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Homeschool Wrap Up – October 2019

This month has flown by! Overall the year feels different in so many ways – one kiddo overseas, another one spending more time out of the house with her job and the freedom of her own car, and so many swim practices for the boys. 

There’s a part of me that realizes I’ve been silent on social media (and the blog – who am I kidding), but finding our new groove this year and trying to focus on getting things done (there’s a balance there) has been the primary goal. And really truly, that’s a good thing. :)

Typically each year we take a break every six weeks, but at this point we are nine weeks in and going strong. Some days go more smoothly than others. Some days not so much. 

The 7th Grader

Taking pictures of Kaleb involves a lot of sneakiness. He is working quite hard this year on doing as much as he can independently. We work together on spelling and some of his reading, but otherwise he comes to me when he has worked through his primary subjects and we wrap-up the rest of his stuff together and review his answers.

We’re working through All About Spelling 3, doing 1 or 2 lessons a week, depending on our time. Kaleb has definitely gained more confidence in his writing/spelling this year. He still isn’t the world’s biggest fan of it overall, but he is trying, which is a huge jump from years past.

One thing we are trying with our reluctant reader is a book bingo this year. Because Kaleb is not a fan of reading at all (or writing), we are trying to encourage him to read some different books, branch out a bit, and we have some small incentives for him as he completes a book or row on the bingo card. He does have to complete a short summary on the book as well

If we wrap up a school day early, I try to throw in a fun educational game. I’m a huge lover of games, but the kids aren’t as much into them. Sequence is one of my personal favorites, and there are so many variations on the game  – Sequence Numbers has been the game this month. 

Kaleb and his Lego League group are prepping for their first competition in just a few short weeks. Last year their team went to the state competition, so they are hoping to do well again this year. They’ve added a new team member and switched up their robot, so it’s going to be fun to see how it goes this time around.

The 9th Grader

Zachary has been working hard the last several weeks to wrap up several of his subjects, specifically Algebra 1 and World Geography. Algebra is about a week away from wrapping up (woohoo!!) and geography was wrapped up this week (YAY!!!!). Although there are days that Zachary’s motivation can be lacking, it has been really encouraging to have him dig in and work hard to finish something up.

Most of our days involve working around our puppy friend. She’s a legitimate mess, but loves being the center of attention. All day every day. Sigh.

We celebrated Zachary’s 15th birthday this month too!! I have to secretly admit that it’s a bit of a relief to tell people that he is 15 – especially since he is pushing 6’4″. I know it sounds funny, but it seems that he has finally aged into his growth. :) 

Another first for our boy this month was a local homecoming with a group of his friends. It was so much fun hanging out with the other moms, snapping a million pictures, and just watching them enjoying their time together. 

I will say that finding pants to fit this boy – OY!! Amazon for the win!!

Some days (ok, quite a few) involve a teenager who likes to be in ANY position other than one that is conducive to working on the subject at hand. Please tell me we aren’t alone in this. :)

BUT – there are other days that go super smoothly. And wonderfully. And that’s a lovely thing. :)

What We’re Using

If you’d like a peek at our curriculum choices (because we did switch some things up this year), feel free to click on any of the below links. 

Homeschool Wrap Up September 2019

As much as I truly want to share weekly updates, life has a way recently of flying by. My time on Instagram and Facebook has been limited. BUT our time with school has definitely been in high gear. 

We started our school year the first week of September. It’s the latest we have ever started, but after a crazy busy summer, two kids working, swim team, and still feeling behind from the rush of Laurianna’s graduation and then joining Mercy Ships – well, I personally needed to breathe a little. 

(Maybe you’ve noticed I’ve been a bit quiet here overall lately?)

I’m hoping to share a bit more on the whole “catching up” that I’ve been trying to do with life as we settle into a new year and adjust to a different season. 

But – how are YOU all doing this year so far? 

Despite my best intentions, we didn’t get a first day of school picture of the kids. So McKenna was more than happy to jump in and help out with that. She was even nice enough to include Laurianna – all the way in Africa. 

