Saturday, April 27, 2013

Exploring Nearby Space - HOAC (Review & Giveaway)

If you have been a reader very long, it is no surprise to you that our family LOVES lapbooking.  It has proven to be a great way to engage all of the children when we study themes and subjects together.  Likewise, it is a wonderful tool that creates memories and promotes retention of the content learned.  The kids love showing off their finished product to Daddy, family members, and friends.

Exploring Nearby Space Curriculum
Recently, we were offered the opportunity to review a Project Pack from In the Hands of a Child.  Having used their materials before, I knew that we'd be in for a treat.  We had a number of titles to choose from, so I deferred to the little ones.  Since they had just completed a science class in co-op that had touched a bit on space, their interest was piqued.  Therefore, Exploring Nearby Space was their final choice. 

I'm excited that my kids wanted to dig a little deeper concerning a subject that they already had some prior knowledge.  I was even more thrilled to have an HOAC Project Pack available on the topic because it eliminated all prep-work on my part.  The teacher's part is complete, and the work is ready for the students' hands. 

Now, you may be asking, "What exactly is a Project Pack?"  Simply, it is a download of a ready-to-assemble, hands-on unit.  It includes both the activities and the lesson plans/research guide needed to complete the activities.  A Project Pack is made from a file folder that is refolded into a shutter-style lapbook.  Supplies needed are minimal:  file folders, colored paper, crayons, pencils, glue, scissors, and tape.

The Exploring Nearby Space Project Pack included:  an overview of a Project Pack, a note regarding adaptations, a table of contents, a 7-day Planning Guide, Related Reading List, 10 Hands-On Activities and Instructions, 3 Fun Bonus and 3 Extension Activities, directions for lapbook construction, sample pictures, and a 7-page Research Guide.
I chose to follow the 7-day guide with the kids.  For each of the core concepts listed, the kids completed a graphic organizer or mini-book.  At the end of our study, we affixed these to the file folders to complete our lapbooks.  This study was designed for students in K-3rd grade, so we definitely utilized some of the adaptations provided to keep writing to a minimum.  For example, Rachel colored many of the graphics included in the project pack.  Jeremiah traced some of the copywork opposed to writing it freehand.  Finally, for the vocabulary words, the kids took turns drawing a pictorial representation of the word on the front of the card.  On the back, we glued the pre-typed definition.  These little helps kept the work manageable and fun for the kids, and there were no complaints.

In Exploring Nearby Space, the kids were able to explore the sun, moon, stars, and planets.  While these were somewhat familiar topics, it was the information on space exploration tools, satellites, and space transportation that ignited the most interest.  No shocker, but my Star Wars lovin' boys really enjoyed these "new-to-them" topics.  So much so, in fact, they checked out some library books on space vehicles. 

As you can see from the completed lapbook below, the kids learned a lot about space and have a beautiful hand-made keepsake of their space adventure.  They can pull this lapbook out in the future to review what they learned and remember the great time they had in the process.  The learning can continue past the week long study.


Exploring Nearby Space is regularly priced at $10.00. However, it is currently on sale for only $7.00. Prior to purchase, you may wish to peruse the free sample that is available to download. In the Hands of a Child is also offering an Exploring Nearby Space Project Pack to one of my readers. Be sure to enter to win below!!!


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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Van-schooling... inadvertently

Long ago, I learned that doctor office visits rarely transpire on time.  If your appointment is at 9 a.m., then bank on being escorted to the examination room at 9:30 a.m.  Then, prepare to wait in said room until 10 a.m. for the doctor to make a grand appearance.  With this knowledge, it is imperative to have a plan to occupy the children.  During the summer months or holiday breaks, I don't mind the kids packing their handheld games.  However, a school day warrants schoolwork.  I'd be silly not to make use of this time, right?

Eden had her 4 month well check yesterday morning.  We headed out in a monsoon... the kids armed with umbrellas, clipboards, pencils, and crayons.  Shockingly, we waited mere minutes before being called back.  Even still, the kids were able to knock out handwriting and some of their math.  We learned what we were already aware of - Eden's doing perfectly well.  She continues to track on her 90-95% curve in height and weight at 26.5 inches and 16 lbs. 4 ozs.  Baby girl was all happy smiles until shot time, and then she expressed her dislike. 

After calming the lil' one and having the big ones pack up, we made our way out to find the rain still pouring and a storm brewing.  As we pulled out of the parking lot onto the road, my windshield wipers froze.  Obviously, visibility was low, but I was able to circle around and pull into the parking lot of the hospital.  Unfortunately, there was no reviving the wipers, and we were stranded.

