homeschool a portfolio (part 3)

Homeschool 101 – Building a Portfolio (Part 3)

Today is all about Reading Lists.

Every high school portfolio should include a compiled, substantial reading list of non-fiction, fiction with literary merit, and a smaller list of popular works (although I plan on including their entire general, on-their-own reading list as well. I’m not sure if John and Jarrods’ reading list could be considered substantial - yet, but by the time they complete high school they’ll have compiled quite a lengthy, but more important, quality list of works of literature.

2012 – 2013 Reading list for the Sons of Thunder Academy

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Last of the Mohicans by James F. Cooper

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas

The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

Stowaway by Karen Hesse

White Fang by Jack London

The God Smuggler by Brother Andrew

The Outsiders by S.F. Hutton

The Hobbit by J.R. Tolkien

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Mocking Jay by Suzanne Collins

Heroes of Olympus: The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

Heroes of Olympus: Sons of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Heroes of Olympus: The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

Betsy and the Emperor by Staton Rabin

The Broken Blade by William Durbin

Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise McGraw

Mary Slessor: Forward into Calabar by Geoff Benge

Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingstone by Martin Dugard

Except for the Riordan books, the Three Muskateers, Mara, the Great Gatsby, and the Prince and the Pauper I've read them a loud to the boys. It is our most favorite time of homeschool. Reading time. When we all get comfortable, usually curled up on the couch or chair, snuggled into a blanket.

I read a loud. And they listen. Often times I stop in the middle so we can discuss something, some truth, have them explain what's going on - if they understand. This time of reading has been a blessing.

I know there are more books the boys have read on their own because they always have a book opened reading bits here and there. I recently started them on the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan and they were quickly enthralled with the story. I'm sure we'll be securing the Brotherband Chronicles series by the same author and a continuation of the Ranger's series.

I have already compiled our 10th Grade list of primary literay reads which we will delve into for their American Literature course. But, within their American History I have begun obtaining via purchase, or have indicated I'll need to check them out from the library, or know someone I can borrow them from, a lengthy list of historical fiction type. Most will continue to be read aloud but some I'll just make sure John and Jarrod read on their own.

With those, and their own reading we'll have added to their 9th grade reading list, substantially. And, I love seeing the list compiled; mostly, because of what they've accomplished.

homeschool 101...building a portfolio (part 2)

Today, I’m sharing the High School Credit planner I created for the boys’ high school years. It really is a planner, although I’ve inputted their ‘completed’ 9th grade year, and not necessarily part of the portfolio that will go with them at graduation. I have in the past, prior to their 9th grade year planned out their 4 years of high school but I’ve since researched our states requirements for graduation, adjusted their proposed classes from our homeschool co-op schedule, and assessed what they will complete at home in order to meet requirements.

At this point, both my boys are not planning on college, initially. They, instead, are looking at military service.  But, things change. We need to make sure they have the necessary requirements for a high school graduation, a portfolio for college entrance, or entrance to military service. We would be doing them a disservice otherwise.

Credits Needed


9th Grade

10th Grade

11th Grade

12th Grade


English/ Composition

Easy Grammar Wordly Wise Vocabulary 9 World Literature                      1 Credit

American Literature         

1 Credit

LOTR/ British Literature                  1    Credit                     

IEW Writing                   1 Credit



Algebra I                       1 Credit

Algebra II                                 

1 Credit

Geometry                        1 Credit

Advanced Math/ Pre- Calculus                        1 Credit



Physical Science w/ Lab                                1 Credit

Biology w/LAB 

 1 Credit

Meteorology w/ Lab           1 Credit

Advanced Biology  or Chemistry  w/ Lab         1 Credit


Foreign Language

Spanish I (Early H.S.) Spanish II                      2 Credits

(See 10th Grade Elective)




Social Studies : World History, U.S. History Government Economics

World/Bible History        1   Credit              

World Geography .5    Credit

American History                


  World Geography            

.5 Credit


.5 Credit              Economics                    

.5 Credit




Bible (The Story)             1 Credit

Bible (Study of James, Paul, & David)   1 Credit               Spanish III          1 Credit                   Art 3D                 1 Credit

Bible                                1 Credit                

Drivers Education         1 Credit

Bible                             1 Credit


Fine Arts

Art & Design                 1  Credit

(See 10th Grade Elective)




