Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Everything Pumpkin

Text: Everything Pumpkin; A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; pumpkin background

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

With the arrival of Autumn, many yearn for pumpkin spice, visiting pumpkin patches, pumpkin pie, pumpkin decor, and everything else pumpkin. But why the pumpkin? After all, wouldn’t life be just as "gourd" if this season celebrated the cucumber or the cantaloupe? Perhaps not.

Pumpkins can be grown all over the world except for Antarctica. So while they may be native to the Southern United States and Central America, you can find them in gardens all over—yet Morton, Illinois is considered the “pumpkin capital” of the world because it is home to the Libby's corporation, whose canned pumpkin puree has become a part of the preparation for many American families’ Thanksgiving meals. With pumpkins being a winter squash, it makes sense that they are popular during the autumn season.

Pumpkins are interesting in that most parts of the plant are edible such as the shell, the seeds, the leaves, and even the flowers. Green ones can be eaten like summer squash while ones that are ripe can be used not only for pies but also soups. How do you like to enjoy pumpkins? It is amazing that they can be baked, roasted, steamed, or boiled or included in part of another dish. Personally, I enjoy pumpkin seeds. They are a lovely treat.
Text: Everything Pumpkin - Pumpkin Spice, Pumpkin Patches, Carving Pumpkins; A Mom's Quest to Teach Logo; background image of pumpkin patch

The pumpkin is also part of American folklore as it figures in the story of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. If you or your homeschooled children wish to learn more about American folklore, you might want to take a look at the American Folklore course at SchoolhouseTeachers.com. While learning about the Northeast, your middle school or high school children will learn more about legends and spooky folktales in lessons six through eight. In The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, the headless horseman is said to have a pumpkin atop his shoulders instead of his head. Whether Irving pulled this idea from American tales or European folklore, it is interesting to note that the pumpkin plays a role in this American classic.

For many, pumpkins make them think of jack o'lanterns and decorating for Halloween. The history of jack o'lanterns goes back to Ireland, where people would carve turnips and potatoes to scare away evil spirits. Today, people carve a variety of designs into pumpkins to decorate for the season including individuals from favorite movies. So, not everything relating to jack o'lanterns today is about the scare.

Do pumpkins play a role in your celebration of Autumn? Do you enjoy a hot cup of tea or coffee flavored with pumpkin spice?

Friday, September 25, 2020

How Do You Pick a History Curriculum?

Text: How Do You Pick a History Curriculum? logo of A Mom's Quest to Teach; background of leaves

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

Tips from A Mom's Quest to Teach for picking the best history curriculum for your homeschool and family.

What is your goal when it comes to teaching history in your homeschool? And what is your philosophical approach to teaching in your homeschool? Do you teach all of your children at the same time around the dining room or kitchen table or does each child work independently on curriculum that best suits their learning style?

Text: A Mom's Quest to Teach: How do you pick a history curriculum? images of owl clip art; Exploring gov't and Our Star-Spangled Story textbooks; Knights Lap-pakAs someone who has always loved history, there are a wide variety of history curriculum and materials that I love. From Home School in the Woods (which allows you to use hands-on materials to meet the needs and interests of your homeschooling students) to Notgrass History (which takes a more expected approach with textbooks, supplemental literature to read, and a variety of activities and questions provided both in the workbook and textbook), there are so many great options. You can also find a great number of history, social studies, and geography courses at SchoolhouseTeachers.com where you can pick and choose what works for your homeschooling child and family.

Ask Some Questions 

What are you looking for in your history curriculum? Do you want it all printed out and ready to open and go? Are you looking for lesson plans that are easy to follow but still give you more flexibility than a textbook? Do you want unit studies? What about lessons that tie into your other subjects like literature and science?

Download a worksheet to record your answer to these questions.

some of the text: How do I pick a homeschool history curriculum? What do I want in my history curriculum?

What Area of History Are You Studying? 

Of course, some of your decisions may be guided by what area or time period of history you wish to study in your homeschool. Are you studying United States History, World History, Ancient History, geography, government, economics, or a combination of some of them?

If you are interested in taking a geographical approach, Let's Go Geography may be a great resource for your elementary-aged students. I also find it is very easy to incorporate other history resources into this curriculum. You can truly tailor it to meet the needs of your homeschool family.

Let's Go Geography Year 2 course image featuring USA, Mexico, Honduras, etc.

If you are homeschooling a high school student, you might want to incorporate government or economics into their schedule. Last year, our teen used Exploring Government from Notgrass History to study the United States government. I really felt this was an excellent curriculum that opened up the door to good discussions. We also used the Student Review Pack with our teen to help assess his knowledge at the end of the different chapters and units. This year, we have incorporated economics and business courses into his schedule using Money 101 and Business Plan Creation from SchoolhouseTeachers.com. These are all very important areas of study that fall under social studies or history.

