The Opera: Cinderella

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For my birthday last month (mine is July 3rd and Will’s is July 5th), my husband bought opera tickets for us. He got 5 to each of two shows: La Cenerentola and Orfeo ed Euridice. I was super excited because we’d gone to see The Italian Girl in Algiers two years ago, and we loved it. La Cenerentola (chen-eh-ren-tola) is my favorite fairy tale – Cinderella – written by my favorite composer – Gioachino Rossini – so it was sure to be a hit with me.

This version of Cinderella has a differences from the “traditional” (read: Disney) story. The main elements are there, but the details are different. For example, there are two stepsisters making Cinderella’s life miserable. But instead of a wicked stepmother helping them along the way, there’s a buffoonish stepfather. Cinderella does get help to aid in her quest for love, but it’s from the prince’s former tutor, a man called Alidoro, rather than a fairy godmother. The final big difference is that Cinderella is identified by a bracelet rather than by her glass slippers. 

Like in the Disney version, Cinderella doesn’t immediately realize that the man she’s fallen in love with is the prince, but this is because he hides his true identity from her and her family. It’s quite comical watching and hearing the prince and his decoy (one of his henchmen) discuss how over-the-top dramatic the decoy is being.

Because we had 5 tickets, we invited some friends from church to go with us. One of them backed out at the last second, so we went with two of them and brought Small Fry as well. It was his first opera, and I’m so glad we took him!

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Blessings,

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Hands On History (review)

We had the pleasure of reviewing several products from Home School in the Woods just a few months ago. Now, we’ve been blessed with another: one of their Hands-On History Lap-Paks, this time on U.S Elections.

When you purchase the Lap-Pak (current price is $18.95 for a family license download; $1 more if you want a physical CD), you’ll receive a ZIP file that needs to be extracted. Once you do that, you’ll see lots of different folders. It can be quite overwhelming to figure out what all’s in there, but my advice is to stick to the folders (as opposed to the web links). All the PDFs you need can be found in those folders fairly easily. The Elections Pak comes with 3 such folders: images, MP3s, and PDFs. The PDFs folder then has three subfolders, but we’ll get to those as we move along here.

If it’s your first time using one of the Lap-Paks, the best folder in which to begin is the PDF subfolder “Introduction and Directions.” Here, you’ll find 4 PDFs to help you understand what you’ve gotten yourself into and how all the different pieces (the main project in this unit is a lapbook, if you and your are so inclined to make one) will go together in the end. The next thing to do, especially if you’re going to make the lapbook as prescribed, is to get all the printing done. I have to warn you: Home School in the Woods requires a lot of printing per child.

Once you, as the parent/teacher know what’s going on and have all the pieces printed, it’s time to get your kids!

The U.S. Elections study is recommended for grades 3-8, so I did it primarily with Munchkin (he just finished 6th grade), but Seahawk listened in a bit too. The last election was so … charged … that they were fairly interested in the process of how that all works and what went into everything that went down almost two years ago.

IMG_1424I started by having him read the “Elections Booklet.” As I mentioned in yesterday’s review (science for little kids), I haven’t had easy access to our printer of late, so I just had him read straight from the computer. Likewise, we didn’t do the full lapbook; instead Munchkin did the reading and wrote a little report for me. I wish we’d been able to do the full lapbook because the different pieces look pretty great, but alas that wasn’t in the cards for us this time. I’ll just have to save my files and use it in a couple of years with Small Fry – he’ll be in roughly 3rd grade just in time for the next election.

Now that we’ve talked about the PDF folders and how we used them, let’s move on to the MP3s. In this folder, there are 2 files, simply called “U.S. Elections Part 1” and “U.S. Elections Part 2.” If you have a child that is a competent reader – both in reading and comprehension simply by seeing the words – then you probably won’t need these. You see, they’re just a reading of the Elections Booklet I mentioned before. In our case, we didn’t need them because Munchkin is a visual learner (much like myself) and does better with reading than listening. If Seahawk had been doing this study more seriously with us, he’d have used the audio files exclusively.

This is a stock image of the lapbook project; it's not mine. As I mentioned, we weren't able to do the lapbook, but I wanted to include an image of it anyway.

This is a stock image of the lapbook project; it’s not mine. As I mentioned, we weren’t able to do the lapbook, but I wanted to include an image of it anyway.

