Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Our Homeschool Technology Unit

Christopher finished up his BookShark science a few weeks ago and we were in limbo about what to do next - get the next BookShark science? Jump right into high school biology, since he is finishing up his eighth grade year? I was leaning towards the latter, but then decided  I just didn't have time to plan and research such a thing this time of year.... so together we decided on a mini technology unit.

 The  plan is to have him work through the following three resources for about 10 weeks.

  • The Way Things Work Now ~ What a fun book! All of the diagrams, explanations, and illustrations are right up his alley. He reads several pages a week (a bit each day) and then just tells me what he read about.

  • Can You Feel the Force? - Like the book above, this one is full of color ~ but with photos instead of illustrations. The two books go quite well together. Christopher picks up whichever book he feels like reading that day and then just tells me what he read about.

  • Snap Circuits - For some hands-on fun, I picked up a snap circuits kit. We have never used these in our homeschool, though I have always meant to give them a try. The plan is to spend an hour a week or so playing around with the kit. I purchased a Snap Circuit student guide from Rainbow Resource to help flesh out the experiments. Tomorrow we'll be our first day experimenting with this, and I'm excited to see how it goes! 

And that's our simple technology unit to round out Christopher's eighth grade year of science. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Rowing Harold and the Purple Crayon {FIAR}

One more Five in a Row post, and then I think I'll be caught up! We are currently rowing Owl Moon, at a very slow pace. But this post is all about our recent row of Harold and the Purple Crayon. This is such a unique story ~ but at first I considered skipping it. I thought it might be too "young" for Rose due to the limited text and sparse illustrations, but I am so glad I didn't! Turns out, there is a lot to get out of this little picture book, at any age.

Here's what we did!

*Language Arts*

  • We discussed the progressive setting of this book ~ which is what makes the story so fun, because Harold actually creates his settings as he goes...with his trusty purple crayon. Rose began making her own purple crayon story, which I thought was a really neat idea, but she lost interest partway through. I stored it on her school shelf just in case she ever feels like going back to it. 
  • We spent a few minutes chuckling over the humorous aspects of this story ~ puns, and things like that. For example, when Harold gets in bed at the end of the story, he draws up the covers...with his crayon! When he is done sailing, he literally "makes land".

  • One of the illustrations in the book gave us a reason to discuss vanishing point ~ the technique of making a road or path look like it disappears into the distance. We tried the technique out on a piece of scrap paper (not shown here!).

  • We also discussed the technique of foreshortening ~ making something look closer in an illustration, This was used in the illustration of the pies Harold set out for his picnic. 

  • As suggested in the manual, we tried this technique out with a piece of string to make a foreshortened circle....

  • Rose has been working on her multiplication tables this year, so I was pleased to see the idea in the FIAR manual to practice multiplying with pieces of pie. We looked at the picture where Harold has five pies set out, and I asked her how many pieces there would be in total if each pie was divided into 2 pieces, 3  pieces, 4 pieces, etc. In this way, we reviewed the entire fives table. Then, we did the same for the illustration of nine pies and the nines table. 
  • We also got in a fractions lesson with this fun, printable pizza pie game. She played this several times - with me, then with her brothers and her dad. 


  • I had her list all the ways she could remember that Harold traveled in the story, then we brainstormed other ways he could have traveled. This was an idea from the FIAR manual. For the record, Rose's favorite way to travel is by horse;). 
  • Harold climbs a hill at one point to figure out where he is, and we discussed how this is something you can do if you are lost...but I stressed that staying put if you are lost may make better sense, depending on the circumstances. 
  • The manual suggested doing a review of the phases of the moon. We decided to do this with cookies! The printable is here. This girl loves Oreos, so naturally, this was right up her alley!

*More Fun*

  • We decided to have a pie-themed dinner to wrap up this row. Rose helped her Dad make two chicken pot-pies and a blueberry pie ~ with a lattice crust ~ for dessert. 

