First Form Latin: A Little Review

We have been studying Latin in our homeschool this year, which I am so excited about! I am really enjoying learning this language along with my kids. Quite possibly, I am enjoying it much more than they are;). But they are humoring me and going along with it, so all is good. Today, I want to share a bit about First Form Latin, which I am using this year with my ninth and seventh graders.

First of all, I am a huge fan of this program! I only wish I had found it earlier in our homeschool journey. We have been using First Form Latin for about ten weeks now and it is going so well. This program is very understandable and teacher-friendly even to me, someone with very little Latin experience! The lessons are clearly laid out and we were able to quickly develop a good routine for going through them, which I will share below.

For First Form Latin, I purchased the “complete set”, plus duplicates for some items.
This includes the following:

  • Teacher’s manual
  • Student texts for each of my boys
  • Student workbooks ~ one for each of my boys, plus one for me to work in alongside them
  • Teacher key with answers to the exercises and quizzes
  • DVD
  • Audio CD 
  • A booklet of reproducible quizzes
  • Flashcards
  • In addition to the above I purchased:
    • The First Form Latin schedule from Memoria Press – I love having a daily schedule; this one keeps me on track and tells me what exercises to do each day ~ and it has boxes I can check!
    • Desk charts (not shown) ~ I will confess I have not used these grammar helps yet, but writing this post reminded me that I should get them out!
    • Lingua Angelica set ~ I loved the idea of listening to Latin hymns as part of our learning so I also purchased this set, which includes an audio CD, teacher’s manual, student workbook, and songbook.  We have not been using the workbooks at all, so in retrospect, I could have done without them. We just listen and follow along with the lyrics in the songbook.
    So how do we do all this?
    On Mondays (typically) we watch the lecture for our assigned lesson. I feel like this time gives me a little break and really, we could not do this program without “our” Latin teacher. Hearing someone else explain something really helps those words on the page sink in!

    After we watch the DVD lessons (about 20 minutes) we head to the kitchen table and get out our textbooks. Each lesson contains assigned Latin grammar questions for us to go over, and Monday is typically the day we do this. This takes about 5-10 minutes. Next, it’s on to the heart of the lesson.

    Each FFL lesson contains several  components and I try to review each component each day we do Latin. We typically start with a recitation, then review the Latin saying and vocabulary for the week. Next we have “chalk talk” where we learn about conjugating various forms of the verbs and other grammar points.  We are usually told to conjugate a couple of the new verbs on a white board.  Then, on subsequent days we slowly work on conjugating the rest of the verbs on the white board.  Teaching the lesson takes about 10-15 minutes, on average, usually a bit more the first day.
    Next, we do the assigned exercises (from the MP schedule). As I mentioned above, I purchased a student workbook for myself and I do the exercises right along with my boys. This has made a HUGE difference to me  in learning and teaching Latin! The exercises usually take 15-20 minutes to complete, after which we all check our answers together. I am not sure why one of my kiddos is working with a sock on his hand, but whatever works, right?


    After we check our answers, we listen to our assigned Lingua Angelica song for that lesson – we usually listen to it twice.

    On subsequent days, we review each lesson for about 15 minutes, then do our exercises. Typical exercise include filling in tense ending charts, working with derivatives, writing out the saying, and working on translations. And each day we listen to our assigned hymn. On Wednesdays (or the third day of our lesson) we use the audio CD to review. I try to do Latin five days a week, though we don’t always get to it.

    On Fridays, we do the oral drill from the lesson and go over flashcards. Then, we all take the quiz for that lesson, and we are ready to move on to the next lesson.

    I honestly cannot think of anything negative to say about this program – it is well-laid out and organized and makes Latin so much easier for me to understand and teach than other programs I have tried. My hope is that we will be able to continue on with Second Form Latin next year.

    Woodworking for Homeschoolers

    My boys (ages 14 and 12) requested woodworking for their art program this year. They are pretty handy with tools and loved the idea of building things for schoolwork. We researched several books and they eventually settled on The All-New Woodworking for Kids.

    This book is the only resource ~ besides tools and wood ~ we need for this year’s woodworking. It lays out step-by-step, easy-to-follow instructions with plenty of photos, and my two have had no trouble completing their projects independently. I love that they can do this totally on their own!
     The book begins with a section covering different types of tools, safety measures to take, and technique. I had each of my boys read through this section before they started their first project. Here are a couple of the projects they have already completed:
    A miter box

    A toolbox (they each made their own)
    They are currently working on making their own workbench ~ that one’s taking a while because it’s a bigger project and we’ve had a couple of Fridays off. Typically, they devote 2-3 hours on Fridays to their current project, which has been working well. We have a lighter day on Fridays, so the sawing and hammering aren’t as disruptive to the girls. They handle these projects mostly by themselves, with occasional input from their Dad. I failed woodshop (seriously) so I told them upfront I was not going to be much help. They have really taken off on their own with this, which has been nice to see.
    We turned a corner of the basement over to them for their projects. I would post a photo of their work area, but our basement isn’t terribly photogenic;). They have an old workbench down there, plus a large folding table to lay out their tools. My rule for them after finishing each project is that they look ahead to the next one, decide what materials need to be purchased, and text their Dad a list. He picks up the supplies when he gets a chance, and they are ready to go for the following Friday.
    Woodworking is a huge hit in our homeschool this year and I am looking forward to the other projects they will build this year! As for my other kiddos, Rose isn’t quite ready for woodworking and Grace had no interest, otherwise I would have loved to get them involved too. I’ll share what my girls are doing for art in a future post.

    Till next time!

    Math with Picture Books

    For several years now I have been determined to gather a collection of math picture books and use them to add interest to our math studies. I have failed to accomplish this each year, but this year I actually did it! I’m going to share our reading list in a minute, but first I’ll tell you how we’re using math picture books in our homeschool.

     We read a picture book each week.

     That’s it. Everyone reads a math picture book each week, from the 14 year old down to my 9 year old (my 16 year old is trying to finish up Algebra 2 while doing Geometry, so she’s excused).   Some will be overly simple for my older kids, or go over the head of my younger one.  Others may give a little food for thought, or explain a concept in a way that finally makes something click.

    Our Math Picture Book List

    1. Perimeter, Area, and Volume: A Monster Book

    2. Shape Up! Fun with Triangles and Other Polygons

    3. Multiplying Menace

    4. Multiplying Menace Divides

    5. Full House: An Invitation to Fractions

    6. What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras?

    7. Actual Size

     8. The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Early Mathematics

    9. Mummy Math

    10. Apple Fractions

    11. The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat

    12. Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci

    13. A Remainder of One

    14. On Beyond a Million

    15. Math Potatoes

    16. Spaghetti and Meatballs for All

    17. Mystery Math: A First Book of Algebra

    18. Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi

    19. Math Curse

    20. One Grain of Rice

    21. Sir Cumference and the Sword in the Cone

    22. Cut Down to Size at High Noon

    23. If You Made a Million

    24. The King’s Chessboard

    25. How Big is a Foot?

    So far, this is a great success! I have my youngest choose a book for me to  read aloud to her each week. That way I get to experience them all too. Math with picture books is one of my very favorite things about our new homeschool year.

    Till next time!

    Seventh Grade Homeschool Plans

    James will be in seventh grade next year! Here is my tentative plan for him.

    Our Seventh Grade Homeschool Plans


    History & Literature 

    Language Arts

    Foreign Language

    • Duolingo French
    • Possibly The Latin Road to English Grammar, which I really want to try with the older three – I miss doing Latin and this seems like an easy choice for multiple people to do together. 

    Art, music, critical thinking, and science will be group subjects this year and I will post separately about them as I figure them out. If you want to see my previously posted plans for my rising fourth grader they are here. Now onto my rising ninth grader!

    Our Homeschool Technology Unit

    Christopher finished up his BookShark science a few weeks ago and we were in limbo about what to do next – get the next BookShark science? Jump right into high school biology, since he is finishing up his eighth grade year? I was leaning towards the latter, but then decided  I just didn’t have time to plan and research such a thing this time of year…. so together we decided on a mini technology unit.

     The  plan is to have him work through the following three resources for about 10 weeks.

    • The Way Things Work Now ~ What a fun book! All of the diagrams, explanations, and illustrations are right up his alley. He reads several pages a week (a bit each day) and then just tells me what he read about.

    • Can You Feel the Force? – Like the book above, this one is full of color ~ but with photos instead of illustrations. The two books go quite well together. Christopher picks up whichever book he feels like reading that day and then just tells me what he read about.

    • Snap Circuits – For some hands-on fun, I picked up a snap circuits kit. We have never used these in our homeschool, though I have always meant to give them a try. The plan is to spend an hour a week or so playing around with the kit. I purchased a Snap Circuit student guide from Rainbow Resource to help flesh out the experiments. Tomorrow we’ll be our first day experimenting with this, and I’m excited to see how it goes! 

    And that’s our simple technology unit to round out Christopher’s eighth grade year of science. 

    Mid-Year Update: Homeschooling Eighth Grade

    We are a bit past the mid-point of our year (week 23 this week!) but I want to do a quick update on how eighth grade is going this year for Christopher. You can see Christopher’s original eighth grade plans here. We made a few tweaks to that original plan, because, well, I just tend to tweak things as the year goes on. Christopher does most of his work independently, but I check in with him throughout the day to go over his lessons and readings with him.

    So, here’s a few thoughts and notes about how things are going!