So what's a family to do? Van-school, of course.  I'd love to say I'm super awesome-sauce to be this prepared all the time, but it was a total fluke.  However, I was quite thankful the kids had their math to help pass the time.  Also, by accident, a book had been left in the van, so we had plenty to keep us occupied during our hour and a half stand still. 

We finally caught a break in the rain and thankfully made it home safe and sound, but my mind was focused on van-schooling.  Do you school in your vehicle?  On a regular basis or only in have-to situations? If you were in our place, what would you have done to pass the time?  Anything educational?  When going on a trip, we plan ahead with games, books, audio books, etc.  However, this little incident has impressed upon me the idea to always have something readily available in the van.  Yes, guess which book still didn't get brought inside :-) 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Math Rider - Review

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The end of the school year is quickly approaching in our home.  There are few pages left in the math workbooks, but even still, there is a need to really hone in and master the basic math facts.  I want them ingrained in their brains where they can rattle off the answer without a moment of hesitation.  Sure, I could fire up the printer, waste lots of ink, and kill some trees in order to make drill and practice sheets, but knowing my crew that would not accomplish my goal.  Thankfully, as a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I had the opportunity to review Math Rider.  This computer-based math game is designed for students ages 6-12 and affords them practice in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts for numbers 1-12.  Through a story-based game, the four operations are each practiced and mastered in a whimsical fantasy land. 

 photo mathrider-product-box-v5-200x209_zpsf141caec.jpgCaleb, my 7 year old, was the main player during our review period.  He loved that he became an instant character in the game.  Atop his faithful steed, Shadow, he moved with ease through the game.   In the past, we've used products that required so much effort to move the characters or increase/decrease speed.  Therefore, as a parent, I truly appreciate that the mechanics of playing the game were simple and didn't hinder from the learning within the game.  

The game is very picturesque comprised of digitally matte-painted scenes.  When completing math problems for each operation, there are four different quests including a heroic rescue in the end.  Along the way, rewards are earned.  Caleb is all about a token-based economy, so no matter how small, the REWARD aspect is a huge motivator in his book. 

Math Rider varies game speed and question difficulty.  Tailor-fitted to his abilities, the computer-based program both challenged Caleb and built his confidence.  Basically, Math Rider assessed what he already knew and focused on where he needed more practice.  Because there are no random questions, Caleb didn't get bored playing the game repeatedly answering questions he had mastered.  
Through an interactive overview map, both students and parents are able to identify the mastery of each number fact and/or operation.  This at a glance, color-coded view allowed me to know in an instant where Caleb's strength and weaknesses lie.  Within the game context, more specific information can be obtained by clicking the individual question. 

Caleb has worked through the addition and subtraction quests.  I believe, I'll have him do a little more work with subtraction.  However, the bulk of his time will be in multiplication - which is what he is currently studying in his daily math program.  I also intend to have Jeremiah and Rachel more involved in playing the game because I am impressed with the results.   
If you are considering Math Rider, I encourage you to take advantage of the free 7-day trial.  To purchase Math Rider, the cost is $47, which includes free software updates for life.  This single license allows for up to 8 players. Each child creates their personal rider and then logs in to their own game environment. The game monitors each individuals progress.

One other important item to note would be the system requirements.  Math Rider uses the Adobe® AIR™ runtime, so the game operates on Windows and Mac. Your computer requires about 80MB of available hard disk space. The monitor (and graphics card) needs to support at least a resolution of 1024 by 768 pixels. 


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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Holy Past Our Bedtime Batman!

Jon has been working some crazy hours as of late and has had more than his fair share on the work plate.  Missing time spent with the munchkins, he concocted a grand plan for some Daddy/Kiddo fun.  Needless to say, it was very well-received.

After dinner Friday night, Jon sent the kids upstairs to grab their pillows as he inflated the air mattress.  I tried to convince them that these were simply preparations for their night spent out on the front lawn, but they didn't seem to buy Mommy's idea.  Instead, they learned that they were going to relax and watch the old school Batman movie with Daddy.  These super-hero nuts were quite excited. 

The movie ended at what should have been bedtime, but rather than putting pj's on, the kids were sent to grab jackets and shoes.  Off they went, and they returned with treats from McDonalds.  The boys opted for hot fudge sundaes, and no surprise, Rachel went for supper #2 - chicken nuggets, apples, and fries. 

