Worth Rereading: 10 Creative Homeschooling Posts

Our Journey Westward takes a look back to her 10 favorite creative homeschooling post from 2014.

As I began making plans for 2015 here at Our Journey Westward, I naturally took a look back at 2014.  I jotted down my personal favorite top 10 posts in an effort to see if it’s clear where my heart is in this little cyber space.  Most of you know my heart is to share creative homeschooling ideas with a heavy focus on the Charlotte Mason style.  I certainly hope that shines through in my posts!

So without further ado, here are the posts I chose as the top 10 of 2014.  Do you agree?

Creative Homeschooling 2014

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

With the lessons I highlighted in this post, plus the lessons linked by other bloggers, there are WAY more than 100 living math activities! I seriously use this post all the time when planning our homeschool week or when desperate for a way to explain a concept in a better way.

Around the USA Elementary Homeschool Unit Study

We are having so much fun traveling around the USA through living literature this year.  This post is my go-to resource each week as I plan for the new states we’ll visit.

Our family has found several great books to prompt Bible study and discussion!

Speaking of living literature, this list of books to encourage Bible study includes our very favorite books to read time and time again.  You know the books you’ll save for your grandchildren?  Yeah, these are those.

Narration help: story order

Whether our children are struggling with story order in narration, dictation or creating their own stories, these story order lessons can be very helpful.  My son’s ability to retell stories with full detail has really improved since implementing these ideas.

How do you bring science to life? Nature study! It's real science, real life, real learning and really fun.

Charlotte Mason really was right about nature study.  I’ve put it to the test (for years) and realize what a major impact nature study has had through all subjects and disciplines – and how well-prepared my children are/were for higher level sciences because of it.

We have been utilizing nature journals in our homeschool from a very early age.  They have helped our children with writing, art, noticing nature detail and much more.

Why nature journals are important is another nod toward nature study and how it reaches into far more than just the biological sciences.  This post takes a look at some of our notebooking pages from preschool-middle school.

Enjoy this nature walk any time of the year!  Includes fun follow-up ideas, too.

The next three of my favorite posts each happen to be a fun nature walk with follow-up lesson ideas.  Our fossil walk was a bit of a scavenger hunt that brought us back home for some serious identification research.

This nature study photography project is good for all ages

We have used this photography walk idea many times over with different nature themes.  My children have always been very motivated when I hand the camera over to them!

Learn about the rock cycle with hands-on activities that kids love.

This hands-on rock cycle lesson is always so much fun!  It builds serious understanding of the rock cycle and helps my children make better observations & identifications during nature walks.

Homeschooling is funschooling when you open the game closet!

Our homeschool wouldn’t be the same without the games in our game closet.  Games make learning fun and the proof of their benefit is in the results you see from adding them to your lesson plans.

After a trip to the ocean, Cindy's 1st grader wanted to learn more.  Here's how they followed the trail of interest-based learning

Not everything has to be perfectly planned out in homeschooling.  Allowing our children some freedom in their learning promotes interest and independence.  In this interest-based ocean study I documented how my elementary student helped lead the learning.

And there you have my favorite creative homeschooling posts from 2014.  Now, off to keep writing into 2015.  Thanks for joining me on Our Journey Westward!

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Winter Homeschooling with Pinterest


Winter homeschool lessons can be fun and educational with the creative ideas on these Pinterest boards.

Have the winter homeschooling blues set in yet?  When the blues come around our house, my first line of defense is to kick up the interest level of our lessons.  This might mean adding some fun art projects, science experiments or (cold) nature walks to our typical daily schedule.  Or, it might mean setting aside regular lessons for a week or two while we dive into a wintery unit study.

Like many of you, I save the best learning ideas I come across on my Pinterest boards.  Ahem…I have more than 100 learning boards now – but, hey, I’m more organized than ever before!

(This post contains links to my business website.)

Winter Homeschooling

Which boards will I be perusing to find this year’s winter learning ideas?

Educational Winter Pinterest BoardMy general Winter Board includes ideas across all subjects.  You can find simple one-time lessons – or entire unit studies.  My favorite new pin on this board is a Hans Brinker literature-based unit study.

Coping with the Cold - Winter Pinterest Board

The Coping with the Cold Board goes along with my Coping with the Cold NaturExplorers study and covers everything having to do with animals in the winter – hibernation, migration and adaptation.  Whether you like to get outdoors in the cold weather or not, this topic makes a great winter science study.

