Not Back to School Blog Hop! Planning, Transcripts, and Keeping Records

Hello again! Welcome back to the last day of Not Back to School Blog Hop!


Today, the Homeschool Review Crew bloggers are sharing about their homeschool planning and record-keeping.



On Tuesday, in the “Must-Have Resources” post for the Not Back to School Blog Hop, I mentioned how important the right planner is for the homeschool mom. (You can read that post here.) Unless you’re unschooling, planning your lessons will ensure that you are completing the curricula you’re working on. It will enable you to work at a steady pace. And, it will provide a record for you not only at the end of the year but in the years to come.

I wrote down EVERYTHING we did; the lessons, pages completed in books, experiments, swimming lessons (and other sports lessons), coop lessons, field trips, books read, community service and volunteer hours worked. Trust me, this will enable you to complete those all-important….



End of the year records

You really will want to complete these every year. Even in kindergarten! Some families complete portfolios; while we kept many art lessons, essays, and other special projects, I relied more on a simple list of what we completed in each semester. That ought to include everything I mentioned in the paragraph above. All the books your child read, volunteering, recitals, roles in dramatic presentations, sports played, and awards won. You can include photos of special events. The more complete you can be, the better! Because, eventually, you will need to complete your child’s…


High School Transcript

Yep. All those years of faithful record keeping will bless you immensely when you have to complete your child’s high school transcript. Even if your child does not plan to attend college, he or she may need record of the proof of high school graduation for a job or other future plans.

Jackson did plan to attend college, however. And all the records I kept throughout the year enabled us to produce an accurate record of his high school work in the form of a transcript.

I am not an affiliate for Lee Binz, but I give her all the credit (tons of it!!) for teaching me how to keep records for high school homeschool. I recommend that you check her out, before your child’s 9th grade year if possible. (If you’re already into your high school years, it will still be very helpful!) Lee’s business is found on her website, TheHomeScholar. She has both free and paid resources which, for me, made all the difference in the world in understanding how to create a transcript. She provides free online webinars on a variety of high school homeschooling help topics. I particularly recommend what I used (I think the purchase price currently is $47); her online course, The Total Transcript Solution. (You can find that when you click on the “Online Help” tab on TheHomeScholar home page.) And, I believe right now, she is sending out free transcript examples for signing up for her newsletter.

Not only will an excellent transcript enable your child to get into college, it will be a help for you as he or she applies for scholarships. Some scholarship applications require a transcript; and if they don’t, your child can still utilize the information on the transcript (which can include awards, activities, and service) to write application essays.


In the end…

You will be so thankful that you have these records of your homeschool life. Even apart from the practical value good homeschool records and a transcript have, you’ll be surprised how much you *don’t* remember at the end of your homeschool journey. I have been decluttering this summer and I have had moments of astonishment when I ran across a brochure or picture from an event or field trip from our early days.

I’m so grateful for our lesson planners, for Lee Binz and all I learned about transcripts from her, and for the process of completing Jackson’s transcript. And, it did get him admitted to his desired university!



Annual NOT Back to School Blog Hop 2020

Be sure to check out the main Not Back To School Blog Hop page today, for all the other posts about homeschool record-keeping. You can access that by clicking on the pink link below.


I hope you’ve enjoyed the Not Back to School Blog Hop. It has been a pleasure for me to share with you some of our favorites from homeschool. Bless you on your homeschool journey this year!


Enjoy! –Wren

Not Back to School Blog Hop! Our Curriculum Faves

Hello again! It’s Day 3 of the Homeschool Review Crew’s Not Back to School Blog Hop!


Annual NOT Back to School Blog Hop 2020

Today, we get to talk about our curriculum favorites! I’ll be looking back on our 14 years of homeschool (preschool plus kindergarten to senior year) and sharing with you the things that: we loved the most, or that made learning amazing, or that had an enormous impact on Jackson or our family in general. There is SO much great curricula out there for homeschool families! Here are just a few of our faves.


Old favorites from our Five In A Row days

Five in a Row

Five in a Row Book 1 was the first “real” curriculum we used in our homeschool journey. Although this series is keyed to ages five to nine, Jackson was an early reader and it was a perfect fit for us. And, a beautiful one!

The “five in a row” idea is focused around excellent picture books in children’s literature (e.g. The Story of Ping, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, A Pair of Red Clogs, Grandfather’s Journey, and much more.). For one week, you read (or your child reads) the picture book each day. Then, the book provides a math activity, an art activity, a geography activity, a science activity, and a literature activity. Together, you and your child complete one of these per day during the week. It was gentle, beautiful, and a lovely way to begin home learning. Just a joy to do together!

We purchased the Five in a Row Book 1 (and Book 2), but we checked the literature books out from the library. Along with many other families, I’m sure, because I remember we couldn’t get the book Cranberry Thanksgiving until sometime in mid-December!

I was also able to track down a copy of of The Five in a Row Cookbook , which contained recipes keyed to each of the books we read. Some of our favorite family times cooking together came out of this book. (Steak fries and apple pie are two that come to mind!)


Eat Your Science Homework and Eat Your Math Homework

This was the most charming, hilarious, educational “cookbook” ever! It’s a wonderful way to integrate scientific principles in visual, aromatic, and palate-pleasing ways! You and your child will have the opportunity to make:

  • Sedimentary Lasagna
  • Atomic Popcorn Balls
  • Invisible Ink Snack Pockets
  • and more!

Assembling the Fibonacci Snack Sticks

The Eat Your Math Homework book is just as fun (maybe more so!). Using this book, we cooked as we learned about fractions, tessellations, tangrams, pi, probability, and more math ideas that are sometimes difficult to visualize in real time and space. This book brought these to life and we had a blast reading the book and creating the foods!

