Tag Archives: homeschooling

The Game of Catch-Up

My kids get a kick out of this little corner of the internet that we “own”.


The name “Save the Phillips Family” makes them giggle…and then slightly wonder if they are now officially cooler than their mother.


Looking back on old pictures and funny family stories that are archived in this blog always leads us down a rabbit hole, making us forget the school work that sits before us as we laugh over preschool antics.

(The Holderness Family YouTube channel also provides a rabbit hole during our school day. As do Rotten History videos. Or any funny video involving someone accidentally tripping or an amusing cat. In all honesty, my kids heart a good rabbit hole.)


What have we been up to in this period of quiet?




A bit of vacay.

A lot more carpooling (I say “carpooling” but it is rare that I actually have other children besides my own in the car as I cart them to and fro. Suburbia provides for many things: fun friendships, endless activities, a Starbucks on every corner. But it does not really lend itself to an effective carpooling system when friends are scattered all about. )

Netflix binge watching




This is our fifth year of homeschooling. That blows my mind just a bit because these five years have passed so quickly. At the beginning of this year, I opted to try something different for our educational endeavors.

And it did not work out at all for our family.

We are back to the basics in what we know in regards to schooling at home and fixing things that became a bit bent last semester.

I am devouring this book and learning from it. The thing about homeschooling is that there are a lot of enthusiastic moms out there leading the charge when it comes to educating at home.

And there are a million ways in which homeschooling can be achieved.

Sometimes I find myself swimming in all these IDEAS that begin to drown me.

Lately we have taken in bare bones and are loving some of the things that are happening at home. More to come on this “bare bones” approach on the blog.



Carpooling…and more carpooling.

I remember thinking we were busy when the children were preschoolers. And we WERE busy..at home. Now I am busy driving.

I have told my mom many times over the past 2 years how thankful I am that she drove me places all the time as a kid. It did not seem like a big deal then for her to drive me to school, drive me home, drive me to swim practice, drive me to church because I did not realize that all that driving makes a mama a bit crazy.

Now I do, friends.

Now. I. Do.

There is this strip of road in our area of suburbia that I may drive up and down six times in one day taking kids to one place or another.

It is a blessing…a blessing to have a car, a blessing to have children, a blessing to be able to pay for extracurriculars. Yet there are days when I seriously wonder if I would make the evening news if I tucked my eight year old into an Uber and bid her a lovely night at dance.


A bit of vacay

animal kingdom

This year we bought into the hype: The Disney Hype. Honestly, I have been the hold out over not doing Disney. I felt like it seemed very commercial and I have a think about Disney Princesses and the COST. Oh dear, the cost.

We actually planned to do Disney the year I had my surgery and ended up putting it on the backburner.

This past summer we surprised our children with a Pirates of the Caribbean themed dinner and a scavenger hunt telling them we were going to Disney.

At the end of October.

It was a bit anticlimactic (hey kids! You get this really awesome gift…in six months) but I did not think we could pull off the whole “tell them in the car on the way to the airport” thing. This is mainly because they are with me 24/7 (for the most part) and planning for Disney is kin to having a second job (We did have the most amazing trip planner. Let me know if you need her name!).

In the end, the vacation was wonderful and we now understand how families continue to go back to Disney year after year.

We also spent some time at the beach before school was officially over last May. Hands down that is the best time to go…crowds are low, temperatures are warm, and prices are still reasonable.


Netflix Binge Watching

Over the summer the children and I spent a week in Arkansas so the boy could attend a robotics camp. One night I was talking with the husband on the phone and inquired as to what he was doing.

His reply was “Watching Netflix”

My reply….”When did we get Netflix?
Yes, casa de phillips had been Netflix free for many years. In fact the last time we had Netflix was when the DVD would arrive in the mail in that flimsy red envelope.

We are obviously super hip.

Anyway the husband began a free trail to entertain himself with The Walking Dead while we were gone that week. The free trail turned into “let’s get Netflix!” and now we are all binge watching something.

So much better than the flimsy red envelope days.


So there we are. What has been going on with you ?

Under the Memory Master Rock

If one should enter through the front door of casa de philips, they would see many interesting sites.

