Week 8, 2017 — Nature Hike

We had a pretty good week. I don’t know why I ever wander away from Homeschool Planet for planning things. I guess I just try to save money… and get frustrated with the way it deals with some things. But for me, it’s better than any other planning system out there.

This time around I’m gong to use it with Evernote — instead of sticking every idea i have in the planner, I’m keeping a list of ideas in Evernote, and I can use that list as inspiration when I plan out the next few weeks in the planner. I think where I run into problems is when I plan too far ahead or plan too much.


  • All of the kids played with PhET sims’ Function Builder. It has many ways of playing with the idea of a function.
  • Kid 1 practiced multiplying double-digit numbers.
  • Kid 2 worked on her multiplication chart.
  • Kid 3 worked on adding three-digit numbers and regrouping. She also spent time with grandma learning about different coins and how much they are worth.



It was a relatively light week for Language Arts.

All the kids watched interesting shows that we talked about — Monk, Timeless, and so forth. We also continued to read the second Harry Potter book at night.

This week’s words of the day included onus and bemuse.


Read the next chapter in Story of the World, still about the beginnings of Islam.

Watched several episodes of Timeless… and finished the season. I hope it gets renewed!


  • We participated in the great backyard bird count, and it was pretty fun. We even saw an (apparently) rare bird and were contacted by one of the people who QA the bird reports. They like to make sure people have reasons for reporting unexpected things, so I got to explain why we thought we saw a purple finch instead of a house finch. (Lucky for us, we get both, so it’s easy to spot the difference.)
  • We went to a local little mountain, Sugarloaf, and enjoyed a nice nature hike. There was a lot of lichen.
  • We saw the bunnies again for the first time this year. We watched them and commented on their behavior.
  • I read a few articles to the kids and we watched a video about the cave of giant crystals in Mexico where researchers found microbes that have been dormant for 10-50 thousand years. It’s a weird cave — so hot and humid that without proper gear, the moisture quickly condenses in your lungs and you could (oddly enough) drown.


There was so much foursquare. (Sometimes anywhere from two square to twelve square, in fact!)

We also hiked. The kids spent the night with their cousins and walked a few miles through the neighborhood to get frozen yogurt.

The girls also went to dance class, where they get quite a workout.


All the kids got to practice staying safe while walking to store. It was a band of kids from 7-15 years old, and they needed to make sure the littler ones didn’t get lost or run over.

Kid 2 had a little talk with me about a lot of things… frustration, dealing with the thought of disappointing other people, dealing with things that are hard.

Kid 3 got to learn about how to treat sore muscles and a possible sprained ankle.


Everyone practiced their instruments nearly every day and progressed. Yay!

The girls went to their dance classes.


For art, we made marzipan! From scratch. We blanched the almonds, blended them up, and added lots of sugar and flavor. Then we used food dye to make many different colors. It’s basically edible, gluten-free, almond-based clay. We still have tons of it so we can get it out and play with it for the next week or two.

Foreign Language

I wrote hiragana with Kid 2. The two older kids also practiced their languages using Mango.


I’m trying to include a once-a-week class about basic computer stuff. Thing like backing up their systems, getting windows updates, checking email and the calendar, and stuff.

This week I also showed them how to install a hardware monitor so they can get neat graphs of things like the temperatures of their CPUs.

Week 9, 2017 – Calm Before The (Soccer) Storm

This was a nice, calm week. Pretty soon soccer season starts up and everything gets crazy.


Their grandma is helping them with their handwriting — getting numbers the correct direction, understanding the way fractions and things are supposed to look, forming letters in cursive, and things like that.

We played Balderdash. It’s a game where you get a date, an initialism, a movie title, or a strange word and the players try to write a description of what the word means (or the initialism stands for, or the significant thing that happened on that date, or what the word means). And the player whose turn it is just copies the correct answer. Then everyone votes on which they think is the real answer and points are awarded. It’s a fun way to get kids to unintentionally do some copy work and practice writing things in a more proper-sounding voice. (If you don’t sound like a game card in your answer, no one will be fooled by it.)

We played another game called Happy Birthday Robot. It’s a fun game where you collectively write a story (it doesn’t have to be about a robot) and you are limited in the number of words you can use. This is helpful for teaching kids how to be efficient with their language. They quickly learn there aren’t enough words to use filler words like “very” or to start each sentence with “and”.

And, of course, we finished the second Harry Potter
and started on the third.

We also watched the first movie of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Kid #1 spent some time planning his inn in Druidawn, based on an inn from a book he read a few months ago. Not sure if the airship ever got made, but it’s nice to know he buys virtual property.


