I’m Working on the Tree


Today Max excitedly ran up to me and said, “Mommy, mommy!  I’m building a treehouse!  Do you want to see what I have so far?”

“Sure!” I said.

He opened his hand to reveal an acorn that he picked up on our walk earlier.

“I’m working on the tree.” he said.

**The picture is the most recent I have of Max, who is most firmly planted in his own world.

Our Homeschool Curriculum 2016-2017

Is it just me, or is it bizarre for anyone else to type 2016-2017?  We live in the future, so where are our flying cars and robot housekeepers?

Sci-fi aside, we’re two weeks into our school year already!  Since everyone wants to know what everyone else is using, here’s my annual list of homeschool goodies.  It looks daunting, but I lump together students as much as I can to keep my sanity.

6th Grade:

  1. MathSingapore Math 6A and 6B; Singapore Math Intensive Practice
  2. Grammar/Composition/Vocabulary/Poetry– Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts Town Level
  3. Geography– The Story of David Livingstone; library books covering the Ambleside Online topics in geography grade 6; Spectrum Geography Grade 6; map work that coincides with history class
  4. Natural History/Science-Nature journaling; most of the books listed on Ambleside Online’s natural history and science 6th grade booklist. (I have him do oral narration after reading each chapter.) I’ll talk about experiments and lab work in a different post.
  5. Penmanship-Zaner Bloser cursive
  6. Latin-He takes Latin and our homeschool enrichment classes
  7. Religion-Following Christ from the Faith and Life series
  8. HistoryConnecting with History Volume 2
  9. ArtChild-size Masterpieces; art classes at homeschool enrichment
  10. Music-sacred choral singing at homeschool enrichment; At home we’re studying the music of St. Hildegard.
  11. Literature-The Wind in the Willows; The Black Cauldron; a book of his choosing
  12. SpellingAll About Spelling level 5

5th Grade:

  1. Math-Saxon 6/5
  2. Grammar/Composition/Vocabulary/Poetry-Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts Town Level
  3. Geography-DK Eyewitness Books: Wonders of the World; topics from Ambleside Online’s 5th grade geography list; Spectrum Grade 5; map work in history class
  4. Natural History/Science-nature journaling; booklist from Ambleside Online (He’s loving Madam How and Lady Why right now!)
  5. Penmanship-Zaner Bloser cursive
  6. LatinLatina Christiana
  7. Religion-Credo: I Believe from the Faith and Life series
  8. HistoryConnecting with History Volume 2
  9. ArtChild-Size Masterpieces; art classes at homeschool enrichment
  10. Music-same as 6th grader
  11. Literature-The Wind in the Willows; The Bronze Bow; something of his choice
  12. SpellingAll About Spelling level 5

3rd Grade:

  1. Math-Saxon 5/4
  2. Grammar/Composition/Vocabulary/Poetry-Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts Island Level
  3. GeographyPaddle to the Sea; Spectrum Geography Grade 3; map work with history
  4. Natural History/SciencePagoo; nature journaling; course at homeschool enrichment
  5. Penmanship-Zaner Bloser cursive
  6. LatinPrima Latina
  7. Religion-Our Life With Jesus from the Faith and Life series
  8. HistoryConnecting with History Volume 2
  9. ArtChild-Size Masterpieces; mosaics at homeschool enrichment
  10. Music-same as 6th and 5th graders
  11. Literature-Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh; Caddie Woodlawn; something of her choice (that is not Harry Potter for the billionth time)
  12. SpellingAll About Spelling level 3 (we’re halfway done, so we’ll switch to level 4 mid year)
  13. ReadingAll About Reading level 4

1st Grade

  1. Math-Saxon grade 2
  2. Grammar-slowly working through Emma Serl’s Primary Language Lessons just for fun
  3. GeographyPaddle to the Sea
  4. Penmanship-Zaner Bloser manuscript
  5. Religion-Our Heavenly Father from Faith and Life Series
  6. Science-nature journaling; The Burgess Bird Book for Children; lots of Magic School Bus books (with me updating information at times)
  7. Poetry-mostly Robert Louis Stevenson
  8. SpellingAll About Spelling level 1
  9. ReadingAll About Reading level 2
  10. Literature-We’re just having fun with this!  We’re reading Just So Stories, Charlotte’s Web, Aesop, The Hobbit, and tons more.  I also do little lap books on subjects like Johnny Appleseed or various Greek myths.

