Monday, April 19

Girl of the Limberlost & Lepidopterology

Nature study often tapers off in high school, but this is an excellent time for students to dive deeper into specialized fields.  Lepidopterology is a branch of entomology that studies moths and butterflies.  In A Girl of the Limberlost, Elnora is fascinated with this field of study!

What's the difference between butterflies and moths?

One guiding principle is that butterflies have thin antennae and small balls or clubs at the end of their antennae. Moth antennae are usually feathery with no ball on the end.

Unlike butterflies, which are considered one of nature's beauties, moths tend to be ignored by the cultural arts.  Not only can they eat through fabric, but some of them sting and cause skin irritation.


Butterflies have the typical four-stage insect life cycle. Winged adults lay eggs on the food plant on which their larvae, known as caterpillars, will feed. The caterpillars grow, sometimes very rapidly, and when fully developed, pupate in a chrysalis.  Most children have seen this process in action in the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

When metamorphosis is complete, the pupal skin splits, the adult insect climbs out, and after its wings have expanded and dried, it flies off. Some butterflies, especially in the tropics, have several generations in a year, while others have a single generation, and a few in cold locations may take several years to pass through their entire life cycle.

Butterflies often make use of camouflage and mimicry to evade their predators. Some, like the monarch and the painted lady, migrate over long distances. Adult butterflies have large, often brightly colored wings, and conspicuous, fluttering flight. Surprisingly, some butterfly fossils have been found that date to the Paleocene Era, about 56 million years ago!


Most of the order Lepidoptera actually consists of moths. There are thought to be approximately 160,000 species of moth.  Most are nocturnal, but there are also crepuscular and diurnal species.  They go through the same stages of development as butterflies, and they are important pollinators to our agricultural system.  Their hairy caterpillar bodies pick up pollen from just about anything and transfer it.


  • A Girl of the Limberlost
    • Elnora Comstock, though void of her mother's love and affection, was determined to go against the odds and reach her dreams. She has always believed that she will never remain a small town girl. In fact, this persevering young woman maintained a positive disposition as she proved herself to be worthy of people's – and most especially her mother's – admiration. As a student, she managed to excel in class, gain new friends, and play the violin with so much refinement. She was able to achieve all these through her strong yearning to succeed, coupled with the selfless love and constant support of the Sintons. Elnora, who was once an unknown girl in her school, transformed into an extraordinary and confident young lady. Elnora's life became more interesting when she met Philip, a charming man who eventually fell in love with her. Much to her disappointment, however, she learned that this man was engaged to Edith, a spoiled and wealthy woman. Nevertheless, she accepted the fact that he was not the man for her and decided to move on despite the heartache.


Make / Do


  • lepidopterology
  • butterfly
  • moth
  • larvae
  • pupa
  • cocoon
  • chyrsalis
  • entomology
  • earwig
  • hymenoptera
  • damselfly
  • pollinator
  • animalcule
  • midge
  • arthropod
  • holometabolism
  • underwing


  • Elnora was able to finance high school and possibly could have financed all of college by selling collected butterflies and moths. Today it would be impossible to pay for college by selling insects. What has changed? Why were insects so valuable back then?
  • The imperial moth is the most elusive moth for Elnora. What does the imperial moth represent? What is similar about the three times that it does show up in the book? What is the effect this moth has on people?

Wednesday, April 14

Artistic Pursuits in High School {Review}

Disclaimer: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew

Want to teach art, but aren't really sure what should be included or where to start?  We recently had the chance to check out the upper grades courses from Artistic Pursuits, and really loved them!  

Artistic Pursuits has two choices in the Beginner Level Art Core Classes - Drawing with Graphite Pencils and Painting with Watercolor Pencils.  We specifically used the Painting with Watercolor Pencils course.  It comes in both online and physical format, with both book and video components, and is appropriate for fourth grade through adult.

What's Included?
The online course includes a flip book - it's an exact copy of the hardcover, but online - with an interactive Table of Contents that makes getting to the day's lesson a breeze!  Online videos are streamed, and you get two years of access to the course.  (It is a one-semester course, so you have plenty of time to complete it.)  The physical format comes with a beautiful, slim-line hardcover book that has three DVD slots built right into it so that you can easily keep the entire course together.  (Two are regular DVDs; one is a blu-ray.)  As it is a non-consumable course, you can use it over again with each of your students.

