Aya Academy of Excellence

Charlotte’s Web Unit Study


The girls and I are completing a short mini-unit based on the timeless book, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. As always, we incorporated experiential experiences to enliven our reading. Below is a list of our activities:

Last Friday, we visited our local zoo. Thanks to a partnership between the Atlanta Zoo and Atlanta Fulton Library, we visited the zoo for free. We spent a considerable time in the Orkin petting zoo, which allows children to pet the most docile goats on the planet. During our trip, we went looking for animals that were featured in our reading and came up a bit short. With the exception of a rather large ebony hued pig, most of the animals characterized in our reading were not at the zoo. However, they did have a barn and we got a chance to see some antiquated farm tools on display.

We retooled an Emril dessert recipe in honor of a best friend anyone could ever have: Charlotte. We skipped Emril’s rum liqueur and instead opted for toasted almonds, apple butter and crushed bits of toffee. This mousse encased with ladyfingers was a yummy treat. (I’ll post our recipe sometime soon.)

I already had a set of masks on hand created by former students during our book study on The Russian Revolution and Animal Farm. Since, the girls are writing a one scene dialogue between Uncle and Wilbur imagining their meeting up at next year’s county fair, these are coming in handy.

For our lapbook, the girls are creating blue ribbon superlatives assigning honors of Most Clever, Wisest, etc to the different characters in the play. This exercise will be an opportunity for the girls to use textual evidence.

Another feature in our lapbook is a nod to E.B. White’s ability to create descriptive imagery. During a nature walk next week, the girls will visit a local park to write using White’s chapter opening detailing a rainy day as inspiration.

Last, but not least, the reading of this book is a great segue into a quick study on spiders. We have some nonfiction on hand to read up on these very fuzzy creatures. We will create a foldable to outline some fascinating facts about these creepy crawlies.


Tech Review: IXL Math


Full disclosure: when our family decided to homeschool, teaching math made the endeavor a tad bit scary. I love writing, reading and ALL things social studies. I am also intrigued with science especially as it pertains to how things work. But I wasn’t, and have never been, overly keen with math. I am GRATEFUL that IXL is on the market. Here are the features and reasons why we love it:

1. Online platform helps to keep track of math standards completed.
2. Full access to all math standards. The girls can go ahead to other grade level concepts or brush up on ones presented in earlier grades.
3. When an incorrect answer is submitted, an explanation is given.

I taught 8th grade several years ago on a team in which the students had a similar math program. Our students exceeded their peers on the state exam at the end of the school year. I believe that the technology affords kids a focus that they may not ave in a regular large group lecture setting. In the homeschool environment, it fits in gloriously with teaching the girls independence. They are learning how to continue working until they’ve mastered a concept or task. That in itself makes the program well worth the subscription.

Mistakes Homeschool Parents Make


Our blog was recently a participant in a TLC article about the learning curve families experience when they begin their homeschool journey.

You can read the article here:

The Case for STEM


The girls and I discovered a wonderful resource in our community. Not too far from the house, we have a STEM-based center with an entire room dedicated to LEGO building. At $7.50 per hour, the girls can construct various kits. They also host classes on robotics, engineering and gaming.

Why STEM? STEM-based activities provide an opportunity for cognitive development. Constructing LEGO sets, for example, create an environment for children to synthesize concepts and skills. Children, therefore, can utilize their prior knowledge to build and create.

African American Familes are A Growing Part of the Homeschool Movement

It’s All Greek to Me

When deciding how my daughters and I would approach homeschooling, we had to chisel through heaps of different approaches and materials.  Pinterest has become our best friend as we have found a slew of activities and techniques.  Honestly, I was impressed by the creativity and commitment of families who have elected to educate their children at home.  Their pins and blogs illustrate that they have found the secret  to children’s academic success: focus on learning and keep teaching engaging.

Without the fetters of excessive paperwork and other common constraints of public school, children flourish.  So with all this said, the first month has been a whirlwind and a joyous success as the girls and I delved into our first unit study- ancient Greece.

