Switching Spanish Curriculum

I planned on continuing with Rosetta Stone for Spanish, but I found a more complete curriculum that will work better for Otter’s learning style. Rosetta Stone just doesn’t cut it for us when it comes to helping us understand Spanish in more depth. We both could understand enough to click on the correct boxes (most of the time), but weren’t really understanding the grammar or even what specific words mean, even though we could kind of figure them out in context.

We are going to be using Avancemos, which is by Holt McDougal and available via a special price if you order the homeschool package (more details on how to get that at the end of the post).

Here’s what we are ordering:

9780547858654 Level 1 Avancemos Homeschool Kit $96.75 – 20% (homeschool discount) = $77.40

For that price I’m getting the print student edition as well as the student and teacher digital access codes.

The access codes give you access to the digital textbooks (both student and teacher editions), all the teacher resources and answers, student worksheets, tests, videos, audio…There is a TON of stuff that is available for this program. I’ve included some screenshots below to give you an idea of what you get.

The online student text has all the video and audio integrated right into the text itself (just a click away) as well as self-checking chapter activities sprinkled throughout the online pages. I love that you can click on the audio icons as well as all the words highlighted in blue to hear them (no guessing when it comes to pronunciation)!

spanish curriculum


The online student text has a tab where all the unit resources are available at a click. There are animated grammar lessons, flashcards, self-check quizzes, interactive games and TONS of worksheets (all the answers are included in the teacher resources).


Here’s an example of one of the interactive games – a crossword puzzle you can fill out online.


Another online game:


Worksheets have numerous pages of varying activities to practice what’s being learned in the text:spanish3

There are also interactive online “worksheets” for additional practice:


There is even a “at home-tutor” option that walks you through practice materials step-by-step.

The teacher’s resources contain even more printables and activities to help your students learn Spanish like conversation cards:


Clipart & flashcard printables:



There is so much more. I couldn’t fit all of the teacher resources in one screenshot, but you can get an idea of what is available by taking a look at this:




Each arrow and plus sign leads to a drop down menu of more choices. There are more things than you will ever need to use. I love having so many options. If we understand a chapter, we’ll be able to move on more quickly. If there is something we don’t get, we’ll be able to dig in and stay awhile. ;-)

Emily used Holt’s German program with great success. Avencemos has even more features than her program did so I think it will work out great for us. The homeschool pricing makes it even more attractive and the multiple resources & modes of learning make it more valuable to us as a Spanish program. It’s structured in such a way that I believe we will be successful with it, even though neither of us speaks hardly any Spanish.

In order to get the special package price you must be either a homeschooler, independent study or charter school family. If you meet those requirements you can contact Shannon Cullip (shannoncullip [at sign] gmail.com) or call toll free: 855-386-9297 option 1.

Happy homeschooling!

10th Grade Plans

10th grade is coming up and I’ve finally figured out what we’ll be using in our homeschool. I made a few changes to my initial plan and am much happier with the final result. Here are some of the things we’ll be using:

Sonlight Core 300 – 20th Century World History, Bible, Language Arts and Literature

I have to send a HUGE thank-you to my dear friend who is lending me this core as it’s not in our budget to buy it outright. She has been such a great support & help over the years in so many ways!!

Although Otter and I have really enjoyed using the Awesome History Timeline Schedule (which is available for free here on my website), this year I wanted something with a schedule with an integrated language arts & literature where I can just check the boxes and see at a glance what I need to do every week without having to think about it!  Sonlight Core 300 turned out to be a great fit.

Life has been really busy and I just didn’t want to have to come up with all of the related discussion questions, writing assignments, mapping assignments, related literature and more every week so I decided to go the packaged route for our next school year. Having everything laid out for me as a teacher will be a nice change instead of having to come up with everything from scratch for almost every subject! No more hours of prep-work and fussing with the library to try and get the books I need on time.

Take a look at a small portion of the awesome instructor’s guide. You just move down the column for each day of the week and then look over the notes for each day (not pictured below).

igClick here for a 3 week sample of the Core 300 Bible and history instructor’s guide here.

