Saturday, August 28, 2010

Our First Night of Stargazing

The goals:
  • Locate Ursa Major, the Little Dipper and Polaris
  • Play with the homemade telescope
  • Look at a planet through DH's telescope

Around 8:00, DH set up the telescope on the back porch (after some minor grumbling about advance notice next time). We found Venus, and everyone got a turn looking at is through the telescope. We watched a few airplanes and saw a satellite and what I believe was the International Space Station before the kids started getting restless because it wasn't getting dark fast enough, so we headed back inside and passed the time reading The Sky is Full of Stars by Branley and Zoo in the Sky by Mitton. About 8:45 we headed out front and found the Big Dipper. The rest of the constellation was down below the tree line. I explained again how to find Polaris. At first we could only see a few of the stars in the Little Dipper, but it finally got dark enough to see it. The kids didn't want to stop with 2 constellations, so I found Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Draco, and finally Aquila. We turned the telescope south when the kids spotted a red star, Antares, in the constellation Scorpio. (Thank goodness we read that second book so I new what we were looking at!) We couldn't see the tail of the constellation for the trees but had a good view of the front half. The kids had a blast and asked to do it again tonight.

After all the kids were down, I convinced DH to come back out with me for a bit so we could locate some more things for the kids to see next time. We found Jupiter with it's four largest moons and a couple more constellations. I looked up the location of Mars and will go out and look for it tonight. Now I just need to change up the lesson plans to introduce more than two constellations next week to keep up with the kid's curiosity.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Week 2: Ramping Up

I have to say overall it's been a great week! I found a few places where I'm going to need to tweak the schedule over the weekend, and I had to scramble once or twice to get something together that I had forgotten. (I really could have sworn I printed those timeline figures over the weekend, but they weren't in my history file.) It wasn't a perfect week, but the days went by smoothly and we got an almost full load of work done. Here's our week with lots of pictures.


Jessie got off to a bumpy start this week. Her math assignment in the IP book was a disaster on Monday, and she was not happy with me when I said we needed to back up and redo the first unit. We spent Tuesday to Friday taking a second try at the textbook and workbook pages. Rather than follow the textbook lessons, I looked at the concept and taught it my own way using a dry erase board and simply illustrations to make sure that she could visualize what we were doing. The workbook exercises went much better with no more than one correction needed, and she scored a 97% on her practice page in the textbook, which I grade as a quiz.

Violet continued on with the first unit. This week's focus was on factors and multiples. We discussed a few shortcuts for finding factors: even numbers always having 2 as a factor, adding the numbers and dividing by 3 to see if 3 is a factor, and numbers ending in 5 or 0 having 5 as a factor. We also discussed common factors and common multiples. It took Violet some extra time a couple of days because she hasn't mastered all of her multiplication facts yet, but she did very well over all. For math drill, we're working on increasing her speed of computation with her addition facts. This requires not only recollection of the facts, but also greater concentration on her part (no daydreaming or zoning out). The latter has been more difficult for her. We moved her math drill time to first thing in the morning, and that seems to have helped.
Benny and I worked on unit 3 this week in the 1A textbook and workbook. We practiced writing addition number sentences, looked at how number bonds and addition sentences are related, and practiced filling in various parts of each. I haven't added in his Miquon text yet, but I'll look over it this weekend and try to decide where the best place to restart him will be.


Jessie completed another lesson in SWO H successfully. I was a little worried after all the spelling mistakes she made completing the exercises, but apparently that had more to do with a lack of concentration than anything else. In grammar, we did finally hit a new topic for the year. We defined clauses and compared them to sentences and fragments. We also had a refresher on types of sentences. Nothing new hear except the terminology (interrogative sentence instead of question, etc.). The R&S writing assignment was to write a set of directions, and she completed the end of unit review exercises on Friday. In literature this week, Jessie read Beowulf: A New Telling by Nye. On Friday, we filled in a story chart from Teaching the Classics and discussed some of the Socratic questions relating to the protagonist. For Classical Writing, her model was "Scylla and Charybdis", which was rearranged and written by starting in the middle.

Violet continues to work with subjects and predicates in R&S 4. This week some of the simple subjects were noun phrases instead of just nouns or pronouns. She also had to write a paragraph describing something that she could see. In spelling, she worked on lesson 2; however, she missed 5 words on her spelling test so we'll stay on lesson 2 again next week. For CW, she rewrote the fable "The Fox and the Grapes" and illustrated it. For literature, she's been reading 2 chapters a day from Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by O'Brien and narrating it orally.

