Monday, November 30, 2015

Preschool Painting: Kwik Stix Save the Day {Review and Giveway}

My kids love art, but it's rarely on my priority list.  It requires extra time, extra supplies, and usually a lot of extra cleaning.  I always tell myself they get enough artsy activities at co-op, but it's still not the same as regular art experiences at home.  As much as I love to let them create and experiment with new art supplies, it just doesn't happen as often as it should.  Please tell me I'm not the only homeschooling mama that feels this way!

The boys are old enough to entertain themselves with games or LEGO or something else when I can't get to art on demand.  The two year old, however, doesn't take as kindly to the "Sure, in a little while" delay tactic.  She loves to paint, and wants to do it all day, every day.  If you have preschoolers, you know how exhausting that can be!  So I'm sure you can imagine that I was excited when I was given the chance to review Kwik Stix.


This post contains affiliate links.  Please read my disclosure for more information.

What are Kwik Stix, you ask?  They are tempera paint in stick.  They work just like glue sticks--you just uncap them and twist to paint.  You can paint on paper, cardboard, poster, or any other similar surface.  They dry within 90 seconds and don't require any extra supplies.  It all sounded so simple!

The first time I gave them to Eleanor, I put her art smock on, because I thought she might smudge it on herself.  I found out it wasn't really necessary.  Since there are no paintbrushes, no water cups, no wet paints . . . there are no streaks, smears, spills, drips or accidental messes!  They were very easy for her to use, though she did need a little help with the caps ~ older preschoolers should be able to work them independently.

Kwik Stix Review and Giveaway


She's painted with them several times now, and I'm really impressed.  They do paint on just like a glue stick would, minus the sticky mess.  The colors are bright and vivid and remind me of oil pastels.  These are like a step-up from crayons for preschoolers, without the mess of the advanced art supplies that their big siblings use.

We've only used copy paper, and we've not had any holes or tears in our paper like you get with excessive painting, particularly with watercolors.  Also, because they dry so quickly, there aren't twenty wet paintings spread all over my counter tops.  By the time she's done with one, the previous painting is already dry and I can just stack them up or put them in a folder for her right away.  Last week we used them to make colorful turkeys, and they were dry almost instantly, so she was able to glue feathers on almost immediately.  Crafting makes this girl happy!

Kwik Stix Review and Giveaway

Even though I use them mostly with my 2 year old, they're really good for all ages.  Even I enjoyed experimenting with them!  While they can't replace the experience of traditional painting, they're definitely a unique alternative, which makes them so much fun!  I'd like to get some for my preschool co-op class, because painting with a class of 20 little ones can get a little crazy and this is a fantastic option.

Kwik Stix come in different sizes:
6 Pack
12 Pack
96 Pack

So you can grab a smaller pack for your own art cabinet, or help a classroom or co-op stock their art supplies!


Giveaway 

The Pencil Grip is giving away a 6-Count of Kwix Stix to one of my readers!  This would make a great stocking stuffer or just a fun surprise for the artist in your life.

Kwik Stix Review and Giveaway

Please Read
This giveaway will run from 11/30/15 - 12/08/15.  The giveaway is open to US residents only. Must be at least 18 years of age to enter.  Void where prohibited by law.  Odds are determined by the number of entries.  The winner will be selected at random, and will have 48 hours to respond to email. If the winner cannot be verified, or does not respond within that time frame, a new winner will be selected. The product offered is free of charge, no purchase necessary, and will be shipped by The Pencil Grip.  Mom's Heart is not responsible for prize fulfillment.  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are not affiliated with this giveaway. Any information you share will remain private, and will only be used to contact the winner.  




FTC Statement





 

©2011-2015 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.  http://www.moms-heart.com

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Cranberry Thanksgiving














Grandma's Famous Cranberry Bread

Our row of Cranberry Thanksgiving





Wordless Wednesday at Life at Rossmont

Photobucket





©2011-2015 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.  http://www.moms-heart.com

Monday, November 23, 2015

Delight-Directed Learning and Charlotte Mason

When we started homeschooling, we started preschool with a Charlotte Mason environment.  It was relaxed, enriching and exciting.  As the kids got older, we have dabbled with various aspects of Charlotte Mason, but we've also remained relaxed, and we definitely fall under the umbrella of Delight-Directed Learning.


