Thursday, September 26, 2013

REVIEW: Flip-Flop Spanish

I'm always looking for ways to make learning a foreign language fun. The way I learned languages in high school was not particularly fun, and not terribly effective. When the opportunity came about to review See It and Say It Flip Flop Spanish from Flip Flop Learning, I was excited to see what it was all about. The program is something you can use your whole family, from preschoolers on up; Señora Gose, the author of the program, says it's for ages 3 to 93.  

For the purpose of this review, we received the complete physical package, including the curriculum pages, hole punched and ready for a binder; four audio CDs in a binder pocket page; three sets of flash cards; and a white board paddle with a dry-erase marker. The flash card images are of real items, and are nicely done. 

The program has 45 lessons, and each one is broken down into 3 days of instruction. The lessons are kept nice and short, about 15 minutes per day. You could spend three days per week and complete one lesson, or you could speed it up if you find you and your children are getting the hang of things and want to pick up the pace. 

This is an easy program to use! On the first two days, you use the cards and CDs to learn and practice vocabulary. On the third day, you, the teacher, read the script in the teacher's manual instead of using the CD, so you get to learn right along with your students. The short lessons are easy to incorporate into morning time, or whenever you're all together. I could even see doing them over lunch time.

My three lovelies and I did the program together orally, and I didn't find that I needed to use the audio CDs at first. I did take some Spanish myself, so I just read things and had them repeat after me. Once we got to "Speed Rounds" with the cards, though, I decided to let Señora Gose do the talking. We had a good time making up silly sentences, like telling my son "Necesitas la falda," or, "You need the skirt," because he wasn't dressed yet. Two of mine have a hard time rolling their r's, and Isaac found an... interesting way of compensating:

(The video is in QuickTime format.)

What I love about this program is kids (and adults) are talking about things that are familiar to them, so it's easy to remember the vocabulary. The first lesson teaches the words for "ice cream," "bowl," "skirt," "dog," "I like" and "I need." The second lesson adds in "spoon," "fork," "plate," and "bird," so you can request everything you need to enjoy a nice bowl of ice cream. By the end of lesson 6, you've learned 26 words, and know that Spanish nouns are either masculine or feminine and how to make them match their articles. It's easy to practice the vocabulary, because the words you learn are part of everyday life - you can point out things like spoons and forks as you set the table, for instance.

Señor Egg Head appears throughout the book with grammar notes for teachers/parents. You can decide how much to explain to your children, depending on their readiness. For the most part, I've found that kids pick up on the correct way of saying things without having to explain the nitty gritty details, but older students would certainly benefit from knowing more about how Spanish works.

Señora Gose has lots of fun ways to practice your new Spanish vocabulary. As you learn the words, you touch the corresponding picture cards and flip them over, and you see the words on the back. You lay the cards out to make sentences, and at our house, that means lots of silliness is likely to ensue! My competitive children loved the speed drills - how fast can you identify the words and touch the cards? You can play Pictionary with the whiteboard paddle, having each person choose a card without looking at it, and then drawing the word the paddle for others to guess. After lesson 12, there are crossword puzzles introduced for older students. 

Señora Gose suggests that older students can write down their questions/sentences, but we didn't do that in these first few weeks; my girls have had Spanish before, so we were able to move through the lessons fairly quickly. With 45 weeks of lessons, you could easily complete the program in one year, or spread it out over 2 years with younger children (or whatever schedule works for your family). There are lots of game ideas on the Flip Flop Learning website, for more learning fun. 

See It and Say It Flip Flop Spanish is available from Flip Flop Learning for $99.95. 

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Friday, September 20, 2013

"Fun" with Worms

We love the Muppet show, and have most of it on DVD. While I was sick for a week or so, my children watched far too much television, and one of the things they watched was the episode with Harry Belafonte (because it followed the one with Elton John). I know this doesn't sound like it has much to do with worms, but bear with me.

