Saturday, December 3, 2016

Books for the Holidays Linky: Our Top Ten Christmas Books

I have a large Christmas book collection. I've been collecting books for many, many years. These are the top ten Christmas books I plan on reading with my daughter this year. Many of these book selections are part of our Advent Book Tree Countdown to Christmas activity.

1.) Unwrapping the Greatest Gift written by Ann Voskamp
2.) The Jesse Tree written by Geraldine McCaughrean 
3.) Humphrey's First Christmas written by Carol Heyer 
4.) Santa's Favorite Story written by Hisako Aoki
5.) Penny's Christmas Jar Miracle written by Jason F. Wright
6.) The Prayer Chain written by Kimberley Williams Shaw
7.) Mortimer's Christmas Manger written by Karma Wilson
8.) The Sparkle Box written by Jill Hardie
9.) The King's Christmas List written by Eldon Johnson
10.) A Special Place for Santa written by Jeanne Pieper

Please check out the Linky below to read about other Books for the Holidays suggestions from the Homeschool Review Crew members.
Books for the Holidays

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

I just wanted to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving! May your day be abundantly blessed with happiness, love, and kindness. Enjoy spending quality time with your loved ones and cherish every moment.

I am not making the Thanksgiving feast this year, but I am bringing a couple things one of which are my deviled eggs. I can't wait to eat some roasted turkey and grandma's delicious stuffing. I've been waiting for this all year. :)

Remember as your prepare the feast or get ready for the day to give thanks to God and have a heart of gratitude. Here's a scripture reference I will be thinking about today.

Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind, for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.  - Psalm 107:8-9




Sunday, November 20, 2016

Happy Birthday Alyssa!

My baby girl is growing up so quickly. Yesterday she turned 9 years old. Happy Birthday Alyssa! The years are flying by. She is an exceptional young lady and I can't wait to see what God has planned for her future.

She was at her father's this weekend so I spent two hours with her in town. I took her out to eat at Fazoli's, because she doesn't get to eat there often. She decided to order an adult meal. We went window shopping and hung out after the meal. She bought a coloring book to use during Thanksgiving break. It was great seeing her for a couple hours! Her smile brightened up my evening! I brought her one of her favorite dessert treats (mini macaroons), a huge birthday balloon, and a beautiful red rose.
Tortellini Alfredo with Meatballs
Saying Goodbye
First Birthday
Look at that it's the Same BIG Smile :)





Friday, November 11, 2016

Amazon Rainforest Brochure Project

Alyssa made her first brochure project. We recently finished a rainforest-themed unit so she decided to create a brochure about the rainforest and the animals living in the rainforest. First, she completed a planning sheet while researching information. Then, she revised and edited her work. My daughter also found a mini map online to include in her project. She's learned so much about the rainforest this year! The project also inspired her to create several other brochures.


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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Homeschool Review Crew: Language Smarts™ Level E from The Critical Thinking Co.™

Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}


We recently had the opportunity to review a newly released product from The Critical Thinking Co.™ called Language Smarts™ Level E. My daughter and I received a physical copy of this HUGE workbook. As soon as my daughter opened the package in the car, she wanted to work through the pages. I was hoping to add more critical thinking activities to our day and this book has the bonus of being a full Language Arts curriculum. It is one of 4 books in a product series titled, Language Smarts. Levels B through E are available to purchase.  
Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}

Language Smarts™ Level E is written by Noreen Conte who has over 30 years teaching experience with children in Grades 1-5. A variety of concepts were addressed including but not limited to making predictions, following directions, making inferences, summaries, spelling rules such "i before e except after c, good readers, nonfiction, clauses, types of writing, parts of speech, and so much more. 

