Tuesday, September 30, 2014

First Month of 7th and 9th Grades

Initially, Piper and I were going to do American Chemical Society's Middle School Science program and Allie was going to do a Biology program on-line.  But...dumb me, I didn't realize that the on-line program started in early August and by the time I realized Allie was 3 weeks behind, when you combine that with a trip we are taking...it just seemed too stressful.  She can take it next time.  So, she is doing the Chemistry program with Piper and I.

We have completed the first two chapters of this program and I have to say that I really like it.  It is VERY hands-on and visual, there is at least one experiment for each lesson, along with several videos. there is not a TON of reading and the reading is all illustrated by the experiments and videos --which helps me a lot!  We are only two chapters in, so I am not sure that I think this is a full and complete Chemistry program.  Science is an area that has suffered in our homeschool because we all seem to delve into history, reading and writing and not find time for science.  So, our plan is to:
  • complete American Chemical Society Middle School Chemistry
  • monthly independent science experiments - each girl is responsible for conducting one science experiment each month, sharing the experiment with the family AND completing a Scientific Method sheet for the experiment
  • purchasing a family membership to Liberty Science Center and making a goal of going there at least once a month


A while ago, I had asked the girls what they wanted to learn about.  A history of New York City and more about our family tree were both mentioned.  Last summer, on a trip to Manhattan, we walked past the building on Thompson Street where my grandmother had lived with her sister, brother-in-law, two nieces and her brother in the 1920s when she had first come over from Sicily.  A few weeks later, someone donated Sweet America by Stephen Kroll, a book about an Italian immigrant who lived in Little Italy in the late 1800s.  A further look into Kroll's books and I found another book about an Italian immigrant girl who worked in a sweatshop in Lower Manhattan and lived in the same neighborhood as my grandmother.  I talked to the girls and we decided studying the history of NYC and the immigrant experience in the late 1800s and early 1900s was something we were all interested in.  

When I first blogged about it, my mom said she wanted to be part of the study and has been reading and FaceTime-ing with is, interjecting family stories and things she remembers from growing up with immigrant parents.

We have been learning so much and having such awesome discussions.  I feel that the girls are gaining a closer relationship with their family history and a better understanding of the immigrant experience.  

We learned that:

  • 1853 - Central Park was established in New York City
  • 1870 - The Brooklyn Bridge was built
  • 1871 - The "El" (elevated train platforms) were erected in Manhattan
  • 1871 - Cornelius Vanderbilt built Grand Central Terminal
  • 1904 - The subway was established in Manhattan

We learned that in the mid 1800s, when their were pushcart peddlers on Hester and Elizabeth Streets, poor immigrants allowed their pigs to roam freely throughout Manhattan and eat the refuse.  At one time there were 10,000 pigs wandering around the streets of Manhattan and in 1860 there was a public health outcry to get the pigs off the streets!

Film Study

My girls LOVE movies and I thought it was time that we explored what makes a movie good.  I have found The Art of Watching Films to be an incredible resource!

We have learned about pre-code films (initially when film was new, there was no rating system, no "code" as to what was appropriate, it was just meant to entertain, so nudity and wacky story lines were common) and watched some that blew our minds and others that made us laugh--all were silent, so the girls were also exposed to the art of the silent film.

We visited Edison's laboratory and home and saw the Black Maria, the first film studio!

We thought about and wrote about which films we had seen had really made an impact on us and why.

We also learned more about plot and theme and it struck me that because films are about two hours in length it might be an easy way to study literary concepts because we can discuss them RIGHT THEN, while watching or RIGHT AFTER, instead of waiting until we are all at the same point in a book.  Of course, we will discuss plot and theme and symbolism and imagery in literature studies as well, but I like this cross-over feature.


Every Wednesday, Allie attends a teen-led program in Princeton and Piper and I sit down and work through a lesson in Writing Strands.  I have found that Book 4 of Writing Strands is perfect for Piper, but Allie's writing ability far surpasses this level and the level of work she was doing for this program far surpassed what was required.  It was not the best use of her time.  So, while she is engaged at e-cubed, Piper and I work through Writing Strands.

