Art from Recyclables

We have a saying in our home: “We don’t play with garbage.” Generally speaking, this applies to everything – paper trash, cans, “real” garbage, and anything in between. Around Christmastime, though, the older boys started turning paperboard boxes (think cereal) into sculptures. Munchkin started this trend with several models of the Eiffel Tower. He gifted some of them to neighbors, attached a piece of  yarn to the top of one to put on our tree as an ornament, and made a bigger one for Will’s home office. (Somehow, I’m missing pictures of the Eiffel Towers, unfortunately.)

Then Seahawk got in on the game. He made a model of the Space Needle, which now resides in his dad’s office as well.

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Finally, Munchkin made one of Big Ben.

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Since they finished the famous landmarks, they’ve moved on to making other things – primarily Star Wars ships (that’s what I’m told they are, anyway; not being into Star Wars, I don’t really know). They’ve purchased aluminum foil to make their creations “shiny,” and even though it’s messy, I like seeing their finished products.

They’ve done a really nice job with these sculptures. It’s really neat to see their creativity flow so well.

Blessings,

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Another Year with the Homeschool Review Crew! (SchoolhouseTeachers.com review)

One of the blessings of being a part of the Homeschool Review Crew (and there are many blessings!) is an ongoing Yearly Membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com. I don’t use this subscription often, but when I’m stuck and feeling like our schooling needs a kick in the pants, it’s definitely my go-to site. Coming out of Christmas break this year, I had just this feeling, so I spent one late night browsing the site looking for fresh ideas for our homeschool. What I found was great: not only were there some great new history classes (more on those in a minute), but the whole site has been given a makeover since my review last year.

This post contains affiliate links. This means that a purchase using any of my links will result in a payment to me, but no extra cost for you. Thank you for support.

What is SchoolhouseTeachers.com?

Simply put, it’s the homeschool curriculum website run by The Old Schoolhouse (which is the parent company for the Homeschool Review Crew). There are dozens of classes available on the site, and they’re written in such a way as to allow the homeschooling parent a lot of flexibility. If you’re looking for a “do this on Monday and this on Tuesday,” then a lot of the courses on SchoolhouseTeachers.com might not appeal to you. (Some of them are laid out that way, though.) If you want something that allows you to decide when to do what and how much to add or supplement to a specific subject, though, then SchoolhouseTeachers.com just might be what you’re looking for.

It’s not just homeschool curriculum, however. SchoolhouseTeachers.com has printable planners for all ages, a transcript writing guide for those homeschooling high school students, videos, a monthly meal plan, and much more. And with the newly revamped site map, it’s easier than ever to find what you’re looking for.

How did we use SchoolhouseTeachers.com in our homeschool?

air-travelAs I mentioned before, I was looking for something fun and interesting to help ease the boys back into school after having taken a couple of weeks off for Christmas. It’s easy to find subjects by either subject or grade; I decided to try to find something that would be challenging enough for both of the older boys (7th and 5th grade), but also interesting enough that Small Fry (age 4) might enjoy listening in. Because we hadn’t done much in the history department yet this school year, I started there. I was pleasantly surprised to find several courses that fit the bill. I narrowed it down to two that I wanted us to try first – History of Air Travel and Bold Explorers – and let the boys decide which they wanted to do first. They chose Air Travel (which surprised me not at all).

To run this course, I had to log in to World Books (using the Schoolhouse Teachers member login, included with membership). I was able to read the required texts for the course (there are 5, but each one is pretty short) aloud to the boys, and then they answered questions provided by the course instructor on SchoolhouseTeachers.com. These questions came in the form of a series of printable worksheets. There are 5 books to read for this course (At Home in the Sky, Beyond the Sky, The Early Days of Flight, The First True Fliers, and War in the Air), and the questions provided cover a bit from each chapter of each book. At the end of each unit (e-book read), I printed off some relevant pages from my NotebookingPages.com membership and had them write a report based on that particular book. The books are short enough that we did 3-4 chapters per day and finished one book per week.

aardvarkIn addition to the Air Travel history class, Small Fry and I watched several episodes of From Aardvark to Zucchini. I’d never heard of this show before, but I knew upon reading the synopsis that it would be great for my 4-year-old. It’s a series of 22-minute episodes, each of which focuses on a single letter of the alphabet. What makes this show different from others like it, though, is that it focuses heavily on prayer. So not only are children learning about the alphabet, but they’re also learning that it’s okay – nay, good – to talk to God anywhere and everywhere! I loved this concept.

What did we think of SchoolhouseTeachers.com?

