Why we start our Homeschooling Year July 1st

The benefits of starting early: Why we start our Homeschooling Year July 1st

We start our homeschool year July 1st. It sounds crazy to most people. I know because I’ve seen the look on the faces of friends, strangers, and church family when I tell tell them we started back to school this past Monday. And I understand why. Most kids have only just started summer vacation. School hasn’t even been out a month and we are already going back?

I’d like to share with you some of the benefits of starting early. Why we start our Homeschool year July 1st.

Why we start early

First off, our district’s school calendar runs from July 1 – June 30. July 1st is the first day I can begin counting our 180 days of required schooling for the new year. I can’t tell you how good it feels to have 30+ days of school logged by the time schools are back in session.

Finishing early

It may seem obvious, but starting early usually means we get to finish early. Officially, we homeschool year around, but that doesn’t mean we school all the time. As each kid finishes up the curriculum for the year (some subjects as early as March or April), they get more free time for spending on what they love. For most of them, that means more time outside. And it usually falls in the spring when the weather is perfect.

Beat the Heat

Another great reason to start schooling at the beginning of July is the heat! It gets hot and humid here in PA and I know it’s even worse down south. When we do make it outside, it’s as early in the morning as possible and late in the afternoon. That leaves us stuck inside all the rest of the day. I don’t know about you, but 6 kids stuck inside all day without a routine is not my favorite way to spend the day.

I’d much rather spend those hot hours of the day and year in the air conditioning teaching and supervising the “school” day.


Extra time off is another highlight of the “starting early” school schedule. Like I said, we homeschool year round. So we are basically “in session” 11 months of the year. We try to leave June as free as possible for the kids to explore their own interests and get a break before we jump back in with both feet in July. But we aren’t schooling all the time. By starting July 1st, we are able to take time off throughout the year.

Instead of schooling for months on end and then taking an extended summer vacation, I scheduled a week of “vacation” every 5-7 weeks (give or take to fit our plans.) It starts after just 3 weeks of school with a week off for Vacation Bible School (a week I actually count toward school days for the little kids) at our church. Then 5-6 weeks later, I scheduled another week off while my husband take time off to work on the house. Again the last week of October we will take a week off to work on crafts to sell at the Christmas Market later in November. Thanksgiving week, Christmas week… do you see how it works? And every 5-7 weeks through the spring until we’ve counted off the 180 days and completed the work we want to finish for the year.

We end early and still have times of refreshment and fun along the way. All because we start early. 🙂

What about you?

Okay, not nice for me to bring you all these benefits a week into July. Sorry. If I’ve managed to make this sound amazing and now you want to start last week, that is going to be difficult. Especially if you did just finish your school year a month ago. The kids may revolt! 🙂 So what can you do about it now?

My recommendation is that you pray about your school year, talk to your husband and then decide what you want to do. If you want the benefits of starting early, you can still get them by starting EARLIER than you usually do this year and make your way to a July 1st start up next year. If you can’t get things together fast enough to be ready, you can always start SOMETHING and then start the rest when you are ready. Otherwise, if all else fails, you can always make a few tweaks this year to set yourself up for an early start next year. It’s never too late! 🙂

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Easy Wafer Easy Wafer Cookie Pencils for Back to Homeschool
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The benefits of starting early: Why we start our Homeschooling Year July 1st

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My 10 Year Old Made Hand Warmers to Sell

This post was written by my 10 year old daughter. Thanks for reading!

My 10 year old made hand warmers to sell

For Valentine’s Day this year I made hand warmers. They are red with white hearts on them. I sewed them on Mommy’s machine. We made nine, so we are going to keep the ninth as an ice pack in our freezer. 

My 10 year old made hand warmers to sell for Valentine's Day

The hand warmers are full of rice. When you microwave them for 30-60 seconds they warm up. They should stay warm for approximately 30 minutes. You can also put them in the freezer so they work as ice packs. These ice packs don’t leak. We will use ours when someone gets hurt. 

I am going to try to sell them at church and Daddy’s office to make money for summer camp. 

My 10 year old made hand warmers to sell for Valentine's Day

I am also learning to take pictures of the things I make to sell. Mommy helped me set it up and held the background up for me. I took the pictures and picked these as my favorites. 