Benny drew a blank on Monday when we tried the review of the the digraphs -sh, -th, and -ch/-tch in Phonics Pathways. We spent the week going back through that section of the book and will retry the review page on Monday. In Explode the Code, he completed lesson 2 this week. He also read books 6 to 10 in the Bob A1 series. For handwriting we finished our review of individual letter on Friday. Monday, we'll have a try at straight copywork and see how it goes. For literature, we're reading 2 chapters from Little Pilgrim's Progress by Taylor and 1 chapter from Mystery Ranch by Warner daily. We also read extra picture books from history or science, which I'll list below.


Jessie's history focus this week was the Celts. We discussed the first 2 commentaries in TruthQuest on Monday, (and I learned not to try this on the fly so I'll be making notes for next week). She read the first 15 chapters of The Story of the Middle Ages by Miller and two chapters from The Celts of Northern Europe by Hinds. On the map below, she labeled the geographic features of Europe that appeared in the first couple of chapters of the Miller book. There's a family tree tracing the Celts, Gauls, and Britons by to Noah and an outline of chapter 4 of the Miller book on the Druids.
The second map shows the distribution of the Celts at their largest point. Below that from left to right are the notes she took on the Britons, a timeline of the major events in Celtic history, and a list of classes in Gallic society in order from Druids to slaves. After a discussion on Wednesday, she wrote the essay on the right hand page to pull together all of her notes for the week. Paragraph 1 is an introduction telling who the Celts are and what they were like. Paragraph 2 covers their beliefs. The third paragraph covers the different roles in society, while the last explains how the society changed under the Romans. It's not a perfect essay, but it's a good start for the year and a step up from what I required last year.
Violet, Benny and I read unit 1 of The Story of the World 2: The Middle Ages covering the later Roman Empire and the fall of Rome. We also read 3 chapters from Peril and Peace by Withrow covering Augustine of Hippo, John Chrysostom, and Jerome and the Vulgate. All of this reading was narrated orally to me and written down for their notebooks. Violet also read 4 chapters from Famous Men of the Middle Ages covering Alaric the Visigoth, Attila the Hun, Genseric the Vandal, and Theodoric the Ostrogoth. She completed a brief written narrations on each, and I promised her this was the only week she would have 4 written narrations. She also read Life in Ancient Rome by Mehta-Jones. For Violet's map, I took the map from student page 1 of the SOTW Activity Guide and removed most of the labels since I felt it was much too easy in its original form.

For Benny's map, we followed the instructions in the activity guide of coloring the Mediterranean Sea, circling Rome, and tracing the outline of the Roman empire. For him, the mapwork was perfect, (and he enjoyed it. YEAH!!) Both of them also had a smaller version of student page 2 coloring page of the barbarian. Benny informed me his face was red from blood where he had been fighting, so I asked about the green leg. He said that he just felt like making it that color. Benny and I read several picture books on Rome this week including: Rome: in spectacular cross-section by Biesty, If I Were a Kid in Ancient Rome by Sheldon, and The Best Book of Ancient Rome by Murrell.
We also did **2** hands-on projects this week. (Adding fun hands-on to history for Benny is the main reason we've added SOTW to our normal TruthQuest history. On Tuesday, we tried making Roman pillars. The dough recipe in the activity book was really crumbly. I'll stick with my own cookie cutout recipe next time. Instead of rolling out pillars, we carefully squeeze and stretched them, then drew lines using toothpicks.
I thought it would be fun to actually build something with the pillar cookies, so I cut off one end to stand the cookies up and added a graham cracker roof. The kids liked the result, and it was delicious.
On Thursday, we tried eating like Roman soldiers. I prepped the vegetables. Violet and Benny took turns assembling the burger, onions, carrots, and potatoes. It wasn't totally authentic. Aside from the aluminum foil, I cooked the packets on the grill, and we used plates and silverware to eat so no one burned their fingers. Everyone enjoyed the food.

Timeline figures for the girls included: Alaric, Attila, Genseric, Theodoric, Augustine, Chrysostom, and Jerome. Jessie will actually read about them next week, but it is easier to keep the timeline figure together.


