that time of year

Less than a week until school starts.

Shepherd is going into kindergarten.

Jude is going into 1st grade.

Isabelle into 2nd.

Sophie into 3rd.

Dalton into 5th.

And Asher into 7th. At home.

Yes, I’ll be starting a second year of homeschooling Asher. A statement, just a few years ago, I thought I’d never, ever make. We’re not continuing to homeschool because we had such great success with it last year. I mean, Asher had great success in that he loved it. Loved being home. Loved being finally rid of his constant stomach aches. But I? Fell a bit, well… short. And that’s probably a pretty big understatement.

Let’s just say, I’m not a very organized person. And I don’t like making schedules. Or planning anything in advance.

I know, it’s sad. But it is my reality.

In addition to my lazy bone, though, God blessed me with a big dose of optimism. Which means I’m so very hopeful that this year will be better. That I’ll be better.

I thought I’d found a solution in Switched on Schoolhouse, which handles much of the planning, organizing and grading. But alas, it only runs on Windows based computers. And we’re an Apple-only household.

Lifepac Language Arts, History and Geography :: Apologia Science :: Wordly Wise :: Teaching Textbooks

Sooo, this is the curriculum I’ve chosen so far for this year. And I just decided to add Foundations in Personal Finance by Dave Ramsey (we *heart* Dave Ramsey). A few of these are new to me, namely Teaching Textbooks and Lifepac. If you’ve used these, what are your thoughts? Any suggestions appreciated.

And what I need most is a plan to get and stay organized. Simple, basic and, preferably, easy. I have a planner for Asher, but what about me? How do you prepare, plan and track your kiddos schoolwork?




  1. i don’t have any middle schoolers- but i do homeschool 4 of our 6 kiddos- grades 4,3,2,and K. i honestly don’t have to prepare anything b/c the kids and the curriculum we use just kind of plans itself– i just discovered Total Language Plus for language arts– i was hating all the extra books, planning, blah blah– and TLP (google their site) rocks– it is literature based- which i love- and from a Christian perspective. if you go to their site- you can find books at his reading level- and you order the “yellow book””- what we call it here- each day he does a little reading, vocal, spelling work, dictation (which are usually scripture verses) and reading comp questions,… at the jr high level the work might be a little different- i can only speak for the 5th grade level books.

    soo- mon, wed, fri are math and TLP days. tues and thurs are math, science and history days. for history- i use sonlight– LOVE sonlight- again- it plans out all the readings and work for you- and we also use apologia science.
    we don’t keep track yet of our work- again- b/c we’re just elementary- so i have no advice there:(

    • NiHaoYall says:

      Thanks, Emily! I love the MWF, TuTh approach! We tried TLP and it was too much packed into one book – he felt overwhelmed with it as math/science are his strong suit. So we’re switching it up this year…

  2. our second year of home school also…and I AM NOT ORGANIZED at all….will be watching the comments….I will only have one this year though instead of two. praying we both get some answers.

  3. Wanted to say hi from Ca! Love to read about your wonderful family :) I think it might be a blessing that you are an apple family as far as SOS goes. We tried it, I thought it would be so great…..yuck! I hated it, my son hated it and that is the end of the story. In my opinion you are on the right track with Teaching Textbooks…yeah! We also use Sequential Spelling which has been extremely effective for my kiddos and easy on the Mom. Easy Grammar is a good one, too. Trying Daily Geography for the first time this year…looks good so far :) I recommend checking out a homeschool company called Timberdoodle, great products that just get the job of schooling done and owned by a homeschooling family with many years of wisdom under their belt. May the Lord bless your new school year!

    • NiHaoYall says:

      I’ve heard great things about Easy Grammar! And yes, Timberdoodle, too! But I’ll have to check out Sequential Spelling and Daily Geography. Thanks, Teresa :)

  4. HI Stephanie,

    Apologia is Awesome!!!!! and I know a lot of people who like Teaching Textbooks. We use Math you see and that is my favortie. They now have online classes starting in Algebra on up. I am not sure about the Language arts Program you mentioned. We started using Progeny Press guides for Language arts and love them (Basically you pick a book and it walks you through each chapter and they have to answer questions and look up words in a dictionary for vocabulary and they also have to look in their bible and see what it says about the situation. The Well Planned Day Planner is really good and you can have your schedule and the littles in there too. I hope this helps. Email me if you have any more questions. Sorry I know it is overwhelming but it is so worth it. :) Not sure where you live but there is a big Homeschool Conference in The Woodlands Texas every year at the beginning of August and that is always refreshing and very very helpful. They have all the vendors there to talk to. Happy Homeschooling. Oh, and this book For The Childrens Sake is so so good.

