Welcome! I'm so glad you're here. Grab a cup of coffee and stay a spell. If you enjoy our time together, don't miss out on a single homeschooling idea. Be sure to subscribe to my daily digest via email or RSS feed. Or, follow along with Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Truth Guards: Leading Boys Towards Biblical Manhood {The BIG announcement!!}

Truth Guards: Leading Boys Towards Biblical Manhood {The Unlikely Homeschool}

In a culture marked by gender neutrality, The Hubs has spent the last few years searching for tools to help him guide our four boys toward Biblical manhood...toward leadership...toward bold faith. 

Frustrated by the lack of available resources, he felt called to create a ministry designed to come along side and equip fathers to be able to pass the torch...to challenge the next generation of men to live dangerous lives for Christ.  

It's been months since the seed of 2 Timothy 1:14 was planted in his heart. After many hours of planning and preparing, The Hubs is almost ready to draw the curtain...to unveil the "good treasure" he has been guarding.

Until then, take a quick peek.  

"With firm resolve, we have prepared a blueprint; a pattern of manliness for the next generation. Dad, we invite you to be intentional. Purposeful. And deliberate. We've answered the charge of 2 Timothy 1, to Guard the treasure. Will you?" ~Truth Guards

Truth Guards: Leading Boys Towards Biblical Manhood {The Unlikely Homeschool}

You're sure to hear more about Truth Guards in the coming months, but for now, be sure to check out the website which launches today!

Truth Guards: Leading Boys Towards Biblical Manhood {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Monday, October 27, 2014

DIY All-Natural Deodorant for Tweens & Teens {and everyone else!}

DIY All-Natural Deodorant for Tweens & Teens {and everyone else!} The Unlikely Homeschool

My daughter is "of an age" now.  You know THE ONE...the age when things slowly begin to change and your body begins to do things that it's never done before. 

Like sweat.
Real sweat. The kind that stains your clothes and makes you think twice before raising your arms above your waist.  

She came to me the other day and announced that she'd like some deodorant. She knows that I make my own.  She's seen me make it.  She's seen me wear it.  

She asked me if I could whip her up some of her own.
"Make some deodorant?" I asked. "Sure. No sweat!" Ok...so maybe just a little sweat. Otherwise, what would be the point of making the deodorant?...but, I digress.

A few years ago, after learning of the links between antiperspirant use and breast cancer, I went on a quest to find an antiperspirant-free deodorant. Unfortunately, without fail, every brand I tried either did not work to hide that "all-natural" smell or made me smell UNnaturally like an elderly man.

A bit ago, my lovely friend, Rachel, shared a DIY deodorant recipe with me. I've been wearing it ever since. 

No sweat.
No fear of cancer causing chemicals.  
Perfect for me.
Perfect for my young daughter during this tumultuous time of change.

Rachel has graciously agreed to share her recipe with you.  Didn't I say she was lovely? And she smells nice, too!

DIY All-Natural Deodorant for Tweens & Teens {and everyone else!} The Unlikely Homeschool

For DIY all-natural deodorant

In a small bowl, whip together the following:
Once thoroughly mixed, place in a glass jar.  It should have the consistency of a really thick paste. Apply with your fingertips.

At ten, my daughter has a body that is still developing and growing. I have no desire to encourage her to slather all kinds of unpronounceable chemicals onto her sensitive areas. I've made her some all-natural deodorant knowing that she'll smell nice and avoid unnecessary risks.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cultivating a Self-Driven Day for a Middle Schooler

Cultivating a Self-Driven Day for a Middle Schooler {The Unlikely Homeschool}

It's no secret that I loooooove using Task Cards to keep my kids on task.  It helps to motivate them...to propel them forward into independence...and provides a sense of security for "what comes next" in their day. But, as in all areas of life, there is a season.  

A season for Task Cards. 
A season for something else.

Since catapulting herself into middle school, Sweetie Pea has officially moved past the usefulness of Task Cards. 

(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)

She still needs something to help her organize her day...something that will allow her to prioritize with purpose.  But, she needs something a bit more tailor-made...a bit more practical for her age and growing maturity.  

Cultivating a Self-Driven Day for a Middle Schooler {The Unlikely Homeschool}

So, her Task Cards have been replaced with a student planner.  It's nothing special.  Just a simple calendar-style notebook. But, it's one that affords enough space to create her own method...her own rhythm to her day.  