When Mr. Belafonte sings the Banana Boat Song (Day-O) with the Muppets, he has to take a break in the middle and reassure them they do not need to worry about the spider he sang about. (One verse says, "A beautiful bunch o' ripe banana, hide the deadly black tarantula." Kinda makes you rethink eating bananas, doesn't it?)

After we watched this episode, which is lots of fun, by the way, Isaac started telling me about big tarantulas that live in our yard (!) and like to dig up worms. I wasn't feeling well, so listened with half an ear, but it seemed to satisfy him, and I didn't think any more about it. The next morning, however, he informed me that it was Worm Day! (He was quite enthusiastic about Worm Day.) His plan was to go outside and dig up worms, so we could save them from the spiders and the birds. I did not know prior to these conversations that spiders would eat worms. Heh.

We have lots of worms in our flower beds, and it makes me happy to see them there, because it means the soil is healthy. It also means we don't have to look very hard to find them. Isaac walked right over to the iris bed and began digging.

That didn't work as well as he'd hoped, so he decided to try the other direction.

At that point, I asked if he'd like a little help with the digging, and he said he might, so I stepped in. It didn't take us long to find several worms, which made Isaac happy.

I  think there were even different kinds. There were some skinny, red, very wiggly ones, and some fatter, gray, more sluggish ones. He'd brought out a little cake pan, so we put them in there at first, but then we decided to put them in a jar. We have this great book called Pets in a Jar, and it told us what to put in with the worms. The book also told us to cover the jar with some black paper Isaac found a large sheet of black craft foam. He loves craft foam. (He sleeps with a yellow sheet of craft foam right now. I have no idea why.) We were also instructed to keep the jar in a cool, dark, place, so Isaac put it in the freezer compartment of his play refrigerator. I can't see any harm coming to them there, so that's their home for the time they live with us. We're also supposed to put different kinds of food in there for them, and pay attention to what they like to eat. I'm willing to do that, but haven't had great success keeping worms alive in the house in the past, so we'll see how they do.

Today, we brought the jar out to see how the worms fared. If you want to look closely enough, you can see one of them next to the "B" on the jar. If you don't want to look that closely, that's okay too. I think it's still alive, even! It might be a record. I would love to be able to study them for a week or so and see if we can observe tunnels they make.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

REVIEW: The Presidential Game

I think one of the most confusing things about the election process in the United States is the Electoral College. I don't think it *has* to be confusing, but most of us don't know that much about it. We think when we vote for the next President, and we watch the little maps change color on TV, that the President has been elected when the popular vote has been decided. Not so, my friends, not so! There is an important little organization called the Electoral College, and THEY get to make the final decision. Granted, they almost always vote according to the popular vote - but almost is a key word. 

I love anything that makes learning fun, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review The Presidential Game. It's a board game for ages 11 and up that takes you through the campaign process. There are two teams, naturally, Republicans (red) and Democrats (blue). Each team has their own chips and set of color-coordinated dice. At each turn, you have a choice to fundraise or campaign. You roll the dice to see how many votes you get to use on your turn, and place chips on your chosen state in the hope of taking control of that state. You keep track of your electoral college votes on the included score pad, which is good, because the number of chips you use does NOT indicate the number of electoral votes in your control. The game requires strategic thinking and planning - do you want to try to control key states, or do you want to control as many states as possible? If you want to be in charge in California, you're going to have to use a lot of votes there. Is it worth it? Only you can decide as you run your campaign.

The Politics Cards add a little twist to the game. If you choose Fundraising on your turn, you have to take a Politics Card at the end of your turn. Most of them work in your favor. They might say something like "Your opponent wore loafers to a fundraiser at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage in Oklahoma City. Add 3 votes to Oklahoma." Every now and then, though, you get a card that gives votes to your opponent (your uncle got publicly drunk, say), and sometimes both sides lose some votes (some upstart independent threw their hat in the ring and messed everything up). There are even some blank cards so you can make up your own Politics. I confess to feeling a bit gleeful at the thought of the things we can come up with to write on our cards.

