2017-18 school plans

The days are starting to get cooler and wet. That means fall up here in Alaska isn’t too far away. Time to plan and order school stuff!
To hopefully avoid the long delays we’ve had in the past from Sonlight, I decided to do something different. I ordered the reading books through Amazon, and only got the 2 guides directly from Sonlight. Unfortunately, Amazon broke the invoice into 25 different orders! Ugh. Oh well, there’s a lot of books. I was able to get decent free shipping on about half the items. Plus, since they were mostly used books, it was a lot cheaper than buying from Sonlight. I had to make a spreadsheet to put the books into the correct courses again from the different sellers to figure out total costs. The disadvantage is we won’t have a nice, study box for it all, but that’s not worth the extra cost.
Both kids want to continue FXC skiing. Richard’s coach convinced him to join the high school XC running team to get ready for ski season. Practice starts this afternoon and is 2 hours every day. There are 2 groups of people in FXC: skiers and runners. The skiers run to stay in shape for skiing. The runners ski to stay in shape for running. Yet, it’s the same big group of kids in both. Just different attitudes. Richard says he’s a skier. Hopefully this will help, since he didn’t make the top level summer training team like he was hoping.
They are both still finishing last school year’s work. They took too many days off between me and Richard being gone when my dad died, and Ray’s business trip when I had to run things here by myself. So, they used up their summer. We plan to start the next school year September 1. If they finish before then, they get that time off until we start again.
RICHARD, officially a sophomore:
US Gov’t/Econ: $143.10 & 23.49 ship, 29.69 guide  Total spent $196.28.  The Sonlight package price was $507! The Econ was supposed to have a Thinkwell internet course. I did not order that. I’d like to try to find it cheaper. Sonlight was $150. Even if we get it from them, we’ll still have saved $150.
Amer Lit: $134.54 & 43.67 ship, 25.19 guide Total spent $203.40. The Sonlight package price was $387.66! Again, well over $150 in savings.
Math: I found a kit that includes Saxon textbook, answer key, tests, and video explanation of lessons for $117. It’s algebra 2. That’s getting beyond what I can help him with, which is why I think the video will be a good resource. $7 shipping, plus lower cost than the store in Anchorage we got his math from last year!
KAREN, 8th grade:
I ordered math, US history, reading, and Language Arts from Christian Light for $167.30 plus $15 shipping. Total spent $182.36.
Science: Apologia General Science we already have.
Time to get the kids up. I couldn’t sleep, so took care of this. May need a nap this afternoon. We’ll see.

C-ya C-Max

It’s hard to believe it’s been 2 months since we said see ya to our Ford C-Max Energi, and hello to our Toyota Prius. The more we drove the Ford, the less we liked it. We bought it brand new at the end of 2013, and had problems almost from the start. It broke down an average of once ever 1500 miles or so. It was in the shop several times for recalls on top of that. Everything from the brakes, to the heater, to the transmission have been repaired. Thankfully, we bought the best warranty we could get.

The Ford was poorly designed and cheaply put together. Soon after we bought it, the window washer fluid kept running empty. I asked the dealer to take a look at it. They told me it was my fault because a rock had broke it. How a rock can get up there to do that kind of damage I don’t know. The next clerk I told tried to say it broke because it had the wrong kind of fluid in it so it cracked during the cold winter. That sounded just as preposterous. Thankfully, a tech heard me, and he checked it for free. It turned out the hose connecting the bottle to the pump wasn’t properly connected. He connected it, and it worked fine after that. No rock, no crack.

One problem that never was properly repaired with the C-Max was the rear passenger door panel broke. We took it in at least 3 times for the same problem. It kept breaking. When that happens, the door can not be opened, because the panel slides down and jams in the door frame. We told the dealer this was a safety concern, but they didn’t seem to care.

In March, we were getting very near to the warranty expiring. We started discussing our options, and looking into possibly replacing it with something more reliable. Then one day, the check engine light came on and it started running very rough.  Plus, the door had broke yet again. I brought it to the dealership. They had it for 3 weeks. I called to ask how it was doing, and was told it was okay to pick up. I didn’t have time until the next afternoon. When I called to make sure it was ready, they told me they had found still more problems with it! Ugh. Time to put a lot more effort into finding something more reliable.

We looked at a few different used cars online, and decided we wanted a Prius V (the station wagon version of Prius). We were even willing to fly to another state to get one if we found one we really liked. About that time, one came available about 350 miles away. We decided to drive down to check it out. We cleaned out the C-Max, not knowing if we would trade it in or pass on this Prius.

