Diving Into…

A New Year of Learninggradeswith PreK, first, third, fifth, and seventh grades at home!   

First Day of School – August 2014First Day Photo 2014 

This teacher mommy likes to make a themed celebration on the first day of school!  We’ve used a patriotic theme, apples and keeping God’s commands, hearts and showing love, and flying things and growing in wisdom

‘Ocean Creatures’ and overflowing with thankfulness
was our theme this year for our fun first day!
What did we do?

We ate Shark Fin Cupcakes (gulp, for breakfast).

Ocean Table Decor shark fin cupcake

We practiced our Verse of the Day (seen above).

Be joyful always. 
Pray continually.
Give thanks in all circumstances.
For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

We worked together and built an Underwater Puzzle.
underwater puzzle

We completed our First Day All About Me Sheets.
Thinking about changes and filling in our ‘Growing in Grace’ sheets
Growing in Grace Sheets

We participated in A Sword Drill Focus on Thankfulness.
The kids took turns looking up Scripture verses from our ‘Apples of Gratitude’, but with an engaging twist ~ As one child chose an apple and looked up the verse, the other kids had to suck on a straw to attempt to move as many Skittles as they could from one bowl to another…
Variation of Sword Drills

We wrote Encouraging Notes to Siblings.
Each year, I write a prayer to each child and place it at their table spot for them to read at breakfast on the first day of school.  Another tradition is that each child writes or draws an encouraging note to their siblings.  They then share and read these aloud at lunch time…
Sibling Encouragement Notes

We enjoyed easting a Special Sea Life Themed Lunch…
Croissant Crab (idea altered slightly from Cute Food For Kids)
Quesadilla Jellyfish (idea altered from here)
Clementine Starfish
Hawaiian Punch Berry Blue Typhoon ’Ocean Water’
Ocean Themed Lunch

We were artists and showed our Ocean Themed Creativity.
(Please Note: These were all works in progress when I took the photos.)

Handprint Fish for our PreK child
Handprint Fish

Acrylic Paintings by our 1st and 5th graders…
ocean acrylic painting 2
ocean acrylic painting

Chalk Pastels by our 3rd and 7th graders…
Ocean Chalk Drawing Ocean Chalk Drawing 2   

We devoured a Beach Themed Snack.
(This was a much simpler variation of ‘Sand Pudding’ as seen at Ma Nouvelle Mode, but her recipe looks delicious!  We also added molded chocolate seashells.)
sea pudding snack

We ate Sand Dollar Cookies for an After Dinner Dessert.
(Simple sugar cookies with almond slivers and some cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top!)

sand dollar cookies 1

sand dollar cookies 2      

And yes, even though there are no photos to prove it, the kids made a splash and dove in to do some ‘real’ school too!

We had a great first day!


This post is part of the 6th annual “Not” Back-To-School Blog Hop
over at the iHomeschool Network.  This week, is Student Photo Week!

Homeschooling ~ With A ‘School Room’

We have homeschooled in various places over the years – at the kitchen table, on the couch, in a playroom while younger siblings played around us – basically throughout the house as kids and learning seasons changed, and even in an apartment last year.  All were wonderful for fostering togetherness and great learning experiences at the time.  Through the years, I have learned that it isn’t necessary to have a dedicated school room.  However, when we moved to a different home late last year, for the very first time, we decided to see if a room might be beneficial.

Come take a quick peek…

Our shelf of curriculum for this school year (also housing three of our five workboxes)…
Main Curriculum Shelf

A poem to keep our focus…
God's Child Poem

A cozy reading nook (next to a well lit window)…
 Cozy Reading Nook

Our white board (which also holds a very simple calendar for our preschooler this year) and hands on ABC center drawers (also for our preschooler – Yes, they are some of the same ones from my Kindergarten teaching days!)
Dry Erase Board

Desks for the oldest girls (which easily transforms into a space for sewing projects, crafts and creative writing that the kids enjoy initiating on their own, etc.), and our wall strips that my dear husband made years ago on which to to hang the kids’ artwork (as well as our ‘Apples of Gratitude’ tree this year)

Our clippable maps, and leveled book baskets…
Book Baskets

And, what I think I enjoy the most… a closet to house ALL of the other school related materials (used curriculum and manuals that we plan to use again, sewing/knitting supplies – including two bins of scrap material that were given to us for the girls, and paper/craft supplies)!

