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Thursday, August 21, 2014

REVIEW: Happy Kids Songs

We were recently given the opportunity to review some music from Happy Kids Songs.  Dr. Mac, who wrote the songs, is also the music director and songwriter for the PBS show, Jay Jay the Jet Plane. I've watched many an episode of that program with my son.

We received three albums, a total of 15 songs, along with the Happy Kid Songs Workbook. The songs and workbook are intended for children ages 3-8 years.

The three albums we reviewed are:

Friends and Sharing (set 1):
  • Sailing on the Seven Cs - Understanding Friendship
  • Everybody Wants to Find a Friend - Reaching out to others
  • Sharing Friends - Including others
  • Happy as Happy Can Be - Being happy with a friend
  • Together - Being together and saying goodbye
  • H-O-N-E-S-T-Y - Being honest
  • The Magic Word - Using "magic" words, like "please"
  • Quirks - Celebrating diversity
  • The Golden Rule - Treat others as you would like to be treated
  • Six Little Kids - Honoring different perspectives
  • Shake It Out and Dance - Thinking positively
  • Who Knows What's A Kudo? - Giving and receiving compliments
  • I Don't Understand - Asking questions
  • Be Good to Yourself - Being kind
  • Better Together - Being together and apart

The workbook includes lyrics for all the songs on all 8 albums available from Happy Kids Songs, and an activity page for each one. Sometimes there is a coloring page, sometimes a puzzle like a word search, etc. In the back of the book, there is a section for each song, which tells the focus of the song, social and emotional concepts, and then presents some coordinating activities.

I had some kind of an issue downloading the songs, but I'm not sure what it was. I had my husband take a look at it for me, and he assured me it was user error. He was able to get them downloaded just fine, and I put them on my phone for easy listening in the car.

I have to be honest: "kid music" is not my thing. When my girls were small, I thought it was a requirement of a good parent to tolerate kid music, so we listened to far more Elmo and Wiggles than I care to remember. After I had a particularly annoying song stuck in my head for a month or more, I decided that we were not going to listen to it anymore. I just couldn't take it. We learned to listen to other things we could enjoy together. I confess, though, that my nearly-7-year-old boy really seems to like the songs. He asks to listen to "kid songs" every time we get in the car, much to the dismay of his older sisters. :-)

These songs would be a nice addition to character education materials, and would work well in a preschool setting. Although the songs are presented from a secular viewpoint, you could incorporate them into Bible and character materials. The workbook would be a nice resource for a classroom setting, as well, although it was a bit of overkill for us.

You can purchase any of these products through Happy Kids Songs. Each 5-song album is $4.95, and individual songs are available for 99¢. The workbook is $13.95 list price, and is available for purchase through Amazon ($12.56 at the time of this review). You can hear samples of each song on their website. Also, once you've purchased an album, you can download the lyrics, coloring activity sheets for the songs once you've purchased them. That would be a great way to try them out to see if you'd like the complete workbook. The workbook does allow copies to be made for home or classroom use (one classroom, not an entire school).

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Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Crew!


Friday, August 15, 2014

Making History Relevant: Living Books

I'm sure I sound like a broken record, but the key to a relational education is reading living books. Chances are you've heard the term, and I thought I'd share with you my understanding of what it means.

A living book is one that is written by one author who is passionate about their subject, and is usually written in a narrative (storytelling) style. The language is beautiful, not dumbed-down or childish. It's a book that draws you in and changes you. 

Even among homeschooling materials, it's much easier to find a dry, dessicated textbook than it is to find a living book. Sometimes, it can hard to find the very best books, because they might be out of print but not yet in the public domain, so are still copyrighted and can't be reprinted. However, all is not lost! Many wonderful, living books are available and more are being made available all the tiem.

So, how does one use living books in history? I don't know about you, but my entire educational experience in public school revolved around textbooks. Honestly, I remember very little, beyond copying notes from the overhead projector while one of my favorite teachers lectured about American history. He was considered one of the best - and all I had to do to get an "A" was copy down the notes and study them for tests. Don't get me wrong, I adored him as my teacher, but I am not sure he helped any of us on the road to understanding or appreciating history, you know?

