Following Their Interests – The Day After Listening to Homeschool Unrefined Episode 96

You guys, I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth mentioning again.

There is nothing more satisfying than to have “things” line up in your homeschool, that compliment each other, and create a well rounded, often unexpected learning situation.

I’ll tell you what happened to me this week.

First of all, you should know that I’ve recently started listening to podcasts.  I work at night at a mindless job, and listening to anything  helps pass the time.  I started out by listening to audio books on Audible.  Once I discovered podcasts though, there was no going back.  Now I listen to podcasts until my break, then audio books for the rest of my shift.  It’s all about balance, people.

My favorite podcasts are:

  • Read Aloud Revival with Sarah Mackenzie
  • Brave Writer with Julie Bogart
  • Homeschool Sisters
  • Homeschool Unrefined, and
  • (totally not homeschool related) And That’s Why We Drink

I used to listen to Dave Ramsey, but as much as love his concepts, I can’t stand his voice.  There I said it.  It’s too forceful and aggressive.

Anywhooo, back to my story.

I listened to Homeschool Unrefined’s 96th episode: Where We Follow Their Interests.

Over the past eight years of homeschooling, I’ve struggled with my homeschool identity.  Sometimes I like the idea of classical homeschooling, but then when it gets to strict, I think unschooling is the answer.  But, then I worry that they’re not learning enough, so I switch back to classical.  So. much. flip-flopping!!  The idea of interest led education has always appealed to me, but to be honest, my kids never seem to want to dig into any specific subject deep enough to call it school.

Well, after listening to episode 96, I was so inspired!  I learned what to do, what not to do, etc.  My only question was, “what do I do if they aren’t interested in anything?!”

Here’s where the magic happened!

The very next day, Elise and I sat down to do school work like normal, when she asked, “mom, when do I get to learn about one specific state?”  My mind immediately went to episode 96.  “Instead of learning about Italy, can I learn about Hawaii?” she asked.  Of course, darling!  Well, in her research, she somehow became completely enamored with Kazakhstan.

Yes, Kazakhstan.

IMG_20190206_080951.jpgShe wanted to go to the library to get some books, so we did.  She has been studying the map, watching YouTube videos about their geography and culture, digging really deep into wedding traditions, and is interested in learning the language (we found lessons on YouTube).

She has learned more in the past two days of obsessing over Kazakhstan, than she could have ever learned about Italy in the little lesson I had prepared.

As per the guidance in episode 96, I’m staying relatively hands-off.  I did the library thing, and now I’m letting her run with her fascination.  If she asks for more, I’ll do my best to help, but for now I’ll let this interest in Kazakhstan be her guide until her interest wavers.

This is so exciting!!!

Snow Days and Snow Days

When I was little, my sister and I would anxiously watch the snow fall during a big snow storm, and hope and pray that we’d get 12″, so school would be cancelled for a snow day.

Fast forward several decades…

IMG_20190128_120831Our local public schools were called off from Monday through Thursday this week!  Monday we had a nice snow (no 12″ though!!), so the kids played outside all day.  I’m talking 6+ hours of sledding in the yard, and sledding on the giant hill a few blocks away. It was wonderful.

Elise and I normally would have had American Girl Club on Monday, but since Millie had the day off, we took the day off from homeschool, too.  🙂

Tuesday through Thursday, the temperatures were in the -20 to -30 range (plus windchill!).  We stayed inside and kept warm.  Oh my, it was a long and boring few days.

By the time Friday rolled around, we were all reading to get out of the house.  Elise and I had our teen/tween group, where the kids made toilet paper outfits, played games, and made hats, blankets, and scarves for the homeless.  As you can imagine, homeless shelters had to hand out many, many articles of cold weather gear during the cold snap!


So, our week was basically a big long, boring, very cold weekend (with the exception of Friday).  Ha ha!

Mid-Year Recap

You guys, the school year is half over!  Where on earth has it gone??

IMG_20190127_215704.jpgI realize now that I’ve been spending much of the year mourning the fact that Millie is in school.  It’s been hard to adjust to having one student at home.  I keep thinking that we need to wait to do certain things until we’re all together, but I’m coming to terms with knowing that that’s not going to happen.

One of the things I’m doing to keep Millie involved in our homeschool a little bit, is continuing to include her in our read aloud.  Several evenings each week I read to them together before bed.  We’re currently reading The Trumpet of the Swan.  Lucky for me, she has quite a few Fridays off from now until the end  of the year, so she’ll join us on some homeschool outings.  Woo hoo!

