Wednesday, March 30, 2011

WW: Jessie's 12th Birthday

 Twelve candles on a Devil's Food cake with chocolate fudge icing.  Yummy!
 She got marbles, bubble soap, and green playdough from her siblings;
was so excited to get the Lord of the Rings trilogy that she hugged the books; and
beamed from ear to ear to receive a chess set to play.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Silver on the Tree - Book 10, 52 in 52

Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper is the final book in "The Dark is Rising" sequence.  Will returns to Wales to meet Bran, Merriman, and the three Drew children for the final quest before the rising of the Dark.  It is their task to recover the crystal sword from the Lost City, the last of the ancient weapons needed by the Light for the final battle.  The dark conspires to hold Merriman up, and Will and Bran must travel to the Lost City alone while Merriman protects the Drew children.  With the sword in hand, Bran takes his rightful place in the final battle as both Light and Dark strive to reach the magic of the midsummer tree at the appointed time for the one who cuts its flower in the moment of bloom will hold the power to send the other out of time forever.

Another excellent book in this series that I would recommend for ages 11 and up.  The book draws the sequence full circle back to the Arthurian legends upon which it began as the Old Ones battle the Dark in the first great battle in the time of Arthur and the last great battle in the present time.  These books are going on my Don't Miss list for all of the kids when they are old enough.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Grey King - Book 9, 52 in 52

The Grey King by Susan Cooper is the fourth book in "The Dark is Rising" sequence.  Young Will is sent off to Wales to rest and recover after a severe illness.  He wanders over the sheep farm struggling to make his mind remember what he has forgotten in his illness until he meets Bran and his dog Cafall.  Then his memory returns, and he realizes again that he is one of the Old Ones and that it is not mere chance that has brought him to Wales.  It is Will's quest to find the harp that will awaken the six sleepers before the coming of the dark for the last final battle.  This time he must tackle the quest without Merriman and apply all of the learning he has acquired.  He's not completely alone for Bran and Cafall become part of quest, although for Bran it is a quest not for just a golden harp but for the secret to his own identity.

Another excellent book in this series that I would recommend for ages 11 and up.  There is plenty of action, suspense, and mystery woven into long-standing Celtic and English myths and legends to propel the reader along on this latest quest.  Excellent read!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Spring Break week

This past week we've been on spring break, so the kids got a break from their regular school work and completed their standardized testing for the year instead. Here's what I learned from looking over their tests...


Jessie soared through the language arts section with only 2 mistakes that I noticed.  One was a simple mistake.  The other was a questions from an advertisement that asks which of the following portions from the ad sounds the most pleasing.  Jessie picked the one that caught her interest.  I'm reasonably sure that the correct answer was the choice with alliteration, but it wasn't something that I had taught yet.  On the math section, I could only find one incorrect.  It turns out we haven't done any multiplying or dividing with two decimal numbers.  This actually caught me off guard, since I thought we should have already covered it.  I checked through the level 5 and level 6 books only to realize that we had indeed not covered that particular topic yet.  Looking at the table of contents for NEM1, which would be the next book in the series, I noticed the first four topics work with decimals, fractions, prime numbers, integers, etc.  The Foerster's Algebra I book that I had purchased for next year lines up more closely with NEM2's table of contents, so I guess we'll be going through NEM1 at least the sections that don't deal with geometry before switching to Foerster's next year.  (This is exactly why I check these tests myself.  If I'd just looked at the grade sheet returned from the tests, I would have assumed it was a careless mistake and not learned anything.)


Violet and I spent part of our testing time battling about the need to double check your work and use your time wisely.  She would do a language arts section in about half the allotted time and then disappear.  (You would think I could keep an eye on her and wash dishes at the same time but apparently not.)  I would stop the timer when I noticed that she was gone, look over the section, call her back, and tell her to find her mistake or mistakes in the remaining x minutes of time.  She would correct her mistakes and disappear again.  We did this for three out of the four sections of language arts before she decided that it was quite possible that double checking one's work might just possibly not be a complete waste of time, and she checked the sections in the remainder of the test without being called back.  All in all, I found one mistake in the comprehension section where I thought the question was poorly worded.  The remainder of her mistakes, she found and corrected in self-checking.  In math, she ran out of time in both sections and was unable to completely recheck her work.  I found two mistakes and asked her to work those problems on the dry erase board so I would know if the error was from computation or misunderstanding.  (It ended up being the former.)  I think we really need to take the summer to work on her speed of computation before she moves on to level 5 of Singapore next year.