The first obvious thing that would catch the eye would be that half of the entryway is concrete sub-floor while the other half is wood flooring.


Then they might notice the long strip of red tape dividing the two floors, appearing as if some domestic dispute had happened in our home and people have staked out lines and laid a personal claim to their own areas.

(This has NOT happened. There is no domestic dispute and no one choosing sides. However, if we did need to choose sides I would totally pick the side that contains the kitchen and the television and leave the side that contains the laundry room to the rest of the family.)

Once the oddity of our flooring situation has been assessed, visitors might start to notice that our schooling has spilled out of the school room and has invaded most areas of our home. There are posters containing Latin tossed about. Two very large pieces of butcher paper with a timeline of the World’s history scribbled across them seem to travel from room to room. Laminated maps litter the floor like slippery mines watching to catch an innocent person as he/she travels by in socks. Irregular verb tenses are written hastily across the white board. A certain cute little four year old girl is likely fluttering around singing her presidents (and always saying “Parding” for “Harding“, which her mother cannot bear to correct at the moment).

Friends, it is the season of Memory Master in our home. And it has (momentarily) taken over our lives.

The other night I woke from a dream singing about “John Calvin and the Institutes” and prayed for the end of April to come quickly.

Memory Master is an honor given to students in the Classical Conversations Foundations program who have mastered all 24 weeks of the memory work learned during the school year. For this Cycle (CC is cyclical, with a total of three cycles) the memory work includes:

  • The entire timeline of 180 events from creation to modern times;
  • -Twenty-four history sentences about U.S. history;
  • -Twenty-four science questions and answers covering human anatomy, chemistry, and origins;
  • -Multiplication tables through the fifteens plus squares and cubes, conversions, and math laws;
  • -All fifty states and their capitals plus seventy physical features on the U.S. map;
  • -Twenty-four definitions or lists from English grammar;
  • -Latin vocabulary lists and John 1:1–7 in Latin; and
  • -The forty-four U.S. presidents.

This is not a simple written test were students fill in a scan-tron with their No. 2 pencil. Nope…this test is administered a total of four times and is completed orally each time. Students hoping to achieve “Memory Master” status are tested first by their own parent, then by another parent in their CC Community, then by their CC tutor and finally by their CC director. They have to have a certain percentage correct for each proof before they can move onto the next round. They have to have 100% correct to move on to the final round and achieve true “Memory Master” status.

So why did we do this to our 6.5 year old, you may be asking?

(And why did I do this to myself is the question I was asking at 2:25 am the other morning as I was singing about John Calvin and the Institutes)

We did this for many reasons:

1. We knew Isaac could do it. He might not make it through all four rounds, but he is certainly able to make it through the first couple of rounds. He has had to study A LOT over the past few weeks to be ready for proofing, but it has been a good exercise in discipline and in hard work. It also is teaching solid study skills at an early age.


2. We want our children’s education to be more than just the “learning and dumping” of information. We want to create pegs of knowledge that are cemented into their long-term memories that they will use for a life-time. We want these pegs to be able to hold larger amounts of knowledge as their education continues, knowledge that continues to dig deeper and grows in size and scope over the years.


3. Homeschooling is a year-round family effort. We view education as more than just a 7 hour period during the day, nine months out of the year (Just like many, many parents view it as well… regardless of how they choose to school their children). Rather we want our kids to experience a 24/7, 365 days a year way of learning. Sure some of these days of learning are very structured while others are more of the relaxed (READ: Accomplish nothing of import or significance) nature. Studying and preparing for Memory Master has been a group effort. We all catch ourselves singing a random tune  about The War of 1812 and we all have to move the review flashcards out of the car’s cup holder before putting down our Grande Skinny half-caf mocha (Oh wait, that’s just me).

4. I tutor at Classical Conversations. I tutor the Masters Class for our Classical Conversations community (meaning I instruct the 9-13 year olds). I believe in the material being taught and the thoughts behind a classical education. I believe as a tutor, I need to help set the example for our community that kids are beyond capable of learning and grasping what is being taught to them.


