Tag Archives: Homeschooling

Our Fifth Grade Curriculum: Grammar

I think this is the third year we have used the Easy Grammar System.  It’s about as dry as I am on a Sunday.  The black and white print stares at you like a gray, winter day.  Cut and dry like my grilled steak.  But, we all appreciate Easy Grammar’s conciseness, including my kids.  (My second daughter, in third grade, also uses the Easy Grammar System.)

It takes no prep work or reading ahead on my part.  Hallelujah.  Just turn the page and go.  Grammar takes about a mere 20 minutes a day, and we do it somewhere between three and four times each week, on average.

Many school subjects in our curriculum do not start and end with the traditional school schedule.  For example, math we are about 3/4 of the way through our book.  Spelling we just moved up to a new book.  And writing we are still at the beginning of a book.  I do not march my books and student assignments out at the beginning of the year, but I always periodically take measure of where we are at, what we are doing, and where we need to regroup.  In grammar, we pretty much follow a traditional year.

Grammar Choices

We use two texts from the same author, Wanda Phillips, for our grammar curriculum:

Easy Grammar: Grade 5 (teacher’s edition)

Daily Grams:  Grade 5 (teacher’s edition)

I will describe my take on them and how we use them below.  Please notice the student’s preference for gluten-free bread.  Too bad all curriculums (curricula) seem to like to make use of references to food.

Easy Grammar: Grade 5

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Easy Grammar: Grade 5 is the more traditional manual.  It succinctly explains grammatical concepts and then follows each concept with worksheets dedicated to that specific topic.  At the end of each unit are four “tests” you can use:  a practice unit review, a “real” unit test, a cumulative practice review, and a cumulative “real” test.  I do not all of these tests/reviews.  I pick and choose.  Sometimes we do the unit test.  Sometimes we do the cumulative test.  Sometimes we do both.  Generally, we do 3-4 pages of the manual’s worksheets a day, and we finish early in the school year (about 3/4 of the way through a traditional year).  After we finish this grammar book, we try to focus on writing more.

Please, it is important to note that there is a teacher’s manual and a student manual.  I buy the teacher’s manual for my daughter to use.  It is actually the teacher’s manual on the left side of the book and the student manual on the right.  The pages mirror each other–except the teacher’s side has a few extra teaching pointers and the worksheets have the answers filled in.  Make sense?  The answers to the student’s worksheets on the right side of the book are posted glaringly there on the left teacher’s side for the student to look at if they wish.  Obviously for some students, this just won’t work!  For some, it is no problem.  If it is problematic, you can buy the Easy Grammar Grade 5: Student Workbook for the student AND Easy Grammar: Grade 5 Teacher Edition to check their work and get teaching pointers.  Or, you can buy the teacher manual and make copies of all of the student worksheets and tests you want from the teacher’s manual.  However, if you hang your kids from the ceiling by their ears like I do for “cheating,” then maybe you can do what I do and just use the teacher’s manual.

Daily Grams: Grade 5

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Daily Grams:  Grade 5 is a workbook with 180 worksheets which build in a cumulative fashion.  It goes along with what is taught in the manual I discussed above.  Each worksheet has about 5-6 questions, and literally only takes five minutes (tops) to complete.  I like that one of the questions always requires the students to put together complex sentences.  I buy the Daily Grams:  Grade 5 Teacher Text, and this nicely places the answers at the end of the book (not like the main textbook I discussed first).  The Daily Grams Student Workbook does not come with answers.  Nine times out of ten I don’t need them, but it is getting to where I sometimes do!

If I happened to be really good at grammar, I could get by with just the Daily Grams and not even use the manual I first mentioned which teaches topics.  I could just teach the topics as they are encountered in the cumulative Daily Grams myself.  I be not that good.  So I buy the Easy Grammar text book with the answers AND the Daily Grams with the answers.

We do one or two Daily Grams pages each day we do grammar.  Sometimes I will pick and choose the questions they do, so they are not wasting time on material they know very well already.  We will finish the Daily Grams book on the traditional school year, but it takes us longer than the manual I first mentioned (Easy Grammar:  Grade 5).

One last thing I incorporate into Daily Grams is having them write the required sentence formation question in cursive.  That way they are frequently practicing cursive handwriting.


