Simplifying for the Summer

Because of all my excitement about the “Brave Writer Lifestyle” among other things homeschooling related, I didn’t realize that I was getting more anxious by the day.  I tend to get obsessed about things that I am excited about and give 200%, then it leads to anxiety (the obsessive/compulsive side of my severe anxiety).

I came home Friday from my parents’ and the kids came home from camp on Saturday.  We spent that day just resting.  Sunday I started to notice something.  My breathing was going back to the way it was last year (and in 2013) when I had hyperventilation syndrome.  It got worse through the day.

Robert came home from work in the middle of the day and I told him about it and he pointed to the table that was COVERED with curriculum and books and said “this is why!”  I was also staring at my homeschool routine on my google doc (it was very congested).

In that moment I decided something needed to change because I can’t live that way again.  I want homeschooling to be something that we all enjoy and that works for our family!  Not something that makes my kids stressed out and causes me anxiety.


I was so thankful that a good friend of mine could chat that day.  I sent her the link to the document and she helped me make necessary changes to my homeschooling routine, and I have simplified it dramatically for the summer.  I don’t plan to pick up much else in August.

So I picked the non-negotiables and made my routine with that (and definitely not scheduled times… just an order that we follow)!  I thought about just putting school off until the fall but decided to go ahead and start for three reasons: 1) Ethan needs the routine!  2) I need the routine!  3) Karis desperately wants to start (like last week!).  It’ll be good to go ahead and start so that we can take breaks as we need to!

This is the new routine:

Nature walk/journal (a few days a week)

Friday Poetry Tea Time


  • Mom and kids will read independently for 30 minutes!  
    • Read sitting on the couch, floor, chair, bean bag, at the table, or on the back porch!

Table Time

  • Copywork, dictation, narration, writing project (Brave Writer Partnership Writing), or free write (one of these per day)

One-on-One Time: The Good and the Beautiful (along with Brave Writer, I am in LOVE with this curriculum!)

  • 1-3 lessons per day (mostly one, but some of the lessons are SUPER short!)

Independent activities while I work with each kids one-on-one:

  • Handwriting Without Tears (1 page)
  • Spelling practice
  • Math U See (one video per lesson and one page per day)

Electronic time



Read aloud @bedtime- the book Wonder and a chapter out of the Bible.

This is IT!

In the fall I will add “group time” in the afternoon consisting of science OR history (not both) each day.  It will probably take about 30-45 minutes for that.

I also filled the basket in our kitchen/dining area with our essentials and plan to just put things in that basket that we will use each day.  Right now it has:

  • The Good and Beautiful books
  • Handwriting books
  • A binder for each kid (with math pages, G&B printouts, spelling lists, and history questions)
  • 3 composition notebooks for each kid: writing, spelling, and nature journal
  • The book that they chose to read
  • And the readers to go with The Good and the Beautiful

In the fall I will add the Story of the World book and science (starting with a unit from G&B).

I have also been watching videos from Julie Bogart from Brave Writer about simplifying and being okay with what we can handle.  She has a video titled 55 Things that We Did NOT Do As a Homeschooler.  It made me feel okay with what we’re doing!

Now.  Am I better today?  Not 100%!  But it is much better today than it was several weeks in last year, so I’ll take it.

Also, a lady in a group that I’m in told me about a technique that she does when she is struggling with this and it helped me yesterday!  I also meditate and listen to spa music to relax.

Anxiety is a beast.  There are soooooo many different physical symptoms and even when I feel better mentally, it takes a while for the physical symptoms to go away.  It’s maddening.

I see my doctor in two weeks and if it’s still going on, we will address it then.  BUT!  I’m hoping it’s better by then!

I am in a parenting with anxiety group and many of the mamas in there reminded me that it won’t last forever!  It might feel like it in the moment, but it will eventually get better.

Today we are starting school, then I will catch up on housework!  After that I might spend some time meditating while the kids have their “electronic time”.

Despite this physical symptom of anxiety, I’m so happy about life and where we are.  I’m so thankful that I no longer use alcohol to cope and that I don’t go to bed drunk every night anymore.  Sometimes I dream about it and I wake up SO THANKFUL for sobriety!  It’s a good reminder about why sobriety is so important!

Now, For Curriculum We Will Use…

…MOST things I already have!  I ordered a few things (some used).  And I’m borrowing several things from my neighbor!  I am set for the year!

Morning Time

I haven’t been super consistent with this in the past, but I’m going to try again :-).  I have so many great resources that I want to use!  I will do this on a loop schedule.  Literature and poetry, fine arts, geography, and Bible.



Math (Math U See)

For the boys

For Karis

Language Arts

They will be doing The Good and the Beautiful for phonics, reading, grammar, spelling, art appreciation, and geography (levels 2 and up).  The boys are starting with level 1, and Karis will be starting with level 3 because it’s very advanced.  They need the spelling and grammar from the lower levels.



Karis will be doing IEW Ancient History-Based Writing Lessons.

Ethan and Levi will be doing Writing With Ease Level 2 (this is narration, dictation, and copywork).

All 3 kids will also read novels and library books and do a reading response journal using these:

Reading Response Menus

Informational Text Question Cards

Reading Response Question Cards

I will also use this list of “book reports” to have them report on the books that they read in a creative way.

Here are a few pictures of the reading response questions that we will use:

This is a rubric to go with the menus.


