There’s always something

It seems like every homeschooler has some subject that they either can’t seem to get to or have trouble settling on the right curriculum. For us, that’s math.

Ani has been through so many math programs. Math-U-See, Singapore, Calvert, Key to…, Life of Fred, and more. Her year in public school really messed up her math skills. Her teacher was rather horrible and I don’t think he was actually teaching Algebra. Sometimes he’d teach something wrong and have to correct it the next day. Talk about confusing! She’s working on fixing her math issues using Alpha Omega LifePacs. She got all of geometry and three or four LifePacs each from 7th grade math, pre-algebra, and algebra 1.

Cameron started out the year using Art of Problem Solving. Fritz has been using Beast Academy (and Life of Fred, which he still is). And Adrian has been using a first grade math workbook someone gave us. Starting the last week or so of school before Christmas break (a little longer for Cameron), they are all using Math Mammoth.

Art of Problem Solving was decent for Cameron, but he often felt like they were giving these ridiculous problems to solve with very simple answers and were kind of tricking him. He got frustrated a lot. I don’t think it’s bad, and quite possibly will use it for Fritz in a few years, but for now, for Cameron, we decided a change was needed (he’s doing Math Mammoth 7).

Beast Academy is fun, but after doing half of third grade, I feel like it is more a math logic and puzzles course, not a regular math course. Fritz can now do cool things like square any number ending in 5. But he wasn’t doing much in the way of regular math. At his age, as happened to him in public school, lack of practice for the basic math skills often leads to loss of those basic math skills. He’ll still use Beast Academy (and Life of Fred) for fun and a supplement, but his main math now is Math Mammoth 4.

The workbook Adrian was using was mostly just a practice, non-teaching, workbook. He was doing fine. He was only to simple addition and subtraction and that’s easy for him. But it made sense to start him on an actual math curriculum. So he’s doing Math Mammoth 1.

I hope that the boys will stick with this one (at least as far as it goes, which is 7th grade), but given our track record I can’t guarantee it. I like what I see in it and so far, as little as they have done, it seems to be good for them all. Crossing my fingers that continues.


Cameron got braces a few weeks ago.

We got a new Christmas tree and put a couple strings of awesome chili pepper lights on it.

We discovered if you pour hydrogen peroxide on a cut potato it bubbles… sort of.


We got all fancied up and went to the Black Belt Gala. Crazy to think that next December Cameron will probably be one of the people getting a black belt at that gala.


At the Black Belt Gala, our taekwondo school’s program director won program director of the year, the chief instructor won instructor of the year, and the school won school of the year. That was the first time all three awards were won by one school. The next day, Ani got the idea to “heart attack” the school. So we cut out some construction paper hearts and wrote little notes on them and then Ani, Cameron, and I headed over and taped the hearts around the door and window frames. We learned that we would not make very good criminals. Every time a car drove by we jumped and got nervous and acted rather like we were doing something wrong. (The program director, chief instructor, and many students and parents LOVED our heart attack… and over a week later the hearts were still right where we put them.)

We coated half of a raw egg in toothpaste with fluoride and let it sit for a couple days. Then we washed off the toothpaste and let the egg sit in vinegar overnight. The eggshell got translucent and rubbery like they do in vinegar… except for where the toothpaste was on it. The eggshell stayed strong and remained on that part.


We did a Christmas themed taekwondo performance at church. My boys make adorable Santa and elves!

We put food coloring in water and then added bleach to show how bleach removes color.


Most of us (everyone except Adrian who has decided once again to be “on break”) tested for our new belts. Ani’s now camo-decided, Jamie, Fritz, and I are now purple-recommended, and Cameron’s now purple-decided.

One School Day

I planned a lot of our weeks to be 4 days with Mondays off. It’s working well for us. This week, however, it occurred to me that a 4 day week with Friday off would be better because then we’d get to start our Christmas break a day sooner (plus my parents are arriving this afternoon so we only have to do school two days while they are here). Because of that, our normal days are shifted. I kept track of what we did yesterday (Monday) in school. It was like a normal Tuesday without a break to go to taekwondo.