Here’s a sample of the parent’s language arts guide.

The core comes with parent and student guides with lots of notes, maps, timeline assignments, discussion questions, writing & vocabulary assignments, literary device discussions and more.

I’ve used Sonlight in the past and enjoyed it – but found that parts of it were not a match for Otter when he was younger. I also used other cores with my older kids who later moved on to other things like Tapestry of Grace for a bit of change.  I credit Sonlight for some of my daughter’s heart for and current involvement with the Japanese because of the worldwide and multicultural focus of Sonlight’s studies.

Otter used Sonlight for Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade but ended up needing something much more linear with easier readers and a heavier dose of non-fiction, more hands-on activities and books more customized for his personality and retention level. He’s flourished with the curriculum I made for him but I think this will work out better this coming year for us both. He likes to see what’s coming up via a schedule and right now, so do I, lol. I’ll continue to use the Awesome History Timeline for supplements, if we have time.

Take a look at the meaty and interesting books that come with this core. I’m so looking forward to them as I never used this core with my older (now adult) kids!

Click on any book below to see more about it on Amazon or visit Sonlight’s website to see their comments about each book.

First, there is a selection of Bible & Apologetics books. Sonlight also schedules readings from the Bible itself and verse memorization.

Know why you believe Know why you believe 51fKZeTKOUL._SL160_ how to ruin your life by 30

Then there are the history books, biographies and historical fiction (with TONS of notes in the instructor’s guides, related mapping assignments, timeline entries and so on to make every book more meaningful):

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Next there are the literature & poetry books (with multiple notes, discussion questions, related writing assignments and more in the guides). I like that the language arts program covers the things Otter needs to work on for understanding literature as well as writing and that some of the selections are tied to the year’s history study. Some of the language arts topics that will be covered are: creative expression, response papers, creating a compelling plot, how to cite works, writing & tense, critical essays, elements of grammar, writing a script, advertising, the editing process, eliminating the passive voice and much more.

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I like the mix of books. There’s some heavy stuff punctuated by lighter reading. Perfect!

With Sonlight, we have all the major parts (or “core”) of our 10th grade curriculum taken care of. I will be adding in a couple more things for additional language arts practice in areas Otter still needs to work on like spelling and grammar. He will also probably continue with some materials I have on hand to improve his writing.

Otter’s additional subjects and activities will be:

MathTeaching Textbooks Algebra (finishing up level one and moving on to level 2 when he’s ready)

Spanish – We will either continue with Rosetta Stone online or The Learnables and read children’s books written in Spanish and/or watch familiar movies dubbed in Spanish. Otter will also continue to learn Spanish from his friends and some of his teachers in other activities.

Otter at the range practicing shotgun

Police & CHP Explorers (2 separate classes) – With classroom time, ride-alongs, D.U.I. checkpoints, community service and other activities, Explorers will take up quite a bit of time and will continue to be an important part of Otter’s week. Just the other day Otter got to shoot a taser for the first time! The officers who work with him are doing a great job teaching him the many skills he’ll need to be successful as a future police officer.

Firearm Shooting – Otter will continue to hone his shooting skills in preparation for his future career in law enforcement. He got an invitation to join a local trap team this past weekend when one of the instructors saw him trap shooting (he’s pretty good if I say so myself), but we probably won’t be able to find the time due to his other various commitments and wow, is it expensive (ammunition is sooo pricey).

Boy Scouts – He is getting closer to his goal of being an Eagle Scout and will be going on multiple camping trips and other outings over the course of the year.

Piano – He’ll be continuing weekly lessons. Otter plans to work on various hymns in addition to the classical music he loves.

Tactical MedicineAnatomy, Physiology and First Aid – This is the only custom made curriculum Otter will be doing in the fall. I had planned on sharing my schedule but since I decided to use an out of print book for a portion of the first aid section (my husband’s textbook he used when getting his degree in law enforcement years ago) as well as other specialized law enforcement related books, I may not be posting it and just leaving the current schedule up.

