Exciting and scary all at once

We’ve just kicked off our 11th year of homeschooling. Our oldest will be graduating high school this year. In fact, in 5 years all three will be high school graduates.

Let’s just all pause a moment, and take that in. In five years, our wonderful homeschool journey will be over. I will have three high school graduates.

Honestly, if I stop and really contemplate that idea, I get overwhelmed very quickly. I have to just pull back and focus on this year.

Tho, my oldest, is taking the Math-U-See’s Stewardship course, which looks to be a personal finance course with a Biblical slant. Most of his courses in Switched on Schoolhouse again.  Language and Government & Economics are in SOS, as are the two half-credit Networking courses. He’s decided he wants to get into the cyber security field, so he’s got more than a few electives in computing this year.  Hacker Highschool looks to be the best course so far, as it provides alot of hands-on work with both Windows and Linux operating systems.  He’s also taking control of his own education, by finding podcasts and websites devoted to cyber security, and learning everything he can about the field.

Diva is starting 9th grade this year.  Most of her classes are in Switched on Schoolhouse as well, which is helpful because we already have most of the disks, so it saves us some money.  English 9, Geography, New Testament Survey, and Health are all SOS course.  Math-U-See’s Pre-algebra, PE, and Apologia’s Physical Science round out her coursework. She’s also doing some amazing digital art work.

Lt, AKA Tiimmy, has skipped up to 8th grade.  This is on purpose, as 8th grade is available to get high school credit for up to three course in our state & with our umbrella program.  So by skipping him up to 8th grade, he can take Apologia’s Physical Science with his sister, and get high school credit for it.  This way, they can work together on experiments, and when Biology rolls around again next year, I only have to supervise on more frog dissection.  His other courses include MUS’s Pre-algebra, and using SOS for Language and History.  He’s also doing very well with his swimming, and has already passed the deep end swim test!

2015-2016 School Year, Already in Full Swing!

So last year was our first year back in Maryland. It was much easier than I’d anticipated, mostly thanks to the wonderful folks over at Calvary Gospel Home Educators who made it a breeze.  The hardest part about the whole year was keeping up on the paperwork.  However, that same paperwork will make it extremely easy to create a transcript for my high schooler when the time comes. It also helped that my husband made an excel version of the grading report that does all of the weighted grading for me. Nice.

So this year, we actually started back on July 6.  I felt really strange, because for once I was fully prepared for the school year to start. I had almost everything planned, printed, and scheduled a few weeks before we actually started.  The younger two are both working on a 5th/6th grade level.  English is once again a mix of reading and Easy Grammar. Math-U-See Epsilon is proving challenging already for my Diva, while Lt continues to easily grasp the math concepts.  After going over several history options with them both this summer, they both decided they wanted to do Mystery of History. Apologia’s Exploring Anatomy rounds out the extent of my curriculum for the younger two.  They are constantly doing art, not just with pen and paper but also in their Minecraft builds, photo editing, digital drawing, and LEGO creations. I just periodically grab a few screen shots or copies for their portfolios.

My Diva is struggling some to grasp the math, but that’s normal for her. Once she gets these first few concepts under her belt, she will fly through the book.  Same goes for the language.  She is teaching herself history & science, only joining her younger brother & I for the experiments.  She likes to work at night after her brothers go to bed, because it cuts down on the noise and distraction.  She’s the biggest night owl in a family of night owls. She likes to do her school work, then often reads until 2 or 3 am.  Her current favorite are the Warrior Cats series. When she wakes up, her time is spent hanging out in the LEGO friends gallery, making edits, drawing animals, creating things with LEGO, blogging, and playing Minecraft.  She’s also the one behind the dog’s blog, Peanut’s Paws.

We’ve done a lot of work with Lt over the past school year. He was officially diagnosed with both dysgraphia and dyslexia last year. I also discovered his mild hearing difficulties, and synesthesia. Last year we used All About Spelling to jump start his reading, and work to train those pesky letters.  Just reinforcing letter sounds has made a huge difference.  His reading has taken off. He does still get tired after a while, and that when he struggles with reversals and missing or changed letters.  He’s been reading his school lessons to me whenever he can, as well as learning and researching new ways to code in Minecraft.  His downtime is often spent on Minecraft, playing with LEGOs, or on the Xbox.  He also blogs occasionally.

