Creation-based Elementary Science (Science Shepherd Review)

Science is one of those subjects that a lot of homeschool parents dread. It’s also one that children adore. So how do you marry the two desires? The best way I’ve found is to find a good program that will help you along the way. Introductory Science from Science Shepherd is one such program. Munchkin and I have been working through this program for the past few weeks, and I’m pleased to be able to bring you this review today.

KIMG0411Science Shepherd Introductory Science combines two methods of teaching: video lessons and a workbook. This is one of my favorite ways of “doing” science with the boys, so this was a perfect fit for us. The video lessons are very short (under five minutes), and each is followed up by a page or two in the workbook. The whole lesson takes less than ten minutes. Don’t let that small amount of time fool you, though. The lessons are full of good information, and the workbook is a perfect complement to the videos.

Even though we’re near the end of the school year, we started at the beginning of the program. It opens with the story of Creation and the videos, which are hosted by Science Shepherd creator and homeschool dad Dr. Scott Hardin, explain why that qualifies as science – and why it’s an important aspect to know and study before getting into the more “sciency” science.

science shepherdWorking as the program is designed (one video and the corresponding workbook pages each day), moving through Creation takes two weeks. It’s very tempting to move a lot quicker than that, especially if your child is well-versed in the Creation story. Even if you do a whole week’s worth in a day, it’s not a huge time commitment (30-60 minutes). We did this for the first two weeks’ lessons, and then slowed down to the suggested pace.Week three talks all about Science Skills and Tools, and week four moves you more into the “real” science, starting with meteorology.

In addition to Dr. Hardin’s instructional videos, there are demonstration videos as well. For example, in the Science Skills and Tools week, students are taught about the scientific method. During the explanation of a hypothesis (educated guess, in case you’re a bit rusty), a pair of students makes the hypothesis that a hammer is harder than an egg. Over the course of the 2 1/2 minute video, Dr. Hardin explains what a hypothesis is, and then it cuts away to the students. They talk about why they think a hammer is harder than an egg, make notes and observations about both, and then hit the egg with the hammer. Of course the egg breaks, thus proving their hypothesis true.

KIMG0412In Introductory Science, there are two levels offered – A and B. The videos are the same for both, but the workbook is slightly more difficult in Level B. Level A is suggested for ages 6-8 and Level B for ages 9-11 (it’s not based on grade levels). We got Level B, and I’m glad we did even though Munchkin is on the lower end of that age range at 9 1/2. It was very basic and easy for him. As we progress through the course, it might get more difficult, but time will tell on that count. (We’re going to set it aside for now but definitely pick it up again in September for his science course next school year.) Workbook activities are varied. So far, we’ve come across things such as:

  • Video comprehension questions
  • Matching (an item on the left with what it goes with on the right – draw a line)
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Coloring, cutting, and sorting shapes (flowers), then answering questions based on how the student chose to color them

Besides Introductory Science, Science Shepherd also has a course in Life Science and one in Biology. From what I’ve read, these upper sciences are much harder and more rigorous than Introductory Science. I’m definitely interested in trying out Life Science with Seahawk. Members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew were able to sample all three levels, so if you have an older student, make sure to head over to the Crew blog to learn more about those upper levels.

Access to the Introductory Science videos is $35; for that, you get a full year of elementary science curriculum (35 weeks of videos). Access is good for 12 months. If you don’t finish in the year, you can extend your access for $5 a month. Workbook level A is $12; level B is $15. These are consumable resources to be used by one student. There are answer keys available for each level for $3 each (although, we haven’t needed ours yet; the workbook is pretty simple).

Blessings,

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May-June Knitting Projects

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KIMG0336When I learned to knit in February, I knew right away that I liked doing it. I wasn’t sure whether I liked it better than crochet because it was a new craft I’d just learned (read: novelty) or if I honestly did like it better. I made a couple of crochet projects in March and April, and after doing that it became very clear to me: I actually like knitting better on its own merits. When I’m holding yarn and knitting needles in my hands, I’m a very  happy camper!

KIMG0391So far, I’ve completed two pairs of baby booties and two sweaters (one for Small Fry and one for Dragonfly). My current projects are more sweaters – I simply adore making them! The first one is a charcoal gray, long-sleeve sweater for Munchkin. It will have a pocket in the front, like a traditional “hoodie.” Because we’re entering the warmer time of year, he obviously won’t be wearing it much in the short term. Therefore, I’m making it a size 10 so it will (hopefully) still fit him this fall. (He’s 9 years old and hovering between an 8 and 10 size-wise.)

