A Weekend of Fun: Physics Fest and Waco

At the beginning of April, we took a quick weekend trip to College Station, TX to attend Physics Fest at Texas A&M. We pass through Waco, TX on our way so I decided we’d stop and visit things we have had on our bucket list on the way there and the way home.

We drove down on Friday so we decided to stop and visit Magnolia Market at the Silos on the way. This is a market that was built by Chip and Joanna Gaines from the show Fixer Upper. There was a line to the bakery the entire time we visited and the market was rather crowded. It was nice out on the lawn area with the food trucks and they had live music.

They also have a really nice garden area.

It was a very nice place to visit and I’m glad we stopped.

Unfortunately, it was really cold and rainy the day of Physics Fest. A lot of stations are outside, but the majority were inside so it was pretty packed. The highlight of Physics Fest for Madison was hanging out with kids and playing games with a group we stayed in the same hotel with. That was memorable for her. ❤️

We had a wonderful dinner at the Messina Hof Winery right outside of College Station in Byran, TX. It was fabulous!

On the way home we stopped again in Waco, TX to visit the Waco Mammoth National Monument. This is a must see in my opnion. They have guided tours that take you through the actual dig site.

Here is a life size picture of a mammoth so you can see the actual comparison to the size of it to yourself. Amazing!

We love Junior Ranger Badges and this was a fun one for Madison to get.

After Madison completed her Junior Ranger Badge, her and her sister sifted and identified ancient ocean fossils.

You get to keep what you find!

This was definitely a fun trip and we made the most of our weekend getaway! Nothing can replace the value of hands on learning and I am very grateful we have are able to embrace these moments!

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Gifted Homeschooling Curriculum Update February 2018

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my complete disclosure policy.

Here is an update on what Madison is currently learning by subject. 🙂

Math:

We began using ALEKS in October and it is working very well for Madison. This is the first Math curriculum that we have used that hasn’t been frustrating for her or has caused tears. She took the 5th grade math pre-test and started out just a bit over mastering 50% of the course and finished by mid November. Then she took the 6th grade pre-test and again scored around 50% mastery and she is just now finishing that grade up. As soon as she completes 6th grade we will move on to 7th in the same fashion. They do offer a free trial so if you wanted to check it out, you can without a charge first.

English:

The Introduction to Composition class Madison is taking through YS Middle School Online is a year long course. She absolutely loves it. I cannot say enough wonderful things about interaction with the teacher, the students and how far she has come with her writing. We signed up for the next level class for next year.

Madison is on Lesson 16 of the Wordly Wise 3000 Book 7. She uses the online version.

Science and Social Studies:

We are now using Study.com for our Science and Social Studies. Madison was moving at a lightening speed with Acellus and she was finding errors. When I compared what was covered for the same subjects, there was an astounding difference. I signed up for the study.com free trial and Madison couldn’t pass the final exams for the same subjects she had just completed with Acellus. She felt somewhat defeated, but I am glad we figured this out now and not later. So, with that said….

Madison is taking Middle School Life Science and Middle School Physics. She is also taking Middle School Geography. The cool part about the courses that Study.com offers is that if they take the end of year exam, it will show you when you start the course what they need to learn and they do not need to do the lessons with the information they already know. Madison is also currently doing the Ancient Asia Moving Beyond the Page unit and then she will do the Single Shard unit.

Madison learns best through videos, but she also likes to dig deeper with hands on projects as well. So, we are doing the study.com lessons and then when those are complete (or close to complete) we are going to start on her Moving Beyond the Page units.

That pretty much covers the “core” subjects. Madison is taking a couple of other online classes.

Other classes:

Introduction to Latin through Gifted Homeschoolers Forum is a huge hit with Madison. She picked this class out and she is really enjoying it. She is also taking Philosophy for Questioning Minds through Athena’s Advanced Academy and it is amazing. Madison is also going to begin The Electoral Process and Political Systems in March. Madison also does keyboarding with Touch-Type Read and Spell and vision training with Dyslexia Gold daily. Once a week she attends Homeschool PE and twice a month she has an online music appreciation class through Squilt.

Electives:

This semester Madison is participating in the DFW Speech Club. She has written and memorized a Persuasive speech and an Open Interpretation speech to compete in tournaments with and is also prepping to compete in the Impromptu and Constitutional Literacy categories as well. She goes to her club meeting once a week and will participate in tournaments in March and June. Next year she will be in the club all year versus just one semester.

Another one of Madison’s favorite things to do is to learn and play chess. She does this many different ways. Madison is part of a local chess team and they participate in scholastic tournaments. They took Second Place in a tournament in January.  They also take weekly online chess lessons from Chris Toolin. Madison also tries to participate in weekly local tournaments at North Texas Chess Academy when it works in our schedule. She takes weekly lessons from a Grandmaster through the Davidson Young Scholar Program. Madison also enjoys being a part of the Online Homeschool Chess Club.  Madison also made the Top 100 Girls Age 10 US Chess Federation List.

Madison also attends Catechism class at church weekly and takes weekly piano lessons. She just moved up a level and is excited for the challenge of new books!

We decided to drop her co-op this semester. Loosing a day was making it hard for her to do all of her extra classes she signed up for this Spring and for her to have the down time she needs to be creative. We are continuing her Tinker Crate kits and she loves those as well as the Raddish cooking kits. The Raddish kits come with an email that includes a homeschool curriculum. It is a great value! Madison enjoys writing her penpal and participating in our local Mensa Youth activities when our schedule allows. She was able to fly a plane again and today she did an Escape Room event that was a lot of fun.

Madison loves to create and so she has made some interesting things in her free time. The most recent has been a woman made out of mud and has a two-toned leaf dress and the other is re-purposing Amazon boxes.

Madison is also in the process of tumbling her rocks to make into jewelry. It takes 4 stages and about a month of tumbling for each batch.

I haven’t been able to keep a booklist for all of the books she has read, but recently she finished the The Wrinkle in Time Quintet Boxed Set (A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, An Acceptable Time) and now she is reading the Redwall series.

Washington D.C. Day 7

Day 7 was our last day in Washington D.C. Jeff took Madison back to the Museum of Natural History while I got everything packed up. She insisted on going back to the butterfly garden again. 😂

They stopped to take pictures along the National Mall.

After we checked out of our hotel we headed to the Library of Congress.

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Before heading to the airport was none other than Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. We purchased tickets using our Explorer pass. Maybe I just like wax museums, but I thought this was a lot of fun. Some were much better than others, but being able to get up close and pose and have outfits to put on made it a lot more fun than just walking through and looking at them. I apologize in advance for the abundance of pictures. Madison really got into each scene so it cracked me up! I think she enjoyed this as much as I did!

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They have a bus seat after her wax figure that you can sit down in. When you do a light above you starts flashing and a voice of a bus driver comes on over a loud speaker telling you to move. Then it tells you to get off the bus. You hear sirens…it was surreal. An excellent part of the exhibit that really brings it to life.

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Madison for President!


That sums up our trip to Washington D.C.! We had a blast and cannot wait to go back and do everything we didn’t get a chance to do!

Washington D.C. Day 5

On Day five of our Washington D.C vacation we had a wonderful visit with family in the area. It was great to catch up and spend time.

In the evening we decided to go to the World War II Memorial. Madison also worked on her National Mall Ranger Badge while we were there.

Then we headed back to the hotel to relax. (View of the lobby from our floor.)

This was hands down our best day of our trip.

Washington D.C. Day 4

On Day 4 of our Washington D.C. vacation we visited Ford’s Theater. It has changed a lot since I went when I was 12!

They now have a museum that you go through first. It was amazing! We opted for the audio companion as well. Madison also worked on her Ford’s Theater Ranger Badge during our visit.

Ford’s Theater still holds productions. The history of the Theater is intriguing.

After we toured the museum and the theater we went across the street to the Peterson house. They have added an amazing museum to this as well!

Madison was also sworn in for completing her Ford’s Theater Ranger packet and received her badge and patch.

We decided to explore the International Spy Museum next! Madison decided she would be Jane Meyer…

It was fun. I wouldn’t recommend doing it without purchasing tickets at a discount with the Explorer Pass. All in all, it was a fun filled day!

