Monday, March 26

If You Were Me & Lived In.... {Review}

 I love finding a good read-aloud 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! One of the first things we noticed about these books was how well-illustrated they are….the bright colors and vivid pictures are very engaging!

We received three books from the Carole P. Roman books and collections, including If You Were Me and Lived in…Ancient Mali, Colonial America, and the American West. These books help children to 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. They are most appropriate for children aged 8-15, and are great conversation starters among older children!
Books include text, illustration, famous people, and a glossary of terms

If You Were Me and Lived in…Colonial America
The book begins with the Mayflower voyage and follows the pilgrims through their hardships. The descriptions are fabulous for helping to feel like you’re right there with the children narrating the story! It covers some notable people of the era, such as Miles Standish, John Smith, and Pocahontas, as well as many others. At the end of the story are suggestions for further reading and discovery. While it’s not anywhere near Thanksgiving, we pulled out some of our Thanksgiving resources to use with this one. Also, we stumbled upon the blog that accompanies this book, and it includes additional resources like worksheets, coloring pages, and more. It’s perfect for using this book as a jumping-off point for a complete unit study!

If You Were Me and Lived in…Ancient Mali
The book talks of how Mali broke off from Ghana to form its own country, and includes many of the country’s traditions. We learn about traditional clothing and walk the road to Mecca, learning about culture and geography of the region. There are crafts and trades featured in the book as the characters barter for trade, and there is a comprehensive glossary at the end. The boys were surprised to find out that Timbuktu was a real place, and I was surprised at how much I, the teacher, did NOT know about this country! I have to admit that we had nothing here to add to the book…it definitely pointed out a hole in my curriculum that I will be working to fill in the upcoming months…but we’ve already learned quite a bit just from reading this. For these reasons, this was our favorite book.

If You Were Me and Lived in…the American West
While many things come to mind when I think of the American West, this book focuses primarily on the Oregon Trail. It follows the children who traveled west during the Great Migration of 1843, and covers daily life, geography, clothing, jobs, food, famous people, and a glossary of terms. We re-visited our Oregon Trail trip while reading this one.


Captain No Beard
Another series by Carole P. Roman is the Captain No Beard series. This series is most appropriate for children aged 3-8, and each book focuses on a specific character trait.

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.


In the past, we have also checked out the Cultural Series, learning about places like Australia and China.  These are a great way to introduce geography in a Charlotte Mason-esque manner.  They are appropriate for children aged 8-15, but can be appreciated by younger children as well.

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

Carole P. Roman books and collections {Carole P. Roman Reviews}

Wednesday, March 21

Play (Jennifer Lopez)

I don't know about your house, but our boys are all about the Legos!  We try to incorporate them into as many subjects as possible, including history, science, language arts, math, and even Latin and Spanish!  


Today, we're using them with geography.  Specifically, we're studying the 50 states right now, along with abbreviations, capitals, and nicknames.


You will need :

Print the page.  Cut the labels and affix to Legos.  You don't have to do any particular color scheme, but if you're going to do the entire state in a singular color, I recommend cutting the strips off horizontally and doing them state by state.  It takes a bit longer, but leaves less room for error. 
We chose to make each state in one color to assist our special needs son with completing the activity.  (It also makes it easier to check.) 

If you want to make it harder, just randomly affix the stickers to various colors!

Store them in a gallon-sized bag for a quick & easy pick up.  They're also great for taking on the road for some quiet, hotel room fun!

Monday, March 19

Home School in the Woods {review}

From the maker of Project Passport and History Through the Ages, a new line of a la carte products is being released by Home School in the Woods. Two of the new products include 'Get Your Kicks on Route 66' and 'New Figures of the 20th and 21st Century.'

Get Your Kicks on Route 66 - 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!

We chose to color the game board, since we'll be laminating it for future use, and had a little bit of fun along the way. Here I am, rocking out to the Eagles' "Take it Easy,".....'standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona....' 😉


Examples of cards include : questions & circumstances, challenges, and some of the more advanced questions. Also, the board itself has facts and trivia related to Route 66 scattered across it.


When we started the game, the players stayed fairly on target with each other. As the questions progressed, however, the oldest knew so many more (from his history studies), leaving the youngest one eating his dust... (Literally, on the old, unpaved Route 66!) I ended up screening questions for the youngest and weeding out some that he had zero shot of answering, just to even things up a bit.


