A New Direction

I’m so excited to be taking over the reins of this blog. My name is Dawn Peluso and I was one of the folks that helped Diane with the Schoolin’ Swag Facebook page.  I’m a homeschooling mom of 3.  Our children are 11, 9, and 3.  We live in Eastern, NC and enjoy hiking, the beach, and spending time with family. We are active in our church and strive be a family that follows Jesus.

We use a variety of materials and methods in our home school and like to say our style is “Charlotte Mason Eclectic”.  In particular, we enjoy using lots of good books, nature study, hands-on history, cooking, and traveling to create a family culture of learning and growing.

Look for more posts over the next couple weeks with information about book reviews, fun home school ideas, and more.

My plan for the blog beginning in September is to have a weekly post about the history that we are studying that week (my husband and I are creating a hands on American history program for our kids and I will share that plan and the resources that we are using,  in case anyone else wants to join us on that journey), Product reviews, a monthly book review of a book for Moms, lots of guest posts from other homeschooling moms about what they are doing in their home schools and a variety of other content.  I’m very open to hearing from our readers about what you would like to see and making sure we are meeting those needs.

Our Journey Begins: Colonial History


Colonial history in America spans exploration, conquest, and European expansion into the New World.  From the earliest English settlement in Roanoke (1585) thru the end of the French and Indian War (1763) the East Coast of North America experienced profound change in nearly every way.  European farming techniques married with Native crops and worked in many cases by imported slave labor blossomed agriculture in the south.  New England traders and shipwrights expanded the English maritime tradition.  Trade and wealth built cities like Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charles Town.  Expansionist wars like King Philip’s, War of Jenkins’ Ear, and the French and Indian War set the stage for the colonial uprising and revolution.

During September we will be studying through this period, starting with the explorers and first colonies (everyone loves a good mystery and the story of the “Lost Colony” is certainly a mystery).  We will spend some time reading about the period in a variety of trade books and Master Book’s America’s Story Vol. 1. Then we will enjoy a field trip or two, some great colonial receipts (the old English word for recipes), and hands-on projects.  My son is excited about a colonial Lego project which he also hopes to enter into the state fair (for an example see the picture of one from last year of North Carolina’s first permanent capital Tryon Palace) and my daughter wants to learn basket making.


Even with a month focused just on this period we can’t cover everything but hope to include some important parts of our history as well as the opportunity for the children to dive deeper into the parts that are most interesting to them.  For example, we will skim over the Pilgrims and Mayflower, because while important they are also very familiar.  However, in your family that may be something you want to spend more time on. The beauty of this journey is that we can share ideas but each family gets to make their own journey.

Art is not my strong suit but the children love it, and their favorite are art pastel lessons. I love them because they are reasonably priced, don’t require tons of stuff, and a short and simple. The children can do them without assistance from me and it is very low stress for everyone. I was thrilled to find the new American History Chalk Pastel Lessons from You are an Artist and they are on sale right now.

If you are interested in joining us on this Journey through US History and have not yet received access to our Resource Library please click the link below and sign-up. You will receive access to the library which includes a list of all of the resources, project and field trip ideas, etc that we are using for colonial history (with a new time period being released each month) as well as several other resources and more to come.  You will also get a bi-weekly newsletter with new information from the blog.

Resource Library Access

Tune in each week in September for an update on what we did that week in Colonial American history.

If you are still searching for curriculum for next year or need to fill in a few spaces other than history there is a great sale going on right now at School House Teachers.




This post may contain affiliate or referral links. As always I will never recommend a product that I don’t believe in and you will never be charged more for purchasing through our links. It does help pay for the costs associated with the blog.



Our Journey Through History

We have spent the last four years journeying through Story of the World. We loved it. The kids enjoyed the hands on activities. We all learned a lot about history and having it presented in a chronological fashion allowed us to better grasp history as a whole instead of in bits and pieces.  However, we are taking this year off from that program before beginning a second cycle. This year is going to be a more in-depth study of US history and geography.  Story of the World covered a great deal of what we will be studying but not very deeply because it was including so many different things. We want to go a bit deeper into these subjects.  Our plan is to spend 10 months (we take summers off) and use each month to cover one period of American History.

For each period we will read books about that era, have at least one project and typically at least one field trip that ties into that era. We will cook meals that go with the period when it is applicable and exploring a variety or resources. While there are some things that I will make sure we cover because I feel they are important, the kids will also have the opportunity to choose topics with-in that time period and dig deeper and do their focus projects on that topic.