Jessie had a blast with science this week. Monday and Tuesday, she made an edible cell following the directions in the Apologia anatomy and physiology book. (Note to self: Next time take it out of the container and take a picture immediately before the candy coatings start dissolving.) It's not the most educational project, but she had a lot of fun.
She also completely a vocabulary crossword that I created for chapter one and took a test that I printed from the files in the author's Yahoo group. She scored a 105%. Yeah! I was glad to see how much she learned. She finished writing up her speculation sheet from our mummified apple experiment started last week.
On Thursday and Friday, Jessie started lesson 2 on the skeletal system. She filled in an outline detailing what bones do and what makes them strong, wrote a paragraph on the structure and function of the different parts of a bone (which I just noticed needs a bit of editing), and completed a model bone using The Body Book.

In astronomy, we did a demonstration to explain why we have seasons using our Thames & Kosmos Space Exploration kit. I had diagrams in the girl's notebooks to label the seasons, solstices, and equinoxes and a booklet for Benny to simply label the seasons. We read about telescope in God's Design Our Universe, and answered questions in either notebooks or booklets. The girl's summarized Galileo in their notebooks. Benny and I read Starry Messenger by Sis and Galileo: Scientist and Stargazer by Mitton. We also read the introductory chapter for the unit on stars with questions/booklet.

Our hands-on activities for the week included making a telescope using the T&K kit and a planetarium using a shoe box. (The latter idea I borrowed off another homeschooling blog.) Basically, there is a larger hole for our constellation and a smaller hole for the flashlight. We introduced 2 constellations this week: the Little Dipper (Yes, I know that's technically not a constellation.) and Ursa Major. The kids each have a set of constellation cards to label and connect the dots using Find the Constellations by Rey on one side, and they have a picture of just the stars on the other side. I'm hoping we can use them to review and play some games with once we're a little further along. I made a larger version of the pictures for our planetarium and had the kids punch holes with a push pin. The plan is to go out tonight and try to find the constellations and hopefully use our telescope to look at Mars while we're there.


Jessie tried the beginner level of the Sheppard software game on Europe. I forgot about the smaller countries like Malta, so she had a really hard time. Violet built our Europe puzzle again. We'll try the software again in a month or so.


Jessie finished LfC C lesson 1, which was grammar review with some new vocabulary and 10 more pages of The Greek Code Cracker. Violet completed lesson 1 in LfC A.


Jessie's assignment for the week from Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain was to draw her hand.
Benny wanted to make something with the pipe cleaners I bought last week for Jessie's DNA molecule. He made a catepillar. Violet made a flower. Jessie joined in and made a trellis with a grape vine.


Henry and I read random books this week of his choosing for the most part. I need to be a little more structured about having activities to keep him busy when he is playing along or with me. One way he entertained himself this week was by drawing. The result was a typical 2yo picture, but he told me that he drew Rabbit and honey pots. I just thought he was really cute. He's also been humming Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star all week in perfect pitch.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Week 1 - Getting Started

We got off to a bumpy start as each of us is trying to adjust to the new schedule and learn what we're supposed to be doing. (Some of us are just trying to adjust to using our brains at 7:30 in the morning.) Overall it's been a great week. We haven't started literature, history, or new Latin; but everything else in well underway. Here what we accomplished.


Jessie completed dig 1 in The Hidden Treasures of Philippians. Violet completed week 1 in Wrong Way, Jonah. Benny and I (sometimes with Henry and sometimes without Henry) read the first 5 stories in Egermeier's Bible Story Book and completed the comprehension questions in the back of the book orally for each story. I'm hoping to start a family Bible time in the next week or so once I get organized.

Jessie started her Singapore 6A books this week with an introduction to algebra. Basically she practiced writing equations with a letter in place of a number, simplified a few equations (aka 3x+4x-2=7x-2), and solved the equations when given a value for the variable. She finished the first unit in the textbook and workbook on Thursday and started the corresponding section in the IP book on Friday. In CWP, she is working on the review problems at the end of the CWP 5.

Violet began her Singapore 4A series with a unit on numbers to 100,000. She wrote numbers from words and vice versa, identified the number in a specific place (ie. tens, thousands), and explained the value of each digit in a number. She also learned to round to the nearest tens place or hundreds place. In CWP 3, I decided to restart from the beginning and really focus on drawing the diagrams correctly. She finished the first section on Thursday and started the second unit on Friday.