The course is divided into nine units, with four lessons per unit, for a total of thirty-six lessons.  A good pace for completing the course is to do two lessons per week.  Some activities will take an hour or more, while others will not take as long.  Our experience was that the deeper we got into the class, the longer the projects took.  For the student who wants a full-year credit of art instruction, completing both the graphite pencils and watercolor pencils classes would fulfill that requirement.

Peek Inside

The painting lessons begin by learning how to use watercolor pencils for painting, as well as various special visual techniques.  Then we begin looking at color theory through both text and visual aids.  Some of this may seem elementary to an upper grades student, but it's always a good idea to review the foundational basics before moving into more complicated theory.  With each lesson, there are practice activities and suggested projects for putting concepts into action.  There is also an element of Art History included in the course, as students learn about these concepts in the context of being used by Master Artists through history.

You can peek into the textbook yourself here!


We jumped around through various projects in the book, as I allowed the boys to first choose the ones that caught their eye.  They have actually used watercolor pencils many times with their everyday curriculum, so I was less concerned about focusing on the basics first.  HOWEVER.  If you've never used watercolor pencils to paint before, you'd definitely want to hit these first lessons first and cover those techniques!  One of them was fascinated by these chickens (he's my little chicken rancher), while the other was drawn to the tropical landscape with the history on Winslow Homer.

After search for quite some time, it was unanimously agreed that our favorite project was the cupcakes.  We decided that this was the project we would do our absolute 110% very best on to show off our art for this review.  (We're totally not artists....but following along with the video made us look like it!)  This particular lesson focuses on line theory.  Through the project, we learned about how lines accentuate a piece and bring out the depth, making it more life-like.  And, to be completely honest, after spending a morning drawing cupcakes...we were forced to bake some.  Unit study in action, am-I-right?  😊🧁

See what others are saying about Artistic Pursuits at the Homeschool Review Crew!
ARTistic Pursuits Drawing, Painting & K-3 Vol. 1 to K-3 Vol. 8 Reviews

Monday, April 12

Hidden Gifts of Homeschooling

  • Living Life Together
    • Traditional schooling usually means an early morning wake-up call, followed by a mad dash to get to school dressed and fed, a full day in a classroom, an afternoon of extracurriculars, an evening of homework, and bedtime.  Rinse and repeat.  The family becomes more like a group of people who share the same dorm!  Switching from traditional school to public school can be daunting for some parents because suddenly they are together all. of. the. time.  And it's a transition.  However, once you get through that (usually short) transition, there's nothing like it!  You are there when the concepts click.  You get to see the milestone successes.  You get to snuggle as you learn to read together.  You get to play with the manipulatives right beside them during basic math.  You are the educational light, mama!
  • Getting Social
    • But what about socialization?  That's a question homeschoolers often hear.  What folks don't stop to consider is that true socialization doesn't look like a group of 100+ peers, all the same age, sitting in a tin can classroom.  That's a petri dish.  Socialization is a mix of ages, races, and cultures interacting in real time out in the real world.  I would argue that homeschoolers can be better socialized than their traditional school peers!
  • Siblings as Friends
    • Having a close sibling relationship doesn't mean that there aren't an old married couple, any time you have people who spend that much time together, there are bound to be ticks.  Getting to spend this much time together, rather than separated by different grades in school and mounds of homework in the evening, is a beautiful benefit that your kids won't recognize until they are older.  They are working together, growing together, and helping each other develop.  On those days when you want to beat them with a broom - from the personality conflicts - remember that they are smoothing each other's edges!
  • Not 8-Going-On-21
    • How often have you seen a seven year old girl who is dressed and acts as though she's going on twenty?  One beautiful aspect of homeschooling is that our children have the opportunity to really BE children.  They don't have to pretend to act grown up, or grow up too fast, in a worldly environment.  That doesn't mean that we're sheltering them, but rather that we keep things age-appropriate...allowing time for reading, exploration, free play, and boredom (one of the best gifts of childhood!) well past kindergarten. 
  • Child-Led Learning
    • Unlike Common Core, and even schools who don't abide by that, homeschoolers have the opportunity to jump down bunny trails!  What do I mean by bunny trails?  When your child develops a sudden interest in space, you can study the history of space, the science of microgravity, etc etc etc...your whole school day can revolve around the topic of space, OR you can simply take a day off of school for in-depth research, following a trail of topics as the child explores his interest.  No matter the age of the child, this is a valuable asset to your homeschool!
  • Parent Influences
    • Everybody's got an opinion...but as homeschooling parents, we have the option of introducing sensitive topics, often at the time we see fit, and discussing them with our children.  That's not to say that we don't discuss different worldviews, but we're able to be the first opinion they hear, to help guide them through difficult issues with our morals.
  • Flexible Time
    • While there are still appointments, co-ops, and other time commitments, as homeschooling parents we have the flexibility to plan our own schedules.  The school year (9 month or year-round?), the school week (4-day or 5-day?), and the school day itself (start at 8?  start at noon?  take a 2 hour siesta?) are all places where we can tweak the schedule to suit our families' current needs.  It also allows us the opportunity to build in times of rest, which is so important for both physical and mental health!