The second one is a light brown one called “Larry,” which will be a Christmas gift for my dad. He’s a sentimental kind of guy, so I just know he’s going to be so in love with a handmade sweater. I can’t wait to give it to him!

The big photo shows the back of Munchkin’s sweater, which I just recently finished (this sweater is knit in four pieces – back, front, and two sleeves – then sewn together with yarn). It also shows what I’ve got on my dad’s so far, which is still in the gauge swatch stage, so not very exciting ;) The color is much nicer than what I was able to capture in the photograph.

So that’s what I’m up to in my free time this month.

Blessings,

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ESV Family Devotional Bible (review)

We were recently blessed to be able to review the ESV (English Standard Version) Family Devotional Bible thanks to Flyby Promotions. When the opportunity to review this Bible came up, I knew I wanted to give it a chance because the ESV is the Bible of choice in our family. I was very interested in combining our favorite translation with pictures and devotionals. I was not disappointed in my expectations!

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There are 130 devotions sprinkled throughout the text of the Bible, and each one gets an illustration. The devotions are located near where their stories occur, and the scripture reference for each devotion is made very clear so you can compare the devotion to the actual text easily. Devotions summarize the portion of scripture they’re taken from, offer discussion questions, and then provide a key verse (which would make a great memorization tool). If you’re looking for a specific story to study deeper, there’s a convenient index of devotions at the back of the Bible. Additionally, there are maps in the back also, which really helps to bring some of the locations to life a bit better.

This hardcover Bible is a good size –  not too big, making it cumbersome to hold, but also not so small that’s it’s ten feet thick to include the whole of the biblical text.

The text is the text - it's not abbreviated at all.

The text is the text – it’s not abbreviated at all.

Over the past couple of weeks, this Bible has become an amazing tool in our home. It’s nice to have family devotions and biblical text all in one volume. The cover is a bit busy for my taste (it has thumbnails of each devotion illustration all butt-up against one another), but that’s not something that would make me not recommend this Bible. If you’re looking for a way to include devotions more readily in your home (or homeschool), then this is well worth the investment. Crossway has done an amazing thing with this Bible!

One of the devotional spreads.

One of the devotional spreads.

In addition to providing me a copy of the ESV Family Devotional Bible to facilitate my review, Flyby Promotions is offering to give one away to one of my readers. This will be a huge blessing to whoever wins, let me tell you. All you have to do to have a chance to win is leave me a comment on this post related to what I’ve written about. The winner will be chosen randomly from all the entries on Friday, May 20th and notified via email. (Your email address is required for leaving a comment, so you don’t have to worry about posting it publicly. Only I will see it, and I won’t be adding you to any newsletter lists or anything.)

Blessings,

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Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

This giveaway is now closed. As chosen by random.org, the winner is Heather Kelly. Heather, I’ve emailed you. When I hear back, I’ll have the vendor send your Bible.

Picture of the Week: Then and Now

Baby Dragonfly is 6 months old today. I’m always amazed at how quickly the time goes, especially the first year of a baby’s life. They change so rapidly that it seems like the time is gone in the blink of an eye. I think back to my birth experience often (always fondly), and I long for the days when he was tiny enough that I just wanted to hold him all day long. Now he’s heavy (over 17 pounds!), he’s grown 7 inches since his birth, and he’s a wiggle worm. He doesn’t crawl up on all fours yet, but he inchworms his way around the living room. He hasn’t figured out that he can go around walls, but I know that’s coming.

In honor of Dragonfly’s half-birthday, I want to share a picture of him at birth (technically, he’s two days old in the picture; he was born on Friday, and the photographer came by on Sunday) and a current picture.

Dragonfly at birth

A hospital picture

 

As a side note, I find it coincidentally appropriate that he was born on Friday the 13th, and his very first half-birthday also falls on Friday the 13th. How neat :)

 

 

A photo posted by Wendy (@ladybugdaydreams) on

Blessings,

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The Pursuit of Drawing (ARTistic Pursuits Review)

I’ve heard good things about ARTistic Pursuits Inc. over the years, but I’ve never taken the opportunity to review for them – until now. In the past, the supply lists have been a big turnoff for me, but as my children are getting older and their interests are developing, we actually have some of the supplies on hand for a curriculum like this now. When the list of options for this year’s Schoolhouse Review Crew run came out, I was pleased to see that one of the options was Middle School Book One. Since I have a middle schooler who is an art enthusiast, I looked into this curriculum. I was ecstatic to learn that the supply list for this book included all things that Seahawk had received for Christmas – primarily, high quality drawing pencils in a variety of lead hardness, erasers, waterproof ink, a nib pen (holder and nibs), and paper. So, for the first time in three years, I requested to be on this review.

