Friday, November 30, 2012


It's been some time since I wrote anything in here, so figured it's about time I gave an update.

My youngest, Raven, decided this past summer that she wanted to return to public school, so I made the decision to allow her to return. She's in 6th grade and doing very well, making strait A's. The only advanced classes in 6th grade offered at our local public school is advanced math, so she is currently taking that. Last six weeks, she made a 97 in that class. Her lowest grade was a 90 in Social Studies, because she doesn't really like the subject.

Antionette is now 17. She will be starting college courses this January and is working towards a physical therapy degree with child development. She wants to specialize with children with physical and mental challenges.

Grant is still being home schooled. Recently, he has been going through testing for autism. We know he is on the high functioning autism scale, but we will not know if it is Asperger's Syndrome until he is completely done with testing.

Grant still struggles a bit with his writing, but is at level or above level in his other subjects in comparison to some other 9th graders. Below is a list of what subjects he is currently studying and the books we are using.

Economics- Contemporary Economics
                   By, William A McEachern
                    ISBN 0-538-43700-6

Interactive Study Guide CD-ROM - ISBN 0-538-44281-6

Contemporary Economics workbook- ISBN 0-538-43703-0

Grant seems to really like the way the information is presented in this book. If you use this curriculum, you really need the interactive study guide cd-rom and workbook to complete the curriculum.

BJU Biology- ISBN 1-57924-932-9

There are actually two books to this curriculum, but we chose to do the second book first due to not having a microscope. The second book focuses on animals and anatomy, so at least we could do the dissection labs. We should have a microscope around January, just in time, because by that time he should be done with book 2. The only issue I find with this book is that because of being a Christian based curriculum it does not explain some aspects in completeness, because the writers obviously felt that it contradicted Christian beliefs. So, if you are like me and prefer curricula that is not biased then, you will need to find other non-biased materials to counteract it.

World Geography-  Published by Glencoe
                               ISBN 0-07-860699-3

Since this book  is only about 7 years old, the online study resources and activities for this book work on the Glencoe website.

World Literature- Published by Holt Rinehart Winston
                            ISBN 0-03-055617-1

I was lucky enough to find this curriculum complete, except for the student edition,  from a teacher that was selling it for only 20 dollars. It came with the hard cover teacher's edition textbook, Teacher's notes workbook (has suggested activities for every section), Fine Art Transparencies workbook (comparing art to literature worksheets and transparencies from artists from different eras throughout the world), 2 books of instructional transparencies for teaching all sections in the book and understanding how to analyze literature, 2 workbooks full of worksheets to complement all the literature presented in the book, and 30 CD's which include all the stories in the book on audio. I had to buy the student textbook for 10 dollars used, so I got this whole set for a steal at 30 dollars. It would cost hundreds new.

American Government- Published by Prentice Hall

This book is new enough for all of the interactive tools to still be accessible on the Prentice Hall website, which is really helpful.

Algebra 1- Teaching Textbooks

This curriculum new is close to 200 dollars, but well worth the money. I was lucky to find it used for 70 dollars, but after using it, I believe that it is well worth what they charge. Grant previously struggled with math using the Saxon curriculum, but with this curriculum he is advancing quickly. He loves this curriculum. For anyone who is currently home educating or planning to, I would suggest you buy this curriculum. It makes all levels of math look easy to understand. On the website, for each math, they have a few free lessons for you to check out.

                                                  Removing the liver of the fetal pig

                                                  Dissecting a starfish with dad

Currently Grant has dissected 8 specimens. We still have two more dissection labs to complete, which include a sheep's brain and cow eyeball.

Fetal Pig

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Spotlight on Grant

Three years ago, when I first pulled Grant out of public school, it was a challenge to get him to write a paragraph, much less an essay. As time has passed, his writing has greatly improved, so it seems fitting that my spotlight on him today is on his writing. Below is his last essay on the Patriot Act.

Say No To The Patriot Act
by, Grant Smither

           Have you heard of the patriot act? It was passed to protect us from terrorism.  It is very unconstitutional and easily abused in many ways. It has been used to spy, silence and capture citizens.
            The patriot act violates our most important rights which are freedom of speech, the right to a speedy and public trial, and the freedom from unreasonable search. The sneak and peak and roving wiretaps provisions allow the FBI to search your house and spy on you without a warrant. The patriot act even allows the FBI to hold anyone indefinitely with no trial or lawyer.
           Some sections are going to expire in a few years, such as section 215 which allows the FBI to use and take anything they want without a warrant whether there is evidence or not. Since this section will expire in three years, when that time comes, encourage your local government to vote against it. Almost all bills like this are passed, because people are scared.  So you should not give into the fear in those times.
          If more laws like this are passed we could lose all of our rights. It is already happening now. The first amendment is already almost gone. Since the patriot act happened the 4th and 5th amendments are completely gone, because the government is allowed to hold you indefinitely with no lawyer or warrant. Soon you might be able to be arrested for saying a bad word or simply thinking of a crime. The patriot act is nothing but a worm eating away the constitution. This is what Thomas Jefferson meant when he said ‘’they who sacrifice a little essential liberty for temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety.’’
            Our founding father created the constitution to keep this from happening. This is precisely the reason we revolted from England. We are doing the same thing England did. If we aren’t careful there could be another revolution.
            The patriot act is the worst law ever passed. It has caused more fear than security in this nation. Next time you see a bill you should read it very carefully before you vote for or against it. In other words you should do your job the right way.