The first time we played, Isaac kindly laid out his blankets on the floor for us. Wasn't that nice of him? Abbie was torn between wanting to play with blue chips and wanting to be Republican. Emma, my oldest, was paired with Isaac, my 6 year old, and he was not even a little bit interested in the game, so he and I had our own little game on the side with his Squinkies. He would give me one every time I did something "bad," according to him, and I would occasionally ping one back at him across the board. We like to keep things interesting. Heh.

WebMap Calculator
One really cool feature of this game is the WebMap Calculator. When you open your game, it includes a code to give you access to an online map. You tap on the states to change their color according to which party is winning there. It looks just like the one you see on TV during election night. It's a lot of fun to use. I had it set up on my iPad while we played. It's neat to watch it fill in.

The game instructions say that a 30-week election cycle should take about an hour, but we had to play shortened versions with Isaac around, because he made it difficult to concentrate. He only wanted to fundraise, which made Emma's campaign efforts interesting. One of these days we'll get to play when he's busy doing something else.

This is a great game! If you love politics, or you don't (I really don't); if you want to teach your kids about our election system or are looking for something to make government studies a little more fun - take a look at this game.

The Presidential Game is available for $35.00. It's a high-quality game board with nice pieces. You won't be disappointed!

Click here to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Crew!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

REVIEW: PeopleKeys Student Binder

My girls have reached an age when they've begun to wonder what they might like to do with their lives. I don't remember this weighing on my heart as heavily as it seems to on theirs, but I probably went through stages when it did. I was glad to have the opportunity to review the StudentKeys Student Binder from PeopleKeys, as a step in the process of understanding their learning styles and what kinds of careers might suit them in the future.  

The Student Binder in intended for children ages 13 and up, and includes the following workbooks:
  • The Personality Style Workbook
  • The Perceptual Learning Style Workbook
  • The Cognitive Thinking Style Workbook
  • The Values Style Workbook
  • The Career Style Workbook
  • The Goal Setting Workbook
I gave the binder to my 13 year old daughter, Emma, and let her fill it out on her own. I thought she might come to me with questions, but she didn't. I should have known; she's very independent and loves to learn things through reading. Here is Emma's review of the StudentKeys binder:

"What I liked about StudentKeys was how it helps you identify yourself. It showed me how I think, and how I learn. It gave me tips on ways I could change my work style to suit my learning style.

The workbooks give you questions that make you think. They really help you learn about yourself.

My favorite part is reading about the different learning styles. Everything starts to click when you start reading.

It also shows you what jobs are out there in the "Career Choice Workbook." I have looked at the list, and I'm sure you will find something."

When Emma was younger, we took her to a Sylvan Learning Center for an evaluation of her learning style. She told me she liked to "see things and hear things, but not do things." So, she is a visual and auditory learner, but not so much kinesthetic. Those characteristics showed up again in the results from the workbooks as she worked through them. I had to laugh when she told me there is only ONE occupation listed that combines both of her dominant learning styles. 

I lean heavily toward being an auditory learner, and I've only learned that about myself in the last few years. I've had several conversations with friends who knew they were auditory learners when they attended college, and they were able to do several things that made it easier for them to retain information, even when it wasn't presented to their learning styles. One friend had a small tape recorder, and recorded all her lectures. She would then listen to them as she typed up her notes in the evenings. Another friend used to walk up and down the halls of her dorm and read her textbooks out loud to herself. I can't tell you how many nights I fell asleep at the library, trying to read textbooks. These ideas are brilliant! I wish I had known then.

In one of the workbooks, Emma was asked which relationship in her life she'd most like to improve. She chose her sister, and identified some of her personality characteristics as well. She let Abbie take some of the tests, too, and I know Abbie would like her own binder. I'd like to get her one, as well. Emma talks a lot, but Abbie doesn't, so if she works through her own binder, we could go through the results together and I think that would be great information for both of us.

