Our Unschooling Summer of Fun!

This school year has been one of the toughest yet, if not the toughest. I’m going to be honest with you, I’ve already toured 2 private schools and am seriously praying about my options for the fall. In the meantime, I really, REALLY needed to figure out how to survive May through August!

I am  happy to announce that we started our SUMMER BREAK early!! Woot!! {Yes, we started summer break even though we have about 20 days left needed for our 180 days. Enter unschooling summer of fun!}

The last week of April we woke up on a regular day and I told the kids we were putting away allll our curriculum and long lists of school work we’ve been working on all year. We were DONE. And that day we worked on our Summer Bucket List 2014! {Note: I did have to tell my kids we would NOT be doing all of these items, especially the ones that cost a lot of money, but it was fun to dream with them about fun things we could do as a family!}

Summer Bucket List @mercyisnew.com

{Homeschool Share has a FREE Summer Bucket List printable if you’d like to create one yourself!} 

In addition to our summer bucket list, I’m making it a point to look for everyday, teachable moments. Some might call it unschooling. I call it living life. In addition to trying to find the educational value of fun things we are doing, I’m trying to DOCUMENT these things. So, if you want to follow me on instagram to see our journey, I would love to have you join us! Use the hashtag #summerbucketlist14 or #everydaylearningmoments and share your own summer learning moments!

Here are some of our everyday learning moments thus far:

Did you know that a lot of theme parks have online resources and curriculum for teachers? We live near Dollywood and were blessed to receive passes for a Christmas gift. So, I started hunting around…and found educational information about our favorite roller coasters!! Here are Dollywood’s teacher resources. We will also do the bird show one day this summer, their bird show is wonderful! And all the eagles in the park are amazing!



Shhh! I’ve also ordered this for more roller coaster learning fun!

Dollywood also has 2 amazing glass blowers. We watched as he created a piggy bank, he explained every step of the process. SO amazing!


One item on our bucket list is homemade ice cream. 🙂 YUM. I’m sure we will make it several times, but we had it once already to celebrate the beginning of our summer! As David was making it in our ice cream maker, he explained to the kids why we needed the salt! Science with our ice cream!


Finally, there are 2 main areas of academics that I wanted us to continue spending at least a LITTLE time on each week. So, I found a solution for my least favorite subject: MATH! I asked a homeschool friend from our co-op that is starting college in the fall if she would come over 2x per week and do math with my girls. Woot. She has come twice so far and in my humble opinion, this was the MOST GENIUS idea I’ve ever had. 🙂 The girls are EXCITED for her to come. They ENJOY their time with her – yes, even doing math!

I shared on social media the other day that I was hearing things like “awesome job!” and “you did it!” which are things that definitely were NOT coming out of MY mouth during math time. I’m so thrilled with this new addition to our homeschool. Why didn’t I do something like this years ago?!


In addition to math, I told Caleb I was going to read him ONE PICTURE BOOK a day. There are so many of my favorite picture books that Caleb just missed out on. I read them with the girls 4-5 years ago and then haven’t pulled all of them back out yet. Some of these are FIAR titles, some just my favorites. 🙂

The very first day we did this, I chose Roxaboxen. I read the book to Caleb and the girls listened also. 🙂 When I got to the end, the kids excitedly told me, “Mom! We have our own roxaboxen!” I had no idea that they had been building their own little “houses” down the street with other kids that live near us. There is a small wooded area behind their friends house and they’ve been finding “treasures” in the dirt and setting up their own spaces! Y’all. I could have cried. I know, I’m strange…but that just made my day!! If I hadn’t decided to read that book to the kids, I would have missed out on knowing this wonderful little town my kids had been creating. My plan is to walk down and take a picture very soon!

Picture Book Summer @mercyisnew.com

Every time I ask Caleb to read to me, he always, always chooses Curious George. 🙂 I want to remember these sweet moments because just a few weeks ago I was ready to PULL MY HAIR OUT with this sweet child. 🙂

And, for more summer science fun I’ve ordered these as well:

So, there you have it. Our wonderful summer plans. I will let you in on a little secret: we’ve had such a good 2 weeks that I’m thrilled with this decision to start summer break early. I would highly recommend ditching school. LOL!

What about you? Are you planning anything FUN and EDUCATIONAL this summer?? I would love to hear about your ideas!!

Up next: I hope to share a few more of our everyday learning moments. I also just finished this book over the weekend and will be sharing about it soon!  This book has really, REALLY inspired me!! 

George Washington Carver & the Peanut {a unit study}

We have enjoyed learning about George Washington Carver so very much! What a fascinating man!! We have also learned a lot about the peanut and done a few experiments with this interesting plant.

Did you know the peanut is not a nut??
{who knew? ha!}
It’s a legume! A bean!!

We planted a few peanuts to see what would grow!!

In one jar we planted a peanut in the shell. In the other jar we planted a peanut with only the red skin. We will have to let you know if we get anything to grow! 🙂

2 of our favorite peanut butter recipes! 

Peanut butter balls!!
My kids beg for these things and they are so simple. I don’t know why I don’t make these more often, it’s great for a high-protein snack!!

Ingredients: equal parts:

  • peanut butter
  • dry milk powder
  • honey


  • mix ingredients together, refrigerate for a bit til it hardens enough to roll into balls
  • roll into balls approximately 1 inch in diameter
  • store peanut butter balls in fridge

Another of our favorite peanut butter recipes:

No-Bake Energy Balls
(find that recipe here) 

We watched this video together about how peanut butter is made.