Overall, I think this is a fabulous resource for teaching your children how elections work in the United States. I wish the printing hadn’t been such a burden this time around and we’d been able to do the full lapbook, but despite that, I can be assured that my son learned a lot about the election process just in what we were able to do.

Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing lots of different items from Home School in the Woods today, including many from their Project Passport series. Speaking of Project Passport, they were able to finish their most recent one early, so the Ancient Rome study is now available for purchase! If you’re studying that time period this school year, definitely check it out! Click the banner below to find out more.

Blessings,

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Hands-on-History, Project Passport, À La Carte Timelines and Time Travelers {Home School in the Woods Reviews}
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Science for Littles (review)

It can be quite difficult to continue homeschooling through the summer months, especially if your kids are used to a “traditional” schedule where they get the time off, like mine. But products like Learning About Science Collection, Level 1 by WriteBonnieRose make it a lot easier. Small Fry (who just turned 6 a few weeks ago) and I have been learning all about plants and animals together using this science curriculum for lower-elementary kids this summer.

The Level 1 collection that we received (there are also levels 2 and 3 available, with level 3 having options for print or cursive) truly is a collection. It includes 7 different lessons, all for one price of $12. These lessons include:

  • Animal Habitats of the World
  • Familiar Plants and How They Grow
  • Fruits and Vegetables Around the World
  • Learning About Life Cycles
  • Our Senses and Systems and How They Work
  • Earth: Layers, Earthquakes, and Volcanoes
  • Exploring States of Matter

Because it’s gardening season, we chose to focus first on Familiar Plants. This e-book is 14 pages long (including a cover and copyright page) and a self-contained lesson. It opens with a basic lesson on what all plants have: stem, leaves, stamen, pistil, flower, fruit, seeds… I read the lesson parts aloud to Small Fry, who soaked up the information like a sponge – or a seed ;). If you print out the pages (I didn’t, just because our printer is in a location that’s not convenient for me to do any printing at this time), there are also words for your child to trace related to the lesson. Instead of working with a printout, I had Small Fry draw his own pictures and label them accordingly. My favorite part of doing this lesson with him were the questions he asked while we worked, most notably “Do plants have to have growing pains too?” This is an especially sore point (pardon the pun) with him right now because his legs have been really achy lately as he’s getting taller.

IMG_1422There are also lots of diagrams for coloring and labeling (also using the tracing method). After the lesson, there’s a little quiz – nothing major, just some simple questions that your child can answer with pictures. For example, “which of the following is not a plant?” This lesson was so interesting for my son that we finished it all in one day, and moved on a few days later to Fruits and Vegetables Around the World.

IMG_1423Fruits and Vegetables is a much longer lesson at 37 pages, but it’s also much simpler. It is separated into fruits and vegetables; they’re not combined. The first page (after cover and copyright) is a list of the fruits written in bubble letters perfect for coloring. The next 14 pages have pictures and a short paragraph about each of the fruits in alphabetical order. There is also a tracing area for the names of the fruits, and the pictures are line drawings that can be colored. In the middle of the book is the list of vegetables, and then the book repeats using vegetables instead of fruits. The last few pages, like in the Plants book, is a review/quiz and parent answer key.

Even though we didn’t get to them, I looked over a couple of the other lessons so I can be prepared when we hit official “back to school time” later this year. Animal Habitats is a 51-page ebook that runs a very similar format to Fruits and Vegetables, but instead of separating into fruits vs vegetables, it’s organized by type of habitat. For example, the African Savannah animals are listed together (lions, giraffes, elephants, wild African dogs, etc). If I counted correctly (there’s no table of contents), there are 16 different habitats covered, including some that you wouldn’t necessarily think of like Farms and Pets.

Senses and Systems covers exactly what you think it might: the 5 senses in humans and the main systems in our bodies. This one is 19 pages, and a lot of learning (reading) with fewer pictures. There is at least one image for each section, but it’s not quite as graphical as the others I looked into. This doesn’t mean it isn’t as good, though! There’s a lot of information covered, so it’s one that you would want to take a little slower with your child. I think when we do it, I’ll cover just one sense or system each day with plenty of review in between.

We really enjoyed the lessons that we did, and when we start up school again in October (we’re taking an extra month off this summer due to the arrival of our new baby at the end of this month), I can totally see us using more of these lessons. They’re really fun for the early elementary crowd!