My 10 year old made hand warmers to sell for Valentine's Day

Thank you for reading! If you like this, please leave me a comment!

Gathering here.

Kid Business Ideas for Valentine’s Day

I know, Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and there is barely time to implement these for yourselves. Still, if you wanted to pick one or two, you may be able to. At any rate, I’ll share what we’ve done in the past.

Kid Business: Wood Blocks for Valentine's Decor

Several years ago, my oldest two wanted to sell some things for Valentine’s Day, so we came up with some blocks for my son (then 8 or 9 I think) to make and my husband took them to work. What didn’t sell (the pink one), he gifted to me… and I love it!

Kid Business: LUV wood blocks for Valentine's Day Decor

This is just made out of some scrap blocks cut from 2x4s. They are different sizes because it’s what we had, but I like the way it turned out. He liked using the silver paint, but any color combo would work here.

Kid Business: XO Wood Block for Valentine's Day Decor

I love this pink one. He sanded it down and took more off the corners. Then he just decoupaged the card stock x and o onto the corner. If you have a Cricut, go for it, otherwise stickers or vinyl letters would work too. You could even add glitter paint to the end result, but we didn’t this time. I think it’s like 6 inches by 1.5 or so.

Kid Business: Red and White XOXO Wood Blocks for Valentine's Day Decor

Simple painted red and white blocks (any size would work). We didn’t have silver paper or stickers (though they would work), so he painted the card stock with silver acrylic paint, let it dry, and cut it with our Cricut.

Kid Business: I {heart} U Wood Block for Valentine's Day Decor

This one was the scariest. Though the block is just a scrap 6 or so inches of a 2×4, it’s the only piece that had handwriting on it. The heart was cut with our Cricut, but I had him practice the I and U on paper for a while before he did it. And honestly, I can’t remember if I ended up doing it or if he did it himself. Either way, it’s cute. 🙂

Kid Business: DIY Valentine Card Kids Can Make

After her experience with tags, my daughter (7 or 8) wanted to try Valentine cards. I helped her with the designs and was with her the whole time to help with placement when necessary, but she was able to glue everything on herself.

The little paper hearts were cut out with a heart punch my mom had. The flower petals were done with the Cricut. The envelope we folded and glued ourselves.

The children had fun, enhanced their skills, made a few dollars, and added to their experience in business. A win all around.

Do your kids make things to sell? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Gathering here.

Business for Little Kids – How We Got Started

I shared last week about how we incorporate what we call “Kid Industry” into our homeschool. This week I want to share a bit about how we got started.

Photo: getStensil

The first year we incorporated industry, we started small. My oldest two were 7 and 6. Neither of them had expressed interest in making money or having a business of their own. Honestly, I’d been waiting for them too, but it just wasn’t happening. I could have waited. They were only 7 and 6, but I decided to introduce the idea myself.

A friend of ours had a bunch of 2×4 scraps and cut them into small cubes for us. I taught my son (7 at the time) how to sand them smooth and paint them with craft paint. I stayed close and tried to watch for too much paint and drips and spots that got missed. If he was going to sell them, I wanted them to be something that an adult would like.

The hard part of a craft like this is making the letters. I wanted him to be able to do the whole project himself (not me doing the letters for him). We were blessed to have access to my mom’s Cricut machine. It was the perfect answer for him. I helped him work the Cricut, but he was participating in each step. (As he got older, he took over this part completely.) If you don’t have access to a machine like this, you could get stickers or vinyl or something else that is already cut out. Or you could opt to do the cutting yourself.

After we got the letters cut out, I taught him how to decoupage the letters onto the blocks. Again, I was right there the whole time making sure it wasn’t too gloppy, or getting it all over, and that the letters were straight. But I let him do the work (only helping when necessary to straighten or fix a drip in the first year or two until he had it learned).

Then he brushed on some glitter paint and another layer of Modge Podge and his product was ready to sell.

My little girl was 6 that year. She wasn’t ready for painting blocks for several more years. (Each of our children are going to develop at different rates… only you know what your child is ready for.) But she wanted to make something to sell too, like her brother. So for her, we made tags.

