Screen Time Woes


Like most kids in 2016, my kids LOVE technology.

And like most moms, I struggle with the limitations we put on it.

We have changed, flip-flopped, back-tracked, you name it, on our “rules” regarding technology/screen time.  It seems that whenever my husband and I come up with a way to keep track of and limit screen time, the kids weasel their way around the rules and in no time at all, it gets out of hand.

I admit that I don’t have the answers.  I am terrible at this!  I kind of enjoy the quiet of them playing the Xbox while I get chores done…or read in peace! Also, playing the Xbox with friends online is one of the few ways they “talk” to friends as homeschoolers.

I know how bad it is for them, though, so I do continue to work on a plan that allows them to play with friends and lets me feel comfortable about their screen time.

So, while planning their Health lesson for this week (Health is required in my state), I came across a lesson about screen time limits from Kids Health.  This is not a magic bullet, but I’m hoping it will help the kids see why limiting their time is so important.

By the way, I am very realistic and I know I could do this lesson every day for a month and I’ll still have arguments.  But, education is a good thing, so let me live in a dream world!

We started our lesson by listening to the audio lessons on the Kids Health site that relate to the topic.  We listened to a few including “Are Video Games Bad for Me?” and “Why Exercise is Cool.”  Search under the “Educators” link on their website for ideas.  (We used this lesson, specifically, but there are others depending on your child’s age.)

When we finished listening, we discussed why excessive screen time is not good and we brainstormed ideas for alternative activities.

Then, we put those activities from our brainstorming on a poster board.  We cut out pictures from magazines and made a collage for each child.  I hung them up in our kitchen, so they will be a reminder to us of what alternatives we have available.


As you can see, my kids like to play sports, cook, play superheroes, play legos, and enjoy many “screen-free” activities!

Kids Health also has log sheets for the kids to track their screen time for two weeks.  I gave each boy a copy.  During week one, they’ll track their “normal” screen time and during week two, they’ll try to improve that number.  I will hang those up next to the activity posters as another reminder for all of us!

Finally, I put together an activity jar (see the picture at the top of this post) to keep us active when we can’t be outside.

Inside the jar are slips of paper with silly activities on them.  There is also a die.  Here is how this works:

  • One child will role the die, while the other pulls a slip of paper from the jar.
  • Then, they complete the activity as many times (or repetitions) as the die shows.

You can put any activity you like on the papers, but as a family, we brainstormed some silly things and some basic exercises just to get us moving.

Some of our activities include:

  • Bear walk around the couch
  • Stand on one foot for 5 seconds (multiply this by whatever number is on the die!)
  • Frog jump
  • Crab walk around the couch

You can make up anything that your kids will enjoy.  This can be a movement break during a long homeschool day, too.  I have boys that tend to be competitive, so sometimes this can turn into a fun game.

We’ll work on lessening our screen time and increasing our activity at the same time! I hope you can take some of these ideas and find what works for your family.  And feel free to give me ideas, too!  I’d love to know how other families tackle this!


Elementary Math

I mentioned in my 3rd grade curriculum post that we changed the curriculum we were using this year for math.  We started out this school year using Saxon Math 3.  Last year, we completed Saxon Math 2 and I really struggled over whether or not to continue with Saxon.  Eventually, I made the decision to stay the course and continue to the next Saxon level.

After all, my oldest uses and loves Saxon for the older grades and  I do think Saxon is a very solid program in the long run.  So…why the switch???

Time.  I needed the time back.

Saxon is very teacher intensive in the younger grades.  It solidly covers calendars, patterns, weather, skip-counting, and more in the daily “morning meeting.”  That meeting is followed by the lesson for the day and a review worksheet.  The teacher’s guide is scripted, telling you exactly what to say to teach your eager learner.  The lessons are spiral, which means that there is review built in to each lesson to solidify the concepts that have been taught.

It’s a wonderful program, but it could take us an HOUR or more each day to complete the lesson.  My son dreaded it.  The lessons were very incremental teaching each concept slowly with lots of practice before turning the work over to the student to complete the worksheet.  Again, I love the process, but…time.

We ended up switching to Christian Light Publications  (CLP) Math 300 series.  And we LOVE it!

CLP is still a spiral curriculum, so my son still gets a lot of review of concepts (some may say too much review, but not me!).  The difference is that my son can do his lessons independently.

What?  Independent math in 3rd grade?  YES!  It sounds crazy, but it works!