Pre-K Let me preface this by saying I normally don’t teach pre-k.  I think children learn plenty through play.  I don’t really get serious about school with a kid until they’re in 3rd grade.  I spend 1 hour a day tops with my k-2nd graders.  But my current pre-k kid begs and begs every day for school, so I relented a little.🙂

  1. Math-Saxon Kindergarten
  2. ReadingAll About Reading level 1
  3. Art-drawing on my hallway wall when I’m not looking
  4. Science-getting muddy and asking approximately 1 billion questions a day
  5. Poetry-mostly Stevenson He memorized Whole Duty of Children, but does not heed it.😉
  6. Spelling-asking me how to spell every word in the English language before I’ve even had my morning coffee

We also do a few other things such as read scripture, PE, handiworks (I usually let the kids pick what they want to learn), and I want to eventually start praying the little office.

To keep my brain from melting, I made one of the best homeschooling decisions in my life!  I now use Homeschool Planet from Homeschool Buyers Co-op.  The older kids have Kindle Fires that they use to check off each assignment as they finish.  They can even see what their current grade is.  We all love it!

And that’s our homeschool this year in a nutshell…a very big, chaotic nutshell.  I could really use that robot housekeeper right about now.

**This post contains affiliate links.  If you click on a link and make a purchase, my family earns a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Thank you for supporting my family!**

All About Reading Level 1 Second Edition Review

IMG_9021**I was given All About Reading Level 1 Second Edition free of charge in exchange for a review.  All opinions are my own.**

I’ve never really been one to mark “firsts”.  I don’t remember the dates of first steps, first solid foods, or first haircut.  The same cannot be said, however, for first story read.  That is a huge moment here at Casa Jones.  Well, Max, at 4 years old, read his first story after just a couple of lessons in All About Reading Level 1 Second Edition, All About Learning Press’ updated early reader program.

IMG_9022We are now 8 lessons in and Max already knows and is comfortable with the rhythm of this program.  The lessons alternate between learning phonics and reading stories.  Each lesson is fully scripted, so there is minimal prep time for the parent/teacher.  I did have to spend some time before starting lesson 1 prepping the flashcards and adding them to Max’s reading box, but that didn’t take much time at all.

The phonics lessons offer a gentle introduction of letter sounds and reading rules to our budding readers.  Phonics are introduced using flashcards then tiles.  Max loves using the magnetic tiles to blend words.  The tiles also make it easy for Max to identify the vowels (red tiles) vs. consonants (blue tiles).

There are a lot of tiles on my oil drip pan, but that is because my older kiddos are using more for upper levels All About Spelling and Reading.  Having this many tiles on the board doesn’t bother Max, but it may help struggling readers to have only one set of alphabet tiles.IMG_9024Each phonics lesson has fun, interactive activities to help the kids practice blending and to commit the phonics sounds to memory.  My kids all love the word flippers!  These lessons are short and sweet so the little ones don’t get overwhelmed.  This also allows me plenty of time to teach the other kids, especially since there is minimal prep time with each scripted lesson.  IMG_9027

The readers Run, Bug, Run, The Runt Pig, and Cobweb the Cat are full of cute stories that incorporate all phonics learned thus far.  I find that each story is just challenging enough to give Max confidence reading while stretching his abilities. Some lessons call for reading multiple stories, so I like to have Max read one story at a time throughout the day or even over a couple of days to avoid any frustration.  IMG_9028

Not only does each story have fun reading comprehension games, but the teacher’s manual has prompts so that I can guide Max to relating the stories to his own life and discuss any new vocabulary words.  There was one fun activity that taught Max how to read a sentence with a period then again with an exclamation mark.  I love teaching him how to read expressively at such an early stage!


And of course we have fantastic sticker charts!

So how does the second edition differ from the first?  Max is the third child to use All About Reading level 1 at our home.  I’m finding that the second edition has great improvements which gives me confidence that All About Learning Press will continue to improve each of their products.  There are four new lessons in this edition.  There are many new stories to give Max more reading practice and build his confidence.  This edition also had Max reading a story by the second lesson.  He was so, so proud!  So if you have the first edition from previous students and are wondering if you should purchase the second, I say it’s worth it for the extra stories and reading comprehension lessons alone!

One other great thing about All About Reading Level 1 is that it is self paced and has constant review.  Max is currently going through around 4 lessons a week, but he’ll easily be able to slow down if things get a little to challenging for him.  And I’m confident that by the time he completes the entire level, he’ll be able to read chapter books such as The Magic Treehouse series all by himself!

This is truly a program that can be used successfully with most students.  It is very thorough and leaves no gaps in teaching how to decode, blend, read with fluency, and much more.


