Friday, May 30, 2014

Apologia Educational Ministries {Review}

Apologia Review
Apologia Review
Apologia Educational Ministries is well known for it's powerful apologetic style, creation-based science materials for home education use. But did you know they also provide materials for your child to help develop a Biblical worldview by studying world history from a Christian perspective? What On Earth Can I Do Hardback Book, is the fourth book in the What We Believe Series that helps children in grades first through sixth to become good stewards of the life and giftings that God has given unto them! To go along with this study you can purchase the What On Earth Can I Do Notebooking JournalWhat On Earth Can I Do Junior Notebooking Journal (for the younger ones) and the What On Earth Can I Do Coloring Book.

Apologia Review
In our homeschool, I chose to use this study with my second grader.  I knew that I would be introducing new topics such as WWII, Hitler and the Holocaust and didn't think that my younger two were ready to handle such topics. Fortunately, these topics are presented in a non-traumatic way for young learners. I was hesitant at first to present the material to him, but once I read through the material in both the book and notebooking journal I found that this was actually a gentle way to introduce such sobering topics. 

Personally, I was introduced to these topics around the age of ten through stories through the eyes of children, such as Anne Frank. Even at the young age of ten, I was able to visit her historic home in Amsterdam, Holland. I was introduced to the events of WWII and the holocaust in a way that a child could understand but not in a traumatizing way. Looking back, I see now it's importance because not only was the Holocaust a part of world history but a part of my personal family history. Even at this young age, I met in the Dutch home of a relative who had experienced and survived the Holocaust herself. Oblivious to the full reality at the time, yes, but seeing how this historical event is a part of our family history, even though we aren't Jews, is important. This study allowed me to gently introduce this powerful piece of my family's past, in a gentle way to my oldest son.

Apologia Review

The way that we use this study is I give my second grader the coloring book that goes along with the book. He colors the picture that goes along with the topic we are studying as I read from the book. We then answer the questions in the notebooking journal and go over new vocabulary and concepts that have been introduced to him for the first time. I had some surprising moments with my son with this book. When learning about the word tapestry, he learned that God has a plan for his life and like looking at the back of a tapestry it may not make sense and seem confusing and a mess. But when you turn the tapestry over you'll finally see God's beautiful design that He had been working on all along. This clicked with him and stuck with him. Later in the day he came to me and showed me a drawing he had made of the backside of a tapestry! 

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Top Five Gifts (NOT) To Get Dad This Father's Day!

5- The Potty Putter
A bad idea simple because your dad might actually consider using this, and then hog the bathroom.

4- The Uro Club
Just use a tree, people!


3- Sauna Pants
Join a pool club, you'll look cooler.

2- Snazzy Napper
For the dad who travels and doesn't want everyone seeing him drool on the plane.

1- Happy Hot Dog Man
But wait... there's more!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Review Opportunity For Bloggers

K5 Learning has an online reading and math program for kindergarten to grade 5 students. I've been given a 6 week free trial to test and write a review of their program. If you are a blogger, you may want to check out their open invitation to write an online learning review of their program.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Signed, Sealed, Delivered {Review}

If you're looking for a fun romantic comedy series wrapped in a drama, then this show is for you! The Executive Producer of Touched By An Angel, Martha Williamson, has brought you this new, original series entitled Signed, Sealed, Delivered.

The setting?
A Post Office

The characters?
Postal Detectives

Does this sound humorous? It is, and heartwarming too, as Hallmark shows usually are. This show reminds me of the humor of The Office mixed with Psych's humor, with more of a serious and heart tugging message. As for The Office and Psych, even though I find those shows funny, I don't watch them anymore because of the foul language and often inappropriate themes not conducive to Christianity. It's always encouraging to find a show or movie that doesn't compromise my beliefs. After watching a sneak peek of Signed, Sealed and Delivered's upcoming episode (airing Sunday 8/7c on Hallmark), my husband and I felt like this was a show that we could not only enjoy, but feel comfortable watching!

Enter the world of the postal worker. But not just any mailman or woman. This show follows the lives of four workers whose mission is to find the intended recipients of undeliverable mail. They work as detectives, determined to find the rightful owner no matter how much time as passed since the letter or package has been sent out! 

The team includes charming Oliver O’Toole (Eric Mabius), the group's leader is a man of faith who prayerfully approaches his work with the goal of making a difference in people's lives; new team member, Shane McInerney (Kristin Booth), a technophile who brings 21st century sensibility to the group; free-spirited, “girl next door” Rita Haywith (Crystal Lowe) who has a photographic memory; and lovable Norman Dorman (Geoff Gustafson), a master in conventional research methods.