All that said – we have jumped back into school and managed to get into a fairly good groove overall. Most school days start rather early (M/W the boys are up at 4:45a and T/Th at 5:15a) for the boys’ swim practices. The boys have been doing really well with the early mornings (some days are a little harder than others). 

7th Grade Learning

Even though we have a school room, the boys often like to spend time working in the living room, especially since we have a new couch and can spread out a little more now. Kaleb is really enjoying the switches we made this year with his curriculum. It’s allowed him a bit more independence and he is working hard to do as much without my help. 

This is a HUGE step for him, especially with his reading. He is currently 7th grade and although he is still behind grade-level, he has been making some great strides – which has definitely been encouraging to both him and us, and helped tremendously with his confidence. 

Grammar and math are two of Kaleb’s “pocket” areas. Grammar is one subject he has always done well in. In years past, he has worked through the daily lessons alongside me, but this year it is another one that he has taken over independently (and is doing great). 

Kaleb has also been working slowly through Word Up Vocabulary – short video clips and then some online Quizlet work with the new words. 

Another area we’ve really been hitting hard is spelling. While there are days it seems we are going so slowly, we are really trying to make sure Kaleb really has it down firmly. This year has been a lot easier going (some things have “clicked” a little more for him as well as his willingness to jump in full force).

There are moments when I can sit and breathe as the boys work. Sometimes that means I can grab a little bit of reading time, but more often it’s catching up and trying to stay ahead (currently reading Homeschool Bravely, amongst other things). 

9th Grade Learning

Most of our days are spent with our puppy VERY close by. Sometimes more of a hinderance than a help. :) 

Zachary started North Star Geography  last year and we initially planned to work on it over the course of two full years. After he started back up with the program this year, he decided to wrap it up sooner, so he will hopefully be finished with that class at the end of October. 

Last year Zachary started Algebra 1 with Teaching Textbooks. While he did get a good chunk of the program completed, I will admit to not being on top of all of his work, especially once our year went a bit haywire at the end. We initially planned to work on the program over the summer – but that just didn’t happen. 

Admitting my shortcomings to you all – plain and simple. 

Now Zachary has had to step it up to finish the Algebra 1 lessons and then jump into Geometry as soon as he completes it – hopefully end of October as well!

A new-to-us class this year, Grammar for Writers, has been going really well also. This should be a one semester class (1/2 credit) for Zachary, so he has a little wiggle room with lessons if he needs to focus on another area. The video lessons have been engaging so far and Zachary and I work through the lesson quizzes together. 

One of the things I am so glad that we decided to do again this year is a small co-op for both biology and Personal Finance. Biology has been so much fun already – and quite honestly it’s been interesting to see how much Zachary really remembers (and how easily he can memorize – because let’s face it, sometimes I wonder about the teenage brain). When it’s something he ENJOYS, he is all in.

And personal finance, he absolutely LOVES. We were recently out with friends and the bulk of the time he spent explaining compound interest to all of the kids. It was rather hilarious to listen to, but again – when he loves it, he is ALL IN!

11th Grade Learning

The bulk of McKenna’s work has been independent, and she checks in with me with papers she has written, etc… but overall she is falling into her own routine for the new year. She started a new job and works two afternoons a week, and her fall drama/musical class started at the beginning of October. 

The Kid in Africa

Laurianna is adjusting to life on the Africa Mercy and doing really well. Since flying to Guinea, Africa at the end of May, she has since sailed to the Canary Islands (while the ship was in dry dock and getting prepped for Senegal) and then on to Senegal.

She has already decided to extend her time with Mercy Ships. Her initial return would have been in March, but at this point she has pushed the date into May. We’re still waiting on a specific date, but thankful she is settling in. :) 

You can follow along with her trip via her blog here: https://deeplyrooted.blog/

One thing we are thankful for is the opportunity to Facetime with her. The ship has wifi, and we sometimes have a spotty connection, but it’s good to be able to SEE her, even though she is so far away. 

It’s rather strange adjusting to life with one less kiddo in the house – and being a parent of one that is technically an adult – and learning how to parent from a different place in life. But it’s also a good adjustment too. :) 

What We’re Using

If you’d like a peek at our curriculum choices (because we did switch some things up this year), feel free to click on any of the below links. 