Books We Read:

Helpful Links:

A Winter Unit Study…

We are about to embark on a cooooooold journey studying about winter in our home! For the month of January, we are going to be spending an extended amount of time learning about, crafting, reading books about and *hopefully* playing IN the SNOW!!! Even if we aren’t blessed with real snow, I have come across so many fabulous ideas for learning about snow, that I’m positive our SNOW SCHOOL will be a blast! This really is a LOT of information. I hope to be able to share throughout our unit specific areas more in depth. For now, here are the ideas and resources I will be using. (I’ve mentioned this before, but during the course of our unit we may not get to every single item listed here – and that is ok! I like having a long list to choose from, which also allows us to take a little longer on the unit if we so choose.)

A Few Books about Snow & Winter

A few snowy links and resources!

Snowy Crafts & Projects

~ Is this felt snowman not the cutest thing ever?? Chasing Cheerios has inspired me! (she also made a gingerbread set and a turkey set like this one!) I want to make this snowman set for the kids for our Snow School in January!!
~ make paper snowflakes and hang in all the windows ~ we recently tried these 3D snowflakes and they turned out BEAUTIFULLY! Here is a video tutorial from 2 LITLE GIRLS…if they can do it, we can do it! 🙂
~ Speckled Egg has some really cute marshmellow snowmen lollipops! This would be a fun (and yummy) treat to have one day! (this also makes me think we should have a SNOW PARTY!! Wouldn’t that be fun??)
~ Julie K has some very pretty winter night scenes using black paper, cotton and other collage materials.

~ A super, fun, fabulous idea that someone shared on a message board is to create your own ice sculptures! Really, this idea has me so excited!! Check out the Ice-Castle Creations that you can do in your own backyard. In a nutshell, take all the empty plastic containers you can find (lots of them!) and fill them with water, put them on your back porch overnight to freeze. (if your porch isn’t cold enough, try the freezer!) Then, help your kids to take the ice out of the containers, give them some salt (for the ice pieces to stick together) and watch what they can build! There could even be a science lesson in there somewhere, regarding the salt and ice!

~ Make a crystal snowflake from Borax! Here are some directions I found for this science experiment. Here are some more directions with a science explanation to go along with it. Also, Melissa shares pictures with us from when they did this experiment.

The Fine Arts

~ We are going to learn the hymn “Whiter than Snow” for the month of January. Of course, this will also tie into how Jesus washes our sins away and makes us pure ~ white as snow!
~ We will be keeping a “winter” journal (do you sense that I am loving the journal thing? We did a Thankful journal, Advent journal and now a winter one!) In this journal we will do 1)copywork with Bible verses and poems about snow 2)draw winter pictures 3)draw snowflakes 4)any other winter nature items will go in this notebook as well 5)our lapbook components will go in this notebook too
~ We are also memorizing Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening {see video of my girls below!}

Facts & Quotes about Snow

(to be used for copywork)

~ Snowflakes start as ice crystals that are the size of specks of dust.
~ Snowflakes have 6 sides, forming a hexagon shape.
~ As snow falls, snowflakes can connect to each other to form bigger snowflakes.
~ The snowiest state in the United States is New York with an average of 94 inches each year.
~ Wilson Bentley was known as the “Snowflake Man;” he photographed snowflakes under a microscope in the 1920’s.
~ “I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others.” Wilson Bentley
~ Some snowflakes are wet and sticky, while others are light, dry and fluffy.
~ Snowflakes begin inside clouds.

~ A snowflake is made up of one or many hundreds of crystals of ice.

Lyrics to Whiter than Snow

(hymn we will learn to sing and write for copy work, you can  print the words AND the PDF of the music for FREE at this site!)
1. Lord Jesus, I long to be perfectly whole;
I want Thee forever to live in my soul.
Break down every idol, cast out every foe
Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.
2. Lord Jesus, look down from Your throne in the skies
And help me to make a complete sacrifice.
I give up myself and whatever I know
Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.
3. Lord Jesus, for this I most humbly entreat;
I wait, blessed Lord, at Thy crucified feet.
By faith, for my cleansing I see Your blood flow
Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.
4. Lord Jesus, before You I patiently wait;
Come now and within me a new heart create.
To those who have sought You, You never said “No”
Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.
Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow
Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening from Candace Crabtree on Vimeo.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening from Candace Crabtree on Vimeo.

edited and reposted from 2009

Thomas Edison

The next character in our american history course that we are learning about is Thomas Edison!! He is quite a remarkable man to study! I have learned so much!! I have also realized that we haven’t learned much about electricity and would like to study that further with the kids also! Learning always leads to more learning…

Our main “text” for this is the biography of him from the Childhood of Famous Americans set, Thomas Edison: Young Inventor . We have loved these books and own a lot of them! They are perfect reading for my girls this past year and this year in our American History studies, but also in their level of reading and the amount of information given in each book.

We did lots and lots of copy work from this time period. Thomas Edison had SO many great quotes! What a wise man he was!

Here are some of our favorite Edison quotes:

  • What seems impossible today, may not be tomorrow.
  • To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.
  • Genius is 1 percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration.
  • Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
  • I have not failed yet. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
  • If we did all the things we were capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.
  • Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to always just try one more time.

While we were together for our co-op time we did a few things to learn more about Mr. Edison. We got several ideas for these activities from this book, Thomas Edison for Kids: His Life and Ideas, 21 Activities.

Other books & videos on Thomas Edison we enjoyed:

A Wizard from the Start: The Incredible Boyhood and Amazing Inventions of Thomas Edison
Timeless Thomas: How Thomas Edison Changed Our Lives
A Picture Book of Thomas Alva Edison
Edison: The Wizard of Light (DVD)