Benny and I decided to back up in the 1A book. I want to make sure that he has mastered the concepts and give him some more practice before we get to the 1B books. This week we started with unit 2 on number bonds. It was a little easy for him, but it was a great confidence booster. We actually did double lessons for the first few days so we finished the entire unit in the textbook and workbook. Some of the work I had him write, and other pages we did orally. Next week we'll move on the IP book and start back into the Miquon Orange book again.
In spelling, Jessie picked up in SWO H on lesson 19 and scored a 100 on her first test. Grammar was all review this week covering complete subjects, simple subjects, complete predicates, and simple predicates. The only new twist was the addition of prepositional phrases between the subject and verb. Most days I just had Jessie complete the corresponding worksheet for the lesson and skipped the exercises in the books. In CW, we've started level 6 which has the student rewrite a model by starting in the middle of the action and then going back to explain the previous events.

Violet started SWO F this year. I've slowed the pace down to one lesson a week because I don't think she'll be ready for the level G book this year. We also started some daily dictation practice which we can also use to discuss spelling and punctuation. I tried having her write the dictation in cursive this week, and she kept stopping to ask me how to write different letters. I think we'll add some cursive copywork in for at least the first part of the year and gradually try to shift to more and more of the work being written in cursive. In CW, she analyzed, rewrote, and illustrated "The Goose with the Golden Eggs". Her grammar lessons have also covered sentences, subjects, and predicates.

Benny and I have been reviewing in Phonics Pathways this week. We did review lessons for the 3 letter words, words ending in double consonants, words ending in -ck, and words ending in -y. We did a random page in the Pyramid book one day for a break. He's been reading one Bob book each day from the A1 series to work on fluency. We've also added Explode the Code this year to give him more phonics practice. We've started in book 1 so the lessons are a nice easy review for him. For handwriting, we spent Monday and Tuesday writing out the alphabet. I made a few more corrections to his letter writing than I expected, so we're going through the alphabet at a pace of 3 letters a day. This way I can make notes of which letters need more practice before we start copywork.


Jessie and Violet each built our Europe puzzle. Benny had a try with our LeapPad geography book, but it was a little much. I think I'll have him try one of the games on the Shepherd software pages next week.


Jessie started Apologia's Exploring Creation with Anatomy and Physiology. I'm having her do a combination of making vocabulary cards, writing summaries, and outlining. This week she typed a summary of the history of anatomy and physiology, wrote out a scientific speculation sheet for the mummified apple experiment, outlined the information on cells, drew a sketch of a cell, and made a model DNA molecule using pipe cleaners and beads.

Everyone started God's Design: Our Universe together this week. I've created notebooks for the girls that include the review questions for each lesson, the student worksheets and quizzes, a few scientific speculation sheets, and a few notebooking pages for famous astronomers. Benny is doing a lapbook I put together. For lesson 1 he wrote astronomy on the front of a booklet and drew different things that astronomers study on the inside. For lessons 2 and 3, I typed the key information in the booklet. We had fun with the gravity experiment in lesson 2. In lesson 3, (for Benny's sake) we acted out rotating and revolving. I stood in the middle and called out either rotate or revolve, and the kids had to switch back and forth. There were lots of giggles and a few crashes. They actually did really well at the end when we tried both at the same time.

Our extra books for the week were: Maria's Comet by Hopkinson, I Fall Down by Cobb, Nicolaus Copernicus by Fradin, and What Makes Day and Night by Branley.
Jessie started Greek this week using The Greek Alphabet Code Cracker by Classical Academic Press. She's having a great time with it. We've also been reviewing Latin vocabulary from LfC A and B as well as chants from LfC B.
Jessie completed the preinstruction self-portrait in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. (She didn't want me to post her picture. Violet and Benny wanted to fingerpaint, so I set out the supplies and just let them have fun.

Henry's theme for the week was farmers. We read: Big Red Barn by Brown, Farmer Brown Goes Round and Round and Farmer Brown Shears His Sheep by Sloat, and Old MacDonald Had a Farm by Pearson (which naturally we sang) along with any other books he picked out for the day.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

Our First School Day

There is still prep work to be done. Literature selections to be made, and a room rescue needed for poor Henry's room which has been buried in curriculum, papers, and library books for two months now. Still, I decided we're going to get started with what we have. If I waited until everything is perfectly ready, then we would probably never start.

