Category Archives: Boo

First Day of School Photos


We started school back in August, but with a high schooler and a middle schooler, this year just started off extremely busy, and I didn’t get our photos posted. So, here they are: First day of school 2015. Boo is a sophomore and Buddy is in the sixth grade. Time is flying by. I am so thankful to have the extra time with them that I get by having them home with me!

Buddy is a little taller than his sister now, which he is very excited about. But in this photo he  is taking full advantage of a hill and his tiptoes!





10 Skills to Teach before High School



It’s hard for me to believe it, but in just over a month I will officially have a high school student!

I miss my little pig-tailed tooth-loser, but I have to admit that I am enjoying the young lady she is quickly becoming. I have been telling her that high school will be different.

Before we started school last year I thought through some ways to make it easier for her to transition into high school course work. Here are some of the things we did:

1. Time management. We regularly met to discuss questions and make sure she was on track, but I also gave her a list of assignments with due dates that were days to weeks out. I taught her how to divide assignments and projects into smaller sections, and to make sure she was done on time.

2. Scheduling. Along with teaching her how to manage her time, I also worked on allowing her more freedom in setting her own schedule. Except for our meeting time (which had to be scheduled around her little brother’s school schedule and my work schedule) she was allowed to decide which subject and activities to do when.

3. Writing. Over the past two years my daughter has worked through two different writing programs, learning how to write an essay and a short research paper. I also taught her how to write several types of speeches. These are skills we will continue to improve upon in high school.

4. Relationship with the Lord. During these middle school years, we have been guiding her into developing a relationship with God that is independent of ours. It has been delightful to see her grow in this area, including asking to go to the adult Bible study.

5. Making choices. We have always believed in allowing children to make choices when appropriate, but as our daughter has gotten older, we have been allowing her choices in more important areas. (Tweet this!) For one example, we allowed her the choice of homeschooling full time or going to our local high school part time so she could participate in sports (something that is required in our state). For this year, our daughter chose to stay at home full time.

6. Grading. Not everyone chooses to use traditional grades in high school, but to make completing a transcript easier, we will. So, I started grading some subjects this year to get her used to how it worked.

7. Keyboarding and word processing. As she heads into high school, our daughter will need to be able to type her own reports and papers. This year she worked on how to use a word processing program and spent some time using keyboarding software.

8. Taking notes. Because we used less traditional methods in our homeschool for the elementary years, listening to lectures and taking notes was a skill my daughter didn’t really need. Last year I taught note-taking procedures so she will be prepared for outside high school or college courses. She was able to practice these skills by taking notes during our pastor’s sermons and at Bible study.

9. Tests. The style of homeschooling we used in elementary school did not include taking traditional tests. I assessed my daughter’s learning on the go and kept lists of what she needed to work on. Last year, along with the grading, I occasionally started giving tests. While I am still not convinced that traditional tests give us the best information about what a student knows, she will have to take them eventually. Tests made her nervous, so I was glad we started working on test-taking skills early.

10. Library skills. Finding a book, using dictionaries and encyclopedias, internet safety and use, research skills. All of these are important for a successful high school student to know. Several of my daughter’s assignments over the past year included a library skills component.

While it would be impossible to cover every single skill that my daughter might need, the previous skills will help her be more successful in during her high school years.

How are you prepping for high school? Share your questions or advice in the comments below!

Originally posted at

Math Is NOT a Four-Letter Word!



Reducing Algebra Stress

I know a word that can make even a group of seasoned homeschoolers groan. Can you guess what it is? Algebra! But it doesn’t have to be that way. While I don’t have a secret weapon that will make math your child’s favorite subject, I can offer some suggestions to reduce the algebra stress and make it easier for both of you.

Wait until your child is ready. This is probably the most important advice I have for reducing algebra stress. From the time our children are tiny, we parents are prone to playing the comparison game. Did Jimmy walk at nine months while the Evans’ child was nearly a year-and-a-half? Did the Ortega’s daughter potty train at two years old while Ella is still in pull-ups at three? We take pride in our early learners and agonize over the later ones. This attitude is unfortunately carried into high school as well, where many homeschoolers rush their children into advanced subjects such as higher-level math.

I was four when I began public school, a full year younger than the majority of my classmates. While I was academically ready for kindergarten, the age discrepancy showed up with a vengeance in junior high. I had always gotten A’s in math, one of my favorite subjects. Then came pre-algebra my eighth-grade year. Suddenly, my teacher was speaking a foreign language I had never heard before, and I struggled to keep up. Just as suddenly, in my freshman year, math made sense again.

