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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

BFB: Early American History - Gathering Resources

In my effort to be transparent about our upcoming studies, I'm sharing our new journey with Beautiful Feet Books-Early American History.  I already shared The Planning Stages and how/why I chose this specific curriculum.  Now I'm sharing the supplemental resources I plan to use alongside it to round out our study.  Also, having them all here will make them easier for me to remember.  I'm not always the most organized person, in case you haven't noticed.

The guide is no-frills, no fuss.  I like that.  It's not full of worksheets that quiz pointless things and crafts that will just stress us out.  It's rooted in good books, discussion and simple notebooking activities.  However, I still don't believe you can truly bring history to life without making it interactive.  I don't intend to add stereotypical paper crafts because that's just not our style, but I'd like to add some handicrafts, cooking and art to flesh it out and help us understand how people lived.

I like to have a variety of resources available, should we wish to further explore a topic and so that we can view and analyze history from multiple perspectives.

General Resources
Merriam Webster Children's Dictionary
Picturepedia {a fun visual}
Famous Figures of the American Revolution {This is about as crafty as we get--my review}{review coming soon}

I'm hoping to find at least one handicraft to do for each major era/event that we cover, but so far I'm only finding a lot of that stereotypical craft stuff that we're not interested in.  So this summer I'm going to go through each book side by side with the study guide and see what stands out to me, and I guess I'll share about them individually as we do them.

Cooking up Some American History
I've had this book for ages, and have yet to use it.  This would be the perfect year.  I would like to include a recipe from each major time period that we study.

Fine Arts
I came across some CM style lessons and found Patriotic Songs among the hymns/folk song information.  I thought the study of Patriotic Songs would be fun to do this year.  

Since we study West with the book Benjamin West and his Cat Grimalkin, I thought we might do a short artist study on him.  Not sure what direction that will take, but I found that resource and wanted to save it here for reference.

I found this website, created by a teacher in Native American schools, full of art projects, as well as some games.  It is offered for free, so that teachers and homeschoolers can provide multicultural lessons and dispel stereotypes.  I look forward to really going through it this summer to choose a few activities.

I own these books already and I thought they'd be an easy resource for art appreciation.

Supplemental Literature
I think we all know there are two sides to every story, so I use books in our curricula as a starting point.  I want to teach my children to read these books with a critical and objective mind, and an understanding that just because a book (or textbook, website, etc) is assigned for study, doesn't mean we will have a clear and accurate picture.  Usually, we're only reading one perspective, and it's rarely that of the oppressed.  Also, the books used in the curriculum are somewhat older, and we're likely to encounter stereotypes.  I want to include a more thorough look at some areas I think could use some more attention, particularly Native Americans and African Americans.  Perhaps they are represented more honestly and in-depth in the Intermediate level, but we're in Primary and it's unlikely I'll repeat the time period again so soon, so I've spent a lot of time researching living books for children that will help give an authentic voice to everyone.  I'll be sharing more about supplemental literature as we progress through the curriculum!

If you have any American history resources that you think would supplement a living books curriculum, what would you recommend?  I'm also open to handicraft suggestions!

©2011-2016 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author. {TOS Review}

If you've homeschooled for any length of time, you've probably heard of the idea of notebooking.  Then all the questions start.  How do you actually get started?  How do you cover every subject through notebooking?  How do you grade it?

Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership Reviews
This post contains affiliate links.

If you're like me, you found, but maybe didn't know enough about the Lifetime Membership or Notebooking in general to make the plunge.  I'm here to tell you now, if you notebook in any capacity, it is worth it.  If you're wanting to shake things up and let your child's assessments be more student-driven, it is worth it.

What Is this Notebooking Thing? was created by homeschooling mother of ten, Debra Reed.  It was her effort to reduce boredom, frustration and busywork, and free up her children to learn in a way that would meet their learning needs better.  This website has great tutorials and tips for getting started with narration and notebooking, which is especially useful if you're new to either concept.  Oh, and of course it is FULL of notebooking pages of every variety.  She has them for every subject.  She has them with regular lines and primary lines, with all kinds of boarders and pictures.  She has them with no lines, but spaces for drawing instead.  She has some that are more like coloring pages.  She has it all.