If you're new to homeschooling, and need a bit of time to get your feet under you, come by the Homeschool House and chat with us!  You can also check out SchoolhouseTeachers, which has tons of full courses that are taught by experienced teachers.  (We wouldn't recommend it if we hadn't used it ourselves quite a bit!)

Tuesday, April 6

The Great Gatsby & the Roaring Twenties

Nicknamed the "Roaring Twenties" (in France, the decade was known as the 'annees folles,' or crazy years) because the times were hopping, the period between the end of WWI and the Great Depression came with great changes in fashion, entertainment, industry, and was the Bees' Knees!

Following World War I, America experienced a period of rapid industrial growth and cultural shift. Automobiles, telephones, movies, radio, and electrical appliances all became household items. Aviation and flight became its own industry. The entertainment business of movie-making became a viable industry. In the music industry, jazz and Tin Pan Alley were entering the mix, along with some crazy new dances!

With all of these new inventions, anything and everything seemed possible! This era is marked by a feeling of excitement and novelty. It was also marked by anti-immigration feelings, a political shift (from women winning the right to vote), and a focus on celebrities. The good times rolled for nearly a decade until October 29, 1929, when Black Tuesday ushered in the Great Depression, ending the Roaring Twenties.



  • The Charleston & other dances (YouTube)
  • Chaplin
  • Young Indiana Jones - Volume 3
    • In these twenty episodes, Indy lives out some of the most exciting world events of the 1920's, including serving as translator at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, helping Professor Robert Goddard with his liquid-fueled rocket experiments; jamming on tenor sax with Sidney Bechet; beating up bigots alongside his buddy Paul Robeson; busting bootleggers with Ernest Hemingway and classmate Elliot Ness, doing stuntwork for director John Ford; and trading quips with Alexander Wolcott, Dorothy Parker and the other wits of the Algonquin Round Table. 
    • Added educational bonus!!  Each episode is enhanced by special features that show the history behind the episode - documentary style.
Make / Do
  • 18th Amendment 
  • Prohibition 
  • 19th Amendment 
  • Suffrage 
  • Communism 
  • Socialism 
  • Red Scare 
  • Immigration restriction 
  • Henry Ford 
  • Mass production 
  • Louis Armstrong 
  • Langston Hughes 
  • Harlem Renaissance 
  • Irving Berlin 
  • Tin Pan Alley

  • When Gatsby offers Nick the chance to "pick up a nice bit of money," why does Nick say that "under different circumstances that conversation might have been one of the crises of my life." 
  • In literature, a tragic hero is defined as one who has great strengths, but suffers from a fatal flaw that brings about his or her downfall. Can Gatsby be viewed as a tragic hero? What is his flaw, and what part does it play in his downfall?

Access all of the novel studies here!
We've put together a printable unit to accompany this blog post, and hope you will enjoy studying history with your older kids as we go through another decade of the '20s!
Snag your downloadable unit study here!

