How To Create a Realistic Routine for Homeschooling

Welcome to How To Homeschool—a series addressing all aspects of secular homeschooling. You can view all the posts in the series so far here.

Wondering how to create a realistic routine for homeschooling? Worrying your kids might not be doing enough academic work? Looking for reassurance that you will find your groove and it won’t always be this hard?

A previous post {Developing a Framework For Your Days} addressed overall plans such as determining a calendar for the year, daily work requirements, and the level of independence expected from your student{s}. 

This post will explore more specifically what you need to do day-to-day to create a realistic routine for homeschooling your children.

Open book with two pages wrapped into the shape of a heart. Text reads: How to homeschool, creating a realistic routine

Let Go of the School Day Mindset

Honestly, even with the best laid plans it will take you a while to feel comfortable with your approach to homeschooling. There is no “right way” to plan your days. Even when you feel like you have it all down, life happens and things go awry. We have been educating at home for nearly nine years now, and we still periodically change up the way we do things. 

However, I can assure you of this:
Homeschooling will take way less time than you think.

Seriously, do not worry that you need to account for 6-7 hours of academics each day. Structured learning might be 1-4 hours total depending on the ages of your kids. Maybe an hour or two a day for elementary, two or three hours for middle school, and perhaps a bit more if you have an older student doing significant independent work.

Remember, it will take much less time to finish everything once you lose the distractions of homeroom, lockers, dozens of other students, chatting, cafeteria drama, transitions between classes, etc. Teaching a few kids one-on-one is nothing at all like teaching a classroom full of students. 

I can assure you of this: Homeschooling will take way less time than you think. Click To Tweet

Your days will include a lot more free time, and this can be both a blessing and a curse. At first you may feel your students are “wasting” the day or “not doing enough”—especially if they are coming from a public school environment where most of their activities are planned out in detail.

If you feel that you must have a more specific schedule to function, consider dividing your day into blocks. Perhaps block out an hour for “every day” subjects like math and reading, then another block for rotating subjects like science and history. Have a certain time of day for independent reading or music practice or art. Put lunch and recess on the calendar as separate blocks as well. 

This is often a good compromise for first-time homeschoolers who feel they need to follow more of a set plan. In my experience, however, the longer one homeschools, the easier it is to let go of preconceived notions of scheduling and “shoulds.”

I am sure this is also why so many veteran homeschoolers recommend deschooling.

What Our Daily Routine Looks Like

Everyone’s ideal homeschooling day will look different. Keep in mind that being able to create a realistic routine for homeschooling will take some time and a bit of trial and error. If you struggle with what to do next, perhaps taking a look at our current routine will spark some ideas. 

Following is what we typically do on a weekday when we have no outside commitments. This is what our daily routine looks like right now with an 8th, 6th, and 3rd grader. Times are approximate, but very rarely change by more than 15 minutes either direction.

{On days we go out—whether that be to pick up library books, for appointments and errands, or simply meeting homeschool friends at the bookstore or park—we generally do so in the morning and follow an adjusted “afternoon school” schedule.}

Keep in mind that being able to create a realistic routine for homeschooling will take some time and a bit of trial and error. Click To Tweet

I should also note here that of course I am doing chores and blogging and cooking and keeping the household running throughout the day as well. But, for purposes of this post I am primarily focused on what the Agents do with their time.

{5:00+} Wake Up

On any given day I am likely downstairs making coffee and feeding the cat no later than 5:30. The Agents wake up whenever they are ready. All three are almost always awake by 8:00, often much earlier. We do not have a set wake time or use alarms.

Prior to our first meal of the day, everyone is pretty much doing their own thing {reading, phone/computer time, drawing, playing, etc.}.

{8:45} Breakfast and Getting Ready

After we eat, everyone brushes their teeth and gets dressed. Agent E often practice an instrument or works on a sewing project while the younger Agents play.

{10:15} Start School

We start our homeschool day with some brief stretching/yoga. Then we do “table work”—mostly math and language arts written work with some geography or science puzzles, experiments, or other workbooks thrown in. 

Everyone works together at the kitchen table and I am available to assist as needed. I don’t lecture or share “lessons” or “teach” them per se. I am just there to help guide as they work through most things themselves. 

{12:00} Lunch and Break 

Sometimes we start lunch a little later if morning school time runs over. Usually all three kids head upstairs and entertain themselves for a bit afterward. 

{1:15} Reading Together

We follow a loop schedule, which simply means we have a shelf of books we’re in the middle of and we rotate through them. We choose whatever is next in the rotation, read aloud, and discuss as needed. Then we move it to the end, and start the next one. We cover a variety of subjects, including but not limited to science, American and world history, mythology, world religions, health, and art.

{2:30} Free Time

We usually go outside {weather permitting} for at least an hour, often longer. If it is too cold or raining, the Agents might read, message friends, complete an art project, or some other indoor activity.

Pink highlighter checking off boxes on a blank checklist. Text reads: How to create a realistic routine for homeschooling.

{4:45} Dinner 

Yes, we eat dinner very early. We don’t snack during the day, so everyone is super hungry by late afternoon.

{5:30} Free Time

This could be more outside time {depending on time of year and weather permitting}. If not, the younger two Agents will read or color or play together while the oldest reads, listens to music, or works on more sewing.

{6:15} Showers

Everyone likes to be bathed and in their pajamas early. Contrary to what you may have heard about homeschoolers, unless someone is ill, we do get dressed in real clothes every day. 