Snow and ice make a great winter study topic!

My Snow and Ice Board is full of ideas to go along with the Snow and Ice NaturExplorers study.  Take advantage of the cold days and all the crazy weather with fun lessons to learn about anything and everything having to do with snow.  This topic makes for motivating lessons in my house!

Educational Valentine's Day Board

Don’t forget one of the bright spots of winter – Valentine’s Day! Make the holiday educational and fun with a few of the ideas pinned on my Valentine’s Day board.  My favorite new pin on this board happens to be a pretty little handicraft project – heart wreaths.

Read Through Winter

There’s nothing better than snuggling with a good book (or ten) on cold winter days!  Before you start making plans, take a peek at our very favorite winter-themed book list.

Top Living Literature Picks for Winter

How do you beat the blues?  I’d love to hear your ideas for homeschooling in the winter.  Feel free to add your ideas (or links) in the comments!

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Art Fundamentals in One Lesson a Week

My 2nd grader and I are loving this plan for once a week art instruction that teaches fundamentals and gives plenty of practice with various media and techniques.

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Art Fundamentals in 2nd Grade

I ran across Adventures in Art, Level 2 by Laura Chapman at a used curriculum sale this summer and it’s been such a treasure!

I’m not much on textbooks, but this happens to be a fabulous textbook that both my son and I have been pleased to use.  Written specifically for a 2nd grade reader, the lessons can be read by my son.  I love that!  (Even if the text is a bit twaddle-like.)

I also LOVE that each lesson teaches a particular art fundamental and gives at least one example of that fundamental used in real (often famous) artwork and gives simple, illustrated directions for an art project to try at home.

In one lesson per week, Eli has been learning about things like color, pattern, texture, line, movement, form, balance, unity and variety.  He’s completed all kinds of simple projects that teach the art concepts and give him experience with various art modes and media.

All I have to do is gather the necessary art supplies then snuggle in with Eli for the short reading lesson and oversee the art project!

A Few of Eli’s Projects

This is one of the art lessons we did in 2nd grade as we're spending the year learning about art fundamentals.

This lesson focused on the fundamentals of shape and expression through the creation of a paper collage.  Before the lesson, I gathered some old scrapbooking paper, cardstock, glue sticks and a pair of scissors.  No special art supplies were necessary – and that rings true with most of the projects.

This is one of the art lessons we did in 2nd grade as we're spending the year learning about art fundamentals.

The fundamentals of shape and pattern were taught through this fun printing activity.  Before the lesson, I gathered some tempera paints and paper.  Eli helped me find things around the house that might make interesting prints.  We pulled out forks, cups, whisks, sponges, blocks and other fun tools.

This is one of the art lessons we did in 2nd grade as we're spending the year learning about art fundamentals.

We again focused on shape during this lesson, but expanded the teaching by talking about about similar shapes (a geometry connection!)  We created our own stencils from index cards and used paints with foam brushes to create stencil prints.

It looks fun, right?

It has been!  We’ve only gotten through about 10 of the 60 lessons so far.  During the winter months, I might pick up the pace to get through two or three lesson per week.  Otherwise, we’ll have plenty of lessons to keep us busy during the summer!

Other Art Resources You Might Like

Our Charlotte Mason homeschool usually focuses on one artist per month where we do picture study and biography study alongside the art.  You’ve heard me say many times, though, that a homeschooling method is a guide – not a rule.  This year, it’s working better for us to do art the way I’ve mentioned above.  Next year, we’ll probably get back into the regularly scheduled plan of once-a-month artist study.

A Complete List of Cindy West's Monthly Artist Studies

Tricia Hodges is one of my very favorite people in the world!  She and her mother have created curriculum that teaches you step-by-step how to work with chalk pastels.  You and your children will become immediate artists using their easy approach!

Chalk pastel tutorials make artists of your children!

And, of course, I have a couple of Pinterest boards dedicated to art projects and artist study.  I only pin the best of the best from cyber world, so you should find only meaningful, doable projects and ideas.

Cindy West's art boards will give your homeschool plenty of ideas for art lessons!

So, tell me – do you make time for art in your homeschool?  What are your favorite resources?

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!