Homeschooling High School has to be different how?

I know some families that are really successful as a ‘school’. I often feel guilty. I can’t measure up. I can remember to write down math grades…for a week- maybe…did I say write down a grade? maybe I mean check it everyday….. I don’t know how to score a paper. I don’t want to test them on what dates they memorized. But that is how you have to do high school, right?

I was SOOO  worried about high school. I needed to record grades? and hours? How would I do that? It would require changing EVERYTHING I had learned on my homeschooling journey.

After shopping for record keeping systems, trying to set up bins for papers and grading….well it didn’t take long to make everyone in the house roll their eyes at school. It had become a chore.

We all homeschool differently. We homeschool because we don’t want to do it the way they do it at school, right? So, why am I trying to match that now?

I’ve homeschooled  High School for 4 years now. My oldest will graduate this year. I am terrified. I have no idea how she will ‘perform’ in the real world! Does she know enough to be successful? Will she be able to do it outside of my home? I don’t know!! But I’ve prayed. I’ve helped her discover passions, and gifts. I’ve encouraged her. She can read, and write and when hard pressed she can do math 😉 She can balance a checkbook and keep a schedule…… we can all list these things right? (reminder to self?) Trust that the Lord placed this child into your hands for a reason.

Do what YOU need to do for YOUR child. There is no one on this Earth that cares more for them than you.

I evaluate and grade on attitude, willingness, neatness, whether or not they are learning, discussing, improving….how about this? I grade 80% on completion of the material, 20% on attitude, neatness and diligence.

We test math- for mastery. They do not move on unless they understand it. I’m not making them redo it for a grade but because it is a skill they need to master. What grade do you put on that?

Here is what I do:

  1. I carefully pick out curriculum and books to challenge the level they are at, and then I fill in with a few ‘easy reads’ (Don’t you enjoy and easy read now and then?) I spend a lot of time choosing and scheduling these. Then I let them do it.
  2. My plan is to complete a weeks worth of work each week. That is why my schedule is set up by weeks. Our own personal schedule might include a day of sorting and working cattle, or a field trip, or half a day of some other farm chore, school, illness….So I schedule 4 days.  (my kids dual enroll in the local public school for things like Ag classes, Spanish and Band- we are NOT going slower than them!) A week’s worth in a week. that is my requirement.
  3.  I ask them. I talk to them. We discuss what they’ve learned, how they like the book- you are mom. you KNOW what they are gaining. They do notebooking pages or journal pages. We keep ‘record books‘ for our supervising teacher (state requirements). They know it has to contain a sampling of what they are doing. They show what they are doing/learning.
  4. They check their own math (because they understand that math is a process of learning to solve problems, so they need to solve it until they get the right answer.) I grade the tests. They must pass with an 85% or better or we repeat the lessons. Mastery. 😉
  5. I record grades. In January I have to turn in grades to our insurance for good student driving discount. So usually I have recorded something mid-year. At the end of the year (or honestly when it is due for something) I fill out a transcript. I use the one from HSLDA. I fill it out according to attitude and aptitude. ALL grades are subjective. Yours will be too. I use their schedules and notebooks to help (my memory).

It is my wish, my homeschooling goal to:

  1.  Instill Godly character  in my children.
  2. kindle a willingness to learn
  3. helpful, hardworking, servant attitudes
  4. happy memories of homeschool and home life

I’ve learned that I don’t want to replicate the classroom. To all of my experience and reading, it doesn’t work anyway!




Homeschool Lessons I Learned The Hard Way.

I didn’t start at the beginning. I pulled my children out of public school at 6th grade, 4th grade, 1st grade and preschool. That is where our homeschooling journey began. This is our 7th year schooling at home.

I’m hard-headed. I was called to homeschool from the start- but I drug my feet. It doesn’t need to take 7 years to learn these lessons! I hope you can learn these vicariously.

1.) School doesn’t include tears. I think that pulling out of public school was influential there. Public school, for a kid that is struggling at least, homework includes tears. They are frustrated and don’t understand. So first lesson is- back up! If decimals cause tears it is a more basic math problem than what you are looking at. Try fractions.

