3/4 Done

Friday marked the end of the third quarter of the 2014-15 school year. In just two months we’ll be finishing up completely and starting a nearly 3 month break. This quarter was slightly eventful since we changed math yet again and I made my final selections for next year and started working on 2015-16 lesson plans.

So our third quarter in review…

We finished watching the Doctrine and Covenants videos and started learning about the latter-day prophets after Joseph Smith. We completed through John Taylor.

We started the quarter off learning about South America and then moved on to colonization of North America. We touched on slavery for a week and spent the last month on the Revolutionary War and beginning of the United States.

Most of the quarter was spent learning about the three states of matter. We did some fun experiments. Our science curriculum is very hands-on.

Music and Art
We finished learning about Jackson Pollock and moved on to Claude Monet. We continued learning about Bach.

Language Arts and Reading
Cameron finished reading Narrative of the Life of a Slave by Frederick Douglass and read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, some fairy tales, and is now reading Alice in Wonderland. He learned some literary terms and how to write a literary criticism paper. Now he’s learning how to make a two-level outline. Fritz finished reading Five Children and It and read almost all of Dr. Dolittle. He learned about quotation marks, diagramming questions, and a whole lot more. We switched his spelling curriculum to Spelling Workout. We started with level B and he’s quickly done 9 lessons so far. We’re trying to get him through to a point where he doesn’t already know the words. He has only hit two words so far that he had any trouble spelling. He is getting better and better at narration and dictation. Adrian is continuing to learn to read. He started using Explode the Code and while he doesn’t like it, he doesn’t put up too much of a fuss. He learned about nouns and verbs and is learning to narrate stories back to me.

We switched to Math-U-See about a week and a half ago once we realized that no matter how popular Math Mammoth is, it just wasn’t working for the boys. Since they’ve all already done at least some of what their levels start with, I’m having them watch the video and take the test. If they get 100% on the test, they move on to the next lesson the next day. Fritz has done that every day and will do lesson 8 tomorrow. Adrian got tripped up on Friday because he doesn’t have all of the +2 facts memorized. He got 100%, but was slower with two or three than I want him to be so he’ll be staying in lesson 7 another day or two. Cameron had some trouble with lesson 2 (adding and subtracting negative numbers) so he stayed in that lesson an extra few days (and I think the extra practice really helped him). He’ll be on lesson 4 tomorrow. When keeping a kid in the same lesson more than one day at this point, I’m having them do one new page an done review page each day. 100% on both and they move on the next day. By the third day in the same lesson Cameron figured out slowing down and taking his time and proving he knew the material was the smart thing to do. Every day I also have the little guys do the “G” (enrichment) page and Cameron does the “F” review page since pre-algebra doesn’t have G pages. Cameron refuses to touch the blocks, Fritz hasn’t needed to, and Adrian absolutely loves them. Adrian really likes the videos, too. This is the first math Adrian hasn’t fought me on at all.

The boys are all still taking taekwondo. We just had a tournament (I should write a post about that). The little guys do two hours a week. Cameron does something like 6-10. Cameron also rides his bike pretty much every day. We just signed Fritz up for swim team (starts the second week of May) and our whole family will be able to use the pool all summer. Swim team practices 5 hours a week plus swim meets. Fritz likes taekwondo, but he loves swimming so he is very excited.

Ani has pretty much finished everything she had planned for psychology. She’s reviewing math trying to get to the level she was at before she entered public school. She really lost math skills over that year and because incredibly dependent on calculators. She’s planned really fun activities for her creative writing kids class. The kids really respond to what she’s teaching them and the moms are very happy with what their kids are producing. She spends a lot of time at taekwondo taking classes and helping in other classes. She’s amazing with the little kids especially. Most importantly, her health is improving so much. Removing gluten from her diet worked wonders. We’ve discovered she also is sensitive to dairy (casein – lactose-free still gives her pain). We’re not surprised since gluten and casein often go hand-in-hand.

