Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Tale of Peter Rabbit (FIAR)

Our Five In A Row Co-op met again to "row" The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter.  To begin class, the kids rolled dice to draw a bunny part by part.  They read the story listening for each mention of a vegetable.  Then, they unscrambled words to spell vegetables.  Just like the little bunnies in the story, they snacked on homemade bread, blackberry jam, and milk.

Following snack, the kids each decorated a cup - aka flower pot!  We headed outside to give the little ones a chance to find their green thumbs.  Believe it or not, my kids didn't get dirty.  They scooped soil into their cups, planted their seeds, and watered them.  Jeremiah will attempt to grow carrots, Caleb chose squash, and Rachel some flowers.  While I don't have high hopes for this harvest, you never know :-)

Inside to wash hands, then, bunny suckers for all.  We also scored some great nutrition goodies from the extension agent.  She caught wind of our vegetable study and kept appearing with fun stuff:  placemats, coloring books, puzzles, crayons, silly bandz, etc.  My three little love bunnies we're excited and had a great morning with their friends.

Monday, April 16, 2012

What on Earth? (TOS Review)


“I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.”—This Chinese proverb guides all AIMS material.  The AIMS Education Foundation is a non-profit foundation with the sole purpose of deepening students' understanding of math and science.  Children can't possibly be disinterested when given the opportunity to actively explore these subjects. Therefore, it is no surprise that their products are hands-on and engaging.  Quoting from the AIMS website, "Telling" is not our style; we believe in "doing."

Contact Info:
AIMS Education Foundation
P.O. Box 8120
Fresno, CA93747-8120

Earlier this year, I was able to review Getting into Geometry from the AIMS Education Foundation.  Based on our previous positive experience, I gladly volunteered to serve on the review team for another one of their products.  Considering that the fall brought us one of their math titles, it was fantastic to have the opportunity to review a science curriculum this spring. 


The kids and I were excited to open this book and begin to answer the question What on Earth?  Designed specifically with K-1 students in mind, the activities and experiments were perfect for my three little ones.  This material is divided into six sections: Resources, Rocks and Soil, Water, Changes, Day/Night, and Seasons.  We spent our time working through the last two sections.  When studying day and night, we were able to recognize a repeating pattern and make a lot of observations when viewing the sky.  We learned specifically about the sun and experimented with melting several items.  While learning about the phases of the moon, we made a craft to help us keep track and mark our current phase.  In our study of seasons, we discussed typical weather patterns in each one.  We also created a mobile depicting things we would see and do in winter, spring, summer, and fall. 

As a teacher, I appreciated that each lesson included background information, step-by-step procedures,  student, discussion questions, and extra resources.  Being a music teacher by profession for many years, I was thrilled to see AIMS use of piggyback songs... new lyrics set to a familiar melody.  This is an incredibly effective tool in teaching little ones new information.  I also love that children's literature in included.  The picture books are an excellent way to present information on new topics in a non-threatening, unassuming way.  Finally, the companion CD is fabulous.  Rather than having to make copies, I'm able to insert the CD and print a PDF of whatever activity my kiddos are currently doing. 

One thing to note, this product is obviously designed to be used in a classroom setting.  One of the lessons has students examining the cafeteria lunch on their tray.  Another has children observing the sun at recess.  Even still, the What on Earth? lessons are easily adaptable to fit the homeschool setting.  The large group activities will require a little more tweaking but are definitely doable. 

Honestly, my recommendation would be to use What on Earth? in a co-op setting.  With 30 lessons and permission to make up to 200 copies, this product would be ideal for homeschool co-op calendars.  It could easily fill an entire year of once a week meetings.  The K-1 teachers would be thrilled to have this teaching resource, and the students would be engaged in fun, active, science education.
Preview the book in order to see the table of contents, lay-out of the lessons, and several sample lessons/activities.  Available both as a PDF and a book/CD combo, either way, it retails for a very reasonable $21.95.   Be sure and peruse the many other math and science materials available through AIMS for K-9 students. 