    • NiHaoYall says:

      We love Math U See, too! I used it for my boys when they were younger… I didn’t know they had online classes!! And I’ll definitely check out For The Children’s Sake, too.

  5. As as long time homeschooling mom, I still struggle with organization and staying on task (me, not the kids!) But the Lord is faithful and will help you each and every day. We love Apologia science and Asher will, too. The author writes more like having a conversation with the student. It is also great preparation for college. Apologia more than prepares them for any college science class. So perservere, and takes each day as it comes!

    Anne Krause (Courtney’s mom)

  6. I don’t have any experience with homeschooling, but my sister used Wordly Wise from 3rd to 6th grade at a school here in Tennessee and she loved it. We’ve moved around a lot and gotten to sample lots of different curriculum.

  7. Do you belong to the Homeschool Buyers Co-Op? The Dave Ramsey materials are one of the current group buys, until 8/30. It looks like an excellent course!

    We are blessed to be in a district with an excellent virtual program, which my 8th grader is doing this year. I never thought I would have one at home either, but it is great spending time together, and I learn a lot from watching his classes!

  8. Just had to say I love teaching textbook for math!!!!!!!! I was home schooled until last year when I started college. School was never very organized but I learned to love learning. It was great!

  9. I am not good at planning either. At least for homeschool. I have been homeschooling for 4 years and this is the first year that I have actually REALLY planned. We have been doing school for 4 weeks now and I have to say that it has gone better this year than any other year. I bought planning books for the boys at the dollar store (they are made for teachers, but I got one for each boy). On the weekend, I plan out each day, and each subject and the work they need to do each day and each subject. That is all I use and it seems to work well for us.

    We use Teaching Textbooks too and I love it! Just switched to it this year!

  10. Stefanie,
    I struggle exactly the same way. Organization and planning are not my most favorite things, but I’m optimistic as well. We are using similar curriculum. I also grew up on WOrdly wise and loved it. We are also using Apologia for science (7th grader). I looked into TT for math but was disappointed by the reviews, which all stated they don’t “teach to the test”, meaning ACT and SAT. So we are sticking with Saxon (you can by the cd for him to use independently like TT).

  11. We switched to Teaching Textbooks last year and both of my boys LOVE it! It is very easy to use for the children as well as the parents. We began our homeschool journey four years ago….I never thought we would actually do it much less do it and LOVE it for four years. Happy schooling this year! I am sure you will both do just fine!

    • NiHaoYall says:

      Yay! Love to hear you love TT – I’ve read so much great stuff about it and my son is SO visual, I think he’s going to love it, too :)

  12. I don’t have any advice for you…our schooling is a mix of private and homeschool so the hard stuff is outta my hands. But wanted to say that I hope you have a fantastic year! Our schooling began this week and it is harder with a kindergartner this year! Add an 18 month old to the mix in a couple of weeks…eeek. I may drown. lol. Not really. But I’m prepared for hard days. :) Hope yours are easy peasy with your crew! You rock, lady.

  13. I used to teach middle school and now I home school my pre-schooler and second grader. My only advice is to break it down into small chunks, like 4 weeks at a time. When you get near the end, assess how he did and then plan the next 4 weeks. Remember you can pick and choose the activities done; don’t get bogged down in doing every lesson because it’s in the book. I wouldn’t recommend trying to plan the whole year because life happens and then there’s a lot of frustration with having to re-plan what was already done. I hope it goes well for you:)

  14. I’ve used Lifepac, Switched on Schoolhouse, Teaching Textbooks, Apologia, Wordly Wise, and Abeka. Oh and Sonlight, and a few others that have dropped from our list due to various reasons.

    I would be willing to share our planning spreadsheet, but you have to know Excel fairly well to understand it. I have the “lesson plans” laid out for Teaching Textbooks and Apologia sciences through Biology (General, Physical, and now Biology). We homeschool our 4 – K, K, 4th, and 8th. :)

    • NiHaoYall says:

      Thank you, Carla! Your spreadsheet sounds wonderfl – do you think I could edit it in Google docs as a spreadsheet?

  15. Unless your state requires excessive record keeping, I just plan what we need to do for the year, and then do some each day. Most curriculum breaks up easily. Apologia takes about 2 weeks per module to get done in a “school year”. Many of our books have 160-180 lessons. When we live in a state that requires daily plans, I just write what we actually did in a calendar with big squares each day. I’m a “finish the book” kind of mom usually.