These books are designed for kids aged 7-10, but I honestly think middle schoolers and even high schoolers will find them fun and hilarious.


Hammerhead Shark Food Web, created by Jackson

Bridgeway Academy’s Marine Biology Course

When Jackson was in fifth grade, we had the distinct pleasure of reviewing Bridgeway Academy’s Marine Biology course. This course was taught in an online classroom and was a complete and fabulous marine biology course. The class met weekly for teacher-taught sessions, then completed coursework during the week. Students learned about ocean zones, sea creatures (mammals, invertebrates, crustaceans, and more), taxonomy, and food webs. And their homework was so interesting and really helped lock the information in Jackson’s mind. We were truly sorry when the class was over!


Go Science Review

Ben Roy’s Go Science!

This is an incredible and precious science resource. Ben Roy presents scientific concepts (everything from magnetism to flight to chemistry to water, and tons more) to elementary-aged kids. The science is rock-solid and absolutely SO cool. And, he draws all the scientific concepts back to God, the Creator. As Christians, we just were so moved and encouraged by this series and appreciated the great science. There are 7 volumes/DVDs.



EEME provided one of our most fascinating science/tech experiences. They are a company devoted to teaching kids the wonders of electronics and technology, with monthly kits. Each of these kits starts with a breadboard, a battery, a plastic plate, wires, and other electronica; and future kits send additional tools and tech so that kids can build different projects and learn about the coolness of programming. Online videos show students how to build each one, step-by-step. We highly recommend this!


In conclusion

It is funny, I noticed that most of our curriculum faves were science-related! We loved many other educational processes, but these stood out for the unusual and beloved.

We really have used SO many amazing products over our homeschool career. If you’d like to see more of our wonderful experiences, you can put “TOS Reviews” or “Reviews” in the search bar (found in the sidebar of the blog) to find out more about them. There is a LOT of incredible curricula out there.



Annual NOT Back to School Blog Hop 2020Be sure to click on the pink link below so that you can check out other Homeschool Review Crew members’ curriculum favorites!


Enjoy!  –Wren

Not Back to School Blog Hop! Must-Have Resources

Hello there! Welcome to Day 2 of the Homeschool Review Crew’s Not Back to School Blog Hop!


Must-Have Resources

As I look back over my family’s homeschool journey, there are several resources that stand out as the things that made us successful and gave me (the mom/teacher/enrichment planner) peace of mind and heart. Here they are!


A Family Chore Plan

Some of you moms may be naturally organized home-keepers. My talents lie in different directions! And yet, the homeschool life in itself produces some amount of clutter. Papers. Binders. Pens. Books. Add that to the normal detritus of family life and you discover you REALLY need some help with organization. Plus, we want our kiddos to learn how to do cleaning duties and keep an orderly home, since a) that helps everyone who lives in our home currently and, b) they’ll be living on their own some day in the future!

We’ve tried a variety of products to help with this. We’ve done kid chore charts, that have daily lists that you can fill in for a child to complete and places to check the chores off when they’re done. We’ve used wipe-off magnetic boards on the refrigerator which can be used the same way. In our high school years, our favorite and most helpful resource was Motivated Moms, a service that can either be utilized in print format or as an iPhone app. It lists tasks to be done each day (nice because then we don’t have to come up with them ourselves!) plus rotates in and out seasonal or quarterly jobs that need to be done but that might be forgotten. I have the app, but I preferred printing out the weekly pages and putting them on a clipboard. Each of us in our 3-person family would pick a certain number of chores, do them each day, then check them off. No muss, no fuss, order and cleanliness achieved!


Meal Planning

Homeschool days are full. Especially if you add coops, sports, outside lessons and classes, volunteering, jobs. During most of our homeschool years I would hit 4 PM and just feel as though I was DONE. Add to that, that I’ve been a morning person most of my life, so in addition to being tired from teaching my natural energy levels were starting to ebb. And if I had to plan a meal and cook it?

During my time with the Homeschool Review Crew, I was offered the chance to review It has, honestly and truthfully, saved my sanity! And fed my family! Erin Chase’s meal planning program is organized around freezer cooking. You take a day, do your shopping, then place ingredients for each meal (you can do as many as you wish, but we generally did about 7-8 at a time) inside large ziploc bags or 9″ x 13″ aluminum pans. Then you stick those in the freezer. On any given day, you have planned, pre-prepared meals in the freezer. All you have to do at that point is pull them out, let them thaw if necessary, and place them in the crockpot or in the oven. Voila! A healthy, delicious dinner is ready to go.


A lesson planner that’s right for you

You really do need a good lesson planner. For several reasons:

  • You’ll need a plan for what you’ll be doing in your homeschool, each day and week.
  • You’ll need to be able to know what you’ve completed and what is still outstanding in your child’s lessons.
  • You may need to have records for your state or local school district indicating what you’ve studied or at the very least, the number of days you have homeschooled.
  • One day…perhaps years from now, depending on where you are in your homeschool journey…you’ll need to prepare a high school transcript for your child’s graduation, college applications, and your own records.

I have used different brands and types of lesson plans. Some of my friends swear by online record keeping, but I need something more tactile and visual. (And erase-able!) I have used teacher’s plan books as well as lesson plan books just for homeschoolers. Those were the right ones for me. Planners from The Old Schoolhouse (Hey Mama! Planner) and A Well-Planned Day were my favorites.


Beautiful office supplies

Part of my own self-care includes using things that make me smile or feel happy each day. I can’t tell you how excited I have gotten every year when it has been time to go to Staples’ or Office Depot’s teacher sales! (I recommend signing up for their teacher programs, by the way; you’ll be able to attend special sales and get discounts throughout the year.)