I’ve been a member of this site for over 3 years now, and I can honestly say that I’m more impressed with it now than ever before. With the recent redesign, it’s easier to find classes and videos, it’s easier to understand how to use and adapt the classes, and the selection of licensed videos to stream is excellent. I barely scratched the surface of the site in my review today, so make sure you head over to the Homeschool Review Crew blog to find out how other families used the site. I bet they’ll come up with things I didn’t! I can’t wait to utilize this resource more in our homeschool.

How can you sign up for a membership?

That’s easy! Go to the Yearly Membership page, and it’s very self-explanatory. You can pay monthly ($12.95) or annually ($139). (Please note: These prices will increase sometime in the middle of the month this month.) If you’re not sure whether SchoolhouseTeachers.com is for you, use the code TRIAL to get your first month for just $1. That’s pretty low risk! And even better, if you purchase by January 15th, you can get a discount on the regular monthly or yearly prices. Use the code CHRISTMAS to get the monthly plan for just $9.95 a month or CHRISTMASYEAR to get the annual plan for $90. If you lock in at these new lower rates, you will be immune from price increases for as long as you keep an active subscription.

Oh, and one more thing: The price you pay is for your entire family. There are no per child fees; whatever plan you choose is good for every child in your home.

I highly encourage you to check out SchoolhouseTeachers.com. I don’t think you’ll regret it!

Blessings,

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High-quality, Self-paced, Online Homeschool Resources {SchoolhouseTeachers.com}
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How to Diagram a Sentence with The Critical Thinking Co. (Review)

When I was planning our school year back in August, I decided not to get the next level of our regular grammar program. Even though I love it, and I know the kids are learning a lot from it, they don’t particularly care for it, so I decided to give them a year off from using it. This left us without a grammar program, which I’d planned to fill with something along the lines of copywork. That’s only been happening sporadically, so when the opportunity arose for a review of Sentence Diagramming: Beginning from The Critical Thinking Co., I was very interested. You see, grammar is my strongest subject as a teacher, so I felt kind of lost without having it in our school day. Having something grammar related that was different from what we’ve used in the past was a definite win for everyone involved.

About The Critical Thinking Co.™

The Critical Thinking Co.™ was founded in 1958 by John Baker, and they offered only math back then. They included logic problems in their math curriculum in order to help students to learn not just the math being taught, but also to think more critically about what they were learning. They’ve gone through several name changes in the past 58 years, landing on The Critical Thinking Co.™ in 2003. Their mission statement is to “develop students’ critical thinking skills for better grades, higher test scores, and success in life.” Things you won’t find in a product from The Critical Thinking Co.™ are math drills or requirements for rote memorization. When you use a book or software program from this company, you can rest assured that you won’t be teaching your students to pass a test – you’ll be teaching them to succeed.

About Sentence Diagramming: Beginning

This book was written by elementary and middle school teacher Angela Carter after she was unable to find a quality resource for teaching children to diagram sentences. She learned to diagram sentences herself in college, and really loved how seeing words broken down that way encouraged an understanding of how different types of words work together to create sentences.

There are twelve lessons in the book, and each one can easily be broken up into several days. They start with the simplest of sentences: simple subject and main verb (Babies eat.). There’s a gray box at the beginning of each lesson which is the teaching portion; this section takes between a third and half a page. Then there are four pages of activities for students to practice their new knowledge. Sometimes, there are additional boxes of teaching on subsequent pages in the middle of a lesson. Activities include:

  • The following sentences are diagrammed incorrectly. Diagram them properly.
  • Here are some sentences and empty diagrams. Place the words from the sentences where they go on the diagram.
  • Here are some empty diagrams. Write your own sentence to match the diagram.
  • Here are some sentences. Draw your own diagram and fill in the words properly.

The types of sentences get pretty complex quite quickly; by lesson 3, adjectives and coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, nor) have been added. By lesson 7, prepositional phrases are introduced. The last four lessons of the book each add a different compound component: subjects, predicates, direct objects, and predicate adjectives and nouns.

How We Used Sentence Diagramming: Beginning

As I mentioned previously, this has become our grammar curriculum for the time being. The boys have enjoyed doing something new and interesting; I like that they’re building on the grammar foundation they already had. Each morning, I would read the teaching section to them, simplifying the explanation as needed to make sure they understood. Then they would do the activities on a separate sheet of paper for inclusion in the grammar tab of their binders. The Critical Thinking Co.™ has a very generous copyright policy, allowing photocopies to be made for use within a single family for as many children as you have, but making those copies was never very convenient for me, so we just used the separate paper method.