Spotlight on Raven

Today for Creative writing Raven did an assignment to see just how observant she is. She looked at a group of pictures for 30 seconds and then without looking at the pictures, described what she remembered seeing.

This is what she wrote:
*A beautiful sunset at the beach
*A grouchy kindergarten teacher
*A beautiful dinner table set for supper
*A small alarm clock that says it is almost lunch.

Then she was given three minutes to look at the pictures and then without looking at the picture again, tried to answer questions about the pictures the best she could. She got nine out of the 13 questions right.

(My scanner is not working, so you'll have to forgive me for the bad image from my digital camera.)

Raven is working in Saxon 6/7 for Math. After she is done working the problems in the book, she gets the solutions book and checks her work. Then she finds her mistakes and makes the necessary corrections. Here is a sample of today's math work.

(I had difficulty getting rid of the bright spot from the flash, so you can't really see her scratch work. At least you can see the answers on the left.)

For Geography Raven was given a list of about 20 different things and she had to create her own map with a legend. Here is an example of that work. The result was kind of messy, but everything was in the right place on the map.

She worked in her Spectrum spelling workbook today and should be finished with the whole book by this Friday. Then she will be moving on to 7th grade vocabulary. Her word list for this week is autobiography, autograph, automatic, megaphone, microphone, saxophone, symphony, telephone, telecast, telescope, export, import, passport, portable, and transport.

She is currently learning the United States Constitution. Today we discussed the 10th amendment and it's meaning. Each day that we add a new amendment, she studies it with the previous amendments learned. The goal is for her to eventually know all the amendments to the constitution and understand their meaning. After all are memorized she will begin doing various projects having to do with the amendments to help her keep them memorized and to really understand their importance.

Raven has started working on Physical Science through Right now she is doing the unit on velocity. If your looking for a good curriculum for Physical Science, Jason science is amazing and it is FREE.

Everyday she reads for an hour or longer. Right now she is reading, There's a Hampster in my Lunchbox, by Susan Clymer. After she reads a book, she writes a book report.

Raven is writing a book and works on it when the rest of her school work is done. I'm not going to tell you what it is about. When it's done, I'll share it. I wouldn't want to ruin the surprise.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

An update on our home education

Grant (age 14)

Grant has finished Physical Science and will be beginning Biology in July.  I plan to purchase the Apologia Biology within the next few months. For the time being,  I am mixing Science with his writing. He’s spending extra time on perfecting his writing abilities.  Right now he is working on persuasive essays. Many of the themes that he chooses are based on Science and Government studies.

His last essay was on the Patriot Act. He chose to write an essay on how unconstitutional it is and he mostly used the United States Constitution to back up his thoughts against it.  I was really proud of him, not only because he chose this topic on his own, but he took a big interest in it by studying the Act, section by section and compared it to our rights guaranteed by the constitution.  His current essay is a persuasive essay in favor of nuclear power.

He is almost finished with 8th grade math and will be moving into pre-algebra in May. He is currently working a Saxon curriculum, but has expressed that he doesn’t really like the way the book is laid out. So, we have evaluated the Math-u-see pre-algebra curriculum and he really likes the learning methods that they use, so I will be purchasing that for him next month when he is ready to move up.

He’s also begun a ninth grade vocabulary unit.  Here is his current word list: daunt, rudimentary, credulous, lucid, sacrosanct, docile, impartial, precedent, figurative, reiterate, prudent, negligence, innocuous, lax, precipitate, equivocate, aptitude, circumspect, metamorphosis, substantive, nepotism, and assiduous.

Grant has finished American History, most of his Geography, and World History. So, for the most part we are just adding to his knowledge through his reading and essay writing. Since writing is a skill he has difficultly in, we want to work on improving his skills.

He recently showed an interest in playing the piano and taught himself some of the basics, so I have put him in piano lessons. He’s doing really well. Each week when his teacher teaches him a new skill, he learns a little more on his own, so that he can advance quicker.