This post contains affiliate links.  Please read my disclosure for more information.

What is Delight-Directed Learning?
Delight-directed learning begins with following the needs and interests of the child.  I recognize that my children are individuals who have unique interests and goals, and distinct learning styles.  I've learned that I have to take their learning styles, their curriculum requests, their passions, and their unique gifts and talents into consideration when choosing the direction of our studies.  Well, I don't have to, but it makes for a more personal and pleasant learning experience for everyone involved.

It means if my son wants to spend longer learning about a particular historical figure, we'll check out another biography.  It means when my other son is interested in learning more about insects, I'll get him extra nature study tools and real insects to study.  It doesn't mean we don't do structured or systematic learning, but we do it with their best interests in mind.

Charlotte Mason purists will tell me something along the lines of "Charlotte Mason would have said delight-directed studies should take place after formal studies, during the child's free time."  Sorry Charlotte, but I take offense to this idea because it undermines my child's intelligence.  If children are born persons and are capable of their own thoughts and ideas, and we are not to use adverse strategies (fear, authority, power of suggestion, etc) to force a child to learn . . . then how can I possibly discount the merits of a delight-directed path?

Therefore, we are limited to three educational instruments--the atmosphere of environment, the discipline of habit, and the presentation of living ideas.

I understand the idea of wanting to expose them to a variety of topics and ideas, the buffet so to speak, but children are naturally curious and most will eagerly explore what interests them, continuously following rabbit trails.  The more they go off the beaten path, the more their interests will broaden, thus continuing the cycle of exploration and learning.  They need more than "free time" to do this, though.  They don't need to be told (forced, bribed, etc) to follow a contrived scope and sequence or a list of pre-selected books, but they do need encouragement and facilitation.


How do I Incorporate Charlotte Mason Methods into a Delight-Directed Homeschool?
I see the beauty in several educational philosophies, but as with many other eclectic homeschoolers, I take what works from each one and apply it in a natural way, to do what is best for my family.

In other words: I take what works, and leave the rest at the door.

Although Charlotte Mason and Delight-Directed learning may seem at odds, I still embrace many aspects of the Charlotte Mason philosophy, and have found that applying her methods to delight-directed learning is not only possible, but leads to an enriching experience.

Education is an atmosphere.  That means I look for natural opportunities in our environment to teach.  We learn through everyday life--intelligent conversation with adults, learning life skills, observing the beauty in nature as we walk through the woods.  These instances should not be set aside for artificial lessons and reading selections.  We should take time to embrace these moments for what they are--fleeting opportunities to educate in a loving and nurturing way.

Living Books.  Although educating naturally is important, when my kids have a special interest or request, I look for living books so that we can read well-written, interesting material together and expand our knowledge.

Narrations.  Narrating what they have learned allows them to assimilate the information in a way that makes sense to them.  I ask open-ended questions, and I also model my own narrations so they learn how to present their thoughts in more detail.  This is also when they are likely to ask more questions, opening up new discussion and research opportunities.

Short and varied lessons.  For our structured activities, I want the boys to be fresh and attentive, so rotating activities quickly and efficiently is key.  Even in delight-directed approaches, trying to hyper-focus and study one thing for too long will cause them to grow weary.  Short lessons means more time for play, creativity, exploration, free time and thinking . . . which often leads to more questions and more interests to pursue!

Copywork.  I weave their interests right into their copywork.  I really like All About Spelling, but the dictation sentences can be a little simple and dull.  Sometimes I change up a lesson by turning them into copywork and adding complexity, but I also alter them to reflect their life and personal interests.  It's a touch of fun that often adds a smile to their face.

Nature study is also easy to implement in a delight-directed manner.  When we are outside, I make sure they have plenty of time to explore, examine, wonder, question and observe -- all on their own.  We do engage in formal nature study as well, but I let them take the lead there too.  I may suggest the topic, but I let them choose the actual specimen to study.  I let them choose what goes into their nature journals as well.  I want them to take ownership of the material, and form their own relationship with the natural world.