School Closet 1

All of the items in this room and closet were spread out between various rooms, closets, and even our unfinished storage room at our last house.  By combining our bedrooms to be a girls’ room and a boys’ room (and including all of their toys in their bedrooms for the first time as well), it opened up a room and a closet to house all of these learning materials together. So, we were able to organize this learning environment using only things we had packed and brought with us, repurposing some items to make it work even better in our new home.  =)


Just because we have a ‘school room’ doesn’t mean that we aren’t anywhere else in our home!  We still have couches to snuggle up on for reading, additional tables for kids to spread out and work on that are close in proximity to this room, and, of course, our kitchen table for any painting / messier crafts.  It is working out so well!


I do remember when we first moved into this home almost a year ago though.  Oh, this room was packed with boxes!  As each box was deposited into this room and the stack became larger, I could tell that those who generously offered to help us couldn’t believe it would ever all fit and become a usable room – but, with everything having an organized and dedicated place, it works beautifully and I am so thankful!


Homeschoolers use the spaces they have to make learning happen anywhere and everywhere!  If you desire to glean more ideas, hop on over to the 6th annual “Not” Back-To-School Blog Hop.  It is School Room Week!

Our 2014-2015 Curriculum

Planning, Printing, OrganizingPrep…and Preparing to Make Memories During a New School Year!

As unbelievable as it is, another school year is quickly approaching!  This coming year, our homeschool consists of a 7th grader, 5th grader, 3rd grader, 1st grader, and a PreK child.  Ready or not, here is a peek at what we have planned for the new year…

Our “Together” Subjects

- Heart Of Dakota Resurrection to Reformation (3rd, 5th, 7th)

    We are looking forward to progressing in our history study!  The HOD website explains this year’s history portion as providing…

a deeper look at the time period from the Resurrection of Christ to the Reformation. This year of study is meant to provide students with a Christ-centered overview of the growth of the early church, the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Reformation, the exploration of the new world, and the advancement of science. Within the readings, students will learn about each time period through the lives of the people who lived then. This biographical approach to history shows the strengths and gifts that people were given, along with the mistakes and errors that they made. Yet, the resources chosen for this study will show how God in His loving care watched over His people amidst persecution and trials. Church history is woven in and out of the narratives at the proper places in history, leading students to see that all of history belongs to God and is actually “His” story.

Independent History Reading and Read AloudsHistory 1
Extension ReadersHistory 2

- God’s World News current events (3rd, 5th, 7th)
- Mystery of History Vol 2 audio (7th)
Our oldest child LOVED Mystery of History volume 1 and begged us to let her listen to volume 2 as well!

Apologia Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day (1st, 3rd, 5th)
After having the opportunity to visit the beach and ocean this past year, our children are excited to be able to learn more about sea life and ocean creatures!
Swimming Creatures

Ocean Creatures Notebook
Free ‘My Ocean Creatures Notebook’


Bible and Apologetics –
- Hidden Treasures in Philippians study and Philippians 1 Scripture Memorization (3rd, 5th, 7th)
Philippians 1

Philippians 1 Copywork
Free Philippians Copywork Sheets

- Apologia Who AM I? (3rd, 5th, 7th)
Who Am I

- YWAM Missionary Biographies
Our oldest kids continue to enjoy listening to these true stories!

