Monday, April 25, 2016

Valor - Official Kindergarten

      Valor is a delicious bundle of cuteness and technicality. LOL He curls up on the dog bed and falls asleep with her during late family movies. He notices water puddles at the gas station and asks how they got there, because the cars don't drip on the lines between parking spots and it hasn't rained lately. He's sweet, helpful, and an "old soul" sort of kid. He hero worships Honor on a regular basis and will jump into any big kid activity he can. Toys and activities aimed at his age have never interested him much, and he prefers to play older kids.

     We treated the current school year like it was kindergarten, academically. In this homeschool that means working on phonics, handwriting, and some gentle math. He's thrived with this slow, gentle pace. His birthday is the precise day of the grade cut-off in this area, so we could really go either way, but we've decided to "red shirt" him for now and call this coming year his Official Kindergarten year. Socially he is just not in the same place as the average rising first grader and needs some time to mature. I watched some Tiger scouts this week (1st graders) and it really confirmed that we'd made the right decision. He's just not there yet. He'll start kindergarten right around his sixth birthday.

    At homeschool, of course, this doesn't change anything. We're going to hand him the book he's ready for without caring what number is on the cover. He's an emerging reader, writes well, and is turning into a sturdy little math student. So here's The Plan for this coming school year.

Phonics and Reading

  • continue Sing, Spell, Read, & Write level 1 (also covers handwriting)
  • follow that with Sing, Spell, Read, & Write level 2 if it seems like he needs it
  • BOB Books collection 2 and 3
  • finish Christian Liberty Press kindergarten readers
  • Kindergarten Favorites literature from Veritas Press when he seems ready to leave the phonics readers behind and start real books, First Favorites is already on the shelf if he gets that far
  • daily read alouds from Mom, family bedtime stories, living in a reading culture family


    Slow and steady instruction seems to work best with him, with lots of review and hands on practice.  Rod and Staff math 1 has been a perfect fit this year, but their book 2 will have too much writing and not enough meat for him. It's the only level of their math I don't care for. It stretches the math out too long and beats it into the ground. The older kids did every problem of every lesson in 1 and 3, but we skipped whole swaths of 2. I don't want to buy all five workbooks again just to barely use them. He is not ready for the more aggressive Horizons 1 however. So I'm going to put a few options on his shelf and mostly let him pick which one we'll do each day.  We'll have lots of direct mom teaching time and hands on work.
  • Dr. Wright's Kitchen Table Math volume 1
  • Foundations of Mathematics from Math U See (old, out of print, covers 1st and 2nd grade math)
  • Gattegno Mathematics 1 with Cuisenaire Rods (considering Mathematics Made Meaningful, but I think we'll have plenty to keep him occupied for a year)
  • math sticks, 1s/10s/100s blocks, and whatever other random math manipulatives we find in the school closet (perks of being the baby of the family)
  • blank paper


  • Early Reader's Bible by Beers, to read to Mom
  • The Book of Life volume one, to read to him


     Only one of these resources at a time. Valor can choose the order.
  • Legends and Leagues story book and workbook (Veritas Press)
  • Geography and Map Activities workbook (Rand McNally)
  • Children Just Like Me
  • Children Just Like Me: Celebrations
  • Passport to the World
  • select Childcraft volumes like holidays around the world, landmarks, and such


     Again, only one of these at a time. Valor can choose the order.
  • The Goops - Yes, I know, science?! But it's a family tradition to do The Goops in K or 1st, and it's the best block to stick it in. We have a full color hard copy of the story, and I'll print coordinating pages from the free book (Google Books) full scale for coloring pages. 
  • My First Encyclopedia of the Human Body (With Scholastic paper craft books if he's interested.)
  • Getting to Know Nature's Children nonfiction book series on various animals
  • Seed Babies

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Faith - 3rd Grade

     The little fireball of intensity that is Faith.... Delightful! Sweet as can be and very caring. Quite stubborn. Marches to her own drum. Doesn't like anything that smells too much like work, yet loves to clean the bathroom. She's a strong little student in her own right, and in spite of being the fifth kid, she still shows me how little I really know about teaching. Methods I avoid because I think them boring, she thoroughly enjoys.

     Faith can also excel and thrive in something only to declare it stupid. Math, reading, dance, anything really. One of the dance moms is convinced we make her dance because the family dances no matter what I say. Faith grumbles that her feet are dead and she can't possibly finish classes. She gripes when we suggest she get more social dancing in. An hour before that, however, she was super-duper excited that it was almost time to dance and trying to put together the very best outfit. She loves to watch videos of dancing, has a dancing superhero, and head-over-heels adores her dance teachers. She just happens to have a fire and ice approach to life that smells like bad attitude. *shrug*

     Here's The Plan for third grade.