    • Analytical Grammar – We were able to finish up season 3 ~ and thus, the entire Analytical Grammar program ~ shortly after the holidays. Yay! Currently, Christopher does one review exercise every other week using Analytical Grammar’s High School Review and Reinforcement book. There are a few of these to choose from, all different themes. He chose American Authors. While he does not enjoy the days he has a review, he definitely enjoys being “done” with learning new grammar for the rest of his school days. 
    • Writing Strands Level 4 – This program is working well. Christopher is currently working on assignment ten, about halfway through the book. He does the bulk of this program independently, but I try to check in with him every other day, just to make sure he understands the assignment and is keeping up. For his last assignment, he drew up a floor plan of our house, which I thought was a really neat and different assignment. Currently, he is using that floor plan to write a short description of our house. 
    • Typing Instructor – He uses this program for about 10-15 minutes a day. He enjoys it and it is definitely increasing his typing speed. The plan is to have him approach 40 words per minute with decent accuracy before quitting formal typing instruction. 
    •  Wordly Wise Book 8 – This is going really well. Let me tell you, we get complaints in this house about programs (crazy, right??) and I  have not heard one single complaint about this program since we started. That’s saying something. WW takes only a few minutes each day, and I am amazed at how well he actually retains the vocabulary. I’m planning to use this program for my next two coming along. 
    • Teaching Textbooks 8 – Christopher is plugging along in math. He is a bit behind on his lessons, but I think just a bit of math over the summer will get him caught up. I cannot claim math is his most favorite subject! But using TT has definitely made things easier for me. It greatly reduces my stress to have my often-frustrated-with-math kid taught more by the computer than me. Of course, I am still on hand to clear up any misunderstandings and make sure he gets it. But TT has done wonders for making our day just a bit more relaxed. 
    • The Thinking Toolbox – We currently do this as our lunchtime reading. It works very well for this because there is about five minutes of material I have to read in the beginning, and then we go over the discussion questions while we eat.  I have been very pleased with this program. It’s neat to see the kids apply lessons they learned in it to real life – especially with all the political talk lately!
    • BookShark World History Part 2   As planned, we recently finished this level up and began BookShark American History 100 (just last week actually!). Now that he is using BKSK 100, the discussion questions have ramped up in number and depth, so we spend more time going over things each day. There was a bit of a learning curve for him (and me!) the first few days as we figured out how best to have him use this program. We settled on having him read, look over the discussion questions in his student guide, then discuss them with me. If he misses something, I have him re-read that section. BKSK offers timeline suggestions for many of the readings; we pick and choose from these to add to his timeline book. BKSK also has a lot of mapping ~ students are supposed to label several areas of a map for each reading. I think this is a great idea, in theory. But it adds a lot of work to the day, and my kids’ geography sense is actually quite good from previous Sonlight/BookShark levels. So instead of labeling everything, I present him with the blank map and he points out the locations to me.  If it is an obscure location, I show him where it is on my answer key.
    Note: To this program, I have recently added a few things ~ a family read-aloud, family poetry instead of the assigned BookShark poetry, and a family history study for my three older kids to do together. To fit this in, I tweak Christopher’s BKSK readings a bit. His daily reading generally includes a literature selection, reading from one of the History of US books, and a historical fiction selection. If the day gets too long, he can choose between the history readings for that day. 
    • BookShark Science 6 – Christopher finished the second half of this recently. I have mixed feelings about it. Some of the readings were good, some were a bit complex. It was kind of a strange mix of things that felt a bit young for the recommended age range and things that felt too involved. The experiments were a mix of things that sounded fun but didn’t work out, things that worked well, and things that he had already done several years ago. I had originally planned on having him start BKSK Science 7, but given that he will be moving into high school science next year, we have decided to have him finish out this year with a fun technology unit. I’ll write a separate post on how we are doing that.
    • Duolingo – To be honest, we have not focused as much on foreign language this year as I would have liked. There is only so  much time in the day, and this is one area I chose to sacrifice a bit. He putters around for 15 minutes a day on Duolingo Spanish, and for this year, that is enough. 
    • Drawing Lab – He is using this alongside James this year and has done a lot of great projects. I very much like this resource. I recently added in Creative Photography Lab for both boys because they love taking pictures. 
    So – Christopher’s eighth grade year is going well! I am seeing a deeper level of understanding and discussion ability,  and a greater ability to work independently. My experience has been that my boys are slower to mature in these areas than my girls, but maturing they are, slowly but steadily. 
    One more “mid-year” update coming up soon! I can’t believe it, but it is almost time to start posting about next year’s plans!

    Eighth Grade Plans, Simplified

    I have spent quite a bit of time lately going over my original plans for our upcoming homeschool year, with an eye to simplifying them as much as possible.Below are my slightly adjusted plans for my eighth-grader, Christopher. His original plans are here.

    Language Arts

     He will use:

    Math & Logic

    No changes. He will use:


    No changes. He will use:

    I had stated he would use BookShark Science 7, but he has quite a bit of BookShark Science 6 left, so he will probably spend much of the year finishing that up.

    Foreign Language

    The original plan was to have him do Latin Alive, along with his older sister, but now he will just putter around with Duolingo Spanish a few times a week.  One major way I am simplifying this year is to let the three older kids choose ONE language to do.  I  have been doing a lot of research into various Spanish programs to find something that will work for my high-schooler (more on that soon!), and I know many people don’t find Duolingo to be a complete program, but for now I just want them to have fun with their language, so I am not too worried about it. 

    He will still do:

    But I am not going to do art history or formal music appreciation with him (or any of the kids) this year. 

    Okay – one more kiddo to go, my 10th grader, Grace. I’ll share how we are streamlining her year in an upcoming post.

    Till next time!