Wednesday, October 7, 2015

First impressions of Introductory Science (Science Shepherd)

     This is the first year we've used anything from Science Shepherd. I entered a drawing for their new Introductory Science this summer on a whim, and my name was actually drawn! We were given a calendar year's worth of access to the on demand videos, and after choosing which level of workbook I wanted it was at our doorstep in about a week. The older four kids were already firmly settled on their science for this school year, but Faith's was just going to be books from our shelves in a unit study fashion, loosely based on her American Girl history. She was very excited at the change!

    Faith is a strong little student, about a grade ahead in some subjects, right on target in others. She is a second grader who will turn 8 near the end of winter. History, science, and literature are generally her favorite subjects. Introductory Science Level A workbook is intended for ages 6-8 and Level B for ages 9-11. After glancing at the Introductory Science workbook samples I didn't hesitate to choose level B for Faith. Now that we've used it for about five weeks, I'm positive this was the right choice.

     Every lesson begins with a short 1-3 minute video, and has an accompanying worksheet in the workbook. Most of the worksheet problems are fill in the blank, true/false, or multiple choice. There haven't been more than 5-6 such exercises for each video. Randomly there are matching "puzzles", crosswords, word searches, and extra activities. Most of the activities have their own video demonstrating the project, along with a page of instructions in the book. The projects have ranged from making an animal with clay, leaf rubbings, and the classic playdough volcano with baking soda and vinegar. All of the projects have been easy to do with items around the house, haven't been terribly messy, and were fairly easy for her to run by herself.   

     To be honest, the watch a video and fill out a worksheet method is so not me. I rather doubt I would have bought this on my own. I really enjoy doing unit study-ish living books with my little ones, and cobbling it together does not bother me.  Faith on the other hand? She adores this course! I mean big, fluffy, purple, beating heart loves this course. It's almost always the first subject she grabs in the mornings. ♥

     This is general science course. It covers a wide variety of topics, and doesn't go terribly deep into any of them. It would be really simple to flesh it out with living books, DVDs, and field trips. Faith can easily do a day's work in ten minutes or less. She usually does 2 lessons a day, and occasionally 3 or 4. Then there's the random day she just does one and puts it back on the shelf. I've left the decision up to her for the most part. She will finish week 8 of the book this week, which is her fifth week using the course.


  • easy to use for parent and child
  • can be used independently and easy to grade at a glance, though it does come with an answer key - It's seriously easy enough to use I've had her siblings help her in a pinch when I had to be out for half a day and they did fabulous.
  • easy to supplement (I'm not adding extra work for her, but I am laying out books about the topics where she can browse as desired.)
  • Tickles my seven year old to no end!
  • It's exposing her to a broader range of science fields than the typical book for this age.
  • It uses REAL scientific terms and explains what they mean instead of using simpler terms.
  • She's absorbing the science and applying it to the world around her.


  • The guy on the video is pretty lifeless and monotone, but since the clips are so short Faith doesn't have time to tune him out. 
  • The age ratings on the workbooks is over-estimated in our experience. I can't fathom handing this workbook to an average 10 or 11 year old. If you were just using it as the spine for further study it could work I suppose.
  • The introductory phase of the book lasted for three weeks of work. Two on the creation story, and one on introductory science terms. Even working 2-3 lessons a day at first this was getting tedious for Faith, who just wanted to get to volcanoes already.

    Would I buy this for her younger brother? Maybe! Valor is just barely beginning his academic career, and I truly have no idea how good of a match he'd be for this course. If he's wanting something that looks more like a big kid course around 2nd grade I would definitely consider purchasing this course and using it again.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ready or Not...

Faith wiggled her way into the
activity at a Math Olympiad
kindergarten math

Grace and Aura made friends
right away.

Okay. We got the doll. Can we

Constitution Day festivities
Galadriel loves to play tug.
Talk to the cupcake. Or, Valor turned 5!
He's a little Minion-crazy.
Faith is gorgeous. And likes cats.
We dance a lot. Honor with Grace on the right, Joy with Justice on the left.
Faith thinks "grading" algebra 2 is
hilarious fun. (She just reads the
answer as Justice shows his and
answers right or wrong.)

dance photographer
Grace turned 10!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Getting the ball rolling

    The teens added math full force this week. The middles and littles did math and literature daily. Little Valor worked in Sing, Spell, Read, & Write and Rod and Staff math 1 daily, along with practicing the Writing Road to Reading phonogram cards. He's doing great. Counting to HUGE numbers like 50 during the teaching portion of Rod and Staff math is his favorite. 