The weather turned warm, so we spent time watching the birds in the feeders in the backyard. Different birds are showing up and some are even changing into their summer colors.

We talked about the weather and the changing of the seasons, particularly about the difference between meteorological seasons and astronomical seasons. (It’s now meteorological spring, but it isn’t astronomical spring until the spring equinox.

And we posed interesting questions we tried to answer… such as the physics of bird flight, and could a penguin fly if it swam really fast and jumped out of the water.


We played one math game this week, a game called Tsuro. The idea is you are a dragon flying around and you’re just trying to not fly off the edge of the board or run into another player. There’s no reading required, so it’s a great game for groups of people that include young kids. It’s also good for mental math skills, particularly the ability to rotate shapes in your head and figure out which way to play a piece.

In addition to that, Kid 1 did some work in Khan Academy, and the littler kids did a placement test for Teaching Textbooks. Sadly, they scored really high on the tests (surprise!) so I need to make them take another test to see if they place in a higher level. I’ll probably promise them ice cream again because it’s a pretty long test.

Social Studies

I don’t have anything written down, but I remember talking about some civics during the week, as current events came up.


There was a lot of foursquare, plus the kids went to open gym at the gym nearby. We’ve been here close to two years and there’s a gym seven minutes down the road… and that was nice. I’m sure they miss their old gym.


Mostly just “growing up” stuff with individual kids.


There was nothing special planned, just the regular drawing and stuff.


The kids practiced their instruments several times this week, and I can definitely hear improvement!

Week 7 2017 – Let’s Start a Band and Why I’m Going Back to My Old Planner App

This was a spectacular week for music, here at Dragon Academy. And it’s a great opportunity to show that you don’t have to do each subject the same amount as every other subject… or even the same amount from week to week. Some weeks are science weeks, some are music weeks… and that’s ok!


I know we did math! But I can’t find it written down anywhere.

This is why I’m going back to Homeschool Buyers Co-op’s planner, Homeschool Planet. I tried to plan in Remember the Milk, which I use for my day-to-day to do list… but it didn’t work out. I couldn’t find a useful way to do recurring tasks that are different… Like I want to do math every Tuesday or Thursday (or whatever) but say which pages or which chapters, which are different every lesson.

Then I tried Evernote with cute little checkboxes, but it just never seemed to work. There’s no good way to plan ahead without making the page really crowded.

So much for trying to consolidate. I felt a little crazy paying for a homeschool planner AND Evernote AND Remember the Milk…. but apparently I am insane and need all three. (Plus a fourth to do list at work.)

My biggest issues with Homeschool Planet are:

  • To edit anything is multiple clicks. I know, sounds kind of whiny of me, but I have three kids and 10 subjects. This is a pretty significant time hit.
  • If you plan too far ahead and let things slide, sometimes it gets confused and messes your lessons up in order. I’m not sure what I’m doing, but I think it used to work better a few years ago. I like the new features they’ve added, but maybe it’s just too complicated.
  • If you have three kids and try to have some assignments the same and some different, sometimes it gets really messed up.
  • Its just a constant struggle to figure out if I should make 87 different classes so I don’t have to worry about the things above (except SO MUCH CLICKING AND WAITING) or if I should consolidate and track, say, all three kids math in one lesson thingy and try to untangle it when it inevitably gets confused.
  • It’s just unusable on a phone. I’ll have to see if it works well on a Kindle now that I got myself a new one.

Anyway, these things bug me, but it’ still the best tool for the job. Well… I haven’t tried other homeschooling planners recently. I did a few years ago and just didn’t like them. Maybe they’ve changed.


Well, I know we watched some shows and read Harry Potter 2, but I have nothing else written down, even though I know we did stuff.


  • Great Backyard Bird Count. We used iBird to identify species and eBird to record them. It’s really easy to use eBird to make running lists of the birds you see. And it’s for science!
  • How irises work.
  • How sound waves are different from light waves.
  • Space X launch — watching that rocket land again was just crazy!
  • Tried to watch the Okeanos dive, but it kept having problems.


  • Charles Lindbergh and 1920’s France.
  • I think we didn’t manage to read a chapter this week due to all the other crazy stuff going on. But who knows! Yep, going back to the old planner…


This was a great week for music:

  • Singing in the car (of course).
  • Solas concert
  • The kids all picked instruments that they actually want to play! We’re forming a band! A really…. weird… band!
    • Kid #1 grabbed an alto saxophone after his sister said it looked the most steampunk.
    • Kid #2 chose violin, the instrument she’s been begging to play for years. So we rented her a cute little half size version.
    • Kid #3 chose piano… sort of. She’s so far resisting learning how to play other than what she wants to do. She also toodles around on the penny whistle and the harmonica.
    • I play clarinet. It’s nice to play it again after all these years. I’m hoping to learn a little violin and piano along with the kids.
    • Their dad’s been learning the guitar for a few years now, too.

