Co-op for the Non Co-op

When it comes to homeschooling co-ops, it seems that homeschoolers either love them or despise them, there’s just no in between. I had often imagined the bliss of being able to team up with others whose strengths align with my weaknesses. In theory it seems to be the perfect set up. In reality it can be anything but a perfect set up.

Once I began homeschooling, I began to see the scheduling burden a co-op could become. I stayed away from them and being so far out of town, in a rural setting, it was easy to accomplish that goal.

I befriended local homeschooling families that shared my same co-op opinions. I imagine all of our children had different ideas about co-ops (with ideas of endless play dates), but it didn’t really matter. We supported each other in our homeschooling endeavors and were available to lean upon for advice.

Then, as innocently as possible, it happened…

It started as an opportunity to get together and do some art with the kids. We had a fabulous time and really enjoyed not just the time spent doing art, but the interaction between everyone was a delight! We continued… meeting weekly on Wednesdays for the bookmobile, lunch and art. By fall, our time was spent working through Astronomy and will soon include the Human Body.

And there are talks… talks about adding a music component to our weekly gatherings… come to find out, between us 3 adults there is talent and knowledge in piano, guitar, violin and flute… well, ok… truth be told, the knowledge is between 2 of the 3 and I’m not one of them. I guess I can teach music theory…

Co-ops come in all styles and we have just happened to find a way to create one that works well for us.

If you participate in any sort of homeschool co-op, tell us about it… what works? What doesn’t?


2016: Top Reviews

2016 was an outstanding homeschool year for us and our partnership with The Schoolhouse Review Crew made it an even greater success! We had the ability to review several homeschooling resources that we probably would not have had in our home otherwise.

A tremendous benefit of being a reviewer is that we often receive a whole curriculum or subscription in exchange for our time and effort in using the product and providing an honest review. Some products, although fantastic, may end up being shelved or become out-of-sight-out-of-mind. For us, these were typically set aside simply because they did not fit into our educational needs at the particular time. Several, however are incredible products that replaced previous curriculum altering our homeschool experience for the better.

Here are some of our top favorites – in no particular order:

Here to Help Learning (read my review)

I can not say enough about Here to Help Learning. This has been our primary writing program for both The Boy and Sweetness as well as one of two programs that we are now using for Bookworm Beauty. We are on our final assignment for Flight 1. We were blessed with a 1-year subscription as part of the review and it is coming to an end this month. The kids are so thrilled with this program that we will be purchasing the monthly subscription to continue working through Flight 2 and 3! Fortunately, it is a tremendously budget-friendly program providing access to the entire site for only $6.99 per month. It is a one-stop-writing-shop for a whole family, even at different writing levels! I have a feeling this is going to be a mainstay for us. Mrs. Mora is a tremendous teacher. Her and her hound dog, Captain Knucklehead, have basically become a part of our family.

Poetry Book – Owl Museum by The Boy
Poetry Book – Sports by Bookworm Beauty
Poetry Book – Adventures by Sweetness












Math-U-See – Pre Algebra, Gamma & Beta


Demme Learning’s Math-U-See Pre-Algebra Digital Packs (read my review)
Every homeschool needs a math program and without a doubt, this is the best program I have seen! Bookworm Beauty is only a few lessons away from completing Pre-Algebra and we will definitely be investing in Algebra I in the coming weeks. Math is made simple and concepts are quickly grasped. We were so impressed with Bookworm Beauty’s success that we switched both Sweetness and The Boy to Math-U-See’s Beta and Gamma programs.

One of the excellent activities – relative distance from the sun…


Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition (Read my Review)

What can be better than completing an amazing science curriculum? Completing it with friends of course! We have thoroughly enjoyed studying astronomy and fortunately for us, our dear friends already had the same curriculum ready to begin in August (during our review period). I purchased the additional student workbook (the review pack provided 2 of the 3 that I needed) and we have been steadily working through this program together. Apologia is topnotch in my book. We have even already acquired the Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology to commence as soon as we are done with Astronomy.


HEROES OF HISTORY Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Storybook Life (read my review)

This was one of those reviews that we were able to actually complete during our review period. Bookworm Beauty nearly devoured this, as well as all things Laura. She read and watched everything Laura Ingalls Wilder in 2016. Laura became such a huge part of our household that we actually planned a pioneer road trip as a result of her interest in the topic. I simply had to include this in our top reviews for 2016 because, well, it was about Laura Ingalls Wilder… and Bookworm Beauty loved studying about her through another person’s eyes.


Apologia Educational Ministries Writers in Residence Volume 1 (Apprentice) (read my review)

When I first started with The Schoolhouse Review Crew, I was struggling with teaching writing to the kids. It was a daily struggle. Here to Help Learning was one of our first reviews and we had wonderful success, immediately (as noted above). Shortly after, we received Writers in Residence. I was hesitant. I finally found a writing curriculum that was working for us and I really didn’t want to interrupt our momentum. I am so glad that I did! We continue to use both products with Bookworm Beauty. Volume 2 is supposed to be released in the near future… and we fully anticipate investing in it.


Second Grade Literature Guide Set by Memoria Press (read my review)

Sweetness is one of those kids that rises in the morning ready to absorb all that the day offers. It doesn’t matter what we are doing for the day, she is always positive and completes her work without complaint. It is a tremendous joy to have a child (and student) like this. I don’t always know for sure whether or not she really enjoys a particular subject because she greets them all with a willingness and excitement to learn. However, I know that she loves working through this literature program because I find her working through it on her own during non-school times! We have completed Little House in the Big Woods and are almost done with The Courage of Sarah Noble. We will be ordering student guides for The Boy next year.


