Grammar or Jupiter? Hmm…

Tonight was supposed to include Grammar and the exciting review of pronouns, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and agreement.  Instead, kiddo got out of car and smiled up at the stars, then pointed at one and asked for its name.  It turns out he was pointing at Betelgeuse, Orion’s shoulder, which launched us into a chat in the driveway about the constellation and the fact that Betelgeuse looks like a red and white flashy Christmas light because it’s a red giant that will supernova someday.  When his daddy got home and took over the discussion since we exhausted Momma’s knowledge of those stars, we decided he was too excited for boring ‘ol Grammar.  It was a little warmer than the previous two nights, so we made dinner while Orion and Jupiter rose higher in the sky and the sun set the rest of the way.  After cleanup time, we bundled up and headed into the backyard for an impromptu astronomy party!

Mr. B and I have discovered our specialties.  He can remember all the random facts about the stars, constellations, and planets, but has a hard time getting his target into the eyepiece of the scope (we need to collimate it and line up the viewfinder scope; collimation is only a tiny bit off, but the viewfinder is off quite a bit so we’re currently finding targets with the main scope).  My specialty is that I can land on our targets.

When I got Jupiter in the eyepiece and turned it over to the kiddo, I think his exact words were, “Wooooooooooah…  Wooooah.  Coooool!  It’s striped like my shirt!”  We remembered to swap in the 10mm and got the picture below (well, a handful of them, but this is the best).  The stripes are still not visible, but I like how the curvature of the moons is so noticeable.  The 10mm has a much more narrow field of view so only two of the moons were captured.  We think those are Io and Europa?  But are not certain.


Once we all got our fill of Jupiter, we stood back and let Bug look around wherever he liked at the vast array of stars.  If he wasn’t hooked before, I think he is, now!

We have a variable filter on order to block enough light so we can look at the Moon, so once that comes in, we plan to spend a lot of time looking at our nearest neighbor.

But until then, Grammar tomorrow night.  Sorry, kiddo!


Curriculum Revisited

Virtually every homeschool resource I’ve put my hands on since we began the homeschooling journey cautioned that any curriculum will likely change at least year to year, if not more frequently.  Well, we experienced that odd phenomenon ourselves this year, and already know we’ll be changing most of the rest for fifth grade.

Math – This is the only one that has proven a stable resource without much struggle.  We chose Abeka’s 4th grade curriculum, and it really works with Bug’s learning style.  We’re repeating it for 5th.

Language Arts – Given how we got started, the curriculum we wanted – Saxon Hake’s Grammar & Writing – had not yet released a 4th grade version by the time we needed to start, so I flung together a hodgepodge of workbooks and Time4Learning lessons.  Suffice to say, my amateur knowledge of curriculum building has proven acceptable, but I definitely know it could be better, particularly since I’ve swapped workbooks a few times through the year when one proved too “baby” and others proved too advanced to start in them.  His curriculum is also woefully short on actual writing, but I think that is a happy accident since his understanding was so far behind that we had to catch up on a lot of the rules of grammar and I believe it would have been overwhelming; we’ll get to it.  Thankfully, Saxon Hake Grammar & Writing does have their 5th grade version already published, so that is what we’re going to use in 5th, and it weaves writing into the curriculum without too much stress or strain, according to reviews we’ve read.

Reading – Much like Language Arts, the Reading curriculum was flung together out of workbooks and Time4Learning, and it has proven acceptable.  That is to say, I have not swapped anything out, but feel it could be more organized.  For 5th grade, we’re going to try “180 Days of Reading” for more formal story element study, and stick to the tried and true method of fostering reading enjoyment by letting Bug select “fun” stories to read and discuss.

Science – We used Science Odyssey (Earth & Space and Life) along with Time4Learning in 4th, and it was good if a bit heavy.  Part of that is all the ground needed to cover since his understanding was so far behind where we felt it should be.  For 5th, we’re going to do Science Odyssey Chemistry with a mix of Health & Safety tossed in using a variety of website resources.  It will also include a healthy dose of stargazing and study of the universe beyond our atmosphere so long as he’s got an interest in Astronomy.

Vocabulary & Spelling – Like Language Arts and Reading, this was also tossed together at the spur of the moment due to lack of time from an assortment of workbooks.  It is the one subject he was not very behind in, and it’s the subject we have not stressed on too much.  Thankfully, Saxon Hake’s Grammar & Writing incorporates this into their Language Arts program, so it will not be a separate “class” next year.

History & Geography – In 4th, we used Abeka and continue to use it, but unfortunately he has not taken to it as well as we think he could.  For 5th, we’re going to try History Odyssey (from the publisher of his science curriculum) in the 2nd level of Ancients, supplemented with a free resource offered by the American Historical Education Foundation.