We got to the dealer, and asked about 3 different cars, including the Prius. While we thought we most likely wanted the Prius, we were willing to be open to other options. That wasn’t meant to be, because both the other cars were suddenly unavailable when our salesman went to get the keys. The only car of the three they had available that we were interested in was the Prius. We went out to look at it. It wasn’t what was mentioned in the online description. There are a few different option packages for Prius V. This was advertised as being the best. Instead, it was the second basic version. We said we’d be back the next day because we wanted to talk it over.

In the morning, we talked to the sales clerk again. The other 2 cars are still unavailable. We discussed the difference in model with the dealership. They weren’t very impressed. We went for a test drive. My husband had already driven one before, so I drove it. I liked it. It has good visibility for me and few blinds spots. Being short, I’m often bothered by blind spots others aren’t. Anyway, we went back to the dealership and filled out paperwork. The clerk excused himself, saying he’d be back in a few minutes with a quote. 45 minutes later, he’s still gone! It turns out he had gone for a test drive with another customer, and asked a different sales clerk to tell us, who never did. He finally gets back. We agree on a price. Then, it’s off to finance. My husband is still not totally convinced we can afford it, since it’s somewhat overpriced. They haggle some on the price and terms. Finally, the finance clerk asks what it will take to get us to buy the car. My husband names what I feel was too low of a monthly payment. I want the car winterized, too. A few minutes later, the clerk comes back: YES! Even he was surprised a bank was willing to go for it. I guess we were meant to buy this car. 7 hours after we arrived at the dealer that morning, we drove away in our new car.

Today is the 2 month anniversary of owning the Prius. We still love it. It’s a larger car, but handles so much better than the smaller C-Max. It has a lot more cargo space. The C-Max had batteries in the area where the trunk is normally. It’s almost like they were an afterthought when designing it. We can fit our lawn mower in the trunk of the Prius if we fold down the handle! The skis easily fit along with both kids. No more squishing everyone in for ski practice.

The Prius has a spare tire. That’s another thing that really bothered me about the C-Max. It had no spare tire. There was no place for it. If you get a flat, you have to get towed. That happened twice. Luckily, towing was included with the warranty. However, they only tow up to 100 miles from the closest dealership, so we never went on any road trips with the car. We were too afraid of getting a flat in the middle of nowhere. With the Prius, we’ve already gone on a camping trip to Canada. That was great! Plenty of room, and no worries about spare tires or breaking down. This Prius V is the perfect car for us.

His first high school race

Today was the final cross country ski race of the season in the Town Race series. This year my son has been racing with the 7-8 grade boys as a junior varsity entry. However, this race he did well enough last year that they had him stay with the other high school boys in the B bracket. There were 4 ‘A’ bracket and 3 ‘B’ bracket preliminary boys races, then an equal number of finals for each bracket, so everyone raced twice. It was a ski cross event, meaning there were jumps, slalom gates, and lots of tight turns over a 1km course going up and downhill.

My son came in 4th in his preliminary race, which put him in the second final (B Final). He did well in that, finishing somewhere in the middle. The official results haven’t been posted yet. I’ll update when they are. He’s pretty happy with his results, although he realizes there were some things he could have done better in the final. He got caught up in a pack behind someone who fell. He didn’t fall this time and didn’t seem as tired as when he finished last year. That’s improvement.

Not sure what team he will qualify for next year. He is considering one of the local high schools as well as the private team. Many of the top skiers do that. It means about 3 hours of skiing most days, but they are good, often qualifying for national or international races. We already talked to the local high school’s coach. He agreed to allow my son to join as a homeschool student.

An amusing thing happened to me while we were there. For the last few years I’ve been unofficially helping at this race herding kids, etc. while on skis. This year I wasn’t, and several coaches, kids, and others involved in the race kept asking me why I was not skiing.

 

UPDATE:

The results have been published. He was 3/5 in the preliminary and 5/6 in the final.

 

Curriculum delays

Ugh. After waiting 6 weeks for our homeschool order to arrive, I finally was able to get in touch with our district’s homeschool coordinator and find out what was going on. Apparently they had some confusion about what items they could and could not order so they didn’t order anything, nor did they notify me about the problem 😦

Anyway, we decided it would be best if I would place the Sonlight order myself then sort  out reimbursement with the district after items arrived so our school year won’t be delayed any longer (we actually started last Monday, planning for these items to be here by now). So I  submitted the order today. Unfortunately, that meant paying $150 for 2-day Fed Ex shipping since we’re in Alaska. Oh well, at least I know we’ll have all the items soon.

The Rainbow Resource order did finally go through this morning. I recently found out that the chemistry textbook is available as an e-book, but only for I-pads. I’m hoping to find someone to lend me one until the regular textbook arrives so he can begin science sooner.

