My journey homeschooling my son

Virtues for a 2nd Grade Boy

Like most of you I have many high hopes for my son. Recently I found a way to tie two of them together!! That in itself is great because as homeschooling parents there is so much we want to show them, do with them, etc. that we are always looking for dual purpose ideas.

One of the hopes I have is to read to him every book from my childhood plus some. Quite a daunting feat as we were/are a reading family and growing up in the 70’s there was no electronic competition. Other than outside play our whole world revolved around family and books.Trying to decide what to read when and how to organize it to get it all in is a lot easier said than done. There are hundreds of picture books, chapter books, fables, poems, fairy tales, etc. Hold that thought while I tell you about the second hope.

Second is my hope to raise a virtuous boy. My husband and I work on discipline and values and we study the bible and catechism and we discuss things, but I wanted a little more focus on the virtues… Maybe a mini-curriculum so to speak. Well imagine my surprise when I visited a friend and she had recently purchased just the thing. P.A.C.E. Programs for Achieving Character Education, Catholic Home Version. This wonderful curriculum is for grades K-6 and gives you a read-aloud plan to go along with 10 specific virtues. Did you catch that – a read-aloud plan. And best of all one that is related to virtues!!! The 10 virtues are: Self discipline, work, perseverance, faith and trust, compassion, friendship, courage, loyalty, responsibility and honesty.

This is one of those curriculums that can be as big or as little as you want. It is broken down into suggested readings for each grade and suggested Saints and Bible stories as well. There is also several other subject ideas to make this a more well-rounded program. The primary read-aloud featured in the curriculum is William Bennet’s The Book of Virtues. Now you know it’s gonna be good right – who can beat William Bennet!

I decided to tweak it to fit the boy. Going through the list I picked titles based on:

  1. What I have or have easy access to
  2. What complements and adds to the teachings of our Faith
  3. What fits for a 2nd grader
  4. What would be of most interest to a boy

Next I assigned a virtue to each month and put together my reading list. I would also be happy to e-mail this to you in either PDF or Excel format if you would like to use it for your own base list.

