Tag 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.

ARTistic Pursuits: Art for Children, Building a Visual Vocabulary ~ a Crew review

K-3 art book cover

Creating is always a welcome activity and when I heard about the new video lessons from ARTistic Pursuits Inc. for their K-3 level books, I was very intrigued. The series is ARTistic Pursuits Art Instruction Books with DVD and Blu-Ray; we received Volume 1 of the series – Art for Children, Building a Visual Vocabulary. When all of the books are released, there will be a total of eight (8) books.

instructional discs for K-3 art

Art for Children works with the student to teach them variety of words related to art creation. The book is a hardback book that is printed in full color. There are 18 lessons total. Six (6) of the lessons are video only lessons and 12 of them are text only lessons. The book comes with two discs for the video lessons – one is a DVD only disc and one is a Blu-ray. Both discs contain the exact same information and the video quality is the same.

Through the book, students will explore several different areas of art and discover how artists see the world. They will experience composition, imagination, oberservation,  and communication. They will work with shape, form, and texture while studying landscapes, still life, animals, and portraits.

The book begins with a page letting you know what materials you will need for all of the projects. There is also a short explanation of the teaching philosophy for ARTistic Pursuits.

video and book

Each of the video lessons have a single page in the book so that you know where they belong. There is materials information and a couple of steps to follow but there is no instruction written for these lessons. I think this is a shortcoming of this book. You must watch the video in order to complete the video lessons so if you don’t have access to a video player or your disc gets broken, you no longer can complete this lesson.

The video starts with an introduction by hostess Ariel Holcomb. The introduction is followed by instruction and examples by art teacher Brenda Ellis. All you see of the instruction is a video of the artist’s hands with a voice over for the instruction. It is very good instruction on how to use the materials for the lesson and the steps to follow for the project in the lesson. It is concluded with a review of the information and steps to take. Then you are to go create the project on your own. This is where having written instructions would be really helpful. For the paper folding lesson, I had to stand there with the remote control in my hand, pausing every few seconds after each instruction on how to fold the animal’s head. It worked but it was not simple.

working on a special day painting

The text lessons are fantastic. Each text lesson includes an introduction to the idea covered and is then followed by a reproduction of a work of art by a master. For example, in the texture lesson the work is The Sunflower 1906-07 by Klimt. This master work is studied and some questions are asked to help the student really focus on the art. Then the student’s project is set out for them to complete with images to help guide the student.

Each text lesson includes some preparation notes for the teacher/parent. The materials tend to be found in the midst of the lesson, rather than clearly at the front, but they are there.

Each lesson, whether video or text, can be done in about 30 minutes, depending on how much effort the student desires to put into the project creation. The lessons are designed to do approximately one lesson per week. We were able to make it through most of this book, as it was a joy to do more than one lesson a week. We often did one lesson a day and I had to stop her to get other work done.

Miss J just finished up her 3rd grade year; she is 9 years old. I chose this book for her in order to get the instructional videos of the use of materials. It was good to have some instruction on how to use the specific materials. Sometimes Miss J felt they were fine and other times she felt as though she were too old for the instruction.

 

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We have used ARTistic Pursuits Inc. in the past and I like the instruction that is included. I like the fact that master works are included and that students have freedom in how they apply the concept to their own work. This is not a program where they study line and then everyone draws the same thing. They might study line but then the student is encouraged to find a new place where they see the ideas of line used and create their art from that new thing. This is great for solidifying the concepts for the students.

working on her artwork

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I have mixed feelings about this ARTistic Pursuits Inc. program. I like the format but it could use some tweaking. I don’t know that I would purchase the program because to get the entire series would take a commitment, though I am interested in the idea behind the focus on culture in the other volumes of the series.

Blessings,
At Home.

Read more about ARTistic Pursuits and their K-3 art program by clicking the banner below. Other families used volumes 2-4.

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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.

Screenshot 2018-05-23 at 10.39.44 AM

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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Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology ~ a Crew review

We have been using Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology
in the past month or so. This is another very good science program from Apologia and we are pleased to review it.

Written by Jeannie K. Fulbright and Brooke Ryan, M.D., this program is a great and easy program to use. I was impressed that Mrs. Fulbright ensured that her information was accurate by having a co-author that was an M.D.

Apologia-Anatomy-Family

We received:

  • Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology Text
  • Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology Junior Notebooking Journal
  • Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology Notebooking Journal
  • Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology MP3 Audio CD

reading text

Let’s start with the text. Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology Text is a hardback text. It is full color textbook and is not too heavy. The pages are sturdy without being too stiff to easily turn. The print is of a good size and is easily read by these “old eyes” of mine. The text is written to the student so it is not difficult for an elementary aged student to understand. It is intended for the student to be reading the text, allowing them to more engaged.

The text is broken up periodically by some blue lettering that is a time for the student to review what was just covered. Whether it be a narration assignment or a written one, it is intended that the student take just a few short minutes to help cement the information better in their understanding. This allows the student to improve their ability to clearly and effectively learn to communicate their learning.

skeletal system activity

Throughout the chapter, you will also come across Try This! These are hands-on activities that go with the reading just finished and allow for the student to participate in the scientific method. For example, when we had read about the purpose of bones, there was a Try This! activity that had the student make a clay figure and try to stand it up. edible cellsThen they added toothpicks in place of some of the bones and tried to stand it up again. This time, with “bones” in place, the figure stood. What a great visual and hands-on activity that shows exactly how bones and the skeletal system benefit the body. The number of activities vary in each chapter and the types of materials needed will vary as well. Some only need things from around the house (such as a tape measure for comparing arm span to height) and others will need quite a few things that you might not have sitting around (such as lemon jello and lots of different candies to make an edible cell). These hands-on activities are what take this program from another good text to one that is over-the-top fantastic.

