Tuesday, March 17, 2015

US High School History Course by Meryl van der Merwe (FundaFunda)

    Joy has been using the (free!) US history schedule by Meryl van der Merwe on the FundaFunda website this year for her ninth grade history. She's currently a bit past 2/3 through the schedule. Joy and I couldn't be more pleased with her history coverage! Justice will do American history next year for his eleventh grade, and I absolutely plan to reuse this schedule with him.

    The convenient weekly syllabus schedules lectures, a spine, original source documents, extra reading, and DVDs. It's aimed at preparing for the APUSH test, so it only takes 28 weeks to complete the course, or 30 if you intend to prepare for the APUSH.

   Straight from Joy: "The professors in the lectures are really funny and bring the history to life. There are tons of interesting facts in them. The Paul Johnson book is very interesting. I love the Presidents DVD! They're fun. I think I fell in love with almost all the DVDs it scheduled."

   Here's what Meryl schedules for you.
  • A History of the American People by Paul Johnson
  • History of the United States lecture set from Great Courses
  • Critical Thinking Through U.S. History
  • Lies My Teacher Told Me
  • Up From Slavery
  • Cracking the AP U.S. History Exam
  • The Presidents DVD series
  • John Adams mini-series
  • several other optional DVDs for reinforcement
    When we first decided to use this schedule we already knew we wanted to use the Paul Johnson book, and probably the same lecture set. Joy wanted me to sub the American Republic BJU text in for the Critical Thinking books, and perhaps pad it with some more original source documents if needed.  Before I diced the schedule up too badly, I ordered one of the Critical Thinking books to see what they were like. We both liked it better than the BJU book. There'd be no need to try deciding which original source documents with them scheduled either. Win-win! Joy thought trying for the AP sounded like a grand challenge, so we'd just do the schedule as is. No tweaks. What an original idea! LOL 

    Well, almost no tweaks. I cut and pasted the schedule into a new document, and added Joy's American Great Books literature and some "light" U.S. geography to the weekly syllabus before printing it out for her.

   The Paul Johnson book is a great spine. So many of the spines we considered had "way too conservative" or "way too liberal" or even "just bias decorated with history." That was a mucky research exploration. We are conservative, so I ordered the popular conservative leaning book (A Patriot's History of the United States by Schweikart), and on a whim, the Johnson one who received a fair amount of "middle of the road" comments. We liked the tone of the Johnson book best. It's so much more pleasant to read than a textbook, and since it wasn't written by an American, the author has no political fish to fry. You can find it for less than $5 shipped in the used section on Amazon.

   The History of the United States lecture series from Great Courses has been Joy's first experience using lectures for school. Not being a very auditory learner, she wasn't exactly thrilled with them. The experience has stretched her in positive ways, and she no longer finds the process daunting. We signed up for Audible and spent our first free credit on this course. I wasn't able to successfully find a used set of guidebooks for a decent price, so we've just skipped those questions in Meryl's schedule.

   Critical Thinking Through U.S. History. I really like how Meryl picked and chose specific sections to use. I wouldn't have done that on my own. Even though the exercises are very worthwhile, using these front to back would have us shelving them in a hurry. Joy says they bring up ideas that wouldn't have occurred to her, and she enjoys breaking up the reading and lectures with these books.

   Lies My Teacher Told Me was already on our shelf. I gave a copy to MhoncaiDad many years ago as a gift. He loved it at the time. Joy immediately raised her eyebrows at me and said something sarcastic about the history I'd taught her thus far. She has enjoyed reading it and says it's a fun resource.

   The heavy DVD usage has been a huge hit! We've enjoyed many of them as a family, and even my mother-in-law got totally hooked on a couple of them on her Christmas stay at our house. We have enjoyed this so deeply I will make more attempt at lining these up myself in the future.

   The APUSH? Well, throughout the year DD decided it didn't much matter to her, and she wanted to focus on just enjoying the history. She's a ninth grader. Sounds good to me. When she finishes we will pick up the test prep book and work through it, using the practice test in the book too, just so she can somewhat get a feel for it.

   Two very hearty thumbs up from the Mhoncai Sa Bhaile crew! 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Some plans for next school year

Valor - kindergarten (??!?!)