The upcoming show this Sunday is a must-see! I enjoyed the heartfelt message, exciting twists and humor all wrapped into one episode! You won't want to miss it!

The show aires SUNDAYS, 8/7c on Hallmark

This series even incorporates Scripture in its themes and in the conversations between characters. AND, The American Bible Society has built a bible study to go with the series!

Disclaimer: I was able to watch this Sunday's Episode before it aired to provide you with this review. All opinions stated here are my own, no monetary compensation was received.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

5 Easy Dinners For A Busy Mom

Dinner. Again? It doesn't have to be as stressful as it sounds. If you're anything like me though, when you think of dinner, you think of a nice well thought-out prepared meal. Well, let's get real. We aren't going to bust out the china every single night and every meal does not have to be crazy extravagant! We all know that you can cook up that special dish your friends and family rave about but honestly, you don't need to prove your Betty Crockerness at every meal. Trust me, I fell into this trap thinking that I needed to do this, why? No clue, but I'm over it now and will definitely take a short cut now and then!

5 Easy Dinners

Leftover Chicken Casserole
Grilled Ham and Cheese
 Chili and Rice
Spaghetti and Angel Hair Pasta 
 Hot Dogs and Sauerkraut

There is no shame in simplicity. Take a break once in a while, it's okay!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Golden Prairie Press {Review}

Golden Prairie Press is a comprehensive complete American History program for grades 1-6. Our family has been working through the Digital Heroes and Heroines of the Past: American History Curriculum over the past few weeks and we have been pleasantly surprised!

Golden Prairie Press Review

Heroes and Heroines of the Past: American History Part 1 ebook Sample
Heroes and Heroines of the Past: American History Part 2 ebook
Additional Materials Downloads
This CD has supplemental materials. 
Historical Skits ebook 
Nineteen skits from the time of Columbus to World War II. Sample 
Sing Some History CD
20 Songs! Sample
Listen to Some U.S. History MP3 CD
An audio collection of 20 original speeches, poems, sermons, and documents that are mentioned in the book. Sample
Optional Book
Heroes and Heroines of the Past: American History Coloring Book

Studying history through the eyes of the hero/heroine is an interesting and captivating approach that brings the stories and otherwise seemingly boring events to life! When merely looking back in time at a simple list of names, dates and events, kids (and instructors) can become bored, restless and uncooperative when it comes to attempting to tackle the subject. But when the children and instructors are able to enter into the history books by looking at the events from the perspective of significant historical figures, the kids become more attentive!

One problem that I have noticed with history programs designed for elementary aged students is that it is not comprehensive enough. It simply states a fact about history, expects the child to memorize and remember it and then moves on. I like to teach my kindergartener and second grader history and science together, (requiring more of my second grader in terms of writing obviously), but this past year the history program I used didn't seem to accomplish what I was hoping for. It was frustrating because I personally enjoyed the content of the book just not the way it was presented!

The most important factor that I look for when choosing a history curriculum is whether or not it is Christian based. It intrigues me, as the instructor, to view the same history lesson I learned in public school from a Christian perspective. It amazes me that I could have learned these events without specifically seeing how the hand of God was over these historical men  and women! When studying the Bible, both Old and New Testament, we clearly see the hand of God in the lives of Moses, David and others. But as soon as we enter latter history it's easy to study the facts rather than the heart of the matter. I don't believe this should be the case. The Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever and when looking over the lives of others, it is important to see the consistency of the goodness and faithfulness of God towards His people!

This program does just that! Did you know that Pocahontas became a Christian? (I don't recall that in Disney's interpretation of the story!) Or did you know that Squanto also became a Christian? Knowing these facts are extremely important and looking into the intimate details of lives of Native Americans such as these too are extremely important. There is such a dilemma when coming across skeptics of Christianity who struggle with the fact that the white men came to the New World in the name of Christianity yet the Indians had to take the brunt of things. When looking at history at face value, from a secular perspective, yes, it looks grim and unfair. But when looking at the whole picture, (which could easily develop into another post sometime,) we can clearly see that God cares for His people and all of humanity, desiring for all men to come to Him! 

This curriculum is not small! Book one is 388 pages and book two is  408 pages all covering American history. It is broken up with  passages to read to both 1st-2nd graders and then a longer version for 3rd-6th graders! Perfect for large families with children of ages all across the board! I also am excited because now I am going through this curriculum with a kindergartener and second grader and then next time we study American History when they are older we can study the same events, in more detail, using the same program!

