Monday, January 20, 2020

Morning Basket for MFW ECC

In my last post I shared what changes we're making to our core curriculum as we cycle back around and repeat Exploring Countries and Cultures from My Father's World. Now I'd like to share how we're organizing our day with a "morning basket."

My kids are three years apart in age. From the time the youngest was in kindergarten to now, we have always done school together. Even when they were working on independent lessons, I'd have one kid on the right doing math and one kid on the left doing other math. But partway through our last school year, my eldest up and left us. Without consultant me, she apparently decided that she preferred the solitude of her own bedroom for her independent lessons. In fact, she started even taking some of our group work off on her own to complete independently! (The nerve!)

So, we've made some adjustments. As much as I miss the togetherness of our younger years, this new style has its benefits.  For one thing, it allows me to spend more one-on-one time with my younger child who can often be overwhelmed by his big sister's large personality.  It also allows us to get through his work more quickly since my attention is not divided between his-and-her assignments.

This year instead of eating breakfast together and then heading downstairs to start our school day, I put together a basket of things to keep in the living room where they are accessible. Once the kids come together for breakfast, they are now "stuck" with me for the next hour or so while we work together on a handful of lessons before letting them split off to do their own thing. Even though I have half a dozen subjects in the basket, each day we will only work on 2 or 3 of them.

What is in our Morning Basket?


The heart of our Bible lessons this year will be an in-depth study of the book of Matthew. I am following the progression and reading breakdown of Matthew as scheduled by My Father's World, but we will be taking it at our own pace which may go beyond the expected 34 weeks. Instead of just reading the passage, I am preparing a series of Bible study questions that will take us verse by verse through the entire book.  I bought each of us a gorgeous Illuminated Scripture Journal containing the whole book of Matthew with pages for taking notes opposite each page of Bible text. I am hoping this will encourage the kids to record their insights and discoveries during the course of our study.

God Speaks Numanggang will not stay in the morning basket all year since we read it in one sitting, but Window on the World will be used weekly.


Maps & Globes will be used for the first several weeks of our school year, and after that we will be using the Geography Game weekly. I did not include Geography from A to Z in the basket though because each kid will be working on those assignments independently. I made sure to schedule them for the kids on different days though since I only have one copy of the book.  In addition to what MFW schedules, I'm adding Draw the USA by Kristin J. Draeger and the others in that series as we progress in our studies. These are either going to be a big hit with the kids or a total flop. Time will tell! Not pictured, but our Classroom Atlas from Rand McNally will also stay in the morning basket most of the year.


Both kids have portions of science that are independent, but our Properties of Ecosystems readings and worksheets are going to be done together.  I adore this book that teaches ecology from a Biblical worldview, and I am very much looking forward to going through it again. I'm sure it will open up some great discussions with my kids!


Usually before the kids are even finished with their breakfast, I'm already sitting on the couch reading to them from our latest read-aloud. Right now it is The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. After that we plan to pick up with the next book in the Narnian Chronicles. We finished The Voyage of the Dawn Treader last fall, so we will read The Silver Chair next. I haven't decided what we will read after that, but my list of possibilities is near endless! At some point we will definitely add in Kingdom Tales, though probably not following the precise schedule that the ECC teacher's manual has it.

Foreign Language

My eldest is learning Japanese independently, but I have included our Tagalog flashcards in the morning basket so both kids can improve their knowledge of father's first language. (Nanay means mother, in case you were wondering).

Current Events

One item not pictured that will be going into our morning basket is World magazine from God's World News. I only recently subscribed, so we haven't gotten our first issue yet, but once it comes we will be reading and discussing articles at least once a week if not more.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

MFW ECC: What's different this time around?

I am so excited to go through Exploring Countries and Cultures again. The last time my kids were so little -- 3rd grade and Kindergarten. And now they are in 5th and 8th grades! They have grown so much over the past five years.

