art, we are going to try the free resources on Teach Art at Home and Incredible Art Department. We will also use the book, Teach Art to Children.

At least I have our curriculum figured out. Now I just need to plan a sort of schedule to follow, but I’m waiting to learn when their online classes will be. And once we move into our cozy apartment in AZ, I want to set up a homeschool nook where we keep all of our books and supplies in one place.

Curriculum Finds- Music Appreciation


I have always wanted to include music appreciation in our homeschool, but until now we have only skimmed over the topic. Mostly we’ve made homemade instruments and we did see The Nutcracker a few years ago, plus recently we enjoyed five Broadway musicals, including The Phantom of the Opera.

So I am excited for this upcoming Happy Hearts year because we are going to formally include a music curriculum for the first time. In fact, it just arrived yesterday on my doorstep. I was probably more excited than the kids to open the box and examine its contents.


After researching and reading reviews, I chose Maestro Classics Stories in Music. These are children’s stories, such as, Peter and the Wolf, The Tortoise and the Hare, and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, brought to life through classical music performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. As an added bonus, each CD comes with a CD-size activity booklet, featuring tidbits about the composer and the instruments. After some deliberation I decided to splurge and order the entire twelve story collection. So far, I have no regrets. I am sure we’ll be very happy with this set.

Music Appreciation

I could’ve chosen another popular curriculum choice- Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades, by Elisabeth Tanner and Judy Wilcox, which I’ve read also works well for middle school ages, but the Maestro Classics appealed to me more.


I did purchase, however, this little gem. I acquired it before I discovered Maestro Classics, but we have already begun to use it and it’s actually a neat book. The Story of the Orchestra, by Robert Levine, is a handy book for introducing four music eras and fifteen famous composers to children, as well as giving tidbits about several orchestra instruments. It includes a CD which features classical selections by each composer.


And then there is a series written and illustrated by Mike Venezia, entitled, Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Composers. There are fourteen little books altogether. We have only purchased The Beatles so far, just to check it out. It’s a quick read, but packed full of fascinating history, real photographs and fun cartoons. With this curriculum you’d have to find music selections yourself, but the books are fairly inexpensive, usually less than $7.00 each.


If you don’t have the budget for a music curriculum, check out these freebies-

52composers.com features nifty composer profile pages.

Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool includes free music studies. (Just scroll down until you see her music offerings in the column on the right).

What music curriculum have you used in your homeschool? I’d love to hear all about it in my comment section. 🙂

Reflecting Back (2014-2015 Homeschool Year)


So far it’s been a busy summer, but I am finally to the point where I can actually sit down and plan Marcus’ next homeschool year. My little boy will be in 7th grade. It seems like only yesterday, he was 6 and our homeschooling journey was just beginning. Where did the time go? Why do our children have to grow up so fast?

Marcus 2 Yesterday- 6-years old

DSCN5221 Today- 12-years old

It always helps me to start my planning by first reflecting on the most recent homeschool year. That way I can see all that we accomplished and what we didn’t get around to doing that we’d still like/need to do.

This past homeschool year was our craziest one yet! We started out in Utah which is our home-base. (We choose not to live in our house here year-round because my husband’s job is not here and we miss him too much when we live apart). The kids and I spent last September through November in Utah so Marissa could take driver’s ed. Then we moved back to Lima, Peru just before Thanksgiving, but we only ended up living there another three months before the project wrapped up and the company moved us out of Peru. (After July sometime we’ll be moving to Arizona to join my husband there. The kids are in summer camps here and the last one is the last week of July).


Despite those two major moves, I feel we accomplished a lot. As far as books go, Marcus read through the entire Percy Jackson series on his own. Together, he and I read the classics, Old Yeller, Oliver Twist and The Hobbit. As part of his distance reading class, he experienced some amazing stories I would’ve never thought to introduce him to. My favorite was, Unbroken, (the young adult adaptation). His distance teacher, Sister Rowley, read these stories aloud to his class, and usually we would purchase each book on my Nook or Marcus’ Kindle to read along.

The other stories were- Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio, by Peg Kehret; Touching Spirit Bear, by Ben Mikaelsen; The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth George; Breaking Stalin’s Nose, by Eugene Yelchin; Twenty and Ten, by Claire Huchet Bishop; and Hitler’s Canary, by Sandi Toksvig.


For Science, Marcus explored physics. He did a lot of fun science experiments like this one and this one.