P.A.C.E. Virtues – Read-Aloud’s for 2012/2013 School Year

September – Self Discipline January – Faith and Trust April – Courage July – Honesty
  Harry the Dirty Dog   Polar Express   Unknown, “Actions speak louder…”   Unknown, “That child is wise who tells no lies…”
  The Chocolate Touch   23rd Psalms   Robert Frost, “Two roads… less traveled..”   Zaccheus, Luke 19: 1-10
  Ephesians 6: 1-4   From the Book of Virtues:   David & Goliath   St. John Vianney
  From the Book of Virtues:   A Child’s Prayer – p. 744   St. Stephen – Acts 7: 54-60 & 8: 1-3   Dandelion
  Please – p. 24   Noah and the Ark – p. 745   Courage of Sarah Noble   Peter Rabbit
  The Little Gentleman – p. 43   All Things Beautiful – p. 748   Kids Biography of Davy Crockett   A Pair of Red Clogs
  The Boy and the Nuts – p. 46   The Sermon to the Birds – p. 761   From the Book of Virtues:   Kids Biography of Abraham Lincoln
  The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs – p. 47   St. Nicholas and the Golden Bars – p. 763   Jack and the Beanstalk – p. 450   George Washington & the cherry tree
  The Flies and the Honey Pot – p. 48   Hansel and Gretel – p. 453   From the Book of Virtues:
  The Frogs and the Well – p. 52   The Brave Mice – p. 457   The Boy Who Never Told a Lie, p. 601
  The Golden Touch – p. 63   Chanticleer and Partlet – p. 458   The Boy Who Cried “Wolf”, p. 602
  The Honest Woodman, p. 602
  Someone Sees You, p. 604
October – Work February – Compassion May – Loyalty   Rebecca’s Afterthough, p. 608
  Johnny Appleseed   Golden Rule, “Do unto others…”   JFK , “Ask not what your country…”   The Frog Prince, p. 623
  The Ox Cart Man   Aesop, “Repay kindness with kindness…”   Meshach, Sharrach & Abednego – Daniel 3: 13-30, 6: 1-24   The Pied Piper of Hamelin, p. 627
  Kids Biography of Ben Franklin   St. Kolbe   Pledge of Allegience   The Emperor’s New Clothes, p. 630
  Noah’s Ark   Jesus & the leper, Mark 1: 40-45   Charlotte’s Web
  From the Book of Virtues:   Mr. Popper’s Penguins   Boxcar Children
  The Little Red Hen – p. 352   From the Book of Virtues:   From the Book of Virtues:
  The Ants and the Grasshopper – p. 354   The Lion and the Mouse – p. 110   Little Boy Blue – p. 667
  The Sheep and the Pig Who Built a House – p. 356   A Child’s Prayer – p. 112   The Cap That Mother Made – p. 668
  The Three Little Pigs – p. 357   Androcoles and the Lion – p. 118   America – p. 718
  The Farmer and His Sons – p. 370   The Legend of the Dipper – p. 122
  Grandmother’s Table – p. 143
November – Perseverance March – Friendship June Responsibility
  Kids Biography of Robert Fulton   John 15: 12-17   Unknown, “Promises to keep, and miles to go…”
  Kids Biography of Henry Ford   Frog & Toad   Story of St. Joseph and taking care of Holy Family
  Kids Biography of Wright Brothers   Billy & Blaze   Miss Rumphius
  Talk about Olympic athletes   From the Book of Virtues:   From the Book of Virtues:
  Story of Job   The Bear and the Travelers – p. 271   St. George and the Dragon – p. 192
  From the Book of Virtues:   The Velveteen Rabbit – p. 275   The Boy We Want – p. 196
  The Tortoise and the Hare – p. 529   Friendship – p. 284   Sir Walter Raleigh – p. 200
  The Little Steam Engine – p. 530   Little Girls Wiser Than Men – p. 318   Which Loved Best – p. 204
  Try, Try Again – p. 532   If You Were -p. 207
  The Crow and the Pitcher – p. 532
  You Mustn’t Quit – p. 536
December – focusing on Advent so no P.A.C.E.


Do you do anything specific to instill virtues in your home? If so please share with us what you do.


Coming Soon to the Deep South – Flat Stanley

Flat Stanley

The boy and I are gearing up for a Flat Stanley kind of year. From the book description: Stanley Lambchop is an ordinary boy. At least he was, until the night his bulletin board fell off the wall and flattened him. At only half an inch thick, Stanley can slide under doors, mail himself across the country in an envelope, and fly like a kite! The key thing here is mail himself across the country. That has started not just a countrywide project, but a worldwide project to begin, which has families from all over the world mailing their own Flat Stanley’s back and forth. There is a wealth of teaching to be associated with this I found a great resource with all the free teaching materials you can think of! Also, if you google Flat Stanley project you will find tons more resources.

I purchased the original boxed set the other day and we will start reading in a couple of days. Since Flat Stanley came to be in 1965 there have been multiple books added. The most recent is Flat Stanley’s World Wide Adventure Series. We purchased 1 – 4 of those too and now we are ready for our Flat Stanley marathon 🙂

The Flat Stanley website has an Exchange section where you message with others to set up Flat Stanley swaps. Tonight I responded to posts from the following countries – Dubai, Ireland, Canada, UK, France, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, India, Australia and Thailand. Some of them are homeschooling families!! I also responded to posts from the following states – California, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Wisconsin – some homeschoolers in there too!!

Curriculum Series – 3. Math

Ah math – it makes me smile; doesn’t that seem odd LOL. I bet it would seem odd to my parents.

As much trouble as the boy had with reading – has been success with math. His brian just thinks in math. Sometimes I can’t keep up. We have a little “game” to see if I can “stump” him or come up with something he doesn’t know. Didn’t happen in Grade 1 and has only happened once so far in Grade 2.

