Monday, November 18, 2013

Homeschool Legacy Review and Giveaway: Christmas Comes to America

Alyssa and I recently had the opportunity to review the Once-a-Week Unit Study called Christmas Comes to America published by Homeschool Legacy. I was delighted when I was contacted about reviewing this unit study, because it has been on my wishlist since last year when we reviewed the Birds of a Feather Unit Study. Christmas is my favorite holiday to celebrate! I always wanted to teach Alyssa about how certain Christmas symbols and traditions came to America which is why this particular unit was of interest to me. Once-a-Week Unit Studies were designed by Sharon Gibson who is a veteran homeschooling mom of 16 years. I received a digital copy of this unit study in PDF format via e-mail for review purposes only. I immediately downloaded it so that I could dig into the material that same day! I stored the printed file in a folder with three ring prongs. Please understand that ALL Once-a-Week Unit Studies that you purchase from Homeschool Legacy will arrive in the mail as physical products in hard copy format only.

Are you planning your Christmas activities for your children yet? 
If so, I want to tell you about a Christmas unit that may be a perfect fit for your family.
Christmas Comes to America is suitable for children in grades 2-12. This 4-week Christian-centered unit study can be used with multiple children within the same age range and can easily be adapted for younger children by spreading out the activities throughout the week if necessary. The unit is meant to be used with the whole family saving you time in the long run. The unit study covers the history behind the origins of our Christmas traditions, customs, and symbols in America while focusing on well known gift givers from around the world. You can embrace the true meaning of or reason for celebrating Christmas which is the birth of Jesus. God is the ultimate Gift Giver who sent us His only Son who later died on the cross for our sins. No gift could ever be greater than that! The unit is divided into four weekly topical studies as seen below.

Week 1 The Dutch
Week 2 The English
Week 3 The Germans
Week 4 An American Christmas

How We Used It
I used this unit study with my five-year-old daughter. Christmas Comes to America was implemented as a stand-alone unit study in our home during the review period. The idea is to choose and dedicate one day each week to complete ALL the core once-a-week unit study activities. They recommend Wednesdays, because it is in the middle of the week and offers children a break from the normal routine. We tried to complete the activities on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. We ended up dividing the hands-on unit study activities throughout the week, because of our busy schedule, my daughter's age, her personality, her learning style, and the fact that we were planning her sixth birthday party. I believe this schedule allowed her to retain and better understand the information presented. I also couldn't eliminate all other curricula for one day as the unit indicates, because our extracurricular activities and driving out-of-town take up a lot of time during the week. A family devotion with memory verses emphasizing the true reason we celebrate the season (birth of Jesus) was read once-a-week. We decided to read and discuss the family devotions on Sunday morning instead of on the main unit study day. The rest of the week you are to continue using your current curricula while integrating family read-alouds and independently read books referred to as Daily Activities into your daily schedule. The company suggests reserving movies for Friday. We usually watched movies over the weekend or on Monday Movie night. As you can tell, I tweaked the unit to meet our family needs which is one of the reasons why I LOVE Homeschool Legacy's unit studies. They are extremely flexible and the pace is completely up to you. You can read their scheduling tips here.

Please remember that not all suggested books must be read. My family and I learned about a Christmas tradition or symbol each day. Furthermore, we did not complete EVERY activity, because I wanted to save several of the activities for December so that my daughter could make appropriate connections to the season. There are more than enough activities for several years and they can also be repeated year after year. I chose several activities from each week's lesson to complete. It was a little awkward talking about Christmas during the month of October before Halloween, but my daughter didn't seem to mind.

