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.



Plans for 2012-2013 school year

Where has the school year gone? Between Richard being sick and our vacation this spring, we have fallen rather behind. That means we will be doing summer school to finish up. If everything goes well, we will be living on our boat which means fewer distractions demanding our attention. Hopefully that will allow us the time needed to get everything done.

Even if we don’t quite manage to finish up, I still need to decide what they will be doing for next year. They will be in 3rd and 6th grade. Hard to believe Richard will be half done with school.

They will continue with Christian Light Education for reading, language arts, and Bible. Karen will probably also use them for math since she is doing better since I switched her into it. Richard will do Math-U-See level Zeta which covers decimals and percents. I always struggled with that so it will be good for me to review it with him.

They will be doing health for science. As part of that, we need to do a physical fitness test. Karen will use Health, Safety, & Manners 3 from Abeka which is a basic introduction to good health. Richard enjoyed going through it and I think she will too. This is only one semester so I’m not sure what else to do the rest of the year.

I will order Science F from Sonlight which covers health, medicine, and human anatomy for Richard. He’s already done the Abeka Health 3, so this will cover many of those topics in more detail as well as others. I can’t decide if I want to get the 4 or 5 day package. The 5 day has four more books than the 4 day. I just don’t want to get overwhelmed. On the other hand, those 4 books seem like things he is interested in like DNA and fossils. I’ve given up trying to do my own unit studies or cobble together related books. I’m just not organized enough to get through a full year like that.

I just added it all up. Richard’s will be $335 or $375 depending which science package we get (4 or 5 day). His is more expensive because of the Sonlight science. Karen’s will be less because we can use Richard’s old reader and teacher guides. It will be $145. That’s a total of about $500 for both of them.

Making grammer fun: Words are CATegorical

Do you need a way to supplement your grammar or math program? Are your kids getting tired of workbooks and worksheets? Is your child having trouble remembering the difference between an adverb and an adjective or a noun and pronoun? Can you have fun and learn at the same time? If you said yes to any of these, I have a great thing for you, the Words are CATegorical series of books by Brian P. Cleary.

These books are great fun! My son loves them and I will be introducing them to my daughter for 2nd grade this year. They are available in hard or soft cover. Through silly rhymes and crazy illustrations, kids learn the basics of grammar. There are also available for math and language arts. He just read the title list and is begging for me to get more. The great thing is that since they are sooo silly, they stick with the kids better than a dull explanation would.

The Words are CATegorical series includes:

Dearly, Nearly, Insincerely: What is an Adverb?

Hairy, Scary, Ordinary: What is an Adjective?

How Much Can a Bare Bear Bear? What are Homonyms and Homophones?

I and You and Don’t Forget Who: What is a Pronoun?

A Lime, A Mime, and a Pool of Slime: More about Nouns

A Mink, A Fink, a Skating Rink: What is a Noun?

Pitch and Throw, Grasp and Know: What is a Synonym?

Quirky, Jerky, Extra Perky: More about Adjectives

Slide and Slurp, Scratch and Burp: More about Verbs

Stop and Go, Yes and No: What is an Antonym?

To Root, to Toot, to Parachute: What is a Verb?

Under, Over, By the Clover: What is a Preposition?

The Math is CATegorical series:

The Action of Subtraction

How Long or How Wide?: A Measuring Guide

The Mission of Addition

On the Scale, a Weighty Tale

Windows, Rings, and Grapes- A Look at Different Shapes

Other Language Arts related books:

Peanut Butter and Jellyfishes: A Very Silly Alphabet Book

Rainbow Soup: Adventures in Poetry

Rhyme & PUNishment: Adventures in Wordplay

Ordering 2010-2011 homeschool stuff

I am working on ordering homeschool curriculum for this school year. I’m almost finished. Right now I’m still picking out what literature (free reading) books I want them to read this year. Since we have 2 kids eligible for the full allotment, we can get a lot of things. I don’t see how we can spend it all! Even if you include the items from Christian Light that aren’t re-reimbursable, I still haven’t spent even one child’s full allotment. It’s mind boggling how much money is spent (wasted) per child average for public schools, especially considering the poor outcomes that are more and more common.

