Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Review of Greek Alphabet Code Cracker

Grace will be starting Athenaze soon, after a failed experience with Galore Park's Introduction to Classical Greek. In the linked post above, I mentioned that she worked through Greek Alphabet Code Cracker before beginning GP.  She really enjoyed this gentle, fun introduction to Greek!

Code Cracker is published by Classical Academic Press and its purpose is to teach the Greek alphabet - how to recognize, write, and pronounce each letter. CAP recommends Code Cracker for first grade and up. Grace used it this year, her 8th grade year, and although the tone of the book is young and fun, she thought it was a great help and did not feel too old for it at all.

 Code Cracker is a consumable workbook with a twist: it is also a mystery story. If you can crack the code (the Greek alphabet), you can solve the crime. The first mission is to figure out who stole a priceless Grecian urn from a museum. Clues are scattered among more traditional workbook activities, and part of each clue is written in Greek.  The Greek alphabet is introduced right away and audio files on the CAP website can help with pronunciations.

By the end of Unit 1 the thief's identity is revealed, but the urn is still missing. The rest of the book includes eyewitness testimony (again, partially in Greek), interspersed with more workbook exercises. The exercises take you through six Greek letters at a time, a nice slow pace.

 There are lots of different activites.

Practicing the alphabet

Writing words in Greek


Reading words in Greek

Cracking clues!

More word recognition

Unscrambling words

After studying the letters you learn about consonant blends, vowels, and diphthongs before finally solving the crime. The book ends with a short reference section, plus space for kids to write their own cypher messages, and a cypher wheel you can assemble. Grace chose not to do that, but it looks neat.

This book will be staying on her shelf for reference as she moves on to Athenaze and if anyone else wants to learn Greek, they will definitely be getting their own copy. Not exactly holding my breath for that, but you never know!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Homeschool Moments

Playing the senses game....can you guess what an item is by feeling, smelling, hearing, or tasting it...while blindfolded? This is such a fun, classic game for this age. We have played many variations of it over the years.

I made up a tray of different things.

Some were things she could taste: pickle, pistachio, jelly bean
Some were things she could hear: two spoons to clink together, a bell
Some were things she could smell:  cinnamon, garlic powder, a watermelon-scented candle
Some were things she could feel: a wooden spoon, a pen, a dryer sheet

And obviously some of these could be figured out using multiple senses!

She did really well with this and was surprised at how easy most of the items were to tell, even while blindfolded!

For our weekly hike, we went off the beaten path to see a seldom-visited waterfall.

It was a fairly warm day, but there was still plenty of ice around the falls! We learn something new with each hike. This time, I learned that we definitely need to bring more snacks! 

James and I have been reading Story of the Orchestra this year. This week we read about the triangle and Rose, who always listens in, made a mad dash for the toys and found an old one I had forgotten about. They took turns trying it out, then we listened to the accompanying musical track and were able to pick out the soft sound of the triangle in the background. 

Christopher had a couple of short and fun activities this week from Blood and Guts. One was to determine your thumb dominance. You just quickly clasp your hands together and whichever thumb ends up on top is your dominant thumb. He and I were both surprised to learn that our left thumbs were dominant, even though we are both right-handed!

Rose finished The Complete Book of Animals! This week we learned about food chains, how a clam eats, the proper names for lots of different baby animals, how long some animals live, and lots of other things. To wrap up, she was asked to write a paragraph about a favorite animal. She was happy to draw a picture of a sea turtle, but not so keen on writing anything, so she dictated to me.

Then we put together the game included in the back of the book and she played it first with me, then with James.

Our current "row" in progress. We started a lapbook for this and future rows; I'll share details soon. 


 Christopher had a little experiment to do involving the family photo albums - which once upon a time I actually did keep up with! He was to look through old photos and try to determine his earliest memory. His was getting a Popsicle at the zoo when he was about four:).

Grace is up to about week 27 of BookShark's World History 1. She is still doing double-pace and that seems like a good pace for her. This week she took a virtual tour of The Forbidden City, one of Bookshark's Instructor Guide Links - except we actually used the Sonlight's IG links because I couldn't find BookShark's.

The boys and I wrapped up their study of TOPS: Corn & Beans. I have quite a few pictures from the month we spent on this, so I hope to do a review/wrap-up post soon. It was a good time, but I am thankful we are done because it was a big time commitment each day.