This GIGANTIC 392-page consumable paperback workbook is jam-packed with engaging lesson material. However, based on the company website, it has a reproducible license which means you can reproduce each page for use within one home or one classroom. Critical and analytical thinking skills are woven into the lessons. An answer key is found at the back of the book starting on page 364. The solutions are listed under the page number which is in bold print. Very few images or illustrations are found throughout the book which keeps the focus on the lesson material. The book is geared towards children in 4th grade, but will be beneficial to advanced 2nd or 3rd graders with some Grammar and Writing experiences and background knowledge. Skills and concepts which students are expected to know in 4th grade are covered. The book is also suitable for children in 5th grade, because it addresses concepts taught in that grade as well. 

Short yet informative mini-lessons are boxed and outlined in the color pink at the top of the page. These boxed sections are to be read first. The clear and concise explanations are easy-to-understand. Additionally, the modeled examples reinforce learning. Tables or charts are provided for specific topics. The directions are highlighted in yellow. The bright color attracts the eye encouraging and reminding students to read and follow the instructions. I was happy with this feature, because the highlighting feature definitely draws the eye and your attention to the directions. Not to mention, the font size and type were readable and easy on the eyes. 

This complete workbook teaches Reading, Writing, Grammar, Punctuation, Spelling, and Vocabulary effectively. Furthermore, analytical and critical thinking skills are addressed within each lesson. The comprehensive workbook also covers 3 main types of Writing including Narrative, Informational, and Opinion. The five steps of the writing process are taught for each type of writing style. A sample of the Editor in Chief and Writing Detective lessons are built-in and scattered throughout the workbook. These are two full-sized products available separately in their online store. These books address grammar, spelling, punctuation, writing, and reading skills as well. 
Editor in Chief
Writing Detective

The workbook is organized into several main topics as seen below. Each topic is further broken down into more specific concepts or skills. For example, Alyssa will review end punctuation and quotation marks when learning about Punctuation. Then, she'll learn about commas, colons, and semi-colons. My daughter will differentiate between types of sentences, learn about rambling sentences, fix run-on sentences, identify clauses, and recognize sentence fragments when the Sentence unit is covered. There is so much content that is actually covered in depth. All eight of the parts of speech are addressed and further broken down to simplify the concept even more. The standards listed below will give you a better idea of a few concepts and skills emphasized. You can also view the Table of Contents sample pages for more detailed scope and sequence information. 

Topics Addressed
  • Syllables
  • Word Parts
  • Word Relationships
  • Spelling
  • Editor in Chief
  • Writing Detective
  • Parts of Speech 
  • Sentences
  • Punctuation
  • Using Words Correctly
  • Reading and Writing
  • Types of Writing and Writing Process
  • Reference Materials (online or print dictionary, thesaurus, and encyclopedia)
  • And More


How We Used Language Smarts Level E
Language Smarts™ Level E is intended to be a full Language Arts curriculum. However, it can easily be used as a supplement to any core Language Arts curriculum. We used it as a supplement to her Reading, Grammar, and Writing curricula. It also served as her core Critical Thinking curriculum. 

I used this workbook with Alyssa (age 8) who works at a 3rd-5th grade level. She has been exposed to basic and advanced Grammar, Reading, Spelling, and Writing concepts for years so her background knowledge is above average. I was confident that the topics would be age-appropriate and meet her needs after glancing at the Table of Contents. I knew that some of the material would be a review and other topics would be unfamiliar. I was hoping the content would be somewhat challenging yet enjoyable which was the case for several concepts. 
Challenging Activity: Accented Syllables
Hardest Activity Yet Still Smiling :)

My daughter completed 2-4 pages a day. We originally intended on starting at the beginning of the book working in order. She worked through the pages 3-5 times per week completing anywhere from 6-20 pages total in a week. I gave her approximately 15-45 minutes to complete the assigned pages. I used blue post-it notes to indicate which pages were assigned for the day. I used a pink post-it note for easier access to the answer key.