I have  another busy year planned. We’re going to be doing math, language arts, reading, art, science, and history. As usual, I’m ordering from several different companies. They’re both doing physics from Exploration Education. Bible, reading, and language arts are from Christian Light Education. Math is from Math-U-See. Richard needs both the instructor and teacher kits but since Karen can use his old instructor kits, I just need new workbooks for her which will save me about $40.

Karen’s literature will be First Favorites from Veritas Press after she finishes Learning to Read from CLE. We have it already from when Richard did first grade. He really enjoyed it. She will be learning about communities, ways of communicating, and map skills for social studies.

Richard will be doing a writing skills workbook from Institute for Excellence in Writing. It’s a basic writing skills program which introduces many forms of creative and structured writing including reports, summaries, outlines, and poetry. Now that he has good grammar skills, it’s time he learned to apply them to actual writing.

WinterPromise has something they call Adventures in Sea and Sky which is a combined history and science program themed around travel by ocean and air. I will be getting that and the young learner guide so Karen can do it too. We hope to go see the space shuttle launch this spring which will be a great lesson cap.  I am not ordering the readers for it but am ordering some books from Sonlight that fit the theme instead.

Art this year will be from Safeway, of all places. This spring I found 2 art activity books that teach about different artists then students make something in that style. I found one for collages and one for painting. I may need to go to the craft store and get more materials since both of them will be doing the projects but there’s one set of books.

My husband and I had a good discussion today at lunch about scheduling school and work. We decided to get up this year 630 or 7. Then school would be at least until 10, perhaps even noon a few days since we hired the new secretary. This would hopefully keep work from interfering with school. Also both my husband and I want to take classes so if the entire family did school during the mornings it should work well. He even said we could put on our answering machine that phones won’t be answered until 10am.

Last year we tried just answering the phone during the morning and even that was too much of a disturbance, causing school to be disrupted, delayed, or even abandoned for the day depending upon what the callers wanted. I tried to resume school in the afternoons on days that were delayed, but the quality and quantity of work was much lower. It just wasn’t a good idea. School is best for us in the morning.

I’m starting to get excited about this upcoming school year. My son is out of town visiting his aunts this week. While he is gone, my daughter and I are organizing and cleaning the house, getting ready for school. Hopefully we’ll start mid-August. I don’t expect all of the orders to be here by then, but we have enough stuff to keep us busy. Plus, it is easier to start slow rather than delving into everything at once.

Math in the mirror

8+6=14 +6= 20  That was the message awaiting me on the bathroom mirror this morning. We have foam numbers and math symbols the kids play with in the tub. Well, my son used them to leave me this message on the mirror sometime late last night.

Yes, that’s right, but what started him thinking about it in the middle of the night? Silly boy.

Hands-on learners (revised)

First, what is a hands-on learner? A hands-on learner is someone who learns best by touching and doing things. They like manipulatives and projects where they can do things rather than just reading textbooks and writing. Often they doodle, fidget and have trouble sitting still. For this reason, many hands-on learners are mislabeled as ADD or ADHD by schools, especially boys.

2 years ago, I wrote a post about hands-on (kinesthetic) learners. Since then, I’ve found more ideas and curriculum suggestions, so I thought I’d revisit the subject. Most of this is geared toward elementary students, but parts of it can be used for all levels. Some of this is copied from my earlier post. I’ve arranged my comments by category to make it easy to find suggestions. If you have an area of concern that I don’t cover or you have something else which you find useful for hands-on learners, please feel free to let me know.


I’m finding the biggest thing is to have a variety of activities and allow lots of wiggle time instead of insisting he sit doing writing based activities all day, although we will still do those too. He also needs consistency in routines. For instance, we do reading every day. He will have to do the workbook lesson, but the lessons themselves may contain different activities. Part of learning for kinesthetic kids is learning when you really need to just sit still and get the work done. That’s hard, especially for younger students. We try to limit sitting time and have movement breaks or hands-on activities between them.

One thing that has helped greatly in all subjects is using a kitchen timer. I give him a set amount of time to do the work. If it is done before the timer goes off he may get a reward. If not then he has some sort of punishment unless he has tried but truly doesn’t understand the work. Rewards can be extra time the next day, going to the park, extra free time, or occasionally a small treat. Often I’ll let him use any time remaining as a break. Punishment is usually loss of a privilege or time-out and depends upon how much extra time he takes to complete the work. This helps keep him on task.