Those were just a few moments from this past week of homeschool!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Galore Park Greek Review

Grace really wanted to learn Greek this year. I was a little surprised and suitably impressed. I was also kind of at a loss, because I have enough trouble helping the kids with Latin (and by "helping", I mean looking at the answer key while pretending I know what I am talking about).  So the thought of "helping" someone with Greek when I don't even know the Greek alphabet was more than a bit daunting.  But she was willing to take it on as a totally independent subject, and since she already does Latin Alive and Rosetta Stone Spanish with zero help from me, I figured it couldn't certainly couldn't hurt to let her try.

I did a bit of sleuthing in homeschool catalogs and on forums and discovered that there aren't really all that many options out there for learning Greek, especially since she was set on learning Attic Greek, not Koine. She didn't feel quite ready for Athenaze, which seemed like the top high-school level recommendation, but she did like the look of Galore Park's An Introduction to Classical Greek, so I ordered her the workbook and answer key.

Before starting with GP, I had her go through Greek Alphabet Code Cracker, which many people said was THE way to learn the Greek alphabet. This is an awesome book to help you get started on your Greek study!

But I'm going to save a review of that for another post. It took Grace about a month to complete Code Cracker, then she moved on to GP. She did okay at first, but the last couple of months she has been really struggling and just not getting it.  She is going at a really slow pace, since Latin and Spanish are her primary foreign languages, but even so it has been hard for her to master things. She made it up to chapter four before deciding to throw in the towel.  

Here are some of her thoughts on GP Greek, which I jotted down and paraphrased here:

"I don't think this program is good for visual learners. I like to have an audio component so I can hear the pronunciations. I also like to have things to memorize, like chants (her Latin program is big on chants as a memory aid). I also do better if there are games or other reinforcement activities to do (Latin Alive has an awesome go-along website that really helps the kids with vocab). I would also like to see more charts or other visual aids to help in reviewing things and showing the big picture. There is not enough work with definite articles and endings; I have a lot of trouble with these. There is just not enough review in general and the book moves too quickly. Too much vocabulary is introduced in each chapter and there is not enough grammar discussion."

In short, she is having trouble retaining and understanding and her concerns seem perfectly valid to me. I think with languages you really need that interactive component, at least to some degree. Latin Alive has  DVD's, CD's, and an interactive website, and Rosetta Stone is computer-based....doing a foreign language that is purely book-based is difficult at best.  Greek is obviously not the easiest subject out there and I am not the most useful Greek-teaching mother out there! So it may be that she will struggle with any program, but this one is clearly not working.

After much debate, she decided to try out Athenaze after all. There are at least a few online helps for Athenaze and the text looks much more comprehensive. I think it will be a better experience for her.  She likely won't start this until the end of May, but when she does, I will put together a post with links to the online helps she will be using. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Rowing Lentil {FIAR}


Rose and I are trying out Five in a Row.  For our first "row" I chose Lentil , possibly so I would have an excuse to make lemonade:). I made a plan ahead of time, but I kept it simple with just some discussion and one simple activity per day. We took two weeks to row this book - doing FIAR every other day or so. We are also using Sonlight Core B, this is just a fun supplement.

Here's what we did!

*Social Studies*

  • Found both Ohio and our own state on our large U.S. map. She was excited to see that it isn't all that far.
  • Traced the route we would take to get to Ohio, and discussed how to spell Ohio: There's a "hi" in the middle!
  • Discussed having a gift and how she is unique.
  • Briefly discussed jealousy and why Old Sneep is so grouchy. 
  • Made a paper town of Alto. To do this, I searched for Victorian clip-art images of grocery shops, pharmacies, libraries, and other buildings mentioned in the book. I printed out several images for her to color and she set up a street scene. She enjoyed doing this so much that we added a second page to lengthen the road. 

    • Discussed the flag - there are lots shown in the book! We hung up our flag and she went out to count the stars and stripes.

    •  Discussed the medium that McCloskey used - she made a pretty good guess (pencil), but it's actually charcoal.  
    • Tried drawing with charcoal on a piece of paper - she was surprised at how easy it is to draw with. We got a box of charcoal sticks from Rainbow Resource Center years ago and I was happy to put them to some use. She drew a picture of Colonel Carter's house, complete with lightning rods and gates. I sprayed the whole picture over lightly with hair spray, which I had heard should keep it from smudging, and it did seem to work. 

