Saturday, September 29, 2012

Family Music Time: Simple, Fun, and Melodic #hsreviews

unvlDad, is passionate about music and sound
Because of music I met my husband, while I was pregnant with our oldest we were both in a community choir, and for 3 years we were part of the worship team at a community church we attended; so, music has been a large part of our lives and I want to instill that in our children. Having a variety of music and music programs available to the boys is very important to me.  We don't do a formal sit down time, but tend to take our music with us on the go or outside, so I wasn't sure how the boys would respond to a sit down program like Music Together, but I'm always willing to try something.  The program is geared toward early elementary children, but I really felt like the simple melodies would be a good thing for the boys. I wanted to have a solid base to work with as they grow. The set we received included a 19 song CD and the Songbook for Teachers from Music Together and retails for $39.95.
After receiving the set and loooking it over, I decided to go at it a little differently since the boys are older. We took the CD and the book in the truck for a day trip and thouroughly enjoyed the songs and singing along. Nathan enjoyed I've been working on the Railroad and Cameron liked Obwisana the most, but they both had fun just being kids and enjoying the rhythms and catching tunes.  We have enjoyed listening to the music during play time and on short road trips. We have even taken to creating our own music makers from sticks in the back yard to dry beans in recycled Easter eggs and old spice jars.
I love the Songbook for teachers as it is full of suggestions for younger and older children as well as special needs children for instance with I've been working on the Railroad   it is recommends using a firm march or stomp to be a train for chidlren with Special needs as a way to help contain the high energy activity because of the deep pressure of the stomping,  it also suggests a "secret singer" with older children. You can add additional books about trains to create a fun extension activity.
I love that there are so many ways to incorporate music into the rest of our homeschool and life.

We try and give the boys lots of room especially where music is concerned. Nathan loves creating music and finding new ways to make music.
Did you know you can use a violin bow to play a guitar? Neither did I, but he did.  (these are from a while ago, but still to this day, he claims guitello is his creation and loves to dream up new instruments and ways to create music).

Thankfully, programs like Music Together will help encourage that passion for music in him.

Be sure to check out what the rest of the crew thought of Music Together HERE


disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received a copy of the above mentioned product for free to review and share our opinion with our readers. All opinions are that of this writer.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Wine or Not?

I recently atended a series of talks on fermentation in McMinnville.
Friday afternoon I  received a small package of water kefir grains from one of the speakers. I was grateful for the gift and to meet another homeschooler in the community.

I made my first batch of juice as soon as I got home.
I used organic sugar, fresh ginger, lemons, and homemade raisins. I was surprised how easy it was to put together and how quickly it brewed.  It took 18 hours to brew on the counter  for the first batch. The second batch pictured here is brewing faster, partially I think because I added an extra lemon slice and there was more kefir grains. I didn't realize they would multiply so quickly. I think my third batch will end up being in a half gallon instead of the quart.

I decided to do a secondary ferment on part of the batch with some of my grape juice from last season. I let it brew for another 12 hours and then poured a glass before dinner while I was writing a couple of posts. There is very little alcohol content (I suppose I should test it to find out the exact percentage, but not tonight). Tonight I am going to just enjoy the drink and enjoy my homemade sauerkraut with campfire hot dogs.

I am enjoying this new adventure and will continue to share as I find new goodies to create.

A Cry From Egypt: a read aloud review #hsreviews

As we are studying Old Testament Bible History this year, I was very eager to have Cameron read A Cry From Egypt as a read aloud. 
A Cry From Egypt is written by Hope Auer a recent homeschool graduate and published by Great Waters Press. Hope began writing the story as a school assignment at age 13 when her family was studying Ancient Egypt. 
A couple of things I really liked about the book, while the story takes place during the 7 plagues in Egypt, Miss Auer isn't retelling the story, she is following a family on the outside of the story as they come to know Yahweh as a family in this amazing time. 
I'm leaving most of the review up to Cameron as he has been the one really reading it, but as a parent of a reluctant reader I was so happy I could share this book with him.  Showing him this book written by a young person who was homeschooled gave him a sense of hope in his education and a hope that his struggles with reading could become something bigger as he grows. 
You can purchase advanced readers copy for $12.50 online . You can also follow the author's Facebook Page for fun insights into her writing and upcoming information about the book.