Assignment: draw water

Assignment: draw water

ARTistic Pursuits is a company passionate about creating artists, especially in the homeschool setting. They have a variety of textbooks ranging from preschool to graduation, which are specially designed to help children learn to harness the powers of observation while they explore art history, art appreciation, and art technique.

Middle School Book One is a soft cover, comb-bound text book of nearly 100 pages. The first few pages are notes for the parent, and starting on page 6, the lessons begin. There are sixteen units which cover a wide variety of teaching the student to draw better. These units include things such as

  • Using the space of your paper well
  • How to best use your pencils to create interesting lines
  • Creating interesting textures within your art
  • How symmetry or asymmetry can be good
  • Perspective
  • Proportion
  • And many more

ARTistic Pursuits 1When we first received the book, I had big ideas of everyone working on it together. We even did the first lesson all together (even Small Fry, who’s just 3) the same day the book arrived. It became clear in the lessons that followed, however, that just because your kids like to draw, it doesn’t mean that they’re ready for formal lessons. This was the case with everyone but Seahawk. And that’s okay. He’s the only one technically in the age range for this curriculum, anyway. So after that first week, I let him do this subject on his own. Each lesson consists of a short passage to read followed by an art assignment. Since the review period lined up with the beginning of a beautiful spring here in the Pacific Northwest, he would often take his book, drawing pad, and pencil set outside to work. There was not one time when he brought me his work to look over that didn’t leave me impressed.

What did Seahawk think of ARTistic Pursuits? In his own words:

I found this to be the “funnest” class, that’s for sure. Before I used this book, I thought I knew everything there was to know about drawing. I just couldn’t master it. The book taught me different ways of using pencil lines to emphasize things and different ways to use combinations of shapes to make things look right. The book was challenging, but in a good way.

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Assignment: practice texture by drawing a bear

My thoughts as a mom? This is a high quality book full of great tips for learning to become master of your supplies. I like how there are stories and lessons from a variety of world areas, which are used to teach different drawing techniques. I like how it teaches independence as well as art. Once the student knows the basics of how the lessons are set up, it’s easy for them to work on their own (especially good for non-artistic parents, or those whose art skill set lies elsewhere, like me). And I really like how they state right on the book that’s it’s designed to be non-consumable. This means that a single purchase (this book is $47.95) will cover all of your children, even if they’re all different ages. You can use it over and over again. Talk about value!

What’s not to like about ARTistic Pursuits? I can’t think of a single thing! I’ve read dozens of positive reviews for this company over the years, and now I know why. The materials are top notch.

Blessings,

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As with all Schoolhouse Crew Reviews, there are loads of other reviewers talking about ARTistic Pursuits this week. You can visit the Crew blog to find what they all thought about the variety of books ARTistic Pursuits offered for review this time (which include books for all grade levels, preschool through high school, and a pair of sculpture books).

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None Like Him (Book Review)

I recently received the book None Like Him by Jen Wilkin to review. I don’t usually read a lot of non-fiction, but the concept of this book really caught my attention. The subtitle alone says so much: 10 ways God is different from us (and why that’s a good thing). It was this subtitle that made me want to read this book. Obviously I know God is different from people (otherwise he wouldn’t be God), but it’s still a good reminder sometimes to read things like this.

When the book arrived, I eagerly opened the packaging. My very first impression of the book was a good one. The cover is beautiful, with its calm green color and pink flowers weaving in and out of the title. And the content is even better than the cover.

Ms. Wilkin opens with an introductory statement about what it means to become a God fearing woman; this is something I think we can all aspire to. From there, she dives right into the meat of the book: the ten ways God is different from people. More specifically, ten ways people are not like God and why we shouldn’t try to be. The ways she explores in the book are:

  • Infinite
  • Incomprehensible
  • Self-existent
  • Self-sufficient
  • Eternal
  • Immutable
  • Omnipresent
  • Omniscient
  • Omnipotent
  • Sovereign

That’s quite the list! And each and every item on it is wonderfully extracted and explained by the author, fully describing what the trait means, how it applies to our Creator, and why it doesn’t apply to us. One of my favorite explanations comes from the very first chapter. After quoting Isaiah 40:12-13 (scripture quotations are prevalent throughout the book, which I love; what better way to make a point than to quote from the Bible?!), the author states simply

… Who has measured everything? God has. Who has measured God? No one has.

