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Friday, September 22

Cambiale Las Pilas (Menudo)

Long before Ricky Martin became the solo act that most of you know, he was a member of 80s Puerto Rican group, Menudo.  This post title's catchy little ditty, about changing your life will have you bopping!

In our house, Spanish words were often used in substitution for English ones -- they call that Spanglish -- and it wasn't until adulthood that I realized how blessed we were to have grown up with that exposure.

Did you know that less than 25% of elementary schools offer foreign language?  And yet, studies repeatedly show us that the earlier children are exposed to another language, the faster they'll pick up on it and retain it.

In our home, we teach both Latin and Spanish (see our Latin posts here).  We teach them in school, but also go out of the way to use the vocabulary and phrases in everyday life, for better retention.  We also find that reading stories helps with better retention.

One of the Spanish stories we recently struck upon is ¡HOLA! Let’s Learn Spanish!  It's designed for younger children (under 10) and at once both a living story and a base curriculum rolled up into one.

¡HOLA! Let’s Learn Spanish is a great introduction to the language. This is part of a series of books that teach basic foreign language skills and cultural awareness.  In this episode, Pete the Pilot takes us to Mexico and we follow a jumping bean, Panchito, from field to fiesta!  Spanish phrases, vocabulary, and culture is introduced throughout the text.
Things we really like:
  • There are several color illustrations, and the text is larger print than a typical book.  These things make it easy to follow along, visually, as you go through the book.  Also, all of the Spanish words are in bold print – making it easy to pick them out – and typically either just before or just after an English translation (though not always).
  • You can download the audio version of the book for free to read along.  The author narrates, which helps with learning pronunciation, while you can follow along in your book.
  • As a parent, if you know no Spanish, don’t feel intimidated.   You won’t need Google translate…everything you want to know is in the glossary at the back!  You and your child will learn greetings, basic phrases, numbers, days of the week, short phrases to express emotions, and a handful of other words. 
  • There are printable worksheets to accompany the sections for added practice.

Sections of the book include :
  • The story itself : Pete the Pilot and Panchito (the jumping bean) take you on an adventure through Mexico
  • It’s Your Turn :  activities for practicing Spanish words & phrases
  • Culture Corner : learning about Mexican culture and more in-depth explanations of parts of the story (eg, all about the piƱata)
  • Hands-On Projects : three projects, including a craft project, complete with templates, for making masks to be used with the second project – a skit to act out, and a song (complete with sheet music) to go along with it
  • Glossary : Spanish words organized alphabetically by section and translated into English
Check out the book!!

Get Social!
"Give your child the world: an early start for world languages."
Website  ::  Amazon  ::  Kindle  ::  Facebook  ::  Twitter  ::  B&N


NABE Pinnacle Book Achievement Award Winner Winter 2017
Readers' Favorite Bronze Award Children's Educational 2017
Honorable Mention Educational Purple Dragonfly Book Award 2017

We received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are our own.

Tuesday, September 19

Let's Go Geography - Review

Let's Go Geography
While we enjoy travelling around the USA as part of hubby’s job, we’ve never had the opportunity to explore beyond its borders.  World travel is something that fascinates the children, as it does most children, because they are interested in various cultures and how people are the same and different.  We can’t jump on a trans-Atlantic flight, but we CAN use programs such as this homeschool geography course from Let’s Go Geography to bring the world into our homeschool!  Lately, we’ve been using their downloadable curriculum to explore countries from every corner!

Let’s Go Geography is a three-year voyage around all six inhabited continents – each one is touched upon each year.  It is a subscription curriculum geared toward elementary-aged children, but we were able to tweak it a bit to make it interesting to our middle schooler, too.  (We prefer to study history and geography together.)  Subscriptions are offered by the semester or by the year.  A full year includes thirty-six weeks of lessons (as the average school year is thirty-six weeks long).  They are delivered to your inbox weekly, or you have the option of downloading all of them after signing up.  As our internet is option spotty, we opted for the latter.  It was nice to see everything that was coming up, and where they would be travelling, from the get-go.

As an example of the variety of places visited, for the first semester, we visited the Northeast US, Hawaii, Canada, Haiti, Nicaragua, Belize, Greenland, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland.  If you choose to follow the (probably much easier) weekly inbox downloads, then you simply click on the link each week, download the materials, and go!