As I've walked the path of education with my children, and we've learned more about Charlotte Mason and her principles, I've become very picky about the books we read. Once we read "Our Island Story" together, for example, British history (and therefore American history) came alive to us in a brand new way, and I began to see how much fun history could be. FUN! I never thought I'd say that. I mean, have you read most non-fiction that's available these days? Doesn't most of it read like the kind of textbooks that make you fall asleep and drool in the library? Or is that just me?

One great way to make history come alive is to add some biographies to your history readings. Have you read the D'Aulaires' books? They have beautiful picture books on historical figures such as Christopher Columbus, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin. My girls and I have enjoyed these and I'm getting ready to read them again with my son. Beautiful Feet Books has reprinted these gems, and you can see them here

Another series is the Childhood of Famous Americans. These aren't my favorite, but many people like them. They are readily available, your library probably has many of them, and they are easier chapter books for young readers. Here is a list of the books in this series, separated into historical eras. Here is a list of ones currently in print, available from Greenleaf Press.

Landmark also has lots of great biographies, and many of them have been reprinted. Click here for the list of the ones Greenleaf Press has available. 

I am also learning to love Messner biographies, most of which are out of print, but you can often find them at library sales and even in thrift shops if you keep an eye out for them. Valerie Jacobsen, of Valerie's Living Books, has a list of all the titles here

So, where does one find living books? Here are a few of my favorite sources:
  • Yesterday's Classics - Lisa Ripperton has republished many, many wonderful books from the "golden age of children's literature." I have many books from Yesterday's Classics, both printed an in ebook form, and have been very, very happy with the quality. If I want an old book, I check to see if Yesterday's Classics has it before I look anywhere else. She also offers a wonderful program called Gateway to the Classics, which I use in my homeschool, and is worth it just for the ebooks you get, not to mention all the other features she's added. I highly recommend checking it out.
  • Ambleside Online - they provide a free, online curriculum, years 1-12, complete with lesson plans. You have to provide your own books, but many of them are available online for free. 
  • TruthQuest History - Michelle Miller put together these wonderful books, and they are a treasure trove of lists of living books for all ages, and all time periods of history. She lists possible spines, as well as biographies, historical fiction, and even movies when they are available. 
  • Simply Charlotte Mason's Bookfinder - You can search their database to see what books people have used.
  • Charlotte Mason Help - not only will you find tons of helpful articles here on implementing Charlotte Mason's principles in your homeschool, but she has put together book lists for grades 1-6 as well.
  • Living Books Library - The lovely ladies who own this library have helped me plan my curriculum for my own children for two years now. Check out Liz's "Top Picks" lists for all kinds of lovely books.
  • Sage Parnassus - Nancy blogs about a living education and Charlotte Mason, and lists wonderful books, most of which have been new to me.
  • Other libraries of living books - check this link! It's not a comprehensive list, because the list is always growing, but see if you can find one near you.
  • When you're looking for used books, I like to check http://used.addall.com first, because it scans many online book stores for the best price. I love Amazon, Abebooks, and Biblio.com, but I always check Addall first.
You know, before I started homeschooling, I thought I was well-read. Then I started meeting people who were far more intelligent than I, who had read books I'd never even heard of, and I will be forever grateful to them. The world of living books is larger than I would ever have imagined, and I'm enjoying discovering these treasures along with my children. I hope you will take a look at some of these and see how much fun you can have, and how much you will all learn, by reading them with your children.

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Don't forget to check out the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop this week! You can get started with the links below.


Tara at This Sweet Life
Laura at My (re)ViewPoint
Karen at Tots and Me

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Making History Relevant: A Book of Centuries


Make sure you read all the way to the end so you don't miss the giveaway!

Another tool I've learned about through the Charlotte Mason Institute conference is a Book of Centuries. Have you heard of them? Originally, I thought they were timeline books, but they are quite different, actually.

