Friday, May 22, 2015

Curriculum for 6th Grade 2015 - 2016

It's that time of the year. Curriculum planning and purchasing. This year I have the task of planning for three 6th grade girls (my tutoring students) and a 11th grader. In this post I will concentrate on the 6th grade students.

Math - I am a Teaching Textbooks fan and will continue with the 6th grade edition. Sometimes we use the CDs for teaching and sometimes I just quickly teach the concept to them. This is usually scheduled for 5 days a week.

Science - Because I love all of Jeannie Fulbright's science books and we only did the first with my tutoring students this past year I decided to try and squeeze in two of her books. One per semester. I let the girls look at the titles and pick their favorite two then went with the majority with the parents approval of course. The first semester of the year will find us diving (pun intended) into Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day while the second semester we will be studying the Human Body. We will also continue nature studies while using the new journal from Simply Charlotte Mason.

Language Arts - I love Easy Grammar so this will stay on the docket for 6th grade. Adding to the mix will be Essentials in Writing and 4-5 literature study guides from Progeny Press. Again I let the girls look over the titles and come to some sort of agreement. This coming year they will be reading Island of Blue Dolphins, Anne of Green Gables, The Horse and His Boy, Redwall, Sign of the Beaver, and if time permits The Secret Garden.

History - This year we read The Story of the World Volume 2 about The Middle Ages and loved it. In the new year we will continue on to Volume 3. The girls will continue to use the Test Booklet for comprehension questions and I plan on adding map work, activities, and other books to the mix depending on the time period we are studying. The girls will also start keeping their own Book of Centuries.

Other items I will try to fit into the days will include CNN Student News, Art, Shakespeare, Poetry and Reading Comprehension books from Abeka. It is always such a blessing to be on the Review Crew to introduce you to so many different types of learning materials. This year three of the products I have chosen to use with the girls were previous review products that I loved and kept in the mix.

I'm sure some things will fall through the cracks as it does every year. Always over planning on my part. So many wonderful things to show and teach each year it is hard to narrow it down to a manageable bit.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

When You Just Want to Have Fun

My neighbor's property is a treasure trove of nature study. We only utilized it a few times this year, but in August when the girls return we are using it way more. First thing on the agenda will be a pond/creek study.
Last week with our nature study we studied all the different types of ferns that he had on the property and of course when the girls saw the creek that is all they wanted to do. He offered for us to come down this week and play in the creek. Hot sun, cold water - what a mix!

Yesterday we saw so much that there would have been enough to fill at least 20 pages of nature study material. In one day we could have studied snakes, water striders, dragonflies, damselflies, salamanders, skinks, butterflies, skippers, rocks and minerals, water, moss, fish, and so much more.

I had one student that was very intent on finding gold. Next time I will need to dig out the panning supplies and let them actually pan for gold.

We found this water snake immediately upon arrival at the creek. In the beginning the girls were all freaked out by his appearance, but he literally did not move the entire 1 and 1/2 hours we were present.

The girls love it when Grace spends time with them in any type of activity.

This is the girls spotting the snake and wondering what to do. Grace of course immediately pulled out the her phone to compare images of poisonous snakes - this one wasn't.
I think the first week we are back in August we will come down and study some nature to get us back in the swing of things school wise. It will be a great opportunity to use our new nature journal from Simply Charlotte Mason.