I love that the StudentKeys binder has taught Emma more about herself, and we will talk about her learning and personality styles, and how we can use them to her advantage, but also how to strengthen those areas in which she is weaker. I've taken personality tests before, and so has my husband (we are exact opposites, which makes me giggle sometimes). The information is one piece of the relationship puzzle that helps us understand each other better and so strengthens our relationship. This is great information for anyone, and especially our children as they seek their paths in this world.

The Student Binder is available from PeopleKeys for $49.00.

Click here to read more reviews on this product and several others from the Schoolhouse Crew!

Friday, September 13, 2013

First Week of School

This week was supposed to be our first week of our new school year. We got off to a pretty good start, with our Schultüte (school cones). I had planned on having a fairly light first week, getting to know our school books and working on a couple of things we needed to finish up for reviews.

The first two days went pretty well. The third day was all right, but I confess I experienced some frustration while we were working on Spanish, and actually cried because I felt like I was incapable of teaching my children anything. That night I came down with a fever, and it seems to have become the full-blown flu. It's not the fun first week I'd envisioned, by any means.

You know what, though? I have so much to be thankful for. My girls are old enough to take care of their little brother when I need to rest. They've done a great job, and they've blessed me more than I can tell you.

We've had a rough month at our house. Lots of illness, and nothing has gone according to plan. If the girls are getting sick too, as I think they might be, it could be another week or two before we can really get started. We will be all right, though. God has taken good care of us, and even though I feel overwhelmed, there hasn't been anything I truly could not handle, just as He promises. I am grateful. One of the beauties of homeschooling is the flexibility, and we will get done what needs to get done. If it's not in my ideal time frame, that's OK. We will keep on keeping on.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

REVIEW: Logic of English, Foundations

I have a confession: I love looking at reading programs. I majored in linguistics in college, and I'm fascinated with the way language works. My passion is child language acquisition, and when I graduated from college, I had dreams of studying it and being a speech language pathologist. I met my husband, got married, and had three beautiful children instead of attending graduate school, and this plan has been infinitely better than my original one. I haven't lost my fascination with language and how it's acquired, though.

My third and final child is learning to read, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to review Foundations A program from the Logic of English with him. When I received it, I discovered that it's not only an Orton phonogram-based reading program, but a handwriting and spelling program too! Level A is intended for kindergarten age, or beginners. You can see the suggested schedule for all levels here (you'll need to scroll down the page a bit). For the purpose of this review, I received the following:
  • Teacher's Manual Level A ($38.00)
  • Foundations A Cursive Workbook ($18.00)
  • Rhythm of Handwriting Cursive Tactile Cards ($28.00)
  • Cursive Handwriting Quick Reference ($10.00)
  • Both Green (cursive) and Red (manuscript) Phonogram Game Cards ($10.00 each)
  • Basic Phonogram Flash Cards ($18.00)
  • Student White Board, 11"x16" (has handwriting lines) ($12.00)
  • Phonics with Phonograms App ($2.99)
The tactile cards are similar to Montessori sandpaper letters (they also have sandpaper letter cards). I love them, because they allow a child to trace the shape of each stroke and letter, which I believe is an invaluable tool when they are learning to write. Isaac, in particular of my three, has a difficult time with handwriting. This is one area (among so many) that has brought home to me the differences between boys and girls.

The program starts with some lessons about how sounds are made, and Isaac and I learned about voiced and unvoiced consonants, as well as nasal consonants. It made my linguist's heart so happy! It was fun, too, feeling our voice boxes as we learned about voiced/unvoiced, and plugging our noses to test if we were saying nasal consonants.

The lessons are kept nice and short. Isaac and I worked on one lesson a day. Each contains a section on phonemic awareness and handwriting, with suggestions for games and multi-sensory activities. We began with oral work, and there were 2 workbook pages for each lesson (very simple and not overwhelming, and not just busywork). Isaac loved the games that allowed him to correct my "errors." One of the things he got to do was practice the handwriting strokes on the nifty whiteboard. The teacher's book suggested having the student put a star next to their best work; Isaac preferred to draw crowns. I don't know if you can see his on the furthest one in the picture - he made me giggle.

