Some thoughts on Literature and other LA

We’ve done a few things for Literature. I can’t say I’ve found a favorite plan of attack yet. I do have some general ideas to share though.

We use a lot of living books- so it is all pretty reading intensive… but literature…

DD1- did a Sonlight Literature pack alongside Apologia’s Around the World in 180 days. She spent two years doing it and LOVED it. The schedule she used was developed by a homeschool mom.

DS2- worked through literature studies with Notgrass history programs. He didn’t love it, but we tackled some good stuff.

DD3- this was the one that loved to read. I could suggest books and she’d read. I wanted a little order to it though so I looked at Drawn Into the Heart of Reading (DITHOR)  and LOVE this idea! but we don’t do very well with the workbook type stuff so, we only followed the idea of reading them by genre:

  • Biography
  • Historical Fiction
  • Mystery
  • Nonfiction
  • Realistic Fiction
  • Adventure
  • Fantasy
  • Folk Tale
  • Humor

I added the category of CLASSICS. I wanted Classics to be a specific focus of our lit studies and though they fit into the other categories, I kept them as their own category.

I didn’t follow the book lists. I didn’t buy books. I just organized my shelves this way.

I don’t test them. We discuss them. We do our story dissection and plot work with movies. yes movies. Here are some examples of how I might start a discussion about a theme in a movie or some part of the plot. (This was written for my friend that wanted to expand writing but we often do it verbally) Character discussions are BIG here- Do you watch Fairy Tales? Superheros? and we like to compare- again classics and fairy tales work well here.

I don’t push or force this, but my younger girls like to do creative projects. I encourage that by printing off ideas I’ve found on Pinterest on creating non-traditional book reports. (see how I print and store digital recources. I have a few printouts collected in a report binder on our bookshelf for non-traditional book reports.)

other LA resources we enjoy

IEW’s SWI- with the DVD’s. NOT the teacher DVDs (sorry IEW great philosophy but not necessary and sleepy) print the ‘student’ part, plug in the DVD and go. They all learned to write. some love it more than others but all are capable. (we used B in middle school to early HS)

Notgrass- it includes lit and writing. awesome.

Easy Grammar Plus – we spend 2 years on it around middle school age.

King Alfred’s English – a study of the history of English supplements too.

One Year Adventure Novel!!(OYAN) – what a great program. As much for the study of literature as writing. It is pricey and NaNoWriMo does nearly the same thing but it is more difficult without the videos I think. NaNoWriMo is free.

I also like Progeny Press! If we are going to do an in depth study this is the resource I like best. I usually read alongside them then and we work through the PP study verbally together.

I made them all do a specific study of poetry. We used the PP guide and suggested books.

Logic and Debate are a big thing around here too- from dinner table discussions about politics and current events to comparing characters or stories (Once Upon a Time to Disney  Movie telling to the Hans Christian Anderson original fairy tales…) The Fallacy Detective is a favorite.

It wouldn’t be fair not to note 4H here. every project and every year’s record book had lots of writing: goals, how you worked through your ideas and goals, what you learned. They did a lot of public speaking with 4H too. So we had:

structure and style- IEW

answering questions, following goals, answering in complete sentences with correct spelling and public speaking- 4H

we did creative writing with OYAN and NaNoWriMo, ideas from BraveWriter and the book Story Starters.

We studied plot, dynamics, characters, suspense…. with movies and OYAN

Poetry and History. I’m sure we’ve missed things but then- don’t we all?






Notebooking Fridays

I schedule a 4 day week. While we generally school 5 days a week- Fridays are reserved for catch-up, delight directed investigation, notebooking, and generally a flex day for those weeks we need to ‘drop’ a day: illness, travel, farm work, one-of-those-days 😉 , field trips….

When I pulled my kids from public school (4th and 6th grade) we began science with NOEO. It scheduled a 4 day week and there are a few notebooking type pages in the front of the syllabus. We made endless copies of these until we discovered notebooks at our state’s homeschool convention from Miller Pad and Paper Company. These eliminated making copies every day, and kept each child’s  pages bound in one book. They loved this. So, they began using the same notebooks for history, creative writing….

noeo notebook

We made endless copies of these until we discovered notebooks at our state’s homeschool convention from Miller Pad and Paper Company. These eliminated making copies every day, and kept each child’s  pages bound in one book. They loved this. So, they began using the same notebooks for history, creative writing….

note sketch miller pad

As a part of our spring meltdown one year, I re-vamped our school (incidentally we had moved on to ‘higher level’ high school curriculum- instead of  the living books studies like NOEO.) I had heard a  lot about delight-directed learning but did not have kids motivated to do that. I switched back to a wide variety of living books studies and decided that they notebooking theory was a good way to investigate.

