Category Archives: Middle School

Carlsbad Caverns

At the end of August, the girls and I were able to take a field trip to New Mexico, my home state. We visited a couple of sites that are pretty special to me and enjoyed our time there and with family quite a bit.

This is the highlights of our time in Carlsbad. We did see the Bat Flight program the night before we hiked the cavern but it is not safe for the bats to have any kind of a device on, so we turned off the cameras and phones and just enjoyed watching. The estimate was that there were about 500,000 bats the night we were there. The Brazilian Free-tailed Bats are a migrating bat so they are not there year round. We truly enjoyed seeing them. The next day, we hiked the cavern and saw lots of beautiful sights. The girls really seemed to enjoy it and we had a pretty good time.

Carlsbad was a specific destination for us since watching the videos about the National Parks. This was one that Miss E has been asking to visit. It was not difficult for us to get there and we definitely enjoyed checking this one off her “bucket list.”

Enjoy our pictures.

At Home.

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The Greatest Inventors ~ a Crew review

The Greatest Inventors

Looking for a simple way to start our new school year, we decided that a week-long unit study would be great. Enter A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks and their stand-alone lapbook product, The Greatest Inventors .

Greatest Inventors Lapbook with Study Guide

A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks has been around for a while and got its start when a couple of homeschooling moms realized that what they wanted was not to be found. So, they created it! How’s that for ingenuity? That was the start of A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks (AJTL).

AJTL has many products to fit many needs. Whether you are looking for a stand alone study or something to accompany a curriculum you have purchased, AJTL may have just what you need. And if you don’t know exactly what a lapbook is, well, they have a page for that, too. Head over to their site to watch their video about lapbooks. But quickly – lapbooking is a way to simply document learning by completing mini-booklets in different shapes and sizes, keeping the documentation varied and interesting for the student.

We were able to use The Greatest Inventors, a stand-alone lapbooking unit. What that means is that the downloadable product (you can also get a printed version) contains all of the mini-booklets to create the lapbook as well as all the information in a study guide to be able to fill out and complete the lapbook. Each mini-booklet has its own page of information to read. It was a simple unit to complete and we were easily able to use it with our girls, ages 8, 11, and 13.

working on the book report form

How We Used The Greatest Inventors

I printed out all of the mini-booklets from the PDF file. I did not print the study guide pages; we accessed those on the computer when we needed them. I also checked out a book on each inventor from the library, since the study guide was not as high a reading level as I wanted for the two older girls. They needed more of a challenge. (The reading level was perfect for our 8 year old, though.) I placed the books and pages together on the table and the girls took turns picking the inventors they were interested in.

Some of the inventors –

  • Jonas Salk
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Guglielmo Marconi
  • George Eastman
  • Louis Braille
  • The Wright Brothers
  • and many more.

Each day that week, the girls worked on one or more of their inventors. They read the study guide and the books. In some cases, we looked up more information or pictures on the internet with a simple Google search. Then, the girls completed their mini-booklets, as well as the book report form that is included in the PDF.

working on da Vinci

The book report form is a simple form, asking for the name of the book and its author. It asks about the birth and death, the time period, and information about what was understood from the book. It also gives them a chance to be creative, designing a stamp for that inventor. It was fun to talk about stamps being a way to honor someone and their achievements.

Miss J presenting her researchMiss L presenting her research

At the end of the week, we had a presentation. The girls took turns presenting their inventors, the book report, and showing the mini-booklet that was created. We also used this time to open up a discussion about how each invention helped or changed the world. It was a fun day, full of unexpected learning.

Miss E presenting her research

Now, we went pretty far above and beyond the lapbook product itself. But this is a great example of how easy it is to extend these products to include the entire family in learning. Our oldest students got some good research experience, as well as having to present, while it fit perfectly the reading ability and interest level of our youngest. We could easily have just used the mini-booklets and the study guide and we still would have learned a lot.

everyone can change the world

AJTL has simple to use products, though you do need access to a computer and printer if you are purchasing their downloadable products. If that doesn’t work for you, they have printed versions available, as well.A Journey Through Learning

The Homeschool Review Crew had several products that the families were using. These included

These are just a few of the hundreds of titles that A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks has available. There is something for just about every study you can imagine. Visit their page to see what else they have.

At Home.

