We’re bringing school home…


Bean and Bella working hard

What seems like long ago now, I was an elementary teacher. I enjoyed my job, but loathed the bureaucracy. So, ten years ago when I gave birth to my first child, Bean, I started my journey as a stay-at-home-mom.

Only 4 months after she was born, she was diagnosed with an egg and milk allergy and so began our food-allergy journey. Next came the peanut allergy, and now there are too many to list. Bean is a caring, intelligent little girl. Her love and affection knows no bounds. She is spunky and quick-witted, silly and solemn. She has probably one of the most inquiring minds I’ve ever encountered and is constantly absorbing more and more knowledge. She is already a wise old owl, at the tender age of 10.

Our second daughter, Bella, was born in 2010 and our little family became complete. We are grateful that little sister doesn’t have any allergies. She has a sunny disposition and looks up to her big sister, who treats her as her own best friend. Bella loves to take risks and certainly keeps us on our toes. But she, too, is a miniature intellect, often surprising us with her memory and wit.

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Balancing Classical Conversations Essentials with Logic of English Essentials

Before Bean turned 9 we began using Logic of English Essentials for language arts. I fell in love with the program (you can read about it here) and really didn’t want to part with it once she entered Classical Conversations Essentials. CC Essentials utilizes Andrew Pudewa’s Institute of Excellence in Writing (IEW) for writing skills while spelling and grammar lessons are offered through CC’s Essentials of the English Language (EEL) curriculum. Logic of English covers spelling, reading, vocabulary, and grammar, so there is some overlap between EEL and LOE. I have found EEL’s grammar and spelling program is not as well organized as LOE. After taking a good look at how it would all piece together I decided to use both Essentials programs side-by-side, omitting the excess from the program I felt was less thorough, EEL.

Essentials Vol. 1 coversAt first, I was pretty overwhelmed. We chose not to put much emphasis on the vocabulary work in IEW, though we did cut out the flash cards and I encouraged Bean to include those words in her writing. We omitted EEL’s grammar, editing, and spelling program, because as many CC Essentials moms can attest, it’s really not laid out in the most user-friendly format. We continued copying charts, diagramming sentences and of course following along in class. Trying to fit the charts and diagramming into our day along with IEW work and LOE’s full schedule was tough! Anyone who already uses LOE Essentials knows that those lessons can often be quite long. Trying to squeeze it in 5 days a week was really tough, especially since one of our weekdays was consumed by CC. Between writing assignments for IEW, copying charts for EEL, and all the intricacies of LOE Essentials work, we were exhausted! Bean was stressed, I was stressed, and we were both feeling perpetually behind.


So this is how we do it now- and this is going to sound really simple… are you ready? I let it go the way it goes with Logic of English. It’s that easy. LOE is organized as a 5-day curriculum over three levels, but as I mentioned in my review, it can be flexible if you let it. Instead of trying to get a full lesson completed each week (working 5 days), we shifted focus to working on LOE every school day that didn’t include our CC day. I let go of any expectations about how much we had to complete each day, and decided we would just be sure to work on it daily on our non-CC days. Once I adjusted my expectations, we were both much more comfortable. Most weeks, we got anywhere from 2-4 days of LOE completed as we progressed through LOE for the first time in level A. Sometimes we spread one LOE “day” over two actual days; other times we squeezed two LOE “days” into one actual day. It took us about one calendar year to complete level A in Volume 1 of LOE Essentials, but it was the perfect pace for us.Balancing

Logic of English Essentials is organized into three levels: A, B, and C. Like CC Essentials, many concepts are repeatedly studied at each level (spiral method), so as you progress through the program some parts get easier. The beautiful thing is, once we started repeating sections of lessons as we progressed though the next level (B) this year, it all began to go significantly faster. Bean began LOE Essentials B in Volume 1 last spring (Lessons 16-30 were not released yet when she completed level A) so now some concepts are coming back around again.