Each month I will post a list of  the resources that we have chosen thus far, project ideas, and any other components that we have developed that might be helpful to anyone that wants to try American History with us. These will be located in the resource library. Simply sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter and you will also receive access to all of our free resources. I will post the resources during the month prior so you will have time to find and select the ones you wish to use.   I will also share weekly about how we are doing and what the children are learning.  I am sure that the list of resources I provide in the beginning will not be exhaustive as we always find new things as we learn and research so I will update that as we go along as well.  I welcome any suggestion or ideas for great American History resources. I have broken the resources down into books, audio books/stories, field trips (some of these will obviously be more applicable to those that live in proximity to myself but should also give you some ideas of where to look around wherever you live), project ideas, and other resources. For anyone that happens to have a daughter in American Heritage Girls I am also including some tie-ins with several badges that my daughter will be working on completing.

We also try to include art where we can, whether in artist studies, art lessons, or just fun creative crafts. My children have been using chalk pastel tutorials over the last year or so and loving them. This year we are going to be doing the US History set of tutorials to tie-in with our history. We love these tutorials because they are easy but quality, require minimal supplies, and doesn’t take much planning on my part. Here is a link to the set we are using in case you are looking to add a bit of art to your studies. http://www.chalkpastel.com/product/american-history-video-art-lessons/?ref=215 (aff)

I would love to have you join us on the journey through American History. My hope is that it is a chance for us to learn and grow as a family and to enjoy history together.

September–Explorers and Colonial Times

October–Revolutionary War

November–New Nation (1790-1825)

December–West Expansion (1829-59)

January–Civil War (1860-65)

February–Reconstruction and Gilded Age (1866-1914)

March–Great War, a Great Depression and Jazz ( 1914-1935)

April– WWII and Korean War ( 1936-53)

May–Modern/Cold War (53-80s)

June–Technology Revolution (80s- present)


Sign-up For our resource library and bi-weekly newsletter.

A Life That Says Welcome

Many of the book reviews that I do will be specifically books for home school moms. However, I’m going to be reviewing several this fall that deal with hospitality in our homes.  This is an area that I love, but that due to many life circumstances I feel like it is an area that I need to focus some attention on in my own life.

This first book, A Life That Says Welcome, by Karen Ehman was one I just finished reading and really enjoyed.  It did a great job of giving the big picture but also the nitty gritty details. She combined ideals and broad ideas with actual recipes and specific ideas.  She also gave many biblical examples of hospitality. She covered everything from getting your house ready, providing food, overnight guests, and even ways you could be hospitable outside of your own home. She shared how it wasn’t about how much money you spent or the size of your home.

Often, when we think of hospitality we think of those people outside of our homes. We think of the new family at church, or our neighbors, or friends. We think of co-workers, extended family, even strangers but we forget our own family. This book talks about all of those people but first she talks about using hospitality to serve our own family. It is so important to remember that we need to show that love and care not only to those outside of our home but to those God placed in our home. Our husbands and children deserve to have their favorite meals cooked and time taken to show them love and appreciation as well. Then together we can serve others.  This was a powerful reminder to me.

From this book, I was able to come up with several easy ideas to show hospitality to those around us, both inside and outside of our home. I renewed my commitment to spend quality time with the kids in the kitchen while baking cookies that we could share with other outside of our home.  We are also working on ways to invite people into our home. There are so many that are very dear to us, but in today’s world of hurry up and go, hustle and bustle it can be so easy to forget to take time to spend with those around us.  There are singles, college kids, widows/widowers, young parents, and many more that could be blessed by a simple meal around the table in our homes.  Hospitality is a Biblical mandate that takes our time and attention to provide. When we make our selves available and begin to notice the needs God will provide us with the opportunity to by hospitable in His name.

I’m looking forward to trying some of the yummy sounding recipes provided in this book as well as meeting with my husband and our children to determine how we can do better as a family at inviting people into our homes. I highly recommend this book whether you are new to hospitality or just want a refresher and reminders. I think there is something to be learned even by those that are more experienced in the area of hospitality.

If you are interested in reading this book I have included the link below (aff link) and if you have read it I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’d also love for you to share ways your family is showing hospitality in this season of life.


To Plan or Not to Plan


Ben Franklin said, “Failure to plan is planning to fail.”

Over the years, I have tried several different planning methods. Prior to becoming a home school mom I worked in the public schools. When I decided to home school my son I went with what I knew. I bought a fresh clean lesson planning book and I planned out my lessons. I thought that I would make things go smoothly and easily by planning far in advance; so, I planned basically our entire first semester using traditional written out lesson plans.  The first week went great, but by the second week we had problems. I had neglected to account for any field trips, appointments, etc. I found that there were many beneficial activities that were not in the plans.  We went anyway but then I felt behind and was struggling to keep up.  I also found a few weeks into our school year that some of the curriculum I had chosen just wasn’t right. This meant I had to switch all of that up on our plans.  This all meant that I had spent a lot of time on detailed lesson plans that weren’t really working for us.