 

Lapbooks for Classical Conversations, Apologia, Inventors & 20th Century {A Journey Through Learning Lapbooks Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Using what works and working what we use (curriculum) ~ Back to Homeschool Blog Hop 2017

curriculum

As is common, we have rethought seriously the plans for this coming school year. While we are keeping our focus the same (faith, family, fun – with lots of books thrown in), we are trying to simplify and hone down.

This is mainly my problem – not the kids. It is so easy to look at programs, say “it only takes five minutes” and then end up with so many things that you feel burdened. Even though most of them only take a few minutes a day – thinking spelling and poetry specifically. So, I kicked those to the curb (holding onto the right to retrieve them in the future).

We are focusing on core this year: Bible, math, literature/writing, history, and science. There will be some music, languages, and dance in there as well. These lessons are four days a week, Monday to Thursday. So, what exactly are we doing with each?

Oh, and for reference, these are for:

  • Miss E, 8th grade
  • Miss L, 6th grade
  • Miss J, 3rd grade

Bible studies

Bible – I and II Corinthians will be our focus this year. We will be using our Bible bowl materials, Bible Road Trip, and various other videos, worksheets, and games to go with it. The girls are expected to read some each day and we will have Bible bowl meetings once or twice a month. We use Quizlet to do online drills, as well.

math studies

Math – This is broken down by grade. Miss E, in 8th, will be using UnLock Math‘s pre-algebra program. We reviewed it a while back and she still likes it! She actually got upset when she heard me comment that I needed to go buy math workbooks and she thought I was taking her off UnLock Math! Win-win! I did go buy Horizons workbooks, though. Miss J is starting level 3 and Miss L is finishing up level 4.

literature

Literature/writing – You may have seen my post about Story Spiels. This is our literature curriculum for the year. Each girl has a book list to choose from and must make measurable progress in her book from week to week. (Not that I expect this to be a problem – two of them may fly through the entire book list this year and we will have to find more.) On Fridays, we will have a time where the girls will take turns presenting what was read that week and hosting a discussion about the topics and ideas of the book. They will also either do a notebooking page or a project about their book. If a project is chosen, we may relax the reading requirement for one week while the project is completed. Miss E may also be adding a fairy tales based literature program if it comes through but it is still in the works, so I am not counting on it at this point.

history studies

History – Miss J is going to be doing Let’s Go Geography. This is a new product and we will have a review of it up in about 6 weeks. I am really excited about this simple curriculum to take us around the world. Miss L is going to be combining her history and science as she is studying some books about women in various fields. Right now she is working on women in meteorology.  Next she will be doing women in architecture. These are books from Nomad Press and are in a series. I think we will probably purchase some more following these two if her interest holds. Miss E is working on finishing up her study on Ancient Greece. We had some things come up late in the spring and she didn’t get to finish it so she is tackling it again this fall since she enjoys it so much.

science studies

Science – Miss J is going to start with a study of birds. Her fascination has remained so we will study them using the Memoria Press program What’s That Bird? Our library has most of the literature books from it and I have the teacher’s guide. It is technically for an older student but we are going to adapt. After that we will tackle the Apologia Young Explorer’s program on Flying Creatures. Miss L is working with the books I mentioned above, completing notebooking pages to show what she is learning. The books do a great job of combining some history and science together. Miss E is going to do Friendly Chemistry from SchoolhouseTeachers.com. She is interested in the chemical structure of things, as best we can decide after much discussion. Nothing is clear cut in what interests her but she was able to state some things she did not want. So, we’ll give these lessons a try and see what she can do with them. After that, I am hoping she will feel like taking the geology course from SchoolhouseTeachers.com.

Electives –

  • Dance – all three are taking dance again
  • Sign Language – Miss is taking year 3 of sign language classes
  • Music – Miss E is working on recorder this year. Miss L is continuing violin. Miss J is learning piano.
  • Other? Probably but they are not strictly scheduled in as are these others. I would love to see Miss L and Miss J continue working on Spanish. We will throw some poetry in on Fridays. There will be some cursive work for Miss J and we will do art on Fridays. Miss L asked for a copywork packet so I printed one off for her with poetry. Things like this come up and I am more than happy to accommodate. 🙂

Fun Fridays – I am hoping to schedule some fun things for Fridays, such as art lessons and STEM building projects. Perhaps an inventors workshop or a DEAR day (Drop Everything And Read). We will still do a family devotional and our Story Spiels will fall on Fridays.

All in all, I am shooting for less stress, fewer structured programs, and more time for rabbit trails and interest led activities. Any suggestions and encouragement is appreciated, as I am really struggling to not include more (and more and more).

