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