{7:00} Watch TV

Evening is the only time the television is on. We don’t have cable {so we are not checking local news or weather during the day} and we don’t like background noise. We thoroughly enjoy this time planted on the couch together. 

Although sometimes our viewing is educational—we love a good David Attenborough documentary—lately we’ve been binge watching Clone Wars and We Bare Bears. Snacks are frequently involved.

{8:45} Bed

Everyone {kids, adults, and cat} goes upstairs to get ready for bed somewhere between 8:30 and 8:45. Very early by some standards, I know. But we all wake up early and prefer our quiet, alone time to be in the morning.


But . . . It Can’t Be That Simple. Can It?

Actually, it can and it is. We all learn new things every day. But, we also spend a great deal of our time on individual pursuits and simply relaxing and enjoying life. We don’t feel that we need to fill our days being busy for the sake of busy-ness. 

Hopefully seeing the example of our daily plan will assist you with how to create a realistic routine for homeschooling that works for your family. 

Are you new to homeschooling? I would love to hear how things are going for you, so leave a comment. I encourage you to check out the other posts in the How To Homeschool series as well. 

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Studying Major World Religions in Your Secular Homeschool

Welcome to Favorite Homeschool Resources—a series sharing our best-loved secular books and workbooks. You can view all the posts in the series so far here.

Even if you are homeschooling from a secular perspective—perhaps especially if you are homeschooling from a secular perspective—your students will benefit from studying major world religions. 

Learning about other cultures and worldviews increases empathy. One does not need to believe the stories to be true to gain wisdom from them.

Of course, there are so many different doctrines it would be impossible include them all. For this post I will focus on Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism. 

{You may also want to check out Why Everyone Should Study World Religions.}

Lit light blue candles arranged in a wooden box. Text reads: Studying major world religions in your secular homeschool.

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission—at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase. I only recommend products and services I have personally used and enjoyed. For more information read my complete disclaimer here.

Overview and Common Questions

The Kids Book of World Religions 
Really Big Questions About God, Faith, and Religion 
What Do You Believe? 

If you need a more general introduction to belief systems and want to learn some basics about the major faiths currently practiced today, these books would be a good start. Most tend to emphasize the six world religions primarily addressed in this post, but they include information on others as well. 

Learning about other cultures and worldviews increases empathy. One does not need to believe the stories to be true to gain wisdom from them. Click To Tweet

Familiar Stories

Traditional Religious Tales: Buddhist Stories 
Traditional Religious Tales: Christian Stories 
Traditional Religious Tales: Hindu Stories
Traditional Religious Tales: Islamic Stories 
Traditional Religious Tales: Jewish Stories
Traditional Religious Tales: Sikh Stories 

This series from Anita Ganeri quickly became one of our favorites. I love that she presents the stories without giving more “weight” to a particular set of tales. I have found it to be quite common in many world religions books for kids—even ones that purport to be completely secular—that the Christian stories come across with more authority, intentionally or not. You will not find that here. These books perfectly introduce the various mythologies without bias.

Long bookshelf that seems to fade into the distance with hanging lights in front of it. Text reads: Talking about world religions with kids, suggested readings.

Through the Eyes of a Child 

This Is My Faith: Buddhism 
This Is My Faith: Christianity 
This Is My Faith: Hinduism 
This Is My Faith: Islam
This Is My Faith: Judaism 
This Is My Faith: Sikhism 

This series by Holly Wallace discusses the main rituals and practices of different religions as told by a young child {around ten years old} being brought up in that faith.

Key Religious Figures

Buddha 
Buddha Stories 
The Dalai Lama 
The Fantastic Adventures of Krishna 
Jesus 
Mary 
Muhammad 
St. Francis of Assisi 

This is a sample of works by the author Demi. The illustrations are amazing and the information provided is thorough. We have also enjoyed her books about historical figures and folktale retellings.

Festivals and Celebrations

Buddhist Festivals Throughout the Year 
Christian Festivals Throughout the Year 
Hindu Festivals Throughout the Year 
Jewish Festivals Throughout the Year 
Muslim Festivals Throughout the Year 
Sikh Festivals Throughout the Year 

Another series by Anita Ganeri we have enjoyed. These texts include information about holidays, rituals, prayers, songs, and more.


Who Was Books

Who Is the Dalai Lama? 
Who Is Pope Francis?
Who Was Jesus? 
Where Is the Taj Mahal? 
Where Is the Vatican? 
What Are the Ten Commandments? 

These books are always a hit around here. As with most of the series, the reading level is mid to late elementary school, but my middle schoolers still enjoy them. 

{Did you know they also offer lesson plans as well?}

I would love to know what other resources you have used when studying major world religions in your homeschool. Leave any suggestions you have in the comments. And don’t forget to check out the other posts in our favorite homeschool resources series.

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Favorite Homeschool Resources {Greek Mythology}

Welcome to Favorite Homeschool Resources—a series sharing our best-loved secular books and workbooks. You can view all the posts in the series so far here.

Do you study mythology in your homeschool? How about Greek mythology specifically? While we enjoy and appreciate tales from various cultures, we find that our Greek mythology resources tend to be our favorites. 

Years ago I had this idea to introduce mythology to the Agents as part of our homeschooling. I figured we would take maybe a semester—or two, tops—read some cool stories, discuss their similarities and differences, and move on. 

However, they found mythology way more interesting and entertaining than I ever imagined. Basically since then we have never stopped incorporating these tales into our studies. Mythology is now a regular subject on our agenda, like language arts or history. 

