Weekly Wrap-Up

Weekly Wrap-UpWe really had a great family-focused weekend last weekend. On Saturday, the kids went out into the woods with Dad to mark the maple trees for easier identification this winter when they head out to tap them. We’re licking our chops just thinking about our own homemade maple syrup.
marking maple trees, Saturday with Dad

It’s chilly in the woods in October!

Sunday afternoon included a trip to our favorite produce stand to purchase pumpkins and pose for some photo ops.
Sandals? Really??

Sandals? Really??

Late Sunday afternoon included the Family Fall Fest with our church family. We enjoyed a hayride and a pumpkin decorating contest, but the highlight was that my 13-year-old daughter and I both got to spend time cuddling one of our favorite babies.
Annie with Charlotte, baby love

Oh, my heart.

All of this family-togetherness really made me long for my older “kids” (who are now adults). My eyes leaked a little as I was wishing for them to be with us.

So, it was a wonderful fall weekend. Then came Monday. And Monday was bad. This mom thought that after such a fun weekend, no one would mind getting back to the books. Instead, they were dragging. No one wanted to get started. I was grouchy because it was my one day out of the week that I didn’t have outside commitments and could focus on these two every second of they day (if needed) and hit some of the skipped subjects … but instead, they balked and whined, and I yelled, and they cried, and Dad wished he could disappear. I got to the end of the day wishing that I could really, truly, seriously, honestly have a do-over on the day.

On Tuesday, Andrew had a bracket from his braces fall off. Annie had a horse riding lesson. And I had to be at work at the library at 4:30.

Wednesday is the day we meet our socialization requirements. šŸ˜‰ The kids go to a weekly art class at a local studio with other homeschoolers. Then we spent the rest of the day with friends, before heading to the church for youth group with more friends. Too bad we’re such hermits, huh?

On Thursday, we have more socialization, phys. ed., and music in the form of a middle school girls’ horse riding group, and practice for the church Christmas musical.

When do we ever get school work done?!?

It seems the more relaxed I am about getting the book work done, the more book work gets done. Interesting dichotomy, no?

We try to push through the school work either in the mornings before we leave the house, or we do it later, when we return. Dad works afternoons/evenings, so we don’t have to be done before dinner time.

Friday was more like what I expected from Monday. They still did a good amount of Xboxing and Trampoline jumping, but we also got through a fair amount of bookwork with better attitudes than Monday, I got a nap, and then we had an exciting night. The kids got to watch an amazing illusionist (the new-fangled word for “magician”) and I got to babysit the illusionist’s baby girl!

So, I bookended my week with baby-cuddling and it doesn’t get much better than that when your own babies are either grown-up or are middle schoolers. It’s not always about the bookwork, is it?


Books for Boys

Percy Jackson's Greek Gods, reluctant readers, books for boys, middle school, sixth grade, 6th grade, chapter books

My son is eleven and three-fourths and in the sixth grade. He enjoys reading, but has never been one to read huge tomes from cover to cover. It’s been a challenge for me (yes, even me, a library assistant in the Children’s Department) to find books at his grade level thatĀ interest him enough that he’ll want to finish them, and still just short enough that he’sĀ able to finish them.

He’s not a Harry Potter fan, and although he loves Rick Riordan’s series, he only wants to listen to them on CD at bedtime. Those fat books are just too much for him. (He could possibly have an issue with his eyes/brain, but we’ve never had him officially diagnosed beyond a screening, and so far he’s been capable of reading well enough to do whatever he needs to do. And he has excellent reading vocabulary, so I’m not worried. He just can’t read thick books with itty-bitty print at this point.)

I thought I’d take a moment to share a few books that have really been favorites for him in the hopes that these titles may inspire a deeper love for reading in other boys.

The first thing to know is that my sonĀ adoresĀ the Minecraft software and will happily open any book I hand him that has “Minecraft” in the title. Unfortunately, not all Minecraft books are worth the paper they’re printed on. Many are self-published by people taking advantage of the current obsession and the desire for chapter books that relate. However, we’ve found many to be lame attempts. They don’t stand up to literary standards in any way, shape, or form.

But, we haveĀ found several Minecraft chapter books that are high-quality and deserve a chance to intrigue and entertain your boys the way they have mine. By clicking on the pictures in this post, you will be redirected to the Amazon page for that book where you can read the reviews of others.*

Journey to a Different Dimension was so good, I actually wrote to the author requesting that he write more. Thankfully, he did just that, and we have book #2 …

I just ordered this today and can’t wait to surprise him with it!

AĀ coupleĀ other Minecraft books my son has read and approved of include these:


As I said, Rick Riordan’s books, as books, are a bit too much for this boy, but the stories themselves are what he enjoys. He listens to them on audio at bedtime every night. But then I came across this gem, a #1 bestseller! Although it’s physically big (over 12 x 9 inches), the print is also big, and it’s got glossy pages with gorgeous illustrations. And it’s got individual stories, so he only has to get through one story at a time. This book is “written by” one of Riordan’s most famous characters, Percy Jackson … a kid about the same age as mine. I bought it yesterday and am eager to read it myself!

When my guy is waiting for me to find another treasure for him, he still enjoys reading these shorter chapter books from publisher Focus on the Family. One of the benefits of these adventure books is that each tells a history story (fictionalized) with recurring characters, cousins Patrick and Beth, in each book. Geared to the 6 – 9 age range, they’re good, wholesome stories with some history facts thrown in for good measure. They’re an adventurous diversion that he always enjoys.