This was our trouble decimals don’t make sense if you don’t understand fractions. Both kids needed to backtrack and try that again. Later on my 2nd oldest asked me when he began decimals “When does this get hard?” He had heard everything going on with DD and knew tears would be involved somewhere. regroup. tears are NOT part of the program.

There are plenty of other days that emotions, sickness, frustration take over, I’ve now learned this is not a day to push forward but to slow down, or take a day off, and change what we are doing- whether for one day or permanently or anywhere in between.

2.) Set some goals! I’m not really talking academic goals here. I think we all do plenty of that 😉 I learned this AFTER the tears! I wish I’d learned this FIRST. It has made all the difference. In choosing curriculum, in scheduling, in when to let it go.

  • Learning is Fun. – I want to teach them to be life-long learners that like to investigate and learn the ins-outs and answers.
  • I want my kids to remember the time we’ve spent together fondly, not as a chore or a battle.

these are just some examples. I love this blog post from The Unlikely Homeschooler I read recently. NOT as it describes one or another method, but because of the goals this mother has thought out. What are yours??

3.) There is no perfect curriculum. Look. Pray. Choose. If it doesn’t work- scrap it and try again. see #4.

4.) Homeschooling is the same as parenting: It is problem solving every second of the day. Distract, assign, re-assign, re-mind, try something else, try a different schedule, try a different book/curriculum, try a different set up, try …… until it works, then stick with it until it doesn’t, then do it again.

So like parenting, you get the hang of problem solving- you know more kids, more time you learn more tricks- then you need more. You don’t get the hang of parenting, or homeschooling- just problem solving (or the fact that you have to do it! repeatedly). That is why the veteran homeschoolers make it look easier. They’ve worked on problem solving skills for longer. So ASK them.

THIS is the reason you need a support group! or friend…. You cannot come up with all of the solutions. You pray! and you call a friend. Ask for help!

5.) Time. Whether it is because one kid always seems to be done- did I schedule enough? or one is never done- did I schedule too much?  This post by Our UnSchooling Journey is a great example of why you should not worry so much.(Why I shouldn’t worry so much? Okay, I’m still working on this) You are teaching them to be life-long learners. Let them learn. In life, in books.Make sure it follows your goals! (see #2!)

While problem solving this issue, I’ve developed my planner– I try to decide ahead how much each child can handle. I plan for flexability and changes. When their ‘list’ is done- it is done. I let them go. This is working for us NOW. When it doesn’t we’ll go back to #4 .

What did you learn? I’d love to hear your lessons in the comments.




Ag Literacy Resources: Where does my food come from?

As a farmer, I have a passion for Ag Literacy! I work with a couple of organizations working with Ag Literacy, volunteer in school organizations and am active with FFA, 4H and my County Fair. Extension has some great resources too.

I’d like to have ongoing information about Agriculture, but at this point I’d like to share some resources and lesson plans that are available.


searching online for resources can be a tricky minefield these days. It is akin to seeking medical advise online- you may find that you are dying!! Hopefully I can help you find some resources that you can use.

  1. My first suggestion to you is check the terms. If any resource is using what I call ‘terror words’ then it is more likely they are trying to sway your opinion rather than teach. I think you can recognize these words easily enough. Be aware.
  2. Ag Literacy is a good search term. It allows you to find farmers and folks in the business of producing food to tell you what is happening in their world.
  3. Other good search terms: Agronomy, Soil Science, Seed Science, Seed Genetics, Animal Husbandry, Animal Science
  4. Farm Bureau is very active in the Ag Literacy movement so they might be a good place to look. I am an active member of Farm Bureau and am often confused with an insurance company agent, so please let me help define that ;):

American Farm Bureau is an organization is made up of farmers all across the country. We band together to help be one voice for ALL kinds of farming operations. We don’t promote only conventional or only organic or only livestock- but EVERYTHING farming. Ag Literacy is a major focus these days and Farm Bureau is getting involved.