This program is extremely hands-on with plenty of activities! 

Examine Historical Art
Play Games of the Past
Cook Up Some History
Sing Some History

Viking Ship Made of Play dough

Since I received the color digital version, (a black and white hard copy is available also) I chose not to print it out but download it to our homeschool laptop. This worked perfectly. We would sit on the couch, read the lesson, examine the artwork (my kids loved this!) and then go on and get active with the other activities! Their favorite was the play dough!

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

New Sights and Sounds

I love the city. It's just I've become so out of practice. It's certainly not foreign to me, I grew up only 20 minutes outside of Rochester, NY. As a teen I would frequent the local coffee shops and enjoy spending time with my friends out in the city on a cool summer evening. Even on random weekends in college we would drive to Philly and  big sometimes even head out to the Big Apple on a long weekend.

Then, I discovered the Blue Ridge Mountains. I've been converted. Farm living is the life for me! So, needless to say, that farm life is all my kids have known. Sure, we've visited some small cities, and even DC but we have never stayed in the heart of one for several days! Well, there's a first time for everything! Here are some fun new things the kids have seen...

Ice Cream Trucks
Emergency Vehicles Zooming By Up close
Alley Cats (they want to take them all home!)
Grocery Cart Blockers (so you can't take! them into the parking lot)
Interesting People (to be discussed in a later post)
City Apartments

Details and pics of out experiences are coming soon so stay tuned!!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Logic of English {Review}

Logic of English Review

We are so pleased to have been able to use Logic of English in our homeschool recently. Last year I tried a version meant for older aged children and even though my oldest was able to grasp it, his brother who is only a year younger just was not ready! I was thrilled to have been able to use Foundations Level A with him this year and pleasantly surprised with the quick and tangible results! Level A is written for children ages 4-7 so I chose to use it primarily with my six year old. 

At first glance, I thought that the material might be too basic and easy for him. In the beginning the program works on how sounds are formed in the mouth and how to form the letters in writing. He already "knew" his sounds and letters but the problem was, when I would tell him that the number "three" was spelled with a "th" he would argue and say "no, it should start with an "f." I then realized that I really needed to go back to the basics and not only teach the sounds but how they are formed in the mouth. I had heard before that it helps to have a mirror handy for the child to see exactly how their tongue or mouth should move when forming certain letters or sounds. That helps, but this program actually takes it further and in a way that my son is able to really "get it." 

When learning how sounds are formed and how to recognize them, the children learn early on the difference between voiced or unvoiced sounds and nasal sounds. Something clicked for my six year old and even my four year old loved this! She would often talk about "voiced" sounds and her voice box, it was cute. 

Even though I am using the consumable workbook and materials with my six year old, I also have my daughter (who just turned four while using this program) sit in on the lesson. There are many games and activities throughout each lesson and it just makes it more fun to have several kids be able to play along. Actually, my seven year old will join at times to when we are playing certain games because he sees the others having so much fun he doesn't want to miss out!

And the games really are fun! When we do Logic of English, I generally do it right after lunch. At this point they are full of energy and do not need a subject where you just sit still. Fortunately, since this is geared for younger children, it provides active games that include movement such as hopscotch. Some of the games are simple such as sounding out words. When the child can figure out what word you are sounding out they either act it out or go and find the object, depending on the game. My younger ones have a blast with these games! 

The teacher's manual and consumable workbook are pictured below. The manual is very user friendly providing a script for each lesson along with activity ideas in the side margin that can be used to help drive certain points home using very hands-on methods. 
The workbook is simple and easy for children to follow along. Even though I use this book with my six year old it could easily be used with younger children. The pictures are engaging and interesting for young ones, capturing their attention!
Logic of English Review
Teacher's Manuel $38
Student Workbook $18
It has been working well to split up each lesson between two days. This way, we generally complete two lessons a week, working on it four days out of the week. This works perfect for my kids. I set aside about 15 - 20 minutes for Logic of English. The first part of lesson focuses on "English" and the second part of the lesson is "Handwriting."  Splitting the lesson up between two days is perfect because then we aren't doing the same type of thing each day. It breaks it up and provides variety.

Logic of English Review
Reusable Resources

 Having the reusable resources on hand was extremely helpful. This set includes a half-size Logic of English Whiteboard, a Rhythm of Handwriting Chart, Basic Phonogram Flash Cards, Tactile Cards and two sets of Game Cards.