How beautifully basic is that? I think that one quote is a great summation of the rest of the book. Ms. Wilkin does a phenomenal job of taking the qualities of God (listed above) and making them easy to understand. It’s a wonderful thing.

I definitely recommend this book, which you can purchase from Amazon ($11.69 in paperback; $8.57 on Kindle).

Blessings,

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I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance to FTC regulations.

Book Club: The Martian

Book Club with Lori

The past month I’ve enjoyed reading The Martian by Andy Weir. I liked the movie a lot when I watched it back in February, and really wanted to read the book soon after I saw the film. I think the book and movie work really well together; there are some things in the movie that didn’t make sense without the book and vice versa. My only complaint with the book was the excessive cursing. I’m of the mindset that bad language doesn’t belong in art of any kind – music, literature, etc.

Question for this study come from the back of the paperback novel and are copyright 2014 Random House, LLC. There were 20 questions for this book, which is a lot, so I’m going to cherry pick the ones I like the best.

As with all Book Club posts, a spoiler alert is in effect.

1. What makes us root for a character to live in a survival story? In what ways do you identify with Mark? How does the author make us care about Mark?

I think simply being the main character is enough to make people root for you in a survival story. Likeability doesn’t hurt, though, and Mark Watney (the astronaut abandoned on Mars and title character in the novel) is definitely likeable (despite his cursing). I’m not convinced I necessarily “identify with” Mark, but I enjoyed his story nonetheless. The author makes us care about Mark through the use of the log book entries. We’re inside his head (using first person narration) for much of the novel; when you know the inner thoughts of a character, it’s nearly impossible not to care about them.

2. Do you believe the crew did the right thing in abandoning the search for Mark? Was there an alternative choice?

As heartbreaking as such a decision would be to make, yes, I think it was the right call. They could leave their colleague and friend, whom they were sure had perished in the storm, in order to get the rest of the crew home safely, or they could continue searching for him and risk the lives of the other five members. I don’t think there really was any other choice for them. I wouldn’t want to be in that situation, but I think they did the right thing.

3. Do you find the science and technology behind Mark’s problem solving accessible? How did that information add to the realism of the story?

Despite being quite technological, the author did a good job also keeping it understandable (for the most part). I don’t think the story would have been realistic at all without all that stuff. The main character was a scientist, and science played a crucial role in his survival. It wouldn’t have made sense for a scientist to be stuck somewhere – on a scientific mission, no less – and not be thinking all the time about how to best use his skill set and knowledge to help him.

4. To what extent does Mark’s log serve as his companion? Do you think it’s implicit in the narrative that maintaining a log keeps him sane?

Mark’s logbook is to him what Wilson the volleyball was to Chuck (Tom Hanks) in Castaway. When you’re in a situation like this, you have to have someone – or something – to talk to, even if it’s not a real something. Humans were created to commune with God and each other, so being solitary for so long can definitely be detrimental to us. The logbook provides Mark a way of communicating that definitely helps to keep him sane during his solitary confinement on Mars.

That said, I don’t think the narrative said (or even implied) that this was the case. I got the impression that the logbook was something Mark was just accustomed to keeping. Perhaps it was required by NASA, and he just kept the habit up even when the entries didn’t have to do with how he was surviving or what he was doing to move forward in his quest for rescue.

5. There’s no mention of Mark having a romantic relationship on Earth. Do you think that makes it easier or harder to endure his isolation? How would the story be different if he were in love with someone back home?

This is a really great question, and one that I thought a lot about during the reading of the novel. It would make a great fan fiction story!

Based on the scenes we see of his crewmates having Skype conversations with their loved ones while aboard the spaceship, I think not having a romantic relationship waiting for him makes his situation easier. I know myself, and as horrified and frightened as I would be in Mark’s place, I’d be an even bigger mess knowing my husband was at home not knowing what was happening with me. Being single makes the situation bearable.

If Mark wasn’t single, the story would have had one more layer of emotion, and that may have made it even better than it was. There would have been a lot more opportunity for heartwrenching scenes, both during his time on Mars and when he returns to Earth. While the story was very streamlined the way it’s written, it might have been just a little better with a romantic interest.

6. To what extent do you think guilt played a part in the crew’s choice to go back to Mark? To what extent loyalty? How would you explain the difference?

It was 100% guilt.

It was also 100% loyalty.