Cameron reading a book (not sure which one)
Cameron's thoughts on the book:
I thought the book was hard to read at first but once I got use to the new names I really enjoyed the story. Mommy read with me so I didn't have to read it all by myself. I also liked learning about the different names of God, that was something new for me, it made me want to read more in my Bible to find out more about his names.
I liked reading the story because it was about children and their story how they came to know God.
I don't really like reading that much so sitting down and reading the book out loud was hard but I'm glad I did it.  Reading it out loud made the story come to life. I know the story of Moses and the seven plagues , but I never thought about the other people and how it really made them feel. 
I don't want to give away the story and I haven't quiet finished the book so if you comment please don't tell me the end.  I'm a slow reader but that is ok, if I keep reading I will get better.

I was so glad Cameron agreed to share his thoughts on reading this book on the blog. He didn't want to write it himself, so I asked him to narrate to me and I would type it. This book is recommended for ages 8 and up and but also makes a good read aloud for the whole family if you are studying Ancient Egypt from a Biblical perspective. 

The Schoolhouse Crew reviewed several books from Great Waters Press, be sure to stop by and check them out


disclaimer: as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew we received a copy of the above book to review and share our thoughts with you our readers. 

Once a Week Unit Study? Yes it is possible with Homeschool Legacy #hsreviews

I love unit studies and am always looking for new ones for the boys, so when I heard about Homeschool Legacy's Once-a-Week Unit Study I was intrigued. I showed them to the boys the variety they carry and we decided on Knights and Nobles which retails for $15.95 and covers grades 2 through 12 , making it a great unit for a multi-age family.  This book is loaded with activities  reading lists, and even a suggested family movie night.
There is a list of suggested books, along with thoughts on how to deal with the problem of your local library not having particular books, she suggests simply going to the section of the library where suggested books would be found using the Dewey Decimal system and looking at books they do have. What a fantastic idea for those of us with small community libraries, this also leads well into a lesson on using the library for the kids.
 If you are a traditional textbook homeschool family, adding a unit study can be daunting. From personal experience using a variety of unit studies over the last 5 years I know there are a lot of options out there for families to choose from.  Homeschool Legacy offers several features in their program that really caught my eye, especially now that we are doing more classical/ traditional school for the core curriculum. I love the idea that we can set aside the math and reading activities and do some thematic activities while still learning about Nobles and their Knights including devotionals and Biblical characters, add elements to our history timeline books, expand on the boys' knowledge of castles. play some fun games, practice their juggling skills, and much more.  
The boys are planning a medieval feast for family (they are actually trying to convince Mommy to let them take over Thanksgiving and honestly I might just let them, of course I will help them prepare the food, but let them do all the planning and decorating, etc..)
Another bonus if you have Boy Scouts or American Heritage Girls they can work on their honor badges, honestly if you have kids in any scouting group you can most likely figure out an honor or two they can earn working through this unit.  
We are actually splitting this unit up even farther to fit into our current history timeline, as we are studying Biblical history this year. I am very grateful for the Biblical focus of this product and being able to show the boys the "knights" and Nobles of the Bible as they really hadn't made the connection of the Biblical characters, their virtues, and the Knights/ Nobility concept. When I started homeschooling and using unit studies I tended to do a unit study as school and pull everything into that, I find that this still actually works really well for us and is doable where the boys struggled with full time unit studies, they were eager to learn with a more staggered approach. Also having a family movie night that could be mixed into school made it so much fun. We actually watched One Knight with the King since I had it on DVD and it fit into the theme and characters being studied. 
Homeschool Legacy logo
I can see so many more benefits to this product as we continue on our journey. I love the basis for the product and with a retail price of less than $20, it is a doable purchase for our library.
Be sure to check out the variety of units reviewed by the rest of the Schoolhouse Crew
Disclaimer: as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received an electronic copy of the product mentioned in this review for free.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Are you ready to get Family Fit? #hsreviews

Homeschool Physical Education With 2 little boys who seems to be in constant motion I really didn't give much thought to a formal Physical Education program for them; that was until I was given the opportunity to use Family Time Fitness.
There are times I thought, with only 2 boys playing some of the games I grew up with could pose a challenge, but by putting into play the activities in Family Time Fitness' Homeschool Physical Education Program, I am able to show them , teach them, and play with them.
I have to be honest with you, I hated P.E. in school, seriously I hated it, the activities didn't seem relevant to me and I never felt like I learned anything of value.  Thankfully, I can say Family Time Fitness isn't like that.  Simple games like Red Light , Green Light can be played even with 2 little boys.
Teaching the boys how to exercise rather than just how to play games was something I hadn't really given that much thought to, but as we began to work on the how-to's of exercising and tracking their exercising that led to looking at other ares where we could really look at the how-to's.
Cameron is a runner, really has been since he learned to walk. Now, I can teach him the whole practice of running: warming up, intervals, cool down, proper diet, and hydration. It really becomes a part of our school day.
The Family Time Fitness program is really a value if you look at what you and your students will gain from working out together and the knowledge and good  habits you will help them create.

