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Our 2020 Curriculum Choices

We are getting fully into our new homeschool year. Today I want to share with you about our curriculum choices for the 2020 homeschool year. This year I will be teaching Kindergarten, 3rd, and 6th grades. After many years of trying many different things, we have finally settled into a plan that works for us.

Gather Round Homeschool

As our main spine curriculum, we are using Gather Round Homeschool. This is a unit study approach to homeschooling that allows everyone to learn together at one time. In Year One of this curriculum, everything is included besides math. I love how this changes from science to history and back again if you follow the program in the order it is presented. You can skip around between the studies if you would like, but since Baby Girl is Kindergarten this year, we have been following the Year One as suggested.


As much as I love Gather Round Homeschool, I wanted to add something more in for our history and Bible. I love using the bible as our history spine, and BibloPlan does just that for us. We are using Year One: Ancients this year. I fell in love with the unit study style from Gather Round Homeschool, so when we got the BibloPlan curriculum, I was thrilled to see that it was set up in a similar way. Knowing that we can all still learn at the same level, but be at different levels is awesome!

Learning Language Arts Through Literature

Again, here I am saying that Gather Round covers it all, but I am adding more. I am doing this because my kids are good at language arts. The language arts in Gather Round is not enough for my kids. I had to add something more. I have used Learning Language Arts Through Literature before and I was happy to go back to them. This curriculum is just what I want for my kids. We are taking actual literature and using that to learn the language arts skills that the kids need to learn.

Simply Kindergarten

Baby Girl is in kindergarten now. I don’t want to believe this, but it is true. I have played around with different curricula. However, the one that I thought was the best for Baby Girl was Simply Kindergarten from Master Books. This is an all in one curriculum for kindergarten, minus the math. While I love the concept of Gather Round, I knew that Baby Girl would need some extra one on one time with us. We do Gather Round together, but I take the extra time to focus on the basics that she needs to learn. I love this curriculum and the fun that we have had and will have doing this together.


For math this year we are using two different curricula. Ray Ray is in love with Teaching Textbooks. I love that this is all online. He loves that they teach him and it is like an old retro video game. This is the kid that loves retro video games.  I love that I was able to find something that works for him.

Little Miss and Baby Girl are using Math Lessons for a Living Education from Master Books. I have fallen in love with this style of learning math. I am a math nerd myself, helping my childhood friend with her math when I was younger than her. To find a curriculum that I love for my kids when I love math like I do is great! Ray Ray has used this, but as he gets older, he just didn’t like mom teaching him. I hope the girls are different. Either way, I know that my kids are learning how they want in our homeschool!


We need to add in those extras when it comes to homeschooling. While I haven’t done as much as I wanted in the past, this year we are bringing some of those extras back. For Art, we are using the middle school grades of ARTistic Pursuits classic courses. We have used a few of these products before and I love how easy it is for me to teach art, especially since I don’t like art myself!

Music this year we will be using the 15-Minute Music Lessons and Intro to Musicals for Elementary students. I love these courses from Music in our Homeschool and how easy they are to teach. All the teaching is planned out for you. You open and go. There are also videos to help supplement learning. The kids love this type of music and I love letting them learn the way they like.

In physical education, we plan to use Family Time Fitness along with just getting outside. The kids love to play outside, so I love using this as “gym” time. Getting them moving is all that is important to me.


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Children’s Atlas of the U.S.A. ~ A Master Books Review

We love to have books that are fun to read and we learn from them. We got the chance to review the Children’s Atlas of the U.S.A. from Master Books and we were thrilled!

What Is It

There are 112 pages to this book. While we got the digital copy, we love to hold things, so I printed this book out (Thank you HP Instant Ink!).  I just wish I had used a thicker paper when I printed, live and learn. After a short introduction and a table of contents, we have a two-page spread on every state in the U.S.A. At the end of the book, we have the District of Columbia also listed, along with a glossary and index.