The whiteboard is worth every penny. It's got one big line on one side, as you see in the picture above, and 5 smaller lines on the back. Isaac loves whiteboards, and it's fairly easy to get him to agree to do his work when there's one involved. It's also great when one doesn't make one's strokes neatly the first time - quick erasing.

The app is great way to practice memorizing the phonograms. It starts out simply, with the first phonograms learned, and progresses in difficulty with each level. The phonograms are pronounced clearly and are easy to understand. I was happy to hear that as we used the app, because we've had issues with other apps sounding muddled, making it difficult to choose the correct answer.

On the handwriting practice pages, I would love to see some strokes and letters for a child to trace before asking them to write them freehand. I am not sure if my girls would have struggled like Isaac does with handwriting, but it was frustrating for him to try to make the strokes and have to re-do them. I think having some dotted ones to trace would have helped him. That's the only suggestion for improvement I have!

As a teacher, I love that this program is open-and-go. The lessons are scripted, which is great if you don't feel confident teaching on your own. To be honest, Isaac is the first child I've had to teach to read from the beginning. The girls knew all their letters and sounds from preschool and were interested in reading. Isaac knew most of his letters and sounds from preschool, but has not been interested, so we're basically starting from scratch. I'm not afraid of not being able to teach him, but I like having this clear, simple guide to use. You can see the scope and sequence here for Level A. The only two things that are required are the Teacher's Manual and Student Workbook, but the extras are wonderful to have, especially the whiteboard, cursive reference and tactile cards.

If you're looking for a fun reading program, or just need a change, or need some help, I hope you'll check out Logic of English. All items are available from the Logic of English store.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Crew!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


I've looked at Time4Learning many times over the years we've been homeschooling. All of my children enjoy computer games, and I thought it looked like fun. They offer curriculum for preK through middle school, and even have brand new high school levels. Subjects include language arts, math, science (beginning in 1st grade) and social studies (beginning in 2nd grade). You'd need to add handwriting and reading practice. I was excited to have the opportunity to review the 1st grade curriculum with my son, who is 6. For the purpose of the review, I received a 6-month subscription to the 1st grade level to use with him.

I put Isaac in the 1st grade level, because when I read the descriptions of the work required, I thought like he should be able to handle it. However, he had a hard time with some of the initial activities. There was one that required him to hit the space bar when a moving line went across the correct sight word. He didn't know the sight words and was frustrated by the activity, even after I helped him figure out how it worked. The great thing about Time4Learning is, if your child needs to work at a different grade than they're signed up to be in, you have access to one level up and one level down from their current grade. He did fine with 1st grade math, but needed more practice with reading before being able to do the 1st grade reading activities. He did manage some of them, but overall, he was better suited with the kindergarten level in that area.

Isaac has really enjoyed using Time4Learning. He asked often to watch "the blue mouse," and chose which games he wanted to play. I had hoped he would be able to work independently, and as he got more used to how things worked he could to some degree, but since he was in the 1st grade level I did need to sit with him and explain things sometimes. Obviously, that's not the end of the world, but it didn't accomplish what I'd hoped, and that was to keep him busy while I worked with my 2 older girls.

Time4learning offers a lot of great resources for parents. Check out a demo for any level here. You can see an overview of the subjects they offer and how many activities there are per topic. They have printable lesson plans, and you can print a list of completed activities with your child's scores, so you can see their progress.

They also have timer settings. You can choose the minimum length you'd like lessons to be, as well as set a timer for the "Playground," which is an area where kids can play games just for fun. If you set your lesson time for a minimum of 15 minutes, your child must work for 15 minutes before they can get into the playground section.

It's also completely flexible. You can work on things any time, and anywhere you have internet connection. That's a huge plus when homeschooling! It doesn't require having large piles of books around, which I could see helping someone living in a small space or who needed school to be portable. 

