Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: Music Together Family Favorites Songbook and CD Combo Pack

Do your children like to sing, dance, or play instruments? Do you have a child bursting with energy? Have you heard about Music Together? If not, then let me be the first to open your eyes to a phenomenal program called 

Members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew were asked to review Music Together's Family Favorites CD and Songbook Combo Pack. I was so happy when I found out I would be reviewing this product. I started reminiscing one day ... I was thinking how much I miss the good 'ole days when I would dance around the house like a goofball singing to my daughter (especially when she was an infant and toddler). Alyssa has been dancing and singing songs for as long as I can remember. When I was pregnant, my husband and I were watching the Azul performance at Seaworld. The music was loud! I felt Alyssa kicking (dancing) the entire time. My husband got a kick out of watching my stomach. Over the years, I almost forgot the importance and benefits of music for young children. Alyssa is definitely still a singer and dancer but somewhere along the way, unfortunately, we stopped dancing as much together. Having the opportunity to review this product enabled me to provide, explore, and nurture valuable musical endeavors with my daughter as we did in the past.

Music Together is an internally known early childhood music and movement curriculum founded by director, Kenneth Guilmartin. Co-author of the program, Lili M. Levinowitz, is a professor of Music Education at Rowan University. This developmentally age appropriate, research-based program is designed for children from birth through kindergarten. I believe this a multi-aged, child-friendly program suitable for music loving children in early elementary up through at least 1st grade. Music Together is a pedagogically strong program providing families with a playful music rich environment while cultivating their imagination. Early music exposure introduces children to rhythm and movement. There are many researchers that believe music helps children concentrate and use higher order thinking skills. Music learning and movement also can help develop and benefit all learning and educational skills. I tend to agree with the research.

What's Included in the Family Favorites CD and Songbook Combo Pack:
1.) First Family Favorites CD   
A compilation of 19 popular family favorite songs from nine other song collections. The award-winning CD addresses and exposes children to a wide variety of music genres and musical elements. The musical compositions are well-produced. The entire collection is outstanding containing many upbeat songs. However, we do have a few favorite featured songs such as "Obwisana, One Little Owl, May All the Children, Palo Palo, Biddy Biddy, Ridin' in the Car, and John the Rabbit." You can listen to music samples from the "Family Favorites CD" or buy digital downloads of the album and songs here. There is a 32-page enclosed activity booklet attached to the CD containing additional ideas on how to incorporate musical activities in a fun and engaging way.

2.) Family Favorites Songbook for Teachers
The set included a companion 112-page spiral bound booklet with ideas and tips for implementing music and movement into your schedule. There are many types of activities including but not limited to fingerplays, focus activities, lap songs, dyads, instrumental and prop play, ostinati, large movements, and small movements. The songbook follows the sequential or numerical order of the CD with iconed track numbers provided at the top of each page. The illustrated songbook contains the company's philosophical beliefs, teaching principles, colored photos, song lyrics, musical notation arrangements, background information, a list of instruments and their use, and activities with teacher adaptations. The songbook adaptations are organized in four sections "All Ages and Settings," "Infants," "Preschoolers and Older Children," and "Children with Special Needs." The adaptations mentioned for children with special needs focuses on children with auditory sensory issues, visual sensory issues, vestibular and proprioceptive sensory issues, social, and/or physical issues. The songbook also includes adaptive games and techniques for caregivers. Additionally, there is a glossary of terms and a guitar reference chart with notes towards the back of the songbook. The songbook for teachers was originally intended for those teaching music in some way or another. Although, I feel this resource would be extremely helpful to anyone wanting to expose their child to music, movement, and instrumental play. Please keep in mind that the songbook is NOT meant to replace the actual classes offered through Musical Together. 

I agree with the company's philosophy for music development. This excerpt is from the Music Together website "All children are musical. Therefore, all children can achieve basic music competence, which is defined as the ability to sing in tune and move with accurate rhythm." More can be read about their mission and philosophy on their website. Click the link above. 

Helpful Rhythm Instruments You Can Make or Purchase
  • Scarves
  • Egg Shakers
  • Rhythm Sticks
  • Train Whistle
  • Harmonica
  • Maracas
  • Drums or Bongos
  • Triangles 
  • Resonator Bells
  • Props such as balls, parachutes, teddy bear, baby doll, and so forth
A great website for making your own rhythmic instruments is Homemade Musical Instruments

How We Use It
We played the music as often as we possibly could. The music CD was used several times throughout the day including bedtime, bath time, car travel, school time, free time, etc. I also used this in conjunction with her music curriculum including instrumental lessons. I set aside a minimum of two to three days per week to use the songbook, CD, and activity book. We began the lesson with the "Hello Song" and ended with the "Goodbye Song" as a way to form a routine. I wanted her to know when lessons would begin and end. When we sang the "Hello Song," we always sang it in the same tempo as the song on the CD while completing the phrase "Hello, I'm ___" with our names or silly self names. Other times we would say hello to other school areas. The class ended with a hug, kiss, high five, or a handshake. We usually complete approximately five songs per lesson fewer on our busy days. Our sessions last about 30-50 minutes. Alyssa usually asks to listen to more songs and I give her about 10-15 minutes to dance and sing freely while playing instruments of her choice. We placed all the instrumental items we might use in her music workbox including maracas, triangle, harmonica, rhythm sticks (thick dowels), and so forth. I made sure that other large props or instruments were nearby such as her teddy bear, baby doll, guitar, and drums.

