This Month's Featured Resources...

Revolutionary WarScrap Crafting Lego History Latin Calendar

Friday, July 31

Funtastic Unit Studies : Review

Funtastic Unit Studies Review
Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers, a product from Funtastic Unit Studies, has twenty lessons, ten for children ages 4 through 7, and ten for ages 8 through 13. While lessons could be done with a single child, they are a lot more fun (and practical) when done as a family or group. Both sets of lessons address life, physical, and earth science topics. While it might be best to use the chapters in order since they build upon one another to some extent, we chose to jump around and explore different content areas at our whim.

The Product
The unit studies for Ages 4-7 are:

  • Our Senses
  • The Human Body
  • Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life
  • Animals
  • Insects and Their Kin
  • Fun with Magnets
  • Stars and Planets
  • Health
  • Beginning Plants
  • Animal Ecology
The unit studies for Ages 8-13 are:

  • Insects
  • Microscopes and Invisible Creatures
  • Atoms and Molecules
  • Matter
  • Chemistry Fun
  • Weather
  • Force and Motion
  • Simple Machines
  • Light and Color
  • Plants II
Each chapter begins with a list of materials needed, but you can pick and choose which ones you'd like to do. Many of the materials are easy to find (and you probably have them around your house already), but others require a little advanced planning (like buying a microscope, slides, or iron filings).

The lessons are broken up into "parts", and there are about 6-7 parts to each unit. Within each part is about 2-6 different activities that you can do. The material is introduced at the beginning of each part, and then the activities are listed separately. It is very easy to read through the lessons while planning, and this makes collection of the materials very easy.

Although the units are "designated" for certain age groups, they are not inclusive to those age groups.  The boys are eight and eleven, but worked out of both sections easily.  As a homeschooling mom, I am used to tailoring things up and down to their levels, and I’m sure that you are, too!  It just comes naturally.  We worked out of the units that they are currently interested in.  In the upper level lessons, the activities and content can be a bit challenging for your eight or nine year old, but it at least introduces them to new concepts.  The harder activities, such as a research paper, can be set aside for older students.
With younger students, you could work through the lessons, using this as your primary science resource. Lessons include basic science concepts along with many hands-on activities.  Occasionally, a supplementary resource such as a “Magic School Bus” video is recommended for additional content or reinforcement.  …and y’all know how we feel about Magic School Bus!  It’s all about teaching through multiple channels at this lower level…audio, visual, and hands-on.

Once you get to middle grade level, students will need more content, but this could be used to supplement your core resource. Many science textbooks or real book approaches could use the depth and variety of activities provided here, so combining this with another resource should work very well as long as they address similar topics. The upper level lessons include a multiple choice test at the end of each chapter/unit. These can be used if you want to take a test grade, or to determine how well your student absorbed the material taught. There is also an answer key provided in the back of the book.
Our Experience
Something we did with the weather unit was to choose short living books and picture books to read with each part. I tried to choose a non-fiction book and a fiction book, because my Charlotte Mason style always includes literature as its base. The parts are designated so clearly, and the narrative materials so concise, that it's easy to pick the issue and/or topics to easily choose the books.

We were studying lighthouses, since it's summer time, and decided to focus on the weather unit for a while.  I asked them why they didn't choose Light & Color, and was told that lighthouses are important for guiding ships during bad weather, so we should study that unit.  I love the reasoning...

The boys researched the concepts presented in the introductory material, and then we pulled out our supplies to perform the experiments.  While some of the units require things such as a microscope (which we do have), this one required only basic household / kitchen items.  We happen to own a weather station, though, and the boys wanted to use it to perform the experiments.  They each kept a weather journal for two weeks, but it's that time of year where the weather just stays the  I wish we had done this experiment a month ago, during the storms, when the weather fluctuated drastically each day.  If you're doing this one, I recommend it during the spring or autumn.

As fate would have it, on the one week that we really WANTED to study the clouds, this is what our Oklahoma sky looked like.  Coming on the heels of storms and flooding, it's a much-needed sky, but not really conducive to studying the cloud formations!  The heat and humidity were perfect, however, for creating condensation!

Pros & Cons
One thing I really liked about the book is that the lessons are very approachable for a teacher who has very little science knowledge. The lessons are broken up into bite-sized segments, so you can do a little each day and finish a whole chapter in a week or two. You can also add to the lessons with books from the library, internet research, videos, lapbooks, etc. and stretch a chapter to last a whole month or longer! There are many "activities" for each chapter as well. Some are science experiments, but there are other fun types of activities as well (such as keeping a weather journal, playing shadow tag, and making healthy snacks).

