Taking Kids to Hawaii

 God works in wonderful and mysterious ways.

Two years ago we couldn't have imagined working from home and schooling from beautiful places. Now, however, we are blessed to have dad at home, which enables us to be flexible with school and travel. 

When we started this homeschool journey seven years ago one of our goals was to show the kids as much of the United States as we could - while schooling along the way. As I was looking at this list of 10 Significant Locations to Visit in the US, I realized that we've seen almost all of this with them! We just need to get them to New York City to see a few things. 

The next two weeks of Collage Friday are coming to you from Oahu, Hawaii! 

Taking Kids to Oahu

We started our trip on Tuesday at 4 a.m. (yawn) from the Atlanta airport. If you've been watching the news, you'll know security lines are long. We were pleasantly surprised, however, with just a 45 minute wait. 

I must admit  I'm a nervous flyer - not nervous about the flying part, but just all of the details surrounding it. I think I drive my family a bit crazy with reminders and questions. You would think I could just relax and know it will all work out, but I'm still working on that. 

We managed to have everyone packed in  their own carry on suitcase and backpack. I never want to deal with lost luggage or keeping up with too much stuff, so we packed LIGHT for this trip.  Each of the kids is responsible for their two bags. This makes it more of a vacation for mom, too! 

The highlight of flying to Oahu?  Well - I do believe it was the inflight entertainment from Denver to Honolulu. Grant watched three Star Wars movies. Anna watched a million HGTV shows, Dad read and slept, and I finished The Precious One -- such a great book with a surprise homeschool tie in. 

We arrived in Honolulu around 2:30 p.m. (8:30 Georgia time) and got to our condo easily. We stayed awake for as long as we could (until 9 pm Hawaii time) and then crashed for the night. Surprisingly, we weren't up too early the  next morning -- so I think jet lag wasn't too much of an issue coming here. 

Lani Kai Beach

We wanted to go to this beach on the first day. We've heard it's the BEST beach on Oahu, and I must say I believe that!

Even though it was overcast and even a little rainy, we stayed for a bit -- Grant was in the ocean and playing right away -- and just decompressed from the journey the day before. 

Taking Kids to Oahu

We stayed for just an hour or so, because it clearly wasn't going to be "beach" weather.... but as we began driving south everything cleared up and the sun came out. 


Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail

We came home to eat lunch and rest a bit, and then we headed to the Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail - just 15 minutes from the condo.

There is a lot of interesting WWII history here (9 airmen lost their lives patrolling here during 1943), not to mention the fact that this is a Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. (The whales are only here until April so we just missed them!)

We hiked about 3 miles round trip - much of it totally UPHILL, but the views from the top were breathtaking. 

Taking Kids to Oahu

I tried to document a bit of this on Instagram, but it was very windy and I just made one Instagram video!  

A video posted by Mary (@homegrown_learners) on

I'd love for us to learn more about lighthouses and whales when we return home -- some relaxed summer learning! 

Online Classes

Anna's school year officially ends next week, so she has some online classes to attend while we are here. 

Thursday morning she and dad walked to the local coffee shop to have breakfast together and attend her Memoria Press Latin I class.  (Normally this meets at 2 p.m. ET, but it is 8 a.m Hawaii time -- pretty cool, though, that the teacher is in Australia and I think it's  5 a.m. for her!)

She'll have Algebra next Monday (probably from the same place, except it will be at 7 a.m.!).

Vacation Reading

Everyone in our family LOVES to read -- with the exception of Grant.

It seems that I have to nudge him a little more, and even with my nudging he is still reluctant. I'm wondering if he's just not a READER (but he reads well)... or if I'm just not providing the right things for him to read.

This is something I'm hoping to research a little bit while I have some time -- how to motivate pre teen boys to read! 

Dad, Anna and I have all loaded up our Kindles and brought physical books for lots of reading while we're here.  

Taking Kids to Oahu

Vacation books include:

We'll be here another 11 days, so I'm looking forward to making memories with the kids.

I love that we'll have time for decompressing, nature walks, trips to the coffee shop, and long days on the beach. 

We're also planning to visit Pearl Harbor, swim with dolphins, and other fun things! Things are VERY expensive here (a gallon of milk is $5!), so we're trying to be careful and not break the bank, but do a couple of memorable excursions. 

If I've learned anything from the past several years it is that dreams are WORTH PURSUING.  You never know what obstacles life will throw at you (we've had our fair share of those in the past two years), but you also have to open to the BLESSINGS and unexpected surprises, too. 

