North Star Geography Notebooks

North Star Geography Notebooks

Time to create our North Star Geography Notebooks! 

First thing I did was review the teacher’s introduction in the front of the book. I am notorious for jumping in and then missing a few small details, ok maybe some big details too.

Since my boys are 9th and 6th grade I made some choices to skip some sections in North Star. First I am not requiring them to do the memorization lessons and we will skip the research section. My goal is to expose them to geography and adapt for their learning needs.

My boys like to know the big picture before they can settle into the details. I have taken the suggested schedule in North Star and tweaked to reflect the choices I have made. This will be the first page in their notebooks. Yes, we only do lessons 4 days since the 5th is co-op day.

Geography Schedule

North Star Geography Notebooks: Supplies

  • 3-ring binder
  • 6 dividers or tabs
  • Pouch to hold glue stick and colored pencils
  • Printer ready with paper and ink

North Star Geography Notebooks: Printing

  • Print the first page of the student reader for a cover page for the notebooks.
  • Print the 16 note taking pages and put under tab 1. Each lesson has its own note taking page.
  • Print the vocabulary notebook pages and put under tab 2. (more info below on this section)
  • Print Atlas building section and put under tab 3. I did the 26 pages double sided to save on paper.
  • Print the outline maps needed for Atlas building and put under tab 2 matched with the lessons. That is 16 maps total, one world, two Europe, two N. America, two S. America, two Africa, two Middle East, two Asia, two Oceania, and one Antartica.
  • Print Activities section and put under tab 4. I did the 55 pages double sided to save on paper. I want my boys to select which activity they will complete each week.
  • I printed a blank book list to put under tab 5. My kids can track the extra books they read from the library.
  • I did not print the quizzes or tests. My boys will be taking them online at the Bright Ideas Press website. I will allow them to take the quizzes open book.
  • Tab 6 will be for any extra maps or projects completed over the school year.

North Star Geography Notebooks: Vocabulary

This section needed my most attention. To quote Tyler Hogan, “How you wish to incorporate vocabulary is entirely up to you.” So I created a plan for my students.

Geography VocabularyGeography Vocabulary 2Geography Vocabulary 3

Geography Vocabulary

I created 3 Geography Vocabulary notebook pages for this section. One page allows for basic word and definition style in a list form. The second page has a blank box to provide a visual for the vocabulary word. The third page is blank to create or copy labeling of vocabulary in things like the layers of the earth.

I then went through each lesson and decided which Geography Notebook page I want my boys to use for the bolded words in the text.

If you would like a PDF of my schedule I created this Geography Vocabulary Schedule

Then I will plan some vocabulary games to review the terms throughout the year. My boys enjoy hangman and matching games.

What great ideas have you found for organizing North Star Geography Notebooks or other items? I have a Geography Pinterest board on some of mine.

Next up to plan my literature books to correlate with North Star. 

Teenagers and Chores, Downside to Chore Charts

teenagers and chores

I have a house full of teenagers and chores that need to be completed. Since I have been a mom for 19 years, I have used an amazing amount of chore systems and chore charts. Routinely I would change systems just to keep things looking different for my kids.

Last month I realized the disservice I had established in my kids…they did what was on the chart and nothing more. They could ignore the bag of trash that blew into the yard, they did not care if the corner of the living room became overrun with clutter or if anyone around them needed help. It was not on their list.

I know…some moms would be jumping up for joy if their teens did the chores they were asked. This is so much more than chores…this is teaching my kids to notice what needs to be done, prioritizing the chores, and serving others.

My kids have become accustomed to mom writing a list and mom deciding what needs to be done. I called a family meeting and explained there was a new cleaning system effective immediately.

New System for Teenagers and Chores:

  • There are no more chore charts or lists coming from mom.
  • Teenagers must decide what 3 things they will clean each day.
  • On Friday a written list of what was accomplished each day must be submitted to mom.
  • A fun reward will be given to those who have done their tasks.
  • Failure to complete daily chores results in spending time on Saturday catching-up.

Of course 1,000 questions were launched at me…my teenages thought I had finally gone crazy.

I did state that personal laundry and dishes did not count. These already had systems in place and needed to be done regularly. Otherwise a fight would break out on Friday morning with 5 people trying to use the washing machine.

