Tuesday, October 30, 2018

McCusker Homeschooling Journal - October 2018

October has been a beautiful month with lots of activities and learning. The weather has greatly cooled off this month and we are enjoying the beauty of the leaves changing colors this fall. Halloween has also been a predominant part of our month as we've connected many of our homeschool activities and lessons with the Halloween theme. We also had my friend from South Carolina come to visit us for a week that gave us opportunities for even more exploration of our amazing city. We even took a trip to Canada! It's been a busy, but fun month. Happy Halloween!


Our mathematics study for this month has been a lot of practicing times multiplication tables. Zoey is up to the six times tables now and we are practicing through word problems, practice sheets and our most effect way - math games, including multiplication war. We are focusing on these basic concepts to make sure she has them down before moving on to the more complex problems.

Multiplication Mosaics are a fun way to practice times tables

We also covered place value, comparing numbers (i.e. greater than, less than and equal too), and rounding. Zoey was spot on with place value and comparing, but we need a little more time to focus on rounding. We did several exercise and she has improved greatly, but we will continue to practice.

Halloween themed time practice

We began to cover time as well this month, focusing on the phrases "quarter til" and "quarter after." Telling time is not the problem, but these are well used descriptions of time that we are practicing so she can understand them more easily. We've used fun practice sheets like this as well as games of bingo and matching.

Zoey original word problem


This month our reading focus was "Matilda." We finished the book pretty quickly. Zoey really enjoyed it. It's one of my favorites. We also watched the movie and did a compare and contrast of the two. Zoey has really good reading comprehension and will offer details of the story I don't even remember. We had a lot of fun with this story.

Reading "Matilda" at the coffee shop.

Zoey does a great job talking about the book and how it compares and contrasts to the movie. It was a heart breaker because she did a video earlier with over six minutes of detailed explanation and the video messed up and didn't save. She is a little less enthusiastic in this redo video, but I still wanted to share it because you can see (even in a frustrated state) how much she understands about what she is reading. Though, she will tell you she'd rather watch the movie.


We have found a good rhythm for our spelling unit. We are using a Spectrum Spelling workbook to find words. Every other week we go through one or two Spectrum lists to find words where Zoey needs extra practice. Once we have a list of ten, she practices the words in different ways. She has a Graffiti wall that she writes them all in unique lettering. Then she has a spelling menu that offers many different way to practice the words. Some examples include writing them in alphabetical order, writing them with the vowels in different colors, looking up the definition to each word, creating a crossword puzzle, and many more. She picks a couple of these to practice, then we have a spelling test where I call out the words to her. If she still has trouble with it, we save it for another week. So far, this has been working out really great.
Spectrum Spelling, Lesson 8

Language Arts

This is an interesting subject because it goes hand in hand with several of the other English subjects. When we go through the Spectrum Spelling workbook, there are all kinds of different mini Language arts lessons. This month we've learned about how to add "-er" and "-est" to the end of words, including the special rules of doubling the constant after most short vowel, one subject words (i.e. "wet" becomes "wetter" and "hot" becomes "hottest"). We also learned how to turn nouns into adjectives by adding a "y" (i.e. "cloud" turns into "cloudy" or "rain" into "rainy").

We are also learning different dictionary skills including how to see what part of speech a word can but used as and how that can change the definition slightly. Zoey is also doing very well with syllables of words, she can identify how many a word has and where the emphasis is on the word.

We are working on Parts of Speech. This is one subject that we integrate a little bit into all kinds of activities surrounding reading and writing. By understanding the parts of speech, Zoey is able to make sentences easier and add more details in her writing. These are small steps, but they add up quickly as we begin to learn more vocabulary.


In "Matilda," Ms. Honey talks about limericks and then Matilda creates one on the spot. We read several limericks and then tried to write one ourselves. It is a complicated poems style because there are several rules to follow. We did out best, though they ended up being really funny as we tried make different words rhyme.

After reading a short story called, "The Bubbling Cauldron" about a magic potion going hilariously wrong, Zoey created her own magic potion and wrote about it. Her potion was a more efficient way to test your DNA.