While we enjoy and appreciate tales from various cultures, we find that our Greek mythology resources tend to be our favorites. Click To Tweet

I am not exactly sure when {or why} Greek mythology resources became our preferred, but over the years we have read more ancient Greek stories than other mythologies we have introduced. We have loved the following titles in particular, and hope you will, too.

A row of colorful books on a bookshelf at the top and bottom. Text reads: Favorite homeschool resources, Greek mythology.

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission—at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase. I only recommend products and services I have personally used and enjoyed. For more information read my complete disclaimer here.

First, a Few General Titles

Children’s Book of Mythical Beasts and Magical Monsters 
M Is for Monster: A Fantastic Creatures Alphabet
Mythology {DK Eyewitness Book} 
Mythology: Oh My! Gods and Goddesses 

While each of these does include names and places specific to Greek mythology, they do not solely focus on it. These books introduce myriad characters, covering a wide variety of gods, goddesses, mythical creatures, and fantastical beings. A great place to start if you aren’t sure what direction you want to take or what types of mythologies might interest you and your students most.

Best Greek Mythology Overview

Treasury of Greek Mythology

This book by Donna Jo Napoli {she also authors Egyptian and Norse versions} is beautifully illustrated and uses flowing, poetic language to tell each story. It covers about two dozen “key characters” while also providing sidebars with additional information to help tie everything together. 

The collection of biographies and stories presented here makes an excellent starting point for diving into Greek mythology resources specifically. 

Other Good Starting Points

Greek Mythology {Junior Genius Guide} by Ken Jennings {Yes, the Jeopardy champion.}
Weird But True Know-It-All Greek Mythology
Z is for Zeus: A Greek Mythology Alphabet

These books present lots of great information in nontraditional ways. Great overviews for learning about the key people and events, and appropriate for all ages.

Individual Biographies of Gods and Goddesses 

Athena
Cyclopes 
Odysseus
Poseidon
Zeus

A few sample selections from Blake Hoena’s World Mythology series. Brief introductory texts appropriate for younger students as well.

Mythology Rocks! 

Gods and Goddesses in Greek Mythology Rock! 
Heroes in Greek Mythology Rock!

The Mythology Rocks! books offer re-tellings of various mythological tales with commentary from academics who study the specific mythology. We have only read the Greek mythology titles, but the series also includes African, Chinese, and Celtic, mythology. 

Ancient Greek Mythology

The Gods and Goddesses of Greek Mythology
The Heroes and Mortals of Greek Mythology
The Monsters and Creatures of Greek Mythology 

These books in the ancient greek mythology series were a hit with the Agents. They have more of a graphic novel style and feel. 

Stack of old bound books sitting on a wooden table with a bookshelf blurred in the background. Text reads: Greek mythology resources your students will love.

Homer’s Epic Poems

The Iliad and The Odyssey by Rosemary Sutcliff
The Iliad and The Odyssey by Gillian Cross

Of course no post about Greek mythology resources would be complete without mentioning these two stories. We love the re-tellings of the Trojan war {The Iliad} and the travels of Odysseus {The Odyssey} by both authors. Each book has short chapters, plenty of illustrations, and were a hit for both elementary and middle school. 

Note that The Odyssey by Rosemary Sutcliff linked above is the exact edition we read, although it no longer appears to be available at a reasonable cost. Both books by Sutcliff, however, are available as mass market paperbacks as well; find The Iliad here and The Odyssey here.

The Gillian Cross editions also come as a box set and the two together in one volume

Have you used any of these Greek mythology resources in your homeschooling? Click To Tweet

Fiction Selections We Love

Goddess Girls
Heroes in Training
Percy Jackson and the Olympians
The Heroes of Olympus
The Trials of Apollo 
The Epic Adventures of Odysseus 
Jason, the Argonauts, and the Golden Fleece

A few fictional series the Agents have enjoyed. The first five stories place Greek gods and goddesses in modern environments with modern problems. The last two are choose your own adventure style books.


Books About Life in Ancient Greece

Ancient Greece and the Olympics {Magic Tree House Research Guide}
Art and Religion in Ancient Greece 
Things About Ancient Greece You Wouldn’t Want to Know 
You Wouldn’t Want To Be a Greek Athlete 
You Wouldn’t Want To Be a Slave in Ancient Greece

Additional books we have read about life in ancient Greece. {We highly recommend all of the books in the You Wouldn’t Want To Be series.}

Have you used any of these Greek mythology resources in your homeschooling? Leave your own recommendations in the comments. And don’t forget to check out the other posts in our favorite homeschool resources series.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest. You can also sign up to receive new posts via e-mail here.

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Why February Is the Worst

Oh, February. How do you manage to be the shortest month on the calendar and yet the longest month of my homeschooling year? I want to accomplish things, I really do. But February is the worst.

You know what I mean. February is the funkiest month {not in a good way}. The weather sucks, everyone around you gets sick, and the hopefulness of spring barely glimmers.

I have heard it’s the time homeschoolers are most likely to want to give up, and I believe it. You are deep enough in that you want so badly to commit to finishing, yet “finishing” still remains far off and unattainable.

Close up of calendar with numbers in squares but no day or month visible. Text reads: Why February is the worst.

Once the February blahs hit, I develop a strong desire to outline the following school year. A fine idea—I love a good plan—but it distracts me from what we’re supposed to be doing this year. 