The third quarter was a success. We are looking forward to finishing up the year and having a nice long break (though we’ll still be doing math until they finish the levels they are currently in and Adrian will continue learning to read over the summer as well). It really is fun teaching these three boys and it’s so wonderful seeing Ani get healthy enough to actually concentrate on what she is trying to learn.

Reading Books for Fritz and Cameron

I used the same process to choose Fritz’s reading books for next year as I did for this school year. He ended up with 8 books for next school year and they were actually all the books with passages used in Writing With Ease 3 that have a Kindle book available.

  • Homer Price by Robert McCloskey
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis
  • The Moffats by Eleanor Estes
  • Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  • The Black Stallion by Walter Farley
  • King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green
  • Bambi: A Life in the Woods by Felix Salten
  • The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

Cameron’s book needed to have Kindle + Audible combinations so he can use the immersion reading feature on his Fire (the poetry he’ll read himself on paper). I’m going to have him read 30-60 minutes a day and then discuss what he read with me. Because of this, I have no idea if this list will last him the whole school year or not or be too many books. He’ll just start reading and see how far he gets (and Gone With the Wind is iffy given how long it is). A couple of the books Fritz will be reading, too.

  • Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Man Without a Country by Edward E. Hale
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
  • The Time Machine by HG Wells
  • The War of the Worlds by HG Wells
  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
  • Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  • The Big Four by Agatha Christie
  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
  • The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  • The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde
  • Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
  • The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
  • Poetry
  • The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
  • Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas
  • am was by e e cummings
  • Little Tree by e e cummings
  • An Epitaph by Walter de la Mare
  • The Listeners by Walter de la Mare
  • Children’s Rhymes by Langston Hughes
  • Life is Fine by Langston Hughes

How Dense is It?

We are learning about the states of matter and how some liquids are more dense than others. I showed the boys water (dyed purple), corn syrup, and oil. They each guessed which was the most dense and which was the least dense.


First Cameron poured in the dyed water. Theb he helped Fritz pour in the oil followed by the corn syrup.


After waiting a few seconds for the liquids to separate completely, we discovered corn syrup is the most dense, oil is the least dense, and water is in the middle.


Cameron’s hypothesis was correct. The little guys had guessed wrong so they were very excited to see the result.

Reading and Math Assessments

Even though we don’t have to do any reporting or prove progress in Texas, I like to test my kids annually (I did it in Maryland, too, where portfolios were used to prove we were teaching our kids rather than standardized tests like Virginia wants). This year, I decided to give them reading and math assessments from Let’s Go Learn. I ordered them through Seton which saves a few dollars.

I am so glad I went with those assessments! They gave me so much useful information. I’ve already put some of that information into practice, changing the spelling Fritz uses and adding more phonics instruction for Adrian. I will definitely do these annually.

Reading Assessments
Adrian (currently 6y9m and mid to late 1st grade – 1.6):
High Frequency Words: late 1st grade
Word Recognition: mid kindergarten
Phonemic Awareness: 67% (good skills)
Spelling: mid kindergarten
Oral Vocabulary: late 4th grade
Reading Comprehension: early 2nd grade
Lexile Measure: 300
Reading Grade Level: 1.8

Obviously he needs more work on phonics. No surprise. He much prefers sight reading and teaching himself to read so we haven’t really done much of The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading. I need to get better about that. He also needs more work on spelling. He has done no spelling at all so far. I’m adding phonics instruction now and he will start spelling (using Spelling Workout) in the fall.