The is an e-book program that retails for $57. You can't get a gym membership for that for even 1 person let alone a whole family. For a program that will continue to teach the family, that is an amazing value.

If you would like some more inspiration, check out Family Time Fitness on Facebook  where they share all kinds of health and fitness tidbits.

You can see what the rest of the Crew thought of the program HERE or by clicking on the Crew button below.

Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received an e-book copy of the above program for free to review and share our opinion with our readers. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Speekee TV agrega música a la escuela española #hsreviews

We have been looking for a Spanish program that the boys would enjoy for the last couple of years. We take a very relaxed approach to foreign languages right now, but still want them to be comfortable with the language. When we first heard about Speekee TV we thought it looked like fun, an immersion style program with lots of children and fun puppets.  The approach is relaxed in that it moves around changing locations with each video but maintains the immersion style teaching by only speaking Spanish.  The videos also show the English translation under each phrase helping the children make the connection. 
Speekee is full of colorful scenes and catchy tunes while teaching families basic Spanish.
Speekee TV is a series of 10 video episodes containing more than 2 hours of Spanish videos for the children and family to watch. The videos show Spanish children in various locations through out Spain and includes activity sheets and fun downloadable curriculum to reinforce the learning. 
We have enjoyed the videos, the boys like to watch the videos standing around the computer so they can move with the music. Not only does this help them remember what they are learning, they are using more of their scenes to gain more from each lesson. 
I really liked the weekly Fast Track emails giving me an idea of what was in this week's lessons. This helped incorporate the program into our school schedule without a lot of extra work for Mom. Both my boys enjoy the program without a lot of tweaking. The program is geared toward Elementary Ages, but younger children would also enjoy the fun puppet characters including Speekee. 
I appreciate the extras with Speekee including flashcards. One thing to consider, this is European Spanish and since it is based on Spain, the English translations are the Queen's English not American English. My oldest noticed a couple of words that didn't look right to him, that led to a wonderful conversation about how the English Language has been changed over the years.
Spanish ImmersionSpeekee TV is a subscription based program and sells for $7.50 a month that can be paid using PayPal or $60 for a full year. If you are interested in trying the program they offer a 2 week free trial, which will give you the opportunity to try it with your kids and see if it is a good fit. 

Check out what the rest of the Crew thought by clicking the button above

disclaimer: We received a subscription to Speekee TV as members of the SchoolhouseReview Crew in exchange for our honest review of the program.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Field Trip to the Oregon Gardens

This has become an annual event for us and I am so glad I decided to do it again this year.
This year I decided to add a more organized activity to the mix by giving the boys a scavenger hunt to notebook as they made stops at the various activity stations. I found a wonderful full color printable scavenger hunt at The Taylor House blog. I printed copies half sized so they would fit inside the boys' composition books and add a pencil and crayons to their backpacks and off we went.
Homeschool field trip
Cameron was excited to take his backpack and add his Gtuzy Gear straps just for the occasion.
We headed into the garden knowing that we would have at least 8 or 9 stations with activities to try plus exploring the garden. I knew we would likely run into some of our homeschool friends as well. My plan was to be to the garden by 11:00 and heading home by 1:45 at the latest. The idea being, that we would be there when our friends were there and we would be done before the local school let out as to miss traffic.
Ready , Set , off we Go!

The boys found a larger map to look at the figure out their plan. Since this was our third year attending this activity we already knew where most of the stations were located. We decided to only do the upper level activities in an attempt to combine our scavenger hunt and keep our timeline.

Nathan was very excited about the scavenger hunt and made a point to stop and draw in his notebook often.

Cameron found one of his homeschool friends and they checked out the insect station taking on the sorting activity to test their knowledge.  Watching Cameron do this activity reminds me that I want to print and laminate some sorting cards for various activities.

Nathan couldn't help himself, he surveyed the crossing  for several minutes before deciding he had to jump it.
Nothing but air!
He is such a dare devil, no fear!
This is just one of the plants we decided we want to find and plant in our yard. I'm dreaming up a plants unit study for the boys and maybe a landscape design project for them.

