Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Sweetling's Portfolio 2010-2011


This year, Sweetling continued in her study of Vocabulary from Classical Roots. In July and August, she did the review exercises at the end of the Level B workbook. Through the rest of the year, she completed her Level C work book. (The top photo show a portion of the first lesson in the book, and the bottom photo a portion of one of the last lessons in the book. Clicking on the photos should display a larger image.)

Also this year, Sweetling embarked on learning ASL, through a Conversational Sign Language course at Learning Tree Co-op. Not only did she learn a wide variety of signed vocabulary, she learned how to put those signs together to construct meaningful conversations and how to view and understand longer sentences in ASL. Since ASL is its own language, with a different word order and different linguistic and grammatical rules than English, this is quite an accomplishment. Her instructor approached me after co-op last week full of praise for Sweetling's focus and progress. She suggested I encourage Sweetling in her learning and study of ASL and said that if Sweetling should ever chose to become a professional interpreter, that goal would be well within her range of ability.

Lastly, Sweetling worked through the intermediate level of PowerGlide Spanish. Sweetling has already worked through this curriculum before, so this was not 'progress' in the sense of learning new material. However, I was proud of her initiative to maintain her knowledge and skill level in this area.


Our goal for literature with Sweetling this year was two-fold. Sweetling is already a voracious reader. Therefore, our goals did not reflect an increase in the amount or time of her reading, but an increased depth of what she got out of her reading. First, through the year, Sweetling read books which were set in different cultures of the world to learn through literature different perspectives, values, and beliefs. Among those were Spring Pearl by Laurence Yep, Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates by Mary Mapps Dodge, and Bruchko  by Bruce Olsen. Secondly, as she read these books and many others, Sweetling kept a literature log, in which she was free to write about her thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the book, her opinions on the character's choices, and her observations of the author's craft.

Two short excerpts from her lit log, one from the first book she read and responded to,
Trackers by Patrick Carman features a boy named Adam and his friends Emily, Lewis, and Finn. Adam is advanced in his knowledge of technology and makes his own devices. He decide that his technology would be perfect for the government, so he and his friends often run field tests on them.

And one sample from a later reading--
The Kane Chronicles: The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan starts out with Carter describing to the reader how to acsess a stone that gives the holder unlimtited power, but warns them to not keep in for over a week. He then describes that he’s not allowed to look inside his fathers workbag, and that it was his good luck charm in times of trouble. I think that the stone describe in the beginning is carried around in Carter’s dad’s workbag. Next, Carter describes learning that his mother died by the Cleopatria Needle. At a museum, the dad uses a special item on the Rosetta Stone and summons Orisis, the Egyptain god of the dead, along with a strange creature. The creature then does something strange to the father- and I think he pulled Carter’s dad into the afterlife.


Sweetling is already an accomplished writer. Because she feels her future might be in writing, at least in part, our goals for the year were to help Sweetling hone and refine her craft as well as provide ample opportunity to allow Sweetling to write about subjects and topics which interest her. To assist us in reaching these goals, Sweetling completed the lessons and writing exercises in the book Writing Strands 5. Recommended for 15 and 16 year olds, Writing Strands 5 focused on such skills as the narrative voice attitude, arguments, writing for action, portraying characters through dialogue, tense control, organizing descriptions, utilizing flashbacks, and controlling reader response.

From one of Sweetling's first exercises from Writing Strands--
The old man ran across the snow, hoping to get to the rabit trap and back before dark. His family was hungry for dinner, and he promised to get them a rabbit. Suddenly, he realized that the rabit might hear him coming and run away, so he snuck behind the nearby berry bush to spy on the rabbit. He saw a rabbit and its mother scampering about, trying to find their favorite patch of grass. Not realising that it was hidden in the snow, the mother decided they would search under the evergreen tree.

And from a piece of writing later in the school year--
The kids marveled at the underwater city in front of them. The residents, however, were not as happy. The tribe in Atlantis thought very poorly of people from the surface, because most surfacers, as they were known, were very greedy and chaotic. They would take many pictures of the underwater village and cared only to be famous and start an Atlantis Tourisism Company, but all the merpeople cared about was living in the seclusion of an unknown city.

The kids in their scuba gear swam down to the sea floor.

“Greetings!” the oldest one, Martin, said.

What is he thinking? The Atlanteans thought. Doesn’t he know that we don’t appreciate his kind? Much to the kids’ surprise, the natives assumed a battle position as they grabbed their pitchforks.