I googled notebooking pages and read a Notebooking Queen book by Cindy Rushton. (I’m not sure which one and I no longer own it but something like this) I printed a few and put them in a 3-ring binder. General pages like we had been using but different organization.

I’d say this has been successful with my younger kids- but my older ones still prefer the notebooks from Miller. They began with different habits ;).

The 4 day week has been quite a success for us and it looks like this:

Our homeschool day begins with a-loud reading by me. Then math. These are the two things I find most important to do every single day (math and reading).  So, on Fridays we do the same thing, but at the point that they look at new assignments- they are looking at notebooking as the assignment. Sometimes they file things into their record binders, sometimes they create new notebooking pages, sometimes they complete things that have not been finished for whatever reason- but in the end we have less pressure on Friday. We’ve completed learning. We’ve investigated or recorded or caught-up. That is how we do it- until it doesn’t work 😉 then we will try something new.

MENUS and IDEAS- I collected two documents that list ideas for the kids to use in their notebooks. I’m not sure where I got them. I wish I did so that I could give credit. I printed them and put them in a page protector in the front of their notebooks.

Notebooking idea lists

now it’s been a whole year since I’ve put this binder together, and I didn’t put it together with intent on sharing it- just using it- so I’ll do my best to give you an idea of the sources I’ve used. I apologize for what I’m certain I’ll miss.

My NOTEBOOKING binder includes:

I put each page in a plastic page protector and make extra copies of a few. The page protector sheet can be copied, 3 hole punched copies can be used. This makes the notebook re-usable.


Good Luck. PLEASE share your notebooking ideas with me! I’m really quite new to this.



Creating A Homeschool Transcript

Okay so I have only just graduated one, and she only intended to go to community college- and I don’t REALLY know how she will do in the real world. I don’t know the answers. BUT I do feel fairly confident that I can answer for what we’ve done in our school. Her (and the youngers’) accomplishments. I feel confident that I did all I could do for her here and that it was better than our alternatives would have turned out. That’s it. That is all the security I have for you. 😉  Here is my real security- God chose you as your child’s parent and He knows you will do what THIS child needs. You’ll do OK mama. Don’t sweat it. You’ve raised a good kid.

Now, first things first. I don’t use a fancy online, app or program to keep track. I’m pretty simple. I tend to be a procrastinator and I get bogged down with redundancy. So this is how I operate:

I keep record books. I always have. Maybe some fear of ‘someone checking in on us’, maybe for me. maybe because I didn’t know where to go with all of the paperwork….

I’ve decided not to panic about ‘High School’ I’ve been schooling with my kids’ interests all along. I’m going to continue.

I use HSLDA’s transcript template.

At the end of each semester/year as we put our record books together, I’d make a list of each of the classes we’d done. This was also a chance to reflect on any ‘extra’ classes that would count. You know a home ec credit for all of the cooking and housework… you’ve all read Senior High: A Home-Designed Form+U+La right? or you’ve at least heard form others about adding in your time spent on things like this, right? … anyway so I’d make this ‘list’ and I would  grade them. (yes. that is what I do. all grades are subjective. I expect a lot.)

I put it together. We live on a farm. My kids help a lot. They have their own livestock, as well as helping us, and they show them. It’s a lot of hours. I gave them credit.


(0ur area does 2 credits per year, 1 per semester so that is how we worked it)

Then I took it to a friend for help. She has two at a state university with many scholarships. Her advice is this- keep in simple. One page. Nothing stands out- raises any flags. short, sweet, simple. I followed her advice. Here is what she saw:


all of these are English credits. That may be easy to see now, but I’ll be you too kept more than you should have. We completed each of those classes, but in the end: English I, English II, English III.


still too many credits she says. While they did spend a great deal of time in livestock work- too many credits. This was hard to give up but it didn’t undo their work. remember that!

we combined the consumer math, financial peace and Livestock records into Personal and Business Finance.

we listed all of her theater work on the back and just left the speech and drama she took at public school (note on this: she took the class as the local public school. they did not write ONE speech. They did silly theater pieces- no they were silly!- but she learned to use imovie which became important later, she got involved with the speech competitions using her connections here which were important. She was highly involved in 4H and FFA which helped her more than any speech class we did here or at public school…. and it is one of her gifts. In the end- she is accomplished in speech and drama and even though she didn’t learn it at the public school class- she did learn it and it is recorded here.)