Monday, April 5

Heidi & Switzerland Unit Study

April 1, 1944 -- The Swiss town of Schaffhausen is mistaken for a German town and bombed by American aircraft

In 1939, Switzerland prepared for mobilization of troops -- nearly 850,000 soldiers were mobilized, but they were never attacked.  Though the Germans had plans for an invasion, in Operation Tannenbaum, it never happened and Switzerland was able to remain neutral throughout the war.  The country was used as a base for both espionage and mediation by both the Axis and Allies.

Throughout the war, both the Nazis and the Allied troops repeatedly intruded on Swiss air space.  The country was even bombed by the Allies, who mistook it for a German city nearly 175 miles away.  Until that bombing, the Swiss had been lenient with both sides, putting up prisoners of war in emptied ski resorts.  After the bombing, they became much more severe.  When the cities of Zurich and Basel were bombed in 1945, the Swiss began to shoot down American and British planes in their air space.

In recent decades, there have been questions about the validity of that neutrality, as documents have been exposed linking the Swiss to the Germans in military and economic affairs.  Although the Swiss criticized the Third Reich, and the Germans denoted them as second-class citizens, the countries had a tacit agreement of assistance.


  • Heidi (Joanna Spyri)
    • At the age of five, little orphan Heidi is sent to live with her grandfather in the Alps. Everyone in the village is afraid of him, but Heidi is fascinated by his long beard and bushy grey eyebrows. She loves her life in the mountains, playing in the sunshine and growing up amongst the goats and birds. But one terrible day, Heidi is collected by her aunt and is made to live with a new family in town. Heidi can't bear to be away from her grandfather; can she find a way back up the mountain, where she belongs?
  • The Apple & the Arrow


Make / Do


Switzerland is the birthplace of CERN, Albert Einstein and Leonhard Euler.  Watch the video below, then choose one of these scientists to research and write a short biography.


  • Welcome   Wilkomme
  • Hello   Grüezi
  • How are you?   Wie goots Ihne?
  • Good morning   Guete Morge
  • Good night    Guet Nacht
  • Have a nice day    Ich wünsch Ihne e schöne Daag
  • How do you say ... in Swiss German?    Wie sait me ... uf Schwizerdütsch?


  • “It is good to be on the mountains,"  the kind doctor says, “body and soul get well there.” Which characters are healed when they come to the mountain? How are they healed?
  • Back when the book first appeared in 1880, travel and communication took much longer than it does now. With today’s technology, is it still possible to live a life as isolated as Heidi’s grandfather?

Thursday, April 1

Introducing....Sparks Academy!

Having co-led a support group over three years for middle & high school homeschooling families, I’ve discovered that many families share the same struggles! My goal is to provide support, accountability, and community for upper grades families who use this curriculum by creating an online homeschool co-op for high school students.

To that end, starting in fall of the '21-'22 school year, Sparks Academy will be providing blended classes in language arts and history for high school.  (We are in negotiations with teachers to add math and science courses to the mix the following year.)

Frequently Asked Questions

What's a blended class?
So glad you asked!  These are classes hosted online that include textbook and video elements, discussion feeds with peers, and live, virtual meetings.  Rather than labeling these live classes, we have labeled them blended because we will not be meeting live every single week.

How and when will the class meet?
Each class will have it’s own class join code in Canvas. Classes will meet once weekly for the school year (August 16,2021 – May 2, 2022 for the ’21-’22 school year). Most classes are pre-recorded with community discussion and group chats. Periodically we will have live class meetings. These are on the syllabus for your student to plan ahead. If you are unable to attend a live class, it will be recorded for later playback. Self-paced coursework will be assigned between classes. Scheduled classes are in Central Standard Time.

What technology will we need?
Required technology: Digital notebook (Google Docs or One Drive), internet access, Canvas (you will be sent access instructions), and the ability to use camera & microphone during class discussions

Who is teaching these classes?
Classes are taught primarily by Yvie Field, a homeschool mom with close to twenty years of educational experience (both homeschool and classroom), as well as some adjunct appearances by parental figures who are retired teachers, particularly in high school language arts. As needed, we may bring other, experienced and vetted, teachers on board.

