Saturday, May 30, 2015

Six Flags Safari Adventure

The kids, Jen and I joined a group of local homeschoolers at Six Flags (always will be Great Adventure to me!) to participate in their Safari Off-Road Educational Adventure. 

We started the trip in the SeaFari Theatre where they divided us into groups and did a brief presentations.  We were mildly worried because Georgie definitely wanted to hang out with his friends and the park chose our groups for us.   Everyone laughed when George stood up with a cheery "YES!" when they called our last name in the same group as his friends (the otters!).

The program started with a presentation about sea lions and a visit from a friendly otter.


We visited a petting farm area with some baby goats....

then trudged through the closed amusement park to the Safari Adventure.

The kids wound up all the way at the front of the safari truck, while Jen and I were all the way at the back (at least for the first part of the trip).  I had the kids bring their binoculars in hopes that they would be able to get a closer view of the animals.  They definitely used the binoculars but the animals were also frequently pretty close to the truck.

After a little while we stopped at Camp Aventura for lunch and to visit with some of the babies that aren't in the main park. 
The stop included the chance to feed some giraffes!

For the second part of the ride through the Safari, Jen and I sat up front with the kids right behind us.  Plus side - I was able to get some pictures of the kids, negative side - the heat from the engines occasionally came through.

On one part of the ride, the guide (who greatly enjoyed sharing really bad puns with George), referred to this section of road as "The Chute" and told everyone they should put their hands in the air since it would be just like a roller coaster.

And this is how George feels about roller coasters.


An ostrich sitting on her eggs.

There were a ton of turkey vultures (native to our area, we see them all the time at home).

It was an excellent trip and I'm very glad we were able to participate.

Sunday, May 3, 2015


The kids are heading into the homestretch for the 2014-2015 school year.  I think it’s been a very successful school year.  The kids have made a lot of academic progress, had tons of fun, and grown in many ways.

Some of our recent fun activities can be seen here.

Their US History study of Plymouth Colony can be seen here

Coming soon will be the wrap-up of their Solar System/Space study and more on George's GT Science class.

Vicki has grown quite proficient with archery, often hitting the bulls-eye.  She’s having so much fun that George has decided to give it a try as well.

The February session at the Montclair Art Museum the kids made musical instruments.

In March, they wrote a collaborative story, taking turns writing a page.  This was actually pretty simple for them since both of them love writing their own stories.

Their story (George was the one rhyming):

There once was a Minecrafter, Brave and Tall.  He went by the name Krawl.  He was taking a walk when suddenly a pig talked!

The pig said "don't kill me please".

Suddenly Krawl woke up from bed, "I dreamed it all!" he said.

When he woke animals were there so many animals.

And as lava trickled down his wall, "this is the work of a greifer!" he calls.

He ran and ran to notches home and said "a greifer came and greifed me."

"Well, go after him!" Notch said as he kicked Krawl out.  "To the greifer's house!" he cried.

When he got there he greifed the greifer.

He degreifed his house and now it's


Both kids came to visit me at work for Take Your Child to Work day.  I work for a large healthcare marketing company that put on a half day program for the kids.   They learned about how to write their own resume after checking out Spongebob’s resume, then wrote their own advertisement for sunscreen.  They finished up by decorating picture frames and having their pictures taken in the studio.
Vicki's ad:

George's ad:  In case you can't read it, it says:  "Oh no!  Mr. Zombie is burning in the day!"  "Banana Boat Sunscreen!"  "Yay, he's ok!"  "or not...."

In addition to The Wand selections for Vicki and WWE for George, the kids have also been doing Literature Pockets from Evan-Moor.  They completed the Aesop’s Fables one in my last write-up and they have finished the Fairy Tales and Folktales one this time. 

This one included activities for Jack and the Beanstalk...

the Bremen Town Musicians...

the Emperor's New Clothes....

the Fisherman and his Wife....

and Henny Penny.

Now for what they've been doing in their core school work. They are starting to wrap up the year and as they finish a book or level, they will not be starting a new one until the new year.


Language Arts

HANDWRITING/LITERATURE: Vicki primary handwriting is now copywork using The Wand.  She is working on Level 3 and has completed the Issues for The Golly Sisters Go West and The Story About Ping.