Health / Physical Education



Health / Physical Education      1 Credit


Total 27/25 Credits Earned/Required


8.5 Credits

7.5 Credits

7 Credits

4 Credits

 (Please excuse the messy table; inserting it into typepad was a pain)

Will this plan change? I imagine so. Even our plan for 10th grade has already changed in mid-step. We had originally planned on completing their British Literature in 10th grade but because they are taking American History in 10th it made sense for them to take American Literature at the same time. In fact, the curriculum we are using is an American History and American Literature combined (Nodgrass’, Exploring America). They will take the American History portion in homeschool co-op and they will complete the American Literature portion at home.

All of our homeschool co-op sciences are with a Lab in order to give students options. Both John and Jarrod want to take my Meteorology class so I’ve scheduled that their 11th grade year. But, I expect them to complete an advanced science with a Lab as well.

I have to say that being part of a homeschool cooperative is a God-send. I know we could have continued with their high school years but classes like their science, and foreign language, and even writing classes are so much better for them having taken co-op classes. The ladies who teach in our co-op have found their strengths and they impart those strengths onto their students who reap the benefits. I know teaching Meteorology serves two purposes for our co-op:  1) it offers students an alternative science with a lab other than advanced biology or chemistry, which many students just don’t want to take, or need, and 2) it utilizes my strengths. As a 30 year meteorologist, I too, can impart my strength to students.

homeschool 101...building a portfolio (part 1)

I’ve read various articles online, at different homeschooling websites regarding homeschooling high school students. I’ve had to; because, I have two homeschooled high school students.

We’ve been homeschooling our twin boys since the fall of their 7th grade year when we pulled them out of middle school for various reasons. God put so many things in place for this to work out and He continues to work in allowing us to homeschool John and Jarrod into their high school years. After that first year of school, and once we’d found a local homeschool cooperative (co-op), it was pretty clear to us that we would continue homeschooling through high school.

And we have. John and Jarrod are finishing up their 9th grade year. We completed homeschool co-op classes last week and are continuing with school through, probably, the end of June. We have some ‘home’ classes that need to be completed.

Meanwhile, I have been putting together binders for 10th grade, organizing their upcoming classes, purchasing curriculum, and documenting their 9th grade year. I’m still working on how to begin building a complete transcript. One thing I’ve seen over and over from others homeschooling is building a portfolio.

One portion of their portfolio will cover their community service.

I built a simple Microsoft Word document table format spreadsheet for John and Jarrod, specifically, to log their Service hours, Community Service, and their Leadership and Job History. Because their life is mostly centered on Boy Scouts, Church, and Community, I further broke out their service hours in those categories, including Leadership and Job History. I don’t think this will be the final product when it comes time to submit a final portfolio but I really wanted to capture the whole picture for each year.

Their 9th grade Service hours, Community Service, Leadership and Job History, looks like this:

9th Grade (June 2012 – June 2013)

Boy Scouts Community / Service Activities:

Boston Butt Cookout – Oct 2012 (7 hours) Wood Splitting

Boston Butt Cookout – April 2013 (7 hours) Wood Splitting

Georgetown Community Breakfast with Santa - Dec 2012 (4 hours)

Georgetown Community Trick or Treat - Oct 2012 (3 hours)

Adopt-a-Highway Cleanup - April 2013 (4 hours)

Red Cross Blood Drive (fellow scout Eagle project) - July 2012 (8 hours)

Georgetown Elementary Spring Fling – May 2013 (5 hours) Various duties

Georgetown Community Center Egg Hunt – March 2013 (4 hours) Various duties

Church Service Activities

SCC Kidz Technical Booth August 2012 – May 2013 (68 hours) technical booth

SCC Journey Build Bethlehem – April 2013 (8 hours) building type work

SCC Journey Tear Down Bethlehem – March 2013 (8 hours) manual labor

SCC 123 Ministry – Oct 2012 (3 hours) Pumpkin Patch Carnival

Ecuador Mission Trip – July 2012 (24 hours) manual labor, working with kids, assisting missionaries, Evangelism