One thing I didn’t like is the illustrations.  I would love for the them to be professionally drawn, and possibly even add colored photographs in future editions. It would really add to the quality of the book and make doing the activities/experiments easier.

Want to try Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers yourself??  See a sample chapter from each grade level!
Funtastic Unit Studies Review
See what others are saying about Funtastic Unit Studies over at the Schoolhouse Review Crew!
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Thursday, July 30

Herbal Immune Boosters

With an immuno-suppressed child, our family is constantly aware of the fragility of the human immune system.  It doesn't take much to shut it down - stress, sugar, poor sleep, poor diet - and we strive to keep it going.  If you're taking care of yourself properly, these herbal remedies will help give your immune system a kick in the butt when you most need it!

Now, you might be asking WHY I'm writing about immunity boosters at the end of July...and the simple answer would be that, once you've mixed them up, it takes six to eight weeks for their yummy properties to fully integrate into the vinegar.  (ie, you're going to let them steep for nearly two months...which will put you right at the beginning of allergy and cold season.)

Fire Cider

Fire Cider is a remedy for upper respiratory infections with a deep cough and severe nasal congestion. It is extremely spicy, and I don’t think there will be very many kids who will want to take this remedy. Take a tablespoon full every day - it's a very potent remedy, so go slowly with it.  During times of illness, you may take a tablespoon full every couple of hours.
  •      1 part minced garlic
  •      1 part chopped whole onion
  •      1 part grated horseradish root
  •      1 part chopped & seeded jalapeno
  •      1 part grated ginger root
  •      ¼- ½ teaspoon Cayenne pepper
  1. Place all of the herbs in a glass jar and cover with apple cider vinegar. 
  2. Make sure to put plastic between the lid of the jar and the vinegar, or else it will create a slime due to a chemical reaction between the metal and the vinegar. 
  3. Steep herbs for 4-6 weeks, shaking daily, then strain and keep in a glass jar.
  4. If you don't feel up to making your own, you can always buy a bottle.

Elderberry Syrup

For the price of one bottle of elderberry syrup at the store, you could make ten to fifteen times that amount at home!  This is super easy, and anyone can make it. 

Start with good, organic elderberries.  We can usually find a good organic brand at Amazon, but would rather pay more to get them from somewhere else if Amazon doesn't have the organic brand available.  Typically, we triple or quadruple the recipe and participate in an herb swap...more on that later.
  1. Put all of the ingredients into a pot and bring the water to a boil. Reduce heat to a very low simmer, and reduce liquid by about ½ (usually takes about 20-30 minutes). Strain out the herbs and add 1 cup of raw honey (optional).
  2. Store your syrup in a closed jar in the refrigerator.

Additional Information

Would you like more information on boosting your immunity?  Pick up a free copy of our sampler, Herbs for Autumn, or the complete course, Kitchen Fixes, which is designed to introduce the beginner to herbs and their uses, for both cooking and remedies.

One final word.....don't forget to eat a healthy, colorful diet. The foods we eat are the best immune booster of all!

Wednesday, July 29

Blueberry Hill (Louis Armstrong)

In the rush to avoid sugar, many people now are avoiding fruits.  They believe that because added sugars are bad, the same must apply to fruits, which also contain fructose.  However… this is completely wrong, because fructose is only harmful in large amounts and it is almost impossible to overeat fructose by eating fruit.

Fruits are loaded with fiber and water, and have significant chewing resistance.  For this reason, most fruits (like apples) take a while to eat and digest, meaning that the fructose hits the liver slowly.  You want that extra fiber (adding Metamucil to a glass of juice will not create the same effect in your body!), and it helps your digestive tract.

In the fruit hierarchy, choose fresh fruit, then dried fruit, with sweetened dried fruit a distant third, and juice in fourth place.

Many of the fruit juices on the market aren’t even “real” fruit juices. They consist of water, mixed with some sort of concentrate and a whole bunch of added sugar. But even if you get 100% real fruit juice, it is still a bad idea.  There is actually a lot of sugar in fruit juice, about as much as a sugar-sweetened beverage, but  there is no fiber and chewing resistance to slow down consumption, making it very easy to consume a large amount of sugar in a short period of time.