Monday, May 18, 2015

TOS Review - - Torchlighters: The John Wesley Story Review
Our family loves watching movies. This bleeds over into our children's education and curriculum as well. My older children were always very visual learners and I am finding that the students I tutor are as well. Anytime we can use a visual aid like DVDs to enhance a subject we do it. Through the TOS Review Crew we were blessed with the opportunity to review Torchlighters: The John Wesley Story from Review is a company dedicated to making available family friendly and faith based videos. They are also able to do this at an economical price. has thousands of titles in their catalog of DVDs that are not only offered at low prices but also with free shipping when you spend $35.00 or more. All of that means great products for awesome prices. I even noticed that one of my favorites television shows - When Calls the Heart - will be released this month and FishFlix will be carrying it at a very reasonable price. Not only do they carry Faith based movies and television series, but also DVDs about Christian living, teaching, and more. I was very impressed with their About Us page and the two Bible verses that guide their business philosophy. In this day and age it is really hard to find companies that live their faith in the business world and offer a ray of sunshine in all the murkiness that movies and television can bring into a family's home.
The video we were given to review, Torchlighters: The John Wesley Story is recommended for ages 8 - 12. I have two tutoring students (age 11) that watched the movie with me twice. I was very familiar with the Torchlighters Series highlighting the lives of heroes from Christian history. The girls were not familiar with John Wesley, so this was a great opportunity to introduce them to the man who founded the Methodist movement. The video was right on their level of understanding and enjoyable to boot.
Included on the disc is the capability to watch in English or Spanish as well as subtitles. The animated video runs about 30 minutes, but also has available a documentary about John Wesley. The leader's guide and student handouts in PDF format are great for digging deeper into the life of John Wesley. Some of the student handouts were: verse memorization charts, digging deeper into the story, creating a coat of arms, a service project, and more. The Leader's Guide includes a teaching plan scheduled out in four separate sessions, a letter to parents, and a section of supplementary materials dealing with life in the time frame of John Wesley's life, people he came in contact with, and a timeline of John Wesley's life.
Other Crew Members also reviewed: Exploring Ephesus, Privileged Species, Unbroken Legacy of Faith Edition, Flight, and Metamorphosis - all from We received ours as a physical DVD with the guides and handouts as PDFs.
If your family is looking to purchase great, wholesome entertainment - take a look at
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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Last Days of School Fun - Nature Study

I am ashamed to admit that during that cooler months very little Nature Study goes on. I really need to get in the habit of doing it much more through the entire year. Last week we finished our math and science book which also opened up much more room to go outside and study nature.

Luckily I've got like the best neighbor with the most amazing area to do nature study. I picked a topic of fern, which I knew he had plenty of and we went with it. Of course a lot of the time they were also fascinated with the creek that runs throughout the property.

Goldfish and Koi ponds abound!

Here the girls were observing a cinnamon fern.

Trying to pet the fish.

Back behind the creek in a mucho moist environment is tons of New Yorker ferns. There is a path/trail that goes throughout all of it. Quite beautiful and breathtaking. 

By the ponds the girls discovered this unique fern , painted Japanese fern, by the ponds.

Before going on the nature walk we watched a couple of short animated videos. One of the videos pointed out to the girls how the fronds unfurl. We were lucky enough to see that in person.

The girls are totally stoked that my neighbor invited them back next week on the last day of school to play in the creek!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Project Based Learning - Bird Sanctuary

This year for science the elementary girls used the Flying Creatures book from The Exploring Creation series by Jeannie Fulbright. I knew that once the temperatures warmed up and we just started having nicer days that some type of end of the year project was in order. I decided that constructing a bird sanctuary would be something everyone could enjoy for days of nature journaling.

Our very first project was making suet to see what type of birds would be attracted to it. This was a very messy job (that the girls of course loved) with lots of ingredients. We used the same recipe that comes from the Flying Creatures book.

The past couple of years we had tried growing potatoes and other vegetables in this raised bed, but with lots of trees the sun is kept to a minimum. Hubby helped me clean it out and we discovered it would be an awesome location for the bird sanctuary.  We set up four different types of feeders with three different types of seed or suet. Hands down the favorite was plain old sunflower seed.
As you can see in the picture above, for a couple of weeks we were so blessed with tons of gold finches, indigo buntings, etc. The count on the gold finches alone were about 20 or more at a time. I think they were either passing through or maybe it was mating season. To see 5-7 buntings at once eating is pleasure and bliss at its best.

Getting to see about 10-12 different species of birds every day has inspired the girls in their nature journaling. Even Grace has become inspired and comes out with us to watch and sketch. Last year Grace used half of her year in science to read and study about birds, so this bird sanctuary is a great time to review everything she learned during that time.

On our deck is a small covered area that we can all relax to observe the birds and their habits.

If we find ourselves stressed the natural tendency is to go sit and watch the birds. Very calming.

Grace drew a Rose -Breasted Grosebeak a few days ago for her journal.

One of my students sketched a gold finch.
You simply never know when something you create with inspire. This one has definitely inspired us all.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Elementary and High School Biology Dissection

Not very often do I have the opportunity to mix my elementary students with my one and only high school student, but occasionally the planets align and it happens. This week I have one student out sick and another with a death in the family. This left one elementary student and Grace.
Grace was in dire need of some dissection hours for her Biology class. Currently she is on the Plant Kingdom section and needed to dissect flowers and fruit. This blended perfectly with nature study for my younger student.
They sat down together and dissected and illustrated the flower and fruit dissections (nectarine, peach, and tomato). It was truly great! They enjoyed each others company and worked well together.