Intro to Greek
- Greek Alphabet Code Cracker (3rd, 5th, 7th)
- Greek Alphabet Coloring Pages from Classical Academic Press (1st grader)
Intro to Greek
Free Greek Alphabet Coloring Pages



- Art Appreciation Looking at Pictures (3rd, 5th, 7th)
Art Appreciation
- Creating a Masterpiece Level 1
Art2 Art




Grade Specific Reading / Language Arts /Math

our 7th grader…

  • Literature-  Memoria Press (The Wind in the Willows, Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island, King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table)
  • Reading – HOD extension reading and free choice reading
  • Spelling – Phonetic Zoo
  • Writing and Grammar:  BJU English and Writing 7
  • Horizons Math
  • Xtra Math
  • Handwriting – Philippians 1 Cursive Copywork
  • Science – Apologia General Science
  • AWANA – 1st year Trek, serving as a Leader in Training with a preschool Gopher Buddies class
  • Music – Violin, Pianimals piano practice
  • Devotions with Mom – Beautiful Girlhood, The Virtuous Woman: A Short Study on Proverbs 31 for Mothers and Daughters
  • Extra Bible – middle school Bible study, continuing to memorize Ephesians


our 5th grader…

  • Literature-  Memoria Press (King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, Robin Hood, Adam of the Road, Door in the Wall)
  • Reading – related history reading, Abeka readers, free choice reading
  • Spelling – Rod and Staff
  • Writing and Grammar:  BJU English and Writing 5
  • Horizons Math 5
  • Xtra Math
  • Handwriting – Philippians 1 Cursive Copywork
  • AWANA – 3rd year T&T
  • Music – Violin, Pianimals piano practice, Choir
  • Devotions with Mom – Beautiful Girlhood, The Virtuous Woman: A Short Study on Proverbs 31 for Mothers and Daughters

our 3rd grader…

  • Literature -  Memoria Press (Farmer Boy, Charlotte’s Web, The Moffats, Homer Price)
  • Reading – related history reading, Abeka readers, free choice reading
  • Spelling – Joyful Heart Spelling Skills (completing Part 2)
  • Writing and Grammar:  BJU English and Writing 3
  • Horizons Math 3 (continuation from last year) and moving into 4
  • Xtra Math
  • Handwriting – Philippians 1 Manuscript Copywork, A Reason For Handwriting Transition book (cursive)
  • Extra Science – Astronomy focus from HOD
  • AWANA – 1st year T&T
  • Music – Choir
  • Devotions with Dad – Boyhood and Beyond


our 1st grader…

  • Reading – ABeka readers, free choice reading (and starting a Book List)
  • Phonics – Explode the Code 3-4
  • Spelling / Handwriting – Joyful Heart Spelling Skills (starting Part 1)
  • Writing – Write a Super Sentence
  • Horizons Math 1/2
  • Xtra Math
  • Social Studies – History for Little Pilgrims, History Stories for Children, Selections from Draw Write Now (books 2,3,& 5)
    1st Grade History
  • AWANA – 2nd year Sparks
  • Music – Pianimals piano practice (with her big sister overseeing her), Choir

our 4 year old PreK child…


Would you like to see our previous year’s curriculum choices?
2013-2014 (6th, 4th, 2nd, K, preschool)
2012-2013 (5th, 3rd, 1st, PreK, 2 year old)
2011-2012 (4th, 2nd, K, 3’s preschool, toddler)
2010-2011 (3rd, 1st, PreK, 2 year old, 4 mo old baby)
2009-2010 (2nd, K, 3’s preschool, toddler, baby arrived end of year)
2008-2009 (1st, PreK, 2 year old, 6 mo old baby)
2007-2008 (K, 3’s preschool, toddler, baby arrived mid year)
2006-2007 (PreK, 2 year old, 7 mo old baby) – Joyful Heart Character
2005-2006 (3’s preschool, toddler, baby arrived mid year) – Joyful Heart Bible and Rhyme
2004-2005 (2 year old, 6 mo old baby) – Joyful Heart Learning


This post is part of the 6th annual “Not” Back-To-School Blog Hop over at the iHomeschool Network.  This week, homeschoolers around the nation are sharing their curriculum choices for this coming school year!


My Ocean Creatures Notebook

ocean How many are your works, O LORD!
In wisdom you made them all.
The earth is full of your creatures.
There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.
Psalm 104:24-25

 ocean 2


Our family has had the privilege to visit and explore the coastline during the past two summers. May we never cease to be amazed at the vastness of the ocean and the creative nature of our loving God!  So, it is with great anticipation as we embark on a new school year and begin our study of ocean creatures using Apologia’s Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day!  After studying Apologia’s Zoology 1 for our main science text last year, we knew that once again we would desire to spend time learning about science and nature using this God centered, creationist curriculum with multiple ages.

