First Day of School 2019

The 2019-20 school year is officially underway!

We had our traditional first day of school, which was more fun than work. The Fab Five opened their schultüte:

And built a new Lego set to display in our schoolroom. This year, I bought the Hogwarts clocktower to go with the Great Hall that they built on the first day of school last year.

Most of the rest of the day was spent getting new books, organizing desks, and prepping for the new year…tomorrow the real work begins! I’ll leave you with our theme verse for the year, which is always appropriate, but even more so in a world that often seems crazy scary:

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:34

Ready for the First Day of School!

The summer went by way too quickly, and it’s already time for the first day of the 2019-2020 school year! Yesterday was spent doing a few last fun things before we get back to work…playing board games, baking cookies, building a Lego set, and having an Iron Man movies marathon:

Today, on the other hand, was “cleaning day.” We got the school ready (more or less) for another year of learning. Surprisingly, not too much has changed in the last year, just some minor rearranging, which is very unusual for us!

We had a “Farewell to Summer” dinner tonight…ribs, corn on the cob, baked beans, watermelon, and root beer floats for dessert. We also watched Detective Pikachu, which was a really cute movie, even for someone like me, who isn’t too familiar with Pokemon.

And the outfits are ready for tomorrow morning!

Everything else that needs to be ready for tomorrow is good to go…I put the schultüte together (but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see their contents), organized the bookshelves, and got all the new workbooks sorted out and put on desks. I’m looking forward to beginning our 12th year of homeschooling!

Summer School 2019

Just like that, another year’s summer school has come to an end. I think our Rick Steves’ Europe themed summer school might be my favorite that we’ve done so far, because even though I didn’t have to do as much work (until it was time to start cooking), and hands-on activities and field trips were a little elusive (although I did make a few things work!), we all learned so much, and had a lot of fun while doing it!

So what did a primarily video-based summer school look like? We watched (if I counted correctly) 72 episodes of Rick Steves’ Europe over the course of two months. While we couldn’t “visit” every place I would have liked, we did get a great overview of Europe with “trips” to Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, The Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Slovenia, Greece, Turkey, Israel, and Palestine, plus a few other places. We also watched all three regular travel skills specials and the cruising special. We even found time for all three other specials: Christmas, Easter, and Festivals! (We watched The Story of Fascism in Europe last spring, and since it was kind of intense, we didn’t watch it again this summer.) I bought my oldest students travel journals, and Chickadee a sketchbook, and they wrote and/or drew something for every episode we watched. Places they hope to visit someday, interesting facts, travel tips…anything that jumped out at them. I really hope they’ll keep these journals, so that if they ever do have the opportunity to go to Europe, they can look through them, and see what their younger selves thought would be cool to visit, and maybe add some locations to their itinerary.

I mentioned field trips and hands-on activities. Some of them were a bit of a stretch, but I did my best. For example, we visited Frankenmuth, MI, this summer, which is known as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria.” I figured this was as close we could get to visiting a European town, and it really did look like I imagine some German towns do. We also got to eat a lovely German meal while we were there:

Speaking of food, we also tried a new-to-us cuisine this summer when we went to a local Bosnian restaurant. We were all very impressed, both with the dishes and the “slow-food” way of eating there…I’m sure we’ll be going back!

And how could we make it through the day we learned about traveling in Greece without having gyros?

The St. Louis Art Museum is hosting a special exhibit of work by a European artist, Paul Gauguin, which was a nice way to experience a bit of European culture:

Now, on to “other activities.” We played a lot of games this summer: Ticket to Ride Europe, 10 Days in Europe, and Ticket to Ride: My First Journey (European Map). These all gave us a chance to talk about the various cities/countries on the maps, and recall things we had seen watching Rick Steves’ Europe, and talk about the places we’d like to visit. I also gave my students a few special assignments…Chickadee made a poster about her favorite European city, (Paris), Ladybug wrote a 1,500 word essay about hers, (Rome), and my oldest students read Travel as a Political Act, and I have to say, I think our discussions about that book might have been my favorite part of the whole summer. They certainly learned a lot about life in Europe and the importance of travel, and I think their worldview changed a bit because of it! For one hands-on activity everyone could enjoy, we built the only Lego Architecture European skyline set we didn’t already have: Paris. It was a fun little build, and a nice addition to our collection!