When the sentences were easy (lessons 1 and 2), we did all four pages of activities in one sitting. As they continued to get more and more complicated, we broke it up over several days, eventually getting to where we just did one lesson over the course of a whole week.

Final Thoughts

Sentence Diagramming: Beginning has been a really good thing for our homeschool. It keeps the boys’ interest, and they don’t whine when I say, “Open up to your grammar section.” They’re learning new kinds of words, constantly being refreshed on the kinds of words they already knew, and with each diagram, they have a visual reminder of how the different words go together to make an interesting sentence. This book is a definite win!

This is the second time I’ve had the privilege of reviewing for The Critical Thinking Co.™. Last year, Seahawk and I worked through their Pattern Explorers math supplement book (we didn’t finish it at the time, and he still goes back sometimes to do activities from that book; he loves it).

Members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing a variety of things from The Critical Thinking Co.™ this week, including Language Smarts™ Level E, a 4th grade language arts curriculum and a variety of software downloads:

The Critical Thinking Co.™ is also really invested in helping young children from an early age develop their critical thinking skills. They have a great article on The Importance of Preschool Academics, which I would highly recommend reading it if you have young children. Once you’ve read the information on that page, you can then click over to the page that offers 5 preschool apps for under $40, which cover basic reading, writing, and arithmetic for young students.

Blessings,

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Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}
 

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Arrgh! A Unit Study on Pirates (Homeschool Legacy Review)

Thanks to a great review product from Homeschool Legacy, we’ve had the privilege of spending the past few weeks learning all about pirates in history. The Once-a-Week Micro-Study we’ve been working through is called Pirates or Privateers: You Decide. It’s been really interesting learning all the different things offered in the unit study.

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I’ve mentioned before that unit studies are my boys’ favorite way to learn, so this product was definitely a hit in our homeschool. The unit study is well written, including activities to cover a variety of subjects (like any good unit study should!). Included subjects are:

  • Literature: a family read-aloud of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stephenson
  • History: creating a timeline, studying famous pirates and explorers, etc…
  • Geography: learning about the landscape of Earth and which areas were most prone to pirates
  • Critical Thinking: comparing the reality of pirates to the stereotype
  • Creative Writing: writing a story about pirates
  • Government: learning the hierarchy on a pirate ship
  • Current Events: understanding that piracy still exists, and watching the film Captain Phillips to reinforce that fact

There’s not much information in the unit study itself to explain how to actually “do” it, so I did the best I could based on what was there. This isn’t to say that the study is poorly written – it’s not – but more that I just wasn’t entirely sure what to do with all the information and how often to present it. In the end, I decided to take the name of the study at face value: Once a Week. Some of the activities took longer to complete, so in those instances, we’d stretch it out to two days a week, but for the most part, we stuck to the once a week schedule.

The study is 23 pages long, and I printed the whole thing out so I’d have a hard copy to refer to during school hours. For the student activities (timeline, writing short papers, drawing maps, etc), I had the boys work on regular paper and keep the sheets in the “history” tab of their binders. In fact, for the past several weeks, this has been our primary history curriculum.

We did pretty much all of the activities for each week; because it’s a “micro study,” it’s broken up into fairly small chunks, making this easy to do. My main problem with it was the read-aloud of Treasure Island. I’d never read it before, and I found it quite cumbersome to get through. After the first chapter, I decided to get a simpler version from the library.

There are several Once a Week Micro Studies to choose from, and each is designed to work for students in grades 1-8. Homeschool Review Crew members were able to choose from just a small sampling of what they have to offer:

In addition to the micro studies, Homeschool Legacy also offers longer unit studies, and some members of the Homeschool Review Crew got to work through Christmas Comes to America, which is appropriate for grades 1-12. Besides being a great homeschool curriculum, this unit study allows students to earn scouting badges (American Heritage Girls or Boy Scouts).

Because we’re running a Sabbath school schedule this year, our week off fell during the time we were using this study, so we haven’t finished it yet, but we’re definitely going to! We have really enjoyed working on this unit study together; I like the fact that it’s pretty much all inclusive (once you get the hang of it). There are a few things to prep – printing the pages and gathering the books – but for the most part, it’s an “open and go” product, which I love. I think what I’m most excited about (besides watching the boys learn and record their thoughts and discoveries) is finishing the study so we can watch Captain Phillips. I loved that movie when I saw it a couple of years ago; I’m looking forward to sharing it with the children.