    Joy didn't get as far in geometry as she hoped for last year. It just didn't get the time commitment it should have. So it's top dog this year. She intends to go strong on geometry alone to start with, and then fold in algebra 2 on top of it. 

    Justice worked with a math tutor all last year. This year his tutor isn't available for daily lessons, but he'll gladly be on call. He and I have been doing the math together on boogie boards, which gives him the interaction he needs to be successful, and lets mistakes get corrected right away. Well, hypothetically. Accepting correction is not his strong suit. We're working on that. ;) 

      I have printed out a TON of paper this week! I've printed, 3-hole punched, and stuffed all this paper into the appropriately labeled and divided binders.
  • The Fun Spanish (Faith)
  • 50 States student pages (Faith and Grace to do together)
  • Draw Around the World: USA (Grace)
  • Jump into Cursive Handwriting (Faith)
  • The Elements by McHenry (Grace and Honor)
  • Carbon Chemistry by McHenry (Grace and Honor)
  • CKE Chemistry student pages (Grace and Honor)
    I still have a bunch of syllabi, quizzes, tests, and such to go. 
   Next week each student will add a handful of subjects, but not the whole list. We usually do every subject at once, just slowly the first week or two. This year we're all feeling like a gradual incline is best.  Valor is already at full speed for kindergarten. Faith wants to add science and cursive penmanship. Grace will add Art of Problem Solving prealgebra and chemistry. Honor will go back into the same prealgebra book where he left off earlier this summer, and also chemistry. The teens haven't officially decided. I think Joy will go for composition and world geography, and Justice will  go for history and literature.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Kindergarten Fun, Galadriel, Books

     Valor has started kindergarten work in spite of the rest of us not being ready to start the new grades. He finished two of the preschool Star Wars workbooks we bought him this summer, Shapes & Colors and Numbers. When he finishes Letters he'll start Sing, Spell, Read, & Write level K. He's two lessons into Rod and Staff's Beginning Arithmetic now, and loved the felt duck pond instantly. Yesterday he slowly sounded his way through his first BOB Book.

     Galadriel is the newest member of our family. She's a four month old "boxer mix," whose family was moving two states away and couldn't take her with them. Apparently they just kept her outside and didn't work on training. House and leash manners were completely foreign to her. She has *such* a sweet disposition, and she's picking up basic commands and expectations by leaps and bounds.  As sweet as she is, it's rather like having a toddler in the house again. Fear of having one's toys chewed on has done more to keep my floors clean than anything else I've ever tried though. ;)

     The shelves are getting fatter. I've been bringing down all the books for this year, which build up across the top of our large entertainment center over the summer. The old ones go back up there until I get around to sorting them and putting away the books we'll keep. This is the overflow shelf for this coming year. American Girl unit study, American history, and world geography books that aren't used regularly are going to live here.

Friday, August 14, 2015



The school area

  • Honor and I finished staining the dark wood paneling in our school area. It's a medium/light blue now, which brightens up the room considerably! I'm still going to fatigue it to soften the BLUE effect.
  • The sturdy lab/work table MhoncaiDad built is also stained and back in the house. 
  • The curriculum shelf that's been in that spot since we brought it home went to the other wall. Just because. 
  • The small desk that's always in the way where it was went where the little bookshelf was.

 School books

  • There is a mound of books on that new table that were pulled from the curriculum shelf. They need filed into completed work in the utility closet, stuffed back in the school closet somehow, or rehomed. 
  • New books for this year are filling the shelves.
  • I am super behind on lesson planning this year! 

The Mom

Valor finished his first numbers book.




The Mhoncai

  • The teens just got back from a delightful two week romp on the western slope of Colorado. They stayed on a ranch with old family friends. 
  • The little ones are having to readjust. A house with just little kids just has a different flavor.
  • The younger ones all did literature, math on the computer, practiced geography on Sheppard Software, and Honor and Grace worked on Uzinggo's middle school science. That's it. When that load and a house chore were completed they played, and played, and played.
  • They're all pretty much in summer mode, and enjoying it that way.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Little Bites vs Meaty

    There are so many homeschooling methods out there. Most of them have parts that sound good, and parts that would be a horrible fit with my family. Thankfully no one is required to buy into one 100%.

