I can't believe our summer is over. The kids got up at 6:30 this morning, wasn't sure that was possible, and have begun their day. In many ways I'm glad this day is here, the anticipation and waiting was becoming all consuming. I will, however, miss this summer. As important as education is, there is a value to lazy days with no agenda but to simply be.
Right now I'm immersed in Biology. I'm planning a 10th grade honors course for my daughter. I wanted to take a moment and share a resource that has been an amazing help in the planning of my course, CK-12.

CK-12 provides free, customizable, digital textbooks. The one my daughter will use for Biology is even downloadable onto her Kindle, awesome. There is also a teachers edition that has lessons, worksheets, quizzes and tests. Online, the textbook is interactive, with videos and links. You have to contact them to get the full teachers edition with answers, but so worth it.

I've read about half the Honors Biology textbook myself and compared it to Biology, which I have and is often used in AP Biology courses and it is comparable. The graphics aren't as pretty, but I don't see this as a problem. Especially since I will be encouraging Callie to use many resources as she learns.

They also have other free textbooks in science, technology, engineering and math. I plan on also using their physics and chemistry in upcoming years.

Our year is over and our website is being updated. We are currently archiving all of this years pages under Teacher resources. Over the next few weeks we'll be adding pages for the upcoming year.

The new pages will include course pages, files and internet resources.

We're currently busy working on a 10th grade Honors Biology course and will have the course outline and resources up soon.

We've also changed the layout, it was time for something new.

Stop by at Ocotillo Academy.

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I am truly loving this application. One of the many challenges of homeschool, is that I'm not always available when the kids are ready to go over an assignment. With this valuable tool, there's a way to fix this. I love it for editing papers and working out problems.
So what is Jing. It does screen captures, then lets you edit them and send them as short video clips or pictures. I can edit a paper and make verbal comments the whole time and save it all at 4am. Callie can watch the whole thing around 1pm. She can hear my thought process as I go over each correction. If it's a simple, short assignment, a simple picture of the assignment that I can put highlights, text and editing marks on is sufficient. I can also use a whiteboard program to work out a math problem and use Jing to capture it so that Callie can see all the steps in the problem. It's ready when she is.

Here's a link to a much better description of what you can do with this great app. Oh, and the version I use is free!
When reading Moon Shot I learned about the selection of the astronauts. They had to have flying experience and an academic degree. Also, the had to be under 40 years old and couldn't be taller the 5'11. Reading this showed me how tough it was to become the first astronauts. In the book I was introduced to two pilots.

First, Deke Slaytor, a test Pilot working in the Mojave desert at a military base.
And ,Alan Shepard, a Carrier Pilot.
In the China Study I learned how people get Cancer. In the book the author explained it like growing grass. Planting the seed, letting the seed grow into grass, and the progression of the grass going out of control and taking control of your yard. This example was very helpful to me and I was able to picture it very clearly. So now I understand the process of Cancer much better.


At around 500 B.C. the people of south Africa started to collect livestock from northern areas as it slowly became a country. They also had domestic animals as they began farming and practicing agriculture. The web address is


South Africa was populated for hundreds of thousands years without any written history until European travelers arrived. To them the ancient country was like a giant treasure chest.

The Fantastic Inventions of Nikola Tesla, Chapter 2

In chapter 2, he showed sketches of his first patents from 1886 to 1888, but none of those first patents got any medals. Although he was only in his 30’s, he was already one of the great scientists of the world.

No matter how well something is working, the time comes when a change is needed. Brent is ready to move on to something new. Probably inspired by his sister's planning for High School. We spent a few productive hours at the coffee shop today and came up with a new plan.

First, we broke down the day in subjects. I decided to model his days after what he would be doing in high school since Callie is having such a hard time with the transition. I'm hoping it will be easier for Brent. The day is broken up into 5 credit hours. The subjects are: Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies and Electives.

Second, we looked at each individual subject and decided what was to be studied and how.
  • Language Arts will be completed while working on the Science and Social Studies. It will include: spelling, grammar, writing, speaking, reading and more.
  • Math will be done using Math U See.
  • Electives that currently interest Brent are: guitar, cooking, and computer programing.
  • Science topics that he wants to learn about are: physics, nuclear energy, electricity, magnetism, chemistry, sound, light, evolution, and zoology. For zoology he wants to focus on the following animals: bears, puffins, salmon, sword fish, orca, beavers, crabs, komodo dragons, and toads.
  • Social Studies topics are in order of his preference: US history, geography, economics, world history, current events, civics and law, politics, government, and ancient history.
Finally, we discussed what would be the best way to learn science and social studies, and the best way to show understanding. We brainstormed the following ways to learn: online research, books (narratives, non-fiction, fiction, biographies and reference), experiments and observation, and documentaries and videos. He loves keeping notebooks as he works, so he would continue taking notes as he learned interesting things. He would also plan and implement his experiments and observation studies when applicable. Brent decided the best way to show understanding would be to write a report on each subject, then typing it and posting it online. The writing would include several rough drafts where we focused on writing techniques, spelling, grammar and typing skills. Then, he would create a webpage or glog to teach the subject to others. He wants to have a website of his own that covers everything he studies. He can practice some computer programing while he's creating it.