Elise has been up to the same old stuff:

  • Saxon Math
  • Guest Hollow & Queens Language Lessons for Language Arts
  • Exploring Creation Chemistry and Physics for science
  • Charlotte Mason-esque geography using maps, books, and special outings

As always, we do a LOT of field trips and extra classes.  Here’s what we’ve been up to:

Orchestra Hall, Nanea, and Leaf Art

This was an interesting week.  I didn’t have anything out of the ordinary planned, yet I seemed to have a hard time sticking to my plan.  Things kept coming up – errands and kittens, mainly.

We powered through the week, but left a lot of “make up work” for next week.  Note to self: Next year, don’t plan any academics the week of Halloween.  I seem to need a week to get caught up.

Anyhow, here’s what we were up to this week:

Math and field trips.  That’s it.  It’s not as bad as it sounds. The field trips included

A trip to Orchestra Hall to experience the sounds of a growing orchestra.  She learned about the different sections of the orchestra, which was really educational and fun.


American Girl Club, where she presented everything she learned about Princess Kaiulani to her group, and listened to her friends give their presentations.  Presentations varied from Hawaiian food, to hula dancing, grass skirts, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and Japanese internment camps.  After the presentations, they made Hawaiian leis and did a service project.


Nature class, where she did some leaf art, and did a little “forest bathing” as she walked around the State Park with her friends.  These huge Cottonwood trees reminded me of what the tree must have been like in My Side of the Mountain.


Next week is Halloween week, and we have a LOT of fun planned!

School Year Update

We’re a month and a half into the school year, and things are going great!

Millie is thoroughly enjoying public high school.  I’m pretty sure she’s sticking it out.  There are a few things that I really really like about her school experience (she’s excelling in math – something she was really struggling with at home, she’s having conversations and discussions about things that we might not have had at home, and I feel like she’s growing as a person because of it, and she’s becoming passionate about things that she didn’t care about at all before, like government).

Elise and I are having a great time at home, together.  I’ve got to tell you, having one kid to homeschool is a lot easier than two.  I mean, obviously it’s going to be easier – I only have one child to teach.  When she’s done, we’re done for the day.  It’s pretty amazing.  Of course, it was pretty amazing when both kids were home too, but man oh man, is it easy having one.  😉

Here’s what she’s been up to:

Math – She’s using Saxon, and loving it.  I swore I wouldn’t switch from Saxon since I switched math curriculum so many times with Millie trying to find the “right thing,” that I think I screwed her up 😦  So, to help me in my math teacher journey, I’m using Nicole the Math Lady.  She is a subscription based, online math teacher.  She has gone through and made instructional videos for every single Saxon math lesson – over a thousand of them!  Amazing.  She’s my math hero 🙂

Language Arts – We’re using the Guest Hollow Language Arts program this year, along with my very favorite, trusty, Queens Language Lessons.  I like combining the two for a couple reasons.  The Guest Hollow program is great as far as providing me with book lists, videos, and fun assignments.  But…the workbook that goes along with it has to be printed at home, or at an office supply place, and it would just be too much.  Enter, Queens.  The lessons in Queens Language Lessons are short and sweet, and they get the job done.  Combining the two seems to be the perfect blend for us.

Science – We’re using Apologia’s Exploring Creation With Chemistry and Physics. I love this book because it has a lot of pictures, the part I read to Elise isn’t too wordy, and it has really fun experiments/projects.  Along with her book learnin’, Elise also attends SciGirls, an all girls science class that I run.  This month, we had class in a 747 jet.  It’s my favorite thing about homeschooling!

Geography – For this, I used a little bit of Guest Hollow’s Geography plan, plus a bit of Charlotte Mason-esque map work, and we’re utilizing our diverse community to go on outings to get a flavor for other cultures.

Those are the core classes.  We also go on field trips every other week, she attends American Girl Club (history) once per month, fun social gatherings every other Friday, sewing, outdoor playdates, Ordway performances, and open gym at a gymnastics studio.

We keep busy, but not too busy that I feel overwhelmed.  For me, the key is good sleep.  🙂

Gearing Up For 5th Grade (and 9th)

I wish Summer was over, so I could start school!

