Just like that, our 14th year of homeschooling has begun!
Ironically, while the roster of my homeschool has changed dramatically, with Turkey and Bunny starting college next week, and Moose returning to in-person learning later this week after almost 18 months of distance learning here at home, the school room looks pretty much the same as it did last year…this may be the least it has ever changed between school years!
It is pretty strange having only two students, though!
The number of students may have changed, but our traditions didn’t:
And we did have a few guests, which made things feel a little more normal:
I wanted to make our first day of school extra special, so we made lemon-poppyseed waffles and lemon-blueberry sauce for lunch:
And of course we built a Lego set…this time, the Taj Mahal:
Our “Farewell to Summer” dinner had a local theme, so I decided to also go with a theme for our “First Day of School” dinner…Chicago-style hot dogs and Portillo’s chocolate cake for a Windy City theme!
It was a very different first day of school in some ways, but there were also familiar moments, and it was nice to get started while everyone was still at home before they go their separate ways!
It seemed like the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics would never get here, and now they’ve already come and gone. Here’s a look back at our Japan-themed summer school.
We visited Origami in the Garden at the Missouri Botanical several times over the summer. The large-scale art installation was the perfect field trip to coincide with Tokyo 2020 (and was also postponed from last summer).
We also visited the Olympic Spectacular in St. Louis at Francis Field, home of the 1904 Summer Games:
I made a few fun treats for the Olympics…Olympics torches (white chocolate covered pretzels) and Team USA CHEERios treats.
We did a lot of cooking and tried a lot of Japanese foods. I worked really hard to find things we hadn’t had before, and used a variety of cooking methods and unfamiliar ingredients. We tried:
Matcha Mochi Cake
Fluffy Japanese Cheesecake
Kani Cream Korokke
Chicken Katsu Sandwich
Matcha Green Tea Cookies
We were supposed to go out to a Japanese restaurant this summer, but COVID-19, so we got a party platter of sushi instead:
I’ve been holding on to the Lego Architecture Tokyo skyline since last year, and we finally got to build it!
Our American Girl dolls got into the Olympic spirit:
In between watching as much of the Olympics as we could, we also did some more traditional school work. We learned about Japanese history and culture, as well as the history of the Olympics. We read a lot of books…some I read out loud, and some were book basket choices. We also watched a selection of Olympic documentaries:
The Everlasting Flame—Beijing 2008
Atlanta’s Olympic Glory—Atlanta 1996
16 Days of Glory—Los Angeles 1984
Athens 2004: Stories of Olympic Glory
And we also did several crafts, including origami, paper lanterns, Koinobori (Japanese carp windsocks), pipe cleaner and tissue paper cherry blossom branches, and medals (of course!):
I’ve been holding on to Ticket to Ride: Japan since last year, and we finally had a chance to play! I really enjoyed the new game mechanics introduced in this edition, and it was fun to get to know the geography of the area a little bit better.
We updated our medal chart every evening…here’s a look at the final results…we were very excited that the US won the gold medal race and had the most medals overall!
And, better late than never, our Family Olympics, which was delayed due to heat. We only had four events this year (frisbee throw, broad jump, soccer kicks, and a running race), thanks to time constraints and a lack of basketball hoops on the backboards we normally use. Technically, Turkey came in first, but since we participate as a family, we all won gold!
This summer school was a long time coming. I think we all still have mixed feelings about the fact that the Olympics were held at this time, but we had to just accept that that was out of our control, and embrace the Olympics as we usually do. It’s always hard to say goodbye when they extinguish the flame, but the Winter Olympics are less than six months away, and we only have to wait three more years for Paris 2024!
Hymn of the Week: “Earth and All Stars” (Lutheran Service Book #817)
The first week of the 2020-21 school year is complete! We kind of eased into things…we did get to all our new subjects, just not all on the same day…we had to save something new for next week! Our first day was especially fun, and the Fab Five like the new Lego Architecture set of Dubai we added to our collection!
This year, our religion studies will be done together as a group, as it is a curriculum of my own making. We’re using Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Hymns, along with the hymnal, to learn about a new hymn each week (see above), as well as the author, and the changes made to it over the years. We’re also using the school room keyboard to learn to play at least the basic melody line of the hymns…since choir is on the back burner due to COVID-19, it’s nice to add some music to our school days!
Turkey and Bunny started calculus with a whirlwind review of everything they’ve learned in math in the last three years. I guess it all stuck, because they both received perfect scores on their first test! They also reviewed basic concepts from biology in their advanced biology course. Their psychology class, which like advanced biology is an AP class, was full of new information at a very quick pace, which is going to take some getting used to. They began reading Macbeth this week, and also the first book I chose for our study of American geography and culture, 1491.
Ladybug also did review in algebra, and I was happy to see that she, too, retained what she had learned last year over the summer. We had a little hiccup in her physical science course, because I hadn’t realized that the updated text is basically an entirely new book, and the workbook that goes with it is incompatible with the old text we have. So we decided to study weather until the new book arrives. She and Chickadee learned about Queen Victoria and the British Empire to begin the fourth year of the history cycle. Her first literature study is one of my favorite of Shakespeare’s works…As You Like It.
While I’m not responsible for teaching Moose, it has been interesting to see what he’s been up to in his distance-learning. He is taking and algebra and biology this year, in addition to world geography and English. I’m curious to see exactly how band is going to work out, but they’re giving it a try, and Moose was very excited to discover that the first piece he gets to learn is a medley from Hamilton!