And that wraps up our row of Harold and the Purple Crayon! I believe we will be finishing up Owl Moon tomorrow; I have just a couple little activities I want to get in, like dissecting some owl pellets! And then we'll be moving on to When I Was Young in the Mountains

Till next time!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Mid-Year Update: Homeschooling Tenth Grade

One last "mid-year" update ~ I believe I will be ready soon to start sharing what we have planned for next year's homeschooling curriculum.

So, Grace is in tenth grade this year, which is both exciting and a little scary. I alternate between thinking things are going great and just being absolutely paranoid that we are not doing enough and that she will not be ready, whatever that means. I am starting to plan in earnest for college prep and it's honestly freaking me out quite a bit. I am going to try to do more posting on high school/college stuff as I go along and try to figure things out.  For now I'll just say, it's both easier and harder than I expected.

You can see Grace's original tenth grade plans here.

Grace is working mostly on her own now. Her general routine is a morning of independent work starting a bit before 9, followed by lunch, then our group reading, after which I discuss her work with her, go over her readings, and just generally prod/nag her in the right direction. Then she does more independent work before she finishes around 2:30. In a perfect world, we would do longer hours, because this isn't usually enough time to get everything in. But, she is very involved at her barn and with a couple of other activities, plus I like for her to have some just "being" time. So, we do what we can.

Writing Strands Level 6  - This is going super slowly for her. I'm not really sure why. She took off the month of November and did Nanowrimo. She has only done a (not-quite) handful of writing projects this year besides that. She tends to be a slow, careful writer though, and she does work on her current project most days. I gave her a choice this year of working on a history or science paper if she doesn't care for the assignment from Writing Strands. Sometimes, the assignment just seems too similar to something she has already done. So one month, for example, she wrote a paper on Elizabeth Cady Stanton instead of working on the next WS assignment. 

Vocabulary from Classical Roots D - This is finished for the year, and she'll pick up a different vocabulary program next year, probably Wordly Wise.

Analytical Grammar's High School Review and Reinforcement - Having finished all three seasons of Analytical Grammar, she does one review sheet every other week. This is going well for her.

Teaching Textbooks Algebra 2 - This is also going well. And I can't even tell you what a relief it is that she understands the algebra and I don't have to try to explain it to her! She generally completes one lesson per day, though some she needs to stretch over two days. I expect she will have to work through the summer on this to finish it up in time to begin geometry next year.

The Thinking Toolbox - (copying this from her brother's update) -We currently do this as our lunchtime reading. It works very well for this because there is about five minutes of material I have to read in the beginning, and then we go over the discussion questions while we eat.  I have been very pleased with this program. It's neat to see the kids apply lessons they learned in it to real life - especially with all the political talk lately!

BookShark American History 100 - She is just about to finish this program up ~ probably in another week ~ and then she will move on to Sonlight Core 300. I debated long and hard about what to do after BKSK 100, but since there are no further BookShark levels out, back to Sonlight it is.This way of learning just works for us, and I don't want to reinvent the wheel at this point.  She will carry Core 300 into next year.  I plan to do a review of 100 in the coming weeks, but for now I'll just say that while Grace was often annoyed at the tone and content of the notes in her student guide, she very much enjoyed Hakim's History of US and I am very pleased with her knowledge of American history.

Chemistry - We ended up dropping Design Through Chemistry partway through and replacing it with this homemade chemistry program. It's a better fit, but progress has been slow and I often feel like I am bugging her to "just get some chemistry done please!" I'm thinking finishing up this program will be a summer project as well.

Ouino Spanish - Grace enjoys this program much more than Rosetta Stone, which she finished up last year. But we both agree that doing a course at a community college next year feels necessary to truly study the langauge. I would love to do some more Latin study with her pre-college, but I am just not sure we have time. Still, it will be something to think about it as I plan for next year.

Artistic Pursuits Senior High Book 1 - She has created a lot of really awesome drawings from this book this year and has been pleased with the ideas in this book. She often puts her own spin on things.

