January’s Science Experiments

We cut out a round troll and put it on a pencil. We made a track for it to roll down. It sort of worked. It didn’t really roll. It more slid.

We put a piece of clay at the inside top of two jar lids and taped them together. Then we made it roll on its own including appearing to defy gravity by rolling up hill.

We built a styrofoam boat by gluing two plates, a bowl, and a cup together. Then we stuck a bendable straw into the bottom of the cup and sealed off the hole. We let it dry overnight and then floated it in a tub of water. We poured water into the cup and watched the boat move around the tub due to the force of the water coming out of the cup through the straw.

We filled a clear cup with water and placed it on a white sheet of paper in the sun. We were very delighted when a rainbow appeared on the paper.

In a dark room we shined a flashlight through a prism. This made a rainbow on the wall. The little boys were especially fascinated by this.

We poked a hole in the side of a shoebox and put a pencil and a ball inside. We could not see the pencil and ball when the lid was on, but could when the lid was off because we need light to see. We poked a hole in the lid and shined a flashlight through the hole. With the added light, we could see the objects.

We shined a flashlight onto a book (Kindle) held a few inches above a blank piece of paper. We observed the umbra and penumbra of the shadow.

We made a kaleidoscope using a paper towel tube, some clear plastic formed into a triangle, plastic wrap, waxed paper, and some sequins. It worked really well. Then we covered the clear plastic with aluminum foil and switched the sequins with tissue paper confetti. It didn’t work nearly as well that way.

We put a pencil in a glass of water and observed how the water made the pencil look broken.

We held a glass of water in front of paper and observed how it made the print look bigger (this would’ve worked much better if we had a smooth clear glass).

We blew bubbles using dish soap and water. We observed how the light reflecting off of them made rainbows.

We shined a flashlight into a mirror and observed how it reflected and lit up the wall behind the flashlight.

Explode the Code Silliness

Why is it Explode the Code provides so much amusement to my kids? I mean, I know some of the sentences in it are meant to be funny, but it’s always something serious my kids laugh at.

This morning Adrian was doing one of those pages with questions and then you mark yes if it is true or no if it is false. The sentence was “Is golf fun?”

Adrian emphatically said, “No! Some people think it is, but it is NOT!” while marking no.

And then he cracked up.

Weight, Eating, and Exercise at 9

Fritz is already struggling with his weight at just 9 years old. He’s got genetics working against him, but he’s doing so well trying to stay in shape.


His weight problems really started when he was in public school for a semester two years ago. He’d always been very active, but in school he was just sitting for at least 6 hours of the day. Then a few months after he started being homeschooled again, he got pneumonia and had to go on steroids. What started with a little weight gain turned into packing on pounds rapidly with those steroids. He’s had to be on steroids at least once more since then, too. And he’s a boredom eater.

He is not happy with how it feels to carry around the extra pounds so he asked for help in trying to get rid of them. So we came up with a plan.


Fritz is not restricted from any food. If we’ve got it in the house, he can have it. However, if he wants to eat something, he asks himself if he is bored or actually hungry. At dinner, before he gets seconds, he asks himself if he is still hungry or if he just wants it because it tastes good. He loves carrots, so I’ve always got some in little plastic containers in the refrigerator for him. He also loves popcorn, so we got a little air popper that does 1/4 cup of kernels at a time and also fun flavors of seasonings to go on the popcorn. The majority of his snacks now are carrots or popcorn. (We did talk to his pediatrician at his well visit in September and she was very happy with and totally approved of all of this.)

Around the beginning of the year he said he wanted to exercise as well (he already does taekwondo 2-4 times a week for an hour each time). Ani found an app (7 minute workout) for him. She set an alarm for 2pm every day to remind him to do it. He’s done his 7 minutes of exercising at least once a day every day since the 3rd.


He is losing weight very, very slowly. He’s also developing some little muscles from the exercising. Most importantly, he is feeling better, healthier, and making habits that will serve him well in the future.

A Few Kidisms

*Is it the law to have to learn to read? If not, I don’t want to do it.
*How are you doing in school, Fritz? I’ve already defeated one subject.
*Why is 6 basically 9? Why does 9 get all the attention?
*What was the first season ever?
*That taekwondo class was a lot of work.
*We have to go back to school? Well, at least we had a good New Year’s Day.
*I like to destroy things. What’s wrong with that?
*Shapes do not belong in math. Shapes are not math. There is no such thing as chemistry! [he meant geometry, but forgot the word]
*Can you put the heat on? It’s really cold in here. [it was 77 degrees in the house]
*[after getting accidentally glutened] Me: That gluten was pretty yucky, huh? Him: No, actually it tasted very good!
*Yesterday I had the last laugh, but today gluten did! [pause while I started laughing] I have no idea what that means but I think I said it right because you’re laughing.
*Him: I was in your belly 12 days! Me: No, actually, it was 42 weeks. Him: Oh. That’s a lot more days than I thought.
*[after his father picked him up and gave him a hug] This never gets old!
*Him: When I woke up this morning it was very loose so I took it off. Me: Took what off? Adrian: My tooth! [that was how he announced he had lost his first tooth]
*I once tried to breed a chicken with a cow [on Minecraft]. It just wasn’t working.