Eowyn trying to stowaway (Or, how many shoes
does one teen girl need for two weeks??!)
    A few years ago the Charlotte Mason (CM) approach was really interesting to me. Their materials seemed so wholesome, and all those subjects those CM moms were accomplishing on their gorgeous blogs really appealed to me. If you're not familiar with Charlotte Mason, a hallmark is doing small bites of many subjects daily. There really is so very much worthwhile material out there we could learn, and they were certainly getting a broader variety into their children than I was.

    So we tried it. I made sure our core subjects were strong, and piled on the little extras that would only be done in small bites, and not even daily! We could totally do this! Look at how fat that curricula list is! We're going to rock it. Just watch.

    Did you buy that?

     It flopped. Like really, really flopped.

    A couple of those subjects we never even touched the whole year. The rest of them kept us so busy looking at trees it felt like we weren't ever going to know deeply, that we had no idea what the forest looked like, or even its name. But this geography reader is important. And so is that Constitution primer. And math drills on top of math time. And classical kids MUST write daily! Memory time! Hymn time! And.... it took me awhile to admit defeat. Full stop. Which of these subjects is MOST important? None of us are going to get it all. I surely didn't in my elementary education.

    We slowly worked our way over to something more closely resembling multum non multa. Much, not many. (Here's a great video of Chris Perrin of Classical Academic Press explaining this better than I can.)  Now, our core subjects are kept rather meaty. We wade deep into subjects and learn them so much better. We know exactly what forest we're in, we know the trails and the natives like the back of our hand, and we are free to explore every little corner our heart desires. We are doing less subjects. We are learning HOW to learn so, so much better. There is joy in the discovery that cannot be found in daily morsels.

Grace and a cousin
    Another change in the last couple years is my kids' educations have become more and more child led. We are still digging as deep as we can into the forest. The kids just have considerable sway into which forest they're clambering through.  Studying English, Math, Science, History, and Language every year is non-negotiable. That leaves a mile of leeway though! Last year Honor studied history through the development of ships, aircraft, and spacecraft. His science was ocean life, weather, and astronomy respectively. He helped handpick the curriculum. We looked at samples and booklists together. He *loved* that set. Even the highschoolers have more leeway than you'd think, while still keeping college's incoming freshman requirements in mind.

    Rather than being tempted to fill up our year with interesting and worthwhile electives, and those fun little additions that seem so lightweight they surely can't hurt the schedule, we're filling up those core subjects and keeping them meaty. The kids are excited (most of the time...) and engaged. They're interested. They want to learn more about the topics they're studying, and it's not because of some lecture from mom telling them while geography is so important to their lives. (Oh yes, I did.)

Slight confession: Those are palm trees and saguaro cacti.
There is no real forest around these here parts....

    For me and my house, we're skipping the many morsels and digging our teeth into the meat.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Justice ~ 11th Grade

     And I thought Honor getting to 7th grade was big. 11th is huge. The final stretch is in sight. Clearly even.  It's one of those, "We're really gonna make it! But WAIT!!!! Have I done everything I need to?!?" moments. The first time I experienced that feeling was when I was in third trimester with him. I wonder if it ever goes away. LOL

    Justice has been a challenge to raise/teach/parent/befriend at this stage of the journey. Looking back, I'm so glad we kept him home in spite of the challenges. He's read original Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dante, and more this past year. We've had some amazing conversations about the ideas these books wrestle with. He's really going to make it through algebra. Biology is finally d.o.n.e. His writing has obviously been influenced by all the middle ages Great Books he made it through this year. I totally see him writing epic poetry some day.

    He's the reason we started homeschooling in the first place, and he reminds me every year why it's absolutely been the best choice for him.

Here's his plan for 11th grade. Yes, that is two full-size literature courses. By specific request. He thrives on lots, and lots, and lots of high quality literature.


  • homegrown American lit
    • Twenty-five Books that Shaped America by Thomas Foster
    • Classics of American Literature lecture course from Great Courses
    • Invitation to the Classics by Louise Cowan
  • Writing With a Thesis by Skwire
  • They Say I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing
  • Argument Rulebook
  • probably another rereading of The Elements of Style by Strunk & White
       (All these writing books will be completed one at a time. No overlap.) 


