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Our Mid-Year Homeschool Review

Technically we’re one week shy of being halfway through our school year, but we’re ready to take an extended three week break for Christmas. In years past we’ve taken the week of Christmas and a bit after and truthfully – well, everything just feels rushed and crazy-like. So this year, we planned in a much needed break that will coincide with a nice trip to the grandparents.

Anyway, here’s a little peek at what we’ve been up to the last few weeks, thoughts on how our school year has been going so far, especially with the new curriculum pieces we added in. We had a laptop crash and the new laptop already had a minor mishap (how in the world??), but everything is finally re-installed on the new computer and up and running. You can view our full 2014-15 curriculum list here.

I’d love to hear what you all have been up to as well, so please leave a comment and share your thoughts on your year as well!

History

Now that our brand-spankin’-new textbook for Mystery of History 4 has arrived, we’re feeling all official. Truthfully, I’m feeling so very overwhelmed in some ways because there is SO much to learn and it is hard to touch on just a small fraction of history. We do look in-depth at things, but switching into the modern era there is an overwhelming amount of information to intake.

Maybe that’s just me. (grins)

We’ve covered the thirteen colonies, many of the early American leaders, the French and Indian War, Catherine the Great, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte, the War of 1812, the Trail of Tears, Karl Marx, famous abolitionists, Florence Nightingale, Charles Darwin, and are just about ready to talk about the Civil War.

History is flying by! We are loving the lessons and occasionally adding in some dvd clips from either Liberty Kids or Drive Thru History just for variation. We haven’t had as much time to add in a lot of read-alouds from the time period (with swim team this fall), but hopefully that will be back on track in the upcoming months.

Bible

We’ve taken a little break from Picture Smart Bible in November and December to focus on Unwrapping the Greatest Gift and work on another family devotional from Focus on the Family. We are really loving the Advent study from Ann Voskamp – those coloring pages just seal the deal. The kids love them.

Laurianna is almost done with the What on Earth Can I Do? in the What We Believe series, and McKenna is working on Who is My Neighbor?

Math

Do you all have visitors in your homeschool room? Please say yes. Olaf made a special appearance and was apparently helping McKenna with her math. Really, more like distracting everyone and causing unending giggles.

One kiddo is learning multiplication (his 1,’s, 5’s, and 10’s), another is starting with long division, and Laurianna is making my brain hurt with algebra equations. It’s a good hurt and my brain is happy to solve things that can actually be solved.

Reading

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My momma’s heart is so very happy in this area with all of our kids. Kaleb’s reading is growing with leaps and bounds. He is working on All About Reading 2 and we’ve gotten into a great daily groove with lessons and review.

The other day someone asked Zachary what his favorite subject was – and the boy said READING. You all, I wanted to cry happy tears right then and there. Knowing what a struggle it’s been for him (believing he can’t vs. his capability), that is such an amazing thing to hear – and the biggest thing has been the first book he finished this year as a part of his language program. Since then, Zachary has finished four books on his 4th grade reading list (yay!!). In addition, Zachary is about halfway through All About Reading 4, and he is so excited about that!

McKenna has finished seven of the books on her reading list and Laurianna is almost halfway through hers as well. Unfortunately (well, not really), both of these girls are voracious readers and get sidetracked easily after a trip to the library.

Language

This year one of the things I was most nervous about was switching the boys to Learning Language Arts Through Literature. While we aren’t using everything in the lessons (spelling and some reading are separate), both boys are really liking the change. The biggest thing for Zachary is the tie-in with what he is reading (more of the book study approach), but he is also learning about research papers, and more this year.

McKenna has loved the switch to Growing with Grammar and also the online WordBuild vocabulary. She discovered a love for diagramming – takes after her mom in that!

Science

Snap circuits

The boys are a little more than halfway through Nancy Larson Science 2. Although Zachary worked on this level a few years ago, he asked to do it with Kaleb this year and has been a great help to Kaleb. They both are having fun with the hands-on aspects (we’re learning about levers and simple machines right now) and tying in some fun LEGO projects. On the side, Zachary is working with Snap Circuits and K’Nex projects – we try to find a project that goes along with our lessons that week.

McKenna isn’t as crazy about her science program as Laurianna was a few years ago, but it’s a change from what she has used in the past. She is finally getting settled with it, but part of the problem has been moving to a more independent program. While Laurianna enjoyed that aspect, it’s a little harder for McKenna.