Each state has a State Farm Bureau. (i.e. Iowa Farm Bureau, Florida Farm Bureau, Hawaii Farm Bureau, Kansas Farm Bureau) We grow food in every state, and each state has their own grass roots organization. (you can actually find one in each County (or most, I know Iowa has 99 counties and 100 County Farm Bureaus. Not sure about other states specifically))

American Farm Bureau Federation is the group of all state’s FB members (think federal  government and state government and county government) It is a similar system EXCEPT this is NOT a government entity at all but private citizens coming together as ONE VOICE for agriculture. Often to address government or citizens with its members’ voice.


I follow a few individual farmers around the country just because they have taken an active role in showing us and telling us what they do. They share what happens on their farms, how and way they make certain decisions and sometimes have fun ways to share that.

I happen to follow many of them on Facebook because it is a ‘news feed’ I follow fairly regularly and I will get new stuff as it is posted. All of these folks have several ways to follow them whether it is blogs, youtube channels or something else. I’m going to share Facebook pages because I like to follow them there.

Peterson Farm Bros – these Kansas farmers have been making fun song parody videos to share their story, and have recently added written blogs.

Dairy Carrie– just like her name sounds- she is a dairy farmer. She shares her love for her girls (milking cows) and daily life on a dairy farm in Wisconsin

The Foodie Farmer– another family farmer on the east coast of the US. (Maryland maybe? I’m not sure. sorry.) She has a lot of good information on how her operations works and since she grows both Organic AND Conventional crops, we can learn about both operations here. She is also a part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed where there has been a lot of news and regulation in recent years.

There are others! These guys post often and I collect constant information just by following these three. They will often post great articles or link to other blogs posts worth your time and maybe someone else you would enjoy following. I know there are a few I read from time to time: I am agriculture Proud, Nurse Loves Farmer (Canada)


My American has interactive games, lesson plans and resources for home, school, and community.

Iowa Ag Literacy has lesson plans (some great ones for younger students especially) you might search your own state to learn more about crops grown in your area.

American Farm Bureau Agriculture Foundation is a foundation set up to make resources available for ag literacy.  There are free resources and lesson plans available here. There is also a great list of agriculturally accurate books and teacher books/lesson plant to go with them. They spend a great deal of time researching children’s books for accurate portrayal of farm and animals. For example- animals that are not animated or talking but animals being animals.

There are links to resources from Ag in the Classroom (this is a classroom program that has been a part of Farm Bureau for a long time and as demand for this information continues to expand, so does the program and websites.) – there is certainly a lot of talk about GMO- do you know what it is and what it isn’t? This site has all kinds of folks from all kinds of ag fields answering any and all questions you have. Read through others questions, or ask one for yourself. Test your own knowledge.

Nutrients for Life is a foundation supplying FREE resources about soil and fertilizer among other things. Farmers make up only 2% of the population. It used to be that we were all connected to someone who farmed but now we are 3 generations removed. It is because we have all specialized- not just farmers and we all do what we do best and share it. Farm kids have grown up to leave the farm, get an education and work away from the farm. As a result- we (as a general class of people) don’t understand AGRONOMY (that is the study of SOIL) These resources help us understand why we fertilize- how important it is to have just the right amount- keeping the soil healthy is our number one objective- too much is wasteful, expensive and can affect other things like ground water. Farmers are careful to keep the soil, air and water healthy. It affects us every day and every generation.

Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation has some great teaching materials. If you are from Iowa, you’ve heard his name. Norman Borlaug spent his life farming and working against world hunger. He was recognized and honored with the Nobel Peace Prize for his work because there was not prize for working against hunger- so he started one. the World Food Prize. (headquarters is in Des Moines, Iowa and if you have the opportunity to stop in or schedule a tour- do it. It is amazing!) These materials teach about the man, Iowa history (because he is from Iowa) his lifelong passion to feed the world, the work he did, and the World Food Prize. This link is the curriculum package available FREE on the website. Here are related sites including World Food Prize.