A word about organics...
Organic fruits and vegetables are healthier than conventional because they exclude the use of genetically modified organisms and synthetic pesticides and minimize the use of other pesticides.  However, don’t let that stop you from loading up on conventional produce if that is what you have access to.
Take it to the Next Level
You've heard of Superfoods, but…Superfruits?  Not every fruit qualifies.  Those deemed "super" by nutrition scientists are packed with antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and other nutrients that can help you live longer, look better, and even prevent disease.  Blueberries, oranges, bananas, apples, kiwis, grapes, strawberries, and papayas — take your pick and take a bite, because these fruits are superfruits!

Tuesday, July 28

With Lee in Virginia : Review

HeirloomAudio Productions produces wonderful professional audio dramas that bring history to life for the entire family.   As a travelling family, we enjoy listening to audiobooks regularly, so we were excited to hear about another well-respected company.  We had the chance to review With Lee In Virginia, along with its study guide and bonuses, and were just BLOWN AWAY! 

It’s based on the G.A.Henty book – With Lee in Virginia – which describes the Civil War, as seen through the eyes of Vincent, a spirited teenager from the South, who staunchly supports the rights of slaves but joins Lee's cavalry and fights for the Confederacy.  G. A. Henty was a prolific author in the 1800s who wrote many books in the historical fiction genre. Henty wrote about true historical characters and events, and added a fictional young person to the narrative.  Henty’s books are about men being men, and boys learning to be men. This is stated to be for ages six through adult, but my youngest was still a bit confused on some of the details, so occasionally we’d stop the story and talk about it.
We have looked into the Henty books in the past, and decided that they were too old for our children, but Heirloom has made these great books accessible for the whole family.  Henty's books can be overwhelming for some readers and I'm glad that the company made his books more accessible, while at the same time piquing interest in history. With Lee in Virginia lasts for over 2 hours, which makes it a perfect accompaniment to road trips.

We are history lovers around here, so reviews like this are exciting for our entire family. Listening to the two-CD set in the car was a simple thing for us, and it's ideal for giving a richer understanding of history.  General Lee’s decisions, and thought processes, are well-worth a deep discussion with the entire family. Heirloom's productions are very professionally done - both the acting and the background work - and are a delight to listen to…even the one child that usually steers away from audiobooks was loving it!  He came to me in the evening and asked if there were any more “cd books” like the one we had listened to today…so now we are expecting “In Freedom’s Cause” and “Under Drake’s Flag” in the mail!   Also, according to the publisher, they're currently in London recording the next story, "The Dragon and The Raven" (a story about the life of Alfred the Great) - due to release by Christmas!

We listened to this audiobook as we headed to Virginia for our second trip to Gettysburg!  What a way to get in the mood!  Check out Gettysburg here, and more resources for learning about the Civil War.

While we didn't use the accompanying study guide as much as I would have liked, I do want to use it more in-depth in the future - particularly when we reach this historical era in our history curriculum.  The guide is divided into lessons which cover different sections of the audio CD. Resources within the study guide include the following: maps, details on the Civil War, comprehension questions and discussion tips for understanding the material better, and vocabulary. Also included is a Bible study guide which explores the Scriptures behind some of the character traits within the story. 

With Lee in Virginia is an audiobook we'll listen to many times, and we're excited to see that Heirloom has more productions in the works. Not only are your kids learning to love history, but they're also discovering the strong moral character that drove great men like Lee, and Vincent, to do extraordinary things.

With Lee in Virginia is available here for $29.97 plus $6.95 shipping. It includes :
  • 2-CD Audio set
  • Instant Access MP3 download
  • Study Guide
  • Soundtrack
  • Printable wall art / quote

Check out the fantastic With Lee in Virginia trailer!

With Lee in Virginia Audio Drama Review
See what others are saying about With Lee in Virginia at the Schoolhouse Review Crew!
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Monday, July 27

Freezer Cooking 101 : July

This time of year, our garden is overflowing with plump and juicy tomatoes...too many for us to use before they go bad!  Last year, we made plenty of sun-dried, spiced tomatoes from our garden!  This year, we will still do that, but are making some soups and sauces as well.

Slow Cooker Marinara Sauce Recipe

·        1/4 cup olive oil
·        2 large onions, diced
·        1 tbsp chopped garlic
·        Approx. 10 large tomatoes, peeled & diced
·        1 cup water
·        1 tbsp salt
·        1/3 cup chopped fresh basil or 2 tbsp dried basil
·        3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley or 1 tbsp dried parsley flakes
·        1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1.   In large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
2.   Add onions and garlic and cook until softened.
3.   Add onions and the rest of the ingredients into slow cooker (no smaller than 5-quart) and cook on low for at least 4 hours. Adjust seasonings to taste.
4.   I store mine in mason jars and freeze them. Just make sure to leave room at the top for the sauce to expand when freezing!