One thing I learned from their FAQ, which I thought was worth noting, is that as a curriculum provider, they cannot be accredited, but their curriculum is used by accredited schools. Their printable pages can be included in a portfolio for your student, if you're in a state that requires that. 

As I've mentioned, Isaac had a good time with Time4Learning. I can see this being a good fit for people who work from home, or even away from home, so their children can still be at home too. For us, it's a fun supplement. I love to have him learn while playing games, because it can be tiresome for a small boy to be "told what to do" all the time. I do prefer real books and math manipulatives he can hold in his hands. I want him outside more than I want him in front of the screen. The games are fun, but for us to use this as our primary curriculum would require far too much screen time, in my opinion. is available for $19.95 per month for your first student (PreK-middle school) and $14.95 per month for each additional student. The high school curriculum, which includes 4 courses, is available for $30 per month. For a 9-month school year for Isaac, that would total almost $180. That's really not bad!

Click here to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Crew!

Friday, September 06, 2013

REVIEW: A Child's Geography

I love KnowedgeQuest and their products. I have most of them and have been very happy with all of them. I love their "What Really Happened" biography books, and their book on Canada, and their 50 States book, and most of all, I love their MapTrek book. My girls and I enjoy their Timeline Builder app (my review is here), and I'm looking forward to using their Medieval Life app as we study that time period this year.

I have enjoyed using the previous two volumes of A Child's Geography by Ann Voskamp, and when I heard about Volume 3 coming out, I pre-ordered it. I was so happy when it arrived! I immediately took the lovely large map that came with the book to be laminated and printed out the papers I thought we might want for my binder. Terri Johnson of Knowledge Quest is the author of this newest volume. She's a homeschooling mother of 6 with a passion for geography. The books in this series are aimed at children in grades 1-6, but I used this book with my middle schoolers, and they enjoyed it. There is plenty here for older children.

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review the electronic version of the book. For the purpose of this review, I received a PDF copy of the book, A Child's Geography: Explore the Classical World, as well as everything included on the CD that comes with the physical book, also in PDF form. (I like to use a free app called Documents by Savy Soda for reading PDFs on my iPad.)

The CD includes the following documents to enhance your studies:
  • A PDF version of the book, so you can read it on your computer or tablet
  • An 11x17 printable map
  • Chapter-by-chapter activities
  • Extra Reading suggestions, if you want more information as you go through the book. This
    docuement includes websites, biographies, picture books, fiction books, cook books, and websites.
  • Beautiful maps, as only Knowledge Quest does, with both labeled and blank maps for map drills
  • Recipes to go along with geographical areas
  • Timeline dates
  • Travel Log information, with a list of places to be sure you mark on your maps
  • Prayer Walk - information about each country "visited" in the book, and suggested ways to pray for the people there
The book is written to sound like you're walking through the countries of the classical world with a guide. It's written narratively, with beautiful pictures of the countryside, along with ancient artifacts and ruins, pictures of life as it is there today, and wildlife you might encounter. The photography in the book is simply stunning. If you can't be there yourself, the pictures are surely the next best thing!

Each chapter is broken into at least two parts, and sometimes more, which keeps the readings short and manageable. At the end of each section, there is a "Field Notes" heading, which encourages you to write your thoughts in a "field journal." This is when you have your children narrate back what you've read, and there are questions to ask to be sure they got the pertinent information, as well as a list of events you can add to a timeline. In the back is a glossary, with the definitions of the vocabulary words you find in bold print throughout the text.

My girls and I sat at our table. I read to them, and they narrated to me. Then, I had them write their narrations in their field journals. I found printable journal paper in half-sheet size, so we could fold it in half and put it in the little binders we used for our travel postcards from the first book in this series. I thought the smaller notebooks made it seem as though we had real field journals.