Each lesson includes map work, learning the basic country facts, listening to music, watching videos (like a virtual tourist), doing crafts and coloring pages, reading books, and learning about the flag.  The books are referenced by call number (though honestly, I would also prefer that the publisher cite BOTH the call number and title, because then we’d be able to request materials online at our library ahead of time).  The crafts do not require fancy materials, but instead use basics that you have laying around the house, such as plastic cups, paper towel tubes, crayons, and glue.  There are printable coloring pages and activities, as well as passport documents to put into your downloadable passport once the country study has been completed.

Before starting the lessons, we printed each child a passport, where he would keep a record of the countries ‘visited.’  We started with the Northeast US, partly because it was the first lesson and partly because we’ve been there many times and wanted to see how the lesson lined up with our own experiences.  The boys were not terribly impressed at the depth of coverage, but it did set off an entire morning of “remember when…” conversations about our trips to the area.  Given that reaction, I decided to allow each of them to pick a country they were interested in from the remainder of the year, and we started skipping around.  While this curriculum is designed to be used in order, it is set up in a way that makes it completely feasible to skip around without issue.

For our next stop, we hit Finland, home of their uncle’s ancestors, and “a really pretty place.”  While, as a teacher, I must admit that the depth of information and setup was identical to that of the Northeast US, this lesson was much more interesting to them, and I can only ascertain that it is because we have never visited Finland.  They enjoyed the virtual tours through the video clips, as well as getting to make their own reindeer. 

Then, we jumped over to China, where we learned about the Forbidden City, walked on the Great Wall of China, went underground to see the Terracotta Warriors, and made our own Chinese New Year dragons.  Once again, they enjoyed ‘visiting’ and touring the country via the video clips (which are hosted through YouTube).  By the third country, my middle schooler was feeling a bit underwhelmed…but then again, this is not designed for middle school-aged children.  I gave him a research project to do about the country and had him report back to us – and he appreciated the challenge.

Every nine weeks, there is a review lesson that goes back and covers all of the things learned in the previous nine weeks.  This includes map work, flag matching, coloring pages, and basic geography (such as latitude & longitude).  There were no crafts this week.  I think having the review is a good idea because it reinforces that knowledge.  Also worth noting is that once every nine weeks, there is a ‘break lesson,’ meaning that there is no lesson offered and students are to take a break.  So, essentially, this curriculum is only thirty-two lessons, not thirty-six.
The publisher recommends creating a binder for each child and then storing the lessons and printables in the binder, so that you have a ‘trip around the world’ at the end of the year.  They provide printable tabs to divide it up by continent, and you can put the continent map and ‘flags of {the continent}” page in the front of each divider section.  (Each country also comes with its own map.) 

It is recommended that the curriculum be used one hour per week.  Personally, I do not think that this is enough instruction to call this product an actual “curriculum,” and would be more apt to label it as a “supplement” to a geography curriculum.  That said, it’s a fun, hands-on supplement that will make young learners more apt to remember the things they are studying.

Check out the video below for more information about Let’s Go Geography, and see what others are saying at the Homeschool Review Crew!

Crew DisclaimerLet’s Go Geography {Reviews}

Monday, September 18

Silver Dollar City - Holiday Family Fun!

Silver Dollar City, in Branson, MO, offers up great family entertainment all year long!   For the holiday season, however, they are stepping it up a notch!   Here are four fantastic events to keep on your horizon.....

National Crafts &  Cowboy Festival (Sept 13-Oct 28)

For fall, Silver Dollar City presents the National Crafts & Cowboy Festival, featuring some of the nation's finest craftsmen and authentic cowboys. The festival presents a Wild West Show with trick riders, ropers and a world-champion Native American Hoop dancer; Western music; a barn dance, and 125 visiting craftsmen. Best of Missouri Hands juried artists demonstrate their art and fall harvest foods are served up at the Branson, Missouri theme park. 