The Calm After the Storm


My wonderful husband took care of most of the crazy kids today so I could cloister myself in our classroom to prepare for our school year starting in 1.5 weeks!  I spent the bulk of the day rearranging things, filling garbage bags, and writing lesson plans.IMG_8885

I kept looking at the mess of a room with bare walls, and with toys strewn about on the subfloor that we’ll someday cover with hardwood.  I know we’ll hit the ground running and not stop until next summer.  Most people would call this the calm before the storm.IMG_8886

But for me this is the calm after the storm.  After a hurricane of a summer…very hard third trimester, new baby, new job for the husband with a lot of travel…this is my calm.  There is such peace preparing this room and arranging things just so. There is such peace knowing I’ll get to spend so much time learning and growing with my children for yet another school year.IMG_8888

These aren’t just lesson plans I’m writing.  They’re plans to snuggle up on the sofa while we soak up C.S. Lewis’ wonderful words.  They’re plans to take a walk down by the creek to see how many different birds we can identify then sketch in our journals. And most importantly, they’re plans to sometimes just be still and know.IMG_8887

I thank God everyday for the gift of homeschooling and the time I get to spend with these seven sweet, wonderful, mighty, and loving souls.



Jack at his First Communion


You turned 10 yesterday.  There’s so much you have taught me over the past 10 years.  First, you are such a pious young man.  Your devotion to Jesus is something many adults aspire to.  Your love for the Catholic church inspires me.  You even have a pope name picked out “just in case” you ever get elected…Pope Patrick.

Warming up with Stella by the fire

You have such a tender spot in your heart for your younger siblings (most of the time).  I love that you always read to them, teach them things you think they may find interesting, give extra hugs and snuggles to the little ones, and that you set such a good example for them.  And it’s really been a joy to see the friendship you and your big brother are developing.

Lumber Jack

You are always willing to try new things be it splitting wood, learning a new sport, learning a new language, strapping on a pair of running shoes to see how far you can go, even trying your hand at sewing.  Maybe we can work on trying new foods now.🙂

Turtle watching

I love your curiosity.  Your thirst for knowledge makes it a dream to teach you.  A few months ago, you watched a tiny bug crawl around for almost an hour, then you took notes and drew pictures about all you observed.  I watched you out the window with the biggest smile on my face.  I love your patience and attention to detail.

10 candles!

When I asked you what you hoped to accomplish in your 10th year of life, you of course said you want to learn how to code Java so you can make Minecraft mods.  I have no doubt that you’ll do that.  But I know that you’ll also do so much more.  Can’t wait to see what this year brings for you!

-Love, Mom

Henry Edmund


Wee Henry Edmund joined us on June 27th at 7am weighing 7lbs 13oz.


He’s already been hugged countless times.


He’s already been held countless times.


And those sweet cheeks have already been kissed countless times.


We’re working on the napping countless times.

Information about his namesakes can be found here and here.

Lazy Days of Summer


When you homeschool it’s so easy to continue schooling throughout the summer even though you’ve technically covered all the course material for the school year.


This summer started out no differently for us.  I fully intended to have the kids do copywork, math, and a bit of poetry over the summer.  And of course reading.


So far, it’s not quite working out that way.  With all the rain we’ve had in Houston, there is an explosion in the toad population in our yard.  So the kids bolt out of the door every morning after breakfast to see how many they can catch before lunch.  Our oranges are growing well, so the kids check on them daily as well.


The blueberries are being eaten straight off the bush by the children and sometimes the birds.


There are plenty of flowers to be smelled and picked.  The kids keep planting more (with awesome seed bombs from Seedle) with the hope of luring more bees and butterflies to the yard.


And of course they’re doing all this barefoot, because why not?


This little gal (along with her mullet haircut) is becoming a pro at catching baby toads.


And there’s always a game of freeze tag going on in the cul de sac.


So while we aren’t doing any school work (except reading…a lot), I’m pretty sure the kids are getting a stellar education anyway.

How to Camp with Kids


  1.  Sit back in your camp chairs while the kids pitch the tent.


2. Lure the kids into the woods by telling them they’re going on a fun hiking trip with Daddy.


3. Lead them deep in the woods (don’t bring any bread crumbs!) then run away as fast as you can.  Unfortunately, these trails were well marked, so the kids eventually found us again.


4.  Allow the kids to play in the flesh-eating bacteria laden creek.  But don’t fret too much if they fall in because you can…


5. …air dry the kids in tree branches.


6.  Let them catch all the butterflies they like.  Then tell them the butterflies are venomous so you can sit back and laugh at the look of horror on your children’s faces.


7.  Finally, tuck them in.  But before you do, tell scary stories using creepy shadow puppets on the tent wall.  Nighty night kids!


All About Learning Press


I’m sure I’m not the only homeschooling mom who has changed curriculum more than once trying to find that perfect fit.  There is, however, one program that has been with us since the beginning…All About Learning Press.  I first found out about this wonderful program when Liam, my oldest, was in 1st grade.  He hated, hated workbooks, so I needed to find some way to teach him phonics and spelling that would keep his attention.  5 years later, and he still loves sitting down with me for spelling lessons!  To be honest, I’ve also learned more phonics rules and spelling tricks than I ever learned in elementary school.