 

 

 

8th Grade Mid Year Homeschool Curriculum Review

This year had me a little anxious when it came to Zachary taking a few high school classes (truth be told). He and I had a few great conversations prior to (and during) this school year to make sure he was ready and prepared for a little more accountability and intensity (if you will) associated with taking a class for a credit. 

Here’s the thing: I am very much of the mindset that not all of my kids are on the same academic course. Do I want them to excel in their studies? Absolutely. Will they all put the same effort in? Likely no. Not all of our kids will be dual enrolled in the community college. And that is JUST FINE. Really – it’s fabulous.

That said, I’m really pleased with how Zachary has been doing and working so far this year. Granted there are days when he would prefer to put in the absolute minimal effort required to get an assignment completed, but we are finding a good groove, tailoring things to his interests and strengths, and moving from there. Ah, the joys of homeschooling! 

8th Grade Homeschool Curriculum Choices

Here’s the mid-year look at how each of these subject areas is progressing: 

Math: We are loving the online version of  Algebra 1 from Teaching Textbooks – not needing to worry about WHICH computer we log on to the program with (or where) has made things so much easier. There are a few things he keeps tripping up over, but fortunately each time he is figuring it out more quickly. 

Physical Science: One of the things I love most about our Physical Science from Exploration Education are the hands-on labs and building projects Zachary has to complete. There are times when he is learning that he can’t just throw something together and skip steps (shocking, I know), and fortunately for him (or much to his dismay) I have enough leftover pieces from prior lab kits with the girls that he is able to rework something he may have done incorrectly – and slow down to get it done right.

He’s had the most fun (and frustration) making the steamboat since it actually floated and worked. And also because it involved matches. 

Geography: I wasn’t quite sure how geography would go over with Zachary this year since it involved a whole lot more memorization and reading for him as well as sometimes having to dig for answers, but he has done great with North Star Geography. He is working through the program over two years, rather than one year like his sisters did and in some ways I like that option (although I do feel he could push himself a bit more as well). 

Prior to this year we haven’t done a lot of weekly quizzes or tests with him, it’s been more 1:1, but with this being a high school class I’m wanting more a paper trail (call me paranoid). But he has done SO WELL and been learning a lot. 

Language: We definitely could be doing a bit more with this program than we are, but with the shift in reading material (see below), Zachary has worked through the units for books he has completed and then we have skipped over some material that I felt he didn’t need to work on because it overlapped something we have already covered or he has already mastered that specific area – a bonus to homeschooling !

Poetry: We’ve finished up the bulk of  Grammar of Poetry, and one of the best parts of the class was participating in a poetry workshop at a nearby Shakespeare theatre. It was a full-day event and tied in so well with the program we were using. 

Reading: Zachary has read a few books that tie-in with the Learning Language Arts Through Literature (Gray) program, but in December I may have upped the ante for him a little bit. He is NOT a reader (not a fan of reading, rather). So we discussed various book series he might enjoy (because of course whatever I choose is never enjoyable – just insert me rolling my eyes here). 

He decided to read some of the Harry Potter books – and YOU ALL. The boy has been reading for school each day WITHOUT COMPLAINING and some nights staying up until late to read just a bit more in the book. He finished one this weekend and spent much of his Sunday afternoon with me and reading. It was so great to see. For his reading out of school time, I may have also thrown in some bonus Fortnite time to reward him – but he has now declared that it is his favorite series ever – so huge win.  

Writing: We are working through the second half of the WriteShop Basic Set 2 program. Zachary has been doing really well with this program as well and his writing has improved so much, other than typical grammatical errors and his usual here-and-there spelling mistakes because he doesn’t run spell check. 

Spelling: Confession: we’ve only done 2 lessons of All About Spelling Levels 6 . Yep. Need to step it up a little here. 

Art: Confession #2. Zero art with either of the boys. Big fat zero, nada, nothing. In my defense, they are very involved in swimming and Boy Scouts. If starting fires can count as art, Zachary is passing with flying colors. 