Our Experiences
My daughter truly LOVES the joyful songs in this collection! In addition to telling you a little about our experiences, I want to invite you to live vicariously through our photos. Be sure to click on the photos to enlarge them. I loved watching Alyssa come up with movements or verses. It was a great way to spark her creativity and imagination. We used many of the recommended movements from the songbook. The photos below reveal a few of the ideas presented in the songbook.

Alyssa dressed up as Rapunzel one day for our music lessons. A few of the songs we sang that day were "Drivin' in the Car" and "John the Rabbit." We use small movements to go along with the verses "Drivin' in the Car." We replaced the words with other forms of transportation and sound effects. We hopped during "John the Rabbit" and sang using a call and respond song structure. At first, she responded by singing the "Yes, ma'am" part after I sang. Then, we also sang the song replacing words with other vegetables we eat at home using descriptive words or adjectives including colors such "my crunchy orange carrots, my tasty yellow corn, my leafy green spinach, my green and red bell peppers, my broccoli, and my long asparagus." Of course, you can't forget to sing the song using deep-pressure large movements like hopping while exercising gross and fine motor skills. She sang the song wearing bunny ears and used her hand to make a bunny tail. This song required active participation, a positive attitude, and was very engaging! Oh ... and the other night Alyssa found her jackrabbit puppet and asked to listen to this song. She changed the name of the puppet and sang it as "Jack the Rabbit" instead of "John the Rabbit." She also used several other family names just for fun.
Rapunzel "Drivin' in the Car!"

"Sleep, sleep, sleepin' in the car."
"John the Rabbit"
On September 11th, in honor and memory of the traumatic events that occurred that day, Alyssa and I listened to and sang the song "May All Children." She used her baby doll as a prop. On other occasions, I picked her up and we swayed back and forth. It was a touching and endearing moment for me, because she laid her head upon my shoulder while hugging me tightly and said, "Mommy, I love you sooo much. I am thankful that God gave me you and daddy." Seriously, my eyes began to tear up and I almost cried like a baby. This has become a special bonding time for the two of us. As the music played the other day, she said, "This is the song where you pick me up and dance with me mama." I stopped everything I was doing because I knew ... at that moment ... it meant a lot to her. I noticed one day she was trying to write the song lyrics on her white board. 
Alyssa and her baby doll dancing to "May All the Children"

Alyssa enjoyed using her teddy as a prop while waltzing and singing to the tune "Dancing With Teddy." She raised her teddy high in the sky, lowered it to the ground, and held it close to her heart. We changed the prop and words when using Clifford the Big Red Dog. We also tried several different movements to change things up a bit.
Turning and Dancing with Teddy
On page 86 of the Family Favorites Songbook, the child is asked to tell a story behind the illustration. They are then asked if they can sing about the illustration? They are also encouraged to tell or sing other teddy bear stories. Alyssa narrated a story for the songbook illustration and I acted as the scribe. You can read her story in the following section. 

"Once upon a time, there was a baby teddy bear, mama bear, bunny, and little girl who loved her mama bear so much. So ... she picked her up and danced with her and sang "Dancing With Teddy" high and low while the other two were sipping their tea." 
Illustrations are great for narrating and story telling purposes.
One of our absolute favorite songs was "One Little Owl." She enjoyed performing this song! It was during this song that I first noticed her coming out of her shell and reacting more theatrical. I loved how expressive she was with her facial features and her use of the dramatic movements mentioned in the songbook. Since this review happened during our bird unit study we brainstormed a list of several types of birds. As suggested in the book, we sang about each type of bird in the old oak tree. On another occasion we replaced words with different animals or objects visiting the oak tree.
"One Little Owl" says, Whoo Whoo. 