I use a lot of Post-It Notes, tape, staples, pencil sharpeners, and pens. I found a gel pen (Pentel EnerGel) that comes in PURPLE, glides across the page, and doesn’t smear. Homeschool moms take on a huge task each year. Find some things that make your mom/teacher job easier and that help you enjoy what you’re doing. Sometimes you just need a little something to enjoy!


Something that will settle your heart and lift you up each day

As a Christian, I’ve found (again, I’m a morning person) that spending time in God’s Word and/or a devotional to start my day makes all the difference for me in the world. It strengthens my heart, reminds me I’m not alone, helps me to think about good and perfect things.

I reviewed The Homeschool Mom’s Bible one year and it was truly a Godsend. It contains the entire Bible, plus daily devotionals on a huge array of topics written by homeschool moms. It made such a difference for me as I homeschooled. There can be some loneliness as a homeschool mom; of course, you’re with your precious children every day, but on the daily you’re probably not surrounded by coworkers who are doing what you are doing. This Bible reminded me that I was not alone, and encouraged and blessed me daily.




Annual NOT Back to School Blog Hop 2020

Would you like to see what other Crew homeschool moms found as their most valuable resources? Click on the link below, to visit the Must-Have Resources. Maybe you’ll find just what you need!



Enjoy!  –Wren

Not Back to School Blog Hop! Favorite Homeschool Traditions

I’m so happy to be joining the Homeschool Review Crew this week for the Not Back to School Blog Hop!


During the week of August 10-14, the members of the Homeschool Review Crew will be joining together to share all their great homeschool tips. They’ll be linking up (and I’ll have the links at the bottom of each post) so you’ll be able to see tons of great ideas on homeschool helps for your family. Whether you’re a veteran homeschooler, a newbie, or a first-time homeschooler because of COVID-19, you will find help and encouragement for your own homeschool journey.


I have to admit something that truly does strike me as a bit funny, for me personally! This blog hop is entitled “Not Back to School Blog Hop.” For the first time in 14 years, that is actually true for us! Our son Jackson just graduated from high school this past June. We homeschooled from preschool all the way through his senior year. So I’ll be sharing my tips with you as I am stepping out of my role as homeschool mom into the next thing that God has for me. But this particular blog hop couldn’t have been better timed, for me! 🙂


Today’s topic–Traditions!


This summer, I made a couple of foam core collage photo boards to capture Jackson’s homeschool years, from start to finish. I was reminded of so many beautiful memories of our homeschool time together. I have several, but the photo journey reminded me of one of our  main ones. I’ve listed several below!

  • First Day of School Photo: Each year, I’ve printed out a sign with Jackson’s name, the grade he’s going into, and the year. Then, he poses holding the sign on our front porch. I can’t tell you  how wonderful it was to see him, from his first “official” year of homeschooling all the way through his senior year!
  • A special breakfast, out or in! We try to eat a special cooked breakfast at the start of each year. Dad is generally off at work so it’s usually just Jackson and me. But it’s a nice way to “officially” start the year.
  • School supplies: As homeschoolers, we have purchased our own curricula each year. So we always have what Sonlight curriculum company calls “Box Day.” That’s the day that all the books for the school year arrive. But that is usually a couple of weeks before we actually start school, so I have some time to organize things and do lesson planning. But in addition to that, I LOVE providing fresh new supplies for the school year, whether it’s new binders or pens, crayons and scissors, or whatever is appropriate for your child’s age. We also get new backpacks (although that might be every other year, depending on how well the packs last going back and forth to homeschool coop!). I just love fresh new clean supplies and my son always has, as well!
  • Coop activities: We have, except for perhaps the first couple of homeschool years, always participated in a homeschool coop of some kind. That provides opportunities for Jackson to take enrichment classes and connect with friends. So every semester, we have the joy of picking out classes that he’ll be able to take one or two days each week. So important and such a blessing.


We’ve done other activities here and there, but these are the four that stayed with us all our homeschool journey.


Now, don’t forget to check out what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew are sharing in this blog hop! Just click on the banners/buttons below and you’ll be taken to the linkup page.



Annual NOT Back to School Blog Hop 2020

If you’d like to see what other Crew bloggers have to share about their own traditions today, click on the pink Linky Tools link below. That will take you to the Traditions page.



Enjoy! –Wren

Crossing the Finish Line


I’m sure you can guess what the subject of this blog post is!

Yes. It’s our son Jackson’s graduation.

14 years ago, we started our family journey of home education. Early on, we did many of the activities that many of you probably did or do; nature center activities, library events, swim lessons, Kindermusik. Plus lots of art and reading at home. (And Veggie Tales.) While we hadn’t originally planned to homeschool, we sensed that that was God’s good plan for our kiddo. And, it was a good plan!

We began our journey in preschool with Five in a Row. When Jackson was in kindergarten, we used a variety of curricula and added piano lessons (in a wonderful group teaching program for young children).

And, we were off!

We used a lot of literature-based curricula, like Sonlight, which utilizes readers and historical fiction alongside history textbooks. We found that online or computer-based curricula was great for Jackson’s learning style, especially in math. We did a lot of experiments in science courses which ran from plants and photosynthesis, to electricity and magnetism, to weather, to chemistry.

We had amazing opportunities for group learning, in American art lessons, field trips, and a nature/hiking club. We joined a homeschool coop and support group, which (over the course of 8 years) gave Jackson tons of opportunities for great friendship, acting, fellowship, and service.