If you would like to see the rest of the pictures I took on our field trip, check out my Google+ album


Math 911 to the rescue! #hsreviews #homeschool #highschool

Homeschool Curricula
I have a number of homeschool friends that one of their biggest concerns with homeschooling for the long haul is MATH. We all remember suffering through High School Math and never understanding when we would ever use Algebra again let alone Calculus or Trigonometry.  Well the time has come (actually this was more of a refresher course for me and my husband).  We decided to take a preemptive approach to teaching Math. In other words, Mommy will retake all the Math she has forgotten for High School and College over the next 2 or 3 years in her "spare" (insert hysterical laughter here) time, so when the boys are closer to jr. high age we can start Algebra and Geometry as formal subjects rather than just ideas mixed into their regular Math.

Not sure how I was going to accomplish this task, mostly for the fact I don't have a lot of spare time and the spare time I do have is spent doing things to add food stores to the pantry or create something fun and interesting for the boys' school, I was elated to find Math911.
I really couldn't have asked for more. This is such a complete program, I am actually thinking I will save it and use it with the boys when we reach that point. 
Math911 is NOT a gamers program, there are not flashy graphics, it is simple step by step instruction in Math. Professor Weissman's program works toward mastery, which is a key point with our homeschooling philosophy. The 'student', in this case Mom has to get a certain number of problems correct to prove that I understand the concept. I'll be honest hear, this was harder than I thought. It has been 16 years since I took a math class and that was Statistics. Algebra and Pre-Calculus were from High School 20 + years ago. 
I love that the website is simple like the program and has an email and phone number available for tech support. There are also free updates to the program that can be downloaded from the website. 
It gets even better! You can purchase this complete program for only $49.95 which includes ALL the Math subjects (Intro to Algebra, Intermiate Algebra, College Algebra, Trigonometry,and  Pre-Calculus.  
As a busy Mom, I am so grateful for programs like this were I can take the classes I need so I can keep my boys at home and feel like they are getting the knowledge and skills they need. If I can do it, so can you and your kids.

Be sure to check out how the rest of the crew put this program to work for their schoolrooms. 

disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received a downloadable copy of this program for free in exchange for my review of the product.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Reading is King with Reading Kingdom #hsreviews

As we began looking ahead to our fall term, I was looking for something that Nathan could do on his own to help his reading. He is an independent learner and often gets frustrated with Mom guiding him.
When Reading Kingdom came up to review on the Crew, I decided it couldn't hurt to give it a try. I had tried a demo previously and honestly couldn't remember what the boys thought of it (lame I know but I went through a period of trying everything I could get my hands on and not really keeping track of what was working)

Anyway, Nathan started out with the placement test and for whatever reason it placed him in a pre-reading level. I was like "No Way, something is up" and Nathan just walked away because it was too easy and in his words "Lame".  I emailed Reading Kingdom immediately to see what we could do, especially since he is reading at a mid range 1st grade level. I was happy to see that his level could easily be adjusted by the support staff, and we began out journey. About 3 sessions into I noticed Nathan getting frustrated with the amount of time given for a response. Since Mom is not suppose to help him I could only sit back and take notes. I decided to check into adjusting the time limit for answering questions, luckily there is a setting for just that and I was able to adjust it up so that he had a little longer to find the keys on the keyboard rather than using an online keyboard. He wants to type his answers but still struggles with letter placement on the keyboard. Now that we have fixed that issue, he works through his lessons and actually asks to do his lesson for the day and takes the initiative to go back and practice things he has issues with.
Now that I've shared our rough start and the excitement Nathan now has, lets take a look at the meat of the program.

Reading Kingdom really covers it all as far as the skills involved in Reading and comprehension.

The program is interactive and visual allowing the student to be hands on with the keyboard as well as visual with the lesson seeing not only the words, but the activity that needs to be completed.

Reading Kingdom offers a great demo for 30 days free of charge. After the free period the program is a subscription based program for $19.99 a month ($199.99 a year) for the first reader on your account and $9.99 a month ($99.99 a year) for each additional reader. Supporting readers through grade 3, this program is fun and interactive and is really a great way to support independent learners on their journey.  Reading Kingdom also has books available as well as links to additional resources to support your reader.