  • Intermediate Algebra by Larson, with the Mosely DVDs, no more daily tutoring, but the tutor is available to answer specific questions and help if he hits a wall
  • keeping the idea of Teaching Textbooks on the back burner


  • Madrigal's Magic Key to Spanish, hopefully finishing
  • Spanish for Children DVDs and possibly the workbook too (Yes, "for Children." It's such a strong grammar route, and I've heard of highschool tests being passed with SFC as the foundation. We already know the CAP methods work well for Justice.)
  • Duolingo for extra practice



  • AP prep US History using the FundaFunda schedule
    • A History of the American People - Johnson 
    • History of the United States lecture series by Great Courses
    • Lies My Teacher Told Me by Leowen
    • Critical Thinking in United States History (This may get shelved.)
    • The Presidents DVD series from History Channel
    • John Adams miniseries DVD
    • Up From Slavery by Booker T Washington


Science (very recent switch from chemistry and still under construction)

  • Forensics Illustrated
  • Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) Forensic Science
  • Illustrated Home Guide to Forensic Science Labs
  • Forensic Science textbook by Saferstein 
  • he'll still have to absorb some chemistry from three family members studying it this year

Elective 1 - novel writing

  • scheduled time to write!!
  • Writing Magic (warm-up to start the year)
  • One Year Adventure Novel
  • NaNoWriMo

Elective 2 - British Literature through the Inspiration of J.K. Rowling

  • Harry Potter's Bookshelf by Granger
  • Unlocking Harry Potter
  • Finding God in Harry Potter (just for fun)



  • Encountering the New Testament, working straight through it front to back as a real textbook - He decided he wanted to work on a real Bible credit instead of doing our usual Bible reading with extra religious books.  Rather than adding another whole credit this year he'll bump Old Testament to 12th grade.

American literature

        Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
        Common Sense (Paine)
        Scarlett Letter (Hawthorne)
        Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
        Killer Angels (Shaara)
        Huckleberry Finn (Twain)
        The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
        Walden (Thoreau) - portions
        The Call of the Wild (London)
        White Fang (London)
        Fahrenheit 451 (Bradbury)
        Something Wicked This Way Comes (Bradbury)
        Grapes of Wrath DVD
        Death of a Salesman (Miller)
        Catcher in the Rye (Salinger)
        Lord of the Flies (Golding)
        Old Man and the Sea (Hemingway)
        To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee)

Inspiration of J.K. Rowling literature, 10 units based on chapters of Harry Potter's Bookshelf

Mysteries and Dickens Orphans
      Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
      Father Brown Stories by G.K. Chesterton (few shorts)
      Lord Peter Whimsey by Dorothy Sayers
      Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (maybe....)
      Great Expectations by Dickens
Austen Influence
      Mansfield Park by Austen (Pride and Prejudice and Emma on DVD)
      some David Hume and Samuel Taylor Coleridge research to contrast Austen
Boarding School Novels
      Tom Brown's School Days
      Greyfriar's Billy Bunter
Gothic Romance
      Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
      The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
      The Castle of Otranto by Walpole
      On the Night of the Seventh Moon by Victoria Holt
      Northanger Abbey DVD
Postmodern Epic
     Van Helsing DVD
      Flashman Papers by George MacDonald Fraser (portions)
      Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
      The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
      Gulliver's Travels
      Plato's Cave Allegory
      Watership Down
      Phantom Tollbooth
      George Cruikshanks cartoons
Everyman Allegory
      Everyman Play
      Brothers Karamazov DVD
      Phaedrus by Plato
      Idylls of the King
     Psammead trilogy by Nesbit
Alchemical Magic
      handful of specific Shakespeare plays
      The Chymical Wedding by Lindsay Clarke
Secret of the Mirror and the Seeing Eye
      The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
      The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

**** Mid-year notes added March 2016 ****

    Blunt honesty ahead.

    Well, THAT year didn't go as planned. The challenge to parent only became more challenging, more disrespectful, and the boy was under the clear impression he knew more than his parents. The daily drama was negatively affecting the younger kids and tension just. kept. mounting.

   We snapped by December.

   In January Justice started attending a brick and mortar school. He was very mad, didn't want to go, and experienced daily culture shock. He's since adjusted to school life, the anger is gone, and he's FAR more pleasant to be around.

   The curricula and plans mentioned above weren't even completed 1/4 of the way before we were interviewing schools. Kindly disregard all lofty notions. :P

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Joy ~ 10th Grade

     Joy is such a joy. Truly. She's one of those who works quietly in the background and you don't notice what she's up to until you start the task yourself. Randomly and silently a pile of laundry will get folded, or a mess gets picked up, or food gets made. Since I sprained my wrist she's taken even more upon herself and scolded me for doing too much.

