Friday, September 7, 2012

...and we're back with seventh grade!

Wow, the start of our third year homeschooling! I will eventually get up a what's-been-going-on post but for now, it's time to get back into a blogging routine :)

(I'm having some difficulties writing this on the iPad. I'll be back to finish the post tomorrow.)

Daisy will be continuing with math and science as her school focus. The plans for seventh grade are


  • Introduction to Algebra from Art of Problem Solving (AoPS). She'll be picking up with Chapter 5 Introduction to two variable linear equations. Even though the book is an "introduction," it is equivalent to the traditional Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 courses. The plan is to go through Chapter 13 then switch to the Introduction to Geometry text.
  • Introduction to Counting and Probability also from AoPS. She will study this text one or two days each week.
  • Alumnus, the online problem solving website, will be used to reinforce the topics from both AoPS books each week. I can set up Daisy's account to follow her two books.  She spent hours upon hours on Alcumus this summer.
  • Each week or so she will take an old released AMC8 exam. She will be taking this year's exam for the first time in November. Last year we learned about the exam a week after it was given.


  • The first part of the school year will be spent using the free Middle School Chemistry curriculum from the American Chemical Society ( Each lesson includes hands-on discovery activities for the student. We will add in the huge coffee table book The Elements, its companion website, videos from, and interesting books such as The Disappearing Spoon and Uncle Tungsten.
  • Daisy will be once again participating on the homeschool association's Science Olympiad team. Last year was her first at the Division B level; she did quite well at the state competition, placing second in Rocks and Minerals, fourth in Forestry (tree ID and botany), and tenth in Towers (she designed and built a load-bearing balsa wood tower). I will again serve as an assistant coach for the team. The coach and I still do not have the official rules manual and we won't know the event schedule grid for the competition, so events cannot yet be chosen by and assigned to the kids. Daisy does want to continue with Rocks and Minerals and Forestry, and she would like to give the Tower replacement, Boomilever, a try. I expect Science Olympiad studying and building to consume science from early December through the state competition on March 30!
  • After that, science will be her choice. More botany? Perhaps some physics? Astronomy?


We will continue our love affair with the third volume in the K12 series, The Human Odyssey: From Modern Times to Our Contemporary Era! The readings and discussions we have will be supplemented and complemented by a long list of non-fiction, historical fiction, and documentaries. I hope to add a page with the list here soon.


  • Grammar will continue with a quick review of The Magic Lens 1 from Michael Clay Thomas and Royal Fireworks Press ( and the last half of the corresponding 4Practice book.
  • Vocabulary will continue with Word Within the Word also from MCT. This roots-based vocabulary program was incredibly challenging last year. Daisy will be picking up with List 18 (aka unit 18) out of 30. Once she finishes the book, she'll move on to WWtW 2.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Our 30th and 31st weeks: April 4-15

I was soooo busy last weekend with Older Sister's musical performances (she was fab as Ursula in Bye Bye Birdie!) that I just couldn't find time to post a weekly update.  I didn't even read other blogs...

Spring has sprung and attention spans have suffered!  Daisy spent some of her birthday money on Lego Harry Potter for the wii and miraculously, her attention and motivation returned.  School started earlier and went quicker this week than in past weeks so that she would have time to play.  I wish every day would be like the last few days!

On the teacher side, I'm very excited to take part in the Royal Fireworks Press/Peacehill Press mini-convention in Valley Forge PA in June!  This replacement for the canceled Northeast Great Homeschool Convention will be more relevant to me, as this will truly be an education-focused event rather than a "homeschooling as a lifestyle" convention.  Michael Clay Thompson and Susan Wise Bauer are two fascinating writers and speakers and I can't wait to hear them in person and peruse their curricula. 

I'm most looking forward to getting to know WTM board members with whom I'll be staying in dorms and eating communally---so much nicer than separate hotels and a gigantic convention center.  Sure, I'm sad about missing the book fondling opportunities at the vendor hall but our proposed "curriculum show-and-tell" will fill that slot nicely :)

I finally did something I had been meaning to do since the fall!  I posted a "look inside" review of Daisy's vocabulary program, Vocabulary Workshop from Sadlier-Oxford publishing.  You can view the separate blog post right here.