Each two-page spread will name the state, show it on the map, and give us a map of just the state with the major cities. There is a sidebar that lists the state’s preamble, statehood history, population ranking, capital, state flower and bird, nickname, and highest point. We also have the state flag, seal, and an interesting fact.

The first page will share with us some interesting state history facts. The second page shares with us Wonders in God’s World for the state. Both of these pages are full of beautiful color pictures. If this is anything like the Children’s Atlas of the World, which we own in the physical form, I know that those pictures are so much more beautiful on the printed pages versus my printing. We honestly still loved the pictures.

How We Used It

With the current course of study that we are in, we are not focusing on the U.S.A. but that did not stop us from adding this into our studies. We added this book into our daily moring time, only we only used it once a week. We grab the book on Wednesday of every week, read a two-page spread of one state, and discuss. It is that simple. Yes, we could add more. What? We could do some copy work, we could add a more detailed study of the state. We could even do more than one state a week. However, right now, we are using this as an introduction to the U.S.A.

In the future, we do plan to use this more. We will go through all the states one time as an introduction. We will start over again in about a year. The next time we go through this book, we will add a little more extra work. And that cycle will continue until the kids know the U.S.A. and some facts about each state…and mom and dad also!

What Did We Think

We loved this book! The information in the book is wonderful! We have learned so much, even though we are only a few states in. We love the options that come with this book. You can really use this however you want. I have found my husband flipping through the pages when he thinks no one is looking. The kids don’t think they are really adding another subject to their day, but they are learning each time we open the book.

This book will be used for many years in our homeschool. From learning state by state, or by adding this in as we learn about the history of the U.S.A. There are endless possibilities, just let your mind, or your children’s mind take the lead for how to use this!


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July Books in Our Homeschool

Our July has been a real storm of a month. With the heat that is unbearable, and a tornado that touched down 11 miles or less away from us! We have tried to get into our normal homeschool routine, but not quite yet. What hasn’t changed…we have a stack of books to read this month!

*Affiliate Links have been used within this post. You can find my full disclosure right here.

With our different types of curriculum that we are using, we have a great list of books to read. Even if we don’t do all our school, we will be reading all the books!

Gather Round Homeschool Books

One of our main curricula is Gather Round Homeschool. This curriculum is a unit study based curriculum as I have shared with you before. This month is Asia, so we have some great book recommendations within the teacher’s guide to find some good books. There is a book list for each unit that is broken down by age/learning level. From this study, we will be reading The Story About Ping, The Year of the Panda, The Big Wave, and Amy Carmichael. The Big Wave is a family read-aloud that we will follow up with a fun study from Lit Wits.

BibloPlan Year One: Ancients Books

As part of our Bible and History curriculum, we are using BibloPlan Year One: Ancients. There are some great Literature Readings for each grade level listed in the teacher’s guide. We are adding in some of The Answers Book for Kids during our lessons, and just about anytime we have questions. We are also reading The Ark, The Reed, and the Fire Cloud together. While we have already read them, Little Miss will be reading The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls on her own. I love how fun and simple these are to read.

Morning Time Books

This year we are adding in some Morning Time lessons to our days. I have loved this idea and played around with it on and off. Now I am ready to jump in. I love the books they have suggested for the Summer Adventure 2020. We will be reading Math Curse, His Shoes Were Far Too Tight, Are You a Dragonfly?, Tyger! Tyger! and The Very Lonely Firefly to name a few. Oh, I can’t forget to mention Catwings! This is a book that I loved as a child and I was thrilled to see it on a list for me to read to my kids!

All Through the Ages

On top of these fun lists, I love to check out book ideas in All Through the Ages, History Through Literature Guide from Nothing New Press. This book is full of book ideas for everything! They are broken up chronologically and geographically. This is great because I am doing both, history from the beginning and geographically by unit study.


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Using Essential Oils in our Homeschool

Essential oils have played a large part in our daily lives. Because of this, it is no surprise that we would use it while homeschooling also. There are many ways to use essential oils in your homeschool.

