This Month's Featured Resources...

Father's DayTravel - CookingLatin WW2

Monday, August 13

Ghost (Ella Henderson)

One of the (many) perks of homeschooling is the ability to be flexible and to change the rules mid-stream.  While home schools don't actually need a mascot, we've always chosen one.  Unlike most schools, however, we didn't just pick a mascot and stick with it.  Where's the fun in that?

So each year, based on whatever we will be learning in our year-long unit study, we select a different mascot.
  • One year, when we were studying ancient history, we became the Spartans.  
  • Another year, they named themselves the Bumblebees in honor of their aunt.  
  • Last year, they selected the Patriots, since we were studying early American history and the Revolutionary War.  
This year, as we head into the Westward Expansion and Civil War, they decided to choose an animal - something that exemplified the Old West.  Well...that was the intention at the beginning...

I'd like to thank the good people of Deadwood, South Dakota for their winning enthusiasm and infectious sense of humor.  Thanks to them, for the next year, we are going to be the Ghost Chickens.

To be honest, it's somewhat fitting, since our house also seems to be where good poultry comes to be eaten by coyotes and hawks.  But that's beside the point.  How does one keep a straight face when announcing that they are a Ghost Chicken at school functions?  I love it.  

I look forward a deliciously silly year!  Bock, bock, bock, boooooooooooooooooock!

Ghost Chickens in the Sky 
v.1 A chicken farmer took a walk out on his farm one day
He paused by the coop as he went along his way
When all at once a rotten egg hit him in the eye
It was the sight he dreaded, ghost chickens in the sky
(Squawk and Cluck)

v.2 He'd been a chicken farmer since he was twenty four
Working for the Colonel for thirty years or more
Killing all them chickens and sending them to fry
And now they want revenge, ghost chickens in the sky
(Squawk and Cluck)

v.3 Their beaks were black and shining, their eyes were burning red
They had no meat or feathers, these chickens were dead
They picked the farmer up and he died by the claw
They cooked him extra crispy (pause) and ate him with coleslaw
Ghost chickens in the sky (Cluck)

Thursday, August 9

Hot Hot Hot! (Cure)

Auschwitz Lullaby (Mario Escobar)
On an otherwise ordinary morning in 1943, Helene Hannemann is preparing her five children for the day when the German police arrive at her home. Helene’s worst fears come true when the police, under strict orders from the SS, demand that her children and husband, all of Romani heritage, be taken into custody. Though Helene is German and safe from the forces invading her home, she refuses to leave her family—sealing her fate in a way she never could have imagined.  After a terrifying trek across the continent, Helene and her family arrive at Auschwitz and are thrown into the chaos of the camp. Her husband, Johann, is separated from them, but Helene remains fiercely protective of her children and those around her. When the powers-that-be discover that Helene is not only a German but also a trained nurse, she is forced into service at the camp hospital, which is overseen by the notorious Dr. Mengele himself.  Helene is under no illusions in terms of Dr. Mengele’s intentions, but she agrees to cooperate when he asks her to organize a day care and school for the Romani children in the camp. Though physically and emotionally brutalized by the conditions at Auschwitz, Helene musters the strength to protect the children in her care at any cost. Through sheer force of will, Helene provides a haven for the children of Auschwitz—an act of kindness and selflessness so great that it illuminates the darkest night of human history.  Based on a true story, Mario Escobar’s Auschwitz Lullaby demonstrates the power of sacrifice and the strength of human dignity—even when all hope seems lost.

My first real taste of Mengele was reading Jane Yolen's 'Mapping the Bones.'  I'd heard of him, but not in depth, until that point.  This book gives a different point of view on the same story.  It begins with a mom who chooses to go with her family to Auschwitz (she could be spared, since she is German), and finds herself heading up a nursery school in the camp.  It's based on a true story and focuses on the Gypsies that were persecuted during the war (which we don't typically hear about).  The author definitely did a good job of researching and recreating!  The whole story is full of sensory language and details that make you feel as though you're right there beside her...feeling her fear that her own set of twins will be experimented upon next.  I'm fascinated by WW2 stories, and have read most of the general storylines, but this was a new one for me.  I was a little confused about why it's listed as a Christian book, because it definitely isn't preachy and there isn't even much mention of God....but maybe it's more about character and resilience.  Either way, fans of historical fiction will want to pick this one up!

