Product Review

Home School In The Woods US Elections Lap Pak- 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.

With the elections just around the corner in November, now is a good time to teach our children about our government and how the process of voting and elections work. The U.S. Elections Lap Pak from Home School In The Woods is a fantastic resource. The product is geared for grades 3rd- 8th which is perfect for us as we have a rising 3rd, 5th, and 8th grader! I might just make the 10th grader join us. I have not done a great job teaching my kids this area of history and am thankful for Home School In The Woods for their wonderful, hands-on, history studies.

The U.S. Elections Lap Pak is a digital download that includes the following:

  • 21 Lap Pak Activities
  • Reading Text (Also Provided as an Audio Book)
  • Step by Step Instructions
  • List of additional reading resources

The products from Home School In The Woods are completed as lapbooks. If you don’t know what a lapbook is, let me tell you! Lapbooking is a great hands-on way for students to research and learn all about a specific topic! It’s basically just a file folder filled with fun little “mini-books” that contain interesting information about your overall lapbook topic. They’re hands-on and make any subject a little more fun! We have used lapbooks for a variety of projects throughout our homeschooling years. Please note that if you have a child who does not like crafts or gets frustrated with a lot of cutting and gluing, lapbooks may not be the best choice for them. I, personally, LOVE lapbooks… but a certain teenager in my house CANNOT STAND them! So… know your audience!

A view of the front of the U.S. Elections Lap Pak from the Home School In The Woods website.
A view of the assembled U.S. Elections Lap Pak from the Home School In The Woods website.

I am super excited to complete this Lap Pak with my girls (and maybe my son). Admittedly, I do not know enough about our election process. I rely heavily on the knowledge of others when the time comes around! We are living in such a unique time in history and I really want my children to learn and know all the things! They have all gone with my when I have voted. They always ask who I am voting for, but mostly they just like getting the “I Voted” sticker… I mean… who doesn’t??

When we are working on the U.S. Elections Lap Pak, we do the reading and lesson together then the girls complete the activities on their own. We set the completed activities aside until everything is finished and we are ready to put it all together. Be sure to read more about the U.S. Elections Lap Pak from Home School In The Woods.

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Members of the Homeschool Review Crew had the opportunity to review several different products from Home School In The Woods. Be sure to read their reviews! Click on the banner below:

But Wait!!! There’s more!!!

Homeschool in the Woods is running a giveaway until the end of August 2020. 

Giveaway: A free copy of our Greek Life! File Folder Game when you use the code TOSGameNight at checkout. No purchase necessary.

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Journey Homeschool Academy Experience Astronomy- 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.

**Please note: This Post Contains Affiliate Links**

Y’all. I think I have hit my limit on thinking about all the things. We go through seasons in our homeschool. I go through seasons as a homeschool mom and I think I am cycyling to a season where I just need someone else to do the work for me. I love being creative… I really, really do. I love piecing together and creating curriculum and classes and projects. Finding out what my kids want to learn about and making it happen is the heartbeat of my homeschool mama heart. But… I am tired. I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders every morning before I even get out of bed. I need some help this year to make sure my children are getting the very best of me. You can imagine how thrilled I was when we were given Experience Astronomy: Elementary from Journey Homeschool Academy.

Science and History are the two areas where I fall behind the most. I usually rely on our homeschool association’s enrichment classes to fill in some gaps for me, but those have been canceled for the fall because of the Rona. My girls (ages 8 and 10) were super excited when I told them about Experience Astronomy: Elementary. I am so grateful for the age in which we live and the ability to access amazing online classes such as the ones offered from Journey Homeschool Academy.

Experience Astronomy: Elementary is an online, video based course. The website is easy to navigate and help is abundant. Each lesson has a main video (about 15- 20 minutes long), a memory video to help reinforce concepts, and extra material like the instructions for hands on activities, verses to trace, and a quiz.

Lesson One includes the instructions to make a shoe box planetarium. I love that this is not just an online, video class. It includes super fun activities as well as a reading list of books (most available through the library).

Each lesson includes a quiz in the extra materials tabs. As you can see, the class is presented from a Christian Worldview. I LOVE this. All truth is God’s truth. God cares about Science. I love when we can show our kids how science has a part to play in God’s kingdom.

I am super excited to use Experience Astronomy: Elementary with my 3rd and 5th grade girls. They are always asking for science. I start strong and never seem to make it past the first week or so. I tried last year… I really did. We tried a Nature Study and then a Human Body Science. I just tapered off and the girls quit asking. I have high hopes for this year. This Astronomy Course from Journey Homeschool Academy has done an amazing job of offering an engaging and complete 30 week course. This is just what I need this year!

Journey Homeschool Academy also offer Biology for Elementary and Upper Level. I am seriously considering getting the Upper Level Biology for my 8th grader this year.

Be sure to follow Journey Homeschool Academy:

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Getting Started Homeschooling Part 8- High School

When my oldest was just started out and we were beginning our homeschool journey, I remember worrying and scurrying to get all the things. He needed an easel. He needed colored pencils and crayons and notebooks and workbooks and curriculum. We needed a designated school area. We needed a schedule. I needed to check boxes.

As time went on, I realized that a beautiful part of homeschooling is not having to recreate school at home. I was a classroom teacher before having kids and I thought that homeschooling meant having to set up a classroom in our home. If that’s your jam… go for it. BUT… if the idea of having to have all the things to be a successful homeschooler is stressing you out… in the words of Elsa… Let it Go!

For years I was able to adapt and adopt our delight directed approach. I gave up many preconceived notions and began to include the kids in the learning goals and material choices. It was a beautiful thing. But then… Then my oldest went into ninth grade and that familiar panic crept back in. All of the sudden I felt like I needed all the things. Like my son needed all the things or I was going to completely fail him and leave him unprepared for the world. I started entertaining the thought of buying curriculum, enrolling him in classes, putting him in school. Somehow highschool just felt scary. Like the game just got more real.

As I was in a flurry of planning and explaining to my son all the things he would have to do, he said, “Wait… I thought we were unschooling delight directed kind of people…how does that work with high school?”

He was right… why would I need to change our philosophy and vision now? How could I continue with interest led learning? How do we continue create life long learners?

Please remember that I am living in North Carolina. My homeschool experience and knowledge of the law is through the North Carolina lens. Please do your due diligence and research the homeschool laws in your own state. Some states are more regulated and some are less.

In North Carolina, there are no requirements to graduate high school. You, the parent, are the chief administrator of your school and therefore create and set the learning goals. However… if you have a college bound child… it would behoove you to look into the requirements for admission and work backwards from there. Not every student will go to college. I have told my kids that I don’t know if they are college bound, but I am not going to be the reason they don’t have the option. I will build our homeschool in such a way that they have the option to go to college when they graduate.

I heard a friend describe homeschooling highschool like this… the core subjects… like math and language arts and history and science are the scaffolding on which the school experience is built. You have to have those core subjects to build the foundation. When you have those in place, you can design your education to fit your interests and needs.

Most colleges look for students to complete 4 English courses, 3 Math courses, 3 Science (with two of those being lab sciences), 3 Social Studies, 1 Health, 1 PE, and 6 Electives. Now… HOW you complete those can be flexible and creative. Some areas of study have little wiggle room… like math. Sorry… but Algebra seems to be a non-negotiable. I told my son that if he could find a solid college within a 300 mile radius of our home with an arts program that did not require Algebra for admissions…we could totally look into dropping Algebra from our school… but until then… he just needed to do it! Not everything is pleasant or fun. Sometimes we just have to endure and work through hard things. That is life and learning endurance and resiliency is super important.

Tips for Homeschooling High School

  1. Involve Your Student. Sit down with your student and look at the scaffolding for the year. Involve them in the choices for their scaffolding and for their electives. What do they want to pursue? When you include them in the planning, it goes well for both of you!
  2. Steer Towards Independence. Let your student have control where they can. Let them be mindful of their workspace, of their schedule and managing their time. Allow room for growth and for error. Your child is not you. They may have a different way of looking at things, organizing things, accomplishing tasks. Give them the freedom to learn themselves and be successful in their way.
  3. Encourage Interests and Passions. You may notice this has been a common theme throughout my Getting Started Homeschooling Series. One of my major goals for my kids when they leave my homeschool is to be able to identify what they want to learn and have the ability to go after it. I want them to know how to learn. While under my roof, they should have the ability to experiment, fail, and succeed. If they want to be an entreprenuer- we will learn about good business practice. If they want a career in food, we will seek out opportunities to learn more. Maybe give them a specific night of each week that is theirs to create the menu, plan, and prepare dinner for the family.
  4. Be creative in your records. A trap I think we fall into as parents and educators is that we have to complete a book or course in one school year. We think that the disciplines should be separate… like chemistry and home economics are two different things. Or math and life skills do not over lap. But they do. My son took a food Chemistry class last year. He learned about cooking and his labs consisted of food related experiments (that often ended up in a delicious dinner for the rest of us!). Maybe your child doesn’t take specific computer skills course, but rather you incorporate using Google tools like Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc. into their regular rhythm of school. At the end of four years, you can look back and see the hours of training put into learning word processing, spreadsheets, etc. and you record a Computer Skills class on their transcript.
  5. Encourage Volunteer Work and Service. Teach your student to be a good human. How can they use their time and talents to give back to the community. Not only does this prepare them to be compassionate adults… it also looks good on a college application! Look for local opportunities to serve… help in a food pantry, do yard work for seniors, read books to children (or animals apparently at the local animal shelter), write letters to seniors who are trapped in retirement communities with no visitors due to COVID, organize a silent auction with proceeds going to a local charity, collect coats and blankets for the homeless, deliver meals on wheels… opportunities to serve are out there. Encourage your teen to find them and engage.

Your involvement in your teen’s high school homeschool experience can vary from teacher to tutor to guidance counselor to bus driver to cheerleader. You are preparing a young adult to launch into this world. They aren’t ready yet… they will still need you! Hold loosely to your highschooler as they grow more towards independence each day. You may be surprised with what they can do!

Last tip… know your strengths and weaknesses. You do not have to teach all the things. Goodness… high school sciences and math… whew… outside my wheelhouse! I am so thankful for online resources and classes. My oldest will be taking Spanish online through Luma Learn. He is going to do book studies through Progeny Press for his Language Arts. We are currently working on creating a small co op where he can learn with other high schoolers. Classes will include world history as seen through the arts and public speaking. Lean on your community. Realize that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Tons and tons and tons of resources are out there for you! Easy Peasy, Khan Academy, and School Yourself are just a few of the great FREE options out there! has put together a great option that takes the guess work out for you. They are offering virtual “Boxed” curriculum through your membership. This is really great because veteran homeschoolers have curated courses to create a wonderful and full homeschool year. And guess what!!! There is a great sale going on right now with Schoolhouse Teachers. Buy one year, get the second FREE! Two years for just $179 (and you get a free tote bag… just saying!).

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


Two Month Garden Check In- July 2020

We moved our garden from the side yard to our backyard this year. It is bigger and has more plants than in previous years. Most mornings, I grab my coffee and sit on the back porch just taking it all in. The garden is a safe place in the midst of a chaotic world. Things make sense in the garden. I spend time most mornings weeding and pruning and harvesting the fruits of our labor. It is like a treasure hunt every day.

Right to Left: Corn, Pumpkins, Cucumber, Zucchini, Carrots, Tomatoes, Herbs, Beans, Peas, Peppers, Sunflowers. We have raspberries in the back behind the corn and strawberries in the bottom right corner.

When you have an outdoor garden, you have to be prepared to share with small critters. The squirrels have eaten all the apples from our apple tree. I find random half eaten strawberries throughout the garden, discarded by mischievous chipmunks. The birds and beetles leave their marks as well. I don’t want to hurt the animals, but we do use Neem oil and some solar powered vibrating flowers to try to keep them at bay. We also usually plant a perimeter of castor beans to keep the digging animals away. We tried using the castor bean plants that popped up/ volunteered from last year, but they didn’t grow as well. Next year we will use seeds.

The pollinators are hard at work every morning.
The cucumbers were slow to take off this year, but are finally flowering and producing like crazy.
We are waiting for the tomatoes to ripen. We have 10 plants and almost all of them are heavy with green tomatoes.
We fought with the birds for the first few weeks. They kept plucking out the baby corn plants so they could eat the seeds. We managed to save about 75% of what we planted. The silks are popping out and we are dreaming of corn on the cob.
We’ve never planted sugar snap peas before. I’m learning these are a snack we munch on while in the garden. Not many actually make it into the house! I catch my little sugar snap pea thieves from time to time.
Mammoth Sunflowers. Amazing that they came from a tiny seed.
I periodically cut back the pumpkin vines and toss them on the compost pile. I only say compost pile to make myself sound homestead-ish. It is really just the pile where I dump chicken and rabbit poop. These pumpkin vines seem to have taken root. I’m hoping to see something amazing come of it.

We’ve made zucchini bread and pesto and pickles. I’m able to begin preserving some of our garden bounty. I blanch and freeze green beans and peas. I shred zucchini and freeze it in 2 cup servings… perfect for zucchini bread!

Do you have a garden? Visit a farmer’s market regularly? What’s are you favorite things to grow or buy?

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Getting Started Homeschooling Part 7- Middle School

I LOVE… I mean seriously LOVE middle school. These years are quirky and hard and fun. Your child is growing up and middle school are those in between years where one day your child is so very grown up and the next you find them on the floor surrounded by Legos or Barbies or Playmobil. It is an amazing and extraordinary time. These are not years to be feared, but to be embraced. Teaching middle school is an adventure.

I work with middle schoolers and have learned a lot about how they tick over the last few years. Sixth graders think they know everything. They are loud and overly confident (at times). They are socially awkward as they try to fit into the adult world. They linger around adult conversations and often burst in with comments that are seemingly out of place. They wiggle and have the attention span of a goldfish. Seventh graders have started to have some control over their bodies…. some control… not full. These poor seventh grade boys have bodies that are growing faster than they can keep up with. They trip over their own feet! They have realized that this thing called puberty is happening. Their bodies are changing and they are very aware of that. They can sit a little longer and hang with a deep conversation. They are forming their own opinions about the world around them. Eighth graders are moving from concrete thought to abstract thought. They are beginning to understand the world from a whole new perspective… understanding imagery, grasping abstract concepts. They are well on their way to becoming young adults… but definitely still need time and space to play.

Middle school is a really special time when they are still little, but definitely stepping out of childhood. The difference with my son from the beginning of eighth grade to the end was like night and day. The things he found funny, the energy he had, the things he occupied his time with all changed that year. He really began to come into his own and his personality started to come through in a way I had never seen.

So… how do you homeschool a middle schooler???

These are great years to challenge your child, to train your child, and to have fun with your child. In North Carolina, there are no requirements that you must teach per grade. You are the chief administrator of your school and therefore decide what your learning goals and curriculum should be. If you are not homeschooling in North Carolina, please take time to familiarize yourself with your state’s homeschool laws.

Train for Independence

For our family, I have used the middle school years to begin training my children to take responsibility for their own learning and maintaining their schedules. I begin to grade certain assignments. The first test my son took for a grade was in seventh grade. We were using Master Books, General Science. He did not do stellar on his test. I made him study and take it again. He told his dad that I gave him a D on his test. His dad replied, “Mom didn’t give you a D. You earned it. That’s on you.” He learned how to study. He learned how to take a test.

Use a Planner

I begin to teach more independence. By middle school, most students are fluent readers. They can be given an assignment and tools to complete it on their own. It takes training… just like when they were young and you were teaching them to read or to clean their room or to wash the dishes…. it all takes training. Once the training is complete, you should be able to confidently give them an assignment to complete. In seventh grade, I create an Evernotes account for my children as well as a Google account. With a Google account, they have email and access to Google tools such as Slide, Docs, Sheets, etc. Evernotes is simply a program for creating checklists, schedules, etc. Trello and Google Keep are other good options. You could also go with a good old fashion paper planner. My children learn to follow a checklist and not come to me for every little thing. I give them their entire week of assignments at the beginning of the week. The assignments are due by Friday. They learn to order their day. I have one child that budgets his time and does a little each day to make sure he completes the entire list by Friday. I have another child who tends to wait and does it all towards the end of the week. I do ask that they do math every day and not try to do that all at once. There are still times when they require instruction and involvement from me, but more often than not, they can complete an assignment without my help.

Different Learning Styles

Different children have different learning styles and ways in which they attack the world. You have some who like to follow a schedule, check boxes… those who are self motivated and those who need a little push. You have procrastinators and those who are up and at em early and done by ten! Help your child learn who they are and how they learn during these middle school years. But also remember that puberty is a beast and your middle schooler may have lost their brain temporarily and need a little extra love and attention.

Interest Led Learning

Most middle schoolers are screaming for independence. They are desperately trying to figure out how they fit into this world. Middle School is a fantastic time for interest led learning. Sit down with your middle schooler and ask them what they want to learn, do, explore, invest in… and help make that happen. Middle School years are transitional years. Do not rush to get them into high school. Use this time to teach independence, teach them how to identify what they want to learn and give them the tools to go after it! Allow space for them to grow and space for them to fail. Your homeschool should be a safe space for your middle schooler to grow.

You can still have the foundational subjects in place…. your reading, writing, and math. When you include your child in the curriculum planning, it gives them a sense of ownership. Be willing to listen to them and invite them in to the process. Help them develop or continue to develop a love of learning by showing them that school is so much more than sitting at the desk and doing math problems. Do you have a child interested in coding, check out Scratch from MIT. Do you have a Minecraft loving kid, check out Homeschool with Minecraft. Budding film maker, check out FilmSchool for Teens. Does your child want to start a business, check out Starting a MicroBusiness for Teens. Want to learn another language, learn to sew, garden, blog, build something??? The options are endless!

Not sure where to start as far as curriculum???

First, I would encourage you to figure out what homeschool philosophy appeals to you? Check out THIS POST.

Second, get your basics in place. What are your plans for math, literature/ language arts?

Third, ask your child what they want to learn and seek out materials to help you.

Here are a few of my favorite resources:

SchoolhouseTeachers.Com– This is an online program. You sign up for a membership and gain access to over 400 courses from preschool-high school. You can click on middle school and on the subject you are looking for and see all the courses they have to offer. It is self paced and from a Christian worldview. They have a new feautre called “School Boxes.” These are currated courses by grade that puts together your curriculum for you and takes out the guess work… all included in your membership.

Easy Peasy– This is an online curriculum. It is free… yep… free!

Khan Academy– This is another great, FREE option. There are tons of different homeschool helps to find through Khan- academic and elective. They start in early elementary and go through high school.

Progeny Press– I recently discovered this company through the Homeschool Review Crew. They look at secular literature through a Christian worldview. Their study guides are thorough and meaty… lots of good stuff.

Enjoy these years. They are precious. They are hard, but don’t have to be impossible. You don’t have to write off your middle schooler as a hormonal mess. Remember that you are the grown up here… lean into the chaos and love on your child. They still need you. They still want you. I remember a game night with our youth group when my second was in sixth grade. Most youth activities, she was off with her friends, not giving me a second thought. This particular night, however, a storm moved through and the thunder was very loud. As we were playing games, she found her way to me and sat in my lap until the storm passed. Neither of us made a big deal about it. It was a sweet moment. She needed me and I was available.

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