She said this was her mean crow look - "Caw ... Caw"
"Oh, no!"
Oak tree fell down singing "All these things are sit-ting on me!"
"Caw Caw!" This was on another day. She used paper towels as wings. 
She was experimenting with different ways to use the sticks and move to the beat as you will see in the picture below as she taps on the stool. These are not real rhythm sticks. We used two large dowels and explored different sounds and beat levels using thinner and thicker sticks. We danced using a variety of large movements. I modeled several examples for her to get us started. During our bird unit, Alyssa lead us with the verse "Hey, hey whadd'ya say, let's all soar like birds today." She also added the verse "Let's all peck like chickens today." The funniest verse was when she said, "Let's all lay our eggs today." I won't post those photos.
"Stick Tune"
Free dance - Gettin' Down!
I leave you with this last photo. As many of you know, we recently sold our house and moved out. This was the only house Alyssa ever knew so it was an emotional day for us all. Alyssa and I decided to play the "Goodbye, So Long, Farewell Song" on the last day. This was more her idea than mine. In the photo below, you will see her saying "Goodbye" to the door. She gave the door a big hug and kiss. We were crying that day. We went through different parts of the house singing new verses. 

What I Liked
First things first, obviously the music is phenomenal! The songs and tunes on this CD are extremely catchy! The entire family at one point or another was caught singing the musical selections at random parts of the day. We LOVED all of the music! I even caught my husband, Jeff, bopping his head while we listened to the music in the car one night. He is starting to sing the songs too. Alyssa thought I was extremely silly at times. She was giggling for the duration of a song. Do you have SQ? You know ... "Silly Quotient." If not, this program requires a certain level of silliness and parent involvement - as it should.
  • One great thing about this set was that I didn't have to leave the house to enjoy music as a integral part of our homeschool day. I haven't ever been to an actual music class with my daughter, because I have a fear of singing in front of others. I almost always break out into a sweat due to embarrassment.
  • I favor any curriculum that provides adaptations. The well-organized songbook included adaptations for each song which were divided into four groups by age range and special needs. This was particularly useful to me. I mainly used the activities grouped under the titles "Preschoolers and Older Children" or "All Ages and Settings." I also read through the adaptations designed for "Children with Special Needs" and used whatever activities seemed developmentally appropriate for Alyssa based on her interests. I hardly ever used the "Infant" adaptations.  
  • The songbook contains entertaining, hands-on activities that help parents interact with their children. It is of great importance for parents to interact positively with their children on a daily basis in a safe, comforting environment. So many children in today's world lack the parental involvement and interaction that I feel is necessary in life. One thing I love about this set is that it encourages parents to interact with and play musically with their children without fears of ridicule. It facilitates the incorporation of movement, motions, and instrumental play into parent-child activities.
  • Another thing I love about the songbook is that background information for each and every song is given as an introduction. An example of the background information for the previously mentioned song "May All the Children" can be found here. I enjoyed reading the information provided and it helped me gain a better understanding as to where or how the song originated.
  • The songbook supports six pre-literacy skills to help parents and educators raise successful readers. There are education moment videos that discuss ways the songbook activities are used to facilitate literacy development. 
Possible Cons
  • I am not familiar with the musical terminology and notations used throughout the book, because I am not musically inclined. However, thankfully there was a glossary of terms in the back of the book to assist me in the learning process. Macrobeat? Microbeat? Did I not pay attention during childhood music classes? Musical notations and terminology confuse and overwhelm me at times. You definitely do not have to have knowledge of these musical terms to enjoy the benefits of the Songbook and CD. I couldn't really think of any other features that I didn't like or wanted to improve. 
Recommendations and Results
I recommend the Songbook and CD Combo Pack to all homeschooling families and early elementary classroom teachers in schools implementing any type of educational method or approach. I would also recommend this set to daycare providers, preschool directors and teachers, outreach directors, musical instructors, individuals in therapeutic professions, co-ops organizers, church groups, and librarians. Our local librarian starts her lesson with music and singing, this would be a wonderful resource to use since the children are six years old or younger.

I know that we will continue using the Music Together combo pack for years in our home. We have experienced the joy of music-making together while gaining a profound appreciation for the diversity and rhythm of the featured songs. Alyssa is already memorizing and singing songs to her dolls and family members. She loves to perform the "One Little Owl"song. This set has given Alyssa and I a special mother-daughter bonding time and brought a love of musical play back into our lives. It helped me rediscover the benefits of music and enabled me to add musically fun experiences in our day. The songs are unforgettable and very difficult to get out of you your head once you hear them. You'll see what I mean when you find yourself singing, "Obwisana," "Palo, Palo," or "John the Rabbit" when no one else is looking.

How do you incorporate music into your homeschool day? Why not try Music Together? Let your child dance the wiggles out and sing the rockin' tunes? Check out Music Together and see the joy on your child's face as he or she sings and dances the day away. Are you interested in purchasing this set?

If you purchase the award-winning CD and Songbook Combo Pack (K0227) from the Music Together's online store, instead of purchasing the items separately, you save $5.00 making it the affordable price of only $39.95. I believe it is worth every penny! You can save an additional $2.00 when purchasing the combo pack by entering the Promo Code, Schoolhouse, at checkout. Each product can also be purchased separately. The CD is $14.95 and the songbook is $29.95. The MP3 downloadable album ($9.99) or individual songs (0.99 each) are available for purchase too. Music Together also sells other products including rhythm instruments such as castanets, drums, egg shakers, tambourines, and more. 
If you have any questions about Music Together, please contact the company here. They can also be reached at 800-728-2692. Be sure to read through the articles and post on the company website to familiarize yourself with the program and their philosophy. You can follow Music Together on Facebook ... I already liked their page. If you would like to subscribe to their e-newsletter to find out more about the classes or preschool program click here. You can also use the Class Locator to find and participate in a nearby Music Together Class. Surprisingly, I found a couple classes in my area that I may need to check out. 