Bible Studies: I held off in this area until after Christmas break, so the boys and I will be starting the Do Right study this coming week, just after our halfway point.

Swim Team and Boy Scouts – Zachary has not only grown taller, but he’s gotten so much stronger this year. Just after Christmas, he was asked to join the Level 1 group of our swim team. He’s been dropping time like crazy in his events, qualified for the state swim meet, and is so close in several events to qualifying for nationals. 

Traveling to Pittsburg with our team was a big step for him this year and he’s really been pushing himself to both work hard and improve his stroke technique. The season hasn’t been without struggle though. We lost our primary coaches in October and were thrilled to have a new head coach join the team, but he was only able to stay a short time because of a health issue with a family member. Despite all of those changes though, it’s wonderful to see Zachary’s improvement. 

Boy Scouts continues to be one of Zachary’s priorities as well and he will be ranking up at the next Court of Honor (and thinking of Eagle Scout projects next!). They haven’t had the opportunity to camp as much lately since the weather has been crazy ridiculous with ice one weekend and rain/sleet/FRIGID temperatures another. While they have camped in snow before, the 20 degree temps weren’t something to get too excited about. 

That’s about it for our mid-year wrap up.

How are things going with your homeschool time? 

 

Planning the Middle and High School Years

Overview planning pages for middle and high school

One thing that has been a huge help to me in mapping out the upcoming years with our kids  is this middle school and high school planner. Essentially I am able to get an extended view and map out the future years to see what we need to work on and when it might fit in best -and make sure we aren’t missing anything overall. 

If you are new to homeschooling and aren’t sure where to begin in choosing homeschool curriculum, please don’t let this post overwhelm you! Check out the entire Homeschool Basics series for answers to more frequently asked homeschool questions.

Homeschool Teaching Styles and Philosphies.png Identifying Children's Learning Styles copy How to Choose Homeschool Curriculum

 

 

 

 

Fall Read-Alouds for Middle School Boys

This fall our read-alouds are focused more on the boys and their interests (or things they will hopefully be interested in). While our girls were avid readers, our boys have more of a “meh” attitude when it comes to reading, so one of my goals in reading out loud with them daily is making it FUN and enjoyable. 

We have four books in our pile for our fall reading: 

We are currently reading The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt – and it is HILARIOUS. If you have middle schoolers (boys or girls), they will love this book told from the perspective of a 7th grade boy. And beyond that, you as the reader will love it too (I’ve laughed out loud and even teared up at a few points). 

The boys may have had to remind me IT’S NOT REAL, MOM! (For real.)

Anyway, here are a few thoughts on our choices for the fall read alouds. 

Read Aloud Tips

Maybe your family is having a hard time settling down for a read aloud time? If so, maybe one of these Six Read-Aloud Tips will help your family out {especially little ones}.

Books We’ve Previously Read Together

Here are a few other books that we’ve read together and blogged about. Click over to see our thoughts on them!

Audiobooks for Families to enjoy

 

Learning about Coding with EEME’s Uno Board

EEME is a blog sponsor and we received this product free for the purpose of reviewing it. All opinions expressed are my personal, honest opinions. You can read my full disclosure policy for more details. 

Just before the school year ended, we shared about Kaleb building Q the robot from EEME. We were then in the throes of packing for our European adventure and the day before we left, another box arrived from EEME for the Uno Board. 

One thing that can be frustrating about other STEM projects is you build it and that’s the end – nothing more. With Q the Robot though, EEME has created a series of projects that build on the framework of what your child has already started. The base remains the same and children essentially add more brains and smarts to their robots. 

That is a win-win!

The Uno Board is not a stand-alone project – meaning you cannot purchase just the Uno Board and have your child work on it. Children start by building the Q the Robot project kit, a 3-wheeled robot who follows light. He is the first in a series of robotics projects from EEME – and there is no coding required to get started! Once completed, Q follows light around using two sensors, or photo resistors. When light is shined directly onto the sensors, Q turns to follow the light. 