Product Description
The complete 52-page Christmas unit study begins with an introduction about why you should use once-a-week unit studies. A table of contents, a welcome letter, a list of available products, music appreciation merit badge requirement sheets, schedule suggestions, and a Merry Christmas letter describing the focus of the study are also at the front of the unit. A common theme for all four weeks is the idea of the gift giver. The bulk of the unit study follows those pages including a list of pick and choose read-alouds for non-readers, optional book choices, Christmas classic movies, and music selections covering a variety of music styles. I recommend that you read the "Getting the Most Out of Your Once-a-Week Unit Study" found at the back of the unit on page 41 before beginning the unit for additional information on scheduling, teaching tips, ways to adapt writing activities, and more.
A Few of Our Read-Aloud Books
Chosen Movie Selections
The four weekly topics are noted in bold underlined print. Each of the four units includes an additional list of book selections. If an asterisk is noted near a book, then an equivalent book is needed discussing the same topic. Thankfully, the author offers several suggestions to choose from so you can choose a book your library carries or the one that interests you most. For example, during the first week when discussing the Dutch settlers and how their traditions came to America one of the first three books on the list was necessary to complete the lessons. Unfortunately, the only book available to us on the topic was "Holly, Reindeer, and Colored Lights: The Story of the Christmas Symbols." Sharon listed several more titles in case those mentioned weren't available to check out. You should be able to find at least one book that will work for your family. Don't forget to use the interlibrary loan system to obtain the necessary books, but request them in advance because they may take awhile to arrive. Your children will identify places on the globe and learn about a specific gift giver in each location. The author also provides a helpful weekly supply list so that materials can be gathered up quickly.  

Addresses a Wide Variety of Subjects and Activities
  • Family Devotions from the Bible
  • Independent and Family Reading
  • Language Arts
  • History
  • Geography
  • Traditions and Culture
  • Research
  • Music Appreciation and History
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Life Skills and Gift Giving
  • Field Trips
  • Family Trivia Game
  • Family Movie Night
  • Fun and Science
Our Weekly Experiences
Week One - The topic we addressed was the traditions and the contributions from the Dutch settlers.
My daughter learned about Sinterklaas and located his birthplace on the globe (Asia Minor - present day Turkey). I can't tell you how excited she was when I told her we were going to make "homemade" hot cocoa. She looked at me with shocked eyes and didn't realize that hot cocoa could be made instead of purchased in packets. She frequently asked me, "When are we going to make the hot cocoa?" We cut the recipe in half. The cocoa was delicious! We drank the cocoa during family movie night and when outdoors by the fire. We weren't going to prepare the hot cocoa mugs until closer to Christmas time so we didn't need to purchase the mugs and cellophane bags at this time. She also wrote a Christmas wish list that was in the form of a letter to God instead of writing to Santa as part of her language arts writing assignment. We have been listening to Christmas music almost every single day since we received the unit. Alyssa jots down each title on a numbered piece of paper. As the unit progressed, we just wrote the number of the song title down instead of rewriting each one. We also discussed a few musical compositions and tried to recognize instruments we heard.
Ingredients: Recipe Included in Unit
Making Hot Cocoa
Identifying Locations on the Globe
Christmas Wishlist Letter

Week 2 - The focus was on Great Britain and the contributions of the English settlers.
Father Christmas or St. Nicholas was the gift giver we focused on during the second week. We read "A Christmas Carol." It was available as a chapter and picture book. After identifying Great Britain on the globe, we learned about the history behind caroling. I can honestly say that I NEVER knew the history of this common Christmas activity. We didn't make the wassail yet, but we purchased the supplies so that we can make it for our indoor caroling party. The houses in our neighborhood are too far apart for an outdoor caroling party. Alyssa is currently searching the Internet for lyrics of popular carols to print. She will also create an invite on the computer. We plan on giving each person a candy cane with a note explaining the Christian legend behind the symbol. I believe I have seen several templates free on the Internet. We sang numerous Christmas carols this week. Alyssa brought a Christmas carol book with her when traveling into town. She spread holiday cheer and joy to anyone that would listen to her sing. My daughter also asked her piano teacher about the notes seen in several Christmas songs found in her piano book. I am glad that she started creating Christmas cards ahead of time this year - maybe we'll get them sent out earlier this year. She still has a number of cards she wants to make so this project will continue into the month of December. Alyssa also researched the term "music" in her encyclopedia and online. She created a poster that showed the five instrumental families.
Several Books We Read
Poster in Progress: Five Families of Instruments
Christmas Music Composition Note - 3 Beats
Christmas Card Pre-Planning
Listening to Music as She Worked
Christmas Card Designs
Week 3 - We learned about Germany and the traditions that came from German settlers. 
We used the books "Christmas in Today's Germany" and the book titled, "Sebastian: A Book About Bach" written by Jeanette Winter. I couldn't borrow any of the other books from our library so I read a few titles related to the topic from our personal collection. The gift giver of the week was Christkindl which means Christ Child. The term Kris Kringle originated from this gift giver's name. She located colonies where German immigrants settled and read about Joseph's discussion with Gabriel. I asked her to illustrate the meaning of the scripture in her journal. We focused on Sebastian Bach and enjoyed hearing his compositions online and reading biographies about him. We discussed and role modeled proper concert etiquette rules in preparation for further formal performances. She is looking forward to learning about Handel.