Thank you Music Together and Schoolhouse Crew Leaders for bringing musical fun back in our lives!

Please visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog here to read other reviews for Music Together's Combo Pack. Go ahead boogie on over to our blog to check out my crewmate's reviews!

Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received the Family Favorites CD and Songbook Combo Pack from Music Together, at no cost to me, in exchange for an honest, professional review on my blog.  All opinions expressed are my mine and were not influenced in any way by the product or company.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Child Training Bible Deal

Hi!  I am helping Mindy spread the word about her Child Training Bible Deal this week. It is definitely worth checking out! I recently reviewed the CBT. Click here to read my review and hear about our experiences with this awesome resource. 

She is offering a FREE Child Training Bible Chart Set with every purchase!  This deal lasts only two days from Monday, September 24th through Tuesday, September 25th. Remember this deal does not include the Bible, highlighters, and tabs. 

Please share this offer on Facebook, Twitter, and on your blog if you have one.

Visit their Facebook Page and share  http://www.facebook.com/ChildTrainingBible

Here is the link to claim the FREE CTB offer:  http://www.childtrainingbible.com/p/order-supplies.html

Have a great day! If you decide to purchase the Child Training Bible, I would love to hear about your experiences with it so stop by and let me know what you thought. 

I will be linking up at Blogging Through the Alphabet. We are blogging about the letter D this week - today is the first day to post ideas. My post is D is for ... Deal. Please join in on the fun this week. Click on the button or the link provided to join. 

Blogging Through the Alphabet

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Candy Corn Math

Candy Corn ... You either love them or hate them. 
Do you like them? It is one of my favorite fall candies!

We went to my godmother's house for dinner last night. I noticed a bag of candy on her counter. I immediately realized that it was a bag of delicious autumn mix candy corn. My sweet tooth was politely telling me to "Eat just one piece." I know how bad they are for you ... they are full of sugar. I gave Alyssa one ... okay ... maybe a few. The next thing I know my godmother dumped them in a bowl for easy snacking access. We stood around the bowl eating them. Oops! They are sooo addicting.

The candy corn reminded me of the many math activities I did with Alyssa when she was much younger. I wanted to write a blog post about "Changes" for the letter "C" linky at Blogging Through the Alphabet, but I couldn't find the right words in time for the post. I gave it a lot of thought and figured it would be easy for me to search my favorites for the candy corn activities I found last year. Then, this morning, I received an e-mail of a fellow crew member's updated blog. She had posted a candy corn place value activity. That was it - it was a definite sign for me to prepare this post! We also just so happen to be working on place value today.

Even though candy corn is not a healthy treat, they can be used to teach a variety of math skills and concepts. Please browse through the ideas below and use what's best for your child at their level. Here is a conglomeration of FREE candy corn math resources that I came across during several late night searches.

I will begin with Jill's blog post which inspired me to write this post in the first place.

Fellow Schoolhouse Crew Members
Jill's Blessed Beyond a Doubt blog Candy Corn Place Value Activity and Candy Corn Numbers (the candy corn numbers could easily be used as a Montessori number and counters activity.)

Life With My Giggly Girls Candy Corn Math (scroll down)

Other Online Blog Freebies
Chasing Cheerios Spooning Candy Corn
It Doesn't Get Much Better Candy Corn Sorting
Mrs. Freshwater's Class Number Match Candy Corn Puzzles
Princess and the Tot Counting and Number Recognition
Chasing Cheerios Numbers and Counters
Kids Matter Letter and Number Candy Corn Learning
Can Do Kinders Pumpkin Math Mat and Ten Frame Cards
No Time for Flash Cards Candy Corn Counting and Addition
Primary Graffiti Candy Corn Fact Family
Oceans of First Grade Fun Candy Corn Math
The First Grade Parade Candy Corn Addition and Subtraction and Roll and Remove Game
Ms. Arnold Teachers Pay Teachers Part Part Whole
A Kids Math Online Candy Corn Addition Memory Game
Sassy in Second Candy Corn Teeth Math Facts
Primary School Suite 101 Several ideas
Jessica Todd at Teachers Pay Teachers Candy Corn Template
Ms. Preppy Place Value and Expanded Notation
Bishop's Blackboard Place Value and Candy Corn
Mathwire Fall Math Including Candy Corn Math (scroll down) and Candy Corn Bingo and Estimation Jar
Erica Bohrer's First Grade Candy Corn Estimation and Counting
Fuel the Brain Estimation
Kaija Purvis at Teachers Pay Teachers Candy Corn Estimation
Shari Sloane Candy Corn Graphing
A Mommy's Adventures Candy Corn Patterning
Ginger's 5K Daily Bread Measurement and Balance Scale
Homeschool Parent Candy Corn Graphing and Multiplication
The Homeschool Belle Candy Corn Multiplication Facts
Blogging With Bigler Multiplication

If you have any other candy corn activities to share, please provide the link in the comments section. There are many other candy corn math activities online, but I was trying to list only the FREE resources. I know I will be using several of these activities with Alyssa.