As we worked our way through the first chapters of this book, I had one child inform me she thinks narration is "boring." I was, to say the least, astonished. This child has done narration since the beginning of her education, and she thinks it's *boring?* Come to find out she simply didn't like doing the same thing repeatedly, so I encouraged her to come up with different ways of keeping her field journal. She could draw a map, or a picture of an animal from a particular region, or whatever she felt would make her field journal something valuable to her.

We studied ancient Greece and Rome over the last school year, so this book fit right in with what we learned. It was a nice way to spend a few weeks over the summer, looking at pictures of the places we've studied and seeing what life is like there today, as well as learning more about the history and topography of the region. Asa we continue, I plan to use lots of the included recipes. Both my girls like to cook and will enjoy honing their skills on some fun new things.

I love having a hard copy of the book to hold, and look at the pictures. I find more and more often, though, that having a digital copy is helpful, too. I am not always the most organized person (ahem) and while I can always find my iPad, books have been known to wander away after school time, and we're stuck looking for them when we need them next. It's handy to be able to pull up the digital edition so we can continue with our studies and look for the book again when school is done for the day. Also, if we want to take school outside, I'd much rather take my iPad than haul books.

Intrigued, but want to know more? You can download a PDF file of the first three chapters of A Child's Geography: Explore the Classical World here. This book is available from Knowledge Quest for $24.95 for the ebook, and $39.95 for the paperback book (which also comes with a 22"x34" wall map, a $9.95 value included FREE).

GREAT NEWS: I am authorized to give away one free copy of A Child's Geography Vol. 3 to a lucky winner! Enter through Rafflecopter below. The giveaway ends September 14 at midnight EST.

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THAT'S NOT ALL! Knowledge Quest and many sponsors have come together to offer an excellent giveaway package worth more than $650. This giveaway also ends September 14 at midnight EST. Check out these awesome prizes and make sure you enter!

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Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this product in exchange for my honest review. 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 with FTC Regulations. 

Thursday, September 05, 2013

REVIEW: "Look Left, Look Right, Look Left Again" from Greene Bark Press

I wasn't sure what I would think of this little board book from Greene Bark PressLook Left, Look Right, Look Left Again. I'm on my third child, after all, and felt I should probably be able to manage teaching him how to cross the road without too much trouble. When I thought about it, though, I realized I hadn't worked on how to safely cross the road with him very much. We live in a neighborhood with only one entrance. There is very little traffic, and the drivers go slowly and watch for people all the time. We walk around the neighborhood, on the only road which is a circle, but we haven't had much opportunity to practice actually crossing a road.

Additionally, this third child of mine is rather independent. He's fairly confident he can to handle himself in any situation, whether he's had the experience before, or not. So, when the opportunity came to review this board book, I asked if I could take a look.

It's a quick-reading story about a little duck named Wally Waddlewater. He wants to mail a letter to his grandmother, but has to walk quite a ways to find a mailbox. He would like to go by himself, but his first attempt to cross the street doesn't go so well. He looks one direction, but not the other, and nearly steps out in front of a car. His mother is there to help him, and she guides him again through all the steps to crossing the street safely, including - even looking around any obstacles that might be in the way, blocking the view of the oncoming traffic. That's one thing we laugh about - "Isaac, are there any elephants in the way? No? Then we're good." We are all about the fun at our house!

When Isaac and I read this book together, we enjoyed it.  I thought he might be a little old for the book, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much he liked it. First of all, it rhymes, which makes any story more fun to read. Secondly the rhyme for crossing the street is easy to remember, and Isaac likes to say it with me when we talk about crossing the road. "Remember what Wally learned? 'Look left, look right, look left again.'" It's much less confrontational than "ISAAC! WAIT FOR MOM BEFORE YOU CROSS THE STREET!" Heh.

This is a great book for any child to learn crossing the street. It seems like such a basic thing, but little kids get told to do a LOT of things. It's nice to have a book that teaches them important concepts in a fun way. It would have been great to have this when my girls were little and we lived in a busy neighborhood. I could see this book being well-received in preschools.

