Adrian’s Birthday Celebrations

Adrian’s 7th birthday celebrations lasted for three days. We started on his actual birthday with the bubble machine. Best birthday gift ever!

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For breakfast, he had Klondike Bars. Nothing like ice cream for breakfast on your birthday. Friday afternoon, we took the little guys to Chuck E. Cheese’s where they played for a couple hours.

Since Ani was at Youth Conference until Saturday afternoon, we celebrated Adrian’s birthday as a family on Saturday. We went to a trampoline park.

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Then we went to see Inside Out (good, but not great, and not a must see again sort of movie). We ate dinner at Red Robin on the way home. Adrian loved being sung to and given an ice cream sundae. We finished the evening by watching the newest Girl Meets World, Girl Meets Hurricane (excellent, and a definite must watch again sort of episode).

Adrian’s only complaint was that he didn’t have a cake. Since two of us are strictly gluten free, we didn’t even think about getting a cake. Ani volunteered to bake a gluten free cake on Sunday. It turned out very good (she even made the buttercream frosting from scratch – 3 whole sticks of butter are in the 4 cups of icing!).

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Turning 7 was very exciting for Adrian and he loved his whole weekend of fun. He has told us for months that 7-year-olds do things 6-year-olds don’t do like always getting themselves dressed and buckling their own carseat. True to his word, starting on Friday, Adrian has been doing all the things he promised 7-year-olds do. Apparently in his mind 7 is when you become a “big kid.”

More Gluten Free Baking

Ani loves to bake so being diagnosed with Celiac Disease was doubly hard for her. But then my friend gave us America’s Test Kitchen Gluten Free Baking. Everything we’ve made has been so good and Ani is so happy to be able to bake again.

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I usually make a double batch of their flour blend (it contains white rice flour, brown rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, and dry milk powder). That equals about 5 pounds of flour and fits perfectly in my large kitchen storage container.

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Chocolate chip cookies – Ani made these with half mini semi-sweet chips and half regular size milk chocolate chips.

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Shortbread – Ani forgot to turn the temperature down for baking so it was a bit crumbly, but it still melted in our mouths and tasted great.

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Peanut butter cookies – Ani’s made these twice and they are incredible both times. Peanut butter cookies are my favorite!

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Pizza – I’ve made the pizza three times now. The crust is a perfect mix of crunchy and chewy.

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Chocolate chip muffins – I used the blueberry muffin recipe to make these. I think they’d be much better with milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet chips. I want to try them using strawberries cut up in little pieces and also try apple bits with extra cinnamon.

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Bread – The bread is what makes me the happiest. I don’t like most pre-made gluten free breads. They have a slimy feel to me and they are also super expensive. This bread, while slightly pink (due to the psyllium husk) which takes a bit to get used to, tastes like bread made from regular flour. It works to just eat, as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and makes nice grilled cheese, too.

Playing With Numbers

Adrian really likes math. Since we started with Math-U-See, he has enjoyed playing with numbers more than ever, most likely because the blocks made it more fun. Sometimes he’s have a problem to solve like 12-7=? and he’d pull out a 7 and a 5 block and put them together to make 12 and then take away the 7 to leave the 5. Clearly, he knew the answer immediately*, but wanted to go through the process of using blocks.

A couple nights ago he started asking me questions about fractions. He asked what a quarter of 100 was. I told him 25. Then he asked what a quarter of 60 was. I told him 15. His next question was what a quarter of 6 was. I told him 1 1/2. He thought about that and then said two quarters would make 3, so half of six is 3. His next question was what was a quarter of 5. I told him 1 1/4. That one required even more thought, but he did figure out that a half of 5, then, would be 2 1/2. It went on for a while with other numbers, too. The most interesting part of it is Adrian has never been formally taught about fractions.