Other Service / Community Activities

Low Country Downs Syndrome Society Buddy Walk - Oct 2012 (4 hours) set up

Mow lawns for deployed servicemen’s families 2012-2013 (16 hours) mow, edge, weed, or blow

Leadership and Job History

Sons of Thunder Lawn Care - 2012-2013 Skills: mow, edge, weed, blow, maintenance & repair lawn equipment; budgeting skills: (tithing, saving, pay employee, maintenance fees, bill paying)

Boy Scout Troop 7 Senior Patrol Leader - Mar – Aug 2013 Skills: leadership, organization (Jarrod)

Boy Scout Troop 7 Senior Quartermaster – Mar – Aug 2013 Skills: leadership, organization (John)

Boy Scout Troop 7 Assistant Senior Patrol Leader – Sep 2012 - Mar 2013 Skills: leadership, organization (John)

Boy Scout Troop 7 Assistant Senior Patrol Leader – Sep 2012 - Mar 2013 Skills: leadership, organization (Jarrod)


I don’t foresee many changes to their next couple years of high school as far as service, community service activities. They both have Servant’s hearts. We have taught them the value of hard work and they both apply that to their service activities.

Now that I have this part of their portfolio begun I am encouraged. If I had waited to put this together until a couple years later, or even that last year of high school we would have forgotten what they’ve accomplished. As it was, I still had to rake my memory for those acts of service. Also, with the spreadsheet created I shouldn’t have any trouble maintaining a well-documented portfolio of service activities.

our homeschool curriculum 2013-2014 | it's final

It's final.

We have solidified our homeschool curriculum for the 2013-2014 school year. John and Jarrod's 10th grade year. I am hyper-excited about this coming year and the curriculum we've choose and the homeschool co-op classes they are taking.

The List.

American History

American Literature



World Geography (Part II)

Latin I

Art 3-D

Algebra II

The Curriculum.

American History - Exploring America: History, Literature, and Faith--Curriculum Package, Second Edition by Ray Notgrass

This is a homeschool cooperative class. They'll meet with their teacher, who is a government and history fanatic, on Friday's and work through the lessons they accomplished through the rest of the week.


We will be supplementing this curriculum with History Speaks: Declaration of Independence, Signers: Stories behind the Declaration of Independence, Scholastic Encyclopedia of Presidents and their times, and Drive Thru American History

American Literature - Exploring America: History, Literature, and Faith--Curriculum Package, Second Edition

We'll be using the same curriculum for American Literature as we are for American History. The difference is we will be doing American Literature at home only. Because the classics and novels we'll be reading for American Literature are intertwined within their American History lessons John and Jarrod will be doubly rewarded. We will read all of the books aloud because the boys have been learning best and retaining what I've read this way, from the beginning. We will be reading:

  • The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne)
  • Calico Bush (Rachel Field)
  • Narrative of the Life of David Crockett (David Crockett)
  • Possibly a James Fenimore Cooper novel
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Frederick Douglass)
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin (Harriet Beecher Stowe)
  • Co. Aytch (Sam Watkins)
  • Across Five Aprils (Irene Hunt)
  • Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
  • Humorous Stories and Sketches (Mark Twain)
  • In His Steps (Charles Sheldon)
  • Up From Slavery (Booker T. Washington)
  • Mama's Bank Account (Kathryn Forbes)
  • Christy (Catherine Marshall)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (Mildred Taylor)
  • The Giver (Lois Lowry)

At this time I know they will complete a full study guide for The Scarlet Letter and To Kill a Mockingbird but otherwise I haven't developed the class syllabus and assignments yet. I'll be working on that over the coming months. But, will probably use most of the suggestions from the curriculum.

Bible - This is another homeschool co-op class that I've signed the boys up. While it is a co-op class my plan is to learn along with them. This is the excerpt from our homeschool's course description about the class: Students will dive into Scripture and study God's Word manifested in three very different, yet very relatable persons: David, John, and Paul. We will learn about the cultures as well as the context surrounding the Scripture God inspired through these individuals and how it applies to our lives today. Students will come out of this class with a greater understanding of the books of Psalms, John, and Paul's many letters in the New Testament. Students will have various creative writing assignments as well as Bible-study like reading comprehension homework. They will also be responsible for memorizing the book of James throughout the term of the class.

My favorite part is the last part: They'll be memorizing the book of James throughout the year. Yep! the entire book of James.