Fritz (currently 8y8m and mid to late 3rd grade – 3.6):
High Frequency Words: late 3rd grade (this is maxed out for level tested to)
Word Recognition: early 11th grade
Phonics: mid 4th grade
Spelling: late 2nd grade
Oral Vocabulary: mid 6th grade
Reading Comprehension: late 7th grade
Lexile Measure: 850
Reading Grade Level: 5.5

Obviously Fritz has very strong verbal skills. His word recognition score shocked me as did his oral vocabulary and reading comprehension levels. The spelling score is the troubling one. He has been doing Spelling Power and is halfway through level D. This indicates he is not retaining anything even though he is sailing through it. I’ve already switched him to Spelling Workout. His reading grade level is very useful to know for picking out books for next year. I’m pretty sure having older siblings helps both the little guys when it comes to oral vocabulary. We will often be talking and one or the other will ask what a word one of us said means. We’ll define it and move on with our conversation.

Cameron (currently 13y5m and mid to late 7th grade – 7.6):
High Frequency Words: mid 3rd grade
Word Recognition: late 6th grade
Phonics: mid 4th grade
Spelling: early 2nd grade
Oral Vocabulary: mid 11th grade
Reading Comprehension: mid 6th grade
Lexile Measure: 725
Reading Grade Level: 4.3

His spelling score is phenomenal for Cameron. He’s in the 3rd grade level of Spelling Power and going slowly. The school psych last year said not to even bother with spelling because he’d never be able to spell even on a second grade level. That didn’t sound right to me and, obviously, he is proving her wrong. His oral vocabulary score is impressive. He is what I call a “voracious listener.” He goes through audiobooks like crazy and can understand anything and everything he listens to. I am sure this has contributed quite a lot to his impressive oral vocabulary. His reading comprehension score made me very happy. That’s an increase of about 2 years in about 16 months. I am sure that has at least something to do with him doing his assigned reading using the immersion reading feature on his Fire so he is seeing and hearing the words at the same time. I am glad Cameron has the attitude he does since Fritz has officially passed him in nearly every tested category including reading level. It doesn’t bother Cameron. He’s glad Fritz learns so easily. He knows he (Cameron) has his own gifts and things that come easily to him and not to Fritz (like taekwondo).

Ani (currently 15y1m and mid to late 10th grade – 10.6):
High Frequency Words: late 3rd grade (this is maxed out on level tested to)
Word Recognition: late 12th grade (this is maxed out on level tested to)
Phonics: late 4th grade (this is maxed out on level tested to)
Spelling: mid 10th grade
Oral Vocabulary: late 11th grade
Reading Comprehension: mid 12th grade
Lexile Measure: 1200
Reading Grade Level: 11.0

Ani has not done a whole lot of focused school for two years (she includes her year in public school as a year she didn’t do much school). For the last several months we have been very focused on her health problems and working on getting her healthy. Obviously, taking this sort of break has not hurt her. The only thing she scored at grade level on was spelling. I do think spelling is one of the harder things to test. She usually spells words just fine when she is writing.

Math Assessments
Adrian (currently 6y9m and mid to late 1st grade – 1.6):
Numbers and Operations: 2.8
Measurement: 1.67
Data Analysis: 2.5
Geometry: 2.5
Algebraic Thinking: 1.75
Overall Grade: 2.46

I was extremely surprised by Adrian’s scores. He doesn’t even do math every day. He fights it because “it’s boring.” A single problem can take 3 minutes just because he’s stubborn and refuses to answer even when he knows the answer. Math comes pretty easily to him. He’s really not done any formal measurement. He knew nothing about the metric system. Really, a lot of his math has been naturally learned stuff.

Fritz (currently 8y8m and mid to late 3rd grade – 3.6):
Numbers and Operations: 4.71
Measurement: 4.89
Data Analysis: 4.6
Geometry: 3.1
Algebraic Thinking: 5.67
Overall Grade: 4.56

I was glad to see that Fritz’s confusion with Math Mammoth’s teaching hasn’t hurt his math level at all. He’s never been taught metric (aside from as it has come up in regular life) so I was quite surprised at that score. His geometry score was quite low, but that is because he completely forgot what perimeter is. He gave all those answers as area (and gave area question answers as area – he knew length times width was not right for perimeter, but it was the best he could come up with). I was amazed at his algebraic thinking score. He really does just get math and understand intuitively the relationship numbers have to each other.