LOE Level B Binder

I purchased the digital version of the workbook and each week I print off the necessary pages for the next full LOE 5-day lesson. With the combination of the EEL charts, CC Foundations grammar memory work, and LOE level A, some spelling and grammar rules really don’t need extra practice when they come around again in LOE so as I select pages for level B, I decide which activities Bean needs to repeat in the sections labeled “all.” I don’t make any real goals about how much to complete in the week ahead. Instead, I just print the pages I’ll need for the next whole lesson, no matter how soon it will be completed. Once it’s complete, I print the pages for the next lesson. We store all the printed lesson pages in sheet protectors in a binder, all the pages for one lesson slipped into one sheet protector. We place the Spelling Analysis page in front so it can be used in composition or other activities in later lessons at a quick glance.


All the pages printed for one lesson go in one sheet protector.

Now that we’re cruising through level B, we have been consistently completing one full 5-day LOE lesson every week, despite only working 4 days (or less!). Since Bean needs very little time to complete the repeat portions of most lessons, and because we are prepared with our selected printed workbook pages, LOE lessons go very quickly. That leaves us with more time to work on CC Essentials. Most of Bean’s EEL and IEW instruction comes from her Essentials tutor on our community day and because I’ve chosen to leave out much of the instruction-intensive EEL material all I have to do is go over her do-to list with her before she begins working. She writes her IEW assignments and practices charts and sentence diagramming mostly on her own, especially any time she has down time in the van or while I’m working with her little sister. (We love Homeschool Story’s Essentials Student Notebook to organize all that EEL material in one binder!)

If it’s your first time through LOE Essentials, take your time. Look forward to going through it at the next level, as it will allow you extra time to focus on IEW and EEL. The combination of these three curriculums is a slam dunk. I have seen vast improvements in my daughter’s grammar, spelling, vocabulary, and composition since utilizing LOE and CC Essentials. They can really complement one another if you can manage to balance them all to your student’s needs. Just don’t let yourself drown in the material! This is homeschool; cherry pick what you like from each and apply it. Don’t be afraid to tell your Essentials tutor what you are/aren’t participating in through Essentials, either. You will find that they, too, are trying to make the best decisions for their children as well and are quite likely to be understanding. (For instance, I told our tutor that we weren’t going to be publishing final drafts of IEW papers with all the markings recommended in the curriculum- it was just taking too much of our time. She totally understood!) I hope that you will be able to balance CC and LOE Essentials programs in a way that works for your family if that’s the route you choose to take!

A little extra honesty here: We recently left our Classical Conversations community (a post for another day I’m afraid!), so while this was primarily written while we were still attending community day, we now have a full five-day school week at home. We are still utilizing our Foundations Guide and learning the memory work every week and we’re still using IEW, but now at our own pace, a little more thoroughly (and without the long drive!). We haven’t done much with EEL though. I now allow Bean to choose between working on LOE or IEW each day. We are still cruising through both programs at a decent pace, but it’s all a little different since we stopped attending community day and now have more flexible work time. We are still working out the kinks of our new routine, but we’ll get there. Once we have it all figured out (but really, do we ever? Haha), I will make another post to show how we’re continuing to use CC at home with LOE.

If you are interested in the Logic of English program, please consider using one of my links to their website. I was blessed with the opportunity to use affiliate links, which means your purchase of LOE could support our homeschool at no cost to you. Thank you!
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Logic of English: Knitting Knights

We’ve finally settled back home after our long trip to the mainland and have slowly been returning to our routines, but adding school back in is always a little tricky after so much time off. The kids never seem to take it well… there tends to be a lot of tears, complaining, and whining involved. Does that happen in your family?

Whistling Whales: Beyond the Sounds of ABC, by Logic of EnglishWhen I saw how much Bella enjoyed reading Logic of English’s Whistling Whales: Beyond the Sounds of ABC with me (read about our experience with Whistling Whales here), I knew we’d be sitting down for our regular reading lessons again soon. It warmed her up so well in fact, that one day I threw caution to the wind and simply asked, “Bella, would you like to do a reading lesson right now?”