One of the books Otter will be reading for the above course is Tactical Medicine, a textbook designed for SWAT teams.

We will also be signing him up to become certified in CPR and he’ll be earning his first aid merit badge sometime this summer.

Latin – I decided not to continue with Latin as we simply don’t have time for it anymore, but Otter will still be learning Latin roots in his vocabulary program.

I’m looking forward to 10th grade. I think it’s going to be a really productive year and one step closer to Otter’s goals!

Summer & Fall Tutoring

My daughter is offering e-tutoring for both English (language arts) and beginning Japanese.

From her website:

Enrollment is open for semester-length, month-length, and 2-week E-Tutor Writing courses.  Semester-length courses for Fall 2014 begin August 11th, unless other arrangements are made.  Summer courses can begin at any time.  Please check out the courses page for more details on courses offered.

She is has a variety of options available:

Course A -The first type is one in which I will help edit, critique and grade writing assignments from any writing curriculum.  This may be ideal for homeschooling families that already have a writing curriculum, but need help coming up with a polished product, and grading.

Course B – The second course option that I offer is one in which I assign writing assignments, and then help the student edit and critique their work until they have a finished product.  This is better for families or individuals that desire a more guidance-rich experience.  Please note that both course types cost the same fee, so the customization is up to you!

We have 3 available course lengths and pay-per-paper services.

The 3 course lengths are semester-length, 1 month and 2-week length.  We also offer a pay-per-paper editing/critique service.  Please see our courses page for more information on pricing and FAQ.

Additional Services:

Are you interested in studying a language other than English?  Hannah has N5 certification in Japanese and can offer discounted courses on basic or conversational Japanese.  Please contact for additional information.

Hannah (known as Emily on my blog) is a gifted teacher who really cares about her students. Check out her website for more info!

A Busy Summer is Coming Up!

Warning: This is a rambling post, lol. You’ve been warned! ;-)

Besides working on my new book project, I’m going to be busy with schoolwork over the summer. Yes, that’s right, we school year round! I’ve just found that works better for Otter. It keeps things consistent and allows him to throw himself into the time consuming things he’s passionate about like the two Police Explorer programs he’s involved in. This summer he’ll be participating in D.U.I. checkpoints (he just worked one the other night), learning first aid, writing real tickets on CHP ride-alongs (something Mr. Follow-the-Rules loves to do), and working hard at P.T. (physical training) with his explorer friends. The other day I figured out that he’s spent about around 312 hours on ride-alongs since he started the explorer program! That doesn’t even start to take into account all of the classroom hours and activity hours!

I tease him that he likes to play “dress up” like his sister always did – only his version of dress up is in a uniform with a badge and handcuff pouch. The boy collects things for his police belt like some others collect figurines for a shelf, lol.

Otter also has a ton of Boy Scout activities coming up this summer (he’s the senior patrol leader) and will be working on his shooting skills as his goal is to take “Top Gun”, in the future, as my husband did in the academy.

Besides extracurricular stuff…

I put in an order for some new writing curriculum and other things for him to work over the next few months into the fall. I can’t wait until our big box of goodies arrives! It’s like Christmastime in May, lol. Here are some of the things we may be using:

Jensen’s Format Writing

Jensen's Format Writing

I’ve read good things about Jensen’s. Some people don’t like it because it uses a first person format for a lot of the writing. However, those with older reluctant writers say it’s the only program that helped their high school kids progress from tear-filled sloppy paragraphs to 5 paragraph essays with a minimum of fuss. I’ll write a review here on my blog after we’ve used it for a bit.

Vocabulary from Classical Roots

Vocabulary from Classical Roots

This is something I used with my older kids when they were teens. I’ve always been partial to vocabulary programs that teach Greek and Latin roots. This particular program is really easy to use and takes a minimum amount of daily time to accomplish.

I’ve also found the Kindle to be super useful for vocabulary. Otter is so used to touching words for the definition that he laughed out loud the other day when he tried to do that in a paperback book.