Then, as always, don't simply take my word.  Read what my fellow crewmates are saying about their experiences with various AIMS products.  Visit the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog.
Disclaimer:  I received a complimentary copy of What on Earth? in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

TruthQuest History (TOS Review)

Photobucket Going through school, I was never one to be fascinated by or enthralled with history.  In fact, I found it to be one of my most boring classes.  Studying old dead guys, rehashing wars and ancient politics, and memorizing dates and places seemed like such a colossal waste of time.  Now looking back, I think part of my disconnect really came from the fact that history was presented in the absence of God.  Mankind was the sole focus when it should have been God. 

TruthQuest History is definitely God-centered.  It establishes "The Big 2 Beliefs" (Who is God, and who, then, is mankind?) as a frame of reference for students as they study historical figures, events, cultures, and entire civilizations.  While commentaries open each section, it is the ThinkWrite™  exercises that actually allow the student to process, respond to, and through the written word express the historical lessons learned.


While TruthQuest History has eight chronological guides for World History (Creation through 2000) that are best suited for middle and high school studies, three chronological American History guides are also available for students in 1st-5th grades.  As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew with early elementary children, I had the opportunity to review American History for Younger Students I: Exploration - 1800.  (Take a peek at the Table of Contents and a Sample Section.)  My kiddos and I worked through sections 1-7 of this curriculum learning about explorers, Christopher Columbus, Pilgrims, the Mayflower, Pocahontas, the first settlements, etc.  In our approach, I paraphrased the commentary sections, and we completed the ThinkWrite™ exercises through discussion.

Some of our library finds for this study.

After spending time with TruthQuest History, I can identify numerous positives...
  • an unwavering Biblical perspective
  • a comprehensive historical outline
  • an extensive reading list
  • exposure to "living books"
  • notes & commentary regarding resources listed (including honesty when the author hadn't personally read an item, and the caution given to some selections based on the worldview they presented)
  • resources age appropriately marked
  • videos/activity books included
  • the lack of rigid schedules & timelines to abide to in studying the material
  • the freedom to both skip entire sections or delve deeper into ones that peak your interest
However, for a number of reasons, this particular history program would not work well for us as a stand-alone curriculum.
  • I prefer to use and base our study around one "spine" or history core so that there is a cohesive presentation of the content. 
  • I appreciate a more scheduled approach.  Yes, I often tweak such things to meet our needs and to allow extra time for subjects that truly captivate us.  Still, a framework of "x" amount of time for this and "x" amount for that assists me. I love the flexibility of TruthQuest but know that I desire a little more guidance that it gives.
  • Some of the recommended reading is very dated and difficult to find.
  • A lot of searching and planning ahead is required in order to locate and have available the needed resources (time allotment for a lot of Internet searching, library trips, reserving items through inter-library loan, locating online resources, etc.)
  • lacks hands-on learning activities
  • lends itself to auditory learners and/or strong readers - more difficult for kids who need to "see" and "touch" 
While TruthQuest may not be the best history curriculum for my family, I absolutely identify it as a valuable resource that I can and will most definitely use.  I know we will find some true gems to accompany our history studies.  We've already enjoyed some wonderful biographies and historical fiction books that we may have otherwise missed.  In my opinion, TruthQuest History guides are phenomenal supplements.  The TOS Crew Members are sharing their experiences with TruthQuest History on the TOS Crew Blog. Be sure and read what others have to say as opinions always vary. 

TruthQuest Guides are available for purchase in either print or pdf format.  Prices range from $24.95 to $34.95 (for print) and $19.95 to $29.95 (for pdf.) On the website, you can also purchase lapbooks another company has created specifically for many of the TruthQuest guides. 

Disclaimer:  I was provided a complimentary TruthQuest History PDF in exchange for my review and honest opinion. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bodies Revealed

Through our fall CHIL classes and spring DRASTIC classes, my kiddos and their K-1 buddies have been studying Human Anatomy.  It's been a joy to hear them come home each week and share which body system or organ they have learned about.  They have been so excited and that is a credit to their rock-star teachers Mrs. Cheryl and Mrs. Sherry.  These ladies have made such an impression on my littles, and I'm thankful for their hard work and dedication. 

Below you can see the culmination of a year of study.  At our Learning Fair, the K-1 class had a "Bodies Reveal" exhibit of their own.  I just love their creations!