Through the Autumn Air (Kelly Irvin)
The mother of ten and a widow of seven years, Mary Katherine is a bundle of energy, always willing to step in and help her friends around her Amish community. Now that her last child is married, she pours her abundant creative spirit into writing stories, even as she speaks aloud to her late husband every day. Her dream is to open a bookstore with an English friend, but the church elders want this wayward widow to work in an Amish-owned store instead. When her old school friend, Ezekiel, offers her a position as a cook in the restaurant he opened after his wife died, she knows she should accept. But does she really want to spend her time working over a hot stove?   When a mysterious English stranger breaks into her house to make himself a sandwich one autumn night, Mary Katherine doesn’t call the sheriff. She turns to Ezekiel. They both see that Burke is need of more than a meal, and Ezekiel offers him the job at the restaurant. As they set out to care for their new friend, Mary Katherine and Ezekiel find themselves often working together. Mary Katherine is drawn to Ezekiel, but she remembers the terrible risk of giving her heart to someone. Can two people in the autumns of their lives and so well-versed in the pain of loss put the past behind them and trust in the hope that comes with each new season?

I've read the first two books in this series, and enjoyed catching up with the same cast of characters again in this third installment. Each of the seasons that the book centers around also seems to be related to the book's theme. In this case, we are in the autumn of our characters' lives...catching them at retirement age. (It should be noted that you do NOT have to read all of the books....they work just fine as a stand-alone.) There are many unique elements in here that I haven't seen in other Amish stories, including criminal acts, the intertwinedness of the Amish & Englisch (more than usual), and the complexity of growing old within the Amish community. This is a story of loss and grief, of overcoming, and of second chances.

Boundaries for Your Soul (Alison Cook)
You can turn your shame to joy, your anger to advocacy, and your inner critic into your biggest champion. Do your emotions control you or do you control your emotions? Many people let guilt, anger, or self-criticism dominate their lives and negatively affect their relationships. Boundaries for Your Soul shows you how to calm the chaos within. This groundbreaking approach will help you:  know what to do when you feel overwhelmed, understand your guilt, anxiety, sadness, and fear, welcome God into the troubling parts of your soul, and move from doubt and conflict to confidence and peace.  Boundaries for Your Soul includes relatable anecdotes, helpful exercises, an engaging quiz, and opportunities for personal reflection. Gathering the wisdom from the authors' twenty-five years of combined advanced education, biblical studies, and clinical practice, this book will set you on a journey to become the loving, authentic, joyful person you were created to be.

It almost seems counterintuitive to embrace the ugly parts of yourself, but that's exactly what the authors recommend for healing.  It focuses on emotions and how to constructively cope with them, rather than shoving them deep inside or allowing them to rule your life.  They offer up a five-step approach to walking through those depths of your soul, wading through the mess, and coming out the other side.  These five steps include focusing on and owning the emotion, coming to acceptance with it, inviting God to work with you on coping with and overcoming said emotion, unloading that emotion onto either God or others around you, and finally overcoming it and growing into a better person from having experienced it.  Written as engagingly as one can write a non-fiction book, this is a good self-help book for those who are struggling to accept themselves in their entirety.

I Can Only Imagine for Little Ones (Bart Millard)
I Can Only Imagine asks questions a child might ask and invites families to wonder together: What is heaven like? What does God do? What would it be like to spend a day with Jesus? Children will see that although experiencing the glory of heaven may be far off, we can enjoy a friendship with Jesus every day - right here on earth. Whimsical, playful illustrations and thought-provoking questions make this a book that families will cherish.  Fun and vibrant illustrations offer a vivid visual and will help your children see that God can be found everywhere, every day.  I think about heaven as I look up at the sky and watch the fluffy clouds roll by. The more I imagine, the more I wish I knew.  I wonder, would God like pancakes with extra syrup too?  And if God and I spent the day together, what exactly would we do?  The Christian worship song “I Can Only Imagine” touched countless lives with its glorious representation of being in the presence of God, and this beautifully illustrated picture book invites you and your children to imagine those same wonders. Share the joy of a personal relationship with the Lord with your family today through the creative, faith-filled book I Can Only Imagine.

This beautiful book is perfect for young readers to flip through and read, either together with a parent or on their own (depending on age).  The text is simple, but thought-provoking.  The illustrations are gorgeous and very colorful.  There is a lot of diversity shown on the pages, and the scenes are ones that will appeal to most children, featuring things such as playing at the lake in summertime or enjoying an ice cream cone.  Drawn from the lyrics of the MercyMe song, this book brings it down to a child's level and reminds them that God is always with them.

