Category Archives: Elementary

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.

company name

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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Hands-On History from Home School In The Woods ~ a Crew review

 

When learning something that is full of ideas and images, such as history, hands-on learning brings a concrete element to it. Home School in the Woods (HSITW) is a hands-on history company that brings some understanding to ideas, elements, and cultures that we cannot get without a tactile activity. We have had fun this summer with some relaxed learning about our home state of Texas through HSITW’s new product, Make-a-State Activity.

Hands-On History Activity-Paks: Make-A-StateMake-A-State is a part of the Activity-Paks series. Other titles in the series include:

*The Old Testament
*The New Testament
*Composers
*Artists

HSITW is a company focused on bringing history to life through hands-on activities and informative readings. Each of the products in the HSITW lines are well-researched and well-written. The information is written at a level that upper elementary students and older are generally able to read and understand it on their own. However, with just a little bit of help, even younger elementary students are very capable of using and learning with all of the HSITW products that we have used over the years.
(Project Passport: Ancient Greece, Project Passport: Ancient Egypt, U.S. Elections)

Hands-On History Activity-Paks: Make-A-StateMake-A-State is a Activity-Pak that can be used to study any state in the U.S or Washington D.C. The activities all work together to create a lapbook that includes more than 20 mini projects. All together these projects will give an overview of the chosen state. Most of the topics are generic in theme, allowing it be created specifically for your state. These topics include things like the agriculture of the state, the industry, the climate and the government. Also included are projects about the wildlife, the state song, and sports teams. From the history of the name of the state to the native peoples that live there, many topics are similar from state to state. Creating a tourist brochure and a mini newspaper are a couple of the projects that take a tad bit longer but are well worth the increased efforts.

There are also some projects that are designed to be specific to your state. These include a recipe, the motto, and the state bird and flower. There is also a map to create for your chosen state that you can personalize or mark in a way that fits what you are emphasizing for your state. Not to be forgotten, each state also has a state quarter that is designed to well-represent the state and there is a project to show that off, too.

Lastly, there is a folder game included to help learn about all of the United States. There are three versions of the game included and a set of double sided cards to cut out. Depending on what you are wanting to focus on, you use a different game board but the cards stay the same. Here’s a video of me attempting to explain the variations and how I put them together in a single file folder.


How We Used  Make-A-State:

We chose to use this Activity-Pak as a family. Since we are planning some field trips after the weather cools down to some places related to the history of Texas, we decided to use this as a fun summer projects. And it was well enjoyed. There were several days when the first thing that the girls wanted to do was to work on a mini book or two from Make-A-State (even before breakfast).

We divided up the projects and each of the girls chose something that she was interested in to work on. We used the included information sheet about Texas to get some of the information from (such as for the timeline). We also used the internet to do some research, mostly accessing a known Texas history and information site. For many of the images we needed, we used a Google search for black line coloring pages and printed them at a reduced size of about 30%.

Over the course of several days, working an hour or two a day, we completed the project. We finished it by placing each of the mini books onto blank paper and putting it into a three-prong folder. This way it can sit on our bookshelf easily and as we add to out states collection, they will all be similar. Here is a quick video showing you how it looks put into the folder.

A Couple of Notes:

We have not found a good double sided tape to use for these projects. We have also found that glue sticks don’t work for most of them. White glue really would not work due to the required drying time. So, our solution is to use tape. If you know my girls, you know that we have a deep love of tape. 🙂 Tape works really well and can hold up to the strain that some of the folds put on the projects.

We have become pretty familiar with Home School in the Woods and the ways in which their projects work. There is a bit of a learning curve with this company but it is well worth taking the time to beat that learning curve. Each project in a pack is put together a bit differently to create variety. This means that each project needs a little bit of thinking to put it together right. There are detailed instructions included but, honestly, it still takes some thinking to put some of them together. There are always images included of the completed project and those are terribly helpful.

Printing can also be tricky. You do have to know your own printer. Due to the differences in printer, each page of a project is presented to you separately with printing instructions (print 1-b on the back of 1-a, or something like that). You do need to read through those and print them as instructed to make the projects easier to put together. If you are like me, each time, I have to experiment a bit to remember which way to take the first page out and put it back in the printing drawer to get it printed in the right direction on the back. But, again, it is well worth taking the time and effort (and sometimes paper) to figure it out. My youngest still remembers working on Project Passport: Ancient Egypt from, what, 3 years ago?

