Category Archives: Elementary

Stretching the Mind

Stretching the Mind

When we were prepping for the school year, we visited a local education supply store. We were looking specifically for some history materials but were enjoying the browsing process. You know – looking at the different curriculum and options and enjoying the “shiny” of it all.

Miss J saw the cover of a book and pulled it out. She sat right down with it and started reading and solving problems. She did not want to put it down. She asked us very nicely if we would buy her the book so she could work all of the puzzles in the book. So we did. (Bonus: it was on sale! So we bought the one for the next level, too.)

The book she wanted: Mind Benders Level 3 from The Critical Thinking Co.

She has consistently worked through the book at two to four puzzles a day. She would spend her complete day on them if I would let her! We have, however, found that more than three or so and they get harder to solve. Not because the puzzles are that much harder but because her brain has been stretched about all it can take for the day. So, we do try to limit her to two.

Each puzzle has a series of boxes to mark up to help you eliminate possibilities and mark the right answer when you find it. The puzzles each have about three or four clues but they aren’t the straight-forward kind. You really have to think about the words used and the hints hidden in them. Then you have to interpret that into the grid you are filling out.

The puzzles vary in topic from grades to professions to positions on sports teams to sibling relationships. They are fun and really encourage brain stretching and growth. What started out as a splurge to encourage her with something she found interesting looking has turned into something much larger and very helpful. I have seen her reasoning skills grow and her ability to think things through grow, as well.

Now if I could find something for impulse training. 🙂

On to level 4 of the series . . .

Blessings,
At Home.

Home School Navigator ~ a Crew review

HomeSchoolNavigatorfinal-3-3

Home School Navigator is a company who has created a full curriculum for elementary language arts for the home educator. Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Curriculum encompasses reading, writing, grammar, poetry, and more. At the more advanced levels, there are also interactive notebooks. 

Interactive Notebook Hugo Cabret

I had two students that used this program – Miss J (3rd/rising 4th) and Miss L (6th/rising 7th). Let’s take a look at Miss L’s use first.

Miss L used this program mainly for the interactive notebooks. There were a couple of titles on the Level Indigo novel list that are on our long-term reading list for Miss L so we decided this would be a great way to tackle a couple of them. We knew that the daily language arts and grammar work would be below her ability level so while I did have her take a look at the word study for Level Indigo, we chose not to use the rest of the materials.

The idea of a word study is something I really like. Taking a word down to its main parts and figuring out how that is used across various words is a great way to increase vocabulary and strengthen word usage. In general, across several levels, I felt this was just too simple. We did two weeks worth of the word study in Level Indigo before I decided that it just was not advanced enough for Miss L. We also worked through the first two weeks worth of work, but in the end, I did feel she already knew enough of the information that it did not make sense for her to continue using the entire curriculum.

Level Indigo

She did tackle the interactive notebook for the novel Holes. The interactive notebook is simply a lapbook. It is something that is built into Homeschool Navigator subscriptions or you can purchase them individually. Once you have access to the file, you simply print out the PDF. Each page tells the student which chapter(s) of the story to read to answer the questions for the notebook. Then the student can cut that out, glue it into the notebook, and write their answer. We chose to cut them out and stick them onto blank pieces of paper and staple together for a single novel interactive notebook, rather than putting them into a composition notebook or spiral to put several together.

Interactive Notebook Holes

Miss J used the whole program. I thought she would use the Green Level but found it was too simple. So we decided that she fit better at the Blue Level. The daily lessons took anywhere from 30 minute to an hour and half, depending on how long the videos she was supposed to watch took. The follow screen shot is for month 1, week 2, day 1. (Yep – that is how the lessons are set up and to me, that is cumbersome.)

Screenshot 2018-05-23 at 10.38.01 AM

You click on Read Aloud and it drops down to show you what the activity for that day for that part of the program is. This is how you access each part of the program. If there is a video to go along with it, there is either a YouTube link (for the books being read aloud) or the video is embedded, as you can see below.

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Each needed worksheet is also linked right there in the program, where you would need it. This is really quite helpful. If you know you are going to use the whole program and will need all of the worksheets and activities, there is also a way to print off all of the work for the entire month at once. That is a great time saving feature if you are using the whole program.

read aloud video

Miss J used the complete weekly lessons for two weeks. At that point, we decided to pick the parts that fit her best, as much of this curriculum was still too simple for her and she needs more hands on activity, rather than worksheet activity. We tended to not use the videos, choosing instead to teach the concept myself. We also did not use a lot of the worksheets, choosing to focus on the idea and talking about the idea.

