School Room Organization

Yup. It’s true. I’m an organization-junkie. I like it when our things are in order, because, frankly, it makes life easier when I don’t constantly have to hunt for things. But I also like the idea of organization. Yes, pictures in magazines and catalogs of organized “stuff” makes me feel warm and fuzzy! I read blogs and search Pinterest for organization ideas. Yup. That’s me. That’s how I like it. The reality is not quite that… [sigh!]… but I believe this is to keep me reminded that I, in fact, am not in control here!

Fact: Our school day is much smoother when we don’t have to hunt for things.

Fact: Mommy is much calmer when desks are not in a chaotic disarray.

Fact: Independent work only works if you can locate it independently!

Fact: We spend a lot of time in this room, we should all enjoy being there!

School Room Organization Blog Pic

Those are the facts. Here is our reality (from top left clockwise):

This corner houses our reading chair, time line, J’s workbox, cubbies for each subject and one for each boy, and my personal favorite: our new paper organizer!

Big boy’s desk holds the computer. Movable shades can be drawn to prevent glare from the window while doing research and can be opened for natural lighting while working at the desk. The shelf on the wall keeps our microscope and daily supplies.

These are our other two desks. I set them up in an L-shape so that I can see what J is working on or work on things with him. His immediate supplies are in the buckets on the wall, which he labeled himself! The wire above the white board holds current work and time line cards for the week.

Finally, the file cabinet side doubles as our spelling board. It works perfectly for our magnetic tiles and sometimes we spell our messages to each other. Our Latin Noun Declension chart can be hidden by the same sliding curtains as mentioned above during quiz time!

Curriculum Choice 8th Grade

My post on our 3rd grade curriculum options is already a few weeks old and it is about time I post what we are doing with the 8th grader!
When we chose to pull our boys out of school last year, I knew that we needed to stay on task and not fall behind, especially since the plan is to have him back in public HS next year. I knew I needed the support and diligence of a program that would keep us on task. Through my friend Corey, I stumbled upon Classical Conversations and their Challenge program. Challenge is a program for 7-12th graders that meets once a week for 6 seminars. At their weekly meeting, students have opportunities to discuss, present, learn, and challenge each other. All 6 seminars are facilitated by the same tutor. The seminars have fancy names like Rhetoric, Debate, and Logic, but what this means for Challenge B is that P will have Literature and Writing, Math, Formal Logic, Science, Latin, and Current Events. We have also added German to the mix.

Literature and Writing:
The spine of this seminar is “The Lost Tools of Writing.” LTW is a systematic program that teaches students how to overcome the three major struggles of writing. (I could go on and on about LTW, but that can be a separate post altogether. There is simply too much to say about this program.)
For the first semester, we will read “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom, “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls, “Little Britches” by Ralph Moody, and “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster . Students will discuss themes from these books and write persuasive essays guided by LTW. This is a continuation of Challenge A.
In the second semester they will switch gears and move on to short stories. They will read a collection of short stories compiled by Classical Conversations in a book called “Words Aptly Spoken: Short Stories.” They will also write their own short story.

This entails our biggest change from last year. We have shifted gears and chosen a new curriculum. We are deviating from CC’s recommended program and have started with Singapore Math. I used SM with our younger one last year and he really liked it. I researched the upper level curriculum and felt like it would be a better fit for P. We are using New Elementary Mathematics 2 Syllabus D. The downside for me is that lessons are not clearly laid out for us, which makes Math more hands on for me this year. But since I really enjoy Math, this is a welcome challenge. This particular curriculum is relatively new and encompasses Common Core Standards, which gives me the peace of mind knowing my child can easily transition to public school next year. (This is NOT an endorsement of Common Core, but a topic I have to consider given further schooling plans.)

Formal Logic:

 Introductory Logic, 5th Edition and Intermediate Logic, 5th Edition by Jim Nance.

No formal textbook here! I love how CC utilizes individual research and student presentations to learn about science. For the first semester, students will be researching different scientists, their contributions, etc and present their research weekly. There will also be a science fair project. For Spring semester, they will be reading “Defeating Darwinism” by Phillip Johnson, followed by a 5 week overview of chemistry, including the periodic table and atomic models.