    My oldest is 8th grade this year, so she can possibly receive high school credit for a subject if she does work of good enough quality. For the subjects where she might get credit, I am using

    Which is a free tracker. Enter assignments and grades for each subject. Hooray!

    I teach Apologia Chem and Physics for a co-op, and I have had students who have used many math programs come into my class very well prepared. Teaching Textbooks is one of them. Saxon works for some kids very well. Most kids have used Prentice Hall for high school math, because of the co-op, but it doesn’t have videos. is really great if you need to brush up on something.


  16. We use ABeka for our kiddos and absolutely LOVE it! The teachers are amazing. I think you should totally look into it as a possibility for next year. And, it works on Apple. :)

  17. For many years, I’ve used a teacher plan book to record what we do each day. That worked great for us with our old curriculum, but we are doing something very different this year (My Father’s World) and I’m not really happy with my record keeping system for this year yet. So far I’m photocopying the main weekly lesson page, adding other subjects as space permits, and logging the overflow on a separate sheet. Good luck finding a system that works for you.

  18. Stephanie says:

    You will LOVE Apologia!! I used to make a schedule, but I don’t do that anymore. I try and go 5-6 weeks on and then a week off year round…this year, I was going to start the “new” year in July and that hasn’t happened. We use My Father’s World. I like it because it tells you what to do I need that, also makes it easier to figure out where we left off.

  19. Today I got a planner that I ordered and two came instead of one! If you would like it, I would be happy to send you my extra. It is put out by Apologia and it’s for the Mom. There are also planners for the kids as well. I’m not a super structured person either and I don’t think you have to be :) Here’s the link for the planner:|M

  20. Robyn Foster says:

    We are big, big fans of Teaching Textbooks! My son worked independently. The only hang-up we had was when he started something new and difficult, it doesn’t give them much practice, just a few questions. So you might want some worksheets or workbooks handy as backup. And you can find several places to make those worksheets online for free, including Good luck! :)

  21. There is an awesome resource sale going on right now with tons of books for “teachers” too. I don’t hs yet (Wyatt is 2 1/2) but I want to, and some of the Confession of a Homeschooler tot things (letters of the week, K4 curriculum, etc) are great for your littlest gals. It may keep them busy and give you more time to plan too. I had downloaded the Letters of the week curriculum for $10 a while back, but you get that plus all those others for only $25! The sale lasts through the 25th and you only have a couple of weeks to download and save to your computer, but looks like great stuff! Hope this link shows up…if not you can find it on and confessions of a homeschooler too.

  22. Can’t believe it but we are starting our sixth homeschool year! Giving myself lots of grace helps when I feel I’m falling short. So many more important things than sweating the small stuff. Yet every year I try to get more organized too which helps me get us off to a good start. This year I’m trying out an organizer called The Well Planned Day. It’s Christian based and available on Amazon. I think it will work well!

    I have an 11th, 7th (the twins), 2nd and K -plus the amazing wonder boy toddler this year. Very grateful to be their Homeschooling Mom! We’ve used TT too ad love it.

    Love your blog – first time commenting – but I’ve read through your adoptions and hope someday we can bring a little one home too. Good luck with your year!

  23. We use a variety. Our 10th grader uses Classical Conversations (one day a week “tutoring” in all his subjects, Working on the subjects the rest of the week) and goes to Chemistry Lab at a co-op, our 8th grader watches Bob Jones DVD/Hard drive and attends Spanish class at a co-op. Our youngest 5 are attending Classical Conversation (with me) one morning a week as well as Bob Jones, Math U See, and even some Abeka:-) I highly recommend Shurley Grammar for grammar. We used it with our oldest two and are starting it with our youngest ones. If your son loves to read, Sonlight is a wonderful program. You can get most of the books from the library. I have the instructors manual for 7th grade if you are interested. And lastly, Apologia Science is wonderful!

  24. ElizabethH says:

    It looks like you already have your curriculum pretty much picked, but I would think that you would excel in a curriculum that already has everything scheduled out for you. That’s exactly one of the reasons I like and use My Father’s World is because they have a weekly chart of what is done on each day. For 7th-12th, they even use Apologia Science and have their own lesson plans written out for it so you know exactly what to do for each day in order to get the science done that year.

    Otherwise, it seems like something like the Well Planned Day Planner is what you need so you can write out what needs to be done when. They also have a online/phone version that is new this year.

    Oh, and I would find out what resources your state’s Christian homeschool group has. Our state (Colorado) has CHEC (Christian Home Educators of Colorado) and their website tells you the laws for CO and what is required for tracking hours/days, etc. They have spreadsheets you can download for keeping track of what is required of us by law here. We also have an awesome conference each June that has great speakers on parenting, homeschooling and just great uplifting Christian speakers, like Ken Ham from Answers in Genesis. I would highly recommend seeing if your state has something similar to support and encourage you.