  • Genesis Through Joshua cards and student pages (Veritas Press), not aligning it with history since she started this one in February of second grade
  • Judges Through Kings afterward


  • Treasured Conversations ( for grammar and composition
  • Spelling by Sound and Structure 3 (Rod and Staff)
  • homegrown literature, including children's classics and a couple Collier's Junior Classics volumes (precise list to be added later) 


  • Singapore Math 4a-4b (very similar to her beloved Math in Focus, without the baby steps she's usually asking to skip, and a very inexpensive pile fell in my lap)
  • Primary Grade Challenge Math by Zaccaro
  • Math Olympiad Contest Problems volume 2
         The latter two are for once a week math challenges. Grace and Honor are in a Math Olympiad team and she'd love to participate, but she has to be 4th grade by age first. So we're cobbling together something similar just for her. 


     She wants "read this with worksheets and activities." I want living books, discussion, and activities. This is a compromise.
  •  Mr. Q's Life Science  (read this, worksheets, activities) (free for the printing = bonus)
  • The Human Body: What It Is And How It Works by Mitchell Wilson (vintage Golden Book)
  • Burgess Animal Book, perhaps Seaside Book and/or Bird Book
  • to be determined for botany

History - starting her first chronological cycle

  • Old Testament and Ancient Egypt (Veritas Press), using the cards, selected student pages (includes worksheets and extra activities), reading the spines, and some extra readers 
    The 5,000 Year Old Puzzle
    The Ancient Egyptians
    The Egyptian Cinderella
    The Great Pyramid
    Mummies Made in Egypt
    Science in Ancient Egypt
    Ancient Science (extra activities)
    Ancient Egyptians and Their Neighbors (extra activities)
    Ancient Israelites and Their Neighbors (extra activities)
    Seeker of Knowledge
    In Search of Tutankhamen
    God's Special Tent
    Archeologists Dig for Clues
    Fun With Heiroglyphs book and stamp set (extra activities)
  • Story of the World volume 1 with activity guide as desired
  • Pages of History


  • Duolingo - daily practice
  • Spanish for Children A, about a page a day, CD or DVD for chanting practice

Reading list (incomplete)

  • Collier's Junior Classics volumes 3 and 4
  • Little House in the Big Woods, maybe the rest of the series if she takes to it well
  • A Child's Garden of Verses
  • Half Magic (Eager)
  • Stuart Little
  • When We Were Very Young 
  • Peter Pan 
  • The Inventions of Hugo Cabret
  • The BFG
  • Faerie Gold
  • Mary Poppins

Read Alouds (some just for her, some family-wide)

  • Gilgamesh the Hero (McCaughrean)
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Princess and Curdie
  • Series of Unfortunate Events book 3 and 4
  • Riddle of the Rosetta Stone
  • Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt (portions)
  • Tales of Ancient Egypt (portions)
  • biology related titles tbd

Grace - 6th Grade, or it started that way...

    Grace will be sixth grade by age. She is precocious and academically aggressive. She's also a whimsical, outgoing ten and a half year old who loves dancing and forensics. That little girl chasing the guys with a sword at homeschool park day, in a miniskirt with matching accessories, that's her.  She's competed on a Math Olympiad team this year and wants to continue that next year. For next year she's torn between joining a Future City team or taking ballet. She's always ready for an adventure and constantly defying stereotypes. She's desperately trying to leave little kid-dom behind and spread her big kid wings. This can lead to some frustration when it goes unacknowledged, but some wonderful leaps as well.

    It chaps her hide some days that I make her stick to her grade by age, when everything but spelling is well ahead of her by age grade. We're strongly considering allowing her to officially grade skip to join a cadet program early, which certainly won't help that aggression. LOL She has been tagging along as an honorary cadet for awhile, and the person in charge of registration offered to let her officially join if we'd declare her a grade ahead. She's obviously mature enough to handle the meetings and advanced enough academically that it does make sense. MhoncaiDad and I hashed it out and agreed she may as well give it a shot. When we told her a fire was ignited and she's taking it Very Seriously. Most of The Plan for next year was already plenty strong enough for a seventh grade distinction, but we made a few tweaks. She's even less happy with spelling now, added some oomph to her science, and decided on a formal literature plan instead of just reading a random pile of classics and discussing.

   Here's the New and Improved Plan.