Handwriting & Communication – This was not taught, per se, in 4th grade, but since Vocab/Spelling will not be a course, we’re replacing it with Handwriting & Communication in 5th.  Bug’s handwriting is atrocious; he never clicked with the methods taught in school, and Mom’s corrections are not clicking either.  I’ve found a set of workbooks, Pentime, that are highly reviewed and within our budget, and we’re also going to start Typing lessons using free resources from and BBC.

Spanish – Also not something we taught in 4th grade, but he’s expressed an interest in learning another language, and who are we to stand in the way of his interests?  We found VisualLink Spanish, which has very high reviews for young learners, and it is very affordable and teaches beginners through advanced.  It is free if you just want the lessons, minimal charges if you want the full version that records testing assessments and additional learning resources.


That sums up the curriculum journey we’ve taken this year, and where we’re going next year!  Shockingly, he loves computer time but Time4Learning has not been as helpful as we anticipated; he thoroughly enjoys the more animated lessons but has difficulties with sound sensitivities and some of the sounds they use are loud and unexpected.  The non-animated lessons are a bit dry even for his teachers.  Still, it served a great purpose and filled gaps where our rushed curriculum choices were lacking when we withdrew him from school unexpectedly.

For the other resources we are not reusing, he’s succeeding in learning far beyond our expectations.  That tells me the resources that did not work entirely for us are still great resources, but just not perfectly suited to his learning and/or our teaching styles.

To each their own, and I am so pleased and thankful to discover the wealth and abundance of resources available to the homeschooling community, which were not so available just a few years previously as I understand it.  I’m eternally grateful to the brave homeschoolers that came before and showed the demand for the products.

Busy but still at it…and eyes on the sky!

Merry late Christmas, and Happy New Year to all of you!

Between our work schedules, our little Bug’s education, and general household upkeep, we have kept extremely busy.  So busy, in fact, that most everything else has slid by the wayside, including my goal to post at least once a week.  I had a few spare minutes this weekend, though, so decided to catch up on some of these to-do list items.  Here is what we’ve been up to:

The kiddo is excelling beyond our expectations since we’ve begun his homeschooling in earnest!  When we started, he could not tell me what a noun was, struggled with addition concepts, and acted as if we were demanding he remove his own limbs without anesthetic if we handed him a book and suggested he read it.  Since then, he can diagram sentences without much help (identifying and labeling all the parts of speech with few errors), has mastered addition and subtraction, and multiplication and division and can explain the relationships, is moving into fractions, can still spell like a little champ and actively seeks definitions of words he does not immediately understand, and is reading chapter books for fun without pressure to do it!  The best part is, he is retaining it all because we continually ask him questions about concepts learned a while ago and he can answer.  He ended his public school education at the end of third grade, testing at the early second grade level in most subjects.  We cannot wait until the end of this year – his fourth grade year – to test again because we are pretty confident he’s made up ground.

The thing that makes us the most proud is how he’s adopted a love of science, specifically astronomy.  His daddy is his science teacher, and they started with Earth & Space Science.  They since moved into Life Science, which upset him because he was having such a good time learning about the sky mysteries.  His fascination with the planets, stars, and all those fantastic things in the sky brought on such a light of curiosity and intrigue in him that everyone in the family has fostered it.  His grandparents bought him an Orion Dobsonian XT8 Intelliscope for Christmas, and it was beyond generous for a budding, young astronomer that might decide he’ll be a fireman next year!  It’s certainly done its part in further sparking his curiosity, though!  We got it assembled and outside for the first time last night, and realized we have a huge learning curve to get him truly started.

Still, despite some cloud cover, we got our first glimpse of something in the nighttime sky and it was amazing.  The picture below is Jupiter, shot with the XT8 scope, 25mm lens (we failed to swap in the 10mm for better magnification), taken through a bit of cloud cover, and with the camera on my husband’s phone.  It does not do justice to what we actually saw!  We could see two of the stripes (zonal winds), and the four Galilean moons; three of the moons are somewhat visible in the picture, and if you look really hard, to the left of the left-most moon in the picture is the fourth but the camera did not get it clearly.  Our little budding astronomer has a long list of sky targets, but the weather appears against us for the next few nights.  Still, it was a great first night out with the telescope!

We are so proud of him.  He has hung in there with the change in schooling, and is doing amazing.  We are so pleased to foster this interest in him, though if he changes directions next week or next year, we feel confident the XT8 will still be part of family nights in the back yard for some time to come.  Despite how he would have responded last year about something clearly educational, he no longer gets a disgusted and broken-hearted expression when we say we have lessons, particularly if it involves anything beyond our atmosphere.  And while telescope viewing and looking up planetary facts is obviously educational, he just says it’s fun!  In short, 2013 turned out to be a pretty great one, and we have even better hopes for 2014.

Here’s to hoping all of our New Years also take you sky high!


Jupiter 01/04/2014 10:28PM – Orion XT8 Scope, 25mm lens, moderate cloud cover, camera phone