For the next 2 weeks, through August 15, 2018, use coupon code REVIEWCREW50 and you can get any of the science ebook bundles (any level) for half price. For Level 1, that’s 7 books for just $6!

Blessings,

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Learning About Science collections {WriteBonnieRose Reviews}
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Radio for Kids (Smart Kidz review)

Smart Kidz Radio
Kids love music. I’ve never met one who didn’t. But the mainstream stations aren’t always appropriate for them. To respond to this need, Smart Kidz Media has developed an online radio station for kids called Smart Kidz Radio.

smart kidz ssMuch like a traditional radio station, you can listen to whatever is on live. Unlike a regular station, though, there are also prerecorded podcasts with things like fairy tales to listen to. When you go to the website and log in, the radio station starts playing whatever the live feed has going on automatically. If you want one of the other options, it’s easy enough to find using the “menu” button near the bottom of the screen. (It’s a little cut off on my screen shot just because it didn’t all fit in the capture.)

At the time of this post, the live portion of Smart Kidz Radio is available for free, but you do need to sign up for an account. There are absolutely no hidden fees included – you only need an email address and a password, no credit card. The “on demand” service, which costs $3.99 per month, has over 1,000 original songs available covering a variety of topics for kids ages 1 and up. Some of the categories are listed as “all ages.” The on demand includes such topics as life skills, survival skills, bedtime songs, and even baby sign language.

Dubbed “edutainment,” this radio station definitely delivers on that promise. The songs are good for young kids, roughly lower elementary school age, and the station is ad-free. There are times during the live feed that the songs repeat, but it’s not really a problem; regular radio stations do that too. In fact, one might argue that it’s a good thing as repetition can help kids learn the songs. By learning the songs on the Smart Kidz Radio station, they learn lessons.

It does not currently work for mobile devices, even if you’re going through the website. This was quite a problem for us as I don’t have a computer in the house during the day (only iPads accessing wifi), so we didn’t get to listen to it as much as I’d hoped. The little bit we were able to utilize was pretty fun, though. Small Fry and Dragonfly seemed to really enjoy it. I’ll definitely be using it a lot more when they get the apps up and running! (The website has a link to take you to the app store, but when I searched for it on the App Store on my iPad, there was nothing found.)

Blessings,

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Smart Kidz Radio {Smart Kidz Media Reviews}
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The Scavengers (Progeny Press review)

Munchkin and I have been blessed to review Progeny Press study guides in the past, and he and I both really love them. For this reason, I always request them when the opportunity arises. This year, we got a new book and study guide for him: The Scavengers – eGuide.

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The Scavengers, a novel for middle grades written by Michael Perry, is described as “a cross between The City of Ember and Holes.” Since Munchkin has read both of those and loved them, I knew he’d like this book, too. I figured that reading and studying this book wouldn’t be too much of a chore for him during summer break, and due to his lack of complaining, I think I was right. Either that, or he’s been happy to stay inside where it’s cool during these especially hot days.

7C6EC262-056D-4A94-911D-16D62EB22C34Set in a sort of apocalyptic future (like so many books are these days), this novel tells the story of Maggie. With the world falling apart around them, the government gives citizens a choice: move into the “bubble cities” or don’t. But if you don’t, all consequences of that decision are on you. Maggie’s family decides to stay out, and everything is okay . . . until they’re not. She needs to find some new friends to help her find and rescue her family, and that’s just what she does.

The timing of this review hit just when we were out of printer ink, so I didn’t get it printed and bound for him as I’d initially intended. Fortunately I was able to easily download the guide to my iPad (despite the company not recommending that, just in case it didn’t work) and save the PDF to my iBooks app. From there, he would go over the questions and other activities directly from the iPad and write the answers down in a notebook. Doing so was a really effective way of getting the job done. It may not have been quite as elegant as a printed and bound booklet, but it worked.

B89C43F0-BB0F-4D89-B546-5D5898E06B9DLike all Progeny Press guides, The Scavengers eGuide has a heavily Christian focus; this is one of the reasons I like them so well. Each chunk of the study guide covers 8 chapters (it sounds like a lot, but the whole book has 59 fairly short chapters, so an 8-chapter chunk isn’t so bad), and a fair number of the questions of each study-guide-chapter (especially in the critical thinking, “digging deeper” section) are directly related to the Bible.

