The Top 10 Posts That Rocked 2014

Our Journey Westward specializes in creative homeschooling with a Charlotte Mason flare.  This is a list of her top 10 most-visited posts of 2014.

I’ve never been much on blog statistics.  I write what I write because I love to share homeschool encouragement and, in turn, document this wonderful journey our family has chosen.

Statistics happen to be part of blogging, though, so I take a peek at them once in awhile just to see if anything I’ve written has made an impact.  It truly warms my heart when I know one of my little ol’ posts has become useful to my sweet readers!

I thought you might like to know, too, which posts rose to the top in 2014.

Top 10 Posts of 2014

1.  Armor of God

Armor of God Object Lesson | Our Journey Westward

This object lesson on the Armor of God has consistently been one of my most viewed posts for several years now!

2.  Weekly Lesson Notebooks

Weekly Lesson Notebooks | Our Journey Westward

Organization and planning always strike a chord around here.  This post goes section-by-section through my children’s weekly planners and my homeschool planner.

3. Around the USA Study

Around the USA Elementary Homeschool Unit Study

Y’all love living literature and I {heart} you because of it!  Living literature has been one of THE most beneficial staples in our homeschool from preschool through high school.  My little guy and I are currently traveling around the USA one picture book at a time – and loving it!

4.  Elementary Charlotte Mason Planner

Free Charlotte Mason homeschooling weekly planner for elementary grades

This simple little planner that I pulled together on a whim is not only working really well for me, but it continues to be viewed and downloaded like crazy.  I surely hope it’s blessing some of you!

5.  Our Typical Charlotte Mason Schedule

Daily CM Homeschool Schedule

This is another post that has seen consistent traffic over several years.  I love that so many people are interested in making a Charlotte Mason education work.

6.  13 Colonies Travel Brochure

Thirteen Colonies Travel Brochure

Of all my project-based learning ideas, this one seems to make people the happiest.  It really is a great project for all ages that can be tweaked for any subject.

7.  Human Body Systems Unit Study

Human Body Unit Study

Since this was one of my very favorite units to teach over the years, I can see why it’s one of your very favorite units to visit on my site.  I can’t wait to teach this again with Eli before long!

8.  10 Living Books for Christian Teen Girls

Cindy's top 10 list of books for Christian teen girls.  Good picks!

Considering I also have a 10 Living Books for Christian Teen Boys post and a 10 Living Books for Christian Kids post, I’m not sure why this one seems to be more popular.  Are more of us homeschooling girls all the way through?  Hmmm.

9.  How to Plan a Unit Study

Planning a Unit Study

Planning a unit study doesn’t have to be hard.  I’ve tried to make it as clear and simple as possible – which I hope is one reason this series of posts is popular.

10.  Ultimate Guide to Nature Study

The Ultimate Guide to Nature Study from Cindy at Our Journey Westward

This really is an ultimate guide and a one-stop spot for everything nature study.  I’m so thankful it seems to do exactly what it was intended to do…help people get great ideas for easy nature study.

And, there you have it.  Were any of the top 10 your favorites, too?

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Easily Add Poetry Recitation to Your Homeschool

Poetry recitation can be very easy!

In an effort to focus a bit more on the genre of poetry this year, my 2nd grader is completing a weekly recitation.  I honestly had no idea how much fun the two of us would have with this assignment!  Practice has become a bright spot each day and I watch him beam at the end of each week when the poem is successfully recited.

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{Eli’s 1st poem of the year was just one stanza.}

How do we do it?


On Monday (or Tuesday), I read a poem to him and ask him to narrate it.  Wait, aren’t we talking about recitation?  Where does narration fit in?  It builds comprehension before memorization.  Often, poems can be a bit more difficult to understand than typical reading passages.  So, this weekly narration stretches his listening skills, processing speed and comprehension ability.

This same day, we’ll talk about any necessary vocabulary – again to help with comprehension and, of course, vocabulary building.  Then, I’ll ask him to read the poem aloud to me once.

{I often choose poems that go with a season or nature topic we’ve been studying.}


On the subsequent days, Eli practices the poem.  He reads it to himself.  He reads it aloud.  He covers the poem and begins to memorize it.

We talk a lot about the poetry devices of rhythm & meter.  This helps with memorization as he gets into the “swing” of how the poem is meant to be read.

I’ll also pull out very casual mini-lessons on things like rhyming words or punctuation.  He loves when I say, “Get out the whiteboard!”  That means I’m going to challenge him to spell some of the words he’s been reading in the week’s poem.

Occasionally, we’ll use the poem (or part of the poem) for copywork, too – maybe once a month.