*[referring to the big taekwondo bag Cameron got for Christmas] A bag? That is the lamest thing ever for Christmas.
*40 is not even close to old. 100 is old. Daddis [70] is getting close to old.
*[Fritz built something with his Magna-Tiles and Adrian wanted to destroy it] Okay, but you have to admire it first.
*[I told him he’d be the man of the house with his father and older siblings at Fall Nationals] You know I’m only 9, right? It’s more like boy of the house!

And a bonus from the big kids
Cameron: A consequence of being tall is you are always looking down at people and that makes you feel bad.
Ani: Yeah, well, when you are short you are always looking up at people and that makes you feel bad, too.

Second Quarter Wrap-up

It’s hard to believe another 9 weeks of school have passed since we completed our first quarter of the school year. That means we’re halfway done.

This quarter was a bit complicated since we started it with the big kids returning from Florida after Fall Nationals and then we spent the next two months with me mostly on bedrest and then recovering from surgery. School got done on the couch or my bed a lot, but we made it through and we’re back to doing school at the table and Cameron’s call caught up from when he got a bit behind when he was sick before Christmas break.

So here’s where we are at at the end of our second quarter…

We made our way through the end of the 1800s and are currently learning about World War I. We learned a bit about the home country of a man we take taekwondo with so that was a cool bonus. We learned a bit about the Russian Revolution (Ani – Anastasia – is named for one of the Romanov daughters). We learned about Thomas Edison, gravity, and have started learning about light. We learned some more Latin vocabulary words. We learned about Norman Rockwell and Rembrandt and enjoyed several of their works of art. We listened to works by and learned about Chopin, Tchaikovsky, and Stravinsky.

Cameron completed Little Women and read The Valley of Fear by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, The Time Machine and War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, and he is currently reading The Call of the Wild by Jack London. He has been going over some deep grammar concepts including gerunds and infinitives. He wrote several literary analysis and biographical sketch essays. He is nearly done with the 18th lesson of Math-U-See Algebra I. He has continued with formal logic, writing in cursive, and has completed 8 lessons of vocabulary.

Fritz finished reading The Moffats and has read Anne of Green Gables and Black Stallion. He just started King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. He is in the 16th lesson of Math-U-See Delta. He is getting very good at dictation. He’s making progress on narration. The sentences he can diagram now are quite complex with direct objects, indirect objects, multiple prepositional phrases, and more. He’s learned even more vocabulary words and his cursive writing is improving.

Adrian is getting better at reading and now needs very little help when reading his verses (Old Testament) during family scripture reading time. He’s in the 16th lesson of Math-U-See Beta. He has almost finished the second Explode the Code book. He is thrilled to have finished his first level B Spelling You See book which means tomorrow he starts using the colored pencils to mark passages like his big brothers. He is getting good at figuring out which two letters put together make which sounds (ck, ch, sh, th). He’s learned more about parts of speech and added adverbs to his list. He learned more cursive letters. He is extremely good at answering questions about a passage he has listened to and then condensing it into a very short narration.

And as for grades…

History – A
Science – A
Art – Pass
Music – Pass
PE – Pass
Religion – Pass
Math – B (82%)
English – B (86%)
Logic – B (86%)
Latin – C (75%)

History – A
Science – A
Art – Pass
Music – Pass
PE – Pass
Religion – Pass
Math – A (92%)
English – A (97%)
Latin – A (91%)

History – A
Science – A
English – A
Art – Pass
Music – Pass
PE – Pass
Latin – Pass
Religion – Pass
Math – A (97%)

Cameron’s Accommodations

Recently I’ve been asked by several people what we do in school to help Cameron. He has an orthographic processing disorder. This means that, basically, he presents like someone with dyslexia and dysgraphia. Some of the accommodations we’ve come up have been recommended by school psychologists. Some we’ve come up with through trial and error.

Language Arts
Writing With Skill: There is a lot of reading and writing in Writing With Skill. I really hesitated to get it for him last year, but ultimately I decided to give it a try. I’m so glad I went with it. He’s learned so much and his writing has improved a lot.

Accommodations: Spelling and punctuation never count. He dictates his essays. Sometimes I give him a “cheat sheet” of notes from which to write his essays. When he takes his own notes, he types (he cannot usually read his own handwriting if he hand writes them). I read most of the poetry and short story selections to him. I read all instructions to him.