CLP is broken down into what they call “Light Units.”  Each Light Unit has about 17 lessons, including 2 quizzes and a test.  The lessons ask the child to review flashcards and take a timed fact test prior to starting the new material.  A short lesson follows that with a few practice problems.  The lesson ends with a “We Remember” section of review problems covering all concepts learned so far.

It’s so simple, but my son enjoys the independence of it.  I check his work each day and go over any errors with him.  If he needs help, the teacher’s guide is available to help me teach him anything I need to.

Each grade level has 10 Light Units.  The first one is generally full of review from the previous year.  As my son finishes the final test in each Light Unit, he can put that book away and move on to the next one.  There is a sense of accomplishment each time he finishes a book.

It really is that simple!  And I’ve gained back some time to help me teach other subjects and to help my other child as needed.

At this time, CLP does not have a full high school curriculum of Light Units for math, so I anticipate returning to Saxon down the road.  But for now, I highly recommend using CLP!


3rd Grade Curriculum

As promised, here is what my 3rd grader has been using for the 2015-2016 school year. (Some subjects overlap with his 6th grade brother and are covered here.)

Language Arts for my little guy included:

My 3rd grader has switched to Math 300 from Christian Light Publications this year.  It is very thorough, spiral, and independently completed…LOVE!!

For History, we’ve been using Mystery of History, vol. 2, and our Science curriculum is currently Ellen McHenry’s The Brain.

This is the first year that this child has studied Latin.  We are using Memoria Press’ Latina Christiana.  I realize now that I don’t think I added that to my older child’s curriculum list!!  I will have to edit that part.  Latina Christiana is a gentle, but thorough introduction to Latin and it is easy for a non-Latin-knowing mom to teach!

I’m sure I’m forgetting something because I am forever adding little things to mix up our days and keep things interesting!  I think this covers the bulk of our curriculum, though.

6th Grade Curriculum Choices

I thought I’d jump back in by bringing you up to speed with our curriculum choices for the year.  I’ll do 3rd grade in a separate post.

Let’s start with Language Arts.  I consider this to be one of the most important areas in our homeschool since learning to speak and write well is paramount to presenting yourself favorably in school, business, and personal life.

  • Rod & Staff English 5 was a new addition to our lineup this year.  It is a Christian grammar and writing curriculum, but we only use the grammar portion since we chose another book for writing instruction.  Although my son is in 6th grade, since we are new to Rod & Staff, it was recommended that we begin with the 5th grade book.
  • Writing with Skill is a writing curriculum by Susan Wise Bauer.  It has very clear, step-by-step writing instruction, which has been a blessing for my son.
  • We started this year using Apples & Pears as our spelling curriculum, but I found that it had too much writing for my boys.  After our semester break, we switched to Building Spelling Skills, which is independent for the boys and much more manageable.
  • We have read a TON of books this year.  For this year, I chose a lot of books from the Sonlight website based on the time period we were studying in history.  I did not purchase the books from Sonlight, but simply chose books that I thought would add to our history study.  I also added some Shakespeare stories from Charles Lamb and a few other choices that are recommended by the book The Well-Trained Mind.

For Math this year, my son continued with Saxon.  He is almost finished with the Algebra I book.

Our history spine was Mystery of History, vol. 2 (The Middle Ages).  My 6th grader used this and History Odyssey along with many other reference books including Famous Men of the Middle Ages, Peril and Peace, and Monks and Mystics.

We changed our science curriculum the most this year.  Right now, we are using Ellen McHenry’s The Brain, which we love!  We started the year with Apologia, but it was not a good fit for my kids.

Confessions of a Homeschooler has fantastic programs for composer studies and artist studies.  We have been using those for our Music and Art curriculum. I highly recommend her downloads.  All of the books have been available at our library, so these subjects are very inexpensive, but thorough.

Finally, Health is a required subject in my state, so my 6th grader used the 1st half of Total Health this year.  We also took time to read Boyhood & Beyond and It’s So Amazing.

A Year Later…

It’s been almost a year since my last blog post.  I’m not sure why I haven’t blogged this year or why I decided to come back to it now, but I’m here…and not sure where to go…

When I initially decided to enter the world of blogging, I did it to make a record of sorts for myself and to help others who may struggle with many of the same things I struggled with as I began my homeschool journey.  Those reasons still ring true for me, but I didn’t really make the commitment during this school year to keep up with writing.