Topics covered during these weeks include:
  • multiplication and division of exponents
  • negative exponents, multiplication/division of negative exponents
  • zero as an exponent
  • scientific notation (as a review)
  • addition/subtraction of fractions containing monomials
We didn't do any "fun" math at all.  Next week I'll pull out Zaccaro's Challenge Math and have Daisy choose a new chapter to start.

  • read and discussed the second half of Chapter 12 in CPO Earth Science
  • watched Bill Nye Volcanoes
  • watched National Geographic Volcano: Nature's Inferno.  Daisy did not enjoy this dvd.  I had to skip over the parts about volcanologists killed in the field :(
  • took the Ch. 12 assessment orally
  • started bulding a volcano
It was a family project.
ready for plaster of paris strips
Who decided to do this on a windy day??
And of course, the weather turned cold and rainy which drastically slowed the drying process.

Minerals and rocks!
  • completed Investigation 13A: Mineral Identification (no pictures)
  • read and discussed section 13.1, Composition of Rocks
  • watched Bill Nye "Rocks and Soil"
  • painted the volcano (happening right now so no picture yet)
  • completed Investigation 13B: Igneous Rocks

Chapter 7 (Part 4) of Human Odyssey Vol. 1 "Of Land and Loyalty"
  • discussed the feudal system, chivalry, castles, life in the city vs country vs castle
  • watched David Macaulay's Castle dvd
  • read from Kathryn Hinds's wonderful medieval history collection, The City, The Country and The Castle (from Marshall Cavendish publishing; out of print).  There is a fourth book in the series, The Church, which our library system doesn't have.
We enjoyed the reproductions of medieval paintings, tapestries and other art works throughout the books.
When we study the Renaissance next fall, we will use the Marshall Cavendish series also authored by Kathryn Hinds.

Chapter 8 "An Age of Faith: The Church in Western Europe"
  • discussed the hierarchy of the church in those days
  • watched David Macaulay's Cathedral (fascinating!)
  • looked at cathedral pictures online...discussed future vacation plans...
  • read Chapter 6 in The European World
  • discussed The Crusades
  • discussed pilgrimages
covered progressive and perfect tenses, adverbs of various sorts, adverb phrases and clauses

units 11 and 12 in Vocabulary Workshop A

We waited in vain for El Cid by Geraldine McCaughrean to be sent to our library branch.  Daisy read My Guardian Angel by Sophie Weil (about an 11th century Jewish girl in France during the First Crusade) and The Road to Damietta by Scott O'Dell (about the life of St. Francis of Assisi).  She enjoyed the first but only tolerated the second book.

We are working our way through Chapter 5 of So You Really Want to Learn French 1 (Galore Park), covering
  • the verb aller
  • means of transportation
  • days of the week
  • school subjects
  • adjectives
  • masculine and feminine endings for adjectives
  • colors and their endings
Daisy wrote her first translation without my help!  It was a twelve line dialogue between students discussing favorite classes on different days of the week.

I plan on posting a similar "look inside" for SYRWTLF as I did with Vocabulary Workshop, so stay tuned :)

Other stuff
Last week we were crazed with Older Sister's musical rehearsal schedule.  Luckily Daisy had spring break for ballet or I would have been driving all.the.time.  The weather has been very spring-like, either beautiful and warm or rainy and cool.  We've been enjoying the flowering trees, the return to green grass and the multitude of birds.  Later sunsets mean later dinners which mean later bedtimes for Daisy---almost like summer.  We need Easter break!

The best of the weeks: playing with rocks, discussing castles, flying through French

The worst of the weeks: rain ruining outdoor plans, tears over math when forced to (gasp) actually expend effort

Looking forward to: Easter break!  Older Sister will be at home all next week and the first few days after Easter, Older Brother will be at home starting next Wednesday but all of the following week.  Both siblings will be studying hard for upcoming AP exams.  While they work, Daisy will do light schooling during those times---most likely a bit of math and French each day with history and science scheduled in blocks.  We will definitely take off from Holy Thursday through Easter Sunday!  We attend all Triduum services in the evenings at church, which forces us to eat earlier than usual during a holiday break and stay up a bit later.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Vocabulary Workshop: A Look Inside

Daisy has been using Sadlier-Oxford's Vocabulary Workshop this school year.  After reading and participating in a few threads discussing vocabulary curriculum choices on the WTM boards, I thought I'd blog about the books, the format, and how we are using Vocabulary Workshop.