Rosetta Stone Spanish

Rosetta Stone Spanish

We get a discount for the online program and have found it to be worthwhile and easy to do, although I think I will need to supplement it with some kind of workbook at some point. Otter also uses Mango for free via our library’s subscription. All we have to do is enter our library card number and we can use the program at no cost at home. He’s put in a few hours for Japanese and Korean too as he enjoys sharing vocabulary from those languages with his sister when she visits.

I’ve been gathering more children’s books in Spanish for Otter to practice with and he gets plenty of exposure from the Hispanic boys in his Boy Scout troop who’ve taught him a lot of different words & phrases. We are lucky to live in such a multicultural area. Otter is able to learn Spanish and our daughter has been able to work on becoming fluent in reading, writing and speaking Japanese as well as a smattering of Korean.

Speaking of our daughter, she will be traveling to Tokyo in October, all expenses paid, via her employer to give some talks to Japanese high school students about the Y.E.S. ESL International Program in our area for college. She is really excited about all of the opportunities that have come up for her as well as the fact that she passed the J.L.P.T.

So anyway, back to some of the things Otter will be using this summer…

Teaching Textbooks Algebra

Teaching Textbooks Algebra

Emily had a lot of success using Teaching Textbooks, but it just wasn’t working for Otter at the lower levels. We started Algebra this year using Keys to Algebra, but it just didn’t click. I switched over to TT and Otter is having a lot more success. It’s fitting with him really well now. TT updated their books and software from when Emily used it and I LOVE the improvements. The entire program is much more engaging than the previous version and it’s much easier to grade, since all of that is automatic, lol. Otter has also been using and LOVING the Dragonbox Algebra app, but that’s another post. In fact, I have to credit Dragonbox with really helping him understand many algebra algorithms which has helped him in TT.

He’ll also be finishing up biology, continuing with history, reading every day and doing a variety of assignments to keep his academic skills progressing instead of stagnating over the next few months.

Speaking (er…typing) of reading, I’m so happy how Otter now devours books. He used to be a reluctant reader who was behind in his reading comprehension skills (although he could read actual words since he was a baby). This is something he’s struggled with for a long time.  It took YEARS of being totally patient, gently nurturing a love for books and working on problem areas with probably thousands of hours of read-alouds on my part and hundreds of dollars invested in building him a home library of books that were a fit for him. I had a 12 year old that still liked reading Berenstain Bears & pictures books but this was totally OK with me because I trusted he would blossom in his own time. All of our patience and hard work paid off. Otter is a voracious reader now and he reads very fast, like I do (unlike his sister who always has been a reading turtle, lol, despite her love of big, fat books). He is always asking for new books for his Kindle like this one he just finished:


Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun

Not my personal reading choice, lol, but as a future police officer, it’s something he really enjoyed.

For those of you with kids who are slow in an academic area or who don’t like reading, never give up hope. Keep providing a good example and don’t panic too much with time tables and grade levels. If you keep plugging along, you CAN get there. Some kids just need a bit of extra time and modifications in your homeschool plan that brings success one little bit at a time. That’s why so many of the curriculum plans on my website include such a variety of books and make use of picture books, even at higher levels. These are books that pack a lot of information into a format that is easier to retain and more fun to “look over” – a modification just for Otter (and one that’s been reported to me as very beneficial for other students who’ve used my programs as well, even good readers).  Now you’d never know there was ever an issue at all in this area. I guess the adage “He’ll be potty trained by college” works with things like this too, lol. Soooo anyway, he’ll be reading up a storm this summer, as usual. I love adding the “as usual”. It does my book lover’s heart good. ;-)

This summer I’ll also continue as a “homeschool helper” for Rabbit as she schools year round too. I’ll be on the lookout for some lapbooks for her because she adores them. Otter thinks he’s outgrown those types of activities, but even he reluctantly admits that when he does “interactive notebooking” (as we call high school level lapbook activities, lol), he retains the info so much better than just reading it from a book or listening to a lecture.