The oldest is in 10th grade this year.  I can not believe I’m old enough to have a 10th grader, even if he is working ahead of grade level.  He uses Switched On Schoolhouse for English II, Geography, Spanish I, and Old Testament Survey. Science is Apologia’s Biology course on CD.  We got the microscope kit and the dissection kit from Christian Book Distributors.  Math is Geometry by Math-U-See. Honestly, he’s almost completely self-taught at age 14. Every curriculum he’s using is either self-explanatory, or comes with a teacher on DVD.  He only ever comes to me when he needs help. Sure, he has times when he misinterprets the lesson and we have to go back over things, but overall, he’s doing really well.  I’m kind of in awe of how well he’s doing on his own at his age.

When he isn’t doing schoolwork, Capt740 can be found on Minecraft, in the middle of a pile of LEGOs, or reading anything he can get his hands on. He blogs on the rare occasion.

So that’s the beginning of our school year, even though we are already half way through the first quarter! I can’t believe how fast time is flying this year.

The Loom of Doom, & so much more.

So week 2 came and went.  Way too fast I’m thinking, especially since here it is, Monday morning of week 3, and I’m just now remember to post about last week!  So much went down… Lets see…

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Last weekend (Aug 21-22) I spent making a DIY loom for us to use with BigBoy & PinkDiva’s history lesson.  It turned out awesome!

The loom itself is made from a Cross Stitch Frame, the kind you can use to turn your fabric into a scroll.   The frame was too short to make an effective loom though, so we cut the bars in half and attached them to small pieces of scrap wood.  The rigid-ish, and I say “ish” because there is a lot of flex & bend, heddle is made of two pieces of plastic canvas, cut and stitched together.  The shuttle in the picture is made of cardboard, but DH has since made a nicer one out of thin wood for us to use.

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BigBoy was thrilled to give weaving a try.  ThePinkDiva had tried weaving in a class at the Cultural Arts Center last year, and fell in love with the art form.  BigBoy is still a bit young, and doesn’t quite get the hang of it…  but PinkDiva loves to weave.  This time we’re making a small green blanket.  But now that we have a loom, I see plenty of doll blankets in our future.  Pinkdiva is even talking about stitching a few pieces together to make a bigger blanket.  Should be fun.

Thursday, thePinkDiva began vision therapy.  I don’t think I’ve ever explained that one anywhere online, so it really needs it’s own blog post.  Soon.  I hope.

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Friday was spent at the Podiatrist’s office.  Because I messed up my foot. Everyone got their Math tests done, and that was it.  I was too worn out/in pain to do much else.

Then, on Saturday, Soccer Season officially kicked off.  One night a week for practice, and then games on Saturday.  Should be fun.  BigBoy is thrilled because this is the first year he’s actually part of a team, instead of the “Tots”.  Geekboy discovered at least 3 friends from last year’s team on his new team.  So even though he is the shortest guy on the team, and playing in the 10-12 division (he’s only 9, but they didn’t have enough 8-9 boys to make a team in that division), he’s looking forward to a great season.

Curriculum time is here again!

After spending the better part of the last month alternately researching curriculum ideas, and procrastinating, I’ve finally finalized… well, mostly finalized our school year.

Math is going to be Math U See for all three.  GeekBoy is starting in Delta, but he’s already whizzed through the first 3 chapters, and that only took him 5 minutes!  So I have Epsilon standing by, and fully expect to be using it by middle of the year.  As much as the Geek claims to hate math, he is a math whiz.  ThePinkDiva is starting Alpha this year, and BigBoy won’t be very far behind.  He still has a few chapters of Primer to finish before moving on to Alpha.  The little guy is hoping to catch up to his big sister.

For Language, GeekBoy is still working through the Easy Grammar 4/5 book we found halfway through last year.  Its been working well for us, so we will keep going.  Since discovering thePinkDiva’s vision difficulties, we will be ditching Hooked on Phonics this year.  I’ve decided to give Spell to Write and Read a try.  It’s supposed to be good for dyslexics, which she is, and BigBoy will be doing this also since he really wants to learn to write.  ThePinkDiva will also be continuing her work in Explode The Code online.  She’s been doing pretty well with it, and I’m considering getting a subscription for BigBoy as well.  Especially since I can get such an awesome deal on the program via Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op.

GeekBoy’s writing progressed quickly once we worked on correcting his posture and grip.  This year we will continue working on “Pull, not push” to get him forming letters from the top, as well as lowercase letters.