K-1 Class

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Farm Machinery, an ATV, Eggs, & Family

The Spaulding's gathered on Saturday to celebrate Easter.  Matthew & Megan were kind enough to host at their house.  Following the egg hunt, they entertained the kiddos.  They each took turns driving a small tractor pulling Malachi behind in a little wagon.  Then, they moved up the motor vehicle ladder and hopped on for a ride on Uncle Matthew's four-wheeler.  Matthew took them each out to the river, and he told Jeremiah they could swim there this summer.  Jeremiah said, "No way... I don't like crocodiles!"  Hahaha!  Not in KY, lil' man!

Aunt Megan was prepared to dye Easter eggs with the kiddos.  That's not something I have ever really done with my littles, so they thought this was great fun.  They had some colorful creations and didn't make too much of a mess. 

Mom, Dad, Adam, and Val couldn't be totally left out.  They arrived for some fabulous food and were able to spend some time blowing bubbles and playing with the kiddos afterwards.  I love family get-togethers... the memories made and times shared.

EGG-ceptional Hunters

Take 3 on egg hunting - I believe, these kiddos have it down.  Our church offered an egg hunt for kiddos 5 and under.  Since that would rule two of my kiddos out, we visited my brother's church.  The kiddos enjoyed being with Uncle Matthew, Aunt Megan, and cousin Malachi, a yummy lunch, and the thrill of the hunt.  The kids again filled their baskets with pastel, plastic eggs, and Jeremiah even discovered the coveted prize egg.  He was thrilled with his "radio" - also known as a CD :-)  Such cuties!

The hunt is on!

My three hunters in action!

"Mom - I found the prize egg!"
Malachi found chocolate in his Easter basket.
Check out my cool prize!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Beaky Birds

In contrast to the 80 degree shorts and t-shirts weather on Tuesday, we donned our pants, long-sleeve tees, and even grabbed jackets for another picnic with our friends.  The game farm is a favorite spot to meet year round.  Following lunch, we fed the geese, looked around inside the Salato Wildlife Center, and headed outdoors for an educational program.

The topic for the day was "Beaky Birds."  Caleb correctly identified the Great Horned Owl who was perched for most of the presentation.  The kids listened to the presenter, answered questions, and got to touch-and-feel an eagle feather, skull, talon, replica egg, etc.  They enjoyed seeing the owl, but the highlight was seeing the Red-Tailed Hawk training to fly outdoors.  He took two successful flights before the program concluded.

The day ended with a stroll around the path to view the animals.  The black bear was actually outside.  He's a fave, but he isn't always one to be on display and is often hiding away.  An eagle, buffaloes, elk, fish, a wildcat, turkeys, and deer all call Salato home.  We're blessed to have this great FREE educational resource close by!  A day at the "little zoo" (as the kids call it) is always fun. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Miss Rumphius - FIAR Co-op

After missing our last FIAR Co-op meeting, the kids were very excited to be back together with their book-reading buddies.  It was my turn to lead class, and the book we rowed was Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney.  I really enjoyed this title, and it had a great message...  "We can all do something to make the world more beautiful!"

During our meeting, we colored lupines, read the story, located Maine on the U.S. map, learned how seeds travel, finger painted, crafted flower bracelets, made floral bookmarks, and feasted on tulip cakes.  No doubt, we had an activity-filled morning.  Most of all, everyone had fun learning together.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Magic Treehouse Live

It turned out to be a steamy spring day... 80 degrees, Wow!  Our park play & picnic with friends was cut short because the kids were got too hot.  We loaded up the smelly, sweaty mess of kidlets and headed to Joseph Beth Booksellers a tad bit early.  Thankfully, we did because the Magic Treehouse Live Express Tour drew a big crowd.  Even still, our kiddos were able to stake and claim front row seats on the floor.  Following the performance, we purchased 3 new Magic Treehouse books to add to our collection.  While we opted not to wait in the crazy, long line to have Jack & Annie stamp our books, the kids thought it was pretty cool to get to see them! 

You can follow along with Jack & Annie on the Magic Treehouse On Stage FB page.  Also, Magic Treehouse: The Musical is in the works.  Orginally, it was to open in the fall, but it seems that is no longer the case.  While we wait, we'll just keep reading books in the series.