I didn't want her to get bored learning about the same topic over several days so we started to jump around to different topics in the book. We focused on reviewing previously learned concepts or tied the pages into her current studies. We also skipped around to get a feel for the depth and topic coverage which was an excellent idea, because it gave me an idea about the content coverage of the entire book and provided even more lesson variety. A conglomeration of activities were offered for each topic such as fill-in-the-blank, hidden riddles, jumbles or scrambles, word searches, crossword puzzles, sentence completion and rewrites, matching, and multiple choice. 
Jumbled Prefixes and Riddle

Each subtopic lesson was about 1-4 pages long with Reading Comprehension and Writing Detective activities being the longest and requiring the most time to complete. Plenty of writing space was provided for written responses. I included a photo of the Reading Comprehension passage below so you can see the level.
Reading Comprehension Passage

The book thoroughly covered the following topics that we studied: Syllabication, prefixes, suffixes, roots, synonyms, and antonyms. Analogies were a fairly new concept for Alyssa, but the material was presented in a simple manner with the use of helpful word banks or choice boxes. She also learned about Anagrams for the first time. The concept was addressed by giving a silly sentence that didn't make sense. Two words were incorrect. She had to first identify the incorrect words and then rearrange the letters to form a new word. As she completed the book pages, I identified a few concepts she struggled with such as accented syllables and compound syllabication with prefixes and suffixes added on.
 
Anagrams

Alyssa usually completed the work independently. For the first two lessons, I read aloud the lesson boxes to model expectations. Then, she read the lesson information and viewed the examples on her own. I offered help when she needed to clarify any misunderstandings. I did not give her any answers, I facilitated the learning process by asking questions and enabling her figure it out on her own. Then, I checked her work and we discussed any errors. If a brand new topic was scheduled, then I did read aloud the lesson information or teaching points. Several example problems were also completed together. 

One of Alyssa's favorite lessons was about Palindromes. She learned for the first time what the formal term was for a word that reads the same forward and backward. This lesson was also her favorite, because it included a Crossword Puzzle. Word searches and cross word puzzles are a big hit with my little girl! Furthermore, her second favorite activity was the Tagalong Word Search when learning about Antonyms. The first word was completed as an example. The opposite of "easy" was difficult. The word "difficult" was circled in red in the word search puzzle. The last letter of that word was the first letter of the next word which is the antonym for "loose." The antonym and next word was "tight." I've never seen a word search set up in this manner and we both wished more  tagalong puzzles were included in the book. If the child doesn't read the highlighted directions, then they would most likely get several wrong. 
Antonym Tag Along Word Search
Palindromes
What We Liked
  • Highlighted Directions
  • Colorful, Non-Distracting Workbook Pages
  • Comprehensiveness and Coverage
  • NO Lesson Preparation or Planning
  • Variety of Activities
  • Language Arts Subjects Integrated in the Book
  • Writing Process Gradually Taught with Graphic Organizers 
  • Inclusion of Reading Comprehension Passages and Thought-Provoking Questions
  • Challenging Age-Appropriate Content
  • Consistent Concept Repetition and Plenty of Practice Opportunities
  • Tag Along Word Searches, Crossword Puzzles, and  Palindromes
Suffix Word Search
Possible Vendor Suggestions
  1. Separate Parent Answer Key from Student's Book
  2. Word Bank or Hints for Scrambled Words
  3. Limit the Number of Questions on Each Page 
Recommendations
I recommend Language Smarts™ Level E for families who implement a traditional or workbook approach in their homeschool. This full color workbook would be suitable for advanced second and third graders or as intended for 4th grade students. Fifth graders can use the book to get a head start too. I was pleased and impressed with the content coverage and skill depth in the book. If your child likes completing workbook pages, then I would definitely look into this product. Visual learners may appreciate the charts, graphs, tables, and puzzles.

I believe this book is helping Alyssa improve her reading, writing, grammar, punctuation, spelling, and critical thinking skills. We will continue using Language Smarts Level E at a slower pace completing fewer pages each day. She will work on only 1-3 per day starting next week. I want my daughter to work at her own individualized pace. If 2 pages are completed per day, then she'll complete the book in a school year, but if needed we'll use it longer. I will choose topics related to Alyssa's studies or give her the choice as to which pages to complete. 