Our pick for math is Saxon. I love love it and so does he. I like that it is scripted, because math is not something I want left open to my interpretation! The manipulatives used are fun and engaging. Every 5 or 10 lessons there is an assessment so you can see how they are doing and if they really “got” it the days prior. Another plus is the average lesson takes about 15 minutes; this has been great of us because we like to add in math games, logic puzzles, etc.

We are currently using Saxon Homeschool 2nd Grade and will be moving on to Saxon Homeschool 3rd Grade this fall. I have included links to the actual Saxon site which is a treasure trove of information and has great placement tests if you are not sure where to place your child in math. However – I must tell you prices for buying Saxon are all over the map. You can find them from many sources and often find the teacher’s guide used. So do a little google searching and you may find a deal.

Here are a few of the math games and puzzles we like:

Head Full of Numbers  – board game

Blank Dice With Stickers – tons of free downloadable dice – math games via google

Even Steven & Odd Todd – great book – Scholastic Level 3 reader

Hot Dots Pen and Fractions Flash Cards and Telling Time Flash Cards – Hot Dots are really fun and they have flash cards for Language Arts, Science, Math, etc.

Sudokids.com Sudoku Puzzles for Children Ages 4 – 8

ThinkFun Rush Hour – there is also a Junior version, read the description to see which one best fits your family.

Kanoodle – portable 3-d logic puzzle

Adding Alligators – fun workbook style math stories / word problems

What is your favorite math game or activity with your child? Leave a comment and let us know.



Curriculum Series – 2. Language Arts

Language Arts is so broad. For us it is made up of six components, most of these are done daily.

  1. We are finishing up All About Reading Level 1 and will start AAR Level 2 the first of October
  2. We are finishing up All About Spelling Level 1 and will start AAS Level 2 the first of September
  3. Growing With Grammar 1
  4. We are finishing up Handwriting Without Tears 1st Grade and will start HWT 2nd Grade the first of October
  5. Catholic Child’s Daily Journal from Sanctus Simplicitus
  6. Basil Readers & Read Alouds (working on a post with some detailed lists)

The boy was one of those kids that wasn’t reading when he “should” have. He was in a respected private school here and after much prayer and evaluations of him by every professional you can imagine – we brought him home. One professional said ADD, one said it was because he had ear issues (8 surgeries) and spent formative years with a reduction in hearing, one said he just wasn’t ready, one said he should just repeat Kindergarten, one said dyslexia… anyway you get the idea. I personally was leaning toward dyslexia or that he just simply wasn’t ready. Thankfully it was the latter!!!!

This summer between 1st and 2nd grade he turned 7 and all of a sudden he was ready. Now he is flying through his days and reading well. He is doing so well and moving so fast I decided to use this year to “catch up” so to speak. Not that it really matters which grade you are in when you homeschool 🙂

I also spent many dollars and many hours on a ton of different reading programs and crashed and burned with all of them, until a good friend pushed me into All About Reading. If there was ever a miracle drug for reading this is it!!!! After about 6 weeks under our belt we added in All About Spelling and it is wonderful as well. Marie Rippell and the folks at All About Learning Press are my heroes!

Official First Day of 2nd Grade!

Wow – like many of you I blinked my eye and my little guy is not so little anymore. We have been easing back into school since mid-July by doing the 4 R’s (Religion, Reading, Writing, Arithmetic), but today was the first full day for the boy. And it was a GREAT one.

The morning started off with mass, followed by our 2nd Annual Not Back to School Blessing by our parish priest. Back home after this to dive into our day. We knocked out the 4 R’s and added in Spelling, Geography, Music Appreciation, Journal and Grammar. Music will switch out with artist studies and drawing lessons. Science and History will be added in later this week.

The curriculum series will continue this week and I will give you more details on all the things that make up our curriculum.

Olympics Homeschool Style

I would imagine I am not alone in saying, “I love the Olympics!” It has always been an obsession of mine and growing up I was a swimmer so that made it even worse LOL. I have been eagerly awaiting these Summer Olympics and stressing a little about what I would do to help the boy love them too. Oh moms, why do we worry so about silly things?!

