Nothin' 2 Prove

The building of Gunn Ranch Academy one caliche rock at a time; our friends, family, passions, learning adventures and our little piece of HIStory in the making!

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Happy Independence Day (with a visit from a dear friend!)

Well folks, it’s July already!

This particular holiday is a special one because we have a very special visitor from Maryland.

Let me explain! When we very first started homeschooling, we had just moved to Maryland after my husband went back into the Army as a medic. His first duty station was Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital in Washington D.C.

We lived on base at Fort Meade, Maryland and the schools were completely unacceptable. I had researched homeschooling and God had laid it on my heart before my first child was even born, but I really could not see how I would ever manage it with a full time veterinary career.

Well, long story short, it happened.

When I first started homeschooling Morgan, she was “second grade” age. I began researching and found a homeschool group that actually met on the military base we lived on!

It wasn’t long until we had made friends, and wasted no time getting to know some awesome folks! One of our favorite families we began to hang out with a lot had three girls, very close in age to mine.  We had a lot of fun together, but before we knew it we were moving to Texas.

The 10 months we lived in Maryland seemed much longer and held so many memories! Through the years (about 8 yrs or so!) we have managed to stay in touch through pictures, phone calls, and the ever-so-amazing social media (Facebook!).

On the 3rd of July, we picked up the oldest child, Juli, from our airport. She is now 18 and a beautiful, talented young lady. We are so very blessed with this opportunity to have her stay with us on our ranch for two weeks where she is learning ranchlife, loving our crazy critter menagerie, and highly enjoying the horses and the chance to get some great photos for her photography class!

All this in addition, of course, to catching up with her long lost “cousins” and getting to know Levi whom she had never met in person.

The day after she arrived we took a trip to the beach. Yep, it was a holiday, but we found a great place on the beach to hang out at the Padre Island National Seashore.

Juli, Levi, Abi, Morgan, and Taylor

Juli, Taylor and Levi digging in the sand for little sand critters 🙂

Levi buried Juli in the sand 🙂

Then Levi was buried:


Can’t wait for the rest of the family to visit!

Homeschool friendships last a lifetime!!

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Crew Review: Math Mammoth 1st Grade

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Math Mammoth offers high quality mathematics curriculum materials at very affordable prices.

They offer a wide range of products from full blown complete grade curriculum to individual topic workbooks.  For review we received Grade 1 Complete Curriculum (Light Blue Series).

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The Light Blue series from Math Mammoth is their full elementary curriculum for grades 1-6.

Each level consists of two student worktexts (A & B), a separate answer key for each, and cumulative reviews and tests. The download version also has a worksheet maker and an option for the student to fill in the worksheets using the computer.

The Math Mammoth website has links for several purchase options. The materials are offered in download form (which is what we received) for $34.00 for the whole Grade 1 set, CD form for $39.00,   and printed workbook options are also available. (See website for more information.)

Math Mammoth had its start in 2002 when Maria Miller, who has a Master’s degree  in mathematics, was tutoring homeschooled children and took notice of the difficultly parents were having in explaining math concepts. This led to her writing workbooks for specific topics, which led to a series of workbooks, then in 2007 the Light Blue series of complete grade levels was created.

Math Mammoth is basically a mastery-based approach to learning, with some overlap of concepts between grades as necessary to concrete the topics together.

There are some simple manipulatives that are helpful to use with the curriculum such as a 100 bead abacus, analog clock that you can move the hands on, ruler, all the obvious hands-on stuff you need to teach math concepts. (Measuring cups, kitchen scales, thermometers with other grade levels.)

So how does it work?

Well, it’s not a “scripted” curriculum, so you don’t just sit and read the instructions to your child, leaving you both stuck if something doesn’t make sense.
The student work-texts have instructions and explanations  built right into the problems.

At the very beginning of each chapter is a short “introduction” for the teacher with some advice, free online games and other resource links.

The curriculum is as easy as print and go! Sit down with your child and start reading together, letting the child work problems himself as you see he understands the concepts.

As the child gets older the materials very easily lend themselves to independent study.

The scheduling of the worksheets will vary with the lesson and the student’s progress. That’s what I really like most about this program! There are no “rigid” lessons to follow that must be completed all at once or the student gets lost.  If you need a schedule, guidelines for scheduling are included with a chart you can fill in for your number of school days and recommendations on allowing several days for testing and cumulative reviews.

For more specific information on the 1st grade Light Blue series from the website:

The four main areas of study for first grade are:

  1. The concepts of addition and subtraction, and strategies for addition and subtraction facts (chapters 1-2; chapter 4);
  2. Developing understanding of whole number relationships and place value till 100 (chapter 3 and chapter 7);
  3. Developing understanding of measuring lengths as iterating length units (chapter 6); and
  4. Reasoning about attributes of geometric shapes, such as the number of sides and the number of corners, and composing and decomposing geometric shapes (chapter 6).

Additional topics we study in first grade are clock to the half hour (chapter 5) and counting coins (chapter 8).

First Grade Math at Gunn Ranch Academy

This year has been a very successful year for my first grader in so many ways.

