Portraits of Our Students 2014-2015

Blog, She Wrote: Portraits of Our Students 2014-2015August is rolling right along and as you read this, we are off to our big summer camping trip- a last hurrah for the summer season. You can see our Homeschool Curriculum Choices 2014-2015 to see what each of our students will be up to academically in the coming year. Read on below to see how each one is suited for the studies which they’ve helped to choose.

Portrait of an Eleventh Grader

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Ethan is entering 11th grade- the big junior year. How are things shaping up for this college bound young man?

  • Still passionate about Star Wars & LEGOS- He’s still making custom LEGO minifigs. Mainly clones from the Clone Wars and they are really good! He designs the decals and adheres them to custom minifig parts.
  • He’s a writer- I mean he loves to write and spends at least an hour a day creating story worlds and adding to his novel and other works. He’s working on a novel and some pieces for an anthology at present.
  • Loves Literature & Book Discussion- In any form and with anyone. Right now he’s reading The Screwtape Letters to me.
  • Adores His Online Community at One Year Adventure Novel- He’s got a lot of buds over there and they talk books and other worlds.
  • He’s a computation king- Able to count back change like no other and is poised to begin Calculus. Calculus!
  • Has as part time job- In April, Ethan got a job at the local grocery store in order to earn money for his trip to the One Year Adventure Novel summer workshop. He met his goal and has started saving for next summer. The job is going strong and means changes to his routine.
  • Blogs at Of Bows and Arrows, Swords and Spears, Briksmith Customs, and Geography Crusades- He’s on again off again, but he’ll be trying to add to these spaces in the coming year. I saw him with a post in his draft on BrikSmith which he had pretty much abandoned!
  • Loves to Play Video Games- What 15yo boy does not?
  • Has a Knack for Languages- But really does not enjoy studying them. Too bad!
  • Started Looking at Colleges- Other than Virginia Tech, his dad’s alma mater and the only place to go because he wants to go to a football game!

Portrait of a Ninth Grader

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Some days I can hardly believe I have two high schoolers! How did Rebecca get to be in 9th grade? She is the kindest teenage girl I’ve ever known and I can hardly wait to see what this year brings.

  • Creative Pursuits- Are her passion and she spends a great deal of time creating.
  • Loves to Play- This girl still knows how to have just plain fun. No time for angst for her! She remains young at heart. Which makes her especially good at engaging younger kids.
  • Sweet Soul- She is growing up so gracefully and most of the time has a kind word no matter what.
  • Always Carries Yarn- She never goes anywhere without her yarn and a crochet hook. She crochets during sermons (and remembers it better than anyone) and any time there is listening time or down time.
  • Designs & Makes Her Own Patterns- She loves to draft patterns on her own and create from them. Have you seen her Steampunk gown? It’s been invited to the NY State Fair!
  • Keeps a Portfolio Online- But her creative soul doesn’t really enjoy keeping it up to date. Now that she is in high school, the plan is to step it up on posting and blog design.
  • Has the Best Spatial Skills- They are to be envied. She can follow any instruction any time and everything goes together just right.
  • Reptile Lover- Ever the eclectic, she’s owned four snakes over the past year. Right now she is down to one wild caught garter with a great temperament. Next up is a gecko.

Portrait of a Seventh Grader

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Isaac is in the thick of middle school and is one of the sweetest middle school boys I’ve ever known- and as a former middle school science teacher, I’ve known many.

  • An Expert on Planes- If you ever need to know anything about flight, he’s your man.
  • Loves to Fly- His radio controlled airplane and he’s in hot pursuit of his own larger scale model. For now he flies two electric models- a yellow Champ and a WWII Spitfire.
  • Keeps Track of the Weather- Better than anyone because he is always on the look out for good flying weather.
  • Rocketeer- He loves model rockets too and is considering a career in rocket science. The real kind! He’s read front and back and over again several times The Handbook of Model Rocketry.
  • Still a Reader- He reads both fiction and nonfiction, but always has something going.
  • Boy Adventurer- But always the cautious kind. I never have to worry he will get into anything he should not. Adventure on!

Portrait of a Fourth Grader

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Our youngest, Joshua, is now in 4th grade. Just one last student in elementary school! Wow. From the day he was born this boy has been busy. Let’s see how things are going for him.

