How We Homeschool

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Teaching the Kids You Have---Musings on Our 1st Quarter

Teaching the Kids You Have---Musings on our 1st 9 weeks at Homeschooling Hearts & MindsWe just finished our 9th week of the homeschool year and it looks a little a lot different from the first few weeks.  And the reason is simply this:  my plans slammed into this brick wall called reality.  After 10 years, you would think I would have this home education gig all figured out and I wouldn’t keep expecting my children to be people they are not.  Or that I’d at least figure out who I am and would not expect myself to be someone I am not.

But here’s the thing---people grow and change over time.  Sometimes there’s a steady, barely perceptible development over several years.  And sometimes there’s a quick and painful metamorphosis that happens right before your eyes. 

There have been times that I planned for the fall on the basis of where my kids were at the end of the previous school year, only to find that they’ve changed enough in a couple of months that my plans were too easy for them.

And then there have been times that I’ve planned for a slight increase in workload and difficulty only to find that one or more of my children was just not up to that challenge yet.

So, what went wrong this fall?

Nothing.  Really.  Nothing went horribly, irrevocably wrong.  Everyone was progressing in their learning.  We were getting most of the stuff done. 

However, we were all feeling burnt out and just not looking forward to our days of learning.  Part of the reason I homeschool is because I don’t think learning should be a slog, but something to look forward to.  So it was time to take a closer look at what was going on.

It turned out that there were a few things we were doing that didn’t fit quite right or were made the wrong way---it was a bit like putting on and wearing a pretty new sweater only to find out that over time the seams were a bit scratchy in sensitive areas and the fiber it was made of was hot and stuffy.  At the end of the day, you were so happy to get out of that sweater, but it was so pretty that you didn’t want to get rid of it.  So, you  tried to fix it, but after a while you just buried it at the back of your closet, because you couldn’t get it to work for you.

Five in a Row was  Emma’s pretty, but uncomfortable, sweater.  She loved the books, she loved some of the hands on activities we did, but she didn’t love Five in a Row.  Part of that has to do with reading the same book multiple times and some of it has to do with the analytical nature of the language arts and art activities suggested in the guide.  So, we tried only reading the books once or twice and only doing a few of the more engaging activities each week. 

I felt like I had gutted the program and yet she still didn’t really look forward to our FIAR time.  It’s hard for a 7-year-old to explain what she doesn’t like about something when the reason is really abstract.  It comes down to feelings.  What I figured out was that Emma doesn’t like the “unit study” approach.  She would rather make her own connections instead of having things connected for her.

This means I’m 4 for 4---none of my kids love unit studies! 

They are ok with doing one for a week or even a month for a change of pace, but not long-term. And yet, I love unit studies.  I’m drawn to them.  I have a whole slew of them that want to be used with a kid. 

That thing I want?  It isn’t going to happen with the kids I have.  I need to accept that and teach the kids I actually have.

So, I jettisoned FIAR and folded Emma into the content subjects with my two middle kids.  This past week I also removed All About Spelling and the easy readers I had her using for reading.  I’ve started her on level 1 of English Lessons Through Literature and she has been reading some of the reading selections for reading.  She has been enjoying reading “real” books like Beatrix Potter’s animal stories.

The funny thing is that having Emma just do history, science, and literature with Mary and Peter was my original plan this year, but then I thought better of it, thinking that she needed something more for just her

Live and learn, right? 

She is participating in activities, mapping, and the things we read aloud.  The two older children have additional readings that they do on their own---this allows me to differentiate their work such that each child is being properly challenged and learning at his or her own level. 

I have also added these free notebooking pages for our Story of the World readings.  While notebooking went swimmingly for the first 4-5 weeks, the two middle kids started getting bogged down---they had too many things to choose for to create a notebooking page.  While I like to give my kids options, knowing that they were notebooking about SOTW made it more manageable by being less open-ended.

I needed to make some additional changes for my middle schooler also.

Mary was having trouble keeping up with her assignments and was becoming overwhelmed.  I realized that the overwhelm was doing her in and decided to simplify some things.  I dropped Famous Men of the Middle Ages for her.  She is now participating in the Story of the World readings and activities.  I also dropped her from Adventures in Fantasy (Peter is still doing this) and replaced it with a more traditional (but relaxed) approach to English.  She will continue working on spelling, but will also be doing some grammar and letter writing, with possibly some poetry memorization (by her choice). 

I may add a writing assignment here and there as we progress through the year, but right now I need to make sure that things are manageable and not at all overwhelming for her. 

There’s this thing that happens right around age 12 or so when suddenly a child who was very self-sufficient needs more support and attention than ever before---this is my 2nd trip through this phenomenon and I’m hoping I’m better equipped to deal with it than I was last time.  If you have a tween or a teen, I bet you know what I’m talking about.

I’ve also made a change in our routine. 

Awhile back I talked about how I organize our homeschool days.  What we are doing now is very similar to that, with the exception that we are trying to complete all of our together lessons/activities first thing, before breaking up to do independent and Mom & Me work.  To simplify things, I changed up our assignment sheets.  I’m not ready to share those yet, because I might change them again (it’s more fun to design assignment sheets than it is to actually assign and grade things, don’t you know).

So far, I’m liking the new arrangement as there is less back and forth.  We do have the tiny problem of one of our number (not naming names) who has trouble finishing up projects, but that’s something we are working on.


What changes have you made in your homeschool this year?