    She bubbles over with life. Everywhere we go she has friends and people to tell me about or introduce. She swims, dances, reads a ton, volunteers at a crisis pregnancy center, and likes to consider herself a Hermione academically. Her sweet, caring nature inspires adults well beyond her years. Including me.

Here's her plan for 10th grade.


  • homegrown Inspiration of JK Rowling literature course, using Harry Potter's Bookshelf as the spine - This will provide a broad enough coverage to qualify for a regular British literature credit, but be much more fun. ;) (titles at the end)
  • Writing With a Thesis by Skwire
  • Elements of Style by Strunk & White (quick read, reference after that)
  • They Say I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing by Graff 
       (These writing books will be used *one at a time* with no overlap.)


  • Madrigal's Magic Key to Spanish
  • Duolingo
  • probably chants and videos from Spanish for Children


  • Discovering Geometry is here to stay for awhile. She didn't get as far as she hoped last year, so this will be a primary focus. 
  • Algebra 2 will be a transfer to Art of Problem Solving, starting with the last handful of chapters in their Beginning Algebra text, and then moving onto Intermediate Algebra


  •     Harmony Fine Arts schedule has a good cultural and physical approach, covering world religions as well   

         skipping the gestures and bug eating book
     adding some architecture, drawing (architecture + animals),
  and cultural culinary lectures with plenty of recipes


  • CK12 Chemistry Flex-book
  • Basic Chemistry Lab Equipment and  Introduction to Chemistry Kit from Home Science Tools for once a week labs, with Justice, Honor, and Grace




Elective 1 - novel writing

  • Writing Magic (warm up for the year)
  • One Year Adventure Novel

Elective 2 - Forensics (under construction)

  • Forensics Illustrated (
  • The Home Guide to Forensic Science Labs by Thompson
  • GPS Forensics (
  • hopefully checking out the lab at the local police department
  • crime solving movies!


  • reading the whole Bible, ESV, using a reading schedule from our old pastor
       These extra religion books are done at a relaxed pace with a heavy discussion element.
       One at a time, of course.
  • How to Study Your Bible (Kay Arthur)
  • Reasonable Faith (Wile)
  • The Great Divorce (C.S. Lewis)
  • A House for My Name (Leithart) 
  • Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis) + leather journal
  • Jesus Freaks
  • Who Designed the Designer? (Michael Augros)

Inspiration of J.K. Rowling literature list, 10 units

Mysteries and Dickens orphans
    Murder of the Vicarage - Agatha Christie
    Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, selected stories (and season one of the Cumberbatch series)
    Lord Peter Whimsy stories - Dorothy Sayers
    Great Expectations - Dickens
    Mansfield Park - Austen
    Emma - Austen
    Sense and Sensibility - Austen
The Boarding School Novel
    Tom Brown's School Days - Hughes
Gothic Romance
    Jane Eyre - Bronte
    Wuthering Heights - Bronte
    Tell-Tale Heart - Poe (MhoncaiDad will read this one aloud)
    Northanger Abbey - Austen (spin on a character from HP)
    Frankenstein, Dracula, and Rime of the Ancient Mariner on DVD
Postmodern Epic, monsters then and now
    lots of DVDs, Twilight, Van Helsing, Bewitched, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and such
    Wizard of Oz
    The Eyre Affair
    Wide Sargasso Sea
    retellings of Gulliver's Travels and Canterbury Tales
    Plato's Cave Allegory
    Watership Down
    George Cruikshanks cartoons
    Animal Farm if there's time
Everyman Allegory - this section made her groan, we'll DVD the important ones and put other British lit here instead
     DVDs Pilgrim's Progress (she's already read), Everyman Play, and Brothers Karamazov
    Picture of Dorian Gray
    Brave New World
    Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Magic - could be skipped or just do DVDs
    Psammead trilogy by Nesbit
    The Secret Garden
    The Little Princess
Alchemical Magic
    several Shakespeare plays
    The Chymical Wedding by Clarke
Secret of the Mirror and Seeing Eye
    The Little White Horse (Goudge)
    The Last Battle (Lewis)

**** Mid-year notes added March 2016 ****
  • homegrown Inspiration of J. K. Rowling lit - love, love love!
  • Writing With a Thesis - The models were fabulous. We never did finish the book though. She tired of it and asked to go with the next one.
  • Elements of Style - Ol' Reliable. She's using the free workbook and says it's like learning English from Grandpa. Never use a paragraph when three words will do. 
Spanish - Fabulous progress! This is her Spanish 1 year, and that combo already has her chatting (simply, obviously) with a fluent friend.