Make sure to click the banner below to read about some of the other Homeschool Legacy micro studies, and then click on over to Homeschool Legacy’s website and explore some more. Pick up a unit study while you’re there – individual studies start at just $12, or you bundle several together and save money.

Blessings,

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Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}
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Living in Historical Times (Carole P. Roman review)

This review is brought to you by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com.

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I remember reading reviews of Carole P. Roman’s “If You Were Me and Lived in… {country name here}” series a few years ago; I’d never seen them, though. So when I heard about her new history series with the same basic title, I was intrigued. I talked to the boys about the books, and they were super interested, so we requested to be on this review. There are eight books in the historical series; we received four of them to review:

Each reviewer was given the choice of two they really wanted (I let each of the school-age boys pick one; Seahawk chose Ancient Greece and Munchkin chose American West), and then Ms. Roman sent along two “surprise” books as well. These books were a nice, easy history lesson for our first couple of weeks back to school. Each day, we read a book (or part of a book, in the case of the longer ones) and then did a related activity. For some of the related activities, we used the comprehension questions from the author’s website; for others, I came up with alternate options. But mostly, we just read them. Reading these books was how we opened our school day for about two weeks.

As the titles suggest, the books put your child right into the thick of the action of whatever era the chosen book is written about. The point of view is second person (you would do this, you would do that), which is unusual for books –  normally you see first person (I did this) or third person (Sally did that). The second person narrative made it interesting for the kids, especially since we read them aloud. Even Small Fry (4 years old) and Dragonfly (10 months old) were interested. As much as children that small can be interested, anyway.

The books give really good information about the time period about which they are about. We enjoyed reading about Ancient Greece and the Middle Ages especially. It was fun to learn about the types of names people had, what kinds of clothes they likely wore (each of the “you” characters in the books is from a well-to-do family, not a peasant family), and daily activities for children and adults. Even though the “you” character was from a higher class, there was also information about how the peasants lived, particularly in the Middle Ages book.

Of the four books we received, three (Ancient Greece, Middle Ages, and Viking Europe) shared an illustrator. These books were lovely, and the illustrations really added a lot. The layout on them was very simple, with the text in a single column on the left and the picture up the entire right side page and half of the left side page. On the pages where there was more text to fit, the picture was shortened to take up only about a third of the left page.

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An example of the odd illustration style from American West

The other book we received, The American West, had good information but we didn’t care for the pictures at all. They looked like a weird conglomeration between photographs and clip art, and unfortunately I don’t think the style worked at all. In fact, it was with this book that I gave the boys a different type of “how well did you remember” activity: choose any page from the book and draw your own illustration for it, then summarize the text from that page.

Overall, we enjoyed reading these books. They were easy to read aloud (for me) and to understand (for the children). They learned a lot from them, and I think the kids are likely to read them again – at least periodically.

In addition to the four books we received to review, members of the Homeschool Review Crew also reviewing the other four books in the series as well. Click the banner below to be taken to the Crew blog post with links to those reviews. If you’re interested in more books from Carole P. Roman, you can head over to her Amazon author page, where you can easily find links to all of them. Her books are available in paperback and for Kindle.

Blessings,

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If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com}
 

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Discovering God in Ancient Egypt (Heirloom Audio Review)

Heirloom Audio Productions has long been a favorite of the Homeschool Review Crew, and we only recently had the privilege of listening to one of their audio dramas (Beric the Briton, earlier this year). Seahawk liked it so much that he really wanted me to request that we be chosen to review Heirloom’s newest offering, The Cat of Bubastes (boo-bass-tees). Luckily for him, we were.

The Cat of Bubastes is another of G.A. Henty’s novels; according to what I heard from other members of the Homeschool Review Crew, it’s a popular one to start with if you’re new to Henty (I’ve personally never read any of his novels – in fact, prior to the Review Crew, I’d never even heard of Henty). This one takes us back to ancient Egypt – Moses-ancient, not Cleopatra-ancient. The drama opens with the capture of Prince Amuba and his advisor, Jethro, by the Egyptians. The pair is bought by a very nice man, and each of the men is given to one of their master’s children as their personal servant. Before long, they find themselves caught up in a murderous plot that will test their loyalties. All the while, their newfound faith is being tested at every turn, pushing them to discover God’s love and providence for themselves.