This year has gone really well for us.  We have learned a lot and we’ve really hit our groove.  I think I have a good handle on how my kids like to learn and I’ve worked hard to fit our curriculum to those needs.  I’ve done a lot of research, a lot of planning, and a lot of organizing.  I (somehow) escaped the February “blues” and I am still excited to share this time with my children, so overall, a win!

I will do another post about our curriculum for this year, but we have changed a LOT through the year.  As I said in the beginning, I have to give myself grace and accept when things don’t work out as planned.  We adjusted to changes and challenges well, but I guess that just left me with less time to devote to blogging about our days.  Let’s hope I can continue this time!  Maybe it won’t be frequent, but hopefully it will be enlightening!

Homeschool Reviews–How I Keep Our Portfolios

Well, it’s definitely been a busy few weeks, which is why you haven’t heard from me in a while!

I wanted to do a post on homeschool portfolios.  Many states, including mine, require a review of homeschool materials by the county BOE.  As a new homeschooler, portfolio reviews can be scary and intimidating.  At least, that was my first experience!

I did not know what materials to take or how many samples to include in the portfolio.  To be honest, I still don’t!  I did not have a pleasant or easy first review in the fall, so I did some things differently for my spring review.  My spring review went smoothly, but the reviewer looked at my materials for over an hour and a half, which seems to be an unreasonable amount of time.

Of course, I did lots of reading online about “what to expect” in the portfolio review.  I spoke to friends and asked questions on Facebook.  I got a lot of mixed answers, but most indicated that I would only need to take a few samples of work and the county was great to work with.  Well, in the fall, I was told that I didn’t bring enough, so I went back to the drawing board for review #2.


I keep all of our homeschool work in big 3″ binders.  I use dividers for each subject that my kids are studying and to make this easier during review time, I put those dividers in the order that the county likes to list them, so the reviewer can check off the form easily.  For my 2nd review, I took the whole binder, which included all of my children’s work (one binder per child) since the last review.


In the very front of the binder, I include the list of materials we use for that child.  Behind this page is their weekly schedule.  I include all of the past schedules here, so they can see “how often” each subject is covered.  This shows my planning and the “regular” aspect of the instruction.


Each subject has it’s own section.  I include receipts for PE classes (or pictures), reading lists, and all written work.


For art, instead of lugging all of the artwork into the reviewer, I include some pictures of the work.  I also include pictures of field trips or other activities.

The reviewer told me that I brought plenty of work, but I don’t really want my reviews to take so long each time.  In my opinion, that is asking too much.  For this reason, I may sign up to be reviewed by an “umbrella” group for next year.  I will still keep this type of portfolio because I like to see the progression in the kids’ work.  Personally, I feel that an umbrella group will be less stressful and better able to offer suggestions in a “homeschool-friendly” way.

I hope you can find some inspiration in this post to help you organize your work and effectively show regular instruction for a successful portfolio review!

Week in Review March 30-April 3, 2015

This week had us running!  My oldest son has started taking a class at our local Homeschool Community Center and my youngest has moved his swimming lessons to the afternoon (instead of evening) to make room for evening baseball practices.

And yes, baseball season is upon us! My kiddos love baseball and their awesome dad is coaching both of their teams this year.  So, we will have baseball almost every night of the week (only Fridays off!) and twice on Saturdays!  Busy, busy!!

In history, we finished a short unit on Rome’s war with Carthage.  My boys LOVED this chapter from the Story of the World!  Everything from sacred chickens getting seasick to warring elephants had them in stitches!

We supplement some of our history units with Draw and Write through History.  I love this book because it is simple for my non-artistic kiddos to follow the directions and it all ties in nicely to their history units.  This is one of Hannibal’s Warring Elephants:


Then, we moved on to a chapter of China’s history and learned about the Great Wall of China.  We also got to draw that!


In Science, my 11 year old continued to study the human body.  He has decided that he does not like the cut and paste activities included with the Body Book in the NOEO curriculum, so I’ve agreed to skip those and let him continue to notebook his way through science.

My 7 year old is almost done with Sassafras Zoology and learned about the whale and squid this week.  He is painting a “sea scene” and will hopefully finish that next week, so I can share it.

We also had all of the normal grammar, math, spelling, etc. that round out our basics! This is my youngest boy practicing his cursive, which was the biggest thing he wanted to learn in 2nd grade!


Next week is Spring Break for us…sort of!  They still have some scheduled classes and a field trip, but they will have 3 days off from the “big” stuff!

Have a very blessed Easter!