VOCABULARY:  Vicki is continuing to work through Word-A-Day from Evan-Moor.  Since she is up to week 23 out of 36 for 2nd grade, they will probably break for the summer and finish up the 2nd grade book next year. She started a little late since they finished up Scholastic Success with Vocabulary first. Her recent words include: hideous, tremble, volume, complicated, predict, shipshape, agony, chitchat, occupation, consent, famished, hustle, villain, dependable, journey, attempt, forbid, portion, vacant, huddle, ceremony, definite, ingredients, passenger, abandon, combine, harmless, habit.

And one of her more interesting answers to the open-ended questions:

Write about foods that would not taste good if you combined them.

I would not recommend combining peanut butter and mustard. It makes a bad sandwich.

READING COMPREHENSION: Vicki has finished through Week 29 out of 30 in her Evan Moor Daily Reading Comprehension book.   One more week and she will be done for the year.

SPELLING/WRITING/GRAMMAR:  Vicki gave the 3rd Grade More Proofreading Practice Please from Scholastic a try but really struggled so we put that aside for now.

She is continuing to do well with Evan Moor Skill Sharpeners Spell and Write and will likely finish the 3rd grade book before they break for the summer.   Her recent spelling words have included:  again, given, other, does, some, money, change, read, bank, save, town, founds, about, house, group, country, around, bridge, tower, park, April, babies, over, tiny, raise, white, those, duckweed, duckling, tadpole, useful, smarter, fastest, funniest, happiest, fearless, careless, feed, clean, animal.   On her tests she missed change and careless.

The units include lessons on phonics, types of sentences, punctuation, definitions, rhyming, capital letters, adjectives, suffixes,

The unit with a passage about money included a writing assignment to make a list of what she would do with $10,000….

The unit with a passage about Spring in a pond, she wrote a story pretending she was a baby animal who had gotten lost…

WRITING/READING COMPREHENSION:  The kids have started a few things recently to encourage them to write more.  One of these was they started doing simple book reports using Evan Moor How to Report on Books and Easy File Folder Book Reports which is for Grades 3-6.

So far they have done file folder reports on All About Me, Black Americans, and Save the Earth.

She started her All About Me report with an acrostic poem for her name

She made a timeline of her life so far, drew a picture of her family, filled in the states she has visited/lived in on a map, and filled in some thoughts for the future.

When I’m an adult….I’ll get a job

My wish for the world….to have Pokemon

I would do anything for…my family

For her report on Black Americans, she chose to learn about Marian Anderson, who was a famous singer who performed for the Roosevelts.

JOURNAL WRITING: The kids have also started doing journal entries each day.   They are given a writing prompt and have to write a minimum of 4 sentences/statements.  Some of Vicki’s recent writings:

My favorite season….is summer.  It’s hot.  I get to swim.  I get to play with Russ.  I get to play with Alexey.  It’s so much fun. It’s so amazing. I love this season. I can play on Nintendo.   (She wrote this in January.  We were all longing for summer at that point.)

If I was in charge of the weather I would….always keep it sunny so it stays warm.  We can have fun.  We can play all day.  OMG it’s so hot!! 

Something that always makes me feel better when I’m sad is…..daddy.  He’s nice. He’s kind.  He’s very like Santa.  He’s super funny. (Awwww)

Why is Earth Day important?
It inspires and tells people to recycle, reuse and reduce.  You can recycle by reusing stuff.  You can reuse by using one thing for something else.  You can reduce by doing less of something.

Describe your own alien planet.
It’s made of bacon.  It has ettians. It has candy trees.  It has donut bushes.  It has tomato plants.


Vicki is continuing to work in Math Mammoth 2B and has just finished up the last unit in the 2nd grade Skill Sharpeners Math book from Evan Moor. 

She's also doing Daily Word Problems 2nd grade for extra practice in setting up equations and understanding word problems.   She has done through week 22, out of 36.


Language Arts

HANDWRITING/LITERATURE:   George is working on Writing With Ease 2 and has recently read Misty of Chincoteague, Pippi Longstocking and Ginger Pye.

VOCABULARY:  George is up to week 13 in the 5th Grade Evan Moor Word-A-Day book.   Sometimes I can tell when something has popped up in his vocabulary because he all of sudden uses a very interesting word.  Lately that has been both whimsical and a killjoy.  J  His other recent words have been versatile, convertible, gratify, impartial, knoll, tolerate, amateur, rebellion, appease, partial, falsehood, navigate, kindling, domestic, rustic, lapse, correspond, coy, ancestor, dimension, dominate, invincible, muse, paraphrase, vulnerable, and tariff.