My older kids have/had used the upper levels of Vocabulary Workshop as part of their high school English studies.  I liked the straight-forward format and especially liked the growth in the kids' everyday vocabularies so when it came time to choose a vocab book for Daisy, I immediately decided on Vocabulary Workshop.

Vocabulary Workshop books are separated into two segments:
Each book in the series has corresponding online content.  For Color Levels, the content consists of games such as hangman, concentration, word scramble and crossword puzzles plus printable word cards and graphic organizers.  Games are also available for Levels A-H plus (for A-F) " iWordsTM Interactive Audio Program includes definitions, pronunciations, and examples of usage for all 300 words per Level."  The newer 2011 Color Level edition online content will also feature the iWords Interactive Audio according to the website.  To preview the online components for Color Levels 2006 edition and Levels A-H just select the level desired and "student".

In addition to viewing the online samples (see this level A ordering page scrolling to the bottom) I used the online components to select which level in which to place Daisy.  She easily unscrambled all the words and completed the puzzles for Blue Level (grade 5) but hit a number of unknown words for the first several units in Level A (grade 6).

As I do not have a copy of the Color Levels, the rest of this entry will be based on the Level A-H books.

The eight books follow the same format with 15 units of 20 vocabulary words, review for every three units, four cumulative reviews (units 1-6, 1-9, 1-12 and 1-15), followed by a final mastery test.

Each unit begins by introducting the words with pronunciation guides, part(s) of speech, illustrative sentences, and lists of synonyms and antonyms:

followed by a Completing the Sentence activity
synonyms and antonyms

a Choosing the Right Word activity
and Vocabulary in Context with a reading passage

The review sections for each group of three units have their own structure.  All questions are multiple choice.  First is a reading section with 10-12 multiple choice questions

then Grammar in Context (Level A covers sentences vs sentence fragments, subject-verb agreement, adjectives vs adverbs, pronoun-antecedent agreement, and misplaced modifiers)

completing passages with two words from the units

choosing the right meaning

more antonyms

word families

word associations

and a section based on word roots (Level A covers de-, re-, -log, -logue, co-, col-, com-, con-, cor- and pre-)

The cumulative review sections cover more analogies, choosing the right meaning for a passage, two-word completions, and "enriching your vocabulary" with previously-unseen words.

The final mastery test consists of (for Level A) 25 multiple-choice select the meaning of a word within a phrase, 15 choosing pairs of antonyms, 15 fill-in-the-blank to best complete the sentence, 10 matching generally unfavorable words with descriptive sentences, 10 matching generally favorable words, and 25 multiple-choice choosing the word/expression that best completes the meaning of a sentence.

How do we use Vocabulary Workshop?
I asign one unit per full week of school (weeks with holidays are skipped, unless a shorter cumulative review is next).  Daisy knows that she needs to have all the sections in each unit finished by Friday.  She tends to do two sections on three days each week.  She likes to split them up as Definitions + Vocabulary in Context, Antonyms + Choosing the Right Word, and Completing the Sentence + Synonyms.

On Friday I orally quiz her on the words including spellings. 

I grade the review and cumulative review portions.

Does one needed the Teacher's Edition?
If you are comfortable with vocabulary, you should be fine without the TE.  I've read my older daughter's Level G and haven't yet found a question I couldn't answer. 

How will we use Vocabulary Workshop in the future?
Next year, Daisy's 6th grade year, she will start with Level B which should be finished sometime in January.  She will then move into Level C which may or may not be finished during the school year.  If not, she'll continue in her 7th grade year.  If so, she'll move into Level D, and so on.