I never would have imagined this when my kids were little - but here we are and I am thankful! 

I'll leave you with this -- something my daughter posted on her Instagram last night:

Collage Friday

Collage Friday at Homegrown Learners


Join me on  Fridays for a wrap up of the week - or just to share pertinent thoughts that have been rambling in your head during the past week.

Be sure to include your photo collages!

Then, visit other bloggers that have linked and leave them a supportive comment.  I love the Collage Friday community!

Add your link using the widget below. Additionally, if you'd like to join further, use the hashtag #collagefriday on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. 

Organizing Homeschool Bookshelves

Organizing is NOT my strong suit. 

But, our homeschool shelves stay organized ALL YEAR LONG. 

The challenge in homeschool organization has always been how to best store the resources we do have, and how to tame the massive amounts of BOOKS my family is prone to collect.

We're blessed to have a dedicated homeschool room (this is new for us!), with a large set of shelves that house everything we will use in the current school year.

*Notice I said "in the current school year". This means I take a good amount of time at the end of the school year and throughout the summer to change  resources for the following year.

I ultimately believe that we can deepen our homeschools through simplification, and this starts with organizing our bookshelves! 

Organizing Homeschool Bookshelves

Before I get to the shelves, let's talk about the evolution of our schoolroom, because this was brand new to us this past year! 

Building a Homeschool Room

In the past year we have been blessed to finish a schoolroom in our basement. 

Our finished homeschool room

Our basement schoolroom was finished on a budget - done very simply, but quite functional for us! 

We repurposed our very first kitchen table as a computer desk, painted some old kitchen chairs red, and bought a chair and shelves from IKEA.

The big requirements for our schoolroom were:

  • a space for the desktop computer (mainly used for online classes and formy youngest to research and write papers)
  • a comfortable spot for reading
  • a dedicated workspace for my youngest (you can't see his desk in this pic, but it's there... my oldest prefers to work in her room)
  • a closet to keep LEGO materials and school supplies
  • BOOKSHELVES to house everything for the year!

I searched long and hard for the bookshelves... and I'm glad I agonized over the decision a bit because I'm so happy with how it turned out.

Keep in mind, this organization can take place without a schoolroom, so please know that I've been there before and I want this post to be helpful to everyone!

Homeschool Bookshelves

We purchased Billy Bookcases from IKEA.  I can add to them in the future if need be. 

These bookcases have good depth and height. After using them for almost 6 months I can say I would purchase them again! 

And... they were easy to put together. A friend of ours and Grant put them together in just a couple of hours. 

Billy Bookcases from IKEA for homeschool storage

I am intentional about what goes on these shelves. I choose a few good materials to be kept in the shelves. This helps us make good use of what we DO have, ultimately enabling us to use our time more wisely because we're not searching for resources!

Resources that don't make the cut for the year are stored in Rubbermaid tubs. 

(School supplies are stored in a closet we have in the schoolroom.)

At a glance, here is how I organize the shelves. We'll go into each area in more detail, but this gives you an overview.

How We Organize Our Homeschool Bookshelves

Challenge (High School) Organization

At the beginning of the year I try to have everything available Anna will need for that level of Challenge.  Then, as she needs a resource she will get it from her shelf.  

Organizing Homeschool Bookshelves at Homegrown Learners

During the school year many of her books will stay in her room (where she likes to do her work) or in her crate that she takes with her to community day each week. 

I can't tell you how SIMPLE this was for us this year! 

I also keep MY Challenge guide on this shelf and any answer keys or helps that I might need. 

Classics/Want to Read-Aloud

I don't know about you, but I have a pretty large collection of classics from my childhood. They live in this section of our bookshelves. 

This past year we immersed ourselves in The Chronicles of Narnia, so they were also here, too. 

I choose other books that might be appropriate for our year and put them in our shelves. Then, I'm not tempted to buy books mid year on a whim. If we're in need of a new read-aloud, I just go to the shelves! 

Games, Cards, Etc...

The temptation when kids get older is stop playing games with them. 

I love for the kids to play games and for us to have FUN in our school day, so I keep a few reminders out for all of us. These go on the top shelf.

Some resources that make the cut for this area:


History Chapter Books

This past year my youngest, Grant, did the Veritas Self Paced History Course (and LOVED it!).