  • Rod and Staff math 1, the older duckie edition
  • Sing, Spell, Read, & Write level K and I expect level 1 also

Faith - second grade

  • Spelling, writing, literature, and math will just keep on going as they are
  • grammar will move to Rod and Staff English 3 (she'll have finished First Language Lessons 1/2)
  • American history based on the American Girl books
  • science wrapped around what we find in the American Girl books, unit study style
  • Spanish light, Latin will take a backseat

Grace - fifth grade

  • Analytical Grammar, Rod and Staff spelling 6, homegrown lit
  • American Girl based study with Faith, lots of writing will be wrapped around it for Grace, and we'll add as much handicrafts and cooking as we can handle
  • Oak Meadow life science (6)
  • math... she's curious about Honor's Art of Problem Solving, but Horizons 6 is already in the closet.. I think it's too soon to make a decision.
  • Spanish for Children, finish A, start B 
  • Latin Alive

 Honor - seventh grade

  • Analytical Grammar, finish Rod and Staff spelling 6, Lost Tools of Writing
  • homegrown lit using classics and Harry's Bookshelf for some inspiration of Rowling
  • world geography, cultural and physical (starting with Harmony Fine Arts schedule)
  • Chemistry in the Community, Chemistry 101 DVDs, Thames and Kosmos chemistry set
  • Art of Problem Solving, finish prealg (if we don't get it this summer) and start introductory alg
  • Spanish for Children, finish A, start B
  • he wants to keep Latin Alive, but it's first on my chopping block for him

Joy - tenth grade

  •  homegrown British Lit, essay writing using various resources
  • Oak Meadow World History
  • world geography, either Oak Meadow or a personal splice of the schedule Honor's using
  • Spanish 1, Latin 2-3
  • finish geometry if needed, start alg 2
  • Spectrum Chemistry
  • novel writing elective with One Year Adventure Novel

Justice - eleventh grade

  • homegrown American lit, essay writing using various resources
  • American history using the FundaFunda schedule as written
  • Spanish 2
  • finish geometry, start alg 2
  • Spectrum Chemistry
  • novel writing with One Year Adventure Novel
  • possibly a lit elective with Signum University/Mythgard course packs

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


Valor still hasn't made it through a whole roller skating lesson before adamantly refusing to participate any longer, but as soon as we get home he runs to his daddy and big brothers to demonstrate all the new skills he learned.

We took a boat ride at a special little girl's birthday that weekend. Valor had a great time trying to count all the ducks and turtles he could find. We saw a small-ish heron too. (The water is green because the winter algae is dying. It'll be clear again before too long.) Please do notice those flip flops he's wearing! That's the first time since fall that he's worn something besides those little, scuffed, seriously loved, brown cowboy boots.
Grace and Faith thoroughly enjoyed the warm weather. (My neck and face were a bit sunburned.)

The girls and I went to a dance club that does swing classes before they open the floor. Great fun!  

The big kids avoided the camera somehow. They're usually off doing their own thing. ;)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Whirlwind of a Week

Last week of February. I have most certainly lost count of which official school week it is.

    Shiny new planner pages for everyone. New week! We're gonna rock it!

    Well, we tried anyway. Those Mondays... sheesh. I think Grace may be the only one who actually scratched all of Monday's lessons off, *on* Monday.

     Our music teacher had to take a break from AHG this week. We started the Aviation merit badge, and flew paper airplanes all over the building. These scouts are girls, so the airplanes were decorated with stamps, stickers, and various pretty accessories. I got nailed behind my ear with one. The owner of said paper airplane truly tried to apologize while unable to stop laughing. Good times.

    We made up some lost ground. 

    Faith has become a strong little student in her own right. She's completed half of the Daily Language Review 2 book. We're going to  roll more First Language Lessons in to get those definitions and chants memorized.  Her penmanship book is no longer needed, but she doesn't want to put it up.

    Honor and Grace have started Spanish for Children A. I wouldn't consider it at first, not wanting the same approach as their Latin book to boggle their progress. But so far we love it. Durr. We always love Classical Academic Press products. We don't have the DVD yet, but we have enough introductory Spanish under our belt to dig in anyway. 

     Swim team practice went well. No scouts tonight. Patrol leaders were supposed to set up individual patrol meetings on their own. Justice is a patrol leader. I waffle on how much I'm supposed to babysit this process, and he always has good intentions, but these meetings never seem to get set up. If your kid is anticipating patrol meetings, sorry! It's probably my kid's fault. :P

     Finally, we rocked a day. The younger ones flew through lessons. Joy really tore into her list. 