Today, the boy had his first round of Memory Master proofing (aka “testing”). This was the round done at home, with just him and me. It went really well. The test takes somewhere between 60 – 90 minutes to complete and requires a lot of concentration to get through all the material. He did great. He has a few holes of knowledge that really need to be cemented before his next proof next week, but I was proud of how much information he knew and retained during this year.


Our Memory Master



Curriculum 2011 (Alternate title: “Why Amazon delivers to my house on a weekly basis”)

Once we made the decision to homeschool, I felt like we had jumped the main hurdle in the whole “educating-your-child-at-home” process.

Then I realized that I need to choose curriculum and that the options were limitless. My head would spin as I thought that I was now the one to decide which math program to choose and which spelling workbook would be best. Did I want something prepackaged that told me exactly what to do or did I want to take a more eclectic approach and pick and choose from a variety of options?

As I was searching, I knew that I was consistently drawn the to the classical method of educating a child. Back in my teaching days, I saw education fads come and go. During my four year stint in a school, students were taught how to do multiplication by counting their knuckles, allowed to choose their own spelling words (nightmare for teachers who had to administer 25 individual tests…and also created a potential scandal when a child unknowingly choose a part of the female reproductive system as one of his words) and recess time was shortened by the state legislature to allow more time for standardized test preparation (Then the state government realized that there happened to be a child obesity problem and we did ten minutes of “calisthenics” in the morning via the TV).

That being said, I taught at a wonderful school filled with excellent teachers and lead by a God-fearing principal. Students knew they were loved while they attended that school, something not every educational establishment can proclaim to be true. However, the school succumbed to some trends, as do most things in life (including people). Nothing too outrageous or harmful (the inappropriate spelling word was quickly replaced by a gentle correction) occurred and a quality education was provided.

When it came time to decide how I wanted to teach at home, I immediately was drawn to the basics and away from trends. I want my childrens’ brains to retain knowledge rather than to merely learn and dump it. I want them to be well-read. I want them to be able to write clearly and descriptively. I want them to be able to locate things quickly on a map.

I never, ever want them to never be a part of a “Jay-Walking” segment. 😉

A Classical approach to education is where one teaches children the proper use of the tools of learning based on their stage of development. These stages, called the Trivium, are Grammar (Pre-k through 5th grade), Dialectic (grades 6 -8) and Rhetoric (grades 9-12). Having a background in child psychology and understanding the role development plays in learning, I am a firm believer of the principals of learning on the Trivium.

This is the part of our story where I discovered Classical Conversations, a national program designed to equip parents with the skills to teach their children classically at home. Classical Conversations also meet once a week, for 24 weeks, in communities where members come together to learn the new material. Parents sit in on the classes with their children, while a tutor leads the class through the memory work (Science, history, Latin, English, Time Line, Geography), a science project, a fine arts project and class presentations (each child presents a 2-3 minute speech every week….even the four year olds) and thirty minute review every week.

We have found a wonderful community for our family. Isaac is in the Apprentice’s class, consisting of six boys and two girls (Pray for that tutor!). This is such a blessing because I have been prayerful that he would find male friends to bond with this year. I am tutoring the Master’s Class of students, who range in age from 9-13 years old. I am excited to work with the older kids who are so eager to learn and who know so much already.

I am also excited to learn the presidents of the United States, as well as how to draw the USA freehand (both part of the History work everyone learns in CC this year), since I never learned such material in school.

A community’s morning schedule for a meeting day resembles this:

9:00-9:30         Large Group Time & Family Presentation
9:30-10:00       New Grammar Introduced
10:00-10:30     Science Experiments or Projects
10:30-11:00     Student Presentations
11:00-11:30     Fine Arts
11:30-12:00     Grammar Review

A community time of lunch and play happen from noon to 1:00pm.

Classical Conversations has their own curriculum that parents and students follow. For children ages k4-4th grade, the following is used:

Foundations Guide (outlines what to study each week, provides science and fine arts projects and has all the memory work)

Veritas Press History Timeline Cards (we learn 8 a week, for a total of 180 cards learned this year)

201 Awesome, Magical, Bizarre and Incredible Science Experiments

My Body

Classical Music for Dummies

Discovering Great Artists

Drawing with Children


Classical Conversations tells parents they need to supplement their curriculum with a quality math and language arts program (until children complete the fourth grade, in which CC’s program becomes more extensive and intensive). This is where I found the guidance of the book The Well-Trained Mind to be extremely helpful.