TEXTBOOKS and Living Books:

Exploring Agriscience by Ray Herren is one we have used an enjoyed. We located a less expensive older, used edition, but I assume this one is even better 😉 *textbook

Life in a Bucket of Soil – this is geared toward young readers, and yet the information is pretty good. I kind of have a philosophy like this: if we haven’t learned it yet- then it is our level, and we’ll continue to build on it as much as we can find- curiosity being our guide. So, this may be labeled elementary but we’ve used it in middle school and early high school. It’s good information.

Farm Anatomy – this book is beautifully illustrated! It gives a great overview of things. Not very deep in its content but so beautifully done.

Soil by Richard Cromer seems to be an out of print 1960’s elementary science picture book. It’s pretty good. you might find something used. I happen to have an old library copy. Is it funny how these old elementary books cover more than today’s high school books in some ways… at any rate I think this has good information that can be easily understood and retained. I did find a generic re-print? not sure but it doesn’t look like mine yet has the same name and author!  here. is BOVINE (cattle) anatomy. good stuff!

Botany by Ellen J McHenry is a really fun study of plants! I used this as part of my Biology curriculum. She has also just published one called dirt and rocks. I haven’t had the chance to check it out yet but I hope it is a good agronomy resource!

I did a Biotech unit in my Biology curriculum that used this printable resource from Ag Literacy Foundation

My children dual enrolled with the local school to participate in the FFA organization. It has been very helpful for them in learning about Agriculture and Leadership.

 ****** READ THIS!******

Articles, videos and blog posts I enjoyed:

‘Allergic to All Known Chemicals?’ – Forbes Magazine by Henry I. Miller

RoundUp: What It Is (and what it isn’t)

It’s Practically Impossible to define “GMOs”

How My Visit to a Small Farm Led to a Food Attitude Change

What is a GMO? by Piffle

Art! Color

I hope you started with Art! drawing 1 and Art! drawing 2 but if you didn’t we’ll talk about some drawing basics again.

Are you familiar with the TV show “Brain Games”? I’ve only seen a few episodes but the first one I ever saw was the first season, first episode entitled “watch this” The show is all about the way the brain works and this particular episode incorporates optical illusions. You see, sometimes our brain makes assumptions. Our eyes automatically translate 3-dimensional things to our brains. So when you paint on a solid surface- it helps to know what your brain is going to see. This is how we make a 2D painting LOOK 3D. We use what our brain knows and help is see a 3-dimensional object.

Let’s try an example: a child is asked to draw a table:

table 1

a table is a rectangle with 4 legs. right?

table 2

as we grow we learn that the 4 legs need to go under that table and that one or more can be hidden.

Well, if you’ve done the drawing exercises and learned  basic shapes and shading , we are ready to learn how to shade using color. But first- lets take a look at color theory. It will help us to name the colors and how they work together.

There are only 3 primary colors. Red, Blue and Yellow. They are called primary colors because there are no colors you can mix to create them, and all other colors can be created with them. You remember right? Red and Blue make Purple. Blue and Yellow make Green. Yellow and Red make Orange. There are called Secondary colors- you could mix them using primary colors.

White is actually all color and black is no color. Did you think I said that backwards? Well the color we see is what [light] bounces off of an object. It absorbs all but the color that bounces back to our eyes. So think of a hot summer day in the sun. White reflects all color (light) back and black absorbs all color. This is also why a black hole swallows everything up.

here is a lesson in color theory

here is an info-graphic on color theory

now we’ll see if we can learn to create with color.


*What can you use to color? anything with color!  You can use colored pencils, conte crayons, pastel chalk, paints (any kind tempra, acrylic, I’d hold off on oil maybe) watercolor or watercolor pencils. you can use crayons, but they will not mix as well as other media. As with anything else, you get what you pay for. You can collect some of these items very inexpensively and they can work quite well, if you find you are really enjoying the media, you might look for a higher quality and you may find that the quality of color and the ability to mix is better, but I wouldn’t worry too much at this stage. You can find supplies just about anywhere. I usually shop: Walmart, Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, Dick Blick or Miller Pad and Paper and the University Book Store. Really the best quality and selection I’ve found was in my college bookstore. I still travel there to buy for some projects.

now color is going to require a little lesson in vocabulary:

hue and value

photo from

Hue– this is what we think of as color- red, blue, green. In art we are more specific. saturation in this visual can mean how much pigment or how strong the color. The saturation is important because nothing you mix with it can ever make that color brighter or stronger.