This year with our second grader I decided that we would further study American History using Our Star-Spangled Story Curriculum Package (and literature package) from Notgrass History. I made this decision after downloading and looking at the samples they provide on their site. It is truly a beautiful set of textbooks for teaching about the founding and history of America. We are using one student workbook right now with our son, but in the future, I may purchase an additional workbook if our daughter also uses the curriculum.

Our Star-Spangled Story book cover

A Star-Spangled Timeline book cover

Final Thoughts 

Every homeschooling family is different. And what works for your family this year may not work for you next year. Perhaps reading books and watching fun, educational videos like Drive Thru History® worked while your children were younger, but now that they are older they wish to work independently and online. Even after you pick a history curriculum, don't be afraid to make changes or modifications—if you need to—for your homeschool and your children. Sometimes, you need to make changes to keep history alive and interesting and that is okay. Providing your children with an environment conducive to learning and helping them to enjoy their schooling should take precedence in your homeschool over any sense of "getting it just right."

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Wordless Wednesday Start of Autumn

Text: Wordless Wednesday: Start of Autumn; background of leaves clip art; logo of A Mom's Quest to Teach

Dice; place value dice and fractions dice
Dice that I bought my husband as a birthday gift. 

Letter D - dragon and dog built with plastic number rods
Lessons from My Father's World

birthday card with tree and Dad written on it
Birthday card for my husband from our son

Polar bear Lego; Batman Lego car
Polar bear fighting crime with Batman

cover of The Haunting at Bonaventure Circus by Jaime Jo Wright
Latest book - review coming soon!

 Text: Wordless Wednesday; A Mom's Quest to Teach; background of leaves

Friday, September 18, 2020

Memories of My Grandmom

Text: Memories of My Grandmom; background image of vacation items

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

I had the joy of spending many summer days at my maternal grandparents' home. I was an only grandchild, so I often had their undivided attention. My Grandmom would play board games, card games, and help my imagination grow by playing school and store with me. My Grandpop would often let me go on walks with him to the corner store. It was from him that I learned to walk fast as he was tall and a fast walker.

Text: My toy cars lined up; logo of A Mom's Quest to Teach; plastic cars lined up on floor with rocks as roadyways
One of the Polaroid photos taken by my Grandmom of my toys. Now I understand why my own children want me to take pictures of their buildings, racetracks, and train set ups. 

Toys and Games 

One of the fun aspects of spending time at my grandparents' house was that I could play with another entire set of toys. They had kept my mom's and uncle's toys, and I was allowed to play with some of them. There was also a huge box of rocks that were collected by my uncle for his geology class at college that created roadways and parking lots for the toy cars. With the cheaper dolls that were purchased from the corner store, I was allowed to experiment with doll hair cuts. I created my own paper dolls using old Sears and J.C. Penny catalogs.
Text: Memories of My Grandmom: Learning new games - happy summer days; clip art of family; logo of A Mom's Quest to Teach

There was also a great collection of old board games (many of which have modern-day versions) like Go to the Head of the Class, Chutes and Ladders, Monopoly, and Candyland. And there were a few other games that had missing pieces or rules that allowed my Grandmom and I to create our own rules and new games. Sometimes we even drew these new game boards on the back of the original game boards and used stickers to help create the game.

World of Imagination 

My Grandmom helped inspire my imagination in a number of ways. For this, I am very grateful. She spent many hours helping me set up pretend stores, labeling everyday objects with prices, and then allowing me to use the adding machine with tape as my cash register.  She also spent many days pretending to be my student as I was the teacher. I remember using a blackboard to write assignments and reading books to her. She also let me flip a card table on its side to create a cave using blankets, couch cushions, and pillows to camp out in during thunderstorms – both real and imaginary.

From the Beginning to the End 

At the start of each day, my Grandmom would open the curtains saying, "Let there be light." I never realized how much I could miss that simple phrase that I used to find so silly when I was a kid. After my Grandpop died, she moved a few states away to live with her son, my uncle. As she got older, she changed and often the curtains were not opened in their house at all. In the end, my Grandmom changed from the woman who spoiled me to someone afraid of the outside world and strangers – even of me and my mom at the very end.