Washington D.C. Day 2

Madison had to get a picture of her on Madison Drive. 😉

We started out day 2 with a docent tour of the National Archives Museum. We saw the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. The best part pf this tour is that we were in a small group and we were in the museum before it opened to the public, so we didn’t have to deal with crowds to see these magnificent documents. The rest of the tour was amazing and we learned a lot. We also were able to view the Magna Carta. Next time, we will go into the Boeing Learning Center. This museum is one that you should reserve online tickets for even if you do not take the tour.

Next, we set out to tour the monuments. The metro does not cover this area, so we chose to buy tickets for a hop on- hop off bus. I highly recommend doing this. There are several to choose from. We chose one from Groupon, but it did have downsides. The buses didn’t come as frequently and there were not as many stops. We did get a free night tour, so that made up for the other inconveniences. The Big Bus was popular and it can be bought at a discounted price with a purchase of the Washington D.C. Explorer Pass. We did end up purchasing an Explorer Pass for other things, but we found a better deal on it on Groupon.

Our first memorial stop was the Jefferson Memorial.


The second stop was the FDR memorial.



And the final memorial of the day was the Lincoln Memorial.


Before we went to the memorials we picked up a National Junior Ranger National Mall and Memorial folder with sheets to complete for each memorial for Madison to turn in and earn a National Junior Ranger pin. She was also able to stamp the back of the folder  with a stamp that had the date and the memorial name. The stamps were located in the bookstores by the registers of each memorial. The Jefferson Memorial had a really neat Park Ranger store.

Washington D.C. Day 1

This trip was very busy, but very rewarding. We had booked the airfare for this trip months in advance at a very good price. Finding a hotel was challenging, but in the end we feel we picked the perfect one within our price range. We ended up choosing the Grand Hyatt. It was in a safe area, was within walking distance to everything we wanted to see and we were able to access the metro from below the lobby.

September was a great month to visit because it wasn’t crowded and the weather was perfect. When we checked into our hotel we were offered to upgrade to the Club Level. We chose to do this because they offered breakfast, snacks, appetizers and deserts. It also included a coffee machine that made lattes and cappuccinos and included bottled water, sparkling water, milk, and sodas. We quickly added up the costs of bottled water ($4 in the gift shop), Starbucks for breakfast in the morning, etc. and the price for the upgrade was a better deal. We ended up eating a big lunch out everyday, but that was the only time we needed to eat a meal.




After we checked in we headed to the National Museum of American History. When we arrived, we took a Highlights tour. We learned the history behind many things including the Star Spangled Banner, George Washington’s uniform, Abraham Lincoln’s hat, the First Lady’s gowns, Julia Child’s Kitchen, Thomas Jefferson’s lap desk, Thomas Edison’s light bulb, the chairs and table used by Lee and Grant during the surrender ceremony at Appomattox Court House, and much more. The amount to see is overwhelming. Of course after all of the history Madison learned and even with her love of American History, her favorite sight was a doll house. Yep, a doll house. It is a super cool doll house and she is now inspired to build her own from scratch. She went back later in the trip just to have Jeff take a picture of each room. Here is more information on the Dolls’ House.

The top hat Abraham Lincoln wore the night he was shot. 

Madison posing as President with Regan’s administration.

After the American History museum we were tired. We had woken up at 3:30am to catch our 6am flight. We had watched the sunrise while in the air and we were exhausted by this point so we called it a night.

Washington D.C. Day 3

On our third day in Washington D.C. we toured the White House. To be able to tour the White House, you must contact your Member of Congress 3 months prior to your visit to request a tour. For the details to request a tour click HERE.

Also, please note that some things are prohibited on the tour, such as purses, backpacks, etc. Here is a LINK for more information.

We really enjoyed touring the White House and highly recommended it!

Then we made a stop by the Museum of Natural History.

Madison enjoyed the Hope Diamond and the Butterfly Garden the most. 🙂

It was a very eventful Day 3 in Washington D.C.!

Our Homeschool Curriculum and Activities for 2017-2018


Here we go on our fourth year of homeschooling! I have finally learned that I always have a plan or an idea for a plan for what we are going to do for the year curriculum wise and then it ALWAYS changes. So here is my initial plan for this year. Ha! Ha! Also, this post contains affiliate links, so please see my disclosure policy for more information.

English:

  1.  Madison is going to be taking an Introduction to Composition course this year. It is an accredited, online class and she is really looking forward to it. I think it will be a great challenge for her and will help her writing immensely.
  2. Madison will also continue to use Wordly Wise 3000 online. She has just begun book 7. This is probably the only curriculum that we still use from the beginning. It is wonderful!

Math:

I just don’t even want to talk about Math right now. I think we are going to try AELKS. I will update with a post when I figure it out.

Science:

Madison finished Life and Earth Science through Accellus and just began Physical Science. While she onePhysical Science lesson a day, will begin our Moving Beyond the Page 11-13 units. We are going to start with Technological Design and then Earth Cycles and Systems, Force and Motion, The Hydrosphere again and The Atmosphere. This way she gets some hands on experiments. There are a TON of hands on activities in each of these units. She learns best visually, but she isn’t going to have fun just watching videos all of the time.

Social Studies/History:

Madison completed US History I and is finishing up US History II and US Government High School courses through Accellus in preparation for our upcoming trip to Washington D.C. Then she will finish up Middle School Geography. She was half way through this course and we stopped to focus on US History. Geography is not her favorite subject so this course was perfect for her. While it’s a long course, the videos are relatively short so even if it takes us forever to get through it, at least she will have it under her belt. She has already listened to all four volumes of Story of the World, so we are going to do Personal Finance next. Then we will look into CLEP and AP tests for US and World History.

Electives and Activities:

We joined a homeschool co-op and so once a week Madison will be taking a Homeschool PE class, a cooking class, and a Math Mania class. She is excited and is really looking forward to this co-op.

Madison will continue to do art through HomeArtSTudio and Meet the Masters.

She will continue her third year of piano lessons.

Madison will also continue her foreign language learning with Rosetta Stone Learn Spanish: Rosetta Stone Spanish (Latin America) – Level 1-5 Set, Learn French: Rosetta Stone French – Level 1-5 Set, and Learn Italian: Rosetta Stone Italian – Level 1-5 Set.

Most of her free time has been dedicated to playing Chess. See my post on A Girl and Her Love of Chess for more details.

Madison will also be doing Speech and Debate this Spring with the DFW Speech Club. Madison is not old enough yet, but when she turns 12, she cannot wait to join the Debate Club too!

A Girl and Her Love of Chess


Madison has always ‘liked’ chess, but recently she has engulfed herself in it. The past six months she has taken her love for chess to a much higher level.

Madison discovered chess tournaments at North Texas Chess Academy. She participated and learned how to use a chess clock and notate the game. At first it was a little intimidating, but after attending a few it became much easier. She also started taking private lessons with Coach Chris. Every single time we get into the car after one of her lessons she says, “I love Chess so much!” She not only understands the game so much better and not just technically, but also now is starting to understand the history, wonder, and the players that have achieved greatness. She has also attended camps that she enjoyed as well. And she has had the opporutnity to meet the newest champions that live in our area at North Texas Chess Academy. It has been quite a special experience!


Over the summer Madison took another chess camp through Mosaic with Alexey Root. Throughout the week the kids in the class play each other. At the end, the top two winners play each other. It was a complicated and grueling game, but Madison ended up winning. This boosted her self-confidence and what encouraged her need to grow and learn more about chess.

Madison’s birthday is over the summer and her Pen Pal that she has been writing back and forth with for 2 years sent her the perfect gift!

 

Madison also has a unique opportunity to have weekly small group online chess sessions for two hours with a Grandmaster. She loves these sessions and looks forward to them every week!

For the Fall, Madison plans on continuing all of the things above and has decided to join two chess clubs. The first one is with a local Catholic Homeschool Association. They will practice together and compete as a team in local Scholastic Chess Tournaments. The second club is an Online Homeschool Chess Club. They have weekly lessons and then participate in live, rated online chess tournaments twice a week.

She is very excited for these new endeavors. She has been playing chess for hours already, but it is much more fun when they are organized events where you can build friendships. 🙂 

Her favorite person to play though is her Papa. 

His gift is what encouraged her to learn to begin with. 🙂