We also faced some speed bumps over the years. I had some serious surgeries in 2012, and again in 2017. Our family definitely went thru times of suffering and challenge. But during those difficult times, we also saw God’s provision and the support of our friends. I joined The Old Schoolhouse’s Review Crew, which allowed us to use and review curricula at no financial cost to ourselves. Jackson had some amazing educational activities because of the Crew, and both he and I made some lasting friendships.

And suddenly, it was 2019-2020, Jackson’s senior year. And it was a VERY full year, as I’m sure every student, teacher, parent, and homeschooler across the globe can say. COVID-19 of course changed much about our son’s senior year. His coop classes suddenly switched to online, in early March. Since we were already homeschooling, Jackson’s coursework wasn’t really affected; we simply continued what we were doing. Social activities dried up…yet Jackson was able to connect with friends via the internet. But graduation was up in the air. Because our state basically went on lockdown, our coop’s graduation ceremony was cancelled.

However, our coop’s graduation committee rallied and they planned and held an exceptional graduation ceremony in early summer. It was so meaningful. We’ll never forget it!


Crossing the Finish Line

And with graduation, the journey our family has been on together for 14 years has come to a close. And in what a crazy way, in the year of “the corona.”  If y’all are anything like me, your expectations of what the year would look like were blown out of the water. While we really never know what’s coming in a particular year, none of us could have predicted this one.

And yet, we persevere and press on. Jackson will be attending college as a freshman this month. My career as a homeschool mom and teacher has officially concluded. And in the blink of an eye, at that! For so many years we have been working toward the goals of finishing each year well and toward eventual high school graduation. Some of our homeschool years went so beautifully, and others just…did not. But I can tell you that I don’t regret one single one of those years. Homeschooling my son has been one of the great joys of my life. Humbling? Yes. Challenging? You bet. But rich in time, in love, and treasured memories? All of the above. God has been good and has sustained us through many a trial and many a happy moment.

And we and our son are off to walk out the next step in our journey!




Creating a Homeschool Transcript

Record-keeping might not be everybody’s thing. Yet, keeping a record of your child’s school years and the work they did in each one is so important. You might think you’ll remember everything your child did in his school years, but as time goes by you might be surprised at how blurred the years become!

As your child prepares for high school graduation and the path they’ll take beyond homeschool, you’ll want the records of their school years, especially the high school years. Especially if they plan to go to college after high school, when you’ll generally need a copy of their high school transcript. This is challenging…but doable! Here are some great tools that were amazing helps for me.




Lesson Planners

What has worked best for you via lesson planning? There are great online planners that many of my friends have used. However, I am (and always have been) a paper and ink (or pencil, in this case) planner lover. My two favorite planners have been The Old Schoolhouse’s Hey Mama Planner and the Well Planned Gal‘s Well Planned Day Planner.


These planners are just fantastic and must flow well with my thinking and planning styles. There’s room to record the courses, the days, semester grades, attendance, books read, and both contain extra places. The boxes include enough room for pages, time spent, even extra notes you might need to record. These were just, truly, invaluable when I prepared my son’s transcript.

You’ll need to be keeping records of all these things, and having them all in one place will make your life so much easier!



Homeschool High School Made Easy

Lea Ann Garfias‘ awesome Homeschool High School Made Easy was my first introduction to what the homeschool high school life would comprise. This lovely book, written in a conversational style that makes the reader seem immediately welcome and comfortable, covers tons of good info for the mom of homeschooled high school teens. Garfias, who was homeschooled herself in addition to homeschooling her own kiddos, covers teaching styles, testing, relationships, homeschooling styles, dating, driver training, and life preparation. The book sections that relate to transcript prep include credits, standardized testing, college essay writing, state requirements, college entrance.

Homeschool High School Made Easy was the most wonderful book to read. It made me feel so much  more comfortable about homeschooling high school and gave me a great overview of the things I needed to be conscious of and focusing on as we moved through the high school years. So helpful!

Lee Binz The HomeScholar Resources

Several years ago, I purchased Lee Binz’ “Total Transcript Solution”  from TheHomeScholar website. This was, hands down, the most helpful training and resource I utilized in creating Jackson’s transcript. This provided samples of excellent transcripts, instructions on what needs to be included in a transcript, and what colleges find impressive in a student’s records and applications. It was offered to me at a discounted price and I purchased the Silver membership level. I learned most of what I know about transcripts from Lee Binz!

The HomeScholar does have a ton of free resources that you can check out, if you’re not ready to purchase some products. Here are some examples of freebies you can find there:

  • Free seminars on: scholarships for homeschoolers; high school success; avoiding high school mistakes; grades/transcripts/credits
  • Free guides: high school Kindle e-books; 10 Essentials for Homeschooling High School; free record-keeping samples, and more
  • Free workshops

Just visit TheHomeScholar for all these and more. And just so you know, I’m not an affiliate for TheHomeScholar. They’re just an amazing help that I wanted to share with you!



My own tips for you

It is a HUGE task to create your student’s transcript. I learned so much about how to do it recently, and all that I learned (along with all the work my son put in during his high school career) made a huge difference! Here are the things I found most helpful, that I hope will assist you!

