Homeschooling Update {Spring 2020}

We’ve reached the point where looking ahead to the next year homeschool year becomes way more interesting than pressing through with what we need to complete this year. Alas, we need to find the motivation to get to a good stopping point in all of our current studies, despite the pull of the new and shiny.

Things look much different now, however, than they did last year at this time. It can be difficult to plan when we do not yet know what we will be able to do in the coming months.

That said, we are very fortunate and privileged to have been minimally affected by this pandemic. We do not have financial worries and everyone in the family is healthy.

We have been spending lots of time outdoors {in our own backyard} and reading tons of books. The Agents have been making their way through many series on our own bookshelf, including some “younger” ones they haven’t revisited for a while. The Senior Agents both had birthdays recently, too, and so we added a few new titles to our collection as well.

{You can see what they have read recently here on our Goodreads page.}

Mostly it has been an inconvenience. For a house full of introverts—with one parent already used to staying home and three kids already in homeschooling mode—not much of our day-to-day life has changed.

We miss the library the most. And the zoo. And hanging out with homeschool friends. {Yes; even hard-core introverts miss socializing eventually.}

Colored pencils pointed in toward each other to form a heart. Text reads: Homeschooling update spring 2020, wrapping up and looking forward.

Almost to the End: Closing Out the 2019-2020 Year

We will be wrapping up our current homeschool year in approximately seven weeks. The plan is to finish around the third week of June, take a brief “re-setting” break, and start the new homeschool year on or around 1 July.

This short amount of time between “grades” is pretty typical for us. We enjoy our year-round schedule and generally do not take much of a summer break anyway.

In addition to written work in math and language arts, we have a few books from our loop rotation left to complete.

We have worked our way down to the end-of-the-year hodge podge; now it is just a matter of which books we will have time to get through and which will need to be tacked on to the beginning of next year.

Planning Ahead: A New Configuration of Students

Of course, planning a new homeschool year is my happy place. I love looking at books, workbooks, curriculum, and documentaries—and then figuring out how it all fits together for each grade level.

Next year I will officially have one elementary student {Agent A, grade 4}, one middle schooler {Agent J, grade 7}, and one high school student {Agent E, grade 9}.

In spite of the age/grade differences, we will still do much of our schoolwork together, following the same basic plan. Generally our routine is to complete written work first and then do joint reading aloud.

Each student will have their own appropriate skill level math and language arts, as well as other potential written work. For example, my 4th grader might also be doing a geography workbook; my 9th grader will likely have a written Latin curriculum. But our basic reading loop schedule will use the same books for all three.

This means that for subjects like science, history, music, and health all three Agents will be studying the same topics. We always try to choose books that work with a wide age range. Teaching multiple grade levels together is quite do-able with a little creativity.

Usually I like to investigate any resources {books and workbooks} in person before we commit to purchasing them, but obviously heading to a library or bookstore to “research” is not possible this year. Because of this we will likely be starting the school year using some old favorites already on hand.

We do not have all the specifics worked out just yet, so that will likely be a separate planning post coming soon.

What do your homeschool days look like right now? Have you begun looking ahead to the next year homeschool year? I’d love to hear about what you are doing in the comments.

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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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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. 

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Homeschooling Update {October}

We usually do not take an official “fall break” in our homeschool for the same reasons we do not take summer break—it is just easier to chug along more or less continuously unless we have a specific reason for scheduling time off. 

The month of October, however, has been sort of a whirlwind of travel and organizing and moving plans, so we will likely take probably one full week off soon—possibly two—while we prepare to sell the house and relocate. 

Autumn leaves still on the branches with a sunny sky as the background. Text reads: October secular homeschooling update.

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We started the month with a trip to Hawaii—a first for Momma and the Agents, although hubby has been several times for work. Last week we took a cruise {Disney, of course} to Mexico as our final big travel on the west coast. 

Now we are pretty much in crunch mode for cleaning and planning and packing. School is still happening every day, but we are going through a bit of a slower period and mostly trying to get to a good stopping point in all of our subjects. Our library bookshelves look very empty compared to their usual. 

This is just how homeschooling looks for us right now. We have made it through many transitions and I do not stress about what we are getting done {or not getting done} because I know it will all balance out. Homeschooling year round means less pressure when life happens.


We plan to travel with a minimized collection of materials, and spend a lot of time checking out our new town. {Which is not technically new to all of us; hubby and I lived there from when we married until the Senior Agents were toddlers.} 

While getting a new library card will be high on our agenda, we will also travel with a few books. Since we will be in transition for most of November, we plan to include two favorites for this time of year: Mayflower 1620: A New Look At Pilgrim Voyage and 1621: A New Look At Thanksgiving

By next month’s update post, we should be in our new home and somewhat settled and back into our groove. 