How does one purchase Vocabulary Workshop?
I purchased my books directly from Sadlier-Oxford.  The $7.95 shipping rate for orders under $60 is high when ordering just one level.  I combined multiple levels in one order to decrease my per-book shipping costs.  If you are lucky, you can find used copies on Amazon or other reselling sites.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Our 29th week: March 28-April 1 with Investigation 12A:Earthquakes

Happy April Fool's Day!  We had snow this morning...most definitely not a funny joke.

Last week I mentioned that having a "regular" week with no unusual events was such a pleasure.  This week has been the opposite with an extremely irregular schedule!  Daisy had ITBS testing through a homeschool academy Monday through Wednesday which with travel time took up most of the days.  Tonight and tomorrow are ballet "Persephone" performances so she's had rehearsal from 5-9pm this week.

History and science are the only school subjects touched this week:

Vikings were the topic o' the week---the geography of the region, ships, raiders and traders, Eric the Red, Leif the Lucky, exploration, everyday village life of women and children.  Resources used this week were Human Odyssey Chapter 6 (of part 4), Oxford's The European World 400-1450 (the first bit of chapter 4), and DK/Eyewitness Viking.

For literature, Daisy read The Edge on the Sword by Rebecca Tingle (seen here on Amazon).  This book is based on the life of Aethelflead (imagine the smushed together ae please), the daughter of King Alfred of Wessex who successfully fought off the invading Vikings during the late 800s.  Highly recommended by Daisy!

All earthquakes this week :)  We read and discussed, in detail, section 12.1 of CPO Earth Science, researched North American faults online, and watched a National Geographic dvd on tsunamis and a Nova dvd on earthquakes.  I don't recommend either dvd as the material was quite dated with lots of graphic news footage of disasters.  Daisy almost cried several times :(  The dvds from last week were much more interesting, engaging, and educational.

Only one lab was done this week, Investigation 12A: Earthquakes.  Overall, this lab did not require much adaptation but I do wish I had gathered and pre-assembled some of the supplies to save time.  We went through four rubberbands before I found one that was both short enough for the "stress gauge" and new enough that it didn't lengthen during the procedure.  You will need a very small rubberband, preferably one that is brand new.  The gauge was made from a 2cm wide strip of a 3x5 index card.  We needed to have at least 7cm after the rubberband.  As the index card itself was only 12.5cm long you can see how a small rubberband and small paperclips are necessary!

You will need a very small hardcover book for the lab as written.  These strips of sandpaper are only 5.5" wide.  The sandpaper base and the sandpaper book cover represent two adjacent tectonic plates with the space between the two representing the fault.  Earthquakes are simulated by pulling the string connected to the rubberband stress gauge.  The timing, duration, and intensity of earthquakes were studied.

You can read the lab procedure on this CPO pdf .  Scroll down to pages 8-14.

The following pictures are from the last portion of the lab, simulating earthquake intensity.  Sugarcubes were stacked in increasing amounts to determine the effect of the earthquake.

After the lab was completed, Daisy experimented with various sugarcube structures to see which was the most stable.  Below is a short video with her most stable creation:

Another fun science week for us!

Best of the week:  After all the scholarship offers were in, The Boy chose which university to attend!!!!!!!!!  His Eagle project is moving forward!!!!!!!!!  I forsee less stressful days in the future :)

Worst of the week: The nasty cold weather tied with the extra driving this week.  Yuck.

And looking ahead to next week: Daisy and I will be back on a normal schedule, thank goodness.  We'll move back to Europe in history, study volcanoes in science, and do a bunch of other stuff that I can't remember without looking at my planning book LOL 

With warmer (and hopefully drier) weather in the forecast, I plan on gardening during my free time----dividing and moving perennials, trading perennials with my sister, cleaning out the veggie beds, and perhaps planting some lettuce!

Tech week for Older Sister means altered dinner and driving schedules, but I'm looking forward to watching the "Bye Bye Birdie" performances on the weekend.  Our new Kodak PlaySport video camera arrived yesterday.  I'll have plenty of time to become accustomed to the features before recording the show.

I think next week is going to be fun :)  Have a great weekend everyone!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Our 27th and 28th weeks! March 14-25, 2011

Yes, two weeks in one :)  I took an internet break last weekend because the weather was gorgeous plus I had a pile of really good library books. Once Monday came around, I didn't feel like posting a super-late weekly report to the thread on WTM.

