O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. Psalms 43:3

And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith. D&C 88:118

The kids

The kids

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Early Settlers Once a Week Unit Study- Schoolhouse Review


I have met many people who do unit studies and they do an amazing job pulling together lots of materials, keeping it interesting, following rabbit trails and really exploring the subject. Their kids have been well prepared for college and life after living at home. Many of them have encouraged me to try unit studies over the years. In theory I really like them and I really like working on one topic for a while, but I don’t seem to be very good at working in too many cross-curricular projects. I keep trying unit studies though because I have found that they can be a great tool to teach a topic and my kids get excited about them.

PhotobucketI recently had the opportunity to use the Early Settlers in America unit study from Homeschool Legacy. Unlike most unit studies, Homeschool Legacy unit studies are meant to be Once-A-Week studies. They are meant to get the family away from textbooks and bring the family together for learning time. Each unit study available from Homeschool Legacy lasts between 4-7 weeks and is meant for the whole family of children grades 2-12. As an added bonus, the author, Sharon Gibson, has worked very hard to incorporate Boy Scouts and American Heritage Girls merit badge requirements into each unit study. This does not mean that you must be a Boy Scout or an American Heritage Girl to utilize these unit studies though! They just enable the scout or AHG to work towards their achievements while doing their schoolwork with their family.

“Each well-rounded unit study fully immerses you and your family in a particular topic while incorporating as wide a range of subjects as possible: family devotionals, quality library reading selections, family read-alouds, history, science, geography, language, life skills, research, art, crafts, music, classic literature, documentaries, field trip suggestions, family game and movie nights, and even some fun "Stump Your Dad Trivia."

Once-a-Week Unit Studies have done all the work for you. Even the included library lists provide you with alphabetically and numerically ordered Dewey decimal numbers to aid you in making your trip to the library quick and painless.”

The last 6 pages is a section on “Getting the Most out of your Once-a-Week Unit Study.” Included is a suggestion to have an inexpensive set of encyclopedias for research which we don’t currently have. I  do recommend reading this section before beginning the unit studies because it will help you get more out of your study. Early Settlers is designed to last 6 weeks and costs $17.95.

Over the summer we entered the time of the Early Settlers in North America so I was really excited to try this unit study. I am notorious for not following a curriculum as outlined an sometimes wonder if I make my life more difficult by doing this. This time, since I have had so much going on, I decided to give it a go and attempt a once-a-week schedule since I try to do one major thing each day as a group before turning the children lose for their individual work. I tried not to look ahead in the unit too much because it is meant to be open-and-go and I wanted to see how that would work. I did look ahead to reserve library books though. Even though activity materials are mostly common materials, I found that I didn’t always have the materials on hand so we weren’t able to complete all the activities. Having a page at the beginning of the book listing all the materials for each week would have been very helpful.

We checked out many of the books listed in the weekly units. Although having the Dewey decimal numbers didn’t help me find my books because I typically search the library catalog online and then put all my books on hold, having those numbers would have been helpful if I went and browsed the shelves or if I couldn’t find the suggested materials. I found that all the suggested books and videos we used were of high quality. Some of them will be revisited again for future projects. One of those it the video segment we watched for unit one on the Lost Colony.

Although the Boy Scout requirements listed are for Boy Scouts and not necessarily Cub Scouts, some can be applied to the Webelos program and possibly a couple to Bears or Wolves. My son had already completed most of the Webelos requirements that could have been passed off using this unit, but he would have done several for Communicator, Artist,  as well as possibly one from Traveler. For Boy Scouts, this unit covers the Reading merit badge.

We really enjoyed the Stump Your Dad trivia as well. I would usually read the question to the children before we began so they could be thinking about the question and find the answer themselves as we studied. This created a great ah-ha moment for my son as we watched our video about the Lost Colony.