A-La-Carte Options:

Home School in the Woods has recently introduced an a-la-carte option for some of their projects. This is a way for you to grab and use one or two of the projects, without having to commit to a longer study of the topic. Perhaps you are reading on a subject and your student shows an interest, you could head over to HSITW and see if there is a single hands-on project to do related to that topic. Or it could be a jumping off point. For example, here is a post about the mini unit study we did last week on the Erie Canal based off of the a-la-carte projects HSITW is offering (free at the time of this writing).

 

Thoughts:

This is a company that we enjoy a lot. Their products are well-researched, well-put-together, and lots of fun. Add to that the retention of information, and this hands-on history company is one worth looking into for your history needs.

At Home.

There were 100 families using products from Home School in the Woods. Click the banner below to read about what they thought from the product lines that were reviewed:

Time Traveler American
*New World Explorers
*Colonial Life
*The American Revolution
*The Early 19th Century
*The Civil War
*Industrial Revolution through Great Depression
*World War II

Lap-Paks
*U.S. Elections
*20th Century in America
*Wonders of the World
*Benjamin Franklin
*Knights

Activity-Paks
*The Old Testament
*The New Testament
*Composers
*Artists

Timeline Trio

 

Hands-on History {Home School in the Woods Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Following “Rabbit Trails”

following rabbit trails

Today’s middle school Monday post is going to ramble a bit about following rabbit trails. In home education, we often call it following a rabbit trail when we get off track trying to find out information about a question or get sidetracked on something we find interesting or just follow the trail that appears before us when working. It is definitely a delight-led path and it is strongly influenced by the student. All these are good things!

When you are having “one of THOSE days” – you know the kind: no one really wants to work but everyone knows they really need to work but everything is just kind of blah – rabbit trails do wonders for enthusiasm! And for us, today was a rabbit trail kind of day.

world book libraries

10 libraries available

 

I began pulling up some additional resources about China, Siberia, Trans-Siberian railroad, and Gladys Aylward (to go with the YWAM unit study we are reviewing). I had looked a bundle of things up on the library site and decided to wander through SchoolhouseTeachers.com to see what they might have to complement the study. From there, I clicked on World Book to see what the 10 different libraries there might have to add.

interactive map image

part of an interactive map feature

 

Miss E saw me looking at an interactive map of China and started asking some questions. So, we ended up looking at all of the main cities in China and watching a video about the first Emperor of China. Then, we listened to their national anthem, some traditional court music, and some ancient ceremonial music.

video audio maps images of China

part of the media features in the China article

 

From there, she wanted to look up Gladys Aylward and read about her. So we also talked about how we can keep notes directly IN World Book and how to properly cite articles and websites. After reading what was there about Ms. Aylward, Miss E then stumbled across some ebooks on the World Book library.

So, we looked up a bundle of different books and spent some time reading about giraffes with Miss J. Miss J spent a lot of time with the giraffe book and then followed it up with looking at the kids’ library within World Book for more giraffe information. Miss E found some books on mythology. In particular she found one titled Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome. Guess what she is now reading? All 448 pages of it, I expect.

giraffe book

Giraffe book that Miss J was reading

 

I also took a bit of time to show her the timeline feature and library of World Book. She was fascinated. She spent quite a bit of time looking at some of the timelines they have and also working with the features of how to make her own timeline.

I definitely see this rabbit trail having sparked some interest. And how much did these two learn? I have no earthly idea but it was a whole lot more than if I had pushed the regular school load at that time. Yes, they still did math and spelling and some of those “regular” subjects. More importantly, though, is that they each found something to be excited about and to follow the rabbit trail a ways. They will remember much about the trails they followed today and that is what learning is all about!

At Home.

Need a Fun Book to Read?

last-of-the-really-great-whangdoodles

This one? Totally unexpected and out of left field but a home run. (Yea, yea – mixing metaphors or something there but this was a cool book!)

The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards

I absolutely adore Julie Andrews. I have since I was a child and watched The Sound of Music every. single. year. Just ask my brother. He HATED it! But when I discovered her writing, I fell in love with her books, too. My girls love her books, as well. Pink, sparkly, princesses – what’s not to love?

