Sidewalk Homeschool

We were just settling down to start homeschool this morning when the doorbell rang. The fumigator was here (cockroaches keep wanting to make our kitchen their home) and ready to spray. Which meant we were ousted to the sidewalk for 15 minutes while he did his business.

Enter sidewalk homeschool. 

We did tic-tac-toe, a connect the dot game, and hangman.  Hunter found a pile of sight word cards and used them to help spell his “word.”  We may not finish all our planned work today but we still found a way to learn.

What our homeschool looks like these days

I had the best of intentions to continue homeschooling while we were in Washington for a few weeks.  Meh.  What’s that saying about the best of intentions?  Well, whatever it is we definitely lived up to it.  I think we maybe did three mornings of homeschool out of the almost 20 days we were there?  However, the kids were able to do so many other things that we don’t have available where we live that I think it made up for it.  Like spending four hours at the local children’s museum one morning.  Totally counts as homeschool in my book.


Settling back into life at home means settling back into our homeschool routine.  Here is what our homeschool life looks like these days.


Tuesday and Friday mornings are our big homeschool times.  Madison and Leah are both at the campus preschool all morning, so Hunter and I have about three hours to dedicate to learning.  Usually we spend about one and a half to two hours on school.  The majority of our structured homeschooling happens on these days.

Monday and Wednesday mornings we can usually sneak in a bit of homeschool (what I call ‘table time’) but with all three kids at home it is usually fast and focused.  Most of the learning that happens on these days leans towards the unschooling version, like long walks outside or art creations or building forts or Legos or MagnaTile empires.  Sidenote – this friend of mine and fellow homeschooling mama is my hero and inspiration when it comes to unschooling.  I wish I had the guts to embrace it like she does.  Also, those photos?!?!  Stunning.  Sometimes I wait until the afternoon when Leah is napping and the kids are in their Quiet Technology Time to steal Hunter away for fifteen minutes of work.

Thursday mornings have a completely different flavor as Madison attends preschool that day but Leah does not, so she is with Hunter and me in the mornings.  Also, I have a standing weekly meeting on Thursdays that starts at 11:00 AM, which means by the time we drop Madison at preschool at 9:30 AM, drive home, do work, and drive back to campus for said meeting, the morning has slipped away (even if we live two minutes from campus, it still take ten minutes to unload and load everyone and everything in the car).  A few months ago I decided to pack all of Hunter’s schoolwork up on Wednesday night, as well as snacks and toys for Leah.  We take everything with us to the campus on Thursday morning when we bring Madison to preschool, and the find a relatively quite place where we can put in at least forty-five minutes of school before I attend my meeting.  It usually works quite well, and Hunter gets to play on campus with his friends which he loves while I’m in the meeting.  Leah attends the meeting with me and charms the socks off everyone there. 🙂


Much like last year, we did not purchase a set of curriculum for Hunter’s first grade learning.  Instead, we’ve cobbled together various workbooks and activities that fit what he wants to learn, should learn, and is at his level of learning.  Some of the workbooks we use are:

Lest you think Hunter does all of these workbooks every day…never fear.  We have a rotation of what we work on each day and it’s very doable and appropriate for a first grader.


One of our favorite subjects is history because this book makes it come to life.  I had been eyeing Susan Wise Bauer’s works since before we started homeschooling last year.  We went pretty light on history during kindergarten and I wanted something that gave our kids a worldwide perspective of history, not the Western-centric one I remember learning in my early years of school.  I checked out a few discount book websites and was ecstatic when came through for the win.  I was able to purchase both the book and the activity workbook for less than the cost of only the book on other sites.  Happy dance!!!


Today we learned about the Indus Valley and how it compared to Mesopotamia in ancient times.  Even with my less-than-stellar drawing skills I was able to come up with a few pictures that represented what the story told about agriculture in this region, and as Hunter heard the words in the story he added the pictures to the map.

Reading makes up a significant portion of our homeschooling day.  After we finish workbooks at the table, we usually break for a quick snack and then reconvene on the couch to read aloud.  Our books usually include:

  • An early reader for Hunter to read aloud.  He really loves Elephant and Piggie books, especially this one.  It was the first time that he was fully comprehending what he was reading as he was reading it, and had to stop reading because he was laughing so hard. We’ve also used Dick and Jane books which he enjoyed last year.  Right now we are working through Little Bear, which has vintage illustrations that I love.
  • A book that teaches about the current lapbook topic.  We are on earthworms right now.
  • A BOB book.  We found the first two sets of BOB books in a box of giveaways so he is working through them one at at time.  He is probably beyond this level of reading but it’s nice for him to build confidence by easily reading a whole book by himself.
  • Other random books or articles.  This week we are reading through a magazine article about loving others.




Then we usually head back to the table to add a section to his lapbook.  I’m so glad I stumbled upon lapbooking as technique for homeschooling.  This website is my go-to place for FREE lapbook lessons.  Hunter enjoys seeing his lapbook take shape during each unit and has even pulled down his finished lapbooks from last year and looked through all of them (we did close to a dozen!).  If we have time before we head to campus for lunch, often Hunter watches a few minutes of an educational video about whatever lapbook topic he has chosen.

Admittedly, I started this year quite lazy when it came to keeping track of Hunter’s daily progress.  Then, a few weeks into the year, I remembered this blog post about upside down and backwards homeschool planning.  Now, instead of pre-planning what we will do each week, I record what we actually accomplish on a daily basis.  As the week progresses I can evaluate if we are lacking in a certain subject and use the final few days to target that area.  Also, as you can see by Monday’s lack of recording, some days we do absolutely nothing.

