This homeschool gig with a first grader and preschooler? Probably the craziest and most challenging thing I’ve ever tried to pull off. The truth is, I think this gig requires a balance of both mad confidence and earnest doubt: confidence, because I have to be accountable to myself for every curriculum/lesson/environment/learning decision I make and therefore must believe wholeheartedly that I am able to make those decisions; and doubt, because I believe nothing (in any part of life) ever grows, evolves, or changes for the better without constant questioning about whether or not the things we believe or the choices we make are right. I am a two-feet-jumper into this pool and have to believe that doing my best and working my hardest will ultimately be enough for these babes.

Isn’t that just like all of motherhood in general, though?

Whether you are a homeschooling family or not, I think most mothers I know understand this feeling. We have to possess enough confidence to perform the role of a mother and yet have enough doubt to be adaptable and willing to let the process of having children shape our character and pound out our flaws right in front of us. We have to be able to meet our children halfway, often taking our own sense of self out of the way so that we can see them in all of their resplendence. That taking the sense of self out the way? Yeah, still working on that one.

It is a humbling process.

I wish I could say that we’ve fully worked out the kinks by this time in the year, but just today one of my children had a full-on tantrum right in the middle of the last thing we were going to do. It happens. For the love of Pete, please can’t we just finish? I almost whined myself. We have choir, dinner, baths, stories, and about a million other things to do… About 30 minutes later the child reappeared after resting in his/her room. It still wasn’t smooth sailing at this point, but we owned up to our weaknesses and worked it out.  Observing my own character struggle often to keep its patience helps to keep me grounded and realistic about what we’re doing here.

So we keep on. The rewarding moments outweigh the blips here and there. We believe in our McGaugh Academy and its vision. As I tell Katie almost daily, there is never, ever shame in not knowing something or in not doing something perfectly. Perfection is not honor. But really hard work and a good attitude is the basis for achieving any worthwhile honor.  We try our best.

Some highlights:


Apple-themed work: Katie read a nonfiction book about apples and completed a four square project about what she learned, and Eric listened to me read Apple Pie Tree and used it as the basis to complete a four square project about how the apple tree changes throughout the seasons. Same project process, age and standard-appropriate texts.


Eric had to sort “Bb” and “not Bb” objects as review before starting on “Cc” for the week.



Both kiddos, hard at work



Unit 2 in our science book is plant bio, so we took the opportunity to make prints with solar print paper. We’ve been talking about leaf shape, parts of plants and their functions, etc.



Katie scored 100% on her first spelling test. I decided to make up our own program, and we’ll see how it works out. I take some words from the National Spelling Bee list for first grade, some words from her reading/writing that need work, and I also give her a few Greek and Latin roots. I am a rather ardent believer in phonics and roots as the basis for literacy.



Caterpillar puzzle

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So, “Cc” is for “crab” also… I had a handprint caterpillar project all ready to go (I had planned to have Eric make a handprint project for all letters of the alphabet). Well, Mr. Eric informed me that he doesn’t feel like having paint on his hands anymore at the moment. So this crab was literally a last minute punt (which fortunately I had once seen on Pinterest). He painted it with a brush and we cut it out. I am now retooling all our alphabet projects to be non-handprint based. There are tons of cute projects out there, so that’s totally workable.



Sometimes when you are having a school break and your mommy is cleaning up/getting out the next activity, your sister dresses you up in her dress and throws you a tea party.







“Cc is for caterpillar” snack


Completing patterns made out of tessellations.




Using puff balls to make caterpillar bodies of various specific lengths (10, 5, 8, 3, etc).

One of Katie’s major assignments this week was Composition #2. We used Margaret Wise Brown’s The Important Book (a great resource, so ripe for so many different uses) as the basis for a descriptive mode writing piece. We have had this book for a few years and done a couple of things with it, but this assignment was much more rigorous…


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We spent time dissecting the prompt…



We took a day to brainstorm and then wrote the next day. I thought we might have to bring it through a second drafting process, and honestly, I almost had her do a second draft just to emphasize the process of writing. But her first draft was right on. We did tweak a couple of issues (hey, I see you, missing period!), but other than that… And I don’t want to burn her out on the writing process before she’s hardly even begun in her life. 😉

We’ve been working on “doubles” in math, as well as timed accuracy skills tests, and vertical addition.

In history, we have been studying the seven continents, four oceans, natural resources, cities/towns/suburbs, and map reading skills.

For English: proper nouns, “oa” and “ow” words, spelling words, fiction and nonfiction pieces out of her textbook with a plant theme, exclamation points and question marks, definition vs. example, almost-daily journal entries, her second composition (topic sentence, capitals, punctuation, spacing), Five in a Row (Giraffe That Walked to Paris), and more.

I am super excited this week to start on Wee Gillis and to do all the FIAR activities. I love that book, and we’ve got some cool science, art, and poetry to go with it. Plus, Scotland is so rich to explore culturally. We started it today (after reading it periodically this summer), and I am so happy we are rowing it for the next two weeks.

Katie will also be assessed on our history unit tomorrow, and I am excited for the opportunity to move on. (I mean, I love the continents and all, but…) Mostly I am eager because this will be the first week on our new schedule of alternating days/periods for our history and science material. We will continue with ELA/math daily, but I am going to switch up history and science so that they do not both happen on the same days. We just were not getting through our lesson plans until mid-afternoon (hard to run a house/make dinner/do anything but school), and when I looked at how we were zooming through the material I realized that at our current pace, we would be done with both subjects well before the end of the year with months to spare. There might be time/reason to speed Katie up later, but that isn’t what interests us right now. We want a first grader, and we want the luxury of time in order to supplement our core with other topics she is interested in right now. Art. A “baking class with Mommy” as she termed it. Current events (she has been having all kinds of questions about Syria). Chapter books like the original and translated Pinocchio (almost finished). Life skills of caring for our chickens. Time to explore FIAR topics more in depth. Part of the joy of homeschooling is time to pursue various passions/interests. So we’re evolving.



Taking care of our chickens



We have a new bucket for our scratch, one that Katie can reach. She has started to take over a bit more of the chicken chores this week.

And we of course continue to love soccer practice and games, so much a part of autumn. We adore our team. The team always stays a bit after practice to play at the park together for a few minutes. Katie and some of the other kiddos like to play chase. Oh gosh, I remember being in first grade and playing chase! Is she really at that stage now? It’s like a rite of passage, especially when the boys get involved. When I was in first grade at Friends Christian in Yorba Linda, we chased the boys at recess, pinned them to the ground, and kissed them. Oh yes, we did. My favorite boy to catch was Ethan R. Luckily Katie’s version of chase hasn’t quite reached that level yet…


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Go, Katie!

We also got to celebrate my mom’s birthday this weekend, but that would be a different post!

Happy learning to all, and to all a good night!