Photos from a recent apple picking excursion at Beilke Family Farms near Salem, OR (we picked approximately 66 pounds of RubyMac, Honeycrisp, Jonagold, Gala and Golden Delicious apples):

This was our second week of school and we are not off to a good start. Last week, I managed three solid days of school work despite our fire on Labor Day, but this week my whole world fell apart. On Wednesday afternoon I received a call from the restoration company hired to repair the fire damage. They informed me that ALL of our property has been "contaminated" by the fire and said that everything in the house would have to be packed up and moved out. Some of the contaminated property could be professionally cleaned (if our insurance will cover it, which is still uncertain) while the rest had to be disposed of and/or replaced. He also told me that we would not be able to live in the house for several weeks while the work is being done and would need to find someplace else to stay. Further, if our property is not cleaned and/or disposed of, we would not be allowed to move it back into the house because we would re-contaminate it. Given that we just barely got settled into the house, after so many months of careful packing and planning, this is all quite a shock.


This week we read the first chapter in Faith and Life: Following Christ (again) and completed the corresponding Activity Book pages. The kids also read the first four chapters of Saint Dominic: Preacher of the Rosary and Founder of the Dominican Order by Mary Fabyan Windeatt and we worked through most of the Race for Heaven Study Guide questions and activities. Lastly, the kids read the first two chapters of Ignatius Schuster's Illustrated Bible History and answered the chapter questions.


Our week began with a field trip to the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum. In trying to fill a gap in our history reading next week, I had considered assigning a book that I'd seen on other middle school reading lists- The Trees by Conrad Richter. The forestry museum seemed like a good tie-in with the book. However, after pre-reading the book on Tuesday (after our museum visit), I decided that it should probably wait until high school, though it is an engrossing book that I enjoyed. That being said, the museum was a bit of a disappointment anyway and wasn't quite what I'd imagined.

To compensate for the museum, we took the beautiful Columbia River Highway to Multnomah Falls - the second highest year-round waterfall in the United States and a place where Lewis and Clark camped twice on their expedition (in November, 1805 and again in April, 1806). We read the applicable journal entries by Lewis and then the boys ran (literally - where do they find the energy?!) to the top of the falls, while M and I only managed to hike halfway.

Multnomah Falls

Field trips aside, history was probably our slowest subject overall this week, but this is mainly because I've stretched my scheduling of our spine out ridiculously so that it will last us another two years. It's the kids' least favorite subject (but my favorite) and since I usually include tons of extras and get easily distracted by rabbit trails, I wanted to have time for everything without overwhelming them. Since this week fell apart, not a lot got done:

Language Arts

This week, M finished up Peppermints in the Parlor by Barbara Brooks Wallace (her free reading selection), a book that I loved at her age and was recently reminded of after browsing through one of Don Killgallon's books. She enjoyed the book so much that she promptly started on the sequel, The Peril of Peppermints. J read through two Naruto [manga] books that he picked up at the library.

For Literature, M read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll for four days this week (30 minutes per day); we're loosely using the MCT literature guide for discussion. On Friday, she also began reading from The Other Alice: The Story of Alice Liddell and Alice in Wonderland, a nonfiction book by Christina Björk and Inga-Karin Eriksson. (For older students or adults, I highly recommend Alice I Have Been: A Novel by Melanie Benjamin!)

Despite all of my big plans for J's reading this year, I ended up placing him in a literature class at a local community learning center. I  knew the class would be challenging, but I really had no idea it'd be so challenging (especially for someone who only enjoys reading manga). His book list this year include A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Pride and Prejudice, and Slaughterhouse Five. This week's assignment was to read two chapters per day of A Tale of Two Cities. He was not understanding the book at all, so I broke down and bought him the Cliff Notes. Now, he reads a chapter in the book, followed by the Cliff Notes summary and seems to be doing just fine. We'll see how it goes.

For Grammar, we only managed 10 pages of Grammar Town and four chapters of  Grammar-Land (plus the corresponding worksheets); there was no poetry this week.

This was our first week using Susan Wise Bauer's Writing with Skill for Composition and it went surprisingly well. M had a major meltdown on Day 2 (she's such a detail person, summarizing is really hard for her), but pulled it together for the rest of the week and even did a great job on Day 4 which was a longer "challenge" assignment.


This week the kids attended their first drawing class at the community learning center where I've enrolled them part-time (for 2 classes apiece). They both enjoyed it very much and are looking forward to next week.

We did not start a new lesson in art this week, but rather continued with the project we missed last week: a One-Line Abstract Drawing in the style of Paul Klee (this was from Discovering Great Artists by MaryAnn F. Kohl and Kim Solga). We reviewed some of Klee's work before jumping into the project and ended up spending two days on it.

Herr der Stadt (Master of the Town), Oil on paper by Paul Klee, 1937

J - hard at work

M's work

We also briefly studied the contemporary one-line drawings of Nissim Ben Aderet and watched this interview with the artist.


The kids completed two worksheet pages per day from Building Thinking Skills and did some math review worksheets all week, in addition to 45 minutes per day of Khan Academy. I finally got M's math curriculum ordered, Teaching Textbooks Math 6, so we should have that for next week.