Festival highlights include :
  • The Home of American Craftsmanship presents the nation's largest festival of demonstrating craftsmen, with entertainment and activities saluting the Great American Cowboy:
  • Over 125 visiting craftsmen from around the country demonstrate their art, including Best of Missouri Hands juried artists, all joining Silver Dollar City's 100 demonstrating craftsmen.
  • Silver Dollar City's Wild West Show features trick riders, Native American dance with 8-time World Champion Native American Hoop Dancer Nakotah LaRance, comedy canines, and trick roper and bullwhip artist A.J. Silver.
  • Legendary Western actor and watercolor artist Buck Taylor hosts "Buck Taylor's Cowboy Emporium," featuring a variety of Western crafts.
  • Plus Chuck Wagon & Food Network Chef Kent Rollins and Extreme Mustangs are featured in the Red Gold courtyard.
  • A Western Barn Dance presents kick-up-your-heels fun, with a live band.
  • Western music with groups including The Malpass Brothers, The Home Rangers, Belinda Gail and Kristyn Harris, 2016 Western Music Association Entertainer of the Year.
  • NEW: The nation's pioneer culinary heritage comes to life with campfire cooking and cowboy cuisine, including Cowboy Beef Stew and Dutch Oven Desserts.
An Old Time Christmas (Nov 4-Dec 30)
This year they are adding a huge new area: Christmas in Midtown, with towering light displays 9 stories high, animated figures in lights, and 1.5 million additional lights, bringing the park total to over 6.5 million lights! Christmas in Midtown is our largest single lighting expansion in the past 20 years of this festival.

Festival highlights include :
  • One of the nation's most acclaimed Christmas festivals, profiled by USA Today, CNN Travel, The Travel Channel and Good Morning America, is even bigger and brighter this year with an all-new area:
  • NEW: Christmas in Midtown, a 70,000 sq. ft. area filled with new light displays 9 stories high, including 30 angels, animated reindeer pulling a sleigh, 3 light tunnels, two 40-foot long moving trains, dozens of stars and snowflakes, and a 50-foot tree, all created at Silver Dollar City. Christmas in Midtown, the largest single lighting expansion to date in the past 2 decades of the festival, adds 1.5 million new lights, bringing the park's total to 6.5 million lights!
  • Rudolph's Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade, led by the most famous reindeer of all, features musical lighted floats with 200,000 lights accompanied by 33 costumed characters.
  • Rudolph's Christmas Town, where kids can meet Rudolph, Clarice and Bumble, also includes activities from Reindeer Games to cookie decorating.
  • Two original musical productions present Broadway-style experiences, with elaborate sets and talented casts: It's a Wonderful Life, adapted from the Frank Capra classic, and the acclaimed production A Dickens' Christmas Carol.
  • The Christmas on Main Street light & sound show features the 5-Story Special Effects Christmas Tree with over 350,000 colorful LED lights.
  • Tinker Junior's Toy Shop is an interactive show for kids featuring a 12-foot talking and singing Christmas tree.
  • Kids can meet Santa in Santa Claus Lane, illuminated in colorful lights.
  • Plus, the festival presents holiday shows, a musical Living Nativity, shows, rides, shopping and new Silver Dollar City dining specialties. 
  • During An Old Time Christmas, Silver Dollar City is open Thursdays - Sundays, plus Wednesdays Nov. 22 and December 20, and open after Christmas Dec. 26-30. Hours and schedules can be found here

Branson's Famous Baldknobbers is "the show that started it all" in Branson! The show is a country music and comedy variety show that features a talented cast of vocalists, musicians and comedians providing fun for the entire family. For more than 57 years, the Baldknobbers has been the show to see in Branson. Don't miss your chance to see "the show that started it all", Branson's Famous Baldknobbers!

  • Coupon code!!!   Receive $3.00 OFF each ADULT TICKET or $5.00 OFF our FAMILY PASS when you mention "Baldknobbers' Christmas Vacation" when making your reservation. Not valid with any other offer or discount.