Alyssa was ecstatic about having the opportunity to create a gingerbread house. My husband helped her frame it up and taught her how to use the icing bag. Then, we gave her time to decorate it. She made a little chimney and yes that is Santa's booty sticking up in the air. Apparently he is stuck. I think it is a beautiful gingerbread house! She wants to do another one in December. We found this gingerbread house at Target, but Hobby Lobby and Big Lots also carries them. Use coupons if possible to save money. You can also use graham crackers with homemade frosting. We had leftover candy from Halloween and her birthday. We also had extra buttercream frosting from her birthday cake to use on the roof. This was one of her favorite activities from the unit!

Week 4 - This week we discussed the traditions and symbols related to an American Christmas. 
I have to admit . . . I learned something new this week. Did you know that Christmas was illegal in the 1600's? That sure was news to me! Alyssa was sad when she heard about the Puritans banning Christmas. She said she couldn't imagine not celebrating the birth of Jesus because it was a very important day and that she LOVED giving gifts to others. The family read-aloud books for this week were our favorites by far! Alyssa already knows about Santa Claus and how he is known to many as the gift giver in America during the Christmas season. She feels he is really just a delivery man for God. Irving Berlin was one of the notable composers we were supposed to learn about this week. Unfortunately, we couldn't find any books about him. We listened to many Christmas songs and continued to log them on a sheet of paper. This is the week that we didn't get to really dig into the content due to lack of resources. We just relaxed, enjoyed the music we heard, read wonderful books, and worked together on the following project.

After Christmas Tree for Birds
Well, since it is not yet Christmas we modified the following activity. Instead of bringing our Christmas tree outside, we decorated a tree outside our dining room window. I didn't realize that our low branches were cut off so my husband had to lift her up each time. We had a fantastic time creating pine cone bird feeders. We hung them in nearby trees as gifts to our feathered friends. My daughter also had loads of fun making a garland of Cheerios for them to eat. Although, she thinks the squirrels will steal them. We really wanted to make cranberry or popcorn garland for the first time, but we didn't have a needle. Tonight, we will use leftover oranges from her birthday party to make additional bird treats. A great book to read before this activity is The After-Christmas Tree by Linda Wagner Tyler.

Trivia Game
A printable trivia family game idea is included in the unit that reinforces and culminates the topics studied throughout the unit. Your family can personalize the game by adding questions about each tradition learned. Christmas Hershey kisses are earned by answering topic questions correctly. What child doesn't like yummy treats! My daughter was definitely motivated by the chocolate. If you don't want to give your kiddos candy, then you can always use stickers, tokens, or anything that you feel would reward your child.

Field Trips
We haven't been able to take any field trips related to this unit study due to the time of the year and the fact that the places were not yet open. However, we have plans to attend several holiday concerts and performances, locate a nearby Christmas tree farm, visit a Christmas village, and view Christmas lights at Santa's Ranch or Emily's Theater. We are also going to see a musical play at Magik Theater based on the book titled, "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever."

Gift-Giving Ideas
A list of additional Christmas ideas and gift-giving opportunities were provided at the back of the unit which helps everyone focus on giving to others rather than just receiving gifts. We skimmed through the list and noted a few activities we hope to participate in this year such as completing Christmas puzzles, building a deeper relationship with God, and roasting marshmallows over a bonfire. My daughter wants to buy a Christmas gift for a child in need, bake treats for our friends and family, create a gift basket for a homebound elderly person, and make donations to a children's shelter. I absolutely adored the stocking stuffer idea of the Christmas "stay-cation" and will most definitely steal that idea!