Also available is the hardcover book, Doodling Dragons: An ABC Book of Sounds. I honestly haven't seen a book of sounds quite like this one before! It's simple, concise, entertaining AND it introduces ALL the sounds that each letter makes at once. This is an interesting approach because the way that I usually go about it is I will teach the short sounds first. Once the child masters those, they learn the long and then other rule breakers. Logic of English has a completely different approach. I honestly thought that it would be confusing and hard to introduce all of the sounds that "a" makes at once but surprisingly enough my kids are picking it up. Obviously we don't go over the rules as to when you use a short or long vowel on day one, but at least it introduces them to all of the sounds immediately.

Doodling Dragons: An ABC Book of Sounds
The way that handwriting is taught in this program is also different than what I am used to, but I have to say right off the bat that I love it! I chose the manuscript method because I wanted my son to work on his printing skills before tackling cursive. But the best part of this method is it actually prepares the child for cursive in the way the manuscript letters are formed. 

Even though my six year old knew how to write his letters before starting Logic of English, he had a long way to go towards perfecting them. With that said, I decided to simply start over and teach him this new method. Each lesson that introduces a new letter (phonogram) provides different ways for the child to practice forming the letter. My son's favorite were the tactile cards. These cards have a "sandpaper" feel where the phonogram is raised. The child then learns how to form the letter, step by step using specific strokes (these strokes are actually taught even before the phonograms are introduced). It is simple enough for my four year old but effective for older kids such as my six year old!

Below are some of the letters that my six year old has been working on and let me tell you,
he is improving tremendously!

This program is working well for us and I plan to continue on with the next levels after we complete level A! The only part of the program that can seem overwhelming at times is keeping all of your materials together! I remember struggling with that when I tried a different aspect of their program in the past so as soon as I received my materials in the mail this time, I immediately found a reusable shopping bag to store my Logic of English materials!

My only suggestion would be to possibly offer a bag of sorts that says, "Logic of English" for teachers or parents to store their materials in, simply to make it easier to keep track of everything! 

When all is said and done, I highly recommend this program! It is effective, interactive, easy to teach and fun for the kids! Check out what others have to say by clicking the banner below! 

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Where is Thumbkin?

If you are anything like me in your homeschool, then when you first began you were ready to go with your first child. You pulled out all the stops. Basically, you taught them everything you know. In like, one month. Then you hit the library and Internet and searched for more and then you realize, "hey I know more than what I thought," and keep on going. I don't know. Maybe it's just me, but I seriously sang every song I could remember from my childhood, at least to my first kid I did. One of which was "Where is Thumbkin." A classic. Hey, it's important that our kids know what their fingers are called, right? Well, I taught this to my first two and didn't really focus so much on my youngest with the song. I mean, it's just a silly song. Bad idea. Because now when she "points" she uses her middle finger. Seriously. I say, "use your POINTER finger please," and realize I need to go over the song with her. Of course it's natural to use your middle finger, it makes sense because it's the longest, right? 

Moral of the story:

Teach your child "Where is Thumbkin," and you'll save yourself much public embarrassment with your child! 

Frontier Culture Museum {Review}

Step out of the confines of your classroom and take a walk into history when you visit the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, Virginia! This living history museum brings you back in time to the period of history when the settling of colonial America began to take root in this part of the nation. Beginning in the Old World, visitors are able to see replicas of traditional West African homes similar to those of the slaves who were brought to the New World to work on tobacco plantations. 

When we entered the West African site I was excited to share with my children a replica of the homes during these times! We are currently studying colonization and had just recently read about how slaves were brought over from Africa to work on the plantations. To be able to see, up close what the homes may have been like at those times will now be etched in their little minds!

This museum is self guided and very hands-on. Basically, you go at your own pace and when you arrive at each outdoor exhibit, you are greeted by costumed staff representing the time period displayed. 
Here, my kids were able to learn about the West African mud houses that women and children in the 1700's would have to patch up during their chores! Not only were they able to learn about it but here my six year old was able to jump right in and help! The rest of the time in the exhibit you can basically tour it yourself, entering the huts and observing yourselves. You could ask any questions about the time period you'd like and we learned quite a bit!