Writing is a big part of our History program, as well as our Film Studies program.  The girls have both written 1 book report, 1 opinion piece on a movie and 1 research piece citing different articles on Italian immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  They have also both created comic strips about immigrants during that time period.  Additionally, they have written a paper about movies that have affected them and how those movies affected them.  They have also filled out, in complete sentences, worksheets on The Men Who Built America (one of our favorite series that we just watched AGAIN!).

The girls, my mom and I all read Sweet America by Steven Kroll and then have discussed the book via Facetime in two installments.  The book is about a young Italian boy who comes to America in 1889 and lives in Little Italy.  The story, the characters, the values are VERY similar to my mother's family's experiences and she is able to add a lot of "Italian flavor" and personalize the book and allow the girls to get to know their great grandmother and other relatives a little better.

In Allie's Wednesday group, she has stretched herself to read some sci-fi.  She was kind of upset that ALL OF THE BOOKS chosen for the year are sci-fi (I guess the teens that run that portion of the program are sci-fi fans and Allie is not).  But she has stretched herself and exposed herself to the genre of sic-fi, which is a positive thing.


Allie has completed the first two chapters of Teaching Textbooks Algebra and Piper has completed the first chapter of Teaching Textbooks 7.  I had bought Piper's TT CDs used on Amazon and they would not install in our Apple computers :(  Apparently, Teaching Textbooks updated their CDs around 2010 to be Mac compatible.  They offer a hybrid exchange program.  I sent the discs back to them, paid $39.95 and within a week, I had new discs!

While Piper was waiting for her discs to arrive, I printed out multiplication and division worksheets.  I learned a lot about her while she was doing those sheets.  She has a tendency to overcomplicate things and feel overwhelmed and like she can't do them.  Actually, I am learning a lot about myself, too, because I tend to do that as well!

Things That Didn't Work Out As Planned


Every year there seems to be a couple of things that I think we are going to do...that don't work out.  Kinda like life, right?  Both girls wanted to do sign language and one of the moms in our homeschool community used to be a teacher of the deaf and had taught ASL in coop and was considering doing a more thorough class, but some other things came up for her and it didn't work out for right now.  The class at the Jewish Community Center did not have enough enrollment, so it is not happening.  I had thought we might try an on-line class, as some of our friends have done, and while we have had success learning many things on-line, learning ASL online did not work for us.

After learning more about our family's immigration from Sicily,  the girls are both thinking they may want to learn Italian, which we can do with Rosetta Stone, but I have to figure out if we have time for that.  I do want Allie to take at least two years of foreign language in high school, but I don't think she necessarily has to do one her freshman year.  We can always do it next summer or next year and the year after or maybe utilize the community college for a foreign language.

Volunteering at a Children's Hospital

Another thing that I am not sure is going to work out is Allie volunteering at the Children's Hospital.  It will happen eventually, but I am really having second thoughts as to what she may see and be exposed to there.  I am not one of those moms who is always trying to protect my children's innocence, but I do think there are some things, especially emotional things, that she does not necessarily need to handle right now.  The other part of this not working is TIME.  The girls and Jason want to join our local homeschool ski "team" this winter and learn to snowboard, the girls are volunteering at the library, they are tutoring my friends' daughter, Allie participates in e-cubed on Wednesdays, we want to do wheel throwing pottery AND we started a writing/art journaling club that meets every other Thursday.  We need time for school, time for rest, time to not rush from here to there....  Allie is only a freshman in high school...there is always spring and summer and next year, etc.  Everything does not have to happen NOW.

CNN Student News

The third thing that we have given up is CNN Student News.  I do read the news (mostly online) and I do think it is important to be informed, but I found that we would be happy about our new day and WHAMMO!  CNN Student News was often dark and negative and put us in a bad mood that we could not get out of.  We don't need that.  So, for now, we are skipping it...we might get back to it at some point.