Author: Katie Dugdale


Garden Update Month 3- August 2020

I know it is September and I am blogging about August. I can blame it on COVID, right? That one will be an excuse around for a long time right? What happened… why didn’t you get this assignment in? … COVID. Did you finish your job training? … nope… COVID. Laundry not done? COVID. Dinner not prepped? COVID. … See where I’m going with this?

Our garden flourished this year. We expanded it to be larger and add more crops. Because it was right in our backyard And visible from our porch, it was given much more attention…. weeding, pruning. Month 3 was all about sunflowers and harvesting.

We (and by we, I mean my husband) harvest the sunflower seeds. When the flowers are heavy and drooping and a grey stripe is visible on the seeds, we (he) cut down the flower, wipe away the yellow fuzzies (technical term), and pluck out the seeds. The seeds are then soaked in salt water for a couple of hours. Then they are spread out on a baking sheet, seasoned with salt (we use seasoning salt), and then put in the oven at 200 overnight… or about 10 hours. Leave the oven door cracked. After the seeds cool down, you can store them in an air tight container. They make for a tasty snack!

I thought these were purple green beans. I misread the package. They were, in fact, cowpeas (black eyes peas).
We use castor bean plants to deter moles. They grow very tall and broad and are very poisonous if ingested. Be careful if you are gardening with small children.
Leaf Beetles had a feast in my green beans.

This may have been my favorite gardening season yet! So much zucchini bread, sautéed zucchini, pickles, salsa, corn on the cob, peas, beans!

And we got new chickens!!

I’m not ready for gardening season to be over. We are trying our hand at a fall garden this year. More about that in another post.

Do you garden? How was your year? What is your favorite thing to grow?

elementary schoolpreschoolProduct Review

Reading Eggs- A Review

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

A couple of years ago, I came to the realization that I cannot, in fact, do it all. Crazy, right?!?! With four children spanning elementary through high school years, there were just too many gaps happening. I sought out a way to reinforce reading for my younger girls… something they could do on their own a couple of times a week. We settled on Reading Eggs from Blake eLearning Inc. It has been a great program! I was going back and forth on whether or not I wanted to continue this year. When the opportunity to review a one year subscription to Reading Eggs came our way, I gladly accepted.

Reading Eggs in an online program that is accessible through your browser or app. We use our iPad to access the app. I had hoped I could download it to our Kindles, but it was not available through the Amazon app store. Reading Eggs provides multiple programs suitable for ages 2-12.

Fast Phonics: Designed for children ages 5-10 who are learning to read. Heavy on phonics and decoding, Fast Phonics offers plenty of rewards as children climb through the program.

Reading Eggs Jr: Designed for ages 2-4, Reading Eggs Jr. provides pre-readers will exposure to language and words as they prepare to build their reading skills.

Mathseeds: This is a program I was pleasantly surprised to find. We had just signed up with the expectation of reading help. Mathseeds is designed for ages 3-9. This is my 8 year old’s favorite part of Reading Eggs.

Reading Eggs: Designed to build your 3-7 year old into a confident reader. You start with a placement test which is great! I was surprised. I really thought my girls were farther along and would have likely started them ahead of where they needed to be which would have ended in guaranteed frustration.

Reading Eggspress: Desiged for ages 7-13 to take them further in their reading journey. The games and lessons are more big kid-ish.

As a parent, I can access the Family Dashboard. It is visually appealing and easy to navigate. With multiple children using the program, I appreicate the ease in which I can switch between the children and the programs to track their progress. I get emails as well when one of my children has completed a certain check point.

My children prefer to use the app over the desk top. Using a mouse is not a skill they are strong in because most of our devices are touch screen. The app (and the browser) are easy to navigate. Once we went over the program, I was able to trust them to be able to get where they needed to and do the lessons on their own.

We have reviewed several learning apps and online programs. I have to say this one is my favorite. The graphics are great… not too bright or too busy. The website is easy to navigate and they have online chat help available. You can also access printable resources for extra learning. I think Reading Eggs and Mathseeds is a fantastic supplement to any language arts or math program. We usually get on a couple of times a week to help reinforce phonics, reading, and math.

Please note, Reading Eggs is a secular reading program. You may come across concepts about evolution in your reading. We have not come across anything I would find inappropriate or overtly against Christianity. For the most part, it is religion neutral.

Be sure to follow Reading Eggs:


Check out what others on the Review Crew have to say. Click the banner below:

delight directed daysGetting Started Homeschooling

Getting Started Homeschooling Part 9- De-Schooling

This post contains affiliate links.

Deschooling is the adjustment period a child goes through when leaving school and beginning homeschooling. To really get the benefits of homeschooling, a child has to decompress and disconnect from “school” being the default and “school ways” being the standard expectation.

Full disclosure… my children have been homeschooled since the beginning. We have not personally gone through the process of deschooling. I do, however, know the benefit of such a process and will write to you out of that knowledge.