Here's how her week gets scheduled...

A skeletal calendar

Before the school year even began, I etched out a basic school calendar in her planner.  I marked off any "specials" in both the month-at-a-glance pages and the weekly planning pages.  These special things included days off of school, co-op days, piano lessons, holidays...anything that would prevent her from doing "the norm." Having a skeletal calendar in place gives her clear vision for what the weeks and months will look like and reminds her NOT to schedule school assignments at those times.

From plan to planner

Since I am a "plan the entire school year out in advance" kinda girl, I already have all of her assignments written out in my own planner...along with a whole lot of other information that I don't necessarily want her to be digging through.  So, every Monday...or Sunday if we are really on the ball...she and I sit down to have a weekly planning meeting.  She takes out her planner and I take out mine.  

Cultivating a Self-Driven Day for a Middle Schooler {The Unlikely Homeschool}

She copies a week's worth of assignments into her planner including her individual work, the two subjects that she does with me (Spelling and English), and subjects/assignments we all do together as a family like history, science, art, etc. If it is group work or work done with me, she mostly just writes the subject name down with very little specifics.  Individual work is listed with page or chapter numbers (if applicable).  

A mentor moment 

After her week is given space on the page, we chat for a few minutes.  I use this as a time to give her direction. To give her feedback. To listen. To answer questions. To mentor but not meddle into her learning.  She shares about things she is discovering and gets my opinion about her latest independent project.  It is a short and simple time but one that refuels both her and I in this new season of our relationship.  


With a plan in place, her week takes on direction.  She is free to manage her time however she would like as long as all of the items on her daily list get "checked off" by the end of the school day.  Since she still participates in several group/family subjects, a portion of her time is determined by me and my schedule. When we are ready to begin a group subject, she knows she must stop whatever she is doing and come join the group. That being said, I do my best to respect her time by scheduling our group subjects at natural "starts" in the day...times I know she hasn't begun any individual work yet...like at the very beginning of the school day or right after lunch. Most of the time, I follow one of these group times with Spelling and Language. Since she is already sitting with me for a group subject, it is easy to have her continue with me for those two task.  Other times, depending upon how long the group subject was, I tell her to take a quick break so that I can have one too.  And then, we do Spelling and Language together.    

The fruit

The realization that SHE controls the length of her day and can be done with school just as soon as she has completed her list, naturally motivates her to keep on task.  I never EVER have to nag her or beg her to get her work done. NOT EVER. She starts her day running and dives into her work with fervor.  When she feels she needs a break, she takes one.  When she wants to "power through", she does.  As I had hoped, the Task Cards gave her a taste of the freedom that comes from a well-ordered schedule.  The student planner has broadened that freedom to include independence and self-direction.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

How I Use YouTube in My Homeschool

How I Use YouTube in My Homeschool {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Give her some space, a little free time, and access to a screen and there's no tellin' what she'll create. From crocheting an infinity scarf to learning how to play the ukelele, she's discovered numerous new skills and has grown many new hobbies all within the comfort of our living room and all WITHOUT my help.  

How I Use YouTube in My Homeschool {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Like many 21st century girls, my daughter has turned to youtube to expand her expertise...she's learned to reach beyond these four walls and has embraced her roll as a lifelong learner.  She knows that while I can't teach her everything, I can point her in the direction of people who can via youtube.

She's a youtube girl.
I'm a youtube mom.
We're a youtube family.
We use it DAILY.  
All of us.

Because, while I'm a living-literature-lovin' momma, I also recognize that sometimes a book can't paint nearly as vivid a picture as a video can.  And so, more often than not, after exhausting all the words on the written page, we turn to the screen for clarity.  

Once, in an attempt to help us memorize the books of the Bible, I gathered us all around the computer to watch this Go Fish Video.  I did this every morning.  As in every morning for the entire school year!

In addition to playing-a-video-so-many-times-that-we-will-actually-have-it-permanently-etched-in-our-brains-for-the-rest-of-our-lives, here's a few other ways that I use youtube in my homeschool...

Impromptu searches

For Everyday Learning

Not a day goes by that I don't open up the youtube search bar and type in some fascinating topic that we just read about in history, science, Bible, phonics...you name it.  