And finally…cooking at home! This is always one of my favorite parts of summer school, but I have to confess, I kind of put this off to the end of the summer, and was rushing to cook all the things I had planned. In the end, we tried French, Swiss, Norwegian, Spanish, Hungarian, British, Italian, German, and Middle Eastern cuisines at home (full details on what we tried next week). I think we all have some new favorites, and I definitely learned a few new cooking techniques along the way!

Obviously, traveling to Europe as a large family isn’t a realistic option, at least not for us. But I did my best to give my children a glimpse into European culture and history, and more than that, I really I hope I inspired in them a desire to travel when they’re older and have the opportunity. There are so many interesting places and great people throughout the world, and I am grateful for any chance to explore them, even if we had to do it vicariously for now!

What We’re Watching (And Reading!)–Rick Steves’ Europe

This year’s summer school is going to be a little different, because instead of focusing on books, we’re going to be focusing on episodes of Rick Steves’ Europe. Here’s a look at all the shows we’ll be watching (you’ll have to wait and see all of the different European recipes we’ll be trying to go with our viewing!):

  • Rick Steves’ Europe: The Blu-Ray Collection (70 shows!!!)
  • Rick Steves’ Europe: The Complete Collection (Which I only got because it was super marked-down, and contained some episodes that neither the blu-ray collection nor our other discs had).
  • Rick Steves’ Travel Extras
  • Rick Steves’ European Easter
  • Rick Steves’ Europe: 12 New Shows 2015-1016
  • Rick Steves’ Europe: 10 New Shows 2017-2018
  • Rick Steves’ Europe: 12 New Shows 2019-2020

Of course, there will be some books, too:

  • Europe Through the Back Door
  • Travel as a Political Act
  • London
  • French, Italian & German Phrase Book
  • Rick Steves’ European Christmas
  • Rick Steves’ European Easter
  • Rick Steves’ European Festivals
  • Rick Steves’ Europe Planning Map (yes, not technically a book, but I didn’t know where else to put it!)

And even a CD (perfect for Christmas in July!):

  • Rick Steves’ European Christmas CD

For fun, because I always like to have something hands-on as part of summer school, I got the Lego Architecture Paris skyline set for us to build. We’ve collected quite a few of these skylines now, in addition to the Eiffel Tower model we have, and I think it will make a nice addition to our display!

I also got the children travel journals to go with our viewing. My plan is to have them keep one page for each episode, and list specific places they would like to visit in the future if they are able for each location Rick highlights. My hope is that they will keep these journals, and someday, when they hopefully travel to Europe, they will already know which are must-see locations for them.

I’m really excited about this year’s summer school, and quite honestly, I don’t know why it took me so long to come up with the idea, because I’ve been a fan of Rick Steves for quite some time!

2018-19 School Year–Week Thirty-Six

That’s a wrap on the 2018-19 school year!

Most of the real work was actually done last week. Turkey and Bunny finished Algebra 2 and did a good job on the final exam. They completed their study of the medieval world by learning about the Crusades. They also finished their study of Old English and Medieval Poetry, Prose, and Drama. In chemistry, they got to play around with pH paper and other indicators in their last experiment of the year, which was a lot of fun!

Ladybug also finished up math and had her final exam for the year, and she was very happy with her grade. She wrapped up her writing curriculum (minus one paper that we’re saving for summer school, because the topic fit). She also completed her equine science course by learning a bit more about horse behavior. Her final history lesson was on the sinking of the Spanish Armada.