  • Bite-size Theology by Peter Jeffery, alongside a Catholicism unit to help the middle ages history make a lick of sense
  • then she'll start a chronological pass through the Bible using Veritas Press' Bible curriculum, aiming at completing Genesis through Joshua and Judges through Kings this year, she'll only do the advanced readings and projects, and I'm going to write more mapping and research into her schedule
  • History Lives church history series woven into history 


  • Stewart English book 1, with the option to do book 2 this year or next (grammar will be Done after book 2)
  • Cover Story composition
  • Rod and Staff spelling 6, *if* she doesn't finish it this summer. She's pretty determined to finish it this summer, but that's a serious squishing for that book. I've offered a crash course through the spelling rules with Writing Road to Reading, but she seems to think that's a terrible idea.
  • Annotated Hobbit literature study, homegrown, I'll start with the base I built some years ago for Justice and build a plan around Grace. If I recall correctly Hobbit lasted nearly a school year, and we'll do a Shakespeare unit at the end.
  • The girl wants a Shakespeare year. How does one keep up with a kid like this?? Off the top of my head, I'm thinking...
    • read a retelling together
    • read portions of the original aloud, probably memorize a passage here and there
    • lots of videos, and mock acting around the house
    • lighter spin-offs for reading in the middle
    • historical context as needed
    • designing sets, clothing, and props for a paper doll set 
    • Shakespeare biographies

History of Ireland and England 

  • The Young Oxford History of Britain and Ireland - primary spine
  •  History Lives church history series
  • Illustrated Queens and Kings of England
  • The History of Scotland for Children
  • Famous Men of the Middle Ages
  • Archers, Alchemists, and 98 Other Medieval Jobs
  • Step into the Celtic World
  • Castles, Palaces, and Stately Houses of Britain and Ireland
  • Animals, Birds, & Fish of the British Isles
  • Medieval Medicine and the Plague
  • Good Masters, Sweet Ladies
    Obviously this one is homegrown. I've put together the ancient and medieval period so far, and I'll add to the book list as I go.


  • Exploring the Way Life Works by Hoagland - primary spine
         This is a "nonmajor" flavor of high school text that she already flips through for fun. It'd make a good read all by itself.
  • Blood and Guts for some hands on activities
  • The Way WE Work
  • various extra readers to be determined
  • some units from Bioethics and Medical Issues in Literature, Frankenstein, Rappacinni's Daughter, etc
  • forensic tie-ins somehow??
  • joining Honor and Joy for high school biology labs
  • Biology: Exploring Life by Campbell - select portions
         This is a fairly standard 9th grade text, sometimes called "light." I'm going to try blending a few chapters into her schedule just to work on how to learn from a textbook.

Algebra 1

  • Art of Problem Solving with the videos and Alcumus and/or Khan for extra practice

Spanish 2

  • Duolingo
  • Spanish for Children B
  • reading to Mom from Madrigal's Magic Key to Spanish a couple times a week


  • Argument Builder from Classical Academic Press, after Cover Story is completed (28 weeks or so) so it won't add to the schedule, if we don't get it finished we'll work on it orally through the summer


  • Mapping the World With Art (strong interest, she really, really enjoyed working on the United States with the Brookdale Press book this year)
     That looks like a ton, but broken down it looks very doable.  I think it's her asynchronous quirks that give me pause.
Religion = 30 min
Grammar = 10-20 min
Composition = 20-40 min, some random days will be heavier
Literature = 40-50 min
History = 40-50
Science = 40-50 
Math = 60 min (I know AoPS can use more, but that's about all her brain can take.)
Spanish = 30 min
Logic = 0
Art/geography = 20-30
Grand total = 4.5 - 5.5 hours, with transitions and squirrel chasing
     That's still on the low side for a seventh grade day.

Reading list for literature, very incomplete
  • comparing retellings from our collections by Matthews, Lamb, and Garfield
  • bits and pieces of our favorite scenes from our complete works collection
  • Shakespeare for Kids: His Life and Times (biography and activities)
  • Shakespeare: The World as a Stage by Bryson (I think, haven't read it yet)
  • The Shakespeare Book
  • actual plays covered and related spin-offs are to be determined

Monday, April 18, 2016

Progress - Mid-April Check-In

    Well, we're moving forward again. When Grandma moved in we looked critically at each subject to see where we could condense or compact to keep finishing the school year from completely eating up our summer. Some subjects make it easier than others, but as some subjects fall off the calendar until the next grades we get more time to work on the thicker ones. The summer subjects, religion, literature, Spanish, and math, we've left in the same pace they had all year.