If you try any of these activities, please comment below and let us know what you did. I love to read comments and would like to know what you found helpful.

This post will be linked up at Marcy's Ben and Me blog as part of her Blogging Through the Alphabet posts. If you would like to join in the fun, we are focusing on letter "c" this week (ending soon). You can always link up and join us for the next letter on Monday. Click here to link up your ideas.
Blogging Through the Alphabet

Friday, September 21, 2012

Schoolhouse Review: Birds of a Feather Unit Study

Are you a bird lover? Are you currently using the unit study method or approach? Have you ever done a unit study? If you aren't sure what a unit study is click here to find out more.

I don't usually teach using a unit study approach but the method has always been of interest to me and the concept is still fairly new to me. The Schoolhouse Review Crew had the opportunity to review Once-a-Week-Units created by Sharon Gibson which are available through Homeschool Legacy. We were able to choose one digital download in e-book format from a list of ten choices. I chose the four-week "Birds of a Feather" unit study. Click on the title to see what concepts will be covered. It was the perfect supplement to our science curricula - it was as if they were meant to be used simultaneously. Not to mention, most children love to learn about animals ... and birds obviously fall in that category. This unit is meant for children in grades 2-12 and costs $15.95. You will not receive an e-book as I did; the physical hard copy of the product will be mailed to you. This comprehensive bird study contains 56 pages and several of those pages are blank spacer pages. The unit begins with an introduction as to why you should do once-a-week unit studies and is divided and organized into four weeks covering broad topics such as bird basics, backyard habitat, bird identification, ornithology, and birds of prey. These topics are broken down further into more specific topics for each week. The author also gives you scheduling tips to help you incorporate the unit into your day. An informative article titled "Getting the Most Out of Your Once-a-Week Unit Study" was found at the back of the unit. I felt this article should have been placed towards the front of the unit so that it would be read before beginning the study. At first, I was wondering how will I know which activities are daily and which are once-a-week? Well, it was clearly labeled in bold print. Each activity was also outlined in bold print and underlined making it easier to find. Alyssa is well below the grade level, but I was curious if the activities could actually be used with younger children. In the end, the unit study was a success and few adaptations were necessary.

Other Products at Homeschool Legacy
Once-a-Week-Unit Studies currently available:
Read Homeschool Legacy's Shipping Policy here.

How We Used It
This unit study was used in conjunction with our science curricula and nature studies. It was used with my daughter who is almost five years old. We involved her father in as many activities as possible. Sunday was devoted to scripture time - this was the start of each week for us. We read the indicated verses from the Bible. We enjoyed the read-alouds and several of the referenced library books throughout the week. We decided to watch the movies on Monday and our main unit day was scheduled on Tuesdays. We aimed at completing as many activities possible on that day and continued the remaining activities throughout the week if necessary. I tried to have a more relaxed teaching approach with this unit study. The plan was to implement this study once-a-week as intended ... to stop all other studies for one whole day. We couldn't always finish all of the activities in one day partly due to my daughter's age, the fact that we were moving, and because I had a hard time eliminating subjects from the day. Younger children will obviously need more time to research and write. I didn't want to rush either process. Many times, I ended up spreading out the activities throughout the week over four or five days, because we were packing for a move. This seemed to work out for the best. Alyssa retained the information better when we did fewer activities in a day. We tried the "once-a-week" approach for two weeks. I do feel that the unit activities could definitely be done "once-a-week" with older students within the grade range. Our field trips were taken on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. I loved the fact that the unit also had a list of read-alouds for non-readers. At times, Alyssa would use the listed books as independent readers. One thing we often neglected or forgot to do was the "Stump Your Dad Trivia." 

Our Experiences
I will do my best at explaining our experiences with this fabulous and thorough unit study. I have so much to say about the unit, so I am warning you this will be a long review with lots of photos. My apologies ... but I wanted to share a few stories, lots of photos, and a weekly blurb. I was extremely pleased and impressed with the activities. First of all, our focus was on specific topics and not on meaningless information. The unit study contains research projects which helps children learn how to locate information independently. We used a variety of resources and tools to research topics including encyclopedias, science dictionaries, books, online galleries, online encyclopedias, and several other informative websites about birds. You will notice that the unit tends to lean on the writing intensive side including compositions, listing, labeling, descriptions, and journaling.

