Monday, May 23, 2016

2015-16 Year in Review

 As this school year winds down and activities are wrapping up, I've been thinking about what a successful school year this has been. Ryan is finishing up his first dual credit classes and will end the year with 19 college credits and a 4.0. He also took a year of Mandarin Chinese and really enjoyed it. He will graduate from high school June 1st and start full time on campus at Boise State this coming fall a few weeks before he turns 16. He received confirmation of the Presidential Scholarship from Boise State, the Opportunity Scholarship, an Elks Scholarship, and his Pell grant. He'll be living at home, so those will cover his expenses with some money left over for his mission fund and some of his summer activities. We also recently got confirmation that he is a National Merit Semi-Finalist. This year he also participated in the State Science Olympiad in Chemistry and got 1st place with his partner. He's applied for several fun summer activities and will be gone most of the summer with different activities. He will be doing an immersion Chinese program for 3 weeks at BYU, a weeklong program at BSU and in California with Idaho Aerospace Scholars, Boise Youth Spectacular, a weeklong rafting trip with BSU Honors program, a pioneer trek, and several other fun activities.
We all participated with TEACH co-op again this year and started having friend/game day on Tuesday afternoons for several hours each week. Most weeks we have between 30-40 kids ranging in age from baby to teen who come play for the afternoon. The older kids generally play board games, with Killer Bunnies being the favorite. Pre-teen boys either play outside or with Legos. Pre-teen girls can be found playing Littlest Petshop, writing stories together, playing store, or making up song and dance routines. The younger kids have made up games where they pretend to be wolves or puppies or play dress up or outside when the weather is nice. Some moms go run errands and others stay to visit. It's loud, crazy, and lots of fun. It is one tradition that the kids want to continue through the summer and future years.
Several of the kids continue to enjoy running. Tyler, Eli, Jeanisha, and Adam did cross country in the fall and track (plus Lincoln) in the spring. They are all part of Team Beef and ran the St. Patrick's race in March, 5 miles for Tyler 5K for the rest of them. Tyler also ran two half marathons, (one with me last September) and had times of 1:55 and 1:48 and the other kids ran 5K's.
Tyler is finishing up 8th grade. We used Harmony Educational Services program this year. He took English through BYU independent study. It was an okay option. The instructor feedback was pretty minimal and I didn't love the novel for first semester. It was good for him to have to be accountable to someone other than me, but I felt like I still did almost all of the teaching. He took World History through K12 and was able to be pretty independent with that class. We skipped most of the busy work, like note taking reading guides for every chapter and focused on the reading, tests, and a few projects. This program wanted parents to input a password constantly to “verify” student work, but once I just gave Tyler the password, the class worked fine. Now that he's finished that textbook, he is enjoying the Nextext Stories in History books. The textbook was fairly interesting as far as history texts go and he liked that he could work at his own pace, then turn in the offline stuff for me to grade, but didn't have to wait for me. He also took Pre-Algebra using mostly Life of Fred and Khan Academy, and it's been fun to watch the concepts of solving equations “click.” For Science, he liked using Sassafras Science and Quark Chronicles. He tried Apologia General Science but thought it was boring. Tyler also worked a lot on his art and drawing this year. He loves drawing animals, especially big cats. He did some piano, Heritage Choir, and took a beginning Spanish class.
Eli was 5th grade this year. He is finishing up 6th grade teaching textbooks, which seem to be about a grade level behind as he's covering what I would consider solid 5th grade level math. He did US History through TEACH and loves to listen to Story of the World. He's enjoyed Brainpop videos this year as well. He used audio books to read along with all 7 Harry Potter books and wrote his own 11 page story for a friend's Christmas present. He enjoys using a book called “Story Starters” that gives you either the beginning or end of a story and you write the rest. Unlike many writing prompt books, this one gives a solid 2-3 page story to get you started. Eli also enjoyed using the apps of Piano Maestro and Dust Bunnies and learning to play a good number of songs on the piano. In addition to track and cross country, Eli did Heritage Choir and the beginning Spanish class becoming proficient enough to pray in Spanish and figure out a basic story.
Jeanisha was also in 5th grade this year. She is using Life of Fred and Khan Academy for her math. She worked super hard on the Khan Academy challenge and earned an invitation to the final celebration party by being one of the top 3 in her grade during one of the 3 week “cup challenges.” She spent about 22 hours on math over that 3 week time span and was pushed to learn some pretty advanced math problems. She has been using Notgrass' America the Beautiful for US History and Sassafras Kids and Quark Chronicles and Brain Pop for Science. She loves making reports about different animals and is working on a story with several of her friends called, “Adventurers Wanted.” She's also written other stories on her own this year. She loves to read and play piano. She recently finished the Certificate of Achievement with great scores and earned 4 points (the maximum). Her sight reading and confidence with piano have really blossomed this year. She loves being challenged and her teacher is going to let her cover 2 levels again next year. Jeanisha had her piano recital and won the award for the most practicing for the year with 158% of her required practice time (7 days instead of 5 and more than 30 minutes a day) totaling over 5,400 minutes since the first of Nov. She was hesitant to try Spanish, but we have a great teacher and she has ended up really enjoying it. We have a great teacher who does a good bit of teaching through stories and it has been fun to watch them realize they can read and understand the stories.