Marcus wrote a LOT of 5-paragraph essays this past year! His writing improved by leaps and bounds. 🙂


His distance history class covered world history, starting with the Sumerians (5000BC-2000BC), and including the Egyptians, ancient Greece, early China, the rise of Rome, continuing all the way through both World Wars. With each period of history, Marcus made a craft or artwork. My favorites were these-



For math, Marcus learned fractions, decimals, percentages, etc. through The Learn Math Fast System, which we really like.

Marcus also mapped the oceans, continents and several countries of the world. One thing I kept meaning to do, but never made the time for, was an Around the World in 80 Days geography unit. I actually packed the Jules Verne novel and the miniseries on DVD with Pierce Bronsan in my suitcase to Peru, and then repacked it three months later, both times with the plan to actually get to it. So, on Monday, we are finally starting that unit. I’d start it tomorrow, but Marcus is at scout camp this week. 🙂

Stay tuned for my planning post where I’ll share my dreams for a new homeschool year, here at Happy Hearts. ♥

Curriculum Finds- Free Online Resources For Kids


I’ve arranged these learning websites by subject. We have either used these websites or I’ve looked at them enough to be confident in recommending them, but parents should always preview sites and be aware of what their children are doing online.

A Little of Everything

BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr. offers a selection of free videos, games, quizzes and activities that covers different subjects. The rest of the site requires a membership subscription.

Learning Games For Kids features educational games covering multiple subjects, plus some songs and videos.

Art & Music

Classics For Kids introduces kids to composers, instruments and music.

Tricia Hodges offers free art lessons at Hodgepodge.

The Piano Guys and Lindsey Stirling are just…. AMAZING! I’m thinking “music appreciation”. Now, that’s talent.

Foreign Language

Duolingo is somewhat similar to Rosetta Stone’s approach to learning a second language. I’ve used both and while I loved Rosetta Stone, it’s quite expensive. Duolingo is free, fun, easy to use, and works just as well.

Geography & Science

lizardpoint has free geography quizzes and in study mode, offers facts on individual states and countries. Your child can register for free.

National Geographic Kids features games, animal facts, videos, etc. Your child can create a free account.

Switcheroo Zoo lets kids create funny new animals, as well as offering several other educational games and activities, all related to animals.

Science Monster offers free science lessons and games.

MakeMeGenius offers free science lesson videos, categorized by grade level.

The following sites offer free science experiments/labs. All you do is add the supplies, usually common household items or easy-to-find, inexpensive items from the store:

Science Bob features demonstration videos.

Steve Spangler Science also features videos. This website is my son’s favorite.

TOPS Science has free labs for science activities.


Have Fun With History features free history videos, timelines and activities. I recommend that parents preview the content on this site before showing it to younger children, but I think this would be great for the middle school range.


Cool Math 4 Kids offers free math lessons and games.

Phonics & Reading

Starfall features phonic activities in four steps to help your preschooler learn how to read.

Storyline Online features videos of storybooks read by celebrities. Very cool!

There are a lot of ways to access free books online. Check out a few of these sites: International Children’s Digital Library, Children’s Storybooks Online and Kids World Fun.

If your family has a favorite free website not listed here, I’d love to hear about it in the comment section.

Greek Mythology Unit- Week 1


I’ve been so consumed preparing to move back to Lima, Peru, in 9 days, that I decided to wing our Greek mythology unit and just jump in with both feet.

Marcus and I are using this book-

Treasury of Greek Mythology

National Geographic Treasury of Greek Mythology. I really like this book because of its elaborate, beautiful illustrations.

This week we read, starting at the beginning of the book, about Gaia (Mother Earth), Uranus (Father Heaven), Cronus (Titan King), Zeus (King of the Gods) and Hestia (Goddess of the Hearth).

We also discussed our personal religious beliefs verses what the ancient Greeks believed. We believe in a perfect godhead made up of Heavenly Father, His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. We worship our Heavenly Father, and pray to Him in the name of Jesus Christ. We know that Jesus Christ created this earth, under Heavenly Father’s direction.

Marcus has also been learning a little about ancient Greece, in his distance history class, using this book-

Encyclopedia of World History

The Usborne Encyclopedia of World History. His crafts this week were inspired from this book.

First he created this paper Greek vase-


He made this by coloring an entire sheet of white cardstock with crayons and then painting over his coloring with black tempura paint with a drop of dish soap mixed in. Once that dried, he etched his vase and cut it out. Marcus featured a Cyclops on his vase.

Maybe next time, we’ll try this more elaborate way to create an etching-

Crayon Etching.To learn how to create a vibrant Crayon Etching like this one, see the step-by- step tutorial and photos on the How To Arts and Crafts.com website.

He also created these Greek tragedy and comedy masks-


We followed the examples from Mrs. Crosbie.