We love to have our diffuser going when we work on our homeschool lessons. To help the kids stay focused, we like to use peppermint and wild orange in the diffuser. Sometimes I will add in frankincense. These essential oils are great for uplifting the mood and giving energy. I love this combo for that 3 PM slump also! Not only that but the wild orange essential oil helps to support a healthy immune function. This is important in our house year-round, pandemic, or not.

Not only do we use the diffuser, sometimes I will have the kids apply the oils to themselves. Our favorites are Steady or Thinker. Also, Balance is another one that has the same effects as Steady, but more for the older kids, or adults.

The Steady Grounding Blend helps evoke a calm and balanced mood. It also helps promote feelings of relaxation and calm. We love starting the day with this oil. Thinker helps create a supportive and positive environment for work and study time. This blend is awesome for when distractions are high. We use it when the kids need to focus and pay attention.

Balance is more for mom. The warm, woody aroma promotes a calming atmosphere. This is one that I like to apply daily!

There isn’t much to do with the oils when it comes to homeschooling. We stick with the basics. When something isn’t broken, you don’t fix it!

If you want to know more about doTERRA Essential Oils, send me an email at hopkinshomeschool(@)

What kind of oils do you like to use in your homeschool?

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Gather ‘Round Asia Unit Study

We have fallen in love with the Gather Round Homeschool Curriculum. This is almost an all in one homeschool curriculum that is unit study based, allowing everyone in the family to sit down and learn together.

We went through a stage in our homeschool that had me busy with many different things. Because of this, I could not keep up with all the things that needed to get done for three kids in all the different subjects. I was beginning to feel like I was failing my kids. I didn’t want this to happen. Enter in Gather Round Homeschool.

Gather Round Homeschool covers all subjects for all grades, except for math (but that is changing soon!). That means, you all sit down together and learn together. No more different levels and books for each kid. That meant that I could school all three of my younger kids (my oldest had already graduated) at the same time. I wasn’t spread out among each of them all day each day.

We fell in love. I fell in love. Because I was having fun with it, the kids had fun with it. Our journey with Gather Round had started.

This month we are starting our Asia unit with Gather Round. This means, while learning all the subjects, we are focusing on Asia while we learn all the subjects. This month we will learn more about Indonesia, Cambodia, Mongolia, Syria, and other Asian countries. This is exciting.

Now that we have moved past our busy season in life, we are able to do more. That means we can add in more books from the book list that is provided with each study. We can follow more rabbit trails when we find something interesting. We can just do more. But, we don’t have to on the days when the sun is shining and we just want to get outside. This curriculum is great for our family, whether busy or not.

Some of the fun add ons are the cookbook that goes along with each of the countries. If you want to bring your learning to life in your homeschool, this is the way to do it. Involve the kids, have them help cook the food and everyone can enjoy the food while discussing what was learned about the country. There are cursive books also. This will allow you to teach your child to write in cursive while using the bible verses that are used in the main unit study.

This is a curriculum that I know we will be using for years to come. I have added a few things, but I know that if we get busy again, we can take those out and still get a full learning experience each time we open our books.

Check back in a few weeks to see what we have thought of our Asia study!


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Essential Oils For Sleep

I am in love with my essential oils. I never would have thought that 6 years ago I would have tried and fallen in love with them. But, I did! One of the main reasons I wanted to try them was for sleep issues in our house. Today I want to share some of my favorites for when the sun goes down.


I love the Serenity blend from doTERRA. This oil combines Lavender, Cedarwood, Ho Wood, and Vetiver to name a few. These oils create a calming and soothing aroma. This is a great oil to diffuse at night as it creates a restful environment.

You can combine the use of this oil with the Serenity Restful Complex Softgels. These soft gels can help relieve occasional sleeplessness, promote healthy relaxation and sleep, as well as calming the nervous system, and reducing stress.