Math - She's slowed down. Geometry is still running. The book is great! It's just her realizing she can't race ahead and keep her grades where they belong anymore. We'll worry about alg 2 when we get there.

Geography - She's enjoyed this one, but at times it almost seemed like too many working parts.

Science - We added subjects in stages last fall, until they were all added in. Chemistry was last, and never made it onto the schedule. Forensics listed as an extra science in electives though? Now THAT she loved. It became the primary science, and it will be a full lab science. We went with the Saferstein Forensice Science test and Illustrated Home Guide to Forensic Science Labs. We started watching CSI because of this and my younger kids have become enthralled with forensics. Grace even talks about being a forensic pathologist someday. (Morbid much? LOL) I pulled in Crime Scene Investigations for Elementary Grades for the younger ones and Joy helps teach as they do the projects.

Novel Writing - She adores One Year Adventure Novel! All I've done is grade tests, and the smile never leaves her face.

Grace ~ 5th Grade

   Grace keeps me on my toes. She's a delightful almost tween, very caring, shares without thought for herself, loves learning, and has a mind that's always busy. She was the youngest of all six kids to give up naps, I firmly believe it's because of that mind that's always trying to sort out something.

   At three years old she did kindergarten work over Honor's shoulder, whispering his answers to herself. Many swore a fluently reading three year old must have been pushed. The only pushing I did was to push her head out of the way so Honor could see his own book. I've been trying valiantly to keep up with her ever since. ;)

   Here's the plan for her fifth grade year.


  •  Grammar: Rod and Staff English 6, almost all orally, two lessons twice a week
  •  Spelling: Spelling by Sound and Structure 5-6
  •  Literature: homegrown collection of classics and anthologies, with a touch of Figuratively Speaking (list at the end of this post)
  • Writing: I *had* this one settled. She was going to use the remaining half of the vintage text she started in fourth grade. She waited until the day I asked her to finalize this plan with me before I started lesson planning. "Please can we do a different writing book?"
        I'd heard Portraits of American Girlhood had gobs of writing in it. After a sturdy browsing I'm not planning on depending on it for writing. She's on the upper end of the grade range, and wouldn't be using it if it weren't for strong interest and lots of modifications. We'll just roll the worthwhile writing projects into the unit study type activities.
        I've looked at way too many writing curricula options this week. Nothing has jumped out as a great match for her. I mentioned rotating through a handful of different approaches and her while face lit up before she yelped, "Yes-yes-yes-yes-yes-yes!!!" For now the plan is to work through these in project or unit bites, mixing them up.
    • The Creative Writer level 1 by Fishman (written for 1x/week, we'd just do all the fiction in one unit, and all the poetry in another)
    • Sentence Composing for Middle School by Killgallon (won't last a month if worked on daily, but she does enjoy them)
    • STEM to Story by 826 National (12 writing projects of various lengths)
    • couple/few units from Cover Story she didn't do last year
    • and that's still not enough for a whole school year... hm... ? Possibly another Writing & Rhetoric book


  • Spanish for Children A
  • Duolingo
  • watching movies with the language turned to Spanish with Spanish subtitles
  • Spanish picture books, and occasional paragraphs of Harry Pottery la piedra filosofal on the white board   


  • Prealgebra from Art of Problem Solving
  • Alcumus
  • Math Olympiad team (selective team, all homeschooled kids) 

American History and Geography

  • homegrown American Girl based unit study, using Portraits of American Girlhood for the girls it covers, and including the rest of the historical girls with whatever ideas I scrounge up
    • Portraits of American Girlhood
    • Welcome to ____'s World set
    • whatever theater kits, cookbooks, craft books, and paper dolls I could find at thrift shops and used bookstores
    • turning a 2' x 3' corkboard into a flannel board to put the paper dolls on
    • plenty of extra history books and random books for science rabbit trails
  • Draw Around the World: United States (Brookdale Press); Eat Your Way Around the USA, mail order travel guides from all the states (well, except for 2, Mass. was download only, and WA charged for theirs)


  •  Guesthollow chemistry schedule
        We dropped the more elementary books and added Cartoon Guide to Chemistry, a Glencoe chemistry textbook (short, about 150 pages), Chemistry 101 dvds, and some extra reading like Itch, The Radioactive Boy Scout, What Einstein Told His Cook, parts of Joy of Chemistry, The Periodic Kingdom, and such, parts of Chemistry in the Community textbook may work their way in