As an adult, it is much easier to look back and be grateful for all the happy memories we made together. I am willing to embrace those sad memories more and more as I see changes in my own mom. Time is short, and I pray that everyone has more happy memories with their grandparents than sad ones that lead to gratitude and thankfulness.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Creativity in Your Homeschool: A Review of Mixed by Me Glow Thinking Putty® Kit

Text: Creativity in Your Homeschool: A Review of Mixed by Me Glow Thinking Putty® Kit; image of kit and A Mom's Quest to Teach Logo

I received a FREE copy of this product from Timberdoodle in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

Our homeschooled children are very creative. They love arts and crafts, writing stories, and creating new games. When presented with the opportunity to review the Mixed by Me Glow Thinking Putty® Kit from Timberdoodle, I was very excited to see what creative colors they would design. We had already purchased our daughter a container of Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty previously, so I knew that when she saw this kit, she would be SO thrilled!

The Mixed by Me Glow Thinking Putty® Kit is rated for ages 3+, which makes it perfect for many homeschooling families. It can be used as a separate activity or included as part of your science homeschool lessons.

front box cover of Crazy Aaron's Mixed by Me Thinking Putty® Kit

What Do You Get?

In the colorful box, you will receive everything you need to make at least 5 different Thinking Putty® concoctions. (You can make more color and special effect combinations if your children subdivide the small tins of clear putty into smaller parts as our own did.)

  • 5 tins of clear putty 
  • 3 color concentrates - red, yellow, blue 
  • 3 special effects - sparkle-izer, glow-ifier, shimmer-izer 
Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty® color and mix bags (red, yellow, blue, glow, shimmer, and sparkle)

  • 6 colored pencils 
  • 5 customizable tin labels (we had labels on our tins and a set of 5 stickers) 
labels for Thinking Putty®; small colored pencils

  • 1 mixing mat with ideas for color formulas 
Imagine. Create. Play. Thinking Putty Mat

mixing zones mat from Thinking Putty®

How Did We Use Mixed by Me Glow Thinking Putty® in Our Homeschool?

Text: Creativity in Your Homeschool: A Review of Mixed by Me Glow Thinking Putty® Kit; Let your imagination create your very own Thinking Putty®; blue putty and tin of bags to mix colorsOne evening, shortly after the arrival of the Mixed by Me Thinking Putty® Kit, our children had exhausted their imaginations and toys. So, I took out the box and we started looking at the mixing mat. As our children had already played with a tin of Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty® previously, they knew to a small extent what to expect. We looked at the bags of three colors and the three special effects options and talked about what colors they might like to make. We took a look at the sample formulas to decide whether or not we wanted to use any of the suggestions.

In the beginning, we rolled out the Thinking Putty® using the Measuring Bar, but by the time we had been creating our own creations for a bit, we just grabbed out how much we thought we would want or need of each color or special effect to add to the clear putty.

Because our children wanted to mix small amounts, we ended up storing some of the creations in sandwich bags inside of the tins. I think perhaps because they did not use large quantities of the colors and the special effects, the impact of them was not as pronounced as it would have been if they used 'a glob,' 'a blob,' or 'a heap' as indicated in the Measuring Bar. For example, the glow-in-the-dark special effect putty did not really glow but in the end, we were not really disappointed.

Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty® label and blue mixed putty in plastic bag
We have about five bags of small amounts of different colored Thinking Putty®

Our second grader is not a fan of other products of a similar nature. In fact, he does not even like to be the same room when his sister plays with those products but he has not had any sensory issues with the Thinking Putty® at all. I am very happy that he was able to join in the creation process to design a really stunning orange-colored tin of Thinking Putty®.

orange sparkle putty in tin
You can just see the sparkles in this orange-colored putty. When it settles, it will often stick to the lid.

Orange sparkle putty in tin (photo outside)

I like that the more you play with the putty, the more it mixes and your color combination and special effect choices become more clear. In the beginning, our daughter did not want to really mix her combinations but the more she did, the more you could see the teal-blue of one of her creations.

clear thinking putty, blue thinking putty, tin of closed putty
The top is the clear putty, the middle is our daughter's teal-blue creation, and the bottom is the orange tin. 

How Can You Use This in Your Homeschool? 

I think there are a variety of ways you can use the Mixed by Me Glow Thinking Putty® Kit in your homeschool. You will be able to discuss the mixing of colors (and special effects), the need to measure (or not measure) when creating something, as well as cooperate if you have more than one homeschooled child using the kit. The putty also gives the child something they can play with during read-alouds or while they work on difficult assignments or projects. (Do be careful though because it can stick to things.)

While the children were picking their colors and special effects options, I thought about how perfect this would be for a children's birthday party. It would be the perfect activity for our children and their cousins to do together where every child would get to take home their own small tin of Thinking Putty®.