With jammies on and teeth brushed, the kids learned Daddy had authorized a double feature that would conclude with an indoor campout in the living room.  Hoorays by all!  There were some pretty groggy children when 11:30 rolled around.  Jon said it was questionable whether they all made it through the last movie, but they each insisted they did :-) 

I snuck a pic of the sacked out crew.  If you look closely, they had a feline guest.  Nurnt couldn't pass up all that cuddling :-)  Such a simple gesture, but what a wonderful memory for the kids and Daddy.  Needless to say, Jon was the "coolest" parent all weekend long!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Lego KidsFest!

Legos.... I have a love/hate relationship with these plastic pieces.  I love that they entertain my kiddos for hours upon hours.  Legos not only spark their creativity, but the toys give them great practice in following instructions, improve visual/spatial awareness, provide tactile stimulus, and allow them to plan and problem solve.  Who knew the power of this plastic???  On the other hand, I hate the feel of the pointy edges on my bare feet, how the little circle pieces get buried in the carpet only to be found by the vacuum, the constant storage/display dilemma, and the tears that are sure to follow when hours of hard work are eradicated when the structure takes a fatal fall from a little hand.  Love/Hate!

Neither Jon or I really recall being that into Legos as children, but in this case, our 3 are our polar opposites.  They have recently discovered that such a magical place as LegoLand exists.  Being that there is no foreseeable trip in our future, we decided to surprise our kiddos with the next best thing.  Lego Kidsfest came to our old stomping ground last weekend, so another trip to KY was planned under the guise of celebrating the birthdays of Uncle Lee, Grandpa, and me.  Then, Sunday after church we rolled up to the Louisville Fair & Expo Center for the grand reveal.  Great excitement ensued!

The Fab 4 waiting in line for Lego Kidsfest to begin!

We were able to bypass the duplo section since Eden isn't quite ready for those yet, and we opted not to wait in line for the video game area.  Otherwise, I believe we hit all the other sections.  Chima, Ninjago, Lego City, Lego Art, Friends, Galaxy Squad, etc.  So much fun for my babes!  Then, if all of this wasn't enough, another surprise.  Our new TN friends made the trip up to KY, so the kids got to share the fun with their pals.


Masters of Spinjitsu
Daddy helped out in the Lego Challenge. 

Posing in front of Creation Nation... see the finished product HERE!

"A brown girl LEGO like me!!!"

Blasting aliens with their best bud!

Enjoy a sampling of the pics... There were so many Lego characters to pose with and we didn't miss a photo op, but I won't bore you with EVERY single one.  You are welcome!

Did you catch all those smiles?  I think Momma and Daddy did good with this surprise. They were worn out, and actually didn't even fuss when we decided to leave a little early.  They were hyped up on the trip home though because they were checking out all their free loot... posters, comics, magazines, and a couple small Lego sets.  If Lego KidsFest comes to your area, even this Lego lover/hater recommends you attend.  It's worth it in my book!

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Journey Through Learning - Review

Journey through Learning Logo photo journeythroughlearninglogo_zps21c38856.jpgA Journey Through Learning is an outstanding resource for homeschooling families.  The company offers professional, educational unit studies, lapbooks and study guides, and express lapbooks tailored for children in preschool through middle school.  A wide range of titles are available encompassing all academic subjects, Biblical studies, holidays, and themes.  Likewise, you will find lapbooks to accompany many well-known curriculum and publishers including Jeannie Fulbright/Apologia science, VeggieTales, TruthQuest History, Geography Matters, Answers in Genesis, Classical Conversations and more.


As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received the following lapbook downloads:  Letters, Numbers, and Shapes, Knights and Castles, and The Earth, as well as the Astronomy and Space unit study.  I believe, there are elements of Letters, Numbers, and Shapes that Rachel could definitely benefit from, and I know my boys would LOVE to study Knights and Castles.  Recently, in their co-op science class, all the kids studied space briefly, so I am confident they would benefit from a more in depth unit study on space.  However, for this review period, I chose to use The Earth lapbook and study guide.  Designed for grades 1-4, it was the perfect choice for my three little ones. 

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The Earth is a 42 page download complete with an overview of lapbooking, suggested time frame, assembly directions, learning guide, mini-booklet templates, suggested reading materials, songs, poems, and craft ideas.  This is a great value for $21 in print or $13 for the download version.  Aside from a couple file folders, paper, pencil, crayons, computer, and printer, everything you need is provided for you.  For a busy homeschool parent, this is a definite time saver and the perfect way to add hands-on-learning to your homeschool. 