  • Baldknobbers' Commercial

Slow Cook September

September : Dressed-Up College Classics
Learn the Crockpot Basics!!
Spicy Mac & Cheese
  • 2 lb ground beef
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 3 c shredded cheese
  • 16 oz salsa
  • 15 oz cheese dip
  • 4 oz diced green chiles (do not drain)
  • 3 oz sliced black olives (drain)
  • 12 oz dry macaroni
  1. Brown beef and onion together.  Drain fat.
  2. Mix meat and all ingredients except macaroni in crockpot.  Cover and cook on low 5-6 hours.
  3. Cook macaroni separately.  Stir cooked macaroni into meat before serving.
Red Beans & Rice
  • 2 smoked pork slices, diced
  • 12 oz cooked smoked sausage, cubed
  • 1 c dry red beans
  • 3 c chicken broth
  • 1 diced red bell pepper
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp cajun seasoning
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 c instant rice
  1. In pan, cover beans with enough water to have 2" above beans.  Boil.  Reduce and simmer 10 minutes.  Let stand one hour off heat.  Drain beans.
  2. Mix beans, pork, sausage, broth, pepper, onion, seasoning, garlic, and paste in crockpot.  Cover and cook on low 9-11 hours (or high 4-6 hours).
  3. Stir in rice.  Cover and cook on high for 30 minutes.
Pizza Fondue
  • 1 pkg Velveta, cubed
  • 2 c shredded cheese
  • 19 oz italian stewed tomatoes
  • 1 loaf italian bread, cubed
  1. Put velveta, cheese, and tomatoes into crockpot.  Cover and cook on high 45-60 minutes.
  2. Stir to mix well.  Reduce heat and cook on low to keep warm.  (No longer than 4 hours.)
  3. Dip bread cubes into crockpot to serve.

Wednesday, September 13

Ten Days of Roadschooling...

Roadschooling is an idea that intrigues many families, but the majority of them will discount it for one reason or another.  Thoughts like "We don't have the time / money to do that" will keep most families from even trying.  Our adventures have been such a blessing to our family, and we want others to have the same experience.  This is why we've put together Ten Days of Roadschooling : Your Guide to Getting Started with Homeschooling on the Road.

You do not have to have a lot of money, or even a lot of time, to take roadschooling adventures.  A short vacation can turn into an educational journey!  

We've put together all of our best tips and tricks, like how to :

  • find the freebies
  • minimize expenses
  • ...but maximize your expenditures
  • access the fast passes
  • make any trip educational
  • incorporate both core subjects and electives
  • stay healthy while travelling
  • and keep your head on straight while doing it!

***Until the end of the year, you can pick up Ten Days of Roadschooling : Your Guide to Getting Started with Homeschooling on the Road for only $3.50!***

While you're putting together your first adventure, check out some funnies from other families who've chosen to take their school on the road!

Here's a sneak peek to what's inside...

Ten Days of Road-Schooling

Chara Games Review

Chara Games
In 2014, Patrick and Katherine Lysaght founded Chara Games.  Their goal was to design and develop games with Christian themes.  So far, they have three games : Commissioned, 3 Seeds, and Unauthorized.  Each of the games approaches a serious topic from a faith-based point of view.   In Unauthorized, the game is about the underground church.  It is a game of Church versus State, and anyone can win!

Unauthorized is a card game for 6-12 players, aged twelve and older.  It can be played in about half an hour, and there are numerous outcomes, so it can be played several times without boring the players.  Each player is assigned a role, either as a Pastor, Police, or general townsperson.  The idea is to influence the loyalty of each player to either the church or the state – and player loyalties change turn on a dime!  The loyalties are determined by ‘experience cards’ that bias the character toward one side or the other. 

There are four rounds of play, and it’s anyone’s game!  The church wants to get the majority loyalty, but keep their supporters out of jail.  The state wants to crush the church.  If nothing else, this game is a good conversation starter about the church versus state issue, underground churches, and what it would be like to live in an oppressive society.  The game includes twelve role cards, ninety-seven experience cards, thirty-seven reference cards, and a full color, twelve-page rule book.
I have to admit that this game was a little complicated for us.  For starters, you need a minimum of six people to play.  Since we were only able to scrounge up four people, and one was a ten year old child, it led to some confusion.  The child struggled to follow the game.  The adults struggled to keep their multiple characters straight.  Each of us was one of the main players (Pastor or Police) plus an additional townsperson.  It was an interesting game – and we did more talking about the themes than actual game-playing – but it was really difficult with so few players.

To help learn to play, we watched the video that the company created.  I would recommend it to any first-time players.  It walks you through the rules, explains the rationale and end goals, and explains the characters and experiences.  It’s fairly cut and dry to determine a winner.  In order for the church to win, they must have the majority of loyalties AND have one person that isn’t in prison.  And if the church doesn’t win, then the state does. 