As I began to think about our plan for this year, I realized two things: 1) my gifted eldest child remembers just about everything we covered in ECC the first time, and 2) my younger one hasn't had many of the basics that ECC covers. So I was faced with a dilemma -- how do I adjust ECC to suit the very different needs of both children? How do I shift the focus for my 8th grader to aspects of ECC that she hadn't spent time on before (such as types of governments, imports and exports, etc.) while also taking my younger child through the more foundational information that he missed when he was just a kindergartener?  ECC is designed to be parent-led, family learning, with a supplement for 7th and 8th grade. But I came to the conclusion that I need to deconstruct it even further and divide up which lessons and assignments are suitable for each child. We will end up doing less together and more independently, but I think it will work out well in the end.

Imagine for a moment, sitting down with the ECC teacher's manual, a pair of scissors, and a glue stick. Cut apart each week and paste the assignments onto three separate sheets -- one for work we do together, one for independent work for my 8th grader, and one for my 5th grader (who will still require my involvement). That's essentially what I did, only I did it digitally instead of literally cutting up  my manual. I designed a lesson planner for the year that divided up every day's assignments into these three categories. I pruned, paired back, and simplified. I appointed certain tasks to one child alone, other tasks to both of them separately, and still others to be done together as a group. It was a lot of work! But now I feel confident that the needs of both children will be met and, Lord willing, our year should run smoothly.

In considering the interests and personalities of my children, I did some ruthless culling of the scheduled assignments in ECC. Some things I cut out entirely as depicted in the image above. Here's a brief summary.

Bible: I bought the newly released edition of Window on the World to replace the one we used last time through ECC. It was already dated then and with five more years of changes taking place in the world, I decided the upgrade was well deserved. The only changes to scheduling I did here was to update page numbers to match the new book, and revise some of the people group names (for example what was previously listed as Gypsies is now listed as Romani).

This time around we will be skipping Hero Tales and the accompanying character traits. They were wonderful for my eldest when we did ECC before, but she still remembers the stories well, and my youngest has heard many of them through other years of MFW by now as well.

The only other change we're doing for Bible is a more in depth study of the book of Matthew. I have been preparing study notes for the whole book, chapter by chapter, verse by verse to take the place of the scheduled readings. We will most likely progress at a slightly different pace as we dig deep into this gospel, but I am very excited about the prospect!

Supplemental Math: ECC is now sold with a Currency Kit, but when we bought it six years ago, that was not offered. If I already had it on hand, I might incorporate it somehow, but since I don't have it I didn't feel it was important to buy it. We do have the Fast Facts and have used them for quite a number of years. I don't think further math drill will be necessary for my 8th grader; and my 5th grader gets bogged down with the handwriting aspect of the Fast Facts, so he will be drilling facts using an app or flashcards or some other method(s).

Science: It was just the year before last that we went through a study of zoology in Exploration to 1850, so we will be minimizing that side of things this year and focusing more on the ecology side. Both kids will do the Properties of Ecosystems lessons, but only the 5th grader will do lessons from Living World Encyclopedia. My 8th grader will also be working on a high school level anatomy & physiology course from Master Books.

World Geography: Our first time through ECC we did not use the worksheets from Exploring World Geography since they were a bit advanced for my kiddos. This time, however, I have a copy for each child. But here's where I start to wander away from MFW a bit: I have added pages from several other geography workbooks in addition to the ones MFW sells. These are all available at Carson-Dellosa, but don't pay full price! They have several amazing sales throughout the year where you can get them for half price or less.

The Complete Book of Maps & Geography
Map Reading Skills
Discovering the World of Geography Grade 5-6
Discovering the World of Geography Grade 7-8
World Governments

Hands-On Activities and Crafts: When we did ECC before we went all in on the activities, crafts, and art projects. Border crossings, costumes, dances, songs, traditional drinks, whole meals, desserts, handicrafts, and more. It was so much fun! But my kids are older now and have no interest in all that. They're not so much into imaginative play and prefer to get their school work done so they can go do other things that interest them. And I'm okay with that! I'm so thankful that we did as much as we could our first time through.  So this time we'll skip the sticker flag book and the "border crossings" with passports to be stamped. We will use some pages from the two Trip Around the World books, but will likely skip most of the activities, projects, and recipes. (I consider Maps & Globes and Geography From A to Z to be a key part of our geography study, so those stay).