Biology - Exploring Creation with Biology by Apologia

We absolutely love Apologia sciences curriculum. As far as I'm concerned, and probably ever homeschool family I've met over the last couple years, there is no substitute. We will, however, diverge from Apologia next year so the boys' can take my Meteorology class.

World Geography (Part II) - Around the World in 180 Days As I've mentioned in other posts we are continuing our World Geography tour for a second year and should be able to complete our study of the remaining continents. We'll have completed Africa, Australia, and Antarctica (at the very least) by the end of 9th Grade and then would only have the remaining 4 continents.By the end of 10th Grade they will have completed Bible/World History, American History, and World Geography. We will probably do a U.S. Geography and a Government class before they finish out high school.

Latin I - Technically, the boys have completed their high school requirements for languages with their Spanish I and Spanish II classes, but we've decided to give them some Latin background as well. This will benefit them in their science classes as well as learning vocabulary. It is not an overwhelming curriculum but I am planning daily exercises in Latin. We will be using Latina Christiana 1 & 2: Intro to Christian Latin, Student Bk, 3rd Ed.


Art - 3D Design - This is another homeschool cooperative class. I have to allow the boys a class that they really enjoy and art is one of those avenues. The classes description is: create 3D projects using polymer clay, wood, wire, foam and found objects. Projects will include character models and sculptures.

and last but not least,

Algebra II - Saxon Algebra II. We are continuing with the Saxon curriculum and finally have figured out the best way the boys are learning - we divide each lesson into two lessons. Because there are always more than 30 problems for every lesson we have divided each lesson up and the boys are getting along with Algebra I so much the better. So, our plan is to continue that with Algebra II. This means it will take from August - June to complete but we hold homeschool pretty much year round (except for 1 month in July and holiday breaks). We have also purchased the DIVE DVD associated with Algebra II which goes over the lesson each day - a must for Algebra, a necessity for Algebra II.


And that is as they say is that!

Whew! I'm exhausted. And 10th Grade hasn't even begun yet.

52gratitudes | 12

The picture associated with my gratitude is the homeschool curriculum Around the World in 180 Days, a World Geography curriculum by Apologia.  We began using this wonderful curriculum at the beginning of the boys' 9th Grade year with the expressed plan of making this a two-year instead of a one-year course. Before the end of the year I we'll have completed the continents of Africa, Australia, and Antarctica at a minimum.

With most things the down-side to this curriculum is that I had to develop a syllabus, or lesson plans. These have worked out beautifully! If we take a week off Geography I just begin where we left off. We have checked out books from the library that I have added to their studies as well. For instance, recently I checked out two books on Australia, at two different times and each time I developed chapter study questions. Besides, this curriculum these in-depth studies offered even more knowledge of Australia, its interworkings and even alliances with other countries and why.

For their 10th Grade year, besides their Amercian History they will work on World Geography and the remaining continents. If for some reason their homeschool co-op workload is particularly heavy, we may need to spread World Geography into their 11th Grade year. And, surprisingly, I do not even have a problem with that. I know they are being awarded with exceptional knowledge of the continents and peoples of this world.

I hope to share all of my Sons of Thunder Academy curriculum for their 10th Grade year soon. And I thank God for the resources he provides to allow us to homeschool.

sons of thunder academy l around the world in 180 days

an update.

back in june i shared our plan for the boys to complete one of their history requirements over a two-year plan on world geography. we selected around the world in 180 days by apologia. because the curriculum did not come with a syllabus, or lesson planning i created my own which i shared with anyone who wanted a copy. we have been using the syllabus and i have made adjustments as i go. if this was our only history for the year i'm sure we wouldn't have any trouble following the plan but because of our other classes: Bible/World History, Algebra I, Spanish II, Art and Design, Physical Science, Vocabulary, and Literature we are giving World Geography attention, but, not necessarily every day.

thus, i've been using the plan but i've modified days and assignments.

in addition, i've added a few things to the plan: the two biggest additions is reading A Heart of Darkness and adding a country by country review. thankfully we can use Heart of Darkness will also be apart of our literature assignments by using the Glencoe Literature Study Guides available on line.

i wasn't sure how to include a country by country review so i looked on line for some ideas and just started adding things that i thought the boys should know about the countries of Africa.