Charlotte Mason would have had her students take their Books of Centuries with them to visit the British Museum. On one page, recorded years of a century, and on the other page, they would sketch objects they felt were significant from that century. These were simple notebooks, with one blank page for sketches and one lined page for writing. These were not detailed works of art, as they would probably have had to do them while standing. However, hand drawings were one of the many ways Miss Mason reinforced skills of observation in her students. I can tell you from my own experience that you do make a greater connections with things, whether they are nature study specimens or historical objects, when you pay attention to them closely enough to draw them.

Here are a couple of sample pages from a Book of Centuries that has been scanned into the Charlotte Mason Digital Archives at Redeemer University.



Charlotte Mason's students would have started keeping a book like this in around 5th or 6th grade, and they would have maintained it throughout the rest of their education, and on throughout their lives, if they wished. I didn't have my girls start these earlier because I was really not sure how to go about it, but this year, I am determined that we will ALL be adding to our books. I made ours for us, because... I don't know. I just wanted to, I guess. I bound them with my handy-dandy ProClick. Charlotte Mason's students used books that were very similar to composition notebooks. In our books, I left a column on the left-hand side of the dated page for things like British royalty of the time (and when we get there, probably U.S. Presidents). A friend of mine showed me how she used that with her students, and I thought it made a nice connection.

We don't live near any particularly fabulous museums, so for this year as we study the Renaissance era, we will rely on pictures we find in books and on the internet unless we happen to be on a trip somewhere.  When I was at the NCHE conference in May, I got to visit the Books Bloom booth, and found a lovely little book called Made in the Renaissance by Christine Price that has some lovely pictures we can use, and we will see what else we come across in our readings.

What with century charts, and timelines, and maps, and now books of centuries, this might seem like a lot of things, but none of them take very long, and each one can make a different and significant addition to your history studies.

Today I have another little gift for you. Click here to download my Book of Centuries template page. I hope you find it useful!

Here are some additional resources:
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(I know the Rafflecopter isn't showing up properly in the giveaway post, but if you click the link, it will take to to it.)

Don't forget to check out the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop this week! You can get started with the links below.

Tara at This Sweet Life
Laura at My (re)ViewPoint
Karen at Tots and Me

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Making History Relevant: Timelines

Timelines are a wonderful addition to history studies. They are such valuable teaching tools. I love using them with my oldest, in particular, who is a visual learner. This kind of thing is so helpful for her.

Years ago, when I first heard about making timelines with children, I planned to have each child do a timeline book. That did not happen, although I tried several times and several different books. I bought some, I made some, and it didn't matter. Timeline notebooks just did not flow with our homeschool. It could be that I asked my girls to start when they were too young. It could be that I didn't pay enough attention, let them slide, and then forgot. Perhaps it was a combination of both those things.

Then, I read Amy Fisher's post on how she uses a timeline. She made it into a family thing, something she initiates and maintains, but they discuss together. My girls have always been advocates of our timeline being something we do as a family project, rather than something they maintain individually. So, last year, I came up with a new plan.

First, I bought an inexpensive 12"x12" scrapbook with white pages from a craft store. I probably even used a 40% off coupon. Then, I took my trusty Sharpies and drew lines horizontally down the middle of each page, color coded by time period: yellow (Creation to 1st century AD), red (0-1799 AD), green (1800-1899 AD) and blue (1900 AD to present).

The larger 12"x12" pages, give us a bit more room for timeline figures than regular 8.5"x11" pages. Each page is one-sided, so I can hang it on the wall while we're using it and slip it back into the scrapbook when we're done. I don't have room to keep all time periods on the wall, but they're available in the scrapbook to peruse.

I use a glue stick to put timeline figures on as we come across them in our studies. I have the History Through the Ages timeline figures, and nearly everything you could ever want to put on a timeline is included! I printed them all off and put them in a binder, so they're ready to go when we need them. I did have to look up some of the barbarian rulers we read about this year and make our own figures for them, but that's a rare occurrence. I also have the History Through the Ages Suggested Placement Guide. Don't judge me, LOL. I feel much better having someone tell me where to put the pictures.