If you are a newbie to lapbooking, do not be apprehensive in any way.  A Journey Through Learning literally holds your hand and walks you through the process step-by-step.  The assembly is extremely easy.  There are pictorial and written directions for every fold and illustrations depicting the exact placement of every mini-booklet.  I consider myself quite familiar and rather adept at lapbooking, and I even appreciated the very organized manner in which the materials are compiled.

You may choose to print materials and assemble the lap book piece by piece, or you can print everything and preassemble the book before diving into the study.  Rather than have each of my children complete an individual lapbook, I chose to have the kids work together to create one.  For this reason, I felt it would be easiest for us to have the lapbook preassembled.  While Rachel colored our cover, I did all the printing, cutting, and gluing. Then each day after our study, we only had to complete a mini-booklet.  Again, because we were sharing, the children took turns writing answers.  In some cases, while we still discussed the questions as a family, I actually wrote the answers.  I still very much have primary writers, so fitting a lot of words in small spaces is still a challenge for them.  They remained responsible for the information.  I just assisted in fitting it in the tight space. 

In The Earth, my kids learned about our planet's composition, the Earth's crust, sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks, the Earth's 4 spheres-lithosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere,  and how the Earth moves-the days and the seasons.  They also focused on parts of the Earth, landforms-continents, mountains, valleys, and plains, how mountains are formed, the atmosphere, the water cycle, ocean zones- photic, abyssal, disphotic, hadal, the ocean floor- continental margin, continental shelf, abyssal plain, ocean trenches, and volcanoes.  A lot of information was found in those 42 pages!!!!

Specifically, we used The Earth as our science study for the month of March.  Each day, we devoted a mere 10-15 minutes to the topic.  This was just right for my children's attention span.  Likewise, it introduced the kids to new information in bite-size chunks, so they never felt overwhelmed.  They truly absorbed and retained what they learned.  We read a section of the study guide together and completed a mini-book daily, and by month's end my littles were so proud of their beautiful, informational lapbook.  We also had plenty of time to devote to the "extras" that were suggested.  A favorite of course was reading The Magic School Bus: Inside the Earth.

I'm very impressed with A Journey Through Learning's materials. I know we will use more of their titles in the future to supplement our studies in various subject areas.  I would highly recommend you get to know this company!  There are many ways to connect with A Journey Through Learning.  Follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.  Sign up for the newsletter, and you will receive a 17th Century Overview Lapbook.  I believe, this is a great way to try A Journey Through Learning without any financial investment.  You can also read how other Schoolhouse Review Crew members used The Earth as well as other titles.

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Homeschool Day at Cheekwood

Homeschool Day at Cheekwood turned about to be a bit overcast and the wind was brisk, but we bundled up to enjoy some fun.  There was a great turn-out and multiple activities and tours taking place throughout the day. 

We began by taking a garden tour.  The seasonal flowers in the color garden were in bloom, but the thousands upon thousands of tulips had yet to open due to the unseasonably cool temperatures.  There were some definite sparse patches.  Even still, we enjoyed some beauty and learned new things along the way.  A great real-life connection...  studying the sun-dial the kids saw Roman Numerals.  The boys just happened to begin studying them in math. 

The history of Cheekwood was rather interesting, and my kids can all tell you the origin of the familiar slogan "Good to the last drop!"  Do you know who said it?  Theodore Roosevelt!  Needless to say, our next grocery store excursion will have us looking for the Maxwell House coffee can on the shelf.  You see, it was the money made from the coffee sells that afforded the building of such a luxurious home during The Great Depression.  We were also quite impressed with the man-made water fall that flowed into three cascading ponds and then was pumped back up the hill.  Extremely impressive for the time period!

Following our garden tour, the kids made a paper tulip craft.  Then, I learned that the upcoming sculpture tour was not stroller friendly.  We made a mad dash to the van to trade in the stroller for the Ergo carrier.  We huffed it to catch up with the hikers who had already begun.  Bringing up the rear, we hiked up and down hills looking at "art."  I admit that I think that term was used loosely, but to each his own, right?  Let's just say, I prefer paintings on a wall to the eccentric structures we passed along the trail :-)

I look forward to returning to Cheekwood this summer to enjoy flowers in full bloom and an upcoming light exhibit.  Thursday evening in June and July are designated as Family Nights Out. There are child-friendly performances, shows, and a kids dance zone.  It sounds like a lot of fun!