The next thing I tried was not really planning; we would just do whatever was next. This may work really well for some folks. However, by not being prepared I didn’t have the materials I needed to do what was next (the supplies for the art project or science experiment or the books or copies to go with history). This meant we really were not as productive as we should have been and we wasted a lot of time waiting for supplies or hunting down the right books. We also skipped experiments that would have been beneficial.

We tried several variations of planning before finally finding what has been working for us for the last several years.  Each summer I make a plan for each subject by breaking it up into weekly chunks.  This allows me to see the topics and note any unusual supplies I might need. Then I gather and organize the books and resources we already have to go along with those topics.  Some subjects like science and history I go into more depth because those subjects tend to need more. Our spelling curriculum is very ‘open and go’, so I just write down the lesson numbers.

Once the annual plan is complete, I use that information to make the first 3 or 4 weeks lesson plans for the year using my lesson plan template.  After those weeks I try to stay about a week or two ahead of myself, though sometimes I’m planning on Sunday night. However, because I’ve done the work of splitting it up and gathering resources the planning doesn’t take very long at all. It is also still very easy to adjust. This means that pacing in one subject doesn’t hinder the plans of any other subjects.

Another big change we made was to only schedule four days of school each week.  This gave us room in the schedule for field trips, doctor’s appointments, diving deeper into topics, review, and those days where you need to take a ‘home-ec’ day and get everything put back in order.

The right way to plan is the way that works for you not the one that works for someone else. If you have something that is working for you, I encourage you to continue doing it. However, if you are looking for something different you may want to give this method of an overall annual plan with more detailed weekly plans that are done along the way a try. I do think it is important to note that we have been using most of our curriculum for awhile and are comfortable that it is working for our family. If you are not sure about your curriculum you may want to only plan out the first quarter or semester and then plan a day or two to reevaluate and plan for the next quarter.

I am offering my lesson plan template as a free download below. Please feel free to use it and adapt it as you see fit, changing subjects, frequency, etc.  If you use it you will see a spot of preschool activities. I have a three year old and while I don’t use a formal curriculum I do like to plan a couple activities to do with him each week that are fun and work on developmental skills.

If you have a planning style or plan that works for you, let me know in the comments.

Lesson Planner 2017-18



“You and I only have this day, this moment to choose to live for what matters.” Sally Clarkson

“Teach us to number our days that we might present to thee a heart of wisdom.”

Psalm 91:12



I was really struggling today because I have so many things I wanted to get done from history plans to blog posts from cleaning my bedroom to making sure my school plans are ready to go for next year. I managed to have the day to myself and was planning on getting lots of things accomplished.

Then the interruptions started: the kids (who are happily spending the day with grandparents and friends) needed to stop by and pick up some things they had forgotten, my husband needed some unexpected help with our home business, some other volunteer obligations I had needed pressing attention, etc.

I felt so tempted to throw my hands in the air and declare the day a complete failure and loss. It was already lunch-time and nothing on my list had been checked off. Thankfully, God sent me a sweet reminder in the form of the quote and verse above.

I may not have gotten the things on my list checked off but I did the things that were important for today. I did get a few sweet minutes with my children this morning, helped my husband and be grateful for the blessing of working together side by side, and focused on that which God had set forth for my day.

Each day we get to choose how we spend our time.  Though there will be interruptions, there will be problems, and opportunities, we can choose to focus on the people and on the things of eternal importance or we can choose to close our eyes to the needs around us and miss out on opportunities.  This doesn’t mean that we have to say yes to everything or that we never need to just wash the dishes or write the lesson plans. The key is to be aware and make sure that we prioritize those things that are important and not just the urgent.

I’d love for you to tell me in the comments how you are making today matter!

Book Reviews

I am looking forward with sharing a variety of books with you (at least one a month). I will choose books that are relevant to my life as a mother, a wife, a Christian, and/or a home schooling mom.   I am currently reading,  A Life That Says Welcome, by Karen Ehman and look forward to sharing my thoughts on it in the next week or so.  I know that I will also be sharing about Sally Clarkson’s new book that is being released soon, The Lifegiving Table: Nurturing Faith through Feasting, One Meal at a Time. I have really enjoyed several of her other books including, The Lifegiving Home,  so this is one I’m very excited to check out.

If you are interested in checking out either of these books, I’ve included links for your convenience. (These are affiliate links but do not change your cost). I would love to hear about books that you love or books that you want to know more about. Reading has always been a passion of mine, but at times it has been put on the back burner due to children and life circumstances. It is my personal goal to read at least two books a month not including those books I am reading to my children or previewing for them.  Please leave me a comment with your favorite book or a book you would like to see reviewed.

