Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Duck and Friends: Dinosaur Bones by Donna McFarland (Early Reader Review)

"I originally ordered this book for my youngest daughter, an emerging reader. However, I laughed all the way through it myself, so I decided to bring it into my classroom and read it aloud to my 5th and 6th grade students. They all agreed that is is hilarious, and they profusely thanked me for sharing it with them. I agree with the other reviewer: this is not your typical dull early reader book. The content is fresh and imaginative, and adds spark and sparkle to a child's life. As a mom and as a teacher, that's just what I want to see in a book. We also loved Ms. McFarland's book for slightly older readers, The Purple Elephant."

That was my review on Amazon.  Here is a little more for my blog readers...

Truly, though this book is written at the 1st-2nd grade reading level, is not your typical basal primer reader with "See Dick run!  Puff, come down from the tree!"  Instead, you have the quirky duck pleading with the cows (who have been frightened by his T-Rex skeleton) to come down from the walnut tree.  He promised them cookies, "To go with your milk."  Then you have the chickens who, while attempting to paint Duck's new dinosaur museum, fall into paint cans, get sprayed clean with fire hoses so hard that their feathers fall off, and then wear sweaters knitted by the kindly alpacas who live on Duck's farm.

I loved this book, and I'm even more delighted because it was written by my childhood friend Donna (Gielow) McFarland, who is also the author of the just-as-delightful Purple Elephant.  You can read that review and interview here: The Purple Elephant and an Interview with Donna McFarland


Virginia Knowles

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Home School Day in the Life (2nd, 6th, 8th & 10th Grades)


My name is Virginia Knowles, and welcome to my Home School Day in the Life!   I'm linking up to Simple Home School's blog party on Friday. That's my big family in the picture above, including sons-in-law and grandsons, but I'm only home schooling four kids this year.

While you're here, take a peek at my free e-books on home schooling: The Real Life Home School Mom: It's a Life in ReVision <and> Common Sense Excellence: Faith-Filled Home Education for Preschool to 5th Grade (newly updated).  I also have five other blogs,,, (middle school), (high school and beyond) and  If you would like to subscribe to my monthly-ish e-magazine, you can send any e-mail to

This year, we are home schooling sons in 10th and 8th grades and daughters in 6th and 2nd grades.  We also have a 4th grade son in public school, a 12th grade daughter who is dual enrolling in a two year college as well as taking Florida Virtual School courses on-line, two other adult daughters who are university students but living at home, and two adult daughters who are married.  One of them has two young sons, and we're glad they live nearby.  We have been home schooling for over 20 years.  I say "we" instead of "I" because my husband has been an integral part of the educational process, especially in the upper grades and with paper work.  That paternal participation will have to be adjusted starting next week as he starts a full-time office job across town after working from home for over 10 years.

Our typical schedule varies by day of the week.  

On Mondays, we are in co-op classes from 9 AM until 3:45 PM.  The students have 90 minute classes in math, history, science, and English.  I assist in a 4th-6th grade history class and teach 5th-6th grade English.  I have to set aside several hours a week for lesson planning for the English class, where I cover grammar, literature, creative writing, and vocabulary/spelling.  While I use a variety of materials, our core resource this year is The Book of Virtues, which is a virtual virtuous treasury of stories and poems. I try to integrate many of the literature lessons with the time period and geographical region they are studying in The Mystery of History Volume 2 (Creation to Middle Ages) text they are using in history.   After our regular classes, we stay for Yearbook (10th grade) and Drama Club (6th grade), up to an extra 45 minutes.  We have been in this co-op with about 25 other families since 2006, with one year off.   

On Tuesdays - Fridays, our morning schedule for the five younger school age kids and I looks like this:

Around 7:30, I get up, eat breakfast, take a shower, and putter around, usually either reading or writing blogs. Our son who attends public school leaves before 8 and eats breakfast at school.  Sometimes I am up earlier if I can't sleep.

At 8:30, the other kids get up, eat breakfast, and get dressed while I continue to putter.

At 9:00, I spend an hour with my 2nd grader doing her co-op assignments (which are not that time-consuming) and reading good books to her.  Right now we are working our way through the Paddington Bear series.  She's great for a cuddle on the couch.

At 10:00, I spend an hour with my 6th grader doing history and literature.  It goes faster if we read it out loud and discuss it.  She writes out summaries of the history lessons every day, but we do the literature questions orally.  She does the writing assignments, language arts workbooks, science (Apologia Flying Creatures), and math on her own time with minimal help from me.  She's pretty spunky, and always a delight.

At 11:00, I spend more than an hour with my 10th grader doing history (Notgrass World History) and literature (just finished The Hobbit and now starting poetry).  He usually reads the chapters aloud to me, we discuss them, and he answers the comprehension questions orally or on the computer.  I have learned so much world history and classic literature this year!  I am so thankful for the opportunity to study along this way with my son, and I know he appreciates it, too.  My husband is in charge of his Algebra 2 and Apologia Chemistry assignments.

You may notice that I didn't schedule an hour for my 8th grade son.  He is a reliable independent learner and doesn't often need my help, though he asks for it when he does.  He's also really creative, so even most of his free time is spent learning, whether it is special effects video editing or nature study or whatever. My husband helps him with Pre-Algebra and Apologia Biology.

Around noon or so we eat lunch.  Usually everyone fixes their own, but my 12 year old daughter will sometimes fix something like macaroni and cheese for all of us.

Our afternoon/evening schedule is a bit more loose.  Yes, we work on academic school assignments until around 3 or so.  They also spend a lot of time on our computers and some watching TV. However, we are trying to get into a routine of going to the YMCA on Tuesday and Friday right after lunch, especially since they have home school PE on Tuesday.  We have to be home by the time my 4th grader gets back from school. I try to schedule all appointments for Thursday afternoons.  

Somewhere along the way the laundry and dishes get done (or not!) by some combination of adults and kids. Each of the five younger kids does an afternoon dish load during the week, and there is always a second or even third load in the evening.  Though we have basic organization for each room, we do tend to leave it a bit cluttered, especially with school books and papers.  Then, too, our big family has this funny little habit of eating lots of food, so it seems I'm at the grocery store two or three times a week refueling milk and such.

Speaking of food, I now interrupt this blog post because my 8th grade son just brought me a big bowl of fresh fruit salad with vanilla yogurt.  Yum.

Dinner is usually around 6:30, and after that we have free time, clean up, or more school work if not enough of that got finished earlier.  (I often help kids with school work in the evening and on weekends.)   The kids go to bed sometime between 9 PM and midnight, depending on their age and if something exciting is happening or not. 

So that's how we supposedly spend our days.  It rarely works out just like that, but you get the gist of it anyway.

You might also like a related post I wrote this morning: 

Who is the Proverbs 31 Woman? Not Me Yet!

What is your home school day like?

Virginia Knowles

P.S. This post will be linked at these other blog parties:

P.P.S. In case you missed my e-book, e-magazine and blog links at the top of this post, here's the rehash...


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