    I think it’s awesome that you are homeschooling Asher! Keep up the great work!

  25. Love reading your blog! You should check out They have all kinds of lapbooks…even a series that was created to accompany Apologia!

  26. I stalk your blog..I had to get that out there..anyway, I homeschool all three of my kids……..(as if three is a lot!)…..
    I use a catholic program…and we do use Teaching Textbooks…and if your are anything like me…a math dope, then this is the program for you!! My son, 10 years, ADHD, Tourettes, and all around typical boy, uses this program…(Im starting the midde child this Sept.) and its been great..they watch the lecture and do the problems…If my son scores a 90 or above..I dont even check it! I figure hes got a great grasp on it and let it go..seriously its the best.
    PS …we are on year three of homeschooling and only now do I feel like I have a good grasp on what Im doing..every year it gets better…
    My son is anxious and HATED school…I got tired of putting him thru it …believe me…your boy will be fine!! I went to a college where about 60 % of the student body was homeschooled…(at the time I thought was WEIRD) only to find they were totally normal and WAY more mature then the rest of my peers and uber cool and wise….very wise….
    Good Luck!!

  27. Anna Schmidt says:

    Everything looks great! About math….Our family does a mixture of different math programs, so we have tried a ton. One of mine did TT and enjoyed it. We have also done Life of Fred (wonderful program… ) and also math u see, although i wouldnt reccomend for upper levels…pretty weak in that area:( we also did saxon one year and dint love it. love wordly wise have used it all throught highschool..some more good language arts programs are 1) a great editing program called ‘fix-it’ by the institute for excellence in writing(wonderful company) 2) easy grammer 3) this is a place where you can take 6 week writing “workshops” ive heard they are phenomonal you basically write an essay,the teacher personally grades it and gives improvement tips then assigns more writing. There is a cost, although it isnt too high. We would have done it already but my mom is a writing teacher so they get to have free lessons from her:) For science…apologia is by far the best christian science program out there for homeschoolers. A great resource that i just discovered is a site that offers FREE online classes. And the classes are actually really good quality( they have amazing teachers). Their main focus is science, but there are a handful of other classes that they offer. They have a class that goes along with the apologia physical science textbook. I believe that since its so close to the start of school, you cant register for the live class option, although they do have at your own pace classes. They even grade all the test, quizzes and lab reports as well as keeping the grades for you. For more info visit . 2 of my girls have taken classes from there and love them (they are in 8 and 9 grade) highly reccomend. Tips to stay organized…we have always created either a day by day or week by week agenda.for example, ill put the word “science” with a couple blank lines underneath. Continue until you have a page full of all the subjects. Now, each week you can add the assignment in each blank.for example under science you might put “read module 5 pges 50-53”. You can do one page for each week or a page per day, depending on how you like to give him his assignmemts. This is helpful because you can write in his assignments whenever and he can see them whenever and check them off when finished. Another bonus is you can can bind them(in 3ring binder) and then refer back to them any time in the future to see what he did that year. This came in handy for me when i wanted to remember what one of kids did for school several years ago. I just pulled the old binder out from that year and voila! All i needed right there. Anyways…Hope this helps! Feel free to email if you have more questions:)

  28. We love teaching textbooks!! Apologia is awesome! Have you ever checked out Excellence in Writing? Andrew Pudwa is a wonderful teacher! Also, if you check out Veritas Press….they offer some online classes! Here’s the deal though, life happens and we can’t be “organized” perfectly! So, the good news is, we have our whole lives to be Educated!! The book stuff is only part of the equation! Stick to the three R’s (reading writing and arithmetic) and a solid foundation in math and Asher will do fine!! History, geography, science, art, and even grammar will all come through reading GREAT LITERATURE!! And remember, Gods instruction to us as parents is to teach our children about Him!!! If you put that FIRST (I don’t mean first thing in the morning, but ABOVE all these other academics) then all these other things shall be added unto you! The academics will come….lots of reading! No worry to cram it all in at once!! Learning (and retaining) take a lifetime! Asher is at the age where you can SEE his strengths and interests….don’t ignore them! You have a wonderful opportunity to guide him towards his future dreams and goals as a man! (in other words…don’t fret over the details or “subjects” that won’t really be a BIG part of his future! Not to say a little exposure to these things isn’t a great approach! Okay, good luck! Have fun! Be yourself!!! Don’t try to be “super organized homeschool mom!!!” she doesn’t exist! Haha!

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