We used the Cricut for this too, but you certainly don’t have to. The actual tags could be cut out in rectangles, or even with the top corners cut off around the hole. The snowmen were the easiest. I hand cut the nose triangles out of orange scrapbook paper (but you could use anything) and I put little light pencil dots where the black paint dots would go. Then she used the back of a paint brush to dot into black paint and then on top of my pencil dots. This was great for hand eye coordination! She didn’t always get them perfect but we took the best ones to sell and used the ones that weren’t quite good enough to sell for our own Christmas gifts. No loss and the extended family loved them!! 🙂

The tree tags were easy too. White glue, a brown square, and three green triangles (you could also do just one long triangle if you are hand cutting.) Easy. Then we used ribbon, jute, or bakers twine to add the ties.

As far as venue, my husband took them to work and put them out in the lunch room. The “snow” blocks (and the others) went for $8 and the tags for $.25. We probably could have asked more, but since they were kid items and not perfect, and because they were going to friends, we listed them on the lower side.

We are blessed with a supportive family atmosphere where my husband works (many of them attend church with us) and I was blown away by the response to our children’s wares. Not only did everything sell, but several people ordered more, so we were making “Snow” blocks in varying color combinations well into December that year. Not to mention a couple other words and a collection of tags for my daughter to make.

Part of the fun of receiving orders was getting to package them up for delivery. This was a great opportunity to teach the children about customer service. We packed them up in a cute bag, made a cute card for writing a thank you note on and included a couple small candy canes with the order. Just the first steps in teaching the children about running their own business.

The next year we got permission to have a table at our church’s Christmas Market. Somehow I can’t find any other pictures of that whole thing, but we made this sign to put at our table. Each of the three oldest kids had a hand print (kid #3 made some ornaments that year) and I put their names and ages with it. Then I put the word “made” beside it in black letters. “{hand}made”. It is an easy way to make a brand for your kids work. Substitute the Christmas colors for others (maybe primary or other seasonal colors) if you want a sign for a booth or table of your own.

Next time I hope to give you a few ideas for products you could begin with, even with younger children, if you want to.

Do your kids do anything to make money?? Please share with us in the comments!

Gathering here.

Kid Industry – An introduction

I mentioned on our about page that part of our homeschooling is spent on “Industry”. For our family, “Industry” means time spent in a profitable way. Meaning money profit. Maybe this is making things to sell or to give as a gift (saving the money that would be spent on gifts). Maybe someday this will be a service rendered, like mowing a yard, cleaning out the interior of a car or scrubbing bathrooms. My desire is for Industry to be something that helps them learn a skill (or part of a skill) for the future and that makes them a little money so they can begin to learn about running a (super) small business and manage their own money.

Also, I’ve never been one to like all those little kid crafts that accumulate in the attic and make clutter. If the kids want to make something, we try to make it something real. We don’t use much construction paper or pom poms around here (though there are times I just let the kids go with some of that). Instead of “kid crafts”, we try to work on “handicrafts”, much in the Charlotte Mason way of thinking. I hope it will be a help to them as they grow into adulthood. Teaching them various skills.

The paintings are mine, the cutting boards in the corner were done by my mom (This is a family “farm” after all… we all contribute to the market table), and I help with most of everything, but much of what is here is made by the kids. The “snow” blocks are one of our most popular products over the years and have been made by three different kids since we began this 4 years ago. The tags were done by my 10 year old daughter a couple years ago and these are what we had left.

Even the littler ones contribute with ornaments for the tree.

That wooden tree was made of lath taken from the walls in our living room when my husband removed the plaster in our 1900 farmhouse early last year. The boys (11 and 8) painted and glued them up. Lots of practice with clamps!

The snowman salt and pepper shakers were new for us this year and sold out quickly. (Next year we’ll have more than three sets.) My oldest daughter really enjoyed making them and it was fun for her to see them sell.

They boys made the candle holders out of scrap 2×4 ends. They didn’t sell well, but they made good gifts for family so it didn’t matter.

I didn’t expect the non-Christmas stuff to sell at the end of November, and I was right. But we had them already, so it didn’t hurt to have them out. The kids will be trying to sell them locally to church folks and people my husband works with.

