The Opera: Orfeo ed Euridice

I wrote recently about our trip to see La Cenerentola (Cinderella), and now I want to talk about when we saw Orfeo ed Euridice (or-fay-oh ed yoo-reh-dee-chay). If you read the Cinderella post, you’ll know that we took Small Fry to see that show. For Orfeo, we took the big kids (Seahawk, age 14, and Munchkin, age 11). We thought this would be a great one for them because it was advertised to be a combination opera and ballet, and they dance ballet.

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The story of Orpheus and Eurydice is one of the oldest on the planet (excluding the Bible), and has been the basis for many, many things over the years. Let me give a short rundown, just in case you’re unfamiliar.

orfeo 1Orpheus is a demi-god in mythology (meaning he was the child of one god and one human). He was in love with Eurydice, and on the way to their wedding she gets bitten by a viper and dies. Orpheus, in his anguish, finds favor with the gods and they tell him that they will allow him to go into the underworld and save her. But there’s a catch. There was always a catch with those guys! He’s not allowed to look at her during their trip back. If he succeeds, she will rejoin him in the land of the living and they will have a long and happy life together. If he fails, she will be pulled back to the underworld, essentially dying again. They get all the way back to the opening, and Orpheus, so excited to have made the journey successfully, turns to look at his beloved only to discover that she hadn’t stepped out yet. Because she hadn’t completed the journey fully, she is pulled back to the underworld.

orfeo 2This is the basic story that Orfeo tells, but there was a bit of a twist at the end. I won’t worry too much about spoilers since the opera is no longer “playing.” After Euridice is pulled back to the underworld, Orfeo sings songs of great sadness and eventually Amor (Cupid) comes to him with good news. Love conquers all, and he has heard Orfeo’s anguish and knows that he is truly in love with Euridice. Therefore he is overriding the other gods and allowing Euridice to rejoin Orfeo back on Earth.

For this opera, we arrived early enough to the theater to participate in the pre-show, where an opera expert gives a short (30-minute) lecture on the play and the composer. It was really interesting, and especially good for the kids to get some background on what they were about to see. They got a bit of history (both fictional, in the history of the story, and fact, in the history of the composer) in addition to just having a better grip on the story before it even started.

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The combination of opera and ballet was stunning, and the sets and costumes were gorgeous. This was one that I wasn’t entirely sure about when I found out that Will had bought tickets, but after having seen it, I’m so glad he did! We both agreed after seeing Italian Girl, Cenerentola, and Orfeo that Orfeo was our second favorite. (Italian Girl still wins in our books, and Cinderella came in third despite being my favorite fairy tale.) The kids loved it too.

Blessings,

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Literature for Littles (review)

There are tons of literature opportunities for older students, but not as many for younger ones (outside of reading good books to them, of course). Today I get to review one such option: Paddington Bear from Branch Out World

This unit study is based on the original Paddington picture book, and there are lessons to cover 5 days. It is available as a digital download and does not include the book. There are plenty of options for the book, though: you can likely find it at your library, it’s for sale on Amazon, and there’s even a narrated video for it on YouTube. For many reasons, we weren’t able to access the actual book, so we used the YouTube video (which is about 10 minutes long).

The study opens with notes for parents. This includes things such as how to keep and store your child’s work and what will be studied each day, as well as what you need in advance. There’s also a list of additional resources that can be used in conjunction with the picture book (the Paddington sequel, for example). Finally, there’s a comprehensive list of supplies you might need (based on which activities you choose to cover each day), separated by day. 

41138FB7-79D3-4C09-8333-0F114CE2C42FAfter this section, you get to the heart of the study. Each day focuses on one aspect of the story (setting, words, pictures, science, and “crafts and more”). You read the story to your child each day (or in our case, have them watch the video), and then do the activities you’ve chosen. For the first day, where the focus is on the setting, it’s all about map work (physical setting) and making a timeline (the timing of the book). There are printables included for these activities in the appendix of the unit study. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have easy access to our printer, so Small Fry and I used the digital versions of these for our studying. Adding the PDF to my iPad, I utilized the “marking up” feature in order to show him some of the locations of the story on the provided map.

Day 2, words, opens with a short biography of author Michael Bond and then moves on to the main themes of the book (primarily helpfulness, which is a great thing to focus on with little kids). There are also instructions for vocabulary and a basic grammar lesson. This was pretty much a discussion day for Small Fry and me.

ECEDBE8E-4C81-44BB-AF6F-27E52EF38C7EDay 3, pictures, talks about the illustrator and his method of drawing (pen and ink colored with watercolors). Students are encouraged to create their own still-life of a bowl of fruit using either magazine cutouts or just by drawing. 

On the science day, there are two experiments. One is edible and the other is not. Because Branch Out World is a British company, some of the necessary elements for these experiments are either unclear (washing liquid, for instance – I’m not sure what that is) or difficult to find in the US (like caster sugar – I know it’s a type of sugar that’s somewhere between granulated and powdered, but I’ve never seen it in the stores here). If you can’t find what you need, though, it’s not the end of the world – there’s also a nature study included that you could do instead.

The final day is for math, crafts, and more. Math activities include drawing parallel lines (railroad tracks) and finding the numbers in the pictures, amongst others. Then there are options for art projects and recipes to make together – including Paddington’s favorite, marmalade. We haven’t gotten to those yet.

