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Erika's portfolio review for the semester is on Monday, so I spent the afternoon putting her portfolio together. Boy, did we do a lot of stuff this semester!

In the order it appears in the county documents:


This semester, I introduced Erika to silent reading. Previously, she had done all of her reading out loud. She wound up reading most of her science and social studies books out loud, whereas stories she read silently.

She read 32 books silently this semester, and is currently obsessed with Cam Jansen, having read the entire Young Cam Jansen series already. She's also been reading Magic Tree House books, and a few books that aren't part of a series. Dick King-Smith was a particular favorite author.

She also read 16 books out loud, mainly from the True Books series.

The portfolio also includes samples of Erika's writing, such as letters to her pen pal and stories she wrote.

Page one of "The Four Lives of Meowy"


I find it odd that Health is the second subject on the county form, but it is.

We mostly covered health by discussion, though Erika did learn about muscles, lungs, and the heart in her co-op, do a couple of science activities related to germs, and visit the dentist.

Our discussions were pretty far-ranging this semester, including illegal drugs, radiation, cigarette smoking, the dangerous E Coli outbreak in Germany, poison ivy, knife safety, growing food, and so on.


Erika's math work this semester included numbers up to 100, bar graphs, money up to $1, basic fractions, basic measurement, and addition and subtraction within 20.

This is the simplest section of the portfolio, as I just provided a workbook page for each month along with a list of the materials we used.


I had no idea we'd done so much science this semester until I sat down to put the portfolio together.

We studied Rocks and Minerals, including field trips to the Natural History Museum's Gems and Minerals exhibit and to Kartchner Caverns in Arizona.

We did some work with robotics and computer programming using Lego WeDo.

We studied the habitats, animals, and plants in the various parts of the world we covered in Social Studies. This happened to include the Galapagos Islands, providing an opportunity to discuss Charles Darwin and evolution.

With other kids, Erika explored a range of topics, inlcuding buoyancy, surface tension, germination, astronomy, and static electricity.

Erika watched the first two seasons of Beakman's World, several episodes of "Walking with Dinosaurs" and "Walking with Monsters," some Magic School Bus episodes, and the last couple of episodes of BBC's "Life" series.

And then there were more field trips, including the Air & Space Museum, the Natural History Museum, the American History Museum, the Boston Children's Museum, the Harrisburg Science Museum, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Saguaro National Park, and Kitt Peak.

Drumming Monkey

Erika and Karl working with the Lego WeDo drumming monkey.

Erika reading the signs

Erika reading the signs at the Air & Space Museum Annex

Sheet of bubble

Erika pulling a huge soap bubble sheet at the Boston Children's Museum

Social Studies

The main thing we did for Social Studies was continue our study of countries around the world. We finished up Canada, moving on to China, Cameroon, and Brazil this semester.

We also did some introductory work on American history, covering prehistory through the precursors of the Revolutionary War.

We also watched the German children's news program, Logo!, about five times a week. It does a great job of explaining the major news items of the day in a way that kids can understand. Hot topics were the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster in Japan; unrest in the Middle East; and a major outbreak of a dangerous E Coli strain in Germany.

We also continued graphing temperatures here at home, in Canberra, and at the South Pole; we now have a nice graph from the end of August to the beginning of June.

Erika with Petroglyphs

Erika in front of some petroglyphs at Saguaro National Park


Erika went to the Stories in Art program at the National Gallery of Art three times, acted in a children's production of Shakespeare's The Tempest, and produced a lot of art of her own.


The earth from space

Pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms, and olives


Erika had some piano lessons with John and a couple of recorder sessions with me. She also listened to the podcast series Classics for Kids about four different composers (Joplin, Beethoven, Mozart, and Stravinsky), and learned about different instruments and musical styles at our co-op.

Physical Education

Erika participated in Takoma Park Soccer this spring, and did Karate through the county rec department all semester. We also went swimming once a week, visited playgrounds, etc.

Karate Practice

Cool spinny playground toy

Erika crossing a rope bridge


This isn't part of what the county cares about, but I'm going to include it for completeness.

Erika made a lot of progress in German this semester. She finished the Einsterns Schwester 1 series of workbooks, read the accompanying reader, and read a number of other books in German.

She also attended the German School's Saturday program, where she was a diligent student.

Her reading in German lags a bit behind her reading in English, but is certainly entirely adequate for a child her age.

She's now working with great enthusiasm on learning the German style of cursive, and I just ordered a bunch of additional books from Amazon.de.

Reflections on the year

I feel like we've had a really great first year of homeschooling. Having Karl in preschool gave us a chance to develop a good rhythm and a defined time to do schoolwork,though it also put major constraints on our schedule.

Over the course of the school year, Erika's reading has improved dramatically. At the beginning of the year, she could read books with about 1000 words, and often needed help with several words on each page. Now, she can read independently books like the Cam Jansen series and the Magic Tree House series, both of which have about 5000 words. She sometimes even reads an entire book of this type in one sitting.

Her letter formation and stamina for writing have also improved considerably. Her spelling seems entirely adequate for a student at the end of Kindergarten.

Erika's addition and subtraction skills are vastly better than they were at the beginning of the year. She has an excellent grasp of all of the addition and subtraction facts up to 10, and is doing really well with addition and subtraction up to 20.

She's also learned so much about the world around us -- about geography, science, history, etc. I do feel that she's still not quite ready for history, but we'll see how that goes when we start pursuing it in more depth next year.
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