And I think that's it! If you want to see my previous mid-year updates you can see them here:

My third grader
My sixth grader
My eighth grader

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Mid-Year Update: Homeschooling Eighth Grade

We are a bit past the mid-point of our year (week 23 this week!) but I want to do a quick update on how eighth grade is going this year for Christopher. You can see Christopher's original eighth grade plans here. We made a few tweaks to that original plan, because, well, I just tend to tweak things as the year goes on. Christopher does most of his work independently, but I check in with him throughout the day to go over his lessons and readings with him.

So, here's a few thoughts and notes about how things are going!

  • Analytical Grammar - We were able to finish up season 3 ~ and thus, the entire Analytical Grammar program ~ shortly after the holidays. Yay! Currently, Christopher does one review exercise every other week using Analytical Grammar's High School Review and Reinforcement book. There are a few of these to choose from, all different themes. He chose American Authors. While he does not enjoy the days he has a review, he definitely enjoys being "done" with learning new grammar for the rest of his school days. 
  • Writing Strands Level 4 - This program is working well. Christopher is currently working on assignment ten, about halfway through the book. He does the bulk of this program independently, but I try to check in with him every other day, just to make sure he understands the assignment and is keeping up. For his last assignment, he drew up a floor plan of our house, which I thought was a really neat and different assignment. Currently, he is using that floor plan to write a short description of our house. 
  • Typing Instructor - He uses this program for about 10-15 minutes a day. He enjoys it and it is definitely increasing his typing speed. The plan is to have him approach 40 words per minute with decent accuracy before quitting formal typing instruction. 
  •  Wordly Wise Book 8 - This is going really well. Let me tell you, we get complaints in this house about programs (crazy, right??) and I  have not heard one single complaint about this program since we started. That's saying something. WW takes only a few minutes each day, and I am amazed at how well he actually retains the vocabulary. I'm planning to use this program for my next two coming along. 
  • Teaching Textbooks 8 - Christopher is plugging along in math. He is a bit behind on his lessons, but I think just a bit of math over the summer will get him caught up. I cannot claim math is his most favorite subject! But using TT has definitely made things easier for me. It greatly reduces my stress to have my often-frustrated-with-math kid taught more by the computer than me. Of course, I am still on hand to clear up any misunderstandings and make sure he gets it. But TT has done wonders for making our day just a bit more relaxed. 
  • The Thinking Toolbox - We currently do this as our lunchtime reading. It works very well for this because there is about five minutes of material I have to read in the beginning, and then we go over the discussion questions while we eat.  I have been very pleased with this program. It's neat to see the kids apply lessons they learned in it to real life - especially with all the political talk lately!
  • BookShark World History Part 2 -  As planned, we recently finished this level up and began BookShark American History 100 (just last week actually!). Now that he is using BKSK 100, the discussion questions have ramped up in number and depth, so we spend more time going over things each day. There was a bit of a learning curve for him (and me!) the first few days as we figured out how best to have him use this program. We settled on having him read, look over the discussion questions in his student guide, then discuss them with me. If he misses something, I have him re-read that section. BKSK offers timeline suggestions for many of the readings; we pick and choose from these to add to his timeline book. BKSK also has a lot of mapping ~ students are supposed to label several areas of a map for each reading. I think this is a great idea, in theory. But it adds a lot of work to the day, and my kids' geography sense is actually quite good from previous Sonlight/BookShark levels. So instead of labeling everything, I present him with the blank map and he points out the locations to me.  If it is an obscure location, I show him where it is on my answer key.
Note: To this program, I have recently added a few things ~ a family read-aloud, family poetry instead of the assigned BookShark poetry, and a family history study for my three older kids to do together. To fit this in, I tweak Christopher's BKSK readings a bit. His daily reading generally includes a literature selection, reading from one of the History of US books, and a historical fiction selection. If the day gets too long, he can choose between the history readings for that day. 
  • BookShark Science 6 - Christopher finished the second half of this recently. I have mixed feelings about it. Some of the readings were good, some were a bit complex. It was kind of a strange mix of things that felt a bit young for the recommended age range and things that felt too involved. The experiments were a mix of things that sounded fun but didn't work out, things that worked well, and things that he had already done several years ago. I had originally planned on having him start BKSK Science 7, but given that he will be moving into high school science next year, we have decided to have him finish out this year with a fun technology unit. I'll write a separate post on how we are doing that.
  • Duolingo - To be honest, we have not focused as much on foreign language this year as I would have liked. There is only so  much time in the day, and this is one area I chose to sacrifice a bit. He putters around for 15 minutes a day on Duolingo Spanish, and for this year, that is enough. 
  • Drawing Lab He is using this alongside James this year and has done a lot of great projects. I very much like this resource. I recently added in Creative Photography Lab for both boys because they love taking pictures. 
So - Christopher's eighth grade year is going well! I am seeing a deeper level of understanding and discussion ability,  and a greater ability to work independently. My experience has been that my boys are slower to mature in these areas than my girls, but maturing they are, slowly but steadily. 