Check out what the rest of the crew thought of this program

disclaimer: We received a subscription to the above program as members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew to use and share our opinions with our readers here. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Everyday Homemaking, doesn't mean bland and boring food thanks to Everyday Cooking

I hate bland food and I am always looking for simple easy meals that the family will enjoy. So Everyday Cooking was a perfect find for me.As a homeschool mom of 2 little boys, I find that I'm often in the kitchen alone, especially lately with the nice weather outside (not too hot and not too cold). With that I am always looking for new ideas that will make it easy. I fell in love with this e-book cookbook. 
I have it saved on my phone, yes my cell phone, so it is crazy handy. I use it in the kitchen and while I am grocery shopping. I have tried several of the tips and tricks listed through out this book as well as a few of the recipes. I love that the recipes are simple enough that I can modify them. Even better many of the meat / main dish recipes list various cooking methods. Something about the way this book was written has inspired me to start cooking with my pressure cooker. I love canning with it, but never really thought of cooking with it, until I read the recipe for roast. I usually cook a roast (especially a pot roast) in the crock pot, but will be cooking one in my pressure cooker this coming week to save time. 
Vicki Bentley does an amazing job keeping it simple enough for busy moms. She also inspires Moms with real and healthy ideas on her blog
If you are looking for whole food, simple, recipes then I can't say enough about this book. If you are looking for someone to hold your hand along the way, honestly that is how I felt as I was reading the book, like Mrs. Bentley was right there with me talking me through the steps. 

I am trying to make meals ahead and make healthier meals for my family and honestly this cookbook has inspired me.  At first I wasn't sure about an e-book cookbook, but now I think I have used it more in the last few weeks than my tried and true BHG checkboard binders (I have 4 different ones that I use along with a variety of other cookbooks). I'm sold on the e-book cookbook! When else can you have you cookbook when you go grocery shopping? Seriously, I actually pulled it up on my phone a few weeks ago at the grocery store to make sure I had all the ingredients listed for a particular recipe.

The book is available online in print with a coil binding for $17.99 which would make a great gift, or as an e-book for only $14.99, which is a great deal for this amazing book. 

Be sure to check out what the rest of the crew thought of this book as well as another book from Everyday Homemaking


disclaimer: I received an e-book copy of this product as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my review of the product.

Montessori Math: Division board DIY

Last year I started the process of creating our own Montessori Math pieces.
My husband helped me create some peg board bead boards for Division work, we just hadn't used them yet. Until today.

We are using a blended / modified Montessori room and today for our Problem of the Day I decided this would be a great way to introduce the Division Board.
The Spiral Problem of the Day book is from a Math book set I picked up 2 years ago (I free cycled a school districts stash of "out of date" books for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade, sharing most of them, recycling the worn out ones and saving a complete set including supporting materials for myself.)

Montessori Homeschool
Using basic Pegboard, I enlarged the wholes so pony beads would fit but not fall through.
For our basic division I have a stack of 4 jars that screw together. Each jar has 100 green, blue, or red beads and 50 black beads.
The black beads act as the Divisor.  The green, blue, and red beads work together act as the Dividend.

To make it easy to see the numbers I had Nathan build his 48 in the lower corner of the board. We had 8 black beads across the top and started to work out the problem exchanging tens for ones whenever we needed to.
Working through the problem from his bean bag spot, my 7 year old is figuring out a story problem in parts.

Once we figured out how 48 muffins divided into the 8 "containers", we could count how many muffins were in just 3 of those containers.

We wrote in our Math journal to show how we worked through the problem, but that will be another day's post.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hands on Phonics and Spelling day


Today was the second of Fall Term for Unionvale Homeschool students and teacher.
Today we worked on phonics and spelling using one of our favorite tools, Reading Rods from Learning Resources   I scored the Phonics activity set a couple of years ago and Goodwill for $2.99 along with the  Word Building Activity Set for $2.99. I was elated with my find since they retail for around $30 and I still want to get the Simple Sentence Activity set.
Anyway, I wanted something that would challenge them but could be done comfortably as I didn't want to move out of the classroom today.

Cameron worked on blended beginning sounds creating 4 words. He challenged himself by doing more than just blend, V, C. He upped his game by using silent "e" and well as "y" and double vowel combinations. I had them write their words on the wipe off boards. Cameron had an extra line on his so decided to practice his full name in cursive along the last line. I think I'm going to like the bean bag work spots.

Nathan was happy to work on "es" plural words on the bean bag with his bucket of letters. Mommy is very glad she kept the over-sized  organizer bin, it is 15 inches long so it sticks out of the cubbies too far and was going to be given to Goodwill , but since it works so well to dump letters in, it will stay for now.

After Phonics we moved on to Math , but I will save our new collection of Math activities for another post.

Happy Homeschooling!

p.s. This is NOT a sponsored post, just me sharing one of my favorite products we use in our homeschool.