Cameron (currently 13y5m and mid to late 7th grade – 7.6):
Tested on pre-algebra skills. He’s about halfway through pre-algebra, but I don’t think Math Mammoth was quite working for him. He could do the work if it was just like the sample, but he didn’t really understand what he was doing. We’ve already switched to Math-U-See.
Integer Operations: Mastery
Fractions: Partial Mastery
Decimals: Partial Mastery
Comparing and Converting: Non-Mastery
Estimating and Rounding: Non-Mastery
Evaluating Exponents: Partial Mastery
Ratios and Proportions: Mastery
Simplifying Expressions: Non-Mastery
Coordinate Graphing: Non-Mastery
Linear Functions and Extending Patterns: Mastery
Simple Equations: Mastery
Geometry: Non-Mastery
Interpreting Data: Partial Mastery
Simple Probability: Mastery
Multiplication Facts, Timed: Correct 30% of the time (answered in 5 seconds or less)
Multiplication Facts, Untimed: Correct 80% of the time
Reading Comprehension to 5th Grade Level (for word problems): 100%

I think I’ll have him retake this assessment after he finishes Math-U-See pre-algebra. It should be interesting to compare the results.

(Ani will be taking an Algebra I assessment as soon as we have a chance with enough time to get it done!)

Box Days!

I just love the ordering time of year! There’s nothing so frustrating and satisfying as watching a box make its way across several states and then get put on the vehicle for delivery before finally ending up at your house. Over the last couple weeks we’ve had several Box Days and now we have everything we need for the next school year (except for the Physics Dictionary we’re still waiting on).

Math-U-See: Two sets of blocks, wooden containers to hold the blocks, songbook, Alpha, Gamma, Pre-Algebra (all being used already), and Beta, Delta, Algebra I, and Algebra II, and algebra/decimal inserts.

Jackdaw Portfolios: Reconstruction, Easter Rising (contents shown), Russian Revolution, and Cold War and Superpowers.

Various Sellers on Amazon: Vocabulary from Classical Roots 4, A, and B, Voyages in English grade 8, and Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes.

Rainbow Resource: Usborne Science Encyclopedia, New American Cursive I, II, Teach Yourself, and posters, Latin for Children A teacher’s guide, answer key, reader, DVD/CD set, two worktexts, and two activity books, Traditional Logic I student book, teacher’s guide, answer key, and DVD set, Spelling Power notebooks, and Spelling Workout A and B.

Various Sellers on Amazon: Gadgets and Gizmos and Physics Experiments for Children.

ChristianBook: Spelling Workout C, D, and E, Explode the Code 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8, and Beyond the Code 1, 2, 3, and 4 (already using EtC and BtC 1).


I read The Well-Trained Mind a couple weeks ago taking lots of notes and gave the kids reading and math assessments and debated and finally ordered the rest of everything we need for next year and a few things for this year.

For the rest of this year, we’re switching to Math-U-See for all three boys. Math Mammoth was great at first, but then we got to a point where it was trying to teach 3 or 4 different ways to do something (like multi-digit multiplication) 3 or 4 days in a row (hello, terrible implementation of Common Core!). This spelled disaster for Fritz. Even if he already intuitively understood one of the methods, having it explained to him in different ways in rapid succession confused the heck out of the boy to the point he could no longer figure out how to do it at all. The second half of Math Mammoth pre-algebra is supposed to come out this spring with no specific release date. Cameron is almost done the first half so we don’t really have time to wait and hope they release it on time. I think the videos and blocks and other manipulatives will be very useful for the boys, so back to Math-U-See we go. Ani didn’t mesh very well with Math-U-See when she was little. The blocks bugged her and she mostly refused to use them. She decided she wants to try Math-U-See Algebra II next year, though, so all four will be using Math-U-See by fall.