Oh, February. How do you manage to be the shortest month on the calendar and yet the longest month of my homeschooling year? Click To Tweet

Then, of course, my potential agenda starts looking so much cooler than my current agenda. I start to feel resentful of the fact that I need to complete what seemed like a good idea last summer. I would rather move on to what will obviously be a much better curriculum with clearly superior educational choices.

In sum, February makes me question everything. Not necessarily a bad thing: reflection can be good and anticipation is usually exciting. But, it can be overwhelming. Taking things one step at a time {and writing myself notes so I do not forget anything} helps. 


Right now I am going through everything we have done {and are presently doing} in each subject and figuring out approximately where we will be by the end of the school year. Once I finish that, I will move on to evaluating the good and bad for the year overall.

This is not as painful as it sounds. I actually like seeing what works and what doesn’t. I find it liberating to let go of ideas that simply were not useful.  And knowing we got at least some things right makes me optimistic for the days ahead.

What kind of relationship do you have with February? Do you also feel February is the worst month for motivation?

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Evolution Resources for Secular Homeschooling

Welcome to Favorite Homeschool Resources—a series sharing our best-loved secular books and workbooks. You can view all the posts in the series so far here.

What seems like a lifetime ago {actually autumn 2014} some much younger Agents and I visited the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. for the first time. The exhibits and displays in the Hall of Human Origins became a surprise hit, especially for {then} third-grade Agent E. 

Ever since we have spent at least part of each school year reading books focused specifically on evolution, including the big bang, early earth, Charles Darwin, and animal/human evolution.

Following are several evolution resources for secular homeschooling we have enjoyed throughout the years. We have used most of them as read-alouds, so in my opinion they would work for early elementary through middle school.

Even the ones in a more “picture book” style contain tons of great information and can provide excellent discussion starting points. Likewise, the more complex texts can be easily modified as well.

A row of colorful books on a bookshelf at the top and bottom. Text reads: Favorite homeschool resources, evolution.

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission—at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase. I only recommend products and services I have personally used and enjoyed. For more information read my complete disclaimer here.

Evolution Book Series We Love

Born With a Bang: The Universe Tells Our Cosmic Story 
From Lava to Life: The Universe Tells Our Earth Story 
Mammals Who Morph: The Universe Tells Our Evolution Story 

This series by Jennifer Morgan tells the story of the big bang, the formation of the earth, and mammal evolution from the perspective of the universe itself.

The first time we read these books I was not quite sold on the anthropomorphic characteristics angle. However, it is very well written and includes significant detail. {Not to mention the amazing pictures.}

The author also addresses her own faith {spoiler alert: she has a degree in theology} and the intentional decision to leave “god” terminology out of her work.

When Bugs Were Big, Plants Were Strange, and Tetrapods Stalked the Earth
When Dinos Dawned, Mammals Got Munched, and Pterosaurs Took Flight 
When Fish Got Feet, Sharks Got Teeth, and Bugs Began to Swarm 
They also appear in a single volume:
When Fish Got Feet, When Bugs Were Big, and When Dinos Dawned

These “cartoon prehistory” books by Hannah Bonner {published by National Geographic} have been a hit with the Agents for years. 

Two young primates sitting on a tree branch. Text reads: Evolution resources your students will love.

More Evolution Books We Love

Evolution Revolution
Life As We Know It

Quality resources that we have come to expect from DK. Neatly organized and colorful with just the right amount of detail. 

Evolution: The Human Story

This book is a bit advanced; it is definitely not written with a late elementary/middle school audience in mind. However, we take it slow and enjoy the stunning drawings along the way. Works great as a coffee table book as well.

Lucy Long Ago: Uncovering the Mystery of Where We Came From

A book about Donald Johanson’s discovery of Lucy, arguably the most well-known early hominid.

Have you incorporated any of these books into your evolution studies? Any other evolution resources for secular homeschooling you recommend? Click To Tweet

On the Origin of Species: Young Readers Edition adapted by Rebecca Stefoff

This edition of Darwin’s most famous work is also beautifully illustrated. We will likely use it as one of our primary texts for the next homeschool year.

{Side note: You may recognize Stefoff’s name from her work on Howard Zinn’s A Young People’s History of the United States.}

Who Was Charles Darwin?
Where Are the Galapagos Islands? 

The Who Was? book on the infamous naturalist as well as a separate book devoted to the area of the world he spent significant time during his adventures.

{Full disclosure: We have not actually read the Galapagos one, but we have read so many others from the who was, what was, and where is series of books I feel comfortable recommending it.}

Darkened night sky with dots of stars and galaxies. Text reads: Evolution resources for your homeschool.

Even More Evolution Books We Love

Animals Charles Darwin Saw: An Around-the-World Adventure
Bang! How We Came To Be
Big Bang! The Tongue-Tickling Tale of Speck That Became Spectacular
Charles Darwin’s Around-the-World Adventure
Older Than the Stars
One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin
Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story {We especially love this one! Our favorite evolution book to re-read every Darwin day.}
The Story of Life: A First Book About Evolution
What Darwin Saw: The Journey That Changed the World
What Mr. Darwin Saw


These are mostly picture books and simple biographies, but include lots of great information and can easily be adapted for older students. Face it, evolution is a complex topic to tackle, and everyone needs to start somewhere.

They are the kind of books you could read to a second grader or a seventh grader and they would both get something out of them. Many include extensive appendixes and/or book lists for further reading. 