New Figures of the 20th and 21st Century
New Figures of the 20th and 21st Century is an add-on pack for your standard timeline.  It includes twenty-four figures depicting notable people and / or events from this era.  There are two formats offered : figures with and figures without text below them (these two are shown above in the Haiti example).  They come in an easy print PDF format, or you have the option of pulling them up one picture at a time in JPG format.  There are no accompanying timeline pages, so you will need to make some or add to your own pre-existing set.

We do maintain a timeline of historical events, but our pages did not go all the way up to this era, so we simply made a new set of pages for this set.  While aimed at students in 3rd to 12th grade, I've always found timelines to be something that even kindergartners can do and enjoy.  We prefer the figures with text beneath them, and my son reads aloud about each figure.
One thing I noticed about this set is that it is missing several important events from era.  A few we noticed were missing included :
  • Black Tuesday
  • World War I
  • Great Depression
  • birth of any US Presidents other than Obama
  • Pearl Harbor
  • World War II
  • Elvis / Birth of Rock & Roll
  • the Kennedys
  • Martin Luther King Jr. / segretation
  • Vietnam War
  • Women's Rights
  • Berlin Wall
  • Iraq / Desert Storm
  • September 11th
  • Afghanistan
I consider all of these to be fairly important in the realm of US History, and cannot understand why some of the twenty-four figures would make the cut, but not one of these did.  While we were very pleased with the board game, we will probably look to another source for our modern history timeline figures.

Pros
  • The timeline add-on includes pieces not typically found with your standard timeline.
  • The game offers a chance for older kids to play while reinforcing new knowledge. It can be difficult to find educational games for older children.
  • The a la carte products are all reasonably priced, at $5 for Get Your Kicks on Route 66 and $3 for New Figures of the 20th and 21st Century.
Cons
  • Several important events seem to be missing from timeline add-on.
  • Game is difficult to play (fairly) with children of various stages.
A Few More Notes…
  • Visit Home School in the Woods to see all the other products they have available.
  • These dovetail nicely with our Modern History studies...focusing on the 20th century.
See what others are saying about Home School in the Woods over at the Schoolhouse Review Crew!

À La Carte Projects - Individual projects designed to enhance your studies! {Home School in the Woods Reviews}

Stormy Weather (Sarah Vaughn)

Severe Weather Unit Resources

Waaaaaaay back in our very first post, we said that Oklahoma was a land of extremes.  It's very true...there are few places where you can experience all forms of natural disaster within a year, like we did in 2015.  So it makes perfect sense that home base for the National Weather Center is located in Norman, OK.
Our homeschool co-op scheduled a group tour on a relatively uneventful weather day...but that was perfect, because we could stay and ask as many questions as we wanted, without being in the way.  We saw the new Galileo's World exhibit, celebrating 125 years of the University of Oklahoma.  Included in the exhibit were Galileo's original texts and diagrams...very cool!
Then, our tour guide led us outside to the truck and equipment storage area.  We learned about each special vehicle and their latest research.  We got a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what happens on a severe weather day, and how the various crews begin their jobs.
From the ninth floor, you can see for miles!  Especially on a beautiful, clear day like this one.  Also, since this is about midway through the tour, the bouncy seats in the aerial room and a lot of fun to play on and release some energy...
Back down in the forecasting center, we saw the room where all severe weather watches and warnings are issued for the United States (excepting AK and HI).  On a spring day, this place would be full of people, but today there were only two men working.  We learned the different desks' jobs, and why each separate piece of data is so important.
Finally, after a lengthy discussion about how storms and tornadoes are created, and the movie Twister, we headed back down to the lobby.  Down there, they have a large sphere that can be programmed for education.  Today, however, in honor of the new Star Wars movie, they were featuring the Death Star!  All in all, an informative, and fun, field trip!

Wednesday, March 14

Big Ol' Game (Joss Stone)


When school gets to be too much, we put it away and spend a day playing board games.  Games are a great way to reinforce what you’re teaching, as well as teach social and life skills.  There are so many options, no matter the age level, and most importantly, the kids won’t realize they’re learning!

Some of the social skills involved in board games include : communication, turn taking, sharing, waiting, encouragement, and healthy competition.  It’s a good way to learn that your luck can change in a roll of the dice, so don’t ever give up and just keep trying your best, because your next turn might be your lucky move!

In part one of Learning through Play, we discussed the character and life skills that children learn while playing games.  It's much more than just rolling the dice and moving a piece around the board!  We also talked about a few of our favorite games.  What are your family's favorite games?


Today, we're looking at some of our favorite printable games, and the best way to store everything.  After all, travelling doesn't lend itself well to bringing along several board games, and every inch of space in the back of the car counts!