Chickadee finished her spelling curriculum for the year…she’s really come a long way! She also took her final math test, and did a great job! She read Summer, which seemed appropriate, and Snow (just for fun), plus Little Bear.

Yesterday, we attended the final Missouri History Museum Homeschool Day of the year…and this time, it was held at Soldiers Memorial Military Museum, a place we hadn’t previously toured. We really enjoyed having an opportunity to learn about St. Louisans who served in various wars, as well as St. Louis’ contributions to those conflicts. There were some fun and educational craft projects, as well. It was an excellent field trip for the end of the year, especially so close to Memorial Day!

We enjoyed what seemed like a rare nice day with a walk around downtown St. Louis while we were out:

Today we wrapped up the loose strings of a few subjects (we finally finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird, Ladybug had her final history review, and Chickadee finished her handwriting curriculum), and built our annual end-of-the-school-year Lego set. This time, I chose the San Francisco skyline Lego Architecture model, which is one of the few we hadn’t yet built.

I asked my students a few questions to end the school year…What was your favorite book? What was your favorite subject? Who was the historical figure you enjoyed learning about the most? What was your favorite field trip? What subject are you most looking forward to next year? Here are their responses:

  • TurkeyThe Planets: The Definitive Visual Guide to Our Solar System; Algebra 2; Robert the Fox; Chicago’s Field Museum; Pre-Calculus
  • BunnyThe Astronaut Wives Club; Literature; Rugila the Hun (Attila’s uncle); Chicago’s Field Museum; Literature
  • LadybugMisty of Chincoteague; Equine Science; Elizabeth I; Chicago’s Field Museum; Literature
  • ChickadeeSummer; reading; Mary I; Soldiers Memorial Military Museum; Astronomy

We’ll have some time off before we start this year’s summer school…we’re going to be (vicariously) traveling all around Europe with Rick Steves!

2018-19 School Year–Week Thirty-Five

We’re desperately trying to finish up everything we have to do before the end of the school year!

Turkey and Bunny learned about vectors in math, which wasn’t too bad, but I think they’re a little scared about math and science next year, now! In chemistry, they learned about the factors that change the rate of a chemical reaction, and studied the pH scale a little bit. We’ve also had some really good discussions about To Kill a Mockingbird.

Ladybug read about the founding of Newfoundland in history. In science, she learned about how horses and people communicate, especially through body language. She read and analyzed Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Bells” in writing, which is one of my favorite poems to study, but does have the unfortunate side effect of getting stuck in my head! There was some peril in Brighty of the Grand Canyon, and we’re hoping everything turns out ok in the final two chapters!

Chickadee had a week of review. She only has one math lesson and a test left, plus a bit of spelling and handwriting. She did read a book for the first time (A Fly Went By) but I don’t think it really had any unfamiliar words, so it was pretty much just fun. Mostly, she’s just excited about being a second-grader soon!

We have just about seven days of school left…I can’t believe the 2018-19 school year is almost over!

2018-19 School Year–Week Thirty-Four

We’re another week closer to the end of the school year!’

Turkey and Bunny were really hoping they were done with new material in math, and would just be doing review for the final weeks of the school year…and then they were hit with equations with three variables. I wasn’t sure any of us had the brain power to deal with that, but they learned how to do the problems quickly, and it really wasn’t that bad! They completed their creative writing course, by writing a poem in any style and about any topic they wanted to, and they did an excellent job!!! In history, they learned about the rise of the Turks as well as Spain…Spain during the time when the show at Medieval Times is set (they even read about the place after which our Kingdom of Navarra was modeled), which was kind of fun.

Ladybug learned how to figure interest over different periods of time in math. Her science lessons focused on horse behavior. She wrote a six paragraph essay about Marie Antoinette in writing. Her history lessons focused on Queen Elizabeth I and Shakespeare…she even read a shortened version of Macbeth.