That’s it!  That’s our grammar!  Nobody paid for this review.  And I get no kick-backs.  It’s a sound grammar curriculum, but not pretty or exciting.  We will stick with it because I like its conciseness, thoroughness, and I really like Daily Grams.  I also like that I’m not needed too much.  In general, I’m not a good curriculum shopper, and this is working well for us.  If it’s not broke, I don’t look to fix it.  The enemy of good is better.  I feel like my kids will have a great grasp of grammar with The Easy Grammar System.

How about you?  Do you do formal grammar?  How’d you pick your text?  Does grammar take all year?  Do you do it every day?  Are you good at it?  Did you like it when you were a kids?


Play, The Abandoned Requirement of Childhood

A Gourmet Breakfast

Playing in mud

Mud. The friend of play and of white carpet.

I’d like to start our homeschooling school day at 8:30 in the morning.  But, geesh, after I make the gourmet breakfast of spinach quiche, almond flour toast, and poached pears with raspberry sauce, make all the beds, sort and fold up all of the laundry, call my mother, French-braid my daughters’ hair, have coffee with the friend who stopped by for a few minutes and read our daily devotions, it ends up being more like 9:45 in the morning or 10.  I’m a bit ashamed.  I know you all get this done, plus shovel the snow out of the driveway, and still start by 8:45.  Probably because you make your children help you with it.  I know.

I don’t make my children help me with all of this in the morning.  I should.  I know.  They’re going to grow up to be lazy mothers.  But, I get it all done myself so much more quickly if I just let them–

(Shhhh…Let’s whisper this word…I know there are neighbors watching out their windows to see if my kids do school…They’ll report me to the authorities if they see too much of this going on before noon…And then there’ll be a social worker knocking at my door and I’ll have to implement the emergency plan we have for this scenario…Don’t answer the door and pretend you don’t see them or hear them over the screaming baby and the roast cauliflower burning in the smoking oven.)–


At 7:30 in the morning, my kids are either up playing or reading.  Usually the older ones wake up reading, and the younger one soon wakes and begs them to PLAY.  (Shhh.)  And the ten-year old and the eight-year old soon jump right in to a game of Chuggle Monster, One-Two, Super Magic, or Hot Apple.  I’ve never heard of any of those games.  Have you?  Exactly.

Don’t Interrupt Successful Play

A child’s work is play.  Unstructured, honest to goodness play!  Play that does not include me.  I find it very hard to interrupt play time in the morning among my three daughters of different ages when they are getting along so well.  Learning to interact.  Compromising.  Getting along with all ages.  Using their imaginations.  Moving.  Spinning.  Sitting.  Creating.  So I let them play while I do all that cooking and cleaning.  My kids PLAY in the morning, and I let them.  A huge advantage to kids’ play is that you get so much done!  Ok.  Seriously, as much as I want to start school and get it finished early so I have some down time, I adore seeing my kids play.  More than anything, their play reassures me I’m raising happy kids.  At about 9:30 or 9:45 am we get around to doing math, grammar, and the works.

Play is More Than Play

Running up the stairs

No playing tag in the house.

It was Maria Montessori who said, “Play is the work of a child.”  It really is!  Without play, a child does not develop properly physically!  Last week I listened to two optometrists discuss how their optometry academies were recommending that children play outside for one hour a day to lessen nearsightedness!  And yesterday my sister sent me a link about children needing to play in order to help their body strength and vestibular systems to help lessen fidgeting, ADHD, and to promote learning:   Why so many kids can’t sit still in school today.  Do you laugh, cry, or fuss about how far away we have gotten from common sense when it comes to children?  Kids need to play (just like they need REAL food).  I’ve watched kids.  In many, physical strength is sub-par.  They can’t traverse a set of monkey bars.  They can’t climb a tree.

And think about it.  For all that must develop physically as a child, what must be developed socially and psychologically in childhood?  Sharing.  Caring.  Learning to stick up for yourself.  Learning to stick up for others.  Learning when to ask an adult for help.  Brainstorming.  Learning to amuse yourself when bored.  Learning to ask others to join you so you can have more fun.  Learning to ask others if you can join in.  Laughing.  Controlling anger.  I’ve found, you can learn a lot about a child by observing them interact with others in play.  Do you watch your child play with others?  I like to watch mine.  Are they leaders?  Followers?  Likable?  Not likable?  Boasters?  Shy?  Whiners?  Lazy?  Overbearing?  Sneaky?  Patient?  Kind?  Inclusive of all who want to play?