EDIT: After searching more, I found a pdf of the entire chemistry book. My son needs to download it and make sure it will run on his computer. If it does, that will save hauling around another heavy textbook this year.

Saxon geometry initial impressions

As I wrote in an earlier post, we have decided to switch to Saxon geometry for our son. This was done for several reasons. First, he struggled a lot last year with Christian Light Education’s Algebra 1. The explanations were confusing and often included unnecessary steps for him. Second, they did not have the updated Sonrise editions for the math curriculum beyond Algebra 1, which was a preliminary Sonrise edition anyway. We used non-Sonrise editions for some of their other subjects and it didn’t go well. So after several happy years, we went searching for something else.

After viewing several math programs this last spring at the local curriculum fair, he decided to try Saxon geometry. It’s a traditional math textbook without a lot of distracting diagrams, cartoons, etc. Just straightforward explanations, lesson practice sprinkled with enough review so he won’t forget what he learned 2 days ago like some curriculum we have tried.

This was our first week with the Saxon geometry. It started out a bit rough as he got used to the new format as well as the daily school schedule. However, by the end of the week he was getting decent scores on the assignments. Best thing is no more arguing about doing math.

Sneaking math

All of my daughter’s school books have arrived. Not all my son’s have arrived, but his math and carpentry have. The high school items from Sonlight haven’t come in yet. (They were very slow arriving last time we ordered from them too. So keep in mind if you plan on using anything from Sonlight to order early as possible.) We still plan to start school on Monday, August 1 and will just catch up on the late subjects as they arrive.

However, the kids’ have both been literally begging to start their math. This is surprising considering how much my son struggled last year and my daughter usually does not like to do it. Night before last I saw my son’s bedroom light still on late so I went to see what he was up to. I was expecting him to be reading or perhaps drawing. Nope! He was doing the second lesson of his geometry at nearly 11pm LOL

When I told him to quit and get to bed, he begged to finish. He says he likes the Saxon math better than the other programs we have used. Hopefully that means less trouble this year with math. However, I knew he needed sleep more than geometry so I praised his enthusiasm for what he had done but told him to finish it at a more appropriate time.

 

 

Martians and essays

We homeschool using one of Alaska’s many state correspondence programs. One of the district reading targets in one of the higher levels (usually done during traditional high school age) before graduation is to read a book and watch the movie version then compare them. That is what my son is working on now. Last Christmas my son got 3 copies of the book “The Martian” by Andy Weir. LOL! Yesterday, my husband bought the move version.

Just before watching the movie, I assigned him the essay. He was a bit reluctant then realized he gets to read one of his favorite books and watch the movie as schoolwork. The assignment is to write at least a 1.5 page essay comparing and contrasting the book with the movie. Today he read the first 75 pages and took several notes. This went much better than more grammar drill, research reports, and sentence diagrams.

Our school district is unconventional. Besides being one of the largest geographically yet smallest in population (with schools in just 3 small villages and 2 correspondence programs), we also do not have traditional K-12 grades. Instead, each subject is broken down separately into levels and targets within each level. As long as you meet all targets for all levels within 12 years, it doesn’t matter if you take more or less time on certain areas. So for example in “5th grade” a student can be on level 4 math, level 6 reading, level 4 writing, level 5 social studies, level 7 technology, etc. It’s a bit confusing when trying to describe what grade your children are in. However, it makes a more tailored education.

2016-17 curriculum plans

Sorry, it’s been too long since I last wrote. Already it’s July and we hope to start our new school year next month. Last week was rainy so I took the time to do much over due organizing of old school work and finalize our curriculum plans for the upcoming school year.

RICHARD:

  • MATH: Saxon geometry
  • SCIENCE: Holt Modern Chemistry (AP?)
  • CARPENTRY
  • HISTORY/BIBLE: Sonlight 320-20th Century World history
  • LITERATURE/ENGLISH: Sonlight 230-Classical Literature
  • PE: FXC Prep running & ski team

KAREN:

  • MATH: CLE math 700
  • READING: CLE reading 700
  • LANGUAGE ARTS: CLE LA 700
  • SPANISH: Speedy Spanish (CLE)
  • HISTORY: CLE Social Studies 700 (world history)
  • PE: FXC Jr. Devo running & ski team

Richard will officially be in high school. I say officially because he has been working a year ahead so already did one year of high school level work. The good thing is that we have an extra year to play with so we can explore more things he is interested in before college.

Richard’s science homework, tests, and quizzes are online this year. We found a great deal on a used computer. It’s a 2013 Alienware laptop that he’s been wanting. Our friend picked it up for us and set it up for him. Then we surprised him with it Thursday as a welcome to high school present. Needless to say, he loves it.

