Our Family

Our Family

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Schoolhouse Review Crew: BrainFood Learning

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When we found out that BrainFood Learning was offering their Fascinating World of Mammals, Insects, or Birds DVDs up for review, we were so excited!  But I didn't know which one to choose.  We are a science loving family and all three topics were something I knew the children would be interested in watching.  Since our science curriculum this year is about Land Animals, we decided to review The Fascinating World of Mammals. 

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From the back of the DVD, " Ever wonder which mammal wears velvet?  How does a beaver build a dam? Which animal is the only flying mammal? Learn the answers to these questions and more in The Fascinating World of Mammals."

The Fascinating World of Mammals is a 52 minute DVD designed for ages 3-11, but can be enjoyed by older children and adults as well.  The DVD begins with an overview of the different characteristics that mammals have and then moves on discussing several different mammals. The DVD features beaver, kangaroo, moose, dolphin, lion, giraffe, elephant, bat, chimpanzee and bear.  Each of the mammals names are shown on the screen while the animal is shown interacting in its natural habitat while fascinating facts about them are narrated.  After each animal section, a vocabulary word  is featured by being shown on the screen and defined.

After each featured mammal is discussed, there is a 5 part review with the easier sections coming first and the 5th section being the most difficult.   The fist part is mammal flash cards which shows the picture of the mammal along with the name printed in the screen.  The second part shows a picture of the mammal with three multiple choice answers.  Answers are given after each question is asked. The third part is a features of mammals review.  Review 4 is reviewing mammal facts.  A question is asked and three multiple choice answers are given.  Answers are shown after the question is asked.  The last part is a multiple choice section that reviews vocabulary words that were taught during the DVD.

You can purchase The Fascinating World of Mammals for $14.99 by clicking here.  There is also a short excerpt of the video on the same page.

I watched this DVD with my 2,4,6,8,9, and 11 year olds.  Since we are studying Land Animals this fall, I thought this DVD would be a great introduction as well as something to refer back to throughout the year. We all really enjoyed the DVD.  Although you have the option to view each section separately if you wish, we watch the whole DVD from beginning to end.  I really like that as the narrator is talking, the video shows a real animal in its habitat often doing many of the things that the narrator is speaking about.  For instance when the narrator is talking about kangaroos boxing, you get to see real kangaroos on the video in the middle of a boxing match.  The DVD is full of fascinating information, much of which I didn't even know.  I love that the DVD is appropriate for a wide range of ages and that even though it discusses predators and prey, it doesn't show anything graphic or violent in the video.  Although the DVD discusses some of the similarities between humans and chimpanzees, there is no evolutionary content in the video.  My children's favorite parts were the sections on kangaroos and dolphins.  After finishing the video we have to go back and watch those two again.

The review at the end is a great way to review what the children have learned watching the DVD.  Most of the questions are fairly simple and easy to answer.  My 4 year old answered the mammal identification and the features of mammals questions without any problems.  The vocabulary questions were too difficult for her, but my 8 and 9 year olds answered those without any problems after viewing the DVD.

We loved watching The Fascinating World of Mammals DVD!  They want to visit the zoo again so they can see all the different animals they learned about on the DVD.  The children would like to purchase The Fascinating World of Insects next.

Members of The Crew reviewed The Fascinating World of Mammals, The Fascinating World of Insects, and The Fascinating World of Birds.  To see what my Crew Mates had to say about these DVDs, click on the banner below.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Elementary Curriculum Choices for 2013/2014 School Year

 I already wrote a post about my High School Curriculum Choices(12th grade), and my Middle School Curriculum choices (6th grade), so this post will be about my curriculum choices for my 1,2nd, and 4th grade boys.  I will be writing a separate blog post about my preschool choices for Lily.

Bible-Bible Study Guide For All Ages

History- Notgrass America the Beautiful- Alex (4th grade) is doing the map book, timeline book, and lesson review book.  Christian and Anthony will just be listening in as I read aloud and participating in any family activities that we choose.

Science- Apologia Land Animals- Alex (4th grade) will be working in a notebooking journal while Christian and Anthony will be using the A Journey Through Learning Lapbook.