We will be doing the Middle Ages self paced course this coming year. I purchase the recommended chapter books (leave out a few and add a few of my own!) that go along with the course and put them in the bookshelf. Then, when Grant finishes a lesson and is assigned a reading, he knows exactly where to find it. 

This has given him a sense of independence, and also elevates him to the level of his Challenge sister. 

Plus, he read some AWESOME books this year!

*These books could be wonderful read alouds, too - I just choose to make them read alones since my son will be in middle school. 

For the coming year I will have the following books on our shelves.

These also correspond nicely with CC Cycle 2.

History Chapter Books - Middle Ages, Renaissance, Reformation

Daily Work

This section of the bookshelves is important in keeping my STUDENT organized. 

It contains everything that happens on a daily basis.  In our homeschool this includes:

  • Math  
  • Notebooks
  • PreScripts
  • Timeline Cards
  • Any other current study I've chosen to be completed
How We Organize Our Homeschool Bookshelves


Saxon math books are stored here (in the shelf above the one displayed). Saxon is our math program of choice in the elementary and middle school years. 

Memory Work Notebooks

My 11 year old notebooks through areas of our weekly memory work. 

Notebooking Pages has been an invaluable resource in our homeschool. It allows for independence and accountability, not to mention all that we learn through researching areas of the memory work just a bit deeper!

(This is how we notebook through memory work each week.)

Perhaps Grant's favorite notebook is his geography notebook. I print maps of all 24 weeks of geography memory work and then they are ready to be traced during the year. This has worked VERY WELL! 

Here are some map tracing tips and tricks to get you started.... and our favorite maps by far are from Notebooking Pages! 

Continental Map Notebooking Pages


I require daily handwriting practice from Grant. 

We use the PreScripts curriculum. They go along with our history sentences. Again, it's something independent and effective that gets accomplished on a daily basis. 

Timeline/Acts & Facts

Keeping all of our timeline and Acts & Facts cards in plain view helps us to actually USE THEM!   (There's a lot of very good information there that I had been forgetting because they were put away.)

How we organize our homeschool bookshelves at Homegrown Learners

Although it is a bit of an investment, I purchased binders and page protectors to organize the cards. (I found the correct size binders and protectors at our local Staples. Save your coupons!) 

As part of his daily routine, Grant listens to the timeline song and flips through the timeline cards. 

He uses the Acts & Facts cards to research for presentation topics. 

Just having all of this handy is so helpful! 

Free Reading

This shelf is stocked with books I'd love to see Grant just pick up and read .... sometimes this happens naturally and other times when I hear an "I'm bored, mom!" I direct him to this shelf!

Depending on if you have boys or girls (or both), I have some recommendations for stocking this section of your bookshelf:

Bible, Missionary Biographies

Again, keeping this stocked with a few good resources allows us to utilize those resources more effectively!

Obviously we have a Bible on this shelf and any other devotion books we are using during the year.

Our favorite missionary biographies are Christian Heroes, Then & Now. I stocked up on these at a homeschool convention a few years ago when they were on sale - a purchase I have never regretted! 

This year we learned A LOT about the heroes of our faith - both in a Sunday School class my husband and I taught, and also at home.  

If you want to add some MEAT to your homeschool day, I really recommend doing a study of Christian heroes

Fine Arts

This shelf includes art, music, and poetry.

Again, I try to compile resources that are of interest for the year. 

Geography & Science

A few good geography and science resources go a long way! 

These are used for investigating our memory work a bit further, or looking for fun experiments to do! 



That's how we organize our homeschool shelves!

Less is More!

How do you organize for the school year?  Leave a comment below and join in the conversation!

Also, be sure to visit other bloggers in the iHomeschool Network to see how they organize their bookshelves!

Finishing 9th and 5th Grades

I realized after writing last week's Collage Friday post just how much I have missed documenting our weeks.

Because, when it comes down to it, if we all did this each week I think we would see just how much we accomplish. Homeschool moms tend to be hard on themselves, and when I look back at our week it makes me feel good to see everything we did achieve. 

This week marks the END of 9th and 5th grades.  Other than a Latin and math final, we are closing the books on this school year and plan to take a LONG break from school. 

Collage Friday - finishing 9th and 5th grades

Music for Mother's Day

Playing piano is just a given in our homeschool. I'm one of those moms that requires daily practice, recitals, competitions, etc...

Learning an instrument has done so much for my children's confidence and concentration. It has taught them that perseverance pays off, and it has eliminated any fears they had of speaking or performing in public. 