What We Liked
  • Biblically-Centered
  • Quality Literature Selections in Alphabetical Order With Call Numbers
  • Incorporated a Variety of Subjects While Emphasizing Music Appreciation and Crafts
  • Hands-On Baking Activities Integrated in the Study
  • Meant for the Entire Family
  • Classic Christmas Movie Suggestions Included
  • Relaxed Unit Study Approach During Busy Holiday Months
  • Flexibility in Scheduling and Adapting Activities
  • Limited Prep Time Required
Possible Cons
  1. You may want to preview all videos even though they have been screened before showing them to younger children as all families differ in what they allow their children to view or hear. Some movies may be more appropriate for older children. An objectionable statement was heard in the movie "It's a Wonderful Life." My daughter didn't notice it and we felt the movie was still worth seeing.
  2. Some Christians do not teach their children about the legend of Santa Claus and the history of the real St. Nicholas. A warning is indicated in the lesson plans with regards to the topic. You will need to modify how the content is presented the first week by either skipping the material or discussing the idea of gift givers around the world. 
Possible Vendor Suggestions or Improvements
I think it would be VERY beneficial to include printables that relate to the activities in this unit. Many of the items listed below can be easily found online, but I like the convenience of having everything in one place. New homeschooling families or individuals trying the unit study approach for the first time may want these items included to make the unit more all-inclusive and complete. See the list below for add-on suggestions.
  • Music Log Record
  • Letter to Santa Stationary with Foldable Envelope Instructions
  • Geography and Composer Notebooking Pages
  • Research Paper Form
  • Field Trip Log Sheet
  • Possible Lapbook Components
  • Vintage Card Templates or Christmas Card Templates to Color for Younger Children
Christmas Comes to America will cost you $17.95 and can be purchased at the Homeschool Legacy store. The price is fairly reasonable when compared to other companies. However, the unit study is complete and you wouldn't need to extend the lessons. If you purchase additional unit studies for the year they are currently offering FREE Shipping for orders of $50 or more. We had a blast using the Birds of a Feather Unit Study we reviewed last year. It would be a great unit to use after completing this one or in the spring. The shipping policy can be viewed here. If you have any questions about their products, then you can contact the company.

Other Interesting Products We Are Considering
Horsing Around
Native America
Early Settlers in America
Westward Ho! Part 1
Knights and Nobles

Coming Soon
A Nation Divided: A Story of the Civil War

Overall Thoughts 
We will complete the Christmas Comes to America unit study in December. We look forward to attending holiday concerts, making homemade marshmallows and wassail, and hope to visit a nearby Christmas tree farm. We can't wait until are indoor caroling party! My husband works on Christmas Day, so we also decided that we will incorporate the Dutch tradition of "Second Christmas Day" into our holiday schedule. My daughter and I will focus on celebrating Jesus on Christmas Day and then the next day we will visit friends and family.

Alyssa thoroughly enjoyed participating in the hands-on cooking and art activities. She loves reading Christmas books, using her Bible, and was super excited about the writing activities. All of the Christmas movies were a big hit in our home. We hope to purchase more of these units studies in the near future. I encourage you to visit Homeschool Legacy to view all of unit study options. This is the perfect unit study to start right after Thanksgiving. It is worth checking out as soon as possible! I think you will like it as much as we did. My daughter will remember the activities and the mother-daughter time spent together. We had fun learning interesting facts about Christmas.

I highly recommend this unit study to busy families wanting to focus on the true gift-giving meaning of Christmas while learning about the origins of traditions especially if they utilize an eclectic or unit study approach in their homeschool. All families can use Christmas Comes to America. Individuals involved in American Heritage Girls and Boy Scouts of America may find this resource appealing as well. The unit study includes activities that you can complete to earn merit badges. They will earn their music appreciation badge after completing the tasks in this unit study.

Thank you Sharon at Homeschool Legacy for allowing us to review Christmas Comes to America! It was a wonderful Christmas unit and it was an honor to review it.

I will link this review and giveaway at Living Montessori Now's Giveaway Linky.
Family-Friendly Giveaway Linky

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product from Homeschool Legacy, at no cost to me, in exchange for an honest review on my blog. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance to FTC regulations.

Sharon Gibson graciously offered to giveaway one printed hard copy unit study of your choice. She will need the name, mailing address, and e-mail of the winner at the end of the giveaway. You are required to sign-up for e-mail announcements and updates by clicking on the envelope on their website (MANDATORY). This will be verified and Homeschool Legacy will fulfill the giveaway. You could choose the Christmas Comes to America unit study if you won. If you can't see the Rafflecopter giveaway, then please enter the giveaway by clicking on the Rafflecopter link below.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

F is for Fall Trees and Falling Leaves: Pointillism Paint Technique

My daughter recently learned about the French painter, George Seurat. He used a painting technique called pointillism. Pointillism consists of a bunch of tiny dots that form an image. 

What We Did
Step 1
We went outside to observe the trees and any fall changes we saw in nature. Unfortunately, we live in Texas so we don't really have the opportunity to observe many leaves changing colors. So, I showed her pictures from our Arkansas trip years ago. 