Price 
The cost of this high-quality workbook is $42.99. Visit the online store for more information. You can also view the 3-page Table of Contents and sample pages on the website during your visit. The colorful workbook is available in two formats as a physical book copy or in eBook format. 

Note: Prices subject to change without notice. 

If you have younger preschool children, then you may want to look into The Critical Thinking Co.™ software download options for their Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic Before Kindergarten!™ program. These are downloadable products available for Windows. Keep in mind only ONE child can use the program at a time. Checkout The Importance of Preschool AcademicsReading, Writing, and Arithmetic Before Kindergarten!™ program for more information. 

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The Homeschool Review Crew reviewed various products from The Critical Thinking Co.™. Visit the link to learn more about each product we reviewed.
Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}
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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Halloween 2016

This post is a little late, because I've had a very busy week. I was supposed to post this end of last week, but was distracted. We hung out with friends this Halloween. The girls all dressed up and went trick-or-treating together. We saw a few friends along the way and enjoyed the each other's company. Alyssa ended the night with a candy sort and treat. :)
Sweet Girls
Friends for Life
Let's Get This Party Started
Glad This Adorable Bee Didn't Sting Us

Candy Pile

Friday, November 4, 2016

Homeschool Review Crew: Cooking Up History with the Founding Presidents from Homeschool Legacy

Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}

We've been reviewing one of the Once-a-Week Micro-Studies titled, Cooking Up History with the Founding Presidents, from Homeschool Legacy to our weekly schedule to change up our routine. With the presidential elections around the corner, my daughter has been interested in learning more about all of the presidents and asking more thought-provoking questions. Cooking is also a skill I want my daughter to learn before she leaves home and is on her own. I thought it would be fun to review and learn about the founding presidents while practicing this skill. We received a digital copy of the micro-study via email from the author, Sharon Gibson, to review.
Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}

Cooking Up History with the Founding Presidents is a 4-week micro-study consisting of 21-pages in PDF ebook format which means that Adobe Reader will be needed to view this document. This particular history study is suitable for children in 1st-8th grade, but can be used with your entire family with minor adjustments. Several subjects were integrated into this unit study.

Academic Subjects Addressed
  • American History and Government
  • Language Arts (Reading and Writing)
  • Home Economics
  • Practical Life Skills
  • Internet Research
Topics Covered
Cooking Up History with the Founding Presidents explores and introduces children to the history about the first four presidents of our nation, their spouses, character, personalities, politics, and their favorite foods which were usually desserts. One president is covered each week in addition to the first ladies.
  • George and Martha Washington
  • John and Abigail Adams
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • James and Dolley Madison
All but one of the week's included a Did You Know section jam-packed with interesting factoids for historical buffs. This unit study addresses several influential men and great ladies who shaped our nation. Each section about a president included biographical information, a weekly supply list, educational links and videos, informative History and Government blurbs, a Language section, and a Cooking with the president section.

How We Used Homeschool Legacy
I downloaded the micro-unit study in PDF ebook format and saved it to my computer. I immediately printed out the weekly lessons and organized them in a 3-ring pocketed folder. My ink was running low so the unit cover is not as crisp and clear as I would like it to be.

I used Cooking Up History with the Founding Presidents with Alyssa (Age 8) who works at a 3rd-5th grade level. The micro-unit study was utilized as an American history supplement. The study can be done once-a-week or spread throughout the week. We chose to spread the activities out throughout the week. We worked through the unit at least 3 or 4 times per week for approximately 20-30 minutes each session which worked great with our schedule. We continued using our regular core curriculum and easily added the study into our day. Alyssa and I completed the study in chronological order beginning with our first president, George Washington. A variety of activities were provided including coloring sheets, note taking, Internet research, reading, baking, and more.

Prior to starting the first week, we gathered all the necessary ingredients for the first recipe. We also visited the local library and checked out a few books related to George Washington. We returned to the library the next week to check out many more related books for the entire micro-study. The picture below only shows a very small collection of the books we read during the historical unit study. I adore the David Adler books.