*classes she took at our local public school.

and the ones edited out in purple we opted to just list on the back. (note here- the sign language class was one she did on her own with a curriculum we bought, but she struggled not having anyone to ‘talk’ with and practice it so she taught a couple of friends.- I listed it as American Sign Language Club- she kind of started one right?)

The edited version looks something like this:

transcript 6

on the back of the transcript is where you list accomplishments- things that don’t fit on the front.

transcript back

I opted to list her livestock work as well work. employment: “Cow/Calf producer since 10 years of age” and her job at a local store since 2014…

I apologize it is not a very good image but I think you get the idea. I know too that I didn’t compare for other changes. (I didn’t create these or save these for blogging 😉 )

*EDIT *  I’ve been asked to upload a copy that can be easier to read and zoom. Here is an edited copy. I chose one that was midway through her senior year- noted with *classes not finished* This is what was attached to many of her scholarship applications.  e-hslda-transcript-blog-copy-edited

…laughing…crying….confessing….I struggled with loading her ACT score. I know that many homeschool families (maybe all families) are competitive about the ACT score. She did not score well according to many standards. She scored ENOUGH- is what I think. She qualified for the State University. She didn’t earn a big scholarship. It’s OK. (I’m still telling myself. but you know, I went to public school and I scored one point BELOW her and went to university.)

She NEVER scored well on tests. She doesn’t learn easily. She struggles. We pulled her from public school for EXACTLY this reason. So, I champion her accomplishments. I’m OK with her score. I pray. I know the the Lord is leading her down her own path- not mine.

I decided not to exclude it here. Maybe some of you struggle with this very thing.

If you look at the back of her transcript you will see a snapshot of THIS child and HER GIFTS are not on the ACT. She likes to write and give presentations and act and give speeches…. She did not earn a scholarship based on her academic performance but she did earn scholarships from a variety of small places 4H, FFA, American Legion, the power company, two local farm businesses (she went into Ag business AA and Ag Teaching BS) each kid has their own path. This is my oldest’s path so far.

EDIT** UPDATE** This child has all A’s at community college so far, is active in clubs, picked up an internship, and has not yet paid for any tuition. She continues to apply for (and earn) small scholarships and applies great financial sense to her expenses….. just wanted to let you know. ESPECIALLY those of you struggling with AVERAGE test scoring kids!!

Hope that this is helpful.  I’d love to hear if you have any questions or comments. (kind of helps to know I’m not talking to myself 😉 ) Thanks for reading!!


Homeschool -Record Books!

I began keeping record books early on. I’m so glad I made the habit- especially once we reached HIGH SCHOOL.

Records. Transcripts. Grades. High School. If you are a type A, organized, grading, testing homeschool this may not seem so tricky. If you are like me- laid-back, eclectic, spending-time-learning-with-my-kids kind of a homeschooler– this is absolutely terrifying! Don’t be scared. I did it. I graduated one now…. I grant you she is headed into the big unknown- college. I’m not certain how she’ll do. But I don’t think I’d feel any more comfortable about this if she had been through public school either.

School Records:

I’ve heard some colleges and military will want to see work from high school. This scares me a little. I haven’t had to do that. But, I have always kept some records. Here is why:

  • there is some part of me that always wonders if the government will come knocking on my door and ask what we’ve been up to.
  • our state’s homeschool law has changed since I started. Some records were required at first, and some are required now. I just really haven’t changed how I’ve kept them.
  • you know that end of the year feeling? You know. The one where you panic and wonder what you did ALL year?  How have we not finished a,b,c,d,e,f,g…. that I had planned to to? Well, I’ve found when I look at these record books I can remember Oh, yeah. We did some cool things. Maybe we were too busy to get everything-under-the-sun done,DID do…;)

If you’ve seen my post on digital resources, you know I love 3-ring binders. And that I am particular about them. Well, this is no different. We keep a binder. But not just any binder. this one is recognizable (easy to find- doesn’t mix in with the rest) and is color coded.

binder bundle

These babies are like $5.50! This is big money for me. especially x 4 kiddos 😉 but I like the distinctness for records. (you could use ANY binder!!)

This baby is all set up for me. It has 4 divider tabs (math, social studies, language arts, science) then there is a clear pocket in the back.

now, we’ll have more than 4 subjects- no worries but we’ve already covered the basics. Again, I am a simple person and my aim is to keep it all together.