Step 2
We read several online biographies about George Seurat. Alyssa also watched several You Tube museum videos.

Step 3
We viewed images of his artwork and other pointillism projects found online. This project was inspired by the many masterpieces seen online. The following images came from Wikipedia.

Step 4
What You Need:
Acrylic Paints - Red, yellow, orange, brown, and possibly green
Thick White Paper
Art Palette
Unused Pencil Erasers

Note: Alyssa was given a variety of painting tools to try. You can use a clean pencil eraser, q-tip, or dot brush to create fall trees.

Step 5
Remind your children to lightly dip the pencil in the paint and to gently dab the paper. They can also add background scenes using the pointillism painting technique if desired. Alyssa didn't want to paint the sky, because she was eager to create another painting.

Note: You may find it easier to give children an outline, template, or to lightly sketch the drawing to fill in when first attempting this project. I did not provide Alyssa with a template. I asked her to create a fall tree using pointillism after discussing and completing online research.

Check out her artwork!
I played classical music in the background.
The Beginning
The Final Project
Alyssa Titled Her Painting: "Falling Leaves"
I think she did a great job!
This art activity can be used any time of the year. 
Other Helpful Resources
Please view all images to check for appropriateness before showing them to your child. 
Crafty Classroom - One of my favorite blogs!
Have you ever used this painting technique? 

If so please leave a link to family centered painting in the comment section below. We would love to see your artwork!
I hope you enjoyed visiting A Learning Journey. Have a great day!

God bless, 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Schoolhouse Review: Apologia Exploring Creation With Chemistry and Physics

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My daughter and I had the honor of reviewing the book Exploring Creation With Chemistry and Physics in addition to the Exploring Creation With Chemistry and Physics Junior Notebooking Journal published by Apologia Educational Ministries. The curriculum is one of the six books offered through the Young Explorer Series written by Jeannie Fulbright. The book set is recommended for children ages 5-12 who are in K-6th grade. Apologia is a very popular Christian homeschool company. I have used and loved their products in the past. I literally begged and prayed for the opportunity to review this science curricula set when the crew leaders offered it to us.

Although, I have to admit I didn't do well in chemistry or physics when in high school. I wanted the opportunity to overcome my fear and learn WITH my child what I never learned at school. I tend to shy away from anything that deals with this topic, but I had a strong desire to teach Alyssa a different subject area in science this year particularly one that will help her understand the world that God made. Unfortunately, we weren't doing any experiments with our current science curriculum and I believe hands-on experiments, demonstrations, and projects are necessary in order to teach science effectively to children. I began this journey with a bit of hesitation and fear yet I knew that I wanted my daughter to be exposed to the concepts of Chemistry and Physics at an early age in hopes to lay a strong foundation down for the future. Thankfully, the topics were not as intimidating as I remembered!

How We Used It
I am using this curriculum with Alyssa (Age 5) as her core science curriculum in conjunction with notebooking, lapbooking, and with an online spelling and vocabulary program. Our science lessons last approximately 30 minutes to 1 1/2 hours. My daughter finds lapbooking enjoyable so I also purchased a lap book to go along with this curriculum. We barely have time for the additional activities, because Apologia's science curriculum is so thorough and comprehensive. No other supplementary items are necessary. My plan was to follow the suggested schedule found in the notebooking journal, but I quickly realized that I needed to adapt the amount of work for my daughter based on her age, the supplements, our schedule, and her personality. She took her sweet time with all of the activities treasuring every single moment together. This means that fewer lessons were covered during the review period than I originally expected.

Most supplies for experiments were easily found and gathered ahead of time. The items were organized in Ziplock bags labeled with the lesson number and placed in a large tub. The supply list from the website was stored in a folder inside the tub.

I can't tell you how much I appreciated the suggested daily schedule found in the notebooking journal! The schedule suggests that you aim to do science twice a week. Each lesson is covered over a two-week time period which would give you 28 weeks worth of material. This is a reasonable workload for older children at the end of the age range. The curriculum is very flexible so you could easily spread out the contents into more manageable, age-appropriate chunks over a longer period of time for younger children which is what I chose to do. You can even skip certain activities if desired. I decided to use the daily schedule as a basic guideline for our lessons. I chose to split up the activities each day so that we could have science lessons 4-5 times a week. The fifth day was usually a make-up or lapbooking day. We tried to read, discuss, narrate, write a fascinating fact, perform experiments and recording our results (if possible), and notebook each day. Some lessons carried over into the next day. I took a more relaxed approach and focused on finding an appropriate pace for Alyssa instead of rushing through the book. I placed a checkmark next to each completed activity on the daily schedule to help track our progress and note where we left off, because we didn't follow the lessons exactly as suggested.