Fine Arts.  I admit, I have been guilty of neglecting music and art in pursuit of "everything else that needs to get finished first," which is a shame.  So lately I've been harnessing their love of audio books and using the Stories in Music from Maestro Classics to springboard into famous tales, history, composer studies and music appreciation.  Art can lead us to biographies of artists, historical events that affected artistic movements and so much more.  Just watching what excites them gives me so many ideas to help them discover more about the topic, and when I was focusing on "getting it all done" I was neglecting my responsibility to give them more living ideas.


What Does This Mean for Our Homeschool?
Well it means that we're going to switch gears for awhile.  Things were getting a little rocky in the afternoons, and I had several discussions with my boys.  One wants to change things up, and specifically requested more ART, and the other requested more nature study, and they want more projects and hands-on activities.  This is why I felt the need to hash out my thoughts on delight-directed learning.  I need to remind myself sometimes to just let go and let the kids lead.

While I love what we were doing, it's not working during this current stage of our homeschool.  We may, or may not, come back to it.  A love of learning is important to me.  No curriculum, no matter how good, how beloved by the masses, should take precedence over my child's happiness and desire to learn.

"We need not labour to get children to learn their lessons; that, if we would believe it, is a matter which nature takes care of. Let the lessons be of the right sort and children will learn them with delight." (Charlotte Mason, Volume 6, pg 99)

Right now, we're taking a break and enjoying our holiday studies--I'm planning a lot of art, cooking and handicrafts to go along with it!  After the holidays, I'm looking towards a very hands-on, project oriented history program, that I would flesh out myself with living books of my choice.  Each lesson lasts 1-3 days, giving us a day off for co-op and much more time for art and nature study.

My hope is that by taking their requests into consideration, choosing programs that meet their learning styles even more, and focusing on what interests them, they will continue to find delight and joy and take ownership over their learning.


Thoughts from Others about Delight-Directed Learning
Child Led & Delight Directed Learning from Creative Jumble
What I've Learned about Curriculum and Charlotte Mason's Philosophies form The Unplugged Family
31 Days of Delight-Directed Learning from Ben and Me


What homeschooling method do you use?  Do you find that you also piece together elements from different philosophies to do what works for each individual child?




This post is part of the Blogging through the Alphabet series.  D is for Delight-Directed Learning.

Blogging Through the Alphabet” style=



©2011-2015 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.  http://www.moms-heart.com


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Baby Food: The Amazing Make-Ahead Baby Food Book

I'm a mommy to four kids, and with one of them still being under a year old, I've made a lot of baby food over the last several years.  Commercial baby food has its place in a pinch, but I've found that making my own is more economical, healthier, tastier, and offers more natural textures to transition into real food.


This post contains affiliate links.  Please read my disclosure for more information.


Recently I was given the opportunity to review the book The Amazing Make-Ahead Baby Food Book by Lisa Barrangou, PhD, and I was interested to see what I could learn from it.

The author has previously worked as a food scientist for three different food companies, and she knew that processed food was not fresh, flavorful, or as nutritious as food should be.  She developed a system of preparing her babies a variety of healthy food options in minimal time, and soon branched out into a business, preparing the food and a menu plan for clients.

The Amazing Make-Ahead Baby Food Book was written to help parents implement her plan at home.  It is a plan that can help parents create a "well-balanced, diverse selection of whole food purees and freshly ground grains to feed your baby for up to three months, and to do it within three one-hour blocks of time."

Everything you would need to begin preparing homemade baby food is included in this book.
  • A shopping guide
  • Instructions for three cooking sessions
  • three months of menus (with the 3+ day rule factored in)
  • Information about mix-ins like cheese, yogurt, eggs, herbs, spices, etc
  • Flavor compatibility guide
  • Simple recipes for basic purees
  • Recipes that combine purees
  • Finger foods and advanced meals (many are appropriate for a full meal for the family!)
There's really a lot more information than that, but that's the essentials.  