Like I said. I really weird band.


Um. I have nothing written down. There’s always the ongoing struggles each individual kid deals with. And bedtime.


Lots of foursquare this week, thanks to the beautiful weather. A nature walk or two. The girls did their dance classes, of course.


All in all, a pretty full week, even if there are quite a few subjects up there that we didn’t do as thoroughly as usual. But when the weather is gorgeous, we go outside.

Current Status: Geeking Out

Right now I’m:

  • Watching weather data stream in from all over — radars, weather models, twitter feeds of multiple meteorologists and weather researchers. Lightning maps and weather spotters live data. Plus the data from our own backyard, tabulated and graphed for me. So much fun!
  • Counting birds for the people at eBird.
  • Watching the bottom of the ocean with Okeanos, hoping we see another new species today (they’ve been on a roll).
  • Testing the new streaming media NAS the husband set up, so I have Flash Gordon spewing from the speakers of my laptop. (“Flash! Aaa-aaah! He’ll save every one of us!”)
  • Making a note to myself to watch the solar eclipse tomorrow morning on Slooh, an internet-connected telescope.

This future isn’t always horrible.

Week 6 of 2017 — Trip to NOAA

Apparently this was a pretty slow week for us. Or I just didn’t write down anything we did. I forget to a lot… which is another reason I keep this blog. It helps me remember. Of course, it doesn’t do that if I’m not actually blogging!


All the kids listened to me read The Number Devil, chapters 3 and 4 and some more flashcards.

We saw an amazing calculation machine at the NOAA open house (see science, below). It is 11 feet long and 6 feet high and can take up to 37 variables. It takes up to three days to set up for a particular location and time… but it can calculate the tides and graph it. Did I mention it was designed in the late 19th century? It was completed in 1910 and was used by NOAA through the 60s when it was replaced by a computer.



We read Harry Potter at night, watched Wheel of Fortune, and other shows that are fun to discuss, like Monk.


We went to an open house at NOAA. It was amazing! Besides the tide calculating machine I described above, we met a hurricane hunter (and felt what a Cat 1 hurricane feels like). We also met some meteorologists who taught us how to measure snow on a snowboard. The girls colored some fish at a booth that explained how they survey for fish in the oceans. I could not get Kid 1 to go to the booth where you smell fish to determine if they have gone bad. There was a ton of other stuff, too. Two thumbs up!

Social Studies

We read the next chapter in the Story of the World about Muhammed and the beginnings of Islam. The girls did some coloring pages and maps, and we watched another Timeless or two.

Art and Music

I didn’t write anything down…


There was a whole lot of running around in the backyard, plus they went ice skating.

Health & Other

Didn’t write anything down. Oops.

Weeks 4 & 5 of 2017: Catch Up Post

When I said we were feeling better, that didn’t last very long. It’s been a really weird winter. The weather keeps going from one extreme to the other and it’s really messing up our sinuses (and maybe also arthritis…. ugh).

So here is a little extra catch up post, documenting weeks 4 and 5. I looked through my notes and I know I’m missing a lot, but this is what I managed to write down.


All the kids played hearts (the card game) with their dad. We started reading The Number Devil (Ch 1 & 2).

Kid 1 practiced with flash cards to get faster at math facts, and worked on remembering how to multiply decimals.

Kid 2 did some complex cooking math with grandma, figuring out how to double recipes with tricky fractions. She started filling out a 12 x 12 multiplication table to solidify some of the harder to remember multiplication facts.

Kid 3 learned about adding 3 digit numbers and did addition flash cards.


All the kids are learning vocabulary words. Sometimes we get them from Merriam Webster, other times from the Michael Clay Thompson LA curriculum. One of the words this week was the prefix “sub-“.

We also frequently watch Wheel of Fortune together, which is great for learning about the frequency of letters in English and word patterns and things. We also started reading Harry Potter at night as part of our new “Let’s Get Everyone to Sleep at a Reasonable Hour” routine (see the Health section below).

Kid 1 continues to do a great deal of freewriting (and research! see the science section) with his Druidawn group. I also printed some grammar worksheets, including one about  paragraph correction, because it’s fun to play editor.

Kid 2 learned about contractions and how to spell them.

Kid 3 learned about syllables and where words split.


I don’t seem to have much written in my notes. It was probably all incidental science stuff, nothing really planned. That happens a lot.