Little Book of Thanks (Thomas Nelson)
It happens every autumn. As soon as the leaves begin to turn bright, beautiful colors, the year sprints ahead on fast-forward! Take a few moments out of the hustle and bustle of the season to sink into a cozy chair with your little one and thank God for everything He’s given us with Precious Moments® Little Book of Thanks.  In the sweet, enduring art style of Precious Moments, this timeless book will help your children recognize all the wonderful things God has given them! Read along, and you will remember to enjoy the simple things, like singing silly songs, jumping in a pile of leaves, and watching the seasons change. The short, rhyming verses in this classic Precious Moments book don’t take much time to read at all, and they will create memories that last forever.  Precious Moments Little Book of Thanks offers you the chance to be thankful for all that you have and for the ones with whom you get to share every precious moment.

This is a nice board book that is the perfect size for little hands!  With short poems that are good for reading aloud together, or for beginning readers to try on their own, these beautifully-illustrated pages will bring to mind all the best that autumn has to offer.  Some of our favorite topics included family, the weather, music and playtime, the moon, and (my favorite) jumping in leaves!  There are related scriptures tucked into the pages, and the theme, of course, is Precious Moments.  I'm not sure who liked the book mother-in-law (who collects PM figurines) or her grandkids!

Monday, August 6

Bullet with Butterfly Wings (Smashing Pumpkins)

If your summer road trip passes through Indiana or Illinois, but you have the option of an alternative, may I kindly suggest that you explore that alternative route???  We had the pleasure of having a ten-hour trip turn into a twenty-hour one on our drive yesterday. 
Survive the Long Road Trip!
The trip started out with smiling, happy faces at five o' the morning.  Yes, there are actually two five o'clocks in the day...who knew?  My night owl promptly went back to sleep, while my morning bird bounced around.  Did you guess which was which?
We rolled along swimmingly for a while, stopping at Burger King for a quick breakfast because my son felt sad that he had "never been allowed to go to Burger King before."  He's so deprived.  He got the crown, which apparently was the impetus for the stop.
We continued to drive along and figured that as soon as the schoolwork was done, we'd stop again.  I like to take turns working with each of the boys separately in the backseat, while the other has some one-on-one time with Dad up front.  Unfortunately, we got engrossed, and never got around to taking that pit stop.
Now, you haven't experienced true impatience and frustration until you've sat in the car, on the parking lot that they call the interstate, for four hours.  With two kids bickering in the backseat.  With the car parked.  And everyone has to pee.
See those bushes along the side of the highway?  No, we didn't, but we sure gave it a lot of thought.  We made friends with a few nearby truckers who kept us updated on the radio chatter.  Turns out, there was a lane closure about ten miles ahead.  While there were no accidents, it seems that no one had received the memo on how to merge. 
I did not even know that Vera Mae had a pedestrian mode until she popped up with this!!!  It provided a nice moment of levity for the situation.  While we began to move slowly about an hour later, this was just one of the three times that traffic stops of this magnitude occurred yesterday.
FINALLY, we got to Ohio.  One of the first things we saw was the Budweiser factory (photo lightened), and it was pretty tempting!  A glass of wine for us, and a scoop of ice cream for the kids, and we were ready to settle down and unwind our nerves. 

Wednesday, August 1

Spam (Monty Python) & a GIVEAWAY!

Did you know that there is an entire museum dedicated solely to SPAM?  Oh yes, there is!  We happened upon this jewel of Americana as we made our way up the road to Wisconsin.  Being in desperate need of a stretch break, we hopped out and took a quick tour.

Do you see our happy faces at being out of the car, if even for only half an hour?  It was a sixteen-hour drive, and the company gave us one day to make it!!!  Lord-a-mercy.
At the SPAM museum, you can learn the history of Hormel Foods, manufacturing processes, and meat preservation techniques all in the same room.  Also, there is a heavy focus on the Depression and World War II years, as SPAM was provided to troops and citizens of war-torn Europe.
Personally, I liked the old radio station that played Burns & Allen shows on a continuous loop, and would have been quite happy to sit a spell and listen!  George & Gracie's late 1930's shows were sponsored by SPAM.  As you make your way through the museum, "Spambassadors" are wandering around handing out "spamples" of their products.
After going through the museum, you can try your hand at SPAM Jeopardy, view Monty Python's Spam-a-lot, and visit the gift store.  Two of us aren't put off by highly processed, potted meats, so a sampler pack was purchased.  They make 44,000 cans each hour, so there's more than plenty from which to choose!
Have you ever wondered what 4,000 cans of SPAM looked like?  (C'mon....I know you have...)  When I asked if Hormel has ever considered making a vegetarian SPAM, he said, "Some people do ask that question.  I tell them it's un-American."

All in all, it was a great, quick stopover.  We wouldn't have made a special trip to Minnesota just to see it, but it was worth the stop.  Did I mention that the museum has free admission???  Ready to make the trip yourself?  Here is some information about going...