I'm to the point now where I rarely make baby food ahead of time to freeze, just because I've mastered the art of tweaking what the family eats for the baby.  Dice a banana into oatmeal at breakfast, hard-boil an extra egg, bake an extra sweet potato, smash the steamed veggies . . . you get the point.  I do freeze some things for when we're not eating something baby-friendly (extra-spicy, pizza, etc) but after four kids, I've figured out how to do that based around what I'm already cooking, and I personally don't need marathon baby-food-cooking sessions.

That being said . . . I think this book is a fabulous resource for those new to making baby food, as well as those who need a system to maximize their time in the kitchen.  I would find the schedule very helpful if I still worked full-time outside of the home, and wanted to send wholesome baby food to childcare.  It's very informational, packed full of science and nutrition, but it's written in a very conversational manner and easy to read.  It would be a cute gift for the new mom when paired with some of the supplies needed for baby food (storage containers, spoons, bibs, etc) to give her the confidence to make her own food.  It goes a long way too, with the suggestions for older babies/toddlers.  I sometimes flip through for ideas for advanced meals, as my daughter is now an older baby and prefers "table food" with lots of textures and flavors, so it's nice to get some fresh ideas for the kids.







©2011-2015 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.  http://www.moms-heart.com

Saturday, November 21, 2015

FIAR: The Giraffe that Walked to Paris

I've mentioned before, I like to let the boys help direct their studies.  Elliott was interested in The Giraffe that Walked to Paris after he learned it's based on a true story, so that was the reasoning behind choosing the book when we did.



This post contains affiliate links.  Please read my disclosure for more information.

The Giraffe That Walked to Paris by Nancy Milton is the story of a giraffe being gifted from Egypt to the King of France, and her journey to Paris.  This book is fairly long for a picture book, and the boys weren't interested in multiple readings, but they enjoyed learning the actual history behind the story.

Social Studies
Geography; Political Relationships
We learned a little about Egypt and The Mediterranean Sea and the boys mapped the giraffe's voyage.  Elliott and I discussed some of the actual history behind the giraffe, and how the gift was a political strategy.


Notebooking Pages
Where in the World?
Egypt Country Card
Mediterranean Sea region

Supplemental Books
Children Just Like Me (Egypt)
Children's World Atlas (Africa)
Totally Wild Animal Atlas (such a fun book)
I Wonder Why Pyramids Were Built - and other questions about ancient Egypt
The River that went to the Sky:  Twelve Tales by African Storytellers  (we read tale from Egypt)


We decided to place our story disk on Egypt, since that's where the story starts, and I knew we'd have other stories from France.





Language Arts
Setting
We discussed the meaning of setting, and of course the setting of this story.  Then we talked about how our own stories can have unique settings.  The boys both gave me several settings--some being more general and realistic such as California or Mexico, and some more unique and specific--like Teen Titan's Tower and a shark submarine.  We're going to go back and use these settings for writing our own stories later.  ;-)

Additional Literature
The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me by Roald Dahl






Science
Giraffes
I didn't have a good non-fiction book about giraffes (and they weren't given much coverage in our animal encyclopedia) so without a library trip, we made do with internet research.  We read about Giraffes and completed the Animal Fact File.

Emory, attempting to draw a giraffe from the Draw Write Now book.



Math & Art
I kind of linked this all with the giraffe lessons.

We did the Mathematics lesson when we learned about the characteristics of giraffes.  We measured out the height of baby giraffes, and compared the boys' heights.  Elliott also calculated the differences.

It was very easy to include Eleanor in this row, with the giraffe theme.  We talked about how each giraffe has unique spots, and when I found this giraffe craft, I knew we could adapt it and use our unique fingerprints to make spots on our giraffes.  Eleanor loved this project, although she refused to use her fingers for the spots.  Emory insisted on a green giraffe (pick your battles, right?) and Elliott . . . well, he tolerated the craft, but he's outgrowing these kinds of activities.  As cute as the printout is, it was very tedious to cut out, so keep that in mind if you try it with multiple kids!



This is one of those $1 puzzles from Target from when the boys were little.  She's really enjoying puzzles lately, and does well with them.


 This safari animal puzzle is too easy for her now, but the chunky pieces are obviously good for imaginative play and storytelling.