The topics we addressed were bird basics and your backyard bird habitat.
We had so much fun this week! What a way to start a unit! My husband did not realize that we were supposed to build the bird feeders and birdbath. When I told him about the bird unit, he surprised us the next day with a concrete birdbath and feeder. We eventually made several of the suggested bird feeding stations. I could see the joy in Alyssa's eyes when creating the pinecone feeder which was her favorite one to make. We immediately set up the bird habitat and the next day we had birds in the backyard. I was thrilled! I was a little worried because it can take weeks for birds to arrive and we were moving soon. I was hoping we wouldn't have to wait two weeks to see a bird. My daughter is not an early riser, but once I told her she was more likely to see them in the morning ... she woke up early on several occasions to observe them during the cool morning hours. Some days we spent the morning observing the birds from the stairs (she often wanted to do this before eating breakfast). Other days, she'd wake up watching them with her binoculars through her bedroom window for an hour. She came running to me one morning in her pajamas and winter boots asking for paper, pencil, and crayons. She drew a picture of the bird feeding station and birds that visited her that day. We have seen cardinals, wrens, pigeons, tufted titmouses, hummingbirds, and doves. I believe we also saw both bluejays and bluebirds, but I am not 100% sure. We have a few others that we can't quite identify yet. The birds are really skittish so they fly away when we try to get closer. We had a blast creating our feeding station scarecrow!

We were unable to obtain many books on the suggested book list. We were able to eventually get the weekly read aloud as an interlibrary loan but we fell behind in reading it. At first, Alyssa was disinterested in the book and was easily distracted. As the story progressed, she became more interested and attentive. She started to enjoy the story questioning aspects and responding to it. I changed certain wordings that we don't like to use in our household as I read aloud such as the word "stupid." We also had a few discussions about character traits and behaviors at the end of each chapter.

Alyssa researched information about our state bird and why it was chosen. She colored our state bird and labeled it on a North American Mockingbird notebooking page we found. She wanted to write a sentence about the bird, but the line was too short. We decided to create a nature study binder or "journal" to organize her completed work.

The focus for week two was bird identification.
The book choices were limited again this week. We were unable to obtain the family read aloud book in time. Many more birds gathered around our feeders and bath. It has been a joy seeing Alyssa so full of excitement.

Yesterday, we were at a lady's house purchasing books. Alyssa couldn't stop talking about our feeding station and her observations. Alyssa saw a feeder in the lady's yard and she made an immediate connection. The lady said, "You are doing a great job teaching her ... her excitement for what she is studying pours out when she speaks. She told me about all of the birds and activities you have completed so far." Isn't it a great feeling to know that your children LOVE what they are studying? I am glad that I chose the right topic to focus on this year. They enjoyed "chit chatting" (as Alyssa would say) about birds.

Alyssa's desire to learn more about birds continues to grow every day. I only hope that our experiences will be the same or better when we move. My husband has been inspired and wants to build a bird sanctuary on our property once the house is built. I can't wait!

Alyssa listened to bird calls as she worked on her writing assignments. She tried her best to describe the bird calls. She can't recognize any specific bird calls yet. We added in nomenclature cards to help her learn the parts of a bird. The readings about John James Audubon encouraged her to focus more on details when drawing birds in her journal. We viewed many of his bird drawings through an online gallery. In the photos below, you will see a picture of her composition about John James Audubon and her nomenclature card work.

This week we discussed ornithology topics including characteristics, feathers, eggs, bones, and migration.
The activities this week took more time to complete. We waited weeks for the read aloud book to arrive via interlibrary loan, but it never came. We continued our observations and journaling of the backyard habitat and our visitors. Unfortunately, the backyard habitat was moved to a different location when we moved out of our house. We have noticed that fewer birds are visiting us now. Not to mention, there are fewer types of birds (less variety) - mainly just doves and pigeons. Oh, we have a squirrel visitor stealing birdseed which wasn't a problem at the house. We also saw a hawk swoop down to grab its prey ... another bird ... maybe that's why there aren't many birds hanging around.

Alyssa collected and examined bird feathers during our nature walks. We completed a lift experiment. She also traced and labeled her drawing of a feather. She learned about several other flightless birds and why they couldn't fly. She knew penguins couldn't fly because she recently studied them. We took a field trip to the Bayou Wildlife Park where she saw many birds including ostriches, ducks, geese, swans, peacocks, and emus. We had an engaging conversation about which birds were flightless and which could fly. She saw and held an ostrich egg during our visit. After several egg activities, we used nomenclature cards to help her learn the parts of an egg.