Level Green

The writing portion sometimes relates to the idea that is being studied and sometimes is a prompt for the student to follow. The computer skills practice is almost always up to the parent to decide how they are going to practice. It does not include a program but rather says “Practice computer skills.” for the daily assignment. We used an email program for this as the girls love to email their family and penpals. Also, the parent will need to assist the child for independent reading, though there is some guidance at the beginning of the program on how to choose a “just right” book.

 

This is a great curriculum for –

Homeschool-Navigation-Product-ImageIf you are looking for a complete language arts program, this is it! This truly has everything you need with very little parent preparation needed. Your student will cover read alouds, study characters and part of the story, poetry, writing, reading, typing, character traits, and other skills. It is all neatly packaged on a single website with links to the materials needed. There is a printable teacher guide to help you know day to day what is needed and it can be printed out or you can access it online as a PDF. There are scope and sequence materials available to help you plan out your year, or at least know what all has been covered. The website will track what your student has completed and you can upload materials they have finished to compile a portfolio. (I used the check off to show completed but did not upload to the portfolio, so I cannot comment on that feature.)

This program begins around late PK/early kindergarten skills and goes through approximately fifth grade skills. The interactive notebooks can go much higher depending on how your student reads and comprehends.

interactive notebook Hugo

For us –

We will not continue using the program. I was disappointed in the novel notebooks, as they did not challenge the girls, though they did cover some things that most lapbooks don’t seem to cover for novels (for example, Holes had her compute how much dirt had to be removed for each hole to be the right size).

Language arts is a difficult area for us to find a single program that fits. With girls that read and comprehend fairly complex ideas, this just wasn’t a solid fit for us. The material needed to be more of a challenge for Miss J, even after we pulled some worksheets from Level Indigo to try her on.

The computer interface was not intuitive for me and took a lot of work to access. The girls could not access it themselves, which made the program less appealing. We also had some issues with sound, though I understand they are fixing this issue as quickly as they can by re-recording the videos that have issues.

online language arts

Overall –

Take a look at Home School Navigator. They have a really good concept and the workings of it are smoothing out daily as they correct some of the interface issues. The material they include is really good if it is a fit for your child. There is a sample lesson for each of the color levels on the site to help you find the right fit for your family. The ladies who created this really want children to succeed and will work with you to find the right fit for your family.

Blessings,
At Home.

Other families from the Homeschool Review Crew have been using this and have shared reviews over the various levels they have used. I highly suggest reading more reviews as I know this program has been a great fit for many of the families. Just click the banner below.

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Making Edible Cells

edible cells

We have been working on a review for Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Anatomy and Physiology. One the appeals of this curriculum is the hands-on learning that is built right into the curriculum.

Recently, we made an edible cell. Cells are the first lesson in anatomy and physiology and this really helped the girls see what all is part of these tiny little building blocks that we cannot see with our eyes.

Using jello as the cytoplasm and various candies to be the different parts of the cells, the girls created an edible cell. After we reviewed what each of the parts was and its job in the cell, the girls ate the cells. I thought they looked too, um, interesting to eat. They, however, thought the candy and jello looked too yummy to not eat. Edible cells, it is then.

This is a don’t miss activity with this curriculum. If you buy the pre-assembled kit that includes everything you need for the hands-on activities, you are good to go and can just open the packet for this lesson. You’ll have the jello and candy you need. It included almost enough to make two complete cells. We had to rummage around the kitchen to find a few bits of candy for a few of the things but overall, it was a simple and fun (and evidently yummy) activity with that pre-assembled kit.

Blessings,
At Home.

Watch for the review coming in just a couple of weeks with the Homeschool Review Crew.

Art with Let’s Go Geography

We are still enjoying working through Let’s Go Geography. We don’t stress over our pacing. Some weeks we do three countries; some weeks, it gets left off. It is always interesting and fun, though, and we are really enjoying it a lot still. I hope Year 2 is out when we are ready for it.

I just thought I would show you some of the art pieces that have been completed in relation to Let’s Go. Miss J absolutely enjoys the art part of this and it is good for her to have this time. I sometimes forget that she is still young and doesn’t need to have all the book time that her older sisters do. Besides the fact that she is a hands-on learner All. The. Way. It sticks with her when it is hands-on so these projects are great for her.

If you are looking for a simple geography program that has lots of skill, take a look at Let’s Go Geography. It is a great curriculum that is simple yet very effective.

Blessings,
At Home.