Read Aloud Biographies
First, we read a picture book biography aloud or started a biographical chapter book we found at the library. My daughter also read several related topical books independently and reread books we read together. She was surprised to find out that several presidents started college at an early age and had real jobs. She thought it was sweet that James and Dolley Madison were buried side by side at their home in Montpelier, Virginia. Alyssa couldn't believe that Jefferson and Adams both died on the dame day which was July 4th. She also thought it was funny when Jefferson didn't tell anyone about his birthday, because he didn't want the country to celebrate it. She couldn't believe that girls weren't allowed to go to school after reading a book about Abigail Adams. These were all findings after reading additional books about the presidents and their wives.

Then, we clicked on the embedded links throughout the micro-study to learn more about the president or the History and Government during his presidency. I read aloud the informative blurbs and my daughter read them a second time. I gave her some time to reread the information and conduct an independent research study using the embedded links as a starting point for rabbit trails. In the photos below, Alyssa was learning about Adams. The color page also includes information about the president.
Researching John Adams
Coloring John Adams

We first learned about George Washington and the a fact that his favorite dessert was a cherry pie. My daughter took charge in the kitchen and made two cherry pies. We used cherry pie filling instead of real cherries to save money. We added the other  listed ingredients such as sugar, tapioca pudding, butter, cinnamon, almond extract, and nutmeg to the pie filling. It tasted good, but the crust didn't bake properly. Even though I covered it for her, the middle tasted doughy and the edges were burnt. A link to a homemade cherry pie recipe was offered in the study.

One of the embedded links led Alyssa to a cartoon drawing activity. Drawing is one of her favorite hobbies. This video helped her create an image that looked like George Washington. My daughter also listed the first president's precedents on a piece of notebook paper. We may need to further discuss this topic.

Alyssa's favorite part of the micro-unit study was the hands-on baking and cooking experiences. Even if the recipes don't turn out exactly how we want them to, we enjoy spending time together in the kitchen. She is becoming more and more independent and taking on harder kitchen tasks as the years progress. She made the cherry pies pie herself. I only handled oven.
Washington's Cherry Pie

The most interesting fact she read about John Adams was that he owned a pet alligator. This factoid inspired her to research presidential pets online. We found a book through the InterLibrary Loan System to request. My daughter also wrote a friendly letter to a loved ones expressing her love towards them. John and Abigail shared a special love. Writing love letters was one way they communicated while he was gone in order to keep their love alive.

Then, we learned about John and Abigail Adams who were the first presidential couple to live in the White House. We  attempted to bake an apple pie. However, we had a bad experience with our Apple Pie Dowdy when studying James Adams. This was our first time ever making an apple pie. We used apples that were sweet and extremely juicy so our pie was extremely runny. Apparently, you are supposed to use tart apples. Our apples also must have been much larger than those used in the recipe. The recipe didn't indicate a size or type of apple to use. My daughter still thought the pie was delicious, because the apples were soft and soaked in the liquid and spices.

While studying Thomas Jefferson's presidential and historical background information, we learned that he was  a widow when during his presidential terms. She also found out that Jefferson owned 2 cub grizzly bears and a pet mockingbird in the White House. Alyssa had the best time studying Thomas Jefferson. The Macaroni and Cheese was a huge hit with us. It was super cheesy, moist, and very filling. She said, "Out of all the recipes this one is my favorite and it tasted the best."
Mac and Cheese Cooking Process
Thomas Jefferson's Macaroni and Cheese
My daughter made a list of new words in order to practice neology like Jefferson did when he coined words for the dictionary. She visited many websites, but she found one to be particularly interactive. The website taught her about architecture and gave her the opportunity to build her own Monticello.