Calmer for Sleep

This is a fun new blend. It is designed with kids in mind, and my kids love to use this on their own. The Calmer Restful Blend combines the soothing properties of Lavender, Cananga, Buddha Wood, and Roman Chamomile. This blend creates a restful atmosphere at bedtime. It helps create a relaxing and positive aroma and a soothing environment.


Of course, I can’t talk about essential oils for sleep without mentioning lavender. Lavender has been used for centuries. The Egyptians and Romans loved using Lavender for bathing, relaxation, and even as a perfume. For bedtime, you can diffuse the lavender, add a few drops to your pillow, bedding, or the bottoms of your feet.

What essential oils do you like to use for sleep?


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Coding with Pitsco Education – A Review

coding with smart buddy by Pitsco Education
Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.


Little Miss has had some time learning about STEM and coding through a library program before our library was forced to cancel these programs. When the chance arrived to try out the Smart Buddies at Home – Jodi from Pitsco Education we jumped at the chance!

coding with smart buddy by Pitsco Education

What Is It

The Smart Buddies at Home are a fun way for your child to learn a beginning coding, or learn more about coding if they have already started learning about it. With the Smart Buddies at Home, we got Jodi the doll, her self balancing robot scooter called the Siggy, and a USB charger. We downloaded the app on our Kindle, you can also get it on iOS, Android, and Chromebook.  From the website, I was able to download the Smart Buddies at Home Coding Program Parent Guide. From here, we were ready to go!

How Did We Use It

We did not schedule this in our daily homeschool schedule. Instead, we used this as a fun break from school. Don’t tell Little Miss all that she was learning while she was “playing” with this “toy”.  She absolutely loved having the free time to play with this. She just wanted to play.

However, I took the time to check out the Parent’s Guide. This gave me a great introduction to this Smart Buddy.  There are three tasks to do in Activity One. This is the introduction activity. This will introduce you and your child to the program and pseudocode. Since Little Miss has already done some coding, she was kind of bored during this stage. For those new to coding, this is a great way to get their brains thinking in the coding frame.

Activities two and three get your child use to using the app and your Smart Buddy. These will help you through the tutorials that are on the app. Completing these tutorials will help your child be able to use the app and the Smart Buddy with ease. Following these activities are two more. There is The Hot Dog Challenge and creating your own challenges. When they say challenge, they mean it. These will force your child to think outside of the box.

We took our time with these activities. While Little Miss wanted to play, I could tell that these would be very important activities to complete if we really wanted to learn more about coding. These activities built on each other and allowed us to benefit the most from using this fun “toy” in our home and homeschool.

Smart Buddy Coding

After we completed these activities, it was no holds bar for Little Miss. I allowed her to do as she wished with her new Smart Buddy. Even though we were done with the suggested activities, she was still learning each time she opened the app. There is no end to the learning that can happen with the Smart Buddy!

What Did We Think

Little Miss was in love. She loved the fact that she could control this whole thing from her Kindle. She had so much fun learning more about coding. This fun little toy added so much learning into the summer days. I loved that she could learn while playing since she doesn’t like sitting down with textbooks that much. Working through the activities allowed us to learn a lot more about how coding worked and allowed us to learn more about our Smart Buddy.

Little Miss was in love. She loved the fact that she could control this whole thing from her Kindle. Click To Tweet

After going through the activities, Little Miss had a lot of fun just playing around with all the different options. This allowed her to express herself with coding. We loved the Smart Buddy and we hope to add more to the house!

You can read more reviews of the various products from Pitsco Education right here:

STEM At Your Fingertips - Elementary, Middle & High School STEM Kits {Pitsco Education Reviews}

Find Pitsco Education on social media here: Facebook Twitter Instagram Pinterest YouTube

If you are interested in a Smart Buddy, Pitsco Education is giving one away. Check it out right here:

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Endure ~ Five Minute Friday

I am posting a day late for the Five-Minute Friday, but I am blaming my internet for that one! It was funky for me all night. But that can lead me to my word for this post…endure.

