Thursday, October 31, 2013

English Unit 2: Writing a Science Fiction Story

This was a continuation of the free writing unit. For the last week my son had an assignment to write 30 lines of a science fiction story and another 30 lines of a story with dialogue. On his own, he decided to combine those assignments (yippee for initiative!!!) into a story that then took on a life of its own. In fact, he was so proud of his story, he asked to keep working on it and, eventually, get it published.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

US History Unit 3: The Late 1700’s

This unit included the Constitution as well as the first two presidents. We started with Crash Course US History videos #8 “The Constitution, the Articles, and Federalism” and #9 “Where US Politics Came From.” For the Constitution, we used a detailed worksheet (similar to those on thiswebsite) with questions about what powers and duties were assigned in the articles, the Bill of Rights and the evolution of the amendments. We also studied the differences between the Constitution and the Articles of Confederacy, and finished with a graphic organizer showing the separation of powers. This unit also included the first two President's Day studies for Washington and Adams.

Chemistry Unit 2: Matter—Solids, Liquids, and Gases and Unit 3: Changes of State

Both of these were taken straight from the ACS Middle School Chemistry curriculum.  Since I added an introduction unit, we’re off by one on the numbering – Unit 2 is Chapter 1 and Unit 3 is Chapter 2. Oh well.

Each chapter had several pages of student reading, so we started with those. Next, we went back to Brain Pop for vocabulary (Temperature, Measuring Matter, States of Matter, and Matter Changing State). After my son had a solid grasp of the fundamentals, we started into the individual lessons and labs. I like the emphases on what was happening at an atomic level. That continues through the whole program.

You don’t need elaborate equipment for the labs. Each day has a simple experiment and questions focused on one concept. Even though some of these seemed overly simple, my son learned advanced facts that are normally reserved for high school chemistry, such as the affect of pressure on the volume of a gas. There are also nice, short videos that can be used for the teacher demonstration part of the daily lessons. A favorite is the slow-mo water balloon.

Monday, October 28, 2013

US History Unit 2: The American Revolution

We spent a week on this topic just a few months ago in 7th grade, so this unit was focused on filling in a few remaining ideas about the government during the revolution.

My son started with two Crash Course US History videos: #6 “Taxes and Smuggling” and #7 “Who won the American Revolution?” The map activity was a simple map of the colonies. We studied the Declaration of Independence with short answer questions and the Articles of Confederation with a chart detailing limits of power compared to the current Constitution. Both of these assignments came from the textbook we’re using. The last day of the unit was spent watching the second chapter of America: The Story of US (Revolution). These were this unit’s test questions:

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Unit Calendar: September

Click on the calendar for a larger and clearer image.
This page was generated from the calendar spreadsheet.

Chemistry Unit 1: Introduction

We’re spending the fall semester on chemistry. I’m aiming for a level above normal middle school, but still below an honors high school class. The first unit was an introduction to the basic terms, periodic table, and the atom:

Saturday, October 26, 2013

English Unit 1: Free Writing

English is divided into three parts each day: reading, writing and grammar. Reading is just for pleasure for 30 minutes at the start of every day. We are working our way through several workbooks for grammar, so that’s pretty straight forward. Writing is the real sticking point for English. Usually. But this year has been different.
My son has informational and analytical writing assignments integrated into every other subject. That means the writing portion of English can focus on narrative writing. The first four weeks of school were spent on increasing his writing fluency – the speed and ease that he gets his thoughts into sentences and onto paper. He’s always struggled with that. The goal for this unit was for him to get words on paper. I didn’t care how well he wrote or how long it took. Here were his assignments for those first weeks:

US History Unit 1: Pre-Colonial

We are studying the history of the United States of America this year. We began with a way too brief look at North America in the pre-colonial times. We watched the first five Crash Course US Histories, and read the textbook sections on reasons people came to North America. We finished with the first installment of America: The Story of US (Rebels). At the end of this unit, my son had to answer the following questions:

Algebra I Unit 2: Algebra Modeling and Unit Analysis

These lessons still had quite a bit of review from pre-algebra, but it turned out to be much needed review. We switched back and forth between the On Core book (all of chapter 1) and the super old Algebra book (chapter 2):
- Balancing one variable equations (one and two step solutions)
-  Simplifying expressions
-  Distributive property
-  Writing and modeling functions
-  Using dimensional analysis to check equations (here's an explanation)
-  Math lab: Hooke’s Law (results produce a straight line with the spring constant = to the slope)
-  Random reviews:  proportions, balancing equations with fractions, and converting between units

After this unit, my son was much more comfortable with fractions and dimensional analysis, both of which could have (and still may) caused trouble in future units.  This unit took the rest of September. Next we’ll finish tying up all the loose ends of linear equations and get set-up to start solving systems of equations.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Algebra I Unit 1: Review

This first unit took two weeks, or actually 9 days, since we took off for Labor Day. It was pretty straight forward:

- Graphing (plotting ordered pairs)
- Modeling relationships with variables (i.e. making up variable for real life situations)
- Order of operations
- Adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing positive and negative integers
- Real and rational numbers
- Experimental probability

This year, Friday’s math class is a Random Review. This is a worksheet that is extra practice for a skill. It could be something my son struggled with that week or may need to review for next week’s lessons. It is always timed, but only for the purpose of practicing for standardized tests. The reviews for this unit were math facts with larger numbers.

The lessons included the first chapter in the super old version of a Prentice Hall textbook.  The next unit is Algebra Modeling and Unit Analysis.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Science: Daily Lessons

This is the final post detailing our curriculum choices for this year. Next week, I’ll start sharing specific unit plans and how well they went (or spectacularly crashed, as the case may be).

We’re spending the first semester on Chemistry, complete with all the mixing and explosions that it may include. Middle school science can be very bookish, due to the logistics of setting up labs in limited space with limited time and unlimited middle school student energy. I wanted a different experience for my son. Fortunately, the American Chemical Society offers a free curriculum with a lab and videos for each lesson.  You'll need to purchase materials for some of the labs, but they are cheap and easy to obtain. In fact, we already had most of them.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Our Homeschool Room

We use the home office for most of the day. School spills into other rooms for watching documentaries, reading, and labs. But, everything else happens in here. There’s indirect sunlight all day long, making it a very pleasant place to spend several hours a day. And, with all the workspace, bookcases, and officey stuff already in there, it was also the least expensive room to convert.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Science: Basic Lab Supplies

Our home is filled with budding mad scientists, so a well stocked science lab is essential. I’ve spent more money on that than on all our other curriculum combined! We already owned a microscope and slide making equipment. If I was starting from scratch, I’d splurge for a higher end microscope with the ability to display to a laptop. My only really decadent lab purchase was a Physics kit from Quality Science Labs. It’s put together specifically for an AP course, but there are also cross references to most common homeschool curriculums. We did all of the labs during our physics unit last spring. This year, we are redoing some of the labs and using the data for practicing real applications in Algebra I.