Collage Friday

Their piano recital was on Mother's Day. The kids have taken lessons from the same teacher for many years. Not only does she create wonderful pianists, but she invests in my children personally. Having another adult that believes in them and supports them is such a gift.

And, if I might be a proud mom for a minute, my kids both received awards this year for their work in piano. Anna received her 8th superior rating in the Federation Festival - and she also received an Artistry Award from that festival - which means she displayed superior artistry and was recognized by the judges with a cash award.  Grant received his 3rd superior rating in Federation.  

I always dreamt I would have a house filled with music, and it does my heart such good to watch my children develop as musicians. 

Math and MORE!

For many years math has been a STRUGGLE in our homeschool. Having  one child who is average at math (and never liked it) and another who is excellent at math (and loves it) has been a challenge for me. 

Grant completed Saxon 6/5 a couple weeks ago and went straight into Saxon 7/6.  There are many reasons we use Saxon, and I believe it is by far superior for a math minded child in the elementary grades. Grant will continue math throughout the summer, because if he's not complaining I'm going to keep assigning lessons. 

Anna is finishing Mr. D Math Algebra I.  We jumped the Saxon ship this year and it was the right decision. The repetition in Saxon was TOO MUCH for my non math kid. Now, I have a child that enjoys math and has an A average, too! 

I've written about Mr. D and how much we love his math classes. Anna is already enrolled for Geometry next year. In the picture below you can see her watching one of Mr. D's prerecorded lesson videos and working through the lesson problems. I love that she can rewind as many times as she needs to understand the concept. Mr. D's instruction is clear, put into language teens understand, and effective. 

Learn about Mr. D Algebra I

Learn About Mr. D Geometry


Collage Friday at Homegrown Learners

One of the best things about homeschool is early May!  Homeschoolers are winding down their studies, and public school students are still in school. We had the gym at the YMCA to ourselves one day this week, so Grant and a friend got in their P.E. on the courts.

I've been trying to cook meals that last more than one night, and I made a double recipe of Cheeseburger Pie this week. It's nothing fancy, but everyone loves it, and Anna is also very good at making it!  

Confession:  I am a Words With Friends junkie!  I had to chuckle this week because I played the word ALOHA --- fitting because we are leaving for 2 weeks in Hawaii next week! Yes, I did say 2 WEEKS IN HAWAII. The trip is such an incredible blessing - and I hope to post a Collage Friday from Oahu in the next 2 weeks!

Grant just completed the Hawaii State Study from Notebooking Pages, and it's perfect because the study has journal pages for while the child is visiting that state! I'm thinking we might do state studies for some other states we plan to visit this summer, too! 

Planning, Organizing, and Beautifying

I may be a bit ahead (which is kind of unusual), but I printed a school calendar for next year, along with some adorable FREE planning pages, and started planning for 10th and 6th grades!

Grab Your Free Planning Pages from Ed Snapshots!

I also love Plan Your Year (also from Pam at Ed Snapshots) and will be using it to plan our full school year. 

I also began ordering some of Anna's Challenge 2 books. Right now we just received A Morbid Taste for Bones, Out of the Silent Planet, and Something Beautiful For God. (I'm hoping to read one of these on vacation because I do like to keep up with her reading during the year.)

Collage Friday at Homegrown Learners

Because Grant's workload was a bit lighter this week, he had some time on his hands. I was so proud of him for organizing and cleaning his room.

Maybe you can even see the paper plate puppet on his dresser - which he learned to make from a Charlie Brown comic book!

 I am a firm believer in being BORED. I'm not the mom that schedules a million playdates or outings with friends. I like to be HOME and I like for the kids to come up with things to do when they are bored. 

I've also been spending some time beautifying our house - and the front porch plants make me happy. It's getting to be my own little oasis and I just pray I can keep everything alive through the summer! 

That was our week in a nutshell! I'm breathing a happy sigh knowing that we have finished and finished WELL!  I'd love to know if you're finished with school, or if you're still going!  

Collage Friday

Collage Friday at Homegrown Learners

Join me on  Fridays for a wrap up of the week - or just to share pertinent thoughts that have been rambling in your head during the past week.

Be sure to include your photo collages!

Then, visit other bloggers that have linked and leave them a supportive comment.  I love the Collage Friday community!

Add your link using the widget below. Additionally, if you'd like to join further, use the hashtag #collagefriday on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.