Tomato Bisque Recipe

 4 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
 2 celery rib, chopped
4-6 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
salt and pepper, to taste
2 bay leaves
6 tablespoons whole wheat flour
8 cups (2 quarts) organic low-sodium chicken stock or broth
Approx. 8 large tomatoes, peeled & diced
6 tablespoons tomato paste (look for BPA-free cans)
4 teaspoons sugar
1/2-3/4 cup half and half
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup croutons, for garnish (optional)
freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)


1.   In a large stockpot, heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the chopped onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and bay leaves. Then, season with salt, pepper, and red pepper. Stir occasionally until the vegetables are just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.
2.   Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir for 1 minute, or until flour is fully incorporated. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, tomato paste and sugar. Season lightly with more with salt and pepper, to taste.
3.   Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover partially. Stir occasionally until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
4.   Remove the bay leaves. Transfer the soup in batches to a blender (or use an immersion blender) and puree until fairly smooth. (Note: Please be careful during this step! Don't fill the blender full, and cover the lid with a towel and hold securely while blending so the lid doesn't pop off.) Carefully, return the puree to the saucepan.
5.   Add the half-and-half and cook over medium-low until the soup is just heated through. Taste and then season the soup with salt, pepper, and hot sauce to your preference. Swirl in the 4 tablespoons of butter. Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with croutons, fresh shredded Parmesan cheese, and serve.

Friday, July 24

Vegas (Sara Bareilles)

Today we detour through the desert for some sin city fun!  Las Vegas, the oasis in the was just a tad on the warm side.

We walked around the entire world as we traversed the strip.  It was a bit like hitting Epcot at Disney World.  Here we are taking a break on the Champs-Elysee by The Paris Hotel at about 2:30 AM.  We're from NY, the "city that never sleeps."  Guess what, V-e-g-a-s is really that city.  There was so much to see and do...I think it was 5 AM by the time we finally called it "a night!"
The next day we walked the strip, feeling right at home on the Brooklyn Bridge by the New York, New York Hotel.  We stayed at the height of Egypt-ness~The Luxor.

It's not a place I would take the kids back to until they were older, and not even one that I'm itching to visit again.  We ran into some undesirable situations...such as pamphlets for store-bought girls being shoved into the hands of our pre-teen boys, that reminded us Vegas is not called "Sin City" without cause...

Today's guest writer, Chris, writes for Campfires & Cleats.  You can find her on Facebook.

Thursday, July 23

Build Me the Moon (Charlotte Sometimes)

Today, we are going to take a closer look at one Oklahoma City home.  Yesterday, we focused on our architectural unit sure to brush up on your stylistic background!!!

In a corner of Oklahoma City that time forgot, the Overholser Mansion stands as a testament to the state's earliest days.  Henry Overholser was an Oklahoma businessman, county commissioner, and important contributor to the development of Oklahoma City.  Overholser was already well-to-do when he arrived in Oklahoma Territory in 1889.  He quickly began buying lots, developing business buildings, and making capital improvements using his own money to what would become Oklahoma City.
Built in 1903, the Overholser Mansion is considered Oklahoma City's first mansion.  It was designed by W.S. Matthews, who trained at London's Kensington Academy.  Originally, the home was in the country and far from town, but today it lies in the heart of the city.  The Queen Anne and Chateauesque architectural styles were regarded as out of style, standing in stark contrast to the Mission, Craftsman, and Prairie styles of architecture that were prominent at the time.  Walking through the house, you can't help but step back in time and feel the opulence seep through your skin...
Full of original designs (such as the cute doorbell below!), the first floor of the house looks as if the family just stepped out for the morning.  All tours are guided, and the first three floors, open to the public, reveal intricately stenciled, painted-on canvas walls and eye-popping light fixtures. On the second-floor landing, pause at the stained glass windows featuring two musically inclined women, a piece that Mrs. Overholser, who started the Ladies Orchestra League in the 1890s, commissioned.  The third floor was the nursery, and is now full of toys and brick-a-brack that made its way into the attic storage area.
We fell in love with this home!  The oldest took about a hundred photos, trying to memorize every intricate architectural and interior design detail.  The youngest oohed and ahhed over the appliances and "latest and greatest" machinery found throughout the home.  As for myself, I simply adored the little pink turret room at the top of the house.  It was small, but large enough for a Mommy-cave!  Taking a tour here truly is like stepping back in time for a few hours!!