Here is some of what we do did…and why we chose to go in that direction.

1. We have opted for a unit study approach.  The girls and I, through unit studies, have a chance to explore a topic, especially world cultures.  Although our days are spent at home, or at the library, we can connect to people and concepts far away from us.  We started with Ancient Greece and have scoured our local library for books connected with the topic.  A favorite mentor text was The Librarian Who Measure the Earth. It blended science, math and culture seamlessly. The girls were able to connect to the concept of cultures, in this case Greece and Egypt, co-existing at the same time.

2. Lap books – the marriage between foldables and a manilla folder – helps chronicle, in a structured way, our learning.  We used a free resource on-line.  It was OK but I know that my creativity is leading me to create customized lap books for future units.  The one we used was a great start but I’m excited about mixing up elements to extend their learning in a more interactive format.

Ava’s Lapbook with Cover of the Parthenon

3. Co-op – one week before beginning our homeschool journey my eldest said she was concerned about it being ‘just us.’ That threw me for a loop since she’s often felt isolated at school.  Her concern caused me to join a local co-op so the girls had weekly contact  with other kids on a consistent basis.  Thus far, the girls have met up with the co-op at local parks, participated in river explorations and joined in a storytelling event.

4. YMCA – thank goodness for this Godsend!  The pool is our PE place of choice.  The girls found it more fun when the outdoor pool was open, but I’m grateful we have a facility close by to change up our PE routine.  Aside from the Y, local parks and YouTube have been great.  Ava is our Yoga guru, and with the help of YouTube, we are perfecting our ‘downward dog’ on at home.

Growing Avid Readers – Courtesy of Riordan’s Percy Jackson and The Olympians

5. Literature studies – I love reading…and so does my eldest, Eden…but my youngest finds it boring.  To spice up reading, we are careful to select books that are interesting due to relevance and to the author’s ability to create a vibrant picture with words.  Within the past few weeks, we’ve read biographies Wilma Unlimited about the Olympian Wilma Rudolph! Eleanor: Quiet No More about First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Ray about the music great Ray Charles.  These stories tie into our studies and our character development creed.  The first few weeks we studied the principle of endurance and the challenges  each biographical figure had to overcome served as inspiration.  Our core book, Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightening Thief, has been PHENOMENAL.   It’s great for  vocabulary acquisition – love Riordan’s word choices; vocab such as cackled, sauntered and glumly are presented.  And of course, it ties in with our unit studies on Ancient Greece.

6. Expeditionary Learning- we are out and about almost every day.  We take trips to utilize our local community resources including the library and park but have also made a commitment to take ‘big trips’ on Fridays every few weeks.  Our first was to Nashville to visit the Parthenon replica at Centennial Park.  The girls were blown away at the enormity of the Athena statue on the upper  level.  When we returned home, they had a heightened (no pun intended) interest in Greek mythology.  I whipped out a copy of  DK’s Illustrated Book of Myths that I’ve had for about fifteen years. Our quick trip to Nashville lead to their interest in hearing about Persephone, Orpheus and Icarus.

7. Pop Culture – the girls have watched Disney’s Hercules a million times.  Full disclosure, Meg’s signature song, is my favorite Disney tune.  So watching Hercules for a millionth and one time seemed appropriate.  And since we watched it after making paper mâché bowls, not the best rendition of Greek art, we had a nice frame of reference to talk about city-states,  muses and trade.  Once we finish reading The Lightening Thief  – we read one to two chapters a day – then we will also watch that movie too.  The girls are intrigued that various scenes and characters are not in the film.

8. I love art.  Its messy.  It’s colorful.  It’s expressive.  Several times a week, we create water-color canvases, shadow puppet theaters and paper mâché objects.  Again, Pinterest is amazing.  I’ve curated a ton of projects the girls and I will create throughout the next year.

9. Math – I’m certified in three core subjects…but math is not one of them.  While the girls were in public school, their school provided each student a subscription to IXL.  It’s been perfect for reinforcement.  I love that it is organized to follow the state standards and that the girls can go at their own pace.