Here’s a couple pictures from some of his more recent history “interactive notebooking” projects:

These flaps lift up with definitions underneath:


Lift the flap with cartoons that illustrate each reason why the Articles of Confederation didn’t work:


So, we are getting into gear for a very busy summer that will bleed into 10th grade plans for the fall. I do get burnt out sometimes from everything homeschool related, but my new book project should alleviate some of that and no matter how tired I am of teaching, it’s so worth it to see the progress my son continues to make and how homeschooling helped my other children be what they are today.

Happy homeschooling to those of you soldiering on this summer and happy summer to those of you who are taking a break!

Big Bag of Science Kit Review

Big Bag of Science Kit


The Big Bag Of Science gets 5 stars!

My teaching philosophy when it comes to science is to make topics as hands-on and engaging as possible. When Otter was younger I invested in TONS of science kits and have always kept a closet stocked with hundreds of different science related items (as well as a bookshelf stuffed full of colorful books on all types of science topics).

Science books

A tiny sliver of our science books…

I still endeavour to make science something like the dessert of our day. Yes, science is harder now, but after working years on building a strong foundation, Otter finds many of the topics we are studying for highschool more like an in depth review of things he’s covered years before. He loves science and I feel like my approach was a big part of kindling that.

Now that I’m helping my friend teach her daughter some homeschool subjects, I get to play some more and watch a new set of eyes light up during “science time”.

Today, Rabbit got to try out the Big Bag Of Science kit. She’s learning about animals from her main science program, but we are breaking things up with kits and extras, as I always did for Otter and my other kids.

The Big Bag of Science is actually a pretty decent sized plastic bag with a woven handle and zipper top filled with most of the supplies you need to do around 70 science activities (some of which are dependent on others, so in reality they are stretching it quite a bit to say it has 70 things to do).

The first thing we did was unpack the bag. Everything was laid out neatly in zip-loc style plastic pouches and a plastic case with indentations to keep things from shifting around. Once it was unpacked it looked like this:

Big Bag of Science Kit Review by Guesthollow!


Here’s the “official” photograph of the contents, which is quite a bit nicer than the picture I took:

bigbagofscience2The nice big sheet of color changing paper as shown in the official picture is, in reality, just little yellow strips in our kit.

Some of the items you get in the kit are:

  • Color changing strips
  • Gravity Goo Powder (Linear Polyacrylamide)
  • Insta-Snow Power (Sodium Polyacrylate)
  • Water Gel (Poly homopolymer or sodium salt of polyacrylic acid)
  • Quicksand Powder (cornstarch)
  • Super-absorbent crystals (Sodium Polyacrylamide)
  • Fizzing color tablets
  • Worm Goo Activator (Calcium Chloride)
  • P.T.C. paper (Phenylthiourea-Phenylthiocarbamide)
  • UV beads
  • Garbled marbles (Cross-linked polyacrylamide Polymer gel)
  • Iron filings
  • Worm goo (Sodium Alginate)
  • Assorted equipment like “baby soda bottles”, plastic test tubes, geyser tube, magnet, magnifying glass, plastic wells, petri dish, plastic cups, balloon, metal nut, twister tube, cardboard color wheel, etc.
  • A 30 page instruction guide (feels like it’s printed on something similar to heavy newspaper print and is all text with no pictures) with various activities and experiments outlined step-by-step as well as “How does it work?” information that explains the “why” behind the science

Most of the items are of pretty decent quality. The test tubes and test tube holders are TOUGH and could probably be dropped on the floor multiple times. A few things are a little chintzy, like the cheap plastic pipette, but everything is certainly serviceable. Overall, I think the kit is worth the money. I don’t think you could buy all of the items individually for less (plus it would be a huge hassle rounding it all up, if you tried).

The included items do NOT have enough materials though to do some of the cooler experiments more than once. However, if your budding scientist turns out to really want to do something again, most of the experiments can be purchased in single kits that have enough materials for multiple uses via the Steve Spangler Science website.