Reading: All of his assigned reading in school is done on his Fire using immersion reading. We buy the ebook and corresponding audiobook and he plays them at the same time. As the audiobook reads to him, the words are highlighted on his Fire screen. This has actually helped to improve his reading. He has gotten better at the word shape guessing because he sees and hears the words. Without immersion reading there is no way he could read as many books in school as he does because he reads so slowly and often guesses words wrong as he reads (he just finished his eighth book of the school year – we are in the last week of our first semester).

Outside of school, 100% of Cameron’s “reading” is audiobooks. He is a voracious listener. His reading level when last tested (March 2015) was 4th grade level. His interest level is so much higher and his comprehension level is as well. Immersion reading is a bit exhausting so doing it all the time would be overkill. Plus, pleasure reading should be totally for pleasure. Of all my kids, he’s actually the one who loves books the most.

Spelling You See: No accommodations needed. Even though we were told he will never learn to spell, SYS has helped improve his spelling a little bit in his essays.

Vocabulary From Classical Roots: Cameron was having a lot of trouble with it so I did an experiment. I worked with him for a lesson and discovered he has no problem remembering what the vocabulary words mean. He was simply unable to properly read the words. He was guessing (word shape) but getting them wrong. I started reading the questions to him. Now he gets all of them or just one or two wrong in each lesson.

New American Cursive: No accommodations needed. He does just a little bit each day. Writing is physically difficult for him. I don’t care if he ever writes in cursive, but I do want him to be able to read it when other people do.

Voyages in English: If the instructions say to write out entire sentences to make grammatical corrections, I do not require him to. He can just write the portion he needs to change. Sometimes I read the sentences to him (some days reading is harder/less accurate than others). Occasionally we will do it completely orally.

Mostly he does his math on his own as written. I stay nearby, however, in order to be on hand to explain things and sometimes read instructions or word problems to him. When he gets answers wrong I check his math immediately to find his error (usually simple math mistakes like 3×3=6 or transposing numbers) and have him redo it.

He does history with his younger brothers. We are using grammar stage History Odyssey (next year they’ll all be doing Logic stage HO). We do most of it orally. Grammar stage work is obviously below the level where he should be, but he is learning a lot and that’s what matters.

Cameron also does science with his younger brothers. We are using grammar stage Elemental Science (will be doing Logic stage ES next year). Again, we do most of it orally. Cameron runs the majority of the science experiments (science includes tons of experiments for us). He already knows so much science from audiobooks he’s listened to and youtube videos he’s watched for fun so he can usually explain it to his brothers even better than I can. Again, since it is grammar stage work it’s below the level where he should be, but it’s working well and he’s learning (and teaching).

High school kids in our church go to Seminary every morning. They learn a different book of scripture each year (for Cameron, that will be New Testament in 9th grade, Book of Mormon in 10th, D&C/Church History in 11th, and Old Testament in 12th). They have to read that book (or most in the case of the OT) during the school year and they have 25 scripture verses per year they need to memorize. We’ve already talked to the Seminary Supervisor for our stake and it happens she was a resource teacher so she is more than happy to allow accommodations for Cameron. He’ll be allowed to “read” the scriptures using the audio function on the Gospel Library app. He won’t be required to completely memorize the Scripture Mastery verses (memorization likely isn’t even a possibility for him). He will be able to do something like have the first letter of each word in front of him as he recites in order to jog his memory and help him get them right. They have to take assessments (they get as many chances as they need to score high enough to pass) and he may have to have the questions read to him. We’ll see what’s needed or not needed for those when he goes to take his first one a year from now.

Our school days go very smoothly between the accommodations we’ve settled on plus the fact that Cameron is just a super focused, determined student. My goals in educating my kids is for them to learn stuff and also enjoy learning. Doing things as written is not so important, particularly if it impedes reaching those goals. So far, I think we’re doing pretty well helping Cameron achieve my goals.

My Brain is Weird

I read a lot. I almost always read at bedtime. And that causes this weird thing to happen in my brain.

I’ll wake up hours later and I’m still “reading” the book. I’m seeing words in my head, and it’s the plot and characters from the book, but it’s my own brain making it all up. Sometimes it invades my dreams and dream me will get annoyed because I know I’m not really reading the words and my brain is making it all up.

This whole weird thing is even weirder when what my brain makes up turns out to be better than what the author actually wrote.

All Better (More or Less)

I saw my doctor yesterday for my 6 week check-up. She was very happy with how everything looks. All my parts are where they are supposed to be (except of course the parts that are no longer inside of me). My doctor removed four or five stitches and said there are two left still strongly attached. They should come out soon on their own. I can do anything now as long as it doesn’t hurt.

Every day I am more comfortable and stronger. It’s been a long, hard recovery, but given how I feel now it was all worth it. I even went back to taekwondo this week. I took classes on Tuesday and Thursday and that felt great.

Now if only I could get rid of this nasty head cold Cameron was so kind as to share with me…