I’m not going to really beat around the bush here… I find audio dramas difficult to follow. I’m very much a visual person. Seahawk, however, is an audio learner. He does really well with things like this – even in other school subjects. (I never truly processed this until right this second as I’m writing this. Thinking back to the things that have worked with him vs. not, I can really focus with him on things that will help him learn better from now on.) Because of this, he really enjoyed this drama. We would put it on for about half an hour each morning as our history lesson, and at the end of our listening time, we would do some of the questions from the study guide (more on that in a second). I really liked having the study guide; it took something that was interesting to listen to and made it more “school-like.”

In addition to a physical copy of the 2-CD set, we received several digital resources to go along with it:

  • an mp3 version of the drama, which is how we listened to it since we don’t have a CD player
  • an e-book version of Henty’s original novel (which I put on Munchkin’s Kindle for him to read later)
  • an mp3 soundtrack of the audio adventure
  • a printable poster featuring the cast
  • a PDF study & discussion guide
  • a printable inspirational verse poster featuring the cover art from the CD and 1 Chronicles 17:20
  • a behind the scenes video documentary featuring the cast and crew
  • access to the Live the Adventure letter

kimg0011As I mentioned previously, we used the study guide to help enhance our enjoyment of the audio drama. In order to do this, I printed off some Ancient Egypt pages from my NotebookingPages.com membership and then read the study guide questions aloud to the boys. They then wrote the answers down on the notebooking page. I liked doing it this way rather than printing off the actual study guide because there was actually a place for them to record the answers. In the study guide itself, the questions are pretty stacked so there’s not much space for the answers if you want to keep a record of the learning from the drama. The study guide for The Cat of Bubastes is mostly questions (basic “how well were you listening?” type questions as well as “digging deeper” ones), but there are some other goodies in there as well, including vocabulary, bonus information about the time period, instructions for an ancient Egyptian game (which funny enough, my boys actually have, thanks to a Joseph-themed VBS this past summer), and even a recipe for bean cakes.

So what did we think of The Cat of Bubastes? Though I’m not really an audio person, I found Cat to be much more engaging than Beric. I found myself imaging what I was hearing much more easily than I have with other audio dramas in the past. Seahawk, of course, loved it. And Munchkin, well… he’s happy to have a new book on his Kindle to read later. 😉 Generally speaking, though, The Cat of Bubastes is another win for Heirloom Audio Productions.

Blessings,

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Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes
 

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Getting Started with French (Review)

Bonjour! I think it’s important to teach children a foreign language, and in the past several years I’ve read conflicting reports about what the “most used” language in the world is. It seems to vary between English and French, depending on which report you read. (The most recent one I read said that French had overtaken English, but it’s been a few months so it might have changed back again.) Combine that with the fact that I learned French when I was in high school (forever ago!), and it was an easy choice to have my boys learn French as their foreign language.

In our pursuit of the “perfect” language curriculum, we’ve tried lots of different things. (Spoiler alert: there’s no such thing as the perfect option.) We typically use computer-based curricula for foreign language because, even though I know some French, I’m far from fluent – even pseudo-fluent enough to teach it effectively. When I learned that members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew were being offered the chance to try out Getting Started with French from Armfield Academic Press, I wanted to give it a chance.

Getting Started with French is a softcover book with 172 lessons and over 280 pages. The lessons are very short (usually just 1-2 pages, sometimes not even a full page), with each one introducing just a few vocabulary words or a single concept. Some of the lessons don’t even teach any new French, but instead a concept in English that you’ll need for upcoming lessons (what an article is – a, an, the – for example). A lot of the early lessons focus on French pronunciation, which is quite different from English. To help even further with this, the company’s website has a free set of mp3 recordings you can download to help you.

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An early lesson

As  you progress through the lessons, they get more complex (as should be expected). You learn the different ways to conjugate verbs and how to read and build sentences. Getting Started with French relies on a translation method, which can be “controversial” depending on who you ask (a lot of scholars say that immersion is the best technique for learning a new language). Once the new word or words are introduced and explained, there’s a list of French phrases (no more than what’s already been taught) and students are instructed to translate them into English. This can be done in writing or orally/mentally.

My intention when I asked to review this book was to work through it with Will in the evenings after the boys went to bed; I thought it would give us something constructive to do at night rather than just watching TV. Unfortunately, he wasn’t keen on the translation method and opted not to work on it, so I did it myself. I was able to skip the first several lessons because of my history with the language. The book was a bit easy for me, even though I haven’t used my French language skills in so many years; I had a great teacher, and the things she taught me have really stuck with me.

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A later lesson

That said, I think this book would be a really good starting point for anyone who wants to learn French and is more comfortable having some English to rely on. Immersion might be the “best” technique, but it can definitely be frustrating at times. I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with the translation method, especially for older students (it’s how I learned). I find that even in an immersion program, you find yourself trying to translate, so it’s okay to just embrace that and allow yourself to understand what you’re learning.

