Stacking Up the Learning

Stacking Up the Learning Themed 1st Day

As a homeschool family, we enjoy marking the beginning of a new school year in a special way.  We set aside the very first day as a ‘fun day’ with a chosen theme, food, related Scripture, and activities!


Although the theme is typically kept secret from the kids until the morning of the first day, this year they had a little hint.  I requested, a week beforehand, that they each needed to be prepared to arrive to breakfast dressed as a book character of their choice.

Here’s the cast of characters that showed up on our first day of school this year…


Chaya from Jennifer Nielsen’s Resistance, Hermione from Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Cole from Brandon Mull’s The Five Kingdoms series, Sherlock Holmes from The Lock and Key series by Ridley Pearson, and Petra from Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card!

And, the surprise theme was revealed…


Stacking up the Learning!

We began our day with our tradition of first day notes at the table, a Scripture reading, and, of course, cupcakes for breakfast – this time ‘stacked’ pancake cupcakes.



I think these Scriptures are very fitting for the theme.  For, even though each year our children are gaining academic knowledge and skills, it’s even more important to remind ourselves to continue to add to our learning of God’s Word, hiding it in our hearts, applying it, and growing in godly character and Christ-likeness.

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After breakfast, they all completed their yearly Growing in Grace sheets (updated this year) and wrote encouraging notes to their siblings. These were later shared during lunch.

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Next, I had them grab their character’s book and head to a comfy spot.  They took turns drawing a ‘Find the Quote’ card and then they all searched their books for a line that would fit the prompt.  For example…’Find a quote that could be used as step 5 in my evil plan to take over the world.’  Or, ’Find a quote that could be used as a sentence that would sound great if read in a Southern accent.’  It was hilarious and turned out to be a perfect, engaging game for our wide age range of children (ages 17 to 9) this year!

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They then participated in a silly, friendly competition of book balancing.  A few may have got creative on how they chose to balance their books.

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Next, they enjoyed a snack of gummy ‘book’ worms, watched a couple videos on literary elements, and used Jenga blocks to play Story Element Stack.  (This was super easy for my older kids, but they were good sports!)



For lunch, they constructed and ate tortilla sandwich books.



The kids then enjoyed a game of Literature Pictionary!  They took turns selecting a card containing a book title (well known children’s books, middle grade fiction, and some popular young adult titles). On their turn, they used a dry erase board and markers to draw clues for their siblings to guess the book.



Last, I gave them a large, open-ended project that they worked on the rest of the afternoon. They divided into teams and set to work creating a video book review or book trailer for a favorite book or series of books.  They loved scripting, finding props, acting, and filming their videos.  These were later shared with family at the end of the day.



Oh, we also ‘stacked’ chocolate and marshmallows on top of graham crackers – enjoying yummy s’mores over the fire pit.  =)

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A few things I wanted to do, but that we didn’t have time for were…
-Photo Shelfies  (taking photos of each child with their favorite books behind them on a shelf)
-Watching an online tour of book printing and binding
-Creating Watercolor Book & Verse Quote Posters and Book Marks

(Maybe we’ll sneak these in some other time!)


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Here’s to another great year of learning!

Our 2019-2020 Curriculum



Our new 2019-2020 homeschool year is already underway!

Here is our family’s 4th-12th Grade Curriculum Choices.  We’ve always had an eclectic approach to curriculum – and this year is no different!  It was challenging and time consuming, but I’m excited to see the kids delve into some unique courses that were either designed or carefully selected for each of them this year.


Our 4th Grader:


  • Reading/Phonics: Explode the Code 8; 180 Days of Reading Grade 4
  • Literature:  Frindle, The Door in the Wall, Stuart Little, Homer Price, Mr. Lemoncello’s Library,  James and the Giant Peach, The Green Ember series, The Phantom Tollbooth, Rump, Wings of Fire: The Dragonet Prophecy, Story Thieves, The Shakespeare Stealer, and Redwall; free reading
  • Spelling: Joyful Heart Spelling Skills
  • Handwriting: Handwriting Skills Simplified D: Improving Cursive Writing
  • Writing/Grammar/Composition: BJU English 4
  • Math: Horizons 4 (and moving into 5)
  • Bible: Awana T&T, daily Bible Reading
  • Additions: Trail Life (Mountain Lion)


‘Together’ Subjects for 4th and 6th:


  • Science: Apologia Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics
    (We meet twice a month with a couple of other homeschool families to do additional hands-on activities for science as well.  I created Hands On Chemistry and Physics Experiment Packs for us to use for our get togethers.)
  • Social Studies: The Early Church & Middle Ages (Mystery of History 2) with a homemade notebook (after we complete Ancient History – Mystery of History 1)



Our 6th Grader:


  • Reading/Literature:  Reading, studying, and participating in a once a month book club using the following books – Ballet Shoes, Ella Enchanted,  Number the Stars, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Out of My Mind, The Candymakers,  Dangerous Journey: Pilgrim’s Progress, Pollyanna, Adam of the Road,  Tuck Everlasting;  180 Days of Reading Grade 6; free reading
  • Writing/Grammar/Composition: Writing for Muggles live class – reading all seven books in the Harry Potter series with writing assignments based from those; Grammar for Middle School; Paragraphs for Middle School; Elements of a Fairy Tale; Word Roots 2
  • Math: Horizons 6
  • Bible: Student Leader in Awana/Trek, daily Bible Reading
  • Additions: violin lessons, piano, gymnastics, ballet



Our 8th Grader:


  • Literature/Composition: How to Write the Perfect 5 Paragraph Essay; Who Dun It? Murder Mysteries – reading of the following murder mysteries as well as writing his own murder mystery!  
    Short Stories: “Murder in the Rue Morgue” , “The Ordinary Hairpins” , “The Archduke’s Tea” , “A Singular Abduction”
    Books:  The Westing Game,
    The Red House Mystery, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Favorite Father Brown Stories, Murder On the Orient Express, And Then There Were None, Whose Body?, Where Are You Now?, The Roman Hat Mystery
  • Foundations in Composition (live, online course)
  • Grammar: Easy Grammar Ultimate Grade 9
  • Vocabulary: Word Roots 4
  • Algebra 1 with Integrated Geometry:  Shormann Algebra 1
  • Science: Apologia Physical Science
  • Social Studies:

    1st Semester – History of Technology: Computers and Gaming
    The Story of Computing, The Computer Book, Of Games and God, and The Art of Video Games

    2nd Semester – Church History
    Christian History Made Easy, Trial and Triumph, God’s Timeline: Big Book of Church History

  • Bible: Student Leader in Awana/Trek, daily Bible Reading, reading and discussing Do Hard Things and This Changes Everything: How the Gospel Transforms the Teen Years
  • Computers: Game Design 1 and Intro to Java Programming (online, live courses) 



Our 10th Grader:


  • English 10:
    Classic Literature/ Literary Analysis and Composition
    (live, online course)

    Romeo and Juliet, The Prince and the Pauper, Our Town, King Arthur: Tales from the Round Table, Silas Marner, The Giver, The Scarlet Letter, Up From Slavery, The Importance of Being Earnest; Easy Grammar Ultimate Grade 10 
  • Algebra 2 with Integrated Geometry:  Shormann Algebra 2
  • Chemistry:  Jay Wile’s Discovering Design with Chemistry
  • World History:  Notgrass World History
  • Spanish 3: BJU 3 (in conjunction with a live, online course)
  • Instrumental Music 2:  Cello lessons, Piano Lessons, Member of the local youth orchestra, Member of the local church orchestra
  • Speech – Communication and Public Speaking: Secrets of Great Communicators by Jeff Myers combined with Public Speaking and Practical Life Skills from 7 Sisters
  • Additions: AWANA Journey, continuation of cake baking and decorating, driving practice



Our 12th Grader – SENIOR YEAR!


  • English 12:
    British Literature and Composition
    (live, online course)
    The Weight of Glory, The Great Divorce, The Canterbury Tales,  ‘Leaf By Niggle’, Macbeth, Sense and Sensibility,  A Christmas Carol, Jane Eyre, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Wind in the Willows, Lord of the Flies, Remains of the Day, The Elements of Eloquence, Letters to a Diminished Church, Collected Poetry of T.S. Eliot, Six Centuries of Great Poetry, The Elements for Style
  • Research Writing:  (live, online course)
  • Speech – Communication and Public Speaking: Secrets of Great Communicators by Jeff Myers combined with Public Speaking and Practical Life Skills from 7 Sisters
  • Consumer Math:  BJU
  • Constitutional Literacy:  Constitutional Literacy with Michael Farris DVD and notebook
  • Psychology:  Psychology in Everyday Life (live, online course)
  • U.S. Government & Politics: (live, online course)
  • Economics: (live, online course)
  • Contemporary Cultural Issues: Understanding the Culture: A Survey of Social Engagement by Jeff Myers, Counter Culture by David Platt, World News Magazine, Podcasts
  • Additions: Student Leader in AWANA/Journey, gymnastics, ballet & lyrical dance, writing/revising/editing her own novel



Would you like to see our curriculum choices from previous years?

2018-2019 (11th, 9th, 7th, 5th, 3rd)
2017-2018 (10th, 8th, 6th, 4th, 2nd)
2016-2017 (9th, 7th, 5th, 3rd, 1st)
2015-2016 (8th, 6th, 4th, 2nd, Kindergarten)
2014-2015 (7th, 5th, 3rd, 1st, PreK)
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 month old baby)
2009-2010 (2nd, K, 3’s preschool, toddler, baby arrived end of year)
2008-2009 (1st, PreK, 2 year old, 6 month old baby)
2007-2008 (K, 3’s preschool, toddler, baby arrived mid year)
2006-2007 (PreK, 2 year old, 7 month 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












Free Printable First Day of School Signs

First Day of School Signs

As you and your children embark on another new school year, don’t forget to capture the excitement of the first day!