For Latin we are using Henle Latin. This is no change from last year. In fact, we are starting over at the beginning to solidify knowledge and really memorize declensions and vocabulary. I have also discovered a booklet published by Memoria Press that accompanies Henle very nicely. Daily lessons, exercises, and drills are already laid out, making planning a breeze and keeping the boy on task!

Current Events:
Much like science, there is also no textbook. Again, individual research and weekly presentations are utilized for learning. My husband is a news junkie and very excited about this seminar!

P speaks the language beautifully and has expressed interest in learning how to read and write it. We are using a combination of different grammar books, and are also reading books together. My plan is to have him translate sections periodically, and also write letters. Again, this is pretty hands-on for me, but well worth it. My knowledge of German grammar is limited, so I’m taking this opportunity to learn it better. As I am trying to systematically break it down for the boys, I am in the process of developing worksheets and instructions. Stay tuned!!!

The Question -1- Reading

imageReading is the number 1 most important tool to life-long learning. How do you approach reading with your child? How do you discuss books with you child that you have not read yourself? How do you encourage your child to read a variety of books?
In light of our upcoming school year, I am currently reading The Question by Leigh Bortins. This book specifically addresses how to school classically through the dialectic stage of learning. For me this is particularly interesting, since we have not taught our children classically in the past (that is before last year, anyway) and I have a 13 year-old, who fits perfectly into the dialectic stage.
We are part of our local Classical Conversations group and my soon-to-be eighth grader will be in Challenge B next school year. (I could go on and on about CC and our experience with Challenge A last year, but there are others out there, who have done a phenomenal job, so I will leave you to explore Mary’s blog at, or visit Amy at,  or for more CC inspiration go to check out Brandy’s blog at I will post more on our first year with Foundations and Challenge in the future, but for now indulge me as I share about “The Question.”
*** I have struggled with these questions, and many more, over the past couple of years, as my child seems to be reading the same books over, and over, and over. I have discussed said topics with people that I consider WAY smarter than myself and have received a variety of answers and suggestions. My fear, however, of ruining reading for my child by imposing too many “rules” has not been decimated.
I feel empowered and encouraged by Leigh! I don’t (surprise, surprise!) have to read every book my kiddo reads, in order to ask him good questions about it. The beauty of the dialectic stage of learning is that children learn by teaching or explaining things back to you. What better way to find out about what he’s reading!
Here are a few simple guidelines:
– Ask “Who? What? How? What? (who is the story about, what happens, how is the issue solved, what happens next…etc)
– It is helpful to have children own their own books, so they can highlight, circle, bookmark, etc. (Note: mine cannot STAND to mark up his books, so I try to encourage him to use little stickies.)
– An important framework to asking good questions is through the 5 Common Topics of Definition, Comparisson, Relationship, Circumstance, and Testimony. These topics lend and array of questions you can ask your dialectic child (ex: 1) What is history?- Definition 2) How is history similar to/different from geography?- Comparison  3) Did slavery cause the Civil War? – Relationship (aka cause and effect)   4) What else was going on when…? – Circumstance   5)Where did we receive this information from? -Testimony)

Finally, Leigh points out that it is totally acceptable for children to read good fiction and for them to read good books over and over. She states that “good literature investigates the experiences that are commmon to mankind and allows readers to consider the answers to our deepest questions.” In short, good literature, even ficiton, help children make sense of the world by living vicariously through their favorite protagonists.

So the next time I see P reading the same book AGAIN, I will remind myself that he is exploring ancient Greece through the eyes of Percy Jackson!

What is your child reading? How do you approach literature with your children? I would love to hear from you!


Welcome back!

It has been several weeks since my last post, and there are still a few excursions in Germany that I want to write about. First, I have to catch you up on some of the goings-on around here:

1) Little Bit has his first (and now second) tooth!

2) Little Bit has learned to consistently roll over and has expanded his circle of playtime in our living room. Obviously, leaving him on my bed or even taking my hand off him on the changing table are no longer an option!

3) GERMANY WON THE SOCCER WORLD CUP! Oh yeah, that was a biggie at our house. I remember being 13 when they won it in 1990 (yes, I did just give away my age!) and this year my oldest is 13. It was providential that they should win… and it really was TIME!!!



4) P is absolutely HOT for tennis these days. Last week he played every single day of the week, this week he had to “miss” a day, due to the inconvenience of being taken to Six Flags by a friend…:-) Next week, he and his team will be playing at the USTA State Championships in Macon, GA. They have all been working so hard at their game, I am excited to see, what Macon holds for them this year.