    • Discussed how the pictures in the book help tell the story (like the animals running away when Lentil tries to whistle).
    • Tried out a harmonica. She professed that it was "easy" to play and wasn't much interested in actually learning to play it properly, so we didn't get into that.


    • Cut a banana into halves and quarters and discussed fractions. She continued to cut the banana into smaller and smaller pieces until I lost track of what fraction she was cutting, then she ate it.

    • Discussed musical notes very briefly.


    • Explored our taste buds.  Christopher had a taste bud experiment to do for his science, so I had them work together.  They prepared four little dishes of things to try: lemon peel for bitter, lemon slices for sour, white sugar for sweet, and salt for salty.


    Using a tongue diagram from Rose's Flip Flap Body Book, they placed each sample first on the spot where they should taste that flavor most strongly, then on a different part of their tongue. I tried this too and was pretty surprised at the results.  The sugar was definitely sweetest on the tip of the tongue, while the bitterness of the lemon peel wasn't at all pronounced until it was moved to the back of the tongue.  

    *Other Fun Stuff* 

    • Whittled soap. Old Sneep whittles while he sits on the park bench, so we tried whittling too, except we used Ivory soap. All of the kids wanted to try this and things got pretty messy, but they really enjoyed this. We used this tutorial. They ended up with a turtle, two fishes, and a boat. Rose got a bit frustrated at times, but the other kids found it quite easy once they got the hang of it. 

      • Made a lemon-themed dinner. We saved this for the weekend so we would have more time. We had lemon-grilled chicken, lemon green beans, rice pilaf, and lemon bars for dessert.  We also made lemonade for the first time, using  this recipe and it was so good! Rose helped with the lemon squeezing but lost interest halfway through the lemon bar making. We found the lemon bar recipe in our FIAR cookbook. 

      I think our trial row was a success! Next she wants to do A Pair of Red Clogs, so I am planning that. 

        Friday, April 24, 2015

        Homeschool Moments

        A few moments from our last few days of homeschooling....

        Rose and spelling are finally starting to click; I think it's because of her progress in reading lately. I seem to have completely failed to mention spelling in my first grade update, but she is still plugging away at it. She is doing Spelling Workout A . It is not the flashiest spelling program out there, but it is so easy to use and takes so little time each day that I refuse to look at anything else. She doesn't exactly adore it, but she doesn't mind it either.

        Christopher did a neat experiment from his science book, Blood and Guts. He put an egg in vinegar overnight.

        The next day the egg was all squishy because the vinegar eroded the eggshell away, leaving behind a tough membrane.  It was very cool and pretty weird. He really enjoys the activities in this book, though some of them have been too complicated for us to try. The text has a nice conversational tone and I know he enjoys reading it because he often chooses it first from his reading pile. 

         We kicked off a new hiking season with a 3-mile hike at a woodland preserve nearby. It was nice to be outdoors and active again. We got each kid their own backpack this year, and I wish we had done it sooner. They really got a kick out of deciding what to bring, and I have to say it was pretty awesome to only carry my water and gear.  The trail was rated difficult and was very steep in parts, but Rose didn't complain once, which is very unusual for her. I am not sure if this enthusiasm will last, but we have made it a goal to hike weekly if we possibly can.

         I finally got around to planting the radish plants left from the TOPS Radish experiments James did last month. I was afraid they would be too cold in our raised beds, so I stuck them in the cold frame. They seem to be doing fine, even with the abnormally cold temperatures we had this week. Hopefully he will get some nice radishes!

        We got our National  Mythology Exam results back and the kids did great. Christopher got a silver medal.

         And Grace earned a gold.  They put a ton of work into prepping for the exam this year and it really paid off.

        Not at all homeschool-related, but our daffodils are finally up! Now if I only had the ambition to clean up the flower beds.

        And finally, Grace finished her math level, which is always exciting! She has been using Life of Fred Beginning Algebra and will continue with LOF Advanced Algebra as soon as I get around to ordering it. In the meantime she is enjoying a well-deserved break from math. Before she begins her new book, I am planning to have her do either a Saxon or Teaching Textbooks placement test, just to make sure she is up to speed. 

        Till next time!