  • Fiercely Independent- He wears this characteristic proudly. Probably too much so, but apples don’t fall far from the tree friends. I love to steer him in a direction that uses his skills for good!
  • Engineering- This still sums him up. He likes to take a look at something and see how it works and announce that he can do better. That is the definition of an engineer. There’s less talk of the triple threat- chemical, electrical, and mechanical engineering and more talk of computer engineering.
  • Loves the Periodic Table- Who among us does not? So, I’m holding out hope for a double threat- chemical and computer engineering! Either that or he’ll have a home lab like Tom Edison.
  • Entomologist- Still pinning away and having the best time at Friday night entomology lectures. You can see the results of his toil here.
  • Loves All Things Science- All of it.
  • Independent Learner- Bucking all the paths his siblings have chosen he presents a challenge daily. He could learn anything on his own. This is the most fun and the most vexing at the same time!
  • Computer Programming- He’s taught himself C++ and the basics of Java. He is making his own minecraft mods and loves to pour through programming manuals.

As I wrote this, I enjoyed looking back at last year’s portraits. Yes, our children are growing and being molded into the young adults God wants them to be, but they are staying true to their interests and refining them. Very exciting to watch and we are looking forward to a new homeschool year!

Other iHN bloggers are sharing their student portraits today. Have a look!

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Creating Other Worlds- Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction

Blog, She Wrote: Creating Other Worlds- Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction

Ethan, our 11th grader, is a writer. He loves to create worlds and activity within them. When he was younger, his stories told a tale, but they often didn’t end concisely. Or they simply ended. A bit too concisely. Now that he is half way through high school, we’ve been honing in on his interests and his course work reflects this. Enter novel writing courses. For the past two years, he has immersed himself in the many worlds of his novel settings. Do you have a student who loves to write science fiction and fantasy?

Creating Other Worlds- Science Fiction & Fantasy Writing

If you are unfamiliar with the genres, suffice it to say the world in which the story takes place helps to set these stories apart from just any adventure tale. In some way, the author of a fantasy and science fiction novel will build a world. Sometimes the author creates a whole new fantastical world and sometimes it is a world within our world.

The basic story structure is carried over into “other worlds”. In both fantasy & sci fi literature one main thing is the game changer.

  • Science Fiction- You’ll find one main scientific breakthrough or advance which changes how the story will play out or it can be a single change in history that gives the story its twist.
  • Fantasy- There will be something else magical about the world. For example, in Narnia the animals talk.

Resources for World Building

Does your student like to write and immerse himself in new worlds? Here are a few links from the website Go Teen Writers to help students think about their world building.

Worldbuilding is a lot of work! That’s why learning to write an adventure first is a good idea because it takes place in our world and you can concentrate on the story itself rather than building a world at the same time. If you have a student working on writing herself a world, these posts will be very insightful.

Blog, She Wrote: Creating Other Worlds- Writing Fantasy & Science FictionUsing Other Worlds Curriculum to Teach Fantasy & Science Fiction Writing

Other Worlds is the science fiction and fantasy expansion module from One Year Adventure Novel by Daniel Schwabauer. Ethan, our 11th grader, has been working with the curriculum for a year. I asked him for his take on the program and here’s what he said:

  • One Year Adventure Novel (OYAN)- has to be completed first. The Other Worlds curriculum is based on the original OYAN and referencing the original lessons is helpful as you go along.
  • The Tools Are There to Be a Finisher- You still need to bang out twelve chapters, but the OYAN model is helpful in finishing your storytelling.
  • There’s a Basic Story Structure- Which is carried over from OYAN. Three acts with four defining scenes. The outlining of the events in your novel is important for the story.
  • History of the Genres- You’ll learn how science fiction and fantasy got their start and who the major players were.
  • What Makes Science Fiction & Fantasy?- There are 10 to 12 lessons devoted to what defines these genres.
  • Collision Course Anthology- Is a collection of stories and excerpts from fantasy and science fiction which help to illustrate Daniel’s lessons.
  • Community Forum- For students of OYAN & Other Worlds. This is a community of writers where you can get advice on developing characters, general writing tips, get help with story ideas, engage in novel critiques, contribute to a collective novel, etc.
  • Summer Workshops- Every summer OYAN students gather from all over to listen to seminars and work in critique groups to improve their writing and learn writer’s craft.