The major categories include:
Any Study
Famous People
Fine Arts
Lang. Arts

The Any Study pages are just general pages that can be used for anything.  If she doesn't have a specific topic you need, or you're in a hurry, grab one of these.  The rest of the categories are divided up into multiple subtopics, so there's quite a bit to explore.

How to Notebook
Oh, let me count the ways!  Really, there's no right or wrong way to use this resource.  You can use it as a supplement to any curriculum.  You can use it to replace standard worksheets within your curriculum.  You can use it instead of curriculum, as they would work well for interest-led learning or unschoolers who just want to pick a topic and see where it leads them.  Notebooking works wonderfully as a form of narration, so as a {relaxed} Charlotte Mason homeschooler, I've found a couple ways this works well for narration.  Young students can draw their narrations.  Older students can draw and do a copywork passage, or a short written narration if they are ready.  Parents can write out the child's narration for them for kids who can't write well yet.  It's really versatile.

So, how have we used it during the informal summer months?  Emory wanted to learn about Cheetahs.  I read from an animal encyclopedia and he drew on a Cheetah page, found in the Mammals subsection of Science, while Elliott drew and wrote some facts on his page.

We've used Any Study pages to accompany our read-aloud books.  Below was from Who Is Stan Lee? by Geoff Edgers, and we were on the chapter about when he created Marvel.

This particular page was the "handmade boarder" but there are many style and color choices for the Any Study pages.

I printed out several of the simpler pages from the A-Z Animals file for Eleanor when she went through her Big Red Barn phase.  There are a lot of A-Z categories, and plenty of pages with minimal lines and more drawing space, as well as pages with no lines so she can have a whole page to color and draw "school like the boys," in an age appropriate way.  I think we went through at least a pig, horse, and cow.

I also have so many ideas for future studies when we dive back into our curriculum.  For history, the new curriculum we're trying encourages notebooking, so I plan to use this website extensively!  I know we'll be learning about a few different explorers and their journeys, so I'm going to print some of the maps from the Geography section.  I'm also planning to use a variety of the Famous People pages as we study them during history.  I'm creating our own introductory chemistry curriculum, with a branch of study on geology, so we'll use the experiment pages, and probably some of the nature study pages, and scientist pages.  I know some of the animals will line up with preschool themes for Eleanor this year, and I'll be poking around to find other simple pages for her.

There have been a few less-common topics/people I've wanted, but I can make do with the non-specific or Any Study pages.  There's really an endless supply, and I feel like this is a resource that definitely works with the growing/maturing homeschooler.

I did notice some things not included that I would have expected--for instance, Father's Day is included, but Mother's Day is not.  Obviously the more general pages can be used for any topic, but I found that one in particular odd.  I would also love to see Field Trip pages.  The other thing I would like is a search feature.

I really like the depth of content available, but the website can be visually overwhelming for me.  Before I log in, it feels cluttered with the dark text boxes and the popups and social media sidebar and such.  Once I log in, it cleans up quite a bit, but then I see quotes from customers everywhere, which is a little distracting to me.  However, the website itself is very easy to navigate, and I like the pop of green to break it up once I'm logged in.

Everything is clearly labeled, but here's why I would like a search feature.  I might end up looking under Famous People -- Famous Scientists for Benjamin Franklin, but I found him under History--Modern History--US Revolutionary War.  At the same time, some topics are in multiple categories.  Bats, for example, was the B letter in A-Z Animals, but I also found a different set of pages for Bats under the Mammals section of Science/Nature Study.  As someone with 3 kids at very different ages/stages, I'd love the ability to search and pull up all relevant sets of pages.  That is more practical to me than trying to set up a "teacher notebook" for every project, and even if I were going to set up that notebook, I still need to know where to find the Table of Contents and Preview Catalogs from the applicable sets.

The only other issue I have is with opening the PDF files.  I prefer PDFs to open in a new browser tab so I can automatically see it, but these do not. They automatically download, then I can open them in the browser.  If I have a lifetime membership, I'd rather not download everything, and just access them later when/if I need them again.