How many years per page do you do? Well, it depends on how you want to do it. You can certainly get away with longer time periods per page spread for ancient history, because there just wasn't as much going back then. Terri Johnson, of Knowledge Quest Maps, wrote a great article here on how to make a timeline, with suggestions for how to break down the years.

You really don't need anything fancy to make a timeline. Copy paper and a pencil or pen are really the only essential items. Pictures are fun, but not necessary, really. You can just as easily write down when World War I started as paste a picture in your book, right? Don't let lack of bells and whistles get in your way.

One thing that has been tremendously helpful in getting my children to make their own timelines is the Knowledge Quest Timeline Builder App. We all have iPads, and while I am not a huge fan of electronics for school time, this app made timelines a breeze for my girls to maintain. It's quick and easy to find images on the internet, save them, and pop them into the timeline. (You can read my review of the app here, if you're interested in learning more about it.)

I'd like to note that younger children, say before 4th grade, really do not understand the abstract concept of time. I don't think there is anything wrong with making a timeline with them, particularly as a family project, but it's not going to be meaningful to them necessarily. A great way to start a timeline with a younger child is to put their own birthday on one, and then add other family events, like siblings' birthdays, parents' birthdays and marriages, etc. My son, who is nearly 7, will see the timeline as we work on it this year during our studies of the Renaissance, but I don't expect he'll be tremendously interested in it. If we make one for him, though, relevant to his life, I think he will enjoy that and be excited about adding to it.

Here are some pages with information on making your own timeline:

And here are some links to a few products I like (no affiliate links here):

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Don't forget to check out what everyone else has to say during the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop this week! Here are a few links to some friend's blogs. Head to the main page and see what everyone is doing.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Making History Relevant: Maps

Maps? Maps are important for history? Isn't that geography?

Well, yes. Of course, maps are a key component to geography studies, but I've been reading about using them in history, too, and would like to share that with you. The first mention of it, which piqued my interest, was in this post of Jeanne's over at A Peaceful Day. In it, she mentions using Churchill's Birth of Britain with her daughter as their history spine, breaking it up into short sections to be read daily, and "following on with really good maps." We tried to read that book last year, and just didn't care for it. One of my girls insisted it put her to sleep as she tried to read, and we ended up switching to Dorothy Mills' book, The Middle Ages (aff link). I was very happy with that spine, and the girls liked it much better, but I do wonder now if we would have had more success if we'd pulled in some maps to illustrate what we were reading.

This year, we will be studying the Renaissance and Reformation. Our spine will be Renaissance and Reformation Times (aff link), also by Dorothy Mills. When I make them learn about All The Italian Artists, we will look at a map like this:

Italian City-States, 1494 AD

Using this, we can see where they all lived and worked, and hopefully it will all seem a bit more real to my children. (Disclaimer: I won't really make them learn about ALL the artists. I've chosen to have us study Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael. Lots of other names, places, and events will be mentioned in our spine, though, and we can look at this helpful map and have a better understanding of where things happened as we read about them.)

Charlotte Mason used map drills with her students, and we do that too. It's a simple thing that takes 10 minutes, once per week. Basically, you give the children a filled-in map of the area you're working on - say, Italy. They study the map for a few minutes, then turn it over and fill in everything they can remember on a blank map of the same area. Miss Mason focused on developing keen skills of observation in her students, and this is just one way she accomplished that.

Filled and Blank Maps of Italy

Some resources for ready-made maps:

  • Knowledge Quest's Map Trek is by far my favorite map resource, and I've used it for years.
  • Knowledge Quest also have their new Map Studio, a subscription site that lets you make your own maps. This is *amazing* - I was able to make just the right map for studying the Brendan Voyage, for example.
  • Wonder Maps from Bright Ideas Press - haven't used these, but they look intriguing.
  • Uncle Josh's Outline Maps CD or book - not so many historical maps, but great outline maps for map drills of the world as we know it today.
  • Best of History has a page with links to sites with maps, including National Geographic, etc. Most of the blank printable ones are current maps, but there are some historical sites as well.
  • Seterra offers free, online map quizzes. No printing required!
You can also find a lot of maps with a little internet search time.