When my son was struggling to tell the difference between a "d" and a "b", I showed him a frew animated D vs. B clips set to music.


After reading about carnivorous plants in the jungles of South America, we just had to watch a bug getting crunched by a venus fly trap!


When we read the biography of famed American Olympic runner, Jesse Owens, and his victory during the controversial 1936 Olympics in Berlin, we wanted to see how fast he ACTUALLY ran.


For the past eight years, we've had a front row seat to tornados, Holy Land tours, excavations, pearl divings, and much...much more...all because of youtube.  I keep a laptop or iPad handy throughout the day so that at any given moment, we can bring color to the black-and-white words we've been reading.

For Independent, Project-based Learning

As I've mentioned, Youtube has helped to broaden my daughter's ability to learn independently. Each month, when she tackles a new independent study, she almost always begins her research on youtube. Over the last few years, she has watched documentaries, how-to videos, reenactments, and tutorials. For her own personal safety and accountability, I almost always look up the general theme of her topic and find a handful of potential videos for her to choose from. But then, the learning is left up to her. Watching a short video on a topic has been a great introduction to more extended reading and discovery.  


Over time, I have come to really value the videos from particular youtube channels.  These might include channels that appeal to a particular interest of one of my kids or just channels that provide interesting and thorough information on a wide variety of topics.  Since I, myself, have a youtube channel, I can "Subscribe" to my favorite channels and get updates on their latest videos under the "My Subscriptions" tab.  Not sure how to register for a youtube channel?  Here's a quick youtube video that will walk you through it step-by-painless-step>>

Some of our current favorite channels include...

Grammaropolis- the School House Rock of the 21st Century
How To Draw and Paint- quick and easy art videos
Tiny Grads- preschool educational videos
Easy Kids Science Experiments- experiments my kids can do on their own


Often times, I'll come upon fascinating videos that don't necessarily relate to anything we are CURRENTLY studying, but would be great additions to our learning "someday." I file these away in organized youtube "playlists" so that I can revisit them when I need them.  Playlists are simply youtube file folders to categorize videos of a particular theme or topic.  Here's a short video on creating playlists>>

My favorite playlists right now include the following...

School House Rock Language

Just last week found my Super Boy and I hunkered down to watch a little ditty about nouns.

an otherwise pretty boring topic
brought to life by animation and a foot-tapping tune.

One final thought...

We live in an interesting age...a time when information comes at the click of a button.  Youtube is just one of many helpful "outside the box" learning tools worth embracing. While I don't think they can ever replace the teaching that happens with hands-on discovery, free videos can enhance any run-of-the-mill lesson and create an endless supply of independent learning opportunities.

Be sure to join the lovely ladies of iHomeschool Network for more thoughts on Homeschooling with Movies.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

5 Homeschool Blogs You May Not Be Reading But SHOULD Be

5 Homeschool Blogs You May Not Be Reading But SHOULD Be {The Unlikely Homeschool}

While I absolutely love writing this blog and have found so much encouragement in the community surrounding The Unlikely Homeschool, prior to finding my little place on the web, I never really read blogs.

Nope.  Scratch that.

I read two blogs...TWO.

The first was...and still is...the private blog of one of my dear friends...it's a quirky little chronicle of her faith and family.  But, that's reasonable.  I KNOW her and I LOVE her.  Two very good reasons to invest my time in her words.

The second was a deal-finding site. Over the years, I've randomly chimed in to read of great shopping sales to stretch my dollar and make one-income living a bit more attainable.

That was it.  Just TWO BLOGS.

But in the last few years, I've come to see blogs and on-line communities as in-home career training resources in my calling as wife, mother, and homeschooler. Through them, I have been encouraged, challenged, and inspired towards making this journey even better.

That being said, as a busy momma-of-five deep in the everyday trenches of homeschooling, my time is limited.  My moments are valuable and have to be invested with purpose...in things that really matter.  In the noise and flash of the internet, it's easy to find the BIG NAME Homeschool blogs like Simple Homeschool with its gentle call to simplicity and intentionality...or Free Homeschool Deals, because let's face it, who doesn't like FREE?!

But, there are so many others...so many unassuming blogs tucked obscurely between the blinking lights of the BIG NAMERS...hidden gems of truth and transparency just waiting to be discovered.