{Eli’s 3rd poem of the year was a bit longer than the first two.}


By the end of the week, Eli recites the poem from memory.  This recitation time has obviously built memory, but it’s also great practice for public speaking.  (My little guy has been super-motivated by presenting his poem in front of a video camera and watching it back.)

{I love his smile at the end of this video.  This 4th poem gave him a bit of a challenge at first, so he was very proud to have made it through.  Oops — we forgot to brush his hair this day!)

Slow and Steady Growth

His first poem of the year was simply one stanza because I didn’t want to start this new venture off with frustration.  Each week after, I chose a poem that was just a little longer than the week before.  By the end of the semester, he was reciting four stanzas!

{Poem #5 – even longer.}

Poetry Recitation Resources

Poems can come from anywhere. Our first semester’s poems all came from an oldie, but a goodie – Childcraft’s Poems and Rhymes.

I love this anthology from Childcraft for elementary poetry recitation.The poems are just perfect for elementary students in theme and length.  During the first semester, I chose the poems.  I’m considering allowing Eli to choose his own (from this book) for our second semester studies.

{Eli’s final poem of the semester took two weeks to memorize because of the new vocabulary.}

Why add poetry to your schedule?

Lots of reasons!  I’ll just give you a very quick run through of why I think poetry is important in any homeschool – not just the Charlotte Mason homeschool.

  • Poetry is a unique genre.
  • The imagery, voice, symbolism, metaphorical language (and more) stretch brains.
  • Poems inspire creativity.
  • It’s easy to pull oodles of language arts mini-lessons from poetry.
  • Poetry doesn’t (have to) take much time out of the homeschool day.

How do you use poetry in your homeschool?  I’d love to hear!

If you need more ideas for poetry study, I’ve pinned some great ideas on my Poetry Pinterest Board!

Homeschool Curriculum: My Top Picks K-12

Veteran homeschooler Cindy West shares her favorite K-12 curriculum choices.

(This post contains links to my products.)

Did y’all know I have a master’s degree in elementary education and taught in a classroom for several years?  Yep.  Why does that matter?  Well, I’ve been trained to recognize good curriculum.

Flip the coin.  Did y’all know I’ve homeschooled three children from PK-12 over the last 15 years?  Yep.  Why does that matter?  I’ve had the opportunity to put “good curriculum” to the test many times over in the one-on-one and/or family-style situations of homeschooling.

Did y’all know over the years, I’ve reviewed well over 100 homeschooling products?  Yep.  Am I trying to impress you?  Nope.  But, I’ve seen and used some of the most well-known and well-respected curriculum out there.

Did y’all know I write homeschool curriculum?  Yep.  What’s my point?  In some cases, I’ve seen gaps in homeschooling curriculum that needed to be filled OR found exciting ways of learning that I just had to share.

So, all that to say…I know homeschool curriculum.  Heck, I even offer curriculum consultation to help providers evaluate the academic quality and student engagement of their products.

Over the years, a handful of exceptional materials have risen to the top as curriculum choices I continually turn to and can heartily recommend. 

Homeschool Curriculum: Top Picks by Grade

Kindergarten-2nd Grade

Veteran homeschooler Cindy West shares her favorite early elementary homeschool curriculum choices.

Early Elementary Top Picks

Why no preschool recommendations?  Formal curriculum in the preschool years isn’t necessary.  I much prefer lots and lots of read-alouds, along with gentle, playful learning opportunities through nature walks, simple experiments, art, cooking with mom, hands-on exploration, dramatic play and the like.

3rd-5th Grade

Cindy West shares her very favorite homeschooling curriculum for 3rd-5th graders.

Upper Elementary Top Picks

Middle School

These are wonderful materials for homeschooling middle school students!

Middle School Top Picks

High School

Cindy West's top curriculum choices for homeschooling high school.

High School Top Picks

Most of you know our homeschool is eclectically Charlotte Mason in style.  In other words, the framework of our studies and schedule is built on Charlotte Mason’s principles.  At the same time, we loosely follow a four-year Classical model for science and history AND utilize unit studies with project-based learning when appropriate.

The curricula I consider tried and true have worked time and again in our homeschool – which includes eclectic methods and children with very different learning styles.  For those reasons, I feel like the lists I’ve provided are solid considerations for any homeschool.  HOWEVER, it’s very important to understand that no two homeschools are alike.  Take my recommendations with a grain of salt and always do what works for your family.

So, whatcha think?  Did I forget any of your most favorite homeschooling curricula?

A Grinch Birthday Party

These Grinch ideas would make for a great party or just a family book/movie night

What a fun 7th birthday celebration we had for my little Christmas man.  Grinchy green was everywhere thanks to the wonderful ideas I found on Pinterest.  Even if you don’t have a December birthday babe in your house,  these ideas would be great for a lighthearted gathering this Christmas season or a fun book/movie night.