We decided to move away from Christian Light Education for Richard this year. While we’ve had good success with most of Christian Light Education’s courses, many of the high school ones are not the updated Sonrise editions yet and so do not fit his learning style very well. He will switch to Sonlight for history, bible, literature, and English this year after he struggled last year.  Plus, he now knows his facts well so more drill won’t be useful. Instead, I’m hoping Sonlight’s literature based programs will give him more of a chance to apply what he’s already learned. Plus, Sonlight uses real novels rather than an anthology textbook for literature study. Sonlight is a LOT more expensive but I’m hoping it will spark his love of learning again. He’s also using Saxon math instead.

If Sonlight works out, I hope to also do Literature 400-American Literature next year then Literature 600-British Literature the next along with their economics course. He probably will skip Literature 500-World Literature. This is mostly ancient classics and tragedies that don’t interest him. He’s really excited about the other 2 courses though.

One of the standards he needs to complete is reading a book and watching the movie version then comparing them. I would like to use Great Gatsby and do this over Christmas break as a family or perhaps Weeks 6-7 of history since that covers the 1920’s. I’d substitute it instead of All Quiet on the Western Front.

Karen is continuing with Christian Light Education again. However, considering how much Richard struggled with Bible 700 & 800, she’s not doing them. For us, the focus on using a concordance and other Bible reference books isn’t as important to know. Not sure what, if anything, she will do for Bible instead. She will be learning Spanish this year. When Richard was in 7th grade, we did a combined study with her that covered astronomy and geology so this was a empty year of science for her.

Both of them will continue with the FXC running & cross country skiing program. Richard moved up to the Prep level. Most of the others his age did Prep last year and will do Comp this year, but since he started skiing later and had a lower overall fitness level it was decided he should do Jr Devo last year then Prep this year and finally Comp next year. Karen will remain in the Jr Devo level for another year.

Monday I ordered everything, so we are now eagerly awaiting Box Day when the orders arrive.

 

Never stop learning

Starting mid-November, I have been cross country skiing a lot. It’s a great way to get exercise with my kids. Usually I ski for 1-1.5 hours.

I took a chance and signed up to be a coach’s assistant for youth cross country ski lessons. Lessons meet for an hour 2x/week. I say chance because I’m not the best skier to begin with. (Some of my students are actually better than me.) However, I’ve been practicing a lot and the coaches doesn’t seem to mind me learning along with the kids. I just go to whichever class asks for extra help each day.

Some evenings I have been with the beginners. Most evenings have been with the advanced beginners and once with the intermediate group. I’m not ready to ski with my son’s advanced group yet and did let the coach know that the first night. Mainly I keep the kids from going the wrong way and round up any stragglers. Right now I only have classic style cross country skis. I’m planning to get skate style soon. That will help me be able to participate with groups when they do skate drills and practice. However, then I will really be learning along with the kids since I have never skate skied before.

Remembering 9/11/01

I haven’t written much about the terrorist attacks that happened on this day 13 years ago. Attacks that forever changed our country and our world. No longer were national leaders the only ones to issue and carryout attacks on foreign soil. Yes, there had been previous terror attacks. The airplane bombing over Scotland, the embassy in Lebanon. However, those were far away. We still felt safe and naive here in North America. No more would we feel that way.

The morning of 9/11/01, I was getting up to go to work when God Bless America came on the radio. That was odd. Then they told World Trade Center in New York City had been hit with a jetliner. A few minutes later, I got a call from the principal where I worked saying to turn on the tv because school had been cancelled. There I watched in horror as Tower 2 fell. As the horrible day progressed, we learned more attacks occurred.

National airspace over the entire US and Canada was closed to all civilian planes, both commercial and private for several days. It was eerily quiet since we are used to hearing all kinds of airplanes flying overhead all day. This was a hardship here in Alaska for several reasons. It was right in the middle of hunting season. Many hunters out in the bush had no way to know what happened. Guides had to get special permission to fly and pick up isolated hunters from their camps. Food in grocery stores started to run out since cargo planes couldn’t fly. Rice, flour, and sugar were actually rationed. You weren’t allowed to buy more than 50 pounds of flour and rice or 20 pounds of sugar.

In Valdez, Alaska the oil tankers were all ordered out of port and back to sea in case there was an attack on the oil terminal there. Major hotels and government offices in Anchorage were evacuated under orders from Gov. Knowles.

It was a very scary, tense, and uncertain time. We learned a new phrase “war on terror”. No longer was war simply between nations. Now it was between ideals, between freedom and fear. Fear can not win.