This week our focus was on birds of prey.
She learned about owls, bald eagles, and other birds of prey. I had trouble finding the books from the list yet again, however the hands-on activities made up for the lack of available books. We ended the unit with a BANG! Alyssa absolutely LOVED dissecting owl pellets! Make sure you order them in advance, because they take awhile to arrive. My daughter was fully engaged and thought it was very interesting. Luckily, I still had all my owl pellet resources from when I taught second grade. She constantly asked me, "What is an owl pellet?" We read a few books and she researched the topic in order to answer her own question. One helpful resource we used for bird anatomy and owl pellets was Kidwings. Check out the Teacher Materials that will enable you to further explore owl pellets. There is a bone id chart available and a virtual owl pellet dissection activity. Once she figured out what an owl pellet was, she was very curious and wanted to know which bones were inside her pellet. Alyssa found a rodent skull, hip bone, and may other bones in her owl pellet. She used a bone chart to identify which animal the owl ate and what bones were inside it.

Alyssa has been learning how to use different references. This week, she opened a science dictionary to look up terms for her journal. She also learned how to do a Google search. She researched and read about many extinct birds. She chose the Great Auk to further investigate. Below you will see a picture of the sentences she dictated to me. I created a handwriting or copywork page using her exact words.

Recently, we visited a friend who has a collection of hunted and mounted animals in a trophy room. Alyssa asked them if they had a bald eagle. They told her he would be in jail if he had one mounted. She said, "Oh yeah ... that's right." I know that this conversation started because of our readings and discussions about bald eagles. She also saw a turkey in the room and she told everyone that Benjamin Franklin originally wanted the turkey to be our state bird. They said, "Really? I didn't know that." Alyssa said, "I learned about it in my bird unit."
Can you see the teeth on the rodent skull? So cool!
I know ... she used the word "I" instead of "it."
Our Weekend Field Trips
  • San Antonio Zoo
  • McKinney Park Bird Hikes (Austin) - Later this year
  • Neighborhood Nature Walks
  • Moody Gardens: Rainforest Pyramid (Galveston)
  • Bayou Wildlife Park Tram Tour (Alvin) - Here are a few bird pictures I took on the tour. We also saw many other endangered and threatened animals during our visit. We rode in a open tram and the animals came right up to us to feed. Click on the pictures to enlarge. It was unbelievable! 
Going downhill on the tram.
Bird Mini Book
After researching information on several bird topics and participating in a few daily activities, my daughter was motivated to create a mini-book about birds. I am absolutely thrilled that this bird unit has motivated her to independently learn and write about the topic. She wrote the entire book by herself while I worked on blog reviews and packed boxes for our move. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised when she brought me her book. She would read her book to anyone that would sit still to listen. This is proof for me that she is retaining and learning the information taught during the unit study. I wasn't worried about mistakes or neatness. I was just happy that she was writing on her own. She even made a cover with a title and illustration for her book.