Art & Music: Dabbling in art and music is pretty much a way of life around here. Last time we took some of the chintzy projects and improved them with quality materials and techniques (an example being the Rosemaling project which directs you to paint a cardboard paper box, but we opted to use nice wooden boxes from the craft store). But this time those activities don't appeal to my kids as much, so we will be skipping both the Wee Sing songs and Global Art. We'll keep the origami book though...because who doesn't love a little origami now and then?

So that's the basic breakdown of what we're doing differently than our first time through ECC. In my next post, I'll share more about what else we're using this year and how I'm implementing the popular "morning basket" method.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

MFW 1850 to Modern Times: What I Did to Prepare

Happy Independence Day to my American readers! Although it is July 4th today, we actually began our current school year back in January. However, since I never got around to typing up what I did to prep for the year, and have had several inquiries about it recently, I figured today was as good as any to show you what I did!

Since my kids are getting older and are less taken by cutesy decorations, I didn't really do much in the way of posters or decorations in our homeschool space. A little negative space in the room has been nice this year!

I started off by separating the president and state pages from this year's pack of Student Sheets. Since we already started the 50 states and all the presidents last year in Exploration to 1850, I simply punched the ones for this year with my spiral binder and added them to the state and president books I made for the kids last year. Now each book is a complete set!

Next, I sat down with my teacher's manual and the Story of the World Activity Guide and made a long list of all the pages we would do this year. I ruthlessly pared down the possibilities. There's a lot in there, and I can't imagine anyone could ever do it all!  Then I printed out what we needed and collated them with the remainder of the Student Sheets from MFW. I spiral bound each set.

The State Flower and Bird cards were added to the card holder sheets I used last year, and I pinned the boxes of President Flash Cards to my bulletin board where they'll be just in reach.

All the rest of our books for 1850 to Modern Times were organized by subject into some magazine holders from Ikea and shelved nearby. These magazine holders have been in use about 3 years now, so they're starting to look a little battered, but they're so cheap and I just love how they help hold floppy books erect! Otherwise everything tends to slip, slide, and fall over when you take one item out.

Each kid has their own little desk with more magazine holders to keep their independent subjects tidy. My 8th grader has the most since she has a separate science in addition to the separate math and language arts.

For math, she has the text and a 3-subject spiral notebook. I picked 3-subject because it has room for lecture notes as well as her homework. I didn't like the suggestion of using a separate notebook for notes and assignments. That just means one more thing to try to keep track of!

For science I bought the notebooking journal that Apologia sells and a lab kit from Natures Workshop. Of course, just after we started our year, Apologia released a brand new edition of General Science. It looks amazing! And I'm a bit jealous that we couldn't get it before the start of our year.

For English this year we are using Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind, Vocabulary from Classical Roots, and Writing With Skill.  These are all pretty rigorous programs and we will end up only getting through half of the grammar and writing books this year.

I got two notebooks for English. The first is a 3-subject, wide ruled notebook for copying out vocabulary definitions, assigned copywork, and writing assignments that are not typed up on the computer. The second is a dotted grid notebook for diagramming sentences.

My youngest is still following MFW's math and language recommendations, so all he needed was a 3-subject spiral notebook to do his written assignments from Language Lessons for Today, and the occasional textbook assignments in Singapore Math.  Rather than have him doing his copywork lessons in the spiral as well, I used a handwriting worksheet generator to create a copywork book for him with all our Bible verses and passages from We Choose Virtues.

And that's about it! The biggest task this year was getting the Story of the World Activity Guide pages sifted through, printed, and bound.  I hope this helps a little for those of you prepping to begin 1850 to Modern Times soon!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Exciting High School Electives

I fell down a rabbit hole last night. Does that ever happen to you? You're innocently poking around the internet and the next thing you know you're hours deep with 15 browser tabs open researching something. 