What about these printable games?
My hands-down favorite place to find printable games is Ellen McHenry's Basement.  Her games are appropriate for middle schoolers and up, and really reinforce the concepts that we are teaching through FUN.  If you haven't met Ellen...now is the time!
Some of the FREE games you'll find there include :

While that's our favorite place to snag new games, you can also find them at places like Educents.  These tend more toward the elementary school genre, for which we are no longer picking up materials.  

Some games we've picked up there include :


So how do we store / travel with all of these?
Printable games can be tricky to store.  The boards themselves are flimsy, but then you have all of those extra cards and playing pieces to keep up with, too.  Two tricks that have worked for us are :
  • Roll up the boards / papers and place down into a cardboard tube.  This was our first mode of storage, until we began having trouble with keeping pieces on the boards during play....because they'd been rolled up for so long, they kept wanting to roll up, and ejecting dice and playing pieces!
  • That brought us to our second idea, and the one that's stuck for three years now.  We took an old mailing box and flattened it out...punched two holes in the top, and then punched two holes in the side of every single game board we had.  
    • Using yarn, we tied them all together, but loosely enough to be able to flip the 'pages.'  
    • We put the cards and pieces in separate sandwich bags, and then all of those went into a gallon sized bag.  
    • The boards slide nicely under the suitcases, and we only need to find room for our game piece bag, to bring along eight games when travelling!

Tuesday, March 13

NatureGlo's eScience {review}


A few months ago, we picked up a Fibonacci course from NatureGlo's eScience to try out, and my son really enjoyed it. Given that he eschews anything math-oriented, this was a great relief! When we were offered the opportunity to try out their new MathArt Online 4-Class Bundle, it was an exciting moment! Something that frames math through a lens of art, nature, and history? Sign him up.

The MathArt Online 4-Class Bundle, as it says, has four different classes, including Math Connections with the Real World, in Ancient Cultures, in the Arts & Sciences, and Patterns in Nature.  Each class is set to a length of six weeks, making the bundle cover a full year of math.  It would be appropriate for upper elementary or middle school, and has several activities that can be tailored up or down to grade level.  


For the sake of this review, we focused primarily on Math Connections in Ancient Cultures.  (If you've followed the blog for any length of time, you'll know that this would be a huge draw, as our son would get to revisit Ancient Greece, as well as learn about some ancient cultures he knew little about.

The course is presented as a live video class, meaning that students can tune in to a class live with the instructor and other students.  Whether from the rural internet connection, or something else, we struggled with the classes and videos; therefore, we only used the pre-recorded portion of the classes.  A few classes in, our connection dropped even further, making it nearly impossible to even watch these pre-recorded classes; therefore, we began downloading materials overnight (because it takes hours to download anything.....again, possibly from our rural connection) and then using the powerpoints, our own research, and the course materials to work through the class together.  

We studied the history and how the math works into the history, and then created the suggested art projects.  At the end of each lesson is a page with suggestions for further study.  There are a LOT of suggestions and videos.....all together, they could make up a complete course credit, but feel free to pick and choose what suits your family's needs.  We even got little brother involved in some of the art projects!
One of his favorite activities was creating the geometric 3-D shapes.  We printed them out and he spent several days putting them together and then into a mobile.


How it Works
  • The first video is an overview of everything off to the side.  It is done as a live class that is recorded for you to access later.
  • The second video is a slideshow that can be downloaded (without audio) for offline use.  Ultimately, this is what we did for all our classes, as we had playback issues.
  • There is a study guide to accompany the slide shows.  You can print it out for the student to complete while watching (or after).
  • Art, archaeology, and music are all incorporated into the math lessons.  Each of the lessons for the ancient history course centers around a particular era and culture, while each of the lessons in the nature course centers around an aspect (such as flowers) in nature.
Pros
  • I'm really glad we had an opportunity to review this because my kids are enjoying the class as a jumping off point for (what I call) 'bunny trail' research but the price tag is too steep for our budget.
  • While these activities and extra videos could be found for free by searching the Internet, I know that many home schooling families will appreciate that Gloria has taken the time to do the research and include them in her course.
Cons
  • We had a lot of issues with volume and playback.  It happened every time with the "live" recordings.
  • The interactive components just didn’t ‘work’ for us.  After the first few lessons, we selected to forego the live classes and just do the activities off to the side.  We downloaded the powerpoint files and discussed them together before moving forward.
See what others are saying about NatureGlo's eScience at the Homeschool Review Crew!



MathArt Online 4-Class Bundle {NatureGlo's eScience Reviews}Crew Disclaimer