                                         -Millie, about to enter 9th grade

IMG_20180819_122929As always, the new school year brings with it many changes.  This year, the biggest and most unexpected change is that Millie has decided to attend the local high school for 9th grade.  As a girl who has always said that she wants to be homeschooled forever, it was a bit of a shock.  After listening to her reasoning, we decided to let her go to school.  Of course, there is a spot in the Two Cowgirls Homeschool waiting for her, if she decides that public school isn’t for her.

What was her reasoning?  The big, dreaded “S word”!  After all these years of coordinating activities, arranging playdates, and attending event after event, she decided it just wasn’t right for her.  What she wants, are friends that are local.  I get it.  Her favorite school friend lives an hour away, and the closer ones live a minimum of 30 minutes away.  She wants to be able to text a friend and say, “let’s meet at the water park,” or “let’s meet at the coffee shop and study.”  Thankfully we have great neighbor kids for both girls to play with/hang out with.  Despite this, Milie needs more.

While I have mixed feelings about her heading off (sad to have her leave the homeschool, but super excited about the classes she’ll be taking at the school), I’m really looking forward to having one-on-one time with Elise!

Elise is going into 5th grade.  She is a completely different learner than her sister, and matches my style perfectly.  Exciting!  We’re going to have so much fun learning about geography, math, language arts, and science together.

If you know anything about me, you’ll know that I love planning things.  I have our academic schedule detailed in my calendar, so that I know what we’re doing on each day for the entire school year.  All this organization makes me so happy! Now that everything is planned out, all I have to do is sit here and wait for the school year to start.  In the meantime, I need to finish my summer reading goal (one more book!), sip some sweet tea, and soak up as much sun as possible.


We’re ready to start!!  I’m so excited 🙂

An Expo, a Dino, and Sno[w]

IMG_20180109_110244We are fully back in the swing of things, after Christmas break.  I’m totally rejuvenated, and so are the kids.

Millie (8th grade) started working on chemistry.  I’m a bit of a science teacher failure, so this is her first experience with the old periodic table.  We’re using the Intro to Chemistry kit from Home Science Tools, along with lots of really great YouTube videos.  We started with Ian Stuart’s introductory videos, which are beyond fantastic.  In addition to that, she’s been learning about the CCC, which over the years has been a special area of interest to her.  She read Invasion on the Mountain, which she loved.  We were supposed to go to the Minnesota Historical Society library to do some research, but we didn’t get around to it.  I’m hoping we can add it to our day next week…


Elise asked to learn more about rocks, so we started our rock unit this week.  Don’t you just love when things in your homeschool line up perfectly, without effort?  Here’s what happened this week:  We started our unit about rocks, which began with us talking about the rocks that often contain fossils.  Also this week, we went on a field trip where we learned all about fossilized dinosaur poop!!  It all came full circle 🙂  The coolest part, was finding out that coprolites (dino poop) stick to your tongue.  Ewww!  Yes, my daughter put one on her tongue.  Ha ha ha.  In addition to rocks and fossils, Elise learned about nutrition at her SciGirls class.  She’s *kind of* a math and science nut.


The thing I love to do most, is to plan stuff.  I love planning curriculum, my budget, classes, events, and field trips.  It’s my hobby.  Over the course of the school year, I plan 60+ field trips/classes.  So much fun for me!  Anywhoo, as part of my continuing ed, I attend a field trip expo twice per year.  So, the girls and I went to one this week.  They’re always so inspirational, and I always get ideas for field trips and classes for the upcoming year.  We usually win cool prizes, too.  Just a little added perk.  🙂  Here are a few pics from our time at the field trip expo:


Are you interested in what other homeschoolers were up to this week?  Click here!

The Whirlwind That Was December

Oh December.  A month of excessive work (nights, weekends, and over double the hours that I normally work), creating a magical Christmas for my girls, enjoying the Christmas season, 2018 planning, and topping it off with a fantastic New Years party.

I said I’d talk about how a working, homeschooling mom does it all, while dealing with extreme exhaustion from working all night long.  It was my plan to have a month filled with useful advise and pointers, but my experience was, ummmm, less than ideal.  I started out with a great menu plan, in which I’d fix healthy meals for my family to enjoy while I was at work.  Well, truth be told, that only happened once.  My family pretty much survived on cheese, meat, and crackers for dinner.  Not every night, of course, but more than I’d like to admit.

Did that hinder the Christmas magic?  No!  We still filled our days and non-working evenings with wonderful traditions (see below).

Christmas with the family was so great this year.  No one went to the emergency room, everyone gave thoughtful gifts, we played games, ate great food, and had a magical time.