Raven (age 11)

Raven is really interested in the aspects of creative writing, so to encourage her interests, I am teaching her through a A Beka creative writing curriculum. I don’t usually use Religion based curriculums, but I really like the way this one teaches. The book encourages them to look at the world in a much deeper way. For example, it explains how if one is more observant, they can tell who is walking down the steps by the sound of their walk or how someone feels by their body language.

She is also writing a chapter book and yesterday she finished chapter 1 which is five pages typed.  I plan to only read it after each chapter is finished. The only thing I do is correct her grammar and encourage her to use more descriptive language where it is needed. Writing a book was her idea and I want it to be made up of her imagination, not mine, so I do not tell her to change any of the content. When it is done, maybe we will share it in a blog. If it is good enough, maybe she can get published. She says she wants to be a writer, so I want to encourage her dreams in any way possible.

For math, she is finishing up a 7th grade Saxon Curriculum and should be beginning 8th grade math this summer.  Because of her math skills being so advanced, she has recently begun doing a Physical Science Curriculum through Jason Science.

She only has one more unit left in her 6th grade spelling curriculum and will be moving on to 7th grade vocabulary soon.  She’s always helping and correcting her friends with spelling. I’m not sure if this is good or bad. It is good, because obviously she has the skill down.  Then again, some children her age might think it is rude to be corrected all the time.

For Geography, she is learning and reviewing map skills. This is her weakest subject, because she finds it difficult to maintain interest in the subject. Though, when I say weak, I don’t mean that she is below grade level. In comparison to her friends in public school, she is advanced.

For History, she is currently learning the constitution. Today we covered the 9th amendment. When she has covered all the amendments she will do a project. I am thinking of appealing to her creative side by having her design a rap song about the amendments.

Raven spent some time contemplating which new extracurricular activity she wanted to take part in. She kept changing her mind, but last week she decided that for sure she wanted to learn a Korean form of martial arts. She began last week and is really enjoying it.  Honestly, I was hoping she would decide on violin, but she didn’t.

Ben (age 7)

When Ben first came to live with us 9 months ago, I was not sure what to expect out of him with his school work, because his report card was very basic.  By the past e-mails shown to me, obviously he had issues focusing. Also, his previous school would not release his school records to me unless I signed something saying that I would comply with Virginia home education laws. Of course I would not sign it. We live in Texas and I don’t have to comply with their guidelines.  

After working with him for several months, he has gone way beyond what others might have expected of him. His strongest subject is math. He has mastered all 1st grade skills, 2nd grade skills, and is working on 3rd grade math.  So far he has covered basic multiplication, more advanced addition, and subtraction with barrowing.  We have not begun memorizing multiplication facts. So far he has learned the basic concept with grouping and skip counting.

For Geography he is expanding his knowledge with learning more about the continents and oceans. He had previously learned his continents, but now he is learning some facts about each. He says this is his favorite subject.

So far in grammar, he has covered nouns, adjectives, pronouns, verbs, and adverbs. He writes sentences every day to work on incorporating these things into his writing.  Writing is his weakest subject, but I have noticed that he is making less and less mistakes. When his mistakes are limited in his basic sentences and we have covered other basic skills such as commas we will move on to paragraph writing.

For Reading and Spelling he is working on a Hooked on Phonics curriculum and is currently finishing up level 4.  He should be beginning level 5 next week.  This style of learning is working very well for him, so I might purchase levels 6 and up for him.  For spelling he also works in a spelling workbook to help him remember the concepts.

Right now he is not doing any Science. For younger ages I like to work more on grammar, writing, reading, and math.  With him I am alternating Geography/History and Science. For two weeks he works on either Geography or History and then for two weeks he works on Science.

Last month Ben began Karate.  He’s participating in a Japanese style that is much different from the Korean style Raven is doing. We decided this, because they are very competitive with each other and we would like them to shine individually in their own ways.

Antoinette (Age 17)

Antoinette is currently done with all high school courses and is studying for college entrance exams.  Our goal is to speak with some college counselors this summer.

She’s been teaching herself how to play guitar for some time now, so now that we can afford it, I have put her in some guitar lessons. She’s learning some blues music for me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Learning: A Way of Life

When home educating our children, learning just becomes a way of life. It ends up being Incorporated into almost every thing we do.

A trip to the grocery store becomes a real life math lesson. When I go grocery shopping, I bring my youngest with me. With notebook and pencil in hand, she adds up everything that I put in the basket. Sometimes I put something back on purpose so that she will have to subtract it. When I get more than one of an item, she has to multiply. Then when we get to the register, she is able to see how well her math skills are.

when my husband does any repairs around the home or with the vehicles, he lets our son help or has him do it with supervision. These father and son moments not only reinforce valuable math and science skills. He learns valuable life skills that will help him in the future when he no longer lives at home.