You might also like:

Our 2016-2017 Curriculum

How We Organize Our Learning Time

Last Year’s Fizzles & Successes

Friday, October 14, 2016

Making a Coat of Arms

Make a Coat of Arms, free resources at Homeschooling Hearts & MindsMy three younger kids are currently studying the middle ages.  This week we had a lot of fun learning about heraldry and the kids each created his/her own Coat of Arms.  This is a fun art activity that goes well with history, but also literature---consider adding it if you are reading the Chronicles of Narnia or King Arthur for your read aloud.

There are a ton of resources on the web on heraldry, but sometimes less really is more.  It’s very easy to get bogged down in too much information and lose sight of things in a jumble of details. 

I discovered Owl & Mouse way back when we first started homeschooling and my 16-year-old was just a 2nd grader.  They still have the same free (great!) resources for studying history and geography. 

This week we used their detailed info on heraldry and printed templates for our Coats of Arms.  Maybe next week we will print the templates for building a medieval castle.  Or a village.  Here are my kids’ creations---what a great way to spend the afternoon with only the investment of a little paper, printer ink, crayon, colored pencils, markers, and (of course) time.

coat of arms image 1Emma (age 7)


coat of arms image 2Peter (age 11)


coat of arms image 3Mary (age 12)

We printed our shield and charges templates from Owl & Mouse.  Note: the program they have for some reason sets the templates to print very close to the edge of the paper (outside of the printer margin for my printer in our case).  I recommend setting it to print to fit the page or to print to the edge and doing a test print before printing the rest of your templates.  In a pinch, you can finish the template with a black marker if your margin cuts it off.

What projects have your kids made while studying the middle ages?

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Fuzion Cityglide Scooter for Teens and Adults (a review)

Disclosure: The product reviewed in this post was provided by the sponsor.  All opinions expressed here are my own.  This post contains affiliate links.

Your child takes out her well-loved scooter and discovers that she’s too big for it. 

The deck is too small to accommodate her ladies’ size 10 feet, the handles are too low for her to hold them without hunching over, and the wheels are too small to give give her a smooth ride.  Somehow over a period of months, she grew into a full-size person and she needs a scooter built for teens and adults.  The Fuzion Cityglide was built for her.

Fuzion Cityglide Scooter for Teens and Adults a review at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

My 12-year-old daughter, Mary, recently had the opportunity to try out the Fuzion Cityglide Scooter for Teens and Adults. 

The scooter comes in a box folded and needing to have the handles attached.  Assembly was fairly simple, but the picture only instructions were a little confusing---I had some trouble unfolding it at first, but got the hang of it.  After adjusting a screw and then folding and unfolding the scooter a few times, it was a cinch to fold it or unfold it.

Fuzion Scooter disassembled6" wheels










The scooter comes with a little hex wrench and a shoulder strap the can be hooked onto the front for easy carrying.

Here it is fully assembled:

Fuzion Cityglide scooter fully assembled


And here it is folded:

Fuzion Cityglide scooter folded

Mary chose the red/black color combo, but the Cityglide is also available in green, yellow/black, and black.


  • Wheel center to wheel center: approximately 27”
  • Height from ground to top of handle bars: approximately 37” at highest setting
  • Foot bed: 4-1/2” wide by 13” long from handle to wheel
  • Wheels:  approximately 6”

Here’s how the Cityglide looks next to my daughter’s feet so you can get an idea of how large it is:

large wheeled scooterscooter for teens










Here is how it compares size-wise to one of our old kid scooters:

fuzion cityglide size compared to razor kick scooterfuzion cityglide size comparisonYou can see the big difference in wheel-size, height, and length.

Mary has been putting the Cityglide through its paces. 

She’s been impressed with the smooth, quiet ride, but she does prefer to ride it without the shoulder strap attached (it rattles like crazy if it’s hooked on while she’s riding it).  The strap is a little finicky to take off and put back on again, so we leave it off.  As she probably won’t use the shoulder strap anyway, this isn’t an issue for her, but something to consider if you specifically want an easy to carry scooter. 

It has a weight limit of 200 lbs, so it’s unlikely my daughter will outgrow it.  The height is great for her 5’5” frame, but I think even if she grows a few more inches she’ll be able to ride it comfortably.

Most of the Cityglide is made of metal, but the wheels and the break are plastic.  The handles have soft foam cushioning.  Unlike some scooters that have a molded non-slip texture on the deck, the Cityglide has a stick-on decal that feels like colored sandpaper.  I am a little concerned about the durability of this scooter.  We have had it for about a month and it has only been ridden a few times (weather issues), but the non-slip sticker has already started to come up near the back.

large wheels, plastic breaknon-slip grip










I do not know how well the wheels and break will hold up with constant use.

wheel wearThe finish on the black painted metal also seems a bit thin and is chipping off in some places:

finish wear

Overall, we like the Fuzion Cityglide a lot and would recommend it for the smooth ride.  One of Mary’s complaints about her old scooter (in addition to it being too small) was the vibrations it sent through her arms.  This is definitely a big step up from a her rattle-y old kid’s scooter, and Mary is enjoying her new wheels. Only time will tell how well it will hold up.

Check out the video to see the Fuzion Cityglide Scooter in action:

Mary is looking forward to getting a lot of use out of her new Fuzion Cityglide Scooter now that the weather is cooler.

Do your teens like to ride scooters?