The instruction manual gives you a list of materials you will need to obtain yourself like water, paper towels, red cabbage, vinegar, soda pop, D battery and so on. Most of the items are things you would normally have laying around the house with maybe a few exceptions like a 1/2 cup of potting soil and fast growing seeds (radish or similar), Mentos candies, a bottle of diet soda, iron fortified cereal (like Total), and sunscreen.

Little kids won’t be able to do the experiments on their own, but I think the kit would be appropriate for ages 6-12. The package says it’s recommended for ages 8-9 with adult supervision. Having said that though, Otter, my 9th grader, has repeatedly expressed how he wants to use the kit himself and how it looks like so much fun. I guess you are never too old to play science!

Younger kids will need a lot of help, especially with reading through the activity steps, and older kids might need a bit of assistance or instruction, especially if you want to expand on the activities and teach additional concepts or explain the “whys” behind the experiments in greater detail. I would feel comfortable turning an 8 year old loose with it, IF I could trust said 8 year old to read through the instructions and not just start experimenting willy-nilly. At the very least, make sure young scientists are in an area where it’s O.K. to make a big mess and keep things away from little ones who might put things in their mouths, as there are a lot of chemical powders and things like iron filings.

The Big Bag Of Science kit covers a variety of things like physical science, chemistry and biology with even a small smattering of earth science and others.  The kit is what I’d call mostly science PLAY (unless you add to it, as I’ve done), so you couldn’t use this as a curriculum. However, you could use it as a spring-board for introducing various science concepts and as something to pull out to add a bit of fun during your school week.

Big Bag Of Science in Action

Today we tried out the first 3 activities. Some of the activities rely on materials created in a previous activity, so you’ll want to skim ahead in the instructions to see if you should combine some of the activities in one session, as we did today.

Today’s activities / experiments:

Activity 1: Fizzing colors - Rabbit learned what a solution is, what it means for something to dissolve, a little bit about chemical reactions, gases, carbon dioxide and experiment safety. We added in information about exhaling carbon dioxide and how plants give off oxygen too.

Color tablets releasing carbon dioxide and fizzing

Activity 2: Cross-eyed Colors: Rabbit held up the capped tubes with the colored water to the light, crossed them and saw that you can make new colors. Um, yeah, not much of an activity. See what I was saying about “stretching it” to say there are 70 activities in the kit?!

Activity 3: Color Chemistry: Now Rabbit used the colored water from the tubes to mix new colors in some shallow plastic wells. She learned about primary colors, secondary colors & tertiary colors. I also added in some additional information and activities so she learned how light is made up of colors, how our eyes perceive colors, how and why scientists record their experiments and so on.

Rabbit mixing colors:bigbagofscience7


Learning to record results:bigbagofscience6


Max thinks science is boring…



After Rabbit mixed colors, we looked at a prism (not included in the kit) to see how light is composed of different colors and made rainbows all over my craft room:



A rainbow on the wall:



Rabbit spent over an hour experimenting and learning and we covered quite a few different science concepts just from 3 simple, yet fun activities!

Final Thoughts:

The Big Bag Of Science gets 5 stars. It has plenty of activities to spark student interest and nourish a love for science that will hopefully continue through high school and beyond! This type of kit is perfect for helping to set that kind of permanent foundation – one where kids think science is FUN and not a chore. It’s also makes a great supplement or concept starter and a parent who is well-versed in science topics will have no trouble using it as a springboard for all sorts of teaching. It’s also something that will keep kids busy for hours over the life of the kit, even if parents are totally hands-off.


  • You get a lot of different materials for a pretty decent price (considering how much it would cost to buy the items individually) in a fairly impressive package.
  • It will probably appeal to a multitude of ages due to the fun factor.
  • There are lots of gooey, messy experiments that will appeal to kids.


  • Kids who’ve been doing a lot of science over the years (like Otter) probably won’t learn much from the kit, even though they are likely to have fun.
  • The kit exaggerates how many experiments there are by adding in activities like “Put flowers in water in one of the test tubes” and tries to call that life science.
  • Many of the more fun experiments don’t have enough materials to do them repeatedly and the instructions don’t tell you when you need to save items from one experiment to use in another (so you have to skim ahead).

