Category Archives: Homeschool

June July


June 2014: 

We wrapped up our first “year” of Rivendell Academy. Successfully moved up to 2nd Grade (Keaton), 1st Grade (Benjamin) and PreK (Caedmon). We celebrated with certificates and a trip Pelican’s Snoballs.

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July 2014

After that, we had Runner’s Camp – I volunteered at both June & July Camps, but Keaton attended only July camp (B & C went to mini camp).


Keaton participated in Javelin and placed 4th in his age group for High Jump!


Opening Ceremony at the July 2014 Track Meet


Keaton also participated in the 100m Dash and 100m Hurdles!



And then, July 8, Rivendell Academy began the 2014-2015 school year!


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More fun is planned for the remainder of the summer — soaking up the beautiful, warm weather while we can! 😀


6 month anniversary of Rivendell Academy


My goal was 6 months…I was going to consider this first homeschool “year” a success if we could make it 6 months and we all still liked each other and my kids didn’t run away.


Yes. But. Seriously.

We did it!

It was so hard, and there were definitely days where I questioned if I had what(ever) it takes to do this.

Prayer. Amazing friends cheering us along the way. The laughter from the table when they should be doing math. Dr. Pepper. Some more prayer. Some more Dr. Pepper. And we made it 6 months, and almost to the end of our school year.

We’re planning on schooling “year round” because I’m lazy and like to take long breaks. So we’ll stop on June 11, wrap up Kindergarten, 1st grade, and Pre-preK. Do a few weeks of Runner’s Camp chaos. Pick back up sometime mid-July with 2nd grade, 1st grade, and Pre-ishK. 😉 (Can’t say no to Caedmon’s sweet face asking if he can do his ABC school one more time today…)

2014-05-27 09.54.00Benjamin finished up Math-U-See Primer today – the kid is a math whiz. I tricked them into playing a math game and started shouting out random addition problems, and Benjamin kept answering so quickly. Not fair that he gets a Math AND Creative brain!! 😀


Keaton is loving reading and spelling (maybe he is my kid after all!) He’s doing so well with it all, but these are his favorites. He often asks if we can skip “the other stuff” and do these “fun things” 😉 He even started cursive a few weeks ago (his request), and was doing great with it, but asked to go back to “normal writing” for a bit longer 😉


We’ll be adding in a few things this next school year (I’ll update on that soon), and hopefully will be getting together regularly with some friends for co-op (plans are in the works!)



Handwriting at Rivendell Academy


So, we chose to start with Handwriting Without Tears because that is what the boys were using at school. Benjamin actually does a pretty decent job of forming letters, but Keaton …well that’s another story. I would work with him every day on his homework, but then, at school, no one would correct him and it would be the same battle the next afternoon.

We spent our first few days of homeschool simply writing letters and trying to form them correctly…and we’re still working. It is so ingrained in Keaton to write them incorrectly.

Benjamin is just about finished with his book, and I’m honestly not sure what we’ll do when he finishes, either move to a different series or the next level in Handwriting Without Tears. I’m just not sure yet.


So I think that about covers it in terms of official curriculum we’re using. We’re still trying to figure out the Science thing (and any other extras we chose to do…)

Geography at Rivendell Academy


Deciding on a History/Geography curriculum was a huge struggle for me. Many of our friends start with ancient history and work their way in to America/US History. And that was our original plan as well. And then I spoke with a few friends who worked their way ‘out’, starting with US Geography and history. I thought about the subject matter/concepts we’d be reviewing and thought that talking about the time span would be a lot to grasp at such a young age. Since NC doesn’t have a requirement about which is taught first, we decided to take our chances and start with US Geography/history.


So then, I had to decide what to use. A few friends directed me to Road Trip written by the blogger at Confessions of a Homeschooler. I snagged it on a Cyber Monday (or Black Friday?) special for half price (a whopping $9.) We finally got it printed a few weeks back and so far so good.

We’ve only discussed the first section that covers The White House, The Pledge of Allegiance, The Statue of Liberty and the American Flag. We’ll start with the Northeast and Connecticut on Monday.