Look Left, Look Right, Look Left Again is an award-winning finalist from the International Book awards, which is a division of USA Book News. It's intended for children ages 3-8. It is available from Greene Bark Press for $8.50.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Crew!

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Our Charlotte Mason Community As Yet Unnamed

Last year, I posted about beginning a small Charlotte Mason-inspired co-op with another family. It worked out wonderfully well, and we've now met for two sessions of our new school term. Never mind that none of my planning is done for what we need to do at home. We were all excited to begin.

Here's what we're covering:
  • Shakespeare
  • Hymns
  • Picture Study
  • Handicrafts
  • Folk Song
  • Composer Study
  • Poetry
  • Nature Study
We cover the first for items on the list, then break for lunch, and then finish up the last four things. We don't have a strictly set schedule, since it's just our two families. Since we don't always have an extra adult to watch the littlest people, we have extra interruptions sometimes, but they're getting better.

Our Shakespeare play for this term is Macbeth. There were two reasons for choosing this one: (1) my girls are studying Medieval history this year, so Macbeth fits right in, and (2) Charlotte Shakespeare was performing the play in August so we were able to go see it. I know I'm better able to understand the story, having seen it performed, and I think it gives the children a good start, too. I had to laugh at the vastly different reactions of our children to the play. Sara's boys liked it, but my girls were ready to leave at intermission and were pretty sure they'd been traumatized for life. One thing for certain: the play serves as an excellent lesson to choose your mate wisely.

Our first hymn of the term is "Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken," which just happens to have music written by this term's composer, Haydn. It's such a beautiful hymn! We will study two of Ambleside Online's suggested composers this year, Haydn and Tchaikovsky, and then branch out and take a look at John Williams.

Our artist for this term is John Singleton Copley. He was an American portrait painter around the time of the Revolutionary War. So far, we've learned that portrait painting was not considered art then, but was an occupation. There weren't any cameras yet, so if you wanted a picture of yourself, you had to sit for a portrait. His painting of Paul Revere is fascinating. We've also looked at his painting of a shark attack, and the background of that painting was interesting, too. I thought the boys would enjoy that one, with the shark and everything, but all the children seemed to find it disturbing. I suppose I should have used the alternate painting, which was Copley's family portrait. I think Sara and I both decided to display that one in our homes for the next couple of weeks. The good news is, none of his other paintings we'll study are nearly that exciting. We will look at 2 of AO's artist suggestions this year: Copley, and the Hudson River School, and then look at Giotto, to go along with the medieval studies at my house.

For poetry, we're going with Ambleside Online's Year 5 selections, because that's the year Sara's boys are studying, and our poetry studies have been so woefully neglected, we just need to read something. This term we're getting to know Rudyard Kipling. I'm looking forward to reading his poetry. The girls enjoyed reading his Just So Stories a couple of years ago, and many poems on AO's suggested list are taken from those. Our first poem was A Boy Scout's Patrol Song. That was a fun read!

Sara is in charge of handicrafts, and she found a simple pillowcase pattern from Conkerr Cancer. The kids are making pillowcases to donate to this organization, who will give each one to a child with cancer. We had a good time choosing fabrics, and we're going to make some for our cousins for Christmas, too.

Finally, Sara started off our nature study of mammals with cats! We all love cats. There are several specimens to observe at my house! This last week, we looked at wolves, and dogs. The Handbook of Nature Study didn't give us much information on wolves, and said that we'd find all we needed to know in the pages of good literature. Ms. Comstock recommended the Jungle Books as a place to find out about the habits of wolves in India, and said she would list suggestions at the end of the section, but we couldn't find them. We discussed possible books by Jim Kjelgaard we ight read to learn more. If you have any suggestions for good books on the natural history of wolves, I'd love to hear about them.

Last year, we discussed making a yearbook of our co-op activities, and we didn't get around to it. I hope we will be able to do it this year, and will have to try to remember to take pictures. We're looking forward to another fun year!