This was another light row, just focusing on the elements of interest to us.  Eleanor enjoyed participating with us, and the boys learned about a unique historical event.  We haven't done another row since Giraffe, as the boys wanted a Minecraft week {I just pulled various freebies from around the web} and then we've transitioned into relaxed holiday studies.




©2011-2015 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.  http://www.moms-heart.com


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Taco Tuesday: Cilantro Lime Chicken Tacos

I was browsing recipes one day and came across Cilantro Lime Chicken.  It looked good, and we just happened to have limes and cilantro, so it was the perfect time to go ahead and try something new.  Plus, one of my kids requests tacos frequently, so I need new recipes that are suitable for tacos.  We make a delicious Creamy Chicken Taco (slow cooker) recipe that we love, and this is similar, except it's a bit of a twist and kind of kicks it up a bit.  I adapted slightly, but it's so easy and uses only a few ingredients.

cilantro lime chicken


All you need is chicken, salsa, one lime, taco seasoning and fresh cilantro!

My Ingredients
1.33 lbs chicken
16 oz jar of Salsa
1 lime, halved
homemade taco seasoning (or 1 packet taco seasoning mix)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
optional:  cheese, sour cream or other toppings


cilantro lime chicken


First, I had to make my taco seasoning.  I use this homemade taco seasoning recipe, and just make one batch at at at time so I don't have to worry about storing it.  (It's enough for a standard recipe of 1 - 1 1/2 pounds meat.)  You can use a packet of store-bought taco seasoning if you choose.

cilantro lime chicken


I placed the chicken in the crockpot and sprinkled both sides with a little of the taco seasoning.

cilantro lime chicken


Next came the salsa mix.  Normally for this type of recipe (and amount of chicken) I'd use an 8 oz jar, or preferably my mother-in-law's canned salsa, but since I had a 16 oz jar, I used just over half of it.  The rest was saved for "fresh" salsa topping or just to dip if anyone wanted.  Into the salsa I mixed the rest of the taco seasoning, half of the lime juice, and the chopped cilantro.  (I just eyeballed the cilantro, didn't worry so much about measuring it.)

cilantro lime chicken


I poured the salsa mix over the chicken, making sure it covered the tops and sides and went between the two pieces.

cilantro lime chicken


I put mine in after lunch, before I cleaned the kitchen, so I cooked on high about 4 hours--you could probably also cook on low for 6-8 hours.  This was a very aromatic dish, and smelled so good when I walked back into the house after being outside!  After four hours, it looked like this . . .

cilantro lime chicken


It was very tender and shredded effortlessly.  I shredded the chicken and mixed it back in with the salsa.  I then switched the crock pot to warm while I cooked the rice.

cilantro lime chicken


I intended to make some Mexican rice for a side dish, but time got away from me and I just used the rice as a "filler" and mixed it into the chicken which was good too.

This is a very versatile dish and it be used in tortillas . . . (I told you, if you let him dress it like a taco, one of my kids will eat anything.)

cilantro lime chicken


 Or on nachos.  Somebody might like sour cream.

cilantro lime chicken


The Verdict
Delicious!  We loved it!  My 8 year old loves anything called a "taco" and cleaned his plate.  My 6 year old is not a taco fan, but even my toddler ate a good bit of hers, considering her declaration that she didn't want it.  The husband raved.  I liked this chicken better than any other crock pot chicken taco recipe we've tried to date, so for now, this will be my go-to recipe!



Inspiration:  Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken
I followed this fairly closely, although I used homemade taco seasoning and essentially cut the recipe in half, due to the amount of chicken I needed for my family.  I slightly altered the steps, but none of the changes should have affected the results, and since we loved it, I will certainly recommend this recipe!


Your Turn
What's your favorite taco/nacho recipe?  I'm always looking for new recipes to appease my Taco Tuesday kid . . . so please, for the sake of diversity and all things Tacos . . . share away!