What do you think? Can you see how maps can help students make connections with their history readings?

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Don't forget to check out what everyone else has to say during the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop this week! Here are a few links to some friend's blogs. Be sure to click over to the main page and see what everyone is doing.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Making History Relevant: Century Chart

We are going to implement some new-to-us things for our history studies this year, and I'm really excited. Never mind that we didn't finish much from last year, or cover nearly what I'd hoped. It's a brand new year, baby!

Have you ever seen a century chart? I have heard of them before, when reading about Charlotte Mason and her principles. I never really understood how to use one, though, until the fabulous Kerri Forney taught us how at the Charlotte Mason Institute conference back in June.

In a nutshell, you need a 10x10 table. Each square represents one year of your chosen century. As you read about historical events and people, you mark them on your century chart. At the conference, we did a century chart based around Charlotte Mason's life. It's really interesting to record events that occurred in her lifetime, because you get a real feel for the things that shaped the world she lived in. I was amazed at what a great overall picture this gave me for the flow of events.

You can use century charts a couple of different ways. As I mentioned above with the chart we did on Charlotte Mason, you can do a biographical chart. We started the CM chart a few years prior to her birth, and then began adding events. We added Beatrix Potter, because she lived near Miss Mason in England, and it would be fun to know if they had ever met. We added World War I - I never connected the fact that she lived during WWI, even though it seems obvious now!

Another way you can use a century chart is simply for the time period you're covering. This year, we are going to study the Renaissance and the Reformation, roughly the 1400's through the 1600's. I plan to have my girls make century charts for each century we cover.

To give you an idea of what this looks like, here is one I whipped up for 1000AD and onward:


You can see that you'll need to use small handwriting (or you could have them do it on the computer). I am really, really excited about using this with my children this year. It's a great thing to use with younger children, who have a harder time understanding timelines. It's also excellent for older children (and adults!). Originally, I thought this was something Miss Mason used only with younger children, but as I was looking at PNEU programmes to see what books she used with her students, I found that students my girls' ages (approximately 8th & 9th grades) were instructed to use century charts as well.

If you're interested in learning more about century charts, here is an interesting article with scanned images of a century chart. I did notice that this chart used little pictures instead of filling in with words.

I have a little gift for you! If you would like a printable century chart to use, please feel free CLICK HERE and download mine. It's a PDF file, and you will download it from Google Drive. I hope you find it useful!

There are lots of folks sharing on all kinds of topics through the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop this week! Here are a few links to some friend's blogs. Be sure to click over to the main page and see what everyone is doing.


Karen at Tots and Me

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Back to Homeschool Giveaway!

Who doesn't love a good giveaway? I know I do! I love when I win things I need for our homeschool, because then I can use my budgeted funds for fun extras. I am DELIGHTED to be able to share this fabulous giveaway with you.

Several members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew have joined forces during our August Back to Homeschool Blog Hop to bring you these incredible giveaways, totaling more than $1300 in homeschool curriculum and PayPal cash!

Grand Prize Giveaway
In the Grand Prize Giveaway, someone will win $765 in curriculum, plus $150 in Paypal cash to help you finish up your homeschool shopping! You could win all of the following. Please click on the prize links to learn more about each product.

Back to Homeschool Second Prize Giveaway
In the 2nd Prize Giveaway, someone will win $325 in curriculum, plus $100 in Paypal cash to help you finish up your homeschool shopping! You could win all of the following. Please click on the prize links to learn more about each product.

To enter, use the Rafflecopter Giveaway below. Residents of the U.S., age 18 and older only. See more Terms and Conditions in the Rafflecopter.

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