  1. I appreciated the fact that the unit study is Biblically-based beginning with family devotions related to the topic. The unit study is also cross-curricular covering a wide variety of other subjects such as Literature and Language, Math, History and Geography, Science, Research, Art Appreciation, Arts and Crafts, Music Appreciation, Life Skills, and of course Field Trips are suggested. 
  2. The whole family, children of all ages, can work together towards the completion of the multi-sensory hands-on activities even though it is intended for 2nd-12th grade. The unit contains fun activities that engage the senses, imagination, and creativity of the child while addressing many learning styles or modalities. This unit study accommodates both large and small families. Children study the topic at their learning level or abilities and activities can be easily adapted. Not to mention, the bonding time builds a better relationship with your children and creates wonderful family memories. 
  3. The unit studies can be used as complete core history or science curricula if you combine and choose any 4 or 5 of the units for a year. It can also be used as a unit study supplement to any science or history curriculum. This unit study was easily implemented and used as a supplement in our home.
  4. Furthermore, the unit allows for flexibility in scheduling ... you decide how often and when you will use the unit study. You may dedicate one day a week for the main activities or you can spread them out throughout the week over four or five days as we occasionally did. The author does offer helpful suggestions on how you can schedule your unit study time. This allows for schedule flexibility which many home educators see as a benefit.
  5. The author offers well-organized, user-friendly, reasonably priced unit studies that give children a break from the regular homeschool schedule.
  6. I was pleasantly surprised that the study was literature-based. The book list contains quality classic titles including suggested read-alouds for non-readers. Unfortunately, most of the books were unavailable for us. However, books were arranged by library call numbers (alphabetically and numerically) which saves time when searching for related books. The call numbers lead us to the library area specifically dedicated to that topic.
  7. Prep time is limited to gathering books and supplies. The planning aspect is already done. You are given a list of supplies, books, field trips, and suggested media for movie night.
Possible Cons and Improvements
  1. There were a couple of items that we did not have around the house as we gathered supplies, so we needed to purchase or borrow them from friends and family.
  2. Many of the bird books listed in the suggested book list were unavailable through our local libraries. We ended up using the "search topic" on the library's homepage and the Dewey Decimal System to locate related and appropriate books we could use. We also had to wait on several interlibrary loan books which usually were the read aloud books. We usually fell behind with read aloud books because they didn't arrive in time so we were constantly catching up, however, we had plenty of books to read from the non-reader list and other book treasures we found.
  3. There may be too many activities to complete in one day for younger children ... at least that is was the case for Alyssa. She is a perfectionist and takes her time on everything. She did far better remembering and retaining more information when I spread the unit study daily activities throughout the week. Keep in mind this unit is recommended for grades 2-12, but it can be used as a family unit with adaptations for all ages including the little ones. Many families use the unit studies with older children and simply expose the younger ones to the same concepts.
  4. One of the recommended movies "Fly Away Home" does contain a few objectionable swear words.  My daughter did not notice most of them as there were only a few and they weren't emphasized. There was one word that stood out. We were siting on the couch all bunched up close together watching the movie while eating popcorn. Two men were out hunting geese. The goose airplane flew over their heads and one of the men yelled "Oh Sh_ _!" We both almost choked on our popcorn. My husband and I maintained our composure to see if Alyssa even heard the word. Unfortunately, my baby girl, said her first swear word. She repeated it yelling out the same phrase as she laughed. She didn't realize it was a bad word. We had a short discussion on appropriate language and ... no she was not in trouble. In the end, the movie was GREAT! It was our favorite movie mentioned in the unit and one of the few interesting ones which leads me to my next point.
  5. Several of the documentary movies listed in the curriculum were not very interesting and were complete disappointments for our family. They didn't capture our attention and we turned them off immediately.
  6. I wish there were student lapbooking or notebooking pages included in this study. I found many free lapbooking and notebooking resources, but it would have been more convenient to have it in one place. 
Recommendations and Results
I highly recommend Homeschool Legacy's Once-a-Week Unit Studies to ALL homeschooling families especially home educators implementing a unit study approach. The units available can be used for one child or multiple children. I would also recommend their unit studies to any family interested in incorporating a new style or technique to their homeschooling day for added flair and fun. The topics and units of study are wonderful for all children, at any age, no matter their learning style or their abilities. Every child in the family can have fun exploring and discovering topics of interest with hands-on activities in an immersed environment. Additionally, Homeschool Legacy's units enable children to earn merit badges and fulfill requirements for Boy Scouts of AmericaAmerica Heritage Girls, and 4H if involved in those extracurricular activities.

Those of you using an eclectic approach, like myself, will find their units endearing ... a breath of fresh air. I can definitely say this brought our family closer together at just the right time and is worth looking into. As many of you know, moving is stressful. The activities brought us enjoyment and relieved some of the stress on our shoulders and minds ... bringing us together instead of apart in separate rooms packing. The "Birds of a Feather" unit involved Alyssa's daddy in the homeschool day. I actually saw a spark of interest in my hubby's eyes.  He said he learned more from this unit experience than he did in his science studies at a private school. He is a hands-on learner who loves to build things, so it worked out perfectly especially in the beginning when we created bird feeders, baths, and houses. Homeschool Legacy's Once-a-Week Unit Studies will hopefully be used in our home throughout the year. I would like to eventually purchase the Native American, Early Settlers in America, and the Christmas Comes to America units.

Wanna to try and earn a free Once-a-Week Unit Study from Homeschool Legacy? Read about their Student-of-the-Month Club on their website by clicking the child's photo in the top right corner to find out how. This looks like a lot of fun.

Are you ready to start shopping at Homeschool Legacy's website? Do Homeschool Legacy's Once-a-Week Unit Studies seem like the perfect history or science curriculum or supplement for the start of a new school year? It was for us. Why not give them a try? I am sure you won't be disappointed. Your shopping cart is ready and waiting for you here. They offer free shipping on all orders over $50.00. Remember you will receive the physical product and not an e-book.

If you have any questions about Sharon's Once-a-Week Unit Studies, please contact the company at Sharon@HomeschoolLegacy.com. They can also be reached at 828-685-7215. Don't forget to read through the company's FAQ section to read frequently asked questions you may also have about their unit studies.

Thank you Sharon at Homeschool Legacy for introducing me to a new type of learning and for giving our family some unforgettable memories! I am more open to trying unit studies, because of my experience with this unit. I also want to thank the Schoolhouse crew leaders for giving me the chance to review this unit regardless of Alyssa's age. It was perfect! My daughter couldn't have been more ecstatic and I couldn't have been any happier than I was with the study.

Please visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog here to read about the experiences and other reviews for Homeschool Legacy's Once-a-Week Unit Studies. There were a variety of units or topics reviewed - there might be one that you could utilize in your studies this year.  Go check out their reviews!

Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received "Birds of Feather" from Homeschool Legacy, at no cost to me, in exchange for an honest, professional review on my blog.  All opinions expressed are my mine and were not influenced in any way by the product or company.