For this school year, we just finished up All About Spelling (AAS) level 4 for the 5th and 4th graders, AAS level 2 for the 2nd grader, All About Reading (AAR) level 3 for the 2nd grader, AAR level 1 for the kindergartener, and AAR pre-reading for the 4 year old.  Now on to a little description of the different components…


First, I keep all the teacher’s manuals, student workbooks, and readers in one spot for easy access.  Some days I prepare ahead, but honestly most days I don’t have time to do so.  The teacher’s manuals are scripted and very easy to follow, so not much extra preparation is needed.  That is a HUGE help for me!

The readers for AAR have great stories!  They’re fun for me to listen to and really help the kids with inflection, etc.  And the activities with each story cover reading comprehension, which I love.

Another bonus is that only the activity books are consumable.  While the start up cost of this AAR and AAS may look daunting, it really gets cheaper as the years go by.

For instance, next school year I will purchase AAS level 5, but since I’ve already taught levels 1-4, I don’t have to purchase anything new for my children who are doing those levels. AAR is similar as well.  Next year Matthew will be doing AAR level 2.  I purchased that last year when Matilda was doing it, so the only thing I need to purchase for Matthew this year is his activity book.  Enough about cost, let’s get to the learning aspect!


The All About Spelling Student Packets come with word cards, phonics cards, sound cards, and key cards.  The key cards are my favorite!  These cards contain different phonics rules that I use with my kids like flashcards.  The kids really have fun reviewing these. All About Reading comes with phonics cards and word cards.  Having to use phonics cards with both AAR and AAS is a big help with having those sounds stick in the kids’ brains!  A teacher at our enrichment program even commented how Matilda really knows her phonics.  I store all of our cards in handy little boxes that you can purchase from All About Learning Press.  These are super sturdy and Liam’s is still kicking after 5 years.


Letter tiles!  This is our favorite part!  Each lesson in AAR and AAS has the children working with letter tiles.  In spelling, we go over a concept, then I have the kids spell words using that concept with the tiles.  This tactile lesson really helps them remember rules about dividing syllables, identifying types of syllables, identifying letter “teams”, and much more.  Teaching reading with the tiles is easy and fun as well.  My tiles are currently on an oil drip pan, yes the kind used in cars.  But I need to get a larger one to have more work space in the center.  I may upgrade to this larger one.


And finally sticker charts!  So simple, yet so effective!  This also helps me remember what lesson each of my children are on.🙂  Each level in AAR and AAS comes with themed stickers or you can use whatever you have on hand.  You can also download the charts straight from All About Learning Press.  Today my big boys finished level 4 of AAS.  Even though they’re preteens, they were super proud to put that final sticker on their chart!

How do I teach 5 kids all of these lessons without getting overwhelmed?  First, we do spelling only on Fridays.  Each lesson takes about 20 minutes max.  I do verbally quiz them through the week, sometimes even at the dinner table, to see what rules they can remember or how to spell a particular word. Also, to save me some time, Liam and Jack do spelling lessons together.

Reading is done twice a week.  My 4th and 5th graders are above AAR reading levels, so they don’t do it.  I use it only for 3rd grade and down.  Again these lessons are only about 20 minutes, including the fun activities that go with each one.

So between spelling and reading for 5 children, I spend about 2 1/2 hours total per week teaching.  While that seems like a short time for teaching reading and spelling, this program is really effective.  All of my children are strong readers and spellers, and I really owe it to All About Learning Press!

*This post contains affiliate links.  Thanks for supporting our family!*

Matilda’s First Communion


Saturday was her big day!  After preparing all year (all her life really), Matilda received Jesus for the first time.  She kept saying, “I can’t believe I can take the Eucharist now!”  Then she asked if we can go to daily Mass this week.


And of course we celebrated after with a party and lots of food!

“This is the wonderful truth, my dear friends: the Word, which became flesh two thousand years ago, is present today in the Eucharist.” -St. Pope John Paul II


And I tried oh so hard to finish her Icon before her Saturday, but I’m kinda a busy lady and didn’t get it done.  One day soon though!

*For those asking about her dress, I didn’t get a lot of pictures because of the hustle and bustle of the day and the rain.  I’ll take more later.  I made the dress using an Oliver + S Pattern, the Fairy Tale Dress with tulip capped sleeves.  I would have liked to use a different pattern like Garden Party from Oliver + S or Olivine from Clever Charlotte, but I let Matilda pick everything.  She did a great job I think!  The silk sash really made the dress!