20160327_145726When it comes to ‘routine checkups’ Nathan visits a lot of medical staff. For instance, for his 5 year checkup he saw his pediatric nurse and pediatrician of course, but he also had a routine CF clinic appointment where he saw his CF nurse, nutritionist, CF social worker, pulmonology nurse, and pediatric pulmonologist/CF doctor. Now what is the big question everyone LOVES to ask a child who has recently turned 5? “Are you excited about Kindergarten?”

Now this is a harmless question, but for Nathan it has a more complicated answer.

K7A41153DEC2D5_1000814You see, we started what Nathan knew to be ‘Kindergarten’ when he was 3. He did the preschool activities that were done with all our daycare children, and about 3 days a week I’d sit down with him for 10-20 minute one-on-one lessons. We did this through his 4th birthday, until June. The goal was to learn to sit nicely at the table and follow instructions. We worked on little sheets about coloring this or that one, cutting out and ordering pictures, and started tracing large letters. We worked on recognition and fine motor skills. And we got as far as sounding out his first 3 letter words.

When the fall came I realized there were no more preschool things to teach him. So we started homeschool.

A visit to the green house to find some much needed, high commodity dirt in the middle of the winter.

A visit to the green house to find some much needed, high commodity dirt in the middle of the winter.

We had been calling it ‘Kindergarten,’ and indeed by this time there were not many more things in true kindergarten for Nathan to be learning either. I just picked up where he was learning and moved ahead. Long story short this put Nathan at age 4-and-a-half starting homeschool at the grade of about K-and-a-half. In-fact his math skills were really more at at a beginning grade 1 level. So what do you do with that? We called it ‘school.’

Now, fast forward to the end of the school year. Nathan is 5 and getting his routine checkups, visiting with all of these medical ‘friends,’ and what does he get asked over and over…. and over? “Are you excited about Kindergarten?”

Even with a little bit of prepping for this inevitable question, it’s a complicated answer. I suggested, “When asked what grade you are in, simply state that you’re homeschooled, so the grade levels are a little off. Perhaps share something about what you’ve been learning, or what you like learning most.”


Focusing really hard to draw a picture of Mars, as he had ‘just seen it’ while dressed up, pretending to be an astronaut in space. He’s winding down for the night with a good root beer.

So what does he reply to the first nurse? “We ran out of Kindergarten things to do so we’re doing school.”

Alright, that’s not so bad.

I simply fill in the the story a little more. I enjoy doing it because I’m really proud of the progress we’re making.

When the pediatrician asked, Nathan was a little more direct. “I already did Kindergarten,” and I again fill in the details.

Now, imagine the downward spiral happening by the time he has had this drawn-out, center of attention, Q&A session again with his CF nurse, pulmonology nurse, and social worker….

When it came time for his nutritionist to came in, she had been very specifically prompted by the other staff not to ask Mr. Nathan about starting Kindergarten. In fact, by the time he was asked that innocent little question by the previous staff member, he sternly replied by crossing his arms and frowning, refusing to talk at all. He was not going to talk about turning 5, not about school or homeschool, and certainly not about Kindergarten. It was just one of those funny little moments that are certainly unique to our peculiar family, and the young Mr. Nathan.


Exploring an old beaver lodge while out for a bike ride. We used a long stick, and compared to my height, some of the beaver’s hideaways were more than 6 foot deep into the bank.

So how did the year finish off? I think it went really well. As you may know from previous homeschool posts I chose Singapore for Math because Andrew and I decided that math was the one subject we wanted to challenge Nathan in the most. We want for him to be able to have the opportunity to achieve the most accomplishment in math before graduating, so he can have the best head start in life, since everything involves math in one way or another. The great thing about it though, is that Nathan really likes math (at this point anyway) and the challenge has been just the right amount. Both for him to learn to work things out, but also to be pushed a little ahead of the average skill set for his age. One of the things I would like to see when/if he goes off to college is for him to have covered some of the core math courses in high school so he can go in as a freshman (or even sophomore) with some credits under his belt. Singapore Math is designed to do just that with kids beginning to learn algebra by the end of grade school.

This wasn't part of our curriculum for the year, but after going to the 'Dino Lights' show at the theater we got to meet the performers and their light-up bird in person. There were definitely things to learn with this experience.