It is homeschooling 101: Never ASK your child if they would LIKE to do school work. Yet there I was… asking. Oops. But really, who ASKS their kid if they’d LIKE to do a lesson?! What was I thinking?! I immediately regretted my choice of words and braced myself for the refusal I was surely about to face. To my (pleasant) surprise though, she began excitedly jumping up and down while chanting, “Yes! Yes! YES!” She jumped excitedly, folks. In anticipation of school work!

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Logic of English: Whistling Whales 

Whew! It has been one crazy fun summer for our Ohana (family). We took a long trip to the mainland U.S., with stops in Chicago, Washington D.C., New York City, Boston, Connecticut, and Vermont. Needless to say, we are all EXHAUSTED. I’m sure I’ll write up something about our adventures and how we made our trip tie into our homeschool, but for now I have to share about this great new book from Logic of English (LOE). It has helped us jump back into schoolwork smoothly and without complaint!

Whistling Whales: Beyond the Sounds of ABC, by Logic of English

Logic of English released two new picture books this summer, Whistling Whales: Beyond the Sounds of ABC and Knitting Knights: Beyond the Sounds of ABC, for use alongside their Foundations B and C programs, respectively. Written by Denise Eide, the founder of Logic of English, Whistling Whales is now included with the purchase of the Foundations A-B Complete Set. Knitting Knights accompanies the Foundations C-D Complete Set. Both books can also be purchased separately, priced about the same as most hardcover picture books at $15. Like Doodling Dragons: An ABC Book of Sounds, (LOE’s first picture book used in Foundations A), both of these new read-aloud books reinforce all of the phonograms taught in their corresponding levels. In Foundations B and C, however, the phonograms are multi-letter phonograms such as TH, SH, TCH, etc, so Whistling Whales and Knitting Knights definitely include a bit more challenging phonograms for the advancing new reader. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, head over to my review of Logic of English’s Foundations A program for a little background.)

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The 2017 Honolulu Biennial Art Festival at Ward Village: A Family-Centered Review


If you are like me, you probably have no idea what exactly a biennial art festival entails. My understanding of art biennials was minimal to say the least, before my experience at the new Honolulu Biennial this weekend. Henri Neuendorf explains the historical and cultural significance of art -ennials in Art Demystified: Biennials Explained. These art festivals are held across the world in an effort to support artists, showcase culture, and embrace diversity, with the added benefit of attracting art tourism to the cities in which they are held. Not surprisingly, Italy is known for hosting the first and longest standing biennial event, the Venice Biennale. As Neuendorf explains, “It was created for the precise reason of establishing a platform for art world participants to compare and contrast the art created across the world…” The 2017 Honolulu Biennial: Middle of Now is Honolulu’s inaugural biennial, the beginning of a new tradition for the city. It showcases work from artists all across the globe at nine different locations in the city, and it is an incredible family experience that we look forward to visiting again.

FullSizeRenderMomsInHawaii.com and Ward Village generously offered my family the opportunity to visit the Ward venues so I could share our experience with you. Ward hosts two venues: the Hub and the IBM building. We went on a Saturday and enjoyed ourselves so much that we returned the following Monday. Parking was easy and free at both locations on both days. My husband had a cold and didn’t feel like walking between the IBM building and the HUB, but they are only about 2-2.5 blocks apart so it would be easily walkable if you decide to just park in one place. Parking is available in the lot directly in front of the Hub. There is plenty of parking in between the Hub and the IBM if you choose to walk, otherwise parking is available for the IBM building across the street in Ward Village.

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Quality Screen Time

img_0643No matter how like-minded your acquaintances, controversy surrounds the topic of screen time in almost every circle. Today, homeschooling families frequently worry about our children wasting away in front of a glowing LED. But at the same time, we face pressure to expose our children to the future. This isn’t terribly new territory for parents, as TVs have been around for quite a few generations now, but it IS a little different considering there are tiny screens riding around in our pockets now too. We are living in a digital age and to deny that is a disservice to our children. So where do we draw the line? What makes screen time “quality” versus mind-numbing? How can we prevent internet addiction in our children?