It’s interesting, on a social psychology level, to see how the loyalties play out.  During each round, the players have a chance to make a decision to stick with their loyalties or change them.  To truly play the game well, you need to focus on long-term strategies for your ‘team,’ but also stay aware of the undercurrents of each round.  It’s not unlike the real world, where trust and truth are easily mistaken.  I would recommend this game for high schoolers, college students, and adults.

See what others are saying about Chara Games at the Homeschool Review Crew.

Crew Disclaimer

Unauthorized {Chara Games Reviews}

Tuesday, September 12

Carole P. Roman Review

Carole P Roman Blog
Being a Charlotte Mason-style family, we read aloud all of the time!  I love finding a good book about what the kids are interested in and curling up on the couch for an evening together.  When we saw some read-alouds coming our way to review from Carole P. Roman, we were excited…new books!

The first two books were written as part of a series to help children understand other cultures and historical eras.  They’re told from a child’s point of view, are fairly easy reads, and are full of fantastic facts and illustrations.  The books cover food, clothing, daily routines, family, celebrations, jobs, and school.  Each book ends with definitions and ideas for further learning.  The second two books were from the Captain No Beard series, which is appropriate for younger children than our own, and focuses on character through imagination play.  Of the books we received, the first series was definitely the favorite!

If You Were Me and Lived in…. series
This series is most appropriate for children aged 8-15, and was our children’s favorite series.  They enjoyed the historical book more than the cultural one, but history is something of a passion in this family, so it’s not a surprise.  I felt that the historical book was written a just a little bit higher reading level than the cultural book, and in my opinion, the country books could be appropriate for even younger children.  These books are great conversation starters among older children!

If You Were Me and Lived in…Australia is good for elementary-aged children.  It teaches about both the culture and (basic) history of the country in an accessible way.  There are colorful illustrations, and any new words have the pronunciations right beside them.  The children enjoyed learning about how children live in a different country.

If You Were Me and Lived in…Viking Europe was hands-down the favorite – not only because it was historical, but because it was about Vikings.  What do Vikings do?  They fight.  With swords.  And the boys are all about some swords these days…  The book is written at an upper elementary or middle school level.  It could be read aloud, but the children actually enjoyed taking turns reading this one quietly, and then I later found them discussing some of the things they had learned.  It has good illustrations, pronunciations of unfamiliar words, and a glossary.  One thing we thought might be interesting to add is a timeline…to show how the Viking landscape has changed through the years.  We enjoyed reading this book together, and even pulled out our Viking Unit Study from a few years ago to accompany it!

If You Were Me and Lived in…the Mayan Empire was the second favorite favorite – as it was both historical and about an ancient civilization.  We learned about Mayan culture, careers, family life, and food...among other things.  We were surprised to learn about the caste system, and how your father's career determined your career.  The illustrations are very beautifully done, and it gave us an opportunity to pull our our Mayan Unit Study and revamp some past learning!

Captain No Beard series
This series is most appropriate for children aged 3-8, and our children are considerably older than that, so these books were not as big of a hit as the other series.  That said, I do think that younger children would enjoy them.

In Being a Captain is Hard Work, the captain learns that he must listen to the other crew members in order to be a better leader.  I have to be honest here and say that this story did not go at all like we thought it would…it seemed at first like a parable for trusting God, and then at the very end, turned into the captain needing to listen to his crew.  It was a strange twist for us.

The Crew Goes Coconuts tackles the issue of bullying and acceptance.  In each of these books, the animals are anthropomorphized, and we find out at the very end that they were just playing dress up and imagination.  It reminded me a bit of the Backyardigans.

Each of these series of books has its strengths.  They are geared toward different audiences, with different end goals.  I think that anytime you can incorporate learning into a read-aloud book, you have a much better retention rate…whether that be for understanding character and moral issues or for better comprehending the cultural and historical aspects of a place.  I am sure that we will be looking into more of the If You Were Me and Lived in… series in the near future!

See what others are saying about Carole P. Roman books at the Homeschool Review Crew!

Books by Carole P RomanBooks by Carole P Roman
Books by Carole P RomanBooks by Carole P Roman
Crew DisclaimerOh Susannah, Bedtime Stories, Captain No Beard, If you were Me ... {Carole P. Roman Reviews}