Hands On Science Learning


For the past few years, my children and I have been blessed to be able to meet two times per month with a few other homeschooling families.  We’ve enjoyed participating in art and science together – reinforcing concepts through hands on activities and learning alongside our friends!  

This past school year, our homeschool group used Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics for our 3rd – 6th grade children (while our high school aged girls used Apologia Chemistry).  We explored topics such as the states and properties of matter, atoms and elements, physical and chemical changes, mixtures, the three laws of motion, different types of energy, magnetism, and simple machines.  It was a full year of discovery!

Apologia incorporates a ton of experiments within the text, and we did many of them as we came to them during reading.  However, when we met together as a group, we wanted to provide opportunities to review vocabulary, reinforce concepts, and do additional activities that would support what we were all learning at home. 

Refraction of Light

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After collaborating with the other moms for ideas, I created experiment packets for each meeting time that we then worked through together.  If you’d like to utilize these same hands on activities, the Hands On Chemistry and Physics Experiment Packets are now available for sale over at my TPT Joyful Heart Learning store!

We had such an enjoyable year of learning with friends, and we are all looking forward to our next year of science explorations together!

Pointillism Sunflowers

Pointillism Sunflowers

What began as an afternoon lesson for three children on the style and technique of pointillism turned into an enjoyable family art affair of pointillism and more!

We began by watching an art student’s tutorial on pointillism – learning briefly about Georges Seurat, seeing how to make a color wheel, learning how to create a graphite transfer, and being inspired by an elaborate pointillism Taj Mahal.

Next, we practiced the technique of pointillism by using markers and following along with another tutorial.

1 -Pointillism Practice

We also experimented with various sizes of tips – ends of paintbrushes, Q-tips, erasers, and small stamp sponges.

Next, we got out our primary colored acrylic paints and set to work creating a pointillism color wheel.

2 - Pointillism Color Wheel5 - Pointillism Practice


After all of that practice, we were ready to jump into our main project (and grandma joined us, too).

Step 1- Choose a sunflower!

5.2 Sunflower Project

Step 2 – Create a Graphite Transfer

5.5 - Graphite Transfer6 - Graphite Transfer7 - Graphite Transfer


Step 3 – Ready to Paint!

8 - Ready to Paint

Step 4 – Add dots

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and dots…

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and more dots!

12 - Pointillism

We discovered that this type of painting requires a great deal of patience and perseverance! 


Up until this stage of our project, the kids were very focused and only wanted a few pauses for stretching and a snack.  They were highly engaged and motivated!

After an overnight break, we started up again the next morning

to add more dots!


13 - Pointillism

14 - Pointillism


At various points, the older kids in our family decided to join in on the fun, too!  One chose to utilize the graphite transfer technique with a different image, one chose to use the graphite technique followed by regular painting, and one used a combination of brush stroke painting and pointillism.

 15 - Pointillism16 - Just Paint17 - Just Paint


Our completed pointillism sunflowers!

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And more!

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We had a wide age range of artists – elementary, middle school, high school, mom, and grandma.  Above, are some of our artists’ completed works!  Each of us experienced such a satisfying and relaxing time with family and friends as we let our creative expression flow!

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.

2 Peter 1 5 to 8 IMG_1348


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 oh..so.. 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









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