It wasn’t until I was in my education courses at college that I learned why this probably happened. There is a huge shift in cognitive development that occurs between the ages of eleven and fourteen. Jean Piaget, a Swiss developmental psychologist and philosopher, described this shift as a change from concrete operational to formal operational. A child in the concrete operational stage needs objects and concrete examples in order to solve problems, while someone in the formal operational stage can think abstractly. If a child has not yet reached the formal operational stage, abstract concepts such as algebra may seem like gibberish.

Giving your child a little more time to develop cognitively can make a huge difference.

Use “manipulatives.” Many believe that manipulatives (concrete objects used to teach math concepts) are only for primary students. This is unfortunate, as manipulatives can make difficult math concepts much easier to learn. Once I was ready to learn abstractly, algebra became easy and even fun for me. I even created my own algebra problems and tutored a fellow student. However, I am going to tell you a secret. Are you ready? It wasn’t until I went to a Math-U-See product demonstration at my first homeschool conference that I understood how algebra works! You see, I had learned to solve the problems without ever being taught why the solutions work. When the representative demonstrated how to factor an algebra problem using the company manipulatives, I was stunned to realize that I finally knew why we followed those particular steps to solve that type of problem. Math-U-See has their own set of manipulatives to use for their program, but you can also use Cuisenaire rods, Legos, or a variety of free online printables as well.

Master the basics first. Unlike other subjects that can be learned globally, math needs to be learned sequentially. Because math skills build on each other, it is very important that your child masters earlier concepts before moving on to algebra. If your child isn’t comfortable with multiplication and division, factoring a polynomial will be torture. Take some time to assess your child’s previous math knowledge and fill in any gaps before jumping into algebra.

Two steps forward, one step back is still progress. If you begin algebra with a bang, only to find your student hits a rough patch partway into the course, it’s okay to take a break. Spend some time focusing on those fundamentals again and review any algebra concepts that have already been learned. When my daughter—who had always done fairly well in math—hit a snag, we both found ourselves frustrated and unhappy. Instead of attempting to plow on anyway, I chose to put our math studies in neutral. We spent several months reviewing all of the concepts she had learned up to that point. After a few months, we tried the new material again—and to both of our delight, she not only understood the new material but was able to make up for some of the lost time by doing lessons more quickly than usual. And, better still, she began to enjoy math again.

If algebra is stressing you or your student out, try one—or more—of these ideas. You may find that math isn’t a four-letter word after all.

To read more about Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, you can read my post on HEDUA’s blog:

Originally published at

History Museum Field Trip


We love field trips! The other day our co-op went to a history museum about two hours away. We had a blast! The history museum puts on classes for schools, but they had never worked with homeschoolers before. It made for a learning experience for all, I think. Rather than a group of same-age kids, they were creating classes that would work for a multi-aged group with lots of parents, many of whom had toddlers and babies along. The museum did a fabulous job, and we had a great time.

We divided into two groups, one for little that couldn’t walk as far and another for about eight and up. We had a short class discussing the Oregon trail and then went out to experience some of what it would be like.

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Learning about the trail.


Pumping water and loading the wagons.


Stopping at an out-post store.



Pulling the carts.


Cooking over a campfire.


Tug o’ War on the prairie.


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Visiting Railroad Town.


Newspaper office and old-fashioned baseball at the general store.

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Schoolhouse and a sad boy in a pioneer jailhouse.


2014-2015 in Review


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Crestview Heights Academy School Year in Review 2014-2015Crestview Heights Academy School Year in Review 2014-2015Crestview Heights Academy School Year in Review 2014-2015Crestview Heights Academy School Year in Review 2014-2015

Whew! It is hard to believe how fast this school year has flown! We are almost to the end of our year, and I am deep into planning our next school year. I would have to say that this was one of our best years yet. We got a lot accomplished! And it turned out that high school isn’t so bad after all. Smile

Here are some thoughts and comments on the past year and the curricula that we used:

I have worked hard this year at simplifying and organizing. I have a lot I want to do this summer, but I do have to say that it has made our year easier. I have declutter a lot of extra items and gotten much more organized with regular cleaning chores. My Well Planned Day planner bears testament to the fact that I am using it regularly as well.


We used some favorites this past year and then added some new ones into the mix. As my kids get older, I am learning more and more what works for them. That means that I hit the mark with the curriculum choices more often!


Boo had lessons with my mom, read her Bible, listened to teachings, and went to Bible study each week. We are working her into a more adult-style way of using her faith.

Buddy read from his Bible and worked on AWANA memory verses.


Boo used Applications of Grammar this year. I love this curriculum for her because it is thorough, but easy for me to use. She is my traditional-style schooler, so workbooks are a good fit for her. I put together a literature curriculum for her, and she made it through all of the books. She doesn’t love reading, so that was quite a feat for us! I did allow her to listen to a couple of the books on mp3 from Librivox just to shake things up a bit and make it easier. And she also looked up and defined a number of vocabulary words.