Each chapter closes with a What Do You Remember? section of questions. These are questions designed to jog the student’s memory and help them recall information. There are answers to these in the back of the book. There is a reminder of the notebooking activities to go along with the chapter or suggestions of some to do if you prefer to make your own notebook. There is also a Personal Person Project. This project is pretty cool. It has the student make their own person shape and overlays to show each of the systems that are studied in the text. The Notebooking Journal has the pieces for this project with the plastic overlays printed in color to glue down on top of the person’s shape. We decided we wanted to be able to see single systems and also to overlay several at once so Miss J created a little pocket on the page next to the person and will leave her different systems pieces there.  

The Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology MP3 Audio CD that is available has been very interesting. It is read by the author so it has purpose and inflection and understanding that a “hired” reader just would not accomplish. Mrs. Fulbright’s voice is calm and pleasant. It is a pleasure to listen to her. This audio book includes the entire text of the course. The CD is best used with the student listening while viewing the text and following along. Mrs. Fulbright explains this early on the CD. It is helpful for most students who are using the audio to also have the visual to reinforce what is being talked about. Also, there are times when Mrs. Fulbright refers to diagrams and images in the text. If the student does not have those to view, the understanding will be hampered.

image of controller for audio book

image of control for CD on the computer

The audio CD would be of great benefit to a student that struggles with reading and comprehension, especially of scientific texts with so many new words and pronunciations. This would be of benefit to a student who is an auditory learner, as well. I can also see this being useful to a visual learner because the student is following along while someone else is reading. Thus, they are getting the visual while not having to struggle with pronunciations. We have had audio books for texts before and they were dry and boring. This is nothing like that. If you have a struggling reader, this might be just the thing.

Note that this is an MP3CD, not a regular CD. It must be played in an MP3CD-compatible CD player or on a computer.

We received two notebooking journals to go along with the study

Generally speaking, the regular journal has more writing than the junior one does and the lines are printed differently. For the junior notebooking journal, there is generally the three-line formation for the student to write on. Not always but for a number of the activities. The junior notebook also has coloring pages for each chapter while the regular notebook does not. Both journals are spiral bound and designed to complement but not replace the text; you must have the text but the journals will provide additional practice with the information.

Each chapter in the text has a corresponding section in the notebooking journals. The beginning of the chapter section in the journals is generally fairly open for the student to write about what was learned or better understood in that chapter. This space also includes boxes for the student to illustrate things of interest or worth remembering. Following this, there are different activities. There are scripture copywork passages that enhance the chapter and each one is generally in both print and cursive so that you can choose which style is best for your learner. The copywork is longer in the regular notebooking journal than it is in the junior notebooking journal. There are sometimes fill in the blanks or perhaps a crossword puzzle. There are matching activities and vocabulary work. There are also miniature books that are pulled out from the back of the notebooking journal, completed, and then placed with the chapter. You will also find project pages, more to explore suggestions, and field trip sheets. There are a lot of different ways to track and reinforce the learning.

working in junior notebooking journal

Each of the notebooking journals have a lot of activities for each chapter. It is definitely a place where you can complete them all but it may not be best for you to do so. I have one daughter who does everything in the regular notebooking journal. My youngest daughter is working in the junior notebooking journal and she does not do everything. It really depends on your student and how they learn.

The front of the notebooking journals is where you will find a suggested schedule for the anatomy and physiology program. Their suggested pace is two lessons per week. At this rate and following their schedule of activities, it will take 28 weeks to complete the program. Each lesson takes approximately 4 days/2 weeks to cover. It is restated here that you do not need to feel compelled to complete every activity. Pick and choose those best suited to your learners.

We have found that the junior notebooking journal actually has more learning for the anatomy and physiology course. If I were going to be purchasing this for my middle school student and my elementary student, I would purchase them both the junior notebooking. Below you can see a comparison of the same “pages” of learning in the two journals.

notebooking journals comparison

We used this two different ways. My 9 year old used it approximately 4 days per week, because we found early on that two days a week was taking too long for my daughter’s attention span. We did every single one of the Try It! activities, mostly as we came to them. Sometimes they had to wait for a different day or until the end of the reading. We read the text together and she did the blue review sections out loud. After doing our planned reading for the day, she would open up her junior notebooking journal and complete her activities in it. We prefer to do a little bit every day so this worked well for us and allowed us some flexibility in our plans. We broke up the schedule that was printed in the notebooking journals into two each and it has worked well. It provides a good bit of reading and activity, without overwhelming, and takes between 30 minutes and an hour. If it weren’t broken up, I think that 1 -2 hours of science work would be too much for my 9 year old.

mummification of apple slices

My 11 year old has been using it, also, though with the regular notebooking journal. She knows that she has to do everything on the week by the end of the week and is a very independent learner. She has generally done her reading all at once and then done the activities and the notebooking journal over the next 3 days. It has worked well for her since she prefers to get up and get her work done early on in the day. If your child is self-directed and an independent learner, this format works well.

We have enjoyed every Apologia review we have been blessed to participate in and we tend to fully complete them. If you would like to read about other product from Apologia that we have used, please visit the following posts –

Exploring Creation with Astronomy
Field Trip Journal
Writers In Residence
Ultimate Homeschool Planner
iWitness books
Flourish
What On Earth Can I Do?

Blessings,
At Home.

Please check out additional reviews and how other families used this program by clicking on the Homeschool Review Crew 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.

 

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