Prior to this year, Sweetling had already completed two years of an advanced pre-algebra curriculum and one year of the first half of an advanced algebra curriculum. Sadly, through this process, math went from Sweetling's favorite subject to something she hated. Thus, our primary goal for this year was to rekindle Sweetling's interest in and pleasure from math. To do this, we spent the first part of the year just reading about math. Together, we read Isaac Asimov's collection of essays titled Asimov on Numbers. As we read, we worked out some of the math concepts in notebooks. For example,
"The problem, in essence, is this. you are offered any number of unit weights: one-gram, two-gram, three-gram, four-gram, and so on. Out of these you may choose a sufficient number so that by adding them together in the proper manner, you may be able to weigh out any integral number of grams form one to a thousand. Well, then, how can you choose the weights in such a way as to end with the fewest possible number that will turn the trick?" 
This problem was at the introduction to an essay on binary numbers, which we then learned not only how to convert a ten-based number into a binary number and vise a versa, but how to add, subtract, multiply and divide binary numbers in binary form. That was just one of our activities in the first half of the year.

In the second half of the year, we had fun playing with math and logic puzzles contained in the book Math for Smarty Pants by Marilyn Burns. Once again, we enjoyed trying to solve the puzzles and conundrums posed. A simple sounding one that had us stumped for a while read like this,

Every afternoon the three little pigs take an ice cream break. They head to the closest ice cream shop, where each orders a double-dip cone. There are only two kinds of double dips that the pigs ever order. It's either a double-dip vanilla cone or a licorice-chocolate combination.

If pig #1 orders vanilla-vanilla, then pig #2 orders the other. Either pig #1 or pig #3 orders vanilla-vanilla, but they never do so on the same day. Pig #2 and Pig#3 never both order the licorice-chocolate combination the same day.

Which of the three little pigs ate a vanilla-vanilla cone yesterday and will order a licorice-chocolate cone today?

All in all, our year let Sweetling practice skills of logic, reasoning and puzzle solving and left her feeling refreshed and ready to tackle high-school geometry next year

History, Geography, and Government

Sweetling studied the countries of the world using the Exploring Countries and Cultures curriculum from My Father's World. In addition to learning the locations of the countries of the world, she learned major geographic landmarks on each continent, climate and climate regions, and the exports and natural of major countries. She learned about the major religions practiced in each country and region we studied as well as the history of the country and the many forms of government around the world. In addition to a wealth of library books specific to each country, Sweetling used Rand McNally's  Answer Atlas as well as their Classroom Atlas and she used Window on the World by Daphne Spraggett. She completed the research activity pages in World Geography by Richard Rayburn. Additionally, for each country, she did a lot of independent reading and research using both the internet and resource books from our library.

The work samples enclosed are a sample page of one of the research project pages from World Geography

and a brief country report on Mexico.

Capital: Mexico City
Offcial Language(s): Spanish
Form of Government: Repiblic
Area: 761,606 sq mi
Population: 111,211,789
Chief Products: corn, wheat, soybeans, rice, beans, cotton, coffee, fruit, tomatoes, beef, poultry, dairy products, wood products

Government- Mexico has a government not unlike that of the USA. It has a legeslative branch, an executive branch, and a judicial branch. The Congrees of Mexico consists of The Senate and The Chambe rof Deputies. The Senate includes 128 representitives of the states; the Chamber of Deputies 500 representitives of the nation. The legislative branch can pass laws, impose taxes, declare war, prove the national budget, and approve or reject treaties. The president has a six-year term and can only be elected once. There is no vice president. The executive branch can appoint Cabneit members (though the Senate must approve) and veto bills.

People- Mexico is the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world. About 13 million people living in Mexico descend from indigenous peoples. In Mexico there are three kinds of holidays: statutory holidays (holidays that are observed nationwide and grant workers & students a day off, such as New Years, Constitution Day, Independence Day, and Christmas), civic holidays (holidays tht are observed nationwide but do not grant a day off, such as Flag Day, Cinco de Mayo, and Marine Day), and festivities (such as Ephiphany, Day of the Dead, and Christmas Eve).

Religion: Mexico has no official religion, but most Mexicans are Catholic Christians.

Education: Kids usually start basic education at age 6, and it goes on until age 18. The schools are divided into primary school (primaria), junior high school (secundaria), and high school (preparatoria). Primary school is for kids ages 6-12, and basic subjects are taught here. Junior high schools is for kids ages 12-15, where more specialized subjects, such as Physics and Chemestry, are often taught. Finally, high school, for kids 15-18, is intended as a precursour to college.

Land: Mexico has tropical reigons and desert reigons. The land is often used for farming.

Economy: Most people in Mexico earn about $100 a week. Many people in Mexico work in commerce and services, inculding government-related activities.

History: The Aztec, the Maya, and other indiguous peoples have lived in Mexico for what many belive to be 23,000 years, and are believed to have been civilizations for 9,000. In the early 16th century, Mexico was invaded by Spainards, with the assistance of the introduction of smallpox to the locals. It was then called New Spain. On September 16, 1810, Mexico delcared independence from Spain and named itself after its capital.
As we have been planning a family vacation, three week road trip to California and back, Sweetling has been very involved in doing research for the trip. She has used the internet, library books, and travel guides requested through the mail to help find possible attractions and places for us to visit. She has been using google maps to then check her destinations with our drive route out and our drive route back to determine how feasible a detour to that location would be.

Lastly, Sweetling has been keeping up with current events, spending time each Friday reading news stories online and then discussing them at dinner that evening.


This year, Sweetling studied biology for half of the year and ecology for half of a year.

For biology, Sweetling used the text Apologia Biology, completing written responses to the section questions, using a microscope and slides, and performing lab and field work. The photo was taken at a local nature preserve where we had gone to collect four samples of pond water for her study of the Kingdom Monera. (Trust me, the photo is much more pleasant than the pond water samples were after being 'fed' and allowed to grow in a warm dark place for two weeks.)

And a sample of her written responses to chapter questions--

2.    If a fungus form haustoria, it is parasitic.
3.    All fungi have rhyzoid hyphae.
4.    Chitin provides protection for a fungus.
5.      Fungi in these phylums have these traits:
    a.      Fungi in phylum Mastigomycota have motile spores.
    b.      Fungi in the “phylum” Imperfect Fungi have no known means of
sexual reproduction.
    c.      Fungi in phylum Amastigomycota have non-motile spores.
    d.      Fungi in phylum Myxomycota have traits of both Protozoa and Fungi.
6.    The gill of the mushroom holds basidia.
7.    Yeast is a part of class Acsomycetes, mushrooms are part of class
Basidiomycetes, and bread molds are a part of class Zygomycetes.
8.    Wheat rusts and smuts are parasitic. Wheat rust and smuts take food
from wheat.
9.    The plant and the funugs are participating in mycorrhizae.
10.   The antibiotic known as penicillin is produced by a fungus.
11.   The specimen is most likley a yeast from kingdom Fungi.
12.   Slime molds feed in a similar way to Protista.

For ecology, Sweetling learned about the many ecosystems of the world, using the text Properties of Ecosystems by Debbie and Richard Lawrence and watching the BBC series Planet Earth. She studied how plants and animals of each ecosystem interact with each other and with their environment, and how changing elements in the environment effected the population of plants and animals in the ecosystems. She also studied conservation and man's impact on the environment.


Sweetling has begun learning how to play the guitar this year. We purchased an acoustic Squier by Fender for her at the beginning of the school year. She has been taking Beginning Guitar classes at Learning Tree Co-op and practicing regularly at home. She has learned how to tune her guitar and some basic chording.

Also this year, Sweetling has taken Jewish Dance at Learning Tree Co-op. This has really increased her confidence level and by February, she was confident enough to join the praise dance ministry at our church, Dayspring Church of God, and partake in the Forest Park Gospel Fest. She will also be dancing during the Sunday service on Palm Sunday and on Easter Sunday this year.


Sweetling has really grown as an artist this year. Though she still claims that art is, and I quote, "not her thing", I am really impressed with the complexity and depth she has achieved in her art this year. She has been completing art projects based off of and and inspired by the cultures of the world. For a sample of how Sweetling's art has progressed, please read this post on our study of French Impressionism.

Sweetling's favorite piece of art for this year is her desert sunset, completed during our study of Mexico.

At Learning Tree Co-op, she is in the class, "Discovering Artists", which focuses on studying the style of famous artists and then reproducing aspects of those styles. I framed and hung on my kitchen wall her Sunflower still life.

Physical Education

Sweetling has been in Tae Kwon Do for nearly four years now, however, this year, she tested for her Junior Black Belt. Testing for a belt of that level really required her to step up her training to a new level of difficulty and dedication. It required going to the dojo on additional days for extra practice as well as extra practice and training at home. She has demonstrated mastery of some of the highest level forms and is currently working on perfecting her technique for her black belt form. She has had to increase her aggressiveness, speed, and combination techniques during sparring matches. As part of her test for her junior black belt, she had to perform a flying side kick over an obstacle to break a board.

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