Like I’ve said before, more than any facts or statistics or rote memorization, I want my kids to love learning.  This quote from Eleanor Roosevelt perfectly sums up my approach to learning:

“Education provides the necessary tools, equipment by which we learn how to learn.  The object of our education is to give everyone of us an instrument which we can use to acquire information at any time we need it.”


What a surprise when over six inches of snow blanketed my parent’s hometown yesterday. It snowed nonstop from about 10 AM until well past 10 PM, which meant a white, winter wonderland awaited the kids this morning. 

To say we were underprepared for winter weather would be an understatement.  No gloves, no snow boots/pants/coats.  It didn’t matter though!  We layered up with what we had and stomped through the neighborhood as soon as we were done with breakfast. Snowy days tend to last only about 24 hours (it was already melting off the trees when we were outside today) so I’m happy we were able to be outside and enjoy the snowfall while it still felt like real snow.

And, to compare:

Scott might be in for a slight adjustment once he returns to this continent.

Birds of Prey – skeletons

We love DK Eyewitness books!  They are the first ones I search for at the library when Hunter chooses a new lapbook topic.
Hunter asked if I could write the first part of the sentence (which he came up with on his own) and he would write the final word.


Our first day back at homeschool after the Christmas and New Year’s break.  Madison had a cough so she stayed home from preschool (which also started back up today).  Leah went to campus with Scott around 8:30 AM so she could attend her toddler’s class.  We settled into school about an hour ahead of schedule which meant Hunter did a ton of school work today. It also gave me a glimpse of what homeschooling two kids could be like if we decide to go that route when Madison graduates preschool.

Along with his core curriculum (reading, phonics, math, Bible, history, world studies), Hunter chose to study birds of prey a few weeks ago for his current lapbook.  Today’s topic was skeletons.  Quite fascinating, if a bit morbid. 🙂  This final picture makes my heart sing…when they like each other, they really like each other.

Playing by Herself

There’s a running joke between my husband and I.  Our little Leah attends preschool on our ministry campus two mornings a week and her teacher usually fills out a “What I did today” sheet to let us know what happened in class.  Without fail, every single time, hers reads:

Leah ate snack and played by herself.

That phrase has become our sweet catch phrase for our sweet girl.  Maybe partly because she’s the third kid, maybe partly because she’s an observer, learner, and watcher.  Either way, Leah tends to blend right into any situation and quietly goes about her own thing.  It’s one of the things we love most about her because it’s just so her.  Whenever my husband will ask me what the kids did today, or if I’ll text him while he’s out on a Daddy & Kids adventure, we always answer with what the other kids did and then add, “Leah at snack and played by herself.”  It brings a smile to our faces and reminds us of how much we love our littlest girl.

Because Leah does eat snack and play by herself so much (haha!) it’s not often that I have time to offer her my full, undivided attention for long periods of time.  When we took a trip to the local science museum this week, I realized it was a perfect opportunity to soak in every second of Leah’s quiet way of doing life.  We joined up with some cousins and their parents and the older kids quickly paired off with each other, leaving me to enjoy Leah-Lou all to myself.

She found her way through each exhibit, quietly observing what all the other kids were doing and then carefully choosing how she would interact.  That red shopping cart?  It did not leave her side once she discovered it.  Racing up and down the “Kid City” walkways, she would put her head down and stomp along with all her might, pausing only to poach fake vegetables and fruit from other unattended carts (and their corresponding unassuming kids).  Her favorite finds were two heads of cauliflower and a banana.

She loved building a carbon atom and also was fascinated with some sort of electricity device (science isn’t really my thing).  After watching a few older kids and adults push buttons and turn levers, she confidently slipped between them, hoisted herself onto her toes, and did exactly what she saw everyone else do to make the sparks travel up the length of the plastic tubing and into the top of the display.

For most of the morning I just watched her be Leah – this tiny person who has fit so perfectly into our family.  The little one that has healed so much of my heart gave me another moment of joy by loving someone just the way they are.

Welcome, WSIRN Listeners and MMD Readers!

Hi, bookish friends!  If you’re coming over from Modern Mrs. Darcy’s website and podcast, welcome!  If you’re wandering over from somewhere else, it’s great to have you, too.  Thanks for stopping by my blog and staying awhile.

I’m Jamie.  Here’s my family:


We live in Tijuana, Mexico, and apparently family photos are our jam (ha!).  My husband and I met here but are both from the Pacific Northwest (we traded the NW corner of one country for another).  Hunter was born in 2010, Madison followed in 2012, and Leah came along in 2014.

Here are some of my favorite posts, but please click around and see what you can find:


How to Read 100 Books in a Year

Three Books I Love (and then some) WSIRN fans will feel right at home

My 100 Books of 2016

Books I Don’t Love All That Much


Kindergarten, here we come! Our first days of homeschooling.

It’s almost summer When I freaked out and thought my kids was learning nothing.

Some of our favorite units: dinosaurs, deserts, simple machines, sharks, and the ocean.


Swing When my heart broke wide open for my little girl.

The Hardest Day of My [Parenting] Life When I came face to face with how much I couldn’t do.

When Being a Bad Mom Makes You a Better Mom When doing those things you think ruin your kids might actually save your sanity.

It takes a year Feeling like “me” again.


Chocolate Buttermilk Banana Waffles

Pumpkin+ Pancakes

Chocolate-Chia Banana Bites (dairy, gluten, and refined/processed free)

Pumpkin Bread (with a punch!)



Me, Myself, and Wellness

Fallen trees, ocean waves, and new ideas

Work is Worship

Leave a comment and let me know a bit about yourself – where you’re from, what you’re reading, if your team won this weekend (we’re Lions fans.  Eek).  Thanks again for visiting and I hope you find your way back soon.