A8DB71C5-CE89-4CE9-A073-37E035104356Besides comprehension and critical thinking questions, each section also includes vocabulary words. I’ve never expanded this very much (Munchkin is naturally good at all things language arts), but you could easily turn these words into a spelling list as well – especially if you wanted to make the whole guide a unit study. There is enough additional material here to help you on your way, including activities to be done before your child reads even one page of the book. In the first chapter of the guide, these activities are to research (and possibly build) hoop houses, and to explore what “eating local” really means – as in, could you even have your favorite foods if all you had available was what grows in your area?

Overall, we’ve been really happy with this Progeny Press eGuide. In fact, I’ve never been unhappy with one, but this one strikes me as especially good. I will definitely be keeping my PDF copy in cloud storage for use when my younger crop of kids is old enough to use it.

Blessings,

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New Study Guides for Literature From a Christian Perspective {Progeny Press Reviews}
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Math for Adults (Math Essentials review)

When I was in school, I always loved math. In my high school, only two math credits were required for graduation, but I took an extra year of math just for fun – yes, I used up one of my elective classes for math. That’s how much I liked it. Because of this love, I’ve never been one who’s afraid to teach math to my kids. But that doesn’t mean that I remember everything from back then well enough to teach it now. That’s where Math Refresher for Adults from Math Essentials comes in. And if you do have math anxiety (or need to learn/relearn math for a new job or because you’re going back to college or something), this book is for you too.

math refresher

This textbook covers all sorts of math concepts, starting at about a fourth grade level and going all the way through to Algebra I. With over 250 pages, there are a lot of lessons in there! You’ll learn everything from basic addition and subtraction to fractions (including all four operations), geometry, to the more complicated aspects of Algebra. Because I’ve got one student in Pre-Algebra and one in Algebra I, I skipped the first part of the book and dived right into the last third. I’ve been working for a couple of weeks now and am about a third to halfway through the section.

70DDF5A6-4941-40CC-81A2-28614CBA8726You’ll notice in the last paragraph I used the word “textbook.” This is really the best word for the book, which contains a short lesson on each page (usually a paragraph or less) followed by a series of 10-12 problems for you to solve. There is a place on each page to record your answers, but on most of the pages there is not room to “show your work,” as is often required in math (although when you’re both the teacher and the student, you can be a little more lax with yourself).

369073CA-8341-47E0-9324-D9CFC0A140D1The copyright on the book doesn’t allow for copying of the pages, but in the “helpful hints” at the beginning, the author recommends using a separate sheet of paper for your work and answers. This is exactly what I did, and I kept my answers on that sheet of paper rather than writing them in the book itself. This will allow me to keep the book clean and go through it again when I get to points with my third (and subsequent) children where I need another refresher in order to help teach them better. For my “sheet of paper,” I bought a spiral notebook for a quarter from WalMart. This allowed me to keep all the pages together rather than having loose sheets floating all around. This is something I hate when my children do, and I knew I would hate it if I did it as well.

In addition to the short lesson on each page, there are also video lessons for every single lesson available online. The videos are arranged by the book they originally appeared to go with, not for this book in particular. But since the concepts are the same, that’s fine. You can view the videos without having any of the books using the password on the “videos” page on the website. This could be a valuable resource to parents trying to make a decision on math still – try out one of the videos to see if it’s a way your child might learn well, then buy the correct book for your child’s grade level/age.

Overall, I have been very happy working on this book for myself this summer. As I mentioned before, I really like math, so it’s been really rewarding to be able to remember some of the things I learned in high school and have since forgotten. It makes me feel pretty good about myself to be able to go over those lessons again – especially when I realize I might not have forgotten quite as much as I thought I had (which is a real testament to my favorite high school math teacher!). I definitely recommend this book for parents.

For more information on Math Essentials, you can read my review of their No Nonsense Algebra textbook from last year (which Seahawk is still using). You can also visit them on Facebook.

Blessings,

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Math Refresher for Adults {Math Essentials}
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Recipe: Chicken Piccata

One of our favorite places to eat is The Old Spaghetti Factory. Will and I were there recently and he decided to try something new: the chicken piccata. It was really good, so I decided to try to recreate it at the house so everyone could taste it without breaking the bank. This is the result, and it’s become one of absolute favorite meals.