The kids “beef up” their robots with (and I quote, because I could never in a million years say this) “an Arduino-compatible UNO microcontroller board”. With the Uno Board, concepts covered include:  

  • Coding programs for the UNO board
  • What a compiler does
  • A coding language called C++
  • What all those holes, pins on the UNO board do
  • How UNO powers up

Adding the Uno Board

EEME has FREE online lessons (anyone can view these!), and this is where we went to begin our work with the Uno Board. The first several lessons covered the components we needed for the project (all included), safety, familiarizing ourselves with the projects, and getting the board connected to Q the robot for programming. 

We divided the thirty video lessons for Uno Board into two segments over the course of two days. Each of the 30 videos range in length, but average time each day was a bit over an hour, taking us a almost 2.5 hours to complete the entire project. 

There are some super tiny screws and pieces that will require a bit of patience at times – completely doable, but just a heads up. :) 

One thing we had to do in the early stages was download some firmware to “test” and make sure our board was working correctly. This step took us a little bit of problem solving (all questions that were answered via their site), but because we had a Mac, we required a different patch for our test. Once we had that figured out, we were good to go! 

(The green light is a good thing.)

One thing to love about the video lessons is the way EEME dad ties in practical/real-life to help kids understand the terms. The above lesson is teaching about coding and broke it down by showing that coding is essentially giving kids the steps to a function. When parents ask you to work on morning chores (function), there are certain steps that define that function. 

The hardest area for us was more the actual coding. In this section, I will admit that we bypassed a little bit, but only after Kaleb and I talked through the coding. For kids to learn and understand how the coding works, EEME recommends that kids type through the coding – it is provided in a box above and kids copy it line by line. 

I 100% agree that we learn best by doing ourselves, but in this instance, Kaleb and I would go through it and I would have him point out the various functions. Because I had a broken arm at the time (and had limited use of the computer keyboard) and Kaleb struggles with typing, after we discussed the coding, we did copy/paste from the provided coding. For a few of them I would omit certain segments and have him point out where the errors were. That said, the program itself does recommend kids work through it step-by-step. We didn’t follow the directions. :)

Each time new coding is entered, there is an opportunity to test it to see what that specific coding does. Honestly, so fun. 

Above is a super short video clip Kaleb took showing the light sequence coding he worked on. 

Once the coding was completed, Kaleb mounted the platform onto the top of Q the Robot. Prior to this point, the Uno Board was connected but off to the side. 

This step was a little trickier at times because there are so many more wires now and he was trying to make sure everything stayed in place (he may have knocked one out by accident and had to backtrack to see how we had the wires connected). 

After about two hours and 15 minutes total – the Uno Board was fully mounted and working! 

And now – we’re ready to work on the next step with Q the Robot to make him even better! 

What I will say after this step – Kaleb is 11 and a bit of a perfectionist. He wants to have things done well and correctly, so there isn’t any rushing through. If something isn’t working right, he at times gets frustrated with himself, so I sat alongside for the lessons and helped him flip back through pictures we had taken to look and see how wires were connected if he accidentally unhooked something. 

If our older son (age 13) were working on this, he would not need the 1:1 help (he might as for a hand occasionally), but much of that is also personality differences as well. It can be done and may need to be broken up into smaller chunks as well. 

What Mom’s Need to Know…

  • Everything’s included – parts, wires, batteries are included in all every kit
  • No experience needed – the online lessons to mentor, guide, and teach your kid (seriously, this is a lovely thing)
  • Safety first – no soldering required, low voltage projects (the mom in me rejoices)

Meanwhile, kids are learning solid concepts and being challenged by building projects using REAL components. They may make mistakes, but in doing so, they learn to review and discover what they can do to make it better and work correctly. 

Perfect for ages 10+

Time Required: 2-2.5 hours

Parental involvement: varies based on child, but this one may require more assistance depending on your child’s keyboarding/typing skills since it does involve more detailed computer usage. 

Start Learning With EEME

There are 3 ways to learn with EEME – FREE online lessons, their robotics kit series, and their electronics kit series.

  1. For free online lessons – families create a free account with EEME and use their web browser to interactively build and learn about electronics circuits.

