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.



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

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.

Spoiled Rotten Mama Party!

spoiled3I am putting together a fun end-of-the-year giveaway at Schoolin’ Swag for our 4,600-ish wonderful, hard working, homeschooling mamas! Wanna take a peek at the lovely items being offered?

These items are being donated by mamas in our group, many of whom also have home businesses to help make ends meet. This is one of the few times each year that we allow personal advertising in the group, and I’m happy to give the opportunity to help a great cause! Homeschooling!

spr1From Charissa Rice (Mary Kay), we will have a bundle including the Satin Lips set and Ultimate Mascara!

From Rebecca Pahnke Thomas, we have Mint Bliss Energizing Lotion from Mary Kay (she is not business building, just being SO sweet in donating!) as well as Citrus Bliss Invigorating Essential Oil Blend from doTERRA!

From Hope Turner (Young Living), we’ll have a cute diffuser necklace and a bottle of “Stress Away” essential oil, as well as a couple of other samples and a Lavender Bath Soak.

srm5From lovely member Lynette Dickson, we have a hand crafted natural bronzer, using  the winner’s choice of combination of cocoa powder, rose powder, and ginger root powder for shimmer. Mmmmmmmmmm…chocolate and shimmer!

From Perfectly Posh member Leah Cherrone, we have the donation of the “Posh to meet you” kit by Perfectly Posh contains a Good Vibes BFYHC (big fat yummy hand cream-smells like mango with a hint of coconut), a Strawberry Fields Forever chunk (bar soap, smells like strawberry and lime–I LOVE THIS…SO yummy!) and a Santa Monica Smooth lip balm (peach, orange and mint, with a hint of caffeine). Also included in this bundle is a “dogbone” pillow made of  dress weight denim. It is medium firm (not softy soft, not hard).  It is designed for neck support and easy to carry or hang to store with the handles.

srm93Next, from Krysten Glor (31 Gifts), we have a $25 gift certificate to use however the winner’s heart desires! So many cute choices!


From Karen Daniels (Plexus), we have a 7-day trial pack being offered! I have loved the “Pink Drink”…certainly worth giving it a go if you’ve never tried it!

srm9From Ashley Moore’s Etsy shop, we have a $20 gift certificate to use toward her super cute selection of hair accessories and baby barefoot sandals (which are darling)!

srm91Now, from Dana Malone of One Buffalo (products with integrity), we are offering a bundle of natural, organic body care products, including:

  • Natural deodorant made with only organic coconut oil, arrowroot powder, non-GMO corn starch, organic shea butter, baking soda, beeswax and organic lemongrass essential oil
  • Lotion Stick – Mint, made with only organic shea butter, organic coconut oil, beeswax and essential oil

  • Lip Balm, made with only organic cocoa butter, organic coconut oil and beeswax

srm92From our wonderful crochet guru Denise Hockenberry, we’ll have a cute and practical spa bath set including 3 wash cloths, 6 face scrubbies, and 1 soap saver!

srm95Further, from Jen Figueiras (Jamberry Nails) we have a $20 gift certificate, plus a mini application kit and the 2 sheets of accent nails! Just in time for summer! 🙂

srm98From one of our newest members, Brittany Barber (It Works), we have an Ultimate Body Applicator (value $25), which is a non-woven cloth wrap that has been infused with a powerful, botanically-based formula to deliver maximum tightening, toning, and firming results where applied to the skin.

  • Tightens, tones, & firms
  • Minimizes cellulite appearance
  • Improves skin texture & tightness
  • Mess-free and simple to use
  • Results in as little as 45 minutes
  • Progressive results over 72 hours
  • Made with natural ingredients

srm97Moving on (!), we have a Moonstruck 3D Fiberlashes set from Amy Hardy Moye (Younique)! Increase your lash volume by up to 400%!

srm99From our darlin’ brand new Avon rep Diana Doggett, we have a fun little package including nail polish (Pastel Pink), lipstick (Divine Wine), and Mark lip gloss duo (Glow Baby Glow and Girly Girl)!


Finally, from two wonderful authors, Karen Ehman and Ruth SchweKaren Enk (I LOVE “Hoodwinked” which was also co-authored by them), we have a copy of “Pressing Pause“! I am so tickled to be able to include this in our event!

My Grading Epiphany


Perfect Grade and Sticker on HomeworkDear Homeschool Mom,
Please read this post, especially if you have not been a fan of regular grading in your homeschool. Keep an open mind?
If you’ve followed our homeschool path recently, you know we switched to Monarch online by Alpha Omega Publications. We are nearly a month into it now. I think we’ve finally found our homeschooling “sweet spot”! 