Grinch Party Cake

(This post contains affiliate links.)

The cake, designed by my beautiful momma, was meant to look a bit skewed.  It’s the snowy Mount Crumpit where the Grinch lives.

We used two cake mixes in three different sized pans to build the mountain base.  The cake was covered with white icing that was piled on thick and choppy to make it look like snow.  The tree atop the mountain was simply a sugar cone dotted with green icing using a leaf decorating tip.  Cindy Lou Who and the Grinch where printed from the internet onto card stock and attached to toothpicks.  And the colorful candles, candy dots, candy presents and marshmallow trees where purchased at our local Walmart where I just looked around for colorful additions to spruce up the cake.

Grinch Party Food

The savory party food kept with the theme!  Fruity Grinch faces were designed by sliding whole grapes, slices of bananas, halves of strawberries and a small marshmallow over a toothpick.  Roast Beast (roast beef) was added to sandwiches.  Guacamole and spinach balls were added for their green effect.

Grinch Party Drinks

Green sherbet punch served in cups dipped in green sugar crystals and topped with green marshmallows was a ridiculously sugary drink to top off the Grinchy madness.

Grinch Birthday Party

 We added touches of green wherever possible to the decorations and ourselves – and a good time was had by all!


Of course, a marathon of reading and viewing followed after the party was over.  Christmas just isn’t Christmas at our house without a little Grinch.

This post was from Eli’s 2013 birthday.  Our house has seen a wild shift in nutrition over the last year and, ironically, we don’t eat much of the things mentioned in this post any longer.  We’re planning a Minecraft themed party in Dec. 2014 where I’ll share a gluten-free, dairy-free, mostly-sugar-free party menu with the details of how the party goes down.  Getting excited!

Ultimate Guide to Living Math Activities

Need ideas for living math lessons?  There are more than 100 here!

(This post contains affiliate links and links to my curriculum website.)

I’ve been touting the benefits of living math for quite some time now.  Why?  Because living math makes sense to kids.  It builds concrete understanding of abstract concepts.  It touches real-life, giving math meaning and purpose.  And, it’s fun!

Loving Living Math teaches you how to add living math to your homeschool - it's not hard!

To make your life (and mine) easier, I decided to pull together a giant list of fabulous living math activities from all over the internet.  Grab one anytime you need a little inspiration!  I’ve attempted to compile the activities into appropriate grade levels.  You will find, however, that several of the lessons can be used with older or younger children.  (That’s another beauty of living math – it’s ability to span multiple ages!)

How can you use the activity lists?  You might decide to do a living math activity once a week and come here to find an idea.  You might find a topic your child has been studying in the math text and use one of these activities as reinforcement.  Or, you might find your child struggling with a math concept and find a helpful hands-on lesson to teach the concept in a different way.

Living Math Activities


Addition Bingo from Teach Beside Me

Area & Perimeter Name Art from Adventures in Third Grade

Bead Classification from Our Journey Westward

Charts and Graphs from Jimmie Lanley

Chex Mix Math from E is for Explore

Dice Tic-Tac-Toe from Education

The Doorbell Rang Division from Our Journey Westward

Doubles Math Puzzles from Teach Beside Me

Exchanging Coins from Hands On Homeschooler

Exploring Capacity with Colored Water from The Imagination Tree

Folk Art Patterns from Painted Paper

Fraction Fun with Play Dough from The Organized Classroom

Fraction Match Up from 2nd the Best

Fun with Functions from Math in Your Feet

Fun with Patterns from Our Journey Westward

Geo Pumpkin from Fun A Day

Geometry Project from Ms. Mathemagician

Gumdrop Engineering from Modern Parents Messy Kids

Graph My Room by Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational

Greater Than Less Than Game from Living Creatively

Hand Print Area from Lesson Plan Diva

Hands-On Multiplication with Lego Bricks Frugal Fun for Boys

Math manipulatives make math easier to understand, especially in the younger years. If you can only buy a few, these are my top choices.