Zonderkidz Faith Builders Bible (read my review)

The sign of a well-loved bible, according to The Boy, is duct tape… but when duct tape can not be found, any tape will suffice. This bible has definitely been well loved as it is held together by tape!  The Boy seems to always have it within an arms reach. I find him up late at night, wearing his head lamp under his blankets, reading. I see him carrying it to the table to work through Awanas verses. I watch him avidly duplicate pictures in the bible with his own Lego blocks. Nothing melts the heart faster than witnessing a child love the Word of God. (read my review)

This is by far the best one-stop-homeschool-resource-shop! There are hundreds of online classes available that can be browsed by grade or by subject. Whenever we discover a hole in our homeschooling boat, this is the first place we turn to locate a resource. I am amazed at how much this site has grown and changed in just the last year… and it keeps on growing. is a definite must-have tool in your homeschool toolbox!

There are more, these were just our top favorites. We love the enrichment that ArtAchieve (read my review), Zeezok Publishing LLC‘s Music Appreciation Book 1: for the Elementary Grades (read my review),  and High School Spanish II by Middlebury Interactive Languages (read my review)  has provided us. These have not become daily staples in our homeschool repertoire but we still use each of them periodically.

We also have to note that there were several review items that are not part of an on-going routine for us because they were short and sweet supplemental studies that we were able to actually complete during our review periods. These definitely need to be mentioned because each of these products were not only completed but enjoyed and appreciated. These include Many Nations a 4-week micro study on Native American nations by Homeschool Legacy (read my review), Mr. Popper’s Penguins E-Guide by Progeny Press (read my review), Book 1 of The 13 Series: The Glass Castle by Trisha White Priebe and Jerry B. Jenkins (read my review), Times Tales from The Trigger Memory Co. (read my review), Home School in the WoodsHistory Through the Ages Hands-On History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections (read my review) and the Appalachian Trail Unit Study (read my review).

Wow… after reviewing our reviews I am feeling accomplished. I just went through a year’s worth of memories. These products were each fantastic and we are thankful that they were part of our homeschool journey during 2016. We are well into the 2017 review race and are excited to see what we will get an opportunity to review this year. Stay tuned… better yet… start sharing your own homeschooling journey and come join the Schoolhouse Review Crew!


Look What the Cat Drug in!

I once heard a story told by my brother in law about a time that a fish fell out of the sky. Literally… fell out of the sky. We chuckled as he shared about how they thanked the Lord for the “manna” and cooked it up for dinner. God is the master provider and while it can be surmised that a bird lost its grip on the fish overhead they still give thanks to the Lord for His provision for dinner that night!

Late Monday night, we were unloading the groceries into the house when we noticed an odd shaped clump of dirt in the middle of the living room floor. We have animals… lots of animals… and I was hesitant to inspect the little pile for fear of what it just might consist of. Holding my breath (in case it was odorous) I cautiously inspected it. I even had to get a bit closer.

Woah! No way! It took a minute to fully register but lo and behold, that was not a clump of dirt but of an owl pellet! I had to withhold my laughter as I exclaimed “look what the cat drug in!”

After a thorough explanation of the humor in being able to give a literal meaning to the expression, I shared the pellet with the children.

The Boy, whom is currently obsessed with owls, was delighted at the realization that an owl pellet being found somewhere nearby indicates that there are owls in our midst.

I carefully wrapped the owl pellet in some tissue and put it away for an opportune time. The time came today when our dear friends came over for an astronomy-turned biology-lesson. Remembering the pellet we gathered all of the children around the kitchen island for a closer inspection. There was a few “ewws” but mostly the kids were simply fascinated!

I was fortunate to have some activity sheets saved for such an occasion that my mother in law used when she taught elementary school. One of these worksheets is a bone identification sheet. Set up with the sheet handy, we proceeded to dissect the pellet.

It’s always a pleasure to watch the personalities unfold before you when faced with unique things… such as non-digested owl vomit.

Bookworm Beauty was a little hesitant and quite expressionate as she pretended to hold back her own vomit, while Sweetness dug right in and dismantled the pellet, peeling back the dirt and fur to unveil the tiny little bones.

We sorted the bones the best we could and came to the conclusion that this pellet housed the remains of a bird.

Life on the prairie provides us with ample opportunity to learn about the world about us. We have been blessed with the ability to study many things and biology has become one of our favorite subjects simple for the opportunity to dissect and closely study nature.

While your cat may never drag in an owl pellet for you to dissect with your children, you can still enjoy a similar experience. There is a company out of Washington where owl pellets can be ordered, along with several educational resources and even a classroom owl pellet kit. I have a feeling we will be ordering pellets and enjoying this activity once again in the near future. Let me know if you anticipate the same… I’d love to hear what you discover in your pellet!

I Just Gotta…

It happens to me all of the time. I get a random thought and will talk myself out of doing it. I then ignore the same recurring thought (that’s no longer random) until I find myself doing it.

It never seems to be something simple either… like bake cookies. Nope. Never. If it has to do with baking, it is a desire to bake a homemade angel food cake or try my hand at macaroons.

I got the inkling last year to separate the girls’ bunk beds and make them into two separate loft beds – a task that took almost 9 months to fully complete – but it’s complete.

Bookworm Beauty’s loft bed
Sweetness’s loft bed













I got the inkling when I wanted to start a lasagna style garden. Yep, built that too.

For the record, not everything I decide to do starts with a random thought… there are many things that I am more purposeful about – like homeschooling – which we take pretty seriously.

My new random thought will however have an impact on our homeschooling and I just can’t shake it. Seriously, I gotta have this.

Are you ready???






Wait for it…

I just gotta build this table. I can already feel the space. I have already mentally organized  and set up the shelves with the kids’ school items. I almost have to walk around it when I walk through the room because I can see it in there!

I will keep you posted… I have a feeling this one will come to fruition a bit quicker than the loft beds did…