  • Keep good records of your student’s coursework, including:
    • Hours spent
    • Books read
    • What was learned in each course
    • Curricula used and completed
    • Field trips or activities which enhanced learning
  • And, update those records semester by semester. (Again, this way you won’t have to rely on your memory!)
  • Keep records of your child’s extracurricular activities, such as:
    • Piano (or any other instrument) lessons and performances
    • Drama activities, roles played in performances
    • Volunteer work (places and organizations served at, dates serves, and number of hours)
    • Leadership activities
    • Honors and awards
    • Sports activities
    • Jobs held
  • Learn what a Carnegie Unit is, to assist you in knowing what is required for your students’ transcript records
  • Visit the websites of each college or university your child is interested in, if he or she wants to attend college. Find out what they require (course-wise and ACT/SAT test scores) for admission or selection so you know what you’re needing to set as goals. You can also contact the universities’ admissions office to inquire what they require from homeschooled students for application.
  • Know your state’s laws for homeschool graduation and course completion. It’s definitely going to vary from state to state, but this will help you to plan your student’s high school course work requirements.



I hope this has been helpful for you! Most of all, enjoy the time with your high schooler. It really does fly by so quickly.

Enjoy! –Wren


Senior Year Homeschooling 2019-2020

I can hardly believe it. But my son Jackson is a senior this year. They say the years fly by, and they do. I can hardly believe we are at this point though!

I realized the other day that we’re in the last week of September, and I haven’t had a moment to share with you what we’re working on this year. So, here’s the rundown of what we’re doing during the 2019-2020 school year!



I worked off and on all summer on preparing Jackson’s high school transcript (more on that later, it was definitely a large undertaking!). Much of what he’s taking this year is standard senior class material; others, we cobbled together to give him some fun and interesting electives.


American Government

We’re using Notgrass History’s Exploring Government and We Hold These Truths for Jackson’s American government credit. I wasn’t familiar with Notgrass at all but I really liked what I saw when I researched their curricula. The government book spends time on history of law, Athenian origins of democracy, the Magna Carta, and other historical movements and texts that helped form the basis for what became the American system of checks and balances, democracy, and the Constitution. We Hold These Truths is a book of documents from primary sources, which is fascinating. For example, this week Jackson will read the Magna Carta and a table of 12 laws that upheld Roman society and citizenship. In this curriculum, there are reading assignments, quizzes, projects and papers and essays.



We’ve been fans of Apologia sciences for years, and this year Jackson is studying Exploring Creation with Physics as a lab science course. This is a hard, rigorous curriculum. It includes experiments, reading, texts….and LOTS and LOTS of math. (For me, myself, I say, “Ugh!” Physics is just science disguised as math. And unlike some of my math genius friends, I am just not a math girl. Fortunately we have hubs as a tutor. He IS a math genius!)

This is probably the most challenging course Jackson has taken during his homeschool years; for us, even more challenging than chemistry was. It is fantastic college prep, though.

In addition to the textbook, CD, and lab kit, we’ve also subscribed to author Dr. Jay Wile’s teaching videos. He has a Vimeo series that includes two teaching videos per module (chapter). That helps a lot.



Over the years, we’ve used a variety of math curricula; everything from Saxon to Teaching Textbooks with a few in between. Last year, on the recommendation of a friend, we used Math-U-See, and we chose to go with that again this year.

Math-U-See’s format works well for our family. The student watches a teaching video the first day of the week, which introduces the formulas and equations for the lesson. Next, each day he works on practice lessons on those topics. At the end of the week is a test. Once the student can pass that, he moves on to the next topics. This format ensures good practice and ultimate learning, which any math student can benefit from!


Foreign Language

Jackson chose Spanish for the two years of foreign language study in high school. He is using several curricula for this; one, that focuses on vocabulary, writing, and grammar; another that provides speaking and listening/interpreting practice. Later in the year he’ll read literature set in Spain or Mexico. I’m deliberating between several books on that, which range from historical fiction to magical realism. We’ll see!


Health and Nutrition

As one of his electives, Jackson selected Apologia’s Health and Nutrition course. So far, we’ve been very pleased with it. It covers not only physical health, but mental and emotional health as well. The reading is interesting and the assignments, creative and thought-provoking.



Art, Drama, Creativity

Jackson is also working on an art course this year. It includes a Veritas Press book, History of Art: Creation to Contemporary that I love. It starts early on with the Lausanne Cave Paintings, moves to Mesopotamian art (Sumerian, Babylonian), then Egyptian art, then continues to move through history focusing a bit on each era and movement of art. I use this as a jumping-off point; we move further by exploring online art images related to each age, and filling in more historical data than a survey book is able to include. For each movement we also create artwork in a variety of media.

For the drama portion, we’re focusing on screenplays, famous plays in movie form, and Shakespearean plays and sonnets.


Film as Literature (Film Analysis)

This is a fantastic course I happened on at the end of the summer, when I was looking for an additional elective course. It’s very interesting! Each week, we view a film (classic, historical, foreign, sci-fi, and other genres). Then, Jackson writes about his experiences, assesses the films, considers the original books or novels. As we continue, we’ll study more about various parts of the movie-making experience like screenplays, setting, character development, storyline, camera work, and so on. Our primary curricula for this are the student and teacher versions of Movies as Literature, plus Movie Nights and Reading in the Dark.



English IV

As we have many other years, we purchased curricula from Sonlight for Jackson’s senior year. They have some fantastic collections of literature for high school; but we couldn’t make up our minds between British Literature, Classical Literature, American Literature, and 20th Century Literature. So, we cobbled together a hodgepodge of them. In the classical category, we have books like The Odyssey. In British Lit, we’ll study several Shakespearean plays, Dickens, C.S. Lewis. From World Lit we selected One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and Red Scarf Girl. American lit? F. Scott Fitzgerald, a book about Albert Einstein’s relativity discovery, The Green Glass Sea, and more. Plus a couple of poetry books.

For the writing and vocab studies, we’ve been working on PowerHouse Writing’s essay course. I just ordered Word Power Made Easy (took a while to make up my mind on that one) for Latin and Greek Roots. In the spring, we’ll do more essay work via IEW’s The Elegant Essay.