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Enjoy these free printable Grade Level Signs for preschool through 12th grade. They are ready for any calendar year as they contain no dates.

K Level Sign 12th Grade Sign

This is a simple tradition that, if done yearly,  allows you to see just how much your sweet little people have grown each year!

First Day Signs









Ancient History and Astronomy

Ancient History & Astronomy


During this school year, our 3rd and 5th grade children and I have been delving into ancients for history and exploring astronomy for science!  So far, the combination has worked well since both begin with the foundation of Creation with our loving God as the Master Designer. It’s the perfect combination for creation based studies!


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As we study Biblical history and early civilizations and also discover information about the sun, planets, and stars, I like how it all so easily points us back to God. 

The heavens declare the glory of God. 
The skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Psalm 19:1 (NIV, 1984)

We are making connections with Biblical history and seeing how God’s hand was at work in both the forming and sustaining of the universe and the nations.

I am struck by the words in this small verse of Scripture.

Great is our Lord, and abundant in power.
His understanding is beyond measure.

Psalm 147:5 (ESV)


great ….abundant in power….beyond measure

Yes!  That is what I wish for our children to consider and contemplate as they continue to study this year.  My hope is that they not only store up content knowledge, but that they encounter the Living God!  May they always realize that it is Christ who is great in His steadfast love for us, who is abundant in power as He not only created everything, but sustains us and gives us life, and that His wisdom and understanding are beyond measure.


If you are also studying Ancient History with your children, you may be interested in a new resource that was just added to our Teachers Pay Teachers store – an Ancient History Notebook!

Fall Leaf Art

Fall Leaf Art

As part of our small homeschool co-op, we have been trying to incorporate art projects that coordinate with our science studies.  We’ve been attempting to also make sure that the projects chosen are not just ‘craftsy’, but have a purpose and include an art concept.  One site that I have recently discovered that assists with the teaching of the elements of art is the Kitchen Table Classroom.  I have fallen in love with her site and the variety of ways she incorporates the concepts of art in a hands on, easy to understand way. 

So, when desiring to spend an afternoon of fall art time with one of my daughters, I remembered seeing her vibrant chalk and glue leaf drawings.  It was an enjoyable time of creativity and bonding, along with an easy review of contour lines, warm vs. cool colors, and blending!  Below is what we did…


Steps to Creating Your Own ‘Fall Leaf Art’

1) Gather supplies.


  • 9 by 12 inch black construction paper
  • 3-6 leaves  (Collect a few different sizes and shapes.  Choose ones that appeal to you.  Please note, though, that some of the larger sized leaves may be easier for younger children to work with.)
  • pencil
  • bottled white liquid school glue
  • soft pastel chalks


2) Position and trace your leaves.

Arrange your leaves on a piece of black paper.  Make sure to leave at least a finger space between the leaves.  Using a pencil, outline the shape of each leaf.  It doesn’t have to be exact – just get the basic outline.  Also, study the veins of your leaves.  Then, add lines to the inside of your penciled leaf to resemble a few of those veins.


3) Outline with glue.

Use bottled liquid school glue to carefully trace over your penciled lines. It shouldn’t  be thick and gloppy.  Just gently squeeze and move slightly above your penciled line so that the tip of your bottle doesn’t rub against the paper. This will allow you to form smoother lines without breaks.



4) Air dry.

Allow your glued leaves to air dry.  Ours took about 2 hours to dry completely.  You will know that they are dry once all of the white glue lines are no longer visible.  Instead, you should see a black outline of the leaves that are non-sticky to the touch.

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5) Chalk the inside of your leaves.

Use soft pastel chalk to add color to the inside of each leaf.  Choose warm colors such as shades of red, yellow, orange, and brown.  Start in one section of your leaf adding 2 colors.  With your finger, gently rub and blend them together.  Work your way across each leave, adding color and blending to form the warm colors of fall! 



6) Chalk the background.

To fill in your background, choose a few soft pastel chalks in cool colors such as shades of blue, green, and purple.  You may wish to use the darker color on the outer edge of your paper and gradually switch to lighter shades as you move to the center of your paper or use various colors throughout.  Gently blend the colors with your fingers.



6) Voila!

And there you have simple, fun, enjoyable works of art that reflect the twirling, swirling, colorful leaves of fall!



May you enjoy the time of relaxed creativeness with your children! And, go check out all of the great projects, tips, and free printables offered by Jodi over at The Kitchen Table Classroom!

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