Saxton Math 2: It was a toss up between Math-U-See and Saxton. Saxton won. We are starting with second grade based on what Isaac learned last year in Pre-K. So far, I am really enjoying the scripted method of Saxton.


Language Arts:


First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: I love this book. LOVE. IT.  It is a solid way to introduce grammar and grammar rules to children. It also requires learning narration, dictation and memorization skills. It is simple in the way the material is presents and is constantly building on what has already be learned.



Spelling Workout Level A: I opted to start with a basic spelling program. Despite Isaac’s higher level reading skills, he has never really displayed an interest in spelling words. I wanted to make sure he had a firm grasp on phonics before moving on to a higher level spelling program. This workbook is easy and we usually do two lessons a day.



A Reason for Handwriting: We are practicing basic copy work skills with this workbook. Isaac also does copywork for other subjects, all of which are placed into portfolios.

The Complete Writer: I plan for us to begin this in the second semester of school this year.

The Write Start: An excellent handbook for helping parents nurture a love for writing in children.



Reading is the subject that we are having a lot of fun with, especially because Evelyn takes an active part in it with us. For Isaac’s reader, we are using the McGuffey Eclectic Reader,  the Third Edition. This book was written in the 1800’s and I love it. Some of the text is in cursive and some of the words are incredibly old-fashioned. It has really opened up the door for some conversations (for example, today I had to attempt to explain what a needle book is) that might not take place otherwise. Fortunately our library carries these, so we are enjoying them for free!

We also read a lot of books, stories, fables and myths from the Ancient time period. The Well-Trained Mind does an excellent job of outlining books to read that fall into these categories. The children have loved them, even when their mother stumbles over ancient names on occasion. After reading, Isaac and I do a reading comprehension narration and an illustration to go along with our story.

Isaac also spends about an hour or two a day reading independently in his room during our quiet time. He chooses the books for this time. You can read more about his book selection here.




We are doing a three part science curriculum this year, along with the science covered in Classical Conversations.

DK’s First Animal Encyclopedia: We are studying 20 animals from this text over the course of 20 weeks. We read about the animal, do further research, write narratives about the animal and do “field” study about the animal when possible (Yesterday we went in search of spiders and spider webs and came across a slightly disturbed, injured squirrel. We did not study him due to fear of rabbis. We did make a quick escape to our car.)

The Kingfisher First Human Body Encyclopedia: We will be doing a 10 week study through this text, doing narrations and experiments each week.

Green Thumbs: A Kid’s Activity Guide to Indoor and Outdoor Gardening: The final six weeks we will be digging in the dirt and learning about plants in a hands-on way. This study could be useful for the teacher as well as the students :).


Bible/Character Studies:


One Year Bible for Children: This is our nightly devotional text that we have been using since the first of the year.

Read-Aloud Bible Stories (Volumes 1-4): We read a bible story every morning after calendar time. This series is a very basic retelling of popular bible stories that we have been reading with the kids since they were babies. They love them though and it has been a simple way to begin the morning.

Your Manners are Showing: Character Study (I feel like we do character study 24/7. As a parent, character development is not something that can merely be taught, but rather a consistent practice.)


Teacher Resources:


Here are a few books that have been very helpful to me as I have learned more about homeschooling and helping me decide which path to take with our children’s education:

The Well-Trained Mind (Love, love, love this book!)

The Core

So, You’re Thinking About Homeschooling?

Classical Education and the Homeschool

A Charlotte Mason Education

Mitten Strings for God



All of this being said, let it be known that this is what works for me. I do not believe there is one correct path to educating a child. I do not believe there is one correct way to school, rather it be homeschooling, public schools or private schools. As I tell my children, God made us different for a reason. It would be so terribly boring if we all fit into a cookie-cutter mold of life. This is the path we have chosen for today. Who knows what it may be tomorrow.




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