To Endure is a thing for me. I have endured a lot. From many life changes to trying new things. But I would not trade what I have learned for anything. I do not mind having to endure when I come out on the other end with more knowledge than when I started.

But one thing that I have also learned, I could not endure without my faith in God and my time spent learning from the Bible. If I had not found my current church family, learned what I have learned from them, and taken my learning of my bible into my own hands, I would not be able to endure the trials we have gone through.

With my faith and understanding of the Lord, I would be lost during this time. However, I know that everyone has had to endure before they meet God. Everyone has had to endure before the glory is given to them.

When we are called to endure, we must remember that this can bring us closer to God. All we need to do is open our bible and read of those who have endured before us. By opening your bible, you can find many who have endured before you. This will give you courage, no matter what you must endure.

What is your favorite bible verse about enduring?


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Why We Homeschool Year-Round

When we started homeschooling, I was all for the school year schedule. It was normal for me. However, as we got more into homeschooling, I realized that a year-round homeschool schedule fit our schedule better. Let me tell you why.

Fitting in School with Life

The very first thing I realized when we started homeschooling was that we needed to change our homeschool to fit our lives. After trying to do school like the public school, and failing miserably, I knew that I had to find something different. That is when I figured we needed to fit our school in our life and not the other way around. Now we have a relaxed schedule that allows us to take sun days and mental health days. Those are the important days!

Learning At Our Pace

Each one of my kids has learned to read at a different time in their life. Ray Ray taught himself after many attempts by me. These were futile attempts that made me feel like I failed each time. But when he got bored and read a whole chapter book in one day, I realized that learning comes at a different pace for each child. Knowing that we don’t have to finish a curriculum by a set day, allows me to focus on the learning aspect of it. Making sure my kids are actually learning and retaining the information they learn.

Customize Learning

Oh, the joy of learning. Each child is different. This was brought to my attention by child number two. This is when I knew, each one of my children would probably learn in a different way than the previous one. Homeschooling year-round means that if I find out that something doesn’t work for one, I could change things up and not feel like we were behind. While we don’t have set grades, or a set start or end day, it means changing can happen and no one really knows or cares, yet they learn.

Doing What We Want

All in all, we know that we are able to do what we want when it comes to homeschooling year-round. We can take our time, change things up, and take off time when we want to. Homeschooling year-round gives us this option.  After 7 years of homeschooling, doing it how we want is the best aspect of homeschooling. And not having a time frame is why we love to homeschool year-round.

Why do you like homeschooling and homeschool year-round?


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Do These 5 Things By the End of July

If you were to ask me what you should do this month, I would tell you these five things.

Go on a Picnic

Ok, this one is one that I haven’t done in a long time! I was given the idea from another post that I read right here. This gave me the idea that I need to do this more with the kids. Just getting out of the house and having fun. So, I plan to get out and do at least one picnic this month!

Read a Book

This might sound simple to many, BUT, as an avid book lover, I love to read books. I have not been able to do this as I wanted in the last few years. However, I changed a few things, and I am excited about being able to read a full book. Summer is a great time to grab a book, sit in the sun if you are a sun lover, or in the air conditioning if you like it cool. Just grab a book and read!

Get Outside

While it is warm, it is still great to get outside. Go for a walk, water the flowers, just sit outside. Do something outside this month. The weather is nice, most of the time, so get out and enjoy it. The sun is a great thing that everyone needs to survive. If plants need sun and water, so do you!

Drink Your Water

This goes with getting outside. You need to make sure you drink enough water. They say it takes 21 days to make a new habit, what if you made it a habit to drink your water this month? What if you included the whole family in this challenge. What would that mean for them?

Be Present

The most important thing I can think about for this month and every month would be to be present. Take the time to be present for those who matter to you. Be there for your spouse, your children, even your pets. Just take the time to be there for them.

What is something you want to do in July?