History will be different this year.  GeekBoy has informed me that he has trouble concentrating when thePinkDiva goes off on a word-association rabbit trail.  Since she does this a lot (it’s her way of processing information), GeekBoy will be having his own history lesson, using Mystery of History.  ThePinkDiva and BigBoy will be doing year 2 of the American Heritage Studies by BJU. I’m planning to do time lines with each “class”.

Science was a hard one.  As much as I love the Apologia books, they seem to be just above the understanding of my younger two, and there doesn’t seem much in the text that interests my oldest.  So this year we will do things a bit different.  I got a subscription to AHA Science via Homeschool Buyers Co-op.  The kids adored the sample lessons, and we are looking forward to accessing the games and seeing what else the program has to offer.  I’m also planning to pull random experiments out of this book Gramma gave us, 101 Cool Science Experiments.

For art, I have GeeArt.  We’ve had the program for some time now, but I’ve never managed to get it together enough to get the projects done.  I’m hoping to overcome my own fear of messiness and allow the munchkins to get messy, and maybe even get messy myself.  But the biggest thing they will learn in the category of “art” this year — how to clean up their supplies!

It should be a fun, busy year.
Not Back to School Blog Hop

First week of school ’08

First official week of school is over.  GeekBoy needs to work on his comprehension.  He’s got the mechanics of math down, he can read really really big words, but has no clue what it all means.  We’re working on it, and I think the light is dawning.  He is doing book reports this year, and since he wants a grade, doing quizzes and such too.  He did well this first week.  thePinkDiva did great too.  She aced her math quiz, and proved that she can read more then she lets on.  I’m trying some new strategies to get her to cooperate.  Big Boy is just having a blast.  They all love the history program – Story of the World is great.  We talked about nomads, did cave paintings, and sewed “game bags.”  Game as in hunting game, not game as in scrabble, although you could probably carry a game in one of these bags.

Mom & Diva Sewing

Cave paintings
The biggest change around here is the rule – no Wii/computer/video until school work is done.  It’s been the only motivating factor to get them to work.  My biggest challenge is to stay firm on that and not bend the rule, esp when DH is gone and I have to do something like mow the lawn.  But you know, they actually played outside while I mowed the lawn?  Wow!  My kids are like me, a Melman (Ahh! Nature!  Get it off me!), and usually prefer the indoors.  This has been great for us.

GeekBoy decided he wants to play soccer.  So, after much discussion, and making it clear that he would follow this through to the end no matter what, there will be no changing of the mind in 3 weeks, we went ahead and contacted the local homeschool sports co-op.  He’s still jazzed about it.  We got him registered and got him a ball, and shin guards.  He’s so excited.  Practice doesn’t start until Aug 30.  He’s on the Junior team – 5-7 yr olds.  Practice is once a week.  Games will be every Saturday.  I’m excited because this it the first time any of my spawn have shown an interest in organized sports!  I loved Volleyball and Basketball (the only sports available to me in my small school), so I’m thrilled to see my son finally take an interest in sports.

Gettin' his kicks

BigBoy got a bike on Friday, and yes, he’s already figured out how to ride.  He obviously needs practice, but more importantly, he’s already figured out the brake!  We spent about an hour out front on the street riding up and down.  He caught on really quickly.  Personally, I think riding a bike must seem like a mental cake walk compared to some of the video games he plays.  His biggest challenge seems to be that his body can’t seem to keep up with his brain.  Oh yea, he’s going to play soccer too.  The Sports Co-op has a “tots” team for the little ones ages 2-4.  No practices, nothing serious, just pretty much the kids get to kick a ball around while big brother (or sister) is playing.  He’s excited.

I wanna play too!

Gramma, Nani, and AnnoyingPenguin came over this weekend.  The kids camped out in GeekBoy’s room.  The tent and everything. With the Geek’s ceiling full of glow stars, it was like sleeping under the stars, only better because they had air conditioning and no bugs.  Since our history lesson this week was all about nomads, we talked about how the nomads slept in tents everyday.  Diva mentioned that she was very glad for her cotton/polyester sleeping bag, because if she had to sleep on an animal skin, she wouldn’t want to sleep there.  All week she has tripped out over nomads using animal skins for everything.

the best kind of camping

Monkey Butt!!!