The boys are enjoying it (not loving it, but not hating it), and my feelings are about the same. I’m hoping that once we get into the activities for each state that we’ll all get into it a little bit more. It’s really hard to say after just 2 weeks.

So far, some initial thoughts:

The Cons

  • There’s a lot of writing, especially for my Benjamin (5 years). Maybe other 5 year olds love writing. Benjamin, not so much. Confession: I ended up writing his ‘lapbook’ portion for the first part. Otherwise, we’d still be sitting there waiting.
  • While there is a TON of info in the teacher guide, it’s not laid out in a perfect “say this” (and I am not gifted in teaching, so this is very uncomfortable to me.) To many this may be very freeing.
  • It cost a LOT to print. Way more than we were anticipating. In retrospect, I probably could have saved money by not printing the entire teacher manual, and just using our tablet or laptop to read from (there are many game cards in the back, so some of it will need to be printed.) However, I’m such a paper person, I think this would drive me crazy very quickly.

The Pros

  • There are a TON of activities & crafts in Road Trip. I’m not a ‘craft’ mom, and when I mentioned this to the boys they were so excited.
  • There is a TON of info to cover. I am learning things along the way (and I loved geography growing up!)
  • She also has a world geography curriculum that looks just as great, and I hope we end up loving Road Trip so we can move on to the world geography curriculum in a couple of years.
  • Speaking of a couple of years, she did mention that this should take about 2 years to complete (we shall see!) 🙂

I’ll have to come back in a few months and update on how this is going for us!

Up next, Handwriting…

Spelling at Rivendell Academy


Please note that any links to All About Spelling/All About Learning Press are affiliate links. If a purchase is made via one of those links, I will receive a commission. Thank you in advance if you choose to do so!

The first time I saw the curriculum for All About Spelling (AAS), I think I shouted, “THIS!!!!” As I looked through and saw how easily the program was laid out, I couldn’t believe it could be that easy to teach spelling. The weird thing is, reading/grammar/language arts …that’s my thing. Math. Not my thing. All those pesky grammar/spelling rules have been second nature for so many years (although in recent years I haven’t been as sharp as I once was, so ignore any typos here) 😉 I was so overwhelmed at making sure our boys knew and understood those rules, but AAS (combined with the AAR program) makes sure that the student understands it all!

We have started Keaton with Level 1, and like with Math, it has been mostly a review up until this week. Oddly enough, the lesson this week has also been the hardest to teach (understanding when c makes the /s/ sound or the /k/ sound)…think about it. I’ll wait 😉

Keaton has greatly enjoyed using the letter tiles (with magnets) from the Interactive Kit on our dry erase board to spell out the words.

I also love that with each lesson, they ask the child to spell out phrases, and not just words.

And just like AAR, I love that this is very much an open-and-go program – no guessing on what to say next and minimal prep work.

It is very telling that Keaton would spend a week on spelling words at school and still miss 1-2 on his Friday test, but now he can spell words on the first try thanks to learning the rules behind the spelling.

A blog entry from All About Learning Press was what sold me. You can read it here about teaching these two subjects separately.

Up Next: Geography at Rivendell Academy…

Reading at Rivendell Academy


Please note that any links to All About Reading/All About Learning Press are affiliate links. If a purchase is made via one of those links, I will receive a commission. Thank you in advance if you choose to do so!


The hardest thing about committing to All About Reading (AAR) was the price tag. I kept hearing rave reviews, but really, the price was so hard to swallow.

We started Benjamin with Explode the Code (ETC). When I borrowed this from a friend to check it out, it just screamed, “Benjamin.” One of the {many} reasons we chose to homeschool was because of reading. Benjamin was doing great in all areas, but he was struggling in reading. Which wouldn’t be a problem, but he was very discouraged. His teacher assured me that it was never made obvious that he was having a hard time, but many of his classmates were older and came into Kindergarten reading, leaving him far behind. We knew that he would just continue to get left behind as the rest of the class took off. He went from loving school and crying because he couldn’t go to school (weekend/track out/holiday) to crying because he had to go to school. We wanted to get him back to loving learning, and I thought this would be the ticket to get us there. Boy, was I wrong. I have friends who love ETC, and I can see why, but it was not for Benjamin. He would fight me tooth and nail when it came time for reading.