However, Kid 1 is working on a project in his Druidawn class to make an airship. It’s pretty complicated! He has to do all sorts of things, such as calculating the weight on the metal he wants to use in the construction of it. So, he had to look up different metals and their weights, how to calculate the weight of a bar of metal depending on whether it is solid or empty inside (he decided on hollow bars of aluminium). He looked up the weights of helium and hydrogen and the pros and cons of each (hydrogen is so much lighter but has that pesky catching-on-fire issue). He decided to be risky and choose hydrogen. He looked up all sorts of materials to use to cover it — it needs to be leak proof, but weight is still an issue. In researching all of this, he had a moment where he realized why the Hindenburg (and other dirigibles) have such a small cabin — weight issues. The next step is to figure out how to propel it.

Social Studies

All the kids study this together. These two weeks we read a chapter in Story of the World about the Byzantine empire. We also read the relevant pages from the Usborne Internet Linked Encyclopedia of History for the past four chapters as a nice way to review what we’d learned.

They are also learning a lot about the government and such just by discussing the news with one of the adults in the house. For example, grandma got to explain the economics of tariffs one day while I was off at work.

We’ve also been watching Timeless, which isn’t a perfect show, but it’s fun enough. All the kids like it and it’s a great chance to learn a little tidbit here and there about different points in history, historical figures and such. It’s always nice to see the costumes and see how people lived in different times and countries. We just have to hope that they don’t remember the changed versions of history and think that was the way it really happened. Heh.


Kid 1 taught the girls and me how to use a nifty little program called Apophysis. It’s purpose is to make fractal art. The top image is what Kid 2 made.

Kid 2 did a lot of cake and cupcake decorating. She sketched out a plan for her sister’s birthday cake and did a really great job on it. She also practiced some decorating techniques with the leftover icing and a batch of cupcakes. Also, she made a celtic chariot out of clay after we read about them in history.

She and Kid 3 also did who knows what all over the house for art. Painting, drawing, stickers, ribbons, etc! I can’t really keep track of it most of the time.


I have nothing written down. At the very least we listened to music and sang in the car.


Dad got some solar viewing glasses and showed the kids how to use them and warned them about looking at the sun.

But, the big deal these two weeks was changing around our whole bedtime routine, because the kids were staying up later and later and getting more and more upset when it was time to sleep. So, we decided together on a new plan to go back to reading together at night. I stopped some time ago when I had health problems that killed my voice. I was barely able to talk much less read a book out loud for an extended time. Another part of the plan is to set an alarm so we go to read at the same time every night. And the final part of the plan was to prepare a checklist of things that happen at bedtime (brush teeth, get water, etc) and make sure they are all done before we start reading. Nothing destroys the sleep-inducing powers of the bedtime read like having a kid suddenly jump up and have to get water when I say the reading is over for the night.

So far it’s working pretty well!


One day we all went on a crazy long walk and found a nice path to get to the park near the library. It’s pretty close, but the road is a bit too dangerous to walk down. Not only does it have no sidewalks, but it has no shoulder or even a nice ditch to hop in if a speeding car comes around a corner.

They also played outside together, played foursquare with the neighborhood kids, and the girls did their regular dance classes.


This category is just for things that don’t really fit in the state’s mandated eight subjects above.

Kid 2 worked on her Japanese letters (Hiragana).

All the kids learned more about computers. I helped the kids with new laptops set up windows updates and backups. I also helped the younger ones make sure they have bookmarks for their email and the house calendar. We made a google hangouts chat room for our school and other fun things like that.


Week 3 of 2017 — Feeling a Little Better!

For the fist time since before Thanksgiving, both girls went to their dance classes! Maybe we’re finally recovering.

This week was pretty light. We focused on playing games and watching more Monk and Top Chef… and cleaning up some of the rooms that got really messy while everyone was feeling too sick to pick anything up. Also cleaning up some of the remaining christmas stuff (although I didn’t do much to help with that…).

We did study some of the art during the dark ages — illuminated manuscripts, such as the Book of Kells. The kids were… amused by it.

I’m sure we did more, but I can’t remember what.

Week 2 of 2017 — Even More Sickness

This Fall/Winter, we’ve basically had at least half the household sick with this awful cold thing. It’s like an uber cold. It’s yucky, and it won’t go away. It’s been going on since, oh, September. Ugh,

All the kids:

  • Watched a lot of Top Chef and Monk.
  • Were sick and hung out in the humidified basement play area. A lot.
  • Played a new game we Kickstarted, called Plague Inc. (It’s based on the phone and PC games of the same name). Lots of interesting immune system, virus, and bacteria information. And geography. It’s like… Risk meets the plague.
  • Read about the monks of the dark ages, Illuminated manuscripts, and Augustine and Canterbury.

