Decca’s Fifth Grade Plan

Decca is a very creative learner who needs to be constantly challenged or he will tune out. Knowing this I have picked out materials that I think will keep him engaged and interested in the work. Most of these choices he used last year or the year before, so I know they fit his learning style.

Moving Beyond the Page

His main curriculum is Moving Beyond the Page for ages 10-12. Decca had previously used the 7-9 and 8-10 levels, and he loved both the books and the work. Last year I decided to try something different, but this year we are back. There is nothing else I have found that has matched my creative, gifted learner as perfectly as Moving Beyond the Page. He has already started the first unit, and he is happy to be working through it again.


Moving Beyond the Page covers language arts, science, and social studies, so it is a very complete curriculum.  Decca is a language arts nut though, so I have decided to add more studies to his year. We used Bravewriter’s Arrow last year, and we are using it again this year. A subscription to the Arrow is for the whole year, and it comes with ten issues for ten books. I like the selection of the books this year, as many of them are books Decca would not have read on his own. He finished the first book, The Lemonade War,
in two days and is now working through the work in the Arrow. I find these issues to be a nice supplement to his MBTP studies.

I have also decided to add in Latin this year. Decca will be using Latin for Children through Thinker’s Cap Academy. He has only just begun this, and although it is not his favorite part of the day, he does do the work without complaints.


For math we are sticking with the same materials as last year, Life of Fred and Beast Academy. Life of Fred and Beast Academy are the only math programs I have found that keep him interested and engaged in the work. Math will never be his passion, but with these programs he almost forgets that. I will also have him work through some apps on the iPad, as he always has fun doing that.

In addition to his formal work, he is going to continue working on his writing, his scratch projects (click here to see his latest game Life of a Gumball),  and his graphic design work. He is also taking piano.

I have to admit that I spent all summer worrying about the twins and their high school year. I spent very little time thinking about Decca’s year, and I didn’t order any curriculum for him until last week (and some this week). I am pleasantly surprised at how well this has turned out though. I may just leave planning to the last-minute again next year!

Someone Help Me…

I am drowning in curriculum.

And books.

And three very different kids.

My students working on their electoral maps yesterday. It was nice to have them all working on the same thing.

Basically I am still adjusting to having my daughter home, and I am trying to remember how I homeschooled three kids before. I haven’t figured this out quite yet, but I have come to one very important conclusion. I don’t have time to work through three different programs for every subject. I will be spending the next few weeks trying to work out a plan that has the kids working on some of the same things, and I am doing this for the sole purpose of my sanity. Wish me luck!

Weekly Update – 8th grade

Last week I featured my youngest son and his work, and this week I thought I would discuss Tru and his work. This is his eighth grade, and the year has been going so smooth I can hardly believe it. He is working almost entirely independent, and he is doing all his work easily and without complaint. It is as though he matured over the summer and is suddenly the perfect homeschool student. He enjoys all his school, works hard from about 7:30 in the morning until 4:00 in the afternoon, and doesn’t complain at all. It has been wonderful.

He seems to have gotten into a routine of sorts. He starts the day with his computer work, which for him is CNN student news, Rosetta Stone French, The Great Courses Understanding Astronomy, and Teaching Textbooks Geometry. After this he completes his geometry lesson and works on his one-year American history (which is mostly reading). Then he breaks for lunch.

After lunch Tru starts back with LoF Algebra (which he wanted to work through again this year for review), works through language arts (IEW, easy grammar, vocabulary), reviews his French textbook, and then works on his film studies.

I picked this vintage French textbook up years ago, and now Tru is using it. We both like it very much.

This week he is editing a film that he shot last weekend. He is also watching The Battleship Potemkin with me and taking notes on it (specifically going over the plot and writing down the plot points).

Tru finishes his day with independent reading. This week he read The False Prince which he seemed to like, but I don’t think he was crazy about it. He has a long day, but he has consistently gotten through his work, and I am very proud of him.

One of his boss creations

Of course I should mention that once he is done with his work he is free to get on his computer. He got a new computer this week, and he has been creating  bosses for a game he is making. He is obsessed with this right now, and I believe is might be motivating him to get through his work even faster. I don’t mind, as it makes for very pleasant, stress-free days.