We've decided to do a test run of this plan. He is currently studying electricity and freshwater. Starting next week he will approach these subject this new way and see how long it takes to complete. After we get an idea of the time required, we'll layout a plan for next year.

The coffee was really good.
Sounds so official, guess I could call them - What I Did All Day Logs. The kids fill them out with the details of what they did and when. Why is this necessary? Well, despite being home most of the day and working with them regularly, they are experts at looking busy and I have a lot to do. It's difficult when you find out late in the day that they haven't actually done much. We've simply had too many days in the past where they've just not done enough to count it as a day. This record keeps them accountable.

It also lets my husband be more involved, since he can see how they used their time and what they were supposed to get done. I appreciate the help. There are boxes they can check to show they hit all the daily required subjects. At the end of the day they staple their work to the back and turn it in. I'm still working on the format, it has changed frequently as we see what works and doesn't work. We have added a second page in case they need it. They record all their activity, perfect for records.

I've uploaded our latest version in PDF to our website, you can find them here.
Our schedule seems to be falling into place. Callie has math in the morning, Brent in the afternoon. We use Math-U-See and this prevents them from needing to watch a DVD at the same time.

9am to noon ~ school
noon to 1pm ~ lunch/break
1 to 3pm ~ school

We've also been adding stuff back into the schedule. Callie is now working on Mondays from 1 to 5pm. This means she will have a couple of hours of school she needs to make up later in the day/week. The kids will be adding rock club back this week. Callie will attend on Tuesday evenings from 5:30 to 7:30pm. Brent will be going on Thursday from 3 to 5pm.

We aren't including PE in these hours. They are doing it after school. PE can be really disruptive, plus when the kids are in sports, that will count as PE and we won't have to have a schedule change.

Right now, because of lack of focus, they are doing their work in the living room. We brought in the folding table from outside. Normally I would have put them in the dining room, but it's under construction. It feels a little crowded. They have desks in their rooms, but have difficulty focusing in there. Here's hoping that after awhile they'll be able to go in there once the routine is established. Next week maybe?
This morning we watched King on the History Channel. It was narrated by Tom Brokaw. I thought it was very good and the kids enjoyed it as well. After, they both wrote a narrative response using the discussion questions in the study guide provided by

I'm exhausted.  We took a little extra time off this winter because I just couldn't teach with all the paint around, we did three rooms in three weeks.  Pictures should be up soon on What I'm Learning Now I spent this weekend putting together our 2nd semester.

First, Callie will no longer be taking art classes from the local middle school.  This is her choice, but I'm so glad she made it.  It was a learning experience for her and as is the case with most learning experiences, there was good and bad.  She had some wonderful experiences with her teachers, whom I have nothing but praise for, and some good experiences with her classmates.  She also had some bad experiences with the several members of the administration and most of her classmates.  Her final statement on the whole thing, "If this is what the middle school is like, I don't want to see the high school."  Me either.

Now on to the fun stuff.  I guess years of practice are starting to pay off.  I'm getting pretty good at this home school thing.  I'm doing both the kids almost completely different, excluding PE and Spanish.

Callie, who is my liberal arts, unstructured learner, will be embracing the Charlotte Mason Method.  To help improve her writing skills, which are in need of some attention, most of her narrations will be written.  I love this method.  Nothing is better than a good book.  She will be reading some great books this semester, including The Jungle, Macbeth, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Animal Farm and Narrative of Sojourner Truth.  She will also be participating in a local Science Fair.  We will be continuing our math using Math U See.

Brent, who hasn't met a checklist he didn't immediately fall in love with, will be doing thematic studies using three books from Teacher Created Resources.  We have used these before and he loves them.  He will be studying from Our Country, Electricity and Oceans.  These are literature based thematic units.  He will also be using Math U See as well.

Both kids will be learning Spanish using Rosetta Stone.  For PE we are going to participate in the President's Challenge.  I'm super excited about this.

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr Day on Monday, we will be spending the day learning about the man and his movement.  Here are some great links:  The Learning Network MLK Resources, The King Center, King Institute, Text and Video of the speech, and