SPAM Museum trip : 
To celebrate Back-to-School, we're giving one reader a $10 gift card to spend in our Teachers Pay Teachers store!  Winner will be randomly chosen on August 6th, and have 24 hours to respond.  Good luck!


Tuesday, July 31

Time Warp (Rocky Horror) {REVIEW}

Home School in the Woods
The best way for me to teach any subject in our house is through the door of history.  Math problems, science projects...we introduce tricky ones through a historical context, and this makes the kids more willing to dig in.  We've used several activity and project packs from Home School in the Woods over the years, and recently had a chance to review our third from this particular series, Time Travelers : The Industrial Revolution through the Great Depression.  We've also used the Project Passports Greece & Egypt, as well as the Time Travelers American History Civil War & World War II, which you can find in their store.

These studies are designed for 3rd through 8th graders, but can easily be tailored a bit for whole-family teaching.  They include 25 lessons each, and are comprehensive to the era.  The files are digital and downloadable, and include everything you'd need to do a full unit, plus extras!

I start off using this product by going through all of the PDF files, choosing which versions of activities we want to use, and printing everything.  Then I spend some time putting it all together in a format that we've discovered works best for our family.  We have one binder with 'everyday' items, such as the timeline and newspaper, and another binder with single-sided activities that we'll pull a few pages from each day.  I also go through the Additional Resources and choose a few books and movies about the era to supplement our learning.

Within the downloadable files, you'll see multiple ways to print several of the items.  One example of this is in the copywork.  You have the choice of print or cursive, and also the choice of tracing or copying.  Before printing, be sure to decide which option you want your child(ren) to complete, so that you only print the ones you actually need.

The next thing I do is look over the suggested class schedule.  With our travel schedule, some days we don't work on this at all, while other days we will two one or two days worth of work.  Some of the days fit together seamlessly, while others require more time and supplies.  It's a good idea to look over everything first.  

Here is a short video I created that shows what you can expect inside the bundle and how we organize it for easy use!

The day begins with a two or three page reading of the lesson material.  Then, we begin the projet activities that accompanies the lesson.  Everyday, however, we have timeline work, copywork, and newspaper articles to complete!  Each kid has a task that they are responsible for, based on their age and level.  One of them cuts out all of our lapbook pieces because he needs work on fine motor skills.  He is also completes the tracing version of copywork, for the same reason.  Another completes all of our newspaper articles, this time for The Industrial Times (each era has their own paper), and is expected to write at his grade level based on the information we learned that day.

What DOES speak to my boy-crowd are weaponry and food!!  We did every single World War I activity in the bundle, and cooked several of the recipes, too.  We tried our hands at the penny rug and silk postcards, too, but they didn't come out very well!  We also put together all of the lapbook pieces, because the boys really enjoy doing lapbooks.

There are a great number of projects included in this bundle, which is wonderful because we can pick and choose the ones that work the best for our family.  Having all boys, we chose not to create the paper dolls or the decoupage box.  We looked at them and talked about them and how they relate to the era, but then moved on without actually creating them.  If I had little girls, I'm sure these would have been ones we spent a lot of time on since they are well-done and look like a lot of fun.  (Heck, even my mom was happy to come over and play with the paper dolls!)  This particular unit even comes with sheet music of songs from the era...which is great if you have a budding musician in the house!

Included in the download bundle is a fun board game! Get Your Kicks on Route 66 is a simple cut & go game designed for 3rd-8th graders. You print it out (there are directions for both single and double sided printing), cut out the game cards, and go!

Just recently, we also completed the Time Travelers World War 2 set (not a review product; our own dime) - here are some photos from that project as well so that you can see how they compare and contrast to each other. As you can see, there are many similarities between each unit in this series. As a busy mom, I see this as a bonus. Once I took the time to go through and understand how the units work, and created a system that worked for our family, setting up all future units went lickety-split! In addition to this series, we've also used the Project Passport series to study Ancient Greece. This series seems to focus more on ancient history, and they have a new one on Ancient Rome coming out this year.

My one and only complaint about this product is the sheer amount of ink it takes to print it all correctly!  As you can see, it took up most of my ink and I was only about 2/3 of the way through printing it at this point.  A couple of suggestions I'd make are to either (1) use a printing company, such as the Homeschool Printing Company (this is our review of it) or (2) change your printing settings to a very low quality.  Personally, the next time we print one of these, we're going with option one.

See what others are saying about Home School in the Woods at the Schoolhouse Review Crew
Hands-on-History, Project Passport, À La Carte Timelines and Time Travelers {Home School in the Woods Reviews}