Weekly Update – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly – 4th Grade Edition

The Good

California History – It is a wonderful state with an interesting history – what’s not to like? This week we learned about the earliest Californians and the  La Brea Tar Pits.

The Creative Writer – This is technically for slightly older kids, but Decca has a passion for writing, so I thought we would try it. He loves it! This week we worked on plot points. He went over the samples in the book, and then he wrote out the plot points for his independent reading book (Bunnicula) and for a Scooby Doo cartoon. He also went over plot points in his own stories that he has written.

The Arrow – Another hit for my language arts loving guy. I got the subscription for the current year, as there is an added emphasis on grammar. I have looked at Bravewriter before, but I never liked what I saw, as the samples never seemed meaty enough. This year I decided to give it a try because I couldn’t find anything else for Decca that would work for him.  I am glad I did. The first book he is working from is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and the work is quite meaningful and enjoyable.

Timez Attack – What can I say? It is a program that teaches kids their math facts, but it feels like a video game. As my son says, “It even has bosses!”. How can anybody not love that?

The Bad

DreamBox Learning – My son loved this last year and worked on it for most of the year. This year…I don’t know. He is bored by it and doesn’t seem to be learning anything new. The game choices are all the same, and we can’t figure out what he should be working on. There are too many choices in the menu, and he seems to pick the same games over and over. I would like DreamBox better if it would choose what lessons the student should work on each day to keep them progressing.

I was going to use this as his main math program, but I don’t think that will work out. Instead I will most likely have him work on his math facts with Timez Attack and then move on to Life of Fred fractions in January. This was what I did with the twins, and it worked out nicely for them. Hopefully Decca will be able to take the same path.

The Ugly

Equine Science – Honestly Decca loves it. He would be happy learning about horses, or any animal, all day long. Unfortunately I don’t share that passion, and I think after nearly four years of studying animals with him I am done. I don’t want to know about all the different horses or the points of a horse. I don’t want to teach him to draw horses, and I am not interested in looking at picture after picture of horses. I hate to admit it, but we did no science at all this week.

However I did purchase the curriculum and all the books. I took this on knowing I would most likely not like it, and we have no other science as of right now. I am just going to have to buckle down and try to get through it, or at least use the resources with Decca to get something out of it. Then we will be moving on to a different science, a more traditional science. I think it is time that we expand our studies and discover other passions.

Next week I will turn the spotlight on eighth grade and share my thoughts on our curriculum choices.

Finally Home

The twins celebrated their thirteenth birthday while we were on vacation.

We have been gone for over a month on a wonderful summer vacation. We took a train to Chicago, spent the next three weeks visiting family, and then we took a cross-country drive back home. The kids spent most of the trip outdoors canoeing, swimming, bouncing on a trampoline, and driving a tractor.

We also got to spend some time with my grandmother. She is 92 years old and still going strong. I treasure out time together.

It was a great summer break, but I am happy to be back home again. I am no longer tired or sick with mono, and I am feeling quite energetic about the new year. I am looking over the books I have purchased so far for next year, and I am getting excited.

Some of Decca’s books for next year.

And here is some of Tru’s books.

I am going to spend the rest of the month planning out our next school year, and then we will begin school on August 1st. I can’t wait!

Weekly Update

The biggest news of the week is that Autry started her OCHSA adventure. She had her first day on Tuesday, and she LOVED it, absolutely loved it.

I hated it.

What? You don't like OCHSA?

I know that I shouldn’t have that reaction, but I miss her, I do. And I am not yet convinced that it offers her more than what she had at home last year. She was involved in some great classes last year, and she had some wonderful opportunities to perform. The academics she worked on at home were at a higher level than what she is working on now. On top of that I didn’t have to drive her to Santa Ana every morning at 7:00. This is an hour drive for me round trip, and I have not enjoyed it.

But, and I can’t forget this, Autry does enjoy OCHSA, and she thinks it is the most amazing place ever. She loves her classes, especially jazz dance. She starts conservatory next week, and I know she will love that too.

Tru with Autry on her first day at OCHSA. He thinks he might want to go next year for production and design.