i began with an overview of the countries key notes. simple bits of information. because they like to draw i included a place for the countries flag and symbol.

i think the best information is going to come from a writing profile or overview of the countries history. super easy but lots of additional information that i wasn't finding in around the world in 180 days. i think counrty profiles would be a wonderful addition to the curriculum. the curriculum covers so many intriguing and broad studies on each continent but i wanted something a bit more 'geography-e' what's the country, where's it at on the continent, what kind of government, what are it's natural resources, what kind of education happens there, what's its history...i think these are necessary bits of important information for any age child to know.

so, just a bit of an update on our world geography curriculum.


sons of thunder academy l homeschool schedule

last week i got very frustrated at the boys' not finishing their school work before dinner. and had to come home from church and spend more time on school work. all because they were wasting time and not staying on task.

this is typical. but, lately they have been taking more and more time to complete their work. i have had to adjust their schedule in ways that is giving less time for some 'home' lessons. such as not scheduling literature or geography, or vocabulary every day but just two or three days a week to accomodate their co-op classes. this is leaving me concerned.

will they be able to accomplish what i think they need to accomplish in the allotted time frame. but, i do have to remind myself of the overall requirements and plug in reality.

the reality is they are in good standing - even with our adjustments.

but, i still needed to deal with the ongoing issue of staying on task and wasting time.

so last week, on thursday, i didn't just schedule their days work i scheduled tasks by time.

beginning at 8:00 and scheduling each hour with an assignment. vocabulary gets 1/2 hour; Spanish 45 minutes - an hour (plus study time later); Math: 1 1/2 hour (plus finishing up time), etc.

when i came home from bible study thursday afternoon the boys had lined through all of the scheduled assignments and where heading into lunch with only the after lunch assignments to accomplish. they loved it so much that they asked me to schedule their assignments by time every day. hopefully this will teach them deadlines, scheduling of personal time, time management, etc.

obviously at some point we'll need to sit down together and have them work out a schedule for themselves - and see how that goes. but, i think this is a good start.

gentle giants, sons of thunder


I’ve wanted to name our little homeschool academy for a while now and the Bowers’ Academy, although smashing, wasn’t the consummate name, the transcendent identity reflecting john and jarrod. Oh, sure, Bowers is truly perfect. Come on – it is our name. But, I also wanted unique.

I considered gentle giants.

My, almost 6-foot tall and getting taller, 15-year old boys look like giants at times; definitely, to me at only 5’3”, and often, to other 15-year olds. And - they are gentle, and innocent, and kind, and endearing. The Gentile Giant’s Academy; It has a certain je ne sais quoi that is very appealing.

But years ago, when the boys were about 6 or so, a children’s pastor (actually, I think then, he was still volunteering and not actually on staff) dubbed john and Jarrod the Sons of Thunder. In our church’s children ministry skits are often used to enforce, or re-enforce a specific teaching lesson. The hero that day, in this particular skit, was being attacked by a villain. Because John and Jarrod, almost always found their way to the front of the audience of young, eager-to-learn, impressionable children, they were in the perfect position to defend the hero from the villainous attack. It must be a twin characteristic, but both boys, zealously, plowed forward onto the stage, and proceeded to thwart the villain’s attack.

While I wouldn’t assume that this one incident would be enough to dub my sons, the Sons of Thunder, it was their zeal over a period of time, their righteous indignation for good against evil, for the cause for Christ, their unhesitatingly, steadfast courage for Christ that ultimately earned them the moniker.

The Sons of Thunder

Mark 3:17 says, “James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder)”…

The Barnes’ Notes on the Bible says Boanerges is made up of two Hebrew words signifying "sons of thunder," meaning that they, on some accounts, "resembled" thunder;  It is, however, more probable that it was on account of something fervid, and glowing, and powerful in their genius and eloquence ;  

Ok. I think our children’s ministry volunteer, now pastor, got it right somehow.

The Clarks Commentary says, “They were probably so named because of their zeal and power in preaching the Gospel” and Gill’s Expository suggested, “For their courage in opposing the enemies of Christ.”

And didn’t they do just that during the skit. They had to be pulled off the villain and off the stage.

Sons of Thunder Academy

I like it.