Friday, May 26, 2017

Final Thoughts on Beautiful Feet Books Early American History

From the very beginning of our homeschool journey, I knew I wanted literature-based curriculum.  To this book loving momma, there wasn't a thought more perfect than learning through real books.  We found our rhythm for a couple of years, but then decided we were looking for something a little different.  I was immediately drawn to Beautiful Feet Books.  Living books, short lessons, gentle notebooking assignments, no busy work, compatible with Charlotte Mason . . . obviously I couldn't resist!

You can read more about why we chose Early American History and the Primary Level in The Planning Stages, but essentially it boiled down to choosing an appropriate time period and being able to combine the boys in the best way possible for both of their learning styles.

So now that we're finished with our first year, what are my final thoughts?  Did we like it?  What would I change?  Will we use Beautiful Feet Books again?

Did we like it?
Yes!  If you've read my other posts, you might be wondering about some of the "issues" I addressed.  Those were primarily related to outdated language and stereotypes within the books.  I also want to address the fact that I don't believe in censoring out everything that makes us uncomfortable; we choose to use these opportunities to have these conversations now with our children.  There were some books we didn't love, but that will be the case with any literature curriculum.  There will occasionally be a book that doesn't resonate with one of us, and while unfortunate, it doesn't mean you can't learn from it.  Overall, the books chosen were well-written and such a good fit for us!

What would I change?  
About the actual curriculum - not much.  I would have appreciated a list of supplemental living books  for elementary ages for following rabbit trails, but other than that, I found the guide easy to use.  The lessons seemed to flow so naturally, and I didn't feel the need to supplement with all the "bells and whistles" that I'd searched out before we started.  So I did add a book or a website or a simple activity here or there, and that was enough for us.  After all, one of the primary reasons I chose Beautiful Feet Books is because of the simplicity.  I do wish I'd taken the time to do a proper artist study on Benjamin West, but maybe we'll study him as a family when the girls get to this study!

When I did alter something for our personal views or needs, I found the guide flexible and easy to adapt, without compromising the integrity of the program.  That is what makes a guide nearly perfect to me!

Would we use BFB again?  
Yes!  I found several new living books that I adore.  We all learned so much through this course, and we've had some amazing heart discussions.  What more could I ask for?  It'll be awhile before the girls are ready for this course, but I certainly intend to hold on to the guide and literature for them.

What are we using next year?
I don't know!  There are so many great options with Beautiful Feet Books.  I definitely want the new Teaching Character through Literature, because we can use it for family read-alouds or independent reading at their respective levels.  Otherwise, I'm still researching.  We have the option to continue chronologically and continue with American history, or skip around to something else.  I will certainly update with our full curriculum choices . . . if we finally narrow it down!

To read all of the posts about our journey with this program, check out my entire series for this Early American History study.

©2011-2017 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.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Typing Coach {review}

The Typing Coach Review
There is no denying that computers are an integral part of our lives, or that typing is an essential skill.  Poor typing skills makes many simple tasks like writing reports, filling out applications or resumes, or inputting data on a job a time consuming task, if not impossible for some people.  The Typing Coach recognizes the need for quick error-free typing, and has created The Typing Coach Online Typing Course to help students overcome poor techniques in order to build solid typing skills.

The course was originally designed for middle and high school students by an experienced typing teacher, but the course has also been adapted for 8-11 year old students as well.  Younger students can take the core of the course at a slower pace and begin to learn good posture and foundational typing skills.  There are specific instructions and a separate Student Packet for the younger student, as well as as guidance for how to evaluate their progress.

My 10 year old has started to use the computer more, and asked if I could teach him to type, so he has been the one using this course.  It is a no-nonsense, twaddle free approach to teaching typing.  There are no avatars or games or cartoons.  Essentially, you will make sure your screen is off (or covered) so that you cannot focus on mistakes and backspacing.  You will open a blank word processing document and listen to the audio lesson, typing as instructed, or type from the student packet.  The parent should be keeping an eye out for posture and technique, especially when working with younger students.  The lessons can feel lengthy, but stretch breaks are worked in, so focus can be maintained for the duration of the lesson for most students.  There is a Practice and Testing Center built into the program, so that you can monitor progress.

