Monday, May 23, 2016

Homeschool Science Online

Choosing a science curriculum is always tough. Speedy was excited to receive a year of Introductory Science from Science Shepherd for review because it includes online science lessons! This complete curriculum includes 35 weeks of lessons. The student logs on and watches the lesson online, then completes a short worksheet in their student book. The package also includes an answer key for the teacher.

You choose level A or level B for the workbook. Speedy is using the level B workbook. You can order additional workbooks if you are using the program with more than one student. Weeks 1 and 2 are introductions and cover Biblical creation. For week 3, Speedy was studying Science Skills and Tools. Week 4 started Earth Science, and weeks 4-6 were on Meteorology.

The videos are short. Most are under 3 minutes long. In the videos, the teacher is sitting at a large desk talking directly to the student. Some videos feature kids doing demonstrations or experiments to enhance the lessons. Each week includes 5 days of lessons. There are also "Video Activity" lessons between the daily lessons. Those encourage the student to do short experiments or observations at home. Some require a few typical household objects (a list is available), others involve using an extra page in the workbook, or simply observing the video.

Speedy (now 4th grade) was able to navigate this course almost entirely on his own. The only time he ever needed a little guidance or reminder was on the extra video activities and on the end of the week review pages. Usually he just didn't look ahead to make sure he had completed everything. We typically do seat work 4 days a week rather than 5 so he combined days 4 and 5 most weeks. Since the lessons are so short, he had no difficulty doing that. The workbook requires a little writing. Speedy still struggles with writing so he was glad there were no long, involved answers required. He feels good about this curriculum because he has been making great grades on it! He enjoys doing the little extra activities, and they keep him interested in the week's lesson. His favorite so far was leaf rubbing.

Speedy says, "I like the way the teacher describes stuff." Fairly high praise coming from an almost 9 year old boy!

I always appreciate science from a Biblical standpoint. This is one of the reasons we want to homeschool our children, so we can teach them from the viewpoint of our own beliefs. We don't question the Bible or Biblical creation, and that is what we want our children to learn (although we do teach them varying viewpoints for comparison). I also appreciate curriculum that is easy to use and all inclusive. This course from Science Shepherd also meets that standard. A course that my child can follow independently is another bonus. Give me a teacher's manual for easy grading, and I'm over the moon! So that's 4 thumbs up for Science Shepherd Introductory Science!

35 weeks of 5 lessons is a little more than I would typically choose for an elementary science course, but these lessons are so concise that it will be no problem to work it into our schedule. Introductory Science Level B is recommended for students 9-11. It has been just right for Speedy. Apple is 11, but this would have been a little too easy for her and the grade level she is working on. I would say this is a great upper elementary course and the online video format makes it perfect for homeschooling families. Science Shepherd also offers courses in Life Science and Biology. They also offer 3 free Creation Science lecture downloads. Speedy intends to continue this course to completion and is currently continuing the lessons on our "summer" work days. 

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To the Mountains

Our family vacation this year was a quick trip to the mountains. We've gone to the Sevierville/ Pigeon Forge/ Gatlinburg area several times, but it had been a few years. My parents took the trip with us, and we stayed 4 nights. It is a beautiful area, and there is so much to do and see!

We always stay at Hidden Mountain Resort. I've always been impressed with their cabins and their service. This trip was no exception. In fact, they gave us a free upgrade when we arrived! The gentleman helping us said he didn't want the roomier cabin to sit empty while we were in an economy cabin so he moved us. Not only was the cabin a little bigger, it was easier to get to and closer to the pool! We were very pleased with the cabin and location. It had 2 bedrooms with king size beds, a sofa with a pullout, and a large screened in porch that held a hot tub and a pool table. The kids didn't want to leave the cabin and the pool that was in sight of our cabin! If you are looking for a cabin in the Sevierville area, I highly recommend Hidden Mountain.

How did they grow up so fast?!?!

This trip we spent time shopping, eating, and taking in a show at the Dixie Stampede. This was our first time going to The Dixie Stampede, and we made our first trip to Dollywood. I'm planning to give you a more thorough review of those soon! The Tanger Outlet mall in Sevierville is a great place to do some shopping. It seems like I never have much shopping time at home so I always enjoy doing a little on vacation. We also stopped at the Old Time Pottery and did some shopping at The Island in Pigeon Forge.

The Island (not really an island) was a new feature since our last trip. It includes a Margaritaville restaurant, a Paula Deen restaurant, and other eateries. There is also a HUGE ferris wheel and a few other games and rides. Small stores surround the area. A large water fountain sits in the center and has "shows" to music. It was really lovely at night when the water feature was lit with colored lights. A convenient free tram shuttles you back and forth to the parking lot. It was a fun place!

We also took our first trip to The Old Mill. Somehow we've missed that gem on previous trips. It is a similar area that is anchored by a historic Mill. There are a few places to eat and shop. The food at The Old Mill restaurant was fantastic. I had corn chowder followed by fruit with chicken salad, and I was STUFFED. We had a very nice waitress there who took great care of our table. Thanks Savannah!

Lots of memories made in the Great Smokey Mountains on this trip! Have you ever been to that area? What is your favorite place to visit there?

I did not receive any compensation for this post. Just sharing about our fun trip!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Gather over the Table

Two years ago I took a book to the beach, and then reviewed it for you. Last year in May I read and reviewed the sequel to that book. This year I took the third book in the series on a trip to the mountains with me. Together at the Table by Hillary Manton Lodge was a terrific easy read for the long ride. I'm glad the family doesn't mind me reading for work on vacation!

Sometimes you can pick up anywhere in a series. As I started reading this book, I found myself striving to remember the first two books. I think you should start with A Table by the Window and then read Reservations for Two before beginning this third book. It would lead to greater enjoyment over the story line and characters.

Juliette is managing her brother Nico's restaurant and casually dating sous chef Adrian. She is enjoying her apartment over the restaurant with her roommate Clementine, and she's almost over her breakup with Neil. The pain from her mother's death is still fresh, but she's finding comfort in her routines. Several things happen at one time to jolt Juliette's world. She runs into Neil in Portland even though he lives in Memphis. Then her great aunt passes away before she can go and visit Italy again. Adrian makes a huge production out of her birthday and tries to make the relationship too serious too fast. How will Juliette cope with all these emotional upheavals?

This book, like others in the series, combines themes of food and family and relationships. Recipes are included in this book as in the previous two. Juliette's whole family is involved in cooking in one way or another and their family often gathers over food. Juliette must navigate through difficult circumstances to find the path for her and to finish uncovering the family secrets her grandmother left behind. Together at the Table feels like a peaceful conclusion. Although a few threads are left dangling that could be followed, many of the main storylines are completed in this book. I enjoyed this one every bit as much as I enjoyed the first two! It is a great easy reading trilogy.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Enjoy Poetry {Review} #poetrymemorization

I think one of the best parts of being a homeschool curriculum reviewer is when my kids surprise me with a product they love. That was certainly the case with Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization set from Institute for Excellence in Writing. We've use other IEW curricula regularly and generally their products are a big hit, but my kids have wanted nothing to do with poetry ever. My sweet book lover hasn't been a fan. My other kid who likes reading has shown no interest. This arrived, and now they BEG to do poetry time.

I love the way God brings it all together sometimes. Over Christmas break, I decided we really needed to be regularly memorizing scripture. The kids have typically balked at memorization of any kind, but they were receptive to the idea. Each week they have memorized a line or two of scripture that I've just randomly selected. I think this got them ready for poetry memorization (even though I didn't know it).

IEW always sends their curriculum nicely packaged. This set came in a sturdy box with a teacher's manual and a lovely brown case that contained 5 audio discs for the poetry memorization and a DVD of Andrew Pudewa's talk on Nuturing Competent Communicators. Listening to one of his talks is like being in a session at a homeschool convention. He always gives thorough information in a humorous way. That's why my kids like him! I did watch that talk, and I completely examined all the information in the teacher's manual before I ever started the program with the kids. The set includes the student book as an ebook that can be printed along with some other digital downloads. There are 7 digital downloads in all, and they include a digital copy of Nuturing Competent Communicators and On Listening, On Reading, On Speaking, On Writing, Mastery Learning, and Ten Thousand Times and Then Begins Understanding. All 7 of these are sessions from Andrew Pudewa and all 7 are worth a listen! As an added bonus, IEW even sent us one printed Student Book. The printed book is available for purchase separately from the set. I also printed out a separate copy of the student book so we'd have 2.
Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization  IEW Review

Level 1 (where it is recommended for everyone to begin) starts with a funny little poem titled "Ooey Gooey". I've now heard this little poem approximately a billion times. They love it! It is so short and a little humorous. So to begin the program the students begin with the first poem and recite it daily until it is memorized. They flew through the first 2. Every day they repeat all the poems they've memorized to that point and the one they are working on. IEW embraces full mastery learning, and I fully believe that is the best learning but I am often lax on that point. However, with the poems they will continue reciting them all until they have all 20 memorized. Mr. Pudewa recommends a big celebration when they reach the end of Level One so they can recite all their poems for others. I know my kids will totally dig that idea.