I would have liked to see the chapter on how to get the most out of the unit study at the beginning of the book instead of the end and I felt some activities could have used a little more guidance or research on my part before presenting them because they didn’t lend themselves to open-and-go as easily as others.  Despite the few negatives, overall we really enjoyed the Once-a-Week Unit study. I thought the family devotionals were well done and I really liked the tie-in to scouts. The flow of topics made sense to me and helped guide the unit forward. The activities were relevant to each unit and there were many options from discussions to a research paper. This unit study truly could be adapted to all ages.  The book suggestions were of high quality and we enjoyed the family read aloud and movie suggestions as well. It was one of the better laid-out and thoughtful unit studies that I have seen and I look forward to using more of Homeschool Legacy’s Once-A-Week unit studies as they lend themselves to our studies.

Be sure to see what other Crew Members had to say about Once-A-Week Unit studies from A Homeschool Legacy. The Crew reviewed a total of 10 different unit studies. 

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

You Won’t See That on the Playground in a School!

Friday was co-op day with our amazing group of friends. Strawberry got to play and exercise to fun songs (which she has been singing all day since), Pumpkin Pie and Butterfly got to make a necklace with beads and read and discuss Beauty and the Beast, Butterfly and Tiger got to learn more about King Tut and the exhibit at the science center and make amulets and jeweled collars, and Tiger got to spend some time playing board games, we went to the park around the corner. Sept 2012 024
Girls Dressed up like princesses for their book club.
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Making collars for King Tut.
Our co-op meets in a community center overlooking part of the Puget Sound. Then, after co-op we head to the beach park a couple blocks away. There, we can see the ferries, lots of boats, railroad tracks, play on a playground and see lots of wild life. Today was an extra special treat… a pod of Killer Whales swam right past us!Sept 2012 035  Sept 2012 036 Sept 2012 038 Sept 2012 039
And then we saw some seals playing out in the water too! Sept 2012 048 Sept 2012 040  Sept 2012 042 Sept 2012 043   
Butterfly found some fresh seaweed on the beach too.
I had never seen Killer Whales in the wild. As a child we would go whale watching and see Humpback whales but today was a special treat for all of us. We all felt grateful for the opportunities that nature provided our children- and we didn’t have to pay $20-$50 a person to see the whales either!

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Cry From Egypt- Schoolhouse Review

I love historical fiction especially those where the main story is lower on the fiction and high on the historical events of a time period. A Cry from Egypt did not disappoint me in that arena!

A Cry from Egypt is a children’s story written by Hope Auer, illustrated by Mike Slaton, and published by Raising Real Men  for children 8 and up. Set in Egypt during the time of Moses and the plagues, the story follows the actions, feelings, and conversations of a fictional Israelite family, especially a young girl during this time. The family members are all slaves working for pharaoh in various capacities. What might the Israelites thought when they saw the Nile turn to blood? What might they have thought when the frogs enveloped the city? How might they have felt living among the Egyptians? A Cry from Egypt gives a glimpse into the possibilities. This story also highlights the turmoil that results in a family when members do not share the same faith as well as the struggles Jahara, the main character, has in coming to know Jehovah and develop her faith and trust in God.

When I received this book, I read it first and really enjoyed it. I found that while the Israelite family was completely fictional, they were believable and real. They facilitated the depiction of the historical events and brought them to life. Sometimes the story was not roses though! There are several points in the book where slaves are beaten including one scene where an overseer beats Jahara nearly to death. These scenes are not gratuitous violence but rather add to the story and further add to the feelings and experience of the Israelites. The author suggests that the not all the Israelites were still worshiping Jehovah. While not scripturally explicit, this is a real possibility since they lived among the Egyptians for so long, were constantly being warned not to worship false gods, and shortly after delivery were found worshiping a golden calf! I especially liked how the author used this speculative device to highlight possible reasons why the various plagues were so offensive to the Egyptians. She explains how each plague is making a mockery of one of the Egyptian gods through storytelling rather than preaching. This was something I had not thought about before. I also liked that where scriptural references to conversations were available, the author used the words of the scriptures so as to remain true to the Biblical account but otherwise she stayed away from conversations between Biblical characters. Another thing that I love in historical fiction is reference notes. Again, A Cry from Egypt did not disappoint! The end of the book includes some research notes for further clarification on the history of Egypt.