Whenever you have a shift in your family’s norm, you can expect some adjustment time. When you move to a new home, have a new baby, have a health crisis, job change… any shift… big or small… can bring the need for an adjustment.

Deschooling involves a period where you do very little formal school work in order to re-calibrate your child’s natural love of learning.

I found this chart on the Time for Learning website. I really like how it shows the difference between Learning in a Classroom and Home Education. You can see from the chart how vastly different the methods of education are and why it might take time for students and parents to adjust to the new norm! I was a classroom teacher before I had children and made the decision to homeschool. Even though we have homeschooled the entire time, I still had to go through a period of deschooling for myself. I had to realize that homeschooling is not recreating school at home. It is a lifestyle… a freedom… a joy to create a culture of learning in our home and unlock my children’s love of learning on their level and in their time.

Deschooling is essentially a break that allows for transition between public and home school. This does not mean you are on an extended vacation or a free for all time. This is an intentional time to give you and your student space to learn a new normal. This is a precious time to learn your child in a new way. You can learn who they are, what makes them tick, how they learn, and what they are interested in. You can allow space for them to take ownership of their education alongside you.

Some things you may encounter on your deschooling journey:

Grief: Depending on why you chose to homeschool, there may be a period of grief on the part of yourself or your student. Grieving your old normal, your friendships, your habits, etc. This is ok! Give yourself and your children time to process.

Adjustment: Learning a new normal takes time. Give yourself grace as you make the switch to home education. You may decide doing school at night is more effective for your children. You may decide you like online learning or nature based learning or literature based learning. You will likely feel bombarded and probably overwhelmed with all the curriculum choices and helpful homeschool friends. You don’t have to rush to make a decision. Take your time. Learn who you are as a teacher and who your child is as a student.

Deschooling gives you a chance to find your footing. How long you choose to deschool is really up to you. I have heard that you should do it one month for every year your child was in traditional/ public school. So … if you pull your 5th grader and bring them home… maybe expect 4-5 months of a cooling off period. It really is different for every family. You are creating new patterns of behavior and thought. It takes time.

What does deschooling actually look like???

  • visit museums
  • go hiking
  • watch documentaries
  • build with legos
  • visit the library
  • explore interests
  • learn a new hobby
  • play with STEM kits or Maker kits
  • homeschool with minecraft
  • learn a musical instrument
  • make jewelry
  • paint
  • do a nature study
  • have great, in depth talks
  • learn film making
  • read, read, read

Through activities like these, you are able to learn what makes your kid tick! You’ll see how they approach learning and what they are interested in. You’ll give them time to build confidence as a learner and prepare for the education that is ahead of them. This is an opportunity to build a great foundation before you tackle those subjects they need to be college ready!

Learning is happening during this period of deschooling. Valuable learning. Deschooling will look different for different families.. just like homeschooling looks different. If you are new to homeschooling. If you have brought your child home for whatever reason… breathe! You are going to be ok! Homeschooling doesn’t have to be a battle… it shouldn’t be a battle. It might be a puzzle for a while… but you will figure this out! Involve your child in the process!

One book I have found to be particularly helpful is 8 Great Smarts by Kathy Koch. This helps to understand the way our children view the world, learn, and express themselves. It has been extremely helpful for me to have patience with my youngest who is very “word smart” and my little middle who is very “body smart.” They tackle the world in front of them very differently. My wordy girl has all the words and wants to tell me all the things. We go for walks and she talks the entire time… asking questions, pointing things out, etc. My body smart girl is a mover. She is constantly fidgety, always dancing, running… moving! If I require her to sit still while she is schooling, she will not be fully successful. I learned these things about my girls through time spent with them in the unintentional learning that happens every day.

You have made the choice to home school! I don’t know what spurred that decision on, but it was an intentional choice. You’ve got this!

Other topics I’ll be covering in this “Getting Started Homeschooling Series” are:

elementary schoolProduct Review

Homeschool Easy 3rd Grade – A Review

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.

I have realized that my youngest doesn’t always get my full attention when it comes to school. I have let her be happy to just tag along and absorb what the older siblings are doing. I also know that play is important and let her learn much from her play and engaging of the world around her. HOWEVER… I really let the ball drop with her and my second youngest last year. They are both so smart and have so much potential. It really isn’t fair of me to let them fend for themselves as far as homeschooling goes. SO! I was pleased to receive the opportunity to review the Third Grade Entire School Year Curriculum from Homeschool Easy.

Homeschool Easy is an all in one curriculum that has 1st to 5th grades to choose from. The 1st through 5th grade is a full curriculum which includes all the essential subjects to teach. When you purchase a complete curriculum it includes: reading, spelling, grammar, math, history, science, and writing. You can also buy individual subjects. The cost for the full curriculum is $100.00. Individual subjects are extremely reasonable starting at $20.00 and under.

Homeschool Easy provides 32 weeks of instruction. Everything is in worksheet format and available for download. Once I received my access to the curriculum, I followed the link to several well- labeled folders with all the downloadable content. For me, it was a bit tedious to download everything.