One more "mid-year" update coming up soon! I can't believe it, but it is almost time to start posting about next year's plans!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Rowing The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge {FIAR}

I have two Five in a Row adventures to catch you up on (our current "row" is Owl Moon). First up is our row of The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. This is one of those picture books that just about screams "classic" to me. It's a story about a little red lighthouse that is proud of the important role it plays, until the Great Gray Bridge takes over its job...or does it?

Here's what we did!

*Social Studies*

  • This book takes place in New York City, so we found NYC on our map. Rose has been to New York City, but she was just a toddler, so she doesn't remember! But I told her about some of my favorite sights. As a side-note, we were also reading The Cricket in Times Square around this time ~ a completely unplanned, but wonderful coincidence!
  • The FIAR manual recommended the book My New York as a go-along book, so I decided to splurge and purchase a copy. I am so glad I did. This book is lavishly illustrated, with so many little details...it's the kind of book you can pore over and find something different each time. I read through it with Rose, and then she had fun finding the little orange cat in each illustration. I LOVE this book!

  • The back cover flap of the Little Red Lighthouse tells a bit about the true Little Red Lighthouse and how it was saved. I read the information with Rose, and I am actually hoping to plan a trip to see the real Little Red Lighthouse this spring, since it's only a few hours from us!
  • We discussed pride, using the notes in the  manual. The Little Red Lighthouse is described as being VERY VERY PROUD (yes, in all caps). We talked about what made him proud and at what point he goes a bit far in his pride (good lessons here!). 
  • As suggested in the manual, we discussed why it is wrong to jump to conclusions. The lighthouse reached the unfortunate conclusion that he wasn't wanted anymore, when in reality, a logical explanation exists. 

*Language Arts*

  • This book, like our previous row of Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, provided a good opportunity to review personification, both in the text of the story and in the illustrations....
  • We discussed how balanced the title is ~ two phrases balanced with "and". Something I would not have thought to point out!
  • We looked for and found several compound words in the story.


  • As suggested in the manual, I had Rose search the illustrations for the one that showed the most contrast in size between the little lighthouse and the great bridge...we agreed that the last illustration was best...
  • I pointed out the repeating lines used in many of the illustrations ~ in the bridge cables, fences, and more. 
  • We discussed how the artist indicated that it was night - just a bit of blue shading and a couple of stars can do the trick! Then, she made her own nighttime picture. 

  • We noticed how there are really only three colors used throughout the illustrations, but how they are enough to make the story come alive. 

  • There was a long and interesting section on rivers in the manual, so I shared a few facts with her. I thought about doing a proper river study, but decided to keep things simple. 
  • We talked about the job of lighthouses ~ we live in New England so we have seen many lighthouses ~ in fact, during this row we took a daytrip to Nubble Light, one of our favorites. It was an absolutely beautiful day!
  • Then, for fun, we made our own Little Red Lighthouse, following these directions.

So cute!
*More Fun*

  • We made one of the recipes from the Five in a Row cookbook for this story ~ the foccacia bread. We had it with lasagna, baked from our favorite recipe, rather than the one in the cookbook. 

The bread was a bit hit! My next FIAR post will be all about our recent row of Harold and the Purple Crayon. And just as a reminder, you can click on the tab at the top of this blog to see all of our FIAR adventures to date. 

Thanks for stopping by!