There is no substitute for child’s play.  Kids need to play.  Outside.  With other kids.  Without technology made to amuse them.  (Have you ever had a play date and the kids beg to watch TV or play a video game?  What in the heck?)  And organized sports don’t count in the younger ages.  Lots of kids are shoved into organized activities all year long.  Bad idea.  “Oh, sorry.  Johnny can’t come play because of soccer.”  Next month.  “Oh, sorry.  Johnny can’t come play because of basketball.”  Next month.  “Oh, sorry.  Johnny can’t come play because of baseball.”

Play makes messes.  It is loud.  It takes time away from the school day.  But I think learning how to play is one of the few things that are necessary to be learned in childhood.

Turn off the TV.  Take away the phone.  Put away the iPad.  Ban whatever the video games are called now from your home.  Put out some toys.  Some crafts. Even pillows and blankets are great fun.  Open the door and point to the swing set.  Encourage them to play.  Expect them to play.  Let them play.

Music and foreign languages may be easier to learn as children, but learning how to play tops them all.

I have two questions.  Do people think play has been abandoned?  (Or do they think all this increasing the school day length, decreasing recess time, and increasing organized activities is beneficial?)  And what else do you think is important to be learned at a young age and that may leave large gaps in psychology/emotions/spirituality if not taught or given?


Poorly Socialized Homeschooled Kids

Whistle Transparent

My seven-year old daughter is a poorly socialized homeschooled child.

Think back. Do you remember? Playing at recess when the shrill whistle blew? It shrieked, “Stop what you’re doing. Come get in line.”

At the soccer game the other night, the whistle blew. My daughter kept obviously playing while all the other girls shuffled over to the sidelines.

She doesn’t know the whistle means “STOP” and to file along with the other kids.

She’s a real competitor, and I have no doubt she’ll get it figured out.

My kids run the gamut of playmates–young to old–white Caucasian Americans to Puerto Rican–English to Spanish–doctor’s kids to farmer’s kids–athletic to artsy–Christian to Hindi.  But I can honestly say, “My kids lack socialization skills.”  And laugh.

They’ve got great interpersonal skills, but I am leaving it to the big world to teach them to get in line.  Don’t ask so many questions.  Stop when the whistle blows.

Anyone else watched as their kids “get socialized”?  How does it make you feel as a parent?  Sad?  Happy?  Deflated?  Irritated?

Happy Monday!  (So sorry I’m full of questions lately!)


In the draft bin: Butyrate/Short chain fatty acids as related to my Metametrix is still getting researched. This butyrate is fascinating stuff. Where have I been all of these years?


wpid-IMAG1179-1.jpgHere is the site I frequent the most at this point in our homeschooling.  I have a 9, 7, and 4-year-old.  The computer sits right there where we homeschool, and when we do timed math tests, I pull up “Online Stopwatch” and off we go!  Or when the house is a mess, a “countdown to clean” gets everybody pumping, too!


Have a great day!  Hope your kids are learning to their full capacity!


Our Homeschooling Summer School Rules


1.  1-2 days of Saxon Math worksheets and one day of flashcards required.

2.  Spanish lessons three times weekly are mandatory.  Twice with our tutor and once with Rosetta Stone.

3.  Piano with mom 3-5 times weekly, as her patience and stamina permit.

4.  Read whatever fiction books you want, but please be quiet and read.

5.  Playing with friends, aside from time with the Spanish teacher, comes first.  But whatever you do, don’t ask mom to play.  My mom never played with me, and I turned out fine.  And, PLEASE, play OUTSIDE.

6.  Enroll kids in lots of day camps so they’re learning, having fun, and I get a break.

7.  Sleep in as late as you want, but not so late you start cutting into my break time (day camp).

8.  No schoolwork when we go on vacation.

9.  Snacks are to be fresh fruits and vegetables.  Breakfast and lunch, too.

10.  Enjoy summer, go barefoot, be a kid.  Let me love and hug you as I watch you grow.  You are special.  And I am proud.