I would recommend Mixed by Me Glow Thinking Putty® Kit. The putty itself is fun to play with, and the idea of creating your own colors and designs is a lot of fun. While some may find the tins too small, I think they are a perfect size. I also love the fact that Thinking Putty® is produced in the United States.

If you want to read more reviews of products from Timberdoodle, please check out my reviews of the Tenzi Game and the Zig Zag Puzzler.

two tins of Thinking Putty® with labels decorated

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Homeschooling During the High School Years

Text: Homeschooling During the High School Years; logo of A Mom's Quest to Teach; background of blue swirls

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

One of the most rewarding times to homeschool our children can be during their high school years. At this point, they may already know what they wish to do 'when they grow up' and you can start to narrow down the curriculum, courses, and classes they take during the school year. If they don't have any idea of their future job or career choice, they can start exploring the possibilities through a variety of interesting resources, experiences, and discussions. While it may become more difficult to get them to complete assignments and work, they can start to learn about taking care of a home and other important life skills (if you haven't already incorporated these into your homeschool days).

Our Experience Homeschooling a High School Student

Our oldest son came to homeschooling in his 10th-grade year. (Read more about this decision here A Teacher Turned Homeschooler). We already had some idea as to the plan of action that we wanted to take, basing the course choices upon our state's requirements for a graduating senior. We then filled in his homeschool year in 10th, 11th, and 12th grades with courses that could prove to be helpful for him if he pursued a future as a photographer.

How do we schedule our day? 

While some children are self-motivated, we have found that we need to check in with our homeschooled teen on a regular basis regarding his completion of assignments. With the freedom we have given our son, we also need to make sure he uses this freedom wisely. I create a schedule for the work he should accomplish during the week but I allow him to decide how he structures his individual days. For the most part, he likes to get all his assignments for each class done in one day. So he might work on his religious studies (Introduction to Worldview and Philosophy) on Monday, complete his spelling on Tuesday, and so forth. In most cases, this works for our homeschool. If he was completing more assignments alongside his younger siblings, we might need to take a different approach (like how our younger children complete their spelling together) but this works for our homeschooling family.

Picking Courses

Unless you come to homeschooling in the middle of your child's school life, you probably have an idea as to whether your child learns better with one method of teaching or another. Perhaps an online curriculum works best or your child does better with a written/textbook approach. And what about the courses that you should choose?

After you find out if your state has any homeschool requirements, you should determine whether or not your homeschool high schooler has any future career plans. Then, you can work from there with scheduling electives and the rest of the core academic courses. For example, we scheduled our high school homeschooler's courses based upon what our state requires for a high school graduate. So he has taken four years of English (one in public school), three years of math, three years of science, and so on.

What About Grading?

Text: Homeschooling During the High School Years; image of high school teen working on vocab workbookA lot of grading homeschool high school assignments depends upon the individual courses and curriculum chosen as well as the future beyond senior high school graduation. As our son is not looking to attending a four-year college at this time, my approach to grading is different than if he was looking at a four-year college or university.

This does not mean that we do not correct work for accuracy or completion, but I do not necessarily assign as many written assessments as other homeschooling families. We complete the written work provided with the curriculum we use, but we also spend time talking about the classes and courses.

When grading high school work – actually when grading any homeschool work, having answer keys is important. If you don't have answer keys, then you will need to read the assignments along with your children or you might need to have an understanding of the material. For example, I like essay assignments that have a rubric with possible answers or facts that should be included for subjects that I may not be super familiar with myself. And if you are using an online program with self-correcting assignments, that's an even better bonus!

Final Thoughts 

Homeschooling during the high school years does not need to be a challenge. Once you are set on the path, it can be easy to continue. With so many wonderful resources for school and for extracurricular activities, your high school student can succeed in various areas of life with a little bit of help and guidance from you.

Text: A Curious Child will thrive if allowed to explore their passions & interests; picture of boy

Friday, September 11, 2020

Learning About the Letter K: K is for Kings

Text: Learning About the Alphabet: K is for King; background confetti; A Mom's Quest to Teach logo

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

Over the course of twenty-six posts, I will introduce my own simple lessons for the letters of the alphabet. I will provide ideas and suggestions for a week's worth of activities.

When teaching our children about the world around them, it is important that they become familiar with how our country is governed and how other countries are governed. Talking about the letter K with preschoolers is the perfect time to discuss kings and how they are different from presidents. You can introduce many different topics while teaching the letter K to your preschooler, too. Don't forget all the awesome animals from Australia that start with the letter K, such as kangaroo, koala, and kiwi.