After I finished reading the book, I handed it off to Butterfly and Tiger. Both devoured it and loved it. When I asked Butterfly about it, she said it was a really good story and was like reading the scriptures because it tells the story of Moses! She did know it was a fiction story, but she was able to pick up the story of Moses woven throughout as well.

Tiger picked up on the relationships between the brother and his sister. He said he really liked how the older brother took care of his sister and watched out for her. Perhaps he picked up on this because we have been discussing his role as big brother to his sisters lately. I agree with him, the older brother is an excellent role model. He also said he liked the whole thing.

I love that this book was wholesome, uplifting, well-written, and enjoyable to read. I enjoyed sharing it with my children and intend to read it out loud down the road. Advanced reader copies of A Cry from Egypt are available for $12.50. Be sure to read the other reviews for this book as well as the other book the Crew reviewed for Raising Real Men: Children in Church.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Still Here and Not Back to School

Lately I haven't posted much except for reviews. Bad homeschool mommy! I have an excuse though. I am expecting baby #5 and I was really sick with morning sickness... so there were no updates in my fingers. But, I am past the sick part so now I can think a little again. So... here are a few pictures. First, our annual Not Back to School Pictures. The kids like to get dressed, don backpacks and shoes, take pictures and then run back inside. Sadly someone set my camera to low resolution so they are only good to post on my blog. :( Oh well. Such is life right :)
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Tiger is 10.5 now
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Butterfly (wearing her butterfly shirt) is 8.75
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Pumpkin Pie is 6
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Strawberry is 3 weeks shy of 3 and dressed herself.
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All 4 together
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2012-09-10 08.22.23  Beating down the door to return home for school :)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Historic Expedition of Lewis and Clark by Marshall Publishing- Schoolhouse Review

Marshall Publishing is a multi-faceted media publishing company with a wide variety of DVDs covering topics from animals to history to “As Seen on TV.” The Schoolhouse Review Crew was privileged to review several different videos this summer. The one I got to review was The Historic Expedition of Lewis and Clark.

The Historic Expedition of Lewis and Clark has a runtime of 35 minutes. The narration, including journal excepts, chronicles the journey of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark up the Missouri River to Pacific Ocean. Throughout the movie, live re-enactments, nature photography and cinematography, illustrated maps, and photographs are used to tell the story of the journey.

We watched this video for part of school one day when mom was sick with a cold. All four children were able to watch this video from the smallest almost 3 year old to the oldest 10.5. Butterfly appeared to be uninterested but she still watched some of it. Tiger really enjoyed the nature scenes, especially the waterfalls that challenged the expedition. This part was also Butterfly’s favorite part. I think Butterfly also really enjoyed the bears along the Yellowstone. Pumpkin Pie really liked the pictures of all the statues of those who were instrumental in the expedition. Strawberry’s favorite part was the mention of the dog that came along on the journey.

I thought this video did an excellent job of taking the viewer on a journey starting with the difficulty of pushing a boat up the Missouri River against the current through encounters with the various native tribes, uncharted wilderness, and finally to the Pacific Ocean. I also really enjoyed the journal excerpts.  This video brought up seemingly small points like how much Lewis and Clark respected each other, the name of the dog brought on the journey, how one native tribe reacted to the presence of an African American. It also touched on some other more important points like why taking Sacagawea was a sign of peaceful intentions and how important she was in the mission. The video also highlighted the struggles they had with weather and landscape and how they overcame those struggles. The end of the video summarized what happened with the main characters after the expedition including the fact that William Clark named his first born son Meriwether Lewis Clark.

The Historic Expedition of Lewis and Clark is regularly $24.95 but is currently on sale for $19.95. Marshall Publishing is also offering free first class shipping with the coupon code TOS27 for my blog readers.

The other videos reviewed by the Crew included:
Lots and Lots of Penguins and their Happy Feet
Oregon Trail and Pony Express
The History of America in the 1880s.

Be sure to check out what other reviewers thought of the Historic Expedition of Lewis and Clark as well as the other 3 videos that were reviewed by clicking on the banner below. 

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.