In the end, all proceeds from this year’s Christmas Market are going toward camp. Three of the children want to go to overnight camp this year and we decided that they should pay for it themselves (with the help of scholarships from church and Mamee that is). They are memorizing verses (for the church scholarship) and working hard to make the money they’ll need (and not from odd jobs around the house, though there may be a few of those come spring time). More on some of their projects to come.

Do your children do anything to make money?? I’m always looking for ideas!

Gathering here.

Snowflake Bentley Mini Unit Study

snowflake bentley unit study image

Let me set the stage:  You woke up to snow falling outside.  School was canceled and the buses aren’t running today. 

But that doesn’t affect you. 

You homeschool.  For you today can do school.  Tomorrow, when the snow has stopped falling and the roads are clear again, is the best time to take a snow day.  Send the kids outside in all their winter gear to sled and build forts and snowmen while you drink something hot and watch through the window (or clean the house or go out and play with them… whichever you choose).

But today the snow is falling and everyone is distracted.  Today you wish you had a special plan for something snow related.  Today you wish you’d thought to get some snow themed books from the library (or hadn’t loaned yours to a friend).

Well, I’ve got you covered.  This unit doesn’t take any books (though you can certainly pull out your much loved copy and flip pages the old fashioned way).  And you don’t need any other books to help you dive deeper into the subject (though, if you are reading this with time to spare, you can still request a pile of them from the library just for fun).

This unit comes equipped with a reading of the book on YouTube and PDF download of the book with some other resources.

You can even pop some popcorn or get a snack and cuddle in to watch it together before getting started on some great Language Arts, geography, science, or art activities.

So let’s get started, shall we?

Snowflake Bentley Mini Unit Study

Watch a reading of Snowflake Bentley on YouTube.  Or you can get an online version here.

Then, select a few of the activities below and keep the learning going. For an easy day, watch a bunch of videos and do some drawing. Want something more? Pick a writing assignment, do some extra research, make your own crystals and try your hand at painting. Really, there is something for everyone. Adapt the lessons for your own kids and ages, or hit Pinterest for more ideas!


  1. Watch Where do Snowflakes Come From on YouTube
  2. Snowflake Photography video on YouTube
  3. Explore the SnowCrystals website. Pick a subject from it to write an essay of 1-3 paragraphs (depending on the age of your child) or research more thoroughly and write a report about it (Lauguage Arts also).  Feel free to add other internet or book resources for this.
  4. Make Salt Crystal Snowflakes.

Language Arts

  1. Use this free Snowflake Bentley Book and Lesson Plan all rolled into one. Print it out or download it to use on your computer.  You may want to read the lesson plan notes ahead of time to decide what you want to do.  Then read it or let your child read it for himself and choose some activities to do.
  2. This site has a lesson plan worked out for 2nd-3rd
  3. Answer one or more of these writing prompts (free download) on the enclosed note booking page.
  4. Using that same freebie, fill out the character analysis about Wilson Bentley.
  5. Use this page to do a character study about focus and persistence. Many ideas and questions are included there.


  1. Visit Layers of Learning for some history and a state map printable.
  2. Three Boys and a Dog has free Vermont Symbols and State Facts worksheets.
  3. Watch this video about Vermont on YouTube.
  4. Or this one, also on YouTube.


  1. Design your own snowflakes with this Snowflake Starter Template.
  2. Cut out paper snowflakes.
  3. Do this Watercolor and Oil Pastel Resist Snowflake.
  4. Make Snowflake Window Clings.
  5. Make Beaded Snowflake Ornaments.

What other ideas can you share?

Do you have a favorite lesson?

Gathering here.

Owl Moon Mini Unit Study

owl moon blog header
My 8 year old boy holding our much loved book.

I’ve been reading this book to my children for years.  It was one of the early ones we bought for winter reading when my oldest were little.  Now, most of the time, it is they who read it to each other.  I haven’t read it to them yet (we haven’t had any snow yet so I haven’t been feeling it yet) this year, but they’ve been reading it since before Christmas.  It’s a favorite!