What I Didn’t Expect

The Monarch program gives the kids assessments after every lesson Their comprehension is tested every day, to make sure they are engaged. They have regular quizzes and tests as well. You decide what your grading scale will be, as well as whether a particular assignment will be “open page” or “open book” or not. If there is a question in an assessment that you feel is redundant, unclear, or unnecessary, you can alter it in the teacher settings.
I honestly didn’t know how the kids would feel about all the grading. For myself, being more regular in “formal” evaluations has not only given me a more accurate, visual idea of how they are doing (and where we need to spend more time), but I really didn’t realize how much it would help them to thrive by actually seeing their grades. It has given them a more positive outlook toward schooling, and it shows:

What I Learned

I wasn’t much of a formal grader up until now. The kids did the papers and lessons, and I checked them. The kids would get a verbal assessment, but not much on paper to actually see for themselves. I would step up their work where I saw they needed more practice, according to what I observed each day. The grades went on our transcripts, but the kids rarely saw anything in the way of a letter grade or percentage on a regular basis. With this program, they have evaluations after every lesson, and they get immediate feedback. They know exactly where they stand. And surprisingly, they love it!
This program has also helped my husband to see the progress the kids are making. It is his hard-earned money which purchases our materials, so it is good for him to see he’s getting some bang for his buck. 🙂 Because he’s not involved necessarily in a hands-on way with our schooling (he’s my moral support!), this gives him validation for what is happening educationally in our home. I like that a lot. 
I understand those who prefer not to grade, for whatever reason…but this was sort of an epiphany for me and our kids. They don’t have a classroom of kids to “compete” with (you know what I mean, I hope), and I’ve never really done stickers/rewards for school work…so this gives them a way to compete with themselves (which is the best type of competition IMO when it comes to education). 

If You Want to Look Into Monarch

Monarch automatically grades about 85% of student work. The remaining items are in the form of projects and written assignments the teacher needs to grade, and then enter by hand. I’ve found this program to be challenging for our kids, as well as thorough. The program keeps your records for you, and will print reports as well. Our 10th grader, who has some reading disability, can follow along as the text is read to him. You can choose the “voice” you listen to, and text is highlighted a sentence at a time, and within that each word is highlighted as it is read. That has been a very helpful feature for us, and it aids in his comprehension level. It has allowed him to do his work completely independently, which has been a huge boost for his confidence.
So, I guess this is not only a bit of a promo for Monarch (which you can get for 10% off here…and you can try free for 30 days here), but also for tangible grading for your students. I never thought I’d say that. But here I am.
For the Love of Learning,

Spring Cleaning, Curriculum Style

We have found a new direction for our schooling that provides quality education as well as convenience for us. It packs a punch financially, but getting the membership saves us a considerable amount of money over doing their monthly subscription. So, I have some items to gleefully clear out of my room (which is the storage for much of our school stuff).

I am a purger by nature. I’m also pretty frugal. Put those two together, and…you have this post. 😉 So, here goes!

Prices have a little bit of room for negotiation. 😉 

First, I have this Pre-Algebra set from Teaching Textbooks. We have really liked the approach of this math. Great for visual and auditory learners. Easy to understand instruction. Pages are a wee bit tired. Gently used, with a little bit of highlighting. Disks work fine. Asking: $100 for all, Paypal preferred (shipping included-Continental US only)

The Christian Light Level 4 books I have available are all new. The two text books are like new, with only light wear. It is not the complete set, but most of it is there. In most subjects only the first couple of workbooks are missing. All answer keys and teacher editions are new. Asking $200 for all, Paypal preferred (shipping included-Continental US only)

The Algebra 2 and Health high school texts from BJU Press are gently used. Asking $20 for both, Paypal preferred (shipping included-Continental US only)

I have the Life of Fred Language Arts for high school, complete set. Great condition, only a few pencil marks in one book. Books C and D are like brand new. Asking $60 for both, Paypal preferred (shipping included-Continental US only)

The Easy Spanish and Webster’s Spanish dictionary are also gently used. Asking $20 for both, Paypal preferred (shipping included-Continental US only)

The Story of the World, Volume 3 set has some light wear. Includes Student Text, Activity Book (all pages intact), and Test and Answer Key (like new). Asking $65 for all, Paypal preferred (shipping included-Continental US only)

I apologize for images which have turned or rotated. I can’t seem to figure out how to edit them in WordPress! If you would like a better image, respond to the email below, and I’ll be happy to send you one.


If you are interested in any of these items, please send an email to blest2bwest@wyoming.com . I’ll try and respond promptly with any further details you need.