Product Descriptions
The reusable 78-page hardcover text containing 14 lessons is chocked full of colorful illustrations and photographs. The book begins with the traditional Table of Contents. There's an Introductory section which gives you an overview of how to use the book. The tips and suggestions are helpful especially to individuals trying the curriculum for the first time. One neat feature of the book is the password protected website with bonus materials that enrich and extend your study including activities, labs, games, videos, articles, stories, printables, and more. There is an answer key, detailed supply list, and an index at the back of the book. The answer key is for the text discussion questions and the What Do You Remember review questions. Page and lesson numbers in the answer key are indicated in bold print. The informative readings are sectioned off by topics in large bold blue font making it easy to divide up the read aloud sections. Many topics are addressed in this book, including but not limited to, the properties of matter, states of matter, magnetism, atoms, molecules, electrons, compounds, mixtures, laws of motion, dynamics of motion, simple machines, light, thermal and solar energy, sound of energy, and electricity.
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Oral Narration Prompts
Narration prompts and discussion questions are scattered throughout the text and included as part of the end of lesson review. The following narration prompt came from Lesson 2: Explain all that you've learned so far about freezing point, melting point, amorphous solids, surface tension, and viscosity. I asked Alyssa to narrate smaller chunks of information more often than suggested. I usually asked for a verbal narration after every bolded topic. This helped her retain the information better. She also knew that she needed to pay attention, because she wouldn't know when I would ask her to narrate. Finding out what she learned enabled me to further discuss or emphasize the main points for clarification if necessary.

Try This Experiments and Activities
The hands-on experiments and activities were boxed as seen below. I couldn't resist trying to do ALL of them to demonstrate the concepts learned in each section. One of the first activities was to play a game of "I Spy" which was a fun way to describe the properties of objects. In the first set of photos, Alyssa found out that the matter in the air stayed in the cup which kept the wadded paper dry when submerged in water. The water was blocked by air which is a gas. We had a blast discovering the states of matter. I was surprised that my daughter participated in the cornstarch activity. She usually dislikes having messy hands. I also let her feel the cornstarch before we slowly added water making a new mixture. Alyssa's face lit up during the experiments. Another one of her favorite activities was making cranberry sorbet. She was surprised when the juice (liquid) changed into a solid (frozen sorbet). Our sorbet was salty so I think our bag was torn. She finds the idea of melting, boiling, and freezing points fascinating! She is constantly making connections when in the kitchen helping me cook. I honestly can't think of any experiment she didn't like.  
Amorphous Solid
(Non-Newtonian Liquid)
Liquid State of Matter
Same Substance: Solid Form
Pop Rock Soda Experiment
Expanding Gas in Action!
A project with bulleted supplies and numbered directions appears at the end of each lesson. Our first project was to create three lava lamps. We used vinegar instead of water and placed 1-2 tablets in three bottles of colored vegetable oil. I allowed the last bottle to "explode" or overflow just for the sake of having fun. Our bottles didn't turn out as good as the text examples, but she still understood the concept after participating.

Final Matters and Creation Confirmation 
This section basically sums up the main concepts learned in relation to God and His creations. One of the extra minibooks was used to jot down Biblical truths and creation confirmations. The book served as a bookmark saving our spot for the next day's lesson. I let her write down anything she felt was important or related.

What Do You Remember?
This is a review format which contains oral discussion questions and fill-in-the-blank sentences found at the end of each lesson requiring a child to recall the information learned. It focused on definitions and main points.