Laurianna does much of her science work independently during the week, but once a week gets together with a small group of kids to go over additional experiments. She is loving her physical science! So far they’ve built a glider, a boat, and are working on framing a miniature house complete with electricity. So much fun!

Art

Home Art Studio artwork

While Zachary and McKenna do an art project every now and then – they enjoy them, but don’t live for them, Kaleb is the exact opposite. The boy would work on an art project every.single.day if he could.

Seriously.

When the rest of his schoolwork is done, he grabs his art DVD, all the supplies I’ve pulled out, and runs downstairs to work on a project. The wall above his desk is crazy full of fun paintings, drawings, and more.

The Rest of the High School Stuff

North Star Geography Experiments

Really, there are so many other subjects! A few of Laurianna’s high school credits I touched on briefly above (math and science), but a few don’t fully ‘fit’ into any of the above areas.

Greek Myths (1/2 credit) – This was the one class she was so very excited to take this year, maybe partly due to Percy Jackson – who knows. Unfortunately, while she enjoys the main text, she isn’t super thrilled with the class overall. It isn’t quite what she expected, which has made the last few weeks of the class hard. She’ll be finishing it up in just a few days, and it’s one that she’ll be happy to say goodbye to. On the bright side, it’s been a great lesson in perseverance even when things are going the way you expected.

North Star Geography (1 credit) – Laurianna didn’t expect to enjoy this quite as much as she has been. Overall, it is her favorite subject and the one she looks forward to each day. I’m beyond thrilled with the teacher’s plans, the grading spreadsheet (that does all the work for me), and the many, many helps that come along with the course. BEST class for both of us this year!

Spanish – We had a minor snafu with our program when our laptop died. We went from two inputs to only one headphone jack and someone (ahem), kept forgetting to purchase a splitter. Thankfully, Laurianna was already ahead in her lessons, so she’ll be back on track after the start of the year. (phew)

Intro to Literature – While the class has been challenging (in a good way) for Laurianna, I’m so very thankful for the years that she used WriteShop Junior. Her writing is so much stronger because of it, which has been helpful this year in her lit class. I’ve been reading the books along with the kids and grading papers galore. My one complaint about the program is the lack of grading rubrics/standards. While they have one generic one they use as an example, I’ve had to pull together my own grading sheets (but that’s just me being picky). Writing is a tough area to grade, because so much can be subjective.

 

Phew – that’s a big, long sum-up of our year so far and what we think of our curriculum (we’re happy with it all!!).

How are YOU doing?

In Which We Finish 13 Weeks of Homeschooling

Rather than taking our typical break after each six week block, the kids (and dad and mom) decided to push through the next few weeks and take a full week off at Thanksgiving, and then a little more than three weeks off at Christmas. Somehow December manages to always get crazy fast, so we’re hoping this will make it easier (and fun!).

Ready to see a few things that we’ve been up to? Apparently I wasn’t super ambitious with the camera – but it’s been a GREAT two weeks and we’ve gotten so much accomplished (I love that feeling!).

Learning about Wheels and Axles

simple machines nancy larson

The boys are working together on Nancy Larson Science 2. The most recent unit has been on force, friction, and work. One lesson in our unit was about wheels and axles, so we pulled out our Lego Education Simple Machines set and put together cars to show how they move down an inclined plane. While many of our science lessons are already hands-on, adding LEGOs definitely made it even more fun! 

Parallel Learning

boys at the table homeschooling

One of the things that I love about the above picture – two boys working on completely different projects (reading vs. LEGOs), pjs vs. fully dressed (ignore the crazy hair) – it’s just a snapshot of what our days looks like. Granted, it isn’t always quite this peaceful (or cooperative), but that’s another part of our days, right?

A few of you have asked what books are sitting on the table next to Zachary. While I was cleaning off our shelves and pulling out things for my nephew, I found some old Scholastic Early Readers and had Kaleb go through them that morning. He was having an “I can’t read” day, and it was so encouraging to him to FLY through almost the entire box of books in no time flat (encouraging for both him as well as me!). He was all smiles when he finished reading them, realizing what he COULD do.

Incidentally, the above picture shows Zachary working on his third book this year (yay!!) from his fourth grade reading list, and he just finished it up this week!