How do you ensure students’ privacy?
None of our students’ personal information is revealed in the online classroom. Students log in using a screen name. They do not provide last names or any contact information in the online classroom. Only teachers can see any personal information about each student.​ Work assignments are submitted via email and will only be shared with student permission for educational purposes. Teachers are not responsible for archiving data, so be sure to keep a copy of your work. Sparks Academy uses security protocols, but is not liable for data breaches or lost data.

Do I have to buy the curriculum, or will it be provided?
All co-op members will be required to purchase the PDF or physical copy of each course that they are participating in. (Purchases will be verified. There will be a few different options for verification.) In most cases, you will only need the student textbook. This information will be provided in the course description.

Parents have the option of teacher-led-only classes (meaning, ungraded) or having the teacher also provide a formal grade for the transcript.

Early bird pricing!
Save 25% through April 13th with code EARLYBIRD
Save 10% through April 30th wide code BACKTOSCHOOL

Early bird pricing!
Save 25% through April 13th with code EARLYBIRD
Save 10% through April 30th with code BACKTOSCHOOL

Wednesday, March 31

Teaching Personal Finance to Children & Teens

As parents we only have 18 years to teach what really matters.  Before we know it, our kids will be adults who need essential soft skills to survive in this crazy world.  The trouble is, teaching the soft skills needed for adulting can be difficult to simulate in a kid’s world.  This is where money comes in.  You can use a child’s natural desire for stuff to teach the important skills they will use daily.

Healthy Adults Plan

Saving money and planning how to use it teaches discipline and patience so put some money in your kid’s hands by giving him/her an allowance.  But, wait…it is not that simple.  Giving out money without teaching how to structure the money is nothing more than a handout.  And handouts are the last thing we need to teach our children to expect.  See my Apply It section on just what a plan will look like at any age.      

Giving your child his/her allowance should not be something undertaken lightly.  You must see it from his/her perspective to understand that allowance day is like payday to a child.  Forgetting to pay him/her or not having cash (yes, you must give cash early in the process so he/she will learn to visualize the inflows and outflows) will only trigger a scarcity mentality that could lead to poor choices later in life.  Instead, treat the allowance activity like you would a class.  And because it is a class with an intentional goal of teaching specific skills, don’t feel like you have to involve all the siblings.  You can choose a certain age or ages to give an allowance in order to give the proper attention to the subject matter. 

Now that you are getting the picture, I am sure you are wondering how much to give.  This is the big question.  The amount is different for each family, but generally $.50 to $1.00 per year of age should be given weekly. For example, my 6 year old would get between $3 and $6 per week. This might sound like a lot, but in my next section I will talk about the new responsibilities your child will have with all that newfound wealth. 

Apply It

Ages 6-9:  For these younger years set up a "Save, Spend, Give" system to use on payday.  Have your child divide his/her allowance into these three categories and use a visible chart to help them track towards a goal like a large toy.

Age 10-13: With more activities and opportunities to spend, increase the allowance and budget complexity. Use this time to involve your child in your own home purchases so they can begin to see the way decisions are made.

Age 14-17 With the increase in allowance, the budget model should reflect all that is required to pay for. You can find helpful guides on the internet.


Healthy Adults are Responsible

Now that your child has some money in their pocket, let him/her pay for the things he/she wants and needs.  This is the perfect opportunity to practice making wise choices and learn the pain of regret. 

In the budget model, your child should divide his/her allowance into Spend Now, Spend Later (formerly known as savings), Emergencies and Give Away.  Now, before you jump down to see what I am suggesting you have your child pay for remember this: you are not making him/her work for this money.  You are giving the money as an opportunity to practice spending, saving and giving.  It is a transfer of responsibility in order to teach the desired outcomes.  For example, when my son repeatedly lost his water bottle, I required him to replace it using his Emergency Fun.  Surprise, surprise…he never lost a water bottle again because he felt the pain of spending the money (even though it was my money all along). 