        The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
        Tales From Shakespeare by Lamb
        Journeys Through Bookland volumes 3 & 4
        Little Men
        Anne of Avonlea
        King Arthur by Roger Lancelyn Green
        Robin Hood by Pyle
        The Book of Dragons by Nesbit
        Peter Pan
        Swiss Family Robinson
        A Wonder Book for Boys and Girls (Hawthorne)
        One Thousand and One Arabian Nights (McCaughrean)
        Questing Knights of the Faerie Queen (McCaughrean)
        Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass
        A Christmas Carol


  • Art of Argument, not starting until second semester, or even over next summer


  • 3-4 chapters in an ESV daily
  • Victor Journey Through the Bible
  • Training Hearts Teaching Minds (catechism)

**** Mid-year notes added March 2016 ****
English - 
  • She did great with the Rod &Staff English lessons, but got to the point she wanted to be able to do it on her own, and Honor's grammar workbook was appealing to her. She started Junior Analytical Grammar in January or so, and we'll drop grammar for the year after that's done. (JAG is only 11 weeks)
  • Spelling didn't go as quickly as she anticipated, and it'll probably just be dropped when she finishes the 5 book. This is her only academic nemesis. She's a big picture kid and spelling is little picture.
  • Lit - Fabulous.
  • Writing - We're definitely onto something with the various writing books. This has suited her better than just working through one book ever has. Next week we're going to wiggle Art of Argument in here somehow.  (Never got to the Cover Story units; probably more of this next year. Writing and Rhetoric was added.)
 Spanish - Perfect fit!

Math - She has a love/hate relationship with that Art of Problem Solving book. We ended up doing such a mishmash of math, that in January I started running her and Honor through Horizons prealg just to make sure there weren't any glaring holes. She's happy as a clam with that book. 

American History - We've had such a great time with this!! I read aloud the American Girl books to both girls, Grace gets extra reading assignments daily, and they do as many unit study type activities as we can stand. Two hearty thumbs up. I'm so glad I jumped into this regardless of how easy the AG books seemed.

American Geography - Oh. That. Grace did do the drawing around the USA book and really, really enjoys it. She's thrilled with the whole concept, and we may do McHenry's drawing geography book next year to keep this going. The rest of the US Geography stuff never got touched. It's still sitting there, all collected and printed out, collecting dust. I really ought to find a young homeschooling family to just give the whole load to.

Chemistry - This was probably her personal favorite this year. She loved the schedule of different books, the online activities, the videos, the Chemistry 101 videos we added, just all of it.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Our review of Adventures in the Sea and Sky from Winter Promise

The program

Adventures in the Sea and Sky by Winter Promise
  • Adventures exclusives, which includes the main guide, the Ship's Log (student text), An Unfurling Sail, Sailors Whales & Astronauts, Under the Sea & In the Air, and The God of All Creation
  • Pirate and Sea Monsters packs
  • Older Learner's Guide
  • We skipped the timeline, timeline figures, world maps pack, and field trip pages. You can see them under Notebooking Resources.
  • I bought all the scheduled books (Theme Essentials, Theme Completer, extra books the Older Learner's Guide scheduled, Adventure Reading) from Half Price Books, Amazon Marketplace, and such instead of Winter Promise.
  • We did not use the Winter Promise language arts or math recommendations. 
  • I collected a stack of literature that wasn't scheduled (some were Older Learner recommendations) and Honor read from his choice of these books daily in addition to the scheduled literature.
  • We added more science reading as we saw fit, relying mostly on our personal library. Most of these didn't make the pictures.
  • Disclaimer: We didn't get to everything in these pictures. More details later. 

 The boy, Honor

    • used Adventures in the Sea and Sky for sixth grade.
    • loves all things science related, strong STEM student
    • looked at samples of various options and chose Adventures himself
    • solid reader
    • looks a little like Ron Weasley
    • Boy Scout
    • loves being on a competitive swim team
    • took 4th place at a recent juniors Jack & Jill west coast swing dance competition
    • performs in a WWII hangar show for veterans, seniors, VFWs, American Legions, Alzheimer's units, and more
    • nicknamed "Bill Nye" at Boy Scout summer camp

    The review


    Overall: Two hearty thumbs up! Five stars! 
    How we used it
        I put together a master binder with 36 weekly tabs. I put the schedule from the main guide and the Older Learner schedule behind the appropriate tab, along with any loose pages from the Captain's Log and such that he'd need for that week. I penciled in notes, and the few changes we'd agreed on ahead of time. The schedule from the main guide was intended to be the parent's schedule to do with the student. Honor doesn't need that much hand-holding, so he used it as his own checklist instead. It had the links to websites that he'd need to do on his time and such. The Older Learner schedule replaces the independent work schedule from the main guide.