The Typing Coach review

What Did We Think?
I like that the course is straightforward and no-frills.  Not only does the lack of games and edutainment features mean my son has no incentive to rush through a lesson, it means it can be used by learners of all ages without feeling childish.  Since you can't truly proceed without mastery, there is sometimes frustration when a lesson needs to be repeated, but it also means he needs to train himself to focus on the lesson at hand to improve his skills.  Easily distracted students (mine) might prefer headphones to block outside noises.

I will admit, I found the course navigation a little cumbersome. There were multiple documents to read, videos to watch and packets to print before starting, and everything seemed to open in new tabs.  I'm not a fan of videos; my preference is always reading over audio/video (I process more quickly and efficiently when I read), so I would have appreciated transcripts for some of the videos.  Overall, I think the introductory material could be streamlined a little more.

The course is thorough, and the instructions are clear.  The lessons are spoken directly to the student, and Elliott was never confused within the lessons.  However, my son is not an auditory learner, and while I was hoping this would help his attention levels with auditory materials, he found it tedious.  He's working slowly through the course because of this, but I have noticed that he's recalling and applying information from this course at other times, so he is learning from it!

To find out how other families have used this course in their homes, make sure to read more reviews!

The Typing Coach Online Typing Course {The Typing Coach Reviews}

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©2011-2017 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, May 22, 2017

The Pencil Grip, Inc. - Thin Stix {review}

Once in a while, I find a product that I wholeheartedly love for our homeschool.  The current love of mine is Thin Stix!  Thin Stix 6 pk of Classic Colors are from The Pencil Grip, Inc, and they are great for all ages, but they are now a permanent part of my preschool arsenal.

The Pencil Grip, Inc

We've been blessed to review Kwik Stix before, but let me remind you of why I am in love.  The Kwik Stix brand offers solid tempera paint in a stick, which is easy for preschoolers to use.  Uncap, twist, paint.  There is no water or wet paints and it dries in 90 seconds.  What does that mean?  It means no drips, smears, or messes.  They are easy and fun for the kids, and quick and nearly mess free means great for mom!

Here's one of the projects we did recently.  My 2 year old came home with a "flower face" craft one night, and my 4 year old wanted one as well.  So we made one, improvising on the supplies and utilizing our Thin Stix!  I had some foam printing plates in our art cabinet from previous projects, so we cut one into a circle and cut out an opening for her face, and she painted it yellow.

Then she painted a craft stick green for the stem.

She asked for circle flower petals, so we cut those out quickly.  We glued everything together, and ta da!  She had a flower face that looked similar enough to her sister's to make her happy, but uniquely her own!

In addition to the foam and craft sticks, we've used our Kwik Stix on various types of paper, and wood projects, and recently on cardboard.  This was my preschooler's family portrait, though it wasn't until after I took the picture that she realized she forgot to add herself!  No matter what we've used, the paint goes on clean and smooth, and the colors remain vivid.

When painting with other paints, I often elect to do it during nap time.  It's just easier.  However, with Kwik Stix, the two year old gets to join in too because these are so easy to use.  She is still just experimenting with colors and marking on paper right now, but it's a good way for her to participate with the big kids in a developmentally appropriate way.

{These are non-toxic, but also labeled not for children under 3 years of age . . . I certainly recommend caution and close supervision when using with young children, because they can pose a choking hazard.}

The Thin Stix are great for motor skills, because of capping/uncapping, twisting and controlling the paint stick. They are my go-to for quick or impromptu art projects because I don't have to get out paintbrushes, water cups, and paper towels, and we don't have to wait for paint projects to dry.  Just one more reason they are ideal for preschoolers!  They're literally a grab-and-go supply, and they're also easy for little ones to clean up when they're finished!

The Thin Stix are slightly longer and thinner than the originals, giving a little more precision, but both are fabulous products and will be a staple in my art cabinet for a long time!  Thin Stix and other Kwik Stix options come in different sized packages and color options at your favorite retailers like Amazon and ToysRUs, so be sure to check them out!

Also feel free to check out my previous reviews of the original Kwik Stix and the Thin Stix, to see other projects we have completed.

Thin Stix by KwikStix

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If you want to see how other crew members are using the Kwik Stix, especially with older kids, be sure to check out the other reviews!

No Mess Art with Thin Stix Classic Colors {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

©2011-2017 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.