At Home.

Back to Homeschool Annual Blog Hop - 2017

This is the first day of the Back To Homeschool Blog Hop with the Homeschool Review Crew. Be sure to visit the other bloggers, too. Here are a few for you to start with.

Annette – A Net in Time

Ashley  – Gift of Chaos

Betty – Let’s Get Real

Chareen – Every Bed of Roses

Christy  – Unexpected Homeschool

Crystal – Living Abundantly

Desiree  – Our Homeschool Notebook

There are about 30 more so don’t stop here! Head over to the Homeschool Review Crew blog to find the rest. 🙂

No-Nonsense Algebra ~ a Crew review

No Nonsense Algebra
As we continue on in our quest to learn the various math concepts, anything that presents in a new or different way is a potential treasure. When Math Essentials was up for review, the No-Nonsense Algebra looked like a very good possibility to assist us with some pre-algebra concept review.

No-Nonsense Algebra is a book that begins at the pre-algebra concepts necessary to be able to learn algebra. From there, it goes all the way through quadratic equations. That is a huge span of material but it is a compact, straight-forward presentation. Each lesson is a page or two long and consists of a written instruction, examples, exercises, and review of previous concepts. There is also an online video lesson to assist in the teaching.

This is more of a text book than a workbook, as there is not a lot of space between each equation or question. Additionally, the student is encouraged to copy down and work each step of the example, as well as showing all work for each exercise and review. The pages are definitely not spacious enough for that and using notebook paper or graph paper allows the student to keep their work lined up nicely and neatly.

video lesson

The video lessons are accessed with a code that is found inside the book. With that code, you just head over to the No Nonsense Algebra website where you will be able to create an account. With your code, you will have access to the videos for each of the lessons. The videos seem to run around 10 minutes in length, some a little more, some a little less. It is a video of a smart board with a voice walking you through the steps as they are shown on the board. It is a no frills video and the voice is straight-forward. The videos are not just a repeat of the written examples; they are an instruction in the concept.

HOW WE USED THIS BOOK

Since Miss E is working in pre-algebra, we asked to use this book as a concept review of the materials and concepts she has covered so far. We knew we would probably only get through the first chapter and a little into the second during the review period since those are the concepts she has worked with. We especially knew we would need additional work with negative integers.

What we found is that the videos confused Miss E a lot. For some reason, the instruction confused an already weak concept when it came to negative integers. With this being the very first lesson, it made the book a difficult one for us, as it brought tensions and tears. We pushed through the lesson over a few days, walking her through every example, exercise, and review.

I then took a look at the table of contents a bit more closely than I had and decided that we needed to work through the first chapter out of order. I found that the number line review was not first even though the first lesson of adding integers teaches and refers to the number line. Some other concepts such as the properties of numbers, greatest common factors, and least common multiples were pretty far down in the chapter yet those concepts were needed to do lessons that came before that in the chapter. This is a definite weakness of the book, in my opinion.number line lesson

Noticing that allowed me to reorder the materials in a way that made sense by concept and we tackled the book again. This time, we worked up through the materials, reviewing items that were the stepping stones to the next concept and it all made much more sense to Miss E. Her confidence grew and when we came again to the integers and dealing with negative numbers, while it still wasn’t easy for her, she didn’t have such a bad time of it.

WHY THIS BOOK?

If your student is ready for Algebra I or higher, this book is right up your alley. There are no frills. It is straight-forward. The videos are designed to help with instructions. No-Nonsense Algebra covers

  • Necessary Tools for Algebra
  • Solving Equations
  • Graphing and Analyzing Linear Equations
  • Solving and Graphing Inequalities
  • Systems of Linear Equations and Inequalities
  • Polynomials
  • Rational Expressions (Algebraic Fractions)
  • Radical Expressions and Geometry
  • Quadratic Equations
  • Algebra Word Problems

Included in the back of the book are the solutions (but no explanation of how to get the correct solution if you make a mistake), a final review, glossary, tables of important formulas and symbols, multiplication table, and squares and square roots.

With all that this book covers, I can imagine that it is a good review for a student who has completed algebra courses and is taking, or preparing to take, college entrance exams. It would definitely provide a thorough review.

All in all, this is a good book that just didn’t fit my girls’ needs. But, I am going to keep it around as I can see it being a lot of help in a few years as college exams approach.

At Home.

Read additional reviews of how other families use this book by clicking the banner below.