Speekee- Schoolhouse Review

Photobucket Recently the Schoolhouse Crew reviewed Speekee TV and the accompanying FastTrack Lesson Plans. Speekee is a British production filmed in Spain with Spanish children. Pronunciation and vocabulary tends to be from Spain as well (juice is zuma de… vs jugo de…). Speekee is not a new product as they have been around for a long time. Instead of just producing videos, which may not be compatible with international DVD players, Speekee is now available online. Speekee TV is  a monthly subscription, for children ages 2-10, which costs $7.50 per month or $60 per year and includes the following (taken from the website):
  • 10 episodes of Spanish
  • Over 150 minutes of pure Spanish learning
  • Learn Spanish from real Spanish children in real Spanish locations
  • Features songs, animation and puppets
  • Optional subtitles in Spanish and English
  • Free activity sheet downloads
  • Great fun and extremely effective
  • Created by specialist language teachers
  • Free optional curriculum
  • Songs you can't stop singing
PhotobucketSpeekee TV uses songs, some conversations, and this cute little puppet, as well as a couple sock puppets, children, and an adult to teach Spanish to children ages 2-10. Each of the 10 episodes teaches basic phrases, language and conversation through repetition and song. Included with the subscription to Speekee TV is an optional weekly email or website access to the FastTrack lesson plans for 40 weeks of 4 lessons per week. These lesson plans flush out the learning with worksheets, flashcards, activities and repetition with a parent.

So, what do I think of Speekee? In order to understand my opinion it would be best to understand my language background. I have taken several years of Spanish in high school and college. Even after many years, I have very rudimentary Spanish speech abilities despite getting straight A’s. My husband is fluent in Spanish. At times we will use Spanish to talk when we don’t want the children to understand us- despite my bad grammar and occasionally wrong vocabulary!

Strawberry 2.5 and Pumpkin Pie 6 enjoying Speekee

“That’s Speekee! I like Speekee!” proclaims Strawberry while I was writing this review. At first my children, especially the oldest (8 and 10), were really overwhelmed with the thorough immersion in Speekee because I turned the subtitles off and then let them watch. Later I turned the subtitles on for the first viewing and then turned them off again to help them really pay attention to the Spanish. Despite the initial shock, my children have enjoyed Speekee. I have heard the songs being sung throughout the days and I hear Tiger plinking out the songs on the piano. Any time I ask if they want to watch Speekee, the answer is an emphatic, “Yes!” Strawberry will gleefully sing along with any song she can while the video is playing. I have also incorporated more Spanish with the children throughout the day much like the FastTrack lesson plans have suggested (although not exactly like them because they didn’t fit into our day very well) but I have used the vocabulary from the video frequently. Here is a short video of Tiger demonstrating the beginning of each Speekee episode. His puppets are rudimentary- he later redid them shown below.
The later puppets created for the skits

Despite their enthusiasm, I need more time to see that that Speekee is really teaching my children Spanish. For example, when I ask about colors (FastTrack lesson plan) my children refuse to use the Spanish even though I am asking the questions in Spanish and clarifying in English if necessary. When asked what the word is, they may or may not be able to answer.  As I sit and watch an episode with the children I pause it at the appropriate times and have the children practice saying the phrases and asking questions. While I do this I wonder if I would be able to facilitate if I did not have a Spanish background. It seems like I would not be able to answer questions, correct pronunciation, know when to pause, prompt the proper vocabulary, etc without knowing Spanish myself. The FastTrack lessons often included having the parent ask questions in Spanish and then having the child answer back. Without knowing Spanish, the pronunciation would be problematic for the parent.

There is much to like about Speekee though. I liked the immersion and  appreciate that old vocabulary was revisited in later episodes.  I spent many years conjugating verbs and that has made it very difficult to understand when to use the right verb. With Speekee, the verb is presented in the right form for the instance. Speekee is by no means a complete Spanish curriculum, but overall I think Speekee TV has been enjoyable for the children as an introduction to Spanish.

Be sure to check out what others on the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought by clicking the banner below.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received this product, at no cost to me, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are mine.