Spelling-All About Spelling -Level One for Anthony and Christian, Level 3 for Alex.  Anthony and Christian will also be reading from the Level One readers for AAR and Alex (since Level 3 readers are not available yet )will be reading aloud from books we chose off of Sonlight's reading list

Math-Math U See- Alpha, Beta, and Gamma

Writing- Alex will be using IEW SWI A with his older brother Nick
              Christian and Anthony will be using IEW PAL Writing

Art- Home Art Studio- I purchased the 3,4th, and 5th grade DVDs so that all of the children could work on these together.  I have never used these before, but decided to try them out based on a recommendation I received on my Facebook page.

Reading Kingdom- I received an opportunity to review Reading Kingdom again, so all 3 boys are using it.

Plus, whatever review items come our way!

I am excited about our plans for next year!

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Gryphon House

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My very first year of homeschooling I had a 3rd grader, 4 year old, 20 month old, and a newborn.  Since that year we have had 3 more children.  I am no stranger to homeschooling preschoolers or homeschooling with preschoolers.  But, I am always looking for new, fun, educational activities to do with my preschoolers.  That's why I was excited to have an opportunity to review The Homegrown Preschooler: Teaching Your Kids in the Places They Live from Gryphon House.

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Written for parents or caregivers of preschoolers, The Homegrown Preschooler by Kathy Lee and Lesli Richards is a 204 page paperback book that you can purchase for $29.95.  The authors use their combined early childhood and homeschooling experience of over 20 years to inspire you to turn your home into a learning environment better than you will find in any preschool classroom and to take advantage of learning experiences that take place in everyday life.  Inside the book you will find over 200 pull together activities, recipes, organizational tips, scheduling ideas, support and encouragement, and more.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Our Journeys to Growing Our Children at Home
Chapter 1: Homeschooling-Harvesting a Bountiful Life
Chapter 2: Learning Through Play
Chapter 3: Sowing the Seeds-Preschool Learning
Chapter 4: Setting the Stage
Chapter 5: Home Life=Learning-Slow Down and Teach
Chapter 6: Who Has Time For This?
Chapter 7: Organizing It All
Chapter 8: Days and Seasons that Don't Fit In the Box
Chapter 9: Special Circumstances

Home Life
Gross Motor
Fine Motor
Language and Emergent Literacy

Appendix Including:
Activity Checklist
Getting Started Checklist
Instructions for DIY Plexiglas Easel
Instructions for DIY Light Table or Sensory Sand/Water Table

I read through the Home Grown Preschooler over the course of week.  I wanted to get some new ideas for activities I could do with my 4 year old and 2 1/2 year old daughters.  The book is very well laid out so you can easily find and read through sections you are interested in, or just read it cover to cover.  It is full of beautiful color photographs of preschool children engaging in the activities that are being discussed.  I love the inclusion of the recipes.  Not just food recipes either, although those sound yummy, there are plenty of other recipes in the book such as homemade sidewalk chalk, paint, watercolors, modeling clay, fly guts, and more.  The activities section was my favorite part of the book.  There were many different ideas that I had never done before with my preschoolers.  We had hours of fun clipping clothes pins to plastic cups, finger using shaving cream for sensory play, and making our own paint.  I also purchased some fun items for sensory play and lacing cards that Lily (4) absolutely loves.  I thought the literature suggestions and activities were wonderful, and loved the ideas for baggies!

One of the best things I think is that the book focuses on things that are not very expensive.  Some of the suggested items might be more expensive than others, like if you chose to buy a sensory table, but for the most part the focus is on easy to find inexpensive items that you may already have laying around the house or can pick up at the Dollar Store or Walmart.  The authors even include DIY instructions for making a sensory table instead of purchasing one.  You do not need to spend a fortune to successfully teach your preschoolers at home.  You do not need to have a special classroom or expensive equipment.  You can teach your children using real life activities; folding socks, grocery shopping, cleaning house and fun activities that are like play to them.