As the teacher and a mom I’ll add a few more tidibits I like about the curriculum:

  • Video Lessons- They are thorough and so well done. I enjoyed watching them with my student and I’m looking forward to seeing them again with Rebecca this year.
  • Great Talking Points- As you progress through the curriculum, there will be a lot of opportunity for discussion. This has been invaluable in our homeschool. We’ve talked about books- classics and modern and read even more. It’s been fun to talk about books and about life with our teens based on the lessons.
  • Engagement- Whether it’s the online community of teens or the regularly scheduled evening webinars and summer workshops, the author and his wife interact with and encourage your student as do the other students.

Science Fiction Writing Sample

Blog, She Wrote: Creating Other Worlds- Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction

Having completed the outline over the last school year as an elective, Ethan has been working on the novel. I’m not sure it has a name yet, but the first chapter is complete. He said I could share it with you all as long as I let you know it’s a work in progress! This is the first three paragraphs of the first chapter. Currently, he’s working on a prologue.

I woke with a start at the crack of lightning overhead, drowning the room in a flash of light. The whole house shook when the thunder came a moment later. The rain pelted down, making little ‘ting’ sounds as it hit the roof and gutters. A dull roar built up in my head; each raindrop seemed to increase the pressure inside. With a sigh I pulled the blankets up a little farther up and rolled over. A moment later I pushed them back down and rolled the other way. Another crack lit up the sky.

I looked at the clock. 11:43. It was still early. And the storms were as bad as they ever had been. There were no good explanations. No explanations at all, in fact. Except one.… Whispers, rumors moving through the populace. Tales of a people who- No, I thought. But there was no doubt that the storms were getting worse. And there was nothing the government could do this time.

I slipped my feet from underneath the covers and onto the hard wood floor. The old boards creaked as I put my weight on them. I tip-toed down the hall to the old study. My exhaustion vanished in there, I was able to sleep. Why can I sleep in here? But I didn’t really care why, I just came to rest. I closed the heavy door behind me and sat in my father’s armchair to wait out the night.

His writing has really matured over the last few years since he initially started OYAN in 8th grade. It’s been enjoyable to watch the process. These days he writes (even in the summer) about an hour a day on average, but he said it should be more. I’m excited to see how his writing schedule takes shape this fall as he enters into a variety of writing courses.

Other Resources for Teaching Science Fiction & Fantasy Genres

Given that Ethan has such a profound interest in writing and literature, we’ve been taking advantage of opportunities as they come along.

  • Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop- At our local library. A local author is teaching “other world” writing through twice weekly gatherings for teens. At the end, their writing will be included in an anthology which is published.
  • Dystopian Literature Class- As part of our two hour, ten week co-op, Ethan is taking a dystopian literature class in which they will read and compare Fahrenheit 451 with The Hunger Games- a classic sci fi novel with a modern tale.
  • World of Imagination: Fantasy & Science Fiction Literature- Taught through The Potter’s School, these are two one semester courses. They will make the bulk of his English course for the year.

Do you have a student who loves to write stories? Do you have a big fantasy and science fiction fan in your home? Enjoy the journey with your student and engage in their world with them!

Entomology- The Science of Insects

Blog, She Wrote: Entomology- The Science of Insects

This summer’s Hopscotch topic here at Blog, She Wrote is entomology. If you are an Instagram or Facebook follower of mine, then you may know that our nine year old is an entomologist. I thought it would be fun for me to report on how his year has gone and to share what we learned with you all.

As I write this, we are preparing for the 4-H Fair and his first year collection is just about ready. We have some labeling to do, but all of his specimens are pinned and we are in the home stretch. Today’s post is all about entomology- the science of insects including classification, & identification.

What is Entomology?

Officially speaking, entomology is:

A branch of zoology dealing with the scientific study of insects, including their taxonomy, morphology, physiology, and ecology.

This year Joshua has been studying entomology by attending lectures every month given by a husband-wife pair of PhD entomologists. They’ve been teamed up for years to lead an entomology project area for 4-H. For most of the time, he’s been attending with another 8 turning 9 year old boy and his dad. That’s right, parents are requested to be there for the ride. He’s had an amazing year learning all the intricate details of insect morphology while learning how to collect and pin insects for his own collection properly.