The Boy Who Chews…

History time

History is going great as well, although we are a bit behind on our history timeline – oops. Kaleb (sorry for the bad picture!) and the other kids have been using Chewigem pendants and tags the last week and a half. Honestly, I am really thankful for them, because Kaleb is a huge chewer and constantly has things in his mouth (typically Lego pieces) and that makes me super nervous. The Chewigem dog tags have kept toys and unsafe things out of his mouth and helped with a lot of the fidgeting in the other kids. 

Learning How Business Works

homeschool mini society project-1

The 6th through 8th graders in our high school co-op are working on mini society projects. Essentially, the kids set up their own businesses, create their own society with jobs, currency, etc… and find out what makes money work – a little crash lesson in life.

McKenna is working with another girl in her class and they have been busy making as much as they can with as little cash expense as possible. They have created rock monsters (made with googley eyes and cheap paint), t-shirt bracelets (using old t-shirts), and monster bookmarks that sit on the corner of book pages. It’s been a great experience to discover what works with marketing a product, how much time to budget for projects, and what products are worth the time/effort and have the best cost/effort ratio.

Listening to Books

Audiobooks for Families to enjoy

Last week I shared some of the recent audiobooks we’ve listened to as a family. Richard Peck has been a favorite author in recent weeks, but we’re headed back to the library this week to see what else we can find!

 

Time Away with (One of) My Girls

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I’ll be sharing more soon, but this past weekend McKenna and I had a weekend away to have our talk on friendships, peer pressure, dating, and the S.E.X. word. Oh my goodness. It was such a completely different weekend than my weekend with Laurianna, but it was so absolutely wonderful. We did things that spoke to her heart, including spending time working on a special mug at a local pottery place. She has big plans for the finished mug, including toting it to church for Sunday morning coffee – love it!

 

On the Mom Front

The kids haven’t been the only ones busy around the house. I’m slowly working on my November book list (shockingly, I got distracted with two other books, but have finished two of the books in my pile, Start: Punch Fear in the Face and A Lady at Willowgrove Hall. I’m almost finished with Parenting with Love and Logic and Six Ways to Keep the Good in Your Boy – again, so helpful if I focus on ONE book at a time!

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I’ve been working hard on my November goals too. Our living room is currently a work in progress, but it’s getting there! We’ve emptied out our entertainment center, moved our tv, primed the mantle, and we’re now prepping for full painting and bookcases on either side of the fireplace. Painting over the wood is killing me a bit, but I think the end result will be beautiful, so trying not to panic! (fyi – I hate, hate, hate decorating).

 

What have you been up to with your kids?

Mary_CollageFriday weekly wrap up

Linking up this week with Collage Friday and Weekly Wrap-up!

Our 9th Grade Homeschool Reading List

9th grade reading list

While our daughter is actually in the 8th grade, the literature class she is taking is for high school credit. So – I’m not sure if you would term this our 8th or 9th grade reading list (grins). Many of the books on Laurianna’s reading list include ones that are a part of her literature class, but there are also a few added we’d really like for her to read because they go along with the era of history that we’re studying (early America to modern times) or we want her to read a book before seeing the movie (The Hobbit). The typical pace is at least one book per month for her lit class, and another one when that book is finished.

Remember, this list doesn’t include any the books that she decides to read over the course of the year just for fun. She has her eye on a few books and definitely takes advantage of our library system! Keeping up with our 8th’s graders voracious reading can be difficult. She is constantly borrowing books from the library or friends, but not all of them are ones that we would call ‘school worthy’. This also doesn’t include the list of family read alouds for the year – and we’ve already worked on a few of those!

A peek at her reading list for the year:

A Few Extras on the List for 8th Grade:

Since many of the books also have a video version, we’re hoping to watch them together (after we read the books, of course) and compare the book to the movie version. It’ll be a little something fun we can do together.

Overall not a huge list for the year, but several of the books are fairly hefty and will involve a lot of essay writing and discussion, so definitely enough to keep her busy for the year!

What books are in your kid’s reading stack for this year?

Homeschool Reading Lists for our Other Children

Interested in seeing reading lists for our other kids as well? Check out our reading choices for this year by clicking on the images below. Stay tuned for our 2nd grade reading choices!

6th grade homeschool reading list

4th grade homeschool reading list