How did it go?

I personally got off to a slow start. Sleeping on the sofa with a wiggly Henry (with a stuffy nose) is not conducive to getting up early. I did manage to get Benny's Bible reading in before Curious George. Violet was off and running, asking for subjects before it was time for them. Jessie managed to get to her science book by 7:30 with a little prodding, but I don't think her brain actually engage until 8:30 or so. Luckily for Jessie and me, I decided to wait a week to start history and literature because we didn't have all of the library books for history, and I hadn't even decided what books to start Violet and Benny on for literature. So we used history time to catch up. (Jessie finished science and math, while I ran to town and got the girls' astronomy notebooks spiral bound and picked up a few items that got missed when the weekend shopping lists were made.) After lunch, I did not succeed in getting Henry to sleep for his nap. (He woke up every single time I tried to leave the room and shut the door.) I finally gave up, and we did science around 2. We got ready to go to the lake for a couple hours just in time for the sky to darken and the thunder to start. Oh, well. Some days are like that. We'll try for the lake again tomorrow.

It wasn't a perfect school day (Do those actually exist?), but it wasn't a total loss either. We got all the school work done. Most of the schedule was followed in order. We'll try again tomorrow and do the best we can. In the end, that's really all I can ask for anyway.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

We Have a SCHEDULE!!!!

Here's a look at the first draft of our school schedule for the upcoming year. Hopefully I've learned enough over the past couple of years that we won't have to make many alterations. With Benny's first grade work and some of our more teacher intensive curriculum selections, I've had to lengthen my school day by an hour. I'm really going to miss that extra hour of quiet in the afternoon. I may try to squeeze in a little more phonicsin Benny's afternoon literature slot. We'll see how it goes.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Sword and the Stone by White, Book 21 of 52 in 52

The Sword in the Stone by White is the first book in a series of four which together form the work The Once and Future King. The first book is a fanciful retelling of the early life of King Arthur as a boy in Sir Ector's castle. A poor decision to go out hawking with Kay leads him on his first quest in which he discovers his tutor Merlin. Under Merlin's teaching, he embarks on a variety of adventures sometimes as a boy and other times as a fish, a hawk, a badger, or some other animal until finally he heads to London where Kay is to participate in a tournament and pulls out the sword in the stone to become king.

I have mixed feelings about the story overall. (This might possibly be the first time I like a movie better than the original book.) At some points, it is excruciatingly detailed about medieval life with accurate descriptions of topics such as castle life and falconry which can either be fascinating or tedious depending on your level of interest. At other points it can be hilariously funny such as the chapter detailing the battle between King Pellinore and Sir Grummore. Merlin's lessons are generally interesting although there are several Darwinian style arguments spattered throughout the text which I personally found irritating. I wouldn't recommend it for anyone under 11. It will definitely be one of the more challenging literature selections for Jessie this upcoming year. (I think I may have to break down and assign some vocabulary along with this one, which will end up helping both of our understandings.)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Lantern Bearers by Sutcliff, Week 20 of 52 in 52

Dangerous times are beginning in Britain as the last of the Roman legions is pulled out. Aquila, a young Roman officer, must choose his loyalties between Rome and Britain. A last minute decision finds him alone on British soil as his legion pulls out. He returns to his family only to fight futilely as everything that he loves is destroyed by the Saxons. For three years, he serves as a slave with his only the thought of finding his sister giving him reason to live on. Their reunion was not at all as imagined. His sister has married a Saxon and chooses to stay with her new people instead of escaping with Aquila, who is filled with bitterness by her choice. It is only after years of fighting under Ambrosius against Vortigern and the Saxons that Aquila is able to gradually let go of his bitterness and create a new life for himself through the help of others.

The Lantern Bearers by Sutcliff has all of the elements of a great story: a struggling hero juxtaposed with a stirring fight for freedom and survival of a land against savage invaders and internal conflict. I had originally planned to preview the book simply for a bit of historical fiction for Jessie but have decided instead to make it one of her literature selections for the year. Jessie will love the book simply because of the glimpses of Artos, Ambrosius' nephew, (aka the real King Arthur). As far as content, I would recommend the book for 6th grade and up as younger readers will have a hard time understanding the internal struggles of Aquila. It would also make a great intro into a study of King Arthur by presenting a more historically accurate figure than the King Arthur of legend with his 14th century manners and customs.