Buddy used All About Reading and All About Spelling again this year. I can’t say enough about this series. His reading has improved dramatically since we started using them. It fits right in with his right-brained, artistic mindset. He also did choice independent reading, and I read aloud several books to him.


Boo used Math-U-See and finished up Pre-Algebra and is working her way quickly through Algebra 1. We took some extra time last year to make sure she had a solid foundation before we got into higher-level math, and that time has shown this year.

Buddy is still doing some Math-U-See as well, but we have moved onto Life of Fred for most of his Math work. The quirky stories fit his learning style very well. I am very happy with this choice and ordered the next few books for next year.


Boo completed Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Biology from Dr. Jay Wile. With the exception of microorganisms, which is necessary but not really our interest, we loved this book. I worked with her on this one most days, and we both learned so much. We had a lot of fun with the experiments, as well.

Buddy worked through two of Apologia’s Zoology books. He will finish the third one next year. He preferred the land animals one, but had fun with them both. His favorite activity was the candy activity that showed how camouflage works!

Social Studies:

Boo studied World Geography using lessons I created using several books. The base for the study was DK’s Geography of the World book. With tons of full-color photos and information, I felt like she got a really good overview of the world. She also completed maps and did some reading from Operation World. I intended for her to do more hands-on activities, such as cooking and art, but we just ran out of time. I do think those activities would have been helpful in learning about the cultures, though.

Buddy also studied geography, with a brief look at each continent, some map activities, and study in geographical terms. I used books from the library, and the online games Stack the States and Stack the Countries to work with him, too.


Boo worked hard for her music performance credit this year. She had a solo in our church program and sang solos and duets for other events. She has had several years of piano lessons. This year she has begun working on accompanying someone singing for praise and worship.

Buddy had piano lessons and a speaking role in our church program. He also had an art lesson each week and is learning to draw.


Both of my kids spend many hours practicing for ball and playing games. Boo spend some time at the YMCA working out, and both kids do Wii Fit. I am hoping to improve on P.E. next year, because Buddy will be old enough to go upstairs at the Y and  use the treadmills and other machines.


Boo used online programs to learn some Spanish and for Keyboarding. I liked the Keyboarding program, but will add some bookwork in for Spanish 2.


We had a great year at co-op. Both of the kids were in a wonderful poetry class and completed books of their own poems. They also had a creative writing class and wrote short stories. It stretched them both and was fun as well. They also learned some Spanish from the Spanish pastor at the church that hosts co-op. Buddy enjoyed a study on pioneer days. Both kids had choir.

All-in-all, this was a good school year. I am happy with what we accomplished, but I have some goals for next year. I am hoping to have both kids work a little more independently so that working with them one at a time will be easier. And I am hoping to have some more hands-on activities for our studies in World History (Boo) and Ancient History (Buddy). For now, though, we are going to enjoy a summer break and some ball games!

Hands-On Learning with Field Trips


Homeschooling allows us to provide our children with a unique, tailor-made education. And what better way to provide this than to give our children real-life opportunities to learn? Real-life learning can take many forms, including chores and life skill lessons, jobs, ministry, and apprenticeships. Arguably one of the best methods of real-life learning is taking a field trip. It certainly is one of the most fun!

You can use field trips to add to your curriculum in a number of ways. For example, our family will be taking a road trip this summer from here in the Midwest to sunny California. We decided to take a side trip and visit Mesa Verde and the Grand Canyon on the way. Not only will this allow me to check a couple of things off my bucket list, but it will be a great jumpstart to our studies next year. Boo will be studying world history using Exploring World History from Notgrass, and Buddy will be spending the year in ancient history with Ancient Civilizations and the Bible from Diana Waring.

There are many reasons field trips make education more memorable. Field trips:

  1. Can show students a variety of occupations they may be interested in pursuing. Consider a trip to a newspaper office, bank, sports arena, hospital, farm, veterinarian’s office, dentist, or factory, among others.
  2. Allow opportunities for hands-on, interactive learning. Many historical sites have learning experiences, and some have lessons and programs that you can attend. Try historical locations, science museums, and children’s museums.
  3. Give students the ability to see artwork, fossils, and artifacts close up. Even small towns often have local museums, and larger ones will likely have a natural history or art museum.
  4. Show children how and where the government works. Locally, try your police department or city government offices. Consider visiting your country seat or the state capital as well. Many states also have tours of their governor’s mansions. And, if possible, a trip to Washington, D.C. can be a fantastic adventure.
  5. Get you out of a rut. Sometimes we can get bored with just the same old, same old every day. Taking a field trip can breathe life into your school year.
  6. Make a great wrap-up activity. After you have spent some time reading about and studying a topic, taking a field trip can bring the topic to life.