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Chicken Piccata (serves 6-8)

2-3 chicken breasts, cut into strips
flour, for dredging
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup white wine
1 cup lemon juice
2 jars capers
3-4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 pound spaghetti or angel hair pasta, cooked according to package directions

Season the chicken strips with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour. Cook them in a bit of oil until cooked through.

Remove the chicken to a plate and keep warm. Add the wine to the pan and cook it for a minute or two until the alcohol cooks off. Add the lemon juice, capers, and tomatoes. Cook until the sauce thickens a bit.

Place the chicken back in the sauce and stir to coat.

Serve over a bed of pasta.

It takes a bit of time to make this recipe because of the frying of the chicken, but it’s not too bad. I can normally get dinner on the table for our entire family in about 45 minutes using this recipe.

Blessings,

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A Bible Study for Everyone (review)

Studying the Bible is important for everyone, not just kids and not just adults. As Christian parents, it’s a huge part of our job to raise our children to become God-fearing adults. A huge part of doing so is by studying the Bible. As part of this obligation (and I don’t use that word in a bad way), I almost always choose to review Bible studies when they come up as options through the Homeschool Review Crew. This time, we’ve been studying Genesis using Bible Study Guide for All Ages. Because of the ages of my kids, I’ll be talking about the Beginner (3-K) level and the Advanced (5th and 6th Grade) level.

The timing on receiving this worked out pretty well because we’d just gone back to the beginning of Genesis in our family reading. Each evening, we try to read a few chapters aloud as a family (Will reads, everyone else listens; those who know how to read follow along in their own Bibles). Then the next day, I go over the section again with the children in the mornings while Will is working. This way they get each section twice, which really reinforces what they’re learning during family time and prepares the boys for the next section. My time with the boys is when I pulled out the Bible Study Guide for All Ages.

Beginner (3-K)

bible study guide 3For anyone who’s read much on my blog at all, you know that I have two kids this age (well, one is 2 1/2, but close enough). We received one workbook in this level (the Unit 1 workbook) plus one copy of the Beginner Timeline. These materials are designed for “non reading children ages 3 and up.” The workbook is larger than a normal workbook, about legal size and bound on the short side so it’s long. It includes lessons for one quarter of the year, assuming you work at a pace of 2 lessons per week. We didn’t move quite that fast because we used it to supplement the reading we were already doing rather than as a standalone curriculum. Instead, I had Small Fry (6 years old this week, just finished Kindergarten) do the pages that corresponded with the section we had just read.

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bible study guide 1Each lesson is broken down right in the student workbook with instructions for the teacher/parent. It starts with showing a timeline card and asking the question on the card. The cards are in the order that the events occurred in the Bible (of course, since it’s a timeline). Each one is 8.5 x 11 and printed on cardstock in full color. They’re quite durable. This makes it a good resource for a group of small children – not only are they durable enough to stand up to reasonable use, but they’re also big enough to see without being right up on the card.

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After working through the flashcard, there are a few activities to help children learn the basics of the Bible: reciting books of the Bible in order, singing songs, answering questions, etc. Then there’s a short lesson including an “apply it” section. On the backside of the page is an age-appropriate paper activity.

Advanced (5th and 6th grade)

bible study guide 4For this level, I received one copy of the student workbook and a teacher guide, plus a set of Small Bible Book Summary Cards.

The workbook is the same size as the beginner version, but the activities are much more difficult (as suggested by the level). It starts with several memory activities to help students remember what they’d learned and read previously (it starts in Genesis 35, so there’s a lot of stuff that’s not specifically covered but is “reviewed” in the lessons so it’s not totally ignored). Activities include things like putting Abraham and his descendants in order from oldest to youngest, memorizing the book summary from the card, answering questions about the timeline of events, and then reading the Bible section and answering questions.

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bible study guide 2The summary cards are just what they sound like. Each one has color images on one side and a lot of black and white text on the other. There are also questions on each one to help make sure children are understanding what they read. The pictures represent the main events that happen in that book, and the writing on the back contains more details. It also explains the title of the book (Genesis means “beginning,” for example) and what type of book it is (history, poetry, prophecy, etc).

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This has been a really positive experience for our family. We’ve enjoyed exploring the Bible more thoroughly than “just” reading it. I’m not suggesting that simply reading the Bible isn’t enough, but it’s nice for children to be able to have some supplements to help them remember what’s been read more readily. I’m glad I’ve been able to work through this with them.

Blessings,

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Bible Study Guide For All Ages {Reviews}
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