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We went to the Zoo. It was fun. The kids had a blast, and couldn’t help but compare the real zoo to their Zoo Tycoon 2 game that they all love so much. There were several times the Diva would comment, “Mom! They need to put in a girl camel so the Camel will be happy!” The Mandril (pictured above) was the favorite. And to prove the kids actually learned something, once we got home and checked out the photos, GeekBoy declared, “His butt is so colorful so his family can follow him through the jungle.” See… they do learn! And the best part… I didn’t tell him that! He read it off the sign in front of the monkey cage. Learning from everyday life. It can happen folks.

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The Emu was pretty pissed about having his sleep disturbed.

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Check those birds with the weird red things! “Uh, it says they are ‘Hornbills’ Dad!”

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The GeekBoy even took some photos of his own.  Lookie!  Art class!  Photography practice.

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“Look mom!  Elephant butt!”

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No trip to the zoo is complete without a chance to feed the goats.  Immediately after this photo, thePinkDiva completely lost her marbles because a goat’s tongue had dared to touch her hand.  She insisted on washing her hands, right that second.  The best we could do was a purell dispenser on a post at the end of the fence.  *Note to self – next time we visit the zoo, bring wipes!

And of course, I just couldn’t post this without this most excellent shot of the day…

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Monkey Butt!!!   Ha ha ha!

GeekBoy vs the Volcano

So, volcanoes are always a topic of interest around here, probably stemming from the time we spent living on the side of one.  Not that any of our children are old enough to remember that time, but they see pictures, hear stories, and every so often, GeekBoy starts reading books about volcanoes.  So today, after reading through a few library books about volcanoes, we built our own Baking Soda Volcano.

We used the directions found at About.com.  GeekBoy helped mix the salt dough for the cone, but he chickened out of shaping it once he discovered how sticky salt dough is.  But he was right there adding the baking soda and vinegar.  It was fun!


*The video is a stop motion type thing, made with a series of high-speed continuous shot photos.  Sound effects came from Simplythebest.net.

Then our movie from Netflix arrived, as if on cue, and we watched Pompeii:  The Last Day.  Then GeekBoy closed off the day by building different volcanoes online at Discovery’s Virtual Volcano game.

All Aboard!

We did a lapbook themed around the Grinch last week.  This week, Momma is going to work some things up surrounding the the Polar Express.  This is a bit more difficult for me, because, unlike the Grinch, I can’t find one (cheap enough) all laid out for me already.  So I’m making it up as I go along.  *S*

I found plenty of resources online with lots of Ideas, and I’m pooling it all together to make something my kids will enjoy.  We’ll read the book, chart a path to the north pole, help the conductor solve some math facts, learn about how the legend of Santa is different around the world, and write a letter to Santa.  Then we’ll draw what we’d see out the train window, pull some vocabulary words from the book, sing Christmas Carols while playing with bells, and end it all with a plate of sugar cookies and some hot chocolate while we watch the movie.

Should be fun!

“Is this fall be-cation?”

thePinkDiva asked me that earlier this week after her daddy told her he would be on “vacation” this weekend.  Being that Mom, aka theTeacher, is so stressed out over the upcoming wedding, and Lil’Chicano’s potty training…   Yes, this is fall vacation.

Sort of.

thePinkDiva has been doing her math every morning, and we still read, read, read.  We even made it to PE with the rest of the co-op this past Wednesday, although the kids were ornery and we left early.  And, technically, since I’ve made “Photography” part of GeekBoy’s art curriculum this year, it will be a working vacation for all of us.  thePinkDiva actually wants to bring her math book to show her Gramma.  I think my heart smiled when she said that.

“Mom! She’s almost as tall as me!”

Self Portraits

Today, We began with our first lesson from the Alpha & Omega Grade 1 history curriculum. Pretty much at this level it’s all about how special every one is. Really it’s more “social studies” then “History” but whatever. History was blocking me up, and I like A&O’s Biblical driven curriculum. Anyway, we talked about how we are all special and God loves everyone. Then we made life sized self portraits, which I think qualifies as art also. *S*

Then thePinkDiva learned about equal while GeekBoy actually sat and did a few Math worksheets – I know! Bizarre! Someone check to see if the world is still spinning. *S* GeekBoy and I actually discussed some addition strategies when adding the number 9. And I illustrated to him why he has to learn Addition before he can learn multiplication.

We also read some books before bed time.