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Crestview Heights Academy Hands-on Learning with Field TripsCrestview Heights Academy Hands-on Learning with Field TripsCrestview Heights Academy Hands-on Learning with Field TripsCrestview Heights Academy Hands-on Learning with Field Trips

Crestview Heights Academy Hands-on Learning with Field TripsCrestview Heights Academy Hands-on Learning with Field TripsCrestview Heights Academy Hands-on Learning with Field TripsCrestview Heights Academy Hands-on Learning with Field TripsCrestview Heights Academy Hands-on Learning with Field TripsCrestview Heights Academy Hands-on Learning with Field TripsCrestview Heights Academy Hands-on Learning with Field TripsCrestview Heights Academy Hands-on Learning with Field TripsCrestview Heights Academy Hands-on Learning with Field TripsCrestview Heights Academy Hands-on Learning with Field TripsCrestview Heights Academy Hands-on Learning with Field Trips

Considering the fact that there are so many fantastic reasons to take a field trip, why don’t you start planning one today?

Tips for Playing Club Ball on a Budget


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Crestview Heights Academy Saving money during ball season.

Buddy playing baseball.

Crestview Heights Academy Ball Season Saving Money

Boo playing softball.

It’s that time of year again for us. The beginning of club ball season. Our daughter plays girls’ fast pitch softball and our son is a baseball player. Between the two of them, we spend a LOT of time away from home from the middle of April through the beginning of July. As a means to participate in team sports while homeschooling, we make club ball a priority during these months, but with only one full time income in our household, sometimes I need to get creative to save money. Here are some of my tips for saving money while traveling for club ball:

Meals at Home

With busy tournament weekends, games during the week, and practices in between, weekday meals can be just as much a problem as the weekends. I combat this with some preparation before ball season starts. I plan some meals for the freezer, either by cooking extra meals of by making double of some recipes and freezing half.

For those nights when we just can’t do anything but grab fast food, I keep an envelop with restaurant coupons handy. We also take advantage of offers such as the one we had for Burger King last year, where we were able to purchase vouchers at a reduced price and use them during ball season.

Food at the Field

Keeping everyone fed while on the road is a huge task. Eating fast food and out of the concession stand can get expensive quickly, so I try to find ways to keep it to a minimum. Instead, we purchased a cooler on wheels (a life saver for those long hikes from the parking lot to the field!) and fill it with water, Gatorade, soda, and juice that I purchase at the grocery store and bring from home. With beverages costing less than fifty cents this way, we save an average of $1 per drink off the concession stand price.

We also stock up on meats, cheeses, and small bags of chips for easy lunches. Rather than bread, I pack tortillas to make wraps. Tortillas tend to store better without getting soggy like bread does. We also have a portable grill that we sometimes take along for tournament days. Grilling hot dogs or hamburgers makes for a quick lunch or supper, and we save a ton of money by not eating out.

Another easy way to provide meals is to work together with the rest of the families on the team. Everyone provides part of the meal, so that no one has to bring everything for their family. Not only is this fun, but it is much easier, too. It helps if one person is in charge and everyone signs up, so that you have a variety of foods rather than just dessert.

At the beginning of the year I set aside money for one big shopping trip, either to our grocery store or to a warehouse. I purchase bulk snacks to repackage and pack in my snack bag. I also purchase the ingredients for a variety of cookies. Before ball season starts, I spend a day or two mixing up cookie dough, forming it into small balls, and freezing them. I put them into baggies labeled with the type of cookie and the baking instructions. This makes it easy to bake a couple of dozen cookies at a time without all of the mess of mixing the dough. Depending on your oven, it may take a few minutes longer when the dough is completely frozen.

Travel and Hotel

Part of playing on a traveling team is the actual traveling, which is the most costly part of ball for us. While we go into each year knowing that this will be our largest expense, we also do what we can to keep it down. Some ideas we have used include using the Internet to find the best hotel prices, camping instead of staying in a hotel, and driving back and forth each day rather than staying in a hotel when the location and schedule works. We have also used rebate cards or loyalty cards to save money on gasoline, and occasionally we carpool, especially when our kids are going two different directions.


I purchase as much of as possible of my children’s sports clothing at the end of the season when it is on clearance. I also watch for coupons and specials from the sports stores, and purchase from discount sports stores online. I use ebates whenever I purchase online. Simply by clicking on the store link through ebates, I can get a rebate of as much as 10% on my purchases.

As my kids have gotten older, their sports equipment has become more specialized. For my younger kids, though, I sometimes thought outside the box. For example, one year we purchased soccer cleats instead of baseball cleats, since soccer cleats were cheaper and on clearance.

What are some of the ways that you save money traveling for club ball? Let me know in the comments.