I would highly recommend this book for someone looking for a gentle introduction to French. The approach is slow and steady, but you really do learn a lot in just a few minutes (they recommend 30) a day. If you have a friend who’s willing to learn along with you, that’s even better because then you can practice with each other! Because this is such a slow build to the language, I think it would also be good for children who are beginning to learn English grammar, too. They can learn the concepts in English and then apply them in both English and French.

Overall, even this book wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, I did get some good stuff out of it, and I will definitely employ some of the vocabulary and technique as my family continues to expand our knowledge of the French language. In fact, the more I think about how I used it myself, the more I think I missed an opportunity with the boys; by starting them at a later lesson (because they definitely don’t need the early stuff about how French pronunciation is different from English pronunciation), I think this would be an amazing supplement to their other curriculum, and one I’ll probably implement later this week.

And what if you don’t want to teach French in your homeschool? No problem! Armfield Academic Press also offers Getting Started with Latin and Getting Started with Spanish. They’re also developing Getting Started with Russian, which will be available soon (though I don’t know exactly how soon).

Blessings,

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Introducing Getting Started with French {Armfield Academic Press}
 

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Downloadable Worksheets with a Christian Flair (CHSH-Teach Review)

I’ve got a really great program to review today: the CHSH Download Club from CHSH-Teach.com. I’ve spent the past few weeks exploring the website in preparation of our school year, and I have to tell you: there’s a lot of really great stuff on this site! Covering all grades (K-12) and a huge variety of subjects, there’s sure to be something you want or need to incorporate into your homeschool here.

When you go to CHSH-Teach.com (short for Christian HomeSchool Hub), the first thing you’ll see is a “Today in History” calendar. These tidbits include all sorts of things from presidential assassinations to devastating hurricanes to William the Conqueror claiming the throne of England. Scroll down from here and you get to the real “meat” of the site: the Download Club, which features over 50,000 pages of educational material. Obviously I haven’t been able to sift through 50,000 pages, so I’m going to spend a short period today talking about the stuff we did (or plan to) use.

chsh-teach-french-flashcardsThe first thing I printed using my Download Club membership was some French language flash cards for my husband. He really wants to learn the language, but struggles to find time to devote to Rosetta Stone. These flash cards were just the thing to help him work through some vocabulary on his own terms, especially when he was away from home.

knittingUp next was something for Munchkin. Every so often, he expresses interest in learning yarn crafts from me, but apparently I’m not a very good teacher because he struggles to become proficient at them. On CHSH-Teach.com, I found a printout of basic knitting stitches. He knows how to cast on from my teaching, but actually knitting something has proved rather elusive for him. Now, he has a handy-dandy reference sheet to help him. Because he’s a good reader, sometimes things make more sense for him if he can look at a piece of paper and read instructions rather than watching and listening to me. He hasn’t put forth a huge effort in  a while, but I’m sure that when he’s ready to give it a real go, this document will really help him.

chsh-teach-biologyThe last thing I spent a good amount of time on was a science program for Seahawk. Included in the Download Club ($25 for one year or $99.99 for life) is a whole series of full textbooks. That’s right: complete texts! So I downloaded a 7th grade level biology course for him, and that’s going to cover his science this year. There’s a digital textbook and student book, so it really is a complete program. We haven’t actually started this one yet, but it’s on my agenda for later this week (and I have looked at it myself, so I’m not completely clueless regarding it). We’ll also use the spelling pages for Seahawk. These are separated by grade level, and there are 4-week units for each grade. Because this is a subject he struggles with, we’re going to start at a much lower level than he’s at age-wise to help him work through and hopefully become a better speller. Because he’ll utilize several grade levels, this will likely last him most of the school year.

On top of the downloads I’ve used thus far, there are pages in a huge variety of subjects: Bible, Foreign Language, Arts and Crafts, Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, Health (this is a subject I plan for us to use, but I haven’t explored it much yet), and Electives. You can browse the worksheets by subject or grade level. Having everything cross referenced that way is pretty helpful.

In addition to thousands of pages on the paid side of the subscription, there’s a free version to CHSH. The free version can be a great source of support for homeschooling families, even though it doesn’t include any of the downloads. There are forums, groups, chat rooms, and more, all of which would be a blessing to a homeschooling parent.