Based on the outcome of the reading assessments, I am switching Fritz from Spelling Power to Spelling Workout and adding Explode the Code and Beyond the Code for Adrian right now.

A few other changes will occur in the fall. The way we do reading, at least for Cameron, will change a bit. Instead of assigned bits of reading a chapter a day, he will have an amount of time he needs to read and will work through a list of books and will discuss them with me. I will probably not do that with Fritz, but keep him doing reading the way he did this year (read a chapter, answer comprehension questions) for one more year.

Cameron and Fritz will be adding word study to their day. Cameron will be doing Vocabulary From Classical Roots A & B and Fritz will be doing Vocabulary From Classical Roots 4. All three boys are adding cursive handwriting. Cameron will be using New American Cursive, Teach Yourself Cursive, Fritz will be using New American Cursive II, and Adrian will be using New American Cursive I. I’ve never taught cursive to a kid as young as Adrian (he’ll be 7). We’ll see how that goes.

Cameron will also be adding grammar study using Voyages in English, grade 8 and formal logic using Traditional Logic I. In addition to the regular outlining he does to add to the history I do with all the boys, he’ll be going through four Jackdaw primary source document portfolios (Reconstruction, The Russian Revolution, The Easter Rising: Dublin 1916, and Cold War and the Super Powers) at the appropriate times during the course of the year. I think the Easter Rising one will be especially meaningful to him since he has visited Kilmainham Gaol where many people were jailed following the rebellion and saw where some of the participants were executed. Adrian will also be adding Writing With Ease 1.

Religion, with all three boys, will move on to modern day prophets and their teachings. Since there is no curriculum that covers those, I will be making it up pretty much as we go along (since we have General Conference in October and April, very current teachings can be added through the course of the year). In science, we’ll be switching to Elemental Science Physics for the Grammar Stage. Unfortunately, Pandia Press doesn’t have a Real Science Odyssey curriculum for physics so we were forced to find something else. The only other thing we are adding is Classical Academic Press Latin for Children A for the boys. I’ve used part of that in the past with Ani (and Cameron was along for the ride). We got stuck at the same point twice. Hopefully with the boys being a little older it’ll go better this time.

I might start using spiral notebooks for their assignments. It sounds like a pretty good idea. Everything else we’ll continue on with the curricula we’ve been using (First Language Lessons 1 and 3 on to 2 and 4, Writing With Skill 1 on to 2, History Odyssey Early Modern on to Modern, etc.).

Ani is planning to move from unschooling to a little more structured school as she finishes her last two years of high school and prepares to enter college. Mostly, this is through live classes from the Well-Trained Mind Academy and a correspondence class or two from BYU Independent Study.

Shoe Wall

We’ve been keeping our shoes in a pile in the garage. It worked well enough. We always go through the garage when we leave so we’d put on or take off our shoes on our way out or in, but it was messy and wasn’t quite working for me.

A few months ago I saw an idea on Pinterest (but didn’t pin it so I don’t know where it was from) that said to use knobs attached to the walls to hang shoes on. After playing with a few things to determine what would work best and changing where I wanted to hang the shoes from the garage to the hallway inside the house that leads to the garage, I finally have my shoe wall.


I discovered that Command Hooks work the best. I stuck 32 of them on the wall in 4 rows of 4 pairs. That led to the discovery that Ani has a whole lot of shoes (in fact, we need another row to accommodate all of them!).


The wall of command hooks is working great. Most of them are the kind that can hold 3 pounds (medium hooks). Three pairs are the large hooks that can hold 5 pounds each (for two pairs of Jamie’s shoes and one pair of mine).


It’s really nice having the shoes organized in pairs and in a convenient yet out of the way and totally hidden location. Definitely a Pinterest win!

Ultimate Pi Day

Our family has celebrated Pi Day every March 14th for several years (2010, 2011, 2014). This year, since 3/14/15 only happens once a century AND it was on Saturday, we had an Ultimate Pi Day party!