Have you incorporated any of these books into your evolution studies? Any other evolution resources for secular homeschooling you recommend? Let me know in the comments! And don’t forget to check out the other posts in our favorite homeschool resources series.

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Favorite Homeschool Resources {Middle School Language Arts}

Welcome to Favorite Homeschool Resources—a series sharing our best-loved secular books and workbooks. You can view all the posts in the series so far here.

As a homeschool momma and lover of words, I love choosing language arts books with the Agents. Following are several homeschool resources for middle school language arts we recommend.

{Note: If you would like to peruse all the books we use by category {as well as what the Agents are reading for fun this year} check out our Goodreads account.}

A row of colorful books on a bookshelf at the top and bottom. Text reads: Favorite homeschool resources, middle school language arts.

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission—at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase. I only recommend products and services I have personally used and enjoyed. For more information read my complete disclaimer here.

Middle School Language Arts Books We Love

Everything You Need To Ace English Language Arts in One Big Fat Notebook: The Complete Middle School Study Guide

As I mentioned in our list of favorite middle school math resources, this entire series has been a huge hit. The language arts book covers grammar, usage, fiction, nonfiction, and writing; and includes quizzes and reading lists.

Grammar: Write Here, Write Now
Punctuation: The Write Stuff  
Creative Writing: The Plot Thickens  

We love Basher Books! Each concept is introduced by a different character or group of characters {e.g., in Punctuation the Divide and Conquer Crew covers parentheses, dashes, hyphens ellipses, colons, and semicolons}. The chapters are relatively short, but you could also easily just read one page a day {in order, or not}.

Painless Grammar
Painless Writing

As with painless math, these make great reference books. We tried including them in our read-aloud time, but unlike the Basher books they were not particularly conducive to going through page by page. Still, great books to have around when you need to double-check a particular grammar rule or brush up on your writing mechanics.

Spilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook

Found this at the library randomly one day—we were not looking for a book like this at all—and the Senior Agents ended up loving it and re-reading it a few times each before it went back. Written by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter, it is more motivation and inspiration for the writing life than how-to details. {Think Bird by Bird for your tween/teen.}

More Language Arts Books We {Still} Love

When I wrote about how to homeschool multiple ages together I addressed choosing excellent resources regardless of reading level. 

When teaching multiple grade levels sometimes your book choices won’t be a perfect fit for everyone. It is okay if what you are reading is “too simple” for your oldest and “too much” for your youngest. If you read a variety of books—and a lot of them—it will balance out. And sometimes you just want to re-read some fun titles because it’s your homeschool and you don’t need to follow arbitrary rules.

That’s how we feel about these next several selections. Your mileage may vary with how your own middle schoolers view including these “young” titles. Mine personally find them more sweet and nostalgic than groan-worthy. {Also, I still have one student in elementary, so it works for us.}

A Mink, a Fink, a Skating Rink: What Is a Noun?  
To Root, To Toot, To Parachute: What Is a Verb?
Feet and Puppies, Thieves and Guppies: What Are Irregular Plurals?  
How Much Can a Bare Bear Bear? What Are Homonyms and Homophones?

These are just a few examples of the Words are CATegorical series by Brian P. Cleary, which provide an introduction to the parts of speech and basic grammar concepts. They are all roughly 30 pages and have lots of illustrations with only a sentence or so on each two-page spread. Simple enough for early elementary yet my middle schoolers still find them entertaining {and quaint}.

He also writes The Punctuation Station, a fun journey of animals trying to find their way to the correct train with the help of savvy punctuation marks.

When teaching multiple grade levels sometimes your book choices won’t be a perfect fit for everyone. It is okay if what you are reading is “too simple” for your oldest and “too much” for your youngest. Click To Tweet

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference!
The Girl’s Like Spaghetti: Why, You Can’t Manage Without Apostrophes!  
Twenty-Odd Ducks: Why, Every Punctuation Mark Counts! 
Eats MORE, Shoots & Leaves: Why, All Punctuation Marks Matter! 

Lynne Truss writes these cool punctuation books, which illustrate quite comically just how important punctuation can be, and what happens when you get it wrong. They are all an easy, one-sitting read aimed at grades 1 through 4, but can provide a fun review for older students as well. 

{Yes, it’s the same Lynne Truss who wrote the “grown up” version of Eats, Shoots & Leaves.}

Happy Endings: A Story About Suffixes 
Nouns and Verbs Have a Field Day 
Punctuation Takes a Vacation 
Silent Letters Loud and Clear 

Robin Pulver takes a humorous look at the English language in these books {just a sampling here}, which cover parts of speech, spelling, and punctuation. Several chronicle the adventures of Mr. Wright’s {right} class, in which a group of elementary students come to appreciate just how important good grammar is. Others include Miss Doover {do over}. Like the Lynne Truss books, these are aimed at elementary students, but appropriate {if not silly} for older students as well.

Look At My Book: How Kids Can Write & Illustrate Terrific Books 

Of all the creative writing books we’ve tried, the Agents like this one by Loreen Leedy the best. It includes step-by-step guidelines for young wannabe authors to plan, draft, edit, and illustrate their own works. Even now that they are older, they still return to the simple yet concrete guidelines this text provides.

Old-fashioned ink pen writing pointed at a lined notebook page with a few indecipherable words written. Text reads: middle school language arts resources your students will love.

Middle School Language Arts Workbooks We Love

I’ll be honest: We’ve never found a complete curriculum of homeschool resources for middle school language arts we felt strongly about. Or even one that covered just mechanics or just writing.