Adam was 3rd grade this year. He loves reading, mostly non-fiction, and is a walking encyclopedia, especially when it comes to animals. He also qualified for an invitation to the Khan Academy celebration by working on math for many hours. He's using Life of Fred and Khan Academy for his math and really enjoys listening in as I explain high level concepts to his siblings and usually catches on pretty quickly. He was one of the first kids to be able to pray in Spanish and loves learning more vocabulary. Adam is addicted to the piano. He can't walk through the family room without stopping to play at least a little. His obsession started with Piano Maestro, an app that is basically a video game that uses the real piano as the controller. You get points and ranks by playing the notes correctly and getting your timing correct and as you advance levels, the songs get harder. He has become extremely good at sight reading and Jeanisha is now teaching him the lessons and scales she was taught last fall. His goal is to catch up to her and her goal is to stay ahead. Both of them thrive with a little competition, but they are also really great at encouraging each other.
Lincoln was 1st grade this year and his reading skills have grown by leaps and bounds. His desire to read has also increased. He used a program called Headsprout that seemed to really boost his skills and confidence in reading, along with regular reading lessons in Teach your Child to read in 100 easy lessons. We're now working through the Pathway readers (Amish reading texts). Lincoln wanted to participate in the Khan Academy challenge, even though the lowest grade available was 3rd. In the first 3 week challenge, he completed all of Early Math and about half of 3rd grade math which earned him an invite to the party. It was a lot of work because I needed to read many of the problems to him, but he amazed me as he just continued mastering topic after topic. He hasn't memorized his higher multiplication tables yet, but he would persistently draw a picture and “count out cards” to solve the problems. Lincoln hasn't went to spanish class, but he listens at home and has picked up an amazing amount from listening to the other kids practice. He has also enjoyed running with track and practicing for races. He has learned to recognize when he has an abundance of energy that is going to make sitting still to learn difficult and will ask to go run a couple of laps before he needs to sit and focus.
Cumorah is 4 ½ and eagerly awaiting her 5th birthday when she is convinced she will be able to read. She has proudly learned her letters and sounds and is beginning to blend words. She is still in speech therapy and works really hard. She loves to color and draw and practice writing her letters. She likes to play outside and climb on the geodome, jump on the trampoline, and swing. She lives for Tuesday “friend days” and Sundays when she gets to see her other friends. She loves bedtime stories and showing off tricks outside. She also loves practicing piano and making up her own songs to play.
Benson is 3 ½ and still working on potty training. He does great when he wants to, but can just as easily decide he is busy playing and isn't going to bother. He is feisty and energetic and can be very stubborn. He likes playing outside and tries to be the boss. He loves animals and can identify many obscure animals. He also loves being outside and the first thing on his mind each morning is getting outside to search for eggs.
Vilate is 1 ½. She loves nursery and being outside or watching the kids outside through the window. She is teeny tiny and has finally managed to pass the 19 lb mark. She loves to draw and color-- on anything and everything. She also loves candy and will find any candy or gum the kids don't hide well or leave down anywhere she can get it. She has a super sweet and cuddly personality and has most of the kids wrapped around her finger. All she has to do is hold out her hand and they will give her whatever they have that she wants. She says a few words, but mainly mimics Cumorah practicing letter sounds.
“Baby boy” is due June 9th and seems to be growing and moving fine. He's pretty active and his brothers and sisters are eagerly waiting his arrival. He will eventually be Lincoln's buddy and Lincoln has big plans for teaching him how to wrestle and sword fight. (We have had “buddies” for many years. The older kid has to be 8 and show they are responsible, and the younger kid 1 before they are officially buddies. Ryan and Adam, Tyler and Lincoln, Jeanisha and Cumorah, Eli and Benson, Adam and Vilate are the buddies. The older buddy gets to help buckle their younger buddy in and out of carseats, find shoes, get dressed, etc. in return, they get any of the younger buddies leftover treats or food, get to “help” with ipad games, etc. It's been a great system and they all have extra close relationships with their buddy that come from serving someone.)
Stephen was released from the young men's program and is now serving in the Elder's Quorum Presidency. He is making fun “story maps” at work and still really enjoys putting the data into visual forms.
I've kept busy with homeschooling, helping the boys with Scouts, and shuttling kids to activities. I did go away on a mom's retreat for a weekend in February and enjoy the Tuesday afternoons visiting with friends.
Overall, it's been a good school year. All of the kids have made great improvements academically, built great friendships, and developed talents. We are looking forward to a somewhat slower summer.

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