Negative numbers really were a scary, horrible thing for his oldest two siblings when they were first taught about them. Adrian, however, already thinks negative numbers are the coolest thing ever. When asked something like what is 2-8, he usually does the typical automatically subtracting two from eight to get six, but if we remind him that the question is asking him to subtract the bigger number from the smaller number, he gets the correct answer of -6.

He does all this in his head. For fun. He finally admits he knows how to read, but he still doesn’t like it. He claims he doesn’t know how to write at all, but 7 year olds do and he’ll be 7 in a little less than a week and will start writing then. But math. Math is different. He loves playing with numbers.

*If he hadn’t known the answer immediately, he was instructed to put together a 10 block and 2 block to make the 12, put an upside-down 7 block on top to indicate subtracting 7, and then count what was left uncovered or use blocks to match the number of leftover blocks.

Final Thoughts on What We Used

Cameron
Language Arts:
*Writing With Skill 1 – I love Writing With Skill! Cameron doesn’t love it, but, really, he doesn’t love anything that is school and especially nothing that involves writing. There were things I had to adjust for him due to the dysgraphia (such as reducing the number of words he was required to write and allowing him to dictate if he wanted to) and I had to be more hands-on than it really intends because of the dyslexia (I had to read the instructions to him to be sure he understood completely rather than him reading them himself for example). But the writing he produced this year is incredible. The writing process is taught step by step with lots of practice so he was able to really master the skills. He got very good at note-taking and outlining through the many assignments throughout the year. I am really looking forward to moving on to level 2 next year. My rating: 5/5 stars
*Reading various works listed in The Well-Trained Mind (comprehension questions written by me) – Cameron read quite a varied bunch of books over the course of the school year. The comprehension questions I wrote worked well. Cameron’s always had a high comprehension level in spite of his learning disabilities. He’s ready to move on from reading a chapter and answering questions, though, and next year he’ll just be reading for a set period of time and then narrating what he read. My rating: 5/5 stars for literature selections, 4/5 stars for comprehension questions
*Reading bios (written by me) of authors from the early modern period – Cameron seriously hated my bios. I don’t think they added anything to his education really. He’s one of those kids that if he’s interested in someone or something, he’ll go on YouTube or Google and find out what he wants to know. I’m not making bios for next year. My rating: 2/5 stars
*Spelling Power – This one is mixed. He has retained more about spelling words from Spelling Power than he has from any other spelling curriculum we’ve tried (and there have been many!). I know he’ll never be a great spelling (because of the orthographic processing thing), but I do want him to be the best he can. We’re not going to be continuing with this next year. I think it would be fine, but it’s not great for him (it worked WAY better for Cameron than Fritz as far as retention goes). My rating: 3/5 stars

Math:
*Art of Problem Solving Pre-Algebra – We started the year with AoPS and no matter how much people rave over it, it just didn’t work for Cameron. He was very stressed out and frustrated by it. He learned very little. My rating: 1/5 stars
*Math Mammoth Pre-Algebra – This one was okay, but there came a point where we had to switch because, although the second half of the year was supposed to be released months ago, it is still not out and won’t be released until this summer, way too late for us. He learned fine with what he had. My rating: 4/5
*Math-U-See Pre-Algebra – Cameron used MUS for his first couple years of math, but then we started using Calvert. MUS still works great for him. I think the combination of videos and paper is perfect for him. It’s also great that if he understands a concept immediately, he can just move on, but if he needs extra practice, there are three practice pages plus three review pages each lesson (plus more can be created on-line from the MUS website if necessary). We’re looking forward to moving on to Algebra I in the fall. My rating: 4/5 stars.