Blogging Through the Alphabet” style=
Letter C  (Cilantro Lime Chicken)






©2011-2015 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.  http://www.moms-heart.com

Monday, November 16, 2015

Our 2015 Blue Ribbon Winners

Last week I completed my last review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew's 2015 year, and now it's time for our holiday break, but first we had one last "job" to complete.  Every year we get to vote for the Blue Ribbon Awards.  We are given the opportunity to vote for our favorite reviews and companies.  It's a way to give one last Thank You to the publishers and authors for their great curriculum and books, and for allowing us to review it and share it with the homeschool community.  It's just fun to share our thoughts one last time as the year winds down, and since many of us blog about our favorites at the end of the year, it's always intriguing to see what other crew members choose as their favorites.

We get to vote in a variety of different categories, and I'm going to share some of our favorites from this year, in no particular order, as well as winners in some of the categories, so if you missed any of these reviews, I'm linking to them here so you can check them out!


Artistic Pursuits
What can I say?  This has become a household favorite.  ARTistic Pursuits has made our list the last two years as well, and I'm just thrilled we've been blessed to review it again.  This was Elliott's Kid's Choice, and although it wasn't a category winner this year, it is a FABULOUS curriculum.  I love that it is easy for novice art teachers to use, that it covers all facets of art, and that students are encouraged to create unique art and not cookie cutter projects.  The kids love the variety of media they get to use (this isn't just crayons and construction paper folks--we're talking watercolor crayons, gouache paints, oil pastels, clay, and more), and the projects are FUN!  I love that they have curriculum for Preschool to High School, and I imagine this will be our go-to for years to come.



La La Logic
Winner: Favorite Preschool Product and Kid's Choice

This has been my most popular crew review post this Crew year.

It won our vote in a few different categories, including the two it won.  (For Kid's Choice, it got the vote of Emory and Eleanor.)  It is described as a Preschool logic curriculum, designed for 3-6 years old, but it is certainly adaptable for older and younger ages.  I love it!  It has the fun online element, flexible lesson plans for parents, and developmentally appropriate worksheets so little ones can "do school" like their big siblings.  I don't generally recommend preschool curriculum, but I adore this program and think it is very age appropriate.  Emory (now 6) used it during Kindergarten and is finishing up the online element.  Eleanor, who is a few months shy of 3, is starting to play around on it now, so it has so much long-term value.


Maestro Classics
Winner:  Favorite Fine Arts Curriculum

Here's another company that has become a favorite after reviewing for them in the past.  We reviewed Handel and The Sorcerer's Apprentice last year, and I've bought several titles since then.  This year my family was blessed to review their new release, The Nutcracker.  A beautiful, must-have Christmas production for the whole family!




In Freedom's Cause
Winner - Favorite History Supplement!

This got our vote in a couple categories, including the History Supplement.  (The companion product we reviewed was equally impressive, but a little more intense for my kids, so that's why I cast my vote the way I did.)

The story of Wallace and Bruce is brought to life in an exciting audio drama.  It's history and entertainment entwined into a fantastic listening experience.



With Lee in Virginia
This production is also by Heirloom Audio Productions, another amazing listening experience that takes you right into history with the people who made it happen.



Yes, Heirloom Audio Productions is so good that it gets two spots on my Favorites list!  Under Drake's Flag made our Blue Ribbon Winners List last year too. They are educational, exciting, suspenseful, entertaining and carry a strong message of faith, honor, and courage. I will gladly continue to buy new stories as they are produced.  There is some content (violence of the historical type) that might be intense for sensitive children, but overall they are appropriate and enjoyable for the whole family.


USAopoly
Winner- Just For Fun

We reviewed Wonky and Tapple, and it did get our vote for Just for Fun!  My 8 year old loves board games, and although these aren't typical "board games" they were still a huge hit in our house.  I appreciate the educational value of these games, and of course we all love the fun factor.  They're great for an after school reward, Fun Friday activity, Family Night, or I could even see them being used in an Educational Games class at a co-op.


Middlebury Interactive Languages
Winner:  Favorite Foreign Language Curriculum

We loved this last year (we reviewed K-2 Spanish) and this year we were blessed to review it again!  I moved Elliott up to 3rd-5th Grade Spanish and again we have a winner!  It's interactive, immersive and fun!  