No-Nonsense Algebra {Math Essentials Reviews} 

Crew Disclaimer

Story Spiels – Middle School Monday

We all have something that we love and when someone messes with it, it bothers us. Literature is this way for our family. We love literature. Reading is as necessary as air and water for us, it seems. (OK – a tad bit of exaggeration but you get the idea.)

When we began homeschooling, we did literature the way “schools” did it – read the book chapter by chapter and answer questions on vocabulary and themes, characters, setting, etc. Very quickly, we began to see the joy fading out of stories. So we changed.

We allowed the girls to pick from themes at the library and we did a lot of read alouds. This broadened their reading tastes, even if they didn’t like it, and we got a bundle of good discussions out of the family readings. We still do the read alouds (getting back to them after a busy summer!) but the girls have free range in the youth section at the library. We visit once a week and come home with lots and lots of stories.

Once in a while, we had a review product or I did some reading that suggested that perhaps they really needed to work with literature guides. So, we’d try that again. Writting answers to questions = frustrations and lack of joy in the story = lack of learning vocabulary and themes. This resulted in us stopping the use of literature guides.

**Side note: I like lit guides and I think they have their place. I am not saying we won’t be pulling them out again at some point, as I am sure we will for one reason or another. However, it is not going to be our main curriculum for literature anymore.**

Story Spiels

Which brings me to our current plan – Story Spiels. We are still working out details but here is the gist of the plan:

  • Each girl will pick a book from a predetermined listing, provided by At Home Dad and me.
  • We will divide the book up into four sections. One section will be read each week. At Home Dad and I will be doing the reading, as well, if we have not recently read the book. (There are some books that may go longer than 4 weeks due to difficulty level, length, or interruptions.)
  • On the given day each week, the girls will present their Story Spiels to the family. They will be expected to present main characters, settings, and important details (conflicts, resolutions, themes, struggles, etc.). Once in a while, we will also be requiring a creative product related to the story in some way.
  • At Home Dad and I will have prepared a list of thoughts that we want to have a discussion about relating to that week’s reading. These will be done with all three girls present so that the younger can learn from the older and so that the older can contribute to the discussion with the younger when they have read the stories.

We are going to start this next week, so I am off to get the lists finalized. I will definitely be sharing those with you all, hopefully next Monday. I am excited about the Story Spiel idea. Our hope is that it will do all the things that a literature guide does but with more discussion and family interactions. Here’s to the ideas!

At Home.

Creating a Creative Habit – Middle School Monday

Creating a Creative Habit MSM

How do you encourage creativity in your students? If we don’t encourage creativity, it is so easy for students to not become creative.

“I just don’t know what to do.”

“I can’t do it.”

“I’m not good at that.”

These excuses and more are often closing doors. But if we encourage them and create opportunities, the creativity will blossom.

I want to share with you 5 ways in which we try to encourage our girls to be creative.

1 – Give them the needed materials. Whether it is needles and thread and fabric for sewing or glue and paper and tape, even glitter (I know some of you are cringing) – we give the girls the materials they need to create whatever it is that their brains are dreaming up. Cross-stitch, sewing, crafts, legos, paper, tape, glitter, sequins, beads, string, googly eyes, and more make up many, many spaces in our home.

2 – Step away. Once they have the materials, let them use them. Let them experiment. Let them read or dream and create. Without interference, who knows where their ideas will take them. At the same time . . .

3 – Provide instruction. After the experimentation, art classes or fiber arts classes or field trips to learn about the materials and how they are used can all help provide instruction and inspire further creativity. Whether it is taking a child to a specific class or teaching them at home, instruction will give direction to their ideas.

4 – Allow them time. Don’t structure their time so closely that they have no time to just create. I fail at this one quite often. I plan to work on a project with them – getting out the paints or coloring materials – and let it go right by without a second thought. Time is a critical factor in creating and seeing ideas to fruition.

5 – Remind them that no one is good at everything and sometimes, it takes a while to find out where their own strengths lie. So try things. Be willing to make and learn from failures. Because in those failures, learning occurs.
Creating a Creative Habit

These are just some thoughts that have been running through my head today as I watch my girls work with their hands on various things – Lego creations, crochet, creating projects from an American Girl book, finger printing with inks, drawing, and more. All of it is a joy to see, even when I end up with 33,000 bookmarks made by one who just learned to braid and another who loves creating with duct tape. Add to it all the drawings and finger printing – well, family just better be looking for some packages in the mail. 🙂

At Home.

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

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