We're almost finished with the last president from this micro-study, James Madison. We'll complete the unit study either later today or on Monday. The only thing we have left to do is make Thomas Jefferson's Vanilla Ice Cream for this week's presidential favorite dish. Additionally, we will read about how food was kept cold in the past using the chapter book, Farmer Boy. I am hoping to compare and contrast it to modern refrigeration today. We usually saved the recipes for late Friday afternoon. The dessert was served in the evening and the mac-n-cheese was served as part of our dinner one night. Although I will say that having us make Thomas Jefferson's Ice Cream during the James Madison portions confused both of us. I wish a different or second favorite food for James Madison was offered instead of using one for the third president. Alyssa thought that there was an error in the study. We will make and eat the ice cream for my birthday.
Learning About James Madison

What We Liked
  • Favorite Food Recipes and Baking Experience
  • Embedded Internet Links
  • Short, Quick Sessions
  • Excellent Coverage in a Short Amount of Time
  • Teaches American History and Government
  • Easily Added to Our Schedule
  • Very Minimal Prep Work 
Possible Vendor Suggestions
  1. Add the Book Lists Back - I miss the longer book lists as seen in the Once-a-Week Unit Studies even though our local library didn't always carry the books, they could access them through the InterLibrary Loan System. I always appreciated having a starting list of suggested books related to the topic. However, it is very easy to find related book using the Dewey Decimal System.
  2. More embedded educational links especially for Government and History.
  3. Add more hands-on projects, crafts, and recipes.
  4. Printable recipes
  5. Double check information for possible errors. I think that the comment about the "pet alligator" was possibly  incorrect. Everything we researched said it was a pet for the 6th president which was the son of John Adams (John Quincy Adams). I would also add the recipe ingredients so that they are easily accessible and printable. 
  6. Add a Did You Know Section for James Madison
  7. Are there plans for a complete President Unit Study?
Overall Thoughts and Opinions
I am thoroughly impressed with the History and Government coverage in this micro-study. I wasn't expecting so many events to be addressed, but I was pleased that Alyssa was exposed to topics such as the War of 1812, the Twelfth Amendment, the election of 1800, the Declaration of Independence, XYZ Affair, the Alien Sedition Act, the Embargo Act, political parties, and Mount Vernon and so much more. I also appreciated that vocabulary terms were linked enabling the students to discover the meaning of each word in the context of a sentence.

We also enjoyed reading the biographical living books. My daughter learned a lot about each president and was encouraged to further research historical topics in more depth in order to gain a better understanding. By focusing on one president at a time, she was able to retain the information better. It is a complete study for its purposes. I would aim more for exposure than mastery while allowing the child to slowly take in all the information.

Alyssa was begging to study another president. She asked if there was a study covering all of the presidents. We would love to see more cooking unit studies too. My daughter absolutely loved the baking and cooking activities! However, Alyssa was a little confused why Thomas Jefferson's vanilla ice cream was utilized for James Madison until I explained to her that he was one of the first individuals to write down an ice cream recipe. She preferred a new recipe specific to James Madison.

Price
Cooking Up History with the Founding Presidents is reasonably priced at $12.00. This affordable price is comparable to other unit studies on the market. You can view a sample week on the website. She offers an assortment of history and science unit studies in her online store.

I also reviewed Homeschool Legacy's Christmas Comes to America, Revolutionary Ideas, and Birds of a Feather in the past. Click on the links above to read those reviews.

Note: All prices are subject to change without notice.

Recommendations
I highly recommend Cooking Up History with the Founding Presidents as a supplement to any American History curriculum. Educators implementing an Eclectic, Charlotte Mason, or a Unit Study approach will benefit from using this micro-study. You have the added bonus that it serves as a mini baking or cooking class teaching practical life, math, and science skills. We are hoping to use the Once-a-Week Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims or the Many Nations Micro-Studies either this year or next year as supplements to our American History curricula. I really want to begin the Thanksgiving with Pilgrims before the holiday arrives. I already own several of Sharon's high quality Once-a-Week Unit Studies which I plan to use this year and next year.
Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}

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The Homeschool Review Crew reviewed several Homeschool Legacy Once-a-Week Unit Studies and Once-a-Week Micro-Unit Studies. Visit our blog to read about their experiences with these fun unit studies.
Once-a-Week Studies {Homeschool Legacy}

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