Final Thoughts
Overall, I am very impressed.  The thing about Notebooking is that there's not really a wrong way to complete the page.  It's not about fill-in-the-blanks or multiple choice.  Instead, it allows the child to make their own connections and express their thoughts any way they want.  It's open-ended adn

This is a quality resource and well worth the investment, since Lifetime Membership also includes everything that gets added to the website in the future.  If you are considering the membership, you can check out the FREE RESOURCES first to get a feel for the variety of content available.

Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership Reviews

Crew Disclaimer
©2011-2016 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Monday, June 27, 2016 {TOS Review}

Each year on the crew, I often end up reviewing something I wouldn't have found on my own, and such is the case with the family subscription to from Veritas Press.

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

What is Veritas Press?
Veritas Press offers curriculum for Classical Christian Education, and is a more relaxed version of their online Self-Paced Bible program.  The program currently allows members to access three major courses:

Genesis to Joshua
The Gospels
Judges to Kings

The courses each cover 32 major Biblical events and they are designed to each last approximately one year.  So essentially you have access to *three* years worth of curriculum.  There are "skits" performed by live actors, animation, graphics, and other interactive elements to entertain, educate and quiz all at the same time.  The program uses NKJV for scripture.

I decided to start us off with Genesis to Joshua, mostly because I like to go in order.  The course is set up as progressive maps and we move through events by completing each lesson.  You receive stars (1-3) based on how well you do.  You can progress with at least one star, and you're always able to repeat the lessons if you need to review, but you can't skip ahead.  The course saves your progress, so you know exactly where you left off each time.  Here we are starting The Fall in the Garden.

Working through the lessons is pretty self-explanatory.  Available lessons are white, and once you click on the white circle, the lesson opens up and begins.  As you progress through the lesson, you're instructed when to complete activities or answer questions.  The lessons in this course are led by Asher and his sister Abigail, and these are live-action videos.  They are very upbeat.  There is a lot of sibling bantering and joking going on, and I understand it's supposed to be cute and entertaining--my 9 year old did catch on and found it humorous--but it's not the type of jokes I find appropriate.  One example is when the brother says people say he has the face of a god, and the sister says something along the lines of how they meant he had the face of a dog.  Sure it was meant as a joke, but I was discouraged to find this type of humor in a Biblical curriculum.

Multiple students can be on your parent account, allowing them to do work at their own pace, or even in different courses.  Even though it is a family subscription, it is designed so that each student works through the course independently.  Because we like to do many subjects together, particularly Bible, this didn't work for us.  I would love to see a way for families to watch the lessons together, and then children to "sign in" to their individual accounts to answer questions and do quizzes.  While it does grade the quizzes, it doesn't record the grades, so if you want to save them, you'll probably want to print them as they're completed.  I do love the positive reinforcement students get for correct answers during the interactive part of the lessons, and so did the boys.

 To fit our family-style learning, we all ended up working under one account.  We watch the lessons together, and I usually ask the kids to alternate who answers questions.  My rising 4th grader usually does the slightly harder activities, like labeling maps.  There is a review song, and the kids found it quirky and catchy, but it's long.  I also noticed the course references their flash cards that are sold separately, not as part of the subscription as far as I can tell.  I didn't see reference to these flashcards on the homepage, only when they were brought up in the course--I finally found mention of them in the Help section of my account when I was poking around.  I just wanted to put that out there for people who aren't familiar with Veritas Press or their online courses.

Final Thoughts
The boys tolerate this program, but don't particularly love it.  This is the only online program we've had technical trouble using--it tends to pause and buffer, even though the "slow connection" light is not lit up on their interface--but we stream lots of videos and use other online programs and haven't had issues, so I'm not sure of the cause.  The buffering drags out the lessons and makes it difficult to finish in a reasonable amount of time, so I think that's part of their issue with it.  My six year old is on the young end of the target audience (2nd-6th grade) so he tends to zone out occasionally. My nine year old understands the material, but hasn't done great with the presentation of the material.  Something just doesn't click with him.  Aside from the two small issues of sibling bantering and it not being quite as family-friendly in execution as we need, I still think it's good quality and solid teaching.  I thing the grade range is spot on.  If you are looking for an online program for children who thrive with audio-visual aids, and want your children to study Bible independently, this program will probably be great for you, so check out their free trial!

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

Old and New Testament Online Self-Paced Bible Veritas Review

Crew Disclaimer

©2011-2016 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.