After using the website for several weeks now, I have just one complaint, and that is that it will sometimes require me to sign in twice to access certain materials. I always sign in first thing upon going to the site so that I can see the downloads I want, but there are times when I’ll click through to a certain document I want, and it will tell me that I have to be logged in to access that content. I wish it would remember from one click to the next that I am logged in, but it’s not something that’s a huge problem. It’s just an inconvenience.

Because there are so many different options in the CHSH Download Club, I’ve barely scratched the surface of available items. Make sure to visit other reviews through the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to learn about some of the things that other families have used. That will give you some more insight into just how amazing this website is

Blessings,

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Astronomy with a Creation Mindset (Apologia Review)

If there’s one thing Apologia Educational Ministries is known for, it’s their science programs. I’ve always wanted to try one out, but it’s never quite fit in the budget, so when the opportunity to review Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition was offered, I eagerly requested it. For this review, we received all of the different pieces to work this curriculum: the hardcover Student Text ($39), the Notebooking Journal and Jr. Notebooking Journal ($27 each), and the audio CD ($29), which is an audio book version of the textbook. Because this science curriculum is listed as a K-6 grade range, Munchkin and I have been studying astronomy together.

Apologia strives to offer curriculum with a biblical worldview, even things that some scientists would tell you don’t have any place in science – like astronomy. It’s easy to find God’s hand in biology (there are certain creatures that simply couldn’t exist the way they do without having been created – evolution can’t account for everything that evolutionists try to make it fit), but astronomy is a whole other beast. Especially when you consider that there have been people from the beginning of time (well, nearly the beginning…) who worshiped the celestial beings. I love that Apologia has taken this topic and given right back to God.

It’s a fairly simple curriculum to work through, though to be honest we haven’t really been doing it “right,” since it’s been summer. We kept it fairly simple and did mostly just the reading and notebooking, and a few of the easier demonstrations. We didn’t do much with the “above and beyond” stuff, but since school is starting for real this week, we’ll be adding those in with more vigor from here on out.

The textbook has 14 chapters. The first one is a basic introduction to astronomy, and it covers things like the stars, gravity, a list of the planets, space navigation, and astronomers and astronauts. Chapters 2-12 cover the sun, planets in our solar system, Earth’s moon, and space rocks – each one gets its own chapter. There is a lot of great information about each planet, including how to find it in the sky (where applicable), the astronomer who named each planet, and features special to that particular planet. The book finishes up with a chapter on the Kuiper Belt and Dwarf Planets (hello, Pluto!), and the book closes out with a chapter on Stars, Galaxies, and Space Travel.

apologia-worksheet-pagesThe Notebooking Journal and Jr. Notebooking Journal are hefty books (much thicker than the text) that are spiral bound for easy opening. There’s a huge variety of activities for each chapter including (but not limited to) minibooks, copy work, room for children to take notes based on what they read (or listen to, if you use the audio book), word puzzles, blank pages for drawing, experiment/activity recording, scrapbooking, and quizzes/tests. By the end of the school year, you’re left with a wonderful record of everything your child learned.

As I mentioned before, this was primarily used by Munchkin (5th grade) and me together during the summer. We’d read the text book together (we didn’t use the CD for two reasons: first, I don’t have a player for it; second, he’s a strong reader, so it wasn’t necessary) and then he’d do the pages in the Notebooking Journal that I assigned to him. He’s using the regular journal, not the junior one; I’m setting the junior aside to use with Small Fry when he’s in Kindergarten or 1st grade. It has the same kinds of activities as the regular journal, but it’s much simpler and therefore perfect for younger students. There are a couple of activities in each chapter that aren’t worksheet-related and therefore not in the Notebooking Journal – for instance, creating a model solar system with different sized balloons. We didn’t have balloons, but I still wanted Munchkin to understand the relative sizes of the planets to one another, so I had him draw circles using the sizes indicated. We didn’t have any paper big enough to draw a 300-inch circle (!), so we didn’t do the sun. I showed him my 60-inch tape measure and he calculated out how many of those it would take to make 300 inches and was duly impressed.

Our first experience with Apologia’s science has been a wonderful one. I wanted to review this program to decide whether I thought it would be a good idea for us to purchase these books for other science topics (they’ve been on my wish list for quite some time), and after seeing and using this one, the answer to that is a resounding YES! I’m definitely looking forward to using the different titles in this series in the future.

As always, I’m not the only one reviewing this program this week. Head over to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more info.