SHEET PROTECTORS – we go through  a LOT of these. I have one kid that puts every sheet of paper in one. Mostly I have them so that those hard to contain items (i.e. we folded a paper Phoenician ship- cool right? now what? – we rolled over it with a rolling pin and put it in the book!)

we include photos in these, or paper rockets from the science center,  or that paper model of an eye, fingerprints from Forensic science lab…. So  if you just have a few remember this binder has a pocket- if you need more? sheet protectors!

FRIDAYS – We started something new this year. Friday is notebooking day.

I used to stack up all of our stray papers into one box until the end of the semester and then separate them into 4 piles and start filing into our record books. I still do this but there is a LOT less with my new system.

We schedule 4 day weeks.  Fridays are a catch-up day, a dive deeper day, a flex day- for field trips, for sick days, for work days (we live on a farm and there are days that require all hands on deck) We watch videos. I do not feel like we take Fridays off. ever. But I DO feel like Fridays are a lot. less. stress. yeah!

WHERE DO YOU PUT THE OTHER STUFF? okay so I listed core stuff on the tabs right? well, after that can be a subject, before that can be a subject, after the clear folder can be a subject? Did I say I was good with organization? Bingo. no. We stuff it in. It’s fairly organized 😉  what else can I file?

  • Sunday School Certificate
  • Awards or Certificates
  • Pictures
  • Artwork
  • Sheet Music
  • flyers/info from field trips
  • do you get the idea?
  • programs from shows you’ve attended or participate in (band, dance, piano recital…)

Now… WHY keep a record book?

  1.  Do you know that feeling you get at the end of the year when you still have a ton of stuff you meant to get to? Open your record book. I guarantee you that you forgot stuff you did. you’re welcome 😉
  2. Just-In-Case the state asks or should I decide to enroll them in a school somewhere and they want to see work…
  3. Are you worried about transcripts? Which records to keep? Which classes you’ll need on the ‘final’ draft? how about you keep a record of it? I print  a list of classes we’ve done that year and a grade and tuck it in front. I didn’t do a transcript until She was going into 11th grade.
  4. It’s fun to look back on!
  5. What else do you do with all of this bulk?/Helps to know what to save and what to toss.

I’d love to hear how you keep records!

**Okay, so  I intended to make a post about transcripts when I began this. It turns out I begin with record books. So if this seems geared toward High School- that is why. I recommend this kind of record book or portfolio of work as a habit from the beginning or as soon as now. I found it was an invaluable resource when it came to eclectic homeschooling and transcripts.

What do I do with these Digital Resources?

The more I shop for books, the more digital resources I find.

I like books. I like old books.My goofy kids seem to prefer printed material (isn’t this new generation supposed to love the digital formats? mine didn’t get the memo)  While we do literature on kindle when it is free- my kiddos FAR prefer printed material. So how to make it accessible and organized!?!

I have a lot of books to organize.I am also thrifty. I don’t want a lot of cost in printing and storing…and I also want to be able to sell the books I am finished with to another family- for their benefit and mine. What to do about homeschool digital resources….

Well here are some solutions I’ve found:

3-ring binders! I’ve come to the conclusion that not all 3-ring binders are equal. I ONLY collect the ones with a plastic pocket on the front and spine. Sure I’ve written on them in sharpie too but in the end It becomes obsolete and I end up tossing a perfectly usable item. I have copy paper boxes full of empty three ring binders I’ve been collecting:

  • Collect them from family members and office folks. Lots of times offices will be getting rid of them. Pick out the ones with plastic pockets and keep them. I keep them in all sizes.
  • garage sales- I’m not sure who would be getting rid of these (lol) but I buy them!
  • back -to -school sales. This is my last resort but sometimes they are reasonably priced in August.
  • thrift shops. I always go by that shelf.

I print digital resources and put them in 3-ring binders. Sometimes by subject, sometimes each individual book. I print a cover and a spine!!

I like the little 1/4 inch ones. Many of my digital books will fit in them, take up less space and be a nice hard cover book.

I like the thicker ones for multiple resources- we have one titled CIVICS and one titled ECONOMICS.

Report Binders! I started collecting these awhile ago too, but it had more to do with 4H projects and scholarship applications. But you know what? many digital resource print-outs fit in them AND I can sharpie a title on the spine. I also use these to organize things like “Alternatives to Book Reports”- print outs from blogs and Pins!

I’ve picked up quite a few of these at garage sales too, but if you watch you can pick these up very reasonably in August back-to-school sales. Specifically for me I’ve found them at Menards (yes the lumberyard! they were .33 a three pack. I bought a box full!), Walgreens, and Dollar Tree.

comb binding machine Okay I’m still on the hunt for one of these. I’ve priced them and I can buy a LOT of 3-ring binders for what it costs to buy one of these babies, but I’m still looking for one! If you have access to one. I’d use it. I’ve heard it suggested too that you, as a homeschooler, can have access (in most cases) to your area education agency. ( or is that just an Iowa thing?? not sure. check!) You can also have things bound at your local print center. For now I’m using 3-ring binders and report covers 😉 LMK if you have  a comb-binding machine to sell really cheap LOL

Save for later! I follow and have for years. I’ve just ‘found’ all kinds of files I’ve saved before I ever knew I needed them. It has been exciting to find just what I needed in my own computer files! FREE!!! I make folders in subject areas and save to computer and external hard drive.

Digital media readers If you have phones, ipods and tablets available and your kids enjoy using them- load them full of digital resources.

Spreadsheets I read of a mom that keeps youtube videos and channels on a spreadsheet for easy access. I don’t have any experience with this yet, but I think it sounds like a very promising idea!

Folders? Another thrifty idea I’ve used, but since abandoned is pocket folders with the 3 hole punch clips (I’m sure there is a real name for these anyone?) I used to use these in a color code system- orange was art, blue was social studies…. in the end it was a lot of sifting through to see what I had. The three-ring binders made real books that fit nicely on my shelves and had a readable spine. But the folders have enough merit to share the idea- after all in August you can but them for about less than $ .10 each! 😉

PRINTING SUGGESTIONS– in the end, my kids prefer printed copies. So, I weigh the cost of printing when i purchase digital resources, but I print them! In this way, I also believe that if I have printed ONCE, used it and am done with it, I am perfectly legal in selling this at rock bottom garage sale prices to another family same as any other book.

  • I print front and back to save paper
  • I print in ‘draft’ quality to save ink. I haven’t found that it is any less readable than a higher quality print. I’m very happy with it and continue to print almost everything that way. color too.
  • look through the digital file before printing. If it contains 4 pages of full color advertisements at the end- print pages x-y and don’t print the advertising pages (yes I’m talking you you currclick!) I do suggest printing the cover- in all of it’s color. It makes a nice cover on your three-ring binder or report binder

Please let me know how you manage your digital resources!

Some of my favorite digital resource sites: (seasonal)

also…kindle and







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. :/



Isn’t it expensive to buy all those books?

It could be I guess. But, not the way I do it. 😉


I am a thrift shopper. I love to stop by the Goodwill or Salvation Army. Do you know what books cost there? $.98.

I shop Amazon Marketplace, Thrift books, is one of my favorite sites. You’ll find several books in my basket at any given time if you were to look. Often the books I want – are EXACTLY what I’m looking for AND around $3.50 shipped. (and did you know that you can use ebates with abebooks? If you don’t have an account, sign up here )

I love shopping my homeschool convention’s used book sale. I’ve learned over the years that if I seek specific curriculum, I don’t often find it, or I’m not very excited about the price. We pay a lot for that boxed stuff and we want some of that money back. I’ve learned that a ton of homes will be selling their books- living books for $1-$4 each. I can but a lot of them before I reach the used cost of $40 for a (used) boxed curriculum.

I follow Facebook sites with homeschool materials for sale.  They often post of local homeschool group sales. I shop the books the library is discarding.

I BORROW!! from friends. from the library. “Hey, I’m looking at economics for next year. Do you have any resources on that? Will you be using them next year?….”

I follow homeschool mom blogs! They offer reviews! They offer printables! They offer lesson plans and ideas!  I follow them on Facebook. (Okay I spend way too much time checking out what they post next but I glean some amazing ideas!) which is why I offer a Facebook page to follow me here!

I love looking up sites that use living books because they’ve found books they love to share. I can look for those specifically. I love just shopping through a garage sale or thrift store because everyone has a few great books. I collect them. I find that over time- either I’ve been seeking science or biology or ancient Egypt or whatever has been on my mind and I will soon have enough resources to assign them to my kiddos. has great book lists.

Tapestry of Grace and Sonlight has great book lists!

Eva Varga has some neat resources available for free and for purchase.

used curriculum can be found at

has free resources and links every day of the school year. I found that some books I’d downloaded years ago were the exact books I had in my Amazon shopping cart! Woo hoo!!!


Please check out my living books curricula, or check out my post on how to write your own.

share your ideas with me!