How Many Lego Bricks Does It Weigh? from Frugal Fun for Boys

Introducing Place Value from Adventures at the Kitchen Table

Lego Bar Charts from Science Sparks

Math Poetry from Jimmie Lanley

Measure the House from Let’s Explore

Nerf Gun Math from No Time for Flashcards

Number Line Fun from Childhood Beckons

Picture Pie for Fraction Fun by Ms. Fultz’s Corner

Place the Digits Dice Game from Teach Beside Me

Place Value Stomp from Creekside Learning

Popcorn Estimation Experiment from Hodgepodge

Positive Negative Symmetry Art from Our Journey Westward

Post-It Note Scavenger Hunt from Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational

Pretzel Polygons from Mrs. Wheeler’s First Grade

Roll A Whole Fraction Game from Teach Beside Me

Shape Graphing from Imprints from Tricia

Shape, Mondrian and Oil Pastels from Art Smart

Sir Cumference Place Value from The Tiger Chronicles

Sneaky Math Games from The Unlikely Homeschool

Standard Measurement with Play Dough from Our Journey Westward

UNO Make 10 Game from The Activity Mom

Yummy Shapes from Our Journey Westward

Living literature makes a GREAT addition to math lessons.  Books teach and reinforce math concepts in ways that sparks interest and add real-life understanding.


Absolute Value War from Making It as a Middle School Teacher

Abstract Art Math for Our Journey Westward

Area and Perimeter of Leaves from Our Journey Westward

Bar Graphing from The Science Penguin

Candy Bar Volume from Classroom Magic

Candy Math from Our Journey Westward

Capture Recature: Proportions Activity from Ms. Milleson’s 7th Grade Blog

Coin Probability Lab from STEM Mom

Design a Park from Principal’s Point of View

Fraction Operations Project from Teaching with a Mountain View

Fractional Me from The Teaching Thief

Geometric Designs from Art Lessons for Kids

Geometry Focus: Angles from Teaching with a Mountain View

Graphing Facebook Birthdays from Our Journey Westward

Hands-On Fractions from Jimmie Lanley

Hands-On Volume from Our Journey Westward

M&M Math from Our Journey Westward

Measuring and Comparing Stretch and Distance from E is for Explore

favmathgam Here's a list of our family's most played games that promote

Measuring the Volume of Boxes and Spheres from The Homeschool Scientist

Measuring the Volume of a Solid from Susan Evans

Multiplication Facts Dice Game from Mama’s Learning Corner

Multiplication Grid Game from Teach Beside Me

Multiplication Ring Toss from Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational

One Grain of Rice from Our Journey Westward

Oreo Math from Teaching in Room 6

Paper Airplane Math from Our Journey Westward

Perimeter, Area and Fraction Mosaics from I Want to be a Super Teacher

Perimeter, Area and Volume from Math Things

Picture Algebra from Mrs. Whites 6th Grade Math Blog

Polygon Angles: Cookie Math from Almost Unschoolers

Popcorn Math from Our Journey Westward

The Power of Doubling from Our Journey Westward

Probability and Odds: Skittles Activity from Ms. Milleson’s 7th Grade Blog

Protractor Art from For the Love of Art

Sir Cumference Geometry from Almost Unschoolers

Symmetry Books from Nyla’s Crafty Teaching

Teaching Pi with Lids from Our Journey Westward

Tessellations from Julianna Kunstler

To-Scale Mapping from Our Journey Westward

Logic games are one of the best ways to practice logical thinking in a fun and simple way.  My kids beg for logic!

High School

Box Office Math Project from Byrdseed

Brand Symmetry from Teach Mathematics

Escher Symmetry from Teach Mathematics

Exponent Sort from Mark Clark

Factor Pair Spoons Game from Jon Oaks

Function Game from College Math

Geometry Vocabulary Match Game from High School Math Adventures

House Remodel from Everybody’s a Genius

Math You Need to Manage Your Money from Unschool Rules

Pythagorean Theorem Board Game from High School Math Adventure

Quadrilateral Properties from Teach Mathematics

Real-World High School Math from Unschool Rules

Similar Triangles from Teach Mathematics

Sine Rule Using a Theodolite from Teach Mathematics

Slopes and Ladders from Jon Oaks

What the Factor? from Jon Oaks


Autumn Leaf Graphing from Our Journey Westward

Candy Heart Math from Our Journey Westward

Double Mint from Our Journey Westward

Football Math from The Happy Housewife

Lucky Algebra from Education Journey

Olympic Medal Math from Byrdseed

Pumpkin Math from Our Journey Westward

Seasonal and holiday related posts from Our Journey Westward

There are three GREAT websites I can always count on for living math activity ideas that make math meaningful and fun.

  • Mathwire is for elementary students and offers lots of seasonal related ideas.
  • Yummy Math is for middle school (and sometimes upper elementary or high school) students.  You’ll also find several seasonal ideas, but what I like most here is there use of real-life math problems.  They usually provide a printable, too!
  • Robert Kaplinsky has really great real-life math prompts for all ages – including high school level algebra and geometry.

Loving Living Math teaches you how to add living math to your homeschool - it's not hard!

You can find all these living math activities and MORE on my Living Math Pinterest page.  I add new lessons there all the time!

The living math Pinterest board from Our Journey Westward is packed!

ENJOY your math lessons!

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