Now that everything’s organized and we’re in the swing of the schedule, it’s wonderful. But that pic above? That’s what everything looked like on Box Day, a.k.a. the day I unpacked everything. I was a little overwhelmed! But, it’s all good. It just needed a good lesson planner—-and a plan!


Hope your school years have started out wonderfully!


Enjoy!  –Wren

“Hey Mama!” Schoolhouse Planner for 2019/20 ~ A Review

#sponsored #partner


As a homeschooler, one thing that is vital for me each day (and each year) is lesson planning. Each year I purchase a paper planner to use. This year, The Old Schoolhouse® kindly sent me the Hey Mama! Homeschool Planner for 2019/20 to review. I’m so excited to use it starting later this summer! Let me share more about it and how it can help you in your homeschool year!



About the author

The Hey Mama! Homeschool Planner for 2019/20 is a 1-year homeschool planner with enough space for one through five children. It’s authored by Gena Suarez of The Old Schoolhouse®,who, along with her husband, Paul, publishes The Old Schoolhouse® magazine. They are the parents of 7 children and are longtime homeschoolers themselves. Gena brings this lifelong experience to bear in the wonderful new Hey Mama! Homeschool Planner for 2019/20. The result is everything you’ll need for the 2019-2020 school year!


What you’ll find in this planner

First, I have to say, it is absolutely GORGEOUS. The front and back covers are a white background with lovely flowers superimposed across them. The flowers have sort of a native cherry blossom look, but the colors are blue, purple, and a little red/brown/yellow. It’s pretty and quite appealing to look at; even before you open it! It opens and closes without a hitch. It’s spiral-bound and the covers are laminated, so it is durable and lays flat for desk work or closes like a spiral notebook would if you’re only planning to work on the first (or second) part of the week.

The Hey Mama! planner is chock-full of practical helps, weekly/daily/monthly calendars, lesson plan pages, attendance records, and other important record-keeping pages for the homeschool year. There are also encouraging notes and devotionals from Gena to the homeschool mamas on such timely topics as; anxiety, God’s provision, trials, adventure, perseverance, dread, failure, and joy. I love Gena’s words to us homeschool moms. Homeschooling is a wonderful vocation, an adventure, and a delight; but it’s also, on some days, a task we may not feel equipped for. These devotionals will bless the user on those days!



Here are some of the practical helps you’ll find in the Hey Mama! Homeschool Planner for 2019/20:

  • Tips on creating a transcript, and a form to you for your high schoolers
  • A checklist for skills learned and courses studied
  • 2019-2021 mini-calendars
  • Monthly large calendars with big squares to jot notes and appointments on each day
  • 90 pages for each week’s lesson plans, with spaces for up to 5 students
  • Planning pages for each child, including curriculum planning, attendance, books read over the year, yearly and semester goals



My thoughts

I haven’t begun to use my new Hey Mama! planner yet. We have JUST (and I mean, JUST) finished my son Jackson’s junior year as of last Friday. So at the moment, we’re all breathing a huge sigh of relief.

However, our minds are beginning to turn to the 2019-2020 school year, which will be Jackson’s senior year. We’re considering curricula, coop classes, volunteering, driving lessons and practice; all the things that will comprise his last year of high school. As this planner starts in July 2020 and runs through May 2020, I’ll begin filling it in soon, I’m sure!

I love everything about the Hey Mama! Homeschool Planner for 2019/20. I love the feel of the beautiful color; the nice white pages inside just waiting for my pencil to begin writing; all the practical helps that will lead and support us on our way in this coming year. I can’t wait to get started!


How you can get your own Hey Mama! Homeschool Planner for 2019/20


It’s easy! Simply follow this link Hey Mama! Homeschool Planner for 2019/20  to purchase your own Hey Mama! planner from The Old Schoolhouse® .  Prices start at $22, with planners also available for shipping to Canada and to international addresses.

And, don’t delay. The Old Schoolhouse® has sold through 98% of their print planners. If you’d like to get one of these planners for your 2019-2020 homeschool year, this is your moment to do so!


Thanks for letting me share this with you! Have a lovely first week of June!


Enjoy! –Wren

DISCLOSURE: From time to time, FINCHNWREN may receive a free product or service in exchange for our honest opinions expressed in our blog. We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews. We share our own opinions, and our family’s opinion, of these products. We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Our Fall Recap of High School Chemistry with Bridgeway Academy (Plus a coupon AND a giveaway valued at over $80!) – CLOSED

#sponsored #partner


We have been so fortunate to partner with Bridgeway Academy again this year for another of my son Jackson’s high school courses.  Last year Jackson took Apologia Biology with Bridgeway and had an exceptional experience (PLUS got his high school biology and lab credits!) throughout the year.  For this, Jackson’s junior year, he is taking their FYC Chemistry with Lab, which is in Bridgeway’s Live Online Classes category for high school students.

Keep reading for more on our chemistry experience PLUS a giveaway and a discount code for you!


How do Bridgeway Academy’s Live Online Classes work?

Bridgeway Academy excels at providing fascinating online classes for students using certified teachers, exceptional curricula, and top-notch web technology.  Each week, students meet in an online classroom where they’re able to connect with instructors and fellow classmates to learn, collaborate, and complete assignments.  Following each’s week’s online class, students read, work on projects, write, and (in the case of the science courses) perform experiments at home.  In addition, Bridgeway Academy‘s Moodle site enables students to take tests, submit assignments, work on course content, and view their grades.  Students need a computer, high-speed internet, and a headset with an attached microphone in order to attend these live online classes.