It probably goes without saying, but I did want to mention you do not have to do every suggestion in this book to be a successful at homeschooling your preschooler.  Some things that they suggest may not work for you and that is ok.  One of the suggestions they give in the book is to get up before your preschoolers in the morning.  That does not work for me.  As you go along you will figure out a schedule and routine that will work for you.

The Homegrown Preschooler: Teaching Your Kids in the Places They Live has given me a ton of wonderful ideas to use with my preschoolers!

Members of The Crew reviewed The Homegrown Preschooler and Global Art.  To see what my Crew Mates had to say, click on the banner below.


Monday, July 29, 2013

4 H Science Day

Last week, the senior 4 Hers were off to the State O' Rama which takes place at the University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville AR.  One of the days they were gone, we had a Science Day.  The children had a lot of fun.  Chelsea had my camera at the State o' Rama, but I did snap a few pictures with my phone.

Alex gave his floating eggs demonstration.

Nicholas demonstrated an electrical circuit.

Then we got to go outside and make ooze from corn starch and water.

Next they did an activity with bowls of ice water.  They put their hands in the water to see how long they could leave it there.  Then they did the activity again with three different "gloves" (sandwich bags) filled with salt, flour, and shortening to see which one insulated from the cold the most.  I didn't take any pictures of that activity.  But my girls did a good job keeping busy.
Emelia would not take a paci as a baby at all, but she found this the other day and has been carrying it around with her.  Silly girl!

Next we made a snack using two kinds of pudding, vanilla wafers, crushed oreos, and crushed vanilla wafers to represent the different layers of soil.

Next the children built catapults out of popsicle sticks, rubber bands, and a water bottle lid.

Then of course we had to see how they worked, so we practiced shooting marshmallows into a bowl.

The last activity was putting mentos into diet coke and sprite which of course was everyone's favorite activity.  I didn't get any pictures of that either because I was gathering things up so we could get going.  It was Anthony's birthday and we were meeting daddy for lunch.  The children had a great time at Science Day.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Circle Time: Plan the Best Part of Your Homeschool Day!

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Most people when they think of school think of age segregated classrooms where students all the same age learn the same thing at the same time.  In a homeschool though, there are many different ages of children that are in the home.  Often people think they the homeschool mama spends her day teaching each child each subject separately.  This is not the learning has to be.  It is possible to teach multiple children at the same time even with toddlers and infants in the house.  Over the last several weeks, I have had an opportunity to use and review Circle Time: Plan the Best Part of Your Homeschool day from Preschoolers and Peace.

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"Circle Time is our fabulous, all-ages-are-welcome, group teaching time that allows us to pray together, laugh together, and get to the subjects we often run out of time for."

Circle Time: Plan the Best Part of Your Homeschool Day is a 33 page ebook in PDF format.  In this book you will find:

  • how to plan a Circle Time that works for you
  • strategies for a peaceful time together
  • how to get your kids on board
  • questions from moms (and answers)
  • words of wisdom and suggestions from other moms who do Circle Time
  • resources, activities, and ideas
  • printable planning sheets
You can purchase Circle Time for $4.99 by clicking here.

We have done Circle Time in our homeschool for several years, though we do not call it Circle Time, we just call it our morning school work.  I was interested in reading and reviewing Circle Time because I think no matter how long you have been doing something, you can always learn something and get fresh ideas from someone else.  And I needed some fresh ideas.  So I loaded the book to my iPad and started reading while I put Emelia down for a nap one day.

I think a lot of people think of Circle Time as something for little kids, but as Kendra talks about in her book it really is a time for the whole family to be working and learning together (and you don't even have to sit in a circle ; ) Whether you have 2 children or 20 you can plan a Circle Time that works for you.  That is one of the things I liked most about this book.  It shows that there are many different ways you can do Circle Time.  There are many different things you can choose to do or not do during Circle Time.  You can plan a Circle Time that works out best for you depending on the ages and abilities of your children.  The Printable Planning worksheets that are included will help you get started planning which subjects you would like to put into your Circle Time and which subjects you want your children to work on independently.  There is also a printable called Circle Time Wish List that you can put things down that you have always wanted to get to, but have never had a chance.  There are organizational tips and techniques that will help you get your Circle Time started or for those who are not the most organized (like me) it will help you be more deliberate with what you are doing in your Circle Time.