Home Details :
  • Tours Tues-Sat
  • Hourly tours from 10a - 2pm
    • 45 minutes long
  • 405 NW 15th St, OKC
Special Event :
  • Heritage Hills Home Tour
  • Sept 26-27, 2015
Less than a mile away, lies the Harn Homestead, where you can re-enact the Oklahoma Land Run and experience Oklahoma's territorial days...another integral piece in Oklahoma City history!

What we read today....

Wednesday, July 22

Build Me Up, Buttercup (Foundations)

It's a little-known fact that as a young girl, I dreamed of becoming an architect, but with zero spatial skills, it just wasn't in cards.  I still find old houses fascinating, though, and am enjoying watching my oldest go through his 'architectural phase.'  Which may not be a phase after all....I mean, we've all seen his Etch-a-Sketch pictures...that boy has some talented spatial reasoning!!!

We will be working on architecture more this year, since that is where his interests lie.  Here is the unit study that we will be working from throughout the year.  And never fear, mom, I've remembered to address the littles, too!  It's a considerably shorter unit, but let's get to them first...

Early Elementary Unit

First off... 

His love for architecture stemmed from his love of all things Greek and Roman (ancient, of course).  Hence our hands-on history units for ancient civilizations!  So we will begin with a review of the basic architectural column designs.
Of the three columns found in Greece, Doric columns are the simplest. They have a capital (the top, or crown) made of a circle topped by a square. The shaft (the tall part of the column) is plain and has 20 sides. There is no base in the Doric order. The Doric order is very plain, but powerful-looking in its design. Doric, like most Greek styles, works well horizontally on buildings, that's why it was so good with the long rectangular buildings made by the Greeks. The area above the column, called the frieze [pronounced "freeze"], had simple patterns. 

Ionic shafts were taller than Doric ones. This makes the columns look slender. They also had flutes, which are lines carved into them from top to bottom. The shafts also had a special characteristic: entasis, which is a little bulge in the columns make the columns look straight, even at a distance [because since you would see the building from eye level, the shafts would appear to get narrower as they rise, so this bulge makes up for that - so it looks straight to your eye but it really isn't !] . The frieze is plain. The bases were large and looked like a set of stacked rings. Ionic capitals consist of a scrolls above the shaft. The Ionic style is a little more decorative than the Doric.

The Corinthian order is the most decorative and is usually the one most modern people like best. Corinthian also uses entasis to make the shafts look straight. The Corinthian capitals have flowers and leaves below a small scroll. The shaft has flutes and the base is like the Ionian. Unlike the Doric and Ionian cornices, which are at a slant, the Corinthian roofs are flat.
During our travels, we have visited and explored different styles of architectural homes, including :
Part of the fun of architecture is getting to express your unique individuality!!  Below are some fun activities for your students to explore their styles and do just that!
  • What Is Your Architecture Personality?
    • This quiz determines your architecture personality.   At the end of the quiz it tells you about the different styles of architecture.    This is definitely geared more towards adults than students, but the boys loved taking the tests lots of different ways to see what types of styles they could produce.
  • American House : Styles of Architecture Coloring Book
    • Crisp renderings of over 40 extant structures from Taos Pueblo to striking contemporaries. Spanish Colonial, Georgian, Stick, Gothic, many other styles. Rich and informative captions date, identify, and describe each dwelling.
  • How to Become an Architect
    • This page answers some of the most frequently asked questions about careers in architecture. The advice comes from several architects.
You can't learn about architecture without getting hands-on!  Here are some of the best kits and activities that we have stumbled upon so far.

  • Lego Architecture : Eiffel Tower
    • Lego has an entire line of architectural designs, ranging from $30 to $180.  The Eiffel Tower is on the lower range, and we spent a whole day studying France while building this one!!  (Double the learning, double the fun!)
  • Lego Architect Studio
    • This one is the mack-daddy of architectural sets from Lego...including a 300 page booklet and more bricks than any one child should own!
  • Young Architect Kit
    • Create a 3-dimensional design model in just 3 easy steps! Great for aspiring young architects, design and furnish your floor plan with templates and colored pencils that are included. To top it off, this building set is reusable, so you can start from scratch and redesign your floor plans over and over again for endless fun.
  • 3-D Architect Studio
    • On this web site, you can design a house, walk through it in 3D, and then share it with the world. You can also learn more about architecture, past and present, and explore Frank Lloyd Wright's life and work.

Finally, David Macaulay's Building Big series at PBS offers students a chance to work with engineering concepts on an interactive site.  This site is the accompaniment to his DVD series, which was fascinating for our entire family.  Ranging from age 6 to Dad, we all enjoyed watching these videos together.