2. Robotics series – The first kit of the series, Q the Robot, is a project where your child builds a 3-wheeled light-following autonomous robot. The online lessons associated with Q teach how robotics circuitry works.

You can purchase Q and additional add on kits here.

3. Electronics series – electronics kits are purchased as electronics kit monthly subscriptions. A new bite-sized kit ships every month complete with all the electronic components needed to build a new project.

Each month’s project builds on the previous month’s knowledge and interactive quizzes, questions reinforce kids’ understanding of the why’s and the how’s. 

Learn more about the electronics monthly subscriptions here.

 

 

Be sure to take a look around the EEME site. If you have kids in the 7-10 range, they have a monthly subscription option where each project focuses on a different electronic concept, but otherwise – go for Q!

Past EEME Projects

We’ve worked on several other projects from EEME. If you’re interested in learning more about their monthly subscription program, be sure to check out the below posts for more information:

7th Grade Mid-Year Homeschool Update

The past few days I’ve shared a mid-year update for our 11th grader and also one for our 9th grader – today, our 7th grader, Zachary, is on deck.

In the first bit of this school year, our boy managed to become both a teenager and also pass me in height. Zachary is currently eyeball-to-eyeball with his dad, but OY!

Incidentally, boy wonder has one of two dress codes, even when the weather is freezing: a sweatshirt and pants or NO SHIRT and shorts. Because of his growth spurt lately, I’m rather inclined to let the shorts go all winter and not deal with finding him pants unless absolutely necessary. (true story)

I’ve realized we have very few pictures of him this year. Someone isn’t as happy to see the camera pulled out most days. :) 

7th Grade Homeschool Update

One thing that we started this year – watching CNN10 in the morning with both boys. They have really enjoyed this addition (and it’s only 10 minutes to our day). Our biggest frustration with it is our streaming speed. Inevitably it freezes up as we are watching and it’s easy to get distracted and/or sidetracked because they want to finish it. 

Here’s a peek at what we have been working on this year for 7th grade: 

 

History – One of the main switch ups for us this year was our history program. Granted, it wasn’t huge, but around the end of October Zachary mentioned that he wasn’t particularly enjoying the history we were using (not a set curriculum per se, but it just wasn’t working overall). After one lesson, Zachary started spouting off all this information about the topic that he had learned years prior via Mystery of History

At that point he asked if we could use that program instead. We’ve gone through the set with the kids in years prior and have all the books, so we pulled them out and have been working through books 1 and 2 instead. 

Writing – This is one area that is pushing Zachary into a bit more independence this year. I had his WriteShop 1 text printed and spiral bound which has been GREAT for him – mainly because he can’t lose it. (cough)

Not that my child loses anything. Ever. 

I truly love the WriteShop program and the foundation it lays for future years with our kids. It has been instrumental in helping our girls become the writers they are and is encouraging to see Zachary working hard in this area as well. 

Boy Scouts – Granted, I know it’s not on the list, but Zachary has been rather motivated by Boy Scouts this year and moving up in rank. Kaleb was able to join this fall too. His troop is working through one badge a month (above would be part of his cooking badge). 

It’s been great too seeing him take his brother alongside and help him out with Scouts as well and also more leadership with his troop. He ultimately would like to become an Eagle Scout by the time he is 16. 

Science – This is one area that Zachary has been moving through rather quickly. Typically he is supposed to work through 2 lessons and one lab each week, but he ends up working on more lessons. 

He’ll complete his book before the end of the year for sure, so we are looking at some other options (STEM related) for him to add-on. 

Co-op – We only have one co-op we are a part of this year, and Zachary has been working on a forensics class. It’s one we pieced together using several different texts for our middle schoolers and has focused on different areas such as handwriting samples, fingerprints, and other similar topics the last few months. 

Bible – Zachary has almost finished up the last two books in the Who is God series. This is another area that he has been working ahead in. 

Vocabulary: We actually haven’t started this yet! We will be starting after the first of January on this. 

MathPre-Algebra is actually going great! Truly. :) It may not be his favorite of all subjects, but he is doing well and that’t the important part. 

 

How is YOUR year going so far?