Blessings,

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Back to Homeschool 2016

This year, I still have just the two older boys who are “officially” in school. Seahawk is beginning 7th grade, and Munchkin will be entering 5th. Small Fry, at 4 years old, will be working on expanding his listening skills and learning his letters and maybe the numbers, too. But mostly he’ll be learning the letters in preparation for learning to read. Because he’s still so young, there won’t be anything formal with him; we’ll do some worksheets and continue using Talking Shapes, but that’s it. He’s not required to start formal schooling until he’s 6 years old, so I’m okay letting him be a kid for another year or two.

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Even though we have no real reason to follow the public school schedule, we typically do – at least vaguely (meaning we start the day after Labor Day and end in mid-June with a real summer break). This year, we’re going to try something a little different as far as scheduling breaks all throughout the year, though, in the hopes of eliminating the burnout we all start to feel around mid-April. It’s called Sabbath Schooling, and the basic idea is “6 weeks on, 1 week off.” I think having such regularly scheduled breaks will be really beneficial to us. I’ve already sat down with the calendar and calculated out our breaks; in order to have them fall properly around things like Christmas and the summer break next June, we’ll have a couple of spots where we go 8 weeks instead of 6, but I think that will be okay.

Now, onto the most interesting parts of these kinds of posts: what will we be learning this year? It’s hard for me to choose things that we’ll use all year long, because as a curriculum reviewer, that’s just not the kind of school we have. But I do have some basic ideas of where we’ll start, at least, so I’ll talk about those for now. As things update and change, I can write new posts.

Everyone

Bible

I think we’re going to do a study of Biblical figures this year. We’ll read scripture sections featuring specific people and create notebooking pages for each one. In addition to that, we’ll try to read the New Testament all together and the kids will read their Bibles independently. They’re old enough now to develop Bible reading plans of their own.

Language Arts

Writing: Finishing their novels using Here to Help Learning
Spelling, Grammar, and Handwriting: We’re going to try something new this year and do copy work instead of a formal grammar program. I really do love Fix It! Grammar, though, so we’ll probably go back to that next year. In addition to these changes, we’re going to work through The Logic of English. I really hope this will help my kids to understand they “whys” of how things work in English.

Math

They’ll be finishing up their math textbooks from last year. When they’re nearly done, we’ll purchase the next ones from Amazon.

History

Lots of great options here! My current plan is to listen to the new Heirloom Audio Productions release, The Cat of Bubastes. This takes place in Ancient Egypt, so we’ll form a unit study around that using the study guide that comes with it, and supplement it with some NotebookingPages. When we’re done with this, I’ll find other history unit studies.

French

They’ll continue working through Rosetta Stone. They took too much time off this summer, unfortunately, so I’m going to have them each go back a few lessons.

Here’s what they boys will be studying independently from one another:

Small Fry, Preschool

As I mentioned before, he’ll be doing just the very basics. I plan to have him make a “Learning my Letters” notebook using pages from our NotebookingPages.com Lifetime Membership. He’ll also work on Talking Shapes some more – he loves that program!

Munchkin, 5th Grade

Science

We have two really great science programs for Munchkin (Science Shepherd and Apologia Astronomy). We’ll either do one and then the other when we’re done with it, or we’ll alternate back and forth between the two (M/W/F and T/Th). We’ll see which way works best. In addition to these, we’ll probably do the health class offered on CHSH-Teach.com.

Reading and Literature:

We still have two literature units from Memoria Press that he’ll work through (Heidi and Lassie Come Home). When he finishes those, I’ll find some new options; if there’s not a new review available, I know there are plenty of options online. For fun reading, he’s currently working his way through the complete Wizard of Oz; he’s on book 5 now. Finishing up the rest of those will take him a while, and when he’s done, we’ll find him a new series to read – likely Narnia since he’s read two of those already.

Seahawk, 7th Grade

Science

Seahawk will be studying biology this year using the textbook we were able to download from Christian Home School Hub. It comes with a teacher’s manual and a student book; beyond that, I’m not going to say too much because it’ll be in my review on Wednesday 😉

Reading and Literature

Seahawk is a much slower reader than his brother, so I’m not going to stack as many books on him at the beginning. He spent a lot of the summer working through The Hobbit (along with a Memoria Press study guide), but he’s far from finished on that, so that’s his main goal in the short term. Because he’s not much into reading for fun, I’m happy to combine his reading and literature into one.

Spelling

In addition to the stuff I mentioned in the “everyone” section, Seahawk will work on some spelling units from CHSH-Teach.

So there we are… The main eight subjects we’ll be tackling starting tomorrow.

What does your homeschool year look like? Let me know in the comment section below!

Blessings,

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