Traditional buildings from England, Ireland and Germany are located on the grounds either constructed on site or brought in from it's original location, such as the Irish Forge, the blacksmith shop!
Below is a beautiful 1600's English home. When we walked up to this home I felt like we really had stepped back in time. This is a homeschool mom's dream to be able to teach about the ones who traveled to the New World in this time period. Then we are able to enter a home similar to the ones they lived in at that time! Love it. When we were there, they had just finished sheering the sheep and the wool was still all over the place. Not to mention the fact that the sheep were roaming free in the fields, talk about picture perfect.

One of my children's favorite exhibits was the 1700's Native American encampment. Something about going into a wigwam that grabbed their attention I guess!

Pictured above is my daughter trying out America's first "sandpaper" which was simply sand and rock. 

My favorite moment of the day was visiting the 1740's settlement in the New World. As soon as my kids saw the chimney, immediately they said, "hey, that's like the one Pa built!" You know, from the Little House books. The fact that they were able to put the two and two together made me think that they actually are paying attention in our homeschool, haha. We love read alouds in our schooling and the Little House series is becoming one of our favorites!

My kids also enjoyed the homes from the 1800's which were teeming with life as the gardens were just starting to show growth. As we walked into the home a costumed man greeted us as he was chopping wood in front of the home. I love this time period and enjoyed seeing the spinning wheel, old furniture and old fashioned baby cradle beside the bed. 

 Next we were able to see the one room schoolhouse which is also exciting for young children. We are always hearing about "slates" when talking about this time period and my kids were able to see what they actually were and how they were used. It's one thing to talk about them but another to see them up close and personal!

This museum takes care of it's customers and meets all of it's needs. Restrooms are conveniently located throughout so it was never a problem with three young children! They also have picnic tables available by the parking lot so you can bring your own lunches and not feel pressured to have to buy food from them. Of course there was food available if you don't bring anything! They also have shuttles available to get back to the parking lot throughout the day. Wagon rentals are available too! 

It's great because this museum is located directly off Route 81. So if you are traveling and looking for an educational, hands on stopping point, this is the way to go! Check their site for hours and pricing, (Children under 6 are free!)

Disclaimer: We received complementary tickets for our exciting adventure from the museum. All opinions stated here are my own. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

ARTistic Pursuits {Review}

ARTistic Pursuits Review

ARTistic Pursuits is an art program designed for students preschool through high school. In our homeschool, we have been working through the book, Early Elementary K-3: Introduction to The Visual Arts. This level has been a perfect fit for us since it tends to be more advanced than the preschool material yet simple enough to explain the basics in a way that kindergarteners through third graders can understand. Our family is drawn to the arts and has a strong appreciation for the arts on many levels. The only problem is, I have no clue how to actually teach art. I have a passion for art and a small amount of knowledge but art history and technique are not my strengths. So having a course available to use in our homeschool that ties all of these aspects together has been exactly what we have needed!

ARTistic Pursuits Review
When you purchase this book, you will receive a full school year's worth of lessons, all of which include fun and exciting projects geared towards younger elementary students. There are 36 lessons and we have been working on a lesson a week. The program's aim is to provide hands-on activities for your child while also teaching them how to be observant. They do this by having the student observe the work of famous artists such as Degas and Monet, paying attention to detail and the emotion that the artist is trying to portray. I love the idea of introducing famous pieces of art and artists while teaching simple art concepts. The child is not only able to learn from the piece of art but also able to form a relationship with it so if they come in contact with it again in the future, they will recognize it!  


Once you order your book, you can visit the website and view the specific supply list for your particular book. At first I was nervous that I would have to spend a ton of money on the materials for these projects. But once I ordered everything I needed, I hadn't spent that much even when ordering for three children! When your materials are on hand you can begin! The first few lessons taught the use of watercolor crayons. Honestly, I had never even heard of this method of painting! First, you color with watercolor crayon and then use a paintbrush and water to go over the crayon and "paint." At first my kids struggled with the detailed items, everything seemed to smear, but then once they focused on drawing larger figures on their pictures they started to get the hang of it! Below, they had to draw a picture of a time that they enjoyed. They were supposed to remember the emotions and feelings that felt at that time and try to portray it in the picture. The picture below was done by my second grader who drew the time when he found his cat outside in the woodpile. It was a kitten when he rescued it and it has become a part of the family ever since!

Created with Watercolor Crayons

 Yeah, part of the family. And, part of our homeschool art class. Poor cat. 

 One lesson asked the children to draw something in nature. Like I said, poor cat. 

Created with Ebony Pencils

I'm pretty excited to be using this curriculum in our homeschool and  I know I am not the only one. Check out what others have to say about this program by clicking the banner below.

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