Additional Notebooking Activities Included in the Text:
  • Play Scripts - Archimedes play (Alyssa's play was too long and wouldn't fit on the template)
  • Stories
  • Fascinating Fact Reminders
  • Lapbooking Elements
  • Comic Strips
  • Chart Comparisons 
  • And More
Junior Notebooking Journal
The 237-page consumable spiral-bound softcover notebooking journal has a 67-page appendix with full color lapbooking minibooks at the back of the book. One of my favorite features of the notebook is that it contains a variety of miniature book activities for my daughter to complete such as wheels, pocket sorts, layered books, tuck-in envelopes, lift books, matchbooks, shutter books, fan books, pop-up books, accordion books, tabbed books, and even a pocket pulley system. Answer keys for vocabulary activities appear at the back of the book. The vocabulary activities were greatly enjoyed by Alyssa. Vocabulary activities may include crossword puzzles, lift-the-flap cut-outs, matching, word searches, identification riddles for terms, and puzzle games. Furthermore, Apologia included a My Chemistry and Physics Field Trip form. The same form appears on the front and back side. There is a table of contents, a note from the author, and guidelines on how to use the book. One of the MOST useful features of the notebooking journal for me was the suggested daily schedule. The schedule is NOT found in the actual text. I feel that the notebooking journal is an essential component to the curriculum.
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Daily Schedule
Here is a sneak peek at the schedule which I divided up into more manageable chucks for my daughter. I wouldn't know how to approach all the activities in a reasonable amount of time without this gem. 

I wanted to share our photographs to help you understand the benefits of using this curriculum and the variety of activities available in the notebooking journal addressing different learning styles.

Coloring Pages
There are two coloring pages per lesson. You can let your children color as you read aloud the text especially if they are wiggle worms. I find that Alyssa is very distracted and can't focus on the information at hand if I allow her to color. We chose to read the text together at the table or on the couch which lead to in-depth conversations, text connections, more detailed questions, and story sharing opportunities.

Scripture Copywork
Scripture copywork verses are available in both print or cursive format. These verses replaced her current copywork assignments, because they are relevant and correlate more with what she's learning. Alyssa completed the print verses first. We decided to focus on improving her handwriting skills saving the cursive verses until after she learned and mastered all the cursive letter formations.

Vocabulary Lift-the-Flap
You may need to assist with the glue. If you are working with younger children, then they can attempt to match the word to the definition and you can glue it for them. I gave Alyssa the chance to match the words and then she helped me attach the flaps. She thought this activity was a neat way to independently study her new words.

Crossword Puzzles
I wish that the crossword puzzles were more challenging in the junior notebooking journal. I wonder if Apologia could offer differentiated puzzles that increase in difficulty as part of one notebooking journal so that children could do harder or multiple puzzles for one lesson. A word bank was provided making it easier to complete. Alyssa had fun completing them, but thought they were extremely easy.

Miniature Books  
Alyssa is a fan of learning wheels. She searched for the definitions in the text and wrote them for each word.

My daughter scoured through the grocery ads and coupons looking for pictures illustrating solids, liquids, and gases. She didn't want to actually put the states of matter pictures in the pockets, because she thought they would get stuck inside. 
States of Matter Pocket Sort
Fascinating Facts
The fascinating facts gave me great insight into what Alyssa felt was interesting. She usually wrote her sentence down on scrap paper first and then worked on summarizing her fact. Otherwise, her sentences wouldn't fit on the lines because she needed more room to write her facts.

Test It Out
This section consists of extra hands-on activities or simple experiments can be done to reinforce lessons. Book suggestions are also offered that correlate with the topics addressed. Evolutionary content may exist in some book suggestions. The following activity was one of Alyssa's favorite Test It Out activities requiring her to remember the arrangement of atoms in each of the three states of matter. The book and activity suggestions usually happened at night after extracurricular classes.
Cheerio Atom Activity
Project and Experiment Pages
These sheets gave Alyssa a place to record a summarized statement of what was done during an experiment and the results. She squeezed as much as she possibly could in the space provided.  

Field Trip Sheet
We haven't gone on any field trips yet, but this sheet will definitely come in handy later. It is a simplified recollection of the trip including information about where we went, when we visited the location, what she saw, what was done, and what she learned.