10. Morning Ministry – We open each morning with prayer.  This establishes a warm tone to our day.  We follow with either a scripture study, prayer bucket activity or hands-on craft.  It’s also an opportune time for us to discuss how to work out our issues using the Word of God as our touchstone.

Overall, homeschooling has been an amazing experience for us and I am looking forward to watching the growth of our family as a result of this connection.

It Doesn’t Get Better Than This

It’s snacktIme.  As the girls munch on cheese quesadillas…BTW my daughter Eden does a wicked impersonation of Napoleon Dynamite’s mom telling hm to “make a dang quesadilla,” I’m sneaking in a few minutes catching up on emails and SM.  I realize we are in week four of our first year of homeschooling.  It’s been so phenomenal that I wonder why more families don’t do it and…why we didn’t do it earlier.

Here are my top ten memories of our homeschooling adventure so far….

1. Hearing my nine year old on the phone with her tween cousin talking about the Greek gods.  (We are reading Percy Jackson)

2. Discovering a local park, which has the Chattahoochee River snaking through it. (Many thanks to a homeschool co-op for making this a reality)

3. Watching my girls make gains in math. (We are using iXL math and it’s become a pretty painless endeavor)

4. Turning our family pet Bentley into our school mascot. (He accompanies us on excursions to the park)

5. The Parthenon in Nashville…A quick trip, a fond family memory.

6.  Woohoo LAPBOOKS…Who doesn’t love these?!?

7. Our Greek feast – white curtains, bread, oil and goat cheese…sans the wine…;o)

8. The Children’s Discovery Museum in Chattanooga…definitely will visit annually!

9. Exploring what my kids love…cooking, sewing and yoga. (Thanks to YouTube and Google, new learning is so accessible)

10. Bonding with my ladybugs.

Just heard my little one say, “Can I start Mommie?” she has her copy of Percy Jackson’s book perched on her lap…Truly, what isbetter than this?

When a Parent is Their Child’s First…and Only Teacher

I bit the bullet and joined the homeschool brigade.  After countless years being on either side of the desk, as a teacher, parent and student, I found it necessary to educate my own children full-time at home.  My journey in some ways parallels other families who have taken on the role as their child’s first and only teacher. Simply, I was dissatisfied with what my children’s school failed to offer: my eldest was feeling socially isolated in school and my youngest, a real charmer, was lagging behind academically.  Unfortunately, after years of futilely seeking help from their teachers and counselor, I decided to take the responsibility square on my own shoulders.  But this is where our journey veers from many others.

My daughters, born and raised in New York and Florida, began their public school education in Georgia.  After a search for the ‘best’ schools in the area, we relocated to the tony suburban community of Johns Creek.  The area boasts not only an exemplary report card for its schools but wonderful amenities – lovely parks, great dining and a robust business base.  Their elementary school feeds into the state’s most coveted public high school, which has repeatedly topped all others in attaining the highest SAT average scores.  Their elementary school is a family school with an extraordinary PTA, which hosts numerous activities throughout the year.  As a family, we have enjoyed all of the activities each year, especially the storybook night in which the teachers dressed characters from books and reenacted the stories.  Overall, you cannot have a better public school experience then what my children were fortunate to have.  However, even in an A rated school, there are problems.

Schools are not equipped to provide individually-focused lessons to address each student’s academic gaps.  The average classroom is brimming with kids and that type of attention requires serious manpower and lower teacher to student ratios.  Schools also cannot provide no academic experiences that allow children to thrive socially.  Budgets have been slashed to the point of impeding schools to offer music and art classes.  As a child, I began to thrive once I had an opportunity to participate in a wide range of sports and clubs.  I know firsthand the impact extracurricular activities play in the development of a child.

So after much teeth gnashing and palm sweating, I submitted a letter of intent to my state department alerting them of my attention to devote the next year to growing my children academically and socially.  It’s already been a wondrous experience: trips to visit the Parthenon replica in Nashville, a geocaching activity around our local neighborhood and time daily dedicated to learning the word of God.    As a family, we are grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow together.

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