I’ve really put some major thought into mathematics instruction at the elementary level through my years of homeschooling. My more relaxed approach to hands-on learning and teaching Levi when he is excited and ready to learn has been the key to our success this year in all areas of learning.

When faced with the opportunity to review a full grade math program at the end of our “grade” year, I realized this was a blessing in disguise.

We’ve used some online math resources, played lots of games (which in my opinion is the golden egg of teaching numbers, counting, and spacial concepts!), done lots of “kitchen” math together, and many other hands-on learning activities. But so far, I haven’t introduced too many sit-in-your-chair worksheets. Really, until just recently, Levi hasn’t been wired to sit and write. But as his writing and attention spans both improve, introducing seat-work to him has come added confidence to his learning.

The download of our materials was fast and easy. I printed the 145 Worktext A and sat down with my boy and we got started.

He was a little frustrated with the beginning review pages because they were so easy, so we skipped those. As we began working, he LOVED working the worksheets because they were so easy to complete.  We usually end up completing 2-3 workpages before he is ready to move on to something else. We work the pages three days per week and play card games and continue to use hands-on activities such as cooking to supplement his learning. We will continue to use the workpages throughout the summer and should be ready for the next grade in the Fall!

The program has helped me to realize just how much Levi has learned and to evaluate his progress. I’m thrilled to have such a valuable resource to use for our mathematics journey!

We have used other Math Mammoth products in the past and I will continue to rely on them to provide us solid math instruction I can trust.

*Don’t forget to check out my crew mates’ adventures with Math Mammoth!

Enjoy Your Journey,


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Crew Review: Art Class!!!

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Would you like to bring a Master Artist into your home to teach art to your kids?


Then you should meet Master Artist Pat Knepley over at See The Light!

She has some absolutely phenomenal art instruction products to offer for all ages, and we were blessed with the opportunity to review one from her Art Projects line called Paper Jungle which retails for $14.99.

Great for kids 10 and up, Paper Jungle contains four step-by-step video lessons to create a 3-D paper collage in the style of French artist Henri Rousseau.  Each lesson is 22 to 27 minutes long, but you need about an hour per lesson to complete the project. Interwoven throughout the lessons you will find art history, art terminology and techniques, and Bible stories and scriptures. Instructor Pat Knepley is just the art teacher you’ve been looking for!!

Gunn Ranch Academy’s Paper Jungle Adventure

   All of my kids LOVE to create all kinds of art, and when I showed Taylor all of the Art Projects offered by See the Light she wanted them all! But alas, we decided to begin with Paper Jungle.

Taylor loves to participate in Storyboarding in 4-H, and we thought that Paper Jungle would be very useful to learn some new techniques to help her create future storyboards.

We had gathered all of the materials we needed before our DVD arrived except the green scrapbooking paper. (You can find a list of materials needed for each of the Art Projects in the description on the website so that you can go ahead and have the items on hand for when your dvd arrives!)  Since we didn’t need the green scrapbooking paper until the second lesson, Taylor went ahead and dove into the project the day after our dvd arrived. Of course she couldn’t wait to continue her project the next day, so we visited the craft store to purchase our variety of green paper that evening, which was a pretty fun adventure in itself! She was excited to choose different tones and shades and textures and ended up with a wonderful variety of green scrapbooking paper to work with.

Taylor continued to work on her project to completion in the next few days with 7 year old Levi helping and watching her.  She told me that she really enjoyed the art instruction because the instructor was very descriptive and gave lots of great art tips. She also gave some interesting history of  the artist Henri Rousseau and his time period and culture, and actually illustrated and described many artistic techniques and art terms so that she could understand and remember them.  She liked how the dvd was a conversational style and the teacher talked to the students and told many stories that tied in with the lesson. She said that Pat Knepley is one of the best teacher’s she’s had the pleasure to learn from.

I was very impressed with Taylor’s completed project. I watched the four lessons myself after Taylor had completed her project because I wanted her fresh opinion.  I was equally as impressed with the lessons, and began to identify with the things Taylor was telling me, and realizing what she was describing. This was a fun way to review this product for me, and gave me a very real opinion that this series of dvd’s is a perfect way to give independent study to your child. Pat shares many Bible stories and scriptures along the way as well as subtle character lessons. The art history of Henry Rousseau was taught and interwoven throughout the lessons making it a great hands-on way to learn.

I love the quality of the filming and the eye appeal of the setup. The black background, crisp artwork illustration and attention to detail made the step-by-step direction really easy to follow. The enthusiasm of the instructor and her love for art and teaching definitely shows through!

I can, with great confidence and enthusiasm recommend these See the Light Art Projects to homeschoolers and anyone who loves to have quality art instruction as well as fun projects for your children to do in your home! These would make AMAZING summer projects as well as great co-op or group projects.

I can’t wait to add more of these awesome projects to our schooldays, and am even more excited to journey into the Bible Stories that some of my other crew mates had the opportunity to review!

Taylor has chosen, of course, Horsing Around as her next project and can’t wait to get started on another adventure when it arrives.  Stay tuned for updates of more See The Light Art Projects to come from the Gunn Ranch Art Studio!! We LOVE See The Light!