GrapeVine Studies
Winner:  Favorite Christian Education Curriculum

These are Bible studies that help you draw your way through learning the Bible.  It got a couple votes from me, including the category it won.  The teacher's manual is easy to follow, and the kids enjoy drawing while they work.  Having them draw during the lesson keeps them more involved, and it's something I want to carry over into our other studies.



Brinkman Adventures
Winner:  Favorite Christian Education Supplement and Book, Novel or Audio Drama

A winner in multiple categories for a reason, this is a fabulous resource for families!  These missionary stories really are adventurous.  They're fun, upbeat, exciting and and the kids and I love listening to them.  The other two seasons are already on our wishlist.  It's one of those things that EVERYONE listens to and enjoys.



Blue Ribbon Winners
So here's a sneak peak of some other category winners.  These are just the ones that we reviewed, which were amazing in their own right, even if they didn't make our favorites or weren't a good fit for us.  I can say, I didn't review any "bad" curricula or books this year.

Favorite Vocabulary Program - Dynamic Literacy
Favorite Penmanship Program - CursiveLogic
Favorite Literature Curriculum - Progeny Press
Favorite Science Supplement - Ann McCallum Books:  Eat Your Science Homework
Favorite Math Supplement - SimplyFun
Favorite Elective Curriculum - Apologia Educational Ministries:  Field Trip Journal
Favorite Parent Product - Koru Naturals
Favorite Planning Product - Apologia:  The Ultimate Homeschool Planner
Best Online Resource - Super Teacher Worksheets


Favorite Reading Curriculum - Reading Kingdom
Favorite Writing Curriculum - Institute for Excellence in Writing
Favorite Math Curriculum - CTC Math

*I did not review Reading Kingdom, PAL (which was part of the IEW Writing category) or CTC Math this year, but I have reviewed them in the past, so I separated them for distinction, but included them in case you want to check them out too.

Now I can't review everything the crew offers, because sometimes they offer multiple products at one time, or my kid's aren't the right age, so there are still several winners left for you to check out!  You can view the full list of Blue Ribbon Awards to see all of the category winners and to find out who won All Around Crew Favorite!  Who knows, you might just find something new to try out for your family!

2015 Schoolhouse Review Crew Blue Ribbon Awards



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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Book Review: Escape from Sudan

Recently I was contacted by Amanda DiCianni, when she asked me to review her new book.



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 Escape from Sudan looked interesting and educational, so I agreed.



About the Book
Action.  Adventure.  Suspense.  Escape from Sudan introduces school-aged readers to Elijah Bwoko, a teenage boy trying to reunite with his family in the war torn land of South Sudan.  Follow Elijah through eleven action-packed chapters along his journey to rescue his sisters from slavery, navigate a refugee camp in Uganda, and eventually make it safety in America.  Escape from Sudan gives children insight into another culture and will broaden their horizons about life in the Dark Continent.


My Thoughts
This book was written for young readers, to take them outside the comforts of their own secure lives and share the lives of Sudanese refugees and the challenges they face.  The book follows the story of Elijah, a boy transitioning into manhood, who lives in Sudan among the fighting, village raids, and capture of children to be sold into slavery or to become soldiers.  There is some backstory about the war in Sudan, and many references to their culture, food, and family and way of life as the story begins.

After previewing the book, I have decided not to read it with the boys just yet.  The book is intended for 8-12 year old children, and it is appropriate for that age range, and teens as well.  The author handles difficult subjects carefully.  However, my oldest is only 8, and being at the youngest end of the intended age range, I feel like some of the topics are a bit intense for their sensitivity levels.  I do believe this is an interesting book, well-written, and an important story to share, but since we do almost everything together, I will save it for when we are doing world/culture studies in another couple of years when both boys are older and better prepared for mature topics.  Upper elementary and middle school students can certainly read this book independently, but for younger students I'd suggest reading it together, because there are so many great discussion opportunities within the book.

While the book is fiction, the author has first-hand experience with Sudanese refugees, as she taught English to them in Cairo and has visited South Sudan and Uganda.  She knows their stories and their needs.  This book brings awareness to events around the world through the eyes of a child, and I would recommend it as a living book supplement to a history or geography study, or as a family read-aloud.


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