All-in-all, I think this is a worthwhile kit, especially to brighten up a dull day in your homeschool or to help spark an avid interest in science that gets you out of a textbook and over to the table to learn and have fun!


English from the Roots Up

I ordered English from the Roots Up years ago and my big kids dabbled in it. Now Rabbit is using it on a regular basis.

English from the Roots up


English from the Roots Up is a vocabulary program that teaches students in grades 2 to 12 Greek and Latin roots as well as a variety of derivatives and their definitions. 100 roots are covered (63 Latin roots and 37 Greek roots) with an average of 6 to 8 derivatives per root. That’s at least 600 definitions that are so much easier to learn and retain because students are learning the roots the words are made from! It’s also easier to figure out unknown words. If you know a word’s root, you can have a much better idea of what it might mean, even if you don’t know the full definition.

The program is really easy to use. Each page looks something like this:

english from the roots up page example


Greek roots are lined in green and Latin roots are lined in red (red for the Romans?). The pictures of the cards represent the flashcards your students are supposed to create. However, many homeschoolers just use free notebooking pages and worksheets from online to accomplish the same thing. Rabbit fills out notebook pages and I create cards for her to study from. For kids who are really averse to writing or too little to write much, you can even purchase pre-made flashcards.

I really like this vocabulary program because it’s inexpensive, pretty open-ended and you can practice learning the words in a number of different ways by playing games, using flashcards, writing, reading and basically whatever works.

Here’s a game I played with Rabbit today to practice her root cards. Mr. Frog was trying to make it across the derivative cards to the root cards. If Rabbit got a word wrong, he fell off the card into the “water” and she had to start the line of cards over. If he made it all the way to the root card, Mr. Frog shared a few of his chocolate chips with her. Nothing like a little chocolate with your vocabulary!




English from the Roots Up is perfect for families with a variety of ages. It says it’s for grades 2-12 and I think that’s an accurate statement, although I’d recommend using a much slower pace for littles. Even I’ve learned a thing or two and Otter plans to make his own set of cards from the book sometime in the near future to supplement his other vocabulary studies. wink I  LOVE the fact that the kids are learning the tools to understanding & unlocking many of the “big” and more complicated words in the English language.

After using the first volume, we plan on starting volume 2!


It covers a large assortment of Greek and Latin roots.
Learning vocabulary via roots engenders retention of word meanings.
It’s great practice for the SAT and other similar tests.
You can use it with almost any age.
It’s a very flexible program without any “busywork”.
It can be used over any time period – 1 year or so for big kids, 2 or more for younger students.
The program isn’t dumbed down for kids. It assumes they are smart enough to learn all of this, and they are!!


It requires a fair amount of writing (copying), unless you purchase the flashcards which would take away some of the efficacy of the program because writing helps you learn the material.
Very young students may not be able to read all of the big words (Rabbit needs a lot of help as many of the words are beyond her reading level).
It requires teacher participation, except for older students who can manage on their own. You can’t just sit your child down with a workbook and go do something else.

If you are looking for a change in your vocabulary lessons and something different from the usual fill in the blank boring workbook, English from the Roots Up might be worth looking into!

Here are some free resources / printables to use the program. We are using the notebooking pages & tests and I plan on using the flashcards (for the games) as soon as a get a big package of cardstock to print them out on!

Cyncesplace has several terrific printables:

Notebooking Pages
Flashcards and Games

Here are some other freebies & printables to use with the program from other sources:

Greek root word study notebook page
Latin root word study notebook page

Printable flashcards (just features the root word – you still have to fill them out)

Quizlet flashcards

Happy Homeschooling!

Eating Mochi for the New Year

We’ve always felt it important to expose Otter to many different cultures and their customs.

Mark 16:15 - And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world…
Matthew 28:10 - Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…

In the past we’ve attended all types of festivals & events for the Basque, Portuguese, Sikhs, Mexicans, Italians, and others. I think the fact that we’ve focused on appreciating other cultures/people is what gave our daughter such a heart for the Japanese people and led her to a career path that may involve a future job in Tokyo! I know that Otter has had a lot of fun too, over the years, especially sampling cuisines from around the world.