There are many suggestions for which subjects/topics can be covered during Circle Time, but of course you don't have to stick to only what has been suggested.  As I started reading through the book, and got to the sample schedules, I thought how great it would be if there was a link to the specific curricula/books etc. . . that were being used.  Guess what?  There is!  At the end of the book there is a Circle Time Resources link that takes you to a page that links to resources that they have enjoyed over the years and the ones that were mentioned in the book.  Each item has a link that takes you to the vendor page.  There are a lot of great suggestions on that page!

In the summer with so much going on it has been hard to have a consistent Circle Time in the morning, but we have been having some time in the evenings before bed and have been doing a read aloud then.  I have been using this time after reading the book to plan for our next school year.  So in addition to our usual Bible, History,Read Aloud, and Science that we all do together, I  have gotten a few new ideas after reading Circle Time.  I would like to add in some music appreciation by studying some of the most famous composers and listening to classical selections.  I also would like to do the same with artists and their famous masterpieces. Another item on my Circle Time Wish List is to learn Greek.

One thing that there had been more of is suggestions of what to do with the little ones when their portion of Circle Time is over.  I know that new homeschooling moms often have a hard time keeping their little ones occupied while working with the bigger ones, especially when they have toddlers.  There are some suggestions in the book but I think moms new to the Circle Time idea could benefit from a list of ideas of what to do with their youngest children when their quiet time in the "circle" is over but mom needs to continue teaching the older children.

To see what my Crew Mates had to say, click on the banner below.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Our Garden: Part 2

When we planted our garden several weeks ago, I wrote this blog post about it  http://thehappyhomeschoolmom.blogspot.com/2013/05/our-garden.html.  I wanted to do an update and let you know how our first attempt at a garden has been going. I really was not too hopeful that anything would grow since I am not the best at growing things, but I have been pleasantly surprised!

Our pinto beans grew well.  A good friend of mine borrowed Chelsea for a day and taught her how to can the beans that we picked.  We ended up with one pint jar.  Not too bad for a few seeds started in a container garden!  The children had a good time picking them and shelling them.

Our squash has been growing really well!  I have a huge pile of squash on the counter right now.  So far we have only made some zucchini bread from it, but Chelsea wants to try to make pickles and we found a few other recipes that we want to try.

Our tomatoes have also grown really well!  We have picked many tomatoes, and Chelsea, Alex, Lily, and Emmie made some salsa the other day.  We have also enjoyed plenty of fresh tomatoes in our salads on on our sandwiches.

Our eggplant is growing well.  Eggplant attracts a lot of bugs, so I do have to spray it quite often to prevent it from being devoured.

The watermelon is also growing quite well.  We have several watermelons growing out there and more vines that have started to flower.

We had some corn grow, but not very much.  Alex is still hoping he will get to eat some of it very soon.
 The bees are really enjoying the sunflowers!

They have gotten really tall!!

The butterflies are quite happy with the Lantanas!

The pumpkins, peppers, and cantaloupe did not grow at all.  I think next year we will need to start some of those seeds inside in containers and then transplant them outside.

We really have enjoyed having a garden.  I like working out there in it (in the early mornings and evenings anyway!)  The children love checking it everyday and watching it grow.  They are very excited when they get to pick things, and they even have helped with the watering and the weeding.  We have been blessed that this summer hasn't been as dry as the last few and we have gotten quite a bit of rain.  We have had some pretty good storms though, and several of our plants were uproooted after one, but Chelsea and I managed to go out and get them replanted and they continued to grow.  Next year, when the children are planting we will have to make sure that they spread the plants out a little more.  But they grew very well even though they were crowded!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review: The Heiress of Winterwood