Swimming Creatures

As I read through the text and looked at the regular and junior notebooking journals, as excellent as they are, I realized that I wanted a slightly different design for our upcoming first grader.  So, of course, I created one – ‘My Ocean Creatures Notebook’!  This was a fun project to work on, especially since my oldest daughter teamed up to help me for the first time!

The ‘My Ocean Creatures Notebook’ does contain some writing spaces and true notebooking type sheets. However, there are mostly cutting, gluing, sorting, labeling, and coloring activities designed with lower elementary students in mind (advanced K-2nd grade) allowing them to learn alongside their older siblings. The topics and vocabulary correspond with the same ones as found in the Apologia Swimming Creatures textbook.


In this FREE resource you will find…

Coloring sheets with Scripture
Pages for Labeling anatomy of different ocean creatures
Experiment Sheets
Vocabulary Match Ups
Comparing and Contrasting Activities
Spaces to write facts to remember
Word Searches (with answer key in the back)
My Ocean Creatures Drawing pages
Ocean Creatures Report Sheets
Aquarium Field Trip Scavenger Hunt
Picture Cards (Photos)
Sorting/Matching Cards (ocean creatures and their names)


Ocean Creatures Notebook

Download the ‘My Ocean Creatures Notebook’ for FREE
at the Joyful Heart Learning Teacher’s Notebook Shop!


Make Him Known


The day I ran out of our Sunday School class -

I was in the middle of listening to the teaching from Luke
on the topic of Heaven and Hell -

I had just cried through all of worship and part of the morning sermon –

a sermon on Jesus commissioning His disciples to preach the Gospel -

1 day after seeing a picture of the headstone for the first time -

2 and a half  months after his passing -

4 months after last seeing him in the hospital – stroking his head, kissing his forehead, squeezing his hand, looking him in the eyes, and telling him for the last time face to face, “I love you, dad.”

One year after being sent as a ‘missionary’,
I lost a loved one that may be separated from Christ forever –


My God has been gracious and brought me comfort, hope, strength, and great peace the last couple of months.   But, on this day, I finally came face to face with the reality that I knew I had to eventually deal with.  

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,
but whoever rejects the Son will not see life,
for God’s wrath remains on him.
(John 3:36)

I’ve prayed, from the beginning of my dad’s deteriorating health, that my faith and trust in Christ would not be shaken even if ones I love pass away without knowing Him.  And, thanks be to my Heavenly Father, it has not.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  I know what I believe and He is good and faithful – ALWAYS – even, when my longing and prayers for dad to know the only One who could save him seem to have been ‘unanswered’.  But, only God truly knows the condition of my father’s soul right before he passed away.  Paraphrasing Randy Alcorn’s words, I don’t know whether the Holy Spirit of God might have done a work of grace in his heart and life at the last moment.

Am I angry or upset with God?  No.  He is  loving, sovereign, and just.  Rather, I am frustrated and disappointed with myself.  Oh the sorrow, the regrets over missed opportunities, and the intermingling whispers of failure.  In my feeble attempts, I tried to share Christ – a Bible, the kids’ drawings with written verses, my written testimony, a life that I pray was an example of Christ living in me…but in the end, it doesn’t seem like it was enough. 

In the sermon that day, I was side struck by an illustration and application that the pastor shared…

It’s not just enough to say I’m going to live a  good life before others.  There’s a story of a man who came to Christ during an evangelistic event in the Pacific Northwest and when he told his boss about it, this boss responded with, “Well that’s great! I’m a Christian and I’ve been praying for you for years.”  But the new believer was heartbroken. “Why didn’t you ever tell me?” he said.  “You’re the very reason I haven’t been interested in the gospel all these years.”  “How can this be?” the boss wondered.  “I’ve done my very best to live a Christian life around you.”  “That’s the point,” he exclaimed, “You’ve lived such a model life without telling me that it was Christ who made the difference in your life.  I convinced myself that I could live the same way you could live – without Christ.” 