FYC Chemistry with Lab

Bridgeway Academy‘s FYC Chemistry with Lab course is designed for high school students and is taught in a regular school year (fall and spring semesters).  Completing the course provides 1 1/2 credits for the course and the lab work.  This chemistry class is taught by a certified science teacher (as well as a high school advisor for Bridgeway), Melissa Lindahl.  We purchased the textbooks for the course, which are the Integrated Physics and Chemistry Textbooks and Activity Books from Paradigm Accelerated Curriculum.  (We are only using the chemistry texts from this set which comprise a full year’s course; the physics texts would cover a year’s worth as well.  But we’re not taking physics this year so we don’t need that portion!)  Because experiments are part of this course, we also purchased Bridgeway Academy’s Chemistry Kit and Lab Manual.

Each week, Jackson attends a virtual class online with Mrs. Lindahl and his classmates, who are from all over the U.S.  The class lasts for an hour and a half.  Mrs. Lindahl teaches the week’s material.  She also spends time in class covering some additional chemistry equations (math).  Then, for the rest of the week the students have reading assignments, activity book Q&As, fill-in-the-blanks, and short essay questions to do.  There are also experiments assigned that students complete at home, and record in their lab manuals.  Most of the materials utilized in the experiments are in the lab kit (except for some household products like distilled water). Tests and quizzes are administered online.


Our Experiences

We have, truly, loved everything we have done with Bridgeway Academy.  Their classes are well-organized, well-taught, and are both effective and challenging at appropriate age levels.  Josh spends about an hour working on and studying chemistry each school day.  He spends more time on chemistry than he does on most of his other homeschool subjects (except for math, perhaps).  That is not that surprising, honestly; chemistry is a subject that requires substantial effort from its students.

From September through mid-November, this class has covered the following topics:

  • The periodic table of the elements
  • Chemical symbols
  • Lavoisier and his list of elements
  • Sulfur, carbon, graphite, coal, platinum, zinc
  • Alloys
  • Cobalt, nickel, manganese, molybdenum, tungsten
  • Gases and the atmosphere
  • Hydrogen, humidity, and barometric pressure
  • Balancing equations (and other chemistry math equations)
  • Acids, bases, and pH

He has also completed several experiments.  (They haven’t been too freaky.  But they have included chemicals that required careful use and gloves, as well as meticulous cleanup afterwards!)

He is learning a LOT in this class.  It is interesting and challenging at the same time.  The experiments effectively illustrate the principles being taught.  And frankly?  High school chemistry is so not my area of expertise.  I am grateful for a teacher who can teach this subject to my son!

I am also appreciative of Mrs. Lindahl’s responsiveness.  I emailed her several weeks ago about a difficulty Jackson was experiencing with the math equations they were learning.  She responded really quickly, understood our concerns, told me that there were other students experiencing the same thing, and that she planned to address these issues in class.


Here’s what Jackson has to say about his chemistry class: “The weekly class is put together incredibly well.  The teacher explains things well.  The interaction between the teacher and students is well-balanced.  The schedule is good.”  He likes his teacher and his classmates, and the time he spends with them each week.

Again, from the homeschool mom’s perspective, I am so happy that Jackson is able to take Bridgeway Academy‘s high school chemistry class.  I just have so little to offer in this arena!  And since the colleges in our state require high school chemistry class and lab on entering students’ transcripts, we really needed this.  I can rest assured that Jackson is getting an excellent education in chemistry; something that I would have been quite challenged to provide.


And, Bridgeway Academy has a coupon for you to use!

Bridgeway Academy is happy to provide a 15% OFF one of their classes, when you use the coupon code FINCHDEC18!  You can register now for spring semester classes; registration for those closes December 15, 2018.  Check out the Live Online Classes by following the link.  Then when you register, just enter the code FINCHDEC18 for 15% OFF the course price!  (This does not apply to textbooks or materials, just the courses themselves.)

Perhaps you, like me, find that there are courses that your homeschool student needs to take that are just not in your skills set.  Or, maybe your homeschool needs a breath of fresh air and you think that an online class might really benefit your student.  Or perhaps your elementary, middle school, or high school student would enjoy an online class with students from all over the country.  There are many reasons that Bridgeway Academy could be amazing for your family.  Check out the course link above.  I’m certain that you’ll find something captivating!


And Bridgeway Academy and FINCHNWREN have a giveaway for you to enter!

We’re so happy to cohost this fun giveaway!  With the fall school semester heading to a close, and the holidays right around the corner, we thought it was the perfect moment for our readers to get the chance to win a #Pampering Gift Set!  (We’ve definitely got a blue and pink theme going here!)  One FINCHNWREN reader will win the following goodies:

  • A gorgeous, soft, pink big-knit infinity scarf from Old Navy (valued at $16.99)
  • A blue, pink, and white plaid flannel throw (sized 50″ x 56″) from Old Navy (valued at $10)
  • A chunky wooden verse block plaque with Psalm 143:8 scripted on it ($4.99)
  • Blue peacock fleece socks (also) from Old Navy (valued at $5)
  • Vanilla Bean Noel Fine Fragrance Mist from Bath & Body Works (valued at $14)
  • OPI Nail Lacquer in refreshing blush pink “Let Me Bayou A Drink” (valued at $10.50)
  • Bridgeway Academy’s beautiful blue travel mug (valued at $15)
  • Renee Green’s funny & encouraging new book, The Breaking Point

This #Pampering Gift Set giveaway will run from 11/27/18 through 12/15/18.  To enter, just click on the pink “Enter here!” link below.  That will  take you to a Giveaway Tools entry form, where you’ll be able to enter in a variety of ways.  When the giveaway closes on 12/15, one winner will be selected and contacted. Best wishes—and don’t forget to check out Bridgeway Academy‘s amazing classes for your student!