5) J is happiest when in the water or with a friend, or preferably, BOTH. He has had the great experience of jumping off both the 3m board and the 5m tower in Germany, and he did repeated flips off the 1m board as well. Sometimes I wonder if he would be better served on a swim team than tennis lessons….

6) I am coming to the realization, that we only have a few more weeks before school starts back and have begun some minor planning. At some point, I will need to kick that into a little higher gear. We have taken the entire summer off, not even done any formal reading. I have ENJOYED it as much as my boys have. We have not been bored and have had the freedom to do some other things, such as finishing Little Bit’s room (it only took 7 months….), reading a novel- actually, two!, and I have rediscovered homeopathy and have immersed myself in studying more about different remedies that fit for the individual members of my family. (More on that later!)

7) The Man is keeping busy with his bees. He has his first batch of honey harvest put away, which was very exciting to him. He ahs grown his bees from 1 hive to 3 this year, 2 of which are doing well. His third hive he calls his “experiment hive.” It has some issues and he is trying different techniques to help it thrive. I am working on having him write a post or two about his endeavor.

What have YOU done this summer? Please do share in the comment section. I would love to hear from you!

At the “Backhaus”!

Learning doesn’t stop for us just because it’s summer. Especially right now, being in a place that is relatively new for my boys. Saturday we had a fantastic opportunity to observe and participate in baking bread in a large wood burning stove at the local Backhaus.


A large fire is made approximately 2 hours before the official baking time. The glowing coals are spread throughout the stove.

Prior to “Einschiessen”- the “shooting in” of the bread loaves, the coals/ashes are completely removed and the stove is wiped clean with a wet rag. The bread is baked completely with the remaining radiating heat, no fire burns during the actual baking!


The loaves are quickly formed by hand and placed onto a flour coated board. This board, which is affixed to a long pole, is used for the Einschiessen process.



Finally, 2 pans of a thin cake, a salty and a sweet one, are placed into the stove. The temperature today was 300 degrees Celcius, around 525 degrees Fahrenheit.


After around 25-30 minutes, the thin cakes are removed and consumed, while we wait on the bread to be done. Yum! Yum!


Another 30 minutes later the bread loaves a lightly brushed with water and removed from the stoves. The remaining flour and occasional ashes are brushed off the bottom. Altogether we baked 32 loaves.

IMG_0784 IMG_0782

We took home these two!!!


Backhaus history:

Some towns had communal baking houses as early as the 14 th century. The wide spread building of them dates back to the 17 th century. Individual ovens in private houses were uncommon, and often against the law, due to fire danger. Official baking days brought towns together in community, as the work load was shared, and the waiting on bread and cakes gave people time to visit with one another. This practice was widely used until the 1960’s. Today, functioning Backhauses can still be used, they may also be used by groups or school classes for fun and educational field trips!

We survived…

…our first year of home school. And I would do it all over again! I learned a lot about myself this past year, about my boys and their learning preferences, about planning, and about letting go (there is my Frozen plug-in). About 4 weeks into our journey, I threw out all my “plans” and completely adjusted them to what seemed realistic. And I am proud to report that we got just about all of what we had planned done. Granted, P took his final Math test a few days after our official “last” day, and J still had a few reading lessons to finish, but over all we all feel really good about our accomplishments. I am super grateful to the framework Classical Conversations provided for our learning.
I was a little scared for P, pulling him out of public school in 7th grade and not wanting him to fall behind. Weekly meetings with his tutor and 7 other teenagers kept him on task and gave him the motivation he needed to study hard. His research and writing skills have grown by leaps and bounds.
My middle one, J, completed second grade. He loves to memorize information and is pumped about the Memory Master program for next year. He states he wants to be an inventor and scientist like Copernicus. Especially for him, I really enjoyed being able to do more in subjects that make him “tick.” We have our basic daily requirements, but especially during the second half of the year I let him do a lot more self-directed learning.
And the little guy? F joined our family just before Christmas, and his “learning” includes rolling over and starting to sit. He’s been such a joy and we all treasure every moment with him! I am a little anxious about next semester he will be into EVERYTHING!!! Will I be able to hold my Type-A in check? Stay tuned….