Mark Mittleberg said this.  It’s a little strong, but I believe it’s true.  “Our popular version of evangelism says, ‘If I just live as a consistent Christian, people will see it, figure it out, and come to Christ.’  But that approach isn’t biblical, and it doesn’t work.” Everything I’ve shared with you today is to go tell and compel them to come. Yes, I understand Matthew 5:16 “Go let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify God in heaven.”   Yes, we are to live a good, moral, and ethical life.  We’re to represent Christ, but we were commissioned to go tell.

How my mind summarized all of this and what I actually wrote in my sermon notes came out as: ’Just living a moral and ethical Christian life isn’t biblical.  We are commanded to go and TELL of Jesus Christ.  Yes, we are to shine our light, but, sadly it may point to our own accomplishments and works and not to our need for Christ’s saving power and work in us – if we don’t also PROCLAIM Him.’

Over the next several days, I did a lot of praying and a little digging in online commentaries and sermons to try to better understand what it means to ‘shine our light’.

John Gill’s commentary of Matthew 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men” states,

…the spiritual knowledge and mysteries of grace…were to be openly declared and made manifest before men…

He goes on to say “that they may see your good works” refers to

…their zeal and fervency, their plainness and openness; their sincerity, faithfulness, and integrity, their courage and intrepidity; their diligence, (and) industry..in preaching the Gospel; their strict regard to truth, the honor of Christ, and the good of souls; as also their very great care and concern to recommend the doctrines of grace, by their examples in their lives and conversations

Matthew Henry’s commentary of the same verse states,

They must shine as lights, by their good preaching, the knowledge they have. They must communicate for the good of others – not put it under a bushel, but spread it.

In the fuller context of Matthew 5:13-16, John MacArthur makes a distinction between being ‘salt’ and being ‘light’, stressing the need for both:

Salt is the silent testimony, it is our moving through the world and affecting it with our very life…..We are to flavor life with the wonder of God’s presence among us. We are to sting and convict the sinful wound of the world. We are to create a thirst for Christ by the very way we live….but light shines on the outside, and light is open and working visibly. In other words, salt is the influence of Christian character; it is quiet but powerful. Light is the communication of the content of the Gospel. So there are two sides; on one hand, we live it, on the other hand, we preach it…It isn’t just in our words, but in our very overt, open godly conduct. We are not to be just a subtle influence like salt, but we are to be a very open and blatant influence like light…"Let your light so shine before men that they will see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven." That implies, first of all, that they see our good works. Secondly, they glorify our Father in Heaven; that means they’ve heard something about our Father in Heaven. It implies both a life and a message lived and spoken.

We are told to be witnesses, as salt and light, to share what Jesus has done in our lives and to share our story.  Did I do that?  I, honestly, don’t know how well it came across.  Was I fearful, feeling inadequate, too busy, or worse by far, ashamed of the gospel?  As an introvert, desiring to please my earthly parents and not cause strife, I admit that I wasn’t bold enough to speak and share freely of what Jesus had done in my life and relied too much on hoping that my life (that silent, salt-like testimony) would point others to Christ.

I know that I wasn’t the only one who could speak the Living Word of Truth to my dad, that he had the opportunity to read the Gospel, and that even all of creation reveals who He is.  I also have to remember that it wasn’t up to me.  Regardless of what I may have said (or neglected to say), did (or did not do), the Holy Spirit is the One who convicts of sin and leads someone to come to faith in Christ. 

I overflow with tears as I type this…It is too late for my dad.  He can no longer decide whether to either accept or reject Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior.   Only God knows, at this point, the final decision that was made and dad’s eternal destiny. 

Have you decided?  While we were still sinners, God sent His own Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins so that we would no longer be separated from Him.  Have you trusted in Jesus and repented from your sins?  


Have you shared the great news?  Who is in your life that God has commissioned you to go and reach with the wonderful, life giving message of Christ dying on the cross to save them from their sins? 

Go.  Proclaim. 

Live to know Him and make Him known.

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