So, whether you’ve never read it, or it’s an old favorite, I want to share with you a mini unit study based on Owl Moon.  It’s a mini study, because I am sure there is more you could pull out of it.  I didn’t do anything about the train reference and I didn’t choose to study the moon this time around.  You can deepen your study by adding those subjects, or by adding a geography study of New England, or Massachusetts specifically, where the author’s husband used to take their children out owling in the winter.  You could also add a study of snow, but I’m choosing to save that for our next book study… Snowflake Bentley.

Owl Moon Mini Unit Study

Are you a missionary, living on foreign shores?  Is it difficult to get to a library or are funds tight and books are just not in the budget right now?  For this study, I’m assuming you do not have access to a copy of this book, so here is a reading of it on YouTube:  Owl Moon Reading on YouTube.

If you have the time and/or desire, you may be able to find it at your local library or ABE Books or at Amazon.

Please make this unit study your own, selecting which activities/lessons you want to do.  This lesson can be done in a day or stretched out to fill a week or more depending on how many of the lessons and activities you select and how deep you dig.  If you have a library or funds to purchase books, add in some great books on these topics for you to read aloud or your children to read for themselves.

Language Arts

  1. After first reading, each student can give an oral or written narration of the story.
  2. Write an opinion paragraph telling why you do or do not like the story and why. (Give examples from the story.)  Encourage at least 5-7 good sentences.  (3-5 sentences could be appropriate for younger children if they want to participate in this assignment.)
  3. Discuss figurative language—This post gives a great explanation and printables for how she taught figurative language in her homeschool. The printables at the end of her post include cards for each of the figurative language types (print and fold them over to make flash cards or cut them apart to play matching games). I recommend the graphic organizer she used for lower grades and the last page for upper elementary grades.  Or you can simply read the book again, searching for different types of figurative language.  Or make your own chart of the ones you find (each type of figurative language along the side or across the top, then fill in examples in the column or row of that type.)
  4. Teach “theme”. Print pages 2-4 of this “Free Teaching Theme Printable Pack” and discuss them with your child.  Print page 7 for her to fill out about Owl Moon.    (Or this one is a Theme Lesson plan specific to Owl Moon.  You can use her printable instead or simply reference it and the possible themes she lists for reference.  I found it helpful!)
  5. Adjectives Hunt – read the book again and write down all the adjectives you find. Sort them into categories of which question they answer: “Which one?”, “How many?”, What kind of?”, “Whose?”
  6. Read about the author here.


  1. Watch this short “All about Owls for Kids” video on YouTube
  2. Optional: Watch this 11 minute video of 8 Owls and their Sounds on YouTube
  3. Watch this BBC Documentary about Snow Owls on YouTube and answer the questions on the attached page. It’s about a Snow Owl family from hatchlings to flying away. (Here is a simple question sheet I made for you to use with that documentary.)
  4. Optional: Five Owl Farm Documentary on YouTube
  5. Learn about and fill out a barn owl food chain.
  6. Optional: Dissect Owl Pellets. You can find information about the pellets and how to find and dissect them here, or you can order them online for dissection here.  This is a Pellet Analysis Sheet.


  1. How to draw an owl
  2. Or How to draw an owl for kids on YouTube (or one of these others on YouTube if you want more)
  3. Owl Moon Textured Art Lesson Plan
  4. Simple Owls in the Night Painting
  5. Wood Bark Owl Craft (or make a bunch of them and turn them into a garland)
  6. If you know a little bit of crochet, this cute crocheted owl would be fun.
  7. This is a picture tutorial for making clay owls.
  8. For those who like to sew, this cute owl softie could be a fun gift to make for a little one or new baby.
  9. Or search for other owl crafts for various ages and using various mediums and supplies on Pinterest and pick your own. There are so many to choose from!

Pick one or two activities/lessons from each subject for each day you spend on the unit and have fun!

Are you planning to use something from this unit study?  Please leave a comment below to let me know.

And don’t forget to pin it for later!

Gathering here.


The Legend of the Christmas Tree — Unit Study Lesson Plans

Legend of the Christmas Tree


Since the Rockefeller Christmas Tree is officially lit up for the season (as we’ve already been learning about), I think it’s high time we spend some time talking about why there is a Christmas tree at all.  Do they even have pine trees in Israel?  (Hmmm… maybe that is a good research question you’ll want to add on to this lesson plan.)