Looking Back Over Twenty Years

Twentieth Reunion

Last night I returned from a trip home for my 20th year high school class reunion.  Talk about painful fun.  No matter how comfortable you get in your own skin, walking amongst the ghostly memories of adolescence with people who lived them with you has an interesting effect.

Big Hair Days

Big Hair Days

People you loved, admired, and respected.  Or maybe not.  People you laughed with, laughed at, and who laughed at you. People you fought with and made up with.  People you wanted to beat and who wanted to beat you.  People who helped each other.  People who know where you’re coming from.  And whether you like it or not, these people shaped a lot of you in some way or another.

After the dinners, I was so excited to come home and tell my parents all about what Ben or Dave or Kyle was doing, and they listened.  But they weren’t nearly as enthusiastic as I was.  After putting four kids through school, they struggled to remember the faces and names that seem so clear to me:  “That was so long ago, Terri.”

Geesh.  Was it really?  I swear we all looked the same.  Talked the same.  Expressed ourselves the same way, only better.  Six hours one night, and eight hours the next, flew by, and I still didn’t get to talk to everyone like I wanted to.

I can conveniently omit whatever I want about myself when I go bravely into the big world; with these 88 people, I’m stuck.  But I don’t mind, and I’m not sure why.  Accountability?  Necessary humility?  Familiarity?  Don’t know, but I had a great time.  Just wish more of us could have showed up!

Twenty Year Later…Any Regrets

One theme of this blog is giving up a career for your kids.  As I journeyed to my reunion, I looked back at the twenty years–pharmacy school, medical school, residency, career, and now staying home.  Every minute was worth it, and I’d change very little, except the ability to have more confidence and to shed worry with more ease.

I am having a blast staying home with the kids, and for now, I don’t want to change it.  I don’t get bored.  Every irritation is a problem to be solved.

Clothes all over the floor?  Where can I put hampers to stop that.

Backtalk and hate stares?  How can I use more words to explain what I think and feel to prompt them to explain to me in a conversational voice what’s happening in their growing brains with words?

Math struggles?  How can I help?  What can I change?  The learning environment?  A new technique for long division?

Eating junk food?  How can I explain anti-nutrients and nutrients to them so they can look at food as “function” rather than taste alone?

Are they on the computer too much?  Perhaps I am, too, and I need to get off and read aloud to them or read a book to myself.

Am I feeling personally unfulfilled?  I try to pursue things I have wanted to do and never had time, like learn Spanish and understand piano theory better.  I don’t know how I became a nutrition learner and started this blog.  I never desired that.  Oh, well.

The kids are growing older, and I keep myself open to change.  People ask, “Do you think you’ll go back to work when the kids are older?”

Couldn’t tell you.  I am here today.  Twenty years ago I was there.  For now, we are content, and that’s all I ask.

Are you content?  Are there any creative ways you can find to get there if you’re not?

All the best, always–


Why We Homeschool

Nature walk leaf identification.

Nature walk leaf identification.

We are two medical doctors who planned on homeschooling before we even had kids, as soon as hopes of living close to my family faded away.  Whaa, whaa.  We are entering our fifth year, and we absolutely love it still.  I laugh when people say, “Well, I suppose you can go back to work when you put them in high school!”

Personally, I’m just biding my time here in this trying elementary school period.  I can’t wait for the good stuff:  trig, calculus, physiology, and chemistry!

“Put them in school…”  I don’t think so!  We’ve got a clause in our will about continuing homeschooling!

The list below doesn’t even begin to capture all the reasons we enjoy homeschooling, but it’s a start.

1.  For ease of travel planning.  Homeschooling allows us to schedule our trips without a fear of truancy or teaching our kids it’s okay to skip out on obligations.

Homeschooling allows us to up and leave whenever we want to go visit family in another state.  No begging partners to get spring break or Christmas vacation off.

2.  For foreign language introduction at a young age.  We’ve all read that language development occurs most easily in children, how learning

We got to observe this baby robin cracking out of its egg.

We got to observe this baby robin cracking out of its egg.

one language facilitates the brain’s ability to learn other languages, and how children who learn a language as a child don’t struggle with an accent.