Blog, She Wrote: Entomology- The Science of Insects

Classification of Insects

Insects are animals with six legs and an exoskeleton- among other common characteristics. They can be divided into many different orders. Even a young entomologist knows his insect orders! As you learn the orders, try to keep up with the latest research because sometimes they change. Our group is working with the latest findings from earlier this year. When entomologists discover orders are so related to each other they don’t need to be separate orders, they are combined. For example, termites and cockroaches are closely related and are no longer separate orders. This will be important if you are taking your insect collection to the fair!

Orders of Insects (as of February, 2014):

  • Archaeognatha- Bristletails
  • Thysanura- Silverfish, Firebrats
  • Ephemeroptera- Mayflies
  • Odonata- dragonflies & damselflies (each in their own suborders)
  • Plecoptera- Stoneflies
  • Notoptera- ice crawlers, rock crawlers, heel walkers (discovered in 2002)
  • Dermaptera- Earwigs
  • Embioptera- Webspinners
  • Phasmatodea- Walking sticks, timemas
  • Orthoptera- Grasshoppers, crickets, katydids
  • Mantodea- Mantises
  • Blattodea- Cockroaches and termites (formerly Isoptera)
  • Zoraptera- Angel insects
  • Hemiptera- True bugs, moss bugs, cicadas, hoppers, aphids (in suborders)
  • Thysanoptera- Thrips
  • Psocoptera- Psocids (booklice & barklice)
  • Phthiraptera- Lice
  • Coleoptera- Beetles
  • Strepsiptera- Twisted winged parasites
  • Neuroptera- Lacewings, antlions, mantidflies, owlflies
  • Raphidioptera- Snakeflies
  • Megaloptera- Alderflies, dobsonflies, fishflies
  • Hymenoptera- sawflies, horntails, wasps, ants, bees
  • Trichoptera- Caddisflies
  • Lepidoptera- Butterflies & Moths
  • Mecoptera- Scorpionflies, hangingflies
  • Siphonaptera- Fleas (though it turns out that fleas are highly developed scorpionflies so this order may soon be reclassified as Mecoptera)
  • Diptera- Flies

Joshua has to have 20 insect specimens with 12 orders represented in his first year collection. I’ve bolded the orders he’s collected this year.

Blog, She Wrote: Entomology- The Science of Insects

Identification of Insects

Identifying insects comes after understanding insect morphology (form & structure). Once you know about biting mouth parts vs sucking mouth parts and whether to look for wings or not, etc.,  it’s easier to narrow down what the insect is.

Keys help you to look at the insect closely and make decisions based on the characteristics of the species. Use this dichotomous key to identify an insect down to its order.

Joshua has been memorizing the insect orders and trying to remember their features. If the name has “optera” in it, then it’s a flying insect, for example. He’s getting good at identifying by sight, but he still benefits from using the dichotomous key.

Blog, She Wrote: Entomology- The Science of Insects

Resources for Classification & Identification of Insects

When we meet as a club, the leaders bring their guides to share with us. We also have our field guides. A comprehensive guide is important to an entomologist. Unless you have very young children, I would recommend skipping the children’s guides. I find my kids outgrow them very quickly. They can be less intimidating, but they lack information and sometimes make it hard to identify a specimen.

  • National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects & Spiders (North American)- This is our main field guide. Not only does it have plenty of information on various species, but the color photographs make it easy to compare in the field- or at pinning time.
  • A Guide to Common Freshwater Invertebrates of North America- This one was useful to us as he identified all of the aquatic species in his collection. Can you tell the difference between different species of mayflies? This book will help! Joshua has at least two in his collection this year.
  • Dichotomous Key- Going beyond matching pictures is sometimes necessary for identification, especially in the insect world. A dichotomous key has students analyze features of the insect and make a choice between one presentation of a characteristic and another. By process of elimination, you come to the final choice which will tell you what the critter is.

One of my favorite things about this entomology club is the way they choose to instruct the kids. Rather than watering down the information, our mentors lecture on the information as if their audience is much older. The wonderful thing is to watch the boys ask for more after an hour of listening intently as anatomy is drawn on the board. I love that it is real science- not classroom oriented, mini-demonstrations or labs.

Knowing your student and providing him with the materials he needs to grow is crucial to seeing your kids stick with a project area and gain experience.

The rest of this series will be about the equipment, collecting, pinning, and displaying an insect collection. Please join in!

Other bloggers with the iHomeschool Network are sharing their own topics in this summer’s Hopscotch. See what they’re up to!

iHN- Hopscotch July, 2014