Let me back up and say that I fully understand that at 5 years old, we did not need to start school with Benjamin per NC Homeschool law. We wanted to. He had been doing so well in school in many areas, and we wanted to keep that momentum going.

We had already planned on purchasing AAR for Keaton, but then, after the fighting over ETC, we started to consider it for Benjamin.

We purchased Level 1 for Benjamin and Level 2 for Keaton just this week, so I can’t speak from years, or even months, of experience. But I can share at what JOY this program has brought us in just one week.

Monday we started with Level 1 for Benjamin. He was not excited about starting reading time because he was planning on seeing the ETC book. He knew we had purchased his “new reading”, but wasn’t expecting something completely different. He was laughing through reading, actually READING (something he had not done w/ ETC), the light bulb went off so many times this week.

Keaton‘s Level 2 didn’t come in until midweek. We had a very rough start, complete with tears and him screaming at me that he hated reading and never wanted to do it again. I gave him a few minutes to calm down and asked him to give me 10 minutes for reading and then we would read a book of his choice together. Ten minutes later, he wanted to keep going…40 minutes later, he was begging me to go on to the next lesson, and almost didn’t take no for an answer! He has asked every day since he can JUST do reading for the day, even offering to spend more time doing extra lessons since he wouldn’t be doing other subjects (what?!) I think it’s safe to say, it’s a hit!

  • The activity sheets are fantastic (and can be stored and reused for future children!)
  • The boys actually love the fluency sheets (I’m sure that will change one day, haha!)
  • Benjamin loves the viewfinder card – a blank 3×5 card with a rectangle cut out so he can only see the word(s) he needs to be reading.
  • We have yet to open the readers that come with the kits, but I will come back to update once we do.
  • The Word Cards and Phonogram Cards are the perfect addition since we’re a former public school family and are used to “heart words cards” – Benjamin was upset that his teacher didn’t send home his cards when we pulled him to homeschool 😉 He’ll now have more cards than he knows what to do with!
  • ***NOTE: For Level 2, the Word and Phonogram cards did not fit in a regular 3×5 index card box. However, I found a more squareish box at Staples.
  • For me, I love that I can open up to the next lesson, take a few minutes to prepare the activity and then we’re ready to go. The Teacher Manual has everything I need to say spelled out – no guesswork on my part.

Up next, Spelling at Rivendell Academy…

Math at Rivendell Academy


As I mentioned before, we’re using Math-U-See (MUS). This is a hit for all parties involved.

Keaton is using level Alpha, and Benjamin started with Primer but has skipped a few lessons as he proved he understood the concepts.

Keaton has busy hands, and the manipulatives {blocks} are great for keeping him focused. Up until this week, everything had been a review for him, so this week was the first true test of how well the DVD instruction worked. The lesson was “solving for an unknown” and it was a breeze (I think having his daddy’s math brain helped as well!) He flew through the lesson and has continued to prove that “he’s got this!”

Benjamin is also loving the manipulatives and DVD. He is flying through Primer (but wasn’t quite ready for Alpha), however he is not discouraged.

Regarding the DVD, I think for both, hearing a different voice than mine is a nice change 😉 It’s also great that I can just ‘rewind’ and hit play if a point needs to be reiterated and they can hear it the exact same way (but I can give other examples if need be.)

We also really enjoy the way the workbook is set up, it allows for much flexibility. If they can prove to me (by ‘teaching’ me the lesson) before the end of the section, we just skip the rest and move on. But, if there is more review needed, there are plenty of pages to work out the problems, and even more available on their website.

So far, I haven’t had to use the Teacher Manuals, but I’m sure we won’t get much further before that changes. 😉

We had to make a trip to our local homeschool store this past weekend and were introduced to Life of Fred. Curiosity was piqued and we walked away with Apples. Since it is so different from MUS, we’re taking it one chapter a week {we just did Chapter 1 this week}. The boys are still unsure about 3′ tall Fred and Kingie, but I’m excited to see how the story evolves and how they enjoy the story (if at all!) 😉

Up Next: Reading at Rivendell Academy