So good for her. She is her own person, and she needs to follow her own path. I just wish it didn’t involve me getting up so early in the morning.

In other news the boys started their first full week back at work. Tru was going to work on Sonlight this year, but after a few days of working on that last week, he decided that he hated it. It skipped around too much for him. On a whim I ordered Moving Beyond the Page, as Decca enjoys this program. I wasn’t sure it would be to Tru’s liking, but to my surprise, he clicked with it immediately. He has worked all week on Unit 3, and he has enjoyed it a great deal. He is reading through The Hobbit, learning about the lithosphere, and doing a study on Australia.

In math Tru continued working through LoF pre-algebra, and he worked on Khan Academy. I also ordered another pre-algebra program through the Art of Problem Solving. I can’t wait to get the book and begin working on it with him. Yeah, I am a math nerd, and I am proud of it!

Speech notes

Tru had his first speech and debate class. He did not want to go, but he ended up enjoying it. He even left the class with a bunch of notes, which is a great sign. Tru hates to write, and any teacher that can get him to write willingly, must be good. I think we will stick with this class all year.

Decca is slowly easing into school, very slowly. Decca is a unique learner (i.e. difficult), and he can only work for a short amount of times on things that he is not interested in. So this week he drew roughly a hundred pictures, wrote several books, and created his own math curriculum. He creates his own math curriculum several times a year because he feels he could do a better job at that than anyone else. He also created a new monster out of some felt pieces. This is the Creepinator.

In between all that he did do some more formal work. We worked through The Sign of the Beaver in MBtP.

He did LoF Apples everyday and started Singapore Challenging  Word Problems.

And that is our week in review.

Random Musings for the End of the Week

Autry is getting so excited to start the school year!

I am trying to get everyone ready for the upcoming school year. Autry has all her school supplies, and we did the online registration for her at OCHSA. She has on campus registration in two weeks, and then she starts school the week after. She is so excited and can hardly wait!

MBTP Concept 4

I placed Decca’s order for Moving Beyond The Page. He will be using the 8-10 curriculum, and we will be starting with concept 4, exploration and survival. In addition to MBTP, he will be using Life of Fred for math, which he is looking forward to. I am also going to order Murderous Maths for him to read along with LoF. Decca wants to study Latin this year, but I haven’t picked out a program for him yet. I still am thinking about what he would like.

Tru’s school year is starting to take shape. For history and literature he will be working on a secular version of Sonlight Core H. For science he has chosen to use Middle School Chemistry, and then when that is over, we are going to study the brain using Ellen McHenry’s unit. Tru will study French this year with a Rosetta Stone/So You Really Want To Learn French combo, and for math he will use Life of Fred and Khan Academy. 

Speaking of Khan Academy, I can’t emphasize enough how great of a resource this is. I have researched math programs for months now, and I estimate the average price of a pre-algebra course is around $200.00. Khan Academy is free, and the instruction and exercises are wonderful. There are 2400 videos to watch and 125 practice exercises. My kids enjoy the videos, and they love working on the exercises because they can earn badges. I like that I can track their progress as their learning coach. Khan Academy is a wonderful resource, and I am surprised more homeschoolers are not taking advantage of it. 

Here is an overview of Khan Academy.

And this is a great talk by the founder of Khan Academy. 

Also this week the kid’s finished their film that they have been working on. I am impressed with how well it turned out.

Several people have asked me what camera and software did the kids use on this project. They used an HD Flip camera and iMovie to edit. I like iMovie for learning to edit, as it is very easy to learn. This year as Tru studies film more in-depth, I am going to have him learn Final Cut Pro. He will probably start working on that in a few months. One of his projects this year is going to be to make a film based on a historical figure or event he is learning about, and I will most likely have him edit this film on Final Cut Pro

Not much else going on around here. I did download Alice for the kids finally. The boys aren’t too interested, they would rather use Scratch, but Autry seemed to like it. I think she likes it because she can write stories within the 3D world she creates.  I haven’t explored it too much yet, but I think it is worthy to get, as it is free. I am not sure how much we will use it, but if your kids haven’t had much experience with a game making program they would probably like it.