This wasn’t part of our curriculum for the year, but after going to the ‘Dino Lights’ show at the theater we got to meet the performers and their light-up bird in person. There were definitely things to learn with this experience.

So, long story short; there were a couple extra units I would have liked to have touched on by the end of this year, however I decided it was only fair for Nathan to get to end school when his closest friends, who are in public school, were getting out. Besides, I know that the subjects that get introduced at the end of school years (along with all they learned the previous year) get reviewed and then built on the next year. I’m really happy with what we accomplished, especially since he is just now 5. That is the other reason for not pushing to ‘finish the book.’ He is already way ahead and there is no reason to push for anything farther.

So starting next year I will get Singapore 2. We’ll use the review sections from the end of level 1 to decide where he is for level 2. If he’s somewhere in-between, fine. However, we may find that he is perfectly ready for level 2 with the extra reviews that are built in. I also saw that there are a lot of rote exercises in level 2, which duh, happens to be the next level of learning I wanted to see for Nathan to build on what he knows; the traditional vertical addition and subtraction. That is, after all, how subjects work from level to level building and adding to….Ok, enough about math.

Patiently waiting for the show to start at the Performing Arts Center.

Patiently waiting for ‘Scrap Arts’ to start at the Performing Arts Center.

Reading: We used Hooked on Phonics (HOP) for Nathan to learn to read. I like the reading practice in the work book, and their cute story books. Nathan was able to get through levels 1 and 2 this year. So he’s gotten through blends and digraphs, (ch, sh, th, wh…). It is, however, not his favorite subject. And how can you blame him? Although math is the same way when you aren’t’ enjoying it, learning to read is challenging. EVERY word is new and you have to sound it out; sooooouuuuuunnnnddddd eeeeeaaaaacccchhhhh wwwooorrrrddd ooouuuutttt. That is just boring. At least that’s what I think the issue is for Nathan, in not really enjoying it. Although I have all 5 boxes for HOP, I’m not going to make him suffer through them all. I’ve decided to check out some programs that have more creative ways of repeating those words over and over. (Since, like math, that is really what you’re doing to learn them) I think I’m going to use McRuffy.

I like that the pages are in color, they have D’nealian workbook options, and when you use their Spelling and Phonics together with their Reading and Language the spelling words (something I wanted for this year) are used repeatedly both in little worksheets and through the reading for the week, which varies in genre. I also like that handwriting will be right on there. This last year I made tracing and practice pages for him each day, but we never spent any time writing words. Would it be that 20160125_112512hard to create these things myself? Not really. But it would take a lot of time and certainly not be as stimulating for Nathan, and if I’m going to get him to enjoy reading, it needs to be creative and fun.

It looks like grade 1 should start him on learning the dipthongs (ee, oo, ou, ai, ea….) They also have the ‘cute little books,’ and I can still use/add the HOP books along with it. So I guess where some families want to use Math-U-See because it’s simple and fun and focuses on classical English using Latin and such, I am the opposite. And that is what homeschool is all about!


Watching the sled dogs at the start of the 2016 Iditarod Race.

So our last subject this school years was history/literature. It was a combined subject because I used a variety of books in different styles and genres to teach Nathan about the different parts, societies, and events in history. Knowing that Nathan was not going to be able to read anything decent for literature himself it would fall to me to read to him, and I felt that having a base about world history would be a great foundation for the other things we will learn as school (and life) goes on.

Using his tools to explore and old starter.

Using his tools to explore an old starter.

For instance, when you learn about space in science, when was the telescope invented? And when did Galileo live? What other things were happening around that time? Or Pythagorean theorem and it’s connection to the pyramids and ancient Egypt. We go to the airshow every other year, what is the difference between the biplanes or WWI and the Fighter planes of WWII?

Or these two from our own life: 1- We’re planning a trip to Paris. The Eiffel Tower is a main point of interest. When was it built? (That was actually the first point we plotted on our time line, and it wasn’t even a planned part of the curriculum, just an interesting fact to our family.)

2- I enjoyed watching M*A*S*H and Nathan would of course be catching parts of it, so the Korean War is listed on our time line.


We visit the fire station about 2 times a year. They are so great with the kids.

We visit the fire station about 2 times a year. They are so great with the kids.

So how did it go? We covered SO MANY parts of history this year! It started with lots of cultures and finding out what they invented, how they lived and what they ate, and how long those societies lasted. As we moved closer to modern times it turned into more about specific events or shorter time periods such as the various wars the US has been involved in.