In science, we wrapped up Chapter 1 of CPO's Focus on Life Science. Despite the fact that M has been complaining for two weeks that the book is too hard, she did very well on the chapter assessment.  We'll probably need to take a short break from science until we're settled back in the house again. There are a number of experiments coming up and I can't see attempting them from a motel room.

For geography, the kids had two lessons from  Maps, Charts and Graphs, Level D and worked on their second  Geography and Culture task card. They did some additional reading about maps and globes and made maps of their bedroom.

M and I were not able to start French this week because the resources I'd ordered from were delayed in arriving. Since they finally showed up last night, we'll be able to start French next week.  

J continues to work on Hiragana for Japanese I, but really needs a tutor and is not making much progress. Again, I'm thinking this will have to wait until everything is settled with the house first.

This was our first week back to school and what a week it was. On Monday, we were enjoying the Labor Day holiday when a grease fire broke out in the kitchen of our new house and spread to the dining room. Below are just a few photos of the damage; both rooms are a disaster with blackened cabinets, blistered floors and walls, melted light fixtures, etc. Further, my husband suffered deep second degree burns on his right hand and arm, and second degree burns on his left arm and face. We were told repeatedly that we were very lucky the fire and injuries weren't so much worse, but still, not a great way to start the week (to say the very least!).

Sadly, we had just purchased a set of eight gorgeous [vintage] Danish modern chairs that matched our dining room table and both the table and four of the chairs were burned. However, this afternoon I received a custom-made oilcloth tablecloth that I ordered from Modern June last month (thinking to protect the table if we did schoolwork there), so at least the top of the table can be concealed until we have it refinished. It is very cheery, isn't it? (The polka dotted oilcloth is just a decorative wrap.)

New oilcloth tablecloth by Modern June

Tuesday was supposed to have been our first day of school, but since I was at the burn center with my husband, school was postponed until Wednesday. Thank goodness for Homeschool Skedtrack because juggling assignments was much easier than it would have been with my old system! Nevertheless, it sucks starting the school year off-schedule!

For our first day, we revisited the schultüte (school cone) tradition of past years; here's M with hers:

We kept things pretty simple this week because I didn't want to jump into a full schedule right away (and to be perfectly honest, I wasn't quite prepared!). Despite this, we still averaged 6 hours of school per day, which has me very fearful for next week. This is roughly what we'll be covering this year (click on the image to enlarge):

It's scheduled to average 7-8 hours per day (9 hours a day on the two days per week that they'll have outside classes) and that seems like too much, yet this week we only managed a fraction of the work and it took 6 hours?! Yikes! One thing I'll be doing differently next week is borrowing this genius timer idea from Satori Smiles; I've already utilized her clipboard idea and love that it completely eliminates lost schedules!

Language Arts

Grammar was largely parts of speech review (nouns, pronouns and articles). We read the first twenty-four pages of Michael Clay Thompson's Grammar Town as well as four chapters from Grammar-Land by M.L. Nesbitt. The kids completed Grammar Land worksheets for the chapters read.

For our poetry study, we read a number of poems by Eugene Field (who was born on September 2, 1850). The kids also completed a fun research page (see below; click on image for full-size) on Fields from The Lookies. The Lookies was an annual bulletin for children published by Field Enterprises from 1949 through the 1970s. It was designed to be used with World Book Encyclopedias.

Next week, we'll be adding literature, handwriting and composition to our language arts schedule.


The kids read sections 1.1 (units of measurement) and 1.2 (the scientific method) from Chapter 1 of CPO's Focus on Life Science and completed the corresponding "Skill and Practice" worksheets. They also read Millions to Measure by David M. Schwartz and did some research on Francisco Redi and spontaneous generation.


The kids completed one lesson from Maps, Charts and Graphs, Level D (we're not using the books in order) and their first  Geography and Culture task card from Creek Edge Press. They also completed several geography notebook pages from the World Maps CD by Homeschool in the Woods. This week's task card was about maps and globes and assignments included filling out a black line world map, drawing a world map and learning various geography terms. While I love the task cards, the kids were less enthused. M, in particular, found them too open-ended and thus rather frustrating.

M got a little sidetracked while looking up geography terms...


We only managed one day of art this week, and not a very exciting day at that. Typically, art and geography will be on alternate days with art occurring three times per week.

We read about how to look at art and the elements of art: line, shape, form, space, value, color, and texture. We then read Lesson 1 (Line) from Scott Foresman Art (6); the kids completed a sketchbook journal exercise, experimenting with various types of lines using various drawing tools. Next, we viewed and discussed a number of contour drawings by Matisse, then the kids created their own contour drawings. Because I would not let them look at their papers while drawing, this proved a frustrating exercise for them.

Studio 1: Contour Drawing:

A squirrel on our patio

J's squirrel


As usual, history was our busiest subject this week. Here's what we did:

Critical Thinking

The kids completed 4 pages from Building Thinking Skills.

Next week, I hope to be adding religion, math and foreign language(s) into our schedule, in addition to handwriting, literature and composition. Wish me luck!