Kid #1:

  • Learned about the math of tesselation. One of his space games lets you construct your own pieces and it helps if you make pieces that tile together well.
  • Participated in his freewriting class.
  • Write a text-based adventure using Twine.

Kid’s #2 and #3 mostly learned about naps and taking cough medicine. Self care is a pretty important thing to learn, though.

Week 1 of 2017 — Happy New Year!

All the kids:

  • Had their hair dyed
  • Were sick.
  • Watched the birds in the backyard some more.
  • Read about the Celts, Angles and Saxons at the beginning of the dark ages.

Kid #1:

  • Learned about sudoku.
  • Played a lot of video games with interesting space physics.

Kid #2:

  • Made delicious cupcakes.
  • Learned about Sudoku.
  • Made Celtic axes for herself and her sister out of aluminum foil and twine.
  • Got her braces off and a brand new retainer!

Kid #3:

  • Was sick a lot.
  • Played with the aforementioned celtic axe and wore a cape around the house.

It was kind of a slow week.

Week 8 of Fall 2016 — Don’t Microwave Cranberries

Just another normal sort of week at Dragon Academy.  Much of what we worked on wasn’t a lesson from a book, it was just reading, playing, and enjoying life.


  • Tuesday Teatime — Finished the Magic Treehouse Halloween book
  • Puzzle Your Kids — Finished up a really long set of word puzzles. (These puzzles are really incredible. Professionally done, but at a level of difficultly good for ages 9+.)
  • Read the school paper — Every day I write a short newspaper for the kids. It has today’s weather, the chores they need to get done, any information about getting ready for dance/soccer/whatever, and a short article about something. For now it helps them know how to dress for the day, what’s coming up, and is a handy to-do list… but maybe one day they’ll help me write it. Sometimes you just have to start doing things, and maybe the kids will join in.
  • Friday Movie/TV:
    • 2 episodes of Monk
    • Big
    • Howl’s Moving Castle — we watched this at their cousins house on the back porch. They couldn’t decide between having a bonfire or a movie… so they just did both! Just move the TV outside…


  • The kids made a pumpkin pie and pie dough cookies all by themselves. When they accidentally added too much flour to the pie dough, they figured out what else they needed to change to make a double recipe.
    And that’s why they had enough left over to make little dough cookies.
  • Roman numerals (see below).
  • Some sewing math.
  • “I have a bag and you have a bag” — this is a game from Kitchen Table Math (I think). You make someone figure out how many items are in each bag by telling them a fact or two about it. Such as, “I have a bag and you have a bag. You have twice as many things in yours, but if I add 10 to mine, we’ll have the same”. This is algebra — it’s solving a system of two equations with two unknowns. You can make the problems harder or easier depending on the kid.


  • I had too much sinus pain to think so much, so we watched a lot of youtube Videos:
  • Science was pretty random:
    • Kid #1 and his dad flew the new drone.
    • Everyone  played science video games… in Kerbal Space Program kid #1 apparently flew to Mars (or whatever they call Mars) twice and built a huge satellite communications system.
    • I microwaved a cranberry and set the microwave on fire a little.
      I was trying to see if I could cook it a little bit and determine how much liquid would come out (for adjusting a recipe). Grapes will do the same thing. I think the idea is that the shape and size of a small round fruit makes it acts as an antenna that concentrates the power of the microwaves. It was pretty crazy! The microwave is ok, but I wouldn’t really recommend replicating the experiment. You can search youtube for videos of grapes in the microwave, like this one by Veritasium.


  • Roman numerals (which is funny because we needed it the next day for the Puzzle Your Kids puzzle! Serendipity!)
  • Started working on the Which Way USA puzzle book for Kentucky.


  • Kid #1 rode his bike every day.
  • Kids #2 and #3 did their dance classes, soccer practice, and soccer games.


After seeing the Celtic Fiddle Festival, the kids listened to a lot of celtic music… and I got them all penny whistles. So they spent time on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday learning how to play them.


  • The girls made a lot of interesting hair bows out of ribbons.
  • Everyone decorated cookies.
  • All the kids crafted with sewing materials while I worked on costumes.


Can’t think of anything in specific we covered this week… part of the reason we’re watching Monk, however, is to talk about anxiety and how people cope (or don’t!) with it. If you follow the Bravewriter lifestyle, this is one of our Big Juicy Conversations.


Homeschooling, working, writing, living

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