Amelia Barrett gave her word. Keeping it could cost her everything."
Darbury, England, 1814
The Heiress of Winterwood takes place in Darbury England in 1814.  Amelia Barrett made a promise to her friend as she lay dying that she would raise and care for her daughter Lucy and nothing and no one is going to stop her.  Amelia certainly has the means to easily do so, she is heiress to a large estate in the English moors.  The only problem is that she must marry and soon in order to receive her inheritance.  Her uncle has hand selected her fiancee, but as time goes on Amelia is unsure of his character and he insists that she must give up Lucy.  When Graham, Lucy's father returns from sea, Amelia makes a proposal to him, one that will ensure both her and Lucy's futures.  All he needs to do is agree to marry her.  Will he accept her terms or will she be forced to give up the child she loves as her own?
But, when Lucy is kidnapped everything is put on hold.  Graham and Amelia have important lessons to learn about love, faith, and trust.  They must put their fate and faith in the One who is really in control and learn to accept God's sovereignty, and that His plans are always best.
I love Historical Fiction and really enjoyed reading The Heiress of Winterwood.  I loved the characters of Amelia and Graham.  Amelia and Graham have a lot in common and both have lost a great deal.  I loved how Amelia learned that she is much stronger than she ever thought and that with God on her side she could not fail.  She made a promise, and nothing or no one was going to stop her from keeping it, even when it went against her own family's wishes.  The lesson that Graham learned about forgiving himself is an important one that we all can relate to at times. I think the smaller story of Graham and his brother's relationship made a great addition to the story.  I loved the mystery aspect to the story.  I loved the descriptions that the author uses to draw you into the story.  I will admit that the ending was a little predictable, but it was a great story with a wonderful ending.  I liked it so well, I read it twice!

DISCLAIMER:  I received an e book copy of The Heiress of Winterwood for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review.  I received no other compensation and all opinions are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance to FTC regulations.    

Monday, July 22, 2013

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Homeschool Programming

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Homeschooling Programming  was founded by homeschool parents who have over 17 years of experience in the software industry and hold a B.S. and M.S. degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.  They wanted to use their love of computers and programming to teach and inspire a new generation by creating courses that would teach professional programming language for students in a fun way that non-technical parents would be able to teach.  Over the last several weeks, I have had an opportunity to use and review the Kid Coder Visual Basic Series with my 6th grade son.

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The Kid Coder Visual Basic series is deigned for 6th-8th grade students.  These are self study courses that use the Visual Basic programming language.  Visual Basic is used in a wide variety of academic and business settings in the world today.  There are two different courses in the Kid Coder Visual Basic series which are each designed to take a semester to complete.  The Kid Coder Windows Programming course is the first semester.  The Windows Programming course teaches students to write graphical Windows programs using Visual Basic.  The second semester course is called Game Programming in which students will learn to write several different games while learning game programming techniques.  You must complete the Windows Programming course before moving on to Game Programming.  No prior programming experience is necessary before starting these courses, although students should know the basics of using a computer and a keyboard, and how to find, open, and save files.  Each course comes with activity solutions, tests and answers, and a Solution Guide.  Students can complete the course independently and move at their own pace.  To use the Kid Coder Visual Basic series, you need to have a Windows Computer with a CD Rom. You can see the complete computer requirements by clicking here.

You can view sample pages by clicking here.

You can purchase each of the one semester courses(Windows Programming or Game Programming) for $70.00.  You also have the option of buying the course with video instruction for $85.00.  Or you have the option to buy both semesters together for a discounted price of $120 for the courses or $145 for the courses with the video instruction.  You will receive a physical student textbook and CD that when run will install the course material on your computer and/or DVD if you purchase the optional video instruction.

In addition to the course material, you will need to download Microsoft Visual Basic 2010 Express to your computer.  This software is free to download and use.  Instructions on how to download and get started with this software is included in the course instruction materials.