Of course they felt guilty for having left him there; they’d be monsters if they didn’t. Especially Commander Lewis, the leader of the crew. But they were also fiercely loyal to their comrade. You don’t spend the kind of time together that this crew did (a couple of years of training plus 9+ months in the spaceship) and not develop a sense of loyalty to each other. It’s the kind of bond not many people get to experience.

The difference between guilt and loyalty is easy because they’re not the same thing at all. Guilt is an emotion you feel when you’ve done something wrong – or at least when you think you’ve done something wrong. Loyalty is friendship, but deeper. It’s what happens when you care about the other person as much or more than you care about yourself. To a certain extent, loyalty isn’t so different from love. But it’s very different from guilt.

Despite that, it was still 100% both that caused the crew to go back for Mark. And they did the right thing.

~*~*~*~

Make sure to head over to Lori’s blog, At Home: where life happens, to read her answers to some (or all, I’m not sure) of the book club questions for The Martian.

Until next month,

Happy reading.

Blessings,

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Mess Free Painting (Kwik Stix Review and Giveaway)

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Do your kids love to paint? Do you hate the mess? The Pencil Grip, Inc. has created a solution to this discrepancy: the Kwik Stix 12 pk.

Kwik Stix (priced at $11.99 for the 12 pack) are very similar to glue sticks in their feel, except instead of being filled with solid glue, they’re filled with solid tempera paint. Simply uncap, smear the paint on the paper, and re-cap after use. The paint inside even looks like a glue stick the first time you open it (in shape, not color). The best part is that the paint is dry within 90 seconds, so even if your child is impatient, there’s little chance of a mess (still not NO chance, as we learned with Small Fry, though!). When you do end up with a mess, however, the paint cleans up super easily; a wet rag handled the job with no problem – no additional cleaner required (not even soap). I’m not sure it would have washed up so easily off of an unfinished table, but since ours has quite the shiny coating (I’m not entirely sure what that’s called…), it wasn’t a problem.

The older three boys and I all tried the Kwik Stix, and we used them on paper and wood. Small Fry painted pretty much any chance he could get; the rest of us used them for specific projects. Munchkin expressed his artistic skills to make a two-part painting for my dad for his birthday. He chose to paint a sunset onto a pair of wooden boards he had, and it turned out very nicely.

KIMG0307 A few months ago, I bought wooden letters representing each boy’s initial to hang over their bed. The previous three were painted with regular liquid paint; since we had the Kwik Stix now, I used those for painting Dragonfly’s initial. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but I was very pleased with the coverage I got using them. Just like traditional paint, it did take a few coats, but that’s a lot less of a burden when the dry time is under two minutes versus well over an hour.

In addition to the Kwik Stix, The Pencil Grip, Inc. sent us one of their Pencil Grips to try out. These little guys are something I remember from my own schooldays, so it was kind of neat to see one again. Pencil Grips are designed to slide right onto your pen or pencil and help to correct an improper grip. It will work for both right- and left-handed people. Pencil Grips come in a variety of styles (depending on what your improper grip requires for correcting) and a in a plethora of colors. A single grip is available for $1.79.

In short, we really loved using Kwik Stix. They were a fabulous way to get more art into our days without making a huge mess or using up loads of precious “real estate” waiting for paintings to dry (although to be fair, that’s never been much of an issue in my house since the boys usually prefer pencil drawings over painting).

The Pencil Grip, Inc. provided me with a set of Kwik Stix to facilitate this review, and now they’ve graciously offered to provide one for me to give away to one of you! And who doesn’t love to win stuff? ;) All you have to do to enter is leave me a comment appropriate to this post, and then next Tuesday (May 10th), I’ll use random.org to pick a winner. The winner will be notified by email, and the package will be sent to you directly from The Pencil Grip, Inc.

Blessings,

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Other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew are writing about Kwik Stix this week, too, and some of them are also hosting giveaways. Make sure to read those posts for more information about the paint sticks and more chances to win your own set!

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Picture of the Week: Learning to Eat

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Dragonfly is at that magical age when he can start to think about eating more than just breastmilk. I’ve read a lot about “baby led weaning” recently, which basically is a way of introducing solids to babies as whole foods from the very beginning and skipping the purees altogether. I’m not sure I’m mentally prepared to skip baby food with him, but all my research has told me that it’s okay to give him whole pieces of fruit and vegetables; purees aren’t strictly necessary. So long as I’m right there with him to make sure he doesn’t choke, I’ve been allowing him to practice gumming some vegetables, especially at mealtimes. Here you can see him with a piece of broccoli. Fun times!

Blessings,

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