If, like me, your time is limited but you'd like some daily direction to this crazy thing called HOMESCHOOLING from every day mommas sharing their triumphs and tragedies...might I suggest a few good blogs.

I've chosen five with purpose.  And here they are in no particular order...

Blog, She Wrote

When I grow up, I want to be a homeschool momma just like Heather!  She has clearly tapped into the gifts and passions of each of her kids and tailors their days to their God-given bents.  To be honest, I kind of have a blog-crush on Blog, She Wrote and the culture of homeschooling within its pages.  

Hip Homeschool Moms

Ok...Ok...I'm a little biased here because I used to be a contributing writer to this eclectic look at all-things-homeschooling.  But, trust me when I say, this is a site worth investing your time.  Written by a few dozen different homeschool veterans of all walks of life, Hip Homeschool Moms is a lovely buffet of the "there's-no-one-size-fits-all-homeschool" mantra.

Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers

This veteran homeschool mom of three is the comic relief to a plethora of on-line seriousness.  While I appreciate the wisdom Kris brings to her readers, I am most drawn to the fact that she does not take herself too seriously and offers a tongue-and-cheek look at the chaos of living and learning.

Our Journey Westward

This is a go-to site for project-based learning and unit studies.  Cindy has packed her entire blog with enriching learning extras for all ages.  She offers up a level of creativity that most of us "average sort" need to move us onward and upward.

Hodge Podge

Tricia Hodges is the tender whisper of wisdom that every young momma needs.  I've heard her speak a few times in on-line interviews and find myself being lulled into a deep breath by her sweet southern "momma voice."  Her calm and gentle resolve is painted all over her blog and gives this somewhat spastic momma hope that with time, I CAN grow out of my audacious ways. She's a mother with method.  And don't we all need a little bit of that?!

So, there's a peek into my favorites.  
What blogs would you add to my list?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Weather Unit: Books, Videos, and Projects

Weather Unit: Books, Videos, and Projects {The Unlikely Homeschool}

This past summer, like all the summers before in our homeschooling journey, the kids and I spent our days exploring one part of God's creation.  Since we live in the tundra for nearly nine months of the year, our ability to investigate nature is limited to summer time.  

(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)

Using some delight-directed planning, we usually choose one nature topic to investigate all summer long. This year, the children unanimously voted to learn about WEATHER. 

Here are a few things we included in our three-month-long unit...


Clouds (Weather)
The Usborne Book of Weather Facts: Records, Lists, Facts, Comparisons


Cloud/Temperature Calendar

Every day through the month of July, we tracked the high and low temps as well as determined the type of cloud formation that was prevalent throughout the majority of the afternoon.  We documented our findings on a calendar printable and glued these into our nature journals.  

Weather Unit: Books, Videos, and Projects {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Weather Fact Fans

We put together a simple fact fan and designated a page for each major type of weather occurrence. As we learned about each topic, the children did a small notebook journal entry onto that particular card in their fact fans.  

Weather Unit: Books, Videos, and Projects {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Weather Unit: Books, Videos, and Projects {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Water Cycle Demo Bag

After learning about the water cycle, we each drew a sketch of the process onto a ziplock bag.  We poured about a cup of water into the bag, taped it to a window on a sunny side of the house, and waited.  Within a day or two, we were able to see the water evaporating, condensing, and precipitating on the side of the bag.  

Weather Unit: Books, Videos, and Projects {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Rain Gauge

Using the bottom half of a pop bottle, we made a simple rain gauge.  We set it outside and checked it after each rain. We just happened to have an unusually wet summer this year, so there was a lot of action each week in our gauge.  

Weather Unit: Books, Videos, and Projects {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Air Scale

To demonstrate the fact that air has weight, we made a simple air scale.  We blew up two equal-sized balloons to two different sizes and taped them each to opposite ends of a ruler.  We tied a string to the center of the ruler and held the entire contraption up by the string.  Just like on a traditional scale, the ruler tipped towards the end with the heavier balloon showing that air does, in fact, have weight...the balloon with the most air weighed more.  

Weather Unit: Books, Videos, and Projects {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Simple Barometer

A barometer is used to measure air pressure.  While our homemade version did not tell us an exact measurement of pressure, it was able to clearly show CHANGES in pressure.  