We also learned about Shape poetry. Zoey wrote this awesome poem about a Halloween cat. We even saw a black cat while we were out Trick-or-Treating!


Science is one of Zoey's favorite subjects, so we've done several large and small projects over the course of this month.

Fruity Ice Slush Experiment

This science experiment came from our Usborne "50 Science things to make and do" book. We learned how salt lowers the freezing temperature to make a liquid turn into a slush without direct contact to the ice. It was a fun experiment, but we used V8 instead of fruit juice, which caused us to have a faulty outcome. You can read more about this experiment HERE.

The Human Body

We studied the Human Body in depth last month, but Zoey got some new information from watching some of her YouTube videos and wanted to share with me what she learned. She explained how the stomach holds our food and then how our liver and kidneys work together the digest, absorb and process our food before it goes to the bladder or intestines. Since we focused on the circulatory system last month, I was impressed with how she wanted to take it a step further and found out more. 

Tinker Tank Construction at the Science Center

The Pacific Science Center is one of our favorite places to go, explore and learn. We can spend hours at the Tinker Tank where they have all kinds of supplies to use to make anything your mind can imagine. On this day, Zoey made a complex arena for her friends to battle, full of arrows and hideaways.

Animal Habitats and Ocean Diorama

This section on Animal Habitats paired well with the Girl Scout badge her troop worked on this month. We learned about the different classifications of animals (i.e. mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians and mini beasts) and the various parts of the world they live in. Zoey chose to focus on the ocean first (which worked out perfectly with our field trip to the Vancouver Aquarium).

Zoey did such a great job on her Ocean Diorama. She spent some time painting it and choosing which animals to represent. She even got out her Skylander's ship to place in the ocean because the the coral would have a place to attach to and more animals could live around it.

She also looked up some animal facts about a seahorse, which is displayed in her ocean habitat.

Vampire Bats

In honor of Halloween, we did an animal study on Vampire Bats. This was a fascinating topic for both of us to learn about. We watched several good YouTube videos and read through lots of material to learn more. Zoey completed an animal fact sheet about Vampire Bats. Learn more about our study of Vampire Bats and the sources we used HERE.

Candy Catapults

We were really excited to build catapults and launch Halloween candy to begin our unit on data collection and graphing. This was a great STEM activity to design and engineer a construction and then see how it worked. We then launched candies to see how far they went and how accurate the three different catapult sizes were. We drew some great conclusions like the smallest catapult didn't launch very far, but it was the most accurate. Whereas, the largest catapult launched the furthest, but was also unpredictable in it's aim. You can read more detail about this experiment, how we made the catapults and our conclusions HERE.

For some live action, check out our Candy Catapult YouTube video.


This month was full of interesting things to learn about history. We had Columbus Day and Halloween to learn about. It is a lot of fun to learn with the seasons.

Columbus Day
A Study of Christopher Columbus

Columbus Day fell on Monday, October 8, this year. We learned about who Christopher Columbus was and what he is known for. Zoey was really interested in this study, so we spent a good bit of that day on it. I thought it was really fascinating how controversial this holiday is. Columbus wasn't really considered a very good guy and a lot of people think he shouldn't have a holiday in his honor. Zoey seemed most intrigued by the fact that he never realized he discovered a new world, he died thinking he had made it to the West Indies. That is how we got the term "Indians" for the Native Americans. 

Halloween History and Traditions Around the World

We spent almost two weeks covering Halloween history and traditions. It was a lot of fun to apply the theme as an overall review for what we've learned in these past couple of months.

Social Studies



Art and Music

Occupational Education


We do a lot in a month. Some of it is exciting and some of it is practice to learn more and master basic skills. Zoey loves being able to learn about things that are interesting to her, which helps us learn more than we thought we would about many subjects. Zoey loves to listen to music and do hands on activities during our school hours. We do lots of activities in and out of the house, sometimes on our own and sometimes with friends. We are both making new friends as we meet more people who also homeschool and try out new activities. I am very thankful that we have the opportunity to homeschool. I can see Zoey benefiting from this method of learning and I am so glad to have a curious, creative kid who is really appreciating studying new things.

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