My children love the book The Legend of the Christmas Tree (find it used at ABE Books here) and I love that it teaches how it came to be part of our so often secularized celebration of Jesus’ birth!  Usually we just read it and enjoy the lessons it teaches, but since I’m helping create some lesson plans for my niece, I figured we’d do some of the extra fun projects and learning about this too.  So here is my unit study for The Legend of the Christmas Tree.  Let me know if you try it out or if you have any other ideas to add. 🙂


Christmas Lesson Plan for The Legend of the Christmas Tree 

Watch a reading of this book on YouTube. (I’m assuming this is a last minute lesson plan and you haven’t had time to grab the book.)

More to learn:



  • Art:
    • Pine Cone Christmas Trees
    • Make Gift Tags from these cute Pipe Cleaner Christmas Trees. Just punch a hole in one corner to tie to a present.
    • Make these cute and simple trees and use them as place cards on a Christmas themed table (Christmas Eve, Christmas day, on the day you decorate your Christmas tree). Just write the name of each person who will be eating with you on the trees and then place it above the plate at the table setting at meal time.
    • Make a ribbon scrap tree ornament to hang on your tree, or make several to give as gifts. Include a card that you’ve written or typed that explains the three corner/ trinity illustration from the book in your own words. (This could count as a writing assignment as well!)
  • Home Ec.:
  • Science/ STEM:
  • Writing: (choose a fun writing paper from Pinterest here.)
    • Which is best, a fake tree or a real tree? Write a persuasive essay to convince your reader.
    • Which is best, going to a tree lot for a pre-cut tree or cutting your own. Write a persuasive essay to convince your reader.
    • Should the tree topper be put on first or last? Why?  (write a paragraph)
    • What sort of decorations do you like best on a Christmas tree? Explain your answers in paragraph form.
    • Do you like colored lights or white lights on your tree? Explain your answer in paragraph form.


I’ll be adding more Christmas books throughout the season.  Click the “Follow” button or enter your email in the sidebar so you don’t miss anything!


Gathering here.

Feature image created at Stencil.

Rockefeller Christmas Tree Unit Study

The Carpenter's Gift: A Christmas Book Unit StudyThe Christmas season has officially begun and with it my eyes have turned to creating simple and fun learning plans for our homeschool that revolve around Christmas.

I didn’t plan on The Carpenter’s Gift being the first unit I covered this year, nor did I plan for a homeschooling post to be the first official blog post on this blog.  But, as it happened, I was designing this super simple and completely free unit study for our niece (and our kids) to do and I stumbled on the fact that the Rockefeller Christmas Tree lighting was tonight.  So late last night, when I finished gathering my list of videos and activity ideas to include in our  study, I thought I’d share it.

This is a super simple, mostly no prep unit study about the book The Carpenter’s Gift: a tale about the Rockefeller Christmas Tree (find it used at ABE books here).  I’m assuming you can’t get it from the library and don’t want to wait for the one you just ordered to come, so I found a reading of it on YouTube.


The Carpenter’s Gift: a tale about the Rockefeller Christmas Tree

(Here is a reading of it on YouTube)


More information:



  • Art:
    • Draw and decorate your own Christmas tree for Rockefeller plaza (use sequins, glitter, and whatever you can find to make it super fancy if you want to.)
    • Paint a pine tree forest where they may find the next huge Rockefeller Tree (video tutorials here)
    • Design a Christmas tree topper for the Rockefeller Tree or your own. Draw a picture of it.  If you want to and it is possible, try to make one.
  • Writing Prompts:
    • Describe how to decorate a Christmas tree
    • Tell about your favorite Christmas tree ornament (what does it look like?, where did it come from?, etc.)
    • Would you like to see the Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting in person someday? Why or why not?  Think about weather, travel, crowds and decide if it would be worth it or if you don’t really care.  Explain your answer.


I’ll be adding more Christmas books throughout the season. Click the “Follow” button or enter your email in the sidebar so you don’t miss anything!


You may find me gathering here.

Feature image created at Stencil.