I used to insist he do his workbook lessons at a desk. This year, I bought him a clip board so he can do his lessons elsewhere as long as he is working. Often I’ll do this as a reward for getting work done on time the day before. Sometimes though, there are days he just can’t get comfortable at a desk and having the clipboard to choose his work area helps get him on task.


There are a few companies now that use manipulatives beyond just the first few grades.

We love Math-u-See for math so he can fiddle with the blocks to find the answers after watching a brief video introduction to the lesson. As Mr. Demme always says, “Build it, Write it, Say it.” Using multiple senses makes memorizing anything easier. I’ve tried to apply this to other areas of his learning. I like this company because they use the same blocks all the way from kindergarten through calculus. So once they learn and get used to the blocks, students aren’t constantly switching manipulatives like some programs. Since the blocks compliment the lessons and workbook, instead of being the main focus, students don’t become dependent upon the manipulatives. Nor do parents have to purchase and keep track of many separate manipulative systems.

There is a math program called Right Start Math which uses a lot of manipulatives including an abacus, shapes, number balance scale, blocks, and more to teach basic math. I’ve seen this program and it seems good if you don’t mind keeping track of many separate manipulatives. I know a few homeschool families who have had good outcomes with this program.


I switched from Abeka to Christian Light Education after first grade. While Abeka was thorough, it wasn’t very engaging. The work in Abeka was very repetitive and he was getting burned out by the end of the year. While still a workbook based curriculum, CLE is more engaging because they have more variety of activities in their workbooks even though they are plainer (less color and illustrations). This helped him focus on the work instead of the illustrations.

There are a few other reasons CLE is better than Abeka for hands-on learners. Abeka reading only had very basic comprehension questions whereas CLE has a full range of reading and comprehension skills. CLE also has study skills lessons which Abeka didn’t. I think these are important to learn (especially for kinesthetic learners) and not all parents know them or how to teach them. Having them built into the curriculum is great.

The goal of any reading program is ultimately to get students reading real books. The best was to do this is to expose them to quality literature as soon as possible. Readers and levelized stories have their place, but quality literature for children should not be left out.


For history we use literature and activities based programs from WinterPromise instead of a history text. This is more of a Charlotte Mason approach. He’s doing well and really enjoying the reading selections. Most are historical fiction or single topic books. There are a variety of hands-on activities to reinforce the topics each week, instead of the usual narrative or fill-in-the-blank style worksheet.


My son is gifted in science besides being a hands-on learner, so finding a science program has always been a challenge. He enjoys reading about science, but finds traditional elementary texts too dull and easy. However, he’s enjoyed many of the books in the God’s Design series. There are activities that go along with many of the lessons, but often there is a lot of parent prep and help needed for them.

He’s also done the Real Science 4 Kids series the last 2 years. These have a separate lab book for write-ups of the activities. While he really enjoyed the readings, we both found the labs, and especially the lab book, tedious. The instructor guide didn’t help much either. As a result, my son was understanding the science theory from the books this year, but I didn’t do many activities to reinforce and apply the concepts.

There is a company called Exploration Education that is a project-based curriculum for physical science. I want to use them next year.  I had a hard time keeping my kids away from their booth at the homeschool curriculum fair. Every time they wandered off, I found them at their booth playing with, and asking questions about, the projects on display.

Their lessons are multi-sensory. First, they each watch a cd video-text about the lesson. There are graphics and animation to help show the concepts. Then, they do the project or experiment. Finally, they do an activity/write up about the project. The second and third levels also have assessments. The first level has narration of the reading (which can be turned off for older kids using the level) so I don’t have to read everything to her. She can be listening while I’m helping her brother with his project.

The curriculum has 3 levels. Actually the third level includes all of the second and just adds on extra lessons for each unit. Anyway, the levels cover the same topics so both my kids could learn about similar concepts at the same time. There are 4 units. The first activity in each unit is a project. This project will then be used for all the other activities in that unit. They are pretty basic but seem to show very well the concepts.

Both kids would be doing separate activities, but about similar topics at the same time. I really liked this aspect of their programs. I wouldn’t need to keep up with totally separate science topics and figure out activities to go along with both of them. Also, it didn’t look like a lot of parent prep for the lessons.