We've hit a really nice groove during the past weeks.  School is going very smoothly with lots of learning and laughing.  There haven't been any outside-the-house activities or weather-related high school delays/cancellations to confuddle our schedule.  Yippee for normalcy!

  • celebrated Pi Day by doing various "Einstein" level circle problems from Zaccaro's Challenge Math
  • conquered multiplying/dividing inequalities in equations
  • solved multi-step inequalities
  • worked on GCF, equivalent fractions and LCM for monomial expressions
  • watched Bill Nye Birds from the bird watching unit (that library request took a loooong time to come in)
  • As part of Chapter 10: Inside Earth in CPO Earth Science, Daisy created a scale model of the earth's interior on adding machine tape
  • investigated buoyancy and mountains (floating of the earth's crust on the mantle--Investigation 10B)
  • watched Bill Nye Earthquake (that request came in too quickly lol)
  • and studied wave motion through metal and plastic slinkies.
  • Then we moved on to Chapter 11: Plate Tectonics.  Studying this chapter was fantastic fun!  Truly!
  • Daisy investigated Plate Tectonics (11A) using a bathymetric map, which shows underwater topographic details.  She connected mid-ocean ridges, rises and deep ocean trenches to approximate the location of the main tectonic plates.  Adding earthquake and volcano locations by plotting longitude and latitude helped to refine the tectonic plates.  Finally she colored in the actual plate locations after consulting her textbook.
  • Fascinated by the information on Pangea and continental drift (section 11.1), we viewed an online animation of continental movement
  • watched the fascinating History Channel production of How the Earth Was Made, which covered the formation of the earth 4.5 billion years ago through the retreat of the last ice sheets 10,000 years ago
  • explored evidence for plate tectonics (Investigation 11B)
  • discussed sea-floor spreading
  • watched all four hours of National Geographic's Amazing Planet, which covered earthquakes and volcanoes, underwater features such as subduction zones, and destructive forces like water/wind erosion and glaciers
  • explored the different types of plate boundaries
  • and read Dance of the Continents by Roy Gallant.  Whew!

  • Daisy studied the medieval African kingdoms of Ghana and Mali.  She read the chapter in Human Odyssey, chapters 9 and 10 in Oxford Press's African and Middle Eastern World, and parts of The Royal Kindoms of Ghana, Mali and Songhay by Pat McKissack.
  • I had spent the previous week compiling a list of medieval historical fiction featuring female protagonists.  Last week Daisy caught up on the reading for the preceeding chapter of Human Odyssey by reading Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher (the Shahrezad story), Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen (Arabia), and Anna of Byzantium by Tracy Barrett (fictionalized account of Anna Commena, a 12th century Byzantine princess).  Daisy enjoyed the first two very much but found the third to be quite sad.  She said she wouldn't read it again.

  • This week began our study of Europe in the Middle Ages with barbarians, the monks and preservation of knowledge, Charlemagne and early Ireland.  Daisy read the relevant chapter in Human Odyssey, chapters 1 and 2 of The European World, Beowulf as retold by Rosemary Sutcliff, Charlemagne and the Early Middle Ages by Miriam Greenblatt, and the March 2009 issue of Dig magazine on early Ireland.
unit 10 in Sadlier-Oxford Vocabulary Workshop A

worksheets and online games to review grammar and punctuation

  • see history, above
  • Daisy read her way through The  Hobbit and all Lord of the Rings books.
Best of the week(s): no contest, science rules once again!

Worst of the week(s): the horrible cold poor Daisy has been dealing with :(

Coming up next week: Daisy will be taking the Iowa standarized tests through a local homeschool academy Monday-Wednesday mornings.  We will only be doing science (duh) and history next week for school.  On top of that, next week is tech week for the ballet's production of Persephone so Daisy will be busy from 5-9pm each day!  The Boy will learn the remaining college decisions by this time next week and will switch to "which do I choose?" mode.  He also has work days scheduled for his Eagle project---at last!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Girl vs Lower Mantle

After creating a scale model of the earth's interior (1mm:1km), Daisy measured herself against the different sections.  The lower mantle won!