Well, because of that adoration, I had to pick up this book at the book sale when I found it. I knew nothing about it but I had to pick it up and read it out loud to the girls. And it is fantastic!!!!!!

last-of-the-really-great-whangdoodles-quote-1

Synopsis:

Three siblings – Ben, Tom, and Lindy – meet the very unusual Professor Savant who becomes convinced that they are just the children who are capable of making the trip to the elusive Whangdoodleland. In order to make the trip and be able to meet the Whangdoodle, the children have to learn to see and understand things in a completely different way than they ever have before. Once they successfully make the trip, they meet amazing creatures and see unbelievable things. Can they find the perseverance and strength needed to meet the Whangdoodle? And what happens if they succeed?

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Thoughts:

There is so many tidbits of wisdom tucked into sentences throughout this book. I couldn’t believe how much was packed into this fantastical, imaginative book about seeing things you cannot even imagine. From the way blood works in a body to how we listen to Latin words to the responsibilities we have of managing life, there are wise thoughts everywhere.

last-of-the-really-great-whangdoodles-quote-4

One of my favorite scenes was when the professor was teaching the children to look. No, not just look, but to really see, to observe. They were looking at chrysanthemums and the children dismissed them fairly simply but when they actually looked, they saw so much more – color and texture and life. It was really an interesting scene.

last-of-the-really-great-whangdoodles-quote-3

We loved the book and highly recommend it. Each day, all three girls were disappointed when I placed the bookmark. That is the sign of a very good book.

At Home.

 

Blue Ribbon Awards – Our Choices

family-blue-ribbon-awards

If you have been following our adventures for a while, you know that at the end of each Homeschool Review Crew year we vote for our favorite products from all of those that we reviewed during the year. We enjoy sharing our favorites with you over again so that is what we are doing today. When I announced it was time to vote, more than one of the girls hollered “I LOVE THIS PART!”

We truly enjoy these products. Each of these we are either still using or have completed. We would recommend these products to our friends to use (and have often with some of these). When people ask for ideas for curriculum, these are the companies we share.

All three of the giggly girls had input with choosing these companies. And later this week the results of the Homeschool Review Crew will be posting. I’ll let you know when those post so you can read about what the final results were across the board, including categories that are not included here because we didn’t review in that category OR we didn’t care for the product that we did review.

Drum Roll Please . . .

Reading Curriculum: Talking Fingers

Writing Curriculum: Writers In Residence

Spelling Program: Talking Fingers

Penmanship Program: Homeschool Copywork

Literature Curriculum: IEW Poetry Memorization

Literature Resources: YWAM: Clara Barton

History/Social Studies Curriculum: Homeschool Legacy

History/Social Studies Supplement: The Cat of Bubastes (However, it was a close call between that, Beric the Briton, and The Dragon and the Raven.)

Science Curriculum: Apologia Astronomy

Science Supplement: NotebookingPages.com

Math Supplement: Times Tales

Foreign Language Curriculum: Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids

Fine Arts: ARTistic Pursuits: Construct (We are using other books by this company, as well.)

Christian Education: Science Shepherd

Christian Education Product:The Familyman Christmas Treasury

Elementary Product: Apologia Astronomy

Middle School Product: NotebookingPages.com

Parent Product: Hey Mama! Planner

Best Resource I Didn’t Know I Needed: Jolly Phonics & Jolly Grammar

Best Online Product: Homeschool Copywork

Best Book/Novel/Audio Book/Audio Drama: The Glass Castle

Just For Fun: 3 Seeds and Commissioned, both by Chara Games

Personal Favorites:
Miss E: The Cat of Bubastes
Miss L: NotebookingPages.com
Miss J: Talking Fingers
Mom: Working It Out from Everyday Education

Be sure to check out the Homeschool Review Crew post with all the winners from the Crew voting and other families’ favorites. When that post goes live, I’ll put the link here.

Thank your for joining us for our Middle School Monday post and seeing what our favorites were with this year’s Homeschool Review Crew.

At Home.