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CC Review Games that Rock

I’ve been working on this list for a VERY long time. In recent conversation with my CC tutor buddies though, I realized that this won’t be of much help to tutors and parents if I never move it out of my “drafts” folder and get it published! So here it is. These are some fun ways to review Classical Conversations material (or really any material for that matter) with your class or with your own students at home. It is not an exhaustive list by any means, but these were what I’ve regularly used, seen in use, and enjoyed with my students. I’m sure there are lots more fantastic ideas on CC Connected, so don’t forget to check there as well!

First a few tips… When I was tutoring I always liked to pair or team my students up to answer review questions because it really ISN’T a competition. It’s more about letting the students go through the material again, whether they’re reciting it or simply hearing it; every exposure counts. By teaming or partnering students up, it’s less likely anyone will feel disappointed if they can’t think of the answer and you’ll be more likely to have attentive students since they will be busy helping one another.

For most of these games I just used my Foundations Guide to choose questions. I’d make a light pencil mark next to the ones I already asked if I started to get confused, but usually I was able to keep track by focusing on either one week at a time or one subject at a time. As I set up any game I often had the class sing the Timeline Song together and then I’d omit that subject from the game. So we’d only go through: Grammar, Math, Science, History Sentence, Geography, and Latin during the game play. You can nearly change any game into a review game by simply having students answer a review question before their turn. You just need to be diligent in selecting games that require little play time, so each student’s turn isn’t so long that it squanders the review time.

We actually use this other brand like Kerplunk but called Tumble. It works just as well.

Kerplunk – Students answer a review question before pulling a stick from the Kerplunk stand.

Candyland – My girls love this one in the classroom AND at home. It works best when the class is split into 2-4 groups. I assign each subject a color and usually omit the Timeline when playing. Then it works out just right to use the solid colors for each subject. There are special “Candy” spaces too, that you could use as free cards and students could move to that space without answering a review question. Alternately, you could allow students to choose a subject when they draw those cards. I have heard of some tutors who use their color-coded review cards for this game and the colors coorespond with the game cards, too. Makes me want to buy those cards… lol! Continue reading

Homeschooling with Chronic Pain

I have never really considered myself as someone living with chronic pain… I suppose that’s because I’m not actually in pain constantly, just frequently. A recent Facebook thread about homeschooling with chronic pain somehow made me realize that I do indeed suffer chronically. As I read the mother’s question about how to tailor her homeschool around her pain, I realized that I do that… I tailor our homeschool around my pain. Somehow I never consciously realized it until that very moment.

Migraines are often debilitating

I suffer from migraine headaches. I’ve had them since I was 16 years old. My mother has them, my aunts have them, my cousins… It’s just part of our genetic code. Part of life. Save for a few strange weeks here or there, my migraines have pretty consistently come 2-3 times per week, every week since I first began to get them. The medical definition of “chronic migraine” is 15 or more headaches per month, at least 8 of them being migraines. With 9-12 migraines per month and always a handful of tension or sinus headaches mixed in, I suppose I really DO have chronic migraines. That is hard to accept!

So how do I function on a daily basis? How do I do my duties as a homeschool mom, housewife, tutor, and blogger? Well, I’ll be the first to admit that I frequently don’t. I fail. I fail often. Obviously I don’t get around to posting here as often as I’d like (though I try to make my content worth the wait for my few faithful readers!). There are many nights I go to bed with dishes in the sink, laundry on the piled up on the couch, no lesson plans prepared for morning, and sometimes there are even nights that my kids have to tuck themselves in.