Fritz
Language Arts:
*First Language Lessons 3 – I loved First Language Lessons when I used it with his sister (no levels back then – just one book) and I still love it now. Fritz learned how to diagram sentences and since it’s taught bit by bit it really stuck in head and seemed easy for him. We’re looking forward to the doing the 4th level next year. My rating: 5/5 stars
*Writing With Ease 2 – I am really glad I went down a level of WWE for Fritz. I think the 2/3 of the year he did copywork once a week was very useful for him. He struggled a bit with narration, but got the hang of it by about halfway through the year. He’s still not a fan of dictation, but he’s getting better and better at focusing and remembering what he’s supposed to write. We’re looking forward to doing level 3 next year. My rating: 5/5 stars
Cursive Handwriting – First I tried writing things and having him copy them. Didn’t work. Then I bought something from Currclick. Also didn’t work. He has absolutely no retention of how to form the letters. We’re going to use New American Cursive next year. I hope it works better. My rating: 1/5 stars
*Spelling Workout – After Fritz switched from Spelling Power, which didn’t work at all for him as far as retention of how to spell words, he did Spelling Workout B. He sped through it and he remembered the spellings better with that one, but it still wasn’t perfect. We’re switching to Spelling You See next year. My rating: 3/5 stars
*Reading books selected from those used in Writing With Ease 2 (comprehension questions written by me) – Fritz read a bunch of great books during the school year. Reading a chapter and answering comprehension questions is perfect for him right now. My rating: 5/5 stars
*Brainy Acts – Fritz enjoyed most of the critical thinking exercises in Brainy Acts. He especially liked the math-based ones. My rating: 3/5 stars

Math:
*Beast Academy – This is another one that people rave over that was a flop here. Fritz loves math and math puzzles, but some of these frustrated him. He wasn’t really learning math, though, explanations were poor, and there was almost no review. My rating: 2/5 stars
*Math Mammoth Grade 4 – Another flop for Fritz. Even though it was labeled grade 4, it definitely felt more like grade 3. It would give multiple ways to solve the same thing several days in a row. This frustrated Fritz severely. He wanted to be taught one way and stick with it. Multiple ways just confused him. My rating: 1/5 stars
*Math-U-See Gamma – The updates to MUS’s “Greek” series are excellent. Fritz loves it. He quickly moved beyond using the blocks much, particularly as his multiplication problems got really big, but when he used them they really helped him “see” how the math works. He’s looking forward to learning division with Delta next year. My rating: 5/5 stars

Adrian
Language Arts:
*First Language Lessons 1 – It was fun to revisit some poems his older sister learned years ago. The gentle and slow introduction to grammar was absolutely perfect for Adrian. I’m excited to use level 2 with him next year. My rating: 4/5 stars
*Explode the Code – Adrian got through the first Explode the Code book by the end of the year. While the pictures sometimes leave a lot to be desired, overall EtC is great. He’ll continue with the rest of the books in the fall. My rating: 4/5 stars
*Reading Eggs – When we remember to use it, Adrian and I both love Reading Eggs! I don’t think we’ll renew when our subscription expires mainly because we forget about it. But, until February, he’ll use it when we think about it. My rating: 5/5 stars
*The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading – Adrian and I are slowly working our way through OPG. He doesn’t enjoy it and fights it a bit, but he’s gaining reading skills as he goes. We’re continuing with the lessons through the summer and on into next year. My rating: 3/5 stars

Math:
*Math Mammoth Grade 1 – Math Mammoth worked fine for Adrian. It was very easy. We really only switched because the older two boys were switching. My rating: 5/5 stars
*Math-U-See Alpha – Adrian loves the MUS blocks. He uses the blocks even when he doesn’t need to. It’s obvious he already knows the answers and just uses the blocks for fun sometimes. He’s excited to learn regrouping in Beta next year. My rating: 5/5 stars
MathSeeds – This, like Reading Eggs, we usually forget to use. He has learned a lot and loves it when we remember it. My rating: 5/5 stars

All Three Boys
Religion:
*Discover the Scriptures Hands-on Church History and Discover the Latter-day Prophets – I like DtS products a lot, but I don’t love the typos. I mean, really, if you are studying the Prophets, it would be nice if Wilford Woodruff’s name was always spelled correctly, for example (the second f was left off most of the time). The Hands-on Church History was fun, but it still says volume 2 will be available fall 2014. Here it is summer 2015 and it’s still not out. My rating: 3/5 stars
*Memorizing parts of the Doctrine & Covenants Scripture Mastery Verses – This didn’t work out so well. We kind of gave up partway through the school year. My rating: 2/5 stars