Now we’re in the period of time between Christmas and New Years.  I LOVE this time.  I use these days to re-plan the remainder of the school year, rework our budget, and set new goals.

The kids are using this week to spend quality time with neighborhood friends, play with their Christmas gifts, and relax before school starts back up on January 2nd 🙂

Museums, SciGirls, and Gangsters

This week was the calm before the storm.  We were fortunate to be able to stay home a couple days, and get out for some great fun on three!

Monday we stayed home and did a lot of school work 🙂  Millie finished up her physical science course, and is ready to start chemistry soon.  Elise has been busy working on subjects and predicates, and copying a poem about a chicken.  We would have normally gone to a play date in the afternoon, but both girls were exhausted from the weekend, and wanted to stay home.  They don’t have to ask me twice!

Tuesday, Dustin from Stranger Things “thunder lizard” sweatshirt was released at the Science Museum of Minnesota.  The girls decided that we should go museum-hopping, and pick up sweatshirts while we were out.  We started out at the newly renovated Children’s Museum.  We didn’t spend too much time there, but the girls had a lot of fun in the tinker room, playing with the green screen, and climbing on the three story climbing structure.  After that, we went to the Science Museum.  They were sold out of hoodies, but the girls got other variations of the sweatshirt.  Lastly, we met up with dad, and went  to the WWI exhibit at the Minnesota History Center.  We ended  the night with tacos 🙂


IMG_20171108_115458Wednesday was SciGirls!  We’re in year four.  I can’t believe it!  It’s so fun to be able to inspire young girls by bringing mentors and super cool experiences to them.  We did coding this month.  Elise normally doesn’t like anything that has to do with computers, but she loved the coding they did at the Apple Store!

Thursday we stayed home.  I kept having a feeling that we were forgetting to go somewhere!  We stayed home all day, the kids did their schoolwork, and we enjoyed each others company.  It was wonderful!

IMG_20171110_140439Friday was a teen Field Trip Friday event.  We met up at historic caves, where we got a history lesson about the caves past.  It was super fun, and involved night clubs, mushrooms, gangsters, and ghosts.  OOoOoo!

As I mentioned earlier, this is the calm before the storm.  The next month of our lives will be turned upside down, while I work triple shifts, and try  to balance homeschool, my school, work, the household, and getting sleep and not going crazy.  More on all this later…

Would you like to see what other homeschoolers were up to this week?  Click here!

A Little Bit Halloween, A Little Bit Christmas

From Halloween to Christmas in one week flat!  This week was great!  I mean, we went out every single day, which stinks, but everything we did was fun.

Monday:  We quickly did schoolwork in the morning so we could leave for a truck or treat at a friends house!  It was super fun.  Millie and Elise decided that we’d decorate our car like a mythical zoo, complete with a live unicorn.  After everyone finished trunk or treating, we went inside, the kids got their face painted, made slime, and did other fun things.  When we got home, both kids said they’d had enough of Halloween, and they were ready to start celebrating Christmas.  They’re definitely my kids 😉

IMG_20171031_182501Tuesday:  We had a regular, full day of school of math, spelling, history, and science.  In the evening, we left to trick or treat with the family.  We went to my sisters house, where we had dinner with her family, and our parents.  I love holidays with my family!  The best part is that there is no pressure of presents, just spending time together with no strings attached.  I think that’s why I like Thanksgiving and the 4th of July so much, too.

Wednesday:  Normally, Elise would have stayed home to do school work on this Wednesday while Millie was at co-op, but I had something else in mind.  We won a membership to the Children’s Museum a while ago, but haven’t used it.  Elise brought a friend and had fun exploring the newly renovated museum.  I forgot my phone, so no pictures.  I swear it happened!  He he.

Thursday:  I left school work for the kids while I left to go Christmas shopping with my mom and sister.  We didn’t do our normal plan.  Normally we go to Target, the mall, Hobby Lobby, and other stores.  This time, we hit up a place called PrimBarn, a little independent shop in someone’s barn.  They have the cutest stuff!

Friday: Field trip day!  We went to the Textile Center  and made monsters.  The kids designed them, transferred their designs onto fabric, sewed, and stuffed their creations.  It was fantastic!

Next week will bring some major changes to our life.  I’m going to try to double as much as possible at work, which means the girls will be on their own a lot.  I’ll be home, but sleeping.  So, that means I’ll have to do a lot of prep work early in the week, and hope the kids can stay on track…

Are you interested in seeing what other homeschoolers were up to this week?  Click here!