The lawyer of the group immediately wanted to know if he could do the same 3 chores each day. No, some chores only need to be done weekly, your list should reflect that. 

What if I can not find 3 things to do? I would encourage you to ask mom, dad, or a sibling if they need help. Helping counts as a chore. 

What if I forget to do my 3 chores? Ideally 3 a day is best, but I know there will be times when things need to be adjusted. I need 15 completed by Friday, but I warn you trying to complete 15 on Friday might be overwhelming. 

Things I have noticed with my teenagers and chores after one week of new system:

  • My teens began tackling jobs I would never have assigned them. I came in one morning and my son had emptied the tupperware cabinet and was matching up lids with containers.
  • I invented the saying, when in doubt, look around and find something extra to do. One of my sons wanted to discuss if each item on his list counted and could something be counted twice. If this counted twice then he was done for the day. He really wanted a list of acceptable chores and I wanted him to decide what was important. We are working toward him being confident in his choices.
  • My youngest son with Aspergers has learned to ask his siblings if he can help them. Bonus: he is learning to work with others which is a bigger accomplishment for him.
  • My daughter hung my clothes on the line and has asked me for help on a regular occasion.

Now what to do with the time I spent on creating and maintaining chore charts. 

Do you have any great tips on helping teens complete chores?

Birthday Party Ideas for Book Lovers

Birthday Party Ideas for Book Lovers

Things are definitely different when you are planning a teenager’s birthday party. The first thing I did was create a Pinterest board titled “Birthday Party Ideas for Book Lovers” and invited my teen to pin her likes and ideas.

Having shared her birthday parties with her other 2 siblings for the past 15 years, my daughter had huge plans for a Sweet 16 Party. In my defense when you have 3 children with birthdays only 22 days apart…it’s almost impossible to do 3 separate parties.

Birthday Party Ideas for Book Lovers: Decorations

  • Each table represented one of her favorite author’s. She included her stack of books by the author and a favorite quote. We placed the quotes in picture frames.
  • She did take a page from a book and cut a heart out and glued to a root beer bottle to hold flowers.
  • The photographer in me wanted photos of everyone in attendance. We did splurge and buy a backdrop and props from Oriental Trading. If you do buy a backdrop from them, buy one that is patterned and doesn’t have to match. It comes in folded plastic sheets and can be difficult to look nice. The props really helped with creating some fun photos.

Birthday Party Ideas for Book Lovers: Food

  • Yes the cupcakes had mini books on top of them.
  • Other than themed cupcakes the rest of the food was standard party snacks. I thought about giving them creative names but ran out of time.
  • Bookworm Party Goody Bags I created this PDF so I could share the top of the goody bag I created for the book lovers party. We took the clear candy bags and added gummy worms. Then folded the cardstock in half and stapled to the bag.

book worm
Birthday Party Ideas for Book Lovers: Games and Crafts

  • Originally I wanted to create a Jeopardy style game on questions about each of her favorite authors but I ran out of brain power. Instead I wrote down 20 book titles on slips of paper to play Literature Pictionary.
  • I found some great free bookmark designs on the web. I printed them on cardstock and supplied things to decorate with.
  • For the higher level crafter, book earrings were popular.
  • I had some old library cards that I asked people to write notes of encouragement. These are now a lovely keepsake from the party.

Yeah! For Sweet 16 birthday memories.

Two Becomes One, A Twenty Year Journey

two becomes one

It’s a special week at my house, my husband and I are celebrating our 20th anniversary on the 20th of May.

I have never written about marriage because frankly the “D word” has popped up a few times over the years in my marriage.

My struggles have me feeling so inadequate about sharing any great advice on marriage.

But I have one thought about being married for 20 years…there is an amazing journey in “two becomes one.”

I remember in our first year of marriage we were so focused on the physical aspect of two becomes one…ah young love.

But all that “oneness” brought along children and soon “two becomes one” was a necessity for survival. We quickly became outnumbered! We had to be a united front in parenting.

Now there is an almost 20 year age difference in our relationship which has brought about a new aspect in “two becomes one.”

A few years ago my husband was diagnosed with COPD. I almost think a chronic diagnosis should trigger marriage counseling because there is a mourning when losing your health.

Now we have two people affected by one diagnosis. Two people facing different struggles from one disease. Two people scared about becoming just one.

Recently mild dementia has sprung up in our marriage. The brain likes a steady level of oxygen and does not work well on a reduced amount.

It reminds me of a funny skit I saw about two becomes one is for growing old: when one of you will remember where the car keys are…one of you will be able to open the pickle jar…and one of you will be able to hear the phone ring.

Over the past year I have had to turn to another page and focus on the cord of three strands.  My husband struggles with feeling he is not worthy of love if he can not contribute to the family. I struggle with thinking I am alone and overwhelmed with taking care of everything.

Honestly these thoughts sneak in when we take our eyes off the one who created us…our identity in Christ…so important.

It has been good to look back…looking forward scares me…most days I do not have the strength…I only have the strength for today…for that I am thankful.

Twenty years ago on the Twenty of May with a Twenty year age difference…Two became One.

Happy Anniversary to the man who I will remind that he can forget anything but my name…and I will every few days ask him and sometimes I get back some creative responses…because you still have to laugh along the way.


North Star Geography

north star geography

Conference season is in full swing and my daughter occasionally travels with me and helps work the booth. While I was packing my daughter was inclined to share some thoughts with me.

“Mom, I am so glad I won’t be working a booth with you this year.”

“Why? I thought you enjoyed traveling with me.”

“Well I am comfortable telling people why I love Mystery of History but I hate North Star Geography.”

“Oh my”

Which then lead to conversation about we should not always share just the good things and sometimes sharing the bad can be just as helpful. Honesty mixed with your perspective is always important when sharing your thoughts about curriculum. I reminded her not every homeschool is created to use the same books. Welcome to conferences filled with rows and rows of vendors!

But I did not leave the conversation there. I followed up with what about North Star did you dislike.

“We had to complete every single project, I hated some of the projects.”

“It sounds like you were overwhelmed with the amount of work and did not like having the opportunity to choose your projects.”

She thought for a moment.

“Hmm…I did like how the lessons talked about culture and discussed how geography was more than maps. I guess all the work killed my liking it.”

“Daughter, that is what you should tell homeschool moms…it’s a great book on geography and if you do every single project your kids will hate it.”

Oh I am so guilty of wanting to complete all the great projects!

Then I went back and counted…North Star Geography has 62 different activities. That does not include the work she did with atlas building, notebook pages, and memorizations lists.

Since we were part of the test group we were required to complete each activity so we could provide the necessary feedback.

I have found memories of the class, but I only did 5 of the projects. My favorite was the Lego city my family built.

The great thing about homeschooling multiple children..I get to teach North Star again this year to my younger kids. First on my list is limiting the activities. 

Helpful Hints for Teaching North Star Geography:

I am also in the process of creating a book list to go along with North Star for next year. I am sure a follow-up post will be coming soon.


Happy Mother’s Day

Mother's Day

Happy Mother’s Day!

Last week I met with a friend and while I was sharing some deep struggles in the middle of my thought she said, “you are making the best choices you can with this situation. You are doing a good job.”

I just wanted to burst into tears…it had been months since anyone had told me I was handling anything well. Can I just say it was such sweet balm to my soul.

Most days I deal with thoughts of falling short, thoughts of inadequacy, and thoughts of being overwhelmed. How many times had I been approached with your son did this, or your daughter needs this, or could not fall asleep at night knowing I had missed opportunities or lost my temper.

I am a mother, a mother of teenagers, a mother of special needs, a working mother, and a homeschool mother. Whatever adjective you place in front of mother…we could all use some words of encouragement in this role of motherhood.

So how about this week before Mother’s Day we could take a moment and express an encouraging thought to another mother. If you want to get fancy and send a card or meet for coffee, great…but the simple sentence of “you are doing a great job of being a mom” might be the best thing a mother has heard all day, week or month.

While I am not a deep emotional writer on the subject of motherhood, I am still shocked with how moved I was when my friend told me I was doing a good job. It’s been two weeks and I am still clinging to those words.

Of course a face to face exchange would be the best choice but I know that time with other moms can be limited, sometimes sending that text or email might be the best dose of encouragement!

Join me in telling another mom this week they are doing a great job being a mom.

The Mystery of History Volume 4 SpaceShip

Mystery of History Volume 4

It’s spring and I am trying to finish a school year and plan another…my brain is overwhelmed.

But has our school year comes to a close, I do like to look back and try to evaluate the successes and failures.

WARNING* Looking back to evaluate the school year might lead to an enormous amount of mom guilt. You might need a plan on dealing with it or else you will find yourself taking on a project…and I do not mean just an ordinary project.

We are near the end of The Mystery of History Volume IV and the content matter has been challenging to my younger kids. Thankfully I focused on exposure to the topics and not mastery of content. I do love exposure because you never know when a spark will light a passion for a new topic.

So when the spark for a new passion collides with the guilt of a mom who did not complete many projects with her kids over the school year…well this happens.

The Mystery of History volume 4 Spaceship

In the corner of my front yard now resides a spaceship! Thanks to the lesson of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon.

  • Why yes I did drag a huge tractor tire home that was found abandoned on the side of the road.
  • Then I spray painted it silver. I found an old trampoline frame and spray painted it silver too.
  • The old frame just happened to fit perfectly on top of the tire.
  • While shopping at the local garden center I found 2 Victorian gazing balls on clearance that really resemble planets when placed next to a spaceship.
  • I think sand makes the best ground cover for any planet you would like to visit. It is a great way to leave your footprints behind.
  • Do not forget to name your spaceship. Vinyl stickers finished our project on the US.Atlantis.

Now I am sure if there was an award for the most craziest, unusual, project to complete while studying The Mystery of History volume 4…I would win…or at least get honorable mention.




High School Science for Non Science Students

High School Science

Planning High School Science for a non-science major. Do you have a high school student that might not have plans for college or majoring in a degree that requires in depth science classes?

My third child is starting high school in the fall and I need to plan a high school science class that meets his needs. I am not ready for him to do the Biology 101 that I planned for my daughter last year so I am constructing a general science class based on his interests.

The challenge with planning begins with my son who has processing delays and learns by doing. Often I get anxious when I construction my own high school lesson plans but I have to remember my goal is to build on his strengths. Not to mention the choices for high school science curriculum are hard to find for the non-science students.

Planning High School Science:

First I wanted to review the requirements for a high school credit. HSLDA provides some guidelines for how to calculate credits.

My goal is to construct 120 hours of high school science credit by reading, watching videos, writing, and completing projects. To keep myself from getting overwhelmed I am planning a different theme for each quarter. Which means I need to have about 30 hours for each topic.

  • Quarter 1 Gardening
  • Quarter 2 Chickens
  • Quarter 3 CSI
  • Quarter 4 Survival Skills

Since I do not have a science curriculum for a main text I am going to rely on my unit study planning skills from the early years of homeschooling. I did find a few free unit study planning forms at Teachers Pay Teachers and Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus.
Then the reality of too many forms overwhelms so I created a one page planner that I can use for each quarter. [Read more…]

World History Writing Prompts

World History Writing Prompts

When teaching my older kids writing we used Write Shop and 7Sisters guides to cover the needed aspects of writing.

With my younger kids who struggle with different aspects of learning I have found writing to be at the bottom of our school list. I have decided to spend the last quarter of school focusing on writing while other subjects like math go into review mode. This is a method I do often when I feel we have not had enough time on certain subject.

Then I chose world history writing prompts to be the focus of our writing. We are using The Mystery of History Volume IV and this will be a great way for them to process the serious topics covered in the book.

World History Writing Prompts

[Read more…]

Life of Fred Farming, Lesson Plan

Add Life of Fred to your Math Boards.

Add this to your Pinterest Board

Often I read questions from mothers wondering if Life of Fred can be a stand alone or does it require supplementing. I always find it hard to take a stand on any side of the matter because I do not know how their student learns. For my son, who is delayed in math, we use Life of Fred as a stand alone but I often bring in hands-on learning, extra practice sheets and math games to help reinforce the math concepts.

This blog series on Life of Fred math is sharing how I created and expanded on math ideas to help my son learn.

Life of Fred Farming Lesson Plans

[Read more…]