History:
*Pandia Press Early Modern History Level 1 – I love, love, love History Odyssey! We learned so incredibly much this year. We’re looking forward to doing the modern history era next year. My rating: 4/5 stars

Science:
*Pandia Press REAL Science Odyssey Chemistry Level 1 – I don’t love REAL Science Odyssey quite as much as History Odyssey, but we still liked it. We did tons of experiments and learned a lot. We’re switching to Elemental Science next year, though, because Pandia didn’t announce they were going to be putting out physics until too late. My rating: 4/5 stars

Art and Music:
*Confessions of a Homeschooler World’s Greatest Artists and World’s Greatest Composers – We took it slow and only learned about a handful of artists, the orchestra, and one composer over the course of the year. They are adequate. I don’t love them, but they teach what I want. We’ll be continuing with these next year going a little faster so we’ll finish both by the end of the year. My rating: 3/5 stars

Closing Out the School Year

Over the last few days I’ve finished lesson plans, done the printing, and filled the binders for our next school year.

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Last year’s stuff has been emptied off the shelves and next year’s stuff is waiting.

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Everything not needed for next year has been taken out of the kids’ boxes.

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The dining room walls have been cleared of everything we won’t need next year.

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My ELA and Everything Else lesson books are filled and ready.

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Laminating has been done and flipbooks have been made.

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Work samples have been pulled out of notebooks and workbooks and are waiting to be made into portfolios. Amazing how a full year of school work for three boys can be reduced to such a small pile!

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Everything I didn’t save has been thrown away (this is only about 1/3 of what went in the trash).

The first day of the 2015-16 school year is August 25th, nearly 12 weeks from now. Now is the time to enjoy a well-deserved summer break!

Dallas Fan Expo

Jamie, Ani, and I went to Dallas Fan Expo this weekend. It was super fun! On Friday evening we went to a Q&A with Sylvester McCoy (7th Doctor). He was so entertaining. He talked about when he was a busker and how he accidentally became an actor and how that eventually led to Doctor Who.

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Jamie has fond memories of watching Doctor Who when he was a kid. Sylvester McCoy was one of his favorite Doctors.

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Saturday we split up and Ani went to a Q&A with Billie Piper (Rose Tyler on Doctor Who) and Jamie and I went to a Q&A with Barbara Eden and Bill Daily. They had lots of amusing stories from when they did I Dream of Jeannie.

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When I was a kid I liked watching I Dream of Jeannie reruns. Barbara Eden is 83 now. She is utterly beautiful and so incredibly sweet.

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Jamie went to a Firefly Q&A while Ani and I wandered around the vendor halls. Then we all went to see Ming-Na Wen (from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). She was funny and clearly loves what she does. She totally fangirled over her signing table being next to Carrie Fisher’s.

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Over the course of Saturday we got Ani’s Doctor Who quilt (that her grandmother made for her) signed by Sylvester McCoy, Billie Piper, and Karen Gillan. So her quilt is now even more awesome! Sylvester signed on the police box sign, Billie on the wolf, and Karen on the picture of Ani as Amy Pond a couple Halloweens ago.

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On Sunday we went to a Smosh Games panel. None of us have ever watched very many of their shows, but they were interesting to listen to.

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We went to a Q&A with Karen Gillan (Amy Pond from Doctor Who) that afternoon. She has the cutest Scottish accent and seems just so happy. She made us laugh a lot.

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The final Q&A we went to was with Jason David Frank (Tommy Oliver on Power Rangers). He spent the whole weekend documenting everything with pictures and videos to put on social media. He is a definite fan of his fans. Jamie even asked him a question (about how much of his own stunts he did since he has martial arts training – some, not all).

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It was a fabulous weekend. We just may go back next year!