Enjoy your Journey, and don’t forget to check out my crew mates’ adventures!


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He’s Here!!!

Grace’s baby boy was born at 1:30 a.m. on 3/30/2013!!

He is stunning, and amazing and perfect.

Thank you God for getting him here, keeping Grace safe and letting these girls experience the joy of their lives.

My first picture is my favorite and I can’t look at it without crying, because this is truly what it’s all about.

My girl, my Morgan girl thanking God for keeping her mare safe and bringing this beautiful boy to us…

And so begins my picture journey:

Meeting the family:

Momma Kisses:

Praise you Father for your glorious creation and allowing us to take part in such a miracle!

Enjoying the Journey!


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Levi is READING!

My heart is just doing back flips at the progress Levi is making this year!

It’s just been so hard for me to “hurry-up-and-wait” and be patient not to push him into something he wasn’t ready for when it comes to development and education.

He has always actually been pretty much “right on target” with the “standards” of  his age for whatever that really means. And pretty typical for an active on-the-move, rowdy, healthy boy.

In my heart I’ve always seen his strengths and weaknesses in learning, and my little lefty has an amazing “creative” side that is wonderful. But there are just so many pressures from all around when kids don’t progress as fast as siblings, boys differently than girls, not the same as the neighbor’s kid, or just plain don’t care to answer the questions asked of them. But homeschoolers can often times be put even more so under the microscope. And it’s hard to be the one everyone is looking at and judging as the parent-teacher. 🙂

Usually, to be real honest, I really don’t care who or whom is standing in judgement of me/us as long as I am following God. But that’s been really easy to say up to this point with my girls who have always been light-years ahead of their age and grade levels. They have always been able to speak for themselves with more than plenty to say.

But Levi, just doesn’t really care to prove anything to anyone. He is who he is, and he will progress in his own time. Not behind, but just not “striving to be in the front of the pack,” I’ve had to really work to figure out where he is, how he is learning, his particular learning styles and patterns, and how best to motivate him. He has been my challenge.

I’ve read so much on dyslexia, watched very closely for certain patterns, problems, etc. But they just aren’t there. The typical labels, aren’t there to diagnose or treat. (Thank you Lord!)

I even thought recently I’d stumbled upon something when I read about optilexia, but further research revealed that it wasn’t really relevant.

I know from years of research, common sense, and natural language interest that phonemic and phonetic sounds is really the baseline of reading and understanding language. I know in my heart that Levi’s ability to know all of the sounds the letters make, and even call the letters by their sounds instead of their names, is just his way of learning, and that things could be much worse. But when Daddy gets aggravated because he doesn’t understand why Levi can’t say the name of a letter, it has been tough to remember it’s only a season, and Levi is learning.

We’ve started so many reading programs that I lost count. He gets to a certain point, and then a wall. Just not progressing as he should, and frustration builds until he is just a school hating mess. I have just had to back off and find fun things for him to do to bring him back around.

So this year we were so very blessed to receive Primary Arts of Language Reading and Writing to review from Institute for Excellence in Writing. (Check out my review and then click over to the TOS Review Crew Blog for more if you are interested.)

This program came at the perfect time, and has been exactly what he needed.

It is so very adaptable to just where he is, with us able to move on and really get on a fast track some days, and some days focus on what seems to fit the day.

He has always loved poetry, but not so much just sitting listening to books. This program uses poetry, and short stories and he has really loved both. I LOVE to hear him recite the poetry included in this program!! I even found a book on Paperback swap of poetry for children labeled for first grade. He has really enjoyed it too.

The many facets and many different parts and pieces that all fit together make this just a phenomenal program. It combines pretty much every learning style out there, and is just amazing. The support materials, MP3 lectures, motivational and directional teacher materials are so very amazing as well.

I will always recommend PAL above and beyond any program I’ve ever seen out there from this time forward. Institute for Excellence in Writing has absolutely phenomenal products!

The first day I put a book before Levi that I had from the days when the girls were learning to read, he thought I was crazy. But I told him it’s just full of sentences, just like the ones he is reading. I’ll never forget the very moment in time that he realized he could read. It was so motivating and felt like we had reached the top of Mount Everest!

There are still days when it’s a struggle for him to concentrate and remember to slow down and breath. But once he gets focused, which seems to becoming a bit easier about half of the time now, LOL, he really begins to shine.

The other day we were following some impromptu tangent of learning the colors of the rainbow by coloring “Roy G Biv”, and then writing his name down the side of the paper and thinking of colors to make his own name into a rainbow. He called out to his sister, “Hey Taylor, come on- you are missing all the fun!!”

I never thought I’d hear that from him, LOL, my boy who just wants to make forts and shoot guns all day!

I just have to keep reminding myself, they are only little once. Let him enjoy it.

And here is Levi showing that his bottom two teeth are FINALLY loose!  He is in no hurry to pull them out either, LOL. Everything comes in it’s own time, in it’s own way. 🙂

Life is Good at Gunn Ranch Academy!

Enjoy your Journey,