Cameron had an orthodontist appointment at 8. This put us a little behind in getting school started. We did our opening stuff at 9:45. That’s the day/date, pledges, article of faith (#8 this month), primary song (currently I Lived in Heaven), and scripture mastery memory verse (right now we’re working on part of D&C 13:1). For a while Fritz has also been working on the pronouns and the helping verbs, but last week he got them all completely memorized so I erased them off the board. Opening activities took 5 minutes.

At 9:50 we started religion. We watched three D&C videos and talked about some of the important sections of the Doctrine and Covenants. This took 5 minutes.

9:55. History. We’re studying Russia and Prussia right now. We read two pages in the Usborne World History book, a chapter in Child’s History of the World, and two chapters of Story of the World. Fritz really liked hearing about leaders named Frederick and Fritz. (Also, apparently, my children are total Texans – they need blankets even when it’s over 70 degrees.)

Once we finished all the reading, we moved back to the dining room table. We defined dominate, discussed what we’d read, and did some map work, including finding Russia on the big world map on the wall. History took a total of 45 minutes.

At 10:40 Cameron and Fritz started math (Math Mammoth – pre-algebra for Cameron, 4th grade for Fritz). Cameron did 4 pages on negative integers, inequalities, and absolute value. Fritz did four pages of addition review. Cameron took 35 minutes and Fritz took 65 minutes to do math.

At 10:45, Adrian did some poetry reciting and read the note I wrote to him (each day I write him a note and he has to read the whole thing himself and then he gets to keep it… we’re discovering when he sees a reason, he reads really well!). This took 5 minutes.

At 10:50, Adrian did his math (Math Mammoth 1st grade). He did two pages counting and writing numbers. He’s been very resistant to writing anything so it’s great he’s attempting to write a little bit now. This also took 5 minutes.

11:15. Cameron moved on to Writing With Skill 1 Week 16, Day 1. He had to read a passage and write a one-level outline about Queen Elizabeth I. He completed this in 25 minutes (including a 3 minute break to watch the video of him performing at the Gala Saturday night).

At 11:20, Adrian did First Language Lessons 1 lesson 43. He worked on memorizing a new poem and did a little copywork. This took him 10 minutes. At that point, Adrian was done with school for the day. That’s a total of 20 minutes on his own and one hour and 15 minutes all together.

Cameron moved on to spelling at 11:40. He is reviewing lists at the mid-point of level C right now. He went through nearly two full lists before he got a total of 5 words spelled incorrectly to study. Spelling took him 10 minutes.

11:45. Fritz did some handwriting. He is learning to write in cursive and his daily handwriting is copying things I write for him. Right now that is bits from the scripture mastery memory verse. He spent 5 minutes on handwriting.

At 11:50, Fritz started working on First Language Lessons 3 lesson 41. He learned about the understood you at the beginning of commands and how to diagram them. He spent 7 minutes on that lesson.

At the same time Cameron began reading (using the immersion feature on his Fire) the first third of stave 4 of A Christmas Carol. He read for 20 minutes.

Fritz started his Writing With Ease 2 Week 16, Day 1 lesson at 11:57. He listened to a portion of a story and then did a narration. This took 5 minutes.

At 12:02, Fritz started working on a Brainy Acts (critical thinking) page. He finished it in 5 minutes.

12:07. Fritz started spelling. He is doing review from the end of level C. He’s on a list of proper nouns and it’s giving him a little trouble just like it did the first time through. He made quite a bit of progress, though, before he had three words misspelled to study. Spelling took him 8 minutes.

At 12:10, Cameron finished reading and answered his comprehension questions. That was the end of the school day for him. School lasted 2 hours and 25 minutes for Cameron.

At 12:15, Fritz started working on his three vocabulary words from chapter 13 of The Borrowers. Only two of the words had origins cards. This took 7 minutes.

At 12:22, Fritz started reading chapter 13 of The Borrowers. He finished reading 13 minutes later and answered his comprehension questions. Fritz was done with school at 12:35. School took 2 hours and 50 minutes for Fritz.