 

Victoria and Her World (Homeschool Legacy) ~ a TOS review

victoria-post-image

When you have three giggly girls, all things royal are appealing. We were excited to review Victoria and Her World, a Once-a-Week Micro-Study from Homeschool Legacy. (However, I know Miss J would have been overly thrilled to get to study Pirates or Privateers: You Decide, another micro-study from Homeschool Legacy.)

Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}
We have reviewed the Once-a-Week studies from Homeschool Legacy in the past and enjoyed them just fine. The Once-a-Week Micro-Study has been fantastic! It is simple, written with plenty of information, and easy to do activities that can easily be extended if you want to create additional depth in the study for older students or lower the intensity of the study for younger students. Unit studies do a wonderful job of bringing the family together and create an atmosphere where hands-on learning thrives.

These micro-studies are set up to be done once a week for four weeks. As easy as that is, it might not fit everyone’s scheduled as well as it does ours. The study is written in such a way that you can easily adapt it to fit your schedule. For the most part, we did our study on Fridays. However, there were a few times where we had opportunity to do something so we worked on some of the hands-on activities about Queen Victoria.

Victoria and Her World is designed around learning more about Queen Victoria, the world she lived in and reigned, and what was shaping life at that time. From authors to work conditions, from the life of royalty to the way a home was run, this study has taught us much about the times of Queen Victoria. This study is acceptable for grades 1-8, according to the Homeschool Legacy site. I would personally think that it would need a bit more beefing up for grades 6-8 but that isn’t hard to do.

The unit begins with a short introduction and learning-about-great-britainthen moves directly into the unit. Week 1 begins with a list of the materials needed for the entire study and then moves right into the study. Each week includes a reading that focuses on that week’s topic(s). There are then a few hands-on activities to do that enhance the learning. It is also suggested that a book be chosen for a family read-aloud.

Victoria and Her World focused on Great Britain, Queen Victoria (her history and reign), The Royal Family, and Hard Times. To see a sample week, visit Homeschool Legacy’s page for this micro-study. At the bottom of the page, there is a link for a sample week.

We enjoyed activities from all of the weeks and had a lot of fun. There is plenty of options and exchanging options works well, too. In week one, we chose our family read aloud. The study discussed many authors from the time period and their influences. We checked out several options from the library. These options all came from the reading or by searching the stacks at the library for Victorian era authors and themes. After the options were explored, we chose Black Beauty to read aloud.

In week two, the study focused on Queen Victoria, who began her reign at the age of 18. We did some additional study on the internet because the girls had more questions about Queen Victoria after reading about her in the study. We also had grabbed a couple of books about her from the library so those came in handy. From her coronation to fashion, architecture, and more, the history of Queen Victoria’s time period was interesting. The activities we did included a lot of reading or looking online. This is the sample week to be found on the Homeschool Legacy site.

queen-cakes

We baked Queen Cakes. We studied flags, maps, and music. We viewed architecture, fashion, and furniture. We viewed coronations and weddings and learned about the royal family. From sponge cake to afternoon tea, we had such fun with this study.

The simple approach is sometimes best and while we had fun with the study, I think the results are somewhat of a mixed bag. Miss E (grade 7) made the comment that she didn’t think we had really learned much of anything, though we had seen a lot and read quite a bit. I think she would have benefitted more from me stretching her learning and making this a more in depth experience for her. I believe that too much of it was already familiar to her or didn’t encourage a whole lot of deep thinking. Which is true of this study – it didn’t require much work, either from me or the students. But, it was a lot of fun.

Would I recommend this study or one like it? Absolutely. The hands-on aspect is one that I think makes this a very good study. Victoria and Her World is a great jumping off point. This is not a full history course that covers the period well but that is not what it is intended to be. It is, however, a great way to determine interest points for further study and to expose students to material they might not otherwise encounter.

At Home.

Click on the banner below to see what other Homeschool Review Crew families thought about their studies, which included:

Once-a-Week Unit Study: Christmas Comes to America
Once-a-Week Micro-Studies:
Pirates or Privateers: You Decide
Cooking up History with the Founding Presidents
Victoria and Her World
Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims
Many Nations

Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy} 

Crew Disclaimer

Spanish Class from Middlebury Interactive Languages ~ a TOS review

We have been very thankful to get to participate in a 3rd review of Middlebury Interactive Languages. We have used Spanish Courses each time and this review period Miss J (age 7/2nd grade) has been using Elementary Spanish 1 (Grades 3-5). This was a perfect fit for her considering she has completed both of the previous Elementary Spanish levels. (See our reviews from 2014 and 2015.)

Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages}Middlebury is a company that has created online coursework that immerses the student in the language being learned. This is accomplished through a course that is rich in audio, video, and aural opportunities. At this level, there is very little written instruction and when it is, it is to accompany the audio giving the instruction. Everything within the lessons are structured to be highly immersive, allowing the student to experience the richness of the language.drag-and-drop-activity

Elementary Spanish 1 (Grades 3-5) is designed to promote increases in vocabulary and understanding as well as to increase pronunciation accuracy. We did not have a teacher-guided course, though it is an option at this level. The course covers the following topics:

  • family
  • numbers
  • greetings
  • adjectives/feelings
  • food
  • community professions
  • body
  • animals
  • colors
  • clothes
  • weather and seasons
  • school
  • calendar

These topics are taught through native folk stories, myths, legends, songs, and more. This not only teaches the vocabulary but it stresses the way the language is used and many points of cultural importance.

watching-video

Middlebury has made some very nice changes in the navigation of the site since we first navigation-from-homepage-clipreviewed with them and this time around has by far been the easiest for navigation. My favorite change is that there is a way to navigate to the next lesson with a single click after login. You can either click “Continue My Course” and it will take you to the next lesson for you to complete. Or if you want to jump to the lesson scheduled for that day, you click on “Scheduled For Today.”  If you are right on schedule, the two options look the same. As you can see here, Miss J is not. Middlebury schedules a lesson every weekday. We have not been keeping up with that, though it is our goal.

You can also navigate the site by clicking the three bars that are in the upper left corner. That brings this dropdown menu:

drop-down-navigation-clip

The Table of Contents will take you to the lessons and you can then find the lesson you are looking for. Completed lessons have a check mark over them. You can also navigate to the Grade Book from this point.

The Grade Book has some really nice features. Remember this is the Grade Book for the course option with no teacher assistance from Middlebury. Much of the course is self-grading and you see those grades appear here. This is a shot of what the grade book looks like when you are looking at the view with tests and quizzes.

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You can also click a box to get a Course Grade. Easy and simple if you need to keep grades.

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The activities that the student will participate in vary widely and that is a wonderful things because it really keeps the student’s attention. When the student clicks on the “Continue My Course”, the program take the student to the end of the last lesson completed. This is what one of Miss J’s looked like:

student-screen-clip

recording-herselfAs you can see, there is a picture listing of the pieces of the lesson on the left. The completed ones have a check mark on them. There is a box to click at the bottom of that column to move to the next lesson. The activity is on the right. This particular activity was a Speaking Test on numbers. She had to click the record button and record herself saying the correct number in Spanish. She then listened to herself to check and make sure what she said was right. She them clicked on the circle in the upper right and it submitted the answers. Since this is not teacher assisted from Middlebury, the fact that she recorded for each of the activities is what it is grading, not whether or not she answered correctly or pronounced correctly.

The activities vary widely but each of them are engaging. There are stories (told entirely in Spanish), exploring the page to learn new vocabulary, coloring pages (click to color), click and drag to match, speaking labs, songs, and videos to explain cultural traditions and activities. There are most certainly other activities that I didn’t list here. It is definitely a varied approach that immerses the student directly in the language.

This immersion is a large part of what I like so much about Middlebury Interactive Languages. The student is told stories completely in the language. The songs are completely in the language. The student has to speak in the language. The vocabulary words are in the language. So much is done in the language that the student learns a lot through the exposure.

We are thrilled to be studying Elementary Spanish 1 (Grades 3-5) this year. The experience is enjoyable and much learning is going on. You know it is working when Miss J is playing outside and singing a song from her Spanish Course. It made me smile to see the way the language has become part of her.

At Home.

The Homeschool Review Crew had families working with no only the Spanish Courses but also the French Courses, the German Courses, and the Chinese Courses. Click the banner below to read about their experiences.

Spanish, French, German or Chinese {Middlebury Interactive Languages} 

Find Middlebury Interactive Languages on Facebook, Twitter @middinteractive, and
Pinterest.

Crew Disclaimer

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