Chickadee finished her last regular lesson in this year’s Explode the Code books, and she only has a review lesson left. She read some more books by herself, including one of Turkey’s favorites, Go, Dog, Go. She also started subtracting three-digit numbers in math.

I can’t believe how close we are to being done…but we still have quite a bit of work to plow through before we get our break!

2018-19 School Year–Week Thirty-Three

This week went by really fast…I think because we were so excited about going to Avengers: Endgame last night. We did manage to get some work done, though.

Turkey and Bunny studied the Great Schism and the Norman Conquest in history. They also wrapped up the chapter on the Second Law of Thermodynamics in science. They got to write a poem about politics for their creative writing course, too, which was entertaining.

Ladybug read about Copernicus, Galileo, and Queen Elizabeth I in history. In math, she continued to work with negative and positive numbers. She has almost finished Brighty of the Grand Canyon. In science, she learned about thoroughbred horses.

Chickadee is pretty much working on review at this point. She’s still carrying in math, as well as working on subtracting two-digit numbers, and practicing her reading skills. Her handwriting is also continuing to improve.

We’ve only got about 16 days left in the school year…it really does go by fast!

2018-19 School Year–Week Thirty-Two

Last week was a short week of school, but we were so busy, I didn’t even get a chance to think about what we did until today!

On Monday, we went to the monthly homeschool day at the Missouri History Museum. It’s been a long time since we had room in our schedule and enough interest in the topic to make it to one of these events, but we were really excited about the topic–poetry and prose. It fit in perfectly with Turkey and Bunny’s current study of Medieval poetry and prose, plus we got to hear a Cardinals historian talk about the process he went through writing his most recent book, which was amazing. The craft activity was also very popular…the children got to make magnetic poetry kits. While Bunny and Ladybug chose to use poems written by local authors, Chickadee wanted to do something a little different, so Turkey wrote a fun poem for her. We also finally got to see the Muny exhibit, which is good, because it will be wrapping up soon. While we were in Forest Park, we also took a walk to enjoy the beautiful spring blooms.

As for the rest of the week…well, like I said, it was short. We did find time on a nice morning to practice our increasing tennis skills. Turkey and Bunny learned more about thermodynamics and continued to read To Kill a Mockingbird. Ladybug started adding and subtracting negative and positive numbers and read about the Counter-Reformation and the Council of Trent in history. Chickadee read a few more Dr. Seuss books on her own, and worked on reading and writing word numbers in math.

The rest of the week was spent observing Holy Week and preparing for Easter, which may have been a break from school, but left us even busier than we are during the school week. The children had many choir commitments from Palm Sunday through Good Friday, which they enjoyed, but their voices are all ready for a rest! We’re back to work tomorrow, and we have less than a month left in our school year, so it’s full speed ahead until we’re done!

2018-19 School Year–Week Thirty-One

Another week closer to the end of the year, and we’ve been busy!

Turkey and Bunny worked on using equations to solve problems involving money and percents in math. They started the second chapter on thermodynamics in science, and learned about enthalpy and Hess’ Law. Their creative writing assignment allowed them to practice writing a submission for a college application in the form of a poem. They also began their study of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Ladybug started working with negative numbers in math…I was honestly surprised to discover that she hadn’t done that yet! She wrote a chronological narrative of the life of Julius Caesar. She read about the Renaissance in history. In science, she learned about the social relationships of horses.

Chickadee continued to work on reading whole books, including Little Bear. She is almost done Explode the Code for the year. In math she practiced measuring and revisited telling time.

We also managed to fit in the field trip I was hoping to go on this week…we visited the National Blues Museum in St. Louis for the first time! It was a small, but really cool place, with lots of information we’ve never encountered before, and quite a few hands-on displays. We even got to listen to a musician play while we were there!

After our tour of the museum, we decided to take a walk around St. Louis and enjoy the beautiful spring weather and throngs of happy Cardinals fans who were in town for the afternoon game:

We have another field trip planned for what is going to be a short week of school next week, and then just about four weeks of school left after Easter!