I know this all sounds easier than it will be in real life.  Believe me, I have gone through years with my son watching him spend all of his current spending money on candy, trinkets and apps.  Just be patient as the lessons of regret and discernment will come along.  Remember, it is far better for your child to waste money now than it will be in his/her early twenties.  And no matter what, don’t give more money when he/she has spent all that was allotted.  This will only give him/her a taste of credit, and that is a lesson to avoid at all costs. 

Apply It

Ages 6-9:  For these years, the current spending should be used for things like toys and candy.  While the future spending should go towards larger goals (think Lego sets) and saving for the next stage. 

Age 10-13: At this stage the horizons are broadening and the wants/needs are growing as well.  Have him/her spend the current money on things like video games, apps, lost items, activities with friends, etc.  It will be no surprise that the future spending money will be used for big ticket items like a car, insurance, college and more.

Age 14-17 These are the years where the rubber meets the road.  Your teen will have your allowance and will also be able to earn additional money by working outside the home.  At this stage he/she can handle paying for eating out, clothes, shoes, dates, supplies and sports gear.  Your teen is so close to being out on his/her own, that he/she should have as much practice as possible making and managing money while you are still close by to provide wise counsel.


Healthy adults sacrifice for others

I have touched on this earlier, but I want to make sure I expand a bit.  Your child should be required to take a portion of his/her allowance and use it to benefit others.  A generous heart is not too difficult for young children but it will become increasingly harder for your child to part with his/her money as they get older, so begin to model generosity early. 

I bet you were wondering when I would address the elephant in the room:  chores.  Just because I am against paying your child for chores, does not mean I am against chores.  Far from it.  Chores are a part of living in a household and should not be tied to compensation.  As we model what adulthood is like, we set our kids up for disappointment if they have been raised to expect payment for keeping the house orderly.  Also, I want to make a distinction:  chores are those acts that are done for the entire family.  Cleaning his/her room or picking up after his/herself is not a chore, it is an expectation. 

Sacrificing yourself for the family instills a sense of purpose and connection in a child, even if on the surface all you see is grumbling. 

Apply It

Ages 6-9:  These littler ones should not be taken lightly, there is plenty they are able (and often willing) to do:  set/clear the table, gather up the trash and vacuum are just a few examples.    

Age 10-13: This is the sweet spot for chores because they are old enough to make a significant difference in the house but still young enough to be fairly sweet about it!  For this age, the sky is the limit:  laundry, dishes, cooking, etc.

Age 14-17 Things start to get a little dicey with this group because the school work and attitude can both be very legitimate barriers to assigning too much work.  For this reason, I tend to lay off this group a little when it comes to housework and instead require them to work outside the home to earn additional money and learn how to navigate the working world. 


Some final words

If you are not teaching them to be fiscally responsible, they will end up back on your doorstep with their hands out...

According to in an article entitled Supporting Adult Kids May Cost Parents $227K in Retirement:

Many parents of children 18 and older are paying or have paid for their adult children’s basic living costs, including groceries (56%), health insurance (40%) and rent or housing outside the family home (21%). Some parents are also covering or have covered their adult child’s cell phone bill (39%) and car insurance (34%).” 

This is not how you were meant to spend your Golden Years.  So, let me encourage you to use these 18 years wisely and teach your child what he/she needs to know to be a responsible and ready adult.  You’ve got this!


Charla, Artisan of Adulting


Ps- If you would like a handy reference chart to guide you in the area of allowance and responsibility by age, click here:


FREEBIE ALERT!  Pick up your reference guide here!

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Charla McKinley graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in Finance.  She went on to become a Certified Public Accountant with over 25 years working in both the corporate and private sector.  While homeschooling her two children, Charla was inspired to write an interactive personal finance curriculum ( that opens the student's eyes to the high costs of being an adult.  After retiring from homeschooling, Charla continues to teach teens live in Raleigh, NC and across the country using her Beyond Personal Finance curriculum.

Charla’s passion is teaching teens that their choices matter.  She is a firm believer that in order to prepare teens for the road ahead they must be given the opportunity to practice making good (and not so good) choices using real dollars before they get out into the world and have real regrets.

Subscribe to Charla’s weekly content to get more practical and powerful tips on raising adults at