I want to give my children the gift of language; Spanish is a part of our curriculum.  The ability to share with more people, gather ideas from more people, learn from more people, help more people, and read another culture’s literature is invaluable.

3.  For accelerating learning in areas of academic strength.  Homeschooling allows a parent to closely observe strengths and move ahead when indicated.  I closely observe each one of my children, like I used to observe the vital signs in my ICU patients, using all the clues to tell me what’s going well and what’s working.  There’s no boredom from unneeded repetition of already mastered material.  We plow onward.

4.  For decelerating progression and working on areas of academic weaknesses.  For one child of mine, there was a few years of angst when it “just wasn’t clicking.”  Slow in phonics, reading, handwriting, and poor concentration in math.

The glory was–I could slow down and wait. Take different approaches.  Look up or ask for help.  We found a great place called “Core” in Sumter, SC where they helped her with pencil grip and hand strength for handwriting.  Rather than force phonics and silent reading, I read aloud to her.  Her verbal understanding was [is] phenomenal.  Math, we continue to work on concentration.  Homeschooling shines when you’re a parent who takes interest in tailoring learning to each child.

Mandatory instrument learning prior to graduation.

Mandatory instrument learning prior to graduation.

5.  For socialization among people of all ages. It doesn’t make sense that society funnels kids of one age into a classroom of 30 kids with one adult.  At recess children are around 100 other kids just as silly as they are, with very minimal supervision.  On the other hand, at our homeschool functions, we have eighth graders teaching drawing to elementary school kids and fifth graders helping second graders arrange “electrons” in their proper orbitals in our once monthly chemistry class.  In our home, my 9 year-old learns to amuse my 4-year-old so I can teach my middle daughter.  At the grocery store, the girls interact with the cashier.  At nursing home visits, the kids make crafts with eighty year olds.  On Tuesday nights, they get to dance their hearts out with kids their age at ballet class.  On Friday mornings, us moms try to hold periodic coffees so the kids can play together and “get socialized.”  My kids are learning respect for ALL ages, young and old, and, I hope, learning that each person has a gift to teach us.

6.  To allow time for extra kinds of learning.

  • Sewing lessons (from an acquaintance)
  • Spanish lessons (from a tutor)
  • Drawing lessons from You Tube
  • Piano lessons, specializing in playing by ear and chords and scales (from mom–that’s me)
  • Gardening
  • Cooking
  • Specific delves into areas of history that they find fascinating
  • Nature walks
  • Arts and crafts of their own choosing

7.  To provide an atmosphere in which personality strengths and weaknesses are observed and molded, in a loving and caring fashion, without belittling, mocking, or teasing.  Here in my home, I hope to give the kids the tools they need to not be undermined by the world and what other people think about them.  We socialize enough that my kids have been made fun of, talked about, had hurt feelings, gotten angry, and been irritating.  But I am there.  I see it.  I help them acknowledge their role in the drama.  Or the fairness or unfairness of the other people.  Together we work to help them understand a little better what’s happening and how they’re feeling.

A craft one of the girls made up.

A craft one of the girls made up.

8.  To allow a diverse curriculum:  Spanish, Latin, poetry, art, piano, sewing, cooking, math, science, classical reading, intensive phonics, grammar, and so forth.

9.  To avoid the rat race of pick-up, drop-off, remembering lunches, remembering party days, remembering to bring home or take back books and homework.  School has a lot of unnecessary “busy-ness” which makes it pretty stressful for parents (and kids).  I really feel this gets minimized in homeschooling.  Recently I had to deal with having just one kid in preschool.  The snacks, “dress-up” days, field trips, and parties were difficult to keep up with.  I couldn’t even imagine having all three in school.

10.  To provide instruction in day-to-day habits, such as making beds, making lunch, sorting and folding laundry, and watering the garden.  Sad to say, I don’t think I ever did a load of laundry before I left my mom’s house.  For the first year of college, I was washing my clothes in Downy only.  I thought it was detergent.  A crying shame.

Dr. Seuss party.

Dr. Seuss party.

11.  To share the quality time of day together before we’re all exhausted in the evening. 

12.  For one of the biggest challenges in my life.  “What do you mean?” you ask.  E-mail me.

Mission statement:  To raise daughters who are physically, mentally, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy.