Curiouser and Curiouser….

 Beans, Bugs, curriculum, homeschooling, Reviews, TOS, TOS Crew, TOS Magazine  Comments Off on Curiouser and Curiouser….
Feb 112011

I was recently blessed with being able to review the Curiosity Files, Puffer Fish from The Old Schoolhouse Store. And I mean blessed! This was a great diversion during the doldrums of winter and a nice way to get back into the groove of homeschooling after the holidays.

The Curiosity Files with Professor Ana Lyze are a fun filled, easily adaptable unit study series by The Old Schoolhouse. They focus on the stranger and grosser topics of science (zombie fire ants and dung beetles anyone?) that seem to appeal to a wide variety of children. We selected to do the study on Puffer Fish due to the girls’ love of fish and a certain fish themed animated movie.

This study, while designed for children at about age six through middle school is very easily adaptable. My eldest is four and a half and doing kindergarten work, and was captivated by the topics regarding puffer fish in this study and was able to complete a lot of the projects. We did most of it orally and she did very well. Beans loved tagging along and seeing the puffers.

This unit study has everything you could want, from science (specifically zoology in this one), math (monetary conversion rates, other math problems), language skills (vocab, spelling, sentence combing and both print and cursive copy work), Bible (copy work and memorization), sociology (culture study with Japan) and even art. This study has TONS to do, and is easy to adapt to your needs by adding to it or taking away. We didn’t do the higher level math conversions for example (at 4 ½ we really didn’t need to). And we did most of our work orally. We discussed the vocabulary words and we talked about how and why puffer fish inflate. I think the girls (and I) know more about puffer fish than the average person….I didn’t know there were so many varieties!

The Puffer Fish study comes with embedded links to even more information online. There are pictures, articles and even videos of puffers puffing. The girls really enjoyed the videos (fair warning parents, look up all the videos and watch first. You would not believe what is out there on You Tube…) and still ask to watch them after we completed the work of the study!

There are tons of books at the library to add to your study. So if seeing a topic and freaking out because you personally don’t know anything about it is an issue, don’t let it be one! Each topic has a lot of resources that aren’t too hard to locate either online or at the library.

I was also very impressed with the fact that there were adaptions suggested for special needs students! I had yet to see very many ideas or alternative suggestions in curriculum I’ve looked at since I started homeschooling and researching curricula. I was very impressed with it, so if you have a special needs student, use the adaption suggestions as a springboard, you won’t regret it!

And the Curiosity Files are also on Facebook!  Feel free to go on over there and check them out!

We were going to do the paper mache puffer fish as the completion of our study. Unfortunately life got in the way (see the AWOL post…) and I didn’t feel like I could start a multiple day project last week and we’ve not been able to fit it in yet. I’m planning it for next week when Grandma is here for the Bean’s birthday. It will be lots of fun and I’ll come on and add pictures in a new post (and try to remember to link it….). The girls are so looking forward to the paper mache. In fact, when they saw the pictures and the directions for the art project, they were extremely excited and started begging to do it right away!

Our verdict: The girls loved this unit study! It was simple for me to pull off (I love simple planning), resources abound at the library and online to supplement it. It was so easy to adapt to what the girls can do, still challenge them and still hold their interest. You could take a week or two and only do the study, or do what we did and spread it out over the course of nearly four while still doing our regular school work. This series would also be great to do over longer breaks as an interest led study, like during the summer months when you want your children to still be learning, but you don’t want to do all school. I would also use this as week between quarters or semesters (depending on how you break your year up) and use this as a break from regular school for a week or two so you as the teaching parent can have some of a break, but still keep the students learning.

I highly recommend the Curiosity Files with Professor Ana Lyze to all homeschooling families. They are simple to put together, easy to do and are jam packed full of information. And what I love is that I can cycle back through this when the girls are a bit older and go even deeper yet into the topic! I learned more than I ever thought possible about puffer fish doing this study and found them to be more interesting than I thought. And no, I have no intention of ever trying one for food, they are poisonous you know.

The Curiosity Files are also very cost effective. You can purchase them singly. However, I suggest going the bundle route. You can now get ALL NINE of the studies in a bundle to save even more for under fifty dollars.  I don’t know of other studies at that terrific of a price! (cd for $49.00 or download for $46.00. I would personally do the download, instant gratification that way…).

I received the Puffer Fish study from the Curiosity Files with Professor Ana Lyze as a part of The Old Schoolhouse’s Crew. All opinions are mine and mine alone, and other than the product, no other compensation was received (it would be kind of difficult to review something without using it first, you think?) To see what my crewmates had to say about the Curiosity Files (and see the other topics covered), go visit the Crew’s blog here. Then go on over to the Store and get one or all for our yourself (and browse the rest of the store while there!)..

The Sweetest Devotional for Young Children

 Book Reviews, Books, family, homeschooling, Reviews, TOS Crew  Comments Off on The Sweetest Devotional for Young Children
Dec 102010

Recently, I had the privilege of reviewing Apologia’s Good Morning, God. A small devotional book for young children.  I was so excited to find out that I would be a part of this review because I had been drooling over the Apologia catalog for the last several weeks (their science curricula are of a great quality, so I knew this would be a great book).  To say that I wasn’t disappointed is an understatement.

Good Morning, God is written by Davis Carman, illustrated by Alice Ratterree and published by Apologia Press. The story starts on a Sunday with the family attending church together and worshiping as a family.  It then goes through each day of the week and ends on the following Sunday with the family in church worshiping and then the child getting tucked in that night after bedtime prayers. This book was written to follow the command of Deuteronomy 6:6-7 about constantly teaching our children the ways of the Lord.  Each day focuses on way we can worship our Heavenly Father with our whole selves.  This book is beautifully written in a simple way so that even the youngest of children can understand. The pictures are very well done.  They show the family interacting in positive ways, even when the little boy gets into a bit of trouble.  The family also looks like they enjoy being together as a family.  There are no snide looks or scowls, which I appreciated.  At the end of the book there are activities coordinating for each day of the week.

For instance, on Monday, the little boy wakes up with lots of energy, worships God with all his heart, his parents teach him while he is running, he draws a picture in the schoolroom (did I mention this is a homeschooling family?) and then before bed, he prays thanking God for his family.  Then, when you go to the end of the book, the activities to correlate to the day include drawing a picture of a heart, reading Matthew 6:19-21 and asking how we can love God with all our hearts, and how can you be a good brother or sister.  There are eight activities/questions for each day, some easier than others.  This book was designed to be read eight days in a row, all the way through, starting on a Sunday and continuing to the next Sunday and then dong the questions and activities for each day on that day.

The day we got the book, the girls could hardly wait for me to read it first so I could read it to them (yes, we preview the children’s reading material. I had no fears with this book containing objectionable content, I was being selfish I supposed.  I wanted to read it myself first to enjoy it for me.) After I got through the first reading, they were immediately begging and pleading with me to read it again. So we did.  This time, they stopped me at each page so they could look at the pictures longer and ask questions about them. After we finally complete our second trip through, they pounced on me begging for a third reading of it.  They literally did pounce on me. So, we read it a third time.  After we were done, the Beans (who likes books, but hasn’t loved them to the extent of her older sister and her parents yet) wouldn’t let go of it. She sat in the middle of my and my husband’s bed and just kept paging through the book and she just was totally engrossed in it. I have lost count how many times we have read this book for fun, let alone for using it as a part of our school day.

We did use this as suggested and we picked from the activities that were more suited to the girls’ ages and abilities.  Since using this book, Bugs has insisted on learning about love everyday and has been drawing pictures to illustrate what love is. We have also been more intentional with praying with the girls, especially at bedtime.  If you wanted to stretch out the eight days, you could do each day for a week and do one activity a day for the week and supplement with other materials you may have on hand or could easily get.  There is also a coloring book that you can order to go with this book, which I hope to do after my husband starts his new job and we have a bit more wiggle room in our budget for these things.

This book is something I highly recommend for everyone as an aid to following the commands we as parents are given in Deuteronomy 6:6-7. The story is sweet, the family is a happy, homeschooling family who is serious about their faith.  This family seems to really enjoy being together as a family and the children aren’t disrespectful. This book is written for ages one through eight specifically, but honestly, I think anyone would benefit from reading this book. To read what others had to say about this book, go hereGood Morning, God is a mere $14.00 plus of course shipping.

I received a copy of Good Morning, God from Apologia Press as a part of The Old Schoolhouse’s Crew. All opinions expressed in this review are mine and mine alone, and no other compensation was received..

2010 Gratitude Challenge

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on 2010 Gratitude Challenge
Oct 312010

Brenda over at  Garden of Learning has decided that this year for the month of November, she is hosting a Gratitude Challenge.  Each day during the month of November, post something that you are thankful for.  This will give you a chance to really count your blessings, and foster a spirit of Thanksgiving, that hopefully will last year-round instead of just the end of the month.  If you want to join, go check it out here, and grab the lovely button she made!  Hope to see you there!.

An Online Based Preschool Curriculum Option

 TOS, TOS Crew  Comments Off on An Online Based Preschool Curriculum Option
Sep 032010

I recently was given a month long subscription to Time4Learning to review. As I have a preschooler, I was reviewing the preschool section of this internet based curriculum.

Signing up my child to use the site was extremely easy. Just supply a name for them and a password, and then answer some basic questions about where they were at academically so the system could place them in the appropriate level. A confirmation email soon followed welcoming the Bugs as their newest student.

I don’t have a lot of experience when it comes to computer based learning. In fact, I normally shy away from things such as this, especially for children who are so young (Bugs isn’t quite yet four).

Time4Learning is totally web based.  In fact, it keeps track of your child’s progress, grades the work and does all the lesson planning for you.  In the preschool level, it works mainly with phonics and mathematics instruction and throws in some social studies and science for fun.  The lessons are animated. The child can work at his or her pace and even repeat lessons.  Mom or Dad can go in and see the lessons before the child completes them so they know what their child is to be doing.  The site does let you see demos of the lessons and the lesson plans before you decide to start the program to help you decide if this is right for your situation.  There is even a parent’s forum on the site for you to have online fellowship with other parents.  I did find their website very easy to navigate and it isn’t too overloading visually.  However, they don’t give you a price for the program up front (at the time of this writing $19.95 for the first student and $14.95 for each additional student).  They kept saying “low monthly price” on each page that I saw, until you click the tab to enroll.

Honestly, this program wasn’t a very good fit with our family. Finding the time to log on was a challenge itself (we tether to my husband’s blackberry for internet use). Then, while Bugs is on the computer, she just gets absorbed in it. While working she would get that glazed over look in her eyes that I’ve seen older children get when they have been using video games or other electronics for too long. Then, she would get frustrated when she couldn’t get the mouse to do exactly what she wanted (I will say that we have a touch pad mouse and she is normally very adept at using it for other things). Also, when using electronics for any length of time, Bugs gets very upset when I tell her it is time to turn it off and then has problems with doing anything else that doesn’t involve a screen. I do not like that in my child. Bugs also needs more concrete things to learn with. While she is an auditory learner, she still benefits greatly from having manipulatives and other activities to tie in to her learning. I find that easier to incorporate into our daily plans with math and phonics instead of doing a program like this, and then coming back and redoing those subjects later with the manipulatives. Also, at the end of our thirty day trial, there was no notice that the time was up. Most companies that I have had subscriptions for have sent an email two weeks before the subscription was up to warn me that I was about to expire, and then one the week it was set to. I had no warning that the time for use was about up. I don’t know if that is because I had the program for a month for this review, or if this is standard for all users. If you decide that this is the program for you, mark your calendar when your subscription is going to be up to guard against suddenly not being able to log your child(ren) in and then having your account deleted.

I can see how this program could be used successfully. If your child is needing extra reinforcement of learning basic phonics and math concepts, then maybe using this program to supplement will work for you. If you know that you are going to have a very busy time approaching (such as a family illness where you are taking care of them, you are sick yourself, or about to have a baby, or are having to travel for any reason) then this may be a good program for that time for you. You really don’t have to worry about the hard core lesson planning that a lot of other curriculums make you have to do. This is also very easy to transport and do anywhere you have an internet connection.

Tim4Learning, at the time of this post is 19.95 per month for the first child, and 14.95 per month for each additional child. With your paid subscription, they do offer a two week money back guarantee if it doesn’t work for you (not to be confused with a two week free trial.)

You can go here to see a list of others who also reviewed this product.

I was given a month long subscription to Time4Learning from Time4Learning as a part of The Old Schoolhouse’s Crew for the purposes of this review. All opinions included herein are mine and mine alone. No other compensation was received..

Jul 222010

Yes, I realize that it is about the end of summer time, but there is still ample time to be getting out on a quick road trip or two.  If so, are you prepared?  Do you know how to make the trip a bit easier to tolerate and perhaps even curtail the dreaded question of “Are we there yet?”

The answer is in this E-Book called Travel Kits, A Simple Way to Bless Others by Donna Rees.  Travel Kits is an E-book the explains step by step how to put together a little traveling intervention, shall we say.  This great resource explains how to put together a nice goody bag (or box) full of presents to dole out to the inhabitants of the vehicle, and even gives some great ideas on what to get for whom and where to find the items.  However, for me, the absolute best part was chapter 13.  Chapter 13 was like an appendix of sort that has a list of hyperlinked websites for games you can play in the car, easy crafts you can do in the car and even the official state tourist information site for each of the states and U.S. Territories.  There is also a handy checklist for preparing your car for a long trip and even suggestions (and a few terrific looking recipes) to pack a great picnic lunch.  I don’t know about you, but the last lllllooooonnnnnnggggg road trip we took, well, the lunch didn’t survive as well as I thought it would (yeah, squashed bread, frozen egg salad, it wasn’t great).  I wish I had this book then for the incredible wrap recipes.

Travel kits

This book does not only have to apply to traveling with children.  You could put together a kit for newlyweds for their honeymoon, a kid going away to camp, or even for someone in the hospital.  This is a great springboard for growing other ideas to bless others.

Travel Kits is available from The Old Schoolhouse Store for a mere $12.45 that you can instantly download to your computer (yay!  No waiting for it to come in the mail!)   The Old Schoolhouse Store is chock full of wonderful resources for homeschooling and carry so many products that I can’t list them all for you.  You will just have to go on over and browse.  I will tell you that there you can get E-books for many different topics, instructions on how to make a wide variety of lapbooks and of course, the wonderful magazine The Old Schoolhouse.

I recieved a copy of Travel Kits, a Simple Way to Bless Others by Donna Rees from The Old Schoolhouse Store as a part of the TOS Crew in exchange for my honest opinion and posting of a review.  I received no other compensation.  All opinions in this review are mine and mine alone..