Preparations started on Friday. I made 10 gluten free pizza crusts.

And two wheatless cheesecakes with pecan/almond crusts.

Five regular gluten free graham cracker crusts and six mini ones. I had to text my mom to ask how to make those!

And two regular gluten free pie crusts (those became apple pies the next day). I had never made a pie crust before, but I followed the instructions and they turned out good.

Looking at all my pie crusts I was really struck by the fact that I have 9 pie tins and a 6 minis tin. I’m not sure why because I almost never actually make pie!

I ended the day by making 4 batches of gluten free cookie dough to put in the refrigerator. The next morning Jamie and I rolled out the dough used our little pi cookie cutter to make pi cookies.

I took some of the leftover pi cookies with me to church and gave them to my Beehives. They loved them!

I mixed up the pudding to go in the graham cracker crusts. I made two chocolate, one vanilla, one coconut cream, and one pistachio. The minis got a mixture of vanilla and chocolate pudding.

We topped the pizzas, using the pepperoni in creative ways (in addition to the Greek letter and 3.14, we had pepperoni making a radius on one pizza and a diameter on another). We finished baking them just before the party so they’d still be hot for our guests.

Ani and Cameron arranged the 255 (yes, 255!) cookies on Fritz’s computer table. We put out cookie decorating supplies for kids (or adults) to have fun with their cookies.

The dining room table was covered with awesomeness. And, yes, everything I made (and the three things my friend brought) were gluten free. I had several people comment how surprised they were that my gluten free foods tasted good and/or like their “regular” counterparts. (Side note: I got Sprite and Root Beer to drink. San Antonians sure do like Root Beer. I shouldn’t be surprised that that was the preferred drink. Pretty much every restaurant here offers Root Beer. I most definitely approve!)

I got Ultimate Pi Day shirts for the 6 of us. I couldn’t resist.

We put up some nerdy decorations.

We made a pin the radius on the circle game. There are many places you could get it in a right spot. It’s much harder than it looks!

To round out the amazing nerdiness of Ultimate Pi Day, I drew a Venn Diagram listing the almost 50 guests (in family groups). Everyone fell into one or more category of Mormon, homeschoolers, or taekwondo. Our family and one other fit into all three categories.

So that is what we did yesterday afternoon. It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun!

Plans for Grades 2, 4, and 8

The boys will be in grades 2, 4, and 8 next year. Because I want to have school all set and not have to worry about it over the summer, I spent the last few days deciding what to get and ordering it all (which means I’ll be having box days soon!).

Cameron (grade 8)
Language Arts:
Writing With Skill 2
Reading and narrating various works listed in The Well-Trained Mind
Reading bios (written by me) of authors from the modern period
Spelling Power
Vocabulary From Classical Roots A & B
New American Cursive, Teach Yourself Cursive
Voyages in English, grade 8

Math-U-See Algebra 1

Traditional Logic I

History Supplement:
Jackdaw Portfolios (Reconstruction, The Russian Revolution, The Easter Rising: Dublin 1916, and Cold War and the Super Powers)

Fritz (grade 4)
Language Arts:
First Language Lessons 4
Writing With Ease 3
New American Cursive II
Spelling Power
Reading and narrating books
Vocabulary From Classical Roots 4

Math-U-See Delta

Adrian (grade 2)
Language Arts:
First Language Lessons 2
Writing With Ease 1
New American Cursive I
Reading Eggs
The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading
Life of Fred Readers
Spelling Workout A & B
Explode the Code and Beyond the Code

Math-U-See Beta

All Three Boys
From the teachings of the modern prophets (created by me)
Memory Work: Articles of Faith, The Living Christ, and The Family: A Proclamation to the World

Pandia Press Modern History Level 1

Elemental Science Physics for the Grammar Stage

Classical Academic Press Latin for Children A

Confessions of a Homeschooler World’s Greatest Artists

Confessions of a Homeschooler World’s Greatest Composers