Benny had the hardest time with the language arts section of the test.  It wasn't so much that he didn't understand the material, but the process of actually getting through all of the reading necessary bordered on torture as far as he was concerned.  The print was smaller than he's used to and there was a lot more reading than I remembered.  He came close to mutiny when he saw the comprehension section with the paragraphs, but he struggled through and disappeared outside for the remainder of the morning.  Needless to say I dropped my plans of having him read an additional library book to me during the week.  In the math section, he breezed through easily and made no mistakes that I could find.  In hindsight, it would have been better for Benny to have waited another month or two to get some more phonics under his belt before tackling the test; but I am proud of the way he plodded through the section and finished with me just sitting there listening to him read aloud and nodded my head to encourage him.  I may reevaluate when we schedule our testing for next year.  For Benny the test just reaffirmed what I already knew.  His phonics is coming along, but a little slower than average.  His math is excellent.  We'll just keep reading library books over the summer and pray that somewhere along the way reading goes from something he has to do to something that he enjoys.  We haven't quite reached that lift-off point yet.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

WW: Violet's 10th Birthday

 A quick note from Daddy made for a perfect start to the day.
 She has excellent choice in cakes.  Miniature chocolate bundt cakes with chocolate chips inside and chocolate icing with more chocolate chips on top.  Delicious!!
 I let each of the kids choose a gift for Violet from the dollar bins at ToysRUs.  She loved Jessie's marbles
as well as Benny's bubble items and Henry's play dough.
 There were things to make and things to read.
 There was even something to play with.  Note the shocked expression when she received a fairy doll from DH and I.  What can I say?  At least it will already have a home in the fairy tub on the shelf.
The best gift cost me nothing.  A little bit of sneakiness got the second Harry Potter book home from the library without detection.  I successfully deflected suspicion by suggesting Henry might have put it in the crate when they found it while pulling out their own books.  (He really does know where to find the books in the library.)  The look on her face when I handed it to her and said she could read it now... priceless!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

7th grade science decision

Options for 7th grade:

1.  God's Design and complete the Physical World series
  • Fun - Jessie's really had a lot of fun with the chemistry books this spring, so I'm sure she would enjoy these as well. 
  • Multiple ages - I could combine the girls and either let Benny tag along or set up some parallel reading for him.  Jessie could also complete the challenge sections to bump up the difficulty a bit.
  • New Content - Physics is one area of science that she has not covered yet.
  • If I go this route for 7th, then I'm at a loss of what we would do for 8th.  Following this up with physical science would be somewhat redundant
  • Jessie has really enjoyed doing some science independent from her siblings this year.
2.  Apologia General
  • Independence - Since it's written to the student, Jessie could complete the program independently.
  • Coop option - This is what our local coop uses, so I would have the choice of letting the labs be completed at home or in a class setting.
  • Textbook learning - Normally I steer away from textbooks, but at some point Jessie is going to need to learn from one so it's definitely something I want to practice at some point.
  • Duplication of content - Modules 5-8 would duplicate topics from earth science this year.  Modules 9 and 11-15 look to duplicate the topics from the human anatomy and physiology book that she completed this fall.
  • Set up - I personally wish that they had broken the text up into two columns per page which would be easier to read.
3.  Apologia Physical
  • Independent
  • Coop option
  • Textbook learning
  • New Content - the physics portion of the text would all be new information for her
  • Duplication of content - It looks like the first 8 modules covering atoms, the atmosphere, and weather would duplication topics from this year's chemistry and earth science.
  • Set up - same as above
BJU Life Science
  • Fairly independent - These are designed for classroom use, so I would expect to need to do some level of teaching or at least discussing to cover the content.
  • More depth - Comparing the sequence of BJU to Apologia there is definitely more depth of coverage this route.
  • Textbook learning
  • DVDs available - I could get help teaching if I needed
  • Some overlap of topics from this year but there of plenty of other material that does not overlap
  • Classroom oriented - As with any classroom oriented curriculum some of the ideas will not work as well in a home setting
  • Cost of lab equipment - To complete the labs at home I will need to purchase a microscope, slides, and some dissection supplies
  • No coop availability - No lab partners or class interaction
For once, I actually gave Jessie some input.  She wasn't thrilled about the Apologia books.  She liked the looks of BJU and the broader scope and sequence and thought the idea of dissecting was "cool".  Comparing the cost of lab equipment versus the cost of coop classes, it is actually cheaper over the long term to buy the lab equipment and only have to repurchase consumable supplies for subsequent student.  In the end I was leaning towards BJU anyway because I thought she needed to cover life science with more depth again before hitting biology in 9th.  I can always let her tag along with the GD books next year like she's doing this year in earth science or have her do them over the summer for fun.

Another decision down...  YEAH!!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Week 29: Catching back up

Another week, another report down!  Here's what we accomplished...


Jessie spent the entire week working on review exercises.  There is definitely a lot more review in these level 6 books than there was in the previous levels.  Still it's a good way to keep everything fresh in her mind, and she's done very well on all of the exercises.  Good math weeks are always easy weeks.

