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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Understanding Pre-Algebra (review)

We’ve used some books from The Critical Thinking Co.™ in the past, and they’ve been big hits with my boys. I like how they teach not only things that you need to know, but also how to “think out” how to get there. For today’s review, I’ll be talking about Munchkin (age 11, coming out of 6th grade) and his use of Understanding Pre-Algebra.

The Critical Thinking Co.™
The timing on our receipt of this book was perfect as he had just finished up his 6th grade (generic) math book. Understanding Pre-Algebra is a combination textbook and workbook – everything is self contained, which has been nice. The lessons are fairly short (a couple of pages of reading) followed by practice exercises. No different from a traditional textbook except that there are lines on which to write the answers so no additional paper is necessary. Because of this format, the book is quite large – 8.5 x 11 and nearly 450 pages.

It opens with a chapter on number families. The book explains the different types of number groups used in higher level mathematics (natural numbers, whole numbers, integers, rational and irrational numbers, etc). This chapter lists 5 sections in the table of contents, but they were all simple enough concepts that we (me teaching and Munchkin working) were able to finish it in just 2 days.

pre alg 1The second chapter, Working with Integers, has been a lot more new information for him, and thus is taking us longer to get through. Because Munchkin hasn’t done a lot of work with negative numbers to date, it’s a lot for him to try to grasp at a time (he’s a literature kid, not a math kid, so it’s especially tricky for him to wrap his mind around), so we’re taking it slow. I want him to understand the concepts, not just be able to fill out the worksheet today and forget it tomorrow – which he is definitely prone to do with math. But this is just one more reason I really like this curriculum for him so far – some of the questions require more than just a mathematical answer, which helps to cement the information (and its how and why) in the child’s brain. One example of such a question is is this one from chapter 1: “Joan said that 27 cannot be divided by 2. Is she right? Explain your thinking.” Munchkin correctly answered, “Yes. 27 does not divide by 2 because 27 is odd.” That “explain your thinking” part is what will help him remember concepts from one day to the next.

pre algebra 2Even though we’re not super far into the book, I can tell that it’s going to be a fantastic fit for my son based on what we’ve done so far. The information is presented well, in an easy to understand way. The chapter titles tell me precisely what he will be learning, and it’s all important as he moves through pre-algebra to prepare for Algebra I. Some of them are things he struggled with in his previous math book (specifically volume and surface area), so I’m glad they will be repeated in this book. Some of the things (inequalities, scientific notation) are in the Algebra I book his big brother (14) is working through right now, which is how I know this book will lead beautifully into that one. All in all, I’m very glad we were chosen to have the opportunity to review this book. It’s definitely a keeper for us!

Blessings,

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Critical Thinking, Understanding Math & Vocabulary {The Critical Thinking Co.™ Reviews}
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