The Value – is how light or dark the color (or hue)

Value is determined like this:

a tint – is the hue is when we add white

a shade– is adding black or darkness to our hue

with pencil we practiced

Shading techniques

and shade 3d forms like this sphere in multiple techniques

now we should mix a hue with black and white- making shades and tints

try a worksheet like this

or this

create scales or try another technique like this

a video here

create a project of a color wheel-you can try making a project where you create a color wheel in a fun, imaginative, creative way

this example isn’t set up as strictly a color wheel- but if gives you the idea of a creative color wheel

a ballerina

geometric shapes here, here or here

some fun examples here

and here is a fun one

color wheels can be fun. search for more ideas or check my color theory pinterest board.


Color Combinations or Color Schemes

Now that we have learned about primary colors, tints, and shades lets talk Color schemes

lets review:


image from

Primary colors are in the center. they cannot be mixed.

Secondary colors are the next row out. They can be mixed using primary colors.

Tertiary colors are all of the other color that can be mixed in-between like a yellow-orange, orange-yellow, green-blue…

as we look at these colors on the wheel, we can pick out tired and true color combinations:


image from

as we look at the color wheel we can pick out certain color schemes that will go together. It is fun to try these out.

Here is a worksheet for identifying color combinations using your color wheel.

The first one not shown (above) is called Monochromatic. It is one color. one hue. You use tints and shades of that color (like your scales you did above) to create a picture or project like

this ice cream cone project or this guitar

these beautiful monochromatic painting examples

here, here, here or here

now in the photo above do you see the complimentary? split-complimentary? triadic and analagous? try some of them out!

**SIMPLIFIED IDEA- I’ve done this in a class that was VERY simple. Not terribly artistic but effective in teaching the color combinations. (it depends on how artistic your student wants to be)

find or print some coloring sheets.They can be simple or more complicated. Color them in with the listed color combinations. It can be fun to play with the colors when you are not worried about a project or drawing. Try the project next 😉


another way is to color in the pictures in a mosaic style. Try cutting the necessary colors from magazine photos- cut reds (or red patterns, tint and shades) and greens. TINY, imperfect squares. now use a glue stick and fill in your coloring sheet with these tiny squares to fill in the necessary color.

try a mosaic in this style using the magazine or scarp paper pieces

PROJECTS– try your color knowledge!

Try this project for any color combination OR all of them in one project


here are some project ideas focusing on color, shading or color schemes:


underwater scene – this one is an idea in fractured lines but it sparks a number of ideas for me like a monochromatic or analogous underwater scene

legos– colors in cube forms.

combination color and perspective project

fun mixing colors

value landscape

water droplets

stained glass tint and shades


U.S. Government & Civics RESOURCES

If you’ve been here before you know that I use a lot of living books for all grades but especially High School. I have used some great resources for a U. S. Government Study at and I think that is enough to satisfy a basic requirement for Government, but I wanted to make sure that my kiddos go away with a really solid understanding of Government, Constitution, Founding Fathers, Civic Responsibilities and most of all Natural Law and the Bible’s influence on the framers, the documents and the law. So I have been looking for great resources to solve this end.

I don’t know if you might have a kid like this, but my DS16 will not ‘repeat’ anything. He has studied U.S. Government and American History- so while there is more to study- I’ll have to be more inventive with the name 😉

I plan to work on Economics and then something titled: Constitution Study or Civics or Civic Justice …..working on it.

I will post the book lists and schedule once I have it worked out, but I was SOOOO excited about this great resources list – and I can’t fit them all in. yet. I wanted to share the list with you.

Eclectic Homeschool Online has a GREAT resource list for U.S. Government and Political Science.

I have several in my shopping basket and will need to decide how many I can buy! And, how many I will be able to add to what I already have. :/