When we take a road trip, we point out land formations and discuss how they were formed. My children learn map skills by taking turns in the front seat to read the map. We discuss the history and significance of the cities or states that we drive through. We stop along the way to view historic landmarks. Not too long ago we camped where the buffalo soldiers once fought and learned of their history while there. Before that we took a trip that happened to be along the Cherokee Trail of Tears and stopped at historic sights to learn.

As a family we are learning Spanish, so when we go anywhere that happens to have bilingual signs, we try and translate them.

when my children were just beginning to read, I would have them practice by reading road signs and store signs as we drove past them. When I happened to be reading something, I would read it to them if they were interested.

When something is going on in the news we discuss it as a family, respecting their individual thoughts on the matter. We keep up on new scientific breakthroughs going on around the world and talk about them.

Outside of our typical school day we watch fun educational programs like Myth Busters, Dirty Jobs, and Nova. When we watch a movie based on real events in history, we discuss the facts and the fiction of it.

When our children ask a question, many times, we tell them to look it up. Then usually they come back with even more information than we knew and they actually teach us something.

Life and the world around us is full of endless learning possibilities.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Keeping a Flexible Schedule

Most of the time when I have spoken to people that once home schooled their children, yet decided to put them back in public school, was more so because the parents became overwhelmed. To keep things from feeling overwhelming, it is important to keep your schedule flexible. I do this by having year round schooling.

Year round schooling may look like more work, but in reality it makes things much simpler. Because we go year round, when emergencies happen or we decide to take a vacation, It does not set my children back. When I feel like I need to take a breather and catch up on things in life, I can simply give the children a short break. During this time, I can catch up on any home school planning or other things needing to get done in my life.

Having shorter yet more breaks benefits the children as well. When children go to school year round there is usually less review work. Their breaks are shorter, therefor they retain more of the information. Less review work needing to be done means they can aaccomplish more during the school year.

Today was an example of one of those days that had to be cut short. This afternoon we got a call from the place we are trying to buy a new home from. It seems we had more paperwork we needed to fill out. So, the children only had school for a few hours. Since we go year round, it is no big deal and there are no set backs in their education.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Our Home Education Electivies

Here are some of the electives that my children have done:

Typing- All of my children have learned how to type through various lessons and hands on.

Computer Literacy- I teach them how to use various computer programs such as power point, Microsoft Word, spread sheet etc.. Usually I integrate this into other subjects.

Art- Since I am passionate about art and Raven has an interest in learning this skill, I have taught her many art techniques and how to work with different mediums.

Religious studies- I created a subject that I called peace, which was a study of world religions. We visited various temples that were accessible to us and learned about religions of the world through various lesson plans.

Horsemanship- My two girls ride horses and take riding lessons. They are currently learning how to jump the horses.

Public Speaking- I integrate this into other subjects. I have them give presentations, sometimes in front of groups. There are various techniques to use for practicing their presentation. I found that having them practice in front of their web cam works best.

Chess- Grant enjoys chess, so he has been practicing his skills with his father. Beginning next month, he will be participating in chess competitions.

Home economics- This is integrated into our daily lives. All of my children have learned how to cook. Through chores they learn skills that will help them in the future when they will not have their parents with them. They have also learned the basics of sewing.

Foreign language- All of my children have learned the alphabet in American Sign Language. Antoinette has gone farther in this, because of working with special needs children. Currently we are learning how to speak Spanish as a family, but my younger two each have languages that they want to learn after Spanish. Raven wants to learn Korean and Grant wants to learn French and Italian. You might wonder how a home school family would accomplish this without tutors. Well, with the educational software available, it is very possible.
Currently we are using the home school edition of Rosetta Stone and really like it.

Electronics- Grant has an interest in learning about electronics, so I give him ample opportunity to do so. He often dissects old electronics to learn what makes them work and he builds working things out of them. He also has electronic science kits that he works on in his free time.

Auto Mechanics- When my husband fixes our vehicles, he teaches our children about what he is doing. Many times my older two children do the repairs under his supervision.

Wood shop- My son knows how to use wood cutting tools such as a circular saw. He has learned how to work with wood and make home repairs from working hands on with his father. Besides repairs, Grant has made some things out of wood, such as a bird house, a wooden shelf with hooks for the bedroom., and chess board with chess pieces. His chess set sold for fifty dollars in a boyscout auction.

Culteral Exchange- This is a continuous project with my children. They have pen pals from all parts of the world. We send them things from our area and they do the same. Sometimes we have exchanges that have a particular focus such as climate change. We create these friendships through

Antoinette has shown interest in taking lessons in shooting a gun, so I am working on setting that up for her.I am working on setting up drivers education for Antoinette. Also, I am working on getting information on getting all of my children involved in our local 4H.

Raven displaying what she got from her pen pal in China.