The Lifegiving Table, Sally Clarkson

 A Life That Says Welcome, Karen Ehman

Picking the Twaddle Out of Your Noodles

roastnoodlesYesterday was a bit frustrating for our oldest. He had a couple of quizzes, and one of them was the sort that required psychic ability in order to answer some the questions. The interpretation of truth was a bit subjective, and if answers were not given according to the thinking of the assessment writer, well, they were wrong. It reminded me of this humorous portion of an “I Love Lucy” episode:

  • Mr. Mooney: I’ve been trying to find Mr. Burns’ file. It is not under the B’s.
  • Lucy: Oh, I must have put it under the X’s.
  • Mr. Mooney: Why would you put the B file under the X’s?
  • Lucy: That poor little file never has anything in it!
  • Mr. Mooney: Well, where is it??
  • Lucy: Well, wait a minute. Oh, I bet I know what I did…you see, Mr. Burns, I always have trouble remembering names, so I took a course in word association. Now, “burns” reminds me of fire.
  • Mr. Mooney: So you filed it under the F’s?
  • Lucy: No. “Fire” reminds me of “stove”.
  • George Burns: So you put my file under the S’s?
  • Lucy: No…”stove” reminds me of pot roast.
  • Burns (to Mr. Mooney): It’s your turn.
  • Mr. Mooney: You filed it under the P’s?
  • Lucy: No, pot roast reminds me of noodles.
  • Mr. Mooney: Mrs. Carmichael…you’re making me angry…
  • Burns: She’s making me hungry!
  • Lucy: And noodles reminds me of my mother!
  • Mr. Mooney (to Burns): Your turn.
  • Burns: “Noodles” reminds you of your mother?
  • Lucy: Yeah, she made the best noodles! And I’ll be that’s where I put your file.
  • Burns: Under “noodles”.
  • Lucy: No, under “gravy”.

This is one of the reasons I love having a front row seat for educating our kids. I was able to come in the back door on that quiz, see the way some the questions were phrased rather ambiguously, and make a judgement call.

Yes, I have eliminated quiz questions. Sometimes I’ve tossed out entire assessments because there was a better way to see if my child had assimilated knowledge. I don’t think questions which ask for ridiculously detailed information are necessarily profitable. What was the name of a certain prominent person’s second cousin’s husband’s pet? Nope.

I also know our kids, and I have watched them shaping into who God intends for them to be. Because of that, I can decide if certain questions, projects, even subjects should carry more weight with regard to time and focus. Yes, we fulfill what the state requirements mandate; but we do it our own way, and reasonably. 😉

Some material is simply twaddle. I really dislike busy work immensely. Things which occupy time, but don’t serve to build or teach much of anything (except perhaps patience) are subject to educational extinction in our house.

Today, I punted a quiz. I saw my child struggling to decipher it, and making several attempts to answer the way the program wanted him to answer. He kept his cool. He did not get angry and storm off. He did not declare he hated the subject, hated the program, or hated school. He handled the whole thing maturely. So we went question by question verbally, and I tweaked the phrasing so he could comprehend more fully what he was being asked. His understanding was more complete after that than it would have been if he had guessed his way through, absently clicking buttons. He passed just fine, mom style. I commended him for his attitude and perseverance. I told him that was of more value than A’s to me.

Give yourself the freedom to do this.

For the love of learning,
Diane 🙂

Common Questions about Lessontrek, and a Sneak Peek!

lessontrekblogimageLessontrek has been a very popular planning and scheduling tool at Schoolin’ Swag! Our friend Jason Pessemier has been hard at work, tweaking and upgrading as he can, to make this valuable tool even more user friendly and seamless.  I asked Jason if he would tell me what the most common questions about the product are, so users could find answers easily here at the blog.  Here is what he shared.

Common Questions

1. Question: How do I add hyperlinks in a lesson? I need to click to websites for my child’s assignments.

Answer: To set up, click a lesson block, paste the URL and click save. To access, navigate to the lesson block and click the Open button, then click the hyperlink in the upper left.

2. Question: How do I print in color?

Answer: Make sure your browser’s Print Settings is set to print in color. Most browsers set their Print Settings to Black & White

3. Question: What curriculum can I use in Lessontrek?

Answer: You can use any type of curriculum or you can create your own. Lessontrek was built to be as flexible and easy-to-use as possible.

4. Question: Can I add weekends to Lessontrek? We sometimes have classes or we like to add household chores to our calendar.

Answer: Yes, make sure to click the Show Weekend check box located inside your Student Home modal.

5. Question: Can I use Lessontrek if I’m a public or private school teacher?

Answer: Absolutely! We encourage anyone to use this if it fits their needs. School teachers are currently using Lessontrek and they love it.

Sneak Peek!

Here is a list of items Jason plans to add, as he is able:

  • Shared subjects/school years across multiple students
  • Bumping subjects/assignments
  • Monthly view
  • Report card printouts
  • Separate student/parent/teacher logins

There is some great pricing available right now at Lessontrek!


Want to try a FREE TRIAL? Click here!

Got another question for Jason? Let me know in the comments!