A biplane we saw fly over while camping.

Because I cut our scheduled school year short by 2 weeks I covered the last 3 subjects more informally; the ’64 earthquake, the Exxon Oil Spill of ’89, and 9/11 (not all the political details, but more of a heroes story). I’d also like to touch on why conservation is important as a current event. It will go great along with our outdoor exploration this summer.


We kept prehistory simple, learning about Alaska Native traditions, then moved into China, Egypt, the Celts, and the Roman Empire with all of their many contributions to humanity. Jesus of course, has a special place on our timeline.


Vikings and Castles; classic fun things to learn. It was also interesting to see that China was just ‘truck’n on through’ with their red line. In fact, it wasn’t until 1912, that China ever changed its modus operandi.


What a time this was. We began filling in more and more events. Learning about the new inventions and how they changed our life was obviously interesting, but mostly we walked away seeing that again people were mistreating each other – but also people were helping each other, and often times at great cost.


Along with the Industrial Revolution there were lots of new vehicles introduced at this time, but also war and world conflict and how scary and sad it would have been to be a part of that. We learned that many or most of those countries are no longer enemies.


Here, we spent a lot of time discussing equal rights for all people, and to stand up for what is right through love, even if it isn’t easy.


There isn’t a whole lot on this one, but as we move along I will move the birthdays farther left and be able to add current events, such as this coming election.

So the real test for how the school year went: Is it whether we got through all scheduled curriculum? Is it about whether we did all the planned projects and field trips? Is it even about what marks you get? No.

Our final scores:

Math – Outstanding: We learned a lot, had enough of a challenge, and enjoyed the journey.

Reading – Satisfactory: Nathan did ‘outstanding,’ but I can see that we need to find a way to make it more enjoyable for him (and me) so I only get a ‘needs improvement’ mark.

Handwriting/Fine Motor – Outstanding: I never expected Nathan to write (he likes numbers best, of course) as well 20160130_134924as he does. Although we didn’t quite finish the alphabet in practice. We were also able to tap into drawing subjects and styles Nathan likes. I never expected 4/5 year-old Nathan to want to draw. (He’s just so busy bodied.)

History/Literature – Outstanding: Nathan sat through LOTS and LOTS of readings dutifully and with interest (most of the time) and we learned a few major themes that I had not expected (though they are quite obvious).

1- People are repeatedly mean to each other, treating others terribly!

2- People have also stood up for the underdog repeatedly, often at great cost.

3- People are able to withstand hardships we could never imagine.20160125_112317
Imagine that, the history lessons have all fallen on the subject of people. We have learned that we want to be part of that group of people who help others. We want to practice what Jesus taught and be a light to this world. Also, that God has given people great talents and that we can tap into those and do, be, and create great things.

I say for our first year of homeschool as a family we earned a solid A!
So we didn’t do as many projects as I had wanted. We didn’t do as much story writing (or any really) as I had desired. We didn’t enjoy doing every subject all the time.

However, we were diligent! We were cheerful learners! (I learned a TON also!) We are driven to be more Christ-like! We finished the school year strong!

So what now? I told Nathan we were done with school for the summer. 20160125_112639Instead we’re working through a Snap Circuits book with our school-age daycare friends, listening to chapter books, and exploring natural science with bug boxes and microscopes. That’s not school, right? *WINK*WINK*

UPDATED NOTE: As I was thinking over this post I wanted to reduce my own grade of success in that I really didn’t do as many projects as I may have hoped, but as the ones we did have come up in conversation I realized we really did more than I really remembered. The one area I really am dropping the ball would be on bible lessons. I had wanted to do weekly lessons and projects relating to a year round study of the God’s redemptive story… but that’s on top of homeschool. (Not that it isn’t the most important.) What I have found though is the number if times, unscripted, that I’ve been able to really get good ‘Jesus Stuff’ in there. For instance we watched ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ (the good ‘ole Disney one), and I was able to use it to explain how we are a light for those around us and how Jesus and love can [keep us from or] turn anyone from a major beast to a loving person…. so I renege my second-guessing and return myself (since I have that power) back to a passing grade. 🙂


Below is a video of our history time line. I should have moved a little slower, but the details can be seen in the pictures above. I just thought it might be nice to see how it fits into our ‘real life.’

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