I spent hours searching on the internet searching for various Olympic activities, lap books, games, coloring sheets, etc. The two best sties where I gathered most of my stuff were CurrClick and the Activity Village UK site.

I should have known though that simply sitting with him and letting him enjoy them would be the best. The pageantry of the opening ceremonies really kept his attention. I had to give him a little extra narration to go with the story, but mostly he just took it all in. Then the countries/athletes presentation. As soon as he saw the flags and realized what was going on he started bouncing off the walls and cheering. He knows most of the countries, by site of their flag and to actually see people from that country – holding that flag, well it was right up there in bucket list territory for a 7-year-old. All the country knowledge should directly be credited to our iPad and to the game called, Stack the Countries!!!! Super fun game – he never gets tired of it and I love a little geography gaming. It is easy to find games for math and phonics, but not easy to find good quality for geography.

I had purchased a book called This is London and the next day was the perfect day to delve deeper. This is London has been a great read-aloud for us and the illustrations are great. This is a book that we will enjoy many times over as we study London again through the years. Following that we just simply watched for a few days. We cheered and “cried” and sang the National Anthem and picked other countries we liked, etc.

Then we met up with our group for Homeschool Olympics 2012! I have the BEST BEST group of girlfriends. We share our faith, our kids and our love for learning. We worked together and had a GREAT event. We started with making flags for any country they chose – USA or any other. Next we pinned the flags to their backs and had an opening ceremonies and a torch bearer lighting the cauldron. On to the games from there; Hammer Throw, Shot Put, Baton Relay, Sack Races and Ice on the Spoon Race. Following that we cooled off with italian ice and by reading G is for Gold Medal. Medal ceremony was after this and there was much cheering! To close the event we had a closing parade and extinguishing of the Olympic flame. And you want to know something that makes this a little amazing: We had 16 kids ranging from age 6-months to 7-years and other than the 2 babies, everyone participated and earned a medal.

Opening ceremonies – parade of countries


Our Olympic athletes

my gold medalist

G is for Gold Medal has been lying around the past week and David has picked it up and flipped through it many times. The cover and art inside are very appealing. It was also a great choice for reading to multi-age kids. The pictures are bright and on each page you can choose to read a quick couple of sentences or a few paragraphs. We went with the sentences LOL. However, I know the boy and I will read it more in depth over the next week.

Yesterday afternoon we worked on our Olympic Study and learned about: how and where and why the Olympics were started; how the torch travels; what medals are made of; what the rings stand for; more about London. To complete the day he used one of the drawing activities from the Activity Village site and drew the Tower Bridge.

Following this we have just been enjoying the Olympics and learning about other not as popular sports. And mostly just cheering, “USA, USA!!”

Remember you can teach your child about anything. Just spend a few minutes on the computer, use a little printer ink and cuddle!!

Nature Study – We Are Failing

Like many I embrace the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling; with a few personal tweaks of course. One thing we consistently fail at is Nature Studies. I embrace the idea of them, but we just haven’t done them. Sometimes I chalk it up to lack of interest, being too busy with everything else, laziness, etc. I think it just comes down to I need a little kick in the butt push! For me this comes in the form of personal accountability and making something a habit. How, you ask, can that be done? Well thankfully with the resources available it is easier than you think.