Grace has all of a sudden become interested in created a field guild of illustrations of various topics from nature. During her elementary years at home for nature study many times I had to coax and drag her around on nature walks to try to get this same thing accomplished. Now she is excited by nature and because of her artistic talents loves creating illustration in her field journal. When we went to Lowe's garden center a couple of days ago she took tons of pictures of flowers to draw in her journal. Yesterday it was birds (another post for another day).
My elementary student also loves drawing. We included this as her nature study for the day. On her level of understanding we mainly discussed the differences of monocot and dicot in the fruit.
Now that the weather is so much nicer - you will be seeing many more nature study type posts from both the younger and high school age students in my home.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

TOS Review - A+ Interactive Math - Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan

A+ Interactive Math Review
Ask any homeschooling family what their most and least favorite subjects to teach are and you will get many, many different answers. For us math is at the top of the list. We do have a math program that we routinely use and have stuck with it for the last four years. Overall we are pleased with it. Usually when review products are offered to us I try to steer away if they involve math, but this time I really felt that Adaptive Placement Test and Individualized Lesson Plan from A+ Interactive Math would be a good fit for us. Guess what? We weren't disappointed.
A+ Interactive Math Review
First off, how many times have you worried about gaps in your child's education. Since you can't see me through the computer - here is me raising my hand really high. Well, this program is specifically created to help you find those gaps in math and then fix them. Some of my favorite things about this product are:
  • Very Economical
  • Great for families with multiple kids at different grade levels
  • Very easy to use
  • Enjoyable to the students (at least mine)
Here's How it Works:
Each student is assigned their own login and password. I had three fifth grade girls using this and they all had their own account. Once the student logins in they are taken to a launch area which when clicked will go to their dashboard. Here the student has the choice of viewing tutorial videos on how to use the site, take the adaptive placement tests, view summary and progress reports, and view their individualized lesson plans based on the placement test scores.
Placement Tests - Seventeen placement tests are found on the fifth grade level, which is what we had. Concepts ranged from addition and subtraction all the way up to fractions, measurements, and algebra. The student has the ability to retake each test as many times as they wish until it is passed. Each exam can be viewed by the parent to determine what concepts were missed on the test. The tests are timed as well as each problem.
Summary and Progress Reports - Here the parent and student can review the test, see how many problems were missed, give a percentage total, and a pie chart visual. This information can be printed for future use.
Individualized Lesson Plan - In this section the student has the choice of working with multimedia lessons or online worksheets for each concept missed. The multimedia lesson consists of animated videos teaching the concept and then follow up questions for the student to solve. The online worksheet's format is very similar to the placement tests.
How We Used It:
I let each of my students start by picking an area they felt they needed help or extra practice. In a way this kind of backfired on me and them as they thought choosing the easiest topics like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division would get them better scores and could move through the program faster. What they learned early on was that it wasn't so easy to pass the test on the first try for multiple reasons. Sometimes it was because of silly mistakes, other times it was concepts they learned at the beginning of the school year and forgot. Also we discovered that depending on what math program you use in your home would determine if what A+ Interactive says is a fifth grade math concept matches up. We ran across concepts they had not learned yet. The girls would take a test and if they did not pass would then complete the subsequent lessons of the missed topics. After lessons were finished they were off to retake the test.
We took a break from our main math curriculum to use this three days a week. Each student had their own computer and could use their own account at their own pace. I think this program has been a very valuable tool for them as well as myself in deducing where each child actually is in understanding different math topics.
The icing on the cake is that the girls really enjoyed using this program. We only have 4 more lessons to finish in their regular math curriculum, then they want to go back to using A+ Interactive Math. Actually their specific words were please can we do this instead of our other math. I think they really liked the challenge of passing the test after studying the lessons from the missed problems.
I feel that A+ Interactive Math has a winner with this program. According to the vendor a 40-50 percent off sale for this product will begin on 5/4/15 and end on 5/18/15. Be sure to see what the other Crew Members thought of Adaptive Placement Testing and Family Math Packages.
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