Enter here!


Enjoy!  –Wren


DISCLOSURE:  From time to time, FINCHNWREN may receive a free product or service in exchange for our honest opinions expressed in our blog. We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews. We share our own opinions, and our family’s opinion, of these products. We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.







Kwik Stix: A Review, a Mini-Art Lesson for You, and a Giveaway (ends 9/21/18)



Hi friends!  I have a new set from Kwik Stix to share with you…and another set for one reader to win!

Kwik Stix has been a family favorite art media of ours for years.  From time to time, we are privileged to receive a new set of Kwik Stix from The Pencil Grip, Inc. to use to create art in our home.  Recently, we received a gorgeous 12-pack of Kwik Stix Solid Tempera Paint in Metalix.  So fun!  Let me tell you more about them and I have a 6-Pack set of Metalix Kwik Stix to give away at the end of the post.



What are Kwik Stix?

Kwik Stix are solid tempera paint sticks.  They give you all the richness and beauty of paint without the mess.  With Kwik Stix, you don’t need water, cups, paint, or brushes.  The tempera paint sticks are housed in plastic containers that are much like glue sticks.  Like glue sticks, they have a cap and a roller which enables the user to roll the paint sticks up and down.

Kwik Stix are designed for children ages 3 and up.  They are non-toxic, nut-, egg-, and gluten-free.  They dry almost immediately after they’re applied.  And, they can be used on paper, wood, cardboard, canvas, and many other surfaces.  (We’ve used them on most of those!)  They come in regular and thin styles.  These Metalix Kwik Stix are the regular size, and measure at a width of about 3/4″ wide and the paint sticks themselves are 3 1/2″.  They’re just perfect for preschoolers’ hands as well as bigger kids’ hands.

Because they’re so self-contained, the Kwik Stix are perfect for travel or car use.  They’re amazing to use at home for either fun or school.  We’ve loved to use our Kwik Stix in our fine art studies in our homeschool.  Here’s the way we used them as we learned about artist Mark Rothko recently!


New Metalix 12-Pack

So—we got to try the newest Kwik Stix 12-pack of Metalix tempera paint sticks.  These come in a gorgeous array of colors:  white, yellow, reddish orange, fuchsia, lime green, dark green, navy, purple, gold, bronze, silver, and black.  Each stick is a beautiful color with metallic flecks in the color, which translate beautifully to paper.

Learning about Rothko with Kwik Stix

Mark Rothko was born in in 1903 Russia (now Latvia) as Markus Yakovlevitch Rothkowitz.  He and his family immigrated to the United States via Ellis Island in 1913.  His family ended up in Portland, Oregon, where he completed high school.  He attended Yale University for several years but did not graduate, athough he received an honorary degree from Yale 46 years later.

Rothko relocated to New York City and attended Parsons The New School for Design in the early 1920s.  He painted in the Modernist style, and was also influenced by German Expressionists.  He taught both painting and clay sculpture at the Center Academy of the Brooklyn Jewish Center for 22 years, as he painted his own artworks.  He painted for the WPA in the 1930s.  During this decade, Rothko began to use color fields in his artwork, using color to express idea and emotion rather than recognizable figures.

In 1938, Rothko became a U.S. citizen.  In 1940, he shortened his name from Markus Rothkowitz to Mark Rothko.  Hitler was growing in power and Rothko was fearful of both deportation and anti-Semitism.  During WWII, influenced by Surrealists like Dali and his work grew more and more abstract.  Rothko began to use huge canvases and enormous blocks of color.  Critics called this new style “multiforms” which became the style Rothko was most known for.


How to create in the style of Rothko using Kwik Stix

Kwik Stix are perfect to use to create your own Rothko imitation!  He loved using vivid, complementary colors to express ideas.  Here’s what we did!

  1. First, Google or Bing “Mark Rothko paintings” and find a painting that particularly appeals to you.  (We selected two of his works called “No. 61” and “White Center” for ours.)
  2. Since Rothko preferred using vertical or “portrait” background for his paintings (instead of horizontal ones), your students can do the same.  Take a sheet of 8 1/2″ x 11″ card stock and cut it in half so that you have two 4 1/4″ x 5 1/2″ sheets.  Turn the sheet into portrait format.
  3. Pull out the Kwik Stix colors that match the paintings.
  4. Start with the lightest colors first and color from side to side.  Work from lightest to darkest and continue to color.  Notice the shadings Rothko used and add additional color where needed.
  5. We used paper napkins to rub different textures into the paint.  Because Kwik Stix is designed to dry so quickly, you have to move quickly on this part.  It’s a great tool to add to a Rothko imitation, though; even though he used large blocks of color he’s renowned for the texture he painted with.
  6. Be sure you cover your entire sheet of paper; paint all the way to the sides.
  7. Ta-da!  Your own Rothko art study.


How to win your own set of Kwik Stix

I have one gorgeous set of Kwik Stix Metalix 6-Pack for one reader to win.  To enter, just click on the Enter here! link below.  That will take you to a Giveaway Tools entry form where you can enter in a variety of ways.  Giveaway ends 9/21/18.  Best wishes!

Enter here!


You can also find Kwik Stix at these retailers:

-in-store at Walgreens

-in-store and online at Michaels:

-online at Target:

-online at Amazon:


Enjoy!  –Wren

DISCLOSURE:  From time to time, FINCHNWREN may receive a free product or service in exchange for our honest opinions expressed in our blog. We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews. We share our own opinions, and our family’s opinion, of these products. We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.