Violet spent most of the week working on addition with decimals.  Friday she began subtraction with decimals.  Really it's been an easy math week for her as well.  (I think she managed to catch the second episode of Curious George most mornings, which always puts her in a good mood.)
Benny finished up the IP section on multiplication and spent Friday completing a review exercise in the workbook.  In Miquon he's also into the multiplication section now.  His favorite math lesson of the week was the dot-to-dot on the left.


Jessie finished up the grammar unit on adjective phrases and clauses on Friday.  She did a fantastic job of diagramming all of the sentences with relative clauses and even aced the 3 challenge ones.  For literature, she's been reading The King's Fifth by O'Dell which last time I checked she thought was boring.  In vocabulary we completed lesson 2 of CE1 and started lesson 3 on Friday.  CW poetry was completed as well.  She still owes me her ballad for today, which I'll post up separately later when it's finished.
Violet continues with dictation from Prince Caspian by Lewis.  I gave her some freedom to pick her own selections for copywork.  I'm not sure why I was surprised to see this passage from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone when I checked her work.  Spelling and literature  both went well.  No CW for her this week.  I need to pick out a few more models to finish out the year.

Benny did his regular 1 page per day in Phonics Pathways, began ETC4, and continued his Dr. Seuss's ABCs copywork this week.  His library reader for the week was Sam and the Firefly by Eastman.  He completed another spelling lesson on long a words and moved on to long i words as well.  For literature, we finished up Mr. Popper's Penguins by Atwater.  Benny enjoyed it so much that I put the audio copy on hold so he can listen to it on his own next week.


Violet completed lesson 25 and learned the remainder of the accusative case prepositions.  Jessie reviewed 1st and 2nd person pronouns in lesson 24 of LfC C, and learned the nominative and genitive cases of the in EG1.


This was our second week covering the Spanish conquistadors.
 Jessie read a chapter from Conquistadores by Le Sueur on Cabeza de Vaca, Pizarro: Conqueror of Peru by Jacobs, Macchu Picchu by Mann, and Coronado: Dreamer in Golden Armor by Jacobs.  She completed summaries of each conquistador and a paragraph on the Incas which she seems to have forgotten to add to her notebook.  The map shows the Incan empire and the routes of the men.
 Violet and Benny just covered conquistadors this week using chapters from Conquistadores by Le Sueur.  They also covered de Vaca, Pizarro, and Coronado.
I made then map work for the routes and gave them the conquistador coloring page from SOTW for two of their activities this week.
Our hands on was a treasure hunt, although in this case the gold turned out to be peanut butter chips which I turned into cookies later in the afternoon.  YUM!!


Jessie finished up her chemistry unit on acids and bases this week.
On Monday, she used her indicator to test for acids.  Among the items tested were vinegar and lemon juice.
On Tuesday she tested for bases using baking soda and toothpaste.  We didn't have ammonia so I substitute laundry detergent instead which turned a beautiful shade of green.
Wednesday's lab was about how different parts of the tongue taste different things.  I think she was working on lemon juice when I took the picture.  If only the camera had reset fast enough to get the expression she gave me after I took the picture above. 

In earth science, we finished up learning about volcanoes by discussing volcano types and Mt. St. Helens.  We used our volcano kit to identify the different types.
We tried to do another eruption using food color this time.  It looked nice spilling out of the volcano, but we never came anywhere near the 6 feet it claimed it could do.  I think 2 inches was our best result.  It was actually very frustrating.  The volcano bottle was very cheaply made and did not seal very well.

Henry decided to do some art this week and proudly asked me to take a picture of his line drawing.  Then he wiped the board clean and handed me the marker...
H:  Mom, draw me a round and round.
Me:  A round and round?  Oh, you mean like this.
H:  Yes.
Me:  That's called a circle.
H:  Now I'll draw a circle.
We spent the next 20 minutes passing the marker back and forth drawing circles some of which I turned into smiley faces, bears, and rabbits.  I have no idea how many times he said circle in that time period, but at least he's learned the name for one shape.

For more Henry antics see Wednesday's post below.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

WW: My Young Knight

OK, I think he's finally ready for full knighthood.
He knows how to charge into battle,
has mastered the art of shielding himself from unwanted pictures,
can stand still when absolutely necessary,
and manage his armor while mounted on his steed.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Greenwitch - Book 8, 52 in 52