Overall, this has been a very rewarding study for my 6-year-old. He’s enjoyed the activities (even if we stuck to the basic ones like studying the maps and drawing pictures), and it’s been a really good introduction to both unit studies and quality literature. I was initially a bit skeptical (for no good reason, unfortunately), but am glad to have been proven wrong. We really enjoyed working on this together!

Blessings,

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Paddington Bear {Branch Out World Reviews}
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Jumanji

We recently watched the new Jumanji film for family movie night. A couple of days later, we went back and watched the 90s one with Robin Williams. Small Fry (6 years old) absolutely loved them, so Will came up with a clever idea to have some with our son’s new fascination. We would buy a copy of the game (it’s a real thing now!) and hide it in the bushes outside for him to find. To make the illusion more complete, he found a track of the “Jumanji drums” on YouTube and hid his iPad, playing the music, inside the box.

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With everything set up, Will took the boys outside to “play catch.” They tossed the ball around for a few minutes, and then Will threw it right to the bush where the game was hidden. It took some coaxing to get Small Fry to notice the drum sounds coming from the bushes, but when he did, he started digging around right away. When he found the game, he was excited – but fooled for one second that it had magically shown up!

It’s been about a week and a half now, and Jumanji is definitely his favorite game ever. He asks someone to play it with him almost every day. Luckily he has big brothers and a neighbor friend who are (usually) all too happy to oblige.

Blessings,

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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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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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Seahawk

I just wanted to share a few more pictures of Seahawk wearing the sweater I made for him. Will took them, so they’re a bit better than those I shared in this post. He’s got a better natural eye for pictures than I do 😉

Fun fact: that building in the background is where I went to elementary school. It’s now the “cultural center” in town, and the older two kids used to take a class there called Club Mud where they did pottery. (They’re so little in those pictures! You should totally click through that link and enjoy a blast from my past, especially if you didn’t follow my blog back then.) They still have a few of the projects they made in that class. Will always says that the building looks like Crunchem Hall from Matilda, and he’s glad he didn’t have to go to school there. It wasn’t a bad place at all, though; much brighter and friendlier than the outside looks.

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Blessings,

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Traditional Logic (Memoria Press review)

Seahawk (age 14) loves to study logic. Together, we’ve gone through several different courses in the subject that we’ve found online over the years, and they’re always one of his very favorite classes. So when the chance to review Traditional Logic I Complete Set from Memoria Press came up, I eagerly asked for the set for him. Several weeks in, and I’m still glad I did. And based on Seahawk’s eagerness to do this class each day – and high performance on all of the exercises and tests – he is too.

What is Traditional Logic?

This course from Memoria Press (leaders in homeschool classical education), written by Martin Cothran, is all about traditional, formal logic – the kind developed by the Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. These quotes from the “A Note to the Teacher” at the beginning of the textbook sums it up perfectly:

Traditional logic trains the mind to respect truth, and indeed assumes a Christian view of truth throughout…

And

This book discusses traditional logic rather than modern logic. Traditional logic is the study of the classical syllogism; modern logic is the study, primarily, of the calculus of propositions.

What this means is that if you’re looking to teach your child about the many informal fallacies that many other logic classes focus on (with assignments such as “find an example of this in today’s newspaper), this isn’t the course for you. If you want to teach your child to think about and focus on truth, validity, and soundness, then look no further.

The Course Components

Our package from Memoria Press included 5 items: the textbook, a workbook, a test book, an instructional DVD, and the teacher answer key. Through our use of the program, I can easily say that every single component has been absolutely essential. Here’s how we’ve been using it.

logic 2Each chapter in the textbook has corresponding questions in the workbook and a corresponding video lesson on the DVD. The workbook gives clear instructions on what to do when; that is, the series of questions is broken up into 4 days worth of work. Day 5 is the quiz/test each week. The only thing I was unsure about was the DVD; there was nothing to suggest how this fit in with everything else, which seemed very complete. But at the beginning of week 2, we put in the DVD just to see if there was something obvious we were missing by not having used it the first week. Boy, what a difference this tool made for my auditory learner! It’s nothing fancy, just the instructor giving a lecture on each chapter (broken up on the DVD for easy navigation right to where you need to be). But it made such a huge difference for Seahawk to be able to hear the information rather than just read it to himself out of the text that we will definitely not be doing any more lessons without it.

How We Use It

logic 1On Monday, Seahawk watches the DVD lesson and answers the Day 1 questions. On Tuesday he goes back to the textbook and reads a short section for review and answers the Day 2 questions. Same with Wednesday and Thursday (but for Days 3 and 4, respectively). On Friday, he does the chapter quiz. When he finishes each day’s questions (all of this work is done independently, which is great because it frees me up to work with my Kindergartener or to do a complicated lesson with my 6th grader), we go over the answers together. I have him read me his answers while I compare them to the teacher guide.

As of today, he has never missed more than part of answer on any one assignment – yes, over the whole assignment he gets every single question correct. This is how I know he’s enjoying the course – he’s paying attention, learning a lot, and even writing his answers in complete sentences (usually it’s like pulling teeth to get more than one or two words on a written assignment from him).

This class is a definite winner for us!

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New American Cursive & Traditional Logic {Memoria Press Reviews}
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