Chickadee is probably the most enthusiastic of my students (shocking, I know!). Like her older siblings, her math was review this week, and she also remembered everything she was supposed to. Her first literature study is Farmer Boy, which is my favorite of the Little House books (although the endless descriptions of food make me hungry!). She is learning cursive this year, and it’s not as difficult as she expected so far. Science for this year is all about winged creatures, and she’s looking forward to learning about everything except bugs!
I chose a motto from Doctor Who for this school year: “Never cruel or cowardly. Never give up. Never give in.” I also picked two Bible verses (because I couldn’t decide)…Psalm 27: 13-14 (I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!), and Hebrews 12:1-2 (Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.). This year is kind of A Big Deal, as it is Turkey’s and Bunny’s last year of homeschooling before college and adulthood, and I pray that we all learn a lot, and enjoy this time together, especially with Moose home during this very unusual year!
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!
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:
Turkey—The Planets: The Definitive Visual Guide to Our Solar System; Algebra 2; Robert the Fox; Chicago’s Field Museum; Pre-Calculus
Bunny—The Astronaut Wives Club; Literature; Rugila the Hun (Attila’s uncle); Chicago’s Field Museum; Literature
Ladybug—Misty of Chincoteague; Equine Science; Elizabeth I; Chicago’s Field Museum; Literature
Chickadee—Summer; 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!
Yesterday was the final day of the 2017-18 school year!
We ended the year strong. Out of all of the combined tests over the last six days, which included geometry, biology, ancient history, sixth grade math, and spelling, no one scored lower than a “B!” I’m so glad we finished all of our subjects well!
We had an end-of-the-year field trip last week, to visit the “Destination Moon” exhibit that is currently on loan from the Smithsonian to the St. Louis Science Center. It is an excellent display, from the re-creation of a 1960s living room to the actual command module from the Apollo 11 mission, and everything in between! I know we’ll be going back to see it again before it moves on!
Yesterday was mostly a fun day (once the last of the tests were complete). We watched the Henry V section of The Hollow Crown. It was interesting to see it performed after having read it. The children also re-enacted part of Julius Caesar. And, as is our tradition, the children built a new Lego set to add to our architecture collection…this time, the skyline of Shanghai.
Up next is summer school. We’ll be studying the Medieval period this year…stay tuned for our reading list later this week!
Have I mentioned how much I love the instruction book? Like the Lego Architecture series, in addition to directions for building, this book contains information about the landmark being built, and I learned a few things along the way!
We’ll just call section six “The Addition of Fancies.” I especially love the tree out front!
Looking good, and even without the clock, it’s totally recognizable!
We weren’t done, though. On to section seven!
We built the clock face:
And “Big Ben,” the largest of the five bells in the tower:
And then we put them together:
And added the top of the tower:
And Queen Elizabeth Tower, housing Big Ben, as well as part of the Palace of Westminster, was complete!
Now we have big Big Ben, and baby Big Ben…I love how the Lego Architecture set looks against the bigger landmark:
And they may not be to scale, but the double-decker bus I built last year looks great with the new set!
Next up is the upcoming larger scale London bus, which I hope to build later this month. We’ll have all the big Lego London landmarks, then…I can’t help but wonder if there’s anything left that they want to build!
On the last day of school last week, Turkey, Bunny, and Ladybug built the Lego Architecture Chicago skyline. While we’ve built a number of landmarks in the Architecture line over the years, this is only the second skyline we’ve constructed. I was shocked at how fast of a build it was, but just because it was completed quickly doesn’t mean it’s lacking in details!
The assortment of pieces was more colorful than I was expecting:
As always, the base was the first thing Turkey assembled:
And then the landmarks: The Bean and Big Red, which were both built by Turkey, Willis (Sears) Tower, which Ladybug begged to build, DuSable Bridge, the Wrigley Building, and the John Hancock Center, all completed by Bunny. The Hancock Center was an especially fascinating build to me!
It’s a beautiful little set!
For our first day of school in August, we’ll be taking a break from the Architecture series for something extra special…stay tuned!
And just like that, my ninth year of homeschooling is finished!
There wasn’t too much work this week. Turkey and Bunny took their last science test, and they both had perfect scores. We went through the study of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” that I had prepared. I think we were all surprised by how many of the pop culture references from the 50s that they recognized from watching I Love Lucy!
The only other thing we did this week was attend the final homeschool day of the school year at the Missouri History Museum. This month’s topic was war (particularly WWI), and how St. Louis was involved. We got to attend a flag folding workshop hosted by a retired colonel of the Air Force, which was really interesting. Not only did we learn how to properly fold an American flag, we also learned the meaning of each of the 13 folds. We studied propaganda posters from WWI, and talked about what kinds of emotions they were trying to stir up. There was a fun poppy craft, and an opportunity to write letters to soldiers. We missed the WWII rationing workshop, so I led my own workshop in that gallery, instead, which was interesting…my children had no qualms about serving liver and onions for dinner, but I have my doubts about whether or not they’d actually eat it!
This morning, Turkey, Bunny, and Ladybug built the Lego Architecture set that I had set aside for today. Since they visited Chicago last May, they had a pretty good idea of what the skyline looks like, and we were able to discuss the specific landmarks they built: Big Red (the CNA Center), the Bean (Cloud Gate), the Sears Tower (Willis Tower to some of you, I suppose), the Wrigley Building, the DuSable Bridge, and the John Hancock Center.
So that’s it for this year. Turkey and Bunny have now completed K-8 at home, and are looking forward to starting high school here in August, and we celebrated their eighth grade graduation with a trip to Starbucks this afternoon.
Ladybug has now finished fourth grade, and can’t wait to begin fifth grade in the fall. And Chickadee will be a kindergartener come August! Time flies here at Veritas Academy!