    Honor delighted in the idea of compacting. He promptly finished his chemistry that week. Two weeks later he had world geography finished. That puts him down to math and English. In a couple weeks he ought to have spelling and grammar finished. That will put him down to summer schedule, some composition, and Art of Argument. The latter two have gotten the short stick this semester, so they could do with some focused time.

    Grace finished the chemistry a few days after Honor did. Her history is a bit of a different animal and will probably drag through the summer. Her spelling is very nearly done. Grammar too. She'll do Art of Argument through the summer with Honor.

    Faith is almost done with her Science Shepherd. She's doubling and tripling lessons every day. They're pretty short anyway. Her spelling is already done. Her grammar shifted mid-year and she's in the middle of English 3. Currently she's in the middle of the third unit (out of five total), which is on verbs and very easy so far. She'll continue to double lessons when it's very easy, and we'll skip the last unit altogether. Then grammar will be done until third grade starts. That will put her down to summer schedule and listening to history read alouds.

    Valor's schedule won't change. He only does phonics, reading practice, and math. Then he listens to a story read aloud.

     Joy's schedule isn't so tidy to compact and condense, and she helped out the most with Grandma. We'll see what we can do to get geography and science wrapped up as tidy as we can, so she can focus on the summer schedule topics and One Year Adventure Novel.

    Justice's schooling wasn't impacted by Grandma's health really at all. He's struggling more this quarter than he did the last one. His subjects are economics, financial math, and earth and space science. The economics teacher is the government teacher he really liked last quarter, and is hands down his favorite of the three. He doesn't like math or his math teacher, but I'm thrilled they put him in financial math. The science however, even though earth and space is more interesting to him than physics or chemistry would be, is all on the computer. He really doesn't care for science in general, and there's very little teacher interaction. He's not doing so great in this one. I've ordered some documentaries and a Holt textbook we can read bits and pieces out of with him. One even has Patrick Stewart narrating. He actually seems receptive to working on this at home to pass the class. Fingers crossed!

     Grandma has migrated to the north family for the summer. She's pretty sure she won't survive a desert summer. So of course it snowed the first weekend they had her up there. The oxygen company comes to pick up all these tanks and such later this week. That's that. Until fall. When she wants to snowbird again. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Thankfully the kids have really pulled together through all this. Bigs helped littles. Littles accepted help from bigs instead of Mom. The schooling went smoother than I expected it to. Quite a bit smoother than when Grandma visits over the holidays for that matter.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Honor - 8th Grade

    Honor has grown exponentially this year. Maturity, height, shoe size, you name it. Every time I turn sideways he's taller. Or eating again. His feet are bigger than mine. His hands are. He goes without glasses now. I can't keep up with it. He's still the class clown of this homeschool, super helpful, and a fun guy all around. His grandmother swears he reminded her daily of his grandfather. Always ready for a game or a joke, but reliable and not afraid of work. He's further through his 2015-2016 syllabi/plans than any of the other kids are. If he'll finish his grammar and spelling he'll be down to our family's summer schedule (religion, math, Spanish, and literature), Art of Argument, and some composition. Not bad for mid-April.

     Honor was completely sure of what he wanted to study for 8th grade back in December of 7th grade, and even after looking at samples and catalogs together he's remained steadfast. This is a STEM kid through and through! He's a strong reader and rarely balks at anything I assign him to read, and is great at literature analysis. The rest of English on the other hand? That needs some gentle scaffolding and hand holding. Here's the plan.


  • daily Bible reading, 4-6 chapters a day
  • Theology in 15 Minutes a Day, followed by Rebels Rescued


  • Lost Tools of Writing level 1 - He already has the basic essay form pretty well covered. His paragraphs are coherent, cohesive, and have good transitions. My goal this year is to get him to flesh them out more. He is a master of conciseness. Why use a paragraph when three syllables will do? (That's an exaggeration, but still..)  He said he doesn't really mind what I put him in, as long as we can customize topics. Boy Translation: You can just pick something as long as I can write about airplanes and science.


  • Analytical Grammar - He knows if he doesn't finish it this year it will go into high school, and both of us would prefer to avoid that.  When it's done, grammar is done. 
  • I'd forgotten about the Stewart English books his older siblings used. The exercise sentences are from good literature, and it applies the grammar to writing. We'll do book one and two instead of AG.

History, literature, some science, art, poetry, living math

  • Build Your Library grade 8, History of Science - This is what he's mostly excited about. He'll most likely read the "literature" and "readers" himself, though the guide says the literature is for reading aloud to him. We'll skip the timeline, narration, and dictation assignments entirely, and maybe cut the poetry memorization in half. I'll see how he takes to it first. From what I can tell the writing would be old hat for Honor, and it won't further my composition goals.