You will need:
  1. a glass with a wide mouth
  2. a balloon
  3. a rubber band
  4. scissors
  5. a drinking straw
  6. tape
  7. a piece of paper or cardstock and a pen

Weather Unit: Books, Videos, and Projects {The Unlikely Homeschool}


  1. Cut the mouth piece off of the balloon and discard.  
  2. Stretch the balloon over the mouth of the glass.
  3. Secure with a rubber band.
  4. Using the tape, secure the straw to the top of the balloon.  The straw should be placed as close to the middle of the balloon as possible.  

Weather Unit: Books, Videos, and Projects {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Use the paper or cardstock to mark the place where the end of the straw naturally rests.  Check the placement of the straw end each day and mark any changes.  

You should be able to see that the air pressure raises or lowers the balloon which in turn moves the end of the straw up or down.  

Weather Unit: Books, Videos, and Projects {The Unlikely Homeschool}


What is a Tornado? by Monkey See
What is a Hurricane? by Monkey See
Reading Rainbow: Come a Tide- an elementary-appropriate look at dangerous weather

Monday, October 6, 2014

What We're Reading in October 2014

What We're Reading in October 2014 {The Unlikely Homeschool}

With a full month of school under our belts, we have officially gotten into the rhythm of a new schedule.  We find freedom in a schedule...freedom and extra time.  Extra time to read. (This post contains affiliate links.)

Here's what's in our book box this month.
(In case you're curious, our reading time typically looks like this>>)

Read Aloud- Everybody

So technically, we haven't started our October read aloud because we just finished our September one, but we've narrowed our search of potentials down to two.  We've checked them both out from the library and will be taking a family vote to see which one makes the cut.

Ragweed- "Early polls" show that my animal loving crew will probably choose this one.

But, I'm kinda hoping I can swing the vote to THIS ONE!!

More Perfect than the Moon- Since I was a little girl, I have always loved the Sarah, Plain and Tall trilogy.  I've shared them with my kids and even our co-op families.  Little did I know, it is NOT a trilogy at all, but a series of FIVE BOOKS!  How could I have missed that? Why didn't anyone tell me? This is the fourth in the series and since it is short, I'm hoping we can somehow...just maybe...read book four AND five this month! (But, if the vote goes the other way, expect to see a 35-year-old woman reading two children's books ALL BY HERSELF.)

Jamie- that's me!

The Best Yes- As a self-proclaimed "Martha", I have struggled with sacrificing THE BEST on the altar of THE GOOD my entire life.  In my late twenties I began to see that saying "yes" to everything meant I had to often times say "no" to the things that really mattered to me.  Little by little, I began to make big changes to the way I prioritized my commitments.  I'm still a work-on-progress when it comes to choosing the BEST yes, but I have come a long way.  When this book, by one of my favorite authors, recently hit the shelves of my library, I was the first to bring it home!

Sweetie Pea- 6th Grade

The Care and Keeping of You- (Mom-assigned book) I'll confess, I picked this book up at a garage sale when my daughter was only about two-years-old.  I had it tucked away ever since, but have finally unearthed it in anticipation of the changes headed her way during these tween years.  

The Ark, the Reed, and the Fire Cloud - (Read-for-fun book) The epic length of this book combined with her school/church/social schedule, pretty much guaranteed that it would take her more than a month to finish it. She started it in September and isn't quite halfway done with it.  It is reeeaaally long.  But, according to her, really good and worth the commitment.

Super Boy- 3rd Grade

The Snow Walker- (Mom-assigned book) This true story of the bravery of 12-year-old Milton Daub during the blizzard of 1888 is the perfect book to inspire courage and selflessness into any young boy

National Geographic Readers: Rocks and Minerals- (Read-for-fun book) My rock-crazed-boy has carried an old black-and-white-barely-any-pictures-lots-of-words rock field guide around for the past three years...pouring over the pages until he has practically rubbed off all the ink.  I was glad when he found this book at the library which is more his reading level and actually has colored pictures in it.  

Blonde Warrior- 2nd Grade

Chester Cricket's Pigeon Ride (Chester Cricket and His Friends)- (Mom-assigned book) This is the sequel to The Cricket in Time Square which we read for a family read-aloud a few years ago.  

Greased Lightning- Kindergarten

Step Into Reading Phonics First Steps, set 2- This is a series of graduated phonetical readers that comes in a boxed set. 

Now it's your turn.  Whatcha readin'?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...