My guy has always had a great sense of humor, so we’re always on the lookout for funny stories. This gets tricky because I don’t necessarily want him reading certain stories that encourage kids to be disrespectful. However, I do a lot of reading on my own, so I don’t always have time to pre-read every chapter book he might get his hands on. Thankfully, I put the time in early on teaching him to read with a critical perspective, evaluating personalities and the actions of the characters. We did this early, while reading picture books together, so I’m confident now that he can do this as he reads his novels.

One of my son’s favorite humor series is the “Origami Yoda” series by Tom Angleberger. It’s a great series for the 8 – 12 age range, especially if they’re Star Wars fans! However, my son is not, and he still loves these books. This is another series that would make a great Christmas or birthday present and will keep them reading through the cold weather months.

This list is a great place to start if you’re looking for chapter books that are interesting, yet not too burdensome for either young readers or those with a reading challenge. If you’d like more ideas, give me a few details in the comments section and I’d be happy to be your own personal on-call librarian!

Happy reading and teaching, Friends!

*These are affiliate links, which means I get a teeny-tiny portion of the sale if you buy through the link. So far, I haven't earned a dimi, so don't worry that I'm getting rich over here by doing this. This is a look into the real Jane ... I love to share what we love, and give you an easy way to read reviews of what I'm recommending. If you happen to buy something, I'll get to do a happy dance someday!

A Homeschool New Year

Happy New Year! This is the day I’ve been waiting for … time for a fresh start. Time to plan for the second half of our school year, establish new routines, and figure out a rhythm that will work for us! I’m so excited!

As a family, we’re not all what I would call highly-disciplined. My husband is probably the most consistent of the group, but I happen to be very flexible with my schedule and my time, however, my kids have been homeschooled by me and have therefore learned my habits.

I’m the type who needs some alone time at the beginning of my day to get some caffeine pumping through my blood, some kind of printed words in front of my eyes and into my head, and quiet. My ideal day starts with my coffee, my bible, and a good chunk of quiet. More often than not, it starts with my son getting up before me, turning the noise box on for company, and the dogs asking to be let out of the crate … all before the coffee is done brewing.

As the totally unstructured days of the holiday break are quickly falling behind us and I’m craving some order in our life, I’m coming to the realization that we need to, again, establish some consistent routines … I need to work in time for our school work, chores, basketball, and my writing, reading, meetings, and the ever-present appointments that must be kept. We’d also like to make time to get to the Y for some exercise. I feel like it’s nearly impossible to work all of that in! But I’m giving it a good try.

To begin with, I finally got smart enough to realize I can’t do this myself. As my kids get older and more independent (and independent-minded!), I’m finding it harder to maintain command of our schedule and routines, so I finally figured out that I should talk to God about this. I prayed for His help, asking for guidance, support, and strength. Not long after, things began to come together in my brain.

Thankfully, we’ve already got our materials and books, so I don’t need to go down that road right now. I can focus strictly on what needs to be accomplished and what time is available to do that.

After prayer, I turned to *a great planner created by Erica at Confessions of a Homeschooler.Ā She’s offering the one I’m using (Arrows) for free in the month of January, although she has created some others that might be more appealing to you for only $5 each! That’s a huge bargain compared to anything you can buy in the stores, and it includes TONS of homeschool forms that will help you throughout the year. Plus, it’s all downloadable … no need to run to the store before getting started, and you only have to print what you’ll actually use. (For instance, I use a different Notice of Intent form, so I won’t print that.)

Confession of a Homeschooler Lesson Planner Arrows

Arrows Planner from Confessions of a Homeschooler

After downloading this planner, I made a quick list of the subjects we need to cover, added “chores” and “YMCA” to the list, and printed just one copy of the page called “Weekly Schedule Overview.” This page has hourly time slots for each weekday. Then I penciled in our meals (we aren’t even consistent on mealtimes, for goodness sake, and I often forget that we haven’t eaten yet!), our scheduled basketball practices, piano lessons, church activities, and the weekly bible study I attend.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten so far. Since the kids are still on their “break,” I didn’t want to sit and talk with them quite yet. However, I’ve now done the beginnings of my part, and my next step is to pull them in and start a discussion about time management. We’ll reflect on how our time is currently being wasted, what our goals are for the next five months (my oldest daughter is getting married at the beginning of June so our school year will end in May this year), and how our schedule can work with “who we are.” We don’t need down-to-the-minute planning, but we need to establish routines that work within the time frame created by our outside commitments.

After our little talk, I’ll let them help me figure out what times would be best for each subject … would math be better in the morning or afternoon, and why?Ā We’ll pencil everything in so we can erase and move things as needed until we find something that works.

Once we start, I intend to keep track of how well we do. I don’t expect that we’ll hit everything all the time, but if we’re making an acceptable amount of progress (guidelines set by my husband and I), settling into a rhythm and routine, and I’m not missing any appointments, I’ll consider it a success.

I’m so excited to get back to “normal” around here and have enough time set aside for all we need to do!

Have you already found a system that works well for your family or are you starting fresh with the new year, too? Please click on the little conversation bubble at the top of this post (by the title) and share your own story. Let’s learn from each other.

*I am in no way affiliated with Erica other than being a fan of her writing and her creations. I am not being compensated for writing this … I’m just sharing what I’m using and what I like. šŸ™‚