Greenwitch by Susan Cooper is the third book in "The Dark is Rising Sequence" of fantasy books. The grail has been stolen.  Great Uncle Merry again enlists the help of the three Drew children to come to Trewissick to help him find it.  He also enlists the aid of Will Stanton from book 2 to help figure out what the dark is up to, protect the Drew children, and recover not only the grail but the key to deciphering its writing.  While there, Jane is invited to witness the traditional making of the Greenwitch, a traditional image of leaves and branches made every spring at Trewissick for centuries.  Amid a myriad of twists and turns, the children search for the grail and its key.  In the end it comes down to the guidance of a dog and the goodwill of a child's wish to determine the outcome.
Greenwitch falls somewhere in between the first to book with respect to the more supernatural/fantasy elements.  Instead of the battle between light and dark being completely in the background or completely in the foreground, this book does an excellent job of shifting back and forth between the normal and the supernatural. I again thoroughly enjoyed it and handed it off to a delighted Jessie at bedtime.  By breakfast, she was already midway through the book.  I continue to recommend the series for ages 11 and up especially for those who enjoy a good fantasy read. Great book!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Week 28: A Sick Week

It's been a bit of a rough week here as we all took turns being sick for a day or two.  We took off most of Wednesday morning to go shopping with my mil who wanted to buy each of the kids a couple of outfits for their birthday.  Other than our earth science, we got most everything else I had planned accomplished.

Jessie cruised through her IP section on pie charts this week and spent the final three days completing a 6 page comprehensive review in the textbook.

Violet also finished up the decimal section of her IP book this week.  Then she moved on to a review exercise in the textbook and another in the workbook.  I wish I could say she sailed through both, but we had a battle over attitude for the first one which thankfully is over.

Benny finished his first unit on multiplication in the Singapore textbook and workbook and moved into the corresponding IP section.  He continues to do exceptionally well with the CWP 1 book and zooms through his Miquon pages on addition and subtraction.


Jessie's working with prepositional phrases in R&S.  She also had a lesson on simile and metaphor which she decided to write the poem on the right for her assignment rather than writing a descriptive paragraph.  We started Caesar's English 1 for vocabulary and breezed through the first lesson.  In poetry we continued working with outlining, metaphors, determining meter, and learned about ballads this week.  I posted her Aesop based ballad in a separate post below this one.  No literature again this week, but I do have something lined up for next week at least.

Violet finally finished copying from Dr. Seuss's ABC for cursive copywork with a minor meltdown over writing Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz.  For grammar she has moved on to a unit on capitalization and punctuation.  She scored a perfect 100 on her test for SWO F and is steadily working through All Things Bright and Beautiful by Herriot for literature.

Benny finished up his 3rd Explode the Code workbook, continues to do very well with his pages in Phonics Pathways, and read several very short early reader books this week including:  Old Hat, New Hat by Berenstain; "Buzz" said the Bee by Lewison; Hop, Waddle,  Swim by Berenstain; Faster, Slower, Higher, Lower by Berenstain; and Nose, Toes, Antlers, Tail by Berenstain.  For copywork he's going through Dr. Seuss's ABCs, so I can evaluate whether or not he is forming all of the letters correctly.

Jessie completed lesson 23 in LfC C and lesson 20 in EG1, while Violet finished lesson 24 in LfC A.


This week in history we started our first of two weeks on the Spanish conquistadors.
Jessie read  Aztec Times by Mason and Cortes: Conqueror of Mexico by Jacobs, completed paragraph summaries of the material, and mapped the Aztec empire and the route of Cortes.

She also read Magellan: Voyager With a Dream by Jacobs, wrote a summary paragraph, and mapped the voyage of his ship.

Violet and Benny learned about the African slave trade and the Middle Passage as well as the story of Cortes and Montezuma using SOTW and completed the chapter map work.

We were going to read Magellan: First Around the World by Syme, but ran out of time and ended up just reading the portion of a chapter covering Magellan in SOTW.

Our one hands on project that we did fit in was a board game on Cortes and Montezuma from the SOTW Activity Guide.


Jessie completed her unit on chemical reactions in God's Design Atoms & Molecules and began learning about acids and bases.
In this experiment, we were looking at the effect of temperature on the rate of reaction.  There were 3 glasses of water at different temperatures, and we timed how long each took to dissolve an Alka-Seltzer tablet.

We also considered the effect of surface area by comparing a whole tablet to a crushed one to a powdered one.

For our new acids and bases chapter we made an indicator solution by boiling equal parts of water and chopped purple cabbage to be used for some experiments next week.

We didn't complete any earth science work this week other than to watch our flowering rocks continue to form crystals.  Honestly, I was just too tired by the afternoon to put much effort into it, and I didn't want to finish our volcano lessons halfway.

Henry's had his normals ups and downs.  Violet somehow managed to convince him to pretend to sleep for their play together time on Monday.  He can be so cute.

Benny invited him to play under the tent he created in his own room.

Jessie made him a lawn mower out of Tinker toys, and they went back and forth through the house before taking them downstairs.  Sadly he used the handle as a weapon later to whack Benny upside the head, and I had to take him to the pediatrician to glue the split skin back together.

So today it was nice to see him back to is cute, sweet, snugly self.  (I'm still not sure how VIolet convinces him to do this for fun.)