I have been using the Kid Coder Visual Basic Series with Nicholas who is 11 year old and has just started 6th grade.  For the purpose of this review, we received a PDF version of the text and a download version of the course.  Instead of printing out the text or trying to read it while working on the computer, I loaded the PDF on the iPad for Nick to read off of.  He completed a chapter a week of the Windows Programming course.  There is a total of 14 chapters in the course.  Chapters Include: Introduction to Computers, Get Your Feet Wet, Exploring Visual Basics Programs, Data Types and Variables, Basic Flow Control, Getting User Input, Working With Numbers, Working With Strings, using the Debugger, Loops in Programs, Functions, Arrays and Structures, Distributing Your Programs, and Putting It Altogether.  Each chapter contains 3-4 lessons, a chapter review and a Your Turn activity.  The length of each lesson varies.  The chapter review is one page of bullet points highlighting the important things that you learned in the chapter.  The Your Turn activity is a practice opportunity to use the main skill that you learned in the chapter.

I admit that computer programming intimidates me. . . a lot.  But I thought that it would be something that Nick would be interested in and a good skill for him to learn.  We had no trouble at all downloading and getting started with this program, or downloading the Microsoft Visual Basic 2010 Express.  The hardest part was the free registration of the Microsoft VB 2010 Express, but  Kid Coder even explained that step by step and we had no trouble.  Because Nick is on the younger end of the age range, I started out reading over the sections ahead of time and once we got the Microsoft Visual Basic downloaded, I did the first few assignments to make sure I could and so I could help him if he had problems.  But, as I was practicing one of the first lessons, he happened to be sitting near me on the couch.  He took the computer, read through the section and followed it with no trouble.  Much faster than I had.  That ended my practice sections, although I did continue to sit with him as he worked so I could see what he was doing and help if I could.

orange and blue are his favorite colors and he enjoyed customizing this program
I found that the lessons are written in very digestible chunks even though they do increase in difficulty, the instructions are written in a clear step by step fashion with illustrations showing what you should be seeing on your screen.  Throughout the lessons there are stop text boxes to remind you to do things like saving your project before you close it that we found helpful.  I really like the chapter review sections at the end of each chapter so you can read over and get a memory refresher before moving onto the next chapter.  I liked the Your Turn review activities.  All of the solutions are included so you can go back and take a look if you are having difficulties.  I did not use any of the tests for this course, but there are tests and solutions included if you have a desire to test your child.

The Game Programming second semester course is set up just like the Windows Programming course.  You do need to complete the first semester course before beginning the Windows Programming.  The lessons are a little more in depth and many times there multiple "your turn" activities for the student to practice their skills. The course contains 14 chapters with 3 to 5 lessons in each chapter. The Game Programming course will build on previous skills that your child has learned and teach them how to write their own computer games.  It begins with a brief review of the first semester materials, discussion of the different types of computer games, and then moves on into the installation of the software.  The following chapters include: Game Design, Drawing on the Screen, User Input, Graphics In Visual Basic, Images and Animation, Sprites, Game Logic, Sound, Artificial Intelligence, Saving Your Games, Game Physics, Drawing Text and Printing, and a Final Project.  We have not yet completed the Windows Programming course, but when Nick does I think he will enjoy moving on and learning to write computer games.

Homeschool Programming has succeeded in their goal to create programming courses for children that even those with no programming experience can do.  Members of The Crew reviewed the Kid Coder Visual Basic Series, Kid Coder Web Series, Teen Coder C# Series, and TeenCoder Java Series.  To see what my Crew Mates had to say, click on the banner below.


Favorite Recipes: No Dough Pizza

Looking for a different way to eat pizza?  We love pizza but the fats combined with the carbs just aren't a good combination.  So I have been trying out some different kinds of "crusts."  This was super easy to make and it was really, really, good.

8 oz of cream cheese softened
2 eggs
1/4 cup of of Parmesan cheese

Mix all three ingredients together well.  I just threw them in my Kitchen-Aid.  Grease an 11x7 pan well, or a 13x9 if you want it a little thinner.  Bake in a 400 degree over for 8-12 minutes until it is golden brown.  Remove from oven.  Allow to cool for a few minutes.  Top with sauce, mozzarella cheese, and your favorite toppings.  Put back in the oven under the broiler until the cheese is completely melted.  Cut into squares and serve.  This pizza seems to do better when eaten with a fork.

I topped this pizza with chicken, tomatoes, and mushrooms.  But you can top with whatever you like!