What We Liked
  • Creation-Based Biblical Perspective
  • Age-Appropriate Notebooking Journal Activities Serve as a Keepsake to Show and Tell 
  • Conversational Living Book Writing Style
  • Time Spent Reading and Learning Together
  • Step-By-Step Clear Experiment Directions with Colorful Photos
  • Clear, Easy to Follow Suggested Lesson Plans With Flexibility
  • Most Household Items Easily Available for Experiments
  • Addressed Many Different Learning Styles
  • Numerous Hands-On Experiment Choices
Finding Volume of a Rock
Density Experiment
Salt Versus Tap Water
Possible Cons
  • Advanced concepts and vocabulary terms may overwhelm younger children. 
  • The workload suggested in the daily schedule may be too much for younger children. Adaptations might be needed. Thankfully, the curriculum is very flexible and the schedule is modifiable. The company also suggests that you go at the pace of your child based on their interests. 
  • The fact that the book focuses on one topic all year may be a problem. Honestly, it takes some getting used to after addressing many brief topics throughout the year. However, I think I prefer the "immersion" method, because we can "dig deeper."
  • A moderate amount of prep time is necessary for gathering and organizing experiment supplies. If you have younger children, then parental involvement will be required for experiments, reading, projects, and notebooking.
Vendor Suggestions or Improvements
  • Glossary - I know glossaries are found mainly in textbooks, but as we completed the notebooking activities I kept wishing for a glossary of terms. Children can learn how to use a glossary while recording their notebooking information if this feature was added. The benefit is two-fold and it would speed things up a bit. There were many terms that needed to be defined in the minibooks.
  • The binding in our book was too tight making it difficult to read the inside edge of text close to the spine.
  • More coloring pages may be needed for parents that use them during read aloud sessions. 
  • Archimedes Play Script Sheet - I noticed that a blank notebooking page was provided as part of the book extras. Is it possible to provide a reproducible primary lined scroll template for younger children?   
  • Schedule Differentiation - I recommend providing a second suggested schedule which is further broken down for younger children making the curriculum last a full 32-36 weeks. The parent can choose from the two schedules which one would work best for their situation.
  • Field Trip Form - Additional field trip forms may be needed for homeschool families that utilize field trips to the fullest extent. The other option would be to allow that specific page to be reproduced within a family. The copyright could be noted on the bottom of the page. You could also add more pages to the book extras.
  • Double-Sided Science Experiment Sheet - I suggest adding an experiment sheet that is based more on the scientific method. We loved the What I Did and What I Learned project page, but my daughter didn't have enough room to record her information. She worked hard at summarizing what she wanted to say. We also discuss the scientific method and prefer sheets that reflect those terms. The What I Did and What I Learned could be located on the back side of the page. Furthermore, this particular sheet may also need to be reproducible so that families could record results for numerous experiments.
  • Blank notebooking pages with decorative corners for field trip and experiment photographs would be a great addition. 
  • There are so many experiments included which is a plus for anyone, but it can be very overwhelming. I would limit the number of experiments to the most important ones and organize the additional experiments in the appendix noting the lesson number and topic. This allows the parent to still pick and choose experiments from a buffet of choices, but it would be seen more as "extras" and may not be as "intimidating."
Our Final Thoughts and Results
I appreciate that this curriculum can be easily modified or adapted for young learners. The flexibility simplifies matters especially if you are using it with multiple children within the age range. You can decide how much science you will do each day, but if you prefer a schedule they offer one. In my opinion, the price is affordable when compared to other science packages on the market. My goal was to expose Alyssa to the concepts, but I realized that she is actually COMPREHENDING a lot more than I ever expected for her age. The experiments and hands-on demonstrations kept my daughter fully engaged and helped solidify her learning. Science finally came to life and became her new favorite subject. She thoroughly enjoyed the experiments and activities! We will continue using Apologia as our homeschool science curriculum, because it fits my daughter's learning styles and preferences. She can't wait to show our relatives and friends what she is learning in Chemistry and Physics.
Sink and Float
Alyssa's Review
"Science is fun! I love the experiments and projects especially the lava lamps. I liked the egg experiment, colored straw activity, playing in the cornstarch, separating a water drop, and the balloon activities. Oh . . . and I enjoyed making pirate ships and sinking them with treasure (pennies). My favorite activities were the crossword puzzles and minibooks. I think nothing should be changed in this awesome program. I LOVE everything even the copywork."

Salt Density Experiment
Buoyancy Ships
I absolutely LOVE Apologia's homeschool science curriculum and would most definitely highly recommend it to ANY Christian homeschooling family or private school especially if they are familiar with Charlotte Mason's use of narrations to check for reading comprehension. This is a complete, solid creation-based science curriculum you WILL want to use with your children!

Exploring Creation With Chemistry and Physics $39
Exploring Creation With Chemistry and Physics Junior Notebooking Journal $24 (lower elementary)
Exploring Creation With Chemistry and Physics Notebooking Journal $24 (upper elementary)

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