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The Waikiki Aquarium Critter Encounter

IMG_0654I have lived on Oahu for over 9 years and somehow I’ve never made a trip to the Waikiki Aquarium… until now. When Moms In Hawaii reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in reviewing the Critter Encounter at the Waikiki Aquarium, I jumped at the opportunity. Our family has participated in reef walks twice, visited the Living Art Marine Center a few times, and we regularly explore the creatures in our local Hawaiian waters. So I guess you could say I wasn’t expecting to learn much new information on this visit to the aquarium. My girls were excited, of course, but I figured we wouldn’t be adding much to the base knowledge we’ve acquired over the years of these little critters. Fortunately, I was very, very wrong!

IMG_0662Mary, our critter connoisseur and guide, met us soon after our arrival and escorted us to the touch pools. As we walked she spoke a little about the aquarium’s two resident seals, stopping to let the girls watch them swim around. She answered all of Bean’s questions then continued to lead us to the touch pools tucked away at the back of the park. We felt quite special being led into the “Authorized Personnel Only” area, which by the way, highlighted the beauty of the location. Just look at that view! Aquarium trip followed by beach day, anyone?

Once inside, Mary took a few minutes to give Bean and Bella a little teaser about what they would be seeing during our encounter and the rules they’d need to follow. She went over what kinds of critters they’d be allowed to touch, hold, and even feed. She primed their little brains quite well and didn’t just tell them the basics, but instead spoke about the details, what made the critters alike and different. Next, clearly knowing how intimidating it might be for a child to get up the nerve to touch at a living sea urchin, she showed them a shell and spines while explaining that they had once been a part of a living sea urchin.


Bean touched the shell of a sea urchin, as well as a fallen spine. Mary showed how the spine was once attached to the urchin.

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Logic of English: Essentials 2nd Edition Review

Some days I really realize just how very blessed I am. Every time I pull out our Essentials manual I am reminded that I was blessed by Logic of English with the opportunity to review it. After I posted my review of their Foundations program I was approached to join their affiliate program and was later given a special opportunity to receive a copy of the NEW Essentials 2nd edition Volume 1 for review. How cool is that?! So blessed. So grateful.

Essentials is designed for children ages 8 and up. When I originally wrote this review, it was divided into two volumes, but is now available in four, smaller sets. My review covers lessons 1-15 at level A. Now, Lessons 1-7, the complete set, runs $149. Once you have the Lessons 1-7 Complete Set (with the various card packs and game tiles), Lessons 8-15, 16-22, 23-30 are only $49 each. If you’ve used the Foundations program, you may already have much of the materials needed as well and can start with the upgrade set for $77, adding additional items al la carte. I ended up purchasing Rhythm of Handwriting Cursive as well to use for the Pre-Lessons (more on that in a minute). Lessons 1-7 Complete Set contains all you see here.

Essentials 1-7 Complete Set

I took the teacher’s manual to my room with me the first night after receiving it. This is my happy place- laying in bed propped up on my reading pillows, all alone… In the silence and comfort of my own room. Silence is rare in a homeschool house, am I right?! It took about two or three evenings spent reading to get through those first pages, being sure I was understanding it completely.

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Reading 101

Once upon a time I was a teacher. A reading specialist, actually. I pulled children out from the classroom and held small group and one-on-one instruction with them. I watched second grade students reading at the kindergarten level (still working on letter sounds) advance to their proper grade level over the course of a semester. It was incredible to be a part of that transition for those children!

Sometimes, though, I think I learned more than they did during that time. I learned that the BIGGEST contributing factor to reading success is not instruction time, flash cards, or hands on techniques. It is simply time spent reading together. Working out those sounds, together. Encountering new words, together. The beauty of this is that it doesn’t have to be a teacher and student interaction. It can be parent with child, classmates, siblings, friends, and even stuffed animals.

I have a memory of reading in third grade… My teacher put us in small groups of two or three to read together. She must have seen the future teacher in my eyes, because she whispered to me when she partnered me with the child reading at the lowest level, “I think you can be a great helper for Tina. Can you help her read today?” I will never forget the pride I felt being able to help my friend.

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