  1. Desire – you have to have the interest and a little desire. Notice I said little – the desire will grow as you get into it and realize how great it is for your family.
  2. Accountability – this can come in many forms. For me it will be this blog, adding it to our daily school schedule and this great download on 21 days to becoming… compliments of the great Mama Jenn and her blog.
  3. Inspiration – this can be your child, reading one of your favorite Charlotte Mason books or simply reading a new article or book or blog. For me it was this book I heard about… Fifteen Minutes Outside. The book shares a small activity for outside – 365 days a year, broken down by months. I have skimmed through the off-season months and devoured the summer months. Of course we won’t do every activity she is suggesting, but we will do most. Now you’ve looked at the book and you are probably wondering how is just simply getting outside going to help me do Nature Studies?
  4. Being Outside – You have to start somewhere right? For us making outside together time a part of our daily routine was the problem!! So, now we are outside, that is a step in the right direction.
  5. Recording – I plan to just happen to have the boys Nature Journal in my bag and whip it out for a quick “hey, look at that cloud, what does it look like? Can you draw that?” The next time – hey look at that bug, tree, grass, flower, bird, etc. Just getting into the groove of being outside and actually seeing nature.
  6. Follow-up – When we come back inside we will look up said bug, tree, flower, bird, etc. in our field guides and on the internet.
  7. Plan – After a couple of months we may be able to actually follow a Nature Study pro and have more seasonal plans and activities – but we need to start small to have success.

I’ll keep you posted on how we do!

What subjects do you think you are “failing” at? Share with us in the comments. Any plans to “fix” it? Would you like to guest post here at “Teaching My Heart”? Just e-mail me and I’ll tell you what to do.

tadpoles in the pond in our backyard

Curriculum Series – 1. Religion

Religion – this is our most important subject of the day and the one we always do first. So here is our schedule:

Morning Offering – a little craft to help teach the importance of a morning offering prayer. We laminated ours and refer to it everyday.

Moning Offering

Liturgical Calendar – the lovely blog Sanctus Simplicitus is a treasure trove of activities related to the continual spiritual growth of us and our children.

Sanctus Simplicitus

Saint of the Day – we use many different resources for this. My favorites are easily found on Amazon (great prices too): Saints for Young Readers, Vol. 1 and Saints for Young Readers, Vol. 2. The last one I’ll recommend was a recent gift to the boy and it includes the bigger Saints – it is a great supplement to the first two. This can also be found on Amazon, Picture Book of Saints. And great news the Picture Book of Saints is eligible for the 4-for-3 promotion.


A Decade of the Rosary – one of the boy’s most prized possessions is his Lego Rosary from Etsy.


Gotta Have God 3, Daily Devotion for Boys Ages 6-9 – this is another recent gift for the boy and it has been a fun little resource. It is not Catholic, but it is full of real situational discipline and life issues. This is also available on Amazon.


Catechism – we will be using two primary sources here at home and then he will also attend CCD at our Parish. The two things we will use here are St. Joseph First Communion Catechism, available on Amazon and Faith & Life 2, available from Catholic Heritage Curricula.

And last but not least our Bible. Reading the Bible is a regular part of our day and of course various things in our catechism reference it as well. We were using The New Catholic Picture Bible and loving it, available on Amazon. Late spring though we received The Catholic Children’s Bible as a gift (haven’t we been lucky) and after reading through some of the passages I realized we needed to start using it. I would put The New Catholic Picture Bible for ages 4 – 6 and The Catholic Children’s Bible for ages 7 – 9.

**Daily Mass has not been in our schedule, but our goal for this year is twice a week!

Curriculum Series

I am going to spend the next several posts on our curriculum. I am detail orientated and I like pictures and links so I think it will take a post per subject. I hope you enjoy this series and please add comments and share what your curriculum is as well.

Our School Room

Here is a little glimpse into where we work.

We thought we would do school work in my office – the idea being that the boy could do his work while I did mine. Ha that was a short-lived-fantasy. Little did I know when I started this journey that while they’re young you can’t do much else, but sit with them.

So we just naturally started gravitating toward the kitchen. We can sit comfortably together with all the stuff spread out and I am close to the coffee pot!! And as we progress and he starts to do a little bit of independent work I can unload the dishwasher, start supper… you get the idea. We also are close to the living room so we can cuddle for read-aloud time.

At first I kept everything in my office and I would just pull out what we needed through each subject on a daily basis. That quickly got old and I realized we should have an actual space in the kitchen. A little sweet talking to hubby and some un-decorating and a school room was born.

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