Science (Apologia Astronomy)

I had this for this past year but I wasn’t consistent with it.  We’re going to use it this coming year.  We will add field trips to it!  The McDonald Observatory, the Scobee Education Center Planetarium, and NASA.  It’s going to be so much fun!


We’re borrowing Story of the World Volume One: Ancient Times from my neighbor.

I bought these to go with it.  The encyclopedia has internet links to go with it.

These will be our read alouds… one per month.

Handwriting (Handwriting Without Tears)

For Levi

For Ethan

For Karis

Nature Studies and Poetry Memorization

Journaling a Year in Nature by Simply Charlotte Mason

I think this is everything :-).  It seems like a lot, but many things we will not do everyday.

Reading Comprehension and Digging Deeper

I’ve mentioned before that Karis is on an 8th grade reading level (at least she was when she left school in March).

She loves reading and that’s fantastic, but I want her to think critically and dig deep into the books.  I also want to expand her vocabulary.

I have so many ways for her to do that!

Teachers Pay Teachers has so many fantastic novel studies.  I love The Book Umbrella the most!

Starting next week she will be doing a novel study on Ella Enchanted (we have this book from the library).

In addition to novel studies, I will have her use different forms of reading response questions to answer in her reading response journal.  These will be on books of her choice.  She has to answer them in a paragraph with text evidence (4-6 sentences).

I will also have her read some non-fiction/informational books and respond to those.

We will learn about figurative language.

We will use reading menus with prompts and a rubric to grade.

And lastly I will teach skills and strategies and have her respond to them using a sentence starter (also in a paragraph).  These are a few examples:

I will use this rubric to grade all reading response:

The books that I will be having her study are on my homeschooling page above.     In addition to the books that I will have her study, I will give her plenty of time to read for enjoyment.  We will study one novel a month along with one novel to go with our history, and the rest will be books of her own choosing.

Comprehension Skill: Making Inferences

Earlier, I wrote a post about comprehension strategies and skills… the differences and similarities and a list of each.

Next week I will be focusing on the comprehension skill of making inferences (also known as inferring or inferencing).

In simple terms, this is the text evidence plus background knowledge.

TE + BK = I

When an inference is made, it may or may not be answered.  This is different from a prediction because this is a guess that will eventually be answered. A prediction is also a continuation of sequence… what will happen next.  An inference focuses on characters’ feelings, why things happened, and what is happening.  This is what the author did not tell you: “reading between the lines.”  Inferences are constantly made while reading and in life but people don’t put a word to it usually.

Yesterday, I created an anchor chart with sentence starters for her to us to respond to her reading in a paragraph in her reading response journal.

The first book that I will use is actually a book with no words.  I love this book.  It is a “story” from the underground railroad.  There is a background of this in the back of the book that I will read to her first (we haven’t really studied this yet).  Through a series of pictures, we figure out that this girl helps a black person in the underground railroad.  It takes a while to come to this understanding.  Lots of inferences are made throughout.

How Many Days to America is the story of a group of families that escapes the Caribbean to find safety in America.  This book would also be great for making connections because of what is going on in the world.  I love this book so much.  Inferences can be made throughout for understanding of the text.

Cheyenne Again is about a Native American boy that is taken from his family and made to become like the white people.  This book is also great for teaching theme, which I will do eventually.

Smoky Night is about a family (single mom and her son) in the midst of riots in California.

Notice that 3 out of 4 of these picture books are Eve Bunting books.  She is my favorite children’s author.  She writes about the “hard stuff.”

After the lesson is taught using the picture book, Karis will spend about 30-45 minutes reading Esperanza Rising and she will use sticky notes to mark the inferences that she made.  She will then use the sentence starters to write a paragraph about the inferences that she made.  Esperanza Rising is about a family that is taken from luxury in Mexico to working on a farm in the United States.  It relates well to the picture books that I read throughout the week.

We will also use Esperanza Rising for dictation and copywork as well as to teach some grammar and vocabulary through it using Bravewriter’s The Arrow lessons.

Teaching Comprehension Skills and Strategies Using Mentor Texts

When I taught, we dug deep into books using different comprehension skills and strategies.  While Karis is almost in 6th grade and she reads on an 8th grade level, I would like for her to dig deeper into the novels that she reads.  Using mentor texts (picture books) really helps bring understanding to the text.  I have about 60 mentor texts labeled with each strategy or skill that I plan to teach.

Along with mentor texts, I will be using a resource that I bought on Teachers Pay Teachers which has sentence starters for every skill and strategy.  I was so happy to find this because it’s less work for me!

A Comprehension Strategy is what readers do to solve a problem while reading.

These are:

  • Making connections: text to text, text to self, text to world, and text to media
  • Predictions: what you think will happen next; a continuation of sequence
  • Visualizing: making a picture in your mind of the text
  • Summarizing: most important facts; usually includes setting, characters, problem, and solution
  • Asking questions: who, what, when, where, why, how
  • Monitor and clarify: checking your understanding throughout

A Comprehension Skill is what readers do to understand the text.

These are:

  • Compare and contrast: what is the same and different
  • Sequencing: First, Then, Next, Finally
  • Cause and Effect: What happens and why it happens
  • Fact and Opinion
  • Making inferences: background knowledge plus text evidence (clues); may or may not be answered; feelings of characters, why things happened, what happened
  • Author’s Purpose: To entertain, to inform, to persuade

Over time, I will be writing posts on each strategy and skill and what specific books I will use to teach it.