{I know what you’re thinking, and nope not even that one. Or that one. Or even the one pretty much every homeschooler I have ever known raves about.}

However, we still need something specific for practicing skills, and we love a good workbook, so . . . we have found the following to be great for getting in written language arts practice without committing to a curriculum. 

As with others we have come across, you will find that many do not go past sixth grade {again disappointing my workbook-adoring children}.

Brain Quest Workbook Grade 6 

Brain Quest also covers math, science, and social studies, and provide an excellent overall review for the school year. In the language arts section specifically, the sixth grade version includes spelling and vocabulary; literature comprehension; research and analysis; writing; pronouns and punctuation; and metaphor and meaning.

Language Arts: Grade 6 
Reading Skills: Grade 6 
Writing Skills: Grade 6 
Spelling Skills: Grade 6 

Flash Kids Harcourt Family Learning offers tons of specific practice in multiple areas. You can chose to have them all in rotation at the same time or focus on one topic/workbook.

{Note: While I have seen a few similar titles for grades 7 and 8, they appear to be much older editions and not as readily available, which is why I have only linked the grade 6 workbooks here.}

Spectrum Language Arts Grade 6 
Spectrum Reading Grade 6 
Spectrum Writing Grade 6 
Spectrum Spelling Grade 6 
Spectrum Vocabulary Grade 6 

{Spelling and Vocabulary stop at grade 6.}

Spectrum Language Arts Grade 7 
Spectrum Reading Grade 7 
Spectrum Writing Grade 7 

Spectrum Language Arts Grade 8 
Spectrum Reading Grade 8 
Spectrum Writing Grade 8 

We love that the Spectrum workbooks includes several options for later grades. Because of this it has quickly become one of our favorite go-to series for written work.

Have you and your students read any of these homeschool resources for middle school language arts? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! And don’t forget to check out the other posts in our favorite homeschool resources series.

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Homeschooling Update {December}

December was not nearly as chaotic as November, although I do feel like it rushed right on by. Looking forward to a productive and organized new year, in our homeschooling and beyond. 

We are still in the midst of numerous home improvement projects—and still unpacking from the move—so I am personally feeling a bit unsettled. Hoping that by January’s update we will be feeling much more together and be ready to share photos of our new spaces.

Two evergreen trees with lights; one slightly blurred. Text reads: December secular homeschooling update.

Homeschool Antics

While not intentionally, we seemed to slow our homeschooling schedule a bit between Thanksgiving and the New Year. We have never been much for taking a lot of time off around holidays, but this year we dealt with more obstacles than usual this time of year {e.g., contractors working in the house during the day, not having everything we need unpacked, not getting settled into a “new house” routine soon enough}.

Moving forward, though, I want to be back on track with our typical {albeit flexible} schedule by the end of January. Even though we homeschool year round I still feel like the start of the new year is a good time to pause and evaluate. 

We have plans to get together with some local homeschoolers next week, so I am hoping the Agents can make some connections as well. 


Holiday Traveling

We spent a few days between Christmas and New Year’s visiting relatives out-of-state—as always, mostly nice but definitely exhausting. 

The cat showed his displeasure with being boarded at the cat hotel by hissing at me excessively upon our return. I was not particularly impressed with the place we chose; I think the next time we travel we will look for someone who can come to our home a few times to feed and check on him. 

{Our previous aloof cats would have been fine for up to a week without us, but this high-maintenance one needs fresh wet food every day due to his lack of teeth.}

Blogging {and Other} Ambitions

In addition to my usual grandiose plans for the new year—you know you have them, too—I will be incorporating a number of blogging goals into future posts. I hope you will follow along throughout the year and share some of your intentions as well. We’re all in this together.

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Indoor Activities for Kids of All Ages

In November we moved from San Diego to Virginia Beach. While Virginia does not have the weather extremes of say, upstate New York {where we spent three very snowy winters} it is most definitely not southern California. We clearly needed to increase our repertoire of indoor activities for kids.

Suddenly we face colder temperatures {brrr} and more rain in a month than we saw in the previous two-plus years. 

Needless to say we have spent a lot more time indoors, and truthfully we are still getting used to the whole idea of “outside time” not being a realistic daily goal.

So what keeps us busy during all that inside togetherness? Well, homeschooling, of course. But in reality that only takes about three hours a day, tops.

Following are some things the Agents do to keep themselves entertained on days when being outdoors is just not an option. They are currently 13, 11, and 9—but honestly this list of indoor activities for kids has not changed much since they were littles {although some things probably required more supervision/assistance back then}. 

Colored pencils in a circle formation with all sharpened points facing inward. Text reads: Indoor activities for kids of all ages.

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission—at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase. I only recommend products and services I have personally used and enjoyed. For more information read my complete disclaimer here.

Color

I don’t care how old you are, a new pack of colored pencils, markers, crayons, or gel pens will make your day. All of mine have finally reached the stage where they want “adult” coloring books with more complicated designs or more specific characters/interests, but coloring is still a favorite activity.

Make a Collage

We always recycle paper and cards and magazines around here, but before some of it makes it to the bin we re-use instead. All you need is construction paper or cardboard for the base and some scissors and glue. 

Build a Fort

Who doesn’t love the idea of hiding in or under a large box or blanket pulled over some chairs and hibernating for a bit?

I don’t care how old you are, a new pack of colored pencils, markers, crayons, or gel pens will make your day. Click To Tweet

Throw a Book Party

This is so much more fun than just suggesting your kids have some quiet reading time. Gather up some books {include old favorites that are a bit “young” for them to add nostalgia} and plop them down next to some pillows/blankets/bean bags. Snacks/fireplace/other ambiance optional.

Use a Magnifying Glass

We bought this inexpensive magnifying glass years ago to look at rocks one of the kids collected on a camping trip. Since then we have pulled it out many times to examine things around the house more closely.

Building blocks spelling out the word play with additional building blocks blurred in the background. Text reads: Indoor activities for kids of all ages, eleven ideas for days outside time is not an option.

Make Homemade Play Doh 

Spoiler alert: Play doh is still fun for tweens and teens. Try our well-loved recipe {using old crayons}.

Author a Book 

Next time you are at the Target dollar spot {which, come on, will be soon} grab a pack of blank books. They are the perfect size for a short story with pictures.

Start a Puzzle

The more pieces and more complicated the better. When finished use puzzle glue and a simple backing to create unique homeschool room decor. 

Write a Letter

Years ago the girls decided to write to David Attenborough telling him how much they enjoyed his documentaries. He replied and that letter is one of their most prized possessions. 


Get Crafty

I only have one kid who likes to sew, but everyone can enjoy some craft time with random material bits and tulle and buttons and fabric glue.

Snap Circuits

Okay, you know you bought one of these sets at some point. It is probably in a closet somewhere. Dig it out; they will love it. 

For more great ideas check out these posts: 

The Magic Gravity Escape: A Surprising Game for Kids
Indoor Fun That Never Gets Old-Learn & Play with Cranium Games
Winter Sensory Activities That Will Warm Your Little One
A Super Simple Kids’ Craft Activity for Bad Weather Days

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Favorite Homeschool Resources {Middle School Math}

Welcome to Favorite Homeschool Resources—a series sharing our best-loved secular books and workbooks. You can view all the posts in the series so far here.

One thing we have discovered—to our disappointment—is that many homeschool resources for middle school math tend to assume homeschoolers prefer video lessons. {Actually, I find this assumption to be prevalent with a lot of subjects, not just math.} Even some “text-based” programs have DVDs and online supplements to be used in conjunction. 

However, we tend to be book people, and so our favorite homeschool resources for middle school math reflect that. Following are several book series and workbook options we recommend.

A Different Kind of Math Book

I’ll be honest; these are not your typical textbook-style, teacher-led books. If you are looking for something that provides daily lesson plans and clear do this, then do that instructions, these may not be the resources for you. 

In many cases they are more math stories than math instruction. They also assume you already have a solid foundation of elementary school math. We enjoy them because they introduce math concepts in a more engaging way, and we don’t mind digging in and figuring out the specific how-to on our own. Truthfully we re-read some of them every school year just because they are fun—even after they seem a bit “young” for our current students. If that sounds like your jam, read on. 

A row of colorful books on a bookshelf at the top and bottom. Text reads: Favorite homeschool resources, middle school math.

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission—at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase. I only recommend products and services I have personally used and enjoyed. For more information read my complete disclaimer here.

Middle School Math Books We Love

Everything You Need To Ace Math In One Big Fat Notebook: The Complete Middle School Study Guide 

We absolutely love this entire series of books! Agent E worked her way through the math one for her sixth grade year. It provides an excellent review of basic concepts and a great foundation for getting started with algebra and geometry. 

I’ll be honest; these are not your typical textbook-style, teacher-led books. If you are looking for something that provides daily lesson plans and clear do this, then do that instructions, these may not be the resources for you.  Click To Tweet

Algebra and Geometry: Anything But Square!
Math: A Book You Can Count On 

The Basher Books have been long-time favorites around here. They are so much fun to read, and introduce complex ideas in a fun way. My only criticism is that if you don’t already have a passing knowledge of the terms used, some of the quirky phrasing might go over your head. 

Mathematicians Are People, Too: Stories From the Lives of Great Mathematicians {volume 1}
Mathematicians Are People, Too: Stories From the Lives of Great Mathematicians {volume 2}

We read these a few years back and really enjoyed learning more about the people behind the math. I always especially love digging into the contributions of the women who have traditionally been left out of the discussion. 

Painless Pre-Algebra
Painless Algebra 
Painless Geometry

Truth: We like this series, but not enough to own it . . . yet. They make terrific reference books, and come in handy if you can’t quite remember the right rule or formula and need a quick way to look it up. {They also have a great language arts series.}

More Math Books We {Still} Love

Sir Cumference and All the Kings Tens
Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi
Sir Cumference and the Off-the-Charts Dessert
Sir Cumference and the Roundabout Battle

These are just a few examples of what’s available in the series. Okay, so these aren’t 100% aimed at middle schoolers. But . . . we love them so much and have read all of them every year since Agent E was about second grade. Each story shares a different adventure {set in the world of knights and castles} that ultimately teaches a simple mathematical concept.

What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras?
Pythagoras and the Ratios

These are fictionalized versions of what Pythagoras might have been like as a mischievous youth, and super fun to read. Again, more geared toward slightly younger students, but favorites we keep coming back to even as the Agents grow.

Open math workbooks sits next to a wire-bound graph paper book and a mechanical pencil. Text reads: Middle school math resources your students will love.

Middle School Math Workbooks We Love

Of course we also need to practice the skills we read about. My students all love a good workbook. I know “worksheets” get a bad rap in homeschooling circles, but it is so convenient to have a nice, bound book of review problems arranged by topic or grade. These are some of our favorite written practice resources for middle school math.

Brain Quest Workbook Grade 6
Math Skills: Grade 6 {Flash Kids Harcourt Family Learning}
Math: Grade 6 {Skill Builders}

You will find that many workbook series only go up to sixth grade, which is kind of a bummer when you have homeschool kids who love workbooks, like mine do. These are a few that we loved for early middle school, but sadly they do not have seventh and eighth grade equivalents.

Algebra: Grades 6-8 {Skill Builders}
Geometry: Grades 6-8 {Skill Builders}

The Skill Builders series, however, does include algebra and geometry for this age/grade range. We like these for the extra practice; however, they are not very descriptive when it comes to actually explaining the process or how one arrives at the answer. I recommend these particular workbooks are best used for review.

Spectrum Math Grade 6
Spectrum Math Grade 7
Spectrum Math Grade 8
Spectrum Algebra Grades 6-8
Spectrum Geometry Grades 6-8

This series from Spectrum {which also includes language arts and science} is one of the few that includes options for seventh and eighth grades. In addition to the ones listed here, they also have workbooks for middle school math covering word problems, critical thinking, and statistics. 


Practice Makes Perfect Algebra 1
Practice Makes Perfect Geometry

We already loved the Spanish workbooks from this series, so we decided to check out the math ones as well. What I love most about these workbooks is that they give more detailed explanations of how to do the problems. Unlike many of the others, they are not just practice/review problems with limited context. Instead, it offers more of a textbook/workbook hybrid—perfect if you have a student who prefers reading about concepts and figuring them out rather than watching a video presentation. 

Have you tried any of these fabulous homeschool resources for middle school math? Let me know what you thought in the comments! And don’t forget to check out the other posts in our favorite homeschool resources series.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest. You can also sign up to receive new posts via e-mail here.

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Homeschooling Update {November}

November breezed right by in a whirlwind of packing, cleaning, traveling, hotel living, and unpacking. Of course homeschooling got done—as it always does—but what a reminder of how grateful we are to be able to engineer our days the way we can.

I cannot imagine having to toss register three kids for two new schools and get them caught up and adjusted and—oh, by the way—drive them to and from said schools from a hotel across town every day for two weeks into the mix. No thanks.

Cornucopia decorated with fall leaves and filled with various vegetables sits on a wooden table. Text reads: November secular homeschooling update.

The Move

Well, the biggest news for this month is that we completed our cross-country move from San Diego, CA to Virginia Beach, VA. We shipped our household goods {and cars} the first week of November, then flew out with five humans, four suitcases, and one feline on Friday, 8 November. Truly an all-day process—not to mention “losing” three hours with the time zone change—but we survived and have happily settled into being east coast residents once again.

We spent a total of fifteen days in two different hotels. Thankfully the Agents go with the flow with that sort of thing and did not completely disintegrate. We tried to get out and about and not go stir crazy, but it was cold and rainy most of the time, and then I ran over a nail and the car was out of commission for a bit. At least they can mostly entertain themselves and make things generally more survivable now than when they were all babes. 

The House

The house we moved into is actually not “new” to us—it is the same house Hubby and I lived in when we first married back in 2003, and where toddler Agents E and J lived until we moved to Naples, Italy in early 2010. {Agent A had never lived here; I was six weeks pregnant when we moved out.} 

However, after years of keeping it as a rental property, the house needed a lot of love. Luckily, my fabulous husband is good at all the things, and he has been making repairs, painting the entire inside, and generally creating a livable space again. We also replaced the carpeting upstairs, acquired a few new kitchen appliances, and will soon have new flooring downstairs as well. 

I feel like we usually have more things unpacked and put together at this point {we’ve been in the house for twelve days now} but we’re taking it a bit slower this time and making sure everything is the way we want it long-term. Still hoping to put up the tree and decorate this weekend and hopefully have the place looking like “home” by Christmas. {We will keep Christmas simple like we usually do.}

The Anniversary

While the move certainly took up a lot of our emotional bandwidth this month, I personally also passed a difficult anniversary. My dad died five years ago, a week before Thanksgiving 2014. Honestly, the time leading up to the holidays will never be the same again, always overshadowed. 

In reality it has been six years since I could have a real conversation with him, as he was pretty ill and out of it most of that entire last year. Contrary to popular platitudes, time does not make it easier, just different. 

For my friends who also miss someone this time of year, I get it. I have written about some of the ways I have processed everything as a non-religious person {because everyone always seems to want to bring the god angle into it} if you’d care to check it out.

The New Obsession

We always manage to find a new silly thing to obsess over, and during this particular moving adventure we discovered a new favorite show while having access to cable TV at the hotel. If you have not seen We Bare Bears on the Cartoon Network, we highly recommend. {It also has several—although not all—the episodes on Netflix.} 

Why this crazy little spectacle has become such a hit with the Agents, I do not know. However, I would be willing to bet that Bear merchandise will be dominating our Christmas shopping this year. 


The Homeschooling

Yes, we have been “doing” school through all of the craziness as well. We traveled with several books and workbooks, and also visited two new libraries while still living at the hotel. While I wouldn’t say we were up to 100% during this month, we did accomplish quite a bit given everything else going on. 

We have eased back into our loop rotation and will hopefully be back into more of a predictable routine for December. No doubt that will also include exploring the town, the zoo, the aquarium, and even more library branches. 

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest. You can also sign up to receive new posts via e-mail here.

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