Right before the new year, we got a taste (literally!) of the old-fashioned Japanese custom of making homemade mochi (pronounced mo-chee)!


Picture of mochi balls- Image credit: Wikipedia

Mochi is a rice “cake” that is formed from a short-grained rice and an important part of the Japanese New Year. It’s made from cooked rice pounded into a paste and then molded into balls. Sometimes the balls are filled with sweet azuki bean paste. We tried raw pieces sprinkled with sugar and topped with soy sauce and indulged in the pieces of “ahn” – mochi stuffed with chocolate-colored azuki. Yum!

In the nearby town of Livingston there is a group of people descended from the Yamoto Colony – Japanese who moved to California in the early 1900′s to farm the land. Their traditions still live on to this day during the annual mochi making day that’s been celebrated for decades.

We had a great time hanging out in the frosty morning air, watching and participating in the mochi-making. After a couple of hours, we took a bag of mochi home to celebrate the New Year!

Otter helping to pound the sticky rice paste into a smooth dough with a mallet:pounding mochi

Click here to see pictures my husband took for the Merced Sun-Star, as well as a video the Sun-Star posted of the event.

We are so fortunate to live in an area where there are so many traditions and cultures to share in and learn about first-hand!

I just had to pick my son up from the police station…


Yeah, I know…but don’t worry. It wasn’t like THAT.  It’s become a regular thing around here. While other kids are trying to sneak their parent’s alcohol to “celebrate” the holiday season, Otter is out participating in busting drunks and D.U.I.’s. Last night he was helping at a D.U.I. checkpoint and he’s scheduled to go out this month on saturation patrols. Oh, and he turned in the neighbor girl when she and her friends were playing drinking games in the backyard while “Daddy” was at work.

Otter knows the dangers of inappropriate alcohol consumption and he’s seen first hand the damage it can do to families. He’s witnessed the car accidents and arrests and heard the excuses of perpetrators of domestic violence under the influence as they try to justify what they did in the back of a patrol car. As a parent, it’s nice to know my son isn’t out participating in what some consider a “normal” thing for some teens – one of those “unavoidable” parenting trials that comes around for many, especially during a season of parties and holiday “merriment”. Some parents are staying up late because their teen is out past curfew with friends. We stay up late to welcome our son home from a ride-along with his friends, like Officer B. wink We don’t worry when he’s out around midnight. We KNOW where he is, lol, and don’t mind a bit when a patrol car comes up to our home and police officers end up in our house.

I like picking my son up from the police station. Never thought I’d say that!

Otter has learned SO much through the Police Explorer programs and has been enjoying every minute of being out in our community.  I highly recommend looking into it, even for teens who may not want a career in police work! The officers are there helping kids make right choices a habit and teaching good lessons that will be deeply ingrained. It’s a great environment that really focuses on character and meeting tough standards.

While he spends a great deal of time focusing on law enforcement activities, that’s not all he’s been up to!

Otter wrapped up this year’s concerts by playing piano for a candlelight vigil for victims of violence. I’m so happy he was able to participate in this event. My big grown-up-girl Emily was also there to sing “O Holy Night”. They both did a fantastic job.

When my kids were little I used to wonder how they would turn out. I love watching this part of their lives unfold and seeing the adults they are becoming. Otter still has a little ways to go, but he is getting very close. Just a bit more and he will officially be “grown up”. I am seeing the glimmers of the man he will become and think that every sacrifice we have made and are making will be worth it. I am so thankful that God provided us with the ability to homeschool our children and that He led us to a community where Otter can be involved in so many different activities, like Explorers, Scouts, our wonderful church & numerous community events. He knew the paths our children would take before we ever did and put things in place years before they would ever happen!

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

I look to that promise for all my children and praise God for every right and good decision they make.

I pray that you all have a safe and happy Christmas!