Bird Books

bird books for unit study

We created a bird study for Miss J. I decided it would be good to share some of the book resources with you that we used. I will be linking to this in an upcoming post on the unit study itself so be watching for it.

bird books on Audubon

We specifically made it a point to talk about John James Audubon and the influence he had on nature studies, and bird studies in particular. These were two very interesting books about him and his work.

The Boy Who Drew Birds by Jacqueline Davies

Capturing Nature: The Writings and Art of John James Audubon edited by Peter and Connie Roop

bird books set 1

These are some of the reference books we picked up at the library.

Backyard Birds

Smithsonian Bird Watcher

Bird – a DK eyewitness book

If You Were a Bird by S. J. Calder

bird books set 2

These books were chosen because they hit on a specific theme or idea we were covering such as nests or the birds we were likely to see based on where we live.

Learn About Texas Birds

Backyard Birds Texas by Bill Fenimore

Birds Build Nests by Cathryn Sill

About Birds: A Guide For Children

bird books set 3

And these were directing some of the more detailed information and questions for the study.

Exploring Creations with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day by Jeannie Fulbright

Look Up: Bird Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate

What’s That Bird? Teacher Key from Memoria Press

These books, by themselves, make a pretty thorough bird study. But, if you want to go further with it, check out the upcoming post about the unit study that Miss J just finished.

Blessings,
At Home.

 

Resources to enrich The Hidden Village

 

resource list post cover

Soon, I will be sharing with you a review of this new book from Bonnie Rose Hudson. She is an amazing writer whose works show us new worlds and lead us to experience people and places we didn’t know about before. The Hidden Village is just such a book. In fact, it is about that very thing. I have pulled these videos together to share with the giggly girls in order to enrich our own reading of the book and to help us understand more about the place and culture of the story and its characters.

The book is set in India, in the part that is known as the state of West Bengal. The village is situated at the southern end of this section, near the Bay of Bengal.

 

MANGROVES

Just a few videos to pick and choose from about mangroves. The place where the story takes places is a mangrove forest and that is very different than any forest my girls have ever seen. So I found a few and we probably will not watch all of them all the way through. But, I did like certain things about each one so I chose a variety.

 

 

 

JUTE

In the book, the family cultivates and harvests jute. So, what better way to understand the work that goes into the harvest of this product than a couple of videos.

 

MARKET

The character talks about visiting the market and what they are able to get from the markets. I imagine this one is still very different from what they experienced in the book but it still gives a bit of an idea to the girls.

 

VILLAGE

I found this interesting. It would be more like the village the main character lives in and not the village that was hidden. Still, some pictures are helpful in understanding more about them, even if it is not as primitive as the book setting.

 

SARI

A sari is a style of dress that is worn long and over one shoulder. These are often colorful and vibrant. The best way to see a sari is to do a search online. Many of what I found were very fancy, not at all what I would imagine the girls and women of The Hidden Village would wear.

INDIAN RHINOCEROS

You can read up on this magnificent animal and see some images pretty easily online. Here is a nice information page about it that gives very readable information on the rhinoceros, an endangered animal. This herbivore can grow very large and is a solitary animal.


MONGOOSE

This little mammal is very small, only about 6 or so inches. It eats both plants and animals, making it an omnivore. They appear much like a weasel but are very agile like a monkey. There are a few images on A-Z Animals and there are plenty of others online.

 

And that is the end of the list. There are probably more that I could pull together and I might. But for not, these are the ones that are specifically mentioned at the end of the book in the section on exploring the world of West Bengal, India.

Weekly Science Lesson

simple weekly science lessons

We have had a lot of fun recently using a weekly science lesson from a company called Mystery Doug. Each week we get an email with a link to a video answering a question. We watch the video and then, if even one of the girls is interested in learning more, we do the extension activities when they are offered.

This week the question was about the skeleton – why do our skeletons have so many bones? The short, five minute video was a neat illustration of the human skeleton and its function. It doesn’t take long for the video and we have really learned a lot of interesting things from these videos.

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Sometimes, there is an accompanying hands-on activity. This week, it was making an artistic rendition of your own hand so that it looks like an x-ray. It was lots of fun and Miss J did a great job with hers.

We have found that the video do so well that the topics pop up in conversations often. For example, the other night, we were talking with grandparents about the trees changing colors. Miss J popped out the explanation for the change in colors and shocked everyone at the table (the other two girls had missed that particular video lesson). She was quite proud of the fact that she knew something no one else did. Great way to increase self-esteem, as well.

If you are looking for a short and simple addition of science to your week, check out Mystery Doug.

At Home.

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