What was I researching, you ask? 

High school electives. 

Yes, my eldest is only in sixth grade this year, but I've been working on making some curriculum choices for her for next year. Since next year will be her seventh grade year, and seventh grade leads to eight grade which leads to high school, you begin to see how this all happened.  High school is a whole different ball game where each year is tied to the others with a whole progressive course of study to be plotted out!

So, down the rabbit hole I went.

And I made some exciting discoveries! Not only did I sketch out a basic plan for my kids' high school years -- an endeavor made supremely easy by My Father's World -- but I discovered some really fun elective programs available to homeschoolers. At this point, I have absolutely no idea what my kids will be interested in for electives, so my gleanings are purely inspired by things I, myself, think are interesting or would like to present as options to my kids. Whether or not some of them are practical options from a financial standpoint remains to be seen as well. But, I figured since I was already meandering down that path, I might as well throw some links together and share my findings.

To start off, HSLDA has a list of 84 elective courses to consider. This list is by no means comprehensive, but it has some good ideas to get you thinking.

Foreign language is, in my opinion, one of the most important electives. So I looked at a lot of Spanish programs suitable for high school. Most of them, especially the ones involving a live video chat, are far beyond my budget for a single class, but Breaking the Spanish Barrier looks very promising.

As much as I think Spanish would be the most useful foreign language for my kids to learn, I'm not sure they are as interested in that option themselves. In fact, I'm pretty sure at this point they'd rather study Japanese. For that, I discovered Japanese I at Georgia Virtual Learning. If Japanese isn't your thing, maybe look at their Chinese, Spanish, German, French, or Latin courses.

Boys and girls both could benefit from this Auto Upkeep course. Maybe I'll even rope Hubby into taking this one with us!

It would be a blast offering Forensic Science as an elective in our homeschool! Or maybe in a co-op setting using something like the Mystery of Lyle and Louise.

In my youth I had no idea how fascinated I would be by psychology as an adult. I'm quite enthralled by the idea of offering Sonlight's AP Psychology class. I want my kids to take this one just so I can take it too!

Other than designing your own program, because obviously that's a fabulous option too, have you run into any exciting elective courses out there?

Monday, January 22, 2018

MFW Exp to 1850: Weeks 1 & 2

Our first two weeks back to school have been slightly bumpy, but overall great! It's always tough transitioning from vacation mode back to a schedule and assigned tasks, even when you homeschool. On top of that, we had some frightfully frigid weather keeping us homebound more than is typical.

We started off our year with some back-to-school pictures. E insisted on donning his Viking costume since we were learning about Leif Eriksson on day 1.  I have found that costumes are one of the best ways to get my son engaged in what he is learning. The nice ones can be pricey, but if you shop costumes on Amazon when it's not close to Halloween, or check the clearance sales just after Halloween, you can usually get some good deals on historical types of costumes. 

Miss M was completely ready to begin our school year. She loves academics and appreciates the routine of our school days.  Our first two weeks were a bit of a light start with some subjects not being added in until Week 3. Miss M is excited to start Writing Strands: Intermediate and Vocabulary from Classical Roots in the coming week. E is not so thrilled to be starting cursive in Week 3, but I'm confident he'll survive.

On Fridays we meet up with another family using Exploration to 1850 to do some activities together. We sailed ships from Spain to the New World. I'm sorry to report that only the Pinta made it across as the NiƱa and the Santa Maria were not quite seaworthy. Care to guess which child managed to fashion a suitable ship from aluminum foil, a hunk of clay, and a bamboo skewer? (Hint: it was the only boy in the group).

Week 2 brought us to some national leaders of the 1500s and some exploration of the people who were in this great land before the arrival of Europeans. Miss M wisely asked why they don't get the credit for "discovering" America, and E was just happy to spend hours and hours in his makeshift teepee with a "campfire" to keep him company.

Ever since I first heard that we get to memorize the book of James in Exploration to 1850, I have been looking forward to it! We memorized James in my 7th grade Bible class and it was a great experience. The kids were a little unsure about the idea, but so far they've done great keeping up with the daily memory work and recitations. I am fully confident that they are capable and have high hopes for staying on track.

Miss M has really enjoyed the Draw Write Now books that go along with our studies. E isn't interested since they are "too cartoony," but he got really into our still life artwork from God and the History of Art in Week 2.  Even after homeschooling for 7 years, things like that still surprise me. I can never accurately predict how either child will respond to an activity like this. One loves it, the other hates it; one spends tons of time and effort, the other gives it a lick and a promise. I really just never know what to expect. But I was very pleased this time with the effort both children gave and more than that they both seemed to really enjoy it and asked to do it again some time. Score!

We are looking forward to moving out of the introductory weeks and into the full swing of things. We're also really glad that the major cold snap we had has broken and we've gotten some more humane temperatures lately.  February is right around the corner and experience has taught me that February is a brutal month for homeschoolers. I call it burnout month! We'll be taking two full weeks off in February to watch the Olympics and generally ride out some of the dull days of winter. Spring can never come fast enough.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Lego Zip Line STEM Challenge

Every so often I like to pose a STEM challenge to one or both of my kids. We've done some really fun challenges like building bridges strong enough to support 100 pennies with just 3 notecards and some tape.  I recently ran across a post where they used a clothesline and pulley to construct a Lego zip line.

Since the kids' nana had just recently given them a set of Classic Legos, this seemed right up E's alley.  And boy, was I right!

First we looked for a plastic clothesline pulley at Walmart, but they didn't have any. Then we went to a small local hardware store, but only found expensive metal ones. So we tried a big name hardware store and finally hit the jackpot!

Pulley: $2.38
Clothesline: $2.78

You could buy them on Amazon here and here, but they are more expensive there.

Next he had to build a platform and figure out how to attach it to the pulley.

Then he tested his contraption and discovered it arrived at its destination too forcefully. In fact, it smashed to smithereens!  So he contrived a way to slow and pad the landing by wrapping a paper towel around the clothesline a foot or so from the end. During this phase we had a lot of great discussions about angles, gravity, force, friction, tension, and construction stability.

Lastly he decided to add a mechanism to assist in pulling the zip cart back to the start. You could avoid this step if you anchor the higher end of the clothesline a bit lower, but ours was high enough that Mister E needs a stool to reach it.  He tied a piece of leather thong to the underside since that's what he had at hand.

Once the construction phase was complete, E played with his device for hours and hours on end. I was amazed with how long it held his attention.  He kept coming up with new treacherous scenarios for his Lego man to overcome.

If you give this challenge a try, find me on Facebook and share a picture! We'd love to see what you come up with.


Monday, January 15, 2018

He's Still Working on Me (FREE Printable Scripture Art)

He's still working on me
To make me what I need to be
It took Him just a week to make the moon and stars
The sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars
How loving and patient He must be
'Cause He's still workin' on me

This is a song I heard often growing up. I don't remember if my mom had it on a record or cassette or if she just sang it to us, but it's been on my mind a lot lately. (Listen here).

As my kids grow and develop, they hit stages where they really want to try out their newly discovered faculties. Sometimes this results in some pretty uncomfortable moments where they're each pushing at and picking on the other -- one to try out a newfound knowledge, the other rejecting input and desiring space to be their own person, etc.  It seems to be really hard for them to see each other as a work in progress rather than as an already complete -- and faulty -- individual.

In pondering our goals and focus for the new year, God laid it on my heart that we should strive to keep in mind the work He is doing in ourselves and in each other.  I chose Philippians 1:6 as our focus verse for the year.

"For I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus."

I want to keep this idea and specifically this verse always before us this year, so I created a big banner to post up on the wall in our school space. I also made smaller one-page size posters and put them throughout the house -- in the kids' rooms and the bathroom.

If you'd like to print one too, select one of the color schemes below to download the full page poster.