School Goes Fast

Whenever people are talking about how long school takes, I just keep my mouth shut because, unless they only have very little kids, school at our house is a lot shorter. I keep looking at what we are doing to see if I’m missing something, but we are covering the basics plus extras.

Cameron and Fritz are fun to homeschool. They focus and get it done without any complaining or fighting. Because of this, they are done with school (3rd and 7th grades) in 2-3 hours. They really make it so easy.


Over the last few months I’ve been pre-reading the books Fritz and Cameron will read over the course of the school year. I finished Fritz’s during the summer. I finally finished Cameron’s last week.

The last few weeks I have read a LOT. In addition to reading to the little guys and reading on my own for fun, I read Robinson Crusoe (hated it), Gulliver’s Travels (loved the first two parts – the two parts Cameron read – but didn’t love the rest), The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle (felt something was missing which is weird because it was the actual stories as written by Washington Irving – I suppose what was missing was things filled in in movies based on the stories), A Christmas Carol (loved it – and it just so happens Cameron will finish reading it just as we finish up school before Christmas break), Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (excellent and fascinating), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did), Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (loved it; had forgotten it’s actually a pretty short book), and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (extremely surprised I enjoyed it as much as I did!).

Along with those, I read The Iliad along with Ani. That was very, very long. I’m still not sure what I actually think of it.

Most of the books I had never read before. Homeschooling older kids definitely is expanding my reading world. Now that I’ve finished this school year’s books, I can’t wait to pick and get started on next year’s!

Eating Nitrogen (aka meringues)

Our science experiment on Friday was to eat nitrogen. To do this, we made meringues. Since meringues are mostly air and air is mostly nitrogen, we were eating nitrogen.


First we whipped 3 egg whites in the KitchenAid until it formed soft peaks. Then we added 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar.


Then we whipped some more until it formed hard peaks.


It was pretty amazing how much meringue could be made from 3 little egg whites.


We baked them at 225* for a really, really long time. We started with an hour and then checked them every 10 minutes after that until they were getting hard. We let them cool for about 10 minutes. I cut one in half so the kids could see the pockets of air/nitrogen.


Cameron liked the meringues so much that he’s made them several more times himself. He even started experimenting with flavor and color (two drops of peppermint and red food coloring makes nicely Christmasy meringues).


It’s always fun when a science experiment ends up so nice and tasty!

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Homeschool Style

The Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales I got excited over this year were homeschool related. We still got a few “regular” deals. Like we needed a Christmas tree (half price at Hobby Lobby – and I actually found one I liked a lot that didn’t come with lights already on it!) and Jamie needed a new suit (incredible deal on that at Kohl’s, plus Kohl’s cash to spend this week) and we got Disney Infinity 2.0 and some characters for a great price, too.

But the majority of my shopping was for our next school year. And all digital because that’s how I like my curriculum purchases.

On Black Friday, I got Alpha Omega LifePACs for Ani. She’s really struggling with geometry. She went through grades 7, 8, and 9 and picked 4 individual LifePACs each from 7th and 9th and two from 8th that she feels she needs help on the concepts. I got those and the complete geometry set for 20% off. I also got History Odyssey Modern Times 1 from Pandia Press for, I think, 30% off.

On Cyber Monday, I got Elemental Science Physics for the Grammar Stage for 20% off. I’m not totally sold on that one, but it was cheap, and made cheaper with the sale, so I went ahead and got it. The biggie for me came from Peace Hill Press. 30% off all our language arts for next year. I got First Language Lessons 2 and 4, Writing With Ease 1 and 3, and Writing With Skill 2. I realized that the following year (when Adrian is a 3rd grade) I’ll no longer have to buy grammar or writing for Adrian since he’ll use what Fritz has already used.

I’m almost done pre-reading the last book Cameron will be reading this year (finished Fritz’s over the summer and I read Ani’s as she does). Is it sad that I’m already excited about getting started pre-reading their books for next year?