  • Algebra 1. Yeah! Prealgebra has lasted for two years. It wasn't the math he struggled with in the slightest. It was the maturity. With hindsight he says he has no idea why he was so sluggy with it. If we had've rushed he probably would have just spent two years on algebra instead. He's definitely ready now though. His love/hate on again/off again relationship with Art of Problem Solving has disappeared. Now he's working through it as steadily as he worked through his old Horizons workbooks. My shelves already have algebra 1 from Art of Problem Solving, Lial, Foerster, Larson, and Jacobs. Maybe more. Honor will start with Art of Problem Solving, and if the love/hate thing comes back, we have options.  


  • Biology - We know we want a book by Campbell. Honor didn't like the tone of the Miller Levine text his older brother used, and the school he dreams of going to uses Campbell. That leaves us deciding on which specific text. Campbell only wrote about 5 or 6 different texts. We own Biology: Exploring Life ("regular" high school level), Biology: Concepts and Connections ("honors" high school level), and Biology (AP/college level). None of us are ready for that huge Biology one, but for $2 on a clearance rack, it will make a nice reference book for going deeper on particular topics.  Honor thinks he may as well shoot for honors if he's doing to do high school level early. We'll look at the regular and honors more closely and make a decision, and add a full lab component with dissections.


  • Duolingo, daily practice
  • Spanish for Children B, about one page a day
  • reading from Madrigal's Magic Key to Spanish together, once or twice a week


  • Argument Builder by Classical Academic Press (after Lost Tools is completed)


  • Civil Air Patrol
  • Cyber Patriot (with his CAP squadron, and just means we go to CAP earlier)
  • Math Olympiad
  • Boy Scouts, so long as he's able to keep up with this and CAP well, he would like to stay with it until he earns his Eagle, but CAP would win if he had to cut down
       Literature list - An asterisk means he's already read or listened to that title. We'll decide as we go if we'll skip them this round or not.
The Golden Goblet*
The Sand-Reckoner
Fahrenheit 451*
A Midsummer Night's Dream*
A Parcel of Patterns
Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius
The True Adventures of Charley Darwin
To Kill a Mockingbird
Nation (Pratchet)
The House of the Scorpion
The Magic of Reality
Archimedes and the Door of Science*
The High Crusade
The Canterbury Tales (a retelling! definitely not the original)*
The Second Mrs. Gioconda
Along Came Galileo
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch*
The Disappearing Spoon
Animal Farm
Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie (he read a different title about Curie for chemistry in 7th)
Journey to the Center of the Earth
Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines
A Brief History of Time (Hawking)
Relativity (Bishara)

We may have Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything as a family read aloud. It's listed as an optional resource in Build Your Library.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Brakes! Brakes!

     The brakes have really been applied around this homeschool in more ways than one.

     Joy has a driving permit now. Gulp. Her first adventures around town were... interesting. But she really was getting better after each main trip. MhonciaDad and I would discuss progress and decide what the most important skills she needed to work on were and really hit those when we were out with her. She's got the basic driving around city streets pretty much down pat now. Parking is our next challenge.

    And homeschool took a big screeching stop when I left for a couple days and brought Grandma back with me. Joy kept the homefront running and used her managerial skills to dole out cleaning jobs for all the younger kids while I was gone. Valor came with me to get Grandma out of the hospital and help pack her up. She can't be alone for now, and it's still too cold up north to migrate this snowbird.

   The first week I dropped everyone's schedule back to math, literature, Spanish, religion, and a house job. Some days we didn't even get all of that checked off. Now we're on week two, and trying to take practical steps to keep our summer from having a ton of school in it. I added one or two subjects for each particular kid to that list. We're choosing particular subjects to compact and get finished for the school year. Honor and Grace finished their chemistry. Now Honor's trying to get all his geography finished. Faith is doubling and/or tripling her science lessons. Joy is changing gears for geography and setting the Harmony Fine Arts schedule aside in favor of Runkle's one semester physical geography course. No one has a full-size schedule, because 1) it's not feasible right now, and 2) it's easier to wrap up subjects with larger blocks given to them. We're hoping to keep scratching off subjects altogether until we're down to a basic summer schedule, which is pretty much that first week of Grandma's visit.

    Grandma doesn't think she can handle our desert summers though. So when it's warmer up north, and the north family is ready for Grandma, we'll help her migrate.