Facts about kings and monarchies to share with your children:

  • A king (or queen) rules in a monarchy 
  • A monarchy is a form of government with a single leader who rules for his or her life 
  • There used to be lots of monarchies throughout the world but now kings and queens are rare 
  • A king rules for life and usually his son (or daughter) will inherit the throne when he dies as monarchies are hereditary 
  • In Ancient Egypt, kings were known as Pharaohs 
  • In Russia, the king was known as the czar 
  • Other names for kings include: emperor or royal highness 
  • Today, monarchies still exist in several places like the United Kingdom, Spain, Sweden, Morocco, Jordan, and other places 
  • Famous kings through history: Henry VIII of England, William the Conqueror, Peter the Great of Russia, Alexander the Great, Charlemagne, Tutankhamen, Frederick the Great of Prussia, Ramses the Great, Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire  

King Paper Bag Puppet

Text: A Mom's Quest to Teach: Learning About the Letter K: K is for Kings; King puppet; clip art of Henry VIII & deerCreate a paper bag king puppet with your children!



1. Gather all your materials.

construction paper, buttons, etc used to make king puppet

2. Either pre-cut the pieces, draw shapes for the pieces and have your children cut them out, or have your children draw the different pieces they will need and cut them.

3. Glue on the face of the king and then glue on the robes of the king.

king's robe and face glued onto paper bag for puppet

4. Glue on the mouth and then the beard of the king.

gluing on the construction paper beard onto the king paper bag puppet

5. Glue on the eyes of the king, draw a nose, and draw a mustache.

drawing on mustache onto paper bag king puppet

6. Glue on the king's crown.

paper bag king puppet

7. Pick buttons for the king's robe and glue them onto your puppet. 

beads and buttons

king paper bag puppet

8. After the glue dries, the kings are ready to rule their nation. 

Additional Activities and Ideas to Talk about Kings

Other Topics 

Australia Animals 

Read about the animals from Australia with several different posts from A Mom's Quest to Teach. Also, check out some of my favorite books about Australia and its native animals.

Text: A Mom's Quest to Teach; Learn about Australian animals on a summer safari for preschoolers; echidna craft Text: Taking a Safari trip to the land down under; perfect summer learning opportunities; background image of dot art emu text: Crafts: K is for Kiwi; A Mom's Quest to Teach; kiwi craft & kiwi plush

Matching Activity 

Download a copy of a simple matching activity to complete with your preschooler. In addition to this matching activity, you can also use old magazines and ask your child to cut out pictures of animals, people, objects, etc. that start with the letter K and create a Letter K Collage.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Wordless Wednesday: Painting

Text: Wordless Wednesday: Painting; A Mom's Quest to Teach Logo; paint palette with paintbrush clipart; background abstract painting

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

We reviewed Beyond the Stick Figure Art School in May and I have been wanting to use the watercolor paints again. I had a little bit of free time this past weekend so I tried to put some ideas I had onto paper.

5 landscape water color paintings; 1 small tree painting; 1 sun painting

desert landscape watercolor painting

mountain landscape watercolor painting

mountain landscape watercolor painting

text: Wordless Wednesday: Painting; background paintbrush photo from Canva

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Journaling through the Bible: Joseph and Boundaries

Text: Journaling through the Bible: Joseph and Boundaries; A Mom's Quest to Teach logo; brick background photo

Note: I received a FREE copy of Healing Family Relationships from the publishers in return for my honest opinion. This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

I have always enjoyed the story of Joseph from the Old Testament. Perhaps it was because I was able to connect with his story because of the musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, or it might be because I love to read and study about Ancient Egypt. I found an even deeper appreciation after reading Healing Family Relationships by Rob Rienow. (I reviewed the book here.)

Text: Joseph and Boundaries: Journaling through the Bible; A Mom's Quest to TeachThe story of Joseph is one where we see how God can use circumstances – even really awful ones – for His own purpose. Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers. The family that was supposed to love him turned on him. I can't help but wonder how I would react to the circumstances Joseph faced. Would I be able to set appropriate boundaries and let my family back in if they had learned from their mistakes and were truly repentant? I pray that I have the compassion and wisdom to make decisions such as these.

God loves me – no matter how many times I make mistakes, no matter how many times I sin. Can I still love my family even when they make mistakes against me? God shows me the way. 

I love how new books, like my opportunity to read and review Healing Family Relationships, have allowed me to look at a favorite Bible story again. I have shared it with our children while using Bible Study Guide for All Ages (Reviewing Bible Study Guide for All Ages) as well as when we were reading through the various children's Bibles we own. I look forward to reading the story of Joseph each time I read through the Bible. Now I have a new perspective on an amazing Bible story.

image of Joseph coat with watercolor