Each poem has a little picture they can color which they have enjoyed. The book contains 5 levels of poetry to memorize. This program can be used for a long time! The audio CDs are included so students can hear Mr. Pudewa speak each poem. It is important for them to learn proper timing for all of the pieces. They are also to learn the title and author of each selection. While level one includes many funny little poems, it includes one with 8 (very short) paragraphs. The last selection is left to personal choice, but there are suggestions. The humor in these poems is key for keeping students interested. I'm not sure either of my kids would be excited about doing poetry every day if they didn't find entertainment in each new poem. The competition between the two of them doesn't hurt either.

Level 2 also contains 19 poems and space for a personal choice on number 20. It includes some funny selections and some poems with a more serious tone. Students will also recite each poem they learn all the way through the end in Level 2. Some of the selections are wordy. In Level 3 there is a schedule to help keep previously memorized poems in the rotation of recitation. Most of these poems are in a serious tone but there are some fun selections thrown in among the 20. Casey at Bat is in Level 3. My baseball loving boy will be THRILLED to get to that one! Level 4 is generally the same with another recitation schedule. If your students make it to level 5, they will memorize excerpts from speeches. I love history, and I think that is fantastic!

As if 5 levels with all the extras mentioned above weren't enough, the teacher's manual also includes an enrichment section. There are biographies on the authors and additional information to go along with each poem. These are optional suggestions for further study. Some of the suggestions are about vocabulary or other literature suggestions. The rest of them give information on linking the poems to other subjects like literature, history, and science. IEW truly provides the instructor with everything they could need.

The kids really do love doing this. They are excited for their shared poetry time each day. It's a little competition for them to learn the new selections first. They don't need to be prompted to work on them even on off days. I am so happy that they love this activity because memorization increases a child's ability to learn and retain information. It is also giving them an opportunity to present information aloud (even if it's just to me). In a few short weeks, they have both successfully recited poems 1-5 and are working on number 6. I'm interested to see if they will continue through the summer on their own. I think they will!

See what other Crew members thought about Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization:
Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization  IEW Review

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Summer Fun on the Cheap

Here is a list of ideas to help you find some summer fun right in your own town (or nearby):

1. See the home team play- Go to a sporting event. Go see a minor league team, or to really save money, go and watch a Little League game.

2. Pull out the sprinkler. If you don't have one, they can be purchased for very little. If the kids are a little older, get a slip n slide (or make your own with a tarp) instead. Instant summer fun in your own backyard!

3. Go to the park. Most towns have several parks with playgrounds and picnic tables. If the kids are older, check out a state park and walk a nature trail. It's usually free and will provide an afternoon of fun.

4. Camp out! Find a local place for camping or pitch a tent in the backyard.

5. Build a fire in the backyard and have a hot dog roast. Don't forget the s'mores! The best part of this plan is the kitchen stays clean!

6. Invite some folks over for game night. Have everyone bring a finger food. You get to enjoy the company of friends and laughter is sure to ensue! We enjoy Phase 10. If you're feeling more competitive, try a high energy game of Spoons.

7. If you aren't in to card or board games, have a kickball game. If  there isn't room in your yard, take it to the park! All you need is a kickball and some "bases".

8. Serve in your community. Take the whole family to serve at a local soup kitchen or pick up trash. Most hospitals will allow visitors on noncritical floors. We've gone and asked at the nurses station to point us in the direction of someone that needed a visit. There's always someone.

9. Look in the paper and online for free and/ or inexpensive local events. A community theater play, an arts and crafts show, a car expo, or a concert by a local band can all be cheap and provide entertainment. Many times social media can be a great way to seek out these events. Last weekend a local attraction held a "free" day to celebrate an anniversary. Towards the end of the summer or beginning of fall, the local symphony holds a free outdoor concert. These are events that are family oriented and can provide some fun.

10. Have a yard sale! This isn't only cheap, it can make you some money! Pull out the things you no longer need or are using and set up in the front yard or driveway. Get the kids involved with a lemonade stand. If you just aren't in to having a yard sale, spend a Saturday morning going to yard sales for some bargains. You'd be surprised what you can find!

These are some simple ideas, but I hope they will inspire you to have some free or cheap fun this summer. You don't need a bucket list or even a daily schedule to fill the summer with laughter. Just take time to spend as a family and include friends on occasion to make the summer months a time of joy.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Needle Felting Novice #homeschoolart

For a long time, I have wanted to get a curriculum from ARTistic Pursuits Inc. for Apple. When the opportunity arose to receive Sculpture Technique Model for review, I knew she would be thrilled. She has such an artistic flair, and she really enjoys trying new things. I told her it was coming as soon as I received the shipment notification. She asked daily (DAILY!) if it had arrived. I was very happy when it was delivered, and so was she.

Sculpture Technique Model is a spiral bound book with 83 pages. It is a 36 week curriculum broken into 3 units. For the purpose of this review, I selected Unit 3 for Apple to try. Unit 3: Creating Surface with Fiber Arts is a 10 week focus on felting. It includes instructions on Wet Felting, Pre-felts as Surface Design, Felted Vessels, Needle Felting- Creating Mass, and Needle Felting Appendages and Surface Design. The Table of Contents Page lists materials needed for each unit so we went out and purchased the 4 items listed as required. Art supplies are not inexpensive, but I was able to pick up a felting needle tool, felting needles, felting mat, and natural wool roving at a reasonable cost.

ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Review

The book is written in conversational form with pictures to clarify. The unit begins with an introduction to surface with information on color and texture. There is also an additional page about wool and the other felting tools. Apple skipped over the first few projects and went straight to needle felting. I did not initially realize she had skipped some parts of the unit, but later I realized she did so because some of the other parts required materials we didn't have like dowel rods, bubble wrap, and tulle fabric.

She made birds as instructed in the book, and then she moved on to penguins. She worked on several penguins before I had her return to the book to try animals with appendages. She struggled a little with getting the wool tight enough for arms and legs, but she finally made a cat that she was willing to let me photograph. She wants to continue working on her needle felting to improve her technique. I think she's done a fabulous job for a novice! I have no artistic ability so she is always impressing me with the things she creates. I was just happy her projects actually looked like little birds and animals!

The other two units in Sculpture Technique Model are Creating Mass with Putty and Creating Scale with Clay. Apple has already been flipping through those getting ideas for the future. She does want to complete unit 3 first. The book is set up into lessons inside the units, and then projects to try with step by step instructions. There are 12 projects total in the book. At the end of each unit, there is a short evaluation to help the artist to reflect on what they have learned and achieved. An answer sheet is also included for those evaluations. 

I think this is a really well written art course that works well for the homeschool student. The combination of fully written instructions with color and black and white photos guided Apple through the processes. She did pull up some images on the internet for further clarification on final touches, but in general the book held everything she needed to know. As with any art projects, a well stocked set of supplies is the key to success. The supply list at the beginning is a great resource, but as we found, it's a good idea to flip through the project instructions for items that are maybe assumed to be available. I think the most successful way to use this curriculum would be to use it as intended one week at a time through a school year. For the purpose of review, dipping into a specific type of project worked well for Apple, and she spread her practice over several weeks. This is a middle/ high school level art instruction course. This is a pricier art curriculum, but it is a non-consumable book that can be used over and over again. Apple is already scoping out other fine arts courses from ARTistic Pursuits, Inc!

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Monday, May 9, 2016

My Favorite Breakfast

I've never been a big breakfast person. I have trouble eating when I first get up. I usually start to get hungry about 2 hours after rolling out of bed. My kids generally make their own breakfast before we begin school. So usually I will make a breakfast shake. It's my usual breakfast. Sometimes I will make a whole batch earlier because the kids like them too. When I'm making one for myself I use our Magic Bullet Blender. For the batch for all of us, I use our Ninja Blender. Here's the recipe for one. Just double or triple for more than one.

1/3 cup oats (I usually use quick oats for this but have used other types as well.)
1 banana
3-4 ice cubes
1-2 T peanut butter (crunchy!)
8-12 oz almond milk (or any milk of your choice)

Blend well. Drink with a straw. YUM.

I've never calculated the exact number of calories in this breakfast shake. I'm certain it's less than most other quick breakfast options. It's easy to customize and tastes great. You can add other flavors and ingredients to make it your favorite breakfast shake. Coffee makes a great side dish to this shake. :)