Homeschool Easy is not common core aligned, but rather based on the way the American education system looked before common core was the standard.

From the Intro – “The 3rd Grade Curriculum contains:

Reading– phonics based concepts, including weekly reading words, flash cards, fill-in-the blank worksheets, reading comprehension sheets, chapter book comprehension questions, weekly vocabulary, spelling crossword puzzles, and spelling word searches.

Math– math focuses on traditional math and number sense, including daily worksheets, manipulatives, and flash cards.

Grammar– fundamental grammar, including daily worksheets and flash cards.

History– focuses on American history and patriotism, including daily worksheets corresponding with online videos and various art projects.

Science– monthly age appropriate science subjects, including daily worksheets aligned with online videos and various art projects and experiments.

Writing– focuses on fun, creative writing, including two weekly writing assignments. Also, writing is continually reinforced through grammar, history, and science worksheets.”

The instructions are very clear and easy to follow. The preparation has been done for you which is awesome! You will need to obtain the books for reading. They will likely be available from your local library or available for free online. Many of the subjects like have video resources linked as well. The videos have been curated from YouTube. This is not a hands off curriculum for the parent, but there definitely is room for independent work on the part of the student.

To be honest… Homeschool Easy is well thought out and great for people who are new to homeschooling and/ or need a full curriculum laid out for them. I would totally recommend it to those who are overwhelmed at the idea of having to teach their child or want the guess work taken out of the process. However… it is really not our cup of tea. With our delight-directed approach to learning, we don’t have much room for worksheet learning. We are a little more hippie and nature loving. In my opinion, Homeschool Easy does not allow for rabbit trails or camping out on a certain topic… which is the style that we tend to follow.

Be sure to follow Homeschool Easy:


The members of the Homeschool Review Crew reviewed different grade levels from Homeschool Easy. Be sure to check out what they have to say! Click the banner below:

Curriculumelementary schooliewProduct Review

IEW Structure and Style Level A- A Review

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

This post contains affiliate links.

If you’ve been around here and read any of my posts, you’ll know that we are fairly new to the world of The Institute for Excellence in Writing®. Last year, my oldest went through Structure and Style Level C and we were really impressed. When the chance to review Structure and Style® for Students Year 1 Level A from IEW came along, I glady accepted it with my 3rd and 5th graders in mind.

Before last year, my only experience with Institute for Excellence in Writing®. was through the lens of, in my opinion, high strung, stressed out homeschool moms. It was always confusing when it was explained to me and always seemed to be coming from people who weren’t adhering to the same homeschool philosophy as me. However, I attended the NCHE Thrive conference last year where Andrew Pudewa was a keynote speaker. He is the founder and face of IEW. I was so impressed with his talks and how he approaches home education that I went to the booth and asked more questions. By the end of the conference, I was sold on the program and excited to give it a try.

One of my school related goals for my kids is to produce effective writers. I want them to be strong communicators both in spoken and written word. We have never really used a writing curriculum before and I am so excited about using Structure and Style® for Students Year 1 Level A this year.


Each of these programs provides a complete writing curriculum. You will find everything you need to get started right away, including:

  • Student Binder and Packet
  • Teacher’s Manual
  • Your choice of DVD or Streaming instructional videos

The course includess 24 lessons, taught by Andrew Pudewa. To be honest, I thought my kids were going to find him cheesey and not want to watch the videos. I was wrong. They were really able to connect with his sense of humor and engaging teaching style. Honestly… I found myself yelling out answers to his questions as if I were really in his class.

The binder, packet, and teacher’s manual are well put together and very organized. Everything is clearly written out and easy to follow. This makes implementing the class very easy and seamless in a homeschool or co op environment. All materials your child needs can be found in the student binder and also a notebook. You receive the streaming instructions, student binder and packet and teacher’s manual.

A suggested weekly schedule is provided. I have noticed that we are able to advance at our own speed. When a concept is easily understood, we can move quickly through the lesson. When we need to spend more time on a topic, we can slow down. Because we have access to the forever streaming videos, we have the freedom to work at our own pace. I love that there are literature suggestions to go along with each unit. The suggestions make for excellent read alouds. In Structure and Style® for Students Year 1 Level A, some of the literature suggestions include Little House on the Prairie, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and more. I love how the program does not just teach writing in isolation, but incorporates grammar, style, and literature. It is a solid, well constructed program.

One thing that stood out to me when listening to Andrew Pudewa speak was concerning grade levels. He mentioned that when a student begins violin, they start at the very basic level despite their age. The same can be applied to writing. If you have a student who has little experience with writing, you start them at the beginning despite their age. While Level A may be more geared toward younger writers, you could certainly begin there with a middle or high school student who does not have much experience.

Be sure to follow IEW on social media:


The Homeschool Review Crew reviewed the various levels of Structure and Style for Students. Be sure to check out what they have to say. Click the banner below: