Category: middle school

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NatureGlo’s eScience- 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.

Oh my ever loving self-paced, relaxed, unit study, unschooling heart. I am terrible… I mean… terrible with follow through. Year long curriculum and I just don’t have a good track record when it comes to finishing what we start. When I find something that is more unschooly and delight-directed… self-paced and relaxed… it is just the best! Enter NatureGlo’s eScience MathArt & Science Course Bundle!

We received one year of access toNatureGlo’s eScience MathArt & Science Course Bundle. This was a special bundle designed just for the Crew and comes to us from NatureGlo’s eScience. We had the opportunity to sample a variety of the courses provided. This 25-course bundle contains courses from NatureGlo’s MathArt and natural sciences classes.

The 25 courses were

  • Botany (redwood trees)
  • Bubbleology
  • Geology
  • Herps Explorers (three separate units)
  • Herps Zoology (two separate units)
  • Introduction to MathArt
  • Invertebrates
  • Marine Biology (six separate units)
  • Mammals
  • MathArt (six separate units)
  • Marine Reptiles
  • Marine Zoology (two separate units)
  • Math Connections with the Real World
  • Life and Mathematical Art (two separate units)

I mean… where to even start??? My kids are ages 8, 11, 13, and 15. Every few weeks, I like to just take a break from the norm and throw in a unit study or independent study. These courses from NatureGlo’s eScience are PERFECT!

I loved M.C. Escher as a high schooler. I was fascinated by his work. I am excited to share this with my kids! You can see from the image above what a course looks like when you click on it. Title, lessons, etc. The units are short. The M.C. Escher one has 2 lessons. Others like the Herps Explorers (Frogs, Geckos, Chameleon’s, and more) are longer with 6 weeks of material.

I had a bit of difficulty navigating the website at first, but once I got the hang of it I was good to go. Students go to their course, scroll down and click on their lesson. They then follow instructions, watch videos, etc. The lessons offer many extension activities to go deeper… to rabbit trail off and follow your interests. The courses are very video heavy. Students who have a difficult time sitting in front of a screen or learning from video may struggle. However, you can always choose ot break up a lesson over the course of a few days.

Students can choose to jump around and pick topics that interest them in no particular order… OR they can follow this well laid out road map that takes them through all of the courses offered in the MathArt and Science Bundle. For my kids, I plan to let them pick a unit study and go for it!

Here are the choices so far:

8 year old: Bubble-ology

11 year old: Mammals: Wildcat, Gray Wolf, and Right Whale

13 year old: Marine Biology: Tide Pool Communities

15 year old: The Life and Mathematical Art of M.C. Escher

Whether you are looking to break up some heavy curriculum or build a year of unit studies or allow students to follow their interests…you’ll want to consider NatureGlo’s eScience. The courses are great. The creator obviously cares about what she is teaching and provides solid content for her students. If you have been considering an unschoolish/ delight directed kind of life… this would be a great place to start (in my opinion)!

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Simply Coding- 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.

When I was in high school, I had a TI83 graphing calculator. I learned how to make games and program formulas. If I had paid as much attention to the actual classes I was in that I did learning to manipulate that calculator… well… let’s just say my relationship with math might be much better. I didn’t realize at the time that I was doing something called “coding.” It was just not the language of the day. If you are around homeschool circles long enough, the term “coding” will come up. Our library offers coding classes, websites are dedicated to teaching kids how to code, books, courses, etc. Coding is big deal for the world in which our kids are living. Coding is essentially learning the language of programming. I was very excited when were given a chance to review the Coding for Kids Annual Membership from Simply Coding.

When first given the opportunity to review the membership, I had my younger kids in mind. My oldest used to have a great interest in all things computer and computer programming, coding, web design, etc. He has gradually moved away from these things. However, we were out with friends the other day and I heard him say that he wanted to get back into coding. I didn’t want to add to his school work because as soon as I call something “school,” it is tainted and not worth his time. Instead, I said, “Hey Bud… I heard you mention you want to get back into coding? We were given this program that I have to review… I mean… I could set you up as a user on it… no big deal… just if you want to.”

“Um yeah… sure.”

I went through the process of setting up my account and adding students. This was super easy to navigate and complete. He got his own log in and password. There is a student dashboard in addition to the parent/ instructor dashboard.

When he logs on, this is what he sees:

The three in light blue are the courses he had access to through our membership. He also has access to those other tabs: Simply Media, Simply Tech Essentials, and Simply Tech4Kids. He is excited about the Simply Tech Essentials because it has a big focus on photography and design.

Here are just a few of the classes that they offer:

  • JavaScript Game Design
  • Into into Websites
  • Minecraft Mods in Java
  • Digital Photography
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Blogging 4Kids
  • Create Your Own Youtube Channel

For his first class, he chose JavaScript:

I asked my son (age 15) what his first thoughts were. He has taken classes before on JavaScript and web design. He said Simply Coding is more intuitive and faster paced than courses he has done in the past. He felt like he got to the “fun stuff” faster and therefore, it kept his interest.

Simply Coding is designed for ages 11-18. It is “a self-paced interactive online curriculum that teach youth how to code their own computer games, websites, and apps through the correct structure and environment.” As an adult, I am actually excited to give some of the classes a try. I am fairly well versed in Adobe, but I noticed there was a class on using Adobe In Design. I think I will give that one a try!

Simply Coding could definitely work into your weekly homeschool rhythm. I decided to just give it to my son to work through on his own and not assign it as “school work.” By doing this, there is not a minimum requirement each day… he can work on it whenever and for however long he chooses. I heard him talking with his dad about it the other night… he was excited about the things he is learning. And little does he know, I am watching him and if he finishes the class, it will most definitely appear as a Computer Science credit on his transcript!

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Our Middle School Plans 2020-2021

This post contains affiliate links.

I’ve been at this homeschooling gig for a while. Starting our 11th or 12th year… not really sure at this point. I’d like to think I’d have a handle on things. Each year brings unique challenges. Each year brings opportunity to explore and enrich. I did not come into this year excited like I have in the past. To be honest… I just wasn’t feeling it. I am essentially just going through the motions… faking it until I’m making it. I told my husband a few days ago that I really can relate to my son… not really knowing the point of some of the classes I’m requiring of him. But sometimes we just have to play the game, right? But I want more than that for my kids. I want them to love learning. I want them to have the keys to identify what they want to learn and go after it! Ug… such is the life of a homeschool mom… living in the tension of the want to and the have to.


I have an 8th grader this year. She is brilliant and creative. She helped me put together her course work. We have the spine, or the core of the year in place. I’m sure we will rabbit trail as the year goes on.


I learned my lesson with my older child. I should not bear the full responsibility of teaching Algebra. I just don’t get it myself. I was barely staying a step ahead and I think I may have broken him. My daughter is very talented at math. I was afraid I would break her too! I signed her up to take Algebra from a local homeschool dad. She uses Saxon and is doing well so far as I can tell.

Language Arts/ Literature

You may have read my post about our Elementary Plans and how I am incorporating visual reading lists into our year. This is an idea I saw through 1+1+1=1

Download a printable version here:

The larger 6 books are the required reading for the year. I ask that she read for at least 20 minutes per day. If she completes the required six before the end of the year, she has the others listed on the bottom to choose from.

Can I just tell you how much I failed in the first week with this new idea that had me so excited? I was so thrilled to curate book lists and design the covers and put together reading notebooks. I was so proud of myself. Well… you’ll notice the first book on her list is “Peace Child.” This is a book that is on all the Christian book lists… I saw it come up over and over again as I was researching books. She came to me the first day and said, “I’m nervous to read this book… it says it is about cannibals. Can I pick a different book?”

Now… mind you… I’d never read this book so my response was really not fair.

I informed her that it is a book primarily about missionaries and not cannibals. It is a book on all the Christian book lists. It probably doesn’t even really focus on the actual act of cannibalism. She needed to read it. She would be fine… just read the book.

The next day, she came upstairs… pale and shaking. She handed me the book. She said that someone’s head had been chopped off and they ate him. She opened the page and pointed. I saw words like “blood” and “skull” and “dripping.”

She was now terrified and asked again if I could just let her pick a different book. I let her move to the next on the list… Holes. I guess I should do a little more research next time I curate a book list.

For writing and grammar, we are using IEW’s Structure and Style Year One Level B. It is very similar to what my younger girls are doing, just at a higher grade level. She is doing Fix It Grammar alongside the program. I was hesitant for a very long time to use anything IEW, but as I’ve gotten to know the program, I have come to really appreciate it. The program is 24 weeks long… which is great because we can slow down or speed up as we need. My son completed level C in three months last year, but my girls will likely take a little more time with it.


This year, she picked Physcial Science through Schoolhouse Teachers. She was thinking to go ahead and do biology like her brother did in 8th grade. She is more scientifically minded than he is and I want her to take a more intensive biology than he did so I encouraged her to give herself one more year before jumping in. So far she is enjoying the Physcial Science course. It utilizes World Book Online and has a lot of hands on experiments.

Right now through November 3rd, you can take advantage of the Mama Bear sale on Schoolhouse Teachers! Use the code MAMABEAR and get a full year plus a Mama Bear tote and Print copy of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine for just $159.

Trip Around the World

My dear friend Marji from Master’s Mark Academics teaches some amazing classes through our local co-ops and online. With the uncertainty of the world right now, I was super hesitant to sign my children up for any in-person classes (other than Algebra… because… Algebra). Instead, we took advantage of some online learning. I signed the 8th grader up for a fall class called “Trip Around the World.”

Part of the class description reads:

“A Foreign Language Survey Course

Your student will experience a taste of six languages and cultures, and touch on the geography and culture to go with them.

We will explore Spanish, French, German, Italian, Russian and Arabic.

Your student will learn the same Scripture in each language, the chorus to “Jesus Loves Me”, how to count (at least from one to ten), the basic colors, as well as elements of the culture and the countries who speak that language.”

You can learn more about the class and Master’s Mark Academics HERE.

Well. There you go! This is our plan for middle school this year. Middle School really is an amazing time. They start to learn more independence, more self regulating. They really hone their interests and are just super fun creatures all around! Check out my post on homeschooling middle schoolers if you need a little more inspiration!

How about you? What is your middle schooler learning about this year?

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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:

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Exploring the U.S. Life-Saving Service- 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.

Unit studies are a perfect fit for a delight directed style of homeschooling. They give you the freedom to explore unique topics and tie in a variery of academic disciplines. We were recently given the opportunity to review Exploring the U.S. Life Saving Service 1878-1915: 17 Student Workshops with 120 Activities from Rebecca Locklear. The unit study is all about the U.S. Life Saving Service which was the forerunner to the U.S. Coast Guard. Comprised of eight member rescue teams, this service would row out to ships in distress during violent storms to rescue those on board. If you have a child who is an outdoor enthusiast, loves to learn about survival skills, enjoys hiking or boating, or just loves to learn about unique pieces of history, this downloadable unit study from Rebecca Locklear is a great fit!

The study is divided into 4 units with 17 workshops:

  • Unit 1: Life at the Station House
  • Unit 2: Working Together
  • Unit 3: The Culture of Character
  • Unit 4: Relevance Today

Each worksop begins with listing the objective and the materials needed to complete the activities. It also shares grade appropriate goals (as seen below):

The book begins with a thorough look at the history of the U.S. Life Saving Service. The old pictures are fascinating. This would be an excellent unit to include in a Post-Civil War to World War 1 Unit. The book is rich with maritime history and information.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, Unit Studies are fantastic for connecting the various disciplines. Just look at the variety of activities included in the Exploring the U.S. Life Saving Service book. Not only are many activities included, but many types of learning styles and interests are addressed. This book will appeal to your logical thinkers, your artists, your actors, your wiggly learners, your book learners, and everything in between. It would be really great to use at a homeschool co-op as it provides for a lot of collaborative learning. In fact, I think it may be best used in a co-op setting with multiple children. The hands-on activities include designing a logo for the U.S. Life-Saving Service, make gingerbread in a jar, performing a skit (the script is included in this curriculum), playing a game, designing and creating an anchor, making smelling salts, role playing, completing a cold water experiment, and more.

Pictured above is a matching activity included in Unit One: Life at the Station House. The activity is a game to be played after learning about how the people of the day identified and hunted for food. My kids and I read through Unit One together.

This 117 page text includes history, science, writing, cooking, art and more-all in one book geared towards grades 4-12. The author has a personal connection to the U.S. Life Saving Service in that her great-grandfather, “Skipper” Eldredge, devoted 15 years of his life to this service.

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