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Homeschooling Update {Weeks 13 and 14}

Hope everyone is enjoying the final days of September. Starting in October I am going to move to monthly homeschooling updates, posting a summary at the end of the month instead of every Sunday. Because—as evidenced by the title of this post—weekly updates are apparently too much for me to keep track of.

We did have a couple of lovely homeschooling weeks, though. I feel that we have accomplished a lot in the first three months of the school year, and we have settled into a content groove. Of course, we will be uprooting all of that soon with yet another move. But more on that later. 

Sharpened colored pencils in order from light to dark form a semi-circle. Text reads: Homeschooling update weeks thirteen and fourteen.

In the meantime we will be doing some traveling. If you follow along on Instagram you can {temporarily} expect to see more photos of humans and beaches and landmarks and fewer photos of cats.


As I was thinking about our upcoming plans, I realized I have not made any attempt to tie our trip to our homeschooling. We went to two libraries this week, and I did not search for a single book on our destination. We plan to make a trip to a very significant historical landmark, and I did not incorporate it into our history studies. There are numerous books and movies I can think of just off the top of my head that we could have read and watched just for fun and I did not even consider them.

Am I even a homeschool parent at this point?

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Homeschooling Update {Week 12}

One of the many things I love about homeschooling is the scheduling freedom it provides. We do not have to choose between going to school and worrying about what is going on at home, or staying at home and worrying about what we might be missing at school. 

This week our adorable kitty needed some intense work done by a veterinary dental specialist. The Agents, of course, are very attached to this feline and just had to be there in the waiting room the entire time. Then after we returned home, they wanted to be close by and make sure he was okay. 

Luckily we were able to decide to forgo school for the day, knowing we can make it up later. Instead we focused all our energy on making sure our sweet cat principal stayed safe and healthy. Not like they would have been able to concentrate on anything else, anyway.

I am happy to report that Oscar {Agent O} is doing great. He is down to just six teeth now. Adult cats typically have 30 teeth. He came to us two years ago with about half already missing. They removed some remaining ones that were causing him issues, but I don’t think he will even notice. He is very capable of compensating and has adjusted well to life with minimal teeth.

Sharpened colored pencils in order from light to dark form a semi-circle. Text reads: Homeschooling update week twelve.

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This week we added a new art book to our loop schedule: Rachel Ignotofsky’s Women in Art. It just came out this week {we had pre-ordered it} so we haven’t really gotten a chance to take a careful look at it, but I think it will be a welcome addition. 

She also authored another of our favorites, Women in Science, which we read last year and will probably add into this year’s loop schedule at some point as well.


We are very close to wrapping up our review of the first 20 lessons of Coffee Break Spanish, although I am a bit torn on how to proceed. I feel that we are mostly ready to move on to lessons 21-40, yet as I pointed out in last week’s update we could always use more frequent practice, especially with conversation. For now, though, it seems to be our most successful attempt at foreign language learning so far.

Agent E {grade 8} has been working through the series Practice Makes Perfect Spanish, which is very thorough and will give her a great foundation for high school or even college level Spanish. Of all of us, she would definitely be the most prepared if we ever had to rely on our Spanish writing or speaking skills. 

Should be business as usual here the next few weeks, then a bit of travel planned for October. How was your week? Any exciting plans coming up?

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Homeschooling Update {Week 11}

We spent the weekend at Disneyland—probably our last visit for a while—and I should know better than to think I am going to accomplish anything other than laundry and maybe feeding people the evening we come home from any Disney trip.

This was the first time we stayed “on property” at one of the resort hotels, and it definitely cut down on the amount of travel time. However, unlike at Walt Disney World, I wouldn’t consider it a necessity, because everything is much more contained to start.

The Grand Californian is a pretty sweet hotel {and expensive; we used DVC points for our room}. Unfortunately with just a two-night stay we did not have the opportunity to check it out as much we would have liked. The Agents have already requested a return visit so we can spend more time taking advantage of the amenities. 

Sharpened colored pencils in order from light to dark form a semi-circle. Text reads: Homeschooling update week eleven.

We had a four-day week {we did school on Labor day, but left for Disneyland on Friday}. I like that with our loop scheduling this year we do not feel behind when we miss a day. 

One tweak I might make to our loop, however, is to rotate Spanish in twice. I feel that we need to bump up our lessons to every other or every third day. Especially if we are going to have any chance of practicing our conversation skills with an acquaintance we will see next month. 


Because we start the school year so early the Agents have already finished up a few workbooks and projects. So now I am back to my continual mission to find the best way to organize and store completed work. 

We have eight years for Agent E, six years for Agent J, and four years for Agent A. Right now it resides in a combination of boxes and plastic bins, which is not optimal. What kind of storage solutions have you come up with for keeping your students’ work? 

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Homeschooling Update {Week 10}

So Long, Charter Option

We have decided not to continue with the Agents’ charter school this year. Last year we enrolled in a charter for the first time, and while the experience was okay, it really wasn’t worth the oversight and paperwork IMO. 

Honestly the only reason we stuck with it all year is because the Agents really loved their in-person drop-off classes, and they have eliminated those for the coming school year. So, we are back to submitting the forms on our own.

{If you are curious about what homeschooling is like in California, the California Homeschool Network is a wealth of information.}

Sharpened colored pencils in order from light to dark form a semi-circle. Text reads: Homeschooling update week ten.

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.

Parenting Weirdness

A few weeks ago I shared a parenting dilemma in our weekly homeschooling update. The short version: When do you decide it’s okay to leave your kids home alone? 

Well, I am happy to report that after fretting over this we actually had to do it one day this week and everyone lived to tell about it. It still just seems so bizarre to me, though, that Hubby and I both left the house and all three kids were just there—hanging out, surviving without us. Parents of older kiddos: Tell me this gets less weird.

Foreign Language Fun

Do you or any of your kids use Duolingo? I have been doing the Spanish lessons for a few months, and this week I started Latin. Agent E also does Spanish, but her daily streak is much better than mine; she has been doing lessons every day for just over two years. 

I find it fun, and it encourages me to practice writing and listening, but I really need to improve my conversational skills. You would think this would not be too difficult given that we live ten miles from Mexico in a town filled with bilingual people {seriously; like everyone you meet} but alas, I don’t put in the effort I could.


Music Help

In other school-related news, we are a bit stuck on what to do for music. We find that a lot of the “music for kids” books tend to be too basic or cutesy, and the “history of music” books aimed at adults tend to be way overwhelming and detailed. 

Plus, you can only read about Bach and Beethoven so many times. We did enjoy Kathleen Krull’s Lives of the Musicians but we’ve already been through it twice.

So, if you have great ideas for middle school music I would love to hear your suggestions. I will add that one Agent {the oldest} does dabble in a few instruments, but the younger two are not interested just yet.

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Homeschooling Update {Week 9}

This week we had our kitty to the vet {again} regarding his dental issues. {We adopted him at age 7, already missing multiple teeth.} Long story short, he will be seeing a veterinary dental specialist in September. 

Of course I had all three Agents with me at the appointment. Which several folks commented on, as the {year round} schools here went back in July. 

Sharpened colored pencils in order from light to dark form a semi-circle. Text reads: Homeschooling update week nine.

Interestingly, I rarely get even remotely negative or passive aggressive comments about homeschooling or socialization. Instead, I get a lot of “I wouldn’t have the patience” or “that must be so challenging” or “how do you manage with three” kinds of observations. 

I mean, how do you even answer that? “Well, actually, I am not a very patient person, it isn’t that hard, and I’ve had three kids for nearly nine years now so I’m kind of used to it.” 


When random people comment on homeschooling in your presence, how do you react? Do you feel the need to “defend” it? Or do you mostly shrug it off? 

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Homeschooling Update {Week 8}

How often do you go to the library, and how many books do you typically have out at any given time? 

We went to the library yesterday {we normally do not go on Saturdays, but we had errands to run near a branch we do not get to often} and came home with 48 books. Combined with the ones we already had out, that brings our total to 114.

I have found that we prefer to go just once a month or so and check out more items each time. We tried getting into a routine where we visited the library once a week and took out fewer books, but the Agents like this method better. 

Sharpened colored pencils in order from light to dark form a semi-circle. Text reads: Homeschooling update week eight.

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In the area where we live, we actually have access to four separate library systems, three of which have multiple branches. We have been sticking primarily with just two—because it is too confusing otherwise—but now apparently we are back up to three. They each have their own shelf on a separate bookshelf in the dining room.


Of course, only two of those books are mine. I find it difficult to go through books anywhere near as quickly as the Agents do. My current reads are Beyond Religion by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and Enough As She Is by Rachel Simmons.

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