Archive for the ‘Abeka Academy’ Category


This year Cosette had a very interesting science project that ended up much differently than we had originally planned.  She wanted to do an investigation that tested the rotations per minute of a toy helicopter’s blades under a variety of conditions.  So, we got the helicopter, researched ways to measure rpm, and started trying to gather data.

We quickly discovered that all of this was easier said than done.  First of all, the helicopter was pretty hard to control.  In addition to that, measuring rpm on a moving object can be tricky.  We were almost ready to give up when I saw a friend of mine post some information about his drone.  He graciously offered to fly his drone if that would help with the project, so we tried it out, experimented with the right kind of tachometer to measure the blades’ rpm, and got the investigation re-worked.

We didn’t completely abandon the helicopter.  We thought of ways to adapt her original project that would be more practical in real-life and gathered data under a variety of conditions with that as well.

So, probably the most important lesson we learned from this project was to thoroughly test an idea before investing a lot of time into a project that may or may not work.

Once we were finally able to collect the data for Cosette’s project, her board and reports came together quite well.  I will include a video of her presentation and a slideshow about her project with this entry.

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As Brock was completing his last A Beka Academy Science Project, Luke was working on his first.  In 7th grade, the students plan a project, but do not actually complete the experiment or make a display.  Then in 8th grade, the students go through the entire process to put together a finished science project.

Luke’s project is kind of hard to describe, and it didn’t work like we had planned.  So, we had to make some modifications as we went along.  His investigation involved transferring static electricity to a Leyden jar with various conditions and measuring the resulting discharge spark.  The first jar that Luke built did not work.  That was our biggest obstacle.  It simply would not consistently discharge making the collection of data nearly impossible.  So after a few days of frustration, we hunted for ideas on how to improve the jar’s design to make it more reliable.  Ultimately, we completely scrapped the original design which required Luke to rethink his tests, hypotheses, etc.  This was a good lesson to go through, however, and Luke was very persistent in getting the project finished.  Now we know that it is a pretty good idea to test a procedure out early in the planning stages of the project just to make sure everything works right….sigh…..

Anyway, we eventually got the data we needed, and Luke got his display made.  Here is a slideshow of his project followed by a video of his oral presentation:

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The Prairie Family is nearing the end of this year’s Science Project Season–yea!  🙂  These projects are good for the kids to do, but they do require a lot of work (and patience).  Most years we will only have two projects, but we were lucky enough this year to have three….  Seniors in A Beka Academy are not required to do a science project, so this is Brock’s last one, and I am pretty sure that he is glad.

Brock’s project worked really well this year.  In fact, this one has gone the smoothest and had the most consistent results of any project that the Prairie Family has done so far.  This project involved measuring and comparing sound levels under a variety of conditions using different insulating materials.  The little sound meter that we used to measure the loudness worked really, really well!  It made gathering the data a simple process.  Brock and I both agree that designing more projects that use this tool would be a good idea for future studies.

Here is a slideshow about Brock’s project followed by a video of his oral presentation describing his experiment:

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Map Collage 2

Right after Kara completed her A Beka Academy 6th grade adopt-a-tree poster, it was time to tackle her map poster project.  This is another project that Kara reaps the benefit from being my last child in 6th grade!  🙂  The trick to this project is using a projector to trace the image of the map.  Usually it takes several maps to get all of the required details filled in, but it works!  Over the years we found easier ways to make the icons, but the best upgrade we found was using a label maker to label the cities, geographic features, etc.  That is so much easier than trying to hand write everything!

So, what is Kara’s next project?  Her research paper–and she is just about finished with that.  She is writing her paper about Pearl Harbor.  She has her first draft finished, so she should have the whole thing finished by Christmas.  That’s the nice thing about 6th grade:  there are several projects, but they are all in the first semester leaving the second semester free to do things like musicals!  (hint, hint…)

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Karas Tree Collage

Kara is in 6th grade of A Beka Academy. Sixth grade is a transition year in many ways–the kids are moving from elementary school into jr. high, and it is a year with some interesting projects.  The first one that Kara completed this fall was her adopt-a-tree project.  We have always been fortunate when doing this project because of where Dan works.  He works at a university research station, and there are some unique trees  there for our area that our taken care of and labelled.  This makes this project so much easier than it otherwise could be!

Kara chose a silver maple at the station for her tree.  It took us several visits to remember to get all of the pictures and information that we needed to make her poster, but eventually we got it all done.  Kara does have one advantage over her siblings:  she is number five to do all of these school projects, and her Mom has learned a few things along the way to help the process go more smoothly!  🙂  (Poor John, we kind of struggled along the first time through these things!)

Kara is a very diligent student.  She is self-motivated to do her absolute best, and that is a blessing.

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2014-15 school Collage

Last week we began the 2015/16 school year.  This is the Prairie Family’s 14th year with A Beka Academy–hard to believe, isn’t it?!  This year we have grades 11, 9, 8, and 6.  John has graduated from high school and will be leaving to attend Kansas State University later this week.

Brock is a Junior in high school.  He’s following right along in John’s well-laid footsteps and does extremely well academically.  This will be an important year for him as he begins to more seriously consider colleges and what areas he may want to pursue.  He’ll also be taking the ACT in a few months, which is, of course, a big step towards the future.  A new thing for Brock is that he will be taking choir at the college.  John started that when he was a junior, and it was a good experience in many ways.  It helped to “bridge the gap” from homeschool into traditional settings, plus it was just neat to get involved with other kids to share music.  So, tomorrow is Brock’s first day at the college, and we are looking forward to many exciting opportunities for him in the days to come.

Cosette is a freshman–yes, a FRESHMAN!  🙂  She is taking the full load of regular A Beka Academy classes, and is doing very well.  She also has some new things to look forward to this year.  First of all, she is excited to be taking piano lessons from the same lady at the college that John has taken from for the last couple of years.  She had a few lessons with her this summer, and it is really neat to see her making tremendous musical progress already.  She can’t wait for the fall lessons to begin–taking lessons from this teacher will give her many recital and competition opportunities, and she is very excited.  She is thinking about participating in Scholar’s Bowl at the Christian School, but we’ll have to see how that all works out scheduling-wise.

Luke is in 8th grade which means he will do a real science project.  He already has a neat idea picked out, so that will be a fun adventure for him and me to have together.  He’s still involved with all of his music lessons, and we are planning to add him into more of our ensemble-work.

Kara is in 6th grade.  She was excited to finally retire the last of our big, outdated tv’s and to replace it with a nice, small, thin monitor that allows her desk to be pushed up to the wall like everyone else’s.  She is continuing to take trumpet lessons out at the college and improves every week.  She is looking forward to participating in the college musical again this year.

As for me, this year is going to be hectic and crazy.  In addition to our regular school stuff, I have around 16 students lined up for music lessons with a couple more coming in a few weeks.  I am also planning to help lead the Christmas program at Heartland Christian School again this year, so in late September/early October I will start meeting with the kids to get that prepared.  The local homeschool group is starting a choir this year and asked if I would be willing to lead grades 7-12, so that will be a new adventure as well.

Of course, going back to school for the Prairie Family means a serious return to music practice and performance.  We never really stopped over the summer, but it was pretty hit-and-miss at times, especially when I was painting the house.  Now we are back into the daily routine and that helps our consistency immensely!  We are going to be playing for the Gem Lions’ Club barbecue next week, so it is good (and necessary) to get back at it in a focused-kind-of-way.

Music Collage with text

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Final Grade Collage with Text

Yes, it is official!  John officially completed all of his required coursework for A Beka Academy and graduated in May.  His senior year was pretty hectic, but he was very diligent to get all of his work finished on time.  He has been an excellent student, and we are all excited to see him go forward as the Lord leads him.

People often ask what John is planning to do next.  He will be attending Kansas State University beginning in August.  He is currently pursuing a math major with a music (piano) minor and is really looking forward to studying both areas.  He is exploring career options, and there is plenty of time for that.  As part of his math program, he will be taking a class this fall that discusses possible careers in math, and that will be helpful.  He’s actually going to have a pretty hefty first semester–he’s signed up for calculus, chemistry (with lab), expository writing, economics, choir, and piano.  He really wanted to take music theory, but they told him that class is reserved for music majors in the fall semester, so he’ll do that next spring.  His roommate is a Christian homeschool graduate, and they will be living in Goodnow Hall.

So, this is a summer of transition for John.  He has kept working away at the piano and has a job at Subway (where he is putting in a LOT of hours).  Many people have said that they sympathize with me–having my oldest son leave home soon and all.  But I don’t need sympathy!  🙂  I can honestly say that I am thrilled to see God leading John and know that He will care for him every step of the way.  Our whole purpose in being Christian parents is to raise these kids to follow God’s leading and then to rejoice as we see God fulfill HIS purpose in their lives.  We are blessed–truly blessed–and we are thankful!

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Roller Coaster Collage

Cosette had an interesting investigation for her first “real” science project.  She decided to build a model of a roller coaster loop-de-loop and then test a couple of different variables (one at a time).  She first tested how high the initial hill must be to successfully complete the loop, and then she tested different starting points along a set slope.  We all learned some things through this process.  We were all quite surprised that the initial slope must be quite sharp to make the marble complete the loop.  Also, the results were much more consistent than we had expected.  We thought there would be “levels” of completion, but we quickly discovered that the marble either did or did not complete the loops with the different variables mostly 100% of the time.  That made for a not-very-exciting result graph!  😦

John thought of a related project that would extend this project with more interesting results.  He suggested making a U-shaped track with cm marks along the ends.  Using those markings would enable good data to be gathered, such as how high the marble went with different starting points.

Cosette enjoyed making her display.  She loves all things artsy-craftsy, so this was right up her alley.  She did a good job picking coordinating, but not matching, patterned paper that made her display reflect the amusement park theme that she was looking for.

She also did a nice job putting together her oral presentation–I am attaching a video to this entry.

Getting these projects finished is always a major milestone in our academic year.  I am hoping to get a jump-start on next year’s projects this summer.  We’ll see how that goes….

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Trebuchet  Collage

Another year with A Beka Academy means another year of science projects.  John didn’t have to do one for 12th grade, and Luke is in 7th grade, which is the year the students plan a project (for experience) but don’t actually carry it out.  So, that left Brock and Cosette with projects to complete.  Next year will be our first year having three full projects going on at the same time–that should be interesting….

Brock decided to build a trebuchet for this year’s project.  Of course, building such a contraption doesn’t make a science project–the model has to be functional and has to perform measurable tests under varying conditions.  So, Brock chose to carry out three sets of experiments varying (one at a time) the counter weight of the trebuchet, the weight of the projectiles, and the angle of the nail that releases the bag.

To vary the counter weight, Brock simply added or took away weights from Dan’s weight set.  Varying the weight of the projectiles was interesting since they all had to be identical outside of the weight.  Brock opened up identical tennis balls and added bb’s to the inside before sealing the holes.  Doing this gave him a regular ball, one moderately weighted, and one heavily weighted.  The release nail is a little hard to explain, but changing its angle would affect how the trebuchet released the balls.

Each of the sets of experiments had interesting results.  Some were what Brock expected while others were not.  I am adding two videos to this entry.  The first shows how the trebuchet worked, and the second is Brock’s presentation of his project explaining his results.


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Fall Update

Well, here it is October, and I have not posted since August!  It is definitely not because there is nothing blog-worthy happening.  In fact, it is just the opposite:  things have been so crazy that I can barely keep my head above water!  And, to top it all off, I lost my old, faithful camera, and that put me out of the picture business for a few weeks.  But, there is one perk to losing a camera–I got a new one!  And it is a doosie, as you can see from the quality of the pictures for this entry!  I haven’t had a lot of time to play with it yet, but I sure have liked the few pictures that I have gotten with it so far!  So, I am now re-armed with my camera, and blog posts should be more forthcoming.

School is going pretty well.  We are already finished with our first nine-weeks grading period.  The kids have had lots of papers, projects, etc., and that isn’t going to change any time soon.  Brock and Cosette are in the early stages of this year’s science projects, so there is lots of fun just around the corner…..

John is having quite a busy senior year of high school.  He has applied to a few colleges, and has been accepted everywhere he has applied–and offered academic scholarships at each one as well.  He is getting this major decision narrowed down, and hopefully soon we’ll be able to start heading in a specific direction for next fall.  He also participated in a piano competition a couple of weeks ago, and got a 1 rating!  This qualifies him to go to a state-level competition in Topeka the first weekend of November.  Pretty cool stuff!

Like I said earlier, I have been running like a crazy person for the last several weeks.  Since school started, I have gained 4 more music lesson students, so that alone has kept me pretty busy.  But, on top of that, I have been going to the local Christian school to help the kids there put on a Christmas musical.  This has been a wonderful blessing!  I am working with kids from pre-school through 6th grade, and have 3 different classes with about 50 students total.  We are doing a brand new show called David’s Dynasty with grades 1-6, and a very cute preschool program called My Best Friend with the preschool and kindergarten.  I have rewritten quite a bit of the scripts for both shows, so they are definitely going to be a personalized program for this school.  The kids have been amazing–and they are very talented.  It has been very precious to see how God has led in this direction and is guiding each step.  I can’t wait to see the end results, and will do my best to get some pictures to post here along the way.

We’re also still working on the reader’s theater script for the library and the melodrama for the barbershop chorus, so for whatever reason, my days sure are filled with music and drama!

Oh, and speaking of music, on December 3, O’Brien Keys and Strings is going to provide Christmas music for the Booked for Lunch program at our local library!  That is very exciting!  It’s a pretty nice event that we have attended in the past, and we are delighted to get to perform for it this year!  So, we have been busy practicing all kinds of Christmas music, and our problem is definitely not going to be having enough music.  No, if anything we’ll have to cut out songs to keep within the time limit–which is always a hard decision to make!

So, welcome to the crazy house!  Our lives are very lively, and hopefully now that I am back in the picture business, I will be able to bring you all along on our adventures in the coming weeks!

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