    Schedule and independent schedule from main guide

        Honor did complete the Captain's Log pages, but I didn't require him to spend much time on them. I prefer discussion based evaluation. His pages could look rough for a concept that he could explain inside-out and backwards, and I was okay with that.  I wasn't so sure about the simple cut and paste activities, but Honor did them without a single complaint. 
       An Unfurling Sail was the main history spine for the first 18 weeks. The extra books went deeper. It was worth having for that cohesive spine. 
       Sailors, Whalers, and Astronauts covered daily life for the ships and spacecraft sections. Honor loved this resource!
    Captain's Log
        Under the Sea and In the Air was the science activity book. Honor did the majority of these activities independently. There were a handful we deemed not worth the time to set up and just discussed them instead.
        The God of All Creation has three Bible lessons a week, loosely correlated to what's being covered in the other resources.  After awhile we dropped the copywork and Honor just read and discussed the lesson with me.  It was interesting, but not really how we do Bible study.  I'll probably skip this if I use this program again. (Honor read 3-4 chapters in an NIV or ESV Bible daily, and read through some church history
    (History Lives series) that somewhat correlated to the history
                                                                                                         period he was studying instead.)

        The Pirate Pack wasn't really appropriate for Honor's maturity level. He would still play with pirate swords for fun, but has no desire to make one from cardboard. He kept an eye on this one as scheduled and we adapted some of them to make more quality items that would last through some serious play.
        The Sea Monsters pages, on the other hand, Honor loved! Those were right up his alley. He was disappointed to find the end of that one. (You don't need to print every page. I saved ink by skipping the introductory page for each creature, and just printed the pages he actually wrote on in grayscale.)

    Sailors, Whalers, and Astronauts

    Non-WP Books
        We liked all of these, and some became favorites. I can't pick any I'd want to be without. The large books from the Older Learners schedule like History of the Ship, Flight, and such were fabulous as well. 

    The Older Learner Guide
       This was billed as grades 7-8. Due to Honor's high interest I bought this to make sure he'd be satiated. It came with extra book recommendations, extra assignments that the regular independent schedule left out, and 3 week long activity ideas. We really liked some of these extra activities, but spreading them out to three weeks didn't work so well. Once Honor got going he didn't want to just do a third and set it aside. We did the ones we liked as we ran into them, and didn't worry about scheduling them evenly.
    Under the Sea & In the Air

         At the beginning of the year it wasn't easy for Honor to get a day's work done in a day. This was his very first super structured curriculum. After he adjusted to the flow he ran the program himself and started flying through it. He plugged along steadily, absorbing knowledge on sailing, orienteering, ocean science, aerodynamics, the history as the technology developed, and more. He really grew with this set. His responsibility to just do your work and then be accountable to mom for the quality of work grew by leaps and bounds!

        Then somewhere in the flight section (weeks 19-27) it seemed like he'd outgrown it. He could rip through two lessons a day. Easily. He still very much enjoyed the topics he was learning about, but working down the checklist was feeling more like a chore. I suggested he work through the schedule horizontally, book by book, and then go back and fill out the Captain's Log pages. This was the amount of reign loosening he needed. The astronomy Log pages didn't get completed. He's covered so much astronomy already most of this wasn't new to him. He enjoyed the books anyway.

        Winter Promise says this program can range from grades 4th to 9th. 5th-6th grade is the ideal sweet spot in my opinion. I wouldn't use this with a 4th grader unless they were sturdy readers with strong interest. Even then it would demand a LOT of the mother to use it with a typical 4th grader (assuming this 4th grader isn't a tag-a-long with older siblings); many of the spines would require being read aloud. A 7th grader who isn't already a STEM nut would likely do fine. I would not use it with an 8th or 9th grader, even with the Older Learner guide.

    Captain's Log

        Would I use this program again? Absolutely! He was exposed to far more concepts and had a much more thorough year than he would have had if I'd tried to build this on my own. I'd probably want the younger sibling to be at a slightly lower level than Honor was when he started Adventures. Honor was at the upper end of the skill levels this program would be a good fit for, and a bonafide STEM nut, but he still benefited and thrived.