    Faith doubled up some math lessons so she could finally get to the multiplication section. (Yes, this is a first grader. We should have made her middle name Determined.)

    Honor finally admitted he was intimidated by his math book (Art of Problem Solving prealgebra), and moving forward wasn't a great idea. I gave him two options. A) Repeat the chapter. B) Practice the same concepts in a different book, and then try the chapter review again. "I'm never doing that chapter ever again! Different book!" I printed the last two chapters from an 8th grade algebra readiness textbook that was saved into our old desk top. (No link for this. It was probably downloaded umpteen years ago.) This covered the part of his chapter he wasn't solid on, and had an introduction into what was going to be in his next chapter. He finds them very easy, which just increased his confidence by leaps and bounds. Win-win.

    Justice, however, didn't have such a good week. Daily distractions got the better of him. Last week didn't go so well either, and he's lost an entire week in his school year during the last few weeks. He's making really impractical scheduling decisions, and doesn't hear alternatives. Some weeks he masters the ADHD symptoms, and others it's the opposite. There's a new week coming. We'll turn this one around!

     Swim team practice.

    Continuation of Wednesday. More swimming. Have I exercised at all this week???? I'm thinking no...

     Faith's birthday. Seven seems awfully big. How is she not still that chubby cheeked toddler getting into mischief and scaling every piece of furniture in the house??   After Justice got home from his math tutor we met friends from homeschool group at a park. (Justice sat on the bench reading Stoker's Dracula.)  

    We went to our favorite used bookstore right after that, sailing perilously close to lunchtime. I hoped our hungry tummies would keep us from spending too long there. The birthday girl found a Dr. Who book she really, really wanted. Honor found the other Lego Shakespeare book he wanted. I found a couple Austins and a Bronte we didn't have. A graphic Odyssey and cute story about a colonial girl from the clearance rack may have jumped into my cart. 

    Then Costco. The samples were so numerous and tasty that all we needed to finish lunch was a frozen yogurt from the snack bar on our way out the door. 

      By the time we made it home we had enough time for a Dr. Who episode or two before the swim bell rang. I really like Friday practices. They're small, and you get better conversations with Coach. The kids get more personal attention from Coach. They're only 1.5 hours instead of 2, so the littles don't really have time to get bored.
    4 AM wake-up call. The teens and MhonciaDad were up "at the buttcrack of dawn" to start a 7 hour service project with our Boy Scout & Venture troop. They went to the starting line of a marathon with trucks and trash bags, to pick up all the trash left behind by the runners and spectators. Chick-Fil-A gave them food afterward. Sounds like they had a great time. Apparently one of the younger Boy Scouts is crushing on Joy. It's ridiculously adorable. Joy thinks he's cute. In a little brother sort of way.

     I never got back to sleep after seeing them off. Around 6 AM I woke up the younger crew. As soon as they were in uniform with sack lunches and breakfast in their hands we headed to Scout-O-Rama. There we spent the day climbing monkey bridges, playing obstacle courses, life-size PacMan, making shotgun shell slides for neckerchiefs, racing, building, crafting, competing, shooting BB guns, throwing balls, meeting NFL cheerleaders and a band of Star Wars characters, climbing in police and SWAT vehicles of all sorts, and thoroughly enjoying ourselves.

     When we were so wore out we only wanted our van and the food it contained, we headed back home. We had a mini-dance show to do that night, between Scout-O-Rama and home. We got there about an hour before the show was to start, and it wasn't worth driving all the way home for ten minutes before we'd have to head back. We sucked up some free wifi at a McDonalds, had an ice cream cone, and let the kids romp in the playland. Then we headed over to the show, combed hair into pretty bows in the van. MhonciaDad and the teens met us there. The American Legion fed our whole crew before the variety show started. Perfect! The audience was full of smiles and cheers. Great show.

    Were the kids worn out after all this?? Ha! They were running all over the variety show and I had to attempt keeping them calm so they didn't interrupt the other acts. Do other peoples' kids really, truly "get worn out" after full days? I think my kids missed an important memo somewhere....

Rope monkey bridge, lashed by Boy Scouts
Lego Derby!
Using hacksaws to make shotgun shell slides.
Valor just wears whatever BSA paraphernalia
he finds in the boys' room. He had 3 different
ranks represented. LOL

Honor got to take a welding class. He loved it!

Faith got her ears pierced for her birthday.