Write about one thing you can tolerate and one thing you can’t tolerate.  I can tolerate being killed, but not being spawn killed.  (I think the kid plays too many video games).

One of our ancestors invented the submarine.

Do you prefer to hear someone paraphrase an exciting story or tell the whole thing?  Paraphrase, I’m a busy guy.

READING COMPREHENSION:  George is working in the 5th grade Daily Reading Comprehension book from Evan Moor.  This level includes more non-fiction passages, tables of contents, maps, charts, graphs and harder short answer questions.  He's been doing very well in reading into the passages to infer the answers.

SPELLING/WRITING/GRAMMAR:  George alternates More Proofreading Practice Please 5th grade from Scholastic with Skill Sharpeners Spell and Write 6th grade from Evan Moor.  The proofreading practice shows that he is not just memorizing things long enough to pass the test but able to apply it in a different format.

George’s latest spelling words were: opinion, appearance, national, argument, shortage, ordinary, succession, observation, estimation, action, persuasion, expression, persistent, equivalent, brilliant, significant, attendant, impatient, ambitious, ocean, establish, surely, conversation, official, lovable, sensible, vicious, precious, amazement, successful, doubtful, powerless, tireless, curious, numerous, grateful.   The only word he missed on his tests was equivalent.

One of his units had a passage on the Grand Canyon and his writing assignments included writing a journal entry about a visit to the canyon.

At first it was quiet.  Then a Rattle was heard.  A rattlesnake jumped out at me!  I barely dodged the bite!  I did the most sensible thing – I ran.  Then I adopted a cute little bunny.  We kept hiking.  I ran whenever I heard a rattle.  I saw a few moose.  The rabbit found yummy berrys. Finally we reached our goal.  The way out.  For the first time during the trip since we began, it was quiet.

Another unit was about Balto and included an assignment to act as a newspaper reporter and write an article about the “race of mercy”.

The tireless dogs leapt into action!  They delivered the medicine to the lovable children.  The vicious disease was cured!  People looked on in amazement.  News reporters were curious.

WRITING/READING COMPREHENSION: George also did file folder reports on All About Me, Black Americans, and Save the Earth.

For his All About Me acrostic poem:

His wish for the world was the same as Vicki’s – Pokemon.   He is happiest when I’m playing computer and he would do anything for a year of computer.  Anyone else noticing a theme here?

He did his Black Americans report on Maya Angelou.  These biographies included making a timeline of their life including information about their childhood, education, obstacles they overcame, and why they should have a place of honor.

For his Save the Earth report, he had to list four ways he could Recycle, Reduce, Reuse…

1.        Plant more….plants

2.       Use extra tin for an army

3.       Recycle bottles for armor

4.       Water the plants

5.       Take over the world


George wrote book reports on Battle for the Nether, How to be a Pirate, and The Mystery of the Griefers Mark.

JOURNAL WRITING:   George has a very conversational style writing when writing in his journal.  

If I was invisible, I would do a bunch of stuff like make Vicki think I was a ghost.  Torture Vicki.  Draw a moustache on mom while she’s sleeping.  Torture Vicki s’more.  Make my stuffed animals walk around.  STOP THIS TORTUROUS FOOD SYSTEM!!!  (this must be right when we started encouraging the kids to try new foods every day).

My favorite movie is Home.  Why?
Why you ask?  Well, for one the characters weren’t really realistic (a trait I like).  And it was a (prepare for longness) stomach flipping, heart spinning, lung tensing, brain crossing mix of emotion!

Living in candy land I would….
climb Mt Chocolate, fight the cookie of Cthulu, fight the Gumdrop Golem, crush the Licorice Plantera, tame the chocolate lion, kill some Nerd Skeletons and Hershey Zombies.  Get the Golden Starburst.


George has finished through 4B in Math Mammoth.  We are looking at a variety of possibilities to supplement for next year, including Beast Academy and Jousting Armadillos.

George is working on Evan Moor Skill Sharpeners Math Grade 5.  We will probably continue this next year since it’s a nice spiral review.

He will finish up the Evan Moor Daily Word Problems Grade 4 before breaking for the summer. 

Just for fun and practice with mathematical thinking, George also does Logic puzzles, Sudoku puzzles, and Scholastic Fast Facts: Multiplication and Division.